The Recorders of Uttlesford History are delighted to publish two dozen brilliant black-and-white photographs of some of our local villages in the 1950s. They were taken by Dave Twitchett, now a veteran cyclist and collector of cycling memorabilia, who as a young lad with his friends cycled all round this area in a world very different from today. The photos have a timeless quality and are best described in Dave's own words as below. Please note that the photographs are © Dave Twitchett, and must not be reproduced without permission.

Imagine, if you can, a small boy born in 1936 who had ascended to adolescence in the early 1950s. Partly due to the war years and partly due to his family poverty, he had never had a holiday; and apart from some miserable failed attempts at evacuation did not know anything of the outside world except that stretch between East Ham and Aldgate. In 1951 he was removed from school illegally at the age of 14 to earn his keep and help support his father’s young second family. Two years later he was able to afford a half-decent bicycle and a second-hand camera, both purchased on the instalment system. With those modest attributes he began to explore the wider world.

His first excursions were, naturally, into the Essex countryside. Epping Forest and the surrounding towns and villages were the areas in which he worked off his wobble and started to become a 'proper cyclist' - all the time snapping any scene which he thought beautiful or interesting. Later he would acquire a Youth Hostel card which meant that he could stay out for the whole weekend and extend his mileage into North Essex, particularly so once he had discovered that he could reach High Roding Hostel with time to spare after work on a Friday. Many of those photographs were never printed until quite recently, due to the expense. An office boy’s wage did not go far in those days. Forgotten for decades, over the past couple of years they have been published to modest acclaim when accompanying cycling memoirs published in the journal of The Fellowship of Cycling Old Timers.

Old photographs are very interesting when viewed today and are in fact big business. Every town and village will have a book of old pictures for sale, sometimes many. These are, however, Victorian and Edwardian photographs. The shots you see here - just those of what is now the Uttlesford area, were taken mainly between 1953 and 1963 and, being now 50 years old or more, are just beginning to get interesting. They depict a left-over pre-war world. Only doctors, solicitors and the rich ran motor-cars and most of those were pre-war. In an East Ham terrace of some 120 houses, only two had a car parked outside and they never moved for want of petrol.

So you will see in these images a lack of parked or moving vehicles. In High Roding, for instance, a dog could stroll across the main street at leisure; a coach-built pram is seen parked (remember them?) and telegraph poles and wires border the roadside. When the wind blew through those wires they made music - a descant to accompany the song made by the John Bull Safety Speed tyre on the smooth tarmac. In Thaxted you will see just one car - a woody Lea-Francis shooting brake. It is parked outside the one-time home of Gustav Holst and surrounded by Morris Men. It is also seen parked in the distance in the street view. The Swan Inn was then a Taylor-Walker’s house with dear old Margaret Pole’s second-hand bookshop tacked on one end. Just around the corner the tiniest of cottages was actually two cottages!! At Great Easton the signpost is marked for eighths of a mile: which is furlongs, you may recall. It was a different world: an England with huge elm trees and an England totally devoid of motorways. I could go on……

© Dave Twitchett 2011