Hullbridge Village History
The Hamlet of Hullbridge a Glimpse into the past. 1957
Looking North we see a lovely old lane, arched with tall trees where nightingales sing
merrily on the late summer evenings.
This is Ferry Road, Hullbridge, half a century ago (1929). Just behind us on the south side of Coventry Corner lies Hanover Farm where deliveries of milk are made from daily , almost straight from the cow. As we stroll along Ferry Road, disturbed only by a casual cyclist or a 14 seater bus which runs every two hours, we pass one or two scattered dwellings, one of which is owned by "Barney"Louse the "Witch Doctor". "Witch Doctor" is his own description of himself on account of the fact that he produced a formula capable of restoring hair to heads that have lost it. Incidentally, "Barney" is in having electric light, while the rest of the villagers have to make do with oil. Each evening you can hear his oil engine chugging away and generating current for himself and his nearest neighbour.
A little further down the road on the right-hand side is the Village Post Office, which hasn't even got a telephone installed. Actually there is only one telephone line running into Hullbridge from the Rayleigh Exchange, number 105 which by several subscribers with extension numbers.
As we journey on we come to the School with two classrooms and a hall, catering for about 50 children, some of whom come from Woodham Ferrers and are conveyed across the river at low tide by a little tub cart, or at high tide by the local ferry boat.
Just past the school, opposite Pooles Lane, stands the Hullbridge Mission Hall, the only place of worship in the village, where devoted souls endeavour to spread the Gospel by means of Sunday School, evening services and young people's activities etc., The Women's Institute also use the Mission Hall for its monthly meetings.
Let us go a little further, there is the 400 year-old "Anchor Inn", standing facing the road, at the side of which stands the Village Pump. Just past the "Anchor" we come to the river with the ferryman's hut and the old jetty. Dick Hymas, the ferryman, is responsible for taking people to the other side of the river, and is in regular attendance, and can be called on at any time at his house that stands just his hut. Many have been snatched from the dangerous undercurrent by Dick, who is always on the spot with his boat for any who are in difficulties.
Then we see "Jock" "Wallace" who lives on his launch houseboat was moored on the East side of the bank on the river. "Jock" happy-go-lucky, and very popular with the young and old.
Looking West up the river we can see the "Pavilion" owned by Mrs Davis and used for small social functions.
A bridge formerly spanned the river here, mentioned in 1494. Local tradition says Cromwell destroyed the bridge, but Gibson's edition of Camden (1772) gives a bridge there, though records of the 16th century indicate that even then it was in bad repair. Wright in his "History of Essex" says that in 1831 the piles still remained. Moulds on the North bank mark the site of medieval salt-pans mentioned in 1547. A Neolithic floor, also on the banks of the river has been exposed, and prehistoric flint implements have been found in the peat. Local archaeologists assume that as far back as 2,000 B.C. Hullbridge was a busy place.
The needs of the village are attended to by many enthusiastic workers. There are deliveries of greengroceries by Mr Hutson of Hullbridge Road, and by Ella Ellis who delivers for her father with a horse and cart. Many times Ella is heard Knocking at the door during the strawberry season late at night with fresh strawberries in order to clear her supplies while they are still fresh.
Mr Launder, delivers our newspapers after serving at his stand at Rayleigh Station. He lives at Tren-de-Hayes and uses a motorcycle and sidecar to make his deliveries. The policeman from Rayleigh makes a weekly cycle journey through the village.
Improvements have been made in the Village Sunday School where about thirty children of all ages are bundled together in two classes. This state of affairs is changing by the introduction of new teachers and a grading system. A special Beginners and Primary Department is started for the younger children and some of the older girls are recruited as helpers in this.
Efforts are being made to provide the children with a Summer Outing and a Christmas Party and many interested villagers are supporting this by means of donations and social efforts. Our first social effort is attended by about seventy people who crowd into te little Mission Hall, seated three deep around the Hall and entering into games in relays. Much surprise is expressed by such a gathering which represents almost half the entire population of the village.
Social activities are not an uncommon occurrence in the village. The Hullbridge Social Society, which is just getting into its stride is running socials in the Village School in order to raise funds for a Village Hall. The Society do not have a subscription paid membership as it is considered that everybody in the community are members, and so a combined interest is maintained.
Certain services are needed in the village. Lighting is mainly by oil, and street lamps standing from Coventry Corner to the riverside have to be trimmed, filled and lit daily.
At a meeting of ratepayers it is suggested that a representative of the Grays and Tilbury Gas Company be invited to discuss the position with them. This is arranged and a meeting called so that the case could be put. We are told that to come to the first house would cost �2,000 but the Company are prepared to supply us if we can guarantee fifty new houses in the next two years. This we can not do as there is no building expected in the near future, so the offer has to be declined.
Our next move is with the County of London Electric Supply who are taking electricity to remote parts by overhead wiring. A representative arrives and tells us that the Company have a contract to supply Burnham-on-Crouch with current, and to do this they will come through Hullbridge with their wires and if we can get enough consumers they will put in a transformer to give us a supply. The village is canvassed and a satisfactory response is reported. We are now enjoying the advantage of electricity and everything seems to be brightening up.
In the meantime, the Grays and Tilbury Gas Company are taken over by the Gas Light and Coke Company and a little competition is being experienced.
We now have electric wiring along Lower Road, Ferry Road and Pooles Lane but the Gas Company are now laying mains, not only along main roads but also along most of the unmade roads which run across fields. We are now blessed with both gas and electricity without having to provide fifty new houses.
The physical and spiritual needs of our young people are being felt by many. Happy times are spent during May Days by the young people entertaining and dancing round the maypole in the School grounds, and very proud is the girl who is chosen to be May Queen, for she is the most popular girl in the School. Much work is put in by the School Staff in making these festivities a success and the whole village look forward to them. A Girl Guide Company is formed in the School with the Headmistress as the Captain, an other helpers from the village. The boys are beginning to feel left out so a Company of Boys Brigade is started in the Mission Hall. The constitution of the Boys Brigade insists on a Bible Class and in order to help the girls spiritually an invitation is given to the Guide Captain to start a Bible Class in the Mission Hall. The invitation is accepted eagerly and a leader is sent over to conduct the class. Eventually we have all the Girl Guide leaders taking an active part in the running of the Mission.
The Boys Brigade are taking advantage of the installation of electricity by running film shows illustrating some of its activities. Summer camps are held and during one camp held at Heybridge one of the boys makes a gallant rescue from drowning, in dangerous waters. He is awarded the Boys Brigade Cross of Heroism (the B.B.V.C.). This is the first time that this award has been won in the Southend area, and a special meeting is arranged for its presentation, so the Company feel really honoured. The Company is also represented at the Boys Brigade Jubilee Celebrations in Glasgow. An officer and two boys are spending four days there. The march past in Queens Park by 30,000 boys headed by a band of 100 pipers and reviewed by the Duke of York makes a spectacular occasion. In the evening the officers are given a Civic Reception in the Kelvin Art Gallery, and during the days many interesting places are visited including a cruise down the Clyde to the Kyles of Bute and Wemyss Bay. Or boys are under canvas with 3,000 boys from all parts of the world at a place called Decmont, just outside Glasgow, while the officers are billeted in Glasgow.
It is being pointed out that although we are paying a rate for a Public Library we do not possess one, so an approach is made to the County Librarian who kindly visits us and addresses a public meeting. This has resulted in a voluntary Centre of the County Library being established here. A local Librarian is found and a committee of management is formed and instructed in its duties by the County Librarian. The books are housed in the School and changed at intervals when the County van visits the village. It is interesting to note that neither Rayleigh nor Hockley have yet got a Library.
We now have an hourly bus service and this enables the villagers to do their main shopping in Rayleigh, without, as so often happens, walking four miles one way or perhaps both ways. Local shopping facilities are very primitive, there being only two small general stores in the village, one at the corner of Pooles Lane an one at Pevensey Gardens.
Once a month on a Sunday evening the village is livened by the Salvation Army from Rayleigh, who take the service at the Mission Hall, and afterwards hold an open air service in the road outside the "Anchor Inn". With the sinking sun over the river and the strains of "Abide with Me" from the Army band the service finished on a very impressive note.
The Social Society are now looking for a site on which to build the Village Hall. Three sites have been selected and a ballot of the village will decide the one to be chosen. In the meantime every effort is being made to swell the funds so that the community will not have to wait long for the much needed Village Hall. One of the main fund raising efforts is the Summer Fete in the School grounds where all the villagers as well as interested visitors gather for an afternoon's enjoyment, concluding with an entertainment provided by local talent.
The site has now been chosen for the Village HallNo 131 Ferry Road, a plot 60 feet frontage with a depth of 200 feet. The price is £60.00 and thanks to the effort being made by both old and young we are able to meet the cost in cash, leaving a fair balance towards the cost of the building. It is interesting to note that a clause in the conveyance of the site states "that the sale of intoxicant liquor etc., would be prohibited on any building on the site".
Much more money is needed before we can start building but the site is an encouragement for our future efforts. It is hoped that the Hall may go up shortly so that we can call it "Jubilee Hall" in commemoration of the Jubilee of King George V.
Mr. Launder has now opened a newsagents shop in Ferry Road, and our newspapers are being delivered by Mrs Carr, assisted by her daughter, Beattie, who does her round on her fairy cycle.
The Women's Institute is now busy arranging its Annual Fete with side-shows and stalls in the School grounds.
A visit by the Caravan Mission to Village Children ha been looked forward to for some time and is now in progress and is resulting in increased members in the Sunday School. It is hoped that these visits of a fortnight's duration will be repeated from time to time as they give the children and young people an added interest.
A Council election is now taking place and is done at the Public Hall, Hockley by show of hands. On this occasion these are more candidates than seats so a poll is demanded, and granted. This is the first Council election poll ever to be held in the village and is causing much excitement.
An attempt is being made to fence off part of the footpath along the side of the river, West of Ferry Road. A local resident is disturbed by this and organises a party of residents to knock it down. This results in a court case where a fine is imposed but the defendant has preferred a short term of imprisonment. The fence is now being removed so the effort is not in vain.
Our Sunday School Outing is to Fambridge Hall, the home of Mrs P. Crawford, the private owner of the Hullbridge Mission Hall, and Jock, who lives on the river has offered to take children by boat. With about thirty children crowding both decks of his cabin cruiser he pilots them safely to Fambridge and back and they all thoroughly enjoy it.
The summer is again with us and it is a joy to listen to the singing o the many birds that visit the village, and the regular return of the nightingale, some of which perch on trees on Coventry Hill and chirp reguarly their song at midnight. Although our slumbers are disturbed this makes a delightful interlude to our dreams.
A new "Anchor Inn" is being built at the rear of the old 400 year old one, and facing the river. The old "Anchor" will have to come down, but it is hoped that the old Village Pump which stands just at the side will be preserved.
Efforts are being made to get a brige over the river. Southend at one time wanted a bridge as a through road to Maldon and it was a question of putting one either at Hullbridge or at Fambridge. Many years ago a similar effort was made and a local celebrity offered a sum of money to start it off but the authorities were evidently not interested. Now it is felt that a bridge would be a great asset to the village, enabling the community to visit some of the lovely country on the other side o the river without having to make a six mile journey. There are several objections but mainly from those with self interests.
The Hullbridge Mission is now reconsidering changing its name to the Hullbridge Free Church. The reason being that many of its workers are members of various denominations so it would seem right and proper to call it a "Free Church" so that all, irrespective if the denomination, would be free to worship there. In order to facilitate this it is agreed that no membership roll be instituted, so that those who are already members of other churches would not need to sever their allegiance while taking an active interest in the Free Church.
The last year or two have bought many changes to he village. the bus service which had been increased to one every hour instead of one every two hours has been supplemented by a service of pirate buses running two every hour, so now we have three buses an hour and it is very exciting when a pirate bus coincides with a service bus and there is quite a scramble when both are chasing each other in order to pick up passengers.
The growth of the congregation and Sunday School in the old Mission Hall (now renamed Hullbridge Free Church) has necessitaed an additional building on the side, and is now being used as an assembly room for Sunday School and also for the flourishing Primary Department under the capable leadership of Mrs Watkins.
During the summer months Sunday School sessions are often moved to the riverside where visitors and trippers are able to join in the service.
The Caravan Mission to village children has recently spent a fortnight with us and many were drawn to their very inspiring services. Services were held every evening except Saturday and on this occaision, the Saturday after their last meeting, disaster is brought to the little Mission Hall. An Elm tree which had presented us with a problem for many weeks has fallen across the Mission Hall and damaged it beyond repair. The School Mistress, Miss Fassam has come to the rescue and arranged for the use of the School for services until other arrangememts can be made. Miss Fassam is now Vice-President of the Free Church and is working very hard sending out appeals to many newspapers throught the country, and also overseas.
There are many responses to her appeals, even from America. A letter has been recieved from Mr Brand, a builder at Hutton offering to build a new Church for the village costing £1,000.00 if the residents can raise £500.00 themselves. Mr Eddie, a local builder, has offered a site free of charge on the Lower Road. Many are inspired by these offers and collection sheets are being distributed and friends and relations being contacted in order to raise the amount required. A visit is being made by the Church Council to a Church that Mr.Brand has built at High Leighs, and they are particuarly impressed by the fact that a hall is attached to this Church, and a desire is expressed for a hall such as this to be attached to the new church at Hullbridge. The Church Council are informed that this would be another £1,000.00 to the cost. The thought of a Church without a hall attached intensifies the efforts of the villagers who still have visions of their Village Hall, and think that this would be the means of providing the village with ome much needed recreational activities.
Money is coming in steadily in response to the appeals and collections sheets, and we have now been able to raise the sum of £800.00 and a start is being made on the building. the Congregational Union has offered the sum of £250.00 providing the building is opened free of debt and that they can become trustees.
The Church Council meets reguarly and discusses the policy o the new building. As such an interest is being shown by the whole village, including many who do not join in worship with us, it is agreed that certain social activities be allowed in the hall, including dancing. In view of this the plans will have to be altered and made to include panic doors to conform with the regulations laid down by the granting of a Singing and Dancing Licence which is being obtained. It is agreed that the hall is to be available for letting and that two members of the Church Council be appointed to attend each function held there to ensure that a respectable atmosphere is maintained.
It is now just ten months since the appeals were sent out and the Church and hall are now furnished and ready for he great opening day.
The great day has now arrived, 12th Nov 1938, and the new Church and hall is being officially opened. Stones are laid in the afternoon followed by tea and a service in the evening. Both the Church and hall are packed and the proceedings have to be relayed from the Church to the hall by loudspeakers. The young people, who had supported the effort so well with their pennies are, by some oversight, perhaps, left out of the opening ceremony, but they are delighted to hear the Chairman, Mr.Brand, say he hopes the hall will be the means of many a bright time for young and old. He follows by dedicating the hall to the Glory of God and the Upliftment of Humanity. The building, however, is still short of £400.00 but Mr.Brand declares the building open free of debt, he has cleared the debt thus enabling us to claim the £250.00 offered by the Congregational Union.
We are glad at our first Sunday School service at the new Church to start a fresh Cradle Roll with the name if Barbara Deebank on it.
We now feel responsible to those who so gladly gave their "mite" many if whom are not regular worshippers, that we must get to work right away with some social activities that will bring joy and happiness to many who up to now have had to stay indoors or travel three miles or more for some recreational activities. Once a fortnight we are holding a dance in the hall, and young people who otherwise would be loitering on the corners are now able to obtain clean and healthy recreation under Christian supervision. The spirit that this is creating is summed up by a song written by one of our workers and is being published in the "Southend Standard" with the caption "Church Hall has a Signature Tune".
There is great change in the Sunday School and we are now looking for some more teachers as the attendance has jumped from thirty to eighty. The teachers are coming in and the School is now properly graded and every child from toddler upwards is being catered for in its own peculiar way.
Still wanting to make the most of the new accommodation an entertainment is arranged by the children on the occasion of their Christmas Tea Party, when they are to entertain their parents instead of having the usual fun and games. The hall is packed for this performance and some good talent is spotted by some ex-professionals who attend. As a result of this a juvenile concert party is formed. At the first show there are more people wanting to attend than the hall will hold so hasty arrangements have been made to repeat the show on the following evening. The hall is again filled for this. The proceeds will be used to provide for the children's summer outing. The concert party, known as the "Madcaps Clever Juvenile Concert Party" are now running shows both locally and in neighbouring areas, and also at other Churches, and everyone speaks highly of them and no difficulty is experianced in selling tickets for their shows.
Rayleigh Carnival Committee have engaged them for their Carnival Fete on Websters Meadow, Eastwood Road. A performance is given in the afternoon and the evening in a specially erected marquee which is full on each occasion. The organiser tells us that there was more money taken at our shows than at any sideshow on the field, and they are looking to forward to booking us for next years Carnival. This is great encouragement to the young people and their organiser and they look forward eagerly to next year.
Alas, the war comes all too soon and some of our activities have to cease on account of the fact that the hall is being used for evacuees, as a temporary school. Many changes are happening now. Some people are moving away while others are being drawn into various war services, and for a while things seem to be at a standstill.
Hullbridge is not the safe place the authorities once thought it to be and the evacuees have now been sent to a safer spot, and the Church Hall is again providing the community with its social amenities. It is the only place for miles around that can be used for this purpose as most of the other halls in the surrounding districts are being taken over by the army. Various bodies are using the hall for entertainments and dances and in some cases people are travelling from Rayleigh and other areas to the one place where they can relax. The Hullbridge Ratepayers Association are holding regular monthly dances, and these gatherings are doing much to maintain the morale of the people and keep their minds off the war. As the air raids become more frequent the hall still fills up with those wishing to look on the bright side.
Some new faces have been appearing and some of these are monopolising the control of the Church and hall. They are not satisfied with the type of entertainment put on at the hall and are endeavouring to stop it. It has been pointed out to them by some of the old regulars that the Church hall was dedicated to "The Upliftment of Humanity" and to stop its activity in this direction was depriving the people of something it was impossible to obtain anywhere within four miles of the village, and with air raids imminent there are many who do not wish to travel far from home. The Secretary of the Ratepayers Association has been told by the new Church Secretary that he must cancel the dance that is already being advertised throughout the village. Members of the Church Council are not aware of this as it has not been discussed at a Council meeting. The matter has now been raised at a Council meeting and it is stated that the Church is being accused of "driving the people to the devil". Pressure is being put on this accusation and the result is that all social functions have been banned at the Church Hall. The result of this is that about fifty teenagers have been lost from a Sunday School of one hundred young people, and many of the original supporters of the Church are losing their interest. It is being pointed out that there is only one hall within easy reach of the village that can provide social functions, and that is the hall attached to the Weir Hotel, and to get into that hall one has to go through the bar, and if the teenagers that have been neglected go through the Church's shortsightedness are forced to go there, the Church might find that they may be driving them to the devil.
We are now pressing for the Village Hall that we have been hoping for over the past twenty years, but of course we are not expecting to get this while the war is on. We are reminded that there is a war on as we receive a shower of incendiary bombs during the afternoon. Many small fires are started but no extensive damage is done. The part-time Fire-Crew, supported by Air Raid Wardens dealt with the incidents. This was only a prelude, and now, only a week later we are fogged out by smoke emerging from fires at Thames Haven oil installations where seven tanks are alight after being bombed. This goes on for about a month as raiders bomb these tanks night and day and firemen are being sent from all parts of the country to deal with the blaze, In all about a thousand firemen are engaged and all their leave has been stopped during this activity. Hullbridge itself is not without its battle scars as landmines dropped at Rayleigh and Battlesbridge cause damage to some properties in the village. Flying bombs (Doodlebugs) and rocket bombs (v2's) come very close and some may now lie in the river.
Without our social activities the village has become rather dull, except of course for the frequent sounds of enemy aircraft, anti-aircraft guns and bombs. During the Battle of Britain the boredom is relaxed by the sight of battles in the air and pilots baling out. Six enemy aircraft actually make a "hit and run" raid across the village and they are so low we can see the crosses on their fuselages.
There is a "Prisoner of War" camp at Rawreth and the prisoners are allowed out and we often see them walking about with their PW printed on the backs. The Salvation Army in Rayleigh are catering for their spiritual needs and announcements in German are displayed outside thir Citadel in the High Street inviting the prisoners to their services.
The Women's Institute are still keeping things alive with their Annual Fete which eases the social problem, and their members are all prepared to man Rest Centre's if it becomes necessary. While the war has caused many changes, life still goes on and we are looking forward to the times when we can start our activities again.
"D Day" has brought a sense of relief and we must now get busy re-forming the Social Society so that we can restore some of the life that has been shattered. Much hard work is being put in behind the scenes and a good deal of voluntary labour is involved. weekends are being spent preparing the site for our Village Hall. Grants have been applied for but we are told that grants are not made to Social Societies, only to Community Association, so we are having to change our name to the Hullbridge Community Association.
The plans are now ready for submitting for passing but we are informed that as the deeds of the site are made out to the Hullbridge Social Society we would not be allowed to build on the site under the name of Hullbridge Community Association, so we have now changed our name again, and this time we are calling it "The New Hullbridge Social Society".
Voluntary workers are now busy every weekend with shovels and cement mixer, and a board is displayed on the site so that everyone can see the reason for our activities. The voluntary work goes on as the pre-cast concrete walls are erected but now we are engaging contractors to complete the erection.
It is Saturday, and the New Village Hall is ready for its grand opening. Many celebrities are taking part and we are looking forward to some happy times.
The first booking for the Village Hall is for the Sunday following the opening day, when there is a meeting of the Hullbridge Youth Fellowship. The Hall is set out with tables and chairs and light refreshments are served, and there is a good attendance.
Now in 1957, we have an "Old Time and Square Dance Club" which meets every Friday night and is conducted by the Schoolmaster, Mr.Hardy, who plays in a five piece band made up of local musicians under his leadership.
The Old Water Tower was built as part of the Brick Works
in Pooles Lane.
The Quays of Hullbridge,
one was in front of Gun Cottage / Hullbridge Pavilion,
the other was further along at the Brick Works.
The Hullbridge Road,
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