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Great Baddow Oral History - A Synopsis

The book was compiled from taped interviews of residents of Great Baddow. As such it covers much of the village life in the twentieth century.

Chapter 1. Setting the Scene is a virtual walk through the village around 1900, based on the journal of the late Reg Spalding. On this walk he meets various village characters and describes their activities. Subsequent chapters form a contrast with this view of the 'good old days'.

Chapter 2. Village Life describes the typical village activities around fifty years ago, when the village was largely self-sufficient. It had just begun to change from dependence on an agricultural economy to a more outward look, with many villagers travelling to Chelmsford or London for work

Chapter 3. Shops & Businesses strolls through the village as it was in the 1950s and 60s, describing the shops and businesses of that time, many of which have subsequently disappeared

Chapter 4. Family Life. What did people do in the old days on a day to day basis? Many of the labour-saving devices which we now rely on were non-existent, so how did they perform their chores? What food did they eat?

Chapter 5. Life centred on the old Victorian Village School, with a strict headmaster who wielded the cane with impunity. Selective Secondary Education depended on having money, or winning a scholarship. Nevertheless, most children who studied there, who are now elderly adults, claim to have received a decent education and grounding in the three Rs. How was it achieved?

Chapter 6. Farming. This chapter reflects back to early and mid-1900s, when there were a dozen or so farms scattered around the village, providing employment to many male residents. The farming methods used are also documented, including the annual threshing of the cereal harvest, which involved many villagers, and their dogs.

Chapter 7. Apart from farming, the local working population helped to build the economy of the area. Many men and women worked at Hoffman's,and Crompton Parkinson's factories in Chelmsford. Marconi's had many factories, in the county town and in Great Baddow itself. Apart from the famous Research Labs, which contributed so much to Radio, Radar, TV and Microcomputer Technology, development was carried out in Marrable House and at Three Bays, with manufacturing on the Beehive Lane factory site. The Marconi Sports and Social Club is also situated off Beehive Lane (though sadly the site will soon be covered with houses and some facilities will move out of the village, possibly to West Hanningfield Road.

Chapter 8. Leisure. Spare time activity has altered significantly in recent years, with many families taking foreign holidays. This chapter records the era before Ibiza and Tenerife were so well known, when a trip to Clacton or Southend was an ‘event’, a major journey in a charabanc undertaken (if you were lucky) once per year. Villagers tended to make their entertainment locally, with simple pleasures such as picnics, the Annual Flower and Vegetable show, tug-of-war contests (usually won by the team from the local Brewery).

Chapter 9. Wartime Experiences. Our sleepy village was made to wake up in World War 2, recorded vividly in this chapter. Many men were enlisted in the forces; they fought, some became prisoners of war, some even enjoyed their wartime service. Meanwhile, in the village, many women did the men's jobs, teenagers grew up rapidly and did their share in the Home Guard, as Observers on nightly fire watch. Many nights were spent in bomb shelters as, despite our situation in the Essex countryside, the village was bombed, and much damage was wrought. Nevertheless, many humorous stories are recorded from this fraught period.

Chapter 10. Religion. Several churches, of different denominations cater for the spiritual needs of the village residents. Life on the Sabbath is recorded, with families of mixed religions juggling which church to attend for morning and evening worship. The 'Peculiar People' spent all day in their chapel, even taking their meals with them

Chapter 11. Transport. This chapter records that in times gone by villagers got about in a variety of ways, very few having cars. Horses featured a lot in the early 20th century, and bicycles were very popular. Public transport was widely used, but in general people did not travel far.

Chapter 12. Health. It was interesting to record how villagers coped in the days before the National Health Service. The village doctor was much in demand, but you had to pay for treatment. In some cases this meant the rich paid a little more and the poor paid less. The doctor was expected to perform minor operations, such as the removal of tonsils, or the appendix, in his surgery. The TB clinic was local, with lots of fresh air being prescribed.

Chapter 13. Historic Events. This chapter records the special events that residents remember, such as the great floods of 1958, when heavy rain filled the stream. It surged down from Galleywood, building up behind a wall in Galleywood Road, until the wall collapsed and a tidal wave swept down the High Street, flooding the village centre.

Chapter 14. Mischief & Misdemeanours. Thankfully there has not been much crime in our village over the years, but some mischief was recorded by our contributors. In one case an empty building was robbed of the lead on the roof, but the village milkman spotted the thief, reported him to the police, who were there at his home to arrest him when he arrived with his ill-gotten gains. Less serious stories are told, but with equal or greater humour.

Chapter 15. Footnote

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