Hartington - Royal Observation Corp

General Memories

There was a dance every Saturday night in the village hall. Sally G.’s mum played with Bircher’s Band. Everyone came from miles around to the dances, including the soldiers stationed locally. They either walked or rode over by bicycle. There were also dances at Sheen, Biggin, Warslow and Pomeroy.

There was the school concert in the village hall and there was also a hockey team in the village prior to the war.

Sally remembers that old curtains were cut up and made into skirts and dresses. If parachutes were available, the silk was used to make different things: red and blue silk for blouses and dresses and white for underwear. These parachutes came from the local RAF camp.

Trevor Wragg’s mum made rings from 3d bits

There was a searchlight on top side of the bridge by the rocks. This was used for spotting aircraft.

The Biggin children played football with the POW’s at the camp there – see Jenny’s memories.

The POW’s were allowed to walk as far as the bridge at Hulme End.

Vinnie – Granddad – village in bottle

There were 4-5 nissan huts,occupied first by German POW’s then by Italian POW’s ( Jenny remembers this as the other way round)

The German POW’s worked on Janet Oliver’s farm. Her mum gave them food, as they had little of their own. They worked hard on the farm. Janet remembers one called Fritz who was very nice.

They also had German POW’s at Bridge End farm.

Derek Horobin remembers that the Italian POW’s worked at the quarry. They came to work in a covered wagon and they had their own cook.

There were POW’s until 1947?

Francesco stayed with Frank Holland at Glutton Bridge.

Gilbert remembered that there was an Indian Regiment at Biggin just before the war. There was also one near Derby.

Earl Sterndale church was bombed during the war, but there are photographs (in postcard form) of a wedding taking place in the remains of the church. The bombing of this area when the church was destroyed was probably an attempt to blow up the bomb store at Harpur Hill. Harley Grange farm was bombed on this night also. There were no injuries sustained and all the animals were safely rescued. The fire was extensive and was put out by the Home Guard. Unfortunately, the church had been locked so it was not able to be saved

There were buses as well, running between Ashbourne and Buxton.

Rationing was not a particular problem in the countryside. People were allowed to keep pigs and kill 2 per year. Bread was not rationed and there were plenty of wild rabbits to eat.

Margaret remembers that her father kept the Pig Club. Potatoes were used to feed the pigs and these potatoes were sprayed purple to stop people from eating/selling these.

Butcher Hall was local and pigs were kept at the cheese factory.

Pop Holland baked bread in the bakehouse.

Most people kept hens for eggs and meat.

Royal Observer Corps

Eddie Mollatt was in the R.O.C. and there is a photograph of local R.O.C. in Sheila Hine’s book on Longnor. ‘                                                                                                *

Richard said that he would follow up Bernard Miller/Ashbourne and Ipstones connections

The R.O.C. plotted aircraft flying overhead and contacted the next station to inform them that aircraft was flying by. They had a poster of silhouettes to identify individual planes.

The R.O.C. helped an American plane find its way when it had become lost. (Margaret P.)

Each station had a field telephone which hung on the wall. It was square and had a trumpet shaped ear piece on a wire and similar shaped mouth piece attached to the box. You called up the exchange by turning a handle.

Gordon recalls that the exchange was manned.

“Duck under the bed and call the police”

Joe Oliver recalls that the ARP were also responsible for fire-watching. Before this post was at Bulliker it was located at the top of Reynards Lane, over the stile. The ARP watched out for lights during the blackout.

Vinnie will check if John Oliver was in the ARP.

You made your own blackout using black paper put into a frame.

Cars and buses had a slotted cover over their headlights

The Home Guard was stationed at the British Legion (this used to be the Reading Rooms). There was Youth Club upstairs and a billiard club there. The British Legion also housed a Picture House at one time.

Margaret P and Liz B to check when Cavendish House became the British Legion

Schooldays/Occupations and Homelife

The children ate sandwiches for lunch and they all walked to school, some travelling great distances.

Vinnie recalls that they had double summertime for the farmers.

Dances were popular in the village.

Reserved occupations included farmers, some went into the Home Guard

There were about 80 children in the school, in 3 classes. One of these classes had lessons in the village hall after the end of the war. Mrs Andrews taught the infants; Miss Kirkham (who is still alive and living in Leek- George has her telephone number) taught the middle group; and Mr Noton taught the seniors.

The first school dinners were at Hartington Hall. It was 2s 1d per week for dinner. Audrey remembers that you had to eat them and they were not very nice!

Gas masks had to be carried at all times.

Playtime games included skipping, hopscotch, marbles, ragabagga, long tag, farmer wants a wife, in and out the window.

George Riley remembers watching Jack Chadwick leaving the pub. He was often inebriated and would shout things at the schoolchildren.

P.T. lessons were just exercises and the children wore their ordinary clothes during this.

The boys went gardening at the Vicarage in the afternoons.

There was an idea to create a garden by the exchange, but the river Harding used to flood, so this idea was abandoned.

The croft in from of Margaret Partridge’s current house, was used as a garden for the school.

The cheese factory was a reserved occupation. They used to pack dried fruit and dried milk – some men, but mostly woman worked there. They also produced pressed cheese, not Stilton during the war.

Anyone over the age of 12 could work at the cheese factory and make some money, e.g. putting the plastic round the milk.

Quarrying was also a reserved occupation. Sandals near Parsley Hay was quarried. Mr Smith was the manager. Also Irene Sherratt worked there.

Up near the railway, there were bombs at the side of the road, which had been unloaded at the station. These were long, bronze and small. Stone was stored along the Youlgrave road, unloaded from the station. There were passengers using the line until 1952 or 1954.

All sorts of cargo was transported along the railway line: pigs, cheese, milk, sheep, horses. Children also used the line to go to the grammar school in Ashbourne.

Notes from History Group Reminiscence Event: November 2010 – WW2


Spitfire Crash Memories

There was a box put on the gate at the cheese factory to collect donations

Spitfire came down in Watergap’s 7 acre field. M.P.’s took it away during the daytime on a lowloader. (Joe Oliver)

(Margaret Partridge) The guns were full of ammunition. People were kept back because of safety reasons.

The pilot was shaken up, but otherwise uninjured

All the children were taken down by the school to see it – Joss Noton was the Headteacher at the time.

There was another local plane crash prior to the spitfire. 2 German airmen survived, 2 did not make it. This occurred up near the Jug & Glass, in a field nearby. The survivors returned after the war, as did the grand-daughter of one of them.

There was also another plane crash, again prior to the spitfire, near the cheese factory.


Eric White at the Vicarage with Mr & Mrs Hewitt

Patty Shirley had 2 from Moss-side in Manchester. These went back to Manchester after about a month.

Maria – Gordon Fletcher, Frank Parry, Eric Oustlethwaite (sp?)

Dennis Grant stayed with Daisy Broomhead. He had a brain tumour and is buried in the churchyard. He came from Leigh-on-Sea.

Audrey Morson’s mum had an evacuee from Westcliffe-on-Sea called Joy. Her father was a policeman. She was 7 years old.

The evacuees went to school with the local children. At first these were separate lessons – one group in the mornings and the other group in the afternoons. However, soon both groups were amalgamated.

Bessie and Lettie Broomhead had Jim Frost

Teachers from the schools in Manchester were evacuated to the village too.

The Olivers has 2 evacuees, though one only stayed for one week.

Derek Castle was with Baker Holland

Josie Holler stayed with Miss Twigge in Hyde Lane.

ARP was before Royal Observer Corps.

Blackouts were made from black paper onto a frame.

Cars – had a very slim light slot.

Home Guard meetings in British Legion.

British Legion was a reading room downstairs, and a billiard room upstairs. There was a Youth club on a Thursday. There was also a picture house at the British Legion.


Dance every Saturday. Birch’s band helped raise money to pay for the Village Hall.

Best dance floor. Airmen came to dances.

Concerts from the school were held in the village hall.

Choral Society after tire war.

Hockey Team – after the war.

Clothes were own made. Curtains were made into skirts. Parachute silks were used to make white undies, red/blue for skirts and dresses. RAF camp provided silk.                                                                                                          1

Used to bike or walk to other dances at Sheen, Biggin, Warslow and Pomeroy. After war Jack Riley use to take people.

Prisoner of War camp

Rings were made out of threepenny bits

There was a search light on the topside of the bridge – looking for aircraft.

Biggin school played football with POW.

POW’s allowed to walk as far as the bridge between Hartington and Hulme End.

4/5 huts – Germans then Italians. Germans worked on farm at Newhaven

Black Bread and sausage.

POW’s worked in farming – Bridge End Farm – German POW worked there.

Italians worked in quarry at Hartington Station.

Sgt Major in charge. Went back to camp at night. Camp still there in 1947.

Indian Regiment at Biggin before the war, camp on Liffs Road, also a camp on Ashboume/Derby Road.

Earl Sterndale Church

After Harpur Hill bomb store.

Harley Grange damaged. Most of animals got out.

Home Guard. Church was locked and didn’t get in straight away that’s why badly burnt.


dinner, anyone who lived in die village went home. 2s Id per week for 5 meals after the war.

Took gas mask to school – had to carry it all the time. Joe Oliver’s father went round the farms to measure up for the masks.

Playtime – skipping, marbles, hopscotch, rag a bag, long tag, farmer wants wife, in & out of the windows.

Remember Jack Chadwick walking up from Red Lion on hands and knees. Children having PE lesson in school yard, remember Jack Chadwick saying “buggers as up, buggers as down”.

Remember Fred Birch saluting lamp pole every night and shouting “yeep”.

Miss Kirkham now in her 90’s, George Riley seen her in Leek and has phone number.

Taught the 3 r’s, discipline very strict.

Recreation time – boys gardening at vicarage, girls needlework.

There was a garden up Dig Street, which the school had use of.                                                                                                               *


Fanning, Quarrying, Cheese Factory

Cheese factory – Men and women employed at Cheese Factory. Press cheese made at the cheese factory, not Stilton. Milk powder packing into plastic round tins of powder – if over 12.

Quarrying – Sandels at Parsley Hay, Hartshead at Heathcote. Brick Works at Parsley Hay and at Friden. Runcun Quany on left as you go up Long Dale.

Railway – Bombs unloaded at station. Long, Bronze bombs, threepenny bit shape.

Tranported bombs, stone, passengers and pigs to factor)’.

Went to school on train – Ashbourne & Buxton

Cheese carried on train, as well as milk, sheep and horses.

Home Life

Rationing – not a lot around these parts. Pigs kept having accidents. Family’s could kill 2 pigs a year. Bread not rationed. Rabbits caught and ate.

Margaret Partridge – dad used to run pig club. Spray purple. Kept pigs at factory as fed on whey.

People kept hens, and grew own vegetables.

Royal Observer Corps

Group in Longnor

Bernard Mellor, got contact in Ashbourne – records kept in someone’s attic in Ashbourne. Plot aeroplanes coming over and ring up different places. Learnt plane name by silhouettes. Put cards in and shone on white background to recognise planes.

Wind up telephone.

Gordon Stone on telephone duty at night.

Fire watches – 2 ladies till midnight and then men took over.

Air Raid Precaution (ARP)- hut at top of Reynaulds Lane, Check if blackouts working ok. Jim Brindley, Mill Lane was one. He did see a light at Wolfscote.

Notes from Cake & Chat re World War II

Spitfire Crash

Spitfire Fund Box – this was placed on the gate down at the Cheese Factory, for people to raise money for the crashed Spitfire.

The Spitfire crashed in the 7 acre field at Watergap which goes up to the Cheese Factory. The military police guarded the spitfire until it was loaded up and took away. It ran short of fuel and could not get back to base. Jolin & Jim Critchlow moved the hay cart in the field, so there was enough room for it to land. Farmers had to place implements in fields to stop enemy aircraft landing. There was ammunition in the guns on the plane, and people were moved back as it was dangerous. The crash happened possibly after 1942. The pilot was ok, but a further 3 yards and it would have crashed into the cheese factory. No photographs, as not allowed to take such photos in the war. Mf Norton, the headteacher, took the children from the school down to look at it.

There was another plane crash at the Jug and Glass, 4 people were in the plane, 2 survived. It was in the field after the lane on the right hand side.

Another plane crashed down Mill Lane, but not many memories on that.


Eric Wright stayed with Mr & Mrs Hewitt at the vicarage.

Patty Shirley had 2 evacuees called Farrington from Moss Side, Manchester.

Gordon Fletcher, Frank Parry and Eric Outhwaite stayed with Maria Birch at Dale House. A Dennis Grant

Brian ?? – is buried in the churchyard.

Joy Leigh from Westcliff on Sea stayed with Mrs Gee.

Jim Frost stayed with Bessie up Hall Bank.

2 stayed at Staley Cottage, 1 only stopped a week, the other one stopped a long time. Derek Castle stayed with Mr. Holland (Baker Holland)

Josie Waler – stayed with Miss Twigg.

The children only went to school for half a day. The evacuees did half a day in the morning and the local children did half a day in the afternoon, as initially there were too many children.

School Days/Occupations/Home Life

Went to school 5 days a w’eek, walked to school and took own sandwiches. 80 school children – 3 classes. Mrs. Andrew’ – infants, Miss Kirkham, Mr Norton – seniors. Left school at 14.

School dinners – went up to Hartington Hall for dinners. Although not enough space at the hall, so the seniors had to do without. Anyone wdio lived outside the village went for


With the introduction of jet engines, aircraft passed over too quickly to be recognised with certainty and so ‘visual’ ROC posts became obsolete.

The brick ROC observation tower, just above Nettletor Farm, and the mess shed below it, were demolished in 1956 and an underground bunker created in the same location, CV16. It contained:

  • a ground zero indicator [GZI] a bomb power indicator [a sort of blast pipe with two metal plates on the top]
  • a fixed survey meter, which recorded radioactivity levels [there was also a mobile survey meter, known as a radiac].

Any ‘movement’ in these devices had to be ‘phoned through to HQ at Church Lawton [between Rugby and Coventry]. After two minutes the papers had to be changed in the GZI, and then a close watch was given to radioactivity levels. A routine duty was to file a weather report every two hours, particularly wind speed and direction, so that if there was a nuclear attack the direction and speed of drift of radioactivity could be predicted with some accuracy.

The photograph of four smartly-uniformed men – John Oliver, John Wilshaw Bassett, Eddie Mollat, and Bob Woodroof – was taken at “The Mermaid” en route to a parade at RAF Stafford, in the early 1950s.

George Riley has copies of photos [?], which may also be in Cavendish House [Legion].