Sunday, September 21, 2008
Reconstructing Church Street
The Agora, a covered shopping centre, took up a complete block of Church Street and Buckingham Street and closed off Radcliffe Street into the bargain. The section of Buckingham Street was almost entirely residential and the houses looked very much like those that remained. The only unique building to go wsa the Gas Board Showroom on the north west corner of Buckingham Street and Radcliffe Street.
The south side of Church Street was not as fully developed commercially as the north side and was a mixture of residential and commercial. Those that had developed shop fronts had large plate glass windows with the exception of Antees, Eady, the butcher and King the baker.
Starting from the back lane by the Science and Art Institute and the churchyard was the Sketchley Dye Works - so called but really a drop-off and collection point for laundry and dry cleaning. My father, in common with most other men of the period, wore detachable shirt collars. As far as I recall they were never washed at home with the rest of the laundry but were sent away for cleaning. They always came back stiff with starch. I assume Sketchley provided this service. This building was numbered 7.
Number 9 may have been a residence, but at Number 11, for a time, was E A Read, a fishmonger. Tilley's, one of Wolverton's coal merchants, had their office at Number 13. Winter heating depended entirely on coal in those days and coal, coke and anthracite was delivered to household cellars or bunkers in blackened hessian hundredweight sacks.
The Co-op occupied Number 15 but I am not sure in what capacity. At Number 17 the Northampton Chronicle and Echo maintained an office, presumably to pick up local news and sell photos and other services.
The Co-op Mens Outfitters could be found at 19.
Numbers 21,25, 29,31,37 were residential.
ET Ray, the Stony Stratford firm of solicitors, maintained a Wolverton office at Number 23.
WG Sellick, who also had a garage at New Bradwell, had a service garage at Number 27. I think access must have been from the back alley. because all I remember of the shop window is that it was used to store tyres. In later years, as people began to buy cars, Sellicks formed Wolverton Motors and had a purpose-built garage on the Stratford Road.
Anstee's. at Number 33, was a music shop. Here you could buy sheet music (still a business mainstay in the early 1950s, gramophone records, radios (they were still called wireless in the 50s) and record players. The mid-50s saw us begin to make the transition from the 78rpm disk to 45rpm EP (extended play) and 33rpm LP (Long Play). The two latter were manufactured using a vinyl compound which could bend and did not shatter easily. EPs were 7 inch diameter and used for pop singles. They had a punch-out centre for use in juke boxes. The other technology that came along with this was the diamond or sapphire stylus to replace the old steel needle. The LP catalogue in the mid-50s was mainly classical with some jazz and musical shows. The pop album had yet to be invented.
Next door the Co=op had one of their two Butcher's shops; the other was at the top of Jersey Road.
On the corner of Church Street and Radcliffe Street, at Number 39, was Eady the butcher. The entrance was at the corner angle.
All of these shop had steps.
At Number 41, on the opposite corner was a bakery, run by Mr and Mrs King with the help of their sons and one employee called Alf. Mrs King ran the shop and wrapped the loaves in a single sheet of white tissue for the customers who queued each morning for fresh bread. Mr King would deliver bread to customers in a pony and trap, usually in the afternoon. Baking started in the very early hours of the morning.
Further on from Kings were two more shops, Strickland's - a wool shop, and a men's barber, owned in the early 50s by Farndon and subsequently by Garwood. These were numbered 45 and 47.