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Laindon through my eyes
by Andrea Ash

BIRTH

     My name is Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell) and I was born in Laindon on 17/2/43 at home, which was number 1 Denbigh Road, child number 4. It was still war time and my Dad, aged 43, was away in Lowestoft at the time of my birth.

MEMORIES

     The house was rented from a Mr Rawley. When older, it was my job to go and take the rent money to Mr Rawley. He scared the life out of me; a little thin, moustached, Dickensian type character, weasel-like, in a brown suit, topped with a brown trilby hat. His 'office' was opposite Churchill Johnsons, suspended over waste ground and I used to have to walk along a small wooden bridge held up by long poles to his little office at the end. I was always frightened of falling over the edge; it looked a long way down!

     Our house had gas light, an open range fire and a fireplace in one of the bedrooms. In the scullery, we had a concrete-housed copper which had a space at the bottom to make a fire to heat water for our tin bath or for laundry. The sink drain pipe stuck out of the outside wall of the house (a bucket underneath it) – one night, someone sawed it off flush to the wall – it was made of lead, so it was valuable – well it was coming up to Christmas! The outside toilet was situated away from the house in the back garden. The toilet had to be emptied into a hole dug at the top of the garden, out of the way, (at night we had potties under the bed!!)

     Some winters the house would flood inside and as kids, I recall leaning over the settee floating paper boats along the living room floor – furry mould grew up the walls! We were to find out later that we were living in a ''condemned'' house, and also told that the block of houses may have been built on a pond!

     My mum and dad had moved to Laindon from East Ham in 1926 and lived in various places all over Langdon Hills and Laindon. My dad was a carpenter by trade (a Journeyman) and helped build quite a few of the plotland bungalows in the surrounding Laindon area.

DENBIGH ROAD

     Denbigh Road was an unmade road; our house was the first in a block of five, the Sargeant family lived next door, then the Hymas family, then Pastor West of the Elim Pentecostal Church with his family and then the Cyster's.

     After our block came bungalows, the first in which the Chapman family lived. I can then only recall Mrs Linz the money lender; Hudson's, Oliver's, Brockwells and Miss Le May – her's being the last property in Denbigh Road before wasteland which joined up with Durham Road. (There were others but names escape me). I used to run errands for most of the neighbours at 1d a time, which mounted up to quite a handful!

     The railway was at the back of our gardens and I used to wave to the engine drivers who would toot as they passed, (the house vibrated as they thundered by). My eldest brother worked as a Porter on Laindon Station which was a short walk from our home. In front of our house I remember a green painted street lamp which was lighted by gas. I recall it had a bar under the lantern housing which the local kids (and I) would swing from.

MEMORIES CONTINUED

     Preslands Fair would come to the field opposite our houses; I visited their caravans, saw how they made humbugs and felt at home with their familiar faces. The Jungle Ride was my favourite, but our very ancient lady lodger always insisted riding on the chair-o-planes which would gain so much speed they would be flying almost flat out. Very scary for me, not for her though! I loved that fair – the smell of the engines, the grass and excited by the happy atmosphere it brought.

     The Cullum family lived in a bungalow near the other side of that field. Further up the road behind the Cullum's, was a big house in which Turner's the coal people lived, and I would roam around the yard there, watching Mr Turner shovelling up coal and weighing it. He had an Airedale-type dog called Gussy who I perceived as being absolutely enormous. Later the Collings family came to live in that house – Collings the Laindon shop people and who are still around.

     Further up the same stretch lived the Andrews family, behind a shop facing out onto the High Road – this became the Post Office and then Stanwoods. On the opposite side, at the top, was Barclays Bank, where twins, a boy? and a girl called Mary lived in the flat above, their surname was Marchant. Down further was wasteland, an orchard, where we would often play, and then a small bungalow called Conway in which I believe a Kim Markham lived? Next was Turners coal yard with stables at the back, the side of our house was next to the yard. I remember their horses, a stroppy dapple grey and a beautiful brown horse called Lizzy. That was my playground too. This yard was later sold to Snook the Stonemason.

     Mum worked in Greens Stores at the edge of Durham Road and she also cleaned for the Jeakins, Moss and Collings families, who were all related. Mum took in work from Wagner's Cracker (Bon Bon) factory which was on the A127. Many a time neighbours came round to help out making Christmas Crackers and paper hats. Paper, glue and boxes everywhere, but it was a good laugh. I can still remember the smell.

     My parents took me to the Radion cinema many times; Saturday mornings I attended kids club; (had a Roy Rogers badge!) - sometimes local talent competitions entertained there. We'd often walk to visit our relatives who lived in Dunton; my dad and his brother had built their wooden bungalow called ''Auriol'' in Lower Avenue. They had a pump in the kitchen which pulled water from the well in their garden. As kids, we would lay over the top of the well looking down it – no safety rules then! Their ''garden'' was an orchard and a kids' paradise. Dad helped build several of the holiday plotlands bungalows and that's how he found out about Laindon.

     We could walk for miles in any direction. At Berry Lane way; we helped out the trader Harry Slater when his family moved into a big house near the recreation ground. The garden was a wilderness but we had a lot of fun in helping to clear it. Harry had a granddaughter called Penny, younger than me, and I often wonder what became of her.

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Page added: December 2008
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