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The Fashion Centre"Well My parents had a shop. To go back a little further my father had formerly been in the cabinet making and antique business but during the 30’s he had a serious illness and couldn’t work and couldn’t carry things for some time. In fact they kind of switched into a business which my mother then ran which was called the fashion centre and sold ladies fashions clothes of all kinds and so on and they then ran that business together and it expanded into a shoe business this was at a time before modern supermarkets or chain stores and so on so it was very much the fashion business of that small town. And it was quite a successful business for many years.

Leonard and his fatherMy father as boy was brought up with his father who dealt in antiques and things of that kind as well as making furniture. So he had some kind of business background in trade and business and I’m sure that when my mother went into it she picked it up from him and they ran it together and in fact it was it employed a number of people not only shop assistants but they actually had a separate workshop with several young women working there altering the clothes. So when somebody came in and chose a dress it was actually then kind of fitted and altered to fit them and that was done in a separate workshop.

inside fashion centreI have strong memories of the shop, yes. It was a fairly traditional shop of its day with wooden counters with little wooden drawers in them. There were rails of clothes and mirrors and so on and the shoe shop all the walls were covered in boxes of shoes and boots and so on

At the beginning we lived in a flat over the shop and a lot of the time from when I was quite small we had a kind of mothers help, come char lady if you like, who used to come in, and I fact I remember her very well as being a sort of fairly permanent figure of my childhood so she was obviously doing the housework and looking after me. The other strong figure who also lived with us, she lived in Malmesbury at the time and then moved in with us later was my mothers mother, my grandmother. She also looked after me and helped with the cooking and the house and so on so it did release my mother to be in business.

.. With the flat we had no garden at all but there was a little piece of sort of terrace at the back at a high level because Malmesbury’s built on a hill and the land dropped away very steeply behind the shop and this little terrace which had a chain link fence around it was one little space there are a lot of family photos Of me after my christening and so on with the family standing around on this little bit of terrace with the landscape behind.

Rosemead MalmesburyWhen we moved, we moved from that flat when I was about six I think probably, and bought a house which had a large garden. In fact my father bought a bit more land and enlarged the garden even more so it was really quite a big garden and that was a bigger house and at the back of it it had a yard and adjoining the yard it had some sort of workshop buildings I don’t know what they were originally some sort of buildings and one of these building the lower part of it gave on to the street in Malmesbury and that was the garage at an early date and above that was the workshop where the girls that worked for my mother and father at their sewing machines worked so that was a workroom. Later on we actually sold off that part and my father bought a different access in so you could actually bring the car in round the front of the house to the back of the house so that was.. over a period of years that’s how things developed.

We lived there until I was about, until 1960 so I’d have been about eighteen, nineteen when we left there and my father gave up the business in Malmesbury and moved to near Bath. Bought an old rectory split it up into two houses, lived in one of them with my grandmother and then later on sold that and converted the stable block into a house and that was the house that my parents lived in until about 1980.

So when they closed the business in Malmesbury, what did they then do?

Well my father was getting on into being sixty then so he bought actually a soft furnishing business in Bath which was just off Pultney bridge, just at the end of Pultney Bridge and he made covers for sofas and things soft furnishings and he ran that business for a few years not for a very long time until he finally retired.

Was your mother involved with that?
She wasn’t really involved with that, no partly because she was looking after my grandmother I think and partly because it wasn’t ladies fashions and things any more. My father though when he had the business in Malmesbury he did in fact develop a similar business run a similar business in Chippenham He had a kind of branch business in Chippenham which was also ladies fashions and shoes and he ran that that I don’t know probably ten years or so before he retired

What prompted the move from Malmesbury?
I don’t honestly, totally know There seemed to be a bit of a strange family background to it and I never really quite understood it Certainly my father had problems with his sister who had a mental illness and there were problems about wills and things. To be honest I don’t know the truth of the whole thing. He, they just seemed to feel they wanted to get away from Malmesbury. It may have been partly because by that time I was leaving home really and working in Dorset and they were therefore moving nearer me that may have been part of it too but the real reasons for moving from Malmesbury I never really understood if I’m honest.

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