45 Perowne Street
History of 45 Perowne Street
Henry Thompson, cabinet maker
Harry Thompson, cabinet maker and verger S Barnabas Church
Andrew Grant Ryder
Harold Toller, painter
In 2003 Irene Back née Toller, born in this house in 1923, wrote to the Museum of Cambridge with her memories of growing up in Mill Road:
From a very early age I felt that I lived in a “village” community – a “village” that had everything. Our doctor, Dr Burns, who was the founder of a medical practice which is still going strong under the name of Brookfields health centre. I must be one of the oldest patients still on the books.
We had two cinemas nearby. The Kinema and the Playhouse which was situated on the corner of Covent Garden and was grander than the Kinema, with stone steps leading up to the ticket office. A young lad in page boy uniform, was employed there who during the interval walked backwards down the aisles, spraying everywhere with an obnoxious perfume. No windows or air-conditioning in those days!
Passing the Work House (later Mill Road Maternity Hospital) and Dales Brewery in Gwydir Street, was the Mill Road Library in the shadow of the railway bridge. The local children (eight years and above) would spend hours in the children’s reading room which was overseen by a formidable lady, sitting at a desk waiting to examine our hands – front and back – for any sign of grime. If we passed the test we were allowed to choose a book and sit at the table to read – IN SILENCE – apart from a frequent fit of giggles.
The local church was St Barnabas, behind which was the infants’ school which I attended to the age of eight, moving on tp St Philip’s junior school. The headmistress was Miss Salmon and one of the teachers a Miss Fitch. Having passed the 11 plus exam, I moved up to the Girls’ Central School in Melbourne Place and still have my school report book from 1934.
Our home was very near to the railway station, within easy walking distance so that when we had our summer holiday, a ten shilling railway ticket was purchased, which meant we could go to Hunstanton every day for a whole week, which meant Mum packing sandwiches every night for the following day.
In Perowne Street our house, number 45, was end-of-terrace. And over the high stone wall was Slingsbys’ Yard. I think that my most endearing memory of those far off days was that in the yard was a blacksmith’s forge. I wonder how many people still remember when the handsome shire horses were brought there to be shod?
The blacksmith was a very tolerant man who allowed the children to watch him at work and he would let the boys work the bellows to keep the fire going. Whilst he was showing one horse, there would be two or three patiently waiting outside in the street for their turn.
In the twenties of course the horse drawn vehicles were the main means of transport and were used by most of the trades people. So our friendly blacksmith was kept very busy.
When I ran errands for my mother at the shops at the top of the street, she would always call out as I left the house “mind the horses!”.