My parents moved to the estate when it was still in the process of being built and I had a very happy time there until I left to go to college at the age of eighteen years. I attended Bata School and remember drinking hot milk which was provided each morning break and playing on the grass outside at playtime. I also well remember the discipline of Miss Richardson who would hold our wrists and slap the back of our hands if we misbehaved. I think it probably hurt her as much as it hurt us! The low hedges surrounding the school held a variety of interests including fat green caterpillars with a spike on the tail as well as the occasional grass snake or adder which we boys would hoick out with a stick and throw around - children are cruel I guess!
There was always such a lot to do on the estate - the playground with its swings, slide and roundabout, the swimming pool, the pavements over which we roller skated and played roller skate hockey. There were the woods near the farm - the first wood with an old fallen tree on which we played pirates and the second wood with its taller trees up which we climbed to get rooks’ eggs which we carried down in our mouths…or at least only half-way down if we were unlucky! Then there were the marshes! “Let’s go over the marshes.” we would say and then along the path from QE Avenue with Kim our border collie, past an old tree with a rope hanging from it (having perhaps had a swing) and off to the sea wall with its distinctive smell of mud and marsh. In the distance were the Shell Works and I was interested to learn later that the area was called “Shell Bay” 200 years earlier, long before the works arrived.
David with his Mother, Gran and in the Paddling Pool.
At the age of eleven I “passed the 11+” on interview and went to Palmers Endowed School in Grays, travelling each day by train from the station. As I grew older I worked in the holidays (not without a certain resistance!!) at Mr Osborne’s farm in East Tilbury village pulling kail or cleaning out chicken sheds. One lunchtime my mother refused to let me in the house until I had stripped due to the smell! Later I was to work in the factory during holidays and I remember being in the rubber factory putting glue on the small piece which wraps around the heel of the boot and passing it to the person on the conveyor belt! One minute seemed like an hour especially as I had strained my ankle and had to stand all day. I also worked at the Southend shoe shop during one Christmas holiday although for two or three years I worked at the Grays PO to help with the Christmas pressure, Many young people were employed doing this.
There were sad moments as is always the case and I remember a small number of accidents. We used to somehow get rolls of film and cut lengths which we wrapped in newspaper and set light to…we called them “fizz bombs” I think. One lad had a roll in his trouser pocket and it caught fire and I seem to remember that he had to wear a caliper on his leg thereafter. There was another lad who actually died due to a fall from a construction of some sort somewhere along the river bank and yet another small child who was caught up in the Bata road sweeping machine. These are vague images and I may have details incorrect.
Of course, during my teenage years it was the girls who were the main attraction although I have to say that most of the Czech young ladies were unattainable. Many of them were, however, friends and I can still remember the smell in a Czech kitchen when biscuits or cakes were being made. It was wonderful. How lucky were to grow up among a variety of cultures, diverse people of different nationalities who bonded together to produce a happy whole where there was no feeling of class difference, rather a healthy community bonded by their allegiance to their employer. An employer who provided so much that it is a wonder that we ever felt the need to leave the estate!!
My teenage years were in the 1950’s and it was great to sit in the Coffee Bar and play the juke box with male and female friends and then go off the cinema where I am sure that we did not behave very well. I remember that I had just acquired a portable tape recorder and so I recorded some noisy parts of the film and played them back during a love scene! Was it Mr Lewis who tore up and down the gangway attempting to find the culprit? Behind the cinema were steps leading to a small alcove where a great deal of what we called “snogging” took place
Looking back Bata Estate was a haven for young people of all ages and I have wonderful memories. At the age of forty I returned and would you believe it….two people recognised me!! One I believe was Mr Hollington who lived at the end of QE Avenue! I also wrote a lengthy account of my life on the estate which I am in the process of reviewing after which I shall record for a future Bata Audio record. It is very exciting to have come across the website - it brings back very happy memories!
A Birthday party in the garden of 20 Queen Mary Avenue.
In the Sitting room of 28 Queen Elizabeth Ave.