Monday, 25 March 2013


I hadn’t thought about Carshalton for ages.  The town in which I grew up.  But I went looking for a picture to post with the words on my previous blog post and stumbled into a time warp. So many memories crowding in, one after another. 

Carshalton – a small suburban town in what was once Surrey (now Greater London). Nothing special. 

My family had drifted there from southern London – I’m not sure how or why.  A curious place to be.  But as good as any other, I suppose, and far better than many.  When I look at the pictures gleaned from an idle Google search I am amazed at how green it was/is, and how much water there was/is. 
I’d forgotten it was a place built around springs.  Yet, now I ponder it, I remember that as a child, I spent swathes of time poking around Carshalton Park, around The Grove, the Ponds (oh how I wanted to row out and camp on the tiny island), Beddington Park (The Grange) and the Wandle river as it wandled its down from Carshalton Park to the High Street.  My mother said she remembered when the water even ran alongside the High Street. There’s even a well – Anne Boleyn’s Well. 
Yup...did a lot of that... 
Carshalton Park is interesting.  All kinds of odd earthworks and concavities. As children we called them, variously, The Frying Pan, The Saucepan (aka the Little Dip) and the Big Dip. Water seeped out of springs into the Big Dip and I spent hours doing…what?  I can’t remember really – just that the emerging water was an endless source of imagination and wonder. I could spend hours there. Sometimes alone, sometimes with friends.
So much water here when I was small. :(
The river had once been presided over by a Victorian pseudo-grotto – with a largeish cave and two smaller ‘sentry boxes’ either side.  Once there had been statues there, or so I’m told but they had long been removed and, when we were small, the place had a sinister air – we thought it the home of vampires and never turned our backs on its black interior.
My grandmother is buried in the churchyard of All Saints.  Originally outside the hallowed ground (she had converted to Plymouth Brethren so was considered outside the remit of the Church of England).  
Next to the church sits The Greyhound, one of my father’s favourite pubs. When I was small, very small, I’d go with him and sit in the little tiny back bar.  When I was a teenager I came back, with friends, and graduated to the main bar, overlooking the ponds.
And this (below) was the somewhat hideous Methodist church to which I shamelessly switched allegiance at an early age, on the promise of a free book of Bible stories and a chocolate bar.  My brownie and girl guide hall was around the side and, the moment I type that, I can smell the musty tarpaulins and tents underneath the stage.
I used to walk to school (we had no car and, anyhow, everyone walked everywhere then). First to Stanley Park Infants and then a short hop over the playground to the Junior school.  Next to Stanley Park (obviously) – a somewhat inferior affair with only the small saving graces of a lacklustre playground and a cut where the railway passed.  Distinctly lacking in water. 
Yes, we had green buses, as well as the red London ones.  This one would take me all the way to my senior school in Cheam, if I let it. 
And this was the pub I hated, with drunks falling out of it, men leering…I used to cross the road and walk swiftly by.  Now, apparently, it is quite different – a pukka beer pub, beloved of men like Adrian.
Anyhow, enough of all that. The past.  Funny old place, huh?  

But it makes me they affect us, these early places. Would we be different people if we grew up elsewhere?  What do you think? Where did you spend your childhood and did it affect the person you are now?  


Anonymous said...

Yes, I think our surroundings affect us when we grow up. I grew up in a small city and saw people who knew who I was every day. And we were safe! Remember safe? Lots of shortcuts, hedges to hide in, places grown ups would never go. We kids OWNED that town!

Ashen said...

It's amazing what unfolds in our memory once we focus, dark and light stuff, powerful sensual experiences. Elements of my early environment have become building blocks in my writing. I grew up in a small village where everybody knew everybody. It wasn't all idyllic. I had to get away to define myself.

LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

I know Carshalton because a Boss of mine lived there, and I loved the little bridge and pond. Later on there was a wildlife rescue place there where we used to take injured animals to mend. It was a very interesting park indeed. Early places? I'm haunted by mine also, in a mostly nice manner. I believe that they do form us. Don't they say that between lives we chose where and to who we shall be reborn? Minerva ~

CAMILLA said...

Hello dear Jane,

What a coinsidence.! my son and his family live there, very good commute too into The Strand where he works.

I loved the Parks and Lakes when I visited, and everyone seems so terribly friendly.

There is an excellent coffee shop with amazing coffee's, fabulous food menu on daily specials board too. It is called 'Roast and Ground' on the High Street.

In September 1878 by John Pattinson Kirk and his wife Leah became tenants of Wandle cottage. The Kirks would transform Wandle Cottage into the Honeywood that is known today.

I have visited Honeywood Museum, absolutely fascinating, steeped in history.

My early days were growing up just a few minutes away from Baker Street in West London. I loved it, the cosmopolitan way of life, jazz clubs, theatres, Regents Park. Growing up there in the sixty's was very memorable. I live in the country now and love the wildlife and it's surroundings, but I am torn between my haunts in London too.

Anonymous said...

I've just come across your post after searching for images for my records. I grew up in Carshalton, living by the side of Carshalton Park until i was 22 and your post has opened the floodgates of nostalgia! I know all the things you mentioned so well and now, living in Dubai, I've just promised myself I will embark on a mini pilgrimage on my next visit to the UK. Thank you so much for sharing. Home is where the heart is and Carshalton certainly pulls on my heartstrings!

Exmoorjane said...

Ah...just seen the comments lovely. And how wonderful that you three know Carshalton too. Glad I've brought back some memories, Anonymous. :)

Unknown said...

My family moved to Carshalton when I was five years old, and I spent the next six years there. I attended Stanley Park school for about a year and then transferred to Barrow Hedges Primary School. I really enjoyed your post, having played in most of the places you mention, especially the Frying Pan. My friend David and I even used to venture into the creepy tunnels of the grotto. I do feel that where you grow up has a tremendous influence on who you become, and like you, the years I lived in Carshalton left me with some precious memories. Thank you so much for your thoughts and for the beautiful pictures. Love - Claire

Exmoorjane said...

Huge thanks for commenting, Claire. I'd forgotten Barrow Hedges. Glad the pics brought back happy memories. xx