Burnham-on-Crouch in old picture postcards volume 1

Burnham-on-Crouch in old picture postcards volume 1

:   Betty Perren
:   Essex
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-3102-5
:   88
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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The town lies on the north bank of the River Crouch, originally known as Burnham River, some six miles from the present mouth. It occupies the first firm landing place for shipping. Today it is the largest settlement in the Dengie Hundred, an ancient division of the County of Essex, bounded by the Crouch on the south and the Blackwater on the north. That excludes Maldon which is a larger town on the Blackwater. Burnham used not to be the principal settlement; that honour lay with Southminster its near neighbour, but by 1850 Burnham had outstripped it in population and urban spread. Today it is a small town with a population of some 6,000.

The growth of the town and the development of an industrial estate led to the excavation in 1971 of a Romano-British settlement of the fust century A.D. This lies on a gravel headland facing south, the first high ground one would meet sailing up the river, and over a mile from the High Street and Quay of today. It was probably at this upper end of the town, toward the parish church of St. Mary, that the Saxon and early mediaeval village grew. At the time of Domesday, Burnham consisted of two manors, the bulk of land being in the hands of Ralf Baynard. These soon passed to the Fitzwalter family who were Lords of the combined manors for many centuries til! they passed by descent to the Mildmay family. The Fitzwalters gave lands to Dunmow Priory which is commemorated in the name of Dammerwiek Farm. Holliwel! Farm also has a name which indicates a monastic holding.

In 1253 a market charter was granted to the Fitzwalters and this may mark the foundation of the mediaeval town down by the Quay. It lies a mile from the parish church and, apart

from church-going, the two settlements remained separate from each other til! the latter half of the 19th century. The wide, lower part of the High Street is typical of a planned market.

Burnham would have been an important port for the wool and cheese trade associated with the large flocks of sheep pastured on the coastal marshes. In common with all the eastern Dengie parishes, Burnham grew in acreage as the tidal saltings were enclosed with seawalls. As each wall was built, further saltings were formed outside and these in turn were enclosed, a process co vering centuries. Cheeses were made in these parts from ewe's milk at dairy farms known as 'wicks'. Hence the frequency with which this placename occurs on the marshes. From the 1600s arabie farming became more important and provided the impetus for further reclamations. Much of Burnham's farmland is Grade 1 or 2. Farming has not been covered by this volume of photographs, but the subject is dealt with in the book 'Dengie: the Life and the Land' by Kevin Bruce. (Published by the Burnham and District Local History and Amenity Society and the Essex Record Office. Available at Burnham Museum.)

The river pro vides both wet fish and shellfish. Oyster cultivation was important from early times. Sir Christopher Wren was among the leaseholders of Burnham oyster layings. It was these layings and areas of foreshore, set aside for fish traps such as 'kiddies' and 'weirs', together with a Royal grant of the river bed to the Mildmays in the 17th century, that helped to establish the Crouch as one of only two estuarine rivers in England that are private. Oyster layings faced more than their natural predators. Not infrequently dredgermen from other oyster cultivating areas, such as Brightlingsea or

Whitstable, came in their smacks to raid the layings in the Crouch. Burnham men reacted by constructing a look-out tower, the Belvedere, at the east end of the town and by having the layings guarded by men in small boats. The oyster merchants were influential and important men in the town and some of them worked hard for its prosperity.

Burnham mariners were not easily deterred from delivering cargoes, and from the middle ages to the late 19th century there was a good deal of river trade. Along with one or two other Essex ports, Burnham has the distinction of freedom from Port Dues at London, in recognition of the courage of its sailors who continued to supply the capitol with grain during the Great Plague,

During the 19th century there were skilled men in Burnham who earned their living making repairs to colliers, barges and smacks and building small boats. When a few yachtsmen made it their headquarters, it was easy to provide the services they needed. The coming of the railway opened up the sport to many others. The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club established a club house in Burnham in 1893 - they already had one at Erith - and the Burnham Yacht Club was founded in 1895, later becoming the Royal Burnham. The London Sailing Club was there, too, but it later became the Yacht Club of Eastern England and finally merged with the Royal Corinthian, Boatyards were established for building and repairing yachts by the men whose work had been hitherto on commercial craft. Yacht owners wanted skilled skippers and crew and cruisers needed provisions. One way and another, pleasure sailing brought employment and prosperity to Burnham and local villages. The river and the Thames Estuary into which it empties provided varied and interesting sailing

and then as now demanded a fair amount of navigational skill. It was not long before racing became important. From small beginnings in 1892, Burnham Week has become a major yachting event, offering races for upward of 300 boats. The days of paid hands and skippers are long gone, save for the odd one, but the townspeople still follow the racing with keen interest and the climax of the Week is the Town Cup, presented by the Town Council in 1928 and raced for by the largest beats.

Yachting was, incidentally, one reason for a major employer setting up in the town in 1899. James Booth, a keen yachtsman, chose Burnham with its railway to establish the Mildmay Ironworks. It soon acquired a reputation for producing the finest small castings in the south-east and specialised in piano frames. A work force of some one hundred and twenty was employed at its peak.

Burnharn's expansion in the late 19th century took the form of joining the two settlements along the line of Station Road and to the east of it. This became the 'New Town'. Residents were said to be 'up streef while those at the lower end became 'down street'. The first buildings were cottages, both weather-boarded and brick, but later, rows of terraeed brick houses were constructed. A particularly unusual terrace was built in 1891 at the lower end between Chapel Road and Providence, unusual in that it was built of timber. Granville Terrace, known as 'The Long Row', consists of twenty-four houses in weatherboarding under one slate roof. The traditional two areas gradually coalesced till, by the time the majority of the photographs in this book were taken, the town stretched south from the railway line, along the east of Station Road to the Quay.

1. The High Street looking west before the Clock Tower was built in 1877. The house on the extreme right, selling home-brewed beer, was replaced in 1900 by the present house, which was also devoted to selling beer, becoming an off-licence in the 1930s. Warner's Hall, next to it, was built in 1848 by the Auger farnily, wealthy oyster merchants who also owned The Lawn. The shops on the left have been rebuilt, but the cottage by the cart still exists. The raad is unmetalled and th ere are no pavements. Note the muffin man with his tray.

2. The school in the High Street before 1877. To the right of the picture are the two school houses and a greengrocer's shop. Part of the school was erected about 1785 by the Trustees of alocal charity and the rest in 1815 by voluntary subscnptions and a grant from the National Society. The school was 'modernised' in 1863 and the Clock Tower added in 1877.

3. The High Street c. 1910. A principal landmark is the C10ck Tower, built by public subscription in memory of Laban Sweeting, an oyster merchant who did much for the town. On the day of his funera1 every shop in Burnham closed as a mark of respect. The barber's pole indicates Mellard's shop; the family still provides a barber for the town, though in different premises.

4. Looking east along the High Street. On the left is the E1ectric Kinema and, next to it, the King's Arms, now the Constitutional Club.

5. The post office in the High Street with staff outside. Among them are Barney Stoneham (with cart), Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Robinson.

The Lawn, Burnham-on-Crouc.h

6. The Lawn, seen across its garden from the Quay. This was the home of the Auger family during the 19th century. It has now been demolished and housing development oceupies the site.

7. Warner's Hall, seen here as an hotel, was built in 1848 for the Auger family. There seems to have been a fairly common custom of incising initials on bricks when a house was built, and here we have the initials of the entire Auger family of the time on bricks beside the groundfloor windows. Similarly the initials of the Hawkins family used to be visible on the brick wall surrounding Stebbings' Yard in Chapel Road, but these went when the wall was demolished.

8. The High Street looking west c. 1912-1915. The chemist's shop on the right was at this time owned by Mr. Watts. In Kelly's Directory 1908 he is described as: 'Stationer, bookseller, grocer, tobacconist, ale, wine and spirit merchant and dealer in jewellery, gunpowder, oil, paints etc.' The trees represented the first landscaping carried out in the High Street.

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