Lionel Scott - a life story
Reminiscences of Billericay
Lionel Scott was born in the High Street, here he reminisces about his life in the town in conversation with Sylvia Kent –
I was born 1st of the 7th 1920 at the building which still exists – Shelley’s shop under the arch. I wasn’t born under the arch! I was born in the room above it. That’s where I came into Billericay.
I was christened at St Mary’s Church by Vicar Smith or the Reverend Vicar Smith we better call him hadn’t we.
I remember Billericay having gas lamps throughout and if you wanted an early call you had to pay a penny so he’d rattle your window until you threw the penny out. They did the same in the evening to turn the lights out but it was very modern really.
A blacksmith’s son
Now my father he was a blacksmith farrier. He took over from his father who died in 1916. But he wasn’t trained as a blacksmith, he was trained as a carpenter. I found that out when I was searching records, you learn at lot in that way. But it’s very interesting cos he tried to teach me to shoe horses – no way, I didn’t want to shoe horses, it was a hard job. I used to just rasp them up when he put the shoe on and rasp the hoof down and then paint them with oil so they looked good. But at times he had a horse that was awkward and it wouldn’t be shod in the upward position so he used to sling a rope around it and fell it. It was OK then!
There were two forges there so I used to watch him make his own shoes. Well in the end things became as they are today – so cheap that he used to buy them in, so I had to walk into Chelmsford with a bag to go to Grippers to get cross nails, slippers which are the rubber ones which stop vibration on the feet when they have got something wrong with it. Then I’d catch the bus back which, that was only on a Friday, it didn’t run on any other day.
The bus service to Billericay was very spasmodic at times with the Empress Cities used to come down the town round the church, turn round and go back again. Course they finished at half past nine at night then.
In those days there were no cars … perhaps one, which was Mrs Branfield’s at the top of the High Street which is next to the library now. She had traps, she had a landau. You couldn’t get through the front half with these horses and ponies and everything. It was the far end of Moore’s shop which was a grocery shop. There was a big gate you went through. Well father used to send me back with the horse which had been shod and I couldn’t get down to open the gate – had to wait til came along to open the gate for me, course I was taken off when I got into the stables.
The High Street itself you mostly ran into horses and everything like that. On a Friday Mr Totam who used to lodge with Mrs Childs which was in a little cottage on the forecourt of the pub The Rising Sun (that street [Ed: Sun Street] was still about the same, it didn’t join anything like it does today with the Southend Road. You had to come into the High Street to turn to go into Laindon Road). He used to drive the sheep or peoples cows through the High Street about 4 o’clock in the morning to go to Chelmsford market for sale.
The taxi service was owned by Ted Bull. They garaged at The Railway Hotel. There was about two taxis which grew as time went along. Then it got too many so it went across the road to The Crown. And then there was another one, Copeland, who was running an individual private taxi. He sold out to the people Bull sold it to .. Colliers. So therefore the whole taxi service plus a taxi bus was owned by Colliers themselves.
I bought a bike in 1934 it wasn’t on hire it was bought outright. I saved money until, you know, I’d got enough for it and it was a Rayleigh Upright and I sold it for about 3 times the amount after a number of years to a policeman.
There were plenty of shops in Western Road, as you’ve got today. Not much change. The shops in Billericay were food shops – there was about 5, there was Moore’s at the top, there was Purdy’s, there was Houghton’s, there was a Co-Op and two others, I can’t remember. And sweet shops, there were plenty of sweet shops. There was Miss White’s at the top of the High Street. There’s was the Jarvis family down a bit further. There was the Marsh’s. There was Larett’s, Mabel she married a Layland. It looked rather funny because she was short and he was tall!
The builders around Billericay, Iles and Sons, Tidbury, Jarvis and a lot more who started up in small business and as the place grew, I mean it didn’t grow all that amount from what we know of from the beginning of the war it was just a small country town. I mean Sunnymeade estate was the biggest complex I think that was built in about 1927.
We had big carnivals here in Billericay and also big horse shows. Dr Wells, mother used to go there with the pram all decorated up for a garden [Ed: party] and it was quite nice. And then of course Lake Meadows comes into it because the garden wasn’t big enough and they put tents up and everything else. It wasn’t until about 1934 they started the big carnivals, inviting all the tradesmen in and everything else. The horse shows as well. People came from all over the country.
The Archer Hall was then built and of course today the Church has pulled it down and built another rotunda. Miss Archer left it for the people. They sold off part of the ground to a home.
Chapel Street itself had the cinema on there then actual fact there was just gardens. The cottage that is there, my grandmothers, she moved into there when she sold the High Street for £200, I’ve got photos of there. She lived with her daughter, the oldest one, Aunt Lizzie who looked after her for a number of years.
That was the outlet for Perc y Howard’s shop as well out the back.
There was a Gospel Chapel and that is still there today at the exit and entrance to the Post Office and Telephone Exchange. United Reformed was called the Congregational Church, my Grandmother, Grandfather and all the children that didn’t live, there was about 5 or 6 who didn’t live, are all buried there, but you know I mean you say you rely on records but none of that is recorded. We used as children to put flowers on that grave, you know, and did up until quite late.
A Vet in the family?
I only know what Aunt Edie said cos it was so distant you see, but she said he was buried in that little small plot at the top, which shows on that big building there top of Hillside Road that it was once a Quaker religion house. And he was buried there by the wall with his walking stick. So, quite a thing.
Mill Meadows, we could use that for tobogganing or for using as a park. I mean after Sunday lunch my father used to get my sister as well and we used to go there to play about, do whatever we wanted. That was about the only park that was really available then. Mill Meadows had a lot of cattle on it; it still does today to keep the grass down. Watts was the farmer along there which went out into the now called Greens Farm Lane.
I used to live in West Park Drive which backed up onto the railway. Mother used to do the cleaning at Miss Allen’s school. But of course my Father was driven out from the High Street because he didn’t pay his mother any money at all and he was always down the pub and you know having a drink. We were open to meadows all the way down to Mountnessing so we used to have to go and pick mushrooms when they were in season, blackberries, wild raspberries, wild strawberries and sell them to keep ourselves going.
I started work in 1934 cos my mother said ‘You’re not lazing about here’ and I had a chance to go for further education but we couldn’t afford it. So what I did, I went to night school I learnt French and German and Art. A lady taught me to paint with ordinary water colour paints so I co-ordinated the colours that way. So I had one picture of ducks and that exhibited in London in Trafalgar Square and of course it got damaged with the bombs but I did get it repaired again and I’ve given it to my granddaughter. She liked it and that’s the only one I kept, but I’ve done hundreds of them, given them to people and that, you know but I’ve never found one since.
I started work when I came out of the Royal Air Force. I was with the Norwegian Squadron and we finished up and spent 12 months in Berlin. So I learnt a lot, I saw a lot; and how I never want to see things again like it. Because it’s with you all the time, you can’t forget it and you think of other people but it was, they’ve all gone now and you’re still here to tell the tale.
I applied for a job before I went in the forces for an apprenticeship with the telecommunications. I got the letter to say yes it’s OK, the same morning got one for a call up! So away I had to go. When I came back I wrote to them and they said oh well you’re not apprentice age now, 26, sorry we’ll let you know later. So after a period of time they sent a letter down and said got a job pole hole digging. My mother said ‘What are you going to do?’. I said ‘I want money so I’m going to take it on, I’m going to work from the bottom’. So luckily I started there, but of course I had an accident to my head and because of that I met Mary [Ed: Lionel’s wife], because I was put in the exchange to maintain the exchanges. The cords and the keys and all the connections and everything else. That was in Brentwood. I passed round to Chelmsford on advice notes, pulling wires, connecting up in the exchange. From then I came back to Laindon, then cos Laindon was made an automatic exchange I got pushed from there back to Chelmsford. And then I got a job in Brentwood exchange, yes, that’s where I was until I retired. I retired in 1980, so I’ve had plenty of pension!
We married in Little Burstead. Her father was the blacksmith, my father was the blacksmith and we thought they would be rivals but they weren’t. He was very kind to me.
War time in Billericay
It was bombed but it was never damaged badly it just blew, well of course it was parachute bombs -just took the rooves off.
The Burstead Lodge shelter was just brick, more of a cage really. You see a lot of those things you never really got to see. You see there was no damage in the High Street except windows and that.
There was a gun that used to run up and down that railway because we used to back onto it and when that fired at the aircraft dear oh dear, nearly everything took off. But we had an air raid shelter. It was in the garden. Father wouldn’t sleep out there. He said ‘If I’m gonna die I’m gonna die’.
The medals I got in the War, some are just general service medals, the two most important were presented to me by the French Government. We had to go and collect them from L’Abbaye Dames in Caen.
There’s one for all those who went across on D-Day. It’s a big broach not a medal. It shows you soldiers landing on the beaches. It’s a massive thing.
Leisure activities after the War
Well you pick up your life from where you left it. I mean I belonged to the Brentwood cycling club from then so we used to go out of a Sunday, you know, then perhaps a holiday with one of the other boys you know.
I now belong to many organisations. I’ve got an honorary membership of the Philatelic Society of Great Britain and also the local club as well. I started ours up about 1974 and of course we met in schools all around and as our funds got lower and lower we had to put up the fees and pay more for the halls. We got settled at the Reading Rooms. We got special facilities there but when they refurbished the Reading Rooms we couldn’t afford what they wanted so we then went to the school – to the Fold [Ed: Billericay Arts Association premises] and they were very sympathetic .
Sadly Lionel died early this year (2011) and this piece is dedicated to his memory.
Mary has also now passed away and thus this page is now dedicated to both of them.