Grange Road history interview
Interviewer and date: Linda Calvert, 6.3.17
Interviewee: Mick Vise
Mick was born in April 1933 at No. 23 Grange Road.
At 6 months he moved to No. 28 Grange Road (in October 1933) and lived there till 1970.
Mick’s father George William Robert Vise (aka Bob) lived there until his death in 1965. His mother Elsie lived in No. 28 until 1995, when she died.
They had policemen lodgers.
Brother Malcolm (‘Sandy’) was born in July 1934. There were 15 months between him and Mick.
In 1944 Mick’s parents adopted Gillian at 4 months from the Church of England Children’s Society. Gillian’s mother had died in childbirth. Gillian lives in Crowborough, and still washes Mick’s bedding.
Mick’s father was then nearly 40 (Mick was 11). He worked on the railway as a relief signalman, and died in 1965 aged 61.
Mick’s mother went out to work in 1965 when her husband died and after Mick had married. She was assistant cook at Southover Manor School, Southover High Street (now flats).
Mick went to Southover School in St James Street, which opened at the end of World War 1, between 1938 and 1944, all through the war, and then to Mountfield Road School Secondary. He had failed his 11+ due to sparse education, lack of teachers and paper, no uniforms, and no homework.
He left school at 15 (1948) and started work the following week at the Magistrates’ Court as clerk assistant/general dogsbody, running errands, clerical, accounting for divorced or separated women, collecting maintenance money and paying out to ensure that they got enough money to support their family.
He worked there for 40 years – left in 1988. Mick met his wife Jean (born 1932) there in 1961, she was clerical worker. They married in 1965.
She died of deep vein thrombosis in 2000, aged 68 (Mick was 67).
Mick’s son was not living at home then; his son’s wife left in 1997 when their son was three – ‘ couldn’t cope’ – Mick’s son and Mick’s wife brought the son up from aged 6, Mick was acting parent. This grandson is now 22.
Mick’s grandfather was the publican of the Fruiterers’ Arms in Lewes.
His mother’s sister Gladys Beck was barmaid at the White Hart Hotel for 32 years. She lived in the top of No. 28, and then in Barons Down for a while before her death in 1996, aged 91.
The second World War started in September 1939 when Mick was 6. There were Canadian soldiers billeted at No. 26. The school field had Canadian equipment, lorries, Bren gun carriers etc. Mick and friends went along and pestered them. There was a concrete air raid shelter on (?) the triangle at the western end of Grange Rd – it was about four times bigger than the current triangle, and was a communal garden planted with flowers. A siren would sound to warn people to go to the shelter. The shelter remained there for 4 or 5 years after the war; children would play in it. The metal fences between the houses were taken for the war effort.
During the war, a Bren gun carrier knocked down the lamppost outside – it hit the iron railings next door at No. 29, and one iron spike was broken off – its absence still evident.
Traffic in Grange Road was rare. Mick and his friends would play in the street. He remembers a street party for the Coronation in 1953.
The passage with steps now between the houses and garages used to lead to a market garden with greenhouses. The houses were built in 1901 by a builder called Wells.
In Mick’s time the Wallington Villas opposite No. 25 were built – the only houses on the north side of the street. Don Haffenden’s house opposite No. 28 was built in the 1950s. Most of the slope above Grange Road up to Rotten Row was orchards and gardens. There were large spaces until The Manse (No. 55) where Mrs. Parrish lived and where there was a fire, and Mrs. Elphicks’ Red House.
A naval captain named Captain Morris lived at No. 27. He had two daughters and two swearing parrots. He sat out the back smoking a pipe. His daughters moved to Southover High Street.
A blacksmith and springsmith (for carriages) lived at No. 29.
Mick is still a semi professional musician. He plays double bass in dance band and cornet and trumpet in brass band and orchestras. He learned to ‘blow’ in 1952 with Lewes Town Band (no music teaching at school). He played in dance band, and his finger is permanently bent as result!
The Geriatric Jazz Band, as they call themselves, still plays twice a month (first and third Thursday in the month, 2pm – 3.45pm) at St Mary’s Social Centre.