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Goodbye Vange - An Essex Settlement Disappears
by Anne Kebbell

     When my parents first came to Vange - it has now been submerged under the concrete masses of Basildon new town - they moved from a small overcrowded flat in Wood Green to a little wooden shingle-dashed bungalow. I can see it now, geese in the garden, marigolds in abundance, and magnificent sunflowers towering over the rubbish heap that my grandmother had made in a neighbouring field. the outside toilet was stuck right in the middle of the garden - for convenience I suppose! Most of the roads were unmade at that time, so my grandfather's baby Austin car would make its way up and down over a bumpy field and then along a cinder road before it reached Vange High Road.

     At one time my great-grandfather owned Luncies Farm in Luncies Road. He used to have visitors down to take the waters from a natural spring there. I would love to know if it did them any good!.

     When my parents got married in 1937 they had rows of empty houses to choose from. The could have bought a brick built bungalow on a new estate in Vange for just over £400. The deposit was £25, with 8/9 to pay. As it was, they could not afford the deposit, so they rented a very nice brick bungalow for 15/- a week. At that time many of the bungalows were inhabited only at the weekends, but gradually many of the owners moved out of London to live permanently in Essex.

     My early years were spent in a little wooden bungalow set in a very large garden. It was built on stilts, to keep it dry I suppose, and had a rickety veranda across the front. Life there was very pleasant, even if conditions were a trifle crude. At first our only water supply was a pump in the front garden. this used to freeze up quite regularly, and we had to hold bundles of lighted newspapers underneath to get the water going again.

     Field-mice were a nuisance, as they got through holes in the floorboards. One mouse took years off my mother's life when she found it floating upside-down in a bath full of washing. Speaking of baths, bath-night was quite an operation. Water was heated up in the copper, then poured into a tin bath brought into the kitchen. We children bathed first, then my mother, and the water was topped up again for my father. I have to laugh to think of it now, but we all kept clean, despite lack of plumbing.

     In winter the coalman often got stuck in the mud outside our house, and we had to wear wellingtons to go to the top of the road; but in summer the better aspects of rural life prevailed. the garden was full of fruit and vegetables, and we could go for long walks over the creek or sit on a gate and watch the occasional small steam train chug to Tilbury. Bob Campbell delivered milk from his farm by horse and cart, and in my parents' younger days Milky Smith used to bring the milk round, sometimes late at night, in buckets swinging from a yoke across his shoulders.

     Basildon new town dwellers may be surprised to learn that malaria, or ague as it was called in those parts still prevailed on the Vange marshes in the early part of this century. My father said that the mosquitoes used to hover above the steam rising from the ditches crossing the marsh, and he was unfortunate enough to be bitten by the variety of mosquito carrying the disease. He remembers very well the onset of the ague. He was a boy at the time and worked for Mr. Crooks, of Kiln Farm, which was situated on the marsh side of the Southend - Tilbury railway line. One day he was harrowing in a field adjoining Vange High Road and went up and down the field feeling worse and worse, until he could go no farther. Happily, bottles of quinine took care of that and subsequent attacks, until the disease eventually petered out.

     The time about which I write is recent history, yet it has gone practically without trace, due to the advent of the Basildon new town. Of course no one laments the passing of substandard dwellings, yet it is easily forgotten that once they houses a thriving and happy community.

Title: Goodbye Vange by Anne Kebbell.

Copyright: © Anne Kebbell.

Comments: This account was first published in Essex Countryside and is reproduced complete and unedited.

Page added: 31/05/2017
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