South Hanningfield and Wickford memories

Collection of Photos by Dennis Smith

Wartime picture of South Hanningfield School. Miss Bright is on the right and Miss Bisphan on the left.
Dennis Smith
Dennis Smith riding Master his dog at Poplars Farm.
Dennis Smith
Dennis Smith and Master at Poplars Farm.
Dennis Smith
South Hanningfield Young Conservative dance at South Hanningfield. Dennis at back with star Valerie Clough.
Photo by Elizabeth Wall of Beechcroft Cott. swan Lane wickford.
Wartime identity card
Dennis Smith
The big oak on the road from South Hanningfield to Harrow Farm.
Old Windmill pub entrance, post office opposite, village pump on right hand side in dip.
South Hanningfield Post Office.
Dennis Smith
Potato harvest at South Hanningfield in 1956.
Dennis Smith
Information on potato harvest and tractor.
Dennis Smith
St. Margarets Church, Downham, 1956.
Dennis Smith
Andy Stewart with Roy Simpson in background and family at South Hanningfield.
Dennis Smith
Roy Simpson fishing (Gigney van driver)
Dennis Smith
Runwell Hospital garden staff.
Dennis Smith
Runwell Hospital's Matron's dog Hamish in Matron's garden.
Dennis Smith
Runwell Hospital's beautiful greenhouses.
Dennis /smith
Runwell Hospital greenhouse.
Dennis Smith
Runwell Hospital's St.Luke's Church.
Dennis Smith
Steam locomotive train that ran through Wickford from Southminster.

I was born at Poplars Farm on 28th September 1938,  my sister Margaret arriving in December 1939. Our older brother Brian was born  at White Post Farm, which is on Laindon Common, just outside Billericay, some four  years earlier than me. I was introduced into the world in the front upstairs  bedroom, facing Geoff when he took his picture, nurse Salvage was in  attendance. My sister was born in the same room, and I was often told by  mother that I was under a table, in the same room, and pulled a large box of  Cadburys chocolates off the table, and had spoiled them by sinking any  teeth that I had into each chocolate, and then discarding them onto the floor, all around me. I remember the the chimney stack, in the front of  the picture, being blown down in a gale one day. It had no ties to the timberwork  in the roof, and from Geof’s picture, it still doesn’t have any. Mother asked  us children where we thought dad might be and I am told that my response was, ‘outdoors dead I suppose’, fortunately I was wrong.  Anyone of my age reading this will, I’m sure , be able to remember Christmas under wartime conditions. We didn’t get many  presents, and I do recall that one year I received a model of a tank, painted  in army green. This had, as wheels, two of the cotton reels, which had a deep  bit where the cotton was wound on them. That had been cut into four pieces and  skillfully positioned in recesses, underneath which enabled it to be pulled  along. I also recall that I was given a metal tin of biscuits one Christmas. It  was in the shape of a cube measuring TWO INCHES SQUARE. The ‘tank’ was  painted in Army Green, so there are no prizes to be had to name the  source!! Poplars Farm did not have electric in those days, this was put on after  the war when the farm had been sold to a Mathew Walker. In our days, lighting  was by paraffin lamps, Aladdin seems to come to mind. Heating was by coal fires, with a kitchen range for heating and cooking. We had the benefit of being a  farm, where each year a load of steam coal was delivered to the farm, to fuel the traction engines, to thrash the corn. The domestic water was provided by  the kitchen range. This did all of the cooking as well. In the kitchen there was  a stone flagstone floor, which also extended along a passage, which led to the larder, which was huge. It was in this passageway that I, when playing marching soldiers, tripped over; I was carted off to The Chelmsford and Essex Hospital in London Read, Chelmsford, in father’s car. I was seen by Mr. Harris, a man who was wonderful at doctoring, but a little ‘brusk’ with words. My  parents were told by Mr Harris “that there is nothing wrong with that child,  and my fee is two guineas. The radio we had was operated by accumulators, we  had two of these as they had to go away, in rotation, to be recharged. We had to  take them to the end of Poplars Chase, where they were collected from Mrs  Turpin’s house, and returned the next week. I can still recall the speeches made on the radio by Winston Churchill, if we children were about at that time we had to be as quiet as mice, so that mother never  missed a word of what he said. I think that I recall those days with fondness  and admiration. In Sheila Ford’s bit about Tom Ford, I do remember him, especially when he left the farm at the end of the war; I seem to remember that it was to go and help dig the first bore of the Dartford crossing, but I  may be wrong!! The photo shows me at about 2 or 3 sitting on the  tractor that was ‘Tom’s’. How ever he was able to steer it I don’t know, as at sometime after then I was riding on the tractor whilst it was driven by my father, and he said that he wanted to go look at something, and that I could  drive the tractor over a meadow and he would get me at the other side. Well, I  wouldn’t have won any prizes for ploughing a straight furrow. I could just about turn the front wheels. There was no power steering in those days, and also the front wheels were steel, and had a ‘rib’ round the middle which dug into the  surface of the soil. A favourite pastime of mine at harvest time was to sit on the back of Lion, a cart horse who was used to walk round all day to provide  the power to the elevator, to get the sheaves of corn up to the top of the stack. We had a younger horse, name of Short, very strong but not good for young  people to ride on his back. The meadow I mentioned in the last paragraph was the one which had the famous Runwell well in it. We were not allowed as children to go anywhere near this area, certainly by mother. Each year, in the summer, the Rev. Basil Corbin used to visit the well, we guess to bless it. After his visit to the well he used to come to the farmhouse, and ask mother if he could have a  glass of milk (pure, as from the cow) and a biscuit. She always gave this to  him, but she never invited him in, as she had a suspicion that he was involved with ‘the occult’. Sheila mentions that the land of Poplars straddled Warren Road. Does anyone remember a fantastic crop of oats which father grew in the field adjoining Scrub Wood. It grew so well that it became badly ‘laid’ and  it was a massive job to harvest it. It was stacked in the corner of the field, beside Warren Road. Unfortunately it was damp when stacked, and it caught fire, it took days to extinguish, and was left for sometime before it was cleared  away, during which time it had become infested with rats. Father spent hours there shooting them with the aid of his wonderful Wirehaired Fox terrier, name  of Peter. That dog was bred by a Mr Shepard who lived just off Warren Road, through Foxearth Wood, which belonged to Jim Mallinson. The farm workers who worked for father at Poplars were Tom Ford, the tractor driver, George Reeve who was a general hand, and lived in the farm house, which was Giffords Farm, at the end of The Chase. Ernie Brown was horseman, whilst his wife assisted mother in the house. The Browns had three daughters, one of which, Pauline married Eric Everret, whose sister married, I think, a Mr Viscardini, and who has published in these  papers.  After the farm was sold to Mr Walker, father was to  be his farm manager, but if you know about the Smiths, they mostly had to be the  boss, and it didn’t work out. By that time we had been moved into No1 Poplars Farm Cottages, and then from there we moved to Woodham Ferrers to live opposite the Bell pub, until father  bought Hanningfield post office and shop from the Clarence family. He stayed there until retiring to Wickford, buying a Carter and Ward bungalow on Franklins Field.

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  • As I was looking for a recipe for tuna mornay, a Jamie Oliver one popped up. For some reason I thought he was born in Basildon, but, when I checked it out, he wasn’t. Then a quick look at Wickford prompted me to see if I could find any pictures of South Hanningfield school, and I came upon this Wickford Community Website with a school photo which included Miss Bright, who was my infant school teacher from 1954 until to ;[?]

    The big oak tree I remember as a ‘meeting point’ on South Hanningfield Road. We lived on Brock Hill until 1961 when we came to Australia. I have very, very fond memories of my early childhood there. On my first visit back to the UK, in 1970, I was eager to see the school that I loved. Sadly, it had been demolished, and I think only the playground survived. I would love to see any other photos that may be available. Unfortunately, any photos we had have all but disappeared. Thank you so much for reminding me of the great childhood we had in those days.

    By Jacqueline Milhench (nee Burgh) (01/03/2021)
  • Thanks for the history on Poplars Farm. My father, Thomas S. Mallinson bought Poplars Farm as it was next to Flemings Farm, around the late 1960s. The Poplars farm house was sold to Bill and Maureen Ritchie. I think he was a banker or stock broker and they were keen gardeners and put a swimming pool in. Sometimes as kids we got invited over to swim. Numbers 2 and 3 Poplars Cottages were also sold, No. 2 to a Mr and Mrs Watson and No. 3 to a Mr and Mrs ? (forget their name, he was a builder). No 1. Poplars Cottages was where my Scottish grandparents, David and Helen Lambie, lived for some years in the 1970s, then when my grandmother died my grandfather came to live with us at Flemings, and it was sold to a Mr and Mrs Dallinger.

    By David J Mallinson (23/05/2018)
  • The photo with Andy Stewart and Roy Simpson, here are the names of all.
    Back row: David Stewart, Andy Stewart, Roy Simpson (son of Charlie and Flo Simpson), Drew Stewart.
    Front row: Fiona Stewart, sleeping (me), Iris Simpson (daughter of Charlie and Flo Simpson, and married to Andy Stewart), Pamela Stewart.

    By Fiona Tr (21/01/2018)

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