Of Plotlands and Manors

And much more besides

Front view of the whitewashed 'Manor Cottage' in 1974
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Back view of the whitewashed 'Manor Cottage' in 1974
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Front view of 'Manor Cottage' painted Cinnabar after the extension was added in 1985
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Back view of 'Manor Cottage' painted Cinnabar after the extension was added in 1985
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Stanley outside his railway carriage home
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Stanley walking out of the tiny kitchen in his railway carriage home
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
'Birchlea', now demolished, which stood up a private road at the end of Badger Hall Ave.
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Stanley Cooper as a young man in the 1930s
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
A member of the family cycling down Bread & Cheese Hill - possibly Bernard Cooper
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
'Birchlea' with my Papillon dog, Henri. taken in 1997
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
The private road which led from Badgers Way to 'Birchlea' and Stanley's railway carriage home
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines

The history of Manor Cottage

We bought Manor Cottage – or ‘Dunromin’ as it was then called – in November 1974 for the princely sum of £7,995. My Father, who owned the Newsagents opposite Queens Road, in the High Road, South Benfleet, found it and got the details from the Estate Agents. The first thing that greeted me when I walked in was a kettle perched atop a stepladder, plugged into the light socket! My Father nearly had a fit. There was an all-pervading smell of musty damp.

There were four 10ft square rooms, the front room being slightly bigger by way of the square bay, and a dilapidated lean-to at the back which enclosed the toilet and coal bunker. There was no bathroom – a tin bath hung on the back of a bedroom door, nor was there any hot water system (this work was carried out in June 1975). The floorboards on the south side of the property were rotten. The ceilings were asbestos sheets fixed with battens. The roof was asbestos slates.  The outside woodwork in 1974 was mustard yellow with whitewashed walls. There was a small porch with two glass windows and a climbing honeysuckle on the right.

“……..I was spooked and half expected to find the remains of the owner!”

The 100’ back garden was a wilderness of twitch grass with a central concrete path of a very poor sandy mix. The previous occupant’s clothes had been burnt in a large oil drum at the end of this path, and all that was left was a pathetic pair of black shoes. Being an imaginative 21 year old, I was spooked and half expected to find the remains of the owner! On the right hand side (looking out of the back door) was a ditch and a row of stunted pear trees, and the remains of a patch of gooseberry bushes.  The fences were practically non-existent – 3’ chicken wire supplemented by old bedsteads on the left. The ‘fence’ at the bottom consisted of the backs of other sheds which belonged to the gardens backing on to us, and patchy chicken wire. Many stray cats inhabited these, and throughout the 1970s and well into the 1980s I took a succession of these under my wing, kept some, homed others and had them neutered. Interestingly, there was a footpath about 18” wide at the bottom of our garden between us & the people backing on. I don’t think it went very far (2 or 3 gardens). When we renewed the fences we respected this, but the gardens backing on to us crept forward. I wonder if historically it was a right of way between Church Road and Chesterfield Road, or perhaps the remnant of a storm drain. Years later, our elderly neighbour at no. 22, Bernard Cooper, told us there had been a network of storm drains running down from the hills. In the building boom of the fifties, they were filled in without thought. He mentioned one at the top of Selbourne Road which was filled in and subsequently caused back gardens in Manor Road to flood.

‘Dunromin’ was sold in 1974 by the Fry family of 112 Church Road, New Thundersley, who lived in a black weatherboard plotland cottage in the middle of at least two plots of land, possibly three (the average plot was 112’ x 20’ as sold by Varty in the 1920s).  By 1974, ‘Dunromin’ had stood empty for a year and was fast becoming derelict. Interestingly, the 1901 Census has a William Fry, and wife Emma, (both in their early fifties), living in Downer Road. His occupation is stated as Farmer, and he was born in Devonshire.

The same census has a John Ellis [sic] (although referred to as John Ralph Carr Ellison on my Indenture), Land Agent, living at the Manor House, with his wife and a small household.  I don’t know what went wrong at the ‘big house’ to make them sell up. The Indenture for my plots (part of the Thundersley Manor Estate), dated 22nd December 1900 beween Robert Varty and William Gregory, show that the big sell-off started with the first portions of the estate being sold on 16th November 1872. We form part of the second portion of the estate. I notice that the Assignment of 15th December 1897 states ‘John Ralph Carr Ellison, George Dunbar Whatman and Herbert George Carr Ellison of the first part and the said Charles Bertie Pulleine Bosanquet of the second part and the said Robert Varty of the third part.’ Perhaps someone can shed light on what caused the Lord of the Manor to sell up. In Robert Hallman’s excellent book, ‘Thundersley and Daws Heath, a History’, he states that the land value had declined, ‘partly caused by the import of cheap American wheat from the 1880s onward, combined with a succession of poor harvests’ (page 84). Perhaps it was this – or family circumstances – we will probably never know.

“We moved in Easter 1975 – a bitterly cold Easter with snow on the ground.”

My Father paid the deposit and helped us to make ‘Dunromin’ habitable. He had learned carpentry at evening classes and was very good; my Uncle was a plumber, and Dad called in favours from other tradesmen who helped us with the job. We got one of the last 100% Council mortgages from Castle Point District Council (as it then was). We moved in Easter 1975 – a bitterly cold Easter with snow on the ground. I had bronchitis three winters running while the place was drying out. One of my first actions that spring, was to re-name the place “Manor Cottage” – “Dunromin” had too many negative connotations for a couple barely into their twenties!

I was 21 and my husband Allan was 24. We both worked in London – me in the City, my husband in the West End. We worked on the property in the evenings and weekends, whilst living at the shop, with my father spending any spare time he had away from the business on the skilled jobs.

In 1985 we had an extension built by Welfare of Southend, a company which specialised in rooms in the roof and which was co-owned by my best friend’s father Mr. Fright. I wanted to extend sympathetically with the building, using pitched roofs rather than flat to keep it in character. The extension comprised two large rooms, and a lobby and toilet. We couldn’t build ‘up’ – or at least, not on our budget, because the property has next to nothing in the way of foundations except a raft of concrete. Nothing was discovered in the excavations except a few glass bottles and a buried bag of cement! Mr. Fright, God rest him, was an extremely kind man, and he built us the extra rooms for a very reasonable price, and fixed a whole host of ‘unforeseens’ along the way, like a cracked sewer pipe and a new roof.

The old couple, Gladys & George at No. 103 ‘New Delhi’ told us that there had been a duck pond where our garage stands now. Every year the garden flooded until my Father planted a weeping willow in 1977 to try and control the water table. George from 103 had dug land drains in the 1930s but these certainly weren’t working for us.

“I had no idea of the existence of a Manor House until the early 1990s when I became friends with Stanley and Bernard Cooper.”

We dug up a horseshoe and rusty horse tack and large handmade nails when we rotavated the bottom of the back garden in 1975. Interestingly, we found a pony shoe and discovered a concrete slab approx. 6’ x 4’ only this June [2015] when we laid a lawn. If we were the duck pond and stable area of the Manor House (renamed Thundersley Hall when it was listed Grade II in 1981), it is possible the surrounding land was kitchen gardens & glasshouses, perhaps even with a forge. There were fields with horses in both sides of the road right up until the mid-1940s according to the late Mrs. Weston, who lived at Manor View. I imagine it was a very rural scene, with just a few 1899/1900s Villas dotted around among the fields. Looking through old Kellys Directories, it seems this area was full of market gardens and chicken farms. I had no idea of the existence of a Manor House until the early 1990s when I became friends with Stanley and Bernard Cooper.

Among the historical deeds and documents for our property, an Indenture dated 22nd December 1900 states that William Gregory of 847 Old Kent Road, London, bought four plots from Robert Varty. He paid £36.00 for four plots – £9.00 each.

William Gregory died in 1911. His wife Sarah Maria Gregory died in 1925. Their son, Frederick Wright Gregory of Whitstable sold the plots to Benjamin Conner of ‘Glenconn’ Kents Hill Road, Thundersley in 1929. Conner sold the land to Muriel Kate Sophia Woodford, the wife of Joseph Frederick Woodford in 1933. She sold Plots 266 and 267 to Henry Charles Wiltshire on 18th November 1936. In 1954 the property was sold to Mr. A. H. H. Knowlton. In 1959 it was sold to Mr. H. J. S. Fry. His relatives sold it to us in 1974. It doesn’t state exactly when ‘plot’ became building, but our elderly neighbour, George, stated that ‘Dunromin’ was built in 1925. Whether it replaced a previous wooden building, as was often the case, we just don’t know.

From September 18th 1957, the District Council issued an edict concerning house numbers. The number ‘99’ had to be marked on the property known as ‘Dunromin’. Manor Road was made up in 1958.

Manor Cottage is built of soft bright red bricks known as ‘red rubbers’. Above room height it becomes ‘non-standard construction’ –  chicken wire and rendering fill in between the roof beams. A survey in 2006 found the structure to be sound, and although we have had some slippage, considering the age and amateur nature of the building, it was pronounced sound. I always remember the amazement of my Father when he was doing some work here, and he discovered that the internal bricks had been joined not with mortar, but with cement! Our old neighbour George told us there was an identical building planned for the plots next door, but the builder went bust after just getting the foundations done.  Whether Wiltshire was the builder in 1936, replacing an original wooden ‘Dunromin’ with a brick-built structure as well as buying the two next door plots, we’ll never know. George always insisted our property was built in 1925.

 Ghostly Happenings

We always had a few cats, and for a good many years until the extension was built, at around 9pm the cats would watch the front door, and follow someone with their eyes all through the front room and into the kitchen. I often wonder who came home from work at 9pm and left such an impression on the place.

People in the Manor Road area in 1974

When we first bought the property, the road was reasonably quiet. There were no double yellow lines or traffic lights.  The Zach Willsher wasn’t built – there was an off-licence and shop on that corner run from an old Villa of much the same stamp as Manor Lodge and Kildare, (the villas nearly opposite the garage). You had to go up a couple of steps to get into it. Opposite that in Manor Road was a petrol station and car repairers who also sold secondhand  cars. We had the misfortune to buy one!

“To say he was eccentric is putting it mildly. He had a derelict model railway layout in his front garden which was fenced with 3’ chicken wire.”

The two 1960’s semi-detached were there, but at what would have been No. 105, there was a small run-down cottage built with what looked like leftover bricks from the villas. It had a narrow frontage and the entrance halfway up the middle of the house (facing Church Road). It had the look of a railway building, with London Stock bricks ornamented with red ones in the same manner as the large villas. It sat in a large plot abutting No. 103 ‘New Delhi’. In this ‘railway cottage’ lived Mr. Lacey and his elderly mother, together with an unkempt black collie and umpteen cats. To say he was eccentric is putting it mildly. He had a derelict model railway layout in his front garden which was fenced with 3’ chicken wire. The whole plot was uncultivated, and you could often hear shouting when you walked past. He had a Messerschmitt bubble car which he worked on, and when he got it going he raced up and down Manor Road with his dog in hot pursuit! If he tried that in 2015 it would be certain death the way the roads are now.

As Allan and I both worked in London, we didn’t get to know many of the neighbours. I left the City only in 1990 to take a part-time job in Southend when my mother’s health began to fail.

I have mentioned Gladys and George (don’t know surname) at 103 already. They were a couple in their 50s when we moved in. They had two daughters, the younger daughter was living with them, the elder had moved away, and a son. We got to know them the best of any – they were a lovely family. George was always ready to lend a hand barrowing building supplies off the road (as we often were).

The Westons lived at Manor View. He also worked the unclaimed plots next door to him and eventually had two semi-detached houses built. There were several unclaimed plots in Manor Road, possibly due to men not returning after World War Two.

The bungalows built in 1958 seemed to change hands more regularly. At No. 96 lived an elderly couple. The lady used to work in the Hadleigh Bakery shop which was a couple of doors away from my Father’s Newsagents at 123 Benfleet High Road, so she remembered me as a teenager. They proffered tools and offers of help from time to time, and were very friendly. He worked on his immaculate old car, which he used to chamois dry before he garaged it. Next to 94 (Kontiki) was a vacant double plot which was just scrub land. Then there was a large plot up to the corner of Chesterfield Avenue, owned by a family who had two bungalows nearly opposite each other on either corner of Chesterfield Avenue. In this large plot they grew Chrysanthemums, and there was a tall hedgerow running the length of the plot.

The Local Parade in 1974

There was a useful selection of shops in Church Road. From Roseberry Avenue, where the carpet shop is now was a toy shop, ‘Wings & Wheels’. Then a chemist, and a small arcade containing a café, a shoe shop, a junk shop, ‘Sound & Vision’ TV & general electrical repairers and several others. Then there was a bakers. The small supermarket was a Liptons. There was a fish shop with a small seating area, a butchers, an ironmongers, a launderette, a greengrocers, hairdressers, newsagents. A far cry from all the fast food joints in 2015.

There was also a tiny convenience store on the bend in Church Road, nearly opposite the Fry family at No. 112. We became quite friendly with the Frys as we took any post round to them which had been sent to their old address. The old couple were extremely deaf and had a ‘knock loudly’ sign in their porch. There were often bales of straw for sale stacked up in the porch with struck me as a bit of a fire hazard. The porch was ingenious. It was made of a shed with the back taken out, and backed up to their door, painted to match the weatherboard. I stored this idea up, and repeated it here in 2007 when we added a summerhouse to our lean-to.

Flora and Fauna

When we first came here in 1974, there were far more native trees and hedgerows. The garden backing on to us (Weston’s side) had a mature Hawthorn Tree which was a glory of white blossom in the spring. Weston had a mature plum tree opposite where our apple tree is now, which split in half in the late 80s and was taken down.

There were far more small birds here: jays which you never see now, blackbirds, thrushes, starlings, wrens, robins, sparrows. Collar doves appeared about twenty years ago. Now it is mainly wood pigeons and magpies, with blue-tits, long-tailed tits, wren, sparrows and robins. I haven’t heard many swifts this year. Their return used to be very noticeable, with their call ‘scree, scree, scree’ as they circled in the sky catching insects.

We had quite a population of common toads in 1974. There was a mass exodus towards the Manor House ponds in the late 1970’s and many didn’t make it across the road. I remember driving home from the station, and the headlights of the old Morris Oxford picking out all their sad little corpses in the road. We weren’t aware then that there was a Manor House, but subsequently we saw there was a pond marked as being in the grounds. Perhaps they were trying to reach that. Something must have tipped the balance to make them leave their habitat en masse.

Occasionally we saw a hedgehog. As recently as 2008 one of our dogs found one in the garden, and had to be brought in so the hedgehog could make its getaway. Rats are never far away, making their presence felt wherever ground is disturbed. We have even had the occasional Badger, and of course, the urban foxes. We still have slow worms in the garden, but much has changed with the change to close-boarded fencing. The old chain-link or chicken wire fencing, whilst not affording privacy, did at least permit small mammals to pass between gardens.

I still occasionally see a pipistrelle bat at dusk, but the numbers have dropped as habitat is built on and large trees are lost. Likewise the painted lady butterflies, moths and lacewings – practically non-existent now.

The Cooper Family

Stanley and Bernard Cooper were two brothers (in their eighties when I first met them in 1989) who had lived in the area since they were young men.

Their father bought the Kiln Road Post Office, near the corner of Badger Hall Avenue, in the 1920s/1930s. He had owned a jewellers shop in Wanstead. He owned about five acres of land running down from Kiln Road to Shipwright’s Wood. Stanley, who had been a carpenter, died aged 96 in 2000. He remembered Manor Road as virtually empty save for a few villas and the Manor House.  Bernard and Winnie Cooper lived at 22 Manor Road. Bernard died aged 103 about three years ago. Their place was a brick built chalet bungalow built in 1930, which he bought in 1947.

“Stanley knew the Varty family. Robert was a bit of a rogue, and used to get potential customers drunk on the train down from London.”

Stanley knew the Varty family. Robert was a bit of a rogue, and used to get potential customers drunk on the train down from London. This may explain why the paperwork went astray. Certainly, there were several unclaimed plots near our Property which were only built on in the 1980s, when some time-bar or other must have expired. Wealthy London Jews bought land locally much to the consternation of locals at the time (The Essex Chronicle of the time bears this out).

Stanley reminisced about life in the Kiln Road in the 1920s. There were ponies & traps, and few cars. A few plotland dwellings with corrugated iron roofs and newspaper for wallpaper were dotted around, and only a few Villas were in existence. He remembers Jarvis Hall in Thundersley Park Road. When the Post Office and land was sold in the 1960s, the Coopers kept about three acres, from a private road off Badger Hall Avenue down to Shipwright’s Wood. Stanley’s brother Harold lived in ‘Birchlea’ down this private road, and Stanley lived in an old railway carriage a bit further up in the woods. He was a marvellous character, fit and active until his late 90’s, and a familiar sight in his cream coloured VW Transporter (which also doubled as his bedroom, parked behind the train carriage). Stanley helped Harold to build ‘Birchlea’ in the 1930s, (which was demolished in the 2000s). They dug the well themselves.

Stanley’s other brothers were Eric, who lived in ‘Glenrosa’, a semi-detached villa opposite the Council Offices in Kiln Road, and Bernard, who lived at 22 Manor Road with his wife Winnie. I became firm friends with Bernard and Stanley. They were both keen on conservation, and indeed life in general, both being blessed with lively intellects and enquiring minds. I cannot remember the names of the wives of Harold and Eric, but I remember Harold’s son was Glen, who lived with Harold and died young from asthma in the late 1990s. Eric had a Downes Syndrome daughter, Cheryl, whom I think went into care locally after her parents died. I think Eric’s wife ran a local dancing school. The four brothers were close and kept in touch. Their sister Rose, tragically died from a brain haemorrhage at the age of 50 whilst driving down Bread & Cheese Hill.

When they were young, Stanley recounted, they could walk through Thundersley Glen and pick their way through footpaths down to Benfleet Creek. Or they would go to what is now Woodside Park, (I think it was part of what was known as the ‘Forty Acres’) and sail a tin bath across the pond there. They didn’t always make it but they were strong swimmers. I remember Bernard mentioning Hazlewood House in Kiln Road. They were friends with a family there.

I remember Stanley showing me the Bluebells in Shipwright’s wood. He knew all the footpaths and the shortcuts back to his land, which we entered through a padlocked chestnut paling gate.  Several times whilst visiting him, I remember he had incursions of youngsters who would climb his fence, and then look amazed as they walked out of quite dense woods, into Stanley’s clearing and found themselves face to face with the owner.

Stanley remembers seeing Zeppelins go over, and heard the gunfire from France in the First World War. He was too young for the first war and too old for the second! He also watched Crystal Palace burn – his land wasn’t as wooded as it is now. Sheep must have grazed the slope down to Shipwright’s Wood. I found a pair of ancient shearing irons lodged in a tree branch by the shepherd and misplaced. I think Stanley took them to a local museum. Stanley’s father was a hobby smallholder after he retired, and had a few pigs.

On our walks around Shipwrights Wood, Stanley pointed out different features to me. There were sandpits there, and historically, charcoal burners worked in the woods off the Kiln Road.  All the land had been owned by Westminster Abbey.

Stanley had several badger setts on his land, and they would come up for food in the evenings. He used to feed them dog food. There were woodpeckers – Lesser Spotted and Great, Tree Creepers, Jays, Cuckoos and many other birds. The Robins fed from Bernard’s hand on Saturday mornings when we went up there. It really was an enchanting existence.

Neither Stanley nor Bernard had children. On Stanley’s death, he bequeathed the woods to Essex Wildlife Trust as a private reserve. It is now known as Coopers Wood.

Plotlands in the blood

My husband’s family were archetypal ‘plotlanders’. They were dockers going back generations, living in Southwark and the environs. My husband’s maternal  grandmother, Susan Sumner bought Plot 12 (a large plot worth three of our Varty plots in Manor Road) in Malwood Road, Benfleet  in the 1920’s and had a small bungalow built in the early thirties, ‘Surene’, an amalgam of ‘Susan’ and ‘Rene’ (her daughter).  Other relatives bought plots in Elmshurst Drive, Benfleet. That side of the family were ‘in the print’ and had a little more disposable income. Land was cheap in Benfleet then. It was used as a holiday home, a welcome respite from London.

In the 1960s, the death of Susan Sumner coincided with my father-in-law’s job moving to Tilbury Docks. Malwood Road was being developed, and he sold half the plot to a builder and had a modern semi-detached house built for himself and his family on the residue.

Their memories from the 1940’s are of a Benfleet of unmade roads and gas-lights, around which the bats used to congregate after the insects. There was a farm at Great Tarpots, where they used to buy milk when they came down to ‘Surene’.

This is the way a lot of Londoners found their way down to the countryside of Essex.

Life at my Father’s Shop

I came to Benfleet in November 1963. My parents bought the Newsagents, Confectioner, Tobacconist shop at 123 High Road formerly known as ‘Sweetbriar’. It was a converted1890s terraced villa; I remember it had very pretty tiny art nouveau fireplaces in the bedrooms, and a wash basin in each of the two bedrooms. My bachelor uncle slept on a ‘put-you-up’ in the stockroom. Shops had notoriously limited accommodation. These days most shopkeepers live elsewhere, but we lived above the shop.

Upstairs above the shop was a large front room, with my parents’ bedroom behind it, and my bedroom at the back of the property overlooking the marshes. Downstairs was the shop, with a dining room behind (which doubled as the stockroom and Uncle Ted Sheppard’s bedroom), a kitchen, and a bathroom which had been built on at some time, probably the 1950s. There was a long narrow garden, with a garage at the bottom, opening out on to an unmade up banjo shaped cul-de-sac. A row of half a dozen dilapidated garages faced us, and to the left of ours and our immediate neighbour’s garages – Beaver’s wood yard (next door but one) had a back entrance.  A driveway to the right led out on to Hope Road.

My Father, Richard James Charles Bird, was a plastics toolmaker by trade, working at Ecko Plastics for a number of years. Prior to that he was at Greenwood Rawlings near Billericay. My Mother, Kathleen Sheppard,  had trained as a hairdresser, but never had the chance to work, as her Mother became an invalid at quite a young age, and my Mother stayed at home to look after her. My Maternal Grandfather, Martin Alexander Sheppard, was Works Manager at Newton Glass, Charles Street, Holborn, so he was quite able to look after the family. They lived in Weston Road,Dagenham.

“Letting the top floor as a flat had not worked out (one tenant nearly gassed us all)……….”

My Mother had a friend called Phyllis whose family owned a Newsagent, and she remembered helping out there on Saturdays when she was young. I think my Father had always fancied going into business, and Mum romanticised about a sweetshop with greetings cards. Dad was getting fed-up with same old same old every day. He was driving in from Great Wakering to Eckos, after selling the big old villa in York Road, Southend, where we had all lived (my grandparents, uncle & parents & me) since 1953. My Grandparents had died by 1960. Letting the top floor as a flat had not worked out (one tenant nearly gassed us all), nor had taking summer boarders. The time was right. It was just before the ascendancy of the supermarket, and one could still make a reasonable living out of a small shop without running oneself into the ground.

A reasonable leasehold (Leaseholder Mr. Fisk on Canvey Island) came up for sale on a run-down newsagents, confectioners, tobacconist shop in the High Road, Benfleet. Old Mr. Fisk was a lovely old gentleman. We moved in at the end of 1963.  The previous owners were the Taylors. Mr. Taylor came from High Wycombe and was a chair maker by trade. He worked away from home and the shop was run by Mrs. Taylor. According to my Father’s notes, they were there for about ten months only. A lot needed doing to the shop and it was a challenge. I remember my parents working in the shop until the small hours, renovating, cleaning and re-stocking. They then opened the shop early next morning.

Dad left a notebook with jottings of his days at the shop, and he notes from the till count that there were around seven hundred customers, “mainly in small degree” (e.g. commuters buying sweets and a newspaper on the way to work). Dad found the work ‘pleasant but tiring…being on one’s feet most of the day.’ They were in their mid-forties when they took the shop on, but they loved it, and made a go of it.

In his jottings, Dad reminisced about some of the customers: old Dan from Hope Road, followed everywhere by his white miniature poodle; Mr. & Mrs Ainge, Mr & Mrs Hatchard; the Chapmans; the Watertons; Mrs. Underwood fom Miall James Chemist; Mrs Atterton, Vivien and her Mother Doris, and the Mountain family, who worked part time for us. Mr. Herd from Vicarage Hill – the Karslakes, also from Vicarage Hill, whose daughter married Ronnie Wood the Rolling Stone. Mr. & Mrs. Day lived next door above the hairdressers (Ronalds) which they owned. They also owned the haberdashers a few doors down which was run by a Mrs. Daly. Mr. Kinch; Mr. Halls the Electrician; Mr. Platt the gas plumber; Mr. & Mrs Powell who owned the café at Benfleet station. I only wish I knew more of these people. By this time I had my own career in the City.

I remember our parade. Going down towards Green Road – Ronalds the hairdressers next door; Beavers Wood yard; Picketts Cycle Shop; Len the Greengrocer, whose elderly mother-in-law worked with him; the Haberdashers; the carpet shop; the plating shop (down an interesting coaching arch between the shops); Miall James Chemist; the toy shop; Priestleys Jewellers (a tiny frontage); Barnes fishing tackle, Harts Ironmongers, Barclays Bank. Across Green Road – Palmers pet shop and corn chandlers was on the corner, with Ken Sawyer Butchers next door.

Going from our shop towards Hope Road – the Shoe-shop next door; Hadleigh Bakery; Nat West Bank; Lazell’s Fish & Chip shop; the betting shop, Tom ? Grocer Shop, who retired soon after we arrived, and the shop became a Chinese takeaway.

When we moved in (Autumn 1963) the Fish shop was a small wooden affair set back in a small copse. The parade starting Hadleigh Bakery to the betting shop was built in 1964, and Dennis Lazell took the brick built shop where his old shack had been. My memory for exact dates might be a little woolly – I was eleven at the time.

I married in Autumn 1974 and moved to New Thundersley in Spring 1975. My parents and uncle ran the shop until 1977, when Dad sold up and they took on a hardware and general stores in Westcliff. The old shop is a photographers now.

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  • I believe Eric’s wife was Mona who ran the dancing school. My own daughter went there at Runnymede Hall. I went to school with Wendy Weston too. I lived with my family in Arundel Road (off Rushbottom Lane) since 1950

    Pat King (now White)

    By Patricia White (01/05/2021)
  • Dear Chris, thanks ever so much for telling me Gladys & George’s surname. I couldn’t remember! I remember the old carriages in their garden – they used them as sheds. Do you remember their two enormous fluffy marmalade cats? I did laugh at the paint thinners escapade! That was the vacant plot opposite me to the right, where the two big houses were built early 80s. Yes, I know Mrs. Weston has sadly passed. Samantha, who now lives at Manor View, went to see her in the Nursing Home just before she died. Glad I bought memories back for you, it sounds as if you had a wonderful childhood. Why don’t you add some memories & photos to the site? Lovely to hear from you. All the best.

    By Pamela-Jeanetta (07/09/2016)
  • Hello, Glad and George Harrington at 103. Our garden backed onto theirs (144, church road) and we were friends with David, we even removed the fence for easy access. They had two railway carriages in their garden, and chickens, great fun. 

    By Chris Marsh (03/09/2016)
  • As a PS to my posting… I remember David Harrington’s sisters Linda and Susan. George was a demon spin bowler, though, sadly, I cannot remember his team. Your neighbours at Manor Cottage were of course the Weston family, the matriarch of whom has recently passed away. I would like to mention, before the Zach Willsher was built, it was the site of a house and off-licence. The garden was huge (by today’s standards) we played till dark all summer, I think you Trevor Hudson, Stuart and tomboy sister of Church road ((opposite Robert Drake), always in goal)) what a star! Slightly further away from the petrol station and opposite Manor Cottage was an actual pigsty. I managed to find a large drum of paint thinners there…and burn my hair and eyebrows off!!! Don’t ask! David and I managed to get my head under the taps at 103 before any permanent damage was done…brings it all back!  :) Over forty years ago, I have lived in France for 12 years, yet, it was yesterday… Thank you Mrs Bird Gaines. 

    By Chris Marsh (03/09/2016)

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