Hildenborough is a lovely village situated between the towns of Tonbridge and Sevenoaks. I married very young to John Gould in 1960 and we set up a family home in the village in Riding Park. Prior to getting married, we enjoyed the many facilities on offer to young people nearby. The fantastic dancing at Blighs Hotel in Sevenoaks and the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells.
John had been raised in the village, he was one of six children. His father Ted was a groom to the Fraser family and his mother Yvonne was a cook. They lived in Riding Lane along with other families.
We had three children, Karen, Simone and Jonathan and we settled into village life along with our dog, a German Shepherd called "Susie".
Life was good for a family in Hildenborough in those days with so much going on. Jumble sales, bring and buy sales, the fantastic fetes and garden fetes held in some of the large gardens of the wonderful houses scattered around the village.
My children attended the nursery school prior to going to Hildenborough School and there were the usual scouts and guides groups, also the sunday school.
My husband worked very hard but was away most of the week, when he came home we enjoyed trips to Hastings to buy the local fish. However I enjoyed looking after my children, knowing that as I was young and had plenty of time to follow a career later, and could use my Pitman`s Business training later in life.
We purchased our home and made it very comfortable and had a Kentish ragstone fireplace put in by one of the local tradesmen. We purchased a brocade suite and red Axminster carpet and later replaced the suite with a "wrap around" latest style contemporary one. I suppose you could say it was all "keeping up with the Joneses"!
As always in life we followed trends and the healthy lifestyle was very much the norm then. Walking with our coach-built prams (mine was a Silver Cross) was an everyday pleasure except for the poor child on the pram seat high up, which happened in my case to be my middle child Simone who had to suffer the high winds etc.
The garden was very large and the children and the dog spent many hours running about enjoying themselves. A lot of the men grew their own produce but John’s interest was racing and he attended some of the point-to-point races. He rode Johnny Druces’ horse "Tuckernut".
It was easy to get a babysitter and my regular excellent girl was Linda Cooper who lived nearby and my children loved her.
When the children broke up for the six weeks holiday from school it always seemed as if every day was a hot sunny day and we walked into Tonbridge to spend our time at the Castle grounds. There we had the choice of open air swimming pool, paddling pool and all the swings and roundabouts to occupy your day.
We took a pack lunch but depending on the "kitty" we had plenty of ice creams, afternoon tea in the Riverside Cafe and, if I was really "flush", fish and chips from Avebury Avenue, before going home. I took my pushchair for the two small children Karen, my eldest walked along with me. If the children were tired we would catch one of the numerous buses back.
There had been a swimming pool at the Hilden Manor but that was closed for redevelopment into housing but en route back there was a small shop for yet another ice cream!
You never had to worry about going without in those days because in Hildenborough then you had some wonderful characters who ran the shops. You had Mr Hendry at the post office, Mr and Mrs Mack at the top of Riding Lane. Not forgetting Mr Sullivan the butcher who let you sign for the meat etc., and pay at the weekend when you got paid!! Hence my children were raised on a good dinner of meat and three vegetables and we had no problem of eating disorders!!! The dog enjoyed her dinners too!!
We also had "tradespeople" calling round, a wonderful milkman who sold everything from a whole tinned chicken and all the trimmings to dog biscuits. This ensured you had what you wanted on a daily basis and you did not have to go to the shops for anything, settling up at the weekend. The coalman came round in the winter and as was the norm we had a lovely roaring fire to keep us warm. Val Jones, a friend of John’s, delivered logs on a regular basis.
Life was good, the children enjoyed school and had to wear the Hildenborough school uniform of green check dresses for the girls and collar and tie for Jonathan. Although I do remember the chore of having to sew in all those pleats for their winter grey skirts in after they had been washed!
As well as the Working Men`s Club, there were great pubs, the best being the Half Moon. You could have a lovely evening visiting the pubs in the other nearby villages of Shipbourne, Leigh, Penshurst and Plaxtol. There was plenty of support for young mothers too with the "Baby Clinic" in Riding Lane. Not forgetting the Doctor`s surgery in Mount Pleasant for check-ups.
We spent many hours over the recreation ground, the children and I. There always seemed to be something going on, football, cricket and tennis as well as riding displays.
I’d visit my friend who lived down Riding Lane in a house in Garlands. Although the children were sometimes nervous of going past the "Colony" which was a farm run by people with mental disabilities. This never seemed to be a problem though and Hildenborough embraced people from all walks of life. One notable character was a guy called "Jock" who just stared but was completely harmless.
As John worked away most weekdays, I had good support from my sister Carol who stayed with me. She worked at Hardwick in Coldharbour Lane and married Ian Stagles, son of Freda, who lived in Riding Park. Ian was sadly killed, so young, in a car accident. Also my friend Monica Pettit stayed most weeknights followed by Sheena who also worked at Hardwick and the Hilden Manor where they held dinner dances.
Mr and Mrs Gould were good grandparents to our children. Our house was always full of people and laughter. Although times could be hard we always found a way round difficult situations and overcame any problems. John was a "colourful character”, loved by many and dearly loved by me and the children.
Very sadly, in 1971, after we had returned from two years in Australia, John was killed in an accident at work.
Hildenborough was a wonderful village to raise our young family. Full of community spirit and support . I treasure the time I spent there in my early family life and I know my children do too.