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Posts Tagged ‘1940s London’

Painting by Stanley Spencer (1891-1959)

Painting by Stanley Spencer (1891-1959)

At first it seemed that the family had settled in and was on good terms with Mrs Winter and Alf. However, things soon began to take a turn for the worse.

In fact, this was the beginning of what must have been the worst years that Mrs Winter and her son had ever spent in their home. They were used to peace and quiet, but there was no chance of that after Mrs Bennison and her family moved in.

There were now an extra five people living in the house – Mrs Bennison, her husband Fred, their two sons and a daughter.

Mum said: “I think it’s a bleedin’ cheek having strangers billeted in your own house, I bet the government wouldn’t have anyone in their houses.” Poor Mrs Winter was certainly unlucky with the family she had to share her home with.

Mrs Bennison’s eldest son, Fred, had just been demobbed from the army. The other son, Ron, was still in the R.A.F and on leave when they moved. He had a few months left to serve, and would then be home for good. The daughter, Hilda, was about ten, a lot younger than her brothers and still at school.untitrafled

Mr Bennison worked as a barber, and always looked well dressed. He was tall, slim and handsome, and quite a vain man. He was proud of his hair, which was a steely grey colour and quite thick, and always glistened with hair oil.

His moustache was grey which I thought looked distinguished, but he did not like it and blackened it with shoe polish. He was a heavy smoker, and unfortunately, an alcoholic, and this led to arguments and shouting at all hours of the day and night.unpolitled

Mr Bennison was a very timid man and frightened of any form of authority. When he was later told that the police had to intervene to get access to Mrs Winter’s house, he was horrified.

Mrs Bennison, on the other hand, was different altogether. She had no fear of any authority and relished arguments with anybody, usually winning them. Her build was quite large, but her legs were slim and shapely. She had black hair, and when she smiled there were gaps in her teeth.

Although Mrs Bennison was the most artful person I ever knew, she was also one of the most generous. She would help anyone in need and give them her last penny. How Mr and Mrs Bennison ever married is a mystery to me, as they could not be in the same room for two minutes without an argument.

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untitledtrainOnce again we made our way to the railway station to catch the train to London. I was quite excited at the thought of seeing our new home. The journey seemed to take forever, and by the time we arrived at Paddington station we were all very tired.

As we boarded the bus to take us to Bethnal Green the conductor said to Mum: “You’ve got your hands full there, Mrs, are they all yours?” Mum nodded her head and smiled proudly as she looked at us all. The bus dropped us at the Bethnal Green Baths, which was the nearest stop to Approach Road where we were to live for the next two years.

Bethnal Green Baths and Washhouse before the building was demolished in 1999 and converted to flats.

Bethnal Green Baths and Washhouse before the building was demolished in 1999 and converted to flats.

Approach Road was quite impressive, with the houses set back off a wide road. The houses looked very posh to me with their lovely long windows and arched doorways. They consisted of a basement and three storeys above. Nowadays they would be called town houses. The road led to Victoria Park, where we were to spend much of our time.

I thought we would have a house to ourselves being as we were such a large family, so I was surprised when Mum said we had the top four rooms and shared the only lavatory – which was in the yard – with the family downstairs.

This arrangement was to cause many an argument in the future, as to get to the lavatory we had to go through the other family’s kitchen. Not the best arrangement, when you consider there were nine of us traipsing through their kitchen.220px-Crapper's_Valveless_Waste_Preventer

Our four rooms were arranged with the kitchen and living room on the top floor, and the two bedrooms below. The kitchen was a medium-sized room, with only enough space for a table, chairs and cooker. When all the family were home it was a bit of a squeeze.

The living room was a good size, but we were not allowed to use it very often. The two bedrooms were the same – one medium and one large – with the three boys sleeping in the smaller one, and Mum and us five girls in the large room. It was very cramped accommodation for such a large family.

It was lucky for the family who lived below us that the living rooms were at the top of the house, as you can imagine the noise nine people made.

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