SHOPPING and transport are the focus of two new local history books.
Allan Jennings and Tom Lewin have written ‘Shops of Royal Leamington Spa’, a nostalgic look at trade in the town down the decades, while Peter Coulls has joined Allan to pen ‘The Leamington and Warwick Tramway’, which last ran in 1930.
Allan said: “Many local people get very nostalgic and misty eyed about shops that are long gone such as Toytown, Woolworths, Woodwards, Bailey’s, Francis, George Mason, Fine Fare, Macfisheries, Hampton Dairy, Sabin’s, Frettons, Alf Jones and the like. And that is what the book is all about, a lot of nostalgia, a lot of photographs and a bit of history.”
“Ask most Leamingtonians which supermarket opened in the town first and the usual response is Fine Fare. Well, it was the first supermarket, but it opened as Burton’s Supermarket opening in December 1960. Over 400 people queued for up to three hours along Bath Street to the Bridges for the opening at 10am.”
“At the time that Tom and myself were growing up in Shrubland Street in the 1950s, there were no supermarkets, no superstores or any out of town shopping. The main shops were all in the town.”
Tom recalled the many small shops on street corners – the corner shop.
Tom said” “Mum would send me to Summerton’s in St John’s Road to get a loaf of bread, uncut of course, there was no sliced bread in those days. The bread was baked on the premises and was so fresh that it was hot to handle.”
Victor Sabin, who died aged 83 in 1984, kept a notebook with his jottings on the lifestyle of a pre-supermarket Leamington baker.
He wrote: “Everything was handmade, there was no machinery then, but it kept you fit. Working hours used to be a 4am start and you worked until you finished. There was no set time for ‘knocking off’ – which was usually about 6pm.”
‘The Leamington and Warwick Tramway’ tells the story of the horse drawn and electric trams that travelled between the two towns for 49 years.
Allan said: “The story of the Leamington to Warwick tramway system, both horse drawn and electric is one that very few people, if any, will remember, after all the last tram ran in 1930. Nevertheless, many people still find it fascinating. The horse tram started in 1881 and ran until 16th May 1905. Owing to a curious oversight, the tramline was originally laid through the Eastgate at Warwick, but when the inspection trip was made it was found that the tram cars would not go under the medieval structure. Permission had to be obtained for the provision of a loop line to be laid round the Eastgate which was completed early in 1882.”
“For the two months between the horse trams stopping and the electric trams starting, the service was maintained by a three-horse double-deck bus that travelled along the Old Warwick Road – and we have even managed to find a photo.
“The electric tram system became operational in July 1905 amid great fears that the noise and sparks created would alarm the horses – which was still the main form of transport. During the upgrade to an electric system the opportunity was taken to update and enhance the entire tramway network. Not only that a completely new power station to serve the electric tramway network had to be erected at Emscote.
“There weren’t many accidents but at least two were fatal. The most serious was the death of a two-year-old boy who was struck by a horse drawn tram at dusk on a Sunday in August 1899, and on one occasion in 1916 a driverless tram ran down the slope of High Street and Jury Street at Warwick, increasing in speed until it left the rails on the curve around the Eastgate Arch and demolished a large part of the Castle Arms pub.”
* The authors will be signing copies at the Leamington History Day on Saturday (September 28). It takes place at All Saints Parish Church from 10.30am to 3.30pm and entry is free.
The authors will be also be at South Lodge Jephson Gardens (opposite the Pump Room) on Tuesdays throughout October, between 10am and 11.30am, and at the Plough and Harrow pub in Whitnash on Friday October 11, from 2pm to 4pm.