162 Cranford Lane

Heston, Middlesex

In the early 1930’s Heston was spreading out from the parish church area. New houses and a school were built in Cranford Lane, which up to then had been a country road linking Heston to Cranford. Berkeley School was opened in 1930 and my parents, Charles and Winifred Harvey, became the proud owners of No. 162, opposite the girls’ entrance.

My parents had been living with mum’s grandfather in Hounslow since their marriage in 1926. I am sure that one thing that decided my dad to buy the house in Cranford Lane was the very long garden. He had been born in Fulham from a line of market gardeners. The houses had been built on orchards so fruit trees were already well-established to start him off.

Dad was the manager of a butcher’s shop in London, serving many large houses. He left home at 5.30 each morning, apart from Sunday, cycling the mile or so to Hounslow West station. He was able to leave his bike near the station to be looked after by someone I only knew as ‘Jack’. Jack was what we might now describe as disabled and I think he was able to earn himself a small income by housing bikes. Dad got home about 6.30 and, if fine, was happy tending his garden until early bed at about 9.00 pm !

As well as tending the garden my dad, like many others, kept chickens, rabbits and even a goat! I heard later that Brian, the mischievous one, had a bit of a run-in with the goat and also with a cockerel when he was sent to feed the chickens!

As well as gardening, my dad’s other love was angling. He was not a lover of staying away from home so most holidays consisted of days spent at various locations by the Thames or later at a local gravel pit. However the family did spend one holiday at the seaside – Bognor. This was made memorable as brother Malcolm managed to get lost on the beach, eventually being identified by a scar on his leg from a previous minor accident. Another memory passed to me was of days spent in Canvey Island where the beach consisted of mud rather than sand so didn’t prove too popular with my mum! Of course in those days there was no washing machine. Mum often stayed up after dad left and lit the boiler and got her hand washing done before we were all up.

This carefree life came to an end, of course, when war was declared in 1939. Our house was close to Heston Aerodrome where Neville Chamberlain had returned from Germany with what he thought was a peaceful gesture but was not to be.

My mother later spoke about seeing the Battle of Britain taking place overhead in late 1940, with all the anxiety it entailed.

End of basic training

In spring 1941 my dad informed my mum that he had enlisted to serve, even though he was above the official age for conscription. Just why he decided to serve, no-one quite knows but we can only surmise that, with things not going well at that time, he felt he had to do his bit. His older brother had been killed in the First World War so maybe that affected his decision.

This was particularly hard for my mum as she had just found herself to be expecting another child (me!). I was due to be born in October but hadn’t arrived when Dad was actually called up in early November. I was born in West Middlesex Hospital on 17th November and dad was given 6 days leave at the beginning of December then back to square-bashing. (This was paternity leave in those days!!). I can imagine there was a bit of rejoicing in the family to have a girl after three boys and I was named Cynthia after a distant relative and Winifred after my mother. Although a popular name at the beginning of the century, it had definitely gone out of fashion by this time and was a blight for the rest of my life!!! my dad was particularly pleased because I had the same initials as him (Charles William Harvey).

Of course, I was unaware of the trials and tribulations endured during the war years but do have some memories. My dad undertook training during 1942 but was able to get home to the family occasionally. However in Spring 1943 he came home for embarkation leave prior to sailing to Sicily to take part with the Desert Rats in the Italian campaign.

We had the obligatory family photo taken before he left and I am sure my mum and brothers wondered if they would see him again! I do remember my mum sitting with me at bedtime with a photo to ensure I included “God Bless Daddy “ in my prayers. (At this time I did have my own interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer – “Lead us not into Thames Station” – must have been mention of those fishing trips!!). I do have a copy of a letter sent to mum from Sicily and it is interesting how as a gardener, he was fascinated by the method of growing grapes etc. He was a driver with the RASC and had a good rapport with the local people when seeking provisions. I can remember hustling into the air-raid shelter in Berkeley School (later to be strictly out of bounds to inquisitive pupils), and being thrust under the table when a bomb exploded not far away.
In February 1943 my dad’s father was killed when a bomb hit his house in Chiswick, his wife having died a couple of weeks earlier. I think it was this event that made my mum decide on evacuation. Because I was so young she accompanied me, Brian and Malcolm. Gordon stayed with our maternal grandma as he was then at grammar school. Our new home was Cliff House in Shepley, Yorkshire – the home of Mrs Senior from a well known local brewery family. It seems we were rather grandly collected in a large Rolls Royce and taken to the front but told that was the last time we were to use the front door as in future we must go round the back. Our living area was the former butler’s quarters right at the top of the house. I think our presence wasn’t greeted too positively at first but Mrs Senior came round when my mum started to help round the house, and even more so when my grandparents paid a visit and grandad did a few garden jobs. One thing I do remember vividly was a local landmark called Tinkers Monument. I was at the top with a family friend who shouted down “Shall I throw her down, Mummy”. That sticks in my head. My brothers went to school and my mum made a few friends in the village but after a few months she decided she really would rather we were all together as a family so we left Shepley for home. I have recently visited the area and was able to visit Cliff House which is now an outdoor schools study and conference centre and our living area was full of bunk beds!

My last wartime memory was 13th November 1944. I was with mum, Brian and Malcolm and I was sitting just behind the door on a large red leather chair. The door opened and brother Gordon came in saying “I’ve brought someone to see you all “ and he was followed by my dad!! There was of course much excitement and, probably because of that nightly photo, I took to him straight away and was soon up on his shoulders. It seemed that no-one was quite sure which day he would be arriving and Gordon was on the 111 bus when dad got on at Hounslow West. They each looked at the other to confirm each one to the other causing the bus conductress to almost be in tears.

In 1962, the family suffered a terrible tragedy, as Charles was killed in a train accident on his way to work.

The three boys had already left home and married, which left just Win and Cynthia at home. Cynthia too was soon to marry in 1964. Win had little need for a large family home.

As London and its environs continued to grow, the need for housing was ever increasing. 162 had been built under what became the Heathrow flight path. A request was received, to purchase 160 and 162 Cranford Lane, along with parts of the gardens of surrounding properties, to build new houses. As the extended family were moving away from Heston, Winifred took the decision to sell the house.

In October 2017, we paid a visit to Heston, en route to a family funeral. This is where 162 Cranford Lane had stood.

Cynthia and (memories from Brian) 2021