WW2 People’s War extract from the BBC Series

“I was born in the East End of London, Poplar, near Bow; so I am a Cockney. I came to Worthing when I was 6 and my father worked at Onslow Court at the bottom of Brougham Road. The block of flats belonged to Knight & Co, which when I was asked by one of the girls at school did they belong to my father, I said yes as my maiden name was Knight. They were the luxury flats of Worthing which were Winchelsea Court, Onslow Court, Downview Court, Hastings Court and Romney Court.

“We used to have Bertran Mills circus in the next field where I lived which belonged to Pearson’s Retreat and having the abattoir also in Brougham Road we would see the cows and sheep that came from the station to be slaughtered as they walked through the streets. This was like wonderland. It was 1936.

“Then of course things changed. We were “invaded” by the French Canadians and Worthing was a big garrison ready to go to Dunkirk for the rescue of the men from France.

“I was then evacuated from Worthing, having attended Lyndhurst Road school with Miss Wilson as the headmistress, and was sent to Leicester where I was put on a smallholding and had to work very hard as the lady’s two sons were called up for the Navy. I was with another girl, Brenda King, who when one day I was told to scrub the pantry said “I will do it for you Kit” and I said “No I’m Cinderella you’re the ugly sister”.

I came back after two and a half years and within the first week a German aeroplane tried to shoot us as it tried to bomb the gasworks. I could see the pilot and his goggles as we were running across the playground to get to the shelters. Also soon afterwards a German plane came down in Lyndhurst Road killing nine French Canadian soldiers.

“At 14 I was put in a bakery at Broadwater to keep away from the soldiers when the soldiers would come to us on their route marches for their cup of tea and cake. I was too young to appreciate them but the other girls in the shop had a good time as they would take them back to their camp for dances but make sure they got home safely at night time.

“My grandfather was a master baker and my three uncles; one was Lumley’s (my mother’s sister married), my mother’s twin brother was Joe Harrington who lost his shop in London and came to Worthing and was porter of Downview Court and my Aunt Kate’s husband was a porter in Hastings Court. My mother’s eldest brother had five shops in Hove and Brighton, he was Jack Harrington.”

(Extract from the BBC series – ‘WW2 People’s War’ Copyright Catherine Maylin (nee Collins, nee Knight)/ WW2 People’s War’)

All in the numbers

All in the numbers, Number 13 – unlucky as ever
Spot the mistake; flats…11…12…12a…14…15…” Did you miss a count? No you didn’t. Be it a house number, or a floor number the practice of excluding the number 13 from any series is widely prevalent, as much today as it was in 1934. The number 13 is replaced with random alternatives like “12B” or they jump straight to “14”.

You wouldn’t think that people would let superstition put them off moving to number 13. Many first-time buyers would consider it a lucky omen to be able to get a foot on the property ladder at all. But with a reported one in 10 people afflicted by triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13), it seems that there is more than bricks and mortar at play when it comes to moving home.

The number 13 will always be a contentious number with many buyers and renters, the majority of purchasers even refuse to complete on Friday the 13th. And it is for reasons like this that the original developer of Onslow Court would not allow a number 13 in the address.

Streamlined Moderne Art Deco

Modernism in its most general sense is a term that applies to all modern architecture of the twentieth century. A number of ‘modern’ styles emerged in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, and spread to Britain. The term Art Deco is widely used as a ‘catch-all’ for all Modernist buildings, but it is important to make a distinction. Onslow Court is classified as Art Deco.

You really get a sense of the space when you stand on the flat roof of the building. This was and still is ambitious architecture. This different boomerang shaped building with its balconies and huge windows must have looked astonishing compared to the Edwardian and Victorian brick houses of the day.

The general feeling amongst the trail blazing architects of the 20’s and 30’s was that new homes should be uncluttered, functional and light open spaces and made of modern materials. They thought they were creating utopian settings where residents would be able to lead far more enlightened lives.

Flats like Onslow Court attracted the middle-class intelligentsia eager to try out modern living and all that entailed. It is true the flats at Onslow Court do have certain grandeur; even the smaller flats have fabulous proportions.

Front Entrance hall Onslow CourtThe ground floor main cornered flat has a column situated in the sitting room which is clearly a structural column; this is a feature that occurs in modern deco buildings and we see it again in the hallways of Onslow Court. When a structural support was required prior to this movement the normal solution was to place this in a wall; the new open spaces craved by the Moderne architects made columns like this into features in order to open up the spaces.

This sort of architecture was actually a very early equivalent of buying a lifestyle off the shelf. As with many other moderne and art deco apartments what they said to people was move in here, have a minimalist life and bring as little with you as possible, this was a whole new movement that revolutionised the modern life and took away all that Edwardian and Victorian clutter. Clearly, it was not a time of owning many clothes, the cedar-lined wardrobes found in each bedroom has as much space as a single wardrobe of today, but with ample storage space for hat boxes. Onslow Court was originally marketed as rental apartments that were fully furnished. Hot water and heating was free and electric was charged at 3/4d a unit, recharged by the Landlord.

Onslow Court flats and others like it broke down the notion of closed houses. The huge panoramic windows that run the length of the rooms create a transparency to the entire living space. Some flats with sunrooms allow an almost 180 degree panorama across the English Channel; this was seen at the time to be the next best thing to being right outside. The overall effect is very elegant, this was a time when space was celebrated without distracting ornamentation and it was all about proportion and elegance.