By 1935 employment had improved and housing development had either commenced or plans approved for building homes in Dovecot Lane, London Road and along Broadway toward Chapel Lane. Also there was the cosy homesteads built opposite Broadway Terrace and Woodbine Terrace. King George V and Queen Mary celebrated their silver jubilee and it all added up to a feelgood factor.
Yaxley had two schools, both in Main Street.
The combined Infants and Seniors Girls School was close to Chapel Lane, Main Street junction, next to where the school house still stands and was lived in at that time by Miss Fishwick, headmistress of the girls and Miss Steel, headmistress of the infants. On Empire Day as infants, we marched to church in pairs for a service conducted by the Rev. O’Connor. At playtime boys had to play on their own, away from the girls.
At the age of seven, boys had to move down the Main Street to the Boys School where the headmaster was Mr. F.V. Yarrow. Other teachers who were at either school at this time were Mr. Beeton, Miss Smith, Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Vail, Mr. Adams, Mrs Anthony, Mrs Oliver, Mrs Pettit and Mrs Noble.
Early in 1936 King George died and then came the constitutional crisis between Edward VIII and government, over his intention to marry Mrs Simpson. He would of course abdicate in the end in favour of his brother. During those times news was not as forthcoming of these events as it would be today, but the odd ditty did emerge like the one below –
“Look who’s coming down the street
Mrs Simpson, aint she sweet
She’s been married twice before
Now she’s knocking on Teddy’s door”
In 1937 came the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Each schoolchild was given a book and a coronation mug. There were decorated floats in a parade around the village and races, ending the day with a firework display in Mr. Spendelow’s field.
Around this time Church Lane became Church Street, Chapel Lane became Chapel Street, Middletons Lane became Middletons Road and Cow Lane became Windsor Road.
In the nineteen thirties most business premises were situated in Main Street and Co-op windows faced down the street towards the Grange, which was occupied then by the Emerton family.
And as the decade wore on, the name of Adolf Hitler was to be heard more frequently. On one of his visits to meet Hitler, the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is alleged on his return from Munich to have said to his wife “I’m dealing with a madman”.
At about this time an army camp was built a few hundred yards from the Yaxley crossroads and an open evening was held with a searchlight demonstration. In 1939 as the country edged towards war, various instructions were issued as to be beware of fifth columnists etc., the street lights were going to be switched off and a blackout imposed. Children were fitted for gas masks at the Boys School.
War was declared on September the 3rd.
Children were evacuated from large towns and cities. The reception centre for evacuees to the village was the Public Hall and a committee placed them throughout the village. Their teachers also arrived and among them were Mr. Stannard (headmaster), Mr. Smith, Mr. Hall, Miss Phelps (headmistress), Mrs. Simpson, Miss Lewis and Miss Ratcliffe. The Public Hall became their school but it also doubled-up as an entertainment venue.
Soldiers were also in the village and occupied the Billiard Hall, the Territorial Hall and the buildings outside of the Grange.
As the brickworks closed down, men sought work elsewhere, many travelling to the steelworks in Corby.
Many organisations were brought into being like the Home Guard, the V.A.D.(Red Cross), Special Constables, the A.R.P., who met at Mr. R.A.Speechley’s home and the A.F.S., who supplemented the fire service and met in a loft to the rear of Mr. & Mr.s John Ireson’s builders yard.
Major and Mrs. Christie were living at the Cedars in Chapel Street. Major Christie was a Harley Street specialist and Mrs. Christie was the daughter of Sir Abe Bailey who had diamond interests and was a well known racehorse owner.
A comforts fund was set up for the forces and a bicycle was purchased and left at Peterborough North Station for the use of local servicemen, should there be no other transport when coming home on leave.
Coaches were provided on Sundays to transport parents of the evacuees from London to visit their children. The coaches arrived via the A1, dropping parents off at the crossroads, then continuing to Peterborough via the A15.
At the army camp along the London Road an incident occurred in which a soldier died. After a while the camp was transferred from the army barracks to the Prisoner of War Camp for captured German P.O.W.’s, with another camp built nearby to house the Italian prisoners. All prisoners had large coloured patches on their clothes and were employed mostly on the land.
In the winter of 1940/41 a skating match was held on the river that ran beside the meadows. A small marquee was loaned by Col. W.T.Cook, head of West End Works and now in charge of the Home Guard. Cups were on display and there were many races. Mr. George Strickson, a former fen skating champion was involved and skated around the circuit but did not compete. It made a great treat for us as schoolchildren and adults alike and at the end we made our way back through the railway arch into the first meadow and home.
At Yaxley crossroads there were houses on three of the corners but luckliy a grass field on the fourth and that is where a bomb fell during a raid. Two aeroplanes crashed within the village boundary: a Lancaster bomber crashed on the evening of the 4th March 1943 on a hedge which divided Mr. T.W. Robinett’s orchard and a cornfield and in the late Summer of 1944 a Mustang fighter of the American air force crashed in Land’s Fen.
The population was urged to grow more vegetables and a garden club was formed and seeds purchased in bulk. This led to an annual flower, fruit and vegetable show, which ran in conjunction with other events on a large field near the crossroads. This was a huge success. One year the show was opened by exiled Yugoslav princes.
The development of the recreation ground had been held up until after the war. The grass field had been purchased from Mr. Jack Baines in the late nineteen thirties.
At the age of twelve years boys could with school permission, work on the fen harvesting potatoes and earn about 10/- (50p) per day.
At the end of the war in Europe, dancing and celebrations were held everywhere and at the junction of Broadway and Middletons Road, Mr. Amos Clark provided the music for an all night dance. He said that when the war with Japan was over he would do the same and he remained true to his word.