“The life and Times of Reg Weeks”, who lived in Rope Walk and died on 1 March 1993 were compiled by his daughter Daphne Lewellyn of Sidmouth, Devon, from her memories of all the things he told her about his early life in Rye.
Reg Weeks was born at 2 Bridge Place, Rye, Sussex on the 1st February, 1907. His parents were married in the Registry Office on 30th November, 1901 and their first child, Elsie was born a month later. Alice was relieved that Reg was born healthy, her previous baby had been stillborn and her first child. Elsie, was now five years old. She would soon begin to take in washing again to supplement her husband Charles’ earnings as a bricklayer.
When Reg was six months old he was wrapped in a blanket and put in a home made handcart and taken hop picking. Alice went “hopping” every year at Frank Reeves’ farm at Peasmarsh. She and one or two other local women made up a “set” of a dozen bins taken every year by a cockney family called Gumble, who came down to Sussex and camped on the farm. Alice and Elsie set off each morning around 6 am. to push Reg in his cart from Bridge Place, through The Grove, up Leasam Hill, down Shady Lane and across four fields to get to the hop fields by 7 am.
At the end of the day they would do the same journey back to arrive home about six in the evening. Later on, when Reg was older, he and Elsie would be sent on ahead with the Tiltman children from next door, while Alice stayed behind to make the cheese sandwiches for them and her husband’s mid day meal. The children had to pick three inverted umbrellas full of hops before they were allowed to go off and play and this would take them most of the morning. At 4.30 Elsie and Reg would be sent on home to get the tea ready for their parents.
The hop picking generally lasted about six weeks but if it went on any longer the school holidays would be extended as so many of the local families were involved. The tally men came round the hop fields several times a day to measure the picked hops in their bushel baskets. They had to be cleanly picked with no leaves and were flicked into the baskets and not pressed down. The old women would up-end anyone in the bin who they thought might be cheating them. They were given a tally for each bushel they picked and at the end of the period Alice would have to walk to Peasmarsh once again to collect her money. She wore a long skirt, a hat with a shady brim, a sacking apron around her waist and lace up boots. They would continue picking hops even when it poured with rain. On the last day there would be a great celebration. The men would build a large bonfire of hop bines and broken poles. Mr. Gumble supplied one hundred weight of potatoes to be cooked in the embers and the women would add their own food.
Day Out in Hastings
When Alice had collected her money, the family would have a day out in Hastings to buy new boots which had to last until the next hop picking season came round. Reg would get heavy hobnails and Elsie button boots. Leather boots cost 3s/ – a pair, a cloth cap was 6d.
Money was always short and sometimes, when Alice was busy with the washing, she would give Elsie and Reg the big jug from the wash stand in the bedroom and send them up to the soup kitchen at the top of Rope Walk for soup which cost a copper or two. Sometimes, Reg would be sent to the fishmarket for a bucket of fish – 4d, or to buy a sheep’s head which cost 6d. Reg also used to pick watercress which grew in the stream running along Military Road. He would sell it for 1p, a bunch.
School in Rye
When Reg was five years old, he started school at Lion Street Junior School, moving on at eight to the Junior School in Mermaid Street to work his way through the six classes until he was fourteen.
In 1916, when Reg was nine, his family moved to a larger house in Military Road and his father, Charles, joined the Queens Own Regiment – the “Mutton Stabbers” as this Regiment was known, as the standard bore a sheep with a lance over its shoulder. Soon after this, Reg got his first job as a boot boy to Mrs. Boone at “Halfway House” further along Military Road.
He worked for an hour before school and had to clean all the boots, chop wood and fetch in the coal. He was paid half-a-crown (12.5p.) a week. On Saturday mornings he went round knocking on people’s doors to ask if they wanted cinders, and if so, he would take his handcart over to the gas works, rake over the cinders, sort out the best and sell them for 6d. a bag.
Work at Deacons
A year later he managed to get a job at Deacons Papershop in the High Street (next to Boots the Chemists). This job involved going up to the shop in the mornings to get the handcart which he took down to the station to collect the morning papers off the 4.45 train. The two other boys with him would push their carts up Market Hill to the shop to sort and deliver the papers before going to school. Reg’s delivery area was The High Street, Landgate, Military Road and along The Mount, which enabled him to call in home for his breakfast before going to school. In summer his breakfast was a slice of bread and jam and in winter Alice would make porridge for all the family.
Reg was not keen on school and often got the cane for being “mouthy”. His punishment would be given in the VI Form Room by Mr. Sprigge Walker, the Headmaster. There were three steps up to the Headmasters desk and Reg would be given three strokes of the cane on each hand and one on the backside as he left. Sometimes he would pull his hand away and the cane would come down on the desk, or even on the Headmaster’s thigh. If this happened he’d get two more strokes. Mr. Sprigge Walker was also the organist in the Church and even though Reg worked the bellows for him, it made no difference to the amount of caning he got.
During the dinner break, Reg would return to the shop to run errands. Another of his jobs was to change the glossy magazines such as Tattler, Sphere and London Opinion. Deacon’s customers didn’t buy these but paid an annual subscription to look at them. One day Reg would go to the Hinds family in Ferry Road, take them The Sphere and pick up the Tattler. He would then take the Tattler up to a house on Point Hill and pick up the London Opinion for another family. He’d then call in home for his dinner getting back to school by 1.45pm.
When school closed at 3pm. Reg would go back to Deacons to do more errands before going home to tea. One day he took home with him a halfpenny comic which was out of date. Alice was furious with him and gave him a leathering before sending him back to the shop with it, where he was told off once again. When Deacons Almanac was printed, Reg had to help in the printing room. His job was to fold the sheets of paper and guillotine them. The Almanac was a paperback book which contained train and bus timetables and local information. It was sold for 3d. or 6d. and when they were printed Reg would load them in a handcart and go out trying to sell them. He was paid 3d. extra for every 100 he sold. On Monday to Thursday he worked until 6 0’clock before he could go home for his tea, but on Friday he had to work until 7pm. On Saturdays he worked all day at the shop and had to sweep and scrub the shop before leaving at 8 0’clock. When the Almanac was being printed it was often 9 0’ clock before he left. His wages were 5s/ – a week (25p). Another of Reg’s jobs was to pump the church organ. He and another lad had to pump the two big bellows while the choristers practised during school hours. His Headmaster, the organist, paid him 3d. an hour. The organist would ring a bell on the console when coming up to a heavy piece of music, so that the pumpers would know the bellows had to be kept full. One, day, when Lady Maud Warrender was singing, the lads let the wind out of the bellows for a joke.
They were severely punished. However, only adults were allowed to pump the organ on Sundays for the church services. Once a quarter Reg would have to go down to the station to meet the organ tuner off the 9am. train and carry his gear up to the church. Reg would then help by taking the reed pipes out, one by one, and hand them down to the tuner. When the tuning was finished, the organ tuner would give the lads 3d. for their help.
No School Today!
Reg did not like school and one day he decided he wouldn’t go any more. After all Alice’s efforts to get him to go had failed, she called in the local bobby who led Reg through the town by his ear to the Police Station. There he was put into a cell for a while before being taken to Mermaid Street School and presented to the Headmaster. The rest of the class watched as he got four thwacks on the hand and three on the backside. The teacher in the VIth. Form was greatly feared by the boys. He was an ex-Guardsman, 6’6” tall with feet “like two backyards” as the boys would say. He used a map-pole about 12′ long with which he could reach most of the pupils in the class. Anyone seen playing about would be struck on the head or shoulders with the pole. Each class was taught by one teacher throughout the day. Sometimes, if the weather was fine, the class would be taken out for Nature Study. On Friday afternoons they had a games lesson from 3 0’ clock to 3.45. They were lined up and marched down to The Salts for a game of football. They were put into teams, and if they were lucky they managed to get two kicks at the ball before it was time for them to return to the school. For this privilege the pupils had to pay a halfpenny each.
Caught Red Handed
During the summer months Reg and his mates, would sometimes go scrumping for apples. They were quite often caught by the local Policeman who would give them each a good hiding. If this happened, and Alice found out, Reg would get another beating when he got home. One Policeman the kids all hated was nicknamed ‘creeping Jesus’ because he would lay in wait and then jump and catch them. In those days the policemen each carried a heavy black cape rolled in a tight roll with two lion head badges which did up at the neck. The Policemen used to lash out at the boys with their capes and if they were hit by the badges it would be really painful.
Fun in the Rother
Reg was not supposed to play in the river, which was muddy and dirty, but he sometimes disobeyed his mother and would go down for a swim in the summer months. He learned to swim when some of the other lads threw him off the railway bridge and he somehow managed to dog-paddle to the side. The boys would swim there in preference to the road bridge as there were no supports actually in the river. One of the boys was drowned in an unfortunate accident at the road bridge by having been swirled under by the current which ran around the supports. They spent many happy hours playing around in the river and if they had no swimming suit, they would swim in the nude. One day Alice spotted Reg swimming and picked up his pile of clothes, which he had left on the bank and took them home. Reg then had to make a dash for home with nothing on, along the bank, across the allotments and in by the back garden, but Alice was waiting for him and gave him yet another beating.
Sports Day in Rye
On August Bank Holiday, a Sports Day would be held on the Cricket Salts. There would be egg and spoon races, three-legged and bicycle races and the Fire Brigade would demonstrate putting a fire out. There would also be a competition for the men to catch a greased pig. When Reg managed to get together some spare parts, he was able to make up his own bicycle and take part in some of the races. In 1914 The Territorial Regt. Machine Gun Corps came to give a demonstration. The machine guns were drawn on bicycle wheels by dogs. They practised for two days but then war was declared and the Regiment left without putting on their show.
The Perfume Barrel
Mr. Ashenden’s sheep were kept on the cricket field in those days and the droppings had to be first raked up and then put into a large barrel. This was kept behind the white boarded, thatched Pavilion and sold to local allotment holders. One day, Elsie, Reg’s sister, nearly drowned when she fell into the barrel which had filled up with rain water. She was dragged out and taken home in an awful smelly state. Mike Rhodes was the Groundsman in those days for the Rye Cricket Club. He used to lead a horse, wearing hoof-shaped boots, pulling a heavy roller, up and down the wicket.
Tollgate House Winchelsea Road
On Sunday afternoons, after the children had been to church service at the Congregational Church and Sunday School, Alice and the family would walk over to the Tollgate House in Winchelsea Road to visit their maternal Grandmother and Great Aunt Sarah.
By then, Reg had another sister Lily. The children weren’t allowed to play but Reg would have to put on one of Gran’s big aprons over his best sailor suit and go out and feed the chicken and bring in the eggs. The Tollgate bungalow had three rooms and a Scullery. Gran and Aunt Sarah slept in the bedroom and most of the living room was taken up by a double bed. If the family stayed overnight, as they sometimes did in the winter, Alice, Elsie and Lily would sleep in the double bed and Reg had to sleep on a couch with a chair along side with a coat slung over it to keep out the light. He was supposed to sleep in spite of the women’s chatter. Reg would also have to do some light jobs in the garden like hoeing or weeding, but no digging or anything heavy on a Sunday, though he would have to help Gran during the week digging and planting.
Garden as Long as a Row of Houses
Reg said the garden was “as long as a row of houses” – actully Gran had five acres on which whe grew mostly potatoes. She also grew asparagus and a few flowers to sell and had some rhubarb and soft fruit bushes. Once she caught Reg eating a gooseberry and she hit him around the head with the men’s cap which she always wore. She also wore a long dark skirt with three cambric petticoats beneath. When people wanted to come along the road they would shout for the Tollkeeper and Gran would come out to take their money before opening the gates. Pedestrians and cyclists could pass free.
Horses and carts were 4d. The few cars there were in those days, were 6d. King Edward came through the gates once and even he was made to pay before passing. The road from the tollgate to Winchelsea Bridge belonged to the Crown and it was one man’s hopeless task to try to keep the road in good repair, but as Reg used to say “it had more holes in than parsons in hell”. The holes were filled in with rubble, but later on the road was concreted. (In 1928 during the depression, when there was a great deal of unemployment, local men were employed to mix and lay the concrete for the whole road to Winchelsea by hand).
After tea with Gran, the children would have to sing hyms and then she would allow them to look at an old caralogue from Gamages while the grown-ups chatted. At 9 0’clock they would have a cup of cocoa before walking home – in the middle of the road, as Alice was once assaulated on her way back to Military Road. Sometimes, during the summer, Alice would make a picnic and the children would walk across the fields to Camber Sands with the Tiltman family from next door.
A Ride on the Camber Tram
A great treat would be to ride the little train which ran from Monkbretton Bridge to Camber Sands. This had three coaches in summer and two in winter and drew
a trolley at the rear which was filled with sand on the homeward journey for the use of the local builders. Alice’s father, Reg’s grandad, lived at the Union (the workhouse) at the top of Rye Hill. He was on the staff and looked after the pigs. He had a donkey and cart and fetched the groceries from the town. On Saturday afternoons he would come back down the hill to visit Alice who would give him a cup of tea and half an ounce of tobacco (which cost 2d.) Tramps and the homeless who went to the workhouse (now Hill House) were not allowed in before 6 pm. and would hide their tocabbo under a pile of stones before entering. They were given bread and cheese and a cup of cocoa in the evening and a bowl of cold porridge in the morning. Two to three people shared a cell and they were expected to get up and work from 8am. to 10 am. in return for their nights lodgings. The windmill which stood opposite the workhouse was worked by Mr. Luck the miller.
If Reg and his mates managed to make any money for themselves, they’s spend
2d. to get into the Electric Picture Palace cinema. One lad would go to the desk to pay while the others would crawl in, out of the sight of the cashier. They paid 1d. for “hard bake” made out of old cake crumbs squashed together on a pastry base.
Reg left school the day after his 14th birthday and went to work at the Post Office as Telegraph Boy. He was paid 10s/- (50p) a week plus 2s/7d. War Bonus. His wages were increased to 17s/4d. during the two years he worked there, and of this, he kept 2s/6d. for himself; the ramainder he gave to Alice. One day he had to deliver a telegram to Lady Maud Warrender who lived in Leasam House. The charge was 1s/9d. but Lady Maud had only a two shilling piece in change. The maid paid Reg and was told to tell him to bring the 3d. change back the next day. Reg wasn’t having that! he bought a 1d envelope, put a 2d. stamp on it and sent it to Lady Maud. When it reached her she telephoned the Post Master and Reg was sacked on the spot. However, he turned up for work the next day and nothing more was said, so he carried on working as usual.
Father Killed in Action
In June, 1918, when Reg was eleven years old, Alice recieved a letter from the War Office informing her that her husband Charles had been killed in action while serving in Italy. He was then in the Royal West Surrey Regiment and was killed on the 16th May, 1918 by a shell while in action on Asiago Front in N. Italy along with 2,600 other men. Alice paid one shilling for a shroud and 7s/7d. for 23 letters to be engraved on his headstone. (In exactly eighty years to the month, Charles great grand daughter, Christine, was to visit the grave and lay flowers there, the first member of his family ever to see his resting place). Alice had been receiving £1.3s.0. weekly since Charles had been called up. When he died the Ministry of Pensions sent her £7 “to meet the expenses that may fall on you in connection with your bereavement”. She was also given £7.10s. from Army funds to be used for the “exclusive benefit of Reg and Lily”. By then, Elsie was 14 years old and in service.
When Reg was nearly 16 he went to Ellis Brothers for a job in the building trade like his Father. “Old man Ellis” the boss, kept him waiting for one and a half hours before seeing him and then said he wouldn’t indenture him, but would pay him 4d. an hour. No pay during wet weather. (If indentured, the pay was much lower), but Mr. Wllis did give him “papers” in the end. He did his appresticeship of three years and then became a journeyman. Reg worked on many of the houses in Watchbell Street and Mermaid Street and had a reputation for beingable to make a good job of waffle and daub. He also worked on the Church in Rye. When the church roof needed inspecting one year, Reg and his mate had to put up a three extension ladder which had 72 rungs. This rested on the beam in the roof with only one rung above. When climbing up, the ladder would sway 3 feet in and out. It was very hot under the roof and they found parts infested with death watch beetle which needed treating. They could only work for half an hour at a time because of the heat and fumes. The Boss came to see how they were getting on and Reg called down to him to come up and see. He had climbed halfway up the ladder when he looked down and froze. He couldn’t move and locked his arms around the ladder. Reg and his mate shouted at him, cajoled and even resorted to swearing, but he stayed locked on the ladder. By then Reg and his mate were sweating with the heat and anxiety. The Vicar came in to see what the commotion was about and to ask if he could help, but was quickly told to “bugger off”. Eventually Reg tied a piece of cord around his waist and climed down the back of the ladder hanging on by his arms. When he reached his boss, he talked to him and somehow managed to prise his hands free. He then helped him down the ladder until they reached the churchfloor. By that time, Reg was in agony as he had been hanging on by his arms as the weight of the two men had bowed the ladder so much.
Rebuilt the Hope Anchor
In 1926, when he was carrying stone, Reg reptured himself and had to stop work and go on the dole for three months. He was promised his job back, but was disappointed and had to seek work elswhere. He was given the opportunity to build a house from another firm with two labourers up by The Plough at Playden and this house still stands today. Reg worked on many buildings in Rye during this time. He and his mates gutted and rebuilt the Hope Anchor. They discovered a pathway 3′ down topped with broken clay pipes instead of beach, and when digging the cellar they found a small glass bottle, obviously very old about 5′ down. Cementing was done by hand in those days. A yard of ballast was put down to which three bags of cement were added, and then six men standing in a row would turn it over. One Saturday Reg and his mates put up 8 window frames with four courses of brickwork around them. They were all smashed up the following morning when Sir Roger Blomfield, the Architect, decided he didn’t like them. At La Rochelle in East Street, the roof had to be retiled. The scaffold poles were piled onto a handcart and pushed from the Ellis yard in Cinque Ports Street, up through the tower to East Street. The poles were then tied together with rope to form a scaffold which were tightened with wooden wedges – especially dangerous on damp days when the rope was liable to stretch. The tiles were carried up 60′ to the roof.
In 1925 Reg met Hetty at a dance at the Rother Valley Hotel. They won the balloon dance together with balloons tied to their ankles, which other couples tried to burst. They shared a taxi home. Hetty worked in Hastings at the time and was known as “the Mamzelle” as she spent some time working in France as Lady’s maid with the Darymple family. Reg and Hetty subsequently became engaged and were married in the Parish Church in Rye in 1930.
Horrells the Chemist
Hetty got a job helping in the house at Horrells the Chemist and they lived at No.2 Tower Street, next to the Dibley family, where Daphne was born on a Sunday in December. Reg asked the Salvation Army Band playing in Tower Street at the time if they would move on as Hetty was having such a rough time! In 1933 they moved across the road where Christine was born in October. Reg was out of work at the time and waited until the last minute before going to collect extra half-crown dole money for her, the deadline being 10 0’clock. Later that month Reg cycled to Deal, in Kent, to get work and lodged with a miners family. At the end of the week, Reg would cycle the 45 miles to Rye on Saturday afternoon, returning on Sunday evening. The journey took him two hours and he would have to walk up Folkestone Hill. Hetty and the two children moved to Deal just after Christmas in 1934. They had a flat in Drum Hill and later moved to Stockdale Gardens where Gerald was born in November 1935. They then managed to get a house in Cemetery Road and the two girls attended the school in Walmer.
Then in 1938 there was no longer any work in Deal so Reg cycled to Bexley Heath and got a job there as Foreman Bricklayer. There were some expensive houses being built there which cost up to £15,000 when completed. His take home pau was £3.6s.6d. for a 50 hour week. Nine hours a day, half an hour lunch, and 5 hours on a Saturday. However, by laying bricks at a faster rate he could earn an extra 3d an hour. Reg could lay 1.775 bricks a day (209 bricks an hour, three and a half bricks a minute). At the end of the day he would go back to his digs in a daze! On Saturday evening he would catch the train from Bsrnet back home to spend the weekend with Hetty and the children.
Hetty’s sister Bubbles stayed with them for a time and while there she won a crossword competition and bought Daphne a bicycle which cost £5, The shole family would go for bike rides on a Sunday – Reg had a seat on his crossbar for Gerald and Hetty had a seat on the back of her bike for Christine. They also liked to go down to the front to watch the Marine Band on a Sunday morning.
Talk of War
There was talk of war and shelters were being built. The General Foreman offered Reg a house (£1 for the key) by Hetty didn’t want to live in Bexley Heath if war was coming. So Reg packed up and went backto Deal.
In 1939 the first ship was mined off the coast and its cargo of lead pancils was washed up on the shore. Reg and the children collected some and Reg built the children a sledge from some of the timeber, as it was a very cold winter. He also made a fender to go around the fire place.
Reg. and Family Moved Back to Rye
Reg and family moved back to Rye and went ot live with Hetty’s parents in New Road. When war broke out in September, invasion seemed imminent and because Rye was on the front line, the families were given 36 hours to move out. Hetty had made friends with a Mrs. Wood, mother of four children, who had two madien aunts living in Scotland, who she thought would take them in. So they packed their bags and Reg escourted the two women and seven children to the station. He decided he should accompany them to Ashford where they had to change trains, but then he went on to London with them where they had a shelter in the Underground during an air raid. He eventually travelled all the way to Cowdenbeath, near Dunfermline in Scotland with them, still in his working overalls. He returned to Rye the following day with only his platform ticket, to which the Station Manager turned a blind eye. It is hard to imagine how the two aunts, Davina and Susie, felt when the two women and seven children descended on them.
The War Years
In 1939 Reg and family moved back to Rye and went to live with Hetty’s parents in New Road. When war broke out in September, invasion seemed imminent and because Rye was on the front line, the families were given 36 hours to move out. Hetty had made friends with a Mrs. Wood, mother of four children, who had two maiden aunts living in Scotland, who she thought would take them in. So they packed their bags and Reg escorted the two women and seven children to the station. He decided he should accompany them to Ashford where they had to change trains, but then he went on to London with them where they had a shelter in the Underground during an air raid. He eventually travelled all the way to Cowdenbeath, near Dunfermline in Scotland with them, still in his working overalls. He returned to Rye the following day with only his platform ticket, to which the Station Manager turned a blind eye. It is hard to imagine how the two aunts, Davina and Susie, felt when the two women and seven children descended on them. They owned and lived over a small sweet shop which also sold a few groceries and vegetables. When the siren went, signalling an air raid, Davina would put on her fur coat and jewellery and take the canary in its cage down to the air raid shelter until the all clear was sounded.
After three months, when the threat of invasion had waned, the two families moved back to Rye. Reg was working for W. Dibley in Winchelsea and had joined the Home Guards along with other men in Rye who hadn’t yet been called up. He and sister Elsie, were part of the country’s first defence at Rye Harbour, watching for enemy aircraft approaching and reporting to Uckfield, the Headquarters. Reg was once chased around the building and machine gunned by a lone Messerschmidt before he managed to dive into a doorway. The house in New Road was also machine gunned during a raid and bullets went through the back door. Just before Christmas the family managed to rent a two bedroom house in Tower Place, opposite the Forge and Hetty took in two evacuees from London.
Tanks by Train
In 1941 several tanks were delivered to Rye by train. A crowd gathered to watch them move off through the town and up Rye Hill. One of the tanks broke down after leaving Rye and a tank transporter was sent out to bring it back, but for some reason the driver tried to go through the Landgate Tower, where it got stuck. The tyres of the transported had to be let down in order to free it. Several bombs were dropped in Rye and during the Battle of Britain large formations of German bombers passed over the coast on their way to bomb London.
A regiment of Canadians was based in Rye and it was the custom amongst local families to invite a young soldier to join them for tea on a Sunday. Hetts family befriended a young Canadian named Harold Prentice. He was a great success with the children, because he would bring them sweets and oranges and they would take him on various walks around Rye and up to Leasam to collect chestnuts, which they would roast in the fire. (He is now well into the eighties, living in Ontario, and Daphne and Christine are still in touch with him, 60 years on). In June 1942 the family moved to Rope Walk, a house with two bedrooms and an attic. Reg moved all the furniture and their belongings on a handcart over the weekend. He put the beds up and then went to Penarth to join the Welsh Regiment the very next day.
He was later found to be half an inch shorter than the required height and so he transferred to the R.A.F. Regiment. His prowess playing the drums soon had him playing percussion in the band and Reg spent quite a lot of his time in the Air Force playing in concerts and dance bands all round the country, but he was not sent out of the U.K.
Rye Cinema Bombed
The bombing continued and one day in September, when Hetty and the children were having their lunch, there was an enormous explosion. They all dived under the table as the house shook and debris fell around them. The cinema had been hit and the backyard was filled with timber and rubble and lengths of red velvet, the remains of the cinema curtains.
In 1942, their daughter, Daphne, won a scholarship to the Grammar School and was evacuated to Bedford. Hetty put up a double bed in the front room and took in some more evacuees, a mother with her 2 young children. Rationing had started in 1940 – 8ozs. of meat (per person a week) 4 oz bacon, 8oz sugar, 2oz of butter, 2oz cheese, 4oz of margarine, 4oz lard, 2 oz tea, 3 pints of milk and 1 egg per person. There was also one packet of dried milk, one packet of dried eggs, 12 oz of sweets every four weeks and a 1 lb. of jam every eight weeks. To supplement these, Hetty kept rabbits and a few bantam chickens for eggs, boiling up all the potato peelings mixed with bran to feed them.
V.E.Day came on 8th May, 1945 and Reg was demobbed on the 13th June 1946. He went back to work at Ellis’s in Winchelsea. He rented an allotment around The Grove and grew most of the family’s vegetables. He joined the Rye Town Band
with Gerald, who was learning the trombone, and they often played in the Gun Garden on Sunday afternoons. Christine and Gerald eventually followed Daphne to the Grammar School (much to Hetty’s pride), until they all left home – Christine to work in the Civil Service, Daphne to Great Ormond Street Hospital and Gerald to do his National Service in the R.A.F. Even though Hetty had a part-time job cleaning, she felt she had time on her hands, so she took in a two year old foster-child, John Tolhurst who stayed until he was well into his twenties.
Soon after this, Reg bought his first car, an Austin 7, which meant they could take trips into the country and visit the children. Christine was married in 1954 when she was twenty and continued to live in London. Gerald worked for Handley Page and lived with her and Bill for some time. Daphne was married to John in 1959 and moved to Wiltshire and Gerald married in 1963 and settled with Ann in Somerset. Reg’s Mother, Alice, died in 1961 at the age of 82. By that time, Reg had changed his car for a Morris Minor and could drive to work and made longer trips to see the Grandchildren. Christine had Tim and Lisa, Daphne had Sue and Roger and Ann had Linda and Stephen. Sadly, Stephen had cystic fibrosis, an illness courageously borne until he died when he was 27 years old.
When Reg reached 65, he decided to work for an extra year to provide more money for his retirement and he and Hetty made plans to do more travelling. Unfortunately, Hetty was becoming increasingly ill with heart disease and diabetes. Their house which until then, had only an outside toilet, was being extended by the owner, into the back yard to provide a bathroom. Hetty was extremely pleased about this, but sadly she didn’t see it completed. She was taken into hospital in Hastings and died quite unexpectedly on the 11th May, 1973, after 43 years of marriage, just as Reg retired from his job. He was desolate and turned to playing bowls, when he was given a set of woods.
Rye Bowls Club
He joined the Rye Bowls Club and became an enthusiastic member, eventually Captain. In fact, bowling was his saving grace; he joined the Hastings Bowls Club and played in Falaise Hall and Alexandra Park in the summer. He played several days a week and went on holidays with the team to play Matches at various places in the country.
Reg continued to live in Rope Walk on his own, seeing his daughters fairly regularly, as by then Daphne and family lived in Hastings and Christine in Caterham. His health started to deteriorate and his doctor wanted him to move into a Nursing Home. Reg was very much against this but it became apparent that this would be the best outcome and in 1991 he moved into Clive House, Hastinsg. In 1992 Reg’s son Gerald suffered a massive heart attack and died on 27th December, 1992. Reg was devastated and seemed to lose the will to go on living and he died on 1st March 1993 just over 2 months later.
His funeral, in Hastings, was arranged by the R.A.F Association.
His funeral, in Hastings, was arranged by the R.A.F Association. It was attended by his many friends and relatives. His coffin was draped with the R.A.F. flag and accompanied by two Standard bearers. “All we want now is The Dambusters March” someone said – and sure enough it was played! Reg would have been really chuffed!
“The Life and Times of Reg Weeks”, who lived in Rope Walk and died on 1 March 1993 was compiled by his daughter Daphne Llewellyn of Sidmouth from her memories of all the things he told her about his life in Rye.
Rye’s Own September, October and November 2004
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