Windrush Day

Windrush memories

Newham has a rich heritage and legacy of the Windrush generation.  Despite this, we have a lack of material representing the generation and we want to use the opportunity of Windrush Day to address this and capture those hidden stories to share with Newham’s communities and beyond and preserve those stories for future generations. 

We are therefore inviting you to participate in the commemoration of those who came to Britain during this time by sharing your Windrush memories.   We would like you to take a picture of your memorable item, whether it be a photo, suitcase, item of clothing or just your favourite thing from that time – you might even want to record a story or a poem about something that was important to you – and we will display it on the Newham Council website.

We are inviting you to take a photograph of any pictures, artefacts and other memorabilia that depict your life during that time, and to send to [email protected]

Harry Cumberbatch's story

Harrington ‘Harry’ Cumberbatch MBE shares his memories of moving from Barbados to post-war Newham.

Hear about Harry's story in this video:

Hibiscus Community Centre memories

The Hibiscus Community Centre opened in 1994 in Newham as a response to the lack of social and leisure facilities available to older African and Caribbean people living in the borough. It is home to the Hibiscus Caribbean Elderly Association, which is a private company and registered charity. The Hibiscus Community Centre (external link) welcomes people of all races, ages and cultures to come together and offers a variety of services. 

Several members of the Hibiscus Caribbean Elderly Association were recently involved in a reminiscence project. Here are a few recollections from two of its members and their stories:

Beryl Melville

Beryl moved to England from Jamaica during the 1950s and has lived and worked in east London. She remembers that her first impression of England was that it was very cold and wet. Her husband, Edwin worked for Fords in Dagenham while she worked at St Andrews's Hospital in Bow.  With their five children they visited Southend and Margate and enjoyed fish and chips out of newspapers. 

Beryl reminisces, “We worked hard and looked forward to dancing at the weekends at house parties, sometimes held in cellars and we danced to everything and anything”.  She recalled, “We wore a crinoline (a stiff petticoat) underneath our skirt and when we danced the skirt would swing to the music. I loved dancing to jazz, but my favourite was the waltz”.

Mary Richards

Mary arrived in London in 1969 with her sister to join her parents and four brothers.  This was quite common at the time as the cost of coming over on the MV Empire Windrush was £28, a large sum of money at that time.  So it was not unusual for parents to come over to Britain first, leaving children with their grandparents, saving money and then sending for their children once the fare costs could be met. Many single women came over on the Windrush so the role of community associations, churches and clubs was vital to people who were missing family members. 

At the age of 13 Mary went to Deanery High School for Girls in Stratford (now home to the Sarah Bonnell School).  She is still friends with three other girls from her first class. During the 1970s Mary worked for NatWest and was a member of their female football eam, the Other Bank Babes which played in and won an inter-bank tournament. Her caring nature lead her into a career in nursing and she became a State Enrolled Nurse progressing onto being a State Registered Nurse, working in hospitals in East London and Essex. Now enjoying her retirement Mary still keeps up her caring work by volunteering with the Hibiscus Caribbean Elderly Association. 

Their stories are a powerful reminder of the vital contributions that Caribbean people made to British life.