My Rochford

A rhyming story

By Charles Bickford

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"MY ROCHFORD"

THE PRIMARY SCHOOL STILL STANDS AT THE START OF THE ASHINGDON ROAD, BUT MY TEACHERS ARE NO MORE.

THEY TAUGHT US WELL WITHIN THOSE WALLS, THROUGHOUT THE SECOND WORLD WAR.

MY MEMORIES STIR EACH TIME I PASS THIS WAY AND I RECALL THE OLD BROOK IN WHICH WE USED TO PLAY,

IT RAN FROM THE BRIDGE PAST THE COTTAGES AND THE RAILWAY, ENDING IN THE RIVER ROCHE PASSING WILLANS GROCERY STORE.

IT IS PIPED TODAY AND CHILDREN CAN NO LONGER EXPLORE, OR FISH FOR TIDDLERS AND STICKLEBACKS OR NEWTS,

NOR CREEP BACK HOME WITH WATER SQUELCHING FROM THEIR BOOTS.

NO LONGER DO COTTIS THE HAULIERS OR COPES THE COAL MERCHANTS CARTS RUMBLE UP OLD WEST STREET,

PULLED BY MAGNIFICENT SHIRES WITH STEEL SHOD FEET.

BACON THE BLACKSMITH’S SHEDS AND YARD ARE NO LONGER AT THE BOTTOM OF NORTH STREET,

WE WERE ALLOWED TO STAND BY THE DOOR WATCHING THE BLACKSMITH SHOEING AND THAT WAS A REAL TREAT.

THE ROAR OF THE FURNACE ALWAYS HELD ME IN AWE, I’D STAND THERE FOR AGES MY HEAD THROUGH THE DOOR,

THEY HEATED THE STEEL GRIPPED IN LONG HANDLED PLIER HAMMERING IT INTO SHAPE ON THE ANVIL THEN POKING IT BACK INTO THE FIRE.

THE BELLOWS WERE WORKED HARD FANNING THE FURNACE WITH AIR,

CREATING SPARKS THAT FLEW EVERYWHERE BUT THE HORSE THEY WOULD BE SHOEING DIDN’T SEEM TO CARE.

I HAVE MENTIONED WILLANS THE GROCERS WHO ALWAYS HAD A MARVELLOUS OUTDOOR DISPLAY OF HARES DUCKS PHEASANTS AND CHICKENS,

THEY WERE HUNG UP OUT OF REACH OF THE DOGS WHO WOULD HAVE GIVEN THEM A LICKING.

Mr McBRIDE OWNED THE OLD SADDLERS SHOP,

MAKING SADDLES AND HARNESSES ALSO STRONG RIDING CROP.

CLEMENT THE BAKERS SHOP IS STILL AROUND,

BREAD ROLLS USED TO BE FOUR FOR A PENNY BUT TODAY THEY ARE A POUND.

OLD POP POOLEY LIVED IN A COTTAGE AT THE SIDE OF WILLANS SHOP,

HE ALWAYS APPEARED WEARING BOOTS SPATS BAGGY TROUSERS WAISTCOAT CROWNED WITH A BATTERED OLD BOWLER ON TOP,

HE WAS A PECULIAR SIGHT AND WE KIDS THOUGHT HE MUST WEAR THEM IN BED EVERY NIGHT.

JACK DINES THE BARBER HAD A QUAINT LITLE SHOP JUST UP FROM THERE,

HE USED TO CHARGE US THREE OLD PENCE FOR CUTTING OUR HAIR.

STAN BUTCHER THE BOOTMENDER IS LONG SINCE GONE,

AS IS MISS MARVENS TEA SHOP WHERE YOU COULD GET TEA AND A SCONE.

THE GASLIGHT AND COKE COMPANY WHERE WE LIT OUR CIGARETTES FROM THE OUTSIDE WALL MOUNTED LIGHTER,

IF THE LOCAL POLICEMAN CAUGHT YOU YOU'D GET A CLUMP ROUND THE EAR AND I WILL TELL YOUR FATHER YOU YOUNG BLIGHTER.

SOUTHGATES THE NEWSAGENT HAS GONE I’M SORRY TO SAY,

THE WINDOW IS NOT DRESSED AS IT WAS IN OUR DAY.

MR CARTER THE WATCHMAKER HAD A VERY SMALL SHOP ON THE CORNER OF THE MARKET SQUARE,

HE WORE AN OVERSIZED BOWLER HAT AND YOU NEVER SAW HIS HAIR.

HE WAS A SHORT LITTLE MAN ABOUT FIVE FEET TALL,

HE MAINTAINED AND WOUND THE CLOCK OUTSIDE THE W I HALL.

THE WORKHOUSE AS WE KNEW IT WAS ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE SQUARE,

WE WERE TOLD IF WE MISBEHAVED WE WOULD END UP IN THERE.

HARTLEY THE SADDLER WAS A DOUR YORKSHIRE MAN,

WHO SOLD EVERYTHING IN HIS SHOP FROM BOOTLACES TO STEEL FRYING PAN.

NEXT DOOR WAS FANCES THE BUTCHERS WHO REALLY WERE HIGH CLASS,

I REMEMBER THEIR CARTS WELL, THEY WERE PAINTED GREEN AND SIGN WRIITEN IN GOLD LETTERS AND POLISHED LIKE GLASS.

THEY HAD BEAUTIFUL HORSES THAT WERE ALWAYS WELL GROOMED,

THE ARRIVAL OF MOTORISED VEHICLES REGRETFULLY MEANT THEY WERE DOOMED.

I AM DELIGHTED TO SAY THAT THEY ARE STILL TRADING TODAY,

BUT FOR HOW  MUCH LONGER NOBODY CAN SAY.

ROME & BISHOPS IS ALSO STILL THERE STOCKING TOOLS OF ALL MAKES AND STYLES,

IN MY DAY I RECALL IT WAS MAINLY SHOVELS BARROWS AND ALL KINDS OF FILES.

MRS HEATH HAD THE NEWSAGENTS NEXT TO THE ALLEY LEADING INTO NORTH STREET,

SHE WAS A PRIM LITLE LADY WHO REMINDED YOU CONSTANTLY TO PLEASE WIPE YOUR FEET.

A ROW OF VERY OLD COTTAGES LINED THE EASTERN SIDE OF THE SQUARE,

A LOCAL IDIOT BUILDER KNOCKED THEM AND SHELLEYS THE GROCERS DOWN ONE NIGHT AND THEY DID’NT CARE.

IT BLIGHTED THE CHARM OF THE OLD MARKET SQUARE,

ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU SURVEY THE BOXES THAT THEY BUILT THERE.

 

Story/Poem by Charles Bickford - as told to Len Bickford

This page was added by Len Bickford on 22/01/2017.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

This is a delightful and informative article which has jogged my memory regarding a tape made by Peter Whittingham - "Rochford Past and Present". Its YouTube RDCA channel link is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYusEmV10PA&feature=youtu.be

I had thought of adding photos to the audio as Peter wanders around the town but was a bit daunted at the work involved. Charles' poem/story is encouraging me again. Is anyone willing to make a start and help me gather some photos together - maybe a collection of past and present to illustrate the tape?

Bob Stephen (RDCA Admin)

By Bob Stephen
On 24/01/2017

Charles,

Have really enjoyed reading your piece, "My Rochford", it brought back a number of memories!

I too went to Rochford primary school and remember playing in the brook.

Then along from there was Whittinghams, then Dr. Southwell. Next was Warrens garage nearly opposite Willans.

My grandfather was the cobbler at 6 East Street near to Matthews hairdresser over the road to Horners the butcher.

The 4th Rochford scouts was a very good start to a lot of boys and was always very enjoyable.

The aerodrome and the hospital were the biggest things in the area but the small sheep and cattle market in the square was very interesting

Thank you again for jogging my memory.

Richard

By Richard
On 24/01/2017
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