Rita Chaplin

Grange Road history>>Oral testimonies>>Rita Chaplin

Grange Road history interview

Interviewer and date:  Jan Hunter, 13.5.16

Interviewee – Mrs Rita Chaplin (nee Funnell)


  1. When did you live in Grange Road?

Born there in 1942

  1. At what address (es):

38 Grange Road, family moved there from Malling st before WWII 1936/7. Photo of the garden with her brothers in 1940.

  1. What sort of tenancy did you have: owner; private tenant, council tenant?

Private tenants, rented from Miss Wells (who lived in the Wallands) and owned several properties. Like the Wycherleys.

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

Father, mother, two brothers (much older than her), sister who died at 3 and a half, and herself (born 1942). Before she was born they had two lodgers, possibly evacuees, during war. Dutchman who played violin with the RPO.

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

Father was a self-employed painter and decorator who worked a lot for the railways, considered a step down for her Mum. Other household members? Eldest brother (17 years older) was a fire brigade member during the war and became a Grenadier guard. Other brother did national service in the RAF (taught her to shoot!) and became a carpenter. Her husband is a landscape gardener and tree expert.

  1. Did anyone run a business from the house?

No, father worked elsewhere.

  1. What about the neighbours?

There was Reeves (though their business was elsewhere) and a driving instructor. Miss Martin, who was deaf, taught her piano but she didn’t do very well.

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

They added French doors to the downstairs dining room and opened up under the stairs but the layout was similar. Only one bathroom at entry level, kitchen (front) and dining room down below. Sitting room (with her piano) and morning room on main floor, four bedrooms upstairs. Picture of dining room fireplace with pansy tiles identical to bedroom fireplace at 53 Grange Rd. Garden? Full of flint boulders and fruit trees. Orchard at bottom where garages were built in the 1960s belonged to people at no 40. They re-did it twice.

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

Yes there was a strong sense of community in the street. Very friendly. But no street parties – you didn’t do that in the fifties.

She knows lots of people in Lewes. Bertie Baker of the Chemists used to play cards with her parents, he lived in Southover High street. She worked for Marston Barretts.

  1. What was it like living in Grange Road?

Very friendly. Respectable street.

  1. Where did you shop? (nearest stores?)

Shopped in Lewes High street (more expensive but better shops than in Cliffe) though also ordered and had things delivered by shops in the Cliffe (International stores) which her mother used to use. There was a corner shop by St Pancras gardens which they used.

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

Southover school (as she did) in St James Street. Outside loos and not much outside space. Southover was their local church and she was christened and married there. Manor school girls used to sit on the South side of the church.

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

As a baby was out in the garden when the bomb dropped in the Grange gardens, but she doesn’t remember it. During the 1960 floods they had three feet of water in the kitchen and had to live upstairs, balancing a cooker on a piece of wood over the bath. Had to bring everything upstairs. The Winterbourne culvert got blocked up and the water came up through the stream during the night with a high tide and rain. A lot of houses were flooded. Lots of emergency arrangements and some people were rescued in boats. They had to redo all the electrics and scrub out the rooms. Very involved in Cliffe bonfire, her father made Lewes Rousers in the shed when Cliffe bonfire society was re-started. She made ‘lest we forget’ on the kitchen table with the old brown glue pot. On bonfire night a barrel organ on wheels was brought along Grange Road. Southover Bonfire society marched along Grange Road. Remembers grape lorry overturning – they’d gone to bed and heard a terrific noise. Driver had tried to turn into Grange Road. Everyone rushed out to see if the driver was alright. They gave away the grapes and her mother made wine!

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

Of bits of house and garden.

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

Had an allotment in Malling street.

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

She and her husband moved to Isfield then moved back to the house in Grange Road. By then her father had died. They then did quite a lot of work on the house and garden. She had her daughter there. Also nursed her mother there before she died. She and her husband left Grange Road in the late ‘90s and moved to the Wallands.

  1. Any other things to add about Grange Road?

She remembers various pairs of spinster sisters – the Miss Morris’s (grand-daughters of William Morris) who didn’t actually live in Grange Road, and the Miss Martin’s who were active in doing things for Lewes. They were supporters of the creation of the Friends of Lewes. And made the garden at no 6, though this wasn’t accessible to others. There were cottages in St Pancras Gardens – very old with black ranges and toilets at the bottom of the gardens. Her father’s brother (‘a funny family’) lived in one and married a much older woman who ran the Chalk Pit inn. She wore black bombazine.  When they knocked down the houses after the 1960s floods they destroyed a community. She claims her husband initiated the planning enquiry which prevented the Railway Land being built on and that they and a number of others from Grange Road worked on this for several months. Some ill feeling that his contribution isn’t clearly recognised.

Niece Ann – Ken’s eldest daughter, married to Pete Martin. Has always lived in Lewes – may be good interviewee for cinema project. Rita looking forwards to being filmed with the cinema programme.

She would be interested in walking down Grange Road to look at the changes.