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BLABY
- local history must NOT be lost!

It won't - not if I can help it


This is a personal account of one person's - the author's - recollections from some 60 to 70 years on, but also of historical importance to those who need (and, hopefully enjoy) being reminded of the true rock and roll years and earlier, including the dark days of 'learning by gaslight'. 

(Yes. In the primary school annexe on Northfield Road we wrote using chalk on slates, lit by gaslight on a dull day!)


It concerns the Leicestershire village whose community, features, and values were not only typical of the day, but also unique. We are talking about the years immediately after WW2 until 1970.


It's a memoir and a celebration* of events and of those who lived through them and, in some cases, made them and made the era so special.


* Don't expect any 'expose', because there were none - or none of which to speak.


OK, so one could call out the politicians of the day who caused - allowed - the railway branch lines to close, whilst vested interest was one factor (some say a major factor) in the development of our new 'American-style' highway system, from the nearby M1 and beyond. Was the By-Pass: a good thing? or did it alter the character (and size!) of Blaby, but not for better.

And why did Shoults' Tomato Farm have to close, to the near extinction of the Blaby Special?

 

And what other threats lie waiting to emerge, such as the future of open space like Bouskell Park? (The author recalls the days when there was no free public space there.)


Matters for debate, maybe, but for another time. Not here.


An original draft of this was first published within the author's compilation of short stories and poems - READ MY SHORTS.

 

This expanded and revised account contains new material.


Friends, family and descendants of the few individuals who are cited here will enjoy being reminded of how those that went before them and alongside them made history - least-ways a local and social history that should not - MUST NOT - be forgotten.


The author acknowledges their value in shaping his own future and outlook on life. For those reasons he also recognizes his debt of thanks to them in making his life, as well as the village's, something special to look back upon.

Little known facts ABOUT BLABY - Did You Know...?

Sue Townsend was from just up the road, in Glen Hills (where she witnessed a famous murder) and who went to South Wigston Girls High School - at the same time as J S Morey went to the Boys School.

They never met. If she was alive now she would be two weeks younger than the lesser-known author.

The Tomato Farm 'fed the nation' with the Blaby Special in WW2; founded in 1908 it was forced into liquidation just after the war. The site became derelict until a new residential estate replaced the delapidated greenhouses in the early 1950s.

The Blaby Rose Gardens was as famous as Harry Wheatcroft for its award-winning rose varieties. It was owned by a Dutchman and run by a manager, Bernard Hanraads who, it is claimed, developed a black rose.

The Bulls Head used to be the venue for bare-knuckle fighting in the rear yard on Sunday mornings - back in the day. I heard, but cannot vouch for it, that a former landlord of The George Inn used to take part, long, long ago.

The Elms was once a large house where a small estate is now, opposite of which, also off the Lutterworth Road was what may have been called The Laurels (not sure, but it's houses now anyway). The one I remember most was behind a large brick wall - was it 'The Hollies' (don't quote me on that), but it's basically where the library is now.

Barbers were plentiful - with Barber Lowe on Cross Street, round the corner from which was Barber Law, next to the post office the, it may have been West Street off the Enderby Road, I seem to recall Brian Law's dad cut hair.

Clark Gardens off West Street was named after (and I am guessing here) Clark's Nursery where we used to buy tomatoes since the Tomato Farm was no more.

Sycamore Street near Church Street used to flood frequently. The Causeway along the wall to Blaby Hall was built so that you could still walk clear of the flood level.

In the early 1950s the open brook that ran to one side of the road was piped underground and covered.

Hall Farm, behind the church, was once owned and run by Farmer Rest. I went to school with his daughter, Fay, who was often my partner in 'country dancing'.

Her brother - I think it was Colin (?), not sure - used to deliver fresh milk street by street, daily, dispensing it from an open churn, ladling it into your milk jug.

Walter had a greengrocer cart, pulled by a horse, also selling street by street.

The Baker's Arms is reputed to be one of the first in the country. Way, way back in the day, locals could take their bread along and, for a ha'penny, leave it to be baked in their ovens.

Alison's Acre and The Ford are excellent destinations if taking a circular walk around Blaby and Glen Parva.

Friends and I used to take this route on the way home from school in Wigston either on foot or cycling. Quite often we would pass a family of Romani's camped on the grass verge along Mill Lane.

The latter gave me inspiration to write 'Finding Rose' and to start the whole series.

Rumour has it...

that the bus run from Blaby to Leicester, operated by Jack Jarrett (hope I got the spelling right) was so lucrative that it was taken over by one of the big boys.

This was in the 1950's.

It was a single-decker, just like the ones you see on All Creatures Great and Small. It was probably painted yellow and red.

My dad knew Jack when he (my dad) owned Grove Road Stores and just before he founded Hillview Nurseries on the Lutterworth Road, right opposite The Blaby Rose Gardens.

Did I mention The Dog & Gun?

It was the scene of our first foray into under-age drinking.

No dispersions cast on the current landlord - this was 1960. The landlord - Joe - is no doubt in a better place.

It would be a half a pint of draft mild ale, or a brown ale in a bottle. It tasted awful (again, no dispersions, our taste buds had yet to mature). But we persevered - to this day!

It was my dad's local when he ran Hillview Nurseries. He had his pint of mild, too, envious of the rich local farmers who'd be on whisky.

Harry Faulkner was the landlord then. I still have one of the free pencils with his name on it, that he used to give out to customers at Christmas.

The Bulls Head - now there's a pub!

Roy Smith was the landlord then - along with his German wife, Bruni. True professionals! The 1960's.

Roy was dapper - emerging to open at 5.30pm every day dressed in a clean shirt, trousers, cravat and blazer - or a waistcoat if it was warm. Clean shaven, with a moustache. Immaculate.

He was the same age as my eldest sister, Joan, and they used to hang out when they were teenagers - along with Derek Wale, or so I was told. By my sister.

We teenagers loved it. Always a mixed age group, so we'd join in with darts and so on. I have a lasting memory of the older chaps (over 40!) who would play cards - for money - in the bar area, to the left as you entered. The table had a Formica top. They played so often that, after a while, the pattern was eventually rubbed off by the movement of coins - mainly pennies, with the occasional two-bob piece. (You may have to Google that!)

I pint of Inde Coope bitter was 1/8d, but Watneys Red Barrel was expensive - at 2/4d - the same as a Castella cigar!

Tom Thumb on Grove Road Blaby before it was demolished

The Tom Thumb was a 'new' pub in the 1950s when The Fairway housing estate was built on Shoults' Tomato Farm off Grove Road.

Now lost forever, along with another 'newbie' at the time - The Egyptian Queen.

Both were my locals, along with The Bull's Head and The Dog and Gun.

Egyptian Queen was another 'new pub' from the 1960s, since demolished

Guthlaxton Grammar School was pivotal to so-called 'L-Plan', working with High Schools such as the South Wigston Secondary Modern (before the name change), introducing what was to be the Comprehensive.

Guthlaxton Grammar School Wigston

Blaby Village features strongly in 'Finding Rose' by J S Morey, as well as 'Rose - The Missing Years' and 'The Black Rose of Blaby'.

Social Centre - the community hub of Blaby Village

Saturday Night's Alright...

for fighting. Which it was, for some (but, not for me. Oh no!).

This is the quiet before the storm at the Social Centre, where'The Village Dance' in the 1960's was held about the time The Beatles exploded into the scene.

The Primates were the star band of the time - later to become The Four Sights and cut records.. Melv and I loved it but, more often than not, it would be shut down soon after 9 o'clock if (or should I say when) a fight broke out.

The centre served several purposes - the recreational park was opposite, so it provided changing rooms for soccer matches; the scouts group met there; my sister played tennis there on the courts to the rear; any social event could be held there, shows and meetings; wedding receptions and - believe it or not - for a spell our class-room was one of the back rooms (we'd be 8 or 9 years old) because the Church Street building couldn't cope, nor could the Northfield Road annexe.

Crossroads in Blaby

Blaby Cross-Roads, facing Cross Street and on to Sycamore Street.

The Hillman Imp is on Enderby Road, with cars turning into the Lutterworth Road-Leicester Road main road.

The village blacksmith would have been to the left of the Imp; on the corner, left, was the post office and, a couple of doors to the left, Barber Law. (Barber Lowe was on Cross Street. 

The Roberts family had the newsagents, (Blaby News'?) initially next to the post office before moving to the opoosite corner (left).

This was the setting for the beginning of my free give-away short story (and featured in 'Rose - The Missing Years') Dark Eyes.

Here's how to get your FREE READ.

Westleigh Rugby Club

If you took a stroll south out of the village on the way to the Dog and Gun pub, at Whetstone Gorse on any evening of the week, or during the day at weekends, you might see as many as a dozen lads playing soccer, not rugby, on the ground.

There might also be a transistor radio behind one of the goals, playing the latest Beatles record. Goals? did I say goals? I mean two coats about five paces apart.

It was our alternative the Blaby Park off Northfield Road. We would play all day - often at four hour stretches with a break in between if it was school holidays.

We were between twelve and fourteen years old, then we discovered girls.

It all changed...

The Black Rose of Blaby

I grew up in Blaby just after WW2.

Inspired by those precious years, I captured what it felt like to live in a quintessential Leicestershire village in this coming-of-age tale in The Black Rose of Blaby.

It's pure fiction but based on some truths and real locations.

Join me on that journey...

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