The Excalibur Estate in South London like many similar estates of prefabricated houses was erected to meet the housing shortage after the mass bombing of British cities by Germany in WW2. Designed to last for 10 years many of them lasted well into the 1970s. The Excalibur was one of the last such estates.
Anthony Sargeant (in his mis-spent youth years) worked as a lifeguard at Bellingham Swimming Pool in the summers of 1963 and 1965. Here his shift partner Ken (who was a lovely young man) is seen with two of the regular young girls from Catford County Girls School who spent a lot of time at the pool. They are wearing parkas of the kind that were favoured by ‘mods’ on their scooters.
On 11th August 1964 Anthony Sargeant, Tony, went to see this film with his girl friend (JG) at the Streatham Odeon in South London. It is interesting to see clips of the film today with its surreal elements. One notes that is billed as the Beatles “first full-length film” (they made five in all).
The mother of Anthony Sargeant had one of these when the family lived in Lower Sydenham just on the edge of the Bellingham Council Estate in South London. In the 1950s it was not used for ‘creative’ work or ‘craft’ activities but to sew the essential everyday things for clothing and furnishing a home – from bed linen to frocks. The machine itself was hinged at the back and when this was pushed back the front wooden panel which was also hinged at the very front edge and on which it rested could then be raised and the whole of the sewing machine would then fold down into the compartment underneath. The metamorphosis was completed by the hinged wooden flap on the left hand side being folded back across the top concealing the compartment. The structure was based on a cast iron frame and the machine was treadle operated with the large wheel on the right of the treadle driving a thin leather belt up to the machine itself.
There was a small shallow drawer across the front used for pins and needles and such like then two deeper longer drawers on each side. In one knitting needles were stored, all shapes and sizes and colours. In another buttons, it was just post-war remember, and many things were in short supply so any buttons on worn-out clothing were saved for possible re-use in the future. The button drawer provided great delight for Tony as a small child, who arranged the buttons on the floor making patterns with different colours and shapes – a happy memory. When at some time in the 1950s the leather belt broke and was replaced with a new one the broken belt was left lying around and put to use as an implement for punishing Tony when he was deemed to be naughty – not such a happy memory.
Anthony Sargeant took this photograph of a friend in 1963 when he was working as a lifeguard during the summer of that year. Bellingham is in the Borough of Lewisham, South London.One of Tony Sargeant’s colleagues Norman with the dark glasses is seen in this picture watching the pool. The pool closed and was demolished many years ago as have been so many open air pools and lidos in the UK because they are so expensive to maintain.
The school in New Cross in South London that I attended from 1955-62. It had been an endowed Grammar School built in the late 19th Century by the Haberdashers’ Company of the City of London (The Haberdashers’ Company was one of the many City Livery Companies which controlled the trade of the City – like the Guilds in other places). Such schools were commonplace in British Towns and Cities in the early 20th Century but most were absorbed into the Comprehensive secondary school system created in the mid-1960s. Teresa May as the new British Prime Minister is planning to allow the creation of new Grammar Schools in places where there is parental demand. But the introduction of state funded schools that select out the more academically successful children will inevitably lead to an impoverishment of the other non selective schools in the area. This photograph of one of the main blocks of the school was taken in 2015 but it remains much as it was in my day – indeed my first form classroom was the one with the windows on the first floor to the immediate left of the tower.
Because of the large scale bombing of the civilian population by the Germans during WW2 and the consequent destruction of many homes there was a desperate shortage of housing after the war. It was to meet this need that prefabricated (flat pack) houses were designed (“Prefabs”). Built in the factory they could be very quickly erected on site around a central utility point already installed in the foundations. The housing was meant to last 10 years. During my childhood there were still many prefabs in South London and they continued to exist well into the late 1960s. Amazingly and wonderfully some still exist now some 60 years after their ‘use by date’. This example is on the Excalibur Estate in Catford, South London, and it was photographed by Anthony J Sargeant in July 2016.