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Plumstead c.1940-45

Beasley’s Brewery, Lakedale Road. I’ve seen it called other things but to us it was Beasley’s. I still cannot abide the smell of yeast. Brewery smells floated over Plumstead incessantly. We were told it was good for our complexions! The drayman lived close by and he brought the dray to Kentmere Road while he had his ‘dinner’. The magnificent, brass bedecked dray horses munched from their nosebags, untethered, ignoring everyone and everything going on around them.

The Dust Destructor in Whitehart Lane, always belching out malevolent fumes but everything has its upside, and the DD was a wonderful source of ‘stuff’ or ‘ill-considered trifles’ to make bikes, prams (a box on wheels), go-carts. A boys’ heaven!

The piggery, where all ‘edible’ waste was taken – there was normally a pig bin in the road but, as I recall, very little waste – food was not abundant. Of course pigs, hundreds of pigs, do smell, as did the waste food when it was being processed. Again, it had an upside and many of us visited the piggery, banged on the corrugated fence – the pigs came running to us to have their backs scratched – somebody would be eating them tomorrow. I do not, however, recall having a nice piece of roast pork or a pork chop!

And noise – plenty of that. Burning off cordite in the Arsenal created huge explosions (controlled!). I remember a ‘cordite worker’ coming home each day for his dinner and his skin was bright yellow. So much for Health and Safety!

The railway wagons shunting in the goods yard adjacent to the Arsenal on the marshes. The crashing and banging of wagons was incessant, particularly at night for safer movement. Probably unknown to our mothers, the wagon yard was yet another of our playgrounds, crawling in and out of the wagons playing ‘hide’n seek’ or just for devilment!

Best of all – the street cries. ‘Rag a Bone’, ‘Shrimps and Winkles’, ‘Lights Out’ or ‘Put that ...... light out’, ‘You all right in their missus’, ‘All Clear’ and the most joyful of all, ‘He’s coming home!’.

Sheila Lee (nee Jordan)

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