Langley Vale Remembered

Photo of Epsom, from Langley Bottom 1927, ref. 79663
Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Epsom, from Langley Bottom 1927

I moved to Langley Vale in 1952. Before this we lived just outside Croydon. My dad was a police sergeant at Epsom police station and we were given a house in Beaconsfield Road. My first view of the village was walking from the bus stop in Grosvenor Road to our new house. I was excited by the fact that there was a proper bathroom, no more tin baths and Mum must have appreciated having a boiler which gave hot water when required. There were several semi-detached houses and our neighbours were the Meadows and the Robinsons. I don't think that all the neighbours were stationed at Epsom and remember Dad being thought of as the village bobby. Another neighbour, Mr Clarke, was a walker and anyone living there at the time will remember his training. Behind the houses were stables and a large paddock. These were used by mounted police during race meetings. The paddock was full of cowslips in the spring, still a favourite of mine, and blackberries in autumn. One of the things I loved about the village was the horses. There were several stables in the village and you would see strings of them going off to the gallops twice a day.

I don't suppose it happens now but schools must have been closed at least for the Derby because I remember going up with my mum to watch. There were always men there willing to tell you the winner, for a price! The Tic-Tac men fascinated me and although I could not understand their signal, the bookies must have. (Click here for the BBC guide to Tic Tac) It wasn't the races that were the main attraction for us children but the fair. There were rides, stalls that you could win a goldfish on, gypsies who would read your palm and vans that held auctions. The one I remember had china that one man would balance and throw up in the air to attract more people to start bidding.

I didn't spend long at the village school as I went to grammar school at the start of the academic year, but I did make some good friends one of which I'm still in touch with, Kate Penfold, as she was then. I loved to spend time on the Downs looking for wild flowers and grasses, probably because they were all new to me, and always felt safe, but we all did then. I was quite a tomboy and my favourite tree was a huge beech that was opposite the cafe that was either at the top of Grosvenor Rd or Rosebery Rd.

It seemed that everyone knew everyone else, which as a teenager I didn't appreciate as it seemed that everyone reported what I did to my dad and I never did anything too silly. You didn't dare! Today, however, I could wish that all neighbourhoods had that sort of caring. I spent less than ten years in Langley Vale but still when people ask me where I came from I say it was there.

Text courtesy of Sheila Leonard