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Brentford Families - Diggins

Doreen Lee (nee Priest) sent a newpaper cutting from 1968, when her grandparents, George and Florence Diggins, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary. The Diggins ran the Rising Sun pub, numbers 68 & 69 High Street during the Second World War.

Doreen says "we used to live at 10 Old Spring Gardens, from about 1934 till they were pulled down to make way for the new county court". She adds "my sister remembers climbing out of the top window (of the Rising Sun) and walking along the parapet, silly girl, people used to come in the pub and say to grandad your 'Florrie is up there again'."

They kept the dockers’ favourite brew

The old Rising Sun, Brentford never had better publicans than George and Florence Diggins — their beer was the only brew the dockers would drink.

And George — who last Thursday celebrated with Florence (“Mum”) their diamond wedding at their home in Kenley Road— was an old-fashioned type of publican: he drank too.

“I used to wait till about 9 o’clock and then I would ‘drink the house out!”. He matched the lightermen and bargemen beer for beer and never bothered with spirits.

And the reason he and they liked it so much was that George would let his beer “work” in the barrel for a week before serving it.

“When the draymen brought the barrels, the beer was too new and I wouldn’t let them knock the shives out. If they did, I’d put them back in again. I wanted the brew to mature.

“The froth would take an hour to settle on my beer if you left it,” George recalls proudly.

“Somebody must have complained it was too strong or something, because an inspector chappie came in once. He took one pint off me and stayed for more.”

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George and Florence managed the house for eight years, retired soon after the war, and according to them, the Rising Sun never did such good business again.

They married on the first day of spring in 1908 at an Essex registry office, after meeting at Tilbury Dock, where he was a sleeper- carrier and she a laundress.

George missed the only insurance stamp in his working life during the Great Dock Strike.

He started as “a sawdust boy” in the docks and ended as a foreman before he went into the public house trade.

They managed two houses in the East End before coming to the Rising Sun in 1934, where many lightermen came in who remembered them from Tilbury days. In the war they did relief work for other publicans: “The doodlebugs seemed to follow us about.”

They have four daughters Rosetta, Florence, Elizabeth and Margaret, all happily married, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

And George 82, and Florence 80 want to move house. The Kenley Road house has got too big for them - they can only use the ground floor.

They have sold it to Hounslow Council for £2,000, but the Council stopped £500 of it to find them a new home. The Diggins would like a place on the forthcoming Field Lane Isleworth estate.

“We’re waiting to hear from them now, but they’re taking their time” says Florence.

“We have always been independent, all the 60 years we’ve been together. Nothing matters after a day. If I’d been a good scholar—which I couldn’t have been because I never went to school — my life would have made a good story to write,” says George.

Interested in the Rising Sun

"Brentford & Chiswick Pubs" by Gillian Clegg includes a photo of the Rising Sun taken during the 1960s, twenty or so years after George & Florence Diggins were landlord and lady.

There is more information about earlier occupants in the Properties section.

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