Essex Life celebrates 60 years

PUBLISHED: 13:25 17 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:16 20 February 2013

Essex Life celebrates 60 years

Essex Life celebrates 60 years

Martyn Green from the Essex Record Office begins a series of features looking at life in Essex in each of the last six decades with a focus on the highs and lows of the 1950s

Diamond Decades 1950s

Colchester United Football Club, 1950
The 1950/51 season was Colchester Uniteds first in the Football League. During their first season at that level, Colchester equalled the record for newly-promoted teams after remaining unbeaten in their first seven games. Included in that run was a 0-0 draw against Gillingham, their former Southern League rivals who had been elected to the Football League at the same time. 19,542 fans attended that first match of a season which would see the Us finish a creditable 16th position.
Elsewhere in the sporting world of Essex, Southend United FC moved to their spiritual home in 1955. Roots Hall was the clubs first purpose-built ground and was erected on a council landfill site purchased in 1952. Essex was also home to international motor sport during this age of gentlemen racers. Drivers like Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins competed in a Grand Prix around a former aerodrome in Boreham going wheel to wheel in once-famous marques such as BRM, Connaught, Frazer Nash and Talbot Lago.

Her Majesty The Queens Coronation, 1952
On February 6, 1952, Elizabeth Windsor acceded to the throne, and on the June 6, 1952, her coronation took place and she was proclaimed Queen of all of her realms. Celebrations took place across the country and nowhere more so than in Essex. There was particular excitement in Braintree as the velvet for Queen Elizabeth IIs coronation robe was woven by Warner & Sons Ltd in the town. Throughout the county there were parties and each church had its own special coronation service on the preceding Sunday. In local villages there were numerous events including a pram race in Great Waltham, a flower and vegetable show in Kelvedon Hatch and sporting events in Great Baddow, while Belchamp and Ovington even organised an historical re-enactment of the reign of Elizabeth I. Fireworks were common across the country and in Chelmsford there was an illumination of the young Queens face. Great celebrations marked the start of a long reign, and there are sure to be similar celebrations this year to mark the Queens Diamond Jubilee.

Le Talbooth Restaurant, 1952
Le Talbooth is now renowned as one of the countys most prestigious restaurants, located in an idyllic spot on the banks of the River Stour. The site was previously a tearoom, but when Gerard Milson saw it and recognised the enormous potential of the fabulous setting, its fate was sealed. In 1952, Le Talbooth opened to the public as a restaurant and its popularity was the catalyst to a catering empire which saw the addition of a hotel in the 1960s and today the Milsoms group boasts four hotels as well as the iconic Essex dining destination that began it all. Le Talbooth was one of the first British restaurants to gain international recognition and yet the restaurant still retains the Tudor, timber-framed demeanour which gives a clue to its previous life as a toll-booth for horse-drawn traffic (hence its name). John Constables famous painting of the Dedham Vale features the building
and can now be found in the
National Gallery.

Essex Countryside Magazine, 1952
In the autumn of 1952, Essex Countryside magazine was first published. It was later to become Essex Life, but it had a very different character six decades ago.
The magazine was heavily focussed on the history of Essex and the stories of the countys residents. From its first issue it delighted readers with its renditions of invasions from Kent, the legends of Dick Turpin and photography of many Essex landmarks that would hold interest for its readers.
Through the decade, Essex Countryside changed from a quarterly magazine to a bi-monthly publication, such was the demand for the stories that had shaped Essex. In addition, it was possible to see a slight shift into reactionary news with coverage reporting events shortly after the floods in Canvey Island and a piece dedicated to showing how wonderful the holiday resort remained. The letters page of the publication became very lively and, perhaps slightly embellished, stories of the Essex Riviera at Southend on Sea implied a wistful and idyllic holiday destination offering superb weather.
Over time the magazine has evolved from the newsletter style it began life as. However, it has always remained a favourite read of Essex residents and just as a story on how Essex had the Privilege of Making the Coronation Robes was centre stage in those early issues, the countys celebrations of the Queens coronation are sure to feature strongly in future issues in 2012.

The North Sea Floods, 1953

On the night of January 31, the North Sea flooded inland across vast reaches of East Anglia and, on the other side of the channel, the Low Countries. In Essex, the impact was keenly felt in Jaywick, where 37 died, and widely reported in Canvey Island, which suffered a loss of 58 lives around one-sixth of the total UK death toll.
Many of those who died were holidaying in the waterfront bungalows that lined the beach. The small village itself was mostly saved, being higher than the rest of the island, including the pub which is now named after King Canute, the monarch who famously commanded the tide to stop, according to legend. Following the floods, a new sea wall was built and then greatly expanded in the 1980s.

Have your say
Why not share your memories of life in Essex over the last 60 years? You can email your thoughts to the editor at or write to Essex Life, Fairfax House, North Station Road, Colchester, Essex CO1 1RJ

Next month
Life in Essex during the Swinging Sixties

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