My first recollection of Upton – as an evacuee – was arriving at the now defunct Upton Halt station. Climbing the big oak steps some 30 to 40 of us were met by Ladies & Gentlemen who ushered us into cars to St. Mary’s School. We waited in the school before being allocated to our respective foster homes. I was allocated to
Mr & Mrs Hughes and my two younger brothers to Mr & Mrs Griffiths next door. The two cottages – Nos: 1 & 2 Lawn Cottages were in Smoke Street – now known as Upton Lane. Coming from Liverpool, Upton seemed a thousand miles away.
After exploring around, we had a big garden at the front of the house and the back door was onto the main road – Upton Lane. There was a huge big house next door which I believe was initially occupied by Sir Charles Cayzer and later by Sir Basil Nield and his sister Beryl. I often saw them strolling around the grounds both in uniform. Some time later it was the home of the AFS fire service.
Opposite to the cottage were I lived was a Mr Powell who bred and slaughtered pigs. Next door was the Council yard and behind this an allotment to which Mr Collins – Headmaster of Chester’s Blue Coat School – would bring boys to work on. Around the corner in Demage Lane was the Vicarage and opposite this the local Cobbler. The building is still there – now used as a garage. I got to know the old Cobbler and would take him hot water to make his tea. Moving on past the Cobblers was the refuse tip where my friend Frank Perris and I would spend hours at night shooting at rats. Further on into Demage Lane you came across a gate into the field. It was in this field that the soldiers from the RAMC would come to play football and cricket. But no child would dare venture to use it without the farmer Mr Arthur Hinde chasing us away. It was different when in the summer we would help him with his haymaking. Further onto the top of Demage Lane you came across the farm opposite – now part of the zoo - owned by Mr Davies with Polly the milkmaid. Turning right at the top of the lane you came across Dick Jones and his Blacksmith’s shop on the corner of Flag Lane. Whilst at St Mary’s school we had a school walk to the blacksmith’s to see him shoeing the horses. Coming along Flag Lane back into Heath Road, Brookfield Stores was right across the road on the corner of the small lane that took you to the playfields and also to the back of the row of houses on Heath Road. I think the field was donated by Sir John Frost of Frost flour mills in Ellesmere Port. Sir John lived in Upton Lawn which was a huge house. During the war the house was let off as flats. At the entrance to the house in Upton Lane was the Lodge which is still in use. In my younger days this was occupied by the Misses Rivers. They were small in stature and were dubbed the seven dwarfs though I am not sure how many of them there were.
To the left of the entrance to the big house was a big wood which stretched as far as the Wheatsheaf. Frank and I built a den in the trees and also one made of bricks in which we would while the night away. The Golf course ran alongside. During school we would have air raid drill and would go along to the air raid shelter located opposite the Wheatsheaf across from the tip. One night the raid was very bad, the sirens went, and my foster parents and I were on our way to the shelter when there was a whirring noise followed by a loud bang. We couldn’t get to the shelter quick enough. What with the Ack-Ack guns in Acres Lane going off it was really frightening. Next day everyone was told that there was a huge crater on the Golf course. What had happened was that a spark from the funnel of a train was seen whilst going along the line.
I joined the 1st Upton Cubs when I was ten. Our hut was next to the Wheatsheaf. The Scoutmaster was a Scotsman called Mr Boyd and he lived next to the Chemist Shop on Long Lane. When we were older we joined the 1st Upton Scout troupe.
The village shops were – Brookfields, Mason’s Newsagents, Bradleys, Post Office, Furley Electrical, Reece & Barnes chipshop, Peters Wholesale, Chemists and the Wine & Spirits.
The top of Marina Drive was a dead-end. A pool with crested newts, frogs etc was at the top. Beyond that was sand tip giving us two in the village – the other being in Upton Lane. Opposite the school was another wood which stretched nearly as far as Church Lane. Mass was held in the Village Hall every Sunday. A Miss Nixon had her riding school to the left of the school. There were only two houses separated by a path next to the Village Hall. Then there were fields as far as the end of Newton Lane (now Wealstone Lane). The path alongside the house brought you out into Newton in the vicinity where now stands St. Columbus Church. The fields were owned by a Mr Jim Ithell whose farm was in Wervin. He came with his team of Land Army girls to plough and sow wheat etc for the war effort.
On the corner of Newton Lane (now Wealstone) was Government House opposite the War Memorial. During the war this was occupied by General B Horrocks
and his staff. Further down the lane was the Firs Army camp which together with the guns from Acres Lane made a heck of a row when there was an air raid.
Off Newton (Wealstone) Lane a gate led you through Upton Park to the Mill. I had a Saturday morning job at Dean’s bakery putting the slot in the top of the bread and helping with the bread delivery.
On the corner of Church Lane was the Cockpit although I can’t recall any cock fighting going on while I lived in Upton. The vicar of the Church during my time in Upton was the Rev. T O C East. Opposite the church were large houses – one being owned by Mr & Mrs Epton – Mrs Epton being a top lady in the WRVS. Just past the Church on the left-hand side were four Army huts. These bordered the home of Sir Basil Nield. After the war one of the huts was purchased by the Secretary of the Upton British Legion – a Mr F Morris who lived in Demage Lane. It was taken down and erected where now stands the British Legion. My foster parents and I helped Mr Morris to scrub and clean it out to make it presentable. Two snooker tables were put in and an office sectioned off. This new building caused a lot of members to leave the Upton Men’s Institute – still there on the corner of Caughall Road. During the war this had been the First Aid Station.
The Zoo was the brainchild of Mr G Motteshead. When as a boy I met him, he was a huge man in stature with a walrus moustache. Often we would go down the ‘Butterhill’ – top end of Flag Lane – pass the Judges House and climb into the Zoo. We passed the cows which we were told later were buffalo and bison. The elephant keeper was an Indian man called Mr Harry Karandersar . I think Harry was the name given to him. He would take people for rides on his elephant. Two hours around the zoo in those days and you had seen everything.
Upton seemed in those days to have two of everything – sand tips, refuse tips, pubs, blacksmiths – the other besides Mr Jones in Flag Lane was a Mr Darlington who had his forge in the dip opposite the Dale camp. After the war the refuse tips along with the ponds and sandpits were filled with refuse etc from Capenhurst Power Station. Houses were built on them. Estates grew up everywhere. I often wonder about the houses built on the refuse tip in Upton Lane leading up to Demage Lane – about subsidence etc. The tip was forever going on fire due to the combustion. At least it kept the rodent population under control.
Upton Golf Club was bought by Mr Fred Owen who also bought Upton Lawn – turning both places into flats. Mr Owen lived in Linkmede in Church Lane. One other neighbour was a Mr Alan Hurst – part of the Brookhirst firm. The lower rooms became our new school when we left Upton St.Marys. The big high walls at the top of Church Lane sheltered the small car park and some little allotments.
Top of Church Lane was a cobblestone courtyard to the rear of the large house belonging to Sir Charles Cayzer. In the courtyard were small houses for the employees who worked at the house. Mr Jim Stacey, Mr Hughes – gardeners to the estate – Mr Evans and a Mrs Harris with her children. Opposite at the top of Church Lane stood Rose Cottage – a Mrs Harding was the tenant. She was six foot tall and told me she had a son in the Guards fighting in the war. The row of cottages to the left were occupied by Mr & Mrs Busk, Mr & Mrs Sutton and others.