Jim reeve
Jim Reeve and Pat Pound a member of BWC, who had books published on the same day
Jim Reeve and Pat Pound a member of BWC, who had books published on the same day.
Chelmsford Through Time - Jim Reeve

      It is hard to believe that the bridge that links the two main areas of  Chelmsford and Moulsham was built in 1787 and was opened to traffic in 1788 and has been in constant use since then. There has been a bridge on the site since 1372 and it has a grisly past.

     This book sets out to compare the old Town of Chelmsford with the City of today in photos and history.

      During the unrest on the continent in 1789 there were more soldiers in Chelmsford than citizens. Its public houses, such as the Saracen and the Black Boy had many famous visitors such as George 1V, The Duke of Wellington, Charles Dickens, and Trollope. 

     The Essex Chronicle commenced printing in a shop in the High Street during George 111's reign, that was 25 years  before The Times and America was still one of our colonies.

     The book is full of interesting facts about Chelmsford from, Schools, manufacturers, churches and the racecourse at Galleywood, which dates back before 1759 and was once the oldest in the country.

A Schoolboy's War In Cornwall - Jim Reeve     This books sets out to relate the true story of the author’s and thirty other evacuees fleeing from war torn parts of the country to the comparative safety of Cornwall. On the day that the Germans invaded Poland and for the next few days one and a half million children were moved by 4000 trains and 3000 buses. It was equivalent to moving ten armies and it saved thousands of lives. The evacuations continued throughout the first years of the War and the idea of evacuating the vulnerable went back to the First World War, and the plans were well advanced by the time Chamberlain stepped out of the plane waving his piece of paper announcing “peace in our time”

     Down in the basement, under the table my mother lay across my brother and me like a broody hen, as bombs fell out of the evening sky and our house rocked and shook from the blasts. This was my frightening introduction to World War 11 and my mother’s wake up call to have us evacuated. Before that night on the 7th September 1940 she was determined that Hitler was not going to get her out of her house but it was one of the dictator’s smaller victories, although he never knew of it.

     Imagine being a five-year old child and being taken down to your school by your mother, entering a coach that then took you to the station, while she had to wait outside the railings not knowing where you were going or when you would see each other again. When you finally reached your destination you were marched to a school hall where a stranger picked you out and took you to their home. It was unfortunate if you were a snotty nosed kid from the East End of London and nobody wanted you.

     Betty, aged seven sat on an evacuation train charged by her mother to look after her two younger sisters. She was surrounded by other children who she did not know when suddenly a ghost train, with its blinds pulled down and in complete darkness, slowly ground to a halt. In silence she and the other children watched, as men, naked except for a blanket, staggered out, some staggering on crutches. Soon, men on stretchers started to emerge, many lay still, their hands dangling lifelessly over the side while the male nurses struggled along the platform with their burden. Months later, Betty realized what she had witnessed was the return of some of the wounded troops from the beaches of Dunkirk.

     You would have thought Cornwall was safe but it was not, as some evacuees relate in the book, how, when they were playing on the beaches, German aircraft raked them with machine gun fire. Before crossing the sea on their way after bombing Falmouth or Plymouth, some German aircraft would drop any bombs they had left over on suitable targets including Truro Hospital.

     This book takes you through the experiences of the author and other evacuees who lived through those dark, far off days, when Britain was at war.
Memories Of Basildon - Jim Reeve
     Having worked for Basildon Development Corporation for thirty years as a housing officer and finally as the District Manager I felt I had to continue Tempus’s memory books by writing one on Basildon but by this time Tempus had been taken over by The History Press.

     Memories of Basildon sets out to capture what it was like as a plotlander by interviewing some of the children of that unique community. The book sets out, with recorded memories and photographs to show what it was like to live without electricity, water or gas, where in winter the roads were so muddy the coalman could not deliver coal and the doctor left his car at the bottom of the road, donned Wellington boots and walked up the narrow cement path the plotlanders had laid.

     The book continues with the memories and photographs of the first tenants who started to change this area during the 1950’s and 60’s. They originally came from all parts of the country with firms like Yardley’s, Fords and Carreras to set up the factories. They were soon followed by Londoners, as Boroughs started to reduce their enormous waiting lists following the destruction of so many houses during the 2nd World War. At first the tenants from the lists had to be nominated by an employer but as the years passed, and the town grew, this was gradually waived.

     The plotlanders were a special independent breed who resisted the change as the Corporation compulsorily purchased their land and acting in the law, gave them a pittance. Luckily, the law was eventually changed but sadly not back dated. The book shows how an area of 69 people has grown to the its present level of over 22,000 and illustrates how they worked and played and are gradually integrating.
Wickford Memories - Jim Reeve     The book contains the vivid memories and photographs of some wonderful characters of Wickford who, if I had not recorded their memories, may have been lost for ever. People who remembered when many parts of Wickford were just emerging from the plotlands in the 1920s.

     As a child during the Second World War I used to love to go to Wickford with my grandfather to buy day old chicks and if one of them survived after two days he considered himself lucky. I used to trail along behind him, hanging on his coat tails in case I got lost. As we wandered through the stalls I would take in the sights and smells of the market. Finally we would finish up in the Castle Public House where he would have his pint of brown and mild while I sat on the doorstep nursing a lemonade. As I grew up the fond memories of my childhood in Wickford were always with me and so when I heard that Tempus Publishers were commissioning a series of memory books I could not resist contacting them and was delighted when they gave me a contract to write this book.

     I set out with a hand held recorder and interviewed people like 95 year old Queenie who clearly remembers, as a 4 years old, being driven out to Grt. Burstead , by horse and cart, to see the wreckage of a First World War Zeppelin that was shot down. Even though nine decades have pasted she can still recall the smell of burnt flesh and the twisted frame of the craft. The crew of nine were originally buried in the local church yard but were eventually returned to Germany.

     As a young child, during the First World War, she watched a battalion of troops march smartly past her gate, their mules hauling their guns. She mistakenly thought it was the whole British army and was disappointed that she did not see her uncle.

     The air raid warning had just gone off and Mrs Read remembers as a nine year old pulling urgently at her younger sisters sleeve to get her to go out to the shelter. As she tugged she saw out of the bedroom window a parachute floating gently down with something swinging to and fro on the end. She suddenly realized it was a landmine dangling on the end. Acting on instinct she threw her sister on the bed and jumped on top of her just as the bomb exploded. The room imploded with glass and plaster flying in every direction but surprisingly they were unhurt. The Pratt family next door were not so fortunate and the whole family were wiped out in a single blow.

     This book is full of incidents that are part of local history and is a must for anyone interested in how Wickford developed from an area that was once plotlands to what it is today.
Basildon Then & Now - Jim Reeve     It is difficult to believe that the thriving bustling town of Basildon was once a small hamlet of 62 people, as recorded in the 1801 census. This book sets out, in coloured pictures and supporting text, how the area has changed over the intervening years. Modern Basildon has its roots in the decision of The London Land Company in 1891 to buy up farmlands from cash strapped farmers, who were suffering from the cheap imports of grain from America and Canada. They advertised in London and organised train excursions to Laindon, Pitsea and Wickford and then transported the prospective customers by horse and cart to the farms, where plots were sold for as little as £10.

     When Hitler started the Second World War, little did he know that he was helping to increase the population of Basildon and assist in its development, as Londoners fled to the relevant safety of the plotlands to escape the bombing; not that they were entirely safe, as the German aircraft jettisoned any bombs they had over from bombing London onto the Essex countryside, as they followed the Thames down to the North Sea on their journey home.

     The National population was euphoric when, in 1945 the War ended but the Labour Government was faced with a massive house shortage due to the destruction of large neighbourhoods of many of the cities and they came up with idea of building seven New Towns and designated Basildon as one of them. The local councillors of Billericay were pleased with the decision as they saw it as a way of improving the plotlands, which did not have roads, piped water, gas, electricity nor proper sanitary conditions. There was great resistance by the residents, who saw that their way of life was going to dramatically change.

     Basildon Then and Now sets out to show some of the changes that have taken place over the last hundred years, from Laindon High Road being reduced from having 120 shops to practically nil and replaced by, the then, modern Laindon Centre, with its array of shops which at one time sold everything from lawn mowers to drawing pins and is now undergoing another transformation. The rest of the High Street has been turned over to housing, the Community Hall, the Police Station and the Library.

     Pitsea Market was once situated in Station Road and has changed position a number of times. There are rumours of it changing location once again. The book shows the original St. Michael’s Church, which is at the heart of Pitsea and dates back to the sixteenth century and which is now a shadow of its former self, with its one magnificent tower surveying the changes that have taken place over the years. These are examples of the then and now of the town that is, and was, Basildon.

© Jim Reeve