Enid Joslin's Memories

My Dad was born at Little Waltham, near Chelmsford, and met my Mother, who was in service at Little Waltham.  I think they met through the Congregational Church there.  Dad played a cello in the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Orchestra, before the First World War.

My Dad came to Wickford in the 1920s.  He had been wounded by shrapnel in the trenches in France and was in hospital in Dieppe.  I cannot give you the actual date, but work was hard to find after the First World War.

His uncle was something to do with the railway elsewhere, and told him that he could get a job as a porter on Wickford Railway Station.  He obtained lodgings in Swan Lane (house since demolished) with another railway worker.

His landlord, Mr. Bullard, had a big outbuilding in his garden and as a sideline did haircuts for folks.  He told my Dad that if he wanted to have a sideline, he could have some space in the outbuilding too.  My Dad got a delivery bike and started up a round of getting orders for goods, and taking them to the people concerned.  These, for a start, were mainly fellow railway workers.  He worked hard and gradually other people were interested and placed orders too.

Mr. Bullard’s house was in the Parish of Downham.  Further along Swan Lane was a little terrace of brick built houses. I think they are still there.

Mother and Dad bought some land and had our homestead built.  Their wedding took place at St .Margaret’s Downham.  A Mrs. Croxon opposite in a little bungalow had a spare room, so Mother was married from there, Mother’s parents having both died from the flu.  I think it was about 1918.

As time went on, I was born in 1927.  At the age of 9 they sent me to Brentwood to school on the train.  Dad had deliveries to make as far as Brock Hill and into Hanningfields.  I can just about remember that we sold oil and had it specially housed.

Mr. Stone, the milkman, came with his pony and trap.  You had to have a big jug ready and in warm weather the milk had to be boiled straight away.

Dad and Mother were Christians.  No trade was done on a Sunday.  Any neighbours taken ill and wanting an Aspro or something else, it was given – but no entry was made in the ledger or any money taken afterwards.

I believe that my Dad honoured God and that one day God will honour my Dad.  Dad had some nasty letters from people wanting the shop to open on a Sunday; they were always refused.

World War 2 came in 1939 and this brought food ration books and many tiny coupons which needed to be counted and threaded with a big darning needle to aid the counting.  After my homework there was always the ration book register to attend to and coupons to count.

We had an Anderson Shelter in the garden and when the raids were bad two lady Salvation Army Officers (from house of residence nearby) came and shared mother’s blankets.  Dad had the keys of the premises, when the change-over of officers came about.

Fruit from our garden went to the S.A. Harvest Festival and to the Congregational Church, where we all attended.

The dug out building in our garden was an emergency food store, ships biscuits and “Bully Beef”.  We also had an A.R.P. post, and at one time a row of soldiers would present themselves to have a wash and shave at our homestead.

I was in the Girl’s Life Brigade at the Congregational Church and also attended the Sunday School, but these activities ceased when the British Restaurant took over the kitchen and hall.

We had many happy times in the Sunday School hall; strangely enough, the last time I had occasion to go in the hall was to visit the Registrar of Births and Deaths to register the death of my father in 1965.  We had for some years been attending another church, not in Wickford.

The land mines came down and Mr and Mrs Pratt and their daughter, Molly, all died; only their dog survived.  We had a lot of damage.  I was sleeping under mother’s bed with my cousin – all our ceilings came down and the windows were smashed; you could stand indoors and look up and see the stars.

The school was bombed and we were not allowed outdoor games – we might have been machine gunned.  They thought we were Wembley Barracks.

Having been in service, mother somehow made the rations ‘go round’.  A big chunk of boiled batter before you got the meat and veg, filled you up, and you didn’t notice the smallness of the portions.

Miss Alice Shrimplin, a long time member of the Congregational Church, died in Spencer Court.  I used to visit her and she still had a hairbrush she had bought in our shop in the early days.  Her father was a fellow worker in my dad’s ‘Railway Days’.  Miss Shrimplin was in charge of the home of Dr Robert Frew, father of Dr. James and Dr. Thomas.  Miss Shrimplin at one time worked for Dr. Marshall (the house can still be seen in the High Street).  Alice was very gifted with doing tatting and crochet work but if caught doing such things when not working Mrs Marshall would remind her that some towels needed darning.  Mrs Graves was one of Dr. Marshall’s family and they lived in Swan lane.  John Graves was killed when HMS Hood was sunk.

Dad thought it would be useful if we went on the phone and we were given the number Wickford 200.  Mayes, the ironmongers were in Wickford; they had 3 sons and a daughter.  The boys would play football outside in the road and I believe that the three of them finished up playing for Arsenal.

The car park close to the railway station once had a button factory on it and when the amusement fair came to Wickford they used that area.

John Sadd’s, a firm of builders merchants, was on the corner of Jersey Gardens and Station Avenue and had their HQ in Maldon.  The Sadd family had a son who I think was a missionary in the Far East and was captured by the Japanese.  His bible was snatched from him and he was ordered to trample on the British flag but he refused and was killed for not obeying orders.

Life continued at home and I had to miss quite a lot of school.  Mum knitted socks for Dad and we did knitting at school for the forces.  We used our clothing coupons up in a year.

In my school holidays I would help people who needed help.  When people wanted to practise the organ in the old Congregation Church they asked me to work the big handle and get the organ up to steam.  One day a funeral party walked into the church and, attending services regularly, I knew I would have to work hard and pump like mad.

Dad continued his deliveries with the help of other employers.

Market day was Monday and an old cattle driver came down Brock Hill and when he had been paid he had a liquid lunch and ensured his dog was not left out.  My mother was an animal lover and would wait for the old man, who lived in a shed on the corner of Swan Lane, to fall asleep and then scraping all the scraps from our dinner she would send me creeping up to the dog, careful not to wake the old man, to feed the dog with a hot dinner.  The building in Jersey Gardens, which is now the New Life Church, was also built in my life time.

Onions were very hard to come by – one being sold in an auction for £4.  Grandad Joslin kept us supplied as he grew them in his garden at South Woodham.  Bananas were very hard to come by – expectant mothers and on a young person’s ration book, the allocation was two per book.

If the convoy bringing the goods from overseas was held up, very often the eggs on board were well past their “sell by date” and you had to sit out in the garden to get them wrapped up because of the smell.

Before 1939, reps from firms that called at the shop to request an order from Dad would have a sample box of, say biscuits or sweets, which often came my way.

Also a firm selling soft drinks and siphons of soda water came regularly from Southend.  The driver of the motor had a very loud voice-known to me as “The Shouter Man” and I would run away and hide until he had gone.  One day he asked my mother if her little girl was ok as he never saw me around.  My mother told him I was scared of him. Shortly after a most beautiful doll arrived for me.  Mother knitted her a green dress and bonnet – and I called the doll Rosemary Green.  The giver of the doll was Mr. Green.

When I did eventually leave school I got a job, which was for “six weeks” as all the men were at war and might return and want their jobs.

Dad had left school at the age of 14 and granddad Joslin left at the age of 12.  Mother’s parents – her mother could not read or write and her father could read but not write.

I feel very privileged to have had the chance to enjoy books and to have had the love and support of friends, both in the Church life and in my present road, Lilac Avenue, at the age of 84.  I give thanks every day for all my blessings, now that I am not so mobile. Every day is a bonus.

I am also grateful to my pal at Burnham and to his parents for all their help, Sam, Doris and Henry; also for the 400 year anniversary this year of the King James Bible.  I am glad I have lived in Christian Country.

I still have my wartime Identity card and Dad’s whistle, when he was an air raid warden. Also a letter written to my parents by granddad Joslin, and a list of names to choose from when I was born in 1927.

The land that my parents bought in Jersey Gardens was, in fact, 2 plots and a number of trees, including 10 fruit trees, were planted.  At the present time the ground has been sold off to extend the gardens of some new properties nearby, so no fruit trees remain.

One of the orders given to Mother and Dad in the 1930s (pre-war days) was by the Darby family, a younger generation of the inventor of the Darby Digger, an agricultural machine, very bulky and intricate in design, and I believe this was demonstrated to a member of the Royal family.  The order to my parents was for a large joint of bacon, to be cooked and prepared in time for their annual holiday on the Norfolk Broads.  Having been “in service” my Mother was able to do this.  We had an old cooker – 3 chimneys and an oven – Valor make, I believe.  The enormous cooking pot covered all three burners and Mother and Dad worked as a team to dish up and present this gigantic joint – a cut and come again meal!

Another of my early memories (pre-war days): the preparation and making of the Christmas puddings – we always had one at ADVENT and I still keep advent indoors.

We always listened to the installments of the work “A Christmas Carol” by Charles. Dickens, in the firelight, on the radio, before it was time for me to be put to bed.  This took place about a week or so before Christmas.

In my Mother’s young days at Great Saling, near Braintree, Essex, Captain Harrisson lived at The Grove, and their cottage, now no longer there, was in close proximity.  On the wall inside Great Saling Parish Church hangs the work, in the old writing, of the names of the people of the village who were killed in World War One.  This work was commissioned by Miss Harrisson, a daughter of Capt. Harrisson, and Mrs Everard, a relation of my Dad, carried out the work.  My Mother was in service in Miss Harrisson’s home at Little Waltham Hall, and met my Dad mainly through Little Waltham Congregational Church.  Gran & Granddad Joslin were the Chapel keepers and attended to the heating and lighting.

I remember with great gratitude and happiness my pre-war childhood Christmas days – of “Father Christmas” (my Mother in her red dressing gown) waving to me through the window.  I helped to make the Christmas cake and the puddings and I remember the morning of Christmas Day – the Christmas tree with presents for everyone – visitors included.  The Salvation Army Band would play the old carols as I was being put to bed at night.  A notable member of the S.A was Brigadier Bartlett, who lived at Church End Lane.  He would walk into the High Street followed by his pet dog and his pet goose.

There was another little shop in Jersey Gardens – a cycle repair shop run by a Mr. Shipley.  I seem to have been served by many generations of the Hall family (now selling garden plants etc) on Halls Corner.  Also Suttons the cookware and furniture store started on a teasle table opposite the Castle Public House.  It was run by Mr. Sid Sutton’s parents.  A meat/baking tin bought by me was very good quality and lasted for years.  Matches were very hard to come by and were often “under the counter”.

As I write this paragraph it is Michaelmas Day – Quarter Day.  Farm workers in tied cottages paid their rent and girls in service were only paid once a quarter.  After the harvest Grandfather Thorogood would have a new pair of boots made and some winter shirts.  One day, Mother’s father had been ill and Quarter Day came around and there was no money.  Mother used her bicycle to visit her old home – coming down from London to Gt. Saling and her wages “saved the day”.

In the days of early records of Wickford when swine and so on were counted as well as the population there was a Freewoman of Wickford whose name was BRICTEVA.  I hope that my little home town will continue to be a friendly and helpful place for many years to come.

Further Memories

When my parents retired, we went to live in Runwell Road (before the new road system was devised), and often, as I walked home past the cricket field a large owl would call in the trees.  Thick fog in winter time seemed to be the order of the day.  For my 21st birthday a holiday in Cornwall was part of my present from Mother and Dad, and Mother got some portions of parachute silk for two nightdresses, and although there were still a lot of restrictions, a lovely cake was made.  Purchasing ex-army clothing helped out in the cold winter months.  I had a navy blue coat, altered in a couple of places by a local dressmaker.  I was working at Billericay, and the snow was long time hanging around.  Waiting for a train was taken for granted.  At Billericay station the porter‘s room had a little coal fire and no lighting, but the waiting room for passengers was allowed a light, but no heat!.  A little group of us sat on a bench by the firelight.

At that time gentlemen seemed to carry a leather brief case and wear a tweed coat.  One man, I remember, had a leather holder for his book.  He said “Guess what I am reading” – it was ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Another memory of the shops in our village, was being allowed to take an item of clothing home for someone to try on – a note was given ON APPRO.  And perhaps, an elderly person who could not get to the shops was looked after in that way.   Payment would be taken to the shop later.

Such was village life then.

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  • Miss Joslin,

    Did you take a Sunday school class in Ramsden Heath in the 1950s?

    If you did I would like to say a very big thank you.

    By Margaret Jones (Johnston) (11/12/2019)
  • I remember the Shipleys, as my father was also a good cycle repairer. I used to walk along Jersey Gardens four times a day in term time, to and from St George’s School. I would sometimes buy a few sweets in Harrington’s shop, and, if I saved carefully, an ice cream on Fridays, in a shop opposite the Swan Pub.

    By Lorraine Taylor (14/03/2015)

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