Upminster and untold stories

PUBLISHED: 11:07 05 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 20 February 2013

Upminster Windmill, 1908

Upminster Windmill, 1908

When Tony Benton heard the details of Upminster's dramatic development during the early 20th century from a man who lived through it, he felt he must record it. Here he shares those stories

Upminstersalmost untold story

When Tony Benton heard the details of Upminsters dramatic development during the early 20th century from a man who lived through it, he felt he must record it. Here he shares those stories

IN February 1915, when Albert Parish was born in Hornchurch, he joined a community where many still relied on agriculture for their living and rural scenes were an everyday feature. Within a few years of Albert starting work at Gates and Son Estate Agents and Surveyors office on Upminsters Station Road in 1930, any remaining open farmland and meadows between Hornchurch and Upminster had given way to bricks and mortar.
Upminster at the turn of the 20th century had changed little in the past century and even when the London, Tilbury & Southend Companys railway connected Upminster with the Fenchurch Street terminus in 1885, rural tranquillity was uninterrupted
as land owners were loath to sell
to developers.

Upminsters resistance to the march of progress first crumbled when in 1901 Dowsing and Davis of Romford acquired a ten-acre site and started to build Upminsters first major housing development (Gaynes, Branfill and Champion Roads). But this was just a flavour of what followed from late 1906. Peter Griggs and his company, W P Griggs & Co, which had successfully developed parts of Ilford, persuaded the Branfill family to sell some 700 acres of their Upminster Hall Estate. The Upminster garden suburb inspired by Ebenezer Howards Garden City movement was made up of detached and large semi-detached houses around the main north to south route, Hall Lane, with smaller terraces south of the railway line. New shopping parades were built along Station Road initially known as The Broadway.
This changed not only the physical face of Upminster but also the social structure, attracting new inhabitants, mainly middle-class, from a wide surrounding area. Griggs added more land and developed an area along and southwards from the west to east route towards Cranham (renamed St Marys Lane) in the 1920s. Thanks to the garden suburb, Upminsters population grow from 1,477 in 1901 to 3,559 in 1921.

Upminsters longstanding non-conformist community was supported by the opening, in July 1910, of a Methodist church in temporary premises and in March 1911 by the completion and opening of a new Congregational church, superseding the old chapel on Upminster Hill. A new permanent Methodist church was built on the Hall Lane site in 1923 and in the same year Upminsters Catholic community gained their first place of worship with temporary premises on St Marys Lane.

St Laurence parish church, despite a major renovation of the 1860s, still retained many of the features of the historic building from where Upminsters most famous Rector William Derham (1657-1735) conducted scientific experiments into the speed of sound. Unpopular during the late 19th century, the parish churchs fortunes revived under the Rev Hyla Henry Holden (rector from 1904-1943), and the church underwent a major expansion
between 1928 and 1930 to house
the expanding congregation.

Population growth also put the education system under strain. Upminsters two schools, the Anglican National School and the non-conformist British School, both founded in 1851, merged under a School Board in 1885. The National School buildings housed the boys and the British School premises the girls and infants. Essex County Council bought a site for a new school in 1913 but it took until 1927 before the new Upminster Council School opened in temporary buildings with permanent premises following in 1928.

Upminster Windmill survived attempts to demolish it and even a plan to move it

The death in 1927 of Henry Joslin DL JP, owner of Gaynes Park, was the key that unlocked the door to the development of southern Upminster. Well-planned housing development on the former Gaynes Park estate and other smaller estates in the south of the parish helped Upminsters population grow further to 5,732 in 1931 and an estimated 11,000 by 1941.
This growth was achieved at a cost to many historic buildings. The former mansion of New Place in St Marys Lane was the first to go in 1924 (although the stable block, the Clockhouse, was kept), Gaynes Manor House followed in the early 1930s and High House, already old when the Rector William Derham lived there, was demolished to make way for shops in 1935. Hunts farmhouse was demolished in 1937 and another ancient landmark, Hoppey Hall, two years later.

However, there were some survivals. Upminsters famous windmill, dating from 1803, survived attempts to demolish it for housing and another plan to dismantle and move it, but it took several local campaigns to finally preserve it for posterity in the 1960s.
The manor house of Upminster Hall, for centuries home to the Branfill family, survived thanks to its conversion as the club house of Upminster Golf Club, which opened in 1928. The area around Corbets Tey to the south of the parish, still retains much of its historic charm and many old buildings, including the 18th century Harwood Hall, within what
is now a Conservation Area. In the north, Upminster (or Tylers) Common was preserved thanks to a vigorous campaign in 1951.

So where does Albert Parish fit into the story? Albert died unexpectedly in March 1996. Although his unique and unrivalled knowledge of Upminsters development went with him, fortunately much of it had been committed to paper. These revelations were distilled in several chapters of my book, Upminster: The Story of a Garden Suburb, which was published in November 1996 with Alberts name rightly appearing alongside mine as author. After more than ten years out of print, Upminster: The Story of a Garden Suburb is now available again.

Get the book

Upminster The Story of a Garden Suburb by Tony Benton is priced at 12.99 and published by Amberley Publishing.
ISBN: 978-1-84868-382-2

Latest from the Essex Life