Fengates Road Inclusive Entertainment and Neighbourly Development

Chapter 7 - 1945 to 1960s

With the end of the war Fengates Road, entered a new phase. Many new residents found it a haven after the pressures of the war years. Social and cultural changes were afoot however. These were the decades which saw motorcars introduced to the road. In addition the quality and availability of ‘off-the-peg’ clothing increased with results that Rosemary Combridge remembers.

“Before the war the quality of off-the-peg clothing was very poor and there was a very obvious difference between these clothes and those made by dressmakers. After the war it all changed. It really was associated with class; now the local secretaries could look as well dressed as the teachers. Another change was attitude to colour. Previously people over fifty would only wear black or navy – partly because of how formally people reacted to mourning. Gradually it became acceptable for them to wear more daring colours.”

Many of the houses were now lived in as flats as Hilda Lindfield describes.

“When I married we moved to number 12 Fengates Road. We lived in the back half and Sheila Mercer, whose father was a Baptist Vicar, lived in the front half. I remember the delicious eggs that we would buy from the dairy over the road. Miss Brockes, who lived in the house after us married Mr Hatton from the Water Company. Leslie Knight, who was blind, owned a small sweet shop in Reffels Bridge. He was a radio ham and used to transmit to my father who was also a radio ham and lived in the West Midlands.”


Squander–bug by Anthony Combridge

The following account has been written by Jessie Mahtani, who lived in number 58 as a child and again later when she was married. Many residents have fond memories of her mother Mrs Semple, who moved to number 3 Elm Road.

“The first time I lived in number 58 Fengates Road (‘Lulworth’, on the gate then) was in the 1940s when I was not much more than a toddler. We rented it from Prof. Combridge, who lived there with his family before us. The war was coming to an end, but my brother and I were very interested in the drawings of Doodlebugs etc in the basement, which had been completed by the Combridge children while sheltering during air raids down there. I believe that was why a large rockery was built to hide the basement window.

Fengates Road was a nice road to live in and my mother, who was Irish, made sure she knew everybody. Our friends Miss Thorpe and Miss Law who lived further up the road, at one of its bends, said they liked the way each house was different. Their house was very different inside, and the front room was furnished and had the atmosphere of a Victorian elegant parlour. Sometimes they came to our house too.

There were few cars and no parking problem - we had no car to worry about - but carts and horses were a great fascination. There was a milk cart, a bin cart and another cart to pick up food, which could be used to feed pigs - and each had a carthorse with a bag of hay over its nose, which it had to toss around to get a mouthful.


Today this shop is a derelict shell

Later on I was allowed to go and buy the odd bit of shopping for my mother at the dairy at the other end of Fengates Road - and of course my brother and I spent our sweet coupons at ‘Kirby’s’ the corner shop between Elm Road and Linkfield Street (I think it has been a hairdressers since then). When you pushed the door open it went “TINK” and somebody would appear out of the back and patiently wait while we chose our sweets. Everything else seemed to be for sale – sewing thread, pencils, safety pins.

Eileen Caldecourt

Eileen Caldecourt with trees in background

There were two huge trees opposite our house in Fengates House gardens - a massive yew and a hazel nut tree - and the owners of Fengates House had beautiful beds of tulips and would open their doors and we would hear someone playing the piano. At night the sounds went on, and, with steam trains shunting about at Reffels Bridge on the railway lines, there were nightly sounds of coupling and hooting.”

At the other end of the road lived Mr and Mrs Bird whose daughter, Anne Ashraff, is still in touch with Jane Smith (number 11) and has written to us to share her vivid memories of their time in Fengates Road.

“My parents, Mr and Mrs Bird and my maternal grandmother, Mrs Stow and I moved to 13 Fengates Road after the Second World War. I don’t remember the exact year but it was probably 1948. At the time the house was known as “Acacia Lodge” but I don’t know if an acacia tree had ever grown on the property! The purchase price was £2,250!!! The previous owners and residents had been three maiden ladies; two were sisters – the Misses Attlee – cousins of the former Prime Minister Clement Attlee. The third lady was a tenant who rented space, as I recall, in part of the upper floor. Although electricity had been installed in the house the gas brackets from the former gas lighting were still there in at least some of the walls and I remember my father having to dig them out of the walls and plaster over them before papering and painting. The Misses Attlee, by the way, moved to a house in Blackborough Road but I don’t remember what number. I’m sure they’re both deceased by now, as they seemed to me then to be already quite elderly. The one that I remember was tall and thin with glasses, and rode what seemed to be a very large bicycle.

Mrs Bird and her mother

Mrs Bird and her mother

Next door to us (number 15 I suppose) lived three maiden lady sisters - the Misses Pook: Jesse, Madge and I think Lily or Lillian. There was another sister also unmarried who lived elsewhere and whose name I can’t recall. She used to visit from time to time from where she lived (a hotel somewhere I believe) and she was the only one who wore lipstick!! When all the sisters had died or gone into homes the house was bought by Robert and Christine Atkins (who now live in Haywards Heath).

Our other immediate neighbours at number 11 were a family by the name of Burt. All I remember is that they emigrated to New Zealand. That house was then bought by Derek and Rena Smith and is still owned by their daughter Joanna. I expect Joanna can tell you more about the neighbours to the other side of number 11. I knew them all, of course, but my memory is hazy – after all I did leave number 13 nearly 43 years ago!! The property (I think it is four down from Joanna) used to be a dairy and was called The Welsh Farm Dairy. I often went there as a child for milk. There was a small shop at the front and I recall a small dark-haired lady with glasses who served behind the counter.

The end property that cornered Fengates Road and Charman Road was owned by Mr. Martin the builder. He and his wife had a daughter who emigrated to Alberta in Canada. At the corner of Fengates Road and Reffels Bridge was Mr. William’s ironmongers shop. He later took over a small shop next door and opened it as a sweet shop and his son took over the ironmongery.

Others in Fengates Road that I know of were the Missess Ryall who lived in the last house on the corner of Elm Road. One of the Miss Ryalls was Brown Owl of the Brownie pack that I belonged to. I recall that their house was serviced only by gas lighting until well after the other houses had been converted to electricity.

There was a family on the same side of the road whose name may have been Jones, and they (or at least the wife) were drowned in the cross-channel journey: not a ferry but a hydrofoil I believe.

Across the road from number 13 lived the Weller family (number 28). When we moved into the road only Mr. Weller the father and his two daughters, Doris and Edie lived there. Doris and Edie worked for two insurance companies in Redhill. After their father died they both retired to Scotland where they both subsequently died of cancer. They are buried up there. Next door to them (actually number 30) lived Miss Jupp whom my mother used to do shopping for and generally look in on when she was elderly and unwell. One or two houses along from Miss Jupp was the property of Mr. Barnet, the builder and adjoining his house there was a lane which led to his yard (the lane still exists I believe). A couple of houses along from Mr. Barnet lived Mrs Cudby, who was a friend of my mother’s. At some point she moved to a flat in Reigate near what used to be the Monks Court Hotel (now no longer there). The other side of the Wellers, I don’t recall who lived there when we moved in to the road but subsequently the house was bought by Mr and Mrs Keeble and their two daughters. Mr Keeble is now deceased but Mrs Keeble now lives in Station Road. Next to the Keebles lived Mrs Frost but I don’t remember when she moved into the road or who lived there before her. Further up the road from Mrs Frost, towards the main road lived a family whose son later became a doctor: I don’t remember the family’s name or the son’s name but I remember him well as a little boy in short grey trousers!!

There are many others who lived on the road whom I knew by sight and/or by name but my memory fails me! The road was very much different in those days to what it is now. There were no cars parked on the road and later, when some residents began to acquire cars, people like my father and the Wellers rented garage space in the garages that were built next to the Welsh Farm Dairy (which had become a residence). It was a common sight to see the local bobbie walking about in those days in the area and because the road was clear of traffic it all seemed much wider and more spacious. It was a very quiet road when I lived there with little traffic and no litter as I recall. Periodically the rag and bone man would come down the road with his horse and cart. Bread and milk were also delivered by horse and cart and if the horses left their droppings, they would be eagerly scooped up to put on the garden.

Canine rivals

Canine rivals.
Left, Jimmy outside the summer house in the garden of number 13.
Right, Stanley Charlwood (the uncle of Rosemary Combridge) with his wife Salome and their dog Bobby

During the years that I lived there we owned a dog named Jimmy and either my father or I would take him for walks up to the common on Elm Road and often across to the larger common (White Post Hill). Jimmy was the sworn enemy of ‘Bob’ who was a wire-haired terrier and lived about three houses down from the Misses Ryall and when we passed the house Bob would bark like mad if he was inside at the window, and if he was going or returning from a walk his master would have a job to restrain him if he saw Jimmy!!

Collecting conkers

Collecting conkers 2000

In those days, on the opposite side of the road to Bob’s house there was a long fence that belonged to a large property. As a girl I used to collect ‘conkers’ that fell from the horse chestnut trees that used to grow inside the fence! (Maybe they still do?)

When we first moved to Fengates Road I was a pupil at St. Joseph’s Convent School for Girls in Ladbroke Road, Redhill and I used to walk across Reffels Bridge and up Linkfield lane right to the other end where it joined London road and thence to Ladbroke Road. After three years I was sent to Pitman’s College in West Croydon and I used to journey there on the Greenline bus from Redhill. After two years at Pitman’s I went to work in Pudding Lane in what was then part of Billingsgate Fish market and I used to travel up to London Bridge Station on the 8.28 a.m. every day. In November 1957 I left Redhill and emigrated to Canada.

For many years after we moved to Fengates Road my mother worked for the Prudential Insurance Company in their office in Station Road: that building has now gone. My father worked at the Windmill Press in Kingswood (where Harry Mattock later worked) and in the days before my father had a car he would travel up to Kingswood on the 406 bus.

My parents moved from Fengates Road in June of 1977, my grandmother having previously died in 1964.”

Current residents Cynthia and Alan Roper (number 46) have a long connection with Fengates Road. Cynthia’s parents, Mr and Mrs Swan moved here in the 1950’s. At that time there were mainly teachers and office workers living on the road, although it was also known as the ‘Road of the Bretheren.’

“In the 1950s the road was very quiet. Only Alan and Mr. Smart (number 40) had cars. There were lots of cats and no children. The houses had servant’s bells - even in the bathrooms! Many of the houses still had gas lighting and the side passages were used for people’s bicycles. The lovely ceilings in our house were done by Mr. Martin, the builder. Everyone used to call number 32 the OXO house. There were pig bins in the road right into the 1960s, one was right outside number 17.

We hardly ever went into Redhill to shop. The butcher, baker, and grocers all delivered using the tradesmen’s entrances and you could get everything you needed in the corner shops or on Reffels bridge where there was a butcher, greengrocer, hardware store (where Reffels carpet centre is now), drapers, restaurant (in the kitchen shop) bakers, dance academy, shoe shop hairdresser, and a cocktail bar up from the Red Lion (where the estate agents is now).

The road is much more friendly now; before everyone had typical British reserve. But people really took pride in their homes. They used to sweep their fronts and the gardens were beautiful.

Then and now

Then and now.
Left, back view of the villas in Elm Road in 1931 from number 58.
right, the view of the flats today.

We were involved, with other residents, in the fight against the flats on Elm Road. The builders wanted to demolish all the old villas and put up one great big block. We did at least manage to get that changed to separate blocks on the sites of the original houses. We used a clause from the original covenant, but it was too late to save the houses - the builders claimed there was asbestos in the central-heating system. We were very upset at the time, but funnily enough it now seems like an improvement because the nurses were very noisy and the backs of the old houses were a real mess.”

Some former residents have retained fond memories of their time on Fengates Road, despite the fact that many miles and many years now separate them from the time they spent here. One of these is Jacquie Wyse, now living in Australia, who contacted us on the last day of a five day visit to Redhill after hearing about the book.

“We lived at number 56 which was divided into flats. It was owned by Mr and Mrs Towers who had two children. We rented part of the house from them. At first we just had the front bedroom and the small room, which went over the front door. Both Mum and I can remember the wallpaper in both the large front rooms was a trellis design with flowers, both rooms very cold in winter needing to scrape the ice off the inside so we could see what sort of day it was outside. It was so cold that we needed to cover ourselves with newspapers and rugs to keep warm even though we had a paraffin-stove as well as a fire. The little front room was used as a kitchen but didn't have a sink, so the washing up water had to be carried downstairs to the toilet in a bucket or two!!! We used to do the laundry in the bath by hand each week, so all in all living conditions were hard, but very happy with Wendy and Tony. The front garden had two azalea plants in it as well as other flowers, and a brick wall and gate, not nearly so many people had cars in those days!!!

We had a dog called ‘Honey’. I have memories of many Tupperware parties. Goods were delivered to the side door – the tradesman’s entrance. People would come to the door and say, ‘Are you in?’ and come in for a cup of tea.”

Like Jacquie, Lillian and Harry Mattock rented part of a house when they first moved to Fengates Road. Harry, sadly died on Boxing Day 1999, but is remembered fondly by former and current residents as one of the great characters of Fengates Road.

Lillian and Harry Mattock

Lillian and Harry Mattock

Lillian lived on Frenches Road and attended Frenches Road school. Later she worked for the local photographer, Windsor Spice and was there when she got her calling up papers. Within ten days she was in the army and posted to Oswestry.

On her return she worked once more for Windsor Spice, mounting and framing photographs before moving to work for the Mono-type Company in Salfords. For the first few years she worked in the punch room producing matrix. She became expert at this complex and detailed process and even produced a complete font of 4¼ point size, which is on display in a museum in Stockwell. She was soon promoted to a supervisory role and on the day before her retirement was taken to see the company’s first laser.

Harry joined up at the Market Hall in Redhill before the Second World War. He was attached to the King’s Royal Regiment where he worked mainly on mechanics. After the army he was ‘on the buses’ for a while as a conductor before he met Lillian. He later went to work at Windmill Press (Heineman) in Kingswood and ended up as a time-study officer. Their first home together was a flat in Merstham where they had to look after the landlady and give her one meal a day. The Reverend Brockington, from St. Matthew’s, told them about the house in Fengates Road in 1956. Lillian describes their early days on the road below.

Job description

An extract from Lillian’s job description

“We rented the lower flat from Joan Smerdon, who is the granddaughter of Thomas Hewitt. He was the original owner of numbers 23 and 25 and lived in number 23 until about 1920. Above us were the Lawrences, and we didn’t get on. One day Mr. Lawrence came down and said ‘I’ve got good news for you. I’m moving.’ And he did - next door to the flat under Mrs Dealing! In the 1970s we took over the whole house, and bought it outright in 1984. Mrs Wallis from number 31 was very friendly and Harry used to joke with her. There may have been a spring in her back garden because there used to be a pool as soon as you dug down.

I was very fond of gardening – but Mrs Dealing objected to my cutting back the ferns in the back garden. The front garden used to be full of lavender and I also had a rose-bed and laurel. But as time went on and traffic increased there were five accidents outside our house and our car was hit twice, so we decided to create off-road parking.”

John Buchanan lived at number 35 from 1963 to 1969 and the road would have resounded to the sound of him practicing his bugle.

“I was a member of Redhill Church Lads Brigade, a quasi-military church youth club which had a drum and bugle marching band. The C.L.B. was a successful competition band but they were continually second in the national band competition. In 1966 we were invited to be part of the Lord Mayor’s Parade in London and this was rightly regarded as a great honour. In 1969 the C.L.B. national band competition was held at Kneller Hall, the Army School of Music. The Redhill C.L.B. entered and after months of practice they were ready for the competition. They came away as the national band champions, the first band from the C.L.B. in the south of England to win the competition.

On the 26th May 1967 I was standing by the Odeon cinema, Station Road, Redhill, talking to P.C. Dave Vigar, an old school friend. P.C. Vigar received a call on his walkie-talkie and stepped into Station Road to stop a car. The car knocked him over, turned into Station Approach and crashed into the bill boards at the end of the road. Two men got out of the front of the car and ran. One, the largest, ran across some waste ground and into Ladbroke Road. I followed this man, who turned on me and attacked me. I fought with the man and restrained him. A taxi stopped and took us to Redhill Police Station. The men had committed an armed robbery in Oxted. I was given a Provincial Police Association Award which was presented by Peter Matthews, the Chief Constable of Surrey Police. When Mr Matthews had first joined the Metropolitan Police Force at Marylebone he was shown round the beats by my paternal grandfather; after promotion to sergeant he joined a unit where the superintendent was my maternal grandfather.”

Marianne Potashnick who now lives at number 35 remembers other former residents.

“Peggy and John Molton moved to number 39 as a young couple and they had two children. Unfortunately John died in his early sixties. Peggy was organist at Shrewsbury Road Chapel until she died at the age of 78.

Miss Warren lived at number 54 all her life until she died of a heart attack when she was in her eighties. I recall her telling me that her father had the house built in 1894, apparently it was the first house to be built in the road and was surrounded by fields. She was headmistress at Reigate Primary School (on Hardwick Road which has recently been converted into flats).”

Miss Warren was also a regular churchgoer and we believe that she left at least part of her estate to St. Matthew’s Church and that it was used to restore the organ which many current residents enjoy hearing today.