Chatting with Jillian Lawrence recently about her Memories of Wokingham was a real treat. A friend said when our children were at school together that she had never met anyone who was Wokingham through and through, of course I disagreed. Wokingham, and I refer to the Borough, is a rich tapestry of people that have grown up here and never left. I was particularly fascinated by the evacuee stories Jillian shared, more on that another time. Jillian was born in Winfield Nursing Home in Oxford Road, grew up on Barkham Road and knew everyone! Her 2 brothers have moved away but her cousin Bill Mundy the portrait artist still lives locally. Her mother worked for WH Smiths at the station on the Oxford Road side and in the late 50s it moved across to the main entrance where many of us would dash in and buy a paper before boarding our train. The most popular papers in her day were The Times, The Independent, The Mail, Express, Sun and The Today paper, as well as the local papers which we would devour on our hour’s journey to Waterloo.
Jillian said that she could tell where the passengers were going depending on their paper purchases, if they bough The Times and The Mail they would be London bound and if it was The Sun they would be Reading bound and she fondly remembers passengers buying their tickets and hollering for a coffee. Jillian used to be at the station from 5am to noon, who knows how much coffee she consumed.
It must have been strange leaving your familiar surroundings and ending up in leafy Wokingham. In those days the evacuees were schooled in the afternoon as there was not the capacity to teach the local and evacuee children in one lesson however they all played together and built strong bonds which in Jillian’s case were long lasting and she is still in touch with her evacuee’s family.
I am fascinated to hear where people who have moved into Wokingham come from and as a child I was very confused to hear the Welsh accent in Hurst, how times have changed and now I am surrounded by Welsh accents! Even more so with Wales Week / Berkshire which is an offshoot of Wales Week Worldwide. Wales Week is an annual event which takes place between 22 February and 8 March where Wales literally comes to various places around the world and makes some Welsh noise. Berkshire joins New York, London, Dubai, Paris, Abu Dhabi, Chicago and many more. Wales Week / Berkshire brings people together to celebrate the history, culture, beauty, heritage, community and businesses of Wales. There is a huge Welsh diaspora living in Berkshire so if you are Welsh and live or work in Berkshire please do follow the Wales Week / Berkshire social media channels and be the first to hear about the fabulous events that are lined up.
This year a friend is celebrating his birthday on the actual day he was born, I know so few people who were born on the 29th February but there must be a few in the borough. The most popular month for birthdays seems to be March, of course I would say that being a March baby myself.