Derek Clarke (b.1924)

It was a poor area, we used to live on the Derby Road and you’d got the Victoria Street, Mill View, Charles Street, and there was a little passage then into John Street. And then the hosiery factory at the side of my home, that was pulled down and made into the fire station. Then at the back of the church they dug a reservoir so that we’d got two reservoirs, one up Mill View and the other one was up Leicester Road where it is now.

Derby Road, Hinckley

He (Dad) was a baker, on the Co-op. It used to be very nice…the bread was made at Druid Street and the Co-op was in Bond Street. There was the grocery shop on Bond Street and you’d come into the back of that and there was the bakehouse for the Hinckley Co-ops. There was a bakehouse for the cakes and confectionary, that was in Castle Street.

It was all more or less within a mile, from Leicester Road down to Butt Lane, down to the centre of Hinckley and down to the railway station. You knew everything – you knew it all. Hinckley itself was little tiny houses in a clump. It was all little…squares, a little square there…and there…if you took from Leicester Road right the way through down to Coventry Road…the railway comes straight through the middle.

Now from the railway you’d got the Sketchley Dye works, but from there up to the top of the hill there was about two big houses. You come further along up into Burbage you’d got a few medium big houses, then you got into Burbage and that was only more or less Burbage Road, Hinckley Road, and you’re coming back into fields again, just farms, that was all it was. You could spit that way, spit the other and you’d near enough done the lot!

Then they started and they put all the Brookside area of the town. That now, Burbage, is bigger than what Hinckley is. Brookside, Westfield Road, all them for our pleasure time. We’d start at Butt Lane and you’d go through the common into Barwell, Rogues Lane, down into Ashby Road, down into the Stoke Road – once again that was all fields and you came back into the main road into the town. You’d done it in the morning. You’d walk round all those fields you wouldn’t see a soul, all you’d see was cows, sheep and goats.

Childrens Summer Festival at Barwell

The whole flower estate – they are all called different flowers – that’s all top side of Burbage – that was one big rose garden. They’d got every colour, every size, and there was another at the top of Coventry Road, Burbage. They were nurseries, believe me they were beautiful. If you went from the station along the road and came to the back end of what we used to call rose gardens, it was absolutely one perfume…absolutely gorgeous, you could smell it from the fields.

Near The Anchor Inn, Burbage

My dad had got an allotment up Leicester Road. Up there there was no houses just a few big ones in the Butt Lane where the toffs live. Anyway, we’d got trees – apples, pear and there were four plums – of course me and my four brothers, we had to dig it with my dad. Soon as it come fruit time we’d pick it and you’d take it round to the church goers. ‘How much are the plums?’ ‘Four pence a pound.’ And you’d have Victorias like that, beautiful things, gorgeous plums. Then we’d got the pear tree…it was as high as this building, massive, and my dad had to go Jeffcotes the builders to borrow their big ladders…and they’d say come on you get up that tree, get up that ladder and of course I was the littlest and I had to get to the bloody top there and they used to put a belt around me and I used to lean back. Onto a basket, two strings…lower them down, my brothers would lay them out into – we used to have wicker clothes baskets them days. You didn’t go and buy this that and the other – you bartered.

My dad worked in the bake-house but my mother wouldn’t have bread from there. Mr.Oxley in Derby Road he was a baker, he’d got a little, well it was a big round at the finish. We always went there, it was red hot that bread, red hot, and they always used to put a cross. They were 2lb loaves and you could guarantee my mother she’d walk straight into the kitchen, pull the top point off, cut it in half, slap of butter, ‘There you are my lad, that’s your breakfast.’ It’d go round the family. Every morning I’d got to go from Mill View down to Victoria Street, get the bread and come back, and I used to love it because I could put me hand round here and it were red hot.

St Peters RC Church, Priory Walks

Willy Fireman, he lived up Leicester Road, and I had a little job that I had to run off when I lived in Leicester Road. I used to go through the Priory Walks into the Queens Park. Now the fire station was in the Queens Park where the Technical College is on the top of Spa Lane there…well at the time I’m talking about, when I was a little kid, they used to keep the horses in the field in the back of John Street and as soon as they’d got a fire anywhere this old boy used to jump on his bike, run to John Street, bring the bloody horses round to London Road, pick the fireman up, then go around to the fire. Well anyway then they progressed to a Meriweather…the old boy he said, ‘I’ve got gout, I can’t walk, tell the fireman there’s a blaze at such and such a place.’ I had to run all the way down Priory Walks into the Queens Park – there was a crew sitting there like, you know, but there was no bloody phones – and I got there, ‘You’ve got a fire at such and such a place, you’ve got to pick Mr Peacock up down Leicester Road ‘cos he’s got gout.’ Of course there’s running around, he gets into this fire brigade, he comes round London Road, into Leicester Road.

Whether or not he were talking and not looking where they were going but the bloke who were driving the fire brigade he missed it and he went straight into a house . The front room was about three foot lower…you had to go down three steps…of course the bloody firemen went straight the way down. They had to fetch the fire brigade from Leicester and when they came back the place was flat, burnt out completely. The fire brigade was still in that bloody front room.

Queens Park and bandstand

I went down to the dole, met another friend, this time round he says, ‘I’ve just been down the post office for an appointment, they’re waiting for somebody down there if you want it.’ So I went straight down and…from there I went right the way through until I was 60. For a start off I was sorting and delivery, then I went into the army, then I got blowed up, come back into the post office again and Bob’s your uncle. I finished up driving and delivering Sharnford, Wolvey, Aston and Wyken, that was on the rural run.

You see the girls in Nuneaton always came to Hinckley for jobs and all these hosiery factories at Hinckley, the girls used to sort of fight for the jobs there and undercut the girls at Hinckley so that could get better jobs. When you talk about undercutting I mean on John Street there was a biggish factory there and they used to have three busloads of girls from Nuneaton, well of course…there was a lot of animosity between the two towns really. But I mean it was only the fact that the girls wanted the jobs and they were satisfied to move out of the area to get them, you know.

St Peters RC Church – inside the church

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