Friday, October 17, 2014

Ford, Gloucestershire

The last pump*

I have faint distant memories of the hamlet of Ford, tucked in a fold of the Cotswolds by the River Windrush, from my youth. I remember it as a rather bleak place, with stone cottages that seemed to be hunkered down against the wind, a transport company called Bowles (buses and coaches I think), and an inviting pub, the Plough. Those were the days when people with cottages in the Cotswolds mostly had their work and their lives among the hills – farm workers, artisans, those offering local services. The outsiders who had cottages were mostly bohemians and people who lived up lanes with fires in a bucket† – a far cry from the retirees and celebrities one trips over today.

Back in the 1960s, many of these locals didn’t run a car. They walked to work across a yard, or cycled, and took the bus to Stow or Winchcombe or Cheltenham to do their shopping. If they did have four wheels, there might still be the odd roadside pump at which to fill up, like this one, surviving thanks to the care of the proprietors of the pub at Ford. My distant memory linked it to the bus company, but here it is by the Plough, together with an old ‘Ring for service’ sign, to suggest that this is where’s it has always been.

The wedge-shaped top and the lines of the pump’s body are straight out of the Art Deco school of design. How good a pump like this would look outside an Art Deco garage. But it looks good here too, against a stone wall and framed by flowers. The top to the pump brings back memories: of Shell pumps topped with shells, Esso’s oval “globe”, National’s diamond, BP’s shield – a whole form of advertising design that’s gone now, save from the world of museums and private collectors with space to spare. It’s nice to see this one still in its original home, even though the only thing that’s pumped hereabouts now is beer.

- - -

*For now, at least
†Phrase copyright Philip Larkin, “Toads”


Robert Slack said...

I've been enjoying your 'pumps' theme in recent posts Philip. As a child of the 50s myself, these have evoked memories such as that of my father purchasing 4 gallons of petrol and receiving change from £1.

Recently I came across this very old petrol pump by the roadside near the tourist honeyspot of Dartmeet, Dartmoor. It bears a strong resemblance to the pump in your 'Rhydd, Worcestershire' post of 10/10/2014.

Your description of 'corrugated-iron' garages of this period brought to mind this picture of the garage my father once used, in a guise (I must stress) earlier than I recall. This image is a poster from the wall of the garage as it exists today. Hints of Art Deco in the current structure would suggest this wonderfully improvised earlier construction was soon supplanted.

For a time there was a small motor museum at Colyford with an array of old petrol pumps out front, a number of which are as you described in this post of yours. Sadly I believe the museum is no more. It was housed in an old filling station. I believe the building and pumps remain. Note the old KLG clock just visible under the canopy.

Whoever said, 'Nostalgia ain't what it used to be'?

Philip Wilkinson said...

Robert: Thank you very much for these terrific links. I especially like the historic picture of the Exminster Garage: a gem. Getting links and pictures like these is one of the things that makes blogging worthwhile.