The Entrepreneurs of Oxshott in the 40’s and 50’s (and more).
By Bob Jones with assistance from Ann Collis, Joy and Pete Redding
(entrepreneur, painter, decorator and mine of information gleaned mostly from the top of his ladder.)
Budding Entrepeneur? Spring 1940, the Battle of Britain is about to begin.
The writer in his back garden at No1 Little Heath Farm Cottages, Steels Lane overlooking the haystacks in the Rick Yard of Aylings Farm with the Brickfield chimney just visible in the haze.
Behind the unlocked front door of No 1 Laneside, Steels Lane you would find Lucy Ackerman selling newspapers, sweets and cigarettes from a counter in her hallway, her brother George, apart from sweeping the chimneys in the area also organised Newspaper rounds and sold Newspapers and Magazines from his wooden shack hidden in the trees just over the crossing (now Hazelhurst Little Heath Lane). He had taken over the shack from Ernie Neal the cobbler in about 1950.
In a shed at the bottom of his garden at No 2 Crown Cottages you would find Tommy Wiles also cobbling boots and shoes; unfortunately Tommy spent most of his life in a wheelchair which he propelled around the village pumping the hand levers energetically. Despite his disability he was always particularly cheerful especially when playing the 78rpm records on his wind-up gramophone in the village hall for the Old Time Dance Club on a Monday night. Master of Ceremonies Albert Watling always did a cartwheel to kick off the evening!
For a fine selection of groceries etc. it was Brown’s on Brown’s Corner of course. Jack, Nora, Maud, Mabel and Vi ran the shop which was attached to the left of the house still standing, you could stock up with all the essentials (except alcohol) provided you had enough coupons in your Ration Book. Plenty of parking space for your pram or bicycle.
Behind the small door in the same house (still there) around the corner next to the post box you would find, usually Vi or Mabel, behind the counter with cigarettes, tobacco, a glittering array of sweets in large jars full of liquorice allsorts, liquorice sticks, barley sugar, black jacks, toffees, humbugs, sherbet lollipops etc . also Walls Ice Cream, Lemonade, Tizer, Cream Soda, Ginger Beer and goodies of many varieties. If you collected the discarded bottles on the common Vi would give you tuppence (1/2p) on each bottle which would soon add up to enough for 5 Woodbines!
Across the road in No 8 Little Heath Lane you would find Mr Patrick selling vegetables, fruits of the season, flowers, eggs and honey all from his back garden.
Arty Simmons in his yard at the bottom of Donkey Lane (now Beechwood, Knipp Hill) would supply you with logs and gardening services along with his Polish ‘Muscle Man’. George the Pole who could often be seen riding his racing bike around the village, he would only need one turn of the pedals to propel himself down the entire length of Little Heath Lane!
Opposite Arty’s yard was Scrivens abandoned brick yard (now Pony Chase), home to old Ben living rough in his brick built shack with his Gladstone Doctors Bag filled with his treasured possessions. He and his bag were a familiar site up and down Little Heath Lane but beware of his walking stick!
At the top of Knipp Hill you would find The Griffin Pub which unfortunately was closed around 1939. Just for the record the current owners of the building have uncovered the old sign and are restoring it to its former glory – but not the pub!
The Oxshott Brick Company (The Brickyard) next to the crossing, probably the largest employer, started by local land owner and philanthropist John Early Cook in 1866 where you could buy bricks at 1000 for a farthing (spotted in an old ledger) although at this price it was probably way before 1940. If you worked for Mr Cook you would enjoy free medical care and at Christmas you would receive a goose, a ton of coal and a bottle of brandy. Unlike his rival William Scrivens who wasn’t so generous.
Cook’s Crossing c. 1910 – A view from Ayling’s Corner.
Orlando Hussey (or Banjo) at his Gaydon Motor Works (now Hazel Cottage on Steels Lane) would take his time delving into his pile of carefully! stored junk and come up with batteries, bulbs, brake blocks and a myriad of bits for your bicycle, car or motor bike. Banjo’s front room furniture included salvaged car seats from various vehicles that had come his way. His yard looked like a bomb had hit it – well in April 1944 a bomb did hit next door! (see The Lucky Jones’ Fedora Mag Spring 2014 also Alan Simmons account of WW2 memories on the Fedora website). Banjo’s trusty two shafted ‘truck’ fitted with what looked like spoked 1920 Bentley wheels was always in demand carting furniture and other household effects up and down the lanes.
If you needed a taxi Mr Todd (Sweeny) would oblige with his highly polished Daimler operated from his cottage in the wood (now disappeared) on the left just before the railway bridge down Blundel Lane.
In a thick hedge row behind the wood at the back of Todd’s Taxi’s you would find Bill Stacy with his two dogs, another village character living rough but cosy, amongst his pots and pans hanging from the branches. He made frequent trips to the butchers to collect a sack of bones for the dogs although I am guessing that the dogs didn’t get all of them.
For a sack of coal you had the choice of Jack Rodda or Mr Taylor at the Station Coal Yard.
Instead of Lavender Gate on Steels Lane you would find H G and A Osman’s builder’s yard who would supply you with all manner of building services. Geoff Osman, together with Percy Chew and Wally Letts, would provide you with electrical services from his shop in the village (now Trenchard and Arlidge) including charging your acid filled accumulator battery for your 12 volt radio if you didn’t have electricity.
The Oxshott Mens Club on Oakshade Road would supply you with a misspent youth around the snooker table (if you weren’t careful) including occasional charabanc trips to the seaside, now called The Oxshott Club. If you needed a haircut Johnny Pike would oblige in the Club or, if you weren’t a member Mr Price a visiting hair dresser would oblige having travelled all the way from Claygate (Mr Price’s jokes were better than Johnny’s.)
The Oxshott Mens Club charabanc outing c. 1956.
Jim Sawyer, Tom Brown, Joe Johnston, Harry Gray, Ernie Woolton, Bill Gray, Knobby Farrow, Chum Neil, Norman Viney, Johnny Pike, Jim Barton, Percy Chew. Squatting - Bob Jones (no relation), Abe Skelton, Jim Griffin, Todd Gray.
And the children of the members of O.M.C. Amongst them are Caroline and Gordon Jones, Michael Woolton, Peter Gray, Tim and Heather Chew and Brian Johnston (with the cap).
A bit further up Oakshade Road Denise and Rosemary (Jenny) Wren at Potters Croft (opposite the new Royal Kent School) could supply you with a range of decorative pots and plates. They moved to Devon in 1978.
Aylings Farm House, fresh milk at the back door, bring your own can.
(if Prewetts Dairies had failed to deliver),
(Now roughly on the site of White Gables, Blundel Lane.)
The room behind the Village Church Hall (now the car park on the corner of Oakshade Road) could be hired for a variety of occasions it was also the Library, the Mothers Union meeting place and the venue for Whist Drive evenings. Harold Harkett’s wedding party in the room behind The Village Hall in the Spring of 1957.
The sports ground, apart from cricket, hockey, tennis, bowls and archery was the venue for the highlight of the year – The Oxshott Fete – held usually the first weekend in September. The Fete drew crowds from all around and was mesmerising. The fruit, vegetable and flower marquee was always spectacular as were The Dagenham Girl Pipers who strutted their stuff regularly in their mini-kilts! The loud fairground music blasting from the Carousel card fed organ along with the prancing horses mounted on twisted golden poles were often the spark for many a relationship.
For petrol at 4 gallons (18 litres) for a £1 (in 1958) it was the Garage in the High Street run by Arthur Aslett and Ron Holst. Up the alleyway next to the garage you would be drawn by the smell of freshly baked bread from Charlie Newman’s bakery which was delivered around the village by Ginger the horse hauling the bread wagon ably assisted by Bert (Spooner) and Pete (Redding), Ginger knew the route backwards which is just as well as Bert and Pete sometimes got distracted.
Next door to the alley was Mansers the grocers later to become Cullens (now The Oxshott Village Stores). Then Mays Estate Agents later to become Barclays Bank (now Merci Marcie), then Jack Williams the Chemist (now Centre for Sight), then Hastings the Butchers later to become Grimditch and Webb (now Surrey Hills Butchers). For a Black and Tan or a Brown and Mild at 1/10 a pint (one shilling and tenpence or 9p) in 1958 it was The Victoria. Landlord Charlie Stear behind the bar with Cyril Ransom following (c. 1955), you had the choice of the noisy Public Bar, the Bottle and Jug or the Saloon Bar for quiet contemplation.
Over the hill the Bear beckoned with landlord Bob Steer later run by his son John, keenly fought Crib games on a Sunday night were the highlight for the evening.
Opposite the Vic’ in the High Street you would find a Haberdashers run by Nora Strudwick (now Babayan Pearce) then Johnson’s Stores (now Charnay) with newspapers, sweets and cigarettes and then the Post Office (now Boyce Thornton).
The other side of Oakshade Road was The Teashop (now The Raja Restaurant), Helene’s Hair Salon (now Trenchard Arlidge), Capels the Greengrocers and Browns Fishmongers arriving in the late fifties (now Swan Dry Cleaners and West One Bathrooms).
For Spiritual guidance you had the choice of the Reverend Gerald Ford followed by Herbert Evans at St Andrews Church. The small Catholic Church and Hall on Steels Lane (now Canterbury Mews), which also put on monthly dances of the modern ballroom variety complete with live bands on a Saturday night. Also the Baptist Chapel on Sheath Lane where tea and sandwiches were available to all on occasions.
Any spare sandwiches which were not hoovered up by the pigs in the farm opposite the Baptist Chapel would be swept up by Pat Wyatt with his barrow and broom always on duty from his home on Crown Cottages; Pat unfortunately had a wooden leg which permanently cried out for a spot of lubrication.
Sandwiches were also available at the Tea Rooms outside the station on Oxshott Heath which were popular with cyclists and walkers enjoying the 'quirky and welcoming atmosphere', the combustible mix of creaky floorboards, timber construction, log fires and cooking facilities sadly resulted in a devastating fire in the 80's.
If you could find your way through the pea soup smogs on a Friday night to No 9 Blundel Lane you might see parked opposite in the gloom the Fish and Chip van with its smoke stack advertising its presence (very useful in 18 inches visibility). How it got there in the fog is a mystery.
If you needed medical help Doctor ‘Ginger’ Berridge on Birds Hill Drive would be on call or later it was Dr Lytle from his house and surgery on Holt Wood Road (opposite The Oxshott Centre) or Dr Glover on Charlwood Avenue. Nurse Davis with her bicycle was also on call as the District Nurse or Midwife.
For the dreamers you had the Boeing Stratocruisers, Lockheed Constellations, Convairs and Viscounts from BEA, BOAC, Pan Am, TWA and others clawing the air overhead heading out of Heathrow destined for faraway places.
For adventure it was ‘The Woods’, Poly Apes or abandoned Bomb Shelters. For a swim it was a bike ride through the woods, across Sandy Lane, negotiate a safe passage with a snarling Alsatian loose on the common, across Esher Common (no A3) to Black Pond where you would find the luxury of male and female changing facilities, a diving board and mud oozing between your toes. Unfortunately the changing facilities developed ‘see-through’ walls in late summer due to the leaves falling from the brushwood construction!
Police Constable’s, Arthur Mays and later Bob Jenner operating with his dog from ‘The Police House’ (now 'Hill View') on Blundel Lane certainly had their work cut out.
Copyright © 2016 Robert C Jones