Swimming in Chocolate

Life in Stony Stratford since 1968

Entrance to the Franciscan Monastery formerly Feegans
Entrance to the Franciscan Monastery formerly Feegans

My name is Helen Bellamy. I have lived in Stony Stratford since 1968 and have seen a lot of changes. The A5, also Stony Stratford High Street, was still a main road to London and was busy. I loved living on it and watching all the cars and people going past. I knew lots of older people in Stony Stratford and loved to spend time with them, being generally spoilt and listening to their stories. My two favourite people were Leslie and Gladys Freeman, who lived on the other side of the church yard to us. My brother Patrick and I were round at their house every day; playing with kittens, making scone bread in the Aga and listening to the stories of their very different backgrounds and of their experiences together. Gladys was from a very ‘well to do’ family and Leslie was a Game Keeper so it was a real life Lady Chatterley’s Lover!

‘The Rat Catcher’

I used to hear Leslie referred to as ‘The Rat Catcher’ and the other Stony children used to call their home; ‘Rat Catcher’s Cottage’. This used to make me so angry and I would leap to his defence and point out that he was the Caretaker for the old Franciscan Monastery or Feegans Boys’ Home, as it had been for many years.

Looking around the monastery

Feegans closed in the 1960’s and the monks were living there again when I was very young. Leslie arranged for my mother and I to go and have a look around the inside of the building. I know that I would have had to be on my best behaviour and told to remember that I was a good Catholic girl. I remember the chapel, what seemed like miles of wooden flooring and a general emptiness to the building but one memory is really clear to me. Mum and I went to meet one of the monks and he gave me a bar of Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut. A whole bar all to myself, my brother had refused to come and so it was all mine! This never happened at home and obviously was highly important to me as I remember it clearly although it was nearly forty years ago!

The original of this contribution was created as part of the My Recollections website – a collection of stories and memories, written by a group of learners on a Living Archive Creative IT course

Comments about this page

  • The recollection by Helen Bellamy has taken me back to my childhood days. I was born in Stony Stratford and would have been about 4 when Helen moved here. I have vivid recollections of playing in the old Mary Magdelen Church yard (next to the Freemans cottage) with five or six friends on a regular basis. Indeed I am guilty of calling the Freemans home ‘Rat catcher’s cottage’. To be honest I had no idea why we called it that and I don’t think I knew anything about who lived there. It is a shame we did not meet the Freemans or get to eat the scones – we would have soon come up with a better name then. Anyway thanks to Helen’s recollections I now stand corrected – all be it forty years on!

    By julie watson (26/09/2012)

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