Memories of Stock - Jim Sargant
Local Traders
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 Alderman.
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 counter.
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 Ian.
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 1950s.
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 with me.
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 life.
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