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131 Bath Road (formerly 1 Northwick Place)
In June 1839 Mr James West, a Cheltenham Surgeon, sold this property to William Gyde for £250. Mr Gyde owned a successful grocer's shop in the High Street and, in time, acquired many properties in Cheltenham. He in turn sold this property to George Beard in 1863, again for £250.
George Beard, a whitesmith and bell hanger, was born in Cheltenham in about 1820 and lived here with his wife and family of four daughters and three sons. When he died in October 1885 two of their sons, George and Oliver inherited their father’s workshop tools and continued in the same trade. However much of George senior's stock of ironmongery was auctioned off as can be seen from the newspaper articles of the time. The Beard brothers lived and worked on opposite sides of Bath Road, their homes facing each other.
George, the elder brother, stayed here at the family home with his wife and four children, whilst Oliver and his family lived at Thirlestaine Place. Oliver's business continued there but George had left this property by the turn of the 20th century and it became a hairdresser’s under the ownership of firstly Mr F A Tarling and, by 1904, Thomas Teague, who also traded as a tobacconist.
The next occupant was Mr H Mitchell, of unknown occupation, who resided here until the start of the Great War when it became an eating house run by the Misses Tame and Strange.
During the 1920s (and possibly before) these premises became the home and shop of Mr and Mrs F Trotman. Mrs Elizabeth Trotman was a stern lady and it was she who ran the business selling tobacco, confectionery and her home-made ice-cream. It was described as a ‘clean, wholesome shop’ and Mrs Trotman was the sort of lady who wouldn’t let it become anything but!
In 1931 the shop was purchased by Mr Arthur Watkins Barrell for £415. He too sold ice-cream and confectionery but also various grocery items, so could call himself a grocer.
In 1934 Charles Mudway bought the property for £675 and opened it as a branch of his butchery business, which was already established in the Lower High Street. He then appointed Victor Wallace Lane as his manager. Mr Mudway died in February 1937 and Victor Lane subsequently bought the business a few months later for £700, assisted in part by a mortgage from the Cheltenham & Gloucester building society.
Mr Lane was born in Stroud and had worked for the butchery chain of Eastmans, in their Gloucester branch. When the position at Mudway's was offered to him he moved to Cheltenham and lodged with a family across the road. When he married his wife Kathleen they relocated into the accommodation above this shop.
Mr Lane wore a white apron which often had useful tools, such as a knife sharpener, attached. An expert at attracting crowds outside the shop at the weekends, when he sold off any remaining meat, he is remembered as being very kind and would often give his customers a little extra when he knew that they were in need. He had a gentlemanly approach to business and preferred to settle with a handshake rather than by written contract. Mr Lane was a very keen horseman and co-founded the Cheltenham Gymkhana.
Inside the shop, during the normal working hours, payment was made at a small window opening from the office. Some customers may recall paying their accounts to Miss Rae through the window!
The roof of the building was blown off by a bomb during a World War II air raid that destroyed the houses behind the shop. It was replaced by a temporary slate roof that eventually leaked terribly badly. Fortunately Mr and Mrs Lane had moved from the flat over the shop in 1939, to a house in Mead Road. They later moved again to Crippetts Lane in Leckhampton and he died on 9th April 1988.
The business suffered a tragedy on 5th January 1948 when the delivery van was involved in an accident with a private car in the Leckhampton Road. The van driver, Joseph Smith, received serious head injuries and died later that day in Cheltenham General Hospital.
In 1951 a 9-year old boy from Clare Street, John Rood, was allowed to help out unpaid at the shop. When he was a little older he managed to earn some pocket money by tidying up and sometimes did more exciting things like helping to make the sausages! He hadn’t any thoughts of being a butcher and on leaving school he went to college to study engineering. However when he finished college Mr Lane, whom he regarded as almost a second father, offered him a position in the shop. So he returned here and studied at night school to become qualified as a butcher. In his younger days John had been made responsible for riding the delivery bike. Since he alone knew the rounds, in later years Mrs Lane would drive the van with John directing her to the customer's addresses.
Although the main body of the building is original, the front had become quite unstable and was renewed in about 1955. John Rood also added a small extension in the rear during his ownership of the business.
When Mr Lane retired in 1978 Mr Rood leased the shop from him and ran the butchers for the next 22 years. Due to a period of ill health he decided to give up the business in 2000, when he sold it to Dan Watts, a young man who worked in the shop. However when John recovered he came back to the business he loved and continues to work here in 2016. His association with Lanes therefore spans over 7 decades.
Dan Watts, the present owner of V.W. Lane was born in Cheltenham in 1968 and came to work here as a Saturday helper in 1984, when he was still at school. He had wanted to be a mechanic but took to the butchers business and soon became full time. Dan is very respectful of the tradition for great customer service that the shop has acquired over the years.
Researcher: Marilyn West
Updated: Stuart Manton (Oct 2016)
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