Childhood in Hamilton Terrace between the Wars

Dr James Bevan

(Dr James Bevan was born in Hamilton Terrace and then moved to Hill Road when he married, working as a G.P and remaining there until recently. )

My parents bought 87 Hamilton Terrace in 1923, the year they were married, and both my sister and I were born at home. At that time, Hamilton Terrace was divided into two parts, the southern two thirds was called Hamilton Terrace and the northern third was Upper Hamilton Terrace. Numbering went up along the eastern side and then back down the western side. I remember the confusion in the mid-1930s, when the whole terrace was re-numbered, and my home became no 9.  My parents continued to receive post sent to the previous people in no 9 and their mail was often delivered to the new no 87. I would run down to the front door to pick up the post, which was delivered three times a day, 8.30 a.m., midday and then about tea-time.

In the early 1930s the street lights were gas and each evening I enjoyed watching the gas lighter prodding the switch with a pole, climbing on to his bicycle and riding to the next lamp post.  Apart from the postman and lamplighter, in the summer we would be visited by French farmers with horse-drawn carts, selling their produce.   Coal was also delivered on carts and my father’s problem was that coal and anthracite would get mixed if the sacks were emptied into the cellar through the single coalhole on the paved terrace outside the house, so he insisted on the sacks being carried down to the cellar.

Things have changed since my sister had her tonsils removed as this was done by the surgeon in our nursery! Our mother was asked to give her ice-cream, which she refused to eat, so I sat outside her room on the stairs, enjoying the rejected ices. Cars were parked in the street without problem. Most people had access to a garage and my parent’s Humber was kept in a large garage in St Johns Wood Road, which has now been replaced by a block of flats. However the Test matches at Lord’s required additional parking and this was done in the middle of the road and organised by the police.  Mrs Ridley, who lived opposite, would give the policemen mugs of tea throughout the day.  She was the wife of the  St Thomas’ eye specialist, (later Sir Harold Ridley)[1] who did the first cataract operation in Britain.

My nursery school was just south of West Hampstead Station. My father or nanny would take me there in the morning by bus. On one occasion, it was horse drawn ,which I remember as my father expressed amazement at such a remarkable event. After I left the nursery school, I went to a school in Ladbroke Grove. The headmistress was Miss Clutton and she remained a family friend until after the War.  I was taken and collected from her school by the chauffeur of the Willink family who lived at 102 Hamilton Terrace. Their two sons, Charles and Stephen, would be with me and on one occasion, Mr Day, the chauffeur, had a crash.  None of us were hurt but it was a memorable event and we were late for School!.  Mr Day had a  mews home over their garage in Abercorn Close, at the end of their garden.  The father, Henry  Willink  was a barrister and M.P for Croydon, who became Minister of Health during the War and later, Master of Magdalen College,  Cambridge.

My final pre-war school was Burgess Hill School near Hendon Way, a turning off Finchley Road,  It was here that I was hit in the eye by an arrow – a moment of panic! However the nurse was efficient and all was well.  When the war started the school was evacuated to Surrey and we all went as boarders.  There is not much I remember except that I was one of only 2 or  3 in the class that kept our hair – all the rest were shaven as they had head lice! When the Battle of Britain began, in the summer of 1940, my parent moved to their cottage in Somerset and I was sent to Chard Grammar School. My parents let a Jewish refugee family, the Geobbels, live in Hamilton Terrace and sometime later another Jewish family, the Bronitts, were there.  Years later, I caught a taxi driven by their son, Alan Bronitt, but that was the last time I had contact with them.

 


[1] Sir Harold Ridley FRS 1906 – 2001)invented the intraocular lens and pioneered surgery for cataract patients in 1950. One of his students had noticed when treating RAF casualties that acrylic plastic splinters  from cockpit canopies were accepted by the eye while glass splinters were rejected and Ridley investigated further.There was widespread opposition to this idea until the 1980s and he was not knighted until 2000.

This page was added on 20/06/2015.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *