Fifties Pin-up Girl Now Lives in Streatham

Pearl Newman, now in her 90s, was a professional actress from the 1940s and 50s. From her publicity photos, she was quite the looker in her day, billed as ‘the attractive girl with the attractive smile’.

Pearl was born in Central London but retired to Streatham some years ago. She now lives within a stone’s throw of the Beacon Bingo Hall, which she remembers as Streatham Hill Theatre. Pearl appeared in a number of roles there during the 1950s, including Principal Boy in the Christmas pantomime ‘Humpty Dumpty’, which played from Boxing Day through January in 1952-53 and 1954- 55.

Living in Marylebone, Pearl particularly remembers getting the 159 bus to just outside the stage door at the Streatham Hill Theatre, ready for rehearsals or the show. She finished so late there was just time to get the last bus back home each night.

Pearl took roles in Rep across the country including venues as far apart as Bournemouth and Scotland. She gave up acting to marry and have a family.

Adventurous into her 80s, Pearl spent some time in Corfu, where she lived with her daughter and Greek extended family before practicalities dictated that she return to London eventually to settle in a Jewish community sheltered housing scheme in Streatham.

When we met Pearl towards the end of last year she was very much hoping to pay a visit to the theatre and relive some old memories. Although a spell of ill-health has put this on hold for a while, we’re hoping this will happen in the warmer weather.

The photos show Pearl in her role as Principal Boy in ‘Humpty Dumpty’, at Streatham Hill Theatre,  more publicity shots of Pearl in the 1950s and Pearl as she is today – still elegant.


Memories from Both Sides of the Classroom, a Teacher Remembers her Schooldays, 1970s to Present


  • Karen Hadfield, 48, remembers school life from both sides of the playground!

Q: When did you move to Streatham and where have you lived?

I moved to Streatham as a baby, first to a shared house with my mum on Gleneldon Road, then to Mount Ephraim Road and finally to Adare Walk on Leigham Court Road. My mum still lives there. After a time at Art College and in Wales, I returned to Streatham around 1990 or 1991 and lived with my sister in Moorefield’s Court, Aldrington Road in Furzedown. I then moved to Manville Road in Tooting Bec and finally back to Streatham Vale, where I live with my husband and family.

Q: Do you have memories of your life in Streatham?

When I was seven I had a car accident on Knollys Road, and was in St. Giles Hospital for 8 weeks. My parents were separated and my mum worked all day so we had to take ourselves to school. In those days, lots of small children walked together, joining the group as it passed by their road. A boy was chasing me, so I ran into the road and a car hit me. The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital, being taken down a corridor, through the plastic flap doors, assuring my mum I was going to be alright.

Not long after the accident I remember my little sister walking ll the way home from Knollys Road by herself. I think her childminder lived on that road. She was only around 3 or 4. She must have crossed at least two roads!

My memories of Adare Walk include children climbing on the cheery trees and destroying them, but also Fred Tribe the caretaker turning on the lights in the evening and John the milkman who whistled as he ran up and down the stairs.

I went to Sunnyhill School. In summer, walking home from school, we always used to do the flower trail down Culverhouse Gardens, picking flowers from the gardens and scattering the petals on the ground.  We ran away when we were apprehended!  Sometimes we walked down Streatham High road, going in and out of the shops, and sometimes we went along Valley Road, climbing on the walls. When I had my daughter, mum looked after her. She walked early and when she was about one, she always wanted to close all the gates down Gardens. It reminded me of the flower trail.

The Genevieve pub was next to the ABC Cinema. We used to go to the Saturday morning pictures and eat sherbet fountains and bags of puffs – savoury snacks like hollow macaroni.

On the corner of Leigham Court Road and Culverhouse Gardens, there used to be an abortion clinic, and people used to protest outside.

Q: What do you remember about your school days?

Miss Milford was the head teacher of Sunnyhill School. She had lots of dogs – they had curly coats and could have been Airedales. One was called Zebedee. When Miss Milford gave us lifts to sports events, we had to share the car with the dogs!

Miss Robbins had a Red Setter that she used to bring into school. Miss Baskerfield used to give you sweets in assembly on your birthday.

Now there are new buildings and fancy stuff in the playground, but then there used to be a hut which was Mr Crandon’s classroom. Mr Crandon had an old-fashioned care, and he was very scary, with purple lips and a bald head. Mr Kingston was tall, strong and softly-spoken and commanded respect.

We used to play American Jumps under the rain shelter near the toilets. We used to sing a song, “American Jumps, American Jumps, American Jumps for me! Up in the sky, ever so high, One, two three!” On three, people standing on benches would lift the person coming through and then they would jump down to the floor to go through to be lifted themselves.

We also played two-ball against the wall, to the tune of ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’. The variations were two hands; unders; upsies; overs; clapsies, bouncies and one hand. We used to sing, “Two hands Mrs Brown! Two hands Mrs Brown! Two hands , two hands, two hands, two hands , two hands Mrs Brown!”

Marbles was a big game. We used to play it on the drain tops, and it was tactical. The rules varied according to the pattern on the top of the drain. Sometimes people came along and tipped up all the marbles, shouting, “Scramble”! The marbles went all over and you could keep however many you could grab. There were lots of different types of marble, and they all came in two sizes: standard and large. The ordinary ones were clear with a cat’s eye in the centre but there were also cheaters: opaque with ribbons of colour; chinas: one colour opaque; squids: clear with swirly ribbons of colour; ball bearings: metallic; and clear.

Another popular game was British Bulldog.

Q: What was it like as a teenager in Streatham?

There was a youth club in Adare Walk in the late 70s, early 80s. I remember going to the Cat’s Whiskers which became The Studio and then Caesars.

Q: Did you ever work in Streatham?

When I was about 17 I had an evening paper round, delivering the Guardian in Stockfield Road and Hitherfield Road. The route had a very steep hill and I always getting my fingers trapped in letter boxes or nipped by dogs! I kept trying to find ways to speed up the delivery process; folding all the papers first or holding two papers in one hand; but they never worked and it was always horrible!

I also taught at Woodmansterne School. When I left, the atmosphere had become difficult and we were under lots of pressure, but almost up until then it was brilliant. My fondest memory is my first class. The parents were so supportive. My first assembly was based on the story ‘Handa’s Surprise’, with special music and movement to denote each animal. Another memory is when the teachers did Teacher Idol. The staff at that time were amazing – quite a special gang. When I was in the nursery, Anne Morgan and another teacher came in to do storytelling and brought props to help the children act out the stories. I remember they did ‘Cat on the Mat’ and My Dad Bakes’. After they’d gone, they left all the props for the children to play with. The children were still totally caught up in the stories and carried on acting them out. It was wonderful to see.

Other happy times were when we built an igloo in the snow and when the city farm came. When Liz the music teacher retired, we all sang a medley of songs for her, including Elton John’s “Your Song”, her favourite.

Q: Do you remember any particular events in Streatham?

In 1977 there was a Silver Jubilee party at the Adare Centre. Mum bough special Jubilee material from Pratt’s and made me and my sister a dress each. Mine was red and my sister’s was blue. We had special Jubilee socks too, and red, white and blue ribbons in our hair. Sunnyhill School gave each pupil a mug, but ours didn’t last!

Q: Do you have memories of shopping in Streatham?

On the left at the top of Leigham Court Road there was Busby’s that sold trendy clothes. My brother used to go there. Then there was Fred’s the butchers, which he ran with his son Derek. They also had a little fruit and veg place near where the toilets are. I’ve known the Dorchester Cafe all my life. Miriam used to have bright red hair, and her husband Carl used to be huge – he’s lost a lot of weight. Their daughter had all the latest stuff.

In Woolworth’s there were mountains of sweets. I took a sweet because I’d seen someone else do it, but an old biddy spotted me and sad, “You’d better put that back!” Too late – iit was already in my mouth!

Pratt’s was the most wonderful place. I remember my mum buying Jonelle soap powder and detergent there. You could by electrical stuff and mum used to spend ages looking at catalogues and dress patterns. A lady called Susie worked on the pattern counter. Twins worked in the haberdashery and material department, and there was another lady with immaculate make-up who had only one leg and used crutches. There was an entrance on Prentis Road, near the toys and carpets. When my little sister was born, Mum bought all her baby clothes at Pratt’s and all our school uniforms. It wasn’t compulsory, but Mum liked us to wear it. For a treat, Mum would buy us clothes from the Country Casuals shop in Pratt’s. I remember she bought me two pleated skirts.

It wasn’t like now, we used to do our shopping all over Streatham, at lots of little shops. Down Shrubbery Road, there was a little oriental shop, where we bought our rice.

Westbury’s was run by two brothers. The elder was called Big Ron. They’re still around today. There was a chemist, a mini-mart, and a fashion boutique. We used to buy canned drinks at the mini-mart as they were 1/2p cheaper than other places. One day, I was with my mum and sister and my mum was looking at handbags. She got talking to Ron, but then said her goodbyes and started to leave the shop. I saw Ron looking at Mum funny because she still had the handbag on her arm. It was a really awkward moment – even though Mum had known Ron a long time, he still thought she was trying to steal the bag!

Q: Do you have any stories about famous residents of Streatham?

Shaw Taylor lived in The High and he used to talk to my brother about football. I used to see Floella Benjamin on the High Road, and Roy Hudd lived near Mount Ephraim Road.

Q: And what about now?

The High Road is a lot grubbier now and very fragmented. When my youngest sister was born, I was 13 and I went down the High Road with the big Silver Cross pram with the shopping underneath and I always saw lots of people I knew. Now no-one really knows their neighbours.

Then everyone was scared that if they did wrong, people would go and tell their mum! My brother took something from Woolworth’s for a dare, and the assistant saw him and said that if he didn’t put it back and tell his mum what he’d done, she would call the police! My brother was so scared; he went straight to tell our mum, who was furious!

Cigarettes, Wine and Magazines … ‘Sutha’ Remembers her Time as a Shopkeeper in Streatham


  • ‘Sutha’, who wants to remain anonymous, remembers her time as a shopkeeper in Streatham

Q: Why did you move to Streatham?

We moved to Streatham from Tooting in 1996 to be nearer to our newsagents and off-licence on the High Road.

Q: Did you work in Streatham, if so can you tell us about it?

I helped my husband in the shop. In 1986 when we bought the shop Streatham was a nice area. Our customers were mainly White and Asian. It was a perfectly fine area. We were the only small shop selling cigarettes and bus passes. We were happy.  Then one day our landlord wanted to increase the rent. I told him we couldn’t afford it. So we decided to apply for a licence for an off-licence and the landlord said he would increase the rent anyway. Then he refused to let us run the off-licence so we had to throw away all the stock that we’d bought!  Then the landlord died and his son took over. He was much better. We approached the son about the idea of an off-licence. He agreed and even reduced the rent! Later on we bought the shop leasehold. That was when interest rates were so high – we paid 18%!

My husband came from rural India so his English wasn’t so good but he was very good at maths. He didn’t get to go to college in India because he had responsibilities at home and had to work. When he came to England I suggested he learnt how to do accounts. He did a short course. Then he did computing. Shop work suited him.  We took a loan of £45,000 to get the stock to set up the shop.

By the time we had been here 2 or 3 years things started to get bad. Children began to hang around the shop and try to steal magazines and chocolates. Some threatened us as they wanted cash from the till. The worst time was the early morning from 7.30 to 9.00 and the afternoon from 3.00 to 4.30. I used to go to the shop to help my husband as he couldn’t risk being on his own because of the groups of school children. We also had to be careful not to sell them cigarettes under-age. In the end we sold the shop in 2000 as it was getting too difficult.

Q: Do you have memories of shopping in Streatham?

The area was good when Pratts was there. I remember going to Pratts. It was a nice store. When they moved out the area was going down. When house prices started rising in Brixton it became a safer place again. Tesco’s has changed the map again.

Skating, Coffee Bars, Record Shops and Cynthia Payne! Teenage Life in the 60s


  • Mary, 67, remembers life as a Streatham teenager in the 1960s.

Q: When did you move to Streatham?

We moved to Streatham in 1955 when I was 8. We moved here so my brother could go to Battersea Grammar school. My father went to Battersea Grammar and I think he pulled some strings to get my brother there. There was the swimming, the ice rink, two cinemas and the two commons (Streatham and Tooting Bec). It was a really good place to have a childhood.

Q: Do you have memories of your life in Streatham?

Pratts was a focal point. I went there with my mum. I would go up the High Road on my own and meet friends and wander round Pratts. We’d not spend anything but it was something to do. Then as a teenager in the ‘60’s you would go up the High Road and it was a real focal point. You would always meet friends. I was at the Convent Girls’ School and we used to meet up with the Tulse Hill boys who we thought of as ‘a bit of rough!‘

There was the Rumbling Tum at Streatham Hill Station in the ‘60’s; that was like a real coffee bar. Up the High Road it was more like Wimpy bars. Then there was Pratt’s tea rooms where your mum took you for a cup of tea. In the ‘50’s there was Fuller’s Tea Rooms next to the Odeon. That was posh. The waitresses were dressed up like Lyon’s Nippies in the black. You’d only go there for posh occasions.

My mum took me to the cinema and to Streatham Hill Theatre. I saw Oklahoma and West Side Story. I was 12 or something and it was just amazing. Then there was The Boyfriend and Salad Days. They were the ones that really stick out in my mind. And also from when I was 10 she took me to the odd film. I remember seeing Doris Day. I think Streatham Hill was a place with a lot of theatrical digs. There were a lot of well-known West End actors living in Streatham Hill. It was quite up-market in those days. It was so sad when Streatham Hill Theatre shut. They used to put on pantomimes. It was a lovely theatre and it was my introduction to the stage and a different sort of magic to the cinema.

I used to go skating on a Saturday morning and meet friends. There was much more freedom for kids then. Parents felt it was safer, or maybe it was safer. I don’t know whether it was perception or reality. So you would meet friends outside the ice rink and you’d go for 2 hours. We were quite savvy. It was good. I could go out from a Saturday morning from aged 9 onwards and go skating. They had an organist at the rink and if it was your birthday he would play Happy Birthday for you, which was really nice,

We went to the library at Streatham Common station; It’s a nursery now. We always went there as kids. We also went to the Tate library.

Q: What was it like as a teenager in Streatham?

My brother was 4½ years older than me. He was a big Jazz fan. There was a Jazz club by Streatham Hill Station. When I was about 14 I would be really curious about what went on at this club. He used to go off with his bongos under his arm. I never got there because it shut before I was old enough. I went to the Locarno at Streatham Hill which was a big draw for dancing. But I was a bit snooty by then because I was really into Blues and R&B and I would go to the Marquee Club up in Soho from when I was 17. I would get the bus to Tooting Bec and then the tube. I would go every Saturday. My dad would pick me up at the tube at 11 o’clock with his raincoat over his pyjamas. He was just great my dad. Whatever I did he would pick me up. I didn’t know boys with cars. I didn’t go to Streatham. I went up town to the Flamingo nightclub in Soho; an early disco place. I saw The Who, Georgie Fame and Rod Stewart and the Faces who did a residency at the Marquee Club Soho. There was so much happening then. I went up town for music.

When I was 17 I met a group of friends; which when you’ve been to an all- girl’s school, to meet a mixed group was quite exciting. We used to meet at the Bedford Park Hotel opposite Streatham station and you’d hope someone might have a party. So for me as a teenager Streatham was great but it also had good amenities for getting up town.

There are a lot of churches in Streatham; my mum was Catholic so we went to the English Martyrs. But when I got to 16 and I decided I was no longer a believer, I would set off for church, but then go up to the Rookery and meet my boyfriend.

Q: Do you remember any particular events in Streatham?

I remember the night the church on Guildersfield Road burned down. My kids Lucy was 14 and Sam 15. I heard this crackling in the night. It woke me up. I looked out of the window. It was so bright. My daughter and I went out to see what was going on. It was very spectacular. You could almost understand pyromaniacs because it was just flames and the crackling. And then there was a fire engine and the crane spraying water, and the crowds. Originally it was an Anglican Church of England church. It was taken over by an African religion. They were using it at the time it was burned down. Whether it was just the electrics, I don’t know. It was a huge Victorian church but it didn’t look inviting.

Q: Do you have memories of shopping in Streatham?

As a teenager there was a very good record shop opposite the Odeon and there was a tiny little shop called The Swing Shop opposite the English Martyrs, run by a guy called Ray, which did imports from America black artists from the ‘50s and ‘60s. I would come back from school, get off the bus at St Leonard’s and take off my Panama hat and go in there. It was just really nice.

When Lambeth Council decided to shut Pratts down that was a big blow to Streatham. That was very sad really and it really went downhill and was really quite depressing. And it’s really noticeable now how it’s looking up again.

Q: Do you have any stories about famous residents of Streatham?

I remember Cynthia Payne. I was pretty young but I was old enough to know something was going on. I must have been a teenager. My mother belonged to the Union of Catholic Mothers and she had a friend who had a house next to Cynthia Payne’s house on Ambleside Avenue. Mum said this friend didn’t realise what was going on. She must have been a bit daft because she thought there were a lot of visitors! My mother-in-law who lived in Tankerville, she used to have her grand daughter, my niece, after school and she used to come home with a school friend; who always had luncheon vouchers. So my mother-in-law always thought that this woman’s mum worked for Cynthia. And three houses up from Cynthia’s place in Ambleside Avenue they used to have whist drives for the church; so you think “wouldn’t it be funny if they got the number of the house wrong!” Cynthia was thought of with affection.

Q: And what about now?

I would say that there seems to be a lot more energy in Streatham now again. I think Jo Brand did Streatham a favour. You know she slagged off Streatham and I think it rallied the troops a bit. It’s got quite a community feel. I think. Streatham library being done up will be a great help because the library should be a focus for people.

Food Festival Director Looks Back on Her Life, 1980s to Present


  • Pauline Milligan, 35, the Director of Streatham Food Festival and a keen swimmer, has lived almost her whole life in Streatham

Q: How long have you lived or did you live in Streatham?

I’ve lived in Streatham for the best part of 30 years, first moving here in 1983 when I was 4 years old. I was away for a few years at university in Liverpool (although I came back to work during the holidays), I also lived in a flat-share in Balham briefly and I spent three years in Tulse Hill before moving to my current home, back in Streatham. Aside from university, I’ve never gone very far!

Q:  Why did you move to Streatham?

My parents both grew up in Clapham Park in the 50s and 60s; at that time, Streatham was considered ‘posh’. They had my three elder siblings in London but then moved to Ireland for a work opportunity (my dad was also born there and had family in Galway and Dublin). My younger brother and I were born in Ireland, and then after a few years my parents decided to move back. They looked in Clapham and Streatham as they knew the areas and had strong family ties (by this time my mum’s parents had moved to Streatham while my dad’s parents were still in Clapham Park), and soon after bought our family home in the area.

Q: Whereabouts have you lived in Streatham?

I grew up on Copley Park in one of the beautiful semi-detached houses up there – large enough for a family of seven. I was very fortunate to have Streatham Common and the Rookery as my childhood playgrounds.

After university, I spent a year renting one of the flats on the corner of Hopton Road and Streatham Common North, and later a year in a very lovely flat on Downton Avenue. My poor parents had to put up with me moving home to Copley Park between flats; when they sold the family home six years ago (moving just down the road to Norbury) my mum was very pleased to tell me that their new house was just for them!

I now live on Leigham Avenue in one of the 1930s mansion blocks; the art deco stained glass windows are so beautiful. However, my husband and I are in the process of buying a flat on Leigham Court Road, all being well we’ll be moving in the next few weeks. We feel this is our last chance to buy in Streatham; the prices have gone crazy, so we’re really hoping it doesn’t fall through.

Q: How many years have you lived there?

I’ve lived in our flat on Leigham Avenue for around 3 years; my husband has been here for 10 or 11.

Q: Do you have memories of your life in Streatham?

Most of my childhood memories relate to school, swimming club and Streatham Common.

I went to St Andrew’s RC primary school on Polworth Road from age seven (I was at St Bernadette’s in Clapham Park before that); my first teacher was the current head, Mrs Assid. I remember our school musicals: playing the Sultan of Morocco in Dick Whittington; singing solo in Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat; forgetting my part as a shepherd in the nativity. The musicals were always pretty amazing.

I remember climbing trees on the Common; two friends and I would go high, high up – until we lost the fearlessness of youth. We named them all, inspired by Enid Blyton stories – we had our very own Faraway Tree, the Lightening Tree, and the Umbrella Tree. We would find random objects that had been left on the Common and create our own stories from them, convinced they were clues from a murder scene, or something similar.

I then went to Bishop Thomas Grant (BTG) secondary, near the top of the Common. I remember how big it felt on first arriving, with over 1,000 pupils from all over south London. I did very well at school (I was Head Girl in my final year) and had lots of friends, but I was a troubled teen so my memories are also tinged with sadness. I would often retreat to the Rookery to escape or find peace; it was also the place we would go after school on long summer days, hanging out in the long grass at the top of the tennis court field. I also remember sledging down that field through thick snow as a child.

The other important part of my childhood in Streatham was the swimming club. I joined at nine years old and swam there until I was about 15 or 16. Swimming was, and still is, very important to me, and many of my fondest memories are of the club.

We trained at Streatham pool on Tuesday and Friday nights; we’d do extra sessions at St Joseph’s or Crystal Palace at other times in the week, and most Saturday evenings were taken up with galas, either at Streatham or one of the other pools in south London. We were very competitive and I was proud to hold a number of swimming records for several years, although a brilliant young swimmer who came up behind me eventually took most of them.

As competitive as we were, the club was as much about the social aspects as the swimming. We had Christmas discos, annual awards, rambling expeditions and a regular summer party at a cricket club, somewhere out near Hampton Court, I think. There was always something going on and it was always fun.

I can remember standing outside Streatham pool on more than one Saturday afternoon when I was about 12 or 13 years old (over 20 years ago now), gathering names on a petition to stop the closure of the pool. Tesco’s eventually got their way but I like to think we held them off for a while. At least the beautiful stained glass fish from the old ceiling form part of the new pool; it makes me happy to see them when I swim at the leisure centre.

Q: Did you work in Streatham, and if so, what can you tell us about it?

From a young age I was earning money washing cars, doing a paper-round and then babysitting for several local families. As soon as I could, I got a Saturday job at the big Sainsbury’s store by the Common – I remember starting there a couple of days after my 16th birthday. Despite the monotony of working on the checkouts and later the cigarette kiosk, it was actually a lot of fun. I met some of my best friends there and we still reminisce about it: flirting with the ‘produce boys’; making plans for our Saturday nights out; sneaking out the back to scoff a pastry or some sweets; occasionally working the nightshift to save up enough money to go on a girls’ holiday to Majorca or Cyprus.

A few years later, I worked at The Waterfront at the bottom of the Common. I started doing bar shifts and helping to make pizzas in the kitchen, and I went on to become General Manager when the previous manager left. The hours were pretty crazy and it was very bad for my health, but I learnt a lot and made strong connections with the local community.

Almost ten years later, I’ve returned to working in Streatham. I now run Streatham Food Festival and work on various other local projects. It makes me very happy to be working as part of the community; we have such a great mix of people living in the area, and an incredible variety of local restaurants and food shops. I think the biggest challenge is how to support the development of the area to make it an even better place to live, while making sure that it doesn’t become exclusive – although it is going that way. The fact that Streatham is completely unpretentious is one of its greatest strengths, I’d hate for us to lose that.

Q: Do you have any memories of transport in Streatham?

I tend to have lived much of my life within walking distance of where I grew up (school, the swimming pool, the Common, Sainsbury’s, The Waterfront) and I don’t remember using transport very much as a child, other than getting the bus to Croydon, to go shopping with friends.

I do remember when I was about four years old, shortly after we moved here, my older siblings and I went to see a film at The Odeon together. After the film, we waited for the bus at the stop just outside the cinema. In those days, all buses were route-masters and I can remember my sisters getting on and the horrible bus conductor ringing the bell so the bus moved off before my brother and I could join them. My brother was older than me and able to run fast enough to catch it up; however, I was left stranded on the High Road. I think I sobbed on the pavement until a kind family stopped and offered to help; they had children in the car so I thought I could trust them. Fortunately, I knew my address and they were able to take me home, but I think we all had a bit of a scare that day.

Q:  Do you have memories of shopping in Streatham?

I hate to be totally predictable, but my main childhood shopping memory is of Pratt’s. I remember going there with my mum and picking out key rings in the toy section (I had a bit of a collection for a while). My mum still loves John Lewis stores, as do I. Funnily enough, my husband now works for them as a photographer.

I vaguely remember a cheap fashion store on the high road, roughly where the Card Factory is now, where I would go to buy clothes with my sister and friends. And a shoe shop that was next to the old ABC cinema.

I also remember an amazing Greek bakery that was located on the corner of Arragon Gardens or Glencairn Road. We used to buy loaves of freshly baked koulouri bread every Saturday; it would never make it home in one piece!

Q: Do you remember attending any particular events in Streatham?

I can remember the annual fireworks display on the common; school fetes at St Andrew’s (a friend and I got locked in the school building after hours one year and had to escape via the fire exit); swimming club events; school performances. There wasn’t the programme of public events we have now with the Arts Festival, Food Festival, Kite Day and Peace Festival – at least, not as far as I remember.

I think it’s brilliant that we have so much happening now. It all helps to connect people in the community, to create a feeling of pride in the area, to celebrate the fantastic place in which we all live.

Q:  Have you ever met or have stories about any famous residents of Streatham?

I used to work as Artist Liaison at the overseas aid agency, Cafod. I was always on the look-out for potential celebrities to support our work and one day my granddad mentioned to my mum that an actor had spoken at his church, English Martyrs, that Sunday (my grandparents lived on Gracefield Gardens from 1978 until they passed away in the 2000s). I did a bit of research and discovered that it was David Harewood. I contacted him about a new campaign we were launching about the damaging effects of gold mining on poor communities; there was a good link with the film Blood Diamond, in which he had recently acted. He came on board as a supporter and generated some good press coverage of the campaign. I left Cafod soon after but he has gone on to support other campaigns as well as travelling to Kenya to see the work of Cafod’s partners first-hand.

‘One of Our Own’, the Star of our 2013 Festival Show, Remembers, 1950s to Present


  • Brenda Hargreaves, 86, was born in Streatham and, with the exception of a brief time spent as an evacuee in Eastbourne and Llanelli, has spent her whole life there. Brenda is a founder member of the Streatham Society and the Streatham Society Players. In 2000, Brenda received a Civic Award from Lambeth Borough. She is a member of Christchurch, Streatham, but now receives communion at home. Brenda is also a poet and writer. ‘Streatham Then and Now’, our show performed as part of the Streatham Festival 2013, was based around Brenda’s poems.

Q: Where have you lived in Streatham?

I was born in Amesbury Avenue.  I moved from Eastbourne to Llanelli after France fell, but while I was staying in Llanelli I became very homesick and so I begged to return home to my family. I arrived home just in time for the Blitz in 1940. When I married I moved from Amesbury Avenue to a small flat in Staplefield Close and from there to a larger flat, where I still live, in 1969.

Q: What are your memories of life in Streatham?

Towards the end of the war, from 1944, there were a lot of flying bombs, or V1 rockets, dropped on Streatham. When they started to fall, I was playing Freda in ‘Dangerous Corner’ by JB Priestley at St. Mary’s Hall, Clapham. I remember I had the line, “Things are quite mad, aren’t they – and rapidly getting madder!” I did quite a lot of amateur dramatics.

I attended Hitherfield Primary School where I was bullied by a girl called Pam, who later became my friend. Later I attended Balham Central School, and made a lifelong friend called Jean. We found we’d both missed a scholarship by one mark,

I met my husband on the day of the General Election, 1964. I had been working for the Labour Party and came back to the Committee Rooms on Downton Avenue where I was introduced to a Mr Hargreaves, a Lancastrian. He was older than me, a Lancastrian who worked for the Water Board. He has also worked for a Funeral Director and was a fireman during the War, so I used to say he covered three of the four elements, Earth, Fire and Water! We married in 1966. I have always worked for the Labour Party. Jim Walker was our candidate in 1964 and 1966. He bagan to turn the tide against the Tories and later Keith Hill won the seat for Labour in 1992. In 2007, Keith Hill arranged for me to go to a reception at No. 10 and meet Tony Blair. The date was April 16th, my wedding anniversary!

Q: What are your memories of Streatham Hill Theatre?

My sister Dorothy, who was 12 years older, often used to take me to the theatre. I remember seeing ‘The River Line’ (by Charles Morgan, week of March 30th 1953). The theatre was bombed in 1944 and did not reopen until 1950. After the re-opening I saw Jack Warner there, who was lovely! I asked him to sign my programme and he put his arm around me and said, “So you’re Brenda are you!”

I also saw ‘Wedding in Paris’, with Evelyn Laye (1955). Evelyn Laye’s husband Frank Lawton was supposed to be in it, but as he was ill, Francis Lederer took over.

Q: What are your memories of working in Streatham?

After my husband died in 1973, I worked in WH Smith. I was made redundant once and went to work in a tobacconist near home and then the Pyramid Press, but then I went back to Smith’s. One afternoon, things were very slow, and we were talking about life in the past. One of the assistants said, “Don’t the years fly by quickly”, and I said, “And don’t the afternoons go by slowly!”

Once a customer came up to me with a really beautiful book and asked for a refund because the book was a wedding present and his wife died on their honeymoon. I asked the supervisor to give the man a refund with no questions asked, which she duly did. I realised later that I’d been conned, but Mr Clark, the manager, a very nice man, said he would have done exactly the same.

Q: What are your memories of transport in Streatham?

The number 5 bus to Mitcham became the 118 to Morden.

Once, when out with my sisters, I dropped 6d in the tram tracks and we had to hold up the tram as I got my finger caught trying to get it out!

I remember the last ever tram going through Streatham. I believe that Ethel Revnell, formerly one half of ‘The Long and the Short of it’, with Gracie West, was on the tram.

Q: What are your memories of shopping in Streatham?

At Tyrrell’s the Haberdashers, the change came back on a pulley system. There was also Matthews the Art Shop, Butler’s Bookshop and Cordo’s Delicatessen, but when Cordo’s moved up towards Brixton, it was never the same!

Q: Do you remember attending any events in Streatham?

I remember Donkey Derbies on Streatham Common and performances of Shakespeare in The Rookery.

Q: Do you have any memories of famous people in Streatham?

I knew Evelyn Laye a little; we corresponded and I wrote a lot of poems for her. I finally met her and her husband in Harrow.

Sonnie Hale lived with Binnie, his sister, on Drewstead Road. When Evelyn Laye laid the foundation stone for Streatham Hill Theatre, she was married to Sonnie Hale, but he left her later after an affair with Jessie Matthews. In her speech while laying the stone, Miss Laye said, “I’m a Streatham girl by marriage”. It was Evelyn telling me about spending the night before laying the stone drinking absinthe with Americans, that led to my writing my poem, ‘Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder!’, that I read at the STC Show for Streatham Festival.

Gene Anderson, a very promising young actress, lived near the border with Balham, but died tragically young of an overdose. She attended the same drama class as me at New Park Road Evening Institute.

A Local Historian’s View, 1950s


  • Graham Gower grew up in Streatham and he and his wife Marion have lived there all their married life. With their keen interest in local history, they are prominent members of the Streatham Society.

Q: Why did you move to Streatham?


We moved to Streatham when I was a baby, towards the end of the war. My father grew up in Brighton. By 1944 he was in the RAF, posted in London, and he wanted to live where the action was.


I grew up in Balham, but we never went to Streatham when I was a child: we saw it as too expensive and upmarket so we preferred to shop in Brixton or Tooting Broadway.

Q: Where have you lived in Streatham?


I grew up in Madeira Road, and after a time in Wimbledon, I moved back to Lexton Gardens where we’ve lived all our married life.

Q: What are your memories of growing up in Streatham?


When I was a baby, I’m told that I was in an air raid shelter when a VI rocket, dropped on Streatham Station, blew the door off! Quite a number of V1s were dropped on Streatham: There was an army camp on Tooting Bec Common from around 1942 to 1945. The troops maintained rocket launchers; the rockets were anti-aircraft defences.

There were lots of bomb sites in Streatham after the war. As boys we used to run around in gas masks and tin hats and throw things at each other. There were a number of boarded-up public air raid shelters. We were warned not to play in them, but we didn’t always take notice. One is still on the corner of Madeira Road and Oakdale Road near St. Anselm’s Court: you can see the mound of grass-covered earth.

At school in winter we often had lessons by candlelight as there were lots of power cuts after the war.

The tram tracks were dug up in Streatham in 1952. The tarred blocks were piled up at the side of the road and people were asked to take them. My friend and I had a trolley made of planks on pram wheels and we went round offering people a trolley load of blocks for 6d. The blocks were supposed to help the fire burn, but they spit dreadfully and made burn marks on carpets and people’s legs if you sat too close!

We stood outside Streatham Station asking people of we could carry their luggage home on our trolley, but we didn’t get many takers! We also stood opposite the station around Bonfire Night, asking for 1d for the guy, but people complained that it didn’t look much like Guy Fawkes!

When sugar came off the ration in 1955, Dad made toffee apples!

I had an evening paper round from around 1956 to 57 from the branch of WH Smith’s at Streatham Station, run by a Mr Place who was very tall and friendly. I used to go from Streatham Station to the top of the Dip, and I always used to walk through Francis’ Provisions at the top of Gleneagle Road. My cry was ‘News, Star, Standard!’. For a 6-day week I used to earn 5 shillings!

As the round started at 4.30 pm, if I went to a matinee at the cinema, I always had to leave the film ½ an hour before the end!

Next to the ABC Cinema used to be Norfolk House, a big Victorian house with lawns in front.

The coalman, milkman and dustman used to go round on a horse and cart. The horses used to know the route and would move from house to house in response to a whistle from their master. One of the horses ran over our kitten! My mum used to collect cats from bomb sites. At one time we had 5! We had problems with sewer rats in Madeira Road – the railway lines disturbed them.

Behind the United Reformed Church was an open grass area, which backed on to the gardens of Ellora Road. There was a way through the field out into Ellora Road, and at one time you could walk down to a hut which housed the Robinson School of Dance. I belonged to the cub scouts when I was a child, who met at the Dance School.

At the end of Hambro Road there was a first-aid depot during the war.

At one time in Streatham there was a large Jewish population, hence the two synagogues: the Liberal synagogue in Prentis Road and the Orthodox in Leigham Court Road.

There used to be a bandstand at the top of Streatham Common. The road that goes past the cafe used to continue left to the top of Streatham Common North Side. The bandstand was at the road junction.

There were prefabs on the bomb sites and also along the bottom of Streatham Common, opposite Greyhound Lane and along Streatham Common South Side. The horse trough used to be opposite Greyhound Lane too, but it was moved when they took part of the common to widen the road.

The top part of the common, above the path, was covered by allotments.

Q: What are your memories of the coronation in 1953?


In 1953, the queen did a tour of south London after the coronation and came through Streatham. I remember the whole school marching from Sunnyhill School down Sunnyhill Road to the High Road to see her pass by. We stood outside Astoria Parade, near the Odeon. The queen was in a black car. Afterwards, we children were all given a coronation mug, a spoon and a propelling pencil. The mug was from the London County Council, the spoon from Wandsworth Borough, and the pencil from the school.


My parents took me to see the queen drive through Tooting Bec Common.

Q: What are your memories of Streatham Hill Theatre


I remember seeing the pantomime ’Humpty Dumpty’ and going up on stage. (‘Humpty Dumpty’ was performed in 1952-3 and 1954-5).


I remember seeing ‘The Black and White Minstrels’, ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘West Side Story’.

Q: What are your memories of working in Streatham?


While I was at college, around 1970, I worked in Dalgleish Stationers, near Shacklock’s the Chemist, opposite Streatham Station. Dalgleish used to sell old postcards of Streatham.

Q: What are your memories of transport in Streatham?

I remember I used to irritate my parents by running upstairs on the tram and turning the backs of the seats around. The seat backs could face both ways, and at the end of the route the driver would push them all back so they were facing the right way for travel. The trams ran in the centre of the High Road and crossing the road to the tram stop always involved risk. When cycling I had to be careful not to get my tyres caught in the tracks.

At Streatham Station there were slot machines that dispensed chocolate, once it had come off ration. I also remember the excursion trains to the south coast. Streatham Station used to be mobbed!

Near my home in Madeira Road, a train used to regularly emerge from the tunnel carrying a large anti-aircraft gun. Trains used to pass by full of service men in uniform, who used to wave to me. All the trains were steam. At night, men used to walk along the tracks, hitting them to test for cracks etc.

Where Albert Carr Gardens is now was a large house called The Chimes, named for the large chiming clock on the outside. Opposite was The Chimes Newsagent and Cafe where you could buy tickets for South Downs Coach Company tours to Brighton, Eastbourne etc.

Q: What are your memories of shopping in Streatham?

The first shopping area in Streatham was Bedford Row, which ran south from Streatham Green. Pratt’s first started there. The High Road was developed northwards around 1930, and has the best examples of Art Deco architecture outside the West End.

We would go out shopping with our ration books to the co-op in Gleneagle Road, opposite the public toilets. That was our allocated store. The man behind the counter had an indelible pencil behind his ear. He’s lick the pencil and cross off our items in the book. I was always afraid I’d knock down the pyramids of cans.

There was another larger co-op store at Streatham Hill, where the Oxfam ship is now.

Pratt’s was the largest store in Streatham, with three floors. Once in Pratt’s I turned the wheel to bring down one of the fire doors, which blocked off a section of the shop. I managed several feet before my mother stopped me! Other larger stores were Tyrrell’s, opposite the police station, and Sharman’s, where WH Smith’s is now. Both were haberdashers, selling materials, cotton, braid and accessories. Sharman’s was particularly middle class. Another middle-class shop was Saponi furs. The Saponis used to live in Lexton Gardens.

Rodgers Curtains is still there. Iceland used to be Littlewoods. In Dorothy Perkins, (the shop on the High Road with Tudor detailing above the door, which I’ve not managed to identify yet!), there used to be a fountain. There used to be two Sainsbury’s stores at Streatham Hill.

Opposite Streatham Hill Theatre were Arthur Mead, which sold school uniforms, and a hobby shop.

Outside Dewhurst’s the butchers there was a bird in a cage that tweeted if you put a coin in the slot. At Toytown, opposite Shacklock’s the Chemist, if you put money in a slot, a train ran around a track in the window.

The UK Coffee Importers was next to Kennedy’s Delicatessen opposite The High. The wonderful smell of roasting coffee used to waft down the High Road. Shillingford’s was a high-class butcher. In The High was Featherstone’s wallpaper shop. The owner had invested his army gratuity to buy the shop.

All the shops closed on Wednesday afternoons and many shops closed at 1pm on Saturdays, or even all day Saturday. All the shops were closed in Boxing Day, as well as Christmas Day.

Originally Streatham was a true blue Conservative middle class neighbourhood. Streatham always returned a Conservative MP until the 1980s when the political colour changed as younger people from different backgrounds moved in, making Streatham a much better place.

Streatham High Road is the longest retail high street in Europe. Most of the Streatham shopkeepers belonged to Streatham Ratepayers Association. They wanted to preserve the old independent shops, so they opposed the proposed coming of Marks and Spencer, and a market on the site where Morrison’s is now. Lambeth Council does not own much property along the High Road so they do not have a lot of say in what happens there.

Q: Do you remember attending any events in Streatham?

In the 1960s there were lots of organisations which met in Church Halls and rooms above pubs. Above the swimming baths there was an Assembly Hall with meeting rooms. Sometimes there were mammoth jumble sales at the baths when they used to cover the pool!

A national boxing championship was held at the Ice Rink and you could see Freddy Mills box for 50 shillings! The side roads were full of coaches, like they are today.

Thousands of people lined the High Road to see the old crocks race from London to Brighton and cycle races used to come through Streatham too, including the medical students annual run, and trike racing!

Places I remember are the Stork Club, next to the Locarno, and the Bali Hai club and restaurant at the back of the ice rink.

Q: Do you have any memories of famous people in Streatham?

Derrick Guyler lived in Streatham Vale and I often saw him in Streatham Library.  There was also Benny Lee, the actor and singer; Bob Miller, leader of the Millermen band; Gilbert Harding and David Nixon. Shaw Taylor used to walk his Pekingese late at night.

June Whitfield sometimes used to open fetes on the field behind the United Reformed Church.

A member of the Crazy Gang – the one who used to blow smoke rings with his cigar, used to drink in the Pied Bull.

Our MP, Chuka Umunna, was born in Streatham and attended Hitherfield School.