My Laindon My Story
Markhams Chase Years
My school years at Markham’s Chase started at the end of summer 1948 as my birthday was in November and as the school year only started in the late summer, I was nearly 6 before I started. By then we had moved to 64 King Edward Road into what was called an Airy House another present from the Americans. At the time it seemed huge with 3 bedrooms, lounge, dining room, a tiny dysfunctional kitchen and a big hall very handy for the cracker boxes, which at that time many locals made at home (bon bons). My mother walked my little brother and me along St. Nicholas Lane to Markham’s Chase school, past Whife’s Dairy and one or two other shops along there.
Along St. Nicholas Lane was a lady (I think her name was Mrs Bryant) whose front room was like a warehouse. She sold kids school ware on tick and her son would come round every week with his little tally book to collect the money. We were kitted out there every year but I only got shoes and under ware and as I had 2 aunties a little older than me clothes those days were passed down.
Oh! I do remember on cold mornings and the endless hooks and eyes on the liberty bodices.
One lady I remember meeting on that journey, we used to call her a witch, I now look back and think children can be so cruel. She always wore a black coat and scarf and pushed an old pram. She had a daughter who I knew when we got older was just the opposite of her mum a very colourful girl.
Markham’s Chase was opposite the Church Hill. On the left as you turned into Markham’s Chase was a row of council houses. I was so jealous of the kids who lived there they didn’t have to walk far to school not like us but whatever the weather we got there. A little further down on the left was a path, a school friend Linda Barker lived down there. We would meet on the way to school and remained friends for years. I wonder where Linda is now? Opposite the school was a sweet shop called Lawrence’s. They sold lovely sherbet in different flavours orange, Lemon and Strawberry. Whatever flavour you had your fingers stayed that colour all day. At the side of Lawrence’s was a lane or farm entrance we used as a short cut to my grandparents, it bought us out at the side of the Winston Club. We would cross the road, over the bridge and go down the steps into Beatrice Road and nine times out of ten arriving at nans with a boot full of cow-pats.
I remember Miss Whitley the day I started school. I loved her till the day I left but that didn’t help on that first day. I have a very vivid memory of crying all day and saying “Please take me to the gate I will find my own way home”. Like every other child I soon settled in. My early school days were a mixture for me, because we were quite poor, other kids did try to bully me as I was a bit scruffy. Even then there were kids who thought they were better than you but I was quite a tough little cookie. I held my own and looked after my little brother Fred when he came to school in 1950. I can’t ever recall not wanting to go to school as I had a thirst for knowledge then as I have now.
I remember mince and potatoes for lunch and cake and custard for pudding. We sat in tables of 6 with 4 young ones and 2 older ones. If the older ones liked you they would get seconds for the younger children. The teachers including Miss Duke sat at the top of the canteen and always ate the same food as we did. After lunch break you were lined up in classes to say our times tables before we went back to class.
Sports day was always on a Saturday. Being quite a tomboy I was quite good at sports and was always the goalkeeper in the netball team. We had 4 teams on sports day red, blue, green and yellow. I was in green and we all got lollipops and the winning team got the shield.
I think Miss Pike was our music teacher. I thought she was so beautiful and wanted to grow up like her. She taught us to sing Barbara Allen and Green sleeves and I have never forgotten the words to this day. Mr Jones was my last form teacher at Markham’s Chase and I always thought he was in love with Miss Pike, childhood fantasies I know.
This next bit is really true, we had a Miss Cock, Miss Balls and guess what a Miss Airs, a joke when we all got older as you can imagine.
At 7 years old we were reading David Copperfield. You had pencils till you could join up words (real writing) then you got a wooden stick with a nib on the end and all the desks had inkwells. My books always had big blobs on them where I put to much ink on the nib. One year I remember (I still think Miss Pike had something to do with it) I was picked to play an angel in the Christmas play and because I was a bit of a pickle and scruffy I never got picked for anything. This memory is very precious to me.
Another kindness to me I have never forgotten was by a dinner lady named Mrs Randell, she gave me some ribbons for my hair. Talking of hair who could forget Nitty Nora she came once a month to see who had head lice, quite common in those days, if you didn’t have them you got them because she went from child to child with no gloves and not washing her hands. If you had head lice you were then sent to the clinic near Laindon station to get special stuff to rub in your hair. I cringe to think what it was, my mother cut off my long plaits once because we had them, still at least when we went to the clinic we got our orange juice and my favourite cod liver oil. Also we had malt, it sounds awful but believe me it was delicious.
Now who could forget the little bottles of milk every morning especially on freezing days, the cream used to pop out off the top of the bottle and we had a cream lolly. One day we had our milk and it tasted awful, Miss Duke sent it over to Blue House Farm to see what was wrong with it. It turned out to be goat’s milk; I don’t think anyone drunk it that day.
The school loos were outside in the playground and I think later a corridor was built from the school to the loos, I just recall them always being cold and the pipes freezing up. We would put our hands up and ask to be excused, you were either allowed to go or told “You should have gone at playtime” depending on teachers mood.
There was a little pond in the left hand corner of the field, which was fenced off, and we were not allowed in there. I think some boys my brother included went over the fence to catch newts or tadpoles.
We finally got our school bus around 1950; it could not go all the way down Markham’s Chase because it could not turn round at the end. I thought it would be clever one day when we had a new bus driver to tell him he could go all the way down to the school and of course he got stuck, boy was I in trouble for that, my mum was called to the school as well. But for all my wayward ways Miss Duke saw something in me. She called my parents into the school to try to persuade me to take the 11 plus but I flatly refused. I didn’t want to go to a school without my friends; I wanted to go to Laindon High Road School. I wonder what would have happened if I had taken the exam? Would I have had a completely different life? Would I not have the wonderful family I now have? I can’t bear to imagine that.
One sad day about 1951 I recall my friend Julie Newson was called from the class. The atmosphere was strange all day and at the end of school the teacher told us Julie’s mum had died. I remember crying for Julie all the way home. I was quite an emotional child; I still am as an adult. Julie and I also remained good pals as our boyfriends were stationed together when on national service and we would see them off at Tilbury station together. Another sad day was 6th February 1952; we were in our knitting class. I can’t recall who the teacher was but she told us very gently that the King had died, she began to cry and we all cuddled her. I think her name was Miss Mayhew.
Some of the school friends names I can remember where Christine and Tony Collings (dad owned oil shop) Pat and Georgie Bartley, Linda Burton (dad later owned Winston Club), Valerie Townswell (best runner and dad a councillor), Linda Barker, Julie Newson, Ernie and Jean Byron, Beryl Pasco, Peter Charsley (dad owned shoe shop), Nicky, Nigel and David Flashman, Ann Bullamore (loved horses), Pat, Linda & Jennie Pattle (neighbours), Pat and Linda Brookes, Tina and Evelyn Brewer, Janet and David Nightingale, Diana Pocock, Barbara Stevingson, Johnny Tyler, Brian Whitehead, Terry Clark (first Love), Joey Bruce (first crush), Josie and Tiger Bowen (district nurses children),Fred Sewell (brother ), Roger Pierce, Jeannette MacDonald, Steven Cash, Pat Card, Maggie Cove, Pam Willet. I do hope some of you will get in touch but there are many more people I’m sure.
Markham’s Chase is part of the Pilgrims Way. We were taught this with pride at school. The Pilgrims passed on their way to board the “Mayflower” at Tilbury from Chelmsford.
When we got home as most kids in those days we had our jobs to do. My mother went to work as soon as my brother started school and after this time the fun started. Our playground was the field where Royal Court now stands and as kids this was a wasteland with lots of nooks and crannies bushes and hidey-holes and we loved it. Then one day someone thought it would be a good idea to plough it and grass it over making the field nice and flat, we never played on it again. There was a path worn through the middle where folk would use it as a short cut to the High Road through Pelham’s ally. Sometimes the Salvation army used to come there with a big board and tell us stories and we would sing “Jesus wants us for a sunbeam”. One of our naughty games was Knock Down Ginger but it was never the same. Royal Court was later built on the site and you know the rest.
We played in the street at the top of King Edward Road, Tin Can Tommy, Hop Scotch, Run outs, Rounders, (using the kerbs of Devonshire Road and King Edward Road for posts.
We used to get plaster board from the building sites and draw all over the roads with it, our arrows for run outs etc. At the top of King Edward Road it became unmade and there were lots of little bungalows along there. We used to turn left along a little track to the onion field.
A lady living along the track used to make the most delicious toffee apples, when the fruit was ripe in autumn and sell them at her gate. At the edge of the onion field there was an old dead oak tree stump although it wasn’t dead to us, it was our fairy castle, our gingerbread house, our cavalry, it obligingly became for us what we wanted it to be. I would love to think it is still there, I wonder!!!!
If we wandered further down we came to the Lily pond my mum wasn’t to keen on us going there alone but I’m sure we did. If any of my uncles Bobby or Ken came round or my dad (he always took Mondays off work) we would go armed with a stick, ball of string, a few pins and a jar and with most of the other kids in the street go catching sticklebacks. Poor things most of them died in the jars before we got them home. We were not intentionally cruel but we were always so sad when they died.
On the right hand corner at the top of Kind Edward Road just as you went onto the unmade bit I recall a family living in the first house, they had a parrot and as you went by it would shout at us as it sat in it’s cage in the garden. Oh dear I expect it wouldn’t last long today left in the front garden on his own.
I must now take this opportunity to make a confession. We often went scrumping in the gardens along the track and as I was the best tree climber it was left to me to get the biggest and the best fruit. Sorry to all you good people from back then but I suspect they all probably knew who took them any way.
I still now have a very vivid memory of our den at the end of Devonshire Road; it carried on as a track towards the Arterial Road (A127). We found an old wooden bungalow; it was fully furnished with lace tablecloths, old horsehair chairs, oak dresser, pretty bone china and an old oil lamp. It was located behind some overgrown bushes. I can’t recall if our parents knew about it but it was our very own little house. I can’t remember ever-messing things up in there and I can’t recall what happened to it. We never did see the owners after the war but many Londoners returned home and used their little Laindon shacks for weekends. Maybe this was what it was use for by the owners but I remember we spent many happy hours in there pretending it belonged to us, our dear little house.
Weekends we would wander to my Grandparents to play with the family dogs. The old black Labrador Spot seemed to be there for all my childhood. There was also Rinty and Kim the Alsatians and little Sparky the Corgi.
These are my wonderful memories of Laindon as a child. Of course then the schools were a lot stricter but I think our generation benefited from it. Medical services were not as good but we all grew up stronger and valued life more. We had the odd unsavoury character in Laindon and the one or two dishonest wheeler and dealers but they were rare. I don’t want to talk about being cold huddled round the last shovel of coal or the poverty around us but what I could talk about eternally is the way we lived life to the full, a friend always there when you were in need, the fresh air, the wonderful eccentrics and the feeling of complete freedom. I will leave the former for you to learn about when you turn on the telly. I hope you have enjoyed with me a little of my past memories of the old Laindon, until the next time.