I was born in South Africa where my father was
based with the Navy during the War. When we returned to the United Kingdom we first lived with
my grandparents in Ramsay Drive, Vange (I was only 4-5 but I remember the Working Mans Club,
The Barge and the sawmill.) We moved to 4, Rectory Park Drive in Pitsea in 1946/47 where we had
an Elsan toilet that had to be emptied in holes in the garden and we had a tin bath that was
filled with kettles and saucepans of water.
I attended Pitsea Primary School where the Headmaster was Mr Morgan and
Headmistress Miss Jones and my teachers were Miss Dove, Miss Welham and Miss Denton. I
occasionally got slippered by Mr Bebbington!!! I seem to remember a sportsmaster Mr Green
a little later before I left in 1952 to move to Langdon Hills.
My lifelong passion for movies was born at the Pitsea Broadway where I used
to go sometimes 4 times a week (films changed Mon - Wed, Thurs - Sat, Sunday plus Saturday
Morning Pictures.) Pitsea Market was up Station Lane; in the summer we went from Pitsea
Station to Chalkwell beach on Sundays depending on the weather. Campbells Coaches, who ran a
fleet of cold, rattly old buses locally were based in Station Lane. The Grays to Southend bus
service often got stuck on Bread and Cheese Hill!
Our house was a couple of doors from the Presbyterian Church and there was
another one a bit further down but I can't remember which. Rectory Park Drive wasn't a proper
road and very muddy in wet weather. I got kicked by the milkman's horse one day. There was a
British Legion hall just across the way from us and we could cut through to the Recreation
Ground. Our local football teams were Bowers Utd and Bowers Athletic and they played near us
although not sure where. I think they later moved to another ground.
I also moved to Langdon Hills from Pitsea
(in 1952) and I went to the Langdon Hills Primary School (my teacher was Mr Richardson) there before going on to Grays
Palmers Grammar School in '53. We lived at 6 Salisbury Avenue right by Laindon Railway Station
but that house (like 4, Rectory Park Drive in Pitsea) was demolished years ago for the Basildon
sprawl. As far as I can recall our house never had a name, at least not while we lived there
1952-56. If you were driving from the Fortune of War end through Laindon as you approached the
station there was a right hand bend and then a left over the road that went over the railway
line. As you came down the hill the other side our house was on the left facing the road. I
seem to remember there was some kind of industrial unit the other side of
the road from us - the name Rogers rings a bell? I haven't been back since we left.
Over the road from us was Peperell's Newsagents and along from us was Frank
Plume the cobbler. I seem to remember he had a leg iron. He used to have a big poster board
advertising films at the Radion and he got free tickets for doing this. Many times he would
pass them on to me. There was a grocery shop called, I believe, the Oven Door
Stores? Something like that and run by a Mr Matthews. I used to do grocery rounds on Saturdays
on a bicycle with a huge basket on the front. I was a Sunday School teacher at the Baptist
Church where I also used to pump the organ for Sunday services and, occasionally, for weddings
(I got paid for the weddings!!!)
I went to the Radion Cinema in Laindon. The manager was a
cheery, chubby balding man who used to give me promotion books when he'd finished with them
(I wish I'd kept them!!) I used to watch Laindon play football (the ground was down the High Street
if I remember) and cricket was played at the top of Langdon Hills (opposite a pub). We used to
cycle up there and often went on to One Tree Hill and to see my friends in Corringham.
Title: Pitsea and Langdon Hills by John Brooker.
Copyright: © John Brooker, January 2008.
Comments: This account was supplied by John Brooker for use on the Basildon History website.