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Exeter Stories

Exeter folk and friends in their own words - 1890's to the 1990's │ << Previous story │ Next story >>  │

Mrs F J Southcott - A lovely street


The corset factory

When I first went to Bartholomew Street to live after the second war, on Easter Day the choir went up on top of the tower of Allhallows Church and sang Easter hymns and they used to be up there about seven o'clock in the morning. Actually it was very sad: all these buildings are consecrated, aren't they, well this church was turned into a corset factory. That annoyed me very much - you could see the corsets in the windows. Then later on they demolished it. Then the parish was taken in with St. Olave's, Father Foyster, and a nice old chap he was too - very, very kind to me when my husband was ill.

The well

We lived at number 32 Bartholomew Street. My husband was born there at number 32 and after the war when we moved from where we were, I wanted him to buy a house out of Bartholomew Street but he always told me that he was born there and would die there and of course you see, he did. And when Mr. Wheaton wanted to extend his factory he asked my husband if he would go to number 36, so we moved to live there. While they were building the factory, I think it was E.B.C. and Sleaman, Mr. Madge, the foreman, came along to fetch me to show me this well that they found in the yard. And the dome, the lid, was absolutely beautiful, made of stone, all coloured. When I went back to my husband, I said, "If they crack that one up, I'd like to crack them, really it's beautiful". And the fire brigade was there to pump the well out and all the water was pouring down Bartholomew Street but they couldn't empty a spring, could they? What they did with it, I don't know, but it got covered over. The amazing part was that Wheaton's only used the downstairs of the building as a store; the girls used to work upstairs. We always thought that they found damp there.

I used to go into Fore Street to do my shopping. We used to say "I'm going up around the top". Up around the top meant the top of Bartholomew Street, instead of going through the Mint to the city.

When my husband was quite young, about 17 or 18, he used to drive a brewer's dray for St. Anne's Well Brewery, down under the Iron Bridge. And his particular horse was called Acty. When they came up Bartholomew Street, Acty wouldn't pass my husband's door until his mother had come out and given him a bit of sugar. And that was the horse that used to dance at the Horse Parade; as soon as the band started, he started.

There was St. Olave's House for fallen girls in Bartholomew Street - it was the home where the girls used to go to have their babies. You'd see them looking out of the window and they were a right cheery lot. St. Olave's was 32, Bartholomew Street East and ours was 32 Bartholomew Street West and of times I'd have to take letters addressed to people up there. And this old dutch used to answer the door, a typical matron, starch and cap and face like a wet week. I used to take the letters up at once but I. was always very sorry to say that I couldn't say that for the matron up there. She used to keep them for two or three days, so I got to grips with her one day and told her, and said that I thought it was very bad form not to bring my letters down at once: "I bring yours to you and I expect you to do the same".

Buying votes

Once, when I was living in Bartholomew Street and there was an election coming up, there was an old lady that I used to carry her Sunday lunch to - she used to live in one of the little cottages. When I went up one Sunday just before the election, she said, "Ooh, this lady come 'here and she gived me ten shillings".

So I said, "Did she?"

"Yes and she said if I go and vote for them she'll come and give me some blankets."

I said to her, "Is that it? Well, look, be very, very careful who you're voting for because you know, don't you, they may give you the ten shillings, they may give you the blankets - I doubt whether you'll see the blankets, still, she said so - but you will find that after they get into power things will gradually go back. You won't even get what you're getting now", and I think that was about ten bob a week.

So she said, "I think you must vote for the workers".

I said, "That's right and that's what's cooked your dinner today".

© 2007 Jenny Lloyd

This memory of Bartholomew Street after the Second World War is taken from the contributon by Mrs F J Southcott to the People Talking project that was compiled by Jenny Lloyd in 1976. The full transcript, and other People Talking memories are available at the West Country Studies Library or the Devon and Exeter Institution.

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