Joan Allen's Memories

A Walk from Hammerfield to the Old Town

By Joan Allen

Old High Street
Joan Allen

5th May 1996

Yesterday I walked from Hammerfield to the Old High St, destination Peter Waggon’s shop.

It was a lovely bright, though cold day..spring is late this year and the leaves on the chestnut trees..just sprouting and the blossom of the wild cherry looked lovely in the spring sunshine….I thought, as I walked along Lockers Lane.

Not so lovely ..though was the roar of traffic along Warners End Road, once farmland and quiet Lanes

As I passed the Bury….wedding photo’s were being taken in the grounds….in the gardens at the entrance to Gadebridge Park…the tulips a glorious red, glowed in the sunshine.

I felt full of joys of spring…well apart from the odd ache or two!…and until….the once cared for & lovely Old High St. came into view….What…a sad sight…so many shops closed…. not only that…but delapidated, boarded up…just neglected…apart from a few shops here and there… thankfully still open and in business. So different…from when I was a child and also from the time I worked for Mr Marriott, FPS 63 High St. who owned a chemist’s shop opposite St. Marys church 1952-56. The market in those days held on Thursday’s and Saturday’s in the market square now a car park, near St. Marys church, was alive and bustling..with activity…stalls packed with all sorts of goods…including spring…fluffy large bunches of it, I cannot remember the cost of a bunch.

Each spring, Yardley, Elizabeth Arden, but especially Coty would send Mr Marriott beautiful display cards to help sell/display their floral perfumes…soaps…talcs etc…these would I suppose be collectors items now.

There seemed to be expectancy in the air then pleasure at shopping then. People jostling, good naturedly in the crowded High St. and Market Square….waiting patiently to be served chattering to one another.

Sadly no longer so the average shopper in Marlowes…looks grim…as they make their way from shop to shop…eyes down..determined look on their faces..Oh! well…some things never change…as I walked for a bus yesterday…the bells of St. Marys peeled out….a wedding was in progress and the chauffeur of the wedding car splendant in grey uniform…was waiting for bride & groom.

Springtime then, despite shortages of both goods and money seemed so full of promise. At the first glimmer of sun…shopkeepers all of whom were “real characters” then…were at the display their new…or not in many cases…wares. Flowers….perhaps not always “new season”….but perennials! bloomed on the hats on display in “Bagnells” windows….while in another window….new “arrivals” of material, sheets etc. were more a temptation to the practical housewife.

George Rophs & Son store further along the High St. towards Gadebridge Park….catered for the more executive fashions and goods including furniture….and mens tailoring & suits etc. While Easts…opposite…Gowes iron-monges shop…the more down to earth clothing.

Children eyed the new bikes at Keens cycle and pram shop…while Grandma’s fancied a nice bit of spring lamb at Keens the butchers…or comfortable shoes at Whites shoe shop.

Just a whiff of “Lily of the Valley” or a glimpse of mimosa and I’m transported back to those years.


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