The Leach Family

Great Russell Head and Waterside Farms

By Janet Penn

Photo:The Leach and White families 1912

The Leach and White families 1912

Traditionally the brides family would sit on her side and the grooms on his. Therefore the old man and woman on Frederick's right must be Aaron Leach and his second wife Ellen. On the brides left must be William White (of the Red Cow)

By 1885 Aaron Leach and his wife Eliza and family had moved to Canvey Island. The can be found in the 1881 census at Stow Maries and they had a child Kate born there in 1883 but in 1886 their son Frederick John was born on the Island and baptized on the 7th August 1886 at St Katherine’s Church.

The census and Electoral Registers record the family lived at Great Russell Head Farm from 1891-1918. Kelly’s Directory of 1894 state Aaron was the farm bailiff for A Manning Esq, the directory for 1902 shows that A Manning had died and that Aaron was working for his trustees. The 1914 directory just states Aaron is a farmer.

Aaron Leach’s first wife, Eliza Chalk, whom he married in 1871, died not long after their youngest son, Alfred Russell Leach (1890-1892) in 1893 and both are buried in St Katherine’s Churchyard.

If you can add anything please comment below.

Aaron died in 1924 by which time he was living with his second wife, Ellen, who he married in 1897, at the High Street, Benfleet. Ellen can still be found there in the Electoral Register for 1929. Probate was granted to his sons Frederick John and Arthur Thomas Leach both stated as farmers.

Photo:Waterside Farm standing empty

Waterside Farm standing empty

Frederick John Leach was to become an important figure on the Island. Working first with his father at Russell Head he later worked on Charfleets Farm. But by 1914 Kelly’s Directory states he is a farmer but not where he was farming. By 1929 he is definitely at Waterside Farm and a Councillor on Canvey’s Urban District Council. 1933 Kelly’s state he was the Chairman of the council and 1937 says he was the Vice Chairman and farmer at Waterside.

According to Dowd Frederick Leach was the Chairman of the Council for four terms, 1930-1934, 1938-39, 1944-46, 1952-53. One of his duties when Chairman in 1932 was to switch on the Electricity for the first time:-  

Photo:Frederick and Amelia Leach on their wedding day 17 October 1912

Frederick and Amelia Leach on their wedding day 17 October 1912

"Electricity was switched on by F.J. Leach, C.I.U.D.C. chairman, on March 2, 1932, including proper street-lighting to replace the solitary street-lamp at St. Katherine’s in the Village: fifty-six swan-necked lanterns with doubly-parabolic mirrors stretched from the Causeway to Leigh Beck. By the late 1950s electricity was widespread, being supplied by the Eastern Electricity Board - their service centre was originally at (the then-new) 2 Labworth Parade in Furtherwick Road but from 1961 moved to Strutt’s Corner, the original premises being left empty and boarded-up for at least 20 years."

Frederick was the last farmer at Waterside Farm which was eventually sold to Canvey Council.

Frederick had married his wife Amelia Rose White in 1912. His wife was the youngest daughter of William White, Farmer and beer house keeper at the Red Cow PH.

Younger brother Arthur Thomas was also a farmer on Canvey according to Kelly's directories of 1929-1933. He married Florence Mary Beechey in 1919 and was at Great Russell Head Farm in the 1929 Electoral Register. He was not in the 1918 Electoral Register for Canvey so perhaps he came back to the Island after his marriage and took over from his father when he retired to Benfleet. Arthur died in 1969 recorded in the Malden District.

Photo:Frederick and Amelia's grave in St Katherine's Churchyard

Frederick and Amelia's grave in St Katherine's Churchyard

Janet Penn

Frederick died in 1966 and Amelia in 1968, they are both buried in St Katherine’s Churchyard.

Several other members of the family are also buried in St Katherine's Churchyard.

As well as Frederick's parents, his brothers Albert Aaron, Charles Edward and Alfred Russell are all buried there.

This page was added by Janet Penn on 28/09/2012.
Comments about this page

I am the great grandson of Aaron Leach. My wife and I have just come across this page. I have a number of childhood memories of Fred Leach and his wife, Auntie Milly, and of Waterside farm and house when Fred was still farming, and other memories of the family in Benfleet, also the final statement of accounts of Fred's estate, dated 5 April, 1970. If you would like me to send any of this info, please let me know.

By Norman Brand
On 30/07/2013

Yes please Norman I will contact you direct

By Janet Penn
On 30/07/2013

Thanks for your e-mail. I've replied to it direct.

By Norman Brand
On 31/07/2013

It is a coincidence that I write this on the birthday of my grandmother, Kate Ellen Norman (nee Leach), who was born on August 1st, 1882. I very recently came across the Canvey Island Archive and the piece about Aaron Leach, my great grandfather, and his family and farm.

The picture of Waterside farmhouse, was very moving to see; it evoked memories going back more than 60 years and aroused for me feelings about my family and a new perspective on its members that I might never have experienced otherwise. It was a very plain building, Waterside farmhouse, I remember somehow sensing that even as a 12-year-old. As I look at the photograph now I see, in my minds eye, to the right, a large duckpond, teeming with fowl, and to the left, leading up to the sea wall a large field full of hencoops, where wild rabbits ran in profusion.

I had first come to hear of ‘Canvey’ in the later war years and after, when I lived with my mother and grandparents, Kate Ellen and her husband, John Norman, in West London. They had moved there from Kensal Rise, where their flat had been hit by a landmine. My mother moved in with them after my father was called up into the army. There was a cupboard under the stairs, and sometimes, at special times of the year, if you opened the door you would find two dead chickens, in all their feathers and finery – Rhode Island Reds, hanging inside. Occasionally there was a rabbit. These had been ‘sent up from Canvey’, from my grandma’s brother, Fred the farmer, and very welcome in those austere times they were. I was always interested to watch grandma, the farmer’s daughter to her core, pluck and clean the chickens or skin the rabbit, for baking or stewing. An untipped Players cigarette smouldered from her lips as she cleaned the chicken.

But, back to Waterside farm. As I recall, we entered by the front door, not for any reasons of privilege but it was the simplest way in. Once inside it was but a step to the main farmhouse kitchen – the main living area, with its adjoining scullery. Auntie Milly presided in a genial kind of way. From then on everything happened through the back door. The room was usually full of eggs – they must have been stacked in some way against the walls, and wherever you looked there seemed to be little piles of pound notes. I don’t think Aunty Milly was particularly domesticated, not that I think Fred would have noticed because he worked from dawn to dusk on the farm. He lived for his work and for the farm. I’m not sure they even had a holiday. He was a taciturn man of granite, friendly though, hugely strong and practical. He was almost always in his farm clothes, as I recall, grey trousers, thick cotton or linen shirt, no collar or tie, and (maybe) a waistcoat unbuttoned. I do remember seeing him one day putting a white shirt front and collar and tie on over his farm shirt, and (in my memory) donning a black bowler hat before cycling off to a council meeting. The word had it that he was also a J.P…

For a while, maybe some years, my grandma, with my grandad, lived after the war at a wooden cottage which backed on Benfleet Creek. It was on the road from the station just before it turned uphill by the Hoy and Helmet. She was looking after her sister Alice Killingback (nee Leach), who was an invalid and a widow by then. I loved staying there and going over the farm. Word was that Fred owned the cottage.

I have a picture of the Waterside farmyard in my mind now. It was probably a bit ramshackle by modern standards and rats ran all over the place. I remember that as a small boy I threw stones at them. Somewhere in the yard, in a shed beyond a waist-high door and in the shadow, the ‘old bull’ was reported to live.

I will probably add more, if I may, as things occur to me. As I said, it is a long time ago.

By Norman Brand
On 01/08/2013

Fantastic Norman. Thank you

By Janet Penn
On 01/08/2013

The Leach family, perhaps appropriately, given the surname, was very efficient at self-medication. I remember my grandmother’s use of the bread poultice. ‘Here comes the nurse with the red hot poultice, slap it on and take no notice’, she would say, as she advanced upon the infant me – I was forever getting splinters in my fingers from an old wooden stairway . And on would go the near-boiling poultice and out, a few hours later, would come the splinter, even the nasty ones underneath my finger nails.

Grandma, Fred’s sister, pronounced her own body to be a ‘good healer’ of itself. ‘That looks angry’, she would say, as a red streak of infection spread up her arm from some injury or other.I don’t know what she did, but in a day or two the infection had receded. This was before the days of penicillin and we had never heard of A and E. On one spectacular occasion a sliver of wood ejected itself from her upper arm months after it had gone in deep. I can see it in my mind’s eye now. And she had a way of dealing with serious constipation which I will not detail here. Not my infirmity, thank goodness. Maybe all this stemmed from growing up on a farm.

Fred was legendary in this area of life. Probably some of the legends were apocryphal. I heard it said that if he had problems with a thorn or splinter he would take his pen knife and cut out the whole area where it was. Yes, that was the story in the family. Another legend was that to prevent infection he would rub dung into the wound. I would have thought that was a sure way to get tetanus. I didn’t really believe he did this until I read somewhere that in the middle east camel dung has been used for a similar purpose. Kill or cure I suppose. They certainly built up a strong resistance to infection and ailments, the Leach family. Not tried it myself. Would DEFINITELY not recommend it.

And then Fred was also reckoned to have wrestled with one of his bulls, grabbing it by the horns as it had him on the ground. Apochryphal? I don’t know. I believe him to have been capable of it.

By Norman Brand
On 01/08/2013

Is that the farm just across the creek, farmhouse on the left two cottages on the right ? if so I spent a lot of time in the second cottage as my brother, Wal Broughall was a farm hand there early fifties, before the flood, I was ten best years of my childhood, used to bring the cows across the road for milking and collect mushrooms from the field across from the cottages

By David Broughall
On 23/06/2016

Yes David Waterside Farm

By Janet Penn
On 23/06/2016

My mother Brenda Clarke nee Leach was born at number 3 Waterside Cottages September 1948.

My grandparents were Francis (Peter) and Myrtle Leach.

By Kirstie Colgrove
On 08/11/2016

I've recently being doing our Ancestry and believe my grandfather Ernest Lazell worked for and lived with Frederick Leach on the Waterside Farm for many years. Its great to see the pictures.  I love the website too. I've planned a big walk around the island soon and while my father Kenneth still lives I have so much I want to find out and ask about. If anyone remembers my Grandfather Ernest and his wife Rosa ( Cole) Lazell, they lived in Hawksberry Road when I was a little girl  it would be good to hear from you.

By Paula Lazell ( Nee)
On 02/06/2017

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