Downham Market



                                                                                                November 2002


Dear Ray,


Thank you for your letter and the photo’s. It was nice to see my old house. I was interested to hear who had owned the house before my grandfather and father but do not understand about the division. I had always been told how my father and grandfather had divided up the house, my parents living at 42 and my grandma and granddad at 44.

The census is right about my dad. He was born in Ida Road but they moved to St Ann’s before they came to Summerhill.


As to memories. I am wondering if anyone has mentioned to you anything about the refugees, which were billeted with certain families in the road during the war. We had three with us for just over a year. There was a grandmother who we called Madame because we could not pronounce her name, a granddad named Harry and their granddaughter named Edith. All Belgians. Edith’s mother Marcele and Edith’s aunt Simone were billeted with Mr and Mrs Osborne further down the road at number 18. Our refugees were Belgians. Many others were billeted down the road. All were very frightened when they first arrived and each time the siren went they thought the German’s were just outside the front door. Edith came to school with me, which at that time was just one hour each day at St Philip’s Hall. Eventually all of them were found homes in Downhills Park Road and we got our homes back to normal again


 Before the war, many of the front gardens in Summerhill Road were fronted by iron railings and I vividly remember the day in 1940 when the men came to take away all the iron for the war effort.


 There was a Jewish family living right at the bottom of the road on the same side as us at number 2 named Freeman. I used to play with the son named Cecil who was a very fat little boy. I am also remembering the house opposite me (it would be number 37 I think). A family lived there called Trotter. Mr., Mrs, son John and daughter Doris. They kept themselves to themselves. He had been a butcher. As a kid I was fascinated with the sign, which they had on their gate and I used to stand and look at trying to understand what it meant. It read – ‘No Hawkers, no canvassers, no circulars’.


Before the war inhabitants (except for the children) of the road did not mix very much but the war changed all that. People were thrown together because of the situation. They shared their sorrows and joys in an entirely different way. They had to share their air raid shelters with some people that they hardly knew.


When it was over we had the biggest party in the road imaginable. My mother was out there dancing and a little bit inebriated which did not please my dad one bit.


I can just remember your mother and I can also remember you being born.


I think we children were a bit of a menace to the older people in the road. Always in trouble for making too much noise when all playing together. We played a lot of knocking down ginger – when I think of it now I realise we were unkind making elderly people come to the door and finding no one there.


The house next to the Holgate’s was used by the firewatchers and had a large mound of earth in the front garden. We called that the ‘Rocky Mountain’ and thought it was great to ride up and down it yelling as we went over it.


I’m sorry about the Monkey tree. That was quite a ‘Historic monument’ for the road.


Because my dad had a big yard he used to organise a fireworks party at this time of year and we had children in to watch. He had plenty of wood to build a bonfire as in those days all his tiles were delivered in wooden boxes.


My dad always said that Jack Chapman had grown to look like his pigs as he had been with them so long. I can understand Janet having a go at the mugger. She would have been very angry I know. She and I have been friends since she was one and I was three. That is along time. We drifted apart as we grew older but always kept in touch two or three times a year and when we speak on the phone it could be yesterday.


You have taken on quite a project Ray. These things are very time consuming. I am very grateful for all the information you have sent to me. When I think of other memories I will write you again and if I can help you in any way let me know. As I think of any little items of interest I will jot them down and then if I have few bits and pieces to relate will let you know.


Best wishes


Vera (Firth)

p.s.  I shall have to pay a visit to Summerhill Road sometime.



(Note: This letter has been reproduced for the internet site from the original written by Vera Firth)   

back_button.jpg (3190 bytes)