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My Memories Of Wickford - a Memory of Wickford.

My parents and I lived in North London near Hendon aerodrome.  Because it was well known as an RAF base the German Luftwaffe raided the area regularly.  My parents decided to move to somewhere safer and because my mother's sister, Mabel Dunk, owned the cafe opposite St. Andrews on London Road, in 1940 my mother took me to live with her until my father could find work and somewhere to live.
We'd only been there a week or so when a landmine exploded just behind the cafe on the other side of the river.  My parents had not realised that Wickford was on the direct route the bombers took to London!  Later in the war it became known as doodlebug alley.
My father eventually bought a coal business in Runwell Road and we moved into a bungalow in Highcliffe Road, which in those days was unmade and without mains sewage, although we did have water and electricity, unlike some other areas like Ramsden that still relied upon gaslight.
I went to the C of E primary school in Southend Road until 1947.  Mr Bullock was the headmaster and I remember Miss McKenzie and Miss Jones. When I went on to Wickford County Secondary in Market Road my first form mistress was Mary Amos who I remember fondly for giving me an appreciation of music.  I was sad to move on in year two, although Mr Phillips was an interesting and inspiring teacher.
I remember going down to the market on Mondays and spending my dinner money on goodies like ginger root and buying a small loaf of bread, scooping the interior out and stuffing it with chips. Delicious! I also remember several forays to Mr Rose, the headmaster, where I had to obtain the cane and punishment book and get caned on the hands for some misdemeanour or other.
I was in the Cubs and Boy Scouts and later on the Air Training Corps.
Until they turned it into a Woolworths we would go to the cinema on the Broadway where the usherettes would walk down the aisles in the interval spraying us with some sweet smelling stuff that we presumed was disinfectant!  They also looked very glamorous in the spotlights as they stood at the front of the auditorium with their trays of ice cream, drinks and yes - cigarettes.
Wickford was still pretty rural in those days and we would range across the fields and woods - often getting chased off fields by a farmer with a twelve-bore across his arm. The Crouch would meander through the fields and was a constant joy to explore and fish for tadpoles that we would take home in jam jars.
The floods were quite something. I recall one in 1953 (?) when a friend, Maureen Marsh-Feiley, had to get from Nevendon Road to Southend Road to get married. The bridge was under water and there was a lovely picture of her on the front page of the next day's Daily Mirror showing her standing on the lower part of a lamp post above water level in her wedding dress and wellington boots!
When I married in 1959 I moved away from Wickford but only as far as Harold Wood and I regularly visited my parents who continued to live in Highcliffe Road and had seen it transformed from a country track into the large Highcliffe Estate. They finished their days in Berens Close.
I now live in a village near Liverpool and the last time I saw Wickford was in 1994 before I moved there from Welwyn Garden City. I decided that it was probably going to be the last time I saw the village that held so many happy memories for me so I drove across for a last look - and got lost. The town had changed so much in the intervening years and now seemed to be a part of the urban sprawl.
I still think back to the old days and hope that the friendly, neighbourly spirit of Wickford remains in the hearts of all of its old and new inhabitants and the plans for development of the river and the High Street/Southend Road junction give me hope that it will do so.

A memory shared by Denis Mitcheson on Aug 24th, 2009. Send Denis Mitcheson a message

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