In Living Memory
The War Memorial, the Home Café and Bicycles.
In the days just before the M4 Motorway was in operation, a great volume
of all types of traffic passed through Hungerford, East /West the A4 and
North/South the A338, which meant that the short length between the junction
of the A4 with Folly Hill and the junction with Bridge Street, was (and
still is) both (A4 & A338), and carrying all of this traffic.
On the South side and near to the Western end was the Fire Station, its
doors facing obliquely onto the highway. A fire call out was hazardous,
due to the traffic volume and limited manoeuvre ability. This enforced the
move to the present site in Church Street.
Opposite the Fire Station, between the Red Lion Inn and the Wesleyan Methodist
Church was the Home Café; much more a sedate tea shop, when I knew
it, than that of the busy Café serving the travelling public as in
previous times. There was a nice little “pull in” at the side,
for a few cars, but there were usually some bicycles leant against the walls,
as it was well known by the Cyclist Touring Club as a convenient welcoming
spot. It displayed their badge on the front of the building.
Turn South for a few yards into Bridge Street from here and you will see
the Hungerford War Memorial, a dignified, fine crafted stone plinth, column
and cross, a structure fitting to those whose names are recorded upon it.
The mason entrusted with the commission to make it, was Charles Davis, a
local man whose work is in many a window sill, door step or corner stone
within the district as well as many of the monuments and head stones in
the Church Yards. Charley's workshops were at the back of Home Café
in old buildings that were possibly at one time stables. I now go back to
the walls of the Café which the bikes were often leant against. There
were no straight or level courses as one would expect to find, but a vertical
crazy wall, perfectly upright, made up of triangles, quadrants, ogees, squares,
rectangles and all of different sizes and of varying colour from off white
to golden buff, fitting perfectly with the thinnest of lime mortar joints,
all finished to high degree.
The Café was that of Mrs Gertrude Davis, wife of the stone mason,
it was their home. I think most locals knew her as Gertie, her reputation
for tea and cakes went far and wide, although the fare offered was not changed
much in latter years, and fashion changes. Living on the premises must have
been convenient to both Charley and Gertie.
I am sorry that I only knew Mr. Davis by reputation, and his existing work
I came across, were indeed good.
The Café was eventually sold and operated on modern lines.
The Church became redundant and was sold for development as was the Café,
in such close proximity.
I do not think we will see walls built as were the walls of this café,
perhaps today it may have had a preservation order put upon it!