Reminiscence and Resource Centre












(By Irene Addington (née Bailey) - November 2013)
Early days

My family moved to the Bata Estate in 1953 when I was 2 years old. My late father, Frank Bailey, worked for the Engineers Department from 1938 to 1990 (with just a break in the army for the war). For the first few years, we lived in Princess Avenue but after the birth in 1956 of my brother and sister, twins John and Fay, we moved to a bigger house in Thomas Bata Avenue with central heating! We especially liked this Avenue because of all the attractive Cherry and May trees that Bata’s had planted. We were very disappointed when residents removed many of these trees in later years. The estate was always kept in an immaculate condition by the maintenance, gardening and road sweeping staff at Bata’s.

Bata School days

I went to the Bata Primary and Junior Schools and really loved it there. I remember the headmistress, Miss Richardson. She was very keen on teaching children good manners. She considered this to be very important. All children shook her hand after school - the girls had to curtsy too. Unfortunately, I only knew Miss Richardson for a short time as she retired in the late 1950s. She was presented with a TV set which must have been really expensive in those days. Mr Thomas joined as the new headmaster after Miss Richardson left. Other teachers I remember were Miss Goodwin (music / kindergarten class) who suggested I took up singing lessons, Mrs Andrews, Mrs Adamcek, Mr Sutton, Mrs Mestanik and Mr Stewart. I also remember the School Secretary, Mrs Masur. I’m not sure that all these names are spelt correctly!

The school was next door to the Bata College near our house in Princess Avenue. My best friend, Gill Spencer, and I used to be plant monitors and I especially recall having to look after a Rubber Plant - something we’d never heard of before!

One of the more enjoyable tasks was wear testing newly designed shoes for children. Mr Plampton used to visit the school with a selection of shoes for this purpose and we all hoped that we would be the ones selected to test the latest footwear. These tests involved marking various aspects of the shoes on a chart and would have been subject to normal childhood rough and tumble. It was great as we were able to keep the shoes after the tests!

Later my mother, Doris Bailey, worked at the school as a Midday Assistant for 20 years (1970-1990).

Outside school - living on the estate

There were only a few shops on the estate: grocery shop (Mr Saville used to serve you from behind a counter), a post office, shoe shop, butchers, hairdressers / barbers. The supermarket came later. I remember the Expresso Bar, its juke box, and the lovely frothy coffee (made by Mrs Tutton or Vic) served in glass cups and saucers. There was a mobile library, a coal-man (Mr Nunn), the greengrocer who drove his lorry loaded with fruit and veg around the estate (Mr Fuller). I seem to remember there was also an “Egg Man”, but I can’t recall his name. Another van was that of the baker from Pigg’s Bakery and subsequently Dave the Baker. There was Joan, the greengrocer whose shop was just behind the Nook Cafe / Newsagents run by Mr and Mrs Lazell. Miss Deeks was the post lady. Then there was Betty, the milk lady, who delivered milk (from the cows kept on the Bata Farm) to the school and the rest of the estate. We used to put food scraps and vegetable peelings in pig bins for the pigs on the Bata Farm.

I remember one day huge excitement as the cows had escaped from the farm and were wandering around the streets of the estate. Gill’s father was the head cowman and had to round them all up (which he did successfully, I’m glad to say).

Bata’s also had their own Fire Brigade. Thankfully, we only needed them once when our chimney caught alight in Thomas Bata Avenue! Luckily there was no damage at all but it could have been a lot worse if they hadn’t responded so quickly!

For many years, Dr Ward used to be the family doctor. He lived at one end of Thomas Bata Avenue and his home had an extension which he used as his surgery until he retired. There used to be a clinic, a bungalow next to The Nook, where among other things babies were weighed. Funny the things you remember. Anyone lucky enough to own a car in those days probably visited the Bata Garage so it could be filled with petrol or be serviced. For those who liked sportier activities, there were the tennis courts and the outdoor swimming pool. The pool used to be really popular but at certain times was reserved for the use of others, including Palmers Boys School, Grays. My uncle (my father’s brother) went to that school and remembers going swimming at the Bata pool. I remember there was a fountain in “the woods” adjacent to the pool. When the water was cascading down, it was fascinating to look at as a child. I was sorry when it stopped working. My father said that a pipe had fractured and, unfortunately, it was not repaired after that. There were swings and roundabouts near the tennis courts too.

I also remember going to the Bata Cinema, where you could watch a film for 1/6d (seven and half pence in today’s money!) or 1/9d (just under 9p). One film in particular my Dad took us to was “Singing in the Rain”. The cinema building later became the Social Centre. A big event held there was the BBC’s “Worker’s Playtime” with the well-known 50s singer, Denis Lotis, whose autograph I got along with several other stars of the day!

When I was very young I was entered into a fancy dress competition which must have been held in the hotel as part of a bigger event for the families living on the estate. I went as Little Bo Peep and won a prize.

My dress was blue and pink and had been made by my granny and a family friend. I believe there is a photo of that particular fancy dress parade somewhere in the Bata Memories archive which has been put up on the internet too.

Other big occasions organised by Bata’s were the Annual Open Days, held on the sports field. The summer sports days would have a fun fair and races were organised for the children which I took part in. Picnic boxes were given out and I loved the food goodies inside the little white cardboard box. They were really enjoyable family days. The sports ground was maintained very well and as a result was sometimes used by West Ham football club as a training facility. I remember a factory open day when “Doctor Who” daleks were the star attraction (they were steered by the College Boys!). At Christmas, Bata’s used to organise a Christmas Party and the children would be given large presents. Occasionally there would be a pantomime in the Social Centre.

There were some lovely walks around East Tilbury. I used to love to roam across the fields (now the Fairview Estate) to the sea-wall, with all its little beaches completely made of fragmented shells, and then round to the Coalhouse Fort and back through East Tilbury village to Bata’s. My younger brother, Paul, who now lives in Kent, also used to love these walks and even now occasionally returns to East Tilbury for a walk along the sea-wall. It really was a child’s paradise - there were so many places where we could play. I remember, before the Fairview estate was built, playing on discarded, rusty farm equipment and vehicles and a rope swing tied to a big tree. We always knew when to return home as we would hear the Bata factory hooter (siren). Sometimes I would run to the factory entrance to meet my father as he left work for the day. In later years, one of our dogs, Laddie, amusingly would howl when the hooter sounded. I belonged to the Girls’ Life Brigade (run by Mrs Edwards, the lieutenant, assisted by Mrs Todd). Mrs Dot Howard also ran a lot of clubs for the children of the estate. I also went to Sunday School, where the teachers were Mrs King and Mrs Silk, who lived in Princess Margaret Road, just behind our house.

Teenage years

I used to do a paper round for the Nook, delivering papers to Queen Elizabeth Avenue and Coronation Avenue. Amazingly, the paperboys and girls had the responsibility for collecting payments at the end of the week - something sadly that just wouldn’t be contemplated in today’s society. It just shows what a safe environment and caring family community it was in those days.

Some of the most enjoyable occasions at the Social Centre were the disco’s run by the (Bata) College Boys.

For many years afterwards, my family and I continued to attend the annual New Year’s Eve parties and dances held in the Social Centre and hotel ballroom.


Just before Christmas 1968, I met Paul Addington, one of the college boys. We used to sing as a folk duo and remember performing at the Social Centre

and in the Hotel Ballroom as well as local churches. We got married in 1973 and this year celebrated our Ruby Wedding anniversary. For our wedding, a number of people from Bata’s played important roles. The Printing Department printed our wedding invitations, Ken Clarke took the photos.
For the reception at the Village Hall in Linford, Pete Boosey ran the disco (featuring quite a lot of James Last) and Malcolm Nevard ran the bar. More importantly, Richard Merritt (another college boy) was our best man. Paul, subsequently, was best man for Richard’s wedding in Preston a few years later. Most importantly though was the late Dennis Bacon, Principal of the Bata College, for admitting Paul into the College to study accountancy on a sandwich course run by Bata’s. If this hadn’t happened, then Paul and I would probably never have met and our lives would have been completely different.

In September this year, we visited the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto while on holiday in Canada. Apart from seeing shoes worn by John Lennon, Elizabeth Taylor and many other stars, it was a fascinating insight into the history of shoes and their designs from around the world. We had a lovely surprise at the end of our visit when we met Sonja Bata (widow of Thomas Bata Jnr.). We talked to her for quite a while about the old days in East Tilbury of which she has many happy memories. The Museum is a testament to her life with Thomas Bata, the global reach of the organisation in its heyday as well as the importance of footwear today. It’s well worth a visit if you’re ever in Toronto.


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