The memories of Twerton on this page are the oldest to appear on the website so far, as they belong to 94 year-old Alfie who was born in 1913. The following account has been put together from a tape-recorded interview with Alfie and some notes that he had written.
Alfie acquiring computer skills at Twerton Learning Centre
The old industries and shops
In the old days, if you started walking from the Midland Bridge out towards Twerton, you would pass the Territorial Army Drill Hall at the bottom of Brougham Hayes. Then you had Stothert and Pitt engineering works on the right. If you turned up any of the roads on the left, you then considered yourself in Oldfield Park because they all led there one way or another. Then if you walked along a bit further, on towards the Windsor Bridge, there was Pitman Press which was quite a big place, and you had the gasometers on the right-hand side.
A steam train passing the gasometers near the Windsor Bridge
And then if you came along a little bit further, you’d be at the bottom of Burnham Road and the old Twerton police station was there. PC Ledger at the station was a right strict one, he had no messing about. You want a few like him today. There used to be a Sergeant Purnell there too. At night he would go through his pockets to find any copper coins and put them on top of his wardrobe. Then when he was out on his rounds he’d give them to any poor people that he met.
Past that police station you had Fielding’s Road, which takes you down to the Ha’penny Bridge where you used to pay a ha’penny to go over. Tommy Rodd and his parents lived in a cottage at the bridge and collected the money. Nearby was Carrie Wait’s general store and across the road, the post office at the bottom of Lansdown View. Coleman used to run that.
After the post office you had the Golden Fleece and the Seven Stars. Then if you went on to Old Ferry Road, Mr Batten’s grocer shop was on the corner and there was Bath Flight Works which made aeroplane propellers. There was the Railway Hotel kept by Mr R. E. Genge, a very upright military man, and the Twerton Parochial School with Cadwallender as Headmaster. “Grandad Andrews” ran a malthouse at River Place and another one further down the road.
If you turned up into Lansdown View, you had Albany Road which would take you past Chivers’ soap factory to a place we called The Gravel. At The Gravel there was a row of two-up, two-down houses called Prospect Buildings where I lived.
The Twerton Co-operative was at the bottom of the High Street and opposite was Bill Rogers’ coal yard. He used to take the coal out by horse and cart, two and thruppence a bag. By the bottom of Shophouse Road was a fish and chip shop called Tobin’s. Then there was Mrs Brooks’ vegetable shop opposite Zion Methodist Church.
Old view of Twerton High Street with the Co-operative on the right
If you turned right into Mill Lane, there was a clothes shop called Barter’s and another Mrs Brooks’. They were very strict about Sunday trading back then, but you could knock on her door on a Sunday, and if she knew you she’d sell you a ha’porth of sweets. I saw someone else saying that in your records as well. I think my family had an electrical shop at Mill Lane for a few years. On the corner was Bob Quintin’s paper shop.
In my particular house you’d walk in – all flagstone flooring – the first room was the lounge, and there was a second room where you did your cooking and washed your clothes in a big galvanised bath in a cupboard. Then if you walked out that door you had the backyard. Now you had three houses sharing each of them backyards, and in the backyard you had a toilet with a wooden seat that was shared between the three families. We had a cold water tap each I think. There were allotments up the top end of Prospect Buildings and you could walk through those allotments and come out at the bottom of Shophouse Road.
I was born with asthma and on a cold wet morning, my mother wouldn’t even let me look out the door, never mind letting me go outside. I lived at 17 Prospect Buildings and my mother used to say that they could all hear me breathing when I had a bad asthma attack. The building at the bottom of Burnham Road was a gospel hall, where Dr Wilson Smith ran the Medical Mission. They used to give me some horrible-tasting, grey coloured medicine that you could almost spread on bread like jam. I took that and I gradually got rid of the asthma.
This building was a gospel hall, where the Medical Mission was based
The mills on the river had turbines powered by water. The river near the bottom of Mill Lane was shallow because they held the water back to go through the turbines. We used to go there to paddle because the water was low. It was still very dangerous. One time, one of the boys said to me, “Look out, your old lady is coming.” There was my mother in her pinafore with a sugar cane in her hand. She said, “I’ll teach you my lad to do what I tell you. Get on home.” And every step I went, I either got a boot up the backside or a wallop with the stick. I never paddled there again.
All the boys had their hair cropped short all over, with a tuft of hair left sticking up at the front. We were expected to go to Sunday School. Watch out if you didn’t go – the teacher would be around to tell your mother, “He wasn’t at Sunday School, why?” Mother was in almost complete control on Sundays until you went out to work.
Next to the Twerton Co-operative there was a three cornered piece of wasteland, railed off, that belonged to the Co-op. We used to find some scrap material, make it into a parcel, wrap it up nice and tidy, and put a long string on it. Then we climbed over the railings and threw the parcel out into the road. When someone bent down to pick it up, we’d pull it away with the string!
Most Wednesdays I would be sent to get two breasts of lamb from Dillon’s the butchers on the Lower Bristol Road. The shop used to have sawdust on the floor, and the butcher’s block was in the front of the shop instead of out the back like it is today. One day they asked me if I wanted a job delivering meat for them and I agreed. All the deliveries were done by bicycle with a carrier on the front. I got paid two shillings for delivering meat on Saturday mornings from about half past seven to twelve o’clock.
They were E. Dillon and Son when I worked for them and the son was Fred – he died quite young. The full-time delivery man they had was Reg Williams, a massive bloke. Then a few weeks later, I got stopped by the Council who threatened to take my mother to court if they caught me working under the age of 12 again.
E. Dillon and Son butchers
I never had any new clothes at all before I went out to work. All my clothes were handed down from my older brothers. I had a brother who worked over W. R. Cook’s factory on the Lower Bristol Road, right opposite the start of Carrs Wood. They used to make quite high class suits. He had to go to work tidy, so when he bought a new suit I used to take on the old one.
My father used to work for the Council painting lamppost standards. In those days you would set up a contract and if you went over the finishing time, the Council would penalise you. My father was a great pigeon fancier. Where the allotments were, my father had his pigeon house. He used to stand there with a big piece of baton with a flag on, waving it to stop the birds from pitching on the trap. We all had to take a turn at that.
Other recollections of Twerton
I can just about remember the tram cars. They were a bit like an open top bus. When they changed points they would suddenly shift across. They used to charge a penny to go into town. My mum would give me a penny and you could please yourself: you could either walk into town and get the bus back, or take the bus in and walk back, but you didn’t get a ride both ways.
A tram on the Lower Bristol Road in 1908
Some people down Twerton used to take in washing to help make ends meet. And some ladies went into service – working as a maid or whatever for a family. They would wear a little hat with a little frill on it, like the old fashioned waitresses. If you went into service, that was it, you left your home and slept in the house of the family you served.
Nobody ever had to lock the door to their house in Twerton. They had a job to find the key when they moved out. All the houses up Prospect Buildings belonged to the Bence family and were rented for five shillings a week. The Bences had a bit of ground and a few cows as well.
There used to be a village fete with entertainments like a coconut shy and a skittle alley. Nothing at the fete cost a lot because people had hardly any money. Skittles was a big thing in those days; it was nearly all they had, look. I mean even professional football was nothing like it is now. The pubs had skittle teams but if there was no team using the skittle alley, they had no objection to you going and having a “throw up” as they used to call it.
The Village Fete was held in the grounds of Wood House
The Crooks used to bring milk to your door at two o’clock every afternoon. You knew the time by them. They had a dairy on the Lower Bristol Road halfway between the turning to the High Street and Mill Lane. Beatty Crook, I can see her now doing the milk, with a wooden yoke around her neck and great big cans of milk chained to each end. She used to hold ’em from rocking with her hands as she walked along. Then she’d set it down and get the scoop out.
When I was twelve, I went back to work for Mr Dillon until I was fourteen – this was the school leaving age. I remember delivering meat to the Carr Family. They were a very nice family and very well respected by Twerton people. There was nothing stuck up about them. I don’t know their first names because to me they would have been “Sir” or “Miss”.
I didn’t go back to Mr Dillon’s to work after leaving school, for the simple reason that he only wanted me to work part-time. So I went to work for E. Jefferies and Son of East Twerton and Lower Weston, and learned the trade for the same pay as I was offered at Dillon’s. I did quite well and ended up with a Diploma of Butchering that consisted of a Certificate for the Science of Meat, which I trained for at the Bath Technical College.
Family photograph of Alfie with his father and brothers
Top row: Arthur, Alfie and William; bottom row: Percy, their dad and George
1) The photographs of the steam train and the tram were kindly supplied by Mr Peter Little.
2) The other old photos of Twerton are from the Cynthia Turner and Michael Messer Collection in the Guildhall Record Office. They are reproduced on this website with kind permission from Mr Messer.