Joyce Ludbrook

Over the Rainbow

By Gina Da Cunha

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Joyce Ludbrook' page

'Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive'

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Joyce Ludbrook' page

'Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive'

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Joyce Ludbrook' page

'Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive'

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Joyce Ludbrook' page

'Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive'

Joyce Ludbrook (nèe Blower) lived with her mum and dad until she was 5 years old. She was born in Bradford, Yorkshire.

Memories of Granny Batchelor

'Most of my great grandparents are from Cork in Ireland. I knew Granny Batchelor, me mum's mum. She was always around, living in Northallerton. I met her when I was 16. She used to make sheep's broth, bones and everything on a coal fire. A really good old lady. She fell out of bed aged 93, and they didn't know, so she died. she would have lived to be a bloomin' hundred if that hadn't happened. She was plump like. She used to wear her hair up in a bun.'

Coal Porter

'We lived in a street of 50 houses in Hendon in Bradford. It was right mucky cos of all the coal mines. Me dad used to send us after the coal man to see what coal we could get out of him for free. He used to say "Get off me you little buggers". We had a big range in the house and veg cooking on it, but no meat as there wasn't the money. Me dad used to go out and shoot rabbits to make rabbit pie.'

Bugs, Bunnies

'We were always hungry cos there were 15 of us, so we were always outside looking for summat to eat. When I still lived with me mam and dad, there used to be 'black clocks' (flying black beetles on the walls). They were horrible, used to get in your hair. Me dad was a stoker on the trains. Me mum used to make rabbit pie, cos we used to go rabbitting, also sheep's' head and barley stew, or big bones for stew. We ate a lot of barley. My mum and dad had the 15 kids: Alan (eldest), Then 2 years later, Connie, then 1 year later Edna, then another year after, Eric, then Terrence 2 years hence, then 3 years later brought Edwin, then another year after me and me twin sister Mavis, then 6 years after came Maureen and Jean who were another set of twins, then Keith 4 years later, then Ronnie after another year, then Ruby the youngest a year later. She had twin boys after Ruby, but they died after about a month.'

A truly tough start

'She didn't want me, me mam. Me eldest sister told me. When she had us twins, I were the weak sickly one. She left me behind in the hospital and said she didn't want me. They were feeding me salt. My sister came to fetch me after a few days, as she said that the hospital would end up killing me.'

A family broken

'In 1930s me dad said, "right, I've had enough of you lot". He kept 5 of me brothers and put the rest of us in orphanages. The five of them stayed with mum, as they were old enough, and refused to go, but they split the rest of us up. They separated me from my twin sister and put her in a different home. Me and 2 brothers went to this home. My twin sister went to Scarborough orphanage. Me dad left me mum for another woman after we went into the home, and they then either had five more kids, or he took her five on.'

The Orphanage

'I spent almost the rest of my childhood in a home until I was 14. In the home there were 30 boys and 30 girls, boys at one end of the home, girls at t'other. There were 10 kids to a dormitory. We used to go to the local C of E School each day about a mile's walk away. We had to go to church three times on Sundays. We got a penny on Saturdays for a bag of sweets, and if you were lucky, when you were a bit older, you got thruppence to go to cinema. We wore just about anything that fitted, rags really, and our hair was cut with a basin. If you got nits, you had your head shaved.'


'In the home, we were next to a US army base and they used to give us gum. There were orchards at the home, and so we used to scrump there. At Christmas, they would give us a doll for the day, and then when the committee left, they would take the toys back again. We had nothing. I hate Horlicks now, cos that's all we had to drink. I used to sleepwalk, and wake up in front of the matron's office. She used to beat me 'cos she thought I was sneaking around but I never knew how I got there. There was a big air raid shelter at the back which got bombed cos they were trying to get the US base next door. The home was on a big road. We ran away once, me and me two brothers, but they found us after a couple of hours. I only learnt to embroider there because we had to make table cloths for the committee each year.'

An evil matron

'The Matron was evil. She used to hit us all the time, for anything, she had a big leather strap. There was a boy there who couldn't cry, and she used to beat the hell out of him to try and make him cry. If you wet yersel', you had to go and stand out side in the cold as punishment. We made up a song about her':

'There is a happy home, up Whitby Road,

Which all the children run, up Whitby Road,

You should see the matron come,

Three slaps across the bum

Up Whitby Road'

Always hungry

'In the home, we were always hungry. That's why we used to go scrumping. We looked after each other. One day, she threw me brother down a passage. I reckon that's why his ears are funny now. We used to have good knicker elastic in our drawers and when we were working in the kitchen, which you did whatever age you were, you worked a lot in the home, and so we used to take food, and put it into our knicker elastic. When we had to go to bed (lights out at 7pm), we used to get up and share the food out at night. She sometimes used to find crumbs in our pillows and shout at us.'

Over the rainbow

'I used to sing Judy Garland songs at the care home I lived in when I was growing up. They used to beat me, and I used to go outside and sing my songs to try and forget about it all. When I was older, I used to sing in a sextet and sing all Judy Garland's songs as well. We used to make up a football team and play the kids from the Wesleyan home up the road. We were the Catholic team and were called 'The Church Bulldogs' and they were called the Wesleyan Water rats. And they used to say, "Them bloody kids from that piggin' home". We used to play hopscotch, marbles amongst other things. We went to Whitby for a week a year on holiday and get thruppence weekly for pocket money.'

Whitby days

'We used to go for a week away every year to Whitby. Age 9, I was boarded out to a woman in Whitby. I stayed there for about a year. She was a lovely woman, but she couldn't cope with me shouting in my sleep, and sleepwalking, waking up in cupboards, so she sent me back to the home.'

Into service

'I went into service at 14. I had a choice in the home of going into service nearer to me mam or me dad, but me mam never wanted me, so I chose to go to work in Derby nearer to me dad and his wife. Joyce was sent to work in Elverston Castle on the outskirts of Derby, where by chance she found that her twin sister was working in the same place, cleaning in the castle which was a training college for teachers training to be headmistresses. From age 14 to 20 I worked in a college in a castle. It was a lot of work, I had to cook for 200 students, do all the cleaning, change bedding etc. The college then moved to Uttoxeter New Road, Derby, so then I saw me dad at weekends. I liked me dad. We had a good relationship then. He died in 1983, me mam in '84. I've always been the stray though. They all live up in or around Middlesbrough and Darlington. I'm the only one who lives down here (in Crawley) now.'

A sad end

'Me twin sister then went to me mam's in Middlesbrough. Me mam married two more times. The last one was Ukrainian. He had his own separate room, and was an alcoholic, though he was quite nice to us. He drank himself to death on methylated spirits. When he died, me younger sister Ruby brought her down to Crawley to be near us, but she got confused with the move, and kept going wandering, thinking she was still in Northallerton where she'd moved from. She died in a house fire.'

Coping with a baby

'At 20 I left the college and got a job in the canteen at the local hospital. I met a guy there. 'e was a bad 'un, but I didn't realise that he was a convict. We moved to London and he got me pregnant. He wouldn't look after me, so I went to the council, and they said I could have the baby in a council home, but we had to get married first, so he came back and we got married. We then lived in digs, when I'd just had the baby. He moved us all down to Margate, then when we got there he left me. I said "What will I do?" he said, "How should I know?" It was winter, and I had nothing. I packed a little bag and the pram (I was only 21), and me and the baby hitched up north to me brother Edwin's. There were some right funny buggers on the way, trying it on.'

I could go on singing...

'I went to Manchester, and met a man, who I ended up spending 11 years with. This was when we had the sextet dance band that I used to sing the Judy Garland songs in, but in 5 years he never had a job'. Joyce was in the band, which toured around playing for audiences, and once played at a Policeman's Ball alongside Maurice Chevalier, when all the lights failed, though she carried on singing. 'Me boyfriend was all right but a right lazy so and so. I had three jobs on the go, and ended up in hospital with exhaustion. I left him in 1976.'

A spell as a turkey farmer

'Then I stayed with a friend after that I got a flat near the 'bullring' in Manchester. This was broken into, so I went to Northallerton to look after me mam when her third husband died. I became a turkey farmer looking after 50,000 turkeys, and driving a tractor. There I met and married a Canadian man who turned out to be an evil drunk and used to batter me rotten. He tried to kill me, tried to slit my throat, and my brother and sister ended up helping me escape from him. They drove me off in a car, whilst the Canadian tried to pull me out, but he only got me shoe.' This led Joyce to move to Crawley in August 1980 to stay with her sister in Langley Green. They used to go to the Speedway place in Cherry Lane till 1987 or 1988 when it fell out of fashion, but she met her new husband there! 'I worked in Redifons on Faraday Road, and I was out of the house, when it burnt down with my mum inside. After that tragedy, I moved to West Green opposite the local pub, The Sun which closed in 1985.'

No don't stop the carnival

'I used to participate in Crawley carnival, and there are photos of me from the 1984 carnival dressed as Nell Gwynne by where the bus station now is. I've sung with the Barbershop group at Furnace Green, the Crawley Choral society for 20 years, and worked with the Crawley Theatre Group at the old Tilgate centre which burnt down. Now I sing with Concordia.' Joyce is now happily married in Crawley. She is also an avid collector of some amazing memorabilia, a vast collection of toys and games, some of which are in the Crawley museum. She also takes old bikes to rallies in Dorset and Devon every year, and has an old three-wheeler which she shows at these rallies, along with Tony Killick from Langley Green who displays penny farthings and old bikes.

This page was added by Gina Da Cunha on 01/04/2008.

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