Gloucester Road by the Leonard family

Gloucester Road

Geoff: My first memory of Gloucester Road is of Sommerville Road Police Station, and the canteen, where at 2-years-old, I sat eating baked beans on toast, when suddenly I saw my father’s head appear from behind a hatch on the wall.

Police Station: Known by locals as Somerville Road Police Station and subject of an early memory for me. Never set foot in it afterwards!
Known by locals as Sommerville Road Police Station and subject of an early memory for me. Never set foot in it afterwards!

He had come to collect me after I became ‘lost’, having apparently walked out of J H Mills the grocers, just a few yards down Gloucester Road, where my mother was doing a weekly shop, and probably had my sister in a pram. No doubt, I was bored in the shop, where you were inevitably greeted by “yes please?” from the counter assistants, and decided Gloucester Road was more interesting.

Over the next twenty years, I got to know it a lot better.

J.H. Mills was at no. 173 which is the middle section of what is now a branch of Tesco, despite 171 on the building!
J.H. Mills was at no. 173 which is the middle section of what is now a branch of Tesco, despite 171 on the building!

Jean: Of course, was forgetting J H Mills; how could I? The days before supermarkets and self service, with Miss Fey behind the counter and tins of biscuits at the front, and Miss Fey asking if we’d like a bikkie. Mum was cross about that because bikkie wasn’t proper English, and also cross that Miss Fey said we should always say Ta when offered a bikkie.

Geoff: Miss Fey lived in Ash Road, but at some time in the late sixties must have moved, because I would see her on my way to work, riding up Ashley Hill on one of those curious half cycle, half motorbike affairs.

Jean: Then it all went self service of course; nothing was quite the same after that. I do remember pinching a packet of chewing gum off the shelf; my first and last venture into shoplifting (I wasn’t caught, or if anyone saw me they didn’t say anything).

Mum of course used to go down there every Friday and haul loads of shopping back. I’m surprised they didn’t have a delivery service. Mr Holgate was the manager then.

John: J.H. Mills did have a delivery service at one point, I think. Or at least a service where you could telephone the branch with an order and pick it up later. They used Morris J-Type vans, as far as I remember, with light green and cream livery.

Geoff: Dad was friends with Alva Parrott who managed a chemist shop more-or-less opposite the police station – I think Bendalls was technically opposite the chemist but we never went in there, because my father worked for J H Mills (head office) so it would have been a bit disloyal. Mr. Parrott later moved to his own shop in The Mall, Clifton Village.

Further up the road came the barber, Mr. Trigger, who was originally in a kind of shack in Prince’s Place before moving across Gloucester Road to a house with a front room as his premises. Just a little further up was the dreaded dentist, just below an estate agent named Saywell. We started off with Messrs Wells/Griffiths, then Wells/Jones and finally (in my time) Jones/Rees.

John: Mr. Trigger: graduating from the plank across the arms to the actual chair itself and the two standard questions: “Cream or spray?” & “Anything for the weekend?” which must have been automatic, as I had no idea what he was talking about at age 10, or so.

Trigger: Second shop for Mr. Trigger!
Second shop for Mr. Trigger, at 116 Gloucester Road.

Geoff: The doctor was much further up, actually in Seymour Road to begin with, in a house set back from the road, where as children we were fascinated by the piping equipment usually seen on a ship by which you could communicate with a doctor for night emergencies when the surgery was closed. I assume one of them lived upstairs.

Later the practice moved closer to Gloucester Road (Dongola Avenue) and Dr, Butcher’s partner, Dr. Lewis was replaced by Dr. Bunting, who regrettably later turned out to be very suspect in his examination of trainee policemen. Dr. Butcher was also available to administer gas at the dentist.

Mum and Dad were avid church-goers, unfortunately for us four children, who were not in the slightest interested. St. Michaels and All Angels was our local, and I can recall the walk to church from our house in St. Andrews, and the changing of the bell, through which you knew how late or early you were for the 11 o’clock service. Oh, the joy of mum and dad occasionally oversleeping and us being too late to go! Sadly, this did not affect Sunday school in the afternoon, which we all attended until we were 14 or 15, from memory. Perhaps it stopped after confirmation, but I don’t think so. Talking of which, I must be one of the few people to be sent home from Confirmation Class for laughing and being unable to stop when reminded where I was!

St Michaels: Our local church. Housing now, but hardly missed by us!
St Michaels & All Angels, our local church. Housing now, but hardly missed by the family!

When we were younger, morning Sunday School was run by ‘Auntie’ Edna Saunders and Harry Pettit, whom she later married. They showed Nativity slides at Christmas.

After classes, some of us used to play throwing a tennis ball over the top of the Parish Hall. If you failed, it occasionally got stuck on a ledge and it was possible to climb up to the roof from within and retrieve the ball.

Parish Halls: Bishopston Parish Halls not hugely changed from the 50s and 60s in this view, but redeveloped for housing behind the main building.
Bishopston Parish Halls, not hugely changed from the 50s and 60s in this view, but redeveloped for housing behind the main building.

Another consolation after cubs/scouts was the chip shop next door, when we often bought a bag of chips, probably for sixpence.

When I finally got away from Sunday School, once more with an attendance prize (we had no choice), my book token was spent at Cook’s, near Bailey’s, on a number of James Bond paperbacks, which greatly amused my younger brother, who thought it vital the superintendent, Leslie Partridge, should know. Partridge, who was a bundle of laughs, and who might have been the inspiration for the better-known Mr. Partridge of Hi De Hi fame, was not amused.

Talking of Bailey’s, one of the salesmen was a Mr. Mass who we knew from church. He was evidently a freemason and Dad used to say it just shows that becoming a mason doesn’t always mean you get on in life. Much later, I spent a day there with the accountant on secondment from sister company Bailey’s Roofing and would like to have stayed. A much better atmosphere and working conditions that were more conducive.

Bailey’s at 109-115
Bailey’s Stores at 109-115 Gloucester Road. A family owned business which lasted decades.

We were all in the cubs or scouts apart from my sister who was in the brownies and guides, and I hated scouts in particular and eventually refused to carry on. I remember our patrol leader, whose name might have been Keith Pope, telling me I had to take a Christmas present to somebody living in Kennington Avenue on his behalf. He couldn’t do it himself, as he had been threatened by this (older) lad. I did it, and luckily the lad’s mother opened the door and I departed with shouts of “I’m going to kill him,” from over her shoulder ringing in my ears. Later, he rebuked the patrol for refusing to climb over a very high and locked gate, saying the patrol had always had a reputation for climbing!

At the same time, there was junior youth club, with its country dancing classes, and annual play produced by Mrs or Miss White. I once (horrifically) played a Sheriff in ‘Mortgage on the Cow’ when I was about eight, the highlight being my death when the farmer shot me! My sister was also in it. Our two brothers watched from the audience, and this obviously started John’s interest in the theatre. There was also an odd custom whereby to raise money (for the church?) we had to visit neighbouring houses (we lived in Queens Road at the time) and sell them things like scented cards that they didn’t want.

Mixed Youth Club was better as there was a record player, and at one point also a snooker table when we were in the hall nearest the road (there was at least four separate halls at one time). This hall was later vandalised by Teds, but earlier, when it was the home of the Boys’ Club and my father was leader, we were introduced to the Duke of Beaufort. The fox-hunting old fool. Dora Lamble had something to do with the running of the youth clubs.

The biggest hall was where the annual Christmas Fayre took place, usually in November. This always featured a white elephant stall on the balcony, a fascination for me, and I once bought a Box Brownie Camera for one shilling. There were also stalls selling bags of toffee, fudge and coconut ice, made by my mother, and a lucky dip.

Also, a concert or two took place there and I remember seeing Dad conducting a band with an L (learner) sign on his back (which I had found in the road). There must have been a pantomime of sorts, too, because I vividly recall a local chap called Ron Stinson, dressed in a tutu, and chanting, “I am the good fairy, although my legs are hairy, to enthusiastic applause!

The Sunday School parties also took place here, with memories of film shows which always seemed to include Peter Butterworth being silly.

Jean: Parties at the parish hall at Christmas; someone clever playing the piano (Dad knew him) and a drummer called Len Clatworthy.

Geoff: Clatworthy later played drums in a few Bristol-based groups. Robby John Yeomans became the curate’s unofficial assistant and helped out serving drinks at these parties. He later became a vicar, and made headlines, when on attempting to spur on the church choir who were practicing ‘I Wonder Where I’m Bound’, his bouncing up and down resulted in him suddenly disappearing into the central-heating duct below! The Yeomans lived in Ralph Road, and Ivor Yeomans taught at nearby Sefton Park Senior school.

Jean: Pantomimes put on by the Young Wives or Mother’s Union. Dad flinging round a prop of fake dough. Me trying to be blasé and grown up when Father Christmas arrived and failing. I remember the show about the Mortgage on the Cow; I think I was a villager and we were supposed to come skipping on to the stage and say, “what’s the matter Pa? What’s the matter Ma?” Then the rest of the cast all had to bob up and down chanting, “we can’t raise the money for the mortgage on the cow”. I remember forgetting to bob up and down and just stood there staring at all the people I knew in the audience.

I also played a duet, entitled Big Ben, with a boy called Robert Brookes; we both had lessons from the same piano teacher. He went wrong and at the end, I had a go at him instead of standing up and taking a bow.

Getting told off at Sunday school in the afternoon by old Mrs Freak – we made the trestle table collapse. I think the chief lady superintendent was Miss Hill; she always wore pale blue outfits a la Queen Mother, posh hats with net and rimless glasses. All things bright and beautiful!

Geoff: Head of the infants or juniors was Miss or Mrs. White (who also ran the drama). She was horrible and I remember her locking the door of the small hall (where cubs and brownies took place) to stop a child in distress leaving.

Good Friday was the dread of my life. Three-hour sessions in the Parish Hall, when we made Palms or whatever.  I can still hum the music they played when we all to get up and move to another table, ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ (but it wasn’t of mine).

Jean: I don’t remember this at all.  Why did we have to get up and change tables?  That was Beetle drives, I thought.

Geoff: Yes, but this was because we did different things on different tables with different ‘teachers’. There was a lot of cutting and pasting, but not in the modern sense.

John: The National Westminster Bank near Horfield Prison, where I closed my account after they bounced a cheque that would have made me 50p overdrawn, a day before my pay cheque would have been paid in. I went to the Williams & Glyns near the theatre, where Jean worked, I think.

NatWest: Once a cheque-bouncing branch of NatWest where our parents maintained a overdraft for many years
Once a cheque-bouncing branch of NatWest where our parents maintained a overdraft for many years

Geoff: As a teenager, I quickly got to know all the record shops. In Gloucester Road there was Wookey & Jones (second hand only), Cranbrook Radio, Bristol Wireless, Woolworth (Embassy records), Sanchez and nearer Ashley Down Road, MHE, a shop I got to love and continued visiting for many years. In fact it was there I bought a replacement copy of a treasured LP, Beat Girl, in almost new condition. My original had been “borrowed” by Ray Adamson, a Salvation Army man my father knew through amateur radio, who also borrowed several other records for a slide show of some description, and later angrily denied ever having it. Not awfully Christian, I thought. An industrial photographer for BAC, he once memorably described Reece Winstone as a “pomptuous (sic) ass”! Later he became Labour Mayor of Camden in London, which just goes to show …..

MHE: No. 342 was MHE (Music Home Electrics) in the 60s ad 70s. A treasure-trove of second-hand records for teenagers!
No. 342 was MHE (Music and Home Electrics) in the 60s and 70s. A treasure-trove of second-hand records for teenagers!

The newest record shop was Stephen Francis, which was situated near The Robin Hood’s Retreat and was a one-man business run by somebody who was not called Stephen Francis. Despite his eagerness to please and reputation for ordering anything, the shop didn’t pay and he wasn’t there very long. Roughly opposite was Bristol North swimming baths, where I attended a few school galas, as a watcher not a participant, and I can almost smell the chlorine and hear the echoey cries of support from spectators.

Bristol North Baths in the 1930s, now redeveloped as accommodation, I think.
Bristol North Baths in the 1930s, now redeveloped as accommodation, I think.

Jean: Bristol North Baths, swimming with the school and with Dad sometimes.

The Horfield Inn which often had a shire horse outside. Big teeth.

Phelps café next door; we had supper there once when the kitchen at home was out of action for some reason.

Geoff: Further down the road was the newsagents, Hurley’s, for whom my brother did an evening paper round, and I filled in occasionally. It was mostly to houses around the Tyne, Shadwell, Julius, Codrington Roads area, and one house had a dog who virtually ripped the paper from your hand as soon as you started to poke it through the letter-box. Curiously, almost opposite Hurley’s was a tiny Kiosk run by a man called Ford, who also sold papers and even delivered some himself. It was the smallest shop I’ve ever seen.

Formerly Hurley's at 65 Gloucester Road.
Formerly Hurley’s at 65 Gloucester Road.

On a Sunday morning, there’d always be a newspaper seller with a pitch in the doorway of Morgan’s which was of course shut.

Morgans: The original location of Morgan’s.  No. 9 became Stefani’s in the 60s and later a branch of Kiosks.
The original location of Morgan’s. No. 9 on the right became Stefani’s in the 60s and later a branch of Kiosks specialising in greetings cards.

Just up from Morgan’s was a tobacconist who also sold greeting cards, named Stefani. He had huge hands and led a double life as a bookmaker,. Around 1966, he sold out to Kiosks (West of England) for whom I worked at the time.

Opposite was Burton’s and above it a snooker hall with several tables. You could pay a certain amount and got a table for an hour, after which the lights over the table went out whether you had finished or not. I think you could also get tea or coffee there, but it was a bit of a dive.

Burton’s: A branch of Burton’s in the 60s and 70s with a snooker hall on the first floor. Caroline’s:
Formerly a branch of Burton’s in the 60s and 70s with a snooker hall on the first floor.

Further on up, came Caroline’s cake shop, a favourite of my mother’s and Forte’s Ice Cream Parlour where I had my first Knickerbocker Glory, at age 11. This was a reward for passing the 11 plus, and whereas friends got watches or bikes, I got the KG – I was never interested in bikes!

 22 Gloucester Road, formerly Caroline’s Cake Shop
22 Gloucester Road, formerly Caroline’s Cake Shop
Forte’s at 15/16 The Promenade
Formerly Forte’s at 15/16 The Promenade.

John: There was a Halford’s next door to the police station where I got my ‘passing the 11 Plus’ bike. No Knickerbocker Glory for me…

Halford’s: Once a branch of Halford’s
Previously a branch of Halford’s, now a betting shop.

Jean: Caroline’s the cake shop; always busy, very popular. There was often a group of talkative and shouty old ladies in there. Mum used to talk about one of them, a Miss Vivian; she called her a ‘wonderful old lady’ in revered tones. Lovely cakes.

Geoff: Miss Vivian was a dedicated follower of Gloucestershire CCC, and watched home games from the Ladies Stand (which was actually for everybody) usually while knitting and talking to friends.

Jean: I have vague memories of Forte’s with wicker chairs. I remember the place with the milk machine outside too. There was also a record shop along that promenade where I used to buy MFP LPs.

Geoff: Bristol Wireless. Around the same area, there was a photographic studio where I had to go circa 1967 to get a passport photo taken. Just past where the Ford Kiosk was and possibly where there is now a Cancer UK shop, there was a betting shop, possibly called Phelan’s. Further up again was a post office outside of which was a Fresh milk machine, which was handy if you ran out of delivered pints.

I missed out Carwardines, which was next to Wookey & Jones, and from which an amazing smell of roasting coffee beans wafted out in the mornings. Coffee never tasted as nice as that smell in my experience, and still doesn’t!

Carwardines: A glimpse of Carwardines. The off-licence next-door has since become part of the pub.
A glimpse of Carwardines. The off-licence next-door has since become part of the pub.

St. Andrews Park was nearby, where I participated in numerous games of cricket and football. There were two regular park keepers in the early sixties; a nice one called Frank and a nasty one, who didn’t like boys playing games. Don’t think we knew his name, but no arguments were allowed. “Don’t you give me the bolo,” he would say. Games were occasionally interrupted by the arrival of ‘The Irish’ from Montpelier, a mob of teenagers who were always looking for trouble.

Going back to church days, sitting near our regular family spot, which was to the right-hand corner as you looked down the church, was a boy named Tony Baldaro. He encouraged me to try Saturday morning pictures at The Premier, which was close to what became a Gateway and is now a Co-op. I saw a couple of Davy Crockett films there but don’t recall going very often – I never had any money at age nine or ten. Tony’s father ran some kind of local toy company from Dongola Avenue, and the toys included a Kaleidoscope, which fascinated me. As a family, The Scala was more our cinema and we saw The Wizard of Oz there with mum, and also a double bill of Doctor in the House / Genevieve. Years later, I saw some awful rubbish there with friends, including The Yellow Teddy Bears, which we only did because it was an X. The elderly Commissionaire, ‘Bronco’, came in for plenty of abuse.

The Scala Cinema, now student accommodation or a car park.
The Scala Cinema, now student accommodation or a car park.

John: Wizard Of Oz frightened me to death and traumatised me for years afterwards. (As did the RSC production some years later, but for different reasons. If I say Ian Judge, David will know what I mean.) But Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday at The Scala was just wonderful, and still is.

Geoff: Going back to The Premier, I did see a double bill of Bond films there, the final programme before it closed around ‘64/5.

Jean: I don’t remember much about the top end of Gloucester Road apart from a shoe shop called Redstones, which was owned by our next door neighbour in Windsor Road. There might have been a sawmill further down on the opposite side of the road, but I can’t remember that clearly.

John: Bryan Newth Motorcycles, at 308 Gloucester Road, for the odd spare and MOT certificate, now a cafe, according to Arthur Sampson. The floor of the garage was so oily, that the brake test was a bit of a farce.

Formerly Bryan Newth Motorcycles, at 308 Gloucester Road
Formerly Bryan Newth Motorcycles, at 308 Gloucester Road

Geoff: Somebody else mentioned the sawmill, but I only recall Gillam, which was at the top of Queens Road, next to the dairy.

Jean: Further down, where Dongola Avenue met Gloucester Road, my first boyfriend Stephen Freke (sadly killed in an RTA a year or so later) showed me round a small factory where he worked on Saturdays and in the school holidays; it contained some sort of machine and he impressed me greatly by using it to squash a liquorish allsort.

Geoff: This could have been Tony Baldaro’s father’s Toy factory, which was just into Dongola Avenue, set back from the road.

Jean: Beetle drives in the Parish Hall! I still love playing Beetle!

There were also family socials with communal dancing including the Valeta, the Gay Gordons plus some others (the names escape me). I used to dance with Mum, I think. Having to play team games including squash/pop the balloon; I always seemed to get the fat man or elderly lady. I still have a primeval fear of balloons to this day. I used to have to go round to the Parish Hall on Saturday morning with Mum to help prepare sandwiches etc; white bread spread with oily margarine, and massive urns of tea made in the morning and kept warm until the evening. Yuck.

John: On the rank of shops just down from the church hall, probably next to the chip-shop, there was a sweet shop, run by the parents of someone I was at school with: Anthony Butler?

Further down there was a sort of woodworking/hardware shop, where I got the cut-out for my Garrard 301 transcription turntable made.

Jean: A bit further up from the chemist on the corner of Sommerville Road was a clothes shop/haberdashery where I bought mum a little bottle of Californian Poppy for Mothering Sunday, possibly Edgars.

Halls the gentleman’s outfitters. Mr Hall and George Warburton? Short and Tall.

Geoff: Mr Hall junior also served and, confusingly, looked like George Warburton.

Jean: The haberdashers called Smiths just down from Woolies where Mum had to buy school uniform for Fairfield.

Greengrocer, where Mum was told off for squeezing the peaches, butchers (Pearsons) with sawdust on the floor and Mr Pearson and assistants always with fingers bandaged. You paid at a separate kiosk.

Geoff: The Pearson family lived in Windsor Road, as did we. I think Michael was badly injured in a fall at University and may have ended up unable to walk.

Jean: The wonder that was Woolworths, where I bought my first make up; ice pink lipstick, spit-on mascara and powder blue eye shadow.

Cranbrook Radio, the record shop a bit further down where I went in with mum to buy a 45 by Craig Douglas; from memory Pretty Blue Eyes. The assistant tried to play it for me but I was so shy I remember saying ‘yes, that’s it’ just so he’d turn it off.

Chippy on the other side near the Parish Halls where we’d go for chips after brownies/guides/youth club. Run by a lady, her mother and the lady’s daughter (who had speech problems).

Geoff: Mrs Cook: I forgot to mention this, plus the mad lady who lived above the shop or the house next door, and would fling stale bread at the punters and cackle. Others also mention Rupp’s pies the other side of the halls, but I have no memory at all of this, possibly because we couldn’t afford them!

Jean: Further down, same side, was a dark and dusty cobblers; windows always covered with brown paper so you couldn’t see inside.

Much further down, Hawkins, an offie just before the Overton Road turning, where I used to illicitly buy fags (Players No. 7 and Cadets).

Geoff: Next to the Royal Hotel on the corner.

Jean: What would today be called a deli, close to where Morgans/Colmers was, where Mum would buy ham off the bone and lovely soft rolls which we’d have for Saturday lunch. Can’t remember what it was called but the ham was lovely. Greggs, apparently.

Colmers: Not long ago a useful branch of Maplin and previously Colmers and Morgan’s
Not long ago a useful branch of Maplin and previously Colmers and Morgan’s

A Lotus shoe shop where Mum bought me some silver party shoes. I tried them on and slipped over on the carpet immediately. Very embarrassing. My dad made them less slippery by using a rasp on the soles, I think,

Maynards the sweet shop which sold floral tips and warm salted peanuts. Next door was a small pub where I once might have had an illegal cider or two.

Geoff: The Prince of Wales.

Jean: Colmers/Morgans with the whizzy till canister vacuum things; they sold everything from clothing to cutlery and cufflinks. They had a cafe upstairs alongside the ladies clothing where you could get lovely warm ring donuts, and heating pipes at ground level where I used to warm my feet during the icy winter of ‘62/63. I remember buying fully fashioned stockings in there once.

Jean: They also had a hairdressers on the first floor above the smaller entrance; the receptionist was called Mrs Hollister and the girls used to call her Holly. I remember having my very fine hair permed in there when I was in the first year of grammar school; I had to take a morning off school because it took so long. I can remember being attached to some god-awful machine after having my lovely long plaits cut off. Everyone made fun of my hair after that. I was absolutely gutted.

There was also a hairdressers on the opposite side of Gloucester Road called Leoni. A bit more trendy than the Morgan’s one (which I’ve just remembered had separate cubicles for privacy). They had foreign students there, on work experience presumably, including a lovely Italian lad, who didn’t really want to cut my hair because I was a ‘bambino’. And there was I trying to look grown-up. Sheesh.