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Your Essex No. 53 at Layer Breton, by Cyrl R. Jefferies. From a series in Essex County Standard.
I never go to Layer Breton without recalling a visit there as a boy in a pony cart. Changes have taken place at
Layer Breton since then, the chief of which is undoubtedly the erection of the Church on the Heath. The old Church
which stood at some distance from the present once was demolished; the churchyard, however, remains.
I visited the Church, on the Heath when I went to Layer Breton to write this article. One of its features is a
dovecot bell turret resembling the one on the old Church.
At one time there was a Congregational chapel at Layer Breton, but this has been pulled down and the Sunday school building is now a garage occupied by Mr. W. Lawes. Members of this chapel now worship at The Friends Meeting House on the Wigborough Road, a building erected in 1827, with a burial ground, where nine grave-stones bear the name of Gripper and five others that of Barritt.
I had a chat with Mr. W.A.Burmby, who remembered when the Congregational chapel was built and the first minister - the Rev. William Merchant. There was a band at the chapel in which Mr. Burmby and his brothers played and also William Johnson, James Higham, Abraham Polley, John Johnson, John Barrel, and John Pepper. The last resident minister was the Rev. Daniel Preston. As a boy Mr. Burmby attended Birch school when Mr. William Locke was headmaster, and Mr. Harry Wilsher and Miss Ada Day were teachers. On leaving school he went to work first for Mr. John Tiffin at The Manor, and later at Layer Rows farm for Mr. Samuel Dennis. Mr. Tom Bullock worked at Layer Rows at the same time. Mr. Burmby recalled largess spendings at "The Hare and Hounds," when Mr. Richard Law was the host. For forty years Mr. Burmby was catrier to Colchester making the journey four days a week. Talking of the 1884 earthquake he recollected taking parties round Wigborough, Peldon and Langenhoe to view the damage that had been done. Mention of Queen Victoria`s 1897 Jubilee brought to mind a bonfire on the heath and lighted tar barrels. Mr Burmby used to play cricket on the Heath, and his Son, Mr. Harry Burmby, was secretary when a new club was formed in 1906. I saw a photograph showing some of the cricketers, Harry Charles, and Arthur Potter, Harry Horace and Jack Burmby, Leonard Seaman. William Fletcher, Ernest Auger, Fred Bloomfield, and Thomas Moss. Talking of the post office, Mr. Burmby knew John Willsmore who was a postmaster, Mrs. Willsmore succeded her husband when he died and afterwards her son had charge, being followed by Mrs. George French. The post office is in the same house as when Mr. Burmby was a boy. Mr. Harvey who had a wooden leg used to be postman and walked with the letters from Kelvedon and back, a total distance of fourteen miles. Mr. Walter Barleyman succeded him.
At Pump Cottage on the Wigborough Road I met Mr. William Pare Johnson, who attended the Independent day school which was at Layer Breton. Miss Sarah Barrell was a teacher there at the time, and other children who attended whose names come to mind were John Whybrow, William Potter, Emily, Harry and George Tiffin. Memories of schooldays included an annual dinner given to the scholars when beef and plum pudding were served. Mr. Johnson recollected Mr. E. Holloways`s shop next to "The Hare and Hounds," and the time when William Hutley was a blacksmith in the parish, and had his shop near to Pump Cottage. Farmers whose names were remembered was Mr. John Tiffin, The Manor; Mr. William Bird, Layer Breton Hall; Mr. Daniel Smith. Stamps and Crows farm; Mr. William Quiler, and Mr. William Wheeler. When Mr. Johnson was a boy the baker was Mr. Humphreys Smith, who was succeded by Mr. Cranston Smith. Later Mr. C. Bell took over the business. The local bootmaker was Mr. Chamberlain. Fairs held on the Heath and visits of a travelling salesman named Knights who sold brushes and china and glass were other memories of which Mr. Johnson spoke.
Nearly opposite to Pump Cottage I found Mr, Charles Taylor at work in his boot repairing shop. He went to the Church school when the Misses Godbolt and Freemantle taught there. The Rev William Blow was at Layer Breton and was a keen violinist. Mr. Taylor`s father George Taylor, was a thatcher and Mr. Taylor used to assist him in his business.
At "The Hare and Hounds" I had a chat with Mr. Joseph Palmer, host there for twenty - five years. His son, Mr. E.C. Palmer. had recently succeded him at this hostel. Mr. Joseph Palmer took over the establishment in 1911 from his father-in-law, Mr. William Mead, who succeded Mr. Richard Law. "The Hare and Hounds" is pleasantly situated facing the Heath, and at one time there was a railing in front. I heard about The Quoit club in the days when C. Elliston, W. Fisher, A. Fletcher, Walter Burmby, Len Seaman, G. Partridge and the Brothers Bell were members. Matches took place on the Health and at times as many as 150 people would watch the game. Whit Monday feasts held in connection with "The Hare and Hounds" benefit club, the name Law which were used as receipts for payment to the Club and entitled the holder to a free pint of beer. Of course, Mr. Palmer remembered too the cricket on The Heath. I can well imagine cricket played at such a delightful spot would never be easily forgotten.
Transcribed by Joe Vince May 2023
Photo: Breton Heath
Image ID PBH_061
Category 1 Places-->Layer Breton
This image is part of the Mersea Museum Collection.