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Rackham Street, built in the mid nineteenth century is a road that disappeared from the streetscape of London W10 in 1951.
During the night of 27/8 September 1940, after Nazi incendiary bombs, the central part of Rackham Street become a huge crater (though only one person was killed).
As the Luftwaffe aimed for the railway line and gas works, the nearby Princess Louise Hospital was also bombed three times and around a hundred incendiaries hit the St Charles convent and grounds.
In the early 1950s, the rest of Rackham Street was demolished to make way for the Balfour of Burleigh estate. Rackham Street left no trace – not even a name.
Frank Hatton, who lived at 29 Rackham Street (on the north side) remembers:
Our house, and its neighbours, were known as tenement houses, in that each floor of the four story house was occupied by different families. There was a front door to which each family had a key. There were no door bells in those days, but each front door had a ‘knocker’, and if you wished to call on the family on the first floor, you would knock once, if it was for the second floor, you would knock twice, and three times for the third floor, and four for the fourth or top floor.. There were just two toilets to serve the whole house, and the families would take turns in keeping them clean. There was no bathroom at all, so each family would have a large moveable metal bath, and once a week this would be be filled with hot water, which was boiled up in the kettle (no running hot water in those days) and it took around 20 to 30 kettles to fill the bath, and then the whole family would take turns to use the same water until all were clean. Other than the bath, we also daily used the one family sink in the kitchen, where a bowl was filled with hot water (kettle again) for a wash.. This family sink also had the one running cold water tap.
Rackham Street was typical of many of the London streets and roads in the 1930s. It was quite a quiet street, with just the odd ambulance going down to the hospital at the end. There were very few cars about in those days, and particularly as this was one of the poorer parts of London we as children could play happily and safely in the road itself, until the odd horse and cart came along, and we had to wait until it had ambled slowly past, and we could continue our game. In 1935, the Silver Jubilee of King George V was celebrated, and street parties were held in most of the London streets, which of course included our own. So, tables and benches were laid out along the length of the street and we children were waited on by the parents with all the ‘goodies of that time. Things like jelly, ice-cream cake, sandwiches etc. plus lemonade and other soft drinks. I suppose we numbered about 250 children in all, ( families were rather larger in those days) . There were about 50 tenement houses in the street, and each house contained an average of five children.