Former resident Bernard (Bernie) Allan Wallman kindly recalls the early days of Greville Road:
“All of my earliest memories are from my life in Greville Road. I was born in July 1939 in the front bedroom above the shop at 88 Greville Road in which my late parents, Bernard & Elsie Wallman, lived and traded. According to my mother the local mid-wife (Nurse Dorrington) safely delivered three babies single handed that night, cycling around Romsey Town between the houses to gauge when the next delivery was due!
(Photo from around 1937 showing Bernie’s father and two assistants outside the shop).
My parents bought the shop premises after going for a walk one Sunday when they were living in Cavendish Road. They had walked down the road from the Coleridge Road end and noticed that the builders, Crown and Cox, were just about finishing the properties at the Charles Street end with a shop on the even numbered side. At that time my father had a greengrocery round with a horse and cart. He thought the shop could be a “little job” for mother while he earned the main living. However, after moving in, and within a week of opening, she had done so much business that he immediately gave up the rounds, sold the horse and cart and concentrated on learning how to be a grocer. This was a profession he soon got to grips with. I remember him telling me he was schooled in boning and cutting up sides of bacon by one of Greville’s other grocer residents (Dickie Dyke at No.52) who I think worked for Sainsbury’s in their town centre shop. In those days hardly any foodstuffs came pre-packed. Every commodity like bacon, butter, margarine, lard, cheese, sugar, tea, dried fruits, etc. came in bulk and had to be separately portioned, bagged or wrapped and weighed.
The war years soon followed my birth. I was actually christened (with the same christian name as my father) on Sunday September 3rd,1939.This was the day Neville Chamberlain declared war on Hitler’s Nazi state. One’s early memories are fairly vague up to the age of 2-3 but I well remember the fear in my mother’s eyes when the air raid siren went off. Then the relief as the “All Clear” sounded. I think the actual siren was on the Cambridge Water Company’s works building at the far end of Rustat Road. In those days Rustat Road finished well short of the Charles Street/Greville Road corner, with only a muddy track running between the two ends used by cyclists. (Not so much a “rat run”, more an obstacle course). Although we had an air raid shelter in the garden, I don’t remember it ever being used, the understairs cupboard being the preferred safety location. I can still remember being in my mother’s arms in the cupboard with the sounds of planes overhead. Also my father rushing in to get us outside to see a Nazi plane falling out of the sky in flames.. By that time my parents had bought the house next door from its original owners Mr & Mrs (Doug & Murial?). Jordan and were resident in No.86. This provided much more space for the shop and for their home life. Some Sundays we would catch the bus and visit the Jordans in Bury Lane, Stapleford, at their new home.
Being situated at the railway end of Greville Road, and with extensive marshalling yards ending with buffers right next to the gable end of number 16 Charles Street, one should have expected the possibility of aerial bombardment. This did occur in January 1941. A stick of bombs were dropped in a line laid to fall on Mill Road bridge. They were slightly off to the west so the Alms type cottages next to the bridge were badly damaged. Other bombs fell along the line (one being in Fletchers Terrace I think) with the last one falling in, what was then, the Beer Garden of the “Duke of Argyle” PH (later demolished for housing). It landed only about 40 yards from where we were sheltering! According to the Cambridge Historian website two people lost their lives and ten others were injured in this raid.
My father was not called for war service but did all he was able to support the effort. Being a member of both the Home Guard and Air Raid Patrol wardens he was a mixture of both Jones the butcher and Hodges the greengrocer from “Dad’s Army”! Apart from that he was active in two local brass bands and spent many hours playing to entertain both the UK and American troops. Another of my childhood memories was the hours I spent while the bands practised. One of them, the Railway Band, practised in a corrugated tin hut alongside the railway, just off Argyle Street. I spent more time playing around underneath the former bandstand on Christ’s Pieces both before and after performances there.
I can remember the VE Day children’s street party quite well. The street was well decorated with bunting across the road, strung high up between the bedroom windows from the odd to even numbered sides of the road.
(Bernie held by his Mother and Father on his christening on 3rd September 1939, the day war was declared)
My immediate childhood friends were three other boys Paul Culpin (No.71), Trevor Fitzgerald (No.33) and Ivan Docwra (No.25). We were all born in 1939 and I think we all attended the Sedley Taylor Infant and Romsey Junior schools, both now replaced by blocks of flats. Later Trevor and I attended the Central School on Parkside (currently part of Parkside Federation Acamedies). We both left to start work in June 1955 myself at the Cambridge Instrument Company whilst Trevor became a cub reporter for the Cambridge Daily News. After moving from Greville Road I lost track with Paul. The last time I remember meeting him was when he was on leave from the Army whilst doing his National Service. The picture of his mother Florence (always known to my parents as “Flossy”), standing just outside their french windows brought back memories of their back garden with its enormous clump of pampas grass. I remember it being a haven for spiders and snails!
Trevor and I would often play football and cricket together on Coleridge Road recreation ground and also attended the Sunday School at the Baptist Chapel on the corner of Stockwell Street and Mill Road. He also did National Service in the Army. I well remember his mother (Olive) being distaught saying “they’ve cut all my Trevor’s hair off”. Sadly both Paul and Trevor died quite young (in their 30’s I think) and I lost touch with Ivan once my parents moved out of Greville Road in October 1954.
The four of us got into many scrapes over the childhood years and had a wonderful “adventure playground” whilst the large council housing estate covering Rustat, Corrie, Davey and Fanshawe Roads was being built in the late forties/early fifties. Formally this large area was garden allotment ground over which we used to ramble, getting up to all sorts of mischief. The other side of Rustat Road was also allotments and lead to the cattle market where we often went on Mondays during school holidays. Later in my career I was to work on this site when Cambridge Instruments moved to their new factory until that got replaced by housing in about 2000.
My mother & father were successful traders and in 1947 took the big step of buying a failing grocery shop at 224 Mill Road, immediately across the road from the large Co-Op store. They opened the week before Christmas having completely redecorated and restocked the premises over a weekend. Although supermarket competition was fierce, by offering products and services out of the scope of the big nationals, they traded very effectively until their retirement in the early seventies.
Other families I remember well were:
The Hursts at No.80 Ernest (always known as “Jerry”), Phylis & son Barry. Their house was quite close and I a spent quite a lot of time with Barry who was a few years younger than me. Jerry & Phylis were very close friends of my parents. Jerry was on war work in the dark years, a very good carpenter working at Shorts, later at Kerridges. His shed was an Aladdins Cave to me as it appealed to my practical, craft/engineering character. It was stuffed full of interesting tools, extension leads, scarce pieces of wood, nuts, bolts, screws paints. Jerry left the “time capsule” note in 1967 when he had the old fireplace bricked up.
The Allens (No.79) whose younger daughter Brenda was a year or two older than me. She and her sister were very bright and later (I believe) won scholorships to the Perse school. Brenda loved roller skating and would practice in the evenings on the concrete forecourt of our shop across the road from their house.
The Stigwoods (No.55). Their second daughter, Kathleen, was my age and went to the early schools with me. She was a sweet girl and a regular at birthday parties we attended.
The Bakers (No.42) Their second daughter, Rosalind, was a year younger than me. She also went to the Central school. However it might as well have been in a different town as there was complete separation between the two genders! There was effectively a Berlin Wall between the girls and boys sides in those days as ne’er the twain should meet. Rosalind and I later met up when we both lived in The Paddock at Harston with our respective families.
The Fella’s lived about half way along the road on the odd numbered side. They were an Italian family who moved into the road after the war. Their eldest son Raymond was my age, whilst his next brother, Terry, also went to the Central School when I was there. They had a younger brother, Silvio, and a younger sister whose name escapes me. Mr Fella ran an Ice Cream Parlour business over the bridge in Mill Road and later I think they opened a cafe in town. I well remember Mr Fella coming home from work and putting on his 78rpm operatic aria records sung by the great Beniamino Gigli, in order to relax.
The Everitts (No.9). Although I don’t remember much about them when living in the street, I later worked with their son, Mike, (a number of years older than me) when we were both in the same design group at Cambridge Instruments.
The Speechleys (No 24). Again a family I don’t remember much about when living in the Road but later, when starting work at Cambridge Instruments, Harry was in charge of the Apprentice School. He was my manager for 12 months and gave me a good start in my career.
The Coxs (No.44). Mrs Cox was the sister of the great English Cricketer Sir Jack Hobbs after whom the Hobbs Pavillion on Parkers Piece was named She got me his autograph which was a real prize in my album at the time.
I remember several other original families who had children quite a bit older or younger than me, so I did not come so much into contact with them. Amongst these were the “policemen” families of the Breeds and the Abbotts as well as the Days, Cashs, Hawkes, Shentons and Dosaughs. Many other original owners’ names are familiar to me as people who lived in the street and used my parents’ shop. Especially so during the ration book years of the war and for many years after.”