|According to old records and maps the parish of Tollesbury covered
a large area in olden times, extending as far as Tiptree Heath,
which anciently was part of the great forest of Essex, to which the
freeholders and tenants of surrounding parishes, including Tollesbury,
had commonright for grazing their cattle, and the cutting of the
trees and underwood for repairing their buildings, hedges, etc., as
well as for fuel. It would appear that the parish boundary made a
circuitous route from Salcottstone excluding- D'Arcy to the top of
Oxley Hill where it went south to embrace Tiptree Hall and Tudwick.
The late Dick Houlding told me that the boundary passed thrpugh the
little hut at the bottom of the garden of "The Plough" where he was
born, separating Maldon from Lexden-Winstree Rural district
councils and could have caused complications in the event of an
accident. Until quite recently dwellings in the Tudwick area and
their inhabitants were included for ecclesiastical purposes in
Tollesbury parish, but this has now been rectified. There were
over twenty-four farmers with named farms in the parish, but in
the course of years some have been merged with others and some
taken for private dwellings or building land purposes, notably
Orchard and Croft Farms at West Street, Hunts' Farm in the centre
of the village. Many of the ancient buildings have disappeared
due to being condemned unfit for habitation or use, ones that
come readily to mind were the so called "Blind Cottages" at West
Street near the present Cemetery, so named because they had no
windows at the front of the dwellings only a solitary piece of
glass let into each door. "Black Cottages" sometimes referred
to as "Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge" which possessed some
beautifully carved beams with Tudor rose motif.
"King's Hall Cottages" two fine examples of Elizabethean
architecture which stood opposite to North Road and were
purchased and presented to Tollesbury together with the
"Elysian Gardens" in 1955 by the late Mr, F.E. Hasler.
Unfortunately at that time it was found that the cottages
could not be restored, and they had to be demolished to
make way for the road now running into the site opposite
the Bank House.
In the mid-eighties we find many trades now non existent
in our midst. There was a decoyman; saddler; blacksmith;
straw hat maker; tailor; three corn millers; four shoemakers;
two wheelwrights; a druggist; two beerhouses and two
victuallers. Professionally the Vicar had the assistance
of a Curate, there was a Minister for the Independent Chapel
and there were two Physicians and Surgeons.
Owing to the absence of addresses in the old records we are
unable to pinpoint the location of all trades and
industries, but many of the senior citizens will recall
the businesses long since gone. The small butchery shop
opposite the present "fish and chip" shop which about that
time was Mr. Bolesworth's clock-repairing and jewellery
establishment. Many a young man obtained his silver watch
and chain with compass pendant there, as well as other
items of jewellery. Messrs. May's boot making and
repairing business next to the CO-Op butchery shop; Mr
H.R. King's outfitting and tailoring establishment opposite,
where yachtsmen could be kitted up. Further down the road
near the Fire Station, Messrs. Wilshin's
pork butcher's shop, where cold and cooked meats could be obtained.
Messrs. Brand's butcher's shop and slaughterhouses across the
Square. The smithy of Mr. Beecham on the site of Messrs.
G.W. Coates new bakery. Messrs. F. Lord's outfitting establishment
at "brown shoe corner" where many crews
of the yachts were completely outfitted. The locality got its name
from the yacht skippers and senior hands who congregated there to
chat and pace up and down. Every road had a "sweet shop", more
often than not in the front parlour of a private dwelling.
They are long since gone possibly due to the now stringent regulations,
but they had a usefulness at the time. One recalls the amusing
tales of how one child went in one such shop said said to the lady
- "Two pennyworth of bullseyes, and please don't weigh your fingers",
an allusion to the habit of touching the scales to gauge the proper
amount, or the little boy who timidly asked, "Could I please see your
gold mine, 'cos Mrs. ---- told my mum you had a regular little gold
mine in here."
There were three bakers, and daily deliveries of bread, etc.. most
tradesmen effected deliveries of goods by handcart or horse drawn
vehicle. Messrs. Stone's brewery in the Chase made weekly
deliveries of locally brewed beer, as also did the four public houses,
but under the Defense of the Realm Act of 1915 deliveries had to be
signed for by the recipient and this restricted sales.
There was a Cinema in Woodrolfe Road, where nightly performances were
given, and matinees on Saturdays when we children could get in for 2d
or 1d if one sat on the floor. Miss Doll Wombwell presided at the
piano and rendered appropriate music.
Further down the road was Beecham's meadow where we children played
around the old stables, adjoining "Paraffin Avenue" so called for
the smell of oil in and around the stables there. Paraffin at that
time was the only means for lighting in the village, apart from candles.
Until Drake Bros., removed to Woodrolfe from Old Hall,
sometime in the eighties, there was little activity at Woodrolfe apart
from laid-up or decaying smacks, and the fishermen's foot-boats,
as the majority of smacks moored at The Leavings, Mell or Thurslet Greeks.
The only building at Woodrolfe was 'The Granary", a most ancient store
on stilts, where bagged grain was kept until it could be taken away by barge.
However, the whole scene changed, in their hey-day, Messrs. Drakes employed
12 to 15 hands and had 8 apprentices. They bought, felled and conveyed trees
by timber-drag to Woodrolfe, where the wood was pickled, dried out, then
sawn up into planks. Slipways were constructed, and much boat building
and repairing was carried out. Other trades followed, Messrs. Williams
established a shipsmith establishment where iron work for smacks could be
forged; anchors; dredges; mast fittings; and water tanks could be made.
They also had a huge copper for boiling the dressing for sails and nets.
When the large yachts began to make their winter quarters at Woodrolfe,
preparations had already been made for their berthing in the creeks.
The present Yacht Stores (often erroneously termed "sail lofts") were
built by Messrs. Lewis and Drake about 1890 for the accommodation of the
yachts' equipment, including sails, rigging and dinghies. The masts and
spars were triced up under the Stores. The only building which could
properly be termed a "Sail Loft" is the one now standing on the North
side of the Swimming Pool, and which previously stood on the "Woodrolfe
Park" site and was used by Messrs. Cranfield and Carter for sail making.
Messrs. Gowen and Co., also had a thriving sail making business in the
premises now occupied by "Volspec" and the Tollesbury Sailing Club was
the paint shop of Messrs. J. Phillips, yacht painters, etc.
Mr. Gowen, senior, had been the sailmaker in the ship "Cutty Sark",
and craftsmanship displayed by his sailmakers became renowned
throughout yachting circles.
The large wooden shed opposite the aforementioned premises, and
which has masts and spars to support it, was owned by Capt.
William Frost for storing coal discharged from his barges.
Mr. Nixon's workshop and display window was the boatbuilding
establishment of Messrs. Legerton and. Green, who prior to the
Great War, specialised in building motor launches and small craft.
Very little can be recalled on the subject of brickmaking.
In a brave attempt to make a success of the project, the
Tollesbury Brick and Tile Development Co was formed, and
operations commenced on what is now called the "Thurstable
Estate" also at Woodrolfe opposite "Seaholme", but operations
had to cease in 1907. Again in 1920 a start was made to
manufacture bricks, which were deep red in colour and highly glazed,
but again the high salinity content of the clay and its gravelly
nature spoilt the project. However, many of the bricks can be
admired to this day in houses built prior to the Great War.
Practically every trade and profession was available in the
village. Milk deliveries were made from milk churns conveyed
in chariot style carts. Most cottages had their own vegetable
gardens and fruit trees and bushes.
Life was leisurely, if the weather was inclement and the fishermen
or others were stormbound, they could also repair to Mr. Bert
Redhouse's boot repair shop for a yarn, or to Mr. Bonner's or
Joe Stace's barber shop, provided they cleaned their footwear scrupulously clean before entering the portals of the latter.