Monday, July 4th, 2022

Gwen’s fascinating memories of our town recorded for a special film about women in Sevenoaks during the last 100 years

A RESIDENT from Rockdale in Sevenoaks, who will shortly be celebrating her 100th birthday, became a ‘film star’ on Friday morning.

Gwen Willis (right) was interviewed in front of the camera about her life in Sevenoaks by Cllr Michelle Lowe.

Gwen Willis’ memories about her life and work in and around the town were recorded in The Chequers Pub by Sevenoaks District Council as part of a film it is making about how the roles of women have developed since the Suffragette movement won them the right to vote 100 years ago.

When it is finished, the film will be shown in local schools and other venues in November which coincidentally is when Gwen, who is one of several prominent women in the area who are being interviewed, celebrates her 100th birthday.

Gwen, whose father was from Kemsing and mother was from London, was born in Tooting on 29 November 1918 but the family soon moved to the St John’s area of Sevenoaks where she attended the local school. She can remember when there were hop fields at Greatness Farm, at the end of what is now Greatness Road, where Londoners stayed in huts when they came down on ‘holiday’ to go hop picking.

After leaving school she worked at the former Sevenoaks swimming pool in Eardley Road, now the site of the district council offices. It was then managed by Mr Everard whose son, who himself later became the manager, went to school with Gwen’s own son Robert.

Sevenoaks District Council communications officer Owen Thompson prepares to start filming while Gwen’s son Robert looks on.

Robert said: “Every winter they used to drain the pool to clean it and when it was empty we got in it and played badminton which was very odd. I don’t think Mr Everard was very pleased when he found out!”

Many of Gwen’s relations were taxi drivers or chauffeurs and she also eventually went into the profession. She became a driver for the Sevenoaks Police who were then based in the former police station by The Vine. She later became a driver at Fort Halstead.

Coincidentally, Gwen’s mother also lived to be 100 years old. Plans are being made for a big party for friends and family at Rockdale for Gwen’s 100th birthday. Her brother, who now lives in Spain, is flying in for the special day.

During her interview at The Chequers, Gwen was asked how she felt things had changed for children since her own early years. She said: “I knew all the other children in our road and many others who lived nearby.

“We all used to play together without adult supervision, but there was not much traffic on the roads in those days, so it felt safer whereas very young children these days can’t really go out on their own. Children do seem to have more these days, but I often wonder if this makes them happier than we were?”

Gwen has an amazing recall of her years in Sevenoaks and these are just a few of her fascinating memories. The film will feature many more so make sure you see it if you get the opportunity.

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