Lorna Iden – South Way

Nevill Memoirs > Lorna Iden

My name is Mrs Lorna Joy Iden and I was born in Birmingham on the 28 December 1937.  My husband, John, is Sussex born and bred and has lived in Sussex all his life except for an apprenticeship in London.  He went to school in Chichester.  The name Iden is interesting.  It is said by some to be a corruption of “Juden” but there is a village just to the east of Rye called Iden.  Maybe that is the origin of John’s name but there were two or three illegitimate children generations ago which means the name remains a mystery. There are Germans with the name Iden but there are not many of us around.  I think it is a nice little name.

We met on coach to Sussex when visiting our parents.   Both sets had retired to Felpham at the time.  We moved to Arundel when we married.  It was convenient for working in Crawley.  I was a bi-lingual secretary in London.  I commuted to Blackfriars for 6 months, and then got local job in Arundel in about 1968.  My husband was an engineering vessel designer for a company making tanks for various industries: for example the gas and petrochemical industries.

We had two children, both born in a maternity home in Rustington, and decided we needed a larger house when we were expecting our second child.  We used a pair of compasses on a map to find a good place for rail links and settled on Lewes.  We moved to 43 South Way in October 1972 when our daughter was five months old. We thought that a 1939 semi would do for the time being though it was “not really us” and my father described it as “jerry built.”  (Which it wasn’t!)  We offered the asking price of £10,000 for the pre-war semi we are still living in but there was gazumping going on so we had to pay £200 more.  The owner heard someone had offered that price for house two or three houses along the road so demanded the extra.  There was very little choice in Lewes.  Houses were going for a similar price in Valence Road and were only £500 more in Bradford Road at the time.

The house is a typical pre-war semi.  The rear faces the NE.  On a good day we can see the Ashdown Forest.  Kitchens on this side are very cold.  It is built on a bend so we have a narrower garden than most – only 15 ft. at the bottom.  Next door has a much wider garden.  We have chalky soil.  There is one surviving bramley apple, the pippin has died.  The garden has a steep slope with steps. It backs onto the cul-de-sac off Middle Way.  We have fruit and a few vegetables but are becoming less enthusiastic gardeners. There were originally two rooms downstairs but our predecessor knocked through.  We built a single story bed-sitting extension for my elderly father in 1983.  Our teenage daughter used it later.  There are two and a half bedrooms upstairs.  We do still have privacy up here.  In Arundel everyone knew too much.

Traffic in South Way was very quiet then.  Children played in the road.  Across the road a family of four children played tennis in the street.  Our children rode cycles on the pavement.  Some houses had one car; many, including us, had none, now some have three.  It is an attractive street.   In the 70s everyone took delight in their front gardens.   The standard of front gardens has deteriorated but of course most women were at home then.  In April ’72 four children were born in South Way – they often played together.  There was an active baby-sitting group of about twenty-five families, largely from the Nevill but some lived on Ferrer’s Road, St Anne’s Crescent and as far as Bradford Road, and maybe Houndean Rise.  It worked on a points system:  each family was responsible for keeping the books and allocating sitters for a month.  The mothers met once a month.  I am still in touch with many from babysitting group which is very important to me.    The first to move was Eleanor Smith – to the Avenue where it seemed everyone aspired to move to!   The Godwins who sold our house to us moved there.  Some people moved to Cranedown.

There was a Post Office and Grocers combined at the bottom of South Way.  Some people had food delivered.  There was another shop with a Post Office at the bottom of Middle Way when the Nevill Crescent shop closed down.  (It was still there in the mid 1980s) There were three shops on the far side of the estate where the two shops are now.  Mr Harvey was the newsagent in 1972.  I didn’t use these shops much but did buy all our greengroceries from Eddie with his little van.  He came round for several years around 1973 – 74 and was very popular.  He came from Moulsecoomb.  It was a sociable event –the children loved going out when their mothers all came out for a chat.  For a long time there was a fishmonger too.  The drains lorry used to come round every three weeks which was a big event for our son!   I did the bulk of my shopping in the International Stores opposite the Town Hall trundling along with two small children.  I never dreamt of getting a taxi unlike young girls now who don’t walk or bus!

The neighbours were mostly professional people, though this has changed in recent years.   James Shiel, a Reader of Ancient Greek Thought at the University lived at number 26 at the corner of Hawkenbury Way and South Way.  A schoolteacher and mother bought number 28 from W.R.S. Johnstone who had lived there since it was built in 1932.  Bill and Vera Euston lived opposite us.  He was the Classics master at Boys’ Grammar School.  They had lived in their house ever since it was built in the early 1930s.  A Solicitor’s clerk lived next door.   Peter & Conny Laker lived next door to them in the detached house.  He was sports journalist for the Daily Mirror.   An engineer at the Phoenix Ironworks was next door to him.  He came from north.  His daughter still lives on the estate.  Marjorie Tory and her husband were next. They were both school teachers.   Their sons are still in Lewes.

The house on corner of Middle Way and South Way on this side of the road was used by prison officers.  The Thorpes bought it from a prison officer.  Mr and Mrs Cox on the other side rented.  Their sister Mrs Hunt who lived opposite on this side also rented possibly from Glynde or Glyndebourne estate.  The Cox house was sold but Hunt’s house (on the odd side) still belongs to estate.  The Bridgers rented number 45 for long time, then three families rented before the current occupants rented and then bought from Glynde.   Mr and Mrs Neller rented number 41 when he came to County Hall from Rotherham in the mid 1930s, then bought house 1947 for £500 or maybe £1000.

There were some characters in the neighbourhood including a single gentleman who looked like a retired military man.  He was linked to Caffyns and was very right wing.  He did the Telegraph crossword avidly.  He was charming and very much liked.  He used to escort the girls (now in their 60s!) home from dances – all above board.  He would doff his hat to you, as would Mr Butchers at number 22.  Mr Butchers went to live with his daughter after selling the bottom of his garden, along with that of his niece who lived next door at number 24.  The ends of their gardens became the plot where 2A Hawkenbury Way was built in the late 1980s.

I remember the 1977 Jubilee celebrations.  There was a street celebration organised by the Spalls at number 24.  They were both keen on scouting and put up a marquee across the whole of South Way opposite number 20.  The road was closed.   Everyone took food for the children.  And of course Nevill Junior Bonfire procession comes along South Way every year.


Conversation with Lorna Iden transcribed and edited by Ann Holmes from a recorded interview in March 2014