MEMOIRS OF KINGSTHORPE HOLLOW by Mr. R.P. Eales
Starting from the Semilong road entrance to St Paul’s school facing is Arnold road with a Saw Doctor occupying the left hand corner. Here you could
buy items of wood, plywood and tools. Proceeding along, to the road middle, on the right hand side was first the Ball family and their son Leslie. A very bright lad
whom I sat next to in school. Next door was the Gates with their son Geoffrey, whom I also sat besides at St. Paul’s. Geoffrey was quite a reserved lad, not at
all like the boisterous lads I usually mixed with. The war came and fate dealt a foul blow for in the lottery of life for his name came out the hat ----he was sent down
the mines as a Bevin Boy. This cultured intelligent young man was totally unsuited for hewing coal in a pit. Life can be cruel, for Bevin Boys really suffered.
Still on the left-hand side of Arnold road was next to the Police House, lived the Jenkins family who had a daughter crippled with a club foot. She gave
piano lessons as a means of income, was a Sunday school teacher at the chapel. So, l had music lessons in the week, and Sunday school on Sundays from the same
lady. Later, she married a Mr.Gossage and moved to the next street, [St. Agnes Road]. I went to their wedding reception in the ‘Tin Room’ adjacent to the school.
The end of Arnold Rd. adjoined the Hollow, with the large chapel to the right. It was in these chapel rooms that learned the rudiments of good Christian behaviour,
for it was there that the Boys Brigade held their weekly meetings. Also the Sunday morning parade with mace, bugles and drums set for marching around all the
local streets and ending back at the chapel for Sunday service. During the winter months they held a Magic Lantern meeting [admission one half-pence] The room
was always packed and lit solely by candles. The stories told were always poignant, with good being triumphant over wickedness. A far cry from the diet of villainy
usually shown on today’s TV.
Turning left out of Arnold Road the corner was formed Kingsthorpe Hollow Post office. Going down now was an array of small shops with Leslie Holmes a hairdresser
next and then Mr. Fairie’s grocery shop followed by the Spotted Dog, one of two ale houses, the other being the Victoria Tavern. Mr. Fairie lived in Monarch Terrace,
he had a daughter and a son Douglas whom I knew well. Also there was Monarch Road where lived a friend Jim Newcomen, Jim always maintained that he was a direct
descendant of the James Newcomen who invented the steam engine. Across the road on the corner of Arthur Street stood the White Horse known as Tandy’s which
had a full licence for wines and spirits. Very popular during the War on the other corner was Kempsheds grocery They had a son Mervin who was in my class at school.
Nearby stood the Coliseum cinema, I remember going in the days of silent films and then circa 1929 it closed for sound to be installed. And the first thrill of talking pictures.
Strange for it all come to pass in ones lifetime. I also remember the murals that decorated the Colly’s inside walls with scenes of ancient Rome and Egypt?
Now at the bottom of the Hollow and going up towards Kingsthorpe is Cartwright Road. Here stood a large dance hall [the Imperial]. This really came into its own
in those wartime days, being packed with Forces personnel, almost all, men and women in uniform, dancing to a military band All being carried along on the crest of a wave
not knowing or perhaps even caring where they might be a week hence. A very strange almost surreal time to live through. After the war the Imperial became a darts
On now to the brow of the hill and to Thornton Park. Until about 1937 it was very large estate with a mansion at its centre. The home of the landed gentry one
Alderman Thornton. He had lived there for years but not long before his death had remarried. Upon his death, the park was sold by his widow to the council for I believe,
just £19000, and reopened just prior to the war for citizens to enjoy. A wise purchase, for that estate must be worth many millions of pounds. Returning to the crossroads
at the convergence of Semilong Road and Burleigh Road stood a circular urinal for many years. Today it would merit as a listed building, for apart from those in France, it was
for me at least, quite unique. Many’s the time I have obeyed the call of Nature in that quaint edifice.
Passing now along Burleigh Road and into St Andrew’s Rd, soon a sharp left bend appears, here a field is sited, known as Kenty’s or Wobby’s where a couple of horses
grazed, as lads we would play by the river which lined one boundary. A cry would be heard, "Wobby’s coming" and we would race for the housing estate which would allow
us safety from an enraged Wobby. Across the river, was Martin’s Field which was flat and very large. This area flooded into a giant lake in winter time and with a full moon
shining reflecting on the water, it looked very romantic. In summer we could watch as hay was gathered in and built into haystacks using methods and tools from another era.
Being on the then very edge of town we had the best of both worlds, amenities of a town with a pastoral scene on our doorsteps There was then lots of spare land seemingly
owned by no-one and inhabited by birds, wildlife, and even snakes. In the summer we had dens to build, makeshift tents to erect and forts to make with the sun dried clay
bricks we had made. Life was a happy time for most lads in those days From St. Andrews road you could see the rear entrance to the school in Norfolk Terrace. This was the
infants department with it’s headmistress for many years a much loved Miss Hipwell.
On the corner of the terrace was a sweet shop owned by a Mr. Teesdale. Later, it became Thompson’s, a typical corner sweet shop. St. Paul’s school was entirely lit by gas
for the whole district had no electricity installed. I think the Hollow did have electric power, for Barratts Shoe factory had their works floodlit every night from about 1936 onwards.
My journey has now done a full circle returning to the school, from whence it started.
A few spots I have missed, such as Alpha street and the coal shop where I was often sent to struggle home with a few pounds in weight to warm us on a cold winter’s day.
An old lady I remember used to serve me having the coal in the corner of the shop floor. Failing that it was round to Webb’s shoe factory where off-cuts of leather trimmings
were routinely put for anyone to take home. Leather makes a fierce fire and with the help of and old shoe, some coke, topped with slack [coal dust] we were warm for another
day at no cost.
Proceeding along Semilong Road passing by Arnold Road for several hundred yards next was Ingles the Chemist with his three large glass globes containing coloured liquids.
These were the hallmark of such shops in those days. Next came Mrs. Dales cake shop with home made cakes on display. Stale pasties were sold cheaply after a couple of days,
but a cake is cake, so who cared ?
Now we get to Alliston Gardens and like Gladstone terrace were a community where it was ‘all for one and one for all’. You just didn’t mess about with anyone who lived in
those traffic free enclaves. Very loyal to King and Queen, their decorations outstripped all in splendour at the Jubilee and later the crowning of George the 6th. I knew a lad from the
Gardens and he was a good friend to me in later life. Reaching the end of the long Semilong Road and crossing the main Barrack Road to enter the Racecourse. This vast area
was rapidly and completely built over at the start of World War 2 and became the base later of the American forces in the UK. A massive site with over a hundred large brick built
buildings Amazing what can be done when the devil drives. Northamptonians never expected to see their beloved Racecourse ever to be seen again, but it was and the site restored
to its former glory not long after the War. Finally along Barracks road toward Primrose Hill ---- down the hill and back to the starting point. I hope you find the travel interesting.
R.P. Eales. November 2006
By Eric Parker
Her favourite treat was chitlings. On a Saturday night I was given a pottery pudding basin and sent down to the Bush’s pork butchers shop in Kingsthorpe Hollow. This was at the lower
side of Alpha St on the opposite corner to the ‘Spotted Dog’ public house. Butchers shops were always open late on Saturday nights in those days. My standard order was for “a basin of
hot chitlings and plenty of tommyodge”. Chitlings are boiled pigs intestines and tommyodge was the liquid they were boiled in – a thin clear herb flavoured soup. Another favourite but not so often was
‘faggots’. These are similar to rissoles and they also tasted delicious.