1943 to 1946

By Michael Cawte

 Dad being posted overseas during this period my mother and I went to live with Grandmother in Newhaven. The house was number 12 Lewes Road (since renumbered), an end of terrace situated on the corner of Lewes Rd and Lawes Avenue. It had gas lighting upstairs and electrics downstairs. The front room was never used, as I remember, and had furniture upholstered in pale blue and a smell of lavender. Some ornamental knick-knacks and a picture on the wall of a channel Packet boat leaving the harbour were also featured. It was a room reserved for high days and holidays. The living room was equipped with a Morrison shelter, bits of, presumably, Edwardian furniture and an Ekco circular shaped wireless powered by accumulators which had to be recharged. I remember hearing Children’s Hour, Paul Temple, and In Town Tonight on that radio. A kitchen, scullery, small lavatory and coal hole led out to the terraced back yard with a small shed against the high wall at the end of the property. Upstairs there were three bedrooms with a lumber room at the rear. I can’t remember the very small bathroom having any lighting at all. It did have a round washbasin set on a metal stand with a bucket below to drain used water into from the plug hole in the middle of the basin. At bedtime a brass paraffin lamp with a tall glass chimney was used to light the way! Iron railings at the front of the house were burned off and removed to help with the war effort they said.

On the corner of the pavement stood a cast iron gas lamp-post which we urchins would regularly climb and hang off the crossbars. We would also annoy my Grandma by repeatedly and noisily bouncing balls against the house gable wall. A chain-driven  Trojan van would come down Lawes Ave regularly, presumably delivering something. Horse and cart deliveries were more commonplace. The horse dung had to be collected quickly for the garden before anyone else got to it. Behind the back wall of the property was a lane giving access to the gardens of the neighbouring houses. This was the way to my mates’ places. Ronnie Short, Alan Berry, Gerald Sweatman.  Are they still about I wonder. Wizard, Champion, Beano, Hotspur and Dandy were the comics. There were also David and Peter Crick, both of them getting places as Naval cadets, because, I believe, their father was killed on service. The first house on Lawes Ave was occupied by an old couple, Hollis or something like it, was the name. They occasionally invited me to tea, enjoying jam scones by the light, over the table, of the gas mantles carefully lit by Mr. Hollis. He had been a carpenter I think. Across the road from the front of our house was a small shop where we could buy a dozen or more ice-cream wafers (just wafers) for a penny. On the wall of the shop was a large enamelled advert for Mazawattee tea.

At the other end of the terrace Evelyn Ave ran parallel to Lawes Ave. At the top the Tomsett family lived. I don’t know why I remember that. A bit beyond was a lane leading to the top of a field sloping down into the valley. At certain times this was the site of an anti-aircraft gun and a barrage balloon. Later it was the site where the Guy Fawkes bonfire was built and the place where we made dens and generally misbehaved ourselves. There were sheds in this little lane and I remember the existence of a 1940’s Graham Paige car and what must have been an old vehicle called a dog-cart.

By today’s cosseted standards we kids ran wild. In the summer we could be out most of the day, sustained perhaps by nothing more than a jam sandwich and a bottle of water, coming home only when we judged it to be teatime. Bullen’s (?) bush and submarine valley were places of adventure. We would fashion swords or bows and arrows with our sheath or penknives and have mock (and sometimes not so mock) fights with them. Nearer home in the streets we had bicycle rims which we used as hoops and skilfully propelled them with sticks. If you were lucky you might have got hold of a rim complete with inflated tyre! We played with marbles which we called alleys and of course cigarette cards, hoping in the latter case to complete a set of film stars, motor cars or aeroplanes. In the winter sledging was eagerly looked forward to. Too long was often spent on this occupation and we would eventually get home with frozen fingers and the wool round the mouthpieces of our balaclavas stiff with frozen breath. Chilblains were subsequently part of our suffering. We could sometimes earn a penny or two by fetching firewood or logs from a nearby timber yard in little barrows which adults would help us make out of scraps of wood and a pair of pram wheels. Pram wheels were a valuable commodity, as were car or lorry inner tubes for use when swimming. More pennies were earned at Christmas when two or three of us would go carol singing. We would have a hymn book and a little torch. The torch was essential to share the pennies out. Carols had to be sung right through, sometimes in the house. Most people were very indulgent but one old lady so disliked us that she was always ready with a stirrup pump set up  behind the front door waiting for the right moment to send a blast of water through the letter box. We were also ready of course.


Thank you for sharing your childhood memories with us Michael, have you anymore please.

Footnote:- Most of the houses in that area were allowed a maximum of 3, electric light points and 1 15amp power socket in those days installed by the local Newhaven and Seaford Electric Supply Company. 




This page was added by Michael Cawte on 04/06/2010.
Comments about this page

Peter and David Crick are cousins of my Dad ( John Watkins ). I know that one of the Boys went into the Royal Navy HMS Vanguard. David lives in Felixstowe, but I am not sure where Peter lives. I do know that the boys used their Mothers maiden name of "Austin". Charlie Austin (who was the  Grandfather of these Boys and my Dad.) played Cornet in the Newhaven Town Band in 1912 and right up to his Death. My Dad lived with his Mum Edith (nee Austin), Dad Glyndwr Watkins and elder Brother Royston in the old sweet shop in Elphick Rd.

By Heidi Watkins
On 06/06/2010

I read with great interest Michael Cawte's "Memories of a Small Boy in Newhaven". Michael refers to an elderly couple who lived in the first house in Lawes Avenue, a Mr and Mrs Hollis. I am pretty sure that he is referring to Mr & Mrs Holl, Mr Holl was a carpenter and he told me that he worked on the construction of the Westminster Bank at the bottom of the High Street early in the 1900's. Mr Holl was affectionately known as "French Charlie" and he and his wife were I believe the great grandparents of one of this site's editors...Joanna Balcombe.

By Gary Bennett
On 06/06/2010

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