Interview with Mrs Nancy Spearink


JR: Now you've lived in Brompton all your life.

NS: All my life, from 1927, except from a small period when I was in the WRNS and we lived in London and I came ... , and we moved back here in '52.

JR: Did you have any jobs before you came to the Barracks?

NS: Only evening cleaning, because I had the children, I used to do a bit of whatever I could. But then ... my next door neighbour, he used to work for the contractors at the Barracks, they were refurbishing the whole Barracks, and the whole side, both sides were gutted; but they did A, B, C and D Block first, towards the Officers' Mess, the Museum first; and he asked me, would I like a job, during the summer holidays, cleaning the place out after .the cleaners, you know, after the painters and the workmen. So I said, oh yes, fine. So from there it progressed. Jack Bickell, June [Tricker]'s father, he was trying to get everything ship-shape for the opening, and he sent for me and asked me would I like a job; he'd seen me, would I like a job permanently, I said yes please, so that was it. And I've been there ever since. It was jack-of-all-trade, really, in those days.

JR: But, and we're talking about sort of the '40s, Brompton was quite a bustling place.

NS: Oh yes, and before then, you didn't have to go out of Brompton for anything. We had our own doctor, he lived at the top of Manor Street, and I lived in Manor Street then, no.28 Manor Street, right opposite the Catholic Church. It was my Gran's own house, and we didn't have to go out of Brompton at all, for anything. And it used to be called Old Brompton, because Gillingham, up as far as James Street, was called New Brompton, so people from over there used to come to Brompton for shopping, because we had every shop you could imagine, and everyone knew everybody.

JR: Yes, a lot of the things I've read say how much like a village it was, still is to a certain extent.

NS : Yes, but strangers have moved in; not nice people. For instance, you could go out all day long, you never locked a door. Your back door was mostly open, there was the gate to get around the back, no-one ever locked. And the front door had a string, you put your hand through the letter-box and you could pull it and open it. Well, that was never hooked up out the way, and no one ever, ever did damage. But then, we had our own Police sergeant who lived down Middle Street, Sergeant Sutton, and if he saw, right up until, oh, I suppose I was about 13, if he saw any of you doing anything, you had a clip round the ear from him, and before you had a chance to run home to tell anyone he was there before you, on his bike, and you got another walloping when you got home. But everybody was very protective, really. You had the 'blue caps' and the 'red caps' which are the Military Police, they always went round in pairs, with, like, the Military Police with the red cap, but they always had a partner with a blue cap, so we used to call them the red and blue caps, and they patrolled all up, which you call the Paddock now, but it was the Inner Lines.

JR: I've also heard that there was quite a bit of trouble because of the military presence when people used to turn out of the pubs at night-time.

NS: It used to be between the Navy and the Army. They used to go down to Chatham, drinking, and always made their way back to Brompton, to drink. We had two public houses in Brompton that was notorious for ladies of the night, shall we put it. It was the Two Sawyers, and the Royal Engineer at the bottom of Manor Street, and they used to ply their wares there. We also had Sawyers' Alley, which is now Flaxman's Court. Well, we used to be able to cut through Sawyers' Alley, and through Sawyers' Alley used to be six cottages, and it used to be as you opened the door, you were straight into their room, and there was two bedrooms, so it didn't matter if you had a dozen children that was all the rooms they had. But for their water and washing facilities they had to go across the alley, and the toilets was in like a little courtway, and there was also a little cottage down there where there was a 'snob', he used to do shoe repairing. But there used to be an odd few houses down there that was also people that had moved in, because of the Naval presence, to ply their wares. So you weren't allowed really as children to go through there, you was not allowed to go. You had to go right the way round.

JR: There were a lot of these little courts and back alleys, weren't there, and a lot of them were taken down and cleared away after the War.

NS: Where Len Green's coal yard [was]. .. , that used to be a court way, and I had a couple of aunts lived down there, and our garden backed on to those little court ways. Right down the bottom of Manor Street, you went down some steps, and, Brewer's Alley I think it was, or Brewer's Court; but there was beautiful cottages down there, with all hanging-like baskets. They would have their barrels outside with their flowers and it was really pretty down there. But the little shop on the corner of that steps - Brompton didn't have electricity as we've got today; we had what they called fixed-price electricity, so you were all supplied with electric light bulbs and if the light bulb went, you went to this shop and changed it, one for one. And she also used to sell sweets, and bits and pieces. It was the Forester's Arms, and then this courtway, and then a few more cottages, and then an alleyway went up between the cottages and the Royal Engineer, and it led out to a big, large square; but there was also a shed out there where they used to kill the cattle. There was two places in Brompton that they used as slaughterhouses. I can remember we used to watch for the lorries, I mean, you wouldn't like it now, but as kids we'd love it to see the cows coming down and one'd run up the road and you'd all scatter. \

JR: I've read that there was a farm down Pleasant Row-. NS: That was Tickle's Dairy - and he used to have, where the garages are now -

JR: And the Tickle family also used to run Brompton Garage at some point -

NS: Yes, because I can't remember, I mean, it's going back so many years, I used to play with two girls who lived over the Garage, and we used to come down Sawyers' Alley and go in their back door, not through the garage, and as you opened that door, it smelt of oil, and it was all soaked in the floorboards, and we used to go up another flight of stairs to the living quarters, the two girls lived there. But afterwards, I mean, I went in the WRNS and you all grow up and go your different ways. But another thing that it was lovely to watch as children was the Summer Ball, because the main entrance to the Barracks was right opposite Brompton High Street, where the little wicket gate is now. But when it was Summer Ball, we'd stand and watch all the carriages come, and over the walkway in front of the Officers' Mess, right the way through where the Quarters are, it was a covered walkway, they used to have the awnings. Because the batmen used to live down right round the back, behind the gardens, and Mr Wallis was one of the head batmen. And he had four sons, but no children, no girls, so Mrs Wallis was friends with my Grandma, and she used to say, 'Oh, can I borrow Nancy?', and she'd take me home with her.

JR: I remember you saying that one of the things you used to watch was the parades on a Sunday, and they would come out in order.

NS: That's right, because we used to watch the RE Band walk up to the church, and as they went into church, the Garrison Church up Maxwell, as they went past Holy Trinity Church they played with muffled drums, just one drum beat as they went past our church. And then we ran like mad down through Garden Street, down Barrack Hill, past Kitchener Barracks, and stand on that top walk, which is ... that low wall there, of course it was mush higher than it is now, and watch the Royal Marines come out. But the Royal Marines Drum-Major, his staff, you know, the old stick, he would toss it straight up over the top of the archway and catch it. And his gauntlets were all blancoed white, and as he caught it you could see the flakes of the chalk coming off But it was wonderful. And then we'd walk along to watch them \ , if you walked up Prospect Row now you see them with the pillars outside, well, that was the priest's house, the Roman Catholic priest. And, Father Archibald, his name was, he used to come down with his funny little hat and his robes. When he died he left money, that so much, a penny or something, you know, for the children of his parish, and there was also the Catholic school in Manor Street, which became the Irish Club.

JR: Where was that?

NS: Well, if you went out through Flaxman's Court - if you come up through Manor Street, right at the very top, there's the new houses, isn't there, then there's the alleyway that cuts down through to Flaxman's Court, well it was over along there. There was a house that the Kennedys lived in first, and then there used to be the Catholic School.

JR: Were there always a lot of Irish people in Brompton?

NS: Oh yes, they came in, you know, like, moved and settled here. You see, we had the Catholic School, Holy Trinity School, and also the Army school, so there was the three schools; but we never mixed with the Army, because they were down in the Barracks, and down in the Barracks the Army school was where the Band Room is now. And the quarters used to be [with] these old metal staircases, down where Fort Amherst is now, there used to be, they called it the Cave Yard, because there was these blocks. And if there was a large family they'd have a double block, you see, like today they have double houses, they had double flats .... But you see, we didn't have a swing park in Brompton, for us, we used to go to, we'd call it, the Private Gardens, which was up the top of Maxwell Road, so you used to get in with the children that had their nannies, you know, the old nursemaids. And also we found out there were swings down Fieldworks, so we got friendly with the Army children that lived down Fieldworks. There was a swing park down there with just a few swings and an old see-saw, and that was it. Otherwise you had to go right across to Mill Road. But we never travelled far. Went to school in Brompton 'till you was eleven and then I went to Arden Street.

JR: Can I ask you about your family ... your parents were Brompton people as well?

NS : Yes, my Grandma, she came from Chatham, and her parents died, and her Aunt Rose brought her up; now her Aunt Rose, they had a pub, the Whiffens, they had a pub in Westcourt Street called the Good Intent, that's right on the corner right behind the Golden Lion, that was the Good Intent. Well, my Grandma lived there and worked for them. And then she met my grandfather who was in the Navy, he came from Scotland, and he was Chief Petty - wireless operator, and they had five children, my Mum being the oldest. And my father died, and my Mum [was] all on her own, so my Grandma brought me up. So I took my Grandma's name, Matthews. And all my uncles went in the Army, not the Royal Engineers, I hasten to say, they went to the Royal Artillery at the age of fourteen up at Woolwich. Of course, they're all dead now, except I've got one aunt alive, down in Devon.

JR: What did you mother do?

NS: She was a epileptic, so that was why I was taken off her, type of thing. And she was a beautiful needleworker, and knitting, but she never went out to work. Previous to that I think she - it used to be they supplied a box and off they went into service, but [she or we] never went into details of that. My grandfather died in '42 - well, round Dunkirk time, 1940, wasn't it? Because my uncle Alan, the youngest son, was at Dunkirk, at he was at Lille when Belgium, well, France gave in and they had to go like mad. And the other uncle, he was out in Palestine when the war was on and he never came back until the end.

JR: I remember you mentioning the German plane strafing the High Street.

NS: Oh yes, it swooped straight through Brompton High Street, machine-gunning, because in those days, during the War, the Dockyard workers used to come up in their dinner hour, or whatever, to do their shopping and that. And in those days the Main Gate, as I said, was right opposite Brompton High Street, and they used to have the gun posts above, and these two lads was on duty as this plane, a Messerschmitt, came swooping down, and machine-gunning, go in the Dockyard Church, because that was the Royal Marines' church. So the Marines would go in the Dockyard Church, and the Navy would go to St George's Church, which is now some sort of centre. It's quite a nice little place, they've got all stained glass windows round. And then we'd go back up to see the Engineers come out, the old little legs used to go like mad. But then, after we'd seen them come out and march back to the Barracks, my grandfather would meet us, my aunt and I, and down to watch the Marines come back out. But then, he would leave us watching the, like, orchestra of the Marines playing, outside the Sergents' and Officers' Mess, while he went in for a few jugs, you see. But it was lovely, I wish, those days, we could have them back, because it was safe for kiddies around. And then during the week we used to come up and watch Beating of the Retreat, up in Brompton Barracks, and of course you got to know all the bugle calls, because the buglers were stationed, or their quarters were, right up the top of Maxwell Road in the top end of Kitchener Barracks. And right on, it is now, Khartoum Road, well, on the comer of Khartoum Road as you go round there used to be like our Vicarage, and then the garden of the Vicarage, and the wall that went through the back way to Kitchener Barracks; well, on the other comer, it used to be the Medical Centre, so, us children, if you fell over and cut yourself, you never went crying home, you went in to see the soldiers and get treated in there. The nurse and that would treat you. So it was a lovely community. Also, may I point out, there used to be Jarratt's the greengrocers, and there used to be the Army & Navy Store, the other greengrocer's, they used to take all the orders for the Messes, the Sergeant's Mess, the Officers' Mess, they used to give their orders, and chips, would give their orders to them - it was before the NAAFI, I suppose - and they would get their deliveries in to them.

JR: [Looking at Kelly's Directory lists] Rayner & Sturges was one of the things I noticed -

NS: Oh yes, the collar factory. That's down Westcourt Street, they still make shirts.

JR: I remember talking to Clem, and he mentioned the bookshop, which would have been Mr Powell.

NS: Yes, but Mr Powell used to be over by Mr Miller. There used to be Miller's, Sykes's fish and chip shop, and Mr Powell, and Mr Powell's shop used to be Stubberfield's, another little grocer's shop, and when Stubberfield's moved, Mr Powell moved over. And you could get every book you could ever wish for in there. And he had - I don't know, this young lady worked with him for donkey's years, I don't know whether he was her guardian or what, but you'd go there, and her name was Joan, and you'd ask him, and he'd say, 'Oh Joan, so-and-so', and straight away she knew exactly where to find them. That bookshop was worth thousands. Rare books, you name it. There was another fish and chip shop, next to Mr Friend's. There were three fish and chip shops.

JR: I noticed Miss Mackinnon's School of Dancing, do you remember Miss Mackinnon?

NS: Yes, she put some girls right through to ballet, they went up to London.

JR: Some of the streets would have been posher than others, like Prospect Row.

NS: Prospect Row, and Mansion Row, and along Garden Street, the end part of Garden Street, they wer~ always Army houses. Prospect Row, at the top of Prospect Row where the Wesleyan Church [was], as you went up there was the cut that went the back of the Marine Barracks, there was the Wesleyan Church on that comer, and just above the Wesleyan Church used to be the tailoring for the Marines, the Royal Marines and the Navy, and they always used to do out -work, people used to go and get the stuff and do the sewing of it and take it back. And all the way down, I suppose in those days, I know Mrs Boyle said that if she'd had three thousand pounds she could have bought all of Mansion Row. Because they weren't always privately owned. They were a mixture. They do say that Lady Hamilton lodged up there. I went to school with quite a few of the boys and girls who lived up Prospect Row, but they never owned their own house. There was the odd few. There was the priest's house there: Brompton. And as the places became vacant they were buying [them] up. And then he, he had the demolition, the brother, George ... You see, in Manor Street, they bought this lump of ground next to my Grandma's house, and they had it as the coal yard, and they also had the woodstacks, anything that could be sold on, the wood was there. They also had bantam cocks, you know, and all the rest of it roaming round, and as they had at weekends the big racing at Epsom, it used to be, 'Can you keep an eye on the chickens, can you give them something to eat?' They used to go off to Epsom, and the old lady had the toilet tent, and that's how they got extra money, sit outside taking the money for people to use the toilet tent. But they were illiterate, they couldn't read or write. They used to come and knock on my, well, over the fence really, and say, 'Miss Matthews' - it was income tax, or a letter, 'Can you read this' or 'Can you fill this in for me', or forms. So of course it was - I should have charged them. But they would have liked to have bought my Nan's house so that they could keep an eye on their wood and coal.

JR: Your Nan owned the house?

NS: Oh yes. When my Grandfather - they used to live in Westcourt Street, right opposite - no, next door but one to the Good Intent, and the Crofts had it after my Gran, but when my Grandfather got his money, and they used to call it 'Blood Money' after the First World War, and the money all came in, and he bought the house in Manor Street, and also a fish and chip shop down Medway Road. And my Gran and my Mum worked the fish and chip shop, pushed me in a pram down, and they used to [get orders from] the Dockyard workers. And my uncles, in their dinner hour from school, would take the orders into the Dockyard. But then it got stopped, they said, we've got a canteen being built. But my Grandfather, being a Naval man, like, come out the Navy, he could have applied and got licence to go in there, being Navy, but no, he didn't bother. But he liked the fish and chip shop there because he used to use the Jolly Sailor down there, the public house. We lived right next to the Lord Napier in Manor Street. ... He was the only one to use our front door, he'd go out the front door and into the bar. I mean, he ruled us all like a rod of iron. But he was kind in a way, really, he had his finer points. My uncles, you know, they said, 'You got away with murder'. He used to have the old strap to theIl\, the buckle end of the strap, which was wicked. I suppose he thought, he'd joined up in the Navy, he'd run away from home because he'd had such a strict upbringing.

JR: But most people were renting, I suppose they'd send somebody round to collect the rents once a week-

NS: Oh yes, but people in Manor Street really never moved, they stayed put. I meet them now, different ones we knew before, we were kids; we're getting few and far between, now. But families, in Manor Street, there was my aunt by marriage, my stepfather, his brother was married up there, and then his wife's sister, you know, and, more or less half the street was related, you see. And if you did anything wrong, they'd say, 'Oh, I heard your Nan having a go at you, Nancy' ... 'What did you get up to?' I was late coming in - ... 'd meet you and give you a walloping. No, it was wonderful days. Old Mr Hayesmore, he used to have this bread and cake shop, and in his shop, he'd have the counter, but also there were these marble-topped, with the metal legs, and the choirboys, the Holy Trinity Church choirboys, used to collect in there, because he was in the Choir. And he used to sell lemonade, you know, with the crystals, with water, make up this lemonade in jugs, and sell it to them for a ha'penny a glass, so they'd buy a glass of lemonade and a cake for a penny, you see. But they, all the lads, and they had their own boys' club, just past the - oh, what's that pub called, it's still there now, top of Manor Street, there's the K.G. Five - the Cannon, just along from the Cannon.

JR: But you would have belonged to Holy Trinity School -

NS: Trinity School, my mother went before me, and at the back of our school there used to be, like the Conway Hall next to it, but out the back of it was another school, but it was the older children, but then they stopped that, and they used to rent it out to the teachers. So Mrs so they opened fire. But they were put in front of the officers because the officer who was on duty said that he didn't give the order to fire, which was dreadful, really. Then there was the time the plane was brought down and the pilot crashed, and his parachute never opened, then there was the time they opened fire as they thought it was a parachutist, because on the top of The Lines where Westbrook School is now, there was all the guns, the ATS girls were up there, the whole lot, and they opened fire at what they thought was a parachutist coming down, but it wasn't, it was a land mine, so most of Brompton's windows were all out. Our house had the main structure of the house, and then the scullery as it was called had, not a lean-to, it had a proper roof, but it was a good two inches, it shot it away from the house a good two inches.

JR: Did Brompton suffer a lot of damage?

NS: Well, at the top of Manor Street used to be a hotel, and Ernie Eastman's shop, well a bomb, it wiped it out. And my Grandma ... heard it, wondered what was going on, stood on the front step, and my Grandfather had been very ill so she took in boarders to make ends meet, and this lad who was staying with us, he pulled her back, and well if he hadn't she would have been dead, because on the step where she had been standing ... was this lump of concrete from the hotel. Where, at the top of, where those new houses are now, right opposite the KGV, that was a hotel. Because the other hotel, the Benevolent Trust, the other end, was another hotel. And I believe they were owned, well, to do with the same family.

JR: But there wasn't a great deal of bomb damage or anything.

NS: Well, no, we were lucky really, because they were after the Dockyard and everything else, but we had the marshes, so of course it missed into the marshes. But I can remember, I worked at the Co-op, and I can remember this particular day, the Ajax, the boat, had come back in for repair after, was it sinking of the Graff Spey or something like that, and it was in for repairs, and it was a beautiful afternoon, and I'm sweeping the shop front, you know, ready for clearing up, and I said, 'Oh, that plane's coming in low', and suddenly, the bombs, you could see the bombs dropping. Because I worked over in the Co-op in Fox Street, and of course I could see it as clear as anything looking across this way, and there's these bombs dropping. And it missed the Ajax, it hit the ablutions, which was off shore. But apart from that we were very, very lucky.

JR: It was not long after the War that a lot of the houses had been taken down, particularly in Middle Street where the new flats had gone up, they were there just before the War, I think.

NS: Well, I'll tell you what flats was built before the War, that was the ones in Manor Street, the older type of flats, and the ones in Wood Street, as you come up Wood Street on the bus, on the left-hand side; and also in Middle Street, I should say, there was some houses or flats that had a long garden in front, there's a lump of green there now, it's all open ... before our houses start. Well, they were flats, but they were older than the others. But I can remember going to school with the Burnthalls and that that lived in Wood Street, you see. They started clearing the old houses, with Barfleur, Temeraire and Victory, in the '50s. Well, I say '50s, it was late '40s, because we moved down here in '52 and at Christmas Eve '53 I had a letter from the Council to say I had a flat, no.12 Temeraire Manor.

JR: Where were you living then?

NS: I was living with my Grandma. We'd moved down from London because my Gran wasn't well and we were back in Manor Street. And we moved, Christmas Day we heard - Christmas Eve we heard, and Christmas Day my Grandma died, you know, she was in hospital, so she never knew that we had our place. I wouldn't move until after her funeral.

JR: A lot of the old buildings were in quite bad condition by the time they were taken down.

NS : Yes, quite vermin-infected I should think. But with people just renting them - I think they were only about a couple of shillings a week, in those days, which wasn't much. And Green's, the coal merchant, his mother and father, they owned quite a lot of property around afternoon off, you only did the morning, to do your turn. 'But being a Church school, you see, Good Friday, on the Thursday [before] Good Friday, you'd go to school, go to church, and then queue up at the Conway Hall and get a hot-cross bun. Because the Rev. Jones, his wife was one of the Greens, and they owned the orchards all down the lower road, so they was monied people. My Gran used to go cooking for the different 'nobility' of Brompton.

JR: The Vicar was a grand person in those days, was he?

NS: Oh yes, you know, he'd be walking along the road and he'd call out, not to me but to my aunt, 'Hello, Dorothy, 'and where was you on Sunday?', and there she was walking along with her boyfriend, 'Where was you on Sunday?'. And 'That's it, Mum', she said, 'I'm not going to church any more, he's shown me up'. But he didn't care, but he was a lovely man. Because we had our own pew in the church, and no one sat in it, that was yours. My Gran, she used to do washing the surplices for the church; she was a verger, but, all down the aisle of the church you had these black-leaded metal strips, with, what would you call it, just like latticework, all openwork, well she'd be on her hands and knees black-leading. So on a Saturday my uncles used to get, by the scruff of the neck, 'You come and help'. But the surplices and everything, she never got paid for that, that was for the love of the Church. Very hard-working really, she was never allowed to be idle. What else - Oh, also in Manor Street, right down the very bottom, there used to be Gorrick's (which you've got down), was a corn chandler, and just up from them was a lock-up garage, and there used to be a little chap, with a humpty back, but he used to go out selling bananas, Fyfe's bananas. And then, just up from him, there used to be, by the flats, like a little roadway, which was Waldron's - you know by the side of Waldron's they've got that part where they have cars and that on show, well that like a large garage effect, brick built, that wasn't there, but down the back of there used to be Haldane's yard where he used to house his horse and cart, like Steptoe really, but there was also cottages down there, there was all these cottages down there.

JR: That was the Masonic Hall round there, too, wasn't there.

NS: On the front, it is now the offices of the car sales. And next to the Masonic used to be a big old jeweller's shop, with a high window, because we used to have to climb up on it, you know, hold on to have a look in.

JR: What went on at the Masonic Hall ... ?

NS: No one ever knew. Found out later because one of my aunt's, my Mum's sister, she married a, well, his father joined him in the Masonry, paid £100 to join, in those days. She had his apron, and she was doing the ribbon on it, like this blue ribbon round it: she said, 'Don't you dare let Ewart know you've seen this'. Fred always calls them left-handed bricklayers. If there's jobs going they always used to get it.

JR: You mentioned the chickens the Greens had. Did a lot of people have chickens and animals and things in their back gardens?

NS : Yes; we had two little rabbits.

JR: And were the rabbits pets or were they there to eat?

NS: Well, my stepfather, when the bunnies were born, he said. 'There you are, you pick one out'; well, you pick one out, you come home from school, [and it's] got big, you fed it and all the rest of it, you come home from school to have a look at it - where's the rabbit? Oh, dear, that was it, I wouldn't eat rabbit, wouldn't eat rabbit now, because you got attached. My stepfather, he would give you something in one hand, and next it was on the table. But my gran had the chickens, and the Lord Napier pub had a dance hall in their yard and it was a high wall that this dance hall backed on to, so that wall was part of our garden. Well, the chicken run went along there, and of course it used to be limed out and dug over and it used to be looked after like ... a house. Of course, different people had the properties about, and the bunnies used to go missing, ours never, but people used to say 'Watch 'em, the foxes are about'. When I started, Brigadier Lacey used to be the Institution Secretary, and he used to Gorrick ended up living there, she was nothing to do with the school, but we used to go there for Choir practice for our carols at Christmas time. It was very involved, Brompton, because the Holy Trinity Church, my Gran was always involved, and they used to have their garden party, it was, as you say, a village. Mothers' meeting, and Mothers' Union, which I don't think it harmed any of us. They had Dr Barnardos boys giving the bell ringing in the Conway Hall, concerts.

JR: Canon Selwyn Gummer was one of the Vicars, wasn't he?

NS: He was the one that had Holy Trinity Church closed. He left here and went over to Gravesend, and had that church closed, and moved on and was made Canon, and when I see Selwyn Gummer now, he went to Holy Trinity School with my children, and I think, you, you're just like your father. He didn't have any time for the older people or the young ones, he was encouraging the Army lads to go there, but it wasn't the money coming in from them because they never supported it, it was the older generation that supported the Church. And of course they closed it and said that our church would then be St Mark's. And of course, church life went - zilch. I used to go to the Garrison. My children joined the Choir there, and the older two were in the Dockyard choir. '

JR: There are hardly any of the old buildings left now, and not many shops at all.

NS: No, it's just like paper shops, like Mrs Lewis's ... Most of Brompton now, we didn't have an Indian in the High Street. We had Indians that came when I was a child; the Lord Napier closed, and Mrs Anderson had it, and she let the bottom bars to the travelling Indians, they used to come over to sell their wares, the silk scarves and all stuff like that.

JR: And that would have been before the War, would it?

NS: Oh yes, because they'd go round with their tray and their little bell, 'Indian toffee', in little folders. Because my Gran said to my Grandfather, 'Oh, I can't bear the thought of them the other side of that wall', from up as you went through the passageway, because you could smell curry cooking. So, my Gran hated curry [pointless interjection from JR]. [My grandfather] was out in India, he said no, he said with curry, they disguised rotten meat with the spices. Because half of the meat was all - He said, 'Don't you give me no curry' .... Anyway, that's all the Indians we'd ever see; and there used to be one well-dressed chap, and he used to come round - he was more or less in charge of them - and it must have been the Jubilee, no, the Coronation of King George VI, and he said to me, 'I have a wife as old as you', and I thought, oh, she's young, you know. So, anyway, we've now got, as I say, the Indians, they own one shop right up the far end, they own the off-licence, the Two Sawyers, there's the Post Office but that's a different family; that same family who own the off-licence, the Sawyers, because there's two families that's sharing, and the other shop the other end, they are buying the fish and chip shop, and there is talk that they're going to buy the newsagents, you know, next door to the Golden Lion. So it will be all Indians, but put some, I suppose, English up front.

JR: One thing I don't remember seeing in the lists of what was in Brompton was a cinema. [Some lost words as tape ran out]

NS:[In Gillingham there was] the Grand in Jeffrey Street, there was the Plaza, which was - I think it's one of these things with guns and all that, it was a TV studios - and there was, it's now the Gala Bingo opposite the Post Office, that was the Embassy. We had the Palace on the top road, there used to be a theatre down in King Street, in Gillingham, but we used to see the old magic lantern things in the Wesleyan Church, because there was a massive hall underneath, and on a Friday[?] night, for a penny, you'd go and see all these silent films, like Charlie Chaplin and, you know, oh yes, slip-slap stuff. And I used to go there to Brownies. I was turning out photographs and I was telling the young girl who runs the Brownie troop, I said, I must turn out these photographs and sh~ said, 'Oh, I'd like to see it'.

JR: Did you still have, when you were at school, the May Queen and things?

NS : Yes. Empire Day, we had Empire Day, that you dressed up and that and then you had the live in Napier House up the back of the Square. And we'd see him walking up, because the hounds used to be up North Square, and we'd see him walking down this way and strutting down there, next thing he's walking back with the hounds, so Mr Pierotti, the Assistant Curator, he was watching on the front, and it was half the pack he'd got, and round his house he went and shouts out as he went back 'Got the blighter'. But we used to watch them riding to the hounds.

JR: Where did they go to?

NS: Straight out through the Lines, which is by the Gymnasium, and cut straight out through to go right through to Darland Banks. Because in those days there wasn't the traffic on the roads. And the hounds were here until the 60s, because you could hear them baying, and the horses went not that many years ago. The hounds went first out to Chattenden, then after there was a hue and cry and no one went to hounds anymore. But it was a wonderful sight. Because we've got Brigadier Lacey's horn and the stockings and all that here. But you'd see them ride out in their scarlet, it was wonderful. And also, you see where the bowling alley is, that used to be bare grass and Bertrand Mills's circus used to come there. And then durtng the War they had that as minefields, and one night there was this explosion and, didn't know what had happened. And I worked at the Co-op and I used to always walk down here and straight through to the Co-op, and they said, 'Oh, isn't it dreadful, did you hear that great explosion last night?' Well, it was the Australian sailors, was ashore, was cutting back through the Khyber Pass to get back to ship, and one of them threw the other one's hat over the, and he climbed after it and got blown to pieces. And on the Lines, you see, they had these posts with wires going across to stop the planes.


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