Actor Antony Howes looks back on ‘Street Where I Grew Up’ as he share fond memories of Northampton
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I grew up in a semi-detached house in Chiltern Avenue, off Bants Lane in Duston.
My father bought it because it was opposite a bus stop and five minutes walk from British Timken – we didn’t have a car. We also didn’t have net curtains, and when we used to get undressed, the old ladies used to wave at us from the top of the bus.
I lived there with my mother, Joan Howes, who trained as an actress at RADA and later worked at the GPO in Northampton as a telephone operator.
My father was an English teacher who later worked at British Timken, at the top of Bants Lane, five minutes from our house. I also lived with my brother Ian and my sister Hilary who went to a boarding school.
I loved living in Chiltern Avenue, and the sense of community it provided. We all used to play in the street, my friends and I, there was no traffic so we could play football in the road.
One day, 13 of us on managed to get on a chopper bicycle and proud as punch, I wrote to the Roy Castle at the Guinness book of records.
We didn’t get in, but Roy Castle sent me a letter with his autograph and by a strange twist of fate, 30 years later I played his part Cosmo at the London Palladium.
In the 1960s in Chiltern Avenue, the neighbours had no garden fences so we just went in and out of each other's houses and took what we wanted from the fridge. My parents never had any biscuits but next door had chocolate and Dandelion and Burdock pop that I helped myself to from their fridge. They didn’t mind - it was like having lots of parents. There was more community then - everyone was called your auntie or your uncle.
When I was 10 my friends and I used to put on plays in our garage – I put on a production of Pinocchio and charged the neighbourhood 2p for the performance.
At the age of 12, whilst I was head boy in the church choir at St. Luke’s Church, Duston, I was asked to audition for the part of The Artful Dodger for a local production of Oliver. A reporter at Chronicle and Echo gave me a great review I recall, saying Antony Howes as the Artful Dodger not only picked pockets but stole scenes.
English actress, Joyce Grenfell came to see the show and recommended I join the National Youth Theatre so I auditioned and got in and moved to London and lived in a hostel. I used to come back to Chiltern Avenue on the weekends though.
My father loved living there too and used to be caught singing: “We are the Timken Boys, we know our manners, we spend our tanners. We are respected wherever we go and when we go walking along Bants lane, doors and windows open wide, people shout, put that willy woodbine out. We are the Timken boys.”
When I left home at 16, my first acting job was at the Shaw theatre in London – I was paid £15 a week to appear in Pygmalion alongside Paula Wilcox (Coronation Street) at 16. I then played Puck at the Roundhouse in London with Colin Firth – he played Cobweb the fairy – he had two lines.
After living in London for many years, when I came back to Northampton to do a show with Molly Sugden, I realised how much I missed Northampton – my grandfather’s flat was for sale and so I bought it and I have stayed here ever since.