Tenants at No 52 - Glebe Cottage

From Clifford Chambers
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John Lively is always remembered as living at No. 52, but he started his life at - it is thought - Cold Comfort Farm. One of 10 children living there. According to notes made many years ago, he was minding cows and sheep at the age of 5. At the age of 7, he was scaring birds with clappers. At the age of 12 years, he was rising at 5.00am each day and milking 5 cows – all before 7.00am and getting 3 shillings (15p!) but that was considered a good weekly salary at that time!

He went back to the farmhouse for breakfast each day after 7.00am to eat cold boiled bacon, with a pint (?) of beer and a basin of bread and milk. He was back at the farmhouse for lunch later on, for bread and cheese - and in the evening, there was cold boiled bacon again but this time with vegetables – and yet more beer. Then before retiring to bed, there was supper of cheese and beer – and bed was at 8.00pm

He always stated that he had only two years of schooling – whenever the farm could spare him for the teaching.

Then came a change. At the age of 14 he was promoted to under-shepherd. But better still, at the age of 18 he became a waggoner at ten shillings a week – (50p), and he kept that job until he was 30.

It was at that age, he took on the job of Clerk/Sexton and grave-digger – and that is when he moved into the rather comfortable cottage of No. 52 with the front path crossing over his front garden to his smart front door. Very smart! The cottage belonged to the Church and was always known as Glebe Cottage. He died there in the cold winter of 1947

He had two employers during his lifetime as Clerk/Sexton both connected with the Church. One was Mrs. Rees-Mogg and she, of course, was the Patron of the Church. Mr. Black was the other, and he was a Churchwarden. Mr. Black might have also been his employer (and maybe landlord) when the family worked at Cold Comfort Farm.

John was quite willing to tell his wages at that time. For digging a grave he received half-a-crown – i.e. two shillings and sixpence (12 and a half pence). The Church work for a year gave him £3 – that is what the notes say! He also supplied (and was paid for) wood for the heating and he also sometimes supplied the candles for the services.

Added to this, he became a bell-ringer at the age of 20 and continued bell ringing for services for 60 years. He had also been a member of the choir until he became Sexton

On the morning of a funeral, John would toll the bell – just to let everyone know there would be a funeral that day. Some hours before the funeral service, he would start digging the grave and tolling the bell at the same time! For those not acquainted with this custom, the bell was tolled once each time with quite an interval between the next toll. When the funeral was over, he rang the bell half-way up.

Mrs. Tustain could remember as a girl, counting the times the bell tolled. This was on the day of the actual death of the person – not the day of the funeral. As soon as anyone died, two people were instantly told – the Rector being one, and Clerk Lively the other. As soon as he heard the news, Clerk Lively would go to the Church and toll the bell – so many tolls for a man, so many for a woman and so many for a child. At the time she told me this. Mrs. Tustain could not remember how many tolls each one had.

Clerk Lively was always very busy on a Sunday. Before a service, he helped ring the bells; then he would have the task of lighting all the oil lamps in the Church (and of course putting them out after the service.) He was also bass singer in the choir, but the noticeable thing about him, was the way he led all the responses – and his Amen after every prayer, resounded loud and strong long after everyone else had said Amen.

One other job he was remembered for, was the solemn handing out of 6d an hour to the children who had scrabbled in the dust and dirt of the fields picking up stones for road-making. The stones were placed in heaps along the edge of the field ready for collection, and the children would walk along the village street every Saturday morning to Clerk Lively's house to collect their wages. 6d an hour was quite a treat then.

After his death, John's grandson, Den Beasley took over the task. Den's mother Rose, was John's daughter. Den wasn't her only child. Her second child died soon after birth, and Rose struggled out of her bed to attend the little one's funeral. As far as I can understand, it poured – a real downpour – at the funeral, and Rose caught pneumonia and died. Den's upbringing was left to his Aunt Phoebe Radbourne – Kath Radbourne's mother. After Den's very sudden and tragic death, Jack Radbourne, Phoebe's son, took over the Church duties.