These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Mr Glendower Jackson in the mid 1980s as part of his research for his book “The Story of Wivenhoe”. These notes have been re-typed by Ann Jones from Nicholas Butler’s original notes and posted here by Frances Belsham.
What Mr Jackson told Nick Butler.
Rosabelle Avenue was built after the War. That field used to grow corn during the War. Used to get rabbits there.
A JU 88 landed at 4.30 am in the field behind Vine Farm.
I came to Wivenhoe in 1932 and left in 1946. My father had The Grosvenor. I grew up in Wivenhoe and always regarded myself as a Wivenhoe lad.
During the war they used to have a mobile cinema on the playing fields. They opened a big door of this removal van and there was a cinema. There was a stove in the back of The Lido, the chimney went right through back to front. The man who owned it (The Lido) lodged with Mrs Boyce in Spion Kop and he asked me and my brother if we would go and sweep out The Lido and we did that and got two free tickets. About 1938-9.
I went to school down the lane. I can remember a man standing outside Stacey Woods’ shop. If you gave him old rags he gave you a goldfish in a bowl. Early part of the war. So children used to tear off home and get some rags. Miss Grasby and Miss Smith and Mr Plummer with a wooden leg (from Brightlingsea) taught me also Mrs Dan used to teach. Miss Grasby was very strict. Everybody was frightened of Miss Smith the headteacher. We regarded both of them as head mistress (ie no distinction between them) We used to have our lessons in the playground in those days. It was a good little school in its day. They used to hold shows in that hall. In the infant’s school you queued up and they had huge jars of Virol and the teachers filled each child’s spoon with Virol.
There were Up-streeters and Down-streeters. It was warfare and created the teams for informal games. Whichever half of the village you lived in you fell into one or the other of those teams. You went over on the playing fields. Boys up to 11 took part in these games. There was an empty drum in the pond and you had to defend it. Everybody knew everyone else, knew who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Games were organised amongst the children themselves (ie you knew who were the upstreeters and who were the downstreeteers) no adults were involved.
During the war everyone had little pup tents which held two people measured 6’4” x 6’. We were terrified that the Germans would come in low so went to the Chemist (Carrington’s) and bought Condy’s Fluid (made for Athlete’s foot). We put it in a bowl to dilute it and used it to camouflage the tents (because in water it turned colour to purple) This stuff used to rot the tents.
During the summer months all the boys had tents. We would go along the wall to the White House with Tommy cookers which had been used for cooking in the trenches during WW1.
There were grooves made in the mud walls of the creek by one boy being pulled up by the legs and this created a lovely mud slide, fantastic chutes, you got plastered in mud but who cared? (These mud chutes were in the form of a curve, a squiggle, so that those who slid down them went from side to side) When the tide came up you washed it all off.
There were about 40 or 50 boys on the playing field for the drum game. 10-20 for mud slide. All aged between 6 and 11. It was great fun.
During the War the Mustangs and Thunderbolts (American planes) used to have extra fuel tanks underneath their wings. Looked like a long cigar. The lads used to bike up to the Hythe and buy them for 2/6d each from a dump. They were made of strong aluminium, very hard. We put two together with a piece of 4×2 in between and —-bolts. Got bolts from the shipyard, they would give you them as they were lying about, you could nip in if you were smart and go and help yourself.
Some guys put rudders on them and others made sails and we all had paddles. If you went down to Mr Worsp’s factory they’d give you fishboxes and in the shipyard they’d give you lumps of wood to make paddles. We used to race with these on the Colne, like a mini regatta. Went across the river, you had to allow for the tide. I can remember paddling my fuel tanks (all tied up outside the Quay) There was an article on the front page of the Daily Mirror about the danger of these craft. Single fuel tanks were more dangerous than double tanks. We used to paddle down to Arlesford Creek on the tide, spend a day winkling and cockling and then paddle up on the up tide. We used to jump off the swing bridge into the river. Ideal place for cockles and winkles, we used to put them in sandbags and bring them up and then your parents would boil them up. Nobody ever got hurt. I remember a boy called Cox drowned when he tried to swim across the river opposite the Railway Quay. We like to think that the summers were longer, children were just left to their own devices.
Cricket matches with 22 on either side. When the harvest was on those boys who had a bike put a stick on the handlebars and when you saw the binders going round (horse drawn in those days) you saw the rabbits break cover and went after them. They supplemented the rations and was great fun.
You could imagine the joy and the pleasure of marching into the house with a rabbit on a stick. You could see the joy of giving your mother a rabbit you had caught. Fantastic We used to gather acorns for pigs. Hips and haws for syrups. 1d a pound. Also picked blackberries and they used to crush them down for dyes for uniforms, we handed them in at Rowhedge (1/2d fare there and 1/2d back. They would put them in big wooden barrels. The acorns were taken to the old school in the High Street. 4d or 6d for a sandbag full. But it was pocket money. I used to deliver bread for Miss Franks.
We didn’t know what was going on, my Dad said we would win the war and that was good enough for me. I remember the 19 American coming to Wivenhoe Park with radar, They were lighting fires with great lumps of white lard which our mothers hadn’t seen for years. I said to one “We don’t get that stuff” and he gave me a tin of Spam. We called them the sausage and spam boys. These guys had a radar unit. There was a tank regiment there during the war. The Churchills went to Wivenhoe Garage. We used to issue petrol. In 1945 Captain Farrell bought a Hamburg fire engine to Wivenhoe. He drove it around ringing the bell with one hand.
The finest place on earth for a boy to grow up in, it’s got everything. Its got woods, river a marvellous beach for swimming. There were lots and lots of sandpits. We used to sit in the machinery used for carrying sand down to Arlesford creek and push off, it’s a wonder nobody was killed. I learned to swim in the sandpits at Arlesford. Every time the tide comes up it brings flotsam and jetsam, it is surprising what you can pick up. I picked up hundreds of fireworks, we would take them home and dry them very slowly. Some would work and some would not. Where they came from I will never know.
We had the butterfly bombs in that area, they were little anti-personnel bombs, you would see them all along the wall in the weeds, they attracted children. The policeman came to our form in school and said you must not touch the butterfly bombs. We used to stand back and throw stones at them. I saw my first German on Wivenhoe Station, he had baled out at Arlesford Creek, he was blond with crew cut hair. On each side of him stood a soldier with a bayonet. Do you know I was disappointed, I expected him to have two heads, pointed ears or a tail, I expected him to look bad but he looked the same as everyone else.
In those days we had doodlebugs. Wivenhoe was the inward path for them, they came into Wivenhoe and then over Essex, like two cigars one on top of the other, the one underneath was much larger, there were flames coming out of the top one. They would fly 500’ above the ground. The pilots in those days were pretty shrewd, they would fly alongside. You could see the Spitfires and Hurricanes flying alongside and turning them round and they would turn them over as well (in which case they would flounder and this was only done in areas well away from housing, etc) If we were out towards White House Beach in open land we would see the pilot come alongside and turn it over, there was a bang when it hit the water. The engine sound was the guide, when they stopped you ——-. A V2 landed behind the farm near the University. A landmine landed near Keelar’s Lane. A stick of bombs landed on the playing fields and on Joliffe’s Marsh – Joliffe was also a coal merchant.
I never met in Wivenhoe any lads who were bored. There was no such thing as sweets and ice cream, hardly any really. It was the war and they just didn’t make it. I remember seeing a fellow walking down Station Road with a hand of bananas on his shoulders, he was a Naval rating. I had never seen bananas.
Every boy in Wivenhoe knew each other and when I meet them now we talk about old times.
I can remember tying string on door knockers or tying two knockers together. I remember knocking a policeman’s helmet off. All you got in those days was a clout round the ears from his gloved hands (which hurt)
If I went and told my father I would get another one from him. The best place for tying knockers up was Clifton Terrace. The policeman was called Tolly Day, he was about 6’6”, a giant of a man. There was also Sid Ham who wore a cheese-cutter helmet as he was a Special during the war.
My father and I presented these cups (which he won at cricket) back to the Cricket Club last year.
Education: I went to the High School in Wellesley Road and my brother went to Brightlingsea. We went on special school bus.
My mother learned to drive a lorry. Up near The Cross there was the Home Guard headquarters and another one in Belle Vue Road 3 doors along after Mr Worsp’s and 2 after St Belards.
We learned writing, reading and arithmetic, folk dancing and folk music, we always had craft lessons. We used to have armbells ? All the sport took place either in the playground or on the playing fields. We played not hockey but a game called shinty using walking sticks upside down, it was an Indian game.
There were 20 in the school class, Miss Smith and Miss Grasby (she was a tiger, they were like two peas in a pod. I believe they lived together in a cottage up at The Cross. Mrs Dan was a big rotund woman who lived up Spion Kop. You could play her up but everybody liked Mrs Dan. Mr Plummer was a strict disciplinarian but he had served in WW1, he was a snappy dresser. Mrs Munson was a nice lady.
Depression in Wivenhoe: I remember crowds outside the Gosvenor. The lower half of Wivenhoe was the poorer half. I remember families lower down were indigenous. The Greens, Woods, Paynes, Munsons always down-street. Also the Saintys but they were not poor people.
One of the nicest things of Wivenhoe that I can remember was lying in bed of a Summer month, listening to the trains pulling out of Wivenhoe, hear those trains moving up that incline and you would think that the train would never make it. You would hear Chuff Chuff and gradually you would realise it would make it. The trains were carrying munitions to Clacton. You would see tanks on the backs of trains. The tanks used to come down to Peck’s Garage to fill up. They would tear the road up, turn round, fill up with petrol and then back up to the Park. Week-ends and evenings. My friend was Ray Peck and it was his father who had the garage, I would help out at weekends and evenings. Chalky White ran the garage. They were Churchill tanks.
I remember a Wellington bomber fuselage in the Park, right in front of you, you saw a Wellington bomber fuselage (opposite the entrance to the Brightlingsea Road at the University. They used to learn to jump in a tower there. SAS fellows. Willis Vickers of Basildon was the RSM of the SAS. On a Saturday we used to wander round the park and look. They used to jump out of this tower and land on a mat, then did 4 rolls. We used to go and watch them. Lancashire Fusiliers were there. They (the SAS guys) were great guys, they used to let us ride on the jeeps and let us ride around with them. One minute there would be an awful lot of them and the next week there would only be a handful. I know one guy who was in the regiment. I remember that the Captain (Farrell) got involved in something in Egypt, he was a maniac, that fellow. I remember him driving a fire engine, a big red thing, ringing the bell.
Wivenhoe Fire Brigade was a voluntary system, Green Goddesses (a truck that was painted green) very basic.
Street Parties: I think nearly every street had one. Lower streets had more organised parties than upstreet. They closed the streets off. There were bonfires on the playing fields and fireworks there.
I lived in 8 Belle Vue Road on the corner of Belle Vue Road and Park Road, there was a dormer window in the roof which gave a panoramic view of lower Wivenhoe. Fantastic. We were dead in the middle of upstreet and downstreet. We went with upstreet.
During the war a fishing smack came over from Belgium, they arrived and lived in Wivenhoe. I hit one of that family right between the eyes with a brick. The family, or owner of the smack, went and worked for Mr Worsp because he had a fishing smack.
There was so much activity, the Army was in the Park which was not normal.