Headington history: Reminiscences

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Geoffrey Nicholson

My family and I moved to Oxford from Chesterfield in January 1946. Our first home was 45 St. Leonard's Road when it was a cul-de-sac. Vallis's used to deliver our bread while we were there, and Burton's brought our milk with a horse and cart: if we were very good, we were allowed to have a short ride in the cart. I used to get a penny to collect the horse droppings for our garden, but one had to be pretty quick to beat the neighbours' children!

Some time in 1947 my parents Cyril Jackman Nicholson and Winifred Lois Nicholson bought the grocer's shop at 39 New High Street, and ran it until 1961.

39 New High StreetMy father outside his shop at 39 New High Street

My older sister Margaret and I attended Margaret Road Junior School, and I enjoyed seeing some of my teachers in the “School History” photos. My teachers at that school in year order were: Foster-Jones (to this day , I still cannot work out why I had her round stick across one of my hands on my first day!), then Puddifat, Pymm, Smith, and finally Woodward.

Later I was Windrush House Captain (Yellow) along with Vivian Swan, whose Father was a Police Inspector!

Mr Ligertwood was the School Cricket Coach and I played in the 1st team (to be honest like the Football Team, there was no 2nd Team!).

The photograph below shows the Margaret Road Junior School 1st XI football team in the 1949/50 season. The teacher is Mr Puddifat. I am second left middle row next to the Captain (Barry Bacon). Behind me is David Dillon (who now lives in Bicester) and next to Barry is Alan Johnson (who now lives in Melbourne). David, Alan and I all attended Southfield Grammar School.

Margaret Road football team

My sister only spent one year at Margaret School in Woodward's class. We both passed the 11-plus exam, and she went to the Central Girls School while I later on went to Southfield School.

I also belonged for a while to the 8th Highfield Scout Group in Perrin Street.

During my time in New High Street I used to go and see the then Headington United FC, who were in the Southern League, play at the Manor. Sometimes I went to the Picture House at the top of the road, which was known to the locals as “Eddies Flea Pit”.

My first bike was bought at W. J. Wiggins (79C London Road), and I can still remember a majority of the shops, but by all accounts there has over the past few years been so much change (good or bad??). Bury Knowle Park was a favourite place to hang out with either your friends or if there were girls around!  I have so much fond memories of living in Headington in so many ways.

In April 1958 my then married sister and her husband who were living with us (the shop was made up of two houses with two bedrooms above it and the adjoining house was all home and was hence able to accommodate our extended family), gave birth in the front lounge to their first son: eventually they bought a house in Didcot. My mother's two sisters (Elizabeth and Mary Stanley) who moved down from Worksop, Notts also lived with us for a while before buying a house in East Street (now Bateman Street), and Elizabeth (Betty) worked as a hairdresser at Joanne at the top of New High Street.  

I used to go to Burton's Barber in Lime Walk, and I was an usher for his daughter's wedding (in top hat and tails) at Corpus Christi College in 1964. He was my Barber after I used to go to “Whites” which was next to the Garage at the top of Lime Walk/London Road on the opposite corner to the Britannia.

In 1961 my parents and I moved to 57 Merewood Avenue after selling the business and bought the Sweet Shop in the First Avenue at the Covered Market in Oxford.

In 1968 Newman's in Lime Walk, who had moved us from St Leonard's Road to New High Street, moved my wife and first son (born 1967) from Oxford to Harlow in Essex. My second son was born in Harlow, and then we returned to Oxfordshire and I went to work at the Clarendon Press. We lived at 48 Spareacre Lane, Eynsham. My daughter was born at the same delivery room in the Churchill Hospital as my elder son.

We emigrated to New Zealand in 1975.

I had a real great friend (Philip Flook) from 1947 who lived at 50 New Road (now Kennett Road), the next road to New High Street, but he passed away in 2011. I'm in contact with another friend (John Gardner) who used to live in Lime Walk, but emigrated to Adelaide. I also went to Southfield School with Ron Gartside (a year older) who lived opposite the Scout Hut in Perrin Street, and I'm in touch with Bob Edwards who used to live in Larkins Lane, Old Headington but now lives in Chudleigh, Devon. We were Apprentice Bookbinders at the University Press.

Just for the record, one of my Southfield School friends is Patrick Mower, who is in Emmerdale!   

Geoffrey Nicholson <>
Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand, June 2017

© Stephanie Jenkins

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