Editorial

Thanks to everyone who has contributed, I am always very pleased to hear a new story.
Thanks also to all the visitors who have read any of the stories.

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Sunday, 6 March 2011

18. Memory from Jan Barwick (nee Stonley)

Dear Ray,

I saw your site and had to put down these memories from my childhood in Lancing. I hope you can use them.



I lived in one of the semi-detached houses opposite Lancing Manor park in Old Shoreham Road, just along from Manor Road. The other half of our house was occupied by the Weeburs, and the Grovers were in the house next door on the other side. Bart Grover was a nurseryman up in Manor Road and his children Susan and Diana were in between my brother and me in age.

None of the bungalows in Old Shoreham Road or behind our houses had been built then. Instead there was a wilderness rank with nettles in which we used to play, through which a stream passed. This had a downside. In winter the water table rose and springs used to appear in our garden and flood our garage, sometimes up to a foot in depth.


One of my earliest memories is of bonfire night – probably about 1950. We had fireworks and the families in the houses had built a huge bonfire on the rough ground behind the house around which we all danced singing ‘Guy Fawkes Guy, poke him in the eye’.


At the corner by the roundabout at the top of Grinstead Lane was McCurdy’s shop, a little wooden shack which sold all sorts of basic groceries, fruit and veg, sweets and paraffin. Mr McCurdy was a scot, didn’t like children and was incredibly grumpy with us. He used to play a set of bagpipes under a chestnut tree by the sandpit in the park. He lived in a cottage next door to the shop, opposite which was a conker tree – one of many in the vicinity which we targeted at conker time, throwing sticks up to knock the conkers down. McCurdy always used to come out and shout at us if he saw. Mrs Cane lived in the other cottage next door to the McCurdys, a pretty half-timbered building called Willow Cottage. Unsurprisingly there was a huge willow tree in the garden.

Lancing Manor was still there then. It had a nursery school and I remember walking past the windows and seeing the toddlers on mats on the floor having their afternoon nap. I have a vague memory of them pulling it down in the late 50s - and much stronger memories of the cricket pavilion going up in flames which I guess was sometime in the early 60s. The flames lit up my bedroom one night.


Lancing Manor park was a wonderful place to play, with masses of space for ball games and banks to roll down. There were swings in the north-west corner, a sandpit under trees in the middle and plenty of climbable trees, particularly beautiful big elms which I guess are all no longer there. One of the biggest challenges was to walk the length of the flint wall at the back of the park. Memory suggests that it was about six foot tall but when I went back and looked during a visit in the 90s, it was only about waist height.


Behind the Manor there was a narrow wood between the houses and the field, which led up onto the Downs, another location where we would disappear for hours at a time. The chalk pit at the top of Mill Road was a particularly favoured place to play hide and seek. Beyond here Bartons had a riding stable where we used to go on a Saturday for a half hour ride for 2/6d, 5s for an hour. Pat Barton, the owner, was Irish and had a metal hip. We were all quite frightened of him as he was very intimidating, and controlled the more wayward horses with a whip. His children John and Jane mainly used to take the rides out. They were both as feisty as their father, but Mrs Barton was a much more amenable soul. I remember falling off virtually every week but it never seemed to put me off.


Housing development started in the 1950s. The first bungalows were built down Manor Way then along Manor Close. These building sites were great places to play and we used to purloin bits of old equipment – planks and tarpaulins and the like, to make camps. At the end of Manor Close was Mr Kirk’s farm. Mr Kirk kept pigs and chickens and showed me how he used to kill the chickens quickly by wringing their necks. We used to help him muck the pigs out – all except the boar which was too dangerous to get in the pen with.

The banks of the stream that ran alongside his property was riddled with holes. If you sat quietly for long enough you’d spot water voles coming out. They were very common then.


I went to primary school at Lancing Prep, which was behind the church in South Street.

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 The headmistress when I first went there was Mrs Rees, then Miss Kirk took over and was there until (I believe) the school closed in the 1960s. Mrs Pell was another teacher that I remember with great fondness. There were only two main classrooms and a small outside area where we could play. For more vigorous activity we used to be taken in a crocodile down to the beach green. The school was very small – probably no more than 20 or so pupils – and probably kept going in great part by the Johnson family of which May, Pauline, Philip, Tony, Wendy and Ann were all there at one time together. I think the youngest one, Caroline, never got to the school because it had closed by then.


One thing I don’t remember, which is surprising as we used to ride up that way a lot, was the dew pond up by the clump. Is this a recent development, or is my memory here at fault?

Regards,

Jan Barwick (nee Stonley)



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My Reply..


Hello Jan

This was a lovely surprise to receive your memories. Thank you very much.

I will be very pleased to add them to the existing collection.

A small family coincidence is that my wife's mother lived at a bungalow opposite the park in the mid 1930's for short time. Later she worked for the Weeburs at their glassworks.

My wife (her name is also Jan) asked about the church school you mention, is that the building on the north side of St Michaels Church.

(You probably know that you can view it on Google maps)

The Dewpond was relatively recently restored, the first time in 1991, and again around 2000, with occasional repairs and maintenance up to the present.

I have heard mentioned that the girl guides used to make camp fires on the site when it was just a forgotten hollow in the ground.

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Jan replies..

The church was the one a few yards down from the Farmers’ Pub . I couldn’t remember its name (the school didn’t have anything to do with the church as far as I can remember, certainly never had services there – we just used the rooms behind) but I had a look on Google street view and it’s right next door to the Circle Garage. It’s an imposing building with a gabled frontage and a narrow spire on the left hand side. Not to be confused with the Methodist church of St Michaels which is further down.

Funny your comments about the Weeburs. I had no idea he had a glassworks, but I guess when I was a child and they lived next door he was already retired. He was quite a grumpy old thing.

Was your wife’s mother in Manor Road – the one that runs up to the Sussex Potter? I remember we used to play with Keith and Robert Pudd who used to live there (in a bungalow in Manor Road, not at the Potter) and who also went to Lancing Prep. My brother Derek used to work in the Potter (then the Corner House) in his long vacations when he was at Cambridge University. After they’d converted it I also worked there behind the bar in the vacations. Other places I worked in on Saturdays and in the holidays were the laundry in (I think South Street) although I hated ironing handkerchiefs so much I only lasted a week, and the Mermaid on the beach green. I was waitressing there in 1966 during the World Cup and remember rushing home on my bike and arriving home shortly before the ‘they think it’s all over.. it is now’ moment. In my childhood a Mr and Mrs Booth ran the Mermaid for a while. Their daughter Janet invited me to her 7th birthday party and I fell over on the concrete strip that ran around the house and cut my knee to the extent that I needed six stitches. Still got the scar.

Glad my memories of the dewpond were correct. I was a fanatic natural historian and always made a beeline for anywhere wildlife rich, so I’d certainly have been there with my net and jamjars. One place we used to love was a fantastically clear pond at the junction where the road to the old tollbridge split from the Coombes road, on the airport side. It was quite deep and full of water weed. I had a look on Google earth but it looks like it’s been filled in. The whole of the south side of the road between that junction and Mash Barn Lane was always very marshy. There used to be a lot of travellers that camped in a layby there.


I’d love to hear any more of your wife’s memories. I have such strong recollections of a very happy childhood in the village.