The Quarterly Village Publication produced by Barrow upon Soar Community Association


In conversation with Jan Hind

For this issue of the “Barrow Voice” I have been in conversation with Elsie Pagett. Elsie is Barrow, born and bred, and a great lover of this village of ours. I had been told that Elsie had some interesting recollections of her Grandad, John (Jack) Illston, and that she might be prepared to share some of them with Barrow Voice readers. When I approached her, she kindly agreed and we got together for a jolly good chat all about Jack Illston and what effect he had had on Barrow upon Soar and the residents during his time here in Barrow. Elsie later supplied me with some very interesting written information too, some of which is included in this article.

Elsie’s Grandad and Grandma Illston originally came to Barrow from Leicester in 1910. Jack had been running a business driving and supplying horse-drawn cabs and carriages – mainly used for funerals and weddings, but he was finding, more and more, that the new-fangled trams were taking business away from the cabbies and leaving them much the poorer. With a family to support Jack decided that he had to think about alternative employment. He looked into branching out into some other field and, after due consideration, decided to have a complete change of occupation.

He had heard that the licence of the Three Crowns Public House at Barrow-upon-Soar had fallen vacant so, after due consideration, he applied for the licence and to his gratification it was granted. Jack brought his horses, his cabs and his carriages with him and was able to keep them in the stables at the back of the pub, where there was plenty of room.

Never one to miss an opportunity to help his friends and fellow Barrovians he soon identified a need for regular cost effective transport into Loughborough for the locals, especially on market days. With this in mind, he set up a Barrow to Loughborough horse drawn taxi service which was greeted with great enthusiasm.

Eventually, however, Jack and his wife decided to retire from the pub business. They had some land in Melton Road, and their daughter and son-in-law had a house built on it. Jack and his wife moved in to live with her and her family, and started a smallholding. Jack still had his horse drawn cabs which were popular for weddings and funerals in and around the village. He also kept horse-drawn drays which were available for deliveries to and from the Railway Station and also used for other carrying work.

There was never a shortage of children coming round to their house. One reason may have been the fact that the family also had an old bus in the back garden and the local children loved to come and play on it - this kept them happy and occupied. In addition there were always several horses around plus three ponies. The horses pulled the drays during the working day and then, when taken back to the fields, would be in great demand for giving rides to the children. The children also used to queue up to beg for rides in the carriages when they were on the return journey from a funeral.

Another of Jack’s jobs was working for the Council. He worked with Mr Jones and Mr Jordan. They would sweep up the rubbish and it would be loaded on to the cart for disposal. Jack also owned and farmed a few fields in various parts of the village, mainly around the bottom of Mill Lane.

At haymaking time Jack was there in the forefront. When the Mill Lane Fields were ready to be cut he would turn up with his refreshments – a bottle of cold tea and some sandwiches. He has been described as “a man of strength, well over six feet in height” and I am sure he could have cut hay all day if he so decided, without exhausting himself.

Jack also served on the Co-operative Committee. He did this for several years as part of his commitment to the Village. Elsie says that, when it came to Committee Night at the Co-op, Jack used to say that he was “off to grease the bacon!” Elsie also recalls going to the Co-op in the dray and assumes that her grandfather was delivering goods from the station.

Jack was always willing to help people if he possibly could. One lady recollected that, when she had to move house, she was completely at her wits end as to how she could manage it. When Jack heard about this, he turned up and loaded all her furniture on to the dray and then drove it to the new house for her. Job done!!! Truly a good neighbour and a good man!

He was also a man of principle and went to Sunday School in Belgrave until he was quite grown up and it has been assumed that, as a medal commemorating the Leicester Unemployment March to London in 1905 was found in Elsie’s late Mum’s effects, and the fact that this March was closely associated with churches in that area, he must have taken part, and the family were invited to the 2005 celebration.

After his death various articles and tributes appeared in the local papers and I reproduce two of them here.........

“Mr Tom Corbett, of Barrow-on-Soar, sends us the following appreciation of the late Mr John Illstone.“

Jack Illstone, as he was affectionately known, came with his parents to Barrow on Soar some 27 years ago as Mine Host of the Three Crowns Inn. He was a man of strength, well over six feet in height and his profession of cab and carriage driver had given him a sunburnt and weather-beaten face. He had a fund of humour and a merry twinkle in his eyes, and the ready wit of the old London cabby.

Jack soon became a village institution; he was at the call of all and sundry to attend weddings, christenings, funerals and other events. He was tenant of the old Salter’s, Playing Field, now the King George Playing fields, where many hard-fought battles at one time took place between the Holy Trinity football team and their rivals, the Three Crowns, this being the headquarters, with Jack a member of the committee.

The children were allowed to play freely, except for the few weeks when it was laid for mowing. Jack was never so happy as when he had a dray load of children helping with the hay making.

When anyone was in trouble, or needed a little help with horses or cattle, the expression “Fetch Jack” was common, and sure enough Jack would leave his wife to carry on while he helped to smooth the path of the neighbour.

Jack was interred at Belgrave on August 26th, leaving a widow, one daughter and three grandchildren.

And another by an unknown admirer

“The late Mr Illston
By the death of Mr J H Illston, Barrow has lost one of its best known personalities. Mr Illston, who was 69 years old, was born at the Orange Tree Inn, Northgate, Leicester and came to Barrow about 30 years ago. For 21 twenty one years he was licensee of the Three Crowns Inn. He was closely associated with Barrow Trinity Football Club. In his younger days Mr Illston ran a penny service with his wagonette in Leicester before the trams were in operation, and also ran trips to Doncaster races. He was always ready to give his services for any charitable object and at the recent carnival, when he lent his horse and dray for the “Queen’s” coach he insisted on driving the coach himself, although he was not feeling well. Of late years he carried on a general carter and contractor’s business. The funeral took place at Leicester on Wednesday.”

It became obvious to me, whilst talking to Elsie, how very much she had loved her Grandad and, also how very much he had been loved and respected by people in Barrow. Elsie’s memories of him are still crystal clear and she knows that his example has given her a yardstick with which to measure her own life. She has also learned a great deal by his example. For my part, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to learn, and to write about this energetic, hard-working man, who is still remembered by so many people in the village, and whose name, until now, I had only known from the street sign for Illston Gardens, just off Melton Road near the junction with Babington Road.

Jan Hind