I was born, not in Chandler’s Ford, but in Tooting, South London, in 1947.
My father came from Lancashire, and my mother from Tooting.
We lived in Streatham, a mile or two from Tooting, but just before my second birthday, my mother died from influenza.
My father re-married, my step-mother hailing from Romsey, her mother having moved to Compton, south of Winchester, during WW2.
In 1954, when I was seven, and during our Easter Holiday at Compton, my father spotted an advert for bungalows, being built in Hursley Road, Chandler’s Ford, by N.R.Trickett, builders, from Ferndown.
The bungalows were in two service roads off Hursley Road, and of two types, 2 bed @ £1700 cost, and 3 bed, @ £1900 cost!!!
Autumn of 1954 in Chandler’s Ford
Dad put down a £5 deposit for a 2 bed bungalow, and we moved in during August 1954, on a particularly wet day, I remember.
Unlike the present day developments, the roads were built AFTER the buildings!
I remember that the Autumn of 1954 was wet, to the extent that the mud bath that was to be our road, was all but impassable, builders using the back gardens as an improvised roadway, until later in 1955, the present service road/s were built.
The “gaps” dug by householders in the bank separating the service road from Hursley Road can still be found, over 60 years later. These were used to avoid the mud, and gain access to the “bus stop”. (Very few people had cars in those days.)
Kings Road School, September 1954
I started at Kings Road School, in September 1954. Mr H. Mann was the headmaster (as they were called then), and he was quite strict. He was always quite keen to reinforce his authority with the use of the cane when he saw fit!
My first teacher was Mrs Stillwell, who was a lovely lady (Her husband later became Mayor of Eastleigh). Other teachers I remember were Mrs Elton & Mr Waldron.
Kings Road was THE ONLY school in Chandler’s Ford at that time, except for the private Sherborne House School.
With the post war baby-boom, Kings Road was bulging at the seams, with hundreds of children crammed into classes.
There was an annex, in lower Kingsway, used for the Infants (now called Reception Class).
Unlike nowadays, most pupils WALKED to school, there being only the option of the School Bus otherwise, unless one’s parents ran a car, which only a minority did at that time.
However, as the 1950s progressed, and people gained in living standards and the effects of WW2 were shaken off, more and more obtained a car, often a pre-war model though.
I-spy… American cars
We lads often gathered at the top of the “playground” at Kings Road, nearest Winchester Road. There, if a ship, or liner, had docked from the USA, we delighted in seeing American cars, of lovely bright colours, driving north towards London, up the A33 as it was then.
This was nearly ten years before the Chandler’s Ford By-Pass (the for-runner of the M3) was commenced in the 1960s, and Winchester Road was the only road from the Southampton area towards London.
Construction of A33 Chandlers Ford By-pass in 60s. Leigh Rd bridge and Oakmount Rd in the background. Now M3 J13 pic.twitter.com/yr0VfX2L4P
— Eastleigh History (@Eastleighistory) December 21, 2014
The colours of these American cars delighted us, as lots of British cars were plain black, or dull beige, dull green, or other colours, while these visiting cars were bright blue, deep pink, yellow, white etc., something you saw rarely otherwise.
We tried to guess & spot the unfamiliar makes (Buick, Pontiac, Cadillac, etc) and look them up in I-Spy or other boy’s spotting books of the time.
The first students in Merdon Junior School
The overcrowded school issue was being addressed however. In 1956 I was among about 300 pupils who were the first to move into the then brand new Junior School, built between Brownhill Road & Merdon Avenue (Merdon Junior School).
Mr Mann moved with us, and took over as Headmaster, and a new head took over at Kings Road, it now being used purely as an Infant School, although the annex continued in use.
Unlike at Kings Road, we had our own “in house” playing field. Previously, to play football at Kings Road, a “crocodile” of youngsters were walked up Winchester Road, under the control of just one or two teachers, to cross the Winchester Road, and then run through the woods where the Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church is now to access the Fryern Hill Playing fields.
Similarly, who could picture nowadays, youngsters being allowed to take “PE” lessons (Physical Education), stripped down in shorts and a singlet/vest, running around the playground, separated from Kings Road only by low iron railings! How times have changed!
Merdon was, of course, a much more modern school, and we received a good, broad based education there, although I can recall falling foul of Mr Mann and his cane on one or two occasions, mostly for talking when told not to!
In the meantime, Chandler’s Ford was growing apace. Tricketts the builders, having built two service roads of houses and two bungalows off Hursley Road (one later bought up and demolished by Drapers), moved onto the infamous “Springhill Estate”!
This area, between the present day Central Precinct and the bottom of Fryern Hill, was well named. It ran with water most of the year, and it took Tricketts over a year I think to effect enough drainage to commence building.
Bodycoats Road, at its Winchester Road end dates from this time.
Hiltingbury Road: gravel pit, Polish Camp
Meanwhile other builders were also developing other areas of Chandler’s Ford, such as Hiltingbury.
In the mid 1950s the western end of Hiltingbury Road was largely undeveloped. Where the playing / recreation field is now, opposite Ashdown Road, there was a large gravel pit with digging and refining machinery. This was a great attraction for young lads, and we gathered there often watching the work. The pit supplied much of the building works in Chandler’s Ford.
Next to the pit, where the school stands, between Pine Road (Then totally un-made) and Hiltingbury, was the Polish Camp. The families living here in Nissen Huts had escaped from their country when Hitler’s armies invaded in 1939 I think.
Many children of Polish descent attended school with us, and there are many of Polish descent still living in the area.
The “Seventeen Families Camp”
On the opposite (northern) side of Hiltingbury Road, where Ashdown Road is now, there was an ex-army camp, built again of Nissen Huts, to house troops prior to D-Day I think.
In the 1950s it was called the “Seventeen Families Camp”, the area around it was a playground for we lads, including an area we called “The Bumps”, where you could ride a bike up and down the uneven area, and through the trees.
Soon building work started in these areas. In Baddesley Road there was “Mr Hatley’s Yard”. Uvidale Hatley had the yard, which still exists, where he dealt with timber.
Most of the trees felling in the course of the building all around the area, were felled by Mr Hatley, using his pre-war Crossley mobile crane, (without an enclosed cab), and his ex US Army articulated lorry.
In the yard the trees were sawn into various types of timber, with the thinner branches being sold off as “bean poles”, “pea twiggs” etc to local gardeners, like my Dad!
Newcomers invading the peaceful area?
I think that the older residents of Chandler’s Ford mostly accepted the legions of newcomers who invaded their peaceful area from the mid 1950s onwards.
I probably had a few comments made to me as a seven year old, about coming from London, but we all assimilated into society and were well received.
I am still, after over 60 years, in contact with two school pals, with whom I established friendships back at Kings Road School, in the mid-1950s.
Collecting bird eggs
Certainly, it was like heaven, after living in built up South London, to have woods, trees to climb, and fields and marshlands to explore.
Our Bungalows backed onto farmland, the farm being Mr Vinings (rented from the Chamberlain estate), and where The Hiltonbury (Note the different spelling from Hiltingbury) Farmhouse pub is now, in North Millers Dale.
At weekends and in school holidays, groups of us would roam around, our parents were only vaguely aware of where we were, but little harm ever came to us, apart from occasionally falling from a tree, or cutting or grazing ourselves. Not acceptable now, but many of us accumulated collections of bird eggs.
We became proficient at “blowing” the eggs, to remove the yoke and white liquid, and “swaps” were done, exchanging duplicates for one of a type you wanted.
I remember finding pheasants eggs in nests in the marshy area, just west of the railway bridge on Baddesley Road, where the northern part of Valley Park is now.
Disturbing wild birds was not frowned on then, and it was a recognised activity for youngsters living in country areas.
It was an idyllic existence, and country walks with one’s parents to collect blackberries in the Autumn were a regular activity.
What’s next: My time at Secondary School
Time moves on though, and my next “episode” will cover my time at Secondary School, more changes in Chandler’s Ford, and working, as a Saturday boy, helping a greengrocer, and then as a “paper-boy” at the infamous MacMahons Newsagents!
Note: Don’t miss Martin Napier’s article series: Part 2, on Monday 22nd June 2015.
- Hazel Bateman: An Interactive Local History Talk by Martin Napier
Article Series by Martin Napier
- Part 1: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s
- Part 2: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Paper Boy; North End School
- Part 3: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s Bonfire Night
- Part 4: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: North End School
- Part 5: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Bicycle, Bicycle!
- Part 6: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: A Summer of Hope and Sorrow
- Part 7: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: The Big Freeze in 1963
- Part 8: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Breaking Free from North End School
- Part 9: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: My Passions with Bikes and Boats
- Part 10: Martin Napier: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford: 1950s – 1960s: Bikes, Boats, and Adventures (Part 10)
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