Waterbeer Street was a very busy street, very busy. I can remember the time my elder brother ran out of the court without stopping to think, and ran right under a railway waggon; his leg went right under the wheel - dislocated his leg, naturally. That's the sort of thing you had in those days.
Coming down from North Street was the British Workman; that was a restaurant. Well, you could get anything. My mother and father and several of the neighbours used to send me down there for three penny worth of gravy and meat. Take a basin, a fair size basin and Mr. Badcock in there, nice character he was, would carve it up.
"What's it for, your mother?
"No, it's for Mrs. Baker, further up the road."
He'd carve off 10, 15 slices of meat and put the gravy in with it. And he'd say,
"Hurry up home."
If it was for yourself he'd give you more; if he gave Mrs. Baker 15 slices and I told him it was for my mum and dad he'd give me perhaps 20. But if you told 'e a lie, 'e wouldn't give you no more next time. You could eat there; it was no ravishing restaurant, you know. It was clean, clean as a new pin.
The business premises in that street were enormous at that time. A wonderful trade in there. Starting from Goldsmith Street there was the New Market Inn. The landlord at that time was Macfarline. He had a nice daughter there; I was always very sweet on her. That was a good beer shop.
Next door to that was a real old fashioned dairy - a beautiful dairy. Well, I used to go up there early mornings. My mother used to call me at 6o'clock:
"Run up the dairy, Fred. Three pennyworth of skimmed cream."
That same basin I used to get the meat in, practically three parts full with skimmed cream. It was a real treat that was. You could get scald milk and new milk. Scald milk was without the cream which a lot of families bought as they couldn't afford the cream; and they couldn't afford the scald, a lot of them.
Next door to that was the police station. I've seen some characters carried in there. I could name several: there's Daddy Ousley and the one that did all the salmon poaching; I've seen six policemen hold 'e down and then let him get away with it. They used to tie him in a sort of bath chair; they'd tie him in and pull him backwards. Couldn't see where he was going. If he knew he was going to the police station that was it. I've seen some charges going up that police station. And I've also heard boys and men scream through having the birch at the back of the place. I can remember seeing a policeman with a handful of salt which he had just rubbed into a boy's backside.
There was another character used to come along there; they used to call him Bug Whiskers. His other name I never knew. I've seen 'e pick up an ordinary household cat in the street and sling 'n up in the air. And he'd stand there and wait for it, and catch it. I've seen 'e do that three or four times. He didn't like cats, but he didn't want to injure them.
On the other. side of that corner was Hearn's, the leather people. Those people there struck thousands and thousands of sheets of leather. I used to have a new pair of boots once every 10 years. Father knocked the day lights out of them, tapping them, reshoeing them. Sent us up to Hearn's:
"Your boots war` doing, boy. Right, there's 6d; go and get six pennyworth of leather."
Six pennyworth of leather was enough to do my boots and perhaps one of me brother's hoots. They were wonderful men in there.
Coming down from there was Lendon's, the cheese factory. My name, but no relation to me. Well, I can remember when I was a boy catching flies by the thousand; thousands of them on his big, red, double doors. You could never get him to give you anything in there. But the cheese in there was beautiful stuff. It doesn't do harm to say it wasn't the cleanest of places but cheeses then seemed to come in a big, thicker wrapped-up skin.
Next door to that was Algar's, the Ironmongers. That firm in there was the biggest firm; they had a huge place there. Surprising the iron they got rid of there. Then from there was Garton and King's place. They used to keep the oil in there which was right opposite the court where I lived - Snell's Buildings - ten houses in there, five each side, three storeys high. You had to go in under a little archway, wasn't no wider than a chimney breast, and I could touch it with both hands. You used to go in there and that's where we used to live. When you got in there surprising the amount of room you got. All the boys and girls who lived there were all mates and pals. We were friends for life as you might say. When you came out of there you had to be very careful. As I said just now my brother run under a waggon. Garton and King's stretched from that particular point right down to the British Workman - rather a big place that.
On the other side of the road we had Munk's of Waterbeer Street which has just finished. Then of course we had the Guildhall where we used to see the prisoners unloading and loading, when they came to the courts. We used to watch 'em. They didn't used to bring 'em in taxis; they'd bring 'em in horse and cabs, covered.
From there you had the Turk's Head, another good paying pub. Then Brookings; you'd take something in and redeem it. Then we come to Pulsford's, which used to be the draper's place. At the back of Pulsford's was the servant training centre. Quite a number of girls trained there for service.
Beyond that used to be Mr Wellington; he used to be a fruit merchant, and I used to go to Haldon with 'e, Haldon Races. I can picture his cart now, horse and cart, one side loaded up with oranges and the other side loaded up with apples. I used to sit up there and go up Haldon to look after the horse while he done all the selling of the fruit. When he sold it he used to get blind drunk; so drunk I had to drive him back; that's what he used to take me for. When en he come home his wife used to go wild - murder it was. She used to go at me then,
"You shouldn't go. If you hadn't gone, he'd come right home".
Course I wanted none of that.
The other side of our court was a Mr. Baker, furniture removals. I referred to them just now, sending me down to the British Workman. Then there was Rowe Brothers which stretched from that side of Waterbeer Street to the High Street which is rather a huge place. Actually it's Woolworth's now. I've seen a chap in there unloading glass, great panes of glass as big as a wall. I seen one collapse, the top half fall down, almost cut his arm off. It was a very rare occasion; there was something wrong that particular day.
Then there was a wonderful place there called Edwards hat shop. And you could buy any class of hat in there that you really wanted: straw, toppers, blue, black, any colour you wanted. I've been in there and I've seen as many as three thousand hats in there. That was a wonderful place.
© 2007 Jenny Lloyd
memory is taken from the contributon by Mr Fred Lendon to the People Talking project that was created
by Jenny Lloyd in 1976.
The full transcript, and other People Talking memories, is available from the West Country Studies Library or the Devon and Exeter Institution.
The Police Station in Waterbeer Street dates from 1888. Still from Henry Holladay film.
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