The Poplars The Maltsters Bottom Of London Road - a Memory of Abridge.
This is the view looking down to the end of London Road where it meets the village. The road does a sharp turn to the left into the Market Place and behind the large tree is 'Top Bayles' grocers shop. Mr Bayles had served in 'Top Bayles' since he was a boy. He was a lovely old gentleman and very kind to the children. Tins of biscuits fronted the counter and there was a bacon slicer at the back. I would pop in to buy a Jamboree Bag on the way home from school, having saved my thrupenny bit for this special treat.
'Bottom Bayles' was another shop in the heart of the Market Place at the top end of Silver Street. The proprietors were Mr Bayles's two sisters and was mainly a hardware store with a small toy section at the back, and a haberdashers off to the side. They lived in a bungalow a short way up the London Road.
On the left of the picture is the Maltsters Arms which at the time was landlorded by Dick Stretton who was a friend of my grandfather. Dick and Mrs Stretton were a dour couple who did not say a lot. They lived in the weatherboard cottage right next to the pub and Mrs Stretton had a pet Cairn Terrier. There are two weatherboard cottages and you can see they have a little wooden fence running along their front to separate them from the pavement. The Saloon Bar or 'snug' of the Maltsters was a very small room with two or three small tables. Mr Stretton would light a fire in there in the winter and it was very cosy. The Public Bar had a piano at one end. A long rough wooden table extended the length of the room with benches on either side. The regular customers enjoyed a sing-along to Mrs Stretton at the piano. The atmosphere was very cordial. After the Strettons retired, in the early 1980s, the cottages became part of the pub and attracted a much wider clientelle from outside the village.
On the right of the photo are the privet hedges of some semi-detached council houses. The hedges used to come down closer to the road until the council decided to chop off the bottoms of the front gardens to widen the footpath. My friend Angela lived in one of these houses. Her father grew fantastic Dahlias in his front garden with great big blooms in all kinds of marvellous showy colours. The big house, The Poplars, which I prevously described as the 'haunted' house, because of its delapidated state, is in the photo on the right and was situated at the bottom of Hoe Lane, a narrow lane which went all the way up to Lambourne End. The house was not actually haunted, but I imagined it to be so as I made my way to school and saw the broken windows, the shredded curtains and the general appearance of decay. The house was empty (post 1961) and a bit derelict inside and had a large overgrown garden at the back. It was an intriguing building in style - the walls had different coloured bricks arranged in patterns and had double bay windows extending up to the roof. I've never seen another building like it and have no idea how old it was - but alas it was demolished to make way for a whole cul-de-sac of houses around the mid 1960s. If anyone knows any more about this house please could they leave a comment.
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