Living in ‘The Cottage’
My mother remarried in around 1968-9 and my brother Martin and I moved from our home town of Crawley to our new stepfather’s home which was called ‘The Cottage’, and was situated in the grounds of the Bevendean Hospital at the Bear Road entrance. My stepfather was the Chief Engineer for the hospital, and my mother also worked there as well in charge of supplying the wards with the medical paraphenalia. We attended Coombe Road Primary School and I was a member of the church choir just a few hundred yards away; unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the church.
A huge creepy mansion
We loved being the only kids “on the block” as it were, it was like having a huge creepy mansion, ripe for years of adventures and we explored every nook and cranny. We also took part in all the Christmas nativity plays that the staff laid on each year. I went from being a novice angel, to a shepherdess, and finally Mary herself. When I moved up to Moulsecoomb Secondary school I used to come home for my lunch which involved walking up and down the length of Bear Road four times a day; quite unbelievable.
Our own private playing field
There was a huge cricket field to the side of the Cottage, where we invited all our school friends and local kids; on our own private playing field. They would all have to climb over the jagged edges of the perimeter wall to the grounds, by climbing first on to the big metal grit container that was situated at the forked end of Ladysmith Road and Coombe Road. I believe it was there to hold a ready supply of grit for whenever the weather became freezing cold to help the drivers slither their way up what must have seemed like a mountain ski slope, because of the steep angle that Bear Road is famous for no doubt.
Surrounded by the dead
We eventually moved back to Crawley again in 1976. Years later, when reflecting about our surroundings back then, I realised that we had been totally surrounded by the dead. We had the hospital’s morgue to the left of us just yards away, and in front of us was the separating wall to the Memorial Gardens. To the right when you crossed the road. was the cemetery and the other remaining side was the cricket field. So all in all it was probably a good thing that I hadn’t thought of this fact as a child because there was a ‘Grey Lady’ who was said to haunt the hospital. It still makes the hair on my neck stand up to think of it even now.