Brian Papworth lived with his parents and younger brother at 146 Charnwood Street, between Farnham Street and Flint Street, from around 1955 until the house was demolished. This end of Charnwood Street was beyond the main run of shops, though it had a few corner shops. The house itself, he remembers:
was rented from a private landlord and had no internal toilet, bathroom. Heating was provided by open fires in both living rooms and bedrooms, although we never used the bedroom fire grates. The house had three ground floor rooms. The front room looked out onto the street but was not used as a living room, so was largely wasted. The middle room was the main living room and looked out onto the yard at the back. Between the front and middle rooms was the stairway which descended to the cellar from one end (accessed from a door between the two rooms) and ascended to the first floor from the other end from a door in the middle room. This room was heated by an open fireplace.
The third room, behind the middle room but much narrower, was the kitchen, with the sink, gas cooker and store cupboards (no fridges or washing machines in those days!). The kitchen also looked out onto the yard from a side window. The yard was shared with neighbours at 148 and paved, with a small garden (10ft square) and a shared outside toilet. The garden was a small patch and as my father was no gardener it lay unused most of the time, although I remember our neighbour growing flowers in his garden. The cellar was unlit, with a grating which opened onto the outside pavement under the front room window. This was how coal was delivered and dropped into the cellar.
The first floor was a copy of the floor plan of the ground floor. At the front was bedroom 1 which was my parents’ bedroom. Behind bedroom 1, with the stairwell in between, was bedroom 2 which me and my brother shared, and behind this, directly above the kitchen was bedroom 3. We did not use bedroom 3 as it had no lighting and was very small. Bedrooms 1 & 2 also had wall mountings for gas lighting which had been removed. Although electricity had been installed I believe there was only one circuit and this was used for both lighting and any appliances (such as an iron, television and radio), and so there were no three pin plugs.
There was no bathroom, and washing was in the kitchen sink or a tin bath. The only toilet available was shared and in a brick outbuilding at the bottom of the garden – problematic in the depths of winter. The back yard and garden was accessed via an alleyway which was situated in Farnham Street and came in behind the Charnwood Street properties. This also gave access to the end Farnham Street properties. The block of houses served by this access only went up to our neighbours at 148.
We moved to Charnwood Street because it was close to my Grandmother so we could be minded, and also it was near to the City Centre and had all the shops you could wish for. Charnwood Street was colourful and vibrant. It was busy with shoppers every day except Sunday. To a child it was bit like a wonderland. However from my adult perspective now the housing conditions were primitive. We did not know a lot better at the time, and so you accept it as the norm, but when we started seeing relatives rehoused in Council houses we the saw how poor ours were. Despite the poor quality of living, though, we were very happy and both my brother and I managed to get a place in grammar school and the entry into a good life. When we left we moved to a new three bedroom terraced council house which had indoor plumbing and central heating – such luxury!
Many thanks for these memories, Brian. There are more to follow of the Charnwood Street shops themselves.
The photograph of 142 – 160 Charnwood Street by Denis Calow is reproduced from the ‘My Leicestershire’ site under a Creative Commons licence (http://cdm16445.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15407coll5/id/641/rec/9).