My name is Marion Higgs (nee Levy) and I spent the first 25 years of my life (1945 - 1970) living at The Spinney, 21 Old Slade Lane, Richings Park. My parents and older brother continued to live there until the 1980s / early 1990s.
My parents, Daniel and Queenie Levy brought the plot of land in Old Slade Lane in 1938 and had The Spinney built to their own specification by the local builders, Thornton and Sons. The plot was about double the width it is now as my father rented a wide strip of land on the north side. The total garden covered about one acre. Until the 1990s The Spinney was the first house on the right hand side in Old Slade Lane. The first half of the Lane was woodland and was not built on until after my brother sold The Spinney in the early 90s.
The land behind the houses on the west side of Old Slade Lane and around The Spinney was farmland, owned by Farmer Reeves of Old Slade Farm. It was often grazed by cows which would sometimes break through the garden hedge and rampage through the garden causing much damage! The far side of the field was bounded by Main Drive which had originally led to Richings House. I understand that this farmland has now become a golf course. South of Old Slade Farm the Lane became more of a track which one could walk down as far as the A4 road. This was, of course, before the M4 was built.
The War Years
As I was born one week after the end of World War II, in August 1945, I do not have any personal recollection of the war years but learned a lot from my parents and brother. My father had been an Air Raid Warden in Richings Park and spent many nights on duty. Richings House had been requisitioned by the RAF and was guarded by Air Balloons which also surrounded the nearby Hawker Aircraft Factory at Langley. I believe a bomb was dropped on or near Richings House but failed to explode. We had a large air raid shelter in the garden (always referred to as the "dugout") which served as an underground storage shed for years afterwards. Like most families, my parents supplemented food rations by growing all their own vegetables and fruit in the garden (there was an orchard of about 40 fruit trees) and by keeping chickens. I believe they also had a share in a pig which was kept at Old Slade Farm and there was always much exchange of produce between neighbours
Health and Education
Our local G.P. was Dr. Harding who resided and had his surgery in North Park.
He had no receptionist and when you needed to see the doctor you just turned up at the surgery and waited your turn. Should you require hospital treatment the only local choice was Upton Park Hospital in Slough. It was built on the site of the old Slough Workhouse and thought of as rather old fashioned and somewhat inadequate. (Wexham Park was not built until I was a teenager). If a serious operation was needed it was more usual to be referred to one of the big London teaching hospitals such as St Mary's at Paddington or to The Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital at Cliveden.
Also in North Park was a private kindergarten school called Westfield, run by Mrs Davies. The uniform was blue, the badge (one of which I still have) had a golden oak tree on it with the motto "Ican, Ido". I spent the first two years of my school life there, learning the basic three Rs in a little pre-fab schoolroom in the garden. We used to be taken for nature walks up Main Drive and through the Park. The choice of education beyond the nursery stage was the Council-run Iver School in Iver Village, and for girls, either St Bernard's Convent in Slough or Halidon House School in Stoke Poges. I'm not sure where the boys went !
My parents sent me to Halidon House which I attended from the age of 6 to 18.
It was partially a boarding school but day girls would be picked up by motor coach at various stops in Richings Park, Iver Village and Iver Heath and transported to and from school. At the age of 12 we were supposed to stop travelling by coach and take the train to Slough, then a bus to Stoke Poges - a long and tedious journey. Fortunately, after a couple of years a larger coach was commissioned and we older girls could travel in comfort once again.
In the 1950s it was possible to buy almost anything you needed in Richings Park apart from clothes and shoes. Most housewives would shop several times a week because, of course, there were no freezers and perishable food could not be stored for long. Also, many fewer housewives could drive, or had access to a car in the daytime to reach nearby towns. My mother would cycle up to the shops from Old Slade Lane 2 or 3 times a week. I remember most of the shops very well.
Starting at the top of Wellesley Avenue on the west side was a small garage called Richings Motors (I think it is still there). They carried out all the repairs on both my father's Wolsley 14 and my brother's Ford Prefect (and his many subsequent cars over the years!) Next to this was the United Dairies shop which sold all sorts of dairy produce e.g. milk, cheeses, butter, eggs etc. It always felt very cold in there as the floor and counters were made of marble.
Around the corner into Bathurst Walk and the first shop was a bakery run, for a few years, by Mr and Mrs Morrison. Their daughter Merlith came to my school. If you were heading for the station in the morning there would be the most delicious smell of freshly baked bread in the air. Sometime in late 50's or 60's the bakery closed and this shop became a branch library.
Further along Bathurst Walk was (I think) a hairdresser; a pharmacy with the traditional flasks of coloured water in the window; a butchers shop with sawdust on the floor and carcases hanging up; an off-licence run by Stowells and, at the Syke Ings end, the final shop was a fishmongers with an open frontage and the usual sloping marble slab displaying all the fish. The fishmonger really did wear a stripy apron and straw boater!.
At the top of Wellesley Avenue on the East side, opposite United Dairies, was my favourite shop - the sweet shop and newsagents. This was run by a Mr and Mrs Carroll when I was little. I remember they had a very large cat that sat on a pile of newspapers on the counter - it would growl and spit if you tried to stroke it! This was the shop that arranged local newspaper deliveries and the day my mother went to pay the paper bill was the day I spent my pennies on my weekly sweet ration or bought a small toy or comic ("Girl" comic was my favourite). Outside the shop was a notice board where you could advertise items for sale etc. On the two corners of Wellesley Avenue and Bathurst Walk were a Bank (Lloyds?) on one side and a Solicitors on the other.
Round the corner in Bathurst Walk, to the east, was one of the two grocers in Richings Park. This was Howard Roberts and it occupied two adjacent stores. The first was the grocery department - individual counters for cheese, ham and bacon (cut while you waited) and dry goods such a sugar in blue bags and biscuits bought by the pound from glass-topped boxes along the front of the counter. The second shop was the greengrocery dept. for all the fruit and vegetables. During my teenage years Howard Roberts was modernised and became more like a small supermarket. The two shops were knocked into one and customers helped themselves with baskets instead of queuing at each counter separately. There was a till next to the door. At the age of 16 (1961) my parents agreed to me finding a summer job in the school holidays and I found myself working as an assistant at Howard Roberts. Here I mostly packed boxes of orders taken over the phone for home delivery (long before online shopping!) and was occasionally set to work the till. I was very proud of my stiffly starched white coat and even more so of my very first weekly wage packet which worked out at 1/9d per hour! .(Howard Roberts was eventually taken over by Budgens)
The last shop before the area of open ground was an ironmongers with all the usual paraphernalia of dustbins, garden tools etc on the pavement outside. The best thing about the ironmongers was the wonderful smell of paraffin, paint and polish inside. Further along Bathurst Walk was a detached Tudor-fronted shop selling second-hand goods. My mother loved to mooch around this shop and often came home from there with "bargains"; I remembers items of china, an electric fire and a tea trolly all being transported home on her bike! I believe there was a service road that ran behind the above shops. I would ride my bicycle along this track to the rear entrance of Howard Roberts and I think it continued as far as the Second-hand shop where it joined another track to some houses behind the open area. I don't know if it extended as far as Thorney Lane.
At the corner of Bathurst Walk and Thorney Lane was the imposing building of the Post Office and telephone exchange. To me it seemed a very large edifice with two pairs of double oak doors. It was here that all Post Office business was conducted and where I was taken each Saturday to buy 3 sixpenny savings stamps (with a photo of the curly-headed Princess Anne on them). The stamps were stuck in a small booklet and, when full, would be handed over and the grand sum of £1 entered in my Post Office Savings Account.
The other Grocer in Richings Park was Platts - the large Tudor-fronted shop near the station now occupied by a Natural History Bookseller. This was the store favoured by my mother and where we bought all our groceries. She found the staff more friendly there and was very sad when the shop closed. Further along this parade was a greengrocers and, at the far end overlooking the railway, Kings the Estate Agents. Opposite these shops, when I was very young, there was a cinema called (I think) The Ritz. It was closed before I was born but the building remained for some years until the site, and the adjacent open land were used on which to build flats.
There was a sports ground off Wellesley Avenue where the local tennis and cricket clubs had their grounds. I cannot recall much about these clubs as I was a member of neither. But, at the top of the drive to the sports clubs on, the right, behind the gardens of houses in Wellesley Avenue, was a patch of land where the gardening club had its premises. This consisted of a disused railway goods wagon with double doors at the side. Every Sunday the 'club' would open for members to buy their various fertilizers and garden chemicals at reduced rates. I loved going down there with my father when he was 'on duty' and helping to weigh out bags of growmore, bonemeal and some strange black powder called 'basic slag' on huge scales for customers. How I wasn't poisoned by running my hands though all these chemicals I do not know, but it was always an enjoyable morning and a change from playing in the garden at home.
Brownies and Girl Guide meetings were held at St Leonards Church in Richings Way (perhaps Cubs and Scouts also met there, but I 'm not sure). Piano lessons could be taken with a French lady, Mrs Ray, who lived in Syke Cluan. I think there were dancing classes held at the Church Hall in Iver Village. I cannot remember there being a children's play area in Richings Park. Perhaps this was because the majority of houses had large gardens and most children, like me, were very much kept at home to play or went to friends houses - perhaps there was not the need for a formal play area - or perhaps I was just not allowed out on my own to visit it.
I recently paid a nostalgic visit to Richings Park after a gap of some 35 years. My first impression was that not much had changed - most of the buildings I remembered were still there, a few gaps had been built on and the top of Old Slade Lane had houses where I had only known woodland. The most noticeable difference was the number of cars everywhere! I don't recall cars being parked in the road outside houses at all - if one did have a car it was kept in the garage or drive, and it was very rare for a household to have two cars. There was never any difficulty parking outside the shops or for commuters to park in the potholed track alongside the railway station. I was especially concerned by the amount and speed of traffic along Richings Way and North Park. We never had any difficulty crossing the road between Old Slade Lane and Syke Ings but I imagine it must be quite dangerous now. However, I suppose this explosion in car ownership and traffic has happened everywhere and the quiet village-like atmosphere of places like Richings Park has, very sadly, gone for ever. I'm just glad that I spent my childhood and early adulthood in Richings Park as it used to be - it was idyllic.