Spring Newsletter

Spring 2007 – From the Chairman

Older members will remember the logo ‘CATIRR’ from the late 70's, the Campaign Against Trowbridge Inner Relief Road, when a group of people from within and around Trowbridge fought a hard and sometimes bitter campaign against the proposed inner relief road.  Relief roads at this time were already an outdated concept, and this one would cut a swathe through historic buildings on the eastern side of the town.

Even though the District Council, the Town council and the Chamber of Commerce were all against the plan, the County Council was determined to go ahead with the project.  As a result many historic buildings were lost and communities destroyed.  Timbrell Street, together with a fascinating mix of houses and villas in British Row, York Buildings, Armoury Cottage, The Armoury, the former St Thomas's School, a large group of houses on Hilperton Road, Ching House in Roundstone Street, houses in Ashton Street and Clarks Place, two toll houses in West Ashton Road, some of the remaining buildings of Clark’s Mill were just some of the historic buildings destroyed by the County Council's out-dated plan.

It was from the CATIRR Committee that the Trowbridge Civic Society was formed in 1978 and since that time it has continued the fight to save historic buildings in the town.

Only the southern section of the inner relief road (County Way) was completed.  The northern section, from the Conigre, along British Row. through York Buildings and The Halve to Hilperton Road, has now at last been abandoned by our County Councillors.  The result of this inactivity by the County Council meant that for nearly 30 years this side of the town was blighted.  Great swathes of land which created large gaps in the streetscape, were left vacant for the proposed road.

Two sets of plans have recently been submitted to build residential accommodation on some of these open spaces. One in the Conigre. presently used as a car park, was completely out of character and rejected by the Town and District planners.  A second, on the area between British Row and Timbrell Street, was welcomed by the Town Council.  It is a design much more sympathetic to the surrounding buildings, and the bonus is that it hides the view of Charlotte Court!

Our New Year Party at Courtfield House was well attended.  The opening quiz was entitled ‘Name that Street’ which was followed by refreshments and afterwards a slide show called ‘Through the Window’ when members, on seeing the view through the window, had to discover the building the picture was taken from.

The next event, the AGM, will be held at Courtfield House on Tuesday 20th March when the speaker will be our Town Crier, Trevor Heeks.  Four of our committee members, Ann Beard, Daphne Peat, Barbara and John Woodford, will be standing down at the AGM, and I should like to place on record our thanks for all the work they have done on behalf of the Society over many years.  I know they will continue to support us as members.  We will therefore be looking for some new volunteers to join the committee.

Trowbridge From 1947 (by D Thompson)

My family moved to Trowbridge, from London, in 1947.  My father bought a house in what was then called Marsh Road Estate.  The house number was 7, but the house is now 28 Marsh Road.  He rented the shop in Church Street from Noel Knee.  I was six years old at the time and do not remember what time of year it was.  Later, when I left school, in 1956, I went to work for my father and learned the cycle trade.

Norman Alfred Thompson, my father, was born in Scarborough in 1898.  The family moved to London when he was a child.  He joined the Royal Navy as a boy, served through WW1, was in the Battle of Jutland and left in 1926 as Chief Petty Officer, Signals.  He took employment as a car washer at a Ford showroom, in Highbury, working his way up to Manager, but by 1947, he felt like working on his own account.

The owner of the company, a Texan, sorry to see him go, gave him £2000, which enabled my father to set up business in Trowbridge.  I never knew why he chose cycles or Trowbridge, but my Mother came from Nunney, near Frome.  If that had anything to do with it, nothing was ever said.

The shop in Church Street had two windows, with the door in the middle.  When you entered the shop the counter was on the right hand side and next to it was a staircase leading upstairs.  The floor was flagged and half way back two stone steps lead down to another flagged area which was the workshop.  The cycle tools, workbenches and so on had been left behind by the previous occupant, also in the cycle trade.  My dad heated the workshop with a paraffin stove, but it was always very cold.

He used the first floor of the upstairs to store cycles and there was an attic floor above that, also used as a store room.  It had a window of small panes of horn and scratched on one of the panes, in old fashioned writing, was some declaration of love.  I don't remember the exact words.  The window looked out onto Church Street.  There were no windows at the back of the building, nor was there a back door leading to the outside.

Looking straight across the street from the door of the shop, you saw the archway which is still there.  This lead into Coke's Yard, now a housing development, but then it was just a way round the back.  There were two gates with billboards for the cinemas, the Regal and below it. the Gaumont later the Odeon.  I think the Odeon closed in about 1963 to become a supermarket.

Coke's shop, selling haberdashery, was next to the archway on the left.  I think he lived over the shop. Ken and Frank Gale had a menswear shop next to Coke.  They had a shop in Warminster too, which Frank mostly ran.  Later, possibly early sixties, the Church St. business moved to the premises in Silver Street, which had once been occupied by Wootten the grocer.  So, Ken Gale owned the garage used as the third premises by Thompsons Cycles.  At the time the grocery shop was called Fullers.

For a few years some petrol pumps occupied the space left by the demolition of 51 Church Sreet.

I always had the impression that the Church Street shop was successful.  My dad was agent for Raleigh and Triumph cycles.  There was a good light weight trade aand he employed at first one, then two cycle mechanics.  The business didn't do quite so well on Silver Street.  For one thing, according to my dad, the rent was a whole lot more.

The shop on Silver Street was quite big with a workshop at the back.  From the side of the workshop was a door into a passage which opened into Church Street by a door looking like a house front door.  A few cycles were stored in this passage.  There was an upstairs but it wasn't part of the shop.  At this time Fear Hills still had the big department store in Silver Street, selling ladies fashions and hardware.  It was bigger inside than it is now.  Pitman house was occupied by Wilkins & Darkins, another men’s outfitters.

In 1965, when Noel Knee wanted the second shop, Ken Gale offered to rent my dad his garage, down the alley.  The garage doors were replaced by a window and this became the last shop.  I think my dad had lost interest by this time and trade started to decline. In 1967.  I went to work in Bath and in 1968 my dad retired.  The shop was taken over by a wholesaler / retailer from Basingstoke, Norman Biddecombe, with whom my dad had had dealings.

Roger Newman adds information to David Thompson's story:

The first of Norman Thompson's shops was the left hand part of 51 Church Street (the right hand was the office for The Central Garage) and the adjacent main double fronted shop at 52 Church Street where in 1947 Norman Thompson took over the cycle shop of Mr Court.  The site is the rear part of what now is Sportshoe.  The petrol pumps referred to were those of the Central Garage in Fore Street and were probably situated in the gap between 50 and 51 Church known as Read's Yard rather than on the site of 5l Church Street demolished in 1960.  The last performance of the Odeon in Fore Street was 20th March 1971 it having changed its name from the Gaumont in November 1962 and it became, after rebuilding, the Richway supermarket which opened 6th December 1972.  The Gales shop opposite at 3 Church Street, to the left of the arch, and The Coke’s shop at 4 Church Street were combined in 1998 to form what is now the Charcoal Grill. Gales moved to 12 Silver Street, opening about 14th December 1962, now Philip Robinson.

Mr Thompson moved to 14 Silver Street opening 29th January 1960 in what for eleven years had been the children's clothing shop of Mr Bowler.  Knees wished to develop their Knees Discount Comer and so Mr Thompson had to leave in 1965 allowing Knees to open 25th September 1965 where they remained until 30th April 1970 after which the building was demolished to allow the construction of the Halifax Building Society which is now Sportshoe.

The third premises were much smaller and were 12B Silver Street which had been a store room for Gales, previously the delivery van garage for Wootten the grocer, and here Mr Thompson continued his cycle business from 1965 until about 1967 when he handed it over to Mr Biddlecombe.  It is now The Lunch Box cafe.

Local Policing (Trowbridge)

Changes are being made to how policing services are delivered in Wiltshire. This project has been given the name of Optimus. The four key areas of action highlighted by Optimus where changes will be made are:

What are the envisaged benefits? The Optimus Project will bring enormous benefits to the people of Wiltshire including:

Optimus will be introduced in a phased programme and it is anticipated it will be in place by summer 2007.
Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPTs) in the Trowbridge Community Area: The plan is to roll-out 7 NPT’s covering the Trowbridge Community Area by April 2007.

By April 2008 the Teams will be staffed by 12 police officers and 14 Police Community Support Officers. Members of the Special Constabulary will also feature. The Teams will work in partnership with the local communities to identify and find lasting solutions to problems.

If you have any question about policing in the Trowbridge Community Area please contact Inspector David Cullop on Tel. 0845 408 700 Ext. 725813

The Douglas Male Story

Until I was 14 I lived in Melksham, on the Bath Road out of town. Our house was surrounded by fields and we had a very large garden.  When our farmer landlord decided to sell the house it was put up for auction in Trowbridge, the price went well past what my father could afford.

However there was a property in Thomas Street that we could afford and were successful in buying.

The first time I visited our new house I could not believe my eyes.  As many of you will probably remember Thomas Street was a narrow little street, our house was at the bottom on the right hand side, there was a tiny triangle of garden on the side of the property and at the rear a very small back yard with just room for a short washing line and a bicycle shed.  The one benefit though was that due to it being a weavers house there was a 3rd floor covering the entire house, plenty of room for a large model railway layout.  The street lamp just outside our front door was powered by gas.  I can remember Mr Bill Beak cycling round with his ladder over his shoulder to adjust the flame and the timer.

At the top of the street was a grocery store run by Mr Ritchens who was always accompanied by her large dog pogo.  As I still had one year’s education to complete I went to Nelson Hadens Boys School.  This seemed very strange after being in co-education since starting school.  For a long time I wanted to be a motor mechanic when I left school.  I was offered the chance to be an apprentice at Lesters in Duke Street, who were Austin dealers, however just before I left I was told that the mechanic whose place I was going to take decided not to leave. I was then successful in getting a place at E.Dennis, the Ford dealers in Castle Street.

I decided that on the first morning I would cycle to work which was lucky as on arrival I was told that I would be working at Rutland Garage in Bradley Road which I did not realise at the time belonged to E. Dennis.

Although they were Ford dealers I can remember that the first car I worked on was a Standard 8.  Apart from the Castle Street and Bradley Road premises, there was also a large tractor repair workshop housed in a corrugated iron building in Hilperton Road almost opposite Victoria Road.  Eventually this closed and they moved to expanding site in Bradley Road.  The building however was taken to pieces and removed to Broughton Road in Melksham to be used as a vehicle repair workshop by the transport firm Spiers of Melksham.

The only occasion I worked at Castle Street was some evenings serving petrol from pumps which swung out over the pavement, something certainly not allowed today.

The story continues next edition.....