ID: ML2023_001_064 / Ron Green

TitleMemory Lane - Local Carriers
AbstractThese days we see white vans delivering parcels everywhere, but what was it like in years gone by? How did parcels get - say from Mersea into Colchester for instance. Most villages had a carriers service, usually a horse drawn covered cart which doubled as a bus. It was not unusual when travelling on one of these buses to be sharing your journey with a crate of chickens. For passengers, it would be a slow journey.

Early West Mersea carriers' services were by the Cudmore and Rudlin families. Alfred Cudmore did Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, while Rudlin did a daily service in 1929. To get Rudlin to call in, we would put a letter R in the window or a C for Cudmore to call. Cudmore also took the mail into Colchester and back. He used to drive his horse drawn cart at breakneck speed leaving his yard by the old Victory, now appropriately named Carriers Close, and pick up the mail in the village. He then went to East Mersea Post Office which in those days was at Blue Row, West Mersea, and then off to The Plough or Woolpack near St Botolphs in Colchester. Presumably the return trip followed the same route. East Mersea was served by Underwood. My dad, who grew up in East Mersea recalled that they didn't buy much from the shops and relied on what they grew in the garden or what could be gathered on the foreshore, supplemented by the occasional rabbit or wood pigeon, but Underwood would call in Saturday teatime with a small cardboard box of groceries. Underwood's service was daily except Thursdays, I can't recall Cudmore having motor transport but Rudlin did and of course Underwood ended up with a fleet of buses, vans and lorries.

The Cudmore and Rudlin businesses in West Mersea went back a long way. The 1851 Census shows George Cudmore and John Rudlin at West Mersea, and also James Greenleaf at East Mersea.
Carriers would run an order book - you could order clothes, food etc., the carrier would do the shopping, and on return deliver the goods and collect payment. They must have had a busy time in Colchester..

The Wigboroughs were served by Percy Christmas of the Kings Head who in 1929 was running an omnibus service calling at Peldon, Abberton and Pete Tye daily except Thursdays and Sundays. The Kings Head was also served by Osbornes from Tollesbury, who developed into a bus and coach company.

The clothing factories in Colchester employed out-workers in many of the local villages. West Mersea had a small factory near the Fox. The work would be brought out from Colchester by carrier, and finished goods returned the same way. Payment would also be collected from the factory in Colchester by the carrier, and delivered back to the island.

Oysters would travel by the carrier, but the railway company also ran lorries around the area, collecting goods for their services.

Robert Underwood on his smart carrier's cart about 1927, though by then the cart had probably been pensioned off. He sold his bus fleet to Eastern National in 1935. The bugle was used to signal householders needing collections that the carrier was approaching.

A later carrier - Charlie Ward outside the White Hart in 1955. He used to work for Rudlin and then took over the business.

AuthorRon Green
SourceMersea Museum