Dad’s parents, my Grandparents, Joseph and Annie Richards, had lived in the same house in Walthamstow from about 1910, through two wars, until they sold it and its grocery store in late 1945 or early 1946 and moved to Kents Hill Road North, Thundersley.
With them came their daughter – my Aunt Joyce Rosser – her husband Dick and their one year old son David (my cousin). Also Olive, a distant relative who had lived with my grandparents for as long as they had been in Walthamstow.
From the time Nan and Grandad moved into Rose Villa (now number 495) until they moved to Leigh-on-Sea in about 1962, all of our family spent every Christmas there and each year until I was about fifteen, I’d have a two or three week holiday “in the country” at Thundersley.
The first time my parents took me there, we may have made the journey by car or via underground into London and then steam train to Benfleet from Fenchurch Street or Upminster. That was usually the case over the years, depending on whether Dad had a car at the time.
Rose Villa had no electricity when they moved in and was lit by gas lamps, which fascinated me. I’m sure it was at least a year before electricity arrived at that far end of Kents Hill Road because I distinctly remember walking to Tarpots with grandad to buy lamp mantles (bulbs) and to have his radio wet battery (accumulator) recharged.
The house stood on a plot of land stretching back to Haslemere. How many feet that is I don’t know. About halfway to the Haslemere end, it was bisected by a grassed path about 10 feet wide which served as access to a brick stable, and I think as an entryway to the other three dwellings built at the same time in 1904 each of which probably also had a stable. Using Google Earth I can see that same cul-de-sac now paved over and in use these days for possibly a similar purpose. In fact towards the rear left there is clearly a slate roof structure which may be one of the original stables. The remaining part of their property on the other side of that access road
down to the end was full of fruit trees, mainly plums including delicious greengages.
In addition to the plot which extended to Haslemere, the property also included the plot on the opposite side of Kents Hill Road which went as far as Spencer Road. I’m not sure if this was originally part of an orchard or just unused land. Nor do I know if the other three houses, now numbered 493,491,489 and originally named Robin Hood, Cumberland Villa, The Croft also included the plots from Spencer to Haslemere. It seems very likely that they would have.
After recently speaking with my slightly younger cousin David Rosser, now retired in Spain, and who lived in Kents Hill Road North until his late teens, (first in Fairview (now 443) then Honeyville (447), both bungalows owned by our grandparents) he gave me more information about who lived in those three other houses.
In 493 (Robin Hood) were Mr. and Mrs Bennett who had a son Peter and two young twin boys. Mr. Bennett was a part owner of a large car dealership in Freetown Sierra Leone, with a local gentleman there, whose son Hamed boarded with my grandparents for some time while he went to a private school nearby. Hamed became a friend but we lost touch when he returned home.
In 491 (Cumberland Villa) were the Pollingtons. Mr. Pollington worked for the railway and I remember seeing him once at Benfleet station. I believe Mrs Pollington was in some way disabled. They had two daughters. The older may have been Pat and the younger had the nickname Bubbles?
489 (The Croft) Here lived three spinster sisters named Waites. I can’t recall seeing them very often but I certainly remember their grass tennis court. David reminded me that they also kept goats and sold the milk, which he used to have as a youngster.
As for our grandparents house itself Rose Villa (493), downstairs was a large kitchen, at the rear of which was a big fireplace with a baking oven above it. All meals except on holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, were eaten at the kitchen table and that’s where most socialising was done. You came into the kitchen via a gate in the hedge along Chesterfield Avenue, and a short path led to the entrance with a larder/pantry on either side. If you turned right and then left before you went into the house, there was a brick built outside loo in the corner of the garden. The kitchen floor was lower than the other two ground floor rooms, so two steps up took you into the hallway, past the under stairs cupboard on the right, and to the living room on the left. This room was where Christmas and other get-together times were spent. There was another large fireplace here and comfortable furniture, and a table big enough to seat all the adults at least, and used for mainly card games in the evening. Next along the hall was the front room, hardly ever used, but furnished with typical Victorian furniture and decoration. I remember the green and white tiled fireplace – never saw it lit – and how cold that room was.
Again, from photos on Google Earth it looks as if both the downstairs rooms have had an extension built on the Chesterfield Avenue side since our grandparents day. Upstairs was the bathroom over the kitchen then two bedrooms, plus the larger master bedroom at the front of the house. The master bedroom had a connected dressing room which served as an extra bedroom when needed. I’m pretty sure there was no cellar, and I never heard any talk of an attic, but looking at the photos there could well have been one.
The kitchen garden was planted with vegetables mainly and “Aunt“ Olive D spent a lot of time there. Plus along the left hand side were several rabbit cages, and along the Chesterfield Avenue side a large chicken run etc. for hens and a cockerel or two: bantams also. There was usually a chalked sign outside the house offering either rabbits, chickens, eggs, plums, apples, pears etc. for sale. If a customer wanted the rabbit or chicken for eating, I’d watch Nan or Grandad or Olive kill the poor creature with an axe or a rabbit chop to the neck and wrap it up in brown paper.
I should mention that when Grandad first constructed the chicken run and coop, the Inhabitants attracted quite a few adders which would try to climb the wire fencing but were quickly dealt with by a special spade he had with a very sharp edge. And there was the occasional fox.
Chesterfield Avenue was completely unmade and full of ruts in those days, as was Kents Hill Road in that stretch, and there was very little traffic so playing in the road was no problem. Also there was plenty of vegetation, particularly dandelions, which Olive and I would fill a sack of easily to feed the rabbits.
The fruit trees at the far end of the plot beyond the stable usually produced a good crop particularly the plums. I’m not sure how the plot across Kents Hill Road to Spencer was used. I seem to remember there were potatoes there for a while and some fruit trees.
Several items on your website refer to Forty Acres which I was aware of but didn’t go there other than on a couple of mushrooming trips with Grandad early in the morning. We had them with breakfast. My cousin David knew the place well, and remembers playing war games in the trees there, the newts in the pond, and the annual visits by families of “travellers” with their traditional horse drawn caravans. Later on his Mum, Joyce Rosser, worked both at the button factory and Greeves.
Nan and Grandad, who were in there seventies by 1960, must have found the upkeep of a quite a large house very tiring. Grandad suffered from emphysema after being a victim of mustard gassing in the Great War. So they sold Rose Villa in the early 1960s and bought a bungalow in Leigh-on-Sea. I don’t know who bought the property, but by then the roads were paved and the whole area was ripe for development. Our Grandparents had had the best of those peaceful post war years while owning Rose Villa.
Grandad died in 1964. A few years later, Nan, and her daughter Joyce with her daughter Gillian moved across London to Feltham, the town next to Sunbury, near to her son, my Dad John and my Mum. Nan died in 1975.