Rita Adler -Memories of St John's Wood in the 1940s

31 St John's Wood Terrace 2020
Garage in Charles Lane showing garden link to house 2020
7 Norfolk Road 2020


31 St John’s Wood Terrace

From my mother’s diary I see that my parents moved into 31 St John’s Wood Terrace on 5th September 1938 and I was born there on 1st May 1940.  Clement Freud’s mother lived next door and sent a letter of congratulation which I still have. My father was called up  and as a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers was posted to man the big gun at Scarborough, where my Mother and I then joined him.  Later when he was  moved we sometimes followed him or came back to St John’s Wood and I remember sleeping in a Morrison Shelter which had replaced our dining room table.

No 31 still had a rather faded ‘Sun Life’ Fire Mark attached to the front of the house. There was a dining room at the front and a large living room behind which connected to the kitchen and garden,  which led to the garage (where a Ford convertible was kept jacked up) and thence into Charles Lane.  On the first floor there was a large bedroom at the front of the house. The two rooms on the second floor were the Day and Night Nurseries !  From the Day Nursery I would wait, in winter, for the Lamplighter to arrive on his bicycle and pull the gas arm to light the lamp. Across the road were a block of smaller houses (next to the old Methodist Chapel) where one man regularly arrived home ‘the worse for wear’ disturbing everyone by yelling at the top of his voice “Aggie Aggie where are you” !

7 Norfolk Road

My brother was born in May 1947 and in July we moved to 7 Norfolk Road. The house had a basement with a separate entrance door, a dining room, kitchen and maid’s room.  Also a WC with boiler and mangle for the weekly wash.  This was in a back, dank, corridor which led out into the garden, past the old Air Raid shelter.  There was a coal cellar which extended under the front steps and was filled though a ‘coal hole’ in the front path.  It was my job to count, from the my bedroom over the garage,  how many sacks the coalman actually tipped in. He was liable to hold one back if he could!   The infamous boiler was in the kitchen where my father helped the maid tend to it (clinker and all!) The house had radiators in most rooms.

The ground floor hallway had a small cloakroom (with WC) opening off to the left and doors to the two reception rooms and a small spare room.  The rear reception room had a small wooden stairway leading to the garden. The hall stairs going up also had stairs going below them leading to the basement.  Upstairs there were two bedrooms and two bathrooms (but only one WC) There was a corridor leading past the water tanks to two rooms over the garage.

I went to North Bridge House School which was at 24(?) St John’s Wood Park;  it was run by Mr & Mrs Warwick James and was both co-educational and laid back, nothing like its modern incarnation.

St Johns Wood barracks was opposite the top of Norfolk Road and I just remember the day George VI arrived and named the regiment his  ‘King’s Troop’ Horse Artillery.  The horses, and ‘our boys’ regularly came down Norfolk Road and a neighbour would soon be out with her bucket and spade to collect the manure for her garden, as she did likewise after the milkman and his horse and cart went by.

Others have described the St John’s Wood shops but omitted the scandalous Mr Botchin,  the Kosher butcher who had an affair with one of the other butchers’ wives!   His shop was next to MacFisheries.  Next to Mr Swatland, the butcher in Charlbert Street,  was Salamoni’s  and the family also owned what is now Panzers.  In the 1950s they could procure almost anything and it was rumoured that they were connected to the Mafia !

This page was added on 12/06/2020.

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