Street lighting started in Southall in 1866, with main roads only lit by gas. Gradually all roads had lamp standards. These were 11 feet high, with a square-shaped glass box on top in which the burner with two gas mantles was situated. A clock device regulated the pilot for lighting-up time. These of course had to be maintained. “Lamplighters” were employed, and they could be seen during the day with a small ladder and box, cleaning the lamps and fitting new mantles, and at night cycling round making sure they were alight. Lamplighters I remember were Mr. Baden and Mr. Church.
During the dry weather water carts would be used. These used to have a spray at the back which sprinkled the road to help keep the dust down. At various places alongside the main roads hand pumps were placed so that the carts could be refilled.
There were several private roads. This meant that one day a year they were closed to the public. Gas Works Road ( The Straight ), Otto Monsted’s Road ( now Bridge Road ), Rubastic Road, Beresford Road and Johnson Street were examples. In most cases, after planning permission had been granted, the Council took over responsibility for a road’s upkeep, after imposing road charges. The main Uxbridge Road was the responsibility of the Middlesex County Council and in the middle of this road were the tram tracks set in cobblestones; London United Tramways ( L.U.T. ) had to maintain these.
At all the schools a bell would be rung 5 minutes before opening time, and the same at churches 5 minutes before service. Most factories had a siren or hooter. The Maypole Works hooter was very distinctive and would be heard at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Gas Works’ steam siren would blast at 6 a.m. and 4.15 p.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. and 11.15 p.m. on Saturday. This was for those on daywork starting and finishing time. 5 minutes was allowed after starting time; anyone coming later than that would not be allowed to start work before breakfast, thus losing two hours wages. Being late too many times would mean the sack.
There were no such things as football pools or betting shops. But as kids we knew all about bookmakers and bookmakers’ runners. Off-course bets were illegal, so those who wanted to place a bet would write same out and get it to the bookmaker’s runner. Most works had one, others would have their collecting places. They passed the money and slips onto the bookie, and paid out the winners next day. The police would know this was going on; but they would let the runner know when he was going to be arrested so that he would only have very few bets on him, because they would be confiscated. Up before the magistrate at Brentford the next day he would be fined one or two pounds, which would be paid by the bookie, and would carry on as usual next day.
Our relations were spread all around the town and this meant, when messages had to be sent, walking, for instance, to Myrtle Cottage, about halfway between Hayes Bridge and Yeading Lane, where my aunt and uncle lived ( He was a greenkeeper on the West Middlesex Golf Course ); or, to another aunt at the end of Bankside, Hayes Bridge. Several more lived “Over the Green”. This was the expression used for anything the other side of the railway bridge. On Sunday evenings in the summer my parents would take us for walks, perhaps through Osterley Park to the “Hare and Hounds” or something similar, and us kids would pick wild flowers which would be placed in jam jars on the window sill.