Wiggins the Builder – Thundersley Essex – A Firm, a Family and a Faith
The family name of Wiggins is inextricably linked to Thundersley’s meteoric rise in the mid 20th Century from sleepy rural idyll to our modern, bustling commuter-belt conurbation.
This select edition of “Wiggins the Builder” is a self-published account by the patriarch’s grand-daughter Gwyneth Craze (née Wiggins), of her family’s rise in fortune from humble farm workers to the building empire that created the concept of affordable housing for the working classes, firstly in Thundersley and Benfleet, then expanding throughout the South East and beyond.
The firm’s founder, Claude Stanley “Stan” Wiggins, was educated until the age of 12 during the latter years of Victoria’s reign at the Thundersley’s old “National” School. His family were all staunch “Peculiars”, a locally founded sect of fundamental non-conformist Christians. Stan was apprenticed during his teenage years as a carpenter and, whilst still a young man, not only ran a carting and delivery service from Rayleigh Station but helped manage his parents’ smallholding (opposite the Woodmans Arms).
He married his childhood sweetheart, his cousin Lois, in 1908 and they had three children. But family life was to be disrupted during the First World War when Stan was sentenced to hard labour in Dartmoor Prison for being a Conscientious Objector.
After the War, Stan bought some War Surplus factory huts from Pitsea and erected them as tin-roof bungalows in Hart Road. The profits were ploughed into building The Terrace, comprising 12 dwellings in Common Lane. New Chapels were built for the Peculiars at Rayleigh and Hockley and, in 1924, Stan bought (with outline planning) what was left of Raymonds Farm (40 acres) in the centre of Thundersley village for £4,500: he was on his way!