Tachbrook Road was one of the early residential streets in Leamington, but it has changed character several times over the years. In 1893, Tachbrook Road included such smart addresses as Claremont Terrace, Eastnor Terrace and Park Place, where a Miss Collins ran her own school. Shrubland Hall (Home of Rev W G Wise, incumbent of St John the Baptist), Shrubland Lodge and Shrubland Farm all get a mention, – the only three properties on the opposite side of the road at that time. An Italian photographer, an animal painter, a dress & mantle maker, an inland revenue officer, a builder and a market gardener also lived on Tachbrook Road. The Windmill Inn was there too.
Fast forward half a century or so, and the site of Shrubland Hall and grounds had given way to a housing estate, including Bury Road, Flavel Crescent and Kingsway. This is where I grew up. I have vivid memories of the short row of shops that had once been houses, and my introduction to them was at the Penny (1d) Counter at the sweet shop, gazing at the sweets on offer in an effort to decide which would last the longest. When I was a bit older, I did errands at these shops for my mother and grandmother.
No 1 became an extension to the Royal Exchange Public House.
No 3 was the Grocer’s, – Griffin’s, then Povey’s, and later on, Baker’s.
No 5 was a Hairdresser’s, – Miss Orange, then Christine’s.
No 7 was The Sweet Shop, first known as Bon-Bon, and owned by Mrs Leach.
No 9 was another Grocer’s and Cooked Meat Shop, run by Mrs Johnson.
No 11 was Hessing’s, Radio and later, TV Dealers.
Just noting down these names brings back many memories: getting one of Sensicle’s loaves from no 3, for my gran, and hoping for a buttered crust as my reward; my mother buying sliced ham from this shop, for dad’s sandwiches for work. There was always a wait, – the shop was not very big, so the electric meat slicer was kept out at the back. When the Bakers ran the shop, after closing, Mr Baker used to deliver orders to some customers in his car. My neighbour Pat worked there with Mr Baker when she was young. This was the last shop in the row to close for good, – the frontage is still there. The Sweet Shop was probably my favourite, with its long counter on one side, and rows of bottles of sweets along the other. Gran always liked the banana-flavour lolly they sold, made by Midland Counties Ice Cream. The Jordan family took over no 7, staying until the 1970s, when they moved to High Street, by the Bridges.
Johnson’s was another shop that was not very big, but mother relied on it for odds and ends. When the shop eventually closed, it was taken over by Hessings, next door, to extend their business. Mrs Hessing ran the shop, backed up by a Sales & Service Department. One of the staff was disabled, but it didn’t stop him from doing a good job. Before our house had electricity installed, we had a battery-powered radio. We used to take the battery to be charged up at Hessings, – for a fee. Once we had electricity, we got a TV, – from Hessings, of course. Eventually, in the 1970s, Hessings moved up the town, to Park Street, and the shop became a furniture store. Unfortunately, this business didn’t last long. Patterns of shopping were changing, as more women worked full time and couldn’t pop out to buy something they suddenly needed for a meal, and so on. More people had fridges, then freezers, so they could buy and store more fresh food. The town centre and bigger department stores became the focus, for people to do a weekly shop, – and many people had a car by this time, making it even easier to do a big weekly shop. When AP Lockheed flourished, so did the smaller shops such as the ones above. As the small shops closed, the row from High Street up to Gas Hill became family houses again.
Terry Gardner, December 2020
Images © TG Gardner