John Edwin Cussans Recollections

Memories of Barley and Barkway

By Ian Fisher

Copyright Mym and Licenced for reuse under Geographic Creative Commons Licence
Copyright Mym and Licenced for reuse under Geographic Creative Commons Licence
Barley Church
B J Gravestock

The old church was certainly in a most deplorable state. I attended service there one Sunday morning in September or October 1871, walking over from Barkway. After the service had commenced, a heavy thunder–storm came on, and very soon rain came through the roof. There was a general movement on the part of the congregation for dry seats. I shifted my quarters three or four times before I found a spot over which the roof was water–tight. Several people were obliged to put up their umbrellas.  

I was staying at Barkway. My hotel bill there is worthy of record. I put up at the “Wheatsheaf”, an old fashion house, about half way up the hill on which Barkway stands, on the Cambridge Road. Formerly it was a posting house of importance, with stabling for upwards of fifty horses. The stables, for the most part roofless, and altogether in a most ruinous state, still remain or did 10 years ago. I arrived on Friday afternoon, had dinner, and spent the evening with Charley Adams, next door (in Barkway). My bed–room might almost have served for a ball–room. The mahogany bedstead – (no skimpy “tent”, or “Arabian”, or measured “tester”, but one with a solid carved top, weighing three or four hundred weight, so that if it fell it would squash a man fairly all over) – was a perfect old–world treasure. I stopped at the “Wheatsheaf” 3 days, had a private sitting–room, and every night stood unlimited grogs to the landlord, who, born in Barkway, knew all its modern, floating history, and nothing else. My horse – peace to his mane, he was 22 years old, when from no fault of his own his last journey was to the knacker’s – meanwhile revelled in oats and clean straw. What was the bill on Monday? Fourteen shillings and two pence halfpenny, which included sending a special messenger to Royston Post Office to ask for letters. On leaving, I offered the servant, who was both waitress and chamber–maid, a modest sum for her services. Never was a servant more surprised – it was a new experience. Travellers had before availed themselves of the “Wheatsheafs” shelter, but never before had they offered her half a crown. “No thank you sir, I get honest wages” – I had to finish the buckling of my portmanteau myself, while the old mahogany four–poster frowned upon me. It was not until I arrived at the “Buckland Gate”, and the turnpike–man demanded six pence, that I sufficiently recovered myself to think aloud, “Well, I’m….  

This page was added on 22/08/2012.

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