Archive for the ‘Len Strong’s Memories’ Category

Len Strong, of Alresford – long ago

It is with sadness that I need to record that Len Strong passed away in the last month, at his home in Derbyshire. He was 92 years old, and had recorded many of his memories of Alresford, where he grew up, on these pages, and other websites. His contributions were always well written and usually light hearted: maybe reflecting his character, but sadly I never met him.

You can read some of his stories on here, as he has his own listing, see “Len Strong’s Memories” on

Best wishes, RIP Len.

A day at the Seaside – by Charabanc!

Len Strong recalls memories of a drive to Southsea in Mr Vickers’ coach, known then as a “Charabanc”.

As far as I can recall I don’t think the workers had a mandatory annual holiday in the 30s. I know my dad never had a weeks holiday, he seemed to always be at work 52 weeks of the year except for the odd day off at Easter, Christmas etc, but one Whit-Sunday, Grandad hired a charabanc and took the whole family on a day trip to Southsea.

With my Aunts & Uncles, cousins, mum and dad and grandma and grandad we were about twenty-five in all. Mr Vickers who ran a bus service from the Dean in Alresford, provided the charabanc. Gran, Mum and Aunts provided a picnic lunch and dad put a hat-pin in his jacket lapel. When I asked him ,’what for’?, he said “That’s for my winkles!”.

We all piled aboard the old bus and settled down for the thirty odd mile journey to ‘Pompey’. After passing through Petersfield, and up over Butser Hill all our eyes were on the horizon to see who could be the first to catch a glimpse of the sea.

Finally we pulled up by Clarence Pier and disembarked all agog and anxious to get on the beach but had to be restrained till deck-chairs had been sorted for the ladies and Dad and Uncles had called at the shell-fish stall for a pint of whelks or winkles and we kids had persuaded parents to buy us a bucket and spade.

Eventually we got to take off our clothes and into our bathers and were able to run down the beach and into the sea with constant warnings of  ‘Don’t go in too far’ and ‘Watch that big wave’. The beach at Southsea is mainly pebbles and shingle so to make sand-castles we had to go right down to the water’s edge to find any sand which meant as fast as we made castles a wave came in and washed them away, but we enjoyed ourselves. Mum and several Aunts relaxed in their deck chairs and Dad and the Uncles used their hat-pins to prise the winkles from their shells, the sun shone and we all suffered from sunburn and all too soon it was five o’clock and Mr Vickers was calling, “time to go”.

On the way home we called at a pub “The West Meon Hut”. We kids had a packet of Smiths crisps with the little wad of salt in a blue paper and glass of lemonade and the grown-ups had their suitable refreshments and the rest of the journey was accompanied with an impromptu sing-song, ‘Show me the way to go home’, etc, and by the time we reached Alresford, most of we kids were fast asleep. Happy Days!!

Comment on the Scouts and Cubs in Alresford

Comment from Bill Biggs on Len Strong’s Scouts and Cubs in Alresford story:
Several of the Boy Scouts in the picture later became members of the Alresford Football Club. Bill points to a picture which is shown on the Alresford Heritage website, and is borrowed from them here, showing the Football team in 1949. In the back row on the left is Eric Biggs (Bill’s Dad), Eric Lane and Alfred Pearce. Eric Biggs was, like many others, in the local Fire Service during the war.
Les Strong, actually the cousin of Len Strong, and currently still living in Alresford, is on the left in the middle row: he was also in the Alresford Fire Brigade for most of his working life. Alongside Les are Alan Trimmear and Douglas Cox.
In the front row we have Harry White, Ted Tate, John Hillary, Ronald Clavelly and Ken Nutley. (These team names were provided by the late Mr Harry White).
The picture was taken at Alrebury Park, where the car park now stands.


Further pictures like this are available on the Alresford Heritage website – see the story on this blog, or go to

The Dean School in the 60’s

Bill Biggs adds to Len Strong’s memory of the Dean School:

The article by Len Strong is somewhat before my time as I only joined The Dean School in 1960 ………… however a couple of my most vivid memories were that when we had football (games) lessons we were marched through the streets all the way to Grange Road Recreation ground, which was the only football field in Alresford.

And then there was the swimming pool, located in the War Memorial garden, along the riverpath at the bottom of the Dean upstream to where we shared our swimming lessons with the local trout, because the pool was fed by the river through an open pipe.

Both swimming and football was taken by our teacher Mr Ginsberg……….. a no nonsense Welshman with a large ginger moustache.

In my day, the school caretaker was a large lady, called Mrs Foulkes….. who seemed to spend most of her day carrying buckets of coal around the school to the fires in the classrooms – this was the only form of heating we had there.

The Dean School in the 30’s

Len Strong writes about schools in Alresford in around 1930:

In the 1930’s, initial education in Alresford was at the primary school, located in the Dean – or on the other hand, if your parents could afford to pay, you went to Miss Curtis’s Alresford Preparatory School in one of the Mews off at the north side of West Street. This was known as A.P.S., or as we boys dubbed it, the “Alf Pound Sausage” school. I started school in the Dean at five years old under the watchful eye of a plump little lady, Miss Wiggins. When she noticed I was left-handed, she said, ‘We can’t have that Lennie, try and use your right hand’ but when I declined she tied my left hand to the chair with a scarf. I guess this would not be allowed today. Anyway, as a result of this treatment, I became ambidextrous.

We had mixed classes of boys and girls, although at ‘play-time’ we had separate play areas. We boys had our whips and tops, and played leap-frog and football: the girls had their hop-scotch and skipping ropes. As we progressed through the years, in different classes, under various teachers learning the three ‘R’s (reading, riting and rithmatic), we had periodic examinations – ie those by the visiting ‘nit-nurse’ to see if we had head lice.

I finally reached class six, which was taken by the head-master, Mr Jesty. He was a tall Cornish man and used to tell us of his plans to return to the West country when he retired. I don’t know if he made it, but a local road is named after him, in his memory. He was a good teacher and helped us to prepare for our 11-plus exams, with a view to going to college in Winchester. I passed OK but my parents couldn’t afford to send me. So I ‘progressed’ to Perins Senior Council school, which is another story.

The Dean school was closed when the new Sun Hill school was built and a development of bungalows is now on the site of the old Dean School, which is now known as ‘Mallard Close’.

Scouts and Cubs in Alresford

“Our Gang” Alresford Cub Scouts 1939
Back row: Miss Irvine Robertson, Cub mistress, Tony Osborne,
Frank Todd, Harry White, Arthur Cliff, Eric Lane
Middle Row: James (“Jimmy”) White, ?., John Todd,
Horace Todd, Alan Tremeer, Ron Deane
Front Row: Albert Brown, James (“Jimmy”) Underwood, Len Strong,
John Gilding, Alan Cliff, Dereck Chamberlain.

















Alresford Cub Scouts in 1939

There was a thriving Boy Scouts and Cubs brigade in Alresford prior to WW2. The Scout hut was quite a large building situated in the grounds of the Rectory in Sun Lane. There was also a swimming pool there, just a plain concrete affair about 60 feet square with a spring board and a high dive platform.

The Rector, the Rev A.J. Robertson was the scout-master, a big bearded Scot, and when he dived in the pool we boys used to say: “There goes the Titanic being launched again”. His sister, Miss Irving Robertson, was the Cub mistress and we learned all our ‘dib dib dibs and dob dob dobs’ from her. Plus how to tie reef- and grannie-knots. This was all part of my formative years.

Once a year we had a Scout Rally: for this we put on a swimming display, and after, on the rectory lawn, we staged short plays and sketches depicting Scout activities. This always brought in a good audience of Mums and Dads and other relatives anxious to see what there ‘little terrors’ got up to.

We had many Summer camps during our school holidays. Locally, we went under canvas in Avington Park, and once or twice we went to Hayling Island. There were no blow-up beds then, we slept on just a ground-sheet with a blanket for cover, under bell tents, all with our feet to the middle. We cooked our food in Billy-cans over a camp fire, mostly this was baked beans, washed down with a tin mug of smoky tea. But we survived.

The Rectory, Scout hut and pool are no longer there, they were demolished in the 1950’s to make way for housing, like many other sites around. Sad, that’s progress, but we have our memories to pass on to our Grand-children.

Memory submitted by Len Strong, August 2012

WW2 memories of Alresford

Len Strong says he was 14 at the outbreak of WW2, and sends his recollections of that time in Alresford:

“I remember the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, when he broadcast on the radio, at 11am on Sunday 3rd September 1939: “We are at war with Germany”. I was going for a walk with my mate, and Mum said ‘take your gas-mask’. So off we went with the little square cardboard boxes slung over our shoulders. At 14 years of age it all seemed a big adventure to us, not realising the terrible consequences that lay ahead.

With Dad, I joined the newly formed Home Guard, as a messenger boy. Our squad was under the command of the local solicitor, once a Captain, then he retired, and we paraded with a variety of ‘weapons’. One or two shot-guns came from local farmers, but mainly we had a mixture of pitch-forks and garden tools, plus a few home-made ‘cudgels’. We looked like a ‘right Dad’s Army’.

We mounted dusk and dawn look-outs for enemy parachutists, on top of the local water tower at the top of Jacklyns Lane, which is now demolished and has been replaced by a bungalow. Dad had a cudgel and I a garden fork – but if we had seen any enemy I would have run a mile.

After Dunkirk, the bombing started. My Mum was ill in bed and Dad and I used to stand looking out of the bedroom window at the searchlights sweeping the skies over Southampton and Portsmouth and hear the sound of the bomb bursts like distant thunder. One night a plane came low overhead and dropped a stick of incendiaries, which set fire to a bungalow in Salisbury Road, and then a high expolsive bomb – which exploded at nearby Pinglestone. The plane was obviously only ditching its load because it was in trouble, and then crashed on Bramdean Common. Next day some of my pals and I cycled over to view the wreckage, it was a Junkers 88, and the bodies of two of the crew were laid out on a tarpaulin and guarded by two soldiers. They were later given a full military funeral and buried in Alresford church-yard. I understand they were returned to their homeland after the war.

My Mum passed away in 1941, and left alone with Dad I became a bit of a tear-away, so when two of my mates, who were a bit older than me, got their calling-up papers, I said to Dad: “I’m going to join the R.A.F”. Of course he said I was too young, but I found my birth certificate and made a crude job of altering my birth date from 1925 to 1923, and then off I went to Southampton recruiting office and signed on. So at sixteen, I passed for eighteen, and became a member of H.M. forces: the rest, as they say, is history. And now in 2012, at 87, I thank God I am still around with my memories.”

Len Strong, August 2012