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Basildon Stories
From London to Basildon and Plotland Memories
by Beryl Cox (née Cook)

     My name is Beryl Cox and I was born in the City of London Maternity Hospital which is within the sound of Bow Bells. I lived in Canning Town and Plaistow for my first thirty years. In those days it was not very easy to find accommodation as such a lot of houses were in ruins due to the war; but my husbands parents had been bombed out and the Council had taken over - requisitioned - a house in Barking Road, which, it is not hard to guess, was and is the road from Plaistow to Barking.

Barking Road

     The house number was 415 and Bill and I lived in the top three rooms, plus a lovely large attic with a window through which it was very interesting to peer into the West Ham Central Mission's Queen's Gardens, where Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) visited and watched the young people who attended the church parade around the perimeter of the lawn. During this time, his Mum and Dad, and Bill and I clubbed together to buy a little weekend bungalow in Langdon Hills.

Kenrose, Western Avenue

     We used to take the 697 trolley bus to Plaistow Station and a steam train to Laindon, and walk the narrow winding pathway for about 30 minutes to Kenrose in Western Avenue. We had a case with nappies for the baby, and things for the other two little boys, and food enough until Sunday afternoon. It was very pleasant walking among the little houses in their own ground, where the gardens were tended carefully, having beautiful flowers. Not that gardens were not looked after where we lived, but they were small gardens, mostly at the backs of houses, and which we could not see, with front doors and bay windows bordering on the street.

     In our small 'shack' there was no running water; there was a tank outside to catch rainwater. The toilet (earth closet) was in a wooden shed about 3' x 3'. I cannot recall in those days being over fastidious about handwashing, but this evidently did not disturb our peace of mind, or cause any trouble. There was no washing machine, of course or television. In fact I don't think we had a radio. We have some very nostalgic photos of the children playing in the grass, and my mum and Bill's mum sitting in deckchairs in the garden. I doubt if there were many deckchairs in the gardens where we lived.

     It was very peaceful, the only noise coming occasionally from the gramophone of the family in the next plot playing appropriate old tunes and songs. They came down for the weekend and had a wind-up gramophone. I think officially we weren't allowed to sleep in these shacks, but most people did, and also had a tent where necessary. And, of course, we could take a week's holiday there. It was a long way to walk back to the Laindon High Road for shopping if we were there for more than a weekend but somehow I managed with the baby in a little pushchair which we called the 'taxi'. This had two wheels and no brake. I also recall buying some bread from a little shop I discovered at the top of nearby First Avenue. My husband was marvelous. Having no sight and as yet no guide dog, he kept on the narrow path to and from the station, but there were no mishaps.

     Then my husband had to take a job out of the area. In those days he was a switchboard operator, and we had to move to the new Heartsease Estate in Norwich. Several moves later we found ourselves back in Avondale Road, Vange, and then Vowler Road, Langdon Hills. It is appropriate to mention here the name of our house when we lived in Vowler Road. It was 'Ataahua'. Yes, just like a Sneeze! No matter how carefully I wrote our house-name on correspondence, many people just could not believe in such an unlikely name. Its spelling caused quite a few problems. I did count the variations one day, there must have been about thirty, the most amusing being Alleluja. Shortly before we moved out the house was given a number, No. 39, along with everyone else in the road but I do not know if the occupant still uses its unusual appellation, or if it is less trouble just to use the number. The suggestion was made to me that Ataahua was an old Maori word; perhaps someone could enlighten us.

     Our sons were very adaptable; and one year found themselves having to go to three different schools, one boy when he was only five. It was adventure to them, perhaps and they all did well at all their schools. I remember well the concert at Pitsea Junior, during which 'Johnny Todd' was played on the recorders and sung. This was so popular that an encore was demanded with much clapping.

     The headmaster of one school to which the boys had to go, misjudged the ability of one of them and put him in a lower standard. Fortunately, in the exams. he attained 20 more marks above the next pupil and subsequently attained a place at Fryerns Grammar School.

     We eventually moved in 1969 to a nice corporation house in Yardeley, Lee Chapel North, where it was near enough for me to walk to the market, with my daughter in a large pram on which I could carry several shopping bags. On two occasions in this busy market I was able to rescue a small child in distress, having lost her mum.

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Page added: November 2008
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