Pemberton Avenue, RM2

Place Name

Robert Pemberton was a working farmer who from 1852 until his death in 1894 farmed Hare Hall’s 71 acres. Born at Beauchamp Roding near Ongar, he had previously owned land at Chase Cross in Collier Row before buying the Gidea Park mansion and its estate. He brought with him his wife, Elizabeth, and their 10 children though not all their children survived. By 1891, Pemberton was 76, his wife had predeceased him many years earlier and his eldest son had emigrated to Australia. Remaining at home were two of his sons, along with five daughters, none of them married. Three years later when the old man died his estate was valued at £12,644 ─ but most of this was the value of the property. Hare Hall was sold in 1896 for £12,000. The eldest of the daughters Elizabeth Ellen, later moved to Leytonstone with her sister Fanny. Ged Martin mentions a rumour that Elizabeth was the inspiration for Charles Dickens’s character Miss Havisham, certainly by the time the home was sold it was a rundown property. But alas after a little research he concludes there is no truth in it, he writes: “Unfortunately, the timing is against it. Great Expectations was written in 1860-61, and Dickens had been planning a story about a scheming recluse since 1855. Elizabeth Ellen Pemberton was still in her teens, too young for a broken heart. So the legend originated backwards. Middle-aged and toughened by house and farm work, she was tagged by all-knowing Romford gossips as the Dickens original.” This is one of a number of local streets that take their names after former owners of Hare Hall. Martin explains: “One technique used by developers building near a stately mansion was to borrow the names of former owners, the more aristocratic the better. Ex-owners of Hare Hall (now Royal Liberty School) gave swish-sounding names to Gidea Park streets – Wallinger [Avenue], Pemberton [Pemberton], Castellan [Avenue], Severn [Avenue]. When building began in Upminster in 1909, developers used names like Deyncourt, Engayne and Branfill to add cachet to their new homes. But for 99 years from 1543, Upminster Hall had belonged to a family called Latham. That didn’t sound aristocratic, and so ‘Latham’ was scratched off the map and replaced with the much posher ‘Waldegrave’. The famous Victorian Society hostess, Lady Waldegrave, had lived at Navestock, but Navestock is not Upminster. The Lathams eventually got posthumous revenge, in the modern gated development, Latham Place, where houses sell for over a million pounds.”

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