Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Coincidence corner. The Resident Wise Woman has an Australian friend, M, and since they live half a world apart, the two of them meet only occasionally, when their paths lead to the Czech Republic. I finally met M last year when all our paths coincided at last and, over a cup of tea in Southern Bohemia, M revealed a further coincidence: that some of her ancestors came from Cheltenham, the English town where I grew up. These ancestors were grocers, their family name was Beckingsale, and their shop was in the High Street. They were in business there by the early-19th century, and are mentioned in Rowe's guides to the town from 1845 and 1850, where they are recommended as purveyors of the 'celebrated Royal Cheltenham Sausage'. 'I believe,' said M, 'that the original Victorian sign is still on the shop.' Before long, I was off to Cheltenham to have a look.
Much as I prefer the curly letterforms of Beckingsale's name, I'm glad I've seen their more angular neighbours and I hope these letters are preserved too, if only because they're so unusual. Here's to coincidences.
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Footnote The passage to the left of the shop is also interesting. Until about 1874 it was known as Beckingsale's Passage, after which it was renamed Normal Terrace (after the Church of England Normal College at the other end), although many locals referred to it by its old name for many years after the official change of designation. I was prevented by scaffolding from taking photographs of the passage, but there are images, and more information, here.