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Hullbridge Village History

Building Hullbridge.

The memories of Douglas Boreham

Part 1: The beginning in Rettendon/Battlesbridge/ Rawreth.

Douglas was born in Maltings Road, Battlesbridge in 1931. He was the only boy of 4 children. His sisters are Gwen, ?? and Brenda. A photo taken from the top of Meeson's Cotton Mill around 1902 of Battlesbridge village. in the forground are piles of wooden staves and coal or slate. Behind are the buildings. To the far left is The Barge Inn and to its right is a building with 2 doors and three small windows in the roof. To the right of these are a couple of storage barns with yard space in front of them. Behind all of these are the houses of the villagers which are on Maltings Road and beyond those are open fields which lead up to Rettendon Church on the distant brow of a hill.

A photo taken from Meeson's Cotton Mill around 1902 of Battlesbridge village. (Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) Battlesbridge had not changed too much when Doug's family lived there. In Doug's time the left foreground is The Barge Inn. Behind is two white semi detached houses. The one on the left was the home of Mrs Smith who use to make and sell home-made ice cream, tea and cakes. Next door is the home of Doug's parents and the small house next to that was the home of Mr and Mrs Harry Saunders. Harry was a road sweep. The large square piece of land between the houses were allotments of the villagers. The last house in Black weather boards was the home of Doug's Gran and Granddad.

His father Arthur W who was a labourer by trade and his mother Edith R who delivered telegrams for the Post Office, lived at No ? Maltings Road. The Post Office was owned and situated in Mr Gilbert Blanks's shop. Mr Gilbert had two sons, Ryder and Colin and Doug would go with Colin to school which was some distance away in Rettendon and so they became great friends. Other children in the village that went to the same school were Derek Treswell, Derek Wallaker, Peter and Jennie Livermore, Bradleys, Thorpes. The children played on the green in front of Mr Blank's shop, there was no duck pond there at that time and Doug remembered parents were strict and would not allow them to be outdoors beyond 4 o'clock. Early each morning children from the village would walk past the entrance road to the Railway Station on their right and on their left was the Hawk Inn, one of the earliest Inns in Essex, Photo of the Hawk Inn.In front of the building to the left is the Inn sign. The Inn itself looks like it is a Georgian 2 storey house with three large windows upstairs on each side of the house. The right window on the facing wall has been bricked in and is positioned directly above a door.A two storey extension, slightly lower than the house has been built onto the right side, and a further single storey flat roof extension has been built onto the face of that and it has a brick foundation with wood panelling on top which contains small windows all around. The extensions are about twice the length of the house. On the two storey extension is a large long The Baddow Brewery Co and on top of that in a hump is the name Hawk Inn.

A photo taken of the Hawk Inn around 1902.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) The Hawk Inn once belonged, in 673 to a nunnery on the Isle of Ely. It is listed in a report dd 1923 by the Royal Commission of Historical Monuments as dating to the 16th Century. Former tenants like Edward Mann (1875) were farmers and landlords at the same time. Which leads us to believe the Hawk was also a farmstead. The land at the side of the Inn was known as the "Hoppit." This was used as the site of a fun fare until the turn of the 20th century, it is now the Inns car park.

Under the railway bridge and up the hill to the Rettendon Turnpike where they would frequently exchange a "Good Morning" with the AA man who would be patrolling outside his box on the junction in his khaki uniform. Photo showing the turnpike road at the junctions of Hawk Hill, Woodham Road, Runwell Road and Rettendon Road. On the right side of picture on the edge of the road (A130) is an A.A.box and sign post which points to the left for Hadleigh and Southend and to the right for Rettendon and Chelmsford. In front of the A.A.box are 2 A.A. men one standing to attention the other standing looking at something in his hand with their sidecar motorbike behind.On the left side of the junction is a two storey house.

A photo taken of Rettendon Turnpike around 1932.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) The road is the A130 and the road coming in from the left is Hawk Hill, Doug and his sisters and friends would walk past here every week day on their way to school at Rettendon. It was a long

From here they would make the long climb up Rettendon Hill and on the brow passing on the left the church and vicarage. Just past the Rettendon village Hall on the right hand side was the school. Photo taken of the front of large two storey white building with 4 windows upstairs and one downstairs on the right. Under the second upstairs window on the right is the front door to the building, right next to this on the left is a slightly protuding shop front which consists of a brick base and 2 large windows with an entranceway between them. Above these is the shop front sign Grocer G.J.Banks Draper. The lettering is bevelled and was Gold. In Front of the shop is an old square box van with a single opening for the driver and passenger and with a large spoked spare wheel on the side by the driver. On the side of the van is the details G J Banks & Son Grocer and Draper Battlesbridge. To the left of the building are two other two storey buildings that look like a garage and storage area, both are white and have white shiplat on the first floor. In front of these is a motorbike sidecar and in the foreground of the photo is the village green.

A photo taken of Blank's shop around 1932.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) The ground in front of the shop was where the children played, it has today a village pond which is a recent addition. In front of the shop is Mr Blank's delivery van. The shiplap buildings next door were used for storage.

Doug's Grandparents also lived in Maltings Road at No. ??, both of these buildings are still occupied in 2008. Doug remembers his grandmother, although having no money of her own, was a money lender, a lady ahead of her time ! His grandmother's brother Erne Saunders was a pilot on the barges that used to navigate up and down the River Crouch carrying coal, grain etc., His stretch of the river was from Burnham to Battlesbridge.

Doug recalls that life was hard and the next meal could well be a rabbit or pigeon caught in a local field. With his mum working for Mr Blank it was not long before Doug was accompanying Mr Blank in his van on a Friday evening delivering the provisions to the people outside the village in the surrounding area:- Rawreth, Rettendon and Woodham Ferrers. At the same time as delivering the goods Mr Blank would write in his book what the customer wanted the following week. Very clever as it allowed him to pre order knowing he had a sale. Mr Blank not only sold provisions he also was the draper and post office master. Doug could also be found in the shop on a Saturday evenings and he remembers Mr Blank would have an old tea chest on the shop floor into which he would throw excess or rotten produce, Doug would drag the chest around the corner to his home where they would sort out any decent provisions and use the rest to fuel the fire for doing the washing.

Mr Blank was not the only shop keeper in the village, Mrs White in the Barge Inn sold newspapers and sweets and up Hawk Lane was Benson's the bakers and shop provisions, they all delivered to Hullbridge.

The houses in the village then had no running water and relied upon a stand pump which is still there today near the pond on the left of the Maltings Road near his Grans. When seeing the old photo of the bridge and the boat moored in the grounds of the Barge Inn he recalled that the village was always getting flooded hence the need for dinghy's and small boats to be near to hand rather moored on the river. Photo showing on the left Mr Blank standing wearing his white shop keepers apron outside his shop with his assistants waiting to welcome 4 ladies who had traveled by boat to purchase some wares because the roads are all flooded. There is a cart on the right side of the picture and the water is nearly up to the hub. In the background can be seen the building of a store house by the Matthews family. Just behind the shop corner can be seen the corner of the Free Church hall that Mr Blank managed.

A photo taken of Blank's shop during one of the flooding's.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) Mr Blank standing wearing his white shop keepers apron outside his shop with his assistants waiting to welcome some ladies who had traveled by boat to purchase some wares. In the background can be seen the building of a store house by the Matthews family. Just behind the shop corner can be seen the corner of the Free Church hall that Mr Blank managed.

He also related that a man from the village "Belgian Smith" who had one arm was seen diving several times off a pillar on the bridge into the river. This always amazed the children and he became a local hero as a result.

A photo taken of the bridge at Battlesbridge.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) The boat in the foreground is in the Barge Inn's yard, across the bridge is Matthews Mill with its chimney. A Thames barge is moored alongside Meeson's Mill and the pillars from which Belgian Smith used to dive from can be clearly seen.

A photo taken of the bridge at Battlesbridge.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.)

Battlesbridge had its own hotel the May-Phil which was situated at the end of Hawk Lane. Doug remembers as he was at an impressionable age of 6-7, that the hotel had built its own big swimming pool which would have impressed many people in the area as the nearest one at that time was Southend sea front. During the war it was commandeered by the Army and after it became "The Blue Lagoon" before it was demolished. It is now the site of a caravan park.

Battlesbridge life he recalls was centered around four large business concerns:-

Grays Brewery at "The Maltings"

A photo taken of the Maltings at Battlesbridge.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) The boat in the foreground is tied up at the Maltings mooring and it can be seen that the off loading from the barges was a tricky business.

Doug's father worked for a time in here and he recalls seeing his father stirring the Hops with a large wooden paddle. The hops were brought down the river on Thames barges and they moored up alongside the Maltings jetty more often than not by his Uncle Saunders.
The building had massive Copper coppers and in the middle was an huge oven for roasting the hops and the smell was not an unpleasant one. Doug blames the Malting's for his love of a good beer.

Meesons Cotton Mill.

A photo taken of Meeson's Cotton Mill at Battlesbridge.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) The barge here has been unloaded as seen by its position in the water.To the right of the mill is the storage yard and behind to the left is the Barge Inn.

A photo taken of Meeson's Cotton Mill Quay Battlesbridge.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) The barge here is being unloaded, its hatches are open and a barrel has been lifted out of the hold. Both the barge in the foreground and the one moored up further down the quay are laden with goods, as seen by their positions in the water. On the Quay area is a stockyard used for storing non perishable goods like coal and barrels. In the background can be seen the "Maltings".

Doug remembers his Uncle Saunders telling him that the timing of bringing in the barges was critical. The river dropped dramatically, as seen in the Maltings photo, and if a barge was still laden with cargo it could find itself embedded in the silt when the tide came back in. The barges had a small motor which was used to maneuver it into docking position and for turning it around, as they could not go any further because of the bridge obstructing their path.

Just before the bridge on the south side of the river is a private road, down here both Matthews and Meesons lived. Meeson's built a large storage area along there in which they would store apples from their farms in large wooden trays. A place to go scrumping!

Matthews Mill.

A photo taken of Matthew's Mill Battlesbridge.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) This mill was built by the Matthews family as was a mill in Harold Wood. By the time Doug was born the mill was jointly owned by James and George H Matthews. It was used for landing animal foodstuff which was their business from the mill and was the second such building to be built there, the first having burnt down in Oct 1932 as a result of a fire starting in the old oil engine.

A photo taken of the fire gutted Matthews Mill in Oct 1932 at Battlesbridge.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) The fire was started by the old Aole oil engine and spread into the other buildings. A policeman is sitting in the Matthews van and looks as if he is taking down particulars. It is interesting that there are other building nearby that have not been affected.

A photo taken of the river approaching Battlesbridge from the Maltings(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) This picture gives you an idea why Battlesbridge was prone to flooding the river's banks were not very high or strongly built around the Maltings. This would allow the river to sweep over and through into the village.

Doug's Uncle Jim Monk worked for the Catchment Board who were in charge of the river banks and the weir floodgates. The gates were built about 200 yards after the bridge and were originally made of wood. To open then Jim would have to turn a large metal wheel by hand. The gates became a great point for catching eels which the Crouch had in abundance.

Railway Station.

A photo taken of the staff at Battlesbridge Station.(Courtesy of Essex Record Office SEAX.) This picture shows the newly built signal box with the station staff dressed in their company attire.

Battlesbridge station is opposite the Hawk Inn, up a small lane running down the side of the station masters house.Up near the station was a storage yard used by Meeson's to store their coal.

In 1941 the family moved to Plum Tree Cottage in Mortimer Road, Rayleigh. Click here to join them in Rayleigh.