Monday, January 21, 2013
My memories of Epping
I was born in a house opposite Ivy Chimneys Primary School at No 72 on January 1955 at around 5.20pm. I was one of 11 children, 8 were born at home, while 3 were born at St Margaret’s Hospital, where my mother lost one of the twins.
As a child, I attended ‘Ivy Chimneys Primary School,’ which had fields on one side and at the back, behind which horses were kept. I have fond memories of this school, together with my girlfriend, who I would walk home up near Hemnall Street, after school – her name I have forgotten, but I can remember she always wore sweet smelling perfume ! A little way up from the school, was a sweet shop (now a house), where I would take my thrupenny bit and buy all the sweets I wanted and still have some change. A little further up the road was a pub called, ’The Spotted Dog’ where we would buy 4 biscuits for a penny similar to Rich Tea only bigger !
There was a shop on Bell Common, where we would take (without paying !) a few handfuls of peas in their pods that were in boxes outside the shop.
When I was just 7 years of age, before moving to Wales, we lived at Bridge Hill. We had a large garden, surrounded by a few oak trees and a stream, where I spent many happy hours. At the bottom of the garden, we kept chickens in a run. I, and on one hot summers day I do remember winding up a old gramophone on the lawn, not sure where we had it from but it played the old 78’s. I also have a photograph of my father digging the garden at Ivy Chimneys, while I was walking up the path. The rear of Bridge Hill overlooked Theydon Bois and the land, I believe was part of Great Gregories Farm – this land now forms part of the M25 with the tunnel under the Bell Common. At Bridge Hill in the 1960’s, new homes were being built and we would wait until the workers would leave the site at the end of the day. So that we could play around on the site – one memory that remains with me is that of the smell of fed-mix that they mixed with water in a 45gallon drum. Later, when the houses were completed and families moved into this new estate, we would sell them horse manure (for their roses) which we had brought down from the common in an old 4 wheeled pushchair which we had – we would also use this to carry firewood.
In a house opposite ours, I had been helping an elderly gentleman, by doing the garden for him,- to show his gratitude, he gave me my first bicycle – it was a big green 28" 3 speed Raleigh bike that was really too big for me – I was unable to reach the pedals It had a carrier over the back wheel that I sat on. I would push one pedal and wait for the other pedal to come around – It sounds very strange, but 10 years later, when we had moved to Wales, I happened to be in a local shop and saw the same type of bicycle for sale. I felt I had to buy it. The shopkeeper was a pleasant gentleman called Don. He agreed to keep the bicycle for me. I gave my first payment there and then and in a month or two later I gave my last payment and I was then the proud owner of the bicycle. I had this bicycle for years and would use this regularly to cycle to work. …Happy Days !
On Bridge Hill itself, during snowy days in winter, we would slide down the hill on milk crates. In those days, there were not many cars, so the roads were somewhat safer to play on to what they are today. We also used the buttress on the bridge as a slide - looking back on this; one would ask why we did it? … But we were very lucky, as we never fell off onto the road.
At the bottom of Bridge Hill, at the corner of Sunnyside Road, there was another sweet shop (now a house). Here we would buy sweets and sherbet (powder) when we had a penny or two. We would also buy fireworks (bangers) and would set them off under the railway bridge at the bottom of Bridge Hill, we would run away when we would be told off by the drivers for letting of the fireworks when the passing cars went under the bridge.
Opposite this shop was a piece of land, belonging to my uncle – I remember there was a black car with big headlamps and leather seats on this land. Years later I was told that this car was buried here…Why, I will never know.
At the far side of my uncle’s land there was a footpath and a bridge over the Ongar to London railway line (Central Line). In days gone by, the LNER which ran steam trains from Liverpool Street, London to Ongar.
Both my father and grandfather worked on the line, back in the days of steam. My grandfather (Joe) was a driver, while my father (Bill) was a coalman.
My older brother (Phil) still remembers the day when he ran home to tell mother that a man had jumped off the bridge in front of the train. The train was there for sometime until workmen and the fire crews came to jack up the train to remove the body. Today, the bridges are covered over, but years ago, you could climb up and wave to the train drivers, who in turn would always wave back to you.
We had a pet dog – Sally our black Labrador, who once managed to get herself onto the railway line and refused to return despite calling her, so my brother, Gordon and I had to go and get her off – not knowing the danger of trains and the lines being electrified.
Half way up Sunnyside Road was another bridge over the railway line –here there was yet another shop – well of a sort. You were unable to go into the shop …..you asked for what you wanted to a lady at a small window outside . This is no longer here.
If you walked over the bridge, you would pass the Power Station at the top of Crossing Road. On my last visit, I could see the building was still there, but it is not in use anymore and was up for sale.
……my grandfather’s house was next door before he moved to Wales, who was then followed by my parents. There are now 4 houses with adjoining gardens on this site.
At the corner of Crossing Road and Allnuts Road was another shop and if I remember correctly, there was also a shop on the corner of Crossing Road and Brook Road.
Further up Sunnyside Road, we would pick cherries off the trees, until we would be chased away by the owners.
Half way down Stewards Green Road, opposite the new housing estate was an old black wooden barn on land what is now The Epping Golf Club.
Near the farm at Fluxs Lane was a pond and an old corn tip. My father and I would often take a sack up there to collect corn for our chickens. On occasions, Sally, our black labrador would get into this muddy pond, and fail to get herself out, so as my father would fill the sack, it was my job to help her out.
We would often take a walk over to Theydon Bois Golf Club and look for lost balls under the trees and in the long grass, ….sometimes we would be quite naughty and wait for stray golf balls to come over our way and hide them in the ground with our feet …..so that when the players would come over and look for them, they would be unable to find them and so they would go on their way. After they had gone, we would take out the golf balls, clean them up and take a few of them to the clubhouse, where we would get paid for them. We would then spend this money back at the sweet shop.
Sometimes, my brother Phil would come home with a little extra money and we would take the train (the tube) from Epping to London and back, just for the ride. We would also sometimes take a walk up to Epping Plain to see the fish in the pond (the lake).
Opposite Bell Common, was the corner of Bury Lane, where the pond still exists – I believe this to be part of Creeds Farm.
On the right hand side of Coopersale Street just before the Theydon Oak public house was the hall where the Jumble sale was held- here my mother would often take us to buy clothing and other things. There were probably sales in other parts of the town, but this one I will always remember.
At Allnutts Road, there was a hall and I believe it still exists, it was here that I remember, at a wedding reception, I had to carry a pint of beer onto the stage for the drummer.
On Hemnall Street, I seem to remember seeing a gentleman going around in a 3 wheeled self propelled version of a wheelchair, (Three wheeled invalid chair) his name I believe was Douglas Penrose and he lived in Nicholl Road, we would often see him going around up there.
One incident that I will always remember is when I was in my teens, my father and I made a visit back to Epping. We were about to cross over High Street from Saint John’s to go to a tobacconist (who my father knew well.) for 2oz of shag (tobacco) for his pipe. When he took my hand and led me across the road –this was the only time he had done this…. but I have always remembered this experience.
At the cemetery in Bury Lane, my father worked as the gravedigger and cared for the area, cutting the grass etc. I have fond memories of being here with my Dad; being pushed around in the big waste cart, eating and drinking tea with him in the shed that was near the main gate (this has long gone). In my dad’s shed in Wales I would watch my father using tools and by doing this, I learned a great deal from him. It was strange that in later years, he would always ask me to help him with repairs to the roof of the house and work with him on jobs both on and under the car. My father taught me a great deal about life – one of which was having respect for the dead and near graves and churches and even now when working on headstones in various cemeteries, this respect has never gone away
My father was a quiet man who kept himself to himself. He rarely mentioned his time in WW2. However, whenever we had a war film on the television, he would come into the room and turn it off – it was only later in life that I realized why he did this. My father died in 1980 at the age of 55. My mother died about a year before in 1979.
My mother would help at Great Gregories Farm with the turkeys just before Christmas and also at potato picking time. – I can well remember being with her at this time of year, stopping for food which would consist of bread and dripping or jam which had soaked into the bread, through the thick layer of butter.
Some of my family are buried at Bury Lane cemetery …my mother’s parents together with an Aunt and Uncle on my father’s side. However, most of my father’s family are buried at All Saints Church, Theydon Garnon and at St .Alban’s Coopersale. The family previously lived at Hydes Hall (now called Hydes Farm Abridge) and prior to this, they lived at South Mimms .
I still have a few members of my family living in Epping – a place I will always remember as a young boy.