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- Page 46 - May thru June 2008 -

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John Cobley (JRGS 1958-65) recalls his grandfather, Frederick Griffin...

Frederick Griffin - John Cobley's grandfatherThe attached photo was probably taken in the late 1920s or 1930s. The dustman holding the horse is my grandfather, Frederick Griffin. See the nice horse brasses? Click on the thumbnail to view a larger image.
   My grandfather bought me my first school cap for White Horse Manor Primary School. Of course, living so close to White Horse Lane I grew up as a Crystal Palace supporter.
   I only attended White Horse Manor for a little more than two years. We lived in a tiny terraced house - 13, Gillett Road, off Thornton Heath High Street - and were evicted. We moved to a council flat in South Croydon from where I attended Purley Oaks Primary.
   In my case, JRGS did give a break to a working-class brat.

John Cobley, San Francisco, USA, June 2008 Email


 Ken Couchman (JRGS 1942-46) recalls more of wartime life at our school...

School pals from JRCS 1942

The year 1942 was a relatively quiet period during the war, after The Blitz until the Doodle-bugs came along. We took the test which was the precursor of the 11+ and 14 boys and 14 girls won scholarships from Norbury Manor junior school. I was one of six selected by Mr. McLeod, the headmaster for John Ruskin school, and we were all from Northborough Road, in Norbury. Five of my colleagues are shown above. From left- to-right: myself, Peter Whitechurch, Peter Higgs, Chas Dunbar and Peter Packham. Click on any thumbnail to view a larger image.
   And so began the journeys by tram from Norbury to West Croydon station; walking down Tamworth Road, past the timber yard on the left where we could buy small amounts of wood for our projects and on past Barlow and Parkers sweet factory, the scene of the later shootings by Bentley and Craig, both from Norbury Manor school but certainly not Ruskin.
   The intake that year was split into two forms on the basis of age (see "The Remove" below). Our first-year form master was Mr. "Smut" Smith, a formidable man with the appearance of a fitness freak and we endowed him with a black belt in Judo and other attributes like a latter-day James Bond - so it was a surprise to find that he had not passed a medical for the army. He filled in the class register each morning without referring to any of us, apparently memorising our names after a very short time. Each morning he taught religious instruction in a very fair and non-denominational way. I believe the book he most often referred to was called The Bible Written as History. He was also the PT teacher.
   In the first year, we were the "Brats" and I am grateful to an earlier correspondent to these pages who was two years ahead of me in stamping out the bullying. My first memory was Mr. Lindsell, a French teacher in that downstairs classroom nearest the front. Mr. Smoothey was the art teacher, and his domain was the upstairs hall in which there was a marionette theatre. When he departed in 1943, the marionettes disappeared and the hall was used for assembly. He was replaced by Mr. "Vic" Gee.
   Fixed in my memories is the board in the hall with "ur allen omrades"- not a Latin transcription, but the Capitals were in red and very difficult to see. But, hold on, the school started in 1920 so who was it commemorating?
   The gymnasium on the ground floor was also used for school dinners with the kitchen occupying the classrooms at the far end. We had toasted bread fingers at each place, which we sprinkled with salt and pepper. Otherwise, the food was fairly institutionalised: mashed potatoes and cabbage and the inevitable cottage pie. At one time many of us boycotted the dinners and Mr. McLeod announced at assembly that as we were not having an adequate diet, all PT would be stopped. So ended our first and only strike. Also on the ground floor was the woodwork room run by Mr. Chinnock, a surprising Eskimo name.
   Corporal punishment was frowned on by Mr. McLeod except for Mr. Biggs, the Geography teacher who used the blackboard ruler to inflict pain on our posterior when it was merited, but it was all done in fun and never serious. Mr. "Ali" Barber was the music teacher who had the difficult job of teaching us boys with breaking voices to sing when the only musical instrument was a tuning fork and a wall chart with the tonic sol-fa, a huge wall chart of scales and names of the notes such as doh, ray, me, so, far, etc..
Mr. Pearman taught science and I remember his meter miser, which enabled three pots to be heated on the one element, but it was only to illustrate that you don't get something from nothing. It was a great day when we were able to go up to the attic to the science lab.
   Some of the boys I remember were Horace King (not many Horaces around) and his friend Bateman. Croft of the excellent handwriting which, unfortunately, took too long to scribe. Bill Blow was completely uncoordinated in gym and in art drew stick pictures of war time battles. I last saw him in full army uniform (probably the Para's) jump off a moving tram to greet us outside the Norbury library.
   During the Doodle Bug period (V1s) we spent some time in the cloakrooms, which were our air raid shelters. I had a close encounter with one while delivering morning papers near Pollards Hill and I got packed off with a batch of evacuees to Leicester. Not being accepted in to the local high school, I was shunted around various low-grade schools as none of them knew what to do with someone who was much more educationally advanced. I ended up being the milk and school dinner monitor, skipping classes. I found playing hookey was much more rewarding.

The Remove Class
In later years, we moved upstairs and my form was "The Remove", as were too young to enter the final exam year. Miss Hickmott was our French teacher. I did not get on at all well with French, but perhaps things might have been different if I had known then that both the names Hickmott and Couchman were firmly entrenched in the county of Kent since the 16th century. Mr. Cresswell taught geometry and the name Euclid comes to mind. He lost it one day with a boy calling him an "arse," which occasioned much embarrassment all round. Mr. "Tom" Pearce also taught Maths and I managed to get a prize of a book from him (second hand of course) for enthusiasm for algebra. I think Mr. "Jerry" Meyer taught history and of course McLeod taught English literature and parsing sentences. I remember him translating the meaning of the school motto, "whatsoever thy hand findest to do, do it with all thy might" which I found very inspirational. At one time our two forms were left without teachers between periods and there was a battle between us to capture the other form's "bishop," a crudely fashioned totem pole. These battles ended when one boy put his hand through a glass panel on the door.
   During lunch times we able to wreak havoc in Croydon. A confectioners opposite the school sold Penny drinks from a large soda fountain. There were no sweets, only the occasional smokers cachou or an Oxo cube. Nearby Surrey Street market was a magnet in plum season and we got it in the neck for plum fights. There was also a "British Restaurant" up off the High street to which we sometimes went as their cottage pie was a change from the school's. Wandle Park, over the railway bridge, had a lake with paddle boats and the older boys with money to hire these boats for water fights. Soon after, the source of water from the river Wandle dried up and with it the lake.
   I did not take the final exams as a pass in a language was a necessary element and my French was not up to it. A few years later I passed with distinction the examination of the College of Preceptors, which enabled me to progress as a medical laboratory technologist working initially at the Middlesex Hospital and with the Croydon Group hospitals. After migrating to New Zealand, I gained an MSc and then PhD both in biochemistry, so I did not let the school down.

1942 scholarships

   The five individual images shown above come from a photograph of The Norbury Manor Junior School Scholarship Winners from 1942. As far as I can remember, the scholarship recipients were (left-to-right):
Back Row: K. Couchman, Whitechurch, Hayward, Higgs.
Next Row: Maurice Ford, Packham, David Pedgley, Gathercole, Dunbar, Munday, Leach.
Bottom Row/extreme right: Joan Bushell.
   Sadly, I cannot remember any of the girls names, although their faces are familiar.

1947 Scout Jamboree

I have also located a photograph taken at the 1947 Scout Jamboree in France, for which we were selected one from each scout troop. I am not sure whether it represents all of Surrey scoots, or just Croydon.
   In the Back Row I am second from the left.
   In the Middle Row second from the left is, I am sure, a Ruskin footballer seen in the 1945 team photo, and next to him possibly another Ruskin boy.
   In the Front Row, third from the left, is Ray Sholl from Ruskin - he wasn't in my form but the other one. I remember him because he crashed his RAF Canberra bomber in someone's back garden many years later.
   The scout leader - front row extreme right - was Norman Wilkins.
   It's a bit of a shock to remember so much of the Jamboree but not recall any of the names!

Ken Couchman, Auckland, New Zealand, May 2008 Email

Mike Marsh (JRGS 1949-55) adds: It was interesting for me to see Ken Couchman's pictures of the Scouts at the 1947 Jamboree. Difficult to tell whether they were from just Croydon or Surrey generally as they are all wearing the Jamboree scarf, and their County badges are impossible to see! At that time I had recently started in the Wolf Cubs but I attach some scouting pictures taken several years later, prompted by seeing the "big" scout hats on the floor in front of the group in France. Click on either thumbnail to view a larger image.

State Opening of Parliament, 1963 Queen's Scout parade at Windsor, 1963

Rover Scouts of Croydon District at
State Opening of Parliament, 1963

Surrey Contingent of Queen's
Scout Parade at Windsor, 1963

The one of us also wearing big hats (shown left) was taken at the State Opening of Parliament in 1963 when we (the Rover Scouts of Croydon District) were offered the chance to take part. Here we are standing in front of the State Coach -  I am third from the right. The offer came about through the War Office Rover Crew, one of whose members was also a Croydon Rover Leader.
   The other one was taken at the 1963 Queen's Scout parade at Windsor (I qualified for that by gaining the Rover Scout BP Award that year - the first one in Croydon, incidentally) and here I was leading the Surrey Contingent, front lead rank, left. (I was in the front because I was one of the few who had recently come back from the Forces and could march!)
   I visited the 1957 World Scout Jamboree when it was at Sutton Coldfield Park near Birmingham whilst I was in the RAF, and that visit led, in a very roundabout way. to my marrying my wife. But that's another story!

David Pedgley (Whitgift Middle School 1942-49) adds: Let me add a couple of names to the photo from Ken Couchman of the Norbury Manor Junior School Scholarship Winners of 1942. I am in the second row from the back, third from the left. I went to Whitgift Middle School, not JRGS. The girl at the right-hand end of the front row is Joan Bushell. I recognise other faces, but cannot add names. And I have remembered that Ford's name was Maurice.
   After Whitgift Middle School, I attended the University of London from 1949 to 1952, and then did National Service - mostly Suez Canal Zone - from 1952 to 1954.


 Mel Lambert (JRGS 1959-65) reviews the Apr and May issues of Your Croydon...

"Your Croydon" - Apr 2008

"Your Croydon" - Apr 2008 page 18

"Your Croydon" - May 2008 cover

"Your Croydon" - May 2008 page 21

 Apr 2008 edition

 May 2008 edition

Once again, the April and May 2008 editions of Croydon Council's Your Croydon magazine include photo essays from Frazer Ashford (JRGS 1962-69) as part of his continuing series entitled From Here to Modernity, which charts Croydon during the past 25 years.
  As in previous columns, Frazer looks at the dramatic changes that have taken place to local Croydon landmarks, but also the similarities between the town in the early Eighties and the same locations today.

   Specifically, in his April 2008 feature Frazer compares photos taken in Wellesley Road looking north, with the Whitgift centre shown on the right. Click each thumbnail below to view a larger version of Frazer's Then and Now images, or here to view the 24-page magazine in PDF format.
   As the article states: "In living memory, the main road running through Croydon has been the A23. For a time, before Purley Way took that road designation, the A23 ran through central Croydon, taking in North End, the very centre of Corydon's shopping area.
   "Parallel to this ran Wellesley Road which, until 1965, was a relatively quiet road bounded on its western side by the Whitgift Middle School – better known as Trinity – and its playing fields. The school moved and made way for the mighty Whitgift Shopping Centre, which opened its first shop in 1968.
   "As the volume in traffic through Croydon increased, the relatively narrow North End became a bottleneck, and Wellesley Road become the main thoroughfare for traffic through the town centre. Surprisingly, the road has not changed a great deal over the past 25 years. A couple of new buildings have sprung up but perhaps the greatest change is to the road furniture and markings that now
seem to dominate the scene.
   "Trams also run down the centre of the road, increasing the feeling that Wellesley Road carves a great swathe through our town and divides the centre into two."

Wellesley Road - 1981

Wellesley Road - Today

   For his May 2008 feature, Frazer compares photos taken of the Whitgift Almshouses, before and after the tram lines were added along George Street and down Crown Hill. Click each thumbnail below to view a larger version of Frazer's Then and Now images, or here to view the 24-page magazine in PDF format.
   As the article states: "In living memory, the main road running through Croydon has been the A23. For a time, before Purley Way took that road designation, the A23 ran through central Croydon, taking in North End, the very centre of Corydon's shopping area.
   "At the corner of George Street and North End, arguably the very centre of Croydon, are some very special buildings. The Whitgift Almshouses, or to give them their real name, The Hospital of the Holy Trinity, have occupied that corner in Croydon since they were completed in 1599.
   "The Almshouses have not only withstood the ravages of time, but also the attentions of the planners who have plotted their downfall many times in the interests of reconstruction and road widening. The House of Lords finally saved them permanently in 1923. While the Almshouses have remained virtually unchanged, the roads outside have seen many changes.
   "North End, once the main thoroughfare through our town, is now pedestrianised, while George Street operates one-way traffic. Opposite the buildings, Crown Hill, over the years, has been one-way traffic, driving up the hill; one-way traffic, driving down the hill; and then pedestrianised, with a strange red-brick observation platform-cum-seating area blocking the road - which proved just as popular with the town’s pigeons as its citizens.
   "Now, however, it is part of the route for Croydon Tramlink, with the frequent trams rolling across the junction before gliding down the hill. So, it is ironic that this busy junction, steeped in history, at the very heart of Croydon has become the meeting point for one of our town’s oldest buildings and a very modern urban travel innovation."

Whitgift Almshouses - Then

Whitgift Almshouses - Today

Mel Lambert, Burbank, CA, USA. May 2008 Email.                                                   Your Croydon ©2022 Croydon Council.

"Croydon Life" - April 2008Mike Etheridge (JRGS 1963-65) adds: I attach a copy of the April front cover of Croydon Life, a free magazine we received last month, shown left. I noticed it has practically the same view illustrated in Frazer's magazine article, but shows one of the old trams I remember traveling on as a child. Click on the thumbnail to view a larger image.

ML adds: This is the same image featured on the front cover of Croydon in the 1940s and 1950s, published by the Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society (CNHSS), 96a Brighton Road, South Croydon, CR2 6AD; ISBN: 0 906047 09 9.
   The colour photograph was captured in North End during 1945 with flags flying from Allders to celebrate VJ (Victory in Japan) Day on 15th August, a few days earlier. It was taken by Harold Bennett, a professional photographer who at the time was an RAF pilot with Transport Command and reportedly had returned from Canada with some colour film that was considered far superior to that available in the UK. Apparently, Harold took this image during the early afternoon while on his way to Wilson's Cafe for tea. Note that the number 42 tram still bears white paint on its fender from black-out days. The Whitgift Hospital/Alms Houses on the right shows some evidence of wartime bomb damage.
   I secured a copy of Croydon in the 1940s and 1950s during a visit several years ago to the Croydon Library; it should be available through local UK book stores.

Roger Adcock (JRGS 1963-68) adds: Referring to the statement, "The Whitgift Hospital/Alms Houses on the right show some evidence of wartime bomb damage," I do not recall bomb damage to that end of Croydon. So I pulled out the worthy and excellent Courageous Croydon, printed by The Croydon Advertiser in about 1990 from a series of articles printed in 1984 to cover the then 40th Anniversary of the flying-bomb offensive.
   Inside is the attached map with bomb sites and you see the nearest to the north is West Croydon and to the west beyond John Ruskin School not near The Almshouses.
   The "damage" referred to - as far as the roof's concerned - is due to poor maintenance of the old hand-made clay roof tiles and - as far as the facade walls are concerned - water damage on the top area of the gable end and to the maintenance... well, that needs another site visit. It certainly looks strange but not bomb damage. It was restored in 1983 so the face brickwork would probably then been refaced and re-pointed.
   I looked at the almshouses site but that was of no help with decent high-resolution pictures but I did note that, indeed, in 1923, after many years of threats of demolition on account of Croydon Corporation's road widening schemes, the Whitgift Hospital was saved by the intervention of the House Of Lords.
   If anyone wants more on the Croydon Bombing they should see the maps and Borough Engineer's Reports for the County Borough of Croydon. These record the location and damage caused by every bomb that fell on Croydon. Copies of these maps and reports, along with a wide selection of photographs, can be viewed in the Local Studies Library and Archives. The original bomb maps in the Archives can also be viewed by appointment.
   Entrance to the Local Studies Library and Archives is free. Its open hours match those of the Museum of Croydon (under the Clock Tower). See also this image.

Croydon Map - May 2008

ML adds: Page 24 of Croydon in the 1940s and 1950s also contains a map showing the V1 bomb sites. The nearest one to the Alms Houses that I can locate was at the corner of North End and Poplar Walk, opposite West Croydon station, as shown above. ©2022 Google Earth.

Derek Charlwood (JRGS 1958-64) adds: Reviewing Frazer's photos of Wellesley Road (shown below) looking to the underpass - the tall office building just left of centre, end on to the camera with what looks like a secondary flat roof was called "Southern House", and it was occupied by Wellesley Road - 1981British Rail. I worked there between 1966 and 1971, in the BR Shipping and Continental services accounts department. They had a computer that took up a whole building in Dorking, and a staff of about 20 in Croydon that dealt with ticket revenue allocation to foreign railways, dealing with the "awkward" destinations that the computer couldn't handle. These were hand written on to huge classification sheets and our calculations were sent to the "computation" or "comp" ladies who used sophisticated (at that time) calculators for double checking. Remember this was all calculated in pounds, shillings and pence, with 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound.
   Decimalisation changed our work dramatically, with certain fare division calculations that had to be done twice a year at fare-change date going from two weeks work at a time, with everything being reduced to 240 pence to the pound, converting into foreign currencies, etc., to half a day on a calculator. Now, of course, everything will be done by computer - more efficient, maybe, but working with a crowd of people aged between 20 and 30, as the majority of us were - future management material for BR - was great fun and much more satisfying when your "classi" balanced!
   I tried to take my wife back to Croydon last year after we had been to Selsdon Park Hotel for a corporate golf do - I was able to show her the Windmill, but gave up on the town centre when I couldn't find a parking place, and was confused by the tram lines, particularly after we saw a collision between a car and a tram!
   Now that I'm retired I will try and get back one day. Meanwhile, I have enjoyed looking at Frazer's photos.


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