The history of Clophill, Bedfordshire, UK
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Florrie Robinson

Spotlight, June 1980

Flo Robinson, one of Clophill's best known and loved residents, really needs no introduction. However, For newer members of our community here are a few details ......

Flo has been a member of St. Mary's Church Choir For fifty-six years and spent forty years helping to play the organ at church. She joined Clophill W.I. forty-nine years ago and was treasurer for twenty-three years. Flo, who lives with her husband George at 19 High Street, also helped to run the Darby & Joan Club for many years.

Here, she reflects on life in Clophill when she was a child in the l920's:

I often think how things have changed since I was a child. I have lived in Clophill all my life and I was born in the house where I still live. my father, William Taylor, was a dairy farmer and the cows used to walk up and down the village twice a day from the fields behind St. Mary's School so that they could be milked. The old dog, Bess, would walk behind them.

When I came home from school as a small child, I would go round to the cowshed to take them all a piece of 'cake' which came in slabs and was ground up in a machine.

There was Dolly, Molly, Polly, Rosy, Spot etc., but Dolly was my favourite. She was a big brown cow and I used to sit on the manger and hang round her neck.

When the cows heard me coming, there would be one loud rattle of chains as they turned their heads to greet me. We always had a Jersey cow because the milk was richer and I used to go to our dairy and skim off the cream with a spoon.

Butter was made for our own use and if there was any spare we used to sell it. People used to come with their own cans to collect milk and my brothers delivered around the village.

Sometimes I heard a mooing in the night and I would hear my mother waking up my Father to see it there was anything wrong with the cows. Then he would go across the High Street to our sheds to see it a cow was calving. we would have a special milk pudding called 'beest pudding' which was a family tradition the day after a new calf was born.

As well as cows, we also kept horses and pigs and sold corn, bran, maize etc. because most people in those days kept hens in their back gardens.

Cow Sheds

Photograph shows the sheds on High Street across the road from Flo's where the cows were milked. The sheds were demolished in 1964 to make way for housing.

During the war we had evacuees from London and they were enthralled by the sight of cows being milked. At home, all they knew about milk was that it appeared in a bottle on their doorstep.

My mother, whose maiden name was Jarman, came to Clophill in 1887 and was one of three sisters. They were mentioned in extracts from St.. Mary's School Log Book in an edition of 'Spotlight' in 1987. Mother used to live at 61, High Street.

Mother often told me of when she was a young girl and needed a pair of shoes. She had to walk to Ampthill to buy them and then back again. When she got home, her mother disagreed with her choice and sent her walking back to Ampthill to change them!

In the early 1920's I can just remember a man called Mr. Sammy Stanford who used to take people to Bedford on a Saturday in a lorry with a canvas top. I went with my mother one day and some people had to get off at the bottom of Deadmans Hill to lighten the load. Then they walked to the top of the hill and got back on!

Electricity came to Clophill in 1929 out before then we used to have a double burner lamp alight which was cosy and warm in winter.

My childhood days were happy ones even though we had to make our own amusement.

Spotlight, June 1980 (Lorna Swindells)


In addition to the memorial to Florrie Robinson which appeared in the July edition of 'Spotlight', I have written these few thoughts which others nay like to share. I knew Florrie for only twelve years - a short time in comparison with many in the village - but it gives me pleasure to recall her as she was in the later years of her life.

Florrie had a really phenomenal memory for people and happenings decades ago. As she had always lived in Clophill, seventy years of village history were impressed on her mind. What an endless fund of stories and anecdotes she had! And the stories were always illustrated, when you visited her, by photographs, postcards and keepsakes of all kinds from this rich past.

Her house was full of the atmosphere of a life lived in one place, made homely and comfortable around her. To most of us who have left their origins and moved many times, Florrie's stability gave a sense of rootedness and deep content. She and George have seen radical change outside their doors, beyond the delightful courtyard with its basins and pump which still exists - the sale of the Taylor's dairy-farming business, the disappearance of their cowsheds,described by Florrie in June 'Spotlight', not to mention the building of Cainhoe estate where fields stretched before. Yet they were open and accepting of change and made friends of the families who arrived to. live in the new houses.

Florrie was always interested in people and their doings and, of course, her work on the Post Office counter brought her into daily contact with all the village news, which she never forgot' I can still imagine her riding her bicycle in a stately way along the High Street to the shop or to the church to practise the organ on Saturday afternoons. At St. Mary's she was one of the life-long faithful, always there and to be depended upon, her life a quiet witness to her faith. A few years ago she received the Royal School of Church Music medal for 50 years service in the same choir, a rare achievement these days! It was lovely that last Christmas Eve when she was not too well, Florrie was able to take her place in the choir-stalls for the Carol service. She loved music, people, flowers and cats and will always have a special place in the hearts of those who knew her, here in Clophill, where she belonged.

Spotlight, July 1980 (Barbara & Ray Sharp)


Clophill has recently lost another of its colourful and well-loved characters.

Flo Robinson had supported St. Mary's Church from an early age in many ways not least as a chorister and organist. Whenever help was needed she was generous with both time and donations, and until recently, with the provision of her home and front yard for the annual flower and plant sale the day before Mothering Sunday.

Flo was a member of the Parochial Church Council for several decades, and one-time secretary. when trying to fix a date for a future event the council could always rely on her to recall which day of which month some other village event had been held in previous years so a clash could be avoided. Her memory, unaided by a diary, could always be relied upon to set past events in their proper order.

Flo will also be remembered for her hats which she wore at social events, and to and from church, though, as a chorister, not during services. More recently having left the choir, her fine voice could still be heard in the congregation.

In July 1979 the church held a Tramps and Toffs evening. Everyone entered into the spirit of the occasion with many decked out in finery many decades old. what, we thought, would Flo wear? Feather boa perhaps - certainly a full-length skirt. Uh dear, no! Flo appeared, together with Vera Groom, both attired in full evening dress of top hats, tails & white ties. They then delighted everyone by performing Old Tyme Music Hall songs on stage.

Yes indeed, Clophill will be a poorer place from now on, and we - and many others too - will miss answering the phone and hearing "Hullo - this is Flo --------"

Spotlight, July 1980


It is with great sadness that we record the death on 7th June of Mrs. Florence Robinson. Flo was our oldest serving member, and would have been a founder member of Clophill W.I. 49 years ago, but due to being on honeymoon she missed the inaugural meeting and joined the following month. She was a Committee Member for many of those years, and Treasurer for 23 years. She always attended special events, such as fund raising coffee evenings etc., and could be relied upon to help in any way she could. She will be greatly missed, not only as a W.I. member but as a "mine of information" about the village of Clophill, having been born here and lived here all her life.