Friday, 9 October 2009

Roxwell: The Bridges Family of Cooksmill Green (1)

Maureen-Garnham Lopez is the daughter of Frederick Wilfred Garnham who was born in 1914 at Radley Green. In this story she recalls family life in nearby Cooksmill Green where her father grew up living with his own mother and grandparents.

She writes:

I always loved going to Cooksey, when the weather was nice. Mum would put the youngest children in a pram and we would all walk from Chelmsford. When it was spring time, we would stop and pick primroses along the way. Our trip started by walking down Melbourne Road, Chignal Road, to Roxwell Road and then taking the back roads to Grandma's.

Dad [Frederick Wilfred Garnham] loved his childhood home. You could tell by his mannerism that Cooksey had his heart. My mother was not so keen on ever moving out to the country but she knew that the time was coming.

Grandad [Percy Bridges, who married by grandmother following Fred Garnham's death in WW1] had given dad some land next to Uncle Ron [Bridges] and we knew that a house would be built there one day. At that time there was an old wooden house on the property. I believe that it was empty, as kids we never went to look or even ask about it.

[Percy Bridges was born in this house in 1895 and lived there until he died in 1974.]

I always thought Cooksey had it own smells. There were many flowers, roses (my dad's favourite plant), grass, baking and even the outhouse. The outhouse was out back, the path ran alongside the chicken coop, its seat was made of wooden boards with a hole in the middle. There was a smell to it, a very pleasant clean smell.

You could always hear the chickens, especially the roosters early in the mornings letting us know a new day has started. Grandma would collect the eggs in a basket and my sister Muriel [Garnham] said that she got served many an egg when she stayed there.

The large gardens were kept immaculately. There was a large green apple tree in the middle of the two houses. Grandma would make apple sauce with them. Grandad Bridges was always pondering around the garden dressed in or they looked like to me, woollen army beige colour pants with suspenders, a long sleeve shirt rolled up and boots. He was a very big man with full lips, but not much hair.

Outside the back door of grandma's house was a silver colour metal thing. I thought it was so neat, it was used to clean the mud or dirt off your boots, shoes, or whatever you were wearing. When you entered through the back door - it was the only one we used - there was a very small room, much like a closet only it was square shaped. Inside this was a sink and a draining board. You would turn left, go through the dining, living room into the so-called kitchen. A table sat in front of the window, when Grandad came in for tea or a meal, he always sat on the right side. I remember him smacking those big lips as he was enjoying whatever he was drinking or eating.

Grandma was always walking back and forth, back and forth to the sink from the kitchen. The floor was wooden with linoleum on top but the boards were loose, you could always hear her footsteps. The walls and ceiling had beautiful wooden beams running down and across them. There was a fireplace to warm you on a cold day. Upstairs in one of the bedrooms, the floor was slanted, so Grandma had placed wooden blocks behind the feet of the bed so it wouldn't move.

Uncle Ron [Bridges] lived next door with his wife Betty and baby daughter Sandra. I would go during the summer holidays and spend time with them. I would help my aunt sweep and clean her house. We would set the table at night for my uncle's breakfast in the morning. Beside the table, in the wall was an aquarium you could see the fish from the living and dining room.

I would take my cousin [Sandra] for a ride in her pram. I would take a left at the end of the lane and go towards the road to Ongar, never making it to the end. We'd passed the red post box, the little old store that sold everything, but I remember the sweets most. There was a farm that had huge pigs, sometimes I would go the other way past the farm that had ducks. Several times I would stop to watch the mama duck cross the road with all her family, following single file behind her to go for a swim in the pond. At the end of the road was a cottage facing the road where it veered off to the left to Roxwell, right "back roads" as my dad said to Chelmsford. Granddad Bridges Grandfather lived with his family there at one time.

In the bedroom that I slept in, the window was low to the floor, maybe six inches above it. Aunt Betty would always make homemade muffins, were they good, the smell would fill the air, wow!

Just a few years ago, I visited Uncle Ron with [my husband] Adolfo, camera in hand and asked if we could film him while I asked questions about the family, especially about my mum and dad. I wanted to know if he knew how they met, he obliged with our wishes and it was great, we got new information.

Uncle Ron was living in Grandma's Bridge’s (his mother's) house at the time. Colin, my youngest brother and I went over to his house. Uncle Ron offered to show us around the house. Colin was so pleased as he had not been inside the house in years. He did not remember how it looked. He was too young to remember. I took a few photos of the inside and I am glad I have them to share them with my family.

Colin and I have been working on the family tree with our brother Dennis and my daughter Amanda for a number of years now. Dennis also lives in Cooksey. All our family was at Dennis' for a B.B.Q. as I was visiting from the States. I went over to Uncle Ron's. He was sitting outside with his second wife. I asked him if he had any pictures of grandma when she was younger. I had only one of her by herself, middle aged, standing by the pond, it was taken in their yard. Uncle Ron told me he had taken the picture himself. Uncle Ron's wife left the table and went inside, when she returned she had something that was worth a million dollars to me. In her hand was a picture of Fred Garnham and wife Rosa, I had never seen are heard anything about this picture. The family had known of only one other picture of him. I was so excited, overjoyed, how could this be, before my dad died, did he know this photo existed? I didn't think so. She also had other picture of grandma. I asked if I could take them to show to my brothers and sister, she said yes. They were overjoyed. I returned them back to her and asked if she could get copies of the photos. She did and now all my family now have copies of their own.

Last year, 2008, we met some people on the Internet that were family. It was a couple of days before we were due to leave to England. My daughter Amanda was trying to teach me how to get on the Internet to find somebody. She said pick a name, it is so easy, I said Percy Bridges. The next morning, we had six hits. Of these we made contact with a Dennis Bridges.

We arranged to meet at Cooksey later on. Uncle Ron was no longer living but his wife was so gracious enough to have us all meet there. It was a grand meeting with all kinds of information and photos exchanged between each other. We learnt a lot more about the Bridges family.

My uncle's wife has given me copies of other documents and photos and I am forever grateful. She told me once "only you would ask". That is true.

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