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Better late ...

Tuesday 22/08/17

Debby Faulkner-Stevens

If I say I am going to do something, I will do it.
Sometimes it takes rather longer than I had anticipated.
In 1971 there was a lot of demolition going on in my home town. I was in the lower sixth at the local Grammar school at the time and doing a project on architecture - part of the work towards my art A level exam - so was photographing the old shops, houses and buildings before they were reduced to a pile of smouldering rubble.

The shops were ones I had grown up with as they were just two minutes walk away at the top of the street where I Iived. My first solo trip without an adult in sight - and I couldn't have been more than four years old -  was to Worsley's general store and cafe to buy a penny chocolate bar and Lawman's the bakers was where my mother and I went at the end of the week for 'The Friday Cake' which was our treat when dad got paid. My choice was always an iced bun.
Lawman's house was next to their shop, with the bakery and all the associated buildings behind, and the house seemed to me a rather grand affair with a stucco front rising to a curved feature which bore the date of it's construction. I can't remember the year exactly, but it was the very early 1900's and the house was all in the Art Nouveau style which was enjoying a huge revival in the late 60's and early 70's with reproductions of posters and mirrors with the designs of  Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley in  the fashionable shops and all of my contemporaries had, at the very least, an Art Nouveau postcard pinned up in their bedrooms.

The demolition of the old buildings was a great loss to the town and felt keenly by many residents who realised their significance in the streetscape  and all for a road widening scheme that, with the construction a few years later of a bypass, was really unnecessary.
I was determined to save something from that wonderful house and so, very bravely, after school one day a friend and I approached a rather rough looking workman wielding a hammer and asked him if he would sell me a panel of coloured leaded glass from the inner door of the hallway. He said it would cost me five shillings but I'd have to remove it myself. Luckily my dad was a very skilled carpenter and craftsman and he and I went back the next evening, I handed over the five shillings and dad carefully removed the panel and, to keep it stable, tacked it in place on a thick piece of wood which was part of an old drawing board - and so it has remained for the past 46 years.

When Dave the Painter was working his magic on our house, I told him the tale of the glass and how I had always hoped to turn it into an illuminated panel to hang on the wall but never knew how to go about it. He gave me the number of his friend, a fellow old Newportonian who is wonderfully skilled in stained glass repairs and reconstruction, and said he was just the man for the job.
I finally rang him a few days ago, and, after a lovely time chatting about our old town and  my dad whom he had worked with whilst serving his apprenticeship, Dave - I have a theory all skilled craftsmen are called Dave! - took my piece of glass away and will work his magic on it, turning it into a beautiful and practical wall light.

It has taken an absolute age to get there - perhaps the time was never right - but I am delighted that the man who will resurrect the door panel is one who knew and worked with my dad and has very fond memories of him. There is a lovely feeling of completing the circle for me and I'm sure my dad would be as pleased as I am that another Old Newport craftsman has taken on the job.
Sadly, my photos from that time of all the buildings just before their sad demise have long gone but perhaps it's better to remember them the way they were when they were busy and thriving businesses, and recall the smell and feel of the hot fresh bread and the ring of the richly embossed silver coloured  cash register as it rang up the few pennies for 'The Friday Cake'.

The photo shown was taken considerably earlier than my teenage years but nothing much had changed!

Newport Pagnell in the early 50's?Newport Pagnell in the early 50's?

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