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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  • The comments are very informative, and it is nice to see some of the people I knew in our village.

    By Angela Johnson (née Wootton) (21/09/2023)
  • I read the comment by Angela Johnson (nee Wootton), which made me put this comment on.
    My friend Fred Williams and I used to cycle up Brock Hill, Runwell, to South Hanningfield, and started joining in with the games being played on the Tye, usually rounders. It was the summer of 1958 or 1959, when I met your sister Mildred. Then we started going out together. I remember going back to the house for the first time, and meeting your mum and dad, and Mildred saying “This is my friend David”, and your mum saying “No, not another one”. The reason was that you and your youngest sister were also going out with Davids. Your mum then said “Right, we already have Dave and David, so you can be the Welsh David, Davard”. We then had a laugh.
    Mildred liked to go out walking, so one lovely sunny day we crossed the road and walked down past the Tye, along Middle Mead all the way to Church Road, West Hanningfield. We then sat on the grass and had a picnic. Then about an hour later we walked back to the house.
    Another time we got to the gate and turned right and walked up the hill passing the village hall, and on to Church Lane. Here we crossed the road and walked up the lane. At the church gates Mildred said “My sister’s grave is round the back of the church”. We then continued on to the end of the lane, turned round and walked back. When we got to the church gates I said “Let’s go and see your sister’s grave’. Mildred then told me she had not been back since, so I said “Tell me where it is and I will go on my own”. So Mildred, standing at the gates, said “Go down the left side of the church and round to the right and it is just near”. So off I went. I never found it, so walked back to Mildred now standing at the front corner of the church. “Sorry, I never found it. I got to …”. So she said it was about 4 or 5 graves past the one I got to, so back I went. Then when I got up to where I had stopped last time, a voice said “Keep going”. It was Mildred, she had followed me round, then she showed me her sister’s grave.
    As we stood there Mildred had lots of tears, so I gave her a hug and said “Are you alright?2 and she said “Yes”. The birds were singing in the trees, we stood there for a few minutes, then as we turned to leave Mildred said goodbye to her sister. So did I. Mildred was very brave to follow me round as it must have brought back sad memories, I was very proud of her. Back at the house Mildred told her mum and dad that she had seen her sister’s grave.
    I also remember in the evenings, out would come the dominoes, all would join in. Sometimes we would play 4 or 5 games. It was great fun.

    By David De`Ath (11/01/2023)
  • I went to South Hanningfield school, so did my three sisters and brother, we were living next door to the Windmill Public house, opposite the post office Dennis Smith lived in. We moved there in 1948 and our brother was born in 1949, Mum and Dad moved to Galleywood in 1960 as we had a tragedy in the family.

    By Angela Johnson (Nee Wootton) (22/06/2022)
  • 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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