Reminiscences of Mile Oak

I remember…

I remember the small blue police box on the corner of Sefton Road and Stanley Avenue – the light on the top used to flash when the policeman was late checking in. Also in Stanley Avenue was a siren on a tall post (there was also one at the top of the hill) the siren used to sound once a week. They were presumably used during the war.

There was a  thatched cottage on the corner of Chrisdory Road. Mrs Painter lived in it………. She owned an apple orchard on the opposite corner, with a huge silver birch tree overhanging Chrisdory and Mile Oak Road.  The 15b bus stopped by this tree and reversed back up Chrisdory Road. The bus parked outside Mrs Painters side gate and waited for all and sundry who wished to ride out of Mile Oak. The bus service ran every 20 minutes. Chris and Dorothy were the children of Mr and Mrs Painter, so presumably Chrisdory Road was named after them. Mrs Painter used to spend much of her time leaning on the gate watching the world go by and shouting at innocent children scrumping her apples.

Sledging down the hill used to scare me as you went so fast. I can remember some of the boys ended up in the middle of Mile Oak Road – We had snow in those far off days.

The road dropping down the hill into Mile Oak was much narrower then and I remember the twinkling lights of Mile Oak as seen from the top of the bus

Remember the little red bus – the number 9 -which was the only public transport in the 40’s. It ran from Porstlade Station to Mile Oak often dropping off people outside their front door…..it had been known for the driver to collect shopping in Portslade for some of the residents

What about Coombs the grocer, Gebbets the Post office, Figgins the Greengrocer, Mr Hart the Butcher who used  to deliver and if you gave him a cup of tea he would drink it from the saucer.

My Mum took my brother and myself up to Mile Oak Farm where we used to stand at the gate and watched the cows come into the yard for milking, I can still remember the noise of the milking machines and the constant mooing of the cows.

I used to live in a white cottage at the top of Chalky Lane.  It really was chalky then.  Chalky Lane was a rough rutted dirt track right up to the other side of the valley and  past the girls school (great to ride your bikes along) and on towards Broomfield’s farm.

Don’t forget the chalk pit opposite Chalky Lane…….talking about the Chalk Pit, do you remember the boys fitting a cable across and we used to slide over to the other side.  What about those large round drums open at both ends which we used to roll down in the pit.

I remember MORA  Do’s we used to have in the field at the bottom of Stanley Avenue and the wonderful socials in the hall of the Church of the Good Shepherd (the ‘tin hut’).  The church and the attached hall had fields behind which seemed to go on forever

Memories abound, singing carols, joining in the fun on bonfire nights and dancing round the huge community bonfire in the paddocks…… these bonfires were often a horrendous size and gave out tremendous heat………at other times when it snowed it was fun to go up the Downs opposite the row of shops with our sledge and join all the other families risking all to slide down the steep slope towards the barbed wire fence…….this fence sometimes produced casualties.

Remember when Mile Oak was totally filled with Bren gun carriers, lorries, tanks etc all preparing for despatch in a few days to the D-Day landings……..the garages behind Chrisdory Road were being used by the soldiers preparing food etc while they waited.  Scuff marks from the tracks of the tanks still show on some of the Kerb stones.

The bomber landing in the field behind the bottom of Stanley Avenue having missed the girls’ school and stopping short of the tall trees.  The plane was riddled with bullet holes and was returning from a sortie.  Many of us were taken to look at the plane…..it was dismantled and loaded onto lorries………

Do you recall Miss Corall pumping away at the church organ during Sunday School, and of course, there was Sister Holland dressed in her grey nuns’ clothing with the black veil.

Does anyone remember Father Christmas on Christmas Day??. He used to come round to the children to give them a present.  He had a horse and cart and was accompanied by his many helpers.  Mr Ward used to be Father Christmas and my Dad used to be a big Indian that helped him…………

There was a Youth Club for the teenagers in the hall of the ‘Tin Hut’ on Sunday evenings.  There we would go and have fun, playing table tennis and other games.  We even put on a pantomime for our parents and grandparents – “Snow White and the Severn Dwarfs”

Walking to school during the times that the buses could not run because of the deep snow drifts on the side of the hill out of Mile oak and the slippery hill out of the Old Village.  At that time Valley Road was still a dream away.

I remember that a small white ice-cream van would come round Mile Oak on a Sunday afternoon.  The driver would call out “Choc-aye-dee” to attract 

Life goes on by…. But the memories of extended summer evenings, playing in the streets, rarely a car on the road and parents chatting over fences, that was life in the slow lane……..but it is bringing back all these memories.

The VE and VJ day street parties with long trestle tables in the street.  The Woolley family from Sefton Road dragging their piano out into the street. We had singing dancing and of course foooood…………

What about Lizzy Weller with all her pigs.  Her pig farm overlooked Mile Oak Road, the footpath that ran up beside her pig farm still exists, and most will remember the delightful smell that sometimes wafted across Mile Oak when the wind was in the right direction.

Remember the baker on his rounds – he had a horse and covered wagon, he used to sit outside our house doing his paperwork prior to setting off back to the bakery. More often than not when he left his horse would have deposited a package which was immediately retrieved by our neighbour opposite for enhancing the growth of her plants.  Once finished with his deliveries he would just say ‘home’ to the horse and it would trot merrily along Mile Oak Road.

Remember the ‘Hole in the Wall’ bus stop which actually was a hole in the old flintstone wall.  This wall would have been between Mile Oak Road and the Paddocks

The old Mile Oak Garage, a huge black wooden building with one petrol pump at the entrance.  One had to walk down the slope off of Mile Oak Road on the left going north. Inside the building was a central office area where my father went to chat with Mr  Butcher……..

Memories of walking up to the Waterworks and then up onto the hill with the dew pond and the reservoir nearby surrounded in a tall metal fence. To the left of the dew pond was a bank with sweet smelling grass surrounded by yellow flowered extremely prickly gorse bushes. There were wild strawberries to be picked and there was the lovely fresh air. Much of the grass was kept short by the large number of rabbits living in the area. The view of Mile Oak from there brought tears to my eyes……

The Downlands surrounding Mile Oak were the best playing fields in the whole world.  Safe and miles to run and keep fit.  Why did we ever want to leave such a small part of paradise??…..

I recall one icy winters day watching the bus back up into Chrisdory Road, apply its breaks, then slide back on the ice into the middle of Mile Oak Road…..

The small hamlet of Mile Oak, with roads named after the horse connection of the stables – Beechers and Foxhunters.  The bus stop in Mile Oak Road called the ‘Hole in the Wall’. The small row of shops, enough for the whole neighbourhood during the 40’s and 50’s

I remember with other boys finding a large coil of wire rope in the chalk pit, dragging it to the top after much heaving and pushing – uncoiling it and stretching it across the chalk pit. We securely anchored it at the top end (don’t remember how) and at the bottom end we fixed to an old iron bedstead. Once it was securely fixed we all took turns in sliding across on old bucket handles etc.  These days children are not allowed to enjoy themselves and take risks like we did.

Mr Coombs who owned the Off Licence/Grocers was the Government Agent for the supply of gas masks for all the people of Mile Oak. The war was coming and we had to go to him for our masks.

Remember playing cricket up on the top of Southwick Hill

I remember having a Mickey Mouse gas mask.

All the girls in Chrisdory Road/top of Stanley Avenue skipping with a long skipping rope which reached from one side of the road to the other.  All jumping in and singing “all in together girls”.  When Dr. Portas came up the road on his rounds (his was the only car in those days) we had to jump to one side and let him pass…..

Up towards the farm was the upper part of a bus with an open staircase which  all the kids used to play in.  Can’t remember if we were allowed to play upstairs.

I remember a Miss Mckenzie who taught us in infants school, she went off to Germany.

Remember the new infants school next to St Nicolas junior school, this was my first introduction to school.  A Ms. York who lived in Stanley Avenue was our teacher, she lived opposite Sefton Road.

Coming up the hill out of the Old Village, I remember the houses on the bend, it was a nasty turn for the buses, but very scenic. I wonder how the owners of those houses felt every time a bus went up or came down the hill wondering if it might hit their house – especially in winter time.

I wonder who inherited Mr. Painters house and why they permitted it to be demolished – it would have made a wonderful tea rooms.  I remember knocking on the side door and peering into the huge downstairs room (or it seemed huge at the time). Mr. Painter was a dapper looking white haired gent, and Mrs Painter a tubby somewhat scruffy old women….. an odd couple really. I loved their garden, at one time there would have been a wonderful layout of flowers and plants. I also remember it becoming overgrown.

I also remember we would also push old tyres to the top of the hill and let them go, rolling faster and faster and bounding into the air as they bounced over the uneven ground. On more than one occasion they would crash through the wire fencing at the bottom – we would then make ourselves scarce.

I remember the garage, the Mile Oak Inn and the ruins of the Pickle Factory. Prior to the Mile Oak Inn being built we three brothers would take our soap box cart to the top of the hill above where the pub now stands and take turns flying down the ant hill covered slopes and invariably coming a cropper.

I remember so much about Mile Oak. Christmas was a big event as my Dad, Fred Patching, was Father Christmas and he was helped by a big Red Indian.   I also remember the baths of paraffin in our garden in which we used to soak the torches for procession through Mile Oak on bonfire night.  How about the Brownies and the Girl Guides who used to meet in the ‘tin hut’? Also the youth club in the ‘tin hut’ that all the youngsters used to attend.

And finally…

Betty Sutherland ( Cox )moved to Ontario in 1946. 

Her Grandad started work at the waterworks in 1901, just after it was built, and the family lived in the waterworks cottages. She remembers visiting Mile Oak for every summer holiday in the late 1920’s and early 30’s and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. She also recalls Grandma serving teas in her tea garden ( ? The Paddocks) to hikers and also to soldiers who were practicing at the Rifle Range. 

She has memories of walking upto the Rifle Range with her Grandma and calling in at the Waterworks en-route to say hello to Grandad. They would then return in time for Grandma to serve teas in the tea garden (presumably The Paddocks).  Occasionally Betty and her sister Joyce would be sent to the waterworks with Grandads tea can and sandwich for his lunch, she remembers the beautiful shining tiled floors of the pump room, the palm trees and the big arms of the pumps going up and down.   

Bettys mother Nellie was in the land army in WW1 together with her mother (also Nellie) they worked in Mile Oak – the picture shows them resting on their forks. They frequently worked at the Paddocks, especially when they were having their meets (racing?) and other large gatherings.

Betty also remembers the bus driver Sid Barnet and her Grandad and Grandma taking her for walks to Rats Ramble, the Devils Dyke and in the other direction to Kingston Lighthouse where they would gather shrimps and winkles.

Betty’s mother joined the Q.M.A.A.C and was stationed at Shoreham Camp where she met her husband.  You may recall that the ‘Tin Hut’ (Church of the Good Shepherd) was originally from the Shoreham Camp where it had been two army huts that were used as a Cookhouse and Messroom.

Mother and Daughter