The Watshams in Wivenhoe
Frederick Watsham came to Wivenhoe from the Alresford area in
1902 when he bought Vine Farm from a previous owner who had run into debt.
He became a respected person in Wivenhoe, was elected onto the
Wivenhoe Urban District Council and served as Chairman in the Council year
His son Claude was born in 1898; one of three boys and four
girls. At the time of World War One starting, ages of the young Watsham's
would have ranged from 20 down to 10.
Elder brother Harold had joined the Territorials, and so was
called to fight early on. he went out to Gallipoli with the 5th Essex,
landing at Sulva bay. He won a DCM for some rescue mission, but lost two
fingers in the process. After Gallipoli, they were sent to
At the age of sixteen, Claude volunteered to join the Army to
fight in the 1914-18 War. Before
leaving he asked Mr Charles Gooch, the owner of Cross Farm, the farm
across the road from Vine Farm, if he might take over the tenancy of Cross
Farm when or if he returned from the War.
He survived the War, although injured by machine gun bullets at
the Somme and his hearing was also impaired from the fighting.
Soon after the War, Claude and his great pal, Lennie Warner, who
lived at the top of Rectory Hill, booked a passage to Australia with the
intention of emigrating. At the last minute however, Cross Farm became
vacant and Lennie went on his own.
[Note: Len eventually joined the Australian Army in 1940 as a
way of getting to England, free of charge. It took him three and a half
years, via North Africa and various prisoner of war camps. Ray Watsham
remembers him coming to Cross farm in 1945 to see his father, after the
Between the Wars, the Watshams were well known in Wivenhoe which
had a population then of around 2,500 people. Claude managed to live most
of his long life at Cross Farm, and only in his last couple of years was
persuaded to move into a bungalow, across the road in Lammas Way, on land
once part of Vine Farm. He
died in 1988.
His wife Freda lived on, after 68 years of marriage to Claude,
and celebrated her 100th birthday on 6th December, 2000. She died in March
2001 after spending the last few years of her life in a nursing home in
Stowmarket, near to where their son Ray took on a farm at Bildeston,
between Hadleigh and Wattisham.
Cross Farm was a typical farm with cattle, free-range chickens
and arable crops. Before the second World War, milk was collected daily
from the farm and taken by cart to the bottom of Wivenhoe where it was
sold and also turned into butter.
Old Wivenhovians will remember Claude’s father as having
provided land for Wivenhoe Football Club to play on for a while early in
the 1900s and Claude later provided land at Cross Farm for this purpose.
The Wivenhoe Allotments and Gardens Society held many shows using
marquees at Cross Farm, courtesy of Claude.
In an age before colour television, common ownership of the motor
car etc, the Wivenhoe Show was always a big affair and a major event in
the Wivenhoe calendar.
Claude was one of the founders the Bowls Club which was started
in April 1926 on land behind Fernbank in Wivenhoe High Street. In 1947,
Freda was one of the founders of the Ladies Section and remained a
prominent member of the Club throughout her life.
She and Claude are still very much remembered by the Bowls Club.
Freda was also well known for her excellence in needlework,
making items for sale in the village for various causes.
Their son Ray was an active member of the Wivenhoe Cricket Club
and Wivenhoe Rangers Football Club before leaving Wivenhoe in 1952 to take
up farming in Suffolk.
People living in Wivenhoe from the 1970s onwards, when Claude
gave up active
farming Cross Farm, will remember him as the old boy with the black beret
or a cap, who used to hand dig the large piece of ground by the side of
the farmhouse. In this ground
he used to grow potatoes and all types of brassicas.
Those who knew him were always treated to a cabbage if they stopped
to wave although conversations with him were always a little difficult
because of his hearing problem incurred as a result of the first World
For much of the twentieth century, the Watshams made their mark
on Wivenhoe. It is therefore
fitting that the road which has now been constructed by Cross Farm be
called Watsham Place to recognise their contribution to Wivenhoe’s
evolution in the last century.
Cllr Peter Hill
The unveiling of Watsham Place road sign by Wivenhoe Town Mayor,
Cllr Steve Ford, with Ray Watsham and his family - Saturday 11th August,
From left: Mrs and Mr Ray Watsham, with daughter
Rowena and her husband, with Town Mayor Cllr Steve Ford.
- See also article about Mrs Freda Watsham who got the Wivenhoe WI
Choir a music teacher, who helped them win the Chelmsford Festival in
about 1950. Click