Cover of Memories of Witham

Full text

The Quotations



Dedicated to all the people who have so kindly and generously allowed me to interview them about their life in Witham. In 1983, when the booklet was first published, they were as follows. There have been many more since, to whom I am equally grateful.

  • Mr. Cecil Ager
  • Mrs. Christina Ager
  • Mrs. Vera Ashby
  • Mrs. Jessie Bajwa
  • Mrs. Edith Brown
  • Mr. Bill Carey
  • Mrs. Doris Cook
  • Mr. Harold Cook
  • Miss Lucy Croxall
  • Mrs. Violet Cullen
  • Mrs. Honor De’Ath
  • Mr. Henry Dorking
  • Mr. Jack Doughton
  • Mrs. Margaret English
  • Mr. Herbert Godfrey
  • Mr. Maurice Greatrex
  • Mrs. Elsie Hammond
  • Mrs. Frances Hawkes
  • Miss Ada Hayes
  • Mrs. Dorothy Hayes
  • Mr. George Hayes
  • Mrs. Vera Howell
  • Mrs. Dorothy Ireland
  • Miss May King
  • Mrs. Dorothy Meekings
  • Mrs. Mabel Nichol
  • Mr. Albert Poulter
  • Mr. Charlie Poulter
  • Mrs. Annie Ralling
  • Mrs. Edith Raven
  • Mrs. Evelyn Shelley
  • Miss Ada Smith
  • Mrs. Gladys Smith
  • Mrs. Grace Springett
  • Miss Dorothy Stoneham
  • Mr. Reginald Turner

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(re-written in 2000)

This publication consists of memories of Witham people, word for word. It relates to shops in Witham between about 1910 and 1939. Most of the people worked in the shops; others were customers. It has of course only been possible to reproduce a fraction of what 1 have been told, and I apologise for numerous omissions.

I first compiled the booklet in 1983, and in the year 2000 I am still working on the history of Witham. With the passage of time it has become even more important to save what we can remember of the past. And this applies to souvenirs of all sorts, not just words. Today’s ordinary things soon become history. It is often the smallest items that are the most interesting in years to come, because they are the rarest – old shopping lists, letters, carrier bags, kitchen tools … There are many organisations which try to preserve such things for the future, for other people to look at and enjoy. Most will take them on loan if the owner does not wish to make them a gift. Two of them are mentioned below.

As I write, there are discussions in progress about working towards a Witham museum. Contact details are:

Witham Town Council, Town Hall, 61 Newland Street, Witham, Essex, CM8 2BT, England.
Phone: +44 (0) 1376 520627

The Essex Record Office at Chelmsford has specialised facilities for keeping papers, and it is mostly because of the E.R.O. that I have been able to enjoy collecting information about Witham for more than thirty years. When they receive documents they may be able to let the owner have copies. Material can be made available to the public straight away, or kept private for a specified time. There is also a Sound Archive for recorded material including reminiscences. Contact details are:

Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1QH, England.
Phone: (+44) (0) 1245 244 644.

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The Shops

The main shops referred to are as follows, with the present address of the site. An asterix indicates that the original building still stands (in 1983).

  • H. Cook, butcher, 5 Newland Street
  • Goodchild Bros., butchers, 58 Newland Street*
  • Q. D. Greatrex, butcher, 8 Church Street
  • F. Hasler, shopkeeper, 54 Church Street*
  • O. Heddle, draper, 11 Guithavon Street* and 48 Collingwood Road*
  • International Tea Co. Ltd., grocers, 43 Newland Street
  • W. and E. King, fancy goods, 11 and 13 Newland Street*
  • F. Luckin Smith, grocer, 50 Newland Street
  • B. W. Moore, carrier, Kelvedon
  • S. Page, general dealer, 86 Newland Street*
  • T. H. Price, greengrocer, 51 Newland Street*
  • A. A. Shelley, greengrocer, 51 Newland Street*
  • E. Spurge, draper and grocer, 42 and 76* Newland Street
  • R. Turner, gentlemen’s outfitter, 54 Newland Street
  • J. Wadley, baker and grocer, 48 Church Street*
  • Witham Co-operative Society Ltd., Newland Street

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Money in Witham, 1910-1939

Values are of course expressed in ‘old’ money. Twelve pennies made a shilling (a ‘bob’), and twenty shillings made a pound (£). A sovereign was a gold one-pound coin.

For men, farm work was still very common, with a wage between 10 and 15 shillings a week. Factory work could bring in £2 to £3 a week either in Chelmsford, or, after 1920, at Crittall’s in Witham. The decreasing numbers of men working in shops earned a wage somewhere between that of farm and factory workers.

For women, the commonest employment was domestic service earning from 2 to 5 shillings a week; the glove factory in Witham only paid a little more. A female apprentice in a shop would only earn about a shilling a week, but a trained female assistant could earn about £1 in the 1920s and over £2 in the 1930s.

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The Quotations

The day begins

You’d get up at two in the morning for the dough … All the baker boys would board in … the sacks of flour – they’d all got to be lifted and popped in.

In those days a butcher had a very hard job. My father used to get up at four o’clock in the morning very often at the end of the week – tail end of the week, say Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and be at work by five or half past, cutting out … and he used to wake me up sometimes when I got a bit older, and say ‘Come on, I want you to bone out some of the joints’ – and I used to have to bone out what they called the clod and sticking.

We had to get up in the morning at six o’clock and get the ponies up. We used to come up the Maldon Road full gallop, feed them, brush them down – then go and have us breakfasts.

We opened before eight – about seven – well, they’d be knocking at the back door if you didn’t – and then they used to bring their meat and things, to bake in the bakehouse on a Sunday.

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Supplying the shops

The drapery travellers used to come round … Morleys … and they used to bring all their great big wicker hampers on the train when I first was there, and the carriers used to bring them down from the station and dump these things, you see, and they used to try and sell you stuff, and then they’d take orders, and then it’d come afterwards. That’s how the buying was done.

The worry at Easter time on the Good Friday – everybody in those days always had something new to wear for Easter, you see – a new suit, that sort of thing. And I’d have so and so wasn’t there – or might be someone getting married at Easter – dash up to the station – on every train to see if it was there.

We used to get vegetables for the shop from Freebornes – I used to get my cabbages and stuff from … Benton Hall … and Shelley’s down the Maldon Road – buy locally if we could. There used to be two little men, I used to think they were like the dwarfs, you know. They had a garden field or allotment up Hatfield Road – they used to have like a box on wheels, you know, a barrow, and bring their marrows and cabbages and things.

There was no abattoirs or whatever they call them now – there was nothing like that – the butcher simply went to the farmer, bought the cattle, had them drove home, on the road – used to walk them home into the slaughterhouse yard – and there were all proper places for them to stay for two or three days, or perhaps a week or more. And the sheep used to be drove in just the same. They had two meadows down the Maldon Road where we used to bring the sheep … perhaps you’d buy a flock of sheep of about 30, and they’d all got to be fed and looked after till they were ready, you see.

He used to pride himself on the quality of his meat, I must say that … There was a farmer out at Braxted, he had a brother in Devon, and he used to send cattle up here, and my grandfather used to go there and inspect it, and buy it, and they’d be haggling for hours … I’d go and sit in the car, and they’d walk round this farm yard … and I’d think they were never coming back. And they’d talk and talk and talk and talk and talk, and eventually my grandfather’d come back and we’d drive off, and after a few days some drover would come up to the back gates and deliver about half a dozen bullocks, and they used to be grazed in that field, the second field from this room here, which is now full of houses.

Christmas time they used to have the bullock in the shop so you could see it before they slaughtered it … on show … used to have some lovely cattle at Witham market … and they all used to have the rosettes on … and if they’d got a red rosette that was a first prize in its class, the butcher’d probably buy it and have it standing in his shop a day or two for people to look at.

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Hard work

Course, I went into a shop thinking all I’d got to do was stand there and weigh a few sweets out, you know – you come down to earth – but I enjoyed it.

When I was a girl I was mad for shops – I did so want to write a bill out – you don’t realise you know really, at that age.

Of course we used to add up in our heads – never had no bill head – oh yes, we’d have a whole pile of groceries on the counter and you’d just go through them – I loved mental arithmetic.

We all had good memories for prices in those days – we knew what they were – very rare we had anything ticketed up in the shop … The customer’d ask and we’d tell them – it seems strange to you now, of course.

I used to do the banking … the only thing I wasn’t allowed to do was to do the wages up, and I know why that was – because the men were getting more than me – they used to send somebody down to do those up – I knew why – but you see in those days – they wouldn’t put up with it these days, would they?

I was senior for years – when the boss was away I’d run the shop and do his work – although there was men getting more than me.

That was a big bare old shop, and it was always terribly cold, and in the winter the girls used to go upstairs round a little fire thing they’d got – if you went in he’d come out and see if you wanted anything and stand at the bottom of the stair and say ‘Forward Miss, please, come along quickly!’ Oh, he was ever such a polite little man.

It was a cold old shop – we was right at the top of Maldon Road, and that used to blow right through – of course in those days we never had a door closed, winter or summer. Used to be covered with chilblains.

They used to have a staff of servants, and some of the girl assistants, they used to live in, because there was a lot of attics right up at the top of the building, and they had like a little attic each, you know, a little bedsitter each.

The women had blue overalls … My father, all he wore was a white apron – he used to almost live in that … I mean the butter used to come in bits as big as that, and then they’d cut it up as they want it, or knock it up with a wooden sort of pat thing, and often there’d be a design on it so when they’d finished they’d pop this other one on the top of it and you’d get a nice flower on the top.

In those days they used to have the sugar in big bins, and he used to have to weigh that up – you didn’t have it come in packets like they do nowadays. There used to be bins all down the side of the warehouse – granulated in one, brown sugar, lump sugar, and all those sort of things – he’d weigh that up and make that up.

The store was for your sugar and your barrels of honey – vinegar, barrels of vinegar – used to go and get a pennorth of vinegar – don’t today! They took it away in a little bottle or a little jug, and then put it in a little bottle when they got home. And the syrup – we’d take a little basin. And Mr. Hasler on the corner … I always remember him with a huge sack of dates – well he used to pick them out with a big fork.

The syrup or anything, you’d got to be careful you didn’t drop that on your shoe … All this weighing was terrible, and the butter … Used to have the whole cheeses and cut them down in nice pieces.

It was too hard work for me – we were all frightened off butchering … There was the harness to clean on a Monday, and the bright-work in the shop … all the counters scrubbed down and that sort of thing – on a Monday, cause the shop was closed mostly on a Monday. Hooks all had to be done with silver sand, and cleaned up – you know, all the grease taken off them and shone up … Then every day the stables had to be mucked out and new bedding put down for the horses. They had to be fed and watered – any cattle that was in the yard had to be fed as well … cause very often they had a sort of reserve perhaps a few sheep in a pen, and the pigs in a sty, and perhaps a couple of bullocks in the pound, you see. Father got picked up by one once by his braces – in the yard – one charged him in the yard.

Prior to Lyons ice-cream, they used to make all their own ice-cream … used to have ice-cream powder … you just poured the milk on and stirred it, and then you let it stand to get cold, and then you poured it into this container. lt’d got like a beater thing inside, and you put the lid on, and then you’d stand it in this bucket, and then you’d break all ice up and put round it, and freezing salt … and then you sat there and you turned this handle – after the style of the old-fashioned butter making – and you turned and turned till it got stiff. That made your ice cream – it used to be beautiful cause it was only just milk and powder, you see.

I served an apprenticeship there, which of course they don’t do today, and I mean then, instead of having the material all come on rolls or that … we used to have to what they call block it … onto boards … it all just came in folds, the material. And there was ever such an art in doing this, because you know when you go to wind anything on it usually gets one way, and all that sort of thing. I mean it sounds funny to be an apprentice to a drapers’ shop, but not in those days. And I mean, I learnt to do sale tickets … and to do window dressing, you see, and all that sort of thing.

Oh, we thought it was wonderful in those days – when we’d finished all the stocktaking and done all these sheets, he used to come in armed with a big slab of chocolate for everybody – you know, the real big slabs like there used to be years ago – and we used to think it was a wonderful treat.

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One woman, she was a pest she was as mean as anything and she used to even only want about a pound of onions and half a pound of carrots, and ‘Could they be sent?’.

When I first started, I used to shut the shop up and take the vegetables out – I couldn’t do many at a time, because of keeping the shop shut, you see, and I used to come back and open it again … I carried them in my hands, or take them in a bag or a basket.

And of course in those days … they’d ring up – ‘Send up – ‘ – and they’d want it at once, you know – perhaps they’d forgotten something they were cooking – oh – sent up at once, yes, oh yes, they were waited on hand and foot in those days.

You imagine you’re in the bakehouse baking all that bread in the heat, and then you go in a horse and. cart to deliver it, you see – the hardships those days. Oh course they used to be covered in flour with their old slippers and trousers, and then they used to all dress up and go, and you wouldn’t know they were the same – dress up and go in the horse and cart.

The blacksmith used to help load our baskets of meat up every Saturday morning, because they were heavy really. They wanted somebody strong, they always used to go to the blacksmith to get someone to help the men lift this basket of meat into the cart.

And on occasion, when I was about 13, I used to do the Fairstead round with the meat, and bring home about �20 in my pocket, with the horse and cart, in the dark of a winter’s night, the horse taking its own head and seeing its way home … I used to take half sovereigns and sovereigns – that’s a thing you’ve never done!

We used to have teams of horses – on the road every day. We had five carts running from our shop at Witham – going all round the country delivering meat and getting orders and all that sort of thing … when I was a butcher boy in Witham … Monday mornings I used to go all round my area, and get all the orders, and used to take it back to the shop, and it was all – cut up ready for me Tuesday morning, and then I used to serve it out all the week – different orders all round these little villages … Saturday was the best day cause people used to have the weekend joints, you see, so Saturday mornings I used to load my old baskets up and take them all out, and on bicycles at the same time – that was beautiful meat … we used to carry tremendous weights, us chaps, round in baskets … I’m talking about what I used to do in Witham when I was a little boy, when I was about 14 … I done it all on my own.

There used to be a fox hunt … and they used to meet on the Maldon Road corner – White Hart … and we used to cart the meat about in between … and I used to have half my meat stolen, by the foxhounds, every Saturday … The huntsmen used to keep them in control a bit, or they’d’ve eaten me as well – see they’d never been fed, you see – the day before they go to the hunt, they don’t get fed, and they were all raving hungry.

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Customers (1)

My father used to do all the shopping … they used to send it – oh always send it, you never carried anything, always send it. And he’d taste the butter and he’d taste the cheese, and if he didn’t like it he didn’t have it … They used to cut butter by the pound in those days – it wasn’t packed, you know – beautiful butter … oh, packed and sent over to the White Hart, see, he’d put in there – oh yes, four wheeler was always full up – they’d put it in. Father used to say he was ready at 10 o’clock and we used to come home about 12 … We always had a four wheel … it’s like an open carriage thing – it’s two here and two in the front, and the horses just there … I never went in the White Hart, I was not allowed in those days.

Oh, they’d come and they’d say ‘Well what have you got?’ – they relied on you to sell them … they relied on you to serve them with the good stuff – they never queried it, you see … I’ve had people come in and they’d say – for a special purpose – ‘How much fruit did I have last year?’ … We used to run their houses, yes we did, often, oh yes. ‘And you want so and so’, we’d say – oh yes – and they relied on you to do it.

They used to send their order in, people with a bit of money and that, see, used to order what they wanted, big joints of beef and all that … they’d get three or four joints a week, some of them … They used to live like fighting cocks in those days.

If they’d got visitors to lunch at Terling Place, they’d perhaps have a saddle of mutton or something like that – about half a sheep – half a sheep for lunch – or if they’d got a shooting party or anything like that. We used to call there about three times a week.

We used to have the ponies and carts to go all round the big places like Faulkbourne Hall – that was one journey – you couldn’t take any more … a cart full of meat … a whole sheep at different times … At Faulkbourne Hall and Braxted Park I used to go into the kitchens with these loads of. meat … with these big old places … and deliver the meat, and the old cook used to often give me basins full of dripping … they had so much dripping they didn’t know what to do with it – beautiful stuff.

And the housekeepers of all the big places – the cooks – you always kept in with the cooks and the housekeepers, to get your trade … You see, Terling Place – you’d keep in with the cook, keep in with the housekeeper.

I think they built up this business by calling on people and asking for their custom, which my father used to do if he found there was an empty – a new person moved in anywhere, he always used to go round and call for their custom.

You know Faulkbourne Hall? – Well, they were big customers of ours at Christmas time – the old lady was alive … she used to give every household in the village the ingredients for Christmas puddings – so we used to have that job at the shop, to do up these labels. There’d be for a two person house, for a three person house, and they were all different sized parcels … We used to say ‘Oh dear!’ – late at night – ‘Now we’ve got Parker’s puddings to do’ … The shop delivered to Faulkbourne Hall – I think the villagers had to go and fetch them.

I think Spurges really had – had got a good reputation … for quite a few miles around, you know … specially for their clothes, and specially … in the Manchester department. People used to say ‘Oh, you can ‘t beat Spurges’, for towels or sheets, or sheeting by the yard, blankets, and things like that.

Oh, and they’d let you have hats on approval … they had these great big hat boxes … sort of made of very stiff cardboard or something, and with a handle too, and you could get about four or five hats in there, and the customers were allowed to have them sent home to try with their dresses or coats or whatever they’d got, to see if they liked them, you see, or if their husband liked the hat … You can’t have things on approval now from a shop … but I mean, you could go into Spurges and try two or three frocks on, or a coat on, and you’d say ‘Oh well, I don’t know if I really like this – I don’t know if my husband’d like it’ – and you’d say ‘Well, would you like to take it on approval?’ … The shop boy’d go back for it the next day, you see.

There was a Lady … oh, she’d never come in – the butler, the footman or the chauffeur used to shout … and the manager used to have to go out onto the path and take her things to look at, you know … oh we had to bow and scrape to people … Or sometimes the coachman used to bring the order himself, but he was always, you know, in this cockade hat.

She used to sit outside and bark her orders out, you know – occasionally she’d come in, and everyone was scurrying around, you know ‘Yes my lady, no my lady’ – we used to make faces behind her back.

You were very much looked down on as a tradesman by some of them – the average Witham person, I got on all right with them, but … one or two of them, they were – very aristocratic – I reckon it was five or six years before we got in … oh yes, they were very high and mighty … were of the old school, very much so.

There was a certain gentleman lived up Wickham Bishops, which was in those days a very sort of elite place – he was running up bills, and I sent him an account in, time after time, and got nothing from him, and … on Saturday evenings when the shop was closed, I’d just pop over to the Spread Eagle and have a Guinness … I’d be this side and he’d be round the saloon side with all his pals, you know … so I’d had enough, and I thought ‘Well, if he can treat all those chaps to Scotches, why can’t he pay me?’ I went round and tapped him, and, oh, he was furious! He went to Bright’s – told them to ‘Admonish that young pup – accosted me in a public house!’

Then we used to have quite a lot of motoring customers that used to come down to the coast to Clacton and Frinton. You used to do quite a bit of hamper trade – used to get a lot of people going through to the coast in those days and take hampers – they used to call in.

There was a person living up Collingwood Road and she used to take people’s babies – Lord somebody or Lady somebody’s baby – and one morning she came into my shop – I was busy – and she said ‘Will you hold this baby for me? Be very careful’ she said, ‘I just want to pop into the bank’. She said ‘Be very careful, because he’s an Earl’. So I thought ‘My goodness!’ There I had to stand – beautiful robes, beautiful. You know, I can picture him – while she went into the bank.

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Customers (2)

Haporth of this and a pennorth of that, we used to say – and a haporth of salt and a pennorth of pepper.

You’d take a plate and go and get some liver there – you’d take a dinner plate as a matter of fact … it’d be full for twopence.

Winter mornings, in the winter, in the snow – didn’t matter what the weather was, we used to have to go down to the butchers, one of us did, whichever one was the oldest one at home, and get some meat – if we wanted a little liver, and that used to be about two pennyworth of liver and three pennyworth of fat pork – and that was very fat pork and – we used to have to go down at seven o’clock in the morning and wait, the butcher made us wait until he’d cut his orders off, and see if there was any to spare, and that was two or three times a week.

They used to know their customers and know what they could afford, and they used to let them have it very cheap – say if you wanted to make a suet pudding in those days, you went up to the shop and got pieces of beef and cuttings what they left off … all lovely beef, the best you could get – used to have three pennorth of beef and a pennorth of suet, and you got a lovely dinner for about five or six people.

That’s how these poor people used to live, that couldn’t really afford a joint, they used to go to the shop, and have all these little different odds and ends – sheep’s heads, and pluck – buy a whole sheep’s head and pluck for two bob … We used to take a load of meat Saturday afternoon, clear the shop as you might say, because we’d got no refrigerators or anything in those days … start from Witham and go up to the Victoria and serve all those people up there … they just come to the cart and he used to say ‘How much do you want?’ – slide a piece off – sixpence or a shilling – and we used to come back all round Terling and Fairstead and all the various places.

Although it was a good class shop, it was surprising – you used to get the old gypsy type of people when they were moving around, yes – but they were useful really – cause – I don’t know whether you know anything about a shop, but there’s always odd pieces, isn’t there, and scraps you couldn’t sell to ordinary people – well they used to come in and buy it cheap – you see – that suited them and it suited us … They used to come for the pea picking all round, and fruit picking.

And the gyppoes used to come in – I must tell you – one old lady she used to come into the shop and ‘Please would you write a letter for me?’ – yes – and I said ‘Well, wait till I haven’t got a customer’, you see, and I used to write her letters – ‘Dear so and so’, and ‘We are all well and hope you’re well’, and that was about the lot. Yes, she was very grateful, you know, very grateful … She was an old peapicker.

He always used to say – ‘Never turn them away without a loaf of bread’, he said ‘because you prosper’ – and I agree – I think if you do kindness you get it back, you get it returned.

Debts were terrible – well, people were so poor, weren’t they? … You’d have a book, and put it down, and you’d say ‘Well – could you pay a little off the back?’, and they’d pay a little – but they were the people that you least expected … Could you – now, could you let them go without a loaf of bread when they’d got little children? The debts had to die – there was no getting it back – it would cost you more to get it back, wouldn’t it.

My people were always very honest – they wouldn’t have anything unless they paid – we always used to laugh – they used to shop down the corner – Freddie Hasler’s, and if what we bought came to over – so we owed him a halfpenny, none of us wouldn’t go in the shop till we’d got the halfpenny to pay – My mother used to say she’d never be able to get into debt cause we wouldn’t let her – we wouldn’t go in the shop!

One old girl used to come along and pinch it if she had half a chance … that used to be on display – shop front was open – I remember one Saturday night she lifted a nice big joint – father had to chase her up the road.

And then there was the – we used to call it the pence lady, used to come from the Church – we used to have the tickets in the shop. They used to say ‘My Charlie’s ill’, and they’d have a ticket – ticket for meat … ticket for milk – they were helped … Then they came to pay the shop from the parish.

Then of course there was Sammy Page the second hand … you went up steps – it stood back a bit, and he sold all second hand stuff there at so much a week … it wasn’t a pawn shop, but he – I think he did an awfully good trade – and he was a very genuine man … Some of them used to be antiques, but of course he had a lot of old second hand clothes and things like that.

Well, mother as a Co-operator, and she used to get nearly all her stuff down there – course that was only a little place then – oh, she was a strict Co-operator.

Of course, we never had anything to do with the Co-op, us private traders … no – I don’t know – because holiday times there’d be one out of the one shop go over to the other one and say ‘Are you doing so and so? What time are you closing?’ But they never asked the Co-op – no – funny – that was quite on its own.

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Other ways of shopping

We did have a horse and cart and a greengrocery round … You know where the fire station is up Hatfield Road? – Well, my father had a bit of ground up there … we used to grow a lot of vegetables and we used to go round – my brother used to go round selling them twice a week, Wednesday and Saturday – course I used to go round with them Saturdays.

The man that kept the Victoria – he used to sell faggots of sticks – he used to take us to Faulkbourne … to get these faggots … and we used to get the violets and the primroses and he used to get the faggots. They used to go round selling them. The faggots were very valuable that time of day … mother’d put a whole one of those in the oven at a time.

He started business in my aunt’s house … They used to go round – ‘Johnny fortnights’, we used to call them – they used to go round and people used to pay a shilling a week – they got a tremendous big round, you know – people out in the country, they’d have these clothes … They’d take an order one week, and then next week they’d take what was ordered – you know, shoes, or dress or whatever – they’d take it round sort of on appro., and if they decided they’d have it they paid a shilling a week.

Every Saturday morning … Moores … had like a closed in van with two horses, they used to come up from Kelvedon, and they used to stop in Witham, and I used to have to go up, on a Saturday, stop on the corner of Maldon Road where the White Hart is … My mother used to send for her butter and marge, all at the Maypole in Chelmsford, and I used to have to take the money in the envelope with the name on, and order inside – if you bought a pound of margarine then, you had half a pound give you, free, in them days. And I used to have to go up there at night, about six, and wait for Moore to come back from Chelmsford, and get the parcel.

As a boy I’ve been on the carriers’ cart … an old Witham ambulance one time of day, with a wooden body, they turned into a little truck … to Chelmsford. We used to go and stop at the Two Brewers which is at Springfield – in the pub yard … the driver used to go round the shops himself and gather a few bits and pieces … Mr. Moore and the driver they would both disappear … between twelve and two or something, like this … they used to buy a few things for people, and the others were delivered to the van, the bigger stuff.

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The end of the day

In those days it was a regular Saturday night affair to go out shopping – the shops’d keep open till about eight – most people’d go out after they got paid, I suppose – do it Saturday evenings.

I used to take stock of that every Saturday night – sugar – we all had something we used to take stock of – of course we didn’t get finished till ten o’clock at night … Some of it was in sacks, you see, so that was in hundredweights, but you had to count all the loose stuff up, and work that down into hundredweights as well. Some done fruit, some done jams and marmalades, some done biscuits, see everybody had their own job that they used to do every Saturday night. And the men on the other side used to weigh all the bacon and that sort of stuff.

We’d be open till seven or eight. Gradually towards the latter part of the time they used to close a little bit earlier, but at one time they used to be open till eight or nine at night on a Saturday … And we used to kill by candlelight in the winter time. Christmas time the whole family, or us elder boys anyway, used to be enlisted to hold candles so that they could see to skin the beasts as they were being slaughtered and dressed – very often I’ve been holding a candle there twelve o’clock at night when they were killing the Christmas beef.

I used to wait for my father to come home off his round, after I’d done my round on a Saturday afternoon – I’d wait for my father to come home, and when we came home I would take his horse and feed and water it. If it was summer time I’d bring it up here and turn it out into the field, and many the time I’ve been walking past the Church clock at twelve o’clock at night.

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