My early life on the St Helier estate

Westminster Road

By Ronald Stubbings

I was born in Peckham and moved to No. 78 Westminster Road when I was 3 years old.

Photo:Ron Stubbings outside 78 Westminster Road c.1933

Ron Stubbings outside 78 Westminster Road c.1933

Donated by Ronald Stubbings

This house was on the junction of Whitby and Westminster Roads and overlooked the fence that isolated the St Helier and Private Houses already described by other contributors. The next photo shows the fence at the end of the Whitby Road cul-de-sac when it was used most probably for the Coronation street party.

Photo:Coronation Street Party in Whitby Road cul-de-sac c.1937

Coronation Street Party in Whitby Road cul-de-sac c.1937

Donated by Ronald Stubbings

From these happy faces, the only person that I can recognise is my mother, and she is one of the "waitresses" on the right hand side of the table. Possibly it is Mrs Bishop carrying a jug on the other side. The children presumably lived locally in Westminster and Whitby roads, and there were other street parties held on the green spaces dotted about the estate.

Yes ,the roads were virtually traffic free and provided places for all kinds of Games. My favourite was called “Hopping Barge” where everyone congregated on the path on one side of the road and one person was elected to stay in the middle. On the word “Go” the crowd hopped across the road whilst the person in the middle tried to barge them into putting both feet on the ground. Any one losing their balance then had to assist the one in the middle until the last one standing started the next game as the next in the middle. Another popular seasonable game was a form of marbles, played in the gutters My first school was Winchcombe Road and I used to walk there on my own. A couple of memories come to mind. The first was when we playing football in the muddy field; I managed kick the muddy ball straight into the face of the boy reputed to be the school bully and lived in fear of some retaliation, but it never happened. Another memory concerns the May Queen ceremony; I was chosen to escort a queen from a previous year, but on the day of the ceremony I developed a cold and my mother sent in a note insisting that I had to wear a woolly jumper. The head teacher (was it Miss Purfield?) eventually solved it by me wearing the woolly under the White shirt. We had the parts for an Anderson shelter delivered at home and I helped my father install it. We used railway sleepers to surround it, Including a blast wall at the entrance to give added protection, a feature rarely seen in current TV reconstructions . We also dug a soak away drain and constructed a chicken run. The first use of the shelter was as a grandstand when Croydon Airport was bombed. When WW2 broke out, I had transferred to Tweedale Road school, but we could not attend until the shelters had been built. Teachers came to a selected house to give some sort of tuition to local children, which was mainly setting homework. I remember one afternoon playtime when without warning a German bomber flew very low overhead and I could plainly see the airmen and the gun turret swinging around towards us. The plane probably crashed shortly afterwards. I didn’t pass the 11 plus but did manage to pass the exam for entry to Wimbledon Junior Technical College. I had to get the 157 bus to Raynes Park. One morning the bus had a distinct list to the side when everybody moved to get a better view of a Doodle bug flying parallel to us, in case the engine cut out and it came down.

Photo:1st Carshalton Sea Scouts c.1944

1st Carshalton Sea Scouts c.1944

Donated by Ronald Stubbings

Many clubs and organisations for all ages continued to meet in peoples houses, such as a girl guide group who used to meet in Whitby road, and were escorted home afterwards by us boys to their homes near Rose hill, using torches in the Blackout.

However, I was a patrol leader in the 1st Carshalton Sea Scouts and we used to meet in West street. You might query Sea Scouts in Carshalton! But our boats were kept on the River Thames at Teddington. These were mainly heavy gigs with 4 rowers, but there was a Lighter weight Varnished gig reserved for crews of patrol leaders. ( In this Picture, me on the left and George Emeny Smith on the Right).

Fire Watching groups were organised throughout the country and the local Group was led by my father. On the other side of the fence were a couple of derelict Victorian houses which the firewatchers used to practice the use of stirrup pumps and sand to put out fires.


Photo:The WestWhit Social Club at Littlehampton c. 1949

The WestWhit Social Club at Littlehampton c. 1949

Donated by Ronald Stubbings

At the end of the war this successful group of firewatchers decided that they would like to continue their friendship and formed the WestWhit Social Club (from Westminster and Whitby roads), with my father as chairman. They arranged regular whist drives and dance evenings and even days outings by coach. This picture was taken at Littlehampton, a popular destination. The dance evenings attracted all the top notch bands. I know this because I used to put the records on. As a change, we invited a group of Cadets from the local Red Cross to entertain us with short plays and other items.

Photo:Cinderalla performed by the WestWhit Social Club c. 1950

Cinderalla performed by the WestWhit Social Club c. 1950

Donated by Ronald Stubbings

After a couple of visits they roped me in to help and I had a memorable appearance as an Ugly sister in Cinderella. We managed to manipulate Crepe paper and cotton wool into suitable props. That’s me, on the right. So this was how I met my future wife.

Considering that they only moved to the St Helier estate in about 1932/3, the residents showed how much they appreciated each others company at social events such as shown In the prewar pictures of an outing to Littlehampton and the 1937 Coronation street party, and the postwar picture of the WestWhit social club. Everyone looked happy.

Photo:Red Cross Cadets concert party c. 1948

Red Cross Cadets concert party c. 1948

Donated by Ronald Stubbings

Photo:The neighbours enjoying their day at Littlehampton c. 1934/5

The neighbours enjoying their day at Littlehampton c. 1934/5

Donated by Ronald Stubbings

This page was added by Beverley Walker on 28/01/2020.

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