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Archive for March, 2011

Central Gardens

In the mid-1930s the Bletchley Town surveyor, Mr Arthur Bates, designed the Central Gardens; these were described as a ‘pleasant amenity for the town’. The rose gardens were originally laid out by Mr H. Grace and his father George (both who used to work for Ramsbotham’s the local horticultural nursery in Bletchley).

The groundsman in charge of the Central Gardens was Mr George Tatham, he arrived in 1937 after having worked on the Leon Estate for 17 years. George took great pride in his work, maintaining the flowerbeds, lawns and tennis courts. On Easter Monday, 1939, a miniature golf course was opened, also after the war a croquet course was built for ‘older people’.

The paved sunken garden near the Western Road entrance was a popular venue for band concerts. Over the years many a ‘mischievous’ Bletchley youth tried to land his ball from the putting green right in the middle of an unsuspecting audience who were enjoying a concert!

In the 1970s the Central Gardens were demolished to make way for the futuristic new Leisure Centre. Do you remember the good times playing tennis, putting and just enjoying the wonderful amenity which sadly now is just a memory?

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Of course in those days we left school at 14 years of age.  For the next four years I worked for the Post office as a Boy Messenger – commonly known as a Telegraph Boy.

Eric Kilsby and company vehicle

There were three of us and we worked six days a week.  Two were based at the Post Office beside the railway station, delivering up to 15 telegrams each per day by bicycle as far as the Brickhills and Stoke Hammond.  When we weren’t doing that we’d be printing labels for mail bags.  The other boy was based at the Telephone Repeater Station in Fenny Stratford where we operated a switchboard and did paperwork.

Occasionally at the Repeater Station we would be asked to help start up the Ruston Hornsby  engine that charged the batteries that were needed to boost signals between London and Birmingham.  We’d have to hold open a manual choke while the engineer oiled points, fiddled with valves and coaxed the huge flywheel into life.

Repeater Station engine

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Having left school in 1956 aged 15, totally naive what the real world had in store for me I started work as an apprentice compositor at Bletchley Printers. An apprenticeship at that time was for six years and most of the time you worked with a journeyman printer learning the trade.

In 1959 for the first time Bletchley Printers experienced a national printing strike called by the printing unions. Apprentices ‘bound by the master’ had no option but to go to work, they managed to print a few small editions. However, one day a group of ‘flying pickets’ from Watford descended on the premises of Bletchley Printers. Armed with placards and a megaphone they shouted to the apprentices, ‘come out of the apple you maggots’! A burly police officer stood guard at the front door and the ‘maggots continued working’!

After your apprenticeship finished you were presented with your indentures from the firm, upon your return to your workplace everybody participated in the traditional ‘banging out’ ceremony!

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During the 1930s business prospered so much that Harold Price’s Marlborough Press decided to build a purpose-built factory on land adjoining the old premises, this was named Bletchley Printers and bordered the Central Gardens.

Also, during the 1930’s a printing company from London called The Premier Press relocated and took over the stable block of Bletchley Park which was situated opposite Bletchley Police Station. Circa 1941 the Premier Press closed down and Oswald J. Hoyland who was head of typesetting joined Bletchley Printers as the third director.

At the outbreak of war a young journalist named Carl Moser was the North Bucks Times representative for Bletchley and District and towards the end of 1945 Carl was offered and accepted the post of editor of the Bletchley Gazette, following his release and return home from being a Japanese PoW. In 1951 it was decided to dispose of the Bletchley Gazette to Home Counties Newspapers. This enabled Bletchley Printers to explore the magazine printing sector and develop their colour printing techniques.

In the mid-sixties the company was sold to Robert Maxwell and it became part of the Pergamon Press empire. From very small beginnings . . .

 

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The Bletchley District Gazette was the brainchild of Edwin ‘Ron’ Staniford, who as a young man in the early 1930’s approached Harold J. Price, owner of the Marlborough Press in Bletchley Road, with a proposal to publish and print a weekly local newspaper.

Harold Price together with his wife were running a small printing business in Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire, when he came to Bletchley to buy some printing equipment advertised for sale by a Mr Tuckey. Harold not only bought the machinery but after the couple decided to settle in the town he also purchased 87 Bletchley Road which backed onto the field that was subsequently developed as the Central Gardens. At the bottom of his garden Harold then erected a 25ft wooden building to establish his printing business, circa 1930.

Accepting Ron Staniford’s proposal the Bletchley District Gazette was launched in 1933 with Ron as editor and Harold responsible for the printing.

Tell us ‘what you thought about the Bletchley Gazette, a local paper brimmed full with local news’!

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The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is a Christian organisation which also does a large range of social work. It was founded by William Booth and began working in the East End of London in 1865.

The Army started work in Fenny Stratford in November 1886 when Staff-Captain Harriet Lawrence and twelve cadets arrived in the town. Despite not being made to feel welcome, they started holding services in the Town Hall on the High Street (now New City Heating) by the middle of November.

Congregations increased steadily and a new purpose built hall, was opened in Church Street, in June 1887 (it later became an upholsterer’s workshop, and is now an art gallery).

For nearly a century the Salvation Army uniform became a familiar site in the town, both selling the ‘War Cry’ paper in the local pubs, and holding open air meetings on a Saturday evening and Sunday.

Bletchley Band on the Manor Estate

In the late 1970s the Bletchley Corps, as it had become known, moved to re-furbished premises in Buckingham Road (formerly St. Mary’s Church Hall, then the Labour Hall).

They finally amalgamated with the new corps in Conniburrow.

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In the swim since 1958

We have a lovely new leisure centre that cost over £20m to build.  But did you know that the original swimming pool which opened in Central Gardens in June 1958 (Queen’s Pool) was partly paid for by public subscription? 

Queen's Pool in 1967

It cost just a few thousand pounds and £1523 of that was donated by local people – at a time when the average wage was around £8 per week.   An open air pool until 1969, it was replaced in 1973 by the first Bletchley Leisure Centre, at that time one of the most advanced facilities in Europe.

You can see the new centre – like a ship that’s just docked – in Prince’s Way.

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