Arriving in Newgate Street Village


I ceased, in my own mind, to be an ordinary boy. An eye’s blink saw joy, happiness and wonderment burst in and overwhelm my life, and the world I inhabited.

The transformation happened in a few seconds and I don’t think anyone else loaded into our Vauxhall Velox noticed a thing. Not my mom, my dad, my brother, the dog, the cat, or the goldfish. Those magical few seconds occurred when my dad turned the big blue car off the B158, the Hatfield Lower Road, in deepest rural Hertfordshire, one sunny Sunday morning in May 1959.

As we twisted, turned and climbed slowly up Robin’s Nest Hill I gazed out the window, feeling hemmed in by the high-banked sides through which the road cut, yet revelling in everything I saw. Then, as we reached to top, the road cleared the cutting, and to my right, below, spread the wide-open spaces of Hertfordshire’s Lea Valley. Green fields, trees, hedges, cows, horses and not a house in view.

I was excited beyond Christmas.

Earlier that morning and the day before, I’d said goodbye to my best friends Roger, Robbie and Bob, said goodbye to the corner shop that we’d lived over, that’d been my home. I said a fond goodbye too, to the comfortable terraced streets of Luton. We were moving.

Can twenty miles make such a difference to one small boy’s life?

Well, Luton was a busy bustling factory town, where almost everyone, one way of another, worked for Vauxhall. If it wasn’t directly, they worked for someone else who made nuts, bolts, bits, bobs or buttons for them.

Now, here I was in Newgate Street village.

The place seemed very quiet when we arrived. Then, with the 350 grown-ups living here being scattered over a square mile or more of outlying farms, cottages and mansions, it was going to be. In the village itself, there was one road through it and one road off the through road. There were perhaps 50, or 60 houses, instead of the 100 or more in my one Luton street.

The village was deserted. Were there kids my age? Would I find new friends? I hoped so. Then I considered, of course, it’s Sunday; back in those mid fifties days ‘playing out’ on a Sunday wasn’t done.

Sunday in Luton always felt like a half speed sort of day, read a book, fall out with your brother or a clean out my pet mice day. However, Sunday morning did include the smell of the lunch mum was cooking, unforgettable.

The radio played its Sunday routine, Billy Cotton Band Show, Two Way Family Favourites, to which we ate lunch, then Beyond Our Ken. Usually it included an afternoon at Reginald Street Methodist Sunday School too.

Despite being a half speed day, Sunday must have been a hard day for my Mum and Dad, when we got back from Sunday school they were always in bed.

Now and again though, if Dad wasn’t feeling sleepy, we got to skip Sunday with the Methodists. We took a half speed drive in the car, a country walk, a flask of tea for ma and pa, a bag of crisps each for Frank and me. We always had a back seat fight; Dad would shout from the front, “If you don’t behave, we’ll go straight home.” Disappointingly, the threat as never carried through. Then home for a fifties feast for tea; a slice of bread and butter, a tin of salmon, followed by mandarin segments and carnation milk.

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