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.