ID PH01_FEN Article from Mersea Museum / Elaine Barker

TitleThe Fenns of Lower Road
AbstractIf you looked west to east along the left hand side of Lower Road 100 years ago, the buildings then standing would have been Spring Cottage, (nursery and Post Office), the Methodist Chapel next door then an open field until The Plough Inn. Part of the field became known as 'Garden Field' and was used to grow vegetables as part of the Dig For Victory in WW2, subsequently becoming allotments.

Peldon Post Office

Peldon Post Office and Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Lower Road, Peldon

In the late 1920s and early '30s three cottages were built, the first one, Hazeldene, next to the chapel was to be the home of William and Annie Fenn; the adjacent one, Purlu, the home of Percy Christmas and his wife, Louisa nee Fenn, and the third one, Homeleigh, the home of George Edward and Florrie Gladys Coates nee Fenn. The connection between these three families was William Fenn, Louisa Christmas and Florrie Coates were all siblings brought up in The Glebe, Little Wigborough.

The Glebe, Copt Hall Lane, Little Wigborough

L-R: Eliza Fenn (nee Grimwood) mother, Florrie Fenn, daughter, and Sarah Ann Fenn nee Quy, Eliza's mother-in-law, c1914, outside The Glebe Little Wigborough.

The head of the family Othniel Fenn (1871 - 1955) was the son of William Fenn (1837 - 1879) born in Little Wigborough and Sarah Ann Quy born in 1837 in Little Totham (1837 -1928). Othniel's wife was Eliza Grimwood born in Ringshall, Suffolk (1874 - 1956). In the 1901 census Othniel's family is living in Little Wigborough next door to his widowed mother, Sarah, who is 64 and a laundress. Othniel is working as a stockman on a farm. By 1911 their three children, Louisa, Florrie and William, have been born and William, at 18, like his father, is a stockman on a farm.

Hazeldene

In the 1939 register, William G Fenn (born 1892) and his wife Elizabeth A Fenn nee Lewis (known as Annie), daughter of a Little Wigborough ploughman, are living in Hazeldene. William is a poultry farmer working on his own account.
Elizabeth Annie Lewis was born in Little Totham. Her parents, Thomas and Elizabeth, by 1911, had seven children. In researching the Zeppelin connection with the family, Chris Kirkman of Mersea Museum wrote

"I have found Thomas Lewis and family in 1901 in Little Totham. Thomas was born in Hatfield Essex (Hatfield Peveril?), his wife Elizabeth is from Little Totham and they have 4 daughters. Daisy Eva, and Eva Ada born in Beckingham, Essex, then Elizabeth A. and Edith E. born in Little Totham. Thomas was a ploughman on a farm and had clearly moved around for work.
In 1911 Thomas and family minus the two older girls but with an additional 3 children, Albert, Lily and Leonard are still in Little Totham and he is shown as Horseman on farm. So it is quite possible that the family moved to Little Wigborough between 1911 and 1916."

William and Annie's house still bears the name Hazeldene today and it is possible to see the original part of the building which has been considerably enlarged over the years. The roof of the old cottage can still be seen in the attic of the present house. Interestingly, in 1939 there is a little boy living with them, Albert S Moore, born in 1929, who may have been an evacuee from West Ham. In living memory William was the postman for Great and Little Wigborough and there was a weekly doctor's surgery in Hazeldene. His great nephew, Graham Baldwin, who grew up in Purlu next door has memories of Will being a postman and having a doctors surgery in his front room once a week. I can remember the queues in all weathers at the front gate!

William and Annie Fenn

Will and Annie Fenn circa 1940.

An undated unsourced newspaper account of William Fenn retiring as a postman

William Fenn and Elizabeth Annie Lewis married on 11th September 1920 at Little Wigborough, this unsourced newspaper article appeared in September 1970.

In the picture below taken in the 1960s Michael Christmas son of Cyril is posing in Purlu's garden, while Hazeldene, before all the extensions, is in the background. The Methodist Chapel can just be seen behind on the left.

Purlu

In 1939, next door, Percy Christmas (born 18.9.1894) and Louisa are living with their first child, Cyril, (born 14.4.1926) in Purlu. Percy is listed as a general labourer for the Essex Rivers Catchment, heavy work. The name of their house was an amalgam of their two Christian names and although the cottage is long gone, one of the two houses built on the plot circa 2006 still bears the name, as well as the owner's personalised car number plate! Percy's father, James (1867 -1955), is also living in the village at 1, St Ives Farm, a widower and retired general agricultural worker. At the time of James's death in 1955, Percy, who is granted his father's probate, is listed as a poultry farmer.

Purlu c 1930 Louisa and Percy Christmas and their two children Cyril and Joan

Percy and Louisa were to also have a daughter, Joan, and she and her husband, Norman Baldwin, went on to raise their family in Purlu. Norman worked on the land at Abbots Hall Farm as farm manager before it became a nature reserve. He and Joan had extensive gardens, greenhouses and fruit cages and in retirement ran a little market garden. They sold bedding plants at the Mersea WI Market on a Saturday morning. In later years they moved away and sold up what was a very large plot. The cottage was demolished and two executive houses built in about 2006, The Paddocks and Purlu.

Louisa and Percy feeding their chickens behind their cottage Purlu

Peldon People Mr Percy Christmas of Purlu

Percy Christmas was laid to rest in Peldon churchyard last month at the great age of 90. He was our oldest male inhabitant, and although he spent the latter months of his life in The Heath Hospital, Tendring, we still regarded him very much as ours. He was born in Little Wigborough and went to school at the old Church School in School Lane, Great Wigborough. He moved to Peldon after his marriage, where he worked at Games Farm and also Brick House Farm. Robert Davidson tells us that there is still part of the farm which is known as 'Christmas Field'. He had a small-holding during the Second World War and employed a German prisoner-of-war, with whom he maintained contact long afterwards and used to show his photo as a memento. He had a great love for his garden and he also helped to cut the grass in Peldon churchyard, where his mower did yeoman service. One of the memories of school was learning the Sunday collects and he loved to recite the one for Advent 2: 'Blessed Lord, who has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning...the hope of everlasting life'. We believe that that hope was his and we assure Joan and all the family of our continued sympathy. Peldon and Wigborough Parish News June 1985

Homeleigh

In 1939 the siblings' parents, Othniel and Eliza, are living in Peldon in the third of the three cottages on Lower Road, Homeleigh. He is working on his own account as a poultry farmer. His daughter Florrie, her husband, George Coates, whom she married in 1928, son Dennis and infant daughter Pam are living in one of the council houses on Mersea Road, Peldon, and George is working as a postman. George was in the Peldon Home Guard during WW2 and is pictured in this photograph outside the Peldon Rose on the front row second from the right

Subsequently, maybe after Eliza's death in 1956, his daughter Florrie (1902 - 1981 ) and her husband, George Edward Coates (1902 - 1978) moved into her parents' house, Homeleigh, with their son Dennis George Othniel Coates (1931 - 1997) and daughter Pam (b 1938).

Mersea resident, Ron Green, was at school with Dennis Coates and he remembers Dennis moving from Peldon School when it closed in 1942 to West Mersea school. In 1946, both boys took apprenticeships with the builder Clifford White on Mersea, Dennis becoming an apprentice plumber. His father too, George Coates, went to work for Clifford White's. When Dennis married he and his wife moved to Witham.

There is now no trace of Homeleigh and modern houses have been built along the whole stretch of road. It is believed the Coates moved to Mersea Island.

All three couples were buried in St Mary's churchyard, Peldon, in death as in life, next door to each other, The Fenns, The Christmases and the Coates.

Elaine Barker
Peldon History Project.

Thanks to Mike Christmas
Valerie Taylor

L-R back 1. Eliza Fenn, 2. Baby- Dennis Coates, 3. Louisa Christmas nee Fenn , 4. Florrie Fenn 
Front: Joan Christmas and brother Cyril Christmas. Little Wigborough

Top L-R Percy, Louise, George Coates, Granny Fenn, Othniel Fenn
Bottom Joan, Cyril

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum
IDPH01_FEN
Related Images:
 Will and Annie Fenn  PH01_FEN_001
ImageID:   PH01_FEN_001
Title: Will and Annie Fenn
Date:c1940
Source:Peldon History Project
 Purlu, Lower Road, Peldon. Louisa and Percy Christmas and their two children Cyril and Joan.  PH01_FEN_003
ImageID:   PH01_FEN_003
Title: Purlu, Lower Road, Peldon. Louisa and Percy Christmas and their two children Cyril and Joan.
Date:c1930
Source:Peldon History Project
 Top L-R Percy, Louise, George Coates, Granny Fenn, Othniel Fenn
 Bottom Joan, Cyril.  PH01_FEN_009
ImageID:   PH01_FEN_009
Title: Top L-R Percy, Louise, George Coates, Granny Fenn, Othniel Fenn
Bottom Joan, Cyril.
Source:Peldon History Project
 Peldon Churchyard grave.
 In Loving Memory of William Fenn died 6 Oct 1976 aged 83 years
 Also Elizabeth Annie Fenn died 10 Jan 1979 aged 80 years.  PH01_FEN_013
ImageID:   PH01_FEN_013
Title: Peldon Churchyard grave.
In Loving Memory of William Fenn died 6 Oct 1976 aged 83 years
Also Elizabeth Annie Fenn died 10 Jan 1979 aged 80 years.
Date:April 2019
Source:Peldon History Project
 Peldon Churchyard grave
 In Loving Memory of Louisa May Christmas passed away 8 May 1971 aged 74 years.
 Also her husband Percy passed away 21 April 1985 aged 90 years  PH01_FEN_015
ImageID:   PH01_FEN_015
Title: Peldon Churchyard grave
In Loving Memory of Louisa May Christmas passed away 8 May 1971 aged 74 years.
Also her husband Percy passed away 21 April 1985 aged 90 years
Date:April 2019
Source:Peldon History Project
 Peldon Churchyard 
 In Loving Memory of George Edward Coates died 31 March 1978 aged 76 years
 Also Florrie Gladys Coates died 8 June 1981 aged 78 years  PH01_FEN_017
ImageID:   PH01_FEN_017
Title: Peldon Churchyard
In Loving Memory of George Edward Coates died 31 March 1978 aged 76 years
Also Florrie Gladys Coates died 8 June 1981 aged 78 years
Date:April 2019
Source:Peldon History Project
 The Glebe, Copt Hall Lane, Little Wigborough. The Fenn Family.
 Thought to be L-R Eliza Fenn ( Grimwood ), Florrie Fen, and perhaps Sarah Fenn, mother of Othniel Fenn. Sarah died 1928 Lexden [Mike Christmas ].  SG01_077_001
ImageID:   SG01_077_001
Title: The Glebe, Copt Hall Lane, Little Wigborough. The Fenn Family.
Thought to be L-R Eliza Fenn ( Grimwood ), Florrie Fen, and perhaps Sarah Fenn, mother of Othniel Fenn. Sarah died 1928 Lexden [Mike Christmas ].
Date:c1914
Source:Mersea Museum / Sheila Gray