Ada Mary Burton - The Hermitage, Basildon Road

Ada was born Ada Mary Deverill.  She married Edward John Fuller in 1895 with whom she had two children, Elsie and Percy.  In 1908, Ada, now a widow, married Arthur Edward Burton with whom she had daughters, Lily, Daisy and Violet.

Ada Mary Burton lived at ‘The Hermitage’, Basildon Road, Laindon, from around 1918/19 until her tragic death in 1945.  (Neither the family nor ‘The Hermitage are listed on the Laindon 1918 Electoral Register).

Kristen takes up the family story.

I am writing to you from Canada, and for the past several years have been researching my London-born grandmother Doris Deverill’s childhood, and the lives of her family members around the time of WW1. It’s a rather sad story, as that era’s tales often are; Doris’s father died when she was little, and her mum in 1917, so Doris and her siblings were orphans, living in The Borough of Southwark. I have always known that Doris’s older brother Ernie was sent to his aunt’s farm after his mother’s death, but had assumed the farm was in Croydon, where the aunt, Ada Mary Burton, lived in 1911. Only recently did I discover a Laindon connection, when I started to investigate Ada’s path more thoroughly.

I suspect Ada and her husband Arthur Edward Burton (a civil service telegraphist) moved to Laindon sometime after 1915, when their youngest daughter died in Croydon, and some time before the first mention of them in the Chelmsford Chronicle in January 1924, selling a pony and some “fat pigs” at a place called The Hermitage on Basildon Road. Aside from their deceased child, they had two daughters together, Lily Kathleen, born 1909, and Daisy Dorothy, born 1911. Ada also had two other children from a previous marriage: Elsie May Fuller, born 1896, and Percy Edward Fuller, born 1898.

Several newspaper items place Ada and Arthur Burton at the Hermitage over the years: in 1933, their daughter Lily Kathleen married Justin Nixon in the Methodist Church, Langdon Hills; in 1935, Ada was fined for moving 13 store pigs out of Wickford Market without a movement licence; and then in February 1945, Ada was killed in a car accident along the Southend Arterial Road near Nevendon. She was driving the car when one of its tires burst and the car overturned. Her daughter – presumably the then “spinster” Daisy – was with her, but was only slightly injured. In 1954, when Arthur died, he was still resident at the Hermitage.

The family connection to the area does not end with Ada and Arthur’s deaths, however. According to an old address book of my grandmother’s, Daisy Burton James lived at 29 Osborne Road after she married a man named Edgar James. The same book puts Ada’s son Percy Fuller at 24 Pound Lane.

Percy was of an age to have served in WW1, but so far I have found no evidence of this. What I do know is that Ernie, my grandma’s orphaned brother, didn’t think much of Percy or of life on his auntie’s farm. Apparently fastidious Ernie was made to sleep in the attic and do more and dirtier chores than Percy was ever given, such as cleaning out the pig pens. His life in London had not been cushy by any means, and the family had always been poor, but he must have found Laindon strikingly different from his own experience in the crowded Borough. My impression is that Ernie didn’t stay in Laindon long, and soon returned to Southwark. By 1923, he had left England altogether, and set sail for Canada, where my grandmother had already settled with a family friend. Ernie didn’t visit England again until the 1960s, and long after his death a letter from Ada’s daughter Elsie surfaced that provided some clues.

It had been written in 1971, and though the cousins – Elsie 75 now and Ernie 67! –  had obviously not corresponded in decades, it was full of newsy chatter about family. Percy had married a woman named Grace, Elsie wrote, and they lived “in a lovely bungalow at Basildon,” not far from Daisy and Edgar. (I assume this must refer to the Osborne and Pound Lane addresses in my grandmother’s book, and I see on the map that these places are not far from the Hermitage.)  Lily Kathleen had moved to Staffordshire, and Elsie herself had been at the Bible College of Wales since the year after Ada was killed and had never married. What she writes about the Hermitage is intriguing: she suspects that Ernie “saw many changes” when he visited in 1964, and that since then, “The Hermitage and grounds have been taken over by Yardleys the perfume manufacturers.” For some reason, Ernie kept this letter from his long-lost cousin always. Perhaps it reminded him of his stay in Laindon during that painful time, or it offered some connection to family that had been made so tenuous with his parents’ early deaths. It’s interesting to note, too, that Ernie revisited the Hermitage, though his time there had apparently been unhappy.

I have a photograph of Ernie and his sister on the 1964 visit, but I am not certain where it was taken. I wonder if it could possibly be the Hermitage in the background, though it surprises me that the house is wood and not brick. Still, it looks like a rural setting compared to other addresses where Ernie lived.

Thanks to the maps shared with me by Nina Humphrey nee Burton (sadly no relation!), I can now see just where the Hermitage was, surrounded by other farms large and small. But I’m still curious about why, and exactly when, Ada and family put down roots in Laindon, since they were not originally farmers of any kind, and do not seem to have had other relatives in the immediate area when they arrived. I’m pleased, though, that the research journey has led me to this site, where history is so carefully preserved and treasured. I would love to hear from anyone who has knowledge of Ada and her family, or the farm where they lived.

Kristen den Hartog in Toronto, Canada

The building in the background of the photo of Ernie and his sister during the 1964 visit cannot be ‘The Hermitage’, as by then the industrial site had been in existence for at least four years.  It would be absolutely fascinating to learn of its identity.

I managed to trace the exact position of where ‘The Hermitage’ in Basildon Road had once stood, by using the 1949 survey.  The plot is No. 84 on the map (on the right of the plot marked ‘The Nurseries’).  Basildon Road original ran from behind St Nicholas Church as far east as Pipps Hill Road.    However, the industrial sites were built on the east side of Uppermayne and that part of Basildon Road no longer exists.
The overlay maps (below) show that the plot is now part of Luckyn Lane, where Yardley’s factory once stood (The Hermitage is marked with a yellow pin).  The area is now known as Yardley Business Park.  This area is now considered to be part of Basildon but on the Electoral Register, ‘The Hermitage’ was listed as being in Laindon. Note:  Click on images to enlarge.

BDC 1949 Property Survey Map
Ordance Survey
BDC 1949 Property Survey Sheet
Map showing the location of The Hermitage.
Ordance Survey and Google Earth.
Map showing the location of The Hermitage superimposed on Google Earth.
Ordance Survey and Google Earth.
Screen shot from Google Earth showing the area where the eastern part of Basildon Road used to be.
Google Earth.
Ernie and his sister in front of 'Smugglers Cottages', West Mersea, during his 1964 visit.
Kristen den Hartog

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  • Hi Kristen.  Some good news!  I have at long last identified and located the building in the photograph.  Ernie and his sister were standing in front of ‘Smuggler’s Cottages’ in West Mersea, Essex.  I have amended the caption beneath the photo accordingly.           

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (29/10/2015)
  • Hi Kristen.  I’ve recently been doing more research regarding Basildon Road in Laindon and have discovered a couple of things that might interest you.

    Firstly, the 1949 Electoral Register shows Percy and Grace Fuller living in ‘Woodbine’, Basildon Road, i.e.  No. 97 on the 1949 survey map (unfortunately just out of sight on the left). Described as Bricks and Slate, 6 rooms, good condition.  (It would seem that Basildon Road, was sometimes possibly referred to as Pound Lane).

    Secondly on the 1911 Census, a William Fuller was living in  ‘Hollybank’, Basildon Road.  Maybe he was related to Ada’s first husband.

    Hollybank is No. 42 on the survey map – described as brick and slate,  7 rooms, in good condition.  The Hermitage was No. 84 on the map.   

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (21/05/2015)

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