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People have often asked about Stephen Cranfield .... who was he? .... and why was a housing development named after him?

So here's a potted history. How exciting!

Stephen was born in Rowhedge in 1885, the fifth of seven surviving children of Captain Jonathan Cranfield and his wife Emma, nee King.

As a teenager Stephen was a keen sportsman; regularly taking part in swimming and rowing matches, competing at a number of Wivenhoe and Rowhedge regattas. Football was another sport at which he excelled. He was not keen to follow his father and brothers into a sailing career and became a shipwright, completing his apprenticeship at Donyland Shipyards Ltd and a three year improver course at Forrestt Ltd.

During WWI he was a special constable and developed a strong interest in local affairs and the Parish Council. A regular entrant in the local horticultural shows he won many prizes for flowers, fruit and vegetables, and poultry.

As a shipwright he was sent by Rowhedge Ironworks to supervise the construction of vessels in Trinidad and Nigeria, and his knowledge and expertise came to the fore in WWII when he was asked to re-open the Wivenhoe Shipyard for the war effort, supervising the construction of motor minesweepers, dummy submarines and parts for the Mulberry Harbour.

During his time as chairman of the Parish Council he was instrumental in the building of the pavilion (though not one villager turned up for the inaugural meeting), oversaw the introduction of meals on wheels in Rowhedge as a pilot scheme for Lexden and Winstree, ensured that the Rowhedge street lighting compared favourably with that of Colchester, and boasted that few parishes had a six and a half acre well-maintained recreation ground complete with tennis courts.

His 50 years as chairman of the Parish Council were marked with a presentation, and following his death a new housing development was named after him.

There are quite a number of photos of him on this site.... sports, vessel launches, Parish Council duties, horticultural societies, regattas and general gatherings.

Stephen died in 1972.

Stephen Cranfield
Submarine Volta.jpg

The "Flier" - Another well-known local project also involved Stephen's skills as a shipwright (along with many other people). 

ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD - Saturday 18 June 1927 - "ROWHEDGE - EAST DONYLAND WOMEN'S INSTITUTE - The monthly meeting was held in the adult room, on Tuesday, June 14. Owing to the absence of both the President and Vice President, Mrs. S.H. Cranfield was voted to the chair. The roll call was followed by a round table discussion on "How to preserve and bottle fruit," the prize for the best paper being won by Mrs. Maudesley's group. The rest of the evening was given to some amusing guessing competitions, the winners being Mrs. S.H. Cranfield, Mrs. Maudesley, Miss. C. Fale."

Stephen Cranfield with wife Dorothy. Dorothy's grandfather was Abraham Robinson of Donyland Hall

ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD – Saturday 24 August 1907

“EAST DONYLAND FLOWER SHOW – The annual event which is looked forward to every year throughout the districts of Wyvenhoe, Rowhedge, Donyland and Fingringhoe – the exhibition of horticultural and industrial productions, which is accompanied by many side attractions, including croquet, and tennis matches, dancing, athletic sports, and the delights of the fair, took place in the brewery field, Donyland, on Thursday”….. Awards:- Vegetables – Six leeks; Second prize, S. Cranfield. Celery, white; First, S. Cranfield. Celery, coloured; First, S. Cranfield. Cos lettuce; First, S. Cranfield. Fruit – Grapes; Second, S. Cranfield. Flowers – Fuchsia in bloom; Third, Mrs. S. Cranfield. Twelve cactus dahlias; First, S. Cranfield. Twelve best varieties any other sort of dahlia; First, S. Cranfield. Begonia; First, S. Cranfield. Twelve sweet peas, one variety; Second, S. Cranfield. Special Prizes – Collection of vegetables; Second prize, S. Cranfield.”

Just one of the dozens of shows Stephen entered over the decades.

Stephen won an extraordinary number of prizes for his vegetables, fruit, and poultry at the Rowhedge Horticultural Shows. Here he shows some of the 33 prizes he won at one show in the 1930s, and the Sir Lanning Worthington Evans Challenge Cup. To the left is “That parrot, with his beak out of joint”... an African Grey parrot Stephen brought back from Lagos. Clarence Barr taught it rude words and it was not popular with Stephen's wife.

Stephen’s retirement – Oliver Martin, Cyril Cranfield, Jimmy Holman, Fred Downing, Frank Cook, Graham Caddick, Stephen Cranfield, George Cook (Chargehand Shipwright), Jean Martin, Lily Street, December 1956.

Gates at the top of Parkfield Street commemorating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Stephen Cranfield, Hilda Oxton, Jack Butcher, Donald Oxton

Stephen had the honour of representing the Parish Council at a Royal garden party and the other photo shows him with MP Anthony Buck at a Rowhedge regatta prize-giving


Stephen at Rowhedge Ironworks

Stephen Cranfield Close.jpg
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