Woolwich & Districts
Grandparents - Mr & Mrs Yeatman
I was around 1 1/2 when this photo was
taken with my Nan. C.1948
Norman at six with twins, June & jackie less than
a year old.
Myself with the 'Mumps' c.1952
Mum (Hilda) and Dad's (Bill) wedding at
St. margaret's Church in 1935.
Myself between my two sisters c.1948.
Dad (Bill) in uniform 1941.
Norman, 17. June & Jackie, 11 and
Myself, 5. c.1952
was born in Plumstead in 1947. My birth was at home at 97 Hudson
Road (Hudson Road is now no more). I went to St Margaret's Primary
School which was opposite St Margaret's Church (also now gone).
For my secondary School I went to Eltham Green Comprehensive.
can’t say that my Plumstead was either a sleepy haven
or a down-and-out backwater. It was just Plumstead, the town
I was born in and where I grew up till I was around eighteen.
my formative years the part of Plumstead I lived in seemed to
me to be a green and flowery suburb. The streets lined with
terraced houses, most built from reddish brown brick. It was
always sunny (a view which I guess most children have no matter
where they live) and not as grey as the Woolwich end of town.
house was a decent three- storey domicile built in the late
1800's with a smallish garden that was just big enough for me
to drive my red coupé pedal car around – circumnavigating
the area where the air raid shelter use to sit. We needed the
four bedrooms that the house provided as not only my brother,
Norman (twelve years older than I) and my twin sisters, June
and Jackie (six years older) but also my mother’s parents
lived with us.
was quite young when my grandparents left this world. My grandfather
died first and my memories of him are few. He did keep rabbits
in a wooden cage outside the back door. The strongest memory,
however, was the ‘Muffin the Mule’ puppet he made
for me. Hand carved, hand painted with strings, the TV show
being a favourite of mine. After his passing my gran would have
lived on for three or four years and was, among other things,
interested in Greek mythology and butterflies and moths.
(Bill) worked with his brother Reg as an auto electrician. The
business being owned by Reg, with the garage located at the
bottom of Burrage Road, one shop up from Plumstead Road. I think
Dad learned his trade in the Ambulance Corp. during the war.
The Garage was an exciting place for me to visit and to this
day I can still smell the ‘Swarfega” a cleanser
they used for getting the grease off their hands.
attended an Anglican church primary school that was, then, around
a hundred years old (as was the accompanying church, St Margaret’s).
It was only a short walk to school. Some days were more special
than others. Funny how the mind works when you’re young.
I remember quite clearly (in my head anyway) that I had written
a song while walking to school one rainy morningl. The song
turned out to be Heartbreak Hotel. I don’t think Elvis
ever found out that I had written one of his biggest hits! I
was nine or ten at the time.
so often my Mum gave me a penny to spend at the little shop
opposite the church, at the top of Vicarage Road. Black Jacks
and Fruit Salads (four for a penny), Spaceships, Sherbet Dabs
and Fruit Tingles and so on. It was a ritual to regularly pick
a few leaves off the manicured privet hedge that bordered the
house next to the school as I walked past each day. Across the
road from the school was Plumstead Common, with its undulating
grassy hills and trees; also the bandstand, which stood on a
small hillock and had gravel pathways for kids on trikes or
mothers with the enormous prams of the day.
Common was also where St Margaret’s Junior School once
held a sports carnival. I came third in a running race.
church, to my young eyes, was a place of grandeur. Beautifully
coloured stained glass windows held a fascination for me, with
all the different characters. Some I recognised but others were
just people wearing odd apparel. It was almost compulsory to
attend church on Sundays. My parents were married at St Margarets.
My brother was a choir and alter boy and for many years a close
friend of the vicar, Canon Morecombe. My sisters also attended
church but probably more for social than religious reasons.
Come Sunday morning I was dressed to the nines with slicked
down hair and polished shoes. I would walk up Hudson Road to
the church, meet the locals waiting at the gates prior to the
service, then, as we entered the church, greeted with a nod
and a smile by the vicar.
was confirmed at St. Margaret’s when I was thirteen, but
for different reasons became disenchanted with religion. However,
my religious upbringing served me well, putting me top of Religious
Studies class at secondary school.
area around our home was dotted with bombsites where once houses
stood. These bombsites were formed by the misplaced bombs of
World War II, meant for the Woolwich Arsenal, resulting in the
loss of many homes and hundreds of lives. But I was a kid and
I was amazed at what could be found on these sites; and this
was fifteen years after the war. They had become places on which
to offload any junk items the locals had. When I was a teenager
I found a bicycle frame on a nearby bombsite. After a clean
up and paint it became a much used bike for many years.
Nest Hollow, on Plumstead Common Road, bordered the Common to
the south. This hub of shops boasted a post office, a supermarket,
a baker, a cobbler, a wet fish shop and even a greasy spoon
cafe. At the top of the hill, just before you got to The Links
was a toyshop and a wool shop. I remember the wool shop mainly
because this store also sold ladies’ stockings, items
I was forced to purchase for my sisters when at a young and
I also saw my first movie (Carry on Sergeant) at the Globe Cinema
that used to be a few doors up from the Post Office. I believe
it was for my eleventh birthday. There also used to be a cinema
on Plumstead Road, the name of which I can’t remember,
but I do remember going on my own to see Bambi. I must have
been about twelve. I found myself sitting behind my cousin,
whom I saw was smoking! He was a year older than me and when
I tapped him on the shoulder, did he turn pale, as he thought
I might tell his Dad. I didn’t, of course.
other side of the Hollow saw Plumstead rising towards Shooters
Hill. The main road up was Plum Lane, a hill that seemed like
a mountainside. Guess which road was part of my paper run! Especially
on wet and windy Sundays, toting papers that weighed more than
I did! Great view from the top, though. At Plum Lane’s
peak, to the left, was Shrewsbury Park, which seemed like a
forest to me. Oxleas Wood on the other side of Shooters Hill
was even bigger. Another early morning newspaper excursion was
Barnfield Gardens, high-rise flats. I’m not sure when
the flats were built, but by the time I became acquainted with
them they showed definite signs of aging, with several abandoned
cars languishing around the perimeter.
the east of the Hollow were Winn's Common and the Links, home
to the Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society emporium for the more
sophisticated consumer. Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s
bespoke tailoring, haberdashery and a classy bakery for your
wedding cakes and such. I purchased my first suit in the Gentlemen’s
dept. The Links was a departmental store, a forerunner to today’s
mega stores. When purchasing, your money and bill were loaded
into a cylinder, which, in turn, was loaded into a tube and
whisked away by compressed air to an invisible place only to
return minutes later with your receipt and change. A much more
relaxed time back then.
the fifties mum took me to the paddling pool on Winn's Common.
I was only allowed to stay down one end because the bigger kids
up the other end didn’t tend to notice us small ones and
were likely to use you as a stepping-stone in their games of
chase. Later, so I was told, it was linked with the spread of
polio, which was rife in the late fifties and early sixties,
and became out of bounds.
special place for me was the Matchless/AJS motorcycle factory.
It lay between Maxey Road and Burrage Road, on the northern
side of the main rail line. I could stand at the wire link fence
and stare across the rail line to the gleaming motorbikes waiting
to be loaded on to the trains and lorries for delivery. It was
a hive of industry, with bikes being wheeled out of the factory
and pushed up and down various ramps. Men dressed in grey overalls
would straddle a bike, give the crank a kick and ride the bike
away down the other end to some distant shed. Intermittently,
big black steam trains huffed and puffed between the bikes and
myself. The smell of smoke would permeate my nostrils and chest,
leaving a decidedly coal-like taste in the mouth.
the summer school holidays I was ‘urged’ to go to
summer school, at Fox Hill Primary School, down Nightingale
Place, a delightfully steep hill which often had the older cars
stumped. I remember sitting on the school steps and watching
an old Morris, which had stalled whilst trying to climb up.
It was being pushed from behind by the drivers of the buses,
the cars and lorries that were forced to stop behind it, the
street being a single lane only. The kafuffle lasted quite a
while as the heavily laden lorries found it difficult to restart
on the steep gradient after the Morris went on his merry way.
has faded in my mind and I am sorry that it is so, but that’s
old age for you. Every now and again I come across photos on
the web that stir up the sludge that is my brain and I revisit
dear old Plumstead, my Homestead.