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Peters family and memories from the 1940s

Arthur Peters of Blandford St Mary, Dorset sent his memories in June 2010, Then his brother Donald Peters added to them at the local History day July 2012.
1940 trade directory advert for T.H. Peters: welding and brazing of all descriptionsOur family moved to no. 272 High Street Brentford in about 1937 from Hill Cottage Strand on the Green. Our father worked as a self-employed engineer from a workshop at the rear of No 272, and traded as The Brentford Welding and Engineering Co. He was born in Distillery Road Brentford in 1889. he went to the Rothschild School in the High Street. Then when he started work in 1904 age 14 he secured an apprenticeship with George Knowling for five years starting at five shillings a week and terminating at fifteen shillings a week. He later worked for Emanuel Smith who were boat builders and operated tugs and canal barges. He told us many stories of him walking miles along the canal carrying his tools to find broken down monkey boats. He was convinced that the children had sabotaged the engine to prevent them moving on. He said, as the cabins were very small sometimes the children would sleep on the cargo. At one time our father together with our Grandfather ran river trips with their own small passenger boats from Richmond to Teddington lock and back. The boats, which carried about 12 passengers, included a steamer with a funnel “The Lady Nonny, The Balldog. And the Firefly”. He worked as an engineer for various firms locally before starting on his own. We know that at one time he worked for the Ice works that made blocks of ice to keep food fresh and make ice cream before refrigerators were available. Our grandfather and great grandfather were also engineers then prior to that our ancestors were brickmakers, this was probably carried out in the Pottery and Clayponds area of Brentford. Going back in time they were living in Sunbury, Cowley, Richmond, and Kingston. All of these locations were associated with brickmaking.

Shortly after our family moved into No 272 the old Rothschild School was demolished and the present clinic was built. During the war our two sisters Nancy and Marion were evacuated to Stratford on Avon. Donald attended school in the clinic building on the corner High Street and Alexander Road in the mornings and lessons were held in Brentford library in the afternoon, his teacher was a Miss Davis. During the war Donald remembers bombs dropped in the area, one came down in the docks oppersite our house and he remembers the V1 rocket which came down in Stavely Road Chiswick. He can remember going with our parents to the Ham to see the remains of a crashed aircraft.

We have no evidence as to the date that No 272 was built, but the construction looks like eighteenth century. The building had two rooms on each of its three floors. The outside walls were of brick with only timber studding dividing internal rooms and stairwell. There was a range in the back room and a fireplace in all the other rooms. A kitchen and toilet was built on the back at a later date, Gas lighting was installed until our father wired the whole house for electricity. The front room stepped down and may have been a shop at some time. We were informed that a well in the garden was filled in by a previous owner with old bicycles, which included pennyfarthings. Next door No 271 was Bywells a shop selling ladies lingerie and a corset maker run by Miss Measures. On the other side No 273 was Fullers shoe repairs run by two sisters and their disabled brother.High Street view of 5 properties:268-272

Just along at no. 274/275 High Street, which was the old Coronet cinema was Sergeants the undertakers and car repairs. At the rear of our house were stables and a trader with a horse and cart would regally bump and scrape down King Arms ally. A row of 2up 2down cottages at the back of 272 were for retirees of canal workers and their families. Opposite our house on the corner of Town Meadow was Andrews the grocers, Mr Andrews would travel in from Kensal Green each day to open up. Town Meadow led to the Council and North Thames Gas yards where the horses were stabled. On Bank Holidays many of these horses and carts were meticulously prepared for a parade and festival in Hyde Park. At other times It was not unusual for the horses to make there own way back to the yard with the driver asleep.

After being under threat of compulsory purchase for about five years the council eventually purchased these houses on the pretext of widening the road. This was never done and the owners were not paid a market value for their properties. Our father died whilst in dispute with the council knowing he would lose his house.

The High Street was for years a busy thriving area together with the docks, railway, and surrounding commercial businesses but as time has moved on it has all been gradually dismantled.

View of 271 and 272 with MG car outside and along Kings Arms AlleyThis photo of No 272 was taken just prior to its demolition in about 1963. The MG sports car belonged to Donald who saved up for it whilst in the RAF. Don added that it was just possible to drive it down Kings Arms Alley with a couple of inches spare.
Photo of our father Thomas Henry Peters junior. The photo was by Wakefields of Chiswick and Brentford and dates from the early 1900s.Sepia portrait of Thomas Henry Peters

Published February 2010; updated October 2013