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Interview dated 1993 transcribed by Raylee Burton

The Changing Face of the High Street

A View from the 1930s

(The following article is based on an interview with Douglas Ashby in 1993. Douglas had lived at Buton Latimer since his birth in 1928).

What are your earliest recollections of the High Street?

At the junction of Kettering Rd/High St from earliest memory there were more shops selling general items. At the bottom of Station Rd were Nortons grocers and bakers. Opposite Gilbey’s was Pownall’s bakehouse and Wallis’s greengrocers and fish and chip shop. These premises were demolished to make way for the road widening of about 1960. Opposite Bakehouse Lane was a shop which in its time had sold fish and chips and millinery goods. At the corner of Bakehouse Lane Blake’s sold sweets and small grocery items. The other corner was Wittering’s furniture and china shop, next a gents' hairdresser, Alf Coles, who also sold sheet music. Then Loveday’s, a saddle and harness shop. The Co-op stores had many departments selling grocery, confectionery, tobacco, drapery, electrical, furniture, radios and coal.  Also the head office was here. Separate was a green grocery department which joined onto Dr. Kingsley’s property which stood at the corner with Church St .

At the bottom of Pioneer Ave the present building was the Co-op butchers. The “Water Margin” in my youth was the gas office and the floor above used for various trades, at one time boot and shoe making, clothing, engineering etc. Frank Barlow had the butchers shop (now Tom’s) and the buildings behind were animal slaughter premises. The adjoining thatched house was occupied by Cyril Swann and one room used for gents hairdressing. The large shop next door belonged to the Barlow family who were grocers and Mrs. Barlow sold drapery. The newsagent belonged to the Smith family. Next what is now an Indian take-away was built by Henry Barlow in the 1930’s and remained a cake shop until recent years. The row of shops adjoining were originally farm barns belonging to the old farm house which stood at the rear of Arthur Turners. They were converted into shops some 80 years ago.

In my youth there was a fish and chip shop belonging to Tom Miller, a sweet shop run by Mrs. Payne and where is now Countdown was a butchers shop belonging to Mr. Elmore. Across the street what is now the Italian restaurant was originally a grocery and drapery business belonging to the Haynes family. A daughter Vera, had a ladies hairdressing business upstairs. These premises later sold shoes and next door wallpaper and paint. Rosemary’s hairdressers was originally the Red Cow Inn and next door Mrs. Fan White sold ladies and children’s clothing.

Where Gateway now stands, until the 1960’s stood a fine early 18th century farmhouse belonging to the Denton family. They were extensive farm buildings and their garden bordered the High Street down to the entrance to the Council Offices. The Denton family sold the house and premises on which now stands Churchill Way . On the opposite side of the road by the crossing were two shops which have now had their frontages bricked up. On the left of the entry was a sweet shop run by Mrs. Congreve and the other shop in my youth was an antique shop belonging to her father Mr. Smith, and I remember tables and chairs standing outside on the pavement. Meads Dairy was always there and next door was then the Post Office and the adjoining shops a greengrocery and fish and chips. Next was the Duke’s Arms pub.

On the opposite side of the street next to the bank was the entrance to the cinema (The Electric Palace). Yeoman’s had the next shop as a greengrocery and confectionery. Then there was a ladies drapery shop and then the premises on the corner of Duke Street had always been a chemists. On the other corner Charlie Ward had a garage and cycle repair shop. Where the Health Centre now stands on that corner was a gents hairdressers and also adjoining bakehouse. The Health Studio was originally a general grocery shop belonging to Mrs. Piper and in the premises behind, her husband had a funeral business and made coffins.

Between the Brittania Club and Ambler’s cottage stood a corrugated iron building used by the Salvation Army for services. This was demolished in the 1960’s and the Club constructed its new entrance.

Next to the Duke’s Arms was the entrance to School Lane and on the opposite corner was a general shop selling sweets and grocery, also one could get a cup of tea and sandwiches. This was run by Mrs. Phil Papworth; next door the shop had a quaint bow window and also sold general grocery (Mrs. Mason). The end house was visited by a dentist from Irthlingborough ( Mr. Law ) who had his surgery in one of the front rooms. Where the petrol station now stands was once a large farmhouse facing south, there were also petrol pumps and a cycle repair business belonging to George Mason. The corner shop at the bottom of Newman Street sold electrical goods and in later years was a sweet shop.

Many of the properties I remember were demolished in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Notably when Kettering Road was widened. The narrowest part was outside Gilbey’s when one could almost jump from pavement to pavement. From the corner of Pioneer Avenue to Prescott Motors it was all rows of houses and cottages. Next to the Wagon and Horses (now car sales) was a ruined farmhouse. Next to the former Red Cow Inn stood old stone houses behind which were more old cottages. The Band Club was re-built on the site of old shops and houses. The corner of Pigotts Lane (the old Co-op stores) stood a row of thatched stone cottages, and the Health Centre and Library occupy the site of old stone cottages that came right onto the pavement. This was known as High Causeway, because the pavement was much higher than the road.

The biggest change on the High Street was the removal of the War Memorial (click here to read more about this) from the junction with Church Street to its present position on the Council Offices lawn, in 1961. It is now proposed to return the Memorial to its former position! (For more about the relocations of the war memorial click here.)

Do you think the changes over the years have been for the better?

In retrospect the planning of the shopping block at the bottom of Churchill Way might have been designed in a more sympathetic way so that Denton ’s fine farmhouse could have been saved. The stark gable end of Gateway is unfortunate. One misses the various trades in the smaller shops (to read about the major alteration at Churchill Way, click here).

Pre 1970 the High Street was interesting with its old buildings, but many of these had become dilapidated; what has replaced them is probably more useful and convenient rather than beautiful.

What changes have there been in the design of the buildings and the use of building materials?

The oldest building of course is the Parish Church which dates back to the 12th century and considerable Norman and Early English architecture remains. The Hall belongs to the first quarter of the 17th century, circa 1620 although traces of an earlier building are to be found inside.  Dr. Padget’s house in Church Street bears the date 1622 and was the first school building in the village. Several 17th and 18th Century houses remain particularly in Church Street

The Manor house next to the Church has the date stone 1704. 

Until the last quarter of the 19th century, Burton consisted of Kettering Road, High Street, Church Street, and lanes and alleys leading off.  The main building material was stone, limestone which possibly came from Weldon. Ironstone was quarried locally, and some houses built mainly of limestone have courses of ironstone. The earliest brick houses are post 1850 and with the upturn of the shoe and leather trade entire streets were later built to house the workers. Some houses in Duke Street are circa 1870 and soon afterwards Alexandra Street. The area of Spencer, Newman and Roseberry Streets was formerly known as The Park. Station Road started 1905, Pioneer Avenue 1924. On the High Street most of the buildings were of stone some dating back to the 17th century. A photo of 1902 shows the area between Duke Street and the present Bank as being empty. Obviously buildings had been demolished to be replaced by the present chemists etc. The former Barlows grocery store (opposite Church Street entrance) was of stone with window shutters; this was later re-fronted and completely altered. The shops north of the Dukes Arms were severely damaged by fire early in this century and their thatched roofs destroyed. Mead’s Dairy was originally thatched.

Thatch was used without distinction i.e. on the humble cottage, and more important houses i.e. The Manor house, The Limes (Meeting Lane). Home Farm on Kettering Road was thatched until about 1920.  Brick was obtained locally. There was a brickyard at the end of School Lane (now Latimer Close). If you study the date stones in say Station Road it will show the plots were not purchased consecutively before being built on; adjoining plots would eventually be taken up and so a terrace would be formed.

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