The Old Fortune Of War

From drinking when the horse did the driving to wheels for your car

Old Fortune of War

Situated at the junction of Noak Hill Road, Wash Road, Dunton Road and Laindon High Road; a spot once known as Laindon Cross.

The Old Fortune of War when pints were available

The current building dates from around the late 1800s, although there was a previous building.

There are not many old buildings left in Laindon, but there is one that you cannot miss as you drive back from Billericay along Noak Hill Road and that is the building now on the junction with Laindon High Road North and Wash Road. It is currently the home of a business selling alloy wheels and tyres but it was one of Laindon’s oldest pubs before it closed its doors in the late 1920s following the opening of the New Fortune of War on the new A127 road to Southend.

View from The Fortune of War pub, looking up Noak Hill Road.

It was the original Fortune of War, known by many as ‘The Old Fortune of War’ and before the realignmentof the roads, it was situated at the crossroads of Noak Hill Road, Wash Road, Laindon High Road and Dunton Road; the spot known back in the middle 1400s as Laindon Cross.

In 1907, R.A Beckett in his book “Romantic Essex” wrote ‘Although thehouse in recent years has been rebuilt, itis an old place’ . When he visited the Fortune of War the local Laindon Festivities were going on in the field opposite, an annual event but like many pleasure fairs, it had shrunk in size. The hunt still met at the old house and if any hounds or horses were not fit to hunt they were kept in the stables.

Laindon was only really made up of small hamlets before its development in the 1900s. However if there ever was a village, the most likely spot was Laindon Cross.

Although I believe The Fortune of War dates  back to the middle/late 1700s the earliest recorded publican I can find is Edward Miller, 1828. In 1841 Mary Bishop took over and living at the pub was Henry Hollowbread who in 1845 became the landlord for the next ten years. It was also the local Post Office, during his time.

There were a number of publicans over the next fifty years and then in 1910 Mrs Mary Adelaide Wade took over from her deceased husband. Although she was the landlady, it would appear that in 1913 she either employed or leased The Fortune to Sarah Davis.

Sarah Davis of the Fortune of War

Sarah had been successfully running two pubs in Poplar, East London – the Earl of Ellesmere and the Lord Raglan but with six children to bring up after the death of her husband she decided to move away from the smoke and bustle of London and look for another pub in the country.

She found what she was looking for in the well-established Fortune of War at Laindon. Sarah not only ran The Fortune but also served the drinks and cooked the meals. During the First World War, fourteen engineers billeted in the pub’s billiard room and she cooked for them as well. The Fortune was one of the first places in Laindon to have gas, but it still had primitive earth toilets.

One of her children, Violet, was only nine at the time they moved to The Fortune but she remembered with affection the close knit community. The village policeman rented one of the nearby cottages for four shillings a week, while others paid three shillings and six pence.

The blacksmith’s was only a few doors away in Dunton Road and Mr Newman the blacksmith sported a long black beard and an ankle-length blacksmith’s apron.

Violet also remembered the summer day-trippers who used to swarm down in charabancs on their way to Southend; tucking in to her mother’s generous Ploughman’s Lunch of bread and cheese and onion or delicious ham.

So Violet was surprised when her mother wanted to move on because it was too quiet for her. They moved to The Bull at Dagenham but Sarah could not settled so she moved the family back but this time not to a pub but to Whelps Farm with livestock, land and stables.

Sarah and Violet never left Laindon; Violet married Albert at St. Nicholas Church in 1926.

We know that Frederick Tubb took over as Landlord of The Fortune in 1917; I assume Sarah continued to run the pub as before until she left for Dagenham in 1922.

The Fortune of War closed in 1928 when the New Fortune of War pub opened on the north side of the A127 by the Junction with the High Road. It then became known as the Old Fortune of War, it continued as a café for a short time then a printing company took it over and now the business is Alloy Wheels and Tyres.

At least it is still there.

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  • I used to work at Yeomans printers…1969-1972. I was an apprentice compositor there. Chris was the boss there. ‘Pop’ was there too. Many great memories. I also remember Ken “Cled” who owned Ken’s Autos next door. It was just like a big family. Tony I remember you. You were friends with Chris Yeomans. You had a Jenson Interceptor as well as your Ice cream vans that were in Durham Road. You had the unit that was the old printers where I first started work. Genotype it was called. I have just recently met Ken’s son Jeff who told me about this site…indeed, great memories.

    By Paul Magner (03/11/2011)
  • My dad Ken had the garage next door. I remember the old lady that lived in the Fortune before Chris Yeomans had it. She often gave me sweets if I was with my dad at the garage. Her name was Mrs Fist. That was in the60s…..the good days….

    By Jeff Davies (14/08/2011)
  • I can remember coming to see you and your four other brothers and sisters when you lived in “Huntsman” in the Dunton Plotlands. Your mum had no running water or proper toilet for years. But I did admire her so much, she took every thing in her stride and you were all such a happy lot. I really did enjoy to the Huntsman.

    Please Jeff write a few tales for us I know you must have lots to tell.

    By Gloria Sewell (14/08/2011)
  • Tony could we please have an article on your ice cream vans ding-a-linging through Laindon in the 60s /70s, especially around Royal Court area. Now they really were fun times.

    By Gloria Sewell (12/07/2011)
  • The printers were called Yeomans

    By Tony Dow (12/06/2011)
  • The long held theory associated with the rather unusual architectural design of the building that once was the “Fortune of War” public house was that it had been constructed to accommodate their officers by French prisoners of war being detained under canvas in an adjacent field during the Napoleonic war. This might account for the rather unusual name chosen for the pub, it not being used all that extensively in the UK. No evidence has been found to support this theory and in view of the fact that a camp for such prisoners is known of and is commemorated by a memorial at Norman Cross in Cambridgeshire suggests otherwise. The field to the left of the road seen through the open door in the photograph looking up Noak Hill Road is that in the other photograph in which the pub sign is erected. In the 1930s that field was acquired by the then Billericay Urban District Council with the express intention of creating a new administration block that would, no doubt, have included a new council chamber and replace the hodgepodge of buildings in Billericay from which the district was then being administered. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 no work on this project had started. By the end of 1940 this fact came under notice by the War Agricultural Committee, an organisation granted strong powers by the government of the day so that, in the January of 1941, the Urban District Council are reported debating how to respond to an order that must immediately bring the field into use for cultivation. The meeting decided that, in order to avoid the cost of hiring a contractor to plough the field on the Council’s behalf, the field be offered to the adjacent farmer, Mr. George French, at Watch House Farm, Wash Road as grazing and for Mr French to plough one of other fields of equal size. It is not clear if this was the course that was finally adopted. The War Agricultural Committee (or “War-Ag” as it became known) was very active in the Laindon area bringing derelict land back under the plough all round the district. This included the field across which Markhams Chase School (now “Janet Dukes”) overlooks forming Markhams Chase playing field. This field had remained unused for so long a period that the whole field was a tangled mass of bramble bushes (very popular with Blackberry pickers) with just a narrow footpath weaving its wavy route through it until it was made productive again by being deep ploughed by two stationary traction engines.

    By John Bathurst (09/06/2011)
  • my uncle ken had a car repair shop at the back of the old fortune KENS AUTOS he opened up there after searving his apprentaship with Cliff Parkinson. The old fortune then was a printers but i cant recall their name.

    By Gloria Sewell (22/05/2011)

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