Betsy Kellam's memories: part 2

Rann-tanning in Rampton

Rann-tanning in Rempton. (Click to enlarge.)

Betsy mentions Waltham’s last ran-tanning (see below). The photo above is a very rare photograph of ran-tanning, taken in Rampton and dated 1909. Ran-tanning was a form of folk law, known more generically to folklorists as ‘Rough Music’. If someone was judged by the community to have offended moral norms – for instance by beating their wives – the populace would equip themselves with pots, pans, kettles or anything that could create a racket, and parade an effigy to the offending household, usually on three successive nights, after which the effigy might be burned. Because it was a form of vigilantism, and likely to provoke public disorder, ran-tanning and similar activities were banned under the Highways Act 1882, so the incident Besty mentions was therefore illegal. Photo courtesy of Picture the Past.

(Click here to read part 1 of Betsy’s memories of life in Waltham)


The last Ran-tanning at Waltham was for Joe Shaw, a small fat man who had been sleeping with another mans wife. An effigy of them was made and carried through the village in front of a crowd. Anything that would make a noise was beaten through the village. A very solemn headmaster next morning said he would have no more of it, it belonged to the Middle Ages.


We used to walk down Grantham Road past Nobbuk Olla, which when it was pronounced properly was Norbrek Hollow, to go mushrooming or black-berrying. If Dad found a very large one it would be made into Ketchup. We went down the bridle path to Croxton Park to open the gates for the hunts men, if lucky we came home with a few pennies.

The supposed ghost was found out to be a huntsman in a sheet. Croxton Park was the venue for the races. When the trees on Lings Hill got on fire Dad helped to reset them.


In Waltham there were three lots of stables – Gales on Melton Road, Chamberlains opposite the church used by George Beeby, and at the George & Dragon the stables were used by Baldings. After the horses had gone up the street on exercise we would get out a dustpan and bucket to clean up the horse’s muck for Dad’s garden.

Our Carrier

Mr Philip Burgin had a horse and covered wagon with seats along the sides. He would bring anything from Melton – even underwear for two pence. He was a Methodist and would always arrange the Sunday School outings. When we had a party he would tell us to be quiet: “Every time you talk you miss a mouthful”.


We used to go and thread needles for Mrs. North who did a lot of patchwork. She lived at the back of our house. Betsy Welbourne gave us some sweets for going to the other end of the village for eggs. When one of us left school the next one would fetch Mrs. Osborne’s milk, payment a bit of bread pudding with no sugar in it. Mrs. D.C. Ward a farmers wife would make an egg custard for Johnny Gutteridge who would have a bit in a corner, so we would eat a bit and return the dish.


Mother would make us a big apron out of a sack with a pocket at the front and a waistband. We had a apir of scissors on a string. We went into the fields to pick up the ears of corn which the farmers had left. We walked to Thorpe Arnold and some of the farmers would tell us when the field was nearly cut, and we often went home with a rabbit. Threshing was done by steam engine powered by coal. It had a very large roller on the front.

Scarlet Fever

Some of my sisters had scarlet fever. Sister Lizzie didn’t have it but the doctor said “Well take? Her she’ll have it” but she didn’t. To have anything like that in those days was awful. If Mother wanted anything from the shop she would put a note in the window and someone would fetch it and leave it outside. Those were the Good Old Days – when anyone had an illness which was infectious the Duke of Rutland would send someone with a funny little lamp to fumigate the rooms.

Sister Kate

Kate used to make lovely bread, I once asked her to show me how. “Oh” she said “a bit of this and a bit of that” not ever saying how big the bits were. Mine was not fit to eat. She had two sons by her first husband and one by her second. She looked after one whilst his Mother was in a Sanatorium but she never recovered. She kept him as her own. When her son Ivor was playing in the Pits with a friend they found a hand grenade was busy looking at it when it exploded, and Ivor was killed.

What a tragedy.

Lace Making

Many ladies at Waltham made lace with bobbins on a cushion. Children were given laudanum to keep them quiet. Our family kept their children in chairs until their legs were bent.


Benny Wilford delivered coal with a horse and cart. One lady said “Is it good coal Benny?” He said “I don’t know about good, but it will last”. It was just tipped up and left.

Mrs. Hubbard

She was a dressmaker, and once she had pneumonia, and to keep her quiet sacks were laid on the pavement. A farmer caught his foot and down he went with a basket of eggs.

Rent Day

The Duke of Rutland owned our house. He owned them until 1920 then sold them for £120. The Rent Day was twice a year. Someone would take it to Belvoir Castle where a lovely tea was laid on in one of the rooms used on Open Days.

The Fish Pond

About a mile out of Waltham towards Melton is a fish pond. We were not allowed to go to the water, but we could go and see the well-off enjoying themselves on the frozen pond. (Click here to view the pond Betsy mentions.)

Pig Killing

Pork was only available when there was an ‘R’ in the month. When the pig was fat the butcher was called to kill it. A copper of boiling water was ready and the pig was killed, the poor pig squealed and died. It was all scalded and scraped. The nails were taken off and it was all as white as snow. The belly and all its bits and pieces were taken out. The bladder made a football. After the sides lay in salt for a month they hung up to dry to make bacon. Some of the bits made pies and sausages. The front legs were shoulders, the back legs were hams.


Mother would dress poultry for anyone for threepence. I was very honoured to do the feet, used either for gravy or decoration. After plucking the birds were held over a flame to rid them of all the hairs. The stomach was taken out and the neck gizzard and heart went back with the bird to make gravy. Mr. Drewery would put Mother’s big bag of feathers in a cool oven to get rid of any insects, then they made cushions and pillows.


I had the misfortune to become pregnant, I was 16. Anyone would think I had committed a murder. I was sent up to Doncaster for a time, and then to Asfordby Hill – out of sight. Anyway she was born in the same house as we all were born in.

Mother and Dad spoiled her terribly until she was 10, and I got married. Then her home was with us. I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world, I will never ask anyone for anything again. She is STILL the most beautiful girl in the world.

Wash Day

Mother used to take in washing, she was most particular. My Grandma whom I did not know used to do the laundry for Colston Bassett Hall. Mother had a pair of boots made at Rowells, we thought how ugly they were – but she liked them.

There were not many tins of food in those days. After we had collected quite a pram load we would take it to Bescaby Tip, then fill the pram with wood for the fire. On the way to Bescaby there are two fields of humps and hollows. Most of Waltham was built out of these stone pits.


Starting at Stonesby corner, going down the street:

Freestone: Farmers
Talbots: Painter and decorator
Mr. Dickinson: School Inspector
Miss Clark: Music Teacher (5 pence per lesson)
J.W. Watson: Stilton Cheese Maker
J. Watson: Market Gardener
Littlewood: Butcher
Ducky Hubbard: Shoe Mender
Alice & Madge Lord: Farmers
J. Peet: Butcher
Locke Allen: Coal Merchant
Dr. Arnold
Shop: Sweets sold in three cornered bags
H. Kellam: Funerals, carpenter, wheelwright
Carter Tailor: Christadelphian, very nice
Philip Burgin: Carrier, Methodist preacher
Betsy Welborn: George and Dragon Inn
Mrs. Hubbard: Dressmaker
Littlewood: Butcher
Doubleday: Builder
Granby Hotel
Royal Horseshoes
Owen Bros: Corn Merchants
D.C. Ward : Farmer
Wesleyan Chapel
2 Police Houses
Chapman: Blacksmith
Allen’s: Village Shop
Higgins: School Master
Stennets: Farmers
Chapman: Police Inspector

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