VS Pritchett was a prolific writer with novels, short stories, biography, literary criticism and travel writing. He was born in 1900 and died in 1997. His father was in early marriage not successful in business or work and the family lived an itinerant life moving from place to place as circumstances dictated. In early 1910, the family had to leave their home in Hammersmith… as Pritchett describes it “the cab was at the door soon afterwards”.
This was reflected in the title of his autobiography A Cab at The Door, 1st published in 1968 by Chatto & Windus.
They moved to a street in Loughborough Junction, unnamed by Pritchett but which he describes as “a street off Coldharbour Lane in which the smell of vinegar from a pickle factory hung low, a street of little houses…” He goes on to say ” a yard or two from our bedroom window at the back was one of the largest machine bakeries in London, and next to it the Camberwell Roller Skating Rink.”
That street was Lilford Road. In this extract from the Ordinance Survey 1892-1914 you can see the Camberwell Roller Skating Rink having closed, its building taken over by a Printing Works and just behind the Rink and the tenements was Price & Co bakery.
Price & Co bakery first appeared in 1910 and lasted until 1969. In the 1911-12 Electoral Register, four individuals are registered on Lilford Road as owners of the Bakery in the rear. Richard Price who lived at “Rylstone” , The Grove in Camberwell, Thomas Price at 77 Bethuen Road, Stoke Newington, Cornelius Price @ Hayton House, Sanycombe Road in Kew & Edwin George Hunter at 102 Windsor Road, Forest Gate.
The Camberwell Roller Skating Rink opened in a purpose built building on April 16th 1910. It had a frontage along Coldharbour Lane eastwards from Lilford Road of 200 feet. The manager was AF Wilson. It was part of a roller skating boom that lasted from 1908 to 1913. In 1910 there were over 526 rinks in the UK.
Further reading about rinking and roller skating at this link in a blog run by Edward Creighton
He attended a Church of England school called St Matthews , run by St Matthews church then located on Denmark Hill where the Kings College School of Dentistry is now. St Matthews being bombed out in WW11 and eventually rebuilt in Lilford Road.
An extract from the same OS map as above you can see St Matthews school on Denmark Road . The pub in bottom right was the Sun & Doves and a little further east you can see Denmark Place Baptist Church. The school was open from 1848 through to 1947 when it was demolished to build the Thorlands Estate.
He also recalled the day – 20th July 1909 – King Edward V11 came to Camberwell to lay the foundation stone for the new King’s College hospital. We have this rather dull photo from the South London Press showing the carriage on Denmark Hill.
A rather better postcard photo of the King’s carriage coming through Camberwell Gate , just before Camberwell Green on it’s way to Denmark Hill.
Pritchett talks about heading of to school one morning on the 6 May 1910 and seeing newspaper poster telling of the death of Edward V11.
In his autobiography , Pritchett writes the following
“London was dangerous. We had a girl to help my mother for a few weeks and her mind, like the mind of the one at Ealing, was brimming with crime. She took me to the Camberwell Bioscope to see a film of murder and explosions called The Anarchist’s Son, in which men with rifles in their hands crawled up a hill and shot at each other. When the shed in which one of them was living, blew up, the film turned silent, soft blood red and the lady pianist in front of the screen struck up a dramatic chord. In the Bioscope men walked about squirting the audience with a delicious scent like hair lotion that prickled our heads”
I can’t track this film down, maybe someone will know and get in touch. Luke McKernan of the no longer active but still available blog The Bioscope suggests the cinema might have been Burgoyne’s American Bioscope at 213 Rye Lane, Peckham
Pritchett also mentions that on his walk to school he would pass about a hundred yards of advertising hoardings. This photo is dated 1905 some 5 years before the Prichetts arrived on Coldharbour Lane. It is the corner of Kenbury Street and Coldharbour Lane.
Prichett mentions specifically a Pear’s Soap poster with a tramp saying ” Ten years ago I used your soap, and since then I’ve used no other”
He follows all this with memories of his mother and father quarrelling quite often, Pritchett says he remembers his mother repeating the phrase “…that woman”. He ends his memories of Camberwell with the recall of his father having gone bankrupt at their previous abode in Hammersmith , and that they were in hiding in Camberwell living under their mothers name. Then the Pritchett family were off again, elsewhere.