Constance Croot

Welcome to my story. It begins, like so may others, in Geddington where my parents were born and where they were the landlords of The Star public house at the centre of the village.

I was born in 1898, just before the turn of the century, the eldest of 5 children. My childhood was spent in that busy building as everyone from the estate workers to the parish constable came there to quench their thirst. I got to know the local farmers, the doctor, the magistrates, (The Star was often used as a meeting place for a post mortem) the builders, the ironstone workers, the leather workers and those young village lads who went off to serve in the war.

There is a strong suggestion that the two little girls in the doorway of The Star are Constance and her sister Eileen.

My parents, Annie and Frederick James Croot, were hard working and hospitable people who gave my sisters, my little brother and me a good example to follow. I enjoyed learning and was particularly fond of music and drama. My ambition was to become a teacher myself, an ambition that would take determination to achieve and I would need the support of my parents while I was not bringing in an income to the family.

My parents and, in particular, my father passed on their sense of civil duty to me and an understanding that everyone should contribute their own talents in support of their community. My father’s civic duties saw him involved in the Parish Council and the Kettering Guardians who tried to alleviate the conditions of those without the means to support themselves. He was an astute businessman and became quite a wealthy man, owning properties in the village and elsewhere. When he and my mother retired we moved to live in a newly built, detached and very comfortable house in Newton Road but my parents always worked hard to raise funds for the good causes in the community and showed great empathy for those less well off than themselves.

As a result I grew up with a strong desire to improve the lot of children in the rural communities and use my education to their benefit. Formal teaching in Geddington School gave me a good grounding and I then went on to become the headmistress of the school in Weekley and later still the headteacher of the school in Old.

This short record appeared in Geddington School’s Headteacher report.

My enthusiasm for dance and music and my interest in the women’s movement motivated me, in my free time, to lead dancing classes for young ladies at The Oddfellows Hall, now No 12 West Street. I was also a member of the WI and took a very active part there. I led debates at meetings on occasion and often took part in the WI’s productions for the Community Theatre Festival or Drama League Festival. I helped script, produce and rehearse as well as taking on roles myself . I used these skills alongside Mr Francis Scott in the Geddington Operatic Society productions in the village. They were so popular the townsfolk of Kettering would walk out to the village to see a production! One of my proudest achievements was a production of ‘Campbell of Kilmohr’ as part of a concert to raise desperately needed funds for the Red Cross in 1945.

There was fun to be had outside too, and not just formal dancing but traditional country dancing and in particular Morris dancing. I was the county secretary for the Northamptonshire Folk Dance and Song Society for several years . What great fun we had as we performed our dances at Rockingham Castle as part of the Folk Festival there!

I did not marry or have children but had a full life and was content to be active in the community which had been home to my family for several generations. I left a legacy of learning and local culture in the music, dance drama and song of Geddington and the surrounding area which is continued today at the WI and through GADS and Young GADS.

After The Elementary Education Act of 1880 schooling was compulsory up to the age of 10 but children had to achieve a certain standard before leaving. Schools in early 20th century England were a mixture of privately funded, endowed and ‘board’ schools. Often a school like the one in Weekley would be a relatively small building, perhaps only with one room with a partition dividing the age groups.

Boys and Girls often had separate entrances and were often taught separately. There was no National Curriculum but a strong emphasis on the 3 ‘R’s; reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic and religious instruction, particularly where the school was endowed by the church.

Rote learning was common. P.E., music, singing and nature study were the opportunity for young pupils to move out of their desks and put down their slates.

This post is part of a series about the Women of Geddington.

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