Posts by Website Correspondent

The Women of Geddington: Janet Freestone

Janet Freestone with her harp and the ladies of her music group at the rear of her home what was then No 3 West Street and is now part of No 1

Back Row: Edith Woolston, Mabel Smith, Flora Patrick .

Seated: Doris Bateman and Constance Afford

My name is Janet (Jenetta) Emma Matilda Freestone and I have lived in No 3 West Street with my family all my life. I was born in Geddington and was christened in the village church in November 1863.

My father was James Freestone and he was quite a remarkable man. He married my mother Mary Ann, in Newton church in 1848 and during his life he became a skilled artist and is credited with inventing, amongst other things, a toy known as the zoetrope and the ‘French piano’.

He was always curious about the world around him and with the Duke’s support became the patent holder for a switching machine for gas street lights. Even when he was over 60 years old he persuaded a local watchmaker to take him on as an apprentice because he wanted to learn how to build the clock  mechanism himself!

He always encouraged us children to learn and develop our talents. My brother Joseph was a member of the Royal Academy and enjoyed recognition as a landscape and portrait painter as well as a stained glass window maker. There is a window in the church designed and made by him.

Joseph was also a photographer and a printer, loved the theatre, played the violin and was a keen reader. My father had to ask permission from the Duke to strengthen the upper floor of our cottage because he had so many books up there!

One of my sisters, Julia, became a professional milliner and then a dressmaker to the Royal Court in London. After her husband died she stepped into his role and became the first female Registrar in England. (Janet was listed as the deputy registrar for Kettering in Kelly’s registry in 1910 and 1914.)

I am the youngest and music is my first love; I learnt to play the violin and then mastered the harp which is a beautiful instrument. I compose music too and tutor individuals as well as running a village music group for ladies. I love the summer evenings when I can open the cottage windows and play my harp or violin, and my neighbours come and set up a street dance to the music.

West Street Geddington looking towards The White Hart c. 1910

My  father’s interest in clocks has also been passed down to me and every Saturday evening I walk down Grafton Road to Boughton House, to carry out my responsibilities of winding the beautiful house clocks and ensuring they are keeping good time.

In 1916 I paid 4d a week to the Duke for my rent; but by 1947, the last year of my life, it had increased to 9d a week! In 1930, due to my long held tenancy the Duke was kind enough to offer me the cottage for the price of £75. I declined as I did not feel it right to take up his offer. I have remained financially independent through my music teaching and have lived alone since my mother died in 1916 so my needs are simple.

I have never married and some villagers in my later years thought me rather old fashioned because I always stuck to the Victorian tradition of wearing black. I don’t know it yet, but I will live here until 1947 and will hold the Estate record for the longest tenancy by one family in Geddington.


Janet’s life spanned a period of great change and in many ways she represents the less visible but none the less influential role of women at this time. Her family life introduced her to religious and political thinking, science, music and the arts. She was financially independent and yet used her domestic skills of sewing, spinning and rug making to create a welcoming home. She contributed a great deal through music to the cultural life of the village, often playing in concerts in the school hall or The Oddfellows Hall, but was never the public face in the bands at Jubilee celebrations and the like. She saw two world wars and must have mourned many neighbours and friends. Perhaps that explains the preference for wearing black. She saw the emergence of female emancipation and in her life reflected its ambitions. She was highly literate and was prepared to take on official responsibility as the Deputy Registrar. She had no inhibitions about gender limiting her interest in things scientific or mechanical, yet she showed great deference to the social hierarchy of her day and would not presume to purchase her own property. She died a relatively wealthy woman, having left a legacy of music, style and graciousness and, according to one resident, the memory of the 3d a week she was paid as a young child to draw Janet’s water from the well at the cross!

Acknowledgements must go to Monica Rayne (Geddington As It Was) and Melvyn Hopkins (Geddington at War) for some of the material drawn on in this article.

Local Services

Set out below are some of the services being provided by local businesses. If you are offering a service during this difficult time, and do not appear here, please contact us and we will be delighted to add you to the list. In addition, if you know of any local service provider not shown here, again, please contact us. See our Contact Us page for details.

Cancellations due to Covid-19

By following Government guidelines, the many events listed in our Diary will now no longer be taking place.

As a result, we have put Cancelled against the events due to take place in the next 8 weeks, up to the end of May. If you know different, please let us know.

We wish that we could say that after May, the events listed will take place, but as our crystal ball is a bit cloudy at present, we can’t, so all we can do is put Cancelled against each event in the weeks following the end of May and hope that at some time in the not too distant future, we can stop cancelling these oh-so-looked-forward-to, events.

However, if any of these events will be taking place, in an alternative nature (a virtual pub quiz, perhaps?), then please let us know and we’ll be only too pleased to announce and publicise it.

Women of Geddington: Elizabeth Wilkins

Hello. My name is Elizabeth Wilkins.

The year is 1911. I have lived here in Geddington for over 20 years now and my youngest three children were born here.  I know so many of the families because my husband John was appointed to Geddington Schools as Headteacher in 1887.

I have been an elementary school teacher for 25 years or more. In 1894 the Duke built an infant school and when it opened I became the Headmistress and was put in charge of the younger children. In 1897 Her Majesty’s Inspectors reported that provision was greatly improved and the infant school now had new desks for the children. By 1908 I had 32 infants, girls and boys, in my charge.

My family and I lived in the thatched farmhouse at what is now No 39 Queen Street at first, but then moved into the second of the pair of cottages on the corner of Wood Street and Grafton Road. Our neighbour was George Waite, a blacksmith who had a forge opening on to ‘Wood End’. After he died we were able to demolish the forge and make the two cottages into one and give us enough room for our growing family.

 This house became known as The School House and I arranged for a gate to be cut into the back wall so that I could have easy access to the Infant School. (Elizabeth and John continued to live in this house after they retired and their daughter Dora lived there until her death in 1993.)

My husband is known to his pupils as ‘Tuggy’ and he manages them with a firm hand, trying to ensure a knowledge of mathematics, history and geography and something of Shakespeare too.

For my part I recognise that some of the little ones find it hard to be in a schoolroom, so I also add time for nature study, drawing, singing and PE. All the children are taught about food, health and hygiene though, in an attempt to reduce the frequency of ‘nits’!

I am very aware that for some families it is hard to put good food on the table every day and our little ones are at risk of infection. After the measles outbreak in 1903 we had to close the school for 7 weeks and again, in 1906 and 1909, we were instructed to close the schools to limit the spread of the disease. I feel very lucky that my own children have survived childhood and are well. My younger two sons are still single and live at home; William is a foreman plumber and Bernard is apprenticed as a tailor. Ernest, the oldest, was an office boy at Boughton . (In 1917 he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and then after the war became a schoolteacher and a headteacher, following in his parents footsteps.)

Both my husband and I are music lovers and he runs a well established and successful choir at the church as well as being the organist. Both the boys are choristers and little Dora is also very musical. Sunday night is always special with visitors walking from Kettering to hear the beautiful choral music. One of the best soloists is Charlie Townley and the choir’s most enthusiastic, but less accurate, vocalist is Mary Towell!

Life is very busy, working full time, bringing up my own children and playing as full a part in the life of the village as possible. We grow our own vegetables too, which I encourage my husband to do as a way of relaxing and getting some fresh air after a week in the schoolroom. We have won prizes several times at the Village Feast! (In 1913 Elizabeth, with the help of Miss Clifford and Miss Swingler, was responsible for the presentation of a play at The Feast with singing and dancing by the village children called ‘The Crown of Roses’ . Dora Wilkins played the part of the butterfly)

In this coronation year it was good to see the children enjoying the celebrations; each one presented with a coronation mug and then going on to have their tea in the schoolroom. The village was dressed at its best with streamers and bunting and the village band played to entertain the residents.

********************************************************** Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur were the first scientists to develop the idea of immunisation and inoculation in the 18th and 19th centuries but in 1911, for the children of Geddington, measles was a serious, life threatening disease, particularly where the diet lacked fresh fruit and vegetables and the home lacked water and sanitation. Like our current coronavirus it is spread by droplets and it is highly contagious. It is estimated that between 7-8 million children worldwide died each year from measles before the vaccine was widely available in the late 1960s. Any drop in the take up of the vaccine today still puts children globally at risk of a life threatening disease. Elizabeth Wilkins was right to be concerned and to do her best to protect her infant school pupils. She was by all accounts very well loved by those she taught.


Ged’s Army

A message from the newly-formed Geddington Support Group.

To coincide today with the first effective day of COVID-19 preparedness lock-down, and after a week or so of planning, community leaders have come together to produce a village-wide consolidated support initiative.

Owing to a number of residents generously stepping forward, every street has a Street Coordinator, who will try and ensure the more vulnerable – or those with emerging needs – are identified and paired off with other helpers who can support them. A leaflet should be delivered to every house in the next 24-48hrs. If any resident is feeling unsure who might be able to help, PLEASE reach out to your Coordinator, another helper, other resident, Parish Councillor or other community/group leader.

Additionally, there is now a separate Facebook group – the Geddington Support Group – where ideas, initiatives, identified needs and solutions, will be discussed. 

The Church, Parish Council, Geddington Volunteer Fire Brigade, Borough Councillor and other leaders and groups have come together and are regularly discussing the priorities of residents during these challenging times. As was expected, there have been many offers of help from all corners of the village – from dog walking, shopping, minor jobs, book swaps, taking bins out or just someone to talk to.  Amazing!

Let’s keep talking to one another, and smiling as much as possible. Everyone will be affected by this crisis, including in our village:

  • Our elderly and vulnerable. Let’s keep a special eye, a cheery wave and a knock on the door or a note every couple of days.
  • Our essential workers. We have some heroes in our village who will suddenly be working longer hours under considerable stress and juggling family commitments. Let’s support them by taking any burden we can and allowing them to rest between shifts.
  • Our outlets and tradespeople. These will be especially hit, so if they can offer a varied or ‘business as usual’ service, please consider them.
  • Our parents. With schools closed to non-essential workers, many parents are having to work from home whilst caring for and home teaching of, their children. This can be quite a trying time for families.
  • Our institutions.  The Church and School Parents Association will see a natural drop in income through events and activities. Please consider donations or doubling your support once the main crisis is over.

Material and practical needs can be overcome by working together, but with congregating practically banned, let’s also consider that some of our community may start to feel isolated and anxious over the next few weeks. Our mental wellness is just as much a consideration as the physical, so whilst it was a buzz phrase in the recent past, let’s simply ‘be kind’ to one another.

Geddington Support Group
by email:
Borough Councillor, Mark Rowley:
by email:
by phone: 01536 744302
Parish Chairman, Nick Batchelor
by email:
by phone: 669533
Vicar, Revd Gillian Gamble
by phone: 742200
by email:
Penny Griffin, Licensed Lay Minister
by phone, 07990 521830
GVFB Community Officer, James McLean
by email:


From Jane Rowley, on behalf of Geddington Support Group

The Women of Geddington: Mary Ann Saddington

My name is Mary Ann Saddington. I am known as Ann and I was born in Geddington in 1817 into the Haddon family. I never learned to read or write and I was not able to teach my children but I went to lace school as a girl and was well known for the work I did, though I never gave this as my profession in any of the census documents.

We learned our skills in school in a private house in Northampton and produced work of such good quality that a buyer came from Kettering regularly to collect our work to sell on at the lace markets of the area.

I married William Saddington who was nearly 12 years older than me. William and I lived in Nelson Square in Northampton and were married there in July 1840.

I have lived in Queen Street in the little cottage by the bridge for many years and had my 12 children there; my son Joseph was a horsekeeper for a while. In 1871, when he was 67, William  was listed as a pauper in the census. For a time I took in lodgers to make a little extra money. There was no old age pension then!

My William died in August 1887; he’d been ill for some time but was 82; a good age to reach after a hard life as a labourer  ….  but now ten of my children are gone too, including my baby twins and I am a widow with just a housekeeper to bear me company.

My little cottage by the bridge is roomy enough, but quite dark, so I like to sit outside with my lace bobbins if the weather is calm. Sometimes the children playing in the street can be cheeky, but I can catch up with my neighbours as they pass; I have lived near to the Daintys, Winsors, Clipstones and lately, the Swinglers and have seen their families grow up. They are very kind to me and the warmth from the bakery next door and the smell of the newly baked bread is part of everyday life for me.

I believe I am the oldest woman in the village, but at 94, I take life more slowly now and leave the hard chores to my housekeeper Ann Collyer who is a widow too …. but I do make sure I feed the old swan each day who comes waddling up to my front door every morning!


In the 19th century, lace schools replaced apprenticeships. The schools taught children aged five to fifteen in the homes of their teachers. Children were there for up to twelve hours a day and had strict targets to meet. At the Spratton lace school, for example, students were expected to place 600 pins on patterns per hour. In order to help them count, children recited ‘tells’ or rhymes. Tells could also tell stories, which varied by region. This is the beginning of a Northamptonshire tell called ‘Wedding Song’:

Nineteen long lines hanging over my door,

The faster I work it’ll shorten my score.

But if I do play it’ll stick to a stay;

So ho! little fingers, and twink it away,

For after to-morrow comes my wedding day.


Try a recipe from Ann Saddington’s time, courtesy of Mrs Beeton’s 1909 cookery book

Mothering Sunday Greetings

Unable to meet up? Family lunch cancelled?
Try a digital greeting for your special person.
Send us your greeting via the comments button and we will post your greeting ready for Sunday morning.
Please be sure to include the recipient’s name as well as your own.
If you’d like to add a photo we’ll try and do that too!

The Women of Geddington

Following on from International Women’s Day on 7th March, Geddington WI took a look at the lives of women living in the village in the twentieth century. Much of their history is lost because their roles were often hidden behind those of the menfolk.

In this mini series we try to draw the women, their hardworking lives, their independence and their bravery into the limelight a little more and in this way acknowledge their contribution to the life of the village.

We hope you enjoy the stories we tell. They are part factual, based on information in public documents, but there is also some anecdotal content. As always, please let us know if there are any errors or omissions.

Ann Saddington, lacemaker, outside her cottage in Queen Street c.1910

Her story is the first in the series and will appear in the next few days.

Potholes galore!

A new thermal pothole repair machine is being considered for Northamptonshire.

Plenty of opportunities in Geddington to keep this machine very busy!

Northamptonshire Energy Saving Service

A new Northamptonshire
Service could help cold
homes with energy bills

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