I think it was in 1934 or 5, [I’m not sure], that we moved to the northern end of the village and about a mile and a half away from Shaftesbury Avenue, to a much older property in Hursley Road. The reason for the move was probably, two or maybe three fold, to start with the house was bigger, had a larger garden, which was all important in those days, was probably less rent and from my fathers view further away from my mothers relatives, particularly my grandmother whom although, like my father, was a red hot socialist, never quite saw eye to eye with her on the subject, ironically, we in fact moved nearer one of dads brothers, Mark and his youngest sister, Rose, however, the benefits were at a cost, there was no bathroom, the toilet was outside and very out-of-date, there was no electricity, and the gas lighting did not extend upstairs, added to which because it was more rural, there was hardly any public transport.
145 Hursley Road, which was also named ‘Homeleigh’, was built around about 1898, and one of four semi-detached houses, all owned by Mr. and Mrs. Morley who lived in one of the houses, two doors away from us. There was a similar styled detached property at one end, but four bed roomed, set forward from the others, the front being only about ten feet from the pavement. The house was obviously designed to be a business as well as a home with one front-room given over as shop and it was also the local carriers, with a brick built out-building which originally accommodated a stable and cart, later to garage a small Ford lorry, which like thousands of other such vehicles, was requisitioned by the army at the start of the II World War.
All the other houses in the block had gas lighting both upstairs and down, in our house it was down stairs only, because the previous tenant had a fear of being gassed in her sleep and would not have it in the bedrooms. Although this was also a three bedroomed house, the rooms were all larger with higher ceilings and good-sized sash windows, against the smaller casement windows of the previous house. The plan of the house was also different, with the rooms both up and down stairs being directly behind each other, with the staircase placed between the front room (lounge) and the middle room (dining room).
The front entrance to the house was via a four by four foot square, single floored hall, built onto the side, directly at the foot of the stairs and between the front and middle rooms with the front door facing up the path to the gate, opposite the door was a sash window facing down the garden. The brick built hall had a parapet of fancy brickwork with a good sized lean-to wooden porch with a glazed roof to protect the entrance. The porch was open towards the road, with the lateral side filled with diamond shaped trellising. The house was built in an orange red brick, probably made in the brick field which was not far down a nearby unadopted lane called Common Road, and still active up until the second world war.
The pitched roof was of grey slate, with two substantial brick chimneys, again with stepped out and indented fancy brickwork matching the parapet design of the hall. Buff and orange chimney pots one for each room of the house with various degrees of soot deposit topped the two stacks. There was a single floored angled bay with a slate roof and no gutter to the front room with the window to the bedroom immediately above. The kitchen and backdoor to the house was on the side, with two high steps with cement rendering. On one side, between the hall and the door, was the middle room window with a bedroom window above it. On the other side of the door, was the kitchen window. Beyond the kitchen and at the back of the house was a single floor and single brick lean-to, again with a slate roof, spanning the width of the house and that of the neighbours, this housed the outdoor toilets and from indoors a coalhouse and a walk-in larder, all had a small square window, hinged at the top.
The brown stained front door had four panels the upper two being clear glass with a net curtain hung on a sprung wire between a pair of hooks to give a degree of privacy. Having crossed the threshold into the small hall, on the left was the open entrance into the main house where there was a 3ft.square lobby at the foot of the stairs with the door to the front room or lounge as it was later called, on the right, and the door to the middle room / dining room, on the left. You had to pass through the middle room to get to the scullery / kitchen with the backdoor being immediately next to the middle room door.
Up until after World War 11, the scullery was the most lived in room in the house, not only was it used for cooking, washing and ironing but also the majority of meals were eaten there and it was used for most other indoor activities particularly in the winter months where the warmth from the kitchen range which was left burning all day, kept the room warm. The scullery was not that big, measuring roughly 10ft. x 12ft. [3m x 3.6m], within that area was a deep glazed stone sink in front of the sash window with the glaze worn through on its front edge exposing the ochre coloured stone underneath which was also worn down. A single cold water tap was at the back of the sink on top of a length of iron pipe, a wooden cupboard with a green painted matchwood door was under the sink.
There was a wooden draining board on one side of the sink, later to be replaced with a thick aluminum version fashioned by my father, and a small cupboard to the same height as the sink on the other side, between the window and the door, with a mirror in a frame hung above it. Immediately next to the sink and in front of the draining board was an old fashioned gas stove made of blackened iron which required a great deal of elbow grease and blacking to keep it looking clean, it was not used a great deal in the winter months because most of the cooking was done on the kitchen range which was recessed within the chimney breast on the partitioning wall and backing the fire place in the middle room. This was also regularly blackened and the bright metal edges polished so that they shone, there was cement rendered hearth, which was whitened every week, a surrounding fender with shinny metal tubes and ornate supports with fancy knobs on the ends corners and in the center kept one from getting to close to the range.
Above the range and more or less the full width of the breast was a simple wooden mantelpiece supported with a couple wooden brackets, with a cheap clock placed in the middle. At the door end of the mantelpiece was wall mounted gas light with an ‘S’ shaped bracket with a gas tap at the bottom, a thin glass globe protected the gasmantle and also defused the light, however, once the War had started, gas mantles and globes were hard to get and should the mantle become delicate from use it was easily holed by the pressure of the gas and the a gas would flare out through the hole with a blue flame, making a roaring sound, consequently, through most of the war, the only light in the kitchen was from a brass oil lamp with a tall glass globe which was placed on the mantelpiece more or less immediately under the gas light.
Beyond the range and between the chimney breast and the back wall was a brick built copper about 4ft. high with its own tiny fireplace to heat the water. The copper itself was about 2.ft. [60cm] diameter and about as deep, and as the name implies was made of that metal. A heavy, thick wooden lid with wooden handle was placed over the drum to aid the boiling of mainly bed linen, towels, white clothes, and anything made of more robust material which was prodded and turned occasionally with wooden copper stick. Both the lid and the stick where bleached a creamy white from their constant contact with water, steam and washing materials. The copper also used to heat the water for our weekly bath, where a galvanized bath roughly 4ft. long with a handle at each end was brought in from the shed every Friday evening and placed between the copper and the larder door, and filled with hot water directly from the copper using a saucepan as a ladle.
The bath was screened by hanging a sheet or blanket over a cable stretched between the chimney breast and the larder door frame. There was not enough water in the copper to give clean water to everybody, therefore, we had to follow each other into the same water which was topped up between each use and even when the bathing was over the water was further used by emptying it into a smaller galvanized tub where some of the next weeks washing was left to soak ready for Monday wash day. Pat and I used to bath together until one day and for some reason unexplained to me, we had to bath separately. Typically back then if you asked, ‘ why can’t we bath together?’ your answer would be ‘ because you can’t’, and that was that.
Opposite the kitchen range and between the back wall and the gas stove were the latched matchboard doors to the walk-in larder and the coalhouse which opened in to the scullery, leaving just over the width of a chair between them, I think the doors and skirting was painted brown and the cupboard under the sink, green. The walls were also painted with oil-based paint, cream at the top and dark green at the bottom with an inch wide brown dado line between. The floor was covered with patterned linoleum and in places of most wear the colour had worn away, leaving off-in some places the linoleum was worn down to the canvass backing, this was mainly by the back door were a coarse, brown coir, door mat hid most off it.
The kitchen furniture amounted to four plain wooden chairs; a fifth had to be brought in from the dining room for Saturday and Sunday mid-day meals when all the family was present. The pine kitchen table had four brown stained legs with simple turnings; there were no supports or rungs. The table had a cutlery drawer and a leaf which was inserted for Saturday and Sunday lunches when it was covered with a cloth, most working class people covered the table with red or blue and white checkered oil cloths but Mum thought they looked cheap particularly when old as the surface became cracked and the printed check pattern worn away in places, they were not for her. For the rest of the week the table was closed up and bare and was scrubbed on wash days leaving the top a bleached creamy white.
The walk-in larder and the coal store were the same size, roughly 4ft. x 4ft. [1.25 x 1.25m.] the larder, apart from the expected shelves, had a thick slab of marble at table height along one side where it was supposed to keep some foods cool, such as butter, milk and eggs etc., but in hot weather not always successfully and the milk often ‘went off’ [sour] and the butter rancid. In an attempt to overcome this problem, the milk and butter were sometime kept in a large earthenware jar with a lid and stored on the floor in what was deemed to be the coolest part of the room, but even this was not always successful. Flies and wasps were also very much a problem and because the small square window needed to be kept open to maximize the amount of fresh a removable fine metal mesh was fitted. Despite all the care to keep flies out there were occasions that a Bluebottle managed to get to the meat although never reaching the maggot stage nevertheless left a neat pile of tiny white eggs in some fold in the flesh. The floor of coal cupboard was below that of the scullery which meant that it was difficult to get the coal out once the stock had dropped below the floor level which was more or less all the time so eventually it was kept in the lean-to shed at the back of the house and the cupboard was used to keep brooms etc.,
You can see from what I have written that the kitchen /scullery was pretty busy and compact, with very little maneuvering space and for the housewife, very hard work to keep it clean. With only a cold water tap meant that the kettle was in constant use either being heated on the range or on the gas stove,
The middle room was much the same size as the kitchen with paneled doors, stained brown with hand applied graining effect which was carried out by my father, these led to the kitchen, the foot of the stairs, the hall and the front room. There was also another full height door which opened out from a cupboard under the stairs, this was where the potato crop was stored in sacks, it also housed the gas meter and allsorts other bits and pieces. The room was heated by a blackened ornate caste iron fireplace with a vertical panel of ceramic tiles each side of the fire opening above it was a mantelpiece also made of caste iron, on which sat a clock with a wood surround resting on four small rounded wooden feet, this was backed a dark mahogany over mantle with a degree of carving and a small amount of fret work which surrounded a good sized mirror. The fender was a very plain and simple in shape being made of wood covered with a thin layer of hammered copper, which was breaking away from the wood in places and did not match the design of the fire place in anyway. Stood on the hearth was a coal scuttle and on a stand hung a poker, small brush and tongs.
To one side of the fire place was a built in cupboard about 4ft. high which was of cream painted matchwood , on the opposite side between the chimney breast and the door to the kitchen was a small table on which sat the radio. The radio was typical design of the pre-war period being about 2ft. high x 1ft 6 ins. wide with a rounded top, a round cut out with a fretwork design backed by some kind of fine mesh which covered the speaker, below that was the tuning panel and under that four dark brown bakelite knobs to switch the radio on or off, change stations and volume and tuning knobs. There was a polished dining table with carved twisted legs and crossed rails connecting a square boss towards the bottom of the legs, below which, there was a rounded foot. The table which was a dark mahogany colour had a leaf to enlarge the table. The four chairs matched the design of the table and had removable padded seats covered in imitation leather.
There was a matching sideboard but for many years it was kept in the front room. In front of the sash windows was a freestanding gramophone, it was made of wood and French polished in deep mahogany, it stood about 4ft. tall on four narrow bowed legs which curved down from immediately under a deep hinged lid, to broadened rounded feet, there was a gap of roughly 9ins. between the bottom of the cabinet and the floor. The machine had a detachable handle to wind up the spring mechanism which was housed towards the top of the cabinet, under which was the sound box. The record deck and heavy stylus inside the cabinet was offset, leaving a 3in. gap running the full width of the cabinet to let the sound out. Below the sound box was the record store, I think there was no more than six records which were rarely played but I do remember the names of two of them, one was the ‘The Laughing Policeman’ and the other ‘ Bonky Doddle Ido- follow the sergeant major’ which we children found hilarious. A pair of doors with tiny knobs closed the storage area. Because it was little used, an Aspidistra plant in a large copper pot sat on a crochet mat adorned the top. In my earlier years there was a rather worn ‘chaise lounge’ sofa along one wall.
The floor was covered in beige and light brown coloured streaked and nondescript patterned lino with a cheap Persian designed mat and as was usual in those days, a slip mat in front of the doors. Why they were called ‘slip mats’ I’m not sure but they certainly did that, especially if they were laid on polished lino. As the room was 8ft. high, a brown stained wooden picture rail was set around the room, roughly 1ft. 6 in. below the ceiling, with a printed frieze immediately below that. Two framed prints with glass and mounts with the hanging cord visible were hung from the rail by a specially shaped moveable hook. The nondescript prints were of pastoral scenes, one with cows and the other sheep. Although the wall below the picture rail was papered it was of a drab ochre colour, the ceiling including the wall above the picture rail was white. The ceiling itself was made of plaster and laths and as with all the ceilings in the house, had multiple cracks threading across it.
In the middle of the room was a gas light suspended about 15” below the ceiling on a tube was a small ornate globe of frosted glass with a wavy skirt around the bottom, a lever arm fixed across the top of the tube had a chain with a loop at each end, which reached to the bottom of the globe. Pulling one chain down, turned the gas on, pulling the other turned it off.
The front room/parlour/lounge/sitting room whatever, was the least used room in the house for no other reason than it had the best furnishings which had to be looked after and had to last, that ment ‘don’t use’. I can only remember the room being used by the family on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and it was only on those days that a fire lit; consequently the room was cold because the walls had no chance to heat up. The only other times it was used, was by my mother who on fine summer days would sometimes sit and do the mending at the same time watching out for the passage of anybody or thing passing along the road, sometimes enviously as she watched a neighbour going off for the day, something that rarely happened to her or we children. The décor was rather drab in colour being generally ochres and beiges – safe colours, because it was expensive to keep redecorating, the only real colour in the room was probable in the carpet which was Persian styled, not, I might add, a real Persian Carpet. The floor, apart from the carpet was stained and polished boarding with a brown painted skirting board. It had a three piece suite in a chocolate coloured leaf design picked out by a creamy beige background but it was predominately the chocolate colour , although the arms were padded they were topped by a wooden arm rest with short turned wood supports and the seats themselves supported on round wooden feet with small castors. For many years the sideboard which was part of the dining room suite, resided in the room.
Like the middle room, there was a picture rail and two good sized colour prints one of ‘Bubbles’ a picture of a small boy with blonde curly hair and dressed in a dark green velvet suit, sat on a stool with a bowl on his lap blowing soap bubbles. The other was called ‘Cherryripe’, this picture was of a young girl, again with curly hair showing under what I think was called a mop hat, also sat on a stool with a bowl of cherries. The prints, which were mounted in well made black frames with glass and mounts, were painted by a well known Victorian artist for the ‘Pearl Soap, company for promotional purposes. Although I remember these prints well, in fact still have the frame of one, I think that they were the only pictures in the room. Like the middle room, the fire surround was also in caste iron with an oval mirror above. The lighting for the room was by a gas bracket on the chimney breast as in the kitchen but with a globe like that in the middle room. I can’t remember what the wall paper was like nor what else was in the room in the way of furnishings the reason being I seldom went into the room, never-the-less, when we did use the room we children were quite excited by the event.
The stairs to the upper floor had a thread bare carpet which did not extend to the full width of the tread and was held in place by triangular wooden stair rods which clipped into fancy holders. The stairs, which were quite steep by modern standards, ended on a small landing from which there was a single step up into the front bedroom and in the opposite direction into a passage which led pass the middle bedroom, directly to the back bedroom. There was no artificial lighting anywhere upstairs except by candles or oil lamps, therefore, as there was no windows the only light to the stairs, landing and passage during daylight was if a bedroom door was left open other than that the only light was a pale glow stemming from the hall at the bottom of the stairs. Like the front room downstairs, to be allowed entrance to the front bedroom, my parents room, was almost as rare. I think there was a picture rail but I’m not positive but I do remember a couple of prints of women, possibly by Holman Hunt or Rossetti in oval mounts and gold frames. The bedroom furniture consisted of a free standing wardrobe with a full length mirror a chest of drawers but I not sure whether there was a dressing table. The suite was in mahogany with cream coloured inlays, I believe there was a wickerwork chair.
The bed had a feather mattress and I think I was only allowed into it once when I was small and that was during a thunder storm, my sister was scared and so mum allowed her into her bed, although I was not that scared of the thunder I also made it an excuse, however, I didn’t stay long as I found the feather mattress, although much softer than the flock mattress I slept on, was to me, lumpy and decidedly uncomfortable. The front bedroom had a small cubicle off one side which was over the stairwell with a window facing over the porch roof which was used as mums wash room and had a marble topped washstand with a large ceramic bowl and jug. All three of the bedrooms had caste iron fireplaces which we smaller than those down stairs, they were painted in pale green or white and had flower patterns in relief each side of the grate which was black. I do not think that there was ever a fire in mum’s bedroom in all the years she lived there, and the only times that there was a fire in the other two rooms was when we children were confined to bed through the more serious childhood illnesses such as measles and scarlet fever. Mumps, hooping cough, german measles and chickenpox were not serious enough to warrant a fire.
My sisters room, although the smallest was probably the nicest of the bedrooms. There was a matchboard partition between the room and the passage which led to the back bedroom, covered with some kind of sacking which was in turn covered with wall paper. Pat had a single bed but I can’t recall what sort, a small chest of drawers, a chair and a couple of oval shaped prints of winged cherubs in gilt frames, I cannot remember what other furniture, if any, was in her room. Bedrooms, even when we were small, were private places and once vacated in the morning would rarely be visited during the day apart from a rare change of clothes, we were never allowed to use a bedroom for play.
My brother and I shared the back bedroom which had an ornate iron bedstead with small shiny brass knobs at the ends of all the vertical bars and large knobs on the corner posts. There was also a number of round glass shapes set in ornate brass mounts, moulded to give a cut glass effect which acted as mirrors, which gave a very distorted reflection if you looked into them. The bed stood quite high with the flock mattress resting on wire mesh, like chain link fencing, suspended between two substantial wooden support rails via springs with the two rails bolted onto the ironwork frames at the head and foot of bed. There was a large plain wooden chest of drawers set against the inner wall, a small table with turned legs between the chimney breast and the outer wall and I think a single painted wooden bedroom chair with a woven bamboo seat. A small cheap mat was placed on one side of the bed. There were no pictures on our wall which was painted in cream distemper.
Curtains throughout the house were all of thin almost threadbare material which was threaded on to spring wires with hook ends which were stretched between eyes screwed into the window frames. The curtains, when pulled barely reached the middle of the window and as they faded quite quickly it always seemed to me that my mother was constantly dying them and always yellow as this seemed to be the most efficient dye. My mothers and sisters rooms both had white net curtains, covering the bottom half of the window, for added privacy because my mother’s room overlooked the road and my sister faced the neighbour’s windows. There was no need for nets in our bedroom. There was one other piece of equipment which all three bedrooms had and that was a ‘Jerrie’ or ‘potty’, in our bedroom we had a white enameled pot with a dark blue rim, and a round handle on one side. The other pots were more decorative ceramic ones, decorated with flowers. The pots were kept under the bed and generally out of sight. That pretty much covers the details of house which was to be my home up until after the war.
As to the garden and the surrounding environment. At the front of the house, a three foot wide path of compacted dirt and stones, probably raked from the garden, led from the pavement straight to the front door. My first memory of the garden, before we actually lived there, was that there was a rose arch about three quarters way down the path, my sister tells me that the planting was cottage style with flowers such as hollyhocks, lupins and delphiniums but no grass, however, this quickly change during our occupation when grass replaced most of the flowers beds, and the rose arch, with two much smaller rectangular beds set in the lawn about eighteen inches from the path edge with a two foot space between each other and at each end between the front hedge and between a border set under the frontroom window.
On the other side of the path, the garden was about half the width of that in front of the bay window, with a four foot high private hedge, planted on top of an 18” high banking, which was the difference in height of our neighbour’s garden. A seven feet high laurel hedge ran across the plot at the house end of this plot, lining up with the front of the house, which screened the back garden from the road; all the gardens in the block had this feature. There was also had a couple of rectangular flower beds at right angles to the path on this side, with a diamond shaped one in the middle.The beds were always planted with the same flowers, displays of annuals such as wallflowers, snapdragons [Antarinums] asters, polyanthus, sweetwilliams, salvias, love-lies-bleeding and some times red-hot-pokers were planted annually, the only perennials were stocks and michelmus daisies.
There were no shrubs or trees in our front garden, or in any of the others with one exception, where there was a single lilac tree, however, there were plenty of fruit trees in the back gardens, mainly apple, with every garden having at least one. Between the front porch and the laurel screening hedge, there was a four feet wide path to the back of the house which passed the porch and the hall and leading to the back door. Immediately beyond the laurel hedge and alongside the path was private hedge about four feet high and about as long, because of the lack of light at this point, the hedge, as I remember it, was spindly and small leafed. The lack of light was not only because of the laurel hedge and the high private hedge between the gardens but also because there was a large mature apple tree between the hall and the border, with the result that nothing grew in the deep shade between the tree and the hedges.
This area, for some reason, was known as ‘ the gap’, which became a sort of play area and where sometimes, we children, would have our tea on hot summer days. I was never very keen on eating outdoors and the first sight of a wasp wanting to join the picnic and I was off indoors, having suffered two very nasty reactions to stings which caused the whole of my face to swell to the point of closing my eyes on one occasion and massive swelling of an arm on another, both stings required a visit to the doctor. As you approached the back door, the path widened leaving a rounded border between the hall and the steps to the back door. A fifty gallon oil drum mounted on a few bricks which served as a water butt, abutted the hall wall close to the path, collecting the rain water from both the main and hall roofs. It did not have a lid with the result that it was a super breading ground for mosquito’s and I remember that once I had grown tall enough to see into the drum, I would watch the larva wriggling their way up to the surface, to take in air through their tails and then sink without movement back down into the depths. Once I had learnt, disappointingly, that these creatures were not baby fish as I first thought, but would turn into the nasty biting mosquito’s then their destruction was my aim, and I would get soaked in my endeavor to bring about their end by trying to spear them with a piece of wood, which resulted in a great deal of splashing a very wet me and probably no dead larva.
Opposite the flowerbed under the middle room window was a straight border running from the apple tree to roughly in line with the backdoor where a trained Loganberry bush grew on a frame. At the end of this border there was again an area of compacted earth about eight feet wide and extending to the boundary hedge which served as the approach to the door of a ten foot by eight foot weatherboard tool shed which my father had made and which also contained a treadle foot powered lathe also built by him. It was also on this hardstanding that there was a very robust swing, which he had also built and although we children spent a great deal of time playing around and on the swing, I particularly remember the pre-school period when I was on my own, because Pat and Rod where already attending School, that I would spend hours swinging as high as it would go, at the sametime singing at the top of my voice, songs I had heard on the radio, even if I had got the tunes right, I could rarely remember the words beyond the opening phrase, from that point on I made up the words which of course was gibberish, nevertheless, nobody stopped me.
There was another flower border along the side of the shed and parallel to the house and extending beyond the outdoor toilet. The toilet door faced down the garden with a space in front to give access. The door was screened by another seven foot high laurel hedge, beyond which, and at a right angle was another compacted soil path leading to the doorway of a timber clad lean-to storage shed which abutted the house, it had a corrugated iron roof and no door, and was where the coal and wood for the fires was kept and also the old fashioned mangle with a massive ornate caste iron frame and wooden rollers, The shed also housed various sizes of galvanised metal washing tubs which were hung on nails along one side. The path to the shed was extended across the garden to connect to a similar arrangement in our neighbour’s garden, where, at one time there was a low gate between the properties. A three-foot wide path, again of compacted earth and stones ran from beyond these paths to the bottom of the garden and like the front of the house the path was offset making the garden wider on one side. The whole of the back garden was planted with vegetables with a few fruit bushes, mainly gooseberries, there was also two apple trees, a Russet and a not very good Bramley cooking apple, both trees were towards the bottom of the garden one on each side of the path. There was also a plum tree which to my knowledge never produce much in the way of fruit and was latter cut off, roughly four feet from the ground to form a post where my father fixed a hand operated pump with a lever action, to pump water up from the stream to water the garden, this was during the war and it was Rod and my job to do this during dry spells, because my father worked away from home during the whole of my young life and was only home at weekends from late Friday evenings until early Sunday evenings, it was we children’s responsibility that the vegetables were well watered and woo betide us if it was not done as he would spot the neglect immediately when he came home on Friday, to inspect the garden was the first thing he did.
The vegetable garden path terminated at a hazel hedge where a rough stepped path led down to the stream under an arch of Hazel. There were plenty of small fish in the stream such as sticklebacks and bullheads and few bigger fish, particularly by Common Road where the stream passed under the lane through a pipe which during very wet weather was too small which caused the water to back up and explode through the pipe with considerable force boring out a deep pocket as the water was accelerated through the confines of the inadequate pipe. The banks of the stream was also the home of water voles, and because compost heaps for most of the houses were at the very bottom of the gardens and bordering the stream, brown rats also thrived on kitchen waste particularly meat and fish bones which were all thrown on to the uncovered heaps.
Over the stream was rough pastureland, with an unmaintained ditch running through its center which made a good area of the field, marshy, and grew all the plants associated with such wet spots. On its northern side of the pasture was an uncut hawthorn hedge and brambles, bordering the unadopted, puddled and potholed lane called Common Road, where the brickfield was. An equally unkempt hedge on its southern side, separated the pasture from another small field, on the far side, the ground rose up to another narrow field, between the two was a row of more substantial trees including several large oaks and a tall wild cherry tree, which was a real picture in the spring. There was neither a hedge nor a fence on the steam side of the pasture apart from a thicket of blackthorn which grew along the bank from our garden up to the lane and a where nightingales would sing. At the bottom of the gardens was an assortment of mature trees, with a few mature oaks but mainly hazel and hawthorn with particularly large but beautiful red flowering one between our garden and a neighbours. At the bottom of the garden of the shop and next to the lane was a very large and tall ash tree and the favourite haunt for barn and tawny owls to hoot their way through the night.
The house faced due west with its side facing south, which meant that the sun reached every room during some part of the day with the windows of the kitchen or scullery and the middle or dining room received sun light for most of the day and because there was a good sized gap between the houses it was never in the shadow of the neighbouring property. The front garden was roughly fifty-five to sixty feet in length and about the same length at the back, with a width of roughly twenty-eight feet border to border. A pair of substantial brick pillars with stone caps, flanked by low brick walls with chamfered copings bordered the pavement. On top of the walls were simple designed, black, ironwork railings comprising of a flat metal bar at the bottom with vertical round bars approximately 75mm apart passing through an upper flat bar with two bars forming a hooped top and the third flattened at the top into a pointed spear shape, with a single ironwork gate of the same design between the pillars. A private hedge trimmed to the same height as the railings backed the walls and railings. There was a single stone step down from the asphalt pavement, from where the garden sloped gently down along its full length towards the small stream at the bottom.
All the houses in the block had the same design of front walls, railings, gates and hedges with just two with double gates. Equally, all had neatly trimmed, four foot high, private hedges between the gardens in the front with laurel hedges or varying heights between the houses in the back gardens. The slope of the back gardens to the south of ours increased considerably over the distance.
Across the road was a pair of semi-detached shops with a concrete forecourt raised some 18ins above the road level, with roughly 6ft. of compacted hardcore between the pavement and the forecourt. There was another house on the southern side of the shops with a mock Tudor facade, the house was almost hidden from the road behind a wicket fence and copper beaches. The next nearest house on that side of the road was well over a 100yds further down the road with a narrow copse of mainly small oak trees and hawthorn with one solitary gas street lamp set in the grass verge, which also had a drainage ditch running the full length of the woods. On the otherside of the shops was Ramalley Lane, which was a short gravel lane which gave access to brick built storage sheds at the end of the shops gardens and entrances to a couple of fields but also to a small thatched cottages on that side of the lane with another on the opposite side which housed three families, one of which was occupied by my uncle Mark, my fathers brother, and my aunt Lilly and their children Harold, Dorothy and Violet.
In Ramalley, the other cottage remained occupied by the Beckinham family until well after the war, when it was demolished to make way for a scout hut and half of its garden taken to make an entrance to a new cemetery where both my parents would later be buried. That cottage was also very small with the first floor window no more than 6ft. above the ground. On the northern side of the lane and extending roughly 200ft.or more up to the cottages was a copse of mature oak trees, the copse also bordered Hursley Road for probably 300ft. up to a track which lead to an area we called ‘The Green’. This copse must have once been a site for clay extraction as a number of these large oaks, stood on mounds with small ponds at their feet. There was a footpath through the copse, leading from opposite Common Road to a couple of farm labourers cottages. Where the track and the ‘Green’ bordered the copse was a steep embankment some 6/8ft. high which was obviously the extent of the clay pit. The ‘Green’ was an area of approximately 4 acres, where the local children could play, there was an area of rough scrubby grass with a large circular area in the middle where every year, up until the war, the locals would build a large bonfire to celebrate ‘Guy Faux’ night, with the result that the ground had become totally sterile and nothing would grow there. On the road side was a large area of gorse bushes, bordered by a row or young oak trees along the road side. On its northern side was another copse of mainly mature oak trees, between the road and arable farm land, which continued for some a quarter of a mile along Hursley Road. On the western side in line with the back of the farm cottage gardens was a hedge with an ungated entrance to field. The farm cottages which I have already mentioned bordered the southwest corner, where again the clay diggings had extended to their boundary leaving a steep bank across the fronts and down one side. Ramalley more or less terminated at the end of the cottage gardens where it continued as a track along side the furthest garden to reach the farm cottages and the ‘Green’ from their southern side.