Friday, 1 May 2015

45 years under one roof

It was exactly 45 years today that my family moved from Croft Gardens in Hanwell to the heights above West Ealing by Cleveland Park. On 1 May 1970, from end-terrace to detached house in one jump. Our new home was unique; its atmosphere on the day we moved in remains with me still.

The previous owner was the only child of its creator, a naval architect who specified plenty of Canadian oak - for flooring, staircase, kitchen larders, bathroom cupboards and built-in wardrobes for the house, which is unique. Solid and square, with metal windows by Crittall-Hope, it was built in 1933. The previous family owned it for 37 years; my parents have now occupied the house for the longer part of its history.

When we moved in, the atmosphere was late-Edwardian with Art Déco touches. The bookcases were left with the books from a pre-war childhood; Hugh Lofting, Arthur Ransome, Kenneth Graham. And the smell of hair lacquer from a left-behind can, used as fly-spray. My bedroom, then decorated with eau-de-Nil wallpaper, faced out over a long garden, a beautiful willow and views (now obscured by more recent housing developments and taller trees) ranging from Northolt Airport across to Wembley Stadium. In the summer, from my bedroom window, I could watch the setting sun across distant fields by Ickenham.

Up in the dusty attic, accessible via a slide-out wooden staircase, we found Edwardian trunks containing WWII gas-masks, porcelain chamber-pots, Harrod's tea chests and earthenware hot-water bottles. The electric system in the house was pre-war, with three round-pin plugs rather than the modern square-pin ones. There was also a water-softening system which relied on crystals and a separate tank in one of the kitchen larders. And there were two toilets - the one upstairs had a high-mounted cistern, flushed by a long chain, the loo itself by W.N. Froy of Hammersmith.

To this day, the bathroom has original 1930s tiling, and the bath taps (hot and cold - no mixers!) are by W.N. Froy. Most of the oak features remain, only the solid landing bannister has been lowered to let more light in on the staircase.

In the garden grew plums, asparagus and fennel, the smell of which I still associate with moving home. And at the end of the garden was Robinson's Nursery, soon to be closed and developed as a housing estate. I could sneak in at night and explore the deserted sheds and huts.

And across Argyle Road, Cleveland Park (below), where I'd go with my brother to play with our Action Man toys while our parents unpacked the contents of one house into the new one. The park also offered views of Harrow Hill and Horsenden Hill, as well as the railway line running into town. At this time of year, the park was in bloom. Everything was new and exciting, far posher than Hanwell and its dense terraced housing, and there was so much new to discover.

The house-move was a watershed in my life, coming just months after I'd started grammar school. The sixties - dull, grey, lower-middle class - had ended, and the seventies - a vastly more colourful decade - was just beginning. Black and white 405-line TV yielded to colour TV in 625-line definition, black and white family photographs, painstakingly developed and printed by my father in a blacked-out kitchen darkroom at Croft Gardens, gave way to colour snaps, and within nine months, shillings and pence would be replaced by decimal money. And the next four summer holidays would be spent under tents with the Polish scouts.

West Ealing was far more Polish than Hanwell. A glance through the 1970 edition of Kemp's Directory shows how many Polish surnames there were back then on the streets running off from Cleveland Road towards St Stephen's Road and Gordon Road to the south, and the streets running off from Pitshanger Lane and Brunswick Road to the north. This is essential Ealing, to where aspirational Poles moved houses to.

This is still the desirable part of West London, well-connected to town by public transport (in a few years time the Western Region and Central, District and Piccadilly line tube trains will be joined by CrossRail). There is plenty of greenery all around, with parkland stretching from corner of the road all the way down to the A40 at Perivale and across to Hanger Hill.

The house my parents paid just under £10,000 for in 1970 is valued at around a hundred times as much today - price inflation having pushed the purchasing power of £10,000 then to £126,000 today. So London house-price inflation has been some eight times higher over the past 45 years than general consumer-price inflation. Ah - I forgot to add that in 1978 my father added an extension to the back of the house, perfectly in keeping with the architectural style and using the same building materials as the rest of the house.

My father (below) at the age of 92 still keeps the house in order. Here he is atop a ladder on the top landing of the staircase, fixing the curtain runners.

I spent six and half years living at Cleveland Road as a teenager before going to university; upon my return I lived here for another two and half years doing my postgraduate studies in London, then while saving up for a deposit on my own house in Perivale. So in total, of the 45 years my parents have lived at this address, I spent one-fifth of that time here myself, but it's still home to me, and I feel a deep connection with these bricks and this patch of land.

This time three years ago:
May Day in the heat (it was 31C in Warsaw!)

This time five years ago:
Bike ride across rural Poland

This time eight years ago:
Mazovian landmark from the air


Bob said...

Great memories Michael!

AndrzejK said...

Having bought a house in Mulgrave Road for 89,000 pounds in 1985 (subsequently sold) I now find that the property has just sold for 970,000 pounds.

How can anyone on a normal salary afford property these days?

Andrew Goltz said...

Ah the joys of West Ealing! I see that a property across the road to my parents' house in Waldeck Road is for sale at £1,700,000.