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Dinah van der Werf (neeAshby) of Mahnesbury in South Africa 2007
Cromwell Road during World War II

Note: In 1888 new streets including Cromwell Road & Queen Street were laid out as "Rock Estate" - named
after the company who did the building - hence the area became known as The Rock.

Many old-timers, and many not so old-timers, will remember when the residential streets of Rushden were more free of traffic than they are now, when most folk went on their bikes to work or walked.

Cromwell Road, well known by now as The Rock, was one such street. Children could play quite safely outside, even after dark and most of the inhabitants were on friendly terms with each other. Many a summer evening would be spent "up the garden fields" on the allotments and the outdoor beer-houses did a nice trade in bottles of guiness or brown ale to consume at home.

This particular street was the birthplace of my late mother Grace, hence a Rock Angel. In adult life she and my father, Eric Ashby (from Wellingborough), lived there in No. 174 where I was born, until after the war. The house is up the top end of the street, facing a side boundary wall of Newton Rd schools. They didn't have much furniture then or carpets. Our front room contained my mother's treadle Singer sewing machine which she used until she died, and opposite the fireplace stood what I think was called an Anderson shelter. About table height with space underneath for a mattress. This space was protected by a flat metal roof supported on 4 metal legs at the corners. I wonder just how much protection it would have offered if a bomb had dropped any closer than the one in Roberts Street. We found a good use for it 'tho. It made a neat little stage when we tap-danced on the top.

Like most of the children in the area, my mother and I and all her brothers and sisters attended Newton Road school each in our turn. In its day it was considered to be the most modem school in Rushden.   I have fond memories of my mother bringing me something hot to eat during winter, passing it over the wall bordering the play-ground for the "Infants" at play-time. Indeed it was this school that saved our row of houses from the blast of a bomb which hit Roberts St. sometime during the war. (No doubt intended for a US airbase in the area at that time).

For many years the street was home to my maternal grandparents, Gran and Grampy Gamble, mother's two brothers, Bill and Johnny, and one of her sisters, Mable Adams and we were lucky enough to all have kindly neighbours. No doubt the common hardship and fear of the war brought people closer together. I remember Beat and Fred Harris with their 2 sons, David and Malcolm, Olive and her son Brian Burgess, Chrissie and Gordon Denton who later went with their daughters Gill and Dawn, to live in NZ., and Aunt Clara, who years later gave me a lovely sunshine yellow glass vase which I still have. I remember Glad and Ernie Clark with their children, Beryl and Brian, and Mable Watts and her daughter Mavis.

The lay-out of Cromwell Road itself was very interesting. On the corner with Newton Road, was a handy sub-postoffice, and further along, passed 'our house' turning sharply to the left was a corner shop called Summerfields. To carry straight on ahead was a track leading to the "garden fields" and Uncle Bill's allotment. After harvest time Aunt Mab and Uncle Albert Adams and I (still very young) walked further climbing a few stiles to reach the fields in order to go "gleaning". The idea being to forage for ears of wheat to feed Uncle's hens, but I remember stubbornly refusing to walk through the sharp remains of the crop which scratched my legs.

The street continued towards the T junction with Queen St., meandering slightly up and down, and to the left and the right. At the junction with Pratt Rd, was Teddy Warren's butchers shop, with his slim-hipped block-man Ray. I was fascinated how he used to slide around the shop floor due to the generous layer of sawdust upon it. Mr. Warren used to tease my aunt by giving me a bag of sawdust to play with, "In Aunt Mab's front room", he would say. On the opposite corner was an out-door beerhouse and further along on the corner of Robinson Road was Jeffcoats, the barbers. A little further, on the other side of the road was the Cinder Track also leading to the "garden fields" and the football grounds. Often youngsters would be found standing on tip-toe peeping through holes in the fence to watch the matches. Next to the entrance of this track was Alice Clayson's Ladies Outfitters. A proper shop attached to the side of her house. Her shop was very well fitted out with glass fronted counters containing a nicely presented selection of underwear,... sturdy brassiers, corsets and voluminous passion- killers, mostly pink! What would those ladies think of what is offered to women these days?

Taken, I think in the middle 1950's because of the TV aerials, outside Arthur Beeby's shop, looking towards Queen St. He's standing between 2 of Grace's sisters, Mabel (Mrs. Albert Adams), and Olive, (Mrs. Cyril Norris)
At the junction of Cromwell Rd, and Blinco Rd was a little grocers, ran by a friendly lady called Eady and on the opposite corner was Arthur Beeby's Greengrocers built as most corner shops in those days, with living quarters behind. He had 2 children, Michael and Susan. For a few years my aunt, Mabel Adams worked for 'Uncle Arthur' and that came in very handy when on one occasion I took part in a parade in Rushden dressed as a barrow-boy. Uncle's cart nicely decked out with fruit found to be not suitable for sale in the shop. All the over-ripe parts turned inwards.

Further down on the same side lived my Grand-parents in No. 31, next-door to a family called Maddams and many years later I became acquainted with a niece of this family via the internet, living in Arizona! Small world indeed.   Gran lived almost opposite the business which like many others in those days, grew out of the front room, the well known Quennell's fish and chip shop. Portland Rd led off to the left with another general goods shop on the far corner and just a short way further, ending with a pub at one corner and a factory on the other, was the T junction with Queen St.

Looking back and discounting the strife caused by the war, from a child's perspective it was a pretty happy road in which to spend my early years.

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