Heritage: The happy marriages of Hare Street

The hamlet of Hare Street is now forgotten. Picture: Brian Evans

The hamlet of Hare Street is now forgotten. Picture: Brian Evans - Credit: Archant

Professor Ged Martin recalls two happy partnerships from Gidea Park

The shops and pubs of Hare Street are still there, but the name is forgotten.

In 1876, the Gidea Park hamlet at the corner of Balgores Lane and the A118 Main Road resembled Dodge City. Wagons lumbered through Hare Street on their way to London, and cattle were driven to Romford Market.

Aged sixteen, Daniel Ellingworth ran errands from his father’s farm across the fields near Straight Road.

The family lived at Park Farm. The farmhouse stood between Bell Avenue and the A12 Eastern Avenue, which wasn’t built until the 1920s.

Hare Street’s blacksmith, Thomas Staines – later landlord of The Unicorn – repaired the Ellingworths’ farm implements.

As sparks flew from the anvil, Daniel fell in love with the blacksmith’s daughter, fourteen year-old Julia. After an eight-year romance, they were married at Romford’s St Edward’s Church in 1884.

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Daniel became a farmer too.

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By 1891, the Ellingworths were running Harold Wood Farm, tucked into the south-west corner of modern Harold Hill. Their farmyard was located opposite the junction of modern Faringdon Avenue and Ashton Road.

Daniel’s career followed the advice, “Go west, young man” – but he didn’t go very far.

He took over Park Farm from his parents, then moved to Risebridge – now a golf course – before settling in 1910 at Great Pettits, an ancient farmhouse located in Pettits Lane, opposite Parkside Avenue. There, his herd of 125 cows supplied Romford with milk.

When Daniel and Julia celebrated their diamond wedding in 1944, they were Romford’s oldest and most popular couple. With the advance of suburbia, Daniel – at 83 – had retired from farming. Julia now needed full-time care.

A “quiet and retiring” elder of Main Road Baptist Church, Daniel was keen on chess. He also enthusiastically supported the Boro, Romford’s football team, and was a member of the Liberty of Havering Bowls Club. (The club’s now based at Harrow Lodge Park, its third home in 111 years.)

When Romford was still a rural area, Daniel took his turn as an unpaid highways surveyor. Often there wasn’t enough money to keep the road gang employed repairing potholes year-round.

Later he was elected to the council, where he “preferred to render solid service in an unostentatious way”.

As one of the area’s oldest residents, Daniel told stories of olden days with a characteristic quiet chuckle.

He recalled the long-vanished tollgate at the top of Romford Market. Carts had to pay fourpence to go through, but pedestrians passed through a side gate free.

The Ellingworths briefly moved to Bedford after a bomb damaged Great Pettits, but they belonged to Romford and soon came home. Not all of their seven children and nine grandchildren could attend the diamond wedding celebrations – one son had emigrated to Australia and two grandsons were in the forces overseas – but two of Julia’s bridesmaids were there.

They were her sisters, one living in Romford’s Craigdale Road, the other a farmer’s wife at Little Nelmes in Hornchurch.

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The family gathered around Julia’s bed, where an eleven-year old grandson “made a happy little speech”, promising to “do his utmost to carry on the good name of the family “.

Despite Julia’s poor health, the couple would pass another major landmark, celebrating 65 years together shortly before she died in 1949.

After Daniel’s death in 1952, Great Pettits was demolished, and its site incorporated into the grounds of the school that’s now Marshalls Park Academy.

Four centuries earlier, Hare Street was home to another happily married couple, although, sadly, the memorial in St Edward’s Church to John and Joan Outred is now lost. Don’t be put off by the phonetic spelling – “wyff” and “stryff” for “wife” and “strife”.

Here lye John Outred and Jone his wyff,

Who livyd long togeddyr withouten stryff.

John left this world, and passyd to heven

One thousand five hundred and eleven.

Try reading it aloud – the English language really hasn’t changed much since 1511.