Woburn Sands – It’s Shops and People

A booklet containing the following information was published in 1993 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of St Michael’s Church.  I am indebted to the late Dorothy “Dolly” Mills (nee Carter) and her family for giving me permission to republish it here.  Dorothy originally moved to Woburn Sands as a young girl in 1929, but moved several times around Woburn Sands and Aspley Guise.

Please remember that this was written more than 25 years ago, and some people (and places) described as ‘now’ are no longer with us.


The High Street

Mr Popple, the ironmonger was at the corner of Russell Street. He often stood at the entrance to the shop and I am told at one time he wore a bowler hat, although I never saw him wear one. He was always reluctant to sell his goods.

Mr Wooding’s fish shop was next. They had an enormous ice box. The ice was brought into the shop in large blocks handled with sacks and what looked like very large pincers. Fish and sausages came every day by train and Mr Wooding’s sons fetched them from the railway station.

Then came Mr Stockton, draper. He always wore a butterfly winged hard collar. He dealt mostly in ladies clothes, many of which hung from the ceiling.

Next door was Mrs Dovey who sold wool and needlework requirements. She would only sell you the exact amount of wool, in skeins, necessary to complete the garment. She and Mrs Popple were sisters and they always had a stall at church fetes etc. selling a great variety of needlework and knitted and crochet articles all made by them.

Two postcard views of the High Street shops, a view which has hardly changed today, apart from the volume and style of traffic!

Now came Mr Elliot, the ‘High Class Grocer’. The smell of ground coffee always reminds me of his shop as he had a large coffee grinding machine in his window, which he used constantly. It had a highly polished brass neck which shone to perfec­tion. Mr Elliot was a very smart and business-like gentlemen. He had a son and daughter. The son died quite young but his daughter is still living, but where I do not know.  Mr Michelmore had the little sweet shop next door just as it is now. Next came The Cosy Corner was – part tea-shop and part fancy cakes – and then Mr Chapman with another draper’s shop. Mr Wagstaff was next. He sold very good shoes – Miss Amie took over when he retired.

W H Smith and Son had the paper shop and several local young men started their careers as book shop managers from this shop.

Eastmans the butchers came next. Mr and Mrs Faulkener managed the shop, he as the Master Butcher and his wife was cashier in a small kiosk inside the shop.

Mr and Mrs White owned the greengrocery shop next door, I think he was related to Eve White’s husband Harold.

Mr Crawley had another butchers shop. He was a typical butcher – a large man with a large tummy and always wore a blue striped apron and sometimes wore a boater hat. He had a daughter, Gwen, who at times helped in the shop. He also had a dog that sat in the doorway.

Between this shop and Hoopers were two little cottages, one of which was used by the Westminster Bank on certain days of the week. Now, of course, the Bank covers the whole of this area.

Mr Hooper kept the next shop. This was every kind of drapery – house linen, ladies clothes, dress materials by the yard, hats. Everything was priced at ‘something three farthings’ and one was given a strip of pins in change for the farthing. He always had a chair for customers to sit on.

The Club passage and Club Cottages came next and a shop on the comer which I cannot remember was ever used. Eve White’s parents had a greengrocery shop next, their name was Mr and Mrs Burley.

Now came ‘The Mans Shop’ and this was a very exclusive gentleman’s shop. Mr Summerfield owned it and Mrs Summerfield and Miss Pleasant had an exclusive ladies shop next door.

A little house stood back next – this eventually became a ladies hairdressers owned by Mr and Mrs Wesley who had a gentlemen’s hairdressers next door. Mr Wesley was interested in the affairs of the village and was quite well-known.

Mr and Mrs Dunkley had a small grocery shop next. Mrs Dunkley had a strong contralto voice and sang solos at various public functions.

Mr Bathurst’s chemist shop was a great help health-wise. When one could not afford to pay a doctor for advice Mr Bathurst, a very kindly man, was always willing to listen and suggest something to help. His son Dick took over the business from his father until he too retired. They had two, if not three, enormous bottles of red and blue liquid in the windows.

The Post Office and sorting office came next, run by Mr ‘Sticky’ Holmes. Miss Daphne White worked there for many years, also Miss Ena Mann, who is now Mrs Kemp in Hardwick Road. Sweets were not sold there at that time.

Vicarage Street was a cul-de-sac, Giles field was at the end where, when there was a heavy snowfall youngsters fetched their sledges out and careered down the hill. My son Stephen was one who enjoyed that.

Miss Tansley had a china shop on the other corner of Vicarage Street, they also sold paraffin by the pint. Miss Tansley was a very heavy lady and the crockery etc used to rattle when she walked across the wood floor.

Dudeney and Johnston’s was a branch of the parent company at Bedford. This was a grocery store and Mr and Mrs Wakefield managed the shop. They had an only son who died very young and is buried at St Michael’s.

Mr Toogood owned the ‘Bon-Marche’, this was another draper. Next Mr Emms had a lovely jewellers shop. He was a watch and clock repairer and sold silver and glassware as well as jewellery. He always fascinated me when he put a small magnifying glass in his eye to inspect a watch etc. His daughter Primrose became Mrs Cant of Downham Road. Then came Miss Collins who kept a small newspaper and book shop.

Mr Pikesley had just started a small garage business next – not as large as now.

Mr McMurtry’s was a furniture shop. A very kindly man, his wife later became enrolling member of the Mothers Union. Their niece who lived with then is still alive and lives in Woburn.

Two views at the south end of the High Street.

Mr Markwell had another grocery shop on the other corner of Downham Road. His daughter, Mrs Evelyn Bailey, lives in Downham Road.

At the time I am writing of there was a field, called the Swan Field, where Weatherheads is now. The came Lancasters shop. They also ran the ‘Picture Bus’ to the County Picture House, Fenny Stratford and later to the Studio at Bletchley.

At the back of Lancasters premises was the slaughter house for Pratts the butchers in Aspley Hill.

Other Roads

In Church Road, where Mr Harrison lives, was a shop, groceries mostly. It belonged to Mr Linger and he also was a carrier, taking goods or parcels to Bedford Market on a Thursday.

Mr Partridge was the baker. He had his shop where the present bakery is at the top of Hardwick Road.

Another bakery was in Weathercock Lane. This was owned by Mr Ashby. He took all his bread round in a proper handcart. He was who got me my first domestic job at The Cedars, Station Road. For six months I went for one hour before school and scrubbed the front door step, cleaned out the fire places and laid the fires and any other jobs wanting to be done. I then ran home, changed my frock, and ran to school in time to play the piano for the children to march into school.

I might add I didn’t tell anyone – my friends or teachers that I did this cleaning job before school started. Why? Because I was too ashamed!! I earned five shillings a week for this work. When eventually I left school I worked at The Cedars 9.30 am to 3 pm for 7/6d a week, which included my dinner. 2/6d was for my mother, 2/6d for savings and 2/6d to spend.

To get back to Woburn Sands there were two undertakers. Mr Edgar Smith of Hardwick Place and Mr Hudson at the bottom of Church Road.

In Station Road was a house called Horse Grove (next door to Elm Lodge) and Mr Chester lived there. He had a dairy and stables at the back. There are now three houses built where these stood. Mr Chester drove the cows twice a day down to the field where Deethe Close now stands for milking.

Miss Wodhams lived with her brother in the house where Dr Rodgers lives now. Miss Wodhams was a very good music teacher and had a very powerful singing voice. She outdid everyone in church when she was there.

The local Doctor was Dr Holmes. He lived in The Shrubbery, Station Road. He was very much the family doctor. He later moved to Brookside, Theydon Avenue.

The off licence was at the top of Russell Street. This was run by Mr Hardy who also often stood in the doorway, very smart with a corpulent tummy and a lovely gold chain complete with gold watch across.

The listed building in Russell Street, now an antique shop, was a bakery. This was owned by Mr Lewis. Mr Hollier worked there, one of his sons lives in Chapel Street.

The policeman for the village was PC Faithfull, his daughter, Mrs E Yeomans, now lives in Shelton Court.

Barclays Bank was in one of two houses on the site of the present bank. Later both houses were taken over and turned into one business.

The Haven Nursery, where Mrs Kesby lived, was just down Station Road on the left.  Before her Mr and Mrs Hanson ran the nursery. Mrs Hanson was the daughter of Mr Hardy (of the off licence). I think she was one of the people who helped start the Evergreens Club. Mrs Last, who lives in Theydon Avenue (now over 90) was another who helped run the Club and her husband, Ernie, had the garage down Russell Street.

Russell Street above, and Chapel Street below, long before they were ‘made up’ and tarmacked.

There was a little shop in The Leys selling groceries and another at the bottom of Chapel Street.

Mr Bert Kilpin (Reg’s father) was the local ‘mobile’ greengrocer. He and his brother Horace grew most of the produce he sold, but Mr Bert Kilpin was the one who brought it round on the horse and cart.

Mr Potts was another greengrocer who brought his stock round by horse and cart. He lived in Weathercock Lane.

Mr Tansley, who lived in Russell Street, took paraffin round and supplied local villages, often very late at night. He had a lovely waxed ‘Sergeant-Major’ moustache. He was brother to Miss Tansley who had the china shop.

There was a Miss Payne who was very active in church affairs. She lived with her family in the large house opposite the Catholic Church. One of the family graves has a marble covering near the entrance to our church vestry.

Between the Fir Tree Hotel buildings and the Chinese stood some little cottages where Mr Farmer had a saw-mill and the noise of the electric saw was part of the sound of Woburn Sands. His business later moved over the railway crossing to where there are now ‘Executive’ type houses built. There are still members of the Farmer family living in Woburn Sands.

Mr Squires had a tailoring business in Station Road.

Mr Whittleton had a small grocery shop in Aspley Hill and he later had a proper shop built on the corner of Downham Road. As the years passed the Co-op bought it for the sale of dry goods. I think it is now a private house.

The School

At the Council School Mr Codd was head teacher. Mr W Cooper was a master. He was greatly interested in the history of Woburn Sands and surrounding villages. Mrs Neville was another teacher. She was always putting on children’s plays, mostly missionary plays, and she was always after me to take part. Mrs Day and Mrs Pitchford were also teachers.

While I was at school a local lady, Miss Mahon, put on a pageant depicting the seasons, months, hours, night and day (I was 12 o’clock night), countries of the world, John Bull, Royalty etc. This was all held in the grounds of The Dene, Aspley Hill.”

If you have recollections of Woburn Sands before 1950, or perhaps know a relative who does, why not jot down some of those memories, or record them onto tape, before they are lost forever. That era will soon pass out of living memory.  Or you could discuss the people and places detailed above with elderly relatives, and see if they can add any information.  I would be pleased to transcribe any tapes you make and add memories to those here.

Webpage last updated Nov. 2018