Nevill Memoirs > Peter Fellows
My early life
I was born in October 1939 and lived at 50 Middle Way on the Nevill until I married in 1962.
I am now 81 years old but can still name each of the families who lived in the “Square” as we called numbers 36 to 50 Middle Way. At number 36 were the Larners. Ron was a prison officer or warder as we called them in those days. He was an army reservist and was called up for the Korean War which, happily, he survived. He brought back some old Korean stamps for my collection, which he had “relieved “from a museum which had been bombed. I still have them. The Larners were followed by the Breeds. The Gupwells were at 38. He was another prison officer. The Sales at number 40. There was a large brick air raid shelter in the garden. Then the Newnhams at 42 and the Elphicks at 44. Mick Elphick was a bookbinder at Baxters. The Browns followed by the Walkers lived at 46. The Keens were at 48 and, at number 50, my parents. I wonder what happened to the descendants of all those families? I am still in contact with Julian Breeds who was born at 36, and Beverly Elphick – I spoke at the funeral of her father Mick a few years ago – and with David Sales who is the Sussex Express reporter for the Nevill. I still have the Sussex Express, Lewes edition, delivered every week and continue to be an avid reader of David’s column about the Nevill which I enjoy.
I remember Mitchells mobile hardware shop calling, the lamplighter on his bicycle, the rag and bone man with his horse and cart and Pat Dabson, the Yorkshire Bakery delivery driver. He was known as the Midnight Baker as very often he was delivering during the evening, yet his bread was never stale. Carrs, the farmers from Spring Barn Farm on the Kingston Road, delivered milk. One of the drivers closely resembled Jimmy Edwards, the comedian; he had a large handlebar moustache. I also remember the old dustcarts with sliding covers, and Mr. Brown at 46 Middle Way who was a full time St. John Ambulance driver and parked his ambulance up in the top corner. At that time St. John Ambulance provided ambulance cover for the area before the NHS took over. There are so many other memories still in my mind including the VE Day tea party in 1945 which was held in the road at the top of Middle Way at the junction with North Way. I was there with lots of similar aged children. There were many sandwiches and fizzy drinks on the table. Our parents were all in attendance.
My other immediate memory is of Sunday school from about the age of 6 at St Mary’s church hall at the bottom of Highdown Road. I also just remembered being dragged to school in 1945 at the old St. Annes School in De Montfort Road. While in Nevill Crescent I asked my Mother what the funny aeroplane was that was flying over very low, making a burbling noise. My Mother replied, it is a nasty German Doodle Bug on its way to bomb London. I have latterly researched that and believe that it must be one that crashed at Burgess Hill.
I attended the first sports day for children held on the green at Nevill Crescent. Maurice Breese and Stan Carter (our local Prudential man) were the main organisers. Mrs Brown did the catering. She was the mother of a family of boys: at least one, Stan, later became a professional footballer. Her husband was the groundsman at Baxters playing field in Paddock Road. At that time there was a sub post office and general stores in Nevill Crescent run by the Vinall family. Other families who later lived in the Crescent were the Welfares and the Burleys.
Other people I remember
In South Way I recall the Petts. Harry later taught me Maths at the Lewes County Grammar School (LCGS). I also remember the Gilberts, (number 18) the Beeforths the Allcotts, (21 – Percy was an excellent singer) and the Irwin-Childs at number 20. I cannot remember what Mr Irwin-Childs occupation was, however both he and his wife were very pleasant folk and quite wealthy for that time. I do remember that they had a large black Rover car with a very long bonnet. I think that it was probably a pre- war design. I recall that it had a mechanism on the steering wheel to advance and retard the ignition system. I still do not understand what that meant, although Mr Irwin-Childs did explain it to me on more than one occasion. I did enjoy rides in it. My parents did not own a car but as I was a close friend of their eldest son, John, I got to know all the family quite well. This was all 70 years ago! The younger son was Christopher. I do recall the very large trees in the garden and a tree play house in one of them, in which we often played at camping. I can just about remember the large brick air raid shelter at number 20, but, although I spent many hours with John Irwin-Childs playing in the garden, I cannot recall ever going into the shelter.
I knew the Gearings, Les Davey, (number 29) the deputy Borough Treasurer, whose son John went to school with me, the Eustons at number 30, he taught English at LCGS, the Hunts, another local government officer and the Taylors. Mr Taylor was the local head of CID and it was he who rearrested three escaped prisoners from the Gaol in a railway wagon in the sidings at the railway station. There was also the Ayrton family who were at number 67 on the corner at the junction of South Way and Middle Way.
At the bottom of Middle Way was Ken Griffey’s grocery shop. He had been a prisoner of war, held by the Japanese. His harrowing memories included having to burn the bodies of other prisoners who died of cholera. The other names I recall in Middle Way were the Boltons and the Overburys whose son Melvin was a pal of mine, later the best man at my wedding. We are still in regular contact. The Ashdowns lived at number 22, the Spinks at number 30 and the Edens at number 34. He was another prison officer. Further up at 52 were the Wilsons, whose youngest son Arthur married Max Bygraves sister Lil. In their house later were Bob and Jean Tapp whose youngest daughter Wendy, at the age of three, said that she wanted to marry me. At 54 were the Munns, yet another prison Officer. At 56 were the Foulkes. On the opposite side of Middle Way were the Flints, the Gales, at 21 the Browns and Percy Barton, later to teach me woodwork.
In Crossway on the left from Middle Way lived the Thorpes. Mr. Thorpe worked at the cement works. He was David and his wife was Rose. Their son Tony lives in Seaford and we still meet for a natter. Then there were the Dwyers. I remember, as a lad just after the war, playing in the front garden with the younger brother Lawrence. It was good fun as they had an Anderson shelter in the front garden. On the right were Superintendent Kilborn and his wife Betty. They had two children: Elizabeth and Doug. Doug is a regular contributor to local history Facebook pages and is a mine of information. Further along on the right lived Dick Whittington and his wife. He was at one time the Mayor of Lewes and was the Secretary of the local branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters Friendly Society. Their daughter Hazel married Dennis Wheeler, the owner of Gerald Gilmers, the fencing company of South Street.
In North Way I had a distant cousin Elaine Booth who lived with her parents, Bill and Ivy, at number 5. Elaine later married Joe Chiasson, the French Canadian cobbler who had the hut on Nevill Road. Later they emigrated to Canada, but unfortunately their marriage broke down. However, their daughter Helen returned to Lewes and is well known as an expert on the Priory. Mr Middleton, who also lived near the bottom of North Way, was with the Prudential. There were two sons, Gary and Brian. I notice that Brian from time to time puts comments on the Lewes Past Facebook page. Further up North Way were the Marchants, the Daveys – he worked at Ruggs garage in Station Street – and the Millots. At the top of North Way were the Hornes, he was a signalman at Lewes Station and opposite lived Mike Norgrove another teacher at Lewes County Grammar School.
In East Way I can remember the Pratts, the Browns, the Coopers, the Greens and the Robus family whose son only had one arm,
On Nevill road I was friendly with one of the Seymour boys and also remember Vic Maywood of Nevill Road who also only had one arm. Then, into Highdown Road where, on the right, was Frank Ede, a partner in Harper and Edes who had a hardware shop in the Cliffe and were Agricultural engineers. Further along were the Moses: one boy, Peter, there then triplet sisters! Going further along were the small parade of shops. The newsagents were Frank and Betty Puryer. The butcher and the grocer’s names I cannot remember, but later, a friend of mine, Mike Nobbs took over the VG grocer’s store. Continuing up Highdown Road were the Silks. Colin was another teacher and ex POW. He was also a leading member of the Lewes Little Theatre and he taught me English at the LCGS.
Further along Highdown Road was the St. Marys Hall, where, as I mentioned, I attended Sunday School. We always enjoyed the pantomimes there, starring a brilliant double act of “Tiny” Mead and Horace Young. I do not recall any other families that I knew well, except Mike Norgrove who later moved to North Way, until at the top where Brian Beck, the Stripps and the Gearings lived.
A local character was Derek Wood of Mount Harry Road. He worked for the Sussex Express, which reminds me of Mr. Lacey who was its editor at one time. I think that he also lived there. His son, David, later became the sports editor for one of the national daily newspapers. Les Uren, a sub editor also lived in Mount Harry Road. I went to school with his son Tony.
In Windover Crescent there were the Nicholls, yet another teacher at the LCGS, the Tilburys, John later became the Mayor of Lewes, and the Gearings. Their children were Trevor, later a surveyor, and his sister who was later for many years a sister at the Victoria hospital. I do recall that among my school friends more than 70 years ago was David Igglestone, who lived at number 4 Windover Crescent.
I have further thought of an amazing man who lived in Hamsey Crescent. Have you been advised of Jim Taylor? Let me tell you more. I got to know Jim well while working at Jenkins and Stripp, the newsagents. Jim was for many years until his retirement, the manager of W.H. Smiths bookstall at Lewes railway station. He was married to Lucy, who was virtually an invalid. She could walk, but only with assistance. Jim was from the north of England and although he had lived down south for many years, he retained his northern accent. He was always cheerful and got on with everybody.
Jim ran away to sea at the age of only 14 and joined the Royal Navy. He had a natural ability to play musical instruments and became Admiral Lord Jellicoe’s personal bugle boy! At the Battle of Jutland in WW1, Jim sounded Battle Stations on his bugle! He survived and joined W.H. Smiths after the war.
While he managed the bookstall at Lewes, he befriended many opera stars as they passed through to catch their transport to Glyndebourne. Jim did a lot of charity work locally, playing regularly at the House of Friendship, entertaining senior citizens, either on the piano or his beloved violin. I also well remember that when I was a member of Lewes Round Table and wanted music for a social evening, I only had to make a phone call to Jim and he would turn up with a trio to play for us.
In Caburn Crescent lived Mr. Turner, the Headmaster of the Pells School, and Mary his wife, a singer in the Lewes Operatic Society. To this day, my wife and I are friends with their daughter Patricia Francis, my first “girlfriend” at school, aged 6. Also, the Gorings. In Hamsey Crescent lived relatives of mine, the Wrattens and the Youngs. In Firle Crescent I recall the Meads and the Larkins. I am sorry that I cannot honestly at present name others from the northern end of the estate and apologise for the many who I have forgotten.
Of course, with so many prison officers at the gaol, further housing was essential and so Hawkenbury Way was built to house them. I do remember it being built. I can remember the Yeatmans and the Butlers but no others by name.
While I was at the Lewes County Grammar School for Boys (Clever Dick me passed his 11 plus exam at the age of 9) I did a paper round for Jenkins and Stripp in Station Street. I then progressed to working on Saturdays and during school holidays in the shop. I enjoyed it so much that at the age of 16, I decided that having gained my O levels, I did not want to stay at school with a view to taking A levels and commenced full time work at the shop. Mr. Stripp also owned the shop in Malling Street and suddenly at the age of 18 I found myself in situ as the manager there after the sudden death of the previous manager. I remained there until a few months after I married Pat in January 1962 when Mr and Mrs Stripp with their family sold both the businesses and the bungalow at 66 Highdown Rod and emigrated to Perth, Australia. I was given first offer to buy one of the shops, but at the age of 22 years, there was no way that I could borrow that sort of money. The eventual purchasers made me an offer to remain, but I declined to accept it. I saw an advertisement in the Evening Argus for a position of trainee manager with Gamleys, the toy retailers. I was the successful applicant and remained with them for 34 years before retiring in 1995 at the age of 55 as the Sales and Personnel Manager for the company.
My family and other interests
I left my parents’ home in Middle Way in January 1962 when I married and we moved from Lewes to Seaford in 1981. The children married but still remain within 10 miles of us. I continue to have contacts with Lewes as a committee member of the Friends of Anne of Cleves House and still have several relatives living in the town.
My main interests in retirement are local history and I am a member of five history societies. I have also in the past researched and subsequently written one or two booklets about local historical topics. I have written a history of the WW1 Seaplane base at Tide Mills and the story Henry Coxwell of Seaford who, in 1862 in a coal gas filled balloon together with an eminent scientist of the day Dr. James Glaisher FRS, ascended to a height of 37,000 feet with no oxygen or special clothing. This record has never been beaten. I continue to give talks about the History of Shoreham Airport.
Peter Fellows March 2021
Edited by Ann Holmes