Hitchin Memories

As told to me by Mrs Eileen Smith

By Debbie Burstow

Our wedding 8th March 1947 at St Mary's Church, Blackheath
The Guild's 21st birthday.Eileen is standing on the right.

Eileen was born in London in 1928 and was married in south west London in 1947 at st Mary’s Church, Blackheath. It was the coldest day of the year and the snow was thick on the ground. Eileen and her husband moved to Hitchin in 1950 and bought a shoe repair shop in Nightingale Road. In Eileen’s own words:

‘We had only one room and a kitchen, with no inside toilet or bathroom. There were  three bedrooms up a narrow twisted staircase. We brought up our three children whilst living there. We later purchased 99 Willian Road in 1954 at a cost of £2400 but it was not finished for us to move into until 1956, where we rounded off our family with one more child. Our mortgage was with the Hitchin Building Society when Mr. Brooker was the secretary.

My memories of Nightingale Rd. was that it was quite self sufficient in those days, as it boasted a Notts bakery, Co-op, Fish shop, a butchers and even a Doll’s Hospital. I remember our milk was delivered by horse and cart, the horse loved to step up on the doorstep to receive a carrot or an apple. We lived opposite ‘The Woolpack’ and we were amused on a Sunday to witness the regular actions of some men who popped into the pub for a drink, then went over to the Catholic Church in Grove Road for mass, then returned to the pub!

From 1965 to 1991 I acted as a welfare helper at Strathmore School. Whilst standing in a bus queue I overhead some young mothers complaining that there was nothing to do so I decided to form a Townswomen’s Guild and became the founder member. The inaugural meeting was held at Highover school in 1957. A good number attended and eventually our membership rose to over 70. We now meet at Woolgrove Rd community centre. The guild has brought a lot of companionship and a chance to new skills, plus displaying talents we never knew we had.

My husband Ernie ran our shop for 25 years and we also had a market stall to sell new shoes. Later we renovated the shop and sold it on. It is now a TV shop. Whilst we lived in Nightingale Rd. the Bacon factory was thriving and employed many people and in it’s early days it also included an abbattoir. There was the Hitchin Band which played in Bancroft Recreation park. The park also had a pond, bowling green and tennis courts.

I was diagnosed with appendicitis at one time and the operation was carried out at the old Hitchin Hospital in Oughton Head Way.

Our TWG joined the Queen Mary Knitting Guild, which later continued under the patronage of the Queen Mother. Once a year selected members went to display their contributions at St James Palace. The knitted items were distributed amongst the needy poor. We were fortunate enough to speak to her Majesty, The Queen Mother, who had fond memories of Hitchin and St Paul’s Walden when she was young.


This page was added on 11/06/2012.

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  • my mum lived in common rise whith my ant ada my mun and her brother where moved down here in 1942. As my grandmother was working at hitchin station as at porter on the mail train she got moved down here from Newcastle she worked up there on there station . my mum was 12 years old thenough she all ways talked about Walworth how lovely it was then . she came back down here in 1950 whith my dad she met him in Wallsend he worked in the mine the rising sun they lived in granville road . lived there rest of there lives . she had thee boys . so I have grate memory’s growing up in walsworth . my mum whent on to work at the bacon.

    Factory in the early 70.s dad did 45 yes at cam gears will bury way.

    By stephen dorkacz (11/10/2020)
  • Hello to Mrs Eileen Smith.
    I have just read your letter in hitchin memories with great interest.I think I used to come and visit you quite often in your house behind your shoe repair shop in Nightingale Road.My Grandparents Harrold and Emily Furr had the fish shop next door to you.My name is Lynn Kenwright and I can remember coming round to see your new baby.I remember all the shops you mentioned and the people in them.How it has changed now
    Very best wishes
    Lynn Hare (Kenwright)

    By Lynn Hare (08/04/2018)
  • The lady on the left in the 21st birthday party is Annie Nicholson.

    By Helen Burrows (27/06/2013)