Childhood homes in Bellingdon road
I was born in 1908 at Mafeking House, 153 Bellingdon Road, which my father, Edward Culverhouse, had built during the Boer War, together with Ladysmith House. They were so-named because they were finished at the time of the relief of Mafeking and Ladysmith in 1900. They were semi-detached with three bedrooms, a front room, a living room and a kitchen. There was no bathroom until 1915. They were surrounded by gardens and orchards and there was a grass tennis court. My father worked hard in the garden, bred hens, ducks, geese and rabbits. He picked and sold fruit from the extensive orchards. We had our chores to do as children – my brothers Edward John (Eddie) and Henry Robert (Bob) had to tidy up the orchard and feed the poultry. I had to clean the silver, the knives and polish the furniture. My father had garages built (by the cemetery walls) and let these for 2s 6d (a little over 10p) per week.
My father was a self-made man. Born to parents who kept a shop in Blucher Street who did not encourage his desire for education, he tutored himself and in summer took his books up into the park to study there. At 16 he passed an exam qualifying him to become a student teacher in High Wycombe. He took his teaching certificate and then started his teaching life at Whitehill Boys’ School. He remained there for 40 years.
He taught himself to play the piano on an old one with many of the keys not working. He later gave piano lessons, played the organ at various churches and attended choir practice every Friday night. He was asked to play the organ at many weddings and funerals and so was out practically every evening. We went to St Mary’s Church every Sunday morning and evening and my brothers and I to Sunday school morning and afternoon. My father also gave private lessons in book-keeping. He was a Councillor for over 20 years, Mayor of Chesham, Treasurer of the Ratepayers’ Association, Director of Chesham Building Society, Secretary of the Property Owners’ Association and he organised the Hospital Fete at the Bury.
At the age of 21 he had bought two old cottages in Duck Alley, a slum area, and he did them up, decorating and repairing them himself. He sold them at a profit and bought a row of houses. His ambition was to be a property owner and he continued to attend property sales right up until his death, leaving about a hundred houses in Chesham and the same in Watford.
When we were still living at Mafeking, a house called Glenthorne * came up for sale. My mother had always admired it and my father bought it. It had seven bedrooms, the staircase was of pitch pine, the large reception room and breakfast room had fireplaces of Italian marble and the hall had Italian tiles on the floor. The windows on the landing, in the hall and in one bedroom had stained glass. The walls were 18 inches thick and there was a verandah outside the scullery door and a conservatory leading off the breakfast room. The kitchen had an old-fashioned range to heat the water and there was some central heating. The house stood in its own grounds, landscaped, with a big lawn and beautiful trees, a copper beech, a weeping hornbeam and a terrace under the dining-room window with large flower beds. My parents loved their home, it was reputed to be the best-built house in Chesham.