The Bungalow Cafe

By Ken Porter

Photo:The two ladies outside the Bungalow Cafe are Alice Flashman (nee Whomes) and Rose Coles (nee Whomes)

The two ladies outside the Bungalow Cafe are Alice Flashman (nee Whomes) and Rose Coles (nee Whomes)

Maureen Williams

Jack Whomes and his wife Annie lived in East Ham and Jack worked in the Victoria and Albert Docks. They had a weekend bungalow in Worthing Road as early as 1918 called Roselyn which they visited regularly. So when Jack retired it was no surprise that he and Annie decided to move permanently to Laindon.

They acquired a large piece of land facing the A127 and in 1931 had a large four bedroom chalet bungalow built with a large room at the front to run a cafe. It stood on the London side of the A127 next to the St John’s Ambulance building and very close to the police houses and the Dart Factory.

The bungalow had three upstairs bedrooms and one downstairs. dining - cum - sitting room, large kitchen with a fridge, bathroom, range, back boiler for hot water, large conservatory, electricity and two outside toilets (one connected to main drainage). Outside there was car parking area and a large garage. The bungalow was built with a cafe in mind but although Jack and Annie lived there the cafe was for their daughter Alice.

Who remembers it, will the following advertisement help?

The Twentieth-Century Inn

No lantern has ever gleamed more brightly than that which swinging over the door of the old inn, welcomes the traveller of many years ago. To the sleepy inmate of the rattling stage-coach, it flashed a message of safety – a haven of refuge from the terrors of the highwayman. It spoke, too, of crackling fire a table-spread with food and wine and a soft, warm bed.

To-day, the stage-coach has gone. The Lantern no longer cheers the wearied passenger, but a new roadster is alive. The traveller of the twentieth century no longer fears the highwayman but the need for a rendezvous – the need that urged his ancestors on to the wayside inn to rest there. The twentieth-century cafe’ which caters for the traveller has an equally important status as the old tavern of the town-particularly if the cafe’ be as modern as The Bungalow Cafe on the Arterial Road at Laindon, Essex.

The Bungalow Cafe has been in existence for a very short time but not withstanding its youth, it has already established a considerable reputation amongst motorists, pedestrians and other citizens of the open road. It is admirably suited for halting place for Southend tourists and travellers on the main Chelmsford-Tilbury road. Enjoying an ideal situation amidst country that is pleasant and gloriously unspoiled, this cafe is well worth a visit. The service provided is of the best, being personally supervised by the proprietor – Miss A Whomes.

Home-made cakes, pastries and the like are a speciality here. Both luncheons and teas are available and though the largest parties are catered for in the most efficient manner, the same individual attention and personal service is given to the passer-by who would enjoy a snack. Minerals of all types are available.

Excellent food and a fine service have made this cafe extremely popular to-day but there is something more. The Bungalow Cafe is attractively furnished throughout. Meals can be enjoyed here because the rooms are pleasant. There is nothing here to suggest exclusiveness, for there is always a homely and comfortable atmosphere-one that is conducive to joys of a social outing.

It seemed an ideal spot to have cafe to catch the day trippers on the way to Southend but unfortunately a few years later the A127 was duelled and they found themselves on the wrong side of the road. It closed down at the beginning of the Second World War and never opened again. The family continued to live there until 1974 when it was compulsory purchased by the Basildon Corporation and has since been demolished.

Well who remembers it, I know that one of our contributors to the site visited it on many occasions.

I must thank Maureen Williams for the information on her family's cafe.

This page was added by Ken Porter on 10/02/2012.
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The British and Civic Restaurants, such as that introduced by the Billericay Urban District in December 1941, were one of several welfare measures introduced at the instigation of the Government by exerting pressure on local authorities during the WW2 period. These were to culminate in the various reforms introduced post war in response to the Beveridge Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services, creating what is, nowadays, usually called “The Welfare State”.

The conditions created by the severe economic depression that preceded WW2 meant that the general workforce had to be appeased in the face of increasing problems generated by the comparatively low level of wages and the serious threat that the war presented to food supplies. Depending on your viewpoint, this was largely a matter of bribery in return for the considerable extra effort needed to pursue the war against the Axis forces.

As has been stated, schools introduced free or subsidised meals for children; factories had similar arrangements for their workforces and, where it was possible, organisations of various types such as land workers, firewatchers, air-raid wardens had similar canteens established to cater for their needs.  For the general public, the British or Civic Restaurants were meant to reinforce the general notion that “we were all in it together”, a sentiment that, it may have been noticed, still crops up now and then.

By John Bathurst
On 16/03/2015

John, do you have any idea why the British Restaurants were formed? I assume that, being a government undertaking, Laindon's was only one of many.

Who were they supposed to serve? Women had taken over many of the industrial and farming jobs as the men were off to war. But most industrial sites had their own canteens for their employees and, for those working on farms, there was no time to travel all the way to the Memorial Hall. Children were at school where lunch was provided. So who were the British Restaurants supposed to serve? They were only open in the middle of the day.

My mother worked at the British Restaurant. The total staff was five in number. Three preparing, cooking, serving the food and cleaning up. One who handled tickets and money. Plus of course the inevitable supervisor. I went there for a hot and hearty meal during the holidays. There was never more than a handful of customers. The staff had what was probably a five hour work day beginning with food preparation and ending with washing pots, pans, and plates. The restaurant itself was probably open for business for two hours in the middle of the day.

It was very much a business which, under a free market system, would have quickly folded. But this was government!

By Alan Davies
On 11/03/2015

The Laindon Memorial Hall opened as a "British Restaurant" on Monday 8th December 1941 at 12noon. The same at Vange was opened in Vange Working Men's Club, High Road Vange on Monday 15th December 1941

(As recorded in the "Laindon Recorder" issued 3/12/1941)

By John Bathurst
On 10/03/2015

Further on the puzzle of restaurant supplies during the war and how the Ministry of Food handled this seeming contradiction during years of food rationing. Obviously restaurants did not all disappear and go out of business so there had to be some arrangement to supply them.

I do remember hearing that for those privileged enough to dine at the Cumberland or the Ritz the dinner menu, while not able to offer everything that was available prior to the war, could always offer a selection which would satisfy any gourmet! Does that surprise anyone?

By Alan Davies
On 10/03/2015

I agree with John. I never knew Morris as anything other than a male clothing store.

I would have thought the British Restaurant opened prior to 1942. I may be wrong but I would have placed its opening as 1940. My mother worked there and during the summer we would walk there for a first class meal.

Shepherds I would have placed as post war. My youngest brother was routinely taken to Shepherds on Saturday mornings in the first half of the 1950's. I do not remember it during the war.

The matter of food allocation to restaurants during the war has always puzzled me. There were no coupon requirements to eat in restaurants to my knowledge. If you had the money then go for it. In essence restaurant fare seems to have been on top of rationing. To the extent that the restaurant had food of course. I am sure the black market and the spivs had a role in it somehow.

By Alan Davies
On 10/03/2015

I was on the point of mentioning Shepherd’s Restaurant (as spelled by the proprietors), when I read Alan Davies’s entry of 5/3/15. The reason for my hesitation was that in all the years I lived in the town, I never once saw the place patronized, so I was pleased to learn it was not always thus. There must have been a long period when patrons were like hen’s eggs, what with a general lack of cash in the 30s for such fripperies and a lack of food in the 40s due to rationing. Given the location of Shepherd’s, it is a little ironic recalling that in 1942 the adjacent Memorial Hall opened up as a (subsidised) British or Civic Restaurant.

Looking back, I have come across an advertisement that reads as follows:-

                 “MORRIS’S LONDON STORES (Three minutes from Station)”

                                                Families waited on daily

First Class Grocery and Provisions: Wet, Dried and Fried Fish

Dinner and Supper Saloon

Fruit and Greengrocery

Branches Throughout London and Provinces

All our goods are fresh daily and at London’s market prices.

Our motto is value for money, civility and cleanliness”

To my knowledge, Morris’s, a large double fronted shop on the east side of Laindon High Road and next north from Blackwell’s Newsagency never sold more than drapery and gentlemen’s outfits.

In the same place there is evidence that E Grottick had a “tea rooms”. E Grottick was also Chemists or Drug Store in High Road, Langdon Hills. Also, apparently, “The Geisha” was a Café in North Parade, Laindon High Road although, by the early 30s, this latter establishment was only listed as a sub Post Office.

In 1931, the “Avondale Tea Rooms” in High Road, Langdon Hills was advertising for business. It is quite possible this is Grottick’s under a different name

By John Bathurst
On 09/03/2015

Oh Alan,     How I remember Shepherds Restaurant, I did wonder when someone would mention this establishment.  I couldn't remember if my memory was playing tricks or if my memories were correct.

We lived in Langdon Hills, just below Crown Hill and our local grocer was Smith and Son i.e, Charles, Don, Frank and Jack.  My mother shopped there for most of her provisions but on Saturdays we went into Laindon for a joint at Crowes butchers, usually a leg of lamb no more than 15 shillings, and then groceries and veg and any other provisions required.

It entailed two visits into Laindon, with lots of shopping bags as I recall, my memory is quite clear on this.  Then waiting at the bus stop outside the [New Post Office] opposite the Laindon Hotel to take us back to the Hills.

We always on the second trip into Laindon, took a break by going into Shepherds Restaurant. I had no idea it was a [Little Up Market] we were from quite a poor background.

But OH I remember the crème meringues and Bakewell tarts, plus a coffee which we did not have at home, only tea. They had a display of twigs with wax flowers as I recall, it is so strange what the memory can recall.

I loved those Saturday mornings and remember so clearly sitting in there, I think Mrs Shepherd was Glaswegian or Scottish of some origin.

By Ellen English Nee Burr
On 08/03/2015

What an amazing number of cafes Laindon boasted compared to surrounding  villages. They must have totaled close to a dozen. Compare this, for example, to Billericay where I can only remember the Chantry Cafe opposite the church in the High Street. In Stock I do not think there were any. Why so many in Laindon? It is not as if people had ample discretionary spending money while the pubs probably had first claim on what they did have.

I remember most as being pretty down market. Typically, tea liberally shared twixt both cup and saucer and a penny bun previously sampled by a fly or two. Somewhere in these archives a contributor describes the Station Cafe as routinely having rats running around. Shepherds (or was it Shepeards), close to the Memorial Hall, I remember as being the most up market. White linen table cloths and serviettes no less!

By Alan Davies
On 08/03/2015

Two more of Laindon's Cafes that have not come under notice in this column were firstly the Central Café next to Blackwell's news-agency in Laindon High Road, opposite Andrew's Post Office and Colling's oil shop and the Primrose Café further north practically opposite Toomey's Garage. The Primrose became important to the elderly citizens of Laindon when it became a social centre for OAPs. otherwise known as a Darby and Joan club. The creation of the George Hurd club in Basildon owes much to the Primrose Café and similar arrangements in Pitsea.

By John Bathurst
On 08/03/2015

Another A127 road side café worthy of note was Harry Lowe's "Modern Transport Café". This was situated on the North side of the road a few hundred yards East of the new "Fortune of War". It was popular as a stop for cycling parties on their way to Southend-on-Sea. In 1945, the local branch of the  Labour Party more or less took the café over and used it as a local based Electoral Agent's office, acting on behalf of Capt. Raymond Gunter who was standing as a prospect Labour MP for SE Essex, a large constituency which extended then as far as Southend West. 

By John Bathurst
On 06/03/2015

Enefer's Café at the cross roads of Laindon High Road and the Southend Arterial Road also had a café in the Laindon Station Approach Road which was much patronized by the bus crews of City Coaches and later, by those of Eastern National.

During WW2 days, when milk delivery was "zoned", Alf Whife managed to secure the business of both of Enefer's cafes! Gammon's café(just north of Enefer's FofW branch)which is mentioned elsewhere on web site was used by members of the short lived Laindon branch of the Young Communist League. The enthusiasm for this was mainly engendered by the Battle of Stalingrad and, because, I think Gammons Café proprietor was an ILP member.

By John Bathurst
On 06/03/2015

In answer to Joan Goodfellow's question re the Coffee Bar next to Kathleen's Hairdressers in Langdon Hills, I remember it well it was called the Expesso Bar and was run by Kath's husband Stan Doubleday a kindly man with the patience of a saint. In the early sixties a few of us older lads from Langdon Hills Junior School would call in there for lunch.most had their shilling dinner money which would buy a portion of chips and 2 slices of bread and butter with lashings of HP sauce, to a 10 year old it was far better than the fare cooked up at the school canteen. If you had an additional tuppence, Stan would add on a fried egg..What heady days they were ...

By Paul Gibson
On 10/10/2013

Does anyone remember the coffee bar cafe run by the Doubleday Family in Langdon Hills? I think Kath Doubleday ran a hairdressers next door also.

By Joan Goodfellow nee White
On 12/08/2013

I can remember the Bungalow Cafe quite well. It did have a considerable weekend patronage from cyclists as it was approved by the CTC and had their plaque on the wall, as did the tiny cafe opposite the Jolly Cricketers, which for those who can remember, one needed to duck their head as the roof and the door were so low.

By W.H.Diment
On 13/02/2012

I don't remember this cafe but on the other side of the road was 'Enefer's Cafe'. 

At the outbreak of war the owner had a drum of olive oil in stock for frying. Knowing that olive oil would be impossible to import during a war Mr Enefer offered it to the local chemists, thinking that it could be used in medicine. Both chemists refused the gift as it wasn't marked B.P. (British Pharmacopeadia) standard!! 

The last time I passed through Laindon I saw that Enefers is now a McDonalds

By Mary Cole
On 11/02/2012