Rushden Goes To Skeggy


Skegness walkies photo

It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I can remember going to Skegness or Skeggy as it was colloquially known to us Rushdeners and probably sundry other holidaymakers. On that occasion, in the early 1980's, it was a group of us 20 somethings out on a daytrip to the seaside.

However, it would appear my family had Skeggy as a holiday destination many years before this. Perusing through the old family photos was this little picture shown above which, at first, caused some discussion as to its specific location. The family had initially assumed it to be Lowestoft yet there was no landmarks in that town that matched the scene. Eventually, it was the clock tower in the background that gave away the location of Skegness.

This was obviously a holiday snap that was taken of my grand parents, namely Ivy Chamberlain (second from left) and Joe Chamberlain (far right) with two unknown people accompanying them. I have some suspicions that the unidentified man is Eddie Spencer but can not be certain. There is a picture of Eddie Spencer on the Rushden & District History Society Research Group Website which does bear some similarities to the chap in this photo which gives some substance to my suspicions. (NOTE: This assumption has since been confirmed and the lady is Eddies wife, Mabel Spencer. They were married on 4th April 1931 at Park Road Methodist Church.)
Photo of Eddie Spencer
Courtesy of Rushden & District History Society Research Group

I came to know Eddie in the early 1970's as the man who my granddad would often give a lift home from the game at Rushden Town Football Club each Saturday afternoon. Eddie would stand with us by the dug out in front of the main stand and my granddad would often complain to me that Eddie shouted too loudly when the game heated up. In such situations he would stand back against the main stand, out of earshot and left Eddie to his ranting and raving, although really it was no more than encouraging the team onwards.

Eddie was always dropped off the junction of Washbrook Road and Spencer Road which always gave the assumption that he must have lived in Spencer Road. Why shouldn't he live there? His name was Spencer and that was a logical conclusion for my young and childish mind. This assumption would appear well founded as the article accompanying the above photo also includes an image of Eddies Rushden Town Memebrship Card, which clearly states his address being 12 Spencer Road.

Eddie Spencers RTFC Membeership Card
Courtesy of Rushden Research Group

I never knew much more about Eddie and have always assumed him just to be a casual acquaintance of my grandfather with no more association other than the Saturday afternoon football game. However, more recent research has shown evidence that there may have been a much deeper connection. My Great Grandfather Charles Chamberlain was brought to Rushden from Linslade Workhouse (Bucks) to become an apprentice plumber. He initially  lodged in Fitzwilliam Street (or Hill as we all knew it locally). There is a record of this on the Rushden & District History Society Research Group 1891 Census extract and the interesting thing to note is that he was lodging with a man named William Spencer, his wife, daughter and three sons. This certainly gives some credence to the Spencer family having a lot closer connections to my own family other than a casual acquaintance. Maybe my grandfather had grown up with Eddie and had been a life long companion, although such thoughts are purely speculative until I can find any more information.

Returning to the subject of this article and namely the photo. This has sparked some further investigation to try to determine the year and location. With some research of resources across the web it was soon determined that the building on the right is the Osbert House Hotel which was part of the first set of buildings to be constructed on Skegness seafront in 1879. It was later taken over by Billy Butlin and used as offices when it was known as Butlins House. The building was finally demolished in 1972. With this knowledge we can place the scene as the Tower Esplanade looking towards Lumley Road which is behind the clock tower and the beach would be behind the cameraman. This certainly agrees with other pre 1960's photos of the area.

There are similar photos that have been taken from this position and have been published on the web. One fine example from Andrew Petcher's Blogsite where the photo is taken from the same vantage point, although from the opposite side of the road (photo available here) and is dated 1949. A remarkable coincidence is that this picture depicts Andrews father who was the same age as my own dad. The fact that my dad did not appear in the picture may suggest that it was during his service in the RAF which would put the date of the picture as the late 40's or very early 50's which is certainly a similar time-frame as Mr Petchers example. A second coincidence is the fact that these people were also from Rushden which would imply that Skeggy was a common destination for folk from the East Midlands.

There are other examples of similar photos such as those on  the Go Home on a Postcard website. This website has provided further clues as to the history of the family picture. Such photos were known as 'Walkies' and were taken by roaming photographers who would snap holiday makers and then offer their subjects the chance to purchase the snap some time later from the photographers shop. The fact that the photo includes what appears to be an automated numbering system at the bottom right hand corner would suggest that the company involved was  Wrates of Skegness who had a shop on Lumley Road and would often use the Tower Esplanade to capture their subjects. Wrates was founded in the late 1800s, began taking 'walkies' in the 1920s and only stopped at the end of the 1960s. Given all this information, and the fashion I would think the late 1940's is a very good guess as to when this item was taken.

The present day view has changed considerably, as can be seen from the above picture. This was taken in September 2014 when I passed through the town during a walk of the Lincolnshire Coast.


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