A study of the inhabitants of Mill Lane, Shoreham in 1939.
written by Jenny Elton
Following the onset of war in September in 1939 a Register was taken of the civilian population with the purpose of producing a National Identity card. Later it was to become multifunctional, first as an aid in the use of ration cards and later helping officials to record the movement of the civilian population over the following decades. From 1948 it formed the basis for the National Health Service Register. The data was collected on 29th September 1939.The following information was listed. Name, gender, date of birth, marital status, occupation, and whether a visitor, servant, patient, inmate or inferred family member and other members of the household.
This study and my personal connection.
As a family historian over a number of years I have often looked at data from the 1939 Register in the course of my research. I then turned my attention to the road I grew up in. I had spent the first 18 years of my life there and latterly a further 6 years with my own family. I knew it so well and of course many of the people living there in 1939 were still there in the 40s and 50s when I was growing up. I became interested to learn more about them and their lives.
The town and the road.
Shoreham-by-Sea is a coastal town in West Sussex. The town is bordered to its north by the South Downs and to its west by the Adur Valley and to its South by the river Adur and Shoreham beach on the English Channel. Its population in 1931 was 8,772.
Mill Lane was for hundreds of years, a bridleway linking Old Shoreham with New Shoreham. Most of the houses built in the upper half of the road studied were either detached, semi-detached apart from two bungalows. The land which had belonged to the Bridger family had been sold off and the properties were built in the 1930s and so were all relatively new at the time of the Register. Most of them had three bedrooms, a purpose-built bathroom, dining room, sitting room and kitchen. The gardens were of a good size and most of the properties had a garage attached. This reflected the fact that the ownership of a family car was at that time becoming more popular among the better off classes.
In all twenty houses and their occupants were studied. The details of five houses appear to have been damaged and one, number 23 had only part of the information available. Certain details have been redacted, people who may still be alive but were babies and children mainly.
This was otherwise known as Ashdene. The occupants of this bungalow on the day of the Register were a Welsh couple, William Owen (b1905), his wife Dorothy (b1913) and their infant son David. Bill’s occupation is listed as scrap iron and general waste merchant, whilst his wife is listed as domestic duties. Also living there were three single women, all schoolteachers. They were Mary Howsam (b1905), Violet Rolfe (b1904) and Eleanor Stock (b1906). All were tenants of William Paine who owned the property, a three-bedroom detached bungalow. He lived further up the road at number 33 the only other bungalow in the road.
Built in 1934, it was to this home that I arrived as a newborn baby some 2 years after the Register was taken. By then all the previous tenants had moved on and my parents George and Betty Thomson had taken over the tenancy from their friends Bill and Dorothy Owen in July1941. They had moved into a larger home in the nearby Upper Shoreham Road. All the teachers had moved on, one of the three marrying in1940. So it was that my parents were to live there for the rest of their lives for nearly 43 years. In 1949 after 8 years of tenancy Bill Paine wanted to sell the property and he gave them first option to buy. At that time only 23 % of population were homeowners and this was a big step to take but they did, and never regretted it. Both were self-employed hairdressers and with a joint effort they obtained a mortgage enabling them to make the purchase at just over 1000 pounds.
At this address Hannibal Osborne (b1899) was the only occupant listed that September day. Following the announcement of war with Germany he had sent his wife Eileen (b1900) and three-year-old daughter to stay for a while with his parents in Penzance. Ossie, as he was always known to friends, was for many years, the Deputy Headmaster at the boys Secondary School. A proud Cornish man, he named his home Chy and Brae, house on the hill. In May 1940, following an appeal by the Government, Ossie joined the newly formed Home Guard As the only member of those who had volunteered who had had any military experience, he was to lead the platoon, whose primary job was to guard the local airport. They also took part in the demolition of many of the bungalows on Shoreham beach. Ossie’s wife Eileen (b1900) had been born in Shoreham and had a part Cornish heritage. An accomplished pianist, she gave piano lessons in their home. Ossie retired when he was 50 years old and died in 1964 but Eileen remained at the house until 1966, when she moved to Winchester to be near her daughter.
Another detached house was the dwelling of Arthur Bibby (b1893) and his wife Florence (b1892). Arthur recorded his occupation as a research engineer and draughtsman. He and Florence had married shortly before the end of WW1.Their only child, a daughter Wendy (b1923) was living with them. It is probable that Arthur was working at nearby Ricardo, an engineering research company, located at nearby Shoreham Airport. He is also recorded on the Register as being an ARP warden at the First Aid Post. Arthur and Florence moved on later, for they were recorded as living in Clacton on Sea, at the time of his death there, at the age of 54 years in 1947.
George Butcher (b1869) and his 2nd wife Nora were living here together in another detached house. Together with his first wife Edith, George had raised 4 children including Katherine Ruth, a State Registered Nurse, who was also residing at number 31. A married daughter Mary Edith Jones was visiting at the time of the Register together with her young son Martin, just a year old. George was the minister at the local Congregational Church in Gordon Road for many years. He died in 1952. Nora lived on in the house until her death in1965.
Next door was the bungalow owned by William Paine (b1876) who also owned No 25 as previously mentioned. He lived there with his wife Lilian (b1884) and his unmarried sister Gladys (b1881). Their only daughter Dorothy Catherine (b1909) was by this time living independently elsewhere. William, known as Bill, had been born and raised in Brighton. His entire working life apart from serving in the Army during WW1, was for the Brighton Corporation firstly as an office clerk. He worked his way up the ladder in the building and surveying department. Interestingly Bill bought two plots in Mill Lane, when the land was being sold off. Bungalows were built on each site One for rental and the other for himself and family. In 1949 when he sold Ashdene to my parents he also sold his own bungalow and then moved into town and into a historic old property in Church Street. The couple lived out the rest of their lives at number 9 there. Bill died in a Hove nursing home aged 84 in 1960 just six months after Lilian. Sister Gladys predeceased them in1955.
In this semidetached house lived Mary Ann Child (b1843) and her niece Janie (b1886). The Child family had lived in Shoreham for over a hundred years. Mary Ann’s father Francis had left his hometown of Newhaven when he was appointed as an Accredited Trinity Pilot at Shoreham. His wife May gave birth to six children, Mary Ann being the 3rd.On of the two sons Alfred, qualified as a Master Mariner. In1884 he married a young English woman Mary Jane, who was residing in Antwerp.They married in the office of the British Legation in Brussels. In December 1886 Mary Jane, known as Janie, gave birth to the couples first child a daughter. Sadly, just six days after delivery she died. She was buried in the churchyard of the local parish church St Mary de Haura and her baby was named after her, Janie. She was brought up by grandmother and maiden Aunt Mary Ann. After her grandmother’s death she remained with her Aunt. It is likely that they were the first owners of the property, built about 1935.Janies father Alfred lived locally and died in 1909 and was buried in the New Cemetery sited behind the gardens of the houses on the left side of the road heading north. Janie listed her occupation as a professional musician and an organist. She also taught the piano. By 1939 her Aunt was a 96-year-old invalid. In 1941 she passed away. After the War Janie left Shoreham where she had lived all her life and moved to Cornwall where she died in1973.
Next door to the Child’s resided Robert Thomas (b1874) and his wife Ada Rebecca (b1985). Also living with them were Tom Barton (b1855) and his wife Elener (b1864)., and their single daughter Alice (b1887). Both the Thomas’s and the Bartons were by 1939 retired. They had both previously lived for many years in Clapham, London. Robert was the son of a Methodist Minister and had hailed from Yorkshire. Trained as an engineer, most of his working life had been as an officer in the London Tramways Department. Tom was born in Ryde, IOW. After arriving in London as a young man, he became involved with the work of the London City Mission. He eventually became a full time Missioner for many years. It is likely that they both met through their Christian affiliation. The relationship was further cemented when Robert married Tom and Elener’s eldest daughter Ada. So it was that in 1939 Tom and his wife, were living with their daughter and son in law together with their unmarried daughter Alice. She was employed as a railway clerk. Tom passed away the following year. The Thomas’s lived on in the house until their deaths in the 1960s.
This attractive detached house is quite different in style to most of the other properties in the road. It belonged to Charles George Cheesman (b1877) and his 2nd wife Alice (b1896) and their daughter Pamela (b1930). Born and bred in Shoreham, Charles had worked in the building trade all his life. At the time of the Register, he is described as a self-employed builder with two employees. It is therefore likely that the house was built by him for his family when plots became available. In 1940 he died leaving his wife and 10-year-old daughter. Alice remarried a few years later.
Hubert H Collins b (1901) and his wife Margaret (b1901) had occupied this detached house since1935, most probably the year it was built. Originally from London, the couple had moved to Mill Lane from 2 Connaught Ave where they had been living when they first moved to Shoreham. Their daughter Stella (b1931) was also living there. Their only son Michael had died aged 5 years old in 1933. Hubert had trained as a chemist and was working as a research laboratory assistant at the Engineering Research Company, Ricardo. A year after the Register was taken the family moved to Oxford.
ELM VILLA Jason Rabson (b1859) was living at this address with his younger daughter Winifred (b1900). in 1939. Jason had worked in the grocery business all his working life and at the age of 80 he lists his occupation as a grocery accountant. Winifred was a draper’s assistant and housekeeper, taking care of her father. Jason had come to Shoreham from Kent many years before when he married a local woman. They had firstly lived in John Street, at 5 St John’s Terrace. It is likely he moved to number 40 when it was newly built in the mid 30s. He lived the rest of his life there until his death at the age of 93 years.
This semi-detached house was the home of Ernest Upperton (b1889), his wife Lily (b1890) and their daughter Maisie (b1917). Ernest worked for the Civil Service as the chief sorting clerk in the telegraph offices in Brighton. Maisie too had a clerical job, working in the Post Office She married Jack Mobsby the following year and continued to live in Shoreham. Three other occupants are listed at this address. Their details have been redacted so it is likely that they were evacuees.
Mrs Annie Blanche Burke (b1887) was living in this semi-detached home in 1939. A widow, she had a friend Elsie Bracher (b 1896) and her daughter Barbara (1929) staying there with her at the time of the Register. Perhaps they had left their Thornton Heath home temporarily when War was declared or else were on holiday, for Elsie’s husband, a qualified chemist, remained in their London home. Annie remained in her home until her death in 1971.
At this detached home lived Ernest Parker (b1904) and his wife Dorothy (b1910) Ernest lists his occupation as a self-employed builder and Dorothy as unpaid domestic duties. Another woman, Dorothy Bishop (1904) is also listed at this address. She is there with her two young children, Christopher (b1935) and Barbara (b1938) She may have been a tenant or maybe a relative of the Parkers. A son was later born to the -Parkers in 1943.
In this detached three-bedroom house lived a widow, Edith Brazier (b1874) and Alice May Payne (b1893). At the time of the register 9-year-old Constance Brooks (from Croydon) and another child whose details have been redacted were also living there. They were most probably evacuees. Edith was the daughter of a well-known local butcher William Snelling. She had been born in Shoreham. In 1901 she married Frederick Brazier a prosperous provision merchant whose business was in Albion Street, Southwick. He died in 1924 leaving Edith very comfortably off. It is probable that she was in a position to buy No 48 when it was built. Alice Payne (always known as May) was a single lady who shared her home and worked from home as a dressmaker. In 1959 following Edith’s death, may move from Mill Lane to live in Victoria Road. May was sister of Lily Upperton of No 42.
John Boniface (b1869) and his wife Mary (1864) lived at this detached property. John was a farm manager whilst his wife, as most of the married wives in this survey listed their occupation as domestic duties. They later moved to Henfield. John died in1942 and his wife 7 years later. The house was later sold to the police force and became the home for the local police inspectors for a number of years after that.
This was otherwise known as Duncton Villa. This 3-bedroom semi-detached house was occupied by Isaac T Woolgar (b1872), his wife Thirza, known as Lotte, and their son and daughter Elizabeth (Betty) b (1920)) and Harry (b1921). Isaac was a retired Naval Warrant Officer with over 20 years service who listed his present occupation as an engine fitter and turner. This was Isaac’s 2nd marriage. His first one had ended in divorce, a rare occurrence in 1916. Only the husband could act as the petitioner at that time and the only grounds were a wife’s adultery. He and Lotte were married in the Baptist Chapel in Shoreham in April 1918. At the time of the Register daughter Betty was an art student and Harry are listed as incapacitated. He remained thus for many more years and was pushed around in a wheelchair until his mother died in 1964.After that he got up and made a life for himself as a painter and decorator. Betty married George Bishop and remained in the house for many years They had a daughter.
This was the home of Emily Mills (b 1874), Clara Mills (b1884) and May Pearce (b 1884) All three were schoolteachers. Also listed at this address was Edith Cheeseman (b 1906) whose occupation is listed as a maid or domestic servant. The Mills sisters were both born and raised in Brighton and begun their teaching careers at the age of 16. At the time of the Register Emily was a retired Head Teacher and sister Clara was the head teacher at St Nicholas C of E school. May most probably worked at the same small school in Old Shoreham, just a 15-minute walk away from their home.
Edwin Short (b 1868) and his wife Elizabeth (b1870) lived at this house together with their daughter Greta C L (b1893). Edwin lists his occupation as a retired printer. His wife states her domestic duties as her occupation but their daughter lists none. Edwin had emigrated to Australia as a young man and married there. Both of the couple’s children were born there. A return to England by 1901 lasted until a further return to Australia where Edwin served for a very short time in the military there during WW1.After the war they returned again to England and eventually returned to settle in Edwin’s native West Country.
Robert Spackman (b 1906) and his wife Dorothy (b 1910) were living at this address together with one other person, a possible evacuee. Robert was a dairyman listed as Master, so was owner of his business which was located in the High Street in Shoreham. Heavy worker is written beside his occupation. He is mentioned in the Register as being a special constable, whilst his wife is a Red Cross Nurse. This marriage came to an end later on during the war. Dorothy returned to her parents’ home in Hendon, where she remained for many years. Robert remarried in 1944. He died in1996 in Horsham.
This detached chalet bungalow stands on the junction of Mill Lane and the Upper Shoreham Road It was aptly named Crossways. Percy Payne (b 1888) and his wife Minnie (b 1887) lived there together with their daughter Eileen (b 1914). Also, there are four redacted persons (probably evacuees) and two other women Kate Eastland (b1885) a widow and a probable sister-in-law Edith Eastland b (1889). Percy is listed as a self-employed builder and decorator. His wife Minnie lists her domestic duties as her occupation. Daughter Eileen is recorded as a builder’s clerk., whist Edith Eastland is a watchmaker. After the war, the Paynes left Crossways and moved to Southdown Road where further properties were built by the Paynes in that road, including one for daughter Eileen, who married Ray Edwards of Western Road. Minnie sister Florence (b1880) lived with her husband in a neighbouring house in the Upper Shoreham Road. His occupation was painter and decorator.
FAITH AND FAMILY
In 1941 when parents moved to Shoreham my mother began attending the Baptist Church in Western Road. As a Londoner at first, she found it difficult to fit in and make friends She commented to me that everyone seemed to belong to at least one of several Shoreham born families who had inter married, through their Chapel connection.
This fact was born out in the very road, Mill Lane in which she lived.
A Jonathan Willett (b1839) moved to Shoreham from Brighton as a newly married man. A carpenter by trade, together with his wife Ann, they raised twelve children. Two sons followed their fathers trade which led into building and also a winter occupation was that of being a local undertaker. William, one of the sons became well established in Shoreham as just that. He was a member at the Baptist Chapel serving as a deacon for many years His sister Minnie, the second youngest, married Percy Payne, another member of the church and a builder by trade. Florence another Willett daughter married Frank Smart. They lived next door to, Percy and Minnie lived at 60 Mill Lane, Crossways The property was aptly named, standing at the easterly junction of The Upper Shoreham Road and Mill Lane. In the 1950s they moved to Southdown Road where later Percy built a bungalow and 4 semi detached houses, one of which was for daughter Eileen and her husband Ray.
Percy and May Payne (No48) were probably either first or second cousins, both growing up in the small village of Kingston on sea at the same time. Edith Brazier was the daughter of William Snelling. A butcher in the High Street. He was one of the founder members of the Baptist church so perhaps May knew Edith through their Church affiliation. Mays sister Lily who lived three doors away had married Ernest Upperton. They too were both members of the Baptist community as was their daughter Maisie. The Brazier family was linked to Ernest Upperton as his mother was a Brazier before her marriage. Next door to them lived Jason Rabson. He too was a long-standing member and had previously lived a few doors away from Jonathan Willett in St John’s Terrace John Street.
Shoreham was a small town of some 8000 souls in the 1931 Census. House building and all the trades associated with it were growing fast in that decade and it is interesting to note that many of previous job descriptions in the Census returns in the 1800s were mainly linked to the sea and river. Boat building, sail making, oyster farmers, mariners and jobs related to the port were common. They were gradually to decline. New houses were needed to accommodate a growing population. Shoreham was beginning to be popular with people commuting to Brighton, and London. The boom would of course, come to a crashing end in1939. It was to take several years after the War to begin again. By the mid 1950s the town’s population had swelled to approximately 17,240 more than doubling in just 20 years.
Jenny Elton 2021