A little more history of Shotgate.
Just to get the location – Shotgate is a civil parish to the east and adjacent to Wickford. Today it is mainly a housing area and separate industrial estate tucked between the railway lines to Southend and Southminster and the Southend Road. It even includes a little nature reserve called Shotgate Thickets.
The meaning of the name is not certain. One explanation is that it derives from the word sceat, which is a type of an anglo-saxon coin, or, more likely in this case, an area divided into strips of farm land, while the word geat or gata, refers to an entrance through a wall or enclosure.
In the seventeenth century Thomas Dallingood was found not to have cleared the ditches of the road from Wickford Church. Later that century the road leading to the western end of ‘Rawreth Shoot’ was ‘unpasabell’ and the local inhabitants were ordered to repair it. Possibly a reason why it was turned into a Turnpike Road.
In 1921 the area was farmland. The Archer family kept cows, sheep, pigs, and horses on what was now known as Shot Farm. Barley, beans, oats and wheat were the main crops. What is today Fanton Chase and Fanton Walk was a cart track. The area began to develop as part of the plotland settlements common in the Wickford area with establishment of Enfield Road and Oak Avenue. The Archer family sold off some Wickford Barns Farm (which had been incorporated into Shot Farm) for development of what was called the Shotgate Estate in 1927 – Bruce Grove, First to Fifth Avenue and the shopping parades. The original plan is slightly different to what exists today.
Early inhabitants were Pru and Jim Wade and her parents, Mr and Mrs Wheeler, who had bungalows, “The Nest” and “Holmleigh”, in Fifth Avenue. The Geere family moved in in 1929. This account is based on a talk Alice Geere gave to the Women’s Institute and wrote up in 1969. Other people she recalled were Mrs Theedum, (purportedly a descendent of US President Garfield) and Mr Steele, a blind man who maintained his own allotment.
Shotgate was fairly typical of plotland developments in its early days. Houses varied in quality, the roads were often like dirt tracks, with no lights or mains drainage. Cesspools had to be emptied regularly. Dusty in summer, winter rains made the roads muddy. Coal was delivered in the summer because the lorry could get bogged down in winter. If the doctor called he would leave his car on the main road, put on his wellingtons, then walk to the house. London commuters would leave their wellingtons at the newsagents (Mrs Richardson) then catch a bus to the station. Milk came from Archers Farm. A man would bring an urn on his pushbike and ladle it out. There was no electricity or gas to start with. Cooking was done on a kitchen range or a primus stove.
Most of the early cottages have probably gone or been redeveloped. Many of the original buildings were cleared for food production during the war if they appeared not to be used. The estate is still mainly made up of bungalows and ‘chalet’ style houses. Before the roads were made up, Bruce Grove ended in a field. Surrounding lands were farmed, including a large chicken farm owned by Chase Cross Bakeries. Later a small industrial estate was opened off Russell Gardens and Wick Lane. Early factories based there included Poulton, Selfe and Lee, Southwold Foundry, No Sag mattresses, Keilcraft, Stonecraft, Bell Cleaners and Carter and Ward.
There was very little in the way of entertainment. Among groups which were formed around Shotgate were the Allotment Holders and Gardeners Association (a response to the wartime Dig for Victory campaign), a pensioners club which met in the Merley Club, located opposite Fred’s Timber Yard on the Southend Road, and the Women’s Institute, which met in the Baptist Church Hall. The Baptist Church, a corrugated tin and asbestos structure, began in Third Avenue and was later moved on rollers nearer to the main road, in Bruce Grove. A more substantial building was built in 1961.
A small group of local people decided to raise money for a community hall. Whist drives, paper collections and fetes were held to raise money. Adding these funds to a grant from the Ministry of Education enabled land to be purchased from Basildon Urban District Council. The building incorporated second hand materials, including wood panelling from a pub in the East End of London. Some labour was freely given by local volunteers, which kept the construction costs down. The Hall, also in Bruce Grove, eventually opened in November 1958. It has been extended and refurbished several times since and is still very much in use.
Shotgate was greatly expanded by the building of the Hodgson’s Way industrial estate in 1989. Housing was incorporated between Hodgson’s Way and Fanton Chase with industrial units infilling south to the railway line and joining up with the older Russell Gardens estate.