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Hullbridge Village History

Abbey Close

The memories of Michael Johnson.

Abbey Close in 60's.

I believe that we moved to 9 Abbey Close in 1961 or 1962. Parents Peter and Gwen, myself and sister Caroline (born 1961). Lived there until mid-eighties.......
Dad died three years ago in Cornwall, but he and mum kept in touch with quite a few of their friends in the village Next door at no. 7 lived Janet and Eric Bigwood, who had two sons Philip and Mark. Eric had a fabulous job at Ford Motor Co as a mechanic, and accompanied the Ford rally teams on events around the world. He used to turn up with the cars on a trailer outside the house - Mk 1 Escorts that were to be driven by the big names of the time such as Roger Clark, Jean Todt and Hannu Mikkola.
At no. 5 were Tom and Lilian Botley, with son and daughter Peter and Barbara. Tom used to go off to work on a 250cc BSA C15. I see that Gary Congram mentions Peters love of Subbuteo - he was really hooked on it as I recall.
No. 3 had some changes - I don't remember the names, and at no. 1 (a detached house) was a lady on her own.
On the other side at no. 11 were Les and Sylvia ??? and daughter Marie, and next to them was a couple who had a daughter Lorraine.
At the top of the close at the time was a piece of land which had pens of hens and some cockerells - these were quite noisy. The area was later cleared and house built on it.
On the opposite side at the top of the close were the Palmers and daughter Susan, then at no. 10 were Mr and Mrs Norris. He seemed to like odd cars, and I clearly remember an old black Wartburg 1000 (2-stroke) which was followed by one of the early Saab 2-strokes, then a Reliant Kitten I think.
At no. 8 were the Ryans and their two sons, and at no. 6 was 'old' Mr Newsome, who was a nice man but had a short leg and used a built-up boot and walked with a stick.
No. 4 was occupied by two ladies - a Miss Roberts and her friend, but I cannot recall who lived on the corner in no. 2.
Other names with whom we were friendly with in Abbey Road were the Whittakers (father Keith, son and daughter Gary and Leslie), I think it was Mr Whittaker who had the boxing connections and arranged the Billy Walker visit. The Wilshaws on the corner, Reg and Gladys Wilson and son Paul, Bernie and Vicky Shaw, with Matthew "Taz" and Berniece. I have a vague recollection of imprints of Vicky's stilletto heels in the newly-tarmac'ed footpath.
Next to the Shaws were the Bishops - I think the mother was a clairvoyant - and their sons Keith and Peter. Peter put his arm through a glass door and cut an artery. Very messy and quite serious at the time.
When we moved in, the estate was still being built. Sherriff was the name of the builder, and there was an area between the upper and lower ends of Abbey Road which remained undeveloped for some time.
Our house backed onto the Beckwith's farm, and all the houses had a way through the hedge at the end of the garden and across the ditch - quite a deep ditch as I recall - and into the field, which was a great playground. "Who can hold the electric fence for the longest?" and launching discs of hardened cow droppings at each other.

Around Abbey Road.

On the corner of Abbey Road and Ferry Road were Tony and Audrey Humphris with two daughters, Joanna and Juanita ("Nita") a lovely family. I think Nita is out in west Wales now. Tony had a train layout up in the loft and a willow tree in the garden which rapidly caused the adjacent pavement to get rather lumpy.
Next to the Humphris on Ferry Road were the Doves, Eric and his wife (??) and Gillian and Andrew. How interesting that Gill still retains some links to Hullbridge. Andrew was always a keen sailor, and used to sail with Matthew Shaw and Paul Wilson I think.
Our family used to enjoy sailing and Dad had a number of dinghies, and had been a member at the Up River and Brandy Hole Yacht Clubs.
I remember the old house (demolished and a Budgens shop built on the site) occupied by Mrs Charlton and her geese (she gave me a goose egg once - it took ages to cook) and the awful state of some of the roads, quite a few of which were just mud tracks. I had piano lessons with Mrs Spicer up Oakleigh Drive.

Schooling

School was OK - started in January 1963 (had to go to the school at the Free Church in Lower Road for a few months beforehand) and left for Sweyne in 1969. I remember Hullbridge teachers being Mrs Fairbrass, Mrs Longthorne, Mrs Alderton, Mr Rose (bad teeth but an excellent pianist for assemblies), Mr Thayer and the Head Mr Hardy. I remember the swimming pool being built and Mrs Chart doing the swimming lessons. Does anyone else recall the air raid shelter at the school?)
Just been looking through the school lists and the section about the Scouts - so many names bring back so many (usually happy) memories of growing up in Hullbridge.

Working

Had a couple of jobs - the usual paper round from Longs the newsagent; often a rush to get it finished and make it to Coventry Corner to catch the bus to Sweyne school. The bits I didn't enjoy were the freezing winter mornings, the Sunday round (with the weight of all the thick supplements) and worst of all having to deliver to houses opposite the scrapyard at the top of Coventry Hill. Horrible people who owned it, with horrible Alsatian dogs which roamed free and which on two occasions crossed the road and bit me.
Also helped on a milk round with "Jack". This was the United Dairies (later became Unigate) round, which covered all of Hullbridge from Lower Road to the caravan sites on Pooles Lane. A loaded, three-wheeled electric milk float had quite a bit of trouble on some of the awful side roads. The Co-op milkman had a small lorry I think. Anyhow, the electric float came all the way from Rayleigh, then had to go all the way back at the end of the morning. I went back on it once, as it crawled up Crown Hill for a well-deserved recharge of its batteries.
Later, when in the latter years at Sweyne, I worked at the Anchor Inn washing up, bottling up, general dogsbodying. Landlord was Fred Green and wife Eva.
Whilst working there we would go out afterwards to the Smugglers Den or to "gentle men's evenings" at the "Country Club".

Odds

I have some odd memories; some bands which played at the village hall went on to become very famous (Uriah Heep, Mott the Hoople), Billy Walker (the boxer) presenting prizes at a fair at the village hall, the Hullbridge Gardens association hut. Happy days!
Ken Beckwith's recollections were most interesting - I found his description of Tom Polain rather entertaining; I remember Stephen Polain, and recall that Tom had an odd 'handlebar' moustache - reminded me of Jimmy Edwards!