Category Archives: Twickenham

Chapel Next The Green – Into Print

Chapel Next the Green cover

Chapel Next the Green cover

As described last time, I started with the idea of a simple update to a 25-year-old church history  and ended up doing much more. Reading church minute books led to investigating denominational records, the site history, local newspapers and much else. Now it was time to turn my copious notes into a book we could afford to print and which people would find interesting. Having unpicked the story of the dissolution of the church in 1879 and its re-formation in 1882, I suggested a Centenary weekend whose highlight would be the release of my finished history. Now I had a deadline to work to.

In 1979 I was one of the first people to get a home computer, a Commodore PET. I bought a word processing program, name long forgotten, written in BASIC, so customisable. It allowed text to be edited, saved to and retrieved from cassette tape. Output was limited to a monospace font with full space justification. Very limited – the superscript references to footnotes were written in by hand using a Rotring pen – but what a step change from repeatedly retyping manuscripts. Over many weeks I typed up my notes creating the first rough draft.

Centre spread pictures of ministers

Centre spread pictures of ministers

I approached a printer near my office, Emberbrook Print, and explained what I had in mind – a saddle-stitched (stapled) A5 book. Just their sort of job. The church agreed to underwrite the print cost on the basis that selling the print run would return this. This all led to settling on a 72-page book (including covers). The extra cost of the four-page centre photo section was met by a former member. After allowing for prelims, pictures and footnotes, each section would, on average, be limited to around two pages, 800 words. Impossible given the extent of my notes!

For several years my best friends Brian and Margaret Pearce had made me welcome for coffee on Sunday evenings. Now these turned into editorial meetings. Brian, when not working as a college librarian was a writer and poet, and Margaret acted as a fearless editor of his work. Just what I needed! I took the decision to divide my account up by pastorate. A few people criticised this, as placing too much emphasis on the part ministers play in the life of a church, but I hope that my text has the balance right. Over several months, each Sunday morning I handed over a dot-matrix printout of the latest section, vastly over-long yet containing nothing that could be left out (or so I thought). The same evening over coffee I was presented with my edited text, English and punctuation corrected as necessary by Brian, large chunks marked for deletion in red by Margaret. A healthy discussion followed! With some sections this process was repeated several times.

Finally the text was complete but eight lines over length! On a beautifully edited text finding any content that could be removed was hard work, but we managed it. In the meantime a friend’s father, Edmund Heller, took professional photographs of the inside and outside of the church building and my good friend Arthur Burgess organised copies of the obit pictures of former ministers originally printed in Congregation Yearbooks.

Sample of body text

Body text (note the handwritten superscripts!)

Now to the final stage. To keep the price down, the book was to be offset printed from camera-ready copy. This was produced on a Qume daisywheel printer, hired at vast expense from a firm in Old Street, carbon ribbon onto coated paper. I took a week off to produce the page masters. The body text was relatively straightforward, but each page took about ten minutes to print – I watched patiently as the WP program fathomed out each line’s justification. The double column appendices were harder work: the sheet was loaded into the printer and its position carefully marked with a process blue (invisible to a litho camera) pencil before printing the left-hand column. Then it was a question of reloading the paper, lining up the marks and printing the right-hand column. Any previously-missed  error on the output meant another ten minute wait but eventually I had a set of page masters.

The front cover uses an enlarged extract from the 1863 OS map. The cover text was supplied by Emberbrook in the form of Letraset-style strips (one per line) which removed the need to manually space letters.

Page masters delivered, I waited with a mixture of expectancy and apprehension. I need not have worried: I was (and still am) very pleased with the result, though of course it reflects the technology available to me at the time. For the centenary weekend we invited back all those former members we had contact with and it was a great occasion, with Rev Richard Hall, URC Thames North Moderator preaching at our Sunday morning service. I was touched that with the book being just hours old, he quoted from it in his sermon.

Will a future church history ever be published in book form? 2035 will mark the 200th anniversary of the formation of the church. But the reality is that it’s much easier to assemble a body of knowledge as a series of web pages which can be updated as new information becomes available and which are readily searchable.

Twickenham United Reformed Church website history pages

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. Following 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 Baptist 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 producing 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 (then the obligatory tea!), the performance itself in front of church members and proud parents being 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 mixed 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. 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.

Shopping in the 1960s

Memories of shops and shopping when I was growing up in 1960s Twickenham (London UK)

Everything on this page is based on fallible memories or personal opinion, even if presented as a statement of fact. If you see any errors or can fill in the gaps, I’d be glad to know – email me at tonyb@fastmail.com.au. No responsibility is accepted for the content on linked sites.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Strawberry Hill

From memory, these were the shops at Strawberry Hill in the early 1960. For more on this see the SHRA paper A history of shopping in Strawberry Hill

Tower Road west side. This group was destroyed by bombing in WW2 and rebuilt (Rochester House 1953)

  • On the corner: Martin Gale & Wright: Estate Agents – one of the proprietors owned a Daimler SP250 which impressed me immensely. During this period they shrunk their office into the corner half of the ground floor and the other half was taken over by Wallis Car Hire; later Wallis occupied the entire ground floor. This building was replaced by Lexington Court in 2003.
  • Wallis Car Hire: Initially they occupied the yard behind the Tower Road building, adding the office (above) later. There was a driveway between this and the greengrocer’s where they had a couple of petrol pumps. I remember from walking to school that early 1960s petrol was 4/6 a gallon (5p per litre. The business was operated by two brothers and one of their wives and they had an all-Ford hire fleet. During the day they would park unhired cars along Strawberry Hill Road, though not outside our house – although my dad had no right to do so, he would stick gummed labels on their windscreens asking them not to park there – they soon learned not to!
  • Greengrocer – according to my mum, one of those who put the best fruit and veg on display and served you inferior goods from the back. Like the other food suppliers they would run an account for you, take phone orders and deliver (by bicycle) – the precursor to today’s online shopping.
  • Framptons Butchers: Like Wallis, a two brothers and wife business. The door was to the right with a long counter on the left and cash desk facing you. Your goods would be weighed and priced and the amount shouted across to Mrs F. at the cash desk (shades of Mr Jones in Dads Army)
  • Baker: No memories

Tower Road east side north of station from station – Wellesley Parade, built 1934

Some of these shops can be seen in the film Dangerous Afternoon (1961) which you should be able to find on YouTube

  • L.M.Barrett Newsagent: I remember Mr Barrett for his ‘noddy bike’ – I delivered papers for him during a school holiday
  • Bon-Bon confectioners and tobacconists – another husband and wife business, Mr & Mrs Stevens. They sold large bottles of Corona fizzy drinks with 6d refund on return of the bottle and also held a licence to sell postage stamps – useful for when the post office was closed.
  • H.G.Osborne Pharmacy: run by Mr and Mrs Osborne, always in immaculate white coats. As was the norm, they took films in for processing – a B&W film would come back a week later, a colour film took two weeks.
  • Burfords Grocers: Memory a little hazy here, but IIRC they originally occupied a double shop. Apart from dry groceries they would slice you ham or bacon as required.
  • Butlers Hardware: Run by Mr & Mrs Butler – I was at primary school with their children. They later expanded into the shops that were previously Burfords. In the days before discounters and out-of-town warehouses, they had a good business selling paint and wallpaper with sample books available for loan. They also sold paraffin in the days when this was still commonly used for house heating.

Tower Road east side south of station from station

  • Minty’s sweetshop. A childhood favourite with the shelves of sweet jars from which your request was weighed out.
  • Estate agents – I remember nothing of this. Much later it became Bells, then Rawlinson & Webber, but in between I vaguely remember it being a women’s clothes shop.
  • Shoe repairer: run by ‘George’ for many years.
  • [Stangate Mansions]
  • Yardleys off-licence
  • Drapers, later Kennedys grocers
  • Ladies hairdressers
  • Post Office: run by Mr Forrester. Like Bon-Bon, they also delivered newspapers, but only in the morning (Stevens’ delivered the Evening News and Standard). One key memory was the board of around 20 different Platignum pens next to the PO counter.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Twickenham and Teddington

In no particular order

  • To serve a pre-car era, small shops – often on street corners – were everywhere and if you look hard you can still see traces. There were several shops at the corner of First Cross and Hampton Road, including a butcher on the corner (third picture from bottom) – in earlier times they kept animals on the hoof until ready for slaughter.
  • Several shopping strips have disappeared – there was one at the end of Waldegrave Road next to the railway bridge – an electrical shop there used to fix my less than reliable Verdik tape recorder – and another along Station Road, Twickenham – I remember a large car part and accessory shop.
  • TV rentals: 1960s televisions, especially the first colour sets, were expensive and unreliable so renting was the choice of many. DER (Domestic Electrical Rentals) occupied what is now Kestrel House, on the corner of Radnor and Heath Roads.
  • One of my boyhood passions was Meccano. The two local suppliers were the Teddington Model Shop at the top of Teddington railway bridge and Beazleys Model Shop, Twickenham (later the home of Alberts Music Shop, RIP 2014). Every part was available separately, prices starting at twopence, and there were several hundred different parts. I’d save my pocket money and my dad, who worked in the careers office on Teddington Bridge, would be asked to exchange my sixpence for two #83s or whatever. The Teddington Model Shop had a working model railway in the window: you put a penny in a slot in the window jamb to make train run.
  • My other childhood hobby was stamp collecting. Woolworths sold packets of assorted stamps for sixpence or a shilling aimed at schoolboy collectors: I remember the ‘six reigns’ packets including a penny black. Others would include bright colourful stamps from places like San Marino and Herm which were really of no value whatsoever.
    The other way of acquiring stamps was from ‘approval books’ – you were sent a book containing several dozen stamps, kept the ones you wanted and returned the rest with a postal order for the ones kept. The best known were sent out by a stamp dealer in Eastrington, Goole who traded under several names More ….
  • Twickenham had a number of new car dealerships. Fords were sold by Willments on Chertsey Road, where Currie Motors now are. Now all disappeared, in Twickenham town centre, Tamplins (Triumph) were where the Civic Centre now is, and along Heath Road Obey’s and Spikins – my first car, a 1962 Mini, had an appetite for parts that provided good business for the latter. The Houdaille garage on Hampton Road (where Grace Court now is) was a NSU dealership until the late 1960s when it was redeveloped as an Esso service station. Ferden Birch, opposite Radnor Gardens sold Citroens. There was a large Triumph? dealership and service workshop in High Street, Teddington; across the railway AV Motors was a Rootes Group dealership.
  • Industry: What is now the trading estate to the north of Twickenham Green was an Automotive Products factory – they made pistons. Next to ‘the dip’ there was a Scalecraft toy factory which made snap-together cars and other battery-powered models – they always generously contributed kits to school and charity fetes as prizes. It closed after a massive fire in the late 1960s.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Nearby

  • Or not … I built my own home in Twickenham between 1976 and 1980. Amazingly Twickenham was without any DIY stores until much later and more than once I drove to Harrow to take advantage of a Wickes offer. Now Wickes, Toolstation and Screwfix are all within easy reach. Other suppliers I used then were Richmond Lime & Cement in Lion Road, Twickenham, Seccombes at Osterley and Rover Transport near Heathrow airport.
  • My first job was as a Saturday boy, selling shoes at Hounslow Coop (under a great boss inappropriately named Harold Sainsbury). During the lunch break I would often stroll across to C.W.Wheelhouse to see what their latest offer was. For many years prior to its closure it had just become a general household store, but back in the 1960s sold all sorts of mechanical and electrical items, motors and refrigeration spares, often bought in as clearance or liquidation job lots, so you never knew what to expect. The Delglo Mexicana radiators and Opella plastic taps in my home were two such specials.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Past times

Things that are now just memories

  • Half day closing on Wednesday.
  • Small quantities: in days when people had less money, shops would sell you just what you needed. I remember Strawberry Hill PO selling typing paper at 4d per dozen sheets, carbon paper by the sheet and single fountain pen ink cartridges, whilst Butlers would sell you single batteries and Osbornes, single flashbulbs (remember them?).
  • Fixing things: now, for economic and practical reasons, we tend to treat smaller electrical goods as disposable. But there was a time when everything could be fixed, and was. I remember the annual ritual of removing six or seven valves from our home radio (we only had one, of course) and taking them to be tested on a Mullard valve tester – Transcar Radio in Heath Road, Twickenham, and Watts Radio in Kingston Apple Market both had one. In the early 1970s I remember going to Philips at Purley Way, Croydon and being able to buy a replacement piano key for my tape recorder, cost a few pence: try this today and you’d get funny looks.
  • Putting a holding deposit on something: This survives today in Australia as ‘lay-by’, but disappeared in the UK with the advent of credit card ‘takes the waiting out of wanting’. You paid a deposit and the retailer put it to one side until you could pay the balance.
  • Petrol everywhere: filling stations within a mile or so of my Strawberry Hill home were: Wallis (as above); Mercury Motors, Strawberry Vale; Ferden Birch (opposite Radnor Gardens); Green Service Station, Hampton Road; Waldegrave Motors and Heron, Waldegrave Road
  • Small department stores (shades of ‘Grace Bros’): I don’t remember Twickenham having one, but Dale’s had a two storey store in Causeway, Teddington, likewise Edmonds in High Street, Hounslow. Twickenham and Teddington did though have large Woolworths stores.
  • The Exchange and Mart carried private and trade adverts for virtually everything. To protect buyers they operated a deposit scheme – IIRC you sent your order and payment (with small service charge added) to the E&M who held on to the money until you confirmed receiving the goods. Fifty years on, PayPal have adopted a similar model, only debiting your account once goods are received.
  • Mail order catalogue: Several firms (Littlewoods, Freemans, John Moores) published massive colour catalogues, with the emphasis on clothing. Customers were encouraged to become agents and take orders from friends and neighbours in return for a small commission. Hard pressed mothers could take advantage of the interest-free 20-week or 38-week no-deposit credit – the repayment amounts were so small that no business could have economically handled them, whilst a stay-at-home mum could make some ‘pin money’ for herself, with defaults being less likely when the money was due to a friend.
  • Several chain stores including Littlewoods and BHS ran cafes that served good wholesome meals at a very affordable price.
  • More on this at High Street names that have disappeared (Digital Spy forum), Defunct retail companies of the United Kingdom (Wikipedia), The Woolworths Museum.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Discounts

In the UK Resale Price Maintenance (RPM) was legal until the mid-1960s so where the manufacturer set a minimum price you would pay the same price for something wherever you bought it. Various ways round this were legal though:

  • I’m unsure of the exact legalities, but shops could have a sale twice a year – but only twice a year so the sales were something to look forward to. I remember two in particular. Bentalls of Kingston ended its sale with Blue Cross Day – all goods marked with a blue cross were reduced to half the marked price. For the last day of their sale, Arding and Hobbs, Clapham Junction, filled their windows with knockdown bargains, each one numbered. The queue built up long before the store opened, and staff passed along it giving up to three numbered tickets to each person in turn – when the doors opened you had half an hour or so to claim and pay for your bargains.
  • ‘Clubs’ could offer discounts to their members. My parents belonged to one called ‘Westminster Discount Club’ which published a catalogue of manufactured goods at discount prices. Later I belonged to the Motorists Discount Club which also had a shop in Hammersmith.
  • The Houndsditch Discount Warehouse in London was ostensibly a trade-only outlet and admission was by membership card only with some things being sold in bulk quantities (much like Costco today). Our family made an annual trip there a few Sundays before Christmas (it was Jewish-owned so closed on Saturdays and was allowed to open on Sundays). Goods were priced with an alphabetic ‘secret’ code (though everyone knew it); you decided what you wanted, got an assistant to write you a ticket, went to the cash office and paid and in due course your goods were delivered. The one thing I still remember us buying there was Ledbury jam in tins which always seemed to taste better than jam out of jars. More …
  • Also offering savings by mail order bulk-buying and used by my parents were John Dron (est 1939) who supplied cleaning products.
  • Negotiation: Although retailers couldn’t advertise discounted prices, asking might secure a discount. c.1965 my dad bought my Moulton bike from Mr Geere, High Street Teddington for £27/10 (£27.50) rather than the list price, £30.00.
  • Trading stamps: Although retailers couldn’t offer discounts, they could offer trading stamps – typically one stamp for each sixpence spent – and filled books of stamps could be exchanged for goods. Green Shield stamps were the best known. Most of the redemption centres where stamps were exchanged for gifts evolved into Argos Discount Centres around 1973.
  • Co-op dividends: Co-op members quoted their ‘divi number’ when making purchases. At the end of the year they received a dividend, theoretically reflecting their share of the profits made – I worked for London Cooperative Society in the late 1960s when the divi was initially a set sixpence for each pound spent (2.5%). The tills punched cards with the divi number and amount spent which were sent to a data processing centre. Around 1969 these were replaced by Coop trading stamps.
  • Discount air fares were unknown, unless you joined an affinity group, most of which had fairly relaxed membership requirements.
  • Freebies: I well remember the Saturday newspaper and Exchange & Mart ads for electric drills with the vendors offering ‘free’ accessory kits generally comprising drill bits, a sanding disc and sheets.
  • The abolition of RPM led to a new type of outlet, exemplified by Comet Discount Warehouses (RIP 2012) – Comet was established in 1933 and at the end of the 1950s had three shops. It opened its first out-of-town store in 1968. The first London store was opened in Hackbridge, near Croydon, and then, more conveniently for us, one opened at Hayes. The early warehouses were just that, next to no displays: you were served at the counter and passed a sealed box. Argos (1973-) was similar.