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Keith Littlewood's Reminiscence:

Born in Raymere Gardens, Plumstead Common in 1952.
Went to Timbercroft School, and Crown Woods School, Eltham.
Moved to Shooters Hill, 1984, then out to Bexleyheath.

Reminiscence

When I was a small boy my paternal grandmother Emily Elizabeth Littlewood lived at the almshouses in Waverley Road, in Nelson Cottage, until she died in 1961, in her 80’s. I visited her often with my mother Doreen for a cup of tea and a chat after shopping at the Links, and some Sundays we went with my father and sister Ann for tea, often playing cards. Gran enjoyed cards, and as she was very hard of hearing spoke and laughed loudly. Her kitchen had an old sink, a store cupboard and a gas stove. She gave me her empty matchboxes for my push-along tipper lorry, and a thrupenny piece when we left for home.

Before we had a refrigerator, we went most days to the Slade shops, where I remember a grocer’s, a baker’s, a butcher’s, a newsagent's, an electrical shop, a bookmaker's, a hairdresser's, a wool shop, and two green grocers! Paraffin for our heater, usually employed in the hall or bathroom, came from Kirkham Street or Alabama Street. Corner shops were everywhere. Coal was ordered from a merchants in Tuam Road and kindling wood for the open fire was bought at the corner shop at Nyanza Street off Garland Road, where I also remember buying five Players Weights for my Dad.

Next door to my grandmother’s flat was a sweet shop and barber’s, a dentist’s run by Mr Morris, and a Post Office. From the dentist’s waiting room you heard drilling noises from the old machinery, and he had a blue model racing car to distract the frightened patients!

Before school age there were many visits to the R.A.C.S. Links stores at Plumstead Common, where I remember a sweet shop, a shoe shop, a hairdresser's, a green grocers, a butcher's, a baker's and a chemist's. Metal Co-op tokens (later plastic) were given out, and we returned them to the central office, next to the stairs to the hall above, for cash.

On my first day at the Infants in Timbercroft Primary School, in 1957, I had to be dragged inside by two teachers whilst I tried to kick them! I wanted my Mum. The room had tiny chairs, a sand pit, lots of toys, and also a toilet. I later enjoyed school, especially remembering the warm radiators when outside was cold and foggy in the winter, before the Clean Air Act brought smokeless fuel. In the “smogs” we wore Balaclavas, and put scarves over our mouths to try not to breathe in the dirty air. You could only see a few yards ahead of you. In the top class Christopher Johnson sat in front of me, and has remained a lifelong friend. Our mothers had met when we were in prams, at the child clinic in Garland Road, which I can remember later attending for some injections.

Chris lived in Pegwell Street, and on Saturday mornings we usually went for a walk with his dog Tina, a lovely black mongrel. We would take her over Plumstead Common and Winn’s Common to Bostall Heath, or up to Shrewsbury Park, Eaglesfield, and over to Oxleas Woods and Fields. We walked past the scrap yard on Bleak Hill, and down to Rockcliffe Gardens, a beautiful place of calm for a Sunday walk. I remember our family passing through the nearby rubbish dump, now open space, where the valley of Fanny on the Hill used to be, which was most unsightly.

Chris and I watched the RT buses on the many routes across the Common, especially noting 163’s, which were RTL’s from Camberwell Garage, and turned around in Swingate Lane and stopped at The Woodman. They sounded and looked different, and we noted the water can and tap provided for topping up the radiators at the bus stand. A photograph shows my grandfather William Henry Littlewood, who died in 1951, as an inspector in his 40’s posing with the crew in front of a B type 54 bus from Hampstead outside the pub around 1920. My Dad, Henry Alfred Littlewood, born in Bassant Road in 1915, worked at Plumstead Garage as well as his father for a couple of years, after leaving Timbercroft School at 14, before working at Vickers in Crayford.

For one week all the buses normally using Plumstead Road were diverted due to a subsidence in the road, in about 1962. There were buses constantly arriving at The Ship bus stop, and going down Waverley Road with the 192’s to Plumstead High Street.

I remember playing tennis at Plumstead Common with my sister Ann, and with Chris, and also going around the putting course with my Dad, or Chris and his father Douglas and brother Tony. We even used the public bowls green, but their woods were worn out of shape, so it was no good.

Once Doug skated on the ice at the paddling pool on Winn’s Common, around New Year, and was reprimanded by the lady attendant! For some while after 1973 Chris, Douglas, a friend Mick Clisby and I played badminton at Plumstead Manor, “The Warren” school, and met Len Thynne, who was a brilliant coach, able to move in any direction to hit the shuttle back effortlessly, and then return to his central position.

I have seen many changes here, and buildings like the Ascension Hall, our 10th Woolwich HQ at the top of Lakedale Road, demolished.

Keith Littlewood, born in Plumstead Common, 1952.



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