• Phil

Hermitage Farm

Hermitage Farm was still operational when I was a child. At the bottom end of the scout field between Mellowdew Road and Browning Road were cows and a barn structure.

My Grandma lived on the opposite side of Mellowdew Road - near to the corner with Ravensdale Road. From here my father and aunty (then aged 12 and 14) had made their way across the blitzed landscape, after the most concentrated raid on a British city, to announce to relatives that the family had survived intact from the pleasantly named "Moonlight Sonata" attack.

The family had moved into the newly built home in the 1930s. The area tended to house skilled workers and my grandparents were able to acquire the house on the back of a compensation payout following my grandfather losing his eye in an industrial accident. I have heard it said that the piece of metal that entered his eye is in a museum somewhere!

Ravensdale School field behind the house was used to house soldiers during the war. There were anti-aircraft guns in the field. The school itself also served as a treatment point for emergency cases during the raids.

As a child growing up in the 60s and 70s I did not have to endure any of the horrors that the previous generation had encountered. By this time peace was firmly established and change rolling on. I attended Ravensdale School and spent most of the late afternoons at my Grandma's house as (in line with the changing times) both of my parents were working.

Over the road from my Grandma's house was Mrs Manning's shop. Unless you knew it wasn't really discernible as a shop - being a mid terraced house with a converted front room. I remember shelves of jars of sweets, tin cans and general groceries. As you pushed open the front door a bell would ring to summon Mrs Manning if she wasn't already in the shop (or to warn her of marauding school children). I was six at the time that the "new" money came in. I remember little changes like the local shops having to display prices in both the old pounds, shillings and pence and the new decimal currency (which was often held with distrust and considered a devaluation of currency amongst many). Years later my Grandma would exclaim such things as "....just 15p? That's three shillings!" - put that way perhaps the devaluation concerns were right!

Just around the corner on Longfellow Road stood some more shops - a row set slightly back from the street which were known collectively as Hermitage Buildings after the farm. These included a grocers, launderette, washing machine repairer, hairdresser and off license - all domestic needs catered for (and a small church building between the shops and the remaining farm buildings and barn for those with more spiritual needs).

In earlier centuries the farm itself was part of the Caludon Castle estate and took its name from the fact that a hermitage (the dwelling place of a hermit) stood on the site. In the days, weeks and months to come I am looking to try to find out more about who the hermit(s) that had inhabited the site were, what they believed, how they lived, how and why they came to be there and what became of them. More to come soon....

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