Fengates Road Inclusive Entertainment and Neighbourly Development

Chapter 9 – Into the 1980s and 1990s

With the strains of Abba wafting from many a youthful window, Mr Williams continuing to make a healthy profit from the pocket money of the younger residents, and the sound of speeding cyclists Fengates Road moved into the ‘loadsa money’ 80’s and ‘caring’ 90’s whilst retaining many of the characteristics which had marked it out as special over the previous hundred years.

Phoebe Wallis

Phoebe Wallis

Kate Crittenden has had connections with number 31 all her life.

“My earliest memory of Fengates Road was visiting my Great Aunt Phoebe who lived at number 31. In those days (mid 70’s) the front of the house had a small box hedge in a circle out of the front (that as children we used to call a ‘maze’) together with a lavender bush by the gate.

Strangely enough I remember more about the house than I do about her. The house was always cold and dark due to the black varnish that coated every available piece of wood. The front room had a large dresser on the right hand side as you entered the door which I remember having black grapes on it!

Crittenden children

Kate, Jane and John Crittenden on their kitchen step

When we moved in the kitchen (which is now one room) was two rooms, a kitchen and a scullery divided by a set of steps on the left hand side. The corridor lead from the kitchen past the coal bunker onto the garden.

The house was freezing and we had no carpets, just bare floorboards! So I spent most of the time in my coat refusing to take it off!

The house was in need of a significant amount of renovation, which obviously took a long time to complete. This meant that in certain parts of the house, the bare walls were used a notepads! This would be particularly evident by the phone in the hallway, where the wall was used to note down messages!

Creating off–road parking

Creating off–road parking

Jane and I shared the large front bedroom and it was not long before we divided the room with furniture, then a curtain and finally Dad relented and built a wall! When it came to the decoration of our rooms, we too, were allowed to ‘sign’ the walls prior to the paper going up as Dad had done as a child staying with his Aunt in the back bedroom. This will probably make interesting (or embarrassing!) reading in the future!

We moved to Fengates Road in March 1978, following the death of Auntie Phoebe. For me it was a huge move as we had previously been living in South Wimbledon. Although I was only seven at the time, I remember thinking that we were moving to the country and how awful it was going to be!

However, there were lots of children in the road and it was not long before we all regularly played together up and down the road (between the lamp posts) and in each other’s gardens. I was particularly friendly with Charlotte Bernard (number 37) and Anna Potashnick (number 35) and I am still close friends with Charlotte some 20 years later.

Charlotte, Anna and myself were big Abba fans (even in the 70s!) and spent many a Saturday afternoon compiling dance routines in Anna’s upstairs living room!

Our biggest treat was going to William’s sweet shop on the corner of Hatchlands Road and Fengates Road. It was a tiny shop wall to wall with jars of sweets, boxes of chocolates and the favourite ‘penny’ sweets, which was every child’s dream! A Mr Williams and his mother ran the shop and they certainly used to get good business from all our pocket money (about 10p).

Our other source of sweets was from Mrs Semple, who used to live at number 3 Elm Road (formerly at number 58). Mrs Semple was of the same generation as my Aunt Phoebe and was friendly with her. However, she used to keep a store of sweets, in a tiny cardboard set of drawers. In order to visit her she used to have a sign in her front porch that indicated whether we could ring the bell or not. On entering her house, we would sit in the living room and talk to her, before she brought her sweet drawers out. We would then pick a drawer and take a sweet from the drawer. I have no doubt that she just simply enjoyed the company of children but I can’t deny that it was the lure of the sweets that took us there!”

Kate, Jane and John

Kate, John and Jane outside number 31

Kate’s younger sister, Jane Crittenden, also has vivid memories of growing up on the road.

“Learning to spell ‘Crittenden’ and remembering my address – 31–Fengates–Road–Redhill–Surrey–RH1–6AQ – are some of my earliest memories of living on the street.

We moved around the time of my 5th birthday in March 1978, after Great Aunt Phoebe died and mum and Dad decided to buy her house. I don’t remember much about the early years except the building work going on transforming our home from a dark Victorian house to a more practical place for a family with three young children.

Telephone window

Telephone window

As the wallpaper was stripped in the hall, we found an old family tree drawn onto the wall. We were allowed to do our own scribbles and add our names to the tree.

My older sister, Kate and I shared the big front bedroom and we played Aunties Phoebe’s old wireless, avidly listening the Top 40 on Radio One every Sunday evening. Our Sindy dolls were very good a dancing along to Abba!

As we grew up, our bunk beds were dismantled and we established our own territory, we were given our own ‘rooms’ separated by a curtain. This eventually progressed to dad building a wall and splitting the big bedroom into two proper rooms.

Around this time Janice Raine (no.54) and I became friends. She lived over the road and her bedroom faced the street like mine so we decided to hook up a ‘telephone’ between our rooms. It was made out of yoghurt pots and string and worked quite well for a while. We used to watch with baited breath as the lorries came down the road praying that they wouldn’t be too tall and break the string. But this is exactly what ended our game.

I was quite fond of my Saturday sweets and comic, so every week I’d go down the road to Williams and buy my quarter ounce of cola cubes or toffee bonbons. I’d then walk over the bridge and buy my longed for Beano at the paper shop, now Pizza Piazza.

I don’t remember playing on Fengates Road very much. In autumn, we’d throw sticks at the conker tree at the top of the road and try and peek through the fence to see what the house looked like behind it. We’d race up and down and around the block on our bikes, but never ventured much further alone.

Back of 31

Back of No 31

I have some happy memories of 31 Fengates Road and as it was in the family since it was built it was sad to leave. Still it is nice to know our family history is on the wall for future families to discover as they strip the paper to decorate their new home and create their own piece of history.”

Whilst his sisters were busy with Abba, John Crittenden had other things on his mind.

“We played darts against the shed door with Dad calculating the score for us while he worked in the garden.

I remember whistling to call Justine Miller (number 29) out to play in our garden–cycling and running races up and down the steps and slopes. And when I was older riding my new mountain bike over the rockery.

I remember the horse–chestnut trees at the top of the road and being told off for throwing sticks up to get the conkers down. I was told that sticks might fall down and hit an old lady on the head!! The bags of conkers were taken up to my school, St. John’s, for our maths classes! The rest ended up in our sand–pit and grew into miniature trees over the winter!”

Then, as now, Fengates Road was at the mercy of the elements. There was plenty of snow, and tobogganing on the Common was as popular as ever.

Winter 1987

Snow scenes: Winter 1987

For Chris Stevens (number 18) the ravages of the weather seem to have carried a more personal message.

Flood

Fancy that

“In the 80’s I remember Fengates being hit by both fire and flood, no doubt divine retribution for the sinful way its residents lived their lives!

In August of ’81 there was the storm where day turned to night. At about 11 in the morning the heavens opened and it lashed down harder than I had ever seen before or since. The storm drains outside number 10 could not cope (some things never change) and a lake quickly formed at the bottom of the road flooding gardens and cars alike.”

“In the winter of ’85 my whole family were rudely awoken by a burly fireman banging on our front door. It was the wee small hours and having spent the previous night up the pub I couldn’t really work out what was going on. I quickly came to my senses when he informed me that next door was burning down. My initial reaction was ‘should I grab the telly?’ No one from number 5 was hurt but the house was gutted and remained that way for sometime after the fire.”

These were also eventful years for Tim and Penelope (number 41).

“The Great Storm of 1987 uprooted an old Mulberry tree, one huge tree that toppled to the side door of Fengates House and uprooted a large part of the footpath (still can be seen today) and several more trees bit the ground, as did some of the old clay tiles from our roof and from next door (number 39). Our then neighbour Mrs Molton (number 39) rang us up at 6.30 am and said “Mr Horsfall, your tree has fallen over the fence and is tickling my gutter.” Until that moment we thought it had just been rather windy. No one could drive very far. Elm Road was blocked and all that morning various friends called by to assess the damage and offer help. I made so many cups of coffee that we ran out of milk and, of course, the milkman could not get through.

Flood

The garden of Fengates House after the storm of 1987

In 1989 we built Huntly, 41 Fengates Road, in the back garden of Fengates House. It is a Swedish house, built to be energy conscious, manufactured in that country and shipped over here. Getting the two enormous lorries into Fengates Road was one problem and getting them out again was another. The house was watertight in eighteen days and built in three months. In the middle of all this our son got married.

During the year 1995/6 Pen was lucky enough to be mayor of our borough.

Flood

The construction of ‘Huntly’, 41 Fengates Road. Left, before the building work and right, work in progress.

The mayoral car, a stretched Granada of great antiquity, found backing down the rundown somewhat difficult. The angle had to be right to avoid the hump. Fortunately it did not get the hump too often. One mayoral party we held was a twinning reception for our visitors from Brunoy. About forty guests came and the French coach managed to park at the Fengates Road/Elm Road junction.”

Boys

Ralph and Ben Kay with Jack and Edward Jolley

Chris (number 18) describes how the Stevens family connection with the road was set to change, in more ways than one, in the final decade of the century.

“In the early ‘90s due to a lack of enthusiasm on my and my sister’s part to fly the nest, my Mum and Dad decided to spread their wings instead and move to the coast.

It was a good job I hadn’t flown the nest when in 1996, Jane Smith of number 11 took in a new lodger. I hadn’t taken much notice of this new arrival until one evening whilst outside chatting to Ben Kay (formerly of number 20) we were disturbed by a small voice calling my name. There standing before me was Janes’s new lodger, Rachel, who had come over to confess to hitting my car as she had driven off to work that morning. As she stood before me confessing her terrible crime I felt cupid’s arrow strike me in the heart: in a split second I was in love. Being the shy retiring type of bloke I didn’t have the bottle to ask her out. Instead, I tried to think up ways to see her again.

One brain wave I had (I don’t get many) would be to organise a rounders match between the odds and the evens. Rach, living on my side of the road, would be in my team – a golden opportunity to chat her up whilst showing off my athletic prowess (cupid’s arrow had clearly left me in a state of delusion) at the same time. The challenge was made to Phil Kay, formerly of number 20, which he accepted on behalf of the rest of the even neighbours.

The match was set but my plans were thwarted when Rach told me she couldn’t make it. I was a bit choked to say the least. Nevertheless, true love will always find a way and in July 1998 we were married. During our engagement number 18 Fengates came on to the market. We were both quite keen to stay in the ‘highly favoured Fengates area’ and were therefore chuffed to learn that our offer for the house had been accepted.”

Fengates Road seems to be a great place to grow up. There is plenty of scope for outdoor adventures. The houses themselves have afforded great scope for enjoyment and also hold their own secrets waiting to be discovered.

Boys

Youngsters at play. Jack and Edward Jolley are (Where’s) Wally and Burglar Bill, left. Right, the loft party at number 13 with David, Greg, Jack, Edward, Charlotte, Matthew and James

Amy Hopson (number 44), aged 6, has written her own account of :

THE LOST JEWELLERY

“One morning last summer, I had my Barbie ring on when I flicked my hand away. I was in Mummy’s bedroom and I heard a clattering noise as it fell. Mummy and I searched the floor for the ring but we couldn’t find it. Then I went over to the fireplace and pulled out the grate. Mummy said “Don’t look in there it’s dirty!” but we found … some hidden bags! I felt really excited as we pulled out the dusty boxes from the bags.

Amy

Amy Hopson wearing her necklace by the famous fireplace

We sat on the carpet and opened the boxes. Mummy said it was like a real live Enid Blyton story. Inside was some jewellery. We found necklaces, old rings, brooches and an old school pendant with some words written on. I said “Can we keep it?” but Mummy said, “NO, we must find out who it belongs to.”

On the school pendant we read the name Edgar and Mummy remembered that people with that name used to live in our house about five years ago. Later that day Mummy found their phone number and rang them up. “Hello, Mrs Edgar speaking” said the lady at the other end of the phone with a Scottish accent. Mummy explained what had happened and Mrs Edgar was really surprised and excited. She said “My daughter used to hide her jewellery away from burglars when we went on holiday. She must have forgotten to take it out.” We arranged for her to come round to our house the very next day.

Next day Mrs Edgar arrived and I felt very excited. She brought with her a china elephant pot for me and when I opened the lid it was full of sweets! For Mummy she brought some flowers. How kind I thought. We sat down on a comfy seat and showed her what we had found. She recognised the jewellery and was very grateful to us both. We had a chat and she said it was strange coming back into her old house and she said how much she liked the way we’d decorated the hall. She said she was seeing her daughter the following week and would hand it all back to her.

A few weeks later I had a letter from her daughter ……I love getting letters! In the letter Jacqueline said , what a clever girl I was to find her things after ALL this time. To thank me she had decided to send back one of the necklaces for me to keep forever. It was a silver heart on a silver chain to give me luck in the future and to always remember how clever I am.

And it was all because of my Barbie ring!!!”

It seems appropriate that the final words should go to residents who have lived all their lives on Fengates Road, Jennifer and Chris Stevens.

Then and now

Then and now: Chris and Jennifer Stevens with Jane Smith

“I have always enjoyed living here and hope that the community spirit here will remain through the years ahead.”

“It seems to me that any property within a half–mile radius of here is described by estate agents as being situated in ‘the popular Fengates area’. So what makes Fengates so popular or so highly favoured? All right there are some nice houses along the road, but then that is the case with so many other roads in Redhill. I’ve no doubt that Fengates favoured status comes purely and simply from the fantastic community spirit that exists here. That spirit is created by the neighbours – Fengates always has and continues to be, inhabited by the nicest people.”