27/02/2009

Frank Ridgewell and Orsett Post Office

Posted in Local History at 1:13 am by henrysgauntlet

Almost everyone who visits Orsett’s parish church of St Giles and All Saints will have entered by the main gate in theOrsett Post Office High Street.  It stands opposite the gap between two weatherboarded buildings, one to the west once the village butcher’s shop owned successively by the Goodyear family and then by Terry Edwards, and the second formerly the village Post Office run by Mr and Mrs Ridgewell.  Mrs Ridgewell was a friendly older lady who came up to the village’s primary school to look after the children during lunchtime.  Mr Ridgewell, remarkably enough, was a Labour member of Thurrock Urban District Council.

I remember using the Post Office on many occasions, but one conversation I had with Frank Ridgewell in the spring of 1955 has stuck in my mind.  I had just won a place at Palmer’s Boys’ School but Frank Ridgewell was not impressed. Any school, he told me,  which his son, Leslie, (whom I later knew well as a table tennis player) was not clever enough to attend should be closed in his view.  It was quite wrong for bright children to be offered an education appropriate to their needs.

More surprisingly still, he told me that no one should own their own homes.  They should all belong to the local authority which would decide where people should live.  I distinctly recall thinking about the implications for Orsett, with Sir Francis Whitmore, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, being moved from Orsett Hall to a two-up, two-down tenement dwelling in Tilbury, while a local Councillor – no prizes for guessing who! – moved into Orsett Hall.   This was my first personal contact with the politics of envy which dominated much of local political life in Thurrock in the 1950s and for two decades thereafter.   

Author  –  Christopher Thompson

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