Brompton Oral Histories 2

HLF Project
Royal Engineers Museum,
Library & Archive

Oral History Interview 13.01.12 (2)

I’d better ask your name.

My name is Simon Finch. I was born in 1963. I’m forty eight now and I’ve always lived in Brompton until today. I’m just trying to say what to think. That’s it I think.

My name is Beryl Hawkes. I was born Badett, Beryl Badett, I lived in there till I was ten years old and then moved to Beatty Avenue and went to Barnsley Road School when I was ten.

My name is Doris Southgate, nee Giles. I was born at 21 River Street in 1937 in Old Brompton.

Now what we’re trying to do is gather people’s memories of the place and what you can recall about the area. And is there anyone that would like to start off?

Simon Finch  Well I’ll start and see if … I was born in 1963. I’ve always lived in Brompton. My mother maiden name was Mary Furlong; she was brought up in Brompton since about 1934. She grew up with three sisters, Margaret, Rose – sorry, two sisters, Margaret and Rose and one brother, Norman who’s no longer with us. My mother has fond memories of Brompton as back in during the war and after the war, you know, the late sixties, it was always a sense of community. So she knows outstanding, sorry not outstanding, but she knows people – family names – that lived in Brompton at the time. She remembers the accident down in Dock Road which involved the young marine cadets. She remembers a few sort of bombs going off during the war and people hence losing their life.

Beryl Hawkes I’m Beryl. I lived in Brompton from a young age. I’m not really sure, two, three years, and we lived in Middle Street. And my brother was one of the cadets that died in the Dock Road disaster and he was only ten at the time. My mother used to love living in Brompton cos she knew everybody around there and there was lots of shops and things that we could go to. And I used to come up to the Sally Port Garden way and we used to take a picnic up there, a bottle of lemonade and sandwiches and stuff that my mum packed up. And we used to pick buttercups and daisies and make [laughing] chains, daisy chains and that. That’s one of my fond memories and that. We used to be very good at that.

Doris Southgate I’ve got no memories of my grandmother but she used to have a great – you know, my grandmother, me mother’s mum – she had a little tearoom in Westcourt Street in the 1920s. My mother married my dad who was in the army and they had twelve children, six boys and six girls, which I’m next to youngest. No help from anybody. But I’ve got a lot of lovely memories of Old Brompton. We had no trouble in, you know, there was a lot of big families in Old Brompton and so there was no trouble. We used to go to the Emmanuel Hall Sunday School. We were christened in Holy Trinity Church. Most of my brothers and sisters went to the school, the Church of England school, and I went there. On a Sunday we used to have long walks. This is, I believe, after the war, we used to have long walks to Rochester. Cos no-one played – you had your best clothes on on a Sunday – no-one played games. We used to go for walks or to Rochester Castle or Sun Pier. We also used to go up the buttercup field which is a field, part of the Garrison Church. Or the Walnut Field which is near the Church of England School and Trinity Church. And we used to go up the Lines which is a lot different today. There was no houses built on the Lines at all. Ah, so much. And the community was like, as I say, it was called either the Village or the Holy City. And I think that was all to do with all the parades and the army and the navy used to go to church, you know, they had to go to church, I think, in them days. And, as I say, my sister Miriam used to make a sledge and in Westcourt Street the hill used to go down very steep and we used to go down on a sledge with them. All the kids used to have little sledges going down there. Oh there’s lots I could say …

Was that regardless of whether it was snowing or not, just like a …?

Oh no, no, there’s got to be snow, there’s got to be snow on there. It is a – I think we had a cart, no car …

I see. I was just thinking of the carts that used to get made in the fifties, you know.

The carts, yeah, we had one o’ them but … and we were on this sledge and we used to … people … some o’ the lads had backs of chairs they used to go, you know, the old wooden chairs they used to go down the hill on that. I’ve talked too much. Oh there’s lots I want to say but I can’t think at the moment.

Not to worry, we’ll come back. If you could just give me your name and where you used to live?

It’s Chris Cabella [ph] now. I used to live in River Street opposite the Royal Marine Public House. So I lived there, we moved there in 1946 when I was five years old cos my mother evacuated herself. Previously to that she’d lived with my grandmother. That was Mrs Hookins [ph] on the corner of Middle Street and River Street. And when I was six years old, or five years old, we moved back to Brompton because dad had gone in the dockyard to work and I started school at Brompton then. I was just laughing with one of the other ladies there that she was at Brompton School and we were saying about the teachers there. And Mr Llewellyn, he taught my father. He was Welsh and he was forever telling us that Welsh … we didn’t sing like the Welsh children. And all he ever taught us was multiplication and long division. And if it got to, you know, getting on in the afternoon he had this great long table with a box of chalk in the front and he’d throw a piece of chalk out and if you caught it he’d say “Alright, you can go now. Go quietly. Don’t let anybody else know”. And that’s it, we was all out of his class before the school had finished. And at one time there were still air raid shelters in the school and it was slope, there was a playground at the bottom, then you went up a slope and there was another playground at the top. And it was the top playground that had the air raid shelters in it. And we used to play kiss chase in the land round there. And he caught us once and we had to go in, stand up on the old desks, you know, the old seat with the desk in front, just stand up on the seats and he came round and hit us all on the back o’ the leg with a ruler and told us never to do it again. [laughing] And it was something I’ve never forgotten. But lots of good things in Brompton. Families knew each other. You all went to school with each other and you played in the streets and, you know, we used to play cricket on the old bit o’ ground at the back that was we shouldn’t have gone on but we did. You know, and play ball and go up the Lines – another place where we shouldn’t be going [laughing] but we used to go, you know. Oh and it was just lots of friends there. Every family seemed to know the other families so they’d all, you know.

It was definitely from today, the sense of community was overwhelming.

Chris Cabella Oh it was yeah. Although I was, and I still [laughing], I was never allowed to have a bike because if you’ve seen the old Vettle [ph] tapes and things when the dockyard workers came out it was just one mass of cycles. And because of the hills my mother said “You’re not having a bike”. And every year I used to say “Can I have a bike for Christmas?”, “No”, I never got a bike. So I still can’t ride a bike. I’ve never had a bicycle.

I hear you said that you had a bike [inaud]?

Do you remember the air raids that when we were at school we had to go out at certain times of the day and they made us march out into these places where we had to go just so that we knew what we were going to do …

What like a drill?

If there was an air raid any time. And I can remember that and our teacher used to have a cane but I never had it [laughing] but some of them did and they used to get it across the hand if [inaud]

How old were you then?

Well I must have been five by then mustn’t I? School time. But it’s just memories coming back then.

And Navy Days. Because where we lived in River Street we looked straight out onto Dockyard Walk and I always remember sitting up in the bedroom and watching out the window and watching everybody going down to Navy Days, you know. And the Royal Marines, if you knew they was marching, you was out like a shot by the main gate watching the Royal Marines. No, it was really good.

I’m going to ask you the same question, which is when we have our discussions as a group there are as many people that are adamant that the mace wasn’t thrown over the top when the Royal Marines were marching as people that have seen it. So when the drum major would march along to do the Sunday church parade and then he would throw up the mace and catch it …

Yeah, they used to catch it, yeah.


Can anybody remember seeing that happen?


Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Yeah? Definitely?

Yeah, oh yeah.

Good cos it’s helping squash [inaud] [laughing]

And my grandmother, my mother, used to clean the church, Brompton Church. I think my granddad was, he used to go – I don’t know if he was the Verger or something up there – he used to go up there. I must admit I never went to that church although my grandmother was very keen for me to go. She used to send the Sunday school teacher round. And the more determined she was [laughing] the more determined I was. I do go to church now but not to the … I go to a Methodist church. But I was very adamant I wasn’t going to go to that church. I’ve still got my father’s bible when he took communion at the Holy Trinity Church.

We were all christened there, all us, in Trinity Church.

My parents were married at that church.

Because, very kindly, the Royal Engineers are hosting us to be here today. Have any of you got any memories of the army in Brompton?

Yeah, yeah, well they were always marching through the … and also the fights [laughing] with the navy and the army. [laughing] I got into trouble once. I was, I don’t know how old I was, maybe fifteen or sixteen. There was, I don’t know if it was the sailors hitting a soldier or a soldier hitting a sailor. I’m not sure, but I phoned up the police and he said … Cos, you know, I must have been about sixteen. And they said “Well what’s your name?” I said … And being honest you give ‘em the name. And they came round and knocked on my door and my … cos not that I actually have had anything to do with, you know, anything like that, but I didn’t want my dad to know that I’d phoned up the police, you know, of a bit o’ trouble. And they came to the door and I explained what happened. But there was loads of fights and the military police used to come up and, you know. I mean I’m only little, you know. There wasn’t no big bunkers [ph] but, you know, the fights and all that. But, yeah, as I say, we loved it. I loved living in Brompton, I really loved it. As I say, it was a village, it was your home.

What would be a favourite memory if you had to pick a favourite memory, have you got a particular one that would stand out?

I’ve got a sad one, not a favourite one, but during the war we always had to – we lived in a big house and had it been there today they would have pulled it down cos it had shuttered windows – and when the air raid started we had to go down to the cellar, you know, down to the cellar. And I used to think, hearing the aeroplanes, that if my mum and dad … I know I was only little but I thought if they died I wanted to die the same time. I know it’s silly but I wanted to die the same time, the same minute as my mum and dad. Cos, you know, I didn’t want to be on my own. And that’s silly. I know it’s silly but I loved them so much I didn’t want to … Yeah, cos you haven’t got memories of fighting and things like that, I know what you say, but you’ve got the war, you know a little bit about the war, you know. And that was one of my memories.

The emotions of children are different to the ones as adults definitely.

Simon Finch  I was going to say something from my childhood that I remember from the army is attending the Army Days which was normally for two days I believe. But also that, being a child, that I was able to come into the Barracks, go to the stables, ride, look after the horses. And also they had hounds that they would bring out and take around the Lines etc. And also with the horses they used to be in the paddocks opposite the school, Trinity School I believe, and sadly that’s gone.

And the kennels, where were the kennels?

The stables and the kennels were next door to each other in the army barracks towards the Khyber Path area of the thing. So they had many horses there. There was one called Jericho, there was one called Grenade, there was a horse called Flash. So, you know, it was nice as a child that you had that experience of mixing with the horses and, you know, seeing the hounds in the kennels right next door in the army barracks.

They used to be in that field there. There used to be slopes like that, you’d go up from one field to the other. I think it was exercises. I don’t know if it was the first world war or the second world war, in the Walnut Field, what we called the Walnut Field. They used to be like that. Do you remember Beryl?

Beryl Yeah, yeah.

Like that during the war.

Simon Finch  And also my mum, who was born in 1934, remembers the Walnut Field and collecting walnuts. But sadly, you know, the walnuts, or the trees, seem to have disappeared over time.

There used to be a rope, we used to swing on a rope.

Oh yes, from the trees. [laughing] We used to like that, we wasn’t …

The army [inaud] that we used to swing on. There was air raid shelters in there as well.

Yeah but we wasn’t supposed to be there then was we? We often used to go up there and get the rope and swing round the tree.

Male voice. What I can remember is the Royal Marines when they last – because they closed down in 1950 didn’t they? – I can remember that last day they were parading from the dockyard church along Chatham and I can also remember, that was 1950, then they came back in 1971 and repeated the same thing, going from the dockyard church and having a parade in Chatham and beating the drums because they had freedom of Chatham didn’t they? I can remember that, you know, sort of [inaud] 1951. And you say about the mace being thrown. I 've always wondered how often, did it every hit the arch? I don’t know.

I’ve not to date had a report where he ever missed it. He always caught it.

Male  In the, yes, that’s what I understand. But I could always remember sort of walking or running along and us trying to see if he’s going to miss it this time.

I was gathering collections of memories from somebody one time and a whole family would walk from Streed [ph] to be able to watch the Royal Marines parade on a Sunday in Chatham.

Mmm, we used to go down and watch it.

Yeah. So can anybody remember how many people would be gathered to watch this? It became a spectacle didn’t it?

Well we – sorry – we used to go down there. Me dad used to take us down there to watch. Cos this is a picture of there. Do you remember how it used to be?

Male voice Oh the Old Brompton, yes.

And the parade guy was down here.

Male voice Yes, that’s right yes.

Well we used to go down there. You could stand outside. You didn’t go in. You could stand outside and watch him play there.

Male voice And of course I can also remember behind it was a lovely little Royal Marines theatre wasn’t there?

There was a theatre down there, yeah, there was a theatre.

It’s still there isn’t it?

Male voice Oh no, it’s been taken away.

Has it been taken away?

Male voice Oh yeah, it’s been all pulled down.

Yeah I’ve been there.

It was down a little road wasn’t it, down a side road.

Male voice  Yeah because the [inaud] school years ago used to always use it for their Gilbert & Sullivan operas. But I forget the name of the theatre now. Was it Globe Theatre?

It was the Globe Theatre yes. The little one, just down the hill.

Male voice That’s right.

Didn’t realise it was there. I don’t think a lot of people knew it was there. I don’t know.

Yeah there was a theatre down there.

Simon Finch  I think, if I’m thinking of the same place, but the outer wall is still there.

Male voice No.

Well no, nothing’s there.

Male voice No nothing’s there.

Nothing there at all

Male voice No, no, no, it’s where Lloyds and the Council hold …

And the garage is

Male voice It’s still got the army on the other side.

And you go up the road like that and that bit up here is like the hospital. It used to be Melville Hospital for the REs.

Yeah that’s why they still call it Melville Court.

Now my mother was an outworker for sewing and making the Royal Marines uniforms.

Oh right.

So she would bring the uniforms into the barracks. So you’ve got all sorts of memories, all sorts of shops and trades in there. So what can you remember about Brompton as a trading area, so people working and …?

Oh right, we had Honeyset’s [ph] on the corner, they had military, all military uniforms. Oh there’s lots of shops and that that are there. We Cooper’s, it’s in here actually, one o’ these, Cooper’s the fish shop next door.

There was two fish shops wasn’t there?

No, a wet fish shop it was. Then you had a greengrocers.


Oh yeah, Friends and somebody’s. Oh you had lots, yeah, laundry. We had a post office, we had

Male voice [inaud] and a florist.

I think there was but when we were little, when we were little, you know.

You remember where the sweets were. [laughing]

Pocock’s [ph] and Ball’s [ph], yeah they were the sweet shop. The British Legion up there.

Post Office.

Yeah, post office.

Mr Fencemore [ph].

Mrs Stiff [ph] used to sell the bread. Do you remember up the road?

Yeah. And there was that one, was it Wilson’s? One of the girls that lived there, he had his daughter there making the …

And there was also a chap used to come round on a Saturday or a Sunday with his shrimps all in cupfuls and whatever.

Oh yeah, oh yeah. And actually I know his, it was actually a woman and all, Mrs Uttey [ph] who used to live in the Grasshopper. Mrs – a little short woman – they had a monkey, I remember something about a monkey.

I don’t remember the monkey but I remember the shrimps.

No, it was a woman, the old lady that used to … it was her grandmother that used to do the, sell shrimps and things like that. I can’t think of her name.

Simon Finch  Talking about Brompton High Street and coming slightly more up to date there are a few shops that I do remember. A hardware shop that was owned by the proprietor of the King George.

[inaud] that lady sitting up there actually.

Simon Finch  Also there was Frane’s [ph] that I remember. And then there was Pat and Ron Deacon that owned a newsagents and then one door but one was Billy Fowler’s parents, they used to run a newsagents.

Yeah that’s right.

Simon Finch  I think there was an old grocers called … and the woman in the grocers was called Hetty I believe. Also over the years as it’s changed there’s been antique shops, there’s been a few caffs. And also on my mum’s side that a friend of hers owned a caff and she would have a piano inside the caff so if you wanted to play a tune on the piano you could do. And I remember a fish shop which was run by Bakers. That was a lovely fish shop. I remember the post office on the corner of the High Street on Wood Street run by Rodney and Diane Chambers who still live in Brompton.

There was a bargain shop wasn’t there just round the corner where they sold bikes and bits and pieces.

Male voice And didn’t they have Farrow’s [ph] the chemist at some time?

Yes, it’s here. I’ve got that.  May and Farrow’s [ph] the Chemist, where is it? There it is. Farrow’s the Chemist.

Male voice Oh yes, that’s right, yeah, yes.

Yeah Farrow’s the Chemist, yeah. Oh that little book shop.

And you’ve done your family history research, so you’ve got …?

Harry Lucas Oh I’ve been speaking to … yes. I’ve done a lot actually of the family history cos my – I was speaking to you before but I don’t know if it came out on that machine –

No it didn’t.

This is all new.

But there was such a hubbub in the background, that’s why I’ve decanted you into here.

Harry Lucas Yes, both my grandparents on my mum’s side, that was Moorhen [ph] the Photographers at 6 High Street, Old Brompton. And on the opposite side was number 5, Lucas, it’s got it there if you look, 6 High Street Old Brompton, Lucas, a general shop. And Wright’s the laundry pick up place. They did laundry. It started off, although it’s not on there, at 30 High Street but they moved to 5 High Street later on. She’d run the shop as a general shop as well as a laundry pick up point. And I was actually born in Middle Street, Old Brompton, in 1935. I have a twin brother, David, and I have an older brother, Leon, and we were all born in Middle Street. And my parents were married in Holy Trinity Church and us boys were all baptised in Holy Trinity Church as well. So …

Sorry, what is your name?

My name is Lucas, it’s Harry Thomas Lucas, it’s 5 Hudd [ph] Street on that. That’s my grandfather there. And William Moorhead [ph] was the photographers shop at 6 High Street.

I find it fascinating the idea of the photographers shop cos when you look through your own family histories and things there’s always this photograph somewhere isn’t it where somebody would have had to have taken them, made the appointments, got them in there, got them out again, processed them. It must have been quite fascinating.

Harry Lucas  The photography business was really run by Matilda, his wife, my grandfather’s … my grandmother. Because my grandfather became a civil servant and he worked up as a photographer at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich for many years. So his wife ran the business with the help of their daughters at number 6 High Street. So that’s an interesting thing. Of course when Matilda had died in 1918. She died of what was the flu epidemic.

Spanish, yeah, after the war.

Harry Lucas  It was the girls, her daughters, which run the business up till 1938 because Grandfather Moorhen, although he was in charge of things he was really more working up in London at Greenwich than actually here in Old Brompton. So the girls did a lot of the photography shop. And it was Lucy was really the one, the eldest daughter, which really run the business and she emigrated to Australia in 1926. Because I’ve been doing family history that’s how I’ve learnt [inaud]. But I definitely remember as a youngster about Old Brompton because we moved – I was born in 1935 – we moved away from 1938. My father was a master mariner and before we moved away my father was involved with the Medway Steam Packet Company on the old paddle steamers. He was a master mariner and in 1938 he decided to leave there and go to London as a Port of London Authority Pilot.

You were in Brompton the same time as I was in Brompton then.

Harry Lucas  How interesting

Yeah, but I was only a year old. If you were at ’38 I was born in ’37.

Harry Lucas  I was born ’35 yes.

But you were still there. You wouldn’t have known me cos you was only a little boy and I was only just born.

I’m going to stop it a moment.

[End of tape]


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