Memories of Whiteway

These memories and old photos from Jackie Parfitt, provide a valuable window into what life was like for those who lived in Whiteway during the postwar era.

Shops and rationing

I was born in 1948 and when I was about two years of age I went to live at Haycombe Drive. At that time, rationing was still in operation after the war, and that meant you could only have small quantities of certain things. We got our supplies from the Co-op at Mount Road. We were allowed a quarter of a pound of butter and one egg a week. They would weigh out the sugar and that was put into a blue sugar bag. I remember going home from the Co-op with my mum and our one egg, and just before we got home I dropped it. So she wasn’t very pleased.
In those days we had what were called “divi numbers”. If you shopped in the Co-op you could say your divi number and get some points logged. Then at the end of the year, you could go into the main Co-op at Westgate Buildings and they’d give you some money. I’m willing to bet that anyone born in that day, can still remember their mother’s divi number, because whenever you were sent to get something you had it drummed into you: “Don’t forget to say my divi number!”

In the garden of 210 Haycombe Drive, aged about 3 years
Typical of that era is the flower bed planted with vegetables

There was a shop near where the store called Best One is, where you could get rock salt. This was actually a solid block of salt. It was very nice sprinkled on chips because it made them really crunchy. I remember in that particular shop they had these big wicker baskets full of kindling, which was small bits of firewood that you’d use to start your fire with.
There were lots of little shops that you don’t get these days. I can remember down The Hollow on the right, there was a dear little shop that was run by Mr Ship. Behind Ship’s shop there were allotments. And near where the vetinary surgery is now, there was a shop called Haycombe Stores.

At number 3 St Michael’s Road with father Ken and grandmother Dorothy

In those days there were a lot of delivery vans going around Whiteway. There was a bread van which sold the most beautiful bread, and you had a fish van that went around. The milkmen used to have these lovely bottles of Corona, and you always had ice cream vans. You also used to have rag and bone men which you don’t get these days. As they went around the drive they’d call out: “Rag-n-bone! Rag-n-bone!” That was quite funny.

Southdown Infant and Junior Schools

A lot of kids had free school dinners and these were very balanced meals. I didn’t like school stew because it was always gristly and fatty and swimming in this strong brown gravy. But I must admit they did damn good meals. It was things like minced meat made into pies and cabbage and mashed potato. There were things like semolina pudding and fruit, trifle, and very occasionally ice cream.
And one of the reasons why they did it was because people were poor, especially in that area. Everyone ate as much as they could, because often when they got home all they might have would be a bit of bread and marge or dripping.
I remember at school a girl who lived at Roundhill Grove stole my dripping sandwiches because she was hungry. I didn’t dare run after her, because her legs were so thin that I honestly thought they would snap. We had one family up the road whose son had tonsillitis, and they sent the boy in to have his school dinner even though he couldn’t swallow it properly, because there was so little food on the table at home.

An early photo of Southdown Infant School

When I used to go to Southdown Infant School in the early 1950s, they still used to test the wartime air raid sirens. There was an air raid siren in the vicinity of Roundhill. I remember being left alone in the house when I was a kid and I heard the siren. So I went and hid in the cupboard under the stairs where the shoe polish was.
We used to have nurses come around and they’d look at your head to make sure you didn’t have fleas. It was very common to sit next to a child who had flea bites. Another thing they had a lot of was something called impetigo, which was sores and infected skin, usually around the mouth. A lot of it was caused by poor diet and living conditions.
At school you had country dancing which kept you fit and made you sociable. We also had sports days with things like egg and spoon race, and the sack race. We used to play rounders and once I bunked off from that and got the dap for it. We did music and we went swimming in what used to be the tepid swimming pool at Bath Street. For a while there was a school bus that would go through Southdown and around the clump of trees at Whiteway.

Jackie as a pupil of Southdown Junior School

My favourite teacher was Miss Teague. I absolutely loved her. She was so pretty that she could have been a film star. The first teacher I had was Miss Latcham. She had black hair and it was cut very short in a bob. There was a blackboard all the way along one side of her classroom and you could use chalks to draw with. I remember almost immediately I drew a cherry tree, and she was so lovely that she kept it and wouldn’t let anybody rub it off.
Not long after, I found out that Mrs Latcham had a daughter who’d been run over and sent to Frenchay Hospital with a fractured skull. I think she was expected to die. At about 6 o’clock just before tea, I sat in our stairs and prayed for that little girl to live. When my mum took me to school the next day, she told Mrs Latcham that I’d been praying for her girl that teatime. Mrs Latcham treated me very kindly after that. It turned out that at the same hour I’d prayed, her daughter had been taken off the critical list.

The Whiteway Estate

When we first moved to Whiteway the Council had boilers in some of these houses, so you could boil things like sheets and nappies. But after a while they packed up and a lot of people couldn’t afford a washing machine. You had a big white stone sink and you had to wash everything in that. There were these wooden draining boards that smelled.
A lot of people didn’t have fridges, so you had to go very careful about keeping flies off your meat. You couldn’t afford luxuries like toilet paper – you had to use newspaper. If you were very posh, you got a pair of dressmakers’ pinking scissors and actually cut the newspaper into squares and strung them together.
Not a lot of houses had televisions. People used to listen to the radio, at first with the old valve sets. Radio Luxembourg was a popular station. A lot of us were very poor and not everybody could afford lampshades or stair covering. So it would be quite usual to go into a house and see a naked light bulb, or stairs with no carpet on them. In those days more people had lino. There was no central heating or double glazing. The houses had steel framed windows and they used to go all rusty. In the winter it was freezing cold up Whiteway because it was built up on the hill.

Mowing the grass at Haycombe Drive in around 1965

There was a man called Mr Harwood who had a tame jackdaw. He’d tamed it and it could speak (like a parrot). But it wasn’t very popular with the women up there, because they would spend hours washing their sheets by hand, put them out on the line, and then Harwood’s jackdaw would come along and leave bird droppings all over them.
At Haycombe Drive we had some old people’s flats that were there before the new ones got built. Just to one side of them was the Salvation Army Goodwill Centre, which was also used as a medical surgery two or three times a week. It was incredibly brown inside – brown wooden pews and chocolate brown paint on the walls. Girl Guides and Brownies met there, and they had a Glee Club for kids. On one wall was the most beautiful picture of Jesus surrounded by children from all the nations. And it was that picture which first made me want to become a Christian.

The picture that was in the Goodwill Centre at Whiteway

Next to the Goodwill Centre was another little shop that belonged to Mrs Simms, before she got the bigger shop at Southdown. Mrs Simms used to sell loose woodbine cigarettes. People could go down there if they didn’t have much money and she’d sell them two woodbines for a few pence. Later she had a newsagents near where the Post Office was. The Beehive Surgery used to be a pub called The Beehive. It had a door around the side called the Jug and Bottle, where you could get packets of crisps and bottles of pale ale. The ladies used to like a drink they called “pony”.
On most Sundays the Salvation Army would have a band of people all dressed up in uniforms and bonnets, and they’d march all the way around Haycombe Drive with musical instruments and their banner. The Salvation Army were also known as the Band of Hope. There was a family who lived at Whiteway whose surname was Hope and they were in the band. My mum used to say, “Here comes the Band of Hope” because you could see all these little Hope kids marching along.
At the back of Haycombe Drive was a great big playing field where the young men used to play football. Sectioned off from that was another field. We used to like it when they cut the grass in that field, because all us kids used to go and make dens with the cut grass. I remember they had a fete in the field beyond and my dad won the cake cooking competition. He made what were called “queen cakes” and won a set of saucepans.

Sketching in the back garden at Haycombe Drive
In the background is what is now called Rosewarn Field

There was a poor family that lived near the clump of trees. I was friendly with one of their daughters and I remember going around to call on her at tea time. The mother came in with these chunks of white bread spread with margarine, and that was all they had for their tea. And all the kids came and devoured them within minutes, because they were scared that if they didn’t have their share, there wouldn’t be any more. There was also a big Irish family on the estate called the Gunnings. One of them went on to become a priest at St John’s Catholic Church.
One of the mistakes they made, was they built Whiteway so far from the town. People worked in the town but they couldn’t get in there. Buses were expensive so people used to walk or cycle as they didn’t have cars.
The police were more respected than they are now. There was a policeman called PC Green and he used to have a little moustache, and he was quite tall and thin. If he saw a kid misbehaving he’d clip him around the ear or bend his ear. There were some decent families and some problem families. By in large you knew who was who and avoided the problem ones. Next to us lived Mr and Mrs Phelps and they were quite nice. Mrs Phelps had done first aid in the war.
Because it was just after the war, the Government was concerned to make sure we stayed healthy. We had these little ration books with a coupon for a bottle of orange juice if someone fell ill. You could get them over the Goodwill Centre. I don’t think we had the benefits system that we have now. People who didn’t work had to go before the Panel, and the Panel would decide whether they should be given money.

Making ends meet

We used to have a coal man called Mr Butt I think. People couldn’t afford much coal, so you just used to have a hundred weight and that would have to last you a few weeks. To save money you got sheets of newspaper, pleated them like a fan and then twisted them into a poker shape. You then used a pile of them to start your fire up, to save money on kindling wood. As you were getting down to your last bit of coal you got some newspaper, put your vegetable peelings and some coal dust in it, folded it up and wetted it, and that would burn slowly at the back of the fire. A lot of people didn’t buy a newspaper but groceries like meat and fish came wrapped in it.
People used to eat more things like dripping, oxtails, and Bath chaps which were pig cheeks cooked in breadcrumbs. The fish man used to come around and very often we used to have sprats. But a cheap meal we made back then was scallops; that was thick pieces of potato dipped in batter and fried. You didn’t get the same variety of fresh fruit that you get now.
What you used to see a lot of was people going up the drive with pails full of dandelion heads or cowslips, and they’d use that to make wine. People would go mushrooming and some would collect watercress from the stream. So people would forage for food, which they don’t do now.
People were far better at using the resources they had. Quite a few people kept hens. They used to dig their gardens and grow their own food. People also made a bit of money by growing bedding plants like lettuces or runner beans and selling them. They might put a sign on their gate saying they had plants for sale. Some kept allotments and my dad had two lovely plum trees, so we sold plums from our allotment.
There were a lot of jumble sales and people went along to get clothes and household things. A lot of people did things like knitting. They would unpick a jumper when a kid outgrew it and make it into another garment, or maybe a hat and gloves for them. A lot of people kept their wartime utility clothes because those things had been made to last.

Stories from the war

The older generation recalled what had happened in the war. My gran on my mother’s side was called Laurel and she had a house at Kelston View. On one occasion there was a bombing raid, and one of her daughters was crouched under a heavy wooden table with her first baby. She was very frightened because they heard a bomb pass over the roof of the house and land in what is now Bath City Farm.
Some people walked out to Newton St Loe and slept in the hay barn to avoid the bombs. And some went out as far as Peasdown and slept under the hedges. They thought it was better than having your house fall in on you.

The war was over but people would never forget the bombings
This photo is of the damage done at Roseberry Road, East Twerton

My dad was an engineer at Stothert and Pitt. He worked on crane installations and things like that, which meant he didn’t go into the forces. One day after there’d been a bombing, he was walking down The Hollow and he met my mother’s brother coming up the hill crying. He said it was terrible. There were bodies hanging out the windows, some dead and some terribly injured. They found someone who was still alive and led him to my other gran’s house at St Michael’s Road, where they took all the bits of glass out of him and bandaged him up. West Twerton School at The Hollow got hit as well.

The Romany lady at Pennyquick

Half way down Pennyquick there lived a Romany family called Dix who were related to my family by marriage. There was the old lady who usually dressed all in black, with a long dress and a black hat with an ostrich feather in it. She had a big dog and two horses which she’d used to pull her caravan. She had a traditional maroon coloured hoop backed caravan which she used as her sleeping quarters. It was beautiful inside and very clean. You had a little range and cabinets with mirrors on the outside.
She also had a single story outbuilding and inside were brass and china ornaments. Her son Joe lived alongside in a modern caravan. She used to love flowers and she planted flowers all down the side of Pennyquick, long before the Council started putting daffodils there. She sold land to the Council to build some of the Poolemead Road Estate. In later years, the local children tormented her by throwing stones onto her caravan.
My dad used to take me down to visit her. It was quite fashionable in those days for families to plait their children’s hair. So I used to have two plaits and my dad would then bring those plaits up on top of my head and tie a ribbon. One day I was wearing a green ribbon when I visited but she said to my dad, “You tell that wench (my mum) to take that green ribbon out of that little maid’s hair”. In folklore green was a bad luck colour. She was self-sufficient and proud, and she used to sell firewood which she would push around in a pram.


Jackie Parfitt passed away in October 2011. She had requested that her Christian testimony, which is linked to her childhood experiences at Whiteway, be recorded. You can read it for yourself here.