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Halstead 21st Century Group

Thu 24th Nov 2022: Mid-century memories of the Terrace

Growing Up at Number 7

Mum & Dad moved from West Hampstead to Alphamstone in late 1952 with yours truly as a very small child. They lived in Henny Back Road in a small bungalow with no mains water, drains or electric….. and loved it! Dad got a job at Courtauld’s Halstead Mill pretty quickly, and after a few months of cycling each way was offered No. 7 Factory Terrace. We moved in early 1954 and I have a very distant memory of loads of unopened boxes in the front room.

The back room between 1960-65 

There was only electricity on the ground floor and so one of the early jobs was for Dad and my Grandad to wire the first and second floors. Obviously there was no such thing as central heating but each room had an open fire. My brother and I shared a bedroom on the first floor and in winter we would put our clothes in between the bedspread and blanket to keep them marginally warmer than the temperature in the room. Those characteristic cast iron windows would often be covered in frost on the inside. When I was older and using the top front room as my bedroom I was allowed a fire during the winter, but I can never ever remember sorting it out myself!

The noise of the looms in the mill was a constant from 6.00am on Monday until 6.00am on Saturday but no one took very much notice. It was always eerily quiet during the mill holidays, especially the “factory fortnight” which was the annual summer holidays, taking place the last week of July and first week of August.

A view across the mill roof to the Power House chimney                                                                                              

The 1903 mill chimney was immediately outside our back door, with the dustbins from the canteen kept at the rear of it. The air raid shelters made an excellent playground, especially the empty ones, where we would let off fireworks in the run up to 5th November. At the time,the gardens of the terrace went all the way to the air raid shelters and our top boundary was the hedge separating ours, from the garden of Cook’s off licence on the High Street. We had a way through however, and sometimes played with Ronald Cook who lived above the shop. 

Mill chimney between the terraces 

We were one of only two or three families that owned a car and eventually Dad built his own garage on the lower end of the garden. Very few cars ever ventured down the road and so we were able to play without problems, often chalking cricket stumps on the mill wall in a number of places.

At some point in the early 60s the company offered the houses for sale to the sitting tenants at a discounted price. However, as my Dad was the only person to express any interest, the offer was withdrawn.

When it was time for me to leave school I decided to try and get a job at Courtaulds, solely so I might stay in bed until the latest possible moment…… and was usually a few minutes late clocking in!

All in all, “the terrace” was a brilliant place in which to grow up. I lived there until 1968 when my parents moved to one of the new flats in Colne Valley Close, but they were never really happy there and moved again in 1974.  I must admit that Factory Terrace doesn’t have the same attraction now that the houses overlook the Solar car park - give me the mill anytime!

If John’s recollections spark any memories of your own we’d really love you to share them! Just drop us an email

Factory terrace. Halstead heritage. Listed building. Mid-century.