Down Derek's Memory Road

A look back at life in Putney over the past eighty five years


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Derek Wood has lived in Rotherwood Road, off the Lower Richmond Road, all his long life (he was born in 1934). More than that, his father’s family moved into the house in 1892. Derek and his mother bought the property and its freehold in 1963 for the princely sum £1700.

Derek Wood

So, one way and another he has seen changes. Not least he has memories of when he was 11, on VE day 1945: “We had tables out at the bottom of the road,most of the houses had flags and bunting out, I still have the Union Jack we used, its a bit faded. Someone bought out a drum kit and another a piano so there was singing and dancing. I remember one lady wearing a sailors suit. But mostly I remember my father taking me up to Buckingham Palace and putting me on his shoulders so I could see the King and Churchill.”

Derek was educated at Hotham, Elliot and Wandsworth Schools. His last job was in the membership department of the BMA. He just failed his 11 plus but his mother lobbied hard to get him moved up to the prestigious grammar school.

Derek remembers with fondness the sweet shop run by Miss Burland on the corner of Farlow and Lower Richmond Roads - now AH Peck Flooring. Here, for the then young lad, was a treasure trove of giant jars of gob stoppers, chocolate toffees, humbugs, lemon drops and sherbet dips. He remembers the short grey haired lady with glasses.

Also there are memories of when horses were common. Not just the Youngs brewery drays which delivered in the last twenty years to the Dukes Head and the Half Moon and the rag and bone men but the United Dairies which had its depot opposite what is now Wills Art Gallery. At a time 1940-60 when most had milk delivered it was by a horse drawn float. As well,where today there is a small antique shop opposite the Star and Garter there was Woodwards greengrocers who used to deliver by horse and cart. Also a major users of horses were the dust cart collectors whose depot was based at the end of Ashlone Road, now a small housing estate.

Derek a very lively 85 year old,until recently still doing yoga can remembers so much. During the War the air raid shelter next to where the 22 bus turns. On that Common there also flew a barrage balloon, similar balloons flew on Bishops and Wandsworth Parks. But he was of an age when the heavy snowfall of 1940 made as much impression as the blitz.

One of the characters that has stuck was the bearded Mr Beesly who was a well spoken tramp who lived on the Common for ten years and lived on hand outs from the locals not least from the German bakery Guthiels which was next to what is now Hudsons wine bar. Also remembered was Mr Francis with his strange teeth and thick glasses, doubled over with his sack, who was the Rotherwood postman all through the 40s and 50s. There was Mr Wallace the decorator from Salvin Road who young Derek never forgot wore a homburg hat and whose invoices were in perfect copper plate. Another well remembered, who made her name, Eileen Lecky, whose clinic still stands at the end of Clarendon Drive:”On a bicycle, grey haired wearing an air force uniform, a real gentlewoman, rather posh who lived in Deodar Road,she got an MBE for helping the poor.”

Derek Wood was talking to his friend and near neighbour Hugh Thompson

May 19, 2020

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