Harry Oliver Rice and his wife Sarah Elizabeth are first found to be living in The Nook in Park Road Wivenhoe between 1895 and 1899. Born in Croydon Surrey October 1st 1849, Harry married Sarah Elizabeth Yabsley in Plymouth registration district in 1875. His work as a Brewery Manager at Daniell & Son, Colchester, was what brought Harry to Wivenhoe via Camberwell, London where their son, John H Rice was born in 1877 or 1878. Wivenhoe is where they made their home until sometime after 1917 when their name disappears from Wivenhoe articles and we have yet to find a record of their deaths.
Sarah played a very active role, with the support of Harry, in the Alresford, Wivenhoe and Elmstead Nursing Association being Hon Secretary and Vice president for many years. This was so very important for the health of Wivenhoe women during childbirth and for their young children. The Committee fundraised and gifted money themselves to ensure that the Urban District Council could pay for a Nurse to look after the babies.
Together with Mrs Oakley, Sarah Rice organised Whist Drives in the Foresters Hall in support of the Association.
“…..we are indebted to Mrs Rice for her deep interest in the work of this Committee”
Article Essex County Standard July 1915
Harry was keen to put his managerial skills to good use in village life soon after arriving, by trying and failing at his first attempt to get elected to the new Wivenhoe Urban District Council in 1898. However when Alexander Barlow resigns in 1904 and then tries to get re-elected in 1907 and fails, we see that it is Harry who is voted in as Chair of the UDC and President of the Cricket Club. This leads to the Cricket Club losing its grounds on Ten acres, land owned by Alexander Barlow! By 1912 Alexander Barlow has been re-elected with Harry as Vice chair, a working relationship restored until both were deposed in 1914.
Around the end of the 19th century a water spring was found at the bottom of Queen’s Road, part of The Nook. The Council bought the site from Harry and built the Waterworks, (now called the Pump House in Queen’s Road). It was able to pump water to the Tower, built in 1902, at the top end of Wivenhoe by The Cross. In recent years it has been transformed into a residential property.
The War Years
At 61, Harry was exempt from war service. He and Sarah Rice worked hard for their community and the troops, concentrating their efforts on improving education and the health of our town. They were also well placed being land owners to be able to offer freely and to sell parts of their land for the benefit of the community.
The Wivenhoe social calendar in the Essex County Standard describes, fundraising promenade concerts and fetes that are held in the grounds of The Nook on a regular basis each summer.
Harrys influence as Chairman of Managers of County Schools meant he was instrumental in allowing school buildings to be used as Troop Rooms by November 1914.
These provided daily papers, magazines, games and writing material with light refreshments, provided for a small charge, managed by women who helped the men with reading and writing.
Sarah Rice supported the ladies fund raising committee to pay the cost of room rental.
At a fund raising event described in the Essex County Standard July 1915
“……it was due to Mr Rice’s energy that the schools were open each evening for the use of the troops, much appreciated by the men….” Colonel Hunter
By 1917, the food blockade was effecting all areas. Harry was able to help out by allowing five acres of land near the pumping station to be used for allotments and then to hire out to the Council one of his fields on which to house pigs. Many of the children from the local Boys School became allotment holders.