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Abridge In The 1950's

A Memory of Abridge.

I moved to Abridge in 1950 when I was ten years old. My parents bought the white cottage on the London Road, which had a wooden building next to it. This very soon became The Poplar Cafe, my mother’s dream of riches!
I attended the little village school for a year until I passed the 'Scholarship' and went on to Loughton County High School for Girls in 1951. The head teacher, Mr Garner, took the top class (the oldest children) and I remember him quite well. He seemed a very kind man but very old to me. I imagine he must have been close to retirement age because a new head was appointed a few years later, who had several huge, Airdale dogs. Mrs (Daisy) Barr, who taught the youngest children was related to my aunt and uncle, Kath and Vic Barr, who lived next door to us at no. 1 Bayles’ Cottages. At no. 2 Bayles’ Cottages was my uncle Vic’s mother and younger brother, Jim.
When my mother opened the cafe, she was in competition with another cafe almost opposite, which (we always believed, although we never went into it, of course) had a ‘genteel’ clientele requiring cream teas, fairy cakes and suchlike. My mother aimed to corner the market and serve a ‘better class of person’, but she never achieved her aim because she more often served large numbers of cyclists on day trips from the towns. They would stop off at 5.30am for cooked breakfasts and return at about 6.pm for egg and chips!  At weekends particularly, our two up, two down cottage became an extension of the cafe and my small brother (8 years younger than me) and I were exiled either to the one free downstairs room (which housed my piano with no room for much else) or our bedroom (my brother and I shared a room until I was 19 and went to teacher training college) or else my brother roamed the village with his mates, or I went off on the no. 10 bus to Leytonstone to spend the day with my ‘aunt’and ‘uncle.’  We would rather be anywhere than amongst the hoards at the café!
Later, in 1957/8, my boyfriend and I convinced my mother that she should re-invent the café as a Coffee Bar, a trend that was sweeping the country at the time, and so the Poplar Café became the haunt of bikers and ‘Teddy Boys’ who loved the juke box and the pin table.  My mother never forgave me for bringing down the tone of her beautiful tea-room! However, she did have to admit that it was more profitable this way, because the juke box alone (of which she shared the takings 50-50 with the juke box supplier) matched the entire week's takings that she used to get with the old-style café!  It enabled her to sell up in 1961 (for £4000) and retire to Poole, Dorset.

With thanks to Helena Rogers for this memory of Abridge

Added 10 May 2009


Comments & Feedback

Hi Helena, coming from Woodford Bridge,I was one of the cyclist that often used your Mother's café, as the one opposite was too snobbish. Good ol' Mum, I remember her well. Norman
Hello Norman - Well - you were one of the cyclists! We probably passed each other at some point! (Maybe on the way to the toilet - since we had to share that with the many customers, too!) It was not my happiest time - but it made a living that got me to Training College!
Hello again Helena, I didn't think I would get a response from you since you posted original comment in 2009, nice one.

Do you remember "Padfields" farm at Abridge, I used to go there during the school summer holidays in the mid to late 40,s, although the war was still on during part of that time the heavy bombing had died down and my Mum thought I was safer out in the country than in the village as Woodford Bridge was in those days. Then I became a keen cyclist and Abrige or Lambourne End were the only two places to go through, the alternative was heading into London. Such lovely memories of those days Helena. I now live in the Garden of England, otherwise known as Kent.
Hope you are well...................Norman
Hello Norman…..
I remember the name 'Padfields' well, but can't place it in my mind. My cousins, David and Alan Barr, who lived next door to us at the cafe, will know it for sure. I'll ask them when I speak to them next. Having lived in various places from Lancashire to Kent (1984 - 1991 Herne Bay and Seasalter) I am now living with one of my daughters and family in Devon. Nice to hear from you,
Dear Helena,

Was your younger brother's name Brian? There was a boy who was my friend, a year younger than me whose parents owned that Cafe. He was very bouncy with curly hair and very jolly, but he moved away. The Bayles sisters moved in and the cafe was pulled down. Eventually the space was used for a new house. Mrs Reeves, Greek by birth, was a waitress at the Poplar Cafe.

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