Fengates Road Inclusive Entertainment and Neighbourly Development

Chapter 8 – 1960s to 1970s

The Fengates Road of the 60s and 70s retained features of its past, but modernisation was beginning to take place. Residents took delight in propelling their way around the neighbourhood by bicycle, soapbox go–carts, motorbikes and cars. These were the decades in which the children began to take over and they found their road ripe for adventure!

Dave Caldecourt, had been growing up, with his brother and sister, in the house which was built by his great–grandfather.

“Next door number 64 had gas lighting up to the time I moved from Reigate in about 1965. Cooking was done on a very old gas hob and a solid fuel – coke I think – stove with an integral oven.

Caldecourt children

Dave, Anthony and Julia Caldecourt in Aunty Ryall’s garden

The whole house had a very old fashioned look and feel to it. It was very quiet – all you could hear was the clocks ticking and they always seemed loud in comparison. The hall floor consisted of small black and white quarry tiles. Some of them were loose and as you walked on them they made a noise that was a cross between a squeak and a crunch. All the time I lived at number 62 parked cars were rare. Until I got my first motorcycle in about 1964 the road you could see from the house was nearly always clear and the traffic was very light.

When I was about twelve or thirteen my friends and I were into soapbox carts. We used to start part way up Linkfield Street and either go straight down the hill gathering enough speed to go over the railway bridge and into Cromwell Road, or turn into Fengates and try to reach Charman Road. When I drove down Fengates last year none of the above seemed possible with all the parked cars these days.

If I ever got locked out of number 62, my secret way in was into the cellar via the coalhole. The door into the rest of the house was never locked – and I was a bit smaller in those days.

Number 62 also had a quarry–tiled hall floor which my grandfather (C T Brett) covered with a felt backed plastic material. He also boxed in the very nice banisters with hardboard and various mouldings, and replaced some of the large fire surrounds with some very modern 60s ones.

If you twisted a penny – they were bigger once! – into the soft red brick you could make lovely hemispherical indents, which are probably still easily seen. This practice went down very well with my grandfather!

Caldecourt children

Residents left their mark on the soft brickwork of number 62.
Mr Toy rented the house and lived there with his teenage sons.
Anthony Caldecourt also made his mark.

With me at 62 were my younger brother and sister – Anthony and Julia. My grandfather and grandmother Charles and Hilda Brett (nee Worsell). My mother and father Eileen and John Caldecourt. My mother’s maiden name was Brett.”

Tim and Penelope Horsfall (number 41), who have done so much to help foster a sense of community, moved into Fengates House in 1967.

Fengates House

Fengates House 1976

“You could still see the old garden paths outlined thorough the grass. A number of original fruit trees were still giving fruit. We were told that one old lady, then living in Fengates Road, could recall as a child visiting Fengates House for fresh milk. This would be about the 1890s. I remember Mr “Gully” Martin of number 1 Fengates Road reminiscing about the last war and being amazed that Tim knew about matters he thought highly secret. In fact he was quite upset.

Once a year, in those early days, a group of mounted horses used to cross the end of Fengates Road going up Linkfield Street. This was in the days of few cars and no on–street parking. All the houses in Fengates Road had pretty front gardens. For a couple of years when we first moved to Fengates House the White Lion had a lovely restaurant, the cooking by a young woman called Caroline. It was in the White Lion that Tim met Ted Parrott (from number 4 Fengates Road). He was a great storyteller and raconteur. He said that at that time there were eleven teachers living in Fengates Road.

Stanley Charlwood

Stanley Charlwood prunes his tree

One retired teacher was Mr. Charlwood (number 58) who always wore a green baize apron when trimming his front hedge. Another was Miss Warren (number 54) who got me involved in doing poppy house–to–house collection 25 years ago.

Mrs and Miss Nicholls (number 38) were also teachers. They moved to Fengates Road from their old home some distance away as Mr Nicholls had committed suicide and in those days the shame this brought was considerable. ‘Bob the builder’ lived in the house on the bend. The Misses Ryall lived at number 64. They had no electricity in the house. When the house was on the market, probably in 1978, we toured the house as friends thought they might buy it. The original over–mantels were still in place as was the original kitchen. Apparently they listened to a transistor radio but had no other modern appliances.

Lorne House

Lorne House

From 1973 I became a member and then chairman of the East Surrey Mobile Physiotherapy Unit and we held most management meetings in Fengates House. Every year we would hold a coffee morning and I would invite most of the residents in Fengates Road. They were most supportive and we raised a good amount of money for the unit’s funds. The last was in 1983 as we were then taken under the wing of the NHS. We employed three physios and ran two vans, which were very well maintained by Mr Morley of Oakdene Road. Care in the community before it’s time.

During the great drought of 1976 we had a party for American visitors when we brought out the drawing room carpet and laid it on the back lawn for people to sit on – it was hot a midnight.

In 1969 the old Tannery House in Linkfield Street together with the tanning pits was demolished. All the area could smell the odours as they were emptied, cleaned and filled. The smell was unbelievable.”




Tannery layout

The layout of the tannery

Fengates House sale

Fengates House for sale in 1926…
© Surrey History Service

Fengates House sale

…and again in 1966

Fengates House

Left: Repair work to the lintels; Right: Fengates House today.

Fengates House is one of the oldest buildings in Redhill and is listed Grade 11*. It has a square-hipped roof, unusual in that it is constructed like a spider’s web.

Timbers used in its construction in the 1730s may have come from an earlier farm house on the same site.

Kitchen of number 31

Kitchen of number 31

On the death of ‘Aunt Phoebe’ Bob and Lynn Crittenden decided to buy number 31, thus ensuring that the house remained in the family for a further generation. Lynn describes their arrival below.

“We arrived at Fengates Road from Wimbledon on a sunny spring day only to wake up on 1st April to cold snowy weather. The house was in the middle of renovation with a kitchen open to the elements! Cooking on a camping stove and washing up in the bath was quite an adventure with two small children and a baby, who was just about walking. But we were warmly welcomed to Fengates Road by the neighbours who had known Auntie Phoebe and Uncle Arthur and their many cats!

Front door

Front of number 31 before off road parking

The front garden was ‘original Victorian’ with circular boxed hedged path. The garden gate, for the 5 year old, was the exit into the bike riding and roller skating world of Fengates Road. As parents, we were then confident that our children were safe cycling between the lamppost boundaries. In the back garden, a small gate in the fence allowed John and Justine Miler, from number 29, to visit and play in the sandpit. In Auntie Phoebe’s day there was a pond at the end of the garden and long after it had been filled in, frogs continued to visit.

I have memories of Mr Kent, born in the 19th century telling us that his mother used to take a trip out in a horse and drawn cart at the weekend. Mr Kent knew Fengates Road long before cars were invented!”

Chris Stevens of number 18 and his sister Jennifer, who still lives in their family home (number 7), are continuing a great Fengates tradition by having lived on the road all their lives.

“As I started to think about my recollections of Fengates, many of the things that come to mind now seem like ancient history. The memories I have, you would have thought had come from some old fossil, not the youthful thirty–something that I am. I prefer to think that things have changed dramatically in recent years, rather that the fact that I am knocking on a bit!

My parents paid £1,500 for number 7 in 1956 and moved in as newly weds in August of that year. I was born some ten years later, preceded by my brother and sister. I have little recollection of life in Fengates during the late 60s, but as that decade ended and the 70s began my memories start to kick in.”

Kitchen of number 31

Jack Jolley in 1993

“Having lived in Fengates Road all my life I cannot really imagine living anywhere else. My parents bought the house in 1956. I have happy memories of riding up and down the pavements just as the children do today and enjoying the fact that there was an incline in the pavement up the top (Linkfield Street) end so you didn’t need to peddle, just coast. Thundering down the hill from Reffels Bridge on a go–cart built for us by Dad was also great fun.”

“Probably my earliest memory is of hearing the Rag and Bone man crying ‘Old iron and lumber’. This would be accompanied by the ringing of a large hand bell as he walked slowly along the road in front of his battered old pick–up truck. He wouldn’t have looked out of place three or four hundred years previously, shouting ‘Bring out your dead!’

Another event that would cause a certain amount of excitement amongst the youth of Number 7 would be the regular arrival of the big council road sweeper lorry (we were easily excited in those days). This would always turn up very early in the morning, with its orange beacon lights flashing and emitting a loud droning noise. I would imagine that it was the scourge of certain residents who had spent the previous night up at the White Lion.

Father Christmas

Redhill and Reigate Round Table bring Father Christmas to town

There was only one event that could out–strip the road–sweeper in the excitement department and that was Father Christmas’s annual jaunt in his little house. Excitement was known to reach fever pitch as the sound of ancient Christmas carol recordings came into earshot. We knew then that the old boy wouldn’t be far behind. I showed him to my son Samuel last year, for the first time. Looking at Father Christmas I couldn’t help but think to myself that he hasn’t aged a bit after all these years.

Christmas was a good time to make a bit of extra pocket money as me and a couple of mates would entertain the Fengates households with our renditions of popular carols. The King’s College Choir we most certainly weren’t – we sounded more like a couple of tomcats being neutered without any anaesthetic. Nevertheless business was always brisk and as Fengates residents were (and still are) a generous bunch, we would look forward to the share–out at the end of the night.”

Gentlemen

Left to right: A gentleman from Charman Road, Norman Stevens, Jack Risbridger, Mr Ford and Harry Mattock

“My Dad was quite a character in the street. He seemed to know everyone. Every year on Boxing Day he’d invite friends and neighbours round for a drink and to bet on the horses. This was very popular with the men but not so much with their wives because of the state in which some of them returned home later!”

“With Christmas would come my Dad’s Boxing Day gathering of the Fengates men–folk for a good old booze–up. The drinking that went on during these Boxing Day mornings became legendary. One young fresh–faced neighbour (who was fairly new to the road) was welcomed with open arms into the fold and was instantly made a life member of the group. He never came back a second year after becoming ‘overwhelmed’ by my Dad’s hospitality. Legend has it that his face actually turned green before he was violently ill. The scene was a comical one watching them leave for home, as they staggered about in various states of intoxication. I’m sure they were all welcomed back by their understanding wives!?

Gentlemen

Harry receives his certificate of long service from Norman

The late Harry Mattock of number 25 was one of the longest serving Boxing Day Boozers and received a certificate from my Dad in recognition of the fact in the mid 70s.”

“Dad was very faithful in walking our beloved dog, Sweep, twice a day. At night he’d take a stick with him, which he tapped on the ground as he went calling out to the neighbours in the darkness. I remember one elderly lady, who I think lived on her own, saying how comforting she found this.”

The Stevens family

Jennifer, Chris and Tim Stevens with Andrew and Roy Webber whose parents used to run the post office on Reffels Bridge.

“My Dad died in ’94. Without appearing to be biased, I would say that he had been one of the great characters of Fengates Road, along with the likes of the late Harry Mattock of number 25 and the late Tom Holt–Miller who used to live in number 52.

A child living in Fengates during this time was very blessed because only yards from his front door would be the William’s sweet shop (now Electric Shock). This shop was a paradise to me as a child. As you walked through the door the bell would ring. On your left would be the half, one and two–penny trays of sweets. Above these were shelves groaning under the weight of jar after jar of every type of confectionery known to man. On your right was an unending choice of chocolate and next to that the ice–cream freezer. This to me was a great shop, where a high percentage of my pocket money was wisely invested.

It is ironic that as a young man my pleasures were found at the other end of the road in the White Lion. For many years me and my mates kept the Landlord, Ken, in the life of luxury.”

“Mr and Mrs Molton lived at number 39 and they would come along on a Sunday morning to call for my elder brother Tim and then, when I was old enough for me too and take us to Shrewsbury Chapel Sunday school. Mr Molton was the superintendent there.”

Chris Stevens

Chris prepares for an earlier assault on the road

“During the 70s the neighbourhood was predominantly elderly. Most of these were all too happy to see children playing in the street enjoying themselves. Although on one occasion one dear old lady was pushed beyond her endurance. Me and a number of friends had got hold of some chalk and were busy drawing on the pavement. Now this particular lady’s lack of tolerance to children was well known to us (countless visits to collect our ball from her garden had tested her patience on many occasions). So when we wrote ‘This way for sex’ on the pavement with an arrow pointing at her front door, we knew that an interesting reaction wouldn’t be far behind. Sure enough, the manure hit the fan and I can still picture my dear old Dad fending off this particularly irate lady who hadn’t seen the funny side!

I would like to point out at this point that I do not condone playing knock–down ginger on your neighbours’ homes nor the throwing of snowballs and stink–bombs at their doors, nor the firing of spud–guns and squeezy–bottles (particularly if the water being fired contained a strong solution of food dye) at unsuspecting pedestrians. The throwing for Frisbees so that they skim over the roofs of passing cars, particularly if the aim isn’t that good, also needs condemnation.

Charlotte Michel

Charlotte Michel on her scooter: the latest craze in 2000

I’ve enjoyed seeing the children riding their bikes up and down the path this spring and summer. In the 70s the scene was a similar one as the Fengates children would regularly gather to ride round the block (up Fengates, down Linkfield Street and back along Charman Road). It was possible, in those days, to ride on the road, hugging the kerb almost all the way. These days you’d be lucky to see the kerb because of all the parked cars.

There were many prangs as the cycle traffic got a bit heavy, particularly during the summer holidays. Pedestrians walked along the road at their own peril. But we didn’t care because we were young wild and carefree. With the wind blowing in our hair and our flares flapping around our ankles we would blatantly flout the law, often staying out some ten minutes after our mums had called us in!

Although me and my Fengates pals were keen to subsidise our pocket money with a bit of carol singing, penny for the guying and the like, we did also have a more charitable side. This manifested itself with a series of jumble sales we held in aid of the RSPCA.

Rob the postman

Rob the postman at the street party

These were a great laugh from start to finish; collecting the jumble alone was an opportunity to muck about. As a bag of jumble was collected, we would rummage through to find the most outrageous items to wear for the rest of the collection. As a neighbour opened their door to us they would be greeted by a handful of snotty nosed kids wearing clothes that the average down and out wouldn’t be seen dead in. Some people saw it as an opportunity to dump off all their junk, whilst others would donate some pretty good stuff. I remember one elderly lady in particular giving us what must have been an antique Singer sewing machine.

The sales were always held outside my good friend Jon Brett’s house (number 5) and were highly organised affairs. A couple of us would leg it up to Reffels Bridge to point unsuspecting members of the public in the right direction to pick up a bargain.

I remember collaring Rob the postman who was doing his round. Fortunately on this occasion someone had donated an old letterbox. This was promptly snapped up by Rob saying that he would use it to practice on.

Over a period of four sales we managed to raise some £70 – quite a bit of dosh for those days. The manager of the RSPCA centre at South Godstone made a special fuss over our donation and invited us all over for a tour of the centre.

I would like to add at this point, for myself and my fellow jumble–salers, that our 70s charity work is something we prefer not to talk about!”

Street kids

Ruth Atkins, Anna Potashnick, Jennifer Stevens, David Atkins, Chris Stevens, Roy Webber, Kevin Paplit, Mark Reid, Andrew Golding and Jonathan Brett