The Local Community
Memories of Mervyn Upton
28th August, 1930 ~ 29th November, 2012
Marlborough Street, Upper Eastville 1930 – 1938
Except for the larger No 5, Marlborough Street was probably built during the Edwardian Period. Nos 1 & 3 are semi-detached, the even numbers being terraced with a small shop at No 2.
1: Mr & Mrs Baker
Sons Alan & David.
Alan was ‘the boss’ of the street – a keen stamp collector
3: Mr & Mrs Wills
Ann was a shy girl seldom seen at play in the street.
5: Mr Shepherd
Lived with his daughter, a teacher. Owned a large house with garages and an orchard that went down the rest of the street.
2: Mr & Mrs Fear
Off-licence, pub and small shop
Daughter, Peggy, a teacher and the only car owner in the street.
4: Mr & Mrs Weaver
Mrs Weaver died leaving a daughter, Pat. Sadly, she died in the war after an operation when in the ATS.
Susan was the daughter of Mr Fear’s second wife – I taught her three children at Glenfrome
6: Mrs Hodgkiss
An elderly widow
8: Mr & Mrs Haliday
10: Mr & Mrs Tandy
Children: Percy, Oliver & Elda. Mr Tandy was a tram driver.
12: Mr & Mrs Newman
A son(?) and daughter Audrey.
14: Mr & Mrs Crew
Children: Kathleen, Ralph and twins Mary and Margaret.
Mr Crew was a cinema commissionaire at The Metropole and His Majesty’s. He obtained medals when serving as a boy in the Royal navy in World War I. A keen member of the British Legion.
16: The Uptons!
18: Mr & Mrs Blake
Children: Arthur, Violet and Phyllis
Mr & Mrs Davis
Mr Davis was a cinema projectionist at The Metropole.
20: Mr & Mrs Wright
Children: Leslie – a keen amateur racing cyclist, usually wearing several plasters to cover minor injuries!
Bessie – became a teacher.
22: Mr & Mrs Daniels
Nearby children who often played in the street:
Jim and Donald Spearey / Peggy, Noreen, Enid and Jimmy Beasant / John and Percy Jarvis.
When we moved to 336 Fishponds Road in February 1938, my parents did not sell the house but rented it to Mr & Mrs West. Selwyn West was a mechanic at Eastville Bus Depot and Marion West was a cook at Burridge’s Café, Eastville. After several other tenants, my parents returned ~ the remaining inhabitants were Peggy Fear, Mrs Crew (now a widow) and Bessie Wright.
In February 1938, we moved to 336 Fishponds Road. It was in a terrace of six houses. When we moved our neighbours were…
330: Mrs Sargeant
Lived with her daughter, Miss Bryant. They were much wealthier than any of their neighbours. Miss Bryant was elegant and well dressed. Came the war and they were comforted to know that Father would keep a protective eye on them and they were supportive with fire party arrangements. During the war, Miss Bryant married becoming Mrs Garth-Atkins.
332: Mr & Mrs Townsend
Mr Townsend, a retired builder, had constructed the terrace c 1900. He was still active and known as ‘The Old Man’.
334: Mr & Mrs Watkins
The house was tenanted. They had one son – Vernon.
Mr & Mrs Wilkinson
This family moved into 334 late 1938/early 1939. They had ten children – Betty, Barbara, Tony, Vernon, Christine, Donald, Diane, Lionel plus two others born after the family moved to Clevedon.
With Les and Kathleen
Mr & Mrs James
Ern and Eileen with their children Kenny, Ron and Lena.
336: The Uptons
338: Mr & Mrs Cox
Mr Cox was an insurance agent. They had two sons – John and David.
Mr Cox joined the Royal Navy and the family moved to Bedminster where their house was bombed but the family was unhurt.
Mr & Mrs Warwick
Mr Warwick worked in the aircraft industry and was, later, manager of a radio shop. They had a daughter, June.
340: Mr & Mrs Lear
Mr Lear was a commercial traveller for McFarland’s Biscuits. Their son, Harry, was a director of Thornton & Son (Shipping and Tourist agents)
342: Mr & Mrs Amesbury
Mr Amesbury was a commercial traveller (shoes). They had three sons – Ronald, Dennis and Kenneth and a daughter, Muriel.
Mother and Father purchased the house from Mrs Jemima Harvey. One condition of purchase was that she would remain as a tenant occupying two rooms – the front bedroom and the middle sitting room with the glasshouse being converted into a kitchen.
Before moving in, the house was wired for electricity by Father’s friend, Harry Martin. The old fire place in the dining room was replaced by a Triplex grate. Mrs Harvey was in her eighties so friends of mine were ordered from the back garden when they came to play with me. Came the war and the tree was removed in the back garden to be replaced by an Anderson Shelter…she disapproved!! When the first air-raid came, Father departed for AFS duties and Mother eventually conducted her to the shelter. All she could say was “Oh, you poor children.”
For emergencies, Mother had a first aid kit including a medicine bottle of brandy. This was given to Mrs H who drank the lot!! The next day, one daughter collected her and she never returned.
For a brief period, we had a lodger. Mr Twinney was a jovial Welshman who worked for Wills Tobacco Co. He spent most evenings smoking their products. Often he spent time writing poetry, particularly for songs. Proudly he announced one had been published and a sheet of music was presented to Mother.
Opposite 336, there was a useful collection of shops plus a few houses. Pre-war and wartime occupants were:
327: Mrs Williams
Kindly and competent.
329: George Lowe
His daughters had a ladies’ department.
He did not want to retire so worked into his 80s. He was a crossword enthusiast – intelligent conversationalist.
331: G & M Morgan
An up-market shop with wealthy clientele.
Gladys and Margaret – very pleasant ladies. If they were troubled or scared Father protected them.
Mother used her tailoring skills to undertake alterations for them.
333: Shoe Repairers
If something unusual occurred, three heads would appear in the doorway so Mother referred to them as ‘The Three Heads’.
335: Ralph Family
337: Mrs Turner
With daughter, Betty.
Later a carpet dealer
343: Hancock the Grocer
345: Miss Potter
She had a live-in assistant called Lily who married the delivery man!
347: Mr Miller
A very obliging, able retailer.
349: Edna Lowe and Mother
351: Parton’s Market
353: Nelson’s newsagent
355: Harry Lowe
Brother of George, Father of Reg and Edna.
357-359: Stone (later Webb)
Fascinating with various items displayed (some hanging from the ceiling) and a variety of smells.
363: Fred Williams
367: Diggins & Peters
Grocer & Post office
Father of Stanley and Chris. Genial character. Kindly, elderly lady, Miss Priddle, daughter of the previous owner, was often behind the Post Office counter. Much later, the job was taken by the very able Mrs Hill (a Glenfrome parent)
392: Mr & Mrs Broad
Mr Broad had a building and decorating business. His son, Horace, also worked in the business.
400: Yates Family
Bill, Ethel, Lottie & Charlie
The early to mid-years of the 1930s were very unpleasant with so much unemployment. Father was out of work for some time until he found a job as a fitter with Bristol Gas Company.
There was an increase in the number of street entertainers, not like those of today who perform in shopping centres, but groups who toured the streets where the workers lived.
As a four year old, I was terrified when a group of masked singers came to Marlborough Street to perform and attempt to collect money.
The other frightening group were the ‘bagpipe band’. The members spoke in a strange way and played their unusual, noisy instruments. They wore brightly patterned clothes and the men wore skirts (kilts) with bags at the front (sporrans). In their socks were knives (Skean Dhu). It was said that they kidnapped children so we were scared of them.
Another group of street ‘entertainers’ pushed an ancient gramophone on a handcart and played ancient scratchy records.
Many of them wore Great War medal ribbons on their waistcoats and some had silver badges in their lapels indicating that they had been wounded.
Rag and Bones
Before World War II, everyone seemed to have a rag and bone man who collected odds and ends of rubbish – bottles, jam-jars, metals, clothes etc. they called regularly and piled their junk onto handcarts. Payment, perhaps only 1/2d or 1d, was always made. They would sort out their finds and sell them to Rose’s in Lamb Street, St Judes, a place that could be smelt from some distance.
Two were the Truscott brothers, one always wore a muffler and the other a tie and a clean, white collar. Neither were married but their sister kept house for them in Amberly Street, off Claremont Street.
Our rag and bone man started with a handcart but, later, acquired a horse and cart which extended the area he could cover, enabled him to carry heavier loads and to sell Father manure for his allotment. He bought a black horse from a chimney sweep but found, after washing it, its colour was brown!
Grandpa House was unemployed so much that I suggested to Mother how he could find work – become a rag and bone man. My bright idea (for a five year old) was not well received!!
Before World War II, a man with two sticks was very often seen near the junction of Fishponds Road and Freemantle Road. Father said he was a Bookie’s Runner. I was puzzled…how could a man with two sticks run?
At the corner of Berkeley Street and Greenbank View was a grubby, small shop called Guppy’s (formerly Jenkins) that sold almost everything including coal. Mr Guppy delivered his coal to his customers in a handcart. Guppy’s was the popular sweetshop for pupils at Eastville Infant and Junior School. Clean, respectable sweet shops in Royate Hill (Graham’s and Baker’s) were largely ignored. Popular sweets were Chocolate Chewing Nuts, Acid Drops, Rosebuds, Coconut Chips, Coconut Ice, Sweet Cigarettes, Sherbet Dips (sherbet in a yellow cylinder sucked through a liquorice tube), Liquorice Bootlaces, Tapes and Pipes, Dolly Mixtures, Lollipops, Wine Gums, Pear Drops, Jujubes, Chewing Gum (banned!) and Bubble Gum (absolutely forbidden!!).
The name Trebor was frequently seen as manufacturer of some of these products as was the name Barratt.
Guppy also sold paper masks but they were purchased solely by some of the boys. They were ignored by the girls. Anyone entering the playground wearing a mask was chased around until it was torn from his face. There was great competition to obtain the largest portion…I never purchased a mask.
In 1938, we were invited to a Christmas party at 27 Park Place, the home of the Atwill Family. Their family and friends assembled and it was soon apparent that this party was different…there was BEER!!
For the first time in my life, I saw men drinking this liquid. What would happen? Uncle Sam would drink from flagons and he consumed much more than the others. One guest laid a trap. An empty flagon was filled with water and placed near to him. He had consumed quite a quantity before he realised that it was not beer!
Dennis dressed as Father Christmas to give gifts to everyone. Donald was perturbed that Dennis was missing and would not receive a present. He was told his brother was visiting the toilet and, shortly afterwards, Dennis appeared with the gift “that Father Christmas had given him before he ascended the chimney!”
Dr Mora, a Mexican, was our doctor. His home and surgery was at the corner of Fishponds Road and Coombe Road. He was unmarried and employed servants. A flamboyant character, he wore a morning suit, spats and a fedora hat. He drove a large American car with a very distinctive horn and a bell. If he passed the school playground at break, he would stop, sound his horn and ring his bell and the children would rush to the railings to greet him. Obviously he loved children and was always very kind to me.
In his younger days, he lived on his father’s ranch in Mexico, so I once asked him if he had ever seen a gunfight. The answer was positive.
Once, when riding with some of the cowboys, he heard gunfire and, looking down into the valley, saw where a gunfight was taking place.
I asked him what had happened next, although I thought I knew the answer having seen Western films…he and his men rode down to aid the good guys and drive off the bad men in black hats. His answer disappointed me…he and his men turned round and rode off in the opposite direction as fast as they could go. How sensible!
Ethel Wright was a friend of my parents. They first met her while on holiday at Weymouth in the early 1930s. She lived with her parents in a large house in Newfoundland Road. She worked for Burley’s, a book binding and printing firm with premises at the bottom of Christmas Steps. She wore glasses and was pleasant, cheerful and kind. To augment her low pay, she became an agent for a Christmas catalogue firm. After the festive season she used to give me the discarded catalogue which I enjoyed possessing, thinking of all the goodies I would like to have. Came the war and she was employed by Bristol Aeroplane Company in the paint shop. We were worried about her safety when Filton was bombed but she was not near to the shattered shelters. At work she met Bert Webber. She was about 5ft tall and he was over 6ft. they married in 1943 at St Agnes Church and the reception was in a room over the nearby Co-op store. Father was the best man. They went to live in a flat at her parents’ home.
Ethel and her mother were Spiritualists and attended a local church. Mrs Wright was frequently the speaker at the meetings.
After the death of Mr & Mrs Wright, the house was purchased by the Council and was demolished. Ethel and Bert bought a house at Yate and, later, rented 16 Marlborough Street from Mother and Father. Then they bought a new house at The Glades.
Vernon Watkins lived at 334 Fishponds Road when we moved into 336. He was older than me so able to listen to a radio serial banned to me – ‘The Gangsmasher’. He regularly supplied details of the plot to me!
Mr Mogford had an unusual job that vanished when war broke out and did not reappear with peace…he was a lamplighter.
As darkness fell, he would walk the streets carrying a long metal pole with fire at one end. He would then turn on the gas in the street light and ignite it. As day broke, he would return with his pole which then lacked the flame and extinguish the lights.
The Yates Family
The Yates Family lived in a large house at the corner Marlborough Street and Fishponds Road. There were two sisters and two brothers, all unmarried.
We first came to know Ethel in about 1934. Mother was ill, I was living with Grandma House and Father was attempting to cope. A stranger came to the door and told Father she had heard that his wife was ill and had come to help. It was Ethel and we had made a life-long friend. She assisted in so many ways. When we were on holiday she, daily, visited the house to feed the cats. She was always the first visitor on Christmas morning, usually before Mother and I were up. Either Christmas Day or Boxing Day evening, she and Lottie would join us. Sadly, in old age, she fell victim to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Lottie worked for Wills Tobacco. After retirement she shared in Ethel’s good works. Her only drink was water.
Charlie had been badly wounded in World War I and spent his days in the front room watching the passage of people and vehicles on Fishponds Road. Sometimes he was so unwell that we did not see him on our visits. Our encounters with him were brief. He died aged about 40.
Bill worked for the railways, possibly the Midlands Company. He bred rabbits for consumption and, almost until his death, attended an allotment. He was the last survivor and lived alone until he died in his early 90s.
A remarkable and memorable family the like of which is not to be found today.
The Way Family
My family has known the Way family for a long time, almost a Century.
When a boy, Father delivered meat to Mr & Mrs Tom Way in Gloucester Street from Hardwell’s the Butcher of Fishponds Road. He enjoyed his visits there as he was always given cake.
In my pre-school days, Tom Way was a regular visitor to 16 Marlborough Street to collect Liverpool Victoria Insurance money. He and his wife, Annette, were both active members of EPMC. Both were members of the choir, Annette taught in the Sunday School. There were two children…
Reg, also very active at EPMC as Sunday School Secretary and an excellent local preacher who was very much appreciated by Bristol East Methodist Circuit Churches and other non-Methodist establishments.
Violet was a kindly, gentle woman who suffered from an unknown disease that aged and slowed her. She suffered an early death.
When I started attending EPMC Sunday School (aged about 3) the leader of the Beginners Department was a kind, able lady – Miss Eileen Jarratt. She sat when leading the gathering so she did not appear too dominating. One Sunday she was absent and we were told to call her Mrs Way when next we saw her. She had married Reg. Three children were born to the couple – Janys, Vivienne and Nigel. I was aware of these children but did not know them.
At the age of 11, Nigel won an appropriate scholarship to Cotham Grammar School. Here he was introduced to rugby football. Eventually he captained the First XV and played for Bristol Schools’ teams. He was also appointed School Captain. After Cotham, he went to Goldsmith’s College to obtain a history degree and teaching qualifications. During a teaching practice, a small boy approached him and asked “What did you do in the war, Sir?” Nigel replied “I commanded a Panzer Division.”
Nigel was known by two names – family and friends in Bristol called him Nigel. At Cotham, College and Wellingborough he was known as Bert. A few of us had a third name for him – Fuhrer – and would greet him with raised right-arm salutes. He would reply with a grin and Hitler’s bent arm acknowledgement.
After college, Nigel obtained a post at the Grammar School, Wellingborough. Alas, he was lost to the Old Cothamians RFC. He was able to participate in the Golden Jubilee match leaving the pitch covered in mud with a broad grin as a member of the winning team. He played for the local Old Boys’ team, eventually becoming captain. After a defeat, the local newspaper bore the headline ‘Bert’s Boys lose their Way.”
Schools combined in Wellingborough so he now taught at Wren’s School. He met Elaine, the elder sister of a pupil and they married. Janet and I were invited to attend and also to be present at the Christening of their children Louise and Alistair.
When the family visited us at Christmas, Janet noted how tired Nigel appeared to be and thought he had had a bad term. Of course, this was the start of Motor Neuron Disease and, sadly, we witnessed his decline. At our last visit he made a substantial effort to say farewell to us and we all knew we would not meet again.
On holiday in Guernsey, we found a suitable gift for Nigel in a souvenir shop at Castle Cornet. Viv delivered it for us for, as at that time, Nigel was in a hospice. Perhaps it was the final laugh the family had together when the package was opened to discover a digital cassette ‘Military Music of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich’.
Nigel died in 1994 and we attended his funeral at the famous Saxon Church – All Saints, Earls Barton. The coffin left the church to Wagner’s Prelude to ‘Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg’.
Finally, a few notes:
Janet and I were able to visit Eileen on her 90th birthday. Viv attended the 70th birthday celebrations of Janet and me and was present at Janet’s funeral service.
After Janet’s death, Viv and Janys have visited me at regular intervals. They both participated in my 80th birthday celebration, joining the party to have a buffet lunch at Weymouth.
Jill Haddrell, the long serving secretary at Glenfrome Primary School, was a life-long member of Argyle Hall Congregational Church, Speedwell (now United Reformed) where she had many offices. Each year the church held an annual summer fair. One year, for some reason not revealed, Janet and I were invited to open the event. On a very warm day, clad in smart clothing, we arrived, not in a chauffeur driven limousine but in Janet’s Viva or Astra (I forget which car we had at the time). I was clad in my best suit and wore a tie. Unfortunately, we never received photographs to record the event. After a very brief speech – people do not wish to hear speeches, they just want to get at the bargains! – Janet and I toured the side-shows, attempting the various games. Janet won a goldfish which she refused! Then came the surprise…we were to judge the flower arrangement competition, a subject about which we knew nothing. The exhibits were arranged in a room. So many were good and we did not know where to commence. Then I had a bright idea, the entry form was requested and this revealed that the arrangement should be the centrepiece of a table laid for four. Immediately we could eliminate 2-dimensioanl entries. Someone would have a rear view and, in others, people facing each other would not be able to communicate easily. We decided to each choose the ones we thought best at first, second and third, combine our results and produce the final order. One arrangement was small, neat and carefully constructed so that guests had a similar view and were able to see and speak to each other. We ventured forth and announced our decisions. It appeared our audience was surprised but delighted as a little old lady came forward to collect her prize. Later, Jill told me our winner was a regular church-goer who always entered the competition but, before, had never won a prize. The woman who always won and, that year came second in a Bristol-wide competition, we did not place…next time she should read the entry form more carefully!!
There is a post-script….
The next Monday, Jill came to my classroom with a jar of sweets - I had won the ‘Guess the number’ competition so my class went home that afternoon eating sweets!!
The Co-operative Society
In years past, the Co-operative Society played a large part in our lives. The varied shops were dotted about the city. Dividends, good quality goods and reasonable prices ensured popular appeal. Mother, in my pre-school days, took me, regularly, to the grocery store in Fishponds Road, Eastville. There two men ruled the roost – Mr Little, the manager, on the dry goods side and Mr Selway, deputy manager, on the meat and dairy produce side. I was fascinated by the overhead wires that took the money from the counters to a cashier sitting in an elevated glass-sided enclosure. The change, if any, and the appropriate dividend tokens were dispatched back to the counter.
Co-op employees delivered bread and coal to the house. In Autumn, Mother always purchased half a ton of coal to last the winter. In Marlborough Street days, bread was delivered by horse and cart.
Eastville Grocery had a very special delivery man – Albert. He wore a brown warehouse coat and always carried a pencil on his ear. He reminded me of A.A Milne’s Eeyore, the donkey in the Winnie the Pooh stories. Initially, he pushed a hand-cart but, later, drove an electric van similar to those used by the milkmen.
Never to be forgotten were the butcher boys who cycled with supplies of meat form Lodge Causeway. They were straight from school and, after a year or so, were replaced when they had learnt sufficient of the trade to work behind and in the shop. All were lively, pleasant, polite lads who I was always pleased to see. Perhaps the best was Jim. One bought a guitar and called one evening to play it to us – a painful experience but the lad was keen.
The main Co-operative shop and office was situated in Castle Street. There were drapery departments in one of Bristol’s largest shops. At Yuletide, before seeing Father Christmas, for a gift (6d), there was always a spectacular display to entertain. In 1940, the premises were not destroyed but small shops were acquired around the city. There was a drapery shop on Stapleton Road, near St Mark’s Road, managed by Mrs Willey, mother of Betty (Kingston) and Joan (Perryman).
Other Co-op activities included Insurance, Funerals, Travel, Coaches, Garages and a meeting for women – the Co-op Guild. There were also political interests and many parliamentary candidates were labelled Co-op-Labour. One such man was Will Coldrick who won the Bristol North East seat in 1945. I believe Will Wilkins of Bristol South was another.
Sadly, time dealt badly with the Co-op and the present organisation is a mere shadow.
There were also Co-op Banks, The Co-operative Bank plc, formally at Broad Quay, now in St Stephen’s Street and the Co-operative Savings Bank. I joined this on 4th March, 1931 when a maximum daily deposit was 10s (50p) and the limit was £20. Interest paid was 4.15%. At the end of the year my balance was £3. 0s. 7d, the 7d (3p) was interest. At that time a working man’s weekly wage was between £2 and £3.
By the time I started school, September 1935, the balance was £11. 18s. 111/2d. On 11th August 1939, £20 was achieved. Then I withdrew the interest, 16s 8d (83p) annually about holiday time.
In 1944, interest dropped to 3.33% so my annual income decreased to 13s 4d (67p) per annum.
After college I withdrew no more interest. Rules had changed, the limit was now £50. The account was closed on 3 September 1979 when the balance was £47.28.
It is interesting to note that, in those days, before ball-point pens appeared, the transaction pages of the bank book were interleaved with blotting paper. Between March 1931 and March 1936, the receiver’s initials were MH (the lady previously mentioned who dealt with the cash at Eastville Co-op). Then AH and DRB were the receivers.