How Hitler killed my Twiddles

Kenny Trowse and Marjorie Wilshire (nee Southgate), at Winkles Row, Norwich, where they both used to

Kenny Trowse and Marjorie Wilshire (nee Southgate), at Winkles Row, Norwich, where they both used to live. - Credit: Archant

As he stood in what is now a car park his thoughts were of a time, in Norwich of 1941, when his home was destroyed by a German bomb – and how lucky he and his family were to escape with their lives.

A young Kenny Trowse and the ill-fated family cat Twiddles.

A young Kenny Trowse and the ill-fated family cat Twiddles. - Credit: Archant

Our recent story – of how houses in little Winkles Row, built in 1820 off King Street, have been given a new lease of life by Rotary House for the Deaf – resulted in two former residents of the first part of the row, destroyed in the war, returning to their roots.

Kenny Trowse with his father., mother and sister

Kenny Trowse with his father., mother and sister - Credit: Archant

Kenny Trowse was born at 1 Winkles Row in December 1930 while Marjorie Wilshire (nee Southgate) arrived in this world at 3 Winkles Row in 1923. Both were delighted to be back and so pleased that, while their homes had been blown up in April of 1941, the rest of the terrace has finally been renovated.

Today a car park for the people who live at Rotary House, the only home of its kind in the country, is on the land where their houses stood until the night of Tuesday, April 29, 1941 when, at 10pm, the Luftwaffe struck – exactly a year before the Norwich Blitz of 1942.

Kenny lived there with his mum and dad Walter and Agnes and sisters Doris and Peggy. His father spent more than 50 years working in the tin shop at Colman's opposite.

'We were lucky,' said Kenny. 'Mother had a premonition. She always said we would be bombed out so we were sleeping with friends at Millers Lane, Catton, when our house was destroyed.'

'Also,' he added, 'my sister Doris and her future husband, Harry Towers, would have been in the house had my father left the key in the coal shed which he normally did.

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'The only casualty at No 1 was our black cat Twiddles, a stray from Colman's we looked after. The RSPCA recovered his body.

'We lost all our belongings except for a few toys which were in a cupboard adjacent to the street,' said Kenny. 'It was a wonderful place to live in the 1930s. Apart from Colman's there was industry all around us – and the Wilderness to play in.'

Kenny went on to marry Irene, worked for Eastern Electricity, and today they live at Easton.

'It's good to see that part of the city, where I grew up, looking so well,' he added.

Marjorie, now aged 91 and living at Pakefield, travelled to Norwich to retrace her steps after reading about Winkles Row. 'My sister and I were both born at No 3 and then we moved up the hill to Doman Road at Bracondale where my parents, the Southgates, lived for the rest of their lives.'

'I was so interested in the story that I went to Norwich and walked from King Street and Carrow Hill along Bracondale to Rouen Road and John Lewis for the first time in many years – I was amazed at the number of new buildings. I must do it again and do some more exploring!' said Marjorie, who joined the WAAF in the war.

'My father and grandfather were Colman employees. My grandfather was at Stoke Mill and had to walk more than four miles each way until Colman's moved to King Street,' she said.

Both she and Kenny went to what was then Lakenham Council School on City Road.

The row of terraced houses were built by Philip Blyth in 1820 and were then called Prospect Place but over the years the name changed to Winkles Row – but why is not so clear.

Kenny thinks he knows, however. 'As far as I know there was a Mr Winkle who lived next door to us,' said Kenny. Perhaps there was.

And I am sure he would be chuffed to think the cottages named after him have survived – thanks to Norwich Rotarians.