Fond memories of my early life in Hildenborough
by Marshall Browning
by Marshall Browning
I was born in Tonbridge Nursing Home which was in Dryhill Road on 12/10/1944 to Violet (nee Paine) from Hildenborough, and Lionel Browning, originally from Dunks Green. We lived in No. 5 "Turley Cottages", which later became no.70 Leigh Road, situated opposite the entrance to the "Kraft Kast" Road, which later became Brookmead when it was pushed through to the London Road and Gough Cooper built the estate. We lived originally in no.5 with my Aunt Bessie (Paine), and my maternal grandparents lived at no.2, they were Harry and Minnie Paine.
My very earliest memory is of Aunt Bess pushing me in the pushchair up to the railway bridge, turning right along the footpath adjacent to the railway, and watching the "Golden Arrow" go by, with its lovely golden arrow with the French and English flags crossed on the front, and the distinctive brown and cream carriages, with small table lamps in each window. After the train passed, we carried on along the footpath which took us into Stocks Green Road, where we passed by the big "Glass Factory" where both Mum and Dad worked during and after the war. They would pop out and wave to us as we passed by, and on the way back home we passed Percy Norman's forge and smithy where we watched him shoeing horses. He was only a slight man, but he used to push and pull huge horses around as he made and fitted their shoes. Sometimes we would go through "Cow Park" to the village shops (which came out opposite the Half Moon pub).
In October 1949, I went to the Village School in Riding Lane, where Mr Fitz was the Headmaster, the colours were Red and Grey. When Mr Fitz retired, Mr. Haisell came and changed the colours to green and white. On the way home, if I was lucky, and we had any "coupons" left, I would go into Ernie Quinnell's shop and get a sweet, the shop was right opposite the school gate on the corner of Church Road.
Going to and from school, we had to cross the London Road by "Dummy Parkers" shoe repair shop, which was a dangerous thing to do, eventually a Zebra crossing was installed after Andrew Pirie was unfortunately killed crossing the road. He lived next door to me at no.6 Turley Cottages.
Dummy Parker was a deaf mute, and he gave you the price of a repair on a bit of paper! He and his wife lived in Club Cottages down Riding Lane.
Big excitement came in 1952 when we were given the keys to no.40 Riding Park, a brand new house on a brand new development, moving us "up the village"! This allowed me to befriend all the local lads and lasses as we all played at the "Rec". Whilst at School I befriended amongst others Colin Bastable, whose parents had Leigh Park farm, out near Charcott. I would cycle out there and go ferreting, shooting, fishing etc. I remain in touch with him to this day.
Also at the school, I befriended Michael and Peter Hobden, whose Dad was manager of Princess Christians Farm, thereby giving us access to a huge area of land for even more hunting/shooting/fishing. At that time the Ministry of Agriculture would pay a "Bounty" of 2/6 pence (half a crown then,12 1/2p) for every squirrel’s tail we could send them in multiples of eight (as eight half crowns equalled a pound). One day in one of "our" woods a bomb disposal team were digging out an unexploded bomb, which they safely disposed of.
Aged 9, I joined the church choir, under the direction of S. Lovell-Stonely, as did several village lads, and I remained until reaching 16. Sundays in summer were great, straight to the Hilden Manor outdoor pool after Matins, and leave again in time for evensong. Most village lads and lasses learnt to swim down there, at 2/6p per day.
After Church I went to the Half Moon pub to sit outside with a packet of Smiths crisps with a blue bag of salt inside and a bottle of Vimto and watch the traffic returning to London from Hastings, and opposite there was Masters Cafe, where many coaches etc pulled in, and where my Mum was serving and Grandad Paine was a car park attendant. The landlady of the time was Mrs Crowdey who had a framed set of Inn signs hanging on the wall, and this took my fancy, and I remain a collector even today!
Along came the Youth Club, which I served on the committee with Mrs. Cullen of Marchants Barn, and Mrs Finzi of Riding Lane after whom the room in the hall was named. I was also a member of the rifle club and we had a range up the side of Elliot and Spears Lampshade Factory (before Fidelity). My mother worked there for several years after the glass factory closed.
Another exciting time was Bonfire night, when us lads would collect all combustible stuff from far and wide, including the New Road wood (Westwood as it is today). We built a huge bonfire on the Green, and everyone took their own fireworks and let them off, great fun. We also had a fantastic cycle route through the wood, but it wasn't for the faint hearted.
Aged 11, I left the village school and went to Sussex Road boys secondary in Tonbridge, then two years after that I went to Tunbridge Wells Technical School, where I again met up with Colin Bastable as a classmate. My mother’s brother Bob owned the Mill Garage at Watts Cross, and I went to work there out of school hours, we served petrol, and sold tyres and batteries etc, we also charged up batteries and accumulators for radios. One part of the building was a toolmakers----Eflow tools, a very skilled workforce they had for very accurate work. One of the employees was Brian Mills who was also a member of the choir with me. We sold four types of petrol:- BP, Shell, Power and National Benzole, each pump adorned with an illuminated logo. Several times a day the AA man would pass by on his very distinctive motorbike and sidecar, but then returned to his box on Riverhill to salute any passing members of the AA. He had brown leather boots, green jacket and breeches, and a very nice handlebar moustache-----very smart.
Going around the village at any time I would see the Sweep, known to everybody as "Wobble" Bennett, who carried all his rods and brushes on his crossbar and still managed to ride his bike, hence the name "Wobble". There was Charlie Garside, the village Bobby, who whenever there was any mischievous goings on said he knew our Dads and where we lived!
I did a paper round for the newsagent Mr. Midgely, whose shop was where Kelly's Cafe is now. I started on the Gough Cooper estate, opposite the Green Rabbit, and as the estate grew so did my round and by the end there were three boys sharing it.
Another exciting time in the village was when the annual flower show and fete came along, The Dover Marquee company put up three/four tents in the week before on the Rec, people came from all over the village with their goods, flowers & vegetables to show. The judges would go in and judge, then when it opened everybody rushed in to see how their produce had got on, with lots of local rivalry and friendly banter. There were also rides and stalls for the kids, and a beer tent, so something for everybody.
Lastly, I recall going to Roger Dadswell’s barber's shop (a green shed) in a garden of a house in Half Moon Lane and having a short back and sides.
I am sure I have some more memories tucked away somewhere, but that's for another day!