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Childhood in 1950s England

Updated on March 8, 2017

An English stately home


Ringmer was a proper village back in the 1950s when we lived there but today there is no social housing, house prices are sky high and lots, if not most, of the residents are incomers. Another Sussex village they commute to London from. They drive into Lewes, jump on a train and be in the City in an hour. Working on their laptop or talking on their mobile en route and hey presto, they have arrived.

I accept we weren't locals initially anyway because my parents were allocated a prefab after my father was demobbed at the end of World War Two. Prefabs were brand new prefabricated two bedroomed homes shipped in panels and erected on site (they even had asbestos in them, worse for the lungs than smoking!) and everything including the kitchen sink, was included. They each had a wrap-around garden to cultivate, were set in a Close with a Green in the centre and backed onto green fields.

I loved living there, except it was a long way to walk to and from school, about two miles each way. However, about halfway along the lane leading up to the main road was a sweet shop. That kept up my impetus to put one foot in front of the other to slog home after all day in school. You could buy sweets for one penny or better still, four for a penny if they were chews.

Typical prefab homes

Ringmer Green in olden days

The Green and village well in 1955

The Forge in the old days


The old school was a Victorian building, not very large but quite a nice place in which to learn. It was demolished in the 1990s to make way for a group of houses but they built a bigger and better modern school just along the road. although they took green fields to do so.

The fields were flat as Ringmer is not hilly so I loved to roam the fields, copses and lanes. In those halcyon days we stayed out all day in the school holidays and only went home when we felt hungry or it was getting dark, whichever happened first. If you made a mistake and roamed through a field of bullocks thinking they were cows (yes, I did!) you could sprint to the safety of the copse until the bullocks lost interest and wandered off. There was always a problem with the barbed wire fences though, as getting through, under or over, was a nightmare when escaping wild animals, I still have the scars on my legs to prove it!

The summer holidays were especially idyllic, endless days of unbroken sunshine, laying on our backs looking up at the clouds slowly scudding by, putting buttercups under our chins to see if we liked butter, picking daisies in the meadow and making daisy chains for our hair - we were hippies long before hippies were invented! We made daisy bracelets and necklaces to adorn ourselves more, and carried little bunches of wild flowers home to our mothers.

One drawback however were the cow-pats. They were hard on the surface, dried by the sun, but if you trod, or worse still sat, on one not looking where you were going, you got a stinky dirty foot or bottom because they were runny underneath. Our mums were not best pleased when we arrived home looking and smelling like you-know-what, or we had grass stains on our clothes, because the laundry was only washed by hand on Mondays, hung outdoors to dry on a line, ironed on Wednesdays then folded up and put away until bath night on Fridays. That was the routine in our house, anyway, so we were at least clean for the weekends, *grin* oh I did like being a mucky pup!

My school stoolball team 1955

Own photo
Own photo

Sunday walks over the Downs

Own photo
Own photo

Traditional tea room

Good Times

Going to Saturday morning pictures in Lewes was a must, my husband had to chop sticks or run errands to earn his sixpence, but I was given pocket-money of one shilling a week (worth two sixpences) so I had enough left over to buy some sweets on the way to suck in the cinema - sweets lasted much longer if you only sucked them. You could buy two ounces which was half of a quarter of a pound (I'm so glad we are decimal these days!). I also bought a weekly girl's comic called which I read from cover to cover and then had to wait a whole week to read what happened next.

I graduated from a three wheeler to a two wheeler bicycle at Ringmer, One Christmas after I had opened my presents I was sent to the shed to fetch some sticks to light the fire with. On opening the shed door I was amazed to see a bicycle in there, it was painted blue (my favourite colour). It had a wicker basket and a bell on the front handlebars, but no lights because I was not allowed out in the dark.

I used to cycle up the lane to the farm where the chickens were free-range, sort of hang about, making sure no-one was looking, then dipped my hand into the hedgerow where I knew the chickens stopped and laid their eggs. I rode home with four or five eggs in my basket many a time. Five was the magic number because there were five of us in the family. Post-war life was good!

Bad Times

I got to the age of eleven at Ringmer when life for me turned sour. Apart from failing the eleven plus exam to get into Grammar school - this really disappointed me but I should have seen it coming because although I was top of the class in all English subjects I was usually bottom of the class in Maths and relegated to the back of the room in exasperation by my obnoxious teacher, Mr Jones. I largely ignored the other subjects like History and Geography preferring to look out of the window and daydream instead until the bell went. I couldn't act, sing or dance either. Poor me! But I still loved words, reading and writing.

To end this story I am going to divulge that I was molested, more than once, at this time too, by the man who collected and delivered mum's laundry. She sent the white cotton sheets each week. I had to be home from school and wait in for him because Mum was having her hair done in Lewes *sigh*. I had successfully buried this in my mind until recently when paedophile cases, hundreds of them, came to light here in England.

However, all's well that end's well because one day I was told we were moving to Newhaven, several miles away, for my dad's work, and on a Friday I caught the buses after school with my younger brother to our new house - I felt SO happy - plus we had fish and chips for our tea when we finally arrived home tired and hungry.

Traditional Morris Dancing on the Village Green


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© 2015 Bren Hall


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