A Tutbury Childhood

“Lambs Tail Pie and a Pennyworth of Stales” – finding food for the table in a poor (but happy) family in Ludgate Street in the 1920’s.

“Life seemed all about work and eating.”

The women were really good at managing. I remember Mother sending me into Burton to Melias to get a shoulder of mutton for two shillings. She would make it last enough for dinners all week. Then I was sent to Tommy Owen, the butcher in High Street, for a sheep’s head for threepence, and it would be boiled up and the meat taken off to make brawn. The brains would be kept for my brother’s tea and he’d have them on toast. Dad would have the tongue with parsley sauce. Vegetables would be put in the stock for soup. There was cow’s cheek for fourpence – this was also made into brawn and soup in the oval pot over the fire, and dumplings would be added. The oval pot over the fire must have been the most important utensil in the home.

At one time Dad worked in the plaster mines at Fauld. When he was on nights, he would set traps for rabbits and bring them home in the morning. I would help mother to skin and clean them and put them in the pot. Plenty of home-grown vegetables would be added and it made a lovely meal. We ate the rabbit stew out of a basin with crust bread.

Tuesdays and Thursdays we’d go to the Soup Kitchen in Duke Street with cans and jugs to get lovely soup for only a penny a quart. We’d all push and shove and shout “let us in”. I always wanted to be one of the first as then you got meat in your can, but my big sister always beat me to it.

Dad would do loads of toast in front of the fire on Sunday afternoons – I can taste toast and dripping as I write.

Christmas was a good time. Dad always kept a goose and cockerel in the yard to be fattened up for the holiday. We had a washhouse and Mam would boil the Christmas pudding in the copper. One of my brothers took the poultry and meat to Parrick’s bakery on Christmas morning and they cooked the meat as a present for their customers. I always liked to see the shop windows at this time of the year, wooden boxes of raisins, currants and candied peel, whole flitches of bacon and hams. The other window was full of whisky and wine. Coffee was also roasted in the shop, the smell was wonderful.

There was mostly horse-drawn transport. We had Joey Bloor with his fruit, vegetables, flowers and fish, and Rondi with his lovely ice creams. Sunday mornings, one of the village characters called Toshy came round with a clothes basket full of fresh watercress, you could get a big plate full for a penny.

Mam would send me to Parricks on Monday mornings for a pennyworth of stale buns or cakes and she would make us a pudding, enough to last us two or three days. When Mr Shaw, the farmer up the road, was docking the lambs I would go with my brother and pick up the docked tails and take them home. Mam would skin them and make a pie, she’d add onions, carrots, pearl barley, potatoes and parsley, and put a suet crust on the top. Oh how we enjoyed ourselves with those meals!”

(Extracts reprinted with kind permission of Mrs Elaine Rignall from the memoirs of her mother, Edna Tipper, held by the Museum.)