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Democracy in Havering depends on people like Edgar Bratchell

PUBLISHED: 18:49 16 April 2017 | UPDATED: 18:49 16 April 2017

Young Edgar became a painter and decorator, operating from Hornchurch High Street. PICTURE: Brian Evans, Hornchurch and Upminster: A Pictorial History

Young Edgar became a painter and decorator, operating from Hornchurch High Street. PICTURE: Brian Evans, Hornchurch and Upminster: A Pictorial History

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Cricketer and a force in local politics – Prof Ged Martin finds out more about a forgotten man

You won’t have heard of Edgar George Bratchell, but in his day, he was a big name in local politics.

Edgar was born in Corbets Tey in 1868. He inherited his names from his father, usually called “George”, a coachman, probably working for one of Upminster’s genteel families.

In 1877, a businessman called Henry Holmes built a fake medieval mansion, Grey Towers, now recalled in Hornchurch’s Grey Towers Avenue. George became his head coachman. Nine year-old Edgar moved to Hornchurch, and there he stayed.

In 1913, Henry’s widow left George a pension of 15 shillings (75 p.) a week, for 36 years of loyal service.

They were an ambitious family. Calling herself a “respectable young person” and good at needlework, Edgar’s 18-year-old sister Agnes, wanted to become a ladies’ maid. In 1882, she advertised for a job – in Britain’s top newspaper, The Times.

Young Edgar became a painter and decorator, operating from Hornchurch High Street. Later he branched out into plumbing and gas fitting.

His energy was formidable. For 50 years, he sang in the choir of St Andrew’s Church.

In November 1889, he joined the newly formed Hornchurch Cricket Club, becoming vice-captain, and later secretary, organising the matches.

By 1910, he was the star player, having scored 2,726 runs and taken 1,115 wickets – at a remarkably economical average of 7.46.

In 1911, aged 43, he scored his only century, 103 not out, against Harold Wood.

In 1898, Hornchurch established a fire brigade. Edgar Bratchell was appointed captain, and ran the unit for more than 20 years.

Of course, as a plumber, he could locate and operate hydrants on the spreading system of water mains.

Working for the gentry, the Bratchells were Tories. In 1910, a company was formed to build a Conservative Club in North Street (it’s still there). Edgar became one of the directors.

When Hornchurch celebrated George V’s Coronation in 1911, he was a member of the four-man finance committee that raised the cash.

Maybe his activity masked personal sadness. In 1896, aged 28, Edgar had married local woman Emily Camp. In 1898, the couple had a son – the third-generation Edgar George. Their second child, a girl, was born in 1905. Mother and daughter died in childbirth.

Bratchell hired a housekeeper, and was elected to Romford Rural District Council, one of Havering’s forerunners. He became a magistrate. and a Poor Law Guardian.

Edgar remarried in 1914. His second wife, Annie Read, supported his local activities.

The First World War provided new opportunities – 31 jobs in total. He became chairman of the council. He served on the tribunal exempting men from military service, on the food economy committee, the fuel and lighting committee, and their assorted sub-committees.

Honouring Emily’s memory, he supported maternity and child welfare projects. At night, he patrolled the streets as a special constable.

His son survived the war, and became a local builder.

Edgar Bratchell’s public career continued postwar. He was elected to Hornchurch Council when the area became an urban district in 1926. (In 1965, Hornchurch merged with Romford to form Havering.)

He died in 1934, aged 66. A carved oak screen in St Andrew’s Church is his memorial.

Our local democracy depends upon people like Edgar Bratchell.

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