Local history and of Hawkwell, Hockley and Rochford:
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By Margaret Chambers our local historian.
Hawkwell is in the District of Rochford, Essex. ROCHFORD, a town in the south-eastern parliamentary division of Essex, England, 39 m. E. by N. from London by the Southend branch of the Great Eastern railway. Pop. (1901) 1829. It lies on the small river Roach, near the head of a long estuary.' The town has a Perpendicular church (St Andrew), a corn exchange and some agricultural trade. Rochford Hall, a picturesque gabled mansion of various dates, belonged Once to the Boleyns, and it has been stated that Anne Boleyn, the unfortunate queen of Henry VIII., was born here, but this is in no way proved. Near Rochford the Lawless or Whispering Court, a remarkable survival of unknown origin, is held by a manorial tenure on the Wednesday following Michaelmas Day, beginning at midnight. No light is permitted, nor may voices be raised above a whisper. Nearly 3 miles north west from Rochford is Ashingdon. This is generally accepted as the scene of the fight of Assandun in 1o16 between Canute and Edmund Ironside, in which the English were defeated through treachery in their ranks. Earthworks, of this or an earlier date, remain.
First of all there is the name itself - Hawkwell - to be considered – and here is the first mystery. The Rev, Philip Morant writing in the 1760’s suggests that the name is derived from Hawk and well, or spring, which seems simple enough, although another historian (Philip Benton) in 1867 thought it derived from the German Hochwell or the High Well. There were indeed two wells in the Parish - one on the ridge of the upper common near the White Hart Inn, which was the High Well, and one in Ironwell Lane. The latter was known as the Iron Well because of the hardness of its water compared to the soft water of the High Well. Why we should have the name originally in German and then translated into English doesn’t seem to be explained. A further explanation is that the name in fact derives from the Saxon words for ‘bend in the stream’. The Domesday Book of 1086 mentions our Parish as Hacuuella or Hechuuella, and the Saxon for bend or hook was ‘haca’. Haca-wiella was probably the name of the stream and Hawk probably came later due to confusion with the bird name. Through the ages the name was variously written as Hakewell, Hawkeswelle and Hawkewell.
Manors of Clements
The present Parish was divided in the 13th century into the Manors of Clements Hall and Hawkwell Hall. The Manor of Clements took its name from a family to whom it belonged. Philip Clement owned it in 1440. Eventually after changes over many years the house came into the possession of Thomas White, F.R.S. He contributed materially to his brother the Rev.Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne - a very well known book. His grandson, Algernon Holt White gave land for the Hawkwell National School to be built in 1846. The total cost of this building was Three hundred pounds, including a parliamentary grant. It was a mixed school under a mistress. In 1851 there were 74 children at school from the ages of 3 - 14. Total population in that year was 349. The jurisdiction of the Manor of Hawkwell Hall became extinct and Hawkwell Hall is now a farm and is situated across the road from St. Mary’s Church.
St. Mary’s Church
The early history of St. Mary-the-Virgin Parish Church is obscure. Philip Benton estimates that the date of the building is about 1400 but others think it much older, probably about 1300. The first name on the List of Rectors is William de Bayeuse but it is undated, the first date on the list is 1323 against the name of Alexander de Bayeuse. If William was the first Rector, the Church has had fifty two Rectors to date. The little wooden belfry (as it is called in ancient records) had three bells, as recorded in 1757, but in 1768 there were two and in 1849 can be read ‘ther remanythe at thys p’sent tyme in the churche of Hawkwell ... one bell in the stepyll’. In an inventory of church goods taken in the reign of Edward VI it is recorded that Sir William Stafford forcibly carried off the bells of Rochford, Ashingdon, South Shoebury, Hawkwell and Foulness, and sold them for his own benefit. In 1884 the Rev. James Montagu recorded that swarms of bees had taken up residence on either side of the Church Porch for many years and had frequently stung several of the congregation. Several of the weather boards were taken out and the bees destroyed and it was decided to rebuild the porch. A concert was given at Rochford and the proceeds amounted to Nine Guineas, contributions were Twenty six pounds and the balance of Thirty six pounds was paid by the Rector. This same Rector left the Church a carved Pulpit, Prayer Desk and Font Cover, all his own work. An event still remembered by many Hawkwell people was a bombing incident in the early hours of Sunday, 15th September, 1940, when considerable damage was done to the roof, windows and ceiling and also the tower. It was at the time of the Harvest Thanksgiving Festival and the services had to be carried on in the churchyard. In the 1990’s the church was extended to twice its original size, the work has been carried out very professionally and looks most attractive inside and out and has been much admired. It was re-opened in July, 1996.
White Hart Pub
The White Hart was the only Public House in the Parish but, sadly, owing to parish boundary changes, it is now officially in Hockley Parish. Certain Deeds show that Thomas Holt White, followed by his son Algernon Holt White, who were Lords of the Manor in the 19th Century held Court Baron and Customary Court Meetings in the White Hart. In trying to discover the actual age of the White Hart I came across the Annual Register of Recognizances which gave names and dates of the Innholders. The oldest date was 1792 when James Benton was the Innholder. I haven’t been able so far to find out anything further back. The White Hart was on the coach route which ran from Southend to London so would probably have put up travellers in some of the upstairs rooms shown on the photograph.
Census details show how the population totals changed from 1801 to 1901. In 1801 the total was 220 and this figure increased to 366 in 1841 and then gradually dropped until 1891 when it was 264. This was partly due to farm mechanisation when less staff were needed so people moved away. Then in 1889 the Railway was extended right through to Southend and numbers have risen ever since.
We still have a small number of books called THE HERITAGE WALKS OF HAWKWELL written for us by our local historian Margaret Chambers. They may be purchase at £6 each from 2 Englefield Close. If you would like us to post you a copy while stocks last, please send a request with your name, phone number, address and a cheque for £7 (including £1 p&p) payable to Hawkwell Residents Association at the above address. You may also check availability via the Contact Us page.
Too large to be a village, but too small to be called a town, Hockley is a large village and civil parish in Essex, lying between Rayleigh and Rochford while the urban area runs into the neighbouring parish of Hawkwell. It came to prominence during the coming of the railway in the 1890s.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Hockley like this:
'Hockley, a village and a parish in Rochford district, Essex. The village stands on a hill, one and a half miles south of the river Crouch, four miles north west of Rochford, and six miles north of Benfleet railway station; and has a post office under Chelmsford. The parish comprises 4,614 acres, population 798 and 170 houses. The property is much subdivided. High grounds here command some fine views. Wharves, and remains of an ancient bridge, are on the Crouch at Hull-Bridge; and the river there is fordable at low water.'
The name Hockley is derived from an Anglo Saxon word meaning a small hill and Hockley is the home of a burial mound, Plumberow Mount, a mound that tops a hill at the end of Plumberow Avenue. The Mount was excavated in 1913, by Mr. E.B. Francis, in the hope that it would yield a wealthy burial. At the time, there was a summer house on the top of the mound, and so trenches were cut on three sides. The excavation found a Roman coin of Domitian and some Saxon pottery which may indicate a secondary burial. The oval mound is 14 feet (4.3 m) high, and 76 feet (23 m) in diameter, with a flattened top.,
Hockley is mentioned no less that three times in the 1086 Domesday Book and the then hamlet of Plumberow twice. At that time the main manor of Hocheleia - as it was then called - was in the possession of the royal Saxon abbey of St. Mary's, Barking. The abbey retained its responsibility for the living of Hockley's beautiful church of St Peter and Paul until the Reformation when it eventually passed into the possession of Wadham College, Oxford. The small and much loved church, stands on a high hill to the north-west of the village with magnificent views across the Crouch valley. The present building dates mainly from 1220, when it was enlarged. It has a nave which was possibly built before the twelfth century, a thirteen century chancel and a fourteenth century tower, the upper half of which is octagonal and was built at a later date. The tower holds three bells, manufactured by Miles Gray in 1626, by James Bartlett in 1684 and by John Hodgson in 1657, and the building is Grade II listed. Next to the church and opposite the old manor house, is Hockley's original school which first opened its doors in 1839. When the building became too small a new school was built on the High Road in 1903.
To the rear of school are Hockley Woods, which for centuries served the local community as a resource for fuel and building material. The woods were divided amongst a number of owners and jealousy guarded with high earth banks, which can still be seen today. Southend pier was constructed with timber from Hockley Woods. Today there is still a large wooded area named Hockley woods.
The Victorian Pump Room and Spa
In the centre of the village there is situated a grade II listed Victorian pump room which became known as Hockley Spa. The building was built as a spa to a design by John Lockyer in 1842, after Robert Clay found a medicinal spring in 1838. The pump room and a hotel to accommodate the expected visitors were completed in 1843. In the 19th century, there was a general feeling that spas were both desirable and profitable. A spa was proposed for Hockley was going to make the village's fortune, and it was expected to rank alongside Bath, Buxton, Leamington, Harrogate and Tunbridge Wells. Unfortunately the fashion for taking the waters was on the wane, with people preferring instead to visit the new seaside resorts such as Southend, and the venture failed. Hockley sank back into sleepy obscurity until becoming a commuter settlement in the post war years. It was subsequently used both as a Baptist chapel and then as a factory. The Pump Room survives, however, close to Hockley Station, and is now in private ownership.
The Coming of the Railway In 1889
The quiet and pretty village of Hockley changed forever in 1889 when the Great Eastern Railway reached Hockley. With the village now easily accessible to London, local landowners grasped the opportunity to 'get rich quick' and sold off their farmland for development. Special trains were run from London and the plots of land were sold at auctions, where champagne flowed freely. Eventually the holiday shacks that were erected into more permanent dwellings and the Hockley of today was born.
Hockley's Watering Holes
There are three well known pubs in Hockley, which are still in business - the Spa Hotel in the village, the Bull Inn, located in a timber framed and weatherboarded seventeenth century building and the White Hart Inn west of the village. The village green at the White Hart has hosted cricket games, bonfires on 5 November, and many other children's games in the past. In addition, the Hockley community centre has a members bar and provides a venue for numerous local groups and clubs. Hockley is also the site of the Bullwood Hall men's prison, which was a women's prison until 2006.
Rochford is a historic Market Town with its town centre containing many listed buildings, and the Market Square which in days gone by used to host the local livestock market. There are many local landmarks, including The Lawn, Rochford Hall, St Andrews Church, and the "Old House" in South Street. In days gone by Rochford was the centre of activity for miles around, the chief town of the Rochford Hundred, a sub-division of Essex. That importance, long before the establishment of Southend, or the growth of Rayleigh, has left its mark today and it is well worth exploring that heritage.
Approaching Rochford from the west, one passes The Lawn, nowadays a fine function suite, but originally a substantial house going back to 18th century and beyond, possibly used as a gatehouse to Rochford Hall, a mile further ahead. This road, with two Grade II listed milestones still in place, was built in 1777 by the then owner of the Hall to dissuade travellers from the natural approach to Rochford running past his front door. Today, as headquarters of Rochford Hundred Golf Club, we see just one corner of what was a very large manorial house. Opinions differ as to its age, but it probably had origins in 12th/13thcentury.
Certainly we know that Rochford Hall was in the ownership of the Boleyn family in the early 16th century when the Earl of Ormonde, Ann Boleyn's grandfather had regained possession by petitioning Henry VII. It passed to Ann's father and then, there being no male heir, to Ann's sister, Mary, who had married Sir William Stafford. Little evidence exists to support local legends about Ann's residing at the Hall for any lengthy period, but Mary and her husband did take up residence here and farmed in the area. A little later ownership fell to the Earls of Warwick, with Richard Rich being the most notable resident so far as Rochford is concerned. He was Lord Chancellor of England and died at Rochford Hall in 1567.
St Andrew's Church
St. Andrew's Church is a typical example of a 13th/14th century stone construction, with an impressive 16th century brick tower, featuring diapering decoration, and with the Coat of Arms of Earl of Ormonde, who was responsible for its construction. To the north is the vestry, a late 16th century brick addition. Outside, the Grade II listed grave of James Banyard - founder of The Peculiar People -can be found.
Almshouses and The Railway
Passing under the railway bridge, and turning right the eye is drawn to the row of Almshouses, still in good use, belying their 16th/17th century construction by Earl of Warwick in fulfilment of the Will of Richard Rich, his grandfather. A little further on the distinctive high roof of Whittingham's Garage tells us that, before the advent of cars, coaches were made and repaired there. The railway was extended from Shenfield a century ago, intended for agricultural business, running through South East Essex market towns. The Freight House was the holding "shed" for livestock from Rochford market. The Rochford Reservoir was constructed as a water source for the steam trains.
West Street and Market Square
In West Street you will see 18th/19th century properties, mostly quite modest, since this area was intended for shopping and trade generally. One might select a number of individual shops for mention - an example would be the bookshop, with the sweetshop next door, on the right half way up. A century or so ago Mr. Francis conducted a printing business here, together with running the post office. Look carefully at the brickwork to see where letters would have been posted at that time. Continuing up to Market Square, we come upon a large open area which many older residents recall as the site of a weekly livestock market which had its beginnings 750 years ago with the granting of a Royal Charter. Looking round the Square we see Connaught House as perhaps the most impressive building, constructed around 1770, it is said by a man of Irish descent with "lottery" winnings. The east side was originally open, but, certainly during the 1800's there was a renowned grocery and tea rooms, for example. On the south side there is the Women's Institute Hall which goes back to 1866 when it was built as the Corn Exchange. By the turn of the century Mr. Francis had moved his printing business into the premises, following a downturn in its original use, and then WW1 saw it used as a laundry. The Women's Institute took possession in 1931. The building next door is currently Barclays Bank was built in 1860's. The Kings Head has always dominated one side of the Square having been the first stop for stage coaches on their route to London from Prittlewell. There were stabling facilities at the rear. As part of an historic coaching route, Rochford has many local byways, the most well known being lronwell Lane.
The Whispering Post Ceremony
The Kings Head was, for many years, the point from which the annual Whispering Post ceremony commenced. This all began some 400 years ago when the then Lord of the Manor, 2nd Earl of Warwick, wanted to scotch plots against him by some of his tenants - minor manorial lords around the area. He'd heard them whispering one night. He called them to pledge their allegiance late one September night. This unique ceremony, in latter years, took the form of a supper at Kings Head, a procession at midnight across the Square, through the alley beside the bakers, straight across North Street and up to Kings Hill. At this house is a post around which the "tenants"
gathered to honour their Lord in whispers. The whole thing ended with further feasting at Kings Head. All this continued annually until 1892 when "Health & Safety" deemed that drunken youths with flaming torches, many having travelled into Rochford for the event, was all too dangerous. The Whispering Post, however, remains in place in the garden of Kings Hill in East Street. If we continue our route out from the Square, turning right, we shall be passing Horner's Corner, so called from the butcher's shop with its own slaughter house behind. It had housed a firm of auctioneers before that in the days when the cattle market was in full swing. The building fell into disuse but has been carefully restored. In South Street, to our left are a number of buildings with 17th century origins, and then the "Old House", almost half-way down on the left, is Rochford's pride and joy. Again the story is one of fairly recent restoration. Rochford District Council took on the work when demolition seemed likely and it now serves as an important part of their office complex here. The building certainly goes back to 13th century and grew over the years as it was used as a family residence. Sydenham House, also in South Street, is a substantial 18th century dwelling which served as a Girls' boarding school during the 1800's. Then there is the Masonic Hall, built as the Court House in 1860's, a reminder that Rochford was, indeed, the administrative centre for a wide area.
The Southend airport site lies partly on land in the Rochford District. It was formed on the flat well-drained fields of Westbarrow Hall Farm where in 1909 the area was used by two Leigh men, Victor Forbes and Arthur Arnold, to test out their home-made bamboo monoplane.
World War I
The site was first developed as an operational air base for the Royal Flying Corps in the Great War in the autumn of 1914. RFC training continued until May 1915 when the site, known also as Eastwood, was taken over by the Royal Naval Air Service who dictated Britain's war strategy. On 4th June 1916, the airfield was renamed RFC Rochford and it was designated as a night fighter station. Many sorties were flown against intruding Zeppelin airship raiders. Several squadrons used the airfield for varying durations until the formation of 61 Squadron at Rochford in 1917. They stayed at Rochford until 1919 when the recently formed RAF derequisitioned the airfield and civil aviation and pleasure flying began at the aerodrome. Aviation lessened due to a slump in trade, and eventually the station was closed in 1920, and returned to farmland for a while. Early in 1933, Southend Corporation bought the aerodrome for a flying ground, and two years later it became a municipal aerodrome. The Southend Flying Club, Crilly Airways, and Southend on Sea Flying Services Ltd were already in residence, along with the RAFVR.
World War II
On 1st September 1939, the Air Ministry requisitioned Rochford civil aerodrome and the airfield was renamed RAF Rochford and placed in No 11 Group of Fighter Command as a satellite field to RAF Hornchurch. The first squadron to arrive was 54 Squadron on 11th September 1939 with its Spitfires, followed by 600 City of London Squadron on 16th October with their Blenheim 1F's. During the Battle of Britain various squadrons from both Hornchurch and North Weald used Rochford as an advance base. On 26th October 1940, Rochford became a station in its own right and was known as RAF Southend, although the fighter control remained with Homchurch. On 18th June 1940, Rochford entered the History Record books when Flt.Lt. 'Sailor' Malan, of 74 Squadron became the first single seat pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft at night. A week later, he became the first pilot to down two aircraft in one night. As fighter command moved forward to a more offensive role in early 1941, Southend became the forward base for a number of Spitfire squadrons. On 1st May 1941, the airfield was transferred to North Weald Sector, and became a forward offensive fighter base. In bad weather on 9th February 1943, a lone Dornier 217 sneaked in right under patrolling Spitfires over Southend and shot up the airfield and escaped! At the beginning of June 1943 the airfield was transferred back into the Hornchurch sector and remained there until the operations room was closed down in February 1944. By March 1943, the war had passed it by and in 1944 it became part of the V1 balloon barrage network. RAF. Rochford (Southend) was de-requisitioned and a licence was issued to Southend Corporationon on 31st December 1946 and the airport returned to commercial and pleasure flights.
London Southend Airport Open's New Terminal
On 5th March 2012 The Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, visited London Southend Airport to officially open the new terminal building. The new terminal run by the Stobart Group, comes complete with a new control tower, runway extension, hotel and new airport railway station providing frequent train services direct to Stratford and to central London's Liverpool Street Station. They are now running flights to Waterford, Amsterdam, Alicante, Barcelona, Belfast, Faro, Ibiza, Jersey, Malaga and Mallorca ahead of the Olympic Games in July 2012. There are plans to extend the terminal by 150% during 2013, with a predicted growth to 2 million passengers per year by 2020. This is still quite low compared with around 2 million passengers per week at Heathrow.
The History of Lesney Cars in Rochford
John (Jack) Odell and Leslie Smith, the founding partners of Lesney, produced their first toys in the late 1940's. The Cement Mixer, the Caterpillar/Crawler Bulldozer, and the Aveling Barford Diesel Road Roller were 'economy toy models', which were cheaper than their rival Dinky model toys. The Milk Cart was the first of the company's early products that came out with its own box (until then, all the toys were issued without boxes). In 1953 Jack Odell discovered that a matchbox from the Norvic Match Company in Czecholslovakia could hold his newly designed new 'tiny toy' perfectly and hence 'Matchbox' was born. From this point onwards, the larger scaled toys began to take a secondary position within Lesney's plans and by 1955 there were no more made. In 1966, Lesney's received the Queen's Award to Industry employing some 3,600 workers at that time. They also achieved a special mention in 1967 in the Guiness Book of World Records, when output had reached almost 100 million models annually, and the company showed £28 million in sales and a £5 million profit. More awards followed, and in 1968, Smith and Odell received the OBE. By then, around 130 countries were involved on the Matchbox success trail.
The Rochford Factory
In 1969, E.K. Cole's huge factory, the Ekco Electronics Works on the Sweynes Industrial Estate, off Ashingdon Road, Rochford, was closed down, causing much unemployment in the area. The old Ekco building was taken over by the Lesney's toy factory. It became the largest employer in Rochford, and in the first year of production there business trebled. Until the early 1980s, Rochford was the main production site for Matchbox cars and similar metal toys. At one time over 2,000 people were employed there working both day and night shifts, making model cars at the factory site where the Lesney Housing Estate now exists. Unfortunately most of the work was tedious and repetitive and many of the workers were working mothers who worked a system of flexible working hours. Lesney were a responsible employer who laid on special Lesney buses to bring workers in from Shoebury, Southend and Rayleigh. Many will remember the distinctive Lesney liveried London buses travelling through Rochford heading towards the factory. In 1978, Lesney bought AMT, the US maker of model kits, and the American firm Vogue Dolls. But instead of boosting the company's turnover, the acqusitions triggered a downturn from which Lesney would not recover. This was the start of the recession. In 1980, it was realised that Lesney could not support the US market because of high labour costs in the UK, and that the only way forward would be to switch to cheaper and more superior production techniques in Asia. It wasn't long before the the firm ran into difficulties and Lesney went into receivership in 1981/82. The company was forced to close down with hundreds of local people losing their jobs. In Lesney's place, a new company, Matchbox
Toys, was created to serve as a holding company for all the former Lesney operations. However, after many troubled years, the factory finally closed, and the company relocated to Rugby, Warwickshire in 1990. Matchbox eventually moved to China and now only a road name reminds us of the glorious past and a huge housing estate now stands on the site.
The History of the Rayleigh Rockets
The Rayleigh Weir Stadium
Rayleigh used to have its own stadium, The Weir Stadium, where greyhound dog racing and speedway racing took place. Rayleigh Weir Stadium held its first greyhound meeting in 1948 when Frank Arnold was granted permission to open the track just a short walk from the Rayleigh Weir. It shared the venue with speedway later that year when the first meeting was held on the cinder track on the 17th July and continued to do so for the next 25 years. Stock car and banger racing also took place there. Once speedway finished in 1973 the writing was on the wall for greyhound racing at the venue, and the final meeting took place on 8th March 1974. The stadium was sold for redevelopment in the mid 1970s, and the site is now occupied by Sainsbury's and other retail stores. The only visible reminder of the Stadium's presence now is the road alongside a supermarket called 'Stadium Way'.
The Rayleigh Rockets Speedway Team
The Rayleigh Rockets speedway team were launched in 1948, and, until their demise in 1973, they were one of the most popular sporting teams in Essex. For a 25-year period beginning shortly after World War Two, the club's blue and yellow colours and silver rocket motif were at the forefront of Essex speedway. During the post-war period, speedway was an incredibly popular sport, with some clubs attracting crowds of up to 6,000. The Rockets were a big draw and were just one of the many clubs to benefit from this boom. However, a few years down the road, the government brought in an 'entertainment tax' which hit a lot of the clubs hard, putting around 50% taxation
on admission monies and that really did bring a lot of financial hardship to a lot of clubs. The Rayleigh Rockets Speedway team competed at the Weir Stadium against other clubs from around the country from the late 1940's until 1973, when it was announced that the stadium had been sold to developers and the Rockets would need to find a new home. The team held its final match on 20th October 1973 when it enjoyed a final victory over Eastbourne. In 1973, the promoter Len Silver took the Rockets to Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire to start the 1974 season as the Rye House Rockets. The Rockets' colour scheme lives on at Rye House. Ten years would pass before speedway returned to the county, with the formation of the Arena Essex Hammers, laterly Lakeside Hammers.
During their 25 year history there were periods, when the Rockets were domnant for various reasons, but they still became League Champions on 3 occasions in 1952, 1953 and 1960. The team were always known as the Rockets, although they did also run a team in the Southern League who were known as the Rovers.
The Rayleigh Rockets team of 1952
The original team featured Pat Clarke, Jack Unstead, Jim Gregory, Les McGillivary and Ron Howes, all of whom would go on to be all-time legends of the club. Howes would go down in the record books as the Rockets' first race winner, whilst McGillivary would go on to become the most capped rider for the club, making 216 appearances between 1948 and 1963. Other riders to enter into Rockets' folklore include the club's highest points-scorer Gerald Jackson, New Zealander Bruce Abernethy and Terry Stone.