During WW2, I am told that people were advised to get out of London if they had anywhere else to go; otherwise they could be killed by the bombing. My maternal grandparents had a small weekend bungalow ‘Detling’ in Sandringham Road, Laindon, which my grandfather was able to make permanently habitable by putting on water and electricity etc., in order for my family to move down. Later on, my mother, father and brother found a similar bungalow. ‘Medhurst’, in Diss Road, in the same area.
I was born in Billericay Hospital in 1954 and had a very happy childhood. I don’t remember living in ‘Medhurst’ so my memories are from when we lived in Alexander Road, Langdon Hills. It was a double fronted brick 1930s bungalow, with an indoor bathroom and a toilet connected to the mains. The road, however, was unmade (with a hawthorn tree directly outside the property) and had some very large ruts but as everyone had coal fires, they would take their clinker and ashes to fill in these holes. There were six aluminium communal dustbins at the top of Alexander Road where we had to take our rubbish for collection.
My grandparents later moved to Willowtdene in Berry Lane and they had a small bridge that went over the ‘ditch’ leading up to the front gate. This ditch almost ran the whole length of Berry Lane from Bebington’s Corner to the woods at the bend by the top of Samuel Road. Oh what fun my friends and I had jumping across when the ditch was full of running water. Christmases were celebrated in this bungalow when relatives would gather and snow would fall.
Langdon Hills County Primary School is literally at the end of Alexander Road, so not far at all to walk. Eventually I settled down in reception class with Mrs Nichols and as time went by, I enjoyed going from class to class; Mrs Baker, Mrs Mutter, Miss Wenden, Mrs Brook and Mr Walker. Assemblies were usually poignant and taken by Mr Wiggins. I liked Scottish country dancing in St Mary’s Hall, just over the High Road, with Mrs Hayball and I learned to play the recorder with Miss Wilkinson. In the summer we were allowed to play in the field behind the school, and then there was nothing better than getting my ticket to allow me to swim in the Laindon High Road School swimming pool in the holidays.
After school I played with Susan Addy, Robert and Jackie Cook and Graham Harrison and we would be out for hours around where we lived. It was fun going through the bluebell woods, up the cow fields or riding bikes or playing on roller skates. I went to gym class with Mrs Greenaway and on Sundays attended the Methodist Sunday School. I was a Brownie, meeting at the Methodist Hall and later on I would learn to tap dance, with Audrey Carter teaching us in The Hut Club which led to my joining the Revellers; Jackie Orton and I continue to reminisce. There was always a trip to the pictures if Elvis or Cliff was on!
Measles, Chicken Pox and German Measles seemed to be rife in the early 1960s and I caught them all. This generally meant a home visit by Dr Long or Dr Garson, who held surgery in the Hiawatha. Everybody seemed to know everybody in Laindon/Laindon Hills. I liked going shopping with my mother and going to the library which was a small shop near Lagden the butcher. Whilst there one day, I recall a very old man being knocked off his bike directly outside. His nose had obviously hit the ground and he appeared to be in a very bad way. When I went shopping with my grandmother I remember studying the eels in a big metal tank outside the fish shop. Occasionally, we would take the train to Pitsea for the market or go to Southend for shopping. If we had been to London, it would be a treat to call in at the chip shop next to the library on the way home.
My father commuted to London and my brother was at college. My mother was the home maker but she was always at meetings as she was on the Board of Governors for; Markham’s Chase, Langdon Hills Primary, Woodlands Girls, Nicholas and various other schools. She was also a keep-fit fanatic, Eileen Fowler living nearby in Horndon on the Hill. Later in the mid 60s my mother became heavily involved in local politics when she stood for local council and I remember Eric Moonman and other MPs coming to the house.
Woodlands Girls’ School was the base for my secondary education where there were only a handful of girls attending from Laindon and Langdon Hills. After a brief spell of working locally, in the early 1970s my parents sold our bungalow and we moved to North East Essex.
I see very few landmarks when I return to the Laindon area but in my mind, I can see everything as it was whilst I was growing up. Happy days indeed.
Judith Howgego née Dutnall.