Living on the High Street

I was born in a small cottage in the steepest part of the High Street as were my elder sister followed by two of my brothers in 1942 and 1944. How my Mother coped in such a small house I do not know as you entered the front door you were straight into the living room and then into a small kitchen. Everything had to come through the front door, the bicycles which were kept in the wash house in the small back yard and the coal which was kept in a cupboard under the stairs.

The toilet and cold water tap were across the yard and during the dark nights my sister and I would go across the yard to the toilet with a torch and shine the torch around looking for any spiders which may be lurking around the walls, we always had to go together so that we could take it in turns to hold the torch. Bath time was a zinc bath put in front of the fire in the living room during the winter and in the kitchen in the summer.

During the war we first of all had an evacuee living with us but she returned to her mother in Tilbury. She was followed by a Miss Clancy who worked for the Air Ministry and then by Land Army girls.

Our milk was delivered by pony and trap and the bread was delivered by an errand boy on a tricycle with a large box on the front in which was where the bread was kept. (A bit like the old Stop me and Buy one ice cream tricycles) During the summer the milk was scolded so that it did not turn sour over night.

At the bottom of the High Street (down by St. John Street) was Rouses, who were a general provisions shop and opposite Vizors. Old Mr. Vizor was known to us children as Daddy Vizor. I cannot remember what he sold besides cigarettes because that was the only time I would go in there with my Father to get his Woodbines. Mr. Vizor was an old gentleman who always wore a black trilby hat (I often wondered if he ever took it off) and in the winter he always came to serve you not only with his trilby hat on but an overcoat, scarf and fingerless gloves. To me it seemed such a dingy shop and it gave me the creeps to go in there.

Old Mr. Hicks lived in a cottage down the last passage and we would take our rabbit skins to him for which we received a couple of pence. I guess he dried and treated them and then sold them on to be made into fur gloves etc. During the War rabbit was a very popular dinner.

Coming up the High Street was Miss Hanks, a dressmaker and opposite Poultons shop. It always fascinated me as on their counter was nailed a foreign coin which was given to the previous owner of the shop in payment for goods and the story goes that he nailed it to the counter as a warning to customers that he did not accept foreign currency.

Many of the shops that I knew as a child have now long disappeared. Strange’s the dairy where we would take a jug for your milk. Miss Gore, another dressmaker. What is now the Smoking Dog was the Temperance Hotel. Caudell’s, the butchers, where I was always being told off for scuffing the sawdust on the shop floor into piles. Just above Caudell’s Mr Teddy Barnes had his carpenter’s shop and he was also a Funeral Director.

You then had Big Adye’s (known as Big Adye’s as there was a small shop, also called Adye’s in the Horsefair). A general grocer who roasted their own coffee beans. On the other side of Ingram Street was Thomas’, a ladies and girls outfitters. I remember Mum buying my sister and I hats from there for us to wear to Church on Sundays, how we hated them and as soon as we were out of sight of the house we would take them off and hang them at the back of our heads. D’Arcy a ladies hairdresser. Both Thomas’ and D’Arcy’s are now Antique Shops. What is now Gable House Surgery was part of EKCO as was the building opposite which is where Stan Malplas has his men’s outfitters in part of it. The other side of W H Smith was a musical shop and then came Beaks who were seed merchants and also sold meal etc. which you mixed with the food for the chickens and rabbits.

The other side of St Dennis Road was Normans the butchers and the next door a baker and tea rooms (now Barclays Bank). What is now Lloyds the Chemist was International Stores and then next was E.S.T. Cole’s Garage which is now Hyams. Gone are Wilsdons the tobacconist and sweet shop and Evetts who sold sweets, green grocery etc. and who had a tea room at the back. We always knew when the warmer weather was coming as they would make their own ice cream.

Jacksons the shoe maker and a pair of double doors have now been converted into what is now Co-op.

The New Shop used to be an Electrical Shop own by a Mr Adye and then came London Central Meat Co Ltd and what is now the Halifax used to be the Chippenham Co-op.

And so we have reached the top of the High Street. Opposite the Co-op was Norman Lewis the Jeweller and then came Hodders a large Ladies and Children’s outfitters one side and a gents outfitters the other side. Oxfam was Burton’s a Grocery Shop. Riddicks the Printers who also sold stationery and wool. What is now Knees was Jones’ the Ironmongers. The Cancer Shop was Boots the Chemist. Woodwards the Jeweller belonged to Mrs Marmet a ladies outfitters. Next to Midland Bank was Morse’s the Chemist who later moved a little further down the High Street to what used to be Basevi the Photographer and is now Lloyds (small) Chemist.. What is now The Old Bakery used to be Yarnolds a Men’s Outfitters.

What is now Geddes and Boots the Chemist was owned by Hinwood’s with a Mens Outfitters where Geddes is and a ladies outfitters where Boots the Chemists is. Gone now is Waite’s the Tobacconist and Sweet Shop and then further on down was Weeks’ Painters and Decorators who sold DIY materials. All now being residential homes.

Gone is the Bear Hotel which is now offices and the George Hotel which is now the Vets.

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