Bream Heritage Walk

3 – Highbury Road

Across the road is Bream Rugby Club. Their building was opened in 1927 as Bream Miners Welfare Hall.
The hall was completed in 1927 to provide a venue for village social events. It was converted into a cinema in 1938 and very badly damaged in a fire in 1946. It was re-built as a cinema but later fell out of use until it was bought by Bream Rugby Club in 1960. Bream R.F.C. has been based there since then. The rugby club soon obscured the interesting stone features facing the road with a brick-built extension, although some original features are still visible inside.

A photo showing Bream Miners Welfare Hall in 1927
Bream Miners Welfare Hall in 1927

At a public meeting on the Sun Tump on May 1st, 1925 a committee was formed to build the new hall. Land was procured from Mr Ralph Williams of Williams, Cotton and Company who had a large grocery store on adjacent land and other stores throughout the district. The hall cost £1,650 to build, of which £1,200 came from the Miners Welfare Fund. An earlier scheme for a hall on the Sun Tump was abandoned due to the economic depression. However,the miners of the village worked on the hall for free during the miners strike of 1926.
The hall had seating for 300 people, a stage, a balcony and acetylene lighting, as even in 1927 electricity was not yet available in the district.

Currently (2022) the future of the Hall, so proudly opened in 1927 by Mr Ralph Williams, is in doubt as Bream Rugby Club wishes to re-locate to a new clubhouse and has sold the large car park here for the erection of new houses.

A photo showing Bream Post Office in 1991
Bream Post Office in 1991

The next building down the hill was built as Bream Post Office. Like the florist at Bream Schools, it has a hidden pillar holding up the second floor to allow large areas of window to be fitted. However, as it was built early in the 1900’s, the fittings were made with real wood, not the composite materials we use today.

In the 1940’s, before the days of postmen and women delivering the mail in red vans, things were very different here. Inside the front door counters ran around 3 of the walls. The end of the left hand counter nearest the entrance was partitioned into two small booths to allow customers to fill in forms or sort their documents in privacy. At the far end of the room, on the left, was a door to the cloakroom where mailbags and posties coats were hung and to the right of that was the telephone exchange. Bream had its own exchange then with less than 100 numbers and calls were connected by plugging a cable in to the appropriate line. The mail arrived each morning in a large postbag and was sorted into rounds by the post office staff. The posties would then sort the mail for their round into delivery order and set off on foot to deliver it.

Eventually Bream lost its telephone exchange to a new automated exchange at Whitecroft. Bream numbers became Whitecroft numbers and finally Dean numbers. The posties left and are now based in Lydney and deliver the mail with vans. Eventually the Post Office itself was moved to Brockhollands Road and in June 2022 to Central Stores.

High on the wall of Highbury House to the left of the old Post Office building is a plate – probably a fire insurance plate or advertisement for an insurance company.

The last person to do business here was Mr Anton Randall who founded and ran Bream Auto Store.

A photo of Bream Auto Store
Bream Auto Store

Ahead of us is Highbury Road, built as a council estate in 1923 and soon to become known locally as Piano Street. It was not unusual for households to possess an upright piano whose sounds would provide music in the street on warm evenings when windows were open. The popularity of pianos declined to such an extent that piano smashing competitions were later held on the rugby ground, the objective being to smash a piano to pieces with a sledgehammer in the shortest time possible.

The late Mr Geoff Wildin gives a flavour of this area in 1930 in this account and he is describing the scene looking in the direction we have just travelled:

A photo of Mr Geoff Wildin taken on the Sun Tump at Bream Cenotaph
Geoff Wildin of Bream at Bream Cenotaph – photo by Malcolm Norris

“Behind the Miners Hall was the village rugby pitch. The players had to bath and change at the rear of the Rising Sun, a hundred yards or so down the street. On Saturdays it was normal to see Wilf Edwards and the rest of the team, all caked in mud running to get changed.

Across the road was the butchers shop, a building of a peculiar shape, and sometimes in the evening Mr. Jones, the butcher, taught the violin. The strange noises coming from there could easily put one off the violin for ever”.

Still on the right hand side of the road is The Two Swans public house, better known as the Double Ducks. The landlord was kept very busy coming up the steps with a pint in either hand straight from the wood.

…. Next to “The Double Ducks” is Mr. & Mrs. Taylor’s sweet shop, then Mrs. Meek’s shop, full of ladies dresses, blouses and coats. (Next is) Ida Mountjoy’s shop where you could buy cigarettes 3 for a penny, new comics that you could part exchange for old ones, second-hand clothes with a percentage of the sale price for the seller, you could even buy faggots and peas served on a little table by the door, such a cosy little shop, with its partitions of coloured glass”

Geoff Wildin
A photo showing Bream High Street at the Two Swans
Bream High Street at the Two Swans