A Theatre-going Tram Conductress, 1930s to 1960s

Interviewee

  • Betty Searle, 92, grew up in Upper Tulse Hill but has many memories of Streatham as a young woman before and after the war.

Q: What are your memories of Streatham Hill Theatre

I used to go to the theatre every week. My parents owned a garage in Upper Tulse Hill and they used to display the theatre poster on the wall of the approach to the garage. They also used to display posters for the Gaumont Cinema, Streatham (later the Megabowl) and the Empress Theatre, Brixton.

The first show I remember seeing was ‘Lilac Time’ (a pastiche operetta telling the story of the life of composer Franz Schubert) with Richard Tauber (1931?). He was married to the British actress Diana Napier at the time, but I thought he was old and fat!

Another memory is of ‘The Aspern Papers’ (based on the novel by Henry James, 1960). The last shows I saw were ‘Look Back in Anger’ by John Osborne and ‘The Ginger Man’, (based on the 1955 novel by J.P Dunleavy). I’ve never been very interested in kitchen sink drama! However, I did take my children to a wonderful production of ‘Peter Pan’ (1961).

I once saw Henry Fonda standing outside the stage door looking very bored, and obviously not a very happy little bunny! Lots of people used to mill round the stage door looking for autographs.

The Blue Ribbon milk bar was on the opposite corner of Barrhill Road from Streatham Hill Theatre. It was a trendy hangout and the start of the Americanisation of Britain.

Q: What are your memories of transport in Streatham?

During the war my husband was stationed in Colwyn Bay. I had to undertake ‘work of national importance’ and I worked as a tram conductor for £5 per week, which was a good wage for the time. My regular route was the number 16 and number 18 which were circular routes, terminating at Streatham Station, and going along Westminster Embankment and Westminster Bridge.  I remember one night, I let so many people on the last tram for Tooting, that there was no room for me, and I kept shouting, “Someone will have to get off!” Some trams were open at the front. Others called ‘Fultons’, were closed in with glass.

Q: Do you have any other memories of Streatham?

At the top of Telford Avenue there was a hotel with lawns in front of it. I also remember the Golden Domes cinema.

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A Personal Memory of Streatham Hill Theatre

Interviewee

  • Charlotte Mackie, daughter of the renowned and prolific director, playwright and screenwriter Philip Mackie, who wrote many series for television in the 1960s and 1970s including ‘Raffles’ and ‘The Cleopatras’.

Charlotte Shares a Memory of Streatham Hill Theatre

My father put on two of his plays, ‘The Whole Truth‘ and ‘The Key of the Door’, at the Streatham Hill Theatre in the 1950s. When ‘The Key of the Door’ was showing, each programme contained a key. The correct key opened a box at Kennard’s department store, Croydon, (now, I believe, Debenhams) and won a box of whisky.

I believe the Key of the Door was shown in 1956 when our family was living in Hampstead Garden Suburb, shortly before we moved to Gloucestershire. I do remember as a small child watching my father at rehearsals (maybe for one of these plays) when he kept asking an actress to say her lines over and over again – I couldn’t understand why!

Later he became successful as a TV drama writer, and I believe the last production of ‘The Whole Truth’ was by an amateur drama group in Guildford in the 1960s, or maybe it was The Key of the Door?

The Whole Truth was made into a film starring Stuart Granger – not sure how successful it was.

‘Steeped in Streatham’, 1960s to Present

Interviewee

  • Bridged Hall, 54, was born in South Africa but has lived almost all her life in Streatham and is very active in local projects and organisations. “When I stand at the top of Streatham Common, near the wild area, I think ‘This is my land!’”.

Q: When did you come to live in Streatham?

I moved to Streatham when I was about two, when my parents split up. My mother returned to the UK to live with her family in Streatham and my father stayed behind in South Africa. We started in Midhurst Avenue near the ABC Cinema; then we moved to Oakdale Road, off Valley Road, then Rutford Road, followed by Babington Road near St. Leonard’s Church, Norfolk House Road, and now Wavertree Road, Streatham Hill.

Q: What are your memories about your life in Streatham?

I lived with my mum and step-dad and two brothers in a flat in a house on Rutford Road and my grandma, aunt and uncle lived in the downstairs flat in the same house.

I grew up on Streatham High Road, spending dividing my time between the Swimming Pool and the Ice Rink, Streatham Common, and the two cinemas, the Odeon and the ABC. I went to Sunnyhill Road Primary school, but went to secondary school in Battersea. Sunnyhill Road School took us to the Ice Rink for skating lessons.

The mews on Gleneagle Road was still used for keeping horses and a friend of mine used to ride from there.

There was a Sea Cadets’ training ship, T.S. Onslaught, at the Jehovah’s Witness Hall on the corner of Rutford Road. My step-father was an Officer there, but they did not take girls, so I had to go to Tooting!

My aunt, Jean Maclennan, nee Juff, used to run a Drama Group called Reactors which put on plays at Knights Hill Youth Club. She had been an actress and a director in South Africa. My first play for Reactors was ‘Noah’s Ark’ and I played a lamb! Reactors used to meet at our home in Rutford Road and Oakdale Road. One of my earliest memories is of being chased down the hall by someone dressed as a monkey, bowling a coconut! My mum met my step-father at Reactors. The group ran until the end of the 80s.

I got married at St. Leonard’s Church.

Q: Did you attend any events in Streatham?

It’s my impression that there are far more events in Streatham now than there used to be. I do remember attending the firework displays on Streatham Common when my son was small.

The Rev. Lisa Wright, my son’s paternal grandmother, was a priest at St. Leonard’s. She was also the head of the creative department at Pimlico School and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. She has put on plays at St. Leonard’s including devised versions of ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Q: What are your memories of shopping in Streatham?

Mum used to send me from Rutford Road to the grocers near the traffic lights at Streatham Station for a loaf of bread. My step-grandma used to work in the sweetshop next door. In Hopton Parade, where Morrison’s is now, a guy called Peter used to have a sweetshop. He used to sell ‘dirty’ magazines which he kept on the top shelf and put in a paper bag when he sold them.

My mum was a baby minder; she had four 2-year olds, mu brother who was five, and a baby. When she went into Wallis’s Supermarket, where JD Sports is now, with her enormous pram and six children, all of whom looked as different from each other as they possibly could, she got some very strange looks.

On Saturday mornings I used to go shopping with my grandma and her trolley. We used to shop at Courtauld’s and Kennedy’s delicatessen, and visit the greengrocer’s which was where the bridal shop now is, opposite Morrison’s. I worked there for a short time while I was still at school. After shopping, we’d end up in the Astoria Cafe, now the Life Cafe, and Gran would buy me a Knickerbocker Glory!

On Streatham High Road, W.H. Smith’s was on the corner, where Maplin’s is now. C and A was where W.H. Smith is, and before that, the shop was Sharman’s, the ‘posh’ department store.

On one corner of Hopton Road there was a fish-and-chip shop and on the other corner was the Johnnie Walker building. I think it was a jeweller’s, it’s flats now. We always used to visit the fish shop after swimming, almost every night. In the same parade of shops was an ice-skate shop, and I used to walk from home in Rutford Road to the ice rink in my skates!

Later, when I lived in Babington Road in the 80s, I remember pushing my son around Safeway’s in my brother’s old big ‘proper’ pram.

Q: Did you work in Streatham?

When I was a child, my mother worked as a Personal Assistant in the offices above what is now Beaumont Beds on the High Road.

My aunt worked as a bookkeeper in the London Post Office Telephone Exchange on Gleneagle Road, in the building which used to be the old Streatham Town Hall.

When I was 16, my step-father worked in the Bowling Alley.

After working in the greengrocer’s I started at Woolworth’s at the age of 15, in the mid-70s. At first I worked in the deli counter, where old ladies came to buy two slices of ham and cheese. I still have a ceramic dish that had pate in it; we were allowed to take them home.

Then I was promoted to my own aisle – ladies’ sanitary ware!

I have worked in Lambeth Mediation Service on Barrhill Road, and also co-ordinated the ‘Hands-Off our Common’ campaign to prevent a temporary ice-rink being built on Streatham Common. I was one of the founders of ‘Sustainable Streatham’. I am now campaigning around the Library and am one of the leads of the Friends of Streatham Library.  My husband also works in Streatham.

Q: Do you have any memories of famous people?

When we used to drive past New Park Road on the way to Balham, my step-father always said, “Roy Hudd lives round here”. Roger Moore lived in Wavertree Court on Wavertree Road. (He also lived on Buckleigh Road in South Streatham when he was married to Rosemary Squires). I often used to see Shaw Taylor – he was always on the High Road.

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

I used to go to school on the 49 bus, from outside the old bus garage (the one pulled down to make way for the most recent old one!). I used to walk to the bus stop through the grounds of Coventry Hall, an old convent, now a council estate.

The 49 was a Routemaster and when I used to come home from school, I used to stand on the platform and hang off the handrail as the bus swung round the corner into the dip near St. Leonard’s Church.

The 159 went everywhere! I remember when the last 159 Routemaster service ran, and I really miss travelling to the West End on it.

We often used to go to Croydon or to Brixton Market on the 109, so all our journeys started at the bus garage.

Q: Are there any places in Streatham that are special to you?

When I was a child, the two safest places for me were Streatham Common and the Swimming Pool, so I feel very troubled to have seen my pool ‘torn down’.

I had quite a troubled childhood and I used to go to Streatham Common to get away from it all. The Rookery is one of the nicest places on the planet. I supported the movement for the community garden and dot money for a fruit garden. In the Rookery there is a bench, originally to “the love of my life” Anne from Stan Deadman and now dedicated to both of them. When I die, I want a bench in the Rookery!

Q: Do you ever think of leaving Streatham?

The strength of community in Streatham brings tears to my eyes. I expect to leave Streatham in a box and either go to West Norwood Cemetery or have my ashes scattered on Streatham Common.

Streatham Timeline

We’ve prepared this timeline of Streatham events and historical figures to help interviewees in recalling their memories.

Year Event
1811 Jane Austen visited her friend Catherine Hill at Streatham Rectory in Tooting Bec Gardens.
1864 William Dyce died, buried in St Leonard’s Church. Architect of Dyce Fountain
Early 1880s ‘Tin Tabernacle’ built in Streatham, as a mission outpost for Immanuel Church. Extant in 2007, intact but encased in brick on junction of Eardley Road and Besley Street
1874 Vincent Van Gogh sketched Streatham Common on a walk from his lodgings in Kennington
1886 Streatham Working Men’s’ Club founded on Eardley Road, near the railway bridge
1888 Metropolitan Board of Works replaced by London County Council. Streatham was part of a district board called the Wandsworth Union.
1896 C B. Fry (famous sportsman and King-elect of Albania) and the Maharajah of Nawanagar both elected members of Streatham Cricket Club.
1888, 1891 Ripper murder connections in Streatham
1891 Tate Library opened to the public, April 17th
1891 First edition of the ‘Streatham News’ published
1896 First  London to Brighton car run for the London Motor Car Club, which became the London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally
1897 Streathamites celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria with a huge bonfire on Streatham Common.A crowd of over 20,000 saw the bonfire lit at 10pm on June 22nd. This was followed by a firework display.
1899 Streatham Free Libraries Act passed, December
1900 Metropolitan Boroughs created. Streatham part of Wandsworth
1903 Graham Sutherland, artist, born in Streatham..Died 1980.
1903 On May 1st, the Stock Exchange held their first London to Brighton Walk, from Westminster Bridge to the seafront. The winner received a gold medal valued at 10 guineas. The next walk took place in 1912, run by the Stock Exchange Athletic Club.
1904 Dennis Wheatley’s family moved to Streatham Hill. In 1910 they moved to Friar’s Croft, 1 Becmead Avenue (residence of the Rector of Streatham) and in 1914 to Clinton House, 1, Palace Road.
1907 Raymond Chandler’s family lived briefly in Mount Nod Road. Chandler was working at the Admiralty.
1908 First London Olympics. Gold medals won by Joe Deakin of 21 Hitherfield Road (three miles team race) and Stanley Bacon of 76 Christchurch Road (middleweight freestyle wrestling). Joe Deakin was still living in Hitherfield Road when he died in 1972 aged 93.John James Webster designed the first Olympic stadium while living in Streatham
1908 First Sainsbury’s store in Streatham, between Amesbury and Barcombe Avenues
1909 Buster Crabb (war hero and spy) born at 4 Greyswood Street
1909 Tommy Trinder, comedian, born at 54 Wellfield Road
1910 Dame Edith Evans made her stage debut as Viola in a Streatham Shakespeare Players’ production of Twelfth Night at Streatham Town Hall (now Geneagle Heights)
1910 Namba Roy born (black artist and writer, lived in Streatham Hill more than 20 years). Died 1961
1910s to 1930s Dovey and Benfield families grew up in Penrith Street
1912 The Titanic sank, over 14th, 15th April. Laura Francatelli of Strathbrook Road, travelling with her employer Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife, was the only survivor from Streatham. Three other Streathamites lost their lives.
1912 Lt. Henry Robertson “Birdie” Bowers died on his return from the South Pole with Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition. As a boy Bowers lived on Pathfield Road and attended Streatham High School for Boys on Pinfold Road.
1912 Streatham-born Lt. Belgrave Ninnis, a member of Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1911 Australian Antarctica expedition died on December 14th.
1912 Stanley Gibbons, stamp dealer, lived in Streatham for a short time before his death.
1912 Streatham Police Station built.
1914 Joyce Lankester Brisley, author of Milly-Molly-Mandy stories, moved to 108 Lewin Road
1915 The Streatham War Hospital Supply Depot was based at Hill House on Streatham Common North. It was staffed by volunteers who produced medical supplies.
1916 Sir Hiram Maxim, the American-born inventor of the Maxim automatic machine gun, pioneer aviator and designer of fairground rides(!) died at Sandhurst Lodge, 382 Streatham High Road (site of the old ice rink).
1916 Streatham-born Arnold Spencer Smith, a member of the Ross Sea Party of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-17 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, died on March 9th.
1918 Horace Marshall, Lord Mayor of London, living at The Chimes, Streatham Common.
1919 Mary Rudge, champion of the first Ladies’ International Chess tournament, held in London in 1897, died at the British Home, Streatham (now the Home for Incurables).
1920 Woolworth’s opened in Streatham
1920s to 1980s Artists James Edward Moore (father) and Paul and John Harrington Moore (sons) active in Streatham
1920 Architect Ernest George died aged 82. In 1879 he designed the Beehive Coffee House (now solicitors) next to Sainsbury’s. Also the Royal Academy of Music in Marylebone Road.
1922 Streatham War Memorial unveiled by General Sir Charles Munro. It was erected in the grounds of ‘The Chimes’, a large house used as a social club for ex service men and women. In 1944 ‘The Chimes’ was damaged by a V1 flying bomb and demolished.
1922 Ernest George, noted architect who lived most of his life in Rycroft Road, died.
1923 Col. Lewis Newton, step father of Dennis Wheatley, Lord Mayor of London, lived at Friar’s Croft, 1, Becmead Avenue and Clinton House, 1, Palace Road
1924 Streatham Rotary Club founded
1925 First Steiner Waldorf School in the English-speaking world opened at 94-98 Leigham Court Road. The school was evacuated to Minehead during World War II and never returned to Streatham.
1925 June Whitfield born in Streatham
1925 Edith Lowenstein, potter, born in Streatham. Died 2005.
1925 Professor John Roberts born, Streatham Hill (childhood memories)
1926 Horatio Frederick Phillips, early aviation pioneer, died. He lived in Streatham 1902-3
1927 Streatham Baths opened. Closed 2009as unsafe. Demolished 2011 to make way for the Streatham Hub development.A time capsule was buried under the foundation stone and unearthed during the demolition.
1927 Aircraft runway was built on Streatham Common by the Air Defence of Great Britain Command. to allow for possible emergency aircraft landings. One such landing had apparently happened before the runway was built and one in November 1933. Other landings took place in the 1930s on Clapham and Tooting Bec Commons.Common now used as an emergency landing site for the Air Ambulance.
1930 Monday June 30th, Streatham Odeon opened with ‘Paris’ starring Jack Buchanan
The United Dairies in Valley Road was the most up-to-date plant in the UK.
1930 Isidore Gunsberg, chess master, died at his home in Woodfield Avenue.
1931 Death of Evacustes A. Phipson, celebrated artist who painted Streatham in the 1910s and 1920s.
1931 Streatham Ice Rink opened. ’Eat ‘em Raw!’ Over 3,000 people attended the opening in February. Closed December 2011
1932 Brenda Hargreaves’ memories of Hitherfield Road School
1933 Dyce fountain moved to Streatham Green
1934 Dunraven School built
1937 The High development built on Streatham High Road, typical of many Art Deco buildings in Streatham dating from the 1930s.
1938 South Streatham affected by an earthquake, June 11th
1938 Peace Peal rung at St. Leonard’s Church on October 8th to mark Neville Chamberlain’s return to England on September 30th from his meeting with Hitler when he declared “Peace in our time” at Heston Airport.
1938 Regal Cinema opened on November 14th (ABC from 1960, Canon from 1977, ABC in 2000). Closed 2000
1939 Romantic author Ethel M. Dell died. She was born and grew up in Streatham.
1940s Yvonne Watkins grew up in Streatham with fond memories of the shops on the High Road
1940 On the night of the 29th of October during the height of the Blitz, a bomb fell at the rear of St. Leonard’s Church damaging the building and destroying many graves. A clear area in the graveyard marks the spot to this day.
1940 On the night of November 10th, a high explosive bomb dropped on the corner of Streatham High Road and Gleneldon Road, wrecking the building on the Southern side of the junction/
1941 Sussex House School closed (corner of Ambleside Avenue and Tooting Bec Gardens) and became HQ of Air Cadets
1942 Bert Barnhurst’s  memories of Hitherfield Road School
1943 A number of bombs were dropped on Mount Earl Gardens estate. None exploded.
1944 In June a V1 flying bomb destroyed 6 houses in Lanercost Road and damaged houses in Christchurch Road. Six people were killed.
1946 One of the last sightings of a muffin man with a tray balanced on his head, on the corner of Conifer Gardens and Gracefield Gardens.
1948 Memories of Streatham Locarno
1940s Immanuel Young People’s Fellowship formed, attached to Immanuel Church, Streatham Common
1950 The Gaumont Picture Palace (later the Megabowl), took part in the film ‘Dance Hall’ starring Petula Clark’ as the Chiswick Palais Dance Hall. The leading song in the film was sung by musical star Hy Hazell, who grew up in Streatham. I remember her from ‘CrackerJack’ in the 1960s!
1950-2010 Detailed childhood memories by John Hillier
1950s Wendy Richards’s family ran the Park Tavern in Mitcham Lane (later the Samuel Johnson
1950s Heyday of Streatham Hill Theatre, with performances by Arthur Lowe, Warren Mitchell, Jack Warner, Sean Connery
1950s Boynes Confectionery Works, employed 50 women to produce 50,000 sugar mice a week!
1950s Memories of Fenstanton Primary School
1950s Memories of Ernie Dickinson’s greengrocery delivery round, , from his shop in Sunnyhill Road
1951 “The Outlaw” starring Jane Russell shown in Streatham. Jane adopted baby Tommy Kavanagh from a Stockwell couple who moved to the Sackville Estate, Streatham in 1955. Jane Russell visited the couple in Streatham in 1959.
1951 Lambeth Tenants’ Horticultural Society formed (became Lambeth Horticultural Society in 1964).
1952 Josephine Tey (Elizabeth MacKintosh) author of ‘The Daughter of Time’ died in Streatham.
1955 Salomon Van Abbe, artist and book illustrator (illustrations and dust covers for Leslie Charteris, John Galsworthy, Anthony Buckeridge et al. died.His brother Joseph, illustrator for Enid Blyton also lived in Streatham. Both were members of Streatham Art Society.
1955 November: Lena Horne, singer, her husband and Val Parnell selected a Pekinese dog, ‘Lila of Eloc’ from Lucy Cole, 109 Sunnyhill Road. Lily Cole was a highly regarded breeder.
1956 Memories of the Leigham Court Hotel
1957 Streatham Quaker Meeting first held at Redlands Way on Roupell Park Estate
1957 Jimmy Edwards appeared in the pantomime ‘Puss in Boots’ at the Streatham Hill Theatre.
1959 The last herd of cows disappeared from the part of Streatham Common now occupied by Bishop Thomas Grant School.
1960 Former Prime Minister John Major played cricket for the Streatham Colts.
1960 Frankie Howerd and Helen Cotterill appeared in ‘Cinderella’ shortly before Streatham Hill Theatre closed in
1962 The ‘Streatham Hill’, a cargo freighter carried a cargo of 80,000 sacks of Cuban sugar bound for the USSR. When the ship was diverted to Puerto Rico for maintenance, the sugar was put in storage and was found to have been poisoned, presumably by the CIA!
1962 Donald McGill, the comic postcard king, died at his home in Christchurch Road
1963 Actor Wilfrid Brambell attended the crowning of the Streatham Common Carnival queen
1965 Greater London Council created. Streatham split between Wandsworth and Lambeth. The borough of Croydon was taken from Surrey. The river Graveney forms the boundary between Lambeth and Croydon.
1966 Thieves broke into Dulwich Picture Gallery in December and stole 8 valuable paintings, including two Rembrandts, worth a total of £2.5m ( a larger theft than the Great Train Robbery of 1963!).A midnight tip-off 3 days later led three of Streatham’s finest from Streatham Police Station to the Rookery Gardens, where five of the missing paintings were recovered wrapped in old newspaper and hidden in the undergrowth! The other three paintings had already been found.
1966 Magdalen Hospital, opened as a ‘home for fallen women’ Streatham Hill in 1868, closed
1967 First annual Brockwell Park Flower Show held in July. This became the Lambeth County Show.
1971 Stevie Wonder with guests Mac and Katie Kissoon appeared in concert at the Odeon.
1973 St. Bartholomew’s amateur orchestra formed.
1975 In May a fire gutted St. Leonard’s Church and destroyed many old records.
1980s Two members of the Special Operations Executive, who waged war behind enemy lines, lived in Streatham. Lillian Rolfe and Sybil Hepburn (pen name) who died in the 80s.
1983 Smith Meters closed their Rowan Road factory. Their main area of manufacturing was gas meters, but siring the war they millions of precision instruments, bomb parts and fuel tanks for aircraft.
1987 Great Storm hit Streatham (October)
1995 Unigate Wood declared a Local Nature Reserve, managed by Lambeth Council
2003 William IV pub closed, after around 320 years and rumoured visit of Dick Turpin
2007 Streatham Stories, 16 stories about the lives of Streatham people came out of Streatham Festival 2007
2009 300th Anniversary of the birth of Samuel Johnson
2009 Bedford Park Hotel closed. Built in 1882, it replaced an old Tudor tavern, the Five Bells, opposite Streatham Green.
2010 Keith Hill, MP for Streatham from 1992 and Streatham resident, resigned to become Chair of Lambeth Living
2010 150th birthday of Leigham Arms
2010 Poem about allotments in Valley Road
2010 Monday, September 20th, serious fire at Arriva Bus Garage, Streatham Hill. This was originally an LCC tram shed built on the site of Aspen House, occupied by Dennis Wheatley’s grandfather from 1879-1916.
2010 Centeneries for three Streatham shops: Shacklock’s the Chemist, E and A Wates, Furnishers, Rogers, Linens and Curtains, who have occupied 77/79 Streatham High Road all this time
2011 The ‘Streatham News’, Streatham’s oldest local paper, renamed the ‘Lambeth Post’.
2011 Dairy Crest Diaries closed on September 4th, bringing to an end 150 years of dairying in Valley Road.
2012 Sunday 25th March, the Streatham Society presented a plaque to Lewin Road Baptist Church commemorating its association with the family of “Birdie” Bowers.
2012 Restoration work on the Arts and Crafts houses at 13-14 Streatham Common North were completed. Both houses were damaged by a V1 flying bomb in 1944. The houses were designed in 1891 by Sir Edward Guy Dawber.
2012 150th anniversary of Streatham Common Railway Station (built in 1862 as Greyhound Lane Station).
2012 South London Press moved out of their building on Leigham Court Road. It has been the newspaper’s head office since it was built in 1935 to 1939.
2012 Bicentenary of Ripley House, 10 Streatham Common South
2012 October 5th marked the centenary of the unveiling of the King Edward VII Memorial Clock on Streatham Library.
2013 Streatham Theatre Company founded.
2013 On January 22nd, Lambeth Council formally registered the Streatham Common Nature Reserve, which takes in 13.8 hectares of the Common and the Rookery.
2013 On March 23rd, Streatham Common Nature Trail opened
2013 100TH Anniversary of the opening of the Rookery Gardens, acquired by London County Council for public use in 1912.
2013 Streatham Hub development almost complete. The Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre and Tesco Extra opened to the public on November 18th. The flats will open in early 2014
2013 Bi-centenary of St. Leonard’s Church of England Primary School

An Entire Life in the Ferrers Triangle, 1960s and 70s

Interviewees

  • Rita Cole, 74, has lived almost her whole life in the same house in Ellora Road
  • Ernie Cole, 77, has lived with Rita on Ellora Road almost all their married life. The couple raised their two daughters ther.

Q: When did you come to live in Streatham?

Rita

I was born Rita Edmonds in Brixton and moved into 29 Ellora Road with my family in October 1939, when I was six months old.

Ernie

When I married Rita we took over the upstairs of the house. Rita’s parents and brother lived downstairs.

Q: What are your memories about your life in Streatham?

Rita

When my parents and brother had died, I took over the tenancy. We have never owned the house, and since 1939 we’ve only had three landlords. After the war the then landlord offered my father the house for £75 and my father was delighted to be able to borrow the money; but when he came back with it, the landlord said he had already sold his five houses on Ellora Road (numbers 29, 31, 37, 39 and 43) for £360!

My brother died at 32 from liver disease, so after my father died, I applied to take over the tenancy. The landlord was very much against it and carried out a campaign of intimidation against our family. The landlord refused to give us a rent book and we had to pay the rent into a special account for a while. Finally, the landlord caved in when we involved the local council.

The knifeman used to call regularly to sharpen knives and scissors. Mr Plummer, the sweep also came regularly.

As we only had gas upstairs I used to go to bed with a candle.

As a child I used to black-lead the grates, but I had happy times playing on the bomb site where Albert Carr Gardens is now. There was a petrol station on the corner and “The Chimes” (a big house demolished in 1944 following bomb damage) was behind where the flats are now. I also enjoyed the Sunday School at Lewin Road Baptist Church.

Ernie

We only had the bathroom put in around 36 years ago and until the mid-1960s we still had gaslight upstairs!  We used to have to go to the Streatham Hill Gas Company for gas mantels. We had an outside toilet, which we heated with a paraffin oil lamp. Sometimes hedgehogs used to creep in for warmth!

The coalman also came regularly and poured the cola directly into the cellar.

In 1962-63 it was a very hard winter and the water pipes in all the homes in the street were frozen, but we had a coal brazier on our doorstep, in the form of a 10-gallon drum, which meant that we always had hot water. The stand pipe can still be seen on the corner of Ferrers Road and Ellora Road.

We were very sad when the old bus garage was demolished. (This must have been in the 1970s, but I can’t find an exact date).

Q: Did you attend any events in Streatham?

Rita

My daughter was a girl guide and I used to help out at jumble sales. I used to play bingo at the bingo hall in Streatham Hill Theatre and spent many wonderful evenings looking for a boyfriend at the Locarno.

Ernie an I met at Streatham Ice Rink in 1956. I was in the Ladies Speed Skating team. My daughter was a first-aider at the rink. We went to many ice dance sessions there. Roland, one of the coaches, is still teaching today.

Diane Towler, an Olympic skating champion, worked at the ice rink. On the last night of the old ice rink, in December 2011, Diane’s daughter, Candice Towler-Green, gave an exhibition, which was wonderful. I attended the first match at the new ice rink (Streatham Redskins against Bracknell, November 24th 2013). The new facilities are marvellous and it was thrilling to cheer on the Redskins, but the score was 3-all.

Q: What are your memories of shopping in Streatham?

Rita

On the corner of Ellora Road and Natal Road there was a sweetshop. On the other side of Ellora Road there was a grocers which sold everything; bacon, eggs, butter and paraffin, and made deliveries. There was also a betting shop, owned by Lou Holmes, who lived in Natal Road. Next to the Earl Ferrers pub there was another sweetshop, with a newsagent, and then Maria’s the hairdresser’s. Maria started at Sally’s in Geneagle Road. Next to Maria’s there was a stable where the rag and bone man used to keep his horse. On Natal Road there was a boot mender.

On the corner of Stanthorpe Road and Streatham High Road, opposite the bank, was Till’s, a haberdashery shop.

Where WH Smith’s is now was Sharman’s. You can still see the name carved on the building. Pratt’s, a John Lewis store, was opposite the library. Also opposite the library was a Joe Lyons cafe.

Before the final owners, who converted it into a house, the sweetshop next to the pub was owned by Mrs Kimber, Mrs King and Mrs Mullarkey.

The shop on the corner of Hambro Road and Natal Road used to be a dairy owned by Mr Jones, a Welshman.

Ernie

At the end of Hambro Road there was a back entrance to the ice rink, a cut-through known as muggers’ alley and the dust yard where the dust-carts were kept.

Q: Did you work in Streatham?

Rita

My first job, before I was married, was at the Royal Society of Arts in Clapham North, printing exam papers. There were five girls and three me working there and I earned £5 per week, a good wage in those days. With my first week’s wages I went to Woolworth’s in Clapham at lunchtime to buy my mum a present, but my wages were stolen! I went back to work in tears and my colleagues more than made up the money out of their own pockets. I felt very touched by their kindness.

During the 1960s and 70s  I cleaned in the Ferrers triangle: four years at the sweetshop and newsagent, four years at the Earl Ferrers pub, and four years at the betting shop. I also cleaned at Streatham United Reformed Church – the caretaker lived next door to us. My mum did the paper round at the newsagents where I cleaned. I followed on from her and my daughter carried on the tradition.

I also worked at PB Cow, the rubber factory, making rubber rings for use in swimming pools. PB Cow also made hot water bottles, inflatable beds and lilos. Another of my jobs was at Pascal’s sweet factory in Mitcham, making Buttered Brazils.

Ernie

PB Cow invented the Goldfish Club for airmen who survived plane crashes over water by getting into rubber dinghies made by PB Cow. Members of the Goldfish Club wore a special badge.

Q: What are your memories of the Earl Ferrers pub?

Ernie

You can see that the pub has four doors (the interview took place in the pub), that’s because up to the 1970s there used to be three bars, the saloon bar, the middle bar and the darts bar, and an off licence between the middle bar and the darts bar.

The pub used to be a Courage house. George Foot, a wonderful man, had the pub for 28 years and left around 1980. He was an ex-Navy man and served in Korea on HMS Belfast. He was still alive last Christmas and must be in his early 90s now!

In the old days the pub was like a village inn, with a darts team and regular coach trips.

Q: Do you think you will ever leave Streatham?

Ernie and Rita

Our dream is to move to Dorset, but we can’t afford it.

Boy to Man in Streatham, 1930s

Interviewee

Doug Poupard, 93, brought up in West Norwood, has many memories of Streatham as a boy and as a young man during the war.

Q: Did you attend any events in Streatham?

I frequently attended the Locarno ballroom. In war time, during air-raids, the dancers were allowed to sleep in the ballroom as it was too dangerous to venture out. Men had to sleep on one side of the band and ladies on the other!

On one occasion I attended a circus at the Regal Cinema (later the ABC), when a Japanese girl with an umbrella performed on the high wire!

I attended may shows at Streatham Hill Theatre including “The Entertainer” by John Osborne, but I can’t remember who the star was!

Q: Did you meet any famous people?

Robert Taylor (American actor 1911 to 1969) was in the UK filming “A Yank at Oxford” in 1938. He shot some skating scenes at Streatham Ice rink and was mobbed by the local girls!

Q: Do you remember any Streatham characters?

Bill Payne was the landlord of “The Bedford” pub from the 1970s until around 1990.

Q: Do you have any childhood memories of Streatham?

As a boy I remember walking through Streatham with my father on our way to swim in Tooting Bec Lido and seeing the Astoria cinema being built (now the Odeon, built 1930).

Although it’s not strictly speaking Streatham, I remember my father making my brother and I have a dip in Tooting Bec Lido on Christmas morning before we could open our presents!

I also remember the Golden Domes cinema (opened 1912, refurbished 1929, closed 1938, now CarpetRight). The gent’s toilet was near the entrance and as a boy I often used to creep in the side door and come out of the gents into the cinema to avoid buying a ticket!

Shopping in Streatham 1960s

Interviewees

  • Betty Fitzgerald , 86, lived in Streatham 1953 to 1997, now lives in Dulwich;
  • Terri Douglas, 62 (nee Mary Fitzgerald) lived in Streatham 1953 to 1970, now lives in South Croydon

Q: When did you come to live in Streatham?

Betty:

In 1953 I was living in Brixton in one room with my husband and two small children. The landlady was black. At that time the policy was ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ (sic) and that was the only accommodation we could find.  An Irish relief doctor, not our usual one, was shocked at our living conditions and gave us a letter for the council, which led to our getting a two-bedroomed ground-floor flat in Mount Earl Gardens. When my youngest child was born, we moved to a three-bedroomed flat on the first floor.

Q: What are your memories about your life in Streatham?

Betty

Mr. Gaiter, the caretaker, was a martinet, and who kept the blocks spotless and everyone in order. When I first arrived in Mount Earl Gardens, an Irish lady upstairs made my life a misery complaining about the noise. She complained to Mr. Gaiter who kept coming to ‘have a chat’, with me about it.. In the flats we weren’t allowed any pets and each flat had to take turns in cleaning the concrete steps. Mr Gaiter inspected them every week. They had to be spotless!

Mary

I suffered an attempted kidnap! Mum had sent me down the road to Caton’s and Lillian’s with a shilling to run a couple of errands. I was still in Mount Earl Gardens when an old man – in his 60s, I can still see his face – asked me for money. He asked me to go with him and said he would buy me sweets. He pestered me as far as Caton’s and on to Lillian’s. Luckily, Michael from Lillian’s, who would have been around 15 at the time, took me home and called the police. The police came round and questioned me. I saw Michael years later at a party, reminded him about the incident and thanked him again.

Q: Did you attend any events in Streatham?

Betty

I attended a comedy night at the Streatham Hill Theatre in around 1951, but I can’t remember who was on the bill.

Mary

I looked forward to two yearly events.

  • Knight’s Youth Club, based in Christ Church Road, held an event at Dunraven School each year with a traditional fun-fair.
  • The Derby and Joan Club held a garden party at Wood lawns. The gardens were beautiful.

Q: Did you meet any famous people?

Mary

Shaw Taylor lived in a flat on Streatham High Road and I often saw him around. I often saw Cathy McGowan looking at clothes in Honey Boutique, near Woolworth’s and Dolcis. David Jacobs’s mum had a very high-class classic knitwear shop on Leigham Court Road.

Q: What are your memories of shopping in Streatham?

Betty

When Mary was about 12, I bought her a wind-up gramophone. It cost £1, and there were 78s with it. Mary was very proud of it and used to open the window so everyone could hear it. One of the 78s was ‘There’ll Always Be an England’!

Mary

I remember the shops on Leigham Court Road very well. On the left-hand side there was an estate agent, then Heath and Heather health foods, a wool shop, a trinket shop with costume jewellery, Toni and Guy (the first in the hairdressing chain), a ladies’ toilet, a kiosk selling sweets and cigarettes, a gents’ toilet, Mr Field’s the Chemist, David Jacobs’s mum’s knitwear shop, Caton’s Deli and Grocers, next to the 137 bus stop, Lillian’s greengrocers.

On the opposite side was the gas showrooms and Douglas’s sweet shop.

The kiosk between the public toilets was run by Doreen, a spinster in her 40s who know everyone and everything. My dad called her ‘The News of the World’. She asked everyone their business, even children and also sold ciggies to kids! Mr Field the chemist was a lovely man who gave advice like a doctor. Caton’s sold broken biscuits in boxes.

Going out of Streatham Hill station on the right there was a tobacconist, on the left a florist. Across the road from the florist was Broomfield’s, a nice bakers’. Across Sternhold Road on the corner was a gentlemen’s outfitters and an old-style Sainsbury’s, with bacon, sausage and dairy on one side and meat on the other, Later, Sainsbury’s bought the gents’ outfitters and made it into a small supermarket.

Other early supermarkets on the High Road were Victor Value and McFisheries.

WH Smith had booths where you could listen to records. The first three records I bought there were:

  • ‘Love Me Do’ – the Beatles
  • ‘Here Comes the Night’ – Them
  • ‘That Wonderful Picture of You’ – Joe Brown

A single was 6/8d . You could get 3 singles for £1. Another record I bought was ‘Sailor’ on Woolworth’s Embassy label, a cover of the Petula Clark original.

Near WH Smith was Sharman’s an old-fashioned department store, like ‘Are You Being Served’. It was very gentrified. I had no reason to buy anything, but went in just to look.

Q: Did you work in Streatham?

Betty

When the children were small I worked at Bickard’s cafe on the corner of Streatham High Road and Leigham Court Road, next to the gas showroom. Bickard’s was a traditional cafe serving breakfast and lunch. I worked as a waitress and wore an apron.

(Note: Betty was a trained nurse and later worked at Springfield Hospital).

Q: What are your memories of transport in Streatham?

Betty

You could by a tuppeny-happenny transfer to travel on the tram and the bus.

Mary

For my first job I travelled from Streatham Hill to Victoria. A weekly ticket cost 10 shillings in 1966.  There were no machines; we had to queue at the ticket office.  In Streatham Hill Station, on the right-hand side, there was a row of wooden telephone boxes.

Q: When did you leave Streatham?

Betty

I left Mount Earl Gardens in 1997 when I moved to a retirement flat in Dulwich.

Mary

I left in 1970 when I married in St. Simon and St. Jude’s Roman Catholic Church on Hillside Avenue.