These recollections of Twerton as it used to be, come from a recorded conversation with three elderly gents, Dennis, George and Les, in The Old Crown Pub one morning. This is how they answered the questions that I asked, in their own words.
What was life in Twerton like as a child?
It was different in many ways. The Parochial School, that’s where we went as boys. That got blitzed in the war and destroyed. It was the church school. Mr Carr, he donated it – he was the main bloke behind the school. It was a very strict school – old Cadwallader was the headmaster. They had an attendance officer when we was kids, he’d make sure you went to school, that was his job. He would get in touch with the school and if you were missing, he would come round your house. Lyons his name was.
When you went there in the morning you had to line up in the yard, and they used to inspect you and make sure you had a handkerchief. You had to have a handkerchief – that was the way you had to be in those days. It was much more strict than it is today. When you went in for assembly, old Cadwallader used to play the piano and across the top there, he used to have a big cane. His favourite trick was to pick you up by the ear and that hurts, believe you me. You used to get the cane for all sorts back then.
Twerton Parochial School which stood opposite Twerton Station
There was Empire Day when the kids used to wave the flags. Bearing in mind in those days, if you looked at an atlas, three quarters of it was in red because it belonged to us.
What was the village like in the old days?
You used to have the village bobby in those days, and after the war, you had a certain PC Ledger down here. He was a strict copper – he came straight out of the service in 1946, and he hadn’t been in Twerton about three months and he knew everybody in Twerton.
He was one of those coppers, it didn’t matter where you went, he seemed to be on every corner. Here’s the difference between then and now: he was along there at Mill Lane (they used to have police boxes in they days) a stolen car came round the corner and he put his baton straight through the windscreen. Twerton had its own police station in they days, along the bottom of Burnham Road.
That was the first co-op in Bath, this one, the Twerton Co-op. That’s where we all did our shopping years ago. Twerton had a flood of shops in they days. We had Dillon the butchers along the Lower Bristol Road but Davis was the butcher here. There was a newsagents right under the archway by the station – Grey used to own that.
Initials of the old Twerton Cooperative Society
Poverty in the pre-war years
Paraffin was one of the things you needed. Paraffin was used to heat the house because coal was very dear and hard to come by. I mean prior to the war most people were fairly desolate. The one thing about it was we were all in the same boat – nobody had any money because there wasn’t no work. In those days if you didn’t work you didn’t get anything. To get any help you had to go before a board to do the means test, to prove you couldn’t work.
When we was kids we used to get our boots out of the Police Fund. They’d allocate you a shop where you had to go, give you a voucher and you had to get your shoes in there. Things were very bad financially for everybody but the one thing about the war is it made work.
I lived at “Cabbage Square” – Clyde Buildings. There was a square out the back. You couldn’t grow a cabbage because it was like a desert out there. That was real old houses, how they really was, with an old range in there and slabs on the floors. A toilet down the bottom – there were three toilets for the whole square. The range was for cooking and gave heat as well.
You made the house the best that you could. When someone was in trouble you helped them out, that’s the way it was. For example, if a woman was expecting a child, somebody had to go and get the nurse. You didn’t have to lock your door when you went out because no-one had nothing worth pinching.
The Second World War
But on that corner now, where they’re going to build on the corner of Shophouse Road, there used to be another paper shop there – Lawrence. That was bombed in 1939, right at the start of the war – a stray one. The bomb dropped along there killed old Billy Rogers who’d just come out the fish shop. He got killed straight out, it hit the houses down, and Ray Hancock was halfway up Shophouse Road and got the shrapnel all up his back.
One pub got blitzed along where the copy-makers is on the Lower Bristol Road. The Railway Hotel it was called. The bombings were very frightening; it’s hard to explain to people what it’s like. We got bombed out twice in one day: our house at Innox Road got bombed and then we got up to a relation’s at Holloway and that got blitzed. My dad went away to fight in the army and he lost his eye in the war. They were hard times.
Everything you had was on rations. The only two things that wasn’t on rations was potatoes and bread. Everything else was on rations – sweets, clothing, everything. The main things you couldn’t buy during the war was oranges and bananas. You never saw them.
A wartime shopkeeper allocates a family’s tea, sugar, cooking fats and bacon for one week
Carr’s Mill and the Pennyquick Colliery
I didn’t work in the mill but as we were kids, we used to see ’em in there doing the cloth machines down here in Carr’s. Years ago there was another shop called Barter’s and that was a kind of haberdasher place – they sold everything. If you wanted a suit, he’d measure you up and he’d go down the mill to get it. It was a dangerous place because old Cyril Penning got killed in there. He was an evacuee. He got caught up on the wheel and he just went round and round hitting his head on the ceiling.
The coal mine was shut in our time but it was still there. The timey’s office [where the men clocked in] and all that was still there. If you go through the gate where the playing field at Newton Road is now, right along where the avenue of trees is, that’s where the timey’s office used to be. And that was where the heap was, where the coal had been dug out. We used to slide down it when we were young.
How did Twerton change?
When the supermarkets came in the 1960s the other shops began to close. The supermarket came to Twerton in the 1970s. It used to be a Gateway.
Twerton had always been a village. When we was kids we used to play football in this street out here with no fear of being knocked down, because the only thing that might knock you down was a cow being taken to market. There were only about five people in Twerton in they days that had a car.
The buildings used to go up as far as the church and that was it. It was all fields and trees right the way up to Whiteway; and Whiteway didn’t get built until about 1938 or 1939. They were building it when the war came. Yet the village had more shops then than it has now.
Day Crescent was built in 1949 where there had only been fields before