Friday, September 28, 2012

Edgeware Road, Swindon

Town centre visitors could be forgiven for thinking of Edgeware Road as a mere shortcut behind Regent Street shops to the law courts on Princes Street.  But before the 1960s development Edgeware Road was a busy community presided over by St Paul’s Church.

Building began on Edgeware Road in 1877 by H.C. Smith and by the time of the 1881 census there were seventeen occupied houses.  Primitive Methodist Minister Thomas Powell lived at the grandly named Bourne Villa, while his neighbours were mostly GWR employees, among them a coach builder, a railway clerk and a boiler maker.

A new church was soon needed for the growing town centre community and in 1881 Gloucester builders D & C Jones & Co began work on St Paul’s Church, designed by Edmund Ferrey.  William Morris, founder of the Swindon Advertiser, recorded that St. Paul’s, like St Mark’s in the railway village, held highly ‘Ritualistic’ services.  He wrote that the High Church practises included processional hymns and banners and that on special occasions the altar was ‘ablaze with candles.’

Local builders Tydeman Bros & Sons Ltd had premises in Edgeware Road and in 1901 and 1909 building applications by the firm added another thirteen houses, a carpenter’s shop, a workshop and a shed to the neighbourhood.

Sadly all that remains of the Victorian Edgeware Road today is the W.W. Hunter building fronting Regent Street.

Born in the east end of London, William Wallace Hunter moved to Swindon towards the end of the nineteenth century.  In 1891 he lived over his furnishers shop at 24 Regent Circus with his wife and their two young sons.  But by 1901 William had built his spacious showrooms on the corner of Regent Street and Edgeware Road and moved his family into a villa on Bath Road.

In around 1905 William Hunter developed two streets off Ferndale Road and named one of them Hunters Grove.  According to Peter Sheldon and Richard Tomkins in their book Roadways, St Mary’s Grove was named in honour of his wife.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, two of William’s three sons answered the call to the colours.  William’s youngest son, Second Lieutenant William Samuel Hunter served with the 9th Battalion of the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment and was killed in action on February 1, 1916.  He was 21 years old.

Newly married Ralph enlisted in 1915 and served with 345 Company in France from September 1915 to January 1916.  He returned to Britain as a casualty and was later released for civil employment with the Royal Aircraft Factory at South Farnborough.

William and his wife Mary retired to Weston super Mare where he died in 1936, but it would appear that the family furnishers remained in business until at least the 1940s.

Following the demolition of St Paul’s the site was acquired by F.W. Woolworth.  A plot of land was reserved for the building of a small chapel of ease and today the chapel at St Aldhelm’s centre is open to the public and used throughout the week for services.  The St Aldhelm’s Resource Centre is a point of contact for the group of churches in the Parish of Swindon New Town – St. Mark’s, St. Saviour’s, St Luke’s and the chapel of St. Aldhelm. 

When Edgeware Road was demolished along with a network of town centre terraced housing during the 1960s redevelopment, an estimated 4,500 residents were moved to outlying areas of Swindon.

Looking down Cow Lane towards Tydeman Bros.

St Paul's Church, Edgeware Road

 Old images of Swindon are published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies

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St Saviour's Church, Swindon

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Albert Beaney's photographs

Albert Beaney
Swindonians of a certain age might remember Albert Beaney.  With his camera and his notebook he was a familiar figure on the streets of the town.

Albert George Beaney was born in Swindon in 1913.  He worked in the Post Office for many years, but photography was always his first love and he advertised the photography business he ran from his home at 50 Beatrice Street.  When the customers didn't come to him, he took to the streets for inspiration.

According to anecdotal memory he would take photos of children in the streets and parks, sometimes individually, sometimes in groups of friends - difficult to imagine in today's more fearful climate.  Having recorded their addresses he would return at a later date with the prints to sell.

Many of the photographs taken between 1945-1970 went unclaimed and in 1998 the Swindon Society helped towards the purchase of 40,000 of Albert's prints and negatives now held by the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.  Last year the collection formed the basis of The Back to Black and White Project organised by Create Studios, the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and Swindon Youth Forum, backed by a £25,000 Heritage Lottery Fund.

In recent months still more Beaney photographs have become available and Swindon Society members Bob Townsend and Diane Everett are doing their best to identify them.  Albert's idiosyncratic record keeping consisted of a few notebooks of street names only; local landmarks captured in the background are sometimes the only identifying indicator. Albums of the prints accompany Bob and Diane to local fairs, fetes and events and occasionally they strike lucky.  A visitor to Parks Library was able to add her name to the growing list, although it was the family dog she recognised first!

Albert George Beaney died on August 29, 2006 aged 92 - remembered as a photographer and gentleman.

Ladies taking tea - thought to have been snapped in c1948

Snowballing fun dated to c1946

Men at work in c1948

If any of these faces look familiar or you would like to know more about the Beaney collection contact the Swindon Society

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Swindon Society Celebrates

Monday, September 17, 2012

Swindon Society Celebrates

l to r Bob Townsend, Diane Everett and Andy Binks - image courtesy of the Swindon Advertiser

Members of the Swindon Society are now on their summer break, so I thought it was time to publish a couple of blogposts about the work they get up to. Scroll down to see what's on when the group reconvenes in September.

In 1972 a house in Eldene cost £9,600, local lad Gilbert O'Sullivan was number one in the pop charts with his song Clair and Pressed Steel was the biggest consumer of electricity in town as Swindon struggled to cope with power cuts during the three day week.  These were just some of the facts and figures Andy Binks and Dave Bedford revealed at Sunday's Swindon Society 40th celebrations held at the Southbrook Inn.

The local history society was founded in September 1972 following a series of WEA lectures given by local historian Eric Arman and at Sunday's party one of those original members was still taking an active role. Membership secretary Martin Vandervelde was presented with a framed print by Swindon Mayor Cllr Mick Bray in recognition of his long involvement with the society.

Society members continue to give talks and presentations to local groups and are happy to share their resources.

But Sunday was an opportunity for members to indulge themselves and with more than 15,000 images on file there were plenty of photos to choose from.  Bob Townsend tested members knowledge with photos of people and places in Swindon's history and chairman Kevin Bizley introduced the audience to the Swindon Golden Carp Angling Association founded by railway workers in 1894.  Society Secretary Diane Everett, responsible for so much of the organisation, made sure the event passed without a hitch.

For more information about the Society visit their website. 

Swindon Society stand at the Swindon at War exhibition at Central Library

The Teenage Years at Swindon Central Library

Society members at the Radnor Street Cemetery local history exhibition

Andy Binks and a display in Swindon Central Library

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Albert Beaney's photographs 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ruth gets to grips with rationing

This week's episode of Wartime Farm saw historian Ruth Goodman getting to grips with the availability of ordinary foodstuffs, rationing and the role the Women’s Institutes played during the war.

In Swindon the first meeting of the Food Control Committee took place during the second week of September 1939.  It was already anticipated that there would be rationing of butcher’s meat, bacon, butter, margarine, lards, fat and sugar.

Chairman of the new committee, Swindon Mayor Harry Hustings, announced that plans for the registration of customers was under way and that forms would be sent to every household within the week.  Ration cards would be issued and it was hoped that food queues would be shorter than during the previous war.  Mr Hustings commented that as far as he could see there would be little opportunity of profiteering in food stuffs.

The rationing of coal as of October 1 was announced and supplies, along with gas and electricity for domestic and small consumers, would be limited to 75% of that used during the corresponding quarter of 1938.

Local garages reported an increase in sales as motorists attempted to beat the deadline for one last fill up. It was reported that at one Swindon garage "the rush was so heavy that a long queue of cars was lined up."  It was later confirmed that petrol rationing had been postponed for a week.

During November relays of volunteer workers, including secondary school children working under the supervision of the local food officer, date stamped and addressed the new ration books. With butter, bacon and ham the only items on the list of rationed foods, a Government announcement was expected that a modified scheme delayed until the middle of December was all that the situation demanded. Householders were instructed to register for these items, including sugar, with their chosen retailers as soon as they received their ration books.

In the summer of 1940 members of Stratton St Margaret Women's Institute bottled more than 800lbs of jam while Blunsdon women took part in a marathon jam making exercise to ensure that none of the local fruit harvest went to waste.  Members made more than 1,000bs of plum jam ably assisted by a couple of young volunteers. Nita McLellan 14 and thirteen year old Tonie Bowly were chief jar washers at the event and were responsible for sealing down and labelling nearly one thousand pots of jam.

And local schoolchildren soon got involved in the Dig for Victory campaign. Holy Rood pupils were pictured digging for victory at their newly acquired allotment ground in Upham Road. The hard work proved well worth the effort and the youngsters were rewarded with a bumper crop of vegetables.

With home grown veg set to play an increasingly important role on the menu, the Advertiser published tips for a better yield.  Success was all in the preparation, as gardeners were told to dig at least to the full depth of the spade and to make good use of their compost heap to ensure productive soil.  In 1941 householders were encouraged to plant fewer potatoes and to concentrate on root crops, onions, leeks and particularly winter greens.  One third of a plot planted to potatoes should be the maximum, was the general advice.

"Efficient cultivation, combined with economy in the use of seed, will greatly assist in the national welfare and in the campaign for a greater quantity and better quality of home produced food," reported the Advertiser with readers advised to visit a demonstration allotment plot to see how it should be done and to pick up tips.

Wartime Farm is shown on BBC2 Thursday at 8pm.

The National beverage goes on ration

Swindon housewife Lois Smith grows a bucketful of rhubarb in her kitchen cupboard

While Mr H.W. Townsend grows a bumper crop of onions in his garden at Clifton Street.

Members of Stratton St Margaret and Blunsdon Women's Institute making jam

Nita McLellan and Tonie Bowly

Holy Rood school boys hard at work

Monday, September 10, 2012

Frederick Thomas Mallory Cullingford

In the 19th century the state of the nation’s teeth was pretty poor, but who did our ancestors turn to when troubled by toothache?  With little in the way of treatment or dental care the only option was to have the offending tooth extracted.

Early extractions were brutal and performed with a tool called a key.  Not dissimilar to a door key, this instrument rotated to tightly grip the tooth, damaging gum and bone as it did so and sometimes even breaking the jaw.

There were tooth pullers at most fairs and the blacksmith would also have a go, as would the local wig maker.  Towards the end of the century those suffering with toothache might even try the high street pharmacist. A situations vacant advert in the Chemist & Druggist of July 15, 1868 reads – Wanted an active industrious Young Man as Assistant.  Must be able to extract teeth.  Address stating age, height and salary. However, by then professionally trained dental surgeons had began to appear on the scene.

The first LDS (Licentiate in Dental Surgery) exams were held in 1860 and by 1879 there were 483 qualified dentists on the first official Dentist Register.

In 1875 the Swindon Post Office Directory lists that John Hay of Bath was available every Monday 10 till 4 at his surgery in Bath Road, Swindon, while in 1881 the aptly named Thomas Wrench, a Dentist Graduate of St Thomas’ Hospital, was pulling teeth at Bradbury, Chiseldon.

Long time resident Swindon dentist Frederick Thomas Mallory Cullingford (pictured) was born in Portsea, Hampshire in 1856, the son of chemist, druggist and dentist Thomas Frederick Cullingford and his wife Jane.

Frederick married Caroline Frost, the daughter of a Wootton Bassett butcher in 1879 and by the time of the 1881 census Frederick, Caroline and their nine month old son Frederick Ernest were living at 7 Bath Road.  They later moved to premises next door to the Swindon Advertiser building.

Through the 1880s and 1890s Frederick T.M. Cullingford, John Hay and T.W. Wrench were the only Swindon dentists advertising in Kelly’s Trade Directories.   By 1898 W.H. Davies, a Licentiate in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, had joined their ranks at 1 Brunswick Terrace.  And in New Swindon Alfred Bult Le Verrier had a practice at 38 Regent Street, moving to Westlecott Road by 1901.

By 1907 W.H. H Davies had been joined by Walter Ralph Le Verrier, Alfred’s son, who was practising at 40 Victoria Road.  Shipley Slipper was at 15 Bath Road, and Eskell and his partner Fowler were at 18 High Street.

None of Frederick’s eight sons followed him into the dental profession.  Frederick Ernest worked as a clerk and was killed in 1918 on active service.  Frank became a teacher and William a railway employee while Tom worked as a compositor and John as a butcher.  Tom, Frank, James, Reginald, John and Robert all served in the forces and survived the First World War.

The growing Cullingford family

 Some gruesome dental instruments

Popular 18th century tooth transplants - but only for the wealthy.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Woman's Outlook and Mary Stott

I have become the fortunate recipient of a box full of women's magazines, which I shall be sharing with you on this blog over the coming weeks.  The oldest to so far surface from this treasure trove is a copy of the Woman's Outlook published September 11, 1926.

This magazine was first published by the Co-operative Women's Guild in 1919 and printed articles on gaining the vote and the lives of women involved in political struggle, along with employment and maternity issues, readers's letters and editorial comment.  Published fortnightly the Woman's Outlook cost three-halfpence in 1926 and was still in print in 1967.

The best known journalist associated with the Woman's Outlook has to be feminist and campaigner Mary Stott.  Born in Leicester in 1907 the daughter of journalists Robert and Amalie Waddington, Mary began her career on the Leicester Mail as a temporary copyholder.  She speedily graduated to the reporter's room, but prevented from joining the male only Typographical Association or the Correctors of the Press Association, Mary thought her prospects of becoming a proper journalist were not good.  Asked to take over the women's page she believed this was the end of her career - but it proved to be just the beginning.

In 1933 she moved to the Co-operative Press in Manchester where she edited the Women's Co-operative Guild pages of the Co-operative News along with two children's publications, the monthly Co-operative Youth and Woman's Outlook, which she wrote, sub-edited and laid out with her colleague Nora Crossley.

Throughout her career Mary battled against inequality, losing out on the editorship post at the Co-operative News because she was a woman.  As a sub editor on the Manchester Evening News in the late 1940s, Mary was sacedk in 1950 to free up the job for a man.

In 1957, aged 50 Mary was invited to edit the women's page of the Manchester Guardian by the new editor Alastair Hetherington.  She remained in the post for the following fifteen years, creating a vehicle for women's issues in the revolutionary 1960s. She retired in 1971 but did not give up the battle, continuing to campaign for women's rights.  Mary Stott died in 2002 aged 95.

Thanks to the driving force of Mary Stott, the Woman's Outlook included much more than traditional women's features, although there was a place for these as well.  This September edition includes the story of Mrs Howard, the wife of a railway guard who tells how she managds on her husband's weekly wage of £3 5s - an interesting for Swindonians researching their railway ancestors.

There's some sound dental care advice as well - although I'm not sure if 'bad teeth' cause rheumatism - another question for Mr Huws when I next see him.

Exercise advice for the 'fair, fat and forty' brigade

Even the fashion feature is punctuated by the practical - 'fashions are saner and more practical every season.'