The Chestnuts, Alexandra Road

The Chestnuts - I was there!

Hazel Massey

Hi Bob,

I stayed at the Chestnuts for two or three weeks during the summers of 1955, 1956 and 1957.  The first year I was there by myself but the following two years my late sister was with me.  I was 8 years old in 1955 and have so many memories, some happy and some not so happy.

Bob, I may have known your wife as I always remember a lady called Janet who was very kind to me, although some staff were not. I remember calling her Miss Janet, although Miss Jamjar rings a bell! It would have been amazing to have met your wife. I am sorry for your loss.

Bob, I would love to see the photos you have as myself and siblings could well be in them – any chance?

I remember Matie very well, who was very strict and scary and Unsie who was nicer but because she was friends with Matie, I didn’t like her much either.  Matie took a box of Cadburys Milk Tray away from me after my uncle had visited and given them to me.  She shared them out between all the children and I didn’t get one.  I remember being upset for a long time.

Did Janet ever speak of all the wonderful dogs and cats they had at the Chestnuts?  There was Sam, a beautiful black cocker Spaniel, and Jem (I think it was short for Jemima) a golden cocker.  I remember a lovely ginger cat called Grace.

I shared a bedroom which had an iron fire escape leading from the room down into the garden.  When there was a fire drill, everyone had to come into our bedroom and I thought this was very exciting.

The garden seemed huge with high hills which we used to roll down and a huge climbing frame and a sandpit.  About 30 years ago, with my now ex-husband, we tried to find The Chestnuts as I had told him so much about the time I spent there.  Just by coincidence, it seemed like it had just been sold and the wooden lockers which I remember so well, were all piled up in the garden.  There was nobody around so we walked around the garden which was no longer huge and the high hills were just bumps in the lawn.

In the last year I was there (1957) I and another lad were old enough to take the dogs for walks on our own and we used to take them over the fields full of poppies.  I fell in love (at 10 yrs old!!) with this lad and I still remember his name, if you are out there somewhere – Michael Winshake.  All I can remember is that he had an older sister.  We weren’t old enough to think of taking addresses or phone numbers and we promised we would see each other again the next year but I never went there again. He gave me my first kiss!!!

After I married, I went on to breed cocker spaniels, had a chicken called Jemima, a duck called Grace and my favourite flowers have always been poppies – my gardens have always been full of them – all from my happy memories at the Chestnuts.

I have many more memories and if there is anyone who would like to share their own with me, I would love to hear from you.

This page was added on 24/03/2016.

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  • Both my sister Michelle and I were in The Chestnuts for about six weeks during 1966 while our mother was in hospital. I was only 3 at the time, the youngest there besides the matron’s son. There was also a baby there. My sister was 7.

    Because I was too young to go to school, I would just do nothing all day while the staff pottered around getting the place ready for the other school children to come back from school. In the evenings I was only once allowed to stay up a little and join the other children play games before bed time.
    I had such a wonderful time on that evening. I guess the other evenings I was put to bed at about 6 due to my young age so I missed the fun of the evening games with the other older children.

    There was a huge (to me) rocking horse in the play room which I would have loved to climb on but was too little to get on by myself.

    There was also a large Teddy bear tied to a chair which I would have loved to hug had it not been all tied up. I remember other very vividly specific things about The Chestnuts. I guess these are some of my earliest memories.

    Thank God our mother came out of hospital and eventually regained her strength, and later our family moved to Israel.

    By Vivienne sadan nee smith (08/08/2021)
  • I was at the chestnuts from 1952 to 1954
    my name is Ilona then Yason now Shayah!
    I remember Janet she was really nice! Of course I also remember Matie and Unsie but Janet was the best. I have a photo of everyone there at the time and can send if I have an email address to send it to.

    By Ilona Shayah nee Yason (18/09/2019)
  • Hi Ilona, thanks for these comments. You can email your photo to We’d be happy to contact Hazel Massey, the author of this article, and ask if we could add your photo here. If she prefers it to be separate, we can upload this in a new post for you. Thanks, Ed.

    By Marion Hill (08/10/2019)
  • Do you have any photos?
    I was at that home too.

    By Irene morne (07/01/2019)
  • I remember a boy called Billy. Also I was friends with a girl called Ruth. My sister who would have been about 14 or 15, was friends with a girl called Frances.
    I am now known as Lee and I live in Scotland

    By Lin McAlwane nee Jacobson (08/11/2017)
  • My name is Link not Lib

    By Lin McAlwane nee Jacobson (22/10/2017)
  • My dad managed Harteidges furniture shop, my parents became friends with matron in 1955, and I made friends with a girl called Hannah, my sister and I were often at the chestnuts and joined in all events, bonfire nights and visits to the pantomime. We saw Norman Wisdom in Aladin, and he joined us at the restaurant afterwards. I was know then as Lib

    By Lee McAlwane (16/09/2017)