THE majority of photographers, if they were taking pictures of Andover, took pretty much the same views as each other. But this shot of London Street – unremarkable enough at the time – is an interesting one for us now as it shows buildings that would soon be knocked down and are otherwise unrecorded.

Today, the central terrace is right where Eastern Avenue joins the southern distributor road and continues to the roundabout at Winchester Street. The entrance to Dene Road on the left still exists but has been altered to accommodate the new road. Present-day London Street ends just after the tallest building down on the right and everything from the white building upwards has been demolished. Deceptively hidden between those two buildings in the 1960s was Dix, the electrical stores, a building that still exists today but has been home to several different businesses over the last 60 years.

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Andover Advertiser: London Street, Andover c.1965Prominent is the newsagent and tobacconist run by Sidney Charles Fitchew. He was born in Camberley, Surrey in 1919 and was immediately called up on the outbreak of war in 1939. By that time, he may have been in Bournemouth as he married Audrey Smith there at the beginning of 1940, perhaps just before being sent abroad. As a lance-corporal in the Queens Royal Regt he was sent to France but captured in July 1940, and the first anyone heard of him was three years later, when news was sent to his parents in Camberley. The Surrey Advertiser reported that he was at Stalag 20B, near the Polish border, working on a farm with nine other British prisoners of war.

The Fitchew family came to Andover in 1948, opening the newsagent and tobacconist’s shop in London Street that we see here. Before their arrival it was a similar shop run by a Miss L Green but the building itself is probably no older than the 1920s. By 1953, the shop had been christened The Bon-Bon, with confectionery being added to the shop’s goods but this name was soon jettisoned.

Much older is the mid-Victorian terrace of three houses next to it. Conversion of the nearer house to a shop must have been in the early 1930s when it became a fish and chip shop, but this closed at the end of that decade and occupation of the shop premises seems to have lapsed for some years until Kevin Humphreys opened the Two Sisters Café after the war. Perhaps competition from the Clare Café on the other side of Fitchew’s shop was too stiff, for in the mid-1950s it became the Criterion Snack Bar under E V Ball, to be followed by Franks Hull’s Ancient and Modern second-hand shop in the 1960s. Throughout all these various occupations, Kevin Humphreys remained the occupant, living upstairs, while renting out the downstairs premises. Indeed, he may have owned the entire terrace of three dwellings.

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During the 1950s, the numbering of this side of the street was radically altered to include all the 20th century additions. Gone went all the As, Bs and Cs, to be replaced by consecutive numbering. The Criterion Snack Bar changed from 27 to 55, while Fitchew’s went from 35A to 65. Although apparently adjacent to each other in the street, the gap between the two buildings provided access to a terrace of four Victorian houses behind, which was also part of London Street.

Of course, town development was a shadow that fell over many houses and shops during the 1960s. Much of it had been outlined as early as 1961 and the next few years were a limbo period of uncertainty as plans were drawn, re-drawn and fine-tuned. What affected the north side of London Street was the new distributor road that linked London Street with New Street, the main road to Newbury and the north. There was a need for a much wider thoroughfare than the original East Street, which became a cul-de-sac. This initial phase left the opposite side of London Street still standing, and this was not radically disturbed until 1986 when the extension to Eastern Avenue over South Street was constructed.

The Victorian terrace, together with the houses behind it, were the first to be bulldozed. Either side of this - Halcrow’s garage (now changed to funeral directors) and Fitchew’s shop - were left intact for the moment, although they were both eventually to go as well. Sid Fitchew jumped before he was pushed, moving over to the new development of shops in Union Street when it opened in 1968.    

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