Stephen Brewer's memories of the Brewer family in Harston
Stephen & Christine Brewer chatted to Hilary Roadley at Better Brew Cafe several times June-Oct 2023
Stephen’s mum was called Elsie (B:14 Feb 1916 Edmonton, London) and his dad was christened Cecil John Brewer (B:3 May 1916 Calne, Wiltshire) but when he came to Harston he was known just as John. He was stationed in this area in WW2 which is when he met Elsie. She was an auxiliary nurse in a hospital in Little Shelford- the house on the corner. Photo 1 shows them before their marriage in 1947.
Elsie was adopted when young although this may not have been a legal adoption. She came by train and met her adoptive parents family, Katie and Charlie Mace, (photo 2) and daughter May, who lived at Harlton. The family tale is that they only knew Elsie’s birthday was around Feb so chose Feb 14, Valentine’s day as her birthday. (However, her birth record gives her birth date as 14 Feb yet her passport states 26th).
Elsie went to a hospital in Darlington to have her nurses’ training. Photo 3 is of her taken in Darlington at the time, when she had just left the hospital.
John (photo 4) was stationed at a bomb depot in Harlton. (The family still have an exercise book of the 16th course he went on while in R.A.O.C learning about ammunition- explosion types, detonation, cartridges, charges, etc). He also served in India. He told the tale that he had a batman there who shaved him while he slept! After the war John worked at Fisons mostly, but also at Eternit at Meldreth.
John and Elsie got married in (Apr-June) 1947. Elsie and John lived in Queens Close until their deaths, Mrs Brewer’s in 2000 and Mr Brewer the Boxing Day in 2004 when the big Tsunami occurred.
Stephen was born in Mar/April 1953 and was 6 months old when they moved to 6 Queen’s Close from Bourn. (photo 5 of the family at this time, possibly Stephen’s christening).
Stephen had a brother Barry who was 6 years older than him. (He died in 2010). Barry’s 1953-4 ration book gives their old Bourn address (Flat 23, RAF site) as well as the new Queen’s Close one. Barry was a big part of Cambridge Football Association and got a medal for the work he did. He owned a carpet/flooring shop in Sawston. He was also road manager for ‘Fab Beats’ who played on stage in Harston Village Hall.
Stephen worked first at Kerridges then Eternit where he worked with Bob Manley loading lorries. Bob & June Manley lived in Sheepshead Lane.
Stephen left Queen’s Close in 1970s. Photo 6 shows Barry left & Stephen right at the latter’s wedding in Cambridge. Photo 7 of Elsie and John Brewer at a wedding in 1970s.
Another photo (8) shows Stephen and Barry near their house in Queens’ Close with London Road in background on a skate board around about 1960.
The photo (9) showing Mrs Brewer in her Queen’s Close kitchen, October 1977 with an unknown girl, shows the kitchen was small, and the washing machine stored in an outhouse had to be brought into the very small kitchen when used. The house had 2 bedrooms- Stephen & Barry shared, an upstairs bathroom and a downstairs toilet by the coalbunker which also had a shed/outhouse with a boiler in it.
Stephen remembers many of his neighbours. At No 8 was Margaret & Sheila Hopkins, at No4 the Hutchinsons. The Gawthrops were at No 6 and Stephen knew their son Steve very well – he played for Cambridge City and they are both avid City supporters and have a photo of them at an away game in Canterbury.
At No 12 were the Arbons, with twin girls, then Bushells (No 14) , Liz Chapman’s family, Schoepps (No 20) (Mick Schoepp still lives in Manor Close) and Turrells (No 18).
The Want family – dad was a railway signalman, the Laws dad was a policeman. Others there were the Carters, Hamiltons, Hoppitts, Pettit’s, Northrop, Jeffries, Whitting?, Normans & Games.
Opposite Park House was Mr Kelly, the local policeman who lived in the Police House by the field. Stephen and friend got told off by Mr Kelly for scrumping when they were about age 10-12 years old.
Stephen remembers having the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in Queen’s Close. There were trestle tables along one side only, next to the Green, and all Queens Close residents contributed food and drink.
Stephen says his mum had a lot of different jobs including helping Willers undertakers ‘lay-out’ those who had died.
Elsie was a lollipop lady in the 1950s, early 1960s (photo 10 of her at crossing point in front of the school).
She also ran a nursery in 1960s in the big Village Hall, when Stephen was at school. The toys were stored off to the side. He helped out in the holidays. The Nursery was still running in 1979. (In 1979 the newspapers had an article that showed Elsie celebrating 20 years as a playgroup helper). Elsie also ran a Bingo Night once a week in the Village Hall with John helping. She had a lot to do with the Women’s Institute too.
Elsie first worked at Bass’s garage serving petrol – she once spilled it over Col. Hurrell’s car! As people put petrol in the cars themselves, she worked in a kiosk till late at night taking money at the garage on the other (east) side of the road. Mr Brown was the other attendant. Behind this garage owned by Wilsons was also Wilsons Heating business where Stephen first worked. She was still working at the BP garage in the 1980s.
When Stephen went to Harston Primary school the teachers were strict and dressed ‘accordingly’ in tweed suits and women with clumpy shoes. Mr Shoote was the Head; there was Miss Jackson and Mrs Barnes. Stephen remembers they once all lined up on the grass in front of the school on the High St to see the Queen as she drove through with Prince Phillip. Stephen went to Melbourn Village College in 1964.
Stephen used to help out with the Youth Club in the Village Hall with friend Keith who was from Hauxton (had jewellers in Cambridge?). The Village Hall stage was in the same place as now. He had his 21st birthday in the Village Hall in 1974, having a Monty Python Night with everyone dressed as a character from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (at least the young people did!). Elsie did the catering.
The Christines were landlords of the Coach & Horses, Pat Roofe was landlord of three Horseshoes and Mrs Beadle landlady of the Old English Gentleman.
Charlie Rogers had a bakers opposite the Village Hall.