Charles Phillips

These are my memories of Stock in the 1950s and 1960s. I hope that they are of interest.
I was born in May 1953.
Stock in the 1950s and early 1960s was somewhat different place to what it is now. But it was a somewhat familiar place to what it is now.
Stock in those days had an awful lot more shops than now. Starting at the Chelmsford end of the High Street you had the Post Office,which was in the house with the bay window. This was kept by Gordon Barker. It also sold sweets and habidashery
Moving down the High Street, where the Post and General Stores is now was Harvey’s grocers. They bay windows were all of the same sort as those at the corner of Swan Lane. Crossing over Swan Lane, but still going down the High Street, on the opposite side of the road was a small sweet shop, I believe the owner was a Mrs Eves. I may be mistaken. This was the house the Chelmsford side of the garage facing onto the High Street. Continuing along the same side of the road at the junction with Mill Road was Upsons the hardwear shop. Crossing over Mill Road and down the High Street just opposite what is in 2006 Nine Maternity one of the houses was another sweet shop. What is now Nine Maternity was into the early 1960s Wright’s the butchers. Turning now up Mill Road and into the Square, the Four Vintners was in those days grocers kept by the Westons. Dick Weston was also the landlord of the .Bear The house that is next to the Victorian Posy was in those days occupied by a Mr Bosko – a Pole and was the village shoe shop. The shop that is now the Victorian Posy was then a butchers owned by Freddie Baker and next door was not a hairdressers but the greengrocers, which was also owned by Mr Baker as was the fish shop or as is now the Indian take away. Going into the Square, where the new bistro now was the paper shop kept by the Simpsons. Also in the Square at that time was the village blacksmith directly opposite the Bear. When this closed in the late 50s or very early 60s the next building was a barbers and hairdressers, whilst for a time there was a little electrical goods shop in the house on the corner. Going up Mill Road you had Elliott’s the builders where Baker’s Field is now and a bit further up on the same side past the Catholic church Cable’s the builders. Just past Unwin Place on the same side as Unwin Place was another grocers, whose name I forget, whilst on the Catholic church side of Mill Road at the junction with Well Lane was the garage kept by Charlie Palmer,
The village was also visited by a number of travelling tradesmen. For example my family used to have a Mr Newman from Danbury who had a large maroon van. There was as my memory now recalls a Mr Beale.
There were by the time that I arrived in the world no bakers left in the village. The nearest one was Mr Raven at Margaretting.
British Railways used to deliver to village from Billericay, which in those days had a goods yard. I remember seeing the railway wagon. A three wheeled vehicle what was called a mechanical horse would haul a trailer.
Milk was delivered in the main by Fred Makings from the dairy at Brookmans Farm. He had an electric milk wagon for deliveries in the village. It had problems with hills.
There was a village postman, who came round a bike. I forget his name off hand.
The doctor’s surgery was in those days was in Mill Road opposite the Catholic church, whilst a bit further down the road was the Police house, where PC Plunkett lived. I should explain at this point that my family chose to have a doctor in Billericay. The Stock doctor in those days was Dr Patterson, who was succeeded by Dr Minto.
There were four pubs in Stock or five if you want to include the Kings Head. These were the Baker’s Arms, the Hoop, the Bear, the Cock and the Kings Head. The pubs in those days had two bars in them – public and saloon. The most celebrated was the Bear, which had Dick Weston as the landlord and Charles ‘Spider’ Marshall as the ghost. A later landlord, Bob Stripe confirmed to me seeing Spider and hearing another ghost. The Cock was of interest, because where the car park and the school and its grounds are now was a large field on which I remember fairs being held. There was also a field with a pond next to it where the start of Cambridge Close is now.
Every year at Christmas a gentleman had a large illuminated Christmas tree on the village green, which was rather nice.
The churches in those days were not so integrated as they are now. Well certainly not the Catholics. The Rector of All Saints was the Rev Tatham, who I remember. I don’t know who was the Minister of the Methodists or Christ Church as it is now. The Catholic church in those days had a high brick wall and not a low bring wall and a single stone path to the entrance. You could still tell that it had been a school. The interior reflected this and outside you could see the site of playground and foundations of the toilets. And until late 1964 mass was still in Latin. In 1950s Stock was served from Ingatestone as now. The priest was Father Hugh Verity. The Presbytery or as is now Bishops House was though occupied, by initially the former parish priest Father later Canon Francis Dobson who doing the Brentwood Diocesan Travelling Missions and later by the American Society of St Edmund priest. In fact for a time from the mid 60s after the departure of Father Verity’s successor Father Alice and prior to arrival of one Thomas McMahon the Americans ran the parish.
The parish priest was one father Paul Plouffe. In 50s and early 60s by the way a Catholic was not allowed to make any donation to another church. So no putting anything in the alms box in All Saints. Then of course Pope John 23rd came along and things changed. Father Plouffe started the Catholic church fetes, which went on until the mid 1990s. Various people opened the fetes. As I recall, Dr Minto, the actor Richard Johnson, the local MP of the day Norman St John-Stevas and the Hon John Petre who is now Lord Petre. Father Plouffe had two henchwomen. Clare Brooke-Hart and Edith Sparrow.
When Dr Minto opened if the music played over the tannoy was the song ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’. I vaguely seem to recall that in his opening speech he said something about ‘Plouffe the Magic Dargon’. Being American Father Plouffe had contacts with Wethersfield airbase, which in those days of the cold war the American Air Force operated. He actually arranged a trip to one of their air displays for the parish. As an aside we even ended up with US Airforce prayer books. And then there was the notorious nightclub in the cellar under the church. I suspect Eastern National loved Father Plouffe. The buses on Friday nights were packed. I think it got a bit out of hand and closed down. It’s a pity that something like it couldn’t be revived. In 1969 the Americans left and the diocese of Brentwood reclaimed the parish. Or as was left by the publisher out of ‘The Story of Stock and Buttsbury’ in 1969 Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and Thomas McMahon landed in Stock. I was sorry to see the Americans go.
By the way the other American priest we had was Father Di Touchi.
I think the attitude about religion in Stock in the 1950s and early 1960s was that you respected people as people but didn’t always agree on religion.
Thomas McMahon as you know has remained parish priest ever since 1969 even though since 1980 he’s been the Bishop of Brentwood. At one time they tried to get him moved. Edith Sparrow got up a petition. And won. Edith did a lot of good for the village and died far too young. A very nice person.
I remember Donald Jarvis coming back into the village in the early 1970s. I know that Donald did a lot of good for the village. It’s just a shame that all his local history records are locked in the Essex Records Office and practically unobtainable. Which wasn’t quite what he wanted I understand. Personally I think that all records relating to Stock and Buttsbury should at least be copied and kept somewhere in the village. That’s why I support a village museum.
The Remembrance Sunday services certainly did not embrace all three churches. Whilst all the names of the dead of the two world wars were on the war memorial, the Catholics had their own war memorial inside the porch of the Catholic church. In those days of course the church was still Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
There was no Stock Press. The local papers were The Essex Chronicle, The Essex Weekly News and the Newsman Herald.
The school in Stock was the old school at the corner of School Lane and Stock Road, but the Rectory Hall was used for infants classes. The headmaster of the school in those days was Mr Jones.
The village hall was the original village hall on the site of where Unwin Place is now. All council houses were council houses. There were no ex council houses that were privately owned.
Where Dakyn Drive is was then the village allotments. The site was not as it is now. The Larches were more extensive, whilst not only was Swan Woods open to the public, but also so was Hankins Wood. Cygnet Wood did not of course exist. It was a field and was used by scouts for camping in. It was owned as I recall by West Ham Central Mission. I may be mistaken. It had derelict broken building in it at one side, which I recall had been used as washroom and toilet. There was also the remains of one in Swan Wood. In fact there were a few more woods than there are now. Long Wood and Turks Hill Wood are woods that stick in my memory.
Harvard Grange’s site was the Animal Research place. People weren’t so worried about research in animals in those days as they are now.
Some parts of the village did not have electricity in the early 1950s. We only got it at Tye Green in 1957. I remember going with my mother to Billericay to get accumulators for our wireless. It was case of oil lamps, calor gas lamps or candles. We never did get main gas. Sewage for the village was either in the form of cesspools or cesspits. Main drainage didn’t turn up in the village until the early 70s, unless you lived on the outskirts when it was case of having a cesspool or septic tank put in. The whole village did have piped water. (As far as I’m aware).
I remember the sewer being put in. It caused a lot of disruption with the road being dug up. This was the early 1970s.
People did have television in the 1950s. Black and white of course. Only the BBC up to 1955 and only BBC and ITV from 1955. These were transmitted at 405 lines. BBC2 started in 1964, but this was on 625 lines. To receive it you needed a set which could receive both and you need a different aerial. Plain BBC became BBC1. You could be envious, as a child, of children at school whose parents had got a set which received BBC2, when yours hadn’t. Incidentally it was possible if you a dual standard set to receive BBC2 on a 405 line aerial. I have done it. The picture was not very good. Colour came in 1967. At first it was a bit watery.
Wireless or radio. Stock could receive not only the BBC – Home, Light and Third, plus Radio Luxembourg, but also the pop pirates e.g. Radio Caroline, Radio Essex, Radio London. Personally I regret that they closed them down. Sorry but I really don’t think much commercial radio. I think it’s a bolshie streak in me.
If you wanted alternative entertainment you went to the cinema. Up to about 1960 Chelmsford had four cinemas and Billericay one. Now Chelmsford has one cinema with goodness knows how many screens.
The library in those days was in the British Legion Hall.
The windmill was in those days disused and not workable.
The village did have buses. Possibly a better service than now. As I remember there were two routes. 34 from Chelmsford to Pitsea – later Basildon and 53 from Tilbury via Laindon to Clacton. The 34 used to use double deckers and the 53 single deckers. The buses were green and cream. No First – rather good old-fashioned Eastern National. Until the early 1960s all double deckers had the rear entrance open platform and some had a sunken side gangway along the top deck and not a centre gangway. This meant that people on the lower deck sitting on the right hand seat had to lower their heads when leaving the seat. And getting to and from a far left hand seat on the top deck could be murder on a crowded bus. There was no door at the back of the bus. Like the Routemasters in London. They were dangerous. Let’s be honest, but the rear open platform was a fact of life. Some of single deckers had a rear entrance, some just a front entrance and a tiny few a front and rear entrance. In the early 1960s came the front entrance double deckers with doors. For some years only the Billericay bus stop had a shelter. A bus shelter was put in at the Chelmsford stop in, as far as I recall, the mid 1960s. It was not the one that is now, but a rather modern looking affair. In 1964 the bus routes changed became 53 Tilbury to Clacton and 153 Tilbury to Wivenhoe, both via Basildon. There was also a 34C which ran in the rush hours and went from Chelmsford to Basildon via Wickford as per the old 34 route. I went to school on the buses. And sometimes they were packed. Sometimes you couldn’t get on. Of course in those days you had strikes and work to rules. And when you’re young not being able to get on a bus is terrible. They used to have different ticket machines to what they have now. Something called a Setright, which the conductor issued a fawn coloured ticket from. The tickets – and the ticket machines are now collectors items.
Billericay was then as from about 1889 the nearest railway station. Until 1957 the trains were steam. In fact goods trains were steam for several years afterwards.
The telephone exchange at that time was in what is now the library. Next door was one of the nice old red phone boxes, where you had to push button A and push button B. There was another one opposite the garage, which like the garage is now long gone.
Telephones were not in practically everyone’s house. Only the better off tended to have them. Not much fun on a cold night if you didn’t have one and needed a doctor or an ambulance and the nearest phone box was some distance away..
As I’ve mentioned above there was fox hunting. No saboteurs. The Essex Farmers and Essex Union used to meet in the village.
In those days the fields of the farms were smaller and there were plenty of hedgerows. Until the late 1950s combine harvesters weren’t about. In fact the reaper binder and the thrashing machine kept going into the 1960s. Fields of corn stooks and haystacks were the norm. I still remember a haystack being thatched in 1963. Manure spreaders were another thing in those days. Less artificial fertiliser. However, by this time the horse and the traction engine had given way to the tractor Country crafts had quite died out or been relegated to a folk museum.
No golf courses in those days. In fact there was a raised path across what is now Crondon Park golf course from near Tye Green to what was Chapel Pieces. My mother said that there’d been a monastery there and that the mound was where they’d buried the monks. As a child she’d found bits of pottery there. She reckoned that there’d been a lake where the field where the golf course now is where the monks did their fishing. The raised path would have been the causeway. I’m digressing.
Farm boundaries were strange. Just below Tye Green there was a field on the opposite site of the road, which by logic should have been part of Crondon Park Lodge Farm which was on that side, but was actually part of Fristling Hall which was on the other side of the road.
In those days there were still some people who used bits of the Essex dialect. I used a bit of it myself. I don’t recall the proper Essex accent in use, but when you speak with one you don’t notice that you are using one.
Greenwoods in those days was owned by the West Ham Central Mission and its former owner’s son in law and daughter Sir Vernon and Dorothy Lady Haggard still lived in the village. Sir Vernon died in the early 1960s and Dorothy Lady Haggard a bit later. I can just remember them. Sir Vernon was the squire and as such was treated as such. They used, as I recall, live at Little Court.
Orchard House was there.
In the High Street next to what as mentioned above was the Post Office was an old house which had iron railings in front and which was demolished about 1960. Nowadays I have no doubt that quite rightly the parish council would oppose the planning application. Perhaps they did. Perhaps their objections were overridden.
I can’t personally remember the sign post at the top of Swan Lane being painted black and white, I always thought it was white, with a bit of black on the names
The village was in those days part of the Chelmsford Rural District Council. As I recall Stock’s representatives at various times were a Mr Mackie and William Orr. I never took any interest in the parish council. In the 1950s and 1960s I didn’t know it existed.
I don’t remember anything about sports or the drama group. I’d be lying if I did say I did. I probably learnt more when I researched and wrote my book The Story of Stock and Buttsbury than I did before. I can vaguely remember fetes.
I also remember in 1961 a chap called Wynford P Grant in Billericay self publishing a pamphlet called ‘A Short History of Stock.’ He also wrote pamphlets on Billericay. I believe that he is still alive and is a Professor.
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