Saturday, 8 November 2008

Broadgate Stories

Sitting in the Reference Library and wading through old books is fine but it’s a bit remote from real life – not to mention the numb feeling that spreads after a few hours on hard seats. So it was a real pleasure to be able to relax at Geoff and Joyce Tyrer’s house where Geoff gave me some insights into Broadgate over the years.

It’s never been clear to me where the boats used to be moored around the Continental area but I think I’ve got it now. Apparently there used to be a jetty opposite the side gate entrance to the pub but that was moved down river a bit to a ramp opposite Ferry House. Geoff said that when he was a boy the owner, Mr Cooton, used to let him and his mates bale out the boats after it had rained and in return they would be allowed to take one of the boats out up river where they would turn and come back bouncing down over the rapids – while Mr Cooton would be waving wildly from the bank to tell them off. Interestingly you can still make out the landing place for the Ferry on the other side of the river. It’s right at the end of the wall where it dips down to the water.

All that area was subject to flooding and he remembers well the date and time of the worst. 11-30 at night on the 20th November 1977. He’d checked the tides and went out with his children to check as it wasn’t too bad at the time and as they were watching a bore of water just rolled up South End flooding the road. As a result the wall was built in 1979.

Much to my surprise Geoff said there used to be a detached house on the site of the BAC club grounds near the river and half way to the Continental. No sign of it now or Mr Eccle’s orchard which also used to be on the site before the club was there. You can still see the entrances just along South Meadow Lane where tracks used to go into scrub land marked of by a big hedge which zigzagged across to the river separating it from the orchard and also the market garden which used to have flower beds – scrupulously avoided by a young Mr Tyrer and his mates when hunting for the odd apple.

He also told me that before South End was built the land was used as a Strawberry Gardens. And that Meadow Court was Saul’s Nursery with next to it Billy Lee’s field where the shopkeeper from South Meadow Lane used to keep his horse. Indeed the nursery stretched across South Meadow Lane into Hassock Close and further up nearer to West Cliff. You get a real feeling for how almost rural this area used to be not very long ago.

In the middle of all this the Victoria Bowling Club must have been a majestic sight with its Pavilion and car park where Woods Green is now with the Rolls and Bentleys
arriving to play a game. Which makes the fact that Preston Cricket Club has kept its land and historic Pavilion all the more commendable.
I’ve come to the end of this month’s column and we’ve only got as far as the middle of South Meadow Lane so rather than squash more stories into a couple of sentences we’ll leave them for another time. Many thanks to Geoff and Joyce – and for a large malt I won’t tell about the biscuits.



there’s a pause –
Feeling one’s heartbreaks
one’s breaths

John Francis Osborne orig. November 2001