My Life in Laindon
An Essex girl growing up
Born – Where – Northumberland Avenue, Laindon, Essex.
When – Spring 1945
Time – 8-30 pm.
Obviously my recollections of that day are pretty vague! Apparently according to my siblings it was very warm that springtime. My sister who was nearly five years old at that time tells me that when she first saw me at a few hours old she exclaimed “She looks like a little red monkey”. Charming.
My brother who was seven was also unimpressed when I arrived. Apparently he exclaimed to the family “Oh no, not another girl!! I wanted a brother”. So I was a bit of a surprise and disappointment on all counts.
My first few years in our small bungalow are a little hazy but my very first vivid memory was in the summer of 1947 when I was just 2 years old. My sister had just had a new pair of black plimsolls for P.E. I wanted a pair just like hers but the shops in the High Road only had a tiny pair of brown gym shoes with black rubber soles in my tiny size. In my mind they reminded me of the square black/brown Bassets Liquorice Allsorts and to this day whenever I see those sweets I still visualise my first pair of plimsolls.
I clearly remember walking to meet my sister from Markhams Chase School through Blue House Farm. The path across this pasture was a raised walkway sloping away each side to the fields where cows were usually grazing. They seemed so huge and although being reassured by my mother I was always frightened of them and to this day am very nervous of these bovine beasts. As my family will testify even now as an adult I have been known to break into a trot then a hasty jog when out hiking when confronted by a field of cows, much to their amusement.
In the summer months we used to stand on the fence at the bottom of our garden that ran beside the railway line waving at the steam trains as they puffed their way to Southend with a cargo of excited holiday makers leaning out of the windows and waving back to us. We were not far from the station so the engines were still going slowly building up steam for the journey ahead.
Having grandparents, aunts, uncles and various other relatives all living close by life was very stable and cosy.
Life changed in summer 1948 when we moved to a brand new semi detached house on the King Edward Estate. The new development by the Billericay Urban District Council started about 1945-46 with the first houses being built in King Edward Terrace then the groups of semis at the bottom (High Road end) on the newly constructed roads of the estate. In those days when houses were completed they were left empty to “dry out” for six months before being occupied. Our house in Powell Road together with only one other on the estate have “Hip Roofs”, all the rest are “Gable ended”. Our house was white pebble dashed like the five double semi detached houses in King Edward Road. The other hip roof was Councillor Tanswell’s house in King Edward Terrace but this was left red brick like the rest of the houses on the estate. The other exception being the “Airey” houses at the top of the estate (west end) which were built with concrete slabs.
Our new property was built early 1947 but unlike the rest of our group in Powell Road, it was set back on the plot further than the neighbouring properties. This may indicate that it could have been built earlier together with the first houses at the entrance to the estate being of the same design. Our house appears to have been built straddling the line of two old field boundaries (one semi each side of the north-south line) as the back garden fence line between the adjoining property deviates by a considerable amount impeding over our neighbours garden on the east side. We always wondered at this anomaly but as we have discovered from an old map we acquired some time ago, it became clear and logical why the fence deviated, it was following an old field boundary.
When we first moved into the property my grandfather and father spent a considerable time getting rid of several oak tree stumps in the middle of the lawn near the house which had been chopped down to make way for the building. These trees again were on the alignment of the existing trees still on the old boundary.
There are still several very large oak trees on the adjoining back fence line in both directions. The derelict land in Roberts Road where these trees are growing has been earmarked for development. Several years ago when plans were submitted for flats to be built we were concerned about the loss of the mature oak trees. Our daughter who still lives in our family home contacted the council and has managed to get a preservation order on them so hopefully they should be safe for the future.
When we moved into the house that July I can remember riding round the house on my little bike going through the kitchen, hall, living room, dining room again and again in a circuit, great fun after living in a small bungalow. Our house also had two toilets which was amazing after the outside loo we had in Northumberland Avenue.
Talking of toilets!!!!! Only a few weeks after we moved in I went to the toilet upstairs by myself dressed only in my little white cotton vest on getting out of bed (it was high summer) I started fiddling with the lock on the inside of the door. Guess what! I locked myself in so my mother in a panic ran across to the builders working on the flats in Briar Mead telling them her daughter was locked in the toilet and asking them for help to free me and to hurry as she was cold only wearing a vest, they readily agreed. They picked and hacked at the door lock while I shivered with fright and pulling my little vest over my knees crouched beside the toilet crying my heart out. When they eventually broke the door lock they fell about laughing as apparently they were expecting a much older “young lady” so they were a bit disappointed to be confronted by a three year old and not a comely wench.
Not long after that my older brother took me to climb on the buildings in Briar Mead opposite our house where the flats were being constructed. The walls were just emerging from the foundations and a stack of Crittle metal window frames were piled ready for use. I fell and cut myself, I was very lucky, the injury just missed my eye so things could have been very different. Needless to say I was banned from the building site after that incident.
After the group of houses built at the bottom of Powell Road were finished the style of the properties changed so it is possible to plot which groups were added at each stage of development.
On the south bottom side of Powell Road there was an orchard, this was behind a small bungalow fronting onto Tattenham Road. This was a great playground also a source of scrumped fruit. A few years later four semi detached houses were built on this land.
There was a Residents Association set up and run by the folks on the estate. If I remember rightly Mr Tanswell was the chairman, my father was the secretary and together they arranged all sorts of activities for both the adults and children. A community soon developed.
When we first occupied the property the front gardens were open plan but due to popular demand fences and gates were added making it safe to play. Most families were proud of their new homes and many planted privet hedges, most of the original bushes that my father planted are still there, not bad after 64 years.
Comments have been made about the playing field between King Edward/Powell Roads being rough with bushes. The top end (west end) could have possibly been used temporally while construction continued for storing building materials etc. before it was added to the grassed area. The bottom end (east side) opposite our house was a grassed area very early on as we played there most of the time. Also the mention of bonfires on the playing field is something I do not remember. It was BUDC land and they were very strict on what tenants were allowed to do to in and on their property. I have asked many local residents about the field and bonfires (without prompting) and all those I have asked don’t appear to remember any fires or rough areas.
The area that both adults and children used to haunt on the estate was the onion field, this was near the top of Powell Road on the west side of Devonshire Road. On summer evenings residents of all ages would congregate there to play games together. Still memories are memories.
In the mid fifties the Co-op had a Sports Day and Fete on the playing field. A fancy dress parade was planned and I asked my mother if I could join in but making costumes was not her thing, I remember looking out of our landing window at the festivities looking at the children all dressed up in their colourful clothes and listening to the music.
The playing field had a path running around the perimeter of the area with the pavement running diagonally across each corner of the field and later a layby in King Edward Road. In those days Powell Road & King Edward roads were narrower with grass verges between the paths and roads. Later the grass areas were removed from Powell Road and widened to accommodate the larger volume of traffic using the area.
Like many of the local children we spent our days roaming across Laindon exploring the area. Days out on our bikes armed with a picnic to pick bluebells in the woods bringing home bunches of poor drooping flowers to give mum, playing at the “Big Rec” at Langdon Hills which seemed such a long way for my little legs. Our parents did not allow us to go in the blue paddling pool at the bottom of the large field because of the polio scares at that time, it was sometime difficult to watch other children enjoying the water while we watched.
I recall walking to Victoria Road, pond dipping at the “Lily Pond” for newts, walking along the unmade section of Devonshire Road on the duck boards and playing on the swings at the “Little Rec” which was situated between Victoria Road and Worthing Road where the prefabs were built around the playing field. These are fond memories but we must just be grateful we were able to have such freedom and an area of countryside in which to play and learn. Pity all this has been lost so we can have the amenities and the pleasure of Basildon!!!!!