Everything you needed – from the cradle to the grave
Dear Sir, — At the bottom end of Kinsey Street in Congleton, if you turned left onto Park Street, the best shop you would find was Brogan’s.
You could get anything there, from a penny chew to a cabbage. There were a few terraced houses before Brogan’s and on the other side was a barber’s shop that did well on cattle market day; short back and sides, hobnail boots and cow dung.
Len Lacey had a shop selling all sorts of parts for cars for the home-repair man. He had a running tap in the window with no fixtures to be seen. It fascinated everyone and was a great way to get people in to his shop.
I still have a socket set that I bought from Len for 19s and 6d, and it still works. What a wonderful character he was.
Burns Garage had a showroom with some very nice cars displayed. I can remember seeing a Rover 90 in there and I thought that was the best car in the world, for rich people.
Harold was an absolute gentleman, always had time for a chat and you could be assured he would get the best car to suit your needs.
There was a body repair shop below that building on Lower Park Street.
The finished work was done to perfection in conditions that certainly wouldn’t be tolerated today.
At the front of the building on Park Street, there was a petrol pump, just after the open drive in ramp, where a mechanic could inspect your car from underneath. Burns Garage was an all-round service and repair shop with a high quality finish.
Smith’s photographers had a little hut on Park Street. They were a very professional business that did some wonderful photography of weddings and country scenes of the local area. The pictures were always well displayed in the hut windows. St Mary’s at Astbury and St Peter’s were very popular venues for weddings and christenings.
Cooke’s Builders and coffin makers were just after the alley that led down to Lower Park Street. They were a well established family business that had been going for years. They were well respected in Congleton. I still have a receipt from a long time ago when one of my long past uncles died at a very early age in the 1930s.
Cooke’s actually made the coffins from scratch. I can remember delivering some wadding, or packing to them. I got quite a fright when I saw Joe Bloggs and Fanny Middleton in their departure overcoats.
The coffins were made to a precise fit. You had a choice of soft wood or hard wood, depending on how much you could afford. They were very nice people who not only helped you through your grief at the loss of someone departed, but also with a price that was suitable to you.
North Rode Timber was a busy place, cutting wood for builders etc. You could smell the lovely wood shavings as you walked past. Anyone who kept hens in their garden would always call in and get a couple of jute bags full of fresh smelling wood chips to spread on the floor of the hen shed.
The school dentist was on Park Street and on the corner of Bank Street. There was a staircase leading up to the butcher, it was a very frightening ascent for any child. That smell of chloroform and the rubber mask must still haunt many of the visitors of the time.
There were lots of terraced houses on both sides of Park Street. One of them was a bookies called Wakefield and Wilcox. David worked there; he could work out a bet in no time with accuracy. His mum and dad kept the chippy on West Street and Booth Street. He was a proper mathematician when it came to working out betting slips.
Those large terraced houses were all occupied by respectable people living in a nice community. The Woodman pub was just across the road. How nice was that to have a local pint on your doorstep?
There were two nice, good-looking girls who lived there, Jenny and Sandra, with their mum and dad. It is now Congleton Rugby Club.
Right across the road was Congleton borough council depot. It is hard to imagine that those big lorries could turn into such a small entrance space.
The road sweeper man had a large rectangular yellow wheelbarrow. Attached to one side was a large stiff broom and on the other side was a large shovel. He would walk the streets and sweep the litter. He would also empty the litterbins in the main streets, which were always overflowing. With a lot of effort, he did his duty to keep the centre of Congleton streets clean.
There was a little entry just after the depot that wound its way to Brook Street just near to Lenny Green’s Barbers.
Continuing on along Park Street was a big mill (now I think it is flats) that made saddle bags for Raleigh bikes. Lots of people were employed there to make the bags. It was a busy place.
Across the road there was a place that was called the tramp ward. The story goes that if a vagrant came in to town there was a shelter for a short stay. I don’t know how that worked, but somehow it did. Can you imagine the poor conditions?
Kennerley’s Radio and television shop. If you needed a valve for your television, they could put a new one in.
That fantastic Co-op on the corner of Foundry Bank and Park Street was one of the best places to shop. The smell of fresh bread and uncut bacon wrapped in a muslin cloth on the big slicer ready to be cut. The shelves were all lined with the tinned items you needed and surrounded a packed grocery shop. Don’t forget you could also get the Co-op divvy on what you bought.
When you think: that street alone had everything you needed from cradle to grave. — Yours faithfully,