By Stuart Moye

In 1975 Mr Mead was living at 126 Cappell Lane when he related some of his memories of Stanstead Abbotts. Mr Mead was born in 1893 and attended the village school between 5 and fourteen years of age. The following has been written from notes made at the time and reflect things as he remembered them. Various pictures of Stanstead Abbotts were used to prompt his memory of events that in some cases had occurred 75 years previously.

The High Street about 1900 showing the man with basket

standing outside the Red Lion

Mr Mead was shown the well known picture postcard of the top end of the High Street with the man with a basket on his head. He had this to say about the scene depicted;

“Now that man there with the basket could be the Muffin Man; he came from Hertford. It might be Mike Jennings; I met him when I was in France; he sold fish, winkles, Haddock, Kippers and all that sort of thing. He carried it all around in a little clothes basket on his head. You never see that sort of thing today even at the market.”

   [Various people have made suggestions regarding the identity of this man with the basket on his head. They include the muffin man from Hertford who was Walter Taylor who ventured on foot as far as Bishops Stortford to sell his wares. He was well known in the area around the year 1900. His son would ride a bike with fresh supplies from Hertford usually as far as Much Hadham where Walter would stay overnight at the forge. Another suggestion made is that it is Bob Springham from the family shop in the village]

Asked about his school days he didn’t think there was much of interest to say but he did describe a little game that was often played after school, which seemed to be a fond memory.

The Village School showing the drinking fountain mentioned by Mr Mead

“When they let us out of school at the end of the day it was always a big relief. Schools were quite strict in those days much more than now. We used to get together outside the gates on the footpath in Roydon Road. Then four or five of us friends would race from the school to the Pied Bull corner. The first one that got there would sit down and put their feet up to declare they were the winner. We did that on most days it was all good fun after having had to be so still in school.”

“We used to drink water from that stone drinking fountain outside the school. They told us the water came from up above the school, in Chapelfields.”

Mr Mead then mentioned a few things about the buildings near the top of the High street and some of the people he could remember.

“The Old Clock House used to be a school a long time ago, and then it was a library. I was about 12 years old [1905] when it was turned into a house. It used to look very run down between the wars but looks really posh now.  Springham's old shop never changed as long as I can remember.  Springham’s mum was called Old Gurt”. Lots of shops used to be like that once.” Blackabys were at the post office opposite the one we have today. Later it was sweet shop and a bakers as well, odd that I always thought, not the sort of things that go together but that was how it was” The milkmen in the village were Frank Andrews, Frank Hurford and Charlie Harwood.