Monthly Archives: March 2015

1983. The family is moving. Hunting for a house in London

The salary of Church ministers is not big enough for them to buy a house. Therefore, the Manse, as they call it, is owned by the Church.

In the 1960s, when we were first married, ministers’ spouses rarely worked, so we had hardly any money. It is true that this changed quite quickly. (Not the fact that we had very little money – that did NOT change – but the fact that now spouses worked!)

However, it is quite a good system for the church to own the house. A manse was usually required to have enough space for any visiting preacher or church visitor. This often meant living in a four-bedroom house.

Our first house was in Tyneside. It was HUGE! It had 6 large bedrooms and was impossible to heat. We moved there in 1962 – the coldest winter for decades.   And to begin with, we were just two people – before the babies arrived. The house was far larger than you can tell from this photo taken of the front. The front bedroom was so vast that it spanned the entire width of the house, but we did not use it for ourselves. It mostly held scenery for plays that the church had put on. It was so cold in that vast room, that we rarely went in it.

Forest Hall House

Forest Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Our house in Gateshead was not as enormous as it looks, but it had the statutory 4 bedrooms.

Low Fell houseLow Fell, Gateshead

Our Leicester house was quite pleasant. We would have preferred it to be in a more multiracial part of the city, but the areas were not very mixed in those days. I do not know about today.

Leicester houseLeicester

However, a four-bedroom house was going to be too expensive in London, so we had permission to look for a three-bedroom house.

D. and I were very keen to live in a certain area that was near to the chosen school. We must have been so entranced by the area that we selected a very small house. We thought we had worked out how we could manage, but the church officials took one look and said that they would not agree to such buying a small property. They were probably right.

After further searching, we found a three-bedroom house that suited us all and was within walking distance of our chosen school. It backed onto the main railway out of Euston but this did not bother us.   We were given the OK to select that house and the purchase went ahead without any problem.

Primrose Hill House

 North West London

Now everything was ready for us to try and secure a school place for Sam. We had naively imagined that all we had to do was to apply to the school we had chosen, tell them where we would be living and he would automatically have a place.

However, this next step about obtaining a school place proved to be more difficult than we had realised.

1983. The search for a school in London with an anti-racist policy.

view from Shard

Now we knew that we were going to move to London, D. and I began all over again searching for a secondary school that would adopt a policy of anti-racist awareness.

After a bit of research, D consulted the Leicester Council for Community Relations.  They in turn consulted a helpful contact in London who told us about one school that had devoted a lot of thought and resources to this matter.  It was well known for its enlightened approach. They welcomed all children and honoured their roots and background.


Image courtesy of Vlado at

 We resolved to try and get Sam into that school. It was in North West London.  The school choice governed where we looked for a house. The church denomination said how much we could spend on a house and they did not mind where it was, as long as it was in London.

So at least we knew where to begin looking.  The search was on in North West London.

To be continued. . .

1983 Anti-racist awareness?

 In 1983 I do not think it was common for schools to have an anti-racist policy.

To be honest, if ever I mentioned to white friends in Leicester that understanding about racism was necessary, I usually received a “lecture” on how all children get teased.

 People then told me about children with red hair suffering playground taunts and children wearing glasses etc. Did they suggest that it was part of growing up and almost “good for them”? I wondered. Did we have to sit by and watch our children suffer?


Image courtesy of Vlado at

I found myself wondering why it was that although I did not like to think of any children being mocked and taunted, I felt passionately that racism was particularly insidious. I felt a bit like a voice in the wilderness. This may be hard to understand today, when people are regularly accused of making racist comments and their reputation then suffers – see one or two famous footballers. But things were different in the 1980s.

kids on colourImage courtesy of Vlado at

 One person who did understand about racist name-calling was the Head teacher of Sam’s Junior school in Leicester. I may have mentioned a certain incident in a previous blog post, when the Head responded brilliantly to a distressing situation. This was in Sam’s last term at the school. It was the first time we heard of Sam suffering this way and we took instant action. Sam came home from school in a state. He said that some children had rounded on him and taunted him because of his colour. He told the dinner ladies, but they just said

“Move away from them. Don’t take any notice”.

This was deeply upsetting and he must have felt that he was all alone. Dinner ladies were adults and he had expected support from them.

However, as soon as Sam came home from school he told us and I rang the Head.

red telephone

He took the matter very seriously and promised to deal with it as soon as staff arrived at school the following morning.   This would include all dinner ladies who did playground duty.

The Head did exactly as he promised and he spoke kindly to Sam, and Sam felt greatly reassured. He did not have any further trouble, and he knew that the Head Teacher and his class teacher would be there for him if any children started insulting him again.

We felt incredibly relieved and grateful for his understanding and intervention. So, ideas and understanding about racism were at last     s l o w l y   beginning to surface,   but I think that Head was ahead of his time.

What would the situation be like in London we wondered?