Hullbridge Village History
Scouting for somewhere to live.
No idea where Hullbridge is
When Joan and I went looking for somewhere to live we found a new proposed development in a small village in Essex In Edmonton, at tea one Sunday at the in-laws, which included Joan’s Brother, just out of National Service in the RAF, together with his friend from the same unit. Joan’s father announced that he had bought a small weekend caravan in a small, pretty, riverside place in Essex. When he said it was Hullbridge, we said “that’s where we’re having the bungalow built”. With that, Derek’s (Joan’s brother) friend, Arthur Cook, remarked “we already have a bungalow there”. It was down Skewpath (Keswick Avenue now). My father-in-law's two toned caravan was situated on the Crouch site, Horseshoe Lawn, and it was through its location that my family became friends with the Booth family who originally lived on the site. Eric and Joyce had two children Nigel and Janet. Nigel was one of the boys who came to me and asked me to take over the running of the scouts from Sid Harber c.a., 1962.
When the in-laws came down for a weekend visit we would take Paul to see his grandparents, together with stale bread so that he could feed the numerous fish that were in the lake near the entrance.
Watching Hullbridge Grow.
When we moved into our bungalow, Ernie Long, who even then was heavily involved in the village as a councillor, sent us a welcoming letter explaining what the village had to offer. At this time he had not purchased the newsagents but lived at No 8 Rydal Villas.
When we moved down in 1953, Rydal villas the council houses between Windermere and Grasmere had just been built. Our little development of bungalows was known as View Bungalows, it was one of the first privately built properties and it was on land that was once a chicken farm. There was an orchard behind us which was owned by the owner of the bungalow two doors along towards Keswick. The chicken farm had a large detached bungalow which was later knocked down and rebuilt. Colin Bateman later bought the remainder of the orchard when the farm was closed.
When we moved down in 1953, Rydal villas the council houses between Windermere and Grasmere had just been built. Our little development of bungalows was known as New Bungalows, it was the first privately built development and it was on land that was once a chicken farm. There was an orchard behind us (now the school and grounds) which was owned by the owner of the bungalow two doors along towards Keswick. The chicken farm had a large detached bungalow which was later knocked down and rebuilt. Colin Bateman later bought the remainder of the orchard when the farm was closed. After our bungalows were built came the pair of bungalows next to the farm and next came the council houses (Conniston Villas) between Oakleigh and High Elms around late 50's early 60's. It surprised me greatly that the second lot of council houses were built there as the ground always laid wet. At the time these were being built there was only one property opposite, that was Mr Watkin's large detached bungalow which had a garden it also had a large orchard around it and pine and oak trees in the garden it also had a large orchard. The owner of that property was the chairman of the Garden Association around late 50's.
When we came down to Hullbridge Frank Eddie had developed Hullbridge Garden Estate and on the corner of Lower Road and Ferry Road there was a wood yard, hairdressers. George Boul had moved his garage to opposite the Anchor Inn. Opposite this little block was the fish and chip shop and to the right of that was a couple of bungalows, one was a Tearoom. The Asst Scout leader-Jack Williams lived in one of them.It was in his house that the doctors surgery was held by Doctor's Jolef and Bridges. The other Doctor visiting the village at that time was Dr. Zisermann. He would hjold surgery in the "Mayfield Club", which was on the corner of Ferry Road and Mayfield Avenue. He was our doctor.
Around 1956 people were raising funds to build a village hall by selling a brick. This was very succesful, especially as more and more development was happening around the village bringing in new people. The hall was just about to be built when the Treasurer absconded with the funds, and it had to be started all over again.
Across the road from us is a footpath that splits the gardens of the properties in the Drive and Grasmere. To the left of the footpath was a thicket and I remember one time, Paul did not want to go out with us and he went missing. We eventually found him up a tree along the footpath ! The thicket was evidently a favourite spot with Paul and Gary Congram later told me that Paul and Anthony Wortley built a den in there where they use to stash in large biscuit tins, bars of chocolate and cans of drink.
The bungalow on the corner of Grasmere was owned by Charlie Harris who owned an awful lot of ground in Hullbridge. He was an Insurance agent and I got to know him because he was developing the land around Creekview (where he had moved to) and I did several architectual drawings for him. One day I called in on him with some drawings and he was in his kitchen, soaking stamps from envelopes we found we both had a common interest, stamp collecting. Every time from then on I would come back with some U.S. stamps that I did not have. For 20 years I use to badger him about selling to me his U.S. collection and eventually he gave in. I was expecting just his stamps that he kept in his swap album but he told me there was also 6 Kellog cereal boxes full, a real treasure trove ! We settled on a figure , Joan, my wife, was not too impressed as I spent many nights and weekends buried in hundreds of stamps cataloging and mounting them.
Around 1983 seat belts became compulsory and Charlie said to me he would never wear one of those things ever again ! he then preceded to tell me how in WWII he was in an armoured vehicle, strapped in for safety when it hit a land mine which blew the vehicle upside down and he found himself trapped inside by the seat belt, which did not have a quick release buckle, with the vehicle on fire ! the thoughts of being burnt alive kept him struggling and fortunately after what seemed an age he managed to get free before the it exploded. As you can imagine I thought there was nothing I could say that would ever be able to change his mind.
Charlie had two children a boy and a girl. The boy was very keen and good at ballet, a "Billy Elliott" of his time.
I often think about the people like Mrs Charlton at High Elms and Mr Watkins who owned the land opposite Conniston Villas, who sold their land to developers thinking that got a good deal only to find that just one or two properties they built sold for the price they received. Still it is unlikely that they could have developed themselves.
Hullbridge Primary School.
Because I was working at Basildon, which meant getting up very early it was left to Joan to take Paul to school on his first day. We never had any problems with Paul or Alan going to school, they both liked it. I remember when I came home on Paul's first day and asked him what he thought he said he liked it and that he was sitting next to a large pink elephant, it turned out it was a rather large girl.
Like many other villagers at the time we were concerned for his safety when Glynnis Draper went missing, she was actually in his class at the time. She lived down the bottom of Hullbridge and was found murdered.
When we moved into the village there was a the Willow tree in front of the school was already planted and quite big. Mrs Bevan is now trying to get a preservation order on it. When Paul left school he joined Wiggins of Thundersley to train as an architect. His mentor there was a Hullbridge boy Ted Allen and he told Paul that he was one of the boys boys who planted the tree. Gary informs me Ted joined the school in 1950, so he would have had to plant the tree between 1950 and 1954. Which does not fit with what I know.
I got involved in building the first swimming pool at the school, along with other parents. No one wanted to drive the small dump truck that had be loaned for the job. Yep – muggins volunteered! Funds were raised and the pool built and opened around 1970. I have been shown a newspaper article by Gary that states I and Mr Pound made a big splash in the pool on the opening day in the father's race and that it cooled all the spectators around the side!
Hullbridge Allotments and Garden Association.
When we moved in, the gardens were just part of a field and had to be licked into shape. I had been taught gardening at school, part of the “Dig for Victory” campaign during WWII. I grew vegetables and entered the annual Flower & Vegetable Show the second year I received the “Blue Ribband” for best in show for my 3 Onions. When Gary asked whether this was down to the chicken manure from the farm, I had to confess that it was due to the manure from the Billy goat shed that was in the back garden. I won a number of years running the pickled shallots and vegetable classes. I had my own secret recipe of malt vinegar, strong shallots from my garden and my own blend of spices.
The following year I had a terrible motorcycle accident in which I broke both my arms and was therefore at a loose end. The HGA was struggling to find someone to manage that years show so I put my name forward, which was accepted. Having taken the job over I was shocked to find that the show was losing money rather than making it. In particular the show programme which we charged 6d for but in fact it was costing more than that to print. My first job therefore was to go round all the shopkeepers etc., and get them to pay to advertise in it. I am proud to say from then on we made the programme pay for itself.
When I first took on the show we were showing at the Free Church Hall and later in 1957 we had our first show in the new village hall. We had 157 entries into the show which was down on the previous years.
The RHS who issued a handbook that contained show rules which we adopted. I contacted the RHS and got contact details of RHS judges and I persuaded them to come to Hullbridge to judge for us. This meant paying their expenses, meeting them at Rayleigh station and chauffeuring them to the village, treating them to lunch at the Mayfield Club. So for villagers to get awards they knew their entry had to be top notch. .
6 years later I had a change of job which meant I could no longer devote the time required to the show, so I passed it on. Also I had a car now, having had too many motorcycle accidents, and we built a garage which took up a large piece of our garden so we didn't have much space for growing vegetables.
1st Hullbridge Scouts
I am a person who will only take something on if he knows how to do it inside and out. This was the case with the scouts.
In 1964 Sid Harber resigned his post as he was moving out of the village. Jack Williams also resigned as his job offered him living accommodation near Hadleigh Bus Depot, this left GSL Peter Ruisling to run the troop then Peter moved from the village.
The elder boys (Nigel Booth, Vernon Turnball, Peter Carter, Terry Harper) in the troop came to me as did Cis Vaughan, Brown Owl, who explained they were many cubs looking forward to becoming Boy Scouts and would I be so kind and take over the troop, even if it was on a temporary basis. I was already involved in the Cubs as the Group secretary and having two young sons Paul and Alan (Paul was nearing Scouts age) I decided it might be a good thing and accepted the position on a temporary basis. At this moment in time the troop had only one patrol with Nigel Booth as the "Sixer" and his Assistant was Terry Harper.
I felt because I had accepted the position, even if it was temporary I needed to learn what I had to know. I was already confident because of my army cadet days, that I knew lots of skills that were needed. So I started taking correspondence Scout courses, which were books they sent to you with questions you had to answer, not multi choice but written with explanations and send back to them. When I passed I was given the Wood badge and special woggle which I proudly still have today aloing with some of the books.
When we first formed we had nowhere to meet so we all met in my garden and many a time we would go from there to the "Flats", the area of saltmarsh just beyond the Esplanade. There was only about 6 scouts then. The "Flats" were ideal for teaching them to light fires and cook. I believe this was always a favourite with the boys throughout all the years. Some of the boys were amazed that I could light a fire using flint and steel before they could using matches.
I was lucky that friends of Joan's family were also involved in the Scouts so they were able to offer me loads of advice. One idea was about when to hold the Scout Meetings, they advised the best night was a Friday night because if you were to go away camping it would normally be over a weekend and so by meeting on a Friday night it would be just like a normal Scout night except you would travel that evening and hold the meeting at the campsite. So that is why we met on Fridays.
At Alec’ suggestion, we planned a trip to Yorkshire Dales (Alec was a Yorkshire man) at Easter time and very successful it was too. We had to get the boys to join the YMCA movement as it was their facilities we were going to use. This went on for some years. Even also managed, at one time, without much arm bending I might add, to get some of the dads to join us. So it was that Alec, Reg Carter, Harry Quinn, Dick Wortley, and I used our cars to transport ourselves and the lads to Keld. It gave the lads a new insight to different terrain to what they were used to here in Essex. They experienced walking the “soft tops”,(low mountain) with quite a lot of snow around. Also the fun of walking through a waterfall, into the cave beyond. I hope to add some time soon some of the photos I took whilst we were up there.
There were many camps:- Father and Sons, Jubilees, Weekends away etc., At the 7th Essex Jubilee I became more involved with the organization of the camp and I designed for the occasion a First Day Cover, which I am very proud to say was accepted and used. At the 8th Jubilee camp I was even more involved and was able to meld my two favourite hobbies of that time, Scouting and Stamp Collecting.
|My 1st Day Cover design.||The 7th Jamboree (1972) staff photo||The 8th Jamboree (1976) Me working at the stamp stall.||The 1972 troop at the 7th Jamboree.|
After 13 years, as Group Scout Leader I felt I could no longer continue as my job at Ford Motor Co was changing and taking up more and more of my time.
As you can see from the following I still have my old camp shirt and my Fez that I used to wear at campfires etc.,
In the late 50's before I joined the Scouts, Joan's brother and I entered in the carnival fancy dress competition. I had an idea how we could enter as the popular TV program "Flinstones". We got some old sacks and paint which we made to look like leopard skins and we went as Barney and Fred. We even made Fred's car.
There was a Greengrocers across the road, where the parade of shops is today. It was owned by the Towers family and the son Harry used to deliver to us every Saturday with his brother-in-law, fresh vegetables in a van. Harry was in fact a sales rep and his hobby was keeping pigs which he had behind the shop. We got talking one Saturday about my idea and he told me to go and see his dad because the cheese they had was delivered in large wooden drums ideal for "stone" wheels. I also knew Reg Wood very well and he cut me some Y fork timber which we lashed together with the drums and we made the car which we had to push in the parade and we won 1st prize !
I remember the year the Sealed Knott took part in the Carnival. Peter Seymour was deeply involved with the carnival at that time. He used to live in Keswick Avenue. He was also involved with the running of the Cubs. Unfortunately Peter died when one evening he was coming back from the H.C.A. couldn't find his keys and climbed up a ladder to get in through a window when he slipped, fell and broke his neck. The sad thing is they found the keys lying on the floor where presumably they fell out of his pocket when he was looking for them.
I'm still active in the village, although not so strenuously; Chairman of the Hullbridge Philatelic (Stamp) Society, which was inaugurated in 1968. This is a small group of collectors, meeting once a month, a very informal gathering. We welcome new members and/or visitors.
I also head up the team of "Neighbourhood Watch" personnel. We are always looking to get more roads to sign up.
Mr Cook's photo collection.
My plate glass photograph collection I inherited as I knew the son of Mr Cook. The son Arthur, lived in Keswick Avenue when it was Skewpath. As I have already said Arthur was a friend of my brother-in-law through the RAF. Arthur and his family, including his sister were evacuated down here and went to the Hullbridge School like most of the evacuees at that time. There is an Oak tree down Keswick on the right, behind a house. Arthur planted this when it was an acorn at the beginning of WWII