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Basildon Stories
A person's life in Vange
by Mrs. J.R. Cartwright

     Seeing an old photograph of The Barge Inn, brought memories flooding back to me. Memories of times, people and places some thirty or forty years ago.

     I came to live in Vange in 1942, when I was about eight years old. We moved from Fobbing, all the removals being done by horse and cart.

     We lived in Rectory Cottages, on the hill opposite All Saints Church. The cottages, there were two, had tiny latticed windows. An open fire and a gas lamp lit our sitting room, we used candles to light our way about the rest of the house. In the bricked yard, stood the water tap. This would freeze solid in winter and Mother would light a fire under it to thaw it. There was no sanitation, as was the case in many a home in those times.

     It was an interesting old place. Rectory Cottages was the first school in Vange. On the end wall, scratched in the bricks, were the dates and initials of past pupils. The bedroom, I shared with one of my sisters, was the classroom. Adjacent to this, but boarded over now, was the cloakroom. Later it was opened up, from the outside, and we used it as the coalshed. I believe we had the only coalshed in Vange complete with coat hooks.

     In the tiny kitchen, the fireplace had been boarded over also. After the war, when my Father returned home, he uncovered it. Behind the boards was discovered a small kitchen range, still complete but beginning to rust. More exciting than this was what was found stuffed up the chimney! It was a metal cylinder about three feet in length. On opening it, we found old records of farm boundaries and lists that each paid in tithes to the church. I seem to remember, also, what must have been requests from wills. I would love to see them again as I am sure I would appreciate the value of them more now. We handed them over to the Vicar, this would be around 1946. I have not, of course, seen them since. The Vicar was the Rev. Stevenson, followed by Rev. Moorehouse, as near as I can remember in 1946-47.

     The Five Bells public house was the place we caught the school bus, to take us to Craylands Secondary. This was segregated, boys from girls. Campbell's of Pitsea, ran the bus. It had a curved roof and wooden seats. It would rattle along the narrow country lanes to school. In winter, when the roads were icy, we all had to get off at Clay Hill and walk to the top, as the bus could not get up it with all the children on the bus. Mr. Campbell ran a local service too. What a scream on market day. The bus would be crammed full of people together with chickens, kittens and even goats. Everyone and everything was allowed, so long as the fare was paid.

     There were no houses between the Five Bells and our cottages but on the opposite side, a row of bungalows. There lived the Clarkes, Coxheads, Treadwells, Grays and the Webbs etc, etc.

     Next to us was the Rectory and grounds, this is now Vange Zoo. I remember the army being billeted there during the war. I think this was a temporary measure, for they never seemed to be there long but I do remember the soldier who used to sit on the doorstep playing his banjo each evening.

     Vange Church played a big part in our lives then. Mother was the cleaner and my sister Vi and I, sang in the choir. We attended each service faithfully for many years.

     Down the hill from the church is Vange Primary School. Each of my Mothers seven children attended here. When I went there, Mr. Scorer was headmaster. During the war he kept ducks at the school, just so we, the children, could have the benefit of the eggs. Mr. Wicker was our caretaker and he lived a little past the school, towards the camp. Between the row of houses where Mr. Wicker lived, there was Mrs. Smith's grocery shop. Other residents in this little area were the Amos', Coats and Gavins.

     Opposite Moss's farm chase was the Camp Road, leading to the old brickfields. Here lived the Dawes and two of our teachers, Miss Marvin was one and the other ones name escapes me. This is where we would Blackberry nearly all day.

     The next row of houses, travelling towards the Barge were the homes of the Simms, the Jordans, Rusts and Spooners, old Mr. Mundy, the clockmaker and Mr. Shady too. Another row of houses opposite was where Mr. Tilby lived. He was our milkman and delivered the milk by horse and cart.

     It was here also, we would find the home of the Nixons. They lived by the side of the footpath that led to the reservoir.

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Page added: October 2002
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