Saturday, August 27, 2011


The name of my blog is "Devonhouse Recollections", but it occurs to me that I have not been doing much recollecting lately. So I thought I would return to the house where I was born. As I was thinking about it, a poem kept going through my mind. At first I thought I was imagining it, but when I googled it, I found there is indeed a poem, written by Thomas Hood, which begins with
"I remember, I remenber
The housewhere I was born....
I have reproduced the first two stanzas at the end of this posting.
There is no doubt that the house where you spend your early childhood lays a great role in shaping your view of the world. My first home was 63 Sutherland Avenue, Welling, KENT, ENGLAND.
I lived there for the first seven years of my life.

 This picture of the house was taken many years after we sold it and left, to move to Australia. It was taken by my sister when she paid a visit back to England some 35-40 years ago. On the street there is a wall where we once had a privet hedge, and I notice there is an extra set of front doors, as is now common in England to stop the cold air going into the hallway.
The bow window downstairs was our sitting room.It was not often used. I remember my grandfather lying in state there after his death, and I can remember us using it at Christmas time. At Election time. we actually rented it out to the local committee of one of the political parties!!!
The bow window upstairs was my parents' bedroom. The smaller window was the "box room" which my sister was later to adopt as her own, probably to get away from her pesky little sister, who continued to sleep in the larger bedroom to the rear, next to the bathroom at the top of the stairs. In British houses of this era (1930's) the stairwell is usually adjacent to the outside wall, providing an air pocket that insulates the other rooms.
Downstairs, behind the sitting room was our living room, where I recall spending most of our time, and next to it, behind the stairs was the kitchen. My only memory of that room was listening to "Mrs Dales' Diary" - a long running BBC serial - while my mother was preparing dinner.
My great niece Alyssa sent me a CD of some of my mother's old photos. Among them was this very faded old one of the living room.
I can remember that wallpaper frieze being pasted up. It was in the autumn colours popular at that time. I think the walls had just been treated with kalsomine. My parents had been doing some re-decorating. I have clear memories of the mantel clock and radio, and I am sure that picture above the radio is of my sister as a bridesmaid for our cousin's wedding. Everytime I looked at it, I felt very jealous that she had been given the opportunity to dress up in frilly pink satin!
Some books were kept in this corner too, including an old fashioned Home Health book, which had photgraph pictures of children just dressed in their knickers. I used to pore over that book.

Next to this shelf was the fireplace. Probably at the same time as the other decorating took place, the mantel and the surrounds were re-varnished by my mother. I was given the task of making "woodgrain" marks in the wet varnish, using an old comb. I also have memories of having my bath in a tin tub in front of that fire, when the cold weather, and my somewhat chronic bronchitis, made my parents reluctant to take me upstairs at night. And toast never tasted so good as it did when it was made on a long fork on the flmes of this coal fire.
I was born in this house. Here I am on that day in the arms of my paternal grandmother, with my grandfather, and my mother's sister Rose, who had travelled to our place to assist my mother.
The other person is my sister Sally, nearly five at the time. She declares to this day that the smile has only been forced for the camera, because when she was told there was a surprise for her, she had hoped it would be a puppy, not a baby sister!
The group is on the patio just outside the French doors leading from our living room. Behind them is a peach tree. That also sticks in my memory, because my father did himself some injury when he tried to remove it one time.
This next pic is of my father next to his mother.

And here is where I googled an overhead picture of that house last year!

Now this picture was not taken in our back garden, but that of an uncle and aunt who lived in Folkestone. My sister and I are on the far right, wearing the wrap-around plaits my mother used to love. I show it because behind us is a bomb shelter very much like the one in our garden, a stark reminder of the War which had only finished about 4 years before. We lived quite close to London. and my father was a member of the Home Guard. The bomb shelter was used on a numberof occasions!
The next two pictures were taken an official photographer, a Mr Winkle, who had his studio in the street behind us.
 I can clearly remember the dresses we wore for this one. My mother had made them from a beautiful gold satin, and we felt like princesses, especially with our curls produced by having our hair wrapped up in rags the night before!
There are very few candid home-produced shots, But here is one of my sister and me in the garden. My sister is wearing the blazer and beret of the Chislehurst Grammar School, to which she had just graduated.
 And here is one of me wearing a bonnet that my mother had made for me - and more wringlet curls! There are such lovely memories of summer days in that garden. Behind me is a lilac tree which I was allowed to call my own. My sister had an apple tree. There were gooseberries and blackcurrant bushes and a vegetable patch. We could see clearly over  the fence on one side where the Bishton girls lived. On the other side lived my friend Heather, but I had to go to her front door if I wanted to see her.
The outings I remember best were those we made to the local swimming pool. As you can see, it was quite an elaborate complex, even in the 1940's.
 We also lived near a rather large park, Danson Park, which had an old Manor House on it. We used to love the pond. One time, Trevor, the son of one of my mother's girlfriends on the Isle of Sheppey, came to stay with us, and we went to the pond in the pick to fish for tadpoles.
Once again note the homemade clothes, and the coat with the big hem to allow for growing. 
 I show this last photo because it was taken not long after we said goodbye to that house. We were migrating to Australia. While our parents completed the packing I was sent to Sheerness to stay with aunts, and then my mother and sister came to collect us to go and spend our last night at Plumstead with a great-uncle, before boarding the S.S. Mooltan at Tilbury.

One aunt is missing from this photo. Rose worked at a cafe in the town and could not get away. But I have a clear memory of her hand waving to us through the steam blowing out of the kitchen window as the coach passed by the cafe.

I Remember, I remember
by Thomas Hood

I remember, I remember

The house where I was born,

The little window where the sun

Came peeping in at morn;

He never came a wink too soon

Nor brought too long a day;

But now, I often wish the night

Had borne my breath away.

I remember, I remember

The roses red and white,

The violets and the lily cups--

Those flowers made of light!

The lilacs where the robin built,

And where my brother set

The laburnum on his birthday,--

The tree is living yet!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Mary, you have such a good memory. I can't remember very much of my own childhood a few memories here and there. My dad was transfered with work so much I can't even tell you how many different houses I grew up in. Nice to go down memory's lane with you.

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