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THE LITTLE TOWN

Part 1


Waiting in the health centre to see the doctor, my mind began to wonder, looking round at all the other people who were waiting. Where do they all come from! What about their parents before them have always lived round here?
I don't think so. I cannot see one familiar face, or one I have been aquainted with over the years.
What these people don't know is that they are sitting on the very place where I was born. The health centre was built after they pulled down our old houses, there were nine houses and two shops one was a paper shop ,the other was a real old corner shop which sold most things from sweets to beer.
The hospital was across the road and the street then was never full of cars as it is now! in those days the doctor would call in for a cup of tea before going back to the surgery.

The start of this little bit of town going was in 1938, it involved the demolition of the shop and bakehouse with adjoining cottage that was in Upper Gungate, and four houses in Stranrear Place. These were next to our little row of houses and their destruction was said to make for better visibility for the traffic.........

A little later there was a shelter built, which we used when the war was on, also there was a large water tank to be used if fires started from incendiary bombs. We children enjoyed going down into the shelter when the warning went off, to us it was fun to get up in the middle of the night, but not so for our parents who had to go to work the next day. The car park across the road from the health centre was Shepherd's Yard where you could leave your bike for 6d while you went to the pictures, the Grand or the Palace maybe, or perhaps go for a drink. The Old Bell Inn was right opposite this was a lovely old pub that I think should not have been pulled down... It is still known as the Bell corner. Many a time I have fetched a jug of beer for the old lady at the paper shop, for that I got one old penny that was a lot of money for us kids who lived in the yard, no-one was flushed with money where we lived. No-one in this surgery could guess that they were sitting on a place where lots love, laughter, tears, births and deaths had all gone on not so many years ago. It had been my mother's first home after she was married and the place where she had lost her husband who died aged thirty four years, she also lost her a baby boy there. We did not have far to go to school which was in Spinning School Lane, it was called the Marmion School it was on the site where the Police station now stands. There was a little shop opposite the school gate where I used to fetch a 1/4 pound of tea for my teacher who was called Miss Young, she was a very kind lady. On the way to school I passed the fruit shop Dickinson`s,then Miss Smith's shop that sold sweets, cakes, milk and butter from the tub she also sold ham on the bone, I can smell it now. One of the chores I did not care for much was going across the road with our little white jug for a half pint of milk, mother or whoever had asked me to fetch it always said "don't spill it". In one corner of Miss Smith's shop stood a grandfather clock I loved to look at that old clock, it was old just like the lady in the shop. A pizza parlour has since taken the place of Miss Smiths, I am afraid it won't hold any warmth in my heart like that old shop does. Just a few yards on was The Golden Cup it was a pub and I had a friend who lived there, it is now a butcher's shop but at the back on the wall you can just see the name of the pub. Just a few yards on on the opposite side of the road was The Globe yet another pub and still further down the road was the little Star Inn a very tiny pub. I must not forget the paper shop next to Miss Smiths it was called Whitehalls,that was a very small shop. A little further on up the road was the baby shop this was owned by the Miss`es Lees, I think it's the Grape and Grain now. Then came the little sweet and tobacconists shop which was kept by Mr Wyldes and his wife this shop has changed little over the years it is still a lovely old fashioned place with lots of character. I can remember going there when the war was on to get my mother some cigarettes, in those times it was hard to get them, they would keep them under the counter sometimes they only had the ones called Pashers and they smelt horrible. I'm sure if that's all you could buy now a lot of people would give up smoking right away... Across the road were Ford and Rowley where I used to get my bike mended when I was older. I had to pass it on my way to school, it was at the top of Spinning School Lane at the back of Ford and Rowley stood a row of houses. I think most of them had green doors and the thing I remember about one of them is that it had a big Aspidistra plant in the front window, it's funny how silly things stick in your mind. On the right side of Spinning School Lane opposite the school was another row of small houses they were called Spring Gardens some of my school friends lived there. I remember I was playing with one of these friends when I should have been back at home my mother had sent me to buy a bucket from Wheeldons a shop that was by the town hall that sold everything you could think of. Anyway I had met my friend on the way back and she said "come and play for a while", and I did but time just went by so fast and it was dark before I got home. My mother was so mad but looking back now I know she was relieved as well as angry. I had a good spanking on the bottom and I can say I never did it again. The street across the bottom of Spinning School Lane was and still is Marmion Street and that's where the school clinic was where you had to go to have your teeth out and that is something I will never forget!. I think it is a car park now. Later in my life I took my first son to the same clinic just after he was born, it seems like only yesterday, but it was but it was 31 years ago. Now back to Lower Gungate, after Mr Wyldes shop came the next pub, The Prince of Wales that is still there and the shop after that was the green grocers Whiteheads. Miss Whitehead ran that shop for many years it's still there but not as green grocers. Little Church Lane is still there but it's all shops now, years ago it was a row of small houses and it was not wide open at the top into the churchyard as it is now. Neither did they have the vandals breaking windows every weekend as they do now, people did not seem to destroy and damage other peoples property as they do today. You could go and have a chat with a friend without locking your door, people used to care, help was always at hand if you needed it, and any good fortune was shared among all. Like the Sunday morning when nearly everyone in our old yard had haddock for breakfast. The older boys in the families used to go and help the market pack up the stalls at night just to earn a few shillings, they would collect up all the boxes and pack them onto the carts and vans. Some of the traders let the boys have the wooden boxes to bring home for the fire. It was one such box they brought back and it was full of fish, so it was divided up a portion for each family, that was caring for your neighbour. I am still sitting here waiting to see the doctor so I will go back down memory lane again. Next to Little Church Lane was where two or three cottages that are now Hamlets Wine Bar and the two little cottages after were very small but cosy, one of my school friends lived in one of them. The shop next door was a fish & chip shop which sold fresh fish and also rabbits and pheasants, it was in the Wood family for many years it's still a fish shop but they don't do fish & chips now The pork butchers next door to Woods was Claridges and still is, many many times when I was young I went there for my mother to get two penny worth of bacon bits or a pig's foot. But the thing I loved the most were the hot faggots in a basin with a gravy on them that made us a lovely meal with potatoes and peas. Another favourite of mine was a slice of toast with pork dripping on, many of these things we are told are not good for us now but I enjoyed them and so did a good many people in this little town. Oh! I have forgotten to say that the little cottages next to Wood's fish shop have had restoration done on them that I like it has given them the look they would have when they were originally built, one is now an optician and the other is an art shop. On the other side of the road you can see the lovely old Almshouses first built by Thomas Guy for the care of the aged, and in my mind I can see the little cottages that were next to them. One thing I remember about them was the old lady who sat outside smoking a pipe who always had a cap on, just another silly thing that sticks in my memory Later they pulled down the cottages and extended the Almshouses the building which replaced the other old houses they pulled down are all characterless until you get past the Post Office then you have buildings with a bit of character, they were once fine houses - but that was quite a time before I was born .However they are still standing and in use today, number 10 Colehill has been there for 300 years and is now home to the firm of solicitors Dewes & Son. The elegant cornice and porticoed front of No.10 are little changed since Susannah Willington had it built in 1690. I read somewhere that all the houses on Colehill had large gardens at the rear with coach houses ,which you could reach from a lane at the back, that lane is now known as Marmion Street. The chemist shop at the bottom of Colehill was Perkins, you could call in there and tell the chemist your symptoms and how you felt and he would make up a mixture for you while you waited, and nine times out of ten it made you feel better. At the top of Colehill on the other side was the Co-op which was built in 1897 .A little lower down is the Milk Bar many years ago this was the Vicarage but that was a while before my time, it's just a little bit of history I remember. The Co-op Bank is a place I like to go to because when you go through the door on Colehill it is all beautifully tiled inside with green glazed tiles with brown leaves on them, that part of the bank is still the same as when I was a child I do hope they don't change it!. We have lost so much of the old Tamworth already, as a child I can remember going to see Father Christmas in the part of the Co-op that is now the shoe shop. All this reminiscence has made me forget how hard these seats are in the doctor's waiting room. So many memories I have of this town when it was small, like the summer evening when the two newspaper men who used to stand at the bottom of Colehill had an argument and one of them lost his money bag. All the coppers from it spilt onto the road, pennies were rolling everywhere and the people who were looking on began to laugh as children seemed to appear from nowhere chasing the pennies and putting them into their pockets. The paper seller was shouting at them to stop, it was a funny site to see but some of the onlookers did help him to pick up his money. I could not see that happening now, it's all muggings and taking your money and it's not pennies either. Round the corner and into George Street was Timothy White and Taylors the chemists then came Perk's the grocery shop, I can remember standing looking through the window at the girls patting butter into 1/2lb or 1lb blocks I would have loved to have had a go at doing that. I think the floor in the shop was black & white tiles like a chess board. The butchers' was next door, that was Mr Pacey's it was a very small shop I used to go there for my meat when I got married. When my son was about 2 years old each time we went to the shop one of the men would go out to him and give him a slice of corned beef as I said before people used to care. We used to have shopkeepers now it's just a shop with people in to take your money sometimes without even a "thank you" or a smile. There are no new shops that have any character they all seem to look very brash. After Mr Pacey the butchers came the Grand cinema that had a statue of a lady on the top. Thinking of that statue reminds me of the old character who was known as Jack He used to get a little drunk most weekends and he would stand opposite the Grand and look up at the statue put up his fists and say "come on if you want to fight". this made everyone who saw him laugh. He was never nasty towards anyone just that statue. I wonder if anyone had that statue off the top of the Grand or did she just disappear like the Fountain from Upper Gungate that used to stand at the crossroads. Next the to cinema came Hamblett's the tobacconists, there was always a lovely aroma in that shop all the tobacco's had different smells the shop also sold snuffs, pipes and tobacco pouches, lots of people used to smoke in those days. On the other side of the road starting from the top of Bolebridge Street, came Dunn's the shoe shop it is still a shoe shop now. Then came the post office there were queues at each window then just as there are today! some things never change. Along from the post office was Facey's Furniture shop, we bought our first table from there when we got married it was a drop leaf table and we still have it today. The jewellers a little further on was and still is Griffin & Sons that shop is of Victorian style and it has not changed ,it's just as I remember it when I was a child. It is lovely to stroll through the old town of Tamworth even if it is only in my mind as I sit here waiting to see the doctor, as I go on to Bradley's the men's & boys shop is next. I used to work at Bradley's factory when I was young, many years ago now the shop later became Foster's men's shop. A little further there was a large opening that lead to the old tape mill, now it leads to a car park, next came the fruit shop of Mr Bray I am not quite sure what was next I think it was the Home & Colonial then came another jewellers this was a small shop and it was called Wherles.This was the shop where I had my ears pierced when I was seventeen, my friend who was with me at the time just saw Mr Wherle push the needle into my ear to make the hole and she was gone, it has taken another 45 years to get her ears done. The Bricklayers Arms was the next pub and the landlord was old Bob Pemberton, next door to that was Hunt's the butchers, there came a little lane next which led to the back of the Palace cinema and down to the wooden bridge that crossed over into the Castle Grounds. It does not go to the Castle Grounds any more it leads up into Ankerside. Boots the Chemists was where Taylor's cake shop is now and on the other side of the road was Milo Turner's another chemists shop. This was a family run shop and they were always very helpful in there .Mr Milo Turner once gave me a little book called "Every Mother's Book & Everybody's Doctor", I found it very useful when my boys were small and I still have it now as I do tend to hoard things. It is stamped on the back "Milo Turner the chemist ,28 George Street Tamworth. "Halfords has since taken the place of Milo Turners up from the old Woolworth's store which was a lot smaller than the new one is now stood a little shop called Crutchley's butchers where they used to make faggots and on that day people would queue all the way down the street just to get some, and I must admit they were worth waiting for. Also in George Street there was a baby and children's clothes shop and two more pubs there was the Empire and Oliver's for a small town we did have a lot of pubs ! well we still have, but most of the lovely old ones are gone. It does seem a shame that they were pulled down all had lots of character and they gave the town some of it's old world charm.


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Home Up Stranraer Place Spinning School Lane