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Hullbridge Village History

Pollys Farm.

The memories of Ron and Kath Sheppard via Mr P Sheppard.


Hullbridge is where my parents started married life.

They lived in a farmhouse named "Pollys Farm".

When my parents moved to Hullbridge, dad (Ron) got a job on the sewage farm for the local council, while mum (Kath) worked for Matthews Mills. They lived in a caravan attached to the Badger Club at Battlesbridge. The owner of the caravan decided to sell it leaving mum and dad homeless.

Dad heard about a cottage that was empty and asked the farmer, who owned the cottage (Mr J Thorpe), if they could rent it. He initially said no because he wanted it for a worker, so dad went to work for him and moved into the cottage, Pollys Farm.

My parents lived there for eighteen months and have many amusing stories to tell, some of them ghostly, all this is explained in "Memories of Pollys Farm.

Mum and dad moved out of Pollys Farm in 1958, moving back to Dagenham to start a family. Dad went to a better paid job and had a more solid roof over their heads, but they missed Pollys very much.

In 1969 they returned with my sister (Barbara) and I in tow and showed us where they used to live. I was ten years old at the time and my sister two years younger. The surrounding countryside had not changed and Gin and Water cottages were still there although I cannot remember them, but as for Pollys and the barns close to the house, they were gone. All that remained were parts of the concrete floor and some clap boarding laying in weeds that had overgrown the site of the house. However mum and dad were able to pinpoint where the house had once stood. My parents took it that they were the last people to live at Pollys and that th house was pulled down shortly after they left. However I for some reason thought different. In 2008 I went into a second hand book shop in the town where I live and I came across a box of old ordnance survey maps all dated 1964 and behold I found one of Essex. I bought it showing it to mum and dad locating where Pollys would have stood and the map shows a single building.

The family over the years have taken a deeper interest in Pollys Farm and mum started to write down her memoirs of Pollys. I managed to find another old map of Hullbridge on the internet dating around the 1880's showing Pollys, Gin and Water cottages and other old farms but I would love to find out more.

I have recently, through this website, found the excellent publication of John Thorpe "Paths of former time" in which is a very old photo showing the back of Pollys Farm.

When my parents told my sister and I about their times at Pollys dad told us that he found a secret passage! At first we pictured a long dark corridor leading to a secret room full of forgotten treasure, but it wasn't as romantic as that, what dad described was more a priest hole, this is how he described it."It was a cold stormy night and the fire needed some coal but the supply of coal in the cupboard was out. I didn't fancy going out into the garden so I went into the coal cupboard and scrapped around trying to find enough to keep the fire going. I crawled over to the back, it was dark and I couldn't see what I was doing. I found a hole close to the floor against the wall, I thought perhaps some coal had slipped in so feeling that the hole was large enough for me to squeeze through. I edged forward and found myself in a cavity about four feet square between the wall and a chimney. There were metal runs going up the wall like a ladder and when I climbed up I found the outline of a door, which when I pushed hard brought me into one of the bedrooms. I thought I would have some fun on Kath so the next day I disappeared whilst she was in the bedroom and gave her such a fright when I tapped her on the shoulder having crept out through the hidden door."

While in that strange little space dad found a cartwheel penny which he gave to my uncle who later on in life passed onto me, I wonder who that penny belonged to, someone avoiding the strong arm of the law perhaps ?

Mum and dad certainly had some strange experiences there when it came to the spiritual kind, they told me that one weekend they went to visit family, when coming back to Pollys at night dad placed his motorbike in front of the house and shone the light against the house they noticed that the curtains were down. Thinking that there had been a break-in dad went round to the back of the house with a torch and quietly entered. He found all the furniture in the sitting room and in their bedroom turned over but nothing was damaged or broken. There was no sign of a forced entry and all the windows and doors were locked. Mum and dad had heard heard many things in Pollys but saw nothing, or anybody.

The only member of the family who saw anything was mum's brother John. During their weekend stay, as described by mum, John decided to sleep downstairs on the sofa. During the night mum and dad and David, mum's other brother, woke up and could hear something moving about in the sitting room and was knocking things over, it was my uncle John. Dad said he was shaking and trying to light matches for some light. Mum said that she had never seen him so frightened. When he eventually calmed down he told them that he saw a face of an old man looking down at him from about a foot away. I met up with my uncle a few years ago and during our get together I asked him "do you remember Pollys Farm John ?"

"Do I just " he replied taking a large swallow from his pint, and that was all he said on the matter.

Other members of the family also felt uneasy about Pollys, take my other uncle John, dad's brother. One night he was in Hullbridge with my aunt and nan and decided to pay mum and dad a visit. He parked his car at the top of the lane and walked down to Pollys leaving my aunt and Nan to wait in the car. Now my uncle, like dad and his other brothers were made of strong stuff, all boxers and having served in the army, not the sort of men that would scare easily, you would think, but when John approached the house he looked up at the silhouette of the house from the path and turned round, he walked straight back to the car, looked at my aunt and nan and said "No they're not in ". He admitted later in life that he had been scared but would not elaborate on what, he even said to dad "how you and Kath can stay in that house all by yourself I don't know."

Not all the family had creepy feelings about Pollys. Mum's younger brother, Ron was in his early teens when my parents got married and went to stay at Pollys for a weekend. My uncle Ron has a wonderful imagination and mum said he was in his element and loved staying there.

My parents moved out of Pollys Farm about 1958. They returned to Dagenham to start a family and although dad went to a better paid job and they had a more solid roof over their heads they missed Pollys very much. Mum and dad told my sister Barbara and I about their time at Pollys. Inspired by their tales of spooky events we pestered them to take us there, eventually they gave into us and one Sunday afternoon in Autumn 1969 they took us to see Pollys. I was ten years old and Barbara two years younger. I can remember walking down the old lane towards the house but sadly I can't remember Gin and Water cottages. According to mum the surrounding countryside had not changed and an old cow shed in the field opposite the house was still there, although overgrown with shrubs and weeds because of disuse. Unfortunately the house and barns were all gone, all that remained were parts of the floor and some clap boarding. Although the site was overgrown with weeds, mum and dad managed to pin point where the house had once stood. It was obviously very sad to see that the house was gone but it was still a very enjoyable afternoon.

Mum and dad took it that the house was pulled down shortly after they left in '58 and that they were most likely the last people to live there. In 2008 I went into a second hand book shop where I live and found a box of old ordnance survey maps all dated 1964, among them was one for Essex. I showed the map to mum and dad and we were surprised to see that where Pollys was the map showed a single building, so maybe they were not the last ?

If you have any memories or stories of Pollys Farm could you please contact me via Gary's website

The following are my mum's memoirs, simply named "Memories of Pollys Farm", I hope you enjoy reading them.

Memories of Pollys Farm.

Kath Sheppard.

Pollys Farm, what picture does that conjure up to you ? When I heard the name I imagined a cottage nestling between the trees and smoke sailing lazily skywards, how wrong can you be.

My friend's directions seemed a bit sketchy but with the wind blowing in the right way we should find it. She had said..."Go to the Mushroom Farm, now on the opposite side of the road you will see Gin and Water cottages, go through the gate alongside them, not forgetting to close it after you", as if we would, "and follow the track across the field leading to the copse up on the ridge. The track carries on through this, be careful of the ditch either side, carry on until you reach the end you will find yourselves in a clearing, Hey Presto ! Pollys Farm!

The night we chose to visit was very cold, the stars so bright you felt you could reach up and pluck them from the sky. We had a motorbike in those days and the ride across the field, remembering to shut the gate, then the journey down the track through the copse, dodging the ditch, was hair raising and I was grateful to reach the comparative safety of the clearing.

The path carried on, to the left past another field into a local wood, Pollys Farm stood to the right of us facing out towards the field and was flanked on either side by storage barns. This forming a "U" shape. It was stark and black and very forbidding with a solitary light shinning from one of the tiny downstairs windows.

"If you think I'm walking up there" I whispered to my husband, "You've got another think coming". I'd never seen anything so dark and scary in my life. Any moment I expected to see a witch fly by on her broomstick a black silhouette against the moon, or bats flying too close to me and getting caught in my hair, although let's not get too carried away, they would have had a job, I was wearing a crash helmet.

"We've got to", my husband whispered back, goodness knows why we were whispering. "They are expecting us, I know what" he suddenly said it in a louder voice and with that he sounded the hooter on our bike.

Nothing happened for a second or two, then we heard the distant barking of a dog and round the corner of the house came two shadowy figures, one on two legs carrying a torch an the other on four legs wagging a tail.

"Is that you Ron ?" a voice called out.

"Yes" Ron answered, "I've got Kath with me".

"Well come on up lad, it's a bit dark but it's only laid to lawn, nothing for you to trip over,I grows me veg., round the back."

What was I doing treading careful across the grass in the pitch black in the middle of nowhere? I will explain.

To continue Kath's story click here.