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Life In Burghfield In The 1950s

A Memory of Burghfield Common

The passageway led from Clayhill Road all the way through the village, and came out on the Reading Road, some 2 miles away, the passageway was used by us children daily as a short cut to school, and it went by the side of most people’s fields and the odd house.

Further down the passageway and at the top of a steep hill (looking down), was Mr Barker’s bungalow. My father told me once that one dark night during the Second World War, Mr Barker’s bungalow was hit by a stray bomb, apparently after a raid on London during the blitz in 1940, and on their way back to Germany, a plane jettisoned its remaining bombs in and around Burghfield. His house roof and walls were badly damaged, and although he had this repaired, you can still see the damage caused by the bomb and shrapnel.

I’m told you could see the distant lights and search lights high in the night sky that was used to strafe the sky far away into the distance from Mr Barker’s bungalow and on top of the hill. There was still a large crater at the back of Mr Barker’s property some 60yrs later. I suppose it doesn’t help to have a government based Royal Ordinance Factory just about two miles away, whether it was just an accident (or the Germans knew about the factory) we will never know.  

Further down the passageway was Mr and Mrs Parlovitch’s house, Mr Parlovitch was once a very famous orchestral pianist, performing in London, New York and Moscow between the 1890s and the 1920s. Their house was very old in the 1950s, it had a thin wooden fence that ran all the way round their property, and in their garden they had a lovely old well, with a wooden handle.

Their front garden (which was very small and compact) was full of beautiful flowers and colourful shrubs, huge climbers and ramblers scrambled up and over the walls and pitched roof top. You could often hear music coming out of their house as you walked to and from school in the 1950s. Behind their house was a steep slope that led uphill, there was large wooded area nearby, and fir trees that sloped down to the back of their garden. In front of their house and quite close to their front gate, was the passageway.

On the other side of the passageway was the little narrow stream where children were often seen playing pooh sticks, the fast ripples of water rushed over the brown tinted stones, and large over hanging oak trees shadowed the twinkling glisters of light as it flickered in the meandering stream, at the bottom of the field, adjoining trees and bushes sloped down to a very large wood of dark menacing trees and shrubs, inside the wood, and at the bottom of the hill, was the continuation of the shallow stream.

The smell was absolutely intense, it hung around in the air for ages after they had moved on and continued up the road, there was not very many vehicles on the roads in those days, and sometimes you could see tiny bubbles of molten tar popping and blistering under the intense heat of those long hot summers many years after the road had been laid and levelled out.

It was quite a few years afterwards that the council finally got around to putting in a proper pavement and covering it with tarmac and stone block edging, the roads around the village in the early days, were really unmade, and rough and ready, and the many lorries and large vehicles that came through the village almost daily, tore up the surface of the roads, and prior to the tarmac being laid properly in the late 1950s they were forever being repaired, shovelfuls of grit and hardcore were used to fill the holes but eventually every major road and some of the minor ones in the village had been laid with tarmac.  

Running the other way down the road, was the occasional house or bungalow, but very little else, the area from my grandfather’s house along the road was mainly through large tracts of woodland, fir trees as far as the eye could see, there were roads but not very many.

This was soon all to change unfortunately, a lot of building began in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and today it is totally unrecognizable, estate after estate now covers the area that was once huge tracts of woodland, in every direction, my grandfather's vegetable plot was sold to make room for two houses and their respective gardens in the mid 1960s.

Down past the Pinchcut and the Close, was HMS Dauntless, a women’s Royal Navy training establishment. It is closed today, but when I was growing up in the mid 1950s it was in full swing, and every Sunday morning you could hear reveille being sounded, you could often hear something coming from the camp, whether it was due to marching or training, it was where my own mother trained just prior to the Second World War. (She eventually came out of the Wrens with the rank of Petty Officer.)

A memory shared by Andrew Cooper , on Jan 8th, 2009.

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