Hullbridge Village History
Hullbridge Memories .
The Princess's Castle at Hullbridge.
I was about 8 or 9 when we moved to Hullbridge from Westcliff, having been born in London. Mum and dad had had a cafe in Westcliff. The first place my mum,dad, brother Mick and I lived in Hullbridge was on the Tower Caravan site. Moving into a caravan meant there was not much room for most of the furniture we had in Westcliff, so Mum and Dad had to put some in storage, which did not go down well with Mum. She never liked living in the caravan unlike myself.
The Tower Caravan site got its name from the old water tower that stood near the sites entrance. It was a subject on which we let our imaginations run wild. Some of our initial thoughts were that it was part of a castle because of its castle rampart roof, little did we know that it was previously the Water Tower of the Hockley Brick Works before it was demolished to make way for the caravans. Inside the tower we imagined all sorts of things and it was only when my father, who loved inventing things, happened to speak to Mr Caton, the then owner of the caravan site, about his idea of making a boat out of glass fibre, that we got to see the inside. Mr Caton suggested dad used the space in the Tower to build his inventions and much to all our horror we found it to be just like a Garden Shed ! My dreams were shattered, there was no Princess's bedroom of dungeons below.
On the corner of Pooles Lane was a shop and the lady owner lived in the house alongside. It had a date on it, 1932 I believe. My mum , who loved shops always said this was Hullbridge's save and grace as it was full of racks of clothing, especially children's. The lady did sell some groceries but mainly it was clothes.
Dad the inventor
Dad's inventions were terrific! He perhaps invented the first fiberglass boat. With the boat he used an old derelict wooden dinghy and being a plasterer by trade, found it easy to plaster the outside with concrete and then remove the coating from the dinghy to form a mold which he lined with fiberglass. The boat was launched and we were all glad to see it did not sink. Another time dad invented the equivalent of what is today a "strimmer". We had about an acre of land which was mainly all grass and took a lot of time to look after so dad made a contraption using a pole that looked very much like a "Pogo stick" which had blades at the bottom, when the user pushed down on the pole the blades rotated and cut the grass. Although dad was very inventive he never had the finances, knowledge or inclination to take things further and see if anyone else was interested.
Kingsway here we come.
We moved to corner of Kingsway and Queen Annes Drive, into what they call "a rough cast bungalow", it had most likely been built when plots of land were being offered to Londoner's for something like 10 shillings around 1927. It all came about when dad met this chap in a pub and the chap. who lived in London, told him he was looking to rent out this property in Kingsway. Dad came home spoke to Mum and told her they could afford the rent and so we planned our move.
The parents of the man that dad met had lived in Soho in London, the lady and her husband were Tailors, they bought the property as a weekend retreat and when the lady was old she came down to Hullbridge to live. When Dad met the son, the lady had died and the son was staying at the bungalow so that he could attend the funeral and then hand the keys over to someone. On the day of the lady's funeral the son handed the keys over to us and said "what is in the house you can keep, if you don't want it burn it, I'm going back to London." When we went into the house everything was as he had left it that morning, the bed was unmade, the drawers still had the lady's clothes, he had left on the kitchen table the remains of his breakfast, empty shells of the boiled eggs, he had not bothered to tidy up anything! There was quite a bit of furniture, which was fortunate for us as Mum and Dad had decided it was not worth keeping their furniture in storage as it was costing us money that they could not afford to flitter away, so they had sold almost everything. We did have quite a few bonfires though, getting rid of the lady's clothes.
Kingsway was an unmade road and as you go down it on the right hand side was Cranleigh and towards the end running parallel was Wellington Avenue which was accessed by Queen Annes Grove. Between the turning for Cranleigh and Queen Annes the road was more like a toe path and there was a little bridge with a stream running underneath. The stream ran from up the hill to the ditch that ran in front of the bungalows on Lower Road and down to Watery Lane. On the left by the bridge was a very wide and deeply rutted area with wrecks of old barns from some farm years before (Hanover ?). In all the time we were there the barns were never used. Kingsway was such a state and no more than when it rained. Because it is at the bottom of the hill all the water that fell on the fields above use to pour down the hillside and the stream could not handle that amount of water and it would flood and creep out by the barns flood right across the road almost making it impassible. On the corner of Cranleigh was a guy called Bob who lived in a bungalow that stood on ground that was slightly raised to the rest and he use to let us keep our Wellington Boots there, just inside the gate, so that if we went out and it rained we would be able to get home without getting our feet wet. On a number of occasions it was so deep that water nearly came into my boots. In 196 when we had the really bad floods, the Wellington boots were useless because the water flooded Bob's bungalow and us on the far corner of Queen Annes Grove.
In our garden we had a big barn in which my brother Michael built a large Scaletrix track when he was about 8 and we used to have all his friends round for races.
Going to school in Hullbridge.
When I went to school at Hullbridge the school had a white picket fence in the front with gates either side, in the front was a large willow tree and a white flag pole, it had an area of grass and a few shrubs were planted near the school. We had our class room in the large room in the middle of the school. The room was split in half by a sliding partition that folded back to the wall. we were flanked by one classroom on our left and two on our right. The partition was taken back I think once a week so that we could hold assembly, it was only once a week because it was such a palaver to get it moved..
Mr Hardy was the headmaster who lived next door and he would come into school in the morning through the gate near his back door and then he or someone else would blew a whistle or ring a bell to say that school was starting. If that someone happened to be one of his sons, we would be rather annoyed as this appeared to show favoritism. There were 4 teachers we had were Mrs Longthorn and a male teacher (not Mr Rose).
In the beginning the dinners were delivered each day in oblong aluminum tins from which they were served. We would collect our dinner and take it back to a desk in the partitioned room to eat. Not all children had meals at school some went home and came back in the afternoon. Eventually around 1957/8 the school was extended at the end near Mr Hardy's house and a kitchen was fitted in.
Around the same time that the school was extended by a separate building which stood behind the old school in the middle of the playground. It was made of wood and looked like an old army hut. It had two rooms, the one nearest the school was the office of Miss Webb, the other part was the classroom of Mrs Longthorn. This meant that the classroom nearest the kitchen could now be used as our dinning area. There were separate little brick built boys and girls toilets built at the bottom of the playground. The girls had about 4 separate toilets inside. Behind the toilets ran a ditch and then our playing field with a line of big Oak or Elm trees along the border. To the left, behind the properties in Ferry Road and Pooles Lane was a field that I do not recall as being part of the school, this is where the infant school was built in the 60's.
I can recall how much we were scared of Miss Crabbe, she lived in a wooden cottage with her parents across the road from the school near where the town houses now are. She was always brusque with us children, I do not recall her ever smiling. She used walking sticks because of her club foot. I always though she was rather old, but then again as a child you thought everyone was old. She used to drive what we called "a spas wagon" which only went about 2 mph. If you were unfortunate enough to be behind her and the hand pulled electric milk cart in your car you were most likely to be saying a few expletives feeling very frustrated by the time you had managed to get past them. A starter for road rage !
There used to be four classes sorted by age groups, 5-6, 7-8,8-9 and 9-11. Mr Hardy took the 9-11 as they were to sit the 11 plus examination.
I remember the Anchor and the old water pump that stood outside on a concrete plinth just where the buses turned around, it always had a metal bar through it which stopped people using it. in the garden alongside was the tunnel that goes under the river carried the water pipes from a reservoir North of the river. One day the Waterboard visited the school and offered to take two children down into the tunnel, my youngest Andrew was 7 at the time and was luckily selected to be one of them. He said they went down loads of steps into a large tube that appeared to go on forever, he was told it ran all the way to a reservoir near Colchester and it could be walked but the people walking would require breathing apparatus because the air would be foul.
Going to senior school
After Hullbridge a load of us who did not pass the 11+ went to Fitzwymarc School in Rayleigh, those that did went to Sweyne.
School uniforms at that time were expensive and COMPULSORY !! my mum and dad had to buy the white blouses, red blazer and tie
and grey skirts for Fitzwymarc, it cost all of my dad's weeks wages so mum ended up paying a bit at a time. School uniforms for most of the local schools were bought from Sansom's in Rayleigh. Later Alexander's who were around the corner in Eastwood Road became the suppliers.
Having been at Fitzwymarc for only 6 months my parents were informed around Christmas time that a new school would be opening next year in Hockley and that all the children in Hullbridge that were going to Fitz., would have to change schools with the council would laying on
buses to take them there. When my mother found out that the schools colours were Navy Blue she turned as red as my blazer with rage and cried out that there was no way she was going to buy another blazer, she went and bought a pot of Dylon Blue dye and dyed it, fortunately the blazer
was wool and therefore held the colour very well. When we got to Hockley in 1961 we were the eldest in the school despite only being the 2nd year students. We were joined by kids from Hockley, Plumberow and Hullbridge that formed the 1st year. The headmaster at the time was a Mr Giffiths and he was not a very popular man and definitely not a good teacher.
He would often turn on us and say "None of you will ever amount to anything !" , hardly an inspiring talk! He was eventually replaced by Mr Crevey, he was extremely volatile and would often fly off in the air like a bottle of pop at the slightest thing, however he was an extremely good teacher who believed in coaching the best out of you with praise, he seldom said negative things about you.
We as a group didn't do too bad in our final exams. During our time we had RSA's and G.C.E.'s most of us did very well. The school when we first went there was quire a bit different to today. The Hall, Gyms and changing rooms that are on the left of the entrance today were not there, our Assembly Hall was the hall as you go in the front doors, at assembly we were all lined up facing the front doors and all along the wall behind us were dotted the teachers. We had John Toombes, and when we first went there he was standing there in a blazer wearing a stripped tie, we did not know whether he was an older pupil of teacher and he taught P.E. and French. There was a Miss Davis who we thought had the hots for John and we were always joking and laughing about it especially as he was mediocre about her. There was a My Warren who taught art and lived in Folly Lane. There was a Mrs Warren, no relation to Mr Warren. She unfortunately went premature Grey when she was 21, she was a lovely lady and taught Science. There was a Mr Milsom who taught Carpentry, he was a really nice old chap. Miss Cardy wasn't there to start with, she came along later. Mr Davis who took R.E. , he was the only teacher to send me out of a class. The poor man used to have a scalp complaint, maybe very bad dandruff which resulted in him having red sore on his head, anyway it was a shame that we used to take the mickey out of him and on this particular day he turned up with these thick fur gloves on and not thinking, I turned around to my friend and said to her, "I wonder if they have dandruff too" and he must have slightly overheard me but thought I was commenting about his head and so he sent me to stand outside the door, I guess it didn't help when on the way out I said to him, "I was talking about the gloves not your head !". I was quite nervous standing out there, as Mr Crevey used to do the rounds and if you were standing outside the classroom he would ask why and then order you to stand outside his office. Fortunately after ten minutes Mr Davis let me back in the room. There was a Mr Fred Furnace, he was the Math's teacher. We had this girl in our class named Penny Burrage, she was a very funny girl, on this particular day the sun was shinning through the large glass windows and so it was extremely hot. Penny was sitting in the front row with Mr Furnace writing the sums on the blackboard, he turned round and she noticed he had a small spider crawling along his collar, each time he faced the blackboard Penny would turn round and make a funny remark which of course made us snigger and he would turn back round to face us and ask what was wrong and we all said nothing! So he would turn around and continue writing only for it to happen time and again. He was getting himself in a real pickle stepping this way and then the other and then all of a sudden he trod in the waste paper basket and slightly topples over, well that was the straw that finally broke the camels back we all burst out laughing and fortunately for him the bell rang to signal end of class and he just grabbed his things and legged it out of the class with us all still sitting there laughing away. Mr Mayes taught Physics, Mr Pope taught Social Studies which was instead of History and Geography, I guess this was because it was deemed more appropriate for older children, well he was quite friendly with Mr Toombes and we later found out that Mr Toombes was only 21 when we first started. Mrs Ogden was the girls P.E. teacher.
Whilst we were there they built the Assembly Hall/Gymn and the old Assembly Hall became our dinning area and we used to purchase dinner tickets at the beginning of the week. There was no Science block the school ended by the second cloakroom. The block was built whilst we were there. Once we were in the art class and it was near to the end of school for that year and Mr Warren thought that we should all do some tidying up, this included the sinks, which were not draining very well. Mr Warren got underneath and undid the U bend and pulled out bits of paint brushes, paints, clay etc., and then handed the bowl to one of the boys and said please empty that, the boy just opened the window and threw the contents out of the window into the playground.
We had two coaches that picked us up, one an old coach the second a bit more modern, they used to go two different routes to pick up children along the way. We used to pick a girl "Christine" who lived in the bungalow on the corner of Hillcrest and Lower Road and a lad up on the bend near Pevensey Gardens, he was a bit slow with his learning abilities.
When I was at school most of my old Hullbridge school mates were in a different class to me so I became friends with mostly Hockley girls, as a result I did not join any of the Hullbridge girl organizations like Guides but I did join the Land Rangers in Hockley when I was 14 which was similar to Guides. They met at the back of the Methodist church. On a Wednesday afternoon I used not catch the coach but go home with my friend Christine Penow, have some tea and then go on to the Rangers. Irrespective of what time the meeting finished I had to catch the 9:45 bus from outside the Hockley junior school near Hockley Woods and get into Rayleigh in time to catch the 22 bus which left just after 10 o'clock for Hullbridge. I stayed as a Landranger right up till I was 21 and I did the Duke of Edinburgh Award right up to the Gold and I went to Buckingham Palace to receive my medal at a Garden Party from Prince Phillip. We had some wonderful times doing the award and gang shows etc., that were held at the Cliffs Pavilion and the Palace Theater going up to London to BP house as a working party. Some of my fellow Rangers were Gill Potter, grand-daughter of Mr Potter of Hockley, Linda Pinner, Janet Blackwell who later married childhood friend Brian Bennett who has bought and developed various bits of land around Hullbridge:- The flats connected to the corner shop on Pooles Lane, which he pulled down and has rebuilt. The bungalow next door in which he lived whilst the work went on, he has since flattened that and built upon it, the solicitors shop at the bottom of Oakleigh which he demolished and built a house in its place.
Places in Hullbridge and oddities
The corner of Watery Lane and Hullbridge Road was known by us as White Post Bridge, I am not sure why it got this name, its possible that it was were a toll house existed given that there was a property there called Slough House around 1873, but it could also be because there was a sign post there.
Soon after we moved to Kingsway a new family took over the stores on Coventry Corner. It was all rather tragic. They were a really lovely family whose name slips me, but they ran it as a general store with one end being a newsagent's/sweetshop and the other had shelving with tins on and from the counter you would purchase your cheese which was cut off from a slab and ham which was sliced off using his machine. They had a young son on whom I had a childhood crush. He used to suffer from Asthma and when he was 14/15 he had a sever attack after games whilst being at school and unfortunately he died. You can imagine the parents were devastated and decided they could not stay there, so they sold up and moved away.
Opposite the Stores on the corner of Lower Road and Ferry Road was the old garage and builders yard was demolished and a Supermarket was built in their place. The supermarket struggled to get sufficient business and eventually folded to be bought out by BFW a furniture company, who also could not make the business work and so they moved to Battlesbridge. The store was taken over by Budgen.
The building next to the stores on Lower Road was owned by a little old lady who ran it as an Antique shop. She used to have some of them on display in her front garden.
There was a bungalow on the corner of Wellington Ave and Lower Road and the owners built a flat roof extension on the side and opened it as a Fish and Chip shop.
There was a General Stores on Lower Road, almost next to the bungalow that had a Fish and Chip Shop. The stores was in a large chalet bungalow which had a double bay front with a large entrance in between. One of the front rooms was the shop.
Opposite the Chip shop were a couple of petrol pumps and the owner George Boul had a daughter who I still see around the village.
All I can remember of High Elms is it being like a dolls house with a very unkempt garden.
Opposite on the corner of Thorpedene were two semi detached houses. My friend Janice Oakman lived in the one right on the corner.
The only Tea Rooms in the village were down by the river. Near where the public toilets are today used to be a tea room, and what is today the Simla restaurant was a bikers cafe, which had a juke box inside.
The Smugglers Den was there and reputedly there was a tunnel from there to Shell Cottage, which is just opposite Pooles Lane and is there today.
There were three yacht clubs:- Brandy Hole, which I think is the oldest, Hullbridge and The Up River which my brother Michael was a member of.
The junk yard on top of Coventry Hill was owned by Mick Melia who lived in the bungalow alongside.
The doctors where first Dr Jolliff and then Dr Kendall
There was a hairdressers "Patricia's" opposite High Elms cottage, and she had a daughter Bev., who lived in a bungalow in Hillcrest, between Waxwell and Oakleigh. The hairdressers was closed and replaced with the Freezer Shop and they moved into our old shop which was Mr Wortley's Butcher Shop.
The young girl Glynnis Draper, who lived in Wellington Gardens, was murdered in the village back in 1964, she is buried at St Peters and St Pauls, Hockley in the same row as my father. We knew the family very well, I don't know her background but she was adopted when she was two or three. I remember when it happened, the policeman came and talked to all us children when we were waiting for the school bus outside Coventry Corner Stores. Later they knocked on everyone's door and searched each property. They didn't turn our place upside down but they did check every conceivable place including all the outhouses outside. They eventually found her body in Cranleigh in Bob's next door neighbour's sheds, it turned out to be their adopted son who killed Glynnis, he was a little simple. Thinking back I think she was perhaps too friendly and so vulnerable, anyone could just be walking up the road and she would come running along and take their hand and skip alongside, chatting away. Her poor mum, Ivy , we use to see her when we went to visit dad's grave.
When I was a child there was an old wooden bungalow in Pooles Lane just before you reached the terraced cottages opposite Tower Caravan site. A very old lady lived there and she always seemed to be wearing her widows weaves and she walked with a walking stick. One day she suddenly disappeared and loads of people went out looking for her, after about a week she was found dead in a ditch and her face had been bitten by rats and things, gruesome !
The terraced cottages in Pooles Lane were all rented and my friend Angela Bewers lived in the second one, and they all had front gardens, not car parks as they are today. Nobody used the front doors they always went round the back via the toe path which ran the length of the terrace and would divide the very small yard and the garden that each house had. The gardens could well have gone all the way back to the school field. Each cottage was a two up two down and had an scullery outside which was an outside privy which was a wooden plank fixed to the walls either side and under the hole in the plank would be a large metal bucket. I remember that once a month the council would send round a truck that you could smell a mile away, it would park out the front and a man would get out and walk round to the toe path go into the privys and lift the bucket onto his shoulder and walk with it round to the truck where upon he would dump its contents. He was a large man and wore a leather gillet like those worn by coalmen and he always fascinated me when he came. In some of the gardens was a cesspool which would be covered by a sheet of corrugated iron and not everyone was a gardener, some of the gardens were unkempt , Angela's parents did grow vegetables in theirs.
The scout hut was built about mid 1960's behind the church.
When we were children we were told the story about the old oak tree that stood on the corner of Coventry Hill. The story went that one day a stagecoach came down Coventry Hill and was out of control, it smashed into the Oak tree and all people were killed. On the anniversary of that crash a ghostly apparition of the coach and horses is seen coming down the hill followed by a crashing sound and loads of wailing. Personally I have never seen or heard anything, So!
When we first moved into the bungalow in Kingsway the old lady who had lived there had a Treadle sewing machine in her bedroom, we did not get rid of that, we kept it along with quite a bit of her furniture. It had become trendy to tart up old furniture with a coat of paint, so we were following the trend and the sewing machine did not get missed. The sewing machine remained were it originally was and I used it, being taught by the lady opposite who did dress making. I got married to Keith and moved out, Michael had gone to America for a year or so as part of the Sweyne student exchange and Mum stayed at the bungalow. When Mum eventually left the bungalow the council had deemed it uninhabitable, but old Mr Cracknell, who owned it at the time, managed to sell it. A number of sales further down the line and a young couple purchased it, by this time Keith and I had our catering business up and running and we happen to employ the young lady who was now living in the bungalow. One day she happened to ask me "did you know that the bungalow was haunted ?" I replied that "I was not sure and why did she say this?" "she then asked "was there an old Treadell sewing machine there?" and I of course replied "yes, and that it had belonged to the old lady we had bought the house from." she then told me how she had come down one morning and saw a women sitting at the sewing machine in the bedroom at the side of the bungalow. I mentioned this to Mum and I said that I had never seen anything to which she replied she had never seen anything but had every night sensed a presence, a tingling sensation up her legs when she was in the room, I then confided in her that I had felt something similar when I was lying in the bed, so maybe the old bungalow was/is haunted ?
When I was about 14 my mum, my cousin and my mum's two sisters and I went to the open air swimming bath on Southend sea front. My mum did not possess her own swimming costume, but as it turned out, because of the number of day trippers arriving at Southend, the swimming pool management had decided they would rent out swimming costumes. The costume she got was black and knitted, I can not imaging what it felt like once it was sopping wet. I was shocked when mum just dived in, as I had no idea she could swim, as it turned out she was a very strong swimmer. The pool was open air and it was sunken below pavement level. The changing rooms were all around the side and there was a walkway from one side to another about halfway up. There was coconut matting on the bridge and around the side to stop people slipping. There was also a slide at one end. People would often walk along the promenade and stop at the pool and peak over at the people having fun in the pool.
I went on my first date to the Regal cinema in Rayleigh, affectionately known as "The Flea Pit". My auntie Vicky lived in Rayleigh and loved going to the cinema, mainly because television was not so common as it is today. She would often call mum or auntie Rene to keep her company. This one time they all went to watch a film and some days later they read in a local newspaper that the cinema was found to be infested with rats and they were horrified to think that they had been sitting there on top of all these rats.
My brother Michael.
He was four years younger than myself and he went to school with Steve Polley who lived in one of the cottages at the beginning of Pooles Lane. Michael was in the Hullbridge Scouts and was a troop leader who won several prizes and became a Queens Scout and a Venture Scout. He went to Hockley and at 15 extended his schooling by going to 6th form at Sweyne, from there he went to Nottingham University then to Cambridge where he did his masters and as a result was offered a fellowship which he took for a year. From very humble beginnings he has done very well for himself !
Michael used to love fishing and would often go to the pond down Central Avenue, there were two others, one in Trenders Avenue and one opposite Lubbards Lodge which are both now owned by different fishing clubs. The opposite Lubbards Lodge is now quite a complex and has a very long waiting list so my husband Keith could not join but my son Ian was a junior member. Keith is a member of the club down Trenders which is owned by Robin who use to live there in a caravan for years. He has built three new lakes and has a lake in his garden in which he farms Trout.
Married and living at Pevensey
When Keith and I got married our first home was a bungalow in Pevensey Gardens. On the corner of Pevensey was a little general store owned by a little old lady and opposite was an Antique shop owned by a man who came from Bridgewater, Somerset. Keith use to work for him in early 70's until one night he did a moonlight flip leaving everything behind. The place was taken over by a daughter of the Downes family and I think she lives there still today. Keith's parents moved from Birmingham to a bungalow a short way up Central Avenue. His father Stan was a pattern maker for Fords and when they opened Dunton they offered incentives for skilled staff to move down to this area. There is a single bungalow on the right hand side, that building was built by the same builder as the bungalows opposite. I understand the builder who owned most of the land went bankrupt, so the rest of the properties were never completed. The Downes family lived in that bungalow and they had a rather large family. When the children left home Mr and Mrs Downes sold up and moved to a caravan on Tower Caravan Site where Mr Downes sadly died. I believe Mrs Downes re married and still lives down there and was/is a prominent figure in the Friday Club.
Rochford Hundred Historical Society
I joined the Rochford Hundred Historical Society in 1982 when I became interested in local history. My particular interest was obviously on Hullbridge. The Society held field trips to local places where they would then provide a commentary of the history whilst we all gathered around and took notes. This is what I wrote:-