Echoes of the past: Unhappy children on Summerfield Avenue

Children not happy  with the sign on Summerfield Avenue in Bailiff Bridge
Children not happy with the sign on Summerfield Avenue in Bailiff Bridge

There are a few sad faces here, after they discovered the sign saying No Playing of Games on the Grass or Avenue.

This was the expected reaction from just some of the children living in what looks like Summerfield Avenue, Bailiff Bridge when they saw the sign.

This sign was effectively saying that the children who live in the avenue could no longer play there. But, no provision was ever made for a safe, and I suppose less intrusive alternative place for them to play.

Back in the nineteenth century there were also rules in those days that prohibited certain activities in a street that could land you in trouble with the authorities.

It was the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 that said, for example: Every person who wilfully and wantonly disturbs any inhabitant, by pulling or ringing any door bell, or knocking at any door, or who wilfully and unlawfully extinguishes the light of any lamp is guilty of an offence. That certainly put the dampers on the childish mischief night activities. Or every person who flies any kite, or who makes or uses any slide upon ice or snow.

This act not only spoilt it for the children of the time, but it was also aimed at mothers as well: Every person who beats or shakes any carpet, rug, or mat (except door mats, beaten or shaken before the hour of eight in the morning)is guilty of an offence.

However, section 161 of the Highways Act 1980 says, it is an offence to play football or any other game in the road to the annoyance of a user of the highway, those guilty of said offence is liable to prosecution and a fine.

In 1835 the Highways Act effectively banned children from playing the street. In 1859 it was reported that in London and Middlesex 44 children were imprisoned for playing in the streets. Thankfully these old regulations have disappeared from the law books or have been brought up to date where appropriate.

It was always easy to erect one of these signs, but no thought was given to the children who lived there.

I always had the attitude that everyone in the street both young and old alike had to use a certain amount of give and take. I found that whilst on some occasions that did not work, most of the time it did and the normal harmony of life in the street was maintained.

I am sure many of these children will remember having this photograph taken not long after the sign was erected. I have a feeling that this photograph has lasted longer than perhaps the original sign did.