Growing up in Bletchley

Memories of a Railway Signalman's son

At Bletchley pool
At Bletchley pool
By the canal
By the canal
Pinewood Drive, Bletchley
Pinewood Drive, Bletchley
Me at home
Me at home
Spencer Street in the snow
Spencer Street in the snow

My dad was offered the job of signalman in the Bletchley area, so we moved into the railway houses just by Bletchley station called Railway Terrace. They were close to the railway and I still recall the Expresses at night with their fireboxes glowing red and the way the houses would shake. We stayed there for several years and I have lots and lots of memories of the area and of this time.

Freedom to roam

This was a time when, as a kid, you could wander for miles and miles. There was always something to do with two big lakes nearby (the ‘New Found Out’ and the ‘Blue Lagoon’) and streams going to and fro – you could lose yourself for hours. We also had the open air swimming pool by the ‘Central Gardens’, with tennis courts and putting greens, plus the market and cattle market. Also, of course, there was what we called the flea pit – the old ‘Studio cinema’. We would go and look at the photos in the displays outside to see what thrills were to be showing next week. We used to go there every Saturday morning and every Saturday, the manager would have to stop the film and tell us all to calm down. The old cinema has been knocked down now. It’s funny – it’s not until something’s gone that you realise how much you miss it.

Opening Queensway

I remember when they opened ‘Queensway’, the ribbon to be cut was just to the left of ‘The Terrace’. The Mayor, the local paper photographers and all the dignitaries were there waiting for the ribbon to be cut and a grand parade throughout ‘Queensway’. That was until me and Steven Dyre (from next door) rode out of our street and down the new road on our bikes, much to the amusement of all attending…we even got our photo in the Bletchley Gazette!

Moving from Railway Terrace

I never thought we would ever move out of Railway Terrace, but things were afoot, way beyond our control. The powers that be wanted to sell off the land we lived on to build. So we all had to be moved out and we ended up at Fenny Stratford and Pinewood Drive. The house itself wasn’t too bad – probably built in the fifties with a big garden, which was great for my dad – he was a brilliant gardener. He also had 10 pole of allotment by the canal, and we always had fresh veg. with no additives or chemicals – something which I totally took for granted at the time. If there wasn’t too much in the pantry, my mum could make a meal out of nothing, or so it seemed to me.

Teenage life

The great thing for me was the area. It was situated right by the canal, with ‘Manor Fields’, the river, and loads of countryside. Just right for my motorbikes. I was now a teenager, and required slightly more demanding fun. There were five or six other lads, all my age, one of which became a really good mate. So with these newly found pals, this took care of the fun side of things and we got up to all sorts of mischief, usually down the river or canal or wherever. For some reason or other, my folks decided this house wasn’t right for us, so we did an exchange with a family from ‘Manor Road’ (still in Fenny Stratford). This was a very important place for me because it was here that I turned from a lad into a young man. I was really into motorbikes now, and I would often be seen wheeling these down to what we called the ‘Manor.’ This was the wasteland by Manor Fields and it was perfect for motorbikes.

Working on the railway

I was now working on the railway which sort of becomes a way of life because of the odd hours and especially the lads that you work with. I worked as, what they called, a second man which used to be a fireman in the days of steam. In fact all the drivers then were old steam men and had lots of stories of “the old days”. You were always at work, but it seemed like you had a lot of time off – this was because I was up and about when I should have been sleeping. You could work all hours on the railway. We had a rota of 11 weeks – you started at week 1 and worked through to 11 and started at week 1 again. You would have two days off. Sunday (which you could ask to work on) and a day in lieu (which we called Spiv Day) which you could end up having at any time.

An extract from the My Memories website – a collection of stories and memories written by a group of learners on a Living Archive creative IT course.

Comments about this page

  • Moved to Bletchley from London in 1959 into a brand new house in Caernarvon Crescent. Having my own bedroom seemed a luxury then. Went to the Saints school which had great teacher and headmaster. Then went to Wilton school which I did not like at all. I have a school photo from 1965 hanging on the wall and I often look at it trying to remember names.
    In 1975 I went to Australia on a working holiday and ended up staying. My sister Susan still lives in Bletchley with her family.

    By Peter Freebury (07/02/2024)
  • How wonderful to read all these memories of good old Bletchley, it brought back many of my memories. Unfortunately, Bletchley town centre has deteriorated such a lot over the years, and is not now the place we knew and loved.

    By Sandra Waite (27/09/2023)
  • Just remembered a few more things from my past, I lived at 85 Newton rd, then at 30 Shelley drive . My dad worked at the clay pit for the london brick company both down in the pit, then up top filling the kilns at night. As for school , infants was the old one, mrs littlewood was in charge.then jnrs was both old and new holne chase.Some of the names I can remember at wilton in my class, Gary Cummings, Nicky Flinn,David Goodridge.I remember the fountian at the pool, and the old dressing shed next to them. Fishing at the clay pit next to the brickyard and the canal. The flicks where I saw Zulu when it first came out.

    By Alan Carr (09/07/2023)
  • Hi I went to Wilton high back in the 60’s. I remember Tug Wilson and his German shepard in fact I broke my leg in 3rd form and Tug used to pick me up in the morning, and drop mee back home after school.I lived on Newton rd, then the oldies bought a house in shelley drive. Funny how things come back to you, The old first school with mrs Woods I think was the head mistress, then went to holne chass jnr. Failed 11 plus, gee wish i had my time again, I had mr Bull there as my form teacher. Also remember greens shop near the market, think thier sons name was Mike, when i left school, lost contact with all the people i used to know at school. Moved to Nuneaton until i was 18.Then moved to Australia that was 50 yrs ago, just remembered head master at wilton high was a mr Smith, did not like him much but that life. Alan Carr

    By Alan Carr (09/07/2023)
  • I lived in Tattenhoe Lane opposite the Satellite pub from 1961-1978 when I got married at St Mary’s church and had my reception at Bletchley Park. I remember my infant school Castles where the Queen once visited the green and houses opposite it, Then Saintes school in Buckingham Road with the head Mr Churchill. During that time I got interested in swimming and attended the outdoor pool in Bletchley Centre (remembering how blue round the mouth I came out during the summer because it was so cold), having Bovril hot drink from the vending machine after training or competitions. My dad Ron who worked at Bletchley Park all his life used to coach the children. Then came the 11 plus exam. I desperately wanted to go to Denbigh School as it was very new, one year they would go to Wilton the next year Denbigh our road was the cut off. I didn’t want to go to the grammar school although I had the potential to do so…. So I didn’t try. I got in at Denbigh and went through until lower sixth in form G2. I remember Mr Harris who we called ‘Chopper Harris’ he had a tendency to smack backs of legs and ask questions later, Mr Corrin liked the cane! I really liked the girls Headmistress Mrs Dove she was kind and understanding, My path took me to office jobs, driving, then a family, a girl now 44 and a boy now 42, eventually moving to Norfolk in 1993. After which I decided to divorce and leave the UK in 2006 having worked at the Open University for a time. I travelled to lots of places and ended up in Dubai for sometime before marrying then retiring to the South of France. Now settled near the west coast. How life takes you, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.hope your childhoods and lives were/are happy.

    By Lynn D (formerly Mitchel) (30/06/2023)
  • I was born in Duncombe’s, the youngest of 6 children. In 1958 I joined the army, returning on occasion, finding Bletchley depressing. After my army service I emigrated to Canada where I live to this day.

    By joseph Cleaver (14/02/2023)
  • Oops! Rusty memory – I misremembered the cinema in Bletchley Rd (Queensway) it was the Studio I think (which makes me wonder now if I got it right for the one on the Watling St?).

    Regarding Paul Berry’s post – I was trying to place the greengrocers store in Victoria Rd (in the 50s) – perhaps it was at the Tavistock St end? Most of the greengrocer trade in the area would have been in Aylesbury St with Adams and a shop close to the Fenny traffic lights ( Cook’s I think?). I can recall Mr Adams was quite miffed when he started losing his years-long customers (such as mother) to the first supermarkets that eventually arrived in Bletchley!!

    Most of the shops in Victoria Rd were at the Council Offices end, including M A Thomas (gents outfitter), a craft shop, a small newsagents (Brinklows – for a short period), and (midway along V R ) a very small
    Co-op (groceries). There was also a pub at the corner with (I think) Denmark St.

    By John O'Hara (27/08/2022)
  • Re: Adrian Haynes post (5/3/22).
    If I’ve remembered it correctly, I think the Bletchley cinema (in then Bletchley Rd) was The Odeon, and the one on the Watling Fenny (just down from The Three Tuns pub) was The County.

    By John O'Hara (14/08/2022)
  • Spent last night in Milton Keynes, which brought memories flooding back of my time teaching at Denbigh School in the 60s. Interested to see a comment from Glenn Warren who I may have taught. Life in Mellish Court when it was new, Queensway shops and the train service to Oxford, all distant memories.

    By Keith Redfern (01/08/2022)
  • I well remember attending Wilton School and in our fourth year, our brilliant Maths teacher Mr. Harris told us he was moving to the new Denbeigh School as Deputy Head. A lot of the pupils I knew well also vanished and were lost to us. I can’t remember the name of the earlier cinema in Fenny, maybe the Odeon? closed around 1958?

    By Adrian Haynes (05/03/2022)
  • I remember Brenda Thomas I Dave yewen from D3 Denbigh left in 1969 2 weeks brush factory not me got job London brick fitters mate loved it got married to early ended up stony stratford conductor United counties then bus driver I would not change anything in my life many happy memories

    By Dave Yewen (30/10/2021)
  • I moved to the Castles Estate in Bletchley in the mid fifties from London. It was an escape from living in one room with grandparents in Acton. Other friends of my parents had already made the move. Even at the age of 3 the experience and luxury of a house with my own bedroom still sticks with me. I guess the same must be true for young people now desperate to leave home and set up one of their own.
    Whilst there was a strong sense of community within the estate, not all was ‘sweetness and light’, some members of the Old Bletchley community wanted to block off the railway pedestrian tunnel into town to prevent those horrible Londoners from shopping, the was considerable local hostilities during the early to middle fifties.
    This all but disappeared in the 60’s, as the Lakes estate and others were added the overspill became dominant, schools also changed. I also like Brenda above was part of the first intake to Denbigh School. She will remember that in our first year we had to share with Wilton school because the main teaching block at Denbigh had been built in the wrong place and had to be knocked down and rebuilt. But we were privileged and lucky to have an enthusiastic head teacher in Edwin Corin with an equally young and enthusiastic staff. I was grateful for his support then and as time has gone on have become more grateful as I increasingly realised how crucial he was to many of us.
    Time has not proved too kind to Bletchley, but for those of us who grew up there in the 50’s and 60’s, it was a magical place full of opportunities that were not open to us in post war London.

    By Glenn Warren (29/10/2021)
  • I lived in the schoolhouse to the left of the secondary Modern school in the early 1960s as my father was the school caretaker for a few years.I worked in a small greengrocers in Victoria road after school for a Mr Guest and his daughter.I used to open the wooden boxes of bananas and hope there were no spiders,I went the the Scouts in the hall opposite and also the Lifeboys in Fenny Strattford .I also had a Saturday job helping on a bread round for Turneys Bakery also in Fenny Stratford and often sat on the wheel arch of the bread van with the headlight between my knees until we got stopped by a policeman and a telling off ensued.I used to sell more biscuits on a Saturday than the roundsman did all week simply because I asked customers if they wanted them.Derek Turney the baker was always pleased.
    I believe there was a bank where the dental practise is now opposite the school house.I also remember going to the old folks homes after harvest festival delivering the produce and again on other occasions to play the harmonica with 2 others and Miss Tofield was the music teacher .She was a lovely teacher and very encouraging.
    Sadly after we moved away I received news that a school friend from Great Brickhill had been killed on his motorbike at the age of 16 in 1967.

    By Paul Berry (27/05/2020)
  • I lived in between eight bells an George pub. Dad was dental technician in town. Mum worked bletchley park an signal women on flettons line. My father in law was in signal box no 5 an no 1 . There was a press place by railway terrace an a big house the Waller’s lived in. Happy days

    By Marie love (16/02/2020)
  • Dear old bletchley until I was married I lived by the George pub my dad was the local dental technician if you nerde dentures my dad made em. Many happy memories of found out gravel pits. Water Eaton mill were my brother Maurice Kent saved a life would love copy of paper report.

    By Marie love (29/01/2020)
  • I moved to Bletchley in 1957 from London aged 5. It was a lovely town, had all the shops we needed. Cinema, swimming pool, schools, and fields to roam in. I was a founder pupil in the then, new Denbigh school in Cornwall Grove in the ‘60’s. Breaks my heart to see it today.

    By Brenda Burgess nee Thomas (07/03/2018)
  • Reading those few paragraphs brought back so many memories,I remember the studio cinema and the Saturday morning pictures,I lived in larch grove and spent many hours at the blue lagoon and the new found out,fishing in the local “cut” and the mill pond,those were really happy times in my child hood so thanks for the memories

    By neil tomlinson (16/09/2017)
  • That brought back some memories. Travelling the world I often recount my Bletchley childhood-dredging up the past adventures of a Willow Way kid…like Pete I also fished in all the ponds and canal, from beacons to the bluey, to the millpond. I recall learning to swim in the outdoor pool, days of marmite sandwiches and smoky bacon crisps.haunted farmhouse opposite the plough, where our pea guns from sports and games would echo throughout the rooms.walking the gangways at the old market , sticklebacks at the newie, sweets from tom fairy, and freezing fingers on the milk round.

    By steve (29/10/2015)
  • Hi my dad is 68 years old. He rembers he hadn’t been walking long when he wondered on the rail way line.. He laid down on to the tracks and let a slow moving train go over him!! He was found shortly after and it was written about in the bletchley gazette.. Think it was titled Richard the explora… I would love to get a copy of the article and give it to him…his name was Richard Osmond … Could you help me 🙂 please

    By Fay Vella (23/06/2015)
  • A very interesting account!… was so nice to see the bit of canal I fished so much in the 60’s/70’s , Nagels at Fenny. Your description of railway working made me think of my Dad Frank who was on the overhead line maintenance and who was often out for days on end after derailments. All the best….

    By Pete Moran (02/06/2013)
  • Very interesting. I lived at the time described just up Buckingham Road from Railway Terrace at the old cottages next to the pub. I also knew the Steven Dyre mentioned in the piece, and played in the same areas mentioned. Steven’s mother was notorious for entertaining the workers building the railway flyover in the 1960s, which gave rise to much gossip. It was certainly a very different world. ‘The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.’ (L P Hartley). I never thought then that I’d spend most of my life travelling the world and settling in Hong Kong. My father lived in Bletchley until his death a few years ago, and on my visits to him I found Bletchley a rather depressing, run down place with a decaying town centre.

    By david malcolm (30/05/2012)

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