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Melanina Guiliani R.I.P.

Melanina died in Duncote Hall on 11th June 2018 at 9.30 am.  She never really made much of her recovery from the stroke she had at the beginning of March and over the last few weeks had become increasingly drowsy and uncommunicative.  She was very well cared for by the Nurses at Duncote and Dr Akram from Greens Norton had been seeing her regularly.
Melanina has been an integral part of Abthorpe village for decades and her death represents the end of an era.  

I will miss her as a good friend with a nice sense of humour and a great love for her village.  

Her funeral will be in Towcester Catholic church and I hope she will be buried close to Alberto, who died in 1997.

I will let you have the details as soon as they are arranged.

Those were the words of Dr Charles Fox an outreach volunteer for Towcester’s Roman Catholic Church. Her death indeed marks the end of an era.

Melanina’s connection with Abthorpe all began with Alberto Guiliani from Modena in northern Italy close to the Ferrari factory. He was called-up to serve in the Italian Army and served in the North African desert campaign fighting against General Montgomery and the British Eighth Army. Alberto was captured and ended up as a prisoner-of-war at Slapton in a camp  just a short walk across the fields from Abthorpe. When hostilities ceased Alberto decided to remain in England and settled in a cottage overlooking our village green. It wasn’t long before he met Melanina a fellow Italian who came from Avellino a small town in the shadow of the volcano Mount Vesuvius. She came from a big family and as a teenager she worked hard with her father in the fields. Several of her siblings emigrated to Brazil, South Africa and the USA. Melanina chose to come to England and obtained a job to work as a domestic at Bloxham School. Nora Hindes met her and was instrumental in bringing her to Abthorpe almost 70 years ago.

She met Alberto and obtained a job working for Reg Chapman who ran the post office from the thatched cottage on the village green. She did most of the counter serving at the post office for many years and also delivered the mail to parts of the village.

Alberto died in 1997 and is buried in our cemetery. He had never been able to afford a car – just a three-wheeler. But Melanina was determined that his love of Ferraris would never be forgotten and asked our then parish priest Canon Bridget Smith for permission to have a picture of his favourite car placed on his gravestone. Her wish was granted.

Having a conversation with her was fraught with difficulties and misunderstandings as she never did master the English language despite living amongst us for over 70 years. But Melanina was a wonderful character who will indeed be missed from our community.



The life and times of Ian Willsher 1947 - 2017

Many in the village will have fond memories of Ian, his humour and resilience. He died recently. His wife, June, has sent us this remembrance of him.

Ian’s parents were married very young just before the Second World War broke out . Ian’s father was posted to Africa for the duration of the war but on his return home he and Ian’s mother set up home together again, and Ian was born on 13th June 1947.

History has taught us that many soldiers came home from war and found difficulty in settling down to normal life and Harry Willsher was no exception to this. Ian was only two years old when his mother left home leaving Ian to be brought up by his “rather strict father”. Without the softer presence of his mother Ian became a rather naughty little boy and the final straw came for his father when Ian was 5 years old and he set the school piano alight by poking lighted matches through the green material backing of the piano until it finally went up in flames.

So, Ian was sent off to a high church boarding school in Reigate, Surrey, where he stayed for the rest of his school life. Although Ian did well at school academically, the rebellious side to his nature frequently got him into trouble and he was the recipient of regular punishments with the cane (‘6 of the best’). But to his schoolmates Ian was a hero because of his resilience and determination to speak up for himself and any other chum, if he felt that he or they were being mistreated in any way.

After leaving school Ian joined the Royal Marines and worked his way up to Colour Sergeant, undertaking jungle warfare in Borneo and serving in the desert of Aden where he was shot in the leg and was flown home to UK for surgery. The situations he witnessed, the memories of friends he made and lost remained with him until the end. He also carried out duties guarding our Royal Family both here at home and abroad. His lips were always tightly closed apart from some funny innocent stories.

Fast forward to 1985. Ian had left the Marines, and, now divorced, moved to Northamptonshire to start afresh. June, similarly divorced, but the two having not yet met, moved in the same year to the same place and so their paths crossed. “Our children went to the same school, maybe we brushed shoulders on parents’ evenings or at the school gates. But it was at a housewarming party of a mutual acquaintance that things became serious. Midway through the evening Ian came over and asked me to dance. The music was Lady in Red: there was something special going on, and we both felt it! From that point on we became soul mates – and remained so right to the end of Ian’s life.

“We married a year later in September 1986 and settled down to family life. Jez, my son was just 10 years old and in much need of a father figure. Ian was very good at filling that role and Jez looked up to him. My girls were older and Andrew, Ian’s son, spent weekends with us. It worked out well.

In 1996 tragedy struck when we lost my daughter Ellie to leukaemia. Ian propped the family up during those months: he was kind, caring and carried the responsibility of the family on his shoulders while spending hours reading to and caring for Ellie. “We moved to Abthorpe in 1998 when I became housekeeper to Angela and David Darling in Leeson House. Unfortunately the household duties became too much for me following an operation in 2000. We were very happy to be able to stay living in Abthorpe as 1 Cadogan Place was empty.

I got very involved with village life through The Abthorpe Fund Group, which I enjoyed. And Ian helped whenever he could. “Ian loved living in Abthorpe – we both did. Many happy memories were made there, many friends and acquaintances never forgotten. We would happily have spent the rest of our lives here but three years ago with Ian deteriorating fast and in desperate need of help to look after him we moved to Wales to be with Jez and his family. The close bond between Ian and Jez came to the fore again, only this time the tables were turned and it was Jez who had the broad shoulders for Ian and me.

Ian died very peacefully with Jez and me by his side. Ian was a kind, caring generous and loving man and a good husband, but that strong rebellious streak was still there, right to the very end. Bless him.”


4th November 2017
Leonard Bodily R.I.P.

Len, the oldest man in our village, died recently. His family has issued the following statement of thanks: -

' Peter, Carole and the Bodily family would like to thank the Abthorpe community for the love, care and friendship that they have shown to Betty and Len. Both in times of good health and more particularly in recent times of failing health the community has reciprocated the feelings that our parents felt for the tight-knit village group. We will always remember your support throughout and the strong presence at the funerals. With much gratitude, Peter and Carole.'

At Len’s funeral his son Peter delivered an emotional eulogy – a fitting testimony to his father’s long life. The following is an edited version: -


Len, was born locally and lived with his parents and Bet, Billy, Phin, Albert, Frank, Maggie, Violet, Fred, Kath, and Ivy. Dad was the youngest and the last surviving of this family group.

Dad started as a farm labourer. He married Betty in 1949,and shortly after that they moved to Abthorpe to live with Granny Cann. That was their cherished home until the very end and the spiritual home to Carole and I to this very day.

Dad then worked on the presses at Plessey before moving to Hadsphaltic for a happy, but hard-working 15 years. He then moved to Atkins and Shaw for 4 years. These were some of the best years of his life, happy at home, Carole and I growing up and many work friends from Abthorpe ( now nearly all deceased ) working together throughout those years in the construction industry. Those years were brought to an end by having a serious operation on his overworked back . He finished his working days as a quality inspector at British Timken. He quickly established himself there. When the news of the birth of his first grandson Sam came through during a board meeting the Chairman cracked open a bottle of champagne. Such was the respect for Len.

Our dad was a hard- working, strong, loyal, and kind man with true working class family values. He loved his wife, his children, and his wider family. Mum and dad provided for us to the extent that if needs be they went without to give us what we needed. Both Carole and I vividly remember Saturday tea time. Dad insisted on cooking that meal instead of Mum, always bacon, mushrooms etc…to the accompaniment of Billy Two Rivers, Jackie Pallo and Mick McManus.

Dad also loved his garden and his greenhouses, and the garden always looked colourful and immaculate.

Despite all of this, his family was what he was most proud and protective of. He and mum, never failed to support me through university and onwards. Carole stayed closer to home and she was a constant source of joy for them. Her children Sam and Alex  and her grand-children Jacob and Zachary were precious to him, especially the little ones during recent  times of illness.

Mum and dad spent much of the last few years helping and looking after each other. Now I am sure that they are together again.



26th June 2017
Betty Bodily RIP.

Sadly, Betty Bodily a very long term resident of our village, has died at the age of 88. Looking back over her long life, her son Peter recalled that his Mum, Betty to everyone else, was born in Birmingham to George and Gladys Cann. Her beloved father, a policeman, died as a result of events during the Second World War and mum moved to nearby Slapton with her mother. They then moved to Cadogan Place in Abthorpe where they kept pigs.

Mum and her close friend Kath Redford occasionally saw my dad, Len, and his friend Bob Salmons near the New Inn in Abthorpe. The two couples married.

Betty and Len were married in Abthorpe in 1949 and went to live with dad’s sister Violet and her husband while new houses were being completed. After a short time in the new house in Plumpton Rd, Woodend and conceiving Peter, Granny Cann had a fall and it was decided that we would move in with her to help out. That was mum and dad’s home from then onwards.

Mum worked as a caretaker at Abthorpe Primary School once her son Peter was at school there. Later she worked at the Towcester show factory either side of producing my sister Carole.

Mum was a loving, compassionate and strong woman. Her main motivations in life were three things, community, family and marriage. Her only two ‘vices’ in life were chocolate and a small glass of Bailey’s.

In the community of Abthorpe mum and dad lived together through work, children, school and friendship. I can remember the ‘Lane’ (Brackley Lane)….Balderson, Bunting, Bodily, Kendall, Snelson, Rush, Dancer, in and out of each others’ houses, but only when they wished to let their privacy slip. It is pleasing for Carole and I to see that the ‘new side of the lane’ has developed that same caring community spirit. Indeed Trish Holmes and her family became the nearest thing mum and dad had to ‘an extended family’.

The butcher’s van would arrive and I would run out to it with mum to get my favourite lump of raw suet that obviously made me the fit man I am today. The men would arrive home together and mum would have dad’s tea ready…after he had kicked a ball around with me for a while. At university and later at work, Betty’s generous hospitality  became famous from London to Portsmouth to Bedford and onward. Friends came home for the weekend in the assurance that they would be provided with a huge meal for free. All the time I was away my lovely little sister was forging a closer and closer loving parental relationship that would last with mum until the very end.

The family was my mum’s main focus. The ones who really mattered were Carole and I, our partners Virginia and Colin, the grandchildren Sam and Alex, and the great grandchildren. Sam’s twins Jacob and Zachary have been the ‘apple of the eye’ of both mum and dad, giving them much joy and relief as health declined. As long as we were all in touch mum and dad were fine.

The defining part of mum’s life though was her marriage to dad. They adored each other, helped and supported each other through all those 68 years. Indeed my mum fought illness with conviction and through pain to be there for dad: that was her job in life, and we all knew it.

Betty though would not wish for us to be sad on her parting. She would want each of us to carry on with her love in our hearts, and to be remembered in our prayers every day.


7th May 2017
Bob Carter RIP.

Bob Carter our serving Parish Clerk has died. At the Abthorpe Annual Parish Meeting on 8th May, the Chairman Cllr Keith Fenwick made this tribute to his friend: -

“I start my report this year on a very sad note. Sitting next to me should have been our clerk, Bob Carter. As many of you already know, Bob very sadly died last Thursday. For me, this was a personal loss. He was a great friend of many years. As Clerk he approached the job with enthusiasm and dedication. Over the years, the job of clerk has become ever more complex but Bob mastered all its intricacies. Bob was tenacious in dealing with the wide range of problems which have to be solved and in liaising with all the outside bodies involved in handling them. Bob was well-known for his jokes; some good, some bad, some simply unrepeatable. He will be greatly missed. “

At a subsequent meeting of the Parish Council on 15th May Cllr Marna Perrigo was elected Chairman whilst the former Chairman Cllr Keith Fenwick agreed to act as temporary Parish Clerk until a new appointment can be made.  


25th February 2017
Mrs Audrey May Dancer RIP.

Abthorpe Church was packed for the funeral service of much loved villager Audrey Dancer who died recently at the age of 93.

Our Rector the Rev’d Paul McLeod told the congregation made up of family, friends and parishioners that Audrey was a true lady of Abthorpe. She was born in a cottage in School Lane in 1923 and was the youngest of six children. The late Dorothy Swann, Rene Balderson who is blessedly still living and Audrey were all born in our village in the same year and were life-long friends. Audrey lived virtually all her long life in Abthorpe except for a brief spell working at Northampton’s Manfield Hospital. She attended our village school and was able to work in the shoe factory that was sited close to our pub. When children David and Rosemary were born she did what she liked best and devoted her life to making a loving and caring home for them and her late husband Tony who died in 2009.

Grandson Andrew Dancer in his eulogy delivered by Nick Pike recalled that our Gran was always there for us with a cup of tea and a slice of cake. An invitation was never needed as Gran was always at home. She would remember about her extended family members and never forgot the important things they were doing. She would on occasion be on Facebook catching up with their adventures. Not bad for 93!

Audrey was a life-long member and supporter of our parish church and would surely have enjoyed the lusty singing of the two hymns chosen in her honour. “O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder consider all the work Thy hand hath made,” and “Lead us heavenly Father lead us o’er the world’s tempestuous sea.”

As Matthew Farr one of her grandsons recalled in his eulogy. Gran had always been such a big part of his life since the day he was born. And with his voice breaking with emotion Matthew concluded that we all loved her so much ..... and it will never be the same without her. 


14th November 2014
John Henry Foster , one of our village’s colourful and seemingly ever-cheerful characters died recently. At his memorable funeral service led by Peter Byng in our parish church he was given a wonderful send-off by family, friends and villagers.  The service sheet, complete with pictures of his life here in Abthorpe and the military, plus Spitfires flying above the clouds, reflected his love of his family and all things aeronautical.

John’s family issued the following statement: -

“John was born in Abthorpe to Maud and Arthur Foster on 4th December 1926. He attended both Abthorpe and Silverstone Schools. He spent a wonderful childhood in the village and joined the Royal Air Force Cadets. He trained as an electrician and worked for many years with Bertie Allen.

He was called-up into the Army where he served with the Royal Engineers. He served in England and was then drafted to Egypt where he spent two years near Ismalia and El-Ballah working in a power station overseeing Italian Prisoners of War.

After returning to England and being demobbed he worked for the local Electricity Board and Griffin’s in Towcester. Later he joined Plessey at Caswell where he worked until he retired.

He was married for nearly 40 years to Joy until she passed away in July 1991. He was always prod of his garden and vegetables and spent many happy hours attending air shows around the country. He was a life-long Cobblers supporter and an avid footballer in his youth. He was never one to miss a laugh or a joke.

He died in his sleep at Duncote Hall on 24th October 2014. “

As the order of service at John’s funeral proclaimed, “He married Joy at Blakesley Church in September 1951. They lived in Abthorpe all their married lives and raised two children. Joy passed away in July 1991 and his wish has now been granted that they are reunited.”  


24th August 2014
Mr David Hughes
Sadly we have to report the death of David Hughes. David, who came from Sheffield, was born in 1938 and spent his working life in banking. Soon after leaving school he seriously considered entering the priesthood, but changed his mind and went to college in Cheltenham.  But he must have had an adventurous streak as, early in his working life, he got a job for Barclays Bank, who sent him to Canada. This was in 1961 when travel by ship was still the norm but David’s employer suggested he delayed his journey by a week so that he could travel on the maiden voyage of the Empress of Canada.

In 1975 he went to the Harvard Business School, where he gained banking and business qualifications.  Around this time he also gained his Canadian citizenship.  David worked in both Canada and the USA, travelling widely on behalf of his employers. He finished his career as Vice President of the Toronto Dominion Bank, for a time sharing an office building with Dr Henry Kissinger. 

He retired in his mid-fifties and considered moving to Vancouver Island, but eventually decided to return home to England.  He came to live in Abthorpe 19 years ago choosing this village quite by chance, but settled in and took an active part in village life.

He had a particular love for the Church in Abthorpe. He was Church Warden for about 10 years.   David had had heart surgery before he came here so had to exercise regularly. He made many friends on his daily walk, which had to be done at a fair pace, on the circle through Slapton.

David spent his time reading and gardening. Holidays took him all over the world; he was hoping to go on his first visit to Guernsey in September.

A couple of years ago, his health started to fail. Poor eyesight meant he had to give up driving and could not keep his garden in shape and so last year he moved to Towcester. He always said he had no fear of dying, supported by his strong Christian faith, but just feared the process of dying. The end came peacefully in his sleep. 


10th December 2012
Dorothy Swann was a lovely, truly Abthorpe lady. She lived in the same house in the village virtually all her long life and always took a great interest in local affairs and people. Dot, as she was affectionately known was baptised here in 1923, attended Abthorpe School until the age of eleven when she transferred to Silverstone Secondary School . She married Frank her husband here in 1968 and finally was laid to rest from our parish church. She loved the village where she had spent most of her life.  

The church was packed with relatives, friends and villagers for her funeral service conducted by the Rector Rev’d Paul McLeod. During the service a eulogy was read that had been compiled by relatives and friends. After leaving school at the age of 14 and taking a course in administration and typing, Dot obtained a job at Grooms Garage in Towcester. In 1942 as she wanted to support the war effort she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Army the then women’s branch of the British Army. On Victory in Europe Day in May 1945 she was serving with the ATS at Castle Ashby to the east of Northampton and was allowed a day off to celebrate. She hitch-hiked to Towcester and there stopped for a drink in the Wheatsheaf. A friend spotted her and gave her a lift to Abthorpe in time for the celebrations and a drink at our pub. On the 60th anniversary of VE Day she again sat in our pub and reminisced about her wartime experiences to a small group of enthralled people.

Dot’s maiden name was Townsend but her mother was a member of the esteemed Abthorpe Snelson family. When shortly before her death she was told that the new housing development being built opposite her cottage was to be called Snelson’s Orchard, it brought a tear to her eye. And, the Rev’d Paul concluded, it is with that knowledge it is felt her rest with God is surely assured.


4th September 2012
DAVID DARLING of Leeson House here in Abthorpe was this morning laid to rest in our church yard. The private ceremony was attended by the family and close friends.

This afternoon a most wonderful service of thanksgiving for the life of David Darling; who died on 23rd September at the age of 80; was held in our parish church. The church was packed to overflowing with family, a large number of friends and of course villagers. An overflow marquee erected on the village green was equipped with a sound link to the church to provide shelter for those unable to squeeze into the service.

The celebration of David’s life was presided over by Mr Simon Forster and our Rector the Rev’d Paul McLeod who welcomed everyone to the village. After the singing of ‘Lead us heavenly father, lead us,’ tributes were paid to David. He was a keen fisherman all his life and his grandson Ollie Forsyth beautifully read a most touching prayer – ‘God grant that I may live to fish until my dying day.’ Three other grandchildren Archie Forsyth, Minnie and Ella Royden recited another poem ‘God’s Garden’ “It broke our hearts to lose you, but you didn’t go alone,/ For part of us went with you the day God called you home.”

Peter Nutting, in a tribute that had the congregation in both tears and laughter described his long standing friend. David and Angela had been married for 47 years. They had lived at Leeson House here in Abthorpe for 46 years. Mr Nutting outlined David’s business career as Managing Director of a textile company that employed over 100 people and also of another company that manufactured jodhpurs. He was active in village affairs and acted as Chairman of the Old School Committee for over 30 years and was a long service member of the Leeson Trust. Mr Nutting also commented on David’s prowess as a fisherman and described how even four weeks ago he caught more fish than anyone else in his group of fishermen friends.

Annabel Royden, one of David’s daughters movingly read Mary Elizabeth Fry’s poem “Do not stand by my grave and weep,” and singers from Towcester Choral Society provided beautiful renditions of Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus and God be in my head, a prayer for God’s guidance.

With Glory, glory hallelujah, the final chorus of the final hymn still ringing in their ears the congregation walked across the village green for refreshments at Leeson House. Many must have echoed the final words of Peter Nutting’s tribute. “What a character! He will never be forgotten!.” 


26th January 2010
Mrs Elsie Kelcher who lived in Abthorpe all her life, died recently at the age of 84. Elsie the youngest of the four Kendall children was born in a cottage that formerly stood at the bottom end of Main Street in a part of the village that has been abandoned. Shortly after her birth the family moved to the blacksmith’s shop on the village green. She spent her childhood there and attended Abthorpe village school, transferring at eleven to Silverstone secondary school. On leaving school at the age of 14 her sister Rene recalls that she became a shop assistant at Woolworths in Northampton . Come sun or rain Elsie would cycle into Towcester to catch the bus and sometimes arrived at work soaked through. When the Second World War began Elsie was employed at a clothing factory that set up business in Abthorpe having been bombed out of London . She not only helped to manufacture ladies’ dresses but military clothing for the troops. Later in the war she transferred to Groom and Tattersalls foundry and engineering works close to Towcester railway station sited where Homebase stands today. It was very heavy work and Rene recalls that Elsie hated every minute of it.

When the war ended Truform took over Abthorpe’s factory so Elsie obtained a job there helping to make shoes.

In 1948 she married Blakesley man Eric Kelcher. They had a son named Stewart and Elsie was content to remain a proud housewife for the remainder of her life. She worked tirelessly for our parish church. Together with her friend Kath Evans she organised a cake stall for many years at both the summer fete and the Christmas bazaar. Later with her church warden sister Rene she devoted huge amounts of her spare time making items for a needlework stall that raised a large amount of money to repair and refurbish the church roof.

Elsie was buried in Abthorpe church yard extension. She was a very quiet and modest lady – a lovely person who is sorely missed.


26th January 2010
Mr John Bunting
also died recently at the age of 84. John was born in Greens Norton and attended the village school. On leaving school he joined the family’s bakery business A. A. Bunting whose shop and bake house was located close to the current butcher’s shop. After service in the army during the second world war he returned to Greens Norton to work in the bakers. Unfortunately as this affected his health he was forced to cease baking and obtained a succession of jobs. John married Margaret Judge in Abthorpe parish church in 1961 and lived at a house in Brackley Lane where he remained until his death. John is remembered with affection and many local people recall his great prowess as a cook.


19th October 2009
Mr Charles Edmund Kendall, born and bred in Abthorpe, has sadly died at the age of 87. He was best known in the village simply as Shen, a nickname he acquired when he was a pupil at Silverstone Secondary School (now the Infants) and insisted on repeatedly singing a shanty entitled Shenandoah that had been made famous on the wireless by baritone Peter Dawson. Shen left school at the age of 14 and after farm labouring he was appointed as a junior porter for the London Midland and Scottish Railway company based at Helmdon station.

In 1940 after the Battle of Britain, although senior railway employees were in a protected occupation, Shen a junior was called up. Following an aptitude test he was recruited into the Royal Regiment of Signals and after an initial posting to Northern Ireland trained as a wireless operator at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire . After training he found himself on a troop ship that sailed down the River Clyde and out into mid-Atlantic in a bid to avoid German submarine patrols based in occupied France . Shen had little idea of where he was going. Some days later under cover of darkness, the convoy slipped through the Straits of Gibraltar and on the 8th November 1942 it anchored in the Bay of Algiers . There, amazingly, he bumped into his Abthorpe friend Harry Hinton who was serving with the 5th Northamptonshire Regiment. They remained life long friends and often shared a pint of Hooky in our pub. After his ship was dive-bombed by enemy aircraft he joined the American led 1st Army that was pushing east whilst British General Montgomery ’s 8th Army was pushing west from its base in Egypt in an attempt to encircle the Axis armies. After hospital treatment for dysentery Shen was attached as a signaller to a Royal Artillery ant-aircraft battery that landed on the Italian mainland to defend the port of Naples . The volcano Vesuvius promptly erupted! Although the Italians capitulated Shen always insisted that the Germans remained a potent fighting force right up to the date of their capitulation – 7th May 1945.

The dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945 signalled the end of the war and Shen and his comrades’ fears of being posted to the Far East never materialised. When reflecting on his war time experiences, Shen always insisted that he was no hero and was perhaps lucky because as a signaller he was often unaware of how close he was to the type of action experienced by infantrymen. His grateful country awarded him four medals that he wore with pride at parades of our local branch of the British Legion.

He was demobilised in February 1946 and returned to work for the LMS as a signalman at both Blakesley and Towcester boxes. When our local railways closed he obtained work with a road construction company. He studied for an advanced certificate in road works at Southfields College of Further Education in Leicester and became a Technical Engineer enrolled with the Engineers Registration Board. He worked on road maintenance in a supervisory capacity for both Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire County Councils and on his retirement in the late 1970’s he remained active.

Shen was born here in Abthorpe and except for his wartime service spent little time away from our locality. During his long life he acquired a huge amount of what can only be called country wisdom. Many local people have benefitted from his considered opinions. He was a bachelor and is survived by his sisters Mrs Rene Balderson and Mrs Elsie Kelcher plus his elder brother John – known locally as Bill.

Charles Edmund Kendall’s funeral service is at 3:00pm on Tuesday 27th October in our parish church of St John the Baptist. 


6th November 2008
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918, the fighting in World War One stopped. Although the German army was undefeated and virtually everywhere along its front line occupied foreign soil, the armistice was honoured and has been commemorated until the present day. Eighty-nine years later the Wappenham branch of the Royal British Legion is to hold its Remembrance Day parade at Abthorpe war memorial and afterwards at our parish church. Although veterans of the Great War have long since passed on, there are still many local people alive today who served in World War II. One of those veterans who intends to attend our commemoration to remember comrades who did not return, is 85 years old Abthorpe born and bred Mr Charles Edmund Kendall, known to everyone throughout the village simply as “Shen.” He insists that he is no hero but just one of the many local people who signed-up to protect their country. His nickname, he explains, was given to him when he was a  pupil at Silverstone Secondary School (now the Infants) that he attended for three years before he left at the age of 14. Shen was fond of singing a shanty entitled Shenandoah made famous on the wireless by the baritone Peter Dawson. After farm labouring he worked as a junior porter for the London Midland and Scottish Railway based at Helmdon station. In 1940 after the Battle of Britain, although senior railway staff were in a protected occupation, Shen was called-up. Following an aptitude test he was recruited into the Royal Regiment of Signals and after an initial posting to Northern Ireland trained as a wireless operator at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire . With little idea of where he was going he began active service on a convoy of troopships that sailed down the River Clyde and out into mid-Atlantic in a bid to avoid German submarine patrols based in occupied France. Some days later, under cover of darkness, the convoy slipped through the Straits of Gibraltar and on the 8th November 1942 it anchored in the Bay of Algiers . Amazingly, there he bumped into his Abthorpe friend Harry Hinton who was serving with the 5th Northamptonshire Regiment. They remain firm friends to this day and regularly chat about their memories over a pint in our pub The New Inn. After his ship was dive bombed by enemy aircraft he joined the American led 1st Army that was pushing east whilst Monty’s 8th Army was pushing west from its base in Egypt in an attempt to encircle the Axis armies. After hospital treatment for dysentery Shen was attached as a signaller to a Royal Artillery anti-aircraft battery that landed on the Italian mainland to defend the port of Naples . The volcano Vesuvius promptly erupted. Although the Italians capitulated he insisted that the German army remained a potent fighting force. He was very relieved when on 7th May 1945 Germany surrendered unconditionally although he had fears that he would be posted to the Far East to help in the fight against the Japanese. In early August 1945 when atomic bombs were exploded over two Japanese cities and thus ended the war he and his comrades were very pleased. He was demobilised in February 1946 and returned to work for the LMS as a signalman at Blakesley and Towcester boxes. Reflecting on his wartime experiences Shen modestly said again that he was no hero and was perhaps lucky because as a signaller he was often unaware of how close he was to the type of action that was experienced by infantrymen. His grateful country awarded him with four medals and accompanied by other veterans he will wear them with pride at our Remembrance Day service at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 2007.


15th August 2006
The flag at our ancient village pub The New Inn is flying at half-mast in memory of Fred Huggins, who served us for 16 years as a much loved landlord. He died in Northampton General Hospital at the age of 63 and is sorely missed by our local community. Fred was educated at Reigate Grammar School in Surrey and at the age of 16 joined the Junior Leaders Regiment of the Royal Artillery as a boy soldier. He trained as a surveyor and rose through the ranks to become the Sergeant Major of 97 Field Battery Royal Artillery. His unit served in the Falklands War in 1982 where its 105mm light field guns proved highly effective. After spells in Germany and Northern Ireland Fred completed 24 years serving Queen and Country and retired to become landlord of Abthorpe's pub. He stayed for 16 years and became one of the Hook Norton Brewery's longest serving tenants. Whilst landlord, he was elected Church Warden at our parish church of St John the Baptist and it was during his tenure of office that Canon Bridget Smith was appointed Rector to become one of the very first female priests in the area. Villager Katie Townsend stated that Fred had run several London Marathons and when he came to the village in 1985 he was very fit and regularly ran the Slapton loop at an impressive speed. She remembers the wonderful regular themed parties that Fred and his wife Dianne arranged on Saturday evenings with such military precision. As he was passionately interested in the Zulu people it was no surprise that on one of these occasions customers were asked to dress up complete with hide shields and spears. Of course there were special celebrations in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the D Day invasions when customers were asked to wear military uniforms. There was an interregnum at the church at that time and the stand-in priest had been an Army Chaplain at the Normandy landings. Half a century later he was due to lead services both at Arromanches and at a village further along the French coast but was unable to arrange himself transport between the two places. Fred, alert as ever, soon had one of his customers who owned a World War Two Jeep promising to take the vicar from one service to the next. Jane and Robbie Costall, current landlords of the New Inn, last welcomed Fred to the pub on Grand Prix weekend when he came to meet his many friends from BBC technical services who visit our pub whilst preparing to broadcast the race from nearby Silverstone Circuit. Jane stated that at the time of going to press the funeral arrangements are not known but it is hoped that a service will be held in our church with a wake in the pub to which Fred's very many friends will be invited. Katie Townsend summed up the feelings of all of us. Fred was a real local character who was at the centre of our community for many years. We'll miss him!  


12th July 2005
Steve Holley, probably Abthorpe's most famous resident, has sadly died at the age of 85. He was explaining only recently that he had lived in our village since 1980 - the longest he had lived anywhere.
Steve had a real Boys' Own hero type of life. At the age of 19 he left his native Isle of Man and served as a Lance Bombardier in the Manx Territorial unit of the Royal Artillery. In 1941 whilst his unit was stationed in Crete , the Germans launched the first parachute invasion in history. His regiment took terrible losses  but Steve was fortunate and was evacuated from the battle to North Africa where he fought against Rommell's Afrika Korps. He was commissioned  in Cairo in late 1941. When he returned to Britain he became a gunnery instructor in Wales but as he longed to see more action he volunteered to fight the Japanese in Borneo . Whilst crossing the Pacific on a troopship he was recruited into Special Forces and following training in Australia he was scheduled to be dropped by parachute behind enemy lines in central Borneo . When the allies dropped two atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima his plans rapidly changed and he was landed by Catalina flying boat on an up-country river. ten days before the Japanese surrendered.
Steve at once became a member of the North Borneo Military Government helping to get that colony back on its feet after the ravages of war. His recently published book about those times called "A White Headhunter in Borneo " describes many amusing and harrowing experiences. He helped the colony to achieve nationhood and actually signed the Malaysia Independence Agreement on behalf of North Borneo alongside British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Foreign Secretary Duncan Sandys.
Upon his return to the UK in 1965 Steve was appointed General Manager of the Washington Development Corporation that transformed a straggle of mining villages marred by over a century of industrial dereliction into a new town. He delighted in showing many famous people round his Corporation's creation including HM the Queen, The Princess Royal, United States President Jimmy Carter, Prime Minister James Callaghan and boxer Muhammed Ali. He was awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his achievements and retired in 1980 to move to Abthorpe.
He is survived by his wife Dinah and his three sons Patrick, Neville, Michael and their families. His funeral is scheduled to be at Northampton Crematorium at 9:45am on Thursday 14th July.  


Councillor Bill Kendall
Councillor Bill Kendall is proud to be the oldest man in our village and has served continuously on our Parish Council for 38 years. He was born and bred in the village and retains the lovely, attractively strong local accent that is sadly disappearing fast. When the houses along the western side of the parish's Brackley Lane were completed in 1946, Bill lived in the very first house to be occupied and has lived there ever since.    Sitting in his home with current copies of the British Railways Journal and Railnews scattered over the cushions, Bill explained that he was a railwayman virtually all his working life. He started work on 10th September1937 as a Lad Porter at Towcester Station. This stood where Tesco's store is now situated. He was employed by The London Midland and Scottish Railway, but all the older men who worked alongside him had been previously employed by the Stratford, Midland Junction Railway - the SMJ. A single track from Towcester Junction traversed the upper Tove Valley passing through Wappenham Station close by our village. Bill stated that even in those days before the war the railways were trying to economise. Ted Bosworth from Abthorpe was the Grade One Porter in charge of Wappenham Station and was naturally paid more than a boy. Thus when excursion trains returned to Wappenham Station around midnight after having taken local people for days out in Stratford upon Avon or Bedford, Bill would be transferred there from Towcester to collect the returnees' tickets.  Councillor Kendall can still remember the times of trains leaving and returning to Towcester Station and the times they called in at Wappenham. At 9:30am the train from Blisworth stopped en-route to Banbury. The same train then returned calling in at Wappenham at 11:11am. On a number of occasions he knew that goods engine crews had "tied down" their locomotive with chains in the sidings at Wappenham Station and walked the 200 yards to then The Royal Oak in nearby Slapton for a game of Northamptonshire skittles.  At the beginning of the Second World War Bill briefly served in The Royal Air Force but he was quickly demobbed and sent back to the Towcester area to do important war work on the railways that he loved.    Sitting close to a beautiful wooden chair with London North Western Railway stencilled beneath the seat, Bill explained that it had once been used in the Northampton Castle Station Master's office. In order to get away from the hassle of the platforms and booking hall, the station master would retreat to Bill's signal box for some peace and quiet. He brought his own chair and left it in Bill's box. Whilst the box was heated by coke stoves the chair was fine, but as soon as the railway was electrified the chair was placed too close to the newly installed electric fires and its glue melted and the chair disintegrated. When Bill apologised the Station Master told him to take it home for firewood. Bill took the pieces to a carpenter in Wappenham who repaired the chair and made it even better than new.  Bill can eloquently reminisce about days gone by for hours and a number of railway historians regularly ask him to recall his memories for the historical record. Abthorpe is proud to have such an interesting person as Bill Kendall as one of its Parish Councillors.

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