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Interview by Nigel Chettle with Sheila Doherty (nee Chettle) about her early life in Duck Street, 2017.

Sheila Doherty (nee Chettle)
Memories of Duck Street

Nigel: You were born in St Margaret's Avenue, in the early 1940’s?

Sheila: Yes, but we lived in an end of terrace house on the corner of College Street and 30 Duck Street, now forms part of Alfred Street playground. The traffic was two-way until after we moved to the new council house in Allen Road in 1956.

Nigel: Who was the Landlord of the house?

Sheila: Bob Hollis the Butcher who’s shop is still trading today under new tenants.

Nigel: What was the layout of the house?

Sheila: A front and back room (I think they call them reception rooms today), kitchen, and three bedrooms. The toilet was outside and the 'bathroom' was a tin bath in front of the fire, which we usually had on Saturday night. There was an alley way at the back of the house that ran from Collage Street to John Street with an arch for the Tannery. Our Dad had a hand amputated after a shoe factory accident when he was only 12 years old. He was born in Duck Street in a row of cottages where Imperial Court now stands. He worked at the local shoe factories Bignells and the Co-op in Portland Road.  In his spare time he scored for Rushden Town second eleven Cricket Team and regularly watched Rushden Town Football at Hayden Road as well as being an avid Cinema attender. Our Mother who was a farmer’s daughter from Pertenhall in Bedfordshire had worked at Kimbolton School as a cook and housekeeper at Tilbrook Hall for R. J. Strong of Strong and Fisher fame. When she met my father she was working at a large house at the Hayway. After marriage she worked at Doctor Paine’s House and Surgery in Park Road as Housekeeper.

Nigel: Must have been easy going to school at Alfred Street infants and juniors.

Sheila: Yes I was never late. In the infants which was on the same site. Then we used to have a nap in the afternoon.

Nigel: Can you tell me about the brook?

Sheila: Yes it ran through the end house garden which belonged to Mr. and Mrs King who lived there with their daughter Jennifer. They kept chickens in the back garden. After school we used to go and look at the brook to see what colour the water was which was the colour of the leather the Tannery has been dying that day. In the holidays we used to go under the bridge and follow the tunnel right through to Hall Park. When you now think of the diseases we could have caught it is quite frightening. We always used to ask for torches for birthday and Christmas.

Nigel: What else did you do as you were joined by brother Alan in 1945 and myself in 1952 and when sister Lynn arrived? You were about to move into the new council houses in Allen Road, with a bathroom and an inside toilet!

Sheila: On Saturday mornings I used to take the Radio Accumulator from the lady who lived in the house next door, Mrs. Maycock, to Pack's, the Radio and Electrical shop, to be recharged, and bring the recharged one back.

When Alan and you were born I used to take you for walks in the pram. I once famously left you outside the shop in the High Street.

We also used to play a more up market game of Cherry Knocking. In the narrow terraced streets the house front doors were next to each other, so we used tie the two letter boxes together with a lace or piece of string and then knock both doors. For the next few moments once opened the doors used to fly open and shut until someone came from the back and untied the string.

Nigel: I understand your Father used to frequent the local picture houses.

Sheila: Yes he used to go Ritz on Mondays, Palace on Tuesdays and Theatre on Wednesdays. He used to go to one house at each cinema on weekends. When younger sister Lynn was born I had to and fetch him from the pictures. When we first had a television and a film came on he always used to say he had seen it. Mother would normally come out with a quip about him always being at the pictures. My Dad used to work part time at the old West End Club in Rushden High Street which is now West End Wallpapers as doorman.

We always used to go on the Band Club’s annual day outing to the seaside, usually Clacton, Gt. Yarmouth or Skegness on Horshoe Coaches. Pop and crisps would be consumed on the way back and all the kids would be sick.

Nigel: Who else did you know in Duck Street?

Sheila: Roly Windsor the Builder lived up the street on the opposite side of the road. I was friendly with their daughter Ruth.

In the school holidays I used to go and stay at my Grandparents farm at Pertenhall in Bedfordshire.

Thank you Sheila, for a very informative look at Duck Street in the late 1940's early 50’s.

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