Snapshot of memories

Read stories from Hillingdon residents about memories from their childhood.

Yvonne Clarke 

I moved to Hillingdon in 1973 from South London when I was 12. Went from living in a block of flats to a house with a garden, and it felt like the countryside. I loved it here. I'm still here, even in the same house. A lot has changed but Hillingdon will always be my home. 

James Spurgeon 

I lived in Hillingdon though the 50s and 60s. Best days of anyone's life. No health and safety. You could leave your doors open and go out. Kids had a great imagination. Not like today. 

Carol Matthews

I lived in Hillingdon/Hayes all my life until 6 years ago. A lot has changed there over the years but my heart is still in Hillingdon and it will forever be 'home'.

Iris Perry 

We moved to this area in 1959. Lived in Hayes for 54 years and they were wonderfully happy years. Saw many many changes but still considered it our lovely place to live and took on all the changes as part of life. 6 years ago moved to Hillingdon as a widow, but still consider it my lovely home. Have lots of green open spaces nearby and all the shops that I need in Uxbridge. 

Graham Williams 

At the age of 5, I was taken one morning to school, I had no idea what school was. I can remember standing there with mum and with other children crying! The Teacher came to the door and we had to line up and hold hands. I held a girl's hand that was crying. We entered the corridor and were led to what was called the reception class, where I learnt it as Good, as it had lots of things to play with there I did not mind one bit. Then we had a sleep after being given some dinner. I can remember the little fold-up beds. Then at the end of the day mum took me home again, well that was Good too. However, it came as a shock that I was to go back again the next morning. :-) 

I think I was in the second year when things became less play and more learning - and I hated it. The teachers were OK. I can't remember them ever being horrible to me. About now at this time, I began to get a lot of stomach aches. I realised from a real one they could get me out of lessons and sent to the sick room lady.

I will digress here a little from my story to tell of this lady. She worked at the infants school for many years. Well some years later, as a young man, I was what was called a relief caretaker. If someone was off sick, I would take over the school until they returned back. I was sent to school and I walked in and marvelled how small it all was, as I have not been back there from leaving it to go to the Juniors. There was a small gathering of ladies and one I stared at in astonishment. It was the sick room lady and it was her retirement day. All and her were fascinated, as I told her she looked after me many times. I think she and others got wind of my pretends and less and less I was sent to the sick room when reporting a stomach ache.

I did struggle with the simplest of things, like tying my shoe laces up, and was always being chastised when I asked the dinner lady to tie them up for me. Just before lunch one day, the teacher put out on every desk a wooden shape of a bottom of a shoe with holes in it with a shoelace threaded through them. This was to be a lesson on how to do up shoelaces! And as luck would have it, the bell rang for lunch. but I was horrified at the thought of the lessen to come after lunch. I had my lunch - something I did like about the school - and after standing in the playground a thought came to me to just go home. So I crept around the wall at the end and, when no one was looking, I raced to the gate and was off like a jackrabbit home. My mum threw a fit as I walked into the back garden. She was hanging out some washing, interrogated me, then walked me back to school, where I had not been missed, I may add. Now that was the first time I met the headmistress who, after giving me a good telling off, told me to sit on the mat in front of her desk until she sent me back to class. I can remember sitting there looking at her legs, as there was nothing else to look at I may add. Well, I was sent back and I did not try that one again - it was just too much trouble. 

John Reader 

WW2. In those days, Dickens Avenue Hillingdon was full of help and camaraderie. Because of the war effort, the local authority had removed metal gates and fences, so it was impossible to buy even locks or new keys. Consequently, friends and neighbours would just walk to houses to check on the occupants. The ladies had replaced the men in the work place - sometimes with half the salary. 

They had worked it out between themselves who would look after the children without losing out financially. Sometimes when the bombing was bad, teachers from school would come to one of the houses in Dickens for some children to have lessons.

Everybody had shelters - indoor or outdoor - and they built a concrete shelter covering half the road. This shelter was for anyone's use, also great for children to play in.

Brother Fred stepped out in front of a lorry from Southall, travelling to fast. He was in Hillingdon (Huts) hospital for 3 weeks. At the end of the war, the courts awarded Fred £50 compensation - that in those days was a lot of money. 

The big thing for boys in those days was collecting shrapnel. We had heard a bomb had hit the bungalows opposite the Allied Rec on the West Drayton Road, but we were kept away by the home guard. Were you to find a big piece of shrapnel, you'd be everyone's friend. At the end of our garden, an incendiary bomb had landed in the field. But although they were dropped to cause fires, no damage was done. That field after the war would become Stevesons Nursery. In later life, I would work there during my school holidays. Having Ike Williams Pig Farm on one side of Dickens and Crawley Chicken Farm on the other, including Thackery Close on the other, on hot days it ponged.

Not many people know, at what we called top end of Dickens, there was a shop attached to a bungalow, owned by a Frenchman. His land grew fruit and vegetables, and when the boys hadn't been scrumping he also sold eating apples and eggs from the wandering chicken. I went in there one day; he made soldiers with led poured into moulds. He had armies, with all the tunics painted vivid colours - especially red. He gave me a British soldier who fought in the Napoleonic wars. 

Half way down Dickens, there was a half circle without the central island - that's where the first big bonfire was lit to celebrate the end of WW2 in Europe... but that's next.

It was always thought men do the fighting; women do the worrying. These were now happy times with everyone pulling together. 

The end of the war came. Dickens Avenue Road shelters were pulled down, boys and girls were playing in the road or on the pavement, hopscotch or football, there were no cars, except 2 doors from us. A car was stationary in the front garden the entire war - I think the husband was away in the army. The car was hidden by tall weeds and flowers, plus petrol was on ration. Even though petrol was rationed, for the police, ambulances, agriculture and the like, it was essential they had fuel, so the authorities added a dye, to stop anyone using it. Should they do so, it was a prison sentence. Some discovered if the petrol was boiled using heat the colour would vanish... as one can imagine many times the house vanished as well!

We would have football matches in the road - it was always top end (us) against bottom end (them). The friendliness of war time was over! People would moan when the ball (a tennis ball) went over their fence. We would all look the other way until the boy who kicked it over retrieved it. We always won...
My funniest moment for years happened then, we were picking teams and one boy said,: "I'll have Arf" and this tiny tot said: "I'll have the other Arf" - we all fell about laughing for about 10 minutes. Funny how all them years ago and it sticks in ones mind. 

Basically in those days we were surrounded by fields with most of the boys learning to swim in Sabeys pits or the Grand Union canal. When my Dad's brother used to visit us, being from the city, he always mentioned we were all country bumpkins... When one thinks how London has expanded, we are now the London Borough of Hillingdon. 

Brother Bill joined the Royal Navy for 7&5 before that he was employed as a Telegram boy. Can you imagine how long it would take to hear any news from a distance? His office was the Post Office in West Drayton. His journey there after leaving home was across the wooden bridge to Yiewsley. One morning, he was just crossing the bridge on his bike when he spotted a body... after carrying on, his conscience got the better of him He went back down to the water's edge and grabbed the arm showing above the water just as the bike slid in. It was a Taylor's dummy! He was then reprimanded for his uniform being muddy and for being late! Later, he would become an officer in the British Royal Navy. People started to move; some of the boys are doing their National Service, Brother Fred's in the RAF and a  few years later I'd be joining HMS VIGO a battle Class Destroyer for my National Service in the Royal Navy.

Thinking back, could it have been possible to have had a better introduction to real life for all the children during and after WW2 than living at Dickens Avenue, Hillingdon, Middlesex? A place for fantastic kids with fantastic parents.

I left Dickens to marry Kitty for the greatest day of my life.

Ernest Cooke 

I remember the German prisons of war being used to build houses in Hayes to house people left without homes because of the war. As children, we used to go into their camp where they sold wooden toys for a few pence. We never told our parents, as we would have got a good hiding. 

Riffsky Tilbury 

I lived in Collingwood Road from the age of 4. I played on the street straight away. We had a little gang. We made trucks and dug holes in the green opposite.
My fondest memory of my childhood in Hillingdon is doing Daltons milk round on a horse and cart. Sliding down Pole Hill with Ginger on his knees and the snow packed road. 50 years later, I'm semi retired down here in Dorset. I bought a horse. I think the wife wanted me to take up golf. So I bought a horse. Been skint ever since. But. Do I love that horse or what?!

Page last updated: 09 Sep 2021