My great great grandfather John Green lived in a cottage next to the Fox Inn. He was an agricultural labourer and the tithe awards shows him as occupier, with others, of cottages and yards owned by James Fenn.
One of his sons Robert Chinnery married Maria Radford at West Mersea church on August 8th 1875, they were my great grandparents and lived at Cross Farm where he worked as a farm labourer. Their oldest son Roland 'Roly', my grandfather, was working there as 14 year old farm labourer
in the 1891 census. He married Annie Laura Cook in July 1896 and in the 1901 census they were living in a cottage in Firs Chase and Roly was working as a horseman, no doubt at the the Firs Farm opposite the cottage. My mother Edna was born in the cottage in August 1905.
Around this time changes were taking place in West Mersea and the first part of the Firs Estate was sold by auction on Thursday 30th October,1902 when 90 valuable freehold building sites came under the hammer and as a result new roads were formed - St Peters Road, Firs Road, City Road, Mersea Avenue and Victory Road.
Concerning the sale of plots on Firs Estate, Mr Edwin Cooke bought four plots each with a frontage of 25 feet for £48.
In the 1911 census Roly and the family were still living 'Opposite The Firs' but his occupation had changed to Builders Labourer. Soon after this the family moved to Haxells, East Road and soon after moved to one of the new
villas in Fairhaven Avenue at the junction with Osborne Road on Mersea's first major developement Fairhaven Estate. Grandad Roly owned 'Roseville' as it was called and it's believed he once owned the pair.
As with the Firs Estate, fields had been sold for developement and Fairhaven Avenue, Seaview Avenue, Osborne Road and other avenues were laid out at this time. A big new house 'Shameen' was built close to the beach at the bottom of Seaview Avenue and was was owned by Sir Jesse
Herbert MP. The garden was huge and ran from the beach up to Osborne Road, it was surrounded by a rustic brick wall much of which is still in existance.
Roly took the job of gardener and worked there for many years continuing after Shameen was sold to Capt. Chalworth-Musters. My family have always walked freely over these fields and Roly would walk through Osborne Road to Cross Lane to visit his parents at Cross Farm. No doubt my mum and her siblings would also go through to visit their grandma and grandad. We all used this route (Footpath 24) until it was closed off by a high fence recently.
Another of my great great grandfathers Abraham Green, lived in a little bungalow next to the mill, he was also an agricutural labourer and worked at Brickhouse for farmer George Alt. One of his sons also Abraham, married Emma Mortlock, daughter of a Peldon poultry farmer on
June 3rd 1865, they lived all of their married life in the old Workhouse Cottages off Waldegraves Lane. Abraham, always known as 'Ham' was sometimes an agricultural labourer and some times a fisherman, he worked on the foreshore gathering shellfish, crabs, lobsters, eels etc.
In the 1880s John Smith (Oyster merchant) of Burnham on Crouch applied for a grant under the Sea Fisheries Act of 1868 for a portion of the foreshore and bed of the River Blackwater for the establishment and maintenance of a several oyster and mussel fishery. There was also a
similar application from Brightlingsea, Wyvenhoe & Donyland Cooperative Oyster Fishery Company for about 5000 acres. The Burnham on Crouch company applied for 978 acres. This was strongly opposed by the Mersea fishermen as it would ban them from using the area from which they made their living. An inquiry was held at Colchester Town Hall and was opened by the Board of Trade inspector on on Tuesday 2nd January 1883. A number of Mersea men travelled to Colchester to give evidence. As well as Abraham Green, others were - Robert Southgate, Sidney Hewes, Samuel
Pullen, John Hewes, Steve Appleton, Alfred Mussett, John Shephard, Thomas French, Mr Cook, Mr Willoughby Bean, Arthur Mead, Sam Mussett, William Mussett and Peter Pullen.
The hearing was held over two days. On the second day Smith withdrew his application and the Mersea men gave evidence. Abraham Green of West Mersea said that: He was a winkler and not a dredgerman nor a member of The Tollesbury & Mersea Co. and he did not think he could become a
member. He was 44 years of age and since he was 13 he had been a picker on the shore of the area applied for.
He picked oysters, brood, spat, lobsters, whelks and eels. He had three boys 14, 15 and 17 and with their aid he could earn £2 a week winkling.
If the grant were made they would not be able to get any whelks as they laid below the neap tides. He had a punt and his stock-in-trade consisted of and eel shear, a pair of splashers, a basket and a second basket for winkles (laughter). He himself, his wife and eight children
all lived off the shore, except that he had done a little harvesting.
Mr Jones appeared for Mr Howard( Haward?) and others representing the dredgermen of Mersea, Tollesbury and Bradwell against the application.
The result of the hearing was that the applications were dismissed and since that time the lower portion of the River Blackwater has remained common ground to all fishermen.
It would seem to be the second time us natives have had to fight to protect our heritage. Last year we had a hearing to establish the true line of footpath 24 from Seaview Avenue through to Cross Lane.
This was established but there was an objection as to the width. This has now been agreed and we all hope that we can use our path again soon.
For a more detailed account of the 1883 foreshore enquiry, go to my article in the West Mersea Town Regatta Programme of 1999.
Article published in Mersea Life, August 2012, page 42.