[7] John (Jack) Wales: Evocative walk, Bridge End and Earith High Street

A cow in Earith High Street.
A cow in Earith High Street.

John Wales speaking while standing at Bridge End, Earith:

The cows used to walk through Earith High Street, here at Bridge End to the Washes.
These good ladies complained bitterly about the mess on their doorsteps.
Mrs. Harradine used to ride a tricycle and she would hold on to a cow’s tail to be pulled along.
Pledgers and Darbys cowherds as well as our own all used this road.

Flo Jakes (lived here) she was the person who ‘laid out the dead’ — we would see Flo go by the house 8 o’clock in the morning and the question was asked ‘who has died?’

There was lovely stables and cow sheds ‘n’ that in there — practically all these back ends had livestock in those days.
The men had a little bit of orchard, and they milked two or three cows and they worked somewhere else, helped in the market you know, as the drovers and that sort of thing.
Yeh but there was cows all over the place and all the roads in summertime were covered with hay, cause it was always carted loose and you used to come up the High Street and it would blow off, and we had a resident roadman called Harry Harper and in the wintertime he rowed the boat that brought the children over from the Hermitage to school when the road was flooded, which it was practically every year in those days.

Earith High Street:

Cows walking down Earith High Street.
Cows walking down Earith High Street.

(Moving into the High Street) On the south side is the site of the Angel Inn, then there’s the blacksmith’s shop, then the Boat Pub, this was burnt down — it had a thatched roof, next to that was Ahern’s then the shop owned by the Miss Wrights, Raby’s.

Gloster House at No. 12 High Street used to be a butcher’s shop. Mr. Cannel’s, the school master’s house, then Harper’s, the Fire Engine, the Bier Shed Pump then finally the garage.

One old boy used to fight for that didn’t he (the Foreshore along by Duncan House to the garage) – Percy Wraight – we used to play there lunch time cos you could walk all the way along and everyone had a boat and we’d play about on the boats, pushing them out as far as you could and they (the men) used to come out and yell, “Get off my boat!”

Mr. L. Edwards lived on the Riverside.
Previously it was a private house and home of the horse dealer Mr. Alfred Beldams.
Covered stables ran right down to Back Lane (Chapel Road) with blue tiled floors and a Tan Yard on the opposite side of the High Street with 40 boxes running right down to the river.
Charlie Hook and Charlie Parrish were the grooms back then.
There used to be the building on the end with a ring in it and I can remember they used to trot the horses — there was no pavement on this side of the road, it was just sanded – and these two gentlemen, real Edwardians, black coats with velvet collars and bowler hats and they’d stand in the middle of the road and the groom’d trot the horse up as far as West House and then trot him back and then have a deal.

The bread was delivered by pony and trap and a handcart with an enclosed box on it.
There were three men delivering bread and Mrs. Russell serving in the shop.

They had a slaughter house in the yard at the back (of Skeggs’s butchers where the Tandoori is now).
The animals were bought at St. Ives market on a Monday and the meat was delivered round the village by pony and trap or bicycle.

Mr Grimwood’s Fish and Chip shop was always full of steam and he rode a Tradesman’s bike to collect his fish.

Mr Killingsworth also caught eels and owned boats, which were used for fishing.

Sid Hand, the Blacksmith, also had shops at Bluntisham and Needingworth.
The Barbers shop consisted of just a wooden shed.
There were 3 dairies owned by Mr Parren, Mr Ashmore and Dougie Wright – the latter surviving until just a few years ago.

Opposite Minaars. there was a jam factory.
Beehives were also woven with reeds and sold by Ephraim Seamark.

Mr Pink had a slaughterhouse at the site of the now Industrial Estate.
He married Miss Green and they ran an old people’s home at ‘Woodlands’ – a big house in the High Street, and is still run as such today.

(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)

By John (Jack) Wales

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