DOWN MEMORY LANE Memories of growing up in city in another era...

It is some time now since I wrote the Down Memory Lane article on Rowe and Co in The Hornet.

And although I was sure Rowe’s would still be remembered by many people, I was amazed by the amount of interest it sparked!

Many people wrote in to the Observer with their memories and some contacted me directly at the Record Office.

One of the photographs accompanying the article showed the St Pancras entrance to the back of Rowe’s yard and also showed a number of shops and businesses.

This photograph caught the attention of Peter Howlett as it included his father’s general store and paraffin business (shown with the cinema advertisement displayed on the wall).

Mr Howlett contacted me and agreed to come into the Record Office so I could record his memories, which go back to his schooldays in Chichester in the 1930s.

I spent a fascinating morning listening to Mr Howlett talk about life in an area of Chichester I know well, but at a time that in many ways was quite different.

The family business was in St Pancras and he was brought up in a house in Oving Road, which his parents had bought for £300.

One of his earliest memories was of the cattle being driven through Portfield on market days and the old ladies dashing inside the nearest gate when they saw the herds coming through.

He also remembered watching the pre-mechanisation work at the gravel diggings in Portfield and playing in the old derelict gravel pit called the Ballast Hole, next to The Chequers pub where Arundel Park estate is now.

He remembered the boys sliding on the ice and lighting bonfires to keep themselves warm.

He also remembered, before the by-pass was built, there was a little farm (near where the traffic lights are now), which was owned by his friend Bob Grinstead’s father.

The boys used to often tease the goat on this farm until one day it caught them by surprise and charged them through the mud and dirt. He remembered getting ‘a good telling off’ when he got home!

Mr Howlett’s first school was Lindenau House, a small private school in North Street.

He then attended the High School for Boys with his brother Basil, who had been one of the first pupils to go to there when it opened in 1930.

He remembers that all the time he was at the school there was building work going on, with the addition of a hall, a library, a gymnasium and science labs.

He also could name all the teachers and the subjects they taught, including ‘Fishy’ Scales, the history master and ‘Dutchy’ Holland, the very tall geography master (known among the boys as 6ft of misery!).

There were four houses named after Bishops of Chichester – St Wilfrid, St Richard, Sherbourne and Storey (the Howlett boys were both in Storey).

The business in St Pancras sold sweets, tobacco, cigarettes, butter, sugar, dried fruits, soda (for washing clothes) and hardware items.

In addition they kept a 200-gallon tank of paraffin in the garage next to the shop and Mr Howlett’s father and uncle used to take turns driving around the countryside delivering paraffin to the areas that still did not have electric lighting.

When the shop wasn’t busy, they used to make up packets from heavy-duty blue paper and weigh out the sugar and fruits into half-pound and pound packets. They would then mark them with a bit of chalk, ‘c’ for currants, ‘s’ for sultanas etc.

Soda was very cheap and so was put into newspaper cones instead of the blue bags.

Mr Howlett Snr used to work six days a week all year round, but in the summer he hired a bungalow at Wittering so the family could have a holiday and he joined them in the evenings after work.

There was an agent at Wittering and many other local family businesses did the same thing.

Mr Howlett remembers staying at The Bungalow (an old wooden building with a veranda), another in Longlands Road called Venesta, one made up of old railway carriages in Tamarisk Walk, and his favourite, which had a thatched roof and was at the end of Shore Road.

The family all attended Portfield Church. Mr Howlett Snr was in the choir and was churchwarden and Mrs Howlett was in the Mother’s Union.

Basil and Peter were servers, but were also expected to do any other tasks, which ranged from getting the old coke stove going to heat the church to playing the organ for the service!

Mr Howlett remembered that at harvest time the choirboys were told if they turned up for both the morning and evening service, they could choose an apple from the display.

He also remembered that on Mothering Sunday the children would join hands to ‘embrace Mother Church’ as the vicar Reverend Tanner would say.

The double doors would be opened and by going through the vestry an unbroken ring would be formed.

He remembered ‘the kiddies used to have posies for the mothers and it was quite a jolly affair’.

Mr Howlett had many other memories, including the time he spent as a St John Ambulance volunteer during the second world war. He attended the scene of the bombing of Chapel Street and the Liberator crash.

A full transcript of Mr Howlett’s memories (WSRO Ref MP/6140) can be seen at the Record Office.

Susan Millard, Assistant Archivist, West Sussex Record Office