The Bungalow at Borrowash

At the time - in mid-1964 - this bungalow was the culmination of my mother's dreams - the first property she ever actually owned. She bought it when it was four bricks high and it was finished around July 1964. But not long after buying it she discovered it had been built illegally - none of the solicitors' searches had uncovered a "widening line" on the old A52 - the reason the house to the left was built further back from the road.

The old bungalow at Borrowash

The Bungalow at Borrowash

So before we could move in, we had to get the widening line lifted, which actually required an Act of Parliament. It sounds a drama, but in fact such things are common - the Borrowash Bypass had already been built so there was no need to widen the old A52 and the line was lifted in a few months.

When we moved in it looked a lot different. The porch wasn't enclosed and the glazing was simple in wooden frames. There was some dispute as to the actual address - the house had been built in an old gooseberry orchard in a space left for two houses. The Post Office had thoughtfully left two numbers - 179 and 181. The rating authority numbered from one end of the road and called it 181 - the Post Office numbered from the other end, called it 179, and returned the rating authority's letters "no such address".

The kerb was much higher and the drive massive concrete - probably impossible for a low modern car and really quite a problem for me on my bikes. The great expanse of tarmac today was then a lawn edged by tangerine roses from Harry Wheatcroft's - at 14, my responsibility, as was the old field hedge at the front of the property. My mother owned the triangular patch at the end and grew snapdragons and hollyhocks. The mordant palms don't help today's look.

The back garden was a nightmare. Rocks, stones, and gooseberry bushes. It's on the fringe of a glacial moraine. We did them in geography that year: "Please, sir, I know what a moraine is. I've dug one up." Behind the house was an unfenced field - now a small estate of houses. We left the garden for months, mainly because we were decorating inside, then had one massive gooseberry harvest and ripped out the plants. One day in autumn half-term I decided to have a go, and spent dawn to dusk heaving rocks, stones and bricks over the back fence. The next day I pegged some thin boards left by the builders into a sinuous curve and started shovelling. By the end of the day I had two flat sections of ground, riddled and raked for grass seed.

As was our habit at the time, my mother and I went shopping in Derby that Saturday. She was a friend of the legendary "Mad Harry" who sold crockery on Cockpit Hill - sadly all now swept away in the name of "efficiency". We went into Woolworths, picked up some grass seed, looked at other things and walked out - my mother suddenly realising she hadn't paid for the grass seed and spinning round to find a store detective right behind. So the lawn was sown in October.

The inside was quite modern. The lounge was the centrepiece - with a "picture window", possibly the biggest window anyone around had seen at the time but quite modest by today's standards. Single glazed, too. The fireplace was the main feature - a long piece of teak with concealed lighting above shining down two wooden panels either side of the chimney breast. First challenge - find out where in hell the electrician had got the orange-tinted filament lamps from.

But with the gas fire on low, the main light off and the backlights on, it was a wonderful place to take a girlfriend and many a happy hour was spent on that couch.

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