Purley..My Early Years

Purley Was A Wonderful Place to Grow up

I have been thinking about writing a Blog telling & showing you something of  Purley, Berkshire (now known as Purley on Thames) for quite a while now, since chatting to @old postcards on Twitter about it. So here goes…This is a longer read than usual, with more Pics.
I spent the first 30 years of my life there and its very difficult to condense it into a readable Blog that I hope won’t bore you all.

Purley was a small Village in the late 1940’s when my Dad bought a wooden built Chalet Home there in Wintringham Way, he paid just £600 for it and the 20ft wide piece of land it stood on. Over the years a brother and 4 of his sisters also bought places down there too.
His new plot backed on to a huge field with the River Thames flowing between the field and Mapleduram House and Village on the opposite bank. Giving access to Mapleduram Lock and Weir and the fields beyond, where you can walk the river bank right along to Pangbourne, which I have done many many times.

Our village was known affectionately as ‘Shanty Town’ by outsiders and it was the most terrific place to grow up, all us kids born in the 50’s who grew up there loved it, its still ‘Home’ to me today. No made up roads, flooding sometimes twice a year, a great community where no-one ever locked their doors, us kids had such freedom, summers spent over the River swimming and just mucking about.

Then there was the Lock, the Lock Keeper and his wife such a lovely couple,  Len & Kath Overy, both still alive and living in Nottingham now, Kath is in her 90’s now. She used to sell ice Creams during the summer months, and Len used to let some of us more sensible kids Press the buttons to work the big gates and let the Boats out of the Lock, spent many happy hours over there just watching the Boats coming in and out, the gardens always were a picture and used to win prizes for the best kept Lock on the Thames.

We all went to Purley Church of England School till we were about 7 or 8, which was just at the bottom of the 2nd hill as it was known, the other hill being ‘New Hill’ the only way into our estate was down one of the Hills, sometimes in the Snow you couldn’t get out of the estate up to the main road.
When I was a kid there was a small grocery shop at the top of Colyton Way and another one about half way down run by Mr & Mrs Weller, then an allsorts Shop/Garage run by the Richies. Then along one of the smaller roads called The Short, Mrs Skerritt had a Wool shop in an old Railway carriage that only used to open for a few hours 3 or 4 days a week.
There was no Pub, but we did have 2 small clubs, where people could get a drink and where the community held various celebrations and also parties for the estate children at Christmas.
Purley had the farm owned by Mr Bucknell too, he owned the land at the back of our place down to the River and also the other side of the estate up to the Railway line, that is now all modern houses, but years ago we used to have a Village show every year there in one of his Big Barns with prizes for Flowers etc.

At the end of St Marys Avenue is St Mary the Virgin Church, where I was Christened and first Married and my 3 Children were also Christened there, beautiful 14th century church.
At the time of buying Dad had the choice of  2 brick terrace houses in Tilehurst (village up the hill) that were next door to each other or the plot in Purley for the same money, so glad he chose the latter. He had just come out of the Army after spending 18 years on and off in India and loved the views over towards Mapleduram and the countryside around.
The lands that made up our River estate came about as a result way back of the Railway arriving to Purley in 1837, the cutting had split the parish in two and had split Purley Park from a lot of its land, from the early 1900’s pieces of Purley Park land were sold or leased.
Up until recent years the Big Purley Park House a listed building, was what we called a ’Boys Home’, it was a residential home for Boys & Men with mental disabilities, some of them were there for years and years and became very familiar to us all, taking walks all around the area every day. The place has now been turned into flats and a new residential home has been built close by.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        During the 1930’s more land was sold off as 10ft plots to campers and lots of them were Londoners who came to Purley as weekend retreats. During and after the second World War these plots began to be permanently occupied, people made their homes from old railway carriages, huts, old buses anything that was available then.
Lots of the ‘Homes’ suffered in the terrible floods of 1947, Dad said that when he bought ours it had a tide mark halfway up the walls. It was about 1949 I think that Mum & Dad moved from Fulham to Purley and over the years, he added a Front room, Bathroom, indoor Toilet and a bigger Kitchen, installed a  Yorkseal Coal burner too when Mum was expecting me.
Basically people added what ever bits of house they needed, no planning approval needed then. There are a few of the ‘old places’ still standing but most have been demolished to make way for the ’modern Bricks’  people have gradually over the years increased the size of their plots to 30ft to build a detached house or 50ft to build a pair of houses.

This is a front view before building took place
By the time of my 1st marriage we owned 50ft jointly with Mum and Dad, and ended up building a pair of  4 bedroom houses, selling one to pay for the other.

The Footings going in and the roof nearly on with my Son in his cot
Dad lived with us in our new Brick Home, as by this time Mum had left him and gone off with another Bloke, buts that’s another tale altogether!

 The New House and The demolition of the old places

The view looking over to the Thames from our new turfed garden,the Lock just behind the Greenhouse roof
It was very strange to live in a brick house for the first time in our 20’s for both of us, as we had both grown up in Purley, My 1st husband lived just round the corner from us.
I still go down on the estate every couple of months to visit my Uncle and Aunt, he is 90 now and the only one of my Dads 13 siblings still alive ( Dad died over 20 years ago) And although the estate itself is nowhere near the same as when we lived there, it still somehow feels like home as you start to go down the hill.
There is just one shop there now and the mobile Library visits, but no other modern facilities, the C of E Infant school is still there too.
By the way if Mapleduram rings some bells for you, its where they filmed the film ‘The Eagle has Landed’ filming went on all during the summer of 1976, we went across a couple of times to watch the action at the Water Mill and House and in the Village of Mapleduram, it was really interesting.

I have so many wonderful memories of my life in Purley, it would fill many more pages.

Till next time then……………………………………..

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