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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

17. Bulphin, Essex..

St Mary's Bulphin in 1966.

We don't know how long it took for Bert to find work, but by 1922 he and Nell were living in a Rectory Cottage at Bulphin, in Essex, where they were acting as caretakers of the church and schools. The Reverend Theodore Alphonse Teitelbaum had been rector of St Mary's Bulphin (pronounced "Bullven") since 1903 and appears to have died there in 1946. The population of Bulphin in 1921 was 448.

Bulphin Village 1966
James Pinkerton, the nurseryman who employed Bert in 1912, was the largest landowner in Bulphin and may have been the connection that found him the job. The township consisted mostly of farms, had three nurseries, a blacksmith, a horse-slaughterer, an inn, a baker, a grocer, a builder and a monumental mason.

Bulphin School c. 1922. Albert Ray third from left in 2nd row
Bulphan Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School still operates, with an enrolment of 100 students in 2012. In 1925 the enrolment of the Public Primary School (managed by Bulphin Church) was 78 and the school mistress was Miss Annie Ward. Bulphin Parish also operated St John's Preparatory School (listed in the 1921 UK City and County Directories) of which the Rev. Teitelbaum was the master. It appears that Bert and Nell's prime responsibilities were caretaking for the two schools.

It was not a well-paid job, but a cottage went with it. The rectory itself was on 15 acres of Glebe land and Bert and Nell could keep a few chickens and grow vegetables. Albert and Grace attended Bulphin School.

Albert in front of choirmaster.
 They also attended St Mary's Church, as Albert told it many years later, without their parents, four times on Sunday - once for Sunday School and three times for church services. Albert was in the choir.
Grace at Bulphin Church

Albert at Bulphin Church.

In September 1922, Nell gave birth to a son, Ronald. When he was six months old, Nell took him at Grays Hospital to be circumcised - what should have been a routine and quick proceedure. Things, however, did not go well. The baby developed an infection and had to remain in hospital for several days.The Rev. Teitelbaum was on holiday in Bognor and sent a postcard. Nell cycled the six miles to the hospital each day to breastfeed him. On the sixth day, when she arrived, she was told he had died overnight of pneumonia. It was a shocking and devastating experience - without warning and out of her control. It left Nell, and other family members, scarred.

In September 1924, Clement Bailhache's father, Justice Sir Clement Meacher Bailhache, died and Bert wrote a letter of condolence to his old Captain. Typically, he did not mention his own situation. It is unlikely Bailhache knew Bert had lost his job at Hoffman's, nor did he know of Nell's miscarriages and the death of Ronald. Bailhache, Bert knew, would have enough troubles of his own. Bailhache's reply to Bert concludes: "We are all well but I cannot say I find fruit growing a very paying proposition in these days."

In 1925 Nell successfully gave birth to a girl, Sylvia Joyce. Bert chose her name from a phone book entry. She spent much of her early childhood with Bert - partly because it was the first child he had seen grow up, and partly because Nell was depressed.

The Teitelbaums were good to Nell and Bert, and and in later years were remembered with affection by Albert and Grace as well. It was, however, a life barely above the poverty line. By 1927 Bert was applying for other jobs and Teitelbaum helped with a reference.

Bulphin School older children c 1927. Grace 9th from left in 2nd row,
Albert 3rd child from right in third row.

Albert & Grace Bulphin School


Grace suffered from rheumatic fever and also missed quite a lot of school.

Albert had reached the end of his schooling. He later recalled that he spent a lot of time staying with his grandmother, Emily Ray, helping in her nursery, often missing school, and no doubt kept out of the way of Nell's pregnancies and depression. He found the work hard and debilitating.

Bert's cigarette case
Albert got his first camera, a Brownie Box, when he was 12 - from saving cigarette cards (presumably from his father and uncles).
Bert and Nell's council house, Bulphin 1927-9

He took a photo of the Council house the family moved into around 1927.

While they got by, neither Bert nor Nell could see a future for themselves or for their children where they were.  The economic situation was worsening.

Bert's two youngest brothers offered them a way out.

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