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Memories of Bream 1929-1930

Geoff Wildin at Bream Cenotaph
This superb account of Bream in 1930 was written by the late Mr Geoff Wildin and is reproduced here with his kind permission


The following is a description of a walk from the Maypole, up through "Camm’s Flue" into the High Street, down Parkend Road and finishes at Bowson Road, the distance covered is said to be one mile, during the walk we will meet some of the residents of the sprawling village of Bream.

At the Maypole facing Parkend we have the road to Coleford on our left along which we will find the Church, and to our right the road to Lydney and the outside world. Behind us lives Mrs. Burrows, Reg., Mrs. Elsmore, Farmer Elsmore and his horse which was reputed to know every pub in the village, the house has a long history and was once known as “The Dolphin Inn”,
As we start to walk, on the right hand side is the Police Station, next door was Mrs.Cannock’s shop which sold sweets, cigarettes, combs, boxes of chocolates, silks of many colours, packs of playing cards and bric-a-brac, the Camms lived next door with their many sons; they were all so different, the family sold old furniture or antiques in today’s language. The New Inn, a big stone building is next a very, very old but joyful place full of laughter, the landlord had several daughters living there. On the opposite side of the street is the Old Cross Keys a dark and dreary place, with a haunted look, further up the street on the right we find the field where all the wakes were held and the fair so brightly lit was a big attraction, behind this field was the football pitch, used by the village’s excellent team.

Above the field was Mrs. Chilton’s sweet shop which always looked so clean, then Downham’s General Store and Bakery a busy place with such lovely smells! Two men loaded the vans outside every day; the first had only one arm the other one leg, sounds strange but the explanation is, both lost limbs in World War 1.

On the other side of the road comes the noise of hammers beating metal at the Blacksmiths run by Mr. Holder. He was a hard working man, on a frosty morning where better could you be? The forge glowing brightly, a horse waiting so patiently to be shod.

As we continue up the street we find the Post Office is where we find Mrs.Gatfield, she looked so tall and grey perhaps a little on the severe side as she sold her stamps and stationery. Across the road was Piano Street (Highbury Road), here lived the Beaches, Hoares, and George Hughes who ran the British Legion, Albert Brookes the councilor, and many more. A few yards further on, past the Post Office is the Miners Welfare Hall, paid for by the villagers of Bream for all to enjoy, and was well used for dances, meetings, and functions of all kinds, there were concert parties and plays put on by the Haydens and Lauderdale’s. Mrs. Hayden would often shout ‘Who will fetch me a packet of cigarettes? and the lucky person who ran the errand would then go in free. There would be singing and dancing on the stage, and some of the players who lodged at the Cooper’s house, taught Angus, their son to step dance.

Behind the Miners Hall was the village rugby pitch, the players had to bath and change at the rear of the Rising Sun a hundred yards or so down the street, on Saturdays it was normal to see Wilf Edwards and the rest of the team, all caked in mud running to get changed. Across the road the butcher’s shop was a building of a peculiar shape and sometimes in the evening, Mr. Jones the butcher taught the violin, the strange noises coming from there, could easily put one off the violin for ever.
Still on the right hand side of the road is “ The Two Swans” public house, better known as the Double Ducks, the landlord this was kept very busy coming up the steps with a pint in either hand straight from the wood, later the poor man cut his throat, in Noxon Park, something that was difficult to comprehend. Next to “The Double Ducks” is Mr. & Mrs. Taylor’s sweet shop then Mrs. Meek’s shop, full of ladies dresses, blouses and coats. Ida Mountjoys' shop with every thing to buy cigarettes 3 for a penny, new comics that you could part exchange for old ones, secondhand clothes with a percentage of the sale price for the seller, comes next, you could even buy faggots and peas served on a little table by the door, such a cosy little shop, with its partitions of coloured glass.

Now we come to the double shop of Mr. and Mrs. Schlosberg, with ladies clothes on one side and men’s on the other, they sell all types of garments and even if there isn’t anything to take your fancy you always seem to come out with something! Miss Brooks has a little shop next door that sells cakes and sweets. This stretch of the road was known as “Camm’s Flue,” the Camms must have been quite a rich family because they owned most of the buildings in this area. Across the street is the largest shop in Bream, Williams and Cotton, this was one of a chain of shops across the Forest of Dean. on entering you are met with a lovely smells bacon, cheese and such like on one side, on the other were tins of biscuits sold loose, spices of all descriptions sold by the ounce, in fact all the food that anyone could want, at the back of the shop are bins of corn, wheat and oats all sold by the peck.

Just past the shop the New Road branches off the High Street and leads to more shops and a Public House, across the road the War Memorial( Cenotaph ) stands, looking down over the Sun Tump is the cricket field where in the summer the sound of leather hitting wood is to he heard, here stands the Institute and the Jubilee Well. Just across the New Road is the band hut and sounds of the brass band with Evan Jones conducting and Rufus Watkins blowing hard, a final look at the Cenotaph and the list of names of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the First World War with the Second still to come.
Opposite the Cenotaph is a small stone building with the windows all boarded up, said to be an old butcher’s shop, until one day along came Gordon Camm who painted all the woodwork green and whitewashed the walls inside, this is where he cooked and served faggots and peas with the tastiest gravy you could get, the trouble was there was always the risk of some ash dropping from the cigarette he kept in his mouth.

The Rising Sun comes next, a pub of some repute, the boys all gathered here to drink their cider, beer and stout, on the hot summer days they would sit on the wall and watch a game of cricket.

On down the High Street just a little way to the Cobblers shop and Riley Lewis, nice new shoes in the window on display while in the back Mr. Lewis would be grinding and burnishing the shoes he had repaired. Mr. Cox sold papers as well as cigarettes and sweets in the shop next door and further on down the road another Cobbler Mr. Young who just did repairs.
The Pike House built for collecting tolls is next and across the road from this we can see the Institute where men such as Harold Wildin and North Hirst could be found playing a game of billiards. Outside the ‘stute (as it was known) was the tennis court so flat and smooth, it looked down over the cricket pitch a beautiful setting for such a game, old Tom Price bandy legs and all, hit a ball up over the Sun Tump to smack against Tom Brice’s wall what a massive hit that was.

Down behind the ‘stute was the Jubilee Well a little building with a spring, the children climb on it and behind it the boys have their fights, in the same area stood an old oak tree surrounded by a metal fence fastened to posts about 2’6’ high the children played games here one was to walk and balance on the rail to see how far they could go. Another game we played was to run around the tree trying to catch cockchafers and then to stick them on a pin, they buzzed when caught, and if you should happen to stand on one it made a cracking noise.

Across the road again to carry on with our walk Mr. Lewis’s fish and chip shop is our next call you could get a bag of chips and sit and play “Tippet” in the warm, in the shop next door Mrs Lewis sold papers, cigarettes and sweets.

Manchester House, the shop belonging to Clarence and Mrs. James comes next, Clarence, in his clean white apron took care of the grocery side and Mrs. James all dressed in black took care of the drapery side. If Clarence did any thing wrong he was tongue lashed by Bessie but Clarence’s mum was the Boss! We have at last reached the crossroads where we find to the right on the road to Brockhollands, a bakers, sweet shops and Public House, here stands a mighty oak tree known as the “Hard up Tree,” this is where men who had no work would squat and chat, this is how they would fill all the empty hours in their day.
We are now at the cross roads and we have the schools, the council school on the left for infants, Miss Young being the Head Mistress, Miss Drabble is Head Mistress of the girls school next door and in charge on the opposite side Mr. Watson was Head Master of the boys, helped by Miss Worgan and Sarge Davis many other teachers who have come and gone all were adept at using the cane as many a young lad found out.

Just below the school the barber Jimmy Ford would give a short back and sides, he also repaired umbrellas, he also kept pigeons, but not for flying unless it was straight into the pot for a pigeon pie!

Below Ford’s is another branch of Williams and Cotton only haberdashery this time - Miss Aims was the manageress, 19s 11d seemed a lot cheaper than a pound, one guinea better than £1- 1s. The whole of the shop and house belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson who lived there with their three sons the house was called Blue Rock, Mr. Johnson was the manager of the other Williams and Cotton I mentioned earlier.

Down the road on the left hand side grocery shop run by Mr. Mcfarland he was a rare man to behold in a short white coat and long white apron tied around his waist, he had ginger hair and beard and could often be seen briskly brushing up the leaves that gathered outside his shop.

Next door we have Mr. and Mrs. James and their two daughters, who had a sweet and cigarette shop, as you entered a bell would ring on the door and Mrs. James with her grey hair tied in a bun would come to serve you. She was a friendly lady with a pleasant face who would be happy to sell you l d worth of sweets or just 1d liquorice stick.

Across the road again to Watt’s the Ironmongers shop with a petrol pump outside, you have to wind the handle to get the petrol to flow and young lads can earn their pocket money here, on Friday evenings when school was over and all day Saturday the pay was 2s/6d . Next door is Ben Bath’s, a wool and clothes shop with a bakery and shop on the end up the steps.

Over the road to Mr. Willetts shoe shop, he sold very good shoes, his son Bill was very clever and in the window where the boots and shoes were displayed was a pair of shoes and on the soles a pattern of red roses, picked out in brass nails.
The next place which we find was Mr. Mullen a dentist supreme, with all the sweet shops in the village, he is kept very busy, he takes out teeth that have gone black and will make a new set for you with big white ones that look like piano keys.
Bill Jones’s builders yard comes next, where Bert Cole served his time, he walks around the yard measuring this and that in his nice blue overalls with a pocket down the side into which he put his measuring stick. At the front of the yard was a workshop where Mr. Hutchence repaired bikes, he was always there and never seemed to have normal working hours -
Across the road Mrs. Hewlett could be seen in the large window at the front of the house, she is, I am told a very good seamstress making dresses, curtains and the like. Next door to her was the Co-operative Store, selling all sorts of food as well as corn and oats too, every time you spent money there, you would get your “Divi Stamps” which when saved up helped with Christmas extras.

Now we meet the road for Whitecroft and on the opposite side of the High Street is the Bible Christians Chapel, the highlights during the year were the Chapel outing and the anniversary. For the latter we have to learn a song or some poetry, then on the day be scrubbed clean and in our best suits would do our bit.

About twenty yards on down the road is Hirst’s grocery stores where Fred Robbins dressed in breeches and leggings delivers customers groceries in his horse and cart Mr. and Mrs. Hirst have two sons, Alan and Robert, we all play games of cricket down on the Old Hang Green.

Across the road again to Mr. Hutchence with his cycle and motor bike repair shop, he was a small man who always rode a motor bike and sidecar. His son was one of our cricket team as well.

Mrs. Stockwells now and I remember you had to go down two stone steps to get into the shop on sale were sweets and cigarettes, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley the last main shop in Bream was another grocery store Opposite is Niblett & Sons, Monumental Stonemasons.. How all these shops make a living remains a mystery.

We are on Parkend Road with houses on either side, here lived the Peachey’s, Hoare’s, Jenkins, Cox’s the Wilks’ and many more further down, on the left lived Ernie Addis and his parents.

The next house down was the Brooke’s and they sold sweets cigarettes and some groceries in their back room to save a long trek up the hill if you ran out of anything, we have come to the last of the council houses, and on the very end are two stone houses belonging to the pit.

Across the road and just down a bit was a bungalow which belonged to the pit Manager its the last dwelling place in Bream and it’s here our journey ends at Bowson Road..

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