In about 1953 my family moved from one room in Drury Lane to a newly completed estate in Poplar – the Lansbury estate, named after one of Poplar’s heroes. The part of the estate to which we moved surrounded the newly built Chrisp Street Market, and our part comprised of one of seven maisonettes above shops that fronted the market. From one part of the maisonette, we could see the market and the Clock Tower, and from the other part we could see a bomb site. There was a public house – the Festive Briton – on one side and Aunty Rose (we called all neighbours Aunty or Uncle in those days) and her old mother. Continue reading
My yard was small and was on the first floor, above a shop. It had a long flower bed, built with bricks, at the front and from the brick flower bed to the brick walls of the maisonette the yard was laid with flagstones, grouted with pitch. I remember there were nearly eighty flagstones, altogether, and each one was different, except in size. Continue reading
As a child we lived at 163 Drury Lane in London. Drury Lane is today a fashionable cool road, but when I was a bay it was a road filled with tenement buildings, small shops, cheap restaurants with a theatre at each end. Drury Lane was the home of the muffin man and was also my home. My home was one room. My cot was near the window; my sisters’ cots were close by and my parents slept on a bed settee. Standing on my cot I could see out of the window and the first thing that I can remember seeing was the greengrocer’s shop on the other side of the road, several stories down. Outside the shop was an open lorry and on the lorry a young man was unloading wooden boxes of cherries, which he was delivering to the shop.
The young man picked out a cherry from one of the boxes, as he stood on the back of the lorry. He tossed the cherry high into the air, caught it in his mouth and ate it.
That is my earliest memory, I think, but cannot be sure. Memories are unreliable witnesses.
Outside our front door, in Market Square Poplar in an inspired piece of 1950 architecture stood our coal shed. The coal man would have to haul bags of coal (one bag at a time) up the stairs and into our shed. We would then remove a bucketful and when winter seemed exceptionally cold light a fire in our front room. We had a grate and black fireguard, for safety’s sake, and every Christmas at this time we would burn our Christmas tree after twelfth night. The whole house then smelt of burning fir needles. Continue reading
The whole Poplar is very flat. Much of it is below the level of the Thames, which has pushed silt to either side causing the river to gradually rise above its surrounding flood plain. The river is walled, embanked and constantly silently flows next to Poplar. The river surrounds Poplar on three sides, and the docks make fingers of water through the middle of the old borough. Continue reading
I discovered Poplar Library when I was about ten, in 1959. I took every book on nature and on science out of the children’s section in Poplar Library. The Library was only a hundred yards away from where we lived, housed inside an end of terrace shop unit. I could run there without crossing a single road. The children’s section was tiny, and the adults not much bigger. The books were new and pristine. The shelves were lovingly stocked with Enid Blyton, Richmal Compton and Frank Richards. Continue reading