Thursday, August 27, 2020


Our Resident  journal for Billericay District Residents' Association has just issued one of the most interesting editions this year. Chris Wade, its current editor is moving from the area. In this current journal, I see that Andy Maddocks, Chairman of BDRA  is asking folk to volunteer for some of the roles which are vital to keep this 95th year old organisation continuing. 

The story leading up to the US Thanksgiving tradition has interesting Billericay connections. It was from our town - on 6 September 1620 that a group of local residents joined the contingent of Puritan emigrants who boarded the Mayflower ship at Plymouth. Christopher Martin, who is believed to have lived at the Chantry House at 57-61 High Street (pictured) , was the ship’s governor who supplied the food for the voyage, including flour ground at the Bell Hill windmill. 

 Conditions during the 66-day voyage across the Atlantic were awful. The Mayflower was terribly overcrowded. The crossing was so stormy that it cracked a main beam of the ship but the ingenious use of a printing-press as a screw-jack to support the beam, enabled the ship to hold together. During the journey, one person died and two boys were born, Peregrine White and the aptly named Oceanus Hopkins. When the Pilgrims reached Cape Cod they ‘fell upon their knees and blessed ye God of Heaven who had brought them over ye vast and furious ocean’. Sadly, the folk from Billericay died shortly after reaching America.

Attempts by the newcomers to provide food were pitiful. During the first month they caught only one cod. In January 1621 they caught three seals and shot an eagle. Mostly they lived on shellfish from the beaches and nuts from the woods. By spring, half had died from scurvy or starvation. Then into their lives came Samoset and Squanto, two Indians who showed the Englishmen how to live off the land. By the end of their first summer in America, the newcomers were able to celebrate their harvest with a thanksgiving feast.

They invited the local Indians to join them. Four men were sent to shoot wildfowl and returned with a modest bag. But their guest of honour the Indian chief Massasoit turned up with an escort of no less than 90 hungry braves. The Indians were able to bring in five deer after a brief hunting expedition; somehow there was enough food for all.The Pilgrims continued to hold this ‘thanksgiving’ feast in succeeding years, gradually adding dishes traditionally associated with it. Other New Englanders adopted the custom and when they travelled westwards, took it with them. But it was not until 1863, during America’s Civil War that President Lincoln issued a White House proclamation calling on the “American people wherever they lived to unite with one heart and one voice”.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


Just a reminder to friends and members of our various writing groups, that one of my earlier books, entitled THE WOMAN WRITER will be discussed at an upcoming meeting in our city next month (if all goes well). A new website is being written for our amazing Society which was founded in 1894 by a wonderful, kind gentleman. Take a look at the website and let me know your thoughts? fairly soon. 

Monday, August 24, 2020


 I found it interesting over the weekend listening to BBC World Service radio to hear mention of Dr Marie Stopes, Marguerite Radclyffe Hall, Vera Brittain and Joyce Grenfell OBE. The common denominator was, of course, their connection with the Society of Women Writers and Journalists which celebrated its 126th anniversary a few months ago. We are pleased to welcome lots of new members this year, the very latest, living in Singapore.

Monday, August 17, 2020


 Nearly 80 organisations have now registered to take part in next month’s Virtual Fun Walk with participants able to walk the distance anytime during the month to raise money for their favourite charity or local good cause.

Many of the organisation are regular participants including Quilters Junior School, Changing Pathways, Brighter Opportunities for Special People (BOSP) and Special Needs and Parents (SNAP).

In 2019 Quilters Junior School, in Billericay, with support from waste firm Simply, raised over £7,000 through the Fun Walk. When asked about this year’s event, Head Teacher Michael Wade, said:

“This September, we have invited the whole school community to take place in this year’s Fun Walk virtually. We are hopeful that 100s of people will take part, far more than in past years!”Changing pathways raised £7,500 last year and used the funds to support victims of domestic violence. Talking about this year’s event,


Natasha Jean-Louis, Team Manager at Changing Pathways, said“It has been an extremely difficult time during Covid but we have been providing a full service and adding extra support due to the demand. Participating in The Fun Walk will enable us continue with the much-needed Children and Young People’s services within our crisis refuge.”BOSP Community Fundraiser Helen Diddams, said“We cannot overestimate how important this yearly event is to our small Charity, not just in terms of the funds it raises but as an inclusive activity that gets everyone moving”It will be SNAP’s 6th year as a recipient charity of The Fun Walk. Christina Stubbs, Director – Finance and Fundraising saidhanks to the generosity of The Fun Walk Trust we have raised a fantastic £23,314 over those years. These funds have helped us to be there for the ever increasing number of families seeking our assistance. “

John Baron MP, Chair of The Fun Walk Trust Trustees, said:

“We are delighted so many organisations return to the event each year and we are especially grateful for this year’s sponsors who are Swan Housing Association, Tunnelcraft, IFE Global Logistics, Anisha Grange Care Home, Butyl Products Group, Leonardo MW, McDonald’s Restaurants Basildon and others.”

The event will be open through the whole month of September so it’s not too late to register at

Saturday, August 15, 2020



Raining very hard here in Billericay, Essex at the moment.  How lucky we were to miss the downpour this morning at 11 o'clock when turning up for the VJ commemoration at the town's War Memorial to observe the two minute silence. Jim Shrubb, our Town Crier delivered a moving speech and verse recalling those terrible years in Burma.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Millions of people died during the worst conflict we’ve ever known. We remember them to ensure it can never happen again.

Monday, August 10, 2020


AMANDA is a good friend who happens also to be an author, historian and linguist and a long time member of our Society of Women Writers and Journalists.  She has previously worked in journalism, and public relations for television companies including The Walt Disney Company and Television New Zealand. In her early career she was involved with the PR launch of satellite television in Europe. Her 2010 book, The Lambeth Cholera Outbreak of 1848-1849 prompted London’s Lambeth Council to commission Amanda to write a heritage plaque dedicated to the victims of the epidemic which was erected on the South Bank in 2011. She has advised on the BBC’s 'Who Do You Think You Are?' (Series 10, 2013), 'The One Show' (2016) and, in collaboration with English Heritage, on 'The Flying Archaeologist' (2013), in which she also appeared. 

Born in Chatham, Kent, Amanda is passionate about the history and heritage of the Medway Towns and edits the historical journal 'The Clock Tower' for The Friends of Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre. Hopefully, Amanda will be taking part in our upcoming Phoenix98fm virtual book club programme in autumn 2020.


We may only be 140 days into 'lockdown limbo', but we thank Archant's Adriana Elgueta for keeping readers up to date with local matters in her Enjoy Brentwood More website.

The annals of Borough of Brentwood have many fascinating tales to tell, many of them from times' past, and it is a fact that we can learn so much from local writers. Contact our local library and the Brentwood Museum in Lorne Road.

Brentwood was originally built on a hill and this is probably the reason why the town has attracted so many hospitals, residential schools and orphanages to this green area (just 20 miles from London) over the last 150 years.

Can it only be a few months since the local press highlighted the decision to expand Brentwood Community Hospital to help accommodate the increasing numbers of coronavirus patients. Work on the isolation areas was carried out with help of many including the superb Fire and Rescue Service and the Army. 

New patients and older Brentwood residents have expressed their appreciation for the modern Brentwood Community Hospital opened in 2008, built on the site of the former hospital known as the "Brentwood District". This earlier building was opened in 1934 and that, too, has an interesting history.

The late Brian Lynch was a local journalist who wrote the book “The Finished Stairway” on the 50th anniversary of the building of the Brentwood District Hospital. He outlined the story of the original hospital, which opened its doors in the summer of 1934. Its cost – £40,000 was met by the people of Brentwood. It was a wonderful achievement as the building was opened absolutely free of debt, remarkable in that Depression era of the thirties, when so many people were out of work.

Fundraising is part of our lives now, but in 1931 – when the idea was first mooted - the cost of building a modern hospital was an impossible dream for such a small community. What happened next was an amazing feat. From a population of just 5,000 residents, rich and poor, working, middle and upper classes all came together to raise the money needed to build and equip this much needed hospital.

The 20-acre piece of land was generously donated by a local resident, Percy Bayman. The elected chairman of the Brentwood Hospital Governors, Frederick “Limelight” Jackson, was a successful businessman. His nickname derived from his ebullient character, but his passion for ‘getting things done’ was appreciated and vital to this communal project.

He launched the Brentwood Hospital fundraising campaign in January 1931 and the foundation stone ceremony was performed by the then Princess Royal, daughter of King George V in May that year. Every penny was needed for the fundraising bucket, Carnivals, coffee-mornings, raffles, school bazaars, church collections and contributions from anyone who had small change, was collected for the hospital fund.

The building work was undertaken by sixty local workmen who had been previously unemployed. On 14 June 1934, Frederick Jackson wrote: “The interest taken by everyone in the district has been wonderful and I anticipate that it will continue thus providing for upkeep and maintenance in which we shall require your further help.”

When the hospital was finished, the whole of Brentwood turned out to welcome Princess Helena Victoria, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, who took a key from Geoffrey Bayman, grandson of the great benefactor and turned it to open the doors of the new hospital which remained the pride of Brentwood for more than seventy years. 

Further historical information can be found on page 81 of my latest book BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS published by Amberley Books of Stroud available at WH Smith Ltd and Waterstones in Brentwood. Also via Amazon. 

Thursday, August 06, 2020


Despite a little telephone techno problem starting the August virtual BOOK CLUB programme today, we eventully had the pleasure of listening to our guest, Colin Taylor, former chairman and current committee member of Brentwood Writers' Circle. The lovely Michelle Ward interviewed Colin and we learnt a lot about this author's previous teaching life and his successful new direction as a writer and professional story teller. I hope to supply more information a little later this week.