Memories of the late Mr Alfred Peters


Alfred Peters

If you have the time please read Alfreds story - it is both amusing and touching
Mr Alfred Peters was interviewed in 1998. He agreed to write down his memoirs and, at last, it can now be published on the website. He was a kind and generous man who was very enthusiastic about telling his story from his years on the estate - for the benefit of other younger residents. We are grateful for his contribution. Sadly, Alfred has died, but we hope his abbreviated story will bring smiles to those who never knew him or were not around in his day, whilst at the same time, enhancing his memory to those who did / were. Maypoleman's 11 year old daughter spent many hours transcribing this for the site and she now knows nearly as much as her father does about the estate ! However, she earned some extra pocket money for her efforts !


My name is Alfred John Peters. Born 3-12-1914 so I am in my eighty fourth year.

My birthplace – Southall Middx, my father was a regular army man fighting the Great War, to be demobbed in 1919-20. He joined the L.F.B. Stationed in Kensington and in 1926 took up an appointment as fire officer at Bexley LCC Mental Hospital where the family occuppied West Lodge.

West Lodge is the lodge to the right in the below picture.


Memories of Mr Alfred Peters - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

The family consisting of Father Charles, Mother Ethel, Brother Ronald, aged 3, and sister Joan, aged 18 months, and me. The hospital was an important teaching hospital until its demise so shamefully, hundreds of doctors and nurses and thousands of patients. Almost self supporting with its hundreds of pigs, herd of cattle, a resident farm bailiff and cowman, many acres of fruit and vegetables grown, and poultry, by the hundred with outside supervision. The patients supplied the labour, and were very jealous of their occupation. I was eleven years as a boy, with my friend Len Sandford the head cowmans son, we used the farm, cricket pitch and all aspects of the hospital as a wonderful and private play area. In those days 1926 into the 30’s the hospital produced many operas and plays by their own Amateur Drama Soc run jointly by the doctors and nurses. The annual ball in the lovely hall was an event of the year and tickets were in great demand.

Patients of course had their weekly film shows and dances also their sports days. It would take a very large book to tell all of Bexley hospital in its Hey Day.

In spring of 1926 I was enrolled at the Maypole Council School and so started a period that I can look back on and say “It was smashing”.

A quick educational check placed me in standard six under Mr Wellington. There was five classes, starting with the infants, then two junior classes, taken by lady teachers, Miss Pinkney was one, I forget the other names.
Standard six was taken by Mister Wellington and Standard 7 and 7x by the headmaster Mr Snell, five really 1st class teachers. School hours were nine until 12.0 o’clock 2.0 PM until 4.0 PM with a break of 15 minutes playtime morning and afternoon.

The school day started at nine o’clock sharp when a teacher blew a whistle and everyone in the playground stood still, on the second blast we smartly moved into the hall (made by sliding a divider across two classrooms).
Mr Snell officiated, he was a deep breathing fanatic and with windows open we would on the count breathe in till about to burst, hold it and expel rapidly. Then with a pupil (Vera Saunders) on the piano he would sing the scales in two or three keys, we were now ready for the hymn and prayers by Mr Snell. Afterwards he would make any announcements affecting us. We were then marched quietly to our classrooms.
My class standard 6 under Mr Wellington comprised about 45 pupils, he was a very strict disciplinarian dealing out a vicious six of the best and impositions, “I must talk only when necessary”, to be written 100 or 200 times in your own time and to present it to him next day. I had more than my share and deserved it. He was a fine teacher of many subjects. The Bible, maths and English, drawing, drama, literature, singing, he was a good pianist, he also took gardening, geography etc.

On Monday afternoons with all the gardening tools held at the correct and safe angles we would march to the school allotments. All the boys from standard 6, 7 and 7x took part and the girls did needle work and cookery. The lots were divided into small individual lots under a pupil who would grow and experiment fruit and veg and to compare results and treatment plot by plot. A very useful and enjoyable lesson, to finish with a thorough cleaning of equipment. How those spades and forks shone!

Talking in class was forbidden and punished, Mr Snell would visit the class and say “Good morning class” the class would stand without of any noise of desks and seats say “Good morning Sir” and very quietly sit with straight backs and folded arms. At a certain age you moved to standard 7 with Mr Snell who took woodwork on Monday mornings and maths moved up to algebra etc. Mr Snell took great interest in all school activities which in those days included Empire Day (May 24th I believe), chairs would be borrowed from the hospital placed all around the play ground, the maypole was erected and ‘tilt the bucket’ frame put up. Children were dressed in National costume so there were Welsh, Scots, Irish, English (John Bull), Canadian, Zulu’s, African’s, Australians etc. We would march, sing the National songs, various tableau would be performed, the Maypole danced , Jack O the Green and a clown (me) performed, hymns suitable and the National anthems sung to end the proceedings.

Armistice day was observed by the whole school with all the sad hymns to be sung, Christmas time was so special, a play was put on or a series of sketches, chairs again borrowed and the hall filled with parents, evenings and afternoon performance.

Mr Snell was a good artist and would paint all the very large backcloths. The last I remember was a Dutch canal or sailing barge, windmills in the background, for a cantata “Jan of windmill land”.

It was a very friendly school. I never saw any bullying, play times were filled with the current seasonal games; Tops, Cigarette cards, marbles, conkers, five stones – all in their special time of year.

Football and cricket played with a tennis ball took up a lot of time and many players could join in “Seven + seven x against the rest” was the war cry. Girls of course did all the things that girls do, skipping etc and mostly seemed to be in little groups one of the most unusual customs was the use of nicknames all of which had a reason for their existence:

Bogey ELLIMAN ****** BLACKMAN Massa PETERS (me) Manny ELLIMAN Gump HENN Diddy HENN Taffy WELLSPRINGS Bessy WOOD Fatty MEACHAM Bunter MEACHAM Tiptoe FORD Glarni HOGAN Skinner BEDWELL Dinah DYSON Tongy THOMPSON (captain) Smut SMITH Eno SMITH Spadger BARRETT Sanny SANDFORD Many more which I have forgotten. Christian names were never used. In fact my best friends mother asked my mother how her “MASSA” was thinking it was my name as I had been poorly at that time.

AFTER THOUGHTS

Mr Wellington was Dooky (DUKE) Mr Snell .P.C. or Peecy He promised to track down wrongdoers like a policeman hence P.C.

I must not forget Charlie Lawrence. A Negro boy who lived with his white mother next to Vines. His father was killed in the Great War at Sea. (HMS Hogue) Charlie was the happiest lad I ever knew, a great friend of my brother and often in our house. He was conscripted in 1939.

Below - photograph of Charlie LAWRENCE taken in rear garden of Baldwyns Road (Backing on to Beaconsfield)

Memories of Mr Alfred Peters - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath


He died in a salt mine in Germany after capture I believe at Dunkirk.
He made the mistake of being black. We heard he died of pneumonia.

Footnote from Maypoleman . . . . . . . .
During WWII it was believed that Charlie joined the RAF. Records now show he was a soldier in the Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment. He later became a German POW. George Stockford (Jnr) proudly remembered collecting food for red cross parcels for him. After all, his dear mate was safe. Not for long.
In November 1941 Charlie died. There were two stories floating around as to his death 1) he was shot - we are told whilst trying to escape - that was the usual reason, wasn't it - mmmmmm ? and 2) died of pneumonia after being worked down salt mines. Either way, we suppose this was nothing to do with his colour ?
He is buried in Poland. Two generations lost to enemy fire.

Below - grave of Charlie Lawrence in Poland

[IMAGE] Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery - Lawrence, Charles

Other Names Remembered

F. James R. TuckerK. Lucas F T. Gordon D. Lucas F M. Gordon F E. Lucas F E. Smith F T. Gosling (Imbecile) E. Smith R. Gosling (cripple) R. Munday E. Gosling Q. Cole F A. Murray R. Wallis F F. Johnson R. Wallis M. Seal W. Meacham A. Elliman L. Bedwell S. Elliman L. Sandford M. Brooks F E. Thompson Captain D. King F M. Young F J. King F Ted Smith R. Cosselton F
Most of these names plus those on the previous page were from one class. Class have 45 pupils

Outside School Activities

Winter with a good snowfall meant sledging. If you walk by road towards Crayford, on your left is the valley, the Dell, where we sledged. Seventy five years ago the valley was just grass, heather and some bracken. You could sledge down the end slope along the bottom to the style that is on the footpath to Bexley. Perhaps 1/3 of a mile, and people came from all over to enjoy this till quite late in the evening, some times.


The valley is now thick woodland with just a trodden path that runs through to the stile. In the summer sledging on the dry grass gave lots of fun. We were never bored, school holidays meant scrumping, stealing fruit from gardens and orchards to bake on a fire whilst we smoked “monkey chaff” a dried herb found in the Heath, rolled in newspaper, it was awful. Bows and arrows were popular also tracking games where one or two people would run off into the blue, the remainder on a given time to try to catch them. Various trees, mostly Hawthorn had names, the “Home Tree”, where games started and finished, was a very large tree the branches and foliage touched the ground to make it a big green tent. The “Action Tree” another Hawthorn whose spreading branches allowed us to jump and swing about in all sorts of action. “Slippery Jack” also a very hard tree to climb, it had a long slippery trunk with no grips. A scout group 4th Dartford was founded, a hall supplied (by the church) by Mr Cameron, a great benefactor of the Maypole Estate, he also gave us all the instruments for a drum and fife band and thus supplied a good many lads with useful pursuits.

I seem to remember girl guides being started too. Christmas time meant carol singing.

I had a very special friend John Palmer (we remained close friends all our lives) and he and I would go carolling and at the end would adjourn to the Maypole Café for hot pineapple drinks and share our takings, several shillings a lot of money in those days, it bought our Christmas presents etc.

Mr Bert Vine owned the Paper, Sweet and Tobacco shop and employed three paper boys, this job was much wanted and always had a taker ready as one boy left, my turn came, I suppose I was about 12 years old. I had to be at the shop by seven am. to mark up and sort my papers, magazines etc. When the bag was loaded it was extremely heavy and chaffed your bare knees (boys wore shorts until school leaving at fourteen). Then you had “Longuns”.



AFTER THOUGHTS


John Palmer lived in Summerhouse Drive, his house was called “In a Wood” and was the only house on the left hand side of Summerhouse Drive. I remember three large houses (one – Eltham Lodge) on the right, all the rest was virgin woodland in 1926.

My Round – Baldwyns Park, Summerhouse Drive, Tile Kiln Lane and Cold Blow. To return to shop and then do Baldwyns Rd. Seven days a week. Nobody had bicycles. Dinner Time (two hours off school 1-2pm) report to shop to do errands (1 hour)

Evening Walk to Bexley Station to collect evening papers, mark them and deliver them around Maypole Estate.

Saturday After morning round to collect paper money from that round, and if on checking the cash Bert Vine found you short it would be stopped from your wages. In the afternoon you would sit in the shop to errands until time to go to Bexley to collect and deliver evening papers (also to measure our paraffin).

Sunday Easy day just the morning delivery. s p My wages 3/6 a week and a dozen toffees.

AFTER THOUGHT

Vines also sold paraffin and petrol, two hand pumps in Beaconsfield Road (petrol 11 ½ d per gal) the petrol was drawn from the main tank by hand operated pump into a marked glass container, then gravity fed to your tank.


I was well pleased when in the summer holidays I was able to give my notice and take a job in Bexley at Mr Scotts High Class Grocer Delivery boy with a trade bike 15/- a week just for the holidays. I perhaps should mention that of my paper boys salary I gave my mother 2/6. and 10/- of my holiday job each week. Cricket and football has not been mentioned but played a large part in our free time activities played on the Daisy Green (where the watch factory now stands) and the Asylum Green a long wide grassy area between hospital fence and Wilmington Rd, now all trees and shrub. Girls – of course there were childish sweetheart relationships that bloomed and died all the time, nothing more. They were a pest.

AFTER THOUGHTS

I must mention “Mum” I forget her name, a mature lady who kept the classrooms clean and looked after the large coal fired boiler that heated the school a much loved and friendly lady.

The Heath in those days was a safe place for kids to play and wander only once did a scare run through the neighbourhood, a murder was committed by the golf links 1928 I believe, the man was caught and I seem to remember he was found to have a mental history. There was a full time heath keeper who lived in a cottage with his family. The donkey pond in those days was never empty and in summer two feet deep, full of newts, frogs, tadpoles and it was there we sailed our boats. Most of the Heath was heath land. Open grass areas were plentiful, and Hills Dairy herd were taken to graze all day every day, in charge of a chap named Wickens who lived on the Maypole (Hills Dairy was in Wilmington on the Swanley Rd by Wallis’s Nursery).

The only other pond was the Penny Royal a small swampy area where the flower of that name grew.
At the end of Baldwyns Road stands the hut “The Maypole Hut” wedding receptions, whist drives, concerts and dancing all took place here. One of the major attractions was the Princesses Theatre where for 4 pence or 6 pence on a Saturday evening you could watch films which would provide a talking point for long afterwards.

At thirteen I had my first bike, in Bexley Village Bert Hall had a bicycle repair business and when he died all his bicycle bits and pieces (a lorry load) was dumped down a denehole in Joydens Wood, it was a treasure trove and I managed to get all I wanted to build a bike including a 3 speed Hub and a bundle of spokes. I assembled the lot and had a bike. I left the Maypole School in 1928 Dec, to start work, aged 14.

AFTER THOUGHTS

Ted Smith and I would go with Bill Hooks to cut the bracken for bedding for the donkeys that his father kept. The donkeys roamed the Heath, would be used for rides on fete days, so much ago.


The nature of the Heath has changed enormously, in 1926 one could stand opposite Maypole House and see nothing but bracken 4ft high right to Crayford corner. A solitary birch here and there and a clump or two of gorse, now it’s mostly covered with shrub and trees. This is evidenced in photographs on the page showing photographs 'Britain from the Air'.

Joydens Wood also was still 80% virgin woodland full of wild flowers. Bluebells, primroses, violets, lily of the valley, thick forest areas with many deneholes, and a flint lined roman well (on Brinkhurst’s land). Chestnut hazel and cobs were plentiful. Also crab apple it was a wonderful place for boys to roam and play bracken 5’ high.

Bessie wood (I’ve mentioned him earlier) would pick bunches of these woodland flowers and sell at the hospital gate to visitors on Sunday. Also bunches of home-grown pinks, he never missed a chance and was a tough handful and works as a farm labourer. In Bexley.


AFTER THOUGHTS


The old shoemaker taught a young man (name forgotten) to repair boots and shoes and on the cobblers death made a good living doing repairs in a shed in his Badwyns Rd Garden.


RANDOM THOUGHTS

Mr Edgeworth was the village bobby and had a quiet, peaceful existence. Crime on the Maypole never came to light to my knowlegde. Mrs Whibley was a person who lived in Denton Terrace, worked hard in all sorts of good causes, Sunday school, scouts and guides, it was she who arranged with a clothier shop in Bexleyheath to supply scout uniforms at a few coppers a week per person over a period. Mr Blackman also lived in Denton Terrace and was the Mayor of Dartford.
The Maypole Café has always been there, the shop next door was a boot and shoe repairers and the owner and elderly man did a good job and was well patronized on Maypole and in the hospital (1927). He was knocked down and killed by a motorcycle outside Westlodge in the hospital. The driver W.Boyce of Bexley was not to blame and the shop was taken over by the Cooperative Stores, Mr Bedwell manager.


AFTER THOUGHTS

Mr CURDLING (General Store) He would allow nurses to run up monthly bills for stockings, etc and very often was the loser by his kindness as the nurses would leave unpaid bills many times. Their work was hard and they were poorly paid. Mr Curdlings Shop was a special feature of the Estate. It was the biggest building on the estate embodied shop and two flats above.

The shop was long, dark, supporting pillars along it’s length – and sold everything tobacco and cigs, clothes, lengths of cloth, cold meats and grocery etc, etc. He, Mr Curdling, also run a car hire service.

He was the reincarnation of Mr Pickwick, stout, red-faced, jovial, a very special Maypole character. He held his 50th wedding anniversary in the Maypole hut. I remember him singing “My Old Dutch”.

He lived in a big old house that lays back from the Denton Rd, right opposite Crayford Corner football area, his daughter Joan still lives there, she must be in her advanced eighties and still very active.

These jottings take me from 1926 to 1929 when I left school donned ‘longens’ and went to work.
My intimate connections with the Maypole started to decline as new horizons beckoned but the Maypole Estate and its environs will always be very special to me. I got married from West Lodge in 1938, to a wonderful girl from Yorkshire, Anne.

Fin. Not quite! He said carry on.

JAN 1929 – JULY 1938

In Jan 1929 aged 14 I started work in engineering and tool room dept. of the Siluminate Insulating Company. My uncle was works manager so I started at an enhanced salary of 17/6 per week of 47 hours(7/6 for me 10/-. Mum).
I had my first new bicycle an Armstrong paid for weekly by my parents(cost around £3.10) so I rode to the factory at Erith alongside the Thames five miles. I was of course the shop boy, sweeping, cleaning, and making tea, several tin tea cans on a long pole, each with its screw of tea sugar and condensed milk, to be filled with hot water at the canteen.
Invitation to the industry consisting of an assault by several and the application of black grease to the private parts this was common place in those days.

AFTER THOUGHTS


A favourite past time in the 1920’s to 30’s was on a Sunday afternoon in the summer to walk the crossroad made by Princes Rd and Denton Rd and to sit on the grass and watch an almost endless stream of activities on the road. A column of hikers 50 strong striding along packs upon their backs and often singing away. Cycling clubs 50-100 strong, 2 deep wheeling away to coast or where ever. Motorcyclists on so many different British made bikes – Norton, BSA, Ariel, Vellocette, Matchless, New Hudson, Francis Barnet, Scot, Ascot Pullin, to name just a few, Rudge Whitworth.
Coaches packed with outings and cars of many makes all British used to give us pleasure to just sit and watch. I eventually graduated to the operation of simple jobs on radial drill, milling machines, etc.

Finally bandsaw doctor, responsible for the sharpening setting and the brazing of broken saw bands. At 14 this was quite a responsibilty as saws were soon broken cutting 1” thick asbestos sheet, and a badly brazed join would play havoc.

In March 1930 this firm closed and moved to Manchester, I was unemployed. I applied to Hall’s and I obtain a job on inspection and burring benches, where I believe my talents were noted and I was transferred to the fitting shop, there to serve an indentured apprenticeship.

J and E Halls was a world famous engineering firm specialising in refridgeration, lifts, escalators, and much more.

AFTER THOUGHTS Bicyles were the transport in my young days and one chap S. Ogilvy, cycled everyday to J and E Halls (where he was apprenticed) from Catford. Others from Farningham, Sidcup, Woolwich, were common place.
I should mention that at this period I bought for £3.10s my friends fathers motor cycle 250cc BSA Circa 1926 rode it for six months and bought a racing bike from the proceeds of its sale.

My starting wage at 16 was 11 shillings a week, I got half a crown pocket money or 1/6 I forget. My best friend John Palmer also started in apprenticeship as a plumber with OM Keevil of Dartford.
So we were both tied with little cash for five long years. With night school, three nights 7-9pm and one full day at Dartford Tech College. Never the less we saved up and bought a small tent, cycled with all our gear for a fortnight at Leysdown Isle of Sheppy. We did this in 1930 or 31 our annual holidays.

We decided at 17 to join the territorial army 5 Batt Queens own royal West Kents. C. Coy stationed at Dartford drill hall now council offices by park entrance in Lowfield St. The termination of this would coincide with our apprenticeship finishing.

This solved our cash shortage and catered for our annual holiday. In camp or Barracks we were paid 14/- a week (full army pay for a private 2/- per day) and our firm also gave us full pay for army camp. We were millionaires. You signed for four years.

We were both crack shots with the 303 short Lee Enfield, a marvellous rifle, a possible at a 1000 yrds quite often. We were battalion champions in turn and this fetched a few more bob in weekend shoots.
We were both keen fisherman and cycled to Yalding many times on a Saturday cycling home to have an evening st the Princesses. We also belonged to Dartford Harriers Cross Country and track, more to keep fit than break records. Cycling was second nature Hastings and back one Sunday.

The Terriers had a boxing club and so began an additional interest I was Battalion and Division Champion for my four yrs service boxing at 9.9 and 10.7 lightweight and welter. Halls also started a boxing club and became well known as one of the best around. As a leading light I was then boxing six rounds, not done now.

As you can see our time was full and we were happy with our lot. Dressed to kill in our Sunday best made to measure 37/6, 47/4 with waistcoat, we were content until. –

We had three months to go to the completion of apprenticeship and army service and John Palmer said when I was arranging our Saturday, “Oh, by the way I’m taking a girl to the pictures Sat evening” this was a bombshell as we were always too busy to bother with girls.

So started his courtship and eventual marriage to Lilian Brown, John died in 1991 after a career with the Local Council ending as chief building inspector and quality control. A smashing chap and took infinate pains in anything he did if it was perfect it was near enough.

A few weeks later I met the girl I was to marry, Anne Arundel a sweet Yorkshire girl, a nurse at the hospital. At this time my pocket money was 5/- per week and would be spent thus on many occasions between Anne and me. 6d bus fare to Bexley Heath from the Maypole, two seats at the Regal cinema 3/-, 1/- for ½d of milk tray chocolates and 6d bus home total 5/- all gone until next Friday. About this time 1935-6 I had left my employment on the outside staff of J+E Hall Installing refrigerator plants in ships, hotels, shops and fruit farms (I had a motorcycle).
I joined Fraser v Chalmers a well known heavy engineering concern steam engines for pit heads, turbines, coal crusher, conveyer and hoists for air craft carriers, really heavy stuff.
I loved it.

I now had a 500cc motor cycle so no more pedalling, and I was saving very hard to get married. I left Frasers and joined Vickers Crayford, engaged on highly skilled admiralty fire control gear, predicting gear for high angle guns, pompom predictors, torpedo calculators, where .0001” was a large lump. The Spanish was had ended Hitler helped by chamberlain and co was heading for war. Engineers were in demand and I took home £7-8 pounds per week av. Wage at that time £2-10s - £3, so I saved, got married 31st July 1938, and left West Lodge for 106 Chastilian Rd.
“That’s me lot”

Notes
Maypole Café Already there in 1926 and a kids meeting point to discuss the merits of all the many varieties of toffee bars etc etc. A cosy place for warmth and hot drinks in the winter. Ran by a Miss or Mrs Brooks if my memory serves me rightly.
Penny Royal A small swampy pond so named because it was home to a small blue flower ‘The Penny Royal’
Donkey Pond A pond always full in my young days. The donkeys drank there. (They were kept on the Heath by Mr Smith of the Maypole Estate).
Anti-aircraft guns at Leyton Cross A very large encampment with concrete roads, shelters and 3.7 inch guns were established on the Heath. Gravel pit cottages Two small cottages on the Denton Rd opposite Crayford Corner and were occupied by Gravel pit empolyees. One cottage now demolished and a much larger house instead built after the war.
Heath Keeper He had a cottage on the Heath. A family of wife and two daughters who attended the Maypole School.
The Maypole Itself (1926) Was errected in the school playground and Mr Snell (headmaster in my time). Would supervise all the dances.
Mr Blackman First Mayor of Dartford. Winnie daughter I believe, son still resides on the Maypole Estate.
Bowmans Lodge Now sadly demolished and should have been a listed building. Bowmen would meet there to hold their competitions on what is now Crayford Corner. It was Tudor origin and was lived in until the 1930-39 period. It served as a tea and refreshment place.
Broomhills Lodge At the entrance to Broomhills (the Cameron Estate) Mr Elliman and his family lived in the lodge. He was groundsman, keeper, he had two sons Arthur and Sydney also a daughter. The lodge is now demolished and replaced.

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