Alf Fagioli's Memories of Wickford
Interview with Alf Fagioli
I was born in Islington but due to my mother’s ill health she and I moved to Wickford in 1931 when I was ten years old, because the air was supposed to be better for her. We lived in Lynford`s drive. My father bought the plot for twenty pounds . My brothers and I learnt to drive old American cars in our four acre field. We lived there for three years. I walked or cycled to school each day to Market Road juniors. The teaching there was better than in London. During the war a bomb lifted the roof of our home.
Wickford was very nice and very different to what it is today. There were very few buildings. There was a general store in Runwell owned by Mrs Stokes. She wouldn’t serve us because we came from London! My father ran a coffee business in London. When Runwell Hospital opened he saw the opportunity to open a canteen for the workers, he started a canteen from a wooden hut, however when the war started the government took over the land so that put an end to his enterprise. There was a hump backed bridge across the river in Nevendon road which had a sandy bank and I remember boats coming past. There was a cattle market with an auctioneer each Tuesday and Friday. This was near the station. All types of livestock could be bought there, from bulls to chicks. It always smelt fishy because the ground was covered in sea shells as it was so boggy.
I returned to London for a while but then came back to Runwell when I was about 14. We had a large garden and my father had a collection of old American cars. My brother and I had fun driving Buicks and Chryslers around our field. I was in the air force from the age of eighteen to twenty-five. Eventually I got married and settled here. I bought a piece of land from Sam Wright, a local fireman, who lived next door. The land was actually part of his lawn and rose garden! I paid four hundred and forty pounds in 1956 and began to build my own house in Gurnsey Gardens. The bricks cost seven pounds per thousand and cement was two shillings a bag. We slept in the garage while we were building it. It was finished in 1958, there were only a few other properties in the unmade road. Later Bird Brothers built the rest of the houses. My house cost about two thousand pounds to build. I did all the work myself. During the 1958 flood I had six yards of sand ready for using but it was all washed away. The only other catastrophe was that I nearly electrocuted my wife! To get power I had to plug a cable into next door’s electric. My wife was happily painting the window frames when she complained of tingles up her arms…… It had been raining and the cable had worn thin and was rubbing on the metal frames making everything live! Luckily no real harm was done.
The community centre has played an important role in my life. I remember people coming round door to door collecting sixpence for a brick to help build it. I was a member of the wine making club and enjoyed making, showing and judging wine at the Community Centre for many years. At the same site was the C.A B.A.C club (Community Association Boat Angling Club). We would meet there and plan our fishing trips. We travelled all over the country, once I caught a conger eel that weighed fifty two pounds.
Wickford has changed a great deal since I moved here. Halls’ Corner was open land, my father was offered the chance to buy it, but as it was flood land he turned it down. There were brickfields on the far side of Nevendon Road, where the clay was dug out for the local bricks. All the quaint shops with their frontage jutting out have been replaced by ugly modern buildings. I had my silver wedding anniversary party in The Castle pub, a listed building which has been replaced by Aldis. The 127 was a single track road with no lights.
I have spent my working life here, much of it doing plumbing and heating. After the Barn hall estate was built in the 1970s I got the maintenance contract for plumbing. During my time in Wickford I have made some good friends.