100 years ago

The Old Oak Tree - 1832
View from langdon Hills towards the Thames - 2006
Ken Porter

I recently took a trip with colleagues to the British Newspaper Archives at Colindale. To my surprise I found that there was a Laindon Recorder newspaper for 1909. The reason for my surprise is that Laindon Recorder most of us remember did not start publication until the early 1930s.

I had been to the Colindale on several occasions before and had never located this particular publication. I should have been researching with my colleagues the First and Second World War but I left them to it and I concentrated on this new find.

It’s amazing how long it takes to go through a whole year of a paper, we got there at 10am, did not get the papers until 11.30am, we had a short break for lunch and left at 3.30pm and I only managed to get through three quarters of the year and I am sure I missed quite a bit.

The first thing that struck me with the reports was that every reference to Langdon Hills was spelt Laindon Hills. I just cannot get my head round why they insisted on calling the area Laindon Hills but how often today do you find reference in the local papers to Laindon when in fact the area they are referring to is in Langdon Hills.

The following are a few of the reports that I came across: –

Is Country life Dull?

A Correspondent writes: – “Never should such a fallacious statement be made as that life in country villages is too tame and monotonous. With our brief experience as regards Laindon and Laindon Hills, we should certainly say that the contrary is the case as far as inhabitants of this lovely, salubrious spot are concerned, for what with church and dissent, concerts, whist drives, debating societies, billiard matches, pantomimes at parish meeting, etc., life must be of continual interest to all with pleasurable anticipations as to what will happen next.”

In the 2nd June addition the following adds credence to the above correspondent: - 

The Holidays

The influx of visitors to Laindon and Laindon Hills for Whitsuntide is proof of the rapidly growing popularity of this pretty district as a holiday resort. Numerous attractions were provided under the personal supervision of Mr Brockwell for those of the visitors who preferred active recreation to rest, while Laindon in its natural state provided for those otherwise inclined. Throughout Sunday and Monday the place was thronged with holiday makers from whom many expressions of satisfaction at the desirability of Laindon and “the Hills” could be heard and who will doubtless spread the news of their visits and thus add still more to the reputation which the district all ready enjoys among its visitors.

I wonder what those visitors would think of Laindon now, 100 years later.

The district did not lack an occasionally bit of excitement. In the same addition we find the motor car making an appearance.

The Motor Car

It is understood that the advent of a new resident (in more senses than one) in Laindon will be fittingly celebrated to-day by a prominent local gentleman. Rumour has it that a motor car, with flags flying, will make the trip from Southend to Billericay and thence to Laindon, via the “Fortune of War” for a triumphal entry. We join in wishing long life and happiness to the recipient of these honours.

The reference here to the Fortune of War is the old inn situation on the cross roads of the High Road, Noak Hill Road, Wash Road and Dunton Road and not the new inn that was not built until the late 1920s following the building of the Arterial Road (A127) in the mid 1920s.

A Balloon

On Monday evening some excitement was caused by a balloon which ascended from Alexandra Palace. Passing over Laindon, it was the intention of the aeronauts to alight at Blue House Farm but the balloon passed and dropped a mile and a half away. One of the occupants unfortunately hurt his leg by some barbed wire. Owing to the balloon being so near the ground a good many people followed it until it came to earth. Ultimately the balloon was packed and sent back away from Pitsea station soon after ten o’clock .

There were a couple of court cases reported that I found amusing: –

Obscene Language

Thomas Starling, Labourer of Great Burstead was charged with using obscene langage at Laindon. Mr George Wade, landlord of the Fortune of War Inn gave evidence regarding the use of the language on his premises – The bench inflicted a fine of 5shillings and 4shillings cost.

James Hollowbread labourer of Laindon was found guilty of a similar offence at Billericay on July 28th. Pc. Gilby proved the case and the defendant was fined 7shillings and 4shillings cost.

How things have changed.

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  • Given the comments in respect of the coarsening of the language, I find it strange there has been no mention of blasphemy commonly used as expletives. Possibly this is due religion being considered less important in todays world.

    By W.H.Diment (29/03/2013)
  • I think Nina is correct when she credits our Anglo Saxon forebears with most of our swear words. There are, however, some interesting exceptions. “Blimey” (usually considered a modest swear word) derives from” Gor blimey”, a shortened form of “may God blind me.” For instance: “may God blind me if I am lying”. Apparently this originated as late as the nineteenth century. 

    My parents, like Nina’s, did not swear. If my mother, in a moment of annoyance would utter a damn or blast my father would always affectionately say “don’t swear sweetheart.” In fact I always remember my father saying that swearing simply revealed the lack of a decent vocabulary. 

    As Nina says mainstream actors such as Tom Cruise routinely use swear words and their usage has become acceptable it would seem. I cannot imagine Clark Gable or Cary Grant using such words. It would be the end of their careers. 

    A new TV comedy series is about to make its debut in the US. It features a family with the unfortunate name of Focker. Of course the patriach of the family is the God Focker, the matriarch the mother Focker, and the several children are collectively called the little Fockers. No doubt it will soon grace the TV screens in the UK. 

    The pace of the coursening of our language in the past fifty years is astonishing. The same is true of human behaviour in general. About the only uncharted realms for TV and films is beastiality and necrophylia. Probably just a matter of time. It is enough to make one pine for the old British Board of Film Censors and the Lords Day Observance Society!!

    By Alan Davies (28/03/2013)
  • Hi Ken. Arh, days long ago, before television and fast motorways. Fascinating stuff, especially the ‘obscene language’. Could it have been “damn this beer is warm!” as somebody suggested to me?

    Of course we know that most of our four letter expletives are Anglo Saxon descriptions of bodily functions which evolved to sometimes be used to either offend, shock or insult and therefore became ‘swear words’. My parents didn’t swear apart from an occasional ‘damn’ or ‘blast’ if something they were doing went a bit wrong. However, the colourful language of my mum’s parents who were from Bethnal Green would have made a sailor blush. I didn’t much like it and wished they wouldn’t do it, but realised it was just the way they were.

    There were several words that were taboo until about 20 years ago, when in particular the ‘f’ word became almost a fashion item with actors such as Tom Cruise and Robin Williams using it on screen. Soon it was being spoken quite openly in public without inhibition. The use of the equivalent in an Irish accent by Father Ted and Mrs Brown’s Boys is now accepted with a certain amount of humour and affection. I ignore and tolerate it, but still cringe slightly at its use.

    On the 6th day of a week’s holiday in Norway last year, my husband and I remarked how refreshing it was not to see any litter in the streets and not to have heard one single swear word. On the last evening, we were chatting to a couple of retired teachers with whom we were sharing a dinner table, when the man started to tell us a comical story. The punch line (which he announced quite loudly) contained the ‘f’ word. I nearly choked on my food and had to stifle a laugh out loud. Not that his story was particularly funny but at the irony of the only swear word having been uttered during the whole week came not from the mouth of a Norwegian but that of a fellow Brit from Devon. I think he was quite flattered at my chuckling – little did he know what had actually amused me.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (23/03/2013)
  • Nina remarks that the majority of our swear words are Anglo Saxon and it is the connotation we place on them which make them offensive. Yet there are two words which are usually used without thought as to their meaning which are vile and disgusting and are considered to semi affectionate. It seems that time and place dictates as to whether or not the spoken word is offensive. Having spent 6 years in the forces I cannot say that any words were offensive, even when directed at me, but I can say in all honesty I have never used swear words in the presence of my late wife and my children.

    By WH.Diment (23/03/2013)

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