Memories of of Downham and South Hanningfield

Adding to Madge Viscardini's Memories, Part 2.

After my father, Ronald Smith, bought the shop at South Hanningfield, from the Clarence family, must have been about 1949/50,  Mr Eldridge became our milkman, as Mr Kidman from Rettendon gave up his business.  I recall that Mr Eldridge had a son, Derek, whom I came to know as he went to Wickford Senior School at the same time as me.

Almost every Sunday, I would cycle to see my cousin, Les Smith, at White Lilies farm, to watch him making parts for scale model steam engines, of which he made many during his life. I recall that he made a working model of a well known railway engine and entered it in The Model Engineer Exhibition in London, with which he took First Prize. He made many engines over the years and traction engine enthusiasts will recall them as being as near to the real thing as it is possible to get.  All of them worked by  steam, from coal fire boxes.

On my journey I used to pass ‘Fremnals’, which laid  back down a drive, and wooded all round and always shrouded in mystery. If we went to Wickford, or later to Billericay, by Eastern National Bus we had to walk to Harrow Farm where we were able to leave our bikes in Mr Ward’s garden, free of charge.  The old petrol pumps were still there then, although  derelict.   

From the photo attached to this article, which  is of the entire school at South Hanningfield, at about the end of  the war, those that I can identify are:

Front row: Steven Haws, along with  big brother Graham, standing fourth from the right. Next to Steven, is Kathleen Ward (Harrow Farm) then Alby Marks and Jimmy Neville. Others that I can name are Rhona and Margaret Tremain, Ray Pitts, Kathleen and Joan Francis,  Derek Saffil, Robin Patmore (still lives at Harrow Farm).

There is a young Thomason girl in the back row, and myself and young sister, Margaret, are sitting together in the middle of the row.  I’m sorry but after so many years I  can’t put names to any others. The two staff are Miss Bisphom, standing left (she  was related to the Mallinsin family), and then, last but not  least, there is Miss Bright who taught from an early age to when the reservoir claimed the school. The school was knocked down, but the ‘plan’ of it is still to be found on the  ground, just past the swings on the left of the new road built to replace the road from South Hanningfield to West Hanningfield.

After the building of the reservoir, Fremnells Farmhouse became the home of the resident engineer. I don’t know what happened to Mr Pearce Snr, or indeed to Mr Kerr, whose land bordered White Lillies. Of the two sons of Mr Pearce, who hailed from Devon, Harry married  teacher, Miss Bright’s sister, and they farmed further down Brock Hill, opposite to Norman Simmons and brother Tom, who moved out to farm at Rivenhall, just outside Witham.

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  • I now am the very proud owner of Whitelilies Farm and would love to trace as much of its history as possible. Any information and or photographs would be greatly appreciated!

    By David Jones (18/11/2019)
  • Mr Eldridge, the milkman, is my father, and Derek is my brother. I remember your shop and I think it was near the Windmill. I attended Wickford School and used to travel on the bus, number 34 I think, and even in the winter of 1963 it always arrived !

    By Janet Eldridge (01/01/2016)
  • W.C. Young, Chief Water Engineer at Hanningfield, was my grandfather.  I used to visit Fremnals in the 70s and early 80s. It was certainly a fantastic place to visit as a child and I have many happy memories of the place, and some photographs.  Grandpa kept chickens so there were always fresh eggs for breakfast – I’ve never tasted anything like since.  There was also a miniature steam railway that I got to ride on and sometimes drive the engine under supervision.  The stables and horses were mainly of interest to my Aunt, Uncle and cousin.

    By David Hutchings (27/05/2015)
  • In my notes about South Hanningfield School I forgot to say how we went to and from school most days, including the winter of 1947, when the snow was so deep, and with huge drifts. Mostly, we had to walk, but in the early days we were taken and collected in father’s car, an Austin CNO 666. In the better weather, and when we had got used to going to school, we had to walk from Poplars Farm, along Warren Road to the top of the hill, where the Water Feeder Tank for Basildon (and Southend?) now is. There we were able to turn right to walk through a track, known as the ‘Sand Ptts’ which came out in Hanningfield through Claydens farmyard, and then down the school road. It was just under three miles and took us quite sometime.

    By dennis smith (24/02/2014)
  • Just remembered: it was a Mr Young who lived at ‘Fremnals’. He was O/C Hanningfield Reservoir and waterworks.

    By dennis smith (23/02/2014)

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