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The History of Woolpack Lane

The earliest information begins with the 1803 Nockold Survey.


1803 Nockold survey (Copyright © Essex Record Office); 


Properties: 459, 460, 438, 464, 463, 461 lie on Woolpack lane and the survey gives the names of the owners:

459 Thoms Pasfield Senior, Weavers Cottage no. 1

460 Josias Nottidge Jnr, cottage

438 Dr Tweed, a field

464 Josias Nottidge Jnr, a close

463 Josias Nottidge Jnr, cottage and garden

461 Thomas Barns, house


The house of Thomas Barnes and the next door cottage belonging to Josias Nottidge appear to have been replaced by a row of four cottages (nos. 4 – 10) before the 1838 Tithes record.


1838 Tithe Map (Copyright © Essex Record Office)


Properties: 860, 861, 862, 863, 755, 865, 869, 867 lie in Woolpack lane and the record gives both the names of the owners and occupiers:

860 Oliver Gosling, cottage, 1 Woolpack Lane, occupied by Jemima Williams & others

861 Oliver Gosling, cottage, 3 Woolpack Lane, occupied by Catherine Green & another

862 Sara Joscelyne, garden occupied by Catherine Green

863 Sarah Joscelyne, garden occupied by William Ridley

755 Josias Nottidge, pasture

865 Josias Nottidge, garden occupied by John Medcalf

869 Josias Nottidge, house (85 Bradford St) garden and factory occupied by Joseph Hubbert

867 Oliver Gosling, Woolpack (77-81 Bradford St) and cottages site of 4 – 10 Woolpack lane


In the 1841 census there were six households listed in Woolpack Lane:


              Mary Wilden                                 

              William Easter                 Bricklayer's Labourer    

              Eleanor Willis                   Laundress         

              Thomas Willis                  Agricultural Labourer    

              Abraham Medcalf           Agricultural Labourer    

              Samuel Rankin                 Agricultural Labourer    


In the 1851 census there were six households listed in Woolpack Lane:


              William Easter                 Journeyman Plasterer

              Thomas Willis                  Pauper

              Sarah Turner                    Charwoman

              Samuel Rankin                 Pauper

              Sarah Andrews                Pauper

              Edward Gentry                Journeyman Whitesmith


At some point after the tithe record the local builder Thomas Passfield (Jnr?) had acquired two cottages in the lane and these were put up for sale in 1854 after his death.


This advertisement appeared in the Essex Herald 14th Feb 1854:

 “DESIRABLE FREEHOLD PROPETY, Situate in the very best part of BRADFORD-STREET, BOCKING, TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, By J. Joscelyne, On Thursday, February 23, 1854, at the Horn Inn, Braintree, at Three for Four o’Clock in the Afternoon, by direction of the trustees of the will of Mr. Thomas Passfield deceased. Lot 2 comprises TWO COTTAGES, abutting on the Woolpack Lane, in Bocking, let at the rents of £6. 19s. per annum.”


There were two property sales in 1855, the first property as yet not identified was advertised in the Essex Standard of 13 April 1855, the second being the property identified as 867 in the tithe record and identified as four cottages was put up for sale after the death of Oliver Gosling and advertised in the Essex Standard of 2 May 1855:


“Freehold Cottage, Bocking. To be sold by auction, by John Joscelyne, on Tuesday, the 24th day of April, 1855, at the Horn Inn, Braintree. A substantial newly erected brick-built COTTAGE, detached wash-house, and garden, situate in Woolpack Lane, Bradford Street, Bocking; in the occupation of William Alefounder, at £5..10 per annum


Messrs. Alfred May & Son & Samuel Newman, (who are jointly employed on this occasion), at some time in the Month of May next, by direction of the Trustees for sale named in the will of the late Mr. Oliver Gosling. . . A timber-built and tiled Messuage, in four tenements, with Stable adjoining, situate in the Woolpack Lane, Bocking, in the occupation of Hunwick, Turner and Ardley.”


The 1861 census does not identify the properties but the following persons most probably lived in Woolpack lane:

Caroline Gentry               Crape Finisher  

John Willis                         Railway Porter  

Elizabeth Easter               Plasterers Wife

John Collins                       Chelsea Pensioner         

William Hunwick             Cleaner of Machinery   


1871 census identifies the inhabitants of Woolpack lane:


James Oliver                      Carpenter (journeyman)

Jane Collins                        Pauper

Jeremiah Layzell              Timber Sawyer (unemployed)

Thomas Williams             Ag Lab

One uninhabited,            used as a hemp warehouse by Wm Adkins & Co - Hemp & Mat Manufacturers        

William Dowsett             Cocoa Matting weaver at the Hemp & Mat factory

Charles Alden                   Silk Weaver at the Braintree silk factory

William Earl                      Ostler at an inn

William Alefounder        Bricklayer (journeyman)

Buildings (2) used for the purpose of stables, piggeries and slaughter houses (by Mr Jos Gentry)      

William Easter                 Bricklayer (journeyman)

John Willis                         Railway porter and messenger


1875 OS map (Copyright © Essex Record Office)


As revealed by the 1871 census there were more dwellings in Woolpack lane sometime in the 1860s and comparing the above OS map from 1875 with the tithe map from 1838 we note he following changes:


No. 861 on the tithe map appears to have been replaced by a new building

No. 862 on the tithe map has been replaced by a row of cottages.

No. 867 on the tithe map has been partly demolished or rebuilt as the four cottages put up for sale as part of Oliver Gosling’s estate as indicated above in the sale details from 1855


1881 census lists the following inhabitants of woolpack Lane, by comparison with the censuses of 1871 and 1891 there appear to be 2 or 3 properties unaccounted for:

Eliza Alefounder                                         

Charles Mumford                          Crape finisher

William Earl                                     Crape finisher

Samuel Catt                                     Tailer

William Dowsett                            Mattings Mat Weaver

Sophia Butcher                               Silk winder

Alfred Porter                                   Labourer


James Leader                                  Brick maker

Ellen Willis                                       Silk winder

Thomas Williams                            Ag Lab


From the Essex Standard 7 July 1883 we have the following report of a fire at the home of the Williams:


“Fire. – A fire broke out on Saturday last at a cottage in Woolpack Lane, Bocking, which but for the presence of mind of a man named Rush might have assumed serious dimensions. The cottage is occupied by an aged couple named Williams, and as Mrs. Williams was lighting a fire a quantity of soot became ignited and fell into the room, setting fire to some furniture. The old woman became alarmed and ran out of the house, leaving the door and window open, and the fire was rapidly gaining power, when Rush fortunately came to the rescue, closed the door and window, and took prompt means for arresting the progress of the flames. But for his aid it is probable the whole range of cottages would have been destroyed. They are old and inflammable, and are also adjacent to more valuable property.”


1891 census for Woolpack lane lists the following inhabitants, four of whom appear in the 1881 census:


Stephen Rayner                            Carpenter

Ellen Willis                                     Widow

James Millbank                             Ag Lab

Abraham Ager                               Groom & Gardener

Jane Unwin                                     Widow, Midwife Sick

Eliza Halefound (sic)                   Widow

William Barlap                               Bricklayer

Chas Munford(sic)                       Crape finisher

William Dowsett                          Mat Maker

Sophia Butcher                             Silk winder

Elizabeth Stewart                        Washer woman

Sarah Cook                                     Charwoman

Edward Gooday                            Mat Maker


1901 census for Woolpack Lane lists the following inhabitants:


Edward A Goodey                        Cocoa Fibre matting weaver


Elizabeth Stewart                        Parochial allowance


Sophia Butcher                             Silk Winder

William Dowsett                          Fibre Mat maker

Charles Mumford                        Crape Finisher

William Bartrup                           Bricklayer

Herbert Rudkin                            Painter

Arthur Willis                                 Stoker in silk factory

Walter H Barker                          Worker in Grindery


Stephen Reyner                           Carpenter

2 uninhabited                 


1911 census for Woolpack Lane lists the following inhabitants:


Harry Cook                                    Sugar boiler      

Richard Thomas Harris             Journayman Baker         

Abraham Ager                              OAP      

Walter Barker                              Released from army       

Arthur Willis                                 Labourer           

Major Butcher                              Matting Weaver             

Emma Bartrup                              

Charles Mumford                        Examiner silk factory     

William Dowsett                         Mat maker retired         

Sophia Butcher                            Parish relief      

Emily Coppin                                Parish Relief      

Sarah Smith                                   Factory Hand retired     

Edward Chopping                       Engine driver Threshing(?)[l1]  Machine


1919 OS map (Copyright © Essex Record Office)


The Adkins Ashley & Co mat manufacturers based at 85 Bradford Street has by 1919 built a large factory premises on the plot of land identified as 865 on the tithe map.

By 1895 Harry Golding had become involved in the Ashley Adkins & Co business, the Kelly’s Directory of that year listing the telegram address of the company as “Golding”.

There had been a minor fire at the mat factory in 1895 as reported in the Essex Herald on the 9th July:

“A narrow escape from a serious fire was experienced at Messrs. Ashley Adkins and Co.’s mat manufactory in Bradford-street, when, owing to the boiling over of some heated tar, a summer-house and a fence communicating with the factory building were burned. The flames were arrested by the prompt action of the workmen.”

Another fire at the factory as reported in the Essex Chronicle 20 Feb 1914:

“Bocking Mat Factory, owned by Messrs. Ashley Adkins and Co., and situate in Bradford Street, near Braintree, was destroyed by fire. The damage, which is covered by insurance, is estimated at £5,000.”

Following this fire the premises were rebuilt.

It appears that the factory caused environmental problems as the following report from the Chelmsford Chronicle of 10 June 1921 highlights:

A Bocking Problem.  – The Inspector reported on efforts to remove a very old drainage trouble at Woolpack Lane, Bocking, where a spring of water flowed into a sewer. – The Surveyor suggested that the spring water should be diverted from the sewer, and a different method of flushing put in a Bocking mat factory. – Mr. H. W. Golding, of Messrs. Adkins, Ashley and Co., wrote that the supply of had been to the factory for fifty years, and he could not agree to the diversion. The lavatory accommodation in the factory was carried out under the direction of the Council. – The Clerk said the Council had to pay £45 compensation to a householder in Woolpack Lane because the house became flooded with sewage from the drain, and unless some steps were taken there was danger of a recurrence. The water could not be diverted from the mat factory. – Adjourned for further enquiries.”

1938 Chelmsford Chronicle 8th July, following the death of Mr. Harry Golding the trustees of the estate advertised the sale of the property portfolio. Included in the sale are Bay house and The Woolpack in Bradford Street, No. 2 Woolpack Lane, the cottages Nos. 4 – 10 Woolpack Lane and a large timber and tiled building in Woolpack Lane presumed to be the mat factory.

The Chelmsford Chronicle 15 July 1938, carried an advert for a number of cars available for sale at the Chapel Garage, Woolpack Lane, Bradford Street, Bocking. The 1958 map (below) has an extra building across the lane from what was the mat factory. In the absence of any further evidence this is taken to have been a chapel then used as a garage by Mr Cook from no.2.

1939 Register

2 Woolpack Lane, Agnes Cook, widow

4 Woolpack Lane, Ernest Millbank, Machine minder

6 Woolpack Lane, Frederick Nichols, Farm Labourer

8 Woolpack Lane, William Mitson, Chauffeur, gardener

10 Woolpack Lane, Harry Gray, Butler

15 Woolpack Lane, Rose Butcher, widow

13 Woolpack Lane, George Rufford, Crane driver

11 Woolpack Lane, Alice Saward, widow

9 Woolpack Lane, George Rogers, Crape Crimper

1 Woolpack Lane, Ernest Harries, General Bricklayer


Note that Mrs Cook is now a widow. Her husband’s garage business, conducted at the Chapel Garage is closed down and with the outbreak of the Second World War Sir William Courtauld, who must be the owner of the old chapel, offers it to the Air Cadet Corp according to a report in the Essex Newsman 21 Oct 1939.


Air Cadet Corps. – The Braintree Squadron have taken up their headquarters in a former chapel at Woolpack Lane, Bocking, which has been let to them on advantageous terms by Sir William Courtauld. A subscription in aid of the Corps funds exceeds £150. Sixty cadets have been enrolled, and they purchase their own uniform and subscribe 3d. per week to the squadron expenses. Mr. L. R. Hurry, who was an aircraft rigger in the last war, is supervising the internal decorations and painting at the headquarters, and an aeroplane engine and fuselage are expected from the Air Ministry. Dr. J. H. Dixon, a former R.A.F. officer, has accepted a commission in the Braintree squadron, and succeeds as Medical Officer Dr. D. M. Anderson, who recently joined the R.A.F. Flight-Lieut. Hamilton Joscelyne, who served for a short period in the R.A.F. during the last war, is acting-commander of the Braintree squadron. Mr. G. A. Gage has been appointed a flying officer, and has presented the squadron with its flag.”


After the war, the old mat factory premises were redeveloped as a new factory building; no longer a timber and tiled building.


Lignacite (East Anglia) Ltd., started there but the business did not last very long as revealed by the following newspaper adverts and Legal Notice:


Chelmsford Chronicle 27 June 1947:

“Work in Braintree: General Labour required for new building materials factory. Apply, Liquacite (sic) (East Anglia), Ltd., Woolpack Lane, Bradford Street."

Chelmsford Chronicle 7 Nov 1947:

“Farmers : A new Building Material, strong yet light ; easy to work with – can be sawn, drilled nailed, or bolted – as timber, pleasant to look at ; no permits needed. Apply, Lignacite (East Anglia) Ltd., Woolpack Lane, Bradford Street, Braintree. Tel. Braintree 838.”


Chelmsford Chronicle 5 Dec 1947:

“A new building block, strong, yet light ; easy to work with ; can be sawn drilled, nailed, or bolted as timber – pleasant to look at ; no permits needed. Apply, Lignacite (East Anglia), Ltd., Woolpack Lane, Bradford Street, Braintree. Tel. Braintree 838.”

Chelmsford Chronicle 29 Oct 1948:


“Lignacite (East Anglia), Ltd. Notice is hereby given pursuant to Section 293 of the Companies Act, 1948, that a meeting of the Creditors of the above named Company will be held at the Horn Hotel, Braintree, Essex on Monday the first day of November 1948 at 11.30 o’clock in the forenoon for the purpose of having a full statement of the position of the Company’s affairs, together with a list of the Creditors of the Company and the estimated amount of their claim laid before them. AND NOTICE IS ALSO GIVEN that for the purpose of voting, secured Creditors must (unless they surrender their security) lodge at the Registered Office of the Company at Woolpack Lane, Bradford Street, Braintree, before the Meeting a Statement giving particulars of their security, the date when it was given, and the value at which it is secured.”


1958 OS map (Copyright © Essex Record Office);


In 1950 another company, Thames Valley Moulders, took over the premises and started hiring a workforce as indicated by a number of adverts in the local press.


Chelmsford Chronicle 14 April 1950:

“Maintenance Fitter; Young man 25 / 30 yrs. Keen and ambitious, required to join new company with extensive prospects: immediate prospects are for position of machine foremen; the work will be on the most modern plastic moulding machinery & dies; the right man need not be experienced in the work but must be a craftsman; overtime essential; good wages commensurate with experience. Apply in writing or personally after April 17th to Works Manager, Thames Valley Moulders, Woolpack Lane, Braintree.”


Chelmsford Chronicle 14 April 1950:

“Male Clerk; The Thames Valley Moulders are now about to open in Braintree. The firm is engaged on plastic mouldings. A General Clerk is required to take care of wages, P.A.Y.E. and general officer routine. For the right man the position of office manager will eventually be possible. Salary commensurate with experience & ability. Apply in writing to Director, Thames Valley Moulders, Woolpack Lane, Braintree.”


Chelmsford Chronicle 26th May 1950:

”Secretary; Competent & fully experienced Lady Secretary required by Managing Director of Manufacturing Company in Braintree . Salary commensurate with experience & ability. Apply in writing to Thames Valley Moulders Ltd., Woolpack Lane, Braintree.”


Chelmsford Chronicle 4th August 1950:

“Men wanted at Thames Valley Moulders, Braintree as Machine Operators; no previous experience necessary; alternate shifts, night and day, changing every fortnight; overtime required to be worked; average wage, with bonus and overtime, can exceed £7/10/- per wk. Apply in person to Works Manager, Thames Valley Moulders, Ltd., Woolpack Lane, Braintree.”


Chelmsford Chronicle 19th August 1950:

“Clerk Wanted, male or female, under 25; Knowledge of bookkeeping an advantage. Write, giving details of age, experience, etc., to Thames Valley Moulders, Ltd., Woolpack Lane, Braintree.”


Chelmsford Chronicle 10th November 1950:

”Technical Assistant to Works Manager reqd., at new Plastics Works in Braintree; suitable for a young technician anxious to rise to executive position; the work will consist essentially of the promotion of new items on manufacture to mass production assembly lines; previous knowledge is not essential, but a flair for small jigs would be an asset. Apply in writing, stating age and experience, to Managing Director, THAMES VALLEY MOULDERS, Woolpack Lane, Braintree, Essex.”

When Musical and Plastic Industries was founded in 1953 Selmer became one of the subsidiary companies. The Selmer subsidiary was the UK offshoot of the French company Henri Selmer Ltd which had been created in 1928. They concentrated primarily on licensing, importing and distribution rather than manufacturing, and by 1939 had grown to become the largest company in the British musical instrument industry. In 1935 they began manufacturing sound reinforcement systems and began manufacturing electric organs in 1951.

Thames Valley Moulders appears to have undergone reorganisation with Selcol Products Ltd operating as a subsidiary from 1953 to 1968. Selcol made a range of toys, vinyl records and musical instruments for children. Record labels included Gala Goldtone, Gala Nursery Records, Gala Records and the Selco Nursery Record series.

In 1958 a Midlands company, W. Abbot and Sons, acquired Thames Valley Moulders in exchange for 1,100,000 ordinary shares at 1/-(one shilling) each and changed its name to Musical and Plastics Industries.

The Birmingham Daily Post 25 Feb 1964 ran two stories on the Selco subsidiary of Musical and Plastics Industries with the same text under two different headlines; “Sweet Music” and “Profiting from the Beatles”:

Musical and Plastics Industries subsidiary, Selco Products, is manufacturing and delivering Beatles guitars at the rate of 120,000 per month. It is also manufacturing the “Ringo Starr snare drum outfit,” demand for which is said to be tremendous.


Selco Products has acquired exclusive world rights to the Beatles name in connection with these guitars and drums and also record racks. It has just completed a licensing agreement with America’s largest guitar manufacturer and is also completing a similar agreement with one of France’s biggest plastics manufacturers.

Selcol manufactured the much sought after 'Beatles' toy guitars and drum kits at their factory in Braintree, Essex; pristine examples now cost hundreds or thousands of pounds. They made substantial profits in 1964 paying a dividend of 47 ½ % but sales plummeted as the novelty wore off.


The Beatles Selcol Junior Guitar On Original Backing Card (UK)

£3,500.00 (in 2020)

In 1965 the Birmingham Daily Post on 10 September reported on the acquisition of Fairchild Plastics by Musical and Plastics Industries for £100,000. Fairchild Plastics had in two years become a substantial maker of plastic injection and blow-moulded toys, the managing director, Mr. Bertram Collins had five year before, been general sales manager of Selco.

The purchase of Fairchild in 1965 aggravated the slump in sales and Fairchild made a loss rather than the expected profit forecast at the time of the purchase. This resulted in an interim dividend of 15% in the first half of 1966 and no final dividend. A second deal, with the private company Roylat Holdings, about the same time also turned sour further draining the company’s cash resources when they had to write off £52,000. The company laid off 1/3 of its workforce. Restructuring also involved a change of name to MPI.

With the decline of Selcol products in 1967 MPI decided to shut the Selcol production in Braintree. Plastics production ceased in 1968 and MPI sold the premises to Selmer who moved their organ and amplifier production from three sites in the Charing Cross Road area of London. Most of the plastics production workforce left but a number of women from the production lines stayed in and retrained to manufacture the amplifiers.

To begin with Selmer were very successful but from 1972 the business started to fail, production ceased in 1979 and by 1980 there was one employee left to turn out the lights. Selmer used the old chapel building to store returned, faulty goods which never got repaired and there was much criticism about the way the operation was being run.

Following the closure of Selmer the premises remained empty and were demolished in the 1990s to make way for the modern housing that now occupies the site.


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