Having been born in 1931 (writes David), most of my early recollections were wartime
ones. I know we returned home early from a seaside holiday in 1939, and I do recall
hearing the announcement of the declaration of war on 3rd September of that year.
It was then young men being called-up for military service, black-out, and food rationing.
My father, Walter Charles Peters, had served in the Royal Horse Artillery in the
Great War (of which he never spoke), and at the age of 45 was too old to be mobilised.
Although there were many Preston residents with the Peters surname our family circle
was pretty small. My mother was Philadelphia Constance (nee Heathorn) and I had a
sister, Queenie, who was some four years older than me. My grandfather, Henry George
Peters, was a widower and lived in Holly Cottages, Back Lane, having served his working
life on the Kings Walden Estate; two great aunts, Bertha (Nash), Christobel (housekeeper
to Ralston de Vins Pryor at the Laburnums); a great uncle ,' Huckie' (Herbert) ,
a gardener at Poynders End and living in Hitchwood Cottages. One of my happy memories
is having tea ,along with my sister,with Mr. Pryor and Aunt Chris every Saturday
afternoon, even with wartime rationing.
Father worked at Halsey & Son, grocers, in Hitchin, for as long as I can recall.
He served as Churchwarden from 1929 to 1945, and there were several occasions during
the war when he conducted services when clergy failed to appear. My mother was a
devout member of the Church and was blessed with a fine soprano voice. She was a
keen member of the Women's Institute of which I believe she was secretary for some
years. As we were closely involved with St. Martin's, my sister was sometimes called
upon to play the organ at evensong when the regular organist was absent. No prizes
for guessing who pumped the organ! One morning service we did miss was an occasion
when the King and Queen, with the two Princesses, attended St. Paul's Warden Church
on a weekend stay with the Bowes Lyon's. Frank Lane who had been organist at St.
Martin's until 1938 had very kindly invited us over having taken a similar appointment
During the war my father was an ARP Warden (together with Bill Darton) and although
the village was free of direct damage, nonetheless there was some excitement. One
night ,a crew of a German bomber were seen descending by parachute and the Home Guard
and ARP were mobilised for the search. They thought they had struck lucky when they
spotted white mounds in a field, but on charging across found they were piles of
lime! I recall that the German airmen surrendered at a local farm labourer's cottage
on the next morning. A bit like Dad's Army really.
Queenie and I went to the Hitchin Grammar Schools following our earlier education
at the village school. At the time, I was the only grammar school boy in the village
and therefore became the post-boy for correspondence between the Headmaster and Hugh
Seebohm, chairman of the governors, at Poynders End. I did attend his Quaker memorial
service as a representative of the School.
We lived at 2 Council Cottages until we were offered the tenancy of the first Swedish
house (15 Chequers Lane) somewhere about 1946. My parents celebrated their Silver
Wedding in May 1947, but my mother died in December of that year following a long
illness with cancer. My sister resumed her nursing training at the London Hospital
in 1948 and my father and I moved to Hitchin in 1951, which coincided with the end
of my National Service in the RAF. I understand that there are no Peters' in the
village now (in 2016), except, that is, in the churchyard!
From time-to-time people with an interest in Preston’s history write to offer their
stories and photographs. These are much appreciated! In January 2016, David Peters
contacted me as his sister had sadly died and her daughter had sent him some pictures
of the Peters family at Preston. These photographs (of excellent quality) are reproduced
below together with David’s memories of life in Preston.
If you have any photographs of Preston and/or its people, I would love to hear from
Marriage of Hubert/Herbert Thomas Peters and Eliza Childs at St Martins, Preston
on 11 February 1911.
(Back row, 3rd from the left) Bertha Peters; (front row, 2nd from left) Annie Christobel
Marriage of George Nash and Bertha Peters at St Martins, Preston on 4 June 1921.
Back row, 2nd from left, Eliza (Nancy) Peters; 3rd from left, Walter Charles Peters;
4th from left, Annie Christobel Peters, 3rd from the right, Hubert Thomas Peters;
Front row, third from left, Philadelphia Constance Heathorn.
Marriage of Frederick Lawrence and Dorothy Heathorn
at St Martins, Preston on 4 August 1923.
They then moved to Codicote, Herts.
A study of Ralston de Vins Pryor at The Laburnums
Sergeant Walter Charles Peters of the Royal Horse Artillery circa 1919
Family tree of the descendents of Joseph and Sarah Peters
Link to more information and photographs of the Peters family: Peters family