Hullbridge Village History
Family moves to Hullbridge
The Tottenham Hotspur connections.
Dad's great grandfather, George Beckwith occupied the White Hart Inn in Tottenham, it was on the piece of land that is todays Tottenham Hotspur Football Ground. The following is an extract from their website The Club first came to this our present site in 1899 when it was a disused nursery owned by the brewers Charrington. The local land was well known for its superb growing conditions and a landlord of the White Hart public house in the 1890s, George Beckwith, had set up a nursery on the site behind his pub at 750 High Road. The land was rented from the brewery and a pitch prepared by groundsman John Over. Interestingly my late grandson was an avid Arsenal fan and was well known at Highbury.
To Rayleigh and disaster.
George with his share of the money he got for the pub and land he gave some to my grandfather Samuel J who moved down to Bull Lane, Rayleigh and started dairy farming.
Around 1911, dad was still a young boy of 9, his dad, then about 38, was accidently killed by
his bull in the shed. This was a disaster and the farm had to be sold with the family moving to Dingle Lane, Rayleigh
where they built a house which is still there today and has the date it was built on the front.
So there was gran with her family and no income, so dad had to go to work and found a job at Stockwell Manor, Billericay
where he was a "house boy" responsible for lighting fires, cleaning boots and shoes and he was treated terrible.
One day in 1921 dad happened to meet the postman and he handed to him a letter, it was from his sister in which she asked why he had not come home as mum was ill and was asking for him and why had he not replied to the previous letters. So dad went to his boss and asked him about the other letters and his boss told him off for opening the letter from the postman and yes he had had other letters that he had opened and read but dad was only entitled to one day off and it was not his turn yet so he felt that dad should not know about the contents as he did not want him worrying about things at home, especially as he would have wanted a day off to visit his mum. He told him that he could not go home yet and that he had to wait till it was time.
So that night dad crept out the house and walked to Billericay Station, jumped on a train to Rayleigh and walked home from there up London Hill and down Bull Lane only to find that his mum had died earlier that day. Dad was eighteen at that time.
From Teenager to Man to Widow in no time.
Having walked out of his job, dad did not have a lot of time to grieve he had to find another job and fortunately he found one
working and lodging with the head horseman at Turret House Farm, High Road, Rayleigh
which was near Rayleigh Tennis Courts is today.
The head horseman Mr Orsler had a couple of daughters and dad fell in love and married the eldest when in Autumn 1923.
The owner of Turret Farm also farmed Fishes Farm in Bulls Lane which happened to have an empty house that the owner offered to dad and his wife Norah, so they went and lived there and worked for the owner on the farm.
Once a week dad would go to Rayleigh Mill to pick up animal feed using a horse and cart and Norah went with him so that she could do the shopping. In the spring of 1925 they were making the same trip from their home and were approaching a small humpback bridge that is still there today, when something startled the horse who bolted with dad frantically trying to control it. They reached the bridge and dad does not know whether Norah jumped or fell from the cart but when he gained control of the horse he rushed back and found her lying on the bridge dead, so at 22 he was a widow.
Dad felt guilty about Norah's death, he lost his drive and enthusiasm for life, he was very low and moved out of the farm ending up doing odd jobs so that he could eat and sleep where ever he could.
Like a Phoenix from the ashes.
One day he plucked up enough courage to go and see his in-laws who told him to move back with them, which at first he was
very reluctant to do, being still raw from Norah's death, but he was eventually convinced and he moved back with them.
Life started to get better from that point on so much so he fell in love with Mr Orsler's other daughter
Kathleen, and in 1926
he married my mum.
Bouyed with a new purpose in life dad dedicated himself to making a good life for his new wife and family which he always put before his own needs up and till the day he died. He would be labouring on farms and doing extra work gardening. We always laughed about him doing overtime in those days, he would earn 6d an hour normal time and 4d an hour for overtime, because you would be tired and so less efficient in your work !
Dad was willing to try his hand at anything, in those days you did not need a driving license to drive, dad on his travels had learnt how to drive so he became a bus driver for Edwards Hall buses. His route would take him from Rayleigh to Hockley and then onto Southend.
Edwards Hall bus depot was down Rayleigh road near Progress Road on the corner of Bosworth Road. Up Bosworth Road lived a Mr Language for whom he did some gardening and they got talking and Mr Language told dad that there was some land for sale down Nelson Road, Rayleigh that could be bought cheap and to make things better Mr Language offered to lend dad the money.
Building a business from scratch.
So dad took up Mr Language's offer, this was not to be the only time Mr Language helped dad !
On purchasing the land dad built a house in which I was born then he built a shed and bought a cow to put in it.
This was the start of his own dairy business.
Mum and dad used to do the milking, which meant getting up early and then dad would go and drive the bus whilst mum would deliver the milk. Eventually they built up a fair sized herd and was delivering milk as far out as Southend. The even branched out into keeping pigs.
Before the family moved to the Malyons farm my future teacher, Ida Street (nee Smith) lived there and her father James was the farm bailiff (manager). Around early 1930's the farm was owned by Ivan. W. Smith not sure whether he was related to Ida's family but there were a load of Smiths around Hullbridge at the time. Mr I Smith was a dairy farmer and I can remember his bottles having I W Smith written on. Dad used to have some with R C Beckwith in the glass and some written on.
Dad was a client of Ivan who had more milk than his customers wanted, so dad would meet him and purchase his surplus in urns as he was finding it hard to meet his customer's needs. Ivan one day told dad that he was unable to make ends meet and so was selling his farm so he could no longer guarantee providing him with the milk. Dad was obviously very worried about where he was going to find a provider, it was then that Ivan suggested to dad that he rent the farm off of him as he had been trying to sell for over 2 years and this way it would suit them both. In 1937 dad came to the farm for the first time and they agreed on the lease. Dad was still friendly with Mr Language, who was a man of money and a speculator, so he called on him and explained the situation. Mr Language bought the farm and dad rented it off him for a short while and I remember the sunny day towards the end of the 2nd World War, we were outside on the lawn drinking tea around table and chairs talking about the farm when dad and Mr Language stood up and shook hands and the deal had be done for dad to purchase the farm.
A dairy Farm.
Dad was known locally as "Bon" I have never found out why and when he was working at Malyons his brother was keeping the farm at Nelson Road
running by milking the herd and dad would go over and pick up the milk and bring over to Hullbridge in churns.
Working on a dairy farm was hard work, it helped that there was no distraction of TV, not to say you had nothing to do in the evenings but you would do the milking in the afternoon, come home and have your dinner and then go out in the evening and do the bottling in the dairy all by hand, hundreds of bottles and they had to be washed by hand as well! At this time we were putting cardboard tops on the bottles by pressing it into a little recess, not tin foil as larger dairies started to do. We had various sizes:- half pint, pint, pint and half and quart bottles. We would be out in the dairy till gone 10 in the evening and dad would be up at 5 the following morning, seven days a week.
Eventually he had several milk floats out and during the war he sold the business to Howards Dairies of Southend. I used to do some of the rounds which is how I came to know Fred Turnball, who later was to be elected onto the first Hullbridge Parish Council.
Having come out of the dairy business we started up the livestock haulage business which we run today.
LIVESTOCK HAULAGE BUSINESS
One of our oldest and best customers is Richard Stacey of Canewdon. When I was driving we were picking up 100 pigs a week from him and taking them
to the slaughter house. You need a lot of sows to generate that number of pigs a week. He was at one point down to just 25/30 pigs a week because of the costs.
Now he is lucky to get 50 pigs a week. He bought himsewlf a refrigerated vehicle so that we take the pigs to Fowler's slaughter house at Burnham and he
brings back the carcass's which he then butchers and sells to the public eitehr from the farm or delivers.He can not make it a viable business if
his customers were the large supermarket chains.If you go into restaurants in this area and you see Canewwdon Pork, that's from Richard and they are all Free Range.
Another slaughter house we go to is Chills at Upminster. They export most of their meat to Europe and I remember one time being asked by the governor there if I had any spare time as he was a few lorries and trailers short. So I asked around and found out it was not worth my while but what totally amazed me was that the job was to take a 40 foot refigerated trailer with old sows and cows over to a yard in Germany, there you present all the documents to get them stamped, then you are presented with German Export documents and you take them and come back to England, without even opening the lorry. What a waste of time. I would also add that quite a number of these animals had already been transported to Upminster from as far away as Scotland in three or four deckers livestock.
The market place has changed so much because of the EU subsidies and supermarkets and the speed and storage of goods around the world. Once upon a time the competition was local now it is global.
I read once in Farmers Weekly about a scam that was taking place some years ago. Animals were being transported over the border between France and Belgium
and there was a price differance between the countries. The lorries would bring the livestock over through border control, who would check and count the animals,
then they would be driven a short distance down the road to a farm and unloaded. The lorry then went back over the border and did a U turn and come back through border
control again. The driver goes to the same farm where the cattle are driven onto the lorry and driven back over the border. This was going on all during the day simply so that
they could get the EU Subsidy for free as they were paying compensation for the differance in price between EU contries.! SO much for the EU.
Transporting livestock you'd think is just arriving somewhere pick up the animals and drive them to a destination, but there is lots of work needing to be done before you can even go somewhere. Hygene is critical to our business. The government put in place laws and guidelines on livestock hygene which we have to comply with. A Mr Peter Moore who has a poultry farm in Dunmow was appointed as the inspector for this area by the ministry and we would call him tell him the time our lorry was arriving back here so that he could be here when it is cleaned uner his supervision and then he would lock and seal upthe lorry and sign the relevant documentation so that the farmer whose stock we are transporting knows his animals be safe. Peter would come over to us sometimes three times a day, and he was getting about £60 for each visit.
We take cattle up to Waitrose in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, they are hot on hygene and animal hubandry. When we deliver there we have to tell them when we leave and they check the time and mileage we take on the journey, to make sure there has been no detours made, they make sure the lorry is spotless before you leave their abatoir and the washing is done by their people not you.
The farm house is very old and does not have any footings, the wooden structure is built directly into the ground. It is a timber framed house that was Wattle and Daub
until fairly recently.
Dad suffered from arthritis which meant he couldn't get up and down the stairs so he had built two new rooms on the left side, which meant taking the left side chimney down. One of the rooms was his bedroom the other was a lounge. Dad lived there till he died in 1983 and mum till she died in 1991.
Now Marianne has removed the partition wall and made one big lounge.
The farm had two large ponds one to the front left of the house and one behind the house to the right. They were connected by a big large ditch and as a child I would row our boat from one to the other. Around 1959 the sewers were being dug for the village and the clay that was dug out for the pipes was used to fill in the one to the left and partially fill in the one to the right. We felt it would be safer as Marianne had just been born in 1958.The back pond was the favourite of place of "Oswald", which I will tell you about later. Once the land had settled we had a large cow shed built to the front left of the house and the milking building was to the front right.
When I married Hazel (Davey) in 1954 we built the bungalow we live in today and we called it Little Malyons. Before there used to be a little two bedroom farm cottage here. There were 4 large trees opposite to us.
The road approaching the farm, Malyons Lane, was lined both sides of the lane with old tall Elm trees and they met at the top forming a beautiful
green archway all the way to the farm. Unfortunately in the mid 60's when the Dutch Elm disease
was prevalent dad contacted Sadds of Maldon, a timber company, and asked them to check their condition and unfortunately most had been infected so
Sadds chopped them down and disposed of every trace of the infected trees. Dad did hope that that would be the end of it but unfortunately within
a couple of years the rest had to come down as did most of the Elms in the village.
I have been told that folklore has it that an Abbey was somewhere on this land but although aerial photographs of the farm show in one of the top fields that there was some structure up there under the soil I doubt very much it was an Abbey.
During dad's time at the farm, before the Common Market, it was profitable to farm the land, unlike now.
It was profitable enough for dad to buy a combine harvester, cost something like £1,800 a lot of money at the time he also
had purchased a Ferguson tractor for £650. Most farmers at that time owned there own farm machinery. Today you need to
be farming a large amount of land to be able to afford the £ 400,000 for a Combine or £ 100,000 for a tractor.
One of the largest farmers of the land around here is Cottis and Sons. They farm Rawreth Hall, on the right as you go down Rawreth lane,2 farms in Canewdon where he lives, John Cook's Sheepcoates Land, along Lower Road Farm Pnkertons at the end of Kingsmans Farm down Pooles Lane. So he has three combines. Owners like us, John Cook at Sheepcoates and Pinkertons can no longer plough the fields because of the machinery costs etc., which is a real shame, because it was a very interesting and rewarding life.
Robinsons on Lower Road farm Hylands just alongside us down here.
Around 1940's 50's there was only a bungalow with a Poultry Farm between Skewpath and the school. The owner of that bungalow
obtained permission to build another bungalow, which my father bought off him and eventually gave it to my sister.
The land attached to that bungalow included an orchard which went down to the school and went behind the properties in Keswick
to the footpath between Pooles Lane and Keswick. With that bungalow dad also purchased the rest of the land that had not been
sold for development. The land where the chickens had been kept for years was quality soil, ideal for vegetable growing so
that's where we had a vegetable patch, the produce was sold in the shop.
At the side of the bungalow was a concrete path we used to use to get entry onto the land concrete. In the 70's the Gas Board approached us about laying a main gas pipe under the path which was to be used to deliver North Sea Gas. We agreed on the provision that if they cracked the path they would replace it, which is what happened except they made it much wider and stronger. The pipe ran to the end of Grasmere Ave and then out across the fields.
Lines Farm, Pooles Lane
There was a farm in Pooles Lane called "Lines" which came up for sale. Some of the farm was bought by a builder and dad purchased the rest. We still farm the land. Our fields are those on the right of Pooles Lane after the brickmakers cottages, going towards Kingsmans. The footpath that runs from Pooles Lane to Keswick is our boundary and the fields go up to the school fence. There have been a number of times when some people have decided to dismantle parts of the fence and we have had phone calls from the school telling us that our cattle are in the playground.
Son like Father.
I started working on the farm at a very young age. One Saturday dad said to me when I was 12 and we were milking cows in the cowshed "nip down the road and check on those cows in the field and see if they are all alright". Dad always kept the calving cows in a separate field down Pooles Lane and it was not unusual for a cow to have her calf before the expected time, so keeping watch over them was very important. Now I thought I don't want to cycle all the way there I'll jump in dad's car and nip down the road, so I took the keys and went. I got to the field, all the cows were fine and I was making my way back steadily and had just past the S bend before the cottages when along comes P.C. Pearce the Hullbridge Copper, of course he knew me and stopped me. "What are you doing ?" he asked, so I explained the situation and he said "Well I can't let you get away with this I shall have to report you to the head man at Rayleigh Station". So that evening the head bloke from Rayleigh came and said "Look I'm getting off duty at 8 o'clock in the morning, I'd like to get this sorted will you be about ?" Dad said to him "yes I'll be in the cowshed milking from 5 come when you like", anyway it was Sunday morning and I was in the field ploughing driving the tractor. At 7 o'clock I see this Police car come down the lane and I thought "Oh no, here we go I'm in deep trouble !". He got out the car and went into the cowshed to talk to dad, he gave him a ticking off for letting me have the keys and then said "Right ! let's be having the boy so I can give him a good talking to, he won't want to drive another motor on the road after I have finished with him, go and get him out of bed !" "Out of bed ! ? he's out in that field, since 5 this morning ploughing the field !" said dad. Dad said the look on his face changed and he looked at dad and said "I can't go out there, it's 7 o'clock on a Sunday morning everyone else is in bed, he's out there ploughing ! I can't tell him off, just have a firm word with him and tell him not to do it again." and he left.
P.C.Pearce lived in Hullbridge, he was a portly man. I remember as a boy coming home and I was just got past the bus stop past the Police Station in Ferry Road when I got this whack around my ears, it was P.C.Pearce he had cycled up behind me and had taken off one of his big white leather gloves and hit me round the head with it. Needless to say I was rather startled and had stinging ears "What have you done that for ?!" I shouted, he stopped and said "You know why I done that" ""I don't" I replied, "Oh yes you do and if you do it again you'll get another one twice as hard, so don't do it again !". Do you know to this day I still don't know what I did.
We used to get up to mischief but never did anything that would cause harm or danger to someone. We used to have free range hens that roamed the farm, nesting in the hedges and the whole family would go around the hedges looking for eggs before they went off. At that time there were not many foxes around and the hens would overnight in a shed. George Low Snr a good friend of mine would go round looking for the nests and eggs and if we found one that when shaken was very liquid we knew it had gone off. Time for mischief, we would load them into a box on our trolley bikes and cycle down Ferry Road throwing them at people's front doors so that when the owners opened the door there was an awful smell. I remember one day doing this and throwing an egg at the door of a bungalow opposite, what is today the Fish and Chip shop, and to my horror the owner opened the door and the egg whistled past his ear right up the hallway and splattered inside. I have never cycled so fast in my life!
2nd World War.
Just before the 2nd World War Hullbridge was a holiday home location with lots of plots of land on which small wooden buildings were erected and people, mainly from London, would come down at weekends to get away from the hustle and bustle of City life. During the war these same retreats were used to get away from the bombing and the school was full of children who normally went to school in London. Not all evacuees a number came down with their mum's and stayed in their holiday home. After the war many of those people decided to stay in the village still worried about life in the City and so the village grew.
I remember the day France surrendered to Germany because I was down the road at the school about to line up in the playground when I dashed into the school cloakroom to get my coat and saw all the teachers sitting around listening to the radio, I heard the commentator on the radio say that it was likely the Germans would be invading Britain pretty quickly and that "Dark days were ahead of us!". This scarred me so much I grabbed my coat and ran off home hoping to get there before some German got hold of me.
During the 2nd World War we had a searchlight situated in one of the back fields. We used to get German planes flying past following the Crouch and Thames into London. There were a couple of gun placements near by one was at what is today the Industrial Estate down Rawreth Lane and the other just onward from what is today Riverside Nursery near the pig farm on Lower Road. When the siren went off I loved running up to the searchlight and watch the army maneuver it to try and pick out the planes. The light was huge and to move it round the blokes would push a large handle which took it clockwise or anti clockwise, to elevate it they used a large steering wheel contraption. At the side of the light was a slip trench which was for their protection. The army blokes would have a short time to find the planes before one of the fighter escort would fly down the beam of light and strafe it. If the blokes were alert they would see the plane and immediately turn out the light and jump into the trench till it had flown by and then start again. Our guys were smart as the light never got hit, despite being there for some considerable time.
There were loads of bombs dropped near the village.
Its not surprising really when you consider the Germans flew using land marks and it's almost like an arrow for London with the Crouch and the Thames. Once three bombs dropped in the field opposite where the recreation ground is today. Great big craters they left !I went down there and picked up bits of shrapnel.A few days leter the ministry came along with a bulldozer and just filled the holes in.
Another night it seemed like hundreds of incendiary bombs were dropped. They were not very big more like a rounders bat and if they landed on soft ground they often did not explode so we went round the fields picking them up to keep them, we even started throwing them around trying to get them to go off ! We also used to unscrew them and tip all the powder out. On a farm you always get rats, and we had found rat holes up along the bank of the back pond, so me and some of me mates thought, lets blow them up so we stuffed a some of this stuff down this hole and along the bank, we made a fuse from the detonators and one of us ignited it and ran like the clappers. Well because of it being in a confined space it didn't just burn it exploded sending dirt and mud everywhere. Needless to say we never attempted that again,we had a narrow escape.Thinking about it now we were extremely lucky we had no idea how fat that fuse was going to burn
Another time we were walking of the fields by Hylands farmand we saw what looked like a parachute. We crept up to it and saw it was a cylinder with a parachute attached, we had no idea what it was but we were cocky and thought w'eve unscrewed other devices let see what this has to offer. We unscrewed a top and threw that into the hedgerow and emptied the powder from that. The ministry found out that a bomb of sorts had been reported as not exploding and came to investigate. They traced it back to us and took the powder away and asked us what we did with the piece we unscrewed, so we told them and then they came back with it and gave us a lecture and told us how lucky we were that the detonator was inactive otherwise they would be picking bits of us from the field, the bits the wildlife had not taken. Horrible ! Then they asked what happened to the parachute so I told them "I gave it to mum" and she had turned some of it into table cloths and dresser runners.
Hazel's aunt worked for Courtaulds as a machinist and she has often talked about the beautiful blouses she made from old parachutes.
Another day I recall and it's hard to forget, is when George Low and I were walking along the hedge of the field by Windermere when we saw thsi four engined German Bomber coming towards us, really low, low enough for us to see the men inside, it was heading homewards, when all of a sudden we heards and then saw he was firing at us. We did no more than dive into the ditch alongside the hedge and then we heard an explosion and we popped our heads up and then crawled out of the ditch to see black smoke coming from the direction of Lower Road.
Towards the end of the war the gun emplacement at Rawreth was removed and a prisoner of war camp was built there.
It's easy for me to remember the first time I found out about the camp. I was tearing home from our farm in Rayleigh on my bike having done a good days
graft, it was getting pretty dark and with very little traffic on the roads I was really speeding along and had just
reached the s-bend in the road by Lubbards, when all of a sudden I was amongst a load
of bodies and they were grabbing hold of me trying to keep me up, to make things even more scary they were all talking a foreign
language, the someone shone a torch in my direction and I could see they were all wearing German uniforms, you can imagine what
I thought. INVASION !! I was nearly doing something in my pants. The reassuringly I heard an English voice shout out "Are you alright !?"
It turned out that the army had been transporting the POW's in a lorry when it had broken down and so they were marching them to the camp.
I did not hang around long to hear any more I sped off as fast as my legs could go.
The POW's were used by local business's as cheap labour and we were no exception dad had 5 Germans working for us. They were not all pilots
, the government was shipping back home POW's so there were soldiers etc.,
There was one particular POW who I will never forget, his name was Reinhard Scheel, I think that's how it might have been spelt. He was a typical "Aryan race", big, tall and blonde. He was meant to be German but was in fact a Pole. He joined the Hitler youth movement in 1934, he came to England and studied here and spoke perfect English. I used to talk with him a lot and he was very friendly and used to say to me "You must learn German, you will have to speak German one day" and he used to keep on about it so it is no surprise that I learnt a fair bit of German from talking to him. I was quite surprised to see one day during Harvest time, whilst they were working out in the field near the farmhouse, stacking sheaf's of corn, up the lane came a police car and army lorry. The police asked where Reinhard Scheel was and we showed them. They drove down to the nearest gate and shouted across the field "Scheel ! Come!" they shouted for him to double up and run, and so he ran towards them dressed in his POW uniform and big heavy boots. When he arrived at the gate they checked his papers and told him he was under arrest for war crimes and read a whole list of offences, his response was to stand to attention click his heels together and say "Heil Hitler !" "One day we will conquer you" and before he could say anything else a couple of the army guys grabbed him and bundled him into the back of the lorry and said "Not bloody today you won't mate !". So dad spoke to the officer and asked what was going on and he told dad that they had just found out who he was, a Gestapo officer and was wanted for serious war crimes.
Each time the POW's were bought to the farm dad would enquire what happened to Reinhard and eventually he was told that he had been arrested in a private's uniform but in fact was wanted for very serious crimes and that he had been shipped to some place and tried and found guilty, it was uncertain what was to happen to him, it was possible that he was to be shipped back to Poland where he would most likely be shot as a traitor, and that was all we heard about him apart from what we heard from the other POW's and that was that they were glad he was gone as he was a very nasty man. It's possible that someone from the camp grassed on him.
One of the 5 was the son of a farmer and it turned out he was a very good mechanic, especially as the tractor kept packing up. I felt sorry for him as he deeply missed his family's own farm and would often say "Can't wait for war to be over so can go back home to farm".
They used to hold music concerts at the camp and we would get invited along with the other locals who had POW's working for them. There was one particular German, Bruno, who had been badly injured so he couldn't work but he had sung at the Albert Hall and he was tremendous. They were really good concerts that we all thoroughly enjoyed.
I'm not sure how long they were kept in the camp.
One day when we were in the field we heard this noise and turned round to see this plane with no propellers and with flames coming out the back, we wondered what the hell it was. It went over our heads and crashed over Woodham way. The next morning I was reading the local paper and it had an account of this "Buzz Bomb / Doodle bug" crashing.
Living on a farm does have some really nice advantages, brought home even more during war time when rationing of food was in place.
We all felt very privelaged that by collecting milk from the herd and storing it in a large Vat or churns overnight meant that we were able to go along in the morning
and ladle off into a large jug, some of the beautiful thick cream, we also had a butter churner into which we placed the cream
and by turning a handle we made our own butter and a by product being a lovely rich milk simply called "Buttermilk", so during
a time of austerity we were able to have wonderful breakfasts and cakes! We also made our own cheese.
Around this time the task of milking a herd of cows was made substantially easier when dad bought a milking machine. Initially it was one that you took to the cows but could hold about 4 to 5 gallons of milk so dad had a pipeline put in so that the milk was sucked from the cow up into the pipeline and into a bulk tank in the dairy. In the tank he had a large paddle which we switched on for a short period at night and of course we had even more cream etc.,
In the village up Windermere was a floodlight, there were several of them around the district, they were mainly made of tin and they pointed up to the sky, they were meant to be used to light up parachutists. Unfortunately any trees that stood near them were cut down. I remember one night they lit them all at the same time, it was a fantastic sight, like day had come early.
After the war dad would graze the cows in the field where the light was and he had a large old bull that he would also allow in to the field. One day the bull took a dislike to the search light and attacked it and smashed it to pieces. The army had to come and take it away.
We sold the cows around 1972, we had mainly Friesian with some Ayrshires that we had brought down from Scotland.
During the war we saw soldiers down at the river, building a "Bailey" bridge using flat bottomed boats tied together. They chose the Crouch because
it was a fast flowing river.
We also used to see dredging boats on the river, keeping the channels free of silt to enable the barges to go up to the mill of our close friends the Mathews family.
Holey potatoes and Winkles
We used to farm till early 70's, 10 acres of with potatoes and we would get on average a yield of 10 tonnes per acre. Supermarkets were
not as dominent as they are today so we would sell locally and to wholesalers, Wests of Rayleigh. All the large potatoes we sold
and delivered to fish and chip shops in Southend etc.,
Harvesting the potatoes was done as per many years before we started farming, by hand. We relied on local women to come along and follow the tractor with a "Spinner" at the back and pick up the potatoes from the ground as they were unearthed. One of the reasons we stopped growing potatoes was the decline of our workforce. The task was back breaking and because the market price of potatoes was not very high, we could not pay good money compared to other jobs. It normally took a weeks work to pick 10 acres and it came to a head one year when it took a month. I was having to go around to the homes of the ladies asking them to come and help us but many of our regulars had got old and unable or unwilling to go through all the aches and pains.
At that time a new piece of machinery was available but very expensive, too much for us to afford, however a local Mr Phillpot bought one and went into business picking potatos. We were not the only farmers around here farming potatos John Thorpe at Walfords, Pinkertons up at Lubbards to name just a couple. As a result we found ourselves getting later and later in the year which meant wet claggy soil resulting in more time spent cleaning the potatoes before bagging.
We would grow whatever was expected to be in demand:- Majestic, King Edward, Arran Banner etc., The Arran Banners used to get too big so we stopped growing them. I remember the one time I was visiting my sister Viole, who lived in a bungalow opposite Grasmere on Ferry Road that had a farm shop at the side when a lady came into the shop whilst I was having a cup of tea and in her hand was an Arran Banner potato, now my sister had already told me that people were coming into the shop complaining that the potatos were hollow, there was a cavity about the size of an egg in the middle. So this lady started to moan so my sister said, "wait a minute you would be best suited to talk to my brother he's the one growing them, hang on I'll get him for you." So she came and got me. I went out and she went off alarmingly about this hole and that it was not right, she was quite annoyed so I said to her "How did you buy these potatos by weight or by number of potatos" she said by weight, so I then said "so the potato has a hole, how much does that hole weigh", she replied nothing and then immediately realised my point an said "Oh I see, you're right, sorry !".
Hazel's father loved coming to Hullbridge especially when he could go down to the river with a bucket and catch winkles. There was this one time when he came back with a bucket full and left them in the kitchen overnight. The following morning we got up to find the bucket empty and our ceiling covered with Winkles, so he had a great time pulling them all off and putting them back in the bucket so he could take them home. The following week we were reading in the Echo about a sewage leak which had polluted the river with people becoming ill as a result of eating shellfish they had caught. We were quite worried about Hazel's dad and phoned him immediately to see how he was, he was rights as rain, so he must have been very lucky and collected them before the spill.
Our Unadopted family.
We have had some wonderful people working for us:-
Dave Fuller used to drive our lorries. We used to send our cattle all over the country. At that time unlike today, there were many abattoirs, the nearest to us was Fowlers at Burnham, Chills at Morley there were also two or three at Chelmsford which are no longer there and one at Braintree. Over at Rettendon at what is today an Antique Centre lived a very nice man Derek Bardwell. He used to own cattle and Dave would do deliveries for him as well. On Wednesday mornings he also used to take and pick up the cattle at Buries St Edmunds market.
Peter Bowen lived in council houses on Ferry Road with his dad and sister Audrey who became very friendly with our Marianne. At a very young age
he started coming up here and helped out as much as he could, he loved the farm so it was very easy for me to give him a job. He started working
on the farm at a young age and he was notorious for not going to school so that he could earn some money, this was no different to
my youth when come harvesting times mums would bring their children along to pick crops.
. There was one time when we was baling hay in the Anchor field when this car pulled up with a block in a suit inside. He asked me "is Pete Bowen here", I said "yes! he's on that tractor" he then got out of the car and told me he was a truant officer, so I called to Pete to drive over to us. He then said to Pete "you should be in school and you are not !" to which Peter replied "yes, alright I'll go tomorrow". The truant officer wasn't having any of that he said "oh no, you're going now !" "I can't go now" Pete replied "I've got all this hay to bale", "I don't give a damn about the hay, you're going now!" replied the bloke and put Pete in his car and "Carted" him off to school. I would encourage him to go to school but as well as being a strong as an ox he was stubborn as a mule but had a heart of gold.
Pete met a girl Jill and got married over at Maldon. By this time he had lost his dad and he had come to Hazel and I and asked us to attend his wedding. When we got there we were surprised to be asked to be the witness's to their wedding and said to us, "I have no parents now but you and Hazel have been like Mum and Dad to me so I would have nobody else signing the register". We still keep in touch with him now and he's working in Spain.
Another boy who was always up here on the farm was Graham Hutton, the son of the village hairdresser Patricia. He like Peter was almost an adopted
son, there were times when his mum was quite happy for him to stay with us as she had just re-married and Graham found himself out on a limb.
There was a very pretty girl who lived in Elm Grove, Sheila Wilson who used to come and babysit for us when we had to attend council meetings etc., Graham and her got to know each other very well and ended up marrying each other in 1971. About 3 years later came a bomb shell, Graham came to me and asked if I could lend him some money, only Sheila had been diagnosed as having cancer in the leg which had spread over her body, she was dying.
Sheila was a devout Catholic and they knew about the Sanctuary at Lourdes and that healings had been recorded there, so they wanted to give it a try. We were devasted, and gladly gave him the money hoping that a miracle would happen. Unfortunately nothing did, however it did bring peace to Sheila who said from that moment on she knew she was going to die but was now able to accept the fact and be at peace and would enjoy life till she passed away in 1975.
I was very happy to put Graham through Agricultural College at St Albans where he received the highest award. He asked me to go down to presentation which I was very happy to do and his acceptance speech made me very proud and brought a tear to my eye when he talked about what Hazel and I had done to help him. Graham worked on a farm near the college, it was always his wish to have a farm of his own. He was working his way towards that and became the actual farm manager, but things did not work out as the farmer had a son younger than Garahm who also was at college and when he left he took over as the farm manager leaving Graham to do all the hard grafting whilst the son swannied around. So Graham left and came back here to Hullbridge and visited quite often. Having been scarred with the disappointment of his experience with the farmer he decided to have a complete change of career and successfully trained as a Corgi registered gas engineer which he still does today. Graham lives in the village up Central Avenue.
Life in Hullbridge
On the corner of Elm Grove and Malyons was a bungalow in which lived the Low family, George his wife and children, George, Glenn and Wendy. They used to have their cooker outside in the open.
At the beginning of Malyons Lane was a large old house, that was once the farm house of High Elms Farm. It was lastly owned by Mrs Charlton, she had a
couple of sisters. She had several animals including geese that were very noisy. Dad kept geese around the same time and we had a gander called Oswald
that was a vicious thing. If I was walking up the lane from school and he was anywhere on or near the lane I had to make a detour through a field otherwise he
would attack me. Dad eventually decided he did not want geese so he asked Mrs Charlton if she would like him, she jumped at the opportunity and she kept
him for many years. When Mrs Charlton moved out she asked dad if he would take him back as she could not have any animals where she was going, so dad did.
Oswald was now old and did not have the energy to attack anyone but it did not stop him making a terrible hissing noise. I used to feel sorry for him and one
day I bent down to pet him, big mistake ! he still remembered me from my childhood and so bit my fingers, boy did that hurt, his beak was like the blade of
a serrated knife. I never did that again.
Oswald had a favourite spot, one of our ponds (they have been filled in for some time now). This particular sunny day he was sitting on the other side of the pond in the grass with his head resting back on his wing like he always did when he was having a kip. Dad said to me "he's been like that all day" so I said with much bravado I would go and see if he was alright, so I made my way towards him, across the bridge to the other side making sure my hands were in my pockets and to my surprise he wasn't sleeping but dead, and I thought what a lovely way to die, in your favourite spot with the sun keeping you lovely and warm.
Near the begining of Malyons Lane was a couple that used to keep monkeys in their back garden in a greenhouse type thing. The gentleman was a Gas Fitter by trade.
One day, I think around 1938 there was an overnight storm and the Mission Chapel was destroyed. Our teacher took us over in two classes to see this old tree lying through the building. The destruction of the Chapel was a big blow to the community.
Some of my school mates were Bernard Hemmings, Reggie Patching both lived down South Avenue, Bobbie Bones who lived up Windermere and George Low Snr who lived almost opposite us.
I remember Miss Fassam at school she was the headmistress. She lived in the house alongside the school with Miss Phillips her housekeeper. She started having a school fete in which the children danced around the Maypole that was in front of the school. Yes I had to do my bit of dancing! I always managed to get out of the choir because Miss Ida Street reckoned I was so out of key I would turn the milk sour!
I remember some of the older villagers telling me how in older times when there was no shops in Hullbridge they had to walk across the fields to Battlesbridge. They would walk along the footpath at the back of the farm house which came out at Beeches Common and from there they could pick up Beeches Road which went into Battlesbridge. In our time there was Benson's the Bakers who we used to use rather than going into Rayleigh. They were down the road which led to the Mayphil Hotel.
Rayleigh had a stadium down at the Weir and I and my mum used to go to watch the "Rockets" race in Speedway down there. Most people who went were regular goers and therefore would have their favourite spot to stand. My mum and I were no different. Near to us was this gentleman and his rather attractive daughter. It was mum who noticed this gentleman's grey tie with a blue rider on it and it turned out they were travelling each time from Black Notley. We got to know them pretty well in fact the young girl is now my wife Hazel !
I joined the Hullbridge Conservatives the same time as Colin Chart. The Hullbridge Conservatives had quite a significant membership, so much so that we even produced our own paper.
Hullbridge's Parish Council
Hullbridge before 1964 was part of Hockley Parish Council.
Up to that time there had been many instances of villagers being disgruntled with Hockley's
support so there were many calls for the village to become a Parish withy it's own Parish Council.
In Mar '64 the calls were answered and I and 27 other villagers, a record number of nominations in the country, put our names forward for election as Parish Councilors. At that time the village had a three legal bodies the Conservative group, Labour group and a Residents Association and I was representing the Conservatives. I was one of the fortunate to be elected (see ). I say fortunate because I met and became friends with many more people outside of the farming community.The work we elected councilors had to put in at the start was an awful lot. My friendships were not just within Hullbridge many of the other Parish's councilors also became my friends and we would meet for dinner together at places like Garons in Southend.
One of the elected councilors was Ernie Long, who had also represented Hockley Parish Council and Rochford District Council before Hullbridge's
independence. Ernie we knew because he had a newspaper
tobacconists shop on Ferry Road. Ernie did not drive, perhaps just as well, so on the social
occasions at Garons etc., I would give him a lift. He always amazed Hazel and I that at one o'clock in the morning we would drop him off home a bit
worse for wear and yet at 5 in the morning he would be bright as nine pence getting the papers ready for delivery.
However one night I can recall I drooped him of at the shop as he and his wife Edna lived above it and walked up his drive with him to the front door. After some searching around he produced his front door key and then was poking the key about trying to get it in the keyhole, but without much luck, so I said to him "Here Ernie give us that key and I'll open that lock". "I'll undo me own door" he said and then preceded to poke about some more and shoved the key through the letter box and dropped it on the floor inside. So I said to him "Now you're in a muddle", "No problems boy I'll ring the doorbell" he replied and he rung the bell a number of times, eventually Edna, opened one of the window upstairs and shouted "What's going on" and I then proceeded to tell her what Ernie had done and asked her to come down and let Ernie in. She said to me "No ! he's got himself in that state he can sit on the step, he'll be alright" and so I left him there and went home, thinking she will let him in at some time, how wrong I was !
We had some characters on our Parish Council and some earnt being given nicknames. I was Chairman for two and a half years and we had people on the council who were very strict and if they could pull you up on something they would, in particular time keeping, so we would hold our meetings in the school which had a clock on the wall, but I cottoned on and would take my wrist watch off and place it in front of me making a big spectacle of doing so that everyone knew I was watching the clock. One of the female councilors very time would wait till we were just about to start and would jump up and come round to me and say "Excuse me Mr Chairman but your tie is not straight and would then proceed to lean across me and fiddle about straightening it. The meeting had to start at 8 o'clock and she would still be there fiddling, so I would just declare the meeting open. I must say I found her attentions rather embarrassing at the time.
At the very first meeting I was extremely nervous not knowing what to do, when to do it and just as important how to do it. Sam Pound was the first Chairman. At the first meeting there was a significant amount of business that had been carried over from the Hockley Parish Council Meeting the previous month. One of the matters carried over was causing a hold up when I had a light bulb moment and was able to clearly see the resolution, so feeling nervous and following procedure I stuck my hand up and waited to be acknowledge by the chair. Now sitting in front of me the time was the same Mr Turnball who I had come to know whilst delivering milk and who also was out with me canvassing before the election and who said to me Ken, I am glad to see you are standing, we need local people. Well as I was making my speech to fellow council members and the public about my idea Mr Turnball ignored procedure and jumped up interrupted me and said "I concur with, sorry son I don't know your name" which I found most odd and I thought he is trying to put me down, so I never forgave him for that, and over the years I did get my own back on him. The attendances at the beginning were very large. Villagers had campaigned for so long for independence so they wanted to ensure the Council was a success and did what they, the villagers needed, sewage, road repairs, water supplies, buses, footpaths etc., When the new school was built we held our meetings in a classroom of the newly built school and started getting such a large public participation that we had to move out and go into the school hall.
It would not be true to say that the Parish Council meeting were not politically biased. It was not just Conservatives against Labour there was also
the Residents Association who held the majority(13 councilors formed the committee).
It was not unusual to have a husband and wife on the council, Sam Pound was on it as a Resident and his wife Jean was on it as a Conservative, Ted Whittaker was a Labour councilor yet his wife Enid worked hard for the Conservatives, but I can not recall hearing about major arguments taking place between them. Ted I remember used to have a large ornate container, similar to a Russian Samovar, which would contain about two large bottles of his favourite tipple, Vodka. This was situated next to his chair and he would repeatedly open the tap to fill his shot glass with Vodka. It was a beautiful thing, but could he drink Vodka.
There was one incident that did show that a husband and wife relationships of councilors was not such a good thing and that was when one night the husband and wife were round at our bungalow along with other councilors holding a sub committee meeting when the wife made a statement to which the husband replied "I don't agree with that" to which her response was "you are my husband you will agree with what I say" and they continued arguing until eventually she got up and walked out. After a few minutes we carried on till there was a ring on the door bell. I answered the door and found the wife standing there and she said to me "I want to see my husband" so I went and told him and he went to the door shortly after I heard this noise followed by moaning and groaning so I went out to see what it was. There I found the husband semi conscious on the floor with blood pouring out of his head, the wife on leaving the bungalow had found a lump of wood and had hit him over the head with it. We called the called for an ambulance and the police got involved and the husband and wife went their own separate ways. So a warning to any budding husband and wife councilors.
Hazel has been involved in many local committees one of them was being on the school governors board for Hullbridge and Sweyne. Our daughter was attending the school at the time and if Hazel had a meeting that day at the school she would say to her, "Mum, if you are in the school and our paths should cross don't you dare speak to me, don't you dare, I don't want anyone to know you're one of the governors of this school!". A fine state of affairs when you can't even acknowledge your own children.
I have always been keen to help the village in what ever way I can and so it was very easy for me to allow village functions to take place in one of our fields at the beginning of Watery Lane (Little Water field). Over the years it has been used for several functions Including Carnivals, Donkey Derby, Music festivals, Circus shows and so on.
One of the funniest times when I was a councilor was when the council wanted to put the drainage down 9 Acre field, That meant changing the watercourse so they needed land owners permission. So they had tried to contact Mr Eddie but without much success. The council contacted me and asked me to go and talk to him. So another councilor and I went to see him one Saturday afternoon. We turned up at his house and knocked on the door. The door opened and there stood this small frail really old man, not how we had imagined him. He ivitied us in and said as we stepped inside "You'll have to excuse the mess but I've just had a bird on the table !" we could not stop ourselves we both burst out laughing our imagination just went into overdrive. When we got into the room we found a bird cage on the table with birds inside. So we told him what they wanted to do and he said "Good idea, they should have one that years ago!"
The shape of the village
As a Parish Councilor I got to hear about several disputes that went on around the village over land rights and these have
formed part of the shape of the village. One in particular is very much evident today.
Two separate land owners, one of them putting in place "The Drive" and developing land off of that another with land around where Alfreda Avenue is today. The second land owner refused to pay the first for use of the Drive and so built a small road from Ferry Road round the back of the land the first developer had and up to opposite where his development was. This is where the current path at the side of the houses on Ferry Road which are situated between the Drive and Grasmere Ave., All very understandable ?
Another feature that has shaped the village and appears to be ignored is the old drainage ditches and soak ponds, many of which have
been filled in by the new home owners or by the developers with complete disregard to the potential consequences.
As a land owner I am only too aware of the problems and I have to understand why these features were put in place many many years ago.
There has been many times that I have had discussions with various bodies especially Rochford District Council Planners Office about the ditches and surface water drainage and who owns what ditches etc., especially when there has been flooding. I have told them time and time again what they need to do, but they always think they know better and that I am wrong. Many times I have been proven correct.
A couple of instances I recall. The first was when there was no pavement down Pooles Lane just a grass verge, but a number of properties and of course the Caravan Sites and Recreation Ground. Like with most of the early Hullbridge properties a ditch ran in front of the properties and each property had a small wooden bridge if you were posh or a piece of wooden boarding if not.
Rochford Council, because of the Caravan sites down there decided they needed to put pavement in. So they dug the ditch, they put the pipe in the ditch, they concrete the pipe, put the kerb stones in and tarmac the top making a really good job of it. So they are nearing the end when I get this phone call from a resident saying Mr Beckwith you're our local councilor can you come down here please and try and sort this mess out. I go down there and to my horror I find the Gas Board there with their pneumatic drills going through the pavement, pipes smashing it all up and chucking it on the side. So I found the foreman and said "What are you doing?" to which he replied "putting a gas main in". I got straight onto the council and said to them "look get your workers to stop laying the pavements because the Gas Board are down here and they are digging it all up !" they said to me "No we gotta keep doing it otherwise they won't replace it. It's costing us nothing 'cause they'll replace it!" I could not believe what I had just been told, for a short while I was speechless then I said to them. "Costing you nothing !? Both you and the Gas Board don't have a lot of money and your money is our money, its our rates. You had to pay for the initial path why didn't you wait and let the gas board do it and split the cost !" I was livid. Another was when one of the houses in Ambleside Gardens was getting flooded and the owner put a pump in his manhole and he was pumping the water into my field at the back of him causing the field to flood, so I went and spoke to him whereupon he admitted he was wrong but he had very little options available to him, he had tried Essex Waterboard but they did not want to know. I felt sorry for this gentleman and I thought I would be doing the same if I was in his shoes. Eventually the Waterboard agreed they had to do something so they came along looked at the problem and then came to me and said we need to clear the ditch that runs from the end of Ambleside to Malyons Lane. So I asked what for and they said to me "To take the water away" to which I replied "It won't come this way because its uphill" the guy didn't believe me and said the planners had said it ran downhill, so I showed him and he agreed with me so he went back to the office with the bad news.
Anyway after a period of time they came back and said "Look the only thing we can do is run a pipe from the gentleman's manhole along Elm Grove to the main pipe in Malyons. Problem one was that Elm Grove had no piping put in place when it was built, problem two was that before Elm Grove was built the water from around that area ran into a ditch that ran parallel to and in between Ferry Road and Elm Grove. That ditch then fed 2 ponds one behind the Post Office and other behind High Elms Farm, both are now filled in and built over. So I explained this to them and told them that the gentleman's manhole led to a Storm drain that was in Ambleside Gardens and that the flooding must be because that route was blocked, well they tried to convince me that there was no such pipe. I reiterated that there was as I had seen it being put in as it was at the time when I was on the Parish Council. I also questioned the logic of creating the drainage and a cost of thousands of pounds without just checking for the connection.
They knew better than me so they started work almost immediately laying the piping from end of my field by Ambleside along the field boundary to a new manhole in Malyons Lane and from there to the storm drain by Elm Grove. Two or three weeks after the completion the gentleman from the Waterboard came back to see me and told me that he did follow up on what I had said and found out that a gentleman in Ambleside had recently built a garage over the pipe that led to the storm drain in Ambleside and in so doing had broken and blocked it, and as the work had been completed and was working really well there was little point in doing anything about it now.
I dread to think how much money they had wasted and it amazes me that Rochford planning dept., allowed the garage to built without proper inspections and reinforcement, it also makes me wonder whether there is any map that shows accurately all the amenities piping and trunking that are in the ground around the village especially after another incident.
I was returning home in my car when I saw this bloke with a digger breaking into the road in Elm Grove, I asked him if he knew what he was doing and he assured me he did. I asked him whether he knew there was an 11,ooo volt cable near where he was digging. I managed to convince him to stop work and check. So he phoned the office and told them what I had said. They sent someone down to see me and they said they could not see anything on any of the plans etc., So I told them what had taken place, That Elm Grove when originally built was just a single track and that the power cable fro the sub station was put alongside the road, that single track is no longer and the road had been widened. The gentleman got the Electricity Board down and they denied there was a cable there, fortunately the gentleman who came to see me believed me and got his worker to dig very carefully and after having dug about another three foot down they found it. They were extremely thankful for my intervention.
Many of us older villagers remember the floods we used to have until they started creating new and maintaining the existing ditches. Watery Lane has been from time immemorial the meeting point of surface water from the surrounding hills of Hockley, Rayleigh etc., perhaps that's how it's got its name. All the surface water ran through several streams into ponds and out to the lowest points "Beeches" on the West Side and "Brandy Hole" on the East. Hullbridge is the only natural high point near the river which might explain why the bridge.
Gary showed me this postcard of Ferry Road near Coventry Corner and you can see just through the trees on the right hand side a chimney. I remember that house and when a man tried to knock it down when he bought the land around it for development. The house was built using blocks used to pour concrete in and put steel rods through to reinforce it. The builder took months to demolish it and reckoned if a German Bomb had landed on it it wouldn't have been scratched it was that strong. COMMENT:You can see the postcard TUCKHBGR4 in the postcard galleries
At the end of Windermere Ave lived a bloke "Alwyn Finch" he was quite a character and a good painter who used to sell postcards of his paintings
in Mr Long's shop. During the war Alwyn used to grow vegetables in the field next door and I was only too happy to go along with the plough
and help him out by turning the soil.
Stan Collis owned Coventry Corner Stores and ran a taxi business from there. The stores were really two shops a grocers and sweetshop.
George Boul owned a garage down by the river next to the Wayfarer's Cafe.
Arthur Thorpe owned Walfords farm on Hullbridge Road, what is today the Golf Club. Their house is still there today.
On the corner of Pooles Lane and Ferry Road the "Jasper's" had a shop.
Another eccentric villager was Barney Louse. Barney had a thick mop of hair and my mum asked him one day how did he come to have hair so thick, she was concerned that mine was so thin at such a young age. He told her that he fed it with his special herbal concoction. Mum asked him to mix some up for me which he duly did and gave her a bottle of it and told her to get me to rub it in daily making sure it got down into the roots. So I did as instructed that night and woke up the following morning to find my hair had turned GREEN!!! I not sure what shocked mum the most the fact that my hair was Green or that I could not go to school. It got worse as sores started to appear on my scalp which meant I had to go to the doctors, questions were going to be asked and there was no way mum was going to say anything about Barney so she told the doctor she had no idea what I had done, anyway the doctor said he was going to have to shave my head, I was 13 and going to Fitzwymarc school, so I was not best pleased especially as I had to have all this cream plastered over my scalp. The great thing for me was he told mum I could not go to school as he did not know whether the sores were infectious, RESULT!! especially when Mum and I went to see Mr Weavers, the Headmaster at Fitz., and he said given that In Nov., I could leave the school it was pointless coming back as I would learn more on the farm that at school for those few months. So my schooling stopped when I was only 13 years old. One person I did not get on with was Mr Tom Pollain, especially when he was on his crusade of keeping the footpaths open. I remember one day I was in the field on the combine harvester when he turned up, walked across the field to me. I stopped the harvester wondering what this person was doing walking through my field during such a dangerous time. Mr Pollain said to me "Stop what you are doing, there is a broken style that needs to be fixed immediately that's your responsibility". To which I replied it was not, he then went on to tell me that I should not continue with the harvester until the style had been fixed as it was my legal duty to do so. You can imagine my response, the weather was closing in and I needed to get the crop harvested before the rain started ! I did go with him to the style only to find that it was, as I suspected, not my responsibility then devilment kicked in and I thought I'm not going to tell him who is responsible so I just let him storm off in a huff. I later told Bob Warren (Pickerills Farm) whose responsibility it was about the visit just in case he went and called on him. At that time I was the Chairman of the Parish Council and Mr Pollain came to the meeting and stated that "Our Chairman is refusing to do his duty etc., and went into a load of verbiage slagging me. My fellow councilors quietened him down and then asked me why I was refusing to fix it, to which I informed them it was not my boundary but that of Bob's. Tom did not like that at all and then I went on to say to him, that perhaps before he goes around ordering people to do things or accuse someone he should ensure he has all the facts otherwise he could find himself in serious trouble. I don't think Tom took my advice as he was often found to be upsetting my farming neighbours.
Beattie Carr was a wonderful lady, when our son Martyn was very young she would be his babysitter for us whilst we attended the various Council meetings and events, she was almost like a nanny to him.
I was at the doctors the other day and I bumped into Stan Butcher, he still lives in the village and walks around didn't realize he's 88. (COMMENT: Unfortuantely Stan passed away 2013).
Another family we were close to was the Swinscoe's, Peggy and Ernie who ran the Mayfield Club. Hazel particularly was close as she worked behind the bar for them and is still in contact with their daughters Evelyne and Sandra. Hazel remembers that on Sundays in would come the Reverend Morgan from St Peter and St Pauls Church, Hockley. He was only a shortish man and when he came in he dig deep into his his pockets and empty the contents onto the bar and it would be loads of coinage. Everyone in the club had the same thoughts as to where that came from. But thinking about it now it would have been highly unlikely he was spending the congregations collection as he would have submit accounts to the church, he most likely counted out a load of cash and replaced it with notes.
I think Peggy and Ernie owned the piece of land opposite them on Mayfield Ave. It used to have a big old Oak tree at the front.
Ernie used to be a fighter pilot during the war and suffered mentally from the memories and dreams. He used to go in his car and drive away to get away and Peggy came to have an agreement with the police that she would phone them each time he went so they could look out for him. He was found as far away as Clacton.
Other friends of mine are Reg and Pam Wood, many people may know them or his sons Ruben and Barry as they have a tree surgeon business that is on Hambro Hill. Well before they moved there they lived in the first bungalow on the left side as you enter the village from Watery Lane. As I have stated earlier Watery Lane is the meeting point for much of the surface water for Rayleigh, Hockley, Rawreth and Hullbridge and poor Reg used to get flooded until he built a bung to put in the sewage pipe to stop the sewage coming out of his toilet. I remember talking to him the first time he was flooded and I was horrified to hear that he was having to shovel and bail the crap that was creeping in out of the doors and windows in an attempt to keep the house dry. Such a nice couple they are, unfortunately today getting old means lots of health problems and Reg and Pam are no different. Reg has suffered for some time now with his dibilitating complaint, the same one that Hazel's dad had for 10 years and Pam has been very strong looking after him , but now she has just had a major operation so can not be there for him at this present time Reg finally passed away last year 2013..
Every year a gentleman named Billy Foyle would come down to the village on horseback dressed in a cowboy outfit like Roy Rogers and but his horse was named "King". The kids loved it as he would often give them rides.
Gary has shown Hazel and I some old photos and clippings taken about the Carnival and these brought back lots of memories some nots so good.
There was one of a crowd of people outside the village hall and the first thing I noticed was the number of women wearing head scarves, something you rarely see in these times.
Critical to any Carnival is the Carnival Queen. You may remember one of our unadopted family Graham Hutton, well he had two sisters Beverley and Anne both were the Carnival Queens.
Hazel and I's involvement in the village I guess was inherited from mum she loved organizing things and the Carnival was one of them. you can see her
After the war it took a while for things to pick up but towards the end of the Fifties the village kind of woke up and we started having Carnivals. We had three to four tractors and trailers at the time and we let the villagers use them in the procession. Weeks before the Carnival the various groups would be up here at the farm decorating the trailers in preparation. It always amazed us where they got the ideas and especially the time to do what they did. Then it got serious and they entered the Carnival Queen into the Southend Carnival. Of course the village had to have a special float so this man made it his responsibility to build it. He took a week off work and made a wonderful job, building it in one of the sheds in case it rained. On the day of the Southend Carnival he and I are up early and leaving the farm by 8 o'clock in the morning. Tractors of that time didn't have cabs. We have to crawl along the roads so as not to break the decorations, and it seemed to take forever to get to the meeting point at Westcliff. The parade starts and parades all along the seafront to the Kursall, it rained all that day. We got to the Kursall having not eaten or drunk anything all day. Inside they were doing teas etc., for everyone so we parked up and went to go inside when we heard someone say "Woh ! stop ! where are you going" to which we replied "Inside to get a cup of tea." "No, No you can't go in there it's only for the officials" they wouldn't let us have a cup of tea. So we had to get back on the tractor and got home about 7 o'clock at night, we couldn't have got any wetter if we had driven into the river. We managed to get second prize in the carnival which made us feel a little better, but the man swore he would never do that again for any organization as he had never been treated as badly as we had that day. It was authority gone bonkers !
Part of the Carnival was different competitions and Hazel used to run a Baby competition, but again you can not please everyone and she was often accused of favoritism to certain families. We found out that nothing causes more arguments than saying someone's baby is prettier or better looking than someone else's. Hazel did not judge them herself she got qualified people, Nurses, Midwifes etc., to do the judging. These judges did a circuit of the area as everyone had their own Carnival and Baby Shows.
After a number of years doing the carnival and letting the committee have the bottom field near Watery lane for nothing I finally had enough when one year I happen to walk into our dear friend Ernie Long's newsagents the Sunday morning after the carnival and there was a group of women standing talking to Ernie and I heard one of them say "How did you do at the Carnival ?" to which one of the ladies said "we would have done alright if it wasn't for the greedy Beckwith's charging us for the use of the field. We took just over £ 1,200.00 but they charged us £ 1,000.00." Ernie introduced me to her so I challenged her about what she just said. It turns out she was the Treasurer's wife. "I said to her she was lying" but she was quite adamant we had charged. Ernie was standing there feeling a bit uncomfortable with this going on in his shop so he intervened and said he would get someone to investigate. Now this was the second year running that I had heard this from some of the women in the village so when I went home I was seething, wondering what I should do. Some weeks later Ernie tells me that they did make money and the books showed a payment in cash had been made by the Treasurer but they had failed to get the necessary signatures of receipt from me. They wouldn't have because I did not receive any money. So suspicion fell onto the Treasurer. Well I thought long and hard and decided that was it, if the Carnival committee allows something like that to take place each year then they can find someone else. I and my family did not need the grief and bad publicity we were getting. I received a verbal apology but no written one.
There has been talk in the village about resurrecting the Carnival but there is so many things against it I do not think it will be financially possible. There are so many rules and restirctions like you can not use Agricultural machinery on the roads unless it is going to be used for Agricultural purposes. The vehicle insurance is so high because you have so many people involved and on the equipment. When we were doing it we paid the insurance which was reasonable then. I hate to think what it would cost today.
Our farming friends
Down Watery Lane is Pickerills Farm, run by Rob and Jean Warren.
John Thorpe was older than me and I remember his dad Arthur and I have read John's book which was very interesting.
John Cook up at Sheepcoats, they now run a very successful coach and horses business. Richard Stacey, he breeds pigs over at Scott's Hall, Canewdon. We have done business with him since I was driving, that many years ago.
The Council have always wanted to develop land around Watery Lane.
Gary showed me a map dated 1780 of the farm he found at Essex Record Office. I had never seen this before and it is
interesting that the fields had special names where as today we know the
fields by the acreage.
This could be even more relevant now because of what is taking place regarding the housing development, which I hope I do not see whilst I am still alive.
I have lived here for most of my life and there is no way I want to move away from here especially as I think I can safely say that Hazel and I have spent lots of time, effort and money over our lives here in the village trying to keep Hullbridge a wonderful place to live and so it hurts us deeply when villagers come up to us and start having a go at us for selling our land, which we have not. It seems no matter what we say some people will always think ill of us.
I remember this one time when Hazel had gone into the supermarket when a lady behind the counter shouted out "Oh! here she comes !" to which Hazel replied "Sorry! were you talking about me ?" The lady knows Hazel pretty well and says "Yeah you with all that money, £84,000,000.00!" Hazel looked at her and said "If I had 84 Million coming do you think I would still be coming in here, shopping in this supermarket I'd be ordering food for delivery from Harrods and Fortnum and Mason !"
All this development I am sure has been on the plans of Rochford Council for years, the reason I say this is because they laid the drainage for Elm Grove etc., and they dug the drainage from the corner of Elm Grove up to our house, we have a large manhole in our gateway, and then along the hedge of Six Acres (Barn field) then down to the pumping station.
Some years later the council need to re do the drains for Abbey Road, so they went from half way up the lane between two houses into Abbey Road, from there they went straight across nine acres and run down alongside the already installed main pipe, so there was two inflows. So I said to them "why don't you go direct direct to the pumping station and save yourselves costs as its more direct ?" to which they replied we can't do that because of the building", I said "what building?" they replied "future building, if we go across at an angle it buggers up the planning as we can't build houses over a main sewer, so by keeping it straight and alongside existing it makes it easier to plan the houses." This was well over 35 years ago. Not many villagers were aware of this, but we in the council were.
I have to say I am totally amazed at Rochford building all those houses, 600 in Brays Lane and another 500 in Hall Road as all that traffic has to come
this way and Rawreth and especially Watery Lane can not cope with that. So they need to improve these roads and by developing the houses they can get
the roads upgraded by them.
Speaking to Gary he reminded me of the Byepass they were going to build over 40 years ago, but the costs was too much for Essex County Council so it never got built I guess they would be even more expensive now but who knows ! I wouldn't want to see all that traffic coming through the village.
Hazel lived in Black Notley and her father worked at the sanitorium there for 45 years. The hospital had a lot of people with TB and her
dad had to open the wards and take the patients into the sun as it was thought sun was a good remedy for the disease. He also assisted in
post mortems but was clever enough to keep his views and thoughts about work out of the home.
We married in 1954 and has given me 2 wonderful children Martyn and Marianne as well as being my closest friend and colleague. She has supported me in all my endeavours and has not shied away from responsibility herself. She was a school governess of both Hullbridge and Sweyne at the time our children were at school. Marianne in particular would say to Hazel "Mum, if we change lessons and you see me and I'm in the corridor walking to a class and you're going somewhere, don't you dare speak to me, I don't want anyone to know you're one of the governors" so Hazel had to ignore her.
Marriane lives in the old farm house which we think was built aorund 1400's. The building has no foundations, at the time it was built the practice was to simply insert the timbers into the ground and work around. It was once Wattle and Daub but 10 years ago it was stripped and platerboarded. Marriane has just had a wood fire burner installed and very nice it is too.
Marianne has always loved horses and from a young age started riding, but unfortunately she started having one or two nasty falls when she was a teenager and decided to stop riding and go into breeding. Today she has her own company Armada Arabians" which is to do with breeding Arabian horses and it is a very time consuming business and to her credit she has made a success of it. The amount of studying she has done on bloodlines etc., is incredible. If I had a hat I would take it of to her, her husband Dave and Laura. She shows all over Europe and has had success, qualifying for the European show and winning the Belgian show this summer.