History Focus – Growing Up in Teddington, Part 3

At the time of the coming of the railway to Teddington in 1863, the town was literally cut in half by the building of the railway bridge over the old pond, which later re-connected Broad Street to High Street. When I was young, the High Street was a foreign land to me and it was not until later life that I got to know it apart from the Savoy Cinema in the High Street where they showed Saturday Morning Pictures. You had to join the ABC Minors and admission was 6d. There were cartoons, a serial and the main film – usually a western and as I recall, the cinema was usually pretty packed. The audience was a fairly cross- section bunch and I do remember getting into a few punch-ups because mum insisted that I wear my school cap when going out.

I have mentioned St James’ School and it was here that I met Mick O’Donnell, who I am pleased to say is still a good friend. I do recall when we were both sent to Mr Cole to receive the cane for some misdemeanour or other. Mick was first in the queue and he bravely extended his hand, palm upwards. Mr Cole raised his arm to deliver a stroke of the cane but at the last minute, Mick pulled his hand away and Mr Cole hit his own foot with the cane. I could not contain myself and burst out laughing. The cane was dutifully applied to Mick and then it was my turn. “So you think that was funny do you?” said Mr Cole as he laid into me and gave me an extra stroke for my trouble. That was the first of many scrapes that Mick got me into in our school lives although more about those later.

Teddington in the late 1940s/early 1950s was a very different place to live. There was much evidence of war damage and several partly standing buildings were being occupied for small trades. In Queens Road/Little Queens Road there were a couple of panel beaters that always seemed to be busy. I don’t know what happened to them when the area was redeveloped. Similarly West Road received some damage and was completely cleared when the present Tescos was opened, and provided the car park area. At one end of the Broad Street going towards Hampton, Honey’s Grocers had been bombed and on the opposite side of the road, Gould’s the Chemist was also damaged.

The Causeway was quite a different road from today. Starting at the Park Road end north side, there was a new block to replace the
bomb damage where my dad’s first shop stood. There was Jember Bros. Joiners and Carpenters with solicitors P Hart on the offices above. Then White Knight Dry Cleaners and Evelyn Cheeseman Florist, then my dad’s shop S E Howe Newsagent, Confectioner and Tobacconist. Derrick Looker Gents Barber was next, followed by Mr Lewin’s Camera Shop. Then an Electrical Repairs Shop before moving onto a gift shop (whose name escapes me) and part of Grundy Engineering before coming to Barclays Bank which had taken over the old National Provincial Bank. Coming back on the other side, there was a small tobacco kiosk at the start, next to Deayton’s Grocers. Then Sims the Opticians with William Erik Oakley the Dentist above. This was followed by MacFisheries and the Coombe Bakery. Eastmans the Dry Cleaners and a Ladies Hairdresser. We then had Dales the Drapers and Haberdashers; they were famous for having the Lampson overhead cash carrying system where cylinders containing money were sent in a series of tubes to a cash desk out of sight of the main showroom. John Follett the butcher – he had been the “Capt Mainwaring” of Teddington’s Home Guard, Cheeseman’s the Greengrocers and John Quality the Grocer. Then there was Charlie French who had what we would now call a Collector’s Shop but in our day it was a Junk Shop, followed by Partridge Moss Solicitors, then Barry’s Estate Agents and finally the showroom for A V Motors on the site of the burnt down Town Hall. Apologies for the lengthily list but I needed to get the shop names down whilst I still remembered them. Have I missed any?

I was recently reminded of one adventure that Mick Carman and I had in Bushy Park. We were strolling amongst the trees in the Lime Avenue to the left of Chestnut Avenue from the Teddington Gate when we spotted a young bird that seemed to be grubbing around on the ground. We approached him and he hopped away from us. We tried again and the same thing happened. It was obvious that the poor thing could not fly. After a brief consultation, we caught the bird which was a young jackdaw and he had a damaged wing. We decided that he would not be safe if we left him in the park, unable to fly, so we brought him back to Mick’s. His mum was not best pleased but his dad was very sympathetic to our cause.

He constructed a cage for the bird and mounted this on the wall of the pub. Every afternoon “Jacko” as he was now called was taken into the upstairs Clubroom where Bill Carman virtually taught him to fly. Eventually he got the hang of flying and made friends of the pub regulars although he was not too popular with the lady customers. The day came when he had to be released back into the wild and Bill, Mick and I took him into Railway Station Gardens (now houses) and let him go. After looking around for a bit, he flexed his winds and off he went. We were both happy and sad to see him go but we hadn’t seen the last of him. As the evening grew darker, he returned to his cage and cawed loudly for his dinner. Bill fed him and then removed the front of his cage so that he could come and go as he pleased. This arrangement seemed to be working quite well but Jacko expanded his area and used to patrol the station taking to the air when trains departed or fly parallel to them as they arrived. Bill had one or two phone calls from Waterloo Station to say that Jacko had got into a Waterloo bound train and was now looking lost on one of their platforms. Jacko and Bill had built up an amazing bond and Bill would cheerfully hop on a train to go and collect him. Jacko earned the nickname of Dr Beeching by the various station staffs. I can’t remember how long this lasted, certainly longer than a year until one day he was flying in to greet a train when one of the passengers opened the slam- door of the train before it had stopped and Jacko flew straight into it, falling dead on the platform. A very sad end to a very entertaining friend. I understand that a book about the life of Jacko aka Dr Beeching is in the process of being written. Once I have more information, I will inform my readers.

(To be continued)

Photographs: Broad Street, Old Town Hall, Savoy Cinema

Ken Howe is a local historian and author of several books. howe64@btinternet.com 020 8943 1513