'The Briars', Sugden Avenue.

War Time memories

My grandmother (Laura Shephard) purchased a property, ‘The Briars’, in Sugden Avenue just before the outbreak of WW2. The road was unmade and unadopted, and the property was clad in corrugated sheets. My mother, my sister, various aunts and cousins, and myself spent much of the war years living there as it was considered safer than staying in London. We remained regular visitors after the war up to the time the property ownership was transferred to my aunt (Mavis Pingram).

The property had no running water or electricity, we collected water in rain butts and lit the house by means of gaslight. There were no washing facilities other than the kitchen sink for us children, and a tin bath for the grown-ups. The toilet was a bucket in a small outbuilding that had to be emptied into a cesspit on a daily basis. By the 1950s electricity and running water had been installed, but toilet and bathing facilities were still primitive. Next to this vital outhouse were the chicken coops and rabbit hutches maintained by my grandmother. The corrugated sheets were replaced eventually by what I expect were asbestos panels.

My grandmother kept the gardens looking beautiful, the rear garden was like an allotment, with vegetables and soft fruits in abundance. As the house was set well back the front garden seemed enormous to us children. Both sides of the central path contained fruit trees, apples, pears and plums mainly. Large fir trees stood either side and at both ends of the path. Along the front of the property were alternate copper beech and silver birch trees with tall poplars along both sides. At the very rear of the property was a large oak on which we all liked to climb and swing.

At the age of 77 and taking a serious interest in my family history, I now realise that despite the war some of my happiest memories were of the time spent in Wickford. My grandmother’s cooking, the gardens, the animals, dragging for fish in the river (Crouch), walking through farmland or waiting at a bus stop for other family members to arrive on the City Bus from London.

I must look out some photographs to add at a later date!

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  • I took the opportunity to visit Sugden Avenue last year. To my dismay I couldn’t decide which property had been my grandmothers. If anyone knows the current name of the property formally called ‘The Briars’, I would appreciate it!

    By Brian Thomas (24/05/2022)
  • I lived next door to old Mr Shepherd, his daughter was Mavis and she was married to Joe Pingram and they had two sons and they used to come down from London.

    My grandparents, Mr and Mrs Horsnell, had the bungalow “Fairlight” next door and then my parents, Mr Albert Pitt and Ethel Pitt, took it over.

    On the other side of Mr Shepherd’s house there was Mr and Mrs Hewitson and their son Geoff. They eventually went to Canada.

    The road was unmade and at times the river used to flood and it was difficult to get further along to where Tommy Bray used to live. I have many fond memories of living in Sugden. There were very few houses, loads of places for us kids to play but now unfortunately it has changed so much you just wouldn’t recognise it as the same place anymore.

    By Madeleine Ellis (Pitt) (28/03/2020)
  • My mother and father-in-law lived in ‘Mavis’, Sugden Avenue. The property backed onto the Wick and when the river flooded the toilet shed and contents had to be retrieved from downstream! Their names were Bill and Alice (Dolly) Davis. They lived there during the 1940s.

    By Carol Davis (05/02/2019)
  • Do you remember the Steadmans [Elsie] who lived in the Sugden area during the 40s/50s?

    By bobcroot (24/07/2017)

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