|Memories of Stock - Jim Sargant
|Probably the greatest change that has taken place in
England's villages since World War Two is the decline in the number of shops
and other trades. For most people in Stock in the 1940s, a trip out of the
village meant a 'bus ride to Chelmsford or Billericay. Consequently, Stock was
largely a self-contained community. In recording the establishments which have
vanished or changed considerably, it may be significant of something that all
the public houses remain, although their characters are not the same -
particularly in their provision of food today.
|The centre of the village was certainly The Square,
not least because the Eastern National 'bus top was there, listed as Stock
Bear. Opposite The Bear was the blacksmiths, operated by Harry Brown who was
also landlord of The Bear. Waiting for a 'bus on a winter's day, we could get
some relief from the cold by standing in the entrance to the smithy, where the
heat from the furnace was coupled with the distinctive smell of singeing hoofs
as horse shoes were fitted.
|The newsagents was then run by Freddie Searles and
his wife. During the war, there was no county library in the village and they
ran a small library, the subscription being 2d per book per week. The 'paper
rounds extended as far as West Hanningfield.
|A small shop on the corner with Mill Road sold
batteries and charged accumulators for wireless sets (there were few
mains-operated radios then). This was run by my father, Bill Sargant, although
my Nan, Mrs Parsons was in charge there for most of the time. Above the shop,
up a narrow winding staircase, was a room where a Mr Speakman operated a
barbers shop on Wednesday afternoons - his day off from his main job in London.
After my father gave up the shop, it became Audax Radio, selling radios and
subsequently television receivers.
|Opposite The Cock was Mr Upson's cycle shop, where he
and his son Les also sold many hardware and associated items such as candles
and wicks for oil lamps. I remember going there for cycle accessories and
catapult elastic particularly.
|Onto the High Street, Mrs Owers ran a small
confectioners and general shop, which included a table and chairs in a corner,
where she served tea and her home-made cakes.
|Entering the village from Billericay, the first shop
in the High Street on the righthand side was Mrs Eve's confectioners. I seem to
remember that it was here that we were able to buy ice cream for the first time
after the war. On the left, on the corner with Back Lane, was Wrights the
butchers, one of a small chain of such shops in various mid-Essex villages,
owned by Hugh Wright (not a Stock person), who was at one time a Chelmsford
|On the corner of Swan Lane was Stock's largest shop -
Sewters. This combined groceries with drapery. Entering the central door in the
High Street, there were counters down either side with an elevated 'cubby-hole'
at the far end where the cashier could view the entire shop and receive money
from the sales assistants via an overhead wire transportation system. The
counter on the righthand side was devoted to groceries. In front of the counter
were biscuit tins with glass tops displaying the wares. There was a rotary
bacon slicer, butter was cut to order, and sugar was sold loose, being weighed
on brass scales. The opposite counter was the drapery side and along its edge a
brass measure was set-in, the goods being displayed on shelves behind the
|Further up the High Street, the Post Office was
opposite The Hoop and was run by Mrs Barker, who was later succeeded by her son
|Various members of the family served in Cottee's
bakers shop, opposite the Post Office. I recall helping mix the dough in the
bakery behind the shop.
|Returning to the village centre, Nellie Watson ran
the grocery and general store on the corner of the High Street and Mill Road,
although I believe it was owned by her parents.
|A few doors along in Mill Road was Buck's (later
Bozko's) boot and shoe repairers and a little further Freddie Baker's butchers
shop. In the 1950s, Freddie opened a fish shop adjacent to the butchers.
Previously, villagers had to travel to Billericay or Chelmsford for fish.
|Some way down Mill Road, next to the old Village
Hall, was a grocery and general shop run by Ted Deering and his wife. Ted was
quite a friendly character but Mrs Deering was something of a dragon -
especially to children. Living almost opposite at The Garage, I remember their
large cat which was usually curled up asleep on a side of bacon. I also recall
my mother complaining at their price for potatoes - 7 lb for a shilling (5p) !
The shop later became a restaurant.
|On the corner of Mill Road and Well Lane was Stock
Garage, run by my father. Early in the war, the petrol pumps wre requisitioned
by the military and were used by the soldiers at Mullet Camp, on the
Ingatestone road. There were few cars and petrol rationing was severe, so my
father started a self-drive hire service which grew into a taxi service. This
gradually expanded to become our main source of income and was later augmented
by two coaches. The business was taken over by Charlie Palmer in the early
|Back to the pubs. Being a callow youth (!) at the
time, my knowledge of these establishments was very limited. The Cock was best
known as the 'headquarters' of the football and cricket clubs, landlord Tommy
Allen playing an important role in each. I did visit the Kings Head a few
times, Peter and Barry Davey, sons of the landlord, being in the Church choir
|There were two dairies delivering milk in the village
- Makings and Stripes. The former was owned by Fred Makings, of Brookmans Farm,
Back Lane, while the Stripe family operated from Farrow Farm, opposite Downham
Road on the road to Chelmsford. Makings deliveries were by a 3-wheel van
(predecessor of the Trotters?!!), while Stripes conveyance was horse-drawn, the
driver usually being Bob or Agnes Stripe.
|Hardly big business, but there were two ladies who
sold goats milk. Mrs Smith lived at the bottom of Whites Hill, while Mrs
Chapelow (who had been a suffragette) lived in a cottage on the way to Ramsden
Heath. What connection there was with goats I can't imagine, but both ladies
rode tricycles !
|One obvious omission from the list of shops is that
of a greengrocer. Shops such as Deerings and Watsons stocked a few basic
vegetables, but the truth was that most people grew their own fruit and
vegetables, and imported produce was simply not available. The majority of
villagers had decent-sized gardens or allotments and, although there was no
organised system of barter nor do I remember money changing hands, folk used to
pass on their surplus fruit and vegetables.
|Having said that, the Cox family from near The Ship
delivered fruit and vegetables round the village by horse and cart. Another
horse and cart service operated by Mr Beales, who lived in Foxborough Chase,
supplied paraffin, candles and similar goods.
|From the 1950s onwards, the growth in the popularity
of the motor car lead to the developments of supermarkets and out-of-town
shopping complexes, and so started the sad demise of this aspect of village
|| Stock Home