The Horsefair

The Horsefair is where I grew up. I was born at No. 23 and the house is on the right hand side as you come up St, Mary’s Street. I loved the house. To me it was full of character, three stories high and full of nooks and crannies, cubby holes and hiding places.

On the other side of the street there was a house with a small front garden with railings and a small gate in which a woman called Elsie Stephens lived with her father and step mother. We were all scared of Elsie. In the evenings all the kids from surrounding streets used to gather in the Horsefair during the evening and all played together. If the ball ever went into Elsie’s garden we were all too afraid to ask for it back. We would try to spot it and then would run in and get it, but if Elsie saw us she would come out after us and shout ‘I’ll ‘ave ee’, but we would already have run for our lives.

There was an off-licence in the Horsefair and my Dad used to send me or my brother to get him some Woodbines. If he was hard up we would get 5 Woodbines in a sleeve or even 2 or 3 loose ones in a cornet shaped bag. The off-licence was owned by a Mr and Mrs Emery and, to me as a kid, always seemed abrupt. I didn’t like going into their shop.

The middle of the Horsefair was a car-park, but as there was not a lot of cars around in those days, it was our play area, or we would ride our bikes. I remember one evening my brother was riding his bike and his front wheel went down a drain He went flying and ended up with a broken leg which he had plastered. He was brought home in a push chair.

The Horsefair, being square, had a road in each corner – St. Mary’s Street, West Street, Burnham Road and Foundry Road. In West Street was an old scrap yard with two big iron gates: this is now Glovers Court. Up Burnham Road was the Police Station and the Police had to pass through the Horsefair all the time and in those days they were friends to us kids and often chatted to us. Foundry Road went up to an army camp and now and again there would be army lorries parked in the Horsefair and boys being boys used to climb on the lorries. One day my brother climbed up the back of a huge lorry and made a great big gash across the top of his knee. A soldier took him to hospital and this time he came back with a horrible scar which he now proudly shows off to his children and grandchildren.

Times were hard in those days. We didn’t have much money and Mum used to get apples from our garden and make toffee apples which she sold on our door step for a penny (1d) each to the other kids.

Number 23 was owned by five sisters, which were my Mum’s aunts, and when the last aunt died the house was left to the Catholic Church.

The Horsefair has changed since them days – small gardens have been put by the pavements, there are fewer parking spaces and the road going through, but I hold very dear the memories of my days spent there. Life was good then though we had few toys. We made our own fun, We used to play a game with stones on the ground which we called ‘5 stones’: today it comes with a tiny ball and is called ‘Jacks’. We also used to play with old milk bottle tops, conkers, balls and skipping with any bit of old rope we could find.

Pat Moulder

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