Wednesday, 23 June 2004
The Eltham we of the 1926-1940 era remember with nostalgia: - written by Lily Tyrrell (Brown) now resident in Perth Western Australia since 27th April 1996 .
My Birthplace Such happy days that seemed to go on for ever.
School holidays - hot and dusty during the summer which seemed to continue in one blissful bout of enjoyment. The sound of the Cats Meat Man in his small trap pulled by a pony trotting proudly in front and all the local cats and dogs trailing behind mewing and snuffling for the odd piece of horse flesh which might be dropped whilst customers orders were being wrapped in newspaper or stuck on a stick.
Always on a Monday the Hot Pie Lady dressed in her white spotless overall - carrying her large wicker basket containing the fruits of her cooking. She rang a hand bell for potential buyers. (How the pies stayed hot was her secret.) The charge was two and four pence according to size, and many mothers coping with mounds of washing - being Monday - were happy to buy. No doubt this could have been the fore-runner of the Fast Food Outlet.
One man no doubt trying to eke out his war pension (1914-18) hired bikes out by the hour and day. All in different stages of road worthiness to youngsters and adults. Oh! What joy to have the use of a bike even for one hour. I frequently sneaked my brother's bike from the shed - lowered the saddle and pelted down the road with the wind whistling in my hair. Sadly I always forgot to put the saddle in its original position and he would blow his top, but never forbade me from repeating the offence - which I did at the first opportunity.
The gathering of all mobile children for a Paper Chase was a real event. Half were the Hares and the other half the Hounds. The Mothers turned out in force to pack the Hares satchels with cut up newspapers and pieces of chalk which was used for ribald scrawled messages and incorrect directions for the trackers. The Hares had a thirty minute start before the Hounds took off with loud whoops at the spee of bullets leaving a gun. The Mums all waving and shouting 'Be home in time for tea'.
The surrounding country to Eltham consisted of Fields - Orchards - Woods - Parks with miles of connecting lanes which spread to Chislehurst - Bromley - New Eltham - down to Kent. There were days when my brothers - all older than I decided to go scrumping and being quite insistent I joined them (to their disgust.) Many times have I climbed gates and scrambled under barbed wire to escape the local Farmers dogs, dropping the fruit I had picked. Guess the Farmer had many apples retrieved this way - so hopefully did not feel too angry with us.
School commenced at 9 - 12 noon. Two hours lunch break resumed at 2 - 4:30pm. Infants left at 4pm. Most children went home for lunch.
The unemployment figure was high, and you could always see the Mums in need, off to Joe's Pawn shop in Thomas Street Woolwich to hock their husbands best suit for a few shillings - then guard the ticket like Fort Knox gold - to retrieve the fated suit on the Friday for week- end wear. The Dads were either not aware of this practice or simply turned a blind eye for the sake of the children.
Much excitement the Fun Fair was due to arrive at Black Heath for the public holiday. The hoarding of hard earned pennies - changing empty jam jars for a farthing each at the local grocers. Collecting horse manure for keen gardeners and selling at tuppence a bucket. My Father a keen gardener did not always pay promptly - so my brothers tried to sell it before he caught them sneaking off with my brothers barrow. Sadly this had to cease when one brother pelting down a local hill slid forward down the long front plank which held the front wheels - came into contact with the six inch nail which had not been banged in. It went straight into his nether region which proved extremely painful - he limped around for days and emitted groans and moans when sitting. So that said good-bye to the prized barrow.
Sticky memories of the Sweet Man who rode a three wheel tricycle with a box arrangement fixed on the front. This was full of Chewy Bars - Gob Stoppers - Candy - American Nut Toffee - Locust Beans - Spanish Sticks - Liquorice Sticks - Sherbert Dabs etc. A very gentle man who when some of his stock became sticky placed it in a waste bin nearby. As he always placed them in a cardboard box - you can guess there was a mad scramble after he left to retrieve and sit around sharing the spoils. No one ever suffered an upset tum.
“Coal'o' was shouted and into view would come the Coal Dray pulled by two hefty shire horses. Two Brawney Coalies sitting atop - coated in black dust, but always cheery with eyes a-twinkle - belts or string tied around their trousers knees. No doubt to try and prevent some of the dust from penetrating to their bodies. The average price two shillings per bag. You could pay into a club all of the summer to help the cost of winter fuel.
The library which was greatly used and no doubt still is for education and information. Plus it was used outside as a meeting place for the local girls and lads to flirt around. The girls strolled back and forth to whistles and cat calls.
The market was there for many years - the smell of boiled sweets - fish - vegetables plus other aromas. The Naptha lamps flashing in the dusk.
The Open Top Buses - where you could sit and pull up the waterproof lap covers if it rained to cover the lower half of your body. Unfortunately when alighting most of the accrued water would cascade down your legs - so most people declined to use them. The 46 and 72 trams which never let the public down whatever the weather. No excuse for late at work whether it snowed - froze - or pea souper fog. They used to sway down the hill from Shooters Hill Road past the Artillery Barracks and if sitting up top you were thrown from side to side. Just like crossing the Bay of Biscay. Tuppence al day fares.
There was an unwritten rule that the pupils of the Gordon School and those of Deansfield School were sworn enemies and a battle would ensue at the slightest provocation. Funnily they seemed to win alternately and always ceased at the first sign of a blood - nose - knees or whatever. The time duly arrived and the Powers that be decided to amalgamate the two schools. Five years to ten years attended the Deansfield and eleven to fourteen years the Gordon. Many grumbles were heard but actually it had its advantages. The qualifications were increased and I for one gained in added knowledge. You could sit for the Junior County - The Supplementary or the Trade Scholarships. Any of these allowed you to move on to Higher Education. If you were sufficiently qualified the L.C.C. allowed your parents a Grant to assist with uniform a must, pens books etc. My parents were paid five pound nineteen and six pence per term of three months. When we moved to live at Welling I lost a portion as I had left the London area. The Kent authority cut it drastically. The L.C.C. in its heyday was an excellent Governing Body.
Saturday mornings were a chase to the top of Westmount Road - where we lined up for the small Picture House (The Bug Hutch so called). The lady played the piano to accompany the silent film chose her musical score to stir the watchers into a state of excitement. As the Cops and Robbers were in full chase - Norma Talmidge - Fatty Arbuckle and the members of Our Gang. The Tarzan series which went on for weeks, always stopping at a thrilling part. Our entry tickets were numbered and the Manager would pick a number and give the holder a large chocolate bar to take home (guess they didn't always do that). The other children were given an orange when the performance was over as they trooped out. Some ate theirs others used them as footballs to let of steam - as we had to wait another week to see what happened to the heroine and how she escaped from a fate worse than death. The Manager could never sort out why we had more children going out than came in. We never enlightened him that a good third were let in through the toilet entrance, as they sometimes never had the money and we could not let them miss out on that week's sequence.
Hinds shop was a pleasure to walk around and you could obtain all types of Haberdashery without having to trail around elsewhere. At the rear of the shop there were the last of the old Alms houses tenanted by the aged. All wood fronted with separated top and bottom front doors. The residents would lean over the bottom half and chat to anyone willing to listen. Most had little strips of garden with geraniums or other plants flowering in a splash of colour against the old clap boarded fronts.
The old Horse Trough sat at the top end of the High Street, not in use these days but in great demand then. Pass this and you will come to Grace's Farm and opposite sits the Golf course - another source of income for the local kids - retrieving lost balls and selling them back to the players for a few coppers.
There was a lane (Gravel Pit Lane) which ran adjacent to the course and ended where Falconwood Station now stands.
The old Greyhound Pub a real landmark and no doubt still as popular.
The Working Mans Club down Eltham where you could spend a pleasant evening of entertainment and a friendly drink with locals.
The Swimming Baths - always coping with customers - schools and instruction.
The fifty shilling Tailors - later Burtons over which was a Billiard Hall and a Dance Studio used by the 18-25 yr males and females - a very popular venue. If desired as a change from 'off the peg' suits one could be made by 'Greens' of Woolwich - at this time of fashion conscious lads looked like tailors dummies. Their long overcoats - padded shoulders - and the finishing touch with the trailing white silk scarf.
Your ears would often be smote by the raucous cry of the 'Rag and Bone Merchant' - who would give children a gold fish in exchange for a bundle of rags. The poor fish popped off after a few hours - when it meant poor mum had to dry their tears until the next visit of the Rag and Bone Man.
Eltham was fortunate to be controlled by Woolwich Council for many years and was one of the best and proficiently run areas in the south east. Sadly the amalgamation with Greenwich began a down market area and things deteriorated out of all proportion.
Eltham Palace - a famous building written into the history archives and still a pleasure to view.
The Pleasance and the Barn - where the grounds are a delight to view - especially in Spring with a carpet of Gold and Mauve Crocus on the lawns - tulips and daffodils waving in the breeze. I do hope this vista is still there to give pleasure. I seem to remember the name Pleasance was chosen by an elderly Deansfield Headmistress and I would say it was most suitable.
For some years an Annual Carnival was held. All of the local shop owners entered floats - some horse drawn others motor driven and decorated a sight for sore eyes to feast upon.
The parks always had family gatherings especially Sunday afternoons when various military bands would entertain. Youngsters sat eating Mums cheese and cucumber sandwiches washed down with a mug of 'R Whites' cream soda. This would be followed if you were lucky with a piece of home made fruit cake or (Caraway Seed which I hated).
Many times have I climbed the ancient Norman Tower in Castle Woods Park. The charge was one penny and you climbed the stone internal spiralling stairs and out on to the Battlements. On a clear day you could view way up the Thames to London. Sadly on my last visit there about 1985 it was closed and guessed the authorities considered it too dangerous to allow more visitors.
The Yorkshire Grey famous for its dinner dancers has also deteriorated and here it is used for the odd boot sale. The Victor Sylvester fan club would be horrified.
Before the Page-Brook and Well Hall Estates were built the open land was called the Nine Fields - one vast children's play area. At one time small Bi-planes were there offering cheap flights. One landed in a ploughed field near Falconwood station and had to be towed away.
It is many years since I last saw the three step mounting block made of stone and used by Stage Coaches for passengers to alight as the High Street was on the root to Folkestone. I believe it sat outside Sun in the Sand Public House.
The Bob Hope Theatre originally known as the Parrish Hall where shows were performed I was fortunate to attend a children's dance academy and had the opportunity to perform on the stage. My brothers sitting in the audience informed anyone who cared to listen that 'their young sister was on the stage' (the only time they were happy to admit family ties while still young) normally I was told to 'BUZZ OFF' (even so they were wonderful brothers).
Eltham in its time was a great place to be born and to serve your childhood. The clean spaces - fields and parks must have seemed like 'Shangri La' to any London visitors. They say to get nostalgic shows a sign of age - but wonderful memories can stay in the mind and it's soothing to recap and accept those were the days when you enjoyed life to the full. I could proceed with hours of nostalgia - but you would no doubt tire. Hope you enjoy reading this memory reviver of Eltham as it was.
Sincerely Lily Tyrrell (Brown) PERTH W. AUSTRALIA
|Lily aged 16
Taken in Exeter Road, Welling 1938
|Lily aged 22
Taken at 17 Horsefeld Road, Eltham 1944
Here are a few Deansfield Teachers Names to jog your memory: Mrs Pruer, Mrs Greaveson, Mrs Thomas, Mrs Parker, Miss Avis. Head Mistress: - Miss Phipps, Headmaster: - Mr Dixon, Staff: - Mr Langton, Mr Morgan etc.
The girls school teams were:-
Darling (Red) - Cavell (Blue) - Nightingale (Yellow) - Macdonald (Green).
The boys had Raleigh (Yellow) - Drake (Blue) - Howard (Green) - Grenville (Red).
Gordon School teachers:-
Miss Jamieson - Maths.
Miss Bignell - Music.
Mrs Clifford - History.
Miss Dumsday - General.
Miss Webb - Literature.
I left the Gordon and went on to the Woolwich Polytechnic for a further 2 years education.
From there I worked at Fortnum & Masons in Piccadilly. The 1939 - 45 war naturally caused havoc. I being of military age was transferred to Darwen in Lancashire with many others to work in a Time Fuse Factory at Lower Darwen, where I stayed for ten months until my mother was taken ill. I returned without asking permission for leave of absence and consequently received notice to appear before a Tribunal where to my horror was threatened with imprisonment for not carrying out my war-time duties. I offered to work anywhere in the London area to enable me to care for my sick mother and invalid father. My brothers were in the thick of battle overseas. The committee relented and transferred me to work as a Civil Servant at the Army Pay Corps Footscray Sidcup, which was reasonably near to my home at Welling, Kent. I stayed until the cessation of hostilities and my marriage to John Tyrrell in 1946.
As a child I attended the Wesleyan Church, St Lukes and Sunday Evening Band of Hope. I can remember with my brother Walter (Wally) wrapping a farthing in silver paper for the collection plate, hoping the vicar would not be too mad when finding it not a sixpence. Horrible children eh!
Did you ever play Tin - can - copper, High Jimmy Knacker, Jack's, Yo - Yo, Hop Scotch- most games were seasonal such as Marbles and Ciggy Cards. Cats Cradles played with string, Skates, they kept the local children amused for hours.
I had 4 brothers and 3 sisters older than I, and if I wanted to join my brothers in their rough games I had to learn to run fast to keep up, consequently became rather a tomboy and could climb a tree as agile as a monkey.
One neighbour a Mrs Anderson whose husband was away at sea for long periods - allowed the children who were friends of Francis her son - light a bonfire in her garden to get rid of garden rubbish etc. We could then take a potato to bake in the hot ash and chestnuts when in season. We all ate more soot and dirt than was good, but never suffered from digestive disorders.
When Councils were voted in - we could watch the candidates arriving at Deansfield School where the Ballot Boxes were (the children had a day off). All though cars were not in abundance, there were still quite a few rolling up hired or owned and the influx of these sundry limousines was an exciting stimulant to the local tearaways who constantly hopped on the rear bumper-bars for a few yards ride - such excitement!
I remember Kingsley Wood standing for some years. He was eventually knighted and there is now a Drive on Coldharbour Estate named in his honour.
Here are some pupils names which may ring a bell:-
Joan Bradley, Ena Challen, Rose Morgan, Nancy McRae, John Hill, Francis Anderson, Sparks, Dobsons, Killorans, Bryant, Wells, Whelan, Evelyn & Olive Bennet, Tom & Pauline Moffat, Eileen, Margaret & John Baggs, Derrick & Eric Collins, Nancy, Norman & Harold Wickens.
Sports Day: - Held in the field at the top of Deansfield Road (now the Rochester Way). Egg and spoon, 3 legged, Catch the Train, High & Long Jump, Relays etc. The prizes received were very good for that era. My brothers always managed to receive one or more. I remember one lad I think his name was Roy Chandler a brilliant athlete. His name was always being placed on the Victors Shield which hung in the Seniors Main Hall.
I still have one brother George 87years of age resides at Paignton in Devon UK and one sister Maud or (Edith) 91 years resides at Erith in Kent. Constance, Thomas, Frances, Arthur and Walter have all moved on to that other Planet where I hope they are still observing their 82 years young sisters progress on this Earth.
By the way they say the wold is getting smaller and this helps to substantiate it. When I walked into Fortnum & Masons to commence work the first person to confront me was Doreen Pointer. She had been employed a few years earlier. If still alive could be about 85 years of age.
Do you remember the Indian Doctor Mohamed who rented the front room in Mrs Bagg's Hut and used the Hall-way as a patient waiting area. He was a very clever chap and a perfect gentleman. He also had a surgery at the top end of Westmount Road, and walked between the two surgerys to attend patients. No doubt could not afford transport then as I can remember the cost of calling in a doctor in those days was the large sum of 4/6d. a lot of money. Most people had to Doctor themselves. I can remember going to bed with a nasty cold and hearing the crackle of brown paper well greased with camphorated oil on my chest which my mother had placed under my pyjama jacket. It certainly must have helped. Herb medications were widely used then and to my way of thinking far safer - no side effects.
Must leave this jargon for a while, hope it has stimulated your memory.