The Swinging Sixties

I dedicate this blog to my friend Colin Levy who passed away on 12 October
after a short battle with cancer.
May he rest in peace.

On 12 April 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space and for me it was then that science fiction became fact. His historic flight was just six weeks after my eleventh birthday and around six months later I started at Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School. In many ways that summer was the beginning of my ‘Swinging Sixties’.

Internationally the early 1960s were very eventful with the building of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of President John F Kennedy. In the UK there was the Great Train Robbery, Winston Churchill died, the Aberfan School disaster and England won the World Cup.

Closer to home 1964 saw the first episode of Steptoe and Son who lived at the fictitious address of Oil Drum Lane, Shepherd’s Bush. The first episodes were filmed at the BBC Studios in Lime Grove before moving to the Television Centre in Wood Lane. Most of the outside locations were filmed in the roads around Notting Hill and Norland Gardens but some were shot locally, including Wormholt Road, St Luke’s Church and the White City Stadium.

In August 1966 Braybrook Street witnessed the brutal murders of Police Sergeant Christopher Head, Constable David Wombwell and Constable Geoffrey Fox. People came out in their hundreds and stood in the pouring rain to see the funeral cortege arrive for the service at St Stephen’s Church, directly opposite the Police Station.

Family copy of the Imbercourier magazine (this photo was taken from the Police Station)

A few months later Wormwood Scrubs Prison was in the news when Russian spy George Blake escaped. I was out on my early morning paper round and witnessed the police activity following the overnight escape. In March 1967, Third Division Queen’s Park Rangers won the League Cup final against First Division West Bromwich Albion.

The 1950s had seen the rise in popularity of Rock and Roll but in 1962 The Beatles debut single ‘Love me do’ was released which was the start of ‘Beatlemania’. Local boy Roger Daltrey was born in Hammersmith Hospital 1944. In his early years he lived in Percy Road and went to Victoria School in Becklow Road. At the age of 15 he was expelled from Acton County Grammar School and around that time joined The Detours skiffle group. By 1964 the group had evolved into The Who.

The Detours at the White Hart Acton in 1963 Photo courtesy of Irish Jack
The Detours at the White Hart Acton in 1963. Photo courtesy of Irish Jack

By this time my brother was already working and had bought a Dansette record player. With our limited budget we often bought cheap ex juke box records from a stall in Shepherd’s Bush Market. Main stream radio was slow to react to the demand for 24/7 pop music and in 1964 pirate radio stations London and Caroline began transmitting non-stop pop music from ships moored off the Essex coast. At that time my only money came from my paper round and my friend Colin earnt his money on a pink paraffin delivery round. Small pocket transistor radios had become affordable and we both bought ones that were small enough to fit in our shirt top pockets.

Although we constantly listened to pop music we were desperate to see live performances. We had no money to pay for expensive show tickets so we found ways to see them for free. In the school holidays we attended live lunchtime radio broadcasts, although it did mean we had to travel into central London. One favourite location was the BBC Playhouse Theatre in Craven Street where I remember seeing The Animals. We occasionally went to the BBC Paris Studios in Lower Regent Street but it was a small venue and more difficult to get in. We saw one memorable show where The Seekers performed live.

Of course we really didn’t need to travel far as the BBC were right on our doorstep. The BBC studios in Lime Grove broadcast Top of the Pops live but unfortunately for the majority of us it was impossible to get tickets.

Reverse of ticket showing the BBC locations

The BBC Centre in Wood Lane broadcast some live evening shows and also regularly recorded shows. You had to write in and wait a couple of weeks for an allocation of two tickets to arrive in the post. We did get tickets for a few shows and I remember seeing the famous Pan’s People dance. It’s hard to believe now but the security was very lax at that time. You had to show your tickets at the front gates but then walked unescorted to the studio entrance. I remember after one show Colin and I didn’t leave with the rest of the audience but walked around the Centre and grounds unchallenged.

By far the easiest place to get into was the BBC Theatre on Shepherd’s Bush Green. Initially we wrote in for tickets for the most popular shows. Once we had our tickets we always arrived very early to ensure getting seats in the first row of the theatre. However, we soon discovered that there were always two queues outside; one for ticket holders and one for people without tickets. The reason was that the BBC always wanted to ensure the theatre was completely full for every show. On most visits we didn’t have tickets so we always made sure we were at the front of the non-ticket queue to ensure we got in.

Front of ticket for the BBC Theatre

We became regulars at the Theatre to see shows such as The Frost Report, The Billy Cotton Band Show and the Al Read Show. The Frost Report actually launched the television careers of John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, and Ronnie Corbett. On our way to one of his shows we actually bumped into David Frost getting out of his car in Pennard Road. We chatted to him and when he found out we didn’t have tickets he pulled out a single ticket from his jacket pocket and wrote on it admit two. One of our favourite shows was Gadzooks as every show featured at least one top singer or group. Unfortunately it only ran from February to September 1965.

During school holidays we often hung around the stage door in the mornings as we knew that stars arrived for rehearsals ahead of the evening show. I remember seeing the singer Kathy Kirby several times as she had her own weekly show. One morning we started chatting to a group of slightly older teenagers unloading their battered van. We had no idea who they were but asked them for their autographs anyway. They signed a publicity card for us and it turned out that they were an up and coming group called The Small Faces.

Although I started work in 1967 I never earnt enough money to buy tickets to see any of the big stars perform in concert. However, in the last year of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ an older Dutch pen friend came over to stay and took me to see The Beach Boys at the Hammersmith Odeon.

My 1969 programme

My interest in space from the start of the decade continued throughout the sixties and in fact I chose space travel for my school project. Then in July 1969 I was glued to the television to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon. My ‘Swinging Sixties’ ended with a move from my first job in Earl’s Court to a new job working in ‘The City’.

By Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies and Archives volunteer

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The School Year (1950s and 1960s): On little or no money

The post war and baby boomer years were pretty tough for many Shepherds Bush families. Money was tight and younger children would often wear hand-me-down clothes. Sometimes both parents worked, or the father would have to do extra work. Neighbours often helped each other out. Needless to say there was not much spare money around.

Initially I did not get any pocket money but sometimes on the way home from Ellerslie Road School we stopped at the sweet shop for 4 or 8 farthing chews or 2 ounces of loose sweets. But naturally as I got older I wanted some money in my pocket and I tried different ways to get some. I would offer to run errands for the man who lived downstairs, or my mother, or my grandmother who lived close by. If I was lucky I would be given some of the change from the shop. My Nan was a widow and was struggling herself but her brother-in-law visited periodically and between visits he saved all his pennies and halfpennies for us.

However, I soon learnt that here were other ways to get money. I looked for discarded beer and pop bottles that I could take to the shop to get the deposit back. Surprisingly, at that time, there was an amazing array of vending machines for chewing gum, chocolate bars, boxes of sweets, cartons of milk and cigarettes. So whenever I passed a machine I always checked the reject coin slots and change dispensers for coins. The old red telephone boxes also had coin machines; once someone put their money in they had to press Button A to be connected or Button B to get their money back for an unanswered call. So I always pressed Button B in the hope that someone had rushed off without taking their money back.

Telephone box coin machine

But without doubt the best money making time was the weeks leading up to bonfire night. I would make a ‘Guy’ and set up on the Uxbridge Road where there were plenty of local shops. Within two hundred yards stood four pubs; the Princess Adelaide, the Coningham Arms, the British Queen and the Princess Victoria. There were always plenty of people passing and the men going in and out of the pubs were often quite generous. Several neighbours on our road pooled their fireworks to spread the cost which meant that most of my ‘pennies for the Guy’ could be saved to spend on other things.

My favourite ‘Guy’ pitch was just to the right of the Handy Store which was between the British Queen and the Princess Adelaide pubs.

Sometimes we made the most of circumstances and the exceptionally hard winter of 1962/1963 was a good example. There had been very heavy snow and due to three months of prolonged cold temperatures ice and snow was still on the ground. Armed with a shovels and brooms a small group of us went door to door offering to clear snow. Between us we earnt quite a lot of money.

Some children on the White City Estate had perfected the art of car minding on QPR match days or dog racing nights. A combination of kindness and fear of getting their car damaged meant that drivers paid the children to watch their cars. We tried it ourselves one match day but it was quite hard work. We constantly ran up and down South Africa Road looking for cars arriving and asking the driver ‘can we look after your car mister?’ We were quite conscientious and stayed in the road throughout the match watching the cars but we realised that most of the White City kids had gone off to do other things. At the end of the match we had to run up and down the road looking for the returning drivers. Some would quickly drive off but if you were lucky and caught them they would give you some change.

My friend Colin, who I met at Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School, had an ingenious money making scheme when he was at junior school. With the aid of an old pram he went door to door collecting old newspapers which he then sold to a local scrap dealer. In our early teens the employment laws were very lax and we could easily work for money. Colin worked on a paraffin delivery round but I opted for a morning paper round. Newspaper deliveries were very popular and every newsagent employed several paper boys and girls. I worked for my local newsagents run by the Venables family and I was paid around 12 shillings for six mornings work. We all looked forward to Christmas as we got a share from the Christmas Tips Box that was kept on the shop counter. As I had the longest and heaviest round one year I decided it would be much more lucrative to knock on all my customer’s doors to wish them a Merry Christmas. I did collect a very large number of tips but afterwards I got a stern telling off from the boss.

Venables the newsagents is in the centre of this photo

Occasionally I worked the odd Saturday at Wyatts the local butchers. One Christmas I spent the majority of my time in the basement plucking chickens and turkeys, removing giblets and cutting off the claws and heads. It was quite dark and so cold that periodically I had to hold my hands close to the small bulkhead light to get some feeling back. After that experience I never went back!

S C Wyatt the butchers – with the canopy

Around that time new employment laws were introduced regarding part time jobs for teenage schoolchildren. The following Christmas, after filling out all the necessary paperwork, I got a seasonal Saturday job in a small Tesco’s store in Acton High Street. It was my first ‘official’ job working alongside a group of full time employees and although it was quite hard work I enjoyed the experience.

A couple of my friends left school at the age of 15 but most left at 16. I had already sat my GCE O Levels but I stayed on to retake a couple due shortly after my 17th birthday. Just before I took my exams I was interviewed and accepted for a job in the Design Office at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. I knew that I would be expected to pay something towards my keep at home but at long last I would be earning a good regular weekly wage.

By Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies and Archives volunteer

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In the grounds of Fulham Palace

The Gentle Author, who writes for Spitalfields Life, has very kindly given us permission to share his recent piece on walking around the grounds at Fulham Palace.

You leave Putney Bridge Station, cross the road, enter the park by the river and go through a gate in a high wall to find yourself in a beautiful vegetable garden with an elaborate tudor gate. Beyond the tudor gate lies Fulham Palace, presenting an implacable classically-proportioned facade to you across a wide expanse of lawn bordered by tall old trees. You dare to walk across the grass and sneak around to the back of the stately home where you discover a massive tudor gateway with ancient doors, leading to a courtyard with a fountain dancing and a grand entrance where Queen Elizabeth I once walked in. It was only a short walk from the tube but already you are in another world.

For over a thousand years the Bishops of London lived here until 1975 when it was handed over to the public. But even when Bishop Waldhere (693-c.705) acquired Fulham Manor around the year 700, it was just the most recent dwelling upon a site beside the Thames that had already been in constant habitation since Neolithic times. Our own St Dunstan, who built the first church in Stepney in 952, became Bishop of London in 957 and lived here. By 1392, a document recorded the great ditch that enclosed the thirty-six acres of Britain’s largest medieval moated dwelling.

Time has accreted innumerable layers and the visitor encounters a rich palimpsest of history, here at one of London’s earliest powerhouses. You stand in the tudor courtyard admiring its rich diamond-patterned brickwork and the lofty tower entrance, all girded with a fragrant border of lavender at this time of year. Behind this sits the Georgian extension, presenting another face to the wide lawn. Yet even this addition evolved from Palladian in 1752 to Strawberry Hill Gothick in 1766, before losing its fanciful crenellations and towers devised by Stiff Leadbetter to arrive at a piously austere elevation, which it maintains to this day, in 1818.

Among the ecclesiastical incumbents were a number of botanically-inclined bishops whose legacy lives on in the grounds, manifest in noteworthy trees and the restored glasshouses where exotic fruits were grown for presentation to the monarch. In the sixteenth century, Bishop Grindal (1559-1570) sent grapes annually to Elizabeth I, and “The vines at Fulham were of that goodness and perfection beyond others” wrote John Strype. As Head of the Church in the American Colonies, Bishop Henry Compton (1675-1753), sent missionaries to collect seeds and cuttings and, in his thirty-eight tenure, he cultivated a greater variety of trees and shrubs than had previously been seen in any garden in England – including the first magnolia in Europe.

At this time of year, the newly-planted walled garden proposes the focus of popular attention with its lush vegetable beds interwoven with cosmos, nasturtiums, sweet peas and french marigolds. A magnificent wisteria of more than a century’s growth shelters an intricate knot garden facing a curved glasshouse, following the line of a mellow old wall, where cucumber, melons and tomatoes and aubergines are ripening.

The place is a sheer wonder and a rare peaceful green refuge at the heart of the city – and everyone can visit for free .

Cucumbers in the glasshouse

Melon in the glasshouse

Five hundred year old Holme Oak

Coachman’s House by William Butterfield

Lodge House in the Gothick style believed to have been designed by Lady Hooley c. 1815

Tudor buildings in the foreground with nineteenth century additions towards the rear.

Sixteenth century gate with original oak doors

The courtyard entrance

Looking back to the fountain

Entrance to the medieval hall where Elizabeth I dined

Chapel by William Butterfield

Tudor gables

All Saints, Fulham seen from the walled garden

Freshly harvested carrots and vegetable marrows

Ancient yews preside at All Saints Fulham

Visit Fulham Palace website for opening times and details of events – admission is free

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Celebrating Volunteer Week, 1-7 June 2020

Volunteers are becoming a more and more important part of public library life. They help staff to deliver many regular events and activities such as reading groups, writing groups, coffee mornings and homework clubs that enhance the library service.

Volunteers also benefit from gaining experience working with the public, and students can volunteer as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

Askew Road and Fulham Library volunteers

In addition at Hammersmith Library our three “Library Champions,” Joana, Pollyanna and Sawsan are gaining experience in all aspects of working in a library environment.

Spotlight on a volunteer: Pollyanna

Since starting at Hammersmith Library, a couple of years ago Pollyanna has really blossomed into the Library Champion role. She started off shelving books, and helping the odd customer, before progressing to delivering her own regular IT help sessions.

With this under her belt, Pollyanna also started attending the library’s monthly creative writing group, where she has shown a natural gift for writing. She began to come up with writing prompts and exercises for the group, eventually regularly taking the lead at the sessions. In addition to this, she took part in the 2018 City of Stories writing competition which was run across several London boroughs; her entry “The Whistle” was highly commended, and the prize was to have her work published in an anthology!

Creative Writing Group, Hammersmith Library

Ever creative, Pollyanna has added another string to her bow, and now also helps to run one of our children’s’ Art and Craft clubs. This involves her coming up with new craft activities each week, preparing the event and helping to organise other volunteers. Then most importantly she enthusiastically joins in with the fun/mayhem when the children arrive!

Pollyanna says, “volunteering in the library is a great opportunity to grow and interact with all different kinds of people in a rewarding and supportive environment.”

She continues to grow in confidence and to take on new challenges; who knows what will be next?

Spotlight on a volunteer: Joana


I volunteer at Hammersmith Library on Saturday mornings. I am studying Information and Library Studies and hope to work in this sector one day.

The team has been very welcoming and patient in teaching me the ropes. Dealing with the public can be challenging at times but I find it rewarding too, and would prefer to work in a public library because it plays such an important role in the community and touches so many lives.



So, a very big Thank You to all our wonderful library volunteers. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

The staff at LBHF Libraries & Archives

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Free Access to Ancestry Online

LBHF Library staff member, Karen Blackwell, explains how easy it is to use this free online resource

This is really something to get excited about! Ancestry (library edition), usually only available in our library buildings, is now accessible from home during the lockdown!

Anyone who’s ever tried looking into their family history will know it’s a lengthy project (although apart from asking your family where Great Uncle Alfred was buried, there’s no rush – the records aren’t going anywhere!). So it’s an ideal opportunity to dip your toe into the water and see if you get bitten by the genealogy bug! I’ve done a little research before, but a long time ago when many of the records here weren’t online or easily available.

Passenger lists, Liverpool to Saint John, New Brunswick, March 1912

Access is easy – just log in to your library account on the catalogue search page, click on the ancestry button on the top right of the page, and you’re ready to start! There are census records, birth marriage & death records, parish records, military records and more, in an easy to search format that gives you helpful links to other sources for the person you’re looking for.

William Morris with family and servants in the 1881 England Census

Most are downloadable – you can have them emailed to you when you’re searching in the library, or just save onto your computer. I’d recommend renaming the files when you’ve saved them, so you know which ones you’ve got, also to save the original document if you can – just in case there’s been a mistake when it was transcribed. The originals are beautiful in themselves – handwritten in copperplate – and give you a sense of the time they were written. Each document can give you a little bit more of the puzzle, you might even find photos in the lists of soldiers killed in the first world war.

Naval Record for John Gendall, WW1

Make sure you have a note of exact names and birth years as you go, as it’s easy to get carried away and find out lots about someone who doesn’t fit into your family tree! There are handy downloadable forms to store your family tree and document where your information came from so you can check back if you need to.

Newgate prison calendar, 1798

Try it now at:

Karen Blackwell
** All images courtesy of The National Archives, licensed under The Open Government Licence v3.0


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School Memories (from the 1960s)

Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School
Away from the classroom

When I was at Ellerslie Road School in the 1950s school trips were almost unheard of, apart from the odd visit to the indoor swimming pool at Lime Grove.

When I joined Christopher Wren School it was a new experience to go on school trips. However, at that time there was no such thing as teaching assistants and full responsibility fell on one solitary form teacher. So visits were normally kept fairly local to Shepherds Bush which meant walking or possibly one short journey on public transport. One such trip was to the newly opened Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street. In comparison to some of the London museums it was a very modern and vibrant building.

Commonwealth Insitute

Commonwealth Institute mid 1960s (now the Design Museum)

On a visit to Hammersmith Police Station we were shown the cells along with various offices where one or two pupils had their fingerprints taken. The highlight for most of us was visiting the horses in the stables, which at that time had its own police blacksmith. He described how horseshoes were made and demonstrated by putting a metal bar into the furnace and then hammering the red hot iron. When he got it to the correct horseshoe shape he dropped it on the cobblestone floor. Our teacher picked it with the intention of showing us, but quickly dropped it as it was still extremely hot. You can imagine our laughter.

Hammersmith Police Station

Hammersmith Police Station
(the wooden gates on the right led to the stables)

Using the tube, one very memorable visit was to see the new musical Oliver starring Ron Moody as Fagin. That was my first experience of seeing a show in a west end theatre. Up until that time my only other theatre visit had been to a Christmas Panto with my parents at the Chiswick Empire.

We went by coach to see the tea clipper Cutty Sark in dry dock at Greenwich. At that time it had only been open to the public as a museum for about ten years. Another trip was to Heathrow Airport, long before it had a tube connection. In those days security was not a big issue but it’s hard to believe that we were actually taken on board an aircraft.

One much longer journey was to the London Brick Company in Bedfordshire. I think most of us found the visit pretty boring apart from the lunch that they provided. Before leaving we were each presented with a souvenir miniature brick. In the days before personal computers mine sat by my old mechanical typewriter at home as it was an ideal for holding paperclips. Fifty five years later I still have it tucked away in a bureau.

                                               The top and base of the bricks

Christopher Wren School had recently joined the European Link programme for exchange visits with overseas school pupils. The programme was designed for very small mixed classes of 6th year pupils studying languages. I was in a lower year and although my French was quite good I had no intention of taking part in the programme. However, when a host family were unable to accommodate their designated pupil my parents were asked if they could take him in. Part of the groups stay included a series of visits around London and I was allowed to go on all the trips. Although I enjoyed the visits it was very difficult as I didn’t know any of the other pupils and I was the youngest in the group.

Around the same time the school started organising day trips to France. We had to pay for the trip ourselves and I remember paying in 6d or a shilling every week for a whole term. At that time passports were not required for day trips and we only needed an identity card, which the school organised for us. We were picked up at the school by coach and driven down to Kent and crossed the channel by ferry. For the majority of us it was the first time we had ever been on a ship, and those 3 or 4 hours spent in Boulogne was our first ever visit to a foreign country. Over ten years later, when my father passed away, I found the battered and rusty Boulogne souvenir penknife in an old tool box and I have kept it ever since.


Penknife from Boulogne

Some pupils went to organised summer camps and quite a few attended after school sports activities, but neither appealed to me. But one teacher was a real film buff and started a Film Society for senior pupils, which included girls from Hammersmith County School. It took place weekly in the Christopher Wren theatre. The teacher’s favourite director was Alfred Hitchcock so we got a chance to see some real classics such as The Birds and North by Northwest. The 16mm films were on huge spools and the sound of the projector running added to the atmosphere. Although we were underage he showed us some ‘X’ rated films, including the banned Marlon Brando film The Wild One.

Chrisotpher Wren theatre

The photo above is from the Phoenix Academy website and shows how the theatre looks today. On the right you can see angled white panels (when I was there the panels were plain wood). Normally the other side was used as a dinner room but the panels were sometimes raised to increase the seating capacity of the theatre. The following old photo shows the dining area with some of the panels raised. It was in this area that we had our end of school disco.

dining area

In the 1960s charity walks became a very popular way to raise money for charity and I was amongst the first to participate in a Christopher Wren charity walk for Shelter. One Saturday morning a large group of us met outside the Hammersmith Odeon and walked all the way to Guildford Town centre. The distance was supposed to match the length as the marathon but unfortunately a small group of us took a wrong turning which added several extra miles to the distance.

Shortly after that charity walk I walked out of the gates of Christopher Wren School for the last time.

Post Script

In 1982, approximately fifteen years after I left, Christopher Wren School merged with Hammersmith County School and was renamed Hammersmith School. To maintain the historical names the school was made up of Wren Wing and County Wing.

In the early 1990s the school was judged by OFSTED to be ‘Failing’. Then in 1992 there was a major fire in the County Wing which had been started by pupils. Two years later the school was put in ‘Special Measures’.

William Atkinson was appointed Head in 1995 and relaunched the school as Phoenix High School. Not only did he turn the school around he contributed to Channel 4’s ‘The Unteachables’ and also inspired Lenny Henry’s character in the 1999 BBC TV series ‘Hope and Glory’. He was knighted in 2008 and remained head until 2010.

In May 2016 the school again went into ‘Special Measures’ and Michael Taylor took over. A few months later the school was relaunched as Phoenix Academy.

Peter Trott
LBHF Local Studies and Archives Volunteer

Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies and Archive Catalogue


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School Memories (from the 1960s)

Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School
Years 4 to 6

Having left behind the Victorian built Ellerslie Road School my early years at Christopher Wren School were spent in the modern 1950s building. However, we did have a few lessons in the old 1930s building that fronted Bryony Road. From memory the class interiors and most of the furniture appeared to be as old as the building itself.
One regular lesson in the old building was Geography, but our teacher was invariably absent or turned up very late. Left to their own devices a couple of boys discovered that the antiquated wooden stock cupboard lock could be opened using a metal comb (metal combs were the fashion item of the day). So needless to say we all stocked up on much needed notebooks, paper, biros, pencils, etc.

The ‘old school’ on Bryony Road
Originally the North Hammersmith Secondary School
(now the Cambridge School)

From the fourth year lessons became more focussed towards our GCE O Level exams. The GCE O Level or General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level was much harder to pass than the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) which was introduced in the late 1980s. In the mid 1960s five or more O Level passes were recognised as being very good.
Lessons and Health and Safety were very different in the 1960s. Although we often used Bunsen burners and handled dangerous chemicals we were not issued with any form protective clothing, glasses or gloves. One potentially dangerous but funny incident sticks in my mind. A teacher was showing us an experiment when he accidentally created a large cloud of acrid smoke. He left us sitting at our desks as he ran to the door holding a handkerchief over his nose and mouth shouting ‘don’t breathe it in’.
I also witnessed a really horrific event during another chemistry lesson. One boy had somehow managed to get hold of some blank bullets. During the lesson he rammed one into the tube of a Bunsen burner and lit the gas in the air control vent. The bullet shot across the room with an enormous bang and hit the blackboard only a few inches from the teacher’s head.
By the 5th year some boys who had opted for ‘trade’ based syllabuses or those not intending to take GCEs were leaving. The rest of us were sitting mock exams. The school was an all boy’s school and up until that point all the teachers had been men. But one day two women teachers arrived at the school. One was a science teacher and the other an english teacher; who was particularly attractive and proved to be a big distraction to boys of our age.
In spite of studying for exams in some ways school actually became much more fun. For example for ‘sport’ we were given a free choice of activities. Only six of us chose ice skating, which took place at the Queensway Ice Rink. However, there were not enough teachers to supervise all the sports so we were allowed to travel on our own by tube from Shepherds Bush to Queensway. It goes without saying that our rink sessions always went way over time and occupied all of the morning.
A few boys from our year were selected to become prefects to bolster the 6th form prefects but luckily I was not chosen. As I lived close to the school I preferred to go home for lunch and had no desire to do prefect duties.

Prefect’s Badge

I have photographed my own prefect’s badge against a red background which represents the colour of my school house which was Clarendon. The badge depicts St Paul’s Cathedral which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

The 5th year culminated in exams. All the general subjects were sat in one of the three gyms but specific exams such as chemistry, technical drawing and building practice were taken in the appropriate parts of the school. Some exams were a farce due to no fault of our own. As an example, for technical drawing we had spent the whole year studying the construction of a house roof using tiles. When we sat down for the exam the teacher informed us that the exam was based on a slate roof. He said ‘the only thing I can tell you is that a slate is twice as long as it is wide’ and left us to it. I think the majority of us failed that particular exam.
Unless it was near hurricane conditions we were all expected to be outside before assembly and during breaks. As we were older and wiser we were not enjoying having to be outside, particularly when it was foggy, cold or wet. With our newly acquired knowledge from metalwork classes a friend and I cut our own master keys which gave us access to every room in the school.
Those taking or retaking GCEs stayed on for the 6th year. It was at that time that the school started having some mixed lessons, bringing a small number of girls over from the adjoining Hammersmith County School. Although none of the classes covered my subjects I quickly gave up ice skating in favour of the mixed hockey games on a Friday afternoons.

So far I had avoided becoming a prefect but by default all 6th Formers became prefects. This did mean having certain jobs; in my case playground supervision during the morning break. However, it also gave me more freedom and meant that certain parts of school life became even easier.
Although the school’s main examining board was the University of Cambridge they did not cover all subjects and some were covered by the Associated Examining Board. This proved to be quite difficult as it meant some exams clashed. On one particular day two of us had three exams and two were scheduled for exactly the same time. Under close supervision we had to sit one exam in the gym in the morning. Then we were put in a small office to sit another exam followed by a break and then back to the gym for the third exam.

GCE O Level certificate

The vast majority of boys only sat GCE O Levels. Once you passed an O Level exam you could go on to sit the A Level (Advanced). In fact there very few boys who actually took any A Levels. And I don’t think anyone from my class actually went on to university.
In reality the more O Levels you passed the more chance you had of getting a good job. In the final months at school quite a few boys had already found jobs or were actively seeking work. In fact I had secured a job even before I sat my remaining GCE O Levels, so I must admit I didn’t bother swotting too much.

To be continued …..

Peter Trott
LBHF Local Studies and Archives Volunteer

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School Memories from the 1960s

Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School.

Years 1 to 3

The plans for two new interconnected schools in Shepherds Bush were revealed in 1952 with a projected cost of £633,000. The old North Hammersmith Secondary School on Bryony Road would be incorporated into the design. The schools would be named Hammersmith County (for girls) and Christopher Wren (for boys).
My brother left Christopher Wren School in 1959 and two years later I joined the school. At that time the form rooms for the senior boys were based in the old North Hammersmith School building with the entrance on Bryony Road. The 1st to 4th year boys were based in the new building, which is now the Phoenix Academy. The entrance was on Bloemfontein Road, which is now the entrance to the Phoenix Fitness Centre and the Janet Adegoke Swimming Pool. The Hammersmith County School entrance was on The Curve.


When I was at Ellerslie Road Junior School there was no uniform and most boys wore shorts throughout the year; and yes even in winter. The move to Christopher Wren meant we all had to wear a school uniform including long trousers, a black or navy blue blazer with a school badge, white shirt and, horror of horrors, a tie. The designated school outfitters was Speake Brothers which had a large shop at Savoy Circus, East Acton.

For the purposes of inter school competitions the school was split into four houses named after famous people contemporary with Christopher Wren; Clarendon (red), Dryden (green), Gibbons (blue) and Newton (yellow). On joining the school each pupil was allotted to a house and remained in that house throughout their time at the school. I was in Clarendon House, again following in my brother’s footsteps.


School badges


The Secondary Modern curriculums were very wide and varied covering all traditional subjects as well as various trades. For boys this included technical drawing, woodwork, metalwork and bricklaying. There were purpose built art rooms and several workshops, three large playgrounds, a small sports green as well as three fully equipped gyms.
Morning assembly took place in a large hall mid-way between the boys and girls schools. There was also a theatre where smaller assemblies took place. This was in a separate wing which also included the dining rooms for teachers and pupils. Morning assembly was followed by four 40 minute lessons and after lunch there were three further 40 minute lessons. If your next class happened to be at the opposite end of the building or three or floors apart then 10 minutes could easily be wasted changing classrooms.
Class sizes tended to range between 28 and 32 pupils. Being an inner city school meant that there was an enormous difference of backgrounds. Each class had at least one Polish, Italian or Jewish boy whose family were in Britain in part as a consequence of the Second World War. Also the children of the Windrush generation were starting to join the school adding to the mix of cultures and races. Every class had a swot, a joker, an entrepreneur, and at least one budding criminal. There was a lot of petty thieving particularly from the corridor lockers, which ironically had been made without locks. Of course no one used them and we all carried our heavy bags from one lesson to another.


Section of my first school report
(note the class size of 31)


Twice a week we had PE on site and once a week we were taken by coaches to a sports ground near Sudbury for football or rugby. However, most times we had to go cross country running over Horsenden Hill. There was always some reason such as the pitches weren’t ready, or they were waterlogged, frozen or too dry. Looking back now I believe it was a chance for the teachers to have a nice rest in the clubhouse while we went running. Very occasionally if the weather was good we were taken swimming at Bloemfontein Road open air pool.
On the whole most of the teachers were very good but there were a few exceptions; one eccentric science teacher brought in what he claimed was a satellite that he had found on Wormwood Scrubs. Although he sounded very convincing it was of course a complete fantasy. Incidentally, he was the same teacher who took my brother’s class to Wormwood Scrubs to count pigeons for a complete lesson. One day a particularly accident prone chemistry teacher created a huge cloud of choking smoke. As he dashed to the door with a handkerchief over his mouth he shouted over his shoulder ‘don’t breathe it in’.
Oddly, one woodwork teacher was building a canoe in the workshop but there was no way he could ever have got it out without dismantling a complete window frame. Not surprisingly it was still there when I left the school several years later.

From the 3rd year classes were graded towards your final years at the school. I was in a ‘G’ class meaning that I would be studying towards my GCE O Levels (General Certificate of Education – Ordinary Level). But real swotting would begin in the 4th year.

To be continued …….

Blog post written by Peter Trott, LBHF Local Studies & Archives volunteer.

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A Walk along the Towpath: Hammersmith Bridge to Putney Bridge

Last year I wrote about the section of the towpath that passes through Hammersmith. Today we walk from Hammersmith Bridge to Putney Bridge. In the early days, the Fulham riverside was farm land, mainly orchards and market gardens, owned by the Bishops of London who were the Lords of the Manor. In the 18th century it would have been interspersed with large country houses although a century or so later many of these houses had been sold or fallen into disrepair to be replaced by industrial undertakings and commercial wharves. By the end of the 20th century these in turn had been largely replaced by or converted to apartment blocks and cafes.

Riverside Studios

We ended the last blog just past Hammersmith Bridge, at the Riverside Studios. The studios were built on the site of two engineering companies, Gwynnes and Rosser & Russell.


Photo 1: Queens Wharf and engineering companies seen from Hammersmith Bridge c1900


You may notice the inlet known as Parrs Ditch just before Queens Wharf. This marks the historic boundary between Hammersmith and Fulham and would have been a main route from the river to the village of Hammersmith. The watercourse is now culverted underground and one of “London’s Lost Rivers”. At low tide, there is a high and dry sandbank along this stretch of the Thames and there may well have been a ford across the river in earlier times.

Today the engineering companies have been replaced by the Riverside Studios due to open this summer as an arts centre, studios and restaurants.


Photo 2: Riverside Studios today


Fulham Reach

Travelling along the river in the seventeenth century you would have come to the Great House, built early in the reign of Charles I by Sir Nicholas Crispe (ca. 1600-1666). The house was unusual at the time as it was built of brick. Sir Nicholas was the first person to successfully import to England the Dutch art of brickmaking and was a great benefactor to the borough of Hammersmith, supporting the building of Hammersmith’s first church (later it became St Paul’s), by supplying both money and bricks. His estate would have stretched south as far as Crabtree Farm. As a prominent Royalist, his estates were removed after the execution of Charles I but he managed to retrieve them with the Restoration.

The house was later bought by Prince Rupert for his mistress and in 1749 by George Dodington, the future Lord Melcombe. He named it La Trappe after the monastery in France, spent a fortune on it, repairing and modernising it throughout and building a magnificent gallery.

In 1792, the house was bought by the Margrave of Brandenburgh and it became known as Brandenburgh House. He and his wife also made extensive improvements and erected a small pseudo-gothic theatre close to the water. The Margravine was an amateur actress and wrote plays for her friends that were performed in the theatre. After the Margrave’s death, she retired to Naples in 1819 and lent the house to Queen Caroline of Brunswick, separated wife of George IV, who kept her small rival court here.


Photo 3: Brandenburgh House showing the house and the theatre


Caroline fell ill and died on the 7 of August, 1821. Within a year of her death, the contents of Brandenburgh House were sold by auction, and the King had the mansion pulled down.

On the site were built the first and largest of the industrial development schemes that were soon to stretch right along the Fulham riverside. The Haig Distillery (first known as the Hammersmith Distillery) was erected in 1857 on part of the grounds, and in 1872 Alexander Manbré built his sugar refinery (known as the Manbré Saccharine Works) on the remainder.

Photo 4: View of the river circa 1900


Photo 5: The Manbré and Garton Sugar Refinery


By the 1980s, both factories had closed down and the sites were vacated to be replaced by a vast development offering apartments, shops, bars, restaurants and water sports facilities including a community rowing club.


Photo 6: Fulham Reach


Thames, Dorset and Palace Wharves

The 1890s onwards saw a sustained period of wharf construction stretching along the river.

Thames Wharf, now best known for the famous River Café, was originally an industrial site containing the Duckham’s oil facility. Duckham was founded by Alexander Duckham in 1899 and established a good reputation in the field of lubrication for industrial machinery and motor vehicles. The company moved to Fulham in 1921, and major expansions occurred in 1940 and 1948 but the works at Thames Wharf were closed in 1979.

It was acquired by the Richard Rogers Partnership in 1983. The site was cluttered with oil tanks and other temporary structures, and completely inaccessible to the public. It was converted into offices, workshops, housing and, on the ground floor, the River Café, opened by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. A garden courtyard forms the centrepiece of the scheme and links to a riverside walkway. The architectural practice was housed in a modernized 1950s building although it moved out in 2016 and the building now houses studios (much of it let to Re:Centre) and a café.


Photo 7 Thames Wharf today


Dorset Villa, built about 1747 and forming part of the estate of Sir Nichols Crispe, was demolished in 1890 and the grounds converted to a wharf and warehouse for the corn merchants, Hood and Moore. As part of this scheme, the Anglo-American Oil Company established Dorset Wharf on the river.

The photograph below shows the Maltings built about 1790 by Mr Joseph Attersoll and the Crab Tree pub.


Photo 8 The Maltings and the Crab Tree 1890


Palace Wharf replaced the Maltings in 1907 and an extension facing Rainville Road was added in 1933. For many years the wharf was the home of the ‘Rathbone Works’ of fibrous plaster firm, George Jackson & Sons. This had been founded in Rathbone Place off Oxford Street in the early 19th century and when they moved, prior to the Second World War, to Fulham, they kept the Rathbone name. Jacksons’ made the new plasterwork for Hammersmith’s rebuilt Lyric Theatre. Now it is town houses and luxury apartments.


Photo 9 Looking back at Thames and Palace Wharves 1972


Photo 10 Thames and Palace Wharves today with Charing Cross Hospital in the distance


The Crabtree

Crabtree was described in earlier times as “an insignificant village consisting of half a dozen houses inhabited by gardeners, brick makers etc together with a small inn.” In the 1760s the pub had been known as ‘The Pot House’ after a pottery operating in the area. It served the market gardens and was on the edge of the land of the last local farmers, the Matyear family. It changed its name to ‘The Three Jolly Gardeners’ and only later took the name of the area, being known ever since as The Crabtree.


Crabtree Inn postcard c1890


The Crabtree was rebuilt in 1898. It was on the same site and shared the same relationship with the river, being next to a beach and overhung by a willow tree but it was far larger than its predecessor.


Photo 12 The Crabtree today


Around this area there were a number of riverside villas – Belle Vue (1816), Rosebank (1809), Sussex House (1818) and Craven Cottage (1780) – and by 1900 many of them had been replaced by wharves. Tea Rose Wharf was built soon after, followed by Blakes Wharf, at the end of Stevenage Road, just after the turn of the century and Eternit Wharf in 1910.


Photo 13 The Crabtree and its neighbours, the Crabtree and Wheatsheaf Wharves 1972


Fulham Football Club

At Fulham Football Club’s Craven Cottage stadium you do, for the first time, have to go inland. The original Craven Cottage, built in 1780 by Lord Craven, was a pretty thatched roof house with an elevated terrace along the river side. It was destroyed by fire in 1888.


Photo 14 Craven Cottage 1880


When representatives of Fulham Football Club first came across the land, in 1894, it was so overgrown that it took two years to make it suitable for football. The first football match with gate receipts was Fulham against Minerva on 10 October 1896. The ground’s first stand was built shortly afterwards. Described as looking like an “orange box”, it consisted of four wooden structures each holding some 250 seats, and later was affectionately nicknamed the “rabbit hutch”. Over the years more stands have been added and now plans have been agreed that will extend the seating capacity to 30,000. Work has begun this summer and the plans also include a river walk that will be open to the public at all times save when there is a match.


Photo 15 Fulham Football Club today


Photo 16 The proposed riverside stand and river walk


Bishop’s Park

Immediately past the stadium, is Bishop’s Park, the public park surrounding Fulham Palace that was originally part of the grounds of the Palace. It is a strange shape with a long area beside the river and a spur reaching up to Fulham Palace Road and a very thin, little used, area bordering the Fulham Palace Road. In the middle are Fulham Palace and the allotments. Each section was added to the park at different times over a period of about 20 years and was deliberately designed for different activities: promenading along the river, refreshment and education, sport and children.

The first section you reach walking from Hammersmith is Fielders Meadow. In 1899 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were persuaded to give the area, then occupied by a Mr Fielder to the park. The western part was turfed for a cricket pitch. The eastern end was designed around an ornamental lake with a rustic wooden bridge over the narrow part and terracotta balustrades. There would be separate activities: exercise for small children on the beach (known as Margate Sands as the sand was originally brought from Margate) and the paddling area, a quiet croquet lawn or bowling green “for those unable to indulge in more violent exercise”. The area opened in 1903 and was immensely popular.


Photo 17: The beach at Bishop’s Park 1928


You come next to a central area where once there was a bandstand and now a playground and open area for events and a farmers’ market. It is at this point that you could branch off from the towpath and visit Fulham Palace. It used to be impossible to see the Palace from the park due to the mature trees and the dense understorey of shrubs, but these have recently been thinned so now you can see glimpses.

The next section of the park, the first to be acquired, runs between the Palace moat and the river and was offered to the Vestry, then the equivalent of the local authority, by the Bishop of London following a public meeting in 1883.

The offer was not quite as generous as first appeared as the area was described as a “malodorous line of foreshore backing a forlorn stretch of marsh land, unkempt and unsavoury … a sort of no man’s land, a nuisance to the palace and an eyesore to the public”. It was a marshy, dangerous, rubbish tip bordered by a very polluted river. Furthermore, before any landscaping could take place, the meadow had to be protected from flooding by creating an embankment and building a river wall. The park was formally opened in 1893, changed its name to Fulham Park in 1902 and then back to Bishop’s Park four years later.


Photo 18: The River Walk


It was along this section that the bishops had their landing stage as their normal transport from the City would have been along the river. The park had been badly neglected by the beginning of the present century but after a successful lottery funding bid in February 2011, a major restoration project updated and modernised almost the entire site and the ‘beach’ area was reintroduced.

At the edge of the park, at the entrance from Putney Bridge, was Vine Cottage. Its gardens and outbuildings were acquired by the Vestry in 1894, demolished in 1897, and the present Pryor’s Bank pavilion constructed and opened in 1900. The Victorian house was once a successful teahouse associated with the adjacent formal gardens designed to impress. It is now looking rather sad.


Photo 19: Pryor’s Bank


This is a good place to stop. If you are walking the towpath, I would again recommend the short attractive booklet, The Thames Path from Hammersmith to Chelsea produced by children from primary schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, as a guide. Copies are available in the Local Studies & Archives library.


Photo 20 leaflet


The old photographs all came from the Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies & Archives (; the modern ones are my own.

Fiona Fowler
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer



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Space Chase – Taking the Challenge in the Library!

LBHF Libraries are venturing into space this summer on the anniversary of the moon landing. At Hammersmith Library they are rocketing amongst the planets whilst ‘Ronnie’ the Space Chase robot meets and greets those taking the Reading Agency’s Space Chase Summer Reading Challenge!


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All the libraries have exciting events taking place this summer. The experience at Shepherds Bush library is truly out of this world with the rocket circling the planets.


Rocket flight at Shepherds Bush Library


Come and meet John Kirk the storyteller as he blasts through a trio of out of this world stories. In Jonathan Emmett’s ‘Bringing Down the Moon’, Mole tries to reach the beautiful moon but soon learns that its not as near as it looks. In Simon James’ ‘The Boy from Mars’, a Martian comes to stay at Stanley’s house whilst his Mum is away and gets Stanley into trouble and Dom Conlon reveals the story behind the nursery rhyme in ‘Why the Cow Jumped Over the Moon’. These storytelling sessions are suitable for children aged 3 and over and are happening on Wednesday 24 July. Free and no need to book, just turn up.

Then if you would like to play the part of animal ranger come along to meet Zoolab’s team of animals and rangers. The rangers will tell you about the animals and you may even get the chance to hold one of them. Advanced booking is essential.

For more stories, if you are 5 to 7 years, come along to a Cat & Hutch Space Stories workshop. For these just book through Eventbrite.



If stories and animals are not enough and you are 8 to 11 years of age come and meet the Education Team from QPR Community Trust for fun and interactive activities linking physical activity with reading and poetry.

If you would like to meet up and chat about the books you have enjoyed over the summer Hammersmith Library are running two special Reading Agency Chatterbooks sessions for children 6 to 12 years.

All details of the events taking place in the libraries can be found on the website

Come and join us in the libraries this summer!

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