A recent interesting and detailed comment received from John Bathurst under the article ‘Photographs of some Laindon Roads’, has been upgraded to an article in its own right (see below). Suitable maps have been appended.
Regarding the photograph of Buckingham Road. Laindon: to clarify, the Buckingham Road displayed was that of the “plotlands” era, not the Buckingham Road of the twenty-first century. The latter is some mile distant from that shown in the photograph and is tucked away behind St Nicholas Church! The original Buckingham Road shown looking eastwards in the photo was a mere three minutes’ walk from Laindon Station on what was known as the “Station Estate”. This potential estate development had arisen shortly after the arrival of the “short-cut” railway running between Barking and Pitsea via Hornchurch and Upminster. As mentioned elsewhere on this archive site, Laindon station was built on the arable and pasture farmlands of Little Gobions (“Gubbins”), one of the three ancient “manors” that constituted the bulk of the parish of Laindon. The station actually occupied a site which straddled the boundary between Little Burstead and Lee Chapel, but walk away from the station southwards, within a few minutes the walker was in Langdon Hills parish (often misunderstood as “Laindon Hills”), while a similar short walk in the northwards direction reached the extensive parish of Laindon!
An examination of the published photograph suggests it was taken in the 1920’s. For a start the bungalows shown are still wooden clad, suggesting they were of recent construction, since most such were seen to be later covered with a concrete screed to make them warmer and more weather resistant. This was certainly the case of those bungalows at the west end of Buckingham Road. The person who took the photograph was clearly standing at the junction of Buckingham Road, Sandringham Road and Windsor Road (or “Hill”), all Laindon “roads” or “streets” no longer where they once were! Behind the photographer was a small shop which had started life as a plumber’s showroom by B J(“ John”) Byron but which by the 1930’s had become a general store, there not being enough plumbing and drainage work being generated in the district to sustain the family. To the photographer’s right, Windsor Road led down, past the site of the long demolished Little Gubbins farm and the still existent “Winston Social Club” to its junction with Laindon High Road adjacent to the site of Churchill-Johnson’s builder’s yard at the north end of Northumberland Avenue.
Another reason for adjudging the photograph as being of 1930’s origin is that Buckingham Road actually has what might be described as a “decent” carriageway. This is consistent with what existed in Windsor Road, part of Sandringham Road and Laindon High Road up until the early 1930’s. The surface of these roads had been made “decent” by being laid down with a foundation consisting largely of broken builders’ rubble overlaid with the ash and broken clinker that was a by-product of the town – gas making industry of East London, like that at Bow Common or Beckton. The building material for road “improvement”, like that for the construction of dwellings, etc., was imported to Laindon by the train load and were discharged at Laindon Wharf, which is why Churchill-Johnsons’ was situated where it was.
There was a good reason for Buckingham and Windsor Roads having a “decent” surface. To the east of the farm lands of Little Gubbins lay those fields of what had been a tenant farm of Little Gubbins Manor known as “Blue House Farm”. When the railways came in 18??, Little Gubbins had very quickly ceased to exist and by the end of the 19th century the large scale maps which included outline-indications of the proposed roads of the New Laindon Station Estate (with names derived from the residencies of Queen Victoria or the names of English counties) did not show much more than a brief indication of the site of the former farm or manor house. The disappearance of Little Gubbins and the appearance of Laindon station with its services to London changed the orientation of Blue House farm. Like all the farms of South East Essex, Blue House was affected by the general down-turn in British agriculture following the abolition of the Corn Laws and the general world-wide improvement in agricultural methods. Thus a brief lifeline had been thrown to the tenants of Blue House Farm who realised that their proximity to Laindon Station gave them potential new outlets. Except that as, heretofore, the way off the farm had been to the east via what was known as Green Lane, the road running from St Nicholas Church to Corringham and Stanford-le-Hope via Lee Chapel, Laindon Station, in contrast, lay to the west.
The answer to this newly created problem was to provide a “backdoor” exit from the farmyard of Blue House farm. Accordingly, a new farm drive was created running in a south-westerly direction, through a five bar gate, at which point the drive was then linked to the freshly delineated and as yet undeveloped “Buckingham Road” and, following this, via Windsor Road to reach the High Road and Laindon station. This is the apparently well surfaced road shown in the photograph that served well
for a time for the passage of a horse-drawn dray containing milk churns on their way to serve a wider customer clientele.
That this arrangement proved fairly advantageous for a while is borne out by the fact that advertisements for “Blue House Dairies” situated at both Laindon High Road and at Barking are to be found in the local press outlets during the 1920s. Since the Markham family took over the tenancy of Blue House farm which had been bought out as an ongoing concern by a Mr. W T Warrilow, a pork butcher of High Street North, East Ham, it seems reasonable to assume that this arrangement was the genesis of Charles Markham’s dairy business on the corner of Aston Road in Laindon High Road. It was certainly the case that Blue House kept a small herd of cows right through and until WW2 at least, when the War Agricultural Committee insisted that otherwise derelict fields be brought into production for arable purposes. Shortly after this relatively short period of usefulness, the enthusiasm for farming died and the farm became the victim of the local vandals while it awaited redevelopment by the Commission for the New Towns.
The small volume of road traffic to and from the farm after the fresh flush of activity in the 1920s and the advent of motorized road transport, the tarmacking of Green Lane (renamed Markhams Chase), Nicholas Lane and Laindon High Road meant that the maintaining of the improved surface of Buckingham and Windsor Roads was neglected and the was surface was slowly absorbed into the underlying clay. This was particularly true of Buckingham Road where the carriageway was soon overgrown in the 30s by rampant vegetation and only the ubiquitous concrete strip path made it negotiable in places.
The photograph carries one telephone pole. This helps to date the photo to some extent because after 1934, Buckingham Road, like many others in the district were lined by wooden masts carrying three phase electricity in four parallel cables, some of which still exist in areas where little or no post war redevelopment has taken place. I believe the lone telephone mast marks the position in Buckingham Road of Tulip Hall which building was out of the sight of the photographer’s view finder. Tulip Hall is not listed in the accompanying list of building names but it was the centre of the activities of a religious sect who sort to be somewhat self-sufficient in their way of life. Certainly, the leading male member of the group always insisted in walking about sockless in open toed sandals regardless of the state of the weather, hot, cold, wringing wet or frozen and frosty!. The group also owned several undeveloped plots on the opposite side of Buckingham Road, and I once saw some members trying hard to pull a home-made plough through the heavy clay without the aid of any mechanical assistance.
The group regularly advertised their activities in the “Laindon Recorder”, the advert reading “TULIP HALL. Christian Tulipean Group, Buckingham Road. Address & Clairvoyance at 3pm Monday. Psychometry at 2pm Thursday. Service at 3pm. Physchometry Thursday 3pm SPIRITUAL HEALING Sunday 4.30pm-6.0 Monday 1-3 And at Battersea, Bethnal Green, Leytonstone.”
A few doors further eastward from Tulip Hall in Buckingham Road lived a family who, to my mind, must have been among the most destitute of such in a district well recognised for its poverty and lack of wealth. It is well known that the main argument that was advanced in the early 1950s leading to Laindon, Lee Chapel, Basildon, Vange and Pitsea being designated a “New Town” area was that it was a “rural slum”. This opinion was misjudged. The truth was that many of the inhabitants of the area had become a new “rural poor” through no fault of their own making. The long economic turn down of the 30s followed by WW2 meant that conditions like hard roads, drainage and the fabric of dwellings, had endured a long period of neglect by a population the majority of which had well demonstrated earlier their willingness to be innovative and to be prepared to direct their individual effort towards improving their general environment. Unfortunately, it was the official view that prevailed and the fruits of all the earlier years’ efforts went largely under the bulldozer.
Most, if not all, the younger children living in Buckingham Road went to Markhams Chase School after it opened in 1934. Thus it was that the family referred to in the paragraph above came under general notice. They would arrive at the 9am start of school and not expect to leave until end of the school day at 3 30pm or so. Consequently, they brought their lunch with them; “lunch” which consisted of a couple of thick cut (“door step”) slices of white bread, smeared with just a thin layer of jam preserve, the whole wrapped in pages of news-print. This meagre diet was expected to sustain each of the youngsters throughout the day! Also, from personal experience, I was made aware that, even when at home, the children seldom had more than a plateful of boiled mashed potatoes as a “main meal”. The family’s poverty was such that purchasing food had a very low priority, the father often being seen fruitlessly walking the streets of Laindon announcing his prowess at mending broken umbrellas, a piece of weather protection equipment that few people found necessary to possess, preferring to protect their feet and legs from the ever present mud with stout wellington boots!
Attendance at Markhams Chase Infant and Junior School brought pupils to the devoted attention of Miss Janet Duke, the first Headmistress. Although a pretty strict disciplinarian, Janet was devoted to the welfare of her young charges. There was a large wicker laundry basket in her office containing the fruits of her endeavours collecting children’s cast off clothing, especially shoes, from among the inhabitants of Westcliff-on-Sea, where she lived. She was determined that no child should be kept away from school because they lacked the suitable apparel. Also, the school was kept well supplied by Essex County Council with cartons of Cod Liver Oil and Malt which Janet would often hand out for children to take home with them to supplement inadequate diets. Such amenities supplied by the County administration were also available for the young including babies and pre-school children at the EEC sponsored clinic at Florence Road close by Laindon Station. In World War 2, welfare baby milk, rosehip syrup and concentrated orange juice were all made available at this clinic. At the same time, schools began to make a cooked mid-day meal available for all, without charge for the really needy.
One thing Janet Duke never managed to solve was the annual autumn absence from school of those who had “gone ‘opping”. As the heritage of so many of Laindon’s children was based in the East End of London, the practice of taking time off to go to Kent to pick the season’s hop harvest was a ritual that defied even Miss Duke’s best devised intentions to stop it! Times have, of course, moved on and this ritual has receded into the mists of social history.
Where Buckingham Road met the west end exit from Blue House farm was where Buckingham Road ended and became Almada Avenue continuing on in an easterly direction. The spelling “Almada” has already been the subject of discussion on this website, but I have come across a report of a Lee Chapel parish council meeting in the days when the district was administered by the Billericay Rural District Council which reveals that the locals expected the extension of Bucking Road eastwards to be named “Armada Avenue” and not Almada! What this means that the re-introduction of these street names at the east end of the Five Links Estate is the right thing at last.
A footnote: Please note that the name “Buckingham Road” is and was as spelled. The surname “Buckenham” has nothing to do with the road in the photo although it is also particularly important to the Laindon district because, as is shown elsewhere on this website, it has long been associated with farming in the area. In much the same way, so is the surname “Markham” which did become endowed upon a local street name through a Charlie Markham becoming associated with the Blue House farm adjacent. Which makes the revelation that the two surnames became joined by marriage even more intriguing.