Memories of Ham 1918 onwards (complete) – by Mildred Howes

I have lived in Ham for over 50 years and have had connections with the area all my life. As a child our family used to come to Ham regularly and had friends here…

My story really starts before I was born. My grandfather (who lived in Richmond) was lost at sea in 1918 near the end of the first world war and my father, who was 8, and his older brother were rather left to their own devices as my grandmother went to pieces and took to drink – nowadays she would be called an alcoholic, but then was labelled ‘a drunk’.

My father was sent to St Paul’s School but was rather a lonely boy, taking long walks on his own. When he was in his teens he walked along the river to Petersham meadows and sat in a field, reading his Bible. He was spotted by the local farmer, from Secrett’s farm, and after some conversation was asked if he would like to come to the small church in Lock Road (then known as Ham Evangelical Free Church) and help in the Sunday School.

The church had recently been set up by various local people and representatives from local churches. They were recruiting teachers for the Sunday School, which was soon attended by over 100 children. My father agreed and after a while became interested in one of the young ladies who was also recruited from another church to help in the Sunday School. They were married in 1933 and I was born in 1935.

As a family we came over to Ham, from Kew, every Sunday and often were invited to lunch with various people. I have memories of lunch at Secrett’s farm. The farmer was then Lewis Secrett and our families became friends. I remember his wife, who was a bit eccentric I think, feeding a mouse that appeared out of hole in the wainscoting while we were eating.

It is difficult to remember exactly where the farmhouse was – although I believe that a bit of the wall (opposite the end of Sandy Lane) is a remnant of the original farm boundary.

I can remember walking down to Teddington Lock along a narrow footpath with the gravel pits on one side. Later when I was part of a youth group from Richmond, we all came over to the ‘pits’ and lit a bonfire and had a ‘sausage sizzle’ one evening – that must have been in the 1950s.

We made the journey over to Ham each week all through the war – my father was in the Home Guard and often came along in uniform after being on duty somewhere in the area.

I remember one year (it must have been after the war was over) being brought over to Ham Common one 5th November, and enjoying watching an enormous bonfire, which I believe was an annual event.

I was evacuated to Cornwall near the end of the war and when we (my brother and I) returned, things had changed and we did not come to Ham much. However, I married in 1961 and started a family and we moved here with 2 little girls and then our son was born here.

Now things have come ‘full circle’ as I am very involved with the church in Lock Road (now known as Ham Christian Centre) and live in a house that my father bought when they were built in Broughton Avenue in the mid 30s.

I would like to be able to listen again to some of the things my parents talked about, but my father died 5 years ago – a few days before his 100th birthday.”

Mildred Howes