When The Reverend Nichols Was The Rector - a Memory of Pitsea.

Sadly I believe, St Michael's Church  is little more now than a ruin of it's former self, nothing like it was in the 1940's when it seemed to stand proudly on the hill watching over and protecting the small village below as it had done since Norman times: even then the inscriptions on some of the tombstones weathered and worn away so that one could only make out perhaps a name or date and wonder whose last resting place it was.   

We moved to Pitsea just shortly after war broke out into a small pebbledashed bungalow White Lodge, 9, Church Park Drive, on an unmade road with a small narrow pathway infront of the six or so houses, and a narrow channel dug next to the pathway where the water used in the houses was channelled.   There was no proper sewerage in those days - a far cry from the home we had left in Margate but as children my brother and I were not particularly perturbed by that.   Behind the house there was a large field, Rectory field it  was called in those days as the Rectory and the gardens stretched across one side of it, and probably the land was actually owned by the Church.   It was on this field various fund raising events were held, the Fair was there that first summer with the lovely Gypsy Caravans and swingboats, a roundabout, and numerous stalls where one could test one's skill at throwing or guessing a number and win a prize, and there was a Church Fete, and later on as the war progressed there was a  barrage balloon site there and even later still for a short time an anti-aircraft gun.   

I soon made friends with the Rector's daughter, Lisa - we would play on the field together and in the Rectory gardens, and I started attending Sunday services with them, walking up to the Church along the steep winding pathway almost opposite the pathway leading from London Road to Church Park Drive., along the side of what was then Fields Nursery (later Heath's),  (The owners of the nursery, were our immediate neighbours in Church Park Drive.)   Lisa insisted that I sat with her and her mother in the Choir.  I was quite happy to do this and sang along with the choir and thought I was doing well.   About four or five weeks on the Choir Master suddenly decided to ask all in the Choir to stay behind after the service - said he just wanted to do a little reorganising.   What he really wanted to do was find out why he wasn't happy with the choirs performance.   Each person had to sing a short verse of a hymn for him and then sing a couple of scales.   I was quite happy to oblige, but what I was unaware of then was that I am totally tone deaf, as I am to this day, and quite incapable of singing anything in tune !!    The Choir Master's problem was solved and I was quietly instructed that my presence in the Choir was no longer required, much to Lisa's and my own consternation.   From now on I would have to join the congregation in the ordinary pews!!   Nevertheless, my friendship with Lisa survived this sudden blow to my self esteem and I still accompanied the family to Church and spent many happy hours playing with Lisa in The Rectory.   

We were quite convinced that there had to be a secret passage or a Priests Bolt Hole somewhere in the Rectory and spent hours wandering the house from Attic to floor tapping walls and floor boards in our search.   All we ever found was one door leading into a tiny empty room in which perhaps one person would have been able to stand upright...no doubt actually a disused broom cupboard... in one of the upstairs passages but with the imagination of youth decided this had to be a Bolt Hole that the Priest had used during the Reformation.   

I remember later the wonderful Harvest Sunday services when the church was decorated with Wheat sheaves from the local farmers and every windowsil groaned under colourful arrangements of vegetables and fruit, the Christmas Services and the Carols and Nativity display, the Weddings that I attended as a guest, and VE Day when the bells rang out after so many years of silence.  I have two photographs in my collection one of the Church with snow on the roof and the tower -a little skew as I was far from expert, taken on a small Kodak Box Camera the year I received it as a Christmas present.   Another photo of (a school friend) Sheila Izzard's wedding group after the ceremony surrounded by all the many guest who were in Church; standing in the grounds of the Church not far from where this photograph was taken.   So many familiar faces but so few whose names I can recall 53 years on.

If anyone can share these memories or can remember my parents, Jim (Jock) Sneddon (from the Vange Labour Exchange) or my mother who taught for years at Pitsea Primary School would love to share memories with you.  It's a long time ago I'm afraid, even before many of these photographs were taken!!  

Thanks for the memories.

Thelma Hurly
Johannesburg South Africa


A memory shared by Thelma Hurly on Aug 23rd, 2006.
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