Around the end of 1958 the family left the semi-detached house in Ledwell Drive, Glenfield and prepared to move into a brand new house in Braunstone South near the Narborough Road in Leicester.
The house wasn’t ready until the following Spring so for a few months we lived with my grandparents in Cleveleys Avenue close by. What I remember most about living there was getting a train set for Christmas.
Christmas morning in the front room there was a square metre of sapele board and a simple circle of track, an engine a tender and two coaches in British Rail burgundy livery. There was a level crossing, a station and a bridge made out of an old shoe box that dad had cut out and made himself. He was good at making things for Christmas presents and at about the same time I had a fort with some US cavalry soldiers that was made out of an old office filing box that he had constructed into a pretty good scale copy of Fort Laramie or wherever, later I had a replacement fort, this time from the toy shop but it was never as good as the cardboard box.
Early in 1959 we moved to the new house in Chislehurst Avenue.
In the early twentieth century Braunstone remained a small settlement until 1925 when the Leicester Corporation compulsorily purchased the bulk of the Winstanley Braunstone Hall estate in what was known as Leicester Forest. Today the nearby service station on the M1 motorway is called Leicester Forest East Services.
Building commenced in the late 1920s and between 1936 and 1939 the estate of North Braunstone was built to accommodate families moving from slum housing within the city which were being demolished. When the poorer families had lived in the centre of the city there had been an appropriate infrastructure to support the community but none of these facilities were provided on the new estate. It was generally assumed that providing better housing conditions was a complete solution by itself. Some of the poorest of families from Leicester moved into the North Braunstone Estate and the concentration of these particular low paid and needy families earned the estate the title of ‘Dodge City’.
I mention this in a snobbish sort of way because Chislehurst Avenue is in South Braunstone which is a middle class, private ownership area where even today the residents take care to cling on to a separate identity from that of the social housing area of North Braunstone.
I have always been curious about the name. I assume that it was named after the town of Chislehurst in Kent because the neighbouring streets were Brokenhurst and Ashurst (Hampshire), Fieldhust (Berkshire), Fenhurst (West Sussex) and Stonehurst (Leicestershire). Naming of new roads and streets has to be approved by the local authority and that is why they are not always very imaginative. When I worked for a Council I remember a long conversation by the Members over the proposed name of Apple Pie Court which after an hour or so of tedious debate was eventually rejected as unsuitable.
There are a number of Chislehurst Avenues in the UK and two in Australia. The first is in Stratham, Western Australia, south of Perth and the second is over the other side of the country in the town of Figtree, south of Sydney in New South Wales.
We lived at Chislehurst Avenue for just over a year. Dad built a new rockery, I made friends with John and Michael Sparks who lived opposite, had my fifth birthday and started going to school at the Ravenhurst Primary where my first teacher was Miss Bird. Dad continued to cycle fifteen miles each way to work in the town of Hinckley.
This was not sustainable of course and in the winter of 1960 it became too much for him and he had to concede that he might have to consider leaving his beloved home town of Leicester. The only sensible thing to do was to move closer to his work so in the Spring the house was put up for sale and probably two years later than they should have done my parents prepared to move to Hinckley.
In 1960 a visit to the hairdresser was obviously regarded as an unnecessary expense and the basin cut was the fashion…