Christmas Past

by JL Beeken on 12-30-2010

When I was 13 I spent Christmas with some ancient (60 or 70 year old) and distant relatives in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex in England. I’ve become obsessed with finding the exact house on a map. I’ve been driving the little man on Google Maps through the streets for the past 4 hours.

Leigh-on-Sea is a beautiful looking town and it looks pretty much the same everywhere. Colorful side-by-side town houses with no side yards and parking in the front yard. But that’s not it. The house I’m looking for is not what I would call an ‘estate’ but it was an expensive stand-alone property.

It had actual lawns to walk around on and spacious gardens and horse-stables that were no longer used. They parked their Daimler in the garage that used to have something else to do with horses.

Just in case you think I’m making this up, here it is, Daimler and all.

There was an underground bomb shelter in the garden and a large pond with a bird-bath.

I was most fascinated with the secret passage in the dining room. Just like in the movies, you could push a panel next to the fireplace and a secret compartment would open. The old man taught me the first (and only) card trick I ever learned. He wore a tux and bow-tie at all hours of the day.

One night the old lady had some of her cronies in for a seance. I begged and pleaded to participate and they finally relented. Five minutes later they kicked me out for uncontrollable giggling.

One evening I decided to go walking around the neighborhood. I got as far as the corner and decided I wasn’t all that keen about venturing out alone in the English fog, (remembering stories of Jack-the-Ripper) so I stood there for awhile memorizing the street names thinking, as the genealogist I would someday become, that if I had to find my way back here I could because I knew the names. Undoubtedly, those names are still in my mind somewhere.

So, I thought this would be relatively easy. Just take a magnifying glass to the map until my brain said, “Aha!”. But nothing’s saying aha. Not even faintly. I guess it’s possible in the last 50 years someone changed all the street names.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Crockett 12-31-2010 at 8:33 PM

I know how annoying that could be. If you remember the name of your rellies, a local genealogical society might be able to trace the place. It is possible something so grand might have been turned into a school or something by now.

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JL 12-31-2010 at 8:43 PM

There are a few photos of us in the garden (no snow at Christmas, just fog!) and I can see the roof of another large house behind us. So, it wasn’t on acres and acres out in the boonies, just in an upscale neighborhood in town. The house was elevated somewhat above street level. I remember brick steps going down to the sidewalk and the Daimler having to chug uphill to the garage. I’m betting on my patience at this point but desperation may drive me to seek help from the locals.

Happy New Year!

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