Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Teddington - a Dreary, Overpriced Suburb?

FOREWORD - This blog post ruffled a few feathers. Regular readers know that my writing is usually tongue-in-cheek, so please take this piece with a large pinch of salt.

In the 19th century, a rural Thameside village called Teddington underwent a huge transformation into a suburb of London, as the city's population increased sixfold. Fields and meadows were swallowed up by street after street of semi-detached villas, artisans' cottages and parades of shops.

It was part of a process that was happening all over the outskirts of London, as the gaps between villages were filled with parallel roads of redbrick semis. In this new suburbia there were no longer any boundaries. Teddington suddenly turned into Twickenham or Hampton, depending on which direction you walked in.

I was born in Teddington in the 1960s and spent the first 25 years of my life there. Then, one day, I realised that it was time to pack my bags and go somewhere a little more exciting.

I moved to Twickenham.

This is where I caught the bus to my new life, a mile away:

I wonder how many hundreds of hours I have spent at this bus stop in Teddington's Waldegrave Road (the slightly improbable birthplace of Noel Coward) waiting for a glimpse of red in the far distance. I dread to think.

Sometimes I'd wait for over half an hour, before two or three 270s appeared at the same time. The drivers had probably decided to ignore the timetable and have breakfast together at Fulwell bus depot.

Nobody ever complained.

In some ways, the bus stop photo sums up Teddington for me. The sense of waiting for something to happen; that life is elsewhere.

I've been thinking a lot about Teddington recently after I had an amicable difference of opinion with @TLTeddington on Twitter, who had objected to my description of it in the latest Crap Towns book. I'd described the town as a "very dreary, overpriced suburb", which had prompted the following comments:

"The cheeky 'bar stewards'. We know how lovely it is and what a great place it is to live!"

"Clearly have never set foot in the town. we should invite them for lunch at Retro or any of the other great places. Idiot."

"We have are fortunate to have a thriving town centre filled with lovely independent shops, not a cloned town."

@TLTeddington also posted an image of this manifesto:

It all looked very inspring, but was this the same Teddington that I grew up in?

In some ways it was - we certainly shopped locally. Up until the mid-70s, when Bruce Forsyth opened a new Tesco supermarket, all of our food shopping took place in corner shops where everyone knew me by name.

It was like being in a Ladybird book.

Shopping with Mother in 'Telling the Time'.

My mother and I walked everywhere, as we couldn't afford the bus. In Stanley Road there was the Chinese butcher, who sadly died of a heart attack in his early 40s, a hairdresser's where my mother had her 'perm' and the Friend Shop, where a man would cut slices of processed ham with egg in the middle for us.

Vegetables were either bought from a greengrocer run by two brothers in Waldegrave Road, or a shop in Broad Street where a mynah bird called Bobby would greet me with a loud "'Allo!".

Sometimes, as a special treat, we would walk up to Teddington Model Shop, where there was a coin-operated miniature railway in the window. The slot for the large, pre-decimal pennies remained long after the model shop had been replaced by a video rental business.

It seemed a quiet and benign world, where the pace of change was reassuringly slow and many people had lived in their homes for decades. We knew most of the people in our part of the road, either by their surnames or by some distinguishing feature: The German lady, The Irish family, The Lady with the son that makes the noises, The Woman with the beard and The Man with no thumbs.

One woman had lived in her house since 1899:

Mrs Plutheroe, aged 103, in 2002

Our immediate neighbours included two German Jewish sisters, neither of whom hinted at their tragic past, a retired couple I knew as Auntie and Uncle Fuller, and a gentleman in his 70s called Mr Gifford, who took his 1930s Austin Seven out for a spin once a year.

There was very little traffic, so in the summer I would play in the street with the local kids, only returning when it was too dark to see.

In hindsight, it seems strange to think that the centre of London was just over ten miles away, because Teddington felt very different, like a sleepy, provincial town.

I've tried to find some photos that capture the essence of Teddington as I remember it, but only came across a few snapshots. I suppose it wouldn't have occured to me to take photos of that ordinary, everyday world that has now disappeared.

Bushy Park. Much nicer than Richmond Park.

Teddington Woolworths, where my mother sold Pick 'n' Mix (known by the local schoolchildren as "Pick 'n' Nick") to the stars.

Outside my house in Church Road (I'm the poncey-looking one on the left)

Looking at the 'Live Totally, Shop Locally' manifesto, it is simply a description of how we used to live. We knew the name of the person behind the till. We smelled the fruit and chatted to strangers. We even ate food grown within walking distance, as my parents had an allotment next to the cemetery:

So why have I been so critical of modern-day Teddington? Does it really deserve to be branded a 'Crap Town'? Well, yes and no.

There's nothing uniquely terrible about Teddington. In many ways it is a pleasant suburb that offers a more relaxed pace of life than some of the more 'vibrant' London suburbs. I'd far rather raise my children there than Peckham or Perivale. But in its journey from being the poor relation of Richmond and Twickenham to becoming a property hotspot, Teddington has lost something.

Perhaps the first sign of danger was when Brucie opened Tescos. One by one, the corner shops began to close. Some were converted into residential properties, while others became takeaways. The familiar, friendly faces behind the tills disappeared.

Then, in the mid-1980s, the London property market began its gradual ascent into the stratosphere and Teddington, once seen as a bit drab and slightly too far away from London, became increasingly desirable, as Richmond, Sheen and Kew became unaffordable.

People needed to be near London for work, but they didn't want to live somewhere where they had to worry about being mugged. They also wanted something that wasn't London, but wasn't the sticks either. Enter Teddington.

What happened next is what's happened in most parts of London and many towns within commuting distance. Demand exceeded supply and house prices reached a point where people who had grown up in the area couldn't afford to get on the property ladder. They moved out and were gradually replaced by those who had the money.

The sentence in the manifesto "Show Your Kids Their Future" is particularly poignant, because unless they have a considerable sum of money or can afford a mortage for properties that cost, on average, over 30 times the average salary, these children won't have a future in Teddington.

Like me, they'll have to move somewhere else. That is the 'crapness' of modern Teddington. This blog post could have easily been about another London suburb - they're nearly all unaffordable now - but I know Teddington better than anywhere else.

Teddington used to be a socially mixed town. It had its rough parts - in York Road the policemen always went in pairs - but most of the town was a blend of lower middle and working class and, most importantly of all, it felt like a real community.

Perhaps Teddington still feels like that, with its smart resturants, pleasant cafes and artisan bakeries, but I suspect that the town's population is far more transient than it used to be, if the estate agent signs are anything to go by.

Maybe I'm just a grumpy middle-aged man, resenting the inevitable process of change, but I'd like to feel that if my children grow up in an area, they can choose to stay if they wish and not be priced out of their home town.

Of course, by that same logic I shouldn't have moved to Lewes, as I've probably helped to price Lewesians out of their local property market. It's all very complicated, isn't it.

I think I'll go and have a lie down.

One final thought. Although Teddington may not always have been at the forefront of the avant garde, my mother may have been an inspiration to at least one contemporary artist: Grayson Perry:

That's a point in Teddington's favour, surely.

P.S - On reflection, one positive thing I must mention is that my mother spent her last few years there surrounded by very caring neighbours. She probably wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for one particular neighbour. They were all families with young children who'd managed to move to Teddington just before the house prices went into meltdown. I saw an encouraging resurgence of the community spirit I remembered from the 1970s and 80s. But will any of those children be able to remain in Teddington when they grow up? That's the question.


Denise said...

Oh this brings back memories of growing up in Mitcham in the 60s. We played marbles in the street, climbed the trees growing in the back alleys, shopped at the corner shops, went to school around the corner, played on the common, all without parental supervision. The people on my street had all lived there forever, we all knew each other, and a lot of them got called auntie this and uncle that.
I haven't been back for over 30 years, but I doubt it bears any resemblance to my memories. I know from idle surfing on google earth that we wouldn't be able to play marbles in the street any more - too many parked cars.
My parents bought their house in the 50s for 300 pounds!! And sold it in the 70s for about 25,000. I dread to think what it's worth now - I certainly wouldn't be able to afford it, but luckily for me, I wouldn't want to. But I do wonder what must have happened to all my school friends, whether they were forced to move away.
It wasn't until many, many years later, by then living in Spain, that I discovered from a book that Mitcham used to be famous for its fields of commercially grown lavender before it got swallowed up by outer London.
Sorry about the rambling comment all about me - I should really be writing my own blog post! But your memories really rang true for me. And I'm sure dull (but once child-safe) Mitcham is experiencing a similar present to Teddington.

Anonymous said...

Well written piece but I don't see how Teddington is any more dreary than most areas of Richmond (town centre excluded), Twickenham, Barnes, Mortlake, Sheen, Kew, Kingston or anywhere else in outer South West London for that matter?

Yes, outer South West London has become a safe-haven of middle aged families, high-performing schools and a population squeezed for time due to having careers that are probably of the most demanding, highly paid and corporate that exist in the UK.

Yes, I'd agree that South West London is becoming increasingly devoid of diversity - economic, racial, cultural and also age diversity due to the cost of housing. But has it every been a vibrant and exciting place to live?

There are many factors that don't help create the buzz and liveliness of many areas in Central West, North and East London where the younger population are out 'on the pull' drinking artisan beers, eating taster plates and sipping Flat Whites.

Outer SouthWest London has other values.

The thing is that 95% of Londoners cant afford to live in these vibrant areas as time goes on and they look to move on in life. And if they chose to have children they cant afford to send their children to the private schools that you need to pay for due to the low standard of schooling and social issues (I know this sounds snobby but try a day in a secondary school in Kentish Town and let me know what you think).

So, Outer South West London - and especially areas like Teddington and Twickenham (well, the St Margarets side of it) - will continue to be very good options for people who are able to bite the bullet and make the move from more central areas like Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham (which are all areas that they probably came from in the first place).

The sacrifice is not having quite such 'vibrant' streets, as many coffee shops and restaurants to choose from and perhaps slightly quieter pubs.

If you want to experience dreary try living outside of Greater London - take your pick of most places in Kent, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and so on where most people are forced to commute from into Central London every day.


Steerforth said...

Denise - Ramble away - I really enjoyed reading your memories of suburbia, which evoked that lost world very effectively and ratified my experiences. Mitcham and Teddington might have been dull, but as children we could turn the streets into playgrounds. I think the car has a lot to answer for.

Rob - I wouldn't say that Teddington is any drearier. I simply chose it because I've known the town well for a long time and can compare and contrast. I only got to know the surrounding areas - Kingston, Mortlake, Sheen etc as as an adult.

Your description of the area as "a safe-haven of middle aged families, high-performing schools and a population squeezed for time due to having careers that are probably of the most demanding, highly paid and corporate that exist in the UK" sums up just about everyone I know who still lives there.

I agree that the area was never particularly exciting, but it offered other consolations - a good balance between urban and semi-rural, an absence of high rise developments and a fairly static population that created a sense of community. I loved Richmond-upon-Thames when I was a teenager and when I left to go to university, kept finding excuses to go home for a weekend.

As far as schooling goes, I stopped judging other parents' decisions a long time ago. I send my sons to state schools, but as nearly all of the other parents are white, middle class liberals, I'm hardly going out on a limb.

I have ended up in a town that is a little like Richmond-upon-Thames, but in the countryside. I wouldn't touch most commuter towns (the likes of Haywards Heath) with a bargepole.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I grew up in Teddington and I live there now. You are right that the rise in house prices means that the kids my kid goes to school with will never be able to afford to live here, if they want to. Hardly anyone I went to local schools with lives here now as they can't afford it. The Teddington you talk about from the 1980s/1970s is how I remember growing up and it is no longer as diverse or as static in terms of population movement as it was then, which is a shame. I suppose as I'm middle aged now some of my friends are quite jealous about me living in Teddington, whereas when I was in my teens and 20s I thought it was rather boring and couldn't wait to get away!

Steerforth said...

Anonymous - I'm glad to read that someone else who grew in Teddington feels the same way. I suppose the people who've moved there by choice, as adults, have a very different perspective and I'm glad that they like the area, but the Teddington that they describe (and the one that appears in Location, Location, Location) isn't one that I recognise. It comes across as a "lifestyle" choice, rather than a living community.

Canadian Chickadee said...

Sadly, I think your essay applies to many different places. I grew up in Redmond. Today, I barely recognise the place. There are tall apartment buildings and streets which once were fields.

My best friend Betty lived somewhere on the northwest edge of town. I think the spot where her house once stood is under the city hall. Or maybe the fire station. It all looks so different, I can't really tell. She and her family moved away long ago.

My own parents house was condemned by a road-widening project. They sold it to a house moving company and moved away. Most of the things I loved and remember have vanished, and Redmond is just another strip mall on the map. Sad, really.

Roget said...

You mention Noel Coward, Steerforth, but as far as I can see neglect to recall one of the suburb's most notable sons. As Benny Hill teaches us in "Ernie", he was:-

an evil looking man
called Two Ton Ted from Teddington
and he drove the baker's van...

Perhaps TTT has long gone the way of the corner shops since that notorious day he disposed of Ernie with a well-aimed rock cake underneath the heart.
A sad loss if so - to Teddington or any other community.

Anonymous said...

Things change, don't they?
It's so lovely to read this because I too grew up in Teddington. That place I knew is wonderful.

This place I know is just as wonderful.
There are characters and stories to be re-told and treasured.
Just because people move in, doesn't mean the personality of the place is de-valued. People are passionate and the community & businesses thriving here now are passionate too.

My family arrived here by accident. A job at NPL for my dad brought us here. That was in 1970 and he was 28 years old. OK, a 28 yr old, offered the same job in 2014, wouldn't be buying the same house now. That's a different problem.

If the music stops and you fall between the property-owning chairs? It's not Teddington's fault. & It's certainly not the fault of the independent businesses who do so much to keep the personality of the place alive.

Steerforth said...

Carol - Is that Redmond WA? I suppose younger countries are particularly vulnerable because many of the buildings haven't been around long enough for anyone make a valid objection. In the main part of Lewes, around 90% of the buildings are between 900 and 100 years old, so it's untouchable (hopefully). Perhaps there should be a 50-year rule in the US.

Roget - I must admit I cried at the end of Ernie. In mitigation, I was seven, but even now I think he was treated very badly by Sue.

However, although Benny Hill worked and died in Teddington, he was from Southampton.

Teddington's most famous sons include Noel Coward, Julian Clary and Chris Neill. There must be something in the water.

Anonymous2 - I have very fond memories of going to the NPL's Christmas parties - both my cousin and grandfather worked there.

I'm glad that you still feel positive about Teddington. I really haven't got it in for the town (although I prefer Twickenham); I was simply using Teddington as an example of what I believe is a very destructive process in our society. Property prices have spiralled out of control. Surely everyone has the right to live in the town they grew up in?

Anonymous said...

Does your mum know you've set her up as inspiration for Grayson?!

Steerforth said...

No. She doesn't know who Grayson Perry is. I'm going to show her and she'll give me a look that says "You daft hap'worth."

Rachel said...

I'm not sure if it is a person's right to live in the town they grew up in. I'm disappointed that I can't afford to buy a home in Teddington but the crazy property market is to blame for that. I wish I had a solution. As I said in my comment above, a 28 yr old on an average wage is priced out, but a house is only worth what someone's willing to pay for it. I love that the people of Teddington have reacted to defend the place. You must recognise how hard the independent businesses here work & how that passion means a town centre with personality. There are amazing places to eat here and excellent shops. Attacking them just isn't on, however light hearted or comic the phrasing is.
My original comment, made at 2am, was 'anonymous' I didn't mean it to be!

Anonymous said...

I also grew up on this road and have very similar memories.
I cannot comment on Teddington today as I moved to Australia. Still every time I return to England I feel compelled to drive past the house I grew up in, stopping outside our gate at the end of the path that my dad laid and taking a photo with my own child as if this brings her in to my past.
I remember the Irish family and some of the others, in fact I am the daughter of the "man with no thumbs". Quite ironic really as they were in fact the only digits he possessed!!
Also a very odd feeling when you realise that you were being described in the same way you described others.

One question, who was the woman with the beard?!!

Amanda said...

My sister forwarded your blog and it was lovely to read your post, the photos brought back many fond memories of Teddington and Church Road. My sister born in 1978 and I in 1980 are daughters of the man with 'no thumbs' (don't worry no offence taken!). I think we lived around four doors from your parents and also knew many of the people you referenced, the Jewish ladies Lottie and Mrs Lukes, as well as the Irish family and the lady with the son that makes noises. However we struggled to figure out who the lady with the beard was?!
I now live in a village in West Sussex, which I think has a similar ( but not the same) feel to that of Teddington during the 70's and 80's. Thank you for bringing back some fond memories of playing in Church road during those endless summer days.

Steerforth said...

Amanda and Sister - Sorry I got muddled about your dad's digits. I just remember my mother always used to mention him when the subject of unemployment came up: "Well, if he manages to do a job when he doesn't have...I don't see why all these bone idle people who've got all their fingers and thumbs can't find a job."

Mrs Lukes lived beneath her German cousins. She didn't have a telly and used to watch theirs. I remember that she made a fuss when Holocaust was on, because she wanted to watch it and they, understandably, weren't quite so keen, having lost most of their family! The cousins used to buy very expensive pices of chicken for my dog - on some days she ate better than us.

The woman with the beard could be seen walking around Broad Street, but maybe she'd disappeared by the 1980s.

Church Road was one of the nicest in Teddington, but I always played in Railway Road, down by the garages. My mum said that she could hear me from her kitchen.

Thanks for posting a comment - it's good to hear from a neighbour.

Rachel said...

I understand that the property prices are high but, as I said before, the prices are set at the level people are willing and able to pay. I too would like to know what the answer is. Has the price increase changed the Teddington demographic? Yes. But it's just different, not worse than it used to be.

Anonymous said...

I live in Teddington and love it, but there are parts of this I totally agree with. I worry Teddington is becoming - well a bit too 'nice'?

It's changed for sure since the 80's and 90's - i.e I think Teddington pubs are dull and lifeless (The Builders excepted) in comparison.

Restaurants on the other hand are very good, and our beloved unchanged Indian restaurant is still thriving.

But Teddington does lack the buzz it used to.

I am glad to see new social housing being developed in Teddington, even if it's limited, I think every town needs an economic mix of residents to thrive.

Steerforth said...

Rachel - I wish I knew the answer to the property situation, but I wonder if a completely free market is sustainable.

Anonymous - I never really liked the pubs in Teddington, apart from The Anglers in the summer, when you could sit by the Thames. I see the Waldegrave Arms has gone, which is a surprise, as it was so near St Mary's College.

At least it has some good resturants now - something that Teddington used to lack.

The town seems very 'nice' now. On the one hand, it's a great relief to be able to walk down York Road without worrying about being shouted at, but as you say, a town needs a mix.

Rachel said...

The Waldegrave Arms is alive & well! Great atmosphere and great food. The Royal Oak is a good one too so is The Lion on Wick rd. Builders Arms, Masons Arms The Abercorn & The Adelaide all still good traditional pubs.
Can't really complain about a town being nice. I suppose if 'gritty' is your thing, Teddington's not for you.
Glad to see some social housing - definitely true that a mixture of people will always be an asset to the community. Unfortunately, the value of the land around here makes more developments like that difficult.

Mr Walker said...

Stick to your guns on this. Your original comments managed to hit a few well deserved targets.
It's not dreary, but Teddington can occasionally get so far up itself that it can see its own fillings. It has also become vastly overdeveloped around your old home and may simply burst before long.
Your comments might lead to severe wounding by artisan-made pastries should you make your next visit known, but well done for starting the debate.
If it's of any use we had a woman in full man's garb living nearby in the early 90's. Don't remember a beard.
Does anyone recall a record/poster shop in the mid 70's in Waldegrave Road in the parade near St Mary's where the dress hire shop was?
Perhaps I imagined it.

Rachel said...

And if I knew the answer to the property problem, I'd be rich enough to buy a house in Teddington!

Steerforth said...

Rachel - I has no idea that the Waldegrave Arms was back. It was certainly closed for quite a while.

My knowledge of Teddington pubs was always limited, as I usually went out to Twickenham and Richmond. The White Swan in Twickenham was perfect in the summer. The White Swan in Richmond was perfect in the winter.

Mr Walker - I don't remember a record/poster shop, just the launderette, the post office (Casey's), "Paul's Plaice" (the fish and chip shop), Clements' Grocers, the hardware shop where we bought our parrafin and, I think, a betting shop.

If I return to Teddington, I'll stop off in Feltham first and hire some protection.

Actually, I was there last month. Stanley Road was as scenic as ever.

Rachel said...

No need to stop off in Feltham, I'll be your minder. I'm expensive though... Saving up to buy a flat in Teddington, you see?

Steerforth said...

The funny thing is, a lot of people in my road have moved here from London, as they couldn't afford the house prices where they lived. The town is now full of poncey artisan bakeries and London accents.

The real locals never stop moaning.

Oh the irony!

Steerforth said...

Rachel - Good luck with the flat. If you all stop saying how nice Teddington is, perhaps the prices will go down and you'll be able to get a bargain!

I'd suggest a fake documentary on gang crime and drive-by shootings in Stanley Road to start pushing the property prices back down to a more reasonable level.

Debra said...

Lots of things come to mind reading this post, and all the comments, so I will free associate...
As an American, I moved every six years or so for Daddy's job, because... mobility is a NEW WORLD value, you know. New World, as in that place founded by colonists (nothing against colonists, but then you have to remember that all colonists are refugees and displaced people whose principal culture is elsewhere. Very important.) When people ask me where I come from, I don't have an answer like "Teddington" on my lips. I don't really have an answer at all, so I could just make something up, if I wanted. I come from a lot of places, which is the same thing as not coming from anyplace at all.
It sounds like what has happened to Teddington is what has happened to lots of places in the States under the universal pressure to turn the world into a Disneyland theme park. (Yes, I get a lot of flak about saying stuff like this, and being a woman besides, but I believe it.)
On housing prices... living in France, a country where UNIVERSAL human rights still gets a lot of press, there was a time when large swathes of pristine, relatively virgin land were concentrated between the hands of a small number of people, and very often, in the hands of the Church.
Those were in the days before the cross of Disneyland with human rights, and Christian values started promoting the idea of each and every man, woman, and child having the right to own his own little lot of property, with his/her own little job, little dog, (or cat), little children (2, no more), in paradise on earth.
This very unimaginative, but very SAFE ideal is sufficient to turn any vibrant place into Dullsville.
Is salvation for EVERY man, woman, child to be able to be an independant property owner ?
I think... not. The earth can't sustain it.
I came back from Dijon last weekend, where my kids (son and daughter in law) are "living" and working their butts off as interns. They are making money, and working hard, but... not really living. They are doing too much of.. ONE THING, and that is working... Will they be able to afford property at some point ? Maybe, maybe not... and maybe one of our kids will end up living with us, at a certain point ?
How many INDIVIDUAL houses can the planet support at this point ??
Gotta get some community back together...

Steerforth said...

Debra - I think you've touched on something, which is this idea that we can pursue happiness, finding the right place, having a "lifestyle" rather than simply a life.

There's a village near us where all of the local homes are owned by a local lord. It sounds terribly anachronistic, but the reality is a lovely community with low rents, good housing and free repairs.

I wish that we could completely rethink our approach to housing and come up with something that released people from the awful burden of a mortgage, but gave them the security that renting (in Britain, at least) lacks.

Mr Walker said...

No need to walk on the wild side of the A316 for close protection services, Steerforth.
As if by magic, a young boxer (pugilist, not canine) from Teddington has tweeted today about an upcoming tournament.
and the very best of luck to him.

May be worthwhile trying to set up a Terry/Arthur arrangement with him for when you next visit the High Street. (Rachel may not be up to the task of deflecting the Eggs Benedict that could be used as misssiles).

Steerforth said...

Excellent idea Mr Walker. I wonder if they now have a farmers' market in Teddington village, as I've got some gear in the lock-up that needs shifting. The dry clean only raincoats would go well after all the recent rain.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

A beautiful and poignant post. Sadly that man is indeed a little too late with his excellent poster. I only hope he reads your post and realises that it's more complicated than he seems to think.

Canadian Chickadee said...

Hi, Steerforth, yes, that is Redmond, Washington. One of the few things that's still there and still recognisable is the park in the centre of town. You're right about the town being new-ish. I think it was incorporated into a city about 1910. I'm not sure even a 50-year limit would save any buildings over here. For some reason, North America seems to think that newer is better, even when it's demonstrably not.

Dale in New Zealand said...

Even in the New World progress takes no prisoners.

In New Plymouth,New Zealand, for example,they struck oil and the town centre crept outwards from the 1970s onwards with new wealth. My uncle and aunt's beautiful old house with the palm garden and expansive sea view has now been demolished and excavated and houses a water filter retailer. Around the corner, my great-uncle and aunt's double-frontage award-winning gardens with orchids and fishponds have been flattened and are a car sales yard.

Yes, it's sad, but who am I to deny a generation its right to fashion their own history?

Let us remember that the Troy of Helen and Paris has at least ten levels - some above that era and some below.

By the way, Steerforth, my granny used to call me a daft ha'porth, too. As halfpennies were already scarce during my childhood, I heard it as "apeth" and pictured myself as a rather soft and cuddly large monkey. Worked for me!

Mr Walker said...

There used to be an occasional farmer's market on the hospital forecourt. Probably a great source of artisan bread.
Re. the Arthur Daley scenario, there was a used car lot on the High St back in the 80's where M&S is now:
and you could also buy more here, over the road.

Steerforth said...

Carol - I hope that they have a different approach in New England.

Dale - That's the good and bad thing about the New World. On the plus side, you aren't weighed down by restrictive planning laws and on the minus side, you aren't protected by restrictive planning laws. I suppose the geology of New Zealand doesn't help either - that nice Victorian cathedral in Christchurch wasn't really meant to be built in an earthquake zone.

But there is a huge potential for New Zealand to have housing that is far more energy efficient and spacious than the cramped, damp houses, draughty houses in England.

Mr Walker - I used to buy my cars in Brunt and Davies, or the place near Tesco - much more reliable than the dodgy Mini Metro dealer I once used in Hounslow.

Anonymous said...

Well well well, Phil Books!

Steerforth said...

Are you a former Teddingtonian, Anonymous? Or even a present one?

Anonymous said...

Yes Stearforth, a Teddington resident on and off since 1964 so the whole of your life. I recognised you from your picture. I agree with your comments but, of late, a kind of community spirit is coming back similar to that of the 60's but I can only speak of the High Street and it's evirons.A lot of those who moved in, especially for school catchment areas, have remained and made it home. It may be because of the property market but the pause has been a benefit.

Steerforth said...

Anonymous - I'm really glad to read this (and find someone who's still in Teddington!).

I saw the same thing happen in my mother's road two, once young families started to move in and put down roots. She ended up being a surrogate granny to several children. I suppose the positive lesson from this is that a community spirit can be revived and if the property market is tough, perhaps more people will stay put and the town will be truly 'local' again, rather than a stopping off point for 4x4-driving parents who just want a decent catchment area.

I've now been in Lewes for 12 years and it has a lovely community spirit, but the house prices are starting to get silly. Lots of Londoners are moving here, pushing the property values up and unwittingly turning the town into the thing they're running away from. My sons probably won't be able to afford to live here either!

Where will it all end?

Anonymous said...

I neglected to mention that I wasn't present when you finally came out of the wardrobe! It's a welcome change. In the 80's 90's & 00's it was fairly insular and not friendly (as opposed to unfriendly)I felt like an outsider on my own patch. Now I know at least a dozen neighbours by name and have visiting rights with a few. I even got a Christmas box (bottle of wine) from a local shop, thanking me for my custom. The local independent traders have breathed life back into the High Street which is now vibrant and thriving.I really enjoy living here now where once I had doubts. I suppose it goes in waves. When first I was here there was a preponderence of widows riding black bicycles with wicker baskets on the front living in four storey houses alone.That will never return!

Steerforth said...

The wardrobe? I'm intrigued.

I also remember those rather intimidating-looking old people living alone in huge houses. I suppose some of them were Victorians, who must have felt very out of place in the 'Swinging 60s' (not the Teddington swung very much in those days).

I remember being regularly shouted at by old people for kicking a football around the garages in Railway Road. I used to hide in a gap between two buildings because it was too thin for grown-ups to reach. Happy days!

Anonymous said...

Neglect - wardrobe - Radio?

I am a tease!

Steerforth said...

Well, given Radio Neglect's huge audience of listeners, you could be one of at least 12 people. Any more clues?

Were you friends with/related to a certain Mr Ashwood or Dewar?

Anonymous said...

Super sleuthing Phil. I am indeed the elder sibling of that Ashwood character!

Steerforth said...

Obviously it wasn't Radio Neglect that narrowed it down (with its vast audience), but the fact that you still lived in Teddington ;)

Didn't they film George and Mildred just down the road from you?

Colin Ashwood said...

Yes, diagonally opposite in a small row of mock-georgian properties that replaced a large Manor House which burned down for insurance purposes and I live diagonally opposite where Dave and his mum lived, in the flat below where our sister lived. (theme to Dynasty playing in the background).

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I was born in Teddington (1970's) when a semi detached river road house was a mere £10,200 and have subsequently been priced out. I still adore Teddington (memories are fabulous) however it has definitely lost some of its local charm and charisma.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are dying to move to Teddington! We currently live in Clapton (Hackney) where the local kids beat each other up and break into our building threatening to 'mash our faces up' when we complain! We worry about our little daughter going to school with these kids and want to move before this has to happen. Illegal raves take place from 10.00 pm - 10.00 am and we feel unsafe walking about at night. We would love to live in an area where the biggest problem is 'dreariness'.

Steerforth said...

Yes, the Hackney area is a little bit too lively. I've had friends who've lived there and they would always bang on about how 'vibrant' it was, glossing over the fact that they'd been mugged and burgled.

If you can afford to move to Teddington, you could do a lot worse. It's a good place to bring a child up and I have very fond memories of days out in Bushy Park.

If you can't, there are many places in the South East that are full of ex-Hackneyites, where you enjoy some of the good things in life without worrying about being mugged.

Anonymous said...

Your comment "It was like living in a Ladybird book" nearly made me jump out of my seat with recognition. My parents moved to Teddington in 1969 , the year I was born and ran Stanley Road Post Office until 1976. I continued to live there until until the mid '90s with a brief return until moving to North London for love. The photo of the 270 in Stanley Road with the Austin 1100 passing by makes me weep! I'd totally forgotten about the minah bird in the grocers! Teddington was full of "Edwardian" old people in the 1970s, old men in three piece tweed suits in the height of summer, little old ladies with odd hats....they all came into our post office. As you say it all changed in the '80s. You suddenly noticed that the new people moving in weren't interested in talking to you and considered themselves superior. Toxic Thatcherism destroyed the real Teddington some time around 1987.

Steerforth said...

Anonymous - I'm glad it's not just me then. It's hard to explain to modern Teddingtonians how different things were - better in some ways, worse in others, but more, dare I say, real. Teddington's new 'villagey' incarnation feels false because it's rootless, grafted on during the last 20 years.

I agree that the change gathered momentum in 1987, when the Yuppie era's effect on central London house prices drove people to the suburbs. Also, all of those Edwardians were dying of old age, one by one.

I miss the old men in three piece suits and the women in hats with netting.

Anonymous said...

I grew up just off Stanley Road in the 1970s and 1980s after my parents moved from Ealing and bought their small terraced house for £7000. My Dad's parents thought he was beyond reckless. Reading your piece and in particular looking at your photos has been a joy. I am forever seeking photos online of Teddington in the 1970s and have never found any - until now. Thank you also for your memories of Langton's bookshop - where I discovered PG Wodehouse. There was also a bookshop in Church Road I recall that I always found most intimidating. Like you I couldn't wait to escape the dullness of Teddington when I was in my late teens but nowadays I think very often of the area in which I grew up. My aunt and uncle are currently selling the house in Twickenham they've owned since 1978 and I feel a piece of my childhood being irrevocably chipped away. Thanks again. Chris Neill

Steerforth said...

Chris - I'm glad you liked the photos. I wish that I'd had the foresight to take more. I can remember places clearly, but my memories of people's faces, e.g. the staff at the general store in Victor Road, have become hazy.

The bookshop in Church Road was The Swan Bookshop and yes, it was rather intimidating, as owner was never more than five feet away. I used to feel that I had to buy something, regardless of whether I wanted it.

I can understand how you feel about your aunt and uncle moving. Our families' houses are the last bastion of our childhoods in a changing world. I don't think I could bear to go back to Church Road and see my home, restored to its former Victorian glory, with 40 years of naff decor completely eradicated.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the Swan bookshop. Thank you - I'm so glad you've taken the photos you have. I also remember the Victor Road corner shop, the barber's two doors along where my Mum would take me to have my hair cut and the discomfort for her due to the porn magazines sitting amongst the ones about cars and woodwork. The greengrocer between the two where my Mum worked for a while; the Wavy Line shop; the old fashioned grocer's on the other side of Stanley Road run by Lawrence Cox and his wife where they still sold broken biscuits. Going so far as Teddington's Broad Street, and for sure the High Street, felt almost a like a day trip out.

Steerforth said...

Yes, we rarely went to the High Street - there wasn't much there then. Apparently it now has an M&S, Waterstones and plenty of chi chi restaurants.

In hindsight, the most extraordinary shop was one that sold and repaired shoes, in Elmtree road. Run by two brothers, the workshop hadn't changed since the 1930s and I remember an interior of drab, brown paint and ancient machinery. When it was time to buy my Clark's Commandos, the brother with slightly better social skills would take us into the front room of the house next door, which doubled-up as a storeroom-cum-shop.

I'll have to ask my mum about Lawrence Cox. I vaguely remember the broken biscuits, as I apparently complained about always having to buy "mended" ones.

Anonymous said...

Clements the grocers in the bus stop photo belonged to my grandparents and then the two brothers of my mums. I have wonderful memories of big family get togethers I was born in 1958 so roughly the same time as the articles writer! I also remember waiting for ages for buses outside the shop! Unfortunate my grand parents are no longer with us and my uncles.retired. The undoing of all those marvellous friendly shops was the new supermarkets - but that's another story! My mother was recently given a copy of said photo which brought back happy times for her. Is wonderful to see articles like this what would we do without the web etx

Steerforth said...

Glad the photo brought back happy memories (apart from waiting for the 27/270). I remember very clearly going to Clements, (often followed by a trip the hardware store to stock up on paraffin). My mother wouldn't buy fruit and veg from Tesco.

I agree that the supermarkets killed off the shops that gave the area its character. The Yuppie era did the rest, turning Teddington into a property 'hotspot'.

Anonymous said...

Great memories of teddington. It's great reading memories of teddington and the parade of shops in waldegrave road teddington where I was born and brought up. My parents ran the fish and chip shop on waldegrave road that was then known as pauls plaice. Fond memories of going out to our back garden and savouring the scent of the mint that bill and dave (clements the greengrocers) would grow next door in the back garden /being given freebies of sweets from the newsagent (before caseys came) sadly the atmosphere of that parade no longer exists! Johnpaul

Steerforth said...

I remember Paul's Plaice very well. In those days, nobody thought twice about letting a nine-year-old out on their own and I'd often pop around the corner to buy a pickled onion from your parents. Happy memories.

Rent my property in Teddington said...

It's great memories of teddington!! Really appreciate the fact that you approach these topics.keep posting!!

Anonymous said...

i grew up in the 70s the place to be was the royal oak on the high street every saturday you could see SID james having a shant ...and going to the bookies to pick up his winings and buying a beer for everyone in the pub....the best memories were Tommy Cooper what a man we had many a laugh with him ....just till 2..3 o clock in the morning

Chelsealou said...

Someone must remember the wine bar in Teddington, round about 1979 - 80......I can't remember what road it was on, but can picture it, on a corner, had an awning outside and I seem to recall large potted palms inside. Time has also wiped its name from my memory bank, but it was a really popular place!!

Sophie Saunders said...

just came across your blog by accident, but enjoyed it so much, i also grew up in teddington, (born 1964) so have so many memories of the places you mention! That photo of your mum, is she on the road that went past the NPL on the way to bushy park? we lived in coleshill road so were always up and down there on our bikes!!

Unknown said...

Was it Harry's in Stanley Road? That was on a corner with one of the side roads.

Taylor Fry said...

Grew up in teddington.
Full of snobby wanna be rich people who are stuck right up their own posterior parts.
Yes it's changed. Probably for the worse in the sense that there is no community spirit anymore, just posing and people trying to look better than the next man.
I don't live there anymore and I am glad of that.
At least now my neighbour stops for a chat rather than sticking sticking the nose in the air as they get in that brand new Mercedes or Porsche.
Good post I enjoyed it.

Cavalla said...

I'm so pleased to have read this. I grew up in Teddington in the 1970's after moving from a boat next to Kingston Bridge. Now when I visit and walk the length of Fairfax Road I have the same oppressive feeling I have in Notting Hill where things are equally manicured and uniform. I remember buying rabbit food from a shop which would measure it out and put it in a paper you say things were local and sustainable without needing to write a manifesto! I could afford a studio flat in teddington so I've moved to the South Coast. Thanks for the reassuring post.

Tom.Clement said...

I dont know if youll get this as I know this is an old blog, but Im wondering who Im writing to as my granddad and his brother were the ones running Clements green grocers :)

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, especially the photos. This is the third time trying to post a comment. My Google sign in wouldn't work so I had to re-register. That didn't work. So here's hoping.

Going to be quick this time. I'm from this area and still live here after 20 years in London. I love Teddington. Most women don't inject poison into their faces like they do in most wealthy areas and some men don't reach 40 with an urge to drive a BMW or Mercedes. It's not that bad. There's still a good community and people who've been here a long time. Like me.

But to the point of my comment. The place on Stanley Road was Harry's Bar but does anyone know what shop was on the corner of Church Road/Walpole Road? My aunty lived just across the road on Church Road. I went there every day after school to babysit for my cousin. And yet I can't remember the place at all. Someone told me it was where Dowsett's used to be. I'd love to know more about the building if anyone knows anything.


Here's hoping (and hoping this comment will succeed this time! it didn't so am posting under 'anonymous').




Mr Haynes (Haines) the bus inspector and his wife, lived opposite us in Stanley Gardens Road, and the Cox's further up the street on our side. Some of us couldn't afford to remain as house-buying residents in this our little hometown: depending upon your choice of career; so we had to move, after 25 years. This means that our ancestors are still buried in Shacklegate Lane cemetery, but for those who didn't return from the war; one of mine lies in the cemetery having been killed in Flanders Fields.

SuedeNym said...

We moved from Princes Road in 1957 to tth other end of Teddington, in the High Street, opposite Kingston Lane. The house had gas lighting still which had to be stripped out to install electricity! There were no restaurants then but a few basic shops and Ormande Eavns the grocers. My parents bought their house for about £1400. TheyTwere there until the 1980s when we sold the house. However I see now it is on the market for over £1.5 million! These are crazy prices. Even if I wanted to I couldn't afford to.move back. I know it is more crowded now with traffic problems. Bushey Park was a lovely place, the jewel of Teddington.
I went to school in Twickenham but can't see how it is any better than Teddington. A place is what you make of it.

J Dunstan said...

Superb piece...well written and evocative with a dead pan approach in places. Very nice work sir. More please..

Unknown said...

I reamber the black Smith and it always remind me from home I was from Newmarket a lot of us boread at school profficinal children school I think it was down church lane ?I us to watch the black smith shoeing the horses I reamber the fish and chip shop shop we use to get are bus out side the hospital never came most time we would walk to Hampton spend are bus money on cider loly then walk to hanworth which us to have a loverly garden centre I loved bushy park I got a job with the civil sevic in teddington so it was like going back as I went to that school age 6when it open and 14 when it close wears day of are life but teddington hospital was loverly it was like an old fashion hospital I will always miss it I reamber the police station ireamber the libury wasent thear an open air swimming pool ? I now it was some war I must come back and visit