Lovely Laindon (Part 8) (6 of 9)

(Chapter 6: East Meets West)

In pursuit of his daughter’s future happiness,  Tom Vickery Senior took Stanley Bathurst to his own heart and in the face of what might have well have been suspicion of intent in others, particularly with regard to financial security, lent Stan £100 to obtain the empty plots next to “Allwood” in Basil Drive, Laindon. I can only think that at its root, there must have been some clear understanding between the two men that Stan’s ownership and future occupation of these plots would be in some way an advantagous to the Vickery property adjacent. Also, I can only think that my maternal granddad was, a good few years before the event, thinking already that, as he would one day retire from Harland and Wolf, that he and Lizzie would be taking up residence in “Allwood” and it would be a good idea to have a daughter living next door. Could he really be thinking that far ahead?

Armed with the £100 loan, Stan approached the estate agent in Laindon, who was on this occasion Bebington, acting on behalf of the Station Rise Estate,  Albert Tyler at this time concentrating his efforts on behalf of Warrilow in expanding upon the bungalows he was constructing and building in Tyler Avenue. By a stroke of sheer misfortune on the day of Stan’s visit another potential customer for the self-same plots of land, named Alf Dan, arrived off the same train as Stan had come by to Laindon and the pair arrived at Bebington’s office door together with their offers to purchase. Bebington, the canny operator he was, immediately saw a business opportunity dictated by the laws of supply and demand.  The four plots, initially available at £25 each, had suddenly gone up in price, he revealed, to £40 a plot, take it or leave it. To resolve any difficulty this change of price might create, however, he (Bebington) was quite happy to sell off the four plots on a two by two basis, his two customers  getting two plots each for £80 each thus  “saving”  £20 on what they had expected to pay out.  By way of a compensation for any loss his two buyers felt about not getting exactly what they had wanted, he, Bebington, was quite happy to draw-up, free of charge, any building plan they might have in mind to construct on their two plots and, as he reminded them, being a Council member, he was more or less guaranteeing them that such plans would secure a pass.

Although he was disappointed at the way the transaction had taken place, Stan secured the two plots adjacent to Tom Vickery’s and simply modified the ideas he had cherished on creating a market garden on the four plots and stuck by the task of building a home on the remaining two. The immediate task that both he and Alf Dan had was the erection of some sort of building on their respective plots in order to proclaim ownership to the wider community. Alf Dan’s effort was a Green painted timber built shed which he surrounded by several fruit trees, both apples and pears which grew to maturity after a few years and were then long neglected. Stan’s effort is a story in its own right.

The landmark shed that was to be erected on the plots in Basil Drive was already in existence, in pieces, in the back garden of Stan’s family home at Chaplin Avenue, Wembley. It had started its life as a newly constructed ticket booth, one of several that graced the central promenade road named Empire Way at the Wembley British Empire Exhibition. Of a square construction, manufactured in timber, these booths had been provided with a low, pyramid shaped roof, the apex of each being crowned with a timber, pointed finial. When the exhibition had ended in 1926, these kiosks and other items erected for and relevant only to the exhibition itself were offered cheaply to anybody willing to dismantle them and take the material away. Stan’s shed cost him five shillings plus the effort of taking it to pieces and getting it home from the exhibition site.  This latter process was done by Stan by means of his trusty push bike (one he had cobbled together) and lots of string. The string was in order to lash the longer lengths of timber that came from the dismembered kiosk to the bike’s cross bar and when the lengths were too long for the bike to be ridden, it became a wheelbarrow!

That bicycle cum wheelbarrow technique was to come into play on many occasions over the next few years. With careful planning, it was employed judiciously to get Stan and parts of the shed, together with whatever tools he might find he needed later,  from Wembley to Laindon. At first sight this might appear to be a near impossible task, considering the distance but, fortunately, there was, at the time, a facility that was almost tailor made for the job; a train service.

This train service, operated on the District Line, started from Ealing Broadway which station was about two and half miles from Chaplin Road, no great distance for a man who was well used to trundling a builder’s barrow about the district. Even the coaching stock on the train involved was purpose built for the job. Known as Vestibule Coaches, these were so designed that entry to the coaches (usually eight in number) was via a door at each end of each coach with sufficient room in the vestibule itself to stand a bicycle should the train’s guard refuse to take it into his compartment. The service, which was hauled by an electric locomotive on leaving Ealing, provided a through service via the District Line and onto the London Tilbury and Southend Line at Bromley to go forward to Southend on Sea. It ran regularly at weekends and was, therefore, tailor-made for getting to and from Laindon. There was a four minute delay at Barking at which point the electric loco was replaced by a steam engine but the Barking railway staff were always proud of their expertise at getting the changeover done in the minimum of time. The service was ended by the outbreak of WW2.

6 of 9

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