Memories of old Twerton 2

Below are Chris Stillman’s memories of Twerton which cover the 1950s to 1960s period. These recollections follow on from the article Memories of old Twerton, giving some interesting insights into how Twerton changed in the decades after the war.

Chris Stillman’s memories

We moved to Cameley Green in 1953 when I was only two years old. My earliest memories of Twerton are of my dad having an allotment at the back of the Vicarage in Twerton, and collecting manure from Church Farm. I remember sitting on the water trough with my legs dangling, and falling backwards into the water. I just about remember cattle coming up through the High Street and also buying sweets in Mrs Brooks’ shop in Mill Lane. You could knock on her door on a Sunday afternoon, before Sunday trading came in, and if she knew you she would sell you something like a bag of sugar under the counter.
I went to the Infant School which was based in a section of what is today St Michael’s Junior School at Newton Road. The wooden building now called The Hut was one of my classrooms. I’ve got very happy memories of the playing field at the back and doing obstacle races on school sports days. We had a system – it was a bit silly really – where instead of having stars in your exercise book for good work, the teacher used to put runner bean seeds in. One day she gave me the books to hand out and I tipped them up, and the beans shot all over the place.
There was a school by Twerton Village Hall and they closed that down and transferred the children up to us. What I remember from them is how poor they were. Although they were only down the road they stood out in patched up clothes. I think their families were really struggling financially.

Chris Stillman standing in front of the building that was once his classroom

I used to go Sunday School in the Church Rooms next to The Full Moon, on a Sunday afternoon. It didn’t matter what the teacher was telling us, if a steam train went by, someone would shout “train!” and we’d all shoot over to the window to see it. Stupidly, when we were a bit older, we used to put pennies on the track. Where there’s an electricity station opposite The Full Moon, there were some chimneys from old cottages beside the railway track. We climbed up inside them and put a penny on the track to get it flattened out by the train.
Getting dressed in the morning was cold in the winter. You’d have to get dressed in bed because you didn’t have central heating. Our mum would very often put a little tin bath in front of the fire to keep us warm when she bathed us. You had hot water but you couldn’t afford to put the heater on very often because that was expensive. In the winter it was better because the coal fire would heat the water.
Entertainment for the young was in Carrs Wood. You’d walk down through the estate, meet up with your best friend, gradually other people would join and you’d end up with perhaps twenty kids. You’d meet the next lot at Redland Park – a little gang you were friendly with – then you’d go and make dens.
We used to do a lot of fishing and catch crayfish where the Pennyquick Bridge is. There were roach and trout in the brook as well. It was poaching really and we used to get chased by the farmer, but he was normally on the other side of the brook so we had time to make a getaway. Where the playing field is now, is where the coal tip was. Some kids had motorbikes and used to go flying over the top. We used to take push bikes there.
A lot of the fathers tended to work in Stothert’s and the well-off ones on our estate worked in the offices of the Admiralty at Foxhill. They stood out because they were the only ones with cars – the big Austin Somersets. The Admiralty had what were called “Admiralty houses” where their workers lived on the estate. When someone was promoted the family might be moved elsewhere.

An old Austin Somerset car

My nan used to take me shopping at the Twerton Co-op. The people serving weren’t allowed to handle money. You’d give the money to the person behind the counter, she’d stick it in a little pot, pull a lever, and the money would go along an aerial runway to the back of the shop where all the money was handled. Then your change would come back. It would take ages and occasionally there would be a jam.
There was Davis the butcher and Tobin’s the chip shop which is now Twerton Chippy. There was Jock Kerr’s newsagents where the Twerton Learning Centre is now.
I remember getting my hair cut at Ray Rosewarn’s. First he had his shop in the row of houses and shops that used to run from the Ha’penny Bridge towards the City Centre. Then he moved to his house in Argyle Terrace. Ray was a lovely man – one of the ‘proper’ Labour Councillors who genuinely cared for everyone in his ward. I remember him singing hymns while snipping away. Every few minutes the phone would ring; usually it was Council business. As a result, hair cuts took a very long time in Ray’s salon but we were never in a rush in those days. He would finish by spinning me around in his chair until I was almost physically sick. I was really pleased to see Rosewarn Close named after him.
The village policeman was called “Copper Jones”. He seemed to be everywhere. He liked his authority but he was fair. He called on my parents once to tell them he’d caught me cycling over the Ha’penny Bridge by the Golden Fleece. We were quite frightened of him really. Even the harder kids certainly wouldn’t do what some of the kids do today. They might give him a bit of cheek but that was as far as it went.
We had “Cockle Lady” who used to sell cockles from her wicker basket, down by Day Crescent. She used to call out “Coc-kles!” and you’d hear her all over the estate. We used to buy bread tokens at the Co-op and leave them outside our door, and the bread man would collect the token and leave a loaf of bread in the bread bin.
I remember having a paper round for Parfitt’s the newsagents, which was on a triangular bit of land by the railway arch at the bottom of Twerton High Street. It was a little wooden shack with no foundations. Once some kids came along and jacked it up and went out with a load of stock. Ted came in and didn’t even know they’d been in there. Eventually he discovered what had happened.
I remember in my early teens playing inside Wood House before it was demolished. I think I remember going down a tunnel that came out by an arch on the Lower Bristol Road.
A little group used to play Beatles songs in the Village Hall on Saturday nights. There was a bit of jigging around and you’d go there to take an interest in the girls. The Brooke Bond Tea Company used to bring chimpanzees to the hall, all dressed up, to advertise Brooke Bond Tea. We’d pack into there to see these chimpanzees doing tricks and to get free cards for our albums.

The Brooke Bond Chimps used to come to Twerton Village Hall

When I was about fourteen the church at Twerton was very lively and great for youth. We did a lot of bell ringing. Again there was an ulterior motive: the girls were rather nice and they’d entice you to come along. So that was another little gang, the Bell Ringing Gang. We went to dances together and the Saturday night Youth Club was formed out of that. The Youth Club was in the grounds of the Old Vicarage. As you went in through the gates there was an old barn and a side door led to a cellar where the Youth Club was held.
This was the 1960s – it was a great time really. You didn’t stay in and watch telly all that much, there was a lot more chatting on street corners. You just wanted to go out in the evening and talk with your friends. You might take a radio with you and listen to Kenny Everett on Radio Caroline the pirate radio station. You almost felt you were going to be arrested for listening to it.
The pubs were usually divided into separate rooms. There was a posh bit – the lounge, and the bar where people could go in after work in their overalls. My dad would dress up once or twice a week and just have a couple of pints with a friend at The Full Moon. There were more games likes darts, pool, skittles, crib and shove ha’penny in the bar; the lounge was for conversation. In The Full Moon there was an area called The Jug and Bottle where you could take a jug and get it filled up with beer from the barrel and take it home. My dad used to get me to do that sometimes. You’d take a little nip out of it on the way home.
Cleeve Green and Cameley Green were a fantastic design because you could go out and keep an eye on your children. In the summer most mums or dads would sit outside their houses talking, perhaps having a glass of ale with the next door neighbour, watching the kids play. We’d make trolleys out of soap boxes and race them around the green. I’m so glad they’ve kept the greens.
The houses at Redland Park were those little prefab bungalows back then. They had a little dining room and a little lounge, and I think just two bedrooms. They were quite cold in the winter because they were single skinned. They were very cosy little places when the coal fire was going. Then the Council knocked them down and built the new Redland Park.
Everyone was more or less about the same in status, even the Admiralty people. So you weren’t constantly striving to keep up with the neighbours. People were more self-sufficient. Dad had three allotments at one time to keep us going. People used to mend things more. If the heels on our shoes went, dad would buy new heels and put them on himself. I started watching Bath City Football Club in the mid sixties when we’d get a couple of thousand fans down there. That’s been a good part of the community really.