One family’s 70-year connection to The Barge Inn at Vange
PUBLISHED: 12:32 26 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:32 26 February 2020
Lisa Horner, author or Lost Basildon, shares the story of Geraldine Evans’ 70-year association with The Barge Inn at Vange and its lasting influence on the local community
Geraldine Evans's association with The Barge Inn near Basildon can be traced back before she was even born. Elizabeth Goodson was an experienced businesswoman having managed various establishments in London from 1917.
She had great entrepreneurial skills and her first husband, Harry Goodson, provided her with financial backing.
On May 20, 1937, Elizabeth paid a settlement of £2,643.06 for the lease of The Barge Inn and surrounding land, located in Vange, near Basildon.
When war was declared in 1939, an army camp was built in Vange and The Barge raked in a fortune. During this time Harry died and Elizabeth later married the local baker, George (Doughy) Saunders.
Elizabeth was an old-time queen bee − a no-nonsense landlady. Every night she wore a fur stole around her shoulders, a rope of diamonds around her neck and heavy earrings.
Doughy was a larger than life, charismatic character. Despite his size he was able to ice a delicate detailed wedding cake with absolute precision.
Doughy and Elizabeth ran Wartime Vange. Doughy could get hold of almost anything and Elizabeth could sell it. The local pub was all things to all people in those days, and there was even a system of credits, loans and exchange much like a bank.
Elizabeth wanted to retire, having had a good war, as they used to say. In 1945 she invited her younger brother, Edward (Ted) Gahan, who was 18 years her junior, and his pregnant wife Angela to take over the pub.
In early 1945 Ted and Angela moved to Vange to run The Barge and in the October of that year Geraldine was born. Within a few weeks of Ted becoming landlord, he organised the village party to celebrate the end of the war.
Five years later, Geraldine's sister Sharmon was born. Their parents were totally involved in the community with Ted president of Bowers United Football Club and Angela running a group for local OAP's and involved with the Mother's Union and the local church. The Barge was the natural hub for the community.
Geraldine had won a County Drama Scholarship to study Stage Management at RADA. After qualifying she spent a fun-filled year as a Red Coat at Butlin's in Clacton.
Then she got the terrible news that her mum had died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage. She knew her dad needed her, so she took her skills in putting on a good show to The Barge.
Together, Geraldine and her husband Graham organised countless charity events from The Barge winning several national prizes for their efforts and receiving praise for their work from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. They also regularly hosted the local village fair that they organised with St Chads Church.
When Geraldine ran The Barge she was also vice-chair of governors at two local schools, a magistrate for 23 years and started the Home-Start family support scheme for Basildon.
Graham was a member of the Lions Club of Basildon, a Master Mason in Basildon Lodge and leader within Licensed Trade Charities.
By the mid-eighties the decline of the local, 'drinking' pub, was evident. People's habits were changing as big supermarkets opened up selling cheap alcohol.
Discos, theme bars and pub restaurants became fashionable and the golden age of the local, that Geraldine's aunt and father had enjoyed, was no more.
By 2004 the freehold of The Barge was owned by a company that owned 8,000 pubs. Geraldine asked the pub company if they would sell, given her family history in the property.
She was told no and given the option to accept a 30-year lease in her name or leave. Geraldine ran the pub for two years but left in 2007.
Geraldine had a final drink with Jimmy Banks the night before she left. He was drinking in the bar the day she was born.
Three generations of the Banks family were customers at The Barge, but that was not unique because that was what The Barge was, a family-run community pub.
She walked away in November 2007, closing a door on 70 years of family history. Sadly in 2015, the public house was closed and has remained so ever since.
Get the book
Lost Basildon by Lisa Horner is published by Amberley Books and priced £13.49. ISBN 9781445692579