Queenie Mortimer

Queenie Mortimer (nee Ward), Fieldside Road, Downham, 1928

Growing up

"At Greenwich, there used to be a bit of beach there, loads of kiddies would be playing there. We weren't allowed to, because it was Sunday, therefore you were in your Sunday Best always.

But it was where I saw my very first Punch and Judy show. I must have been either three or four years old.

It struck me there was these very tall dark buildings, it was a lovely day, but we were in shadow, but there was this brightness at the end, and it was Punch and Judy. And the one and only time that I have ever seen the dog Toby and his ruff, that was always part of Punch and Judy, he always sat just on the side there.


Four generations together outside Fieldside Road, Downham, 1950

To this day, I still love a Punch and Judy show, and I think most grown ups do! They say it's violent, but what's life?."

Family life

"Actually to me, that's a very sad picture. Number one it's nice, in as much as Susan is three weeks old, and that was taken on the day she should have been born, she was born three weeks earlier. And the lovely part being that actually we are with my Grandmother, my Mother's mother, but I can take one look at my Mother and I can see that there is something wrong. My Mother had a tumour of the brain, and it ended up within six months of that picture being taken, I had two babies on my hands."

Daily Life

"Mum and Dad had moved here in May of 1925. They considered it to be like moving into Buckingham Palace, basically because they'd come from Hammersmith in a mews. And to have a toilet indoors, let alone a bath, it was really amazing. Of course I grew up just expecting that sort of thing."

What people call a kitchen, number one London County Council didn't build kitchens, they were sculleries because they had the copper in them, and that's where you did the boiling and washing.


Queenie Mortimer (nee Ward) at Fieldside Road, Downham, 1927

You weren't allowed to paint anywhere, that was the Council's job that. As regards flooring, well people didn't have carpets, they had mats and rugs, but the lino had to be within 18 inches of the walls because of the walls drying out properly.

The living room now, was the kitchen then, because you had the grate there and the oven above it, and it had to be black-leaded. That kept the chimneybreast warm, and the house warm, well the front bedroom anyway. This house has two bedrooms, scullery, bath, kitchen, with a recess, and it takes five adults.

To this day on the rent book it's five adults. The one bedroom upstairs for the parents, the other bedroom for two children of the same sex, and the recess for the third one, where there was a curtain across. And it so happened there was the two of us girls and just my brother. My brother slept down here in the recess in a bed chair, an iron one, and he had an old orange box with a piece of curtain round it, that was his little bedside cabinet."


Queenie Mortimer (nee Ward) with her father Henry Ward, Fieldside Road, Downham, 1928

Getting married

"We had a two-tier cake, but again everything, flour, fat, dried fruit, it was all on rations. The families between them gave their coupons and points, and the eggs, and we took it to a gentleman who made the cake and did the icing, and that's how we got a wedding cake.

The night before right up until 11 o'clock that morning, no half past, it blew a gale and were bucketing down with rain. I was due to leave here at quarter to twelve to get married at 12 o'clock, and as I went out that door, the sun came out, and I had it all the way there and all the way back as well.

The little bridesmaids' dresses were made from a couple of panels from a nylon parachute. Matron of honour was the only one we knew with a bridesmaids dress. Of course flowers were quite a job to come by. They were almost a brick red carnation, not a deep red, a brick red. My husband had sent me a little posy of freesias, which he had sent down with his sister when she came to pick the buttonholes up, and you can't see them, but I'm holding them. The headdress and veil had been passed down, nearly all the brides of the Mortimers wore that. Of course it was worn in different ways, it was orange blossom."


Wedding of Queenie Mortimer (ne Ward) and Fred Mortimer, St John's Church, Southend, Catford, 1948

Free time

"At the Downham British Legion Club, they used to have Christmas parties. Several members would get dressed up to help entertain the children during the meal. I think nearly all the food came from the local Co-op. It was the first time I had seen sliced bread!

There would generally be a singalong, and tap dancing from a little local group after the meal. There would be a conjurer who would do tricks, which of course sometimes meant that the children would help, thinking that they knew how the tricks were performed. They'd sadly find that they didn't know, and would come unstuck, much to the hilarity of everyone else.

On Saturday and Sunday evenings, there would be social evenings called "Free and Easys". They charged tuppence for adults and a penny for children. The so-called band consisted of a few members, banjo, drums and piano, sometimes a wind instrument, but not often. During the course of the evening there would be a raffle, the prize would be a box of chocolates, sometimes cash. On the whole everybody appeared to enjoy themselves.


British Legion Party, old Bromley Road, Downham, 1935

Downstairs in the bar, forbidden to women, the men would reminisce about their war experiences and unemployment. Whilst upstairs, their wives were able to discuss the children, their health and education, and shopping on so little money. The camaraderie of the British Legion Club helped so many families on the estate in a therapeutic way.
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