An Oral History of Hinckley

By Permission of Colin Hyde & Westfield Community Centre






Hollycroft Hill, Hinckley
Hollycroft Hill, Hinckley

"Everybody knew of Hinckley, it didn't matter where you was, what Hinckley did everybody followed suit. If Hinckley was a bit quiet everybody else was quiet. All the new attachments, all the new styles, they all started in Hinckley - whatever Hinckley was doing everybody else was doing the same. Their methods were more up-to-date which I could see was the reason why what Hinckley said was the thing to do. Their ideas were better, their methods were better."




Foreword

At the beginning of 1991 was requested by Hinckley College to compile a book based on the memories of the people who attend the Westfield's Community Centre, Over the course of the next year I met many interesting people and, along with the help of a few students from Hinckley College, tape recorded hours of reminiscences.

While the majority of the people I talked to have lived in or near Hinckley for most of their lives, several arrived in the town during the Second World War and a few have retired here more recently. As a result, although most of this site is about Hinckley, I have included stories whose only connection with the town is that the story teller has ended up at the Westfield's Centre.

The concentration was mainly on the first half of the century up to and including the Second World War. Memories of the 1950s and 1960s will have to wait for another day! There are some fascinating tales in this book and I hope you have as much pleasure reading them as I had collecting them.



1. Born in Hinckley

Working in the Boot and Shoe industry

The following memories are all from people who were born or who grew up in Hinckley

Church Walk cottages, between Castle Street and Argents Mead
Church Walk cottages, between Castle Street and Argents Mead

I was born in 1905 up Hunter's Row, there were four of us up Hunter's Row but eventually there was eight of us. It was only a small place, kitchen and living room and two bedrooms, The back bedroom where I slept, I've got a vision of lying in bed one night and I turned my head I could see the wheel of the bells going round through the slit of the window of the church - and it's never left me that hasn't. The cottages ran up by that wall of the church. I went to school when I was four to the church school. That was right near the house. I also went to church school on a Sunday afternoon. It were the Rev Horrell at the time, he was a big feller, six foot, well-built well thought of.

I asked my brother once how many cottages there were. He said there was ten cottages. They were small, run right up. It were cobbled paths up to them and outside there was the water taps. No taps inside, no toilet, out the back you'd just got a kind of a sink and bowl - you had to go outside for your water.

The school is still the same now as when I went only there's a bit been built on the Church Walks site. The front part on Station Road, where the playground is, is exactly the same as when I went. I reckon there were 40 of us in the class. I was in Miss Harris class and one day I ran away with my sister down Sketchley Brook. The man who comes to see where you are, he came down and fetched us back to school and Miss Harris, she'd got a bag of sweets and she fetched one out and gave me one and my sister one - she was like that, Miss Harris, she was lovely she was.

A typical school in Hinckley at the time: Mrs. Whatamore's School in 1903
A typical school in Hinckley at the time: Mrs. Whatamore's School in 1903

Then I went into the higher classes in the same building. Mr. Taylor was the headmaster and Mrs. Mills was the teacher, and if you didn't do anything right you were sent to Mr. Taylor and you knew what you were going to get - hand out, the cane. I know I've had the same and I went home and told my mother and she said, 'Well you must have been doing something else or you wouldn't have had it.' You didn't get no sympathy off your mother.

I can't remember any serious illness but if I had a cold one of my aunts would put a brown tallow on a brown paper and slap it on my chest. It were cold - it used to be horrible. It cured it!

He (dad) as far as I know, worked for Parson & Sherwin in Station Road and then went to the coalmine. Parson & Sherwin was iron ironmongery, tools and everything like that. Then he got a job at the mines in Nuneaton, that made us leave. As my older brothers left school they came to work at Hinckley. I wanted the carpentry. I used to go two days a week to the woodwork school but when I left school my father couldn't afford to put me at it, five shilling (25p) a week as an apprentice for five years, so I had to go and get a job then, I drew my first weeks wages before I was 13.

I came to Hinckley to work at Johnsons boot and shoe factory I went in the clicking. I thought to myself, I've got to give up the carpentry so I might as well go into this trade, so I learnt the clicking right through, right through cutting swains down for the vamp (the top of the shoe). It were a thin material, woolly one side, material on the other. We had to dip it in this paste and then put it on the vamp. The foreman, he used to sort them out you see, it'd be the flimsiest vamp what I should have to put the swains down on.

Station Road
Station Road

I went from that onto fitting cutting - that was the lining of the shoe. I worked hard on that and when I'd been on it for about two year and the foreman brought me some leather skin and I had to cut the pattern. They shifted me from where I was next to an experienced man, you see, so I'd get the idea from him. He'd watch me, how I worked the skin up and the art of cutting that skin up was making less waste. I took the vamps up the backbone of the skin and worked the quarters - that's the leg - up by the side of the vamp, or if you were making boot style you'd work that on the outside as well, so you got the worst part of the leather on the back you see, so the back strap covered a lot of it when it were stitched up. And that were the art of clicking - cutting the skin up so you made less waste - what they call, you know, good costing.

They made ladies high class shoes there, such as pythons, snakeskins, lizards - they were little skins lizard was - they were awful to cut they were. I should imagine they came from Africa. Some of these python skins were nine or ten feet long. You had to put your pattern so the scale of the python run to the back. You had to follow that with the quarter as well - bringing it to the back. Anaconda was a big one, it was a yellowish colour with big black rings on it, all over, you see.

I went on a lot of short time and dole. Every time you seen a notice at another boot and shoe factory wanting a clicker I should go. I went to several firms, one at Barwell, Gearey's - that's closed down now. I finished back at Johnsons. I'd been away about five years, you had to keep dodging about, whichever firm had go the orders. They started dropping on short time so I started going round. A friend of mine says why don't you try selling stockings, he says I can get you some five and six a dozen. So I started going round with stockings, Desford, Barlestone and all round there. Then one day my cousin said, 'What about coming in and learning heads -hosiery machines that is - so I said, 'Oh I'd love that.' He came down to my house and he says, 'If you want to come and learn, one of the makers will learn you heads.' So I said, 'Lovely'.

Regent Street
Regent Street

When I were first married I lived with the wife's grandparents, well, her grandma. I lived with them for quite a while until her grandma died, and the of course her mother tried to do a little bit of bossing about then you see so I says to the wife, 'Well, I'm getting out, I'm going to try and get a place of our own.' So I saw a house to let

on Mill Hill and I went there. It was, I think, five shillings a week to rent. Then we went from there - 'cos we always wanted a little bit better house - down to where I live now, that was in 1937, at ten and six a week, that were a new house, three bedrooms semi-detached. It was only another five shillings extra you see and the wife was in work and I was in work at the time... well, dodging about, one thing and another.

Simmons, he were selling them for £850 for a start and then he got within two houses of where I lived and he stopped selling them. Eighteen months went by and... he says he'd put £250 on 'em - £1,100. I think there was a boon in building then, and of course the hosiery, there was plenty of work, everybody on full time, Atkins was going on, they were coming from out of town you see and living in these houses.



A brother and sister remember family life and work

The following memories are all from people who were born or who grew up in Hinckley

Travelling wasn 't the same as it is today...
Travelling wasn 't the same as it is today...

In 1921 should be five, when we moved to Priesthills, I think the house was built and my dad bought it new, no-one else had lived in it... I think it was built by Greaves, local builder. It was a real family house, front room and a living room, a biggish kitchen, which was called the maid's kitchen originally and a scullery off. There was a long passage from the back of the house right through to the front door with a separate staircase up and one thing we had which a lot of people as that time did not have was a bathroom - we were very lucky.

There was a big bedroom at the back over the kitchen and the two other bedrooms and a box-room with a long landing. It was a biggish house and it still wasn't big enough for a family of eight. We had to sleep top to toe, the four lads did. I know I had to get up, when I was about seven or eight to light the copper fire and get the water boiling for the washing. Washday was always on a Monday and it was an all day job. You had a mangle that you had to turn. The family was ten including Mum and Dad.

Things were washed, they were rinsed, blued, starched, then they were mangled and they were hung out 'cos there was no other way of drying them. You had a knob of blue that you put in the water to get the whites whiter - it was in a sort of little bag that you had to squeeze into the water until it was sufficiently blue. All that's incorporated in your soap powders today - so they say. There was a big line in the scullery from one end to the other. You'd lower it down, put the clothes on and then pull it up again.

Quite frankly I haven't got a lot of memories of my father, I saw very little of him - he went in a room by himself for a lot of the time. Those days children were seen and not heard. Outside, no doubt about that. In Priesthills Road there were waste spaces where they built on eventually and we used to have that to play on. They left you on your own, you could be in those days... you had to be in by nine o'clock at night.

These letter boxes, you'd tie a bit of string to the handle, walk some way down the road, someone would come to the door and there'd be no-one about of course. Just larks, nothing really serious. Where we lived, at the bottom of the garden there was a fence and over that was the fields so when there was hay-making we used to go and play in the fields among the hay. And a bit further on the station... just over the bridge was another field and at the bottom of the fields was Sketchley Brook. Oh yes we used to - summer - take a bottle of water or a bottle of pop and something to eat and go and spend most of the day down there.

We were all steam train enthusiasts... they have their own smell, you could tell a train was coming from miles away, we could hear them quite well even in Priesthills Road, and could always tell when it was going to rain because the sound was different you see, it was the air, how it came across to us.

In those days when we were young, when the fairs came they were pulled up by these traction engines, you know, and I was walking up, we were fascinated by them, and I walked into a lamp post and when I got home I was sent upstairs with no dinner, just for that. My father used to have a strap handy, off the belts they used to have in the hosiery factory and if you misbehaved yourself in the house you'd get a bit of that.

Games them days were hopscotch, shuttlecock and battledore always Shrove Tuesday, snobs, whip and top, bowling along with a hoop. We used to save the cigarette cards and have games with them - you'd set one card up against a wall and the others you'd use to skim and hit it down. The girls used to play buttons. You'd collect a lot of buttons out of your mother's workbox probably and you'd skim them along the gutters - they used to play marbles the same way.

Indoors we didn't always have radio did we - what did we have before that? Oh the gramophone. Listen to records if you were lucky enough to have any. I remember the radio coming in 1922. We used to listen to what they called the Savoy Orpheus, Jack Payne and his band, Jack Hilton. After that, your main entertainment, Saturday night particularly, when I was married, would be listening to a radio play where you could use your imagination more.

I had ambitions to be in the engineering but I never went, because the main industry as you know was hosiery and that's where the wages were, I mean if you wanted engineering you'd probably go to Coventry. You weren't in charge like they are today, if you wanted money them days you went to where it was - they probably do today - but you didn't have the choice in those days.

You've got to realize that then the traveling wasn't the same as it is today - going from place to place wasn't as easy as it is now by a long, long way. If you'd got a bike... that's what you used or you might have a motorbike, very few cars. I mean, when we were really young the traffic was horse-drawn. I can remember in the dry weather it made it really dusty, you could see this cart come round with a sprinkler at the back, a sprinkler on there and a brush to brush it all into the side. That's what used to happen in The Borough - we used to get the granite chips out and throw them at each other - what you'd call a street battle. You could get the granite chipping out.

The only people who got cars when we were young were those who'd got quite a lot of money - the executives and that, or the factory owners I should say. I can remember collecting car numbers and they were all A1 - the first ones. The first popular car that was on the road was what they called the Tin Lizzy that was a Ford - a T Ford - it was the cheapest car... about £100 then.

I was in a hosiery factory, I finished school at the Easter, March, and I didn't get a job until September and then it was only because one of the directors of Hudd & Masons lived next door, and he got me a job. Transferring that was putting the transfer onto the toe of the stocking. You were on what they called piece rate straight away and I know the second week I earned 15 and seven (78p), and do you know my mother was thrilled to death, she was telling people because it was a lot of money then. I was 14.1 had to hand it in and I got a bit of pocket money, maybe a shilling or one and six (7p).

I was in the warehouse where the finished stockings came through and the men paired them up, of course the men were taking the mickey, trying to make me blush, that sort of thing... that was the sort of thing you got. But when I moved downstairs onto a machine some of the women, they were coarse, very coarse and they'd do their best, with ribald jokes and things like that to make you embarrassed because, I mean at 14 in those days you were pretty green, very green, and my mother wasn't the sort of person who talked about intimate things at all. Most of them would be married women and they soon cottoned onto that and they'd do their best to embarrass you... well, after a day or two you just ignored it.

I was working 60 hours a week, I was working at Fludes at the outbreak of war, pretty well non-stop. Nights as well as days, twelve hours at night, for the princely sum of about £6.12s (£6.60). No you didn't work those hours by choice quite frankly. The unions did very little about it. Twelve hours at night and by three o'clock in the morning you were working like a zombie and then you gradually worked out of it, you'd worked through your sleeping period. It wasn't until I joined the army that I felt better. The first three months in the army I put on about a stone in weight. I went abroad, North Africa and Italy and by the time I got back I lost it.

A major part of the workforce came from Nuneaton, caught trains in those days to come to Hinckley. Eight o'clock in the morning you'd see them pouring out, mostly women, of course, 'cos a large part of the hosiery was women. A lot of them came on bikes, they used to have to use those carbon lamps. Made their money and took it back to Nuneaton to spend it - it's true. Bicycle lamps... there'd be all that performance at six o'clock when they'd finished work to get the lamps to burn before they could go home.



Memories of a home in Mansion Street and a formidable mother

The following memories are all from people who were born or who grew up in Hinckley

Peace Celebrations at Hinckley July 1919
Peace Celebrations at Hinckley July 1919

My grandmother and grandfather, they come from Loughborough and they settled as a needleworker in Tans needlework factory in Druid Street. My grandfather, he died because he'd eaten some watercress that weren't clean, weren't picked from running water and it'd got some small little bugs on and they got into his blood stream and killed him.

My father got killed in the First World War along with his two brothers, all in the first six months...and my mother was left alone. She, unfortunately, when she was 18, in Sketchley Dye Works - she worked on a brushing machine - and she had the misfortune of having long hair, and she bent down and the teasel brushes... caught her hair and pulled her in, and she tried to save herself and she put her hand on the machine, and a man jumped on the belt and knocked it off, and unfortunately she lost her right arm - they had to amputate her right arm up to there and her other hand was smashed.

Talk about... fit for heroes to live in after the First World War, she had to scrub door steps in that condition, take washing in, and the washing - she'd get half a crown for when she'd washed it, ironed it, and took it back to the people. Many a person walked by and stopped and looked at her... because she used to scrub the doorstep and wring her floor-cloth out on her stump. She had an artificial arm in the end but you could take the wrist off her hand and put a knife in and carve and all that. In the end she used to go round helping all the blind and everybody, but we had a real hard life.

When I was born in 1917, Mrs. Pilgrim, they lived in Station Road and they were solicitors, and they couldn't have any children and they begged and prayed my mother to let them adopt me but mother wouldn't let them... every year I used to go on my birthday and see Mrs. Pilgrim. She were deaf and I had to shout in a big horn, you see, she were my god-parent...! could have been something if mother had parted with me I should probably have been a solicitor or something - but fortunately mother wouldn't let us go.

Also in Mansion Street was Jack Wallace and Jim Wallace, now Jack Wallace was a coal merchant and Jim Wallace was a blacksmith and... in Mansion Street was a yard opposite and they used to shoe horses and all sorts of things there. You would stand there and sometimes you'd hold the horses head for him while he shoed it, and he'd get the bellows and pump his fire up and get it and put a red hot shoe on, brand it and then cut round it. Oh yes, real interesting.

I always remember once at the top of Mansion Street, there was a 100 of us sat there and we were all in one long photograph and in them days you didn't have your haircut like you do you know, you had what you call a 'Bolshin', they'd cut your hair and you'd have a tuft of hair on the front like a blooming coconut.

You used to have arguments sometimes but mother used to keep us in order. She used to have a wooden arm you see and believe me you didn't ask to be clocked twice with that. I remember once... she frightened 'em all to death. She went out and we weren't allowed to stop in, we'd got to go and play so I decided I were going to go in home, so I decided I'd got a way of opening the back kitchen window, so I climbed on the... soft water tub, crawling through the window - but I didn't know that my mother had come back in the meantime for something and she come in, she hit round the back of the neck, as I were going through this window, with her artificial arm and I were out. She daren't send me school you know because I were black and blue, she thought they'd kill me. I never done it again.

Mother was quite a friendly person. Anyone who were sort of down and out she'd sort of mother them. In them days you know the tramps used to come round, scruffy looking people with a billy can and things like that, and ask for a drop of boiling water and unbeknown to us, what used to happen, we used to get more tramps come to our house than a little - they weren't all scruffy lay-abouts, some of the most educated in the world were tramps, they were really knowledgeable people, you'd get professors and all sorts... and they put a sign on your house unbeknown to you of where you were welcome. Mother would say, 'When did you last have something to eat?' 'Oh, two days ago.' So she'd get a bit of bread in them days you used to have a loaf, a cottage loaf, she'd cut that off and just give 'em a lump of cheese and they'd do anything for you - they were really grateful.

Where Atkins' car park stands now there were a load of little houses from the front of Bond Street right up to Trinity Lane. And all these houses were very small and they all held one another up actually, because they were built back to back. A small yard... when you open your front door you were looking at someone else's house, and everybody knew everybody there - there were hundreds of houses on there. You'd only have two rooms at the most and you'd have a bit of kitchen or something where you could cook. It were nothing to find four or six people sleeping in a bed - used to sleep at the top and the bottom, they were that poor.

Toilets were outside, no inside toilets. You had to go up the yard and sit in the toilet there and all share, oh yes, there was no such thing as privacy, all shared. You all had to take your turn at scrubbing the toilets out and that - you'd cut the News of the World up - that was the regular paper them days, you'd cut it up into small squares you know, then you'd get a piece of string and a nail and make a hole and hang that in. That were your toilet paper - the News of the World, mind you, thank God the print didn't come off like it does now. If somebody left it dirty they'd go and fetch them by their ear, they'd put a lock on it, they wouldn't be able to use it if they didn't clean it next time. Water toilets they were, what they called old closets, you'd got a chain you see and you pulled it and flushed it, but some places you see didn't have those, you used to have a bucket and a seat and at the back there'd be a hinged lid and people'd come round with a huge cart and fetch those buckets out and tip them into a big container... they were pretty horrible smelly things they were. You see, quite a lot of the big houses didn't have all flush toilets - the gardeners in them days used to have to empty the toilets at four in the morning, dig a big hole in the garden, tip it all in there and then fill it over, and that's where most of your vegetables come from.

I always remember in 1939 we were at work and Mr. Timpson who were one of the directors there... he came and said, 'Albert, I'm sorry but you've got to go.' I got posted to a young soldiers battalion and the young soldiers were all volunteers, but these volunteers were all bad lads, they were all from Borstal. What these lads couldn't do was no one's business; thieves, rogues, vagabonds, the lot.

In fact I knew more about the police than the police knew about them because every day of their lives the police'd come down and want an interview. Once we were at Long Sutton... and there they come down and said, 'Line em up would you.' 'Why?' I said, 'What've they done this time?' He said, 'Just line em up.' One little chap... he were from Leicester and I lined them up and they said, 'Ask them to strip out,' and there were this one man there and his shirt were short and they turned it up and they unrolled his shirt and sewed up there -hundreds of pound notes. They'd robbed the Co-op! All these lads, I'm proud to say this, were real heroes - they went into special forces... and they all got really decorated... yet they were more or less the scum of the earth when they went in.

I always remember when I came out of the forces I were married then... the first thing I done, I went and bought a washing machine because we'd got an old dolly tub and the peg and it were blooming hard work, believe me, and the first thing we done we bought one of these new washing machines. Only a little one but we bought one. It were only a little tub about 18 inches square... it were just an agitator. You put your washing in and then you put a wringer on the top and then you mangled it - a rubber roller wringer. You got your washing cleaned and of course you were the cat's whiskers them days if you'd got that.

I went back into the shoe trade... which was a mistake really because if I'd gone into the car trade or something I'd have made much more money but there were that many people... coming out of the forces you were glad to go back and get your job back.



A childhood in Mill View and the outbreak of World War II

The Bulls Head at the bottom of Castle Street
The Bulls Head at the bottom of Castle Street

We lived in Mill View, that was all right there, we used to have bonfires, you know, all the kids round, roast potatoes, chestnuts, everybody mixed. If anybody was ill the next door neighbour would say, 'Well I'm going into town - anything you want?' or, Til clean up for you,' and you used to do the same for them.

I remember once we had a dog give us, and he came off a farm and it'd got ringworms and I caught them - then you had to pay for a specialist that was two guineas a time, that was a lot of money. If you was ill you had to pay for your doctors. I remember once my mother sent for the doctor. I wasn't very old and I couldn't stand up, I kept tumbling everywhere. Dr. Murray looked at me, The girl's drunk.' My mother had made some elderberry wine and you put a big punch in, you know... and I'd only been sitting there sipping it and sipping it. Course, Mum couldn't understand it 'cos I kept tumbling all over the place.

Feverfew we used to have for headaches and comfrey was another one, comfrey leaves for bruises. Marshmallow we used to use that a lot I don't know what that were for, and bread poultices, you know, if you'd got a thorn in your finger it started to fester, and you got some boiling water and this bread and they put it in a white cloth and... oh it was red hot, they put it on, tied it round to draw it all out... and boils, they used to do it for boils as well. I know if you had a wart - it was rub it with a piece of raw meat and bury it in the garden and don't tell anyone where you'd buried and the wart'll drop off. Oh dear, silly things.

Scrumping apples - policeman used to box your ears, 'Don't do it again', you know, 'No, we wont do it again. Putting buttons on people's doors and a bit of cotton and hiding and tapping the window,..if my mother got to know the cane used to come out, oh yes, across your bottom. Bulimore - he used to clip you round the ears if you didn't behave yourself. I remember my mother taking me to the old police station in Baptist Walk because I'd run away from school one day and of course she'd had a word with this Bulimore, you know, 'Have a word with her, frighten her so she won't do it again! And all the guns, and there were a cat o' nine tails up there and he said, 'If you run away again you'll have that.' I never did run away again. The birch, I say that up there, because they used to have them on the wall, all on displays.

We used to sit and make peg rugs at night in the winter. You had a fire grate up there, I mean, if anybody was really ill for a length of time I think we had a coal fire in there but I can only ever remember it being used once when Mum was ill. You couldn't afford to have a coal fire upstairs and downstairs as well. I don't think you feel the cold when you're young - even when you're courting and it's snowing - you stand there don't you, you don't feel it do you?

I was in Baddesley Ensor, cycled over there to see my grandparents. The war was declared when I was there. When Granddad said - they'd put it on the wireless, you know, it was accumulators and batteries - he said, 'War's been declared,' and I said, 'Will I be all right to get home? Will they bomb before I get there?'

Everyone mixed, it was merry times - live for today, don't bother about tomorrow. I think it broadened the outlook. I mean you'd get different nationalities here and up at the aerodrome - Bramcote Aerodrome - you'd get different nationalities up there, you'd got the Belgians, French, all sorts up there. When you used to go dancing you'd meet them all. Go to Nuneaton, go to the dance there and miss the bus and have to walk home, that was nothing. Well if my mum was nights she didn't know what time I got in did she. If she was at home I used to take my shoes off to go up the stairs quietly you know. I always used to drop my shoes at the top of the stairs and then I had it.

I worked in a shop and then of course the Labour Exchange told me I'd got to go to the railway and I went down there. You used to see the troop trains come in. Some of the fellows used to shout to me, one of them lived in the street below us although I didn't know him. He says, I know you, you come from Hinckley. Will you go down and tell my mum I'm going overseas?' And he lived on the corner of Well Lane... he says, "Cos I can't write and tell her I'm going.'

Cleaning the carriages out near Nuneaton Trent Valley Station one day, Edie, one of the girls, she used to do the oiling and the King and Queen were coming and everywhere were all spick and span. The platforms were all clean and Edie goes for this oil can and drops it all down and she had to scrub it all up before they come. Oh, there was panic stations. And the King stopped and he was made up, he had more make-up on than... the Queen. Didn't half make them up.



Hinckley was so small you could spit that way, spit the other and you'd near enough done the lot

Derby Road, Hinckley
Derby Road, Hinckley

It was a poor area, we used to live on the Derby Road and you'd got the Victoria Street, Mill View, Charles Street, and there was a little passage then into John Street. And then the hosiery factory at the side of my home, that was pulled down and made into the fire station. Then at the back of the church they dug a reservoir so that we'd got two reservoirs, one up Mill View and the other one was up Leicester Road where it is now.

He (Dad) was a baker, on the Co-op. It used to be very nice... the bread was made at Druid Street and the Co-op was in Bond Street. There was the grocery shop on Bond Street and you'd come into the back of that and there was the bakehouse for the Hinckley Co-ops. There was a bakehouse for the cakes and confectionary, that was in Castle Street.

It was all more or less within a mile, from Leicester Road down to Butt Lane, down to the centre of Hinckley and down to the railway station. You knew everything - you knew it all. Hinckley itself was little tiny houses in a clump. It was all little... squares, a little square there... and there... if you took from Leicester Road right the way through down to Coventry Road... the railway comes straight through the middle.

Childrens Summer Festival at Barwell
Childrens Summer Festival at Barwell

Now from the railway you'd got the Sketchley Dye works, but from there up to the top of the hill there was about two big houses. You come further along up into Burbage you'd got a few medium big houses, then you got into Burbage and that was only more or less Burbage Road, Hinckley Road, and you're coming back into fields again, just farms, that was all it was. You could spit that way, spit the other and you'd near enough done the lot!

Then they started and they put all the Brookside area of the town. That now, Burbage, is bigger than what Hinckley is. Brookside, Westfield Road, all them for our pleasure time. We'd start at Butt Lane and you'd go through the common into Barwell, Rogues Lane, down into Ashby Road, down into the Stoke Road - once again that was all fields and you came back into the main road into the town. You'd done it in the morning. You'd walk round all those fields you wouldn't see a soul, all you'd see was cows, sheep and goats.

The whole flower estate - they are all called different flowers - that's all top side of Burbage - that was one big rose garden. They'd got every colour, every size, and there was another at the top of Coventry Road, Burbage. They were nurseries, believe me they were beautiful. If you went from the station along the road and came to the back end of what we used to call rose gardens, it was absolutely one perfume... absolutely gorgeous, you could smell it from the fields.

Near The Anchor Inn, Burbage
Near The Anchor Inn, Burbage

My dad had got an allotment up Leicester Road. Up there there was no houses just a few big ones in the Butt Lane where the toffs live. Anyway, we'd got trees - apples, pear and there were four plums - of course me and my four brothers, we had to dig it with my dad. Soon as it come fruit time we'd pick it and you'd take it round to the church goers. 'How much are the plums?' 'Four pence a pound.' And you'd have Victorias like that, beautiful things, gorgeous plums. Then we'd got the pear tree... it was as high as this building, massive, and my dad had to go Jeffcotes the builders to borrow their big ladders... and they'd say come on you get up that tree, get up that ladder and of course I was the littlest and I had to get to the bloody top there and they used to put a belt around me and I used to lean back. Onto a basket, two strings... lower them down, my brothers would lay them out into -we used to have wicker clothes baskets them days. You didn't go and buy this that and the other - you bartered.

My dad worked in the bakehouse but my mother wouldn't have bread from there. Mr Oxley in Derby Road he thorp it was red hot that bread, red hot, and they always used to put a cross. They were 2lb loaves and you could guarantee my mother she'd walk straight into the kitchen, pull the top point off, cut it in half, slap of butter, There you are my lad, that's your breakfast.' It'd go round the family. Every morning I'd got to go from Mill View down to Victoria Street, get the bread and come back, and I used to love it because I could put me hand round here and it were red hot.

St Peters RC Church, Priory Walks
St Peters RC Church, Priory Walks

Willy Fireman, he lived up Leicester Road, and I had a little job that I had to run off when I lived in Leicester Road. I used to go through the Priory Walks into the Queens Park. Now the fire station was in the Queens Park where the Technical College is on the top of Spa Lane there... well at the time I'm talking about, when I was a little kid, they used to keep the horses in the field in the back of John Street and as soon as they'd got a fire anywhere this old boy used to jump on his bike, run to John Street, bring the bloody horses round to London Road, pick the fireman up, then go around to the fire. Well anyway then they progressed to a Meriweather... the old boy he said, I’ve got gout, I can't walk, tell the fireman there's a blaze at such and such a place.' I had to run all the way down Priory Walks into the Queens Park - there was a crew sitting there like, you know, but there was no bloody phones - and I got there, 'You've got a fire at such and such a place, you've got to pick Mr Peacock up down Leicester Road 'cos he's got gout. Of course there's running around, he gets into this fire brigade, he comes round London Road, into Leicester Road. Whether or not he were talking and not looking where they were going but the bloke who were driving the fire brigade he missed it and he went straight into a house. The front room was about three foot lower... you had to go down three steps... of course the bloody firemen went straight the way down. They had to fetch the fire brigade from Leicester and when they came back the place was flat, burnt out completely. The fire brigade was still in that bloody front room.

Queens Park and bandstand
Queens Park and bandstand

I went down to the dole, met another friend, this time round he says, Tve just been down the post office for an appointment, they're waiting for somebody down there if you want it. So I went straight down and... from there I went right the way through until I was 60. For a start off I was sorting and delivery, then I went into the army, then I got blowed up, come back into the post office again and Bob's your uncle. I finished up driving and delivering Charnford, Wolvey, Aston and Wyking, that was on the rural run.

You see the girls in Nuneaton always came to Hinckley for jobs and all these hosiery factories at Hinckley, the girls used to sort of fight for the jobs there and undercut the girls at Hinckley so that could get better jobs. When you talk about undercutting I mean on John Street there was a biggish factory there and they used to have three busloads of girls from Nuneaton, well of course... there was a lot of animosity between the two towns really. But I mean it was only the fact that the girls wanted the jobs and they were satisfied to move out of the area to get them, you know.



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