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28 February 2017

28th & 29th February 1948: no offers of marriage

28 Sat. Rather mild, very little wind, the sunshine had some pleasant warmth in it; the snow should be all gone by tomorrow. Ciss had the morning at home. Gwennie,Laurie & Donald came in morning. To Merton in afternoon; bought liver at the cats meat shop. Ted Green called in evening; he has taken a new job at Air Pumps Ltd and he thought Ciss could give him some advice about his work.

29 Sun. Leap Year Day. No offers of marriage to-day. I am a bachelor of nearly 60 years but never a letter of that sort have I received. I wonder if other men have had such a proposal: I have never heard of one. Mild, dull, dead calm. Oh, what a relief after the wicked weather we have had recently. Flew the new little spar model on the Common with very good results. It flew from the very first attempt but needs very slight adjustments to make it a splendid flyer.

Sunday School

Two more Sunday School cards to point a 7 to 10-year-old on the path to righteousness. 1900 and 1902.

27 February 2017

27th Feb 1948: boy knocked down by car

27 Fri. Less cold, dull, less wind. The cruel E wind has subsided at last, and oh, what a relief it is. Did a lot of shopping, all locally. Little Kennie Norriss was knocked down by a car when going to school this morning and sustained a fractured thigh bone, he will be in hospital for four months. Polished the dining room floor. Dear Gwennie called.

26 February 2017

Extra posts...

Hi there, regular followers of Uncle Fred's diaries,

Sorry about the advance copies of a couple of recent entries. We type about a week ahead and schedule for the day itself. I recently pressed the wrong button. You'll get 5th and 8th March again, on the day!

Meanwhile, here's some ancient stuff from the rather thin family archives. This says PRIMITIVE METHODIST CONNEXION - in case that top line isn't clear. On the reverse is written in a very small hand 'Albert French', i.e. Fred's younger brother, who would have been 8 or 9 years old in 1901. And a rubber or metal stamped inscription inside an oval saying: Primitive Methodist Sunday School - WARHAM STREET.

I'll post further early cards of various sorts in the coming days. - Tony French, 26.2.2017 


26th Feb 1948: meet the wow-wows

26 Thur. Hard black frost, but the bright sunshine later continued the thaw: the bitter E wind is as sharp as ever; the gusts last such a long time. Snow covers only half the garden now. Bought sausage meat in morning. Bought fish pieces at the Chase Fisheries; saw Mrs. Philpot and Monica there: Mrs. Philpot serves there. All four Thompson’s called; little Marget starts woo-woo-ing as soon as she gets near here: she thinks the cats are wow-wows.

25 February 2017

25th Feb 1948: explosion shook windows

25 Wed. Very cold after night frost but it thawed quite rapidly in the sunshine: there is still much snow about and most of the garden is still covered. Heard an explosion which shook the windows in the morning; it was an acetylene explosion at Leatherhead. Donald called. The Surrey Bedding Co. returned a mattress re-made as new: a splendid job. To see Aunt Liza, she gave me an “All Dry” combined H.T. and L.T. battery that Uncle Joe had given him.

24 February 2017

24th Feb 1948: slip, sliding away

24 Tues. Maximum of 39 degs, but the bright sunshine midday caused a quick thaw where it shone but it was freezing again at night: there is still a lot of snow about and it is sliding off roofs of houses. Donald called in morning. Played noughts & crosses with Gwennie in afternoon. To Merton to buy fish. Also bought sheet balsa, white tissue & clear dope at Norman’s: saw his bonny little boy Brian. Covered in the centre bay of new wing with sheet balsa.

23 February 2017

23rd Feb 1948: hot ginger

23 Mon. Just a little above freezing point; dull, windy; no further snow. The footways are very slippery. Laurie called; gave him a cup of hot ginger cordial. Gwennie and Donald called in afternoon. Played table tennis with Gwennie, she beat me two games to one – she thinks she did.

22 February 2017

22nd Feb 1948: DEEP snow - cat's won't go out

22 Sun. Freezing to begin the day but slightly thawing later. Very dull, very windy and rough. From 6 to 8 inches of snow fell during the night; I have rarely seen it so deep; in the drifts it was much deeper. The cats just refuse to go out: and so do I. The usual children called, they don’t seem to mind. Ciss went to Tolworth. I think this wintry spell will be short.

21 February 2017

21st Feb 1948: four inches of snow

21 Sat. Four degrees of frost, four inches of snow greeted us this morning. There is a little less wind. It snowed all day fast at times and at night it looked a foot deep but I must look again in the morning. After a very mild winter when we thought we should escape severe weather we have a fall of snow as heavy as I have seen. Saw Chas pulling Gwennie and Donald on a sledge. My bedroom clock stopped in the night. I found the spring had slipped off the ratchet and one wire had come out of a lantern pinion and another wire was bent and loose. I did the required repairs and it is going well again: it is 60 years old.

20 February 2017

20th Feb 1948: six degrees below (below 32°F)

"Spent the best part of a pound note"

20 Fri. Six degrees below freezing; a small amount of sunshine, snowing all day but not very heavy so only an inch fell. The E wind is even worse and it requires courage to go out to-day. Did all the usual shopping but did not go far afield. Spent the best part of a pound note. Dear Gwennie called; she was so lovable and happy. She has a school holiday till Tuesday. Children in the street had their sledges out. Small amount of work on aero. Had to see to my bedroom clock as it keeps stopping: it does this in the very cold weather although it seems in good working order.

19 February 2017

19th Feb 1948: burnt flock... too cold for gardening

19 Thur. Black frost with a sprinkling of snow; cloudy and the E wind is of hurricane force. To butchers in morning to fish shop and to get a paper in afternoon. No callers to-day. Burnt some old flock out of some pillows – this at the end of the garden: too cold to continue with the new rhubarb bed.

18 February 2017

18th Feb 1948: dreadful east wind... fine music

18 Wed. Hard black frost; the ground is hard & dry: the driving E wind is dreadful. Donald called just as I was going shopping, so he came with me: he carried the fish home, I carried the groceries. More work on the new wing. Heard Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Symphony and the Delius piano concerto; very fine.

17 February 2017

17th Feb 1948: cold gardening

17 Tues. Very cold, clear sunny afternoon, cruel E wind. Dear Connie Bradley’s birthday; she is 48. To Morden to buy fish. Bought a paper & ham & beef paste locally. Planted four more rhubarb roots. Dug another trench and am still digging up huge blocks of concrete. Fitted wooden tubes to aero wing – part of the plug & socket attachment.

16 February 2017

16th Feb 1948: undertaker's job... and more digging out shelter

16 Mon. Cold, fairly bright, bitter E wind. To Merton to tell Mr Knox the undertaker that we agree to his estimate to clean the cross and kerbs on the grave, also put on the new inscription. Bought fish and something at Boots while I was in Merton. Donald called. Planted 4 rhubarb roots which I dug up and divided. I am moving the rhubarb bed from the south side of the garden to the north where it used to be before the Anderson shelter was installed. Now that the shelter is gone I am putting it back. I had to dig up some huge chunks of concrete, part of the foundations, when I dug the trenches.

15 February 2017

15th Feb 1948: organ and piano - in tune

15 Sun. Rather mild, lovely springlike sunny morning, dull later. The usual children called. Walked as far as Wimbledon Common in afternoon. Was playing the piano in evening when Alf & Lily called. Alf played the organ and I played the piano. The first time they have been played together since I tuned the piano up to the same pitch as the organ.

14 February 2017

14th Feb 1948: engraving gravestone... diggout out bomb shelter

14 Sat. Rather mild, dull, drizzly day. Went to the Vicar of Merton to get his approval of the new inscription to be engraved on the grave at Merton. Then took it to Mr Knox at Merton High Street and he submitted a price for cleaning the cross, base and kerbs of the grave and for the new inscription. Dear Gwennie called about dinner time. Oh, she was delighted; I do love her beyond words. To Morden to buy fish. Dug trench for subsequent planting of rhubarb roots. Had to dig up a huge piece of concrete, part of the foundations of the Anderson shelter. Hard work!

13 February 2017

13th Feb 1948: butcher - music with girl - vicar - aero modelling...

13 Fri. Rather mild for season 57 degrees, dull, less wind. To the butchers etc. bought sweets, a ginger cake and fish. To see the vicar in afternoon but he was out. Gwennie sung There is a Happy Land to W.H. Jude’s setting while I accompanied her on the piano: if she was happy I am sure I was. Made two balsa tubes for the plug in divided wing attachment for new aero wing.

12 February 2017

12th Feb 1948: butcher has heart

12 Thus. Cool, but feeling comparatively mild as there is less wind; dull. Got more heart at butchers. Bought soap and oil locally: fish at Merton. Letter from Harold Conrade. Planted the shallots at last. Only Donald called to-day.

11 February 2017

11th Feb 1948: How's your £.s.d maths?

"H.C. Fruin Ltd supplied 5 cwts coal @ 4.9d per cwt £1.3.9."

11 Wed. Rather cold but less wind made it seem milder; very dull. Got the groceries as is usual on Wednesday: also fish. All four children called: Donald many times. Started re-making the centre garden path and digging over a border therein to plan shallots. H.C. Fruin Ltd supplied 5 cwts coal @ 4.9d per cwt £1.3.9.

10 February 2017

9th & 10th Feb 1948: chocolate and golden-brown sideboard; musical doubts

9 Mon. Rather cold by virtue of the strong NW wind but a very clear sunny day with blue sky and fleecy clouds. Finished painting the new sideboard doors which looked very nice in chocolate & golden brown. To buy fish. Gwennie, Laurie, Donald and Margaret all came; Margaret is getting used to coming now. Leonard Conley showed me a very good little camera which takes pictures on roll film the size of a postage stamp: they are made in Southend.


10 Tues. Rather cold, dull, NW wind blowing hard. The Metropolitan Water Board Inspector came to look at the water fittings and declared the lavatory cistern and the ball valve defective: the landlord must renew in seven days. To Morden in afternoon to buy fish. Had a look in the cycle shops; there are some interesting innovations. Listened to Mahler’s 8th Symphony on the wireless. I reserve my judgement. There are some thrilling and inspiring moments from the orchestra, organ, eight vocalists and many choirs, but I thought some of the orchestration and musical invention surprisingly medieval: there are a thousand performers and eight conductors! A colossal work, but is it a masterpiece?

8 February 2017

8th Feb 1948: good samaritan

8 Sun. Very mild for season, dull, not so much wind. The usual children called. Walked to Mostyn Gardens. While there saw two girls trying to get a pram with a baby in it up the steps but got stuck half-way. I went to their help as it looked as if they might have an accident. The pram contained a very bonny baby boy; the girls said his name was Stewart. Saw saxifrage peltata in bloom in front gardens in Mostyn Road. Borrowed a 3 ins. twist drill from Uncle Joe to drill holes in the new doors to take the spring ball catches which I fitted.

7 February 2017

7th Feb 1948: golden paint

7 Sat. Rather mild for Feb: very dull, rain in the air. Gwennie & Donald called all merry and bright. Bought fish locally also cream enamel and two ball spring catches for the new doors which I fixed in position on their hinges. I also painted the entire panels golden brown: the job is nearly finished. Cousin Maud called.

6 February 2017

6th Feb 1948: This Happy Breed

6 Fri. Cold; a day of bright sunshine, heavy skies, thunder and lightning, wind, rain and hail storms. Got the usual week-end provisions, also to Merton to buy fish and cats meat. Gwennie, Laurie and baby Margaret called. The baby is getting to know me and is a little more at home. Dear Dorothy Longhurst came to tea, she brought some large grapefruit. She always enjoys herself here. Ciss took her to see a play at Wimbledon, by amateur actors “This Happy Breed”: Ron Duncton took part. Saw Sheila Crawford to-day: she smiled and said “good afternoon” to me. She is a very tall elegant young lady with very fair hair and a lovely face. I remember when she used to call here as a tiny girl on Sunday afternoons. She came here once wearing a straw bonnet which she herself had trimmed with a wreath of real buttercups & daisies: I think I never saw anything so simple and pretty.



Press for a six-minute clip of this beautifully dated domestic scene - 1944, from the film This Happy Breed



5 February 2017

5th Feb 1948: chocolate cake and fertiliser

5 Thur. Cold, dull, rain commencing in afternoon. As Dorothy is coming to tea tomorrow I bought a chocolate cake. Also bought fish locally and cats meat at Merton. Bought Clay’s fertilizer 2/6. Put together the second door of sideboard. Aunt Hannah called.

4 February 2017

4th Feb 1948: door furniture... and those wings

4 Wed. Very cold, clear, sunny, windy day. Got 9/10½ worth of groceries at Eyles the usual grocers. Also other household requisites. Bought hinges, screws and door knobs for the new sideboard doors at Smaldons. Started building the second door. Made the centre bay for port side aero. wing; set the dihedral for same.

Note: blog reader Fred Brewer, back on 31 March 2011, included this information about Smaldons in his wealth of information about places and events mentioned by Fred.

Smaldons and other shops
Fred mentions Smaldons a number of times. This was a moderately-sized hardware shop in the Kingston Road, number 520, I think, and sold practically everything that would be required for jobs in the home, plus sundries such as mousetraps and paraffin. Kingston Road was the road at which Chestnut, and the other eleven roads turned off from. The other end of the twelve roads was "The Arterial" or Bushey Road (Kingston-by-pass at  that time).

Fred's family XXII - daguerreotype & tinplates from mid-1800s

The first photo, top left, is a negative image on thin metal, backed by black paint, seen through glass. I'd guess this was around the 1840-'50s. Other are on a thin tin (see below), backed by black. These are probably the 1860s or '70s. The first photo always hung in a gold-tinted wooden frame at 98 Largewood Avenue, the home of Fred's brother, Albert.   This is a daguerreotype - the very first photographic process, used for two decades after 1939. To quote Wikipedia, "it is is unlike looking at any other type of photograph. The image does not sit on the surface of the metal but appears to be floating in space, and the illusion of reality, especially with examples that are sharp and well exposed, is unique to the process." It is viewed through glass. The illusion with the above is exactly as described here. There are no words to guide their identification - except, the bottom left photo is held against its oval cut-out card frame by a paper with 'Queen's LOWRIE Corner' printed repeatedly. A rapid search shows this would have been the photographer James Frederick Lowrie (also traded as Valery) possibly when at 184 Fleet St, 1877-84, or in Birmingham in 1882. He specialised in tintypes - the popular name for ferrotypes, made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion.

3 February 2017

Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents' Association


Reader's of this diary may well be interested in this current Association - which has been going since 1928, so before even Fred started his diaries.

See all about Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents' Association online - click their name. They have a monthly magazine, a website and a Chairman's blog.



3rd Feb 1948: made a door... worked on aero wing

3 Tues. Rather mild, very dull, rain all day; the wind has dropped. Made a panelled door for the built-in sideboard. Laurie and Donald brought the Tuesday loaf of bread. Bought fish locally. More work on the new wing.

2 February 2017

2nd Feb 1948: soot for onions!

2 Mon. Mild, dull, very rough. Removed soot from lower part of chimney as I needed it for making up a bed for onions. Fitted a frame under the dresser drawers and painted same, I shall make and fit a pair of doors soon, I hope: there are two shelves and it will make a built-in sideboard. Donald & Laurie called. To Merton & Morden but could get no cats meat, only fish. More work on port side of new 41 ins. wing.

Fred's family XXI: Ward's photographic studio, West Croydon

Then and now. The Wards' carte de visite, on reverse of yesterday's C19th photo, and a  snip from Google Street View.




Clearly the same building, 'Opposite railway station', West Croydon

1 February 2017

1st Feb 1948: chuffed

1 Feb. Sunday. Mild but very rough: dull and cloudy. Some children called. Laurie came in morning; his first visit since having his tonsils out. He brought a picture book of locomotives and two comic papers.

Fred's family photos XX


We are nearing the end of the collection. There are few if any clues as to the subjects here. In case any researchers read this, well, here's what we have, photo by photo.

1. Studio of R R Wilson. At one time, here at  48 Penrose St, off Walworth Rd, London. Also at 63 Wellington St, Woolwich. Now the residence centre left in this photo. But our photo below, with a 116 Walworth Rd address must date from that studio's 1883-94 - Wilson himself died in 1891, but the studio continued. dates. (Details researched by 'Greyfox'.)





2. The cutout, from a postcard print format on the reverse (not unusual in early photos) has 8017 and 10x7 Sepia, written in pencil. The ivy, house and clothing give us a rural feel.

3. The bearded gentleman has 1876 in the reverse - a date or a negative number? The date does fit - so we're pretty safe on this date. From Gwyn Collier, 223 Fulham Rd, SW - 'Nearly opposite consumption hospital' - Copies can be obtained at any time and enlarged up to the size of life'. Well, some rapid research shows that the Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest existed for just four years, 1842-1846. Could this date our photo? Ironically, as far as we can make out, the area occupied by 223 Fulham Road is now occupied by The Royal Marsden Hospital, neighbouring The Institute of Cancer Research.

Our reader 'Greyfox' adds: Collier had a studio at 223 Fulham Road from 1864 to 1878. (Also operated from many other addresses in that period!) .... The “Consumption Hospital” (properly “The Hospital for Consumption & Diseases of the Chest” but generally “The Brompton Hospital”) was on the opposite (north) side of Fulham Road from 1846. (I think the reference you found was to its precursor, which had been at The Manor House, Chelsea from 1842 to 1846.) The Hospital acquired houses on the South side of the road from 1868 onwards and the South Wing was completed in 1882. The Brompton was extended further in the 1970s & the original (1846) building is now a very exclusive set of apartments.  The Royal Marsden building is adjacent to the South Wing of the Brompton & was opened in 1862. It was originally called “The Cancer Hospital” but was renamed in 1954 in honour of Dr Marsden, its founder.'

4. The child was photographed by Mr & Mrs Ward of  West Croydon, 'Opposite the railway station - Artists & Copyists - Paris, London, Rome, Florence and Venice - Estd 1851. Above their opulent array of city names, they have a small drawing of a positively palatial building. This and the present building deserves a post on its own - so, tomorrow!

5. The unlikely couple with the hats was taken by A Simmons, 258 Westminster Bridge Road, 'Opposite Astley's theatre, five doors from Belvedere Road'. Also at 191 Newington Butts. His reference number for the photo was 3625. The photo must date from July 1888 – September 1891 (credit to research by 'Greyfox'). 

6. The final, full-skirted lady, resting her arm on a chair (it helped subjects keep still) was C J Hopkins of Epsom.