The street where I grew up: Jenny Seagrove

The street where I grew up: Jenny Seagrove, 64, actress and horse sanctuary founder shares memories of Yardley Park Road, Tonbridge, Kent

I was born in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, where my father Derek was working in import/ export. I had an older brother David, and when I was not yet two my mother, Pauline, had a stroke during a stillbirth. 

My father, bless him, was left to look after two very young children while my mother recovered from a coma in hospital. 

She was a really sweet, gentle woman but a fighter too, and although it took her a year she learned to walk, talk and write again and was able to return home to look after us. She died in 1993 aged 68 – far too young. 

I loved the sunshine and freedom of the tropics, but due to my father’s work we moved around so much. The house I have the most precious memories of is a bungalow in Yardley Park Road in Tonbridge in Kent, which belonged to my maternal grandparents Marjorie and Ivor. 

Jenny Seagrove, 64, (pictured) actress and horse sanctuary founder shares memories of Yardley Park Road, Tonbridge, Kent

I was sent to boarding school in England and so from the age of nine until I left school at 17 most of our holidays and half-term breaks were spent there at ‘The Fridge’, as my brother and I called it due to the lack of central heating. 

I was at St Hilary’s School in Godalming, Surrey, which I loved, but my heart lifted as my grandparents arrived to pick me up in their car. The threebedroom bungalow had a small front garden and a long back garden. 

My grandad loved his vegetable patch and I loved helping him, or thinking I was. There was a quince tree and my gran made delicious quince jelly. 

I’d help her make fudge and treacle tarts, and she made her own ice cream. She had an old Swiss cow bell which she rang loudly to call Grandad in for meals. 

Jenny (pictured) in her St Hilary’s uniform, in the garden at Yardley Park Road. She remembers helping her grandad in his vegetable patch

On summer days we’d have breakfast, lunch and dinner outside in a covered area off the kitchen, which was lovely. 

To entertain ourselves my brother and I read and played cards – rummy, canasta, pelmanism. Sometimes we’d all pile in the car and go to the seaside. 

Our pleasures were simple. Granny had an old-style mangle and I loved turning the handle and squeezing water out of the washing. 

Some areas of the house were ice cold in winter, but I was used to it and was never ill. The toilet was freezing and the toilet paper was that hard shiny stuff. 

Frost used to form on the inside of the windows. But they had an electric cooker in the kitchen and a Rayburn stove in what was called the breakfast room. 

There was an open fire in the little sitting room where we would toast crumpets and watch the Daleks take on Doctor Who on TV. Grandad used to clean out the ashes from the fire every day, and as he’d bring the hot embers out to the garden shouting, ‘Coming through!’, we’d dodge out of the way. 

Grandad had been a prisoner of war in Germany, but at some point before his internment he brought home a dark carved wood sideboard from Burma. It took pride of place in the dining room. 

When he and Gran died my brother insisted we keep it. It was in storage for years and I’ve now found the right place for it in the house I share with theatre producer Bill Kenwright. It looks wonderful. 

‘The Fridge’ is still there, but the mangle is gone and the cow bell is silent. It’s a world I remember fondly with good people who loved us.

  • Jenny started the Mane Chance horse sanctuary in Surrey ten years ago, and they have a birthday lunch on 10 May. Visit manechancesanctuary.org for tickets. 

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