Having read John Whiting’s obituary, it occurred me that most of the successful businesses
on Mersea have been created by old established Mersea families.
The Whiting family have been on the Island for over 200 years and John was not the
first of the family to go into motor haulage. Kelly’s directory for Essex 1929 lists
-Whiting Oscar J. (John’s father) motor haulage contractor, Barfield Rd Tel.63
The Underwoods have also been on the Island for over 200 years, mainly in East Mersea.
Their business foundations came from a thrice weekly carrier service form East Mersea
operated by James Greenleaf as early as 1848, which was later taken over by George
Death.Phillip Underwood bought the service around 1885 and he was succeeded by
his son Robert about 1895. When his grandson Phillip Henry took over it was already
a motor service. Phillip Henry built up a fleet of lorries and a fleet of busses
which he sold to the Eastern National Company In January 1935. By this time he had
built a new garage in Kingsland Road, West Mersea with a coal yard nearby. There
was also a Smithy there worked by blacksmith Tom Bailey, the forge giving the name
to the present service station on the site.
Phillip Henry and his son Basil continued with the garage until moving to the filling
station when the garage was sold, the present owner now has a number of garages in
the area still trading under the name of Underwoods
The world famous ‘Company Shed’ was started by Heather Haward and husband Richard,
his family has also been in the oyster business on Mersea for over two hundred years.
More recently arrived on Mersea are the Cock family. Charles Cock was born at Tudwick
Hall, Gt Totham in 1811. In the 1841 census he was a carpenter at Peldon
He came to Brickhouse Farm soon after as his son Isaac was born in West Mersea in
1845. As well as a farmer he was a minister at the Union Church for many years. He
later moved to Leakeys ( Brierley Hall) and his son Daniel took over Brickhouse.
His other son John farmed Weathercock Farm. Daniel opened a butchers shop in the
village which although no longer in the family, still trades as Arthur Cock & Son
After the second world war, Charles’ great. Grandson Glenniealso a carpenter started
a building business which three generations on is the award winning Mersea Homes
Ltd with developments in North East Essex and into Suffolk.
The Smith family came to Mersea From Nayland in Suffolk when FrederickSmith bought
the Mersea mill from Charles Downesin 1859. Frederick and his family moved to a
120 acre farm at Weeley sometime between 1874 and 1881 and son George Frederick took
over the running of The Mill. Frederick later moved to Borrow Hill Mills at Heybridge
where he died in 1878. The family also owned the windmill that stood opposite Peldon
Rose and the bakery at Abberton.
George Frederick continued to run to The Mill until he died in 1902 leaving his wife
Mary Overall Smith to run the business and bring up her 13 surviving children. She
sold the business to her son Fred G Smith on Ist January 1920 who later went into
partnership with his son Frederick Herbert who was last of the family to run the
business. His son Alan was dissuaded from following into bakery went into the water
supply industry. He moved up to become managing director of Anglian Water. Now retired
and living in Loughborough, he is looking into the history of the Smith family and
other connecting families. His extensive work has been a great help in writing this
Probably the most successful Mersea business of the 20th century was that of Clifford
White & Co, Builder, Builder’s Merchant, Timber Importer, Coal Merchant, Estate Agent,
Insurance Agent, Brick Manufacturer both in Mersea and at Weeley. He also had a sand
and gravel pit at East Mersea
The Whites came to Mersea around 1840, probably from Dedham, and William White opened
a grocers shop in Mill Road where he also had farm. His oldest son William had a
grocers shop in Maldon and son John had one in Abberton.
Son Samuel eventually took over the Mersea shop and later moved to Church Road. He
also had shops at Peldon, Tollesbury and Tiptree and was agent for Barclays Bank.
Samuel’s son Cliffordopened a cycle shop at Braintree which was not a success and
returned to West Mersea and set up as a builder. He built a lot of houses on the
island including 12 council houses in Barfield Road opposite his yard. He not only
built Mersea water tower he also made the bricks for it.
He continued to run the business up to the time of his death in the early 1960’s