No doubt there are many who think it was a very easy matter to write a sort of preface to such a singular, insignificant, and unworthy book as this is, but as there has been certainly not a little trouble involved, and necessarily so, in getting together the various constituent elements, or items, of which it is composed, so also there is there some little difficulty in writing anything likely to be useful or accepted in the shape of a prefatory note or argument, in reference to its content …
Thomas Lewis Wilson
27 December 1893
(Essex Record Office T/P 67/2)
About Thomas Lewis Wilson (1833-1919)
Congratulations to anyone reading this who recalls that I used the above quotation from Upminster’s local historian T L Wilson in the Introduction to Upminster: the story of a Garden Suburb!
It’s interesting to speculate what T L Wilson might have thought about an Upminster history website but as he was the self-acclaimed expert on anything about old Upminster I’d like to think that he would have approved.
For those who don’t know, Wilson was among other things the village carpenter, builder and undertaker with a passion for Upminster’s history. He wrote and published a parish history in 1856 when he was just 22 and updated and expanded it 25 years later in 1881. He realised that history was continuously being created so he then started to collect items of local interest and to keep cuttings from the local and occasionally national newspapers about Upminster. However, it seems that it was over 10 years before he started to put these together, pasting them into old builders’ catalogues, and he carried on doing this until his death in 1919 by which time he had amassed 10 volumes containing thousands of items plus a series of indexes to their contents.
About me – Tony Benton
Compared to Wilson I’m a beginner but all the same I’ve chalked up over twenty years of my own research into Upminster’s past and as some of you will know have produced several books about Upminster’s history, some of which you can still buy. In the Preface to the 2009 edition of Upminster: the story of a Garden Suburb I optimistically promised “For those who may wonder what’s coming next, my current researches will hopefully resulting a “prequel” to this book, the story of Upminster in the Victorian period, before the Garden Suburb was built.” Much as I’ve tried, I’ve not managed to shape the mass of information that I’ve assembled into a publication that I’m happy with sharing but there is much that I’ve written that deserves an audience.
I’ve also assembled over the past 20 years a collection of Upminster postcards and other images (some of which I’ve used in my books) plus an assorted selection of odds & sods (official term “ephemera”) about Upminster – including a fascinating series of papers from an inhabitant who lived here from 1903 to 1908. I’ve also got a mass of research about Edwardian Upminster and houses and the folk who lived in them in the Garden Suburb.
The time has come to start to share some of this and what better way to do this in 2014 but in a blog about Upminster’s history? I’ve probably got enough topics to keep me going for quite a while but if there’s a particular aspect of Upminster that’s of interest then please let me know by leaving a comment.
Some years ago, my daughter picked up for me a copy of your Images of England – Upminster and Hornchurch. At the foot of page 89 was a 1960’s picture of that portion of the High Street where Frank Luff had a tobacconist shop. I mentioned to my cousin Valerie Walker in Chiswick that I had an original packet of Frank’s Hornchurch postcards, signed by him and given to my mother. We never had occasion to use any of the cards, and we left Hornchurch in 1953. She pointed me in your direction–so you might say that your book led me to your site. Love the site and will be following it from now on. Cheers, Pete Williams.
Many thanks for your comments Pete. Sorry that I don’t have a similar Hornchurch website & that posts on here are infrequent! Best wishes. Tony
No worries, mate. Mum used to park her bike at Upminster Bridge Station each weekday morning and ride the district line to London. Sometimes, in the evening, I’d cycle home with her–and sometimes we’d visit Upminster. BTW, I thought the service provided by WordPress included notifying me when you had a new post. Guess not.
Hi Pete. You should be notified when I add a post or page but it may depend on your settings/preferences for this site on whether you are notified about responses (like this) so suggest you check these & amend if necessary.
HelloTony. I came across your very interesting and informative history site whilst researching the history of my great grandmother, Eliza Ann Thomas, B1860, San Francisco. It turns out her father Henry Thomas left London in 1853 to become a prospector in the California Gold Rush. I then found Eliza in the UK 1871 census in Upminster in, what I now believe to be, Upminster House School. How Eliza got from San Francisco to, what I understand was assume fee paying boarding school, I have yet to determine. She does, however appear in the UK 1881 census as an unmarried, unemployed boarder in a house in Poplar, having given birth to my grandmother, earlier that year. She then marries Robert Kelly, a labourer, 22 years her elder in 1883, the year in which my grandmother’s birth is registered.
I obviously have a few intriguing gaps in Eliza’s history, 1860 to 1881 and her decline from a pupil in a well respected school, to an unmarried mother, alone in a very poor area of London. if you could help me find more information on Eliza’s time in Upminster at Elizibeth Attwell’s school and possibly pupil records, or , that would be a great help. Regards John
There are no pupil records that I’m aware of, unfortunately. Have you checked passenger lists to pin down her arrival? Or what happened to her parents? It’s reasonable to assume that she was not in poverty in 1871!
I’ve checked the UK records on Ancestry & she appears to have married Alfred Henry Carter in 1882, her father Henry a carriage builder. She was living with him in 1891 & 1901 census (born USA) & 1911 born San Francisco. Can’t see anything like you have suggested!
Hi Tony, I hope you’re well. Do you know when Waldegrave Court was built, its at the bottom of Waldegrave Gardens. And was anything there before the current flats? Thanks very much.
Hi Jodie. I don’t have a specific date but it was Post War, probably 50s I think. I live at 46 which was built 1941 (& destroyed by V2 1945) .
It was originally a field unimaginatively named “Lower 11 acres”
My wife grew up in Upminster. For her last birthday she received from our eldest son a watercolor of an Upminster shop with a sign reading “H. Brewer”, located among the Station Road shops. You can see an image of the watercolor on its eBay listing here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/373152402104?nma=true&si=jarKbMjhhyabARZyYz4XXASXrMU%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
You may have to scroll down a bit to see it. The artist was G. E. Bushnell, and the watercolor was done around 1947. I searched for information on Bushnell but could find nothing. Do you know of him, or have any information about him that you can share? Many thanks!
Hi Charles, I can’t be 100% sure but a possible candidate is Grace Evelyn Bushnell, nee Still, who lived at 13 Kent Drive Hornchurch with her husband Lawrence in 1939 Register & still there in 1964. She was born 1915 & died 2001. Can post pic & query on Upminster & Hornchurch History Facebook group?
Many thanks for your response. Yes, I you could kindly post the photo and query on the Upminster & Hornchurch History Facebook group it would be greatly appreciated!
I’ve posted a query. Will advise if anything new emerges.
Many thanks indeed!!