Co-Operative Store

By Ellen English Née Burr

I don't think I have seen an entry re The Co-operative Store in Laindon.

I remember when I was aged around 5 or 6 a very close neighbour asked my mother if I could go shopping with her and her little girl Merle Buckingham.

I went with them and I remember going past the Radion cinema which to me at the time was uncharted territory. My mum did almost all her shopping in Smiths Stores up Langdon Hills, just at the foot of Crown Hill, she used to go into Laindon for the butchers and some other stores.

It seemed a very long way from home, we entered the Co-op and I was completely fascinated by the little brass pots that were sent up to a cashier with the cash in, and then the change was sent back to the counter. To say I was mesmerised is an under statement.

When I looked around I realised Mrs Buckingham and Merle were not there, I went outside and couldn't see them so I think I started to run home, I knew I had to go up the high st, I felt relieved when I got to the station as I was entering familiar ground.

I went up Osbourne Rd and made my way home by what we called the [Back Way]up Nightingale Ave.

Unbeknown to me I had been reported missing to the police and as I had not made my way home via the High St no-one found me,

Great relief to be home though, quite an adventure and I have never ever forgotten those cash pots and the wires and wooden handles that sent the cash up to the high desk.

I am sure others will remember them too.

Photo:Grays Co-operative Society Limited in Laindon High Road

Grays Co-operative Society Limited in Laindon High Road

Nina Humphrey(née Burton)

Photo:Grays Co-operative Society Limited in Laindon High Road from the other end

Grays Co-operative Society Limited in Laindon High Road from the other end

Ann and John Rugg

This page was added by Ellen English Nee Burr on 01/01/2013.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

Does anyone know what year the first photo of the Co-op was taken, as  the lady and little girl look very much like my mum and I ?

Editor:  The exact year is unknown but it is thought to be around 1960 give or take a little bit.

By Hazel Hunter
On 18/08/2015

I remember my uncle Leslie Wellington of Hill Rise, Langdon Hills High Road, opposite to Langdon Hills Primary School had a red Hillman Minx car just like this during the 1950's. I Wonder how many Hillman Minxs belonged to Laindon residents? He was an affectionado of this brand and always had one until its demise.

By Trevor Savage
On 07/05/2014

I remember the Co-op well and the cash pots flying around to the cash desk.

By David Shearcroft
On 06/05/2014

Just read the comments by Alan Davies 16/1/14.  I,ve never have met anyone who has heard of Fennings Fever cure it was a taste that you never forget. My Mum gave me this and believe you me the cure was much worse than the complaint!

I remember the Co-op and their little money pods that wizzed up to a cashier in little box at the back of the shop. It also had a biggish pad of concrete out front where you could roller skate until you got chased off for being a nuisance.  

We lived in New Century Road so I got sent there a lot and I think there was a butchers in that block of shops as well.

By Annette Terry
On 29/01/2014

Back on track after the interesting diversion.  I’ve just read on the Basildon History website that the original Langdon Hills and Laindon Co-operative and Industrial Society Limited formed in 1903 at No. 11 High Road, Laindon and No. 1 Nightingale Parade, Langdon Hills with Mr Foulger as President, was short lived.  This was due to the Registrar of Friendly Societies cancelling membership on 13th May the following year.

A similar company called Laindon Co-operative Produce Company Limited was active during the 1910s and 1920s but was declared insolvent on 9th July 1926. Perhaps the Grays Co-op has arrived by then and was attracting the trade. 

It will be interesting to see how long the present Co-op Supermarket in the Laindon Centre continues and if it will remain there when the Centre is finally sorted out and revamped.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 19/01/2014

Yes Nina, I remember Galloways cough syrup and Vicks. The others you mention draw a blank.

Galloways tasted very good and my brother and I, after scavenging for blackberries, would proceed to the Homestead Stores in Berry Lane to purchase bread rolls and Galloways cough syrup with our sixpence each per week pocket money. Then it was up the fine old oak tree that stood between Fred Nunn's house at the corner of Prescott Avenue and the corner shop. There was a particularly fine branch which spread out over Berry Lane beneath. It was there we sat and enjoyed blackberry rolls washed down with Galloways. I assume there was codeine or alcohol in the Galloways but we never knew it. We must have felt particularly well inclined toward the world after a bottle between us but memory is sparse on that point.

There were also the old folk remedies. Dock leaves provided instant relief from the sting and raised welts of nettles. In the case of a burn or scrape I remember my mother reaching into the tea pot for a handful of cold tea leaves, squeezing out the excess moisture, placing the tea leaves on a bandage and wrapping the bandage around the offending burn or scrape. Very effective as I remember.

Cod liver oil (and malt in our case) was handed out at Langdon Hills school, once a week, by "Daddy" Taylor our teacher. We all lined up for our dose of this treacly substance which actually tasted quite good. A big jar, no throw away wooden or plastic spoons in those days, simply the same spoon for everyone with no attempt or thought at hygiene. From jar to mouth, back to jar, on to the next mouth. Never get away with that today.

This discussion has wandered rather far from Ellen's original subject matter. This often seems to happen in these archives (a good thing I would suggest) for to quote Aristotle: "Memory is the scribe of the soul."

By Alan Davies
On 17/01/2014

You are so right Alan.  Medical staff  provided excellent healthcare back then with what was available at the time but were restricted by the lack of the more effective medication and equipment that came along later. 

I’ve often wondered if my mother’s younger brother might have survived Polio if an Iron Lung had been available.  Apparently that piece of equipment wasn’t designed in the UK until 1933.   Unfortunately that was too late for him, but by the 1950s many of those machines were successfully in use.

Germoline and Galloways were my mother’s cure-alls.  When we had coughs and colds she also rubbed ‘Vic’ on our chests before we went to sleep.    My dad preferred Liqufruta, so when he had a cough, he smelt of garlic all week. 

Mum also kept a large bottle of ‘White Horse Oil’.   Which she rubbed into my neck when I sometimes woke up with a stiff neck after laying on my pillow awkwardly, that stuff certainly generated heat into the muscle.  When that happened to me recently I held a microwavable wheat bag against my painful neck.  That provided some comforting heat and if not as effective as the oil, it certainly smelt much nicer.

Mum and her brothers had always been given a dose of Caster Oil on Friday evenings.  She described how much they had hated it and if they didn’t manage to keep the first spoonful down, they were given a second.  She didn’t subject us to that, but she did keep a slab of Ex-lax which she tried to tempt us with by saying it was ‘chocolate’.   Just one taste of that horrid stuff and we refused to eat it, although we didn’t mind the cod liver oil we were given in the early fifties and we absolutely loved the orange juice.  Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 16/01/2014

Hello Nina. Yes, as you say, a very interesting subject. My memory and the conclusions drawn differ to some degree from yours. Which is not to say one is right and the other wrong. Only that our experiences were not identical proving that it is not a case of "one size fits all."

I agree one hundred per cent with your comments regarding the caring exhibited by the local doctors. I think that was the universal view. The tales of their venturing out after dark, down unlighted mud roads, wearing Wellington boots and carrying a torch in order to visit a sick patient are legion. When I was six years old Dr Chowdhary examined me in our little bungalow off of Berry Lane, determined I had scarlet fever and waited to see me in to the ambulance bound for Billericay hospital.

It was not the doctors that were lacking-- it was the available treatment. My mother's medicine chest consisted of bandages, elastoplast, Basilican ointment, Germoline ointment, and a bottle of Fennings fever cure which tasted as I imagined petrol would taste. Crucially, the earliest antibiotic was not on the scene until the late 1940's. While penicillin was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming in the 1920's it was not until the early 1940's that a method was found to produce it in commercial production runs. During the war it was only available to the troops and became available to the public post 1945. Other antibiotics were even later. I remember when I was doing my two years for king and country in 1950 I went into RAF hospital with rheumatic fever. After some agonizing weeks showing no improvement with the then traditional medicines, the doctor announced that he was going to be in London the following week and he would try to get some of the new American wonder drug which had just come out. Cortisone! I improved immediately.

The litany of diseases which I enumerated in my previous posting were all widespread and common. I knew two people who had had polio and one who had had rickets. Rheumatism was very common. Those children who suffered from diptheria, pneumonia, tuberculosis we probably never knew. They died!

According to Wikipedia the average life expectancy in England and Wales in 1930 was 60 years; in 1950 it was 69 years; in 2010 it was 80 years.

By Alan Davies
On 16/01/2014

I’ve managed to work out that No. 11 High Road was, as suspected, situated near the station.  I noticed there were a few advertisements for shops in the 1946 Parish Magazine recently contributed but John Grant.  Among them were:   No. 1 High Road - Miller & Davies.   No.  7 High Road - Alfred Rawley, Estate Agent.  No. 16 High Road - T. E. Collins.

I turned to the map of the High Road shops contributed by Ann Rugg and saw that Miller & Davies (No 1) had stood just north of Windsor Road and Alfred Rawley (No 7) a few yards further on.  Therefore No 11 (the small Co-op in 1903) must have been between there and where the libraries are shown.  Collins, shown as No 16, was on the west side of the High Road a few yards north of Denbigh Road

So that explained the numbering order along the High Road.  Although each of the parades had their own numbers i.e. Nos. 1 – 5 The Broadway (Pelhams, Dangerfields, Variety Stores, Broadway Radio, Express Shoe Repairs).

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 15/01/2014

Firstly an apology, the bus I described and which Ian remembers having a gangway one side upstairs was called a Lowbridge, the Lodekker came later and was a much nicer looking vehicle. The reduced headroom on the four seats across in the Lowbridge upstairs certainly warranted the 'lower your head' signs. The bus in the photo is certainly a standard London RT type, the ones which preceded the Routemasters.

Secondly the early Co-op at 11 High Road must have been fairly near the station. This may have been the one with the early phone number quoted by Nina on this page. The building shown was much further down the High Road opposite Ulster Road and in a fairly modern style. My mum's Grays Co-op number was 92096 although she rarely used the shop. Our groceries and main daily shopping were from Dangerfields, Slopers and Boons. Fruit and Veg from Sid Clifford. The reasons for her using these shops was that they were closer to Nichol Road. I can't recall ever going into the Co-op all the time we lived in Laindon.

By Richard Haines
On 15/01/2014

Hi Alan.  This is such an interesting subject and discussion.  My mother’s family moved to Laindon from Bethnal Green in 1923 and from what she told me over the years, the health care was excellent.  Laindon has always had very good doctors who arrived promptly often on foot when called out to a house or bungalow, many on very muddy unmade roads.  Indeed when my mother’s younger brother was taken ill with Polio in 1928, the doctor arrived and arranged for him to be transported immediately to Buttsbury Isolation hospital in Billericay.  My sister had appendicitis in 1946 and was treated quickly and appropriately at Orsett Hospital.  When I had a case of Scarlet Fever in 1953, the health care I received from Dr Chowdhary was faultless.  

It wasn’t only the shop keepers who were well known in the High Road shops, many Laindon residents were employed as assistants.   My nan knew who worked in which shop and would often choose to shop somewhere where she could also exchange a few words over the counter with somebody she knew.    My mother worked part time in Greens Stores from around 1959 and then Wilsons the Chemist until 1969.  Perhaps the southern end of the High Road was busier than our northern end.  I can’t remember having to queue.  In fact on one occasion when being sent for a quarter of pigs liver, from Sizer's butcher shop, I was the only customer. 

The mystery of why the Co-op didn’t dominate the High Road is a strange one.  We know little of the early Co-op at 11 High Road, or where exactly that was (probably near the station end), or how long it traded.   Ironically the only supermarket trading today in the run down Laindon Shopping Centre, is the Co-op!   

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 15/01/2014

Nina makes some very pertinent points. However it seems to me a not totally convincing case. Nina mentions queueing as being a factor for the Co-Op not being more popular but queuing was universal whether one queued at Goddens the butcher, Coles the greengrocer, the Co-Op, or simply queued for a bus. It was part of life and, I would suggest, not unique to the Co-Op. Perhaps Nina remembers her childhood trip to the Co-Op as being "quite lengthy" because she got several items in the one store rather than walking to several different stores.

Nina's point of socialising along the High Road (more with fellow shoppers than with shop keepers I would have thought) is well taken. I have a specific memory of being with my mother when she stopped and chatted in the street for several minutes with Mrs. Burr whose son, Alan, was my best friend at Langdon Hills school. (Incidentally, a relative of some description of Ellen English nee Burr who contributed this original article to the archives.) Again, however, my mother could just have well bumped into Mrs Burr. inside or outside of the Co-Op and enjoyed the same chat.

I would suggest there is a two part answer as to why the Co-Op in Laindon  never achieved a major position in the High Road. First from the founding of the Co-Op in 1903 at 11, Laindon High Road until 1945 and second from 1945 to the present.

Pre war and until the end of the war I would suggest that life in Laindon was, generally speaking, a hard scrabble existance. Sub-standard housing, little sanitation, widespread poverty, high unemployment, little in the way of unemployment benefits, inadequate health care, widespread diseases (such as polio, rickets, scarlet fever, measles, chicken pox, mumps, pneumonia, and the killer diptheria), inadequate clothing and food. During this era Laindon was really a third world country. During much of this period the Co-Op at 11, Laindon High Road Nina describes as a "small shop." One infers this means it carried a limited range of goods probably not much different from many other shops in the High Road. As a branch of a large company it would probably have been prevented from "running a tab" as its privately owned competitors could have done for trusted customers who had no work that week and hence no money. As such, the Co-Op probably was just another shop.

Post war, in 1945, the Labour government began to introduce sweeping changes. The National Health Service was introduced. Enormous sums were ploughed into new housing. The country enjoyed full employment. Unemployment benefits and old age pensions were improved. Financial assistance for children beyond the first was introduced. This all lead to Harold MacMillan's boast in 1957 that "you never had it so good."

Up to this point advertising was minimal and unimaginative. The weekly local newspaper was about all there was. Enter the brave new world of commercial radio and television! Colour supplements in the newspaper! Coupons to clip out with the promise of a pound off! Today, of course, advertisements abound every time you turn on Google. Even as I write this my printer, unasked, is spitting out coupons good for lower prices on who knows what. (One of these days I might learn how to unsubscribe. All it is doing is wasting paper and ink.)

This should have been the world in which the Co-Op excelled but this early model super market failed to keep up with the times. It should have come to dominate the Laindon High Road shops and indeed High Streets around the country. Instead an English-Jewish returnee from the war, Ted Samuelson, founded T.E.Samuelson Company and under the name Tesco launched the new world of shopping.

By Alan Davies
On 15/01/2014

I’ve now heard from John Rugg, the photographer of the picture of the bus outside the Co-op.  I have been asked to pass on his reply as follows:

“The bus in the photograph was taken around 1957 and is a second-hand London Transport Leyland Titan double decker which had been sold to Thomas Wright, an independent coach operator in Southend. It was obviously on a private hire trip travelling through Laindon (or possibly picking up) . The man in the cap had rung the bell to stop the bus to speak with the driver and I happened to be passing on my bicycle and took this rare opportunity to photograph a London bus in Laindon.  Fortunately, I gained the Radion and the Co-op store as a bonus, hence the addition of the Photo to the Archive.”

Regarding the gondola basket in the first photograph.  Various fashion items such as clothing, accessories, hairstyles etc., are often of great assistance when trying to date old photographs.

‘Queuing’ may have been a factor in the Co-op not being more popular.  In those days, there was no self-service.  The assistant had to be asked for each individual item on a list.  As a child I was sometimes sent shopping for my mum.  Meat at one shop, butter at another, etc.  It was a quick in and out of the shop for each item.  On one occasion when my mother took a shopping list into the Co-op I remember it being quite a lengthy process.  Reading each individual item off the list to the assistant behind the counter, waiting for her to retrieve it from the appropriate shelf, return to the counter and ask for the next item.  Then the payment was put into a container which travelled along a wire to the office.  After a couple of minutes, change would be received via the same system.  I can imagine if several people had a longish list, a queue would develop.  I expect that’s why my mother didn’t go in there much.  She didn’t like having to wait behind another customers when it was quicker to pop into several shops.

Also, many of the shopkeepers were well known in the High Road and shoppers would like to drop in to several of them for a quick exchange of pleasantries while buying a loaf of bread etc.  The social side of shopping has changed dramatically over the years.  Yes, our parents did have to watch the pennies, but they only bought exactly what was needed.  These days, supermarket trolleys often contain several items the shopper hadn’t gone in to buy, but simply couldn’t resist picking up from the tempting offers so cleverly displayed.         

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 14/01/2014

Ian Mott is correct about the bus with the walkway on one side, upstairs. This was the Lodekker, all the seats had the 'lower your head' sign on the upper deck as the headroom was very much reduced in the seating area.

The single deck buses were fitted with cigarette stubbers rivetted on the back of the seats, that is where I remember leaving my tickets.

As for the Co-op tea the brand was called Indian Prince and came in a blue wrapper.

By Richard Haines
On 14/01/2014

I defer to those with greater knowledge of women's shopping baskets. Particularly gondolas! Obviously my early education was deficent.

The story of the Co-Op in Laindon has always puzzled me. Richard points out that the Co-Op shown could not pre-date 1922-1939 and Nina states that a smaller store existed from 1903 at another location. Fair enough. What I do not understand is why the Co-Op, a sort of early national super market, did not come to be much larger and command a greater share of Laindon's business. After all the Co-Op was designed to appeal to those more financially challenged shoppers. Laindon certainly met that criteria! I know that in the tea business in the 1950's Co-Op was one of the big four (Brooke Bond, Typhoo, Lyons,  Co-Op). If this ranking was fairly typical across all foodstuffs then they were a force indeed.

Instead, I can never remember the Co-Op doing a roaring business in Laindon. Quite the reverse. One might have expected that, with their huge purchasing power, they would have put many of the other High Road shops out of business. Instead the High Road boasted many, many, small stores including up to a dozen butchers we once counted on another page in these archives. Admittedly not all might have been in business at the same time.

So why did the Co-Op not come to dominate the High Road? I cannot remember any resentment on the part of the small shops at their presence. Today one would hear all sorts of protests emanating from small shop owners if a large super market invaded their territory and threatened their customer base. What am I missing?

By Alan Davies
On 14/01/2014

The double deck bus I remember with the reduced headroom used to have a walkway to one side of the seating and a step up to access the seats. The extra heigh for the walkway was accommodated by lowered headroom over the seating on one side of the lower deck.  

These buses were used fairly regularly  on the 2A route from Romford to Southend during the 1950s.

By Ian Mott
On 14/01/2014

Richard is absolutely right, of course the Co-op in the picture isn’t the one that was opened in 1903 at 11 High Road.  That was described as a small shop; I wonder how long it stayed there.  Also while reading through the newspaper archives, I noticed that during the late twenties, the Co-op in the picture was the subject of several break-ins, but that’s another story. 

Secondly, the ‘Lower your head’ signs were of course in the single decker buses which took us to and from school.  (A double decker was a rare treat). Those signs were a source of amusement to many, hence the one that had been altered to sound more comical.  I can remember lots of children used to chant “Lower your head, when leaving your seat, Lower your seat when leaving your head" as they were climbing into the bus and finding a seat. The seats were meant for two people, but there were often three of us squeezed onto them  The signs were metal with a rivet at each end and we would stick our tickets under them just before we got off the bus.  I also remember the conductress having to balance carefully while going round corners as she walked along the isle taking our fares and turning the handle on the ticket machine, sometimes having to stop and hold on to the back of a seat to steady herself.

It was always a bit of a thrill in the mornings going down Church Hill after dropping pupils off at Laindon Park School.  It seemed ever so steep and fast.  We’d get off at the bottom of Church Hill and walk down Markhams Chase to the school.    I can remember once to save time, we girls changed into our netball gear on the way to a match while travelling along in a bus/coach (no seat belts in those days).                   

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 13/01/2014

I note that Nina has found reference to a Co-op store in Laindon in 1903. However, it is not the one in the photos above because as I pointed out earlier there was no shop on that site until the period 1922-1939.

I agree with Nina in the date for the photo with the lady and child as being circa 1960. I too remember those gondola bags as most of the girls in our class had one. As for the other photo, maybe slightly earlier, certainly there is a 1950s Hillman Minx second car behind the bus, so yes, a 1950s shot judging also by the cloth capped Norman Wisdom look alike.

The bus in the shot would not have had the 'lower your head' signs on the upper deck seat backs. These were found in the Bristol Lodekker buses which had reduced height roofs for passing under the low railway bridges of the times. These were used extensively by Eastern National and there were many based in Chelmsford, Colchester and Braintree so there were probably some visiting Laindon depending on demand.

By Richard Haines
On 13/01/2014

These two photographs were taken on separate days by different photographers.  The photo of the bus was taken by John Rugg who is a member of the Archive Team.  I will check with him as to the exact year, although I believe it was the late fifties.   The photographer of the other photo is unknown but as discussed in earlier comments, it’s thought to be in the late fifties or early sixties because the gondola shopping basket which the lady has on her arm was a fashion item at that time (I had one myself). The lady’s loose fitting coat with fur collar was also fashionable around 1960 along with the casual slip on shoes with low heels (no tie up laces, straps or buckles).  I wore similar myself at that time.

I used to catch the bus home from Markhams Chase School to Laindon High Road in the fifties.  Occasionally a double decker would arrive and we would all clamber upstairs to get to the seats at the front so we could pretend to be the driver.  I also remember the signs on the back of each chair “lower your head when leaving your seat”.  Somebody had altered one to read “lower your seat when leaving your head”.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 13/01/2014

What year would these two photographs represent, I wonder? Presumably both were taken on the same day with some time elapsing between the two. The shadows of the woman and the child in the first photograph seem to be cast north or north west indicating the middle of the day. In the second photograph the shadows seem to be cast due east indicating a later time in the afternoon. Summer presumably. Nice day with shop blinds down in the first photograph and a nice tree in full leaf in the second. Despite the nice sunny day the woman and child in the first photograph seem to be dressed in overcoats. Men's cloth caps abound and the cars seem to be just post war vintage. If it were war time there would be no petrol available anyway and hence no cars.

A double decker bus in Laindon? Of course it is marked Private and hence not in service. Probably just passing through bound for its terminus.

By Alan Davies
On 13/01/2014

Regarding the question of when the Co-op was first opened in Laindon, I recently found the following while reading through an old edition of the Essex Chronicle dated 29th May 1903:

The Co-operative Society.  On Friday Mr Roser’s shop was opened by the Langdon Hills Co-operative Society, lately formed by Mr Foulger who built large premises expressly for the stores.  A smaller store was opened at 11, High Road, Laindon”. 

So it seems Laindon had a Co-op as early as 1903.  

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 12/01/2014

My mother (Jessica Burton née Devine) moved to Laindon from Bethnal Green with her family in 1923 just before her 9th birthday. They lived in a bungalow called ‘Pendennis’ in Alexandra Road (off the unmade part of King Edward Road – very close to where Fords Research Centre now stands). She had to go to Dunton School in Lower Dunton Road which was a small building with just two rooms. It was quite a trek for her across the fields with her two little brothers in tow. She left school in 1928 aged 14, just as Laindon High Road School had opened. Unfortunate timing as the new school would have been so much nearer for her. 

Like you, I find it helpful to associate local historical dates with family birthdays. I am sure you are absolutely correct in that Laindon really started to ‘take-off’ from around 1922. Perhaps between us we could create a time-line for the Laindon website, we have plenty of dates regarding shops and schools etc. In fact I might have a go at it, in-between all the other things I am working on.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 07/01/2013

I seem to have stated above that Laindon High Road School opened in 1924. I took this date from a footnote in an article by John Bathurst titled 'Laindon and its Railway' but this does not tally with Ken Porter's piece on 'Laindon High Road School' which has the date as May 1928. I now tend to believe the latter as an exact date has been mentioned. 

Ken's article reads 'The school opened on the 7th May 1928, with five classrooms, staff rooms and two cloakrooms for children from five to fourteen years of age. Laindon at the time had two other schools, St Nicholas (now Laindon Park) and Langdon Hills both of which were so overcrowded that many children could not attend school at all. This had occurred because of the rapid influx of population in the years following the First World War. 

The population in 1901 of Laindon and Langdon Hills was only 641; by 1931 it had risen to well over 6000. Taking this into account I believe the true development of Laindon, including the School, Co-op and Cinema happened from around 1922 up until WWII, with further building of residential estates such as King Edward Road and Kathleen Ferrier Crescent occurring as we know, in post war years. 

As a coincidence, my mother was born 7th May 1926 making her exactly two years old when the school opened and thirty two when I first started there in 1958.

By Richard Haines
On 06/01/2013

Richard. I am sure you are absolutely correct. I must remember not to trust every bit of information I find on-line and rely more on maps in future. Maps and records proved invaluable when I researched for my article about “Morningside”, the big house between Hiawatha and Nichol Road. Part of “Morningside” was being used as a shop from around 1919 when it was owned by Clara and George Butler. With so few shops at that end of the High Road, it must have been a little goldmine. I am sure my Grandmother Amy Burton, would have shopped there, because she owned the bungalow ‘Spion Kop’ from 1915. I now wonder whether the coming of the Co-op and other shops in the area was the reason why the Butler family eventually ceased their retail business and took in lodgers instead. Miss Marple is on the lookout for more clues. Several other articles in the pipeline. Always so much to do. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 06/01/2013

Hi Nina, I expanded my search a bit in the light of your comment about the rest of the shops post 1909. My guess is that the First World War was a significant block on development. Laindon High Road school opened in 1924 and I think this is more like the date when the building of shops started in earnest. On the 1922 map there is no North Parade, no Variety Stores nothing much at all in 'our' area of Laindon only the terrace where Nurse Broom lived and Fair Natal. There are three large houses between Nichol Road and the Hiawatha only, all on the east side, no shops on either side. Going south, no Radion, no Co-op, just the odd house, the Manor Hall and the Laindon Hotel. On the side roads such as Somerset Road roughly every other plot has a dwelling. Strangely Ulster Road hardly ever had any dwellings, the large corner plot opposite the Co-op was always empty right up to development stage in the 60s and 70s. The only High Road shops shown, bear in mind this was 1922 and 1/2500 is a fully detailed scale, are between Denbigh Road and Durham Road which tends to support my thinking that shops were located nearer the station and development worked away from there to the north. Any news from the Marple office?

By Richard Haines
On 06/01/2013

Hi Richard. That’s very interesting. While surfing for information about the Co-op I found a site that listed the places where Co-op stores were opened and in what year. Laindon was marked as 1909. I realise that not all information on line is absolutely correct and maps can be good proof of that. However, as the first telephones in Laindon were connected in 1912 and the first lines were single numbers, it’s strange that the Co-op’s number was 4 indicating quite an early date. I will carry on with my research and really appreciate the help you give me from time to time.

‘Miss Marples’ admits to not always achieving 100% accuracy but I am pretty sure the photo was taken in the early sixties as the lady is carrying a wicker ‘gondola’ basket bag. They were very fashionable in the sixties. I and many of my friends had one which we carried on one arm. Just another of those little fashion items that we teenage girls just had to have. Not very practical when it rained, but you could buy little plastic covers that fitted over them to keep the contents dry. I carried my books to school in mine 1961-1962.  I worked in Billericay 1966-1969 and when travelling there on the bus, the gondola basket sat nicely on my lap.

I so agree with your last comment. In the Echo this week, it was announced that a decision will be made next month concerning the future of Laindon Centre. Let’s hope that actually happens, something just has to be done. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 06/01/2013

Nina, I looked at some OS 1/2500 maps of Laindon and found that on the 1922 version only Manor Hall was present on the site of the Co-op. On the 1939 version the Manor Hall is gone and the familiar shape of the Co-op is there, opposite Ulster Road. This means the Co-op was constructed 1922-1939 during a period when the level of development on the Laindon High Road was at its height. 

Looking at the photo, the shop frontage architecture is typical of the period. When I lived near Becontree Station as a child the Co-op was centre of my nan's world and had a vacuum powered system for sending the money around the shop. The change came back in a sealed cylinder with a receipt with nan's Co-op number 41314. Such happy days. I think some of the other Co-ops in Ilford and Barking had the wire system. Compare the photo above with Ian Mott's photos of the Laindon Centre, such is change.

By Richard Haines
On 05/01/2013

I believe the majority of small shops in the High Road, including the parades such as’ North Parade’ etc, were built post 1909. Perhaps somebody knows more about the dates. I will see what I can find out.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 05/01/2013

Nina Humphrey states that the Co-Op dates to around 1909. One wonders about the reaction of the other small store owners, fewer presumably at that time, regarding the establishment of such a potentionally large competitor in their midst. 

Would some of the same comments about the potential destruction of small stores along the High Road that have elicited many different comments on this site recently have been repeated in that earlier age? Is it a question of however much things change the more they remain the same? Co-Op was a huge player at the time. Rather like Tesco or Sainsbury today I would imagine. When I started working in the city, in the tea trade, Co-Op was the fourth largest tea company in the UK. Ranking behind only Brooke Bond, Typhoo, and Lyons. They must have been a similar force in all grocery products. The apprehension of the small shops at that time must have been severe. 

Curiously, I cannot remember the Co-Op in Laindon crowded with people. At least not in the 1940's and 1950's. I would have thought that, with their size and purchasing power, their lower prices would have attracted many more people.

By Alan Davies
On 04/01/2013

Hi Ellen; oh yes, I too remember those little magic pots whizzing about on wires in the air at the Co-Op in Laindon High Road. Also, I remember Merle Buckingham and often wonder where she might be now. Most of all I can recall her beautiful thick auburn plaits! She always seemed to be out and about with her mum.

By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell)
On 04/01/2013

I would like to add that when I was a very young Laindon girl, I shared your feeling when crossing the railway bridge but in reverse. At that time Langdon Hills was unknown territory to me, almost like entering a different country. Although the High Road ran all the way through, south of the railway felt like going ‘Up Town’ and I was always pleased to go back ‘Down Town’ into Laindon where everything was familiar to me. 

Having done a bit of research on the internet, it appears the Co-op in Laindon High Road dates back to around 1909. The first telephones were installed in Laindon during 1912 with the first lines having single numbers. Even into the 30s the Co-op’s telephone number was 4.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 04/01/2013

Ellen, I enjoyed reading your story about the unfortunate incident while visiting the Co-op. It must have been very worrying for you and those trying to find for you. There have been one or two mentions of the Co-op amongst the comments on the site but not an article as such. I also remember the “Lamson Wire” system with its little tins that transported the payment to the office and returned with the shopper’s change. I agree with you, it was fascinating to watch. I used to wonder what happened behind the scenes e.g., was there a proper till in the cash office which the staff operated before putting the change in the tin and sending it back. 

Apparently there were several types of system, the main one being “The Lamson Cash Carrier”. The system was originally an American idea although a couple of British companies started producing them but were eventually subsumed. There is more information on Wikipedia and a few video clips on YouTube. There’s a Lamson Cash Carrier at Dartford Museum and a working model at ‘The Co-op Store’ at Beamish Museum in North East England. 

The Grays Co-operative Society was situated on the west side of Laindon High Road between New Century Road and Worthing Road. I have a photograph somewhere, which I will try to have added to your article.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 02/01/2013
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