A South Leamington Home in the 1950s

A lot has been written about Leamington’s wells and churches, and everyone now surely knows all there is to know about its beginnings. I am writing of life, seen through the eyes of a child during the 1950s in the side streets, away from the town centre, in the streets where ordinary people lived ordinary lives.

The street where I lived was the most important street in the world. It was home, it was the focus of my life, and above all, the centre of my universe. It was where I made all my plans, my hopes, my dreams.  It was a street of friendliness, where people took pride in their homes, no matter how humble. Garden paths were always swept and the pavement outside each house kept neat and tidy. Everyone had time to stop and talk, if only to say, “Good Morning”.  Corner shops were a natural feature of the landscape in the Leamington beyond Clemens Street and the canal bridge, – a world away from Genteel Leamington and taking the waters.

 

A Young Tess

A Young Tess

The 1950s were the austere years following the poverty of wartime restrictions. Ration books were still in use, but consumer goods were becoming more accessible to everyone, courtesy of hire purchase and the Provident Cheque.  Until now, people had always made their own entertainment but this was gradually falling into decline with the advent of television. Childhood games were changing, as we found new heroes and villains on TV. The one-eyed monster, no matter how big or small, became an essential piece of furniture in what had once been ‘the front room’, used only on high days and holidays.  I lived with my parents and younger brother, Peter, around whom all my childhood memories revolve. A sister Doreen, and a brother, Michael, arrived a few years later. Another brother, Keith appeared on the scene when I was eighteen.

In the early post-war years, accommodation was scarce. Court Street, Brook Street and Scotland Place were being cleared for redevelopment. Being allocated a council house on the Kingsway estate, at Southway or Lillington was like reaching the Promised Land! Home for us was a mid-terraced house, one of four houses in ‘Evelyn Place’ Tachbrook Street, between Brunswick Street and Hitchman Road. All four houses were alike,, with a bay-windowed front room, a back living room and a brick-floored kitchen which we thought was more appropriately called a scullery. At the back, there was a paved yard with an outside lavatory, its wooden box-like seat being scrubbed every week.  Dad eventually built a large shed to store coal, and later, our bicycles. A few weeds grew by the dustbin and the pig bin. Pre WW2, each house had railings round the well-tended small front garden, but these were taken down, along with the church railings, for the war effort. The four houses of Evelyn Place were all owned by the Russell family and were rented out by Locke and England, the estate agents. Mr Montgomery, the rent man, called each Tuesday morning for the rent, – 11 shillings a week. My parents had taken the house before their wedding in September 1939, and we stayed until April 1962, when the council re-housed us. The houses were not very well-maintained. It took a lot of begging and pleading to get any repairs done. All the front doors were painted the same hideous mud-brown, with patches of peeling blistered paint. At one point, Dad offered to buy paint and decorate the front of the house, but he was turned down.

Tess Whitehouse

(Newsletter Spring 2011)

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