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The Wivenhoe Encyclopedia

 Sea-Change:  Wivenhoe Remembered   

The Sand and Gravel Pit

Until the mid-20th century Wivenhoe was an industrial as well as a riverside maritime village. Gravel quarrying at the pit only began in the 1920s, but small maritime manufactures such as sail-making and rope-making had flourished in Wivenhoe since the 18th century, and more recently small engineering workshops. But from the 1930s until the 1950s, later petering out, the most notable small factories, all mainly employing women, were in canning and clothing. North Sea Canners was started by Lewis Worsp in 1932, and later became part of Wilkins of Tiptree; while the Colchester Manufacturing Company started its Alma Street clothing factory in 1935.

Early days in the pit - Bill Loveless

[In 1921] my mother and father were living as tenants in a farm at Elmstead. He’d come out of the Army and was, as you might say, seeking his fortune! He had answered an advertisement to dig out the gravel. This was in a place called Frating, and it was a very difficult time for them, because the gravel had run out!  So it was a difficult situation.

Well, then what happened was that - as I think I said in my book – a good fairy came along in the unlikely frame of Frank Pertwee, who was a corn merchant at the Hythe, at Colchester, and Frank first of all offered them a little cottage that he owned, where they could at least live with a baby, in Elmstead, and furthermore, he said to my father, “I’ve got some agricultural land in Wivenhoe, and they tell me there’s plenty of this sand and gravel there.  Some has been dug out.  How would you like to come and explore the possibilities in Wivenhoe?”  So that’s how it all began.  And my father used to go from Elmstead to Wivenhoe for this initially. At that time, there was a sort of a hole, with hand carts and just with horses - I don’t know five or ten feet deep I suppose, possibly not as much as that.  As it later turned out, there was a very good gravel bearing area, which had very little topsoil, and you were on to “beautiful ballast” as they call it, very quickly. Yes, that’s the term they used, yes. 

Well, then what was needed, of course, Frank Pertwee had provided this field, my father was managing it, but on little money – capital was needed – and I think probably Frank’s accountant in Colchester may well have suggested Edgar Lilley, who was one of the shoe people. Well, Edgar was a very nice chap, and Edgar came in with some capital, and they founded a Limited Company in 1925, called the Wivenhoe Sandstone and Gravel Company, Ltd. My poor father had no money, of course, but he knew he must get in on an owner basis on it, otherwise he’d just be the paid manager.  So he borrowed money to do this, from one of the Pawseys, who were well off. Mr. Pawsey, Senior, going quite a bit back.  And he used to go back and faithfully pay his £500 to Mr. Pawsey, that it enabled him to be in as one of the three owners, and so there were three basic shareholders as well, shareholders and directors of this Company – that was 1925.

Then he found that he’d got this too long journey to this gravel concern in Wivenhoe, so we must move to Wivenhoe, so they were going to do that.  So we moved to Wivenhoe, and I recall I was four, which would make it 1925, in effect, or ’26. Well, all I remember about that time, was simply that my whole attention was focused on what we called “the pit”. We lived in a road called Belle Vue Road, and we had a maid, I can recall! “A little maid” as my mother would say!  And she would take me over to this pit, and I’d see what was happening, digging out this sand and gravel, and the horses were a great excitement to me, because everything was horse and cart at that time, and the men, relatively few men, all working by hand, and they did work too.  And I had a good relationship with them, they thought the boss’s son wasn’t too bad, I suppose!

I think I wasn’t very flattering about Wivenhoe, in that book.  It was true, the only time I saw down the street, to be honest, because my parents were firm churchgoers, and every Sunday we would walk down the street, and I can remember, very early on, that wall all along the [Wivenhoe Hall] side, had scrawled all on it, “Where are our Dreadnoughts?” And this was a lament from the First World War when they thought the shipbuilding was going to multiply, but it hadn’t multiplied as they’d wished.  The picture I got, and, of course, got largely through my father, was it was a place where rich men kept their yachts, very often, and some of their main retainers on the yachts, who they “looked after”, to use a modern term, and made sure they had a pension and so on, it was that sort of place. And the King’s Captain, Albert Turner.  He lived down the street and he was greatly honoured, of course, as King George V’s skipper. That was the scene that I picked up.

Of course, the whole creative side of Wivenhoe, even then, was happening down on the quay then, it was the focus, and the river and the sea, that was really what Wivenhoe was about.  But, my father was not a sailor either, and he used to talk about “down the street” as much as to say, “Well, Heaven knows what they’re doing down there!”

William Loveless, boot boy to public servant - Bill Loveless

Of course, he became such a significant figure in the development of Wivenhoe that he didn’t care whether people were down the street, or up the street, or anywhere else, he was there to help everybody, and wisely decide many things.  He was a tremendous person, the time he gave to Wivenhoe and the thought he put into it.  And he had a very great sense of humour, and he was kind and nice to everybody, although he could be very fierce too! And even when he’d long since ceased to do much about the business, when I went into it, after about a year I ran it totally, well, was a wise head behind me always, but no more than that.  It was to Wivenhoe that he gave all his remaining time and strength, and, of course, remained Chairman there. He loved public service, not only in Wivenhoe, but he was on various important things in Colchester.

He was never jealous, he was too big a man to be jealous, but I was leapt upon in Colchester for certain offices that had been denied to him. I was the earliest JP they’d ever made in Colchester, I was about 30, so I became a magistrate in Colchester.  I fought an election for a Labour Ward – the Berechurch Ward at Colchester – and I won it and became a Councillor in Colchester, and was on many committees and so on.  Well, he’d never aspired to those levels. He was concerned with things to do with Clacton too, and he was just a general public servant with Wivenhoe as the focus.  I had some ability presumably, but I wasn’t like him, fired with the same kind of  - although I later went into the Church…

My father, I used to say, “not just nothing, he came from minus nothing”.  He came from Dorset, Bridport’s a little town down there, he came from a very humble family down there, so humble that at the age of about nine or ten, he was started as a “half-timer”, working for employers who made ropes. They made hangman’s ropes there, which was quite a focus in those days, they were great people in terms of that kind of manufacture. He was just a boy who went across the road after he’d done a bit of schooling in the morning, to work as a half-timer. Well, how did he get out of that?  Well, one can only say that he was so outstanding. But they went to the church, he sang in the choirs – this is Bridport – and in some way he was selected for some sort of job at Salisbury Cathedral, what you might call “half choir boy/half boot boy”, and that’s where he went for several years.

He obviously was much appreciated when he grew older, 13, 14, 15.  Well, then, like many of the time, who weren’t well-off, of course you became the class that worked for the richer class, and my mother worked in Park Lane for such a person, a very well-off Jew, one of the brothers that were in most of Africa at that time, and my father moved around between similar sorts of people, and obviously did well.  And then he worked for the brothers, people who owned the railways and the mines in Africa, and that’s how they [my parents] met at Park Lane.  And then they were separated for a very long time. 

First of all he went, with his then master, to South Africa, on a two-year tour of this chap’s railways and mines. This must have been when he understood how business was run, how they went along. He was obviously very quick and smart, and they used him, and he got to understand their approach to everything. But my father was very much in the Jew mould, he saw that they were making money, and he saw how they made it, and always there was that element in him. At Wivenhoe, you see, I was an only son, [my parents] were my avenues of understanding anything. They were quite contrasting, both of them.  My mother was a natural friend and a leader, she wasn’t highly educated, but she, I think, was powerfully loved and liked and respected in Wivenhoe. He was totally different from my mother who was all high-minded and Victorian, Sunday School girl.

Pit-owner's son in the village - Bill Loveless

I was based on Wivenhoe till the age of, perhaps, 24, but I was always away in one direction or another, and therefore, although I knew Wivenhoe, it was always through the eyes and ears of my parents really. I didn’t really have any friends much in the village.  There were some who I’d known at the small school, and I used to invite them round to the pit and it was great fun, we used to play for hours amongst the sand heaps and the stone, and sometimes an area had been left because it became clay and wasn’t suitable, and that, to us, was an island on which we could entrench ourselves and yell defiance at the employees and so forth, and fight battles and things of that nature! 

Returning to manage the pit - Bill Loveless

I grew up, as a boy, with other boys who were friends, and we just loved the pit.  And that continued.  You see, I wanted to be a journalist, and, indeed, my father happened to know Mr. Edward Hulton, who had stood as a candidate for the Conservatives in the Harwich Division, but didn’t get in. My father was very keen on politics in those days, and Edward Holton said to him, “Well, I don’t know whether we shall meet again, but if I can do a good turn for you any time, I will”. Edward Hulton had launched Picture Post in London in 1938, and his father owned the Evening Standard. There was no television then or anything like that, and Picture Post became what we call a television now, in everybody’s life. I should think about 12 or 15 million read it every week.  And to be offered the post on it, that was I offered, simply because of my father’s influence, was an incredible honour and a privilege and an opportunity.

[So I worked briefly for Picture Post in 1940 and again in 1945. Meanwhile] I had met a girl whom I had married, and there was a baby on the way, and I knew that I just wouldn’t be able to cope with the financial responsibility.  It was money, in other words.  And, in fact, one of the Directors at Hulton’s said to me, “What’s this I hear about you?  You’ve just come back from the Army, and you want to leave us”.  I said, “I don’t want to leave you, sir, at all”.  I said, “I don’t”.  I said, “My father is not very well, and he’s got a pretty flourishing business and he needs me to come back and take over from him”.  “Sell the business”, he said.  I said, “No, I can’t do that”.  I said, “There are too many reasons why they can’t be done at all.  Sell my father’s life work away”.  So that’s why I was unhooked from Hulton Press.

[So I came back] and started in the office I’d known so well in other contexts like collecting my gun to go shooting with my father, and all sorts of fun and games.  And the chap who was in charge of the office – my father’s right-hand man, a chap called Glozier, or Glossier as some people might call it, Jack, a very nice fellow, of course he’d known me as a boy.  He was sort of a boy to my father, and grew older, and became my father’s right-hand man.  He never showed anything but great warmth and kindness to me. He said, “Welcome to the Company Office, then, Bill”. 

The next problem was what should they call me? “Couldn’t I just be called Bill?” although everybody’s never called me Bill ever since.  So I was “Mr. Bill”, and I probably still am at Wivenhoe. Well, it took me about, what, a year, I suppose.  My father pumped into me everything he could about the business, and about the Directors, Frank Pertwee and everything. As far as running the business, I have a degree in economics, so I’m not unfamiliar with such matters. I suppose the view I took of it was, I've got to see everything down in terms of the accounts. I used to see it all in that way from a business point of view, because I wanted to be a success. 

But I wouldn’t be me if they didn’t all matter to me as human beings.  My whole life has been like that. I suppose there must have been about 30 who worked for me, sometimes more, sometimes perhaps not much less. Sometimes we went up to 50 when we were very busy.  And I had a close personal relation with them all. So every morning, once I’d seen the mail or whatever, the immediate things that required a decision, I’d be out. The Company was small enough for me to do that.  Had it been much bigger, I couldn’t have done it.  I’d speak to the man who was, shall we say, standing by the feed hopper for a plant.  I’d speak to the man who was mixing the asphalt, every day, if I was there, to everybody. I used to go up to where the excavators were, and speak to each of them.  “How’s it coming this morning, then?” That sort of stuff, and have a chat.  And I think they all felt that they had a personal relationship with me. That’s the way it went on. 

The pit office - Bill Loveless

[Soon after I came Jack Glozier left, and I took on Dennis Green.] He was a big strong lad, and yet essentially very gentle, nice person in every way. So he continued all the time I was there, as the person in the office. Walter [Wix] had been a person in the office, but he moved out to be sort of more [a manager], always he was taking my instructions all the time, as he’d taken my father’s.  But I was not there half the time.  Even then, when I was boss, I was not there because, well, firstly I became ill with something, [and because I was] working so hard, working all night on the Council, on this and that Committee and God knows what, and Repertory Company, apart from the business and everything else.  So I’d ring up in the morning and say, “How many lorries are out?  Where are they going?  How long are they going? Open the mail and see what’s in the mail”.  Walter was marvellous, he couldn’t have been more helpful.

Selling the pit - Bill Loveless

Indeed, one of my worries, when I did feel that I would sell the business and that I would go into the ministry of the Church, was what about all of them, how would they be?  Well, [in 1960] I eventually sold it to a firm called East Anglian Roadstone. Well, first of all, I took what I might call my four main people: Walter [Wix] was obviously one, and Basil who I’d elevated – if that’s the word – from being a lorry driver, I could see he’d got what it took, Basil Button, only small of stature, but very fiery! And two others.  And I made it that they had a Service Agreement, unbreakable sort of thing, four or five years I should think it was, and the Company had got to pay them that, whether they kept them or whether they didn’t.  Well, in fact, Walter always says it was one of the most marvellous situations he’d ever had, this Company came in and they’d got to more or less do whatever he said!

But the story for East Anglia was that every month I used to go up about three months, and agree the prices, I’m afraid there was all a lot of price-fixing here, there, right, left and centre, and I struggled with it ethically, all of it, but nevertheless, like Frederick the Great’s remark about the Empress of Austria, “She took, didn’t she?”  When it was Silesia.  And I took too.  Anyway, at the end of this meeting about prices, the Managing Director of Tilbury said, “Well, gentlemen, that’s it then.  Shall we go and have lunch?”  I said, “That’s not quite it, Mr. Oldfield.  Would you like to buy my business?”  He said, “What?”  And, of course, everybody else nearly dropped their papers and everything else! 

That’s where it began.  But it had to be kept strictly secret.  They had to think about it.  Tilbury had to be brought in to think about it.  People had to come over the pit and see what they thought and all the rest of it, and still my men, my dear men, didn’t know, nor did Walter, what was in the offing.  And in the end I did it, and had them all in the Mess Hut and told them, and I said, “Those of you who are in charge, you’ll find you are looked after, and the rest of you, I hope you’ll feel that I’ve chosen a good company very much with you in mind, as well as the fact that I feel that I must go into the ministry, train for the ministry of the Church”. I think it was a shock, but, of course, like everything else, everybody in Colchester was shocked, everybody was taken aback. People would stop me and say, in the Essex County Standard, a great story about a man who ran the sand and gravel business is now going into the Church, exclamation mark, exclamation mark!! 

The pit farm - Alan Green

After 1935, my father finished fishing because of poor fishing and poor selling, and he went to work for Loveless’s sandpit – Wivenhoe Sand and Gravel – and he drove the excavator that used to trundle up and down on the lines, and it was quite an efficient way of removing the sand and gravel from the pit, much better than the drag line, which tended not to get everything out. They were only working one face, at that time, but they’d finished working the face just behind the houses in Wivenhoe Road or Alresford Road, and they then started on the second pit that they had, that went further into Elmstead. They also ran a farm at that time, Jim Thompson was the chap in charge of the farm, he lives at Alresford, and they kept stock and they also grew corn on the fields that they bought to take gravel out of in the future. And certainly, during the War, they ran a little club between them, where they bought four pigs at a time, they sold two to the Ministry and slaughtered two for the workers, and that was done twice a year. And, of course, all our waste used to go for the pigs. That was the deal.

Pit land - Walter Wix

As I understand it, the first land that was available was a small parcel of land that was bought by a Mr Frank Pertwee, the Managing Director of the Pertwee’s at the Hythe, who were corn merchants. He bought this piece of land from a man called Warner, who used to occupy the Glebe House, down the road, and had quite an area of land behind the Glebe. Well, in the meantime, Mr Loveless had been dabbling in a sand and gravel excavation over at Frating and that ran out, virtually, and it would seem that when he came to live in this area, he got to know farmers and various people quite well, and that’s how he got introduced to Mr Frank Pertwee. And so it would seem that Frank Pertwee said to him, ‘How would you like to come to Wivenhoe and open up a gravel pit on that piece of land I’ve got there?’ Well, this is what he actually did. And this must have been between 1921 and 1924. But the Company was formed in 1925, and that consisted of three Directors, i.e. Mr Frank Pertwee and another chap by the name of Edgar Lilley, who was the owner of I think a clothing factory in Colchester, and, of course, W.G. Loveless was the third one – he was Managing Director.

They started along the Alresford Road, like behind the old Rectory Hill. What the initial acreage was, I don’t know - ten acres, perhaps? But you must remember that in actual fact the pit itself is in Elmstead. It’s not in Wivenhoe, because that brook at the bottom of the hill is the boundary between the Parish of Elmstead and the Parish of Wivenhoe, so the initial opening of the quarry was in the Parish of Elmstead. But of course, then, as the years progressed other land was purchased. We bought 19 acres from Lennox, who used to run Vine Farm, which was all the land from behind the Vine Farm Estate right down to the brook at the bottom.

That’s still reinstated land, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen to that but all I do know is that, originally, that was supposed to be reinstated for agricultural use, but they’ve never developed it agricultural-wise, and I think the Planning Conditions have been changed on it several times since. But I rather hope it’ll be left for wildlife, etc., and recreation because, to be quite honest, as I’ve written to Tendring Council and explained to them when they were talking about developing it, that the fill that went into the pit consisted of all sorts of things! It wasn’t town refuse, domestic refuse, but it was builders’ rubbish – window frames, door frames, concrete beams, you name it, they all went in it. And, like, when we used to have asphalt come back that was not used or whatever, that all used to be tipped in in damned great lorry loads. Well, just imagine somebody trying to drill or dig trenches for sewerage! They’d come up with all sorts of problems! But I did take it upon myself to write quite a long screed about it to Tendring, and I did have an acknowledgement from the Planning Department about it, because there’d be a lot of difficulty there I’m sure, apart from it not being as stable as it ought to be, perhaps to put property on. But there was no domestic refuse in there, so there was no question of methane gas or anything like that.

Then we bought 54 acres from the estate of C P Harvey, which was Keelar’s Farm at the end of Keelar’s Lane. When C P Harvey died he had a verbal agreement with the Company that we would have opportunity to buy that piece of land from his estate which, in fact, the Company did. But, of course, in the meantime, the old Wivenhoe Company had sold out to the Tilbury Group, which happened in June 1961. And WG himself retired. Well, he’d been semi-retired for several years, but he actually retired. And his son who, as I say, was Company Secretary and Financial Director at the time, he went into the Church.

Keelar’s, well, 54 acres from Keelar’s Farm, which borders the Elmstead Road and Keelar’s Lane, runs right round and comes up behind the Vine Farm Estate. Well, the football pitch it comes up to, as a matter of fact, where the Wivenhoe Town Football Club has their ground. There is a piece of land between that and the Estate which belongs to the Morton Brothers - farmers from Bentley - but that’s still in their possession. But, in our hands, the 54 acres joined our extended land and then followed the route of Keelar’s Lane, round to the Elmstead main road, back up to the tail end of the football pitch. And then the rest of that land, of course, is nothing to do with the company. But that’s all been excavated there and back-filled anyway.

They quarried about 25 feet. Beautiful. It was a very very good gravel seam, and on the original fields the topsoil was only about 18 inches, and then underneath that was some stuff we call ‘hogging,’ which was a very red gravel that people used to use for their drives, water it in, and then roll it in tight. And then underneath that there might have been a little bit of a clay seam, but very very little, and then beautiful gravel right down to the London Clay, which was about 25 feet deep, and that maintained practically right the way across the whole area. It really was a beautiful gravel seam, or gravel deposit. But then again, of course, that tends to follow the geological survey, which comes down from Lincolnshire, right the way down the East Coast where the gravel deposits are. You can go back to Norfolk, there’s any amount of gravel in Norfolk and Suffolk, all on that similar sort of geological deposit.

They’ve got quite a considerable reserve on land at Heath Farm at Elmstead Heath, in actual fact, there’s the best part of a hundred acres there that we had bored and tested which borders the Villa Farm pit that belongs to Alresford Sand and Ballast, which is now part of Brett’s, I believe – Robert Brett Aggregates from Kent, I think they now own Alresford. And of course, we’ve got this acreage over at Jimmy Dutton’s which is under excavation arrangements I believe, so it’s quite a reserve there still.

Working at the Pit - Walter Wix

You must remember that Wivenhoe, in those days, was a rather compact place. Everybody virtually knew everybody else so there was a lot of connections. I was 16 and at the time we had a family friend, Lewis Martin, who was a friend of my brother. He had been employed as the Junior Clerk at the gravel pit. Well, he decided to join the police force and he was successful, and he said to my mother, ‘Why don’t you get Wally’ – that’s me – ‘to apply for my job at the pit?’ I had no real inclination to become a clerk because to be honest, me and figures didn’t really gell, if you know what I mean! I wasn’t mathematically bright or anything like that but I could count the change but it wasn’t the sort of thing that I would automatically have gone in for. And it so happened that the Senior Clerk in the office – and there was only two of them in the offices there – was one Jack Bowser (?), and we, i.e. my mother and the family, knew his family quite well and they knew us, so Lou said to me, ‘Well, look, I’ll speak to Jack. Jack’ll put a word in for you. Shall I make arrangements with Mr Loveless to come and see him?’ So that’s what happened and I had this message to go to the pit one afternoon and Mr Loveless would interview me, which is what he did. And he asked me a variety of questions, which I obviously successfully answered, and he asked me to write him a few lines on a piece of paper to see what my writing was like and I come away with the job. I gave my notice in and I joined the pit as a Junior Clerk on the 14th June, 1937. I eventually got into the work and pleased the old boy so that he gave me a couple of rises in the meantime! I would think there was 17 staff at the time and I believe there was only three vehicles that were delivering the gravel, at the time, and I think they were Bedfords. We stuck to Bedford vehicles. We had about 20 all told, later.

Pit vehicles - Walter Wix

The lorry fleet was gradually increased so that whereas previously one would hire in transport when you needed it - all the way through used to hire transport as well as our own - but our own fleet increased by quite a considerable number and I think there was a time when we were operating up to 20 vehicles. And there was two washing plants, so there was two separate men who ran the washing plants. Then we had two loading shovels – a driver for each of those. Then there was somebody who drove the lorry that looked after the bins, and as the bins filled up with the various grades of stone so they emptied them and took them to stockpiles. And then, of course, there was the excavator driver, who was responsible for winning the material from the face. Then there was two dump trucks that used to cart the material down from the face to the pit to the plant. So there was quite a bit of activity. And then there was the tarmac plant, because another one of Mr Loveless’s personal innovations, shall we say, was the introduction of a plant to make tarmacadam which was pioneering, in fact, in this particular locality. The stuff they used to call ‘Essex mac’ in the first place, it was his own brand name, and it consisted of tar with a percentage of bitumen added to it, to help it set, and a mixture of various grades of stone.

Improvements over the years - Walter Wix

Over the years, that gradually was improved and more modern plant put in and in fact the tar itself, not being exactly stable in very hot weather, you used to give up and so it caused a lot of problems at times on the road, because it would melt! We had two lots of new plant over the years, it was a bitumen binder, as it were, that was used - straight bitumen which was a more stable material and you had a particular British Standards specification to mix it to and that was far more sophisticated. But that really came about after Bill Loveless, the Governor’s son, joined us as a Company Secretary.

Staff - Walter Wix

Initially clerical-wise there was only Mr Glozier and myself. And then WG, the governor himself. He used to do his own thing, write his letters and things like that. And then after Bill came, he introduced a lady into the office complex to help out with the additional work that some of the improvements in the plant and that sort of thing all created. The foreman when I went there, and he was there until the start of the War was Tom Forsgate. Tom had been there several years when I joined and then, because he was an engineer, when the War started he went into the Shipyard. I didn’t take over running the office until ’50, I think. And then Jack Glozier moved elsewhere and that’s all I’ll say about that. And I took his job because I had the experience of running the office. And then the permanent member of the staff, who I took on finally, was Dennis Green. Dennis was part of the Green family - the fishmonger Greens. But Dennis didn’t want to be involved in the fish business, he was a fisherman, and used to go trawling with his uncle until he came and joined my staff. But he was quite good, Dennis, and he carried on right through until he retired, the same as I did, and he worked for different parts of the Company.

Wages - Walter Wix

When I first went to the pit the average wage for the majority of the staff was £1.25 a week. Lorry drivers might have got a little more. It improved over the years, of course, changes took place, and apart from the companies being individually privately owned there was a national Sand and Gravel Association formed, which took control of wage agreements. So that eventually, and particularly after the War, wages straightened themselves out into some sort of coherent average throughout the industry. And, of course, Trade Unions, to a degree, had a certain influence, I suppose.

It wasn’t until we went into the Tilbury Group that the Trade Union situation entered the realms of negotiation, but that wasn’t right away. But then again, you see, Tilbury itself was a civil engineering company and consequently there was a different range of wages on that side, whereas the sand and gravel industry was a separate entity, relative to the sort of pay which was lower than civil engineering pay was. Before Tilbury took over there was no Trade Union. And I don’t think there was any Trade Union in the industry locally, anyway, at the time.

The old team - Walter Wix

The majority of them were all chaps who carried on and eventually retired. There were one or two who used to move about a bit but to my recollection the majority of the old hands stayed on. There’s three others in Wivenhoe at the moment who are still alive that were, perhaps, the old team. There’s Les Dykes over on Britannia Crescent area, he used to run the asphalt plant. Dennis Green, as I say, who was in the office and worked on through for Redlands because eventually, of course, in 1985, Tilbury sold their whole East Anglian roadstone enterprise to the Redland Group. I retired in 1984 and they sold out to Redlands in ’85. Well, in the meantime that’s been sold on again, to a French company called Lafarge. But what’s going to happen next I don’t know, anything could happen.

W. G. Loveless - Walter Wix

But he used to get his knickers in a twist sometimes and stand there, because he had a moustache with waxed ends, and he’d stand in the doorway, and you could see when the old boy was rattled, because he’d be twiddling his moustache! But, oh no, it was a pleasure to work for the Company. He was a local Councillor, he was Chairman of the Council umpteen times. He was a pillar of the church, and a churchwarden and had a lot of interest in the place, did Mr Loveless. All right, everybody didn’t like him but if you’re a success, somebody’s got it in for you! I can’t lay a finger on it exactly but you know what it is. I don’t know whether it’s jealousy or what, but when somebody is successful and shows initiative: ‘Oh, I can’t bear him!’ But, all right, but he was an owner . Well, I had a lot of respect for him and I think all his men did as well. Not until they turned over the business to Tilbury, really, did WG retire, because although he left the running of the Company, basically, to his son, after he got used to the ropes and so on and so forth, he used to turn up every day and do his usual rounds. All right, they always used to have a chat and advice and so on and so forth.

Bill Loveless - Walter Wix

WG was a Devon man and his home town was a place called Upway. In fact his house along Belle Vue Road still goes under that name. But Bill, his son, he went to Framlingham College, and then he wanted to be a journalist and in actual fact, he joined the staff of Picture Post, and he worked on Picture Post for a while, until he was commissioned in a Reconnaissance Regiment. He was rather badly wounded in the ankle by a mine that went off near him, so he suffers a bit. But it’s an interesting life story [Destiny Delayed]. What possessed him to write it, I don’t really know.

To be honest, him deciding to go into the Church was the reason that they sold the Company because, of course, his father would have much preferred for him to have carried on running the Company as a private Company. But on the other hand I think there was a problem, inasmuch as the Company plant needed reinvestment and the other two Directors were not over-keen to commit themselves to putting more money into buying a lot of new plant which, of course, was very necessary and going to be very expensive. And so that was another reason why he felt that he’d got to do something with the Company, put it somewhere where they were prepared to invest, because after Tilbury took over, well, we had a new washing plant, new asphalt plant and quite a lot of the old stuff was got rid of, and we modernised. And, as I say for my part I continued to serve him – Bill – around the office and, well, he calls me his ‘Devoted Manager’ in [his book], as a matter of fact! And, I mean, although I can’t say I was ever given the exulted title of ‘Manager,’ nevertheless, it was assumed that’s what it was, because he’d spend hours and hours away because he got interested in local government and that sort of thing, he was also a Magistrate, and so I was left there to run the Company, for hours at a time, and not knowing where he was, or how long he was going to be. But we got so that, although I say it myself, we were a very efficient organisation.

And so this book by Bill Loveless is called Destiny Delayed, and he’s a retired Canon. Because like me, he’s 83, so he’s a month older than me. After he’d done his theological college training and he was made a curate, he first went down to Danbury. And then he was appointed Vicar of St Mary’s Church on the Trumpington Road in Cambridge, and he was there until he actually retired. And then when he retired, I think for maybe an interest in some voluntary work at Lincoln Cathedral, he bought a property in Lincoln. But eventually he came back to where he is now, Swaffham Bulbeck, which is between Newmarket and Cambridge.

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05 January 2015

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