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!

Artie


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