Search

A Pilgrim Father, a startled goblin and a Nazi landmine

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 August 2017

Billericay is half an hour by train from Romford station. Picture: Ken Mears

Billericay is half an hour by train from Romford station. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

Billericay is half an hour by train from Romford, usually with a change at Shenfield.

The railway only arrived in 1889. Lacking modern transport links, Billericay had stagnated during the 19th century. In 1874, it was called “a small decayed market town”.

That’s why the station is so close to the town centre.

A stroll along the High Street reveals many pleasant buildings from earlier centuries, but little from Victorian times.

Since 1935, a local group, the Billericay Society, has campaigned against unsuitable development.

The 15th century red-brick church tower marks the town centre. Until 1844, Billericay formed part of the parish of nearby Great Burstead.

Hence the side road here is called Chapel Street. It’s a pleasant old-world corner.

Billericay has links with the New World too.

Opposite the church, the 16th-century timbered Chantry House, now a shop, is associated with the town’s most famous resident.

Christopher Martin (“from Billirike in Essex”) was a Puritan, who was prosecuted in 1612 for refusing to kneel during church services. In 1620, he emigrated to New England with the Pilgrim Fathers.

Although a bully, he was put in charge of the Mayflower, probably because the passengers needed firm leadership. He also controlled the finances, and lost his temper if anybody questioned his spending.

Sickness ravaged their new colony in America. Christopher Martin and his family died in 1621.

Some say the Pilgrim Fathers met at the Chantry House before they sailed. The town has a Mayflower High School.

There’s a Billerica in Massachusetts, said to have been named by later emigrants from Essex in 1655. It preserves one of Billericay’s variant spellings.

Billericay’s most handsome house is Burghstead Lodge, 
now the local library, at the south end of the High Street. Dating from 1769, it was built
 in warm Georgian red-brick, with an ornate front entrance.

You could imagine one of Jane Austen’s feisty heroines sweeping out of the house in her crinoline, and bossing people about.

One mystery about Billericay is its name. Most Essex place names are of Anglo-Saxon origin, but “Billericay” makes no sense in old English.

Archaeology suggests that a sizeable population lived here in Roman times. People in Roman Britain spoke a Celtic language, related to modern Welsh.

My own theory (or guess!) is that the final syllable in “Billericay” is “Caer”, meaning a fortress (as in Caerleon and Caernarfon).

Alas, I can’t prove it.

A short bus ride from Billericay station brings you 
to Stock, a couple of miles
 north.

One of the most charming villages in Essex, Stock is full of friendly old houses, scattered at random, some alongside a long green, where there’s an ornate village sign.

The best feature of the ancient parish church is the 15th-century timber tower. Topped by a pointed spire, it looks like a startled goblin.

In 1940, a Nazi landmine extensively damaged the 
church. Every stained glass window was wrecked, but the porch, rebuilt just three years earlier, survived the full force of the blast.

The bomb crater in the churchyard is now a Garden of Remembrance.

Half a mile to the east, Stock windmill is sometimes open to visitors. (Check the internet.) Built around 1804, it has an unusual boat-shaped cap.

The upside-down rowing boat swivelled around so the sails could catch the breeze.

If you’re walking, take care along Mill Road as there isn’t much pavement.

A public footpath brings you back to the village, via Common Road and the charming village cricket ground.

The cricket club’s website says you don’t have to live in Stock to become a member.

Sadly, it’s impossible to walk the fields to Ingatestone station without risking a stretch of dangerous road.

Take the bus back to Billericay, and catch the train home there!

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 17:05

An Upminster scrap dealer was awarded £6,450 in a “David and Goliath” case against the British Transport Police (BTP) which has left him physically and emotionally scarred.

Yesterday, 15:16

The club which is based at Cranham Community Association, in Marlborough Gardens has just launched its new programme for the next year.

Yesterday, 12:08

Year five and six students at James Oglethorpe Primary School came out on top as they faced other schools in the borough at Rainham Cricket Club, and will now represent Havering against other schools from all over Essex.

Yesterday, 10:01

In June last year, a 25-year-old man was robbed of his Yamaha motorbike worth £9,000 just two hours after he had bought it.

The cost for a family of renting a home in Havering has increased by 29per cent over the last four years and house prices have increased in the borough by 1.4pc in April.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Volunteers who have helped out the community by completing thousands of hours of unpaid work, by doing everything from making sure hospital patients receive the correct treatment, to running lunchtime clubs have been rewarded for their efforts.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I don’t think I can ever recall a more wretched and divided government than the current Tory one.

PROMOTED CONTENT

The next step in renewable energy could be right beneath your feet as you walk through a Romford shopping centre.

There are many reasons people decide to join a gym. Some want to pack on muscle for strength, train for endurance, or lose weight. But did you know it also does wonders for your mental health? Two members at Romford’s Better Gym in the Market Place talk about their personal fitness journey and the importance of replacing bad habits with good ones.

Sean Watson, director at the family-run St Michaels Homes which runs Howard Lodge and Dudbrook Hall, answers the common questions people have about care homes.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now