A 1940’s/50’s childhood in Connaught Avenue and West Street by Gerry White
I was born in Connaught Avenue, Old Shoreham parish in 1938 and apart from the war years, lived and grew up in Old Shoreham. In 1946 the front gardens were still planted with vegetables. The big air raid shelter was in position on the green that separated the even number houses on the north side of the road from the odds on the south side. Orchard Close had not been built and the land was owned by the Worley family.
I am sure that so long as people continue to live in Shoreham there will always be characters around. Some memorable and maybe a few that are perhaps best forgotten. In the past I have just written the odd story about one or two individuals but I have now been asked to collate them into a story and this is it…….wish me luck!
In the south east corner of Mill Lane Cemetery, overlooking The Meads and backing onto a spur of Greenacres, is the grave of a French sailor formerly of the SS Lutetia, who died in 1919. There are no other gravestones near to this isolated stone cross marker, giving it rather a sad and lonely appearance, perhaps reflecting the nature of this sailor’s death, a young man from another country who lost his life under tragic circumstances.
The SS Arthur Wright was built by William Pickersgill & Sons at their Southwick, Sunderland yard in 1937 for the Brighton Corporation. It was a 1,097-ton vessel, the Corporation’s first collier, and used for conveying fuel to the electricity works at Portslade. Named after the first (1894) manager and engineer of the works (he also designed the first domestic supply meter) the Arthur Wright carried coal mainly from the Yorkshire and Welsh coalfields via the ports of Goole and Port Talbot.
The attached extract is from a book originally written by Fred Knight who was an ordinary soldier in the Canadian armed forces during WW1 and my grandfather. He was billeted close to Shoreham so his story compliments the information regarding the camp.
I had always been immensely proud of my grandfather who had fought bravely in WW1 and was therefore overjoyed when I was informed that a lost draft of his life story had been found and published by my cousin Graham.
While I found reading about his adventurous life a real pleasure, I was completely surprised to discover that he was billeted in the camp at Shoreham where I have lived for the past 25 years. He had talked fondly of his time in the area prior to being sent to France and so I am very pleased to have extracts from his WW1 soldering experiences placed on the Shoreham history website close to the information about the camp.
Following the commencement of hostilities Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of War and it was he that laid the format for the organisation of four separate armies. Shoreham with a railhead, seaport and airport in a strategic position on the south coast became the location for forming the 24th Division, part of Kitcheners Third Army or K3 as it was known..
Almost before the ink was dry on the recruiting posters men started arriving by rail at Shoreham and local territorial soldiers began creating a tented camp on the Oxen Field to the north of Mill Lane. The close proximity of the railway station to the field meant that heavy equipment could more easily be hauled there. Initially, there were no instructors to train the new recruits nor uniforms or small arms. The flood of men was so great that the churches and townsfolk were needed to assist with providing temporary housing and food for them. As new recruits continued to arrive it was not long before Buckingham Park was also being used as a tented army camp with a field kitchen and latrines dug to provide a modicum of hygiene. The local Territorial soldiers were engaged to set up the spacing for tentage and supervise raw recruits by organising swimming parties on the Beach and holding basic roll calls to keep unsworn trainees busy.
– the new school photographs and plans in 1936 with reminiscences of former pupils from the 1940’s to 1990’s
Built in 1936 on a five-acre site in Middle Road, Kingston, where the recreation ground is now but then in land that had largely been used as fruit orchards and nurseries by the Cook’s Jam Factory in Dolphin Road. Initially opened as a boys’ senior elementary school for 360 pupils it included a number of unusual features (for those days) in both design and construction. It was built of reinforced concrete and flat roofs to allow for future extensions to be placed on top of the ground floor building and enabled wider spans for rooms that, with the large Crittall windows also installed gave pupils and teachers a bright and spacious environment.
– a collection of images from the galleries and collections of shorehambysea.com illustrating the changes to the area since the 18th century.
What a wonderfully eccentric place it was! Besides a fascinating ropemaking and shipbuilding past there were, in Victorian times, ancient buildings still standing, quaint cottages, wharf houses, a gas works and, spookily, a mortuary alongside an incinerator! In the Little High Street there were peculiarly shaped houses and strange, shop-like windows.
It was never a fashionable area, being part industrial and part residential where the poorer, labouring families largely dwelt. In 1817 William Butler’s poor grammar described it as being “the lower ‘hend’ of town” and goes on to mention a ‘pour new’ shop where he had ‘connections’ with Sarah Fillaps. Something of a mystery and perhaps a pawn shop (a corruption of the French ‘for us’) or as William’s escapades suggest one of the numerous brothels in Shoreham port then?
During the early part of the 19th century Ropetackle included wharf houses, sheds, a brickyard, coal yard, a bonding pond, Thomas Clayton’s deal yard, his cement factory, stables, a mixture of 17th to 19th century houses and even a mill pond. By the Victorian era there was also a sewage plant and of course the gasworks, flint-built ware houses, incinerator and mortuary. It all added to a certain air of eeriness and mystery to the area.
For centuries Shoreham folk have earned a living from the sea and one hundred years or so ago the fishing families of Ratcliffe, Page, Laker and Maple were prominent. Perhaps the best known of them were the Maples who sold their fish and oysters from their shop at the west end of the High Street in one of the ancient cottages that once stood alongside the King’s Head pub. Continue reading “A Fisherman’s Tale – the Maple Family”