In part 3, I retraced my walk to school in Markhams Chase. On Monday 24th October 2011, I decided to retrace my walk home from school taking photos along the way. Please join me as I describe the journey and recall some memories.
It is no longer possible to drive into Markhams Chase from St Nicholas Lane. A brick wall was built many years ago blocking the original entrance. Therefore, you have to drive further on and turn right into Markhams Chase where it was re-routed, sweeping round in an L shape. The original start of Markhams Chase, where the old houses still stand was renamed ‘Weymarks’.
For those of us who lived on the King Edward Estate and beyond, we have a fair trek ahead of us. I would add that a family member collected me from school until I was about eight years old, only about then did I start going home by myself or with friends. We leave Markhams Chase, passing Church Hill on the right and the bus stop outside the large distinctive semi detached houses where we could catch the bus in the fifties and buy a tuppenny ticket to the stop at Sizers. We walk on past Church Hill to Pound Lane. From here to Basildon Drive on the right used to be a long row of bungalows. One was called “Campbell” where my second cousin Irene Peall lived with her family for a couple of years approx. 1955 to 1957. We pass James Hornsby School on the left.
As I walk, I muse over the fact that although my home was about 2 miles away, it was in Markhams Chase School’s catchment area. Yet when we lived just yards from the back of the school in the seventies, we were out of their catchment area. That just doesn’t make sense to me and I wonder just how crazy the system is.
We turn right into Basildon Drive, then left into Tavistock Road, left again into Nicoll Road, both of which were unmade back then. At this point on hot summer days, I would be gasping for a penny drink from Pelham’s shop, so would run down the hill, remember to do my kerb drill before crossing the High Road and wait for Mrs Pelham to appear from behind the curtain at the back of the shop when she heard the door bell. She’d poor my drink with expert precision to the mark on the glass, ensuring that I didn’t get a drop over my pennyworth. It tasted so good, that I gulped it down and handed the glass back to her before continuing on my way.
I remember three other shops in the Broadway. Variety Stores which sold just about everything from toiletries and birthday cards to wool. Both my mum and nan did lots of knitting and although wool originally come in skeins which had to be wound into balls, Variety Stores sold wool in ready wound balls. In those days you could choose the colour and number of balls you needed, have it put by and pay for just one or two balls at a time until you finished the garment. Any left over would be put back on the shelf. I sometimes collected wool for my nan, asking “Two balls of Mrs Devine’s wool please”. Mr Darrock (I think that was his name) would joke with me in a whispery voice saying “Oooooo is she really devine?”
In the early sixties when I had started work, I used the shoe menders quite often to have stick-on-soles put on new shoes to make them last longer. I also bought cards of blakeys and segs that I could bang in myself with a hammer. I gazed each day in envy at a small tape recorder in the front window of the radio shop. I had a little pocket transistor that I listened to on the way to work but I really wanted that tape recorder. It was priced at £10 and as I was only earning £4 or £5 a week at that time, I couldn’t afford it. However, I did eventually get one. My dad took me to a shop in Basildon and as I was under 21, signed a HP agreement on my behalf for a 4 track Philips which cost £20. I paid £1 per month for 20 months, had many years of enjoyment and still have a couple of the tapes.
That area is once again under development. Ashton’s timber yard has been demolished. My younger brother had a Saturday job there in the sixties. There were some rumours of flats being built on the site but we will have to wait and see.
Entering Pelhams Alley which lead to Tattenham Road, we then turn into Powell Road, cut diagonally across the large field and arrive at the top end of King Edward Road. Here I would cross Devonshire Road and enter the unmade part, walk along the boards, turn right into Alexandra Road and continue right to the end where Spion Kop stood in its very large plot. In summer, I could take a short cut across the Top Field/Onion Field.
Sometimes Pelhams Alley would be impassable due to a muddy puddle half way along, on those occasions I would walk past the shops in The Broadway and into King Edward Terrace. On the corner was a little bridge that crossed the open tributary of the river Crouch. I would stop to lean over the metal railings and do a forward somersault before continuing to King Edward Road.
I took a little bypass into Cromer Avenue to see the sheltered accommodation flats where my nan lived from the mid sixties until 1978. I notice it is no longer possible to walk further on and cut through to Archer Road, because of all the new buildings there. So, I returned to King Edward Road and saw the remains of the monstrous Royal Court in the process of demolition. Finally, I reached Devonshire Road and felt at home. I didn’t venture any further into the former plotland area as it was time to go home for lunch and check on the photographs I had taken. I add some of them below.