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Throwback Thursday: Sylvia Kent reminisces on the romantic nightspots of the sixties for Valentine’s Day

PUBLISHED: 17:14 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 17:14 13 February 2020

The Meads was Brentwood's Valentine's Day alternative to the glamorous dance halls of central London. Picture: Sylvia Kent

The Meads was Brentwood's Valentine's Day alternative to the glamorous dance halls of central London. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Sylvia Kent

This week for our Thursday Throwback, Enjoy Brentwood More’s history columnist, author and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer’s Circle, Sylvia Kent writes us a Valentine’s day special

Friday's special celebrations are well under way for St Valentine's day, the most romantic time of the year. 2020 is a leap year, when the female of the species can propose to their beloved. Brentwood's florists are already unpacking bundles of red roses in the cool room, sweet shops are displaying beribboned boxes of chocs and romance is all around us. It will be interesting to see how many girls are thinking of popping the inevitable question.

Let's look back to a time when no one could possibly have imagined a world when the young could choose a partner by joining a worldwide system where they could find someone special on a computer (which then was just teetering on the world of technology.)

In the 1960s, young prospective lovers had no sophisticated way of choosing, let alone meeting other prospective partners. So, what did our local lads and lasses do on this auspicious day?

Mary Bray had the answer: "Well, way back in the 1960s, the world of discos and dance halls were opening in London, but locally we had our own version in the form of the Crystal Meads, later known just as The Meads in the Ongar Road."

The building was bought by the late Elsie and Sam Pepperell who had come to live in Brentwood during the Second World War, with their daughter Sandra. By 1964, they had been granted a full drinks' licence and the family set about transforming the old building into one of the most glamorous nightspots in the area. People from all over Essex flocked there.

Prior to this, the Meads was used as a dance school run by Madame Tredgett, who advertised her classes in the local newspaper. It was by this lady, that many of Brentwood's youth were taught the finer points of the waltz, quickstep and the foxtrot over the well-sprung wooden dance floor in her studio. But it was the Pepperells who made the Meads so popular and it wasn't just the youth who packed in on Saturday nights to the music of a live band and often popular singers of the day. During the week, the venue was used for political lunches, with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and members of the government often coming to Brentwood to be fed and entertained at the Meads.

Members of most of the leading local societies also used the banqueting facilities and it was a central spot for Rotarians to meet, as well as hunt balls and the local police dinner and dances.

But it was on St Valentine's Day that the Meads really came into its own.

Tickets for their romantic dances quickly sold out and it was here, among the glamorous mirrored room with polished dance-floor where scores of couples met, often later marrying and now fifty years later still retain magical memories of Brentwood by night. Time moves on and the site eventually became Sam's Night Club, equally popular with the youth of the 90s.

Today, the Meads is a complex of smart new retirement apartments serving older residents of the town, some of whom may even have met in the old building half a century ago. So, numerous Brentwood residents may even retain their own memories of their days of dancing and partying at this once famous magical Meads.

To learn more about Brentwood's notable buildings, check out Sylvia's book Brentwood in 50 Buildings published by Amberley Books, ISBN 978-1-4456-9213-5 from all good bookshops.

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