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Hullbridge Village History

Hullbridge in the late 50's 60's!

The memories of Nigel Booth

Born in Hullbridge.

We moved to Hullbridge in Jan 1953, when I was less than a year old. We had been living at the Dome caravan park – along the Lower Road in Hockley, but were flooded out from there by the February 1953 East Anglian flood, and so moved to the Crouch Caravan Park along Pooles Lane. Apparently the steeper river bank at Hullbridge made it drier.

Black and White photograph taken 1953
						showing the large grass banked pond around which are shrubs. In the right corner background are some of the
						caravans. This is Crouch Caravan Park. Black and White photograph taken 1953
						showing a hand made rustic pole armchair sitting on grass in front of a large rockery. Black and White photograph taken 1953
						showing a young boy, Nigel, aged 2 wearing pale coloured top and shorts, white ankle socks and sandals.
						Holding him with one arm on his back is his mother wearing a patterned dress with white collar
						and white sandals, she is lying upright on the grass that is in front of a large pond.
						This is at the Crouch Caravan Site, Pooles Lane Hullbridge. Black and White photo taken June 1953
						Showing a young boy, Nigel, on a two wheeled bike that is too big for him, so his father
						dressed in suit and tie is behind him leaning over with his hands on the handlebars ensuring
						Nigel does not fall off. The are posing in front of a rockery that is on the Crouch
						Caravan Site.

My memories of the caravan park is that, back then, it had a large pond towards Pooles Lane – where as a very small child we went and fed the goldfish, with which it was stocked. Later the lake was filled in as less lake meant more rentable caravan space. I had several friends and we would often play around the caravans.

A 1954 Black and White photograph of
				  		two young boys, Nigel (left) and friend holdiong a long pole in front of a row of different caravans 
				  		situated on Crouch Caravan site. Nigel is wearing his Wellington Boots, white shorts and a light coloured top,
				  		his friend is wearing dark shorts white ankle socks and sandals. A 1954 Black and White photograph of two boys
				  			,Nigel (Right) and friend Alan Carter who is sitting in a toy American Jee with Nigel squatting behind. They are 
				  			on the grass verge with caravans in the background A 1955 Black and White photo of 3 boys, Nigel (left)
				  		and 2 friends in front of a caravan. Nigel is on his tricycle as is his blonde friend on the right whilst his other
				  		friend is sitting in a toy American Jeep. A 1957 Black and White photo of 3
				  			children, Nigel (Right), Jean (Middle) and friend (Right) all sitting on the roof of a wooden mini shed
				  			whilst eating ice cream cornets.

My maternal grandparents then lived in East London, and I can remember going to visit them on Saturdays, which meant taking the bus from the Anchor to Rayleigh station and then going up to London by steam train as the line was not then electrified. Coming back from there in the winter meant walking down Pooles Lanes in the dark, so my parents would always takes torches with them for the unlit walk. Black and White 
							photograph taken 1953 showing a desterted road banked either side by hedgerow nad
							tall trees. This is Pooles Lane in Hullbridge.

I started at Hullbridge School while we stilled lived on the caravan park, initially Mrs. Alderton and then Miss Weir. Black and White photograph taken 1957 showing a smart young boy , Nigel Booth, ready for his
						first day at school. He has his school satchel under one arm with the strap coming from the opposite
						shoulder. Under this he is waring a mac with a white collared shgirt and school tie showing. He is 
						wearing long sock and well polished shoes. He does not have the school cap on his head but he has 
						a straight fringe for his haircut. A very pround and smart boy!

About that time we moved to a bungalow at the bottom of Coventry Hill. My early memories there are first of power cuts, the electricity supply was very variable and we often spent evenings in candlelight. Coventry Hill was steeper back then and in winter cars would have difficulty climbing it – so I remember my father and others going out to push cars in snowy or icy conditions – certainly the bad winter of 1963 among other times. The other major road hazard down at that end of the village was Watery Lane. Back then the stream ran right down the road at the Hullbridge end so the road was often under water and because of that very potholed. This meant that the occasional brave soul in a Bond or Reliant three wheeler would ge t stuck in a pot hole and need recovering. One year the whole stream overflowed all the way along the Lower Road to Coventry Corner and the only vehicles that could get in and out of the village were the buses. This only lasted a day or two though, and drainage and pumping station improvements eventually eliminated such issues.

Right across from our house were open fields, which is where I and our dog Trixie spent most of our free time. My friend Michael Wilkinson lived over that way too and we would explore the fields and the streams. There were some derelict barns, which I tended to avoid as we had encountered Adders there, and I was always scared of Trixie getting bitten.

A 1963 Black and White photo of Nigel sitting in a Rattan chair in a garden with Trixie.

The village was very dependent back then on its bus service – car ownership still a growing trend. Originally the Hullbridge Bus came from Leigh on Sea, and my mother and I (and later my sister) would go there in the summer for the beach. If you wanted to go to Southend you had to change in Rayleigh and catch the 251 which came all the way from London or the 11 from Chelmsford. We did however get an odd bus (number 13) on Thursdays only (Rochford market day) which went up Coventry Hill and then via Canewdon, Stambridge and Rochford into Southend. This bus stopped right outside our house, and so it was a convenient if lengthy alternative, which my mother seemed to prefer. In ones later teenage years you got to know the times of the last buses from Rayleigh and Southend pretty well – as to miss them meant walking. There was always a convivial atmosphere on the last bus home amongst the “lads” of their village describing their adventures of the evening.

Another early memory from Hullbridge school, is that this was before they built their own pool, so we would be bundled aboard a rickety old coach and taken to Battlebridge ( I think the old coach avoided Watery Lane and went via Rawreth) which had a public pool down the little road past the” Hawk”. I presume that this actually filled from the river, anyhow it never did my swimming abilities much good, but I remember the highlight as being given money to buy an Eccles cake afterwards. My mother would actually swim in the Crouch, at Hullbridge, from a little beach that the caravan park owners created.

A 1957 Black and White photograph showing a little girl, Jean Booth squatting
						playing sandcastles on a small beach with the River Crouch justr a couple of steps behind her. A 1957 Black and White photograph of a gentleman in a short sleeved
						white shirt and slacks digging in sand whilst on his haunches with a little girl, Jean and a little
						boy, Nigel looking on. Nigel is only wearing a pair of shorts whilst Jean is wearing shorts and a little
						knitted top. Behind is part of the riverbank and fencing. A 1957 Black and White photo
						of a young boy in the River in his swimming costume with a beach bucket in one hand bending down to gather water
						from the river in it. Behind him is a beached boat. A 1957 Black and White photograph showing two ladies, Nigel's mum (left)
						and friend,  having a laugh and chat with the River Crouch 100 yards behind them

Growing up in the village I belonged to both the cubs and the scouts, Bill Trower being the scout leader. The recreation ground was the centre for impromptu football – with Andy and Stevie Polley and others. We followed the Hullbridge Sports matches, and eventually formed our own sort of junior team travelling in the fish and chip shop van. One day while hanging around the recreation ground – Keith Whittaker prevailed upon me to play for the cricket team (I presume a player had failed to turn up) and I played with them for two seasons before going to University. That first season – every game catches would come my way and seemed to mostly stick – so I ended up with the most catches other then the wicketkeeper. I suspect however that my skills were more highly valued as scorer rather than player, and that is what I was doing when we won the knockout contest pictured on the website Gallery Cricketersand received the trophy from the then Essex captain Brian Taylor.

So happy memories of growing up in Hullbridge. I am just amazed to read others contributions and remember people from those times, many of whom I knew, but some of which I never knew that they had a Hullbridge connection.