History of Kelvedon Hatch

History of Kelvedon Hatch >> Contributors >> Harold Watts

Harold Watts' Kelvedon Hatch memories

Harold Watts moved to Kelvedon Hatch shortly after his birth in 1922. He died in 2004. I am grateful for his contribution to History House.

As a boy I lived first at Beacon Hill, then at Mill House at Kelvedon Hatch. My father was a groom for W.P.Tyser of Dudbrook. Dubrook was a very large estate. From Beacon Hill we could whip and spin a top to school, but not so nowadays. At both Beacon Hill and the old Mill House they were very happy and contented places to live.

Mill House
Mill House, at the junction of Ongar Road and Mill Lane.
It was originally was occupied by the miller

As kids we didn't have much - no pocket money, no new toys all the year round. We made our own enjoyment and entertainment: wooden hoops, if not wooden hoops, old bicycle wheel rims with no spokes. I first learnt to ride a bicycle, made up of a frame and wheels without any tyres and tubes, or sometimes with the tyres stuffed with hay. Our go-carts were just four wheels and a box nailed to a board. As for sport we learnt the hard way. At school there was no organised sport, just a tennis ball in the playground using the Lime trees as goals.

Village life was centered around the old village hall next to Tom Tingley's, the old Church House. There was a stile near the old village hall which was the meeting place for the lads and lasses of the village. The football ground was opposite the church and I was barely 15 years old when I played for Kelvedon Hatch.

There was no television or wireless in our younger days, but we still made our own enjoyment and as a result we saw no violent films, no mugging and no thuggery.

All the pubs were for the village folk and their families. When we weren't playing football we would be playing the other seasonal game of cricket

My own life was a life of endurance, it was a raw life one might say. Living down at Beacon Hill we had no gas electric or main water those three services weren't available in those days. As I was one of a large family it was always the duty of one of us boys to walk half a mile across a meadow and fill our buckets from a spring in the corner of a wood.

Our family life was a well disciplined life, three times to Church on Sunday, twice as a young choir boy and once to Sunday School in the afternoon. The way of life these days is so fast compared with the life of yesteryear the roar of traffic is so intense. There was many a time when we would be driving a herd of cattle along the road, but no so today.

My school-days I remember too. I remember being disciplined at home, I remember being disciplined at school. My head mistress was Miss Pounchard and if she thought you deserved the cane, you got it, which was the ultimate form of punishment in those days. I do consider her to be a very good head mistress. When I finished school at Kelevedon Hatch I went to school at Chipping Ongar the school behind Budworth Hall.

My next step in life was working for any keep and I was employed by J.A.P & Sons, the local farmers for which I worked for thirty one years. The benefit of being a country Pumpkin as were were called, was that you saw the beauty of the countryside.

Then the second world war was upon us and from that I enlisted in the army and saw different parts of the world. First South Africa, then India, finally Burma serving in the Chindits under General Wingate. When I was demobbed I was again employed by J.A.Parrish & Sons.

Another step in life was when I married a local girl, Hilda Holgate, but unfortunately she died in 1965. There was another purposeful occupation when I was employed in the National Health Service at Highwood Hospital, upgraded to head gardener and given the opportunity to supervise four other hospitals. To me there was a sense of pride with this occupation because I had 8 patient helpers to help me look after the grounds and it gave them an added interest in life.

After my wife died I turned any thoughts more and more towards my faith and St Nicholas' Church although I have been a dedicated member right from the beginning when I was a young boy, but now I'm a senior citizen.

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Book cover: Kelvedon Hatch, 1840 - 1920

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Kelvedon Hatch, 1840 - 1920: A Guided Tour

Go on a guided tour of Kelvedon Hatch, Essex, during the 19th and early 20th centuries. With the help of photographs, newspapers, parish records and census returns, the story of each house is revealed, as are the lives of some of their occupants.

It was a parish of many contrasts: from wealthy land-owners living in grand Georgian mansions with numerous servants, to agricultural workers struggling against poverty in overcrowded and dilapidated cottages. Discover how the landscape changed after the common land was enclosed, and how farmers struggled to cope with the agricultural depression. Find out about the role of the parish in WW1 when it was at the front line of Britain's fight against the Zeppelins. See how the new school was established and functioned, and why a new parish church was built. There are stories of crime, bankruptcy, poverty, scandal, revenge, leisure and migration.

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