Ickenham Online Ickenham Online  

 

A WARTIME CHILDHOOD IN ICKENHAM

We arrived in Ickenham in September 1941, following severe bomb damage to our house in Hillingdon. Because of the uncertainty of those times, most of the properties on the estate agents' books were for renting, rather than for buying. The house which we rented in Warren Road had been built for a couple who were married in 1939; but sadly they never lived in it. As soon as they returned from their honeymoon, the husband was called up.

Warren Road then numbered 17 houses. The road had formed one of the drives to Swakeleys House and was still unmade up, being loose sandy gravel. Approaching Warren Road from Swakeleys Road, there was a pond on the right, with plenty of newts and small fish and a few rushes. The ruins of the lodge, which had stood near the corner of the A40 roundabout, were still visible. Although its garden was badly overgrown, lilacs, roses and delphiniums bloomed among the weeds.

There were still plenty of red squirrels to be seen in the woods between Warren Road and the A40, although grey squirrels were also present.

We found that about half the households in Warren Road had taken refuge there as a result of the War and were renting, like ourselves. Some, of course, were only there for a year or so, unlike my parents who stayed until 1956. There was Lady Edgcumbe who had moved down from the Sloane Street area. She had a very pampered little dog called David. There was a Forces Padre - a widower - and his two daughters. I believe he was attached to RAF, Uxbridge. Theo McEvoy (later Air Vice Marshall Sir Theodore McEvoy) was another resident. He was bent almost double, due to a spinal injury following a "skirmish" in the air.

A most amusing character was Herbert Buckmaster, who owned the Wyndhams Theatre. He lived two doors beyond us, with his second wife and their three children Peter, Pamela and Prunella.

Miss Gurney had been living in Warren Road from the mid-thirties when her family ceased farming at Manor Farm, Ruislip. She still enjoyed the companionship of the 3 farm dogs. Mr. Harrold of Harrolds, Opticians, was her next door neighbour.

As most houses were built on ¼ acre plots, nearly everyone kept a few hens at the bottom of the garden. In addition to chickens, we also had some rabbits. There were also a couple of enthusiastic beekeepers in the road. We all tried to be self-sufficient with vegetables and fruit in our gardens.

Hidden in the woods was a fine plantation of both red and white raspberries which pre-dated the breaking up of the Swakeleys Estate. We children would gather them for our mothers to bottle or make into jam.

Our house backed on to a field, now part of the Vyners School complex. Warren Road narrowed considerably beyond the last house. There were gorse bushes, brambles and wild roses on either side, behind which were more fields. The fields were all put to good use, and the crops were rotated: sometimes oats, other times cabbages or some sort of bean which was processed into food for cattle.

In a copse towards the bottom of Warren Road stood the brightly painted caravans of the Smith family who were gypsies. Their horses would be tethered nearby. Once they broke loose and invaded our gardens. The Police had to come and remove them. On a fine day, the Smiths would suspend their huge black iron cooking pot over a wood fire, and a most appetising aroma would drift across the road. They probably snared wild rabbits. On other occasions I would see the adult members of the family fashioning clothes pegs and chrysanthemums from wood. They were very skilled. The Smiths had seven children. In the depths of winter they would send their two eldest girls up to our houses to beg for water, food and clothing. At one stage, all the children contracted scarlet fever, and an ambulance had to take them away to St. John's Fever Hospital, Kingston Lane.

The River Pinn and Swakeleys Lake were completely unspoilt and very picturesque, for there was no official link between Warren Road and Swakeleys Drive. Vehicles would have to go through the "Water Splash" (an outflow from the lake) at their peril. Once a milk cart overturned. Swakeleys House was leased to the Foreign Office throughout the War. The winters, I recall, were hard and snowy and, once the ice was thick enough, the Foreign Office staff would skate on the Lake. It was a graceful spectacle to watch.

Thornhill Road was a cul de sac - about only half its present length. Swakeleys Farm was located between the end of Thornhill Road and the bottom of Warren Road. Mr. Lloyd, the breeder of the champion "Ware" strain of cocker spaniels, lived there. In the War, he was called upon to train dogs for use by the Army. There was often a joint exercise with the Home Guard in the woods, when the dogs had to track the Home Guard members.

We would constantly hear the tuning up of the aircraft at Northolt in the daytime. It was a comforting sound which gave us a sense of security. Then, in the evening, we would hear the planes take off and would hope for their safe return. On one occasion, the planes gave us a surprise and came overhead in the daytime. They showered the area with metallic strips, and we children rushed out to gather up all we could find.

Only 3 small bombs fell in Ickenham to my knowledge, and they landed in the field where Vyners School now stands. Fortunately, the ground was soft at the time, so there was little local damage - just the odd broken window pane. We were safe in our understairs cupboard at the time.

On our arrival in Ickenham my parents had decided that I should remain a pupil at Frays College, Harefield Road, for the time being. Even then, the bus route serving Ickenham was unreliable, and I would walk to School, crossing the Western Avenue and then down Harefield Road. It was not always possible for Frays to provide lunches, in which case I would be allowed to forego the last lesson of the morning in order to walk home. It was perfectly safe on my own, with so little traffic on the roads.

One car that could sometimes be seen along the Western Avenue or Park Road was a large chauffeur-driven one conveying Sir Winston Churchill to RAF, Uxbridge. He would be sitting well back, often puffing one of his famous cigars.

The Western Avenue came to an abrupt end at Swakeleys roundabout. There were wooden booms across the road on the Denham side. Work was however in progress on the construction of the viaduct, Irish labour being employed.

At the junction of The Drive and Swakeleys Road was a pretty little thatched cottage which was the lodge to the Harefield Place estate. The upper end of Swakeleys Road was tarred and gritted, and as yet unkerbed. There was a grassy triangular island at the junction of Swakeleys Road and Breakspear Road South. The dual carriageway section of Swakeleys Road was only finished shortly before the War. It had a concrete surface. There were attractive beds of shrubs in the central reservation.

Ivy House Farm, owned by the Pool family, stood at the top of Copthall Road. They were dairy farmers and had 3 or 4 milk carts standing in their yard.

Walton, Hassell & Port (now Alldays) stood in isolation. On one side there were advertising hoardings as far as The Avenue, on the other was a woodland as far as Ivy House Road.

Just past the Rectory was a long drive leading to Ickenham High School, which was accommodated in the old Rectory. The girls wore a smart navy and mauve uniform.

Between Ivy House Road and the Pelican there was a field, usually with a horse or two grazing in it.

The shops only stretched as far as Hopkins Chemists, which was in a cul de sac. In fact, the chemist was the only shop open for business in that block, the remaining shop fronts being bricked up. Beyond the chemist shop was a pair of cottages in rather poor condition in extensive grounds.

 

 

 

Following VE Day and VJ Day there was a wonderful party in the grounds of Uxbridge Country Convalescent Home, Harefield Place, for the families who lived in The Drive and Warren Road. There were games and competitions for the children in the afternoon, followed by dancing on the lawns for the adults in the evening. PDE 04-05-95 Pamela Edwards, Ickenham

In & Around Ickenham

Please 'Like' Our Facebook Page 

Print Print | Sitemap
© iii. Investing in Ickenham