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……………………………………..


    • Hi Lynn, Robert and I moved in, with our two young sons in September 2015, just today the boys opened the back gate, across the field ( it’s full of buttercups, this time of year) and over to the lock. There’s was a dog show on the other side today, so we enjoyed watching the dogs having a break and jumping/ playing in the river.

      Liked by 1 person

      • One of my favourite memories Buttercups in the field, have a pic of them on my bookcase. My Family still live two doors from you, where I visit, be back during the summer hols hopefully. Makes me all nostalgic now, thanks so much for getting in touch. Will try & sort some pics for you later in the week, could you email me? lynnswaffles@gmail.com


      • Hi Lynn, I lived where Home Farm was, where Farm Close is now. I have good memories of a simple but happy childhood living in Purley. We would collect frog spawn from the pond -no longer there – at the top of Mapledurham Drive. I have a memory of sledding down the slope one snowy winter next to the railway where Primrose close is now and spending many hours in the School holidays by the river taking jam sandwiches and a bottle of squash. Do remember having to wear wellingtons to school, changing into Plimsolls for the school day as we had to walk through the cow muck that went across the road! I could ramble on but will leave it for now….

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Lynn, I live in Purley with my family and always enjoy reading pieces I of its history. Your story became particularly special, when I scrolled down though the pictures and realised that your house is our house 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We lived very near Purley in the 1990s and still remember some of the older houses. I’m sure I remember a house with lots of bits and bobs in the front garden-maybe a miniature train with train track but can’t quite remember.Does anyone else remember? Where abouts was it?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was born in Purley in 1953, at No 3 The Short — off Colyton Way. Linda Skerritt

    13 Colyton Way was my grandparents’ address, changed at some point to No 15, between the Wellers’ grocery store and the Richies. (I didn’t remember the names until I read your post)

    My grandfather introduced me to fishing and I spent my very young years fishing along the stretch from Mapledurham Lock going back to Riverside Gardens.

    I’ve lived abroad for a good few years, and haven’t beem back to Purley in years- — it’s still very clear in my memory, though.

    Great to read your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember a Tina in River Gardens but can’t remember your surname then, think you were more friends with Jackie as your a little older than me, I was born 1953🤔Lynn x


  5. Hi Lynn brought back many happy memories. My Dad brought a plot in Wintringham way 1937 which had two old buses on it. It became a possible lifesaver because my extended family came to live there in 1940. I can give you lots of information about life there during the war. Came back to London 1946 but still returned for holidays etc for many years. John

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry John, somehow I missed your comment, so glad I’ve found it now!
      I do remember the surname Quantrell very clearly. I think you could have been very close to where we lived backing on to the field but slightly further down towards river gardens? I think all of us who lived & certainly like me brought up there cherish our memories of being there, very happy times for me too. Any memories you have is love to know. You can always send me an email to lynnswaffles@gmail.com
      Thanks again, Kind Regards Lynn


  6. Hi Lynn – my two small boys and I lived at 37 Wintringham Way from about July – November 1982. We called it the shack!! It had an old caravan out back and as we recall there were many nettles about the place.
    I honestly don’t remember if I rented it or if it was rented for me by Martin Kershaw. My name is Ellie King, my children are James and Simon King. They went to the local school while we were there.
    I remember the walk from Purely to Pangbourne: it was a really lovely walk.
    Wondering if you have any pictures of the inside of the ‘shack’ or any more of it at all? We didn’t remember a brick building alongside it, so perhaps that arrived after we had left?
    We live in Canada now but think of Purley with much affection even though our time there was not that long.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ellie. If I’m remembering correctly no 37 was down the road much nearer to River Gardens that I was living & of course on the other side of the road, not backing out onto the fields. I don’t remember you at all, sorry. It was a wonderful place to live back then wasn’t it & I do think everyone who lived there back then loved it.
      I don’t have any photos of your stretch of the road, shame. Wish I taken loads photos back then! Hopefully you’re all as happy living in Canada now.
      Thanks so much for getting in touch with me. Kind Regards Lynn x


      • Hi Lynn – thank you so much for getting back to me.

        there is one photograph my son found which looks exactly like the ‘shack’ we lived in: right up to the elderly caravan in the back yard and the ditch in the front. It looks so familiar…….wondering if it might be the one.

        With kind regards from Canada where we are living a fine life!


        Liked by 1 person

  7. I was evacuated with my mother and her sisters here aged 6 months old having been bombed out of South London, my first 5 years of life spent next to the fiver and recall Canadian troops building Bailey Bridges across that part I& the river. Have only been back once in 75 years, looking at Google earth it has changed so much, incidentally our accommodation in those days for us was a tram after they shooed the chickens out. Tom Eddicott

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Tom, Thank you so much for getting in touch with your lovely memories. Yes for me it was a truly wonderful place to grow up I and many other children living there during the 50s and 60s were blessed. You are right it has changed so much now and I do go back occasionally but it’s not the same at all, thank goodness for memories! Take care Lynn x


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