OC­TO­BER 1962

It’s mar­ket day, but with so many clas­sics around who cares about the stalls?

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - The Way We Were -

While the ac­tual date of this Oc­to­ber 1962 pic­ture isn’t known, we can hazard an ed­u­cated guess that it’s a Satur­day, be­cause the cen­tre of Marl­bor­ough’s High Street is taken up by mar­ket traders. As the help­ful fore­ground sign clar­i­fies, the park­ing places in the hub of what was also the main A4 Great West Road from Lon­don to Bris­tol and Avon­mouth were re­served for the mar­ket from 6am on Satur­days.

Most drivers seem to have ob­served the re­stric­tion, park­ing on the sides of the UK’s sec­ond widest High Street (af­ter Stock­ton-on-Tees) and leav­ing the mid­dle ground to the stall­hold­ers’ Com­mer FC, Morris Com­mer­cial J2 and Mini van. But just vis­i­ble amid them is a Rover P4. Ei­ther one trader has done well for him­self and bought an un­usual choice of load-lug­ger, or its owner pos­si­bly en­joyed too many sher­ries at the scaf­fold­ing-clad Ailes­bury Arms Ho­tel in the dis­tance and de­cided it was wiser to walk home – in which case he will prob­a­bly re­turn to a park­ing ticket.

This road has been busy for cen­turies and was men­tioned in 1228 as The King’s Street. It’s still hec­tic, de­spite con­struc­tion of the M4. Be­hind the cam­era, the road passes the re­puted burial mound of Mer­lin, King Arthur’s ma­gi­cian. Le­gend has it that the town name de­rives from ‘Mer­lin’s Barrow’.

There’s wiz­ardry in this view too, in the form of the white Morris Mini-Mi­nor parked in the row of cars on the right. ‘Wiz­ardry on wheels’ was one of the slo­gans BMC used to launch the Mini in 1959. They would take over High Street vis­tas like this as the 1960s pro­gressed, but only two years af­ter their de­but they have yet to make a big im­pres­sion. In­stead, Alec Is­sigo­nis’ other ‘peo­ple’s car’ still holds sway – head­ing the line of parked cars is a Se­ries II Mi­nor, ex­hibit­ing the split front wind­screen that would dis­ap­pear with the 1000 in 1956.

This evo­lu­tion is hand­ily il­lus­trated by the later Mi­nor just down from it. Per­haps the rather ma­tri­ar­chal lady in the yel­low head­scarf lean­ing on what we as­sume is her Ford Popular 103E be­tween the Mog­gies is pon­der­ing an up­grade? Al­though the 103E con­tin­ued to be built through un­til 1959, it was an an­cient and asth­matic 1930s de­sign, kept in pro­duc­tion mainly so Ford could trum­pet it of­fered Bri­tain’s cheap­est ‘real’ car. Bub­ble­cars and three­wheel­ers didn’t fig­ure in the Blue Oval’s cal­cu­la­tions, though, hence the stress on ‘real’.

One car prob­a­bly not on her list would be the Metropoli­tan a lit­tle fur­ther back. The flam­boy­ant off­spring of an un­likely mar­riage be­tween Nash and Austin, this yank tank in minia­ture would have been quite a sight in con­ser­va­tive Marl­bor­ough. The UK didn’t re­ally take to its ec­cen­tric looks; only around 1200 were sold here be­tween 1957 and 1961. Still, it was the first Bri­tish car to of­fer a ra­dio as stan­dard.

Mov­ing back, there’s a Ford Ze­phyr or Ze­phyr Zo­diac MkI, then an­other Ford Pop’ 103E, with the Mini bring­ing up the rear of iden­ti­fi­able parked cars. Pass­ing them is a Vaux­hall Vic­tor F Se­ries II, fol­lowed by its suc­ces­sor, a Vic­tor FB. In the far dis­tance is the guppy grille of a prim­rose-painted Daim­ler Dart, which will no doubt make our Metropoli­tan oc­cu­pants a lit­tle jeal­ous when it reaches them.

On the other side of the road is the only for­eign ve­hi­cle, a VW Bee­tle. Also vis­i­ble are an Austin A30/ A35 van dwarfed by the num­ber 17 Wilts and Dorset bus ser­vice ahead of it, op­er­ated by a Bris­tol K with an Eastern Coach Works (ECW) body. Also vis­i­ble is the rear end of a Stan­dard Van­guard Phase III.

The cen­tre of Marl­bor­ough still looks much the same to­day, largely due to his­toric build­ings such as the 17th cen­tury Mer­chant’s House (just in front of the bus) and the Vic­to­rian Town Hall at the head of the street, with St Mary’s Church – some bits of which date back to circa 1160 – in the back­ground. And the mar­ket is still held on Satur­days, just as it has since King John granted its char­ter back in 1204. Some things, thank­fully, don’t change.

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