Death of former Tosside pub landlady

Frances Bicknell
Frances Bicknell

A local pub landlady has died peacefully at the age of 92.

Frances Bicknell ran The Dog and Partridge Inn, at Tosside, for almost two decades with her late husband, Roy.

Born in Leeds, the daughter of a railway administration worker and Methodist lay preacher, Frances’ sewing skills saw her become an apprentice tailor for a company in the city and it was here she honed her needlework talent.

Often she would trace the company’s latest and most fashionable clothing patterns onto newspaper and make the outfits up on a sewing machine at home; something her employers never knew about. From these patterns she would make outfits for herself, family and friends.

When WWII broke she was eager to be involved and eventually managed to persuade her mother to allow her to join the Land Army. She was initially based around Ripon, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge and worked in plant and tomato nurseries.

By this time, the war had ended, but the country was still in the firm grip of food shortages and rationing.

Later, in around 1947, she was drafted to the Craven area and was billeted in Settle. Here she was made foreman of a group of Land Girls and together they worked the land, ploughing fields and sewing crops while the farmers’ sons were still in the armed forces.

She often related stories of her life in the Women’s Land Army and was proud of the fact she was regarded as one of the best field ploughers.

She also said her sewing skills helped out her colleagues when one would present her with some material they had managed to find. Frances would create a dress for her friend to wear at a dance the following weekend.

It was in Craven that she met Long Preston man, Roy. He had served in the Navy and was working in agriculture.

The couple formed an immediate friendship and Frances’ sewing skills came in handy again when she made the shorts for the newly-formed Long Preston FC– where Roy played as striker – out of no-longer-needed blackout material.

Frances was called back to work in Ripon but she and Roy continued to write to one another.

After coming out of the Land Army, the couple married in 1950 and began their married life in Long Preston.

They bought Beck House Farm, in Tosside, in 1957 and moved there with their eldest daughter, Hilary. The couple went on to have their second daughter, Vivien, and twin sons, Andrew and Duncan.

In the early ’70s Frances and Roy sold Beck House Farm and bought a derelict former pub in Tosside. They spent a year transform

ing it into a busy meeting and eating place and it was here the couple made many lifelong friends. Frances often spoke about the pub and her many friends with affection and treated all as an extended family.

They remained at The Dog and Partridge until they retired to Long Preston in 1990 where they spent a leisurely 15 years before Roy’s sudden death at the age of 80 in 2005.

Soon after Roy’s death, Frances, whose memory was failing fast, lost her sight and had to go into care.

She spent the last seven years of her life in care in Carlisle and died suddenly, but peacefully on August 14th, just five days after her birthday.

She is survived by her four children, eight grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A funeral service and cremation was held at Carlisle Crematorium yesterday (August 28th).