A little bit of Abbey Wood history by the Peck sisters – Jean, Georgina, Joan.
We moved to Abbey Wood from Kennington in 1960. We were staying in private rental accommodation which was due for demolition and were offered a house on the Estate in Abbey Wood. There were still some sandwiches in the kitchen drawer left by one of the builders. Mum was very sad at having to leave her home. We were used to the busy atmosphere of London – its local markets, Lambeth Walk, East Lane, nearby bridges and tourist attractions were normal to us. Here we were in a desolate looking place, full of mud and building sites, our back garden was full of Marshland reeds and consisted of dried up mud. The Estate was still being built and we were in the middle of it.
Mum was crying upstairs and looked out the window. A lady walked past the window and Mum recognised her. It was Sheila West. she had also moved from Kennington and although Mum didn’t know her very well it was good to see a familiar face. Mum called out to her and they chatted. At last a sign of hope.
Across the road from us was the Post Office. It was a little wooden shack. Our local shop was a co-op mobile round the back of our block.
Next door to us were some flats and in one of the flats lived a Mum and her boy twins. Their Mum was in a wheelchair and one day she fell over indoors. She called out for help and Mum heard her. Mum phoned for the Doctor (Harold Troughton) and he came round even though the lady wasn’t on his register.
Jean still went to school in Kennington and Dad used to take her on the back of his motor bike. Georgina had to go to Gallons Mount School for about a year which was in Plumstead because the local Junior School was being used by Secondary School pupils who were waiting for the new Secondary School to be built. Once the school was built pupils were able to move along to their correct schools. Georgina then went to Boxgrove School, Abbey Wood, then Abbey Wood Secondary School. Joan went to Boxgrove School, then Abbey Wood School.
Abbey Wood School was a very modern Secondary Comprehensive School. It had up-to-date Educational equipment. There was a very advanced Science Laboratory with Science stations for the pupils to use for their experiments; a Language Laboratory with individual cubicles for each pupil with recording equipment and headphones. The Language teacher could listen in to each pupil during the lesson through her own headphones. Georgina did French for six years and German for one year. Joan did French for five years. The Art Department had various Art equipment, including screen printing and pottery wheels. There was a furnished flat in the Cookery Department. There were six kitchen units where pupils could prepare their food and were encouraged to prepare, cook, eat and then clean everything up. Pupils were also taught housekeeping and did washing and ironing.
There was also a swimming baths owned by Abbey Wood School and people from the local community were able to use it for swimming lessons. Our Mum was taught to swim there and Georgina belonged to the swimming club. Upstairs was a basketball court.
Every now and then horses would be seen running round the Estate. As children there was lots to explore. We used to ride our bikes or skates exploring the building sites that were not being built on. We played in the woods. Georgina and her friends used to go in some chalk mines (not that their parents knew). The chalk mines were entered by a small pot hole that you had to crawl along until you wriggled through to stand up in huge mines. They used to play run outs and hide and seek. As children we had no fear. We felt safe.