ID: PH01_BLH / Elaine Barker

TitleThe Bullock Family of Layer de La Haye

The Bullocks' general stores and Post Office in Layer de La Haye post 1948

An image of the shop run by the Bullock family in Layer de La Haye, still remembered today, has sparked my desire to try to link this family with the Bullocks of Great Wigborough who first arrived in Great Wigborough in the early 1500s and scattered throughout this corner of Essex.

In the register of baptisms and burials for Layer de La Haye, in 1786 we find Thomas and Elizabeth Bullock baptising their son, presumably their eldest for he bears the Christian name of his father. The couple were to have eight children, all listed in the baptism register,
Thomas 1786
William 1788
Samuel 1790
Elizabeth 1796
Ann 1797
John and Mary, twins 1801
George 1803

One of the twins, John, appears in the burials register in 1807.

Thomas and Elizabeth's marriage is recorded in the register of St Albright's, Stanway, Colchester, where Elizabeth née Salmon was resident, (she was baptised in St Mary's Peldon in 1766). The marriage date was 18th October 1785 and Thomas is described as being from the parish of Layer de La Haye. This is as far back as we can go in tracing the Layer branch of the Bullock family using parish registers. The earliest surviving register of baptisms and burials for Layer de La Haye dates from 1767 and no baptism of a Thomas Bullock can be found. Neither can it be found in the registers of other local parishes where branches of the Bullock family were known to have lived.

However, some information was passed down through the family anecdotally and it is believed circa 1760 Thomas Bullock started running a shop in what was the front room of his cottage in High Road, Layer de La Haye. He used a dog cart, pulled by two dogs to make his deliveries and his wife assisted him in the business. In 1765 he had an extension built onto the cottage to enlarge the shop area.

It is not until the mid-nineteenth century that we can follow the Layer De La Haye Bullock family using the censuses. We do not know what happened to Thomas and Elizabeth but in the earliest census of 1841 their youngest son, George (born in 1803), is listed, living with his wife and family, still in Layer de La Haye and his occupation given as a 'hawker'.

By the census of 1851 George is listed as a 'licensed hawker'. He is living with his wife, Hannah, aged 36, and six children. Their six children listed are Hannah 15, George 14, Samuel, 10, William 8, Mary Ann 5 and Sarah Ann 1 month.

The term 'licensed hawker' was interchangeable with 'costermonger' and 'pedlar'. In country areas, hawkers were mainly travelling salesmen hawking goods to small towns and villages. Usually selling easily transported and non-perishable goods, the hawker would gain his licence by applying to the police and was then obliged to display the words 'licensed hawker' on any of his vehicles, shops, boxes or handbills. There were also laws to restrict hawkers selling certain goods within a prescribed radius of markets and fairs unless from their own home or shop.

George died only a year after the 1851 census on 29th October 1852 leaving his wife with six young children, the youngest one just over a year old. In his will [Essex Records Office D/ACW 45/1/36] he is again described as a licensed hawker and his estate listed as being worth under £100. He leaves his wife all his 'Stock in Trade', and 'Lands, Tenements and Hereditaments' for her natural life. He also requests that she keeps the buildings in repair and insured from loss or damage by fire.

By the 1861 census his widow, Hannah, has married John Finch, a cooper; living with them are her sons George Junior aged 21, a hawker and draper, Samuel aged 20, a wheelwright and William aged 18, a baker, they are living in Colchester Road, Layer de La Haye. Samuel was to become a builder and William a master baker and confectioner.

The White's trade directory of 1863 records George (Junior) as a shopkeeper, possibly the earliest documentary reference to the Bullock's Shop that stayed open in High Road Layer De La Haye until 1973. In the P O Directory of 1874, George is listed as a grocer and draper.

In the 1901 census George (Junior) and his wife Elizabeth are living in High Road, Layer de La Haye. George is again described as a draper and grocer and his son, Arthur George, as a market gardener. It seems that the rest of the family are helping as assistants in the shop, daughters Catherine Clara, Florence, Edith and son Percy (there was another sister, a nurse, called Martha).

The Bullocks' shop in 1912, note the large greenhouse on the side of the house.
Image courtesy of Layer De La Haye Parish Council website

The Kelly's Trade Directory of 1914 lists George (Junior) as a grocer and draper and his son Arthur Bullock as a market gardener.

George (Junior) was to die in 1917, his residence given as Cherrydene, Layer de La Haye, probate being granted to his son, Arthur George Bullock, grocer, and his nephew, Albert Samuel Bullock, coal merchant. Arthur George was to take over the business upon his father's death.

According to the family, Arthur George inherited two thirds of the house and shop, two fields (High Road and 'Squitch') and his sister Catherine Clara a third share of house and shop. He named his five children in his will (Percy had died in his twenties in 1904)

In 1939's register, in which, for privacy, any persons likely to still be living are blacked out, two of George's daughters, both unmarried, Martha, a retired nurse and Catherine Clara are living in his former home of Cherrydene. Both in their seventies they have two teenage girls living with them, Dorothy Voyce and Winifred Foley, each listed as 'Domestic trainee c/o Dr Barnardo's'. Next door in Rosedene is Arthur Edgar their nephew, a shop manager and market gardener probably with two school-age Barnardo's girls and next door to him, living in the shop premises, are their brother, Arthur George, a General store keeper, and his wife Minnie. They too have two Barnardo's teenage girls, one, Kathleen Spencer, aged 13 at school and the other Doris Johnson aged 14, 'not previously employed', so presumably a school-leaver. There are two other names blacked out and it is likely they were two further schoolgirls from Dr Barnardo's. So the family between them took in eight girls.

Birch Hall nearby acted as a Barnardo's evacuation home from 1939 to 1940 and not only were a number of girls accommodated all along Layer's High Road, the Matron lived in Forge Cottage.

Layer historian, John Morse tells me the girls arrived on 18th September 1939 and left 3rd June 1940 when they were transferred to Wales. I believe two of the girls kept in touch with Dorothy, Arthur and Minnie's daughter-in-law, throughout her life.

The Barnardo's Girl's Village Home was based in Ilford and comprised a number of cottages. The girls were evacuated at the beginning of World War 2 while the cottages were to go on to house homeless Londoners after the Blitz and then become a convalescent home until the end of the war.

George's son, Arthur George Bullock and his wife Minnie Beatrice ran the stores until Arthur's death in 1948. At that time their son, Arthur Edgar, and his wife Dorothy Gwendoline Rose Bullock, who had been working for the family business, took over, a third generation to do so.

The couple had married in 1932 and Dorothy (née Taylor), who had worked in Colchester as a florist, making wreaths and flower arrangements, moved to the village. Arthur Edgar had trained as a horticulturalist at Writtle College and in the 1939 register he was listed as a shop manager and market gardener. The couple were living in a small bungalow, Rosedene, behind the family shop. The in-laws lived next to the shop and Arthur's aunts in Clovelly.

Arthur Edgar was called up during the war and sent to Italy while Dorothy was working in the shop. There was always a question as to where she managed to source oranges during war-time, one villager recollecting bicycling over from Layer Marney to get his supply!

At the end of the war, Arthur came home and took over deliveries round the villages. They had a large van, which had been requisitioned by the army during the war. Apparently, it went so slowly people on bicycles could overtake it with ease! Sadly, Arthur became blind and Dorothy not only took on longer hours in the shop but did the deliveries with Arthur sitting beside her. Not only did they deliver food but paraffin, essential then for cooking and heating, and candles.

In 1959 Dorothy took on the Post Office.

I should remind you all that she was held up by a gunman, but the gunman had met his match. Mrs B asked him what he thought he was up to and the gunman retired. The Post Office invited Mrs B and her sister Cath to London for the day where she was given £100, a medal and a slap-up dinner. The obituary of Dorothy Bullock by Anne Hughes 1999

The shop finally closed in 1973 when Arthur and Dorothy retired and the old shop was pulled down. A new bungalow was built which was also called 'Rosedene'. Arthur Edgar died in 1989 and his widow, Dorothy, died 19th September 1999 at the age of 91.

So what did the Bullocks' shop sell?

In the early trade directories George is described as a draper and presumably he continued selling all those items he had sold as a hawker.

In the early 1880s it was reported in the local newspapers that there was an outbreak of swine fever among pigs belonging to George Bullock. Is it not likely that the family ran a smallholding and sold their produce, meat, fruit and vegetables in the shop?

In the 1901 census, son, Arthur George is listed as a market gardener. In the photograph above, dated 1912, the large greenhouse on the side would also indicate this market garden was adjacent to the shop.

Advertising material on the post-1948 picture above that is legible indicates the shop sold Lyons Cakes and, on the sandwich board, ice cream. Like most village general stores the shop was an Aladdin's cave with something of everything for sale. The obituary for Dorothy written by Anne Hughes in 1999 describes the shop during her time there.

There was a picket fence and a brown door with two large display windows on either side full of signs. Lyons cakes. Corona. Aspro, ice-cream and so on. As you went in a bell rang, and after a moment or two a face would appear from behind a stack of tins. The shop was poorly lit, or shall we say that it was so well stocked that the light could not get in! Shelves everywhere crammed with anything and everything you could possible need. Cats on the counter, cats in the window, Cherry Blossom of every shade, Silvo and Brasso, bootlaces. toothpaste, gobstoppers, bulls' eyes etc etc

'Mrs Bullock' said a customer, 'I need a little bit of pink thread'

'Of course, my dear, I will have it somewhere'.

While a search was mounted, the events in the village of the last week were discussed fully, and at the same time there was a careful and deliberate re-arrangement of much of the shop's stock until eventually a piece of pink thread of the correct shade was found!

With Dorothy's death in 1991, the family line of Bullocks first recorded over 200 years before in 1786 came to an end in Layer de La Haye.

All the memories of Dorothy point to a well-loved, delightful neighbour She was always so interested in our lives, what the children had been up to, and what was going on.

Her prize-winning exhibits at the Horticultural Society Spring Show were legendary as were her meticulous accounts for the village's Good Companions club.

I didn't manage to establish a documented link between the Layer branch of the Bullock family and that of Great Wigborough but I feel certain there is one! Research is ongoing!

Elaine Barker

Read More
The Bullock Family of Great Wigborough
The Bullock Family Part 2 The Peldon Connection

Thanks to Gill Brown, Anne Hughes, John Morse, Ann Taylor

Obituary of Dorothy Bullock: Layer de La Haye Parish Magazine
Unpublished local history notes, John Morse.

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum