7 March 1997

Horse lovers tales of days of yesteryear

CHESHIRE FWC met in one of the wonderful old black-and-white buildings of Nantwich, the Crown Hotel last month. At the top of the lop-sided winding staircase I found 60 or so members enjoying coffee and catching up on the news.

The speaker for the morning was John Beech, the husband of member Betty Beech. A Nantwich man born and bred, John took us on an journey through the town, street by street, describing the town of his childhood.

Listening to him took us into another world as we "visited" the shops of yesteryear. There were ironmongers with their wares spilling on to the pavement, butchers where meat was hung on hooks along the shop front, and milliners that supplied the ladies of the area with their hats, an essential in those days. He mentioned several general stores, a magical toy shop, a couple of bicycle shops and several slaughterhouses.

There was the tale of the stately woman who every Monday would walk along the street with a yoke carrying two buckets and every so often she would stop, roll up her sleeves and stir the contents – enough to put one off black pudding!

John Beechs love of horses shone through his talk as he knew exactly where every stable and mews in the town was situated. He told how horses were used for the fire tender, standing harnessed in turns around the clock and how one day the fire bell rang when two of the regular horses were on funeral duty, and they took off at great speed down the road. The sadness he felt when he told of us of the horses conscripted for both world wars was clear to us all.

Since his retirement John has been driving horses for pleasure and pictures of his carriages must feature in many wedding albums. He has a white and gold carriage and one palomino to pull it, but is determined to have a pair in harness before long.

Jean Howells

Cheshire FWC member Betty Beech brought husband John along to the groups February meeting. As guest speaker he took the group on a tour of Nantwich as it was in days gone by with special reference to the work that horses did.