Glove making and car congestion: Yeovil in 1949
by Don Gibson
To celebrate Yeovil Town's FA Cup giant killing, Don Gibson takes a look at what the small town was like following World War II.
Yeovil players on their way to Man U
January 1949, and the small market town of Yeovil in Somerset hosts one of the greatest giant killing efforts in the history of the FA Cup.
The country was in the early stages of rebuilding after the ravages of World War II which had finished less than four years earlier. The town had been bombed during the war, with Westlands being an obvious target. Not only were Lysanders built there but Spitfires too after the Supermarine factory in Southampton had been destroyed. By the end of the war Westlands was largely unaffected, with one strafing run resulting in bullet holes in the main building which can be seen to this day.
However, in the course of the war, 49 people lost their lives in Yeovil as a result of air attacks.
In 1949 life in Yeovil was still very much affected by the war. Rationing was still in place, no half-time tea with sugar at the match.
Westlands had built and flown its first helicopter, the Dragonfly, and taken its first step in becoming the British leader in helicopter manufacturing. Indeed in 1949 a fleet of Westland Sikorsky helicopters were being adapted for crop spraying.
Pittards too had built and opened a wonderful new factory on the Sherborne Road but still one revision short of the Pittards we know today. The gloving industry provided huge employment opportunities with 32 different glove making companies established in the town and most women in the town taking gloving in to complete at home.
There were still 150 prefab houses in the Larkhill area of Yeovil and a further 197 houses had been built since the end of the war. The cattle market opened every Monday and Friday and the rural community was as important then as it is today.
The council were concerned that within the borough itself there was little room for building houses that the town so desperately needed. This is hard to understand given the boundaries that the modern town occupies.
South of Lysander Road was nothing but fields, as was the far end of Preston Road where Houndstone camp was situated. The population of the town itself in 1949 was estimated at 22,500, much smaller than it is today.
Car congestion, however, was a problem and the council were extremely pleased that their decision to introduce a one way system down Middle and Market Streets had effectively reduced congestion problems to a minor level.
Middle Street was much narrower than it is today with the magnificent George Inn standing proudly in the area which is now Millets. Unfortunately it was later to be pulled down to allow the street to be widened, shortly before it was pedestrianised.
You could still take your car to Seatons who specialised in a half-hour greasing session. Yeovil Institute of Art and Technology offered courses in milk processing, glove making and blacksmithing as well as established art and engineering courses.
There were five (5!) postal collections a day, one on Sunday and two deliveries a day. The magnificent Yeovil Town train station stood next to Ninesprings before being shut and demolished after Dr Beeching's rail reforms, but the first station in Yeovil was Hendford Halt which was found where McDonalds currently stands. Lysander Road at the time was nothing more than a cinder track.
The three cinemas in Yeovil at the time of the Sunderland game were showing some of the silver screen superstars of the day. Betty Grable starred in the intriguing 'Mother Wears Tights' at the Gaumont, Clark Gable and Lana Turner starred in 'Homecoming' in the central cinema and the Odeon was showing W. Somerset Maugham’s 'Quarter'.
Little did the inhabitants of the small town know that the players from the local football team were soon to be big screen stars themselves.
You can find out more about Yeovil's historic FA Cup match by getting ‘Slope and Glory’ a 48 page magazine which commemorates this historic period for £3. It is available at the following shops in Yeovil; A Touch of Glass, Mad Hatters and WHSmith. It is also available in the Yeovil Town Club Shop. Alternatively email email@example.com to purchase online or by cheque.
last updated: 05/02/2009 at 15:41