Woolwich & Districts
My Riley Family History in Plumstead
we have to go at first back to Audley in Staffordshire, where
in 1842 my Great grandfather - Frederick Riley, was born. He
is then recorded in the 1891 census as living in Barth Road
Plumstead, and his occupation then was as a labourer at Woolwich
Arsenal. In 1888 he married Isabella Pearson in the Parish Church
of Holy Trinity, Woolwich on 14th of January that year.
On the 15th
February 1895 my Grandfather – George John Riley was born
and the family were living at No 42 Barth Road. George John
then went on to join the Royal Navy, at least until 1928, a
spell as a stoker in the gas works, no doubt due to the experience
gained in the navy. Finally working for the Matchless Motor
Cycle Company until his death in 1961 aged 65. On the 30th December
1922 he married Isabel Maud Houghton at St Margaret's Parish
Church. She was born 30th April 1901 at 48 Elm Street, Plumstead.
His favourite drinking places were: The Prince Alfred, Raglan
Road, and The Plumstead Radical Club, where he was a member.
George John Edgar Riley was also born at 42 Barth Road, Plumstead,
on the 16th December 1923. The eldest of four (Frederick, Molly,
Riley Family 1935
George and Fred
Isabel Maud with Jean and Molly
(my father), was educated at Ancona school, Brewery Road, Plumstead.
The headmasters name was Mr F.A.W. Greengrass and his leaving
date was 23rd December 1937.
war years George was in the Royal Navy and served on the H.M.S.
Kent as a cook, but his action stations was on the “Pom-Pom”
guns, and saw action on the Malta and Russia convoys, also to
Iceland and to the States.
He was discharged from the navy on the 27th July 1946. By this
time the family address was 34 Hudson Road, Plumstead SE 18.
and married my mother Irene Susan Wright who lived locally in
Hudson Road, on the 3rd January 1948 in St Margaret’s
Church, Plumstead, and then moved in to No 37, this was where
I was to start my early years.
I was the
second of four children, Brian being born in hospital at Pembury,
Kent, 1951. Then myself in St Nicolas’ Hospital, Plumstead
in 1954. Alan followed in 1957 (St Nicolas’ Hospital,
Plumstead) and Julia, the last in 1958, born in the British
Home for Mothers and Babies.
When Alan was born there was a mix-up and we nearly had a baby
sister (Stella Allen), there was a friendship there between
mothers and later I would be best pals with the son Stuart Allen,
of which there is more later.
our years in No 37 which was a three story house shared with
grandparents on my mother’s side. Nearly opposite we had
our grandfather (No 34), in No 29 (five houses away) our aunt
Vi and uncle Alf and two cousins Lynda and Heather. Further
up the road lived the Davis family, my brother Alan was to marry
one of the family (Terry Davis).
Christened in St Margaret's Church as was most of us, as this
and Irene Riley with Brian at Christening.
with Alf Wright and Linda (Left) Heather (Right) and Brian.
Jean and Alf were probably Godparents to Brian.
Eric Hearne in November 1955 and moved to Windsor.
Molly married Reginald Marriot in Sept 1957 and moved to Genesta
Road, No 35 if I remember correctly.
Brian and Peter Riley (1959-60) 29 Hudson Rd.
Peter, Alan Riley with Lynda (1959-60) 29 Hudson Rd.
grandfather died in 1961 we moved across the road into No 34
and lived quite happily there until 1967.
What can I remember about my childhood? Growing up in Plumstead
was great, I went to school first to Earl Rise Primary School.
Friends there included Stuart Allen, as I’ve already mentioned,
Lionel Jeffreys, Peter Smart, Terry Williams, Valerie Riley
(no relation) Cheryl Roberts, and more who’s names escape
me. Teachers I remember were: Mr Donelly, Mrs Poulter –
(made us do Italic writing – ink went everywhere), Headmaster
from our school trip to Hindhead, in Surrey.
Donelly - Surrounded by the boys Stuart, Alan (marked
Camp again. Lionel (Jeffries?) Right
1964 Summer Camp
Peter Smart - X
1964 Summer Camp
We had the
usual exercise of country dancing, cricket and football in the
playground, swimming at either Plumstead or Woolwich baths.
As youngsters we were all taken to Sunday School, The Richmond
Gospel Hall in Vicarage Road. It was overseen by the superintendent
Mr Jenner. My uncle Reg was a teacher there so slipping off
was not an option. 3pm on a Sunday for an hour learning about
the gospels and the bible in general. Also there were Mr R Kemp
and his wife, they were the organists for as long as I can remember,
more memorable though was Susan their daughter.
Local kids included the Tadds (see scouting), the Barrett sisters,
Linda and Sylvia from Vicarage Park Road. The Cowling family
from Hudson Road, a whole host of them, including David, Ronnie,
Susan, and others I’ve forgotten, and the Davis kids as
Mr George Lycett who lived in Genesta Road taught there and
bought along his boys. George had a very serious limp to one
leg, however that did not stop him riding a motor bike and side
car. The Gospel Hall relocated to Brewery Road and is still
there to this day. Memories include the first hall being very
cold in the winter, trips were organised to take the children
to Margate and Ramsgate where we had a service on the beach,
more important to the kids was the swimming and the sand, also
we got a taste of Dreamland at Margate with its rides.
I joined the Scout movement at the East Plumstead Baptist Church,
Griffin Road, the 12th Woolwich. I started as a Cub and enjoyed
the life immensely. I made lots of friends there, Tony Robinson
from Heavertree Road, from Robert Street – Phillip and
Stephen Tadd, Tony Keeler from Durham Rise.
I usually suffered in a most peculiar way with my dad when Scouting,
I asked for a rucksack to go camping – did I get something
modern, no – he purchased from the army surplus store
(Sam's) in Woolwich, something I swear was used by the Desert
Rats. When I asked for a knife for Scouting, expecting something
to cut twigs and peel an apple, I got a 6 inch sheath knife
almost like the type you see in the Rambo films. Scared everyone
in the troop!
to becoming a patrol leader and was able to choose my patrol
name, so chose the Kestrel, my favourite bird ever since.
was great, as mentioned elsewhere, we went to Meopham, where
I saw my first grass snake. Also I remember one bank holiday
we were asked if we’d visited the “thunder box”
yet. As I hadn’t I got a dose on Andrew’s powder.
That on top of about 24 prunes still did not have the desired
effect. I managed when I got home…..
The troop used to have tents that were open at both ends and
could sleep about eight boys.
I got up one night to water the nearby bushes, and went back
in, thinking the other lads were messing me about as my kit
was at the wrong end. I got every one to wake up and move. It
was in the morning I realised I’d gone out one end and
back in another – sorry lads.
Most holidays were spent visiting relations, I had folk in Ramsgate,
Sheerness, and Hastings. So school holidays saw us packed off
for a week or two. A most memorable holiday though was to Bournemouth
with Molly and Reg before they had their own children. We travelled
down squeezed into his sidecar. My brother Brian remembers the
trip for other reasons to do with swimming and waves. I also
remember getting rather sun burnt and knickerbocker glories.
Progress from Earl Rise was to follow in the footsteps of my
brother Brian, and go to Bloomfield Boys Secondary Modern. The
first 2 years were in the Lower school in Plum Lane. After those
years you progressed to the Main school in Bloomfield Road,
for another three years in my case. I made some close friendships
there, notably with Les Kinsman, John Wood and John Stewart,
who I still am in contact with some 40 years on. Other I remember
are: Elton Rothwell, Graham Springhall, Keith Pratt, George
Sparrow, George Elliot and quite a few more that are mentioned
on the Friends Reunited web site. Teachers Mr Cuff – English,
Mr Williams – French, Mr Coutts – History (and that
In retrospect I believe we had a great upbringing living in
Plumstead, we had a great time exploring the many open spaces
in and around the area, Plumstead and Winn's Commons, Bostall
and Abbey Woods, Woolwich Common and the great Greenwich Park.
In 1967 we moved to a new house in The Oaks (No 87) in Burrage
Road, my sister Julia still lives there to this day. A quiet
estate back then. It was easy also to jump on a No 51 bus to
get to the countryside (well Farnborough in Kent) for a day
in the orchards and fruit fields.
Burrage Road seemed to go on for ever, from Plumstead High Street
up for at least a mile to Plumstead Common Road. It contained
superb three or four story Victorian town houses at the top,
to two up two down at the bottom.
school I worked, first of all, nearby in Belvedere, then in
central London, and moved away from Plumstead. For a number
of years I travelled back weekly to visit and to go to the Woolwich
Photographic Society which at the time met in the Clockhouse
Community Centre in the Woolwich Dockyard. I remember the Society
had a fantastic collection of glass plate slides that often
came out of hiding to be either viewed or to part of a competition,
“Then and Now”. Old and Modern side by side. I was
lucky enough to become President of the Society for a few years
before finally moving away to Leicestershire.
I do get to visit because of family links, but unfortunately
I cannot wait to return home. The area seems to be so crowded
now, Even with its good transport network the car seems to have
taken over. To manoeuvre through streets that were not built
to cope with the volume of parked cars is quite a change from
those years gone by when the car in a street was an event.
just my age.