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Taunton Road Fields which became the Hitchin Close / Sevenoaks Close Estate.

These houses were built in 1972-74 on what was a green field site adjacent to Taunton Rd

Below, Taunton Road Fields (filled in green) in 1965. The large P is the Post Office at Noak Hill Stores. The stores were owned by the Hilliard family for many years. They delivered papers across Harold Hill, Rise Park, Noak Hill and as far as South Weald. They also owned the van that parked in Gooshays Drive by the first swimming pool. For many years they sold newspapers, cigarettes and sweets to commuters heading towards Harold Wood station on a 247A or a 246.

David Gilbert ran this operation, he was an ex Quarles schoolboy and he lived in North Hill Drive between the phone box and Ashbourne Road. As paper boys we hated him because we saw him as the "governor's man" but really he was simply our boss and he marked up the papers for delivery. We once went on strike in about 1962 (headed, I think rather relunctantly, by Willie Berry of Woodbridge Lane) Our juvenile solidarity disintegrated in the road outside the stores when Willie was sacked on the spot after delivering our demands for a pay rise. Astonished and bemused by Willie's sacking we shamefacedly all skulked back to work. This was not how things were meant to be, at Fords where many of our fathers worked, they negotiated.

I was scarred by my cowardice for many years to come. We could have cut up Gilbert and Hilliard and ate them (There really were dozens of us) but we didn't. When Willie was sacked we all wimped back to work. "Grolly" Gilbert had won. A lesson I have never forgotten..              Del Smith

This map below shows the fields in 1919. No Post Office then, but Brick Kiln Farm, later known as Hilldene Farm was nearby and the "Taunton Rd fields" were part of this farm.

The fields in apx 1962. The two photos below taken in the fields close to the central pond. The first looking towards the Noak Hill Stores. The second in the opposite direction. Showing in the foreground left, the back of Taunton Close, foreground right is the rear of Hailsham Road and in the background the flats in Barnstaple Road.

Both photos by Jim Spencer who lived in Taunton Close in the fifties and sixties.

 

LIFE ON THE HILL 1954-1965
By Jim Spencer

I moved to Harold Hill in 1954, leaving West Ham where I was born, and being just eight years of age. My life experiences up to this time were playing in amongst the rubble of bombed out houses, finding false teeth and broken crockery, in Tarling Rd, Canning Town and playing on the Silvertown railway track near the docks, placing lead soldiers and half pennies on the train lines, hiding behind stationary goods cars waiting for a through train to run over and flatten our coins & soldiers. If my mother had known we were playing there she would have had a heart attack I’m sure. Our reason for leaving Canning Town was because we were flooded out by the River Thames when it broke it’s banks in 1953, most of our furniture including my father’s radiogram (that he built fully himself) got damaged. Dad said “that’s it, we are moving”. A friend of my brother-in-law lived in Harold Hill and wanted to move closer to London, so a deal was done with the London County Council to do a house swap. That was the day my life changed forever.

We moved to 17 Taunton Rd, Harold Hill, this place was amazing to me, from my bedroom window I could see farm land & trees even a few cows grazing in the fields opposite, there was a stream and at the end of Taunton Road, farms as far as the eye could see, this was paradise for this eight year old who had hardly ever seen a tree.

It didn’t take long to make some friends as our road had many children in it.
The first victory for my mother was getting me to start school at the recently built Ingrebourne Primary School at the far end of Taunton Rd & Noak Hill Rd. Between the school & Noak Hill Road, was a huge mound of soil in 1954 that a lot of the kids in the street used to play on, that’s where I started to meet my friends. I don’t remember the teachers names at Ingrebourne school only the pain on backside from getting the slipper at the end of every spelling lesson. I never did learn to spell correctly and one teacher Mr Prosser who would make kids that did anything wrong, bend over and he would kick them half way across the room. He got expelled from Ingrebourne school but alas, I caught up with him again a couple of years later at Quarls Secondary Boys school.

Taunton Fields

The Ingrebourne Brook ran close to Taunton Rd which had a concrete bridge to cross into the fields, the Brook then ran down into an underground drain which had the entrance covered with an iron bar grating, which ended up causing me a bit of grief on two occasions. Always playing ball games with my mates, on one occasion the ball went over the railings and down through the bars of the grating, I tried to retrieve the ball with a stick kneeling on the grating, when my knee slipped down between the bars, I was stuck and it was hurting. One of the other kids took off to get my dad to help get me out, dad pulled & tugged at the bars but they were too thick to bend so he went and phoned for the fire brigade to come and set me free which thankfully they did. The irony of this story is that a couple of weeks later I did exactly the same thing again, once again the fire brigade turned up to release me, they were none too pleased, neither was my dad! To add insult to injury for my dad, the Ingrebourne Brook flooded 3 times in our time living there, damaging furniture and dad’s precious radiogram. 

In the fields were two ponds and in the 1950s they looked good with plenty of golden carp, tench and newts. Many a summers evening there would be quite a large gathering of fishermen, women & kids all sitting around the bank, of course the fish were returned to the pond after being counted. We also used to drag the pond with a home made net made of a bicycle wheel rim and a sack sown on to the rim and a long rope.
In the 1960s, myself and couple of mates had air rifles, also model Airfix kits, like, aircraft carrier and a battle ship, they ended up being floated in the pond and then war games began, sinking the ships with the air rifles. But, by the time of the early 1960s a big wire fence was erected separating the two ponds and beyond that fence a new School was built, the pond on that side of the fence was filled in, and the main pond that we enjoyed fishing in became a rubbish tip with old prams, bike frames and a milk crate dumped in it. Now all is gone.

Each of the fields were divided by ditch and hedgerow which were mainly hawthorn bushes. In October of each year we kids would start cutting and stacking branches so as to dry them out to be ready for the firework night bonfire. We built a few good fires usually started with petrol or kerosene and always had fun making our guy to mount on top. We always built the fires in the field just at the back of the houses in Taunton Close which is where I lived. We had some great fun as kids in those fields which also became the sports ground for Ingrebourne school.

 There was a man in Barnstable Rd, who made bow and arrow sets for five shillings. I bought one of the sets, he made them well. I could fire an arrow three quarters of the length of the first field (the sports field) which was a great distance, wished I still had it. Another favorite pastime for most boys of that time was bird nesting, I had a collection of around 30 eggs, most of which were obtained over what we called the green belt, (the farms behind the Noak Hill shops towards Pyrgo at Havering). But some of my eggs were from our own Taunton fields.

I started senior school in 1958 (Quarles Secondary Modern), my form teacher was Mr Edwards, a rather skinny bald headed freckled gentleman with no sense of humor. His punishment for anyone talking while he had his back to us, was a the blackboard rubber used as a missile, thrown in the general direction of the culprit, it didn’t really matter who it hit, but it didn’t take long for the boys at the start to learn what was going to happen, everyone was ready for the desk lids to go up as a shield. I started off at Quarles in 1D (yes dunce) still couldn’t spell when I left. I still detested school all through my school life, I couldn’t wait to get out. On the final day we had assembly after lunch where Mr Laws the headmaster, gave a speech, then called each of the boys that were leaving, up onto the stage to accept their leaving certificate, I was so anxious to get out of there that when I received my certificate I walked straight to the back of the hall, out the door to the bike shed, then out the gate and down the hill in Whitchurch Rd & home. I remember screaming out all the way down the hill “NO MORE SCHOOL”.

Behind Quarles school was the manor woods, where as kids we spent many hours riding our bikes along the tracks, fishing in the ponds & bird nesting. In the 1950s the old Priory building was still there, we once got chased across the field in front of the Priory for throwing snowballs at the building, the man chasing us had a long black coat on and looked from memory very much like a butler. The old manor house was demolished in the early fifties but still had it’s walled garden and there were big urns on top of the walls, it is so sad to see that has all gone now. I remember the big white columns lying on the ground for many years.

 The story of the white lady was a real thing for us kids especially when it was misty, we scared the wits out of one of the kid when riding our bikes home through the wood after fishing in the ponds near the priory. It was getting dark and the mist was rapidly rising from the water of the pond, the atmosphere was very spooky, so the three of us decided to get out of there before it was too dark but we left it a bit late, halfway through the woods the mist was so thick that we couldn’t see the track, we stopped, I did the stupid thing a shouted out “The White Lady” one of our threesome drove of his bike straight up a tree scaring the life out of him, It took us about 15 min to get him down again and onto the bikes out of there.

 Kids in those days spent so much time outdoors, we always had plenty to do, sun, rain or snow. The book on the roller skate was one of the entertainments we made, sitting on a book on a skate holding a rope attached to someone’s bike getting dragged around the streets like a train with three or four kids in tow. The good old homemade Billy cart. Crawling through the underground drain pipe that the Ingebourne Brook ran through, only in the summertime for that one. Then as we got older it was the motor bikes, some of the bikes the boys had were; Ariel Square 4, Ariel Arrow, Triumph Speed Twin, Vincent Black Shadow, BSA Bantam, Norton Comando & AJS. Mine was an Ariel Arrow, spent more time pushing it than riding it. We used to love to go up to what was known as the lay-by on the Eastern Avenue, to watch the bikes hit the ton.

Friday nights in fine weather in 1964,a group of us would walk about 6 miles (that's there and back, three miles each way, editor ) to the King Billy pub out toward Navestock for a few drinks and a game of darts. We had a guy that had suffered from polio, he had one leg in an iron frame but had an Ariel square 4 Motor bike and sidecar. One evening at the King Billy with the Ariel, the boys were taking turns taking it for a burn up the country road and back, the owner named Les, took it up the road also but after a lengthy time, he had not returned. We started to get a little concerned, a couple of lads went to try a find him, they did, he had run off the road and into a ditch,  he went over the handlebars and was caught by his trouser on the handle bars unable to get off. When the boys returned and told us, we all cracked up.

Photo opposite of a celebration at the King William pub in Navestock. Now converted to a private house.

From left to right they are Paul Winterbourne, David Mathews, (Wasp) think his name was Steve, Alan Dudley, Keith Winterbourne. Wasp was a nickname for the guy who I think was Steve, he was called that because his 125cc Motto Guzzi had an expansion chamber exhaust, you could hear him coming for miles before he reached us, it sounded like a wasp. Alan & Keith would have only been about 13 or 14 years old.

Once I had left school and started work, some of the people I had grown up with started to move away from the area, things then had changed so much and it was starting to get a little boring for me, so I decided to seek a new life, I applied to go to Australia, six months later I was on a ship heading on yet another adventure.

Jim Spencer, 2015   

Some of the kids in Taunton Road. The first list is Jim Spencer's followed by Steve Pearson's later recollections

 

3 John & Jean Robins
5 David & Tina Wright
11 David & Paul Arnold
13 Terry, Patricia & Roy Gerome
15 Donald & Alan Gale
17 Jim Spencer
19 Paul & Keith Winterbourne
21 Kenny & Patricia Whaley
23 Germaine ?
25 David & Patricia Mathews
27 Raymond, Graeme & Pat Schneider
29 Roger, Janet & Jennifer Sinfield
31 Geraldine ?
33 Alan & Graeme Dudley
37 Christine Berley
39 John Parodie

 

Les Burrows lived on the corner of Leigh Drive & Taunton Rd. Plus there were plenty of other kids that came into our street and joined in on anything that was going on: Alan Dunt, Malcolm Cline, Malcolm Perry.                                                                           Jim Spencer

 

13 Dave Cooper
15 Brian & Mickey Cadbury
19 Keith Winterbourne
21 Martin Yeoman
22 Gary and Kevin Germaine
27 Mick Jones
29 Nigel & Glennis Aylett
31 Ron Jarvis
33 Alan and Graham Dudley
41 John Parodie
43 John & Steve Pearson
45 Ron Giffney (teacher at Ingrebourne and Broxhill)
47 Ray Hall &  dad Ernie!
49 Cornell
51 Maureen & Jean Gibson
53 Clifford & Lorraine Potter

I knew the Winterbournes and the Dudleys although they were older than me.  Dot Dudley was a lovely lady and great friend to my mother and used to look after us on occasion. Graham Dudley was a good footballer who moved to Spain to run a bar I think. Not sure what happened to Alan. What Keith Winterbourne didn’t know about cars was not worth knowing. He used to get really miffed with everyone in the street asking him to fix their motors at the weekend.                                                                                        Steven Pearson

The memoir below was written by Steven Pearson. He lived at No 43. His family moved in in the early fifties and Steven lived there from his birth in 1957 until he moved away in the 1980's. He supplied the two photos below which were taken by his father.

There were two concrete bridges from Taunton road into the fields which we called unsurprisingly the 1st bridge (nearest to the bars/tunnel) and 2nd bridge further up practically opposite Ashbourne road. The 1st bridge tunnel always had stagnant water in it even when the ditch was low.  The 2nd bridge tunnel had a couple of feet drop into the stream so water never collected there and it was a good place to hide out.

I was a few years younger than Jim Spencer but I do remember a boy with his leg stuck in the bars and the fireman walking across toward him with what seemed a 10ft crowbar. Having looked at the photo of Jim and his street mates, I am certain it was him. The bars protecting the tunnel were sometimes padlocked up presumably by the council but it was never there long!. It was a great to swing around under the bars and clamber up and down the concrete ramp leading into the tunnel. The oak tree next to the tunnel on the road side (which is still there) was great for rope swinging down between the concrete walls that lead up to the tunnel. Precariously climbing one handed onto the metal fence, rope in the other hand, whilst looking down 12ft or so to the bottom of the ditch before taking the plunge. How dangerous was that!  I also made the tunnel trip to Brookside school exit but once was enough as it was quite scary. When playing around the tunnel  you would sometimes  here the echoes of boys coming from Brookside end only to arrive at the bars some minutes later. One trio even turned up then immediately went back. It was quite a walk end to end crouching down ….in the dark.

Jim’s photo  looking across the field to the back of the Taunton Road cul-de-sac houses ( I lived at no 43, the last but one on the right) must have been taken from the massive oak tree midway between the stream bars/tunnel and 1st bridge. Not sure what inspired that particular shot but great to see now. When I was aged seven or so I broke my arm falling out of that tree.  As a kid the tree seemed massive and indestructible but I remember when the house building started, the JCB just pushed it over... The whole trunk was hollow inside but it was still a magnificent tree and I feel sure they could have kept it….oh well. Apparently when they dredged the pond further over by the Grammar school fields to prepare for building work, it was some thirty feet deep. Haunts me to this day how me and my mates used to cautiously walk across the pond when it was frozen over hearing the constant cracking noises underfoot. It was a great place to mess around though – even though everyone seemed to dump their trash in it.

Bonfire nights were great. All that tree and bush pruning probably kept the fields healthy. The size of the bonfires were quite big and it always helped to throw the odd car tyres as well. Attempting to set alight the other kids bonfires, especially those who lived in Hailsham road was great fun. They always tried to return the compliment though.  There was a bank (that you can’t really see in the photo below) that stretched along the back of the houses. The council put it there after the stream flooded the houses back in early sixties or even late fifties. The same thing happened a few years later and I remember the stream breaking its bank turning the small field area at the back of the houses into a lake some 3-4 feet deep.  If that bank had not been there then a lot of houses would have got flooded out again. A number of families moved away after the first floods. As a kid growing up I was so lucky to back onto those fields. The fun I had with street mates playing war games,  jumping ditches and yes getting up to mischief to this day provide great memories and talking points.
I also went to Ingrebourne School.  The junior school headmaster was Mr Knott. The infant headmistress was Mrs Sawyer. I cannot forget Mrs Lewis who made mine and some other kids lives miserable. I never understood why she would fly off the handle and shout at us but then again she was fairly old so maybe just run out of patience.  I know I should be more respectful but not good memories of her I am afraid. The caretaker was Mr Matty who lived in a wooden bungalow on the school grounds half way up the hill on Noak Hill road. He was good bloke who used to let a few of us into the swimming pool during the school holidays.
I also went to Quarles school. Mr Edwards the RI teacher was nicknamed ‘bones’ – as he looked like a skeleton. He weren’t a bad old boy really. There were some great teachers (and nicknames) at that school like Derek Evans, Frank Lindley, Bob Just, Bob Norris, Jumbo Jeffries. For me it’s strange over time how you only remember the ones you respected and helped you,   and not the ones you used were able to mess around with.
Onto the Manor woods.  It’s amazing how the ‘white lady’ story passed through the generations of kids. My mate Tony Godden stood on one of the white column bases in the Manor woods and said ‘I don’t believe in the white lady’ and just shrugged. That took some guts I tell you. I think he is still alive!! I recall two bike tracks in the woods. The Figures ‘O’ and ‘8’. The ‘O’ track went around the pond just at the back of Quarles playing field. When at Quarles we used to practice canoeing in that pond. One kid even fell in. Years later when I walked around the woods, I couldn’t believe what a cesspit it had become….unless it had always been like that. Fishing in the Perch and Lily ponds was fun also and for some reason I still think you only caught perch in the ‘ you guessed’ it, and carp in the Lily pond.  Great days, they really were.

                                                                                                                  Steven Pearson. 2015

Taunton Rd fields looking away across to Harold Hill Grammar School (left) and Broxhill Secondary Modern (right) Apx 1965-69. Both photos below by Steven Pearson's father.

Taunton Rd fields looking towards the Noak Hill Rd, the shop and post office are visible centre right. Apx 1965-69

Aerial photo from 1951, (Harold Hill still only partly built) Thanks to http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/

Editors Note. In my early years I only had a passing interest in the Taunton Rd fields and that was when I emerged from the storm drain/culvert in Taunton Rd in the summer of about 1960. That after a long dark journey from the Chudleigh Road Fields,  (which thankfully are still there). From memory the concrete tunnel was about 4 feet in diameter at our end, as kids we had no idea where it went, but in the summer there was often very little water in it so we went up it with candles and torches. One day after numerous previous attempts in the pitch darkness, each time going a little further, through bends, inclines and narrowings we saw light, by now on our knees we came out into a huge steel cage. Some kids opted to go back the way they came but some of us lay in the water and mud a wriggled underneath to find ourselves in the Taunton Rd fields. My mum would have been horrified.
At times we had seen a huge torrent of water coming out of the pipe at our end but not usually in the summer, our main fear was that this sudden torrent would occur whilst we were in the pipe and wash us away, I can't remember linking the flow to the local rainfall. We were none too bright in the Brosely Road flats. It would have been quite something if we had ever bumped into Jim's lot coming towards us !

Del Smith