Short Family of Artillery View

The Story of a Childhood Friendship

By Anne Burton

I first  became aware of the bungalow "Artillery View" when I met its youngest occupant in 1946 when we were both 7 years old. I was in Laindon High Road, shopping with my Gran (Jessica Devine) outside Sizer's the butchers one morning. My Gran greeted a lady who turned out to be Mrs Anne Short, accompanied by her little daughter, Sylvia.  Sylvia was attracted by my doll's pram and she told me afterwards as soon as she saw me she wished she knew me so we could play together and that is just what happened.

A friendship sprang from this early meeting which lasted all our school lives, although as often happens we rather lost touch after leaving school, just bumping into each other occasionally and I then moved to Norfolk in 1965. We met up again through Friends Reunited just a few years ago. Sylvia was a lovely little girl with gorgeous, curly, auburn hair. She had a vivacious, friendly nature and we sometimes got into scrapes, not really bad ones, just a bit mischievous. A whole gang of us got into trouble once when we played on the farmer's newly mown hay.   

Photo:Me with my mum Jessica and baby sister Nina.  Photo taken in  1947, the front garden of Spion Kop about a year after I met Sylvia.  Artillery View was just behind the Poplar trees on the right side of the picture.

Me with my mum Jessica and baby sister Nina. Photo taken in 1947, the front garden of Spion Kop about a year after I met Sylvia. Artillery View was just behind the Poplar trees on the right side of the picture.

Nina Humphrey

The Short family of "Artillery View" were among our closest neighbours. If, that is I climbed through the hedge at the southern boundary of "Spion Kop" onto the top field and ran up the path to a line of huge poplar trees. Situated the other side of the poplar trees was "Artillery View", whose front faced north overlooking Buckenham's cornfield, where Bourne Close now stands.

Photo:Annie & William Short amongst the fruit trees in the garden of Artillery View

Annie & William Short amongst the fruit trees in the garden of Artillery View

Sylvie Currington nee Short

The bungalow was owned by Sylvie's family and originally used, like many others, as a weekend retreat. The family had come from Bethnal Green to live permanently in Laindon after being evacuated to Somerset during the war. In 1946 the family consisted of Mr William (Bill) and Mrs Anne (Annie) Short and their five children, Billy, Rene, Joan, Roy and Sylvie. Roy was two or three years older than Sylvie, and therefore a schoolboy, but the older three seemed to me to be grown up; Bill being in the navy and Rene and Joan out to work. Roy kept pigeons and I believe still does.
Photo:Billy Short in the navy.

Billy Short in the navy.

Sylvie Currington.

Photo:Sister Joan (left) father William (middle) mother Annie (right) brother Roy (back). On holiday in Clacton.

Sister Joan (left) father William (middle) mother Annie (right) brother Roy (back). On holiday in Clacton.

Sylvie Currington

Photo:Grandma Sarah Wilkins (left) mother Annie (middle) Sylvie (right).

Grandma Sarah Wilkins (left) mother Annie (middle) Sylvie (right).

Sylvie Currington.

Sylvie's grandparents, Albert and Clara Wilkins lived in Seabright Street, Bethnal Green. The older children; Rene, Billy and Joan were evacuated to Somerset during the first part of the war. The house in West Ham where they were living was bombed so mother Anne, together with Roy and the baby Sylvie joined them in Somerset and lived there for 6 years, father Bill being in the army. He said he would desert if they didn't go. Whilst in Somerset Mother, Billy, Rene and Joan all worked on a farm whilst Roy and Sylvie just played. Sylvie can remember riding on the trailer going to the fields whilst the adults picked peas and other crops.

"Artillery View", a stonedashed wooden bungalow was a nice looking one, somewhat superior to the usual plotland dwelling and very neat and tidy. In fact Sylvie's mother, Annie kept their four roomed home in immaculate condition, even unto the dunny, which impressed me no end, as it always looked like it had been freshly whitewashed and scrubbed out. They even had real toilet paper instead of the squares of newspaper on a string, suspended from a nail like the rest of us.

Photo:William tending his lovely garden assisted by Flossie at Artillery View.

William tending his lovely garden assisted by Flossie at Artillery View.

Sylvie Currington

There was a vegetable garden and fruit trees and Sylvie's father Bill, had a lovely garden filled with giant dahlias.  Like most people, they kept chickens. Sylvie's first dog was a brown & white mongrel called Judy who was run over in Laindon High Road.
Photo:Teenage Sylvie with Flossie in garden of Artillery View.

Teenage Sylvie with Flossie in garden of Artillery View.

Sylvie Currington.

Then there was a wire-haired terrier called Floss and a red setter called Roma and later a German shepherd called Keesh. When Sylvie was a teenager, she had a horse called Blondin, which was stabled along Noak Hill Road. One day Blondin wandered away from "Artillery View" and made his way to "Spion Kop" and I was delighted to lead him back again.

When I met Sylvie four years ago after many, many years she had hardly changed and she still likes horse riding.

On Summer evenings we used to play on the top field and beyond, with neighbouring children and when is was time for Sylvie to go home, her sister Joanie would stand at the gap in the poplars and yell "Syl-VEEEEEE" which carried on the air like the shriek of a banshee and we would all know it was time to go home, grubby, covered in gnat bites, tired out and ready for bed. 

Games we played included Sevens with two balls up the wall, hand-stands up the wall, marbles and skipping games: "There's somebody under the bed, whoever can it be? I feel so shocking nervous I call my Sylvie in. First she lights the candle, then she turns the key, Anne go out, Anne go out, one two three" or "Teddy bear, Teddy bear touch the ground, Teddy bear Teddy bear turn around, Teddy bear, Teddy bear go upstairs, Teddy bear Teddy bear say your prayers, Teddy bear Teddy bear turn out the light, Teddy bear Teddy bear say goodnight"  Just a couple of the skipping games with actions that we played. Does anyone remember them?

The official way to "Artillery View" was via Devonshire Road. If you went up King Edward Road and turned right onto Devonshire Road and walked along, you would come to an unadopted area on the left, with a path, which lead to the bungalow. It puzzled  me as to how the bungalow got its name but my Dad (George Burton) told me that historically, when the army had to travel from Colchester to Tilbury, the route they took brought them very close to the bungalow and this, apparently is why it was so named. There certainly was a right-of-way alongside, which continued past 'Clemrich' (later re-named Tre-Pol-Pen) and along the back of the bungalows in Devonshire Road which, according to my brother (Dennis Burton) would take you to Laindon railway station if you followed it.

Sylvie was in the 1958 train crash. Fortunately the worst injuries that she and her fellow travellers suffered were black eyes as they were thrown forward by the impact but they were very shaken up.  It was so traumatic that she can't remember who was in the carriage with her but they scrambled up the bank; eventually got on another train (which understandably terrified Sylvie) and made it to Billericay and thence home. I can remember reading Sylvie's account in the local paper, where she said she had been terrified at the thought that the carriage might tip over. Unfortunately, some other people didn't get off so lightly, as has been related in other articles.

Eventually Sylvie's brother Roy married Jacqueline Stapleton, who was slightly connected to my family by the fact that her father's sister was married to my father's brother, so we had an aunt, uncle and cousins in common (Auntie Flo', Uncle Cyril and James and Alfred Burton). 

Sylvie married James Richards, remember Richards Dairy?, my second cousin. They had 3 children, Tracey, Cheryle and Jamie. There is something cosy about the inhabitants of close-knit neighbourhoods being connected/related. 

It is a huge regret of mine that I have no photographs of "Artillery View" and no photos of Sylvie at all. However, Sylvie herself has provided some of her old photos and therefore it is thanks to her that I am able to have a photographic record to accompany this article and thanks once again to my sister Nina for her help in putting them on. Thanks also to Sylvie for filling in one or two blanks for me.

Sylvie has very happy memories of her childhood in "Artillery View".  Like all of us, things that we take for granted nowadays were sometimes in short supply and the winters could be harsh, especially in the winter of 1947 and the big freeze which started the third week in January and carried on for six weeks into March. The snow was incredibly deep, it drifted, covering the hedges and then froze solid, making it possible for us to walk along the top of the hedges and it was the only time we were ever allowed to skate on the pond at "Spion Kop". It was perhaps the healthy innocence of those times, which will never come again, that in retrospect make us realise how lucky we were.

PS:  Any reminiscences of my childhood must contain references to Sylvie. Therefore she appears in all my memoirs to date.

Photo:Anne & Sylvie

Anne & Sylvie

Photo:Sylvie & Anne

Sylvie & Anne

This page was added by Anne Burton on 27/06/2011.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

I seem to have made a connection with the past reading this article. I posted an article about my mum's work days at the Bon Bon factory (Elizabeth Ellerby's work days). Nina replied to this and pointed me in direction of this article about the Short family as there's a link with the lady Joan Short. Whilst reading this article the name Roy Short came up as well, Roy was a very good friend of my dad (Ron) back in the seventies. They raced pigeons together and Roy would often be round at our house with dad talking about their birds (pigeons that is). Me and dad would often go to Roy's house at Danacre, Laindon, if I remember rightly. So I now know why mum got on so well with Roy she new his sister from the Bon Bon factory, I did not know this until now

By Barry Ellerby
On 20/02/2013

Anne and Nina, thank you so much for sharing your wonderful childhood memories.

By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell)
On 30/10/2011

Anne - Dear Sister. I remember well the skipping games that you and Sylvie played. I also remember “bumps”, using an individual skipping rope. Starting slowly, turning the rope once with each jump, then getting faster and jumping higher until we could turn the rope around twice with each jump. The rope made a whipping sound as it whizzed through the air and we would count how many “bumps” we could do before getting tangled in the rope or getting out of breath. We also skipped to “Mother bought a chicken but she thought it was a duck, so she left it in the kitchen with its legs tied up – there’s a boy over there and he winked his eye and he said I love you, but his telling a lie, ‘cause he's hair won’t curl and his shoes don’t shine and his got no money, so he can’t be mine”. I also remember a couple of games played in the school playground with two girls turning a long rope (purchased from one of the hardware shops in Laindon High Road). All those wanting to play would wait in a line and the first in the queue would “run in” and the singing would begin. (1) “Vote, vote, vote for dear old …….. who’s that knocking at the door? If it’s …….. we’ll let her in (next girl jumps in), and we won’t vote for …….. any more. Shut the door” (first girl leaves). (2) The girls would turn the rope slowly and the first in the queue would ‘run in’ and skip to ‘salt, mustard, vinegar, pepper’ or ‘nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and mace’ repeated over and over with the rope being turned faster and faster until the girl eventually caught the rope with her foot and had to ‘run out’ and join the end of the queue. The next girl in the queue would then run in and take her turn. Sometimes we would skip while repeating the words ‘matches - boxes’ over and over. Sometimes we used these skipping rhymes to guess what we were going to be wearing to our weddings. “Boots, shoes, wellingtons, clogs.” “Silk, satin, cotton, rags.” “Car, taxi, wheelbarrow, dustcart.” We played this over and over laughing at the different combinations. I don’t think any of us arrived to be wed in a wheelbarrow, wearing wellingtons and rags! When our daughter Michelle started school in the mid seventies, she told me a skipping game that she and her friends played at Chowdhary School. One girl turning the rope and another skipping in front of her, doing all the actions. “I’m a girl guide, dressed in blue, these are the actions you must do, salute to the captain, bow to the queen, show your knickers to the football team” (bending forward and throwing the skirt of her dress up at the back. That made me chuckle, but I know my mother would have had a fit if I had ever done that one! I wonder what skipping games the girls play these days, if any. Our mothers despaired at how quickly all that skipping wore out our shoes but I can’t help thinking it was a much healthier pastime than sitting glued to a computer screen as so many children do these days. Do you remember :- “One potato, two potato, three potato four. Five potato six potato seven potato more” and “Dip dip dip, my little ship, sails on the ocean, your not it”. I remember the game ‘sevens’ played with two balls against a wall and also “Over the garden wall, I let the baby fall; mother came out, gave me a clout, I asked her who she was bossing about, she gave me another to match the other, over the garden wall”. These games were played with colourful Sawbo balls, which were heavy, rubbery and bouncy, just perfect. I doubt if they are available these days but the memory of those rhymes and games are well worth recording for the future.

By Nina Humphrey (née Burton)
On 30/10/2011

The last two photos were taken on 6th August 2011 just over 65 years since we first met.

By Anne Burton
On 10/08/2011

I also remember Sylvie and her horse Blondin. I always wanted a horse, I would go to bed and pray that my dad would buy one for me. How we could keep it in our council house garden didn't occur to me. I would sit on our gate and wait for Sylvie to come up the road then ask if I could go home with her to see the horse. There were time when she said yes, and I went and groomed Blondin, never never being allowed to sit on his or her back. Great days.

By Jean Rowe née Pattle
On 06/07/2011

I had a note from Sylvie about Blondin (her horse) and copy it below: Blondin used to go to the neighbour's garden and eat their hollyhocks. I can remember Mum calling "Sylvie, get up, your flipping horse has got out again".

By Anne Burton
On 02/07/2011
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