Harold Jefferys Cooper was one of a family of five sons, born to Florence Louisa and John Albert Cooper in the late 1890s/1900s. Their only daughter, Florence, was born in July 1914.
Harold was born on the 13th February 1900 in Walthamstow, which was then in Essex. His father ran a clock repair and jewellery shop at 387 Hoe Street, Walthamstow. The family came down to Benfleet some time in the 1920s, probably to follow the rural dream, as so many Londoners did.
John ran the Kiln Road Grocery & General Stores from ‘Woodview’, a large double-fronted house in Kiln Road, while his wife ran the attached Post Office. In 1923, he and his son Stanley, who was in the building trade, put in building alteration plans to infill the gap between the two buildings. John seems to have carried on his jewellery trade, at least for a while, which can be seen from the signage on the 1920s photograph of the shop. John also dabbled in smallholding, with a few sheep and pigs which he kept further back on the land, where Badgers Way is now. A member of the Kellogg family, a Naturopath, lived next door. He kept a large cow, which was always escaping on to the Coopers’ smallholding, much to Stanley Cooper’s amusement, and his father’s consternation.
I have written an article about the fascinating Cooper family, whom I knew well /content/browse-articles/people-2/characters-and-personalities/chance-introduction-fascinating-family-coopers already on this site. I knew that Harold Cooper was a keen photographer, but lo and behold – my saved search for paper ephemera, on an auction site, threw up three of his watercolour paintings. The earliest is from around 1920, and of the family land, painted from the Council Offices side of the road. The vantage point would have been where Warren Chase enters Kiln Road. The scene depicts Badger Hall Avenue as a track leading up between two poplars.
Harold was an engineer and electrician by trade, but the intensely practical family turned their hands to most trades. When Harold married Adelaide Thurlow in the 1930s, he built a roughcast bungalow, ‘Birchlea’, helped by Stanley Cooper, his younger brother by four years, on family land, just before the land starts to slope down towards Shipwright’s Wood. They had one daughter, Alice Fay Cooper.
Harold belonged to Hadleigh Arts Club, which I have been unable to find any information about. The studio, going by Harold’s watercolour, seems to have been at ‘Montisdene’ or thereabouts, in the early to mid twentieth century. Perhaps someone will have further information – I throw it open to our community’s ‘hive mind’.
Harold died in June 1997, at the grand age of 97.
I would like to thank my colleague, Eileen Gamble, for her invaluable research assistance.