My Memories of Lunsford Lane
I was born in 1935 and still live in the small village of Lunsford Lane between Ham Hill, Leybourne, New Hythe and Larkfield. I have lived in two houses in my life, one on each side on the Lane. The first was called 1, The Bank – now called 365 Lunsford Lane. The other one across the Lane was called 15 Lunsford Terrace – now called 370 Lunsford Lane. The house where I still live today some 80 years on. I believe I am the second longest person to have lived in the bottom half of the Lane – Gig Hill down to the A228 Snodland Road.
I remember the steam lorries chain driven by front wheels, that came up the gravel tarred road in my early years. I believe they were Blue Circle and Crown Portland Cement Company.
I remember the war quite well. At the bottom of my garden; In came the army tanks and lorries. They also had a small building with Ack-Ack guns on top, firing at the aircraft on the downs. We had big guns at Burham and balloons on the hills. The balloons were to catch doodlebugs. At Ditton Drill Hall we had a mass of search lights. You could see them in the night sky. At Burham there were massive guns.
I recall a land mine came swooping over head on 3 parachutes about 150 yards from my first home. A big bang when it landed I got trapped in my bedroom, my father pulled me out from under a window frame and grilling’s. They intended it for Leybourne Grange. At that time a military place by the army or for the Reed factories. Most large houses in Lunsford and the surrounding area were taken over by the war ministry high military personnel. Such as, Preston Hall, Leybourne Grange and the William’s House (Lunsford Hall), Ditton Drill Hall.
We had Army coats on the bed to keep us warm, no double glazed windows or carpets at that time. No heating at all, frost on the windows when cold at night.
We had an outside toilet, no lights just a match stuck in the wall. Paper used as toilet roll was newspaper on a piece of string. No main drainage either just a cesspit in the garden which was emptied from time to time by lorry and pipes. There was quite a lot of lorries and tanks in the fields, they even broke a bridge over the mill stream. Many troops.
Lunsford Lane had three shops. One called Lucksway. One called Hortons. One called Ludlow’s, opposite Ludlow’s was a short road into the fields now called Brook Road. At the end of the road during the war the Land Army workers in a big green house, serving tomatoes lettuce and water cress.
Most of Lunsford Lane area consisted of farms. There was Bellingham’s, Thompson’s, Carslaw’s, Walker’s (was the local abattoir), Cook’s, Charlton’s and English’s. The farmer who thrashed the corn was “May’s Farm” at Leybourne. He had a steam engine which pulled the thrashing machine, and on the back was the tying up unit. All the harvest was sacked first, the harvest was thrashed after. It was a great sight to see, especially the horse and carts on the farms. There were no tractors for some time.
The actual road is about a mile long. At the top of Lunsford Lane there were a few private houses. Down the lane from the A20 road, on the right hand side were the woods which went over to Larkfield. On the left hand side there was a row of council houses. There was only one house on the right hand side, then all farm fields. On the left hand side was a shop called ‘Lucksway’, midway of the council houses. The road had a dip and bends, six more houses and a duck pond on the right.
At the top of the hill, now called Gig Hill, on the right, were more houses. On the corner was ’Hortons’ shop. The other side on the left corner, was a big house called ‘Lunsford Hall’. A wealthy family named Williams lived there. On the left hand side was a house on its own. Mr Harriman lived there. He sold vegetables to the village. There were more houses on the left hand side down to Reeves driveway and greenhouse. On the right hand side, past the shop, were open farm fields, then a row of houses, then more fields and orchard and a shop called ’Ludlow’s’ who sold Paraffin and groceries. Paraffin was used for cooking. We also had a coal range for cooking and keeping warm.
Half way down the lane were more houses laid back from the lane called ‘Bonique Cottages’; there were six cottages.
There were a lot of footpaths. The farms had cattle, chickens and horses. At the bottom of the lane, there were nearly all farm fields out to Leybourne, Ham Hill and New Hythe. There was a stream called ‘The Mill Stream’. We would paddle in this stream when we were young. We would play in the road. Games called Hop Scotch, London and Cricket using three stones at each end. There were no cars, only a horse and cart, milk man and green grocer.
Lunsford Lane had gas street lights. A man on a bike, carrying a small ladder on his shoulder would come in the evening to put them on and again in the morning to put them out. There were ten lights.
In 1942 when I was 7, I could remember the war raging. It was not good. It was very frightening. I used to watch the air dog fights in the sky with my dad. He would put his tin helmet from the Home Guard on my head. The sirens would sound to take cover and siren again the all clear. In between times, the dads would go hunting for rabbits on the hills. We also kept rabbits and chickens. Food was scarce. Food was rationed. We also ate pigeons. We had a neighbour who kept pigeons.
They were taken away for war purposes. Old pigeons were given away for food. During the war we had ration books for the amount of food for each person. During the black outs, we were told not to show any lights. The air raid warden would patrol the roads at night and shout out ‘put that light out’ if he saw one on. The windows would be blacked out with sticky tape to stop the glass travelling. Quite often we would sleep under the stairs during an air raid. There would be guns blazing away on the hills at Burham.
The army would be in the fields at back of where I now live. There was a blaze of search lights in the sky during the aircraft dog fights and guns ﬁring at each other.
When I was just 10 years old, after the terrible war, the gravel pits started up fully again. The Aggregate machine produced sand, gravel and stones for construction. This crushing machine was at Leybourne near the village of Lunsford Lane. I would often sit on the banks of the lanes and watch the barges being loaded. Then they would be towed back to the crushing plant. They were towed by a motor boat (tug). It would pull two barges at once. The crane was on one barge, and loaded too.
The crane had a grab digging out the material. The ground around was full of flint stones and sand.
This was the first lake – but many more were to come. All materials from these lakes were used in the building trade for houses, roads, motorways etc.
In the 1990’s, some lakes are now country parks, and people come from far and wide. There are two country parks in Kent. One in Tunbridge Wells and the other at Leybourne Lakes.
My Dad was in the Home Guard and the man living next door was an officer and carried a live revolver. The Home Guard would watch all bridges over the River Medway. In case the troops landed by parachute although they never did, thank goodness!
During those terrible times of war we would listen to the radio – no TV. The Prime Minister saying how things were. On the radio we would hear a programme called ‘This is Germany Calling‘, putting fear in us all. The other programmes on the radio were ‘Paul Temple‘, Dick Barton and Man in Black. They were good for morale. The dreaded time was when the doodle bugs came over from Germany, it was a rocket plane with engines, it stopped and then crashed on us. We had a lot around Lunsford because of the factories and the Chatham Dock Yard and Malling Airdrome. Below is a section of a map showing doodle bugs hits in the area.
When the all clear was sounded neighbours would go and collect shrapnel in the fields.
The war finally ended in 1945; I was ten years old. Hearing Winston Churchill was so great. It was hard to believe the war was over. The lights were allowed back on. The streets came to life again. After the war things started to get back to normal. Work on the lakes started. I remember it well. The gravel pits. The crushing plant that was at Leybourne, is now a hotel and park. I found a cannon shell in my mother’s garden. It was live. I called the bomb disposal; they exploded it in the chalk pits at Burham.
In the lane even thout was a quite lane, we had three shops, ‘Lucksways’, Horton’s, halfway down, and Ludlow’s at the bottom end just before Walkers Farm. The only buses we could catch were at both ends of the lane. During the war the buses had wooden seats and an open door at the back. They were called Utility buses, all Maidstone & District & East Kent. The Bull Hotel at Larkfield was the halfway stop to the Dover Coast.
When I first travelled to Maidstone from Larkfield it was just 8 pence return (old currency). That was in 1950 September, when I first started work. My wage was £1.10 shillings a week.
Things around, this time, were still not great. Washing was still done by hand and wrung the water out through a Mangle. That was two wooden rollers on a frame turned by a hand. Clothes were scrubbed on a washboard. There was no wall paper only paint, distemper and whitewash for the ceilings. No carpets just lino and coconut mats. A few years after the war, food rationing ended in 1954.
Food started to get more plentiful and we got out and about more in safety. I often went down the gas works to get bags of coke for the fire, with dad. We would carry them home on the bike, walking, sacks through the frame. We could walk the footpaths and go scrumping for fruit in the orchards. Once again we played in the road and the woods and fields at the back of our house, We felt good, life was so good.
For water there was an outside pump between the houses, at times it would freeze up the dads would put newspaper around it to thaw it out. Also we got water from a stream spring by the woods, it was called Dig Hole. It had steps going down to it. We did our washing from rain water butts, using the copper, a big bowl with a lid and a fire underneath, in the scullery, using soda, Carbolic soap, Rinso and Oxydol.
Our bath water was also heated in the copper, we all shared the bath Ladies first then the fellows – five children, two adults.
Lunsford Lane was a very narrow road, mainly tar and gravel on rubble. A steam roller with spikes would roll and tear it up for repair. Us children would watch. There were only about 3-4 cars at the time mainly farmers had cars and the Williams family – rich.
During the war I remembered the two shelters we had, one was called Morrison, it was a steel box we had in the front room.
The other was an Anderson dug out in the garden. We also had gas masks. The Lancaster bombers would often land at Malling Airfield, also spitfires. There is a memorial for Guy Gibson and the other Air Crew up at the Air Station for all their bravery.
My older brother Gordon was called up for the army – 2 years national service in the Royal Artillery. My younger brother did not get called up because the National Service ended in the late 1950’s. My sister also didn’t serve.
My father served in the 1st World War 1914-1918. He was in the trenches when his best friend, alongside him, got shot in the head. His name was Desmond, so my father named his eldest son Desmond in memory of him.
Desmond served in the Royal Navy and was mentally injured on the mine sweeper. He never fully recovered during the war. He did come home and was ill all his working life. He gave up in the end, he could have lived longer, he died Sunday 29th May his birthday was the Wednesday that week.
In 1953 I was drafted into the Royal Air Force for 2 years. I went to Manchester, first to Padgate Reception Centre. After being kitted out I was sent down to a place called Wilmslow for 8 weeks training on the parade square. Not at all that good. The first night, in my first ever bed, I experienced total silence.
I came from a family at home of nothing else but quarrels. I had always slept with my brothers. There were 7 people at home Just two bedrooms, no bathroom, no hot water and an outside toilet. Coal fires which we huddled around.
Lunsford Lane is much bigger now, many houses wider roads and motorways nearby. Most of the farms are now built on with houses and schools. Even the Malling Air Station which gave great service during the war. The little village of Lunsford has grown with many houses and great access to the motorways.
I believe it was not before 1950’s that the whole of food rationing was lifted. In the 50’s there were no such thing as wide roads. All were just two lanes left and right, no traffic lights either, no yellow lines you could park where you liked if you had transport, not many people did.
I remember the cutting and harvesting of the corn, barley and wheat. It would be cut by a harvester pulled by a horse. It would be thrown out onto the ground in bundles. The bundles would be stacked up wigwam style to dry. Once dried they would be loaded onto a horse and cart and transported to the farm and stacked. The thrashing machine would arrive on the farm to thrash the cereals. The thrashing machine was hauled by a steamroller and has a tying machine on the back. Men would stand on top of the machine and put the bundles into the machine. Other men would lift the bundles up with pitch forks. The grain would have been separated and bagged up and the straw tied up in bundles and restacked.