Memories of St. Helier

Moved there in 1939

By Ken Simpson

Photo:Ken Simpson Welbeck Road School 1949-51

Ken Simpson Welbeck Road School 1949-51

Donated by Ken Simpson

Hello! my family - The Simpsons - moved into 2 Hartland Road some time in 1939. We came from Battersea where we lived in both Colestown Street and Banbury Street.

Mums name was Violet Ethel, known as 'Epps', Dad was Jim, my sister (3 years older than me) Joyce and me, Ken - sometimes my Mum called me Kenneth - but only when I was in trouble.

Both Mum and Dad have passed on. My sister now lives in Worcester Park with husband Bob. I live in Carshalton. So neither of us has moved far.

We moved from Battersea to 2 Hartland Rd., Morden, Surrey, (no post codes then) on the St. Helier housing estate during 1939. At the time it was said to be the largest housing estate in Great Britain. I felt quite proud – the biggest – that meant a lot to a little boy of 4.

Joyce, my elder sister and I were looking out of the window of one of the rear facing bedrooms filled with trepidation - this brand new experience of a new home took a bit of getting used to. Will we be able to make friends? Will we like it? What are the schools like? All these things to worry about. We were a bit scared I suppose.

The lady next door was in her garden ‘having a go‘ about something, using language that we had never heard before. Mum told us she had been to a foreign country and that is how they spoke there. Such a sheltered life we must have had until then.

Our house was a three bedroom end of terrace, with a bathroom and indoor lavatory. Cor, fancy that – an indoor lavatory. Most WCs were somewhere down the garden in those days, and a bathroom!! We bought our ‘cottage’ bath (long galvanised iron thing with two handles) with us and it hung on the outside wall for years. What luxury, a bathroom, no hot water – but WE had a bathroom. In a corner of the kitchen was a ‘copper’ Not the ‘PC 49’ variety but a copper, a cauldron with a brick support and a place to light the fire underneath. There was a cold water tap to fill it and a jointed pipe about 12 -18 inches long which could be lowered into the copper. When the pipe was lowered into the ‘full of hot water’ copper, the adjacent stopcock was turned on and then the cold water tap in the bath was turned on and low and behold hot water from the copper was syphoned into the bath, magic!! I still don’t understand how it worked – but it did, if you failed to turn off the bathroom tap, cold water ran after the copper was empty but you needed some or the water was too hot. Then add a handful of soda and your bath was ready. Friday night was usually bath night, the copper fire was only lit when needed. Friday night for baths and Monday for washing day – yes, clothes were washed on Monday. Poor Mum, standing at the kitchen sink for most of the day knocking her knuckles out on the rubbing board. The first ones I remember were made of wood, which had a little bit of ‘give’, but later ones were metal or glass rubbing surfaces, really tough on the hands!!

When we lived in Battersea I have vague memories of nursery school, drinking warm milk, ughh! and trying to sleep in the afternoons on canvas beds, but now was the time for proper school. I have no recollection of my first day, but off we went, Mum and me, along Halesowen Rd, turn right into Hexham and there was the entrance to the ‘infants’. My most vivid memory was an incident the day after a bomb fell in the playground during a night air raid. We had our playtime with a bomb crater in the middle of the playground, the top surface of tar-macadam was blown all over the place and left lots of ‘clinker’ (which was used in those days as a foundation for the top surface). Well a lot of this clinker was being thrown about and a lump of it hit me on the left eyelid – ouch – tears – both hands to my face looking down. Soon my hands were covered in blood, it was streaming everywhere! Mother was summoned, not working as a Clippie, for she was on a late shift out of Sutton bus garage, route 80 I believe. Off we went to the doctor's in Forest Rd. – seven stitches – ouch. “You have been a very brave boy” he said to me, and to Mum said “That will be 7/6d please. Mum paid up, no NHS then. “Come back in four days time and I’ll remove them!” So we returned. “Yes that’s healing nicely. I’ll remove the stitches now.” Quick as a flash Mum asked, “How much?” “Another 7/6d, said the doctor. Quicker still Mum grabbed me by the hand saying, “Come on son,” and took me home! On the gas stove went the kettle, out came a pudding basin and some cotton wool. “Hold your head over the pudding basin,” scalding hot water on cotton wool, a dab or two on the eyelid and the stitches were withdrawn one by one. I did my best not to cry – nothing to ease the pain – did it hurt? Not too much, but quite a sensation as the stitches slithered out!! I can feel it now. Well done us, we saved 7/6d.

Just a bit about the gas stove: Mum did not like the gas stove that was in the house when we moved in! “It’s too dear. I want a 4d a week one” Well some huffing & agitating later it was decided that a different gas stove would be fitted, not necessarily the one Mum wanted. “Four pence a week like the one we had in Battersea from Wangas!!” but one with a plate rack and grill above the four rings, with a nice white enamelled door and a thermometer mounted on it. That had to do. I think it stood next to the copper, Mum would light the oven, open the door and stand with her back towards it to warm up after a cold late shift on the buses. There was a coal fire in the front room – but we were not allowed in there except for Sunday lunch, not during the week, we could only go in there to dust and polish the furniture. That Mansion polish used to bring out a wonderful shine. Then of course the front door had a brass knocker/letter box and keyhole, these were ‘Brasso’d’ every day and heaven help you if any polish dried on the surrounding paintwork.

Dad was in the AFS – Auxiliary Fire Service – stationed in Bromley, Kent. He cycled home when he had any time off. Five foot nine inches of muscle and ability. ‘My Dad could do anything’ we all said that about our dads didn’t we, but my Dad seemed to turn his hand to any manner of useful jobs. Our Anderson shelter was one!! He dug a big hole about three feet deep, lowered in the sections of the Anderson, bolted it together, then laid a cement base inside, no water ever came in. Built bunk beds for Joyce and me while he and Mum slept on a slightly raised double bed which nigh on took up all the floor space. Outside he ‘piled’ into the ground what must have been 4x4 wooden posts at each corner of the structure. To these we hammered, horizontally, wooden planks and filled the gap between the shelter and the planks with earth. My job was to hold a 4lb club hammer against the upright 4x4s while Dad drove in some 6” nails to hold the planks. What good I did I know not, as each time Dad struck a blow, me and the club hammer would fall to the ground, but I did my bit, I was helping my Dad.

When the soles of our shoes wore down, Dad would mend them on the last, cut off the old sole & heel, and with a mouth full of tacks, Dad attached new leather, hammering the tacks as quick as I could count them, cut off the excess leather, burnish the edges with a hot special iron (not the one Mum used). Then he would hammer in a few ‘Blakeys’ to the heel and toe to make the repair last longer. On his own shoes and Mum's he would glue a piece of leather then cut a groove in its periphery and sew the new sole into place. Our little shoes, which we would grow too big for did not warrant the grand sewing treatment, they would not last as long as Mum's and Dad's.

On his trips home from Bromley, Dad would undo his saddle bag and withdraw a sacking parcel full of sheep droppings. These he would place in a four foot tall wooden barrel filled three quarters full of water and previous donations of droppings, then he would give the contents a good stir – what a stink!! It was awful, but we did have some of the best tomatoes and other vegetables ‘down our street’!

 I have added a photograph taken when I attended Welbeck Road School between 1949 & 1951 in the Commercial Class. My mate Colin Neal joined the same time as me but in the Technical Class.


This page was added by Ken Simpson on 07/01/2012.
Comments about this page

Hi Ken.....A wonderful web site, brings memories flooding back into my fast diminishing memory cells. I look from time to time to see if there is a name I can recall, your name struck a cord but some of the details were not as I remember ( unless there were two K Simpsons). The one I knew, I think lived off St. Helier Avenue. I also moved to the estate in the spring of 1939 aged 4, to 304 Glastonbury Road from Winchcombe Road, prior to that lived in Clapham. Went to Glastonbury Road School at the beginning of the war and stayed throughout, with houses being destroyed in Hunston Road, blew in our front door!! and of of course Glastonbury Rd. My contempories were Geoff Fisher, Frank Shand, Derek Baker, Derek Kent, Percy Stock, Roy Berridge. Failed my 11 plus and as a reward went to Welbeck Road school to the first commercial course to be held there. Book Keeping/Gregg Shorthand/ Typing was taught by a Mr. S.G Lober. I remember boys from Glastonbury were considered soft at Welbeck, where sport reigned supreme boxing being top. A Mr. Thomas was I think  the sports master and the head a very strict Mr. Matthews. Left in 1949. I liked your recall of shoe repairs..I used to accompany my Dad to a leather shop at the bottom of Sutton High Street and sort through various pieces of leather, and until found the right piece, bring it home soak it and then cut to size before the repair, as you say a mouth full of tacks and a carefully applied Blakey. So many things to recall a garden full of vegetables Chickens kept at the end, I cant recall going hungry. Queuing up at the gasworks in Sutton collecting coke on my hand made cart in the winter of 1947.....but that's another story.!!!

By Freddie Knopp
On 12/06/2012

Ken's item paralled the life with my father when I lived in Sherbourne Crescent, coming from Rotherhithe in 1934. Attending Welbeck Road School until 1938, when I became a Post Office Messenger Boy and from thence to the Royal Navy for the period of war. I remember teachers Huskisson, Pertain, Cook & Birchall (I was in commercial stream) and certainly Mr. Mathews who walked with the mourners at my younger brother's funeral---an act that has lived forever in my memory.

By Edward Wilkins
On 20/03/2013

Coronation Day......I was picked to go to the Coronation from Green Wrythe Lane girls - it was so exciting having to get up pretty early in the morning and going to the railway station...not sure which one, probably Sutton? I sat opposite the teacher and she read to us from the newspaper about Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mount Everest. We were with lots of other school children along the embankment and because I was shorter than the others I got to get in the front but a big policeman was in front of me so when anything good came along he would let me see from under his arm. The most cheered part of the parade was the man with the cart picking up the horse dung!! When we got home we had to rush to get ready for the party held in Green Wrythe Lane infants - I remember my stepmother dressing me up in a geisha outfit..and we had spam sandwiches and rock cakes. Anybody else remember that day?

By Maureen Donaghey nee Hurt
On 11/10/2013

I think the previous contributors have said it all. I arrived on 28th February 1945 in Westminster road, then we moved to Shrewsbury road, and I went to Welbeck School, just like Ken, but a few years later. I remember Miss Mumford our Infants school headmistress, then in the senior school the head was Mr Moore, I think, his second was Cooke. We also had Mr Price, Dunwoody. In the cubs I joined the 10th Morden which was based at the school. But later I joined the 8th Morden in the Scouts. They were tough days, compared to those which our grandchildren have to-day, but then our parents had it harder.

By Peter Bird
On 14/12/2017

Hi Dicky this is Len Owens I know you will recall the day we parted our friendship a big mistake in my life. I to recall Welbeck school, 8th Morden scouts the river Wandle, Shaftesbury rd.etc. I am with Ed Sanwell right now & he to has fond memories of the Estate & our childhood together. A couple of memories were going to the aeroplane dump over the river Wandle. Borrowing a fuel tank & using it as a boat on the river, when finished at the end of the day we would sink it so no one else would find it, alas one day it went missing & not to be seen again. If you can recall at the rear of 151 Shaftesbury Rd was the ditch coming from the Hospital, at that point it went underground to the Wandle. Len & I managed to get inside the pipe & followed it down to the River outlet.

Len Owens & Ed Sanwell.

By Ed Sanwell
On 03/10/2019

Hi Len Owens, just read your post from the 3/10/2019. If you read this can you please let me know how I can get in touch with you. Ed Sanwell is a friend from my teenage years but sadly lost touch way back when. If it's the same Ed, I believe he married a girl called Brenda and moved to Canada but I understand Brenda unfortunately passed away. I've been trying for a good few years now to trace him and would love to be back in touch. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

By John Maslin
On 01/04/2020

Yikes, i've just got back to this page and found i've missed a comment from my old friends Len Owens and Ed Sanwell. I'm over the moon to have found you, are you on the "I grew up on the St Helier Estate" face book page? Also do you remember the scout hut in Glastonbury Road and the good times we had there. I don't remember our parting, I just recall not seeing you any more, hope you can get in touch with me. ps. My partner Jane Bishop has a face book page for me.

By Peter Frederick Bird
On 02/07/2020

Hi Len, not sure if you were able to read my earlier post. How are you and Eddy? I don't remember us parting specifically, you just wasn't there any more, I missed the good times we had. I also crawled down the tunnel to the Wandle. Do you remember the scout hut, and the good times we had their, and the adventurers times we had at your home? particularly after the paper rounds.

By Peter Frederick Bird
On 02/07/2020

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