Lovely Laindon (Part 8) (8 of 9)

(Chapter 8: Married Life)

It wasn’t that either Lilian or Stanley placed a lot of importance on getting wed.  Stan after all had given a very clear indication, in the material sense, of his intentions towards Lillian, he was in deep as all could see, completely committed. Both shared the desire to cement their relationship by having a family and Lillian had expressed this as being a family of no more than two children. She was taken up with much that was being advocated by Marie Stopes, that pioneer in the use of Birth Control and the right of women to control their own fertility, a controversy that had already raged for decades and was still creating lurid headlines in the Press from time to time.  Although the Vickery family was not all that extensive, Stan’s experience of what his mother had endured over time had influenced his thinking along lines similar to Lillian’s and both argued against the Victorian legacy of families with a large brood of infants to bring up.

In the event, Lillian discovered that getting pregnant was not all that easy and the recommendation from the medical fraternity was that, when she “fell”, she should, in a period when home birth was the norm, go into Queen Charlotte’s Lying In Hospital or Maternity Hospital as it then was, when her eventual pregnancy reached term. Accordingly, I was born in Marylebone where Queen Charlotte’s was then in 1928, moving the following year to Hammersmith and is nowadays to be found next door to Wormwood Scrubs. What I did not find until fairly recently was the coincidence of my birth-place in family history. My Great, Great Grandfather (William Bathurst) who had migrated from rural Herefordshire to the London area in the 1820’s had died in a house he had opened as a beer and billiards’ parlour situated approximately 200 yards from the Marylebone Road site of Queen Charlotte’s. If he had stopped in Herefordshire none of what I am now writing about would ever have happened!

To have me, Lillian had given up work with the Smethursts in Wembley Park Drive although she and Mrs Smethurst remained close friends and often there were visits to Lillian’s former home in their house. For example, my first ever visit to Regent’s Park Zoo was with a free ticket that Mr Smethurst, as a paid up member of the London Zoological Society supplied, part of regular allocation to which he was entitled. However, my arrival had caused a housing problem in Wembley which required a solution.  Chaplin Road, Stan’s family home, was becoming overcrowded with the younger members of the family still living at there.  Stan, Lillian and me took a chance by squatting in a part of Wembley that had been “adopted” by various groups of persons facing the perennial problem of finding somewhere to live. The area was and still is known as “The Paddocks” and was just north of the Wembley Park area on Forty Lane. At the end of the 19th century this area had all been farmland but as development along what had already become a busy Forty Lane developed, “The Paddocks” had become a series of allotments or horticultural smallholdings which had been taken over in much the same way as I have described as happening at Storrington and as was happening on an even greater scale at Laindon. It was into such an ad hoc community I was carried in my first year of life!

My life in this somewhat precarious atmosphere didn’t last too long. The ”Authorities” wanted the land being squatted upon for their new Wembley Town Hall, built to the design they had in mind and suitable for the purpose of administering to a fast grown community which had been elevated to County Borough status. Upon eviction my mother, Lillian managed to get us into yet another dodgy position, we moved to Kathleen Avenue, just off the Ealing Road in Alperton about 15 minutes’ walk from my grandparents’ home in Chaplin Road. The problem with this new pad was the fact that it was in a Council house being rented by a Mrs Downing and her small daughter and although Lillian was giving her a rent for the one room of her dwelling that we were occupying, such subletting was frowned upon by the self-same authorities who had thrown us off “The Paddocks”. For obvious reasons we lay as low as possible in Kathleen Avenue and Emily Bathurst, my grandmother did quite a lot of baby-sitting for her latest daughter-in-law. Also, to keep out of the limelight, as a family group Stan and Lil, with me in a push chair, also took up a lot of country walking again, reflecting their courtship days. Despite Stan continuing to travel as described before to and from Laindon to carry on building “Cranford”, there seemed to be more time available for such things as country rambles. I can only put this down to one thing, the world effect of my birth. My birth in 1929 was celebrated a few months later by the New York Stock Exchange crashing and starting a decade-long recession which would only be terminated by the outbreak of WW2 in 1939.  The recession meant that the building trade, as is usual, suffered and with it the need for house painting and decorating declined and jobs became hard to find. Thus my father began a long spell of being six months “in work” and six months “on the dole”.

It seemed as if everything that Stan, in particular, did would have its own dodgy aspect.  Whenever he was on the dole and therefore making the best of the valuable time he had on his own hands to do something useful for the benefit of the family he would be challenged by Authority and accused of failing to seek honest employment. This attitude was to persist until, in time, the War of 1939-45 fully occupied him again, first as “directed labour”, later through conscription to the Royal Corps of Signals. In the meantime he struggled on against the odds of even greater poverty to get to achieve his ambitions and make it possible for us to move to Laindon.

8 of 9

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