Brickmakers who stayed on in South Benfleet
Brief histories of eight people
The majority of brick workers only stayed in the Village for the brickmaking season, April to October and then moved on, presumably to their permanent abode. However there is evidence to show that a small number settled in South Benfleet and became a part of the community, some had a more marked impact on the Village than others. The Stockwell family is one example. Further down the scale are a number of individuals who eventually remained in the village and it is worth exploring what happened to them and how in some small way they added to the diversity and make up of the population of South Benfleet.
John Argent is first listed as a Brickmaker in the 1881 Census Returns for South Benfleet. It is not clear whether he remained in the Village from this date or a little later. However by 1887 he seems to have settled and is listed in successive Poll Books till 1903 living at different locations in South Benfleet. In 1893 he appears on the Poll Book living in a cottage at “Marsh Brickfield”.
In 1881 he married “Jane Thurstable”, a young girl from South Benfleet, who is entered as “Minor” on the marriage register entry dated the 13th September 1881.
It appears that he continued to work in the brickfields as a brickmaker, the 1901 Census Returns listed him as a “static engine driver”, aged thirty-eight years living at “The Alley”. His place of birth is given as “NK”, indicating that he did not know where he was born, it is unlikely therefore that he was born in South Benfleet.
John and Jane Argent had at least one offspring; John William Argent was living at the “End Way” in 1908. John continued to live in the Village until his death in 1921 when fifty-eight years of age, he was still living at the “The Alley”. He was buried South Benfleet cemetery on the 22nd April having spent about forty-years of his life in and around South Benfleet.
The 1881 Census Returns show that he was working at South Shoebury as a Brickfield Labourer aged 19 years, his place of birth is given as Great Wakering. The Poll Books from 1903 to 1911 show that for this eight year period he lived in one of the cottages that were used to accommodate brickfield workers at Marsh/Lower Brickfield in South Benfleet. Henry William Bearman of Southend very likely a close relation was baptised 9th February 1877.
Walter Hockley first appears as a “Brickfield Labourer” and is listed as a married man aged 39 years. He is listed in 1892/3 living at “Wharf Cottage” and between 1894/1905 he is living in “End Way”. James William Hockley, Brickmaker is given as the father of Samuel Hockley, Brickmaker, on his marriage the 16th August 1902. In this case there are three generations of brick makers in one family.
The Gladwin family were prolific in the South Benfleet records, Charles Gladwin, one of the family worked as a Brickfield Labourer, died in 1925 aged 76 years while living at “Wharf Cottage” he was buried the 14th December 1925 in the local cemetery.
Walter Bright, listed as a Brickmaker of Rayleigh in Essex was living at “Brickfield Cottages” 1891, his wife’s place of birth is given as “Sittingbourne, Kent”. Between the period 1892/5 he is shown to be living at “Marsh Brickfield” and 1896/7 at the “End Way”. It would seem likely that at some time before 1891 he was working in Kent, probably at on of the Brickfields at Sittingbourne where he met his wife.
Thomas Germyn/Jermyn/Jerman was baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in the End Way in 1878, he married the 8th October 1880. Offspring from this union was Alfred and Thomas (Junior) and in turn James the grandson of Thomas, Senior.
Charles T(h)urtle is another person who had a long history in South Benfleet, 1886 –1905. The Poll Book for 1886 shows him to be living in a “Cottage” on “Brickfield”. The following two years he is listed at “Wood’s Brickfield”.
Albert Gray first appears in South Benfleet in 1899, living at the “Town Meadow”. He is listed between the year’s 1903/8, living in the High Street; his trade is given as “Brick Carter” in the 1901 Census Returns.
The Kelly’s Directory for 1906 lists him as an “Engine Driver” and also as a “Greengrocer”. He continues to be listed as a “Greengrocer” in successive Kelly’s till at least 1914.
Whether he worked independently as a Brick Carter is unclear but certainly he was self-employed as an engine driver by 1906. Albert Gary was born at Sittingbourne in Kent, but eventually settled in South Benfleet and became a shopkeeper.