Around The Block

We plough the fields and scatter….. out onto the street, then it’s shall I go left or shall I go right. Left today I think. The street is in shadow as it’s on a north-facing slope. It is said to be the coldest street in Malmesbury as there is nothing to reflect the heat of the sun back towards our houses. I set off past Mrs Rivett in her kitchen, listening to her favourite singer Jim Reeves on Radio Two. A hundred yards to the end of the road and here we take a left and up St.Aldhelm Road.

Near the top are huge very old conker trees which provide a fantastic crisp carpet of wonderful yellow ochre leaves in the autumn, through which we shuffle our feet, making a noise like a steam train. After catching your breath at the top, it’s a very gradual decent through Burnham Road towards the town centre, first passing Burnham House, which many years ago this very large house was owned by the local veterinary surgeon who kept hunting horses in its many stables attached to the house. It is now home to many of Malmesbury’s oldest residents who are looked after by care workers in their own separate rooms along corridors named after local streets.

Next in the street to the right are new houses, very boring in looks, recently built upon what used to be Malmesbury’s Dairy. It supplied all the local villages and Malmesbury folk with their ‘pinta’ on the doorstep ready for breakfast before the advent of the supermarkets. Mr. Davies, his wife, two daughters and two sons, ran the business from 1958 – 1980 along with some very extrovert local characters, who drove the open backed Bedford diesel floats in all weathers. Providing a very reliable service through deep snow, floods and storms.

Gastons Dairy Milk Bottles © Michael Heal

Gastons Dairy Milk Bottles © Michael Heal

Again to the right, we have Mr Clark’s Old Shop. Built especially for his paraffin business after he moved from Gastons Road when the business began to expand, as many households in the 50s and early 60s were still using tilly lamps and portable oil fired heaters. Here his wife sold hardware and china from the shop whilst Mr Clark ran his ‘Pink Paraffin’ doorstep deliveries in his specially converted old fashioned lorry type van.

Next door to Mr Clark’s shop, on the right used to be our playing field built upon an old cemetery. It was just a plain piece of grass 20 yards square but with a high wire fence making it ideal for us to re-enact all the 1966 World Cup football matches each day as they appeared on my friends black and white television. Now we pass an old three-story terrace of stone built ugliness, opposite a variety of old town houses.

Next we have a very strange looking building of red brick. Painted high upon the wall very many years ago facing the town there is a huge black panel with the words ‘H & C Matthews, Undertakers’. Under the gaze of this historical sign we have in bath stone, the purpose built old police station with cells included. Divided into two council houses during the sixties but the left side is now two flats one above the other. On we go next door to what was a piece of waste ground, where now stands a custom built saddler’s shop looking much like a converted council house.

Now we enter the Horsefair. Sounds big but it is a small square entered by narrow streets on each corner and surrounded mostly by small cottages, of which in one my father and mother first lived when they came to this town. Oh, and another well known bloke called Thomas Hobbes lived the other side sometime before. Then to our left we have the old Bath Arms off licence where I bought my first ever Mars Bar and first bag of Golden Wonder Crisps when they first appeared.

Turning to the left we leave the square by Foundry Lane. This leads to Ratcliffe & Son Agricultural Repair Workshops which today concentrate mainly on lawnmower repair, in what is a ‘museum piece’ workshop with it’s belt driven equipment still in place from many years ago. Before we reach the mowers, there is Shipton Hill to the right dropping steeply down towards Gloucester Road, with very high Cotswold dry stone walls lining our rapid decent. At the bottom to the right, another strange red brick building, once used by the electric company to store their equipment, including the town’s carnival street lights.

Now it’s down the main road leading out of Malmesbury towards Tetbury, passing Stainsbridge House on the right. This very large grey building was at one time an orphanage and later on, an elderly people’s home. Next door are more old but small houses followed by Lumley’s Pet Shop and Stainsbridge Mill, too old for me to know its history but before its present use as a fitness club it housed a firm making fitted kitchens also William’s Form Ties a construction supply company and before them Rawlings & Phillips seed mechants.

Here I cross left into Park Road with Athelstan Garage to the right, where I bought my first tank of petrol for my first car at something like 3 shillings and sixpence a gallon. Next door are some industrial starter units built upon what used to be the town council’s maintenance depot and before that the towns original Dairy, producing goods exported from the town via our own branch line railway.

The World's Shortest Fence 2 © David Forward

The World’s Shortest Fence 2 © David Forward

Then we have the ‘Worlds Shortest Fence’ where there used to be a field with a pig sty at one end and Dutch barn full of hay the other, with a Cotswold stone wall running its length. Alas this field was filled to a height of six feet with demolition rubble bringing it from river level to road, then very boring bungalows were built on top. Actually they do look quite nice now all with their individual pretty flower gardens, often with very posh TVR sports cars parked in front.

Over the previously mentioned narrow road, the other side there once stood “The Bacon Factory”, most of which became the hard-core under the bungalows opposite, destroying a water meadow with its beautiful willow lined stream. Of course the brick boxes replacing the historic bacon factory have been named “Willow View”, although all they can now see are the bungalows with the pretty gardens.

A little further on are some steps leading back up to the coldest street, where not all have yet perished.

26 August, 2017
All images and written works by David Forward are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License