Midwives in Laindon ( 3 of 10)

Some thoughts on the manner in which attitudes can be altered by changing circumstances

Against such a background the Laindon community grew with the East End of London as the soil in which its roots had been nurtured and from which developed the motivations for its trans-planting to a rural environment. These motivations were largely twofold. On the one hand there were those east-enders who were deliberately escaping the effects of the widespread poverty, a situation that constantly aggravated the housing position, a position made worse by the effects of WWI and on the other there were their counterparts who, because of the vast increase in industrial production necessitated by WWI had acquired sufficient funds to invest in establishing a rural pied-a-terrein the area. The overall effect was a strangely hybrid population; a permanently resident core with a transient addition of “weekend only” people attached. Although this is a position that, over time, has been repeated elsewhere particularly in so called “tourist” area, the position in the Laindon of the 1930’s did not appear to be accompanied by any deep resentment towards those who were not full-time residents. All, it seemed, were in this makeshift environment or rural slum together!

Other than the “East-End Spirit” there was yet another element that accidentally served as a binding agent in the creation of Laindon’s community. That was the so-called High Road. This particular route had, presumably since time immemorial, transversed the district in a north to south direction linking remote small communities based on the district’s farms. The decision of the railway engineers to site Laindon station at a midpoint on this road, served to provide a focus and central point that had never before existed. As a result the whole area was inadvertently redefined, its new limits no longer delineated by its old parish boundaries. In the minds of many “Laindon” became the parishes of Langdon Hills to the south together with Laindon proper to the north, with the adjacent parishes of Dunton, the south part of Little Burstead and Lee Chapel subsumed into one new and larger district. The north/south highway thus became the area’s central spine and along its length, from the Old Fortune of War pub in the north to the Crown Hotel in the south, there developed the commercial centre through which, over time, the whole population could be expected to filter in pursuit of the essentials of existence. There is very little doubt in this writer’s mind that, above all, by the pure accident of the way it developed, its unplanned aspect, lacking as it did any buildings of particular architectural merit, largely unappreciated until after it was demolished, Laindon High Road was what made Laindon.

Because of the phenomenon of the High Road (fashion decreed that substituting “Street” for “Road” never caught on despite all the efforts made for it to do so) it very soon became a fact that the population of Laindon got to know itself by the simple fact of frequent visits to the many small commercial businesses that clustered along its route. By the very nature of the way in which the variety of undertakings were scattered along its full length, such was the everyday activates of the people of the district that it became inevitable that, with time, virtually everybody met everybody else simply because they were, of necessity, in the same part of town! By this simple process, even the most recent of in-comers found, very quickly, that they had been absorbed into the life of the community. Also, if the elongated spindly hub that was the High Road, drew the residents of the district towards itself in order to satisfy the community’s commercial needs, so in much the same way the same spindly route was the centre that drew the populace for its social activities.  Scattered along its length were the meeting halls, the churches, the chapels, the clubs, the pubs and all those other places in which the populous might and did gather in order to entertain, educate or generally partake in those activities that denote a social life above and beyond mere existence. In an age in which even Radio was in its infancy, TV non-existent, the presence in a very central location of the one and only cinema, that great visual attraction developed through the first half of the twentieth century, was a great unifier of an otherwise disparate community, cutting through, as it did, with its universal appeal the many variants of opinion that otherwise divide communities.

It was into this environment that Lillian Bathurst moved permanently in 1933. She was no stranger to the district because since shortly after WWI her father, Tom Vickery, an East Ham man, had owned two plots of land in Basil Drive, a turning off the still existent Tyler Avenue. This was the Vickery family’s weekend retreat, the plots (named “Allwood”) having been furnished with what practically standard for such locations, a single roomed hut which later could be, and was, extended such as to be suitable for a couple living in retirement. Lillian was, in her youth, a frequent visitor to Laindon to make use of “Allwood”. After 1928, following her marriage, Tom Vickery’s weekend retreat served Stan Bathurst, Lillian’s husband, well as the necessary base from which to satisfy his, Stan’s, ambitions. Having acquired two of the as yet undeveloped plots in Basil Drive immediately adjacent to “Allwood” he set about building a brick built two bedroomed bungalow which would serve as the permanent home for his young family, consisting of himself, Lillian and the author, aged four in 1933 when the ambition came to fruition. Thus from that date, a West London family joined the burgeoning Laindon community.

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  • The comment I wish to add has nothing to do with midwifery, but the history of the High Rd. of which John remarked that popular fashion wished to change it to High St. He has in his earlier submissions stated that this was propounded by J.G.Cottis. I suggest that the real reason it failed was because there was already a High Street rumming east from the High Rd. between Carey’s and Henbest’s. I have a copy of a Laindon Recorder which carries an advert for Henbest Tailors giving its address as No.1 High Street, on the corner. Strangely enough, this copy was given to me by a gentleman named John Bathurst.

    By W.H.Diment (11/07/2012)

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