Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Bohemia Remembered

Chemists Wilfred H Curtis where Blooms Pharmacy now is. Photo approx 1945-50. Shown L-R, Miss Elphick, Mrs Vera Chalcraft & Mr Wilfred Curtis.

Chemists Wilfred H Curtis where Blooms Pharmacy now is. Photo approx 1945-50. Shown L-R, Miss Elphick, Mrs Vera Chalcraft & Mr Wilfred Curtis.

by Vic Chalcraft. Part 3 of extracts from Vic’s forthcoming book

Staying within Bohemia one could be born, married and buried without leaving. Everything could be found here to cater for everyday needs: butcher, baker, was there a candlestick maker? It’s possible. To list but a few of the shops: dairies, butchers, of which there were five, corn chandlers, jewellers, outfitters, milliners, cobblers, boot and shoe makers – one even making surgical boots, tailors, coal merchants, at one time, even a cinema where the pram shop [Lullabuys] used to be. I think only two remain with family connexions with the founders of the business: Munday’s and Busbridge’s. There were two wet fish shops at least and also on certain days a fish barrow stood at the bottom of Newgate Road. Then, of course we had Biddy of Tubman fame selling shrimps with his famous call ‘All out, Biddy’s about’, and another fisherman, Mr Button, selling watercress in season. Saturdays always saw Bohemia busy. Shops remained open till about 8pm. The Salvation Army band stood in the middle of Newgate Road at its junction with Bohemia – that’s how many cars were about. I can remember laying in my bed at my grandparents’ house and watching fascinated occasional car headlights travelling across the ceiling. Another local musician was Blind Billy who stood at the corner of Clarence and Newgate playing a cornet. It was said he lived in Spring Street and owned most of it. Barbers also did shaving – all using cut-throat razors with a shaving mug and brush wrapping your face in hot towels. And if you had a haircut, he always asked ‘Anything on it sir?’, meaning spraying it with pomade. To the older gentlemen, the question was usually asked ‘Anything for the weekend, sir?’, meaning ‘Do you need any condoms?’ – in those days they were the main supplier, not like today. A point to remember on housing was that most properties were rented and a great deal of the homes and businesses were leasehold,. the Eversfield and Cornwallis estates being the main lessors.

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