Farewell to Spud and Angela!

Photo:Spud and Angela in Trafalgar Terrace

Spud and Angela in Trafalgar Terrace

Photo by Francis Clark-Lowes

Two long-term residents move away from North Laine

By Francis Clark-Lowes, North Laine resident

I've now lived in Trafalgar Terrace longer than any other resident bar the Bryants. (Who could beat Ted's 75 years in the Terrace?!) But my decade and a year isn't a patch on some of the other residents who lived here when I arrived. At No 5 there was Mrs Kay Locke, one-time headmistress of Middle Street School, who died shortly after I got here and from whom I took over as NLCA street rep. At No 8 there was Peggy, at No 10 there was George and Angie (Spud and Angela), at No 12 Edi and Arthur, and at no.13 Ron and Doreen. All these have left and sadly some have died. Moreover, my house was the only one in the Terrace which had then been seriously altered from its original plan. By contrast, the twitten has been an on-going building site over the last year or two, with one house after another undergoing major renovations, including my own.

George and Angie (or Spud and Angela)

The departure last Hallowe'en [2007] of Spud and Angela (George and Angie is how they were introduced to me, and somehow that stuck), after 49 years in the Terrace, marked a further gust in the wind of change in our hidden-away corner of the North Laine. Angela and Spud met while working at Green's Sponge Mixture factory in Portland Rd and they got married in 1954. For a couple of years they lived in a flat in Cromwell Road, during which time their first two sons, Simon and Paul, were born at Southlands. Immediately after Paul's birth, in August 1958, they moved into Trafalgar Terrace. It was here that their third son, David, was born. The children all went to St Mary Magdalen School in Upper North Street and Cottesmore School, the forerunner of Cardinal Newman, in Upper Drive, Hove.

Spud was an only child

Spud, that is George Murphy, an only child, was born in Battersea in 1926. One night during the war, when he was 14, he and his grandmother were in the Anderson shelter in the garden when a bomb exploded nearby damaging the house and causing an avalanche of masonry to pour down on top of them. His grandmother panicked and Spud therefore ran to a pub nearby to get his parents' help. They decided that he should accompany his grandmother down to Bideford where her daughter and son-in-law ran the Bideford and District Laundry. However, Spud fell out with them when his aunt asked him to clean his uncle's shoes. He found himself a job at a farm nearby where he was paid 5/- (five shillings) a week plus keep. From this he managed to save enough to buy himself a £5 sports jacket, of which he was extremely proud. Incidentally, the laundry burnt down two weeks after Spud left; but he assures me there was no connection between these two events!

Wartime experiences

In 1944, aged 18, Spud was called up, and after training he was assigned to the Royal West Kent's. On VE Day, in Mechelen (Malines), Belgium, he watched as a band marched through the streets, joined in the free drinking and saw the windows of collaborators' houses being smashed by revellers. Perhaps it was then that Spud, a little the worse for wear, couldn't find his cap badge until he realised he'd got his beret on back-to-front! He recalls how different the official attitude to smoking was in those days. They were given 50 free-issue Gold Flake, Players or Senior Service cigarettes per week. He also saw service in Germany and France before at last being demobbed in York. There he witnessed a free-for-all for civvies and a near mutiny when the authorities threatened to keep the demobbing soldiers in York another night.

After the war

Meanwhile Spud's parents had moved to Mile Oak. His father had been a blacksmith at the Southern Railway Chelsea Bridge Motor Workshop, but this was bombed and he was then transferred to the locomotive works in Brighton, a town which they had often visited before the war. Spud went back to live with his parents after being demobbed. At first he did casual work such as coalman, gravedigger and washing cars, and then he worked in succession for two bakers, Manton's and Perry's. He did a delivery round with a horse and cart for the latter, but their bad-tempered black nag was too much for him. His foreman used to beat it but the horse got its revenge, kicking him right across the yard. Once when Spud was out on a delivery it bolted. The only way Spud could keep him calm was to ply him with biscuits, an expensive business. It was after that he worked for Green's, where he met Angela, and then in 1950 he joined the buses as a conductor, earning the princely sum of £12.50 a week with South Downs. He also worked for Tillings (which became Brighton & Hove), based in Conway Street, and for a while he worked on the corporation trolley bus circular routes numbers 26 and 46.

Working at the dairy

Finally, at the age of 45, Spud joined the Southern Co-operative Dairy Ltd, at the bottom of Elm Grove, where he finished his working career around 1991. I bought a house in Hanover Street in 1980 and well remember the sound of the Co-op bottling plant starting up at 4.00 or so in the morning. Naturally the person we bought the house from had omitted to mention this inconvenience! Spud proudly showed us his 20-year service certificate reading "Mr G.F. Murphy: 20 years certified 11th August 1988". Another certificate shows that he was successfully trained in forklift operating on a Coventry Climax 40. He was a manager for the last five years of his time with the Co-op Dairy.

Angela came from a large family

Angela, née Citrone, the fourth of eight children, was born in Portslade in May 1933. All of them first saw the light at home and all survived. Her father's father was Italian, but her father was born, for some unknown reason, in Skye, the eldest of 14 children. Her mother, whose maiden name was Halford, was the daughter of a gamekeeper at Ridgewood near Uckfield. Angela's paternal grandmother ran an ice-cream shop in Baker Street, Brighton. Her parents met at a dancehall and after they got married her father started his own ice-cream business in North Street, Portslade. At first he had a pony and cart to deliver ice-cream, then later a van. He would start trading away from home around Easter each year and Angela recalls how her mother would load up the van before he set off to East Grinstead (why there is unclear). Meanwhile Angela's mother ran the shop/café in North Street. Angela particularly remembers the delicious toffee apples her mother used to make and which she no doubt helped herself to, as she served in café. Later, as I have said, she worked at Green's Sponge Mixture factory in Portland Road. This was owned by a Quaker family, who lived up to their co-religionists' reputation for being good employers. Later, after the children started growing up, Angela did part-time shelf filling at Sainsbury's.

Houses in Trafalgar Terrace

Angela's father owned the house in Trafalgar Terrace, together with a number of other dilapidated properties, which he had picked up cheaply. For around 10 years they paid him 28/- (£1.40) rent a week and then bought the house from him for £1,100. At that time the toilet was in the back yard, and while doing some plumbing work there a dry well was discovered, which probably pre-dates the house. In the kitchen Angela's father installed a bath, which would be covered up with a board when not in use; hot water came from a gas boiler. Mrs Cooper, at No 9 next door, still had gas mantle lighting at this time. Deirdre Collins, who had a son with cystic fibrosis, lived at No 6. And then there were Mr and Mrs Legg at No 12, which was owned by the Council. They ran a pub - was it 'The Railway'? - and she worked there up to the age of 80. She was always good for a laugh.

Local shops

At that time you could buy coal in Foundry Street and groceries in Frederick Street and Kemp Street. Kemp Street also boasted a baker's and a newsagent, and there was a motor bus company called Unique Coaches in Trafalgar Street.

How has the twitten changed?

How do Spud and Angela consider the twitten has changed over the years? Well, here's a surprise. They find the new generation here has much more community spirit than theirs did. People used to keep themselves to themselves more. But some things don't change much. The unusual arrangement whereby our gardens are across the twitten makes them particularly attractive to anyone seeking a haven to sleep off the excesses of the previous evening. A couple of months ago we saw a bedraggled 'Father Christmas' (that's how he was dressed!) emerging with a tell-tale bottle of whisky from Spud and Angela's abandoned garden shed. It was just the same all those years ago. They recall how shortly after moving in, they found a drunken sailor asleep in the garden.

Moving on

Spud and Angela have now moved to a pretty bungalow, where they welcomed us to do the informal interview on which this story is based. We miss them, because they were wonderful neighbours, helping me when I moved in, looking after the house when we were away, always ready for a chat and a laugh. Where they live now is not far though, so we expect to continue seeing them from time to time. Their children all live within easy reach and they enjoy seeing their four grandchildren, Jenna, Rees, Olivia and Emily.

[Previously published in the 'North Laine Runner', No 191, March/April 2008]

This page was added on 02/06/2008.

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