I was born in Wickford in 1932, my Dad also was born in Wickford. My Mum Rosalind Rose Monk was born in Billericay.
My dad was in the Wickford football team and my uncles reckoned he was a good player and the scouts came down from one of the London teams, I think it was Spurs, but he wouldn’t go. My uncles were really mad, but do you know what he said? He said, “If I can’t take my team with me I’m not going”, so he never went. All my uncles worked on the railway, one was the crossing keeper up Wick Lane. Men used to walk up the line knocking back the wooden keys which the trains had dislodged from the rails but my Dad he was more into flowers. He put buds into flowers. He took a wild rose cane and split it and put a bud into the split, roses and things like that. Sometimes he worked for Mr Cork and Mr Spencer up Irvon Hill. My Mum was a barmaid in the Swan. My Dad’s Mum (my grandma) lived behind the Swan in a road that led into the next road. I’ve got a picture of my young sister, who died in Highgate Hospital when she was eight, standing at the back of her house. There was a slaughter house and a dairy at the back of the Swan then. It was all pulled down, I hate that.
Market Avenue where we lived was on a slope and when it rained all the stones and stuff washed down the road and the council had to come and shovel and sweep it back. It was all unmade. Our house was called “The Elms” and we had a long front garden and a long back garden and it stood where the clinic is now. We had fruit trees in the garden and they had chicken runs at the bottom which manured the trees. My brother collected a load of plums, put them in bags and sold them down the High Street at sixpence a bag. My Dad did all the gardening for people and he would get all his briar from The Wick. We used to get into school by climbing over the railings. Next door was Mr and Mrs Empson who sold wood and they also had a sweet shop. Another neighbour, who owned a bookshop in Victoria , London, had a railway carriage in the garden which they used when they had visitors. They had been bombed out and decided to move out to the country. We had a V1 Buzz bomb which landed on our Anderson shelter while we were inside, luckily it didn’t explode but we had a job getting out. The bomb disposal came down and put a big notice on the gate saying “Unexploded Bomb”. Another neighbour, Mrs Cheer, took in lodgers and kept animals.
When the floods came, which seemed every year, we used to enjoy that. I had a rubber dinghy like a boat with a pouch on the bottom so it didn’t tip up. I got into it but it tipped up and I fell out. I could just touch the bottom. I was 15 then.
We had the cinema in the High Street, Tuppeny Kennedy was the picture man and he lived in Swan Lane, in a little house called “Taron”, I used to think it was something to do with tarring the roads. We used to lark about in there and one day someone undid the bolts on the back of two seats and a couple went right back when they sat down. Next to the cinema was the Content Cafe where Glicks now is.
The old King and Queen came through Wickford in 1936 and our present Queen also came past when she went to the Reservoir. Neither of them stopped.
In the High street we had Suttons who are stiil here. I go into see them and have a chat sometimes now. Next to Suttons was a little bungalow and the dentist lived there. Next to where I worked which was the Electricity shop was Dr Frew, (Dr Campbell lived in the big house opposite). Of course Gordon Carter the undertakers were there. Through the railway bridge was a little hut where Mr and Mrs Gladden sold sweets – you couldn’t turn round in there. One night there was a great big blaze and I thought it was that shop but behind it was a little place where a chap did car repairs and it was that which was burning. Then there was the pub which should never had been pulled down, it was part of old Wickford, and the Market was opposite. Sheep and cattle were sold in the Market and the cattle and pigs were kept up Market Avenue and when the pigs got out they used to run into the Chemist’s shop and all the shop girls used to rush out screaming but if the cows escaped they would head up Market Road towards the Fields which were beyond the allotments just past the school. They knew where to go and they were not stupid. You weren’t supposed to go into the Market except on Mondays but we boys were seen in there on the wrong day and Sergeant Brewer came round to our house to tell us off and we all dived under the table.
Wickford was a lovely village and we knew everyone then but now it has changed and is not so nice.