53. The Pee Hole

The Pee Hole

“And the boys used to swim in a part of the river, there’s a wide bit, which was deep, and if I may be so bold to call it, I think it was called the Pee Hole, but anyway it was deep enough for them to jump in and swim about.” This was described by Polly Wheaton, who always talks about Witham’s past so well. She and her friends collected tiddlers in jam-jars instead of swimming. Do they still called them tiddlers ? – tiny fish, anyway.

The Pee Hole was a special swimming place in the River Blackwater. It had been set up in the 1880s by the Witham Board of Health (which soon afterwards became the Urban District Council). There had been a request for it from 78 Witham inhabitants. The place is now at the top corner of Whet Mead.

The Pee Hole today, at the top of Whet Mead

Its official name was “The Bathing Place”, but the public called it either the Pee Hole or the Pea Hole. Ted Mawdsley told me “I have never been sure about the spelling of the Pea Hole – my uncle Albert Poulter always insisted that the cheekier section of the public preferred to use the double “e” version, so I guess it was interchangeable according to the individual”.

The location was probably chosen because it was the only place where the Board’s land (i.e. the Sewage farm) touched the river. Various suitable buildings were provided including “a diving stand, ladder, seat, and posts”. In 1889 they employed Mr Richards, a well-known local builder, to make improvements. He was to use the Board’s “Horses, Carts and Men”, and not to use his own, which would have cost the Council money. Later, the Witham Swimming Club offered to contribute towards repairs to the diving board.

Buildings and a cleared space next to the Bathing Place (Ordnance Survey 1922)

There was no charge for swimming, and the site was open on all sides. It proved necessary to employ somebody “to watch the Bathing place on Sundays with a view to discover persons committing damage”. The watchman was usually Mr Hammond, who lived at the Sewage farm house nearby, and ran the Sewage works.

However, there wasn’t any safety system, and it would have been difficult to provide one in such an open area. Seven-year old Percy Kellock drowned here in 1915, having been playing and paddling near the bank. His two friends were too frightened to get help from some men who were working nearby.

Eventually the women’s desire to swim was recognised. In 1912, the Council decided that “At the request of the ‘Witham Swimming Club”, permission should be granted “for the use of the Bathing Place by Ladies for two hours on two mornings per week, also for the erection of the necessary notice boards at the club’s expense.”

During the First World War, the Pee Hole was particularly welcome to the hundreds of soldiers who were billeted in Witham. In August 1915 the Royal Engineers had a “Water Carnival” there. Local dignitaries were invited to watch, and the events included the “High Dive, Running Dive, Pillow Fight on Pole over river, Team Race, Mess Race, Barrel Race, Swimming Race and Life Saving Race”.

The pool was returned to public use after the War. Ted Mott (born 1913) told me that “The Pee Hole was, years ago when Joe Glover, if he’d been alive now he’d probably be about 110, but he was one of these old boys who used to swim in the mornings and all that. So they tell me.” (Mr Glover ran a large garage in Newland Street). “I remember going down there, oh very young, try and swim. That was a proper thing. There was a real, they had a couple of diving boards, that sort of thing, a spring board and a high dive board. There was a boys’ end further along then… It gets deep as you get towards the Mill. Blue Mills, towards that way. And the ‘Mouth’ you see is down there. We used to swim in that. Where the Brain and the Blackwater, where they join”.

After that, however, the Pee Hole started to decay. There was discussion about whether or not it was worth repairing, in view of the continual damage by “lads”. In 1929 the Medical Officer of Health was called in and found that the water was “not fit”. Bathing was to be prohibited and this was the end of the official use of the Pee Hole in the river. Though Ted and his friends still used to go there.

Since 1913 there had been increasing pressure from the better-off residents for a “proper” pool to be made out of some old water tanks behind the Swan. After a petition and a good deal of discussion, especially about the cost, a pool was opened there in 1933. I’ve written about that previously. And I’ve also written about Dickie Meads, where smaller children swam in the River Brain near Church Street.

We can see that the opportunity to get wet with their friends in the open air, gave some Witham people a great deal of pleasure. But Peggy Smith (nee Wood) was not one of them. She told me once that “Until I was getting on in years, I always thought over the Catholic bridge was the sea and you could drown in it. ‘Don’t you dare go over that bridge, the water’s that side, you’ll drown’. And that’s true, yes.”

54. Medina Villas

54.  Medina Villas, 80-84 Newland Street

The three Medina Villas were built in Newland Street in 1883. They replaced Medina Villa, a Georgian house which can just be seen on the photo of the fair, taken about 1870 – left of centre, with the poles in front (photo 1)

photo 1. Fair and Medina Villa, c1870

 

The villa was a girls’ school for some time before it was demolished, first Miss Hitchcock’s, with a French governess, then Miss Ford’s. Both had servants living in. I think some of the old bricks were incorporated in the new buildings – if you walk up the side you can see them, or you could at one time..

The new villas were constructed for a speculator, Richard Spurgeon, by a well-known local firm, Joseph Smith. In the 1880s, it was the fashion to display names and dates on new buildings, and as seen in the photo, it was done here (photo 2). There are also many examples in Braintree Road.

photo 2. Name plaque

The villas must have been amongst the tallest buildings in Witham, and also the smartest. They had three storeys and a basement. At the back there was ‘roof cistern’ to catch rainwater to supplement the town supply, together with a toilet in the basement, and a toilet and bath on the first floor. Most of Witham houses had neither of these – Witham’s first drainage and water supply system had only been inaugurated 14 years before.

At the first auction, nobody bid for the houses, but eventually Mr Bright Wool, from Colchester, bought them and rented them out. One of the tenants was Mrs Mary Keningale Smith. She lived at number 80 for many years, the photo shows her in what was probably her back garden, with her canary (photo 3) She was the widow of  Edward Charles Smith, a prosperous grocer.

photo 3. Mrs Mary Keningale Smith, an early resident of one of the three villas
photo 4. Number 80 with its front garden

To begin with, the villas all had attractive front gardens, as shown in the photo of number 80 on its own (photo 4). But in due course the temptation to make money by building on the front was too much to resist. A drapers’ shop was built in the centre, and then a new Post Office on the left, which had the town’s telegraph equipment, and later the telephone exchange (photo 5). The right hand side was not built on till later.

Photo 5. The Post Office at number 84 in 1903

In the 20th century, one of the best known occupants was Cooper’s lavish drapers’ and haberdashery shop, shown in photo 6.

photo 6. Coopers and Medina Villas in 1990

 

52. August 1966 – 50 years ago – the newcomers from London.

52. August 1966 – 50 years ago – the newcomers from London

Paul Ryland, who was brought up in Witham, tells me that his “most vivid memory of the first arrivals from London in 1966, was the surprise to my Father. We were walking along Newland Street, to be met by a Red haired young man with a ruddy face and three friends. They were dressed as Teddy boys and wore drainpipe trousers. My Father thought this would be the end of Witham and we should move ! I and many others are still here.”

I should point out that Witham had seen teddy boys before, but I believe they had mostly come from Maldon, whereas these were London ones.

The “arrivals” that so alarmed Mr Ryland were the pioneers of the Town Development Scheme, or, to use a very unpopular word, the “overspill”. It had its origins in the 1930s, when London had prepared to disperse people and jobs beyond the Green Belt, and Witham’s councillors had been keen to receive them.

The first of the Londoners arrived in Witham in August 1966, fifty years ago this month. The buildings and other arrangements were masterminded by the Greater London Council and Witham Urban District Council. To start with, most people came with their employers, many of whom took premises on the newly-built industrial estate.

The jobs were the lynch-pin of the scheme. This was what made it quite different from building houses on their own.

The first families lived on the Templars estate (the Courts), and then, over several years, new houses were provided round the outside of Witham in a clockwise direction.


The first residents of Court One, Bronte Road, 1966. Left to right: Mr and Mrs D. Gore and their son Christopher, Mr and Mrs I. W. Desborough, Mr and Mrs David Rowe, and their children Douglas, Keith and Janet, Mr and Mrs L. Law and their children Kevin and Lorraine. Note that in the first edition of 'Images', page 21, I added Tracy to the last family, but actually it is a doll; Tracy was not born then !
The first residents of Court One, Bronte Road, 1966. Left to right: Mr and Mrs D. Gore and their son Christopher, Mr and Mrs I. W. Desborough, Mr and Mrs David Rowe, and their children Douglas, Keith and Janet, Mr and Mrs L. Law and their children Kevin and Lorraine. Note that in the first edition of ‘Images of Witham’, p.21, I added Tracy to the last family, but actually it’s a doll; Tracy was not born then !

London children visit the forge in Chipping Hill to see the blacksmith, Henry Dorking, at work.
London children visit the forge in Chipping Hill to see the blacksmith, Henry Dorking, at work.

I haven’t managed to work out a breakdown of the numbers; only that in 1961 the population of Witham was about 9,000. Now it is about 23,000, which of course includes residents of all the privately built houses since 1961.

The innovative design of Templars provided outdoor spaces in the courts, separated from vehicles. This enabled one of my friends to cheerfully let her toddler out to play with the other children, until she shouted for him to come in and eat.

But the place did look unusual from the outside. This allowed people who disliked the whole enterprise, to direct their venom at the houses themselves, often in the local newspapers, calling them “hideous”, “an army barracks” and “a concentration camp”, which “lowered the tone”. An attitude that was not calculated to make the new residents feel welcome !

And it meant that the design was not repeated in later phases, in spite of the fact that many people found the houses and the layout to be good to live in. But many of the later phases did have paths running through them, at Witham Council’s insistence.

Some critics were even more direct. Someone who already lived in Witham at the time, has told me that “There was an evil rumour put about that the newcomers were all criminals and the lowest of the low!!!!!!!  How snobbish the people of Witham were!!!!!”

Other local residents reacted more positively. Mrs Dorothy Ireland had spent her life in Witham, and when she was 88 she told me “Oh, oh it’s not Witham, is it? But I must say this, the overspill people, London people, or strange people, they’re more friendly. Oh, much more, because if they’re entire strangers, they can be looking in a shop window, especially Shelley’s in the precinct, you know the fashions, well they’ll pass a remark, they’ll say ‘That’s rather nice, but it’s pricey’. Well, our people wouldn’t. I notice the London people are far more friendly, yes, they chat.”

She told me this in 1983, when it seems that it was still possible for her to distinguish a Londoner from a Witham person, mostly I suppose by their speech. A friend of mine arrived from London in the 1960s. She went into the electricity showrooms, and browsed unnoticed till she opened her mouth to ask something. Then everyone in the shop turned and stared at her.

So it was not easy for the newcomers. Many had left family and friends behind, to come to what was virtually a foreign land. I once saw a young man in tears when someone asked him how he was getting on. Quite a number went back to London. Even the sociologist who came from Canada to study us, went home before he had learnt very much.

Valerie Ahern wrote to me about the mixed blessings. She came to Witham in 1973. She eventually  became a very successful chairwoman of the Templars Residents Association, and was awarded the BEM as a result.

She said “It was very hard the first few years adjusting to a new way of life, moving from a town that never sleeps to a sleepy village was really hard. And knowing some of the Witham people didn’t take to us Londoners …

“I had lived in two rooms in Holloway, with an outside toilet shared by other tenants; the only hot water was an Ascot. So when offered a house on Templars I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I have been in my house 43 years and still love it …

“The sad thing was, when a lot of people came down from London they couldn’t take the transition so moved back, very sad. The shops not opening on Wednesday afternoon, the bus service compared to London minimal, but we persevered and slowly people began to accept us.

“I feel that we learnt a lot from the local people, and hopefully and slowly they learnt a lot from us, and we weren’t bad people after all, just lost souls, trying to have a better life than the slums of London for our children”

A friend of Valerie’s, June Richardson, moved into her house in Templars in February 1967, only six months after the very first residents came fifty years ago, and she is still there.

She said “My Husband and I moved down with his firm Stuart Surridge (the cricket firm) … It was great for us to have a new house, we were lucky to have it.

“We made some good local friends, but it was very quiet. So a group of fellows got together and started up a football team called Templars. They met every Sunday outside the Cherry Tree Pub which was run by Cis, and met there when the game was over, for a drink.

“There was a few shops but it was funny to see them close on a Wednesday afternoon. It took quite a while for the locals to take to us, but now we have some good friends.”

Witham’s shops closing on Wednesday afternoons is a shock that has been mentioned to me several times. I believe that at least one of them still does it, fifty years later !

I am sorry that I don’t have space to quote exactly from all the other people who kindly sent me their experiences. But they have all been invaluable in showing me the spirit of the times, and I will keep them. Most followed a similar pattern – problems at first, but with life improving as time went on.

Talk of the Templars football team does remind me that the benefits of being a bigger town soon showed themselves in such matters as the sheer number of sports teams in Witham, for all ages. They were helped by provisions made under the London scheme, especially the new Bramston Sports Centre and swimming pool, and the new Football club and Rugby club.


Bramston Sports Centre and Swimming Pool, opened in 1974 as one of the features of the Town expansion.
Bramston Sports Centre and Swimming Pool, opened in 1974 as one of the features of the Town expansion.

Other new facilities included the Spring Lodge Community Centre, the offices at the Grove, the Fire Station, the Health Centre, the shopping precincts, schools, local shops and halls, and new bus routes.

Nowadays it’s very hard to remember the great impact of it all. But in 1980, fourteen years after the first Londoners came, a writer from the Braintree and Witham Times investigated the situation. He found some London families still unhappy, though often their children liked it here. But the long and thoughtful article concluded that overall “the plan to move jobs and families out of the capital and into mid-Essex has been surprisingly successful”.

Court two in Spring 1991
Court Two in Spring 1991.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Braintree and Witham Times in August 2016.

51. The First World War, part 4. Witham's Own Soldiers

“Dear Mother … I am glad to say I am fairing well, but I can’t see very well with my right eye at present … I have lost all my kit + I want you to bring me a razor about 3/6 from Gage’s also a lather brush + a handkerchief + a 6d packet of State Express cigarettes.
Best love, Charlie”   [October 1915, from St George’s Hospital in London]

Ten days later, Charlie was dead. He was Private Charlie Sneezum of Witham, aged 22, and he had been wounded on the battlefield at Loos in northern France. His parents were Arthur and Alice of Park Cottage in Kings Chase; Arthur was the Park keeper.


Some of the Sneezum family in front of their house, at the entrance to the Park - Park Cottage in Kings Chase.
Some of the Sneezum family in front of their house at the entrance to the Park – Park Cottage in Kings Chase.

Because he died in London, Charlie was buried in his home town of Witham. Usually when soldiers were killed, they were buried in foreign places with little or no ceremony. So it was a particularly moving occasion for Witham people to have such a funeral in their midst. There were only about three thousand residents of all ages, so many would have known Charlie and his family.
2. m0925 procession to funeral of Charlie Sneezum

Charlie Sneezum's funeral in Witham in 1915. At the top is part of the procession, walking into Guithavon Street. These are probably Charlie's brothers and sisters and cousins. Below that is the burial in All Saints churchyard.
Charlie Sneezum’s funeral in Witham in 1915. At the top is part of the procession, walking into Guithavon Street. These are probably Charlie’s brothers and sisters and cousins.
Below that is the burial in All Saints churchyard.

The Essex County Chronicle reported afterwards that: “Military Honours were accorded the deceased. The cortege was headed by the Town Band playing the ‘Dead March’, followed by a section of Royal Engineers, with reversed arms, who formed the firing party, and a number of Boy Scouts, the rear being brought up by a company of Essex reserves. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack … At the conclusion of the service the ‘Last Post’ was sounded by buglers of the Royal Engineers.”

Meanwhile, Charlie’s older brother George, also in the army, had also been injured, and was in hospital in Belfast. He wrote home to his mother about Charlie’s funeral: “You cannot tell how pleased I was to receive your letter just now, as I did so want to know how the funeral went off. I do hope you will bear up. I did so wish that I could have been there to see the last of my dear Brother, but to think that he is at home is a happy thought … Was pleased to hear that aunt Ellen, Florrie, Daisy and the others came over. I hardly know how I feel when I write about poor Charlie, the last I saw of him was in the trenches on the Saturday night or early Sunday morning I had to pass by him, and I spoke to him, little did I think that it would be the last time that I should speak to him in person.”

George’s own wounds were nearly healed, and he was sent back to the front soon afterwards. I feel that he must have been a very friendly, talkative and affectionate young man. He wrote long letters to his mother, rarely mentioning the unimaginable horrors of the War – he probably was not allowed to. He did say in February 1916, that “where we are at present is a heap of ruins and they shell it every day. I am writing this now and the guns are making such a noise, but we get used to it”. And when he had written to Charlie in hospital, he listed soldiers who had been killed and injured whom they both knew.

But more typical of George was this in June 1915, “I like the cape very much it was just what I wanted. Well dear mother I think I must be one of the most unlucky fellows on the face of the earth as I lost my purse and all my money yesterday…  So will you send me 10 shillings as soon as you can, you know those purses that Grandfather used to have, will you try and get one of those. I know I am a bother but still better days in store when this terrible war is over … with fondest love to you all … P.S. The purse will do during the week. Ask Father what he thinks of it”.

At Easter 1916 he wrote “Will you get a wreath and put it on poor Charlie’s grave for me, you cannot tell how much I think and miss him, but we know that he is at rest. I should like a parcel with some cocoa or tea, sugar + milk in, also jam tarts, give my love to all at home, I will close now so with best and fondest love to you and all”.

Then he wrote on 8 May 1916, about Oxo cubes, tea, lice, and his brothers Jim and Percy. Exactly ten days later, he was shot dead near Ypres, and another of those dreaded form letters bearing sad news was received at Park Cottage. He was 24.

Mrs Sneezum also received a letter from Second Lieutenant Burdett, who had been standing next to George. He wrote that “as far as it is possible to know your son suffered no pain. The bullet hit him in the head, he never recovered consciousness and passed away in about 10 minutes. I was with him all the time and had the body brought down and buried at Essex Farm.” Later his mother asked for a photograph of the grave, but was told it could not safely be obtained at that time.


The grave of George Sneezum at Essex Farm Cemetery, being visited by his nephew Roy Gage in 2005. George's mother was not able to get a photo of her son's grave.
The grave of George Sneezum at Essex Farm Cemetery, being visited by his nephew Roy Gage in 2005. George’s mother was not able to get a photo of her son’s grave.

A long and sad letter came from Lily, George’s fiancee, saying that “All our letters were of the future, even his last letter, for I never once thought of him getting killed, I don’t know why I did not”.

Miss Charlotte Pattisson wrote too, saying that “Of all that have gone from Witham, I hoped more than all that George would be spared to you. You are indeed being given much to bear, and I feel that nothing that can be said can really help you just yet.” Miss Pattisson was a kindly and much-loved lady from Pelican Place in Collingwood Road.

This article was going to be about Witham’s soldiers in the First World War. It seems to have almost turned into an article about the Sneezums. I hope that any residents of Sneezum Walk who read this, will feel some new connection with the family.

We only know so much about the Sneezums because of our good fortune that the family were careful to preserve letters and photos. And in particular that Roy Gage, nephew of Charlie and George, has done the same.

About seventy Witham men were killed during the War. We know less about them but of course each death would have occasioned the same dreadful grief. The numbers of the dead increased as time went on. Two families had three sons killed. There were the Rounds of Avenue House, whose father Francis was a retired Colonial Civil Servant. And the Chaplins of Victoria Cottages. Their mother Caroline scrubbed the Red Cross Hospital next to the Bridge Home for nine hours a week.

So far we have been thinking of families losing their sons, but as recruitment increased, there were also families losing their fathers. Robert Brown of Church Street, aged 37, was killed on the same day as George Sneezum in 1916. The Sneezum brothers had mentioned him in their letters. He had worked on the railway at Witham.

In 1977 I was talking to my friend Mrs Dolly Ireland. She had just met one of Robert’s daughters, then grown up. Mrs Ireland had said to her “Oh, I always remember you Armistice Day”. She went on to tell me “their father was killed in the War, with five little children”.

A few years later, she spoke of him again “When that Mr Brown, I often think of him, with five little children, and he was killed, they were killed almost in the week, weren’t they? ‘Cos it was trench warfare, we weren’t prepared. And the Vicar’s son, Canon Ingles’ son was killed. That’s when all the people were taken off from Witham.”

____________________________________________________________________

28. When the Public Hall was Witham's first cinema

(NB. Mr Peirce’s name is spelt like that, with the “e” first. He was very proud of it !)

 

The Public Hall with the "winding room" on the bacony, which was there from 1919 to 1926. The ghostly building behind is the water tower.
The Public Hall with the “winding room” on the bacony, which was there from 1919 to 1926. The ghostly building behind is the water tower.

The late Mr Alf Newman told me about “The old cinema. They used to hold it in the Public Hall. They called it the cinema. There was a Mr Clarke, a blacksmith from Hatfield Peverel, were the last people to run that. I expect you’ve heard about the Public Hall pictures. He used to run it on a Saturday. afternoon matinee and an evening show. The old Public Hall would be full up. Someone would be playing the piano to the films. Us youngsters used to sit in the front. Used to have a Mr Chapman, used to try and keep us in order. Gave him an early death I think. He used to come down and ‘Keep quiet you boys and girls, keep quiet’. Used to cheer and shout if the film got exciting. Still they were happy days.”

Mr Newman was born in 1908. The film shows which he was speaking about, were running by 1916, and continued until the 1920s. They aren’t as well known as the Whitehall cinema which opened in 1928. But they are of special interest at the moment, when the Witham Public Hall Trust is planning to start showing films again.

Before Mr Clarke took over, the cinema had actually been started by William Pinkham, who owned the glove factory (where the Templemeads flats now stand in Chipping Hill). The cinema was discussed in 1916 at the appeal for his son Bert against joining the forces. Conscription had just been introduced. The military gentlemen in charge had heard about the cinema, and the fact that Bert spent all his spare time looking after it. They implied that if he had enough spare time for such frivolous pursuits, he couldn’t be as essential to the business as his father claimed. There were several appeals, but Bert did have to join up in the end.

Mains electricity didn’t reach Witham until the 1930s, so the Public Hall had to make its own arrangements for power and lighting. Mr Fred Gaymer told me that his brother “worked for Glover’s garage, when tractors were first coming about, and he used to be up at the Public Hall with a tractor, driving a dynamo, to supply the electricity for the lights and for the projectors as well.”

And Mr Walter Peirce remembered “a little old petrol engine round the back that used to make the electricity, perhaps the belt would come off the engine or something like that, or the engine conk out, we used to bang and stamp our feet and wait for the films, used to come on again”. When the film broke it had the same effect. They’d “get half way through and the film would break, and everybody’d holler and stamp their feet”.

Mr Peirce also said that “The projector room was built outside, over where the ornamental stonework was. The doorway is still there what used to come into the projector room, then you put the film over the top of the gallery.” Perhaps it’s not surprising the film broke sometimes ! This room wasn’t installed until 1919. It’s shown on the photo.

Mr Peirce added that they were “black and white and silent films, of course. Charlie Chaplin and The Kids and things like that and Buffalo Bill”. He also described how he raised the entrance money. “Well, I used to go to the matinee, Saturday afternoon, three ha’pence. There was a lot of horses about then, see. Well, my father had this allotment and he said he’d give me a ha’penny for a barrow-load of horse manure. We used to go along the road with a shovel and brush and a home-made cart, and fill it up. So Father used to say ‘How many loads you took today, boy?’ ‘Oh, three of them’. ‘Three?’ ‘Yes, three’. That was three ha’pence. I could go to the pictures then, couldn’t I?”

A version of this article appeared in the Braintree and Witham Times in January 2013

50. The First World War, part 3. More about the visiting soldiers.

 The 2nd/7th Warwickshire Regiment arriving in 1915 in a long, long, column. The dots mark the platoon of William Eric Murray, who was born in Australia. On the horse is Captain Hanson. Freebornes farm (now 3 Newland Street) is behind. (M2191).
The 2nd/7th Warwickshire Regiment arriving in 1915 in a long, long, column. The dots mark the platoon of William Eric Murray, who was born in Australia. On the horse is Captain Hanson. Freebornes farm (now 3 Newland Street) is behind. (M2191).

“There was always an air of expectancy as a new battalion marched into Witham. I was a boy standing open-eyed outside my father’s harness-maker’s shop in the High Street, then a small market town. They marched in fours – packs on backs, rifles shouldered, bayonet scabbards at hips, each company with captain marching ahead, lieutenants behind”. Gerald Palmer wrote this in 1988, about the First World War. He was four when the War began.

He continued: “Young women, and older ones too, stood on the pavement, smiling and waving, and there were some saucy remarks, and whistles from the men themselves. Most glamorous of all, and cheeky too, were the kilted Highland regiments. Often there was a band marching in front, and often the men made their own music, ‘Mademoiselle from Armentieres’,

‘It’s a long, long trail a-winding’.
‘Hello, hello, who’s your lady friend?
Who’s the little girlie by your side?
I’ve seen you, .. with a girl or two,
Oh, oh, oh, I am surprised at you’”

In a previous article I described the billeting of most of the soldiers with Witham families, who often found it beneficial. The equipment and horses were taken to the fields on either side of The Avenue, and the other soldiers camped there to look after them. Gerald Palmer watched their arrival and wrote “Occasionally there was cavalry, and sometimes horse artillery, with gun carriages and ammunition limbers, long lines of mules, with shell-laden panniers. Their arrival was more subdued, the clomping of the hooves, the jingling of harness. Artillery and cavalry went into the big meadows, which lay on each side of the fine avenue of lime trees, now The Avenue, where I remember the marquees, bell-tents, and long lines of tethered horses and mules.”

Soldiers from the Royal Engineers with horses on the Avenue fields. It is probably the Avenue at the back with its huge trees (M1889)
Soldiers from the Royal Engineers with horses on the Avenue fields. It is probably the Avenue at the back with its huge trees (M1889)

Other people had similar memories. For instance Walter Peirce (born in 1908) described “a great big camp from Collingwood Road right through to Avenue Road. Then in Collingwood Road they had the great big bake houses where you used to put all your wood in, heat all the oven up, then you’d clear it out and you put your dough in and you’d bake all the bread and that there”.

Mrs Edith Brown, born in 1896, said that “they were all over the place, they had The Avenue, didn’t they, for the horses and going down Collingwood Road on the left as you go down, that’s all houses there now, they used to be just meadows there and you could see the soldiers all cooking there, got all their things built, you know, what they cook with.”

A Scots soldier in the Avenue fields in 1916. His first name was Lewis. He was “a piper with 2/4th or 2/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers, according to the ever helpful Ian Hook. He sent this photo to his aunt Bella. The tents on the left would accommodate soldiers looking after horses and equipment (m1449)
A Scots soldier in the Avenue fields in 1916. His first name was Lewis. He was “a piper with 2/4th or 2/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers”, according to the ever helpful Ian Hook. Lewis sent this photo to his aunt Bella. The tents on the left would accommodate soldiers looking after horses and equipment (m1449)

Most of the soldiers seem to have made themselves at home fairly quickly. George Hayes (born in 1904) told me about the ones that lived with his family. “I think nearly all of them had been in prison for something but you could leave five bob’s worth of silver and they wouldn’t touch it. Two of them used to borrow Dad’s ferret and they used to go all over where nobody else would go and they used to sell the rabbits for beer.

And one Christmas they had to be in by eight o’clock and they used to dress up in women’s clothes and so they’d be down the pub till ten.. ‘Whenever they got leave home, you know seven days at home, they always had to send an escort down after them, never came back of their own free will, they always had an escort. They were known as Ferret and Nutty. Ferret was a little thin bloke and Nutty was a big fellow”

Others made a more cultural contribution. Alf Baxter (born in 1899) remembered when his father brought his melodeon out to one of their soldiers and said “‘Can you play?’ ‘Just a wee bit, just a wee bit’ he said. And he started and he was playing all Scotch reels and everything like that. And my father said ‘Well, After hearing you play, man, I come to the conclusion I know nothing about it’ and he never played it no more! No, he never played it no more. But this soldier, he was a quaint old boy, but he could really play that. He used to sit down and play, and we’d sit down and listen.”

Mrs Marjorie Coleman (nee Brown) was born in 1907, so she was a girl during the War. The Browns’ large house in Collingwood Road was well provided with comforts, so they had officers living with them. She recalled “one of these officers – and I suppose a lot of them were killed – sitting on the floor and teaching my sister and I to play whist.”

But the pleasure was short-lived. Fred Cook (born 1908) described “one pair when they knew they were going to France, they got drunk as a lord that day, they couldn’t stand. Laid on the floor near the door, you couldn’t shut it. Well I suppose they thought they were in for it didn’t they.”

A postcard produced by one of the Warwickshire regiments. Probably many similar ones were printed in other parts of the country. This one was given to Amos Shelley of Maldon Road by Private W.T.White, who was billeted with the Shelleys. He was killed in action on the Somme in 1916. (m0571)
A postcard produced by one of the Warwickshire regiments. Probably many similar ones were printed in other parts of the country. This one was given to Amos Shelley of Maldon Road by Private W.T.White, who was billeted with the Shelleys. He was killed in action on the Somme in 1916. (m0571)

23. Peapicking

 

Dobbin, one of the horses who pulled the carts taking peas and other vegetables to the station, from Wells' market garden in Rectory Lane. With him is Bill Joslin
Dobbin, one of the horses who pulled the carts taking peas and other vegetables to the station, from Wells’ market garden in Rectory Lane. With him is Bill Joslin

In the log book of the Girls’ National School, Witham, on 29 June 1888, the headmistress wrote “Many are absent owing to peapicking. One child deserves praise, rising at 4 to work and attending school at 10 a.m.” The girl must have been between 5 and 10 years old, which was the age for compulsory education at that time. Once most of the children had been away picking for a few days, the headmistress would announce the start of the school holidays. Some of the work was as near as Church Street, but most was in neighbouring parishes.

Picking loomed large in many reminiscences of the early 1900s. For instance:

Mr Walter Peirce: “Four o’clock in the morning you used to get up, the women did, and buckets were rattling and the perambulators were squeaking, the kids were howling … As a youngster I remember that … if we picked a bag of peas then Mum would let us play about … When it was three o’clock you had to stop picking, then the ganger come round, and he’d have a big bundle of string, through his braces like, bits of string that length you see, and he’d tie all your bags up, and he’d pay you … then the horse and tumbrel come along, and pick em all up, and take them to Witham station, load them in the trucks for Covent Garden, for London.”

Mr Cecil Ager: “When we worked in the pea fields, when we had our holidays, they used to bring us tea round in a big urn with a donkey. Donkey and cart, every day.”

Mrs Edith Raven: “We’ve walked miles and miles and miles for pea picking. I have, in my married life … One field I went to … I went there at four o’clock in the morning and I worked till four o’clock in the afternoon and I earned fourteen shillings that day and I was that thrilled … I was able to buy the children something, you see. And stand up in that boiling hot heat all that time.”

Mrs Elsie Hammond: “Oh, don’t talk about pea picking … I used to hate it … they used to knock us up. Somebody along the road, knocks up … Most of the people were out, poorer people. Cause that was their only time of the year of getting a little bit extra, you see.” And her family “used to put some in the bucket with a coat on the top”.

Mrs Annie Clarke: “I was sitting on some one day, and Wheaton said ‘You don’t want to sit on that pail’ he said, ‘I know what you got in it!’ I said ‘Do you?’ He said ‘Yes.’ He said ‘I don’t mind you taking a few home but not a half a bag!’ “

Mrs Elsie Baxter: “Well, some of the girls wouldn’t go out and do it, would they? No. Some of them thought themselves too much. But we didn’t, we used to have fun out there in the fields – it was as good as going to the seaside for the day!”

Mr Gerald Palmer: “When I was a boy, I used to go blackberrying, but pea picking I didn’t do – that was a class lower than us that went pea picking. You were very class-conscious.”

The season was also marked by the arrival of travellers and gypsies in Witham to share in the picking. I’ll write about them next month. And fruit picking will also have to wait till another time.

A version of this article appeared in the Braintree and Witham Times in July 2012

49. Allotments

In October 1841, Revd John Bramston, the new Vicar of Witham, issued a notice “To the Poor Inhabitants of Witham”. It said that “it is intended to divide a Field, near Chipping Hill Bridge, called Knee Field, into allotments of garden ground not exceeding 20 rods.”. A rod measured 30.25 square yards (25.3 square metres). Knee Field as a whole measured about 8 and a half acres.

At that time, allotments were usually provided by charities, to help the poor to feed themselves. They were often known as “garden fields”. These ones in Witham from 1841 were provided by the Church. The rent increased as time went on, but always included a potato.

As well as being poor, the tenants had to obey a long list of regulations. For instance, they were not allowed to work their plots on the “Lords Day [Sunday] or Christmas Day, or Good Friday”. No “buildings or trees” were allowed. Not more than half the plot was to grow potatoes. “No children were permitted except to work” and damages “by them were to be made good by the parent”.

Dr Henry Dixon, who lived in Witham then, was a nonconformist in religion, and always cast a searching eye over the affairs of the Church of England. He noted in 1842 that “some of my neighbours lay claim to an excessive amount of charity in letting out these allotments to Agricultural labourers. Our Vicar the Reverend Mr. Bramston held his rent audit in his Coach House last Friday evening. The Entertainment consisted of roast mutton (alias baked), plum-puddings, ale and Bacca. The number of Tenants is about 70, and these poor people pay  at the [annual] rate of £5.6.8 per acre!!! In the Vicar’s predecessors time 6 years ago, this land was let to a farmer for 30 shillings (£1.50) per acre.”

From an air photo dated 1957 belonging to Patrick Horner, to whom thanks. Part of the Church’s allotments are top left (now Saxon Drive). Below them is Moat farm bridge. Chipping Hill green is near the top right. Pinkham’s Glove Factory is front right.
From an air photo dated 1957 belonging to Patrick Horner, to whom thanks. Part of the Church’s allotments are top left (now Saxon Drive). Below them is Moat farm bridge. Chipping Hill green is near the top right. Pinkham’s Glove Factory is front right.

There was a New Year dinner for the tenants of these Church allotments, as late as 1955. The land was sold for housing in about 1960. The site is now occupied by Saxon Drive and Tithe Close.

Taken by the late John Scott-Mason in about 1960; thanks to his family for allowing me to use his photos. He stood amongst the allotments to take the photo, looking towards the Church and Chipping Hill
Taken by the late John Scott-Mason in about 1960; thanks to his family for allowing me to use his photos. He stood amongst the allotments to take the photo, looking towards the Church and Chipping Hill

From 1887 onwards, various enactments had allowed or compelled Local Authorities to provide allotments, in addition to the charitable providers. So Witham Urban District Council did so, particularly during War times and during the Depression of the 1930s, when home-grown food was very much needed.

For instance, at various times there were some in Church Street, Glebe Crescent, Guithavon Road, Hatfield Road, Homefield Road, Maldon Road, Powershall End, and near the Station Maltings (known as “Canada”). These pieces of land were often earmarked for Council houses or other uses in the long run. So whenever building started, the allotments had to be replaced elsewhere.

In December1936, there was extensive damage caused to the “green-stuff of the holders” of the Maldon Road allotments. This was caused by two hundred sheep straying onto them from the adjoining meadow. They belonged to Mr Arthur J Horner, Witham’s veterinary surgeon. He received a letter from the Council about them, which he regarded as “officious”.

By the 1940s, the “Witham and Rivenhall End Allotment Holders and Garden Society’” had been formed. The members were able to combine together to negotiate for their rights. They also combined with the Witham Rabbit Society and other organisations to have summer shows in Witham Park.

All the scattered pieces of allotment from the past are now used for other purposes. Today, activity is concentrated on the popular Cut Throat Lane site by the railway. This is owned by the District Council, and I think it was laid out in about the 1970s.

A view of the Cut Throat Lane allotments in about 2013. Provided by Richard Pilbrow, to whom thanks
A view of the Cut Throat Lane allotments in about 2013. Provided by Richard Pilbrow, to whom thanks

In the past I interviewed many Witham people about life in the early 1900s, and it was striking what a big part the allotments played in sustaining the family, and how much time they took up. Here are some of them.

As a child, Mrs Elsie Hammond (born c 1900) used to “pick the beans, and pick up potatoes, or drop them, drop the potatoes in the first place” on their ground near the Station maltings. Peas they managed to “wangle” when they were out pea-picking, but they grew “all the other vegetables, cause they couldn’t really buy them, you see. Couldn’t afford to buy them. That’s how, people used to work their sets, you see. Potatoes, they used to do an exchange. People didn’t, couldn’t pay out a lot, they use to exchange, one with another. So they’d have a change of seed. It was the only way to work it.”

Mrs Edith Brown’s (born in 1895) family had an allotment in Maldon Road “for all the vegetables her husband grew, grew all his own vegetables. Used to grow stuff for all the winter, and store it all. Mm, he used to clamp all his beetroot and parsnips with straw and earth and then you just got ‘em out when you want ‘em. ”We never bought a thing hardly, now and again we’d buy a swede wouldn’t we? But otherwise we never bought no potatoes or onions and everything used to be, you know, kept and, my husband used to go Sunday mornings and cut the greens for the dinner all fresh.” The allotment was about a mile away from their house in Church Street. They also had a flourishing flower garden at the house.

Mr Maurice Greatrex (born in 1903). “That glebe land that was sold by the Church [Saxon Drive]. Well we had an allotment on that, 20 rod allotment on there which father used to keep going as well and, ‘cos there were eight of us in the family you see and wages weren’t very high. They weren’t anything like they are nowadays. And so he had a job to keep things going.”

Mr Walter Peirce (born in 1908): “And then where the, opposite the Spring Community Centre was allotments [now Saxon Drive]. Five shillings a year, my father used to have it. Twenty rod. Well, you paid the five shillings, and a potato. And you had a little bit of supper, all the, um, holders of the allotment. And you went and paid it, Mr Hodges was the man, that took the money . He lived right, the other side of the railway line, in Highfields Road, but a bomb dropped on it during the War, didn’t it? Blew it all to pieces. But they’ve rebuilt a new house, didn’t they. Well, that was the man who used to take the money.”

Mrs Ethel Hicks (born in 1891): “We made wine in great big stone bottles with a handle on the side. We used to make rhubarb, and dandelion. Ooh that was lovely. Better than any whisky if you keep it a year. I made blackberry, damson, all sorts I used to make. But that used to be rhubarb, mostly, because they grew that on the allotment, and you see that didn’t cost anything. Only just the sugar, well the sugar wasn’t only about sixpence a pound then. You could do what you liked.”

Mr Ken Miller (born 1935): “Well Henry Dorking’s, the blacksmith, his father was a great poacher, well not poacher, rabbiter, and lived by the gun sort of thing, and there was a hare that used to elude him in the Garden fields, of course the allotment holders wanted it caught because of the damage it was doing. And down opposite Spring Lodge, there was a five bar wooden gate, I can see it now, into the allotments, and this gate was always open for people coming and going on their bikes and trolleys and what have you. And this hare always got away across the road, cause it was, it was all fields across the road then, and the hare’d get away. So one day he shut the gate, and the hare ran full belt into the gate, and he got it, killed it. And Henry always used to spin this tale, and how his father got that, cause his father was a great big tall bloke, and as I can remember he used to call on his bike, and, he was a bricklayer for Crittall’s, and I used to sharpen his chisels for him.”

A version of this article appeared in the Braintree and Witham Times in January 2016

48. The old police station in Guithavon Street

From medieval times, local police work was carried out by part-time parish constables, who received expenses but no wages. In Witham there were usually two of them, perhaps a blacksmith or a butcher or a farmer. At times of trouble, “Special constables” were recruited as well

The County Police Act, passed in 1839, authorised counties to give up this old system and to employ paid policemen. They could also raise money from the rates for police stations, equipment and so on. The Essex county magistrates, sitting in Quarter Sessions, adopted the Act straight away. And in April 1840 one of the newspapers reported that ‘Braintree, Witham, Coggeshall and Ongar have now the protection of the Rural Police; their presence has been hailed with satisfaction’.

That was how Witham’s original police station came to be built, in about 1849 in Guithavon Street (see the photo). This street had been built in 1841 to accommodate the new church of All Saints and the new National Schools. It became quite an elegant civic centre. Other buildings there included the curate’s house, the Savings Bank, the Methodist church, the Fire Engine House, and some attractive terraces of houses.

The ‘Old’ Police Station, built in about 1849 in Guithavon Street (now the site of Mill Vale Lodge).
The ‘Old’ Police Station, built in about 1849 in Guithavon Street (now the site of Mill Vale Lodge).

The police station incorporated two residences for policemen and their families. For instance, at the time of the 1861 census, Police Superintendent James Catchpole, born in Earls Colne, was living there with his wife Elizabeth and their three children. There was also Police Constable Samuel Barber, born in Norwich, with his wife Sarah Ann and four children. They had a young Police Constable lodging with them, James Pepper. Finally, in the cells there was Henry Carter, described as a “Farm labourer but now in custody on the charge of stealing wheat from a farmer at Gt Wigborough”.

Henry would have been held in one of the small brick cells, mostly used for suspects waiting to be examined. Readers who attended clinics in the building in the 1960s and 1970s may remember these very small cells, because by then they had visitors’ toilets in them.

There was also a court room where the local magistrates heard cases in “Petty Sessions”. These were the lowest level of court, the equivalent of the magistrates’ court today, dealing with several parishes. They had existed since the 18th century. Before 1849 the Witham sessions had been held in The Blue Posts inn, at the bottom of Newland Street (now nos.126 and 128).

The Petty Sessions often heard quite important cases, before referring them on to higher courts. They could be quite dramatic and varied, and frequently the newspapers reported that the public had filled the court and listened enthusiastically to the proceedings. Here are a few examples.

In 1851 a youth was accused of taking “copper money” worth about thirty shillings from the master’s desk in the Boys National School, and hiding it in various places in All Saints churchyard next door.

Three years later, three men from Wickham Bishops hadn’t paid the church rates. They were non-conformists and were withholding the money on principle. Two of them were Dixons from Blue Mills. The church rate was finally abolished in 1868.

In 1855 the court heard at very great length about a long dispute between the landlord of the Spread Eagle and a nearby corn merchant (who was bankrupt). Their families were also involved. There had been a big fist fight, and many insults had been exchanged at all hours of day and night.

More or less every year, the results of bonfire night on 5 November required the attention of the magistrates. In fact Witham was quite notorious for it. There was a bonfire, squibs, and general noise and excitement, in the wide part of Newland Street. For instance, in November 1859 the Petty Sessions dealt with the recent “Riotous Assemblage and Attack on the Police”. Some of the accused were said to be “sons of respectable tradesmen” which may be why the magistrates allowed everything to be settled out of court.

A hearing in 1862 “excited extraordinary public interest” and proceeded for many hours. Dr Thomas Tomkin, who ran a private lunatic asylum at The Retreat, was accused of cruelty. The magistrates decided he should go on to a higher court, and granted him bail. They found it an emotional and painful decision, in view of  Mr Tomkin’s “high respectability”, and the esteem in which they held him.

And in 1868, five magistrates gathered in the police station to hear a ‘Singular charge of assault by shooting’. Richard Sutton Cheek, a stationer and printer, was charged with attempting to shoot John Warricker, a bricklayer. John and another man had been picking walnuts from a tree which hung over Mr Cheek’s yard. Harsh words were exchanged, and Mr Cheek  brought out a revolver and shot at the men. In the end, the case rested on whether the revolver had a ball in it, or just powder. The magistrates decided on the latter and let Mr Cheek off.

Mrs Dorothy Ireland (born 1894) remembered court days on Tuesdays and said ‘Oh yes, you noticed, they all went’, you saw the magistrates going, and the people. ‘You’d watch, on a Tuesday, you were interested. And old Blood, he was a solicitor and a magistrate. I know one or two cases that were really genuine and they lost, he “wasn’t going to have his clients proved guilty”.  Baby cases in particular, when they were trying to prove for the father. He said no. “Wasn’t going to have him proved a guilty man”’.

One of my favourite photos. Traffic problems were among the main reasons for needing the new police station which opened in 1937. This photo was taken nearby, a few months later
One of my favourite photos. Traffic problems were among the main reasons for needing the new police station which opened in 1937. This photo was taken nearby, a few months later

Although the Guithavon Street police station and court had coped with all these dramas and many more, it could not manage the arrival of the motor car in the early 20th century. By the 1930s ‘the courts were inundated with motoring cases, which took hours to deal with’, to quote a senior magistrate. To help out, the magistrates’ room was made into a second court, but this meant that ‘Justices, if they wished to consult, had to retire to the stairs, or to one of the resident inspectors’ sitting rooms’.

To solve these problems, a roomy and elegant new police station was built in Newland Street. Like its predecessor, it contained a police station and courts, and two residences. It was opened in 1937, and stated to be ‘pleasant, airy and dignified’ [note: since I first wrote this article, this ‘new’ station has been closed, and its future is uncertain]

The ‘new’ police station, opened in 1937. It was built in the garden of the big house at the Grove, hence the two large trees. The blue green seat came from the twin town of Waldbrohl
The ‘new’ police station, opened in 1937. It was built in the garden of the big house at the Grove, hence the two large trees. The blue green seat came from the twin town of Waldbrohl

At first, the old Guithavon Street police station housed a new Government scheme for “increased motor vehicle patrols”, with a number of constables in residence.

But in 1939 it was taken over for War use. Part was occupied by some of the Emergency Demolition Squads. And the rest became the Control Centre. Miss Irene Springett and a fellow teacher volunteered at the Centre every fourth night from 10 p.m. till 6 a.m. One of them received and wrote down the phone messages about local incidents such as bombings, and the other one phoned them through to the HQ at Braintree. Their beds were in the cells that I mentioned earlier, but they didn’t sleep very much because of the continual disturbance.

After the War, the old police station became a children’s clinic, and then during the 1970s it was demolished. Mill Vale House was built in its place

A version of this article appeared in the Braintree and Witham Times in November 2015

47. The census

The UK censuses were taken every ten years from 1841 onwards. We are allowed to look at the ones which are over 100 years old. So at present the most recent one we can see is dated 1911. As family historians will know, the censuses provide a great deal of information, much of which could not be discovered from any other source. Witham’s census returns are no exception.

Temporary residents
Some folk were just passing through. In 1841 the Rising Sun in Bridge Street (now no. 29) had five ‘excavators’ and two ‘contractors’ staying, helping to build the new railway. In 1851 there were two young Irishmen lodging in Bridge Street who were employed by the Ordnance Survey. And in 1861 there were several people ‘not in houses, travelling in vans’, including ‘Silvester Boswell, Chair Cane maker’, with his wife and eight children in Maldon Road. Mrs Boswell and three older boys helped to make the canes.

Names
Local Christian names were usually very conventional. But in 1861, shoemaker George Pluck of Collins Lane had several children with Old Testament names, and his 14-year old son was called, ‘Jesse Fergus O’Connor Pluck’, after the great Chartist hero Fergus O’Connor. The Chartists’ radical aims included ‘one man one vote’.

Large employers
The biggest 19th-century factory was the brush works, belonging to the Thomasin family. The 1841 census mentions about fifty people who probably worked there, living all over the town centre. They included brushmakers, pattenmakers, clogmakers, turners, mop makers, chairmakers and a commercial traveller. The brush yard was behind nos. 67 and 83 Newland Street (the intervening street numbers were the cottages in the yard.)

Later on, it was the Witham Junction railway station that used the most people. In 1901 there were 90 of them. Most were platelayers and porters (about twenty of each), and signalmen (thirteen), but the rest included clerks,  navvies, inspectors, horsemen, stokers, telegraph men, an engine driver, a gateman, a greaser, a female charwoman, and of course the stationmaster, who was William Cole from Ipswich. Thirty percent of them lived within a hundred yards of the station.

The poor
Amongst the poorest working people were the farmworkers (see the photo). Their wages were very small, and they were often out of work, especially in the winter. They lived in small cottages, most of which do not survive today. Many of the boys joined their fathers at farm work by the age of about thirteen or younger. Some were only ten, like John Cook in 1851.

Farmworkers in about 1900 at Blunts Hall farm. Probably harvest time, in which case extra men would have been recruited
Farmworkers in about 1900 at Blunts Hall farm. Probably harvest time, in which case extra men would have been recruited

The very poorest people were the ones in the massive and forbidding Union Workhouse in Hatfield Road (now Home Bridge Court). Usually the men all lived together in one set of dormitories, and the women and children in another. The censuses show that between 150 and 200 paupers and their children were in the workhouse at any one time, sent there because they could not find work. They came from parishes round about such as Coggeshall, as well as from Witham itself.

Women
Women’s work wasn’t all recorded in the censuses, but nevertheless they tell us of dressmakers, shirtmakers and milliners, washerwomen and laundry women. And in particular there were servants – some lived at home and others lived with their employers.

Upstairs downstairs
The two biggest households were at the Grove and at Witham Lodge.  Witham Lodge was a large house near today’s Witham Lodge estate. The census shows that in 1881, twenty people were living in it. There were Vice Admiral William Luard and his wife Charlotte, with seven of their children aged six to twenty (some others may have been away at school) and two other relatives. They had nine live-in servants including a governess, a butler, a nurse, a cook, a page boy and a housemaid. Other servants lived nearby.

The photo shows the Golden Wedding of Admiral and Lady Luard in 1908 at the house. 106 people went to ceremonies at the Pubic Hall and the church, and had lunch. Then 200 people took afternoon tea. Nine of the Admiral’s ten children were there, including the six Miss Luards, who were well-known for good works in Witham.

The celebrations at Witham Lodge for Admiral and Lady Luard’s Golden Wedding in 1908
The celebrations at Witham Lodge for Admiral and Lady Luard’s Golden Wedding in 1908

A version of this article appeared in the Braintree and Witham Times in September 2015