Lancaster Road Baths – Recollections from the 50s and 60s

The new secondary school for the north of the borough, the Kensington Aldridge Academy is due to open this September. It is being built on Silchester Road on the site of the Lancaster Road Baths that were finally demolished in 1979.

Lancaster Road Baths on the corner of Lancaster Road and Silchester Road, c.1900. photo: RBK&C

Lancaster Road Baths on the corner of Lancaster Road and Silchester Road, c.1900. photo: RBK&C

Foreword: The Baths finally opened in 1878 after the Kensington High Street based Vestry Hall (forerunner of today’s borough council) had been slow to react to the 1846 Act for the provision of baths and washhouses. This Act recognised the need for public washing facilities to be made readily available in those poor areas where such facilities were not present in the dwellings.  Paddington, Hammersmith and Chelsea all had public baths by the time the search begun in 1877 for a suitable site for Notting Dale.  It is unlikely that the promulgators of the 1846 Act could have envisaged what a vibrant lively social hub Lancaster Road baths would become.

Lancaster Road looking west from the crossroads with the Lancaster Baths (washhouse entrances) on the right hand side, 1970s. photo: RBKC

Lancaster Road looking west from the crossroads with the Lancaster Baths (washhouse entrances) on the right hand side, 1970s. photo: RBKC

My memories:
The baths consisted of 3 strands: 1) the public laundry part which was accessed at the Eastern end of the building fronting Lancaster Road. 2) the swimming baths, and 3) the washing baths both of which were accessed by the main entrance on Silchester Road. Built as a perceived necessity the whole would become an amenity in counterpoint with social intercourse and entertainment.

I never went inside the clothes washing part but recall seeing queues of women forming on Monday mornings waiting for the baths to open at 8am. I used to peer in as I walked past and it always looked a hive of activity.   Also it always seemed full of steam making seeing inside difficult. My mother told me Alan Mullery’s mother was invariably up the front of Mondays’ queue.

interior of Lancaster road Laundry. early 1970s.

Interior of Lancaster Road Laundry. early 1970s.

There were four swimming pools; 1) The main pool, 2) Men’s 2nd class. 3) Men’s 3rd class. 4) Women’s pool.

The main pool was I think Olympic size – the galas were held there and at the shallow end was a raised wooden slatted dais across the width of the pool from where the races were started.  At the deep end were diving boards in the centre and a springboard alongside. Around the perimeter were changing cubicles and there were more around the gallery above which also doubled as a spectator facility when there was a gala. It was mixed all the time I went there but had originally been male only.

The main pool. An early photo when it was male only.

The main pool. An early photo when it was male only.

The men’s 2nd class was smaller and had cubicles at poolside level only. There was a diving board I recall but not as elaborate as the main pool
The Men’s 3rd class was slightly smaller again than the 2nd Class and swimming costumes weren’t obligatory, the rationale being that if you couldn’t afford one you weren’t excluded. I don’t think there was a diving board in the 3rd.

Occasionally, to be nosey I poked my head around the door of the Women’s pool and it was always quiet seeming civilised and serene, a world away from the frenetic not to say hooligan activity in the other pools

I first went to the baths in 1955 aged about 7 with my Mother, herself a good swimmer, who taught me to swim there in the shallow end of the main pool.  I  went regularly thereafter and around a year later I went there from Oxford Gardens with our class where our teacher Leslie Barrett taught the entire class to swim in a morning in the men’s 3rd class.  He used cork floats about 2ft x 1ft which you held out in front of you keeping you afloat while you kicked your legs out behind you. This quickly dispelled fear of sinking or drowning.  As I could already swim I demonstrated the cork float routine and gave confidence to those who held fears. He had a phenomenal success rate and after a couple of mornings almost all the class could swim.

Later in 1959 when I was 11 I swam breast stroke for Oxford Gardens in the Annual Kensington Schools Gala making it to the Final. As I hit the water in that final I recall the noise from the spectators being really deafeningly loud – the place was packed to the rafters –  but sadly it didn’t propel me to the medal despite my older cousin Wendy (Darke) screaming at me at the top of her voice to go faster. Trust me Wendy, I was going as fast as I could.  I remember Kenny Bloomfield, Peter Parry and Philip Burton in my year being excellent swimmers and I think Kenny won the freestyle final.
I used all three pools in my time but when I was younger we would all go in the 3rd where we didn’t wear costumes and as it was mainly youngsters we could scream and shout our heads off to our hearts content and the attendants were usually tolerant of our antics.  I used to go in the 2nd occasionally but not much as it seemed a waste of money being twice the cost of the 3rd without obvious advantages though it was slightly bigger and had a diving board. The 3rd was 2d admission (.8p) the 2nd was 4d (1.6p) and the main pool was 8d (3.4p). When we had changed I was always ravenously hungry and we made for the cafe inside which was (very) basic – just a small room about 15ft square with a counter at the far end and some tables and chairs.  They sold bread and dripping and bread and jam both at 1d (.4p) a slice and I would have 3 bread and dripping and 3 bread and jam and a tea (2d, .8p).  If things were ropey it would be 1 or 2 of each and no tea. Opposite the entrance to the baths was a confectioner so if I had any money left I would buy some sweets as well.  I don’t think modern nutritionists would categorise this as a healthy diet however it couldn’t have been that harmful as I’ve survived to tell the tale.

As we got a bit older, around 13-14, we gravitated to the main pool which did have advantages –it was much bigger with the best diving boards and a springboard and all the older budding  ‘Johnny Weissmuller’ jack the lads went in there so we felt grown up and part of the adult scene….oh, and I nearly forgot there were girls there too who we could try to impress … if you call jumping on top of them and nearly drowning them impressing them.  I doubt any of them mistook me for Errol Flynn let alone David Niven.  These shenanigans bring me to the ‘Camp Commandant’ of the main pool – Freddy Bloomfield (may have been related to Kenny) who lived in Bramley Road between the junctions with Silchester Road and Walmer Road along from Bell Wilson the Chemist. We were all a bit wild – I suppose these days we’d be called feral and it therefore fell to Freddy to keep order. They couldn’t possibly have found a better candidate. He was a typical tough local and knew everyone. I think he’d been a boxer in his younger days.  He sat on a chair at the far (deep) end between the diving boards and the pool entrance and wore a vest, old trousers rolled up at the bottom and around his neck hung a referees whistle on a lanyard.  When he considered you’d been in the pool long enough – around an hour or so – he would approach, blow his whistle loudly, point at you and shout ‘OUT!’ Upon this command I would swim underwater away from him as fast as possible as if I hadn’t heard him. Of course I wasn’t fooling anyone but he appreciated boys will be boys and would give you another 5 minutes or so before repeating his ‘polite’ request. If you ignored the second warning he would wait for you to come to the side, take the lanyard from around his neck and with a good swing clump you on the back with the whistle. You got out then! And a bit lively too!! Similarly if you ran along the side or jumped on someone in the pool or otherwise acted foolishly he would soon let you know that wouldn’t be tolerated. If you persisted the whistle and lanyard would prove an efficient deterrent.   He didn’t have any difficulty with the older lads either who all respected him – they all knew he was ‘the guvnor’ and it wouldn’t be sensible to get too lairy with him. He let them have their fun to a point but if they overstepped the mark he left them in no doubt they were playing to his rule book.   Looking back it could have been chaos without him. When he wasn’t working he would often sit outside his house in Bramley Road surveying the scene. He was a real character and there was a great atmosphere in the main pool which could often get busy with a wide age range of users but he kept order effortlessly.

The Washing baths were a social hub as well as providing an essential amenity and there were Men’s 1st class and 2nd class baths and the same for Women. In the 1st you had your own taps and a towel; in the 2nd the attendant filled the bath and you brought your own towel. Friday and Saturday were busiest and there would be a great atmosphere in the 2nds’ where all the local jack the lads would congregate prior to their weekend night out.  I must mention at this point that the houses in Notting Dale almost without exception had no hot water or bathroom – just one cold tap in the scullery (a basic kitchen/washing room) to serve all needs so hence the washing baths provided an essential facility. When I was younger my mother would fill a small galvanised tin bath about 2 ft. long with hot water which involved repeatedly boiling the water in a kettle on the gas stove in the scullery. The bath was placed on the  floor in the scullery and it would take several kettles full to fill it. Then I would squeeze in with my legs up under my chin and once a week that was how I had a bath. And in the winter the scullery was freezing as it had no heating so you didn’t hang around in it too long.  We did have a longer bath about the same size as a normal domestic one but it took so long to fill with the boiled kettles that by the time it was 6 inches deep the first kettle full had gone cold so it was impractical. When I was about 11, I had outgrown the 2ft bath and from thereon went to the 2nd class baths.   After buying your ticket you would make your way to the baths and if it was Friday or Saturday around 5-6pm the cubicles, which ran either side of a central corridor, would all be occupied.  At that time of day most customers were in the 17 /35 age bracket and you would sit waiting your turn on a wooden bench arrangement that ran along one wall facing the entrance to the corridor. Whilst you waited there would be plenty of chat about that day’s football/horse racing etc. along with discussions concerning plans for that evenings activities.  Meanwhile in the baths the singers would be providing a free show for all – there would be a ‘Guy Mitchell’ followed by a ‘Michael Holliday’ and a ‘Tommy Steele’ then maybe a ‘ Mario Lanza’ or ‘Billy Eckstein’ –the standard would be at least decent and if someone was particularly good they might be shouted to for an encore and as generally everyone knew each other one or two requests might be shouted for. Remember this was all taking place while each bather was in his own cubicle so you couldn’t actually see the performer – just hear them.  I think this was a unique form of entertainment and I can think of no other situation like it. I never thought about it like that at the time  – that was just the way things were – but now I reflect on how lucky I was to have been there instead of looking at four walls at home in a domestic bathroom like most people– it was fun and entertaining and you got to meet your pals there too.  When your turn came you would go into the vacated cubicle and the attendant would fill the bath using the big brass valve which was mounted on the wall outside each cubicle. He had a big metal spanner thing which he used to turn on the water –a bit like a ratchet and socket – and it would fill the bath at a rate of knots as they were fitted with wide tap heads to accommodate the high rate of flow. When it was filled you jumped in and off you went. The baths were fitted along one side of the cubicle and all around the rim of the bath was a well worn wooden capping – a Victorian nod to Health and Safety, though living in W.10 at that time there were a lot more hazardous situations than getting in and out of a bath.   The cubicles were numbered and if the water cooled, you would shout ‘More hot in 26’ and the attendant would (in his own time) come and put more hot in prefacing it with a shout of ‘Watch yer toes its comin’ in’. This was advisable as the water was very hot and if you had your feet planted under the wide tap head they would be scalded.  Of course if you were 11 or12 and you shouted (in an unbroken voice) ‘More hot in 26’ your cry would simply be ignored as there were men waiting and the attendant didn’t want youngsters spending too long in there.  If you shouted a second time that request would also be ignored and might earn a sharp word of encouragement from the attendant to vacate. You soon got the message. Naturally as I got older and the attendants got to know you they would extend the adult privileges. When you had finished and opened the cubicle door almost before you were out the attendant would set about cleaning it.  He had a round galvanised receptacle – like a football cut in half in size and shape – which was filled with soap. This was mounted on a wooden handle about 2ft long. The soap was applied with a big wooden brush also mounted on a long handle.  He would have the bath cleaned and ready for the next customer in about 2 minutes.    The whole thing was efficiency personified – no technology needed at Lancaster Road Baths!!   Later when I was about 17 I would sometimes go in the first class to experience the luxury of your own taps (ha ha) but there was no atmosphere and entertainment like the 2nds’ which were different class and I quickly returned.

Looking back we had the Victorians to thank for providing a necessary and valuable amenity however due to the character of the customers it became much more, providing a social meeting place, entertainment and fun. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

John Henwood, 2014

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72 Responses to Lancaster Road Baths – Recollections from the 50s and 60s

  1. Derek ford says:

    I went to Oxford Gardens school, a year older than you and had the same teacher. I swam for the school and used the baths regularly. My grandmother lived at 268 Lancaster road. We lived at Chesterton Road. Fred Bloomfield was my trainer at the baths. I have fond memories and the bread and jam and bread and dripping. We had some great times.

    • John Henwood says:

      Thank you Derek for your reply. I think Fred Bloomfield’s son, Fred jnr. was in your year and a good swimmer, naturally. Who was the best swimmer in your year? I couldn’t remember though I remember Barry Neame in the next year up being a powerful swimmer

      • Derek ford says:

        Barry name myself and John Nash won most races in my year. Barry first introduced me to fulham fc. I still go today a long term season ticket holder even though the football at the moment is dire.

  2. Dave Hucker says:

    Great stuff John.

  3. Gwen Nelson says:

    It sounds as if Lancaster Baths were run on very similar lines to the Wedlake Road ones, off Kensal Road. I can remember being pushed in by a big boy when I was about six and going under the water. The attendant had to jump in an rescue me. It took me years to gain enough confidence to get into the pool again and I’d cry and cling to the handrail when we had school swimming lessons. Luckily the swimming coach was understanding.

  4. I used to go to Lancaster Baths with the school which was Lancaster Road boys school in the 40s & early 50s I left school in 1954, I swam for the school just once in the back stroke but came last.

  5. Jayne Storey_apps says:

    I have fond memories of living in Latimer road & going to Lancaster baths in the mid 1950 s jane o brien

  6. I used lancaster road baths many times as a boy. My grandparents(paternal) were caretakers of St Francis r.c. school in nearby Treadgold st. Happy days!

    • john henwood says:

      Thank you Steve for your comment. A small school St Francis, we (Oxford Gardens) played them at football

    • susan kew says:

      Hi, I went to St Francis school and to the baths in the 50’s and I remember the Nitty Norah coming round and sending a lot of us kids to have our heads washed in this disgusting mixture, then pulling a nit comb through our hair. Painful. I remember the lovely little church. I had my holy communion there and my confirmation. We went on then to Cardinal Manning. Great memories. Susie Austin

  7. Were you victorious John? Another fave haunt during summer hols was Avondale park. Nans playground was used for a craft fair for t.v. in the 80s. I think it was an ep of Minder. Lot of filming was done in this area. Callan, Dixon of dock green etc..

    • john henwood says:

      Yes, we had a pretty strong team. Only St Charles and Barlby could trouble us. St Charles (and Kensington) centre forward was Antony O’Donnell who was useful – his younger brother Chris went on to manage Thin Lizzie throughout their pop career.
      By the way scenes from ‘The Sweeny’ were also filmed in Walmer/Bramley roads and the car chase scene from ‘Robbery’ (Stanley Baker) was shot locally. Playing a villain was easy for Baker as he was friends with ‘Italian’ Albert Dimes and they played football together for Soho United

      • You know your stuff john. “Robbery” was a remake of “The blue lamp” with dirk bogarde. The car chases were filmed around Delamere terrace, Lord Hills road” etc. Delamere ran parallel with the Grand Union canal which our pokey top floor flat backed onto. (Hormead road).

      • john henwood says:

        Thanks Steve. ‘Robbery’ was a straight depiction of the Great Train Robbery of August 1963. The Blue Lamp was an earlier film shot in the area but a different (fictional) story.

  8. jeffrey halsey says:

    I was born in ruston close in 1956 and have fond memories of the lancaster baths.I used to go to the serpentine lido life guard club there on a thursday night at the age of about 9. i also swam for oxford gardens and in our last two years cleaned up on all cups and shields

    • john henwood says:

      Thank you for your comment Jeffrey and Well Done on your triumphs for Oxford Gardens. Ruston Close, previously Rillington Place must have been renamed around the time you were born.

  9. Sheila Jones says:

    What about st.Francis school at Pottery Lane. We played on the roof that had a big crack.

  10. Bob Phillips says:

    I lived in Blechynden Mews ( no 16 ). The entrance to the laundry baths was in the mews the other end to the weigh bridge. The wash house opened at 8 I recall and I used to go over to the ladies in the queue to see if anyone had forgotten any of their washing powder and if they had, would go round to Nunns next to the Roundhouse in Walmer Road and get half pennies for going. Such memories. My parents then took over the paper shop at 161 Lancaster Road, Mr Bull had the shop for years I recall. Those were the days.

  11. john henwood says:

    Yes, E.Brown, I had fish and chips from MESSERS on a regular basis. Also from Humberstons which was nearby

    • Bob Phillips says:

      Tubby Humberstone lived next door to us in Blechynden Mews ( he lived at no15 ) . He used to go to Billingsgate market to get the fresh fish and deliver to fish shops locally

  12. yvonne McNaaughton says:

    My father was born in the rooms above the baths. His father was the superintendent there in the 1920s.

  13. john henwood says:

    Thanks to E.Brown for the link to the Kensington Library paintings archive – some interesting stuff there
    #

  14. john henwood says:

    How interesting Yvonne. Is McNaughton your maiden name?

    • Yvonne Mcnaughton says:

      Dear John.No my maiden name was Walker.Edwin Sanderson Walker was my grandfathers name and he was the superintendent there. My father was born on the upper rooms where they lived in 1926.I love reading everyones comments. Thank you for your interest.

  15. Eileen Drew says:

    I used to live in Bevington Road until 1958 and used Lancaster Road Baths for swimming and a Bath on Fridays after school and had bread and dripping or jam for 1 penny very simple things that bring back good memories.

  16. Derek ford says:

    I lived in Chesterton Road number 49. Was their a rag and bone shop in Bevington road. I recall Rose the barbers and the post office on corner of Portobello Road and Golborne road. Went to Oxford Gardens school. My grandparents lived in Lancaster road . Spent hours at the swimming baths.

    • eileen drew says:

      Yes there was a rag shop at the top of bevington road
      Hemmings the Bakers on the corner of. Golborne and I can’t remember the other street name and Taverners paper shop a bit further on and Gregg’s the grocers where I used to watch them pat butter into a square,I used to live at 14 Bevington Road
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    • eileen drew says:

      Also In Golborne Road, the German Butchers where you were able to get faggots and pease pudding,Renee’s pie and mash shop, the fish and chip shop near the bridge, just round the corner in wornington road was the cabin a glass of tiger was tuppence my nan used to live. In Munro Mews,and there was another bakers in Golborne opposite the pub and Hopwoods the butchers

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  17. john henwood says:

    The Rag Merchant in Bevington Road was Thomas Arthur Read at no.29. There was also a scrap metal merchant, J.Fox at no.28 Golborne Rd. The Baker opposite Hopwoods the butcher was Lockwood Bros at no.51. The German butcher could have been Alfred Hamperl at no.80. The Pie and Mash shop was at no.75. The bakers on the corner could have been at the junction with Wornington Road

    • eileen drew says:

      Prices the greengrocers,I used to get my mum 5lb potatoes for one shilling,then the fresh fish shop a few doors up and the church in the middle that had a band that was I believe run by the Peaks,the Tilley lamps in the winter and rope round lamp posts got swings, we also had the bomb sites to play on

      Sent from my iPad

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    • eileen drew says:

      Is St Marks park still there? St Charles hospital used to back onto it, the playground was fantastic. Is there still a paddling pool and sand pit?

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      • john henwood says:

        Still there and going strong but no paddling pool….oooohh elf and safety….its 2015 you know ha ha.

  18. Derek Newell says:

    An old gentleman often came up Lacaster rd wheeling a barrel organ. He would stop and play the music and he would then sell iron holders which were essential then to use on the old flat irons. My mum always bought a couple of them I think they cost 1d or 2d each. This was in the 1940s

  19. Tom Quinn says:

    I was at Oxford Gardens school from 1961-1968. I’m most impressed by how good everyone’s memories are! I loved the school and certainly recall Mr Lusby who, if memory serves, was mad keen on cricket. I remember using the back entrance to the school which seems half bricked up and unused now. I also have vivid memories of the Lancaster Road baths. I’m still shocked that Kensington Council was given permission to demolish them in the 1980s. I was there swimming two or three evenings a week in the early 1960s and recall that you were supposed to get out after half an hour or so and, like some of your correspondents, I always swam under water when the attendant pointed at me to indicate it was time to get out. I remember winning the cup for best diver in my last year (well, I think it was my last year) at Oxford Gardens and being disappointed when I was told I couldn’t keep it forever. I wonder where that cup is now?
    Older boys and young men used to line up on the balcony above the pool and all dive (or bomb) into the water at the same time. Wouldn’t be allowed now and was definitely dangerous but spectacular for us young ones to watch.I seem to remember the only changing rooms were curtained booths around the sides of the main pool and along the upstairs balconies.
    I also remember that little tiled room with about three old tables and a tiny hatch in the wall where I bought the biggest heaviest slabs of bread pudding – they tasted incredibly delicious after swimming but then memory plays tricks and perhaps they would not taste so good if we could go back.
    I also remember the women in floral aprons pushing their washing to the wash house part of the baths – always floral aprons and often their heads in curlers covered with headscarves.
    I loved the little sweet shop opposite the main entrance to the baths and round the corner there was a seed merchant who sold hemp seed which I used to fish for roach in the Grand Union Canal at the Kensal Rise end of Ladbroke Grove.
    The thing that really strikes me is the wholesale destruction of the area between the late 1960s and mid 1980s. Almost all the houses could have been restored and if that had happened the area would now look very much like the beautiful bits of Holland Park just a short distance away. Instead they not only destroyed the houses but the whole street pattern to build flats that seem to me much worse than the houses they replaced. I think much of the reason for the destruction can be laid at the door of Nicholas Freeman, Conservative leader at Kensington at the time. If he saw an old house he just had to knock it down but it has to be said at the same time that many of the houses in the area had been allowed to decay terribly over the decades by landlords who collected the rent but hated to do any repairs.
    And there was great poverty back then. I remember going to a friend’s flat in St Mark’s Road. At the time it was like all my friends’ homes but looking back I’m astonished at how tiny dark and damp the house was – probably largely unchanged since 1900! The same friend and I used to collect old bottles in the summer holidays and take them to a rag and bottle shop just off Portobello Road for the refunds. I’m sure everyone knows it already but the best memoir of the area I’ve read – especially the area around Southam Street near the Portobello Road is This Boy by Alan Johnson. Roger Mayne the photographer seems to capture my more gruesome memories of the area.

  20. john henwood says:

    Thank you Tom for sharing your lovely, vivid (and accurate) memories. The corn chandler you refer to was ORRIDGE which was owned by a brother and sister for whom I worked. Mrs Orridge was also a dinner lady at Oxford Gdns….she was c 4’10” but stood no nonsense from anybody including the totters she served daily with hay for their horses……one of my tasks was to stuff the nosebags with hay. She was fearsome and, forget Churchill, Hitler wouldn’t have wasted his time if he’d known we had Mrs Orridge

    • Jill Arkley nee Watts says:

      I have lots of happy memories of living in W11. I was a Watts and lived at 276 Lancaster Road and am related to the Orridge family. I was wondering if you can remember the first names of any of them. Thank you.

      • john henwood says:

        Dear Jill, Thank you for your interest. Amazingly, despite the deprivations and harsh living conditions almost all ex residents express fond memories of their time in W10/11.
        I don’t think I ever knew Mrs Orridge’s christian name….she was always ‘Mrs Orridge’ and her brother was always ‘Stan’ .

      • Jill Arkley nee Watts says:

        I don’t think we children realised how harsh the conditions were. That was how we lived our lives and our parents made sure we were looked after and just got on with it.

      • Kate Orridge says:

        Hi Jill,

        Stan was my grandad! Its so lovely to see you all talking about this just like my nan does! I’m unsure of my grandad’s sister, but my Nan’s name is Pat. They had Jim and Suzie.
        I’d love to get some more memories from you if you wouldn’t mind – this would make my nan’s day!

  21. Tom Quinn says:

    Hello John, Ha ha yes I remember lunch time at Oxford Gardens. Even the tough boys behaved themselves. I remember how much I enjoyed the food there – there was a delicious savoury sauce that was ladled on to our plates (can’t remember what it came with) and I’ve never had it since. And thanks for reminding me about the corn chandler, especially the name – just couldn’t remember it but I loved going in there just for the warm smell of hay and seed.
    I seem to recall that Michael Heseltine was asked to save the baths from demolition but refused. A great pity. But your marvellous photographs bring it all back wonderfully.
    I have so many other memories of the Baths, Walmer Road, Avondale Park and all the other places your wonderful website covers and I still wander the area occasionally although so little is left now. I can remember at Oxford Gardens Mr Lusby mentioning me in an assembly one day in 1963 (pretty sure it was 63) as I’d been playing in the playground in the snow in just my shirt and trousers! i wonder how many of your correspondents still live in the area – I moved initially to Newcastle to go to University and then back to Acton where I’ve been ever since so not too far away.

  22. john henwood says:

    Yes, Tom, a sad day when the baths were demolished but with large swathes of the area already demolished it had somewhat lost its purpose, however on the positive side a lovely new school has replaced it with a new swimming pool close by.
    Mr Lusby was a truly great teacher who traveled weekly from Croft in North Lincolnshire and his life’s passion was Cricket. He held weekly winter indoor coaching sessions at the nearby Harrow Club where he placed a zinc plate about 18”X9” in front of the crease at the optimum pitching spot and if when bowling you hit the plate he rewarded you with a penny from his pocket. He would pay out many pennies each session all at his own expense.When Winter turned to Spring and the cricket season began we were hard to beat. In the Summer he took parties of boys after school to Lords or The Oval and introduced hundreds of boys to watching County cricket. He should have been knighted. Similarly dedicated was Mr Barret who looked after Football and also taught music in his spare time after lessons teaching me and others the Clarinet. They were heroes to my eye.
    Most of our correspondents live locally though I am an exception and now live in Surrey. I will email you directly with further details regarding our activities

    • Tom Quinn says:

      John, apologies – I meant to say in my earlier email that I would love to hear more about your various activities. Thanks

  23. Sally Davis(that was) says:

    Hello

    How interesting to read about others’ memories of Lancaster Road Baths and Oxford Gardens School, both having formed a great part in my own childhood, as did Chesterton Road.

    I lived in Chesterton Road for the first 10 years of my life and went to Oxford Gardens School in 1960. I have fond memories of getting my swimming certificates at the baths in clouding ‘life saving’ by using pyjama jackets/trousers to make a float! I also took part in the galas, not very successfully! I remember one year there was some excitement as in the audience was ‘PC Bert Lynch’ (the late James Ellis) from Z Cars ( very popular at the time). He lived somewhere locally I believe and was there supporting one of his children. Z cars was rehearsed in the church hall at St Helens Church, St Quintins Ave. I used to wait outside to collect autographs. A link to Oxford Gardens and Z cars was I was slapped on the back of my legs age 7 by the class teacher Miss Natress, for singing the theme tune to programme, at going home time!

    I remember Mr Lusby well and Miss Gayer-Lownes (I think that’s the spelling) who was head of the infants school. On food, my mum was a cook at the school for a while, in the early 60s. There was a big kitchen and as well as cooking for the school, they cooked for other schools. Mum said that they had clear guidelines on the nutritional content of meals (things obviously went backwards when meals are based on cost!) I have some pictures of the Christmas parties and Nativity Plays held in the infants school. We were a Christmas tree one year, I was a cracker! I also recall visits to Sayers Croft when at the junior school.

    Sorry to digress from the subject of the baths!

    I find this site so interesting and it’s great to read about others memories which jog so many of my own.

    • Tom Quinn says:

      Hello Sally,
      I’ve been trying for years to remember that name -Gayer-Lownes I mean. I’m sure that’s the right spelling if it was written the way it was pronounced. I went to Oxford Gardens School in, I think, 1961 aged five and I remember Ms G-L came to school in a sort of VW camper van which was always parked outside with a budgerigar in a cage in the back – although I can easily imagine I’ve invented all that.
      Like you I was occasionally given the slap on the back of the leg punishment! I think I spent my years at OG in a dream (I was often told off for staring out the window!) and i had no idea about Z Cars and so on. Fascinating.
      I do however remember that hilarious business blowing up pyjama legs in Lancaster Road Baths to earn bronze, silver and gold awards. I think the school was obsessed with memories of the Titanic because there seemed to be an obsession with getting everyone to swim really well. I remember being put down to swim a mile in the Lancaster Road Baths when I was nine. Sixty lengths if memory serves!
      I said in an earlier comment that I always enjoyed the meals at Oxford Gardens – and it’s rather nice to know at last that your mother was one of the people I should have thanked!
      Tom Quinn

      • Sally Davis(that was) says:

        Hello Tom

        I don’t remember the camper van or budgie but then I did not have a great relationship with the lady. I do remember some of my very first day in the infants, being shown where to hang my coat and where I was going to sit. The playgrounds were definately separate between the infant and junior schools. Boys and girls rarely played together and there were definite seasons to games. Do you remember Christmas lunch in the infants. There used to be an enormous Christmas pud and we were asked to shout out a loud thank you to cooks in the big school. I also recall what they call show and tell now but on birthdays pupils went on to the dais (I don’t think it was a proper stage?) and showed everyone our presents.

        Do you remember a teacher called I think Mr O’Connor? There as another older male teacher who used to drive a ford anglia(I think). He would give pupils lifts. Can you imagine that now.? Do you know who this might be?

        The food was good! I enjoyed what I thought were dinosaur chops but were apparently mutton! Also another favourite was liver and bacon casserole. I think they also served stuffed heart! I doubt children would eat this now! I hated marrow fat peas though and recall giving the same advise to the dinner lady that I suspect generations of school children have done, ‘wrap it up and send it then” when admonished to eat and consider the starving!

        Mum would have been delighted to know that the memory of the good food has lasted so many years. Thank you.

        Regards

        Sally

      • Tom Quinn says:

        Hello Sally, Isn’t it odd that we all remember slightly different things? I don’t remember Mr O’Connor or the teacher who gave the children lifts – as you say, he’d be in trouble today! But I do remember Mr Cooper who I think taught music and of course the famous Mr Lusby. I was astonished to discover from John that Mr Lusby travelled down from a little village in Lincolnshire every week to teach at Oxford Gardens.
        Most of my memories are vague – the smell of the plastic cups we were given squash in, sitting round the piano on the floor to sing, going up to the big television room (you might remember it was above a sort of sheltered area in the playground of the big school), playing football with a tennis ball and flicking milk bottle silver foil tops at the wall. I most certainly remember the stuffed hearts! I still tease my own children about how we used to eat them. They always look horrified. I still cycle past the school now and then and the playgrounds are absolutely full of climbing frames and various toys, but otherwise it all look unchanged
        I think my proudest moment was having a painting put up on the wall and winning some sort of story prize – I was so pleased the memory stayed with me and I eventually went into journalism as a result! Tom

    • john henwood says:

      Dear Sally,
      Thank you for your comments – I didn’t know that Z CARS was rehearsed in St Helens Church Hall….. I was a few of years in front of you at Ox.Gdns and had left by the time Z.Cars began in 1962. I did enjoy Sayers Croft in 1958 and Marchants Hill the following year.
      with kind regards,

      John Henwood

      • Sally Davis says:

        Hi John,

        Thanks for reminding about Marchants Hill, I’ve been racking my brain for the name of the other camp! Sayers Croft is still active, bringing school children from inner city schools in to the ‘country’.

  24. Derek ford says:

    Sally I lived at49 Chesterton road. 1947 to 1958.

  25. Sally Davis says:

    Hi Derek

    I lived at 68 but do not know when we moved there. I had family already living in the house (probably since the 20s) and must have moved in somewhere around 56/57 as a baby/toddler. I remember the lovely cherry trees, in the spring the road looked lovely! Have you seen how much the houses are worth now? The basement we lived in went for over 500k fairly recently! We had outside loo and baths in front of the fire, which I remember with affection (my parents less so as they had to fill and empty the bath!)

  26. jeanette says:

    Hi there thank you for your memories fred bloomfield was my maternal grandfather He taught me to swim at lancaster road baths we lived in bramley rd untill 1964 when the west way came when we moved to fulham jeanette hirons

    • john henwood says:

      Dear Jeanette, Thank you for sharing these memories. Looking back Fred really was tailor made for the job of controlling matters in the big pool…all those Teddy Boys followed by the march of the Mods a few years later…Fred took it in his stride and I can’t think of anyone better suited to the job. You must also be related to Kenny Bloomfield who was a useful swimmer,

      with kind regards,

      john

  27. Beryl Lindsay (now Davies) says:

    You’ve reminded me of so many happy memories I have of Oxford Gardens Junior School. I was there between 1962 and 1966 and my sister, Anne Lindsay, was two years ahead of me.
    My first teacher was Miss Scown (that’s how I used to pronounce it but I’m not sure that’s how it’s spelt). I remember her being quite round with white hair. Her classroom was situated on the first floor. She gave us weekly tests on our times tables and spelling. When we did well, we were rewarded with one or occasionally two squares of Cadbury’s milk chocolate from her bag. Sometimes it was a bit squashed and worse for wear but we didn’t mind at all.
    Year 2 was with Mr Barrett in a ground floor classroom. He was such a wonderful teacher and gave up so much of his own time for band practices. I remember us putting on shows and performing quite complicated classical music like Handel’s ‘Alla Hornpipe’ and Beethoven’s ‘Romance’. Heaven knows what it sounded like with all those squeaky recorders!
    Year 3 was with Mrs Taylor, a tiny Irish lady with dark black hair. Amongst other things she taught us italic handwriting. She would dish out raps across the knuckles with a ruler if you were naughty – my crime was to play in the soap suds that overflowed onto the playground when the cooks pulled the plugs out of the kitchen sinks.
    Year 4 was spent with Mr Barrett again, this time on the top floor of the school. He was so creative and inspiring and went on to become Head of a school in Fulham.
    I remember the system used at dinner times. When the bell rang to say play was over, we would come into the lower hall and sit cross-legged on the floor in rows until our class was called.
    A boy would have the important job of standing on a landing where there was a small open window that overlooked the hall and, just at the right moment, would signal to the teacher in charge (usually Mr Lusby) that it was time for the next class to come up to the main hall for their food. It all worked very efficiently.
    I clearly remember that once there was a shortage of staff in the kitchen and some of us girls were asked to help out by clearing tables and taking things into the kitchen which seemed to be full of steaming pots and pans – another thing that wouldn’t be allowed these days.
    While I was there the Headmistress was Miss Allen and there was a Mrs Plumb who seemed strict and taught arithmetic – I learned how to do long division with her – and a Miss Marlow who seemed to me to be young and pretty and took us for PE.
    One of the dinner ladies/helpers, Mrs Jeffers or Jeffries, was a great piano player and I recall her being able to play any tune by ear in a ‘pub-like’ fashion. She would always help out at events such as Christmas parties/shows. I had a feeling that Miss Scown didn’t always approve of her style!
    Another treat was on special morning assemblies where, after prayers and hymns, an LP record would be played, one of the favourites was ‘Peter and the Wolf’.
    Over the years at Oxford Gardens I remember being in class with Pamela Roberts, Jane Galloway, Joan Wall, Sally Peake, Nigel James, Gary Black, Margaret Sayers and Jennifer Berry.
    In 1966 Pat Buzzle, Jackie Mott and I went on to Fulham County Grammar School for Girls and I’m still in touch with Pat.

  28. John Henwood says:

    Dear Beryl, Thank you for sharing your memories. Like me you remember those times fondly and feel we were privileged to have had teachers of the calibre of My Barrett and Mr Lusby. Christine Sayer,Margaret’s older sister was in the same year as me – she lived in Highlever Road and now lives in Sussex.
    regards,

    john

    • Beryl Lindsay (now Davies) says:

      Hi John
      It’s amazing how the memories come flooding back when you start thinking. I forgot to mention Peter McGrath was also in my class.
      Beryl

    • jessica rogers says:

      Just found this site by accident. Used to live at 46 Lancaster Road, in approx. 1948, then at 4 Oxford Gardens, but don’t remember an Oxford Gardens School ! I went to N. Ken Central School in Portobello Road, with the girls entrance next to the pie & mash shop as far as I can remember. Tommy Little (boxing referee) had a sweet shop/newsagents had a shop just by the bridge in Portobello Road where every Friday me mum bought us all 2 oz sweets. And I went to school, initially Padding & Maida Vale High School before I transferred to N. Ken. Central, with Marlene Little. My dad had a barrow selling any old tot in Portobello Road. Name was Hadlames and also related to Newmans. Great memories from reading all this.

      • John Henwood says:

        Lovely memories Jessica…and accurate…Oxford Gardens School (Infants and Primary only) was at the other end of Oxford Gardens opposite the junction with Finstock Road. I loved the Pie shop where the mash and liquor were in lovely old copper receptacles.

  29. Derek ford says:

    Thanks for your reply Sally who else did you know in Chesterton road. I left in June 1958.

  30. Roy Farndale says:

    does anyone know what became of the photographs in the front hall by the ticket offices, they were of past schoolboy swimming champions, my uncle Thomas Podmore was featured in one, I would love to get a copy, Roy Farndale.

    • John Henwood says:

      Thank you for your interest Roy. I have forwarded your question to Dave Walker the curator at Kensington Library in the hope he can assist.

  31. Tony Winzar says:

    see ….
    http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-jemima-johnny-1966/
    Not quite the same area. This short film is mainly to the east of Portobello Road. We lived in one of the derelict houses shown in the film, in Acklam Road

    • eileen drew says:

      Sadly I could not get this as I am in Canada,I used to live Bevington Road until 1958.good times

      Sent from my iPad

      • Tony Winzar says:

        Hello Eileen,
        My family lived at 48 Acklam Road from about 1910 until its demolition in, I think, 1964. My Mum & Dad & me moved out in the early 1950s to Cippenham near Slough. My grandparents, two aunts & a lodger stayed there, livivng in the ‘area’ & first floor. Another family, the Powells lived on the second & top floors. The house was compulsory purchased from one of my aunts in the early 1960s & knocked down to provide space for the Westway. Only my two aunts were alive then & they were re-housed near to St Paul’s school in Hammersmith.
        I have grabbed a few screen shots from the film of the area you mentioned. I do not know if I can add files to this forum but if you reply to
        tony_winzar@ntlworld.com, I will be pleased to send them to you.
        If I can add files, can someone tell me how to do it please.
        Regards
        Tony Winzar

  32. Roy Farndale says:

    does any one remember the building on the corner of Latimer rd and Pring st, it was something to do with Harrow boys club I think, I remember going in there for meals, I cant remember why, but it was run by a man called Bo Thorburn, he had one leg and got about with a crutch, I remember him removing trouble makers with the end of the crutch, I believe he had a son that was a musician, I think a pianist with the BBC, but the memory is stretching a bit, any confirmatyion or denial would be welcome.

  33. Amanda Harwood says:

    Thank you for your recollections. They are so interesting. I swam at the Baths in yhe late 1960s and 1970s. I have such fond memories of the place and went back in 1982 to photograph the pools – all derelict. Since then, I have been photographing all the old pools I can around the UK. I hope to put my imagrd into a book and the remains of Silchester Road Baths will definitely be in there. Thank you for describing the place and bringing it back to life for me.

    • john henwood says:

      Thank you very much for your kind words Amanda…I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. Your book sounds a good idea as so many people have fond memories of ‘the baths’ Good luck with it and keep us posted on it

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