Headington Reminiscences

Go backwards
Go forwards

Geoffrey Nicholson

My family and I moved to Oxford from Chesterfield in January 1946. Our first home was 45 St. Leonard's Road when it was a cul-de-sac. Vallis's used to deliver our bread while we were there, and Burton's brought our milk with a horse and cart: if we were very good, we were allowed to have a short ride in the cart. I used to get a penny to collect the horse droppings for our garden, but one had to be pretty quick to beat the neighbours' children!

Some time in 1949 my parents Cyril Jackman Nicholson and Winifred Lois Nicholson bought the grocer's shop at 39 New High Street, and ran it until 1961.

39 New High StreetMy father outside his shop at 39 New High Street

My older sister Margaret and I attended Margaret Road Junior School, and I enjoyed seeing some of my teachers in the “School History” photos. My teachers at that school in year order were: Foster-Jones (to this day , I still cannot work out why I had her round stick across one of my hands on my first day!), then Puddifat, Pymm, Smith, and finally Woodward.

Later I was Windrush House Captain (Yellow) along with Vivian Swan, whose Father was a Police Inspector!

Mr Ligertwood was the School Cricket Coach and I played in the 1st team (to be honest like the Football Team, there was no 2nd Team!).

The photograph below shows the Margaret Road Junior School 1st XI football team in the 1949/50 season. The teacher is Mr Puddifat. I am second left middle row next to the Captain (Barry Bacon). Behind me is David Dillon (who now lives in Bicester) and next to Barry is Alan Johnson (who now lives in Melbourne). David, Alan and I all attended Southfield Grammar School.

Margaret Road football team

My sister only spent one year at Margaret School in Woodward's class. We both passed the 11-plus exam, and she went to the Central Girls School while I later on went to Southfield School.

I also belonged for a while to the 8th Highfield Scout Group in Perrin Street.

I used to play basketball at Bayswater School in the Bayswater Wednesday evening Youth Team and then the Oxford Team. When I was too old to play in the Youth Team, I became their Coach. I later moved on to play for the Vikings Team who played at Cheney School. In October 1958 I was selected to play at the England Youth Basketball Trial.

In October 1961 I was admitted to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital where I had both of my inner cartilages removed, and was there for a total of six weeks. Each morning after breakfast we were all wheeled out onto the area outside the ward. whatever the weather! As I had a cage over my legs and just a woollen blanket to keep me warm, and then a thick rubber cover was placed over the top, it was quite unpleasant, especially on foggy days when one could not even see Old Road. It is a wonder that I did not come down with some ailment.

I became the Oxford University Basketball Referee and then, whilst in London, I was a referee in the London League as well as playing for the YMCA Team. I used to play for the University Press 2nd Football Team when I was not playing rugby for the Old Southfieldians Team, and I also played Rugby for the Oxford Dons.

During my time in New High Street I used to go and see the then Headington United FC, who were in the Southern League, play at the Manor. Sometimes I went to the Picture House at the top of the road, which was known to the locals as “Eddies Flea Pit”.

My first bike was bought at W. J. Wiggins (79C London Road), and I can still remember a majority of the shops, but by all accounts there has over the past few years been so much change (good or bad??). Bury Knowle Park was a favourite place to hang out with either your friends or if there were girls around!  I have so much fond memories of living in Headington in so many ways.

In April 1958 my then married sister and her husband who were living with us (the shop was made up of two houses with two bedrooms above it and the adjoining house was all home and was hence able to accommodate our extended family), gave birth in the front lounge to their first son: eventually they bought a house in Didcot. My mother's two sisters (Elizabeth and Mary Stanley) who moved down from Worksop, Notts also lived with us for a while before buying a house in East Street (now Bateman Street), and Elizabeth (Betty) worked as a hairdresser at Joanne at the top of New High Street.  

I used to go to Burton's Barber in Lime Walk, and I was an usher for his daughter's wedding (in top hat and tails) at Corpus Christi College in 1964. He was my Barber after I used to go to “Whites” which was next to the Garage at the top of Lime Walk/London Road on the opposite corner to the Britannia.

In 1958 my parents bought the sweet shop in the Covered Market which was managed by my Uncle Eric (my mother's brother), a former master pork butcher from Worksop, Notts. My parents sold their business in New High Street and we moved to 57 Merewood Avenue in 1961. They then worked in the sweet shop until they sold that in 1966. They also sold the house in 1969 and moved to 80 Brasenose Road, Didcot and then in 1981 they moved to Frank Cook Court, Kidlington. My mother passed away in 1984 and my father in 1992.

I was a bookbinding apprentice and then a journeyman at the University Press from August 1955 until April 1962. Then I was employed as the Gold Finisher at a firm which produced executive desk sets in Shoreditch, London until January 1965. I then moved back to the University Press, Oxford where I was employed as the Bindery Office Manager, and during this time I got married and later on our first son was born.

We then moved to Harlow, Essex in October 1968 and I worked as the warehouse manager at the Dorstel Press, a bookbinding company, until July 1970. My second son was born in Harlow in 1969. I then returned to Oxford as the Senior Production Controller for rebinds and reprints at the Clarendon Press and lived at 48 Spareacre Lane, Eynsham. Our daughter was born in 1971 in the same delivery room as our first child at the Churchill Hospital.

We then emigrated in March 1975 to Auckland, New Zealand, where I was employed as the manager of a bookbinding company.

I had a real great friend (Philip Flook) from 1947 who lived at 50 New Road (now Kennett Road), the next road to New High Street, but he passed away in 2011. I'm in contact with another friend (John Gardner) who used to live at 104 Lime Walk but emigrated to Adelaide in 1960. I was friendly with two families that lived further up from us: the Girdler Family and their neighbours, the Steven family. I also went to Southfield School with Ron Gartside (a year older) who lived opposite the Scout Hut in Perrin Street, and I'm in touch with Bob Edwards who used to live in Larkins Lane, Old Headington but now lives in Chudleigh, Devon. We were Apprentice Bookbinders at the University Press.

Just for the record, one of my Southfield School friends is Patrick Mower, who is in Emmerdale!   

Geoffrey Nicholson <>
Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand, June 2017

© Stephanie Jenkins

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