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Your Essex No. 34 At Birch, by Cyril R. Jefferies. From a series in Essex County Standard >
Heath farm ... then down a hedge-lined incline - straight on beyond a sign post pointing to Easthorpe ... up another incline, and I came to the approach to Birch church. This edifice was erected in 1850 by the late Charles Gray Round. It has a tower with a spire rising to 110 feet. The Rector is the Rev. Percy Luard, who succeeded his father, the Rev. B.G. Luard, who came to Birch in 1895. The organist is Mrs Pickering, whose predecessor was Miss Ida Smith, who succeeded Mr Chandler. From the Rev. Percy Luard I heard about the Birch Choral Society which was founded in 1906. The society has met with considerable success.
To revert to the church, Mr Fred Hutton, the builder's father, helped to pull down the old Birch Church, and assisted in lowering the bell, and fixing it in the present church. Mr Fred Hutton, who is eighty years old, had heard his father talk of the old church with its high box pews, and tell how members of the congregation used to take beer bottles with them and leave them in the porch until after the service when they carried home their beer obtaind at a nearby cottage beerhouse. Mr Hutton's great grandfather came from Suffolk to Birch and the work he did in his day consisted chiefly of boring oak trees for pumps. It was most interesting to listen to Mr Hutton while he talked of the past. He remembered Dr Hart, who had a surgery next to Mr Tiffin, the butcher's shop, and drove a cream-coloured pony in a four-wheeled chaise. As a boy, Mr Hutton was in the church choir and he recalled the names of Harry Glanville, George Glanville, Bob Steggles, William Steggles, Sam Adam, and Fred Wheeler, who were also in the choir. He recollected the Aldham Club feasts held at "the Angel" Inn, Heckford Bridge. a malting adjoined the inn and here the actual feast took place, the building being decorated with laurel and the lilac for the occasion, and churchwarden pipes being smoked. Thomas Goody was host at "The Angel". Going on to speak of Heckford Bridge he remembered when there was only a footbridge, and the water ran across the road. School days came to mind as Mr Hutton talked to me and I heard of the aplendid treats given at Birch Hall. Mr Charles Gray Round used to give the girls who attended Sunday School a frock, cape, and straw hat, to senior boys he gave a suit of clothes and to younger boys, knickers, a long holland tunic with broad band and buckle and a Scotch cap.
Not far from the Post Office is an entrance leading to the Hall where Captain C.J. Round resides. More than once I have looked back with delight upon my sight of its wonderful lake and fine trees.
In Birch Street stands Mr A. Studley's shop, a business which goes back for the best part of a century. Mr Studley has been there for nearly twenty-six years and others before him were Messrs Saunders, E. Hales and --. Shalders. Nearly opposite to the shop lives Mr John Whybrow, who is eighty-four years of age. He started work as a boy for Mr George Quilter and later went to work at Abbot's Wick, Wigborough for Mr Charles Barrett. He recalled the garden field suppers at "The Angel". The "Hare and Hounds" is close to where Mr Whybrow lives and he gave me a list of those who have kept his hostel, E. Holloway, R. Laws, Mrs Shelley, R. Laws and William Mead. Mr Joseph Palmer is host at the "Hare and Hounds" now, and when I called there I saw a photograph of the Birch Juniors Football Club, winners of the Kelvedon and district Junior League 1928-29. On the photograph were Dr N. Boyle (president), C. Humm, Fred Norfolk, T. Wheeler, L. Bloomfield, A. Shelton, T. Everett, A. Fisher, C. Bell, P. Bambridge, Alf. Shelton, C. Wheeler, L. Taylor, --. Harrington.
I had to journey some distanced to the Lower Road to meet Mrs Sophia Polley born at Birch eighty years ago. Her father was a carpenter in Birch and had premises near Hardy's Green. Mrs Polley went to the church school when Mr William Locke was headmaster and his wife headmistress. Miss E. Arthey, Miss Richardson, Mrs James Steward and Mr John Turner were teachers at the school, which has been extended since Mrs Polley was a scholar there. Calling to mind other scholars, the names of Eliza Wheeler and Harriet and Emma Thorrington were mentioned. Mrs Polley's school memories included treats at Birch Hall when plum pudding, roast beef and potatoes were served for dinner, and a tea followed in the afternoon. Mr william Hitchin, the carpenter, and Fred Hutley a blacksmith at Heckford Bridge were spoken of as Mrs Polley reviewed the past. Her grandmother Mrs susan Clemmens, used to keep a general shop near Hardy's Green.
Mr Arthur Pettican was busy gardening when I saw him. He has lived at Birch for half a century and spoke of the time when he worked for Mr George May. Fred Everitt, Walter Rawlinson, Sam Cousins and Alfred Partner worked for Mr May too. He remembered the largess spending at Luke's farm when Fred Everitt used to sing a hunting song. As it usually does, the carrier's cart became a topic of conversation and Mr Pettican called to mind Messrs Prior, J. Sach and Walter Burnby, carriers, who served the district. To me it is pleasant to think that many of the rural sights that delighted their passengers remain for the enjoyment of those who will go by the roads they took.
Photo: Mersea Museum - T.B. Millatt
Image ID TBM_BCR_041
Category 1 Birch
This image is part of the Mersea Museum Collection.