We received a message in August 2014 from an ex-resident of Great Baddow who asked for information about the Springbok House children’s home in the village.
Here is the letter / email:
I have just come across your site about Great Baddow.
Many years ago,1955, I and my 2 brothers were “guests” in Springbok House, which was a children s home. I know that the beautiful house no longer exists and a modern building stands in its place, the whole area given over to modern living.
When I was there, at the age of eight, the area was countryside, unspoilt. I remember very well walking to and from Danbury school,and on Sundays attending St. Johns church, which always smelt of damp and seemed very cold even though it was April/May time.
I would be very grateful if you could tell me the history of the house,and if possible, supply me with any photos of the place.
The current flats are called Springbok House and stand on Heycroft Way. We can assume that this is the site of the original house. Some searches with the Essex records office might bring up details of planning and construction of these flats and the demolishing of the existing property. But what was Springbok House?
I asked my parents and also good friend Dave Emery if they knew anything. This is the information that we so far have discovered.
My mum worked in children’s services at Chelmsford council in 1960 and was sure that there was no council managed home at that time, so first assumption was that it closed between 1955 and 1960.
However, my dad did then recall that the home was run by SSAFA (Soldiers’ Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association) for their families. Its position to the south of the military camp would suggest that this was indeed what it was used for (see map below).
Dave Emery suggested that the house was the one that was originally called Luxfield and was built in around 1900. This house was built on a 7 acre field which was originally called “Lucks Field” according to the 1838 Tythe map.
There is one photograph of Luxfield online, title “Gt Baddow: Luxfields (1905)” and posted on Flickr.
This map from 1923 shows Luxfield to the south of Almshouses and a Military Camp. A map from 1881 has only one small building in this area which matches the shape and position of the Almshouses.
End of the Military Camp
In “Defending Essex, The Military Landscape from Prehistory to the Present” by Mike Osborne there is an appendix titled “Appendix Four: Camps and Barracks” with subsection “Great Baddow, military camp, 1900-1950s”. My guess is that when the barracks was decommissioned all the land was cleared and converted for new housing and the Springbok home closed and children relocated sometime after 1955.
I looked into a possibly Springbok / South Africa connection, and found nothing really. The Essex Regiment served during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) so there is a very lose connection with local military in South Africa. This could have given rise to a change of name at the house, but this is total guesswork. Maybe military records somewhere will hold more clues?
Unfortunately, we do not know for sure what happened to this large house. There is no mention of Springbok (or Spring Bok) anywhere online or any record of Luxfields other than the one photo that is published on Flickr. It is likely that somewhere in newspaper archives or the records office there is something … if anybody has any information please share. I will send an enquiry to SSAFA to see if they have any records.