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Hullbridge Village History

A life in Hullbridge.

The memories of Peter Withers.

Houses on the hill.

In the mid 1920's Hullbridge land owners like Mr Eddie saw an opportunity to make more money than from leasing out their fields to farmers, they could divide the land into plots for building and sell them off at a reasonable price. Advertising in newspapers in London caught the eye of many families and most likely my grandparents who were living in Tooting and running a removal business, were one of them, it is also possible that my grandfather saw an opportunity for building his business as there were lots of land for sale in the Hullbridge area and many of the buyers would want to have either all or some their belongings moved down.

Nan and granddad bought several plots at the top of Coventry Hill, on the right-hand side as you go up the hill. They owned the plots where today (2009)the garage stands and the block of detached houses going down the hill, where my wife Kathy's American friends "the Spratt family" lives. The Medynski's lived in a bungalow where the Thorpe family live today.

Initially my grandparents still lived and worked in Tooting, but most likely as a result of the 2nd World War they decided to move lock stock and barrel to their home in Hullbridge. They had a family of five, a daughter Lucy and four sons:- Bob, Albert, Gig and my father Les.

Nan and Granddad attended the Ideal Home exhibition and saw a few new designs of house which they fell in love with and decided that was what they wanted to have built. They employed a Rayleigh builder Bert Treganzer to build it and called it "Fir Tree cottage." It was one of the first chalet design homes of the area. The grounds were quite large with the back garden looking over the farm fields towards Rayleigh and it had a large natural fish pond which was fed by water from the surrounding fields and Church Hill area.

Granddad was known locally as "Pop" and after a few years working with horses and a pantechnican (a large covered wagon) which were stored where the garage is today, they invested in a motorised van and granddad installed the first petrol pump in the village. It was used purely for his business and not for the public. The pump required large metal tanks to be installed.

Mr and Mrs Edward's were neighbours of nan and granddad and they lived in one of the two semi detached council houses known as ...... you may remember their property as Mr Edwards grew Dahlia's and Chrysanth's in rows in his front garden ? it was the house nearest the garage.
There used to be a pond between the council houses and where Mick Norris lived, it was on a piece of waste land.

My uncles and my dad were all very keen on cars, even my Aunt Lucy was known to drive the removal van.
Aunt Lucy married into another well known Hullbridge family the "Polleys" when she met and married Jack Polley.

Uncle Albert helped granddad run the removal business whilst Uncle Bob started up his own taxi business, for when he was not helping with removals.
Uncle Bob was quite successful and he soon had several cars and when not working for granddad, Uncle Albert and Aunt Lucy would become "Cabbies" working for Uncle Bob. The most used runs were Hullbridge to Rayleigh and Southend or vice a versa.

During the 2nd World War a number of the property owners did not want to be parted from their children through the evacuation process so they moved their families to their holiday homes in the village. Granddad and Lucy were on hand to help them move. Uncle Bob, Albert and dad joined the army with dad going into the RASC, he was not in long when he was invalided out .Uncle Albert joined the "King's Royal Rifles" but he too was invalided out when he contracted asthma. The main road into the village from Rayleigh and down to the river was known as Hullbridge Road and was made of concrete however the side roads still remained unmade, so as Mr John Thorpe remembered in his book "Paths of former time" the family could not take the van up these roads during the winter and used to hire a horse and cart from Mr Thorpe Snr.,
Mr Thorpe also recalls that granddad and Uncle Albert did other types of haulage when not performing removals. One of the other jobs entailed moving land girls to their places of work. On one of these journeys with Uncle Albert driving they had an accident with a bus. It was a thick foggy morning and they were on their way to Brentwood and had gone past Billericay when they collision took place, unfortunately some of the girls were sitting on that side and took the full impact, as a result two or three of them died and others suffered considerable injuries. Uncle Albert was cleared of all blame as he was well on his side of the road despite there being no road markings. It did unnerve Uncle Albert who could not face driving for some time.

Another instance recalled by Mr Thorpe was in 1942 when Uncle Albert was moving a family into their house on Ferry Road. The house was set some way back from the road and so it would mean lots of lifting and carrying, he thought he would get the horse and cart from the Thorpes and see if anyone could lend him a hand. Everyone at the farm were working in the fields and it only left young John who volunteered to help. The home owner followed them backwards and forwards from the lorry to the house, keeping an eye on them, John recalled "the last time he never came back. When we got back to his house with the last load, Albert gave me a bundle of mops and brooms and told me to take them round to the shed. As I got round the back I saw the man lying across the garden. It frightened me so much I ran round to Albert and said "Albert, the old chap is lying out flat in the garden." Albert told me to run to Coventry Corner and phone for a doctor. The doctor soon came but the poor man was already dead, the wife went into hysterics, I think this frightened me more than finding the man. It took me a long time to get over the shock of finding someone dead.

After the war new cars were at a premium and so Uncle Bob started collecting second hand cars that were in very good condition no better place than from ex U.S. army. He ended up with a large Humber, two Armstrong Siddeleys and a Buick. The Armstrong Siddleys were peculiar things, mum recalled that they had a fluid flywheel with a pre select gear box, this meant to change gear you had to first select the gear and then depress the clutch which changed the gear. Dad purchased a Armstrong Siddeley and ran his business out of Hockley Station so as to not interfere with Uncle Bob and Aunt Lucy. Doug Boreham used to clean the cab for dad. Black and White photo show two black Armstrong Siddeley cars with white wedding ribbon
					  		running from side windows to front of hood and a lighter coloured Humber with white ribbon 
					  		on. They are outside the wall of St Peter and Paul Church, which is in the background.
					  		People are standing around the lead car, an Armstrong, presumably looking at the bride and groom
					  		whilst other people are makingthere way back to the church past the Humber which is following the lead
					  		car and the other Armstrong is parked to the left of these. In 19?? granddad died and nan found it very hard living in "Fir Tree Cottage" on her own so Aunt Lucy and Uncle Jack sold their bungalow "Four Winds" and moved in with her. My nan died of heart failure in the Mayfield in 1950, she was sitting in her usual seat with her drink and then when someone went across to talk to her they found she had passed away quietly, not a bad way to go !

Mum and Dad

Dad met mum Kathleen Knox and in 19?? they got married at.....

My mothers family Mr Nathaniel Knox and Mrs Emily Bertha Knox, also lived in Hullbridge.
They moved from Wandsworth after having holidays here. They lived in Rose Villa in Waxwell Road. They had 3 children Frank.Herbert and Kathleen (Kitty).
My Mother Kitty Withers lived in Hullbridge for 75 years until her death in 2007.

My Nan Emily Bertha Knox died of Heart Failure in the Mayfield Drinking Club in 1950, she was sitting in her usual seat with her drink and then when someone went across to talk to her they found she had passed away quietly, not a bad way to go!

Mum and dad lived at the Hullbridge Pavilion which is now the Smugglers Den. In their time it was a tea room with a dance floor upstairs. They held village concerts there and dad would sing and mum would sing and play the piano, occasionally Auntie Doris would play the piano when she came down.

Black and White Bell postcard No 116110 showing a 2 storey long white building with a white
									front wall. The builing has a balcony with wooden balastrade around it that runs
									the length of the building. Behind the balastrade as some chairs. The building has
									in front of it a dirt path and beyond is a grassed area that leads down to the river.
									There is a board under the balcony that says Teas Refreshments Hullbridge Pavilion Tobacco 
									Confectionary. Black and White Padgett postcard NO.6076 of inside a building. The walls are white rough 
									surface with two Y pillars supporting a beamed ceiling.Th efloor is wooden boards
									and in the furthest corner is a semi circular bar, to the right of that is an
									upright piano and to the left of the bar is a wooden panelled door. The building is the
									Hullbridge Pavilion that was leased by Pete's mum and dad.

Dad loved singing and was hired to sing at functions, he even carried it into his other careers, he became known as the singing bus driver when he drove buses and coaches for the Dad sang at the Kursaal, Southend and at British Legion gatherings. My parents moved away from the Pavilion when my elder brothers were born as they were scared they might fall into the river, so they moved to ".." on Coventry Hill. In 19?? the family moved into our bungalow "Alicia" in Lower Road, almost next to the Free Church. The property was already called Alicia after Alicia Fisk, the lady who owned it.
In Oct 1944 my eldest brother Paul was born. In June 1949 I was born. In Sept 1950 brother Les was born. In 1954 at the age of 39 my father died. In 1964 we had a new addition to the family brother Mark. coloured photo of 5 men and a grey haired lady with spectacles and a white dress with blue flowers on it
					  		standing in the middle. She is Kitty Withers and the men are her sons. Left to right:- Jan who is wearing
					  		a grey brown suite and glasses, Les who is wearing a light grey suite with long brown hair and beard,
					  		Mark, who has just got married and is holding a glass of larger in his left hand whilst having his right arm
					  		over the shoulders of Les, Mark is weraing a black suite and white shirt, then comes Kitty and next is Paul
					  		with brown hair beard and glasses, he is wearing a grey jacket and black trousers. Lastly is Peter
					  		wearing a brown grey suite and waistcoat with a white shirt and yellow tie. He has a large white flower
					  		in his button hole. They are all standing outside a set of double white doors at the back of a red brick
					  		building

Schooling

All my family went to Hullbridge Primary School. One of the teachers Mrs ... use to rap children across the knuckles with a wooden ruler appeared to have a grudge against brother Les. When he was young he had a problem with his waterworks and one day he wanted to be excused to go to toilet and she would not let him, resulting in him having an accident for which she rapped him across the knuckles. The following day Mum visited the school to confront her she was not having any of that and gave the teacher a piece of her mind.

I went to Hockley Secondary school when it was first built, all my cousins went to Rayleigh Fitzwymarc but I wanted to go to Hockley with all my chums. At Hockley we had to catch a coach there and back so any after school activities meant we had to walk home.

At Hockley we went on several trips, one being a trip to Belgium and we went by coach to an underground cavern, which was a totally new experience and a thrill. We had a photo taken and everyone signed the back of it.

Black and White photo showing a group of teenagers and adults in a cave. On the far left is
					 					the guide in his uniform and peaked cap in his left hand he is carrying a calor gas lamp. The children
					 					are wearing trendy outfits. Some of the boys have drainpipe jeans with large turnups three boys are
					 					wearing hats and a num,ber of children are carrying cameras. the back of the photograph with signatures of the people in it.
The Belgium trip photograph of Hockley Secondary School.The people in this photo are:
Right to Left (f)Front to (b)? Back: 1f) boy ? , 2)Mrs Sewter, 3b) girl ? , 4f)Steve Knight, 5) girl ? , 6b) girl? , 7f) Pete Withers, 8) girl? , 9b) Hellene J Dorrell, 10 f) Alan Williamson, 11) girl? , 12) girl? , 13b) girtl ? , 14f) Robert Crossingham, 15) girl ? , 16b) girl ? , 17f) Kenneth Poole, 18f) Sheila Lead, 19) Anne Houseman, 20)Mrs Warren, 21) boy ? , 22) Adam Bachin, 23b) Man ? ,24f) girl ? , 25b) Michael Gordon ,25)Mr Warren, 26b) boy ? , 27f) girl ? , 28b) ? ,29b) Gill Fox ,30) Peter Appleton, 31b) Man ? , 32) girl ? ,33f) Margaret Witte, 39) Brian Bennett.
The back of the Belgium trip photograph with the signatures of people in the picture.

Around the village

When I was young we use to go to Padgetts Bay because it had some sand there and we could swim around there. The bay was originally called Sandy Bay but following the visit of Mr Padgett a Photographer with premises in Leigh-on-Sea the bay was changed to his name.

I use to get plums from a thicket that once was the garden of a house on the corner of White Bridge, on the corner of Watery Lane. When I went there you could just make out the foundations and there were some old bricks lying around. I later found out it was called "Slough House". In the late 1960's they laid pipes under the road to improve the village's drainage and at that time they cleared the thicket and removed the ruins of the house.

Mum told me once that during the war whilst pea picking she witnessed a dog fight in the air over the river.
The pea picking tradition continued when I was a little boy, Mum and I would go at the end of Windermere or near Beeches.
Mum was very busy within the village, either with work or with events, she was on the Carnival committee.

When I left school my first job was working for David Pinkerton at Kingsman Farm in Pooles Lane, the farm was a poultry farm and mum worked there as a cleaner and also collected eggs. They sold some eggs locally but most were boxed and dispatched via a lorry. The farmhouse is very old, although David has recently renovated it, it has a priest hole in the chimney and is believed to be haunted. I have felt a chill down my back many a time when I was upstairs in the house and David has heard footsteps across the ceiling and also felt the chill. Another very old property down there is Tapps Cottage.

Also down Pooles Lane was a Peanut factory which was owned by the Caton family, it had previously been the brick works. One day the factory burnt down and was consequently replaced by Tower Caravan site.

From Coventry Corner walking to Watery Lane, on the left side was the Evans family, they owned a bungalow/shop in Lower Road where the bus stop was. Further along was where Dr Bridge had his surgery, then came another bungalow owned by the Brunt family, then the church another bungalow then us. On the left corner of Kingsway was a building which was the home of Mr Reeve who raised Turkeys. Going up Kingsway was a farm track which used to have water running down as a stream which was fed from the pond in granddad's back garden of "Fir Trees". His pond in turn was fed by a stream from across the fields. Thinking about Kingsway now, and the thicket that was up there near the small bridge I seem to recall Hullbridge was fall of thickets. There was one up Abbey Road which was full of fruit trees, at this time Abbey Road was about a quarter of the size it is today.

Mr Eddie developed on the west corner of Coventry Corner and it was here that he built the first garage to sell petrol to the public. He like grandfather installed two pumps. Later a lease was given to Mr George Boul to run the garage, until he moved down Ferry Road to be next to the Wayfarers Cafe. Next door to the garage was Mr Eddie's timber yard from where he stored wood. Later a lease was taken up by Lofty Soyer who sold hardware and radio accumulators he would also charge them for a small fee.

Another story my mum told me was that Cliff Richard, then known as Harry Webb, came to Hullbridge with his manager and played at the Village Hall. My brothers also tried to run films at the Village Hall, but without much success. So many things were tried at the village hall. There was a theater group, dances, meetings, youth club etc.,

When I think about what was available to us youngsters I am surprised we did not all turn out as Sots, there was and still are so many places to buy drink, what with the Anchor, Smugglers, Yachts Clubs, Country Club, Mayfield Club you could fall out of one straight into another.

I used to go to the Free church and later in my teens I went to Rayleigh and joined the Lifeboys. I did not like the cubs, mainly because I did not get on with two of the boys in charge Colin Seefant and Paul Reeman.

After the war we used to see the Army down at the river, they practiced building a Pontoon bridge, not sure whether they were from the barracks at Colchester or Shoeburyness.

In 1966 when Hullbridge was flooded I knew very little about it as I was away in the Merchant Navy and was quite shocked when I was shown the Daily Mirror front page with a picture of our bungalow "Alicia" surrounded by water. Fortunately Mum and Lucy had got out before they were swamped.
There is a stream that runs down the side of the property it runs out to the ditch that was in front of all the properties on this side of Lower Road, it then ran down to Watery Lane, down past Beeches and out into the river. When the tide is in, the outlet shuts off stopping the tide flowing back , this causes problems if there is lots of rain as there is no were for the water to escape to. Recently most of the flooding that has occurred has been the result of the ditches not being kept clear. There has been a number of times when we have had to threaten the Council and Water Board to clear the ditches, fortunately that was all some time ago and things have improved.

I met my wife Kathy Lancaster in 1970, she was living in Rayleigh at the time. In 1972 we got married at Holy Trinity in Rayleigh. We have 2 children Graham and Nicola. They are both married and Nicola lives in the Village and Graham teaches at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire.

My relations.

Aunt Lucy.

My Aunt Lucy married Jack Polley and nan and granddad built a bungalow for them next door to "Fir Trees". Uncle Jack also became part of the taxi business. Uncle Jack's father was a bargeman on the River Crouch.

Uncle Bob.

My Uncle Bob married .... and had a son Robert who obtained a doctorate and now teaches at East Riding College of Teaching in Yorkshire.

My Uncle Alfred

OtOther families that have been in the village as long as us are:- Butcher, Polley, Maynard, Livesey, Low, Agger, Downe, Beckwith, Thorpe,