Norma Creighton
My childhood memories of Stock in the 50’s and 60’s
Growing up in Stock in the 50’s and 60’s I would describe it for the most part as idyllic. The village at that time had a simplicity and tranquillity which made it the perfect place to enjoy the outdoor life of the surrounding fields and open spaces which children like to explore – it was a healthy environment.
My grandmother Mrs Owers, ran the small shop in the high street attached to her home – Stafford House. It was the focal point of the village for many years opening early morning and closing later in the evening, often after 9.45pm. It was primarily a sweet shop with jars of boiled sweets of every kind and other treats on the shelves behind the counter. It was a child's paradise in there and I and my brothers and sister counted ourselves very lucky to have a gran who owned a sweet shop! Mind you our parents were strict about restricting the amount we were allowed because we must look after our teeth!

Opposite what is now the Harvard Car Park
The shop, though small was also a general store selling everything you could imagine from tinned food, jars of preserves, bacon carved from a whole side kept in the cold store, fresh eggs, milk, ice cream, cigarettes, tobacco, aspirin, ointments (my mum's cousin who is in her 87th year still has a jar of wintergreen ointment from that time!) stationery, string, wrapping paper, toys, small luxury goods and costume jewellery – and much more!

Back then, you could safely cross the road at this point.
Nan spent most of her time by the old Aga range in the warm kitchen, which narrowed into an area leading past the huge old fashioned Welsh dresser, old wooden dining table with its check red and white tablecloth hanging down to the floor (under which the cat used to hide) next to Nan's chair and through to the cold storage area in the back room. Halfway down on the opposite side was a door with a step down into the tearoom. I can still remember the tinkle of the bell when someone came into the shop and Nan went through to serve them.
The popularity of the shop with the residents of Stock was obvious as Nan would go out of her way to help people out, often staying open late to accommodate working folk, giving them ‘tic' which was sometimes never repaid and helping out with catering at functions such as cricket matches on Stock Common where with our mother's help she provided refreshments at half time in the Pavilion. Mum's Uncle Cyril would help out making sandwiches in the back room of the shop on a large table where they were packed alongside cakes into big wicker baskets to be transported to the common for the cricket or football players.
When I was very small I remember the postman Maurice Palmer (Uncle Mauri, as he was known to us) having cycled to the village from Ingatestone stopping on his post round for a cup of tea, sitting in Nan's kitchen every morning. He became a family friend and we children loved to listen to his funny stories whenever he was there and we were visiting our nan.
I was the eldest child in my family having arrived in 1948, my brothers both then being born within three years of me. My siblings and I lived with our parents on the council estate which had been newly built at the bottom of Back Lane. We had the largest house in Brookmans Road, which was just as well as we grew to be a family of six after my sister was born in 1956. I have many happy memories of playing in the fields and rolling down the grassy hill where the newer part of the estate was eventually built and lovely walks in the Larches which bordered on Swan Lane , the Bluebell woods and the Chestnut woods. Happy days!
We walked to Stock Primary School every day down School Lane, back home for lunch and back again. Mr Jones was our headmaster and I recall Miss Scales was our teacher. I remember having school sports days each year in Admiral Haggards large garden which he kindly loaned to us for the event. We went to Sunday school at nearby Stock All Saints church where the Reverend Tatham officiated.

Picture from Mr Jones' leaving party
More pictures
At weekends we went with our mum and dad to Stock Common where we liked to play cricket games for fun and take a picnic. I loved to go into the small village hall nearby which was also the library. The place smelt musty of old books and shelves and the wooden floors echoed with the sounds of our shoes as we skipped about. I got told off several times for running as we had to be very quiet!
My best friend lived in a lovely big old house near the Common and I used to like to go there for parties when we played ‘Murder in the dark' and ‘Sardines' where lots of us were squashed into a cupboard! My friend's uncle ran the village Post Office in the High Street near the bus stop to Chelmsford. She, I and some of our other friends formed a harmonising singing group and thought we were so good we might get discovered and become rich!
Across the road from Nan's shop was Harveys the drapers. I loved to go in there for various items of clothing with my mum, such as liberty bodices which were popular at the time to keep us children warm. Everything was neatly packed in drawers and the shop assistant would pull out size labelled drawers from the shelving at the back of the counter. We would make our choices and pay the assistant in pounds, shillings and pence which was then put into a cylindrical metal cup with a screw top and put into a tube which sent the money whizzing along an overhead wire system to a cashiers office where a receipt and any change due was returned via the assistant to the customer in the same way. It was certainly a safe and secure method and a failsafe deterrent to burglars!

Mr Harvey checking in a delivery
My brother Neil remembers visiting the blacksmiths forge regularly after school behind the wall next to the Cock Inn at the top of Back Lane. Across the road from the Cock and at the rear end of Nan's shop and backyard was Upsons, the hardware shop. Round the back of the square was Stripes the hairdressers and opposite, the Cobblers and the Butchers where we used to buy our meat with mum and chat to Bill Essen, the butcher. The greengrocers was next door and the very popular Fish and Chip shop just across from that. I can still remember George sitting at the back of the shop peeling all the potatoes and cutting chips into a big bucket and there were often queues outside for the best fish and chips ever!
At the back of the square was The Bear public house where Nan used to like to go after her busy days for a glass or two of stout!
Our doctor's surgery in those days was a short distance down Mill Road on the left opposite the Catholic church, in a large white house. We walked down a narrow path at the side of the house and saw Doctor Patterson in a small room at the back used as the surgery. Next door was the Police Station, our village policeman at the time was PC Plunkett. Near to the end of Mill Road and past the Common was Charlie Palmers garage. The newspaper shop was located around the other corner of the square from Nan's house and I can remember going in there lots of times as a child where I could buy Bunty and comics like Beano and Dandy which my brothers liked.
We had Makings dairy down the lane at the end of the council house estate, delivering milk, cream etc. to the whole village. My aunt and uncle lived in the last house at the junction with school lane. My other aunt and uncle lived in one of the prefabricated Airey houses at the start of the estate which were supposed to be temporary houses built after the war but which lasted far longer than envisaged and were eventually pulled down many years later.
There were several water pumps in the village in various places, one at the entrance to the path beside the Catholic church, another in back lane opposite the lane which led to the allotments and a few others, one of which still remains on the green in front of the alms houses.
Some of my second cousin's recollections of my grandmother's shop and house during the war whilst my mother lived there and worked in the shop before I and my brothers and sister were born.

Our grandmother's sister Rene who lived nearby in Galleywood would help out in the shop when it opened and her daughter, our second cousin Betty would clean the shop shelves for which Nan gave her two shillings! A local lady called Ada Tiffen who lived near the Ship pub helped out with cleaning in the house. When the war started Betty stayed at Nan's and the shop was very busy. She helped Nan make ice cream in a large pot inside a wooden tube which had to be stirred with a handle for hours but the ice cream was delicious. Betty recalls that our grandmother had a dog called Rex who was fondly thought of by all the family but had to sleep in the shed which made her very sad.
Betty recounts a wartime story when some Scottish soldiers were billeted at Stock in barracks at the bottom of Honeypot Lane and Ingatestone Road. They often came into the shop and used the little tearoom which had five little tables with pretty tablecloths and patterned cups, saucers, plates and teapots etc. One Christmas when they couldn't get home Nan gave them a party there with goods she had kept from before the war. She found a very large red cracker about 2ft long and when it was pulled lots of lovely gifts fell out. Betty says she remembers it as if it were yesterday.
The tearoom was used in various ways to help the Stock residents who were going through hard times owing to wartime restrictions and my grandmother provided help in that way for many of the villagers. For instance a barber would come one evening each week to cut people's hair as there was no hairdressers in the village at that time. A travelling salesman was another regular visitor to the tearoom with his case full of goodies and items which people could buy that were hard to come by in those days such as knicker elastic which is one scarce item Betty remembers! Customers would also come on bicycles from London and other long distances, leaving their bikes in the backyard and enjoying snacks in the tearoom.
My mother used to tell me how she often waited on table in the tea room and in the winter there would be a roaring fire in the grate, tea and cakes on the table and especially when the soldiers came lots of camaraderie and a wonderful atmosphere! My grandmother's cakes were legendary – she had been taught by professional cake chefs years earlier as a young girl at a top class baker and confectioners shop in Tindal Street Chelmsford and her icing skills were of an exceptional standard so she was in great demand for celebration cakes for weddings, birthdays and other occasions. The cakes were kept in various stages in the front room of the house.
Our grandmother continued to run the shop until she was in her mid seventies having had to compete with the new supermarket which had opened up opposite in the former Harveys drapers/ greengrocers shop a few years before. The tea room remained as it was in the early days of my grandparents time until I was well into my teens because I can still remember all the tables set up in the same way, until the shop closed, owing to Nan suffering a stroke and going into St Peters Hospital in Maldon where she lived until she died a few years later.
I feel privileged to have spent my childhood years in the village of Stock and especially for knowing my grandmother, a strong, independent, determined and caring woman whose contribution to the life of the village in difficult times and in so many ways made a difference.
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