Seven Dials Vignettes

Concluding The Whistler archive interview from 1980 with Charles Attwater, who lived in West Hill Place

I married in 1934 and our first home was a flat in 85 or 87 Buckingham Road.

By then I had finished my apprenticeship, gained experience and started my own business as a French Polisher. I had a workshop in Guildford Road. It’s not there now, it’s a block of flats. In 1941 I became Churchwarden at All Saints under Father Cockerill and was then living in Goldsmid Road.

The Dramatic Group started in 1943, with 18 members, of which only 4 or 5 were men as it was always difficult to get men. We used to put on concerts as well as plays. Our organist, Henry Duke, was very well-known as a pianist. He played at the Grand Hotel with his trio. Henry wrote a lot of music and we performed his sonata for violin and piano as our first concert at the West Hill Hall. We set up the Hall with individual tables and we served tea and coffee and what-have-you. Henry gave some pianoforte solos, then his sonata and the violinist, called Woolf, gave some violin solos and it was a whole evening’s entertainment. The Argus came up and reported it and twitted us for a mistake in the programme: we had typed them and put “For the Choirboy’s Christmas Party” and The Argus said, “We hope he enjoyed it!” We also had play-readings. The Church was basically the community centre in those days. We had no money; we used to build and paint our own scenery; the lighting was wired from plugs at the back of the stage and we made our floodlighting from gallon tins, very shiny they were, and we fixed the lamps in there and had them flooding down, and we had two or three of those along the front of the stage as well. Those four gas heaters, which are still there, were all we ever had in the way of heating.

Perhaps winters were milder then, but there were some cold ones too. Summers seemed to be hotter. We used to go to the beach for bathing a lot and there was much more sand. I think there has been a drift of shingle. There is a beach in Hove and I remember about 10 years ago opposite the Adelaide Ramp there were steps going down. Now they are completely covered with shingle. There were 12 steps and we had a great storm which washed away the shingle and then there were 18 more steps. Underneath there was the old wooden breakwater and sand. It was all sand right up to the wall. I remember walking almost all around the West Pier on sand. Practically every year at the Palace Pier the sea would go out so far that there used to be sand artists and they made pictures 5-10 yards square.

Are there fewer children in West Hill? If you’d asked me that 4 years ago I would have said ‘No’ but recently there do not seem to be so many playing in the streets. Looking back on my younger days I would say the community was more tied up in itself. People all lived and worked together, and made their own entertainment. It was in the days of the early gramophone and we mixed a great deal and gave parties. People would announce their parties and plan a month ahead and we would look forward to them and enjoyed them.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s