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Not Brentford

Memories of Brentford in the 1940s and 1950s

Authors: Brenda Bostock (nee Mortlock) with help from Wendy Todd (nee Biggs).

Early days

I was born in 1940 and lived at 2 Hamilton Road until my teens. My parents (Nellie and Percy MORTLOCK) were not local people. Dad worked at Siemens Sucherts on the Great West Road. After retiring he worked part-time for National Car Parks.

My earliest memories are of the sirens and being taken to the air raid shelter, which was just across the road from our house. I seem to remember it as being a friendly and happy atmosphere, all the neighbours crowded together. Our house had a cellar, and we sometimes used that instead.

Luckily, we were not bombed, but the houses at the New Road end were, and I can remember the smell of burning and the debris.

There was a post office at the top of the road (Windmill Road) and a grocers at the other end (was it called WOOLGARS) together with a couple of other shops. There was a greengrocers at the end of Hamilton Road on the North Road corner.



I went to Ealing Road Infant & Junior School and then Brentford Secondary Modern in Clifden Road.

Ealing Road School was an Infant and Junior School for 5 -11 year olds. The Infants' Headmistress was Mrs/Miss? M A HALL, Miss SAUNDERS was our Infants Teacher (I think we had her for the two years we were in the Infants).

Mrs HENNIG was the Head in the Juniors, Mr LETTS was the class teacher for our first year in the Juniors and after that we had Mr JOHNSON for the next three years (until we left to go to Secondary School). This was because Mr J trained at the Froebel College. Froebel training was a new idea in teaching then. It's why our class desks were not in rows and his method of teaching was much more free and more project based. We were, in effect, an experimental class, that is why he was allowed to keep the same class for three years. We were at the forefront of modern teaching methods!!

See photos of May Day celebrations in 1948 and a photo of Class 1 taken in 1951.

I remember playing with: Wendy BIGGS, (sister Kathleen and brother Howard) David MARTIN, Georgina and Colin KEEPING, Sandra PAYNE, Jean JARVIS, Rosemary and Raymond WALLINGTON, Muriel COLLIS, we all had great times with all the seasonal activities, marbles, whip and top, hopscotch, hoops etc. and skipping with a long rope right across the street (happy days).

Other names I remember from school are: Grace GOMM, Eileen PLUTHERO, Mary CHAPMAN, Brenda O'CONNOR, Geraldine ROWE, Delia PADGINTON.

At school we had milk in the morning, third of a pint, it was usually warm, (every class had a Milk Monitor chosen every week) and the bottle tops were collected, washed and used to wind wool round to make bobbles.


There was a big wall at the end of the road, where the wooden railway bridge was, and we all played ball and the girls did handstands and cartwheels while the boys played football. When a steam train came along, we rushed onto the wooden bridge to stand in the smoke (not much good for our lungs).

The toys we played with in the street were hoops, dabs (or five stones), whip and top (we made patterns on the tops with chalk), skipping ropes, chalked out hopscotch, marbles, conkers in season, the boys usually had homemade go-karts, and most of us had some kind of bike, more often second hand, but we loved them.

In the Autumn, when the leaves fell, we would scoop them up into little "houses" and pretend we lived in them. We played with all the elements of nature in those days.

During the summer holidays we would take a bottle of water and a jam sandwich and go to Boston Manor Park and spend all day there, returning when our stomachs told us it was time for tea.


Brentford Secondary Modern

After Ealing Road School I went to Brentford Secondary Modern Girls' School in Clifden Road.

Miss STAMP was our first Headmistress but she retired at the end of our third year and Miss PREBBLE then became Head. Mrs GORDON was our first form mistress and taught music. In the second and third years our form mistress was Mrs OATES (geography) and in the fourth year (the commercial studies class) it was Miss NICOL. Form Mistresses also took their own forms for English/English Literature and Maths. By the way, I still have a copy of our school song!

Other teachers included

  • Miss ALLEN - PE
  • Miss KILLEEN - Domestic Science; the school had a proper flat which we learnt to take care of including, ironing, cooking, laying tables etc; at term end (I think when we were older) we cooked a meal for either the rest of the class, or our parents, not sure which
  • Mrs SILVERTHORNE - Science
  • Mrs STERN - History
  • Miss RUSDEN - R.E.
  • Mrs PAYNE - Art
  • Miss KING - Speech & Drama

We used to get a train from Brentford Station to Riverside Lands where we practised sports etc. (Brenda sent a photo of a school play taken in 1955)


School Song (Brentford Secondary Modern)

(Added by Wendy Todd (nee Biggs) in 2011):

Words: F. H. Brace Music: L.D. Wilding

Behind an ancient wall of mellow red,
Amid a leafy garden's gracious space,
Where sunny colonnade surrounds the sward,
The school we hail today holds pride of place.


Our school! Our school!
Let the chorus go,
Like sound of many waters rolling high.
Voices of old days,
Join in the song of praise,
And it's swelling as the years pass by.

Our school! Our school!
We greet her name with cheers.
We're marching to the future free and bold.
With memories unsleeping,
Her old traditions keeping,
The torch she kindled burning as of old.

N.B. I believe Miss Brace was headmistress later at Chiswick County, when Kath was a pupil there - I will check with her next time I am in touch but I'm fairly certain Mum used to talk of a Miss Brace at Chiswick County Girls School. I presume its the same F.H. Brace!


High Street and shopping

Along the High Street were all the old quaint shops, the cinema was on the corner, locally known as the 'bughutch'. I remember a bakers where we collected bread daily, and hotcross buns on Good Friday. An accummulator shop, where I took them to be changed for the radio, and a cycle shop, where we bought puncture outfits for my Dad to mend my bike.

There was a clinic where we could get orange juice and dried milk for the babies. Rattenburys, and the Fire Station. Goddards, and a shop where I bought gas mantles, as we did not have electricity until I was in my teens, other shops whose names I can't recall.

The coal and milk were delivered by horse and cart. Also a rag and bone man, a 'winkle' man on Sundays, when we had winkles and prawns for tea.


Home life

We had a coal chute for the coal, and one day I was dancing on it when the top tipped, and I went down the chute like a bag of coal! Needless to say Mum was not too happy when she saw the colour of my dress!.

Our next door neighbours (No. 1) were the Miss ROSS's, one was a piano teacher, although I never had lessons. Next door the other side (No. 3) were the BEASLEYs, related to Colin and Georgina KEEPING. They had a daughter, Crystal, who went to boarding school and she owned a monkey which I thought was very exotic and we used to play with it in the garden.

Opposite and slightly down were Mr. and Mrs. OWDEN with children Joyce and Sheila. I can't remember many of the other neighbours names, except right opposite us were Mr. and Mrs. DIGBY and Pat. Later on Geoff COYLE lived there. Mrs. Mc CARTHY lived next door to my best friend Wendy (BIGGS) No. 12. The MARTINs lived opposite and I remember a Mr.and Mrs. NASH.

The PAYNEs lived next door to Mrs.McCARTHY, and the KEEPINGs lived near there too. Muriel COLLIS lived on the other side of the road.

Opposite our house lived two old sisters who had a dolls house in their garden, and I was allowed to go and play with it on occasions, which I loved.


The Hamilton Road ghost

Having read about the ghostly goings on at Boston Manor I thought I would tell you that the house I lived in, 2 Hamilton Road, was haunted by a soldier. I don't know if it was first or second world war, but he wore a long khaki overcoat and black boots, I only saw him from the back, but I think he had a cap in his hands.

Mum saw him a lot and Mrs. OWDEN also saw him, gave her a fit of the vapours apparently! I am not sure if anyone else knew about it as Mum wouldn't talk about it in case she frightened people. I didn't find out until I was in my late teens, when several things fell into place. Used to hear him walking up the stairs and saw him going in the front door.

Do you think his 'sat. nav.' wasn't working and he was headed for Boston Manor?!!

Never really gave it much thought, but maybe his family lived there and he was killed somewhere else. It would be interesting to find out what Hamilton Road was before the houses were built.


Round and about

Round about 1950 some filming took place of 'The Rainbow Jacket' in Hamilton Road, Bill Owen and Kay Walsh were in it, it was about a jockey.

1955 photo of Judy Clements and Brenda Bostock, taken in Richmond, fashionable jackets and full skirts We used to have swimming lessons in the Brentford Baths in Clifden Road.

Mr. and Mrs. Stevens ran the Baths and organised everything. There was a cup called The Clements Cup, which was awarded for swimming. Apparently to do with CLEMENTS of Clements Knowling.

My friend Judy CLEMENTS was part of Clements Knowling and her father used to allow us to go on the tug boats up the river to London.

I went to Sunday School in the Methodist Church and Brownies and Guides in New Road Methodist church hall. Our Guide Company was 10th Brentford and our Guide Captain was Captain COLE, she had a little daughter called Prudence who came on a Guide camp once with us to Coleshill in Buckinghamshire. I was chosen from the Guides to go to the Coronation at Westminster Abbey, it was a lovely day, although I remember very crowded, we were upstairs in the gallery and only saw the back of the Queen.

Along Windmill Road there was our Doctor's surgery, Dr MEYERHOF, just before the hump of the bridge. Just before the surgery was a family who had a son with, what we called then, water on the brain, he sat at their gate in an old fashioned wheelchair, and my mum used to take him to the park on nice afternoons.

On the other side of the hill, I remember a bakers where we would get cakes if someone came for tea. Further along was York Road and my mother cleaned, and generally helped, an old couple called Mr. and Mrs. EVANS who lived, I think at 42, it was at the far end.

I remember standing by the Great West Road when royalty were passing and waving union jacks. I have an early memory of Queen Mary and later of seeing the princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, on many occasions.


I was an avid reader and spent a lot of time in the library, so much so, that I was asked to help shelve the books and also stamped the books in the Junior and Senior library. I remember I loved the atmosphere of the old building and looking at the exhibits. One librarian I was friendly with was Shirley BOYCE. The librarians used to arrange plays etc. for us to perform and one year I was in "The Whiting and the Snail".

On Sunday afternoons Mum, Dad and I would walk to Kew Gardens, or get the bus to Richmond and I would have a knickerbocker glory in the ice-cream parlour which was on the corner where the Castle used to be (Rossi?).

We often went to the British Legion, next to Brentford Library, for a Beetle game.

Mum and I used to go the Chiswick Empire and also one that was at Kew Bridge.

I used to love riding on the buses, and they all seemed to be trolleybuses then, the trolleys used to come off and they put them back with a long rod with a hook at the end.

When there was a football match on a Saturday afternoon, some of us children would offer to mind the cars for the people attending the match, we used get a few pence which I spent in the post office on a cone of ld. sweets.


Working life at Varley FMC

On leaving school I worked for Varley FMC, an engineering company in Ferry Lane.

The boys who left school at that time usually took up an apprenticeship of some kind, and I left school at 15 and started there as a Junior, doing filing and post duties etc. Didn't have to make tea or coffee then as there was a tea lady who came round morning and afternoons.

In the mornings we had lovely fresh filled rolls and in the afternoon cake or biscuits. I think we paid a small amount for this each week, or just paid on the day.

My starting salary was one pound ten shillings per week (one pound 50p now). I worked through the offices learning how each office operated and finally became Secretary to the Sales Manager. I had training on the switchboard and reception duties. The switchboard was the old type with wires and plugs and a head set, you plugged in to the main telephone line, and the extension plug went into the relevant extension. We had fun on them in those days.

We all went to work looking smart in those days, no trousers allowed, I think trousers were just coming into women's wardrobes, as they were not worn for going out in then, my mother would never have worn a pair. Certainly jeans (or Levis as they were first called) hadn't arrived.

Every Friday (payday) we would go to a pub past Brentford Canal on the left and pay so much into a Christmas Club, then it would be drawn out at the end of November for our Christmas Shopping. Sometimes we could draw some out during the summer. Most of us gave a third of our wages to our Mum and also took her a bunch of flowers or chocolates on the Friday, or Saturday.

Going out

I used to go dancing at the Castle Ballrooms in Richmond and also Hammersmith Palais and Surbiton Assembly Rooms. If we missed the last bus, walking home was safe and we thought nothing of it. There was a coffee bar, La Berge, opposite the Castle, and at the time, (late 50's early 60's) it was trendy to go for coffee after the dancing had finished.


Published August 2010; updated September 2011