Category Archives: Twickenham

Chapel Next The Green – Research

Chapel Next the Green cover

Chapel Next the Green cover

Forty years ago my history of the Twickenham Congregational Church (Twickenham United Reformed Church from 1972), Chapel Next the Green was published. This post and the one that will follow are about the researching and production of the history respectively, not the history itself. For this refer to the book itself or the church website.

I always had an interest in local history and having grown up in the church I had heard all sorts of stories of its past. Back in 1951 the then church secretary, Reg Peirce, had put together a history to mark what was though to be the church’s triple jubilee (150 years).

Some time in the 1970s I thought that it was time for an updated history and the church meeting agreed to me producing this. I had no background in historical research – at the time I was a council building inspector – and my original plan was to do a relatively quick update to Reg’s history. But I’d started on a journey which would last a good few years.

My starting point was with the church archives, such as they were. These included copies of leaflets, reports and other items of interest (including a programme for the 1902 Centenary Bazaar) and, most importantly, Church Meeting and Deacons Meeting minute books starting with the re-formation of the church in 1882 after a very testing few years. I soon realised I would need to read through these minutes twice: on the first read you get the facts, but because you don’t know what will happen next it’s hard to tell what is or isn’t significant. Needless to say, all this reading and note taking took an extended period.

By now I had a picture of church life from 1882. My next step was to visit the United Reformed Church History Society’s library. Congregation Yearbooks furnished obituaries of the church’s ministers back to the 1850s and sundry other information.

But now I had a problem. Reg’s history (probably based on Andrew Mearns’ 1889 London Congregational Church Directory: “1800 Church formed by B.H.Kluht assisted by Lady Shaw and Dr Leifchild“) left me puzzled. Debrett’s Peerage had failed to provide a suitable Lady Shaw. There was no Rev Kluht active at that time – only one who wasn’t born until 1816. And I’d also found that First Cross Road where the church stands was a result of the 1818 Enclosure Award; before this it was part of Twickenham Common.

Lady Shaw's School registered as a place of public worship

Lady Shaw’s School registered as a place of public worship

And then the penny dropped. What if Reg’s history was wrong? Yearbooks from 1862-1884 stated that the church was founded in 1838. All fell into place: Lady Shaw became such on her 1834 marriage to Sir Robert Shaw at Twickenham Parish Church. Benjamin Kluht came to the church as its first minister in 1840. During his seven year pastorate the first chapel was built on land at the rear of Sir Robert and Lady Shaw’s garden.

Then as I widened my research I found the December 1835 certificate of registration of Lady Shaw’s school room as a place of worship which can be taken as the birth date of the church. Now it all made sense.

My research took me to the Greater London Record Office, the Congregational Library at Caroone House, Dr Williams Library, the Guildhall Library, the Public Record Office and British and Foreign School Society Archive. And I made a visit to the elderly Rev Harold Bickley who had become the church’s minister in 1916. The more I knew the more there was to discover. But given that the aim was to publish an updated history, I had to stop somewhere. The decision was made to have a special weekend marking the centenary of the re-formation of the church on 27th April 1882 and so work switched to assembling all my research into a coherent account. Next month I’ll try and recall how this was done.

More:

 

1960s Sunday School memories

Although they weren’t churchgoers, my parents – like many others at that time – wanted me to go to Sunday School. A fellow school-gate mum told my mum that the Twickenham Congregational (now United Reformed) church had a good Sunday School. So late in 1959, aged six, I was enrolled. At that time well over 100 children attended each week, most like me having been sent rather than brought.

Each Sunday morning we met in the hall and paraded into church where we sat in our designated pews. After two hymns and the children’s talk, we adjourned to our classes. After nine months in the primary class I moved up to the junior department which met in the main hall. Demountable screens split the hall into classrooms, each class having around eight children – boys’ classes one side of the hall, girls the other. In due course we graduated to the young people’s class, where boys and girls were allowed to mix!

The Sunday School had its own calendar which superimposed the following special events on the regular Sunday morning classes. Roughly speaking it looked like this:

  • Early in the year those of us who wanted to, participated in the National Sunday School Union’s Scripture exam. For six weeks we would study the year’s exam theme and had to learn a memory passage. Then on a Friday evening we all turned up to sit the exam paper. Later a district awards presentation, preceded by a tea, was held at Twickenham Baptist Church. A member of the church was an amateur printer and produced beautiful Twickenham & District-specific certificates – sadly none of mine survive but here’s an example from Norwich (ack Leo Reynolds)
  • One highlight of the year was the Sunday School festival marked by a fully costumed and staged play. Maurice Stockdale, then Sunday School superintendent, took great pride in this. Parts were found for every child who wanted to take place with, by tradition, teachers taking the parts in the last act. We went to rehearsals on six Monday evenings, followed by a Sunday afternoon dress rehearsal (followed by the obligatory tea), then the performance itself in front of church members and proud parents on the Monday evening. I just remember playing Elisha’s servant in the play ‘So Small a Thing’ – the healing of Naaman.
  • To June and the Sunday School outing. Back in the early 1960s most people still didn’t have cars so, annual holiday apart, rarely went far, making the outing a great event. Our outing destinations were Oxshott Heath with its enormous sandpit, Frensham Ponds, Box Hill, and for seaside trips, Lancing or Wittering. An elderly near-blind member of the congregation, James Rennie, would give Maurice some money to be shared out towards the end of the outing so that each child could buy some seaside rock or sweets. He would be amazed to know that his simple kindness towards children he didn’t know is still remembered fifty years after his death.
  • Holidays over, September saw promotion Sunday. Everyone who was eligible moved up on the same date, and getting a new teacher was an exciting thing. Even more so, joining the young people’s group.
  • This one I can’t date, but like many children across the world in linked churches we were given collecting boxes to collect donations in support of the London Missionary Society’s John Williams missionary ship which served scattered communities in the southern Pacific. When the John Williams VII ship was commissioned at Tower Pier in 1962 our Sunday School ran an outing to visit her but my parents wouldn’t let me go, scared that I might fall in the Thames!
  • And so to year end. The Christmas family service would invariably include a short nativity play of some sort. Then we’d have a Sunday afternoon Christmas party with games and tea. Then aged about nine I can remember my teacher telling me “as it’s the party you can call me Christine instead of Miss Kerslake”! How things have changed!

Within five or so years the practice of non-church parents sending children to Sunday School was no more and numbers sadly collapsed. I’m so grateful to have been part of the preceding generation. So many happy memories of my teachers – Margaret Day, Christine Kerslake, Pat Sparks, John Cragg and Maurice Stockdale. Thanks for all you gave me as a small child.

Twickenham Ferry

Last week a Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network meeting discussed Melbourne’s Ferries – Past, Present and Future. Upstream of the city all the ferries across the Yarra – one of which I will return to – have been replaced by bridges. Downstream, the river is subject to a fairly low speed limit, reflecting the use of the river by small leisure craft, container ships accessing the docks as well as the need to protect of the river banks. Geography means that for most destinations, unlike Sydney, other forms of transport are quicker or cheaper.

Bellarine Express and Geelong Flyer ferries passing in Victoria Harbour

Bellarine Express and Geelong Flyer ferries passing in Victoria Harbour

Apart from the tourist ferries from the CBD to Williamstown, we do have two ferries running from here in Docklands to Portarlington and Geelong, both services starting in the last few years. Portarlington  in particular lends itself to a ferry service – it’s not served by rail and the ferry is probably quicker than driving. Will we see more ferries? Not without suitable mooring facilities, the meeting was told.

But back to Ferries past. When the first settlers came here they brought a lot of their former place names with them. So as a one-time resident of Twickenham, now living in Docklands, I can easily visit Richmond, Hampton, Sunbury but no Twickenham. We do though have a Twickenham Crescent in Burnley. Why? Let the Australasian, 4 June 1904 explain:

TWICKENHAM FERRY

Extract from 1889 David Syme woodcut: Twickenham Ferry on the Yarra

Extract from 1889 David Syme woodcut: Twickenham Ferry on the Yarra

One of the prettiest reaches on the Yarra, within easy distance from Melbourne, is that portion lying between Burnley and Toorak, about 4 1/2 miles up from Prince’s bridge. Here a ferry conveys passengers across the river, starting at the bottom of Grange-road, Toorak, across to Burnley. The ferry dates back to 1880, when Jesse Harrow, a veteran waterman, founded it.Unlike its English namesake on the River Thames, where the ferryboat is manned by a “jolly young waterman,” Twickenham Ferry on the Yarra is worked by means of a suspended rope, stretched across the river*, with a sheave wheel and regulating lines at each end, so that it can be raised or lowered, according to the height of the water.

Twickenham Ferry postcard c.1907

Twickenham Ferry postcard c.1907

On the Burnley side of the river, partly hewn out of the bank, is constructed a most picturesque old dwelling, containing four rooms and a shop. Here the widow of the late Jesse Barrow, together with her son and daughter reside, and retail refreshments, ranging from soft drinks and kola beer to apples, pears, and lollies, to the thirsty oarsmen. The ferry hours during the weekdays are from 7 in the morning till 10 at night, and on Sundays from 8 till 9, the fare being one penny each way.

“There are a good many ‘dead heads,’ though,” added the ferryman; “you see sometimes, men looking for work, want to cross the river, and, of course, promise to pay when they return, and again sometimes a lady finds she has left her purse at home, or has no change; then we have to trust to their honesty. So it’s not all profit, in addition, we have to pay £5 a year for a license.”

Thirty years later the ferry service was no more:

FAREWELL TO TWICKENHAM FERRY

Not least perhaps among the many functions which his Grace the Duke of Gloucester will perform will be the official opening of the Centenary Bridge at Grange Road, well on the way to completion. Another step in the path of progress no doubt; but progress, no matter how desirable in practical ways, is not always a source of unalloyed gratification. At least, so thinks Mr. Barrow, the picturesque boatman of Twickenham Ferry, who, with the opening of the bridge, will find his occupation, like Othello’s, gone. Incidentally another, perhaps one of the last of those links that bind us to Melbourne’s pioneer days, will be broken.

Mr. Barrow, who has lived in or near his present habitation, Twickenham Ferry, just by Burnley, throughout his life, is the son of Jesse Barrow, who came to Australia from England in 1861….

None of the many regular or casual voyagers carried in his little craft during nearly half a century ever made an un-interesting trip with Mr. Barrow. Short though the transit might be, there was always time for some interesting reminiscence that gave additional interest or charm to an already charming spot. The strong structure that makes his service “no longer necessary” will be stolidly silent where he was eloquent, retaining its frigid parvenu dignity somewhat in-appropriately in the midst of rustic beauty. But though Mr. Barrow’s services will be no longer required, we in Melbourne know, they will not be forgotten

Argus 15 Sept 1934

Swimming in the 1960s

I was not a water baby. It took me a long time to learn to swim but thankfully I did. Back in 1863 Abraham Slade recorded:

July 14th. 1863. My poor dear Arthur aged 9 years : About 6 in the evening went alone to bathe in the river near Whitton, and got into a deep hole and lost his life, was brought home quite dead. Was buried in Twickenham Burial Ground on the 18th Saturday afternoon… Oh the anguish of soul it has caused his parents…

Thankfully as a child growing up in Twickenham I had many better, safer options. My first vague memory of public swimming pools is from the early 1960s. Keen that I should learn to swim, I was enrolled in Saturday morning swimming lessons at the old (1882) Richmond swimming pool in Parkshot, Richmond, by then showing its age. Changing cubicles lined both sides of the pool. We went there because the then Borough of Twickenham didn’t have an indoor pool. There I learned to swim!

At primary school we had swimming lessons – memories are vague, but perhaps just during our last two years? A green Fountains coach would take us to Isleworth Baths (1936) and back to school afterwards. Outside school, I don’t remember going swimming very often: I never ever swam at the massive Twickenham Lido but would go to the then outdoor Teddington pool on hot summer days. Of the Twickenham baths, derelictlondon.com says

Built in the 1930s, in a concrete and brick art deco style, Twickenham Baths was municipal architecture in the grand sense with its wide hall, twin staircase and deep arches… The pool itself was an old-fashioned Lido, the last word in leisure, generously proportioned and with ample room for sunbathing on the paved areas. There were fountains at each end of the pool and a diving board at its deepest point, in the middle

Then to Hampton Grammar School. During my first few years during the summer term we would go swimming once a week at the outdoor Hampton pool, then unheated. If the water temperature was 10C (!) or more, it was deemed suitable for swimming.

Later in my school career we were given a wider choice of activities on games afternoon. Not being keen on the mud and cold of football, I opted for swimming. We were left to make our own way from school to the near-new (1965) Feltham baths by bike (c.3 miles, 10 mins), where our names were ticked off by Mr Pickering, supervising master who had driven there and would spend the session sitting in gallery catching up with marking. Once the allotted time was up we were left to get changed and make our own way home. Today there’s no way any school would be allowing its pupils to go off unsupervised, and I can’t imagine many parents would allow it either. The interesting thing about this pool was a movable boom which could be placed at one end to give a full-length pool or moved out to create a separate diving pool (in those days pools had springboards and high diving boards).

As the truly excellent Lidos Alive pages recount, the pools of my childhood are no more. In 1966 Richmond Parkshot was replaced by a new pool complex in Old Deer Park. The 1936 Isleworth pool and Library has been rebuilt as Isleworth Recreation Centre. Teddington, originally built as a lido pool in 1931, was closed in 1976 and rebuilt as an indoor facility in 1978. Hampton Pool was closed by LBRuT in 1981, then reopened following community pressure. It’s run by Hampton Pool Trust, a non-profit It’s still an outdoor pool, rebuilt in 2004, but the water is now maintained at a year-round temperature of around 28 degrees – such luxury compared with our 1960s 10C! Feltham baths is now Hanworth Air Park Leisure Centre & Library.

Twickenham Baths is the one that has disappeared. It was closed in 1980 and the site stood derelict for years. The old swimming pool was filled in and all buildings demolished in 2005. 41 years later the long term future of the site still has to be determined.

And now? The building in which I live has a beautiful 25m pool which I ought to use but rarely do. This winter I must make the effort to do so.

On Maths Teachers

Last Saturday saw the annual City Bible Forum ‘Life at Work’ conference. With the uncertainties of Covid-19 this year’s conference had to be a virtual one over Zoom. Whilst some of us in Melbourne missed the excellent food served up by our usual hosts, CQ Functions, many others away from capital cities were able to participate. One speaker was Eddie Woo, committed Christian and maths teacher extraordinaire. His YouTube channel, WooTube, started with him filming class lessons for a sick student in 2012, and it now has over 1.1 million subscribers. For his work he was made Australian Local Hero of the Year 2018 – a well deserved honour.

As for my own school maths teachers, they may never got to be known outside their local circles, but thanks to them I’ve spent 30+ years writing engineering software with more than a little maths. I owe them all a great debt.

Extract from Hampton Grammar School report

The facts do indeed justify the conclusion!

Two from Hampton Grammar School stand out. It’s an institution I carry less than fond memories of and yet I remember many individual teachers with affection.

Maths was my strong subject as this report extract shows (I’m not sure why this term’s class ranking was so low). Unfortunately I didn’t apply myself to most other subjects.

For O-level maths our teacher was the elderly (to us schoolboys) Frank Steffens. He was an old boy of the school having been Head Boy c.1924-5. He went off to university, then returned to HGS to spend the rest of his working life as a maths teacher. His apparent sternness disguised a kindly nature. He wanted every boy in his class to succeed and we did. I’m not sure whether today’s teachers would be allowed to make the weakest pupils of the week sit in the front row on the following week, but it was a tactic that worked!

I was in the ‘Latin A’ [express] stream which meant that we took our O-levels after four years instead of five; for maths we took the ordinary exam in January followed by Additional Maths in June. There were 32 of us in the class (not streamed for maths); 28 of us got a grade A in the O-level, 4 got B’s and 4 C’s (when pass grades were A-E), an extraordinary achievement. Later, in the sixth form Mr Steffens took us for a general studies class. Us boys were amazed that someone so ancient (he would have been in his early 60s!) could understand and explain to us the science behind Dolby stereo!

We started our A-level studies under Stan Barton, who was also Deputy Head. With an interregnum between heads, he was often called away and so would set work for us to get on with in his absence. Not too much work was being done when Alan Waltham, head of maths, happened to walk by the classroom and hearing our chatter decided to investigate. He decided that it would be best if our group could sit in his classroom and get on with our work while he taught his main class, breaking off occasionally to check on our progress. Finding that four of us were well ahead of the others he offered to coach us to sit pure and applied maths as two subjects rather than sit the combined paper, an offer which we accepted. And so this left him teaching three different groups at the same time! And we all passed!

Then to Reading University: No specific maths classes but in my last year those of us in the Building Surveying stream had a weekly structural engineering class. It was the high spot of my week, not so for most of my fellow students. Our lecturer, Mike Hewitt, owned a calculator which could calculate sines and cosines! We were in awe of this device which had cost him a couple of months salary. We did our calculations with slide rules! He understood that some were not mathematically inclined: “In the exam there will be seven questions and you have to do five. 4½ will be mathematical questions and 2½ essay questions [i.e. one half-and-half]. That’s so those of you who can’t add up 2+2 can at least pass on the essay questions and the clever buggers among you [looking at me] can’t get 100%”. He’d be pleased, I hope, to see what this ‘clever bugger’ has been doing for most of his working life.

Memories of Junior School – The Teachers

Archdeacon Cambridge’s Junior School’s building, next to Holy Trinity Church, was twenty years older than the infant school, its foundation stone having been laid in 1841. I will share more memories of the building in a future post. Sadly, a quick Google search failed to produce a picture. Nearly sixty years on, my memories are vague, but perhaps some comments will flesh them out.

Compared with many modern schools, Archdeacon [as it tended to be known] was a small school, six teachers, head and school secretary – much like ‘King Street Junior‘, a BBC radio comedy. In my final year we had 42 in the class, so I would guess that there were about 200-240 pupils.

On entry, presumably following reports from infant school, pupils were put into one of two streams. Those judged (at age seven!) to have less academic potential were put in Mrs Stringer’s class for their first two years. Nearly sixty years on I remember her as a kindly soul. For their second two years her pupils would be passed on to a Mr Laing, then probably not far from retirement, who to us seemed to be dour unfriendly man. From what we gathered (perhaps incorrectly) he didn’t do much teaching, it having been determined that his pupils would never amount to much. Rather he supervised them as they did craft and other activities. All a bit sad in retrospect.

Meanwhile, those of us who were judged to be of average or better ability went through four classes, The first (year 3 in today’s parlance) was taken by Miss Weir, a middle aged lady who was a very effective teacher. In addition to her regular teaching, she conducted country dancing lessons. Away from school, she was a church organist in Hampton.

The next year’s class teacher was a Miss Cooper who returned from one holiday as Mrs Palmer. I have no memories of her, as four of us who were judged to be academically ahead were jumped a year and so missed being in her class.

So my next teacher was Mrs Atkins. I think she retired not too long after I left. She had a somewhat undeserved reputation as a stern disciplinarian but was another excellent teacher. One key thing I remember about her was that she drove a car, a Mini. The four of us who had jumped a year found ourselves with a different set of classmates but we soon fitted in.

For the last year (my last two years) we moved up to Mrs Piggott’s class. She was another excellent teacher, probably in her 30s, and she had a degree in maths. My enthusiasm for this subject was noted and encouraged. It must have been quite challenging to be teaching a class of 42, but a good number of us made it on to grammar school.

By today’s standards, the support team was modest. Mrs Hare, a quietly efficient no-nonsense lady was the school secretary, her duties including acting as school nurse, attending to sick pupils and the results of the inevitable falls. Mr Broughton, the school caretaker, was responsible for cleaning and, in the winter, maintaining fires and delivering buckets of coal to each class.

And last but not least was our head, Mr Brown. If my memory serves me, he’d been head since 1947. He, too, retired not too long after I left and was, underneath a rather bluff exterior, a kindly soul who really did care for the well-being of the school and its pupils. He like Mrs Atkins, drove to the school, but in contrast to her state-of-the-art Mini, he drove a blue sit-up-and-beg Ford Popular. Despite the antiquated buildings he ran a good and happy school.

Memories of Infant School

As we’re going back nearly sixty years, these memories are vague – if any other former pupils wish to add to them in the comments, that would be great.

After two years in Mexico City our family returned to Twickenham in spring 1959. I was duly enrolled at the Archdeacon Cambridge’s Infant School, Briar Road, Twickenham. The headmistress was a Mrs Nelson, who I can still picture.

The school had been built in 1860 and I don’t think too much had changed in the intervening 99 years – coal stoves for heating (such as it was) and outdoor toilets. The school buildings were demolished many years ago and Google Maps now shows the current buildings as being occupied by Richmond Music Trust, with the large playground to the rear now being used as a car park. Surprisingly, a Google search throws up no pictures of the infant or junior schools – should you find one, please post a link in the comments.

The site on the corner of Briar Road and Staines Road was, I remember, occupied by a betting shop, the building being a post-war rebuild following bomb damage. Aston Perforators was next door and just over the school fence. According to Google, the business was established in 1934 and is still trading, one of Twickenham’s few surviving manufacturing businesses.

Back then my mum didn’t have a car, so I was either walked to and from school, or taken on the back of her bicycle in a child seat. Imagine that now!

My first teacher was a Mrs Benfield, who I remember as a somewhat stern teacher. She had been a teacher there since before the war. Lessons were much as would expected for the time: the three R’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. We sat in lines in our iron framed desks with very formal lessons, save for the craft and painting sessions. Not to be forgotten was playtime with the third pint of milk for each child.

The school had no kitchen facilities, so for lunch we were marched in crocodile fashion (coats and hats in the winter) down to ‘The Institute’ in First Cross Road. It later became the Twickenham Preparatory School, and now the Jack and Jill Nursery School. I don’t remember anything about the meals, but in those days we weren’t expected to complain.

For my second and final year I moved up to Miss Hancock’s class. I remember her as a kindly soul: she too had been at the school since before the war. Like me she lived in Strawberry Hill and I would see her around for many years after she retired.