Hockley Parish Council Heritage Scheme
Hockley has a history dating back to at least Roman times. However, to travel through it today you would not realise that this was indeed the case. Time has not dealt well with our village; the big change coming with the arrival of the railway in 1889 and the population shift away from the pleasant countryside around the old church in Church Road, to the railway station a mile away on Spa Road. Inevitable expansion followed with many old buildings knocked down and replaced with non-descript shops, manufacturing estates and housing.
At Hockley Parish Council’s first Community Workshop held in 2017, residents expressed surprise at the extent of Hockley’s history as there was little visible evidence to be seen in the village. As the Council was fortunate in having members with local knowledge, it was felt there was potential for a joint project. Everywhere has a history, even if you can’t see it, or because you see it every day, simply take it for granted. So, calling in the help of three local historians the Communities Committee set about restoring the past by installing green heritage plaques on sites of historical importance.
The first plaque was placed on the site of the Hockley turnpike (1800) at the junction of Spa Road and Southend Road, opposite the Spa Public House. The Spa Public House (1844) itself, originally a hotel catering for visitors to Hockley’s medicinal spa, was next to be honoured, followed by the Public Hall (1903) donated to the community by local philanthropist Miss Augusta Tawke. Still very visible are the parish council’s offices in the Old Fire Station (1939) on Southend Road and this too has received a plaque of its own, as did the railway station (1889) which, of course, started it all.
The work is not finished: instead of getting shorter, the list is in fact growing as we look around and take stock of our past. It is hoped eventually to collate all the information online for a Heritage Trail to enable the residents of Hockley to discover more about the area in which they live.
The Council are very grateful to the site owners for giving permission to display a plaque and supporting the scheme.
The Old Fire Station
Southend Road Hockley
In 1940, just after the outbreak of the Second World War, a new fire station was built in Southend Road by Rochford Rural District Fire Brigade. This passed into the hands of the National Fire Service and was taken over by Essex County Fire Brigade in 1948, remaining a base for Hockley’s Auxiliary Fire Service until 1973 when it closed and the crew moved into the nearby Hawkwell Fire Station which is still active today. It is now owned and used by the Parish Council and provides the community with a unique meeting place
The Spa Hotel
The Spa Hotel was built in the 1840s to accommodate the crowds of visitors who it was anticipated would visit the nearby Spa Pump Room to take the health-giving waters.
Unfortunately the fashion for visiting spas was declining in favour of sea bathing at resorts such as Southend. The visitors did not come, the pump room closed and the once proud hotel – now named the Royal Oak – became just another village pub beside the toll road to Prittlewell.
By 1891 its name was changed back to the Spa Hotel and remained a hotel until the 1960s
Site of Hockley Turnpike
Main Road Hockley
In 1747 the Essex Turnpike Trust extended its surfaced road from Shenfield to Rochford and installed a barrier known as a ‘turnpike’ across the road at Stroud Green near to the Cock Inn, Rochford. In 1800 the turnpike moved to Hockley. Road users paid a charge to pass through the gate ranging from 2s.0d for a stage coach to 1d for a riding horse. Proceeds from the toll were used for the upkeep of the road. The toll keeper lived in a cottage nearby. The turnpike was removed in 1866 and the cottage demolished in 196
The Turnpike was situated on the land now occupied by Hockley Dental Surgery.
Hockley Public Hall
Bullwood Road Hockley
In 1902 local benefactor Mrs Augusta Tawke donated the land on which the hall was built. Construction was paid for by public subscription and fund raising events. The Mayor of Southend opened the hall in April 1903 – catering by Harrods. It soon became the centre of village social life hosting numerous events such as ‘moving picture’ shows, WI meetings and church services.
The Public Hall, a charity, is managed by trustees
Station Approach Hockley
Our 5th Heritage Scheme plaque has been installed at Hockley Station to mark their 130th anniversary in 2019. There are also new photographic displays to see depicting the history of the coming of the railway to Hockley.
As the Industrial Revolution gathered pace during the 19th Century, railways spread throughout the country rapidly. Although the LTS line had reached Southend in 1856, this small corner of Essex had no rail link. Local roads were poor and goods and people had to travel by horse and cart. Local people campaigned and in 1883 Great Eastern Railway received government consent to extend their line from Shenfield to Southend. Work commenced in 1886, and on the 1st October 1889 the last section between Wickford and Hockley opened. In later years Hockley Station became famous for its floral displays planted by local nurserymen, advertising their wares.
The Bull Inn
High Road Hockley
This a Grade II listed country pub located on the edge of Hockley Woods.
Possibly dating back to the 16th century, The Bull Inn gets its name from nearby Bull Wood. Smuggling abounded in the area and in 1784 the landlord, also a customs officer, was attacked and nearly murdered by smugglers. The story is also told of highwayman Dandy Jack who in 1804 stashed his loot behind the Bull’s fireplace. Conveniently situated on the main road, by the 1900s The Bull Inn had become a popular stopping place for day trippers. In August 2018 the building was badly damaged by fire and, after major restoration, reopened for business in 2020.
December 2020 “A huge thank you to the Hockley Parish Council for arranging The Bull Inns heritage scheme plaque, it will be proudly displayed as soon as we re-open, can’t find the money Dandy Jack stashed we’ve already looked”
Spa Pump Room
Spa Road Hockley
In 1843 a spa pump room was opened on the site of a medicinal spring. The venture failed and in 1848 it was put up for auction. By 1868 the building was a non-conformist chapel, which in 1883 hosted a meeting to launch the Hockley Wesleyan Church. During the 1890s the pump room was incorporated into the newly built house next door as a billiards room. From the 1930s onwards a series of manufacturing companies occupied the building, until by the 1990s it was derelict. Lovingly restored, it is now a private residence.
Hockley and Hawkwell Methodist Church
Main Road Hockley
Wesleyan Methodists are first recorded in Hockley in 1858, when services were held in the Wesleyan tradition in the open air, local cottages, a barn and latterly the Spa Pump Room. In 1883 a dilapidated wooden building previously rented by the parish church was purchased for £90 and after restoration, opened as a chapel on 1st July, 1883.
Plans to extend the building were abandoned when the foundations were found to be in a poor condition. It was demolished and on 15th August, 1906 this purpose-built church costing £958 and seating 200 people, was opened.
Water Fountain and Horse Trough
Designed by popular Chelmsford architect Charles Pertwee, the fountain was erected in 1899 at a cost of £300, paid for by local philanthropist Mrs Augusta Tawke who lived in the adjacent property, The Fountain Cottage (originally built as a bungalow). Constructed on 3 levels: at the top a fountain with a brass cup on a chain for people to drink from, a horse trough in the centre and a basin for dogs at the bottom. A notice board (recently restored), informing the public of the name of the benefactor, was installed at the rear of the fountain.
Originally 1 and 2 Spa Villas (now 61 Spa Road), this pair of timber framed cottages are believed to have got their name following purchase by the owners of the Spa Pump Room opposite. Thought to be at least 200 years old, they have a complex history. In 1935 No.1 was a shop – Spa Stores – becoming Bovey’s bakery in 1951. No. 2 was partially demolished in 1953 and integrated into its neighbour as part of the bakery. In the late 1970’s the bakery closed and became a private dwelling.