Denis Ife's Memories of Wickford
From an interview, and with kind permission of Dennis Ife, born in 1926.
I was born and grew up in Wembley, my wife was born in Peckham, she moved to Wickford when she was young, and came from a large family, by the name of Longman, they lived in Wick drive. Her mother was named by the press ‘The Angel of Wickford’ as she would do anything for anyone even though she had nothing herself.
We met and married in Wilsdon, then moved to Wickford, first living with my mother-in-law while saving to buy this house, in those days it cost £1000. I managed to borrow the money from a broker in Hadleigh. The house was in a bad state of repair after having been rented out.
There was a well in the garden for our water and an outside toilet and no electricity. We had gaslights, and coal fires. The house was surrounded by fields, which I could cut across to go to the railway station.
When I moved to Wickford I was lucky to get a job as a carpenter in a new furniture factory on the Arterial Road in Rayleigh, they made a job for me on hearing that I had just been demobbed from the Queen’s Royal Regiment and had been in D Day.
I was there for 11 years. When the factory was taken over, I got a job at Stone Craft at Shotgate, they made prefabricated buildings, then they sold out to Wernicks. I then worked for the council until I retired at 65. I started work when I was 13 and had never been unemployed.
I’ve got a son and daughter both live in Wickford.
Wickford had every shop you needed for every day living. There’s only 3 left of the originals, Suttons, Halls and Moores the boot repairers. If you needed anything big you had to go either to Southend or Romford. There was only one bus service and that was the City Bus
I remember walking out of Swan Lane and turning right, a couple of the shops are still original. When we get to the bridge, which was just a ordinary bridge in those days, there was Mays, a fish and chip shop and a builders yard. Coming under the bridge most of the shops have been rebuilt, there was a clothing shop and electrical shop.
Old mother Harrington had a sweet shop next to the cinema, where Woolworths was. Then there was a chemist, Garbotts, I think, a greengrocer and butcher. Archie Wilson had an off licence, just round from Halls Corner, and there was a café where Prentice the bike shop is.
At the end of the High St near Wick Drive was the electric power station and telephone exchange, also a post office
Halls in the High Street was on the other side of the road to what it is now, they owned fields at the back. There was Ron Smith’s who sold flowers, and a newspaper shop and sweet shop and fancy goods, and a radio repair shop, next to that was Dr. Frew who had a big house and surgery then the dentist and solicitor.
There was 2 shoe shops and a woman’s shop, then back under the bridge was the The Castle pub, they owned all the land out the back and to Southend Road. My wife’s brother (Ron Longman) used to go on a Monday to The Castle, where the market was, and kill the rabbits and chickens for the customers, his payment was fresh eggs.
Round the corner was a café called Alfresco Café and junk shop and a second hand shop
There was a big Carnival every year and a fair held on the Nevendon playing field, where my daughter won first prize in the baby show 1952.