Aileen Warren, who grew up in Tupsley, Hereford, in the Fifties, shares some golden memories of her childhood in the city

ON a recent visit to Leominster my husband bought a Hereford Times for me as he always does when in the county.

Reading the local news evokes many happy memories of my childhood in Tupsley from 1954 to 1960.

My family moved into a brand new semi in St Paul Road. It was one of the first to be finished and the site was littered with stacks of new bricks, sand, bags of cement and wood piles.

A small hut housed the nightwatchman (my sister Hilary and I called him 'the Owl') from where he surveyed his domain, warmed by a small brazier easily visible from our landing window.

As the houses were completed families moved in and we soon found a large number of playmates who became friends – Valerie, Janet, Sheila to name but three.

Catching newts in quarry playground

The nearby quarry provided a backdrop to our games, sliding down the 'mountains' vacated by the now defunct sand and gravel workings, trees in abundance to climb and ponds aplenty to catch newts and frogs with improvised nets.

Hereford Times: Aileen Warren's school photo from 1960.Aileen Warren's school photo from 1960.

We traipsed the lanes and byways on those idyllic sunny days with jam sandwiches and a plastic flask of dandelion and burdock, spending hours searching for caterpillars and lizards to bring home and ultimately fail to keep as pets (they always escaped the shoe boxes and enamel bowls intended as their homes).

Tupsley was an underdeveloped village back then. There were fields for miles onwards from the bottom Wellington Place, with just an occasional cottage dotted here and there.

This verdant vista was our playground, disturbed only by 'Freddie Fly', the farmhand who yelled from his bike "Get out of there, you're trampling the hay".

We lay motionless in the grass until he had gone, pretending that he was calling to someone else, and then resumed our games.

Conkers were in abundance in the bottom corner of the field. We took them home to cook them to increase their strength (no, it didn't work!).

There was a wooden milk-churn stand at the gateway to the farm where we sat and swapped cigarette cards, only to be shouted at from afar to get down.

There was little on the horizon except the isolation hospital and the horizon of woods behind Mordiford in the distance as the backdrop.

Dandelion and burdock, and marbles in the gutter

St Paul's VA Junior School was a magical place. A Victorian set of buildings approached by a drive where primroses and celandines grew.

Names of the teachers flood back – Miss Bickerton, Mrs Crisp, Mr Gage were my favourites.

Mrs James's class was in the room that housed the school bell. There was a long, thick rope which swung from above and each child in turn was given the opportunity to ring it for playtime. I rang it once and we all rushed out into the yard to play 'It', 'Hide and Seek' and 'Queenie'.

The school day began with scripture when we were told Bible stories such as the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Sower and, of course, the Nativity.


The Vicar, Rev Lewis, a somewhat rotund and serious man, periodically visited the classroom and subsequently we children were accompanied, in regimented rows of two abreast, up the path (we were reminded Do Not Step On The Grass) to the church for short services and further instruction.

On my journey back to school after lunch at home, when the weather was hot, I would sit on the kerb on Hampton Dene Road and play marbles in the gutter, bursting the bubbled-up tarmac mini volcanoes with my index finger and then failing miserably to get the residue off in time for lessons.

I waited at the gate for the bell to ring before being permitted to enter school premises. From there one could smell the stench of cabbage which had been served up for school dinners – not my favourite aroma.

I would take a Black Jack from my blazer pocket and keep it in my cheek most of the afternoon to assuage effects of the pong.

Fur hat that scared living daylights out of mum

As a 50s child I appreciated the simple pleasures – sitting on the front door step with The Beezer, The Bunty or the New Hotspur swapped from my school friend Louise, and a bag of liquorice confections, a lookalike pipe, some red shoelaces or a sherbet dip.

Hopscotch was a favourite game – you needed only chalk and stones and a flagged pavement (failing that you drew your own pitch).

We replayed the television shows popular back then, Champion the Wonder Horse, Cisco Kid, Hawkeye. Improvisation was key as props cost money. One afternoon we acted out Davy Crockett. Local boy John left his prized fur hat in our garage only to later scare the living daylights out of my mother who swore it was a dead cat.

Sunday School outings to Porthcawl with afternoon tea on a trestle table (can't remember much about the food). It was probably most kids' only visit to the seaside and the highlight was a visit to the fair.

The Caterpillar, Over The Falls where you ended up being bounced down an incline on rollers covered with tarpaulin, and the toffee apples are what I remember with glee, as well as the journey home singing Old MacDonald and One Man Went to Mow only to find I had dropped off and we were back at base.

The May Fair in High Town was a standout occasion. The candy floss, the boxing booth where anyone could take on a brute of a fellow and win – was it £5? The whole of the city and surrounds seemed to be there and access to town was curtailed while the organ played and merry-go-rounds, coconut shy and hoop-la whiled away the evening. I always came home with a goldfish in a glass bowl and a paper snake on a stick.

Hereford Times: Aileen Warren, her sister Hilary, and two friends set off on a hike to Mordiford in the 1950sAileen Warren, her sister Hilary, and two friends set off on a hike to Mordiford in the 1950s

One wink and he'd be up and gone!

My favourite day was Wednesday – market day. My father was market superintendent back then and I loved nothing more than the getting the bus into town to the Shirehall, walking through the Butter Market with its toy stall with multitudinous tin- plate toys run by Mr Elcox and through and out past the grain stores before reaching the market site with the Newmarket pub on the left and the man selling quack medicines on the right.

We briefly stopped by the fly pitcher. He hadn't paid a rent and set up his stall on an upturned suitcase with a small board atop; rows of wristwatches lay awaiting new owners. You had to be quick as sure as heck someone in authority would cotton on, the lookout tipped the would-be trader the wink, he quickly slid the goods into a bag, grabbed the suitcase and scarpered.

The market was heaven in those days, filled with farming types, country wives, spivs and gentry alike. The smell of the livestock, the lowing, the grunting and the bleating all combined with the intermittent auctioning of various animals and equipment was mind blowing to a youngster, and I took it all in.

Occasionally my dad would take me to watch a sale in the bull ring. This was a fairly small affair with a large oak at its centre round which the animals were paraded. I found the sound of the auctioneer quite indecipherable and the bidding was so fast I almost missed it.

The stone steps from which the farmers and herdsmen viewed were deep, too much so for me to climb easily. The atmosphere was electric. The market was a real country event with everything from a bone china dinner services with gamebirds decoration to luminous pink and green socks, jeans from the USA, hammers, nails and buckets and endless supplies of animal feed and country clothing.

The cafe sold the most delicious Chelsea buns accompanied by huge kerbstone mugs of strong tea and dandelion and burdock in bottles.

Sunday morning pictures at the Odeon

When we weren't playing cowboys and indians or whittling bows out of fallen branches we would walk down to the Salmon Inn for a packet of Smiths Crisps (with a blue packet, with twisted top, of salt inside). Off-sales were from a hatch which opened onto the grounds and we were served by our friend Ann's mother, Beryl Smith, a part-time barmaid. The walk back up Old Eign Hill on the way back was a killer!

Saturday morning pictures at the Odeon was a rare treat. The queue was noisy and lengthy but it was worth it because you got Pearl and Dean adverts, an Edgar Allan Poe supporting film followed by whatever Children's Film Foundation was today's offering AND Pathe News! The noise created by an auditorium of screaming children was something to behold.

A walk down Church Road to Staines' shop was a weekly excursion. All manner of goodies were on offer – jamboree bags, Cadbury's chocolate at a penny, tuppence or threepence and Palm toffee to name but some.

We paddled in the Wye and played rounders on Bishops Meadow and picnics were a highlight. We watched the firework display there each November or spent that evening on the Quarry ground, placing potatoes in the embers of the fire for consumption some time later that night.

Thanks for the memories, Hereford

So, Hereford has many happy memories. It was indeed a sad day when my family upped sticks and moved to London. I left behind all my friends, a wonderful primary school and an idyllic, rural childhood.

Thanks for the memories! My childhood stood me in good stead for the shock of suddenly finding myself in the capital of the country, which changed my life forever!