Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards

Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards

:   Muriel V. Searle
:   Greater London
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-4694-4
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards'

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49. Where Beckenham , Shirley and West Wiekham overlap, their boundaries were once made obscure to the casual eye across one single sweep of green fields. After the 1930s, the same was just as true; but it was now a continuous landscape of semi-detached villas built along innumerable roads with very similar grass verges. Pleasant to live in, but semi-country rather than the real thing. Scenes like Ham Farm Walk had gone for ever.

50. Did West Wiekham High Street ever really look like this? A scene of about 1905, with only one horse and cart in sight, and a few gracious country houses, when Wiekham was little changed from the village of just 884 people described in about 1875 as being 'in the midst of a pleasant and beautiful country, at present not greatly disfigured by the builder . That sorry stage was not reached until the 1920s and 19305, when Southern Railway electrification made quick commuting practicable, for ordinary husbands working in London but able to live in the new 1:400 sernis springing up to cash in on this new dernand. Miles of countryside were drowned by the resulting sea of suburbia. Even at the period shown, the process was starting at a more moneyed and much slower level, with men like wealthy city bankers and brokers. In 1860, for instanee. came the 'spacious castellated mansion' of Monks Orchard on an older housc's site, followed by the mock QueenAnne West Wickham House in 1871.

51. A huge visual gulf separates this pre-Great War street in West Wiekham. and the inter-wars suburbia succeeding it. During the latter period it teetered between past and future, attaching the word 'village' to events which only marked its transition into a town. Like a 1932 Village Fair raising cash for the site of a new so-called Village Church, because old St. John's was far from the new Wickham. 'The new people who had come to West Wiekham to build hornes in more pleasant and congenial surroundings, should remember that they ... should put proper provision for the service and worship of God,' declared a former Rector. Recent railway electrification had created the outer-suburban commuter, who required value for money, especially when one of them found that season tickets were charged on a fourteen mile journey, though the railway's own timetable put Wiekham only 131/4 miles from London, chargeable as thirteen miles. But, craftily, the Southern replied that Charing Cross tickets were also valid on to Cannon Street, making a maximum of just about fourteen miles.

52. West Wiekham war memorial when fairly new, standing high on Corkscrew Hill between the medieval and modern Wickhams. In addition to this civic monument, and the unusual Fire Brigade memorial in St. John's churchyard, seven dead of the Second World War were buried in that same ancient God's Acre between January 1942 and February 1945. Apart from Corporal Chudley ofthe local Home Guard, theywere all officers of the RAFVR. A document owned by the author shows that in 1966 the War Graves Commision was paying the church 2s.6d (12Vzp) a grave 'for annual scrubbing of the war headstones only; i.e., no upkeep of grave space'. This cash was given by the church to the gardener who did this yearly extra job.

53. White Hart Pond was a specially village-Iike feature of the Surrey end of West Wickham High Street until only a few years ago. It was particulary attractive by night, with the pub's lights reflected in its calm black waters. By day, sadly, it was revealed as more mundane, in deteriorating condition and increasingly used as a dump by the new litter-lout generation. Drained and filled in, it became a mere car park. Because this inn and pond were so near the little Beek Stream (otherwise known as the Ridle or Riddle Broek), this is popularly assumed to be the site of a Wiekham mil! entered in Domesday Book.

54. The proverbial one-horse-town had its Wickham counterpart: the one-polieeman-town. When this card was sent in 1909 it had just appointed a village bobby; in 1929 it still needed only one constable, the same man still pounding the same beat. But when he retired in 1931 it was becoming a sprawling suburb; in the words of a now defunct local paper: 'A builders' paradise ... a ratepayers' hell.' The hellish aspect was the failure of everyday facilities to match the enthusiasm of speculative developers for erecting houses. Wiekham abounded in booby trap signposts, kerbstones lying around instead of becoming kerbs, muddy puddles, na street lights 'between Dr. Blake's house and the Beckenham boundary', and a stile at a Hawes Lane bridge impossible for the new generation of young suburban mothers to negotiate with prams.

55. Probably this scene was little changed from when a local paper referred to 'this pretty little village' in 1894, as the postcard was written only ten years afterwards. The figures are a reminder of how large families were, ten children being quite common, giving a high juvenile population to such a smal! community. No less than 270 attended the 1894 Christmas party, split into two events on two separate days. Very predictabIe gifts were doled out; to the boys: 'Walking sticks, guns, and games', and to the girls 'silk handkerchiefs, vases, dol!s, games, workboxes, etc.' Additionally, each child had a shiny new sixpenny (2lf2 p) piece.

56. The corner by the Fox appears on Keston posteards of all periods, enabling us to eh art its various changes. In this one an example of Keston's many public tea gardens is advertised, just beyond the inn. An old wooden signpost points towards Hayes. Down the raad is a eovered Wild West style freight wagon, suggesting a date before more than a handful of motor vans went on the roads.

57. Keston Fox is readily recognisable, with the lower adjacent block that is now adapted as a Post Office and shop. Opposite is another of Keston's numerous tea gardens, a popular rendez-vous for young men and their sweethearts on a half-day off from the shops and offices of Bromley or Croydon. Outdoor tea and cakes made the perfect cheap prelude to an evening in the 'one-and-nines' (ls.9d or 9p seats at the cinema). Long after the Second World War this tea garden continued, with a children's narrow-gauge railway round the outside edge to attract potential customers' attention as the train rattled past the front fence. Also visible was 'Keston Tunnel' - an old corrugated iron air raid shelter arch - as a reminder of what might have been. Railways were once proposed to serve Keston and Farnborough, as wel! as the existing Hayes and West Wiekham line; had they ever progressed beyond their preliminary enabling acts, all this glorious countryside might have become a Penge-like suburbia,

58. Keston Mark looks somewhat changed today, with its dominant garage on one corner, and certainly na tea shop on the other. On the door ofthe smaller and lower building is the slogan 'Good Stabling', a reminder that the garage trade had its pre-1920s equivalent. Thus, this has long been a useful crossroads site for trading on travellers, whether putting hay or petrol into their means of transport.

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