08 June 2020
Paul Chiddicks tells the heart-warming story of his childhood street and its long-time connections with his family.
By any means, ‘Our Street’ was ordinary, an avenue of ‘new build’ council houses, that were built between the two wars, to accommodate our growing population. This could mirror many similar estates, up and down the country.
Although my street was ordinary, what made it extraordinary was the fact that it was a community. A long, tree-lined avenue filled with identical houses, but somewhere that we felt safe and secure and a neighbourhood, maybe like your own growing up as a child, where literally you knew every family on the street.
To us children, familiar adults were called ‘uncle’ or ‘auntie’ as a mark of respect. Confusing for a genealogist I know, but every adult that you knew, growing up as a child, was afforded that kind of respect. It was a different time and era, but to me, growing up as a child, it was a far simpler and easier life.
My grandparents first moved into the street in 1937, the same year that my dad was born. At the time that they moved in, the remainder of the street was just open space and greenery, with fields as far as the eye could see, no sign of the mass of houses that would engulf the surrounding area over the next 80 years or so.
My grandparents were to spend their entire lives living in the one house, with all of their children being born there as well. They also shared the same neighbours for their entire lives. Can you imagine that today!
It was a generation that had seen and experienced enough upheaval during World War Two to last a lifetime, so change was not something that this community longed for. At the bottom of the street we had a parade of shops that we called ‘The Clock Shops’, a butcher, greengrocer, Post Office, an off licence and my favourite shop, Taylor’s the Ironmongers. I say ironmongers, but as a child it felt like walking into Aladdin’s cave, it had literally everything.
The shelves were jam packed with anything and everything you could ever want, from a mantle to a bag of nails! Although Mrs Taylor looked a formidable woman, scary to a 5-year-old, she always knew, despite what looked like chaos, where every single item was, on every single shelf. In those days I knew every shopkeeper by name and just as importantly, they also knew my name, should I get up to any mischief!
The top end of the street also had a much smaller parade of shops, surprisingly called 'the top shops', this is where I would go with my money to buy sweets or football stickers. In those days as a child it was safe to venture to the shops alone, albeit, it would take ages to get there, as you stopped to talk to everyone along the way and stopped to pet the three-legged dog called ‘Tosh’.
I remember granddad’s shed, which was a converted Anderson shelter, left over from the war, I remember the toilet being outside and freezing in the winter! I remember the coal cupboard in the kitchen and when the coal arrived, the whole kitchen descending into a plume of coal dust. I remember having a tin bath in front of the fire; yes I am really that old.
I remember the street being lined with lots of trees and going conkering as a child and being chased off by the grumpy neighbours. I could literally list all the names of the families now, house by house, as the memories are still so clear.
A visit back there today and I would sadly struggle to name a handful of family names. The shops, all sadly gone and now mainly take away establishments, that little piece of a bygone era, gone forever.
My grandparents lived there from 1937 until 1991, then my aunt who was still living there at the time, took on the family house, until she herself moved out in 1999. I myself lived in the street in various different houses, and my step-father still lives in the same house that we moved into in 1975. So from 1937 until the present day, there has been a member of my family residing on the same street for 83 years! I wonder if that’s a record?
Can you beat Paul’s record? E-mail us with your story and you could be featured on our website or in History Scotland magazine.
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Researching the names: Chiddicks in Essex; Daniels in Dublin; Keyes in Prittlewell; Wootton in Herefordshire and London; Jack in Scotland, Day in Essex, Kent and Gloucestershire.