Buckhurst Hill History


BUCKHURST HILL

MEMORIES

FROM LONG AGO

With

Photographs and Documents

Being raised in this historic village on the edge of Epping Forest was a blessing that I wouldn’t fully appreciate until after I left.  On three separate occasions I re-visited Buckhurst Hill over the past sixty plus years.  However I have become increasingly disappointed that Progress has run rough-shod over so many old character properties.  Buildings that never had a chance of being considered Heritage quality so that they would miss the wrecking ball.


My home was “Ivy Cottage“, also known as number 58 Epping New Road. Most locals knew it by its location, adjacent to the only red public telephone box for miles.

A floor plan (drawn from memory) is included here. The cottage also bordered on the gardens of “The Reindeer Hotel.”




Yes ! It was a hotel when first built in the late half of the 1800’s. Many decades later it became a “Pub” with the same name.  A photograph taken when the Reindeer was first opened  clearly shows Ivy Cottage in the left side background.  Another old photograph shows the Garden beside the Hotel  for guests to enjoy.  It seems quite likely that  when the photographer took this he  was standing where our tall privet hedge would be some twenty plus years later.


In the aerial view above Epping New Road has completely changed. At the intersecting (curved roadway) near the top of the picture. Brook Road runs off to the left and Church Road to the right.  The road that runs to the right near the bottom of the photograph is Hills Road. “Ivy Cottage” was directly across (to the left) of this junction.

The shorter row of new buildings on the right side of the road is where the shops were (see the photo below). The longer row of buildings on the Left side of the road is where the Reindeer and my home, Ivy Cottage used to be


My list of memorable buildings begins with my own childhood home. Built likely around 1860 as a possible commercial property. The brick extension on the rear, to accommodate a kitchen and upstairs bathroom, were added in the early 1920’s.  (The above picture was taken in 1983) Closely connected to the family’s daily  needs, when I was small, were the local shops comprising of a bakery, a grocer, green grocer, postal outlet in a general store. Two Cafés, two garages and a builder’s yard. Apart from buying fresh fish and meat once a week we didn’t need to walk all the way down Queen’s Road to the Co-Op or Liddle’s for anything else. The local shops and businesses were located on the ‘Hill‘, side of Epping New Road. W. &.C French Ltd owned most of the land on the downward side of the road, including our small cottage.



The row of shops stood back from the busy road by about fifty feet, allowing plenty of room for deliveries and car parking. Both Café’s had bicycle racks on their front property for the convenience of the hundreds of weekend cyclists. Most stopped in for refreshments when heading to or from a day in the countryside. Saturdays and Sundays were especially busy and profitable, also for the Reindeer Public House. They did a much more business than the Duke of Edinburgh, mainly because of their car park and gardens. Charabanc crowds heading back to London after a day out, hurriedly disgorged their coach loads of thirsty, sometimes rowdy, day trippers who quickly filled the pub and gardens. Shrieking children drank lemonade and ate Smith’s Crisps when they weren’t chasing each other around the lawns.  Most Saturday and Sunday evenings in the summer I’d sit at my bedroom window and watch the travellers enjoying themselves. The café’s were also busy serving ice-cream, ice lollies and soft drinks to the dozens of cyclists heading back to the smoke. Strapped to their bicycle carriers could be seen bundles of fresh Blue Bells picked from the forest. Little did they know that the flowers would be dead by the time they got home? These evenings in summer my Dad preferred to frequent The Duke across the street, most of the locals did. They didn’t think much of rowdy cockney travellers fighting over a place at the bar. The Reindeer’s usual quiet social atmosphere turned rough and unpleasant on some summer evenings. By Monday morning all was back to normal, for another five days anyhow.


The paved area above was the large beer garden. That was my bedroom window

(Right side upstairs) where I sat and watched the merriment below.         The wooden fence is where our tall privet dividing hedge used to run The flag (in the distance) fly’s over French’s Offices in 1983

Private cars buying petrol and Redex, a favourite additive of the day, at two pence a shot, increased profits for “Hutchins Garage”, in peacetime especially on weekends.  It was a small, family owned and operated, by the two Hutchins brothers. Both were motorcyclists, one had a bike with sidecar. They also did repairs and sold bicycle parts tires etc.  Sometimes I would gaze, with envy, at a new highly polished dynamo or headlamp in their display window. Or perhaps new mud-guards, or a carrier. I often rested at their window after straining up Brook Road on my way home from school.

When last I visited Buckhurst Hill I was sad to see that all the shops and houses on both sides of Epping New Road, gone, including French’s’ Yard with all it’s great memories.

In the following photo a memory from about 1936. Jean Cole introduces me to one of French’s Gentle Giants all decked out and ready for the May Day Parade.


 

All the treasured buildings and places of character from my childhood have been demolished to make room for new town homes and flats. It’s just like they never existed.  The bakery, the grocers shop, green grocer, café’s, and Hutchins Garage, The Duke of Edinburgh pub and the Reindeer lnn have disappeared.  Where my childhood cottage was, now stands a modern apartment building. French’s Yard and officers have been demolished to make way for more housing. On the bright side, Hills Garage still stands at the corner of Church Road and Epping New Road but for how long? Every other familiar building from my childhood has gone in the name progress.

Not only have those old shops and buildings gone for ever, but so have their unique smells. Like the smell of freshly baked bread from Gower’s Bakery. That earthy smell from the green grocer’s fresh vegetables. The inviting smell of biscuits, matches, cheeses, and all those other delightful vapours from Mrs. Shorts Grocery.. Even Persil washing powder, paraffin and kindling wood, provided their own scent which gave each historic shops that special smell.

It’s hard to add all the different senses that make up the atmosphere of a particular shop. I think the most inviting in this tiny row of shops was Miss Glass’s Sweet Shop.  On opening the door two things greeted you. First the bell above it tinkled, telling the shop keeper a customer has arrived. Next the highly noticeable aroma of Sweets, mainly chocolate, the air was dull of that delicious invitation to taste some. Perhaps Cadburys softy centers, or Fry’s Dark Chocolate. Maybe Nestlé’s, or a variety of European chocolate/.  Displays in beautiful boxes. Each chocolate  in it’s own protective corrugated paper cup. Printed onside the lid of the box, a picture key to identify the delicious centers. Dozens of different kinds of chocolate bars were also on display. My favourite was Cadbury’s Flake, it’s popularity makes it available to this day. There is no doubt that several of our senses contributed  to making those shops of yesteryear, places that fit solidly into the memories of our childhood. On display shelves’ behind the counter were round tins of Quality Street Chocolates. Their trademark a lady in Victorian times being handed a box of Quality Street by a suitor.

One thing I am proud of is that I had the foresight to take photographs of the way it was in 1983, before Progress and Profit came calling. Hopefully someone will perpetuate these pictures and my short article. I believe some of them are the only ones in captivity, as few other people had the interest to record their existence and now it’s far too late.

DIRECTORY OF SHOP KEEPERS. (Period: 1932-1948)

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GOWER’S BAKERY

Owned and operated by Miss. Gower and her sister, who married  a man named Stock. They had one child, a daughter Jill Stock. Sadly Jill died of Leukemia when she was about ten years old; she’s buried in St Johns Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

MRS. SHORT’S GROCERY

Mrs. Short had a sweet and gentle disposition. She worked hard to make a living in her shop. She took in washing, chopped and sold bundles of kindling. Sold Paraffin, charged accumulators (for powering radios). And ran her grocery shop six days a week. Watching her tot up my Mother’s weekly bill was amazing.  She was so quick with figures, right to the last farthing. Her husband died before I was born, she had one daughter Eva. A lovely young lady who married a fighter pilot Ken Blackham. My father (Leon Lalonde) had the honour of giving the bride away. Ken and Eva had two children Linda and Paul. Paul is married and lives in High Beech.

MISS. GLASS

This lady was the least known on the street. She was quiet and kept very much to herself.  Her sweet shop sold all the up market sweets and chocolates as well as regular chocolate bars children like me enjoyed. After the war she must have moved away as her shop window stayed the same for several years. Empty chocolate boxes on display were bleached by the sun and covered in dust. The shop was eventually sold.

GENERAL STORE

(MAX was the owner’s name).

This shop sold anything and everything as well as providing postal services, handling parcels and selling stamps. His stock of hardware amazed most people, if he didn’t stock it, no one did. He sold candles, paraffin, fire-lighters, cigarettes, bicycle tires, inner tubes and tire repair kits. Mouse traps, ant killer and fly papers and many other strange and unrelated items. In fact everything! It was easy to see why shopping down Queens Road was something we did perhaps once a week, never more often.

THE REX CAFÉ

A Café well suited for the weekend cyclists. They specialised in Teas, Ice Cream and soft drinks like TIZER etc. They sold buns and pastry’s but none locally made.

THE CAFÉ

Situated right next to the Rex, it lasted only a short time, there wasn’t enough traffic for two Cafe’s to survive.

Epping New Road has completely changed. It’s no longer a small part of a lovely village. Now it’s a suburb of homes and residential apartments. There are no old character buildings left. Everything in the two square block space has been transformed into houses and apartment buildings. No historic corner pub where we could enjoy a glass of bitter with a friend. No corner garage where a bicycle tire would be fixed while you watched.  No Old English Atmosphere, unless you walk deep into the heart of Epping Forest, to take in the pure country air that made this village of Buckhurst Hill a major part of the Golden Triangle.

                                                           

M. Denny Lalonde   August 2009






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