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With Thanks to Angie Bruce
In 1909 the customers in The White Horse pub had a prime view of the conflagration opposite - the Great Fire of Buckden. The rising flames were from the terrace of part-thatched cottages, central within which lay Billy Andrews Bakery. The ovens at the back, left briefly unattended, had ignited the inferno.
There was no ‘making-good’ the damage. Complete clearance and building anew was the only option. This was well beyond Bill’s means and he retired to the Almshouses. The sale of the site heralded the arrival of the HInsby’s, from St Neots. Maud Hinsby was a lady of means, while Ernest had travelled widely having worked on ocean-going liners. They financed the development of a handsome terrace of three properties, at the Silver Street/Church Street junction, selecting the larger corner property for their home.
Right top, Bakers, Silver Street.
Right bottom, after the great fire of Buckden 3 March 1909 which started in the bakers of William Andrews.
Some years later their front room was converted and ‘HInsby’s’ corner shop emerged. On offer was a wide range of sweets, cigarettes, loose and tinned tobacco. Push open the door and a bell would ring as you entered, duly summoning assistance. Stock was arranged in highly polished wood and glass cabinets. There were no self-service arrangements. Maud was happy to assist, invariably wearing ‘her pearls’. She was a kindly woman and very compassionate, happily dispensing milk puddings and egg custards to villagers in poor health. She was, however, irksomely nosey. Adjacent to the counter was a chair for customers’ comfort. For those uninitiated ‘sit down at your peril’ for you were unwittingly exposing yourself to a torrent of probing questions. Children were equally subject to a quizzing from Maud and no matter where they featured in the queue, they would always have to wait for all the adults to be served first.
Ernest set himself up as a coal merchant and had a sign pasted up accordingly. Charlie Richardson took to the wheel of the delivery van. With households entirely dependent upon solid fuel at this time, demand was high, and Charlie, always cheery, was kept busy.
Behind the scenes Ivy, the live-in housekeeper, kept hens to provide fresh eggs and busied herself ensuring the home was spick and span. Next door The Manns set up a bakery. A lovely jolly couple, their fresh bread was hugely popular with villagers and smelled delightful as you passed by.
Left, 3 Silver Street, Hinsby's Corner
By the 1960’s the Hinsby’s were looking for a quieter life and retired from front of house. The coal merchant business was sold to ‘Did’ Phillips at Offord and Arnold S. Pipe took over the running of the corner shop, extending his business empire across the street. Young Chrissie Gale, a fresh-faced teenager, was employed to serve the customers. Being one of thirteen children, Chrissie knew a thing or two about handling people and especially holding your own with the lads, for life with seven brothers had conferred a lot to feel confident about!
With her youthful exuberance and good humour, she was a breath of fresh air! There was a chair for customers to settle in for an extended conversation. Jack Cawcutt, strolling round from Vine Cottages for his Woodbines, regularly made full use of that. His legs had seen better days and were very bowed, having broken one in a fall from his garden plum tree and the other while in hospital care! Harry Pearson (senior) on the other hand, would call for ‘his smokes’ (two packs of Rizlas and an ounce of St Bruno) dependably two minutes prior to lunch-time closing. Unlike Jack, Harry didn’t like to hang around!
Chrissie met ‘her man’ when John, employed building the new homes in School Lane, chose to pop in regularly. John’s eyes looked beyond the display of sweets and cigarettes. Chrissie was won over and so in September 1968 she duly left to get married and become a ‘housewife’. Her post was seamlessly filled by another young Buckden lass; this time Jane Milner.
Right, Hinsby's coal lorry and C Richardson.
Jane oversaw the change to decimal currency and the installation of Buckden’s first ‘vending machine’, with cigarettes in packs of 10. Smoking, whether pipe, cigar or cigarette, was widespread. Popular brands included Players, Senior Service, Winston and Lucky Strike. Old Harry was still a regular customer, along with Weary Willy Thompson. Dr Morris, like Dr Jolly before him, called in for his particular brand of cigarette, stocked at his request. His choice raised some eyebrows because smoking ‘Gauloises Bleues’ was considered a trifle racy!
The village was expanding rapidly. There were more youngsters with more ‘pocket money’ to spend on the likes of fizzy pop, ice-cream and sweets. Even the kindly Whippet bus driver, on the morning school-run to Longsands, could occasionally be persuaded to make an unscheduled stop at Hinsby’s. A handful of uniformed figures would tumble from the bus. Cadbury’s Crème Eggs were a particular favourite.
Ernest passed away in 1973, and so did Hinsby’s corner shop. Ivy, now free of her domestic responsibilities, retired quietly to the neighbouring and newly-built bungalow (No 9 Silver Street) while Jane and the stock of cigarettes and confectionery transferred across the street to Pipes.
Left, Mr and Mrs Hinsby.
Hinsby's Corner: Activities
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