Woolwich & Districts
Boyhood Memories of 26 Brookhill Road, Woolwich
c.1921 outside 26 Brookhill Road, Woolwich
Don's Christening 18 February 1940
decades 26 Brookhill Road was home to three generations of my
family. This was where my grandparents raised their three daughters.
It was also my home for over twenty years.
Lilian (named after her mother and both known as Lily) was born
in 1913. She would have seen very little of her father during
her infancy as the Great War was being fought in Europe.
Percy Tomes, returned home at the end of the war (WW1) but my
grandmother’s brother, Robert Edwards, did not. Robert
was the thirteenth child and only son born to my great grandmother.
Sgt. R.H. Edwards MM of 11 Bn. Sherwood Foresters died in October
1918, four weeks before Armistice was signed.
my grandfather as a stern solemn man, always smartly dressed
with a button hole. He was a Mason and Hon. Secretary of the
Woolwich Branch of the Old Contemptibles. Until the day he died,
he represented the ‘Old Contemptibles’ on remembrance
day at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. He was also a Pearl Insurance
Agent and had a brass plaque on the wall by the front door for
all to see. This was cleaned everyday by my grandmother who
also whitened the half dozen steps to the house daily. My grandfather
faithfully attended commemorative services at the Garrison Church,
proudly wearing his medals. He frequently returned home for
lunch with a complete stranger he had met at Church. My grandmother
would quietly set another place at the table.
came from Yorkshire, married my mother at Woolwich in 1936 and
worked as a lorry driver in Leytonstone, East London, before
war broke out. I was born in December 1939 when another World
War was escalating. My father had leave for my christening early
the following year. My father’s uncle and aunt from Yorkshire
were my godparents.
In the Back Garden
my trike, believed to be evacuated at Culworth.
I was evacuated with my mother, her sister Edna and my cousin
Rita to Culworth, Banbury, to escape the bombing but I recall
a Spitfire base was nearby! I briefly attended D’Anvers
School for a few months before returning to Woolwich and starting
Foxhill School. I enjoyed my school days at Foxhill and was
pleased to captain the football team. I still have a book “England
for Everyman” by HA Piehler containing 32 coloured maps.
This was a John Brown Memorial Prize awarded to me in 1951 for
some achievement now forgotten.
Foxhill School Photo, Woolwich, 1950
Old photo of Foxhill school with Don as captain of the football
Road was divided into two flats, each with its own kitchen but
in the early days no bathroom or inside toilet. My parents had
the ground floor and my grandparents had rooms upstairs. There
was a piano in the front room which my mother and her sisters
had been taught to play. My father was an accomplished pianist
often playing without a music sheet. Most Sunday evenings were
musical with my grandparents singing accompanied by the piano.
war my father drove a breakdown recovery vehicle in Egypt until
a high rank officer seconded him as his batman and personal
driver. Whenever he could, my father sent telegrams for my birthday
and Christmas. My mother kept these for me in a Baby Book.
home safely after the war, my father turned his back on driving.
He never owned a car and chose to walk everyday to work in North
Woolwich, using the foot tunnel. He worked as a foreman for
British Rail in the King Edward and Victoria docks dispatching
by rail the goods brought in by the many ships from all over
grandfather, William Wilkinson, died before my father was born.
My father was raised by his uncle Isaac and aunt. They had no
children of their own. I remember my great uncle visiting our
home and accompanying us on a holiday to Blackpool. Isaac Wilkinson
was a prosperous Hebden Bridge Coal Merchant. My parents were
amongst 40 beneficiaries to his estate.
Patricia (Pat) was born in 1947 and I moved upstairs with my
grandparents. I was given a small bedroom at the back but from
my grandparents front window I could see over the wall across
the road where soldiers were visible going about their military
worked for many years in a dressmakers shop close to Woolwich
Arsenal Station. I cannot recall the name of the establishment
other than it was a ladies haute couture. The shop was fully
carpeted and had a wonderful display of flowers on a tall jardinière.
The ladies who ran the shop employed my grandmother to carry
out a multitude of tasks including cleaning and cooking. Early
in the morning my grandmother would light the fire and cook
breakfast. She would press the tailor made garments and often
brought sewing home. She also went to John Lewis in London several
times a week to collect bolts of material for the dress making
holidays I ran errands for my grandmother, a regular one of
which was breaking up small lightweight wooden crates which
I collected from the fruit stalls at the market. The broken
pieces made good firewood which I took to the shop and in return
was given pocket money. I would also take wood home to sell
to the neighbours. I enjoyed visiting the shop and remember
another very different nearby – Menzies Eel and Pie Shop.
The wriggling eels always fascinated me.
holidays I spent many a day riding back and forth on the Woolwich
Free Ferries. The old coal fired engines of the paddle steamers
fascinated me with their gleaming steel and highly polished
brass. Sometimes I was spotted by one of the crew after making
several journeys on one boat and told to get off. This I did
only to rejoin the next one. I should explain that during the
daylight hours two boats operated and in busy times, there was
three boats, two loading on either side of the river and one
waiting to berth or crossing the river Thames.
I would take sandwiches to my father who was a railway foreman
working in the George V and Victoria docks. He oversaw goods
from all over the World after being unloaded from very large
passenger and merchant cargo ships. These goods were then loaded
onto the endless goods trains to be taken all round the country.
when I was out running errands or playing, I was given envelopes
for my father. These contained bets and money as my father was
a known bookies runner and had a betting account. I was always
pleased to get these envelopes as I usually got sixpence from
the gambler and another sixpence from my father. Due to my father’s
additional earning from betting, we were one of the first houses
in the road to have a telephone installed.
bottom of Brookhill Road, where it met Sandyhill Road, was the
“Corner Shop” owned by Mr Tucker. He sold a multitude
of goods (which probably would not be allowed by trading standards
today). Bacons, eggs, cheese, coal paraffin, candles, loose
sugar and rice in sacks, soap, firewood, boot polish, various
tins of food – all over the one counter. Mr Tucker never
used paper bags, he always used blue paper which was rolled
into a cone, filled with sugar or rice etc, and then folded.
The unusual but not unpleasant concoction of different aromas
met one’s nose immediately upon entering the shop and
was never to be forgotten..
up Brookhill Road were blocks of army flats screened on one
side by a row of Horse Chestnut Trees. The flats and married
quarters encircled a large green area. This green was a favourite
haunt. Here over the years I spent many happy hours with the
army kids playing football, tinkering with bikes and flying
model airplanes built from kits. This is where I met my oldest
long standing friend, Bert, when I knocked on his door to retrieve
a football that had smashed through his window. My playmates
had all scattered. Bert, stern at first, accepted my apologies
and gave me back the ball. Bert was a bandsman in the Royal
Artillery. He played the French horn and on parade looked very
grand leading the band and twirling the mace. Over fifty years
later we are still good friends. After Bert left the army he
became an Agent for Abbey Life and after finally retiring he
spent time at Rochester Airport with a number of enthusiasts
renovating second World War fighter planes, i.e. Spitfires and
Bert receiving an Honour - Late 1950's on the Woolwich parade
It was on
the green with a friend, George Rudge, I flew and lost the biggest
kite we ever built. It was 6ft tall and after tying many balls
of string together it soared to an impressive height above the
quarters then broke free and disappeared over Bloomfield/Burrage
Road area. I often wondered what became of it? Where did it
land and who found it?
When I was
fifteen my father thought it was time I earned my own keep.
I left Bloomfield School and began work in the city with the
Post Office as a messenger, delivering telegrams.
memory was when Malcolm (better known as “Pip”)
Goodman from the army quarters knocked on my door and asked
if I would like to accompany him on a drive to visit his married
sister in Romford. I looked out at the road expecting to see
his latest bike and was surprised to see an old Morris with
a tatty soft top. His sister had offered some canvas for the
repair. We picked up John Burton and set off. Pip asked us what
we thought of his driving. We thought it was good and asked
how long had he been driving. ‘About twenty minutes’
was the startling reply. On reaching his sister’s home,
we set about removing the old top and spent several hours hand
stitching the new canvas to the frame. An arduous task. On completing
the job we were very disappointed to realize not enough material
had been allowed around the framework. The hood would not fold
down. The return journey was subdued with the top up.
my eighteenth birthday I transferred back to Woolwich as a postman.
I delivered mail around several different routes, one of which
was past the AJS and Matchless Factory. I had often in earlier
years stood outside the premises eyeing the lined up bikes and
watching with envy as the testers emerged from the factory wearing
goggles, back-to-front ‘cheesecutters’ and waxed
Barbour suits. It had been my ambition to test drive the bikes.
My sister in later years dated a chap who did exactly that.
A few months
after my 20th birthday I married and left Brookhill Road. My
mother remained there until her mid sixties. I had a successful
and varied career with the Post Office, taking promotion whenever
the opportunity arose. I opted for early retirement in 1992
My sisters wedding at Woolwich Town Hall in 1970.
My parents wedding 1936. St. Mary's Church in Church Street,
Sitting to the right of the bride is my great grandmother and
beside her is Mrs Snowdon - family friend and lodger. Immediately
behind my mother are her cousins Gladys and Doris and my great
aunt Ada (their mother). The bridesmaid on the right is my mother's
sister Edna. The bridesmaid on the left is my mother's older
sister Maggie. Only the bald top of my grandfather's head is
visible. In front of him is my grandmother.