Chapter 1 Pre - World War II 1931 - 1939
Church and chapel Entries show a village with its Church of England, St Mary the Virgin, on Church Road and the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel sited on Lower Road (where Chapelfield is now situated) at the heart of village life. Both churches have regular services, run active Sunday schools, and special services or anniversary celebrations. The churches have a close relationship with each other and it is clear that residents often go to the C of E service in the morning on a Sunday and the chapel in the afternoon! C of E funerals and weddings are reported in detail often including lists of all those who attended, the bride's outfit, the honeymoon destination and where the bride and groom will live. Non-conformist weddings of Peldon residents held at the Culver Street Chapel in Colchester and one at the Assembly Room (a Plymouth Brethren church) in West Mersea are also covered.
During this time it is clear St Mary's is in need of some restoration and there is a brief mention of the previous restoration held in 1858. In 1936 there is a lightning strike.
CHURCH DAMAGED BY LIGHTNING During a severe thunder storm in the early hours of Sunday morning the parish church was struck by lightning. Since the earthquake of 1884, when the structure was badly shaken, there has been a lean in the tower; now as a result of the storm, a large crack also is visible.
Essex County Standard 23.5.1936
Mention must be made of a reference annually to Comyns Charity. It was a charitable trust intended to hand bread or cash to all Peldon's parishioners once a year at Easter time reputedly set up in 1613 by John Comyns. Largely administered by the officers of the Church of England the money came from a tithe payment made by Moor Farm (the white weather-boarded farm on the East side of the main road between Colchester and Mersea on the B1025 not far from the Peldon Rose).
The terms of an ancient bequest, known as Comyn's charity, provide that part of the tithe received by the church authorities from Moore's Farm shall be used to purchase an Easter gift of bread for every household in Peldon. On Tuesday the old-established firm of Fred G Smith, of West Mersea delivered 220 half-quartern loaves and 10 quarterns of flour at the school. Parishioners arrived with bags and baskets and waited until their names were called by Mr Wm John, the churchwarden. The loaves were handed to them by the Rector, the Rev. A A Giles - not less than two for each family, in some cases four or five.
Essex County Standard 6.11.1931
Church of England Rectors The Rev. A A Giles is described as newly-appointed in 1931. After bouts of ill-health he resigns in October 1938 and a new parson is inducted by the Bishop of Chelmsford in February 1939, the Rev. John Robert Wilson who retires in 1947.
Chapel The chapel seems to have many visiting preachers from the Wesleyan circuit but Rev J Parker and then Rev J Pearce are described as 'minister in charge'.
School During this period there is a C of E School in the village, built in 1833, so we read of the centenary celebrations in 1933 which coincided with Empire Day [see Special Occasions]. The school premises were also used by the village for meetings and entertainments.
The farming year, as in so many villages, influenced the school holidays as children would be needed for two weeks to help with the pea picking, usually late June to early July, then back to school until another two weeks' holiday during harvest in August.
Miss Anne Tyrer retires and leaves her post as governess of the school in Summer 1933 after six years in post. Miss S M Barr replaces her and her sister moves into the School House with her. By Christmas 1935 a Miss Glenny is the governess.
16 Children from the school take part in the N E Essex Schools' Sports held in Clacton in May 1934 [footnote]
[footnote] The District Sports was still running when I came to teach at a primary school in Tiptree in Essex in 1975
Entertainment, Leisure time, Societies and fundraising For entertainment there would be concerts and dramatic pieces featuring a variety of contributions from schoolchildren and adults in church, chapel and school. There were talks and lantern shows, teas, a newly formed church choir in the spring of 1931, a football club (formed November 1935) and a new dramatic society (formed in 1937). There were Scouts, Brownies and Guides, Mothers' Meetings, a horticultural society, Cricket Matches and a Women's Conservative League and the first Church fete at the vicarage in 1939.
It is during this period that the first Five Parishes Show was organised and held in the village at Peldon Lodge (1931) thereafter annually apart from a break during the war. Clearly a lot of village pride at stake!
A GOOD PERCENTAGE of prizes at the 'Five Parishes' Horticultural Show were awarded to Peldon residents ... In all some 150 prizes went to Peldon Essex County Standard 22.7.1932
In November 1933 it was decided to form a branch library and this opened in the schoolroom with 100 volumes available. The headmistress, Miss S M Barr acted as librarian. An exchange was made three times a year when a van arrived with fresh supplies - by 1935 up to 152 volumes.
Charitable fund-raising is much reported. Whenever money needed raising there always seemed to be a whist drive! Pre NHS there are subscriptions and collections for the Colchester Hospital (Essex County Hospital). Charities such as RSPCA, Overseas Missions, Poppy Day are all mentioned as being recipients of the village fund-raising efforts. With a local connection to the Gresford Mining disaster near Wrexham (266 killed) a house-to-house collection was organised. [footnote]
[footnote] Harry Waller, a worker at the mine, was accompanying his parents, Mr and Mrs John Waller of Mersea Road,
Peldon to the railway station after a visit. Had he not done so 'he would have been in the pit at the time of the explosion' Essex County Standard 28.9.1934
Fundraising for things closer to home included funds for the 5 Parishes Show, a Christmas treat for the school children, and new hymnbooks for the Methodist Chapel. A sale of work was held in the summer of 1934 to raise money for heating and lighting of the church.
There was a very successful village loan club which started in 1925.
SHARE OUT The thirteenth annual share-out of the Plough Christmas Loan and Mutual Benefit Club took place on December 15 at The Plough Inn, some 90 members participating. The sum of £340 was distributed, each share making a profit of 10d on the year's workings. The treasurer, Mr H Hedger, who is landlord of the Inn, and the secretary, Mr F Purtell, were thanked for their services.
Essex County Standard 24.1.1937
People The village was particularly proud of its elderly inhabitants no more so than of George Miller who lived to 102. From the age of 96 how he spent his birthday would be described in the column, sometimes in extraordinary detail with his work in the garden and his winning prizes at the horticultural show marvelled at! The obituaries are such a telling picture of these people's lives I have reproduced some of them in full in Appendix 1. Whether it tells of John Linnett Clark carol singing solo as he walked round Peldon playing his concertina or of George Smallwood, the postmaster, who reckoned he'd walked 100,000 miles in his postal rounds. It is a fascinating insight into the lives of people born in Victoria's era who in many cases started working at 8 years old and were born in the village or lived here for a considerable part of their lives. [Appendix 1]
George Smallwood retires as postmaster due to ill health in September 1933 after 41 years in post. Mr J Bridge, late of the Royal Navy, is appointed postmaster of the local sub-office in March 1935
Water There are several references to 'the men engaged on the waterworks scheme' and at the meeting of the Parish Council upon the arrival of the new Rector A A Giles they were asked to
... vote on the question of keeping the parish pump in condition after the completion of the waterworks scheme. A unanimous vote in favour of retaining it was recorded. - Mr Golden Simpson stated that the present wheel pump had been in use since 1883, the previous one having been worked with a handle. The wheel pump is an object of great interest to visitors in the summer, and of all local postcard views is the one in greatest demand. It was felt that it would be a mistake to remove so picturesque a landmark. - A vote of thanks was accorded the council for work done in the past three years, and the chairman remarked that as a newcomer he was glad to find men in his parish who were willing to give up their time to the work. The right to vote should always be exercised; those on the electoral role ought not to absent themselves, and later complain at what was done or not done. (Hear hear)
Essex County Standard 13.3.1931
EMPLOYMENT AT PELDON - The appearance on the green at Bunn's Corner [footnote] of a portable shed and office and a watchman's hut attracted considerable attention, and it soon became known that the waterworks scheme was about to be put into operation, and that local men were to have the first chance of employment. Some 25 men assembled outside the village store, and marched to Bunn's corner, where they were supplied with picks and shovels, and the digging of trenches was begun in front of the Council houses. The men of Peldon have all persevered well, and pipes are quickly being laid. The contractor, Mr Joseph Clark, of Netherfield, has expressed himself well-satisfied with the progress and at his last weekend visit generously doubled the weekly contributions to the Essex County Hospital, Colchester. The work is under the immediate supervision of Mr E Shaw of Nottingham, who with his family has taken up residence in Abberton until the termination of the contract.
Essex County Standard 27.2.1931
[footnote ] It is not clear exactly where Bunn's corner was but it is likely it was a corner opposite St Ives Hill where it comes down to the junction with Mersea Road and Lower Road. There were several generations of 'Bunn' living in the village in the 18th and 19th centuries and it is thought the 'Bunn' in question moved into a cottage on the corner in 1815 [source Kay Gilmour]
Building FOUR COUNCIL HOUSES are in course of erection in Church Road, and there are numerous applications for them. On completion the total number in the village will be twelve.
Essex County Standard 1931
ElectricityA SERVICE was held in the Methodist Chapel to mark the installation of electric light, the cost of which has been defrayed by two local preachers ... The proceedings started in candle-light ... after the singing of a hymn the electric light was switched on.
Essex County Standard 18.1.1935
Traffic On Sunday evening a local resident set himself the task of counting vehicles which passed the village pump [near The Plough] between the hours of 6.30 and 8.30. The result is as follows - Motor cars 177, motor-cycles 14, motor-cycles with side cars 9, motor coaches 7; total 207. Pedal cycles numbered 58. These figures bring home the difficulty of a walk in the country where there are no footpaths. It is sometimes necessary to stand with ones back to the hedge to allow vehicles to pass without accident.
Essex County Standard 24.8.1935
Post AN AFTERNOON POST In response to requests from several residents, an afternoon delivery of letters has been arranged. This is much appreciated by all and will prove a boon to those who have been obliged to make a journey of two or three miles to the Post Office to enquire if correspondence was awaiting them.
Essex County Standard 14.12.1935
Telephone AUTOMATIC TELEPHONE EXCHANGE The equipment of the exchange is being replaced, and through-dialling and multi-metering from Peldon to the Colchester area are being provided. The new Exchange will be one of the first of its type to be opened in the British Isles, and a new feature of 'multi-metering' is being introduced. By means of this facility Peldon subscribers will be able to dial direct to Ardleigh, Birch, Boxted, Colchester, Marks Tey and Wivenhoe exchanges. It is hoped to open the new Exchange some time during the present month
Essex County Standard 11.1.1936
Empire Day [footnote] In June 1933 Empire Day Celebrations included the 100th anniversary of the formation of the C of E School. Celebrations included a church service, sports for the children and a gift to each child of a commemorative book, a procession round the village including an 'Empire Queen' with maids of honour riding in a two-wheeled vehicle with two attendants and five boys drawing the vehicle, and two girls dressed as Boadicea and Britannia. The procession finished at Peldon Hall meadow 'by kind permission of Mrs J Wilkinson' where the children performed an entertainment. The evening programme included a demonstration by Girl Guides, and sports for adults.
[footnote] Empire Day was a day of national celebration for Britain and her colonies. In honour of Queen Victoria who died on 22nd January 1901 it usually took place on the 24th May (her birthday) every year between 1902 and 1958.
Jubilee A tea for children was served in a marquee lent by Mr Gowen of West Mersea. A balloon showing pictures of the King and Queen and of Windsor Castle was placed upon each plate, these being the gift of Mr W John. Souvenir medals and mugs were distributed ... A tea for pensioners of 65 and over was served in the school. The centenarian inhabitant, Mr George Miller was presented with a 7 day oak clock suitably inscribed by Mr P G Fairhead, chairman of the parish council ... An entertainment followed for parishioners who were beautifully served with refreshments ... To enable the company to hear the King's speech, a wireless set was lent by Mr John ... Pensioners unable to walk to and fro were conveyed in cars ...
10.5.1935 Essex County Standard
The only mention of the King's death
POSTPONED Owing to the death of King George, a whist drive fixed for Tuesday, a joint effort between Peldon and Wigborough to raise funds for the Essex County Hospital and a concert arranged for Thursday by the committee of the Five Parishes Horticultural Show have been postponed
Essex County Standard 25.1 1936
The Coronation The first item in the Coronation programme was a service in the Parish Church, where, in the tower, a Union Jack, presented by Mr R Nicholas, waved a bright welcome ... A collection was taken for King George's Jubilee Trust Fund and the British Legion Pension Fund.
At 1.15 a luncheon was served to old-age pensioners in a marquee erected in the ground of Peldon Hall, kindly lent for the day by Mr Richard Jones. In the afternoon there was a procession round the village and prizes were given for costumes and cycles ... A sports programme was provided for adults and children ... A tea was provided for schoolchildren and each child was presented with three new pennies. Tea for adults followed and after a few more races the sports prizes were presented ... .A site for the planting of a tree on the Church Green was marked, the sod being turned by an infant schoolboy, Denis Baldwin and the stake driven by an old inhabitant, Mr H Smith. The evening was spent in the school, where a wireless set, kindly lent by Mr Stone of White House,
and manipulated by Mrs Stone, enabled the company to hear the King's speech. An entertainment followed ... a flag dance by infants, a geographical sketch by seniors and Empire songs ... a play by members of the Peldon Dramatic Society ... Essex County Standard 15.5.1937
CORONATION BALANCE SHEET ... the funds amounted to £23.3 ... balance in hand to be used for fencing round the commemoration tree planted on Church Green ... Essex County Standard 19.6.1937
... the tree should be a scarlet flowered chestnut ... together with a suitably inscribed plaque ... Essex County Standard 16.10.1937
Peldon History Project
Thanks to Mike Watson and Pat Wyncoll
Thanks to the Essex County Standard for permission to use the newspaper material