Rampart Road's Shops and Businesses
Rita L. Jacob
Before the ring road was built, Rampart Road ended at Milford Street on one side but continued to Hill View Road on the other; the block of houses across the top of Winchester Street then being Winchester Terrace. The pub at the end of the latter, now the Winchester Gate, had a London Road address and was known as the London Road Inn.
The site at the opposite end, on the corner with Tollgate Road was occupied by very different businesses during it‘s history including St. Ann’s Ironworks, the New Forest Laundry and a garage. The ironworks, usually known as Armitages, were owned by John Varley Armitage and, in the 1920s, employed a moulder, two fitters, a blacksmith, a labourer and three apprentices in addition to John’s three sons. Then, castings of up to five hundredweight, including drain covers, were made on the premises; repairs to traction engines being an Armitage speciality.
The New Forest Laundry was one of two laundries in the immediate area, the other being in The Friary with an access in St. Ann’s Street. At weekends, Phyllis Maple’s mother scrubbed the floors in the New Forest Laundry, Phyllis helping out when she had problems with her knees.
‘On the end of Rampart Road there used to be an ironworks first of all and then a blacksmith’s and then it went over to being a laundry and mum worked at the laundry down there cleaning all the floors at the weekends, And when her knees got so bad and she couldn’t do it I used to go down and scrub the laundry out for her on Sunday mornings, and I got half a crown for that because it helped her, so she could work down there ’til she was sixty and get her pension which she did and that helped her, she didn’t have to work so hard then, the good old days’
The newsagents on the St. Ann’s Street corner was also a family business; belonging to the Lannings until it’s demolition in 1965. The last proprietor was Miss Flora Lanning; a diminutive lady usually dressed in a patterned smock, dark skirt and thick lisle stockings. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, newspapers and magazines were arrayed on the counter with chews, lollipops, sherbet dabs and barley sugar sticks on a glass shelf above. The sweets sold by the quarter were kept in jars on the wooden shelves behind; amounts required being carefully weighed out and put into paper bags. The shop, however, always reeked of paraffin; this being one of the commodities that Miss Lanning sold in addition to fire lighters and kindling. Also, the shop was so cold during the winter months, a tall black stove was kept burning; the flames whooshing up every time there was a draught!
Number 62, at the top of Rampart Road, was once the Clovelly School of Music which had moved up from number 3. By1922, however, the premises had become St. Ann’s Dairy; a directory describing Mr Percy as a dairyman and his wife, the proprietoress. This shop, re-named Percy Churchfields, was managed by the Baines family in the 1950s; selling cooked meats and general groceries as well as milk, butter and cheese. The adjoining house was also part of the business and the home of the Percys and Baines during the periods they were responsible for shop. This was something of a disadvantage as residents, running out of milk, would knock on this door when the shop was closed; particularly on Sunday mornings when custards, junkets and blancmanges were being prepared for afternoon teas!
Within a short distance of Rampart Road, there were more shops, the number and type depending on the period. In the early 1950s, for example, one could find a bakery, a chemist and a post office as well as three shops selling groceries and household goods. For a wider range of fruit and vegetables, however, it was necessary to walk further down Milford Street to Goodfellows on the corner of Gigant Street or Michael and Doris’ stall in the warehouse opposite. Like Lannings, nearly all these shops were also family owned; both Goodfellows and Colemans, a grocery store in St. Anne Street, closing after their proprietors retired.
Until Tamblins opened a butcher’s shop near Pennyfarthing Street, obtaining meat was more of a problem; particularly when the only means of storage was a small cupboard panelled with zinc! Otherwise, much of a family’s food could be bought close to home, it also being possible to have milk and bread delivered to the door. Prices, however, tended to be higher than in the city centre shops or market; these usually being used in preference if a large number of items were required.
Some of the small shops in Rampart Road and the immediate area were still in existence in the 1960s, including Lannings, Percy Churcfields, Ralphs and Fosters. Once the demolition process began, however, even retailers not affected began to close, Sue Morrissey regarding this as the end of an already declining community:-
We lost contact with a lot of friends who just moved out of the area. I tried to keep in contact with as many as I could but after a while you couldn’t, you know. So that was the start of the decline, I think in the community then. Then a lot of the little shops started to close and then when that started to happen the supermarkets started to spring up and that finished really the whole, really Milford Street altogether then and then we lost our little grocery stores, and our fruit and veg stores went, there were only sort of the hairdressers and Tills and places like that that were still surviving, but rest of it had gone, Tom Oake I think he was the last one to go, he was down near Scats and I think he held onto the last.
Less is known about the shops and businesses in the section of Rampart Road beyond Milford Street. In the 1950s, there was a large garage complex and showroom between the hoardings and the top of Winchester Street while the shop near Hill View Road was once an office belonging to Clarke and Lush, the Coal merchants. If you know any more information about these, we would be glad to receive it!