Essex Way

In the 1940s and 1950s

Essex Way during the 1940/50’s

The righthand side going up Essex Way where the Doctor’s stands now was all trees and very dark at night with only one streetlight.  It was very creepy and then there were the old clapboarded cottages further up (which were demolished in 1960). The first one was rented by Mrs Clubb which had an outside toilet shared by three of the cottages.  The coal cellar was inside the back door on the left.

Next door was a Mrs Goodwin, a Sunday School teacher, living with her son and daughter.  Her next door neighbour was a blind lady by the name of Williams who played the piano in her cottage.  Another family, the Abbots lived in the next cottage.  The Moorings, which still stands on the corner of Grosvenor Road, was occupied by a Miss Edwards with her little dog.

Further along the road in a villa an old lady lived who was always baking scrumptious cakes – her son was an artist and eventually went to live in Devon.  The clapboarded cottage next door was always having new people renting.  On the corner of Highcliff Road  lived the Sheppard family.  The father had only one leg but was a boot mender.  He had two daughters, one worked in the factory on the corner of School Lane, which made clothes.  School Lane was the place to be when it snowed.  The hill on the left, which is now houses, made an excellent slide on a toboggan.

On the other corner of Highcliff Road lived the Strutt family among the trees and an old tin awning was suspended over the back door.  This family belonged to the Peculiar Peoples Chapel who did not believe in Doctors.  Crissy Strutt (the daugher, middle aged) used to stand at the gate getting passersby to bring her back something from the shops.  She never went out herself – she and her father died in the house which was in a terrible state inside.

In 1955 the bungalows on the left (opposite where the black clapboarded cottages stood) were built.  This previously was two fields owned by Howards’ Dairies where horses grazed and was used by the many local children to play cricket and football. 

Further up the Essex Way on the right before the junction with Norwood Drive two brick cottages stood.  The Finch family (Ivy and her brother) occupied the first one.  Ivy worked at the School Lane factory and has only recently died, having moved from Essex Way some while ago.  The attached cottage was the Patrick family.  On this site now stands two houses.  A few Roman coins were found in the garden of one of the cottages.

Location of Essex Way

Old Cottages demolished 1961
R.F. Postcards
Corner of Highcliff Road
R. F. Postcards
Top of Essex Way open 1937
F.C. Postcards
Essex Way

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  • Hi Colin Watts, Yes it is me, the Michael you knew, remember you used to always call into our cottage on the way to school, they were the good old days.

    By Mick Cantwell (06/10/2023)
  • Good Morning Julia,

    Thanks for adding your memory.

    Kind Regards,
    Pamela J. Bird-Gaines

    By Pamela Gaines (24/09/2023)
  • My mum was born at Ravenswood on Essex Way in the 1920’s, I believe, to the Baker family. It is one of the oldest houses in Benfleet. I remember visiting my grandparents there .

    By Julia Newman (23/09/2023)
  • Hi Barbara

    I haven’t looked at this site for a long time so was unaware of your answer.  It was lovely to see your message.

    By Celia Drew (13/04/2016)
  • Hi Michael, are you the the guy I used to knock around with when I lived in Sidwell Avenue ? If so it would be nice to hear from you.

    Colin Watts

    By Colin Watts (22/03/2015)
  • It was very interesting to read Pat Pedder’s article on Essex Way in the 1950s.

    My ancestors lived in 17 Endway in the early 1900s They were the Cockman family.  My Great Grandfather Henry Cockman lived there and my Grandfather also called Henry was born there.   His sister Sarah married Arthur Strutt and they had two daughters Christianna and Lilian.    It seems they continued to live in the same house.     The Strutts were “Peculiars”.   I can recall my mother saying how strangely they dressed.    My Uncle had the awful job of clearing the house, which was apparently appalling, after Christianna and her father had died.

    I was surprised to read that this house still exists and as I live in the Midlands would love to see a photo of it.

    By Sue Mortimer (08/03/2015)
  • Hello Fred Ablitt. Sorry I have taken so long in replying but I could pop in and see you sometime.  I only live in Thundersley and could show you some photos of my family when I lived at 100 Essex Way.  Next time I’m passing I will give you a knock, if that is convenient to you.

    By Patricia Pedder (nee Watts) (16/02/2015)
  • Hi Celia,

    Lovely to see your name, wondered where you went.

    I remember playing in your Dads lovely old car and playing in the ditch behind our bungalows, which being interested in history I know wistfully think was that part of the encampment where they held the Danes captive.

    I know we did St Johns Ambulance as kids hence your choice of career!   Remember your Mums collection of brass ornaments too.

    We have lived in Leigh for many years but still drive down Essex Way to Benfleet Yacht Club where we keep a boat in winter and still morn the loss of the many Elm trees that lined our valley.

    By Barbara Wright nee Nutting (23/11/2014)
  • Hi Annette

    Wow! Fancy you remembering that tool!  We moved to Rayleigh in 1966, and I later trained as a nurse.  I have lived in North Wales since 1986, and Mum and Dad lived here for a while until they died.

    I don’t remember Penny Smith at all!  How old was she?

    I do remember Barbara Nutting who lived in a bungalow half a dozen houses down from me.  She was a year or two older than me.

    By Celia Drew (01/03/2014)
  • I lived at 5 Essex Way which while I lived there it became No 70.  I lived there with my mum & stepfather Mr & Mrs Stacey (Beat & Auther). Best days of my young life the only down side was sharing the outside toilet with Mr & Mrs Chitty next door. Then in 1953 along came my sister Annette bless her. I used to knock about with Graham & Colin, great mates of mine, always trying to make each others bikes better than the other two, always harmless fun in those days.

    By Michael Cantwell (01/01/2014)
  • Hi Celia, yes there were two bungalows attached, they had outside toilets, no bathroom. I believe Rita still lives in one of the old houses near the station, her dad Stan bought the house next door and knocked through, I have not seen Rita in years.

    By Mavis Ann Thurley nee Turner (10/12/2013)
  • Hi Celia, I remember you & your mum. I was allowed to your birthday party where we had to suck peas up with a straw. I remember being fascinated by a step stool in your kitchen. Do you remember Penny Smith who lived at the end of your row of bungalows?? I often wondered if she was the Penny Smith newsreader on ITV.

    By Annette (24/10/2013)
  • I have only just seen this message thread and was delighted to see Annette’s name! I remember your family, and visiting your cottage as my mother and yours were friends. “Mrs Stacey……” was something I often heard. We lived at 109 Essex Way – a bungalow on the left hand side going up the hill, from 1956 to 1966. Somewhere I have a picture taken at your house on the early 1960s.

    By Celia Drew (nee Brisland) (11/10/2013)
  • Did Ivy Finch live in a stone cottage almost opposite Norwood Drive? I lived opposite and used to play with Rita Finch who lived there in the late 1950s.

    By Celia Drew (Nee Brisland) (11/10/2013)
  • I lived in Norwood Drive number 24. It was a lovely place to live. I still remember the neighbours. The Browns the O’Brians the Cowells, the Wildes the Osbournes, and many more by first names. We played in the rabbit warren till dusk.

    By Celia Slate (07/10/2013)
  • Ivy Finch who lived in Essex Way was my Aunt and God Mother. When my parents went on holiday I stayed with her, due to only renting her property, when the landlord sold to a builder, she moved to Grove Road, Benfleet where she lived until she died. Her brother Stan lived in a house near the station, he has since died, his daughter still lives in the house. I remember Winnie Patrick, she was also a lovely lady.

    By Mavis Ann Thurley nee Turner (28/07/2013)
  • I certainly remember Foley’s it was a fantastic toyshop. I was in there most Saturdays with my two bob buying a Matchbox car or an Airfix aeroplane. The cheaper ones were sold in plastic bags that were displayed on hooks before the step-down to the till area at the back of the shop. I bought my Corgi James Bond Aston Martin there for 8/6d. It was owned by a man called Howard Farrant and it was a sad day when he sold up. I have since speculated that it was called “Foley’s” after the toyshop in the “Just William” stories. I wonder if anyone could confirm my theory, perhaps someone who knew Mr Farrant? 

    By Steven Heath (01/03/2013)
  • As a child I lived at 70 Essex Way which was previously no.5 Essex Way next door but one to the Moorings. Yes, we shared the toilet in the garden with our neighbours the Chittocks !!! I remember the now off licence opposite the church being ‘the shop’ SUGGS and the post office being at the far end of The Anchor (School Lane end). Who remembers FOLEYS toy & stationery shop in the High Road? I went to nursery school in the church hall in School Lane & also the jumble sales in there. So many memories. 

    I see above a comment from Michael Walsh, I was at school with his brother Billy & remember playing in their back garden. I think there was another brother too. Does anyone remember Mrs Tastow who lived further up, near to Highcliffe Road? She scared the living daylights out of me with her fox fur stole!! My nan & grandad rented her upstairs rooms, William & Lillian Green. Grandad was a taxi driver in Benfleet. I also remember Sam Hearne who was the Benfleet Bridge Keeper…. I could go on for ages….. Annette nee STACEY

    By Annette Rixon (12/02/2013)
  • My late father, Alec Johnson, wrote a memoir of his childhood in Benfleet in which he mentions the village blacksmith in the late 1920s. “Proceeding up hill from The Hoy, one came to the blacksmith’s shop. A real “Village Smithy” this. Not perhaps ‘under a spreading chestnut tree’ but in all other respects it fulfilled the specification! 

    The smith, one Mr Thurgood, made horseshoes, shod horses, made agricultural implements, and any other ironwork as required. At one time it was the thing for us kids to have hoops and I can remember Mr Thurgood making me one while I waited. First a length of iron rod was bent to shape between rollers until a perfect circle was formed. The two ends heated in the forge and welded together by hammering on the anvil. A hook was quickly formed to make a skimmer, and there we were.”

    By Ian Johnson (28/01/2012)
  • As a child I lived at 78 Essex Way, previously 9 The Endway. My Grandfather, Harry Thurgood also lived with us. He was the village Blacksmith and Farrier and his workshop was situated between the Hoy and Helmet and the Churchyard steps. 

    During the First World War he was also called up for duty to shoe horses on the Western Front. He retired in the mid 1950’s. I can remember him shoeing horses and the horrible smell it made. His grave is in the Churchyard close to where he worked all his life.

    By Michael Walsh (27/01/2012)
  • Thank you Pat Pedder Nee Watts for your very clear & wonderfully detailed recollections & memories of Essex Way. Your accounts of the residents was most interesting/heartwarming & very much appreciated, as these historic memories are what mean the most.  

    I own the house no 94 Essex Way which I understand was previously 17 East Street, also known as The Endway. I believe, according to your wonderful account that Crissy Strutt & her father, the peculiar people lived in this house & I would very much appreciate if you, Pat or anyone else could provide further information on Crissy Strutt and her family and how long they lived there and information on anyone else who might have lived there through the history of the house and any further information on the area in general ie photos, pictures, maps and all history. Anything is welcome not just for my interest but future generations, again many thanks Pat. 

    By Fred Ablitt (05/01/2012)
  • I can clearly recall in February 1952 standing at the top of Essex Way the day after Canvey Island was flooded. I was only a little girl then but will never forget the sight of one vast expanse of water with nothing else to be seen other than a few tree tops and a few rooftops. All the refugees were being brought up Essex Way to the King John School in Shipwrights Drive, some of them only wearing their pyjamas because there had been no time to dress if they wanted to save their lives. How very sad, an experience I shall never forget as long as I live.

    By Eileen Acreman (26/02/2011)
  • My friend Margaret Earl lived with her family at 45 Essex Way and she would meet up with my friend and I in our early teens. We sometimes would simply go and sit in the bus shelter by the war memorial at the bottom of Essex Way to discuss the important things in our young lives … such as boyfriends, teen fashions, rock ‘n roll, etc.

    By Eileen Acreman (26/02/2011)

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