Interview with Bill Hawken (of Hawkhill)

Recorded in 1985 by Frank Henshaw

When I was a boy, as well as here at Rowe, we had a shop in Blisland. It's a building right on the edge of the Green, across from the pub; the only building really that's on the edge of the Green. We had it for a number of years and then we discontinued it. I've often been out to Blisland with the pony and trap, delivering from the shop at Blisland. From there we used to go to Jamaica Inn. My father did one round all round Butterstor and that, to Jamaica Inn, and did all the farms on one round; and they'd leave here 8 o'clock in the morning and they'd be coming back thro' Butterstor 12 o'clock at night; and then, you see, they wasn't home, they had to put away their horses. We stabled the horses down shop, behind Mrs Teague, where Sid Skinner's built his nice new house; on the right of their big house there was a stable up in the corner for three horses, more or less up against the back of the last cottages opposite the Band Room. There was also stabling down under the old Sunday School; when the preacher came he used to come with pony and jingle. You could stable three horses there, a proper little stable. Then we had another stable : you went down Duck Street and there used to be a stable there for three horses; it was up against the back of the shop. In 1929 we turned that into an engine house for the electric light. We had a dynamo and cells, and a Pfister 7 Horsepower diesel. The shop was lit from there, the Sunday School, the Chapel, Glenview and the Reading Room; and Pamela Hawken's place, Lawson, had electricity off that; it was 110 volts. That was the first electric here in St Breward. They started wiring before the war and during the war they had to stop; we never had any overheads; we had to wait till after the war; the overheads were put in but we never had any electric in them. (We had ours wired when we were married, where Eric Martin's living now (3 Higher Penquite Terrace); we had that little cottage wired for £7 – 3 lights and a plug in the kitchen. We were there a year and ten months and then we moved over to where Griffins is now. Eric Martin and Do, they moved in and of course they're still there, and they paid me the £7 for the electric (said Mrs Hawken).

I suppose I was the first one around St Breward here to shear sheep with electric clippers. ("They used to come up from school to watch Bill do it" said Mrs Winnie Hawken) That was 1936. ("We used to have a mill there and grind our corn for the pigs" said Mrs Hawken). I sheared two years with the iron clippers, the old-fashioned ones. The last sheep I sheared I did with iron clippers, the year that we gived up keeping sheep; 'twadn't worth getting all the gear out.

If you come to reckon it up, you've man-handled hundreds of tons. We used to have our corn in b'rail, then we handled it over on the lorry from there, then it was taken over to the store and it was pulled up wherever we wanted it; that was done with a pony and trap; it spun the chain on the axle and we boys used to have to lead the horse over – had to do it properly, you know – you could have burst a bag. Then it was handled again before it went out to whoever bought it ("a lot of work, you wonder how you ever did it when you look back over it" said Mrs Hawken). We used to have one truck-load of self-raising flour, that was in 18lb bags ("If you'd seen our shop back them, Ivy, you'd never believe it, to see St Breward shop now" said Mrs Hawken) 6 packets of 3lb in a bag. That was Mitchell's S.R. flour. Then we used to have a truck of salt in, bars of salt; then we used to have the big ones, the 28lb bars, for the pigs, for salting pigs.

Before we built the shop down Wenford, they used to do the same thing up here, up Row shop. They used to bring the corn and that b'wagon from Wenford up to Row and under the butcher's shop door. Above that one there used to be another door, second floor, and there used to be another door above that, more or less a third storey; it used to be like a gantry, where we used to pull the corn up to there and we used to tip it in bins each side, up over the butcher's shop. In the back of the butcher's shop – it's all one room now – there used to be a small room and we used to keep all our flour and corn there. We had chutes from the second floor down to there; you'd put a bag up in under there and lift up your little wood shutter and let down what you want, see, then shut'n off again. All the flour was weighed out from 140lb bags; we used to weigh all our own back then, when I was a boy.

We had big scales there. We always weighed the bullock after he was killed when we used to bring it up to put it in the butcher's shop. We had the back door, like, where the telephone kiosk is now, with a little ramp up to the back door and we used to go in and out there with a quarter of beef and weigh it before we put it on the butcher's stock to be cut up.

At one time the garage and the flat that's up over it now, at one time there wasn't any building there and they used to bring their coal up from Wenford. There was that open space and they used to tip the coal up and it used to be weighed from there ("like Skinners do now down Wenford" said Mrs Hawken).

Skinners eventually took over the coal business, but that wasn't until the middle of the war. Roger Wilcox used to come round with coal years ago and Skinners bought his business.

On Saturday afternoons Roger Wilcox used to convert his lorry into a bus and go into Bodmin. ("Auntie Blanche and I used to go" said Mrs Hawken).

Afterwards they built the garages on there and they put in above them a big store for the groceries – flour, dried fruit, rice.

When I was small we had ponies and traps, a big one and a small one. The pony that used to work that trap, we used to use'n for riding as well, if a telegram was wanted to go anywhere. Then we had a butcher's trap and a little jingle. I think the old butcher's trap is still on the go: he's up Polkerrow, giving rides to the people.

Alec Masters had De Lank Farm then and they used to be the milk people. They used to do the milk round and 'course they had a horse and cart with the churns and the pint and half-pint measure. There's a photo somewhere of Alex with the milk and Abner with the butcher's van.

They used to have a mill down the bottom of Duck Street, a grinding mill; my father could remember it; with the water wheel using water from the stream that runs down under the bridge, round behind there and down to Tordown.

Wenford shop was built just before the 1914-1918 war. They were expecting the clay (works) to expand. There's stones down there now, the higher side of the railway line, that were taken there for to make the dries bigger, but they were never used. And then the war came, see, and they put them in the hedge and never used them.

Aberdeen Angus were the best bullocks for beef. We used to run the Aberdeen Angus bull on Angus cross cows or Devon cross cows. I think Cap'n Hall was about the first one to have Herefords down here; they've got a brave bit of white on them, the face, the tops of the shoulders and up the leg, thick set. We were butchers first along and we tried nearly everything to find out the best.

It was the same with the sheep, especially with the sires. We tried the Oxford Down, the Suffolk Down and then eventually found that the Dorset Down was the best for our business; so we stuck with that one for years and years.

Bill Hawken was William Arthur T Hawken born in 1921, died in September 2003.
He was married to Winifred G Hill in 2nd quarter 1946.

   Thursday, 17 August, 2017    © St Breward History Group 2017