Sunday, 9 June 2013

1930's Lowestoft Holidays

Growing up in Rushden would always entail holidays to east coast resorts of Norfolk and Suffolk .It was said that you could not pay a visit to Great Yarmouth without seeing someone you knew from Rushden. I have to admit that I was 19 before I ever set foot in Great Yarmouth, and within minutes of walking along the front there was someone I knew!.Most of my family holidays were spent around the Sheringham and Cromer area, plus such exotic locations as Waxham Sands and Kessingland..

It wasn't until encountering some old family photos that, after a little research, I discovered that my grandparents holidayed at Lowestoft. The above photo on the left is my grandfather and grandmother in front of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club Building in Lowestoft. Fortunately this distinctive building gave away the location as it had been assumed this photo was taken in Scarborough. The picture on the right is taken in 2013 and the area hasn't changed much in the detail. Even the lamp-post is still there albeit now a modern metal structure.

The exact year of the photo is unknown but assumed to be in the 1930's, The bus gives a clue and it does appear to have the word 'Lowestoft' inscribed at the bottom of its rear though the company name is indistinctive. I have found that the forerunners of the present Belle Coaches in Lowestoft, namely Shreeve and Co. employed similar looking vehicles in this time period. Maybe there is a bus enthusiast out there who could provide more precise details!

We can even estimate the time of the picture. Using the lampost in relation to the buildings it would appear they are walking due south. Their shadows are to their left and slightly behind so I would guess, with this being during the summer months, the time would be early morning. Unfortunately on the day I returned to this position, despite the rest of the country basking in sunshine, Lowestoft was under a veil of thick cloud and no shadows are evident.

Along with the picture in front of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club building there was also a photo of my grandparent along with a crowd of people. It is assumed that this must have been the guesthouse they stayed at along with other residents. Once again this needed a little research to identify its location. Fortunately the distinctive brickwork was a good clue which resulted in locating a terrace of such buildings along Cliff Esplanade. It is uncertain exactly what one of these guesthouses was the building in the top photo but number 11 is probably the strongest candidate of 3 or 4 possibilities.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Church Young People Memories

Not quite sure who these people are. What is known is that they formed a young peoples Church group, possibly from St Peters in Midland Road and this particular meeting was held at 40 Victoria Road in the 1950's. It is thought that the chap on the left with the white socks was one of a pair of twins and possibly named Mick Spall. If you know any more then please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

A Mischievous Tale

I, along with my brothers and sister were bought up within the Church, starting off at St Marks in Highfield Road and later joining the youth groups at St Marys.

We were raucous kids at the time and my next youngest brother, popularly known as Chaig, was probably the raucous of all. Every Sunday we were ushered up to St Marks for the morning service. My dad would drive us in the family sit-up-and-beg Ford Popular. Quite why we drove I shall never know as it was no more than a 15-20 minute walk.

Anyway, on one particular occasion we were seated down at the back of the church hall and Albert Knight, one of the church sidesmen, was sat between us to keep an eye on our behavior as our past history of church service behavior did not rank very high in the scheme of things.   I am not sure exactly what the leaflet that was placed on all the wooden chairs that filled the hall was about. It was a piece of roughly coped A4 paper describing something informative and something which did not concern neither me or my brother. I am also not sure quite how Chaig managed to take his sheet of A4 paper and without detection from the watchful eye of Albert Knight, managed to  construct a paper aeroplane. Nothing extravagant but nonetheless a device capable of aeronautic endeavors. He proudly displayed it to me, carful not to alert the eye of Albert in case he caught sight and confiscated the artifact.

The service began. The vicar and his entourage walked into the hall from the door at the front of the hall. The congregation stood up. The organ came alive with music and the congregation began the onslaught of the first hymn. Neither me nor my brother were keen on singing and I would normally mouth the words which always seemed to proceed at a sluggish pace and enabled me to read ahead in the hymn book. I was usually several pages ahead of the congregation and on a completely different hymn by the time the first couple of verses had been sung. On this occasion I was not concentrating as I was more interested in watching what my brother was doing. He had kept his eye on Albert Knight who was stood bolt upright and fervently singing the praises from the hymn book which he held aloft, clutched loosely with both hands, and his face looking straight ahead, occasionally dipping down to peer at the hymn book. This was the chance that Chaig had been waiting for.  In quick motion, he drew his arm back then launched the paper aeroplane forwards into the air with as much effort as he could muster. We both watched. It soon caught Albert's line of sight and for a few seconds he helplessly gazed as the aeroplane  glided over the congregation and then started to descend. It did not quite make the front of the hall, and the congregation was pretty much oblivious until the aeroplane made a landing, coming to a graceful rest  in this mans beard in the front row which caused most of the front row to glance back from whence the object came, still singing as they curiously gazed.

I tried to stem the laughter. Chaig was immediately frog marched out of the hall by Albert Knight. I cant remember what trouble or penance this landed him in. I can only remember the laughter when we recounted the mischievous acted after the service had ended. Happy days.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Irchester Wheelers Cycle Club

The Irchester Wheelers

Cycling was a big part of life as I grew up. I can recall my first bike which was a second hand blue framed kids bicycle. It did not have stabilizers and I had to learn to cycle in the limited space of the back yard to the family home. This was soon replaced by a larger lads cycle which I believe was purchased from Espins in Queen Street. I always remember the distinctive smell of Espins shop. It just oozed bicycles.

In those days, despite the roads having a lot less traffic than in modern times, I was not allowed out on the main roads until I passed my Bicycle Proficiency Test. This was duly arranged over at Higham School on the corner of Warf Road and Saffron Road during the summer school holidays. In order to get over there my brother and myself were given the privilege of being allowed to cycle along the main A6 over Higham Hill, the first time either of us had undertaken such a monumental journey on a busy highway.

On arrival we found the playground had been marked out with cones to indicate various road structures. The days schedule included a rigorous training routine followed by the final test after which we would be declared fit for the road and given the freedom of the highway. An honour that was eagerly anticipated. There must have been about 20 kids altogether and not one of them was known to either myself or my brother. Nonetheless, the day went well, the mornings training simple and fully understood by all involved.

There was a break before each of us was individually put through the final test after which we would receive our official certification. I was one of the last to undertake the test and I distinctly remember the final part of the procedures which was to undertake a right turn at a junction. The school yard was marked out as a T-junction complete with chalked road markings and I was asked to proceed up to the junction and turn right, performing the actions that we had been taught during the mornings training. This seemed simple enough. Make sure all was clear behind. Indicate with confident outstretched arm as to the manouvre you were about to conduct. Move out to the middle of the road and stop at the junction. Then, if all was clear,  proceed across the road. I knew all this. It seemed simple. We had done this very procedure during the mornings training so it was still fresh in my head and the logistics fully comprehended.

The instructor gave me the cue to perform the task. I pushed off on my bicycle and steadily headed towards the junction. I looked behind. As expected, there was no traffic on this marked out road. I stuck out my arm and moved to the centre of the road, my arm staying stiffly perpendicular to my body as I slowed the cycle and pulled up to the junction. I think it was at this point that I realised my mistake. It was embarrassing and I knew I had done it. No-one was laughing. There was no word coming from the examiner, and I dare not look at him in case it gave away my guilt. I pushed off and turned right in full knowledge of my mistake, somehow hoping the examiner had not seen my error. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe it was over confidence. I really do not know for sure. But I knew that when I stuck out my left arm to turn right that it was not the action the examiner was looking for.

The final results of the days effort were announced when the instructors gathered all of us kids together. They did not announce any failures. Only the names those who passed who were asked to come forward and be awarded with their certificate. My name was not included. I think I was the only person to fail the test that day. I was probably the only person to ever fail the Bicycle Proficiency Test. I have certainly never met another person to admit to the fact.

I dejectedly had to ride home without the certificate that all the other kids had earned. Even my brother did not taunt me which was unlike him, as I think he must have felt a little sorry for me. We cycled back over Higham Hill and up Washbrook Road and home and there I had to own up and pass on the sad news to my mum. I think it must have been out of sympathy that after listening to my story and my explanation of the course of events she said  I would still  be allowed to ride on the main roads despite not having gained a pass.

From that point on I cycled everywhere. Miles and miles. My best cycle was a metallic blue Carlton Corsa racing cycle which I covered literally thousands of miles on. My favorite journeys were always the customary family holiday at Houghton Mill when my dad would take the car loaded with tent and canoes and the rest of the family would cycle the 25 miles. Great fun and it gave us the freedom of the cycle for the weeks holiday. I still do not possess a pass certificate for the Bicycle Proficiency Test

So after this story, back to the picture of the Irchester Wheelers. If you click on the picture it will display an enlarged version. My dad, Ted Chamberlain, is at the centre in the dark top. I am not sure when this was taken but it is probably the early 1950's. I do not know who the other people are in the picture and have little other information about the Irchester Wheelers.

Maybe someone out there could enlighten me. Just add a comment below if you have any information about the people or the club as it would be gratefully received.

Hayway, Rushden

And finally a picture of my dad cycling along  Hayway, Rushden back in the early 1950's or late 1940's

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Church Parade Rushden

I used to think that I could remember Church Parade before the road was widened. Ever since childhood I was certain I had some vague recollection or distant knowledge of the wall in front of the church being somehow different to that which anyone who passes through the town en route to Bedford  will encounter these days. The wall is distinctive, a high stone wall which contains the extent of the churchyard of St Mary's church and follows the curve of the road from the junction with Newton Road and the High Street the short distance round to High Street South.

More recently, I researched the matter and found that the road widening scheme which entailed having to relocate the wall further back happened in 1959. In fact the work had started a year earlier in 1958 with evidence detailed in the local newspaper of the time, the Rushden Echo and Argos, which is quoted on the Rushden Heritage Website. Now, this presented a problem with my claim of memories of the old wall as I wasn't born until 1959. Therefore a suitable explanation needed to account for these memories. I can think of three alternatives:

  • I have some pre-birth consciousness of Church parade. I guess such an explanation delves into the realms of the supernatural and the ideas of whether the soul pervades timelessly without a body. This is clutching at straws but a subject worthy of debate for late nights around a camp fire. I dont think I can honestly say this is a worthy explanation in this case. 
  • I am really older than I think. Such a possibility is unlikely as I have my birth certificate, therefore in order to serve such an explanation I would need to assume that the entire world was in on the conspiracy to change me age. Family, friends, officials all conspiring to make me younger than I actually am just to prevent me from knowing a Church wall was removed. I highly unlikely situation.
  • Thirdly, and the most likely explanation is that I have distant memories of photos from the family archive which capture the Church wall being moved back.

The two photos that are displayed in this post were found in a collection of family shots which obviously had at one time been held within an album. The church is obviously St Mary's whose clock is at nearly a quarter to four but there is no date to the photo and the only thing of significance being the half removed churchyard wall. This leads to the suspicion that it was taken during the reconstruction as part of the road widening scheme back in 1958/9.

An interesting story involving Church Parade goes back to the early 1980's. Back in those days I used to regularly frequent the Wheatsheaf pub, just around the corner where Church Parade meets Hugh Street South. In those days The Wheatsheaf was a renowned bikers pub which regularly hosted local rock bands plus had a regular rock disco. On a Friday and Saturday evening bikers would come from far and wide to the 'Sheaf', as it was locally known, and the car park was full of the machines, old and new. One particular chap, known as Paddy to his friends, would always be there. Although he lived in Rushden, he, like many other Rushden bikers, would ride his bike down to the pub.

On one particular day he arrived at the pub in  a disheveled state looking a little worse for ware. Certainly not through drink. His limping arrival caught the attention of his many friends and it didn't take them long to get him to admit that he had come off his bike to which he enlarged that the said misfortune had occurred just yards away from the pub on Church Parade. Car drivers were the immediate assumption and conclusion of those who now offered help and sympathy to the dazed figure  Church Parade was always a hazardous section of road for the intrepid biker, with traffic peeling off to the right to head down Skinners Hill. Paddy shook his head. No. It was not the fault of cars or car drivers. It wasn't the fault of an impatient van driver or challenge for space from a lorry driver. He could not lay the blame to any form of transportation or unprecedented manouvre by another road user. Paddy, still dusting himself down, emphatically put the culprit of his misfortune down to girls. Yes. Girls. Well, to be precise, a girl. A particular girl in a short skirt who he had noticed as he cruised slowly around Church Parade. She caught his attention and had mesmerized his  concentration as the girl was walking in front of the war memorial. Transfixed. This is probably why he did not see the car in front stop and why he had fallen from his bike as he attempted to avoid a collision  No damage.  No broken bones. Just dented pride and a few bruises. We all laughed.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Rushden Town FC

I have recently started to digitize a lot of old family photos. Although a lot of these are personal to me and my family there are a host of other shots which are more general and may be of interest to others both as an historical record and also as a prompter to stir some old memories that I hope can be shared in the comments below..

With both sides of my family coming from Rushden and the surrounding area I have many pictures going back to the 1920's. The photos are not exclusive to Rushden but also include holiday locations. And as any person who grew up in Rushden readily  knows you can not go to an east coast resort without seeing someone you know from Rushden. Maybe this is not the case these days with global holidays but it was certainly the case in the 60's, 70's and even the 80's when I was growing up.

As a starter, here is a shot with my grandad, Joe Chamberlain in a football team (front row far left and sitting on the ground). I dont know much about this photo but guess it was taken in the 20's or 30's. Who was the football team? Who were the other players?

From about the age of 10 my Granddad took me to Rushden Town FC games every single week of the playing season come rain or shine. If the first team were away we would watch the reserves. If neither team was playing we would trawl around the county in search of a game to watch, but Rushden was my team. Always was. Always will be. One memory that I was proud of at the time but now I question how true it was is when he told me that he once played for Rushden Town and that they used to play in an all black strip. I have never found any old photo of a Rushden Town side in black, or one with my Granddads name underneath it. Maybe someone out there knows better.

I kept on supporting Rushden Town, then Rushden and Diamonds after they merged and now AFC Rushden and Diamonds even though I now live over 100 miles away and can't get to a game. Despite this,AFC Rushden and Diamonds is the first result I look for on a Saturday afternoon, following the action either on the forum or having texts sent to me. As a kid I dreamt of seeing my team play in the Football League. I lived to see that happen! When other kids would scribble their favorite teams in the condensation on the school bus to Wellingborough, I would annoint the mist with the mighty name of Rushden Town, boldly placing it amid the scrawl of Chelsea and Leeds and Man Utd. I was always taunted about it but most of the others never watched a game of football each week. I always did. Great Days. Pop Field, Glen Frost. Colin Sharp. Martin Doughty. Dick Allen. Chris Smith (who I delivered papers to on my morning paper round - what an honour!). They were all me heroes from those youthful years.

This picture is probably of th St Marys Football team - the strip looks the same as one of the photos of the team on the Rushden Heritage website. So any memories of the faces in this photo (click on the image to see an enlarged version)?