I’ve just been laying in my bed and thoughts have been a wandering through my head…
I don’t know how, but I got onto what I thought was facinating when I was a wee toddler being wandered around Bedford town centre. I think the most woderful of all the facinating things was the rotating coffee roaster in the window of, I think, Whittards in the arcade.
This got me thinking about what other things I could remember about the general area from that time period.
Well, starting in the square at the back of the bus station there was what was one of the bigger supermarkets, “Fine Fare” which subsiquently went through many changes of ownership, “International,” “PriceCut” and a couple of others I can’t remember. This took up the north side of the square and was the standard mid-1950s brick construction as is most of that area of Bedford. On the southern side is British Home Stores (who now like to be known as “Bhs”) with on the eastern side from south to north, an alley-way leading south, the rear entrance to Woolworths which always had a big weighing machine and a passport photo booth, Ratners and then the entrance to the arcade with a women’s clothes shop and another ally leading north in the NE corner.
The coffee shop was the second shop on the right as you entered the arcade.
The other facinating shops were in the next arcade along. From the look of that one it seemed as though it was probably edwardian in age. About 50 yards from the entrance, up a slight rise without any shops (except the rear entrance to Halfords on the right) was the chocolate shop. It always seemed magical at the time, mostly because I was hardly ever allowed the treat of going inside. I think in total I must have only have been in there about three times. Just across from that shop was the wool shop where my Mum used to buy her knitting wool and patterns and a little further still and back on the left was the model shop, full of facinating model kits I’d never get to make.
Next door to the model shop was an old fashioned tobaconist. You couldn’t see the interior of the shop through the windows as they were full to the brim with shelves upon shelves of different pipes, brown tins boxes and various instruments to torture pipes with. Finally on that row was the Woolwich Building Society. Across from that, on the right, was the “Cadena” cafeteria resplendant in its wood effect formica and stainless steel.
Turning right out of the arcade you can see down the High Street to the crossroads, across from which on the right is the main entrance to “E.P.Rose,” the biggest of the two department stores in the town, with a wonderous toy department taking up a quarter of the 2nd floor.
Turning left you look north up the high street with various smallish shops on both sides, Texas Homecare, W.H.Smith & Sons and the wonderful Goldings ironmongers, which had a big model department at the rear of the shop.. but to get there you had to pass all the strange and wonderful ironmongery.. anything from hooks to knobs, washers, rotivators, lawn mowers etc.
Of course, that was a long time ago now. I doubt very many of those shops are left. Texas first moved to Midland Road and then the bus station concorse before closing in the early 80’s. In the mid-70s W.H.Smith moved into the new Harpur/Howard Centre complex (which used the site and facard of the old Bedford Modern School).
I’m not sure what became of the chocolate shop or the model shop. The last time I visited Bedford about 10 years ago the coffee shop was still there. The Cadena cafeteria is long gone now and “E.P.Rose” sold out to Debenhams in the early 70s though changed very little until the mid-80s. The other “major” local department store “Braggins” sold out to Beales in the late 70s.. and so began the change into the cloned high street of today.
It’s strange how the mind plays tricks with you when you’re settling down to sleep, especially when your body is in the wrong timezone (GMT).