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The Goodlet diaries: Introduction

The Goodlet diaries: Introduction

January 4, 2016
Alexander Goodlet

Borough archivist Dr Jonathan Oates has rewound time in Ealing by 80 years and we find ourselves in the world according to Alexander Goodlet, a relatively unusual man in extraordinary times as the world stumbled towards war.

His writings are a source of information Dr Oates returns to time and again for his talks at Ealing Central Library. We will serialise Goodlet’s diaries week by week here on Ealing News Extra.

We must thank Ealing Central Library’s local history section for the majority of the images you will see (unless otherwise specified).

The diaries have much to say about Goodlet’s reactions to national and international politics, but not to purely local concerns. He is interested in railways and shipping, as well as history and often has a nostalgic view of the past he never knew. It is not on the whole a diary of a happy man; there are constant references to financial, health, employment and romantic concerns, as well as fears of impending war. Goodlet cannot be described as a typical man of his time, but the diary does open up a window into the life of an unusual and interesting character in London suburbia of the 1930s.

Who was Goodlet?

Alexander Kay Goodlet was born in Liverpool in 1900, the eldest son of Alexander and Kate Dewar Goodlet, who had both been born in Edinburgh. Goodlet senior was a chartered secretary. In 1902 the family moved to London and lived at 63 Portland Court in Kensington. There were another two daughters and two sons of the marriage. They had moved to 48 Birch Grove, Acton, 1918-1929 and from 1930-1940 lived in part of 30 Granville Gardens, Ealing. Goodlet kept a diary from 1933, but the first portions do not survive. The Ealing years which do, for 1934-1940, were transcribed by his youngest brother and presented to the library; the originals are held at Sussex University Library. Alexander briefly ran a model shop but during the years chronicled by his diary was chiefly unemployed save for a brief job as a clerk at Acton Town Hall in 1936 and then as a fire watcher at Dagenham in 1939-1940. He became engaged to Jeanette Fehr before the diary begins, but they met rarely and he often despaired of ever marrying. The family moved from London to Brighton in 1940 and later Goodlet lived at 15 Cissbury Road, Hove. He died on 20 February 1956 at the Royal Sussex Hospital. He left his money to his youngest brother, a librarian.

Who’s who in the diary
  • Joan Joan Goodlet: Diarist’s sister in law
  • Thomasina: Daughter of wife’s brother, born in 1934
  • Pater / Alexander Goodlet: Diarist’s father
  • Mater / Catherine Goodlet: Diarist’s mother
  • Buzz: Diarist’s brother, Allan
  • Fuzz: Diarist’s brother, Roy
  • Kidd: Diarist’s brother, David
  • Ine Georgina Donaldson: Diarist’s other sister