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The Changing Face of the High Street

Mason's Garage

The redevelopment of the forecourt in the 1960s
Mason's Garage site in about 1947
Budgens Supermarket now occupies the old farm and garage site
Left - new forecourt and pumps in the 1960s. Centre - the site in 1947. Right - a supemarket in 2007

Washpit Farm, from the east.  The line of houses in the left distance is the High Street
1886 Map of Washpit Farm in Burton Latimer High Street
Above - Farming Days at Washpit Farm
This photo probably dates from c.1905
Charles Hull shears sheep, watched by his son Walter.

Right - maps of Washpit Farm
above : in 1886, below : in 1928

1928 Map of Washpit Farm in Burton Latimer High Street
For many years during the last century, a garage/filling station occupied the site where Budgens now stands at the south-east end of the High Street.  Most Burton people referred to it as “Mason’s Garage” or “the Regency Garage”.  However, the site had a history before the garage business.

The 1886 Ordnance Survey map shows that the site was originally a farm: it was known as Washpit Farm.  It belonged to the Stokes family and was one of five farms which originally had a frontage on High Street or Kettering Road.  Today there is only one, opposite Burton Hall. 

The main farmhouse was made of stone, which would indicate that it dated from the 18th century.  There was a series of outbuildings arranged in a roughly square layout.  The Ordnance Survey map of 1928 shows few signs of change to the size of the site or the number and arrangement of the buildings.  However, the role of the site had already changed.

In the early part of the 20th Century, a Dr Harris lived in the main farmhouse, and held his surgery there.  Older Burtonians sometimes recalled that he only had one eye, and also suffered from a speech impediment.

In the 1920s, George Mason, who had been running a cycle repair business and filling station from the property near the Cross now occupied by Arthur Turner Electricals, purchased the entire former farm site, and from 1927 to 1961, he ran a motor business there.  On the area near the former Cottage Homes stood an orchard and a tennis court. The former small barn which fronted the High Street was converted into a cycle repair shop, and for a while, cycles were sold and repaired there.  In the early part of his time there, George Mason (commonly nicknamed “Spazzer” – possibly a corruption of “spanner”) also interested himself in radio.  He sold sets and kept a stock of spare parts. On Sundays, he was a regular at the Mission Room and sang in the choir there for over 60 years.

With the increase in car ownership after the Second World War, the business began to expand, and a new forecourt was built on the site of the old orchard and tennis court, with new sales and repair shops just behind it.

Mason's Garage, forecourt and pumps c.1947 The old farmhouse and cycle repair shed c.1952
The scene in about 1950

Left - The forecourt and High Street access. Right - the cycle repair shop
The farm origins of the site are clearly visible in both these photos
Below - an aerial view from this period

In 1961, George Mason died, and the family sold the site to the Co-op, who continued the business with a new forecourt and sales offices. The farmhouse and some of the old barns were demolished in the redevelopment process.

The annual parade passes the garage site The pumps on the new forecourt.  the business was changing to one dealing with fuel and car sales
Changing Times

Left - The annual town parade passes the garage. The man on the right is George Mason
Right - New pumps, new tarmac, but the old farmhouse has been demolished and a car lot has taken its place
Below left - the scene in 1971, with a new layout for the whole frontage, though some old farm barns still survive at the back
Below right - 1984, and no major changes, though the petrol pumps have a new canopy

The former Mason's Garage site in 1971.  The car sales business went under the name of "Regency Cars"
The scene in 1984

As the Co-op went into decline in the late 1970s and the 1980s, retrenchment was the order of the day, and many of the operations were sold off, including the garage.  It passed into private hands, and continued as “The Regency Garage” for some years, before it too closed forever.  Though car sales continue in the southern part of the site, the petrol sales forecourt area was acquired by Budgens Supermarkets, and their new store opened in 2000.  Customers park where motorists once queued for fuel, and shop where farmworkers once sheared sheep.

Budgens Supermarket now stands on the site of the garage, and before that, the farm and outbuildings
The scene in 2007

Left - Budgens Supermarket and car park cover
the site of the old farmhouse and barns

Below left - car sales and repairs continue in
the old buildings seen in the image below
being built just over half a century ago

The car sales business which still survives ofn the site of the former businesses of Mason's Garage and Regency Cars
The workshops for Mason's Garage being built c.1950

Change Again

On Christmas Eve 2007, Budgens closed most of their stores, including the one in Burton Latimer. The site was acquired by Sainsbury's, who kept the store closed for two months while it was refurbished. The Budgens staff were kept on, and retrained. In Febriary 2008, the store re-opened as a "Sainsbury's Local", offering a selection of Sainsbury's manin ranges, but at least with the type of price deals which can be offered by a major national chain.

Sainsbury's Store, High Street, Burton Latimer
The scene in November 2009 - Burton again boasts a major national food retailer in the High Street

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