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166 Bath Road (formerly 1 Clare Cottages)
Arthur and Mary Chapman
In 1885 Mr Charles Smith, an accountant, left these premises to live in Regent Street. By 1889 this was the home of a Post Office clerk called William Woodward, who lived here with his wife and five children. The house still had a front garden at the time and the children played in the street.
Around the turn of the 20th century this became one of three adjoining properties owned by the Dix family. This one was an ironmongers and had a brass strip announcing that fact along the pavement. In 1911 Samuel Dix informed readers in a local newspaper that his was the ‘cheapest and best house for kitchen utensils’.
In 1920, electrician Arthur Chapman lived here with his wife Mary and their five children. Two more sons were born here during their 4 year stay. The shop was a double fronted shop and in one window Arthur had a black china cat and in the other a black china dog. He replaced the eyes on both creatures with flashing lights. On one occasion an elderly gentleman was quite cross with him saying it was an outrageous waste of electricity.
Arthur, a motor mechanic during the First World War, loved to tinker with anything mechanical and made himself a radio receiving station in a room above the shop, where he was able to receive British broadcasts. For this he had to purchase a licence for ten shillings from the Postmaster General. Mary was born in Cheltenham to Italian parents, who arrived here in the late 19th century. Her brother, Louis Cascarini, lost his life in the First World War and is commemorated on the memorial in the Promenade.
When Arthur and Mary’s family grew to seven children they moved to Karoo Cottage in Leckhampton and the shop became a fried fish shop.
The first fish fryer here was Mr Thomas Nichols who was here until the mid 1930s. He used a coal fryer to cook the fish and chips and local people could tell how cooked or burnt the food was by how thick and black the smoke was. One penny worth of chips, or tuppence for fish, was wrapped in newspaper and at the end of the day the scratchings could be had for next to nothing.
When Mr and Mrs Albert Hill took over the fish shop little did they know how popular it would be in the middle of the night. During the Second World War the Bath Road Traders had their own night watch wardens who would take it in turns to patrol the area looking out for incendiary bombs. Each evening those on duty would meet at one of the shops and use it for a base. During the winter months the Hill's shop was by far the warmest of the bases. Mr and Mrs Hill moved in the late 1940s to Edward Terrace, where they opened the Norwood Fish Bar.
The Bath Road shop was then bought by Colonel William Arthur Camsey, who had other shops in Cheltenham. From at least 1946 the business was known as Cambray Fish Cafes. Throughout the 1950s and 60s the shop was called the Bath Road Fish Restaurant and was owned by several people, including Mr Albert Richards until 1965, and the Ashton family.
In 1990 Mr and Mrs Williams took over the shop and won many awards for the quality of their fish and chips, including one issued by the Government to very few establishments.
From the 1970s to 1990s this fish and chip shop was known as The Big Fish. It then became The Rainbow for several years, until in the summer of 2014 it underwent a major refurbishment and resumed the name Big Fish.
See the Local Memories page for this property.
Researchers: Marilyn West & Stuart Manton (July 2016)
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