In 2013, Annita, who lives at 85 Richmond Avenue overlooking Thornhill Gardens, received a surprise visit from Ken Bridgman, then aged 79, who remembered living in the house back in the 1840s.  Annita invited him in and had the presence of mind to take notes as he reminisced about his family and their experiences in the area during the war years.  The result is a fascinating account, packed with local detail, which you can download here:

Download Ken Bridgman Notes

This was in the days when the area was much more deprived and multi-occupancy was the norm.  Read about communal cookers on the landings; rabbits, chickens and ducks in the garden; late night drinking parties in the basement with the connivance of the Duke of Wellington across the road; the destruction through bombing of Barnard Park; and much more!

We've tracked down Ken and his brother Sidney on Ancestry.  Ken married Shirley Beamiss in 1956, moved to the South Coast, where he ran a stall outside Brighton's Grand Hotel, and died in 2015 in Littlehampton.  The Bridgman family seem to have been deep-rooted in the community - Ken's father had a wet fish shop next door to the old Eclipse pub. as well as a builder's business - but so far that's all we know.  Can anyone supply more details?

Later: 

Yes they can!  Annita subsequently contacted Ken's daughter Jackie who has kindly shared with us the wonderful photo below of the wedding party of her uncle Sidney Bridgman to Josie Greer, which took place at 85 Richmond Avenue in October 1948.  Ken, who would have been 14 at the time, is the lad third from the left in the back row.  Sidney and Josie are in the middle row just to the right of the wedding cake.  And Ken and Sidney's Mum and Dad are on the extreme right on the back and middle rows respectively.  We also have an image of a wedding telegram sent from Suez!  What's the story there I wonder?  According to Jackie, Sidney is now a young 95 and eager to tell his story, so hopefully we'll find this out as well as more details of the life and times of the intriguing Bridgman family.

 

Wedding Sydney 1948 IMG 2176 ProcessedWedding Telegram

Update: Sidney's Memoirs!

Sure enough, Sidney has not just told his tale, he's published his memoirs in a slim volume entitled "Variety is the Spice of Life", which he's kindly lent to us.  Here's the front cover with Sidney engaged in his favourite pastime - having a pint in a friendly pub!

Sydney Bridgman Memoirs Front Cover Processed

 

It really is a remarkable document.  Sidney is a born storyteller and this is a wonderful tale of a life well lived and thoroughly enjoyed, with some great jokes and fascinating details of a way of life which is now gone forever. 

Page 1, reproduced below, gives a flavour of what's to come.  We start on September 3rd, 1939, at 11 o'clock with war declared.  Sidney is 12 years old and part of a close-knit community including a large extended family who all live in Gainsford Street, just off Richmond Avenue.  By today's standards life is hard - the men are in and out of work and mothers work tirelessly to keep things going - but Sidney's memories are all happy ones and he is never bored.  When the first air raid siren is sounded everyone is confused, but nothing happens and after a short while his gran and aunts get fed up of sitting in the Anderson shelter and by 12 o'clock the men realise the pubs are open so off they go and soon everything is back to normal!

Page 1

 

This "grin and bear it" outlook persisted throughout the war years.  Apart from a short period when he was evacuated with his mother and brother to Chesterfield, Sidney soon got used to living through the blitz in London.  Even when most of Gainsford Street was flattened by a bomb falling on the Duke of Brunswick pub in Barnsbury Road "the good news was that Joe's Fish and Chip shop was still standing"!  Luckily, by that time the whole extended family had all moved to neighbouring houses in Richmond Road - Sidney living first at No 73, with his Aunt Edie next door, then moving to No 85 (Annita's present day home).  And the family was always up for a good laugh, as when his father, having bought an electric shaver off an American serviceman, was lathering his face with hot soapy water and was just stopped in time by cousin Dick!

Sidney's father, also called Sidney, was a real character who seemed to be able to turn his hand to anything.  He was a builder before buying Joe's Fish and Chip shop, then opening a wet fish shop next to the old Eclipse pub on Barnsbury Road.  Sidney followed in his father's footsteps and much of the book describes the huge variety of jobs he took on, usually with his father, brother or other family members.  These included building, office work, selling seafood, cafes and shops, Post Office work, running a car hire firm, and many more. 

A constant theme running through the book is Sidney's enthusiasm for a drink in the pub and merrymaking in general, starting with the Duke of Wellington on the corner of Gainsford Street and Richmond Avenue and continuing through many foreign holidays to the present day.  

In 1949 Sidney's father suddenly announces to general astonishment that he's bought an oyster bar in Brighton.  By the mid-50s most of the Bridgman clan have left Islington but they stick together, first in Brighton then in Sutton and Crawley where Sydney lives today.  He signs off his memoirs with these words:  "As they say, 'Variety is the Spice of Life' so I think I have had my share and wouldn't change a thing".

And here's the back page of the book - a photo of Sydney and Josie, presumably on their wedding day in October 1948.

Sydney Bridgman Memoirs Back Cover