Gordon Charles Spence
Gordon Charles Spence was born in June 1934, at his grandparent’s bungalow opposite White Lodge on the corner of Eastwell Road and Green Lane. His mother, Winifred Spence, was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire but moved to Goadby with her parents, Charles and Harriet, when she was a child.
Winifred had a relationship with local lad, William Pizer, but the couple never married and Gordon was raised by his grandparents, Charles and Harriett Spence. Winifred later married William Fletcher and the couple moved to Lincolnshire. During World War II, William Fletcher was stationed at RAF Cranwell.
William Pizer left the area with his family shortly after Gordon was born and moved to Rearsby. He later served with the army during World War II. He was captured by the Japanese at Singapore and worked on the infamous Burma Railway. Gordon never knew his father although in recent years he has made contact with his father’s younger sister.
In 1960, Gordon married Dorothy Brewin who was also from Goadby Marwood, but with no suitable house available in the village at the time, the couple moved to Harby where they still live today.
Gordon maintains very close connections with Goadby because his son’s family lives on Main Street, and he is a familiar figure to all Goadby residents as he still visits the village every October / November selling poppies for the annual Royal British Legion appeal. In 2016, Gordon was honoured by the Hose and Harby Branch of the British Legion for completing 50 years of service. The event took place at The Plough in Stathern and was reported in The Melton Times.
In 2017, Gordon was presented with a Communities Champions Award by Melton Mowbray Mayor, Cllr. David Wright, in recognition of his 23 years’ service as chairman of the Hose and Harby British Legion Branch and for his contribution to the creation and maintenance of the 207 Squadron Memorial at Langar Airfield.
Gordon has led a long and fascinating life, and has dedicated much of his time over the years to local community projects. In March 2020, he kindly shared his recollections of village life with members of the Goadby Marwood History Group.
Gordon Spence (left) and fellow Legion stalwart, John Blundy, receive their commemorative certificates from the Hose and Harby Branch of the Royal British Legion
Gordon (2nd from right) at the 207 Squadron memorial plaque unveiling, Langar Airfield 2011.
Recollections of Gordon Spence in conversation with members of the Goadby Marwood History Group
I was born at the bungalow opposite White Lodge and lived there with my grandparents, Charlie and Harriett Spence. It those days it was a wooden structure but today, it has been rebuilt in ironstone. My grandad worked for Billy Hemphrey at White Lodge, then later for John Holmes at Manor Farm. That’s when we moved from the bungalow to Manor Cottages in the centre of the village. My grandma worked as a housekeeper for Mrs. Rowbotham at First Farm and for the Mayfields at Ivy House Farm.
I went to school in Goadby. The teachers were Mrs. Kathleen Allen, who also played the organ in church, and then during the war, Mrs Hilda Holmes, came back to teach at the school. I enjoyed my time at Goadby school, but in 1942, when Goadby school closed I moved to the school at Scalford. Mr. Wood, the head teacher, was not very happy to have a load of extra students thrust upon him. I never did get on with him! He once said to me: “Boy, you’ll not even make a good dustbin man!”. I’ve often wished I could meet him now! When I left Scalford, I went to Melton Boys School.
The water in those days used to come from the wells and pumps in the village until mains water was installed in 1959. Electricity also came to the village around the mid-1950s. Very few houses had a phone, there was one at The Hall, The Rectory, Manor Farm and the Post Office and in 1954 the public phone box was installed on Main Street.
During the war we went to Sunday School at the Methodist’s Chapel, Tilly Brewin was the Sunday School teacher. Every year there was an outing to Wicksteed Park. Peg Pizer, who ran the village Post Office, also used to organise a trip to Skegness every year.
We also used to have a yearly outing to the Granada Cinema in Grantham. It was organised and paid for by Miss Sheriffe who lived at Goadby Hall, and we used to get tea at the cinema café. Miss Sheriffe used to keep a boat on the lake and we would often sneak in at midnight to take it out for a row. We had to keep an eye out for Walter Brutnell, the gamekeeper, though!
I remember we used to have great bonfire parties in Herbert Mayfield’s field half way up Goadby Hill on the left-hand side. Today it’s used to graze horses, but it has always had lots of gorse bushes in it.
The daily village newspapers were delivered by Mrs. Ratley from Scalford - Jenny Woolley’s grandmother. She used to deliver them on her bike every day except Sunday, rain, snow or shine.
Pork pies were a special treat during the war years! They were delivered once a week to Lennie Brutnell at Sundial House and distributed from there. The Americans had a camp at the top of the hill and used to give us kids candy bars. Harold Knapp used to collect the food waste from the camp to feed as swill to villagers’ pigs. There was also a land girls camp on the road between Wycombe and Scalford, just past the bridge.
I remember very clearly the Lancaster crash on November 25th, 1942. It came over our bungalow at five to six and grandad shouted “that guy’s low tonight”! It came down in Ivy Close near the dyke on the boundary between Goadby and Eaton. All eight crew were killed. Grandad, uncle George and Ted Pizer went up to the crash site but my grandma wouldn’t let me go. I did get to see the Mosquito crash site in 1946 though. It hit trees and came down on the other side of the Hall lakes where there is now a memorial.
Sergeant Ricketts was the village policeman, he lived in the police house opposite the Royal Horseshoes in Waltham. He was always picking us up for not having lights on our bikes. I used to go scrumping apples with my mate, Peter Woolley, but one day we got caught by Sergeant Ricketts in the Post Office garden and he gave us a swipe around the head with his mackintosh.
Youngsters in the village used to get up to all sorts of pranks! One night, one of the big balls on The Manor gates was pushed off. I believe it was blamed on an earth tremor. I know who was responsible but I’m mentioning no names for fear of self-incrimination!
I used to be and still am of course, good friends with Cathy [Lawrance nee Holmes], she let me ride on her pony and taught me to ‘bump the saddle’ [rising trot]. We often had picnics at the farm, Cathy’s mum made delicious sandwiches.
We used to play ‘Kick-Tin’ [an outdoor children's game related to tag and hide and seek] in the crew yard at Manor Farm and also on Main Street. Most of the village kids joined in and that’s really how I first got to know my wife, Dorothy Brewin. We didn’t really get close though until I walked her home from work one day. She worked at the Post Office in Waltham and her dad usually went to walk her home but I offered to do it for him one evening. Dorothy was born at Bellemere Farm but her family later moved to the centre of the village, first to Field Cottages, then to The Ferns.
When I left school, I went to work for Allen’s bakers in Scalford, but a few months later I got a job at The Eastwell Iron Ore Company which was owned by Staverly. The local landscape was very different then! The fields between Manor Farm and Eastwell Road were all dug out and there was a wooden bridge that stretched across it giving access to White Lodge. The mining company actually worked all the way from the Waltham/Eastwell Road across two thirds of Manor Farm. There was a paraffin lamp on the bridge, just like the one on the church gate. It was lit every night and we called it the ‘Goadby Moon’. It was left unlit during the war of course.
In 1952, I was called up to do my National Service. I was posted to the Far East because of the Malayan Emergency [the guerrilla war fought in Malaya from 1948 until 1960]. We sailed on December 29th for Singapore, so I walked in the footsteps of my father but didn’t know it at the time. I was later posted to Hong Kong. In total I did two years’ service plus three years in the reserves. I was called back in 1956 because of the Suez Crisis but it all blew over before we even got on the boat.
My job at the quarry was kept open for me whilst I did my National Service, and I worked there until it shut in 1959. I drove the last steam loco that brought the ironstone out of Coronation Quarry. After that I went to work at Blue Circle Cement at their Barnstone Works in Nottinghamshire. I was there for 29 years and 9 months!
Dorothy and I were married on October 8th, 1960 at St. Denys’ Church in Goadby. Canon Collyer conducted the ceremony and he didn’t charge us anything – he said it was his wedding present to us. Canon Collyer was such a lovely man, and highly respected by everyone in the village. He used to visit all the residents, regardless of their religion. He had a little terrier dog but I can’t remember its name. There was a bad incident at Croxton Kerrial Church when Canon Collyer was gassed by fumes from a faulty stove. It took him a long time to recover.
I was good pals with Barry Knapp. His dad [George Knapp] was the churchwarden and Barry and me used to help him light the paraffin lamps in the church. Flo Kemp used to stock and sell the paraffin from her home, The Brooms, and Pick Stores used to deliver to the village. The cart driver was always cheerful and we used to call him singing Fred. I also used to sometimes join in the bell ringing at Waltham church, but at Goadby all we had were two dongs and a ding!