Archive for the ‘Bletchley Volunteers’ Category

From 1973 to 1978 Bletchley Gazette reporter Harold Hepworth reminisced on the post-war years of North Bucks. All these articles have now been carefully transcribed by one of our lady volunteers at The Living Archive. The articles are large so selected paragraphs will be used over the next weeks and months just to give a flavour of how Harold saw the area develop.

I took advantage of a week’s holiday recently to inspect one of the large properties I have had built. It was not yet complete and I thought I had better see where all that money was going before it went too far.

Others who had built it along with me, mainly ladies within about 15 years of my own age, had told me it looked very nice inside, but that there was nothing in it for them and they didn’t think they would go again. Which I thought a lamentable state of affairs, if true.


What they meant was that the Leisure Centre had been mis-named. It should have been called the sports centre or the games centre, and they were a bit too old for that sort of caper now. They had paid a shilling (5p) to go in and walk round. They had watched youngsters playing games they themselves knew nothing about. Then they had paid another shilling for a cup of tea – “Would you believe it?” – and had made it last as long as possible before saying farewell to the centre for ever.

I suppose some of them could have tried their hand at bowls. But who wants to do that if there is a possibility of spoiling someone else’s game nearby? And that brilliant green surface doesn’t look as though it was meant for larking tyros, dies it? In brief, they preferred a stroll through the old Central Gardens which the centre has displaced.

My own case is different. As a spectator, there is no activity at the centre which I don’t know, if not intimately. The only British sport I have never been able really to get interested in is horse-racing. I once missed getting a good sports writer’s job because of that.


So I went to see the centre for myself, having first been assured that parking nearby would be easy – a consideration which, alas, is now a major one for me.

Let me say at once that I was very favourably impressed. I felt that, much as I had formerly enjoyed the old Central Gardens – and nobody more so – I could well thole the transformation to this.

I approved the open plan, the general roominess and the whole appearance of the place having been purpose-built for the job.

Equally, I was pleased to see so many of the facilities actually in use at 2.30 on a Friday afternoon – a time which I judged would probably be one of the slackest of the week, apart from the fact that the schools were on holiday.

All the available squash courts were in use. The table tennis area was buzzing with activity. People were beginning to turn up for bowls. Several games of badminton were in progress in the main hall.


I also know of two young men who went for a game of badminton on Saturday morning and found that every court was booked until 4.30 pm on Sunday.

Looking down on that main hall from a comfortable seat high above, I was puzzled at first by the futuristic maze of lines of different colours for the playing of various games, but I soon had them sorted out.

Inevitably my mind went back to the time nearly 50 years ago when a few of us made what we fondly called a tennis court in the corner of a pasture-cum-cricket field. It was the duty of the first arrival to clear the court of any cowpats.

There I learned the rules of a game that I enjoyed until I was aged 58. But you can imagine what sort of tennis was played. Far more aces were served than were deserved and every ground stroke was a last-split-second snatch. So for the rest of my playing time I was better at strokes that should not be played than those that should.

We hear a lot about how youngsters nowadays want everything “on a plate,” but after full consideration I firmly believe(d) from my own experience that they should have the best possible playing conditions from the start.

They get them at the centre. There are also tuition courses available. Provided that they or their parents can afford the prices, the rest is up to them.

One feature which interested me was what I suppose could be called the strengthening room and its equipment. My young weight-lifter friend Barry Craft tells me it is the best he has ever seen. Players of nearly all games can benefit from this.

Tony Clarke saw me nosing around and said “Aye aye. I know what you’re writing about this week.”

He was only wrong about the week.

I did not much like the look of the caterpillar way from the storeyed car park to the centre. It looked as if it might break loose and bite at any time.


And I deplored the prices being charged for beverages and especially for soft drinks. The department should be told that in a sports context this is not what is meant by a squash racket.

I reserve judgment about the medi-pool. Grannies could be very much attracted by the sight of kiddies splashing about. And if the worst came to the worst, a sort of miniature Kew Gardens could be made of it, with willow pattern bridges, water lilies, crucian carp, fairy lights and all the rest of it.

And then, dear ladies, you might think you really had got something down there for your many years of rate-paying.


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Bletchley Gazette, November 11th, 1956

Rock’n Roll film

Rock’n Roll comes to Bletchley on Monday when the first feature of this kind, ”Rock Around the Clock”, starts a week showing at the County Cinema.

But if  manager, Mr J. Betteridge is right in his forecast there will be no rock’n roll hysteria which in some towns where the film was shown had to be doused by fire brigades and police reinforcements.

Mr Betteridge who has had his Teddy Boy troubles in the past, told a reporter: ”I don’t anticipate there will be any trouble during the shows but if there is it will be promptly dealt with”.

Ten banned 

Earlier this year Mr Betteridge banned ten ‘Teddies’ from his cinema for disturbing the shows. Two returned at a later date and apologised.

The film was originally scheduled for the week beginning November 1, but the Odeon Cinema Group had second thoughts and the film was put back to well after fireworks night.

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From 1973 to 1978 Bletchley Gazette reporter Harold Hepworth reminisced on the post-war years of North Bucks. All these articles have now been carefully transcribed by one of our lady volunteers at The Living Archive. The articles are large so selected paragraphs will be used over the next weeks and months just to give a flavour of how Harold saw the area develop.

Recently the Post Office lumbered us all with a set of six letters and figures to remember. They represent part of our new postal address. And thus, as far as the Post Office are concerned, we no longer live in Bucks. We live in MK something or other.

Easier to remember

I find letters easier to remember than numbers because mnemonics can be used. Some of you may be old enough to remember the cricketer J.W.H.T. Douglas and how you got his initials the right way round by calling him Johnny Won’t Hit Today Douglas. That was using mnemonics.

Similarly, and coming up-to-date, two officers of Bletchley Council are Mr. Ray and Mr. Chambers. One has the initials N.C. and the other has the initials E.C. But which is which?

Easy. Mr. Chambers is the Treasurer. So in my mind he has become Mr. No Credit Chambers, which leaves Mr. Ray as the E.C. And all my other friends can now guess as they like about how I remember theirs!

By the same means I can at last remember my postal address. It is Milton Keynes 35 Elizabeth Regina, with a space between the three and the five. But I am afraid that other people outside my own little square will have to keep their old addresses as far as I am concerned.

The major culprits

What I do need is a similar means of remembering a succession of mere figures. Here again the Post Office are the major culprits. Their automation has turned my telephone world upside down by doing away with local operators.

In my early days in Bletchley some important local numbers were still the same single or double figures they had been when the local exchange was first set up in a back room in Aylesbury Street. Bletchley Council Offices, 27; Bletchley Police, 32; Bletchley Co-op 8; and so on. All easy to remember. And if you did sometimes happen to forget, you told the operator who you wanted and she or he got them for you.

It was all so personal and homely. I had only to say “Hullo” into a telephone at any call box and a familiar voice would say “Number please, Mr. Hepworth?” There are still some operators of private switchboards who recognise me after just one word like that.

Enormous value

There were times when that personal touch was of enormous value to me as a reporter. For instance, the fire engine would rush past me in the street. I would call the part-time fire station in Church Street. There might be no reply. The operator would tell me so. Then she might add, “But I shouldn’t worry, Mr. Hepworth – it’s nothing much.

Nor was that extra-personal touch confined to Bletchley. Sometimes I would want somebody in a neighbouring town. The operator would tell me there was no reply. Then she would volunteer the information that “Mr. A usually goes down to Mr. B’s office for coffee at this time of a morning, if you’d like me to ring there.”

. . .

Time has marched on quite a bit since Harold wrote the above article, I do wonder though what he would have made of today’s computerised world!

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Bletchley District Gazette, April 21st, 1956

Over 50 Bletchley Children vaccinated

First child in Bletchley – and possibly the first in Buckinghamshire – to be vaccinated against ‘polio’ was eight-year-old Margaret Coats, younger daughter of Mr and Mrs Coates of 12 Warwick Road, Castles Estate.

She was the first of 58 children aged two to nine who had their primary innoculations at the Bletchley Road clinic on Thursday. They will have their second injections in three weeks’ time.

”No, it didn’t hurt”, she said, sucking a sweet as she left the surgery just after 9.30. Then she with her mother strolled away for a look at the shops before going back to the Saints Junior School for afternoon lessons as usual.

The Coates family, father, mother, Margaret and another daughter aged 13, are Tynesiders, but they came to Bletchley about 18 months ago from Cumberland. Mr Coates is employed by Associated Ethyl Ltd.

. . .

Anybody else remember the ‘polio’ jab, I most certainly can?

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Bletchley District Gazette, Saturday, May 12th, 1956

An army of red insects resembling minute spiders are invading St. Clement’s Drive, Bletchley, houses. Residents who are out for most of the day come home to find insects swarming in their hundreds on the front room wall.

Bedroom windows have been infested although the spiders have not penetrated inside the room. One St. Clement’s Drive housewife told a reporter that an urban council official had seen the insects and issued her with a box of white powder. ”This has not had any effect”, she added. ”They just run around with the powder on their back!”

Another tenant had been treating the ‘spiders’ with five different types of branded disinfectants and insecticides, and still they continue to thrive.

Last year at about the same time an ‘invasion’ took place on a more minor scale.

Surveyor’s Comments

Mr J. F. Smithie, Bletchley Surveyor, said there had been similar trouble two or three years ago in the Pinewood Drive area. It seemed to happen in dry weather and when the insects which he thought were red ants – were driven out of their normal haunts by building work.

They had a powder which would kill the insects but did not wish to use it because of possible harm to animals. They were in touch with an insecticide firm to see if they could help.

. . . .

Does anyone remember the infestation?


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From 1973 to 1978 Bletchley Gazette reporter Harold Hepworth reminisced on the post-war years of North Bucks. All these articles have now been carefully transcribed by one of our lady volunteers at The Living Archive. The articles are large so selected paragraphs will be used over the next weeks and months just to give a flavour of how Harold saw the area develop.

One Bletchley organisation which was revived after the war and which flourished for a decade but then sadly fell apart, was the town band. Occasionally meetings have been called in the hope of bringing it to life again, but so far without success.

Leading spirit in the revival was Mr. Bill Axby, who was the bandmaster. I first met him in 1946 when I called at his Fenny home and found him in a roomful of brass instruments which he was busily taking apart and cleaning. He had played in the RAF and his enthusiasm was infectious.

He said he hoped there would not only be a town band again but also a town orchestra.

Livening things up

I had more than a reporter’s normal interest in these aspirations. Despite the efforts of one or two churches, I thought Bletchley was a dull place musically and that a brass band would be as good a way as any of livening things up for a start.

The Bletchley band were soon back in action and for a time they went from strength to strength. They entered and won their sections in important competitions.

They also promoted an annual contest. On those particular Saturdays bands from over a wide area converged upon the town. On at least one occasion they amounted to 300 bandsmen and two or three halls had to be used for the competition itself and for rehearsals. You could hardly squeeze into Wilton Hall for the final adjudications. Mr. E. T. Ray was the President and Mrs. Ray presented the awards. Mr. Percy Barden, I think, was the main organiser.

I have not space to recount how the band eventually disbanded. One result was that Bletchley’s loss became Woburn Sands’ gain and also, I believe, Great Horwood’s.

Soprano cornet

But some good youngsters were trained in the Bletchley junior quartets and I was as pleased as anybody when one of those boys, Tom Waterman, who lived with his parents in Drayton Road, was recruited to the Black Dyke Mills Band, no less, as soprano cornet. He played with them when they won the national championship in 1959.

. . .

Practice room

Nowadays there is a lot of music-making of various sorts going on at North Bucks Music Centre in Sherwood Drive. But music is nothing new to the old cricket pavilion. Long before the centre was set up the town band used it as a practice room.

Bletchley council chairman Cecil Bowden is the custodian of the town band’s instruments. They have been repaired and retuned and are all ready for playing. There are 17 of them, not a complete band-worth, but enough to make a re-start. I reckon there are enough young musicians in the town to do it if they will.



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Bletchley District Gazette – May 23, 1964

He came, he saw – and was conquered! That was the story of Lord Taylor’s eight-hour visit to Bletchley on Saturday. In the South East Plan debate in the House of Lords he called Bletchley ”a dreary sort of place”. This he retracted at the end of a the debate, but the damage had been done.

At the start of his tour of the town on Saturday he told Councillors and other representatives of town organisation: ”Of course, you are right to tick me off . . . I am really sorry I said it.”

And at the end of an intensive day in the town and district he declared: ”it is obvious to anybody that Bletchley is full of life and full of vigour.”

In glorious weather, and with all the flowers and trees looking their best, Lord Taylor worked hard at his job of really seeing the town and meeting its people. As he left the platform at the end of the ”Any Questions” session which closed the day, he was puffing his cheeks and wiping his brow.

But he left to applause both for his courageous effort to make amends and for the advice and encouragement which, both as a medical man and as a member of the Harlow Town Development Corporation, he had been able to give during the course of the day. . . . He called Bletchley’s progress in the last few years, ”A remarkable achievement,” and left the town having made due atonement and also many new friends.

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