Lovely Laindon (Part 7)
"A Road That Survived"
(Continuing the theme of “how is it you became a Laindoner?”)
In “Lovely Laindon Part 3” mention was made of William Thomas Warrilow, the pork butcher trading at 15, High Street North in East Ham and his ambitions as a property owner. As already indicated, that ambition led to his purchase, around about the end of WW1, of Blue House Farm at Laindon. Warrilow himself never took up residence in Laindon, and he left the farm itself to be run by the Markham family, although milk from the Blue House Farm herd was conveyed by rail from Laindon station to Barking and sold in the Laindon Dairy shop in Barking Broadway for some time. A Blue House shop in Laindon High Road was also in business as a dairy and this, with time, led to Charles Markham’s considerable involvement in the milk retail business in Laindon. It also led, in the early 1930s to Alf Whife also becoming an independent milk retailer, continuing in that trade until comparatively recently as Whife and Son(s) and then as Whife and Sloper.
Although William Warrilow was an absentee landlord as far as Laindon was concerned, his business interests were well looked after in the district by somebody who might be described as his “go-getter”, Albert Tyler. Initially from a Suffolk farming family, Albert was born in 1879 in Wivenhoe, Essex the youngest of a family of six children. After a period of service as a Naval Rating, Albert Tyler had gravitated to London in search of work and had been taken on by Warrilow as the collector of rents from the butcher’s ever expanding tenants in the properties he had acquired in and around the East Ham, Plaistow and Forest Gate areas. With the rent collection went the responsibility for providing solutions to any problems with the individual fabric of the tenants’ homes, and Alf very soon found that his willingness to use his personal ingenuity in performing the variety of tasks that were necessary meant he was constantly expanding his own expertise. In consequence, when Warrilow realised that much of the land he owned in Blue House Farm remained redundant and unused, the most logical thing should be that he, Albert Tyler, should go into the house building business.
To this end, Tyler, with the assistance of a fellow resident from East Ham, a William Robinson, who had pre-war been involved with the property expansion of their home borough, and who, therefore, had experience of larger scale building operations, moves were set afoot to create a “new” estate adjacent to the still developing Station Estate to be known as “Station Rise”. To this end, new roads were marked out on the redundant arable field chosen, access to the new estate being gained by a road to be named Tyler Avenue, a turning off the existing Sandringham Road of the Station Estate.
Although the initial builds on Station Rise were of the town house design, it was quickly realised that it was smaller properties, especially bungalows, that buyers favoured and the town houses, four in number in two semi-detached pairs, were only ever occupied by rent-paying tenants. Semi-detachment followed with a further twin pair of single storey constructs, in one of which Albert Tyler took up residence while embracing several members of his own family into the building trade as “brickies”, carpenters and joiners and plumbers. Meantime, Albert’s associate builder, William Robinson, had constructed a detached bungalow for himself in a turning off Tyler Avenue (named Basil Drive) together with a further two adjacent built to much the same design and made available for sale.
Heartened by a degree of initial success, the “Station Rise” estate, as envisaged had, in addition to Tyler Avenue and Basil Drive, a “Cecil”, an “Albert” and a “Rosalind” Drive, since it was considered that “drive” was more in keeping with the rural aspect of being associated with, and being so close to a “working” farm. All the personal names chosen as suffixes were, of course, a reflection of individual members of the Tyler family, Albert having been given a free hand by Warrilow in the names that he could chose, and a study of the chart that is his family tree reveals that Albert did not look far outside his immediate family for inspiration on what to name the roads that had been set out on the new estate.
Soon construction was going ahead along the length of Tyler Avenue. However, sales were slow and there was always a constraining influence on any feeling of optimism in the shape of the continuing undeveloped building plots on the older, adjacent and larger “Station Estate”. Because of the close proximity of these, Albert Tyler, despite his ambitions with regard to achieving an estate filled with uniform looking bungalows that he had constructed, was ever mindful that he had an obligation to Warrilow to dispose of the land that he (Warrilow) owned whenever the opportunity arose and this his (Tyler’s) first obligation was as the owner’s agent. In consequence as yet undeveloped plots remained on the books of the Estate Agents of the area and thus remained available as “ un-developed”.
In consequence of this, as Tyler’s efforts in Tyler Avenue went ahead, a number of, so far un-developed plots in Basil and Cecil Drives were snapped up by a combination of either self builders or other developers acting on behalf of individual clients or by individuals who only required land to use for horticultural purposes, although these later invariably stated that they really had development ultimately “in mind”. This combination in the manner in which the individual plots on the Station Rise Estate were disposed of was the pattern that persisted from the very first of Warrilow’s acquisition of Blue House Farm.
In an effort to catch the passing trade, as it were, Albert Tyler had a large display board constructed, some ten foot square upon which a professional sign writer displayed all the advantages the purchasing of a bungalow on the estate would bring. This was erected on small strip of adjacent land a short distance from the junction of Tyler Avenue with Sandringham Road. It stood until one windy night in the early 1940s when it was blown down before being rescued by Albert’s youngest son, Peter and stored in the garage behind the Tyler family home. There is no way of establishing if purchases on the estate were much influenced that the board was meant to convey.
However, what did have some effect was the fact that, in comparison with the “roads” of the Station Estate, Station Rise estate was reasonably accessible by wheeled motor vehicles, thanks largely to the efforts of William Robinson. Probably predating even Iles’s efforts of the early 1890s in setting out the “roads” like Sandringam, Balmoral and Cumerland on the Station Estate, Windsor and Buckingham Roads had a surface such that it was possible to leave the yard of Blue House Farm southward with a wheeled vehicle and reach Laindon station without too much risk of causing ruts and be stuck in the wet clay that predominates the district. The hard surface of both Windsor and Buckingham roads had been created by first laying down a lower bed of building rubble, mostly bricks, straight onto the surface of the original arable field and then topping it with a layer of spent ash. The spent ash had, most probably arrived at Laindon in railway wagons and been off loaded at Laindon Wharf, which was in a very short distance from where it was needed.
Judging by early photographs of the High Road in both Laindon and Langdon Hills much the same appears to be the method that was used to improve surface conditions in that and the other longstanding thoroughfares of the district. We know that these main roads were not top-dressed with asphalt until the 1920s because of the complaints in the local press of passers-by apparel being splashed with tar. No such top dressing, however, was ever placed on either Windsor or Buckingham Roads nor on the drive into Blue House Farm. In fact, such was the poor state of these two roads right up until the time they were obliterated with the vast majority of the Station Estate in the 1960s was there any evidence that there was any real attempt made to maintain their surfaces. As a result, although, as is suggested above, these roads were negotiable by wheeled motor vehicles, this was only true if the vehicles concerned were being driven at both low speed and in a low gear, otherwise the comfort of their occupants was greatly impaired.
Strangely, the condition of the surface of both Windsor and Buckingham Roads as described above was extended from the junction between Windsor and Buckingham Roads for approximately a hundred yards along Sandringham Road, a road which was never “made up” along its length except for this short stretch. In fact, the surface of this particular road went well beyond the logic of actually calling it a road at all since the ruts were so deep and frequently so full of stagnant water that attempting to negotiate it in a vehicle was foolhardy in the extreme and a memory exists of a horse that had sunk up to its belly in liquid mud while attempting such a task with a load of coal that the poor animal had to be destroyed in the shafts to get it cleared,
The short stretch of Sandringham Road that was “surfaced” served as the access to the Station Rise Estate and been “dressed” in much the same way as the roads along which one travelled to get into the estate and Tyler Avenue in particular. By the 1930s, both Albert Tyler and his associate realised that there might be an advantage, in the light of the growing ownership of cars, in being able to offer prospective purchasers a “good” road in front of the dwellings they were offering for sale. Accordingly, it was decided that they would extend the initial dressing to the rest of the roads of their estate, even to those frontages for which they no longer had any responsibility. This decision was only thrust upon them because of the way in which the road layout had been devised. Tyler Avenue itself, because along its length it sloped downwards to its eastern edge with the fields of Blue House Farm, was never much troubled with lying water. The difficulty lay in the fact that the proposed turning off Tyler Avenue at Albert Drive and the existing turning off of Basil Drive ran across the natural drainage of the fields upon which the estate was built. In fact, it can be recalled that, in 1933, when travelling in a pantechnicon across the grass covered and now redundant furrows that constituted the carriageway of Basil Drive, the vehicle set up a bouncing motion much enjoyed by the younger member of the accompanying party!
It was quite clear to both Albert Tyler and to Bill Robinson that left in their natural state, both Basil and Albert Drives, running across the natural drainage flow parallel to the direction followed bt Sandringham Road, would be in danger of deteriorating into a similar condition to that of Sandringham. Accordingly, they resolved to improve the top surface of all the proposed roads of Station Rise Estate to at least the standard of Windsor and Buckingham Roads, being well aware that there was little chance that any of these roads would be “adopted” in the near future by the local authority. This latter fact was driven home to them with practically every issue of the local press where many column inches were taken up with long running and unresolved debate over the state of so many of the roads in Laindon.
Most of the work involved in laying the new roads fell to Bill Robinson. Using a supply of a mixture of brick and concrete rubble on the sub-soil surface from which the turf had been removed to a depth of about two inches, the top surface was dressed to the final level with hogging, the cheapest form of ballast available. This was rolled level with a small ride-on diesel roller that Robinson managed to acquire at a knock down price. This was stored in a lock up garage that he erected at the west end of Rosalind Drive, the intended road on the estate that existed only in the minds of its instigators, a road that remained un-developed and whose surface slowly became re-invaded by the underlying vegetation to the extent that over, the years, it disappeared back into the field from whence it came and, therefore, appeared on no map of the district.
Some, but by no means all, of all the existing “sitting” residents on the estate resisted the attempts of the Robinson/Tyler alliance to secure a modest frontage charge to offset their costs and there was a degree of friction caused among neighbours as a result that was understandable. But this did not seem to rankle for too long a period of time, it being generally recognised that the prevailing economic conditions of the period that the alternative, the so far non-existent adoption of the roads by the Billericay Urban District Council, would have proven to be far more expensive than what had been achieved. As was often usual at the time, the second best is what people accepted and put up with for as long as they could. In the end, any long-standing disagreements were eliminated by subsequent events. Regular wheeled traffic using the length of Tyler Avenue, Basil and Cecil Drives and south section of Albert Drive ensured the survival of these carriageways into the Basildon New Town era. That section of Albert Drive running in a crescent to link with Basil Drive suffered much the same fate as Rosalind Drive described in the preceding paragraph.
Without being aware of each single transaction that took place between the developers and those who took up residency in the roads that comprised Laindon Rise Estate it is impossible to assess how far the provision of a reasonable road surface influenced the sales of properties built by Albert Tyler. The suspicion is not a great deal for the simple reason that at the time of Bill Robinson’s road construction efforts, the majority of Tyler’s efforts had been constructed and disposed of. Around the middle years of the 1930s, the effects of the severe constraints on economic activity characterised as “The Slump” really began to bite on many households and this was reflected in house building. Having constructed and disposed of thirty-two dwellings of various types and styles but all with walls constructed of brick, Albert lowered his sights somewhat and at was usually referred to as the “top” of Tyler Avenue seven timber framed and concrete rendered bungalows were built, one of which was taken up and occupied by his recently married daughter.
The construction of the seven dwellings that graced the approach to the Station Rise Estate were to represent the nadir of Albert Tyler’s property developing days. Both he and William Robinson were of retirement age when, the outbreak of WW2 put a stop to what little activity was taking place in the building industry and there was an inevitable retreat into a quiet restful domesticity by both men, each to the bungalows of their own construction. The plots upon which their homes stood were generously proportioned, particularly that of Bill Robinson, so, inevitably, gardening took over from bricks and mortar.
Following WW2 and the establishment of the principle that London and other cities in the UK should be surrounded by satellite “New Towns,” designed to solve their chronic housing problem, Station Rise Estate in common with the rest of Laindon, fell within the area designated as Basildon New Town. Of all those parts of Laindon that, in the 1880s, had seemed most desirable as potential sites of development because of their close proximity to the newly constructed Laindon station, virtually all fell, following compulsory purchase, under the bulldozer blades of the re-developers working to the desires of the Commission for the New Towns in the shape of the Basildon Development Corporation. Of the earliest “estate” dreamed up by Henry Iles and the first to gain “official” recognition of its existence, the “Station Estate”, virtually nothing survives with the exception of two road names and a group of isolated original buildings in the later established High Road. What had been visualised as the approach roads to the estate, Windsor and Buckingham Roads, both of which street names had been affirmed by 1901, have been obliterated and only the name “Buckingham Road” survives well over a mile away from it initial position.
As was pointed out these two latter roads were the way in which access was gained to the emergent “Station Rise Estate” of which nothing remains except a truncated Tyler Avenue and an even more truncated Albert Drive, access to both roads having been altered by the later developments that now surrounds them. Despite this one major alteration, however, there is no difficulty in recognising that what survives is, in fact, the layout that was prescribed by the road’s first builder, and in this respect it is little different from others of the original streets of Laindon elsewhere that have survived. Nowadays, access to Tyler Avenue, which with Albert Drive has become a cul-de-sac from the point of view of vehicular traffic, is from “Laindon Link”, a road constructed initially as the main route by which the Laindon community would be connected to the newly devised Basildon Town Centre, but which, due to total lack of foresight and indifferent planning, has had to be considerably reduced in status.
The resultant realignment of Tylers Avenue has meant that was once regarded as the “end” or “bottom” of the road, an end that was once marked by the presence of an ancient hedge crossed by means of a style leading, via a footpath, across pasture land adjacent to Blue House Farm to the farm’s yard, is now a routine entrance hardly distinguishable from all such. Where once many local school children had a rural walk through a working farm complete with all the sights and smells redolent of such an environment when en-route to Markhams Chase (now Janet Dukes) School, there is little to excite the senses other than passing vehicles and the facades of adjacent houses. Of Blue House Farm all that remains is the dew-pond upon which the various resident farming families once relied for their water supply, still maintained as an ornamental feature, a regular seasonal stop by the decorative wild fowl of the district.
In the surviving Tyler Avenue where Albert Tyler and his working associates, mostly his own sons, had once provided some forty dwellings most apportioned generous surrounding land, now stand fifty habitations ranging from detached bungalows through to semi-detached and terraced chalet type properties. Where once, for much of its length, there was a distinctive style and uniformity that immediately identified it as the work of Albert Tyler, most properties have been considerably modified and many have been demolished nd replaced by new builds. The original generously apportioned building plots have, in some cases, been merged with their neighbours and, overall there is a greater density in both appearance and use to which Tyler Avenue has been put. One of the early buildings remains little altered, however. This is the semi-detached bungalows that Albert introduced early on in his constructive period, the one half of which he occupied himself until his demise in the 1960s, after which it was lived in by his youngest son, Peter. This particular dwelling, which has had several re-numberings due to the changes wrought on Tyler Avenue over the later years of its history, still has the nameplate chosen when it was first built; “Elen-holm” a name decided upon in recognition of the fact that Albert Tyler married Eleanor Holmes at Plaistow on the 12th May, 1901.
I am grateful to the late Peter Tyler for his provision of information contained in this article.JCB
To be continued