One of the effects of the Second World
War was that thousands of factories were vacated by their normal
occupants so that the premises could be used for war production;
and when the war came to an end such factories were empty. One
of these was Tealedown, near Bounds Green Underground Station
in North London. Tealedown was the brand name for bed covers.
Ultimately, this company would be resurrected, but for several
years the premises were occupied by a new division of Standard
Telephones & Cables Ltd., employers of Doug Johnson, who
joined them because of his experiences in the Royal Corps of
Signals, and now lived in an 1899 house in Walthamstow.
By 1951 Tealedown were re-organised
and wanted their factory back, so Standard Telephones moved
to Footscray, south of the river. Travel by coach was arranged
for about nine months, to give staff time to move. After that,
travel had to be by train and bus, so for the Johnsons, still
trying, removal was becoming urgent. There weren't many houses
on the market in our price class. We'd tried maisonettes, but
these were usually upstairs, with outside concrete staircases,
lethal for a four-year-old boy and difficult for a pram, and
main bedrooms so small that a double bed would overlap the fireplace.
Then came a real prospect - a three bedroom house in Plumstead!
We had doubts about it -Plumstead had the reputation of a district
with poor housing and lots of bomb damage - but the price was
We walked up the hill from Plumstead
Station, and the houses were impressive, the footpath lined
with trees. At the top of the hill there was a wide stretch
of grass. We stopped at a drinking fountain and asked for directions.
"Pegwell Street? Up the lane from the Slade, past the Who'd
a Thought It."
This is Plumstead Common, green space
stretching a long way in both directions. One path goes past
the bowling greens and tennis courts and miniature golf, with
hedges around them, a pavilion and a teashop with seats in a
little garden! Then that magnificent avenue of trees, leading
to the Co-op, a big shop with many departments. One bus route
terminates here. There are three or four pubs, a church, a first
class school, a ravine, a paddling pool. There are high-class
toilets, a play area, and superb plane trees everywhere.
Pegwell Street was comparatively modern,
built on the gardens of older houses, and No. 3 was what we
wanted. Plumstead Common was like the ideal village green, with
a pavilion and a cricket pitch. There was a school about two
hundred yards away. Because of a small garden, the price of
the house was only £1,895; but could we afford it? We
had worked so hard modernising the Walthamstow house that we
had £400 to use as a deposit, and all the people we dealt
with were kind to us. Our Prudential agent arranged the endowments
for the mortgage. On February 29th 1952 we travelled with all
our possessions in the back of a van through the cobbled Blackwall
Tunnel, able to see nothing but the surface of the road. Our
son Tony was intrigued, but it was good to get out.
We couldn't be luckier. Rates were
low. Woolwich Borough Council had libraries, baths, social centres,
concert halls. The local school, run by the London County Council
had a superb head teacher, the commons and the woodlands stretched
in all directions, maintained by park keepers in brown uniform.
There were seats and shelters, teahouses, toilets, sports facilities,
pavilions and gardens. There were five major hospitals. Leisure
activities were widespread. We had some good years.
Douglas Johnson, aged 91