When Thundersley's Tithe Barn caught fire

Do you remember when?

By Robert Hallmann

In years past, when we still got snow instead of winter floods, I took some photos at St Peter's Church in Thundersley. One of the images is of a car burnt out in the charred ruins of a lean-to near St Peter's on Church Road. I understood that it was the Vicar’s car. Now I wish I had photographed the whole scene. My memory placed the pictures in the 1980s, but I may be wrong, because there is a story that the Revd. Woodcock sat ‘watching the moon landing whilst the barns were on fire’. The barn was Thundersley’s old tithe barn where the church hall now stands. Apparently other old church treasures were housed there, including an old pulpit from a burnt-out church in Devon, John Pond's Fair Stalls and the 1660 Coat of Arms, as well as the Vicar’s car in the lean-to.

The first moon landing was on 20 July 1969, so that does not equate with my snow image, but there were six landings in all. Do you remember when Thundersley’s tithe barn burnt down? Are there any records? There are early photographs including the barn(s) and they are still shown on a map of 1962. Of interest also are the buildings a little further east, where Kingston Primary School now stands. Would they be the barracks that once held prisoners of war? On the 1971 map the barns are missing and the school has replaced the barracks.

Thanks to Jonathan Stamp for the parish maps and his helpful interest and information. 

Photo:The Vicar's car after the fire

The Vicar's car after the fire

© Robert Hallmann

Photo:St Peter's, Thundersley

St Peter's, Thundersley

© Robert Hallmann

Photo:St Peter's churchyard

St Peter's churchyard

© Robert Hallmann

Photo:1962. St Peter's tithe barns are marked, as is the POW camp to the right (called Runnymede House?)

1962. St Peter's tithe barns are marked, as is the POW camp to the right (called Runnymede House?)

Jonathon Stamp

Photo:1971. The tithe barns are missing and Runnymede House has become a school.

1971. The tithe barns are missing and Runnymede House has become a school.

Jonathon Stamp

This page was added by Robert Hallmann on 18/01/2014.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

I was visiting the info@benfleet site, and it was suggested to me by Eileen, one of the editors, that I take a look at this edition. The reason being, that in fact I was a boarder at Runnymede House from 1950 until 1952..We were an assortment of young ladies, needing TLC for an assortment of reasons, mostly having lost our Mums. We had two very kind house/ mistresses, who also taught  at the very new Benfleet School at Shipwrights Drive, which I now know to be King John school.  I left the lovely Runnymede House in 1952, some time before the Canvey Island floods, but later learned, that the School, of which Mr. Evans, was Headmaster, had been put to the task of using any resources to Help & House the unfortunate flood victims......I have also been informed, that Kingston Primary, now stands in the place of my beloved Runnymede House...which is how it should be....Strangely, we were never made aware, of the importance of the house name, & the connection to King John.' Magna Carta'-and all that........I saw these really informative Web sites, quite by accident, as surfing the web, one day, as you do, I came across it & added my comments about the lovely Church atop the hill, and received some nice replies...I have been living in Western Australia for the past 30 years, but my memories, of lovely Thundersley are forever dear....

By Linda Lee
On 07/07/2015

Dear Linda, I very much suspect you would appreciate the new book about Thundersley and Daws Heath to make you homesick.

By Robert Hallmann
On 15/07/2015

Hello to you, Robert, Thank you for your few words,regarding Dear Old Thundersley. Thing is, of course I would love to see words & pictures of the places I knew, but to bear in mind, I was only fourteen when I had to leave Runnymede, and so my knowledge of the area was confined to Church Road and then on to Shipwrights Drive, Benfleet School. So, in saying that I am not familiar with Daws Heath...What I would really love is for someone to produce a photo of Runnymede, before it was removed to be replaced by Kingston Primary...but more, to the point, is for a confirmation that in fact, Runnymede, was a Residence for Ladies of the Land Army...and yet, your map marks out POW. and in conclusion, when I thanked the Editors for adding the comment, I wrote, in my thank you e-mail, that the interior of our Dear Runnymede residence, was in the years from 1950. showing no trace of the building being used for Gentlemen Prisoners.....Is there anyone, who can say Yea Or Nay.........

By linda Lee
On 24/07/2015

I lived in Thundersley in the 60's & attended Thundersley Infants School in Dark Lane. In the Autumn of 1966 there was a fire at the school and my year were moved elsewhere while they repaired/replaced the damaged classrooms. We were moved to a building in Church Road which we were told had been used during the second world war by the army. As I recall it was a small building, just large enough to house our three classes, but perhaps that was just the part we used, maybe there were other parts that we did not get to see. We stayed there until Christmas that year then had to be moved again, this time to a school near Hadleigh, because the building we were using was due to be demolished and a new school built on it's site.

By Maureen Barnes
On 30/07/2015

Hello to you Maureen, I was so pleased to read your memories of Church Road and of the building that you were moved into temporarily, also the fact that you were told it was in use during  World War 2 which appears to be my/our old Residence.

I wonder, were all 3 classes taught in that long 'common room' which was large enough to include our dining room and our beloved piano.There was a short corridor which led to the wash rooms, which would have been directly opposite the dormitory wing, enough for 12 beds, although by 1966, obviously re-shaped for everyday purposes.

It was So nice to know your memories that have given me this insight of the last years of dear old Runnymede House.

By Linda Lee
On 13/08/2015

Hello Maureen. I left a reply on the 5th August in response to yours of the 30th July but have not yet seen it in print, so I will begin again. I was so pleased to read your memories of Church Road, and of the building that you were moved into temporarily, and the fact that you were told it was used in World War 2 which appears to be our old residence.  I wonder, were all 3 classes taught in that long Common room, which was large enough, to include our dining room, plus our piano.There was a short corridor which led to the Washrooms, which would have been directly opposite the Dormitory wing, long enough for 12 beds either side, although by 1966, obviously re-shaped, for everyday purposes. It was so nice to know your memories, of 1966, and you have given me this happy knowledge of the last years of dear old Runnymede House.

By Linda Lee
On 13/08/2015