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Growing Up In The Prefab Village On Winn's Common.

Barbara Biddle remembers the folk of the prafabs

It was good growing up in the prefabs on Winn's Common. I am now 58 *(2005). My brother Joey and I (that's us in the picture) lived at 46 Winn's Common, by the bus stop where the 53 bus used to stop, before going down King's Highway to Plumstead Bus Garage.


Christopher and Dennis Gates, Barry Smith, Joey and myself, Kathleen Faithfull and my dad Joe.

We were the first prefab in our turning; (they had no names) it was a strange shape. Straight for about four prefabs and ballooned out with a grass circle in the middle, it then narrowed and went straight again to the road called Winn's Common Road (although I was never aware it had a name at all). All the prefabs had their own gardens. Ours had a corrugated iron shed which coal was kept in (an old Anderson air raid shelter). We had a pull-down table in the small kitchen; on winter mornings the oven rings were on full and our clothes would be placed around to warm them. We would eat our breakfast sitting round the oven. We had a bathroom but when it was very cold we bathed in a tin bath in front of the fire.

There was a church hall right at the top of Lakedale Road, at an odd sort of angle (*The Ascension Hall, long demolished). The paddling pool is still there, but the sand has been replaced with volleyball. We used to jump from one concrete block to the next and spent many happy hours every summer there.

Barry Gillmore in a school play.

Next door to us were Esme and George Smith with their children; Ena, Barry and Pam. Our back garden met with Roy and Eve Gillmore's; they lived at number 61 with their children Barry and Jennifer (who were born there).

We all moved to Kingsdale Road when the prefabs were pulled down in 1958. We became lifetime friends and Barry and his wife Maureen went on to become my daughter's godparents.
The housing estate where we moved to in Kingsdale Road was originally the land which was Clubbies Pig Farm.

I met up again with three old friends who lived in the prefabs, via the *'Friends Reunited' web site; Malcolm Freeman who lived at number 103, Lynda Martin and Helen Holt.

Characters such as Pat and Lance Spencer lived in our section of the street with their children; Johnny, and his two sisters, whose names escape me now. They were the ‘Del Boy’ family of the time. (Aunty) Pat had jet-black hair; I never saw her without her makeup. Long, long finger nails (real). A very glamorous lady who used to tell us children very scary stories about witches and frighten us to death. Lance was tall and blonde. He used to get up to all sorts and always had something which “fell off the back of a lorry.” There was also Mr and Mrs Abbott and their daughter Valerie. Mr. Abbott was a postman. Maggie and George Gardner lived opposite from them. Well known in the area, the Gardner family were also a “character family”. They had Ronnie and Jean..

My Aunt Liz and Uncle George Knowles lived in the next alleyway to us at No. 24. They had two daughters, Pam and Carol. Carol and husband Ray had a sweet shop in Wickham Lane in the 1970s/80s. In fact, the shop belonged to my Uncle and Aunt before them, George and Doll Biddle. When I was a child Mrs Sargent owned this shop.

I remember the knifegrinder man coming round on his bike with a box on the front calling out “Bring out your knives.” Also the winkle and shrimp man. We always had winkles and shrimps for tea on Sunday. High days and holidays were when my uncles and aunts would come for Sunday Lunch and/or tea. They lived in Camberwell (where my mother came from). My nan moved from there to Wickham Lane when my mum was about 14. (My granddad was a Black Cab taxi driver from Camberwell. (He died of shrapnel wounds he received in World War 1, in June 1947, when I was a day old.) Every Sunday we either went out to tea or had visitors coming. We were all very family orientated in those days. My brother and I went to Sunday school at the Evangelist Church in Plumstead Common Road, near the Woodman Pub. I was in the Junos and my brother the Cubs. You had to go to Sunday school to participate.

When my aunt and uncle were over one weekend from Debden in Essex (where they had moved from Camberwell), with my cousins Harry and John, we went up to the woods past the football pitch and John fell down a bank and landed in the back garden of a house in Wickham Lane. A man came out to him who had first aid knowledge and called an ambulance. John had broken his leg. The kafuffle that it caused. We all got the blame! He was in St. Nicholas Hospital; his parents lived in Essex, which caused huge problems in those days.

On the rare occasions my mum and dad went out, when we had visitors we went to Plumstead Common working Men's Club. Us children could go as well, as they had a children's room with a TV and the gardens to play in during the summer.
My mum and dad were bus conductors at Plumstead Garage, (then in King's Highway), for many years. We went to the coast most Sundays in the summer with Plumstead Bus Garage. They had outings for staff and families every weekend; these were a joy, and I often remember climbing back up King's Highway in the evening, tired and sunburnt.

I remember when my cousin Peter Hall was 21. He was in the navy and had his 21st birthday party in our prefab. Dad took down the wall between the living room and bedroom. On the bedroom side were cupboards. He used to take them down and lay them on their side and they were used as benches to sit on. Several of Peter's sailor friends came and stayed for the weekend.

In the school holidays we used to go to Sutcliffe Park to play. We would take fish paste sandwiches and some lemonade. There would a group of us and apart from warnings about crossing the road, there was nothing else to worry about in those days. We used to play in the woods by the football pitches. I remember sleeping out in our prefab garden in a tent; my brother, Barry Smith and myself. Mrs Smith (Esme) cooked us an egg and bacon flan, and my dad kept coming out during the night to make sure we were OK.

We went to Purrett Road School, which became Gallions Mount. The teacher I remember best was Miss Branch; she married a boy from the Turrett House, at the top of the Hill. The family were Greek Cypriots. In fact she contacted me once, via *'Friends Reunited'. She lives in Cyprus since she retired and is Mrs Papacaralambus. Other popular teachers, Mr and Mrs Bannister, Mr Clark, Deputy Head and Mr Edwards, Headteacher. There was also a very strict red haired teacher, but he was liked by us all. (Mr Stevens?)

There was a green in our street with a pig bin chained to a lamppost and everybody used to put potato peelings and kitchen waste into this. The seafood man used to come round on Sunday evening. In the summer we played out all day in the street. Oh, what our grandchildren are missing; playing in the street; being safe! It was a wonderful life.

My mum & dad, Joe & Grace Biddle, were bus conductors at Plumstead Bus Garage, which was then at the bottom of Kings' Highway. My mum Grace used to feed the men who pulled the prefabs down. They used to spend a lot of time in our prefab; dad became quite friendly with them. They were brothers and they came from Norfolk.

The Coronation party was held on the piece of common opposite our prefab. There was a wooden hall (Baptist Hall*) there where I went to Junos. The tables were set out in long lines. There were races; my brother won the sack race. There was fancy dress for the boys and girls. I was dressed as the Queen and my brother and cousin John Hall were pages and carried my long train.

I remember the Ravine Cafe and Kibb's the Greengrocers shop. Once I was sent to Kibb's shop for something with a ten-shilling note and when I got there I didn't have it! It was in my hand so I must have dropped it on the way. That was a lot of money in those days, and I still remember how awful I felt. The shops were where Swingate Lane met King's Highway. On the corner of Flaxton Road was Edward's Newsagents, the same Edward's that were off the Beresford Square. Then, a few terraced houses on, and Kibb's, which was on the end terrace; so they covered the side access and made it into a veggie shop. Further along on the end was a general store/post office. (Still there today.)

I'm afraid we were quite boring and never really got into any trouble. I remember my mum and dad were fined once because our dog chased a policeman on his bicycle, snapping at his feet all the way!

My dad, Joe Biddle, whose family had a fish stall in the market in Beresford Square. (See J. Biddle stall in the picture on left, and a close up on the right) There are very few original traders there now. Denise Dearsley is a friend of my cousin Carol. I remember the Carpenters, Dennards, Delieu, Dearsley, Goddard and Edwards who were all well-known traders.

Barbara Rosam (nee Biddle).


Chris Kitchenham adds: At the end of Barbara (nee Biddle) Rosams' story, she mentions the Biddle Fish Stall (which I remember) and the Carpenters' as some of the few remaning original Traders of Beresford Square. Mr and Mrs Carpenter were our neighbors in High Grove and I had the opportunity to chat with them and introduce them to our son and daughter in law when we were visiting in 2000. That was fun.

*Editors inclusions

*Friends Reunited site: www.friendsreunited.co.uk



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