Between Says and the Co-op there was Webbers, Coopers, Pattinsons and Polinsons, and they all had slaughter houses and of course when you came home from school we used to often run there on a Monday to see what was going on. All the animals were killed down there on a Monday.
Coming home from school I was often delayed going down Angel Yard, that was where they had the slaughter houses in those days, I think you will find it in one of the Marlborough books, they’ve got a picture of it where they were burning the bristles off the pigs and actually I have got an uncle standing there Arthur Douglas. They were Coopers, Ansell & Bird Webber used to do his slaughtering in New Road. That was when one day I can remember it was either a bullock or a heifer or something got loose and run out into a yard, it was enclosed but nobody could get near it so they got a marksman from one of the camps out on the plain and I can remember seeing him standing up on high walls with a rifle, bang, shot it.
Pelham’s Puppets. This was founded by Bob Pelham when he came out of the army probably mid 1940’s he started making a little puppet in his own home. He lived at Ogbourne St Andrew just opposite where my mother in law lived. He gradually started up a little tiny factory, he had a little place in Victoria House in Kingsbury Street for a while till it grew too big and then he had this place along London Road which was a former laundry but then it gradually became so big his office staff was probably five or six people in there any one time working on the accounts, and we’re talking of the days before computers, everything was done manually. Eventually he had some buildings on the opposite side of the river as well so it was well spread out, a huge concern really and above and behind the Oxfam shop, they had a little place there in between the time when it was Irvings and that closed and this was a vacant place and they worked from there.
I was very lucky I was able to start working for Bob Pelham and Pelham Puppets. He was fairly well established, well he had only been going for about three years, I must have joined him in 1959 and I became Secretary to his partner Bob Harrison, but after Bob Harrison retired, I then worked for Bob Pelham and starting as a part-time secretary. I gradually over the years built the job up till I was really running the office while Bob Pelham was the creator and he liked to be in the factory creating these wonderful puppets which became internationally renowned. They were toys but they were perfectly balanced, hand made, fully working marionettes and he himself went up and demonstrated them in Hamley’s toy shop in Regent Street and so gradually we got them established and entered in all the big London stores, Harrods and Selfridges and gradually we built up a very big export trade till finally we were employing about over a hundred in the factory and about over a hundred part-time workers working in their own homes. We became one of the biggest employers in Marlborough and of great help to young mothers with children because they could do the machining and head painting and the stringing and the assembly, they could take the parts home and work in their own homes if they weren’t able or didn’t want to work in the factory. I think Pelham Puppets played a very important part in the life of the town and it was a great shame Bob Pelham died very suddenly in 1980 and after that of course with the creator gone it was very difficult for the firm to survive, so sadly it was put into liquidation.
The Tannery was another big employer of the town. There was loads of activity, when you went by there you could smell the tanning being done, could see the stacks of skins out there seasoning. That eventually moved away from the town and I think it became Wingrove & Edge and they had another place down Street way that’s where leathers were needed where shoes are made.
There were roadsters in the old workhouse, the poor old things, they had to earn their keep by having a hammer and smashing big old stones, you know, to make them smaller for the roads.
Chandlers at that time was one of the foremost saddlers for horse racing in the country. Jess Chandler the boss was president of The Master Saddlers and where we did lots of work for many, many racing stables throughout the country and indeed the World. There was about six of us working there doing saddles, horse clothing; we had people making the racing colours you see when the horses are patrolling before the race. We had some people in the sewing shops making the clothes, the hats, so all that was made in Chandlers. It was a real true family firm, it wasn’t a case of employers and employees, you were all in it together. Christmas time you were always invited down to the house for drinks and that and you got taken out for little trips out somewhere and there was always a staff dinner, a great place to work.
Where Waitrose is, that was an old skating rink and the fire station. When there was a fire there was the fire bell and the Police used to ring that and the Police used to stop there to tell them when it was out in the country the villages and that, where to go and then before they had the first fire engine, they of course they had to go and catch the horses.
There was a siren on top of the town hall. It was the local air raid siren during the war, if a fire was called out I’ve got an idea some form of a bell was used to call, they couldn’t use this siren then because everyone thought it was an air raid. And then they went over to radios, but before that happened one night the siren itself caught fire so I don’t know how they really called the fire engine out.
I can remember when I was decorating down in the Parade, Fred Harroway had a shop there and I was knelt down painting the sill of the front window and next door was Hilliers they had a fruiters shop and all of a sudden there was a bit of a commotion and I looked round and saw this bullock or whatever it was coming across the Parade straight in through the shop door and the next thing I saw was Pffeww it was flying through the window, so talk about a bull in a china shop, it was a bull in a fruit shop.