ID: DJG_TAI / Douglas J. Gurton

TitleTollesbury Trade and Industry
AbstractAccording to old records and maps the parish of Tollesbury covered a large area in olden times, extending as far as Tiptree Heath, which anciently was part of the great forest of Essex, to which the freeholders and tenants of surrounding parishes, including Tollesbury, had commonright for grazing their cattle, and the cutting of the trees and underwood for repairing their buildings, hedges, etc., as well as for fuel. It would appear that the parish boundary made a circuitous route from Salcottstone excluding- D'Arcy to the top of Oxley Hill where it went south to embrace Tiptree Hall and Tudwick. The late Dick Houlding told me that the boundary passed thrpugh the little hut at the bottom of the garden of "The Plough" where he was born, separating Maldon from Lexden-Winstree Rural district councils and could have caused complications in the event of an accident. Until quite recently dwellings in the Tudwick area and their inhabitants were included for ecclesiastical purposes in Tollesbury parish, but this has now been rectified. There were over twenty-four farmers with named farms in the parish, but in the course of years some have been merged with others and some taken for private dwellings or building land purposes, notably Orchard and Croft Farms at West Street, Hunts' Farm in the centre of the village. Many of the ancient buildings have disappeared due to being condemned unfit for habitation or use, ones that come readily to mind were the so called "Blind Cottages" at West Street near the present Cemetery, so named because they had no windows at the front of the dwellings only a solitary piece of glass let into each door. "Black Cottages" sometimes referred to as "Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge" which possessed some beautifully carved beams with Tudor rose motif.

"King's Hall Cottages" two fine examples of Elizabethean architecture which stood opposite to North Road and were purchased and presented to Tollesbury together with the "Elysian Gardens" in 1955 by the late Mr, F.E. Hasler. Unfortunately at that time it was found that the cottages could not be restored, and they had to be demolished to make way for the road now running into the site opposite the Bank House.

In the mid-eighties we find many trades now non existent in our midst. There was a decoyman; saddler; blacksmith; straw hat maker; tailor; three corn millers; four shoemakers; two wheelwrights; a druggist; two beerhouses and two victuallers. Professionally the Vicar had the assistance of a Curate, there was a Minister for the Independent Chapel and there were two Physicians and Surgeons.

Owing to the absence of addresses in the old records we are unable to pinpoint the location of all trades and industries, but many of the senior citizens will recall the businesses long since gone. The small butchery shop opposite the present "fish and chip" shop which about that time was Mr. Bolesworth's clock-repairing and jewellery establishment. Many a young man obtained his silver watch and chain with compass pendant there, as well as other items of jewellery. Messrs. May's boot making and repairing business next to the CO-Op butchery shop; Mr H.R. King's outfitting and tailoring establishment opposite, where yachtsmen could be kitted up. Further down the road near the Fire Station, Messrs. Wilshin's pork butcher's shop, where cold and cooked meats could be obtained. Messrs. Brand's butcher's shop and slaughterhouses across the Square. The smithy of Mr. Beecham on the site of Messrs. G.W. Coates new bakery. Messrs. F. Lord's outfitting establishment at "brown shoe corner" where many crews of the yachts were completely outfitted. The locality got its name from the yacht skippers and senior hands who congregated there to chat and pace up and down. Every road had a "sweet shop", more often than not in the front parlour of a private dwelling. They are long since gone possibly due to the now stringent regulations, but they had a usefulness at the time. One recalls the amusing tales of how one child went in one such shop said said to the lady - "Two pennyworth of bullseyes, and please don't weigh your fingers", an allusion to the habit of touching the scales to gauge the proper amount, or the little boy who timidly asked, "Could I please see your gold mine, 'cos Mrs. ---- told my mum you had a regular little gold mine in here."

There were three bakers, and daily deliveries of bread, etc.. most tradesmen effected deliveries of goods by handcart or horse drawn vehicle. Messrs. Stone's brewery in the Chase made weekly deliveries of locally brewed beer, as also did the four public houses, but under the Defense of the Realm Act of 1915 deliveries had to be signed for by the recipient and this restricted sales.

There was a Cinema in Woodrolfe Road, where nightly performances were given, and matinees on Saturdays when we children could get in for 2d or 1d if one sat on the floor. Miss Doll Wombwell presided at the piano and rendered appropriate music.

Further down the road was Beecham's meadow where we children played around the old stables, adjoining "Paraffin Avenue" so called for the smell of oil in and around the stables there. Paraffin at that time was the only means for lighting in the village, apart from candles.

Until Drake Bros., removed to Woodrolfe from Old Hall, sometime in the eighties, there was little activity at Woodrolfe apart from laid-up or decaying smacks, and the fishermen's foot-boats, as the majority of smacks moored at The Leavings, Mell or Thurslet Greeks. The only building at Woodrolfe was 'The Granary", a most ancient store on stilts, where bagged grain was kept until it could be taken away by barge. However, the whole scene changed, in their hey-day, Messrs. Drakes employed 12 to 15 hands and had 8 apprentices. They bought, felled and conveyed trees by timber-drag to Woodrolfe, where the wood was pickled, dried out, then sawn up into planks. Slipways were constructed, and much boat building and repairing was carried out. Other trades followed, Messrs. Williams established a shipsmith establishment where iron work for smacks could be forged; anchors; dredges; mast fittings; and water tanks could be made. They also had a huge copper for boiling the dressing for sails and nets. When the large yachts began to make their winter quarters at Woodrolfe, preparations had already been made for their berthing in the creeks. The present Yacht Stores (often erroneously termed "sail lofts") were built by Messrs. Lewis and Drake about 1890 for the accommodation of the yachts' equipment, including sails, rigging and dinghies. The masts and spars were triced up under the Stores. The only building which could properly be termed a "Sail Loft" is the one now standing on the North side of the Swimming Pool, and which previously stood on the "Woodrolfe Park" site and was used by Messrs. Cranfield and Carter for sail making. Messrs. Gowen and Co., also had a thriving sail making business in the premises now occupied by "Volspec" and the Tollesbury Sailing Club was the paint shop of Messrs. J. Phillips, yacht painters, etc.

Mr. Gowen, senior, had been the sailmaker in the ship "Cutty Sark", and craftsmanship displayed by his sailmakers became renowned throughout yachting circles.

The large wooden shed opposite the aforementioned premises, and which has masts and spars to support it, was owned by Capt. William Frost for storing coal discharged from his barges.

Mr. Nixon's workshop and display window was the boatbuilding establishment of Messrs. Legerton and. Green, who prior to the Great War, specialised in building motor launches and small craft.

Very little can be recalled on the subject of brickmaking. In a brave attempt to make a success of the project, the Tollesbury Brick and Tile Development Co was formed, and operations commenced on what is now called the "Thurstable Estate" also at Woodrolfe opposite "Seaholme", but operations had to cease in 1907. Again in 1920 a start was made to manufacture bricks, which were deep red in colour and highly glazed, but again the high salinity content of the clay and its gravelly nature spoilt the project. However, many of the bricks can be admired to this day in houses built prior to the Great War.

Practically every trade and profession was available in the village. Milk deliveries were made from milk churns conveyed in chariot style carts. Most cottages had their own vegetable gardens and fruit trees and bushes. Life was leisurely, if the weather was inclement and the fishermen or others were stormbound, they could also repair to Mr. Bert Redhouse's boot repair shop for a yarn, or to Mr. Bonner's or Joe Stace's barber shop, provided they cleaned their footwear scrupulously clean before entering the portals of the latter.

AuthorDouglas J. Gurton
SourceMersea Museum / Cedric Gurton
Related Images:
 Elysian Gardens, Tollesbury. Bell's Postcard 2068.  CG10_191
ImageID:   CG10_191
Title: Elysian Gardens, Tollesbury. Bell's Postcard 2068.
Source:Mersea Museum / Cedric Gurton Tollesbury
 Old and New Tollesbury. Barclay & Co. Bank. White's trade bicycle.
 The photograph appears in Tollesbury to the Year 2000 with the caption Cottages which were demolished to make way for Elysian Gardens.  DWS_181
ImageID:   DWS_181
Title: Old and New Tollesbury. Barclay & Co. Bank. White's trade bicycle.
The photograph appears in "Tollesbury to the Year 2000" with the caption "Cottages which were demolished to make way for Elysian Gardens".
Source:Mersea Museum / Derek Shakespeare