Rosemary Guiot (pictured left, as a small girl) now lives in Cubbington, but has close connections to Bath Street and its Victorian past. Her great-grandfather, William George Pugh grew up in Leominster, Herefordshire, moved first to Liverpool, then Nottingham, and finally to Leamington with his wife and four sons, William, Albert, Henry and Percy, in the late 1890s.He took a shop at 45 Bath Street, trading successfully under the name of WG Pugh and Sons, Boot and Shoe Makers, so much so that by 1901, Pugh and Sons also had a shop at 117 Regent Street, managed by Albert Thomas Pugh.
The 1901 Census return for 45 Bath Street shows William George aged 47, his wife Annie Eliza, her mother Jane Bengree aged 77, all born in Herefordshire, the two younger sons, Henry aged 20, born in Liverpool and Percy (Rose’s grandfather) aged 13, born in Nottingham. William George’s orphaned niece Violet aged 17 also lived there, working in the shop until she married. At the Regent Street shop there was Albert aged 22, his wife Elsie, aged 20 and their son Clarence Boyd, aged 5months. According to family history, Albert emigrated to Canada in about 1905, leaving Clarence, aka Bob, behind with his grandparents, to be enrolled at Bath Place School until he also emigrated in 1915.
William George was not ‘just’ a businessman. He sang in the church choir and was also a keen sportsman, playing bowls, and captaining for a time in the 1890s the Leamington Early Closers’ Cricket Club, whose members were fellow businessmen and whose fixtures took place on Thursday afternoons when all the local shops closed. William George Pugh died aged 72 in 1925.
By this time, Rosemary’s grandparents, Percy Nixon Pugh and his wife and Elizabeth Mary, were comfortably established in a modern house in Cashmore Avenue. But on the death of his father, Percy took over the Bath Street shop, much to the dismay of his wife, because it meant giving up her ‘mod cons’, to live over the shop with the attendant irritations of soot and noise from the nearby railway and a tin bath in front of the fire. She used to say that the day of the removal was the worst day of her life, – and yet Rosemary has many happy memories of her grandmother at the shop. In an interview with the Leamington Courier some time ago, she explained: “I spent many happy childhood hours there with my grandmother, ‘helping’ in the shop, and remember catching a brief glimpse of King George VI from the balcony as his car swept past”.
This family snapshot shows Rose on an outing to Winchcombe in about 1955, with her grandparents Percy and Elizabeth Pugh, her parents Jack and Mollie Guiot and Miss Ellen, a greengrocer and Bath Street neighbour, whose dog Bimbo is in front with Rose.
Whenever anyone reminisces about their childhood haunts, they voice the same comment, – “How the place has changed”. Rose is no exception. She has patiently listed (below) the infrastructure of Bath Street in the 1950s, showing only too clearly that within living memory, this Leamington street alone was a thriving, self-sufficient community, with shops to cater for every need. It was almost a village in its own right, with three churches within a short walk, and a school catering for pupils from 5 -14 a mere step away in Bath Place. There was no Doctor’s surgery, but there was a chemist, and in the relatively early days of the NHS, people with aches and pains were still more likely to consult the pharmacist than go to the doctor. For real emergencies, the Warneford Hospital was not far away on Radford Road.
(Numbers 43 (Miss Ellen’s greengrocery) and 45 (WG Pugh and Sons) Bath Street, having long been let as flats, have recently taken on a new lease of life, refurbished as the Thomas James Hotel, complete with the balcony referred to earlier by Rose.)
Bath Street Shops in the 1950s
|East Side||West Side|
|Freeman Hardy & Willis||Pullin’s (Monumental Masons)|
|Decorwall, later Breen’s Gents Outfitters||Simmons & Waters|
|Pugh’s at no 45||Lloyds Bank|
|Miss Ellen’s Greengrocers at no 43||Liptons|
|Stead & Simpson||Chemist (with large coloured chemist’s bottles up in the window)|
|Fisher’s (later Timothy White’s)||Francis|
|Maunds – sold prams as well as music||Smiths|
|Rayners||Moore’s sweet shop|
|Bike shop on the corner nearest the church|
Fred Barnes’ greengrocers (now Gaia)
Margaret Rushton, based on information supplied by Rose to History@ Bath Place
Photographs courtesy of R G