The Church played a considerable part in our lives and the family were members of the Old Meeting House Congregational Church. My parents were married there and my Sister and I were christened by the Rev’d Luther Bouch. From the age of five we were taken to Sunday School each Sunday morning and again in the afternoon. At the end of Sunday school in the morning the children filed into the Church but only stayed for the first half of the service; we came out prior to the sermon. When Mother couldn’t take us in the mornings we were taken by Eva Keen, Ethel and Win Bright or Vera Newport; all lived locally to us. From about seven onward I was able to go alone.
There was a considerable social side to the Church in those days. There was an annual outing usually to the seaside, such as Worthing, Littlehampton and Bognor. Also there were smaller outings to places such as Burnham Beeches, Newlands Corner or Boxhill. To take us on these outings Gregories charabancs were used, and they were open-topped with a canopy that could be pulled up if it rained. It had no side windows so one hoped the rain would come down straight, not to be blown sideways. Boys club took place each, Tuesday evening in the Sunday School building. We were well equipped for gymnastics, having a vaulting horse, horizontal and parallel bars etc. Len Fountain of Hillingdon House Farm was our instructor.
We also used to play games of various kinds. I also learned to play billiards as there was a billiard table in one of the rooms behind the stage. The Church had tennis courts behind the Sunday school and therefore a keen tennis club. We had a very good choir, and apart from singing on Sundays they also gave concerts, usually an oratorio. There was, of course, a girls club. When I was nine or ten I was asked to blow the organ. I did this for some years. The organists were Norman Tyrell and Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor (Wife of Fred Taylor who was the Sunday School Superintendent). It was useful, as when blowing for Weddings I would often be given a Florin or Half-crown.
From a very early age we played tops out in the road. There were two types of top, the Carrot top, shaped like a carrot and the T top, which I preferred. These tops were spun by a whip and then were gradually whipped up the road. There were, of course, contests to see who could make the top jump furthest. Hoops were also an attraction. There were wooden hoops and steel ones. These were approximately two feet in diameter and were bowled by hitting them with a stick or pushing them along with a stiff wire hook.
Playing cigarette cards was another pastime, there were various games: on tops, unders and knock the card down which was propped up against a wall. From the age of eight children were able to join the Uxbridge Library club. The library then had recently moved into the old Cowley Road School. A very young Miss Humphreys read stories to us, and advised on which books we should read.
When I f first went to Whitehall School there was only the infants school. At the rear of the playground was a tall fence, behind which were fields. In the summer for nature study we were taken out into the playground and through a green gate into the field. Here we were taught about the different wild flowers, and we were not encouraged to call them weeds. Whilst still in the infants school Rabbs Mill was burned down (February 1928). We were able to watch that from the school windows, having a very good view as my classroom was then upstairs.
By the time I was eight the senior school had been built (28th August 1928) and so instead of going to Cowley Road School, we went to the new school. On the Rockingham Road side of the River Frays, behind the Prince of Wales pub and the cottages that side of the road, was Beasley the iron founders. They cast many parts for agricultural machinery which was made by several companies locally.
Beasley’s owned a small field adjacent to the foundry buildings. They used to put unwanted large pieces of equipment out in the field, so this was an ideal playground for children and the owners did not mind us using it. This area was known locally as ‘The Old Irons’. We got up to all sorts of things there. The most popular being digging large holes and using old corrugated iron for a roof, these were our caves. Lighting bonfires was, of course, very popular. When we were a little older and had bicycles, what better place to make a race track and for good measure put some ramps in it to see who could jump the furthest. I mentioned the allotments earlier. These did not last long in my life.
Came the day when it was decided to make the Fassnidge Memorial Ground. I remember watching two great agricultural engines, one each side of the area. There was a four-bladed plough which was pulled from side to side by the engines with a heavy hawser loop. They leveled the whole area in two days.
The Fassnidge Memorial Ground was opened on 27th October, 1926. At a later date the Rockingham recreation ground was leveled, but this time by a traction engine with a gyro tiller at its rear. This consisted of a number of blades mounted vertically on a heavy wheel, the blades were then pushed into the ground and the wheel was rotated as the engine went along. A large number of allotments were lost in forming these two recreation grounds.
This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of Look-In, our monthly church magazine. To download the full issue, please click here: Look-In Apr-16
This article is part of an ongoing series. Please click the links below to read previous parts of the story.