Old Bondy

By Andrea Ash

Photo:Frank Bond's navy records with the kind permission of his nephew Peter.

Frank Bond's navy records with the kind permission of his nephew Peter.

Navy records on Ancestry.co.uk

(Click on the above image to enlarge).

I gathered the following three accounts while researching into a reclusive character who once lived over the Durham Road railway bridge, in Sylvan Road, Langdon Hills, amongst the bushes in a shack called “The Caboose”.  I can now confirm that his name was Frank Bond.  

As children, we would walk over the bridge to get to Berry Lane and were "spooked" at the story of this man who lived in the bushes! I believe I did see him once.
I was informed recently he was called Frank Bond, originated from Australia, who somehow lost his lady love and spent the rest of his life living there; that he made a suit from hessian sacking and grew his own vegetables. Just how his "shack" acquired its name remains a mystery, although its meaning does relate to a wooden guards-van with sleeping quarters used chiefly in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

I am extremely grateful to: Lilian Mead for account No 1 and to Peter Critchett for his recollections in account No 2, and lastly to my brother for providing a full name and other details.

1.  Here's what I remember. Every Saturday for as long as I can remember it was my job to take my doll's pram and walk to the High Road shops, to buy meat or veggies.

I had to do this to earn my 9d pocket money.  I used to walk along Shelley Avenue to the end, where there was a small track that widened into an unmade road that went by “Old Bondy’s”.  If there were two or three of us kids, we used to be very brave and run by his shack (it was only small) and shout out “Old Bondy”, you know what kids are like. 

If he was out digging his veggies in the garden, we wouldn’t dare.  From what I can remember, he always wore a trilby hat and black jacket and trousers.  I don’t remember the bike.

I don’t know how he managed to live in his shack, as from what I remember it was very small.  I can also remember it was potatoes he was digging.  After going past his home, I went to the end of the track, turned left over the railway bridge, then right into the top of Durham Road.

2.  You may be referring to “Old Bondy” or at least that is what everybody knew him as from then.

If you had gone along the un-made bit of Durham Road and across the little brick bridge crossing the railway lines, you would have found three tracks going off to the left, right and straight on. Now if you had taken the right hand track parallel to the railway, just a short way along on the left hand side you would have come to an old creosoted black shack with a corrugated iron roof and stack pipe chimney standing in the middle of a little cultivated plot of assorted vegetables. In that shack lived “Bondy”. (Further along lies Arnold Avenue and the back ends of both Shelley and Shakespeare Avenues, a route which most people from the High Road area used as a short cut to the "rec"). The building he lived in was set back a little from the "roadway" in a fair-sized plot. There was no visible front door as the back of it faced onto the "road", whose name I was unaware of as there never was a name board.

I first remember him being around from 1946 or thereabouts and at least until Basildon New Town started taking over properties in the Laindon and Langdon Hills areas.  The story I heard was that he had become a hermit after suffering shell-shock in the war.  Whether it was the first or the second war was never made clear.  He certainly had a bike, a big black roadster “sit up and beg” machine, but I never saw him riding it.  I often encountered him pushing it toward his shack with a bulging sack hanging from the handlebars, so I suspect  he supplemented living off the land with a bit of rabbiting and a touch of scrumping.  Also on the plot and toward the back of the property was a smaller shed where he possibly kept his old bike and gardening tools.

3.  “Old Bondy” was Frank Bond and he lived in the shack off Durham Road railway bridge going towards Berry Lane way.  Heard he had some unhappy family life and so lived like a hermit, bothered no-one, though the kids were scared of him.  Heard he made himself a suit out of sacking.

This page was added by Nina Humphrey(née Burton) on 27/02/2014.
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With the kind permission of Peter Bond, I have added the image of his Uncle's Navy records to the top of this article.  The image can be enlarged by clicking on it.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 10/12/2015

First class research Nina. Congratulations! That much detail could not have been easy to find. No wonder I think of you as Laindon's Miss Marple (younger of course!) although Laindon was never the idyllic English village envisioned in Christie's mysteries.

By Alan Davies
On 10/12/2015

Having read this article about "Old Bondy" and all of the related comments, I have to say that much of this sounds very familiar. The similarities between this character and the one I wrote of, in my article "The Raggedy Man", seem to be more than a little coincidental. I said in my article that he lived in a small unit within Jeakins yard, maybe he only appeared to live there. I was only young and saw what I thought I saw. But bearing in mind the close proximity of Jeakins yard to Sylvan Road, maybe he spent time at both locations. Worth a thought?

By Donald Joy
On 10/12/2015

An update.  I have found Old Bondy’s Naval records online which show his details as follows:-   Frank Bernard Bond, born 18th August 1900 at Manor Park.  Occupation – Tally boy clerk.  Height 5’ 5½“, chest 33”, Hair brown, Eyes blue.  

Starting from September 1917, when he was 17 years old, he served on ‘HMS Powerful’,  as a 'boy rating 2', rising to a ‘boy rating 1'.  Then on ‘HMS Warspite’ from November 1917 to June 1921 where he became ‘Able Seaman’.

July 1921 to September 1921 he served on HMS Pembroke 1. 

From September 1921 until July 1922 he served on HMS Columbine (Versatile).  It was during this time that an incident happened.  It isn’t mentioned whether or not Frank was injured.   A report of the incident appears on Wikipedia:-

On 23 March 1922, Versatile was steaming off Europa Point, Gibraltar, at 20 knots with other destroyers while British submarines practised attacks on them.  The submarine H42 surfaced unexpectedly only 30 or 120 yards (27 or 110 meters) – sources differ – ahead of her. Versatile went to full speed astern on her engines and put her helm over hard to port, but had not yet begun to answer her helm when she rammed H42 abaft the conning tower, almost slicing the submarine in half. H42 sank with the loss of all hands. An investigation found H42 at fault for surfacing where she did against instructions.

He returned to HMS Pembroke 1, for about 8 months and then HMS Benbow from March to September 1923.

He returned to HMS Pembroke 1 later in September 1923 and was invalided out in December 1923, the reason given on the document was ‘hysteria’.  A condition that would now, no doubt, be classed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Considering the reason for his discharge, could it be possible that Frank had been so traumatised by the incident with the submarine, that he had suffered a permanent neurosis.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 10/12/2015

I have been provided with a little more information from Frank Bond’s nephew Peter.  He believes Frank’s brothers built his home in Sylvan Road around 1920 or thereabouts, having then been discharged from the army themselves.  The accident, according to the family had something to do with his head and was blamed for his mood swings.

Although he led a frugal life, he appeared to be very fit as he often cycled from Laindon to Peter’s parent’s home in Upney near Barking.  Peter’s mother would feed him and cook cakes etc., for him to take back in his carrier.  He was well known to the porters at Laindon Station as he knew when to call to collect parcels that Peter’s family had sent him.  The last time Peter saw him was around 1950.

Frank outlived 3 brothers and 1 sister.  His surviving sister, Constance, three years his senior, dealt with his possessions upon his death in 1982.  Peter regrets that he cannot recall ever having a photo of his Uncle.    

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 27/03/2014

I traced a relation of Old Bondy’s, a nephew called Peter Bond and sent him a message.  Here is his reply:-     

He was my Uncle. He served in the Royal Navy in WW1 and I was told as a youth that he was discharged after an accident.  He was allotted a plot of land as many service men were and my father and another brother constructed the "Calaboosh", I thought it was called. With an Uncle I visited him as a teenager.  At times he was a very pleasant person to talk to, on other occasions he would not admit us.  I lived in Upney (near Barking) and my mother and father sent him parcels of food etc., especially around Xmas via rail to Laindon station.  I hope this helps. Peter Bond.

I looked up the word ‘Calaboosh’ and found it means a prison.  The Electoral Register shows Frank Bond's home spelt as ‘The Caboosh’ which means a small room with connections to the navy.          

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 20/03/2014

I found Frank Bernard Bond on the 1911 Census aged 10, living with his parents Alfred (a warehouseman) and Sarah Jessie.  His siblings were Constance Francis Mary age 13, Leonard Alfred age 11, Ivo Lionel age 8, Alexander age 5 and Veronica age 3.  Their address at that time was shown as 20, Devonshire Road, Stratford, East London.  I haven’t been able to find a marriage record for him or any records of his military service.

Further investigation shows that Frank Bernard Bond died on 21st November 1982 in Thurrock Hospital.  Frank’s home address was given as ‘Collins House Care Home’, Springfield Road, Corringham.  (The informant was the lady in charge of the care home).  His occupation was shown as a ‘Retired Gardener’ which falls in line with having been seen cutting grass in a front garden in Berry Lane.  Cause of death: heart attack, following a stroke.  R.I.P. Old Bondy.    

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 14/03/2014

Thanks to Nina and Alan - so glad to have made the decision to add this 'Old Bondy' story to Laindon History site - straight-away it has generated some very interesting information.  I have emailed Peter Critchett in the UK and Lilian Mead (nee Andrews) in Raglan, New Zealand as I am pretty sure they will be interested in the results too.  Regards from Andrea.

By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell)
On 06/03/2014

Nina that is extremely interesting. One additional memory of Old Bondy has recently surfaced from the attic that constitutes my mind. One bright May or June day a group of we lads were walking home from school north along Berry Lane from Alexander Road. There, on the west side of Berry Lane, lay a very large bungalow sitting back from the road with a large grass verge in front. Wielding one of those old scythes with a sort of S shaped long handle, rather like the grim reaper uses, halfway through slowly and methodically cutting the twelve or eighteen inch high grass, was none other than Old Bondy. He looked warily at us as we went by, ready with an oath or a shake of the fist should the need arise. We lads? We were all very quiet and walked by rather rapidly. On the opposite side of the street!

You state that Old Bondy was born in 1900. Suppose, just suppose, Young Bondy joined the navy in WW1. Plenty of fourteen year olds were accepted for service. Suppose he saw combat. Since we are only supposing let's suppose he saw action in the Battle of Jutland. Let us further suppose he was wounded, mentally and perhaps physically. Suppose he was diagnosed with shell shock and perhaps discharged on medical grounds.

Suppose, sometime before 1949 when he first appears on the Electoral Register, he made his way from West Ham to Laindon. There he built a home (of sorts) and suppose he named it "The Caboosh" in remembrance of the hammock he slept in during his time in the navy.

Suppose the shell shock he suffered during the war impelled him to be a loner, a hermit, suspicious, feeling threatened by others (even boys) and threatening in return. All pure supposition of course. When I knew Old Bondy 1939-47 or thereabouts he would have been in his forties. This coincides with my memory of him. I agree with Nina. I hope Old Bondy's final years were spent in some small degree of comfort with the demons that tormented him quietened.

By Alan Davies
On 05/03/2014

‘Old Bondy’ certainly was a mysterious character.  He appears on the 1949 Electoral Register as Frank B Bond of “The Caboosh”, Sylvan Road, Langdon Hills.  However, the 1949 survey doesn’t mention “The Caboosh” on its map, having no doubt considered this meagre ‘home amongst the bushes’ not worth recording.  A few areas along Sylvan Road are marked on the map ‘wl’ (waste land), “The Caboosh” was probably on one of those. During the fifties he is still included on the Electoral Register at “The Caboosh”, Sylvan Road.

The word “Caboosh” seems to be associated with the Navy.  A “Caboosh” is said to be a small storeroom, little more than a large cupboard, where a hammock could be slung up and slept in by a rating.

Moving on to the 1965 Electoral Register, he is recorded as Frank B Bond but at “Woodville” Sylvan Road.  Another mystery!  Did he re-name his shack or did he move into a different building?  The follow year, 1966, there is no mention of either him, “The Caboosh” or “Woodville” in Sylvan Road.

The only other record I could find for a Frank B Bond is that of the death record in Thurrock of a Frank Bernard Bond in December 1982. His birth date is given as 18.08.1900, West Ham.  Perhaps this was “Old Bondy”.  If so, I hope he spent his last years being well looked after in warmth and comfort.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 04/03/2014

Hi Andrea. Yes I remember Old Bondy very well. I have mentioned him a couple of times in contributions to these archives. While your approach to Old Bondy's residence was from over Tom Thumb bridge mine was from the other direction. We lived in Raglan Road, a small mud track off Berry Lane. Rather than repeat my memories of Old Bondy here, anyone who has a further interest or memory of this old character can simply type in Old Bondy and hit search. While my memories contain a few small differences they very much parallel those of Andrea.

By Alan Davies
On 28/02/2014