My mates in Sladedale Rd were the Dear
family; in particular, Jack Dear, who was my age; and his sisters,
who were slightly older, but I can't recall their names. They
used to earn a few bob by going round the Working Men's clubs
doing a tap dancing act.
Also, higher up in Sladedale Rd, was a family named Easter.
The father was known as Captain Easter; whether he was ever
a captain of a ship or in the army I can't recall. Every Sunday
evening in the summer Capt. Easter used to lead his family down
Sladedale Rd, through Parkdale Rd, and along to the Brewery
Tap pub. The other friend of mine in Sladedale Rd, who was motorbike
crazy, was Doug Turner; he had a sister Iris.
All of us who lived in that area went
to Conway Road
School. I started at Conway School in 1930. It was certainly
advanced for its time. We even started on Algebra among other
subjects that were normally reserved for senior schools.
The head teacher in my time was a Mr Allen, known as Daddy Allen.
He was a very proud man. He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society,
a society concerned with certain species of plants. He used
to get letters from a branch in Holland, addressed'To Dr. Allen',
which he would read out proudly at school assembly. School assembly
took place every morning and evening and we had to stand to
attention and salute as the names of boys of the school were
read out who had died in the war (WWI).
I remember one day when two kids were
scrapping and arguing over some horse manure that they were
collecting. One of the mothers spotted them and sternly called
out loud to them, "Half each!"
I remember the lovely great, green areas
of Plumstead Common and Winn's Common. There were also the areas
of woods around Shooters Hill, Oxleas Wood, Jack Wood and others
and the great horse rides, maintained in my time by the Royal
Artillery Saddle Club. We played at Cowboys and Indians in the
woods. Also, if we wandered a little further on, there was a
hollow over the fields where we used to drink water from the
stream. That stream disappeared after WWII as the whole valley
was used to dump the vast amount of war damage from the houses.
The stream was piped underneath, but I wouldn't recommend drinking
the water nowadays! This valley led off of Swingate Lane, then
off up another little old lane; this led out onto a valley,
a lovely countrified rural scene. Up on the peak or brow of
the valley was an old, run-down, derelict-looking pub called
'Fanny-On-The-Hill'. There were a few stories around as to how
it got its name. One story says that the infamous highwayman
robber Dick Turpin used it as place to hide out. In later years
it was demolished.
We were five very clever little buggers
at Conway Road: a geologist, an expert in naval gunnery optics,
a university lecturer, a barrister and myself (a Chartered Certified
Accountant & Chartered Tax Adviser). We were always vying
with each other for first place; little horrors!
Some names I recall are: my mate next
door to me in Parkdale Rd, Stan Bestwick; also, a family by
the name of Bryan who lived up the hill. There were the brothers
Charlie and Ralph who had a large house in Parkdale Road; and
they very generously allowed all of us boys to use one of their
rooms as a playroom. We had a dartboard there and an old
record player. They had records of old singers and they would
accompany them on the banjo and the mandolin. Frank Crummit
was the singer on the records. Each Christmas the very generous
Charlie Thomas used to take us to see the Crazy Gang in the
West End theatre.
We lived opposite the Public Relief
Office, where parents had to go when they were really broke.
When my father was out of work my parents applied for help.
The inspector came to the house and said, " Sell your sewing
machine and then come back!" My mum pointed out that she
used the machine to mend all our clothes......"No help,
then!" was the result. This is when my mother decided to
take the front room window out and sold the bags of chips at
a penny a bag to help support the family.
The poor old chaps from the workhouse,
in Hull Place, Plumstead, used to be sent up to do the garden
on the side of the Relief Office. The old couples were split
up in the workhouse; terrible times. At one end of the Relief
Office there was a flat that was let out to a sergeant of the
Welsh Guards who rented it for most of my later youth. He had
been sent home to die of TB and I can't remember him getting
any help or treatment for it.
Both Peg my wife, and I, came from the
poorest of families. We grew up to run a very successful professional
practice, thus paying the highest rates of tax all our working
Yet, when I was a small boy we all had iron hoops, and skids
with which to control them.
We would chase madly all around town bowling our hoops. These
hoops would split open sometimes and when this happened we took
them to Joliffe's smithy where he would weld the hoop back together
again for a penny.
So, many years later on, when I had
my accountancy practice, James Joliffe and Charles Newton became
clients of mine, and I often wondered what they would have thought
if they knew that I was one of those little street Arabs who
used to take my hoop in to them to be fixed. In those days,
though, nothing would have been mentioned, as they were proper
Their smithy was in Tewson Rd, up an
alley, at the back of Heads the green- grocers. They used to
shoe the horses for the Beasley Brewery dray horses. I believe
they also did the shoes for both the Co-op and the UD Dairy,
plus those of the many other traders that had horse-drawn wagons
and vehicles in those far-off times.
There was the large Co-op building with
the hall that was on the corner of Lakedale and Conway roads.
The hall was situated over the top of the menswear department.
It was used for many different functions. My dad was a strong
Co-op and union man. I was enrolled at this hall as a member
of the Socialist Sunday School when I was six months old. I
was also a member of the Woodcraft Folk Club at the Co-op hall.
The Co-op shop in Lakedale Road was
a large department of shops that included groceries and provisions,
men's tailoring, chemist, hairdressers and butchers. Sadly all
long demolished; clock tower too!
I was also a very enthusiastic member
of the Cage Lane Mission Hall and I was a Sunbeam on Tuesday
evenings. The Minister there at Cage Lane was not an ordained
man. He was a mad Scot who had one arm! He used to thump the
pulpit with his metal arm. He was really quite nutty! The 11o'clock
service would go on to 1.30 and he would say, "I can see
ye wicked sinners thinking of your food but you are going to
stay and hear me oot!"
He ordered us never to use the tram
on Sunday, nor to eat hot food, as in each case it was keeping
the tram driver from Chapel and the man at the Gasometer the
same. I also attended all three services on Sundays. I used
to pump the bellows of the manual organ. I got paid tuppence
for this each time and sixpence on a Sunday, when I was aged
11. On one occasion I pumped the organ for a wedding and the
Groom gave me 2/6d......Wow!
I would run all the way into Woolwich
with my money and put it into my savings card, at Bridges the
tool shop in New Road. At Christmas time I would buy myself
carpentry tools. For twenty-six shillings you could buy a lot
of tools them days!
This shop, Bridger, became clients of my accountancy practice.
This time I did tell the then Bill Bridger about my boyhood
trips to his parents' shop.
The Cage Lane Mission used to organise
a poor children's outing each year to Epping Forest. During
our outing to Epping Forest we kids wore a card hanging from
our coats that had written on it, 'The Woolwich Poor Children's
outing'. The local clubs, the Plumstead Radical Club and the
Conservative Club also had outings, Sheerness by train and Margate
by coach respectively.
As members of the Plumstead Radical
Club we got to go on these trips to Sheerness, as our dad got
tickets for us and also for our friend whose dad was a member
of the Conservative Club. Our friend would then get us tickets
for the Margate trip, as her dad belonged to the Conservative
Club. So we all did quite well, because family holidays were
a rarity in those days.
Some of the local shops I recall. We
used to go to Flory Terra's shop with our Saturday halfpenny.
Her shop was up from Heads the greengrocers and practically
opposite the Cage Lane Mission Hall. At this shop you could
buy some fairly disgusting sweets, a whole 4 ozs worth, for
a halfpenny! She also sold small tin cars, that were made in
Japan, for one penny each.
I was born not far from this shop, at the bottom end of Parkdale
Road. I recall the lovely smell of hops from the brewery that
I had to pass four times a day, to and from school at Conway
Road. I remember the trucks that used to bring the sacks of
hops to the brewery. I also acquired this taste from when I
went hop picking in the Hop season. At first, though, the smell
from picking hops was quite enough to put one off drink for
a life, but we got used to it. No wonder that I acquired a taste
for real ale from an early age and have never ever lost it.
I remember when the manager would visit
each pub and approve the supplies in an account book. The rents
of the pubs were around 50 pounds per annum. Up from Heads was
the house where the ground floor was let to two doctors, Andrew
Mair and Grey Holmes. They were the same doctors who attended
the poor at the Public Relief Office in Parkdale Rd, and also
the workhouse in Hull Place.
When they retired their practice was
taken over by a friend of mine, Charlie Clark. He used to go
once a week to have law lessons from another friend of mine
from Conway school, who was a successful Barrister. When the
post came up, Charlie applied and got the job of Coroner for
South West Essex.
Another group of local GPs had the premises
at the junction of Parkdale and Brewery Roads, which was originally
Philpott's Newsagents & Tobacconist, confectionery shop
before he retired. He used to have advertisement boards outside
his shop for the Kinema in Plumstead High St and for The Empire
(formerly Barnards), the variety theatre in Hereford St. As
a result he got free tickets for each performance and these
were given to me and my sister, next up from my age. What a
time we had with them!
One of the doctors in the group was a pal of mine, George Menezes.
Opposite Philpott's paper shop lived
a little old lady in a wee house. She used to sit at the front
door knitting and, weather permitting, she was always there
sitting and knitting every single day, for many years. She sat
knitting scarves, jumpers, socks and all manner of knitwear
to sell to support herself.
Robinson's shoe repair cobbler's shop
was at the foot of Parkdale Rd.
He started selling mucky sweets and a few fags. He had some
machines outside the shop. One was for cigarettes called Crayol;
two matches and three fags for tuppence!
The kids used to steal like mad from his shop whilst another
kid was asking about shoe repairs!
Some of the street vendor cries in the
district in those days were: every Sunday morning, "Fresh
cockles and winkles" from a man pushing his barrow; during
the week, "Sweep!"- a cry from a sooty man wheeling
his barrow full of canes and brushes.
The Lakedale Road and area before WWII,
was very much like a small village. It kept up with the times.
I recall the firm of Bradshaw's Coaches, known as Bradshaw's
Super Coaches and super they certainly were!
Albert Bradshaw went along with things
OK but it was Annie Bradshaw, nee Annie Smith, his wife, who
was the real driving force. Annie was ahead of the times. She
not only developed the coach business; she upgraded and bought
the very latest models. She also developed it into a successful
general booking agency, for theatre bookings and what have you.
She also developed the greengrocery business. She had three
brothers Smith who were all local fishmongers, in the days when
they had smoke holes on the shop premises. Their two shops were
situated next to the fire station on Lakedale Rdand around the
corner from it.
I won a place at Shooters Hill Grammar
School when I passed my 11 plus, but I was told by my parents
that I couldn't go there as they couldn't afford to send me
there. I left Plumstead Central School at age 12 years (owing
to a street accident) and on my 14th birthday commenced work
as boy messenger and later a factory labourer.
Aged 15 I obtained a job as office boy in a local firm of accountants
where I worked and studied at evening classes until I was conscripted
into the Royal Artillery.
I continued studying by postal courses.
I returned to same job after the army. I eventually qualified
in 1956 as associate of the Chartered Association of Certified
Accountants and became a partner in the firm in 1959. In 1961
I became associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
and an Associate of the Chartered Institute of taxation.
In May 1981 I became Freeman of the
Worshipful Company of Arbitrators and advanced to Liveryman
I was admitted to the Freedom of the
City of London in 1980.
By Sid Blanche.
From the letters and cuttings and phone calls to Sid, who sent
them to me via our appeal in the 'Shopper' paper.