Farewell to ‘Number 55’ – 23 May 2013
It may only be a house, but my grandparents lived in it for many years; my Grandad apparently designed most of it; it was built by my mother’s grandfather and Mum can remember the foundations being laid for it back in 1953.
This week, after standing empty since my grandmother’s death back in December 2010, work finally began which would see the old house demolished to make way for fourteen two-bedroom flats.
In many ways, it was sad to see it go, but it was somewhat inevitable in the end: Grandma always said ‘When I’m gone, it’ll be knocked down and turned into flats!’. It’s better that it should go now, rather than immediately after she passed away.
Number 55 Cookham Road, Maidenhead was built on a plot of land purchased my my grandfather following the war. An ‘L-shaped’ bungalow, it had four bedrooms, a large kitchen, living room, lounge and bathroom with a separate toilet. Upstairs was a large room containing a homemade table-tennis table, my Grandad’s lathe and his much-loved model railway.
My grandparents used to host a church youth group at their house, known simply as ‘Club’. They would let the children into most of the rooms and I can well remember many happy times around there playing table-tennis or darts upstairs as well as golf and badminton in the extensive garden.
Of course there were many happy family occasions to recall as well. My parents had parties there for their 25th and 30th Wedding celebrations and every year when I was growing up, we would have Christmas tea there.
I remember other stories from growing up there as well. I made the mistake of playing badminton one time with my cousin, whilst eating an extra strong mint. When I played a high shot, I managed to get the mint stuck in my throat which was alarming. I went inside and Grandma’s solution was to give me some dry bread which would ‘wrap itself around the mint’ – sure enough it did the trick! Grandma knew best.
Another family celebration when I was younger also lingers in the memory. All of the cousins were sat outside eating at a table on the loggia at the back of the house, overlooking the garden. My aunt, over from Canada, was helping with the food and decided that my honey sandwich wasn’t exciting enough so decided to mix the honey with peanut butter! I soon saw through her trick and not surprisingly have never liked peanut butter since!
The garden was also the venue for a memorable camping experience for some of the boy cousins way back in 1983 when we all slept out in a borrowed orange tent.
Probably the most recent family gathering that I can remember around there was in 2006 when we enjoyed tea outside in celebration of more Canadian cousins visiting.
For me, memories of ‘Number 55’ are almost all happy ones and it’s sad to see the old place pulled down.
I took the opportunity to visit while the work was underway and was able to take a few photos of the house before it was reduced to rubble.
I took the opportunity to salvage the logs, still waiting patiently by the fire and also rescued the ’55’ from outside the front door (shown in the fourth picture above). A few days later, I managed to grab a couple of bricks, one of which I gave to my nephew, Hugh.
Just a few days later, the house had gone. After the meticulous removal and stacking of the roof tiles, there were no such niceties applied to the brickwork and in hardly any time at all, the house and its few remaining contents were nothing more than a pile of rubbish.
I’ll miss the old place, but not quite as much as I still miss its larger than life owner!
Some great memories, Philip! I have no recollection of trying to force feed you peanut butter! – sorry about that!! The last ones are sad – to see it all broken apart, but I’m glad you ended with that great one of Mum in her kitchen!!
Thanks. Surprised you’d forgotten about the peanut butter – as you can see, I haven’t! 😉
It seemed better to finish with a happy photo rather than a pile of rubble. After all, it was Grandma and Grandad who provided so many happy memories.
Thanks for putting this together Phil, had to choke back the emotions a few times. You really did a beautiful job telling the story of 55 Cookham Road.
Thanks Nick. I’ll add in the photos that your Mum kindly sent through and I’m sure there are a couple of the happy campers from 1983 which I can scan in as well!
It was certainly the end of an era!
Great post, lovely to see your memories. It’s amazing how we can get so attached to what is essentially just a pile of bricks. I’m glad you managed to salvage some items. I’m surprised you could stand watching it being knocked down – I’m not sure I could in similar circumstances. Let’s hope the memories live on and the residents of the flats have an equally happy time living there.
Thanks Paul. Very true. I guess it’s the people who pull the ‘pile of bricks’ together and when they’re gone, it’s the ‘pile of bricks’ that trigger all the memories you associate with the people who owned them.
That’s a bit deep for a Monday afternoon. Sorry! 😉
Fortunately I didn’t see much of the demolition – just the roof tiles, thankfully.
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