When sitting at the regular Memory Desks in the library something that visitors of a certain age mention is the way that people in the town used to speak. These are people who remember the 1940 and early 50s when Wickford could still be described as a village in the Essex countryside.
I have recently come across a book called Marsh-Country Rambles by Herbert W Tompkins, published by Chatto and Windus in 1904. It is a book describing rambles around parts of coastal Essex and includes a trip to Burnham-on-Crouch. Tompkins travels there by train from Southend. He has a three hour wait in Wickford for the connection to Barn’um, as the locals called it, so he has time for “refreshment in a wayside inn”, he doesn’t say which one. He gets involved in “a conversation between three Essex men, enunciated with so broad an accent that … no London lady would have comprehended a single sentence.”
Tompkins made the following transcription as the men chatted about the recent heavy rains. He hoped that the spellings he had used would help to convey the actual pronunciation.
“ ‘Yes, it’s bin shock’n weather most ever wer out this w’y. Land’s all soppy-like. W’y! I know a farm wer nigh on seven acres o’ hy aren’t worth cuttin’ on. T’ditches be most full o’water, an’ w’en get on t’field an’ plo’ on’t op, t’forrers fills op wi’ water most as fast as you plo’ em. ‘Tain’t no good plo’n on ‘em ‘tall, so theer!. An’ wate’s bin most ’s bad ‘s hy-all spoiled an soppy-like wi’ t’wet, long ‘fore t’arvust. Lor! All they ots, too, wot I see rot’n – acres an’ acres on ‘em, spoiled wi’ water an beat down flat ‘s yer ‘and.’ “
Tompkins, who was a journalist and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, also had time to look at the buildings of the village , which he says is set in “very pleasant open country”. He mentions a red bricked house clothed in ivy and Virginia creeper, weather boarded cottages with lichen covered roofs and another with a thatched roof, dormer windows and pigeons on its chimney stack. Another single storied cottage seemed to be “in imminent danger of collapse”. He also notes the men going to and from the village pump near the bridge carrying pails of water.
Source: Herbert W Tompkins, 1904. Marsh-Country Rambles. London: Chatto and Windus, pp.178-181.