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Cowlishaw Family
The doorstep reminds of the past owner of the premises.

John Cowlishaw was the last headmaster of the old school in the High Street, and at the schoolhouse was born the last of his three sons, Alfred Gervase, who was in due course educated at the school. (Of the other sons, Arthur would eventually make his home in London, and Herbert in Australia.)

After various employments, including a while with Peter Robinson's in London's Regent Street, Alfred was apprenticed to the drapery trade in Bedford. Following his marriage to Natalie Fisher, a court dressmaker, in 1913 he and his wife set up in business in Aylesbury Street as AG Cowlishaw.

Apart from his commercial activities, he would also take a keen interest in birds, winning many trophies - he was among the first in the country to keep blue budgies!

During World War I he served with the Royal Garrison Artillery duties that would sadly inflict deafness and while he was away on military service Mrs Cowlishaw continued to run the family business.

As for their staff, in 1918 Constance Gore began work as an assistant at 2s 6d a week, and would become one of their longstanding employees.

'The Chalet'

In 1937 the family took over a site that had formerly accommodated a bakers on the comer of Aylesbury Street and Denmark Street and here, at 'The Chalet', the dressmaking department run by Mrs Cowlishaw would locally attain a high-class distinction, at one time employing 14 girls.

Meanwhile, Mrs Cowlishaw's only son, Douglas, who had been educated at Bedford Modem school and then served an apprenticeship with Elliston and Cavell Ltd, began a separate business as an outfitters at 7 Bletchley Road, which would continue until the end of June 1940, when he announced his enlistment in the RAFVR. He would subsequently spend four years in the Middle East as an electrician.

As for his only sister, Audrey, in September 1941 she married a member of the RAMC, Ronald Tew, from Petersfield, at St Mary's Church.

Sadly, in November of the following year, Alfred's mother, Catherine Amelia, died aged 89, having lived for several years with her son and daughter-in-law.

In 1947, one Saturday towards the end of October at the church of The Holy Child and St Joseph in Bedford, the wedding took place of Douglas Cowlishaw and Joan Catherine Pincher, the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs H Pincher, of 3 Clifford Avenue.

Bletchley's first war casualty

Joan had originally been engaged to Peter Eric Meadows, the son of Arthur and Nora Meadows, of 'Bradley', Eaton Avenue. But, having at the age of 22 volunteered for service in the Navy as an Ordinary Signalman in the Royal Naval Patrol Service, he would be the first Bletchley man to be killed in the war when, on May 20 1940, HM Trawler Rifnes, the 431 ton trawler to which he had been posted, received a direct hit.

A tennis player for the St. Martin's club and also a keen stamp collector, Peter had been employed before the war on the Bletchley postal staff, but then moved to the Civil Service Engineering Department at Reading, where he would stay for two years. At Reading, he became involved with Toc H, and following his death it was announced by the organisation that a photograph of him wearing naval uniform would be hung in the clubroom. Today he is commemorated on the Lowestoft Naval Memorial.

Honey for the honeymooners

As for Joan, in married life she would live at the Clock House, Little Brickhill, and on the couple's return from honeymoon they unexpectedly received another wedding gift when, on removing some floorboards to re-house a colony of bees, Douglas obtained around 151b of honey. With the attempt to re-house the colony having failed, the boards were then replaced!

Douglas had how added a footwear department to adjoin his business at 9 Bletchley Road, and extensive new additions were added to the rear of the premises in 1960.

The following November, Alfred Cowlishaw died, aged 74, having carried on the Aylesbury Street drapery business following the incapacitation of his wife by a stroke some seven years before.

With Douglas now managing both the stores, Audrey was responsible for the soft furnishings, curtains, and loose cover-making at the Aylesbury Street premises.

Both businesses have long since closed but, though the Aylesbury Street premises now accommodates a cycle shop, the fading lettering on a doorstep reminds of a not-too-distant past.