Lovely Laindon (Part 8) (3 of 9)

(Chapter 3: Laindon at First)

Despite his reservations and caution with regard to his second son, Fred’s, rural based ambitions, Tom’s own aspirations in such a direction were re-awakened. As a cautious man he was also moderate in his tastes. One pint of “half and half” if he called at the pub, or a bottle of Ind-Cope’s Brown Ale was the limit of his drinking despite being in a trade whose thirst creating attributes were legion.  His tobacco consumption, in an age of heavy smoking, was confined to making an ounce of Navy-Cut Flake (usually purchased in a round tin) last a week in the pipe he only ever smoked in his leisure time. There is little doubt in my mind that it was his wife, Elizabeth, who was the major influence on Tom’s apparent frugality. Barely four foot ten and a half inches tall and probably no more than eight stone wet-through to his six feet tall, robust muscular body,” Lizzie” ruled Tom with a rod of iron! With a widowed mother, she had grown up in Christian Street off Devons Road, Bromley, on the corner of which was the renowned “Widow’s Son” Public House. I was often regaled with stories of how, with husbands drinking their week’s wages away on a Friday inside that pub, the landlord’s wife would be at the side door in Christian Street freely subbing the local wives and mothers with the necessary to keep their children fed.

Tom Vickery Senior’s frugality served him and his family well. With the long and hard work at Harland and Wolf during the Great War, he had become what was considered to be, in the circles in which he moved, “warm”, that is, he had acquired a small nest egg from which Young Fred had already benefitted. It was a contradictory situation for the times in which Tom was not alone. WW1 had reduced vast numbers of workers and their families to near destitution due to the death or serious injury of the breadwinners who had served in the trenches while others had clearly benefitted. It is estimated that in the United States of America, alone, over a million new millionaires had been created as the direct result of their involvement in the conflict in some way or other. This did not necessarily mean solely in the interests of the Allies. Such was the nature of International Investment that it was possible to profit from German activity while being resident in the country against which the Bosch were directing their fire.

Tom Vickery was not in this league, of course. What he was assured of as a result of his employment in WW1 was a good pension and, although his need in that direction was still sometime in the future, his son, Fred’s, enthusiasm for a rural life had re-wakened in him his own ideas on retirement and leisure prospect and such similar matters. His interest in the affairs of the community in which he lived meant that he was well aware that several people he knew quite well, people like himself, who too had “benefitted” financially from the war, were taking up the offers of cheap land “further down the line”, as it was being referred to in the district.

With aspirations now of obtaining something that was close enough to home to be easily accessible and could, therefore be “kept an eye on”, Tom Vickery took up an offer being made by a local East Ham butcher, W T Warrilow, who was selling off some of the fields of Blue House farm for holiday home development. I am not sure if Elizabeth Vickery (neé Pryer) approved with his dealings with Mr Warrilow. She usually bought her meat in Goosley Lane Market or from Mr Godden but as the latter gentleman was already set up in a shop at Laindon it was probably all right. Tom went ahead and bought a plot in Basil Drive, about ten minutes’ walk from Laindon station on an estate being developed under the name Station Rise Estate.

Having obtained his new country “estate”, Tom Vickery called on his son Fred to return the compliment and he and his other son Tom, together, constructed a single storey, one roomed dwelling on the new site. Constructed of timber, with overlap cladding, the finished building was initially painted black. As a concession to the fact that it might be occupied now and then in the colder months of the year, a brick built fire place and flue was constructed central to the rear wall. Both a front and rear door was provided, the latter allowing exit to a small, well creosoted, privy erected out the back and hidden discretely in among the leafy hedge that marked the back margin of the plot.

The front margin of the plot was provided with a simple post and wire fence behind which was planted a row of privet bushes, that ubiquitous mark of suburban identity and respectability that indicates a determined occupation. A robust garden gate of timber construction was positioned in a central position to this hedge and proclaimed for all to see, from an affixed sign written plate, that the building should henceforth be known as “Allwood”.

At a later date the simple one roomed cottage, set well towards the rear of the plot, obtained an extension to its rear half of which served as a small kitchen and the reminder, a bedroom. Further to the rear was a “lean-to”, glass roofed and walled, a veranda which served as a utility attachment in which the clothes mangle lived and in which my grandfather shaved daily, stropping the cut-throat razor he had obtained during the Boer War on a wall-mounted strap. The shelter the veranda provided also served him well when he “snobbed” his footwear on the old last he had had for yonks.

At an even later date, the cottage and its outhouse toilet facility gained a further additional shed adapted as a spare bedroom as well as a garden shed serving as a tool store and coal bunker. While, initially, all this little complex of buildings was kept black in colour by regular creosoting, later Stanley Bathurst eventually, employing expanded metal lathing, clad the external walls with a sand and cement based screed that greatly improved the building’s warmth. Mention of Stan Bathurst necessitates an explanation of his involvement. That explanation means a change of venue, because Stan’s origins were not East Ham but West London.

3 of 9

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