RED LEY HOUSE - Walney Island
As written by the last occupant - J. Kerslake 2004
To the best of my knowledge and memory, the house was built in 1914 by a man of German extraction and I believe he was greatly suspected of spying etc. as the house was isolated and he had an interest in early radio and telegraphy, It was constructed of red/blue fire bricks and a red tiled roof. All the doors and window frames, stairs and most floors were oak. There was a very handsome large knocker on the front door in the shape of a dragon’s head which I bitterly regret I didn't remove when we were forced out...
There was a big bedroom on the left as you went in the front door N. facing. The stairs ahead and my room at the end of the passage. My room had been an engine house which Dad knocked a door through from the hall and bricked up the original door… concrete floor and very cold… No central heating then. The right hand side of the front door led to a large living room which had a cooking range and an enormous bath, the length of the room. This was constructed of brick and could have held 6 or 8 sitting. I remember my eldest brother trying to teach me to swim there. This bath was tiled in beautiful turquoise blue tiles and was 3 feet high with 2 big oak lids which could be lifted ( but only by Dad or elder brothers) and leaned against the wall. We only ever lifted one which made the rest of the bath like a cave. Mum used to have a lively time with us as she could not reach the covered end to administer any punishments we merited and her threats were soon forgotten about. It was lovely getting dried in front of the fire. The kitchen went off the living room and was fully fitted, even today it would be considered very modern, apart from the sink, which was long, wide and shallow and the taps high above it, which meant you got splashed if you turned the taps on very high. We were fully equipped with a hot water system, mains water and heated by the range which was never allowed to go out. Next to the sink there was a long worktop made of black slate with shelves below, a dropdown table in the window, and a floor to ceiling cupboard on the other wall, with more cupboards with drawers beneath next to it, then a broom cupboard and hanging space. All the wood in the kitchen was pine and the floor tessellated red tiles. There was no electricity, only oil lamps and oil cookers. After we had been there a few years Dad got rid of the big bath ( which also had a shower system) and built a modern bathroom next to my bedroom. A fairly big sitting room led off from the living room which had three windows, 2 facing west and one south. That was a lovely sunny room, but lacked the northern views of Black Combe and the hills, which the living room had. Upstairs there was one very large room and an attic which had a door which was about 4’ high. I could walk through it, but everyone else had to stoop, which meant I had to go there whenever anything was needed from there…… this meant taking a candle, and dire warnings to be careful with it… to this day I go around making sure things are switched off and plugs pulled out and all made safe. From the upstairs bedroom window we had wonderful views of the hills and the channel When we were going to town Mum used to ask me to run upstairs and look at the state of the channel, then decide whether we were to go over the footbridge, get the bus from the bottom of North Scale ( they only went to the end of the promenade then) or go down to the channel down what I think is now 'Munster Close'?, and get the boatman to row us across. There was what seemed to me a very old man called Mr. Jackson who would row across at high tide 1d per adult and 1/2d per child … probably less then 1p in present-day money, and poor soul had to row right up, halfway to the bridge ,then across, the back down again to the jetty at the other side
and maybe find nobody there to bring back, then we would walk through the slag bank tunnel and into town, and get a bus back. With heavy shopping to carry, it seemed a long way home, but the whole family loved living there and were upset to leave. We had just over two acres of land, half of which was garden and we let the other off to campers in the summer. We kept quite a lot of chickens and a few ducks and geese for the eggs, Dad grew almost all of our own vegetables, had two greenhouses for tomatoes lettuce cucumber and radishes. A grapevine and his specialty… chrysanthemums. He used to love his big incurves. He was heartbroken when we left. I had been attacked in the lane on my way to school one morning, when I was about 13. The man in question had been attacking other children in very quiet places but was caught on my evidence. He was given a 6month prison sentence and after that I was so scared he would come back when he was released, so Dad thought we could not stay there. The house was rented out, then not too long after that, we had a letter to say it was requisitioned and would be demolished to make way for the airfield, together with the farm and the windmill. The Air Ministry continued to pay the rent as set in 1938 until the summer of 1953, when they offered my Dad the price he had paid in 1926/7, or we could have the land back but without access to it. No allowances were made for house prices going up in the intervening years
so I consider we were very shabbily treated. The people at the farm did not own the farm, but lost their livelihood, so were offered another farm at Lowick. I still correspond by phone and letter with the youngest member of their family, who is my age and we used to play together. We often comment on how lucky we were to have spent our childhood years there, running about free as the air, with all the beach and the fields and hardly any people, especially in the winter months. On Sunday mornings , my brothers and me tagging on, always went down to the shore to gather wood or anything else of interest, so there was always something for the fire. Once found a case of tinned tomatoes, undamaged and edible, and a case of sobo balls which I found useful for years to come.
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