Well, compared to today, there was a lot of freedom to go just about anywhere. From our house in Kitchener Road you could walk to many places.
Wadham Road Shops
If you turned left when you came out of the house then after about 100 yards you would come to Wadham Road. Turning right you would walk past the long wooden fence which contained the London Transport Sports Ground whose entrance was in Kitchener Road, almost opposite our house. Although Wadham Road was in fact part of the North Circular Road, in those days it did not carry anything like the volume of traffic it does now. It was just an ordinary 2-lane highway where the traffic was so light most of the time that you could cross from one side to the other with ease and with very little danger. Number 144 buses toiled up and down Wadham Road en route from Turnpike Lane Station in north London to Ilford Station in east London.
On the other side of Wadham Road there were a few houses either side of a cul-de-sac called Wadham Close. Beyond where the houses ended there was an un-named track which led to what we called "the Fish Yards".Lorries belonging to the local fishmonger were garaged here. Next was an "Esso" petrol station where we used to buy "Esso Blue" paraffin used in the portable heaters in the house.
There was then a small parade of shops which laid back from the main road with a parking area in front of them. There was a Fish & Chip shop, a Greengrocer, a shop with blinds permanently pulled down which was used as workshop making curtains and finally a Bakers shop.
From about the age of seven, I used to walk to the bakers shop in Wadham Road for my mum and buy a loaf of bread for 6 old pence. Later on, I would fetch a gallon of paraffin from the petrol station which cost 1 shilling. Occasionally I would go and buy fish and chips when Dad had had a good week!
The shops faced a road junction with Fulbourne Road, controlled by traffic lights. On the corner of this junction was a Post Office which sold all sorts of interesting stationery plus sweets.The no 35 bus turned right into Wadham Road from Fulbourne Road and vice versa, on its route from Clapham Common (Old Town) to Chingford Hatch. Two hundred yards on, just before Wadham Bridge, Winchester Road diverged to the left. The no 35 buses took this road which led to Highams Park station.
If you went on over Wadham Bridge which spanned the Chingford to Liverpool Street railway line, Hale End Road diverged to the left and right, again controlled by traffic lights. Turning left would bring you to Highams Park Lake where we used to fish for gudgeon and roach. Turning right into the iopposite side of Hale End Road took you up to Forest Road. By going straight on at the Hale Ebnd Road junction you would be heading towards Waterworks Corner, the junction of Wadham Road and Forest Road. The road began to rise. There were a few allotments on the left hand side following which you came to an entrance into Epping Forest. This was the "jungle" as dubbed by my Dad. Entering Epping Forest at this point allowed you follow trails to a number of places.
The view back down towards Wadham Bridge was, and probably still is spectacular. It was a high point and you could look across most of north London and pick out a number of landmarks, Alexandra Palace for one.
Towards the Crooked Billet
Alternatively, if you turned left at the junction of Kitchener Road and Wadham Road you passed some fine 1930s built houses and crosed two roads; Beresford Road and Roberts Road. All three roads were named after First World War generals, Lords Kitchener, Beresford and Roberts. This dates the creation of these roads as post-1918. The whole area was originally part of a farm owned by Hitchmans Dairies who were the local milk poviders.
After crossing Roberts Road, there was a timber-built building caled "Wadham Hall". |This was where I used to go to Sunday School very Sunday afternoon between three and four pm from when I was about six (1948) until I was ten (1952). It was a run by the Plymouth Brethren who were a Quaker based non-conformist church sect, related to the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed from Plymouth and founded settlements in New England in the 1690's.
The Superintendent was a Mr Jones. Some of others I remember were Mr Moxom and Mr Squirrel, the latter being severely handicapped and confined to an electric wheelchair - probably he first I had ever seen. We used to sing hymns like "Onward Christian Soldiers" to the accompaniment of a wheezy old organ played by a lady whose name I have forgotten. She used to have to treadle away furiously to provide air to the bellows whilst picking out the tune on the miniature keyboard. It was a bit like playing a large floor mounted accordion!
The final half hour we spent in one of varios groups. I was in Mr Squirrls's class. He had this large black soft leather bible with gold edges. He would tell us the parables or other stock stuff. In the early days I would listen intently. I learned what Christian faith I have partly from these sessions, reinforced later at Secondary School in the Religious Education classes. But after a year or two the stories became repetitive and I began to question the basis of them. Mr Squirel was a kind man and I felt sory for him because of his physical handicap. But I began to incresingly argue with him which I could see upset him. In the end I stopped listening to him and began to daydream. In the hot stuffy building where the front doors were left open in summer with just a curtain pulled across the opening, I would be distracted by the roar of the cars and motorbikes charging up Wadham Road, envying people off to visit Epping Forest or even going to Southend while I was stuck listening to Jesus stories. It always semed to me that when I finally got out at four o'clock, the afternnoon was nearly over and I had wasted a whole hour of my life.
Anyway, back to Wadham Road. Past Wadham Hall, you came to a magnificent six way roundabout which derived its name from the public house on the far side called the "Crooked Billet"
I found this photograph of the "Crooked Billet" on the Internet and it invoked wonderful memories. I would guess that it was taken in the late 1940's or early 1950's judging from the lack of traffic.
Click here to run a short video of the Crooked Billet in the 1950's
I used to spend a lot of time standing on that middle island, with my dog Sandy, bus spotting. With all the various routes which passed the Crooked billet it was a good spot. As well as the tolleybuses which came from either Walthamstow (WW) or West Ham (WH) depots, routes 144,34, 38 and 84 were operated in the early 1950's by class RT motorbuses mostly from Leyton (T) garage, although some of the route 144 buses were provided by Tottenham (AR) garage.
During the classic "pea-souper smog" winter of 1952, I used to go to the Crooked Billet in the evening about 8pm and stand on that centre island, again with my faithful dog Sandy, watching the trolleybuses being led back to Walthamstow depot by a man holding a flaming torch! Such was the intensity of the smog that visibility was down to less than five yards. Apart from the acrid smell of the fog it was the eerie silence which it caused that most sticks in my memory. For a more detailed account of the London Smog of 1952 please click here.
The introduction of the "Clean Air Act" in 1953 introduced smokeless coal so the pea-soupers became a thing of the past, although the incidence of thick fogs did not entirely disappear. I remember when I was working in the Royal Docks in 1965 being sent home at lunchtime as thick fog descended. My friend John Evans gave me a lift in his van as far as Leyton High Road but i then had to walk all the way on to Walthamstow as there were no buses running because visibilitywas down to around five yards. And that was in daylight! By nightfall it was even less. After that, though, I don't think there were any more thick fogs of the kind seen earlier.
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