Based on childhood recollections
of working class life in north London in Edwardian times.
When I was a child in the early 1900s no family in our road on the
Huxley Estate went away in the school
holidays as far as I know. Our family certainly didn't because there wasn't
the money for it. However we children had a very free childhood and we could
more or less do as we pleased outside the house. So we spent a lot of time out
Play out of doors in good weather
We were entirely happy to go off for a whole day at a time, and our parents
never seemed to be concerned about danger. We would wander where we pleased,
taking our sandwiches with us. There was never anything particularly exciting
in them, either paste or jam, and we also had an apple or any other fruit that
happened to be around. Some days we might be given a halfpenny or a penny to
One of our favourite places was Hadley Woods a few miles away from where
we lived in Edmonton (now Enfield). We thought nothing of walking there. If
there was a stream around we would paddle in it. We never had a towel with us
and just sat on the grass until our feet were dry.
Some days we would take nets
and jam jars with us and go fishing to catch tiddlers or frogsporn. If we brought
these home, we were not allowed to keep them in the house but could in the back
My brother Ted and I would always have a spit and polish before we went home
after our outings so that our mother wouldn't be cross. We would go down to
the stream by the weir at Weir Hall,
wipe the mud off our shoes with dock leaves and tidy up generally. Then we would
check each other over to make sure we looked all right. We would also use dock
leaves when we had been stung by stinging nettles. I don't know if they really
had any healing properties, It could just have been the coolness of the leaves
that gave relief.
Play indoors in bad weather
In Winter and on wet days we played indoors.
The boys had toy soldiers and forts. The soldiers were very well made and
colourful, and some had arms which were made to move. Just after the
War there was a move against letting boys play with them as it was thought bad
to encourage boys to think about war.
Trains were played with by boys and their
fathers. The rails were wooden and interlocked, and some families had so many
that they would cover the whole floor. The trains ran by clockwork, so had to
be wound up and the carriages hooked on to one another. They really were fascinating
We girls had our dolls.
If we could get out into the streets for short periods in bad weather, we
played street games.
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in early to mid 20th century Britain, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.