MARKET STREET 1953 & COLIN DUNLOP'S MEMOIRS

These photographs were sent to me by Colin Dunlop.  They were taken at the bottom end of Market Street during the celebrations for the 1953 coronation.

The gateway led into the backyard of the Spread Eagle pub.

Colin is in the shadows (third from the right).

If you recognize anybody in these photographs then please email me at clarkealanj@gmail.com

 

Colin Dunlop’s Memoirs of Market Street and surrounding area

 

My mother was born in 1917 in the East End of London into a family of Thames watermen and tailors.  The family had lived there for generations

moving between Bow, Whitechapel, Hackney, Forest Gate and East Ham.  She knew what life was all about.  During the Blitz her parents were bombed

out their homes three times and (lucky for me and my siblings) my mother decided enough was enough and moved to Northampton.  My mother rented a

flat above a shop at 167 Wellingborough Road and was fortunate enough to secure a job at a laundry next door but one.  Living and working around the corner

from Market Street it wasn’t long before she met my father who at the time was living with his parents at No. 42 Market Street.  They married in December

1941 and so began our link with this wonderful street and the people who lived there.  It was like one big happy family, people who stuck together through

thick and thin.

 

Most of the inhabitants (including our own family) lived from week to week and on numerous occasions we went without.  The mums back then were experts

at providing a meal on a small amount of cash, a half-pound of bacon bits (off cuts) from Cheney & Sons the butchers to make a pie, cheese and potato pie was

another budget meal along with suet puddings, faggots and not forgetting bread and dripping.  Other “luxuries” included broken biscuits, Snow White (well that

was what my Mum called it, bless her), which consisted of a pint of milk poured into a saucepan into which you broke up half a loaf of bread and then heated it up

before serving into a cereal bowl with a dash of golden syrup.  This was not a pudding but dinner!  I can remember arriving home from school on a freezing cold day

and pleased that I had something to warm me up.  I don’t think the diet did us any harm and most of us were grateful for something to eat and never complained. 

We knew that Mum had done her best.  The only overweight people I can remember were people that were cooks and the odd butcher. 

 

We spent most of our Christmas with our grandparents as they always seemed to have coal burning in the grate.  They would often give me and my sisters a shilling

to go to Savoy Cinema (Abington Square) on a Saturday morning.  They also took us to see Laurel & Hardy live on stage at the New Theatre in October 1953. 

It was a really good show, I can remember it like it was yesterday.

 

My sisters were all born at 137a Wellingborough Road (better known as St. Edmunds Hospital).  I was born in 1944 and my earliest memories are in 1948 when,

along with the rest of the family, we went to St. Edmunds (referred to as the workhouse by anyone who was born there, jokingly) to fetch my baby sister.

[Above] Union Workhouse, Wellingborough Road.

One event that is stuck in my mind took place on Friday afternoons at the site of the old workhouse at the bottom end of the street.  Around 4 p.m. a queue would

start to form of those who were homeless.  They were known as tramps and by about 6 p.m. when the doors were open a crowd had gathered.  Some of them were

just down on their luck but the rest chose to live that way.  If they came knocking at the door most people would make them a sandwich with a cup of char. 

My Gran would let them stand in the passage if the weather was bad and they wouldn’t touch a thing.  The majority of them were real gentlemen.  They came to

workhouse on Friday because they were given a bed and meal for the weekend for a shilling or two and if they hadn’t got the money would be asked to carry out

chores like chopping wood and cleaning.  They would have a bath during their stay and I can still recall the smell of carbolic soap that used to drift out of the cellar

head windows.

 

Growing up in the 1950’s we had our own gang (like most other neighbourhoods).  Ours was called The Market Street Gang and our Captain was Tony Francis from No. 101. 

He would plan and organize a fall cavalry charge from Brunswick Street to the Welly (Wellingborough) Road.  We had great fun making our own weapons. 

Other members of this gang included Brian, Tony and Roger Barford (all from No. 65), John & Pete Wright (No. 38) and Jacky Heasman from No. 17.

[Above] Brunswick Street

Our headquarters were in a location at the very bottom of the street called The Tins.  This was a demolition site surrounded by galvanized sheets and covered with

billboards.  We would spend hours in there playing and planning our next mission.  It was our secret place.  You had to make your own fun in those days as money

was short.  Most of us had not even seen the sea until we were eight years old.

 

Abington Park and Midsummer Meadow were a short walk away and we regarded these places as our own backyards.  In the summer we would spend many hours there. 

There was a gentleman with a telescope which he would set up on its tripod at the bottom of the bank between the road in front of the church and the play area. 

He would sit on the bench all day and for a penny would show you there different views.  It didn’t matter how many times you paid him you would always get the

same three views.  They were the post box in Abington Park South, a distant water tower and the middle lake in the park. 

The park hasn’t changed much from my childhood.

 

On the Wellingborough Road next to the Spread Eagle pub there used to be a barber’s shop.  His name was Fred Spokes or Stokes and I would get my haircut here

(as an alternative to my Gran cutting it) until I was twelve years old.  Fred was well past retirement age and he used to say to me, “Colin, you are sitting here having

your haircut and I cut your Dad’s hair when he was your age and your grandfather’s hair when he was your age.”  Just shows you how long he had been there. 

Shortly before my father died in 2012 we were driving down the Welly Road and as we passed the old barber’s shop I asked my father if he remembered old Fred. 

He said Fred could be a blinking nuisance sometimes – you had to be careful what time you went in for your haircut as on more than one occasion he would sitting

there when all of a sudden Fred’s wife would poke her head around the door at the back of the shop and told Fred that his dinner was ready.  Fred would down tools,

wash his hands in the basin and then vanish through said door and leave you sitting for twenty minutes or so “half cut”.  Knowing how impatient my father was this

story made me laugh.

[Above] The Spread Eagle, Wellingborough Road.

 

By 1957 I had become very industrious and had a paper round with F. Westley the Newsagent at 84 Wellingborough Road (mornings and evenings), and for my trouble

was paid 18/6 a week.  By this time my family had moved across the road to Bouverie Street.  On Saturday mornings I would go to Market Street where some elderly

people lived, these were friends of my Gran and they would pay me three or four pence and sometimes a tanner 6d to fetch there shopping.  These items were mainly

things that were too heavy for them to carry like vegetables.  I would then go to Bonsor & Wilding Joinery Ltd at the bottom of Raglan Street.  They were happy to

loan me their sack barrow and a couple of sacks to clear out their cellar of offcuts left over from the weeks’ work for which I had regular customers for. 

They would use it to chop up for kindling to start their coal fires.  This earned me another shilling or two.

 

Each week I was earning around £1-2/-6d (about £1-13 in today’s money).  The average wage for an adult male back then was about £8 a week so I doing quite well. 

I could have bought 17 pints of ale for my pound!  I also purchased a couple of half-crown post office saving stamps.  These encouraged you to save. 

You could stick them in the book provided and each book held about thirty stamps so you would end up with about £3/15/-.  It is a pity they stopped selling them. 

Any money I had left after this I would keep in an old biscuit tin and would look forward to counting it on a regular basis (talk about Scrooge!)  I always ended up

giving up whatever was in my tin to my Mum to help her make ends meet.  It was hard work for the average housewife back then.  The husband would come home

on Friday and give his wife a certain amount for housekeeping keeping the rest for himself.  He would never reveal how much he had earned. 

Whatever the wife received was never enough.  Some wives would get nothing if the husband called in at the pub or bookmakers on the way home.

 

There were no handouts back then and if you didn’t work you got very little.  A lot of families without money early in the week would pay a visit to Claude Jones’

pawn shop which was situated on Upper Mounts on the corner of Earl Street.  They would pawn their watch or suit and then redeem them on Friday when they got paid. 

On Monday they would be back for another loan and so it went on.  You could pawn almost anything (apart from a dog).  There were also the Women’s Voluntary Service. 

This was an organization which handed out goods (mainly donated clothing for children) to people who were in desperate need.   Another interesting fact is that if you

had something on hire purchase, like furniture, and you failed to keep up your payments and then ignored the demanding payment the Bailiff would come to your house

in his car and take you to Bedford Prison for two weeks.  This went on until at least 1960.  It was not classed as a criminal offence so the time you spent in prison

was actually the part called the debtor’s wing and away from other inmates.

 

Apart from Market Street the family on my father’s side also lived at the following addresses in the town.

 

No. 28 Bouverie Street 1954-1973 (demolished).

No. 31 Portland Street 1901-1931 (demolished).

No. 12 Fish Street 1871 (demolished).

No. 10 Kettering Gardens 1858 (demolished).

No. 2 Mount Street 1851 (demolished).

No. 17 St. Edmunds Street 1899 (demolished).

No. 52 Palmerston Road 1907 (still in existence).

No. 74 Hood Street 1891 (still in existence).

No. 12 Melville Street 1901 (demolished).

Castle Street Court 1841 (demolished).

No. 100 Derby Road 1935 (still in existence).

St. Johns Street 1861 (demolished).

 

C. DUNLOP MMXVI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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