2. The Greencroft Children

Stand 2 - Site of the Children's Playground on The Greencroft.
Photo John Palmer 2014
Children on the Greencroft at the start of the twentieth century.
JTplaying in ww2shelters, bonfires, Greencroft
Stand 2. Jan Truckle remembers playing in the WW2 Shelters and Bonfires on the Greencroft. (MP3 audio clip)

Stand 2

Salisbury has always regarded The Greencroft  as an essential recreation area. This was particularly important for the children and there is still a playground here now.

The old attractive photograph on the right is of a crowd of children on the Greencroft in 1901 or 1902, taken in the same location as the photograph above, as it is today.  It was originally published as a Salisbury postcard.

Bonfire Night

Bonfire night on the Greencroft was the highlight of the year for many local children, particularly in the 1950s.  Rival gangs of children from Greencroft Street and Culver Street competed with each other to build the biggest bonfire.

Iris Evans remembers the fun she had:

‘It was really funny because Culver Street where this demolition had been done, they used to have their bonfire on there.  Well they’d come up and try and steal things from our bonfire and we did the same thing, it was hilarious but they still had their bonfire and if theirs burnt out quicker than ours they come up onto the Greencroft’.

In addition there may have been up to 30 individual bonfires alight at once, with families all setting off their own fireworks.

Reg McGee describes the scene:

‘There were some big bonfires, there were some small bonfires but it was literally a sea of fire.’

Disaster!

Michael Winterman, a child in Greencroft Street in the 1950s, recalls one year when disaster struck:

‘And then one year we had this enormous bonfire and… it was about a week before bonfire night and someone came racing in our back garden along the alley way and saying ‘The bonfire’s on fire’ and all the children…we went rushing up the street and there was masses of flames in the Greencroft and then we heard, these bells and the fire engine rushing up Salt Lane and round the corner and up Bourne Hill onto the grass and there were these firemen there with this big hose pipe and they were just sort of watering it all down around the bonfire and we thought ‘it’s our bonfire!’ and of course when you think about it there were tyres on this bonfire, there were sort of tar barrels and things like that and this black acrid smoke, I can remember it now and the smell was unbelievable’.

Health and Safety?

The memory of those bonfire nights still linger today as Ken Edwards, who also grew up in Greencroft Street, describes:

‘And it got very, very big and after a while we went to the council…’cause we kept getting told off for burning the grass, ‘Could you build a concrete square?’ and that concrete square that’s in the middle of the Greencroft now is where we used to build a bonfire and that’s what it was put there for, for the bonfire.  And that shows you the sort of size that it was. ‘Cause we used to cover that and right the way up, once or twice we got told to make it a bit smaller because they felt it was a bit too big but we used to build that and even guard it.  I’ve spent many a night up there in the bonfire on guard’.

Jan Truckle remembers playing in the WW2 Shelters and Bonfires on the Greencroft. Listen to her audio clip at the right of the page or on your downloaded MP3 file from the Downloads page.

Changing Environment

Before we leave the children, look at the background of the photograph. The nearby row of houses is still there, but the Ring Road has eliminated those on the far left corner of the Greencroft. These were the ‘Eyre’s Alms Houses’ named after their founder. They stood on the London Road, just before it swung down into the City.

Notice again how the Ring Road sliced off part of the Greencroft.

Now leave the Greencroft and go down back to our starting place at the letterbox. From there, turn left and walk along Greencroft Street.

Comments about this page

  • Revisiting Salisbury recently I noticed the changes to the play area and thought about how the play equipment changed over the years. When we played there in the 60’s there was the fearsome rocker or witches hat as others have called it. For those that don’t know about it, it was a tall metal frame in the shape of a cone that sat upon a metal pole. It span around and rocked as well from side to side as it span. Children sat on wooden planks or stood on them clinging on to the bars. You could also do monkey swings between the bars on the inside. Like all the other equipment it was sturdy and had to be to survive the stick it got. Though potentially very dangerous ( if you climbed high to the top where the frame sat on the pole, there was plenty of opportunity to trap your fingers when it rocked). However, I always thought the most dangerous piece was the rocking horse. Made of heavy metal and wood, it had a row of metal bucket seats on its long straight back and at the front was a solid iron horse head with two handles to hold on to. I don’t think there were any other handles. All very genteel. Except, as it rocked back and forth and gathered pace it would get to a point where it delivered an almighty bucking motion. There was much debate as to where the least dangerous place to sit was. What was agreed though was the the rearmost seat could see you thrown off backwards and the front seat risked the horse’s head hitting you in the face at it bucked. The roundabout was a favorite. Probably only 6 foot in diameter and standing 3 foot high, it had bars that went from the center flat across the top and then down to the running boards. These were used to scoot to get up speed whilst on the roundabout or to flick with your hand if standing next to it. Great spinning speeds could be achieved such that it was common to be thrown off due to the centrifugal force. It you did cling on -laying flat with your head to the center and arms and legs braced against the bars- the only way to get off was to wait for it to slow down. You soon learned not to get trapped on there and spun around mercilessly. At other times I remember some of the idle summer hols days when we would lay on our backs, heads to the center, letting it gently rotate and watch the clouds ahead spin. There was a lovely slide with a brass chute. Apart from running up it the wrong way there was little harm to be done on that. It did seem, looking back, that we used all the equipment for just about anything except what it was designed for. Touch down he was a favorite where you were safe if off the ground. I liked the swings. There were two sets facing the path that ran down from the top of Escort Rd to Greencroft St. We played on the infants ones if others had grabbed the proper ones but always made way for mums and their little ones of course. The frames for both sets of swings were great for climbing up. On the big swings we more often than not just sat on them chatting swinging side to side or back and forth, hanging upside down, legs hooked around the chains. The seats were attached to chains going to the cross bar above. The outside seats could thus be hooked around the frame poles taking them out of action so that the remaining seat could swing in any direction. These swings were a challenge for braver children as the chains would go slack when a crucial height was reached on the forward swing. You had to be standing to build the momentum for that. Some of us could pluck leaves from the lime trees standing in front of the swings. Good days! The fields were used for footy (jumpers for posts of course) and cricket and just hanging around in the summer. Playing ‘splits’ was always interesting – it involved a knife and making your opponent stretch their legs apart to where the knife was thrown into the grass .Many a summer evening my elder sister would be sent out from home in Culver St to fetch me. That twilight time was when the older boys and girls came out and the Greenie took on, at least for a ten year old, a more sinister complexion……. Good days.

    By Mike (30/01/2022)
  • Thanks for sending in these lovely memories!

    By Clare Christopher (31/01/2022)
  • such happy memories.

    By Jennifer Thomas (12/11/2021)
  • I clearly remember the mayhem described by Trevor. One particularly strong memory is the sight of rockets being directed along the roofs of the Greencoft houses and those in Greencroft Street. One of the things I greatly missed when I went to work in London in the mid-fifties was Bonfire Night on the Greencroft

    By Michael Safe (14/10/2020)
  • I was a child of the 50`s and early 60`s, I lived at 60 Paynes Hill(still there today but totally different) In the very early days we had the Culver St. bonfire but eventually when I got a bit older we would go the Greencroft bonfire. I well remember the year the the bonfire was set alight before Nov 5th we were gutted, but we did manage to rebuild it but not as large as previously.
    We used to have a week off school just before bonfire night, my friends and I would go to town in our “trolley`s” and spend all week collecting burnables for our bonfire, which included car and bicycle tyres; just anything we could carry that would burn.
    When we built the “bommy” to a decent size we would climb it and make dens inside, i remember me and a friend being on top of the bonfire having a tyre fight with other kids.
    When the big day came to light the bonfire it was very exciting, if you arrived at the Greencroft late it was SCARY trying get close to the bonfire; there was people everywhere fireworks including rockets, catherine wheels and bangers going off sometimes overhead or around your feet.
    If you met somebody you knew you would often have a banger thrown at you or vice versa. It was a H&S nightmare but very few people got injured. You could tell by the sound of the banger when it was about to explode, so you knew when to throw it.

    9

    By Trevor Dalton (08/08/2014)

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