‘Helensdale’ in the 1940s

Memories of Wedderburn Road in the 1940s

Another former resident, Brian, has submitted some of his memories of growing up as a young child in Wedderburn Road.  He lived with his mother’s parents at ‘Helensdale’ on the north side of Wedderburn Road.  It was here that he was born in 1940 and he spent the rest of the war years in the same house.  Brian first met his father when he returned from the war in June 1945.  Two years later the family moved to a brand new council house.

Extract from 1927 OS map showing Helensdale on Barbers Hill
Detail from 1927 map to show Barbers Hill and location of Helensdale







On this early map, Helensdale occupies the two plots of land to the left to the property that adjoins the large area of land that has a footpath running diagonally across it.  From a list of deeds obtained from the family that lived in the house from the 1960s, Helensdale was probably built by 1928.  It was a large house and provided substantial accommodation for Brian and his extended family.

The House

Although ‘Helensdale’ was a three bedroom detached house, there was a small room off the sitting room which was also used as a bedroom. From the front of the property to the back, the ground sloped away sharply by 10 to 12 feet. This meant the house had a basement because it was much higher at the back than the front.  The basement had a washroom and a cellar. On the ground floor, there were two reception rooms and a small kitchen.

The Garden

Brian recalls the back garden being very long and large.  In the centre was a full sized tennis court, complete with a high fence all the way round. This was where Mr Talbot, Brian’s grandfather, kept his chickens, complete with a couple of chicken coops where the chickens were kept at night.

The part of the garden near the house was cultivated for vegetables. Brian’s grandfather and his three uncles all worked hard growing most of the vegetables that were needed by quite a large family.

At the bottom of the garden Brian’s uncle Eric kept pigs, in sties that Eric had built himself. Eric worked on the railway as a signalman and lived in Court Road. He  was in a reserved occupation so he was not called up to fight in the war, but due to staff shortages he had to work 12 hour shifts during most of the war years. It is a credit to him that he found time for growing vegetables and looking after his pigs. Eric was helped by Mr Talbot senior, who worked at TRE, and his brothers who were too young to be called up at the beginning of the war. One of these brothers, Brian’s uncle Charlie, was called up in 1942.  He joined the Marines and went off to fight the Japanese. [Charlie has promised to send in some of his memories so watch this space!]

As with so many of the houses in Wedderburn Road, there were many fruit trees in the garden, so one way and another, the garden was very productive and just what was needed to feed the very large family during the war.

Brian’s earliest memories

Riding on the back of a home-made trolley down the hill in Wedderburn Road with my cousin Arthur who also lived with us.

Being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night when the air-raid siren went off, and then having to stay up even though the ‘all clear’ had sounded in case it went off again. From the bottom of the road the black, foreboding air-raid siren was just visible on the roof of the gas works in Pickersleigh Road, putting the fear of God in me!  Sometimes it went off in the middle of the day.

The animals being herded down the road to the slaughter house.

Having a ride on a horse and cart with cousin Arthur from Turner’s farm, which was at the top of Bellars Lane, and being amazed at how big and gentle the shire horse was.

Watching the building of the new council houses in Pound Bank Road, and talking to the builders and getting into trouble for repeating the swear words I picked up.

Buying sweets at the little shop at the top of Wedderburn road with my Gran’s ration coupons and the joy of the day when sweets came off rations.

The wedding of my aunty Lil to Jack, an American soldier, at Christ Church. The reception was at ‘Helensdale’ in the front garden with many neighbours, relatives and American soldiers. The house was full of people and I remember having to sleep on the floor.

The celebrations at the end of the war and VE day with all the flags flying on both sides of Wedderburn Road.  Also everyone asking me when my father was coming home because I hadn’t met him yet.