Jackie Howarth's Memories of Hockley (Pt 1)

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Mave Sipple

In the winter of 1949, we left our beautiful bungalow in a lovely tree lined street in Belvedere, Kent and moved to Hockley in to a bungalow a mile down an unmade Road named Plumberow Avenue. The day was rainy and cold, the van got stuck in the mud, and we had to carry the furniture and our belongings the last third of a mile to our new house.

My sister and I thought we had moved to the back of beyond. There was no electricity in the house, it was cold and damp, and we were cold and mud-spattered. The gas lighting was dim and the fire mantles often caught fire. We had a gas cooker and my mum cooked wonderful meals, the same each week roast on Sunday, cold meat on Monday, mince on Wednesday then stew made from the bones.

The local tradesmen came along Plumberow Road in their vans and carried the goods in baskets when the road was too muddy to use. It was the normal thing to invite the baker, or milkman in for a cuppa. The back door was never locked and tradesmen would leave the goods on the kitchen table if no one was at home.

Once we had settled in, we found we had a beautiful orchard for a garden. In the summer when the apples were ripe they were placed separately on straw in our attic. I can still remember the smell of fermenting fruit which greeted me when I poked my head round the door.

There was an amazing open veranda across the back of the house. I spent hours pretending it was a stage and the trees were the people come to watch me dancing. There was no electricity in the house so in the winter it was freezing cold, often there was ice on the inside of the windows. We spent our time in the large kitchen, the range would keep you warm if you were near enough to it. The front room was used on special occasions, Christmas and occasionally for Sunday afternoon tea when relatives came to visit.

Although we had a bathroom, we had our weekly bath in a tin bath in front of the fire. When it was bedtime we would put on our nightdresses by the fire and run and get into bed. Mum used to make rag rugs to put by out beds.  We had very little money but we never felt poor, Mum made all our clothes and I believe we were the best dressed kids in the area. Even our dear Dad with his huge hands made tu-tus for our ballet classes! We were very content, and never felt jealous of what others had. Just before my mother died aged 86, she told me how upset she had been when she couldn’t afford wellingtons for my sister and I when we went to Guide camp. All she needed was £1. We hadn’t given it a second thought.

Life was hard, and mum had her routine. On Monday she did the washing in the Butler sink and in the cold weather the bed sheets became hard and stiff on the line. Clothes were always being aired by the open range door.

For years Dad had to cycle to a building on the Arterial Road, where he worked as an engineer at the brickfields. Later he was allowed to use the firm’s van. This was great, as he made up some benches in the back and sometimes we and our cousins would pile into the back and go off to Danbury Park for a game of rounders and a picnic. What would Health and Safety say about it now?!  

My well-to-do cousins often say they were the best days of their lives. We had a happy childhood, our parents were very strict, there was always a cane on the table at mealtimes and we had our fingers tapped if we forgot our table manners(it’s a pity more people don’t do that now).

We all had chores, and the one I disliked most was getting the coal or coke in from the coal shed. We had very little money but enjoyed simple things: listening to the wireless as a family ("Raise a Laugh" was a favourite), the smell of the Sunday roast ,sitting on the doorstep shucking peas, preparing apple pie and listening to World Favourites after Sunday school, or church parade; memories like these have set me up for life.

Click here for Part 2

This page was added by Mave Sipple on 24/07/2012.
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