Memories of Dry Street

William Moxley in the garden of 'The Cottage', Dry Street. (Date unknown).
The 1939 Register showing the Moxley family in residence at 'The Cottage'. Dry Street.

It is strange how a simple task can lead to a sequence of events. Currently I am planning a trip back to the UK in May/June/July which is taking me to several parts of the UK. While looking on Google for a suitable venue to have a lunch date with old school friends in the Wickford area, I happened upon your website which I now realise has several links to a lot of information about Wootton House and the sanatorium days. I am not sure that my little contribution will add any more information other than Dry Street Cottage was home to my grandparents, William and Annie Moxley for many, many years, with my grandfather working at the sanatorium until he retired in 1951. The surnames Siggers and Partridge are familiar and I am sure my elderly auntie Vi had contact with her Partridge friends until recently. She will be 97 in July.

So my little piece below is just a small excerpt from my ‘book’ for want of a better word (written about 2012) – my account of everything I have found out about my ancestors and their lives.
During a visit to UK in 2009, we took a drive down Dry Street and I found the cottage much extended and renovated but I think the photo of my grandfather outside the original cottage is interesting. Included is a copy of the 1939 Register showing my grandparents and auntie living at The Cottage in Dry Street. My mother, also Annie, was away ‘in service’.

Congratulations on your website and good luck with further research.

“But we now go back to the parents of Will, Annie and Violet. I am sad to say that I do not know too much about my Moxley grandparents’ early lives together. I know that after they had all their children they must have moved to Langdon Hills in Essex. As a child, I remember going to stay with my grandparents at a little cottage in Dry Street and I remember distinctly feeling very happy that my Grandma allowed me to have some chewing gum – something I would not normally have. I must have gone to bed still chewing the gum because next morning I distinctly remember finding the vest I was wearing was stuck to my back with a blob of gum. And I do not remember being told off about it either.

My Granddad worked at the Sanatorium Hospital located just a bit further up Dry Street from The Cottage where they lived. I believe he was a ‘boiler attendant’ at the sanatorium and later a handyman. I have a recollection of walking up Dry Street towards the sanatorium with my Grandma on a warm sunny day, whether it was to deliver his lunch or not, I cannot remember, but I do remember stopping to look at a horse, the flies buzzing around it being a part of that memory. I remember an orchard and horse radish growing in the field at the back of the house. And I also recall a big scullery, a grandfather clock and a curved narrow staircase that led to bedrooms upstairs.

After a little research recently, I discovered that the “West Ham Sanitorium”, a purpose-built sanatorium for children suffering from tuberculosis opened on 27th October, 1927 in Dry Street, Langdon Hills. The opening ceremony was performed by the Mayor of West Ham, Alderman Ernest Reed, whose council had purchased the 100 acre site including a large farm house for £12,800. I believe this is possibly when my grandparents and their children moved from the east end of London and took up residence in the cottage in Dry Street, the house being part of the job package. Not a bad move really when you think of the two locations, moving from a house next door to the pub in Canning Town to a cottage in a lovely country lane in Essex. My Mum would have been 9 in 1927 and my auntie Vi would have been 5 years old.

The construction of the sanatorium was one of a number of initiatives carried out by the West Ham Borough Council aimed at fighting the scourge of Tuberculosis – TB, a communicable disease that was most prevalent at that time. The borough’s own Tuberculosis Dispensary had opened in Balaam Street, Plaistow in 1914 for the diagnosis of suspected cases, and it was no doubt from there that many of the Langdon Hills patients had come. Various buildings, including a schoolroom and accommodation blocks, were erected in the grounds and the farm house was adapted to provide living quarters for the matron and nursing sisters. Around forty children of mixed sex up to the age of 16 were accommodated, with intake mainly coming from the East End of London. In 1948 it fell under the control of South East Essex Management Committee who converted it to an adult male intake in 1950.

The sanatorium continued as a TB hospital until closure in December 1957. Following the closure, the grounds were at one time considered as a possible site for the future Basildon Hospital. It is now in private ownership.

Grandad would have turned 65 in 1951 and I believe that was when he and Grandma came to live with us (their daughter Ann, her husband Jack, me and my sister) in Elmway, Grays, Essex.  As he retired from his job at the sanatorium they would have had to vacate the accommodation at the cottage which incidentally still exists today. I t looks to be a lovely residence now called Cherry Tree Cottage and much renovated.”

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