1910-1930: the house, Tendale, at Cole's White Hart Lane Pottery, Tottenham
I have many lovely memories of my childhood at our Pottery in White Hart Lane, Tottenham. It was owned by my grandfatherís brother, E G Cole, but my grandfather, James Reedman Cole looked after it. He and my grandmother lived with their large family in the pottery house which was called Tentdale. My younger brother, Ted, and I used to stay at the house most weekends and in school holidays doing odd jobs.
The approach to the house
There was a small garden in the front of the pottery house. Up the wall grew a white clematis that I loved and have continued to love since. One thing that fascinated me was a toad that lived under some bricks. When he came out he didn't move; only his throat pulsated.
There was a heavy front door which was never used and there were venetian blinds up at all the windows.
The front door opened onto a large hall with a beautifully polished floor.
Strange to say, the first room off the hall was the bathroom. To have a bath you had to carry in buckets of hot water.
On the other side of the hall were the two parlours. Over one door hung what I would think were buffaloís horns. An oil lamp hung from the ceiling. There was also a large photo of my Aunt May, one of the daughters who after her marriage made her home in Australia. Later that photo was joined by a photo of one of the younger daughters, my Aunt Grace, who also made her home in Australia after her marriage.
The back parlour was where consultations between my grandfather and E G would take place. If E G was coming in that day, he would arrive for breakfast. There was no conversation. He would just grunt, "Good Morning". As soon as the two men walked in, the breakfast was taken into the parlour on a large dish. While the men were at breakfast, we had to stay in the kitchen. Only afterwards did we have our own breakfast.
The kitchen was large and not modern. You went straight into it from the porch in the side door. The first thing that met your eyes was a large wardrobe with a lot of things on top, like tennis rackets. In the centre of the kitchen was a long whitewood table, kept scrubbed by my aunt Em. There was also a large kitchen range with a picture above it called 'The Travellerís Return', the sofa that my grandfather would lie down on for ten minutes after dinner before going back to work, a side table with a bench alongside with a knife box on it, a small dresser with a telephone on top, along with a kitchen clock that my grandmother would shake when it stopped. When it stopped I would be sent along to the office to find out the time. Two men worked in the office, Mr Wyatt and Mr Mutton [James Jeffery Mutton]. It was always to Mr Mutton that I went. He was a gentlemanly person. When I told him that my grandmother would like the right time, he would smile, take out his gold watch from his waistcoat pocket, hesitate and say "It is two minutes past eleven", or whatever, but that "if your grandmother wants to catch a train, it could be a minute either way".
One of my memories relating to the kitchen is that on Saturday mornings, Aunt Em would clear out the food safe. In those days there were no fridges. So food was kept in a large wooden cupboard with the front part made of galvanised mesh to let in the air. The food kept very well in this. While Aunt Em cleared out the food safe, my grandmother would generally still be sitting at breakfast. She was a very relaxed person whereas Aunt Em was energetic. The conversation was always much the same between the two rooms. To my grandmother: "Do you want the kipper? Ö How about the bits of cheese?" The answers always seemed to be no, she never did Ė remember, this was a house of plenty. One of my other aunts would fry the pieces of cheese up and have them for breakfast. The bread was kept in an earthenware crock in the kitchen.
Breakfast was quite a big event. It was organised by my grandmother and Aunt Em. The fire in the back parlour was lit, the table laid and the breakfast cooked. No bowl of cornflakes and orange juice. The pottery house was a place of plenty. There were things such as sausages, eggs and bacon tomatoes and lamb chops. The one thing I particularly enjoyed at breakfast at my grandmotherís house was porridge because it was made with milk. I loved the smell when it was cooking. Although at home we children always had porridge, it was made differently. It was rather coarse and had lots of husks in it that I always put round the edge of my plate, which made my mother cross. Her porridge was made with water, then put on a large bowl-like plate. She would put brown sugar on, then pour cold milk on. It made me think of a moat from my history book. Not a word was said of this, and I knew that my motherís financial circumstances were different from my grandmotherís. This makes me think of one of my motherís sayings, which I only really understood when I was grown-up: "You have to cut your garment according to your cloth."
The kitchen led out on to what was called the outhouse. There were no windows there. It was a place where things were dumped and where the washing was done. The roof was pantiles and at one corner grew houseleaks.
Then came the staircase with four flights of eight steps with three bedrooms at the end of two flights. The other two flights were curtained off with red velvet.
At the bottom of the stairs was a small alcove in which my grandfather kept his boots cleaned and well polished ready for church on Sunday. The church was All Hallows, Tottenham. My grandfather had a good singing voice and was very proud that people turned round to look at him when the psalms were sung. He could read music and played the piano. When he came home from church he would sit and sing at the piano for his own pleasure.
Bedrooms and other rooms
The other rooms were bedrooms and muck rooms. These had the smell of apples being stored. There was an old bicycle frame with no wheels that we would sit on and pretend we were riding. Of course we were told not to go there.
The back garden
The outhouse led onto the back garden. Here was a large orange blossom tree that overhung an old well that was covered over. There was also a garden shed, flower beds and a chicken run.
Sometimes my brother Ted would have the job of digging the chicken run over and would unearth such things as pie dishes left there by my grandmother when the she had taken something out to the chickens. In those days you fed chickens on something you called mash. My grandmother's had bacon in it. When my grandmother wanted me to go out to the hen house to see it if their chickens had laid an egg, I never liked it. I always thought that the chickens would fly at me, but although they looked at me with their beady eyes, they always kept away.
From the garden you could see stacks of pots. Some had a mauve-blue look which was because they had been baked too long.