Richards' Farm - Stories and Memories

Family Connections

Elizabeth & James Richards of Sunnymead. Pendennis in the background.
Denise Hamilton
Neighbours. Elizabeth Richards & daughter Violet from Sunnymead on the left. My Grandma, Amy Burton from Spion Kop on the right with one of her older sons and his wife in the middle. Amy's youngest son George (not shown) was my Dad.
Michelle Collier.
James Richards Snr & Jnr in front of the farmhouse with unknown lady.
Denise Hamilton.
Some of Richards' dairy cows or 'little effers' perhaps?
Denise Hamilton.
The boat and the pond in the field along side the farm. Rose Richards front left, Jimmy Richards in the middle, Lizzy Richards front right. Viley Richards back left, back right - unknown.
Denise Hamilton.
Lizzy Richards on milkmaid duty.
Denise Hamilton.
Elizabeth Richards Snr and Jnr at the side of the farmhouse.
Denise Hamilton.
Stevie the horse pulling Richards Dairy milk cart. James Richards and Tommy Pragnall. Children unknown.
Denise Hamilton.
Laindon Carnival Court, probably 1929. Lizzy Richards in the middle on the right.
Denise Hamilton.
Laindon Carnival Queen and Princesses. Lizzy Richards in the middle. Not sure of the hall in the background.
Denise Hamilton.
James Richards Snr on the right, Jimmy and Maria Richards with milk churns.
Denise Hamilton.
Grandson Jimmy Richards feeding chickens, farm machinery in back ground and Pendennis in the distance.
Denise Hamilton
Haymaking in the Top Field.
Denise Hamilton.

The Richards’ family and my Grandparents Henry and Jessica Devine (née Clements) came from Bethnal Green. 

In 1906 my Nan’s older sister Hannah Clements married John Richards the older brother of James Richards.

In the same year, Nan’s brother Charles Clements married Maria Collard. Their daughter Maria Clements (my mum’s cousin) married James Richards Jnr in 1931.

Therefore, the two families were connected in more ways than one, making the three children of James Jnr. and Maria Richards (Sylvia, Jimmy and Hilda) my second cousins (Maria was affectionately known as Sissy Richards).

The Richards family moved to Laindon in 1919 and settled into the farmhouse called ‘Sunnymead’ and run a dairy farm. 

They had four children, James, Elizabeth (Lizzy), Rose and Violet (Viley).

In 1923 my Grandparents, Henry and Jessica Devine, moved to Laindon with their three children, my mother, Jessica aged almost 9, and her younger brothers Richard and Harry. Initially, they lodged at the farmhouse while waiting to move into their own bungalow close by called ‘Pendennis’.



One story I was told, happened while Nan was lodging at Sunnymead.  My Nan and James Richards were sitting in the kitchen looking out on a field where there were a herd of young heifers, when it started to rain heavily. James said (in his Bethnal Green accent), “I suppose I’d better go and get those ‘little ‘effers’ in”. My slightly surprised Nan replied, “Why do you call them that – what have they ever done to you?” 


The family had a boat which they used on the huge pond in the field along side the farm.


Another story came via my Mum Jessica who had to walk through the farm on her way home from Dunton school each day.  Apparently, one particular cow (co-incidentally also called Jessie) took a dislike to her and would charge towards her when she walked through the field, so mum had to run very fast to reach the gate.   The Richards’ children had a swing hanging from a tree in one of the fields. One day my Mum was enjoying swinging very high, back and forth, when Jessie the cow, who was far away across a couple of fields, spotted my mum and started galloping towards her. Mum panicked slightly as she desperately tried to slow down her swinging activities by scraping her feet on the floor, so she could jump off and run quickly to safety before Jessie got too close. Thankfully, she just about managed in time.


My sister Anne told me that when she and second cousin Hilda Richards were children, they used to go roller-skating in one of the cowsheds. Apparently, there was a long strip of concrete running the length of the shed and a rope hanging from the ceiling. They would hold onto the rope to pull themselves along.


Jimmy Richards Jnr and my Dad George Burton were good friends since boyhood. Dad came to Laindon each weekend with his family who had owned a plot and wooden bungalow close to the farm since 1915, originally called Honeysuckle Hall, but was later changed to ‘Spion Kop’. My Dad George married my Mum Jessica in 1930.  Jimmy Richards married Maria Clements in 1931.


Rose Richards married Thomas Whitehead and lived in Rosedene next to Pendennis.

Anne told me that she and our brother Dennis once had a ride across the top field in one of the Richards’ horse and carts. The horse was called Stevie and Dennis was allowed to have a go at driving under Tommy Whitehead’s supervision. 


By the time I came along, the Richards’ family were no longer at the farm but were living in various other parts of Laindon.

However, I often went ‘down the farm’ to play with the children of the various families that lived there. I even went to one or two of their birthday parties. I remember the stream that ran in front of the farmhouse with the little wooden bridge we had to cross to get into the front garden. 


After my Nan moved away from Pendennis approx. 1958, our nearest neighbours were the Whitehead family of Rosedean. I was particularly friendly with the twins, Norman and Rosemary who were two years younger than me. Very sadly, Rose died in the late fifties and her daughter Rosemary went to live with her older sister Margaret. Norman stayed with his father and older brother Bryan. 


Tom Whitehead remarried a few years later to a very nice lady called Lil. I soon became friendly with her daughter Jean. Around 1963, Jean  took me to visit her grandparents, Sidney and Annie Day, who lived in a bungalow called ‘Sekaon’ in Helmore Crescent.  I remember walking around the back unmade roads passing by all the plotland bungalows on the way.

My mum became good friends with Lil but hadn’t realised that she was an identical twin until we played a trick on her. Lil and Jean came to our house one day and mum showed Lil into our living room. Lil’s identical twin sister, Vera, waited outside until my mum went back into the kitchen and then Vera walked in. My mum was completely taken aback as she thought Lil was already inside. Jean and I started laughing and explained that this was Vera, Lil’s identical twin. The trick had worked perfectly and caused much merriment.


My younger brother Alan and Norman Whitehead shared an enthusiasm for tinkering about with old scrapped cars. They collected several, and kept them in our garden, got them working and drove them around the field just for fun. One was an old Austin, which would have been a collector’s item now if only it had been preserved.

I remember the day Norman was given an old wind-up gramophone and stack of 78” records by a rag and bone man. We spent the afternoon playing the records and laughing at some of the old songs. One in particular I remember was the Billy Cotton Band with Alan Breeze singing ‘Just an old beer bottle’. We played it over and over because it made us laugh – even more so when the gramophone needed winding up!


The Whitehead family moved away to a new house in Lee Chapel North around 1966. We said our goodbyes and I watched with sadness from our window on the day they moved out as they had been so much a part of my childhood. I would miss many things, including the familiar hum of Tom’s saw bench on summer days as he prepared logs for storing for the winter. However, I wished them all the very best for the future in their new home.


The semi-detached farmhouse, Sunnymead and Southview, which had been occupied by various families from time to time, was finally vacated in the mid sixties and stood empty. My younger brother Alan and I took a walk there and wondered through the empty rooms which were once alive with activity and the sound of children’s laughter. We were very much aware that the building would not be standing for much longer and although we were just teenagers witnessing the end of an era, we felt privileged to have been a part of it, if only for a few years. These days, I like to take an occasional walk around the area and remember. 


In recent years, I have been in contact with Lizzy Richard’s granddaughter, Denise Hamilton, and Hilda Richard’s daughter Michelle Collier, who provided me with the photographs and their kind permission to use them. I would like to thank them both very much.


Finally – My ‘farming memories’

In the early fifties Laindon was still very much a farming area.  On the east side of our garden where Bourne Close now stands, there was a large field which we called Buckenhams. I remember that field being ploughed by a man using a horse and plough (not a tractor). My Dad apparently knew him as they would chat across the hedge while the horse stood waiting patiently.

The field to the south of our garden was known as the ‘Top Field’.  There was a well worn track across the middle which was used as a short cut in the summer to avoid walking the boards, the grass grew very long on either side. In August a man and wife team would arrive with a tractor to cut the grass. I used to like watching as they zig zagged across the field. They both sat on the tractor but the woman drove as her husband was blind. I believe they came from Billericay. From the mid fifties onwards, the field was used for other things. Pigs at one time, when an electric fence was fitted around the field. Followed by young rose bushes when Tinnaman’s nursery used the field.

The fields to the west of our garden each had a pond, and therefore we knew them as the first pond field, second pond field etc. Some years before Fords started to build there, I remember watching a shepherd herding a flock of sheep in the very far field.  He had a crook and a whistle which he used to give instructions to his border collie. That’s hard to believe now – a bit like a far away dream. But it was real and I am so glad that I’d sat at our window watching the little black and white dog darting around the field.

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  • I wanted to say I went to school with Norman and Rosemary they were both in my class. Wondered what had happened to them. So nice to hear the story. thank you Hayley. Can you let Norman and Rosemary know there is going to be a school get together in September for the years 1958 to 1968 if they would like to get in touch.

    By Ian Hollowbread (17/04/2016)
  • Terri. I am so sorry to hear about your mum Margaret. Your message brought back some more memories to me. The last time I saw your mum was in the early sixties when she visited ‘Rosedean’ one afternoon. Norman and my brother Alan were driving their ‘old bangers’ around the Top Field and she decided to have a go. We stood and watched as she really enjoyed herself driving quite fast over all the bumps in the field. I can almost see the big smile on her face and will always remember her as being full of fun. With best wishes.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (30/12/2012)
  • Hi, just wanted to up date the information on my mum Margaret Whitehead. She married my dad Leonard Forbes (who’s family moved down from the East End of London, and they lived in The Ship.) in the 1950’s, they lived with nan and grandad Whitehead at Rosedean, until they moved to Holst Avenue, where I was born in 1961. We moved to Eastwood in about 1969, and the family split up in the 1970’s. 

    Mum moved to Wiltshire to run a pub, something she loved doing, and later married an Irish fella and moved to Southern Ireland with him. She loved her small holding with ducks, chickens, goats and her many dogs……. she always said it reminded her of when she grew up in Laindon. Unfortunately on 1st June 2012 she passed away after a short illness. But before she passed she did get to see a few pages from this website, that brought some wonderful memories for her.

    By Terri Burns née Forbes (29/12/2012)
  • I would like to add a couple of things. Firstly, I forgot to mention that when I saw Hilda Richards in 2009, she told me that her family (who owned The Top Field – west of Devonshire Road, north of King Edward Road) had once applied for planning permission to build three homes on The Top Field along side each other (I assume for Sylvia, Jimmy and Hilda). However, the application was refused by The Council. Secondly, there has always been a slight confusion over the name of the field – a few people referred to it as The Onion Field, probably because of the smell of the wild chives that grew amongst the grass before being cut for hay. However, after some research, it’s now been established that the ‘real’ Onion Field was a larger field situated west of Devonshire Road, slightly south of Powell Road. This was a cultivated field where onions were more likely to have been grown as a crop.

    By Nina Humphrey(nee Burton) (24/11/2011)
  • Hayley. I am so pleased you and your parents enjoyed the story and photographs. The plotlands in Alexandra Road, the unmade part of King Edward Road, Laindon was a unique little community and special (although very muddy in the winter). I consider it important that the era is recorded and archived for the future. Best wishes and please give my kindest regards to your dad, Bryan. P.S. I still live in the area, close to Laindon Station.

    By Nina Humphrey (nee Burton) (04/10/2011)
  • Hi Nina I just wanted to say thank you very much for the story which included my grandparents – Tom and Rose Whitehead. It was lovely to be able to share these stories and photo’s with my parents. Also, some of the photo’s that are displayed on this web page, my father has never seen before as he doesn’t have many photo’s left from his childhood, so thank you to Denise and Michelle for allowing you to publish them. As for the “Whiteheads” – Where are they today? My Dad Bryan is married to Beryl (née Pasco) and still lives in Laindon, Margaret lives in Southern Ireland, Norman is in Chelmsford and Rosemary is in Warwickshire.

    By Hayley Whitehead (02/10/2011)
  • I remember this field very well we would often play there as children and it was called The Onion Field. I lived at the top of King Edward Road and on warm summer night there was often a strong smell of onions. I went to school with Brian Whithead.

    By Jean Pattle (23/05/2011)
  • The “Top Field” was known by some as “The Onion Field” which suggests that at some time it was used for the cultivation of onions but that must have been before my time.

    By Anne Burton (21/05/2011)
  • Great Stories Nina.

    By Ken Porter (20/05/2011)

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