Tales from a Tenement House

Sharing a tenement house with six other families each renting one room and sharing one outside toilet in the back yard was the norm in Edwardian London. They were all happy with friendliness seeping through the old tenement despite the living conditions. And the helpfulness to one another would keep the families in their tenements happy and contented.

   The 62 Acton Street Tenement undergoing re-modernisation during 1980

One example was Granny Wellman a loveable, white-haired lady who lived in the basement of 62 Acton Street, Kings Cross. She was one of those Characters of yesteryear that coloured an otherwise drab existence as far as the building and conditions went. Remembered as a great character. Unfortunately, she was unable to get out and about so the kids in the tenement would offer to run errands for her. They were Granny Wellman’s pride and joy. For their reward, she would hold them spellbound with her stories of her Victorian London childhood. When she died peacefully in her sleep there wasn’t a dry eye amongst the kids or the other tenants. Watching the council workmen clear out granny’s basement room after the funeral, she had no relatives, onlookers saw her table and chairs, old chest of draws and armchair followed by an iron-framed bed and a heavy door that was used for the bed base instead of springs.

Memories of Measures, the bakers, at the corner of nearby Cromer Street, also need a mention in those Edwardian days. It was the regular practice then for bread to be weighed on purchased. Often one would get a roll to make up the weight, but the roll would never reach home as it was eaten by the kids on their way back.

Taking a cup to the shops to buy a pennyworth of jam or mustard pickles is another experience well remembered by the Edwardian kids, or going to the fruiterers for a pennyworth of speckled apples and oranges, Pocket-filling excursions along the coal bays behind King’s Cross Station where families would fill their pockets and bags with coal found lying about, to take home to burn on the home fire.

Then there was the sixpence all day tram tickets, or the nine pence return from King’s Cross to Hounslow. Quite a ride for the youngsters Never bored with cinema admission of only three pence and there were three cinemas close by, the Euston, the Regent (later renamed Century), then King’s Cross, still standing but renamed the Scala and now used as a disco/nightclub. The first two cinemas have long since gone. Money for these outings was earned by taking empty jam jars and bottles back to the shops.

They were hard day’s for the working class’s although everyone was in the same boat and pulling together to make the best and enjoying their own entertainment Edwardian style.

London Time

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