Sea-Change:  Wivenhoe Remembered   


There were over twenty pubs in Wivenhoe in 1900, including four going back at least to the 18th century, and compared with only six today. But the pubs are still a crucial part of the flavour of Wivenhoe’s social life. Included below are memories from Dennis Sparling and Glendower Jackson who grew up in the Station and the Grosvenor in the 1930s, and Colin Andrews who ran the Station in the 1980s.

A choice of PubsEllen Primm

There were 23 pubs when my mum was a girl! Twenty-three, just imagine! And the only time my dad went to the pub was when he had his Union Meetings at the Park Hotel and my mother used to give him tuppence for half a pint of beer after he had his meeting! And that used to tickle me! I said, ‘You’re just allowed a half, then, Dad?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’m not allowed any more!’

Charles Tayler

The first pub I ever had a drink in was The Flag, and old Kite kept that. I can remember about 12, 14 pubs open in my time, but at one time there used to be 22 pubs in Wivenhoe, there did. There was the Tavern and a Brewery Tap. I’ve drank in them. There was the Black Buoy, the Rose and Crown, the Anchor, the Shipwright’s, the Station Hotel, the Greyhound, the Grosvenor, the Falcon, the Station, the Park Hotel, the Horse and Groom, the Beehive and the Flag – those pubs I’ve had a drink in. The Flag was quite nice. The Station was nice. That was a fun pub, that was, a laugh pub. Yes, when old Ron Chaney had that. You had a laugh and a joke and you could always get a game of dominoes with the old boys, with the old farmers, they loved dominoes. Used to join in with the old people. Old Alf Bowes and Patty Pascoe and that, they used to get to war over dominoes, they did! But what, must be seven or eight years since I went in a pub.

Wivenhoe disease – Dr Ted Palmer

There were an immense number of pubs, I can’t remember how many, but a lot. I was told by some patient the reason. One was that, in the old days when the yachts used to go out, prior to the War, the chaps would be away for about six months, seven, or eight months sometimes, and the wives then opened the front rooms as pubs. ‘Wivenhoe Disease’ was not exactly uncommon.

Caring for drinkers –Dennis Sparling

It was mainly the problem of a very few people, there were one or two who were known heavy drinkers, and they were never a problem. Although they got drunk, because you lived with them, they lived with you, you knew them. It was much more, ‘Oh, who’s going to see Fred home tonight?’ Or, ‘If you’re going up, take him with you.’

The Trade Union Club RoomDennis Sparling

At the Station Hotel there was a ‘Club Room’ and it held about 30 people. The Railway Union used to meet there, the Boilermakers’ Union. I can remember it because each Society had a really big tin chest with their names on and two locks, so as the Secretary and somebody had to be there before you could undo the locks. But also it was our playroom, it was part of our house. The only thing was, the kitchen was three floors below!

Apprentice boysJohn Bines

So we used to come to Wivenhoe, all the apprentice boys came to Wivenhoe, and we used to go to the Station Hotel about eight o’clock, pay your Union, you’d have a small brown there, and then we would go out round the pubs of Wivenhoe. Usually used to walk along West Street, towards the Shipwrights’ Arms, and have a look in there, if there was too many people in there, there weren’t enough glasses to have a drink, so we used to go along from there sometimes down on to the Quay, but more than likely head for the Black Buoy, which was a much more lively pub, and then either to the Brewer’s round near the Yard, or used to go to the Falcon Hotel, and gradually work our way up the street, having one or two, and a good Friday night was had by all the apprentices! 

Drinks for commuters – Dennis Sparling

In those days, people used to travel from Brightlingsea to London, on a daily basis, commuting in. And what used to happen was that they used to come from Liverpool Street into Wivenhoe, on a direct line, and they used to get off at Wivenhoe, and the Brightlingsea line train was in the sidings. So once the Clacton line had gone through – this puffer came through – the Brightlingsea `Crab and Winkle’ came through and picked the people up, on the station, who lived in Brightlingsea. But, of course, in that time, which took something like seven or eight minutes, they all used to rush across the bridge, and we had all the drinks all lined up, and they used to come in and have all their drinks, and then go back and catch the train!

This happened every night of the working week. And they would all settle their bills at the end of the week. They were clerks in banks and things, and they wore suits! They didn’t go to work in overalls like the rest of the men in the village went. 

The Irishmen at the Falcon – Helen Douzier

I was born in 1947 at the Falcon Pub, which is just beside St Mary’s Church but, of course it’s not a pub now, it’s been converted into three separate houses. I have two brothers, one was born at The Falcon but the other one was born in London. My parents came from London to help look after the pub because my father’s father was running it and he wasn’t well, and I think this was just before the Second World War.  

While my parents were running the pub my mother used to have some Irishmen living with us that worked at the Shipyard and, of course, they were helping to build the ships during the War. And they came over from Ireland because, obviously, they would be skilled shipbuilders, and I believe we had ten living with us and I can remember they slept in one room. It was one very big room and these ten Irishmen would sleep in this one room! I have a photograph of them, and two of the Irishmen married local people. The Irishmen all used to spoil me and make a fuss of me as, I think, they did with most of the children in the village; they would buy them sweets and be very kind. 

My husband comes from Ireland, and lived in Belfast when I met him, and I did go out there to meet his parents, and whilst we were there we did look up the one Irishman that I had remembered.  

Running the Falcon – Helen Douzier

My mother must have worked very hard because she had three very young children and ten Irishmen and a husband who was a bit scatty but a lovely man! And I understand he was a very loveable character, and if the local men came to the pub and had had too much to drink he would make them a cup of coffee and send them home because he knew they couldn’t afford to have another drink. I don’t think they made any money whatever, they just tried to help people. Running the pub was a completely new experience for both of them.  

Smuggling and the last days of the FalconJohn Ashworth

The Falcon Inn must go back almost as far as the church. It was both a pub and a hotel and for many years the most successful hostelry in Wivenhoe. It was where all the election meetings were held, all the auctions were held, where the yacht owners would come when they were looking after their yachts. Elizabeth Jeffrey has written a nice book, Cassie Jordan, which is essentially a novel about the house. When I first knew the building it was in a very run-down condition. The hotel was pretty moribund. The Park Hotel had taken over from it and the pub was run by a strange Pole called Stefan. He had been a member of the Polish Free Forces during the War and told improbable stories about his exploits in Italy, and the Falcon was decorated with some of his war memorabilia. He kept a not very good pub. But he had the great advantage of speaking Polish and when the Port developed a timber importing trade, whereby ships came twice a week from Gdansk laden with timber to Wivenhoe, Stefan began a very active vodka smuggling business. Stacks of timber were hollowed out and vodka was put there. The odd case here or there didn’t matter, but when it got to trailer load of quantities the Revenue decided this was beyond a joke! Staked out the top of the church and caught him red-handed. So Stefan went to jail and [in the early 1970s] the brewery decided to put the property on the market.  

Painting a mural – Frank Hodgson

So I came down to Wivenhoe. I’ll never forget this. The first thing I did once I came off the station was, I went into the Grosvenor for a pint! And there was two lads in there painting a mural, and I learned later it was the Dan brothers and they did this job for nothing, except they did it for the beer money! Yes! They thoroughly enjoyed it too, I’m sure! Phil Dan and John, his brother.  

Memories of winters – Max Tannahill

You’d see people in the Greyhound or Rose and Crown. I have more memories of winters, especially when the fires were lit, because my shed wasn’t heated. And I went out to pubs anyway – I make no bones about it – but it was nice and warm, see your friends, and smoke yourself half to death, and drink beer, and talk. It was good to see all these people. But people would pop in and say, ‘Oh, come to the Rose and Crown,’ and you’d wander around the village and that was nice. It was just different. It wasn’t like one place, like a club or something. But having said that, in the Rose and Crown in those days we used to sit in one corner – the arty people, you know. That was in the early nineties. 

In those days, most days in the evening, would pop down, see each other. It just seemed to be a natural thing to do, just to go and meet – there wasn’t that many times when you’d stay in. Because it was so close in the bottom end of the village it was a natural thing to do – meet your girlfriend and all that business. Sometimes you needed a little bit of work to supplement the income, you’d go and chat to so and so, be approached, so it was good to be out and about. The Greyhound, the Black Buoy. There were certain times in the day you could find people. I think everybody knew, it was like an internal clockwork, in a way, that if you wanted to meet so and so you’d go to the Greyhound… 

Hearse and Gloom – Pat Smith

The Horse and Groom was run by Harry and his wife, who got the nickname for the pub, the ‘Hearse and Gloom,’ because he didn’t tolerate people having too good a time. He would only sell people one packet of cigarettes at a time, things like that. 

The Station or the Rose and CrownMax Tannahill

Simon Smith had the Station in the late Eighties/Nineties. The Port was open then too, and that changed its character. The Station was regarded as quite a rough place because of the docks and dockworkers and the crews from the coasters – the ships that used to come into the Port here, maybe stay overnight. I always found it quite friendly.  It was a more masculine type of pub than, say, the Rose and Crown, where you get people who want to sit and look at the river. Mind you, at the Station you could sit and look at the docks.  

Women and family

Over the bar – Ivy Knappett

My mother was a barmaid as well but she didn’t like it because when she used to get over the bar all the men used to run up to see if she’d got her knickers on! And she used to cock her legs over the bar and get over the other side, she told me! You know the bar, they hadn’t got nowhere at the end there to get through, you had to jump up over the side. She told me, she say, ‘If they was to put their hands up my clothes,’ she said, ‘I’d kick them in the face!’ Oh dear! They were the days, weren’t they! Mustn’t do that now! You’d be put in prison!

No women –Halcyon Palmer

[In the 1940s] women didn’t go to pubs! I can remember we lived next door to a pub – the Falcon – and on a Saturday night they sometimes danced on the tables and I can remember my mother just being horrified! We thought it was terribly exciting!

Freda Annis

Granny had got a sense of humour. She used to like to tell us all these tales! But the Greyhound has got their room, you go up the steps to it. Well, of course they weren’t allowed to go in the pub, but apparently there were several of them got with a few boys and they used to go there and they used to have a sly drink. And one night somebody went in and he said, ‘You want to watch it!’ There was my granny and her sister – Hannah and Edith. He said, ‘Your father’s coming up the road.’ So they couldn’t go out the front way, so one of the boys helped them out the back window and they went out of the back of the Greyhound, down Brook Hill [now Queen’s Road], they ran all the way down the hill, across the railway line, and when Father comes back they’re sitting indoors! 

Beer for maiden ladiesDennis Sparling

[At the Station] we had what’s called a ‘snug.’ You went in the front door, which is now not there, and you turned right into a very small cubby hole, which couldn’t be seen from anywhere else, and it had its own screen, and discreet people would come in and buy their jug of beer – it was a jug – and then would go off, or if it was a lady, it was stout. And I used to deliver jugs of beer up Station Road to three houses, in particular, always had a jug of beer delivered in a jug – big pewter jug. 

Saturdays was spent pushing a barrow round the village delivering all beer orders mainly to people who didn’t drink in the pub. Bottles of beer to maiden ladies who didn’t appear to drink! One or two who had quite a lot more than anybody would ever suspect! I had a barrow and I did it from the time I was 11 or 12. 

Attitude to alcohol – Freda Annis

My mother never would go to the pub. Uncle Jim used to always bring Granny a bottle of stout on a Friday night and that was her week! Mum wouldn’t have anything. No, she didn’t like smoking, she didn’t like drinking. Not her, nor Aunt Alice, they were very strict on that. I know Mum didn’t make home-made wine or anything like that. The others all did but she never did. And she wouldn’t drink – she didn’t like it anyway. Neither did I.

Not allowed to drink –Minnie Scott

I was only about three when my dad took it [the Park Hotel], so I was brought up in it. Not allowed to drink. Never drank. He allowed the boys to have a little, but not the girls. We weren’t allowed to. 

Floor scrubbingIvy Knappett

My mother used to work in the Black Buoy on the Quay. And she used to take me up to the Black Buoy after nine at night and she scrubbed the floor – there was no lino, there was just wood, like – and she used to scrub that and scrub that after all the beer was soaked in where they’d dropped it. Now, I went down there not so very long ago because I had a girl staying here from abroad and oh, the difference it was! All nice table-cloths on the table – and when I used to go in there, old wood floor!

Park Hotel childhood – Minnie Scott

[My parents had the Park Hotel] about 30 years. They took it off of my mother’s uncle. He had it, and he wanted to retire, and so my mum and dad took it, because Dad used to go to sea, and of course he gave that up. He’d been in every country in the world, because he left home at 15 and went all over the world. The only country he hadn’t been in was Germany. He’d been to every other country in the world and the customers used to like to hear him, where he’d been.  

Four bedrooms. And, of course, we had to have the [First World War] soldiers. They were good – nice. They’d have been out if they weren’t. They came from Norfolk nearly all of them, and their people had farms. They were farmers’ sons. Nearly everybody had the soldiers, you see, all of them, and the soldiers used to get an amount of food.  

There was a Club Room, stretched from the whole house, like right the way through, and we had lots of Unions, you know, the AEU, they used to hold their meetings up there. What we called the Club Room, that was a room stretched the whole length.

Children’s duties at the Park Hotel – Minnie Scott

I used to have to dust all those bloomin’ chairs, and I used to carry on under my breath all the time! I wasn’t very old, and other kids were out playing. 

[The Park Hotel] was a big house to keep clean. I used to come down, every day, from top to bottom. And the bar used to have to be scrubbed out. And the seats used to have to be scrubbed because they were white wood. And everywhere was done every day. In the winter, I used to get up to five fireplaces. Oh, I used to hate that. I used to have to get them done. I used to get up at half past six, six o’clock sometimes, and I used to say to my sister, ‘You don’t want to get up. You stay there. Let me get clear first,’ and I used to do it. Yes, coal fires. All that coal used to have to be brought in, all up where we wanted it. Well, you see, my mum and dad had it first. My mum and dad, they took it off my mother’s uncle. I hated it at first. Hated it. Didn’t like it. Used to cry. But then when I got older, and I used to have to serve, I got used to it more, and I missed it when I left, because, you see, I knew everybody who came in, and if they wanted somebody to play darts, I used to do it.

Running the Park Hotel – Minnie Scott

I used to ‘broach,’ if you know what that mean! Get ready for the beer down the cellar to come up. And I used to dread doing that, because if I missed, that would go all over the place! I used to hate doing that! Well, put a thing on the cork, and bang it in, and get another cork quick before it came out! But, no, I used to do all that. I used to dread broaching, hated it. I was nervous you see. I ran that pub all the War. I ran that myself. My husband, you see, he was on War Work, so he wasn’t there a lot. No, I ran that pub. 

[The customers] were nice Wivenhoe people, and they were nice to me, you see, because I was a Wivenhoe person, and they were nice. I liked it. Mind you, that was hard work. It’s not easy. I mean, you don’t finish till ten, and then you’ve got to wash all up and clear. I used to get everything ready for the morning, and that used to be about 11 o’clock before I finished. No, hard work, but I did it.  

No, I’ve worked hard in my time, very hard. Still, you do, in a pub. Not easy in a pub. And if you offend one, you can say you’ve offended six, because they take them with them wherever they go. So not easy, but I enjoyed it. I loved it. I think we were about the best pub in Wivenhoe because we had everything, you see. Everything people wanted, we did. 

Running the Greyhound – Pat Smith

Working in the Greyhound was the same as working in any pub, it virtually takes over your life, because you live above the shop, so to speak, and you start work when you get out of bed, and apart from sort of demanding an afternoon or an evening off from time to time, and paying someone else to come in and take over it ends when you go to bed. But it’s a very sociable job, because everybody comes to see you, so you don’t really need to go to another pub – although it’s very pleasant on your night off! You make a lot of friends, and it becomes a social centre. We did bar meals, we never did restaurant meals there. We met a lot of people who are still good friends.

Always something going on – Pat Smith

There’s always something going on. At Christmas there’s always people singing. When we first moved down to Wales, they asked me to show them some pictures of my last pub, and I shew them pictures of the Christmas before, that we’d been there. And somebody said, ‘On all of these pictures, everybody has got their mouths open. Why?’ I said, ‘Well, they didn’t stop singing!’ I said, ‘It was Christmas, and they sung Christmas carols.’ And Celia and I got so fed up with the fact that they only knew the first verse, that Celia made carol Sheets written on the back of wallpaper, so that everyone could see them. She also composed a carol about the Greyhound sung to, ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High,’ but she had the Greyhound bells ringing for that! 

Celebrating and grieving with customers – Pat Smith

You tend to celebrate with your customers, and grieve with your customers, unfortunately, on occasions. You know about their families, when somebody is ill, or when the kids are going to start school, and you join in the celebrations of the engagements and the weddings and the births, and the new job, that sort of thing. And, unfortunately, as I say, you also grieve with them on occasions. When John died – John Dan, who lived almost next door – his widow came and said could they come back to the pub after the funeral because the house wasn’t big enough, and I’ve never seen as many people in a pub in any time I’ve been in the trade. We coped with it, we knew it was going to be very busy, so we laid on some extra staff, so that everybody did manage to get served, and there were a lot of happy stories, and happy memories of John, although, of course, we were all desperately sad that he wasn’t with us any more.

Pub boyhoods – Dennis Sparling

The children who live in a pub have a very difficult life. It’s practically an unideal situation to bring children up in. There’s nothing private. You’ve always got strangers milling about. You’ve always got late nights and you’ve got the influx of people at half past six in the evening, coming in from work, for drinks, some of them stay until 10 o’clock when the pubs closed, in those days, at ten. 

Glendower Jackson

The customers were all so very generous, even though money was tight. I remember five Woodbines and a pint of beer was sixpence. And every morning I came down from my bedroom, I would go in the bar, and I would take the first pack of cigarettes, which was Woodbines, five in a pack, and I would remove the cigarette card. And unfortunately I do not know what happened to them all – I had quite a collection – I wish I had them now, they’d have been worth a few pounds! 

Sick of the sight –William Sparrow

My father would never go in pubs at all. He really disliked pubs from his boyhood memories. My grandfather was not, perhaps, the most popular man in some ways! He was a pub landlord [of the Rose and Crown], he liked that bit, he didn’t really like any of his customers, he just got sick of them. I can always remember them saying, that people would wait outside the door for you to open, and it was the same faces that you’d seen the day before, and you had to put on a smile for them, because they’d be your best customers, but you’re really sick of the sight of them! They’re there from 6.30 till 11.30, apart from Sundays every day of the week, and he used to stand there behind the bar, listening to a lot of beer talk, a lot of rubbish.

Pub Divisions and Pub Fun 

Pub divisions and pub games –Dennis Sparling

The [Station] pub was divided into three bits. There was the bar, which was really the kind of stand up and have a drink type place. Then there was the smoke room which was where you played dominoes and darts. And then there was the parlour, where you only played solo whist while you all sit round. The working-class blokes didn’t play solo whist, they played darts and dominoes and cribbage.

There was no betting in the pub at all. They used to play dominoes for a round of drinks. The loser buys the next round of drinks, you know. And that, of course, dominoes was a highly skilful game of cheat. If you could cheat well you won at dominoes because, in those days, a lot of the men took snuff, and they would mark the back of a domino – the classical domino could get a bit of snuff on them. So everybody used to brush all the snuff off first! The double six, and the 6:3 were the two prominent numbers that you wanted and they would have a sniff of snuff, and tap it out, and accidentally tap it out on the double six!

Card games were not played in the pub on a Sunday. The dart board was closed, and cards, and dominoes, were not played on Sundays. You could play solo whist, and you could play cribbage. But you couldn’t play nap, and you couldn’t play darts. So in the summer time, when it was a Sunday, other things would happen. And we had a game called ‘Tip It.’ You had two long tables with people, and they all sat side by side, perhaps eight or ten aside, with their hands under the table, and then you’d pass a coin up and down the table, and you’d bring your hands up, and somebody on the other side had to guess which hand held the coin. 

Bill Heslop

The Horse and Groom then was like a traditional Essex pub with little compartments, and the ladies were in one side of the compartment and the men were the other, and the barmaid was on our side and we’d be putting the world to rights in our little corner every Friday night. And I remember Wally Whymark – a well known local character – he used to shout behind the barrier, ‘Did you get that, Ethel?’ if any gossip was going on. Before long that gossip was all round the village, of course!

Peter Sainty

In the old days you’d go in the Rose and Crown, there’d be six old boys playing dominoes and the first thing, they wanted us to play with them – only to get a free pint – but it was fun! We used to go in there and they’d say, ‘Want to have a game of dominoes, boy?’ 

Dennis Sparling

At the Station Hotel we didn’t have a skittles rink, although one or two pubs in the village did, we had a quoits rink, with these great big steel quoits which you threw, and tried to get over a pin. It was at the back of the pub – that space was all open ground when I was a child. So they had this quoits rink, which was a bed of clay, and the whole object was to be able to throw this 8lb steel disk and get it nearest to the pin.  

Trio at the FlagEunice Baker

In the Forties when Alf Gooch kept the Flag, Ken Hodges played the piano and a Univox organ on the end of it, and my husband played drums. Ken Hodges played so he could pay for his first television. My husband played for the children’s dinner money. They used to play Saturday night and Sunday night, for a pound. All they got was a pound.

Station pianist –Dennis Sparling

We used to have one man who came in [to the Station] every Saturday night and he played the piano for drinks. Bill Snelling. And his son used to come, when he was about 13, and played the violin and he was an absolutely fine violinist – both of them untutored or self-taught as far as I know. Mr Snelling worked at Paxmans Diesels. Lots of things that went on in a village pub wouldn’t be countenanced in the towns! When you got somebody who could play the piano the whole pub sang – it was more the maudlin type songs, in the main. They used to sing ‘Come into the Garden, Maud.’

Shipwrights in the GrosvenorGlendower Jackson

It was always the shipwright men that went to the pub. As soon as the whistle blew they were in the pub. They would be there playing darts and all sitting around. They always sang songs. There would always be somebody in there who could play a little piano accordion thing, a little squeezebox. And there were always dart matches – quite often they would ask me to pick the darts up if they threw and hit and they’d bounce off and they’d give me a halfpenny at the end of the evening.

Always made very welcome – Tony Allcock

I don’t think there’s anything I dislike about Wivenhoe at all. Living here for over 40 years, I still like the atmosphere. You can walk into pubs and clubs and you’re always made very welcome. There’s one pub I hadn’t been in for nearly two years, the Horse and Groom. And I’ll never forget it. It’s owned by Simon Smith, he’s the landlord there, and I walked in and it was just like, ‘Hello, Tony. How are you? Have this drink on me’ – and that was after two years! So you’re never really forgotten. I mean, he sees an awful lot of changes of faces and a lot of regulars as well, but most of the pubs are very much like that. You don’t necessarily have to go in there every day or every month, but if you do walk in they’re always pleased to see you. I know it’s part of their business, but then again, they don’t have to necessarily be like that. 

Jokes  for the customers – Colin Andrews

Running the Station Hotel was a good exercise in sociology! I’d recommend it to anybody in sociology! You get all the characters in there – truly cosmopolitan. You could have academics but you could also have road sweepers or whatever, they all joined together in there and it was quite a levelling process really. Other than maintaining the products – good beer – I think you have to make everybody welcome, across all dimensions. And it’s like show business, you’ve got to put on a smile even if you don’t feel like it. And, yes, maintain the good beer.  

I even used to run a script sometimes because the early evening customers were businessmen dropping in for an early drink who wanted to be entertained, so it was joke time, so sometimes I used to write a script and have a prompt card under the counter, just to run off a few jokes and keep everything going.  

I used to take the point, I never wanted to see anybody on their own. A pub is essentially social. There are some people who wish to remain isolated but those that sit at the bar, if they didn’t know their fellow customers, I used to make the introductions. It’s good business also, of course, if they came back. But also to acknowledge them. You are a host, it’s your house, it’s your home, and you’re welcoming them into your home, which is the basic principle of being an inn-keeper really. I always welcomed them and said, ‘Hi!,’ and if you can’t serve them then, just say, ‘I’ll be with you in a minute,’ and when they leave, I always say, ‘Goodnight’ and ‘Thank you.’ And the best departure you’d get from them is, ‘Cheerio. We’ve had a lovely night,’ because we know they’re going happy then. Well, it doesn’t matter whether they’ve bought one pint or ten, the principle is the same.

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