Michael Allen's story: hut 912 and the school

Photo:Hothfield School with the common in the background

Hothfield School with the common in the background

Michael's playground!

Photo:A few of the huts' foundations can be traced

A few of the huts' foundations can be traced

Chris Rogers, 2008

Photo:A young couple at the hut camp

A young couple at the hut camp

Do you know who they were?

Rabbits, dogs and a chemical toilet

By Michael Allen

Memories of Hothfield Common

My memories of living in a Nissen Hut on Hothfield Common are somewhat vague, most likely because I would have been only four or five at the time, 1948/49.

We lived at number 912, I know that because my sister was born in January 1949 while we were there and the address is on her birth certificate.

My dad was working as a coalman for a firm called Hinchcliffe’s when we lived at Hothfield so you can be sure we had plenty of coal for the stove, I believe we also had clean coal sacks on the floor for insulation under the lino.

I believe our hut had just two rooms, a living room at the front with the iron stove backed against the dividing wall. The chimney from the stove came through the dividing wall into the bedroom and out through the roof.

I remember lying in bed in the early morning and could see the pipe glowing red in the semi darkness where my father had just stoked the fire putting plenty of coal on.

One of my father’s favourite chores whilst we lived on the common was emptying the chemical toilet, he had to carry it quite a distance to empty it into the communal cess pit. I wonder now if this was the area known as Hothfield bog! I don’t remember the occurrence myself, but mum and dad often mentioned the evening when he was emptying the toilet and slipped into the pit with muck up to his knees.

My most vivid memory of my mother while we lived on the common was when she delivered me to school for the first time at the Hothfield primary school. I should have started in January 1949 but probably owing to the fact my mother was heavily pregnant and eventually gave birth to my sister in January, I was a bit late starting!

I didn’t want to be left on my first morning  at school. I was bawling my eyes out with the teacher trying to pull me into the classroom by one hand and I was holding onto my mum with the other.

I seem to remember the classroom being typical Victorian with the windows so high even an adult would have been unable to see out.

While we lived on the common I think our main source of food was rabbit. I can remember going with my dad to one of the farms when they were harvesting, along with my uncle and other neighbours from the Nissen Huts on the common. There were also several other men and boys as well as several dogs. I remember rabbits running in all directions, chased by dogs and men and boys wielding heavy sticks. We had a pile of rabbits that stood higher than me, I remember somebody telling me to guard them! One or two of the men had shotguns, firing in all directions, it’s a wonder nobody was shot!

Another memory I have of the common was when the bracken caught fire and there were fire engines all over the place.

We moved from Hothfield to Deans Walk, South Ashford in November 1949.

Michael Allen, 2010

This page was added by Chris Rogers on 23/10/2013.

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