Random Reminiscences of Early Days at Arundel before the First World War - without any attempt at chronological order

 By Alfred Peckham – 1905 – 1989


For several years during the summer a great bell-tent camp was pitched in Arundel Park, Covering the whole area where is now situated the home and grounds of Lavinia, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Successive trains to Arundel station brought in hundreds of Territorials on summer camp who marched with bands and full kit all the way up from the Station, up the hill (High Street) and up into' the" Park. They all seemed very cheerful but must have been very tired when they got to camp. I and many other children stood at the top of King Street, by the Roman Catholic Church and watched them go past in what seemed a never-ending stream. We did not know , and luckily for them, they did not either , that they would all be called up in August 1914 and would probably be amongst the first to go to France with the British Expeditionary Force to face the whole might of the German Army .I wonder how many, of these chaps survived? I wonder how many still live who took part in that camp just before the war.  They were the young flower of British manhood.


But I also remember, on a happier note, that there was much about the same time, an annual camp for what we used to know as the Pill-box boys. ( They were so-called  because of the uniform - small round cap, pill-box shaped, worn on the side of the head at a rakish angle, held on by a chin strap and I think they were London Messenger boys. I might be mistaken. They could have been Boys Life Brigade, but mostly they had no uniform, just ordinary clothes, but with a white belt and a diagonal white strap across the back and chest with a small white pouch on the back strap.

They had a week or so up there and were marched with a drum and fife band. We children all longed to belong of course. I do not know if this sort of thing still goes on. Probably not in Arundel Park anyhow.

The Injun Bull

While on the subject of the park, I Should mention a strange beast referred to by our elders as the Injun Bull which roamed the park usually keeping to the left of the road which runs through the Park and in the woods beyond the camp site referred to previously. This was a white animal with a hump on its back, regarded by we children with a great deal of awe and some fear and we gave it a wide birth. Of course, I know now and have for some time that it was an Indian Ox or zebu, which somebody had imported for some reason, from the Orient and let loose in the Park. At least I can only surmise that to be the reason why it was there. I must say now I think it rather unkind to it not to have supplied it .with a mate to keep it company, but in my recollection it was a very peaceable sort of animal and grazed around very contentedly on the Park grass, much better probably than what it would have got in India. I wonder what eventually became of it and how many of my contemporaries remember it.

Still in the park: It was the natural playground for me and the other children of the family. We used to troop up from King Street up the winding road past the Hone Farm and Saw-Mill buildings, through the beautiful heavy red-painted wooden gates, always kept shut in those days and opened by the keeper from the adjacent lodge when the Duke or visitors drove in their.. carriages to or from the Park into the Home Park grounds .The latter is the place where for many years visiting touring cricket teams played their first match (friendly, I think) , on arrival in this country. We used to roam all over the lower part of the park, over past the Hiorn Tower , which, of course, is still there and used to fly a red warning flag for people to keep away when firing was taking place at the nearby firing ranges.

In reference to the Saw-mill wildings, I think it must have been my Grandfather (I can not think who else it could have been) who took me up to see the Saw-Mill. I am not even sure where it was but assume it was in the buildings near the entrance to the Park. I really think my recollection of the procedure could not be shared by many. The sawing into planks of huge tree trunks was being done then by 'hand! There was a deep saw-pit with a man standing' in it ankle-deep' in sawdust and another man at ground level and the tree trunk supported in some way and they armed  with a long cross-cut saw and sawed  up and down till they sawed  right along the trunk and continued until:-all the tree was used up. It must have been backbreaking work. I suppose they changed places now and again .Haw much saw-dust they inhaled I do not know. I suppose all through the ages, till circular saws were invented, this was how planks were made from tree trunks.

Beyond the tower, the land falls away very sharply in steep slopes to the valley where lies the Swanbourne Lake and this was a favourite rolling place for we children .Once started rolling you could have a lovely roll all the way down a 100 yards or more in perfect safety. All this area was pasture for the deer in the Park and was the only place where I have ever seen the pretty tall slender grass each stem with a little rod or knob on top which we called totty-grass. Doris knew it and when I said I had not found it on subsequent adult visits to the Park, she pointed out that it was obviously seasonal and I had not been there at the right time.

One year in the seventies when my sister Lilly and her husband Clarence were with us, I had the idea of retracing old steps past, the Tower, down the slopes (but by a path and not rolling!) down to and around the Lake and back home by the Mill Road, and across the bridge to the Bridge Hotel where we were staying. We were stopped, however, by a wire fence

which had been put up all the way along the brow of the hill, beyond the tower, and we could see the slopes very much overgrown with weeds and bushes and we could see no way to get down through to the lake.

No more rolling down there! Perhaps it was just as well as, in retrospect; I do not think Lilly and Clarence would have been equal to the walk. All that part of the Park seemed to have been given over to horse riding or training by, presumably, the Family, and there were obstacles and what looked like stables and feeding places there. It was not the park as I remembered it and we were all (except Lilly I think) very unreasonably disappointed' at the changes from our young days. Signs of the times were also the fact that the great Park Gates stood permanently open so that cars could drive up unimpeded to the Dowager's house, rendering the lodge keeper redundant. At least I suppose he could not have been required anymore as also a t the deserted and closed lodge the top of the Park, called Whiteways Lodge where I once saw on the green outside, a full meet of fox hunters with hounds etc.

For some years before they got too old to do the walk, my Grandfather and Grandmother used to walk with my sister and me on summer Sunday evenings right up over the walk I have described above, round the Lake and along a mile long road to the pub called the Black Rabbit. We were given a penny each to get a bar of chocolate each from the vending machine outside the Pub {machines' always worked in those days) and while the old folk rested and refreshed themselves in the pub , we two amused ourselves on the see-saw nearby which was still there to my certain knowledge many years later.

On the way along this road there is a chalk quarry' on 'the left just before one gets to the Pub. It had been long abandoned even when I knew it and I only mention it because of a story, almost certainly apocryphal, that an Uncle Arthur of mine once fell down it, about 100 feet and his life was saved by his landing on a haystack: I must perpetuate this yarn as I am almost certainly, or very probably, the only person living who remembers it. Perhaps Lilly might?

Along this road, on the right, and opposite Swanbourne Lake is the new nature wild fowl reserve, enclosing part of the water meadows by the river Arun.

Miss Watkins' Grocery Shop.

All the time I was at Arundel {up to the age of 10) there was a wonderful old world grocery at the corner of Tarrant Street, opposite now what is a cafe, and/or dining room. It eventually closed, I suppose, when Miss Watkins died or retired, which I think was a minor tragedy. It should have been preserved as a national monument. It was exactly like those old stores which one sees on films in the old world United States, with sacks of grain, corn and such like on the ground around the counter, numberless hams, strings of onions and other produce hanging from the rafters, huge decorated metal containers for tea and so on on the counters (whatever would they be worth now?) huge cheeses and mounds of butter and an all pervading lovely smell, I fear has gone forever from grocery establishments now. Even as children we were sometimes despatched with a few coppers ' to walk all the way down to the shop from the top of King Street to make small purchases for Grandmother {although more frequently we were sent to the Co-op in Tarrant Street, now" sadly departed) .

Sweet Shops

Our favourite was Mrs Bennett's although Miss Budd ran it close. Mrs .Bennett's was the end one of a little row of shops at the extreme end of Tarrant Street adjacent to the Slype (more of this later). Here we spent our weekly penny and huge supplies of sweets could be got for this. Liquorice strips were perhaps the favourite as they came like a sort of ribbed strap and with care each rib could be torn along the length of the strap like a thick thread and eaten separately. Placed end to end it might have made four or five feet of succulence. There was also brandy balls -why they were called this I do not know but a small handful cost a penny and each one changed colour as you sucked it and it got smaller until it disappeared, about the size of marbles and brown at the outset. Sherbet dabs were lovely. A round flat sweet on a stick and a tube full of sherbet powder and you dipped the stick in and sucked until the sherbet was gone and then you ate the sweet. The only thing we did not eat, despite our good teeth, was the stick.

Miss Budd's shop was about half way up on the right of an extremely steep hill starting at the bottom of Maltravers Street and going straight up joining the London Road between the St.Mary's Gate Inn and the Roman Catholic schools. This hill, the lower end of which is called Park Place, in my day was known as Poorhouse Hill, and a rather grim looking building near the bottom was obviously the reason for its name. Whether it was used for such in my time I do not know but later it was renamed Mount Pleasant, which was a very much nicer name, especially, for the residents. Anyhow Miss Budd (an elderly widow) kept this little shop in what was probably her front parlour and it was reached by three stone steps and had a little counter over which she presided and which contained trays of various sweets. I'm afraid even in those days a certain amount of quiet stealing of odd sweets went on when several children were together in the shop, but either her eyesight was not very good or she was an understanding old soul and never found it out or mentioned it anyway. I hope so anyway. She lived to a great age so she obviously made a living out of it, plus I suppose her ten shillings a week pension.


The area down by the school round the end of Tarrant Street was full of interest. First there' was the Slype, which I think is a variation of the word slip, or slipway and means a slipway or passage down to the river. This led straight down to the path along the Arun and was a most dangerous place for youngsters. I seen to have a recollection of one boy being drowned there by falling into the very fast flowing river and we children were strictly forbidden to go down this Slype. I must say now and again we did and there was' terrible trouble if we were found out. A short distance away from this on the right was a wheelwright’s workshop, in Surrey Street, and often we used to stand and watch him shape the long slim spikes with a spokeshave (hence the name) .Those were the days of carriages with their big dainty and seemingly fragile wheels, beautifully made and painted and lined with red, black and gold.

Incidentally, the coach painting was done, as far as I remember, in a painter's workshop somewhere near the Square, and my step-brother's father, Mr. Simmons worked there. I have a belief, which of course I cannot substantiate, that my father had an apprenticeship there. He must have learned the trade somewhere as in later years he was employed by the then London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C.) to do the fine painting and ornamental lining on their roses. Also, just past the little row of shops I previously mentioned on, Tarrant Street, is the opening of a little road called, I think, River Road, which goes down to and along the Arun and comes out at Bridge Street near what is now the Bus Station. There were various warehouses and workshops along it by the river bank, also the office occupied by Doris's father in his capacity as the Official Water Bailiff of the Arun. On the corner of River Road opposite the shops was an old, but fully working, smithy where we could stand just inside the door in the warm and watch the smithy making horseshoes, and I suppose the iron hoops which were required by the wheelwright to go round the wood rims of the wheels and hold them together, apart from all other sorts of metal tools.



I am anxious to get on to this subject as I think, as much as anything, what I remember constitutes the greatest difference between conditions regarding traffic then and now. Let me say straight away that except, as I shall mention shortly, I cannot remember seeing any motor vehicle of any type till I left Arundel and came to live in Fulham. Obviously there must have been some, but very few indeed, so few in fact that I just cannot remember any. It was all horse drawn traffic, carts and timber wagons. These last were a wonderful sight. We saw them sometimes coming down from logging down the upper London Road or the Chichester Road. They had a pair of great draught horses, pulling a kind of two wheeled pivoted platform with the driver sitting on it, or more usually on one of the shafts attached to the horses. This platform or buggy was connected to a pair of heavy wheels, with a platform, about 15 or 20 feet behind by a great axle, like a telegraph pole and four, five or six huge tree trunks were laid on the front buggy and the platform between .the rear wheels. Apart from these vehicles and traps and carriages of course, the only other horse vehicle I can remember were Sparks and sons furniture wagons. These were the usual large heavy pantechnicons and delivered to and from Sparks  Auction Rooms in Tarrant Street usually occupying a good half of the width of the street. The premises are still there although I think that Sparks and sons have long since joined the great majority.

The motor vehicles I saw were seen under circumstances that make me wonder even now why we did not finish up under the wheels of these vehicles. These were the charabancs (pronounced charabancs) which care down from London or from that direction, for firms' or clubs' outings to the seaside on what we knew as bean-feasts .The dictionary describes char-a-bancs as a long brake or car provided with transverse benches for outings and their distinguishing feature was that each row from the front to the back was raised somewhat so that the back row had a view all down the front. These ,crazy vehicles with probably very inadequate brakes were full of hearties w1th crates of beer, and we urchins used to run along with them, as they slowed up to go down the hill, yelling "chuck out yer mouldy coppers" , and they used ' to throw out their old coppers and pennies and we scrambled for them. As I said I do not know why some of us were not run over but I never heard of any, and the practice came to an end I suppose, at the end of the summer of 1914 when the start of the Great War took place. I do not remember seeing any other vehicles and therefore never heard such words as "mind how you cross the road" and so on .The idea of there being any danger never entered  our heads as there was no danger in slow moving horse-drawn traffic.


I wonder whether this subject loomed larger anywhere in the British Isles (except of course in Northern Ireland) as it did at Arundel. This, it must be remembered, was the site of the chief residence of the Premier Duke of the United Kingdom, The Duke of Norfolk, and the leading Roman Catholic in this country. The Duke, who built a huge Roman Catholic Church at the top of King Street, now elevated to the rank of Cathedral, was still living when I was a child, and I remember the Christmas parties he gave, in the Castle, for the Arundel children. On one night the Roman Catholic children had their party and the Protestants {and I presume other none:-catholic children) on the following night. There was a great spread in the Great Hall with a big Christmas tree and roaring log fires in the great fire places. The Duke presided and I remember him as an imposing bearded figure .We all had wonderful presents .Mine on one occasion was a clockwork motor cycle and rider which ran in circles when wound up. Regrettably I changed it with another boy, who had an illustrated copy of Robinson Crusoe, which many years later I lost as I lent it to somebody who never gave it back. The parties had to be given on separate nights, due perhaps to lack of room for all the Arundel children, also possibly to avoid possible battles between the various creeds. There was a complete division between protestant and Catholics. Each had their own churches and schools. We Protestant children attended our ordinary day school on Sunday mornings .The two big classrooms were turned into one very large one, when partitions were drawn back and after a service we all marched up in a long crocodile up Maltravers Street, up a very steep hill, called Parson's Hill, to the London Road by the Roman Catholic Church and turning right went into the old St. Nicholas Church. This is the old Parish Church, I think it is 14th Century .We always sat in several rows of pews to the right and by the side of the choir and in winter our feet dangled over the stone flagged floor and we suffered .agonies from chilblains, very prevalent in those days. The only thing I remember about the lessons in the Sunday morning school was one by a lady, who preached about not buying things on Sunday as it kept shops open and made people work. At the end we were asked what we were not to do and we all chorused “not to buy sweets on Sunday”. This was of no great interest to us as few of us on Sundays had any money to spend anyhow.

Sunday school Afternoon

Each Sunday afternoon we went to the church at 3 p.m. probably to get us out of the way so that the old folks could have a well earned snooze. I can remember the hymns, the favourite was There is a Green Hill" and I remember so well the talks given to us by the curate, Mr. Jones, a Welshman (of course) with black curly hair .In the afternoons we sat in the main body of the church on each side of the central aisle and my chief memory of Mr .Jones (old Jonesy to us) was walking up and

down the aisle and snapping his fingers like pistol shots .I have never heard finger snapping like it since. He was a popular figure, even with me, in spite of the fact that he turned me down for the choir.

He said, when I was tested with two other hopefuls, that my voice was forced. I'm sure he was right, although I got into two church choirs in London, St. Oswalds in Fulham and St. Lukes, Redcliffe Gardens (the latter because my particular friend, Harry Ryder, left St. Oswalds and went to St. Lukes, so I went there too) .Harry (my brother) knew Mr. Jones well and talked about him when we were in the U.S.A. many years after.

One of our diversions on Sunday afternoons, after church, in the summer was to walk right round the back of the church as far as the wall separating the church and its yard from the Castle grounds. We would climb up the old wall and look down a quite high drop to the other side and dare each other to go over. Nobody ever did as we had no idea how to get back. It was a very neglected and over- grown church yard, and there were lurid stories of the snakes to be found there in the long grass and old tombs, but we never ventured to find out. Opposite the church gates is a very large imposing residence which was occupied by the Duke's estate manager, a Mr. Mostyn, who we thought had almost semi-regal status in the town. To the left of the church gates was a nunnery or it might have been a monastery, I suppose it still is, but there was "always a very strong aura of Holiness around that particular part of the town. A little further on, slightly down the hill and at an angle with the High Street, was the main gate house to the Castle grounds.

Corpus Christi Day

This festival was held by the Roman Catholics on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday and we children lined the roads all along from the school where I think the procession was marshalled, up Maltravers Street and turning left up a very steep hill (Parson's Hill) to the Roman Catholic church .There were banners and images and all the girls were dressed in white with veils like angels and carrying small posies. We knew some of them and we knew they certainly were not angels.




At least once a year a grand circus came to town and pitched in ' a field which is now totally occupied by the roundabout forming part of the fine new by-pass which now avoids going through Arundel. I think it was rather a wet field and a stream ran through it which came from the water cress beds on the other side of the stone walled causeway which divided Arundel into two parts, the old part and the new part where is the cemetery and houses down the Ford road. Consequently the fair ground got very muddy in wet weather. We were allowed to go and have rides on the round-about and I remember so vividly the magnificent mechanical bands on the inside with figures playing instruments and banging drums, all driven by the electricity generated by the great steam driven traction engines which pulled the circus wagons from place to place. We, even at the top of King Street, could hear it playing down in the field and the one tune I remember it playing (although I do not suppose I knew the words then) was "How yer gonna keep them down on the farm" .This was a real favourite.


The German Band

Every year till the war broke out in 1914, we were visited by a German Band which travelled up and down the South Coast in the summer giving street band concerts (something after the style of the Salvation Army, although with different music of course) .The favourite spot with us was when they played in a semi-circle in the road (there must have been upwards of a dozen of them) outside the Old Ship Inn halfway up King Street. Some of the tunes stuck in my mind and many years later I came to recognise them 'as excerpts from Wagner's Operas. People used to come out and stand at their doors listening (we children...close up with our mouths agape) and one or two went up and down the street with a collecting box. People gave willingly enough, I think, for there was .very good value in the band and there was 'precious little other entertainment or interest on offer at that time.

I heard somehow or somewhere that when war was imminent they had to go home and apparently they were so attached to the places where they had played for so long that there were tearful scenes when they left. Needless to say there were fools who talked about German spies but a more harmless lot never existed I should think. Unfortunately they have never been able to return.


There were not many of these. Each summer the Sunday school provided an outing to Littlehampton and in the family album will be found a photograph of me and some of the boys there. We marched down to the station and at Littlehampton walked round to the sea-front past the windmill and usually spent the day on the beach near and sometimes under the short Pier. There were a few interesting gaps one could get through and look out on the other side of the pier to the very dangerous river Arun.

Also at low tide you could walk out a very long way to the winkle beds and collect some up. Somehow they got lost on the way home. I never remember getting any at home except some which Mr. Fletcher brought us. Mr .Fletcher was a lodger although I have no recollection now where he slept but I suppose it must have been in the back room when Harry left to join Dad in London. He earned a living buying fish from somewhere and hawking it round the town in what I suppose was a trug basket. It must have been a scanty living but I remember the sprats and herrings he brought. I recollect Grandfather trying to smoke some sprats by rigging up a contraption in front of the kitchen stove. He threaded the sprats on metal rods through their eyes and surrounded it all with sacks to keep the smoke in .I cannot remember how it worked or whether it did work. We always seemed to have a lot of flour sacks. I do not know where they came from but one of my tasks , on a Saturday, was to open these down the sides by cutting the threads with a knife and then they were washed and used for various purposes , I do not know what for. Also my Saturday morning task was chopping wood. We used to have logs delivered and as young as I was I had to split them with iron wedges and then chop them up into kindling. This I did in the outhouse next to the house. I suppose I earned my Saturday penny like this.

The only other outing I can remember was a very rare and memorable visit to the pictures at Littlehampton. This was in a small hall on the right on the way from the station and the films (silent, of course) were accompanied on the piano by a lady who played all through the whole time various suitable pieces for the films I cannot remember what they were except that they were mainly cowboy pictures, and were very popular.

The King Street House

In my days I think it was No. 157. It was towards the top on the right and has now been restored and no doubt gutted and rebuilt and turned into a very desirable and expensive small town residence. It was the last but one of a small row , a small flight of steps leading up to the front door and the back door was approached via an entry which I noticed , when I was there last, had been closed by gates. The rooms were, of course, quite small and the bedrooms were reached by a wooden staircase in the front room down-stairs hidden by a door. The kitchen at the back, usually the domain of us children, was brick paved and there was an outhouse for coal, wood etc and general storage standing out at right-angles to the house, thus forming a small two sided paved court. The toilet was outside up a little lane and was extremely cold, believe me, during the winter. The garden was quite big and quite long and went up to a stone wall at the end, which I cannot remember ever having been able to look over , but on the left side it was separated by a low stone wall from the next house’s garden. This garden had some nice apple trees (the house belonged to our Great Aunt Elizabeth) and we were not above scrumping now and again, but not often as her old eyes were usually on the watch for us. As I said this house was occupied by Doris’s Grandmother Elizabeth Sturt, who was the wife of my Grandfather's elder brother and thus my Great-aunt. She was a mysterious figure, very rarely seen by us although access could be had by a door between the kitchens of the two houses. I hardly ever saw this door open -but on one never-to-be-forgotten day, the door opened and Great-aunt Elizabeth appeared with, a dish of custard for us children. Quite what this unexpected deed of generosity was about I do not know but I had never tasted custard before (I think I will. Always remember the taste of it to this day) and I never tasted it again till Fulham days when our Step-mother used to make it during the war .Ours was' a long garden. There were rabbit hutches at the end whose occupants we had to feed and then clean out. I suppose we ate them and I remember watching my Grandfather clean and gut a rabbit fixed to the shed door with a bucket underneath and so was quite familiar with the operation .I have done it myself.

On stepping out of the kitchen and looking to the right we had a clear view right down over the town to the railway station, clear over Littlehampton to the sea and I grew up seeing the light glinting on the sea, the little steam trains down in the valley with their trails of smoke arrive at Arundel station looking just like toy trains. Over to the left we were almost under the shadow of the Roman Catholic Church and in bed at night I could see the lights in the windows and hear the chants of the services and choir practices. They seemed to be all of what I think is the rather miserable type, called plainsong or based on it and I have disliked this type of music ever since.

The Coal Cart Accident

I wonder how many Arundel people remember this event. A coal cart used to deliver cool starting from the top of King Street as the hill being so steep, it wou1d have been virtually impossible for a horse or horses to pull a coal cart up it. The coalman had to fix brake shoes or skids under the back wheels to help the horse hold the cart while the coalman was delivering coal. These skids were sort of iron shoes attached to the cart by iron chains and were slipped under the front of the back wheels and thus the back wheels were blocked and the cart went down the hill sliding on the skids. One day, it must have been a Saturday, we heard a great shouting and clattering out in the front but before we could run down into the street to see what was happening we were too late, and we could only afterwards hear what had happened. It seemed that the horse was frightened by something before the skids were fixed and bolted down the hill. At the bottom the hill is about one in six with a sharp bend and leading to the T- junction of Maltravers Street, with a high solid stone terrace on the other side. The poor horse could not have had a hope in heaven of pulling up and so, ran full tilt into this wall with all the weight of the loaded coal cart behind it. The mess is best 1eft to the imagination. We, needless to say, were not allowed out and the tragedy was the talking point for days. It have been a black day for the coalman to lose his horse, his cart smashed to pieces and no doubt a lot of the coal was scattered broadside.


A little crossroad, almost opposite the back entry to our house connected King Street and Poorhouse Hill, now Mount Pleasant. This was a very quite little road called, of all things, Bond Street and was occupied by small cottages and residences, which I have no doubt now would cost the earth.On the corner opposite our house was a small grocery and in the side window there was as long as I remember (I believe I actually saw it not too many years ago) a bottle of Camp coffee complete with the soldier in kilts. We kids used to admire this very much .Further up King Street on the opposite side to us, was a very attractive looking building, still there when I was last in Arundel, which was the town's Cottage Hospital. It was practically opposite the main entrance to the Roman Catholic Church. Altogether the top end of King Street was a very quiet select area.


On Sundays at that time it was always very sleepy and quiet, scarcely any traffic of any description. It has to some extent, at any rate, become not, unlike those days now, due to the building of the excellent by-pass which has taken most of the traffic out of Arundel, and it rejoins the main South Coast road near the station.

School Days

I do not have a lot to say about this. I have forgotten most of it, but I know we learned our multiplication tables by chanting them over and over again, "twice one are two, twice two are four" and so on, but it was a fine way of making them stick in our memories and I have never since really had any bother with tables. One or two of the more difficult ones like the nines or the sevens not so good, but yielding to a little thought. The head was a Mr. Wickham and the only teacher I remember was a woman, who even we lads of tender years, could recognise as very pretty named Miss Hammond.


I do not remember the process of learning to read. Suddenly most of us could and painlessly at that. At 7 and 8 I could read quite advanced books and comics, especially the ones with detective stories on the back of the pictures. There is a photograph of the school in the family a1bum with all five of the family present. There was not in my memory much fighting or quarrelling. We seemed a peaceable crowd.

I remember a boy named Butcher, also a little fella, named Martin who had to wear irons on both legs, also a Dick Haggett whose father had a builders' business down the Slype, also an urchin named Roy Hart with whom I had an occasional battle as he lived up a little turning off King Street called Orchard Close.

The Family

Perhaps a very brief history at this stage. It would not be out of place to enlighten you as to exactly why we children were living with our Grandparents at Arundel. Their photographs are in the album. Our mother died when we were all living at Old Woking where my Father was the land- lord of a little country pub called the Queen's Head, where at least Margaret and I were born. I was nearly three and Margaret something like 9 months old. The precise cause of death I do not know but I think it was almost certainly what we would now know as inflammation of the brain or cerebral haemorrhage. So Dad was left with five young children, Harry the eldest, being then about nine, that is six years older than I. I suppose in desperation, the lot of us were transported to Arundel and dumped on the Grandparents then in their sixties. One must sympathise with them. Dad apparently realised it would be impossible to get a house keeper to look after all us young children and in any case he could probably not have afforded it. So he apparently gave up the Inn and went to live at Fulham and worked for the London General Omnibus Company as a coach painter, which I believe, was actually his trade. Harry, when old enough went to live with him, but the rest of us stayed with the old folk until they died during the early years of the war, then we also went to live in Fulham, with our step-mother Clara Simmons, who my Father married as his second wife. She brought the rest of us up.

Father had been in the Territorial Army and was called up to the services when war broke out and was killed in France in 1917. So you will see we younger children hardly knew our parents and I have no recollection whatever of Woking days, my first memories being of and at Arundel. Strangely I have also no recollection of the journey to Arundel, which must have been something of a nightmare to all concerned, and I have no memory at all of the journey to London with our Step-mother, although I was then 10. These brief notes will, I hope shed all the light you may, wish for on our presence in Arundel.

I do remember vividly my Father cycling down the old Arundel Road on Saturdays during the summer, staying overnight and cycling back on Sundays. He always came down through the Park from Whiteways Lodge and we used sometimes to be on the lookout for him at the top of King Street. I wish I had a record of the number of times I have since cycled to and from Arundel by the same route, Bury Hill and all. I can remember the Policeman very well. We were threatened with his attentions if committed any serious misdemeanours. He was a very upright and military man named Mr. Hyde and owned or was connected with a grocery shop down the Ford Road. I never heard of any serious crime in Arundel, but then I suppose as a very young child I would not hear of any. But my memory is of a very quiet sleepy town where nothing very much ever happened.

At sometime or other a small cinema was started up in a small hall on the left hand side across the river next to a pub and opposite what used to be a Constable's Brewery, now I think used as a woodworking factory making doors and windows .It cost a penny to go in and I do not remember much about it except that in a film I first saw an aeroplane take off and disappear in the distance in the sky .It was a great sensation to us all and I have never really forgotten it. I do not remember clearly what the plane was like, whether it was a mono or biplane, but how often have I seen planes take off just like that in films, and it puts me in mind of those early scenes. The films were, of course, cowboys and Indians and there was always very loud cheering from us when the baddies were caught up with. I really suppose many of us thought it was the real thing.

Of necessity these reminiscences are of a rather rambling and scrappy kind, but they may perhaps help to recreate the infinitely leisurely atmosphere of the place in those days. It was a good thing when the new by-pass was built. It was rather like Bedlam let loose in the town with all the hordes of cars passing through and huge lorries roaring either up to London up the High Street or to Chichester and further  west via Tarrant Street and from Chichester up Maltravers Street and around the sharp bend to the left into the London Road. There are plenty of cars now of course but mostly only resident’s cars and a few visitors.

Swanbourne Lake

This and its adjacent grounds, through the gate from the Mill Road and past the Keeper's lodge, was one of our favourite places. Grandma now and again took us there as it was quite safe and we could chase the peacocks and try to find their feathers, but I do not think we ever found one. We sometimes had a bottle of lemonade and a sandwich and a piece of cake and picnicked there. It was an idyllic place in those days but popularity and motor coaches have done their worst now. The Mill road is lined with cars down its full length, down to and past the bridge where previously there was nothing but peace and quiet. To the left of the bridge was the Estate Farm, where skimmed milk could be had for a penny a pint, but I do not remember ever having to get some. It would have been a long walk back home with it anyway. Milk was brought round in one of those open backed carts with a big urn and fascinating little ladles with a hooked handle which were suspended round the rim. These little carts were not unlike those which you see as the Roman war chariots. The driver just walked on to the back and stood behind the urn driving the cart and could step off to stop. It was all rather unhygienic I suppose. There were little milk cans with hinged tops in which the milk was put. I wish I knew where they eventually all went. They must be very valuable antiques now.


We enjoyed this festival when we very small and while the Grand- parents were still able to do much about it. Their resources were, of course, limited. However we were quite well done by for Christmas. Our stockings were duly hung up and retrieved by us in the small hours as soon as we thought the old folks were asleep. The toes were always occupied by an orange and apple and a handful of hazelnuts and all sorts c of oddments including the usual ready-made toy stockings made of net and containing tin whistles, toy trumpets (not to be tooted at four a.m. in the morning) sheets of butterfly transfers and so on. Of course we had other presents as well. I remember toy soldiers, my treasured collection of which mysteriously disappeared when' the home was broken up and we came to London. All the sons came down to the Grandparents for the occasion I suppose wives too (where there were any). I have no idea where they slept during their stay. Perhaps with friends and neighbours round about. The eldest was Aunt Patricia from Worthing with her husband Ted Locke, then there was Uncle George; then there was my Father: then Uncle Bill, a tailor from Hove and finally Uncle Lou (the youngest Uncle) from Brighton. Grandma had all the cooking to do for the tribe (I hope Auntie Pat helped). I remember being out in the courtyard one Christmas Day before dinner, the men folk being outside having a smoke when Grandma came out for a breath of fresh air and suddenly began to pitch forward in a faint. Luckily she was caught before hitting the ground and borne in with loud 1amentations from all. She soon recovered however, and the dinner was a great success as usual.


I remember I was given, by one Uncle, a golden (real gold) half sovereign, but I was speedily and secretly relieved of it by another Uncle in exchange for a lot of lovely silver coins, which looked a lot more although they were really worth the same. I suppose it is no use repining however, I should most certainly have lost it or spent it long since, but still it would have teen a real trophy by now and worth quite a lot. Also Dad gave me a real cornet which he hoped Grandfather would teach me to play. Grandfather (as his photograph in the album will show) played in the regimental band (I am afraid I do not know which) on the euphonium, but he was really too old and beyond it and could not be bothered I walked around with it tied on me with string until it got banged and dented once or twice when it was removed from my person with promises that I could have it when I was older. Rather a white elephant really. I sold it many years afterwards to a hock shop but I did not get much for it as the man said it was then in the wrong key and out of date. It was an instrument I never liked anyway.

There were sing-songs and general jollity and I remember my Father, who had rather a fine voice I think, bringing tears to all eyes with his rendering of  “The Anchor's Weighed, Farewell, Farewell remember me”. I hope it was not too prophetic as things turned out. Of them all, I liked Uncle Bill the best. He was .a happy go lucky soul and used to spend a good deal of summer leisure days on the Trundle Hill (his favourite sport) at Goodwood watching the races. I do not remember that the children from Brighton came. There were probably too many to cope with and they stayed at Brighton with Aunt Kate. I do remember Godfrey though as a very small boy. On the whole they were not bad times.

I think bread and beef dripping (with a little salt sprinkled on it) was a staple food but it was wholesome and, at any rate, the budget for house keeping must have been a bit tight, especially when war started. Grandfather died in 1914 some months before the Great War and Grandma followed in the next year and there was not much fun in those days at that time. I do not propose to record the times at Fulham except to mention that I so well remember the sirens announcing air raids and the Boy Scouts cycling round the streets afterwards sounding the all clear on their bugles. I also remember the daylight raids on London by the Gotha bombers and how upset Harry was (he being on leave from the front at that time) as people were too interested to realise the danger and stood outside watching fascinated.

I think really this is just about all I can really remember. I hope you will find this of interest.

Written by Alfred Peckham – March 1985.