A look at the past: Our ancient high street

No 17 continued Ralph Spong was the third generation to head the firm of chemists, stationers, wine merchants, printers and publishers at number 17. One of Ralph s employees was Harry Gaylor, who worked at Spong s in the 1930s. He and his wife Amy lived i

No 17 continued

Ralph Spong was the third generation to head the firm of chemists, stationers, wine merchants, printers and publishers at number 17.

One of Ralph's employees was Harry Gaylor, who worked at Spong's in the 1930s.

He and his wife Amy lived in Drove Road.


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The couple had two talented daughters - Daphne became a famous ballet dancer after training under Espinola, and Elsie was a well-known singer and dancer.

Elsie's granddaughter is Bonnie Langford, the famous television and theatre star.

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When Ralph Spong retired to Frinton-on-Sea in 1945, Spong's chemists was sold to Boots Chemists.

Boots moved to the Market Square in 1970.

Number 17 was then divided, with Pandora's Box at 17a and John Howorth shoe shop at 17b.

The shoe shop later occupied both sites, and then moved to 51 High Street in 2004 when Hoopers of London hair and beauty salon took over part of the premises.

17b is currently opening as Barbers, a gent's hairdressers.

Above the shops, by 1929 Spencer Bunker had occupied the rooms above 17a.

He was followed by his son 'Bim' Bunker, a dentist, then S Vasir, dental surgeon.

It is now St Andrew's Dental Practice.

Number 17 High Street extended right back into Church Street behind, and Larkinson Brothers Ltd purchased the printing works at the rear of the building in 1946.

Charles Larkinson had started the business at 8 Hitchin Street in 1901.

His brother Clissold joined him and they moved to 100 Shortmead Street becoming Larkinson Brothers Ltd in 1932.

By 1960 they were a subsidiary of Stonebridge Printers Ltd of Bedford and moved to Bedford in 1979.

There was then a complete change of use of the rear of number 17 when Woodman's Funeral Service took the premises.

They moved to Market Square in 1998.

Carpentry Management Contracting (CMC) Ltd restored The Old Fire Station opposite in 1995.

As the business grew they required larger premises and completely refurbished the rear of number 17, now renamed The Old Print Works, in 2000.

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