Chapter 1 – West Silvertown By Philip Mansfield

It all began sometime during the twenty four hours that comprised the 7th March 1931. A son was born to Mrs Rosanna Mansfield wife of Mr Bertie Robert Mansfield. I was that little baby and I was born at home which was 273, North Woolwich Road, West Silvertown, London. E16. I was to be the last child, not necessarily through choice but because fate chose to intervene, as my father died nine days later on the 16th March, having had a heart attack, whilst driving home from a Choral Concert with a fellow colleague. The front wheels of the car ended up in a road works which stopped the car and avoided any serious collision. His colleague was unhurt.
My father was only 44 when he died and my mother was still bedridden following my birth. At that time, child birth was invariably followed by 2 weeks of recovery in bed. For many years my father had been a Type 1 diabetic and had to be treated with Insulin. There being no NHS at that time, he had to purchase the Insulin himself and this proved quite expensive. As you probably know, diabetes can lead to cardio vascular disease.
By definition I was born a Cockney, as we were living in the East End of London. Although not considered, these days, to be a criteria, weather conditions and noise pollution taken in to account, the bells of “St Mary-le-Bow Church “ would have been heard in Silvertown..
Prior to my birth the couple had been blessed with four other children, namely Ivy, who was 18 at the time, Leslie William, who was 16, Gilbert Alexander who was 14 and Rosemary Anne, who was nearly 4 and I was now the baby of the family. I was to be finally christened Philip Albert. My mother always wanted me to be called Anthony, whilst my father wanted me called Philip. Apparently they used to play a little game after my birth, when my father came home from work he would ask how Philip was doing, to which my mother would reply, I don’t how Philip is doing but Anthony is doing very well. After father died, mother named me Philip Albert in deference to my father’s wishes.
I suppose for the time, we were a fairly prosperous family. My father had a good job: he was the Boiler House Superintendent at the Plaistow Wharf Refinery of the Tate & Lyle Sugar Company in West Silvertown. My father ran a car and the family had regular holidays each year, mostly at Dymchurch in Kent where they would hire a bungalow. My father had followed in his own father’s footsteps and became a Freemason in 1917. This proved to be of considerable help to my mother when subsequently raising the family on her own, as she received a regular pension from them. She also had the opportunity at a later stage to send me to the Freemasons School at Bushey or for my fees to be paid at another school. Mother opted for the latter as she did not wish me to go to a boarding school.
My mother never married again and probably as a result of this became very possessive of her family and as the family members left for pastures new, she would inevitably find a reason to interfere and question their decisions. This, as you can imagine, often raised conflict within the family.
My mother often said I had been sent to look after her, because of this, I was very spoilt and mother became very possessive of me. This affected me greatly, for eventually I came to resent this influence and it had probably affected my relationships with others for many years after.
Having said this, she was generally a very good mother. She was an extremely generous person and was very popular with other people. She craved for excitement, was very emotional and prone to fits of temper, but these were usually short lived and no grudge was borne afterwards. She was a very good singer, something on the style of Gracie Fields, and she often sang on the Ladies Night at the Masonic functions prior to my birth. She used to sing a song to me called the Goldfish, which usually brought me to tears, as the goldfish dies at the end of the song. She was also an excellent pianist, although she couldn’t read a note of music, either she would know a piece of music that was requested or would pick it up from a person trying to sing a particular song they wanted played. It was a wonderful gift. I also remember her love of crossword puzzles. She bought the London Evening News (no longer printed) every afternoon and always did the puzzle on the back page. I always admired the speed that she filled the puzzles in and her wide general knowledge of words
It must always be said, to her credit, that she brought her family up very well on her own, after the father’s death. All the family did fairly well for themselves, the possible exception, from a scholastic point of view being me.
She was constantly comparing me with my brothers and sisters and asking why I wasn’t doing as well as them, in this respect. This did not help my self esteem and I always felt I was not as good as they were. Towards the latter part of my career I made out quite well for myself and I would have liked my mother to know this, because I felt that I was a source of disappointment to her, and as a consequence, felt she regarded me as the “black sheep” of the family.
In 1934 my eldest sister Ivy married Kenneth Grant-Salmon whose father was licensee of the Watney’s Graving Dock public house in West Silvertown.
Shortly after their marriage Ken was appointed Licensee of the Watney’s Royal Albert public house in East Silvertown. Ken and Ivy lived in the Royal Albert until 1951 and then moved to the Rose and Crown which was on the corner of the Putney Bridge Road and Wandsworth High Street in South West London.
I do not remember anything about my time spent at 273, North Woolwich Road, because a few years after my birth the family moved to 27, Hyde Vale, Greenwich. This was the top two-storey flat of a maisonette. I never knew why the family moved there, although I was led to believe it was because my mother wished to live near her friend, who had also been her midwife, a Mrs Pinhay who already lived in the same road.

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4 Responses to Chapter 1 – West Silvertown By Philip Mansfield

  1. denise leppard says:

    thoroughly enjoyed this and look forward t more

  2. Jack Claydon says:

    Enjoyed reading chapter 1, and am looking forward to chapter 2!

  3. Olive Day says:

    I liked your opening paragraph, made me want to read on… Like you I was the baby of the family. I lost my husband a year ago and he was a south London boy. I did my nurse training in Greenwich – good to transport my mind back there.

    Olive Day

  4. Brian Tyson says:

    I was at school with two of Ken and Ivy’s boys, I believe: Tony Grant-Salmon was one of them. An excellent fellow. He was quite a cricketer; and also acted with me on the Wandsworth School Stage; on more than one occasion Ken allowed us to rehearse “House Plays” in the “Rose and Crown;” and my friend John Chafen went out for a time (in 1953) with Shirley, Ken and Ivy’s daughter.

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