All About Wadhurst

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Down Memory Lane

 

In the days before computer games and other sophisticated toys children learned to amuse themselves. Many of the games played were seasonal and every year, at the same time, these games were a ritual. Ball games were popular with the girls and one in particular was made up of a series of movements throwing a ball against a wall. These games went on for several days, the players taking up where they left off the time before. Boys played football in the Church Field or went off with friends to roam the woods and fields or to play in the streams. Hoops were favoured by both sexes, the girls usually had wooden ones while the boys bowled iron ones made by the local blacksmiths. With practically no traffic boys and girls delighted in bowling their hoops down the High Street while wearing boots studded with 'Blakeys' which made a lovely shower of sparks.

Skipping was another pastime. Mother's old washing line came in useful for this purpose. With very little traffic it was perfectly safe for children to play in the back streets with tops and whips and with marbles.

Winters seemed colder and snowier in the 'thirties' and children had great fun sledging and skating. The field, where Bankside houses now stand, was a favourite steeply sloping field for sledging and the pond at Hill House good for skating. Children who did not possess a sledge used pieces of corrugated iron to career down the snow‑covered slopes with never a thought of the possible dangers. With so much more of Wadhurst becoming built up children today have to go further afield for these pursuits.

Other forms of amusement included watching horses being shod at Bassetts in Durgates and, believe it or not, going to Lamberhurst on Sunday evenings with one's parents to watch the traffic returning from Hastings.

It was the custom for many families to go for long walks on Sundays. One favourite walk was through Snape Wood to the 'Miners' Arms' where liquid refreshment was enjoyed. This pub is now a private residence.
Miners' Arms

Few children living in the thirties had weekly pocket money but some had a ha'penny to spend on Saturdays. Sweets were sold for two ounces a penny. Keens and Hawkins, a bakery and sweet shop where the Post Office now is, sold a huge range of cheap sweets which to children with a ha'penny to spend was like Aladdin's cave. Ice cream could be bought only in the summer months. One sight to be seen in St. James' Square was the Walls 'Stop Me and Buy One' man who had a tricycle with a cold box in front. One favourite confection was the fruit ice in a triangular holder rather like the Toblerone packet.

In order to raise a little cash for these small luxuries it was quite common for children to collect empty jars and bottles and return them to shops in exchange for a few pence.

Before the mid‑forties, when the National Health Scheme was introduced, life was very difficult for working class families. Many men paid a weekly contribution from their wages and were known a 'Panel Patients'. Doctors' bills for wives and children had to be met and this meant that men often had to work overtime to meet the expenses.

The District Nursing Association supported four nurses in Wadhurst. Two lived in Sparrows Green, one in Durgates and another at Best Beech. As most children were born at home they were very busy people travelling about on their 'sit up and beg' bicycles at all hours during the day and night. Other duties included visiting the sick and bed-ridden and going to the school to inspect childrens' heads for lice and nits.

Until the mid‑thirties many of the cottages did not have electricity and homes were lit by oil or by gas lamps. The wicks on the oil lamps had to be trimmed daily and the reservoirs filled with paraffin oil. They could be very smelly if not properly attended to.

There were old stone sinks and water in some areas was obtainable only by a pump or from a well in the garden. Toilets were, for some, at the bottom of the garden. Few had bathrooms and so the Saturday ritual was to boil water in the copper and for the family to have their weekly baths in front of the kitchen range while listening to 'In Town Tonight' on the wireless.

The hamlets of Tidebrook, Cousley Wood, Durgates and Sparrows Green all comprise the market town of Wadhurst but before the second world war were all separate entities. People did not have transport and so most of them led insular lives. Many of us look back and think life was happier then, that more people were heard to whistle and sing when going about their work, but are we remembering only the good times?

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