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Hullbridge Village History

Living in the Gardens

The memories of David Low. April 2014

Living in the Gardens

My Family


My Mum was Denise Trew and dad was Alan Low and they had myself in 1968, my eldest sister Victoria in 1965 and Samantha in 1974.
Dad was born 1938 in the village one of the three children of David George Low and Sophie Abbs, Uncle George was born 1930 and Auntie Kath in 1941.
Aunt Kath married George Chapman and they had three children cousins Peter, Julie and Nelson.
Uncle George married Florence Chapman the sister of uncle George (Chapman) and they had cousins George, Glenn, Wendy and Lorraine.
All of the family lived in the village and I guess the ancestral home was "Anne's Bungalow" in Malyons Lane where Nan and Granddad Low lived.
Aunt Kath's memories have more detail of the Low family.

Mum and dad were married in Southend Registry Office and the reception was paid for by my nan, on my mums side and took place somewhere in Leigh or Hadleigh and mum still has the seating plan for the reception and on there is Diane and Arthur Gatehouse life long family friends.

Dad was in the general building industry mainly to do with groundwork, but was able to do most things to do with building including making things out of concrete like paving stones, fencing posts etc., Like most builders he did lots of work for other people but at the neglect of his own property, something that most builders wives will be familiar with, and like most of these wives my mum was frustrated about and it was the cause of many heated arguments. As a result he would bury his head under a car bonnet and neglect his homely duties. His passion was cars !
All the arguments meant they could never live with each other but at the same time could never live without each other so their lives were in constant inbalance this was probably the cause of the tragic event that was to come.
In 1999 when my dad took his life and it happened in the bungalow and he hung himself. At the time I was about 30 and it was so hard for us all to understand and accept and now I am able to talk about it and in some peculiar way find it theraputic as most people shy away from it when talking to me, which is only human. My mum has said she was glad it was her who found him and not any of us children, I had moved out six months earlier and Vicky had also moved out having got married. It was hard on my mum to carry on living in the bungalow where such a tragic event took place and so she had to sell the bungalow and moved out of the village.
After it happened I found it hard to meet people scared of having to talk about it, so I avoided walking into the village knowing that so many people knew dad and would be feeling awkward if they met me but feeling they had to say something which would create an awkward situation. Maybe, also sub-consciously I was thinking people would attach a stigma to the way dad died. This could also be another reason why mum had to move away from the village. But now time has allowed me to handle things which is why I am able to write about it now. Yes the loss of our dad so young was tragic but no more tragic than if he had been killed in a car accident. I have learnt that depression can hit people very suddenly causing them to take drastic actions and that in those years signs of depression were not fully understood and there was and still is a stigma attached to someone suffering from stress and depression. Dad never showed any signs of unhappiness etc., he loved his life, he loved his family but something inexplicable happened on that day. Yes Dad, like most people, had his faults and bad habits but these shadow into insignificance when we remember all the good times and we his children have turned out good. No more killing animals ! You'll read more about this later.
He was so well known and liked in the village. Any time we drove through the village in what ever car dad had at that time, people in Ferry Road would be waving and greeting him and he would be returning the wave or greeting, almost like royalty. Whenever we went with dad to the Fish and Chip Shop or the Hardware Shop people would always be talking with dad about this and that and I used to think "Good Lord, have I got to sit here waiting for Dad to finish his chat, I'll be here all day !" But that thought is now very warming to me to think how much people must have enjoyed his company.
Dad was very friendly with Arthur and Diane Gatehouse, Elizabeth Cook's parents. They used to go out together as couples and Liz's brother Danny was the same age as my sister and I'm the same age as Liz. Funny how things like that work out, and I can think of other families who started families the same time as their friends.
Dad and Arthur used to go down to the Anchor when Fred was there and dad would play Darts, but he was best at Table Tennis and was champion at Fyfield Boarding school where he and Aunt Kath went. Generally any hand eye co-ordination sports he was very good at, especially shooting and that is something that I have inherited or learnt.


We lived in Pevensey Gardens an unmade road on the corner of First Avenue.
Hullbridge is a tight community as many people will tell you and there are communities within the community. You have the villagers living in their mobile homes / caravans by the river, you have the farmers and around Pevensey, Central and Burlington we had our own community, especially us children.
Like many kids in the village we played mainly with the children in our vacinity.
Living on the edge of the village as we did we had so many choices of where to play, every field brought a new experience. When the farmers used to meet up I'm sure thay would talk about us kids and how they could stop us doing some of the things we did, in particular Mr Thorpe who farmed the land between Central Avenue and Burlington Gardens. He grew Wheat there and in the autumn it was harvested and turned into bales to be picked up and taken back to the farm. Thing was we, me, my cousin Nelson, Debbie Bailey, David Warren and Russell Smith got there first and turned his haystack into giant ornate houses. Unfortunately we busted a number of bales, so thinking back now we must have been a real pain, but at that time all we thought about was what great fun it was.
There were times when Nelson and I would walk down Long Lane towards the Marshes and on the way is a largish reservoir owned by the Pinkerton family, we would go there and have these battles. Nelson would stand one side of the reservoir and I would stand opposite, then armed with a strong reed we had pulled up from the edge and a pile of mud from the side we would put the mud on the end and flick it at each other. It is surprising how far you can flick mud, maybe 500 yds ? It was a game of chicken. You had to stand still whilst the other one tried to hit you. The skill was not getting hit !
There was a large old Oak tree between the Breakers Yard and Central Avenue and a ditch ran to it. Us kids excavated it clearing out all the debris branches etc., so that we created our own little walkway between Central Avenue and Burlington Gardens. That tree was wonderful to climb as was one in Donkey Lane, Blountswood Road which had loads of big holes in its trunk, we thought they contained dreys of squirells so would put our hands into it to try and get to the nest.
Tree climbing seemed to come naturally to most of us kids in the village, there can't have been many large trees in the village that were not climbed by one of us. The Oak tree on the piece of green down Keswick was also another favourite.


I was brought up with guns, fishing rods and binnoculars in the house, not just our house but all the family's, so it is not surprising that I have such a love and understanding of wildlife around here, especially the birds.
It is this connection with nature that sticks so vividly in my memory. One of the strongest memories about my life in the "Gardens" is the memory of when I was a very young boy going for rides on my dad's shoulders down the lanes around here, in particular along Murrell's Lane, or as we called it then "Donkey Lane", not sure why. Dad would always be pointing things out to me, the call of a Blackbird, a Robins nest, life in a pond, sticklebacks swimming near the edge, frog spawn massed on top of each other, a hole in the hedgerow where a fox went reguarly and so on. Who needed school when dad was teaching me about life.
Blountswood Road was a favourite play area for us as kids, we loved jumping the ditches and brooks.Sometimes we would go to Hockley Woods and other times through the fields down to Kingsway. These fields would often have Maize grown in them and we would pick some of the maize, eat it and then go home with belly ache! and Mum and Dad would tell us "You've been eating that Maize again, what have we told you about that! Don't eat the Maize even if it is ripe!" But still we would pick it and bring loads of it home. " A Maizing" that we did not learn from our mistakes.
Blounts Wood is a magical place especially in Spring when all the Bluebells are out, even now I go there with my camera and take loads of photos.
During our six weeks holiday from school in the summer Nelson, his older brother Peter and I would spend most of the time down at the "Flats" fishing. The "Flats" is the piece of Saltmarsh on the river going towards Battlesbridge just after the style at the end of The Esplanade.
There were loads of Dykes behind them in which would be trapped eels. You may be wondering how did the eels get trapped in the dykes, well my cousin Nelson and I would go to the sluice gate and raise it so that when the tide came in it went into the dykes along with the eels. I'm sure the farmer was not too happy with us as sometimes we forgot to close it so parts of the fields got flooded.
For bait dad and Aunt Kath got their gardens dug over as we searched for earthworms, and then we progressed to digging just in front of the Smugglers for small "Harbour Ragworms".
The river when I was young was full of eels and not much in the way of Bass etc., and you would often hear the fishermen cussing along the bank "Not another BL**DY eel !" There may have been a number of fish in the river but the eels were so abundant that the fish rarely got a chance to have a nibble at your bait. What was the worst thing about eels was trying to get them off your hook, they would wrap themselves up your line and you could never handle them with bare hands because of the slime on their bodies, we found the best way to handle them was to put newspaper down on the ground and wrap the eel with it.
Today the marine populace in the river is the opposite. How the tide had changed!
We went fresh water fishing at "The Lodge" opposite Pinkerton's farm, up Goldsmith Drive both had large Carp as they were under fished.

Cousins Pete and Nelson had a couple of "Long dogs", these are like "Lurchers" a cross between Greyhound and Collie. The Collie for intelligence and the Greyhound for speed. We would take them "Rabbiting" across the fields by Blounts Wood, whilst looking for Grass snakes and Adders which we would pick up and handle. Finding a shedded skin was real prize.
Another past time during the school hols., was searching for feathers and then identifying them to bird they came from. The prize feather we all wanted was the Blue and black secondary feather of a Jay.
We used to walk miles going round in a big circle encompassing St Peter's, Back of Bullwood Hall, Hockley Woods, Hawkwell, Rochford, Fambridge, Marshes and so on. When I was older I would get dad to drop me off at Lion Creek near Canewdon and I would take hours walking back studying the birds along the way, for me at the time HEAVEN!
Nelson and I must have walked thousand of miles when we were young and on one of these walks in the 80's with the snow laid all around and Hullbridge was looking absolutely beautiful, if not a little snow bound we walked down Long Lane to the river and found it completely frozen over, it looked like the films you see on the TV of the Artic and Antartic regions with a harsh jagged terrain, with blocks of ice jutting up in all different directions and of different sizes. It was almost alien to us both, we had never seen anything like it before and made us think twice about whether we were still by the River Crouch. The ice packs started at FennCreek and continued to Battlesbridge and coming back via Watery Lane the snow had frozen so hard that we found ourselves walking on top of the hedgerow just past Boxes.
One of the things I miss the most is bats, especially pipistrelles. When walking through the countryside especially at dusk, we used to see loads of bats flitting over fields and ponds, catching insects in mid flight and boy did they seem to fly fast and could turn on a sixpence.
As a whole family including Aunt Kath's family on Boxing Day we would all go out for a walk, come rain or shine. We always spent time round each other's houses.
Dad was also a very good shot with a catapult and he would go out in the morning and come home with a couple of pheasants he had shot with it. Down the side of the bungalow was a veranda / lean to and there would always be Pheasants hanging up there.
Although a good shot Dad was not so good at cleaning and readying the animals to eat so I ended up doing it and I guess that led me to my first job when I left school being a Butcher.
Mum told me that dad did the killing to help supplement the food they had to feed us 3 kids, we were not poor but definately not wealthy and so life for them was not a bowl of cherries.
Unless we found a Cherry Tree !!
To Mum and Dad putting food on the table was the No.1 priority and the last thing we would ever want and get would be a coloured television or other "Trivial" possessions.
As children we were taught how to shoot a catapult and we each had one, we shot the banes of the farmers Squirrels, Rabbits and Wood Pidgeons. I remember sitting with dad as he made the lead balls he used as shot using a mould in either of the open fires we had, Kitchen and Lounge.
Lead was not cheap so Nelson and I would walk Long Lane looking for round stones roughly the size of the lead balls to use in our catapults.
You may think it strange that someone can kill an animal and yet love them as much as I do, but it was in my early years and the killing has taught me so much about animals and brought me to this point where studying and conserving birds is such a large part of my life. To think that Nelson and I would go searching for birds eggs and thereby disturbed hundreds of nests, totally against all that I believe in today.
There is a time in most peoples lives when they rebel and think they know best, that was the case when I was a teenager and attending Park school. I thought I had learnt enough to read, write and do maths so I would bunk school to go bird watcing and finding a Blacktail Godwit was simply the best thing. My favourite place to bunk to was the Marshes and in the Winter months I have seen upto five Short-Eared owls there. Watching and listening to Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, Raptors and finding Raptor kills. This became an obsession with me. There has always been a flock of Brent Geese on the Crouch in the middle and they are always on the South Woodham side. In the evening it is quite a sight to see these Dark Bellied Brant Geese get up to roost at Bridgemarsh Island, the other side of Canewdon and some have now moved to around Brandy Hole. They arrive around Oct to March. I've studied this flock of birds for over thirty years and not only this flock on the Crouch but all over Essex as each place has its own flock and they are all ringed so that we can tell when newcomers come into a flock where they come from. It was such an obsession with me that when Lisa and I moved back to Hullbridge to live in my old home I dug a wildlife pond in the back garden and brought in a pair of Brent Geese, then another pair and another and so on. Well they eat anything green so the pond had no weed on it and our back gardens grass was cut so low it had very little green left. I ended up with 34 pairs of ducks, 6 pairs of Geese 60 White Fantail Doves.
When I was living at home Dad and I built at the bottom of our garden an big ornate workshop structure almost like a house, and when I moved back the other owners had added their little bits, an in and out gates, fancy chimney pot, it had a an oil fire installed, amazing ! so when I moved back I added a Dove Cot into the roof. I started off with two pairs and then bought another 5. The birds themselves can cost anything from £10.00 to 30.00 per pair. When I first started I had to wire the birds in for 6-9 weeks, thereby ensuring the imprint of the bird to the Cot. Now when I sold the birds when we moved away my old neighbour and friend, Tom, told me that 3 years after I had moved away the birds kept returning to the Cot and so the new owners had to wire up and block the Cot.


As I mentioned earlier Lisa and I were fortunate to be able to buy my families old home, when we bought it it had been changed quite significantly. We stayed there for about three years then we bought a larger house at 5 Malyons Lane almost opposite where the families ancestral home was. One morning I woke up and I had this strong feeling that I was living the life of what other people would want me to do and not my own life so as a result I sold up and moved out of the village. But I still have such a love and affinity to the place, its in my blood and imbedded in my brain.


Living in Pevensey Gdns as a child to adult, I have very fond memory of buying Fruit Salads, Black Jack and Sherbet Dips for half a pence, my mum used to buy me a Walnut Whip if I was good, which on the face of it was little to often.
Mr and Mrs Shaw, owned the sweet shop that was on the left of Pevensey and Lower Road. Lovely people, and I was even allowed to buy matches which Mrs Shaw always told me to take the straight home, big responsibility for a 7 yr old, but these were the days when kids could be trusted and the laws were fairly lapsed!
I recall Nick Cook moving into the sweet shop maybe in the late 80's early 90's and the shop re-opening as horse saddlery shop. I think there was a pargeted horse head on the side of house.
In the 70's there used to be a navy blue Austin J4 van a sort of mobile baker that used to sell Bread loafs to the outer village roads like ours. This later turned into a fizzy pop van.COMMENT:Interestingly Navy Blue Austin J4 vans were also used by the police to ferry police around so it could be said that it went from a Fuzz van to a Fizz van.
The house on the right used to be an Antiques shop, which Debbie Bailey lived in with her mum who still lives there, Barbara.
Diane, Kim and David Warren who lived in 6 Pevensey Gardens. Diane was the same age as my sister.


As a kid we were really friendly with the Bodimeade family so much so that I called them "Uncle Dennis and Auntie Brenda". They had a bungalow, and in recent years that he has rebuilt totally. Uncle Dennis built a swimming pool in their back garden quite an ornate one for the time, 1973/4. My sisters and I would often be round there in the summer playing. I nearly drowned in that pool when I was three. My eldest sister Vicky was swimming in the pool with David and I was walking around the edge and I saw, what looked like a Rugby ball, but was in fact a bouyancy aid floating on the surface and I thought "I'd like to get hold of that to play, so I stretched over to get in and in so doing over did it and fell in. I remember seeing under water all the sides of the pool and I must have been screaming and splashing away. Vicky and David didn't know what to do and so it was Auntie Brenda who dived in and rescued me, saving me from drowning. Dad was not a happy man that I had nearly died, he felt that someone should have been with me all the time in case I did anything stupid, like I did ! Any how I was given a little white Teddy Bear at the time and I still have it as a momento of that fateful day. You can imagine as a result of this experience I never really took to swimming, although I did not mind being near water.
Auntie Brenda used to have Messerschmitt, Bubble Car that used to open from the front it was Bright Yellow and I recall we used to shop in Rayleigh and coming down Crown hill was quite hair raising as a kid in the back on your own.

Dad was very friendly with Graham Hutton who lives up Central Avenue . In the winter time when snow was thick Graham would always get his digger out and he and dad would go round clearing peoples drives and som eof the roads in the village. He was kind hearted like that as was my dad.


As a child I guess I was quite small for my age and on my first day at school in, mum walked me down to the school saying "hello!" and chatting to many of the other mums she knew around the village and some of them were amazed that I was starting school because I did not look old or big enough. Some of the first teachers I had were Mrs Bartlett, Mrs Marsh, Mrs Leslie. When I started at the Infant school I went into what I can only describe as a introduction class. This meant I was in a class with someone I was familiar with, my cousin Nelson Chapman, who was one year older was in the year above me and David Warren, who lived at No 6, across the road from me were put in the same class. Later on they split the class and put us into classes of people the same age. I'm not sure if I joined in 1973 or 74.
When I look at the infant class photos on this site there are so many photos of mixed ages.

Talking about my cousin I guess my other cousins George and Glenn Low were notorious and well documented in the school punishment log that is in this website, they frequently appeared and they could have had the best tanned backsides the village has ever seen.

Some of the other teachers names that I can recall are Mr Gobels, Mr Whittle, Mrs Dowde she lived in a road off of Burnham Road.
There was something we kids called the saddle in the playground it was a concrete structure shaped like a saddle and we would play under it, most likely "Kiss Chase", you could probably get a dozen children in there. It was near to the monkey bars. One of the prettiest girls my age was Elizabeth Gatehouse, oops! sorry Liz., and also Jane Caton and I believe she went on to marry Simon Royce the Southend Goalkeeper.



When I left school in '85 that first summer I worked for the Beckwith family on their farm, helping Martyn predominately bringing in the haystacks from around Brandy Hole the (Robinson's fields) and some down Watery Lane. It was fun and we earnt pretty good money as we could work for 12 hours. There were times when we would be sitting on a haystack bales 12 high looking down at the kids below and lobbing mud at them and having great fun with them as they tried to hit us.


With dad having his own business it was not long before I was working for him, although it did not last very long. Dad was very particular on how things had to be done to the point of how you had to shovel sand and cement into the cement mixer, he was very head strong, just like me so it was not surprise that we ended up having arguments resulting in him saying to me "I think it best if you leave and go and do your own thing your way !" so I did. Which is just as well as apart from the arguments over work he and I had a very good relationship as did my sisters with him.


On the corner of Ferry Road and Lower Road was a new large building. When I was a young child it was an International Supermarket, I remember it was great fun running up and down the aisles which seemed so massive then skidding on trousers legs. As a shop manager now I find these children a irritation. However I think that's just my age, haha.
We all used to go to R & J's at the village hall which was a place for us youths where we could dance to disco music, play arcade games, eat burgers and fries and generally have a fantastic time. It happened every Friday night and on Xmas Eve and New Years Eve they were special gatherings with more kids than normal. One year on a Xmas Eve there was a punch up and it carried on in to the New Years do.
When Dave Warren and myself learnt to drive having our own cars was sooo important, it gave us freedom and a new lease of life. Although I had the obligatory few lessons it was dad who taught me to drive and we woudl go round the roads towards Canewdon. I passed my test first time when I was 17.
Before that dad had bought me my first car when I was 16 and I spent 3 years making it into the car I wanted, a Powder Blue Mk1 Escort with two doors. I spent my money buying parts for that car in my attempt to convert it to the same standards as a Ford Escort "Mexico". I spent quite a lot of time and money over at the Nevedon Motors breakers yard on Burlington Gardens. The original car had its front all smashed in so we cut that away and then went to the yard and cut away some wheel arches and welded them on. It helped that dad worked there on Sundays.


Nelson and I could easily have been joined at the hip we were with each other so often and we both joined and played football down the Rec for Hullbridge Sports on a Sunday morning. Nelson was a better player than me. We were also vain and one of our favourite past times was getting hold of a copy of the Evening Echo and searching for the football reports to see our names get mentioned. It has always amazed me how many different ways they spelt Low !
Gary Congram mentioned in his memories how he remembered my cousins George and Glen had hard shots, well that must have been a nutural trait of the family as by my dad could certainly kick a ball hard and send it long distance away, as could Nelson and I.
Not only did I play for Hullbridge Sports as a youth and senior but I also managed to get in the school teams at Hullbridge and Park, but there were much better players than me Matt Petre, Darren Clare and Richard Lee was our Goalkeeper, they were all very good players.
When playing down at the Rec you definately did not want to play on the bottom pitch. It sloped towards the river and in the winter a large expanse of water formed between the pitch and the river wall. This meant quite often when the ball went out that side of the pitch someone was going to get soaking wet feet !
Football was so important to us boys of the village and crowds of us would go down the Rec in the school hols and spend all day there occaisionally going home for lunch but heading straight back down there after. I'm not sure where we got all the energy from.


Down at the rivers edge we have for years had a load of swans but I can remember there being a black swan and a white farmyard goose with the Mute's.

In the 1980's I remember the "British Empire" Thames barge coming up the river with full sail. It was a beautiful sight and such a tragedy that it is a wreck at Battlesbridge nowadays ! How a ship of such grace, majesty and important name can be left to rack and ruin is hard to accept, but I'm not the owner having to find the money for the upkeep.


One night when my sisters and I were ready for bed dad rushed us outside to watch a plane crop dust fields on the outskirts of the village, quite a spectacle.
Another time in the late 80's early 90's I saw flying overhead 5 B-17 Bombers from the David Putnam film "The Memphis Belle" took off from Southend Airport and flew over and around the village.

Dad took us to Rochford to the Airport Museum that was there. I remeber hanging on the wire fence and looking through at two large World War 2 aircraft one British, what I thought was a Lancaster bomber but was a Lincoln and a German Heinkel looking all sinister with its distinct paintwork and markings. The airport was always a favourite trip out for us. Watching a Viscount take off for us small kids was quite an amazing sight. Having an airport so near and also an airshow at Southend meant we saw so many different aircraft including Concorde.

Aunt Kath used to make these amazing doorstop sandwiches with uncut bread either Blackcurrant Jam or Cod Roes. I would go there with Nelson after school and she would say " You going to have a sandwich ?" and even if you said no you still got one, but boy were they memorable along with a great big mug of tea !

Some of the villagers I can remember are :-
Lee Adger, family lived on Ferry Road in old bungalow.
Sean Piper, lived down Crouch Avenue he had a sister Sharon.
Geoffrey Smith, lived in Central Avenue and he had a bother Russell and sister Tracy. His dad was John Smith. They were family friends. Rob Warren who ran Boxes farm in Watery Lane, had very big hands and was a good boxer and Geoff his son was as well.

There was an old jetty ruins near Crouch Caravan site and in it where loads of Victorian bottles.