Forty Acres

Mystery of the Buttons

Where did the buttons come from?

I want to ask if anyone remembers a large field, down a lane off of the London Road at Tarpots which was known locally as ‘Forty Acres’.  I played there as a child in the early to mid 1950s and remember finding large numbers of buttons there, not just a few but hundreds.  As a child I didn’t give it much thought but I would really like to know how they got there.

I was born in Benfleet in 1942 and lived in Clarence Road. My first school was Benfleet Primary and then I went on to King John School. When I was around 11 years old my family moved to a house in the London Road, near Tarpots, called ‘Baradine’, which is no longer there now, having been demolished to make way for a large estate.

I left Essex for Kent at the age of 15 in 1957 when my family moved. I do have so many happy memories of my childhood in Benfleet, where my father was a builder, F.B. Stevenson, and I still think of myself as an ‘Essex girl’.

I love your web site and call it my magazine as it is just like being back home when I read all the news.

If anyone can shed any light on where the buttons came from, I would be so grateful.

The old photo, below, was most certainly taken a lot earlier than the 1950s. However, it does show the vast expanse of open land where it is believed ‘Forty Acres’ was.

From the map it can be seen that this area corresponds now to the land situated behind Robert Drake School.

View from St Peter's Churchyard looking down across 'Forty Acres'. The house that is visible stands at the top of Chesterfield Avenue.
Geoff Barsby

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  • Good Morning Trevor,

    Thank you for adding your comment to the site.

    Kind Regards,

    Pam J Bird-Gaines (Editor)

    By Pamela Gaines (21/07/2023)
  • I went to Robert Drake from 1972-78 and lived in a rough built bungalow at the back of Woodside Park from 1971-1989 (and my Dad did until he passed in 2021). I spent many a day over 40 Acres and by the pond there. I don’t remember the buttons but they had probably gone by then.

    By Trevor Bradbeer (20/07/2023)
  • I used to keep my horse in Grasemere rd, Thundersley back in the late 80’s and used to ride down the back way into forty acres, by that time there was hardly anything left to ride over (more like 4 acres). Would have to jump across a ditch, then down a short track (alongside a building, not sure if it was the school at that time) which came out at the bottom of Church Hill and then back up the hill, passing Coombe Wood and St Peter’s Church. Now that entrance/exit has been blocked off. Fewer and fewer places to ride now.
    The photo of the undeveloped forty acres looked amazing – must have been good riding country.

    By Glen Cameron (17/06/2023)
  • I grew-up playing at Forty acres (to the east side of, and continuing North/behind, Robert Drake School) from 1971 to 1982 or so. Ah the memories ! Always had to jump the deep ditch as the northbound path went past the north (back) boundary of Robert Drake School playing fields …..

    By David Jarvis (25/02/2023)
  • I remember the pond in Forty Acres we use to walk across it at our near peril sometimes when it was frozen. We also used to have a piece of rope tied to a big tree branch and a knot at the other end we called the swing. I’m surprised we survived… great memories. I used to live on Kent’s Hill so I was close.
    The gang was me John Lushey my brother and sister. Keith Harris and Janet Smith to name a few.

    By Philip Brooker (16/02/2023)
  • We used to enter 40 Acres from the end of Kents Hill Road, by crossing Church Road near the Greaves Motorbike Factory.

    My friend Alan Murrel and I once found “treasure” somewhere around there. Not buttons, but shiny metal discs about an inch in diameter. These would have been machine stampings, probably from the manufacture of electrical boxes.

    This would have been around 1960. I guess that back then, it was OK for factories to dump their rubbish in green, open spaces!

    By steve davis (20/05/2021)
  • I saw the message about the lady who wondered where buttons she used to find as a child at Tarpots could have come from . At the Manor trading estate there was the Excel button boy factory which my mother and others worked at in the early 1950s.

    By J Slator (19/05/2021)
  • Hi, my nan (who has now passed away and would have been 119 now !) used to work at the button factory. Her name was Florrie King. I still live in the area and have watched it grow from fields to housing estates.

    By Patricia White (née King) (24/08/2020)
  • So is the land known as 40 acres behind Robert Drake School, to the East of the Industrial Estate and to the West of Keswick / Windermere and leads up to the pond at the top, or does 40 acres start where the pond is and is where Woodside is?

    By Adrian (17/08/2020)
  • The pond in the forty acres was known to me and my cronies as Dingle Dell and at one time had a large willow tree trunk floating in which became the raft as we knew it.

    By Colin Mackenzie (22/05/2020)
  • Well I’m so pleased that other people can remember the buttons!!

    I was beginning to think my mind was playing tricks .

    I would welcome any contact with anyone who may remember me, as I now live in Kent and have done since 1956/7 I still think of Essex as my home.

    Janet Pain nee Stevenson. 

    By Janet Pain (28/02/2016)
  • I remember 40 Acres so well, plus some of the names who also played etc over there ! The picture/photo taken at the top of Church Hill you can just about see the old bungalow (built in the 30’s) that I moved into in 1969 in Spencer Road and lived there for 35 years over which my husband being a builder changed our home into a 4 bedroomed house. I was also a Lollipop Lady for 10 years outside Robert Drake School when my three kids were there and when they left….. 

    By Bobbie Barnes-Jones (28/02/2016)
  • G’day guys. I remember Forty Acres well as I used it to exercise my pony. This was in the 50’s long before the Robert Drake Primary school was built and the woodlands behind it was still used for making hay. I lived on Ullswater Road and at that time, it was a through road to Windermere Road and there was a path alongside the big white house that came out behind Thundersley pond. The pond was a lot smaller in those days but big enough for us kids to have a raft on it. How things have changed. Something in my memory says buttons but I can’t remember in what connection. The Manor Trading Estate was in its infancy and the biggest factory would have been Invacar which later became Greeves Motorcycle Company. They had a test track hidden in the woods roughly where Parsons Road is today. The only photo I have is taken from outside  our home with Forty Acres running across the top on the landscape (pre-cemetery days)

    Sorry, tried to post a photo but it’s all too hard today. I’ll try again when my mind is more active. Hate this getting old business.

    Doug’s photos can be viewed by clicking on this link.

    By Doug Mansfield (27/02/2016)
  • I can confirm that the button factory was on Manor Estate in 1954 at the bottom of Armstrong Road. Mostly lady workers there at that time.

    By Brian Bellamy (26/02/2016)
  • The buttons most likely would have come from the old button factory on the Manor trading estate by forty acres. 

    By Pete Robbins (11/02/2016)
  • PS Janet, Your name sounds familiar to me, I was born in 43 and played in Forty acres, lived on the hill next to St Peter church near where that photo was taken from, also went to King John school.

    By Pete Robbins (11/02/2016)

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