Centenary celebrations for the national Women’s Institute in September 2015 attracted widespread media coverage. Some readers may also know of the Middlesex Federation of Women’s Institute’s 75th Anniversary publication entitled Middlesex: Within Living Memory, a collection of members’ life experiences published in 1996.
An un-named lady, for example, shares her childhood memories of The Great Wood Scramble of 1928 at Shepperton Green. Along Watersplash Road at that time there were only ten buildings (including the Hope Public house and St John’s Mission Church).. She recalls that “……..looking between these buildings the trees of a vast orchard could be seen. This great orchard was known to us as Leonard’s Fields.
The area it covered ran from Laleham Road on one side, the whole length of Watersplash Road, then following the path of the river Ash (known to all as The Splash ) to Charlton Road. Around 1928 the whole area was taken over by a market garden company called Barker’s. … ”
Modern equipment soon uprooted acres of trees. The disposal of timber became a problem. This was resolved “…..by inviting anyone wanting wood to come and get it. Everyone used wood for fires and although the coalman delivered coal each week at 2s 6d per hundredweight, extra free wood was a cheap alternative”
Local residents seized this heaven-sent opportunity. “Soon the area was crowded with industrious people working with saws and axes of all descriptions. It was a real family affair, everyone helping out, although not necessarily with each other. Everyone seemed to want plum which experts said burned better.” The weather was hot and sunny The work was arduous; the supply of uprooted trees unrelenting. There was a real sense of urgency.
Local people worked in the evenings and at weekends. “I was just seven at the time. I remember holding the end of the cross cut (saw) to keep it steady as my father worked away. Father filled the barrows and the boys took them home to unload. ….our shed was soon filled to capacity.”
Clearance was completed in about three weeks: “….. only piles of sawdust remained……..all the roots from the apple and plum trees had been burned leaving nothing behind but the charred earth. …………Mr Barker must have been happy with the situation. I suppose he was a bit of a philanthropist…I’m sure that if the same thing happened today a contractor would be involved and the public kept out.”
What then happened to this agricultural land? It was ripe for development. By1934 a grid of new roads – aptly named Wood Road, Squires Road, Horne Road and Ash Road – covered the area. Building plots had been designated, two-thirds of which were developed. Fragments of the orchard still remained.
Do any readers have memories of this housing development? I’d be delighted to speak to them (01932 788028)