Monday, 14 March 2016

The Chestnut Hut

The farm which became the Beaumonts Estate was developed from 1929 and was not completed until the early 1960s.  Most of the roads were laid out straight away, and a number of house builders had bid for groups of plots and begun their building operations in 1930, usually in five or six semi-detached pairs at a time.  By 1939, as war was declared, almost none of the estate north of Central Drive had been started.  The exception was Beechwood Avenue, and even in this road there were several empty plots.  Most roads were not paved or made up, and there was very little street lighting.

At the junction of Beechwood Avenue and Chestnut Drive – still open space with allotments at the far end – was a Nissen hut.  From memory it had been pitch-coated at some time, although the ends were possibly painted green. The question of when it had arrived is still open, as it appears on no Ordnance Survey maps.  Nissens were first produced cWW1, and it is possible that the Chestnut Drive building was erected around that time to service the needs of nearby Beaumonts Farm, which was managed from a more distant Oaklands Farm.

All I can recall is that builders Tacchi & Burgess (T&B) made use of the distinctive structure for parking its orange trucks and machines during operations to construct houses in Chestnut Drive from 1949 onwards.

Possibly St Paul's (Chestnut Drive) Sunday School c1944 or 1945
Today, this delightful photo was given to me by a lady whose mum is in the line-up.  The children are smartly dressed – their "going out/Sunday best" clothes.  There is an indication may be a Sunday school class with the adults who were in charge of the children.  A further clue is that Ruth Benchley, the daughter of the vicar of St Paul's Church at the time, is standing at the right end of the back row.

It is therefore possible/probable that St Paul's Church decided to undertake some outreach Sunday school classes for the families of the unfinished Beaumonts estate.  The photo is thought to have been taken either in 1944 or 1945, but without further research we do not know when these classes began; probably not very much earlier than the photo.  The brick external stove appears quite fresh and new, and would have been constructed to provide winter heat for the sessions.

These homes were constructed on the site of the former
Nissen hut in Chestnut Drive.
I grew up on the estate and this is the first time I have become aware of the hut being anything other than a store.  Now if I had known there was a Sunday school so close to my home I would not have had to walk along Hatfield Road, passing two other churches, as far as Trinity Church in Beaconsfield Road!  This Sunday school must have been absorbed in the Blandford Road church building by 1949 so that T&B Builders could begin house-building.

So, the search is on for further information about this centre of Sunday activity on the Beaumonts estate.

Meanwhile over thirty children and their teachers in this picture need identifying!  If you are there, or know of others who were, do please comment, or email

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