Walking around the streets of Axminster in the 1950s (Part 2)

  Posted: 28.07.20 at 15:33 by Philip Evans

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I continue my walk around the town and start outside Graham Newbery’s electrical shop on the corner of George Street and Lyme Street Please let me know if my memory fails me - AGAIN!

In the early 1950s it was quite something to walk into Graham Newbery’s and see televisions working – a real treat. Most of them were only small (12-inch or 14-inch). My family bought our first TV in 1953 for the coronation, but more importantly (as far as I was concerned), for the FA Cup final - Blackpool versus Bolton Wanderers. Blackpool won 4-3 in “The Matthews Final”, a match named after Stanley Matthews, the legendary Blackpool right-winger.

From the moment that Blackpool won the cup, as a seven year-old, I adopted Blackpool as my favourite team, until many years later when I lived in Birmingham and adopted West Bromwich Albion (the Baggies!) to follow.

I recollect a café, next door to Graham Newbery’s, which I remember as the “Cosy Café”. As teenagers a group of us would call in on a regular basis for a packet of Cadbury’s Snack biscuits and a Coca-Cola.

Next door to the Cosy Café was The White Hart pub (which I believe was formerly the Golden Lion) and further up Lyme Street was Charles Neal’s Blacksmiths (now occupied by joiner Nigel Collings). I don’t remember the building being used as a blacksmiths – more as a storage depot where cattle hauliers Ernie Bridle and Peter Baulch senior used to operate. Peter was another Axminster character, easily recognised by the agricultural worker’s jodhpurs he always wore.

Opposite Charlie Neale’s was the Red Lion, another of Axminster’s many public houses in those days. Just up the road in Lyme Street, before we get to the junction with Coombe Lane, the building at that junction was the premises of J F Clarke & Son, funeral directors, whose joinery business also operated from a large workshop in Coombe Lane, where the coffins were made.

Rose Cottage in South Street - looking much the same in the 1950s as it does today

Following the retirement of Harry Clarke, the funeral director’s business was taken over by Roy Munday, a lovely man with a wicked sense of humour. If you were in Roy’s company and you happened to cough, he would immediately whip out his tape measure, as if to start measuring you up for the next coffin his company would make!

Walking further up Lyme Road you would reach Pippins, on the junction of Lyme Road and Stoney Lane. Now a thriving Community Centre, in the 1950s it was a prep school for boys and girls where I believe the girls would eventually move on to Shute School for girls. I’m not sure where the boys went? Perhaps we should ask my good friend Graham Godbeer, who was a student of Pippins School in the 1950s.

Going further up Lyme Road, nestled in between the council houses at Cridlake was a convenience store/grocers, which I rarely visited, unless on the way home from watching a football match at the Sector Lane ground. I hear a lot about Granny Rocket’s sweet shop on the junction of Lyme Road with Sector Lane – but I really can’t recall it. I presume the building had been demolished before the mid 195’s. A seat resides on the corner in Granny Rocket’s memory.

In the 1950s I didn’t venture further up Lyme Road than the junction with Sector Lane and I can’t therefore remember if Lyme Court Garage on the left hand side, or Prospect Garage on the right hand side had been built.

I later remember Lyme Court Garage parading Jimmy Hill, the famous beaded footballer and TV pundit, in support of a new range of Peugeot motor cars. Jimmy was formerly manager of Coventry City whose main sponsor for many years was Peugeot motors. He spoke and answered questions for some considerable time, on his life as the first bearded footballer, manager and TV personality.

Granny Rocket's Corner in Lyme Road where a seat sits in her memory

Coming back down Lyme Road we find the Lamb pub, another of Axminster’s public houses, which is still flourishing. Below the Lamb Inn is the Catholic Church of St Mary, built in 1830, together with St Mary’s Catholic Primary School. My father, although not a catholic, attended the primary school and received a first class education. The principle of entrance to non-catholic students still prevails, in line with the school’s admissions procedures.

Just below the Catholic School is Field End, leading to the Tea Field which sits behind the current houses in Lyme Close. This field was traditionally used for sheep sales, where many hundreds of sheep were sold by auction. In more recent years it has been used for community fetes, including an annual Donkey Derby.

Travelling back down Lyme Road in the 1950s, there was no magistrates court, Police Station, nor police houses, as these were built in the 1960s. (These buildings will shortly be demolished and the site used for housing).

Going back past the Red Lion and reaching the junction of Lyme Street and South Street, we would come to the treasure trove “Corner” Matthews, where we would alight on the most traditional ironmongers you could ever find. There were literally hundreds of boxes and cupboard drawers, filled with any screw, bolt, tool or ironmongery you could imagine. The proprietor, Charlie Pengilly, was a short, slightly rotund, cheery man with a permanent smile on his face. He would allow you to rummage through the boxes to find the item you were looking for – and if you couldn’t find it, then Charlie could.

I’m not exactly sure when the launderette opened – probably not until the 1960s, but what we had next door to that site was a newsagents and confectioners run by Bill and Audrey Webb. As far as I can remember, Bill Webb’s was the first sweet shop in Axminster where you could buy pick’n’mix. I believe Bill Webb was also a town councillor.

Another renowned shop in Axminster was the fish shop run by the Sansom family – Jack and his two sons, Ken and Cecil. The traditional wet fish shop was adjacent to the road, but through the alley-way alongside you were led, not least by the delightful aroma, to the fish and chip takeaway and café at the rear. It was a favourite haunt for me, as not only was I sent there to queue for fish and chips, but to hear the conversation regarding the local football scene.

Cecil was a football fanatic, either Axminster Tigers or Tottenham Hotspur. The more Cecil stopped to talk about football – the greater the length of the queue - but occasionally Cecil’s wife Cath was on duty and although Cecil seemed to count every chip, you always received a bigger portion from the lovely Cath. A milestone for the family was when father Jack reached 100 years old and was still frying at the fish and chip shop – an event picked up by local and national press.

Leaving the tang of fish and chips in the air, you would then come to “Middle” Matthews; the second Matthews Ironmongers in Axminster. The shop eventually became Buckland Houseware and concentrated more on kitchenware, crockery, cutlery, porcelain and the like.

But in the 1950s my immediate recollection is of leaving the fragrance of Sansom’s fish and chips and entering the strong smell of paraffin in middle Matthews. We all used paraffin heaters in those days, for in most homes there was no central heating – it was a coal fire, maybe a range cooker – all supplemented by a portable paraffin heater for flexibility. But they smelt – and so did the paraffin in middle Matthews. The Matthews business also had a van which delivered paraffin to all the homes in and around Axminster.

South Street was certainly one of the busiest shopping streets in Axminster and just past the historic Rose Cottage (still appearing to look the same today as it did 70 years ago) you would come to Brian Vickers’ greengrocers, which somehow managed to “tick over”. I say that because the shop next door to Vickers Greengrocers was F W Enticott & Son – another greengrocers.

This comprised “old” Mr Enticott, his son Sam and eventually of course, Sam’s son Geoff, currently and for many years the Guildhall caretaker. There was also a myriad of ladies working in this busy shop, Mrs Enticott senior, Sam’s wife Ethel and other family members including Sam and Ethel’s daughter Helen.

Every morning at about 6.00 am, the family would stack up all the fruit and veg onto tiered wooden racks on the frontage of the shop – and in the evening it was another hour or so to take it all back in again.

My father who lived next door, and being a builder, once said to Sam “why don’t you build a nice little extension to the shop and then you wouldn’t have to trundle all the stuff back and forth every day”. But actually, that was the character of Enticott’s – all this lovely produce out in the fresh air, for all to see and feel.

In the 1950s my grandmother and grandfather lived next door, alongside the builders’ yard of R Moulding & Sons Ltd. The yard was stacked with builders materials and the attraction for me as a five-year old was the sand heap. There were offices either side of the entrance gates, where the office secretary Patsy Lockwood (later Patsy Hellier) presided, whilst the office on the other side housed my Uncle Edgar, who ran the firm’s accounts. The house, builder’s yard and premises are now the offices of Thomas Westcott, accountants.

Apart from the sand heap in the builder’s yard, a visit to my grandmother would always end up with sixpence to spend next door in Enticott’s, who apart from fruit and veg, had a good array of sweets and chocolate.

On the corner of South Street and Coombe Lane was the sub-office of the Cattle Market run by R & C Snell. There was a “runner” working for the firm, who would regularly return sales slips from the market to the office. The office of course is now Cinnamon’s Indian restaurant, although following the closure of the market office it became Hetty Salisbury’s Café, followed by Reynard’s Bistro (for stories about Reynard’s Bistro, please refer to Lord of The Manor, James Henry Felix Rowe).

Then we come to the Axminster Cattle Market – fond memories of smells emanating from the animals waiting to be purchased. It was always great to see Frank Rowe, John Kent, Brian Terry and later Andy Middleton and Jim Rowe selling animals – cattle, sheep, pigs and calves. There were many hundreds of animals sold and bought every Thursday.

Another Axminster character, Ted Davis was the anchor-man bringing the animals into the auction centre and arranging the collection of stock into numbers of lorries manoeuvring for position.

It happened occasionally that animals would escape the attention of Ted Davis and finish up in our builders' yard, just up the road. Then it was a question of rounding them up before they left too many calling cards.

Frank Rowe was always up to nonsense on market days – not least when he regularly “sold” a cow and calf to an unsuspecting holidaymaker, who happened to look in his direction, whilst the auction was taking place!

The “Axminster Music Man” Norman Welch was always in town with his accordion on market days. Norman was willing, but always out of tune. Frank would put a generous donation into Norman’s charity collection tin as long as he played his “music” outside Tim Moulding’s office for at least half-an-hour.

If you walked further up Coombe Lane, past the market, you would come to Coombe Fields (now the development of Lea Combe, Fosseway Close, etc.) I remember Coombe Fields as a popular field for walking, flying kites, butterfly collecting and in later years - courting! If the weather was inclement, the market buildings were better for a kiss and a cuddle. In the 1950s Coombe Fields was the site for the annual circus and Herbert’s fun-fair during carnival week.

Back into Coombe Lane was the veterinary surgery, now the Coombefield Veterinary Practice. I remember Peter Perry and David Shaw as the principal vets, their premises being convenient for attending to animals which may have needed attention on market days.

On the corner of South Street and Silver Street stood the Cedars Hotel which was run by Cecil and Kath Chaffey.

Further down Musbury Road, behind Purzebrook House was Mr Stuart’s Slaughterhouse. Thankfully the building sat well back from the road and the final execution of farm animals from near and far was not observed by local residents.

Just along the road and opposite the pedestrian entrance to Foxhill was the Gospel Hall, now the Purzebrook Christian Fellowship. Strangely, it’s a building I have never entered and I know very little about its religious form. However, the Gospel Hall still survives in Axminster and has recently been a drop-off-point for the cornavirus food-hamper scheme.

I also remember Westmart Stores, opposite Hillhead Terrace in Musbury Road and a lady ran a small grocery/greengrocery in the last house in Hillhead Terrace, before you arrive at King Edward Road.

We certainly had an abundance of convenience stores in Axminster at that time, as further down King Edward Road there was Quality Stores, run by Frank Enticott – a well organised little store for those living on the southern edge of Axminster.

Around the bend in King Edward Road and we soon come to Railway Terrace, leading down to the Carpet Factory – now called Woodmead Road. At the top end of Railway Terrace and where now sits the Telephone Exchange was Mr Heal’s Timber Yard. I also remember Ruth Heal’s Dance Studio on the junction of King Edward Road and Railway Terrace, where the aspiring ballerinas and tap dancers of Axminster were given an excellent start.

Below Heal’s Timber Yard was R J Luff & Son, now the site of Bradford’s Building Supplies. Reg Luff was a prominent businessman in Axminster, with interests in several companies. The business in Woodmead Road was not only a builders’ merchant, but also a coal-yard and local weighbridge. I also remember the Cloud family had their plumbing business depot in Woodmead Road, adjacent to R J Luff & Son.

Below Luffs and before you get to the Axminster Carpet Factory was Sanders Fuel Service, eventually to become Medland, Sanders and Twose. They had the Medland Tractor Depot and the Esso (Norrington Oils) franchise.

Right at the bottom end of the road is the world famous, Axminster Carpet Factory (more about Axminster Carpets in a further edition of “Moulding’s Memories”)

Back towards Axminster and with an entrance now superseded by the Tesco Garage was the entrance into Station Yard, where there were a number of notable businesses – South West Farmers, Devon Trading Company and the Railway Goods Depot, where Dick Underhill was the driver. (In the late fifties, the Station Yard was the furthest extent of my paper-round, the area of which is now of course Moleavon Country Stores)

I will now leave you at Axminster Station, where you will be able to catch the Bluebell Line to Lyme Regis.


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