Growing up in Hadleigh in 1920s and 1930s

Ian and Erica Hawks

Ian and Erica
Ian Hawks
Ian and Mother; Doris
Ian Hawks
Ian Hawks
Erica with one of her dolls
Ian Hawks
Ian and Grandma Bull
Ian Hawks
Ian and Erica with the family pet, Bing
Ian Hawks
Ian and Erica, an orange box trolley
Ian Hawks
Ian and Erica
Ian Hawks
Ian and Mother, a day out at Leigh beach
Ian Hawks
Erica's doll house made by Grandpa Bull
Ian Hawks
Hawks family at Leigh
Ian Hawks
Ian, in school team gear
Ian Hawks
Ian off to school, checking bus fare
Ian Hawks
Ian on farm holiday
Ian Hawks
Ian ploughing on holiday
Ian Hawks
Off to Margate for holiday
Ian Hawks
Chalkwell mudlarks; family and friends
Ian Hawks
Ian and Erica
Ian Hawks
Ian and Erica. January 1939 off to sea: end of childhood
Ian Hawks

A short history of our childhood from 1920s to the 1940s living at Dorlie No.72 Castle Road West.

Our parents were married at Hadleigh Congregational Church, December 1921 and moved into Dorlie, which was a wedding present from Mother’s father, the Revenant Bull. I was born 1923 and Erica 1927.
Dorlie was to be our home until we married and went our separate ways, Erica to Benfleet and later Canvey and myself to Thundersley.
Father was very laid back and I don’t think anything worried him, Mother on the other hand being a minister’s daughter [Rev. Bull] had very strict values which she passed on to us and which we appreciated her for in later years.

It would not be accepted these days but Mother had a small handled cane above the kitchen range, called Tickle Toby; it was not used much, only to tickle the back of our legs if we misbehaved.
In the early days Dorlie had no main services, lighting was from oil lamps, heating from oil stoves and open fires, cooking on a large coal burning range and water pumped from a well and, yes, an outside toilet.

It was later that all services reached Castle Road West, then we had the luxury of a bathroom complete with a gas copper geyser, which had to be lit every time a bath was required. I can remember kneeling in front of an open fire to dry our hair.
Before school age we both went to the Congregational Church Sunday school.  Our first school was Holmwood, a small school in Arcadian Gardens run by Miss Howship. Erica’s school friend from early days was Pearl Horder who I married in 1948.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Hadleigh was still a small village community. The main shops in the High Street were Schofield & Martins grocers, Smith the butchers, Lawrence’s the sweet and card shop, and in London Road the Co-op grocers, Margerison’s the chemist, Keddie’s the drapers and Emery’s the gent’s barber [which is still in business] to name but a few. Margerison’s used to develop and print our black and white photos taken with a Kodak box camera, which is still with me.

There were two shops in Castle Lane; Fern’s at the east of the junction with Elm Road and Hylton’s at the north east corner of Castle Road and Castle Lane.    Both sold sweets, soft drinks and a minimum amount of tinned and packaged groceries. During the summer Mr Hylton made his own ice cream and sold it from a stall outside to the passing visitors to Hadleigh Castle, his wife had a teashop attached to the main shop.

We had great Christmas’s with our parents and Grand Parents. Christmas Eve would be spent around the log fire in a brick fireplace, roasting chestnuts in the grate.
In the corner would be a large tree suitably decorated including wax candles, which would be lit, [no health and safety in those days]. Just before going to bed we would place an empty pillowcase at the end of our beds with a tangerine and a walnut in them for Father Christmas, hoping he would fill our pillow cases with presents, which he did.

An annual treat was to visit the Fair and Circus, this was set up on the field which is now Morrison’s car park. Although it is now frowned upon, it was a great thrill to see the wild animals, lions, tigers and elephants also the very noisy performing sea lions. The elephants were walked around Hadleigh every morning for exercise and as an advert for the circus.

The manager of the newly opened Kingsway Cinema was a friend of my Father and one day he invited him and myself to have a look around the new cinema, showing us the projection room, the air conditioning unit and the Compton Organ; introducing us to Peggy Webber the organist. I was offered a free pass to the cinema any time I wished which I made great use of.

In those carefree days, children were able to play outside without any worry and supervision. We used to wander over Hadleigh Castle and surrounding hills on our own enjoying the wild life, seeing the various birds and enjoyed watching the wild rabbits on the hill, which is now the Mountain Bike Track.

We were also allowed to wander around the Salvation Army farms and Brickworks at the bottom of Chapel Lane, where our paternal grand parents lived {see Alfred Hawks, schoolmaster}.
Another joy was to watch the shire horses drinking out of the horse pond west of the S.A. Citadel, which is now the site of a small public garden.

During any snow we would toboggan down the west slope of the Castle and – if it was thick enough – skate on the pond to the west of the railway bridge.
I was very apt in making go-carts using old Silver Cross pram wheels purchased from Reynolds junkyard on the west corner of Homestead Road and the High Street for a few pence. We had great fun riding them down Castle Lane to the Salvation Army Farm entrance, watching out for the very occasional car or horse and cart.

One of our cousins was a dance teacher and held tap dancing lessons in the Estuary Club of Leigh; both Erica and I attended the classes, Erica became very good at it but I am afraid I was not so good and lost interest.

I remember once having a week’s holiday at Clifftonville travelling via Southend Pier on the paddle steamer Golden Eagle to Margate. Most of our holidays were spent either on a friend’s farm at Wicken Bonhunt, Essex or at Father’s sisters farm near Sevenoaks.
We loved the country life and enjoyed harvest time, leading the shire horses with loaded hay cart down to the haystacks and, as the last of the wheat was cut, chasing the rabbits towards the guns; we lived on rabbit stew for weeks.

Another treat was to catch the bus outside Hadleigh Church to Leigh Church, then by tram to Woodfield Road, then a walk down to Chalkwell Beach via the footbridge by the station.
The day would be spent with friends at one of the corporation beach tents that would be hired for the day. It was great fun walking out to the Ray if the tide was out, covering ourselves with mud before a swim and clean up.

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  • Thank you for your contribution to our Community Website (H&TCA) and your comment to the article GROWING UP IN HADLEIGH in 1920-1930s. I was interested to hear that your grandad was at Hadleigh Farm in 1929 but you don’t mention any more details except that he was ‘shipped out to Western Australia by the Salvation Army’ and then you mention Slavery and Isolation.

    The Mid 1920s (1926-9 ) was a particularly busy period for the Salvation Army and their Migration scheme, where people had the opportunity to emigrate to Australia or New Zealand and a chance of a new life, this included those from Hadleigh. From Hadleigh they would have been boy farmers, who would have been given training in various farming skills at Leigh Park Farm or Hadleigh Park Farm to put them in good stead for work when they arrived. Perth is a natural place as there is a lot of farming there and you mention Karlgarin, this being about 200 miles up the coast from Perth and the port of Freemantle.

    However I am interested in your research as to your Grandad being a victim to Modern Slavery and Isolation, as you say, and would be interested to see any of your research that confirms this. I may be able to trace him in some way . Are you able to give me his NAME and Date he travelled to Australia. My colleague and I wrote a history of the Farm Colony published in 2008 (and revised in 2015 following the 2012 Olympics and the legacy left behind) and we never came across any incidents of Modern Slavery, hence my interest. Do you have any photographs?

    By Graham Cook (17/01/2021)
  • Only posting the pretty stuff

    By Elizabeth Moran (27/12/2020)
  • My Grandad was @ Hadleigh Farm in 1929. He was 16yrs of age, a child & shipped out to western Australia by the Salvation Army.
    He spent 7 years in Karlgarin, nr Perth.
    Modern Slavery & Isolation

    By Elizabeth Moran (27/12/2020)
  • I’m looking for information about a bicycle shop near Hadleigh Church. I believe my Grandfather Albert Gowers ran it or owned it. Any help would be appreciated. I emigrated to Australia in the 1970s, but do remember Hadleigh Castle and Leigh with fond memories.

    By Margaret Gowers (15/08/2019)
  • My name is Keith and I used to live in Castle Lane, in the flats. I remember the Esso garage run by the Ruffel family, we went to hadleigh junior school in 1966.
    {Ed: Reference to the Ruffles Garden and the Flats}

    By KEITH MARCHANT (05/04/2019)
  • Hi Susan, thanks for your reply, how strange that we might have gone to the same school in the same year, I will have to get my brain in gear to remember the form teachers names…It would be great if you have any photos of the Hadleigh area that might help piece together my Parents/Grandparents life in Hadleigh…

    By Michael Souter (05/02/2018)
  • Michael, although I do have many of Dad’s photos I am not aware of any of Rectory Road but will have a look through them at some stage. From the information you have given I believe that we were in the same year at Thundersley Primary School!

    By Susan Fogg née Hawks (03/02/2018)
  • Susan Fogg nee Hawks and Brenda Underwood nee Hawks…
    Very sad to hear that your Father passed away, I have enjoyed reading his post about his life in Hadleigh. I was born at no2 Rectory Road, Hadleigh in 1950 [now the Icelands shop] I am doing research on this part of Rectory Road, trying to find information of previous buildings occupying this plot in the past…I have a photo showing Normans garage c1928 and I am trying to find out more about it. I know that when I was born there [in the front room] there was a house on that plot [no 2] but I can’t find photos from that time [up to when the house was demolished to make way for shops] I saw in another post from your Father that he had knowledge of many of the buildings in Hadleigh [he must have seen so many changes in his lifetime there], could it be possible that you or your family might have any photos etc that could be shared to help my endeavours… I would be very grateful for any help….

    Many thanks

    Michael Souter

    By Michael Souter (02/02/2018)
  • how lovely to know that my paternal grandparents, Mr and Mrs Hawks, are still remembered.

    By Susan Fogg ( née Hawks) (28/04/2017)
  • I remember ‘The Hawkes’ as neighbours.  My parents bought the shop and tea rooms on the corner of Castle Lane/Castle Road in 1955 and Mrs. Hawkes came in to the shop quite a lot.

    By Cheryl Lawless (25/04/2017)
  • What a wonderful article!  Thank you for sharing your memories.  I am due to teach year 1 children tomorrow about the local area in the 1920s – your article has helped me tremendously, but also given me a lovely image of the area I have grown up in.

    By Jane (07/02/2016)
  • I am pleased that you enjoyed this article.  Dad died in 2013 but I follow this site and occasionally add comments.  I realised just the other day that the chair in the second photo, behind my Grandmother and Dad is still in my possession although now painted white. It was pale green when I inherited it.

    By Susan Fogg née Hawks (07/02/2016)
  • I am sorry to hear that your father has passed.  I have spent hours sat here reading his memories – they are lovely.  It’s really nice that you are still on the site, thank you!  

    I am amazed the chair in the second photo is still in your possession!  Cherish that – it has a lot of history in it…if only chairs could talk!!

    By Jane (07/02/2016)
  • Can anyone tell me if they remember a well in Hadleigh? There is one shown on a map I have, it’s near the toll cottage (Vic House), behind the school (Sandcastles), next to a track on it’s south side (leading to a hall). All on the north side of the A13, the opposite side to Hadleigh common (allotments) unless the common covered the North side also as I have been told in the past. Were there ponds here too?

    Many thanks, Richard.

    By Richard (29/06/2014)
  • Hi Richard, 

    If you like we can get one of the Community Archive editors to check out your map and compare it with an early Ordnance Survey, which mark wells in urban areas? There were quite a lot around actually, as there were no rivers apart from the Prittle Brook tributaries, nor springs, but a surprisingly high water table for the elevation (due to the clay bed).

    There are quite a lot of wells still in evidence around Hadleigh but these should not be confused with old cess pits, of which there are rather more! I know of one local gentleman who still draws water from a well in his garden, albeit with an electric pump to a cistern in his loft. (He still gets charged a “water rate” though!)

    By David Hurrell (29/06/2014)
  • Ian refers to a “horse pond” west of the SA Temple. We always knew this as the Firemen’s Pond, though I never saw a fireman anywhere near it, nor a horse for that matter. It was a square cistern with vertical concrete sides topped with a cement-rendered brick wall of about 5 courses height and a brick’s width. The pond was about a dozen yards across – maybe a little more – and, although it had a concrete path around it, it was cordoned off with a substantial chain-link fence and a locked gate. There was a warning sign and it did look deep (and yes, as Elaine says, quite spooky) though I have a notion it was only perhaps 5 feet. The water was mostly fairly clear, but prone to green algae in summer due to little shade and no water plants (due to depth and flat concrete bottom). There was no obvious means to top it up, but it always remained full and never smelt at all. As a child in the ’60s (born 1954) I was deeply fascinated by this pond because it teemed with fish. Inaccessible, forbidden fish, probably rudd, and some considerably bigger than anything we ever caught in the Blue Lagoon or the Piggeries. Folk (besides me) used to throw crusts in to feed them. Often they were voracious which was quite exillarating to a young, unskilled fisher! Once, on a cold, overcast winter’s day, I trespassed into the enclosure with my fishing rod. Nobody challenged me, oddly, but perhaps I didn’t stay long. Alas, there was no sign of any fish anywhere (and certainly not on the end of my hook) and I returned home feeling frustrated and inadequate! Some years later I watched with envy whilst two men in a rowing boat electrocuted the fish using two long poles and netted them as they floated to the surface. My understanding was that they were going to be released into the Chelmer. Not long after, the pond was infilled. CODA I’ve never seen a picture of this pond. Perhaps the Council keep a documentary record – if they don’t, then they should!

    By David Hurrell (24/08/2013)
  • An interesting page. I was born in 1956 and lived in Castle Lane. My parents often spoke about Mrs Hawks. Ian probably knew my parents.

    By Nicola Hopkins (06/08/2013)
  • I have an old postcard of a long road with a farm either side; the road was called Hadleigh Road – I think – … it could have been Rayleigh Road or Hart Road as both went to Hadleigh. I would be interested to hear if anyone knows the road as over the years some road names have changed. {Worth checking at a drop-in session at Hadleigh Library to have your postcard scanned and returned. Click the drop-in link on the front page for times and dates. Ed}

    By simon Hooper (17/05/2013)
  • Does anyone know the name of the toy shop on the other side of the road to Ivy Bond’s shop and Yeaxlee’s shop?

    I was bought a lovely real wooden jigsaw puzzle and china teaset from there. I also saw Pollyanna at the Kingsway cinema.

    By carol powley nee southward (11/03/2013)
  • Yes I remember the name Leslie’s but unable to picture the site. Another Hadleigh shop that I remember well was Potter’s Hardware shop ( in the area what is now the Telephone Exchange;) later Hampton Paints took over the shop. I believe Mr Potter was a plumber and his daughter ran the shop. Early 1930s, I was sent down to the shop to collect a gallon of paraffin for our heaters and lamps.

    By Ian Hawks (07/03/2013)
  • A fascinating account of a Hadleigh childhood. I particularly enjoyed reading about the fair. I was born at Hadleigh in 1955 but I remember Croisette’s where I bought my first vinyl single record, also Yeaxlee’s, the Kingsway cinema where I saw ‘Pollyanna’, buying a dress in the 1960s in Ivy Bond’s and Lawrence’s sweet and card shop in the High Street. Does anyone remember my Dad’s builders’ merchant shop? In the 1950s it was called Leslie’s Stores and was on the site of Lidl’s. Then in 1958 we moved across the road to a new shop, called Leslie’s of Hadleigh. After my Dad died in 1962, my Mum carried on the business until her retirement in 1987. Everyone knew her as Mrs. Leslie.

    By Chris Worpole (05/03/2013)
  • What a coincidence Eileen; I also lived at the top of Bread and Cheese Hill with my parents but just a little along on Kiln Road in a flat above Mr. Coleman’s the butcher. Next door was a sweet shop owned by Mr and Mrs. Lester. Does anyone have any info about them? They had a Dalmatian dog called Picton.
    I also regularly caught the bus with my mum to Hadleigh at the top of Kenneth Road, a green Eastern National or perhaps the light blue number one from Rayleigh. We used to go shopping in Hadleigh and to Yeaxlee’s shop. Do you remember Ivy Bond’s ladieswear shop, too?

    By carol powley nee southward (09/02/2013)
  • What an interesting article. I lived with my parents near the top of Bread & Cheese Hill as a child. In the late 50s/early 60s, my mum and I regularly caught the bus from Kenneth Road to Hadleigh. Once there we went to pay our television rental at Croisettes and then visited Yeaxlee’s store, the inside of which was very much like the department store in Are You Being Served. I hated the bus journey as we had to pass the horse pond which frightened me for some reason. The water looked deep and dark and the sign hanging on the rails said ‘Danger Deep Water’. I used to cover my eyes as we passed by. Even today, when I pass in my car I glance across and the fear still returns even though the pond has long gone.

    By Eileen Gamble (31/01/2013)
  • What a wonderful article, I can just imagine Hadleigh then. When I am out riding my bike over at Hadleigh, I always imagine Ian (Papa) exploring over at Hadleigh or with Pearl (Nana) taking my mum, auntie and uncle over there. I also have great memories of being taken over Hadleigh when I was a child with uncle Jason and my brother. From all of these articles that my grandfather Ian posts you can see where my uncle Philip and I get our love of photography from.

    By Alistair Underwood (30/01/2013)
  • We have just celebrated Dad’s {Ian} 90th birthday with 16 of his family, including his four children, seven grand children and three great grand sons. He was born in Hadleigh 28th January 1923.

    By Bridget Underwood,nee Hawks (28/01/2013)

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