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Hullbridge Village History

Hullbridge where ? The teen years.

The memories of Gary Congram

The new beginning 1964


My sister (Debra) and I were born in Finsbury Park, London N5 where we lived in a very close-knit community. Many of my parents' family lived either in the same road as us or just around the corner, which was very typical of families in the 1950's. Other families had also moved into the roads the same time as my mum and dad's relations so everyone knew each other very well.
It was a regular occurrence to pop in with a Cooee! instead of knocking, or ringing a doorbell as doors where never locked and we all trusted each other.
The Infant and Primary School (Pooles Park) were within throwing distance of where we lived as was the pubs, sweet shops and grocers.

At that time London was not a healthy place to live. I was constantly going down with bronchitis due to the dampness in our house we were renting and London was also plagued with Smog's. With these things in mind mum and dad decided we would all have a better and healthier life if we moved out of London and into the countryside. From an educational point of view this would be a very important change for me as I was 10 years old and about to take my 11+ exam.
Debra had just started primary school so the impact on her schooling would not be so great.
Worryingly for mum she would have to give up her local job and find a new one near to where we moved to. For dad whose office was on Bishopsgate in London he would have to commute by rail. Another concern was that we would not have family to immediately call upon should something go wrong. Not forgetting the fact that mum and dad would have to borrow a significant sum of money to buy the home and move.
This was a huge life changing decision!

My dad's job, sampling imported and exported cereals, meant he had to travel around the country. During his travels he visited the area at Rochford and Battlesbridge Mills. One of his colleagues, Mr. Newsom, lived in 6, Abbey Close, Hullbridge and he encouraged my dad to take a look at some houses being built down the road from him in Abbey Road.

At that time Abbey Road was divided into two parts, with the division occurring by the sub station at the North end and the other near Monksford Drive at the South end.
Mum and dad purchased the first house built on the estate, No.56, a semi-detached next to the builders yard which also had on it the Electricity sub station. The estate was a set of 5 semi's and one detached. Among the families moving into the new houses were :-
No. 56 Us.
54 Doris and Fred Hart,
52 Rose and John Murphy,
50 Lou, Mick, Susan and Patsy MacNamara,
48 Colin, Glad, Keith and Lynne Chart (later) 46 43 Beryl, Brian,Ken, Chris and Alan Morriss.
45 Pat and John Edmead (later)
47
49
51 Mr and Mrs Brightman
Other families in Abbey Road and Abbey Close:- 5 Mr and Mrs Botley and Peter and Barbara Botley
9 Mr and Mrs P Johnson and family
58 Mabel Atkin
59 Mr and Mrs Jarvis
61 Mr and Mrs Johnson
63 Mr and Mrs Shaw and Matthew and Bernice
65 Mr and Mrs Bishop and Peter and Keith
73 Keith, Pat, Lesley and Gary Whittaker

Before we moved in we all came down to see our new house. At the time it was half built and the gardens were just mud, but even so I envisage my football pitch and I knew which bedroom I wanted. I could not wait to move in. Whilst we were there we spent some time driving around the village looking at the River, Church and where were going to school and most importantly the Recreation Ground. When we returned to Abbey Road I thought the bungalow on the right corner of Abbey Road and Ferry Road looked very familiar.
Back home in London one of my closest friends was Christopher Able-Harry who was the son of Gladys Brown the sister of Arthur and Rene Watkins nee Brown, who ran a fruit and veg., stall in Tollington Road, N5. Chris's relations decided they were going for a trip Strawberry picking and he invited me along. We all bundled into their Bedford van with Chris and I in the back where the fruit and veg., were normally kept. We finished Strawberry picking and on the way home we called in to visit one of Rene's relations. The husband of the relation had a wonderful train set laid out in his attic and Chris and I spent our time playing with it whilst the adults sat downstairs talking. It turned out that this bungalow was the one on the corner of Abbey and Ferry Roads which is why it was familiar.

We made the move in the summer of 1964 and my sister and I had started school at Hullbridge Primary. After a couple of days, mum saw the local milkman making his deliveries (Howards Dairies) and signed up to receive bottles of milk daily. My parents had registered us with Dr Kendall (Mr) whose surgery was at his home No.149 Ferry Road. The room at the front of his house on the right hand side was his surgery and Mrs Kendall had just qualified as a doctor.

A few days into the first week at school mum was called by a friend Iris Frewin who lived in Monksford Drive and who worked in the kitchen at the school. Iris told her that Debra had been taken very ill. Mum went to the school and picked her up and took her back home. She called the doctor and we were visited straight away by Mrs Kendall who diagnosed Debra as having acute appendicitis. She called an ambulance and she was taken to Rochford Hospital where she was rushed into the operating theater and her appendix was removed. The doctors told mum that if there had been any delay it would have been extremely serious. What a start !

Within a few days of moving in I met and became friends with Peter Botley who lived opposite Mr Newsom at 5 Abbey Close. Peter was a great friend and had an attractive elder sister, Barbara who loved the Beatles music, as did Peter. I at this time loved the Monkees and thought the Beatles were old hat, so we had several debates over who was better than who or what track was better. Peter's dad worked for H.M.Custom and Excise in Southend and his mum always made me feel extremely welcome when I visited. In the family's front room they had a snooker table that also was a dinning table. Peter was a dab hand at playing on it. When we first started he would leave the cue ball in a place where I found it hard to cue because we were near to a wall. One day when we had got fed up playing billiards Peter introduced me to Subbuteo table football and later on table cricket.

Old Subbuteo Footballer 
								about 1 1/2 inches high and the players were cardboard cut outs stuck on a weighted base that is
								curved and circular. Subbuteo Cricket box. Photo of Subbuteo Cricket
						 		game in its box

The football players were made of cardboard with plastic bottoms and Peter had netted goals and footballs just smaller than a table tennis ball. To play you had to flick the player using your index finger only. We used to play Subbuteo on the snooker table whilst listening to Beatles albums. I loved it and soon had it on my birthday wish list. Peter and I spent many rainy days playing Subbuteo and later on Dave Carter, Jeff and I started our own league.

Our Subbuteo league consisted of Dave, Jeff and I having three teams each. Mine were Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Crystal Palace, Dave had West Ham, Q.P.R and Leeds, Jeff had Tottenham, ?, ?. We had to play our home games at our homes, for Dave and Jeff we played in their bedrooms whilst I preferred to play in the living room. Because there were matches between our own teams we would each own one of the others teams. The team I supported then was Nottingham Forest because my football idol Joe Baker had transferred to them from Arsenal so mine was Forest. To play we would place a baize pitch on the floor and crawl around it. There were many times when in a rush to get round to the other side of the pitch we would put a knee on a player or goal and break it, so our players started getting shorter and shorter. Our parents tolerated us but started moaning when we started wearing out the knees of our trousers and making the carpet worn. The game improved when the cardboard players were replaced with plastic ones and we had smaller footballs, diving goalkeepers and round posted goals.

Peter and I occasionally played Subbuteo cricket. The cricket players were more sophisticated in design than his footballers. There were:-
The fielders: A figure stuck to a thin square green plastic base that had a small indentation to trap the ball.
The bowler: A figure stuck on a base similar to the footballers but it had a small Copper triangle at the back in which the ball was placed. The ball was bowled by flicking the bowler at the back thereby propelling the ball through the air towards a set of stumps.
The batsmen: This was a figure that was placed near the stumps but the true batsman was a cricket bat stuck into a plastic base attached to a twizzle stick.

On non rainy days Peter and I would often play football in my back garden, his garden had a rockery in the middle, not ideal for football but great for playing with little Airfix soldiers and Action Men! Our goals were sunbeds laid on their sides and the rules were that you could only touch the ball once. Unfortunately the ball kept going over into our neighbour's garden (Doris and Fred). At first we used to knock, apologize and ask for our ball back, but we soon got fed up with that and instead became bold and using a our coal bunker which was handily placed near to the dividing fence, we would clamber over and recover the ball. We eventually got fed up feeling guilty and so we changed the rules to allow two touches and later on dribbling. Peter was a very good goalkeeper and he, like me, did not like losing so we had many fall outs.

I loved playing in the nearby fields and would often go exploring with my friends down various footpaths, roads etc., Watery Lane was where I went with various of my girl friends and when my cousin came down one weekend I just had to show her where we played. At this time the concrete piping was being put in place at the beginning and down Watery Lane and we could clamber through them and along the newly cleared ditches. We took Debra with us and was having a great time when Debbie stood up too early when she was leaving one of the concrete pipes and cracked her head on the lip, there was blood everywhere. For a moment I thought "What has she done, so much blood, now I'm for it, what do I tell Mum ?" then I realized I had to get Mum and Dad because Debbie was going nowhere. I asked Marilyn to stay with Debbie so I could run home. I ran non stop from the humpback bridge to home and got them to drive down to pick Marilyn and Debbie up. When they arrived home I was relieved to be told she would not need stitches and that it was just a small cut. THANK YOU!

When I first came to the village I did not have a bike so this was also on my birthday wish list. I believe it was my Grandparents who bought this for me from a cycle shop in Tunbridge Road, Southend which was situated behind the bowling club on Victoria Avenue. It was a Rayleigh 26" green 5 speed road bike. It was kept in our garage and always being used. Peter and I used to cycle all over the village especially near the river. We loved riding along the riverbank footpath to the Rec., or Brandy Hole and then race back along Pooles Lane. Riding along the riverbank's at speed required skill and dexterity and to start with a lot of nerve. The path was very narrow, muddy and with deep holes there were also not many places for overtaking, the only places I can remember were when we reached the parts in the two caravan sites we went through. Once we got to the Rec we had to encounter a steep slope to get off the wall.

When I moved down to Hullbridge one of the first things I was shown was the Council's Recreation Ground where there were swings, roundabout, slide etc., This was totally new for me, having been brought up playing in the streets of Finsbury Park. Also at the Rec., was an old wooden Cricket Pavilion and close by was a concrete strip with a wire cage around it, this was the Cricket practice net. The pavilion was on wooden sleepers and often when playing football nearby our ball would go underneath and we would have to climb under to retrieve it. A game we used to play was rolling a ball up the sloping roof so that it rolled down the other side. If it was a tennis ball we had to catch it if it was a football we had to kick it back over.

At the bottom of the Rec were the swings, roundabout, wooden balancing pole, slide and later on a metal climbing frame made of scaffolding poles. It was not often that we used these for the purposes intended. We loved going down there with a tennis ball and playing tag, this meant the kids running from one piece of equipment to another trying to avoid the tennis ball which was being hurled at you by kids who were tagged. Another form of tag was for the kids to sit on the roundabout whilst one kid kicked a football at them from 5 yards or more away and if the ball touched a kid they would have to get off the roundabout and kick the ball also. I soon learnt that the best way to get kids off the roundabout was to chip the ball in the air so that it landed on the roundabout, quite often you could get more than one kid off with that one kick.

Another game we played was standing on the swing and getting it to swing so that you were almost level with the top. Sitting down and swinging was "How high can you go and leap" here it was a question of getting the swing the highest and then jumping off at the top. It was a dangerous game as the swing always went back spinning and not straight and would often smash with a clang into the metal swing supports. The seats on the swings were wooden and there were a number of times when I saw a swing go back and hit someone.

The wooden balancing pole was great as a goal. When there was a number of us playing each side of the pole was a goal and you could only score by kicking the ball between the two supports. It was not allowed to kick the ball through the posts to one of your players. Another game we played was football tennis where the pole acted as the net.

Around Hullbridge were many thickets in which we used to play. One in particular was between Grasmere and The Drive and it was mostly Hawthorn, Brambles and other nasty prickly plants. We made a single hidden path to a clearing in the middle so we had a place to hide from other kids or irate adults! We also had a small store of fizzy drinks and sweets hidden there. Alongside the thicket was a muddy path, which is still there today. Along this were several tall trees in which crows would nest. When we walked up the path the noise from the crows was quite deafening and I would imagine the villagers living nearby were only too pleased when the trees were lopped and our thicket was cleared to make way for the houses that are there today. Another favourite playing area and one we visited often as Scouts was the thickets off Kingsway. Its close proximity to the Fish and Chip Shop allowed us to get some chips on the way there and then on the way back. We did like our chips and Banana or Pineapple fritters!!!.

Dave, Jeff and I could often be found down the Rec playing football and we met and became friends with George and Glen Low and Gary Hawkes. George and Glen were older than us and lived up Malyons Lane on the right just before the turning for Elm Grove. Gary lived with his parents and siblings in Ferry Road. Glen and George both used to cycle everywhere and were extremely fit. All three loved to dribble the ball and George packed a mighty shot, however Dave, Jeff and I would always pass to each other and so more often than not would beat them. There was also a bit of brotherly competition between George and Glen which often resulted in them shouting at each other, much to our advantage!

It was Glen and George that got me swimming in the river Crouch. We used to go in just before where Alfreda Avenue joins the Esplanade. There was an old corrugated shelter just below the river bank and it was here that we would change into our swimming costumes and clamber in trying to avoid the swans which would often be near us thinking they were going to be fed. I had not gone swimming in the river before because I had been told how dangerous it was. The current was pretty strong but I obviously managed, to the point that I could swim across to the other side where we would go "Dyke jumping". This was running across mud flats and jumping over the small and sometimes not so small little streams cutting there way through the banks. The big disadvantage of this game was the smell of the mud when you did not make it, mind you that was quite an incentive to make sure you did get across.

In 1974 I fell in love with my now wife Maggie and I moved away from the village and into St Johns Wood. But I kept on hearing the call of the village and we eventually both moved into the village, buying "Edwin" in South Ave.,

Read my memories of going to school at Hullbridge and Greensward. Click here for next page.