Peter Whittingham Tapes - number 2

Take a trip down memory lane with Peter Whittingham in tape number 2 of 2, as he recalls how life used to be lived in bygone Rochford. Old photos of Rochford have been added to enhance the narrative, although we couldn't find all the relevant photos for each part of it.

Press this YouTube link or read below.

Rochford Past and Present

by Peter Whittingham (tape number 2)


Rochford Market was started in 1747. This was granted to Sir Guy de Rochford by Royal Charter to hold a market on a Tuesday and a 3 day fair on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of Whitsun Week. Whitsun fairs slowly faded out as the square was not large enough to hold all the stalls. One must remember that the wool house at this time was still standing and took up a large part of the square.

Market fairs were joining up with circuses and were looking for larger venues. Southend in the 1860s was beginning to develop. The Barnum & Bailey Circus Show was held at the Marine Park on July 24th 1899.  September 3rd 1903, Buffalo Bill and His Great Show was also at the Marine Park but nevertheless smaller fairs still came to Rochford on Whit Monday. 

As a young lad I can recall my father talking to his friends about the things that went on at these fairs. The bare fist fighting that took place in the auctioneer’s ring in the northwest corner of the square.  Plenty of straw was put down to soften the fall.  One must remember that there were no 3-minute rounds.  The fighter who remained on his feet was the winner.  Farm waggons were put round the ring so people could get a better view of what was going on. 

A blacksmith named Canadian Johnson, a local man who worked for my great grandfather, Joseph Whittingham, who had the carriage and wagon works, and also the brass and iron foundry in Church Street.

Johnson was renowned for his bare fist fighting, apparently he had a very short temper and would pick a fight with anyone.

My great uncle John told me he was one of the best general smiths in the area.  Johnson’s wife was a small lady who ruled him with a rod of iron, as the saying goes, who would proudly show off his battle scars for a pint of beer.

My father also told me about the large black bear that would dance when its handler played a tune on his penny whistle.  It was reputed that when this bear died, the late Mr. George Farley Golding, who lived in South Street where the chemists shop is now, bought it and had it stuffed.

I used to go with my father on his birthday, to the Goldings, to have afternoon tea, as my father was born in this house, 8th March 1871.

As you entered, standing in the hall was this large black bear.

Mr Golding was a collector of antiques, including different items he had found during his many years as a builder, such as old coins and pieces of pottery. There were many pieces from German aircraft and airships that had crashed during the 1914-18 war.


Market Day.

Thursday was the highlight of the week, when I was a boy living in Rochford.

In the early hours of the morning, the iron railings were erected on the north side of the square, in front of the shops and the wattle hurdles would be tied together with binder twine, to make up pens for the sheep and pigs.

The first to arrive would be those driven in by herdsmen and his dog from the local farms.  The other cattle from farther afield, would be brought in by horse drawn cattle carts. 

When the railway came to Rochford in 1898, this helped the market no-end as the cattle could be brought in from other towns and also transported out by train. 

Cows and bullocks would be tied up to the railings facing the shops, and the drover would paste the animal’s rump and stick on a numbered label. 

During the morning, the animals would be looked at, felt and checked by the prospective buyers and the children as they walked past would give them a pat and rub their noses.

If we walk through the passage between the King’s Head and Barclays Bank, and go into the King’s Head yard, you would see the chickens, rabbits, geese, ducks and goats and many crates of eggs which were to be sold by auction at 11.45am. 

A drover would go round the square, ringing a large hand-bell to warn people that the auction was about to begin.

If you bought a chicken or cockerel, there would always be someone at hand to kill it and pluck it for you.

At Christmas time, you could always pick up a turkey, duck or a goose at a bargain price.

When eggs were plentiful during the summer months, my father would buy four or five score by auction for as little as 6 pence a score, or 2½ pence in new money.  My mother would put them in a large earthenware pot filled with isinglass preservative.  These were used during the winter months when the eggs were in short supply. 

One must remember there were no large battery henhouses in those days: chickens were out all day, scratching and finding food for themselves.  Corn, maize and cockleshell grit were scattered on the ground and the eggs were collected twice a day from the henhouses.

At 1.45pm, the drover would go round the square once again ringing the hand-bell to let people know that the cattle auction was about to begin.

The auctioneers ring was in the northwest corner of the square.  As the animals were brought into the ring, a drover would call out its number to the auctioneer and a shout would go out ‘Bull calf’ or ‘Maiden heifer’, sir!  And then the bidding would start.  ‘What am I asked for this fine beast?’

As a young lad, I would squeeze to the front of the ring to see who was bidding and watch for a twitching finger, a nod of the head, a tap of the stick.  Then the auctioneer would call out ‘All done, gentlemen!’ three times and slap his book and call out the name of the buyer.

The seed merchants’ representatives were also there, buying and selling, with plenty of chat and banter with their customers.

The names of some of the firms which come to mind are:-

Hastlers of Dunmow

E Marriage and Son of Colchester

Cramphorns Ltd.

James and George Matthews of Harold Wood and Battlesbridge

A M & H Rankin of Little Stambridge

These representatives not only sold seed to the farmers, but also bought wheat, oats and barley from the farmers. 

A farmer would hand the representative a small, cotton draw bag of wheat, who would take out a few grains, rub it in his hands, blow on it, then put it in his mouth and nibble it.  Then, he would tell the farmer how much a quarter he would pay him.  A quarter is 8 bushels or 2.900 hectolitres. 

The agricultural representatives would be present, chatting to farmers about new ploughs, wing rolls, chaff-cutters, horse drawn hay rakes, etc. – not forgetting the tractors.

One must remember the majority of farmers used horses to do all the work, such as ploughing and the carting of goods.

Some of the firms that were there on a Thursday were:-

Bentalls of Maldon

Sidney C Darvey of Wickford and the

Maldon Ironworks from Heybridge.

E & H Grimwade of West Street, Prittlewell, would be showing off their Suffolk Punch stallions. These were all plumed-up with their manes plaited with coloured ribbons.  They would be trotted up and down and admired by everyone.

Many farmers brought their wives into town on a Thursday to do the weekly shopping.

Leaving the square, let us walk down West Street.  On our right is H. Mann the grocers where there was a beautiful smell of coffee being freshly ground by the large coffee grinder that stood in the window. This is now the carpet shop.

The chemist, next door, was a fascinating place with large coloured ornamental bottles in the window and also some antique medical instruments on show.  Inside the shop, all round the walls were small wooden drawers containing herbs and medications.

Across the road, where the Chinese Take-away is now was William Turner, Family Butcher, a dapper little man, always smartly dressed in a striped apron and a straw boater.  He would stand in his doorway, twisting his waxed moustache greeting people as they passed by.  He was quite a character.

A little further down on our left is Francis, the printers. In the window there would be posters of the local events being held and also auction sales.  This is now A. J. Calladine, Estate Agents. 

Next door was Billy Potter, fishmonger, where you would look at the different fish on display in the window. You would then place your order and collect it after you had finished your other shopping, before returning home.

As you walked past, you would hear him call out “Frying tonight, the hole in the wall!”  This was because the frying equipment was in the yard behind the shop and the fried fish and chips were served to you through a hole in the wall in the Back Lane.  This is now the antique shop. 

In the 1930’s, Billy Potter moved into his new fish shop in North Street, which is now Pullums.

Then came the cook shop. This was run by Miss Bella Sands and Miss Alice Marvin.  What a selection of home made cakes they did.  I can remember their party cakes which they did for children’s parties. 

Mrs Down’s little sweet shop came next.  This was very popular with the children coming home from Rochford School.  My favourite sweets were liquorice laces, aniseed balls and gobstoppers.

Sitting in her window, on a cushion, would be her little Pekinese dog, with a large red ribbon bow tied round its neck.

Across the road, where the wedding gown shop is now, was another sweet shop run by the two Miss Blackburns. In here, you could buy homemade toffee and also homemade honeycomb, two ounces for a penny, or half pence new money.

Next door to Clements the bakers and confectioners was the saddlers and harness makers shop run by Duncan Macbriar, this is now a restaurant.  I have spent many a long hour watching Mr. Macbriar making new harness and doing repairs.

Thursday was a busy day for him as the farmers collected their repairs and brought him in more work to be done when they came to the market.  Duncan in his own way was a character. 

Rhubarb Kilworth who was a chimney sweep and odd job man.  Rhubarb could never get his horse past Duncan’s shop.  It would wait for Duncan to come out and give it a crust of bread.  The only time it would pass the shop was Wednesday afternoon and Sunday when the shop was closed.

We can hear the ringing of an anvil, which comes from Mr. Arthur Topsfield’s blacksmiths shop as he hammers the iron into shape for a horseshoe or he may be drawing out harrow spikes or re-pointing ploughshare tips.

Let us spend a little time watching him at work. As he leans on the bellows beam, the forge fire starts to roar as the air from the bellows is forced into the fire.

As he takes out the red hot bar from the fire to the anvil, he starts to hammer it into shape.

On the walls are many different types of horseshoes which he has made.

I have spent many Saturday mornings helping Mr. Topsfield and his son, Jack, doing odd jobs and listening to stories about the temperament of different horses.

One which comes to mind is a shire horse called The Lion which was at Rochford Hall.  It was only shod once, and after one day, the blacksmith had the job of removing the shoes as it had done a lot of damage to itself and its stable and to its dying day it wore no shoes and only wore a set of leather harness and no chains, as chains made it very nervous.

Let us cross the road to G. & H Willans and Sons, grocers.  This shop is now the Indian restaurant.

As you entered the shop you would be greeted by Mrs. Willans sitting at her pay desk in the centre.  She would be giving out orders to her sons Frank and Don.

Sides of bacon hung from the ceiling for you to choose from.

Willans were renowned for their brawns, such was the demand, these had to be ordered.

12¼ lb tins of biscuits were stacked 3 or 4 high.  In front of the counter, were tins of biscuits with glass fronts so you could see the contents.  You could buy broken biscuits for a few pence a pound.

Mr Don would go out three times a week collecting orders.  He called on my mother Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and these orders would be delivered locally by boys on their trade bikes.  Out of town orders were delivered by horse and cart.

You could hear Mr. Frank shout out, “Forward Freeman!” and “Back Miss Pitt!”

That meant Freeman would serve on the counter and Miss Pitt to go into the china shop to serve a customer. This is now Bill Haynes florists shop.

A week before Christmas, the hanging bars were fixed to the front of the shop, ready to hang the turkeys on.  These were prime birds from Norfolk.

You could stand in the road and choose which one you would like.  Mr. Frank would be at hand to get it down with his long pole.

At night time, a character named Norman Britain would be on duty with his shot gun, marching up and down like a soldier on guard duty.

The Willans family were renowned for their singing and would entertain at local functions.

Just to the right of the florists’ shop was a pump that stood on a stone platform.  This was used to get the water up from the well.  The cobbled stones area, in front of the pump was called the ‘Town Wash’ where tradesmen could wash their horse drawn carts and vans.  Only a few of these cobbled stones remain undisturbed and they are at the corner of West Street and Back Lane, opposite the Marlborough Head Inn.

At one time, the streets of Rochford were paved with these stones and if somebody was seriously ill, straw was put on the road to muffle the noise of the horses and carts as they went by.

Before we return to the Market Square, we must have a look in Whittingham’s showroom at the carts, gigs and traps.  These would be built to your own specification.  They also built brakes and charabancs. 

I have a bill head stating in which towns these were running:  Barrow-in-Furness, Bexhill-on-Sea, Chatham, Edinburgh, Herne Bay, London, Maidstone, Manchester, Rochester, Southend-on-Sea and Westgate-on-Sea.

A petrol station is now on this site.

As we walk back to the square, we pass Winterburns dress and haberdashery shop.  The ladies would stop and admire the dresses in the window, with a view of buying one.  This is now Rumbelows the electrical shop.

Rome and Bishop, in the Market Square, was another busy shop, not only selling iron and hardware goods, but also sporting guns and rifles. They were main stockists for Eley cartridges.  Farmers like to keep a stock in hand for shooting rabbits, hares and vermin.  They were also plumbers and general builders and had quite a large workforce, as they were much in demand.  This is now a card shop.

Shelleys, the grocers, on the corner of West Street and the square was another busy shop.  They were renowned for their sausages.  If you wanted a pound of their ‘specials’ on a Saturday, you had to order them during the week or the previous Saturday.  A supermarket has now been built on this site.

Next to the King’s Head, on the left was Stanley Bishop’s china shop, next door to that was Mrs Gower’s sweet shop where you could buy home-made ice cream.  People came from miles around to buy this. 

Next to this was Stanley Bishops haberdashery shop with access through to the top shop on the corner.  In here you could buy anything from a needle to a haystack. 

Rolls and rolls of lino stood up on end, and on the shelves would be pots, pans, kettles, chamber pots.  Before he wrapped up a chamber pot, he would hang it on his little finger and tap it with his pencil, to let you know it was not cracked.

He also stocked garden implements and in the drawers there were nails, screws and lots of odds and ends.

Another Rochford character was Nathaniel Carter, clock and watch repairer.  His shop was next to Palmer’s the butchers, now known as Horner’s Corner.

When you took a watch in there to be repaired, it took many visits before you got it back.  He used to ride a 250 Douglas motor cycle, which my father sold him in 1912. I can see him going past now, with his cap on back-to-front to save it from being blown off.

No. 22 South Street was a general drapers.  On the fascia board was General Draper with W. Barnes in the middle, so he was always known as ‘General Barnes’.  He was a dapper little man who always wore a bowler hat.

If you wanted something from the top shelf, he would jump on the counter to reach it.

There is one more shop to visit, and that is Potters, the general grocers in North Street, now the Upper Crust Bakery.  This was a real old fashioned grocers’, saw dust on the floor and oil-lamps hanging from the ceiling. 

When I was a young lad, my mother would send me to Potters to get the weekly groceries.

I can remember going there with a 2lb jam jar with string tied round the top to make a handle and get filled up with black treacle out of a wooden barrel: in the winter, a candle was kept burning under the top to keep it warm so the treacle would run out.

This shop was like Aladdin’s cave: they sold everything in here, sides of bacon hung from the ceiling and also kettles and pots and pans.

After the market had finished, the hurdles and iron railings were taken away and the square was hosed down.

As boys, we would stand on the hose and stop the flow of water.  Mr. Phil Sargent would shout at us to get off.  We had to be quick or he doused us with water.  This was all done in great fun.

There were four registered slaughter houses in Rochford. They were:

  1. Turner, West Street,
  2. Fance and Sons, Market Square,
  3. Palmer, East Street,
  4. C.F. Searles and Son, North Street.

From 4pm until late evening, you could hear the crack of the humane pistol as the animals were being killed.

At the Christmas Market, the prime animals would be selected and a rosette would be hung round its neck. The butchers who bought these beasts would hang the rosettes in their window to let customers know that the meat on show was from the prize winning animal.

The head of the prize winning pig would be displayed with a paper frill round its neck and an orange in its mouth.

The market had a good selection of turkeys, cockerels, geese and ducks in prime condition for the Christmas table.  These were sold by auction and what a bargain you could get.  If you bought a bird that was too big for your oven, the baker would cook it for you in his oven for a few coppers.

Many a time I’ve seen wives leaving the bake house with a bird covered up on a pram on its way to the dinner table.


Armistice Day, November 11th.

Two farm wagons would be drawn up in the square ready for the service.  One had the piano and lectern on and the other had forms on for the councillors to sit on.

At 10.30 the children at Rochford School would assemble in the playground ready to be marched up to the square for the remembrance service at 10.45.

The first hymn was ‘Eternal Father Strong to Save’, followed by the reading of the names from the Roll of Honour of those who had laid down their lives in the war. 

Then came the two minute silence.

As we waited for the town clock to strike 11, the steam whistle at Rankins flour mill would be heard and also the one at the Southend Corporation Sewerage Works at Prittlewell.  At the sound of this, everything stopped for two minutes - lorries, buses, cars, horses and carts, not a sound would be heard anywhere.

The steam whistles would blow again after the two minutes and everything came back to normal.

The service finished with prayers and the hymn ‘Oh God our help in ages past’.

This was a very touching occasion, especially for those who had lost a member of their family or a friend in the war.

When I look back over the years and see how things have changed, such as re-surfacing the roads, this was a long and messy.

A day or so before the work began, two men with a horse and cart would shovel out small heaps of shingle along the side the road, ready for when the horse-drawn tar cart came along.  This had a fire under a tank of tar and also a pump worked by two men, so the hot tar could be sprayed on the road and then the shingle would be thrown onto the wet tar.

The children were warned by their parents to be careful and not to get tar on their shoes, as it was a job to get off the carpets.

As you walked past these heaps of shingle, you would see boys sorting out small round stones: these were used for shot for their catapults.  I always had a bag full.

On a Saturday, we would go up to Ironwell Lane, under the railway bridge, and on the right was Mr. Knight’s knackers’ yard.  We would sit and wait for the water rats to come out of the brook and run into his yard to nibble at the bones.

Some of the boys were really good shots.  Wilkie Turner and Spider Arvin were the best.  A rat on the run wanted a lot of hitting.

When the road was opened up, this was also a long job.  No-one had a pneumatic drill. This was generally done by four men and a boy with 14lb sledgehammers and an 18 inch clink.

They would stand round in a circle, the boy would hold the clink with a pair of long tongs and the foreman would knock it into the ground.  When it was firm he would shout ‘Ready lads!’ and in turn they would sing “One, two, three, four and down you go!”  This was fascinating to watch the men swinging their sledgehammers. 

The Southend Gaslight and Coke Company were the first to have a mobile mounted compressor that could work two road breaking drills, which they hired out.

When a trench was opened for any length of time, a night-watchman would be on duty sitting in his little hut, and a nice coke fire would be glowing.  His main job was to see that the red oil lamps round the trench were all alight.  Before he went off duty, you would see him trimming the wicks and filling them up with oil ready to be lit at the dark hour.

People as they went past would stop and have a chat and may have a mug of tea with him.

In the early hours of the morning you would see him cooking his breakfast on a shovel over the coke fire.

The Essex County Show was held at Rochford three times, 1921, 1927 and in 1933.

My father told me that the 1921 show was held in a field called Luster Mead in the Hall Road.  This field is on the left before you get to the Glebe.

1927 and 33 shows were held at Holt Farm on the Ashingdon Road. There were two entrances to the show ground, one just before the corner of Rectory Road, and the other in Rectory Road.

These were three day shows and it took several weeks of preparation.

Marquees and tents had to be erected and covered pens and stalls for the livestock, and the herdsmen would sleep in a tent nearby.

Rochford Railway Station was kept very busy in unloading sheep, pigs, cows, bullocks that came in by train for the show.

Flat trucks would have all sorts of agricultural machinery on them. 

I and many other local boys would go to the cattle pens to see these trucks being unloaded.

I can remember my Scout days when we had ‘bob-a-job’ week: and the 1933 show I booked up myself to carry Captain Sparrow’s medical case.  He was appointed Honorary Veterinary Surgeon to the show.

All animals had to be checked, to make sure they carried no infectious disease.  The few days I was with him was most interesting. I also got a free pass to the show to be a message runner for the Secretary, as in those days there were no ‘walkie-talkie’ sets to relay messages.

You soon got to know where the different stalls and pens were.  Different people soon got to know you and you were given time off to have a look round

It was nice when you were offered a ride on a traction engine or maybe on a Fordson Tractor.

On the show days we were kept busy running messages backwards and forwards from the judging rings to the Secretary’s tent.


Rochford Union Workhouse and Hospital.

The history of Rochford Hospital really begins in 1834, the year when the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed. 

Parochial Workhouses had long been the established order of things and the Union of Parishes for Poor Law purposes provided something better.

Rochford Union comprised of 20 parishes in 1837.  The Rochford Union Workhouse was built at a cost of £5000 but it took another £1000 before it was fully completed.

It was a spacious and commodious place and housed 2 to 300 men, women and children.

The workhouse was managed by a Board of Guardians who were elected councillors representing each of the parishes.

Before the workhouse was built, parish councils maintained a parish house.  Rochford’s was in North Street between Portias, the shoe shop, and the post office, then the police station.

It was a long black, wooden building and it cost the Parish Council £11.10s per annum to house the poor and destitute.

The Union of Parishes for Poor Law purposes, provided something better and the Union Workhouse gave the poor and infirm somewhere decent to live and have wholesome food and clothes.

Before the 1834 Act, history tells us that the conditions of the working classes in England was appalling.

Charles Dickens was moved to write Oliver Twist.

Men were transported to Botany Bay for forming a Union of Agricultural Workers.

Little boys toiled in darkness in the coal mines.

Workhouses were often called the ‘Paupers Palace’.  When one realises how strict the rules were, it was no palace! 

There was a strict work routine throughout the day, such as laundry work, working on the gardens and also the vegetable plots.  Not forgetting the treadmill which was used for crushing bones! 

Times were laid down for when the inmates could smoke, and they were 7:30 to 8:30, 12:30 to 1:30, and 5:30 to 6:30.

Inmates had a ‘P’ patch stitched to their clothing, to let people know they were from the workhouse.

A nick name for the workhouse was ‘the spike’.

Penalties for breaking the rules laid down by the Guardians were severe.  Offenders for insubordination were put on bread and water and put into solitary confinement.

Men, women and children were separated and were housed in different blocks.

If married couples were caught together without permission, this was a punishable offence.  This also applied to single men and women.

The children had some schooling by a teacher employed by the Guardians.  Their wage was £20 per annum plus beer money and living in the workhouse.

A woman teacher received £20 per annum which included laundry and no beer money but living in.

According to the Guardians Minute Book, teachers did not stay very long.  I gather it was because the children were rather unruly.

The cost of keeping inmates was about sixpence or 2½ pence per week.

The Guardians were always looking at different ways of saving money.

At one time they bought in stone to be broken up for road making at 13 shillings per cubic yard, and selling it to the council themselves at 12/6d per cubic yard.

The stone breaking was stopped and firewood chopping took its place as this was more profitable as timber firms would sell the workhouse short ends of pinewood.

Able inmates were able to chop and tie it up into small bundles of firewood which they sold at 3 shillings per hundred.

Net making was also introduced for the infirm and elderly to do.  The children also helped in net making.

Another important duty which the male inmates did was to open and close the gates at the Union Lane entrance.

To gain entrance to the Union, you had to ring the bell and the inmate would unlock the gate for you to enter. You had to sign the register in the Porter’s Lodge which was just inside the gate on the left.  And, when you left and went out, the same procedure was reversed.

The Guardians would check the register once a fortnight at their meeting.

It was up to the duty porter to see that there were no errors in the register.

As the workhouse grew in size, so was the demand for water increased.  So, in 1891, a concrete tank was built, to hold not less that 600 gallons, to collect the water from the chapel and workhouse roofs. This water was used in the laundry.

Still the demand increased and a 2 inch pipe was laid from the well in Ironwell Lane to the workhouse.  Inmates and tramps had to man this double action pump to earn their keep.

The tramps were often called ‘sundowners’ and they were allowed into the Union at sunset Saturday and released at sunrise Sunday morning.

The workhouse Master had power not to release them if they thought they were not able to look after themselves.

Quickly going through the Guardians Minute Book in 1891, I saw an entry:

‘J.W. Whittingham - Repairs to Union Hearse £6.’ 

And also a tender from W. Bishop for -

Huck-a-back towelling at 8½ d per yard.

Men’s shirts £1.13s per dozen.

Boy’s shirts 18s per dozen.

Women’s stockings 8s per dozen pairs.


In the same year, the local board had an objection to a loan being raised to defray the cost to the proposed ward for the care of lunatics and also the alterations to the workhouse hospital.

In 1893 the ration for inmates was:-

Breakfast:  One pint of tea, 4 ounces of bread and butter.

Dinner:  6 ounces of meat and one pound of potatoes.

Supper:  One pint of tea, 4 ounces of bread and butter.

This generous menu cost 1 shilling and 5p per inmate per week and they had to work a 12 hour day for this.

The approved menu by the Local Government Board of 1893 was:

Men’s breakfast:  6 ounces of bread, 1½ pint of gruel.

Dinner:  3 ounces of bread, 4 ounces of meat.

Supper:  6 ounces of bread, 1 ounces of cheese, 1 pint of gruel.

Women had one ounce less meat and bread. The menus were cut down for the aged and infirm. This also applied to the children according to their age.

As the workhouse intake grew, more accommodation was needed, for the aged and infirm required medical attention, and this was the start of the hospital.

Mains water was supplied to the workhouse when it came to Rochford in 1900.

Things were beginning to change.

Visiting committees recommended that people living in the Rochford Hundred be asked to take pauper children from the Poor Law Institution and the Guardians pay them 3s to 4s, together with school fees and medical attention.

In 1920, Dr. Frank Newey was appointed Medical Superintendent, and in the 1930s, Dr. Seaman became his deputy.  I remember Dr. Newey telling my father about this young Canadian doctor.  His words were, “I can work long hours, but this young man can see me under the table.”

In 1924, Southend Victoria Hospital was becoming over-crowded due to the increase of population in Southend.  To offset this influx of patients, Rochford Union Workhouse Hospital was able to take the overflow of patients.  Southend Borough Councillors were elected on to the Board of Guardians and it was re-named the Rochford Infirmary. 

In 1926, plans were made for a new hospital in Southend with a minimum of 200 bed capacity.

The Local Government Act of 1929, gave power to the Southend Health Committee to take over the Poor Law institution at the Rochford Hundred which would be run by a paid medical staff.

I must mention Acacia House.  This was the home for pauper children.  Southend Health Committee had these children put into foster homes. This was a good change as the children were given love and kindness by their foster parents.

The workhouse dress was discontinued and they were dressed the same as everyone else, including shoes and socks instead of the workhouse clogs.

It was then known as the Southend Municipal Hospital, Rochford.

In the same year, a lunatic asylum was built, to save sending medical cases to other hospitals and according to the council minutes, this was a saving on expenditure.

In 1932, Southend General Hospital was opened but after a few years, it was full to capacity.

Once again the Southend Health Committee were looking for expansion.  So in 1936, the Rochford Hospital Management Committee purchased the land on the north side boundary of the old workhouse.

A celebration tea was held to mark a 100 years of the workhouse, or Rochford House as it was known, took place in 1937.

I quote from the programme, ‘Every possible effort is being made by the Public Assistance Committee through the Health Sub-committee and by the master and matron and staff of the Rochford House to provide that Rochford House shall be called a ‘home’ in every respect.’

Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, laid the foundation stone to the new hospital extension in 1938 and made a return visit in 1947 and opened the S.F. Johnson Block.  She also unveiled the memorial tablets in the entrance hall commemorating the services rendered to the hospital by the late Dr. Frank Newey, the first Medical Superintendent, and by the late Charles Grant Pugh, Medical Officer of Health.

And this is just a short story of the Rochford Hospital and Workhouse.


I will finish this tape with a few notes from an old diary which was loaned to me.

8th December 1874

Apton Hall was burnt down, and that was on a Tuesday night.


20th May 1893

Emma Hunt was murdered in the wilderness at the back of Rochford Hall. A young man was in custody for a long time but was set free.


Saturday, 8th February 1896

Mr. Tabor was following the hare and hounds when jumping the fence at Mr. Whitwell’s field into Mr. Manning’s, the Parson’s Meadow ripped its body on a stake. 

This was stitched up by Mr. Sparrow, the horse doctor, but died the next day.


Saturday, 21st March 1896

Mr Tabor’s steeplechase was run, starting from Stambridge Hall on to Scotts Hall, Canewdon Hall and back.


24th June 1897

A very hot midday.  Heavy, strong lightning and thunder, and hailstones weighing as much as 5 ounces.

James Outen finished making the gates for Apton Hall Drive.


29th January 1898

William Wilks kicked and knocked his wife about at Pudsey Hall, Canewdon.  He was convicted of murder and was hanged at Springfield Gaol on July 19th, 1898.


I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to this tape.

It has given me great pleasure to record ‘Rochford Past and Present’.

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