In 1966 Nana (Winifred Alice Tranter), bought a bungalow in Ancaster near Grantham. This was two doors away from Gordon, who had joined the RAF and was stationed at nearby Cranwell. Nana enjoyed having her independence and was able to spend a lot of time with Gordon and his three girls. The family home (162 Cranford Lane), had been sold, and Nana had been living with her brother Fred for a while.
The first I remember of visiting, was early 1970, a couple of weeks before my fifth birthday. We had just returned from three years in Malta.
Dad had gone on ahead to RAF Colerne, but we were going to stay with Nana for a while as our RAF quarter was not ready. We travelled from London by train, and this was all new to us, the weather was damp, dull and cold, quite a contrast to the Maltese weather we had just left behind. We found a carriage on the train, and as we left London, we were surrounded by the lines of train tracks going off in all directions, and then the suburbs, before travelling through the green fields, hedges, and trees of England, with cows and sheep dotted about.
We arrived at Ancaster in the afternoon, it was a small country station in a Lincolnshire village, which I have always presumed to be little known, however, I have recently seen a TV programme, in which it explained the different brick types made from clay from around the country. Apparently clay was dug at Ancaster, to make ‘the Ancaster Brick’ and so I presume that is why there is a station there. Even though it is such a small village, it has an excellent direct route to London.
Auntie Maribel (was married to Mum’s brother, Uncle Gordon, an RAF lecturer at Cranwell), picked us up in her green Renault 5. I was quite intrigued by the gear stick, which I think was on the stalk, not between the front seats. She took us to Nana’s bungalow, where we stayed for about six weeks.
Nana’s bungalow in Ancaster. By the standards of the day, was modern. A square building of plain bricks, concrete tile roof and large windows, typical of its time.
In 1968, ‘Father Christmas‘ had bought me a dolls house, modelled on Nana’s bungalow, although I didn’t know this at the time.
I guess that North Drive was a slightly newer extension to a modern housing estate, built just on the outskirts of Ancaster. The name of the village suggests it has Roman origins, and it is built along a wide straight street (Ermine Street, the Roman road from London to Lincoln and York), with original buildings of honey colored local stone.
Although the whole area is pretty much flat, the estate where Nana’s bungalow, was on a slope, so we had an incline from the main road, before turning right into North Drive, which was a cul-de-sac, and Nana’s was at the end. There were a mix of detached houses and bungalows.
The gates were baby blue, with hedging and picket fencing. The garden was large and flat, as it was the last property on the cul de sac.
Around about 1972 /3, several more houses were added on to the end of the cul de sac. Paul and I took the chance to wander and nose around the building site when the builders were away, recognising some of the building processes from when our own home had also been part of a building site!
I loved the baby blue colour of Nana’s garden gates. The pedestrian gate had a straight concrete path to the back kitchen door (which was the main door). The path branched to the left and the front door. Along the left of the path, roses were planted, which had a lovely smell in summer. On the right, the whole area to the next door fence was silver leaved aubretia.
During the summer of 1970, The Aunties were visiting Nana. They were probably staying with Uncle Gordon who lived close by. I recall having tea in the garden with Auntie Jen sitting in an old wooden garden chair, with a number of squashy feather cushions. I was reminded of this later, when Godfrey and his sisters were doing the same in an episode of Dads Army!!
Soon after this, the three Aunties and Uncle Tom, moved to Grantham to be closer to family. Making this area the family hub. (We had also lived in Grantham , where Paul was born, for a year before we were posted to Malta).
The front garden was all laid to lawn. At first there was a vegetable patch at the back, and I can remember Nana out one day, digging it over. Later it was planted with 🍓 , and then put down to lawn as Nana got older. We would enjoy pushing out the ‘eyes’ of the back fence, and peering through. Due to the previously mentioned incline, we would look down onto a large garage, (Renault I think), with a concrete pad behind where they parked their vehicles.
Under the washing line was a square area, of large gravel stones (I think this was pretty common then), and I would spend my time picking through, looking for pretty stones or pieces of quartz.
One year, I spent my time making mini gardens in a wooden tray, using moss, attractive stones and anything else I could find.
There was a concrete coal bunker outside the kitchen door.
To the left of the property was a wooden garage, which gave off a smell of creosote.The garden was always neat and well tended, and this was the only bit of ‘wild” for us to explore. (It wasn’t wild in the least, but felt like it to two young children!).
Uncle Gordon kept his car in Nana’s garage, and parked his caravan on the driveway. On one occasion, I was given the dolls pram, that had been stored at the back of the garage since my cousins had grown out of it. Behind the garage, was a small independent brick built tool shed.
The left boundary was a wild hedge and well established native trees.
The front door was rarely used, but led into a wide hallway, with all rooms leading off it. The unfitted rug, was particularly thick, and gold coloured, covering a parquet flooring.
Each doorway, had a black rug outside of it. On occasions when bored, we would shut all the doors, roll up the rug, and skid about on the floor.
But the first thing we would do on any visit, would be go to a velour hanging of a tiger, on the wall.
It was about 6 inches wide, and we would see how far we could roll it up the wall. At first we wouldn’t be able to get very far, but by the time Nana moved in 1977, we could roll it up as far as it would go. Other than that, the only other piece of furniture in the hall was a white semi-circle cast iron phone table with glass top. There was a phone, but I don’t recall when this was introduced. (We didn’t get a phone until 1974, and I think Nana had one before us, so she could keep in touch with family far and wide).
On the right hand side of the hallway was a door into the lounge. As this was pretty much my first experience of a British House, the common items in the room, were unusual to me.
On the back wall was an open fire. There was no central heating, and this was the only way of heating the room. The fireplace and hearth were tiled, there was a coal scuttle on the hearth, and the whenever I smell coal smoke in the atmosphere, this is what springs to mind. Within a year or two, the fireplace was covered by an electric bar fire, with coal effect on the front. We had one too).
Above the fireplace was a framed print of two swans swimming on a river. This was a popular and fairly common print at the time.
There must have been a ticking clock: I don’t remember it, but whenever I hear a clock ticking at the same rate, this is what I think of.
Nana had a few ornaments, collected over the years, but they didn’t really appear to have much relevance to anything. On the mantlepiece was a black and white china tabby kitten, and our favourite item was a brown nodding puppy 🐶 , and we would always give his head a tap.
The television was in the right hand corner. In those days, most televisions were black and white, there was no 24 hour TV or recordings, just three channels, so programmes were chosen and watched at the time. As nana lived alone she perhaps watched more tv than other members of the family, but nonetheless, it was just in the evenings (apart from when snooker championships were on).
To us, a television was a complete novelty, as we had not had one in Malta, and couldn’t remember any time before that. I was introduced to Coronation Street, I didnt quite understand what it was about, but soon got to know the characters, and continued to watch until the story lines got ridiculous. I also remember seeing a rocket taking off, this wasn’t the moon landing, which had passed me by in 1969. I also think this is where I saw ‘Dads Army’ for the first time.
On top of the television was a large red satin leaved rose, about the size of a small cabbage. Apparently it was a lamp, although I never saw it lit. There were also photos of our Canadian cousins. I always took an interest in these, especially if they had been updated by their latest school photos. Our Canadian cousins, were the closest in age to our family, and I liked to see if I could see family resemblances.
In the left hand corner of the room, was the only family heirloom I am aware of, and which I had a run in with around age five or six.
It was a ‘black japanned’ cabinet with glass door. I climbed up, to play with a small calendar which changed the date when clicking the side switch, which was on top.
The cabinet was front heavy, and the door swung open falling on to me. Nana’s best China slid out and smashed. I don’t think I was particularly popular, but after this, it was screwed to the wall.
Nana had inherited it from her mother, then it went to Mum after Nana’s death. I have it in my house now, following a downsize house move by my parents.
Also on top of the cabinet, were three photo’s of Grandad, one fishing, one in the garden, and another, in portrait wearing his butcher overall.
Behind the door, was a round occasional table. On top was a glass bowl with sweets in, and we may have been allowed one occasionally. They were either fruit bonbons, chocolate éclairs or blackcurrant-liquorice flavour.
In the lounge and two bedrooms, were unfitted carpets, which I guess would have come from Nana’s previous home. They were all the same, grey fleck and very thin.
The suite consisted of a two seater wing back design settee with two matching armchairs, of blue cotton with rose design fabric. I think the curtains matched, but if they didn’t, it was very similar fabric. As a person of her generation, the backs of her lounge suite always had antimaccassers, and possibly cotton protectors on the arms (although not quite certain about those).
The window was large, and let in mid morning, early afternoon light which I’m sure Nana would have enjoyed. I was fascinated by the curtains, which were made up in four sections rather than two, this may have been because they had come from a previous house but I don’t know.
At the back of the room was another 3 or 4 seater settee in red, with no arms. It was useful when Nana had lots of visitors, but also converted into a bed settee, which my parents used, when we all came to stay.
My particular memory of the lounge, was my 5th birthday. Uncle Gordon and his girls came around to wish me a happy birthday. All three of my uncles had great sense of humours, and Gordon’s was very dry, he was also tall. This would have been my first particular memory of him. Presumably, on that day , I would have been the centre of attention. I was given an orange plastic money box, as a present, which was also a clock to teach telling the time. My main present was a pair of roller-skates, which were popular at the time. They lasted me until I was 11 or 12 as they expanded in the middle. Unfortunately they were only suitable for smooth, level pavements or driveways, and these were quite difficult to find. Also a game of ‘Misfits’, which became my favourite.
Across the hallway from the lounge, was Nana’s bedroom. She had a very high ( or so it seemed bed, with a large dip in the middle, which I discovered when I shared a bed one night.
I believe the bedroom furniture was a matching set, and probably from Nana’s previous home. There was a three door wardrobe (with under drawers) on legs. Also with a strong smell of mothballs. A pair of bedside tables. There was always a small jar of blue tablets on one of these, (they looked like blue tic-tacs), I knew that children should never eat unknown tablets, but always thought they looked tasty! Also a dressing table with vanity set. Nana was of the generation of women, who used lace and cotton doilies under her ornaments.
Next to Nana’s room, was the spare bedroom, where we always slept. It had another 3 part wardrobe complete with the smell of mothballs. A double bed, and dressing table, which I discovered later, belonged to us, but had been on permanent loan/ storage, whilst we moved houses. On the windowsill, was a photo of Aunties Jen, Bella and Uncle Dan.
We would be sent in here to play, when we got too noisy. We usually had our box of lego with us, or perhaps a colouring book. Playing on the floor, the musty damp smell of a house without central heating was evident. At bedtime, a red night light bulb was put into the fitting, and Paul and I would share the bed.
The bathroom was at the back of the bungalow. Standard design of its time. White Bath and pale blue basin and WC. The airing cupboard was accessed from the hall, but it took a square chunk out of the bathroom, and behind this was the toilet. Perhaps the cosiest place in the house in winter, as there was a heated towel rail, next to it.
Tiles around the bath were black gloss, and there was a black marble design lino on the floor.
Although Nana lived here for eleven years, the only internal photo we have, was taken in the bathroom! Perhaps other members of the wider family have one taken in other rooms.
Behind the lounge was the kitchen, with numerous interesting features for an ‘impressionable child’. As said before, the back door into the kitchen, was the main door. As you entered this from outside, to the right was a large cupboard, with concertina plastic door, which Nana used as a pantry, and also kept her shopping trolley in here.
Along the back wall, with a window overlooking the back garden, was a run of yellow melamine work surface with wooden fitted cupboards underneath, the surround was white, and the doors yellow. This was an early fitted kitchen, not the flat packs available today.
Next to the pantry was a tall fitted cupboard for the iron, ironing board, dusters and polish and always had a smell of polish.
Saucepans were kept in the lower cupboards, I don’t remember what else. At the end of the run was the electric ring cooker, which stood next to the wall.
Along the opposite wall, were high level wall cupboards matching the other fitted cupboards. They were very high, and I never grew enough to be able to reach without standing on a chair, I think even Nana had trouble reaching.
In here, were kept a selection of unmatched cereal bowls, I don’t know what else, but if I could reach, I’m sure I would have found it interesting. Underneath the table was a small dropleaf kitchen table with a number of chairs (I think they were lined up along the back wall, and were numerous enough for us all to sit at the table). An interesting small drawer in the table held a couple of packs of playing cards and possibly a crib board. Crib was a card game that I only knew Nana and Mum to play, and which involved a block of wood with holes in and matchsticks!
Next to the back door was the low level fridge, although this moved along this wall over the years, as sometime next to the door was an old fashioned wooden garden chair with lots of squidgy cushions on it. The most interesting thing, that disappeared before long, and before I had a chance to appreciate it, was an old fashioned wireless. (A large wooden box, which was a radio), and was replaced by a modern one, although I cant remember that. I think there were also a couple of ordinary folding garden chairs too, in the corner.
The most interesting feature of the kitchen was between the cooker and the hallway door. A coal stove.
it was white with a black top and chimney. There was a shute at the front in which to pour in coal, and some kind of movable lid on top to regulate the heat. I think it was used to heat the kitchen and water in the winter. In the summer the emersion was used for hot water.
I get the impression that this stove was more of an inconvenience, and was probably becoming obsolete as house central heating became more common.
Interesting features of Nana’s kitchen.
Nana made delicious toast! Perhaps she used better quality butter, or perhaps it was because she used raspberry instead of strawberry jam. Or maybe it was because she kept her jam jar in a pale blue plastic container!
On the wall was a plastic multi coloured fish.
There was a wall mounted tin opener, and yellow plastic tea caddy, which dispensed tea by the push of a button, and were popular at the time.
As previously mentioned, the first visit was early February to late March 1970. In the summer of 1971, Paul and I stayed with Nana for about 2 weeks, whilst our parents, with new born Elizabeth, prepared our Colerne married quarter for ”marching out”. My mum then joined us in Ancaster for a month prior to moving into our new house. This is probably the time we got to know the area well, and I even made friends with a girl of my age on the main estate. I believe her name was Miranda.
Shopping required a walk into Ancaster. Nana took her shopping trolley, as it was quite a distance.
To be continued…