websters way

Could This French Artist Improve Websters Way?

Websters Way in Rayleigh has a lot of … utilitarian ….buildings. Could the French artist  Patrick Commercy improve one or two of them? He creates fantastic Trompe d’oeil effects on blank walls, for example:

trompe 1


trompe 3

To see more of these, have a look at this article here and his website here.

fine fare and tomassis

Fine Fare And Tomassis

This month Rayleigh Through the Looking Glass looks at when Rayleigh was full of supermarkets. This photo is from the 1960s,  when Fine Fare had a supermarket where the Pink Toothbrush is now.

And Tomassis had a premises in Rayleigh as well as Southend, serving good salads and ice creams (and probably fish and chips)

Martyrs Memorial Unveiling Ceremony 1908

The Martyr’s Memorial

This month Rayleigh Through The Looking Glass looks at the “High Street Trio” – the Martyr’s Memorial, the horse trough and the water pump.

If you aren’t familiar with who the martyrs were, they were  four local protestants, who died in 1555 during Queen Mary’s reign. Two of the martyrs were burned at the stake where this memorial stands and two others were burnt at the stake in Smithfield Market, London.


Rayleigh Windmill’s Summer Season Starts This Saturday

windmill 2016


“Tincture Of Museum”

If you love museums, you might enjoy reading the blog “Tincture of Museum” – you can find it here..

It’s written by someone passionate about museums – particularly the smaller ones. Here’s a sample:

Our heritage, our history, our quirky collecting natures are being eroded and erased by the need to make financial savings, to economise, to pare down and re-shape. The Museum of Fire in Edinburgh is housed in the engine room and stables of an original fire station, with fireman’s pole, high tiled walls and large entrance doors. It makes sense, it makes total sense to have the collection there, it makes history come alive, you can live it and breathe it everywhere you turn. You can smell it and feel it. A new museum is promised, somewhere at some date. This all sounds very familiar to me. What happens to the passionate volunteers who work so hard to keep that history alive in the meantime? They drift away, as museums sit in storage and plans drag on and never see the light of day.

Hat-tip: Jonathan Calder

eastwood road 1930s

Eastwood Road In the Past

This month “Rayleigh Through The Looking Glass” looks at Eastwood Road.




Avoiding Temptation

We’re avoiding the temptation of going for a cheap headline like ‘”The Origins of -sex”. But the geography blog “Twelve Mile Circle” explains the origin of the -sex and -folk suffixes here.

I started my research for an upcoming trip to Cape Cod and environs in the next few weeks. Massachusetts, I noticed, had counties of Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk and Suffolk. The prefixes seemed directional, east, middle, north and south. The suffixes, well I knew they came from England during the colonial era although I’d never examined their meaning before. What did -sex and -folk mean, anyway?

At this point the UK audience can probably stop reading. This will likely be old news. It may also be old news for much of the North American audience too. I don’t know.



Cheapside, About 1930.

Rayleigh Through The Looking Glass’ February feature has some evocative photos of almost empty roads in Rayleigh.
The one above is of the junction of Down Hall Road and Cheapside circa the 1930s. A few points to note :

  • “Cheapside” was later divided into “Cheapside East” and “Cheapside West” when Sweyne School was built in the 1950s.
  • The rather attractive house on the right is still there – in the photo there looks like some kind of commercial sign affixed to the front wall?
  • Cheapside clearly wasn’t adopted in those days – it looks seriously muddy!
  • Postman’s bikes don’t seem to have changed much!
  • The second one is of London Road, in the early 1900s. It prompts immediate thoughts about how much more traffic and development there has been since then, and how the only new road exit from Rayleigh since then has the been the A127 Arterial Road in the 1930s. The view looks idyllic – though perhaps the boy carrying those heavy buckets would be too weary to appreciate it….

    london road 1900s

    The website also has an update on the museum:

    The Museum will open to the public on 9th April 2016. Normal opening times from then will be Wednesday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday between the hours of 10am and 4pm

    Further information available on the Rayleigh Town Museum website (www.rayleightownmuseum.co.uk), the Rayleigh Town Museum Facebook page (Facebook.com/rayleightownmuseum) and the notice board in the High Street on the wall by the Millennium Clock.


    What Is A “Charabanc”?

    This month “Rayleigh Through The Looking Glass” has a feature on garages – including a picture of a charabanc outside the Jarvis garage in Eastwood Road, in about 1920. This 14 seat open-topped vehicle would have taken people on excursions. Note the telephone number “Rayleigh 90″…

    Major Rasch

    A Political Ghost Story …

    Some people like ghost stories at Christmas …this is a true story about a former MP for our area – Major Sir Frederick Carne Rasch.

    Rasch seemed to have had a pretty good life. He went to Eton and then Trinity College Cambridge, and did a lot of rowing there (that’s rowing boats , not rowing in arguments). He spent ten years in the Dragoon Guards, became a director of a couple of breweries, and then went into parliament as a Conservative, representing Essex South-East from 1886 until 1900, and then Chelmsford until 1908.

    A magazine article on 1896 described him as “an Essex man and wholesome, bluff, genial fellow of strong opinions; who calls himself a Democratic Tory.” The very first question he asked in the House of Commons was about cavalry saddles, and you can imagine him in one of the Commons bars having a cigar and a few whiskies with his friends and talking about horses, rowing and country pursuits.

    Rasch clearly had a social conscience, for example , speaking up several times in the House of Commons for poor farm labourers in Canewdon. But he definitely wasn’t a progressive- he was very much against giving the children of agricultural workers much of an education : “I know very well I am not an enthusiast, a crank, or a fanatic on the subject of education in the agricultural districts. To speak plainly, I detest it so far as I am concerned. I am here simply as an agricultural Member, principally to keep the rates down, and particularly the rates for education.”

    So all in all he was a very down-to-earth chap. Not the kind of person you’d connect with any kind of paranormal events. And yet…..

    It was the spring of 1905. The MP Sir Gilbert Parker described what happened as follows:

    “I wished to take part in the debate in progress, but missed being called. As I swung round to resume my seat I was attracted first by seeing Sir Carne Rasch out of his place, and then by the position he occupied. I knew that he had been very ill, and in a cheery way nodded towards him and said, `Hope you are better.’
    “But he made no sign and uttered no reply. This struck me as odd. My friend’s position was his and yet not his. His face was remarkably pallid. His expression was steely. It was a altogether a stony presentment — grim, almost resentful.
    “I thought for a moment. Then I turned again toward Sir Carne Rasch, and he had disappeared. That puzzled me, and I at once went in search of him. I expected, in fact, to overtake him in the lobby. But Rasch was not there. No one had seen him. I tried both the Whips and the doorkeeper, equally without avail. No one had seen Sir Carne Rasch.
    “I went round the House, inquiring in all the corridors and to the same end — Sir Carne Rasch had not been seen. Going again to the lobby, I heard that Sir Henry Meysey-Thompson, who was at the lobby post office, had also been inquiring for the major, but without result.
    “I joined Sir Henry, and we exchanged views.”

    Sir Gilbert was interested in psychic phenomena and wondered if Rasch had died and appeared as a ghost! Rasch was actually at home, ill with influenza, but he was neither dead nor dying. He seemed have been amused by the whole affair and couldn’t resist having a friendly dig at the Liberals:

    “I was rather ill at the time, and had to keep my bed, and why I should have gone to the House of Commons that night I don’t know. However, the Express of Friday says that I did. I am worth a good many dead ones yet, I hope. At any rate, I mean to go on a little longer.
    “I feel, however, that I ought to apologize to the Liberal Party for not having died when I suppose I ought. Had I done so it would have saved them a good deal of trouble. If I have another chance perhaps I will endeavor to oblige them.”

    Rather unexpectedly, there was a response from the Liberals that confirmed this ghostly sighting. A letter from Colonel Sir Arthur Hayter, published in the Daily News said:

    “Sir, On my way home to Southhill Park today I noticed in The Daily News that Sir Carne Rasch had been seen in the House of Commons by Sir Gilbert Parker when he was reported to be lying ill at home, and that further evidence in confirmation was required.
    “I beg to say that I not only saw Sir Carne Rasch myself sitting below the gangway (not in his usual seat), but that I called the attention of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman to whom I was talking on the Front Opposition Bench, saying that I wondered why all the papers inserted notices of Sir Carne Rasch’s illness, while he was sitting opposite apparently quite well. Sir Henry replied that he hoped his illness was not catching. — Yours, etc.”

    Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman became Prime Minister the next year, so should certainly trusted as a witness….

    The full story can be found here. We originally posted this story in 2009.

    The Punchbowl - photo by Julia Hammond

    “He subsequently ate the two wine glasses as well”

    Find out more about Paglesham on the Essexology website here. And Wallasea Island too.

    Poppy Field

    The Rayleigh Survivors

    If you go to the Rochford District Community Archive here, you will find the full-size version of photo of 113 Rayleigh men who survived World War 1, together with their names and details about some of them:


    One person written about is Ernest Long – who enlisted at the age of 47! :

    Ernest Edward Long born 1871 in Bow. Married 1890 to Jeanette Cohen & 2nd time to Charlotte Bartlett in 1918. 1911 living Viola Villa, Lancaster Rd as Accountants clerk. 3 children attended Rayleigh (Love Lane) School.

    He enlisted age 47 in 1918 to Essex Regt. & served in France. He has 2 more children by then. Two of sons Ernest William born 1893 & Harold Bernard born 1896 also served but not in photo.

    In 1933 & 1938 living ‘Millfield‘ 84 Eastwood Rd.

    Died 1946 age 74.