A Visit to Thundersley Hall and a Short History Part 1

A Visit to Thundersley Hall

John Sweet
Paula Button
John Sweet with his daughter, Doreen
Paula Button
Hannah Charlotte Sweet
Paula Button
Thundersley Hall

Link to Part 2: The History of Thundersley Hall

A Visit to Thundersley Hall

I visited Thundersley Hall in September 2016, at the kind invitation of the owner, Vanessa Brumwell.  A lady in her eighties, Mrs. Doreen Joy McLaughlin (nee Sweet), who had grown up there in the 1930s, was going to pay a ‘down memory lane’ visit to the house, and I was invited to join the party. The lady duly arrived, accompanied by her daughter, Paula, and the emotional impact on returning to ‘the Manor’ was evident, as she stood and drank it all in with misty eyes.

In 1935, Doreen’s parents, Hannah Charlotte and John Sweet, were employed by the Wade family as live-in caretakers, as the Wades did not want the place remaining empty. The Sweet family lived there for about fourteen years until Thundersley Hall was sold in 1949 to the Lygo family.  What changes the Sweet family must have seen, as these were the boom years for New Thundersley, with new houses being built, and the rural nature of the area changing fast.

Mrs. McLaughlin remembers an idyllic childhood at the Manor, with a swing tied in an old tree, and a rural aspect over fields in Manor House Way. On the days when the weather was inclement, Doreen remembers being sent up to play on the top floor of the Manor House, in what would have been the servants’ quarters.

A coal-yard owned by Doreen’s Grandparents, John ‘Jack’ Richards and Charlotte Hannah Richards stood on the site of the Zach Willsher public house, and they lived in a bungalow where the ‘Flower Fountain’ now stands on the shopping parade, which was built in the 1960s between Roseberry Avenue and Manor Road. The coal-yard has an entry in the Kelly’s Directory of 1925, ‘Richards, Jack, coal mer. New Thundersley’. In the 1929 edition, he appears with a new-fangled telephone number – ‘Richards, Jn. coal mer. Church Road, New Thundersley T.N. South Benfleet 94’. He also appears in the 1933 and 1937 editions. There was also a house adjoining the coal-yard owned by a Mrs. Geach, who took lodgers.

Accompanying this article are three photographs: John Sweet, John Sweet with his daughter Doreen, and Hannah Charlotte Sweet, all kindly provided by the family.  By incredible co-incidence, Doreen and her family at the Manor House were best friends with Margaret McKay, who lived in my property across the road, which was then known as ‘Dunromin’ in Manor House Way.

From the early twentieth century until the end of the second world war, New Thundersley consisted of a smattering of villas and plotland bungalows, with the occasional small shop, interspersed with market gardens, poultry and pig smallholdings, grazing fields and orchards. Several general stores and cafés had sprung up along the main London and Church Roads, to serve the needs of the charabanc trippers to Southend and the Church Hill car trials respectively.

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  • My Nan lived in Barncombe Close and before the close was opened up, as kids, we played in the pig sty area of the old Manor House. My nan’s bungalow was the second from last until they put the new builds up. At the bottom of the garden we dug down as kids and found an old wall. The legend told was the wall belonged to the manor stables where Henry 8th rested and kept his horses on the way to see Ann Boleyn in Rochford. If you read the other Ann Boleyn girl it talks of Thundersley and places around it. The old lady next door (last bungalow) said there was a ducking pond in that garden and saw a lady ghost wandering. She also said there were tunnels from the manor to the Hoy pub in Benfleet. Again if you read Thundersley history there is reference to this. Also there was an orchard and in my nan’s garden we had eating apples, plums and rhubarb. Whatever the truth was, it was a lovely place to grow up at number 14! I do remember the old doctor living there and find it interesting my husband’s great grandmother was a Lygo and went to school at Robert Drake school with the Brumwell twins 😃

    By Lisa (31/12/2020)

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