Saltwater Village

By Margaret Leather, T. Dalton, 1977, 139pp (Essex County Libraries E.DON)

Summary by Pat Marsden

A first hand evocative account of life in the Essex maritime village of Rowhedge during its late Victorian and early 20th century heyday; recalled from the author’s childhood and early life as the daughter of Captain James Barnard, a Rowhedge fishing smack owner and yacht captain. The book covers the period from about 1898 to 1920, but often extends beyond this by earlier traditions remembered and older stories retold, as well as other sources of information. Although primarily about Rowhedge there are numerous references to Wivenhoe and there are many experiences in common. Like Wivenhoe, the population of Rowhedge was almost wholly maritime and activity increased until by the 1870s about 900 inhabitants were dependent on owning and manning 33 large smacks averaging 23 tons each, fishing the North Sea and all around the British coasts. There are references to Philip Sainty’s shipyard and Harris Brothers whose yard included Sainty’s old shipyard site. She speaks of the connections between the two villages; the shipwrights, apprentices, riggers and painters, some of whom came from Wivenhoe. She recalls the large black coal shed belonging to Jim Heath, the coal merchant of Wivenhoe, whose main coal depot was on the Wivenhoe marshes near the toll gate and railway sidings, who brought coal over to Rowhedge by horse and cart using the ferry road. Mail was taken over by the ferry from Rowhedge to Wivenhoe station to be placed on the Wivenhoe train.

In the First World War many soldiers were billeted in Wivenhoe and the surrounding villages.  She recalls the tramping sound of marching troops and shouted orders near the railway station in 1915 as troops waited to be taken by train for embarkation to troopships, possibly in Southampton.  She speaks of the wooden trestle bridge built over the Colne from Pearson’s Quay to the Wivenhoe wall to enable troops and guns to be transferred from one side of the river to the other, and in 1916 she remembers King George passing through Wivenhoe in an open car, down the High St and Station Rd, through the toll gate, and across the road to Rowhedge ferry hard where he alighted.

This page was added on 05/03/2016.

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