We were recently contacted by Leslie Mitchell, a former resident of Basildon Road, who had photographs and documents he wished to share with the Archive. He accepted our invitation to attend our Memory Day on 25th November and brought along a treasure trove, a few of which can be seen below.
Leslie’s Grandparents were Alfred and Elizabeth Mitchell who lived in ‘Zu-Vendis’, Manor Road, Laindon. Leslie’s father was their son Robert.
Leslie’s mother was Nora Isobel Windley. She was working at ‘Watch House’ Farm’ in Basildon Road when she met Robert who was working there as a ‘Cowman’. They married in 1928 and their home, a bungalow called ‘Beau Desir’ was built between 1928 and 1930. The bungalow was typical of the times. No indoor plumbing, but with ¾ acre garden, where Leslie’s mother kept the very large lawn cut beautifully short with just a hand mower. Leslie’s father built a shed, which was used later as an extra bedroom.
Their first son Bob was born in 1930, he went on to become an Accountant. Second son, Alf who was born in 1932, later joined the Police Service. During 1943, the name of the bungalow was changed to ‘Springfield’, possibly because it was easier to spell. Leslie was born in 1944 and sister, Brenda in 1947. The children went to Laindon Park School. Two farms in the area were well known to the Mitchell family. Hunts Farm, run by the Doodes family and Watch House Farm, run by the French family.
Leslie recalls the yearly fetes that were held in a neighbour’s back garden where he once won a prize of a new blue shirt from Henbests, which his mother had to collect from the shop. Leslie was less than delighted, however, when his mother returned, she handed him a grey flannel school shirt – apparently having decided on practicality.
Another of Leslie’s anecdotes involves an uncle – his father’s brother whose first name was ‘Major’. Upon travelling by train to Germany in the 30s, his arrival was met by a reception of high ranking military officers. Having read the passenger list and seen the name Major Mitchell, they had assumed that ‘Major’ was his rank! Uncle never said if he was to be arrested as a spy or treated like royalty.
Shopping was mainly done in Laindon High Road, although there was a shop and post office in Basildon Road. The circular bus route to and from Laindon railway station that stopped in Basildon Road, enabled father to commute to London each day and for occasional family trips to the seaside.
As a young boy, Leslie knew the local area well including the farms, fields and a number of the neighbours and their children. However, in 1955, a time when the Basildon Development Corporation were making big changes, Leslie’s family moved away to Lyme Regis. Upon leaving school, Leslie worked as a Draftsman for Ordnance Survey for a couple of years, before moving into Town Planning which progressed into a successful career.
Leslie and his wife Jennifer are now both retired and live in North Essex. Before leaving for home, they commented on how friendly and enthusiastic they had found the Laindon Archive Group to be. His fondness of Laindon in his early years remains with him and I’m sure we would all be very pleased to see him again at future Memory Days, to share and enjoy even more memories and stories.