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Hullbridge Village History

Ode to Hullbridge.

The memories of H R Wright

Memories of Old Hullbridge Village.

The old man climbed the hill towards the stile.
Where he intended to rest for quite a while.
His legs were not young and sturdy now,
as when he sowed corn and followed the plough.

He the sat in the shade of a giant Oak
and had thoughts of the old village and it's folk.
Looking down at the village where he was born,
he wondered where the cornfields and meadows had gone.

The old school built in 1902 is still strong
but has no children now to sing the school song.
He remembered the school meadow when he was a boy
and the football and cricket there that he did so enjoy.

The river where he used to swim and fished
was polluted now and not clean as one had wished.
Also the old Mission Hall where he used to pray
has been gone for many a long year and a day.

Farmer Brown and his foreman no longer tend the fields
and try as they wander through them guess their yields.
The old Anchor Cottages' sweet shop is still there
but no longer sells sweets and it's shelves are bare.

Jolly Jack Jones who had the grocery store
has long since gone and it sells no more.
We will never again see the roadside Elms
or sailing barges with there skippers at the helms.

The lanes are no longer festooned with flowers
which smelt so fragrant after summer showers.
The old man stroked beard and said with a frown
"It's no longer a village, but a sprawling town".



The memories of Harry R. Wright captured by Jenny Howard 1985

Harry loves Cake !

Harry was born in 1914 in Hullbridge and lives in Rose Cottage at the end of Ferry Road by the river. He has kindly agreed to tell me his memories from his childhood providing I bring the cake to have with our tea. He also did some drawing for me. Here is what he told and gave me:-

Hull Bridge 1925.

Hullbridge for Harry was from the river to Pooles Lane where Mr and Mrs Jone's shop stood in Wells Cottage and across the road on the right stood Shell Cottage and the ruins of 2 cottages. On the other side was the Mission Hall built 1909. The Mission Hall had to be taken down when one of the large trees alongside fell onto the roof of the hall causing irreparable damage. This occurred in 1938 one year after Wells Cottage caught light and was burnt to the ground. Next to the Mission Hall stood a tall house that was also "Shorts Stores". Beyond that point was known as High Elms and just before you reached the school and the road leveled out there were two semi detached cottages known as High Elms Cottages.

Map drawn by Harry 1985 of Hullbridge c1925 up to Pooles Lane. Map drawn by Harry 1985 of Hullbridge c1925 up to School.

Also opposite Wells Cottage next to Shell Cottage

The land next to the ruined cottages was Mr Wright's allotment garden in which he had a Walnut tree that is still there. Next to that piece of land was a small plot of land belonging to Shell Cottage in which vegetables were grown The land behind the Mission Hall, Shell Cottage and down to Montague House was called Smith's Meadow and the land behind Short's Stores and the Mission Hall was known as Chapel Meadow.

Hullbridge Chapel

The ruins of the chapel stood in the grounds of Mrs Smith's cottage and very near to the roadside. The ruins stood quite high, about as high as the 1st floor windows of Wharfdale, shaped with the apex remaining on the gable end. The stone pulpit remained and as a child he and his friends used to dress up and pretend at election times to be candidates giving public addresses from the pulpit, just like the proper candidates did.

People used to always hurry past the ruins at night, perhaps it was because older boys of the village used to make turnip lanterns with candles in that were placed on stakes in the ruins, trying to scare people in the dark.

High Elms

The Road from the river to the school climbed quite steeply and then at the school leveled out till just before High Elms Farm owned by Farmer Brown where it climbed again till the Farm House. It was a red bricked building covered in ivy and situated on the corner of Maylands (Malyons) Lane, which led to Mr Beckwith's Farm, Maylands Farm (Malyons Farm). Mr Brown's farm was next door to his farmhouse and the out buildings were on a courtyard with a Cowshed made of black weatherboarding and a corrugated roof backing onto the main road and a stable opposite with a thatched roof and behind that a large barn. To the side of the cowshed was a smaller building which was a store shed. Mr Brown had a foreman on the farm along with some labourers who were worked very hard, from sun up to sun down.

Harry's picture of Farmer Brown and his High Elms Farm. 1918-23. Harry's picture of High Elms Hill 1920

Making the most of things

For a young child in Hullbridge around 1920's life in Hullbridge was one great adventure but would seem hard nowadays. At that time Harry didn't know any different as most children's families were trying to make ends meet. Harry recalls that he and his siblings would be wearing clothes that were "hand me downs" and his dad never threw away old boots as he would use them to repair another pair that he had managed to get his hands on for his family to wear. He used to do the repairing whilst sitting in the back yard. He could also turned his hand to repairing trousers with patches and this was the start of the next chain of hand me downs. Harry remembers that families would take the wheels off old prams and use the body as a cradle, and store the wheels till they were needed again ! The families at that time in the village tended to be large.

A fond memory of Harry's was the "Pennies Man". There was a gentleman from Rayleigh who would make a trip to Hullbridge and whilst there would throw pennies in the road for the children to gather up and take home. It was a right free for all but extremely welcome and good fun!

The Barges.

Harry's father worked on the barges in particular the "Daisy Maud", and he states that the river traffic of these boats was considerable, so much so that the only way he knew his father was back home was when he saw the red hand "Bob" flying from the mast. The barges came to Hullbridge primarily carrying coal and cobbles and flint for road making. Harry reckoned there was about 1 foot of cobbles on his end of Ferry Road.
When the barges berthed at the wharf two men were used to unload them. They would get in the hold of the barge and load the goods into a large basket and then carry it out and onto the wharf. They used to place the basket on their head which would be protected by a band or hood of woven straw. Sometimes they would tip the contents directly into a waiting horse and cart. The strain on these men's bodies was incredible and Harry recalls his brother being one of these workers until he found his legs kept giving way.
The Bargees heading for Battlesbridge, knowing villagers were not too well off would kick, on purpose, pieces of coal overboard as they passed Hullbridge so that when the tide went out the villagers could collect the coal to dry out and use on their fires.

The Old Anchor Pub

Next to where Harry lives today were two buildings, one the river side was a general store/ and on the other side was the Anchor Inn. Opposite the Inn was a tobacco sweet shop.
Behind the old Inn was a barn with a loft with steps leading up to a balcony, this was where the new Anchor now is. The barn was where the then ferryman Mr Gunn, who lived in a cottage next to the "Snuggery" (the barn / cowshed that is now the Smugglers Den), would rest when his services was not required. He would tie up his oars securely and leave them outside the loft entrance. He relied on Harry and his brothers to give him a shout when someone needed to use the ferry.

The pub shut at 10 p.m. and anyone found out after 11 p.m. would be stopped by the police. This happened to Harry's father. One morning he left a house at Coventry Corner at 1.30 a.m. and was stopped 4 times whilst returning home down Ferry Road.

The brick workers were so poor and badly dressed that they were not allowed into the Anchor Inn. Harry used to go and get their beer and take it to them

Opposite the Old Anchor Inn were the Anchor Cottages. The first cottage was a shop owned by Mr and Mrs Key but later taken over by Mrs Davis who made it a sweet shop / cafe much to the enjoyment of Harry she also had a pet monkey !

The River and nearby fields.

The river in Harry's time was not polluted and was a main source of food for many with shellfish, dabs, eels etc., in an abundance. Harry recalls that he saw 9 porpoise in the river at the same time.

It was not only the river that was abundant, Harry remembers catching many songbirds especially Linnets in the brickworks excavations, he said they were attracted by the water that was there. He also remembers there being many orchids and ox-eye daisies that he would collect to create a posey for his mum.

The field behind Montague House was known as the "Picnic Field" where villagers would spend time in the summer.

Work.

Mr Smith lived in Montague House (what is now Simla Restaurant) and as well as having an orchard alongside , the produce from which he and Mrs Smith sold outside their property, they had a large garden that they got Harry to tend, paying him with stale cake.

Harry had had many jobs including following his father's footsteps by working on the barges, he also worked at the cucumber farm "Lokoja Nurseries."

1st bus to Hullbridge.

One day the headmaster announced to the school that around 3.30 the 1st bus to run to Hullbridge would be coming past the school. When he made the announcement it was the first time Harry had seen the headmaster smile (except when he was canning someone !).
At 3.30 the Headmaster blew a whistle and all the children stood on their desks, looked out of the windows and waved Union Jack flags as the bus passed by.

I shot down a Zeppelin !

During the 1st World War London was being bombed by the German's Zeppelins, and Harry remembers seeing one fly overhead and trying to shoot it down with his dad's spade he was so excited when it dropped lower and he thought he had got it.

You can also read some recollections of Mr Wright on Maureen Blake's website.