Before the onset of World War One, and when villages were small, tight-knit worlds in themselves, Spratton was an innocent, idyllic place.
Researchers for a new book, Life in Spratton 1911, have now brought the village history vividly to life in unprecedented detail, using the recently-released census of that year to compile mini-biographies of every villager.
Tracing the likely route trod by the census taker that day,
Michael Heaton and Enid Jarvis painstakingly place every person listed into their houses, most of which remain unchanged today.
The result is a snapshot in time of a bustling community centred on country piles, servants and eccentric gentry.
“Before 2010 when this census data was made public,” says Mr Heaton, “you couldn’t get this level of detail anywhere. We were very excited to see it and to try to see how everyone fitted together. It was an intellectual exercise as well as a social history .”
Basic details – such as name, age, occupation and family members – allowed the pair to work out who employed who; who was related to who; who owned which properties; and the vital role each person played in village life. The starkest narrative was the many schoolboy soldiers-to-be, who would soon be heading off to fight in France.
A total of 130 people from a village of 700 fought in The Great War.
Mrs Jarvis said: “It was easy to trace what happened to some of them because many now feature on our church war memorial. Knowing what was to happen to them – although they didn’t – just a few years later is very sad.”
Much happier was the discovery of a thriving self-contained community.
Five large houses employed a third of the village as everything from governesses to grooms (who were quickly becoming chaffeurs).
Although living conditions in bare, earth-floored cottages appear to have been cramped (with up to eight squeezed into three rooms) services were surprisingly comprehensive.
The village had its own fire service, complete with cart and hand pump, and records show it dealt with a major fire in Chapel Brampton that year.
There was also a brass band and clubs, as well as five inns or pubs.
Spratton also had its own nurse, paid for by the village, and oil streetlighting paid for by the lady of Spratton Hall. In fact, far from being aloof, the rich supplemented the poor, providing parties for children, supporting the church and the Mothers’ Union and often paying for grammar school fees.
The researchers even uncovered the fact the community banded together in 1911 to pay for the repairs to the condemned school, successfully completed in November that year.
Mr Heaton said: “It was only 100 years ago but it was a completely different world. I ended up thinking I would rather have lived in that time.”
To order a copy of the book email firstname.lastname@example.org
Eccentric aviator, William Rhodes Moorhouse, 23, lived at Spratton Grange where he would cause a sensation among villagers on October 3 by landing his aeroplane there. His monoplane would carry the first ever aerial parcel post from Northampton to Hendon. He was posthumously awarded the first aviation Victoria Cross in 1915 after an extreme low-flying mission on a rail line in France, using a bomb in a lever-operated basket. He died the next day of bullet wounds.
The Bevan sisters, Mildred, 59, and Ulrica, 57, brought their grand ways from Brixworth Hall to Spratton House, reporting to the vicar any men or children who did not bow or curtsey. Despite this they served on the nurse’s committee, helped fund the men’s club and church, and later made part of Spratton House a home for wounded soldiers.