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Pete Martin's memories of Whipton in the 1950s

The first memories I have of life in Summer Close, Whipton, in the early 1950’s is of a very small world peopled with kindly folk who were always willing to spare a smile and a few kind words for a little lad in short trousers.

There are so many memories, little things, that I could go on for hours and probably send most readers to sleep! However, one of my earliest and most vivid memories was our having television installed in 1954. Quite what prompted my parents, who were not at all wealthy people, to be one of the very first to have TV put in I never knew but I do recall our my mother insisting on having 3 different sets to trial, a Pye a Cossor and an HMV, all in polished wooden cabinets and all getting hot enough to cook on after ten minutes or so. The HMV won and it was an allegiance my parents kept for many years afterwards. I do recall the signal (only a single channel - the BBC – back then) being very erratic because, as I learned much later, it was coming from Wenvoe in south Wales.

The TV was responsible for my fixation with both the Lone Ranger and the Cisco Kid, the latter being guilty of sending me out on my tricycle and tipping off the kerb into the road and getting rather bloodied.

Some of the characters in Summer Close were Arthur Richards and his wife Alice. Arthur worked at Ottons in Fore Street for many years, possibly all his life. He was certainly still there at his retirement. Our neighbours were a Miss Tyrell, who I recall being elderly and a bit crotchety, and Mrs. Glanville, who was a supervisor in the High Street Woolworths. Mr. and Mrs. Camble lived opposite with their son Roger and daughter Angela. At the junction of Summer Close was Miss Copplestone (another Alice if I recall correctly) who ran the “Summer Lane School” from her large bungalow, a private school for a very select few children.

Just opposite the Close were the shops in Summer Lane. Latterly the shop that is now a Chinese Take Away was a grocers shop run by a Mr. and Mrs. Ball but I cannot clearly recall if it was such in the early fifties. Next door was “Netherways” butchers shop and further towards Whipton Village Road was the pharmacy which, incredibly, remains a pharmacy even now. Most notable of all was the tiny grocers shop on the corner of Whipton Village Road run by Mr. Jacobs. This shop stood right on the junction where the pub car park now sits. Down the side of Woolsery Avenue, across under Summer Lane and under the Summer Close junction ran the “leat”. This was the stream running from the top of Stoke Hill and, in those days was open and visible rather than culverted as it is now. As a youngster it always fascinated me, especially when it “raged” after heavy rain.

I have a strong memory of my mother walking me up Summer Lane and under the railway bridge to be greeted by not, as now, a quite wide road with brand new schools on the left, but by a narrow country lane with high hedgebanks and tall “telegraph” poles that whistled in the winter winds. In summer the fields to the left, as they were then, were a mass of red poppies. Quite beautiful.

Sometimes my mother ventured with me to the Whipton Post Office in the Village Road, run by Sammy Payne who was a bit of a local personality as I recall. Also in that road were the old green painted corrugated iron “Whipton Institute” where I remember being taken to Sunday School rather against my will (I was of the opinion that 5 days a week for school was quite sufficient). Next door was BICC or “British Insulated Callendars Cables”, a distribution warehouse where my Godmother worked in the office. I learned later that both she and my mother had worked there together and become friends before I came on the scene. Also on that side of the road was the “Home and Colonial Stores” which later became a barber’s shop. Between that and Sammy Payne’s post office was an entrance to Mr. Cowley’s builders yard.

One of the visiting characters in Whipton of the 1950’s was Mr. Bolt who used to drive around in his car with his open cart pulled behind it laden with all manner of vegetables from his small holding which, I believe, was somewhere at Broadclyst.

I rarely ventured far from Whipton, other than going into town on the bus with my mother, but do recall on one particular occasion walking along country lanes high above Whipton with my father. He was pushing his pedal cycle with a metal bucket over the handlebars and collecting horse manure off the lane for fertilising the garden. How sustainable was that?!! I am pretty sure now that where we were walking was probably Harrington Lane and Beacon Heath/Beacon Lane!!

I well remember my first day at Hill Lane School (Whipton Barton as it is now known) in 1955. The day before I was to start I fell over outside my home and had a badly grazed face. On the big day my mother gave me a buttered sticky bun for my break which I rather embarrassingly managed to get part of stuck to the roof of my mouth. I recall enjoying games such as “what’s the time Mr. Wolf” and dancing around the May pole but being terrified of climbing the climbing frame. For some unaccountable and quite illogical reason I was also terrified of the Headmistress, Miss Cossey.

Another walk I recall doing with my mother was, as I now realise, up to Hill Barton Road, probably around where Leypark Road or Whipton Barton Road are now, and looking down on Whipton. I vividly recall piles of big pipes and muddy roads so I guess it was around the time that the council estate was being constructed between Whipton and Hill Barton.

Though these times were only a little over fifty years ago, they seem like a totally different era, even another world to me now that I am approaching sixty years of age. Having said that, I wonder whether youngsters growing up in the Whipton of today generally feel as happy and content life as I did way back then. Somehow, I doubt it. Life was much more simple then but also much more sweet.

© 2008 Pete Martin

Pete Martin lived in Whipton and Heavitree as a child, during the 1950s.

Whipton Village Whipton Village before the Second War. Whipton Hill Lane Whipton Hill Lane.

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