In trying to write about place, I am reading Trigger Town by Richard Hugo. I can confirm what he writes- that’s it’s easier to describe places of my past than Leamington where I now live.
Saturday afternoon at the Watersheddings
wrapped in parka, woollen mittens
stout shoes and thick stockings,
I remember the click of the Boys and
Ladies’ turnstile, standing next to dad
though he was hundreds of miles away.
Play up, Owdham! We shouted hoarse.
Wind and rain buffeted booted bare legs
bums in mud shorts. Despair drowned in
half time Bovril, recollections of winning ways.
Fog never stopped play. Hookers and scrums
melted out of sight in swirling Pennine mists.
Among the echoes of Lowry streets and mills
just for a while the roar of hope was all.
I moved to Leamington almost forty years ago and apart from six years in Nottinghamshire have lived here ever since, so it is hard to see it with the fresh eyes I had then.
The Parade with its wide road and pavements, its expensive shops impressed me though I missed the markets and thickly battered fish and chips. From the bridge in the Jephson Gardens I admired the weir and the swans. I began to discover a Spa town.
River Leam covered with algae. On the bank a small stone memorial to the Cleavers. (part of a well-known local family)
At the end of the 1970s the level of employment was high compared to Oldham. The crime rate was broadly similar, though the murder rate was said to be higher. Even at that time the town was divided between rich and poor. Though single men and women found it hard to find somewhere to live, there weren’t homeless people in shop doorways on the Parade, in carparks and in alleys. The Crown Hotel, for example, rented out rooms to what were then DHSS clients. Now they have nowhere.
Leamington developed in response to a concern for health. Dr. Jephson (1798- 1878) used to take his patients for a drive in his carriage for about a mile out of town. They were then instructed to walk back to his rooms! In addition to exercise he advocated fresh vegetables and plenty of water. The Jephson gardens are in part a memorial to him and his work.
Entrance to the Jephson Gardens
Leamington expanded with the car industry. There were several big factories- Automotive Products and Ford- and those have closed. Instead work seems to be linked to the Gaming industry and the internet and more people are self-employed than there used to be. (see link below)
Tobacco plant growing in the formal flower beds with the fountain beyond it.
Church wall built of stone from the past
Many people move to Leamington in connexion with work. The town remains an attractive place to live. Like the river it changes. Past and present co-exist.
For more information: read local MP’s maiden speech.