Topsham Road

My family story

By Ray Stroud

My parents and I lived in Topsham Road (now gone - it was between Laindon and Dunton) until 1953 (when I was 2), when they moved to Hornchurch. The house was called Ferndale. My uncle and family lived next door in Stella Maris and my nan lived in Kilbowie (I will attach a colour photo of Kilbowie). They all moved there after their neighbourhood in Stratford, East London was bombed in the blitz.

Photo:Kilbowie, Topsham Road

Kilbowie, Topsham Road

Ray Stroud

The photo of my nan's house was taken mid 60s, before the council's compulsory purchase (£500) to demolish it for the trading estate.

My nan's husband was one of seven men killed in the 1957 Dagenham train crash. I used to spend summer holidays with my nan at Kilbowie from 1959 to 1962 and have many fond memories of the bungalow and old Laindon. The journey from Hornchurch was by an Eastern National bus to the 'Fortune-a-war' or 'Hiawatha', which, if I remember right, was outside the police station at the bottom of Victoria Road. After 1961 I used to cycle there.

The police station had a tidy and colourful flower bed and opposite, on the crossroad was Greens, with shiny dark green ceramics under the window and I believe, also the old brass capsules running on overhead wires between the counters for change (though that may have been a different shop).

I am attaching a relatively recent map with my additions showing where Topsham Road was and the houses I remember. Victoria Road at that time terminated at Railway Approach. Topsham Road was a single line of paving stones through trees and grass which finished at the point marked 'H' - after that it was mud and grass with the odd railway sleeper to cover the worst mud holes and other puddles were filled in regularly with blue winkle shells (from Pitsea, Leigh or Vange, I believe).

Photo:Location Topsham Road

Location Topsham Road

Ray Stroud

I can see the whole place very clearly in my memory and the clouds of butterflies, moths and grasshoppers that filled the air when I walked around there on summer mornings, with net and hole-in-the-lids sweet jars.

Fond memories also of going with my nan to the Winston Social Club at lunchtime, meeting Fred the retired postman (once with half a pig's head in newspaper) and also some nights; thrupences for the jukebox (Del Shannon, Runaway), a glass of coca cola and going for fish and chips nearby (1s 2d - which my nan thought was a rip-off). We'd walk home on very dark paths (none of the roads off the main road were asphalted or lit) looking at the stars, watching bats and singing very loudly.

I was very lucky to have those years in rural Essex and really wished I'd not gone back to look when I was 45. As James Taylor sings, 'They say you never go home again, and that's no lie'.

This page was added by Ray Stroud on 26/06/2012.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

FAO the editor.  I would be very keen for any information as to when the Strouds and the Mears moved into Topsham Road. Can you supply this or point me to somewhere I can find the information?

I've confirmed that my Uncle who lived at Stella Maris was called Albion James Arthur Stroud. His wife was Ethel and they had a daughter Sylvia who was born in 1946.

Editor:  I have access to the 1929 and 1949 Electoral Registers.  The Stroud and Mears families are mentioned on the 1949 Register at Topsham Road but not on the 1929.  Therefore they must have moved in sometime between those dates.  The Electoral Registers between 1929 and 1940 are kept at the Essex Records Office in Chelmsford and these would indicate which year the two families were first registered at Topsham Road.  Note:  Electoral Registers were not recorded between 1941 to 1945 due to the war.

By Ray Stroud
On 11/01/2017

Ah thanks Editor for the confirmation. I thought my uncle's full name was Albion; so I've learned something.

By Ray Stroud
On 18/11/2016

Heather Isitt - thank you for your comments. I'm pretty sure the residents of Stella Maris were my Uncle and Auntie Albie & Ethel Stroud.

Editor:  I have copies of several years of the Electoral Registers.  Years 1949 to 1951 show the residents of Stella Maris were Albert & Ethel Stroud and the years 1955 to 1962 were John & Ivy Church.

By Ray Stroud
On 18/11/2016

Former owner of kut el amara (Mr. Richard Gristwood, Esq) built it in the 1930's. Lived in it until the late fifties. He was known for breeding bulldogs and serving his Country. Lived in India for 33 years. Built the house when he returned. 

His housekeeper in the forties and fifties, Nora Walsh, took care me, Ann Walsh. Our neighbours were Mrs. Lane who bred Irish Setters. Another neighbour Mr & Mrs Rainier who had a daughter Jeannie had a dog who ran all over the place and was named Flossie. Another neighbour, a gardener, was Mr. Wigby.

Editor: Ann is willing to chat and has provided her email address. However, as it's the Archive's policy not to publish email addresses on the website, her contact details will be provided upon request.

By Ann DiGiacomo ne Walsh
On 06/12/2015

I haven't looked at this page for many, many months and confess to being in tears after reading comments from people who knew that place - Martin, the games in your backyard and the woods and fields beyond!  Was it really always sunny? :-)

How I wish my Nan was around for me to say, 'Thank you for the lovely times' and "Sorry for causing you 'gip'".

By Ray Stroud
On 07/11/2013

Hi Ray, I only just found this page. I used to look forward to you visiting I remember those days well. My parents had seven Irish Setters back then. I remember throwing grass seeds at you causing you to fall off your bike, happy days. What a shame its all gone, but at least that part is now in Victoria Park and not built over.

By Martin Lane
On 05/06/2013

Lovely to read your comments and to find others with history in that part of Dunton - the old references I have found to date have been of the Laindon Plotlands at the other end of town. My Nan's maiden name was Tyler and it's interesting to see others with that name mentioned in other posts (and indeed a road by that name).

By Ray Stroud
On 28/02/2013

Does anyone remember a 'Kut-el-Amara' on Topsham Road? A Daniel Blaney and his wife Rose lived there. Daniel Blaney died in 1958.

By Anonymous
On 04/01/2013

I remember 'Ferndale', Topsham Road very well as my very best friend Janet Allen, her father Robert and mother Georgette lived there until 1964 when they moved to Georgette's native Belgium. I have lost touch. I remember their neighbours at 'Stella Maris' had an egg farm. I had some very happy times with my friend Janet.

By Heather Isitt (nee Barker)
On 12/12/2012

Ray. Thank you for sharing your memories of Laindon as a child. It was very interesting to me as I lived in a plotland bungalow a little further to the north in Alexandra Road on the unmade part of King Edward Road, very close to where Fords of Dunton now stands. My dad’s family also came from Stratford, Crownfield Road in fact. 

The photograph of your nan’s bungalow is fantastic. The typical style of bungalow that I remember so well from the early fifties, with its pebble dashed walls and cream and brown painted window frames. There were many of them in Laindon complete with gardens of vegetables and fruit trees. 

The ‘Hiawatha’ was on the opposite side of the High Road to the Police Station, on the corner of St Nicholas Lane. The Co-op was the shop with the overhead ‘pulley’ system for payment and change. 

I love your description of Laindon’s extremes. The dark winters and having to deal with the muddy unmade, unlit roads laid with railway sleepers and winkle shells (we had those too). The idyllic summers with the beautiful grassy meadows full of wild flowers and abundant wildlife. We certain share some very cherished memories. Thank you once again. With very best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey (née Burton)
On 28/06/2012

A lovely story, very familar, more please.

By Andrea
On 27/06/2012

My nan was Jessie Mears. Her husband was Harold Mears (killed in the 57 Dagenham train crash). The only neighbours names I knew were the Higginbothams (next door) and the Lane family (I used to play there with their children and a lot of red setters).

By Ray Stroud
On 26/06/2012