My Mum, Stella (nee Atkins), grew up in Hextable and, after she passed away suddenly last year, I decided to explore where she and my grandparents - Fred and Evelyn Atkins - lived. I had only visited my grandparents in Hextable a few times when I was very young so my memories were quite patchy. I also remember visiting a lady mum called Aunt Wynn, who lived on Maude Road and who made some exquisite dolls for me as a child. She was not her real aunt but often looked after my mum when she was growing up. I knew my grandparents ran first a haulage company and then a coach business and small petrol station in Hextable. Mum referred to the house where she lived as 'The Datcha' and so I started looking on the internet for this but soon ended up on a wild goose chase. However, I also came across the Swanley History Group and sent off an email to see if they could give me any information and Ann and Esme have certainly done that! I discovered that Fred Atkins started as a partner in a taxi business in 1920 before starting Hextable Haulage and I was amazed that there are local people who remember my grandparents, especially a lady who played with my Mum as a child who I have been able to write to.
I eventually discovered that the house I was looking for is the house right next to the garages (at Top Dartford Road) when I found a photo of it at my Mum's house and she had written the name on the back. I also found a fantastic photograph of many of the coach drivers and their families. I emailed this to The History Group and was amazed to discover that the little boy at the front is Terry, the Chairman of the History Group, along with all of his family!
I finally got to come and visit the area on the Armed Forces day at the end of June and it was great to meet Terry and Esme (who whisked me round to the garages!). I had with me a photo of my Mum as a little girl stood in front of the two big garages (which have only changed a little) and my daughter took a picture of me in the same spot. It has been a very meaningful experience for me to visit Hextable and I am deeply grateful to the History Group for their enthusiastic help.
Copyright Juliet Evans