Sunday, 6 October 2013

What will I find in Brent Archives?

This time three days from now will find me in Brent Archives and I will have been there about eight hours. If I am lucky, I will have confirmation of some of the names I remember from growing up at 36 Swinderby Road in Wembley, where I lived from 1944 until 1966.

I will also know more about the family shop, which was on Wembley High Road from sometime in the 1890s until the mid-1930s and I will almost certainly be looking at old copies of The Wembley News, looking for stories and photographs relating to events I have vague memories of.

I am taking some things with me to see if Brent Archives would like them, including the photograph below, showing my great-grandfather Albert Howard (left, 2nd row) with other members of what was then the voluntary Wembley Fire Brigade. My Uncle Smiler (my mother's brother) was looked very much like him and when I last saw my first-cousin Derek Howard at a family funeral a few years ago I thought he also looked very much like our great-grandfather.

One of my other would-be deposits is a couple of copies of newsletters produced by members of Wembley South Young Socialists in 1964. I was a member from 1960 until I moved to South Harrow in 1966 and was, at various times, Branch Secretary and Branch Treasurer.

Looking at the copy again for the first time in a great many years, names and faces I had forgotten came tumbling out. They were enjoyable times and I am in contact with  three of people from my Young Socialists days, one of whom I will be staying with during my visit to London and Brent Archives.

Another item is a very colourful map of the 1924 Wembley British Empire Exhibition site, which describes Wembley as being in London, even though it was, until the county's abolition in 1965, part of Middlesex (and I know all the arguments about the fact that the county still exists for some purposes). Below are just a couple of sections.

Admission cost 1/6d (children half-price) and it ran from April–October 1924. Many of the buildings survived in the mid-1970s at least, the last time I took a wander around the old Wembley Industrial Estate as it had become known, looking with Susan for manhole covers bearing the legend, 'A E Howard & Sons – Sanitary Engineers' and we found a few, together with a few lions from 1924 exhibition halls guarding warehouse entrances.

This was a Wembley I never learnt about at school because in the 1950s schools didn't do local history. What I found out came from older family members and neighbours who, like my grandfather, lived in Wembley all their lives.

In yesterday's Guardian (5 October 2013) the comedian John Bishop was asked 'If you could go back in time, where would you go?'* He replied 'The 1950s, when the welfare state was making an impact and people were looking forward to the future.'

I understand perfectly. So much about the fifties coloured and shaped my life and if you were not there you might not be able to understand the optimism and how it still influences the way a great many people over sixty see the world.

One thing is for sure, I am not going to Brent Archive for a nostalgia-fest. I don't want to go back, but I do want to have some certainty about what I remember before I begin writing about life on Swinderby Road during the years I remember as a child and teenager. I want to make sure some of the people actually existed and that I put them on the right side of the street.

I know from the contacts because of this blog that some of my memories from the 1950s and early-60s are remarkably accurate. By this time come Wednesday I will know a lot more, so visit this blog again in a couple of weeks.


*Where would I go to if I could travel back in time?

1086 to go around parts of England with the men who had been commissioned by William The Conquerer to compile a record of all the property in his kingdom. The result became known as the 'Domesday Book'.

Where would you go?

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