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By Cynthia Watts, 2009
My Memories of Gloucester Crescent
Sitting on the wall at 16 Gloucester Crescent in the 1950s are:-

(left to right) Linda Newitt (died in an accident c1972), Pat Harrington, Susan Boniface, Cynthia Watts and Christine Watts.

In the background is Denton Close. Behind those houses was Eastfields, a large house which later became a school, and today is part of Denfield School ground.

My story begins in May 1951, I was born in Souldrop a small village just 4miles from Rushden, but during that year my parents decided that the small cottage where we lived was no longer big enough for the family, so they applied to the council for one of the new houses being built in Rushden.  There was a chronic housing shortage after the war and councils were building houses to meet the demands of families similar to my own. My parents were given the keys to 16 Gloucester Crescent two days before Christmas 1951 and on Christmas Eve they went to Gloucester Crescent to give the house a thorough clean before moving in on Boxing Day.  My Mother told me that it was bitterly cold, but the house had to be got ready for our move, windows were cleaned, floors scrubbed and linoleum put down.  The house was very modern with not only a bathroom with toilet upstairs but a toilet outside as well, there was a fireplace in the living room and built-in electric fires in the dining room and in one upstairs bedroom (these electric fires were never used).  There were three bedrooms so plenty of room for my parents, and my two sisters. Being less than a year old I do not remember the move, but it must have been so cold.  The house was built of concrete panels fixed onto a steel frame, not a particularly good design as the house was always cold.

Gloucester Crescent was part of the Fosse Green housing estate which was built off of Queen Street just a field away from the Rushden railway line that ran through to Higham Ferrers.  All the houses were soon filled with families coming from different areas of the country, there were people that worked in the shoes factories, teachers, managers of shops and offices, in fact all sorts of professions.  And of course most of them had children, which was just great as there was always someone to play with.

Before I started school I can recall my Mother working very hard in the house, washdays were particularly difficult as there was no washing machine, just a copper to boil the clothes which then had to be put through the mangle in the back yard before they could be hung out, which was great just as long as the line did not break, which every so often it did, dashing mother's lovely white sheets onto the garden, so the whole process had to start again.  It wasn’t for several years that a washing machine was purchased which made washdays somewhat easier. The door steps were always polished with red cardinal polish and the brass door knocker and window latches were cleaned with brasso.  On very cold days we would have a paraffin heater in the kitchen, which always gave off a funny smell, but I didn't mind this as at least it was warm.

We had quite a large garden which my Father kept planted with vegetables, he even managed an allotment at Hayden Road as well, I used to love to go with him to the allotment, I think it was just because I got to ride in the wheel barrow.

The Salvation Army Band came on Sunday morning's and played in the streets (1950s)
Looking out from No.16 across the large green where we used to play.

I recall being taken to Newton Road Infant School by my Mother when I was 5 years old, this I did not like and on one occasion decided that I didn't have to stay and so I took myself back home, I was duly returned to school, with a very sharp telling off not just from my mother but from the teacher as well, I didn't do that again.  As I got older I was allowed to go to school with the all the other children, we would either catch the bus in Queen Street or dawdle along Cromwell Road chatting non-stop and in the summer months we would cut through the allotments.  And yes there were a lot of children, with classes of over 40 children being quite usual.  Our house looked out onto the green which was about an acre in size, there was a slide, some swings and a roundabout, which acted as a magnet to the children of the area and during the summer the grass would be cut and we would make camps out of the mown grass, in the winter there was plenty of snow there so snowmen could be made.  Not many people in the area had a car so playing in the street was quite safe. During the summer months we would spend most of the time outside playing hopscotch, skipping, jacks or various ball and team games.  From a very early age I was fortunate enough to have a bike, which opened up a whole new freedom for me and bike rides out into the countryside were always fun.

Cynthia with her Mother
Inside - the sitting room Christmas 1966
Cynthia with her Mother
My father worked at the Co-operative shoe factory in Rectory Road, so we were very much a Co-op family with the majority of our purchases being made at one of the many Co-op shops in the town. Just round the corner in Queen Street was the local Co-op shop that sold groceries; every week my father would write our order in the 'book' which was then taken, usually by me, round to the shop and then later that day the groceries would arrive on the back door-step. Ted delivered the bread, and in the winter the coalman would come with numerous sacks of coal, which was stored in the outside barn. The milkman came quite early in the morning so we were always assured of fresh creamy milk for breakfast. During the summer months I remember a man used to call to sharpen the knives on his bicycle and also the rag and bone man could be heard making his call of 'any ole rag bones', a sound now long gone, and his mode of transport was a horse drawn cart.

I feel so lucky to have lived in Gloucester Crescent in the 1950/60’s, life was very carefree and friends were made that have lasted a lifetime.

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