All of my parents family originate from the Bermondsey and Southwark areas of London; I was born at midday on a Sunday (1935) at Guy’s Hospital, London Bridge and the bells of ‘St. Mary-Le-Bow Church’ at Cheapside, in the City of London were ringing at that time! This fact makes me a true ‘Cockney’.
A person traditionally has to be born within their sound, to qualify for this famous title. It is one that I am very proud to be called.
Here are three related, little known facts about London ‘Cockneys’:
· ‘St. Mary-Le-Bow Church’ has been on the same site in the City of London for over a thousand years. At the outbreak of War in 1939, its famous ‘Bells’ were removed for safe storage; they were not replaced again until the 1950’s. Thus historically, No actual Cockney’s were officially born during that period.
· The bells from this church are the ones that the fabled and famed ‘Dick Whittington’ heard when he first approached London Town, looking for the streets that were rumoured to be ‘Paved with Gold’! Later he became ‘Lord Mayor’ of London on three separate occasions.
· Many people mistakenly think that the bells and Church at ‘Bow’ in the Eastend of London, qualify towards this title, which historically, they do not.
I lived with my Dad, Sidney Senior, Mum Louisa and later, baby Sister Doreen, at Darwin Street, off the Old Kent Road, where we were ‘Bombed Out’ from three separate houses in this street by the Nazi Bomber aircraft in the 1939-45 conflict
During the early days of the war, even my local Sweet Shop was demolished! The rotten sods! I have never forgiven them for that nasty act.
In the next road ‘Mason Street’, lived the ‘Hicks’ family who are related to Mum and her family the ‘Salter’s’. In later years one of their sons, who is about the same age as me, went on to become the famous Cockney entertainer and film star ‘Tommy Steele’ after he also, served and left the British Merchant Navy.
Prior to the start of World War II. Dad had been a Private Chauffeur, Heavy Vehicle and PSV Driver. At the start of the conflict he was conscripted as a volunteer into the ‘London Fire Brigade’ stationed for the duration at Headquarters, Albert Embankment. He became a Heavy Appliance Turntable Ladder, Fire- Fighter/Driver and with his crews was involved with most of the major fires around the Dockland areas of the Port of London and The City itself. He also went on three-month duty secondments, to both Coventry and Plymouth, when both these City’s also received severe damage from savage bombing attacks.
During this dangerous period he lost two complete crews of men, who were all killed when warehouse walls collapsed onto his Fire Engine. His life was saved by the training he received that demanded the driver remain with the vehicle to operate the extending turntable ladder, water pumps and control pressure to the hoses. In the event of buildings collapsing or exploding, he was instructed to dive beneath the wheels and under the vehicle to protect his own life, which thankfully, it indeed did, on many occasions!
He never forgot the tragic loss of so many of his close friends, and was most reluctant to talk about many horrific events he saw and experienced during the ‘Blitz of London’.
On one occasion after a bad all night period of bombing on the Docks, Dad and crew were driving back to the fire station and were passing our road; so he decided to bring everyone home for a well earned cup of tea and sandwich, only to discover that our house had taken a direct hit from a German Bomb. All that was left was a pile of rubble, covering our ‘Anderson Shelter’ in the back yard.
One can only imagine the terror and frantic efforts of him and his friends, hoping to find his family buried beneath, after many hours digging, Mum, myself, baby Doreen, Aunt Liz and cousin Lilly, were all pulled out from this devastation, though frightened, scratched, bruised, dirty and choking with the dust and lack of air, we were Alive! And ‘Thanking God’ that we had been spared the sad fate of so many of our neighbours and friends.
Following this traumatic event Dad decided three strikes was more than enough of Jerry’s attempts to get us! So moved us to the relative safety of ‘The Country’? We relocated and rented No.4 Ashcombe Road, though Dad continued to commute to Westminster for his 48-hour duty periods throughout the remainder of the wartime period, which was undertaken ‘too and fro’ on his trusty ‘Pushbike’.
Many times he came close to sudden death in his job, and whilst traveling on his bike to work, when dropping bombs and the dreaded flying bombs (‘Doodle Bugs’ or ‘V.2 Rockets’) engines would cut-out overhead, and fall toward the ground, when he would dive for the nearest ditch or available cover for protection.
One such story he told us, was that whilst cycling home after a long, dangerous and arduous tour of duty, he was close to Clapham Common, in civilian clothes, with a large bag of food scraps carried on this back,
(He was authorized to collect kitchen waste from the station canteen, to help feed his livestock at home).
He heard the sound of a ‘Doodle Bug’ engine cut out, saw that it was dropping towards his direction, threw himself into a nearby ditch, until a loud explosion in the area confirmed that he was safe.
Upon picking himself up and gathering the scattered scraps of food from the adjacent roadside and gutter, a passing lady pedestrian, started to shout and criticise him saying:
“You should be ashamed of yourself, scavenging in the gutter for rubbish and scraps, when you should be fighting the war, like my brave husband and brothers, who are in the Army and Navy!”
Poor Dad was so shocked, upset and taken aback at her outburst, he did not have time to explain his actions or that he was a Fire Fighter going ‘off duty, before she walked away!
This event always remained in his thoughts and he wished that he could have explained and made her aware of what ‘Fire Fighters’ and men doing similar work on the ‘Home Front’ had experienced and suffered during those terrible times.
In his little spare time he cultivated our rear Garden and an ‘Allotment’ of land at Leopold Road, to grow vegetables and fruit, also raised many chickens and rabbits in our garden, this venture held us, our close relatives and friends in good stead throughout the many lean years of food rationing and the lack of any luxury food items in the shops. Though I never enjoyed the task of helping to ‘pluck’ feathers from the dead chickens, and refused to skin and tan the pelts of rabbits which he later used to make girls, fur gloves, hand muffs and scarves, I did however, enjoy the lovely free range, meat that made such tasty meals, we all enjoyed so much. Mum was a great cook and made full use of everything that was available, performing culinary magic, out of scraps that today we would throw into the trash can, without a second thought.
The area at the rear of our house (which later became the ‘Coronation Hall’) was a derelict bombsite with extensive land that had been the site of two Industrial Companies, ‘The Steeplejack Co.’ and
‘Arc-Engraving Co.’ plus a couple of wrecked commercial vans and a motorcycle with sidecar which proved to be a great ‘Neverland’ style adventure playground, fully equipped for all the local kids, with virtually no interference from any adults, for so many memorable years.
We were able to play all day in relative safety? , Between air raids, without fear or danger, well out of Mums hair for many long hours, something that is so sadly lacking in this age of modern technology and increased danger for the children of today’s very unsafe world. In summertime the building of our ‘Camps’ and the formation of our own little gangs of ‘British and German’ troops, plus ‘Cowboys and Indians’ etc. after school and weekends was fantastic fun and something we did until dusk, or the shout of our parents to “Come in for dinner or bedtime” always seemed to prematurely interrupt our imaginative games.
After the war, it was great venue for the annual celebration of Guy Fawks night, when great big bonfires were built and we all contributed our own fireworks and enjoyed roasting potato’s, chestnuts etc. a sociable event, that many adults also enjoyed.
Even greater joy was to come when early one morning ‘Jerry’ bombed our local school in Effra Road and we kids were able to enjoy even greater freedom on our wonderful play areas.
Alas! It was not to last for long, as the authorities decided that we should all be evacuated and once again we were off to Staffordshire (the Black Country!) to stay with my Mums older brothers family the ‘Salters’.
In the very early days of the war my family had been first evacuated to Weymouth, Dorset for a short period but this had proved not to be such a good idea (by the powers that be!) as it was adjacent to the ‘Portland Naval Base. The Germans thought it would make a great target, so well and truly bombed the hell out of it! Being just as much at risk in this area, Mum moved us all back to London.
When war ended, Dad was demobbed from the Fire Brigade, he had wished to remain a Fireman full time, but the large numbers of men that had been recruited were no longer needed in peace time. So he commenced work in the Building Industry and became a Foreman with the ‘Richard Costain Construction Company’ until they wanted him to undertake a two-year contract to ‘Saudi Arabia’ on a major University, construction project.
He declined this contract and decided to start his own ‘Painting and Decorating’ business, which he ran from home and remained fully self-employed, through his customer’s personal recommendations, until eventually retiring at 70+ years of age.
Dad considered that he had been very fortunate in his later life and that his little business, though very hard work generally, had given him and his family a good living that provided plenty of food on the table, nice holidays, a number of lovely new cars and had allowed him to purchase the house that they had previously rented for so many years. He was a very happy and contented man and certainly had always kept his sense of humor, was much loved by his family and friends and so sadly missed by us all today.
1906 - 1992
Mum also worked very long hours as a ‘School Dinner Lady’ plus as a ‘Mrs Mop’, Domestic Cleaning Lady, assisting many local people who owned large houses, plus a local authority cleaning contract, that she did early each morning. She is a very kind and caring lady, who would always assist a friend or neighbour who needed help or advice. Bearing in mind that her own health was constantly a problem she seemed to bear her own suffering with great calm and fortitude, which was in addition to catering for a growing young family, who made constant calls upon her time and energy. I remember her statement when I used to moan about having to work so hard, which was, “Hard and dirty work, never killed anyone, so just get on with things and made the best of it and be happy that you are fit and able”. She has indeed been a proud and shining example to all of us.
At the end of Ashcombe Road, adjacent to Gap Road (where Moffat Court now stands) used to be approximately six large four storey high detached houses, with long front drives and even longer rear gardens, that stretched from Gap Road to the rear of the houses in Haydon Park Road and most had lovely fruit trees growing in their grounds, we kids had a field day ‘scrumping’ the apples and pears, and on many occasions running from the long arm of the law! The front of these luxury homes had large front doors with approximately twelve steps leading to the entrance porch, with pillars on each side, these houses had all been vacated and were empty, unattended and becoming quite derelict.
It soon became apparent that no residents were ever going to return to these houses, which were showing great signs of neglect, so we adopted them as a further playground, whilst keeping ever alert for the approach of the local ‘Mr. PC. Plod’. Great times were had by using them as our own oversize ‘Wendy Houses’ though we were always a little fearful on dull days, as without any power or lighting, they were dark, dismal and very creepy and we all swore that they were haunted and had seen ghosts on more than one occasion! Eventually, this complete area was demolished and the construction of the local authority development of Moffat Court commenced. As was the opposite side of Gap Road, when the old Victorian buildings of the ‘Wimbledon Fever and Isolation Hospital’ was demolished and construction of the second local development of Poplar Court commenced and the whole area changed forever.
Mum’s friend and work mate Mrs. Minnie Minns, later moved into Poplar Court with her family from the East End of London. I went to school and was friends with her son Kenny Minns, many years later he went to work as a deck hand on Private Yachts in both the Caribbean and Mediterranean areas, eventually he qualified in seamanship and navigation, working on many beautiful and luxurious craft. Eventually he became the personal ‘Captain’ of a large luxury motor yacht owned by famous multi-millionaire American Author, ‘Harold Robbins’ and was employed by him for many exciting years, meeting the rich and famous whilst based in the spectacular South of France. Kenny still lives with his family, in that lovely location in semi-retirement and we still keep in regular contact.
The fantastic ‘End of War’ and later ‘Coronation’ celebration street parties in our road were a great and memorable time for everyone without exception, sharing and contributing to such happy, long lasting events, which continued well into the night! Following the food shortages and lack of almost everything during and following the War, somehow vast quantities of food and drink was found and enjoyed by everyone, for the first time in our lives we kids were spoilt rotten, and loved every exciting moment!
At 11 years old (1946), I commenced work as a Mild Round Boy, with the ‘United Dairy’ at Gap Road, first with our local milkman ‘Fred Gibbs’ and later with the area inspector ‘Bill Monchreif’, when we covered the whole Wimbledon area rounds. In those early days, all the milk carts were horse drawn, so additionally my duties included assisting with the grooming, feeding and stabling of the horse and its equipment and I loved being taught to handle the reins and driving the horse and cart, whilst out on the open roads and leafy lanes of Wimbledon Common.
Towards the end of the 1950’s Electric Milk Floats were introduced, much to our very great dismay, as horses were a lovely feature of our every day life and used by most of the local trades people,
A bonus being a frequent free supply of the valuable ‘Golden Nuggets’ used to fertilise the crops and roses in the gardens and allotments of many local residents. So sadly, ended the ‘Era of the Horse’!
My hours of duty on the milk round were weekend: 6am–2pm + all school holidays and weekdays7am– 1pm. With a wage of pre-decimal, four shillings and sixpence (full weekend) and two shillings (each weekday), all of which was willingly handed over to my very grateful Mum, to help towards the housekeeping costs.
She would give me back some pocket money so that I could go to the Cinema, buy books, sweets and save towards Birthday and Christmas gifts for my family members, which gave me so much personal pleasure and satisfaction.
This job continued until I left school at 15 years old and commenced full time employment as an Apprentice Draughtsman with a local company. Though I had greatly enjoyed most of the milk-round work and small income, I did not miss the terrible winters, when the icy cold glass milk bottles, would almost freeze my fingers solid and poor quality shoes did little to protect my feet from getting damp and cold during wet and snow conditions, that seemed to prevail in those days. Many was the days when I would return home after work, with frozen hands and feet, having to sit in front of the coal fire or gas oven to thaw out. Often the returning feelings would bring severe pain that often brought me to tears!
Younger sister Doreen, also did not have it easy, as when she was about 8-9 years old and baby Derek was approximately 12-18 months of age, our poor Mum’s health deteriorated and she went into Hospital on many occasions for quite long periods, suffering with tummy ulcers, plus foot and leg problems, which in turn resulted in quite a few major surgical operations. During that period I was at work or away at sea, so it was left to Doreen to become a mini-Mum, to Derek and a very hard working unpaid housekeeper for Dad! All credit to her during those very difficult times, she did a wonderful job, coping with the workload and holding the family together without complaint, whilst still attending school full time. She was indeed Mum’s little helper, Dad’s special angel and Derek’s loving, caring big sister!
In later years Doreen also worked part-time on Saturday and school holidays at ‘Coombe’s’ bakery shop on Wimbledon Bridge.
Many years later Derek, also worked Saturdays on a mobile tanker ’ Liquid Paraffin Home Delivery Service,’ operated by ‘Freddie Hossack,’ a local resident originally from Cromwell Road.
In very cold weather Derek would come home frozen, but would not be able to get warm in front of the fire because his clothes were impregnated with the inflammable liquid and the fear of ‘self ignition’ was very real and aroma not pleasant, Mum always insisted that he strip and bathe immediately he entered the house, before he set us all on fire or cause the house to explode. This always caused a great deal of laughter and fun as she chased him up stairs to the bathroom! Tactics that I also adopted, when he was cheeky with me or others visiting our home.
They were hard days, but certainly taught us all the meaning of self-sufficiency, selflessness and monetary values, that seem sadly missing in the present day world with so many of today’s spoilt young people, who enjoy a totally different environment of freedom and plenty.
However, we were always consoled with the thoughts and stories of my Mum and Dad, about when they were young during the ‘First World War’. And the terrible hardships, starvation and trauma they and their
families experienced, which were a thousand times worse than our generation, we considered ourselves quite lucky and privileged in comparison.
Around the same period I also joined the local ‘Sea Cadet Corps’ at ‘T.S. Trafalgar’, located at Elm Grove, Wimbledon and which later moved to their present site in Worple Road. I remained a very active Leading Seaman Cadet and Bandsman until aged 15 years.
Each summer I attended two-week holidays? Training courses! Working as a boy crewmember with the ‘Royal Navy’ aboard many famous warships, such as:
HMS Duke of York, HMS Ulster, HMS Boxer and HMS Warrior. Also a memorable trip on the Submarine, HMS Spirit, whilst on exercises in the English Channel.
These experiences were the start of my lifetime love of the sea and all things nautical.
In1952. After training at the ’National Sea Training College. Gravesend. Kent. I joined the ‘Merchant Navy’
‘P&O’ Shipping Co. first employed me as a ‘Bell Boy’ then as a ‘1st Class Steward’, working aboard their passenger liners, the first ship that I joined was ‘RMS Strathmore’ from Tilbury to Far East and Australia, later joining the Hudson Shipping Co. On’ MV Hudson Deep’. To and from the Caribbean.
I married Pauline Lawford in1961.she lived in Alexandra Road and had been trained from a young age, as a Ballet Dancer, was very committed and involved with a local dance company appearing in many local productions.
We met when I was on leave from the Merchant Navy, from then on our lives changed forever!
Sister Doreen, married Donald Yates, in the late 1950’s moved to Norwich, Norfolk and has three children and now seven grand children, of which they are so proud. They live only about 5 miles from Mum, so are able to visit her frequently.
After leaving the Navy, I settling down ashore with a job in the Plastics Industry, which led eventually into Senior Industrial and Marketing Management, years later following redundancy in this industry,
I moved into the ‘Defense Industry’ working as a Projects Production Planner, on major MOD. Underwater, Sonar, Missile Control, & Submarine Command Systems, for shipbuilders `VSEL’ and the ‘Royal Navy’. Which I so enjoyed and only Government cutbacks, eventually brought to an end in December 1990.
We have two lovely daughters who were both born whilst we lived at our first home at ‘Sunbury-on-Thames’. Now we also have two fantastic granddaughters as well, who are also our pride & joy.
In January 1946, my younger brother Derek was born and also grew up in the road and in later years married Jean Green; they had a son, Robert. His wife left them when the baby was six month old; following his divorce Mum, Dad with Derek were granted joint custody of Robert; they helped to bring him up in his early years when he lived with them in Ashcombe Road. Many years later, Derek and Robert moved to Bognor Regis, lived, worked and played together and were always the greatest of pal’s, later starting their own business together. Unfortunately Derek died in July 2003 suddenly and tragically from a Brain Tumour. He is greatly missed by Rob and the whole family. Everyone so sadly misses his life-long cheeky grin, easy-going attitude and great sense of fun.
Robert married Adele Morris in the July 1992 They now have two daughters and are expecting their third child in June 2004.
Mum and Dad, moved to a pretty village in Norfolk in 1986 and have a lovely bungalow adjacent to the Village Green. They spent many happy years together at this location and have lovely neighbours and friends in that area and considered themselves so lucky to have found such a happy place to live once again. Dad sadly passed away in January 1992. He is very much missed and a great loss to all who loved him dearly.
Mum is now very disabled and suffers considerable pain, but still lives at the same location with assistance from her local Care Workers, Doreen and Don also visit each week, she will be 93 years old in June 2004,still has a very good memory, active mind, manages to keep smiling and makes ‘Tea’ by the bucket load!
Ashcombe Road thus holds many fond memories of good friends, neighbours, happy and some sad times! Plus special events and historical happenings, whilst we lived at this memorable location, during our formative years, these will remain with us always.
The Jones's Photo Album
Local Newspaper Clippings
The Jones Trio
The ‘Jones’ Family
4. Ashcombe Road, Wimbledon, SW19
Resident 1940 – 1986
‘Ton-Up Years’ circa. 1953-1964.
(With Great ‘British’ Motorbikes.)
The meeting point for all the motorcycling gang! Each evening was, ‘Les’s Hot–Dog Stall’ @ Wimbledon Railway Station.
Followed by ‘ fast burns’ down the A3, to either the’ Winning Post’ Esher, + ‘Three Frogs’ or’ Triangle’ Café’s @ Ripley.
Then regular trips to Box Hill, Dorking, Brighton, Southend, Camber Sands, Brands Hatch and Thruxton, at the weekends