I have just discovered your web site with great pleasure and fond memories. Although born in Highgate, London in 1931, our family moved to South Benfleet when I was a baby.
Our first house was ‘Ray View’ on the Downs where we also had a house boat situated directly below the house very close to the main water tap. We stayed only a few years when it became required that the occupant should also be a warden to the Downs. I recently found a birthday card addressed to me at ‘Ray View’ on the occasion of my first birthday in 1932. Our next home was in Richmond Avenue.
My brother Peter and I went to Benfleet Primary School until the age of 11 and then to St Bernard’s in Westcliff-on-Sea. Our teacher at Benfleet Primary was Miss Hall who lived in Thundersley Park Road who we all loved. The photo taken at Benfleet Primary in 1939/40 shows me with my classmates. I remember Joy Easton, Joan Hurst, Jennifer Punt and Dennis Kemp very well and of course Miss Hall. This was war time, of course, with memories of being allowed a nap at school to make up for lost sleep at night, gas mask practice which I still remember because of the smell of rubber. I also recall picking mushrooms on Boyce Hill Golf Course which was later hit with a stray V2 rocket and playing near Bowers Gifford Golf Club where there was a huge crater.
One of the photos below shows an event for South Benfleet Horticultural Society with my mother Ethel Eliot on the far left holding an exhibit, next to my future mother-in-law Nell Webb who used to live at Green Lawns, Thundersley Park Road, holding a cup.
Our first doctor was Dr Tom Wilks who used to arrive on his horse which he tied up next to our privet hedge, which it munched through during his visit to my father. The hedge never did recover its shape.
Dr Wilks was followed by Dr Tynan for a while and then by Dr Tyndall from then on and years later Dr Tyndall and his wife Olive became my eldest son’s god parents. My mother Ethel was by then a receptionist at their surgery where she worked for many years, I also stood in for my mother during the holidays.
My father was Captain E.E.M. Eliot (ret) who belonged to the snooker club, my mother Ethel and my brother Peter, who was later in the Royal Corp of Signals, are all sadly no longer with us.
Many of the shops I remember very well but cannot find Mrs Knott’s grocery shop on the High Road which was our mainstay and where we could buy a cornet made from newspaper full of broken biscuits – a real treat. Nor the shop which must have been one of the very first take-aways, where one could take a saucepan to be filled with hot food such as pease pudding.
My abiding memory of those early years is one of freedom to take off after school, make up our own games with whoever was about and returning home at dusk despite the war time restrictions.
I now live in Melbourne, Australia but remember with great fondness my time in Benfleet. You have a really great site which I am thoroughly enjoying finding new things every time.
My best wishes, Pat Baldwin (nee Eliot)