Lee Chapel North (Part 3)

Markhams Chase 60 years on.

By Nina Humphrey (née Burton)

Autumn 2011, brings several anniversaries for me and my husband Colin. It is 60 years since I first walked down Markhams Chase on my first day at school and 40 years since we moved into our house in Woolmergreen, Lee Chapel North. That gave me the idea of going back there to have a look around the old neighbourhood and take some, ‘now’ photographs.

On Saturday 22nd October, armed with my camera, I retraced my steps from the bus stop in St Nicholas Lane and walked along Markhams Chase as I had done when I was five years old. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and I took photographs along the way. Just before reaching the school, I turned left into Woolmergreen. I did a round trip to visit the square and the house where we had once lived. I then continued to the school and a few yards further on. I have added the photos below in order of my walk. A few of the original houses and bungalows are still there and I hope my snaps bring back some memories. 

Once during our time there in the seventies, my sister and I did a ‘house swap’ for a week’s holiday. We stayed in her bungalow in Norfolk and were able to take our children on the Norfolk Broads, while she and her husband took their two young boys to see some of the sights of London. Upon our return, she told us how puzzled they had been on their first evening in Woolmergreen when they noticed a lot of aircraft overhead. At first, they thought something was amiss, a national emergency for instance. They found it a bit worrying to see so many aircraft travelling at varying heights in various directions, some appearing to be just circling around. Upon our return, we explained that we are under Heathrow’s flight path and aircraft stack overhead, waiting for their turn to land, whereas aircraft rarely fly across the quiet part of Norfolk where they live. We became aware of how accustomed we are to our busy sky last year when the volcano in Iceland erupted and the airports had to close.  The sky here was empty of aircraft and to us it didn’t look right at all, in fact, the empty sky seemed quite uncanny. Getting back to my walk:-                   

Just a few of the original houses in St Nicholas Lane and Markhams Chase remain. Part of the large field in Leinster Road has been built on. That field was the original venue for Basildon Round Table’s bonfire and firework party, which was very convenient for us at that time.  The venue was later moved to Gloucester Park. Most of the original ‘Alcatraz’ estate along the Laindon Link has been demolished and replaced with conventional houses. The area is becoming more crowded in view of the ever-increasing population. Very little green space is left and more houses are to be built on the areas where Markhams Chase Sports Centre and Basildon Swimming Pool once stood, the land having been sold off to property developers in order to pay for the new multi million pound sports centre in Gloucester Park.

Thank goodness for the conservation areas and beautiful woods at Langdon Hills, where we can go walking and where carpets of bluebells can still be enjoyed in early summer. In 1973, Colin and I both joined Basildon Natural History Society. Colin along with other representatives of BNHS and Langdon Hills Conservation Society were instrumental in securing the future of the area of woodland and meadows now known as Mark’s Hill Nature Reserve. The reserve was opened in 1981 by the wildlife artist Gordon Benningfield, but because of torrential rain, the opening ceremony had to be conducted inside the Triangle Community Centre. Nevertheless, it was a very special occasion.  Colin was the Society’s Conservation Officer for many years and regularly attended Sunday work parties in the reserve.                    

December 4th 2011 sees the 30th anniversary of our move to this house in Langdon Hills and whilst wondering where all those years have gone, I think that perhaps it is time to have an anniversary celebration. I only hope that we don’t find ourselves ‘snowed in’ the following day as happened on 5th December 1981.

We have no plans to ever move again, we are very happy living here, particularly as we are in walking distance of the plotland area of Laindon where I grew up. I will always be drawn back there as it still feels like home and as the words of the song say, ‘there’s no place like it’.  

Now let's take a pictorial walk down Markhams Chase and maybe Memory Lane.    

Photo:Leaving the bus stop, we turn into Markhams Chase, passing some original houses on the left.

Leaving the bus stop, we turn into Markhams Chase, passing some original houses on the left.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:Looking towards Janet Duke School, we can see that Markhams Chase is no longer a long straight road.

Looking towards Janet Duke School, we can see that Markhams Chase is no longer a long straight road.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:There are still a few bungalows on the right.  Shenlea, Thelmarene and White Oaks. There is a gap and a bush where Whife & Sloper's Dairy used to be.  I couldn't take a photo as the sun was in my eyes.

There are still a few bungalows on the right. Shenlea, Thelmarene and White Oaks. There is a gap and a bush where Whife & Sloper's Dairy used to be. I couldn't take a photo as the sun was in my eyes.

Nina Humphrey.

Photo:Turning around, we looking towards St Nicholas Church.  The turning on the left, bottom of picture, used to lead to Chowdhary School (which closed and then burnt down).  We see some bungalows on the right called Woodside and Brentor.  We cross the road and turn into Woolmergreen to the right of those bunagows, which leads to the area behind Janet Duke School.

Turning around, we looking towards St Nicholas Church. The turning on the left, bottom of picture, used to lead to Chowdhary School (which closed and then burnt down). We see some bungalows on the right called Woodside and Brentor. We cross the road and turn into Woolmergreen to the right of those bunagows, which leads to the area behind Janet Duke School.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:The shop in Woolmergreen square is now called Trinity Wine & Beers.

The shop in Woolmergreen square is now called Trinity Wine & Beers.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:The sign that once got buckled when our daughter Michelle crashed into it on her bike.  I wonder how long it was before it was replaced!

The sign that once got buckled when our daughter Michelle crashed into it on her bike. I wonder how long it was before it was replaced!

Nina Humphrey.

Photo:Woolmergreen square with St Nicholas Church in the background.

Woolmergreen square with St Nicholas Church in the background.

Nina Humphrey.

Photo:Our old home 69 Woolmergreen.  The only change is a new brown front door.

Our old home 69 Woolmergreen. The only change is a new brown front door.

Nina Humphrey.

Photo:Our next door neighbour's fancy brick wall is still there, but next door but one looks empty and the grass in the front garden is very overgrown and littered. The lamppost was directly outside our children's bedroom.  At Christmas, the carol singers used to stop there with their guitars and sing carols to raise money for the children's hospital.

Our next door neighbour's fancy brick wall is still there, but next door but one looks empty and the grass in the front garden is very overgrown and littered. The lamppost was directly outside our children's bedroom. At Christmas, the carol singers used to stop there with their guitars and sing carols to raise money for the children's hospital.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:The back of our house.  I used to be able to walk down that path and straight into the gate of our back garden.  I notice some garages have since been built directly outside.

The back of our house. I used to be able to walk down that path and straight into the gate of our back garden. I notice some garages have since been built directly outside.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:Walking out from Woolmergreen towards Markhams Chase.

Walking out from Woolmergreen towards Markhams Chase.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:Two Bungalows, Hazeldene and Windermere.

Two Bungalows, Hazeldene and Windermere.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:Approaching the school.

Approaching the school.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:The school gates.

The school gates.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:The main part of the school has hardly changed except for some extensions on the sides.

The main part of the school has hardly changed except for some extensions on the sides.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:Where Lawrences, our tuck shop used to be.  Another lot of new building in progress.

Where Lawrences, our tuck shop used to be. Another lot of new building in progress.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:Just past the school looking toward Great Knightleys.  This used to lead to Green Lane.

Just past the school looking toward Great Knightleys. This used to lead to Green Lane.

Nina Humphrey

Photo:The only other bungalow that I know about having been retained in the area is now the home of the Samaritons and sited in Little Lullaway.

The only other bungalow that I know about having been retained in the area is now the home of the Samaritons and sited in Little Lullaway.

Nina Humphrey

This page was added by Nina Humphrey(née Burton) on 23/10/2011.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

Hi I am Brian Whife, I live in Bournemouth. It was Raymond Whife who died, Iam much alive.

Whife & Sloper dairy was run by Raymond.

By Brian whife
On 21/12/2013

Hi Jim, I don't no if this will help. If you go to home page and go to old photogaphs there is set of photographs put on by Peter Long and there is a aerialview of St Nicholas Lane with all the bungalows.

By Barry Ellerby
On 09/07/2012

It was great to see the pictures and that "Janer Duke" has been commemorated. We kids used to call our revered headmistress "Janer Duke" because she used a rubber stamp to sign letters, and despite her nagging us about spelling the rubber stamp came out as "Janer"! I see that the extension at the right has been built over the covered way that led to the boys toilets. I expect that the current generation have nicely warm indoor toilets and don't have to suffer the dreaded "Elsans" that were brought out whenever the system froze solid.

By Mary Cole (Née Norman)
On 07/07/2012

Thank you very much Nina.

By Jim Reeve
On 11/06/2012

Hi Jim. St Nicholas Lane was mainly residential. On the north side of the road, a long row of small bungalows stood between Basildon Drive and Church Hill. On the south side, before turning into Markhams Chase, there was a field where cattle grazed (before Nicholas School was built). There was just one little shop in St Nicholas Lane, with steps leading up to it (as discussed in comments under my article “Lee Chapel North (part 3 continued)”. In 1929, the shop then known as ‘The Stores’ was owned by a family called “Enefer”. Later the Nuth family took it over and in the early fifties, it was owned by a family called Ellingford. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 10/06/2012

I loved reading about the memories of Markhams Chase and the area around. Does anybody know what shops there were along St.Nicholas Lane, before the development?

By Jim Reeve
On 10/06/2012

I have to this day, a photo of Mr. Lawrence offering a young girl an ice-lolly outside the shop. 

Meanwhile, I can't see or accept the current look as Markhams Chase.

By Brian Baylis
On 05/02/2012

William. Dennis was born in 1930 so it’s just possible that he was right about what happened, that is if my dad had taken him along pre-1936, which was the year that A127 became a dual carriageway. Unfortunately, neither are around these days, so I can’t find out. Dennis was a ‘Fisherman by hobby’ but never told ‘tales’ so the other explanation could be my memory playing tricks on me and that they crossed the field to the A127, rather crossing right over it.

The night I went with them, we got very close to the A127, although there was a fence at the end that would have stopped us if we had actually reached there. The speed was scary but exciting. 

He also told me about the ‘airborne’ sledges. He told me somebody he knew took a photo of a boy who had crashed his sledge. The picture showed the boy high in the air with his sledge somewhere above him. The photo was sent to a daily paper and was printed. I just wish he were still around so that I could ask more about it. 

Last year when we had the deep snow, I noticed some children sledging at the side of the church where you mentioned. It was a lovely scene. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 19/01/2012

Hallo Nina, I suspect your brother Dennis was telling you 'fishermans tale' in respect of the sledging run on the north of Church Hill crossing the A127 as at the time this was dual lane with a central reservation. 

However you are correct in respect of the speed some of this sledges attained, as on the original run of the south west of the hill people would aim their sledges at the junction of Pound Lane and St. Nicholas Lane where the end of the field was some four feet higher than the roads and the sledges became airborne before landing sometimes in the hedge on the south side of St.Nicholas Lane.

Today, the health and safety 'police' would come down heavily on such activities and you must consider yourself fortunate to have had the experience of such "dangers".

By W.H.Diment
On 19/01/2012

William. I was referring to the Lee Chapel North Area (south of Nicholas Lane). I am aware there are also some original bungalows north of Nicholas Lane, several in Basildon Road. 

I remember the bungalows on Church Hill, I passed them each day on my way to work. Mrs Wood lived in one of them (one of her daughters was Pamela Wood - PE teacher LHS) and Flo Pocock lived in one (daughter of Diana). I remember another lady but didn't know her name, her dog used to come running out to greet me each morning. 

A favourite sledge run of my older brother Dennis (who lived on the Kathleen Ferrier Estate) was at the back of St Nicholas Church from the top AT MIDNIGHT. Colin and I went with him once along with his young sons around 1968. It was bitterly cold but twinklingly beautiful. The sledges went so fast on the iced snow that we almost reached the A127 on his amazing homemade sledges. He told me that in his younger days, his sledge had reached such a speed that he not only reached the A127 but went straight across onto the other side. Awesome.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 19/01/2012

Hallo Nina, you reamark that the last picture on this page, that of a bungalow housing the Samaritans is probably the only original building in this area, yet on your continuation of this page, the first photo of a semi detached building adjacent to Church Hill was pre war. I can remember this well as in those days there was a popular sledging run from just outside the church to Pound Lane an some would stray off course and crash into the wire garden fence.

By WH.Diment
On 18/01/2012

There was a time when things appeared to be simple and straightforward. When this is applied to the very first of Mrs. Nina Humphrey’s photographs in this section, the group of similar looking buildings on the left of what was once known as “Markhams Chase” (actually, they were on its east side) was known collectively as the “Council Houses”. Built in pairs or semi-detached there were, in total, 12 dwellings. Starting at the north end, they were numbered simply as Nos.1 to 12. Complications arose when the decision was made that the part of Markhams Chase where they had been built was to become a cul-de-sac, no longer part of Markhams Chase, and henceforward become known as “Weymarks”, Markhams Chase itself having been extended and turned eastwards to link to a new road called “Ballards Walk”. This change has probably meant that the numbering of these original buildings is now entirely different from what it once was.

When these buildings were first conceived way back in the 1920s, they were, in fact rather a late development. In the 1890s, under an act of Parliament referred to as “Housing for the Working Classes”, local authorities had been permitted to use the local taxation (“The Rates”) they had raised to build accommodation to be rented out to those unable to afford property of their own. Initially, this practice had mainly been adopted in urban areas where slum clearances had been necessitated by the need to improve the health of the environment. However, changes in agricultural practices and the general shortage of housing after the First World War meant that rural district authorities found they also needed to become landlords; particularly where farm workers had been displaced by the “tied” cottages principle where having a home was dependent on being employed in a particular industry or by a particular employer. The Markhams Chase Council houses were the Billericay Rural District’s answer to the local situation described above in their particular area. Each section of the district had its own small estate of similar dwellings. In Langdon Hills these were situated in what was known initially as Oxford Street, later Lee Chapel Lane, where a small terrace of just three dwellings were constructed. These houses and similar all easily recognisable, all having been built to a similar style and size, not only elsewhere in the district (Billericay, Wickford, Vange and Pitsea) but very nearly universally in England, amounted to the sum total of the Billericay Authority’s involvement in what is now spoken of as “social housing” up until the outbreak of WW2. 

By comparison, a large authority like the London County Council, with its more forward looking interpretation of its needs, had, for instance, developed extensive estates of such improved housing, firstly at Downham in Lewisham then at the Becontree Estate in Dagenham which latter had become the largest example of social housing in Europe. 

After WW2, the Billericay Authority, now elevated, since 1936, to an “Urban District Council”, was compelled to take a more generous stance on the social housing issue than they had pre-war. This situation was thrust upon them by the dire housing situation created by the five years halt on house building and the destruction in that period of dwellings due to enemy activity. The situation for the Billericay UDC was exacerbated by the fact that. In the Laindon, Langdon Hills, Vange, Basildon and Pitsea areas in particular accommodation that had only been regarded as suitable for short-term use for occasional or leisure purposes had been pressed into permanent use by refugees from the London area where the housing problem was particularly acute. Much of this latter accommodation was regarded as being sub standard. In the face of this pressure, further building took place under the aegis of the Billericay UDC and “Council Estates” were created throughout the areas and, in Laindon, thus were established, firstly, on an existing street, the King Edward Road Council Estate and virtually simultaneously, the council estate clustered around and upon the newly created Kathleen Ferrier Crescent to the east. 

At the same time as this considerable expansion into property ownership and management by the local authority was taking place, the Billericay UDC was vigorously campaigning for what it saw as, at last, the answer to its long-standing intractable problem of how to overcome the difficulties in its southern areas, which included Laindon and Langdon Hills, of a considerable number of sub-standard dwellings standing on un-made-up roads lacking also in main drainage. That “answer” was being provided by the Government backed scheme of the creation of a number of self contained satellite “new” towns in the counties around the London area designed to solve the capital’s housing and overcrowding problem and the Billericay UDC lobbied very hard to be included in this scheme. In this way, in the second half of the 20th century, began the series of changes that have, over time, made what was once simple and straightforward with regards to the cluster of buildings in Mrs Humphrey’s first photograph into something of quite a problematical social situation, a situation which not only means that Markhams Chase is no longer directly involved, but neither is the old familiar way of referring to these particular houses. 

The upshot of Billericay UDC’s efforts to get the area containing the southernmost of its townships designated as available for development as “Basildon New Town” was the creation of a separate administration, the Basildon Development Corporation, itself a subsidiary of a government department, the Commission for the New Towns. This meant that, essentially, from its beginning, there was very little difference between the “social housing” already in existence and what was now being created by these new bureaucracies despite the efforts that were being made at the time to present the “new towns” as being something altogether separate. Eventually, the reality of the position prevailed and all the satellite new towns about London, denuded of their self-containment, became little more than dormitory locations for the continuing spread of what has become the megalopolis or ever expanding conurbation that has the city of London as its focus. Here, where the extension of commuting time to two hours duration in one direction only is not regarded as excessive by many, means that virtually the whole of south-east England is now brought into a single orbit of residency. 

Hand in hand with the considerable expansion of social housing which many regarded as being subsidised by the taxation process in one form or another was the considerable expansion of what was known as the “Welfare State” and it was no coincidence that the two processes should, overtime, become inexorably linked, politically, in the social conscience. Adopting much of the overt disdain that attaches itself to much that is performed in the social interest by central government in the United States of North America, a certain stigma became attached to those citizens who both occupied accommodation owned and administered by authorities like local councils and who also derived benefits from being subsidised by funds from the central exchequer. This stigma led, by the end of the 20th century, to an extensive selling off, with an attached considerable subsidy, of much of what had previously regarded as “social” housing. Although this move did much to negate the process in which occupiers of council housing were regarded by many as “scroungers”, a certain disdain remains attached as is exemplified by the fact that, of all the districts once designated as “new towns”, the name “Basildon” evokes a latent humour directed at those who live there, a process that was once the preserve of those who lived at Dagenham. The changes in the uses of vocabulary that have evoked the casting aside of words like “council house”, have of more recent times, led to the introduction of terms like “affordable” to be applied to the principle in which dwellings are constructed with an eye to their ultimate disposal on the open market. However, such terms, in the absence of an adequate definition, are frequently applied without any regard as to how and to whom such should terms should be appended. Thus, the properties shown in Mrs.Humphrey’s first photograph have gone through an evolutionary change that reflects much of ourselves of recent times.

In passing, it is worth commenting upon the fact that the name “Markhams Chase” is, of itself, not of any great antiquity. Although the thoroughfare to which the name has been applied both currently and formerly was one of the initial roads in the district, its origins lost in time, as with so many such, it was seldom thought necessary to refer to them by a specific name, more by the means to which they were put. Thus Markhams Chase was once regarded as a “green lane” (hence the “Green Lane” that was its designation southwards from a point opposite Janet Duke School) a name given to many, many roads of such a nature throughout England. In fact, within the Laindon area at least two other roads of long standing were so regarded. What marked Markhams Chase out as a green lane was that it was the “way” which was taken by those who wished to travel between the parishes of Laindon and that of Corringham. It was also designated as the “way to Willow Park”, an ancient deer reserve once regarded as of special importance in the district, and as such it is shown on the early plan of the Manor of Laindon Hall. Generally speaking, the special feature of these thoroughfares was that they were passable by every type of passenger, whether they be on foot, on horseback, in a cart or in a wheeled carriage. In modern parlance, these green lanes are designated as “BOATS”, byways open to all traffic, mostly distinguishable by the fact that the margins of the route were lined by walls, fences or hedges thus meaning that stock, like a flock of sheep or a herd of cows could be driven along them without the risk of any animals straying onto adjacent fields. The reason that part of the ancient green lane from Laindon Parish Church (St. Nicholas) to Willow Park or Corringham became known as “Markhams Chase” relates to the general changes that occurred in the Laindon area from the 1880s onwards. 

The last quarter or so of the 19th century saw a considerable number of Laindon farms becoming available on the open markets as “going” concerns, in contradiction of the facts that, firstly, is was competition from abroad, particularly the USA, that had forced their purchase value down and, secondly, the nature of the soils of SE Essex made arable farming particularly arduous. Many who ventured to take up the apparent bargain being offered quickly became dis-abused of the reality, among them James Markham from Oxfordshire. In the face of the growing awareness that, in obtaining Blue House Farm in Laindon, they had taken on an impossibility, the Markhams, while remaining, the nominal farming family in charge at Blue House as tenants, sold its ownership on to the Warrilows of East Ham whose objective was as much property development as it was farming. In consequence much of what had been arable or pasture lands was disposed of as the opportunity arose, part of which in the 1920s, was a practical giveaway of an arable field known of as “six and a half acres” by the Markhams to the Essex County Council in order that a new school could be built in the area. In recognition of this fact, it was realised that as that part of the green lane from its junction with St Nicholas Lane to the new school’s site would require a hard surface before construction could begin, this section would henceforth be known as Markham’s Chase. Thus was created a new road name that existed chiefly because of the school, its final length being determined by, strangely enough, the location in the school’s perimeter wall by what was known at the time as the “Boys Entrance”! (At that time, the playground was divided by an intermediate fence, keeping the two sexes apart.)

By John Bathurst
On 13/11/2011

Hi John. Thank you for your comments. I found them very interesting and informative. Of course the dairy was Whife and not Markhams - I should have remembered that. I did as soon as you reminded me. Like you, I like the records to be set straight, so thank you once again. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey
On 25/10/2011

A small correction, if I may, for the sake of accuracy. The caption to the second photograph showing the remaining original bungalows in Markham’s Chase (”Shenlea”, “White Oaks” and “Thelmarene”) refers to "Markham’s Dairy” The dairy business in Markham’s Chase was never directly linked to the Markham family. It was started by Alf and Ada Whife who lived at “Hazeldene”, the first bungalow to the north in Markham’s Chase from its junction with the extended Leinster Road. “Hazeldene” was, in fact, the final location of the Whife family’s involvement with the milk retailing business, their first dairy being in a long demolished lock up shop on the other side of the road next to the school. 

After Alf and Ada relinquished the running of the business to their sons, Brian and Raymond (the elder of the two), there was an amalgamation with the Sloper family, whose dairy business was in Laindon High Road at the junction with Victoria Road on the opposite corner to the Police Station. Eventually, the business in Markham’s Chase was being run by Brian alone and was brought to a conclusion by Brian’s sad early demise. 

Incidentally, the references to Lee Chapel North in the related articles are, themselves, a bit adrift. The original straight road leading from St Nicholas Church down “Church Hill”, along “Markham’s Chase” then becoming “Green Lane” before crossing the railway at Barker’s Crossing to lead on over the “Hills via Lea Chapel to Corringham, was, in fact, for much of its route, the boundary between Laindon and Lee Chapel. 

The west side of Markham’s Chase (“Hazeldene”, “Windermere”, "Fullerton”, ”Shenlea”, “White Oaks” and “Thelmarene” etc.) were all in Laindon parish while the other, east side, including Janet Dukes alias Markham’s Chase School, were all Lee Chapel, which, by its “detached” nature, was considered, from way back in the mists of time, to be part of the parish of Langdon Hills. The splitting of Lee Chapel into “North” and “South” was a recent device adopted, in their cavalier way, by the Commission for the New Towns, making the fact that the railway bisected the area their justifiable reason for doing so.

By John Bathurst
On 25/10/2011

Hi Nina, Thanks for the walk down "Memory Lane" or Markhams Chase I should say. Whilst Woolmergreen was probably built after I left Laindon In 1966 it was great to see some of the old houses in the Chase still standing. If I recall the houses close to Markham's Dairy backed onto thee farm fields where they later had some football pitches.

You mentioned Leinster Road and that is where my grandparents Abe & Maud Schofield settled when they came to Laindon from Leytonstone in the early 1930s. Lawrence's was the last delivery on my paper round back around 1960 which must have been when Great Knightleys was built because my round also took me there after doing Buckingham Rd & Northumberland Ave. 

The school itself other than the name change to Janet Duke looks much the same. Janet Duke actually taught my Dad at Laindon High Road back in 1930 when he came to Laindon from Hackney.

By Eric Pasco
On 24/10/2011

This is really interesting and its great to be able to look at the photo's.

By Helen Painter
On 24/10/2011
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