PLAYING OUT (in the 1950s)

In those days everybody seemed to know each other and watched out for their neighbours. In hot weather many front doors were left open with a plastic strip or deckchair type material curtains to keep the heat and flies out. Most homes did not have a TV and in the evenings groups of neighbours would stand outside chatting together. There were very few parked cars and hardly any through traffic in the side roads of Shepherds Bush so ‘playing out’ was quite safe for children.


On light summer evenings and during school holidays we would ‘play out’ until called home for a meal or bed time. We played football or cricket if someone brought out a ball or bat. Sometimes we even made do with a bat that someone’s dad had carved from a piece of old floorboard. We usually played with tennis balls found amongst the bushes near the tennis courts in Wormholt Park. I remember one day two men gave us a set of six old tennis balls when they opened a new pack. We felt so rich that day.

Whilst the boys played football or cricket the girls more often than not played skipping with a length of old washing line. The main game for boys and girls was hopscotch. A piece of chalk was used to mark the numbered squares, but in the absence of chalk a large stone would suffice and the same stone would be used for the game.

In the autumn we played ‘conkers’ collected from an enormous tree that once stood in Wormholt Park. More often than not we were too impatient to wait for them to fall from the tree and threw sticks up to knock them down. But we always made sure the ‘parkie’ (park keeper) was safely in his little hut in the swings area otherwise he chased us away. Once collected, then all we needed was a metal meat skewer to bore the hole and an old shoe lace to thread through.


Most of us had a collection of 20 or more glass marbles which we usually kept in drawstring bags made by our mums. Although I remember one or two friends used their dad’s old socks. The majority of our glass marbles were the traditional size but if you were lucky you owned one or two large ones, which we called ‘doublers’. If you were really lucky you might have a shiny metal ball bearing in your collection. I remember we once scrounged some from a car workshop that once stood on the corner of Percy Road and Batson Street. We would only use the most chipped marbles to play with as you did not want to lose your good ones in a game. But it also meant that if you won you became the owner of your friend’s worst marble.

If we were not playing marbles then the alternative was cigarette cards. Nearly every cigarette manufacturer put cards in their packets. Adults collected sets and put them in specially printed albums but doubles or unwanted ones were usually given to children to play with. Tea companies followed suit by putting cards in packs of tea. Similar to marbles you would only play with the most worn or damaged cards for fear of losing your best ones.

Cigarette Cards

Toys, usually received as birthday or Christmas presents, were very rarely taken outside. However, we made toys from throwaway items. One was a ‘gun’ made from a matchbox, lolly stick and elastic bands, which actually fired spent matchsticks. Another was a ‘tank’ made from a wooden cotton reel, an elastic band, a lolly stick and a small piece of wax candle. Once wound up it would roll along the ground.

At that time every child’s dream was to make their own go-kart. We searched for abandoned prams or push chairs for wheels. Discarded pieces of wood were used for the cart, and a hefty nut and bolt, a piece of batten and some rope was used for steering. Racing up and down the tarmacked roads was great fun. However, this stopped when the council changed the tarmacked surface to a tar and fine shingle surface which was very unpopular, and terrible for go-carting. There were not many hills in Shepherds Bush but we did discover a sloping path that led from Wormholt Park to Bryony Road, opposite Wormholt Park School. You could get up quite a bit of speed but as soon as you got through the gates you had to steer sharp right or left to avoid hurtling into the road. Of course on many occasions the cart would tip over and you tumbled off.

As a reminder of those days I still have faint scars on my knees from go-cart accidents, slipping on the newly shingled roads, and falling from the swings in Wormholt Park.

Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer

Posted in About, Archives & local studies | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Thames Path through Hammersmith

The Thames Path is a National Trail following the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton, south east London. It is about 184 miles (296 km) long and passes through peaceful water meadows, unspoilt rural villages, historical towns and cities, and finally through the heart of London to end at the Thames Barrier in Greenwich.


A path along the Thames was first proposed in the report of the Hobhouse Committee on National Parks in 1948 (Cmd 6628) but it was not until 1996 that it become a National Trail. There is an additional section from the Thames Barrier in Woolwich to Crayford Ness, near Erith. This 10-mile path is not part of the recognised National Trail and is sometimes known as the Thames Path Southeast Extension. It was opened in 2001 and links the London Outer Orbital Path.


The path’s entire length can be walked, and some parts can be cycled. Most of the path is on the original towpath but in some places the original towpath traffic would have crossed the river to the other side using ferries.  Nearly all the path is directly beside the river and these days developers wishing to build along the river have to agree to provide pedestrian access to the riverside to obtain planning permission.  In Hammersmith, the path runs beside the river almost all the way except at Chiswick Mall.  In Fulham, a much longer stretch, you have to go inland round the Hurlingham Club and the neighbouring flats and at some of the original wharves.

Local children from seven primary schools in Hammersmith and Fulham have produced a guide to the Thames Path from Hammersmith to Chelsea.  It is attractively illustrated with information about the key buildings and places passed and I strongly recommend it. Copies are available in the library.


Guide to the Thames Path from Hammersmith to Chelsea

I will not repeat all the stories the children have discovered but will remind you briefly of what you can see if you walk the section of the Thames Path in the borough of Hammersmith. Hammersmith starts half way along Chiswick Mall, roughly where it is joined by Miller’s Cross.  Here the path runs along a riverside road boasting some of west London’s finest 18th and 19th Century homes.  Beyond this is Hammersmith Terrace where, within a short distance, there are blue plaques to A P Herbert (no 12), humorist in many literary forms, law-reform activist, and independent MP; Emery Walker (no 7), engraver, photographer and printer who took an active role in many organisations that were at the heart of the Arts and Crafts movement; and Edward Johnson (no 3), calligrapher and designer of the sans-serif typeface used by London Underground until the 1980s.

The path continues along the river edge past a number of historical pubs including The Black Lion and The Ship and then passes behind The Dove into Furnivall Gardens.

Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, often credited with having coined the term ‘arts and crafts’, established the Doves Press in 1893, named after the Doves Tavern almost next door to his house. The bindery bound many of the Kelmscott Press books. It was founded in 1901 and was a joint venture between the bookbinder Cobden Sanderson and Emery Walker with money provided by Cobden-Sanderson’s wife, Annie, the suffragette.  It all ended very badly with a major row between the two partners and Cobden-Sanderson throwing all the plates into the Thames at Hammersmith Bridge. Only one specimen remains, a block created for a Christmas greeting in 1900 which remained with Walker and is now preserved in the Emery Walker Library.


Doves Press

William Morris lived at Kelmscott House, 26 Upper Mall from 1878 to 1896.  He was an artist, designer, craftsman, writer and socialist thinker, dramatically changing the fashions and thinking of the era.  The house is in private hands and not open to the public but the William Morris Society is housed in the coach house and basement and open Thursday and Saturday, 14.00 to 17.00. There is presently a photographic exhibition featuring images of Morris & Co as well as previously unseen photographs of William Morris, his family and homes.


Kelmscott House

Rounding the bend in the river, you come across Hammersmith Bridge, which almost marks the boundary with Fulham.


View of Hammersmith Bridge from the towpath at low tide

The first Hammersmith Bridge was sanctioned by an Act of Parliament in 1824 and work on site began the following year. It was the first suspension bridge over the River Thames and was designed by William Tierney Clark.  It cost some £80,000 and opened on 6 October 1827 as a toll bridge.


Engraving of the first Hammersmith Bridge

By the 1870s, the bridge was no longer strong enough to support the weight of heavy traffic and the owners were alarmed in 1870 when 11,000 to 12,000 people crowded onto the bridge to watch the University Boat Race, which passes underneath. In 1884 a temporary bridge was put up to allow a more limited cross-river traffic while a replacement was constructed.

The current Hammersmith Bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and rests on the same pier foundations constructed for Tierney Clark’s original structure. It was opened by the Prince of Wales on 11 June 1887.  Hammersmith Bridge has long suffered structural problems and has been closed for lengthy periods on several occasions due to the weight and volume of road traffic now common in inner London, which the bridge was not originally designed to support.  The bridge was declared a Grade II* listed structure in 2008, providing protection to preserve its special character from unsympathetic development.


 Hammersmith Bridge

Walking under the bridge, you see the Riverside Studios. In 1933, the Triumph Film Company acquired the site of Gwynnes Engineering, a former engineering works and foundry and created two large sound stages from a jumble of workshops.  The BBC bought the site in 1954 and converted it into the country’s first purpose-built television facility and some of the most famous programmes made at Riverside include Hancock’s Half Hour (1957-60), Doctor Who (1964 – 68) and the children’s programmes Blue Peter and Play School. In 1975, after the BBC moved out, a charitable trust formed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council took control of the building and for the next 40 years Riverside Studios provided a programme of live performance, visual arts, international cinema and television production. The original building closed for redevelopment in September 2014 and has been completely rebuilt. It is scheduled to reopen in early 2019.


Riverside Studios

This roughly marks the boundary between Hammersmith and Fulham and is a good place to stop.  The towpath in Fulham is much longer and will need a separate blog.

Fiona Fowler
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer

Posted in About, Archives & local studies, local history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wedding open afternoon at Fulham Library

Are you thinking of getting married and would like a venue with lots of character?

If the answer’s yes, come along to our open afternoon at Fulham Library on Saturday 13 October, 2pm – 4pm.  View the library’s wedding space, meet wedding specialists and enjoy fizz and canapés courtesy of Fait Maison

About the venue

This stunning historic venue will make any couples’ wedding day memorable and special. Built in 1908, the Grade II-listed library’s hall has space for up to 120 wedding guests. The library’s well-maintained features, such as its original wooden book cabinets, provide the perfect backdrop for photographs.

Suppliers who will be attending include:

GB elegant events event coordinators/stylist

Kelly Atwood Floral Designs

My Wedding Fixer wedding planner

LGBTQ equality weddings supplier listing/equality advocate

The Stationery Garden stationery designer

Photo Press bespoke printed newspapers for wedding stationery alternative

Roshni Photography wedding and portrait photographer

Fait Maison caterer

Crown Cakery cake designer

Allison Rodger dress designer

Live music from harpist Eleanor Potter

And finally you will have opportunity to talk to a registrar from the borough

Located in Fulham Road, the stunning venue is close to Parsons Green tube station and is easily accessible by road.

If you can join us, please RSVP with your name and contact details to:

Posted in Fulham Library, Fulham Library Wedding Venue | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

William Morris and Hammersmith | Spitalfields Life

The Gentle Author, who writes for Spitalfields Life, has very kindly given us permission to share his recent piece on William Morris in the East End as Hammersmith is mentioned several times.

And here are a couple of photos from our Archives –

William Morris in 1889


The Hammersmith Socialist Society in the garden at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith (Morris’ house). William Morris is in the photo. c1891

Like to learn more? Our Local Studies and Archives can help.

Posted in Archives & local studies, Special collections | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweets, sweet shops and money in the 1950s

I have previously written about playing in the streets and bombsites of Shepherds Bush, and also about my time at Ellerslie Road School, in the 1950s. But for the ‘Baby Boomers’ the 5th February 1953 was one of the greatest days in the life of a child – the ending of over ten years of sweet rationing. And for the rest of that decade sweets, sweet shops and money became much more important than school, and could only be equalled by ‘playing out’.

‘Lovely Jubbly’ as Del Boy Trotter would say to express his delight. But to us, growing up in the 1950s, a Jubbly was an orange drink in a strange pyramid type carton. But no self-respecting child would ever have drunk one as we only bought them frozen. One end of the carton was cut off and you pushed up the frozen orange and sucked the top like a lolly. But occasionally if they hadn’t been given enough time to freeze completely they were something akin to a ‘Slush Puppies’.

When sweets came off ration we were using the old pounds, shillings and pence system. The pound was of course the same, but it was a banknote rather than a coin. The pound was made up of 20 shillings and there was also a 10 shilling note (equivalent to today’s 50 pence piece). Each shilling was made up of 12 copper pennies, making a total of 240 pennies in one pound. However, it was further complicated as a penny was made up of 2 halfpennies or 4 farthings. There were actually 960 farthing in one pound.

If you were very lucky you might get one or two pennies to spend on the way to school. The farthing continued to be legal tender throughout the 1950s and my earliest memories of money was being able to buy one sweet for one farthing. So for one whole penny I could buy four sweets. There was a choice of two types of chew which were similar to today’s Starbursts or Chewitts. One was an orange/strawberry chew called a Fruit Salad and the other was an aniseed flavoured chew called a Black Jack. The wrapper of the latter would be politically incorrect now as it bore the face of a golly.

As we all know, by watching repeats of old TV programmes, life then was very un-pc. It’s hard to believe but in those days smoking related sweets were readily sold to children, and in fact were very popular. You could buy a pack of 10 sweet candy cigarettes, in a realistic looking cigarette box complete with a picture card. Each cigarette was made of white candy with a red tip at the end. Child size liquorice pipes were sold, complete with a red ‘hundreds and thousands’ top to imitate the glowing tobacco. You could even buy a pouch of sweet tobacco that in fact was candied coconut shaped and coloured to look like tobacco.

Many of our local corner shops sold loose sweets such as bulls eyes, sherbet lemons, acid drops and pineapple cubes. The pineapple cubes were rock hard cubes of yellow candy coated with sugar. They were the same size as the real pineapple chunks that came out of tins. In those days I don’t think many kids actually knew what a real pineapple looked like. There were also chewing nuts that were actually small chocolate covered toffee drops. I think we paid around twopence for a small white paper bag of sweets, weighing two ounces (two ounces was less than 60 grams).

These type of sweets were kept in large glass jars and the shopkeepers would shake them out of the jar into the pan of the weighing scales. Some ‘posh’ shops used small metal scoops but the less hygienic shopkeepers often used their hands, to loosen the sweets if they were stuck in the jar. There were no strict hygiene laws then and I remember that items like liquorice pipes and sticks of hard liquorice were often handed to you by the shopkeeper.

Of course there were lots of packaged sweets such as tubes of Smarties, Love Hearts, Wine Gums and Fruit Pastilles all of which are still in production today. But only those of a certain age will remember sweets such as Bazooka Bubble Gum, Gob Stoppers, Spangles, Five Centres, Picnics and Toffos. One favourite was a Jamboree Bag, which was a sealed paper bag containing a small selection of loose sweets and a small toy.

Old paper advert from author’s own collection

I particularly remember Five Boys milk chocolate bars. The small bar was in 5 segments with a different boy’s face on each. Five Boys was a very old brand and I remember my father telling me that it was his brothers’ favourite chocolate way back in the 1910s. Apparently the actual photos for the advertising were taken in 1885.

Today there are multiple manufacturers selling huge varieties of types and flavours of crisps. It’s hard to believe that in the early 1950s you could only buy plain crisps. They were not even salted and each bag contained a small blue paper twist containing salt. You had to find it in the bag, open it and then sprinkle the salt over the crisps. Occasionally you might find two or even three twists in the bag but if you were really unlucky the twist would be missing altogether.

Over time the local sweet shops I frequented as a child disappeared and the buildings were converted into homes. One was directly opposite my school in Ellerslie Road. There were two in Adelaide Grove; one in a row of shops opposite the Adelaide Pub and the other on the junction of Dunraven Road. The earlier black and white photo on the left shows the shop on the junction of Dunraven Road and Thorpebank Road, and the one on the right is a later photograph of the same building.

There must be a certain nostalgia for some of these old sweets as a quick search of the internet has revealed several websites offering retro 1950s sweets. Black Jacks are still sold but the offending golly picture has disappeared. I did find sweet cigarettes on sale but most have now been renamed candy sticks. However, much to my surprise I did find retro liquorice pipes and sweet tobacco being advertised.

Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer

Posted in Archives & local studies | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Join in with 2018’s Summer Reading Challenge

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge launches in our libraries tomorrow, Saturday 14 July. The challenge is fun, free and designed for all children whatever their reading ability and it’s been designed to help children to improve their reading skills and confidence during the long summer holidays.

Children can read whatever they like for the challenge – fact books, joke books,
picture books, audio books or you can download a book,  just as long as they are borrowed from the library.

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge is called Mischief Makers – Dennis the Menace, Gnasher and friends invite the children taking part to set off on a hunt for Beanotown’s famous buried treasure.

Each of our libraries will be holding special events for children of all ages, some of these are listed now on our website Pop in to your local LBHF library to find out more about the Summer Reading Challenge and collect a special  events programme.





Posted in Askew Road Library, Children, Crafts, eaudiobooks, ebooks, Event, Fulham Library, Hammersmith Library, Shepherds Bush Library, Summer Reading Challenge | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

School memories from the 1950s

In the 1950s, the majority of children went to a local school within walking distance of their homes. So in 1954 I started school life at Ellerslie Road School. It was only recently that I discovered that it was in fact the year that the school celebrated its 60th anniversary, having opened in 1894.

The Hammersmith Ordnance Survey map of 1894 shows the position of the newly opened school just south of Old Oak Farm and east of the disused Brick Yard. Adjacent to the school were fields, which in 1904 became the ground for the Shepherds Bush Football Club. It was not until 1917 that Queens Park Rangers moved in to the ground. The ‘School End’ and later the ‘Ellerslie Road Stand’ became well known to football fans.

There were two black iron gate entrances to the school on Ellerslie Road. The infants and junior girls entrance was on the right and the junior boys was on the left. The gates led into separate playgrounds. I presume they felt the boys were too rough to play with the girls and the infants. The infants school was the first building just inside the gate and was separate from the junior school.

My first school photo

It was a very cold introduction to school life for me. Although we were not required to wear a uniform all boys wore short trousers (even in the winter). The toilets were outside in the playground and they were no more than brick built sheds.

Although the playgrounds were segregated all the juniors came together for lessons. The classrooms were arranged around a central hall. At one end were two big wooden staircases which led up to a balcony. On the left was the teacher’s room and on the right was the Headmaster office. The school had parquet flooring and the lower parts of the walls were shiny glazed bricks with painted plaster above.

Archive photo of an infants class circa 1916
(note the glazed bricks)

Each morning we were given a 1/3 pint bottle of milk which was always extremely cold in the winter. But on particularly hot summer days it often smelt and tasted ‘off’. For some reason there were one or two boys who always drank the unwanted leftover bottles. I seem to remember that the record was about six bottles in one go. Some children were also given cod liver oil capsules to supplement their poor diets.

A lot of children were able to go home for lunch but there was a dining hall in prefab type building at the back of the school. This building was approximately where the Jack Tizard School now stands in South Africa Road. Before the new Ellerslie Road Stand was built at Queens Park Rangers the roof of this building was often used by older boys to climb into the ground on match days.

There were very few books and they were given out and collected in for each lesson by the ‘book monitors’. As a result they were all quite dirty and dog-eared. One term I was very thrilled when I was told I had won a book as a prize. However, my joy turned to disappointment during the prize giving ceremony, when I was told the prize was actually for the school and I had to hand it back.

As with all schools there were good and bad teachers. One teachers, a stereotypical Victorian spinster tried to convert us to Catholicism. We were subject to a very strict regime and had to recite Latin prayers at the start and end of each day. Without fail she gave us detention every night. After a few weeks the mothers started to get very annoyed. One day my mother went to the cloakroom, picked up my coat, opened the classroom door and called me out. The teacher confronted my mother but several other mothers did the same. The detentions stopped and very soon after that the teacher left the school.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I witnessed a very important milestone in British history. It was the arrival of the first black pupil at the school. He had the very unusual name of Cosmos and he was very bubbly boy who soon became friends with everyone. It was many years later that I realised he was one of the Windrush generation.

I don’t actually remember going any school trips but we did have the occasional trip to Lime Grove indoor swimming baths and it was on one such trip that I learnt to swim. Another milestone was that in our final year boys started to wear long trousers and that winter was much more bearable.

About that time a major piece of PE equipment arrived at the school. It was a very new modular system made up of two sections of three triangular shaped climbing frames with wooden ladders. The two sections were linked across the top by a metal tubular bar that held ropes and ladder.

Traditionally the senior class were the cast for the end of year play. In my year it was Treasure Island and the new PE equipment doubled up quite nicely as the rigging of the pirate ship Hispaniola. The production was quite professional with costumes and make up. Sadly, although we could see what our friends looked like we had no idea what we looked like ourselves as there were no mirrors. Few people owned cameras so I don’t think any photos were ever taken. In my part as Redruth, I was the first person to walk on stage and talk. I don’t remember having any nerves even though my mother was sitting right next to the area where I had to wait before making my entrance. Later in the play I had a very dramatic death scene.

My final year at Ellerslie Road School ended with me passing the eleven-plus exam. Then it was the long awaited summer holiday before going on to secondary education.

Entrance to Imre Close

Ellerslie Road School closed in 1998, just over 100 years after it was built. Imre Close was built on the site; named after Imre Kiralfy, who was the mastermind behind the White City Franco- British Exhibition of 1908.

Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer

Posted in Archives & local studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
Text Tribe

Let's talk about books

LBHF Libraries

"More than a library..."

%d bloggers like this: