Patsy's Memories of Laindon

Patsy Mott (née Tyler) reminiscences - 2003

Today memories are all we have left for those of us whose families were born and lived in this area for most of their lives. Now that one of the last landmarks The Fortune of War pub has been demolished, only to have more bland houses and flats built in its place. No character is left of what was a small town, where at least once we had a sense of community and identity. Laindon was not as picturesque a town as Billericay or Stock, but at least we had more choice in shops than we have had over the past 30 years or so. There were approximately 150 retail premises in the High Road, from the Fortune end, up over the railway bridge to The Crown pub in the 1950s. Let’s hope in the near future things will perhaps improve. Still, back to the memories…

Patsy Mott

Patsy, Joyce and Don in the garden of Toby – 1947

I was born in April 1945 to Frederick and Mary Tyler at Toby”, a very small bungalow in Northumberland Avenue, the youngest of three children, my brother Donald and sister Joyce being my older siblings. My grandparents Herbert  and Jane Tyler and uncle and aunt, Jack and Florence Rose also lived in the same made up but grass verged road that led down to Barkers Stores at the end. At this junction was Elizabeth Drive, Green Lane and over the railway crossing, Primrose Hill. Our bungalow, together with some old railway coaches further up the road used as homes by other families, backed onto the north side of the Southend-Fenchurch Street railway line. Most properties had large back gardens full of vegetable patches, fruit trees, ducks and chickens to help supplement our food supplies during and after the war.

One of my first memories was the smell of potato peelings being cooked and mashed with grain in an enamel bowl to feed the poultry, also my mother plucking and cleaning the chickens for our dinner.

We were not on main drainage, so we had the old “bucket and chuck it” loo at the bottom of the garden. The aroma in the summer was not pleasant and the expeditions out in the cold weather in winter left a lot to be desired, but Boy! did we have decent produce from the garden. The flavour of the vegetables and rhubarb was superb. We were certainly not deprived but because most items were rationed or in short supply after the war I was apparently wheeled around, when first born, in my sister’s dolls pram until a normal sized pram could be purchased from Roomes Stores in Upminster. My mother, like many, had to be resourceful and was able to make a meal from whatever was available. Brawn, pressed ox tongues and stuffed hearts were all part of our diet when rationing was part of our daily lives for quite a few years.

Don in front garden of “Toby”, January 1948

I still prepare tongue and hearts for my own family. Sweets were rationed until 1953 and I can remember Mum making cones with greaseproof paper and putting a mixture of chocolate or cocoa powder (whichever was available) and sugar into them for us to eat as a treat instead of sweets, if we were really lucky 100s & 1000s were added too. Homemade toffee apples and fairy cakes, with cream made from corn flour and vanilla essence, were another inventive way to satisfy our appetites for sweetness.

My grandfather Herbert Tyler was well known at the Winston Club that was at the top end of Northumberland Avenue at the junction with the High Road. In the 1930s and 40s, making their own entertainment, the older folks enjoyed the club, playing cards and dominoes and drinking. Younger guys hardly ever beat the wily old fellows at the games. As children we tried but never succeeded.

Having other members of our family all living in Northumberland Avenue, our lives seemed very busy. My uncle Jack Rose was the master baker at Cottis’ Bakery for 40 years and I remember him making the large wheatsheaf shaped loaves for the Methodist Church Harvest Festivals for many years.

We were not well off and like most families we were resourceful in making most things we needed. My father Fred Tyler was a cabinetmaker and like many other locals spent many hours travelling daily on the old steam trains to work in London. During the war he made Mosquito aircraft at Wrightons furniture factory in North London. Then, after peace was declared, he spent the rest of his working life making furniture until he retired at the age of 67.

To this day the smell of sawn wood, glue and Dad’s “Erimore mixture” tobacco evokes memories of warmth and comfort at his homecoming.  This was brought home to us one very foggy night, 30th January 1958 to be precise, dad was involved in the Dagenham Rail Crash where there were fatalities and many injured passengers. Fortunately he was only slightly hurt; although when he hit his face during the crash he damaged his nose and was unable to smell for the rest of his life. (No thought of compensation for injuries in those days.) At that time we were not on the telephone, so the anguish of not knowing for hours of his predicament was agonising for all of us.

Walking through Blue House Farm was one of the routes we took from our little home to meet my big sister from Markham’s Chase School.  Passing the dovecot by the high hedge and going onto the farmland where cows seemed always to be grazing. I was never keen on cows and to this day I still dislike bovine company when out walking. The path then led through the farmyard, down the long drive and past Lawrence’s sweet shop opposite the school.

Patsy, Joyce and Don in front garden of Powell Road

In July 1948 we all moved to Powell Road, into a new council house, together with our grandfather who was now widowed. Going from a small bungalow with and outside toilet, to a 3-bedroom house with all the mod cons and TWO loos was a real luxury. Both the front and back gardens were large so we were still able to supplement our food by growing fruit and vegetables, and keeping poultry. Before we had a refrigerator eggs were kept in an enamel bucket with “isinglass”, a gelatinous substance used to slow down deterioration. Mum used the fruit to make jam, some preserved in bottles as were some of the vegetables.

Does anyone else remember the blocks of salt? I used to enjoy carving off lumps and breaking it down to be packed around the vegetables being bottled. After retiring Dad spent many hours in that garden and continued to provide the family with fresh veggies for many years.

In 1950, aged 5, I used to walk all the way, by myself, to Markham’s Chase School. I would walk through Pelham’s Alley, past Ashton’s Wood Yard and Pelham’s sweet shop on the left, crossing the High Road then up Nichol Road, which was opposite. This led to Tavistock Road, then across Basildon Drive into St Nicholas Lane and down Markham’s Chase. It was approximately 1 mile but I enjoyed picking wild flowers and berries along the way. It’s a pity children are unable to enjoy that sort of freedom today. I loved the smell when entering the school, the ever-present aroma of chalk, school dinners and hot, grubby children.

Miss Janet Duke was headmistress and who else remembers: Miss Whitley, Miss Cox, Miss Pike, Miss Ball, Miss Burge, Mr Wallace, Mr Finnegan, Miss Mayhew, Mr Jones and many others.

In 1953, to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, we performed traditional Maypole Dancing in period costume. (See picture below)

Maypole Dancers

Maypole Dancers

Maypole Dancers

______Pat TylerRobin Cousins______
______George Bailey
Terry VennerCarol Scholls
Christine Seager______
Anthony CollinsJennifer Wood
Dawn Willats______Sylvia Bishop______

Whilst at Markhams Chase I was a member of the school netball team and choir (see pictures below). I also remember being taken on a school trip to The Tower of London, which I found fascinating.

Patsy as a member of Markhams Chase School netball team 1956

Patsy as a member of Markhams Chase School netball team 1956

June SmithJennifer SmeadMiss PikeChristine SeagarPatricia Tyler
Evelyn BurgessDoreen GrangerDawn WillatsPat BarnettAndrea Bardot
Patsy as a member of Markhams Chase School choir 1956

Patsy as a member of Markhams Chase School choir 1956

Clive CliffordAnthony CollinsChristine Seagar______Jennifer SmeadMiss PikeKathleen LewisTerry VennerJennifer woodPatsy TylerRussell Brigdon
Linda CockranDawn WillatsJohn Devine______Rob MonroeCarol MathewsCarol SchollsPat BarnettLinda Hayward
June SmithSylvia Bishop______Evelyn BurgessJoy RobertsonAndrea BardotAngela KnightDoreen GraingerCarol Bruce

I started at the Laindon High Road School in 1956 and fortunately enjoyed it to a great extent, especially art and domestic subjects, and did not have many bad experiences.

I expect many pupils have other memories of their time in that educational centre, pure hell if you had a teacher that was less than fond of you!! The school is one of the only original buildings left in Laindon, which is a shame.

Me in Laindon High Road, in 1964, with the "Hiawatha" at the junction with St. Nicholas Lane in the background on the right.

Me in Laindon High Road, in 1964, with the “Hiawatha” at the junction with St. Nicholas Lane in the background on the right.

Who remembers? The Memorial Hall with the basic necessities for comfort, the squeaky wooden floorboards and stage, where many of us took our first steps in attempting ballet and tap classes. Also the many events for the local folks that took place there: plays, shows, pantomime, flower and produce shows, etc.

There were also carnivals that stretched along the High Road in the summertime.

The Co-op Stores with several different departments: butchers, bakers, grocers and drapers. The overhead cash canisters that whizzed above our heads on wires, with the money and invoices, across to the elevated wooden booth, which housed the cashier who would pull a handle to return the canister with the change and receipt to the waiting customer. The dusty window displays of faded, empty boxes and tins of merchandise and the less than inspiring clothing, hanging on chrome stands, looking very forlorn.

Pelham’s sweet shop, was owned by an elderly Polish lady who stood behind the high dark wooden counter. I remember she seemed very gruff and austere. I would by 1d drinks of cherryade, in a small glass, on my way home from junior school in the summer. My favourite sweets were proper lemon sherbet (I recently found a shop in Maldon that still sells it), dew drops, flying saucers, wine gums, gobstoppers, 4 for 1d chews, etc, etc. Oh! Innocent days.

The Eccentric Old Lady with a wooden barrow, in very shabby clothes, walking up and down the High Road?  We knew her as “seven raincoats”, one wonders what happened in her life for her to live in such a way, so sad.

The baker’s roundsman with huge baskets filled with bread and buns delivered to the door.

The fishmonger and his hand cart, ringing his bell on a Sunday evening, selling winkles, cockles and shrimps for your tea.

The coalman heaving great heavy sacks of coal into our bunkers.  Real fires that burnt your skin because you sat so close to the flames, even our new house was draughty and had no central heating. Real toast made on a toasting fork and baked potatoes cooked in the ashes of the fire.

Why is it that other towns and villages seem to have been proud to modernise but keep some of their older landmarks, as well as build new properties, to keep the identity of their area? Successive “powers that be” seem to have been intent on destroying Laindon’s heritage. What are we left with now? They have forever obliterated what was once our little corner of Essex.

There was a sense of community here where everybody knew their neighbours and children and if any of us kids were up to mischief someone would tell our parents so we would get it in the neck from both them and the aggrieved. Society was really, to a great extent, self-policing because everybody knew everybody else. Although the quality of life, comfort and expectations are much greater now things were so different back then. Of course life was not perfect by any means but perhaps it was simpler and, in many ways, happier.

Let’s hope the younger generations growing up here now will have their own favourite memories after reading and seeing how Laindon developed over the past generations. It’s up to us old “Laindon Originals” to pass on our recollections so they can be recorded for prosperity.

Patsy at Markhams Chase School. Aged 5 in 1950 (left). and aged 10 in 1955 (right)

Patsy at Markhams Chase School. Aged 5 in 1950 (left). and aged 10 in 1955 (right)

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  • Hi Patsy. My cousin Robert Gray married Barbara Mansfield. They lived next door to each other in Tyler Avenue. Barbara is still in contact with Doreen Grainger, she lives in Marks Tey near Colchester.

    By Alan Taylor (09/03/2020)
  • Patsy, I stumbled on this article while looking for the Fortune of War in the search section of the site. It’s wonderfully written. Your story of the chicken bran being mixed up in an enamel bowl reminds me of my own childhood, I’m talking now of Barking, can you imagine anyone now having chickens in that area, now officially in east London. After moving to Laindon, all your story is familiar to me. You started at LHR in 1956, I was two years later and we both appear in the 1958 photo.

    Some of the children in your photos are familiar to me, including such LHR superstars as Terry Venner. However, although Clive Clifford, son of the famous Sid Clifford is in your Markham’s Chase photo I don’t remember him or his sister Margaret at LHR. I do remember Doreen Grainger though who lived quite near to us. I wonder also if Linda Cochran is the sister of Geoffrey Cochran who was in my class at LHR.

    Then the picture of you in 1964 captures the look of the day, so familiar. Thanks again this is a brilliant article.

    By Richard Haines (22/04/2014)
  • Further to the the installation of main drainage in Laindon. Thinking back, during the 1935/1937 period I now remember there was a very large sewer laid across the fields from Noak Bridge alongside the Crouch tributary to Barleylands. This presumably was for the housing on Noak Hill and may have been the connection to the High Road as the sewer system in Wash Road etc. was on a much higher elevation, whereas a route High Road to Noak Bridge and across the the fields was relatively flat.

    By WH.Diment (02/12/2012)
  • Hello Irene

    The 1949 electoral register shows that Ernest and Ethel Dockwell (this may be a typing error during transcription or printing) living at ‘Rose Cottage’, Elizabeth Drive.

    Elizabeth Drive was located on the north side of the railway track and to the east of the station. You will find a map showing the area and a photograph of Elizabeth Drive by clicking on the ‘Article List’ button on the top left of the ‘Home’ page, this will bring up a page headed ‘Site Map’, scroll down the list until you find a heading marked Photographs under this you will see History of Laindon click on this, it will take you to a page headed ‘Elizabeth Drive looking east before it was made up’, along with the photograph and map you will see comments about Elizabeth Drive from other contributors.

    Rose Cottage was situated on the south side of Elizabeth Drive and to the east of Ravenswood Drive, if you follow a line up from the ‘O’ in the word ‘SECTION’ it will take you to two properties in Elizabeth Drive, this is the approximate location of Rose Cottage.

    Kind regards, Colin Humphrey

    By Colin Humphrey (01/12/2012)
  • Responding to Alan Davies. It was circa 1936 when the main drainage was installed in the High Road. We lived in School Lane, north of the Arterial Road and sewage was installed circa 1937 including Wash Road and the Palmers Estate of Royston Avenue and Martindale Avenue. 

    I don’t know where it started, but it finished in Barleylands. There was no mechanical diggers employed in the digging of the sewer, but was by ‘navies’ who would arrive in the mornings usually by bicycle with a fork, a shovel and a graft which was necessary to obtain employment. The graft was most necessary as the soil was heavy yellow clay and an ordinary garden spade was not reallly suitable for such heavy work. 

    The pipes were laid approx 6 ft deep and it was a considerable feat to dig such trenches by hand over the distances required. The residents had to contribute towards the cost of installation. When under construction the trenches always had a night watchman with a canvas shelter and a coke braizier although there was very little to steal apart from the timber shuttering as the workman took their tools home.

    By WH.Diment (01/12/2012)
  • Ah! The “old outside loo.” Where exactly in old Laindon did modern sewers begin and end. Presumably shops (and residencies?) on the High Road all had sewage but did it run all the way from Langdon Hills? Where did it terminate? Once you were back off of the High Road was everything the “old outside loo?”

    By Alan Davies (30/11/2012)
  • What wonderful memories, the old outside loo, and as you said wonderful veg, and killing the odd chicken. Getting the water from the well and keeping the produce you would normally put in the fridge today down the well. 

    My grandparents had a place down Elizabeth Drive and I am trying to find out where Elizabeth Drive is now. What I mean when the goverment took the places off the poor owners to build the new town I would love to know what is built on my grandfather’s old property. 

    Can somebody help by telling me what the name of the Dairy shop that was near the level crossing that went up to Laindon Hills? I thought it was something like Marshams but I am proberly wrong.

    I went to Laindon High Road School for a while, when nan and grandad were looking after me. I had a cousin called Georgie who lived with nan and grandad all his young life and went to Laindon High Road School. If anybody can help I would be very grateful?

    By Irene Squirrell nee Dockrell (28/11/2012)
  • Looking at the Maypole photo, I think it might be me (George Bailey) behind the blond boy – the one with very skinny legs, dark hair and a full fringe! I used to live in Elizabeth Drive – Cosy Nook – next to Ebenezer Gospel Hall, opposite Doodes.

    By George Bailey (23/06/2012)
  • Some name to add to the picture Markhams Chase school chior. The Jennifer next to Miss Pike is Smead. In front of Miss Pike is Rob Monroe? In the front row the Angela is Knight. The Jennifer in the netball picture is not Wood but Smead.

    Editor: I have made the correction

    By Tony Collings (10/10/2011)
  • Your reference to the overhead system the Laindon branch of The Grays Co-operative Society used to centralise its accounts, reminds me that one of our pet dog, a black Labrador called “Mac” loved to accompany us to the shop and wait outside patiently while we shopped, his nose as close as possible to the door of the butchery department, presumably taking in the, for him, delightful smell. However when a canister came through the wall of the grocery or the that of the greengrocery next door, Mac would leap to his feet and run backwards and forwards trying to either work out where it had come or where it was going! Probably the most important item, other than their change, that was returned from the cashier’s kiosk to the counter to be handed back to the customer was their “divi” coupon. These would accumulated at home ready to be able to check that the Society had done a good job in keeping a running total of the money that had been spent in their shops when it came to sharing out the profits on dividend day every quarter year. Grays was only a small society by comparison with those in London, LCS or Royal Arsenal so seldom paid out much above the average 6d in the £1. It was a revelation to me to discover that the Newcastle on Tyne Society, for example, seldom fell below paying out 1 shilling and 10pence in the £1 a sum well worth having! Mind you, I lost count of how many times even the Gray’s six penny dividend helped to pull the fat from the fire when getting by on the weekly dole from the “Labour” was the sole income. 1 shilling and eleven pence three farthings was the standard price for a boy’s school shirt in those days and the farthing change could be in either specie or a packet of pins. I preferred the coin because there was always something in the sweetshop that could be obtained for riches like that. I take pleasure in the fact that in the modern day supermarket, I am able to point out to the checkout clerks that they have one of the easiest jobs in the world even though they are seldom appreciative of the fact. In the grocery department at the coop, not only did the assistant walk backwards and forwards collecting the items the customer requested, but often that comestible had to be measured out or sliced and packed before being weighed and its individual price calculated, a process that involved the counter “hand” carrying not only the knowledge of everything in his or head, but an ability to keep a running total of all transactions as they progressed in order to reach a total at the end. All this was often done by poorly rewarded shop assistants who seldom put down a figure on paper until they came to write the final total on the top copy of the triple paged carbon paper interspersed pad from which they tore two “divi” checks to send to the cashier in her highly placed kiosk with amount proffered by the customer.

    By John Bathurst (09/06/2011)
  • Hello Patsy, its lovely reading your memories, along with all the others. I’ve become quite addicted to the website! Older than you, I do remember going to school and playing with your sister Joyce when you lived in Powell Road, just along from where my family lived in Buller Road. I am in the process of writing my memories, so you should be seeing them on the website soon (hopefully).

    By Wendy Groves (nee Archibald) (04/06/2011)
  • Patsy on your maypole pic I am sure that is me third on the right looking at it with the parted hair. I don’t know if my mother made all the costumes but I know she made mine. I remember the boys had silk puffy pants in bright colours and the girls had long flowery skirts and head scarfs to match this was quite a thrill for me as we were a very poor family. I am pleased to say not for long being Laindoners. Bye for now Gloria

    Gloria Patsy informs me that you were not in that group but Ina Pike has given her the photograph of the group with you in and she will be adding another article soon.

    By Gloria Sewell (22/05/2011)
  • Since writing this article back in 2003 Laindon has lost so much more of its buildings. In my last paragraph I stated that we old Laindoners should pass on our memories. Little did I know that seven years later we would be involved in getting this website up and running. I am still in touch with Miss Pike from Markhams Chase School. For two and a half years recently I was asked to be a School Governor at the school and also did voluntary teaching on both local history and instructing children in needlecraft. It was great going back to the school although it had changed and been upgraded. Mind you it still had the same aroma that I remembered from all those years ago! some things do not change. It is great hearing from so many of you out there, please keep those memories coming into the website, not forgetting the photographs. We will be grateful for any information you have to tell our little old town history. 

    By Patsy Mott (née Tyler) (21/05/2011)
  • In the photo of Markham’s Chase School Choir, the boy in the middle row third from left is my cousin John Devine. I joined the choir the following year and I can still remember the words of some of the songs. John’s father Richard Devine (my Uncle) taught at the school until 1957.

    Thank you Nina I have added John’s  name

    By Nina Humphrey (née Burton) (12/04/2011)
  • Patsy, I couldn’t agree with you more on your story. I sat here reading what you had written and I felt that I was walking down the high street, as with all the other stories written. I like many other people would like to know why Laindon was wiped of the map it seems at the stroke of a pen. Thank you Patsy

    By Jeff Footer (11/04/2011)
  • I am 38 years old I moved to Basildon from Canvey Island in 1980 where I lived and still live in Vange. I love reading these old stories and the photos of the old villages around our area. I do remember the community when everyone seemed to know each other and it did seem to be a lot safer place then it makes me feel so sad and angry that the powers to be seem to be so proud that they have destroyed all those lovely villages i.e Vange, Pitsea, Laindon all in the name of progress but what progress? All those lovely buildings and places gone for ever. All the village shops and community swapped for a Tesco’s store and a load of housing estates that are falling apart and a community that don’t care and can’t be bothered with each other I am just glad that some places like Dunton plotlands and Wat Tyler have been saved so I and my children will have somewhere to go to enjoy the outdoors and the beautiful parts of Basildon new town that survive.

    By Ian Lewis (10/04/2011)

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