Sunday, 18 April 2010

King Street

King Street ran from Cambridge Street to Stoke Road and Manor Street.
There doesn't appear to be many photos of the King Street arch in existance but this is the best one I've found. This photo dates from the early 1960s and shows the arch which was just after 144 King Street, which can just be seen on the left of the photo. Number 144 housed Cole's grocery shop.
Perhaps one of the most remembered shops in King Street was Ivor Dewdney's pasty shop which was at number 2 and opened in the 1930s.
The photo shows interesting adverts for both Ovaltine and the Co-op.
In the early part of the last century, hawkers and entertainers gathered underneath the arch. One was a Mr Pratt who, with his monkey, Bruce, entertained passersby with his organ grinding. Bruce wore a red hat and jacket and was well known to the people living in the area. Mr Pratt, his wife and his monkey all lived in one tiny room in the street. Small audiences would gather to watch Bruce and would feed him chipped potatoes which were sold in the evening by Italians living in the area. By day, they would sell ice cream around the town from their small handcarts.
Another well known figure was a blind Cornish miner who sold boot and shoe laces which were draped from his left arm while, with his right hand, he would hold out a tin cup to collect money.
Many beer houses sprung up in the area during the 1850s including the Thistle Rose and Shamrock, the Hen and Chicken and the Botanic Garden which was near Flora Street Nursery. In the shadow of the railway embankment stood the Robert Burns, the Broad Gauge and the Tandem Inn.
As a barrel organ played, bruised fruit was sold at knock down prices and women gathered to attend late night auctions selling cheap cuts of meat. Chestnut sellers would also ply their trade from a warm fire and a man on stilts would tap on windows to announce forthcoming events such as the fair or the circus. Rabbit formed a staple part of people's diet and a rabbit catcher with four or five rabbits hanging from his arm would sell and skin the creatures on the spot.
It all seems a world away from the King Street of today. Torn apart in the Second World war, the area has seen a lot of changes and rebuilding. When the arch was pulled down in the 1970s, a major part of the street disappeared and the hawkers and entertainers from nearly 100 years previous, were soon forgotten.

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