Old Crumbly

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Grange Road history interview

Interviewer and date:  Romey Sawtell,  30th July 2016

Interviewee – “Old Crumbly”


  1. When did you live in Grange Road?

All my life from 1946 apart from a spell living in Canada from when I was three months old in June 1946 until we returned in September 1947.

  1. At what address (es): No 25
  1. What sort of tenancy did you have: owner; private tenant, council tenant?

My grand parents and parents and family were private tenants until the start of 1982 when I purchased the house.  Our landlady was Mrs Whitehorn.    In the 1950s tenants of Mrs Whitehorn, who was owner and landlady of some of the gabled houses in the terrace, were offered an opportunity to buy their homes for about £900.  My father wasn’t able to get a mortgage as his income was too low but a number of other tenants were able to buy. Another, unexpected opportunity  to buy the house arose in late 1981, and I bought it at the start of 1982, at £12,000, a price reflecting the fact that we were sitting tenants.

  1. How many people lived in your house? (family structure)

My grandparents first rented the house around 1918-1919, they had three daughters and 1 son.  My mother and father met in 1941 (my father was serving in the Canadian army and was billeted at Firle Place at the time). They married in 1942, and my mother, who also served in the WVS Civil Defence during WW2, remained with my grandparents while my father was on active service. My grandfather died in 1945 and his son, my Uncle Stan, took over the family business. My grandmother stayed on in the house until her death in 1953. In 1964 my older sister moved to Calgary, Canada and later my younger sister moved to Seaford and then to Hove.  My mother died in 1991 and my father died on New Year’s Eve 2001 aged 84.

  1. What was the job of the main earner in the house? Other household members?       

Grandfather Phillips had a soft drinks company called County Town Mineral Waters, started by my great grandfather, James Frederick Phillips (who had an apartment in Seveirg Buildings, where Boots is now). The Phillips family originated in Chatham, and we believe the Lewes Factory was built in about 1875. James’ brother William had a similar factory in Strood, Kent, and there may have been another brother with a factory somewhere else.  My grandfather used the study at home but he and later on my uncle Stan mainly worked in the office accommodation at 139 Malling Street behind the factory (probably where the chicken place is now). Immediately to the south was an old brewery. They used natural spring water to make the drinks. Uncle Stan took over the company when my grandfather died but due to competition from national drinks companies such as Hooper Struve the business became uneconomic and folded in the early 1950s.  Unfortunately the book of secret recipes was then destroyed.

My father was an automobile electrican, from Edmonton, Alberta, and served in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals during WW2. During the Dieppe Raid he was on a destroyer sent across to Dieppe after the initial landings, but the ship was stood off following the order for the troops to withdraw, and he saw his comrades as they desperately tried to retreat from the horrific onslaught.  He had been sent on an errand a couple of days before the raid and returned late on 18th to find the camp almost empty of troops.  After the war he worked at the Co Council Central Repair Depot and later worked for the Endeavour Motor Company.  When my father retired he worked as a hospital car driver.

Both my parents had two jobs to make ends meet bringing up three daughters. Before her marriage, my mother worked as a secretary for Philcox Brothers, local builders, and during the 1960s she cleaned in the Southover Manor School kitchens in the evenings. In the 1970s she returned to work at Philcox’s for some years, where the Castle Sandwich Bar is now.  My father’s second job was as a telephonist at the old Lewes telephone exchange, during the evenings.

  1. Did anyone run a business from the house?  

My grandfather had a study at home, but he and my uncle Stan mainly worked in the factory office.

  1. What about the neighbours?

No 24  Mrs Lewis and Mr Lewis, who was a Police Groom in the Police Stables.

  1. What was your house like (compared with today)? Garden?

We had gas lights until I was about 14 years old, my father wired the house for electricity himself – I remember helping him to poke the wires through between the joists and the old lathe and plaster.  We used to have an old iron range in the kitchen, and copper boiler which was removed in the 1980s.  We did have a gas geyser for hot water in the bathroom. The only heating was from a coal fire in the dining room (and in the front room at Christmas), a small gas fire in one bedroom, and a portable paraffin heater in the bathroom. My father rewired the house in the 1980’s and I also had central heating installed.  Apart from the dining room and front room, up until the 1960’s there was lino on the floors, which felt really cold in winter. The garden used to have a lawn with bedding on either side, and a vegetable garden at the end with a bed down the middle with a path on either side, but I have since changed it to a central path with a bed on either side.

  1. Did you know many neighbours? (events, street parties etc)

Knew people nearby: There weren’t many young families when I was growing up but I knew immediate neighbours and some others. There was quite a generation gap, relationships were quite formal and one never called adults by their first name but addressed them as Mr and Mrs.

No 26 – Mr and Mrs Hibling. I don’t remember what Mr Hibling did – they kept chickens at end of garden. They had a lodger called Grace Stephens who was a nurse, probably at the Victoria. In the winter of 1947-1948 I contracted whooping cough and was struggling to breathe – my mother rushed me round to Miss Stephens who cleared my airways which probably saved my life. The house was sold to Reg and Joan Stephens in 1968 after Mrs Hibling died.

No 23 – Gladys Christopher (her husband died in the late 1950’s and her son Terry lives on the IoW). We formed some deep life friendships. Terry was a Chemistry teacher at Upper Chine School in Shanklin.

No 28 – George and Elsie Vise, and their 2 sons and a daughter. Mr Vise died in 1965  and Elsie died in 1995.  The house was bought when the tenants were offered the opportunity in the 1950s.  When all three children had moved out, the top half of the house was converted into a flatlet for Elsie’s sister Gladys, with Elsie living downstairs.

My older sister and I were friends with Mrs Vise’s daughter Gill, and knew her two sons, who lived with her for a while (they were older – born before the war, and both played in Mick Urry’s band – Mick lived in Eastport lane – one played the trumpet and trombone and Mick’s main instrument was double bass).

No 7 – Evelyn and Robin Robinson and son Robert, who was Freddie Laker’s accountant. They used to have French students coming to stay. I remember some of them were very good looking! Robin came from Alberta, Canada, the same as my dad.

No 8 – Mr and Mrs Heriot, their daughter Ann, and her grandmother Mrs Steer.

No 13 – Sandra Mennell with her brother Michael (joined army in 1970s), and mother Mary. They later moved to Ringwood.

No 12 – Mrs Lake, rather bohemian lady, whom my younger sister was very fond of, and remembers playing with her costume jewellery.

No 20 – Mr and Mrs Groome and family.

No 21 – the Misses Weston.

No 31 – Mr and Mrs Morgan – Mrs Morgan was a good dress maker, and while we were young she made some of our dresses and skirts, including the floral patterned summer dresses which we had to wear for the grammar school. My favourite dress was cotton with a white back ground printed with green ships.

No 46 – My mother’s older sister and her husband – Mr and Mrs Ticehurst, lived in one of three flatlets until the early 1950s when they moved to Seaford, Miss Parmenter lived in the basement and Miss Colwell lived in the top floor. The property was bought by James Mortimer Hall his wife Dorothy and their three daughters in the early 1950’s. My younger sister and their youngest daughter are still good friends. Mr Hall was an insurance broker.

  1. What was it like living in Grange Road?

Quiet, but exciting when race horses came along every morning on their way to the gallops, from Gosden’s Racing Stables immediately to the north side of Fairholme in Southover High Street, opposite Eastport Lane. I think they also had stables in the Mews in Winterbourne Hollow (may have belonged to someone else). The Milkman delivered every morning, I remember the coal man tipping coal down chutes into the coal cellar, a rag and bone man in 1950s, a knife sharpener on his bike, and a horse and cart delivering vegetables to the corner shop. When I was 10 I got my first bike, and rode it up and down the street because there were so few cars. Edward Reeves had one of the few cars in the street for quite a long time. Gradually more cars arrived during late 50s and 60s.

  1. Where did you shop?

Corner shop – Opposite corner south of present St Pancras Stores, run by two ladies. I would take a list from my Mum (no credit given!).  TG Roberts in High Street for general groceries (now Shoe Gallery). Mence Smiths for paraffin and general hardware (now Accessorize), Clark’s the bakers for cakes when I worked at old County Hall, Crees the Butcher in Mount Pleasant.  General grocers in Priory Street, also along Southover High Street between turning to St Pancras Hill and Potters Lane there was a general grocers, bread was bought further along Southover High Street at Tulletts Bakery, now a house called the Old Bakery opposite Southover Church. There were two tuck-shops, I used to call in with my penny pocket money on the way to or from school. One called the Tuck Shop on the corner of Eastport Lane and Southover High Street, which was a sweet shop.  Two doors down from the King’s Head was another sweet shop run by Mrs Avis, which I preferred. My biggest weakness was thruppenny palm toffee bars.

  1. If you had children, where did they go to school?

I attended Southover Primary School, followed by Lewes County Grammar School for girls where Miss Moss was the head mistress. We only had a uniform at the Grammar School.

  1. Any events you remember particularly (floods, grape lorry overturning, etc)

Our garden flooded in 1960, as the water rose my father would mark its progress with a stick. The flood was just under the floor boards in the basement.

  1. Do you have any photos of the street or of events there?

One taken in our garden in 1933 of a gathering after my Aunt’s wedding.

  1. Did you own any other properties in the street?


  1. Where did you move to when you left Grange Road and why?

Still here, although I lived in Edmonton, Alberta from June 1946 to September 1947.

  1. Any other things to add about Grange Road?

It has always been a pleasant road to live in, and has developed into a more close-knit community, with more younger families over many years.