Memories from as far away as America grace new look lane
Memories of Sandpit Lane have been sent in from as far away as Florida by current and former residents and shoppers as Braintree’s historic lane gets a makeover.Published: Thursday, 19th May 2016
Work to uplift the area with distinctive flower plant pots containing beautiful small trees and English country flowers together with a community memory noticeboard and the installation of a stunning arch depicting the history* of the lane are currently being put in place.
Cllr Tom Cunningham, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Braintree District Council, grew up in the town, he said: "I can remember being quite small but walking down Sandpit Lane with my mother and grandmother and particularly remember negotiating big wet puddles in Sandpit Lane car park.”
He added: “The area looks great and I hope it encourages people to remember the wonderful shops we have in Sandpit Lane but also at the far end of the High Street for example the sandwich bar, Labeltique, Edward Walker Carpets, CM7 Café, Shake Express, Feathers, The Glasshouse Tea Room, Townrow and all the other great independent businesses.
“This is just the start – we’re looking at a trial pedestrianisation of the town centre, better traffic circulation, better signage and other improvements. All this and the regeneration of the site behind the town hall means that it is an exciting time to live in Braintree. Come and explore more of what our local businesses have to offer.”
A small collection of residents’ old photos and memories will be on display on a noticeboard in Sandpit Lane for all to see.
Braintree resident Bernie Godfrey recalled a few memories from his younger days in the 1950s. He said: “On entering Sandpit lane, from Rayne Road, there was a very large car park to the right, there was a cafe close to the entrance known as "Guy Rons" it was usually very busy and I had numerous cups of tea and portions of lovely chips there. Guy the owner as a very jovial chap and there was always lots of friendly banter. As far as I can remember the cafe now called CM7 was then known as the Pie & Mash, whose owners were originally from East London. I can remember was The Continental Coffee Bar which was down in a basement. It was very popular with teenagers.”
The noticeboard also features memories from Kathy Pope, now living in Florida but formerly from Tye Green.
Kathy, nee Kathleen Steel, said: “I worked weekends at Goodwin’s Fish and Chip Shop in the 60s as a waitress in the restaurant, and would go to the Continental Coffee Bar in Sandpitt Lane after work, probably smelling like fried fish! The GIs from Wethersfield would hang out there frequently. I worked at Goodwins restaurant from 1964 to 1968 and spent many evenings at the Continental. In 1968 I married and I moved to Ohio, followed in 1977 by a move to Florida. I've always kept up with the town to a certain extent. Braintree will always be "home" to me regardless of how many years I've been gone.”
Braintree District Museum has also been looking in to the lane’s history:
- The area was excavated in the early 1980s to make way for the development of George Yard Shopping Centre.
- Evidence was found showing that Sandpit Road was inhabited during Roman Britain. Pottery dating from 250-310 AD as well as coins from 367-385 AD were unearthed.
- These discoveries confirmed that the Roman town of Braintree expanded to the area of George Yard by the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
- * One of the most interesting artefacts found was a bronze horse and rider (the image is seen on the arch which was installed on Thursday May 19th). The rider is very different to other examples that have been found, as he is scantily dressed and Celtic in style, suggesting he may represent the Celtic version of Mars, the Roman god of war.
- Sandpit Lane, first known as Sandford Pond Lane and later Sandpit Road connected the High Street to Rayne Road until part of the road was built over in 1988 by the George Yard Shopping Centre.
- Sandpit Lane has accommodated many different trades and craftsmen from coachbuilders and wheelwrights to fishmongers and builders. A row of timber cottages, known as Widows’ Row, presumably to house those who had recently lost their spouse, used to stand on the site of the George Yard service area.