The cottage, now called The Gate, was for many years the village garage. It gets it’s current name because it was originally one of the several public houses or ‘beerhousees’ in the village. We know this unfortunately because there was a murder there in 1900.
However in 1935 the occupant listed in the Saffron Walden Year Book was Mr W J Rush, Motor Engineer and he continues to be listed in the Year Books at least until 1950.
Mr Rush presumably worked on the local village cars as he was listed as a ‘motor engineer’ but he also ran a taxi service. He used to take Susan Cranwell from Faerie Cottage to Audley End Station to catch the train to Bishop’s Stortford when she was at the Herts and Essex Grammar School. Apparently Mrs Rush would clean the cars when they came back but always had to walk to church on Sundays!
There was a small shop near the road where they would sell cigarettes and where you could take your radio accumulators to be charged. Don’t forget this was before the time of batteries and also before the time of electricity for many people in Chrishall. The Rush’s, however, had a generator as is recalled by Joan Draper, an evacuee who stayed at The Gate during the war.
An Evacuee’s memories
We have a collection of Joan’s letters that she wrote home to her parents while staying in Chrishall. Here are some of her memories of the garage:
Life at the Rush’s was very different as they had a generator so they had electricity. Joan remembers her first meal there was Yorkshire pudding and gravy as a first course!
Mrs Rush had greenhouses in the garden and grew cucumbers and tomatoes some of which she sold. She was also a keen church goer and cleaned all the brasses at the church.
The Rush’s ran the garage and a small shop, where they sold the cigarettes that Joan listed in one of her letters. Joan remembers they would drive to Cambridge every Friday to stock up the shop. Other shops in the village at that time were Chambers at Martinholme and May Hicks running the butchers over the road from the garage.
Mrs Patmore stayed at the Rush’s too and encouraged Joan greatly in her needlework. She was also able to play the Rush’s piano.
The upstairs rooms in the cottage ran on one from another. Joan remembers entering the cottage and the stairs were on the left. The first room upstairs was the bathroom. You went through the bathroom to Mrs Rush’s room, then Mrs Patmore’s room and finally to Joan’s room at the end.
Mrs Patmore was a teacher at the school so life was obviously quite busy in the Rush household.
Bryan Rogers, one of the Rush’s grandsons, helped with the business for a while. He started a private hire car business and also added petrol pumps to the garage.
Bryan kindly drew up the following plan of the garage as he remembered it, with the cottages that stood next door.
It is interesting that Joan remembers them driving to Cambridge every Friday to stock up the shop as there is a newspaper report from 1947 of a break-in which happened on a Friday afternoon.
The Herts and Essex Observer of Saturday 10th May 1947 ran the following story:
Headlined ‘Alleged Housebreaking at Chrishall’ it details how Mr Walter John Rush of the Garage, Chrishall, stated that ‘every Friday he closed his business and went away for the day. At 2.45pm on April 18 he locked up his premises and left the district’. When he returned he found a broken window money taken from the safe (in which he had left the keys!) and a cashbox and the till taken.
Mr Hicks, who ran the butcher’s shop opposite the garage, reported seeing an Army-type lorry back into the Garage yard around 5pm. A few minutes later the lorry was driven out very fast.
The following day Frank Basham of Great Chishill found the discarded cashbox in Needles Wood and the lorry on its side a few yards away in a field. Apparently when the lorry crashed two of the men ran off promising to send an ambulance. They didn’t return but the police came and two men were taken to hospital. Although there were five men in the lorry it seems that only one chap was committed for trial. And maybe Mr Rush was a bit more careful with his keys in future!
Eventually Mr Pigg (known as Tupenny Pigg) came to work with Mr Rush and he took over the garage when Mr Rush retired. The Thurgood’s lived at The Gate in the 1960s but I don’t know if they continued to run the garage. In the late 1960s the premises was taken on by Mr Funston who developed both the garage and eventually a coach and lorry haulage business.