Modern Times

MOST children today have a bedroom with television, computer, heating and often a telephone. Some share with a brother or sister. Families a couple of generations ago were often much larger with in some cases as many as ten children sharing a few beds in unheated rooms often lit only by candlelight.

MOST children today have a bedroom with television, computer, heating and often a telephone.

Some share with a brother or sister. Families a couple of generations ago were often much larger with in some cases as many as ten children sharing a few beds in unheated rooms often lit only by candlelight.

When family members were in need of help, the lack of space was no barrier. Even in one of the most densely populated areas of Ipswich. Those who lived 'Over Stoke' were part of a very close community which was its own little island of life. They were a community separated from the rest of town by the River Orwell.

Many who lived there worked for Ransomes and Rapier, the huge engineering works, which employed thousands. Many families saw generations work there. The company was a way of life providing employment, outings, and Christmas parties and sports days.

The family spirit that existed there, is illustrated by a story sent to me from Yvonne Davey of Meadowside Gardens, Rushmere St Andrew.

Yvonne's mother died when she was in her early 30s. He father needed urgent help from his family, as he was unable to cope with his young children and his job.

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Yvonne said: “My mother Hilda Laws, and father George Fayers married on Christmas Eve 1932. My father bought a house in Faraday Road. With a loan of £100 from his bank he was able to buy the house which cost £400. He had a good job at Ransome and Rapier in Ipswich where his father George also worked.

“In the early years of my parents' married life, my father travelled to Ireland frequently, building sluice gates for Ransomes. While he was away in Ireland, my mother often pushed us children in a pram to 92 Bath Street to visit my father's parents, who later played a big part in our lives. My sister Hazel was born in 1934, I was born 1935. After my brother Kenneth was born in 1937 my mother became ill and never really recovered, she died in 1938, aged 31.

“When mother died we children moved into Bath Street. My father's parents George and Esther had eight surviving children; four girls and four boys. My father was their fourth child. How they all managed to squeeze into that little house when the family was young I do not know.

“Grandma Fayers coped with the situation well bearing in mind she had four children still at home the youngest being 11-years-old. Sadly we were only there for a short while when grandma died, aged 58. My unmarried aunt Evelyn, my father's second sister, who worked at Harvey's tailoring company, gave up everything to look after her father, my father, us children and the remaining brothers and sisters who were not married. My grandfather was a wise man, realising the house was not big enough for us all he searched for a new home for us. He managed to rent 24 Rushmere Road.

“My aunt was a heavenly mother to us all; a neat little lady who was so prim and proper. She always wore a hat. We had to sit on a stool in Pansy Norton's hat shop in St Helens Street opposite the Gaumont (now the Regent) where she selected her hats.

“My father was a great provider and auntie called us her three, and we had to be dressed just so. She made most of our clothes. Living with grandfather and all my aunts and uncles it was a happy household. We watched our aunts and uncles get married one by one.

“Friday night was bath night; the adults had the bathroom upstairs. The children had a tin bath beside the fire which was kept over the mangle in the back garden. The water was heated from a big copper in the kitchen. If we didn't cry when we had our hair washed we were given a bag of sweets. We should have been evacuated during the Second World War but my father never wanted us to be separated. He was an air raid warden; he didn't go to war because of his job.

“In the garden of he built the biggest Anderson shelter, lined and with beds in it. We slept in it most of the summer. Although my father had a lot of sadness losing my mother, I am sure he found happiness in the things he did.

“He became the entertainments secretary for Ransomes sports and social club. Richard Stokes was the boss then. My father spoke very highly of him. Mr Stokes provided a Christmas party for the children of the workers and a sports day in the summer at Roundwood Road sports field. There was an open day at the factory and children were allowed to put pennies on the railway line and see them flattened.

“During the war my father organised entertainment for the troops at Roundwood Road Sports Club. This was all forbidden to us as being 'too worldly'. I remember well him walking home with a huge case full of money which we were allowed to help him count.”


Did you live in the Stoke area of Ipswich or do have memories of large families packed in tiny houses? Write to Kindred Spirits, Evening Star 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN

I recently featured reader's memories of Kenny's Bakery which was at the corner of Spring Road and Cowper Street, Ipswich. It seems their fame is worldwide as I have received an e-mail from Doreen Curtis who now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, USA. Doreen said: “I always love to read your column, especially the one about Kenny's Bakery, Cowper Street and Spring Road. I grew up on the Spring Road end of Britannia Road, so was familiar with all the shops along Spring Road. I especially liked Mrs. Gibbs sweet shop on the corner of Britannia and Spring Roads, and the Fish and Chip shop on the opposite corner.

”I read with interest Gerald Solomon's comments; especially that he attended St. John's Infants School, Cauldwell Hall Road. I also attended this school about 1936. The only thing I can remember about it was the cold, and the teacher lining up the bottles of milk in front of the fire because they were all frozen. That and the fact that I was sick the entire time I was at that school. My mother finally got me transferred to Britannia Road School. After having my tonsils removed and moving to Britannia Road, I was much better. I stayed in Britannia Road School until I was eleven and then moved on to Copleston Road Girls Secondary Modern School.

”There was a small greengrocers shop opposite Hunts Bakery. I can't remember the names of the people who ran it, but I was sent round there regularly with instructions to buy potatoes, carrots, or other kinds of vegetables. It's wonderful to keep being reminded of how Ipswich used to be in every area”.


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