By Vic Chalcraft
Thinking back to school I days has awaken many more memories of childhood. The earliest, must be taken up to Riverhill Sevenoaks on a warm summers evening, we lived at Chevening in those days, to watch the traffic returning from a day on the coast, the deep bark of motor bike, the flash of heat blued chrome from exhaust pipes but mainly the glorious smell of burning oil and fuel and then of course later the wonderful body odour of the steam roller, traction engine and steam train working with their great pistons thrashing and brass work all a gleam. Sadly now just museum items.
At Chevening also I remember seeing twin winged aircraft, they must have been the old Handley Page bombers flying in and out of Biggln Hill, which yet again revives pictures of the old Handley Page four engined biplane airliners. We called it the mail plane trundling across Hastings on route for Paris wonderful winged monsters, named individuals the Hercules, Hannibal and I think Hector or Hermes. I also remember seeing the giant German Zeppelin the Hindenburg flying up the channel and getting a glimpse from the Oval of the super marine seaplane the forerunner of the spitfire and world speed record holder flashing past.
How many can remember the thrill of standing on the footbridge at Warrior Square Station firstly to see if you could see through the tunnel to Bopeep or Hastings and then be engulfed in the smoke and steam from an engine passing underneath with the hellish glow of the open fire door.
Again watching the leather booted brass helmeted fireman pulling their hose reel cart out of the Silverhill station and running full belt to some house fire in Hollington, yet again standing to watch the beautiful rhythm of a circle of navies swinging sledge hammers on a spike breaking up the road. Or the smell of the boiling tar that was spread on road surfaces. The smell of teal creosote painted on a fence or garden shed.
The different tone of music emanating from radios In open windows as you walked along at different times of day it seemed to change, lunch time and early afternoon seemed somehow different. Having an ice cold drink at the Chalybeate spring in the park or down Joe’smans Hill now Gillman’s Hill.
The taste of the iron in the water. Watching and hearing the thump of the great pump in Alexandra Park as it drew water for drinking from Wells deep underground strangely that is a sound I can still hear.
Going up to the Silverhill Bath House on a Saturday to soak in a hot bath with my brother. If we were a bit flush we had a penny bath cube in the water as well.
And again at Silverhill watching the huge shire horses pulling great log carts heavy laden with tree trunks to be unloaded by a large ‘A’ frame crane into the wood yard. Seeing cattle being driven from fields between Amherst Road and Briscoes walk. Down Newgate across Bohemia Into Tower Road then down to the Abattoir in London Road now the site of Heron House for slaughter. The meat then sold in the Hickman butcher shops. Sadly all just memories.
“Rye’s Own” December 2001
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