Down Memory Lane: Community & Change in a London Street, by Stephanie White, Wisdom House Publications, 2001, 135 pages, £9.99 Review from Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 11, 2002
Stephanie White had lived in Chiswick for some years when she was attracted by an advertisement seeking people to help with a Gunnersbury Park Museum project. The aim of the project was to collect on tape memories of people from the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow to make a Millennium Archive. Stephanie embarked on a special project of her own, recording eight of her neighbours who between them shared about 400 years of living in Wilmington Avenue.
When Stephanie White spoke to the Society about her research, she was concerned to tell us that she was a sociologist rather than a local historian. Her book reveals that she is both, providing us with carefully recorded glimpses of life in her road since about 1908, but analysing them more than many local historians would do, in her attempt to understand the community and the individuals it embraces. The use of the phrase ‘a London street’ is a little surprising, however, because this is firmly a suburban ‘avenue’.
The book is charming, with both a chronological account accompanied by photographs, and discussion of such matters as neighbourliness, children as bridge-builders and what makes for a sense of community? She is careful not to invade the privacy of those she interviews but gives us thumbnail sketches of their lives and includes a number of them in the illustrations. It is a delight to see one of our members, Betty Smith, as a cover girl, and the book could serve as a model for may other local historians. VB