A Happy New Quarter Century (27 December 1974)
I find something awesome in the fact that by the time these notes are published we shall have entered the last quarter of the 20th century. I would like to live to the 21st century, but as I would then be 92 my chances are pretty dim.
Not so my wife, however. Long ago one in the line of successors to old Mother Shipton, of Knaresborough, told her she would live to be 92. That would take her to the year 2002. She also imparted that she would be married twice. The only crumb of comfort for me was that she would like her first husband best.
So a Happy New Quarter-Century to us all . . .
Having put over that bit of nonsense, I now turn to something more serious. This is that I let the year 1974 go by without reference to the fact that it saw the centenary of Rowland Bros. in Fenny, for it was in 1874 that Thomas Evans Rowland and William Richard Rowland set up their timber works here.
We have been prone to think that, apart from the railway, Fenny-cum-Bletchley used to be “all bricks and brushes.” We forget that Rowland Bros. were here when brickmaking was only occasional and when there were no brushworks at all.
Indeed, the early brushmakers could have been attracted here by the fact that there were suitable timber suppliers on the spot. Certainly Beacon Brushes, though admittedly late on the brushmaking scene, obtained their first supplies of suitable cuts from this source.
Rowland Bros. soon became a thriving concern. Beginning with fencing and the like for country estates and local needs, they went on to make tip wagons, dobbin carts, hand carts, trolleys and all kinds of barrows by the thousand for railway companies and governments in many parts of the world.
They were thus the town’s first big exporters of manufactured goods. And, of course, they provided a considerable amount of skilled employment.
But that was not all they did for Fenny. As early as 1885 they bought a large slice of land between the present Queensway and Water Eaton Road and from it laid out the future Brooklands Road, Westfield Road and the connecting part of Queensway.
They also entered into the activities of their adopted town. William Richard became a Justice of the Peace and was also on the local committee for higher education. The Rowland-given almshouses in Denmark Street are a permanent memorial. The “Rowlands Close” council-built bungalows behind the almshouses also perpetuate the name.
Some years ago the firm were taken over by J. Latham and Co, from London, but local people are pleased that the old name is still used . . . .
And now an amusing note from a friend on the subject of Dr Nicholson. My friend writes:
“In your little anecdote on Dr ‘Nick’ Nicholson, I never remember his surgery on the opposite side of the road to the present Red House. There is a certain affection for ‘Nick’s’ memory for me, as early in the first world war he was fetched from his bed in the middle of the night and proceeded on horseback to a village some five miles away to be present at my difficult delivery.
“I must be one of the few who emerged into this world to the music of strong language. At the crucial moment the Graf Zeppelin decided to drop a bomb just this side of Heath and Reach and I’m told ‘Nick’s’ remark was: ‘Of course, he would bloody well decide to come tonight.’ Whether he meant me or the Zeppelin I still don’t know.
“However, in 1927 I toddled along to his surgery almost next door to the Red House, a single-storey hut clad with galvanised iron, where I sat trembling on one of the sparse, hard stools. All one heard when the previous patient was finished with was a barked ‘NEXT!’ with a sharp rattle of his false teeth, with which he could do wonders as a xylophonic effect. My tonsils came out and I’m still alive to put the record straight.”
Mr Frank Howard likewise tells me that Dr Nicholson came to Fenny to partner Dr Deynes at the Red House. So it seems I was right first time, after all.