Monday 13 June 2011

Deptford memories

My recent post about Wellbeloved's Deptford High Street premises prompted some interesting correspondence with former Deptford resident Ronald King, who sent me some fascinating memories from his formative years in the 'ford.

Ron, who is now 81 and lives in northern England, sent this wonderful picture of his school class at Stanley Street school in 1937. The writing on the blackboard reads: "We have just put up the decorations for the Coronation"

His memories paint a colourful and revealing picture of the excitement of Deptford High Street from a child's eye view, during the 1930s, and the devastation that the war wreaked on families and day to day life in the area.

Ron writes: I can only offer an old man’s disjointed ramblings but do so with the hope that they may trigger recollections in those with more intimate knowledge.

I come from an old Deptford family, poor but honest: the area around Grove Street was for many years infested by 'my sisters and my cousins and my aunts' ... well actually not my sisters.
My memories of the High Street date from about 1935. I lived – aged 5 - at No 8 Amersham Vale, a short walk away via Douglas St.

I remember...the barrows at the Douglas St/High St junction where you could buy almost anything at bargain prices...Woolworths, who really did sell things for 3d. and 6d….including TOYS!...the large 'barrel' suspended over the pavement near the station. I was convinced that it would come crashing down on somebody one day - I gave it a wide berth.

The bracket that held the 'barrel' is still there over; Ron identified it  as the one above the Monis clothes shop.

I remember...the shops decorated for the Coronation, large golden crowns made of cardboard which disintegrated when it rained and of course, flags...the market with two entrances from the High St where stalls sold cotton and buttons - and my special interest - books of all kinds, and pencils...the darkness of the streets after leaving the bright lights.

In 1937, the landlord 'encouraged' us to move to Windmill Lane, No 61, still within walking distance, even if you are 7. We continued to shop there regularly.

I remember...THAT BARREL...(I still do not know what it was for)...again Woolworths, this time batteries and torches and watches and gramophone records, Decca and Rex...and German tinplate toys. Toys were becoming more war-like; I remember being given a model lorry, fitted with a searchlight and a morse key together with a copy of the Morse Code. That's where I learned it and have never forgotten it...the 'Showground' on the same side as Woolworths, with lots of coloured lights and fairground games...Marks & Spencers, at that time a Woolworth clone with similar island counters and selling similar stock...the night-life - not clubs and bars, but shops. They used to stay open late in those days, and being brightly lit would be a magnet for people who worked during daylight hours.

Roadside barrows would have Naptha flares which gave a brilliant light and a loud hissing sound. One of the butchers shops would close and re-open later to sell saveloys and pease pudding to waiting customers..pavement artists, many ex-WW1 some without limbs...a man with no arms, drawing pictures with his feet...two buskers playing phono-fiddles outside the first sight of a coal-effect electric fire in a shop window..magic..we had no electricity though...all this at the 'top' of the street the Broadway end (why was it called the top - it was the southern end???).

At the 'bottom' was the cinema known as the Deptford flea-pit...Pecry’s an open fronted drapery shop, where my mother would 'pay-off' items which were then reserved for whenever she had fully paid for them..I can still recall the excitement of making the last payment and proudly taking home new sheets or material for curtains.

(Pecry's is on the left in this photo from 1910, and the station can be seen in the distance. I believe the road in the right foreground is Giffin Street, and the pub stands where Giffin Square is now.) UPDATE: SEE COMMENTS FOR A CORRECTION

I remember Maines(?) a similar kind of shop on the other side of the road...Sainsbury’s...gleaming white tiles...Edwards the baker who sold round flat bread puddings at 4d each...Saunders with free-standing bowls of dried fruit, peas and lentils, some outside the shop, with a scoop to fill bags and take to the counter...was this the start of self-service?.....the wonderful bakers on the corner of Douglas St...shops opening up their cellars at Christmas to sell toys; not their usual line...then...the more bright lights...pavements covered in broken glass....signs where the windows were, saying 'More open than usual'.

We were 'bombed out' of Windmill Lane and after living in a trench in Deptford Park (I believe one of 7) with 5 other families, for some weeks went to pick hops in Kent. This took about 3 years, but we returned to Deptford in time for the V1 flying bombs Again we were 'flying bombed' out and had to emigrate to Bermondsey. My first job after leaving school was in a radio shop (I was even then mad keen on anything electronic) called Evelyn Radio. situated would you believe, in Evelyn St. close to the bottom of the High St.

I remember...1946/47 was not much fun...rationing was still in force...the Blackout returned due to power cuts...even shops (like ours) that had electricity, were not allowed to use it during certain hours, not a good time for any cousin Eileen getting her first job in a self-service mini-market at the top of the High of the first supermarkets?

After leaving Evelyn Radio I had no close contact with the High St until around ’56 when I came back to work in Boyds, part of the GUS group, as a TV engineer. This shop was on the western side fairly close to New Cross Rd.

I remember...the changing demographics...the area manager coming into the shop just before closing time with another man whom he introduced to the manager as 'the new manager, starting on Monday morning...'! This happened twice during my time at Boyds. Luckily, TV engineers were harder to replace than managers!


The Grim Reaper said...

Big thanks to Ron.

The Prince Regent pub is the corner of Frankham Street and is now Barclays Bank. See:

Deptford Dame said...

Thanks for that clarification Bill, I was basing my guess on the distance to the station *adjusts glasses*.

. said...

Priceless stuff, thanks for those memories Ron.

Anonymous said...

The bakers on the corner of Douglas Street was Johnsons, when we were kids, we used to stand with our backs against the wall in the winter to keep warm from the bread ovens.

Suzannah Foad said...

Would love to see old pictures of Giffin Street, number 5 in particular!

Unknown said...

Loved reading this! Any more memories Ron?

mail said...

Thank you Anne,I have only today read your comment.If you are interested in 1930's Deptford,you might like to read my sisters memories of this period. email me if so.

JC said...

I'm told I have ancestors that ran a shop in Giffin Street, don't know the name or number but their surname was Stride but the shop was owned by their daughter in law Florence Stride nee Morley.

Anonymous said...

Hello is ron still alive please?

mail said...

Still alive and kicking....Thanks for asking. Ron

Unknown said...

The photo with Pecrys in it concerning the road on the right is Frankham Street.

Richard Linden said...

Hi Ron and all. My dad was born in 1931 at 2 Windmill Lane. I recall him telling me of his mum being bombed out several times. He did not speak of his childhood much but with his recent passing we are finding a whole ton of stuff including his Identity Cards. It seems Windmill Lane no longer exists. Wondering if you could tell me roughly where it was. Thanks Richard Linden.

mail said...

Hi Richard, thanks for your post. Windmill Lane ran between Grove Street and Evelyn Street. The Grove St. intersection, was opposite the gates of the Royal Victoria Yard. the "Vitlin Yard" as we knew it. The gates have been preserved. If you draw a line from the gates South until it reaches Evelyn St.(Lower Rd.) you have the position of Windmill Lane. No 2 was at the Southern end on the East side of the road. I wonder if I was at school with your dad?
Regards Ron

Anonymous said...

Hello Ron and all,

My 2x Great Grandfather was Joseph Green who lived at 239 Grove St Deptford from the late 1920's until his death in 1934. I believe he was living with his sister Kate who was Potter, then Dixson.
Does anyone recall the Green/Potter/Dixson clan?


15 Aug 2018 4.31pm NZ

Unknown said...

My great uncle and aunt Abraham and Caroline Mandalstam were publicans of the Prince Regent Deptford High Stfrom 1911 until about 1927. He came from Riga Russia.

Unknown said...

My great incle and aunt Abraham and Caroline Mandalstam were publicans of the Prince Regent Deptford High St from 1911 until about 1927. He came from Riga Russia.


The Grim Reaper said...

Abraham Mandelstam was born c1857 in Riga, Latvia (at that time part of the Russian Empire).
In 1878 he married Caroline Morris in London, about a year later their son Morris was born. (According to the 1911 census return, signed by Abraham, there had been a second child of the marriage who was no longer alive.) A cabinet maker (1881 census), and then a tailor, before becoming a publican. Abraham (and family) were naturalized on 11 September 1894, the certificate being signed by the Home Secretary H. H. Asquith. In 1898 he became a Freemason.

In 1901 he was still a tailor on the census, but appears to have been running the Royal Standard P.H., North Woolwich soon after. Before coming to Deptford he was the licensee of the Bell and Anchor P.H., Dock Road, Canning Town.

Bert Bowes said...

Let me introduce my-self. I am Bert Bowes, em aged 87 yrs.

This morning 8th May I wanted to search for info re the pub on the N.side of Windmill Lane, which I still have not got, in doing so I came across the 'Pandora's Box' 'The Deptford Dame.Prior to, during and after the 1939/45 war this was my world.My mother, Grace Deeks was born at 89 Windmill Lane in 1908. The Deeks' then moved the other side of the foot-bridge to 32. When we,The Bowes, were bombed out from Conley St Greenwich we moved in with Nan & Grandad at 32. Those of you who remember these houses will know that with Nan, Grandad, my Mum, me and my baby sister (Valerie), Uncle Bert, Aunty Doris and Aunty Nell we were well over-crowded so we moved to 44, a much larger house. Before too long we were bombed-out so we moved over the road to 39..Not a good move because we were bombed-out yet again. we then moved to 26 where we stayed in comparative safety until the end of the war.My parents were allocated a requisitioned flat at 89 Humber Rd SE3(With Mr & Mrs Kirby) We subsequently moved to Abbey Wood SE2. The Remainder were moved to various addresses in Bellingham. Anyway to my child-hood memories. Deptford Park I remember well. The cinder surface football pitch, the running track which was also home to a barrage balloon, the putting green, the pond and the play-ground with it's assortment of acceptable rides. Apart from the swings and slide (kids stuff) there was 'The Umbrella', the giant Swing-boat, Ropes & Hoops. A potential disaster area which 'elf & safety' would have shut down in a flash. Run of the mill stuff in those days. How-ever the was a first-hut managed by two ladies who looked after various cuts and bruises with liberal applications of iodine etc. A large area of the park was given over to allotments and parallel to Scawen Rd was an air-raid shelter which I am am assured is still there. There was also a large water fountain which the council decided to dismantle, it was stacked just inside the park gates. During the evening some of us climbed into the park and roughly re-assembled it. We did not show our-selves when the workers turned up the next day. I bet the language was something to hear! Our other play areas were the bombed areas close to the Victualling Yard (Where a wall fell on one of the Potter brothers) and Smith & Olleys wood-yard, if you could manage to dodge the dogs, and the Surrey Canal. Corner shops although not always on a corner, more usually the ground floor of an ordinary house that I remember were 'Fred Websters' (next door), Reeves' the dairy once called Phillips, Johnny Roes' over the bridge and another whose name I mis-remember in Hanlon St. On the corner of Colwich St and Evelyn ST was 'Dummies' The snob and cobbler where I was often sent for six penny-worth of leather. My grandfather mended all our shoes. Needless to say he was deaf & dumb. The High St I remember well. I will try to avoid duplicating any of the other correspondents info though I am a little surprised were the pie shops, 'Goddards' and 'Manzies where empty bellies were cheaply filled. You were usually only loyal to one! Manzies was ours, I loved to watch 'Old man Manzie' cleaning and chopping up the eels. It was fascinating to watch the bits still wriggling in the bucket

Bert Bowes said...

Bowes Pt.II.

What was previously referred to as the 'Flea-pit' we knew as the 'Bug-hutch'. The 'Show-ground' also had a bumper-car ring at the rear. My father told me that in his day there was also a 'Bare Knuckle' booth where you could try your luck. At the Broadway end was the Broadway & Odeon cinemas and the New Cross Empire. As a child I was frequently taken there by my mother and her sisters. You usually had to queue, if you were feeling peckish there were peanuts, toffee-apples, baked potatos, saveloys and faggots and pease pudding to be had. There were also the 'Buskers', excellent entertainers. Those that I remember in particular were the Egyptian sand dancers who performed their version of an Egyptian dance, the man who tore up newspapers which he then he unfolded to display his creation, my favourite was the line of elephants trunk-to-tail and the 'one-man band' there were many others all tying to earn a crust, quite often they were dis-abled ex-sevicemen. When my friends and I wee old enough to visit The Empire unaccompanied we saw such turns as Arthur Askey, Max Miller 'The cheeky chappie' with the red and blue joke books, the audience were invited to choose which book the wanted to hear jokes from, they always chose he blue book, even so no four letter words were heard, inuendo was enough. 'two-ton Tessie O'Shea, 'Just Jane' Striptease artiste (the lights always went out at the crucial moment), Joan????? the Strong Woman who bent iron bars across her neck and tore phone directories in half. All risque for those but not as risque as 'Tobacco Road'. Clubs we used were The Clover Leaf and The Shamrock, both Irish Dancing (and fighting clubs).Trad-jazz clubs we used quite a few both in the West-End and local. My two favourites were The Fellowship Inn in Catford and The Shakespeare in Woolwich. Does anybody remember the 'Passports' needed for entry, especially to 'Eel Pie Island. Our pubs were The Caulkers' The 'Prince of Orange' The 'Colleen Bawn The India Princess' The 'China Hall' The 'Gregorian (Greg) The Royal Surrey Commercial Docks Tavern' (Fitchets) and The 'Lord Salisbury' in Lewisham. There others mainly 'Round Town'. It was not 'Down Town' then. My friends and associates were Tom Holland (His family shared our air-raid shelter), Ken Birchall no.5, Fred Cox who lived opposite, Reg Tutt and Leslie Wilbraham who lived in Kempslade St. Michael Malin also Nobby Sivyer in Colwick St,. Over The Bridge were Harry Hayward, Les Chapel and Ken 'Okko' Hopkins in Grove St., The Potters, Brian and Arthur (or was it Derek) one of whom worked for the Mercury and The Daily Express or The Daily Main as a sports reporter, Ken Richmond who lived in a pre-fab in Windmill Close. As an aside I remember the cycle speedway track that as built by a group dads on the junction of Grove and Evelyn Streets, a bomb site.
That's my memory box all but exhausted. I will bee glad to respond to any communications.
Regards Bert Bowes

Paj said...

> Maines(?)
Maynes - owned by my great grandfather. Found this page looking for information on his stores in Deptford and Welling.

PaulK said...

My mother - Shirley - lived above the milliners shops owned and run by her parents - Solomon and Millie Finn - at 155 Deptford High Street from the late 1920s through to the early 1950s. They moved out to Edgware during the Blitz but kept the shop running.

My mother wrote this 'Memory of Deptford' before she died in 2012.

"Deptford High Street - such a part of my life. Selwyn's next door (and the radio shop next to Selwyn's). Winers, the shoe shop, opposite. The Dobkin's dress shop.

....the other hat shop down the road - not friendly much with them! And MUNRO's - the big store next door to us - their big wall on the left of our garden as we went out there. ....I was always disappearing in there - one of the staff making a fuss of me - letting me pull the handle of the overhead wire to send the little box flying to the cash desk with the bill and the money - and she would send the receipt and change back again. (It sound like a 100 years ago!!!!!!!!!)

Our garden had a big door (double door?) At the back on the right hand side which led to a path which was behind Selwyn's yard and Mr Jay's yard - (the Selwyn's were Mr and Mrs Murray) and led out to the little street - a cul-de-sac - that was there.
I nearly forgot - the RAILWAY was high at the back of the garden and Deptford Station was just along to the right past MUNRO's - and I think there were railway arches at the end of the little street (or did it go round to the market?). Jay's yard was always full of those big big glass 'bottles' or jars - now used as 'indoor gardens'.....then full of 'acid' which went into batteries......for what? Radios? It had a special smell.

I remember 'playing' in the shop when it was closed with friends - putting on the high heeled shoes the 'girls' had left there - and dressing up with the hats.
The 'funeral' hats we had in specially at Christmas navy and black thin silk covering a sort of cardboard and a 'pot' shape.....and costing 4 shillings and 11 pence! Always a lot of funerals after Xmas....people died mainly from overrating and drinking....because they were poor and didn't do so all year. Remember when they used the 'change' the window - the hats in it - done in rows.

I also vividly recall sitting down in the shop at night waiting for Mum and Dad to come back - they always went to the cinema on a Thursday night at he Elephant and Castle. I can remember being worried they would not return - those vague or not so vague worries of a child yet I couldn't have been so young - we always had maids when I was young - maybe we didn't have maids after Leila grew up a bit - there were only two bedrooms and three couldn't sleep in the back room?

Back to the High a Street....'up' the street just after the railway bridge across the road - there was the MARKET (on RH side) ....the first 'shop/display' was fruit....Jewish boys....we were quite friendly with them....and they had 'flares' (lights) hanging down when it was dark and in the winter.....must have been oil lamp things.
We went 'up' the road to the get the bus to New Cross... My school was up to the 'top' and to the the New Cross was on the LH side of the road. ADDEY and STANHOPE. That was when I was 11. Before that I went 'down' the road and turned left and around to CLYDE STREET SCHOOL. 'Down' the road....the little flea pit cinema with the sweet shop next door (or nearly). .... Opposite the entrance to CARTER PATERSON....went through to a depot - lorries could back up to the warehouses they were high up and steps up to that level. And near the famous EEL PIE SHOP - horrid smell!

Anonymous said...

My parents Stuart and Sylvia Reeves were renting 13a Kempslade street (top floor flat) when I was born in 1963. We were re-housed to Durham Hill Bromley in 1963 when they started renovating the area.

Elaine Jones said...

My family lived in Windmill Lane.
Our house was bombed in Bush Road Rotherhithe. Our coalman said there was a house in Windmill Lane, it wasn't good but habitable. So with very little stuff, we arrived in Windmill Lane on the Coalman's Horse and Cart. It was the house next to Freddie Cox. a basement House. Most windows were shattered, the stairs 3 flights had holes and broken. It was cold and miserable. But with coats on the bed. stone water bottle my brother and sister shivered all night, we all slept together (spooning). But at least we found a shelter amongst the rubble in the garden. My Dad was in Egypt. So there was only my mum who had 3 children. When we went to Deptford Park school mum worked in the Vitlin yard in the Canteen. there was no dole money then. I remember we didn't possess pyjamas. we slept in our vest and knickers all the time, No heating, no electricity, only gas mantles. with the shattered windows we were cold.. We did have a small range, we used to put our stone water bottle in the little oven at the. Bombs especialy the Doddle Bugs, tey were frightening.

Robin said...


I would love to hear any memories about Stanley Street School. I'm currently living in there as part of a guardianship, to ensure squatters don't take over the building etc. It would be fascinating to know the history of the place.

Gerry said...

Kate Green/Potter/Dixon 2x Great Grandmother, my Grandad was born in 239 Grove St

Gerry said...

Kate was my 2x Great Grandmother my Grandad was born in 239 Grove St

Gerry said...

The Potter brother that the wall fell on, was my Dad Brian, his older brother Arthur had it on his toes a bit sharpish as he was ment to be looking after him, a story all the family have heard many times, along with many others

mail said...

Hi Robin, I hope you are taking good care of Stanley St. school...It was my first school I was
just 5, a long time ago, but I remember it well.It was at that time, an "Elementary" school for pupils up to the age of 7. Because I became 7 shortly after the 1937 coronation,when the picture above was taken,I had to transfer to another school, but I have fond memories of the school, and of Mrs. Harris, My teacher.
Ron King. (Mail)

mail said...

Hello Elaine, Did you live close to Midway Place, when you were in Bush Road?
Ron King (mail)

FamilyJ said...

Oh my gosh. Thank you for sharing this story. My mum went to deptford park school and lived in windmill lane when she was little. Wright family

FamilyJ said...

Hello, my nana’s family lived at 23 windmill lane. Was the Wright family. I’m part of the Wright/Shearwood/Barnes lineage

eddy said...

Was knwn as the worst St in as it was called Dirty Deptford .Ilived with my mum in secondhand clothes shop next to Druids Head Pub .

Unknown said...

Only just read your reply. Has filled in a lot of the history of Abraham I did not know. He died in 1936 and was preceeded by 2 years by son Morris. Thanks for information.