Print

Irene Clarkson interview: Early Wimbledon

What I remember when I was young was that everything was horses. All the milk carts for instance [were pulled] by horses. And there would be more than one company. The other end of Home Park Road has houses which are presumably about a couple of million or more now but they were all built in my lifetime. All the ones built facing the golf course. Some of the nice ones are being pulled down and they are putting horrors in their place. I’m guessing that some of them may have swimming pools underneath them.  

What was on that side of Home Park Road when you were very young?

Banky Fields. It was a bank and one house was called Banky Fields afterwards. It was my pet house as a child because it had blue tiles and I had never seen a house with blue tiles before. It was a beautiful house standing back with a long sloping lawn and whoever bought it has pulled it down and built something near the fence line. It broke my heart. 

Banky Fields covered quite a big area?

Yes, long gardens at the back. My dentist lived there. My dentist was my school-friend and I remember as a civil servant as soon as she qualified I went to her of course. I remember saying there was something wrong with one of my teeth, I must go and see my old girlfriend and one of the men in the office said in a horrified voice “You are not going to let your old school-friend mess about with your teeth?” and I said “I certainly am, she’s a licensed dental surgeon”. It was unusual then. It never occurred to me. There were girls in my form who became doctors and two of them became dentists. It never occurred to me that this was unusual. 

Do you remember the horse that would bring people up the hill?

Ah, my friend Jack.  I remember vividly. You could send a child to school on their own in my day and I used to walk to school along Woodside and the horse was almost opposite the kindergarten of the high school. He had that horse shining – it looked as if it was going in a showring. Its brasses shining. He had nothing else to do, after all. It was lovely this beast and I was very fond of it and I would be allowed to stroke it and I would say” Would you see me across the road?” I was quite capable of crossing on my own but he was very good. He was small, I think he may have been an ex-jockey.  According to that [book, Richard Milward’s Historic Wimbledon] there was a horse there for 30 years but it wasn’t there all my school life and I wouldn’t notice. I think eventually they put a police officer on the intersection but only when the school was going and coming.