Sea-change: Wivenhoe Remembered - Up-streeters and Down-streeters
Contributions by Don Smith, Freda Annis, Ivy Knappett, Glendower Jackson, Peter Sainty, Ellen Primm, Philip Faucheux and Dennis Sparling
Page created by Peter Hill, copied from the earlier Wivenhoe Encyclopedia website
Lower Wivenhoe until the 1940s included dense old courtyards and alleys, inhabited by the poorer families in the village, and quayside houses like the Folly were regularly inundated by the tides: Nicholas Butler contentiously called these ‘noisome, fetid places.’ From this flowed social distinctions within the community, including the division into ‘up-streeters’ and ‘down-streeters.’
It wasn’t legally mandatory then to have a cistern to flush the toilet with. Because when they put the water mains on in Wivenhoe in 1901, where you had six houses and an alley in the middle you probably had two taps in the yard. You went to the tap and you filled a bucket of water and that was your cistern. We didn’t have a sink or anything in the house, but we had a toilet and an outhouse outside. There were quite a lot of these yards in Wivenhoe. In Manor Road, there was the same set-up. Unless you owned the house you never had the water inside, you had it outside.
Such a divide – Freda Annis
There was such a divide between the people who lived up the Cross and the ones who lived down the street. And it’s 17 years since we moved up here, and there was a young fellow came across to his relations across the road and I came in one day and he said, she said ‘Hello’ to me. She said, ‘Hoi! You can’t live up here!’ So she said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ she said, ‘She’s a downstreeter, she’s no business up here!’ And his family had always lived up this way, up the Cross. And I said, ‘Boy, that’s a long time since I was called that!’ But it used to be quite a thing. When they boys were at school and they played football, you didn’t mix. You played one against the other. And they used to fight! Had dreadful fights! Used to see them rolling about! And if they thought somebody did something on the football field, oh, there was a good old shindy with the boys at school!
Posh! – Ivy Knappett
When I got married, I lived on the Quay at Wivenhoe, right on the Quay, I did – the houses that are pulled down now – but we was on the Quay there. And then from there, we went to Alma Street. And that was quite posh, in a way, that was supposed to be. Then we got into Brook Street, and that’s where I finished. Brought up on Queen’s Road, where the hill goes. And my house was the second one up there, two up, two down. Oh, but everybody thought we were posh! Yes, because we didn’t live down Brook Street or anywhere like that, where all the people they thought, you know, weren’t much money down there, but if you got up where my mother lived, on the hill, oh, they were the hoity-toities!
An invisible line – Glendower Jackson
You’ve got to realise Wivenhoe has got an invisible dividing line, and that is Belle Vue Road. Now, that dividing line makes it ‘up-streeters’ and ‘down-streeters’ and, of course, it was always considered the people that lived in the up-street had the money and the people who lived down in the down-street, down in the bottom, they were the poorer people. Well, that was the older part of the village. Wherever you got a game going on like cricket, football, or hockey you immediately could choose up-streets and down-streets – them versus us, so to speak. There’s a wood in the middle of the playing fields with a little pond in it, and there would be a five-gallon drum put on the edge of this pond and the up-streeters would try and attack to get the drum, and the down-streeters would defend it. It was great fun! Everyone wandered around with a short stick and if they touch it with a stick, you’re out! And it was quite ingenious, the methods that they employed to get into that wood, to get that drum!
Them and us – Peter Sainty
Later on we used to play games in the street at night – there was no television, hardly had a radio to be honest with you! And we considered ourselves ‘up-streeters’ and ‘down-streeters.’ Now, the down-streeters lived below the Park Hotel. If you lived down the bottom you were ‘brung’d up,’ and if you lived up the top, you were ‘brought up.’ But again you must remember, it was ‘them’ and ‘us.’ We could easily form six or seven football teams. The up-streeters were limited, mainly due to the lack of houses, and class – and it was like that, I can assure you! Belle Vue Road, if you lived in Belle Vue Road you were either in trade or you’d made it. But there were no Council Houses except the ones in Rectory Road. Spion Kop was an open space, and you would go up there and walk across to the cricket ground.
We weren’t any better… – Ellen Primm
We didn’t go down the street very much because we lived up the top of the village, so that was our playground, up here. There was always the ‘down-streeters’ and the ‘up-streeters.’ We were always the ‘up-streeters.’ I don’t know why, we weren’t any better than what they were, but that’s just how people seemed to interpret that. But, no, we always lived up the street, although my mother had lived down the street, being born down there, so was my dad, but we lived in Manor Road for years.
All sham – Philip Faucheux
There was quite a gang of us. There was an ‘up street’ gang and a ‘down street’ gang. I was in the ‘up street’ gang. And when there was an election on we used to fight with each other. It was all sham but we used to parade with each other and that sort of thing, but that was a well-known thing.
The playing field – Dennis Sparling
When I was a kid the quadrangle outside the station, which was the back of the station waiting rooms, and the waiting room that sticks out, was an ideal place for football, so the boys all used to get there to play football. But, of course, in 1936 the playing fields opened so we had the benefit of being able to go across the railway line, on the footbridge, and straight into the playing fields, so that became the new venue for games. But it was traditionally football and cricket although the down-streeters weren’t very keen on cricket – that was a bit of a snobby game! Football was very much more the game to be played. And you only played cricket if some of the up-streeters would play with you. Well, they had the bats and they had the ball and you had to do all the running! But the opening of the playing field made a huge difference to the kids in the village because it’s a very big area for a very small village. If you can imagine how big it was, in those days, for the very small number of children that were in the village it was a wonderful facility. I actually remember it opening, although I was only five. The only thing I remember about it was the huge queue of kids that there were to go on the slide because that had just been opened and everybody queued up.