I spend many hours searching Ebay for old postcards for sale. My usual pattern starts with 'Essex', then 'Mersea'. From there I go to 'Sailing'
as my main collection is that of Thames Sailing Barges. Scrolling down recently I came across a card of a sailing vessel entering harbour. As it was not a barge I was about to scroll down further when I noticed that the back of the postcard was also shown. What a find. It was posted from Bridlington on July 4th 1919 to Mrs Alf Hempstead, 3 Ruby Terrace, West Mersea, Nr Colchester, Essex. The writing is in pencil, the card has had a rather hard life and is very grubby but the message appears to read - Bridlington Harbour, York. Mum I have been looking for a line from you as I sent you a P C to say we have had to put in this place.
This is our ship entering the harbour after the breeze hope you are well as it leaves me at present. Your loving son H J H. The writer was Harry James Hempstead.
This got us searching through our museum records and our Absent Voters list for West Mersea at that time gives - Harry James Hempstead, Captains Rd. 6499 D.H.(Deck hand) "President" R.N.R. My Museum colleague Chris has found his navy records and a photo. He is registered as a Seaman. Date and place of birth 25th October, 1887, W. Mersea, Eng. Beside the photo is a single entry - 114340 10 21. This normally is part of a list of the ships a seaman served on. 10 21 is probably the date - October 1921, which fits in with the postcard. 114340 is the Official Number of the barge yacht THOMA II, built in Maldon in 1909 and with strong Mersea connections. Owen Fletcher tells us that at one time Harry James Hempstead was captain of THOMA II, and we have photographs showing that Tom and Fred Pullen both served on her for many years.
Chris also found Harry James Hempstead in the West Mersea Register of Electors from 1920 - 1929 living with his parents in Captains Road but he is not in the 1936 Register of Electors.
To add to the mystery the postcard came to me from a seller in the Inverness area.
Ruby Terrace is in the present Church Road. The name Captains Road was still used in 1939. By 1945 it was Church Road.
The vessel in the postcard is a Topsail Schooner - the best known in the 19th century were fast and in the fruit trade from the Mediterranean. When steamships forced them out of that trade, many went on the coast, carrying cargo into the smaller ports. A number were still trading up to the Second World War.
The East Coast can be bleak with very little shelter. Bridlington Bay, just south of Flamborough Head, was largely protected by a sandbank, and in winter could be full of vessels seeking refuge from an easterly gale.
I would like to add a footnote to last month's article - Manwood Bridge. My neighbour Colin suggests that the bridge was widened and the road realigned around 1969, somewhat later that I suggested. Colin was commuting regularly to work in Colchester at the time.
Published in Mersea Life November 2019 page 77.