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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Reminiscences of Burton Green by Anthony Richards

Former Burton Green resident Anthony Richards sent a letter with his reminisences of Burton Green, from 50 years ago:

I spent the first 18 years of my life in Burton Green, under the shadow of the water tower – just five houses away from it.

The Railway Line

I used to lie awake at night listening to the sound of a steam locomotive struggling to haul a Berkswell-bound freight train, though the gradient was not very steep. There seemed to be only four trains per day on the line: a Birmingham-bound commuter passenger train each weekday morning and evening, and a freight train in each direction at night. It was very different at the end of 1940. Blitz damage to Coventry station meant that a rapid succession of trains was diverted through Burton Green. We used to get a rich harvest of wild strawberries from the railway bank. (We never saw any wild orchids).

The Peeping Tom 

The landlord of the old building was Bert Cowley. The whole village mourned his passing. He introduced the no smoking rule long before it became law. If you wanted to smoke you went into the smoke room where you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Elsewhere, customers’ lungs were smoke-free. The pub was a Mitchell and Butler house - loyal to the Midlands brew. It laid on parties for children to celebrate VE Day and the present Queen's coronation. You had a clear view of who was in the old pub, before it was demolished and rebuilt in the 70s, if you were on the top deck of a bus standing at the stop opposite! This may have produced damning evidence in a few cases!

Mrs Whitehead’s Shop 

This was directly opposite the Peeping Tom. It is still a shop, though dealing in different commodities. Mrs Whitehead dealt in household provisions. She was an extremely pleasant lady, and it was always a pleasure to visit her shop.

Burton Green School 

Here I began my education. There were two classes, upper and lower. Miss Gibbs was in overall charge and took the upper, I was in the class of Miss Banks, the lower. Miss Gibbs was at the school for many years. Years later my sister, Susan, having qualified as a teacher, taught at the school, Miss Gibbs still being the head. Years later still the younger of my two sisters, Sally, became the temporary head there during an inter-regnum. (By this time Miss Gibbs had, of course, retired!). My most vivid memories of the school are the school bell which hung from a tree (it could not have been rung for years), the primitive toilet pans with no seats, the fact that slates were used in the school as well as on it, and the salvage collections. These I remember particularly because of a forehead wound (I bore the scar for many years) suffered when a school friend (with no malice, I’m sure!) threw a kettle which he had picked up from a pile of scrap metal objects donated by families to help the war effort. The intention was that the metal should be used against the enemy, not against your friends! It is good to read of the school’s academic successes in recent years. I feel that any record of my attendance at the school is likely to be found in the punishment book! A man who purchased a farm building (Ellis’s Farm, I think) in Hobb Lane at the rear of the school objected strongly to plans to use neighbouring land for storage of cars. (I know not what was the outcome of the public inquiry). He said that, until the car company arrived on the scene, he used to hear a nightingale outside his window.

The Buses 

The Coventry Transport No. 18 (later 12) used to run from Pool Meadow and terminate at the top end of Red Lane. The same bus ran back and forth all day, leaving its Burton Green terminus at a quarter past each hour. I never understood how it kept to schedule in the days when its route took in Shultern Lane and Ivy Farm Lane! The Midland Red operated route 537 from Hodgett’s Lane via Red Lane to Kenilworth. One popular feature on the Coventry buses in the late 40s and early 50s was our family wire haired fox terrier, Raff. He would board the bus solely for the ride into town and back, going upstairs and knowing exactly where to get off when it returned. The regular conductresses on the 18 route were Mrs Randall and Betty. Both treated him as a joke, as, apparently, did the inspectors. He sometimes fare-dodged on the 537 to Kenilworth and walked back. He seemed to know the departure times. One less welcome passenger was a lady from the Burton Green caravan site who needed some lessons in personal hygiene. The Coventry buses were Coventry-built and registered, the Midland Reds built and registered in Smethwick. Nearly all the other vehicles which you saw were British, most of them Coventry-built. The car factories, unlike today, provided the livelihoods of most of our neighbours.

The Caravan Site, Seaton’s field

This was the most unpopular feature of the village. It grew up in the immediate post-war years, accommodating homeless and displaced persons from various parts of Europe as well as from Britain. It started before there was statutory regulation of caravan sites, and included a motley collection of not only caravans but buses and all sorts of ramshackle structures, and was certainly no model of hygiene and orderliness. My parents and maternal grandparents owned the adjoining field (now accommodating houses) and we became friendly with some of the site dwellers, though certainly not with others. Latvian Joe and his family (from the Baltic states) were very likeable, as were the McBain family from some part of Scotland. Some others were not infrequent customers of the magistrates’ courts. Villagers sent a deputation to ask my parents whether they had any plans to allow their field to be used as a caravan site. My parents assured them that they had no such intention. They, and the rest of the village, had had more than enough trouble from the existing site without wanting to open another one.

Baughan’s Field 

A field of a much more acceptable kind than Seaton’s. The site for regular cricket games, though the wicket needed (according to one of our regular visitors, Sid Tomlinson - a pharmacist from Allesley Old road, Coventry) a flattening with a steam roller. One near-disaster occurred when a cricket ball which was heading for the nearby greenhouse of Mr Perrott struck a sash bar between two panes of glass and bounced back harmlessly! Another occurred when I was riding my sister’s horse, Bill, across the field. Bill did not like me, and he chose to head, with the bit between his teeth, for a tree with a low branch, leaving me the choice of being impaled on the branch or falling off Bill. I chose the latter. On another occasion, when I was walking him up Cromwell Lane, he came to a stop alongside the only lamp post in that road and squashed my left leg against it. On yet another occasion the saddle turned turtle while we were walking along Hathaway Road, Tile Hill. With my feet still in the stirrups I was left clinging upside down to the girth while an amused Bill walked on. My father occasionally used Bill to haul a dray around the fruit and veg round which he at that time was operating. Bill knew when it was home time and he was no respecter of red traffic lights. Fortunately there were no accidents.

The Water Tower 

This arrived in Burton Green six years before I did. No one was ever allowed in it. I wish I had known about the “open day” shortly before its sale, so that I could have seen inside it, as this is something I had marvelled at for years. The nearest we ever got was the roadway serving it. Our family was entitled to use this roadway to provide access to its adjoining plot of land. Of particular interest were the hundreds of swallows which nested in its eaves every summer. The tower was a useful landmark for directing visitors coming by bus. You would simply tell them: “Get off at the water tower.”

The Village Hall 

This provided a venue for parties, wedding receptions and drama. The last time I set foot in the old building was in 1954 for a three-night performance of the play See How They Run, in which I was cast rather inappropriately as a vicar! It is good to see that the hall has been rebuilt. Nextdoor to the hall was a large field used by Mr Arthur Pinks for his goats, and other purposes. Mr Pinks was our neighbour in Cromwell Lane, and he could always tell you interesting stories about Nanny and her milking experiences. In one of the cottages opposite the hall lived the Hayes family, including their daughter Josie, who sat with me at Burton Green school. A lovely family. I’d love to meet some of them again.

Black Waste Wood

We spent many childhood hours here. The only other visitor seemed to be “Mr Lambert” (I cannot be sure that that was his correct name, but it’s the name we children always called him, and he answered to it). He would drive in with his pony and dray, but we never did get to know just what he did there. The wood used to be a delight. We used to drink out of the stream there. Heaven forbid that we should do so now! On one Sunday there was a disastrous fire, which destroyed much of the wood and wildlife. It all grew back, and years later (as poaching expeditions showed!) plenty of wildlife had returned.

The Villagers

I would love to meet any of our former neighbours from Cromwell Lane who are still alive. The houses until the 60s were known only by names - there was no numbering, hence the need for a regular postman. Ours was "Gates Garth." Istill have that nameplate on our house in Barking, Essex, though I don't know why my parents chose it. They moved away to Breconshote, Wals, when my father retired in 1973. They each died in 1996. Next to the water tower, was Mr Griffin, a retired railwayman. Nextdoor Miss Harris, a schools inspector. Then came Mr and Mrs Nicholls and their daughter, Rosemary (“Malvern View”). Next, Mr and Mrs Gilbertson and their son, Brian, then Mr Arthuir Pinks and wife Maidy (“St Alma”) with daughter Margaret and son Christopher. Margaret in the 60s married Brian Flowers, who lived opposite. Arthur always had in his front garden a display of various items which he had bought at auctions. He would bid for items which were apparent “bargains” without sufficient thought about what use he might make of them, and transport them home in his Bedford lorry HRW 152. Our neighbours on the other side were Percy and Jenny Bates (“Ferndale”), then came Eric and Freda Woodcock and daughter Heather (“Kewstoke”), . Tom and Mrs Grogan and their daughters, Mrs Drane and daughters Audrey and Cynthia, and Mrs Harris. My father in the post-war years operated an ex-RAF crew transport van, FRW 92 (later to become a DeeDi ice cream van!).

Opposite us lived Joe and Mrs Flowers, daughter Janet and son Brian, (“Pevensey”) with an Austin Big Six KV 2890. Then came Jim and Mrs Edkins with two daughters (he had an MG whose number I cannot remember), then Mr Perrott and Miss Wills, Cecil and Mrs Wills, and school master Mr Caffell with son, Beverley. Then came a family (“Salem”) with an interesting Morgan three-wheeler. Further down were Gwen Walker and son, Brian, the Parkin Family (“Valerie”) with sons Len, Reg, John, Colin and Bill and daughter Ann; John and Kath Webb and son John (is this John now a member of the Residents’ Association? – their front lawn used to be a popular venue for tennis) and Alan and Peggy Webb (“Sunnyside”) with daughters Judy and Jill and Vauxhall Velox ODU 440.

Further down on the same side (“Ardenhoe”) lived Mr and Mrs Phil Smith, sons Alan and Ronald and daughter Yvette. Alan and Ronald were fellow students of mine at Warwick School. On the other side of the railway, in a former railway cottage, lived Fred and Amy Stockley - an elderly couple who were held in affection by everyone. My childhoof friend, Dennis Pinks, lived with his parents, Harry and Lil and brothers Bernard and John in the aptly-named "Farm View", a cottage facing directly Thompson's Farm, which in those days was a working farm with several head of cattle. (It seems that now it produces horticultural plants). Mrs Thompson used to pay us sixpence an hour for picking peas on their field opposite (now used for houses), and the cattle farming was run by son Dick and his wife, June. Close by, in a brick-built cottage now beautifully restored lived Mark and Maria King - a couple who were elderly even in those days.

Beyond the Peeping Tom was the bungalow home of another of my school colleagues. Colin Fox and his parents. I frequently saw Mrs Fox ridinf her bicycle with her two pet dogs sitting snugly in the wicker basket.

My parents’ first home after marrying in 1933 was a bungalow (“Hill Top”) close to Westwood Heath corner.

Down an earthen driveway was a smart cottage occupied by a well dressed, well spoken couple whom we as children dubbed the “Mayor and Mayoress of Burton Green.”

Further downhill on the right was the nurse’s home (I believe it is still used for nursing). The resident nurse and midwife, Nurse Reeves, seems to have delivered half the population of Burton Green during her years of service! I remember the death of her husband, Horace, but would like to hear more about her.

These are just a few recollections. If there is any further information which anyone would like and my memory can supply it, I'll only be too pleased.

With very best wishes,
Anthony Richards
E-mail: barkwitt@yahoo.com

See Also

Post-War Development of Burton Green (YouTube video)
Memories of Hob Lane (YouTube video)Burton Green Vilage History
Memories of Burton Green in the 1950’s by Stuart Barratt
Reminiscences by Rick Jowett
Reminiscences by Joan Pulham and Angela Loughran

More Memories

Please note that the comments added to this post include more memories, added by Rick Jowett and Terry Whiteside.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Reminiscences of Burton Green by Rick Jowett

Photo of Cromwell Lane, 1940, provided by Rick Jowett
My name is Rick Jowett and I lived at Dawlish, Cromwell Lane, till 1955.

The first photo I have sent you shows Burton Green, near the City boundary, in 1940.

Oh yes, that me in the push chair.  Sorry for the quality, the negative is a bit old.

We lived in the bungalow behind the power pole, which was called Dawlish.

This photo was taken in the front garden of Dawlish in 1939. The baby in the pram is me.

This photo was taken in Kandahar in Afghanistan, in 1917. The photo includes Charles Samuel Jowett, Rick Jowett's father.

I never knew where Candahar was till I heard it mentioned in connection with Afghanistan! The spelling now seems to have changed from C to K. I read that the Brits beat the Afghans 3 times, the last time being around the time this photo was taken.

This photo was taken in the back garden of Dawlish, in 1939. It shows Charles Samuel Jowett, and son Rick. In this picture Charles Jowett was 69 years old. He was resident from 1936 to his death 1956.

Note the flat water tank in the background. Miss Jackson lived in that house. Under the flat rain water tank was a pantry accessible from the kitchen. The bottom of the water tank was the pantry ceiling, thus in summer evaporative cooling kept the pantry cool.

There were no windows in our pantry and I remember water condensing on the ceiling so it did cool pretty well. We did not have a fridge but eggs, cheese, meat, fish seemed to keep well enough. I think the Cheese got moldy on one occasion. Big disaster we were on rations,it was eaten anyway, toasted under a fire grate in the living room.

There was a lady named Woodward who rode a motor bike and delivered fish during war time. Any connection with the Woodward in the history group?

In the back garden of Dawlish, in 1949, showing Rick Jowett's collection of toys of the time - his tent, swimming pool, and wheels.

I remember many of the same things as Anthony Richards...

Sargent Wright just inside the coventry boundary. Fred Morse the coalman who lived in the farm cottage. Mr & Mrs Bayliss. Fred Smith. The Adams family Bill Phylis,Olive, The Druces, The Petets, The Gutteridges? The Old Machine gun emplacement. The Cottons Mary Brown. Miss pickin. Miss Jackson next door to us. and The Browns on the other side. Louise and Audrey Sprig. Johnny Dams from Tile Hill railway station.

Mrs Lancaster and her son Gareth. Mrs Lancaster taught at Westwood Heath C of E school which I attended. Peter Wadsworth, and his younger sister who lived opposite the Lancasters.

Also in my mind are Kitty Ward and Gareth Lancaster as well as Peter and Janice Wadsworth.  Christian Gaddie, a fellow asthmatic, and her brother who were both very nice people.

Please ask Anita [Smith] what her surname was in 1950+ and maybe I can place her. Maybe her Dad’s name was Fred? and her mothers name was Rose? Or Morse? or Sprig. That anyone should remember me is amazing.

Lee Beesley's field. on the corner of Cromwell and Westwood Heath road. The gas lamp on the corner.

This is a gypsy caravan behind the Bayliss' home.

The photo was taken in 1972. This caravan was certainly there from 1955.

This is Westwood Church of England School, which I attended. This photo was taken in 1972.

Peter Maddison the head master. He had a daughter Stella. 

I was lucky to gain a 11+ scholarship to Leamington college so I caught no.18 then no.537, then no.517. Quite a trip for 11 years old. I went to an out of town school, and I was also very sick with Asthma, so I did not interact much with people.

Visiting my Dad in Hospital, Tues night, Thursday night and Sunday also took a lot of my time. I remember Mrs. Whitehead and her husband. It was he he came to our door at 7 am on the 7th of March to tell us that my father had died. Things like that do tend to be remembered.

And this is a general view along Cromwell Lane, 1972.

The double-storey houses in the photo were, the Browns and daughter Mary; the Armites and their two lads. I think they shot at me with an air rifle while I crawled across the field behind the pond behind my house. Luckily it had been ploughed the same way for centuries and there were raised  rows and depressions. Towards the Peeping Tom were the Cottons and their son Bob.

Circa 1945-50 there was a fish and chip van that parked outside Dawlish on a Sunday night to sell to the Pubs customers as they walked back to Canley and Tile Hill.

Film for cameras was not available in wartime so I do not think there are many old photos of Burton green. In the 1950s I was a keen photographer but I took photos of people mainly. Film was available but as the son of a pensioner, I had no money to buy it. I did use some out dated microfilm film with about an hour of forced development.

Developing my own pictures was mainly a matter of economy.  I used Dufay color which was pretty good it was really black and white film with red green and blue pixels printed on it, so no big deal to develop. Good blacks. Then I got ambitious and used an Italian film Ferrania  color processing that was something else. about two hours with temperature control being critical, trying to keep everything at 65 degrees F was not easy in the UK. I finally solved it by using a bath full of water adding boiling water till it got to 65 degrees and then putting all the bottles of solution in it so they equalized.

Process was: first development 20 Minutes, wash 10 mins , expose to light at 1 foot from a 100 watt bulb for 90 seconds, second development (color) 10 minutes wash 10 mins bleach 15 minutes, wash 10 minutes, fix 10 minutes wash 10 minutes harden 10 minutes wash 10 minutes then dry. I had a developing tank with transparent spirals so the film could stay on its spirals for the whole process. My Mother made me a changing bag, black cloth with one bag inside the the other and zips in different places. sleeves to put your hands through to open the camera cut the film, load it on to the tank spirals, place it in the tank and close the lid. from then on in artificial light.  I had a box brownie 127 camera, which I modified to take the cheaper 35 mm film. I think it took 1/2 seconds of exposure at F16 to get a color picture, from the Dufay color.

Nowadays I curse when I get a message from windows live photo gallery “XYZ codec has stopped working please close the program.”

Nowadays I can take a black picture and lighten the shadows with windows live and there it is.  Before we had things like Uranium intensifiers to darken an under exposed film and reducers for the dark one that would take hours of exposure in an enlarger. One gadget I built was a grease spot photometer. This works on the principle of equal light on both sides of a grease spot on paper and the spot disappears. This had a torch bulb and a potentiometer or rheostat to reduce the light out put from the bulb in a box under the paper and the light from the enlarger was allowed to fall on it. Being able to measure the light intensity saved a lot of time doing test strips developing etc. And of course the cost of the photographic paper.

Now my cell phone takes HD movies, 12 megapixel stills etc. Nokia N8. I chose it for the camera. carl Zeiss lens Tessar.  My fine pix XP30 has 14 MP. and a 5x zoom lens but because of the zoom it is not as sharp as the Zeiss lens.

I also remember watching Jet1 the rover turbine car go past occasionally.

Vampire jets and Meteors used to fly over.

This is the Peeping Tom, in 1972.

[The photo can be enlarged by clicking on it.]

Another hobby of mine was electronics ham etc. And now I do it to earn money!  About 1955, not being able to afford TV I built a on valve receiver to pick the TV sound. However it was a bit off frequency, because I heard a vampire pilot talking to his base “Honiley” or something like that. Later on that same one valver I heard Canada. Bill Adams across the way gave me a 2 volt accumulator to heat the valve filament. So I had to build a battery charger to re-charge it. Now you know why I am a industrial electronics technician here. Still working at 72 years old.

I am thinking of re-joining the Johannesburg Hiking club of which I was a member for 7 years. I hope you are not part of the anti gun lobby? I think South African laws are pretty good, when I renewed my license they interviewed my wife, my neighbors, and some others. Most criminal guns in South Africa are now stolen from policemen often over their dead bodies. I would  like to return to a shooting club I did rather well with the central city shooting club in 1964, and now my son in America, has a collection. AR15, as used in Norway! AK 47. Glok 17 for self defense, some Brazilian copy of a Berretta 9 mm, Smith and Wesson .22 target pistol, and a SKS 7.62 as per the Rhodesian Army.  He got that new in its packaging and cleaned it all up nicely but after he had fired the first clip, it poured smoke, because there was still grease inside the gas cylinder that reloads it. He also bought a load of Russian ammunition, that is made with steel casings instead of brass, this results in lots of Jams, miss-fire etc. I really enjoyed my Holiday with him. Much more fun than shooting under the supervision of the South African Police in 1964.

In 1964 I was young and just waiting for some one to try and rob the bank where I worked. The bank gave me .375 magnum Smith and Wesson snub nosed Bankers special to defend myself with, which is why I went for training in the first place. I did arrest one bank robber without shooting him and later a car thief. 1994 Susan and I came home from the Casino about midnight and as I was parking the car she went up to the Front door where a burglar grabbed her. He picked the wrong girl!, she was always wrestling with her younger but bigger brother. While they fought I drew my pistol and when Susan was behind a wall I shot the guy holding her. Susan broke free and was shot while running past me. That is of course burnt deep into my soul. 

Thank you so much for the info, I think that next year I must visit my son in the US. Maybe the year after I will stop by you guys.

I stayed at the Travelodge next door to where the Leofric hotel used to be this time. We did visit Kenilworth castle but it has changed so much especially the entrance fee! LOL.

Kenilworth: I missed the clock tower, when I remember it there was nothing around it. This time I had driven past before I woke up.

I now live near Sandton, South Africa.

Regards Rick Jowett Nee’ Freddie Jowett.

E-mail: Rickjowett@live.com

See Also

Post-War Development of Burton Green (YouTube video)
Memories of Hob Lane (YouTube video)Memories of Burton Green in the 1950’s by Stuart Barratt
Reminiscences of Burton Green by Anthony Richards
Reminiscences of Burton Green by Joan Pulham and Angela Loughran