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Sue Thorne: Memories of Happy Childhood Days in Woodhouse Eaves
(with recollections from John Thorne and Stan Michalski)

as recorded by Sue Young

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Heygate house, 2017

Sue Thorne was born in Loughborough, the daughter of a hosiery manufacturer, and lived there until 1948 when, at the age of 11, she was told to take a different bus home from school and someone would meet her at the other end. The bus duly deposited her in Woodhouse Eaves! Her father had bought Long Close House by auction and so began a happy and recurrent association with the house and the village. The large, 10-bedroomed house was probably originally a medieval hunting lodge, later split into 2. Sue’s family lived in the converted servants’ quarters, re-named Heygate House.

Sue joined the choir at St Paul’s Church where she was also confirmed. She summed up her childhood in Woodhouse Eaves as a “safe, lovely life” with a lot of freedom to roam with friends. They enjoyed many activities together, including talks at the Youth Centre. This building, initially the Infant School, belonged to St Paul’s as a church hall, then became the Youth Centre. The children at St Paul’s School walked down the road in crocodiles to have lunch there and called it the “Dinner Room”. It was sold by the Church Commissioners 60 years ago and is now a private house.

Sue had a lifelong passion for horses and Bess Gerard of Fountain Cottage, Beacon Road, who had stables and horses, gave Sue a chance to ride and work with them. She rode with the hunt and took up show jumping and side saddle riding. Sue has judged at horse and pony shows for many years. Fountain Cottage had once been a public house, and the land and stables behind it were later sold when Perry Close was built.

Stan and Sue remember the land now occupied by Rawlins Close was used for stock due to be slaughtered for the butcher’s shop nearby (now Johnson’s). There were 3 butchers in the village, Ida Hughes on Mill Road and George Reeves (for whom Stan worked on Saturday mornings) opposite the Curzon Arms, now both private houses. There were more shops in the village in 1948:

  • a farrier and a potter opposite the Bull’s Head pub
  • a haberdasher’s next to the paper shop
  • another farrier towards the village centre
  • a cobbler
  • a baker’s two houses to the left of the current pharmacy on Main Street. Sue loved being sent to fetch bread from there although by the time she got home the top crust was missing!

Sue remembers going into the vaulted cellars of Long Close House and seeing the names of wines scratched on slates strewn on the floor. A previous owner, Colonel Heygate, was working in London and the house was used as a recovery home. It was rumoured that he bricked up his store of valuable, old wines while he was away!

In 1957 Sue and John married, had 2 children and for many years lived elsewhere in Leicestershire before buying Kingswood House (later Heygate House) at auction. After 3 more moves, they are planning to move back into Heygate House for the third time later this year!

As told to Sue Young and Stan Michalski, 2018.

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The wedding of Sue and John Thorne at St Paul’s, June 1957