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358: Our family home (1947 - 1986)

By Alan D Craxford and Brenda Eldridge

Introduction

358 Fosse Road North, Leicester, the family home

The family home

For most of us I think it likely that we have a certain fondness for the place we first called home. Looking back on the home of our parents and the house where they raised us always conjures up pictures of birthday parties and fairy lights; jelly and kittens; homework and first kisses. It was a place that was larger than life itself (or were we just the smaller anlage of what we were to become?!), a place of memory, comfort and security.

We were born and raised in this house on Fosse Road North, went to infant, junior and grammar schools in Leicester and moved away to College in the mid 1960s. I hadn't been back to the City for 20 years and I hadn't seen the old homestead until I made a sentimental journey to look at the place one weekend in August this year.

This article is my tribute to times past ("THEN") as well as a brief commentary on the present ("NOW").

And, for you who might be from the same vintage as me, there's a little quiz running through the page below just to test your memory of the time. I'll put a link to the answers at the end of the article.


THEN: In The Beginning....

A family holiday at Lands End

Lands End 1957

Father bought 358 Fosse Road North, Leicester as the family home in 1947. It must have been an exciting and puzzling period of my parents lives. The second world war was ended and he had been demobbed into the privations and uncertainties of the post war era. He had been reunited with his wife after five years away on Army service and they had an infant son (me).

The winter of 1947 was also one of the severest from the weather point of view with storms, ice and deep snow - compounded with rationing and shortage of coal. Indeed I understand that the fuel belonged to the property and I am told that they took to moving bags full of nutty slack from their previous address on Westcotes Drive in the bottom of the pram - with yours truly perched on the top of it.

The CD 'Chris Barber Live

Chris Barber Live

After the death of his wife Esther, my grandfather, James Ernest Craxford, came to live with us until he too died in 1949. Brenda and I have no recollection of him. His picture is the main photograph on the banner headline of this page.

To make ends meet in the early 1950s, our parents rented out a spare room to students. I do remember two of them (John Boaz and Richard Scott) who studied architecture. It was through them that I had early experiences of Grace Road (Leicestershire County cricket) and Welford Road (Leicester Tigers rugby). They also had an enthusiasm for music, particularly traditional jazz. My earliest concert recollection (a radio broadcast) was of the Chris Barber Band live from the Royal Festival Hall (I have the re-released CD in my own collection now).


The house

358 was a large rambling Victorian terrace house facing onto the main Fosse Road, longer in plan than it was wide. The front door opened from a small off-pavement patio into a narrow hallway that twisted past the staircase to the upper floors to reach the rooms at the rear. The front room (the 'lounge') was the largest and ostensibly the 'poshest' where the television was housed (we had our first one in 1956) and guests were entertained. Its bay window provided a prospect on the world passing by outside. Halfway along the passage, opposite the staircase, was a second large reception room (the 'dining room') which had a rather chequered history - ultimately ending up as father's office and warehouse. Strangely the passage could be closed off by a heavy door and it was part of Father's nightly ritual to make sure everything was locked up securely before going to bed.

Q.1.: Which radio soap character was always "worried about Jim"?

Q.2.: Which comic featured the exploits of Dan Dare?

A model R1 Triplex Kitchen Range, about 1920

Triplex

An overhead clothes airer

Airer

At the rear of the house was the 'breakfast room' (we called it the kitchen) - the day to day family room which looked out onto the small garden. Two things of early note that I remember were an old Triplex range - a dirty wood and coal burning fire which fuelled an oven and a warmer compartment - and a pulley rigged ceiling clothes airer (which funnily enough has come back into style in recent years).

Packet of Oxydol

1950s soaps ...

For the blue whiteness in your wash...! Dolly Blue bag

Blue bag

Beyond this was the kitchen (or scullery!). In the early days Mum's pride and joy was an old copper boiler (and a thing the Geordies call a poss stick!), a wooden clothes mangle (keep your fingers out, Brenda), Oxydol and Dolly Blue Bags. Pots were washed, vegetables prepared and smalls sorted in a rather chipped Belfast sink - isn't it strange how the old things come back into fashion.

Q.3.: "You'll look a little lovelier, each day ..." if you use, what?

Q.4.: A popular chocolate bar was Fry's Five Boys". What names were given to the five faces?

A glazed pancheon

Pancheon

Under the stairs was a door which opened onto a flight of brick steps which led down into the foundations of the house. Originally used for the storage of coal it was a dark and dirty place. This was another of Father's 'glory holes' where old tools, old bottles and old newspapers were kept - ready for re-use or recycling. For many years he was an inveterate amateur vintner. Raw materials would sit bubbling and frothing away in large pancheons in the dining room prior to racking off and decanting into bottles. Rows of "Tea", "Elderberry" or "Elderflower and Ginger" would sit maturing in the gloom below stairs. Bottles would also find their way into some of the warmer spaces 'to finish off'. On one memorable occasion a specimen of elderberry burst in a cupboard in the side passage. The inside of the cupboard remained stained for years afterwards.

At the top of the staircase was the toilet; the door of which from time immemorial bore a sign declaring "Yer Tiz". There were three bedrooms at the front of the house: two looking over the main road, one looking out over the back garden. Brenda had the little room directly over the front door. Another passage led to the back of the house past my bedroom to the bathroom which was dominated by a six foot iron bath.

Outside was a small slabbed yard area and a narrow rather gritty garden which spread along the side of the house. Opposite the back door were three outbuildings: the downstairs toilet (the cistern appositely named "The Thunderer"); and two areas which were used as general storage repositories. These outhouses can be clearly seen on this old Ordinance Survey map. The dividing wall and the back gate were overgrown by three rambler roses (red, pink and white) which must have been planted when the house was built. Father also 'cultivated' a loganberry which ran rampant up the side of the house almost up to the roof. It bore delicious fruit but was covered in vicious thorns. He also grew tomatoes which spent the autumn ripening on the window sills.

The backs of the houses all opened into a passage that led onto Noble Street. It was through this that the kids met and played.

Q.5.: When would Derek Mcculloch have been heard to say "Hello children, everwhere..."?

Q.6.: What was the middle name of the rock'n'roller managed by Colonel Tom Parker?

The neighbourhood

St Andrews Church, Fosse Road Central
Estonian House

St Andrews (left) and Estonian House (right)

The main local junction was a meeting of five roads (Fosse Road North and Central; King Richards Road and Glenfield Road and Kirby Road). In our youthful parlance it was often called "God's Crossing" or "The Holy Junction" because of the establishments on each corner. On either side of Kirby Road was the Parish Church of St Paul and its Church house. On the other side of Fosse Road Central was the Methodist Church of St. Andrew. Opposite St Paul's on the corner of Fosse Road North was a Roman Catholic Convent. The last corner was taken up with Estonian House - a place of mystery to our young imaginations.

David Zanker at school (about 1961)

David Zanker

Lady Chapel, St Paul's Church, Kirby Road

The Lady Chapel; St Pauls Church: from an old postcard

Mum was a regular attender at St Paul's and for some time belonged to the Young Wives Association. Brenda and I attended Sunday School which was held in the church house (overseen by Levis, the verger) and were enthusiastic helpers at the Annual Bazaar (the Bran Tub, the Spinning Jenny, the Book and Produce Stalls). We were both confirmed there. I was a member of the choir until the early 1960s when Canon Quarterman was resident at the vicarage and Tom Coleman was the organist. I recall Wednesday evening choir practice (with David Zanker, Terry Doughty and Malcolm Potter) and being paid half a crown to sing at weddings on a Saturday. I wonder where they all are now.

Our terrace was the last block of Fosse Road North and ran from the corner of King Richards Road to the corner of Noble Street. As a child I had no knowledge of (or even much interest in) where the local street names originated. Many of the other streets in the area (Bosworth, Tewkesbury, Tudor) have references to the era of the Wars of the Roses. Noble Street, a terrace of similar tightly knit Victorian houses running down the hill from Fosse Road North to Tudor Road, however was named after Doctor Noble, the owner of Danet's Hall in the 1850s and a local Member of Parliament. Roman mosaics were found on his property and he gave these finds to the Town Hall. They are now displayed at the Jewry Wall Museum.



Continued in column 2...

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There are Readers' Letters associated with this article


Page added: September 10th 2005
Last updated March 8th 2014

The neighbours

Fosse Road North between King Richards Road and Noble Street

Our neighbourhood

Through the years of our childhood the residents in the houses adjacent to us were very static. On the corner of Noble Street (354) were the elderly Brudnell sisters - seamstresses and dressmakers in their time if my memory serves me right. Next door to us were the Scotneys (John and Barbara, living with their elderly mother and two children). Their house shared a party wall with us both inside and out - and part of their back yard was taken up with an Anderson shelter.

The house on the other side (360) had been divided into flats. The upper floor was occupied by Miss Westhead - another elderly spinster known locally as Queenie. Mrs Oxley, a delightful retired widow lived downstairs. Next door to them (362) lived the Letts (Jim and Elsie with their daughters Ann and Margaret). 364 was also divided into flats and the occupation here was rather more transitory. Next door was a general practitioner's surgery which led on to Estonia House.

... And, talking of music, I did not acquire my own record player until 1960 (more about that another time!). It was Ann Letts who kept the street a-rockin' with her gramophone and 78s - titles which included "Hoots Mon" and "Hot Dog Buddy Buddy"

Q.7.: Who played banjo in the Chris Barber Jazz Band on 1954?

Q.8.: Who played 'Hoots Mon'?

Tales from the house

The Triplex range was if nothing else a very efficient form of heating and, with the doors closed, the kitchen was usually the warmest and most comfortable place in the house. With its combination of burning wood and coal there was nothing to beat the contemplation of patterns in the flames on a cold November day. There were times when cauldrens of stock were simmered for many hours on the hearth and even now the smell of celery and spices in the shops around Christmas time bring back those distant memories. Maintenance of the Triplex grate was a labour of love - and one which mother grew to abhor. Ours was enamelled black and the doors were set with dark red porcelain tiles. It required regular cleaning to remove soot and prevent fires in the chimney and at times had to be repainted with Japan black lacquer. I had a hand in the system's ultimate demise when one Saturday afternoon, I painted it with bright yellow gloss paint. I don't recall getting many thanks for my efforts!

The house was quite cool even on the warmest summer days. During the winters it would become frigid as only the main living rooms were heated - either by coal or later gas fires. These were the days before central heating, emersion heaters and double glazing. Friday night was bath night (one after another, in orderly fashion in you please!) Father would heat up water in the copper boiler and cart it up in buckets in an attempt to fill that big bath I have already mentioned. Brenda also has fond memories of trying to go to bed without getting undressed only to be hauled out again by Father to "get into your pyjamas properly".

The old Leicester Fish Market

The Fish Market

We had two cats - or more properly - one and a non-resident alien! Smokey was a mackerel striped tabby who adopted us when he was about three months old and with much cajolery was allowed to stay. He was cute, affectionate and quite sly and died at a ripe old age in the mid 1970s. The other cat (a black and white domestic short hair) was called Lucky. Despite our pleas Father would not allow a second adoption and so when Smokey was sent to bed in the kitchen, Lucky was put out the back door - regardless of the prevailing conditions - only to be sitting on the back door step the following morning. On occasions Smokey would evade capture and would creep into a willing child's bed in the early hours of the morning.

Local delicacies: Black Pudding and Pork Pie

Black Pudding and Pork Pie

Father would buy 'lights' (offal, usually lungs) and 'laps' (offcuts of fish, usually cod, including the fins) - often from the Leicester Fish Market - which he would then boil up odiferously as cat food.

Father also had some 'particular' food fancies himself including tripe and braised cow heel. Slightly more mainstream and what almost became a family tradition was the Saturday afternoon tea. Although in latter years he rarely filled out a pools coupon himself, he would religiously tune in to "Sports Report" at five o'clock and write down the football results on the back of his copy of the Daily Express. At the same time the savoury treat were links of boiled black pudding or a slice of pork pie (made by and bought from a local pork butcher) served with brown sauce served with slices of bread and butter and a cup of tea.

A perfect cribbage hand

"15-2; 15-4... "

The old board game, Waddington's Totopoly

Totopoly

Those were the days before computers and consoles and yet as kids we had plenty of opportunity for fun and games in the evenings and indoors when the weather turned bad. Card games beyond 'Happy Families' and 'Whot' were rarely seen but Father did enjoy a hand of Cribbage and took the time early on to teach us how to play. We had the ubiquitous 'Monoply' set although this did not come out of the cupboard very often as I was deemed to be too serious a player. 'Cluedo' was a family favourite although Brenda was usually the one to discover Dr Black's murderer ahead of the rest of us. Perhaps my own choice was 'Totopoly' - a horse racing game, long since defunct - to which I was introduced by my junior school classmate, Christopher Isherwood.

Much later I was to introduce the family to the delights of Mah-jongg. This was a craze which took hold in my first year at University. Father was never the one to build up large and complex hands (much to my chagrin) but I can still picture him sitting there at the table making "another little chow".

Q.9.: Whose 'side-kick' was Annette Mills on early television?

Q.10.: Waddingtons produced a board game of pirates and treasure hunting. What was is called?

Now

The house and the terrace survive as can be seen from the photographs taken during our visit. However, in 2005, 358 had been amalgamated with its neighbour - 356 - and together they have become The Dylan Lee Care Home. The rear entryway from Noble Street was still there although the outhouses had gone, there wee no rear gates and the old rose trees had been removed. More recently these two properties had once again been separated and 358 has been turned into a group of one person flatlets.

The current state of St Paul's Church: July 2005
St Pauls Kirby Road, another view

St Pauls Church: from King Richard's Road (left) and Kirby Road (right)

The shell of St Pauls' Church still stands in the V-shaped grounds formed by the meeting of Glenfield Road and Kirby Road. The church was originally commissioned in 1870 and should have been completed with a 190 foot spire. However previous excavations on the site made it impossible to bear such a weight and the tower was capped off at 62 feet. Rot was found in the roof timbers and other remedial work was deemed too expensive, so the building was abandoned in 2003 and its functions have been moved into the old church hall opposite and has become the St Paul & St Augustine Worship Centre. The picture of the Virgin and Child which hung in the Lady Chapel now adorns the main hall.

The bottom end of Kirby Road has been cordoned off and a small area has been designated a pedestrianised mini-park.

The Roman Catholic Convent was demolished in the 1960s. A small estate of flats and maisonettes was built on the site whose heritage has been commemorated in the title Convent Court. Noble Street was also demolished and rebuilt with small houses and flats. It is no longer a thoroughfare, providing off street parking for its residents only.

Glenfield Road and Fosse Road North appear to have escaped the planners, thus far, intact. The fate of King Richards Road is to be the subject of another article which will be published soon.

On balance I guess I am glad that I went back and made this sentimental journey. The old house looked somewhat dejected and rather more shunken that I remember it. The old Fosse Park Recreational Ground is still there, more overgrown that I recall. The old church has an air of despair. It has an 'Under Offer' sign attached to the scaffolding although there was no indication about its possible fate.

Part 2 of this trilogy, which also contains a brief history of Fosse Road, can be found at Growing up on Fosse Road North
with part 3 following at: A walk down King Dick's Road - and back again

Answers to QUIZ 1 questions on Page 7: Editorial

Publication

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Parts of this article appeared in the June 2018 edition of the Journal of the Leicestershire & Rutland Family History Society (Journal No. 172 pages 21 - 26) (1)


Reference

1. Leicestershire And Rutland Family History Society website.


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