Memories of Stanford
Note: The following information is provided by Stephen White who spent his summers staying with his grandparents in Stanford at Railway Cottages. The 4 terrace cottages were built by the Railway in 1847 to house railway staff and are still in use today but now privately owned.
Stephen tells me that his grandfather once worked as a gardener at the Old Rectory but his keenness memories are of the railway and Railway Cottages.
“My Mum and Dad (who was in the RAF) had a house in Frampton Rd, Hythe in the late 1940’s where my Grandfather’s Father Edward Fagg and his wife Eliza Shrubsole and had already moved to (No 7) having seemingly left the land. Eventually we moved away and around Britain following my Dad’s work and from 1965 till 1981 I lived in Lichfield, Staffs and it was in the late 60’s that I was “left” with my Grandad in Stanford during the summer holidays. In 1981 I emigrated but my mother never stopped missing Hythe and we returned her ashes to Kent when she died in 2015. I now find myself engrossed, if not totally submerged, in finding out about my history and who my ancestors were. It’s very much a work in progress and I am developing the picture every day so please forgive me if I have made a mistake somewhere below.
Unfortunately I so far have only sketchy records for my Grandad’s movements from 1911 through to when I knew him in the 60’s though I remember they may have lived in Zulu cottages in Sellindge and another old thatched house (I think it was Primrose cottage) which I am still trying to find out about. Anyway, after the great war and a period of low employment and poor opportunity, my Grandad secured a job on the railway, probably with the help of his father in law who already worked there. After many years moving around and living in various lovely villages such as Marden, Aldington and Stanford he eventually became a Ganger on the Sellindge to Sandling section. It was an important job because it was a fast stretch of line which carried the boat trains, the Blue train and the Golden Arrow. When he retired, or maybe even before he retired since, I am not clear on the date, the Railways apparently let him live in 1 Station Cottages with wife Freda and daughter Jean who lived with them. I think it was likely in the mid to late 40’s but I cannot find the 1939 census for him at this time. As I see how much Fagg history is in Stanford, I wonder whether that was luck or design, but knowing how things worked in those days and a bit about my Grandad’s character, I think it may have been design.
Those cottages did indeed have a communal outside block of toilets which were not a pleasant experience for an eight-year-old from the city I can assure you. There was a path that led down the side of the cottages over which the conservatory was later built and down that path at the bottom was the toilet block. You can imagine it was a long path in the dark for a young boy and it wasn’t a lot of fun when you got there either.
If you can imagine that path going all the way to the top of the garden to meet the road then you can imagine it separated a big garden from the houses. On that garden next to the path the cottages all had their sheds. My Grandfather’s shed was built from railway sleepers and it was a wonderland inside for a young boy, old tools and wonderful old things which all had a purpose I suppose, but the smell of wood, dust, vinegar, onions and wine stays with me till today. But the best thing was the shelves full of Piccalilli, beetroot, pickled onions and endless (it seemed) bottles of every type of wine. Parsnip, potato, rice, blackberry, plum ….. the list was endless too. Behind that shed was another small shed where the onions were hung up to dry. I remember there always seemed to be a rabbit or a pheasant in there hanging to cure, although I expect it was actually a rare occurrence. My Grandfather used to walk every day for miles with his Jack Russell Sally and I learnt so much from him about wildlife, flowers, birds and butterflies and many things that other kids didn’t even understand. He gave me a love of nature that lasts till today and I am sure I soaked up his unique personal style and way of interacting with people without even knowing it. I believe he would pick up the occasional pheasant as a casualty from the railway. In those days it was electrified but it was a “third rail” so I don’t know whether they were hit or electrocuted. The railway embankment behind the cottages was full of slow worms, lizards and mice and kept me amused for hours on end.
Behind the second shed was the vegetable garden and it must have been a 1/4 of an acre and full of every type of vegetable that you can imagine. Finally, at the bottom of the garden was the chicken shed full of birds which he used to call pullets and bantams whatever they were exactly I never really knew.
Same with the front garden, full of stuff you could eat as well as his prize roses. As if that was not enough garden, over the other side of the car parking next the bridge and railway, my grandfather had more vegetables, tomatoes, fruit trees, cherries, apples and plums in particular. If it sounds like a wonderland for a young boy, it’s because it was, and I loved it there.
You asked about a wash house but I don’t remember that although it may have been in the original layout. The washing was done in a small room next to the front door where there was a copper and a wringer that my Gran used to use. Inside the house, you are correct, as you went in there was a coal fire facing you (I can still hear the tick tock of the grandfather clock, the chirp of the budgies and also smell the camp coffee and baking) and turning immediately left, you went into the kitchen with a sink, table and a wood/coal fired range. Coal was likely free in the early days because you just picked it up or otherwise borrowed it from the railway. My Grandmother was an excellent baker as a I recall and the roast dinners were always good as were the salads and cake. The stairs to the first floor were steep and went up the front wall of the house (on your left) and under the stairs was a cool pantry full of more wonders; camp coffee, carnation milk, tins of biscuits, home-made cakes and multiple jars of preserves. I don’t recall there being a fridge at all. Upstairs on the left was my Aunt Jean’s bedroom where I slept and forward was into my grandparent’s bedroom. And that was it really.
My Grandfather used to tell a story about him pulling a pilot out of a crashed and burning Hurricane (?) in a field in Stanford or maybe Sellindge and I remember seeing a spitfire model supposedly carved from a piece of Perspex taken from the cockpit window. I understood that the Pilot died but do you have a record of that event? There was an article in the Kentish Express on September 27th 1963 with his picture where he said about the Channel tunnel something like “they have been talking about it ever since I can remember”. It’s a full-page article and well worth a read. I am actually thankful that he didn’t see what they did to his beautiful piece of Kent since it brought me to tears and would have broken his heart. I believe Ted Fagg was a bit of a local character and well known in the Drum although I never got to go there with him. I remember helping out with hay bailing on a farm which I seem to remember was over behind the castle and racecourse. Another lovely experience, when people worked together to get the job done although I don’t suppose I was much help. My Granddad used to talk about the Southern family a lot (Joe Sothern maybe) and, if I remember well, that may have been his farm. Another memory was attending the race day at the racecourse where Grandad had a job in the cloakroom and I got in free. What a lucky lad I was.
There was a little post office/grocery shop in the village with special smell and where we used to go quite often but there wasn’t much else to do except explore the country side although, as I mentioned before, the trips to tend the garden and see the family in the rectory is another rich memory. Behind the railway station on the other side of the railway was a cricket field where I got my first exposure to cricket with him and some other locals. In those days, the station still had a station master and a waiting room and had such a strong smell of wood and tobacco and just railways that it is with me still today. On the Folkstone side of the bridge and Stanford side of the line was a big signal box in those days. I have such a strong recollection of all the levers and workings inside that signal box and the larrikin way that my Grandad interacted with the signal man as the trains thundered past the window just inches away.
A wonderful man in a wonderful part of the World that left a lasting impression on me. How lucky I am.”