Tape 194. Mr John Thurgood, side 1

Tape 194

Mr John Thurgood was born c 1922. He was interviewed on 20 April 2004, when he lived at The Lincolns, New Road, Terling, CM3 2PN.

There is a some information about the earlier Thurgood family of Terling, at Thurgood family in the people category. But I don’t know how John is related to them.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

This is about the British Resistance during the Second World War, and the six or seven man unit in Terling that John belonged to; the plan was for them to hide in their underground shelter (O.B., Operational Base) in the event of a German invasion, and then creep out and be subversive.

See also:
The Last Ditch by David Lampe.
Page 133 of A History of Witham, by Janet Gyford (downloadable from www.gyford.com/janet/books/history-witham/text/).
Parham Airfield Museum.
British Resistance Archive.

Side 1

Q:    [It was supposed to be] a secret for ever, was it?

Mr T:    That’s right, yes.

Q:    So it was only really when they started talking about it, you started …?

Mr T:    Yes, yes.

Q:    I mean do you remember where you, where did you sign the Secrets Act then, did they bring it round to your house?

Mr T:    I honestly can’t remember. But I know we all had to sign it.

Q:    Cause another thing I remember you telling me about the person who came, while the soldiers were building the place [underground hideout].

[Chat about tea, not noted.]

[discussing JG’s photos M2013-M2019, especially of JT by site of old hideout in about 1990]

Q:    I remember you saying, oh, brilliant, thank you. Now this, it’s got the actual …

Mr T:    Yes, and that.

Q:    Oh good, that’s the one out of the, that’s the one with, I’ve forgotten is name now.

Mr T:    Me.

Q:    That was you? Oh well, there’s another picture, oh yes, oh yes. There’s another picture with somebody else on. Who took this one, then?

Mr T:    Winston Alderton.

Q:    Oh, did he?

Mr T:    Remember Winston?

Q:    Yes, yes, yes. Well, interesting. Oh, so you actually had the door bit.

Mr T:    Yes, that’s just about all that was left then, and it was quite unsafe to have sort of investigated further.

Q:    So whenabouts was this then?

Mr T:    Oh dear.

Q:    Oh it doesn’t matter. Cause Winston’s been dead a few years hasn’t he?

Mr T:    Yes, he has, yes. You got a copy of that?

Q:    Don’t worry. You don’t look a lot different than you do now.

Mr T:    That’s about 1990, I would think, somewhere about that. And there’s a list of the people on those lists, and those that I knew and their occupations if known. [for copy, see Picture and Biography section of Oral History files, and another, with other information, in the Subject Files under British Resistance]

Q:    You’re so efficient. You seem to remember a lot of people.

Q:    Yes, cause I had a chat, thanks to you, to Molly, is it Molly Scott, that you’d mentioned to me.

Mr T:    Oh, Peter Scott’s wife, yes.

Q:    Yes, that’s right, about her father. That was quite, on the phone, I had a chat, and it was quite interesting, cause she, she said they never took him seriously when he was alive, really. I mean he’d tell these tales to the grandchildren, about catching Germans and they all thought he was … but he did mention something about their base [of the Wickham Bishops and Witham unit], being up the Wickham Bishops hill. And then I found, I remember somebody, I don’t know, well, perhaps she used to live next door to the Dersleys. And in fact it was Ted Dersley [of 63 Glebe Crescent, Witham] that once drew these for me [sketches of whereabouts of bases]. Well, he drew the Terling one, which is more or less the same as what you …

Mr T:    Yes, in the Hollow ditch, that’s right.

Q:    But then he reckoned that was the Witham and Wickham Bishops together, that’s Snow’s corner. I could make a copy of this for you. He’d just come across the hole in the ground cause he goes round the countryside a lot, you know. So [???]. It’s not there any more, but, I’ll have to look at the map again to remind myself where this was.

Mr T:    Oh, I know that way, yes.

Q:    Grove House, oh Langford Grove., so it’s probably more Langford way.

Mr T:    That’s it. Well, Back Lane, where, Snow’s corner, you’re going towards Maldon there, aren’t you. And Back Lane comes out here on the road past Wickham Bishops church.

Q:    I know, yes, yes, yes.

Mr T:    There’s a double bend there. Just past Wickham Bishops church, and Back Lane comes out onto that. But that’s under a different name there. The lane is under a different name, I can’t remember what it is offhand.

Q:    That’s where he reckons it is so it’s a fair way over towards Langford, isn’t it.

Mr T:    Yes. Ah.

Q:    Well he just found a hole there, and that sort of fits in a bit with what Molly said. On the other hand, she and her husband could never agree, afterwards, which side of the road he’d said it was on.

Mr T:    [laughs]

Q:    So I’ll have to show her this sometime and see if that fits in with what …Cause also Ted reckons there was another place up Cressing way, which is possible I suppose, isn’t it.

Mr T:    I think the Silver End one …

Q:    Oh perhaps that would be Silver End.

Mr T:    I haven’t got the Silver End names, I’m afraid. But we did come in contact with the Silver End people, and I had an idea theirs was in the gravel pit on the Rivenhall Road.

Q:    Oh, right, yes.

Mr T:    I wouldn’t be sure of that, though.

Q:    Of course there must have been all sorts of holes[?] in the road [???].
[discussing Q’s drawing of the Terling hideout, which resulted in the drawings on page 133 of her book A History of Witham.]

From what you told me, I was trying to draw a picture of your one, so I need you now to tell me if it makes sense.

Mr T:    Something like that. And then the …

Q:    I don’t know whether I’ve got the proportions right really, so if there’s anything …

Mr T:    That’s not far out, not far out at all, I would imagine. Er, possibly this might have had a little bit shorter. But no, it was very very similar to that, with the escape, that’s right, escape tunnel that end. Yes …

Q:    So it was only, wasn’t that tall then. Cause I remember you saying that that was about eight foot from the top to bottom there.

Mr T:    Something like that, yes.

Q:    So if you stood up in it, did you more or less reach the top?

Mr T:    I could stand up in it, yes.

Q:    Reasonably easily …

Mr T:    I’m about six foot, oh, at that time I was about six foot one and a half, so I could just about stand up in the middle. I suppose that, at the apex that would have been about six foot six, I reckon.

Q:    But you couldn’t see this, that was totally buried under the ground.

Mr T:    Oh yes, yes.

Q:    Oh good, and, I don’t know how high your bunks and things were, but again …

Mr T:    Well, the bottom one would have been about this high I suppose.

Q:    [???], yes.

Mr T:    Yes, and the other one not much more than that perhaps. About chest high or something.

Q:    So you didn’t have much room if you were in the bottom one then, did you.

Mr T:    No.

Q:    So that would really be higher up? Close together really?

Mr T:    That’s right. Yes, that’s it.

Q:    I thought I might put that in the book if they’ll have it.

Mr T:    Mm?

Q:    Once I’ve finished drawing that, I might put it in the book if that’s all right with you.

Mr T:    Yes, yes.

Q:    Apart from the mistakes, it’s all we’ve got, isn’t it. [laughter] Cause this, I mean that might have only just gone as far as the, I suppose, could that just have been from there, or would it …

Mr T:    I think it would have projected a little bit further than there, I think, somewhere about here.

Q:    Sort of half way between the [???] thing and what I’ve got.

Mr T:    That’s it.

Q:    And was this all trees up on top of here?

Mr T:    No, it’s a shrubbery or something like that, you know.

Q:    Oh good, well I’ll have a think about that. Were the bunks, what were the bunks made of?

Mr T:    You what?

Q:    Were the bunks wooden, or, I’m really testing you here aren’t I [laughter]?

Mr T:    Well, it was only sixty years [laughter].

Q:    The stores and things, they would be a food supply presumably, would it?

Mr T:    Yes, yes, largely, because we used to keep the explosives and things in another place. At the far end of that ditch.

Q:    Oh, I see.

Mr T:    In fact, not all that long ago, one of Lord Rayleigh’s workmen, they were in there, and they found some of these phosphorous bottles. [laugh]

Q:    Oh, really? You’d left them behind?

Mr T:    I think they were terrible things, really, because they were like a mineral water bottle, with a crown cap.

Q:    Really?

Mr T:    Well, if they’d have undone one of those, with a bottle opener, it would have just burst into flames and that was it. Terrible things. Oh yes. All right we never had to deal with them, but anybody strange, that’s an invitation, isn’t it. [laugh]

Q:    So, one thing that occurred to me afterwards, presumably, when you were practising you obviously, if you wanted the loo, you’d just go outside. But if you were holed up here and the Germans came, what were you going to do?

Mr T:    Ah, we would have had a bucket or something like that, wouldn’t we.

Q:    I suppose the same with the old bottles, the phosphorous. You’d have to creep out and get your explosive, wouldn’t you?

Mr T:    Yes.

Q:    So you weren’t assuming you’d be locked in there for ever?

Mr T:    Oh no. We was just banking on the fact that it weren’t discovered.

Q:    Yes, quite, yes. Well obviously yes, I suppose if you were then …

Mr T:    Well, I don’t think it would have been very long before we were discovered.

Q:    Don’t you?

Mr T:    What with Alsations, to sniff us out. [laugh]

Q:    Cause, I mean, another thing I thought about afterwards, is, if you, when you were all trooping off there, I remember you saying when somebody saw it being built, he had to sign the Official Secrets Act as well. When the soldiers were there digging.

Mr T:    Yes, a chappie found it. And he started talking about it. Somebody heard that he’d mentioned it, and they got onto the army types, and they tracked him down and got him to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Q:    Cause it seems to me, if you were all trooping off there, everybody must have noticed.

Mr T:    Oh, they knew we were around somewhere, but when we went to the O.B.[Operational Base, underground shelter], we were very careful to look around to see that there was nobody about.

Q:    Oh, I see. And you sort of didn’t all go at once.

Mr T:    No, that’s right.

Q:    Cause it’s quite near the village, isn’t it?

Mr T:    Oh yes. Yes. But what this chap saw was the army types taking the equipment over there, you see, and they knew something, he, guessed something was being put there.

Q:    Right, this is when they were taking the stuff to build it with, you mean?

Mr T:    That’s right, yes. And one of the chaps that was doing that, in the Army Service Corps, he was based at Earls Colne, and he was at school the same time that I was. Yes, yes. He used to live at Latneys, you know, just over the, on the approach to Hatfield. Yes. He died about a year ago, Reg Succaby[?].

Q:    So again, they’d all be …

Mr T:    I think his parents worked for the people at Howlands[?] and Latneys.

Q:    Cause, I was trying, you said you went out practising at Earls Colne, didn’t you, sometimes, or you went …

Mr T:    I did go to Earls Colne, we went there on a stunt. Simulated moonlight. We had to wear dark glasses and, so, in the daylight, the observers could see everything we were doing, but, the glasses were very very good, really, it was just about simulated moonlight.

Q:    So what were you doing?

Mr T:    Again, I can’t remember exactly what we were doing then. But we did go out, we made arrangements with Army camps, and say could we simulate a raid on your place, between various dates. And they used to double the guards, and have some dogs. So, they said ‘If challenged, give yourself up.’ [laughter] Lindiswood, there was an army camp there, and an ammunition dump. And I remember we went there once. And we all got in, we all got out, put our labels on to say what we would have used. Yes. In spite of the fact that they doubled the guard, the guards, and had Alsations round. In fact one of our pensioner members, he died a couple of years ago, but I was talking to him about it, cause he said he was in the army here, round here, and I said we went onto Lindiswood. He said ‘Yes’, he said, ‘I remember it’. [laugh] He was based at Lindiswood. That’s right.

Q:    How did you get in there then? (Mr T: Mm?) I wondered how you managed to get in when it was all so well guarded?

Mr T:    It’s amazing how you could. It really was. I’ve laid sometimes, with this concertina wire, they used to put two together, and then one on the top. And we used to get in between the rings if you like, of the wire, and I’ve lain inside that and a guard has walked past, yes, and not seen. Cause naturally, you look at eye-level, don’t you, not at anybody prone[?].

Q:    And would this always be in darkness?

Mr T:    Oh yes, yes.

Q:    That’s a help, isn’t it.

Mr T:    That’s right. And the thing, after you’ve got your uniform on, you’ve camouflaged your face with, it was Colgates actually, green and brown, toothpaste virtually, you know, that sort of stuff, cream, yes. And, you just put this all over your face, and moonlight, the thing that shows up most, were your black boots and your shadow.

Q:    Really? If it was actually in moonlight, you would be …

Mr T:    Yes, if that’s moonlight.

Q:    It’s stood you in good stead since, I’m sure. [laughter]

Mr T:    That’s the paper for the open day, look [at Parham museum Suffolk, re British Resistance]

[chat about whether Q can go, not noted]

Mr T:    And they have built an O.B. [Operational Base, underground hideout] And that’s going to be opened by Lord and Lady Ironside.

[more discussion about open day etc., and opening of museum, not noted]

Q:    I suppose they must have all been a similar pattern, these places?

Mr T:    Yes.

[chat about borrowing photos etc., JG’s M2013-M2019, not noted]

Q:    I wondered about this escape tunnel, that’s that there is it, at the top?

Mr T:    That’s right.

Q:    So, where that came out, there wasn’t a trap door or anything, it was just a sort of hole.

Mr T:    I can’t remember.

Q:    Probably it wasn’t very, did you use that very much?

Mr T:    No, I can’t ever remember going out of it.

Q:    If the Alsatians were sniffing at the front door, you’d have to go out the back [laughter]. Well, thanks for doing this list, and everything. So would you reckon there’s any more of these chaps still alive.

Mr T:    The only one I know is Dennis Williams. He was in the Hatfield Peverel. I think I’ve made a note of it there, with Hatfield Peverel, ‘only known survivor’. He lives in Galleywood. I didn’t know him, but I have introduced myself to him, knowing that he was a survivor.

Q:    Do you think he remembers very much about it?

Mr T:    Er, why not, want to have a go with him?

[Chat about DW’s phone number etc., not noted]

[20 minutes at beginning of chat]

Q:    I imagine other people your age would be surprised now to hear that that was what was going on.

Mr T:    Yes, they would.

Q:    Even though it’s all this time, they obviously don’t know, do they.

Mr T:    That’s right. And even though the information has been issued, it was issued at such a late date, I mean in the 1960s I think, and, well, 99 per cent wouldn’t be interested, would they?

Q:    Perhaps not, no. They would now though, wouldn’t they. It takes time for people to wake up to things, even if it’s a bit late. But then perhaps, you were particularly young, I suppose, when they recruited you, were you?

Mr T:    Yes, about eighteen I suppose. 1940, I would have been 18.

Q:    Was that younger than most of the others?

Mr T:    Generally yes, yes, cause, well, some of them were middle aged and older.

Q:    Yes. So like, the one who recruited you?

Mr T:    Oh, Tom Beard, he lived a couple of doors away from me, yes he’d have been, at that time I would have thought in his fifties.

Q:    So they’re obviously long gone. What was his name again, you did tell me?

Mr T:    Tom Beard. He was the sergeant. He lived, three doors away from me. Apparently when he died, his wife found some of the stuff, he’d got no end of stuff, he was a real collector, this bloke, and [laugh], oh yes, he’d got explosives and fuses and God knows what, that the army came along and carted off. Oh dear.

Q:    So you haven’t got a shed full of …

Mr T:    No, all I had was a little wooden box with a length of fuse, it was rapid-burning fuse, and a time pencil [see JG’s photo M2014]. The time pencils, well I’ll have to do you a sketch of that sometime. Pencils, because they were virtually like a pencil. And, with a percussion cap in, to start the fuse off, and there were bands painted round, to signify the approximate time of release. There was a little phial of acid, and a wire holding a spring. You simply pressed the outside tube, which was very very thin copper, to break the phial, and that started burning the wire, and, depended on the thickness of the wire, was the approximate time of starting it off. And if you wanted, there was half-hour, up to about four or five hours I think. So you simply pressed that when you’d set your charge, and off you went, and anything from roughly half an hour to something like four or five hours, it would come off. And that could be used to start an explosive, or, incendiary device.

Q:    So did you use those to practise.

Mr T:    Never actually used one, or at least I didn’t. But they were there, for use. But when we had explosives, we used to have the army type come along and take charge of the explosives, which we did at Boreham gravel pits on one occasion.

He came over, and he said, ‘I’ll show you how a safety fuse’ll burn under water, and he put about a quarter of a pound of plastic explosive, tossed it in, and after a little while, the bubbles came to the top, and after about another half an hour, so did two or three hundred young roach. [laughter] Chelmsford Angling Club had recently re-stocked. They complained, complained, but they couldn’t do anything about it. [laugh] Oh dear.

Q:    Well, I suppose you were, really, you had the run of the place really, you were the elite, you could do [???], couldn’t you.

Mr T:    That’s right, yes. [laugh]

Q:    Did any of your family have an inkling, what you were up to?

Mr T:    No, no I don’t think they did. And, my father wasn’t an enquiring type, nor was my mother really. I had an aunt that was. What she didn’t know, she was going to know if she possibly could, but she didn’t get anything out of me. [laugh]

Q:    Did she ask you then?

Mr T:    Oh, she’d ask, yes. I just used to say I was in the Home Guard, that was it. End of story.

Q:    As you say, the other people in the Home Guard, they sort of knew, what …

Mr T:    They knew that we weren’t in the regular Home Guard, certainly, but I think they just used to assume that we were in the Hatfield lot or something like that. Or we sort of led them in that direction. [laugh]

Q:    So you didn’t … did you find it difficult keeping quiet, or were you …

Mr T:    I don’t recall that we found much difficulty in it, no.

Q:    Well, I suppose it was so obviously necessary that …

Mr T:    That’s right.

Q:    Especially just for a young chap, really, cause presumably your friends of your age and everything were wondering what you were doing.

Mr T:    Well, most of them of my age at that time were probably, well, a lot of them were agricultural workers, and they were about, but quite a number were in the Forces anyhow.

Q:    Of course, yes, yes.

Mr T:    Because when, I was working at Crittall’s at the time, and I was in the office, and as soon as I registered they put me in the works, to keep me reserved. Cause they wanted as many workers as possible.

Q:    So that meant you didn’t go in until …

Mr T:    That’s right, I didn’t go in till I was 21. I got my calling up papers for my air crew medical on my twenty-first birthday. Yes.

Q:    How did you feel about that, then.

Mr T:    I went in, I wanted to be in the Air Force, and I volunteered for air crew when I registered, and I went down on eyesight. Wouldn’t take me anywhere in air crew, because of short sight.

Q:    Oh, I see.

Mr T:    So whatever, if you’re a navigator, often the navigator was the bomb aimer as well, and he’d got to have good eyesight obviously. No good for a pilot because he wanted good eyesight. Air gunner the same. Wireless operator, wireless operator is also an air gunner. They counted me out. But through volunteering and getting chucked out, I still managed to keep in the RAF, because at the time that I went for my medical, they weren’t taking anybody in the RAF except those that were failed air-crew. And they kept[?] me as a wireless operator. And I was on the mobile signals unit, which suited me ideally. Because we went over on the continent about seven or eight weeks after D Day, and we had to get up onto the nearest air strip to the front line, so that the badly wounded were brought back by ambulance to that air strip and then flown back to England. And we dealt with the aircraft that flew them back. The aircraft used to fly casualties back, and then when they came to pick up casualties, they brought in supplies. And we were under canvas virtually all the time, that suited me admirably, because, no, what shall I say, no normal forces discipline. We got on with our job, and, well we dressed in our work clothes, our best uniform was at the bottom of the kit bag and it stayed there. Yes.

Q:    Where exactly was that?

Mr T:    We went over in Normandy for a start.

Mr T:    And then followed up as soon as they really advanced in Normandy, we went up through France, Belgium, Holland, and then I went on an attachment to Copenhagen and Oslo, came back and joined the unit. Yes, very good. And we were at Brussels when the Arnhem do was on. Because there were gliders at the drome at Brussels, took off from there. But before we went over onto the continent, while we were just waiting to go over, virtually, we didn’t know what was going to happen, and we were down in Wiltshire, and they were practising with the gliders there. I think one of those tow ropes, which were nylon, would have made several thousand pairs of nylon stockings.

Q:    We had gliders at Rivenhall …

Mr T:    I don’t know whether they had gliders there or not. (Q: [???]) They might well have done.

Q:    So were you, so really you didn’t have anybody telling you what to do at all then, really?

Mr T:    Not really. We knew our job, we knew what we’d got to do, we were on a shift system, and that was it.

Q:    Were you a sergeant, did you say?

Mr T:    No. [???] Just an ordinary erk as they called them. Leading Aircraftsman.

Q:    Of course the names are all different, I’m not very good on the names. You were Leading Aircraftsman?

Mr T:    Yes. Which, there was, that was one step up from the bottom. [laugh]

Q:    That’s good.

Mr T:    Of course on a unit like that there was just no chance of promotion at all.

Q:    No, quite. It sounds as if you found your niche, really.

Mr T:    That suited me. [???]

Q:    Well, you’ve got more bits.

Mr T:    Oh yes, I’m not very helpful with your list I’m afraid. [JG’s photos M533 and M534 Crittall’s office staff, 1950s]

Q:    Oh, not to worry. I’m wondering if perhaps some of those weren’t local, because not many people know them.

Mr T:    Well, all our chaps were works types. You know, they didn’t know the office people’s names, knew them by sight probably. Oh, and the bandmaster, was Bert Knight.

Q:    Oh was it, yes.

Mr T:    His daughter lives in Terling.

Q:    Oh really?

Mr T:    Dick Messent, I think that’s Bill Messent. I always knew him as Bill. After he retired, he did a bit of work for the nursery on the Wickham Bishops Road, you know the one on the corner?

Q:    Yes, yes. Oh well, that’s helpful.

Mr T:    Dick Chapman. He was always known as Dick, but his initials were A L. There were several people that were called Dick, and their name wasn’t Dick at all.

Q:    Isn’t that odd? Yes.

Mr T:    There was Dick Chapman, his initials were A L. There was Dick Adams, his initials were S A. [laugh].

Q:    Confusing isn’t it. Oh, you’ve got another one, Jack Drury, that’s good, yes.

Mr T:    Yes, yes, if you see Jack Drury on the one photograph, you can recognise him on the other one.

Q:    So, did Bert Knight live in Terling then?

Mr T:    No, he lived at Silver End. There look, there’s Jack Drury. Well, sorry I couldn’t have been more helpful.

Q:    No, every time one gets added, that’s a start.
[chat about Mr T keeping copies, not noted]

Mr T:    The only other office man that I can remember was Harold Walker. He lived up Church Street.

Q:    Oh, you mentioned him, yes.

Mr T:    Yes, but, whether he’d be able to see well enough for that now, I don’t know. Cause he had diabetes when he was very young, cataract operations, he now has fifteen, about fifteen per cent sight in one eye. He’s been like that for years. So whether he’d be able to see well enough for that. But if he goes down the town, he always has to have his wife with him.

Q:    That’s right, yes.

Mr T:    Yes, and he had his cataract operations at the time when they could make an incision, take the natural lens out.

But they couldn’t stitch it, they hadn’t got the skill to stitch it. So he had to lay with his head between sandbags for, I don’t know, something like a fortnight, something like that.

Q:    Yes, things have changed a lot haven’t they.

Mr T:    Oh, in the last … well, I’ve had both cataract operations, and they were eleven years apart, er, because, after I had the first one done, the other one virtually stopped, which they can. And then my surgeon said after about eleven years, he said ‘What about the other eye?’, he said, time you had that one done’. I said, ‘Yes’, I said, ‘but that really stopped, didn’t it.’ He said ‘Yes’, he said, ‘I think we can do that.’ Now, the first time, I was in hospital a week. Er, the second one three days. Then, some time after that, or, no, at the time I had the second one done, he said ‘How do you get on with the contact lenses.’ I said ‘OK, why?’. He said ‘Oh’, he said, ‘we can always put an implant in that one that we did first’. Because, when they did the first one, they just weren’t doing implants at all. And after a couple of years, it begin to play up, so I got in touch with him, and he said ‘Right, come in’. Now bear in mind that I had a week in hospital on the first one, and putting an implant in was virtually a similar operation to actual cataract, and I had my injection at half past nine in the morning, complete with medication I was on my way home at twenty past eleven. [laughter]

Q:    Incredible. So you’re in quite good health, really, then.

Mr T:    Reasonably so, yes, I’ve got glaucoma in my right eye but they caught that at a very very early stage, in fact it was about, after you’ve had an operation, they keep in touch with you monthly for two or three months, and after the second appointment they said ‘Mm, bit of pressure in your eye’. I said ‘Do you mean glaucoma’, he said ‘Yes, afraid so’. And he put me on medication, and that was in ’96, and I can still read the bottom line on the chart, so I mustn’t grumble, must I? (Q: No.) Got a few blank spaces in it but …[laugh].

Q:    You must have told me how often you actually went to the base[?].

Mr T:    Not all that often. No, we used to, it was, sort of practices and on map-reading and that sort of thing. We used to do that at night, with compasses. We were all issued – each section had a prismatic compass, and the thing then was, somebody, one of the seniors of the area, they, Keith Seabrook, or somebody like that, would say ‘Right, start at so and so, 300 yards such and such a degree, 250 yards at so and so, another 200 yards at so and so, where are you?’ It’s surprising really how comparatively accurate you were. Because what we’d do, we’d start off here, and right, we’d know the direction to go, measure your distance, or go as far as anybody could see, and then the next one would go and overlap them, so we sort of leapfrogged along.

Q:    Yes. Sometimes it’s very easy to veer a bit to the side, isn’t it, but if you line up people I suppose, that’s clever.

Mr T:    That’s right, that’s the idea, and of course if there were hedges or anything like that in the way, you see, you’d go round to find a gap, and then line yourself up again.

Q:    So you did, are you saying you didn’t always go to the base when you did all these exercises?

Mr T:    No.

Q:    So this was quite a special occasion when you went down there.

Mr T:    That’s right, yes. We’d probably go there about once a week or once a fortnight, down there.

Q:    Oh, still quite a lot then. Cause otherwise, were you out doing these other practices, how often would that be?

Mr T:    Yes.

Q:    How often would you be doing these other things then?

Mr T:    Couple of times a week, anyhow, yes. And we used to have shooting practice, and we used to that at the Hatfield gravel pits. On the Wickham Bishops road.

Q:    And was that just, did you get together with other groups for that sometimes?

Mr T:    Sorry?

Q:    Would you get together with any of the other groups for anything like that?

Mr T:    Just occasionally we used to get up to the other groups, but er, officially the less you knew about the other groups, the less you were able to tell anybody if you were captured, wasn’t it?

Q:    So if you did go to the base, would that be …

Mr T:    Certainly no other group.

Q:    No. And would that be to practise doing anything particular or just to check that it was all right?

Mr T:    Just checking up, really.

Q:    Everything was there and that sort of thing.

Mr T:    That’s right.

Q:    Was it cold? Did you have any  … must have been quite cold down there.

Mr T:    Well, there was no heating. [laugh]

Q:    No. I suppose you were underground … and what about light, did you have …?

Mr T:    I can’t remember. I suppose the only thing we were capable of having was a torch or something like that.

Q:    I’m sure it was very well organised.

Mr T:    And I’m sure the powers that be didn’t give us much chance [laugh].

Q:    I mean, did you think that yourself?

Mr T:    Never really gave it a thought.

Q:    You didn’t, no.

Mr T:    Young and silly, [???] [laugh]. Eighteen.

Q:    So you weren’t sort of … were you expecting anything, really expecting to be called …

Mr T:    Well, we expected an invasion, didn’t we. (Q: Yes.) Cause all the ordinary Home Guard were called out when they expected the invasion. Because they were invasion craft on the French coast.

Q:    So to that extent, you knew something might happen?

Mr T:    That’s right.

Q:    But you didn’t really …

Mr T:    I suppose we thought, what might happen, will happen.

Q:    I wonder of the older, you don’t know really, how the older chaps felt about it, then?

Mr T:    No. No, I don’t think we ever really discussed it.

Q:    I suppose when you’re in a group you sort of bear each other up, really, don’t you?

Mr T:    That’s right, yes. Got on with our practices and that was it.

Q:    Well, especially this secrecy business, you always assume in a village everybody knows what’s going on.

Mr T:    Yes, that’s true.

Q:    It just must have been so difficult really.

Mr T:    Yes, but I don’t think I experienced any real difficulty about it. Just said we were in the Home Guard. We had to be over at Hatfield a lot, and that was it.

Q:    Yes, I suppose [???]. And of course you had good reason not to be in the Forces because you were at Crittall’s. Presumably there were other people in that position.

Mr T:    Yes. Because there were one or two Crittall workers in the thing, the units.

Q:    Cause I think there was one thing that Molly said was that her [looking for notes] yes, that her father’s family, people used to put white feathers through the door because, again he was reserved because he was agricultural, and that upset his mother.

Mr T:    Oh, yes, it would upset some people, I’ve no doubt, yes. (Q: But again there must have been …) I mean, agricultural people were doing a good job.

Q:    Exactly, yes. I mean obviously there was another reason in his case, presumably because he was in the unit …

Mr T:    Yes, and in the factory [???] as well.

Q:    But presumably somehow the people that were doing the call-up would have known, do you think, that you were in the Resistance?

Mr T:    Sorry?

Q:    Do you think there was, do you think there was an extra reason, do you think they would have known that you were in the Resistance?

Mr T:    No, I don’t think so.

Q:    You don’t think so. So they might have …

Mr T:    Because yes, I mean you were duty bound to keep quiet about it.

Q:    Yes. So you did get called, otherwise they wouldn’t have called you up anyway, would they? No, no.

Mr T:    That’s right.

Q:    You must have learnt a lot of discretion. (Mr T: [laugh] Yes) Oh, that’s impressive, yes. Cause, yes, he [Molly’s father] worked for Fruit Packers, I think she said. She said her father worked for Fruit Packers, Smith, Jim Smith, worked for the Fruit Packers. That was Molly Scott’s father. I think that’s right.

Mr T:    Oh, yes, because I’ve got on that list, what’s his name, Oh yes, Ronald Potts, he was the manager there.

Q:    Oh that’s right, he was the one that recruited him, she said. (Mr T: Oh.) Because Wickham Bishops and Witham seemed to be combined.

Mr T:    Oh, that would have been it, wouldn’t it, that’s right. He’d have known Alec Hammond, I knew Alec Hammond, he was the only one I knew of the Wickham Bishops lot. I knew of this chappie, Davies, because he married a Terling girl, and she’s still alive.

Q:    You don’t know their first names of these other ones?

Mr T:    No. No. I knew most of these Hatfield types. Viv Sorrell was at school with me. Joe Wright, who was the publican at the Duke of Wellington at Hatfield. He and his brother. Les Creasey was at school with me. Bernard Smith, he was secretary of the Hatfield cricket club. But I didn’t know those three. But I’ve since got to know Dennis Williams. And as I say, as far as I’m aware, he’s the only one of the whole lot that’s survived. Apart from myself. Most of them were certainly older than me.

Q:    Yes, I mean I was talking to a chap, last year, who joined the Home Guard when he was sixteen, so of course again he was that much younger [???], that was in Witham. Then he joined up when he was eighteen.

Mr T:    Well, when I first joined the Home Guard, the uniform was an arm band, LDV. [laugh] Local Defence Volunteers.

Q:    So you were in it right at the beginning, then.

Mr T:    Yes. I found your book very interesting. [Images of England, Witham]

Q:    I know you said you’d got some notes.

Mr T:    I told you about Monty Everard, didn’t he. At one time he was at Tudor House in Terling, well that’s almost next door to the church. The back of Tudor House garden is adjoining the churchyard.

Q:    Oh, I think I know what you mean, yes, yes.

Mr T:    It was originally …

Q:    Yes, I’d forgotten …

Tape 207. Miss Irene Springett, side 1

Tape 207

Miss Irene Springett was born c 1915. She was interviewed on 12 June 2006, when she lived at 6 Homefield Road, Witham.

For more information about her, see Springett, Irene, in the People category

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Note: I spoke to Miss Springett on 9 May 2008 about her time at Exall teacher training college, Coventry, to ask if someone who was researching the place could ring her (she said yes. The person was Juliet Amery at Warwick University). Miss S added that teacher training had been set up after the Second World War for people who had been in the forces, and the Trade Unions said what about the people who had already been slaving away in the schools, so they went as well, although she, for instance, had already been working as uncertificated teacher for a number of years. She just made a general application and was allocated to that college. She was there 13 months, the courses were accelerated. She enjoyed it. When she came back she went to Cressing school and became Deputy Head.

Miss S:    You know everything about Witham.

Q:    [laugh] Let’s start at the beginning, were you born in Witham?

Miss S:    Yes. (Q: Oh, were you, where you born?) I’ve lived in Witham all my life. (Q: Whereabouts in Witham were you born?) I was born, my father had a smallholding, it was opposite Bridge Hospital. The house is still there, but of course they were all fields then.

Q:     Oh yes. I know, one of those County Council smallholdings?

Miss S:    That’s right. Evidently, for some reason, the Essex County Council, I don’t know who all the land belonged to, I think there were five. (Q: Yes.) There were five of those smallholdings.

Q:    So that was sufficient to keep him going, was it?

Miss S:    Yes.

Q:    How many were there of you?

Miss S:    My father, mother and me.

Q:    You were the only one?

Miss S:    Yes, I was the only one. [laugh]

Q:    Were they related to the Springetts that lived …

Miss S:    I haven’t any Springett relations as far as I know.

Q:    You haven’t got any Springett relations. There were some other Springetts, weren’t there?

Miss S:    Yes, there have been, yes.

Q:    So, you’ve been here a long time. Did you, you spent all your childhood down there on the smallholding?

Miss S:    Some of it. Then my father was ill, and things got out of hand, so he actually gave it up.

Q:    I see, where did he go to next?

Miss S:    Well, you see, when he went to the smallholding, he, money-wise, he’d got a part-time job as a postman. And then he intended to give it up, you see. But then of course the War came [Second World War]. Things were all very different.

Q:    So what did he do during the War?

Miss S:    Well, he didn’t do anything there, because he’d got the smallholding. He had to grow food for the troops. [laugh]

Q:    You went to school in Witham, did you?

Miss S:    I went to the Maldon Road school, then I won a scholarship when I was ten, and I went to Braintree High School. (Q: That was something special, wasn’t it?) Yes [laugh].

Q:    How did you feel about going there?

Miss S:    I was excited, I think, as far as I can remember. I think it was my idea, I went home, as far as what my mother told me, I went home, the headmaster had said something about taking an exam and going to a special school somewhere, you see, and mother found out about it, and would I like to take it, and I said yes, so I did. I was lucky to get through. (Q: Not lucky, I’m sure.) [laugh]

Q:    Did you like being at Braintree?

Miss S:    Oh, I enjoyed my schooldays, I really did.

Q:    So when you left school?

Miss S:    Oh, I became a teacher. I hate mentioning the word teacher these days (Q: Do you?). There’s so much in education, and the children, everything was so different.

Q:    So how did you go about becoming a teacher? How did you get your training?

Miss S:    Well, in those days, you could do your training before you went to college. I didn’t go to college straight away. (Q: I see. So where were you, where did you go first?) I taught in the same school where I’d begun, yes. (Q: How lovely.) No, I lost my, the first job, I was appointed to a school in Dunmow, and I went for the interview, of course things were, well I don’t know, I was sent there by the County, for the job there, you see. And so, it was a Church of England school, and of course I was a Congregationalist, but I answered all the questions, and I would be willing to teach, you know, the Church of England creed and all the rest of it in school and that, you see, no bother. And so I turned up on the first day of term, and lo and behold there was another girl turned up for the same job. (Q: No.) I mean, it was amazing. And the poor headmaster, they had a new headmaster. He’d been teaching Red Indians or something, I think, in Canada, and so he got the job without, but mind you he was a lay reader in the Church of England, you see, and it was a Church School, so that’s how he got it. He, poor man, he must have wondered whatever was happening when two girls turned up. And it was this girl’s first job, and mine, you see. But, what had happened, was that the Vicar, I suppose, she was a local girl, and he heard about her, you see, and, how they could wangle things in, I don’t know.

So the two of us, we stayed there with this class, and the headmaster naturally got into contact with the County, and in those days, there was a Division in Braintree, they had, part of the County in there. And so the message came back to him, would I, on my way back home to Witham, would I call in at the office in Braintree. And, I had actually seen this man, he came to my interview, the District, whatever he was called at that time. And so I went back to see him, and he pointed out that the job was mine, I’d been appointed by the County. But he could foresee problems, because evidently the Vicar didn’t want me, but, I mean he didn’t go about the right way of things, did he? (Q: Course not, no.) And he advised me not to take the job, let the girl have it, and he said ‘We will see that you get …’, you know. And I was only home a few days, and I was told to report at Maldon Road, where they wanted a teacher, you see. So it was lucky, really. But it’s amazing, these days, to think things like that could happen.

Q:     Yes. And so you taught there for, to start with, and then you went to college, you say?

Miss S:    That’s right, and then I went, after a while I went to Cressing, I finished up as a Deputy Head at Cressing.

Q:    Whereabouts did you go to college?

Miss S:    Exhall College, in Coventry.

Q:    Oh, yes. So, how long were you at Maldon Road for?

Miss S:    Till 1948. (Q: You were there, teaching there during the War?) I was there in the War, yes.

Q:    So, can you remember about the Wartime at school?

Miss S:    [laugh] Well, we taught them were in the classroom, but of course, if there was a red alert, we were in the shelters. And you couldn’t do anything much in the shelters. I mean, you couldn’t, all you could do would be mental arithmetic, read them stories, spellings, that’s all you could, you couldn’t do any written work or anything. (Q: No, no. So that happened quite often, did it?) Yes, it did. I mean there were no, we had no bombs, we heard a bump, you know, from further away, but you had to be there. And of course in the War, they started school dinners. They hadn’t had school dinners before that. And the dinners were cooked at Spinks Lane, what is now Bramstons, you see. And they were brought to the school in containers, but the children, you see, were not allowed out of the shelters if there was a red alert. They were not allowed out of the shelters to go and fetch their dinners. So you can imagine, the teachers, and one or two mothers came in, and so we took the dinners from where they were dished up, to the children in the shelters. And they just had to eat them, on their knees. Oh. That went on, you see, all those years. [laugh].

Q:    I didn’t that realise that was when school dinners started.

Miss S:    Yes, well, some schools, I expect large schools had school dinners, but, that’s how we started with them.

Q:    So when you were at the Control Centre, that was … (Miss S: Also in the War.) outside of, that was evenings, was it?

Miss S:    Yes, at, as far as I can remember, it must have been right at the beginning of the War. They had a public meeting in the Public Hall, arranged by the ARP, Air Raid Precautions people, you see. And we were, well, people were asked to go, of course everybody didn’t go, otherwise the Public Hall wouldn’t have held them all, but anyway, a lot of us turned up. And we were told the different jobs that would be needed during the War, you see, there was First Aid at the First Aid post, plenty of Wardens, of course. Demolition squads. And Report Centre people. All these jobs were explained to us, you see, what they were. And they asked people to volunteer for what they was able to do, you see. And there was no-one, course everybody eventually had to do something, unless they were mothers looking after children at home. But, a friend and I, we were teaching in the same school by that time. And so, we thought about it, and we didn’t, neither of us liked First Aid, we didn’t want anything to do with that. Well, the demolition squads would be men, of course, and we thought about Wardens and Firewatching, well that’d be all right in the summer time, we could imagine when there was snow and that, we didn’t like that at all. So we thought the best thing we could do was to settle for a Report Centre, which we did. (Q: Oh!) And so eventually that’s what we did. We went on every fourth night, from 10 till 6. (Q: Overnight?) Yes.

And we were housed in the old Police Station, you see [now site of Millfield Court]. And so were some of the demolition squad, too. (Q: Down Guithavon Street?) That’s right, yes. And officially we were, two of us, there were four of us, there were two men and we two girls, we had 10 till 2, we could go to bed, and then change over at 2 o’clock, 2 till 6, you see. But if there was an amber, not red, we might get an amber before the red, we all had to be up and on duty, you see. And of course we hardly ever got any sleep, because it was disturbed, you see, it might only be on for half an hour, well, went[?] back[?]. And of course, where we slept, police cells. (Q: Did you really?) Yes, we did. Cold as ice. There were three. Whether there were any more, in the Demolition side of the building, I’ve no idea, but there were three cells, and one had been made, had got a sort of counter, and it was made, of a little kitchen where we could make cups of tea, and that sort of thing. And then there was the one where we worked in, and they’d got a counter either side, a very narrow, we could, we weren’t large girls, we could pass one another there. And there was the in-telephonist one side, and the out-telephonist the other, you see. Well, I was the in-telephonist, and she was the out one. And then the next one, were two little beds, I’m sure they couldn’t have been ordinary size camp beds, so we could sleep on those when we were not on duty. We were given a big grey army blanket, you see, to cover us up. Later, later on in the War, a room upstairs, a proper room upstairs, I don’t know what they’d used it for before, became empty, so we were able to have our little truckle beds up there, you know. But I shouldn’t think we ever slept our proper four hours.

Q:    If you knew you had to wake up at that time, it would be difficult anyway, wouldn’t it?

Miss S:    Yes, it would, yes, mm.

Q:    And if there was a, how often about was there a red alert?

Miss S:    I should say nearly every night. (Q: Oh really?) Not necessarily for long, you know, no. Well, if there was an amber, that came through on the telephone, where the two men were, before the red, and we had to be up for that, so we were up by the time the red came through, although sometimes we got an amber, and then there wasn’t a red at all, but we were up.

Q:    I see. (Miss S: Mm.) And so you, most nights you would get a phone call or two from someone, would you?

Miss S:    Yes, well, we covered all the villages round Witham, you see. And so if a bomb dropped, we had a message from the Warden that came through, and it had to be sent on to Braintree, which was the Headquarters, you see, and so on, with various – I received the ‘in’, and I’d got a pad of forms, and the Wardens had the same sort of forms. Whether they filled them in before they sent the message, I don’t know. And the first one was, oh, well, the place of, oh, the word’s gone from me now – (Q: Sorry, go on.) where the actual bomb took place – place of occurrence, you see. (Q: Oh, I see.) And one or two times I would say ‘place of …’, that was the first question, and he answered, and I asked the next question, and he, or it could have been a lady that answered, and I got more than once from way out in the villages, ‘Speak plain English, ma’am.’ [laugh].

Q:    Cause I’ve seen those forms. They’ve got them all at County, at Chelmsford, great big books of them.

Miss S:    Oh yes, I expect they’ve kept them. That’s right, you see. So I filled up my form, passed it to my friend Sylvia, and she sent the messages on to Braintree. And we could get a message sometimes through the, from the First Aid Post or somewhere else, but in the main, it was whenever there was a …mmm.

Q:    So they were mostly ARP people that phoned?

Miss S:    Yes, oh yes, they were, they wouldn’t be anybody else, no.

Q:    Did they ever come in with, to tell you what was going on, or was it always the telephone?

Miss S:    It was always the phone. Except when there was a, part of a basket of fire, what you would call them, I wouldn’t know, fire bombs. (Q: Incendiaries?) Incendiaries, that’s right, they came in the yard that separated the Crown from our building, you see, and they, a few scattered, and they went under the Demolition lorry, or there, we did have a, not real ambulance, but a van that had been made into a makeshift one. And so we had one actually on the premises that time. And, couple or three men went to hospital, because they were, raking them out, you see, from under, under the vehicles. But otherwise it was all telephone, outside-in.

Q:    Yes, cause I think I read about, that there were some dropped near the Centre. (Miss S: Yes, yes.) Cause, was there a house in Highfields Road that was damaged, Mrs Hodge’s, in one of those, which wasn’t that far from you, was it?

Miss S:    No. The only other time, when I was actually on duty, one night they had, near the end of the War, they had a Land Mine, that dropped at Rivenhall. And the message came through, normally, by the Warden, but then also another message came through, that there was a man in the Demolition Squad, whose wife lived in a house near where it had dropped, and she was pregnant, and the shock of it, it sort of started things on, and she’d been taken off to hospital, and so, message to get to him, because he was with the Demolition Squad [laugh]. (Q: It must have been very hard work …) But the next morning, that was a Saturday, the next morning, well, at the same time that that man’s mine dropped, one dropped at, where Templars School is now, but it didn’t explode. And the next morning, apparently a man was interested in it, and got under the rope that was cordoned it off, and looked down the hole, and it went off. He was killed, of course. (Q: Mr Burmby?) That’s right, that’s the name. Mm. (Q: So that would be in the day-time, so …) Oh, that was the next morning, mm.

Q:    So you would only get the messages in the night … (Miss S: Night time, yes.) You could read what had happened during the day, if you wanted, could you? (Miss S: Oh yes, you could know that, yes.) That was a terrible thing, wasn’t it. (Miss S: Yes.) So then you went off to work again, in the morning?

Miss S:    Yes, that’s right, got home at six, changed my clothes, of course we didn’t undress at night or anything, changed my clothes and had a good wash, had my breakfast and went off to school. I don’t know how I did it, but, on one occasion, it only happened once, I was taking needlework with some girls, you see, and I was sitting on the chair, and they were sitting at their desks, for their needlework, you see, and I sort of, I came to, and I could see all these eyes looking at me, and one girl said ‘Miss Springett, you were asleep.’ [laugh] I don’t suppose it was more than a moment or two. [laugh]

Q:     No. Oh dear. I’m not surprised. That was expecting a lot, wasn’t it. (Miss S: Yes.) What about your, the other girl, did she work in the day-time?

Miss S:    Oh yes, she was a teacher at the same school.

Q:    Oh she was the one that was from the same school? (Miss S: Yes.) So there were two of you on, always two of you there, were there? But then you had every fourth night? [i.e. on every fourth.] (Miss S: Every fourth night, yes.) So there must have been eight, eight altogether, people?

Miss S:    There were four of us in our squad. (Q: In your squad?) Yes. There were two men and we two girls. And one of the men, he must have been in his, he must have been in his fifties then, he owned the sweet shop which is now Michelle’s [probably 13 Newland Street], it was called King’s, W E King, I think his name was, and he owned that shop, he and his wife, his wife sold wools and whatnot, and he had the sweet shop side. And every time he came in, he brought us a little bag of sweets. He’d evidently gone around the bottles and taken one from here, there and everywhere, you know, so it wouldn’t …, all through the War, it was only a little bag, you know, we could eat while we were there. But, you know, we had those.

Q:    So he was there at the same, the two men were there at the same time as you? (Miss S: Yes.) And, what were they doing?

Miss S:    Well, the one of them, he was our Squad Leader, and he was the one who kept at the telephone in the other room, away from us. And, the messages came to him first, you see, and anything that came in, apart from the Wardens sending messages in, came to him. And the other one, this little man who had the sweet shop, there was a big map on the wall, of the whole area, you see, and he had to put, as soon as a message came in, he had to pin it on the wall, where it had come in, you know, and keep that going all the time.

Q:    So, who was the one who was the chief one?

Miss S:    He was an insurance agent, he lived in Braintree Road, and he was about the same age, I suppose. (Q: Do you remember his name?) Mason, his name was.

Q:    So he, the messages came in to him, first, normally?

Miss S:    There was an amber alert, and so when we were all at our posts, you see. To me, it was always the Wardens sending in, I didn’t get any other messages, from Braintree, because he was attached to the Braintree telephone, you see.

The only ones that came into me were from the Wardens.

Q:    So he would get them from, (Miss S: From Braintree. )telling them there was an alert?

Miss S:    Yes, he would get the first message that there was an amber, and, of course red followed amber, but it, sometimes it didn’t.

Q:    So, did they use the siren to tell people? (Miss S: Oh yes.) But did they, did the siren sound for the amber, or for the red?

Miss S:    No, it didn’t, the siren only sounded for the red.

Q:    Was that at the Police Station? Whereabouts was the siren?

Miss S:    I think it was at the new Police Station [in Newland Street].

Q:    I see. The new one, of course. (Miss S: Yes.) So, were you frightened at all? (Miss S: No.) Just part of the job? [Miss S laughs] I suppose you got to know all the Wardens by … (Miss S: Their voices, yes.) Voices. Yes. Can you remember, I suppose the worst bombs, apart from the ones we talked about, were at Crittall’s? (Miss S: Well, Crittall’s was bombed, of course.) Do you remember that, were you on duty? (Miss S: No, that was in the daytime.) Cause I was surprised, reading those forms, how many there were out in the countryside.

Miss S:    Yes. Well, I suppose, really, the, it was the planes coming back from bombing London, and they’d got a few bombs to spare and they just dropped them. (Q: Must have been, I suppose.) Must have been like that.

Q:     Strange places where they fell. So what happened, when the ARP first, what did they usually do after one of these bombs had dropped in the countryside some way off?

Miss S:    Well, the, they explained, you see, any damage, any fire, and damage to houses, buildings, and the only damage that they had to farmhouses or cottages, sometimes the windows were blown out, you see, and that kind of thing. There was no serious damage (Q: No.) out in the countryside.

Q:    So they didn’t have to send people out straight away, or anything?

Miss S:    No. The only time that there was, the land mine at, but no-one was hurt, but they were shocked, because it wasn’t very far from the houses, somewhere near the Church, at Rivenhall. (Q: Yes.) I mean it wasn’t an onerous job, but it was just regular, and you had to be there, and … It was preferable to, we laughed amongst ourselves, Sylvia and I, because we had to do a course in First Aid, of course neither of us liked it, we went to, during the day of course, we went to Bridge, Bridge Home, as it was called then [Hatfield Road], and we did this course of about ten weeks, just a very general course, we had to do that. And we had to go through the gas van with our gas masks on. [laugh] (Q: Did you? Through the gas, van did you say?)  Yes, that’s what we called it, yes, it really was, I think it probably was a converted van of some kind, and it was just meant for that, to, for people who were, I suppose all the Wardens, everybody connected with the ARP had to go through the gas van.

Q:    What, did it actually have …?

Miss S:    They had actual gas, oh yes. (Q: Oh, so that you were …?) Oh they did, yes, oh yes.

Q:    Oh I see, I’ve never heard that before, that’s interesting. [Miss S laughs] And the demolition men, what did, what were they, they were on duty all the time as well, were they?

Miss S:    Whether they, I don’t know how many men, because there was a very thick door, between, and they never, they weren’t allowed to come through to us, well of course we didn’t go through to them. But whether they went, had any beds and whatnot, and went on a half-duty or not, I just don’t know. When we went on at ten o’clock at night, we could have supper, and one, of we four, we didn’t want a supper at ten o’clock, anything we’d had to eat, we’d had at home. But they did, you could smell bacon cooking, and things like that, through the door. So I should imagine probably those men who were on the Demolition Squad, some of them had a supper when they came in, you know. [laugh]

Q:    So you didn’t really see them very much. Cause the fire station was, one of the fire stations … (Miss S: Just down the road, yes.) [corner of Guithavon Street and Mill Lane] Was there a, was it a shelter, for the firemen? I mean on the piece of grass, on the corner. (Miss S: Oh yes.) Was that like an air raid shelter or something? Perhaps you don’t remember that. Miss S:     I don’t remember that. Course we had a uniform (Q: Oh did you?) [laugh]

We were given, dungarees, you know, all the way through, with ARP on the pocket. (Q: Yes.) And, a very thick heavy overcoat for the winter, and of course a tin hat. (Q: I see. And you had to wear the tin hat …?) We were expected to wear these dungarees every time we went on duty, but if it was hot in the summer time, I’m afraid we didn’t always. And of course we didn’t wear the coats in the, in the summer. (Q: No. What about the hat?) We always wore the tin hat.

Q:     Did you? I suppose that was to protect you? (Miss S: Yes. ) Cause everyone else was rushing off to the shelters, and you were still stuck there by the telephone, presumably?

Miss S:    Yes, yes. [laugh]

Q:    That didn’t bother you at all?

Miss S:    No, no, it didn’t, no. The only thing that bothered me was, didn’t really, because, I wasn’t thinking about being killed, or injured and that, except I thought of the house collapsing on one, and being buried underneath it, you know. (Q: But you didn’t …?) I wasn’t really, no. (Q: You were obviously very …) Cause when they, when the siren went during school hours, parents could come and collect their children and take them home, if they wanted to. Well, of course they would only be parents who lived near the school. And at first, there were quite a few mothers who came along and collected their children and took them home, but it came to, one mother who was a very very nervous woman, and she said, her little girl, she, I suppose, this little girl, she was seven or eight, I suppose, and she said, ‘Mummy’, she said, ‘I don’t, I don’t want to, to come home, when that siren goes, I’m quite all right, everybody’s safe at school, you know.’ [laugh]

Q:    Probably was better off there, wasn’t she?

Miss S:    Yes, but of course, naturally, the mothers felt that they wanted their children near them, but, as the years went on, I don’t think any mothers came to collect. (Q: No?) And only time they did, if the, the red alert was over school leaving time, you see, school finished at four, and if we were still in the shelters, we had to of course, keep the children there, unless their parents came to fetch them. And then we could let them go, but otherwise, we had to wait, and one afternoon, and that was the only afternoon I remember, we had a long period, we were there till five. (Q: Oh?) But by five, most of the children had been collected, most of them.

Q:    Yes, cause that was awkward, wasn’t it, if the alert went …? (Miss S: Yes, yes.) Who was the head then? (Miss S: Mr Care.) Mr Care, oh yes.

Miss S:    Oh of course, well we all knew the sound of the aeroplanes, and you could hear them in the shelters, although of course it was a bit muffled, and, the children would say ‘Oh, that’s a Messerschmitt’, ‘No, it isn’t, that’s a Heinkel’, you know, they’d have an argument. [laugh] ‘Oh no, that’s one of ours.’  (Q: Really?) [laugh]

Q:    That must have been rather arduous. What sort of, how long would you have been there for any one trip to the shelters? (Miss S: Period of time?) Were you there for half an hour, three hours, or did it …?

Miss S:    Oh, well, yes, you never knew, you might have been in there only, might have just got in and settled down, and the all clear sounded, and out you went, you see. But it could be half an hour, an hour, two or three hours. But on this occasion, I think we were there nearly all day on this one particular, when we were there till five.

Q:    Was there a, was it light in the shelters?

Miss S:    Well, there was one little light in the shelter, and of course, children needed to go to the toilet, and so, there were two toilets, one for boys and one for girls, and, no doors were allowed, so there was an army blanket, and of course, by the end of the day, you know, it didn’t, [laugh], it didn’t keep the odours out, I’m afraid. (Q: Oh, dear.) And of course there’s, I mean, we were all the same, because there were no chairs or anything there, we, we staff, we sat on the, on the benches the same as the children. I mean they were made of concrete, of course, just concrete benches, and every child brought a cushion to school, and so if a red alert came, I mean they were like a little army, pick up your gas mask and your cushion, and, in, when it was cold weather, they had their coats on the backs of their seats, you see, pick them up and out. It was really orderly, you know, they knew the drill. [laugh] Yes.

Q:    Do you remember what, the dinners, was that affected by the rationing at all? They got their dinners in addition to their rations at home?

Miss S:    Oh yes, yes. [laugh] Sometimes they had fish pie, and it was tinned pink salmon, stirred round in mashed potato, and the children, you know, they’d pick out the little pieces of pink and put round the dish, and say ‘I’ve got ten, I’ve got …’ [laugh] And the sausages, I always remember war-time sausages, they were awful. We always wondered what was in them. [laugh] The skins were so tough. (Q: Were they?) Yes, we had to sort of cut them, cause some of the children, they couldn’t manage, you know. Oh, long, long ago.

Q:    So they were cooked up at Bramston and brought round? (Q: Yes.) It would be difficult to keep them warm that long, wouldn’t it? (Miss S: Yes.) Well they still, they do that sort of thing nowadays. There were some, I remember reading about the British Restaurant, so you remember anything about that?

Miss S:    Oh yes, there were. Yes, I believe, yes, there was one, I think it was, I think it was at the Methodist Church. I won’t be certain of that, but I …

Q:    Cause where were you living then?

Miss S:    I was living in Cressing Road then. (Q: With your parents?) Yes.

Q:    So you went up, did you go to Cressing Road when they were new, all new houses there, or …?

Miss S:    I’m not sure when they were built. This bungalow [Homefield Road] was built in 1934. So they told me, Mr Jones told me, when I moved in. 1934.

Q:    How long have you been here, then?

Miss S:    1987. (Q: Oh, yes. It’s very nice, isn’t it?) Yes, yes, it’s big enough for one.

Q:    So you had to, did you cycle or anything, or did you walk everywhere?

Miss S:    Oh no, I had a bicycle, and then later on I had a car. (Q: So you …) One morning, well, Mr King, he walked up into the town, because he lived behind the shop in the High Street, but the other three of us, we, we had cycles, you see, so, course that’s on the hill, isn’t it, the old Police Station, you go down to the bottom, cycle along the Valley. And, darkness, and we had little teeny-weeny lights on our bicycles, hardly any use at all, you see, and, I got on my bike and, thought I was going down the hill, and I’d evidently gone straight across the road, and I hit the kerb. [laugh] (Q: Oh dear!) And I called out to the other two, who happened to be behind me, ‘I think I’ve hit a bomb!’ [laugh] So we all got off and had a sort of, I’d just gone straight across instead of going down the hill. Ah.

Q:    I suppose you couldn’t have strong lights, anyway, because of the, was the black-out fairly strict in the War?

Miss S:    Oh, very strict, yes, very strict, mm.

Q:    So, did that affect your bike lights as well?

Miss S:    Yes, oh yes, it did.

Q:    Those things you don’t think about nowadays. So you must have been quite a well-known person, by the time you’d taught all those children?

Miss S:    I don’t know. [laugh]

Q:    Do you still see some of your pupils?

Miss S:    Occasionally. Of course, the worst thing is, you know, if you don’t remember them, because they expect you remember everybody, you see. You can’t always remember. And of course, the ones I taught in Witham are now white-haired and so on, you see, retired themselves now. And of course I don’t see the Cressing ones very often, because they go to Braintree rather than Witham.

Q:    I think Malcolm told me you were 91, is that right? (Miss S: Yes.) Ah. You’d never know. [Miss S laughs] You keep well?

Miss S:    Yes. Of course, as you get older you have all sorts of things happen to you, but anyway, reasonably well, mm. I don’t see all that well, but, yes, I have my little bits and pieces that’ll live with me for ever, but you just, carry on. But yes, reasonably well.

Q:    Yes, oh, well, that’s very interesting. [???] You enjoyed teaching, did you?

Miss S:    Oh yes. (Q: All that length of time?) Although, by the time I retired, education was changing. Well, it began to change immediately after the War, you see, new ideas came in, a lot of them were good ones. But then towards the end, I mean, most teachers were saying ‘Well, we don’t know where education is going’. And so by the time I retired, I was quite glad to retire. And of course it’s gone.

Q:    Were you always in the Congregational Church, going back to … (Miss S: Yes.) Cause the Maldon Road [school] originally was Congregational. (Miss S: We’re URC now, you see. Yes, it was Congregational.) So it’s probably suited, did it suit you better going to a different school, then, you think, anyway?

Miss S:    Oh yes. But of course I was just sent. Young teachers were sent there.

Q:    Did you do a lot at the Church?

Miss S:    Oh yes, I did when I was younger, yes.

Q:    What sort of things did you do?

Miss S:    [laugh] Anything that was going, that needed to be done, I suppose. [laugh]

Q:    Did they have choirs and [???] and things like that? (Miss S: Oh yes.) Do you still go there now? (Miss S: Yes I go, I just go on Sunday, of course I don’t go to anything else.) So, it sounds as if that made quite a difference at one time, then, if the Vicar didn’t want you to go to Dunmow, because of the Church?

Miss S:    Well, of course, the Church of England schools were really, later on, Church of, it became what was called Voluntary Aided. And then they were not so directly under the auspices of the Vicar. But the Vicar had a great deal of say in their Church schools, and naturally, when he had this young girl in the area, round about Dunmow, who was due to take her first job, of course he preferred her to … He didn’t know anything about either of us, I suppose, you see, as to what sort of teachers we would be. But that, that headmaster that came from Canada, in later years, because I used, I’m a member of the NUT, and I used to go to District meetings, well he came in from Dunmow to Braintree, and we went in from Witham, you see, there. And so, I met him, and I got to know him quite well, and he said he didn’t know what he was doing that first day. [laugh] But he was a very nice man, I got to know him quite well.

Q:    Oh, so you were quite active in the NUT, did most teachers go to the meetings ?

Miss S:    Not really. I didn’t at the beginning, but as I grew older I did, I went to NUT meetings, yes. Cause we covered Halstead, Dunmow and Witham, into Braintree, you see, so usually our meetings were in Braintree, except for the one in the summer term, and that took, to go out in the wider area, you see. Mm.

Q:    So did you ever have any, were you a local representative, or a committee person, or anything, in the NUT?

Miss S:    Mm, not on the NUT. I, funny sort of title, I was a B and O secretary. [laugh] Benevolent and Orphan fund, for the district. They always referred to it as the B and O. Well, of course we know what B and O used to be in the olden days.

Q:    So it was Benevolent and Orphans? (Miss S: Mm.) Oh, so you were quite involved, then, with what was going on?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, a bit.

Q:    Cause Braintree was bigger, quite a lot bigger than Witham in those days? (Miss S: Yes, it was, yes, mm.) So, going back to the Report Centre, I wonder why they didn’t get the people to phone the stuff straight to Braintree? (Miss S: I don’t know.) I suppose they thought if anything needed doing, you would be …

Miss S:    Yes. I always remember, when we went to that First Aid Course that we had to go, and, the man who gave the course, and the lectures, of it, and when he referred to Incendiary bombs, he always called them Insanitary Bombs. [laugh] And I wonder, wonder, didn’t correct him, because he didn’t just take us. When he’d taken us as a course, he did others, you see. And we used to sit there and wait for him. He was talking about what we did, you know, if Insanitary bombs fell. Oh, it was funny. (Q: You didn’t like to say?) No, I didn’t, no.

Q:    Did you ever have to do any?

Miss S:    Well, we had to know how to put a triangular bandage on, and some other bandage, things like that. What to do if anyone was choking, erm, just general bandaging and so on, you know, to pass what, to pass to somebody and do a bit more, but to do sort of, a little bit at the beginning, but … But why we, because, unless something had hit the Police, the old Police Station, we wouldn’t be involved. But, it was just one of those things, we had to take the courses.

Q:    I’ve got a picture, I should have brought it, I’ll drop it in another time, with various ARP people on, and so on. [JG’s photo M1834] See if you know anybody that nobody else … I’ve got quite a lot of the names on it, but, I can’t remember whether you’re on it, or not. Of course you probably wouldn’t be, if it’s the ARP. It can’t be all, there must have been a lot of Wardens, were there?

Miss S:    Oh yes, cause there were Wardens in every street, really, weren’t they?

Q:    Yes, this must just be the chief ones, on the picture, then. (Miss S: Probably, mm.) So, your, was your father still working in the War time. (Miss S: Oh yes.) But he was, he’d given up the …

Miss S:     He’d given up the smallholding and he was, a full-time postman by that time. Course he was older, because when I was born, he was 41, so he wasn’t a young man to start with. Mm. So, oh I think the, wasn’t the head man of the whole ARP, Norman Dixon? I think he …. (Q: Yes, I think you’re right. Barnardiston House.) That’s right, that’s right, yes.

Q:    Yes, he’s in the picture. Did you have an get-togethers with them, or anything? You never really met most of them, presumably?

Miss S:     No. Norman Dixon, he would walk in sometimes, you know, to see if everybody was doing what they should be, and so on. He walked in one evening, night, and I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea, you see. And he stood there and he said ‘You know you’ve not making the tea correctly.’ So, I sort of looked at him, and he said ‘You should always warm the pot before you make the tea.’ [laugh] I, I said, ‘I know that’, I said, ‘but I’m not at an afternoon party, I’m here’, ARP, you know. [laugh] He was an old woman, he really was.

Q:    So he really meant it, he wasn’t …

Miss S:     Oh yes. I remember him walking in there. And he used to walk ‘flop flop flap’, you know, with his feet out. I mean we used to laugh about Norman Dixon. (Q: Did you?) Mm [laugh]

Q:    I’m sure you were always behaving yourselves, anyway, so he didn’t need to …

Miss S:    Oh no, he didn’t. That was the only thing, that I wasn’t making the tea properly [laugh]

Q:    Cause I think, he was the one that lived in Barnardiston House, I think he’s in the middle of this picture.

Miss S:    Yes, and then he lived in Collingwood Road after that. (Q: Did he?) Yes, because, he was engaged to a Miss Brown, that’s right, and they were going to live in Collingwood Road. Well it, you know, the engagement was broken off, and he continued, he lived there on his own. Mm, latterly.

Q:    You’ve got a good memory, haven’t you, all these things coming back to you?

Miss S:    Yes, it’s really funny how some little thing is said, or happens somewhere, and you think about it, it brings back a whole, a lot of things, you know.

Q:    Cause I suppose when Crittall’s was bombed …

Miss S:    It was just, I was talking to a friend, last week I went into Morrison’s, and they had bags of, they’d got them, ‘peas in the pod’, yes I think that’s what they called them, you see. And I thought, ‘Well, I don’t suppose they’re very good’, you know, but then, standing there, looking, ‘Shall I buy one or shall I not’, came into my mind, as a child, the first peas we had from the garden, and the first potatoes, my mother always cooked with fried bacon. The very first ones. And I can see it now, her tipping up the frying pan, and pouring the fat, you know, over our peas and potatoes. Course, we had them as an ordinary vegetable with a dinner, but the very first one, and standing there, I was thinking about that, and of course I bought a packet of peas. They were quite nice, but they didn’t taste like the ones when I was young. [laugh]

Q:    Presumably came, did he grow them on the smallholding? (Miss S: That’s right, yes.) So what happened to the, hopefully he made more than, he grew more than you could eat, so it went off somewhere?

Miss S:    Oh yes, actually, besides the actual field, the smallholding, we had a garden. Father always grew things for us to eat in the garden. Because originally, when he took over the smallholding, his intention was to grow flower seeds, and he’d even, he’d got the contract and everything like that, you see. And so I suppose he did for one season, and then he was not allowed to, he had to grow food.

Q:     I see.

Miss S:    So he grew, I can remember potatoes, runner beans, peas, cabbages, and, then eventually he went back, partly, not completely, to flower seeds, and did some. And he also grew strawberries.

Q:     So you were well-fed? (Oh yes, yes.) Did he have anyone to help him?

Miss S:    He did most of it, but mother helped him. He employed, well Mr Pelly at the Lodge, he used to do contract work, and so he employed, he had him to do the ploughing and that kind of thing, but after that it was Father and Mother really, except for the women who came to pick up the potatoes, and do things like that.

Q:    Quite hard work, I should think?

Miss S:    Very hard work, I think it must have been very hard work.

Q:    [looking at tape recorder] Still going. Just turn it over.

Side 2

[for some reason starts with a short bit of someone else, I must have been re-using an old tape. Miss S starts at 1.2 minutes]

Q:    What was your parents’ first names?

Miss S:    Father was Charles Robert, and mother was Emily Alice.

Q:    Did they come from Witham?

Miss S:    No, they came from Rivenhall.

Q:    I see. So that’s, as you say, they’re nothing to do with the Witham Springetts? (Miss S: No.) When did they come to Witham?

Miss S:    19-, it was March, before the War broke out.

Q:     Oh that’s it, I see. So you were …

Q:     I was just about on the way.) Just about on the way, I’m doing my sums here. 91, 2006. Yes.

Miss S:    I was born December 1914, you see.

Q:    Can’t be many people, not many people around who were still, can you remember, you were too small to remember anything about the First World War, weren’t you, you’d be four when it finished, I suppose.

Miss S:    Yes, there was one thing that I used to say I remembered, but my mother always said that I couldn’t have remembered it because I was only about two and a half. And so it’s possibly what my mother told me. Of course Zeppelins came towards London, and mostly they came at night, but there was one coming along, why my mother ran in fear, because there was, well they didn’t travel all that fast, and they was coming like at the bottom of the field, so she wasn’t in danger, Father, I don’t know where Father was at this time. And she picked me up and ran across the field to the next one, you see, next person. But mother said ‘You can’t remember that, you were only about two and a half’. So I probably didn’t, but I, I remembered being in my mother’s arms, and she was running, cause mother didn’t run. [laugh] But I do remember the end of the War, because there were searchlights, they couldn’t have been in London, but that way, and walked across the road to the Bridge Home, as it was called, and people from down in Bridge Street and so on came as well, to see all these searchlights criss-crossing in the sky. The War was over, you see. And, I can remember seeing those, when I was, the War ended, I was just on four. So, I can remember that. Yes.

Q:    For some people, times were quite hard after the War, weren’t they? (Q: Yes.) I suppose the postman, the postman’s job was reasonably steady? (Miss S: Yes, oh yes.) So you stayed at the smallholding till, some time between the Wars? (Miss S: Yes, that’s right.) Yes, I’ve seen, there’s still one of the, there’s quite a few of the houses from the smallholdings still left, but nobody knows what they are nowadays, I don’t think, do they? (Miss S: No.) There’s one opposite Howbridge, Howbridge Hall?

Miss S:    Howbridge, that one is still standing, the one, opposite Howbridge Hall, there’s one there. There was one along Maltings Lane going out towards Hatfield Road, that’s not there any longer. Pondholton, there wasn’t, the name Pondholton is evidently named …

Oh, something perhaps you could tell me, someone asked me a question the other day. She said ‘Do you know why Dancing Dicks Farm was called Dancing Dicks?’. [on back road to Terling, from Blunts Hall Road]

Q:    I’ve been asked that, but nobody seems to know.

Miss S:    She knew that I was interested in Witham, and knew quite a bit about Witham, you see. And her husband worked for Lord Rayleigh. This is some years ago, cause she must be in her mid-seventies, this lady, and they lived in one of the Dancing Dicks cottages, apparently. And she said, ‘You’re interested in Witham and its history, aren’t you?’ I said ‘Yes’. She said ‘Well, can you tell me why Dancing Dicks is called Dancing Dicks?’ She’s asked some people, I don’t know who. And I said ‘Well, no, I’ve always known the name, but, no idea.’ And I don’t really know whether it’s Dix or Dicks, do you know?

Q:    On the map it’s ‘cks’.

Miss S:    Oh. I don’t know. It’s a funny sort of name for a farm, isn’t it?

Q:    Very, I don’t know, I’ve often been asked that, and I’ve never known the answer. Cause I suppose people like, well Lord Rayleigh was in Terling, when, in the times that you can remember, were there sort of well-off people in Witham still, like there would have been in the old, before the First World War, that people had to touch their caps to, or get off the pavement for?

Miss S:    Admiral Sir William Luard, the people did, apparently. He wore, when he was, so I’m told. When he was going to catch the train to London, he was going to be back on duty, and his coach, or whatever he was in, was open, evidently. And he was driven from Ivy Chimneys to the station, you see, and he’d got his cockade hat on, and everybody in the street, as he passed, they bowed to him [laugh]. (Q: Oh really?) So I’m told, yes. I remember his, his, two, two of his daughters.

Q:     Oh, do you? What do you remember about them?

Miss S:    Well, only that one of them, I don’t know what her name was, but she was a nun, but, Church of England, not Roman Catholic. And, it wasn’t a closed order or anything. She came home for holidays and so on. And the habit was grey. And so she was always called the Grey Lady. [this was Alice Luard, 1861-1947, from the College of Women Workers in Lewisham] The other one, the other lady, is Edith, I did remember her, because, she called on us at the smallholding on or two occasions, and she was a great worker amongst the youth of the Church of England, so I understand. So I have met her. And I met her, because she was one of our school governors at Maldon Road, until she died.

Q:    Yes, I’ve heard a lot about the Miss Luards.

Miss S:    And of course, there was, later on, there was Canon Luard, he, Chipping Hill, wasn’t he. (Q: I believe so, yes.) That’s right.

Q:    There can’t be many people around who met one of the Miss Luards.

Miss S:    No. Miss Edith, I did, simply because she was a governor and she came walking round the school from time to time, you know, that’s all. But I knew at the time that she worked well with the youth, you know, of, young people. And of course, there was the Grove, that was the biggest house, wasn’t it, in Witham. (Q: I suppose so, yes.) Our only claim to royalty was that Princess Caroline stayed the night there [laugh].[actually Charlotte, 1761]

Q:    I’m trying to think who else, the Miss Pattissons, do you remember them?

Miss S:    Oh yes, in Pelican House in Collingwood Road. (Q: Did you know her?) No, not to speak to, but I have a vision of them, yes, mm. And of course there was a house, well it’s where Bakers Oven is now, and part of the precinct, called the Wilderness, wasn’t it [52-54 Newland Street]. But I don’t remember who lived there, I can remember the house. (Q: Yes, a big one, it must have been?) Yes. And of course the Library was a private house, wasn’t it [18 Newland Street]. (Q: Until the cinema came there?) Yes.

Q:    Did you used to go to the cinema?

Miss S:    Oh yes. [laugh] (Q: Frequently?) No, just when the fit took me, you know. (Q: Nice and convenient?) And of course there was Spa Place. Taking the waters at Spa Place.

Q:    It was a bit different then, wasn’t it. You used to cycle around without worrying about being knocked off your bike, like you would these days. How long did you go on with your bicycle?

Miss S:    Oh, I kept on riding, even when I had a car. (Q: Oh, did you?) When did I give it up, I don’t know. When I was in my fifties maybe, I don’t know. (Q: Oh, well done, yes.)

Q:    I suppose if you were going off to Cressing to work, you needed the car for that, didn’t you. (Miss S: Oh yes.) Though I’m sure in the old days people would have cycled. (Miss S: Oh yes. [laugh]) Or walked, or something. But you wouldn’t have gone that far to work, would you. (Miss S: No.) In your parents’ time. I’ve forgotten, what was your mother’s name?

Miss S:    Emily Alice. (Q: Emily Alice, that’s right. And your father was?) Charles Robert.

Q:     Charles Robert. And if I see them anywhere I’ll know who they were, if I see their names on anything. Where did you used to do most of your shopping, for food and things?

Miss S:    Oh, in Witham. Otherwise, for clothes and everything else, Chelmsford or Colchester.

Q:    Which did you go to, which shops did you go to most in Witham?

Miss S:    Well, the groceries, mostly the International. And Sorrell’s, the butchers, who were there for years and years. And of course there were the green-, they were all separate in those days, weren’t they? No, I’d rather, I don’t like supermarkets, I know they’re useful, but I don’t.

Q:    Convenient, though, as you say, but (Miss S: Oh yes.) a bit soulless aren’t they?

Miss S:    I always feel guilty if I, in Morrison’s, I buy something in the sort of, chemistry section, I think I ought to be at Boots, but of course it’s very, now I’m old and I don’t walk all that well, it’s very handy getting things at Morrison’s, but I always feel that little bit guilty, you know.

Q:    Yes. Do you go down to the town, though, sometimes? (Miss S: Oh, yes, I do.) Can go on the bus from here?

Miss S:    Can go on the bus, yes. But I don’t, these days I don’t want to carry heavy bags of anything from the town, no.

Q:    That’s well placed for you then, is Morrison’s, isn’t it. (Miss S: Yes.) I suppose you must know a lot about vegetables. Are you very choosy with your vegetables if you were brought up on a smallholding? You can recognise a good one?

Miss S:    Well, I do grow a few in my garden. (Q: Oh do you, how lovely.) Not much, but I do, yes. (Q: Well done.) I have some help in the garden, I can’t do it myself, but, all I grow now, are lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, marrows, beetroot, carrots. Not many of each. My garden has got smaller and smaller. When I moved here, it was a wilderness, grass was this high, but, and the gentleman next door, I know, he spoke to me over the fence, and, looking at all this garden, he said ‘Well, what are you going to do with all that?’ And I said ‘I’m going to make a garden’. He said ‘Make a garden?’. Cause, I was in my seventies then, you see. And he went into his wife, cause she told me later on, and he said ‘Do you know, that woman who’s moved next door, he said ‘She’s not young, but she says she’s going to make a garden out of that’. [laugh] (Q: Well done.) And I did, you see, but, the idea was, I divide it into two parts, so, and I had a rose arch over the, there was a path, concrete path down the garden, and this half was going to be two lawns and flowers and things, and then vegetables the other side, which is what I did. But of course, as the years have gone on, my little vegetable patch has got smaller and smaller, so … But I’ve always loved gardening.

Q:    Oh good. So you grew vegetables at Cressing Road as well? (Miss S: Oh yes, mm.) Cause they’re big gardens, aren’t they?

Miss S:     Yes, they were, yes. Course this is quite a big garden, on this side of the road, bigger than that, you know.

Q:     I see. Cause presumably you knew quite a few of the people living here from way back, do you?

Miss S:    We don’t, I.. When I first moved here we seemed to know everybody, but it’s not quite the same now as it used to be. I know the people who live opposite, well, they’re men actually, they, well they come and go, but, I don’t think anybody knows anything about them, or what, I don’t know. It seems to be a bit different. I know Malcolm of course, next door here. [Malcolm Mead, 4 Homefield Road]. And I know the lady who now lives next door here. But, nodding acquaintance with just one or two, but, you don’t sort of know, them very well. No.

Q:    So is that what you used to spend most of your spare time, gardening, or do you have other hobbies?

Miss S:    Gardening, and reading. And work at my church, of course. Most uneventful life. [laugh]
Of course it was six years in the War, was a big, I know, people who were serving abroad and all that sort of thing, was an awful chunk out of their lives. But that was a chunk out of, life, you know. (Q: Your life as well, yes.) When you just carried on from day to day, never knowing when it was going to end, and …

Q:    A long time, really, isn’t it? (Miss S: Yes.) But you seem to remember it very clearly, even though it was, almost sixty years ago now.

Miss S:    Yes, yes. My memory’s not too bad, but I know I do forget things, I go to get something out of a room, and when I get there I’ve forgotten what I’ve come for. [laugh] But then other people are like that as well, when they get older, so that’s nothing special.

Q:     Well, I do that. Did your parents have any hobbies, or were they busy …

Miss S:    Not really, no, they both liked reading. But … And I’ve never been a telly, I can’t watch very much now, but, I’ve never been a television addict, ever. I’ve never watched soaps or anything like that, no, not the slightest bit interested, no. I’d far rather read a book than look at the television. I can’t read a book now, so, that’s that. (Q: You have the radio, I see?) Yes, I have the radio. Yes, I’ve got four radios. The one in each bedroom, and that one, which can have tapes in it, and then this one. So they’re nearly all different stations. [laugh] But the two in the bedrooms are batteries, run, you see, and, they’re in there, and I’ve often thought of throwing them out, but, last year we had a power cut that lasted quite a long time, and, I expect you did, didn’t you? (Q: Yes, we did.) Yes. So I was glad that I hadn’t thrown them out, cause I could have one on BBC Essex and know exactly what was happening, and … so I haven’t thrown them away yet, no.

[chat about future visit, photo, etc., not noted.]

Tape 203. Mrs Rose Burch (nee Shelley), sides 1 and 2

Tape 203

Mrs Rose Burch (nee Shelley), was born in 1921 in Witham. She was interviewed on 23 February 2005, when she lived at 6 Progress Court, Braintree.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

On the left, Mrs Rose Burch, nee Shelley. On the right, a friend.

Mrs Burch had been writing some of her life story.
See also photos M2407 to M2429 and M2826 to M2828.

Q:    You start off with your parents, I was wondering how – because he was from Essex, your Dad, wasn’t he? (Mrs B: From Pattiswick, yes.) Had he gone up to London, you said? Or have I got that mixed up?

Mrs B:    Oh no, not my Dad. No, not my Dad, never went to London. I doubt whether he’d ever been to London [laugh].

Q:    No, I must have been thinking of something else then. So where was he when the First World War started? (Mrs B: Pattiswick.) He was at Pattiswick. So he joined up?

Mrs B:    He was in the regular Army before the War. (Q: Oh, he was already in the Army?) Yes. Then he was on the Reserves when the War started in 1914, and he was a Recruiting Officer then. (Q: So where was he stationed when he was in the Army, I wonder?) Now, where was it, now just a minute, on the back of that, there’s a stamp on the back of that wedding certificate that [???] an Army stamp, what does that say on there? The address of it might even be on there, mightn’t it. (Q: [???] Shelley, soldier.) At the bottom, is there a signature?

Q:    Oh, it says something certified, ‘Alan Gardner Brown, CM 61st Division, SMRE of Essex’. That might be it, mightn’t be it. And he was certified that that was a copy, that might be the registry. Oh, there’s a stamp on here too. ‘Territorial Force Association, Essex County, Chelmsford.’ And another one, ‘Essex Territorials.’ Oh, so he was in the regular Army.

Mrs B:    Yes, and come out, just before. (Q: And he came out, so he was on the Reserve.) On Reserve. And as I think I mentioned to you the other day, his first recruit, he said, was my Mum [laugh]. That’s how he met her, cause he recruited her twin brother, his first recruit. [???] He recruited her twin brother [???].

Q:    Was that when he was stationed in Witham, then?

Mrs B:    No, he wasn’t stationed, I don’t think he was stationed in Witham, I don’t know, I don’t know where they, I’ve never heard that mentioned at all. It was my husband who was stationed in Witham in the Second World War, yes.

Q:    I see, yes. So which one was it that was at the Retreat?

Mrs B:    My husband.

Q:    It was your husband. I’m sure you told me all this. [laughter] But your mother was from Witham?

Mrs B:    She came from Witham, yes.

Q:    So that was the first connection? (Mrs B: Yes.) And then you all were brought up in Guithavon Street? (Mrs B: That’s right.) So tell me some things you can remember about that?

Mrs B:    I think that’s all written down there. (Q: It probably is, but [???] Well, I can remember so much. I mean I can remember right from the time when, he must have been my youngest brother was born, cause I was only two years older than Arthur, so when my youngest brother was born, I remember my aunt Ann, cause they’d be always born at home, come to see to my mother. And I, I can see this saucepan now, in my mind’s eye, but I’ve heard the story from my mother, since. They used to have those great big iron saucepans on the stove. One was for hot water, cause this was going on, and the other one had got a meat pudding in. My aunt got so, that was looking after her, so confused, that the nurse upstairs took the lid off the saucepan and there was this great big bag [laugh]. Now that’s a very early age. (Q: You can remember that?) I can remember that, yes. And I can remember, as I think I told you, and that’s in there, being out with my Aunt Florrie just in these lovely clothes that I used to have from there, her daughter was the cook. And I used to have her hand-me-downs [i.e. probably the girl from the house]. And those [???], I can remember that day, standing outside Clarke’s stationers’ shop [70 Newland Street], I couldn’t have been very old, as I say, about four.

I remember this little, hat with the wire, and it had a muff, you know, used to have glass buttons on them in those days, glass buttons. It must have been a sort of fur, because, as I think I, I put it in there, because, there wasn’t nylon or any pretence then, was it. And, I know, as I say, they did want to adopt me. (Q: They were serious ?) Yes, they were serious about it. And I’d been removed from the town into that place down Maldon Road, I can’t think of the name, we mentioned it last time. We moved there rather than move away to go to Smallands. (Q: Oh right, Olivers Cottages?) Yes, that’s it, yes. Well we were there for a while, and of course that was a long way to walk to that Sunday school up there by the station, the Church one. And they bought me some, pair of boots and gaiters I can remember, doing those buttons up, and I was walking right from Olivers Cottages up there on a Sunday afternoon.

Q:    So, do you remember much about Miss Pattisson herself?

Mrs B:    No, only that she seemed motherly. In my mind, I can see her, one I didn’t know very well. But, I’ve seen the picture, one of them was in the wheel chair, well, I’ve got a faint recollection of one being in the wheel -, but I don’t, I wouldn’t have remembered that, seeing that. But yes, she was motherly. I don’t think either of them were married, and I could, their house, I can see it my mind’s eye now, had a lot of trees in front of it [16 Collingwood Road]. It was the other side of the Public Hall, yes, up there, a lot of trees. (Q: Fancy remembering that.) Yes, yes, I can, I can remember. I can, I can remember a lot, and then I think to myself sometimes, was it because I was a child, a girl on my own, I’ve got three brothers. Now living in Guithavon Street, as far as I can remember [???], I can’t remember another child in that street, another girl. So I had no, didn’t have a lot of girls to play with. The only friend I did have, I remember [???], there was a lot of Upsons lived in Mill Lane, and Cissie Upson, I remember I played with her, she had a brother, Marshall Upson, that was rather nice, I thought, when I was a little girl. And so I, I seemed to be own a lot, or with the boys a lot. Even when we moved to the farms and that, until my sister grew up, and was old enough for school, and then she was nothing else but a pest. [laugh] I mean I, I’d settled in my ways by then, and, because, my elder brother, he’s dead now, I can always remember him laughing over the years, it had been set up between my Mum and Dad, when it was her time to have Joyce, when it was getting near her time, my oldest brother was to go and find Dad, which would be somewhere in the town, in his horse and cart or something, and just tell him that Mum had a headache. [laugh] And he would know what it was, see. So my brother, heard my brother say at times, ‘So I went, I found Dad right down by Bridge Street’, he said and said Mum had a headache, he said, ‘and then Joyce was born’, he said, ‘and she’s been a headache ever since.’ [laugh]

Q:    Ah. Well I suppose all of you’d got used to your ways, hadn’t you?

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right, yes. [???] a little girl. And my mother, I think I told you this the other day, my mother used to let me push her, I was seven when, nearly seven when she was born, she used to let me push her up and down Guithavon Street, I never went up the Park[?], went down the street.

Q:    So did you enjoy doing that, or was that a …

Mrs B:    Oh, of course, babies. I’ve always loved pushing a pram. So, when she was born, I remember, I cried, even then I cried, because, you know, we’d got a baby sister, and I didn’t, I didn’t want a sister[?], and I can see this big bedroom, in Guithavon Street now, my mother had a big brass bed, where she’d had the baby. Alf, my oldest brother in a big iron cot in the corner, and I, and, as I say, it must have been my brother, the next size, [???] in the other corner. I remember that. And I remember my Dad bending over me and said ‘We’ll go shopping tomorrow’, words to that effect, ‘and we’ll buy you a doll’s pram, and then you can go out with Mum with the baby’.

And true as his word, there used to be a toy shop, King’s, I think, opposite, in Newland Street, near the George somewhere, across the road. And this little old tin pram, and that used to stand in the front room just inside the door. Cause we never used our front room. The only time the front room was used, when the vote in the elections were on over the school, and Mum used to hire it out as a let, as a office, where they used to come and do the … (Q: Oh did she?) Yes, she used to let it out then. I can see, I can see that room, we were never allowed in there. Big table with the claw feet, you know, covered with all these sorts of photos, things like that. And lovely furniture, a long, sofa they called them then, didn’t they, black with buttons, and the arm chairs. The four chairs, and draped over there was this lovely shawl Dad brought home from Egypt, then bigger photos and that all the way round. I can remember that, yes. I can remember everything inside that house that’s on there. Yes.

Q:    So this business with the elections, would it be the people who were holding the election, or one of the parties, do you think?

Mrs B:    One, it was the Tories I think, the posh, it, I didn’t know nothing about it then, but I suppose my mother did, it was the posh people that took it. Yes. I’m trying to think of his, I’m trying hard to think of his name. It was the same name every time they came up. Yes, for years. Something else I found, amongst some papers the other day, when Tom Driberg stood for election in Braintree, just after the last War, yes, in Braintree and Witham, yes, I found that.

Q:    So [???] the agent then, I ought to remember the name of the Conservative agent, big chap it was in those days, when you were little.

Mrs B:    Yes, but, I don’t know if he was the agent or the one that was standing, I’m thinking now. And he really was a well-known name. Well now, this would be in the 1920s, cause I was born in ’21, and I left there in ‘29/’30, so, and, Ruggles-Brise, was it? (Q: Oh that’s right, oh yes.) That’s it, Ruggles-Brise. That’s it, yes.

Q:    Oh, so you were favoured, weren’t you.

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right, yes, I think that was the name. Or that’s the name that comes to me, it was something like that, yes, yes, it was one like that.

Q:    So that was when the Parliamentary election …

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right, yes, oh yes, oh yes, not for the little (Q: Not the Council ones?), oh no, no, nothing … [laugh] yes, that’s right. (Q: What an honour.) I suppose she got about a half crown for that. But then when you think Dad’s wages, were only about thirty bob a week, I mean …[laugh].

Q:    It is odd, isn’t it, that, not using the room. But you had to have it for best, didn’t you.

Mrs B:    Well, it was a big house, I mean, down, you see, we lived in the basement, had a lovely kitchen in there, great big stove (Q: Oh I see.) oh yes. Yes, you went, we had a lovely cosy kitchen, yes, and the big table, and, lovely big fireplace, and then, and a scullery, we used to call it, leading off of that, and when my brother went to see, it’s some years ago now, about eight or nine years, cause he was looking at it outside, and somebody came out, cause I think it’s some sort of office or something there now, and said could they help, and he said, you know, and they took him in, and he said the scullery was just the same, and even the toilet, was still up the garden. I’ve often said I would go, but I haven’t [???]. Yes, you used to be in the basement, so you always saw people’s legs walking by. Cause we were right opposite the school gate, didn’t have any distance to go to school, right opposite the school gate. I recognise those names in that book you gave me, what Mr Rowland[?] done, Mr Rowland, the boys’ school head. [probably Rowles]

Q:    So do you remember, going back to Mr Ruggles-Brise, do you remember anything about him at all?

Mrs B:    No, I don’t, really, no. I know there was a lot of cars, and big bouquet things, and a lot of shouting and hollering after we’d gone to bed at night. I suppose that’s when it was all declared, wasn’t it, or something. No I haven’t got …

Q:    Oh, seems a fairly big part of it then, doesn’t it? (Mrs B: Yes.) So there was, I can’t remember now, whether they’ve got one, two more floors above the basement, or three, those ones? There’s a ground floor, where your front room was …

Mrs B:    We had the basement and the ground, and one up. Some of them had got three up, which you can see on that photo. You can see where the three starts. (Q: Yes, it’s just a little way along, isn’t it.) Yes, that’s it.

Q:    Cause that was quite a, for someone on your Dad’s wage, that was quite a good house, wasn’t it?

Mrs B:    Oh, they were Mens’ houses I suppose [his employer]. Yes, because, over the years, when I showed people this, I say over the years cause I’ve only had them about eight or nine years, but people I’ve showed them to, were amazed that we lived in such a smart place. But then we always had nice houses, right up until we went to Great Tey, because, from there, that one down, Olivers Cottages, was a nice house, that was a nice house. We were in the middle one of the three [Mens owned those too]. Smallands were beautiful houses, really nice houses. And then we went to Marks Tey from, not Marks Tey, Great Tey, from there, and that, my mother didn’t like that, at all. Oh. I’d like it today, I bet it’s worth a lot of money today, it was two village, two houses made into one, but mother didn’t like it. Had to cart the water a long way. We only stayed there a year. Then we came to Bocking Church Street.

Q:    So, for the water, you had running water at Guithavon Street, did you?

Mrs B:    Yes, yes, that’s it, when I think of my poor Mum, she was, at Guithavon Street she had everything. Gas light, not electric, but we had gas light. Running water, even down the garden for the toilet, and everything like that. It was a lovely house. And then to move, out into the country, once we got to Smallands, it was miles from anywhere, even I, we’d gone over the road to school, and suddenly had to walk over two miles to school. But that’s what my father wanted. He’d always wanted to be on a farm, you see. (Q: Oh, it was his choice was it, yes.) Oh yes, he’d been at this cartage company [Mens], but he wanted to be on the land, he was on the land as a child, you see, he wanted to be on the land. Oh yes, it was his choice. I was very very happy, I didn’t notice anything different, thinking back, it must have been very hard, we used to carry our own water.

Q:    Yes. So do you remember Mr Mens at all?

Mrs B:    Yes, I do remember him, sitting in his office, a little green box, on that Collingwood Road, big red-faced man, wasn’t he, I imagine he liked a tipple or something, when I think of him now, I think he must be, that wasn’t a natural red face. I remember him, and I said the other day, I remember his other daughter, Margaret. But, I thought there was two daughters, but you said you thought there was only one but, in fact you’re probably right about that.

Q:    Well, it may be that only one’s still alive.

Mrs B:    And, I know she was a bit older than me, I suppose, she could have been about six years or so, because she was past dolls’ prams, she had this beautiful dolls’ pram in that garage. I think my father may have tried to have got it for me, but they, evidently they were going to keep it. But they did used to let me push it up that sort of drive from, to the garage. That’s nothing like [???].

Q:    So you did used to go round to them?

Mrs B:    Not very often, but he has taken me round there, yes. Probably [???], I don’t know. Yes. Well then we moved to Smallands, he used to come down here, go down there. Because lo and behold, when I opened your book, the first person in there is his brother-in-law, isn’t it, Everard. (Q: Oh, Everard, yes, yes.) See that farm, he bought that farm from Mens, or Mens bought the farm, yes. Yes, that’s right. So Everard bought it from, yes, that’s it, Everard, Mens sold it to Ashby, and then we went to Great Tey to Everard’s farm. Everard was at the Abbey at Coggeshall, that’s where he lived. And that’s where I went to work, from school, on and Mo Saturday nights and Monday morning, to clean the shoes and set the breakfast out, set the table, I was about thirteen then.
Used to cycle from Great Tey to the Abbey, yes. And he’s the first person in your book, isn’t he, that photograph [Photo book]. I showed that to Arthur and Doug this morning, I said who’s that Monty Everard doing in this book.

Q:    Yes. Nice little photograph isn’t it. So you, so you, that was, you’d left school then?

Mrs B:    No, no, I was still at school. I, at Great Tey. I moved there, to Great Tey, I had just turned thirteen, no twelve, let’s get this right, we were only there one year. So, and we moved in September, that’s right, and I was, I must have been thirteen the following July. Because, we were only there a year, and we moved to Bocking. Well, we moved to Bocking, as I said the other day, you either moved March or September when you was on the farm. Spring or Michaelmas, they used to call it. And teach-, my mother took me up with the other two boys and my sister, to register, and I wasn’t a girl of thirteen and a half, I mean, I wasn’t, because there’s all these boys calling after me, and the headmaster was going to school at the same time, and he said to Mum, ‘I don’t think it’s worth putting Rose on the register, just for two months’, he said, ‘we break up again in July’. And [???], so I went straight out to work. So I was only thirteen and a half. I never, I never passed my eleven plus, I was the only child in the Hatfield Peverel school that they sent, they sent, that took it. I remember my father buying me a little brown case, it just used to have one clip on, that you used to have when you were a child, for me lunch, which Mum had probably put a lot of, blackcurrant jam sandwiches in there. And then I had to walk quite a long way to get this bus to go to Chelmsford. Now I’d never been out on a bus alone before. I had never been to Chelmsford before, we went to some big school for the exam, just before you get into Chelmsford. And I was quite quiet and shy, I suppose, specially [???], and do you know, my first question, my first question, I’ll never forget it, ‘Describe a camera.’ Oh now, all the things I knew about, I was good at reading, writing, arithmetic and everything. A camera, I’d never seen. I certainly hadn’t handled one. And that threw me completely, and I just sat with that paper, the others all went by the board. Mr Hiscock, that was the name of the teacher, well, he couldn’t believe that I hadn’t passed, because they put a lot into me getting there. Although my father wasn’t keen on me going and passing, because he didn’t think they could afford, those days, you know, sort of thing. But apparently I should have passed. Well, when I moved to Great Tey school from Smallands, I was teach, helping teach the infants there. There was only two teachers there, and Miss Etchess[?] was the head teacher, and a Miss Knight, they had there [???]. And I was helping her, because there was nothing else they reckoned they could teach me then. Cause then I came from there and went into service [laugh]. Still, that’s stood me in good stead. And as I said afterwards, I, as I grew up, I was in charge of that big shop in the town [Braintree], and all the office work and that, and, and I had my own shop, so I suppose, it’s always been there. But how long for now I don’t know [laugh].

Q:    So the shop you first went to, was …?

Mrs B:    In Braintree? I didn’t go to work until 1960. I used to be a dinner lady at Bocking Church Street, when the kiddies were growing up, but I’d never worked in a shop until 1960. There used to be a small little shop called Cook’s, near where the old Central[?] was in Braintree. They sold out, opened a big place across the road called Bourne’s. That’s a German firm. And, but that didn’t last, then after a few years we got made redundant, they closed that.

And, so I went to work for Mr [???], the bakery, and then I took my own shop, when I say our own shop, it was a Council shop, you just rented the shop. We lived in the maisonette above it.

Q:    Where was that then?

Mrs B:    That was down Coldnailhurst Avenue, I don’t know, do you know where Braintree hold their Carnival each year, down the Green[?], have you ever been down there. That is there, opposite there.

Q:    So what type of shop was that then?

Mrs B:    A grocery. Yes. We took that in ’76, ’75, then we came out when my husband had a stroke, well, we came out when he retired in ’82, but then he had a stroke in ’84, so …

Q:    So really, obviously you must have learnt the right things at school to be able to …

Mrs B:    Oh, oh yes, I did. I’ve always, always liked figures.

Q:    So really, going to Chelmsford was a bit of a, you probably weren’t that …(Mrs B: No, no.) it was just the school … (Mrs B: Yes, yes, the school wanted, yes.) Well I suppose it would have been good for them, wouldn’t it. (Mrs B: Oh yes, yes.) I meant to bring a book I’ve got about Hatfield school, I’ll let you borrow that some time. You might even be in it.

[chat re refreshments, not noted]

Q:    I was going to ask you a bit more about when you were at school at Witham, what you can remember.

Mrs B:    Oh, I remember Miss Welland, and her big Alsatian dog. And I remember her giving me a note sometime or other for my mother. And I think it was, must have been something that I misbehaved in school. Oh no, it was my report, you weren’t supposed to open them, were you. You were supposed to take them straight home. And I can remember this cluster of girls right outside the opening of the school. And I had opened it, we were all going to read it, and I suppose I was about eight. And I can see, she used to take big strides [???], and I can see her hand coming over the top of all of us [laugh] taking that [???] out of my hand, yes, I had to stand with my face to the wall the next day for that, yes I do remember that. And I remember starting school. (Q: Do you, what was that like?) Yes, and we used to have maypole, and that then, they don’t do that now, do they. There was a time in September, would that be St Nicholas, when we used to take chrysanths and go to the Church.

Q:    Oh, All Saints Day, yes.

Mrs B:    Yes, we used to, yes, I remember that.

Q:    So when you, say you remember starting, do you remember how you felt about that?

Mrs B:    I remember going with my brother, cause my mother [???], she probably, she’s either got a baby on her lap, or one inside, carrying one. My brother took me, and there’s eighteen months between me and my brother Alf. I was four and a half, I think I mentioned this the other day, Miss Gentry, she lived at Wickham Bishops, was the teacher of the Infants. And I was knitting when I went to school. I’ve been knitting all my life, I think. From the same little shop, King’s, my Dad, I used to meet him on a Saturday, and he’d take me in there and buy me something, nearly every Saturday, and this must have been a ball of rainbow wool and two small pins. And she said what was I knitting, and I don’t know who taught me to knit, because it wasn’t my mother, my mother didn’t like knitting, it was probably one of my aunts. And I said ‘I’m knitting a tie for my brother.’ [laugh] I remember that. Yes, I remember that, I’ve always knitted.

Q:    You took it to school?

Mrs B:    I took it to school, yes. And, yes, I liked school. I liked school right from the day I went. I always took it home with me, I always wanted to do school at home, you know, write and things like that. Yes, I did like school.

Q:    But Miss Welland was a bit …

Mrs B:    Oh, she was the head teacher.
There was, there was Miss, Gentry, was the Infant teacher. Now, then there was Miss Croxall, she went to Hatfield Peverel too, didn’t she. And then there was the one that we was talking about the other day, I think there was a Miss Hurrell. (Q: Oh yes, now I remembered that name, was it Murrells?) Murrells, that’s the one. One was the teacher at the school, and one did the private teaching, yes. Murrells, that was them, that was them. But there was a Miss Hurrell, I think, at Hatfield school. There was a Miss Hurrell, I know. And then, at the Boys, cause boys and girls were separate, weren’t they. They was Mr Rowland [probably Rowles], a name that won’t come to my mind, but I would know it as soon as anybody said it, the other teacher.

Q:    So did you, the Infants, did you stay more or less in the same if you were a girl? Were the infants and the girls together?

Mrs B:    No. There was a big class of infants. (Q: I see, so you went to that first.) And then, yes. And then you went a bit higher up when you was nine probably. Because even then, you stayed at those schools until you were fourteen, you didn’t go up to High School at eleven, did you?

Q:    So did Miss, do you think Miss Croxall was there at the Witham school as well, or just at Hatfield?

Mrs B:    Well, I remember one at Hatfield, but I, I seem to think when she came to Hatfield, she came …

Q:    She certainly lived in, she was born … (Mrs B: Born in Witham, yes, that’s right, yes.) And then she went to the Bramston when that opened, the Secondary School at Witham. (Mrs B: Oh, did she?) A lot of people remember her from that.

Mrs B:    Yes, so she probably came from Hatfield to here. Yes.

Q:    So this Alsatian, did you see a lot of the Alsatian?

Mrs B:    Yes, cause she, I think she lived she in the Avenue or somewhere. She used to hold it by the collar, she would have its hand on its collar, she was a horsey type in a way, and she, she’d take its, dog would go along with her, you know, she was frightful, really, used to frighten the life out of us. I don’t know what happened to her. (Q: And the dog came to school, then?) Oh yes, oh yes, the dog came to school, yes, the dog came to school. (Q: Just roamed around?) No, I seem to remember it laying, as you go in, those big doors that were there on the front, I can’t quite recall what was up that end, it was probably a big fireplace with one of those guards round then, and that used to lay, lay there, yes. Then I suppose sometimes she had it in the office, I suppose she must have had an office mustn’t she?

Q:    But you were a bit naughty sometimes, by the sound of it, then, were you?

Mrs B:    Oh, well I must have been, mustn’t I? (Q: You opened this report.) Yes yes, I opened this report. I can’t ever remember doing anything really bad. I can remember, cause we used to get a penny each, or something like that, used to go up the town, occasionally. And I bought a face mask, I remember once, for Guy Fawkes, and I shouldn’t have done that, I should, I don’t know, something [???] [???], and, so we were in the basement, see, so outside the front door there was a little bit of garden that looks down into the basement, you know? And there were some ferns there. And those other flowers that everybody used have, I suppose they were a sort of a fern, now what do you call them, they were red, with little mauve centres, very old fashioned flower, can’t, and I remember holding that mask, that my Dad saw. No I never got, as I say I was only nine when we left there.

Q:    So what did your Dad, what was the punishment if you did anything?

Mrs B:    I can never remember being smacked. I can never remember being smacked. Once I nearly got it when we moved to Great Tey, when I was about thirteen, because, at school then there was a friend that lived across the fields at the other farm, Heather, and she’d got a nice brother, and we all walked the long way home, cause then I was [???] with his sister. And, course it was getting dark really, when I got home, and my Dad was saying, he’d pulled one of the birches out of the garden, you know, [???], [???], but he never did.

Sent me upstairs with no tea. Course my brothers bringed me up so much to eat that when they did relent and brought me up some dinner, I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it. [laugh] But no, we were, no, I had my father’s [???], no, none of us. Until, as I say, my boys got, my brothers got thirteen or fourteen, used to play Dad up a bit and they were threatened a lot, but, no, we were never smacked. Well, I can’t remember it, and my Dad had a temper, really, because, it’s quite possible this might be in that book, I forgot what I put in that book now. A cousin, one Christmas, and we were in this basement in Guithavon Street, and that’s where had our [???], this great big kitchen table. And it was Boxing Day, now Christmas, a lot of the time we always had Christmas, but, Boxing Day was always Dad’s day, snaring or ferreting or something in the morning, and then up till late[?] [???]. Well, apparently this Boxing Day, my mother was, which I found out afterwards when I grew up, Cousin Charlie was coming from Braintree, and, he wasn’t a real cousin, but, he was in the family, but he’s always been sweet on my mother, I think, and he was coming, and Mum had, and Dad wasn’t very happy about it. And she had taken some of the children in the pram up to the Station to meet him off the train. And we waited a long time. We were late back, because he didn’t come, I don’t know why. But Dad, had got in, just before us, and, so there was no meal on the table, and it was the day after Christmas, and there’s this lovely big fire, and this big table, I can remember it. Big bowl of nuts, for all of us, cause we used to sit and do them ourselves, then, didn’t we, you know, peel them and stuff, on the table. [???] [???] he was so angry, kicked the table over. I remember how we were all rushing around trying to pick these nuts up. I say, he was never like that, my father, no, lovely Dad. Yes.

There was another time, at Smallands, when, that was spring time, cause it was lilac. And, and the middle window was open, he came home and his lunch wasn’t to his taste[?] [laugh]. Picked up the, threw it straight out the window, went through, mind it was open so it was all right. (Q: What did he pick up, sorry?) The vase of lilac. [laugh] A few choice words, he didn’t want that for his dinner.

Q:    So did they, I suppose they were a bit busy to do stuff in their spare time? Did they go to any clubs or anything?

Mrs B:    They did [???] spare time.

Q:    He did the rabbiting, though, you say?

Mrs B:    Oh, yes. Yes, that was the day off from work, wasn’t it, Boxing Day.

Q:    Did they go to Church on Sunday?

Mrs B:    Oh, no, no, they saw that we did, we all went to Sunday School. But, they wouldn’t have any time. I mean I was thinking then, I told you I went to Smallands a few, as I say that is all in that book, I described [???] book [/??]. And, no, you see, my mother, she’d been living in these nice houses, and then to have this place. She had to walk to a brook to carry her water. I mean Sunday, Dad used to get a lot, filled everything up for the washing. I can see her standing there washing, you know, every, all the water carted in, all the water carted out, five children to bath. I mean can see this bath in front of this big fire, you know, one after another. And then after we’d all done, she’d duck[?], and we’d wash her back [laugh].

Q:    So was there a bathroom in Guithavon Street?

Mrs B:    No, no bathroom in Guithavon Street. There was no bathroom, we just had a big bath. We could sit down in it, Mum used to kneel in it. All this lovely clean washing all round the guard. And so I say, she must have worked hard, because, my Mum loved housework, she hated cooking. She hated cooking.

Now, to hate cooking and have to cook for seven or eight people every day, must have been terrible, mustn’t it. I mean, think of all those vegetables. Cause we always had a lodger, we had to have a lodger to help with the rent. Well Mum did, I don’t know if she paid rent, but you know, you’d help out a bit. And, my Dad used to grow all his own vegetables, was a big gardener, keen gardener. And, you think, his own vegetables, the washing of them those days, not like you get them now from the supermarkets is it, you know. I squirm now when my brother brings me stuff that’s come out the ground, I don’t like it, if I see anything in the lettuce or anything like that, I, no, I’d rather get it at the supermarket. And, you think, and then not just dinner time, tea time, with all these radishes and celery and lettuce and everything that had been grown in the garden. She always said to me at the sink, I shouldn’t suffer[?], I used to have to scrape the potatoes. I could not reach the sink properly, and I’d always got that, streaks down my arm where the water used to run down, because I was trying to scrape potatoes. So, I mean, she must have worked hard. And then all weekend, she’d get the children’s clothes ready for school again on Monday, cause you didn’t have two or three changes then like they do now, do you, wore the same thing nearly all the winter.

Q:    How did they get the water hot?

Mrs B:    You just boiled it. Saucepans. No hot water. And we had an oil, that was an oil stove, all the kitchen, an oil stove like in the kitchen, but most of it was always just on the kitchen range. Yes. (Q: That was coal, I expect, was it?) Well, I was going to say, I never remember being cold, it was always … (Q: Was it coal?) Coal or wood, father used to, that’s another thing, he was always sawing wood up. My Dad never seemed to stop, but still, neither did my mother. (Q: I suppose his work was quite hard.) His work was hard.

Q:     Did he have to go far, did he have to go out of Witham quite a bit, when he was on the carting?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, yes. Well if they were carting all that stuff to Silver End, they must have done, must have gone there, mustn’t they, that, I’m not sure about, but that’s what Arthur was saying. And, oh yes. Cause he used to do coal, and everything, they were the Cartage Company. Moved people, didn’t they, used to do everything. And, that’s another thing my brother Arthur was saying this morning, he was talking about the sand pit. My father had a funny knee, it was something to do with a War wound. And it could, at any time, just go out. After a while it would come in back again, but he couldn’t walk, he’d go down, and, they were often having to run to him with brooms, he could manage with a broom, like using it as a crutch to get back. And Arthur was saying he remembers that he went out when he was coming over the bridge on the Rivenhall road, near the Catholic Church, that was somewhere, you know, he’d get his horse and cart. And he managed to get as far as the Eagle, the pub there, but he couldn’t, he had to get some help, from there, you know, to get this horse and that back home. Although Dad’s horses as a rule, if he just let them off, they’d go, they would find their way home.

Q:    Oh yes, cause you said about, something in Maldon Road, was that …?

Mrs B:    Yes, just down the Maldon Road, just past where the old toilets used to be [about 2 Maldon Road]. There was several stables. (Q: So the horses were kept in there?) Yes, every Sunday afternoon, he had to feed them, didn’t he. Yes, he used to take me, as I said, then we used to go down to his allotments. Yes. And, but what I remember about those stables was, this old scooter that used to hang up in there. I mentioned to you about a fire at Witham Crittall’s, Well, I was with my Dad, and this scooter was lying in the middle of road, somebody had slung it to go and look at the fire or something. You know, heavy old-fashioned scooter. My Dad picked that up. And it hung in that stable, nobody claimed it, nobody, and it was there when we left Witham to move, and we took it, and I never had that scooter till we got down to Smallands, and I must have been ten or eleven. And, it was a rough old thing too, but we didn’t have any toys like that, we all used it.
We all had bicycles as soon as we could.

Q:    So did you go out and about on your bike quite a bit, then?

Mrs B:    Yes. Yes. When we lived at Witham, several Sundays during the year, it was probably Whitsun and August, and perhaps some other Sunday, my father always used to hire a pony and trap from the Black Boy, was it [Albert] near the station, that one that’s got the big figure there, and drive us all to Maldon. (Q: Oh, lovely.) Yes. And, I remember one year, they hadn’t got the trap, and we had a landau, landau? (Q: Yes?) We all went. My Mum had a big sun, straw hat on, in this [???]. And when we got to Maldon, we used to park it, well park isn’t the right word [laugh]. Put the horse in to eat and leave it at, the Ship I think, at the bottom of Maldon hill, before you go over the bridge and go up the hill. We used to go in there. Father used to have a drink, we used to have a little wooden boat each, [???] on the lake, we used to fill the sink up with water, we used to play with that, Mum and Dad had a drink. Then we would walk from there along the ups and downs, we never used to go up the hill, we used to go across. And then Dad would set us all, you know Maldon, I suppose, yes, on the green hill, we used to sit there, and we paddled, Mum’d see to the eats and Dad would go along the front, have a drink. Then he’d come back after about an hour, I remember him sitting on my Mum’s nice grey hat. (Q: No!.) He’d have a couple of hours sleep on there, and walk back, and bring us back. Yes, we did that several times a year, go in the pony and trap. How lovely it would be to have photos of that now, cause you see, you don’t have, do you. I don’t suppose anybody else took any photos. And I mean that was five children. (Q: At least he was familiar with the driving part.) Oh yes, oh yes, yes. Well now, he was a good Dad.

Q:    So was the boating lake there then, you know the little …?

Mrs B:    Oh, what, the marine, that’s there now? Yes, yes, that was like that then. Easier access, and more paddling and that than what there is today. I don’t remember the boats, but it was just like, we didn’t know any other seaside, we just went to Maldon. I go to Walton every year, I’ve been to Walton every year since I was, well I don’t know, about fourteen, I suppose. Until my husband died, we used to have some caravans down there. [???] But, yes, I like Walton. But Maldon, Maldon yes.

Q:    So were these trips in the holidays, or at weekends?

Mrs B:    That would be on a Sunday. Only on a Sunday. I don’t think we ever had no holiday. Never had a holiday. Only by, like, I used to go and stay with my relations and Alf, the oldest brother, did stay at Purleigh once or twice.

Side 2

[chat re telephones etc, not noted]

Q:    It must have been you, so then you came back to Witham, to the George [36 Newland Street], you said, how old were you then?

Mrs B:    I suppose I’d just come up to seventeen, no, a bit before then, sixteen, I should think, sixteen, cause I married from there, and I was only eighteen, well I was nine-, I got married in June, I was eighteen, but I was nineteen the next month, July. Yes, I suppose I was there about two years.

Q:    So you enjoyed that? You enjoyed being there?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, they were very nice people, yes, they treated you as one of the family, yes, very nice, yes.

Q:    Did you have to work quite hard?

Mrs B:    Well, I suppose not really, I suppose because she used to, she used to work hard, Mrs Osborne did, she really worked hard. But I mean, she taught me to cook, she used to do the actual, I suppose, all I did really was, mainly, help with the children, and wash up, you know, wash up. I wasn’t in the bar all day. I used to do the fireplaces in the bars, in the morning, I remember cleaning them. But just at the time I left, he’d got ideas of me going into the pub, cause you see, I was married then, and I was nineteen, and I, don’t know what happened there, but, I was, I had an operation, February ’41, and I came home, to hospital, I went to home, to Bocking, and then it was evident I’d got to get a War job. I wanted to join the Forces, my father didn’t want me to join the Forces because my brothers were already there. So that’s when I went to work on the buses. But that’s something else I thought of when I was looking through that book, Dr Ted. (Q: Yes?) I remember Dr Ted, yes, because, I think I told you how I got knocked over by that lorry when I was at Smallands, and I was walking to school, Hatfield Peverel. And he was the one that saw to me. I remember he did me all up in this very stiff plaster, sticky, all sticky stuff. And he gave me threepence, that was a lot of money. When he was going to take it off, you know, I had dislocated my shoulder blade. I always think my father must have got quite a bit of money for that, from Sadd’s. But I never did, my elder brother and I can never find out.

Q:    What, it was a Sadd’s lorry was it?

Mrs B:    Because, it was a Sadd’s lorry, and as they went round theses twisty corners, the [???] that was poking out the back with a flag on, hit me on the shoulder. Truth be told, he ran out the road to [???] or something like that. But, one of the old boys, caught him, he was carrying me home.

Q:    So did he come to you, Dr Ted, or did you go to the surgery?

Mrs B:    Went to the surgery, my Dad took me on the cross-bar of his bike. (Q: Oh really? What, even though you’d got …?) Yes, well he didn’t know what I did when he took me, did he? When he brought me back I was all plastered up. [laugh] Hasn’t done us any harm, I’m 84 this year [laugh]. (Q: Exactly. Must have been painful though?) Oh, it was, well I can remember when he took it off, the plaster. I mean no mod-cons at home, anything to look after us or anything.

Q:    Cause the surgery would be a lot littler then, I should think? I was looking up something somebody had told me, the other day, about what the surgery was like. [129 Newland Street]

Mrs B:    Yes, that was down past the Co-op, and the little …

Q:    It’s still there but it’s a lot bigger now, I think. (Mrs B: Oh, is it?) So, where did you go to wait, then, you went in …?

Mrs B:    It just looked like an ordinary little house thing, that I used to go in. (Q: And then was it just one doctor there at a time, was there?) No, there was one more. Dr Ted was our doctor, but, wasn’t there two, weren’t there two brothers, two doctors there, yes. (Q: There was another, Dr Karl, yes.) Ah, that’s it, yes, that’s it. (Q: Karl, was his elder brother.) Ah, well that’s the name I remember, Karl and Ted, that’s right. Cause they knew my father from when we were in Witham, of course. They’d always been our doctors.

Q:    Yes, so your Dad would be pretty well know really, wouldn’t he?

Mrs B:    Oh, he was well-known. Yes. I don’t suppose there’s many about now that remember him, cause after all, I’m 84 myself, aren’t I, so I mean, it’s, it’s got to be somebody my age, hasn’t it, that would remember him at all. Oh, yes, he was well-known in Witham. Well-known, well-liked, you know, I mean he was a handsome man, he was handsome. My sister-in-law that’s married to my younger brother was looking through that book [of old photos], and she said ‘Well these must be your relations, because, nearly all that fire engine, they’re all our names, aren’t they [Shelley]? George, Arthur, they are all, I said, Peggy this, not one, and to prove a point, I got the telephone directory, I said, Peg, there’s nearly as many Shelleys, or there was, in Witham, as there were Smiths. And I said, and, not one of them are our relations. And there is a lot in the book, I looked them up. Well, not all in Witham, but some Hatfield Peverel, and Rivenhall[?] amongst that, but, they all originated from Witham, and there wasn’t one of them that was related to us. Only those at Purleigh, and as I say, there wasn’t many of them.

Q:    So, going back to when your Dad worked at, bobbing about a bit, but presumably there was other people working in the Cartage Company?

Mrs B:    Yes, one I remember very well was Fred Shelley. And he was my Dad’s friend for years and years. And then in, then later, as he got older, he used to go up to Cherry Tree with Percy Smith then, when I used to visit my aunt, and I’d gone up there with Uncle Percy, I used to see him there and he remembered me from a child. Yes, and he had a sister Maisie, Maisie, Shelley, and I remember them. But, that’s the only I can really remember. Oh, except that Jim Whitten[?], now I wonder what I did with that, I can’t seem to, I spoke to you about Jim Whitten[?] the other day, he used to have his engines that used to do the fields, the steam engines, and, he used to have them in a big shed opposite Olivers Cottage. (Q: I see.) Now, I did find, I know where I might have put it back, and he was a well-known man in Witham. [looking for papers]

Mrs B:    Walter sent when he first went. When I moved up here, up until I moved up here, I had all my love letters that I’d sent to him over five years, and all what he’d sent to me. And I thought well, these can’t go on for ever, and I don’t want anybody to read them, so first go, I took them all out the envelopes, that cut the space down a bit, didn’t it. Took the stamps off the envelopes. Then I said to my son, or he said to me ‘I wonder if those stamps are worth anything? [???] [???] So, they would have been, if they’d have still been on the envelopes, but I’d taken every one off the envelopes [laugh] (Q: Oh no.) Every letter I had, I’d destroyed the envelope and kept the letter. So after that, the, yes, very old photo, you can hardly see, but, that must be seventy-five years, but that is Jim Whittle with his …

Q:     Oh, that’s rather fun, isn’t it? Steam roller sort of thing, is it, or was it a, no it’s sort of for the farms?

Mrs B:    He used to do the whole, cut the trees, fell trees, anything like that. In fact his son was killed working with him.

Q:    I don’t think I’ve heard of him before.

Mrs B:    No, that I found, course the envelope to that’s gone. That was from Mrs Osborne to me in 19, when I was in hospital at Chelmsford at the time I had that operation.

Q:    You didn’t go to hospital so readily in those days.

Mrs B:    No, they thought it was appendix, but it turned out it was a small cyst on a tumour or tumour on a cyst, I don’t know, I didn’t pay much attention to it. But, I know the night I came home from hospital to my mother from there, was the night they bombed, dropped the bomb in Braintree. We all dived under the table, and I opened up all my stitches and I had to go back and have it all redone, the stitches. But, those cards, that was the one I had sent to me when one of my sons was born, sixty years ago. That was the one about Tom Driberg’s election. When I was in Witham. I’ve got lots of papers and that about, but as I say, those I haven’t … That’s one of me in the War time.

Q:    So you did spend a little bit of time in Witham in the War then, didn’t you, before you went back to …

Mrs B:    Yes, only about a year. I was there on the morning, Sunday morning when it was declared, and we all sat in that front room at the George, she’d got a radiogram and we were listening to it. And that was in the September, and I got married the following June. So, that was for something that was on at the Public Hall, about the War, when the War first started. (Q: Oh.) The receipt for my first pair of spectacles. 1943, a bit of difference in the price now. [laugh] Oh that’s what they wrote to me at Witham to sign the paper, for my banns or something or other.

Q:    Because, of course in those days, you weren’t of age when you were eighteen, were you? It was quite a thing to get married.

Mrs B:    No, my mother was doing some field work in Bocking, and I can see myself now, running up beside of her with this sheet of paper in my hand, so I could get here to sign it, and she wouldn’t sign. She did eventually. Dad was far more, she, that’s not what she wanted for her daughter, you know, and … And this, this was the code … Before my husband went abroad, cause he wasn’t allowed to say where he was, was he. So depending how he finished up his letter, I would know where he was. (Q: How crafty.) [laugh] Where he, cause they didn’t, when they left the shores they didn’t know where they were going to, you know.

Q:    So, he stuck to that did he?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, yes, until he got stuck in one place all the time.

Q:     [laugh] Isn’t that clever? So were you sort of expecting the War to start, then, do you think, or was it, must have been quite a  …

Q:    When you say, you all listened to that round the radio?

Mrs B:    Yes, well they, that was at a time, yes that was … Didn’t you ever hear that speech, eleven o’clock on that Sunday morning, September the third.

Q:    I wasn’t born then. In 1939, this was?

Mrs B:    Oh, whatever am I thinking, I forget how old I am sometimes.

Q:    Well, I was nearly born but not quite.

Mrs B:    [laugh] Yes, but, what I’m saying is, I didn’t mean to say that, but what I meant was, you must have heard (Q: I remember hearing about it.) you must have heard about it. (Q: Yes, I have, they gave, it was on the radio, yes.) Yes, well. (Q: So you knew he was going to say something?) I was, I was seventeen, and we knew this announcement was coming. And it wasn’t long after when the sirens all went, and we all rushed for our gas masks. (Q: Really?) Yes, and we all had beds down the cellar at the George. Mr and Mrs Osborne had theirs, and I had the single one beside them, and the two children over there, amongst all the beer pipes and that, we’d come down, you know. And, yes, we went down there for a long time, until, nothing happened did it. And, yes. Yes I was there during that time. I was there when they bombed Crittall’s that time. We saw them come, we stood outside the front door of the pub, on the corner, and watched them come over. They went along the railway line, didn’t they. And, yes, I remember that.

Q:    So the children, two, no, there were three Osborne children?

Mrs B:    Yes, Rosemary wasn’t born till well into the War, after I left. There was Bobby, er Graham, and Joan, sorry, June, yes. (Q: June, I see.) Yes.

Q:    So they were the ones that you were looking after, or was it mostly Graham?

Mrs B:    Graham mostly, June was a bit older, she was at school. But I used to, as I say, play with them, and see to them. She used to bath them and that every night, she was a good mother. But I mean I was there to keep an eye on them, and take them out for walks, [???]. But, he was a joy to look after, Graham, he was such a lovely boy.

Q:    Yes, cause looking after the pub must have been quite demanding?

Mrs B:    For her, but still, she had help, when I come to think of it, because I told you she had two nephews and a niece living there with her. And Joan used to work in the pub and so did John a bit. But I never, I didn’t get to know them very well, because, as I say, I was seventeen, they were probably in their late twenties and that. They seemed older than me, anyway. And, I suppose I was a bit quiet, a bit shy, you know, I wouldn’t push myself. Cause Walter always says he married me cause he thought I was the daughter from the George Hotel, when he met me [laugh]. (Q: Really? [???] Did he really, do you think?) No, I don’t think so, no.

Q:    So there were quite a lot of soldiers in Witham then?

Mrs B:    A lot of soldiers. He went from Witham to Rivenhall, when they were stationed at Rivenhall. From there they went up to Wooller, in Northumberland. And it was from there that they went abroad.

Q:    So where did you first see him, do you think?

Mrs B:    I met him in Witham. I met him in Witham. I was walking through the town, as you do, you know, with a friend. And these two soldiers standing at the corner of Maldon Road. Oh, they did look nice, you know, and I said to my friend, ‘Well I’ll talk to them, but I’m going to have the one with the moustache’. [laugh] So me moved off, and then when we walked back, they were already talking to two girls. So I just said, ‘We’re sorry for you’, you know, cause I knew the girls he was talking to [laugh]. And, we just picked up from there. And at the time I’d got a boyfriend, who had always been a friend of my brothers. And he was in the Regular Airforce, and he was stationed at Lille in France at the time. And, and he’d got a girlfriend in London, in fact she’d in that book. But he went home after a few weeks and broke it off with her, and I broke it off with Les. And this was April time, I expect, February to April time.

I know this Les had been on leave from France, in about the January time, and I had gone up to Wolverhampton to where his parents lived, while he was on leave. And then it hadn’t been long, he’d gone back and I’d met Walter, we were all, broke it up. His family came down from Wolverhampton to have a go at me. ‘How could you do it to him’, you know, with the War on and that. Well, when you’re seventeen you don’t think about those things, do you. Well then, you see, when was home that January, I had spoken to my Dad about marrying Les, and he didn’t like Les, never had, he blamed Les for getting my brother to join the Air Force. They didn’t want him to go. And I was asking him then, well it was only come April and I’m asking him I could marry Walter [laugh]. Now Dad liked Walter. Fact was, he was in the same regiment as my Dad had been in, the Essex Regiment. And, how he came to get to that I don’t know, I mean, he came from London, you see, and they were just sent to these different places. And, so anyway, Dad said yes. Course then we arranged the wedding, and then, because of Dunkirk, all leave was stopped, it looked as if the wedding would be cancelled. But, when they were at Witham, his Colonel was stationed at the George, so I knew him personally, I used to take his breakfast in to him. And, so I wrote to him, and him and he got Walter just 72 hours leave on June the first. All leave was cancelled because of Dunkirk. But he did, he came home on the Friday night, and he’d got to be back on the Sunday night. So, we didn’t have, you know, we only had that weekend. And then, then I didn’t see him any more until August, when they had, what leave do they call it, when you have to go abroad. (Q: I know what you mean, yes, just before you go.) I should know. (Q: Embarkation leave or something yes.) So he’d got a 48 hour embarkation leave.

So, from the time I married him, I just had that 72 hours and then 48 hours, and then he’d gone for four years and nine months. [laugh] So you could see why my Mum didn’t want me to marry him, I suppose. But it was all right, I waited for him. I mean I worked on the buses, we had a bit of fun, and things like that, but I mean, I waited for him. As I say, we were together right up until he died. (Q: Sounds a nice man.) Yes, oh yes, he was nice. Nice looking fellow, good husband and good father. But you see I never wanted a lot. After I’d got my three children, that was it. I, I always wanted babies[?], and he was a good husband, and he never wanted to travel or do anything. He’d done all that in the War, you see. I’ve never been abroad, I’ve got a passport, I’ve never used it. I’ve never used it. There’s nothing I have wanted to do, just my family. I mean I never went to work until as I say, the, my youngest one was six then, Colin had left school and Alf was a bit younger, and the youngest one was six or seven. But at that time Walter had got his workshop at home and was doing printing, so there was always somebody there, you see. And that’s when I started to go to work.

Q:    So what did he, did he do printing all along, after he’d come back from the War?

Mrs B:    No, no he didn’t. He was one of those men, he was never out of work, but he was never going to settle at one job. I mean the thought of going into a factory and doing the same job. I mean he was educated, self-educated, I mean, he used to write books of poems, just like my sons do, and musical, yes. But, no, he had a variety of jobs. Him and my brother did for quite a while do, decorating, on their own, like they all did after the War, they did that for quite a while. And then, what did he do. Oh, he went to Courtaulds, yes he worked at Courtaulds for quite a while. And then he, he always did this printing on the side, that was all self-taught, he used to do some lovely work.

And then he did plaques and different things that used to sell at, shops used to take from him and buy, it was plaster of Paris and things like that. And then as I say, for seven years he did the printing. That’s when I went to work, because you see, when you work for yourself, you’ve got to have a guaranteed income each week, you can’t get that when you work for yourself. So, as long as I was working just to bring in enough for groceries, anyway, he could, these people would have these things done and then don’t always pay you on time, do they.

Q:    So, if you hadn’t had to work in the War, you probably wouldn’t have done anything after you married until then, would you? (Mrs B: Oh no.) The War, it was compulsory, was it?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, yes, you had to work during the War.

Q:    Just to start with, or did it, of course being at the George, did that count as work?

Mrs B:     Oh no, oh no, had to be War work. You had to be doing a man’s job, you had to be doing a man’s job. So I carried on bus conducting until he came home. Cause I gave it up, didn’t I, but that was wrong, I’d still got to do the War work until he came out of the Forces, so I went to the Post Office for a while, I was a postwoman. (Q: Oh, were you?) Yes. Yes, that’s right. Yes, you had to, as I say, I would have liked to have gone into the Forces, I think I could out for that, I would have like that.

Q:    Still, the buses have been quite …(Mrs B: Oh yes, oh yes.) How far afield did you go on them?

Mrs B:    London was the furthest. (Q: Oh really?) Yes, a week, five days every month you had on the London run. And our London run, we used to leave Braintree and quarter past eight in the morning, we didn’t get to London until eleven, because we used to do Dunmow, Takeley, Hatfield Heath, Broadoak, Harlow, [???], Woodford, Finsbury Park, right up to Kings Cross. We used to park the bus up there, and then we would walk to Tottenham Court Road into Oxford Street and spend the day. You see, we used to get up there about eleven, didn’t leave till about six o’clock at night. We could see all the big films, if you went, and not frightened of the bombs and that, you know. One of my drivers, Jim Harrington, he had been a London taxicab driver, so he knew all the shortcuts, and get to Oxford Street, he knew all the short cuts, that went to Leicester Square and all those places, you see, so that was all right, yes. (Q: Were the trains still running?) Yes, yes, trains were still running. (Q: People still got the bus to London?) Yes, we, my sister-in-law, my husband’s sister, cause she came down, evacuated down here from London, and she came and worked on the buses with me. And we used to catch the first bus to Chelmsford in the morning, the workman’s train up to London, we’d be in Oxford Street at nine o’clock in the morning. And buy a nice dress, cause you had clothes coupons and you couldn’t buy anything, you see. Well, along Saling way there used to be a lot of gypsies I suppose, loads of whatever they were, in the caravans in that. They didn’t want clothing coupons, did they, but they did want some orange juice and all that for their children. So we used to give them our bottles of juice that we were allowed, for their clothing coupons, so Ivy and I always had plenty of clothing coupons. And then of course, once you get to Oxford Street, we knew people that had shops up there, once you get in the shop they’re not going to let you go, so you might get two dresses for the price of one lot of coupons, you know. And we’d come back, and go to work on the two o’clock shift, having been up to London. [laugh] (Q: Two o’clock in the afternoon?) Yes. But we’d got these clothes. Yes the trains used to run.

Q:    So, I was just thinking, it must have been quicker, you’d think it’d be quicker on the train to get from Braintree to London. I suppose the buses went through different places, didn’t they. (Mrs B: Well, we didn’t have to pay.) No, for other people that was, people that were using your bus.

Mrs B:    Yes, oh, oh they’d go on the train. Oh, they didn’t all go that route we did, they’d go to, yes go to Chelmsford and catch the train, oh yes, definitely.

Q:    The people on your bus were getting on and off all the time?

Mrs B:    Yes, I would say.

Mrs B:    On one trip from … on a Sunday morning we used to go up empty, and then, four buses, four double deckers, for parents that were either coming down for evacuee children, or Black Notley hospital where people were in, relations was in Black Notley hospital. (Q: Oh, I see.) And one morning, I remember one Sunday, this woman, started to have her baby just as we got into Harlow. And we didn’t know what to do, and we pulled up at the Harlow fire station, and they took over. Yes, they took over, and I often wonder what happened to that person. Yes. Yes, and then we’d go back at night again, pick them up at about half past four, at Black Notley and take them back. Take them back, and then run back empty. Pull up at some pub on the way back, [???] the driver. Yes, it’s not like it was today.

Q:    So the evacuees would be in Braintree?

Mrs B:    They were all round this area, I suppose.

Q:    So where did you drop them off?

Mrs B:    Drop them off in, wherever, wherever, Dunmow, or wherever they happened to be. Takeley, Braintree.

Q:    Oh yes, you were something about the gas on the bus?

Mrs B:    Yes, the gas. We used to have to stoke up. [laugh]

Q:    So did it run off gas?

Mrs B:    Yes. Just, every garage had to have one, apparently. (Q: Oh?) It used to look like that thing that they had when they first invented [???], you know [laugh].

Q:    It was on a truck, sort of, was it, on a separate truck?

Mrs B:    Oh, yes, used to be hooked up at the back, yes, that’s right, with pipes off of it. And it used to make a clanking noise as you go along, you could smell the coke, [???] on the back.

Q:    So it was making its own gas? You fed coke into it?

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right. (Q: Oh, I didn’t realise that.) And they always used it just on the Notley round, so if it did break down it didn’t matter [laugh]. Cause I always remember, we used to pull up outside that newsagents in Witham, Clarke’s, where all the buses used to stop [70 Newland Street]. And it used to be an awful job to move back[?] into there where you stopped. Everybody got used to it.

[chat about getting books back from Sue, not noted]

Mrs B:    I don’t think in there there’s a photo of that thing [the gas truck], You’d think there must be a photo of it somewhere.

Q:    I suppose in the War it was difficult because you probably couldn’t buy film or anything. (Mrs B: No, that’s right.) So it was like a truck, but with a, like a sort of box, was it?

Mrs B:    No, no no, it wasn’t a box, it was just an engine, a couple of cylinder things. No, it was all metal, yes. It was just, it was hooked onto the back of the bus. And you had this long iron thing that sometimes we had to [???].

Q:    So who hooked[?] up, the driver hooked[?] up?

Mrs B:    Yes. He was, Roy somebody from Halstead, always, it was the same driver with that every time.

Q:    So the cylinders were going longways? (Mrs B: No, up.) Up and down. I see, that was quite a clever idea really, wasn’t it? And it actually ran off that instead of petrol?

Mrs B:    Yes. That’s right. [???]

Q:    It doesn’t really sound safe, does it really?

Mrs B:    No, no. I mean, when it swung round a corner, I mean it didn’t stay straight behind the bus, I mean it swung round, swung round. I suppose after a while we got used to it, and [???].

Q:    So I suppose there weren’t enough air raids and things for that to be a problem with the buses? What happened if you were in a bus somewhere and the siren went?

Mrs B:    Oh dear. I always remember when they bombed Hoffmanns [Chelmsford]. We had been on the last trip from Dunmow to Chelmsford, taking the night shift in. And then we were coming back from Chelmsford to Braintree, and it started, the siren went, this particular night, just as we were about to leave Chelmsford. And we hadn’t got to Little Waltham before the bombs were dropping. And I’d got a strange driver, by the time he’d got to Chatham Green, he stopped the bus, and, the bus was full, mostly soldiers and Americans and things like, cause there was a lot of Americans in the War. And all the light we had was a bicycle lamp we used to have on the strap that we cut the tickets off. That’s the only lights you had. The bus, you had no lights on the bus [???]. And, stopped this bus at Chatham Green, and came round to see if I was all right. I really lost my temper with him. I said ‘I will be if you keep driving and get away from it. Look, we’re leaving it behind. Don’t worry about me now, get to Braintree.’ And you could see, right at the back of you, you know, lights and that in the sky. But that was that worst night when they had at Hoffmanns, when a lot were killed and injured, yes. Oh yes, we had several like, I think I told you before. We used to go to London, nights after the raid the roads would still be burning, fires would still be … And all along Oxford Street, where, you know, you could see right down into the cellars through all the big shops and things. Still, life used to go on, you didn’t, I don’t know, I suppose it’s being young.

Q:    Were you scared or anything?

Mrs B:    No, I was never scared. No, I was never scared. My father used to be with the fire fight, the night watch, fire fighter things, when we lived at Bocking Church Street, and that was a three-storey house, and I was up the top. And he begged me to come down, that was at the time of the doodlebugs and things like that, and, I wouldn’t even get out of bed, I said ‘No, if it’s going to bomb, I’ll come down with the rubble, I’m not going to have it down on top of me’, you know. [laugh] I never, no, I wasn’t scared. I did get ex, a bit worried one night when I was, it was dark, I don’t know how late it was, I’d been on the late shift, and they said they were bombing Bocking, and in the distance you could see them. And I ran all the way home from Braintree, and [???], and I ran all the way down Bradford Street, Church Lane, in the middle of the road, you could do that cause there wasn’t any cars, only army vehicles about then. And anyway it was safer in the road because with no lights you could trip over the kerb. But the nearer I got to Bocking I could see it was still a bit further away, and I thought it was where my parents lived, and it was right in the middle of a wood, about a mile or so from where, my mother’s place. They dropped them. There was two houses in that wood, and that caught those two houses in the middle of the wood, the Tabors’ place it was, the Fennes. (Q: Oh, I know, yes.) Yes, we had lots of little happenings like that, as I say it was sad when they bombed that one it Braintree, the White Hart and there, [???]. But no, I wasn’t scared. You see there was no television, I mean, I’ve often thought, the last couple of years when I’ve sat there watching Iraq, and I think, if that had all been on, if that had been my husband I was watching, you know, if that had been that time, that would have all been on television, you’d have sat and watched it every day. All the campaign out in Egypt, and, Italy, that would have been on there every day, wouldn’t it. Whereas you only saw it when you went to the pictures, and then, well, you almost thought it was the pictures, you didn’t … (Q: [???]) Oh yes, yes.

Q:     Oh, you’re right, that’s a big difference, isn’t it, whereas really … So did he ever come home on leave at all? (Mrs B: No, no.) I suppose he was too far away.

Mrs B:    Not till he got back to … he got back in the February, it was the November before, no, nearly Christmas before, it was nearly a year before he got out the army, to come home, but he used to have leave then, when he got into England.

Mrs B:    But, in the end he was stationed at Colchester, so he used to cycle that, to Bocking.

Q:    The Tabors, I read quite a bit about Margaret Tabor, she was quite a …(Mrs B: She died recently.) No that was different, that was John Tabor’s, wife. (Mrs B: Wife, yes, Lucy was his sister, he had a sister Lucy.) And an aunt, I think, the one who the school’s named after. [???] She did a lot for Bocking.

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right. Oh yes, I knew Lucy well. I knew the family well, my children went to school with his children, cause his first wife died in childbirth, didn’t she, when the youngest one was born. I think that was, Lucy, would it be that one? I don’t know. The son, Ted, he’s got the Fennes now, that’s where they do all those grand weddings and that. I went up there to my granddaughter’s wedding in November, November the eleventh, it’s a lovely place. It’s certainly altered since I knew it as a [???]. Yes. Yes I did know them. But, yes, she’s just died, Margaret. But she was still very active, wasn’t she, she was abroad, swimming. (Q: Well, you could be doing that.) I don’t think so, that’s something else I can’t do, swim, you wouldn’t believe that, a country girl, but, I never did, no. I think I must have been a bit timid. I never learnt to drive. I used to sit next to my husband and thought, you know, well, it’ll always be like this. After I lost him I wished I had’ve done. Do you drive, you do drive? (Q: Well, we haven’t got a car.) No, but you drive? (Q: I’ve got a licence. [???] I would have to have some lessons if I wanted to start.) Oh no, I couldn’t do it.

Q:    Presumably your Dad, although he started on horses, but did he drive in the end (Mrs B: Oh no.) It was always horses.

Mrs B:     Horses. And a bicycle. We all had bicycles. We went everywhere on bicycles.

Q:    What, even when you were quite little?

Mrs B:    Oh no, no. We would be on the farm before we had a bicycle. I mean you didn’t need one in the town. (Q: I suppose not, no.) You didn’t need one in the town.

Q:    I suppose, presumably, you said you were only allowed to go down Guithavon (hopping around again), you were only allowed to go up and down Guithavon Street, but presumably when you were a bit older you …?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, use to go down the Rec, oh, used to go down the Rec and places like that. And, a favourite haunt was the Mill [Old Mill, Guithavon Valley], at the back, as you used to go over the railway line up to where the Co-op creamery used to be, didn’t it. And, it was always marshy there, we used to pick lovely cowslips and buttercups in that. Oh yes, we used to spend ages down that area, yes, yes. Capenall green [Capener’s Green, bottom of Highfields Road]. There, that’s right. Well, we had, my Mum had a friend lived just this side of the bridge, Mrs Pryor[?] [???]. And, oh yes, that was a nice area there, yes. Cause that was a lovely walk, from that mill up to Chipping Hill, by the river and under those arches, yes. That was lovely there, we used to love to play there, yes.

Q:    I suppose you could always play on the road then, really, couldn’t you?

Mrs B:    Oh, you did, oh yes, you did, yes. I mean we used, used whips and tops to school, and, you know, what you get along with a stick, hoops. (Q: Oh did you?) Yes, we used to go to school with them. [???]

Q:    What about the main, you said you remembered a lot of the shops, was that because you used to go around a lot?

Mrs B:    Yes, I used to go to the International for my mother. That used to be next to the leather shop. Another thing I remember about Witham, opposite the International there used to be a shoe shop [56 Newland Street], next to where Turner’s was. Let’s see if I can think of the name. (Q: Was it Dowsett?) No, it wasn’t Dowsett, I don’t think it was Dowsett. Well anyway, at Christmas time, in the end window, he always used to have a man mending shoes, in the window, cause I suppose, it must have been electric, a hammer used to, {Q: Oh, I know.) his hands used to go, and I can remember me and my brothers running up there to watch that in the window. And I remember when mother used to take us, we were very small, she used to take us all pea-picking, and the cake shop in the town, just past the chemist it was then.

Mrs B:    If you went in there on a Monday morning, you got a huge bag of cakes for a shilling, you know. I suppose they were Saturday’s cakes. And we used to take those with us.

Q:    Where did you used to go …?

Mrs B:    Another thing I remember too, talking about shops, as you come from the station, down, is it Albert Road, as you come out the station and turn round, not to go to Chipping Hill, down, down there a bit there used to a shop [probably Braintree Road], I think it might have been a Co-op, I don’t know, there used to be a little grocery shop, that sort of thing, years ago, and cause we used to go down there a lot cause my mother was for ever taking us up to Cressing Road to see her mother, that was before she died, because we was at Smallands when she died, so, she was ill, but she used to take us. And it was cold, it was in the winter, and, it may have been that they had a tea, a tea service in the shop window, all little cups and … Well, what it was, was an advert for some well-known … And my mother tried to buy that for me, because I was ever looking in the window at it. I suppose it was getting near Christmas, and, I remember the lady saying, ‘No, we can’t sell it’ [laugh] (Q: Ah.)

Q:    So where did you go for pea-picking, then?

Mrs B:    Oh, in Witham, it was up Capener’s Green [Capon Hall green, Highfields Road], opposite the creamery.

Q:    Did you help or did you just have to go because she …

Mrs B:    Well, we had to go, but I mean, we didn’t help, no, I remember I got my leg stuck in a rabbit hole, in the mucky[?] field next to it. No, we used to play about, make homes with the rice and things like that. We went as we got older, on the farms, we used to, we even did stone picking at Smallands, because they made these water pipes right across the fields, and they wanted all the stones cleared up, you see. I think we used to get about a penny. Used to car these great big buckets of stones down the end of the field and tipping it all in the ditch[?].

Q:    It must have been hard work for your mother, doing all that as well as …

Mrs B:    I don’t remember my Mum doing the stone-picking, it was us children that were doing that. Oh yes, still I used to do a lot of field work, when I was younger. My sister-in-law, we used to take it in turns, she had a little girl, and I had the two boys, three boys, but only one at home, the other two were at school, we used to take it in turns, I would go for a couple of days, and she’d have the children, then she’s go and I’d look after the children. But if you wanted anything extra, of course you had to.

Q:    Yes, I suppose there was a lot around here, wasn’t there, with the peas and the fruit, I suppose you were quite lucky that way.

Mrs B:    Oh yes. Oh, I’ve done potatoes, peas, even sugar beet, yes. Well, that was nice to get out and do it, you know, I mean, it never seemed like work, it just seemed a change from indoors.

Q:    Your father, did he have an allotment, you said?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, yes, he had an allotment, yes, when we was down at Bocking we had one, big one at the back, he’s always had an allotment, right up until he died, till he couldn’t do any more. Yes, we always lived very well as children. We always had the good[?] stuff, and rabbits, and pheasants, we even had our own chickens. We had our own cow, Monty gave us our own cow. I can see these great big aluminium things in the pantry, that you’d pour the milk into and then skimming the top off and put it in a huge bottle and shake it up and it’d [???],

Q:    That was at Smallands? You had quite a lot of fun, there.

Mrs B:    Oh, we did, yes, we did.

Q:    It was a good place for children, even if it was hard for your mother.

Mrs B:    Oh, it was hard for her. But then again, I suppose we weren’t a hindrance too her, we weren’t under her feet. You didn’t see what she had to do, did you, all the cooking and the washing and the ironing …

Tape 198. Mr Cecil Joslin, side 3

Tape 198

Mr Cecil Joslin was born c 1914. He was interviewed on 13 August 2004, when he lived at Cerine, Braintree Road, Witham.

For more information about him, see Joslin, Cecil, in the People category

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

[See also photos in JG’s collection M2092-2114, M2145-M2152.]

Side 3

Mr J:    Anyway, this other manager, he was with me there and watching me working, which (Q: Mm.) and I got on all right with him, you know, although he used to say sometimes, you know, he’d see you ‘Get on with you worrk[sic]’, he used to say, cause he was Scots. (Q: That was Mr Small, you mean?) But otherwise, he, I think he thought a lot of me, and that, you know. (Q: That was Mr Small?) Mr Small. So, Andrew Small. So anyway, I was put in the sand blast. Well, the sand blast is a place, you know what divers look like, when they get in, you’ve got all, you’ve got to have a mask over your face, and that, yes, tied down and that, and there’s air blowing through this, and there’s trickling, water’s trickling down the front of you. And the doors, you shut the door, you know, there’s a metal door, and they’re all metal sides and that, and they must be two of you working there, in case one dropped[?] dead[?]. And you have a hose, and that throws out metal, like salt, like sand, you know, they call it sand blast but that used to be metal chippings, you know. And that used to, you used to clean the windows what got rusty and that, used to work all down the windows, and turn them round and that, you know, and I done that for fourteen months, you weren’t supposed to have eighteen months in there. That got me beat, you know. I stuck it as long as I can. And when I used to go home and have a bath, and that, all the metal used to start rusting the bath, you know, what, you’d got certain amount, you know, into your body somehow. And so I went down the doctor’s, so he gave me a certificate, to say, like, this man needs a change. So I went in on the morning and handed it to him. ‘Oh, I get these two a penny’, he said. If I’d got somebody with me at the time, he’d have been for it, because I mean a doctor when he signs a thing, he signs it for your good, don’t he, he don’t sign it for, over … Anyway, I, I said, well, it turned out that they finished sandblasting and that, and then, just after the War, like, that come up again, they wanted sandblasting, you know. So they took me off of welding, to go on sandblasting again, and I said ‘I’m not going.’ So I went and told the shop steward, I said ‘I’m not going, he knew what had happened. So I said I’d like a pass-out, so he went and told the under-manager I wanted a pass-out. He knew where I was going, up the Labour Exchange. He phoned up the Labour Exchange, and told them about me, so when I gone up the Labour Exchange, I said, I know, you know all about it, I said, cause under manager’s told you all about it. He said ‘Well’ he said ‘in the army’, they said, ‘they do the job first and question afterwards’. I said ‘I already done the job so I know what it’s like, so I’m not doing it.’ I said ‘I don’t care what you say’. I said ‘I’m not going in that place no more’. So of course, I never went into work for about six weeks, and I stuck it. And my mum was worried, and that, cause that was sinful[?] wasn’t it. My mum was worried, so, she used to go and help the lady in a smallholding and that, her husband like, run a bit of a farm.

And she was telling her about me and that, so she said, I’ll see my husband, and her husband said ‘Well, send him along’, so I went there. I went on the farm for a little while. Throwing manure about with a Land Army girl, and [laugh] and doing out, putting the straw on the stack, and hoeing and that, so, I liked that job but I mean, he only wanted casual labour you see. Anyway I got money for it, so that’s that.

Q:    Was that during the War still?

Mr J:    That was just after the War. (Q: Just after the War, yes.) And well, the War was still on in … (Q: Japan?) Japan and that, but ours had finished, and cause I reckon I got have got him reprimanded if I’d have went through the Tribunal, cause he took me off the job, that War work, you know, and put me on a job of ordinary work. And anyway, I didn’t bother, so I carried on. Course, the Labour Exchange here, sent me to Braintree, cause they didn’t want [???] [???], so I used to have to cycle to Braintree to see what they’d got me to do, [???]. So they said ‘Well’, there’s a job going at Lake and Elliott’s’, they said, ‘to do with welding’, they said, so if you’d like to go there …’ So I went there to see it, cause I used to live not far away from there, so, and I see the manager, and he said ‘I don’t think that’s a job for you, you want’, he said ‘it’s not the job you’re looking for’. So anyway, when I went there it was the same, similar sort of thing, in a cubicle, they were burning, searing[?] the metal away from places what were flawed, you know, so they welded them up for the different things what they were making. I thought ‘Well, I ain’t going to stick this.’ I said ‘No I don’t [???] the job.’ So they decided that, you know, I’d have a chance of going to … Plaistow[?] (Q: Oh really?) after my job, cause they wanted welders down there, and I reckon they were starting to make these petrol stations, what they, you know, what floats[?] and that, you know, on the water. And that, but I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know, I don’t want to go there.’

So anyway, it happened up that the under-manager told my dad, he said ‘If he don’t come back’, he said ‘he’ll get the sack’, you know. So I thought ‘Well, better go back.’ So I went back, anyway, and, when I got there, the old sand blast was still open and that, and they [???] and I should go in there, so they took me up there, and so I dressed up like a girl[?] and of course I picked the pipe up, and, it was like lead. I said ‘Well, you can’t work this thing’, I said, ‘anyway.’ So he just thought, well, he weren’t going to put me in there, he just done it to see whether I was willing to go in it. Probably I’d have gone in. But there was pipes, big pipes, with just a little tiny nozzle on, air, compressed air used to blow this stuff through, and, you used to hold them in your arm like that, cause you was like, muffs on like, and every now and again you used to get a kick like, wonder what it was. I wondered whatever it was, and I kept looking round to see my old mate, he was looking at me, and he was a-grinning and that, and all of sudden that give you a kick again, and it used to throw an electric shock out on it, although that was partly rubber and that.

But, you used to get a kick out on it, anyway. Of course they laughed when I told them about it, cause they’d had the same thing happen you see. So I say, not really, but I stuck it because I thought I would have my own back on him, cause he thought he was going to get rid of me, cause one of the other mana-. under-managers, he took me up ahead of the job, he said ‘That ain’t my doing, Bill, you should go up there’, cause I used to be floating worker you see, wherever they wanted somebody, I used to have to go and do it, and I used to do it, you know, what I mean, I used to work in with the men, I knew how the job went, and that, so I knew just how to throw the window about or, that, do the different … So, he was one of these under-managers, you know, if you need help somewhere up in the factory, he used to shout, you know ‘Bill’, put his hand up, ‘come up this way.’ Down there [laugh]. So he was the one, he said ‘I don’t like [???] you should go up there.’ I said ‘I know [???]’.

Q:    So what, who was he, this chap who … who was he, this bloke that didn’t like you?

Mr J:    Mr Andrews was the one I didn’t like. (Q: I see.) And Mr Jarrett was the one what what I got on all right with, cause I used to do me [???]. And anyway, I, I [???] in the job and that, and then that happened, so, when I handed the certificate to him, I said ‘You hate me and I hate you’ I told my manager. Which was true, that was true, and he knew it. But he just thought he’d try and break me, at not doing what he wanted me to do. Cause he was an old army officer. And I thought, well, I mean, if I hadn’t have done the job, and refused in there, well, I could have got the sack, and I went and done the job, and that didn’t suit me, and other people got out on it, and not only that, these masks what we put on, they used to hang up in the cubicle, well there used to be a night shift, so you didn’t know whether they would pick your helmet up or not, you see, and, if you had your own helmet and locked it up in there, you just, you was breathing whatever they’d got, and that, you see. If you’d have told them they’d have said ‘Oh, we add disinfectant every day.’ But that ain’t the point.

Q:    So when you went back again, when you went back again, how did you get on then?

Mr J:    Oh, well, I told you, he tried to put me on, and then of course I went on putting fittings on windows, putting the handles and thingummies on, for a time, and [???] tap[?] make sure they were straight and that, and then they had another idea of a sliding, you know, when you open a window, that slid along, and they had a special bar put on them, and that was metal, so they put a brass, pedal[?] machine they called it, this fellow used to put the brass on, fix it onto the window, and that used to have a press, presser, pushing it on. And you used to hold it there while he was doing it, and then you used to take them away and pack them down on the, cause they used to be on a platform, cause he was down below, you see, to be near the part what was to be done, and I used to drop mine[?] on the floor. And being galvanised, the old man had to come along, Mr Small come along, he said ‘Don’t put them on the floor like that.’ So I thought right.

I knew I was near the packers’ bay, so I went and got some wood and [???] [???]. [laugh]. So anyway, we worked on shifts on that for a time. And then there was a time, there was two of us, we had some big racks, you know, with all the different types of windows on. And they’d got them higgledy piggledy if you know what I mean, so they’d got [???] they didn’t know what to do with them, they was going to Ireland, cause they’d got a place out in Ireland, factory. And they was going there, but they wanted, they had to give him a job cause his parents were well in the firm, I suppose they were shareholders and that. And he used to have to get, go up, cause of the rack, you know, and we put, we had to change all these racks, with bolt and spanner and that, other fellow and myself, we put them together, put the smallest window right on the top, and the next smallest window, underneath, and so forth, so the biggest windows were on the front[?]. So we had that for a time, the two of us. And he was, [probably the manager] he was down there all the time, our whole time he was down there looking up there, so you couldn’t stop to talk and that. So, he used to have five minutes break, so he used to go and get a cup of tea then, so we had that break time. (Q: Yes, oh dear.) So then, where else did I go. Oh, the, I got put up the galvanising, they had big, a crane, what had a whole rail like that with arms on, where they used to hang the windows on, and they were dropped in the acid tanks, through the crane. Well they used to get all …, acid on them and that, and this cradle, like, what used to carry the windows, that used to go through the different tanks, there used to be acid, hot water, cold water, and then the flux tank, and then course they used to go in hot air, [???] oven. Well, when they were finished the other side, they used to go up, right[?] in[?] the roof, and down again for the chap to fill up again, you see. Well, they wanted somebody cleaning them, so they give me the job of cleaning them and that. So anyway I used to do that, clean them, and one day, the foreman come up and said ‘Mr Small wants to know if you’d manage the telephone’, you see, because they used to have the telephone there, and course the foreman wasn’t always there, he was [???] part of the factory, and course the manager, like, what was over the galvanising, the other manager, the works manager, used to phone to want to know where he was, so that, so I wouldn’t take it on, I said ‘No, I don’t want that job.’ [laugh] So anyway …

Q:     Why didn’t you want it?

Mr J:    Oh, I didn’t want to start talking to Mr Small, because he was Scotch, and I should never understand what he said half the time, so I didn’t take it. So, I’d have still had to do my work just the same (Q: I see, as well, yes.) [???] you’d pick up to see what was, who was who and what was what. So anyway, after a time they put me on the acid tanks, you know.

I went in the middle acid tanks, cause there used to be a rail, come along, and the chap used to push it onto hoists, hoists used to go down and into the tank, and then they used to have a rail on the tank, so they pushed along to the other end of the tanks, and then you had another hoist pick them up to take them. And you used to have rods, poles, to push them along onto the next hoist, and that used to be three[?] very different loads of metal window, as well as being the hot water, like, and then the cold water, and the other in the flux, you see. So that’s how you was. Of course you’d got a button[?] where your hoists were and that. And I stuck that for quite a while, and then what happened. Something, so I went out into the factory again. That was all right there, it was good money what was earning, but that was day and night shift, and …we used to smell this old acid. They used to give us overalls, and we used to take them off, we had a locker to put them in and that, and clogs, we used to have clogs on. And I used to have a mask over my nose and that. And ..

Q:    You quite liked that, did you?

Mr J:    Yes, but if you got hot and sweaty, that always smart on your face, and if you rubbed it with your handkerchief and that, it made it worse. [laugh] Terrific stuff. I had one pal fall in there and he died. (Q: I remember [probably Don Upson].) And anyway, I didn’t like the other side, cause I could have gone the other side, the galvanising side of it, that didn’t appeal to me that, cause sometimes if they happened to wet, the windows, not dried off properly, then they used to go into the tank, well of course that used to splutter the spelter about, you’d get a piece on you, that stick, you couldn’t brush it off, cause you burnt your hand off. [laugh] So anyway I got out of that, and somebody wanted me somewhere else, so I went somewhere else and that, and I was working in the shop one day, and they started a new idea for the conveyor belt, cause all the windows and that, you had inners and outers, and they, one man put the outer on, another one put the vents in, and then they had two chaps on each, so I suppose, one, two, three, four, outside[?] tables [???]. And these men used to take them off, hang them up, and push them along, and there was two chaps the other side used to look at them, and inspect them and final them, if they wanted, if they didn’t fit properly and that, they used to make sure they fitted properly and whether they were air tight and water tight, they done all that, and then they were put another belt, and put up and put on stowages[?] and that, [???] truck used to come along and take them outside and stack them. And anyway, I was working in the main shop one day, and the foreman come up to me, and said ‘Mr, Mr Joslin, Mr Small wishes to go and help Mr Keeble’.

So of course Mr Keeble was sorting the windows out to put on the conveyor belt, you see, cause we had windows all round us and you had a programme to say where they’d got to go, and what type they were, and how many there was on the programme, and, so of course he was trying to sort them out. And that’s how I used to help him, you see, so after a while they promoted him, give him the foreman’s job, that’s looking after the conveyor belt and that, and I was put in charge of what he’d done. That’s where I ended up.

Q:    So when about, I was going to say, how far have you got now, in time. So that was when you were quite a bit older, by the time that happened?

Mr J:    Oh yes, I was married and … No, no, I wasn’t married when I first put on. I got married while I was on there.

Q:    Oh right, so you did that for a long time, then?

Mr J:    1928 I got married, 19, (Q: So you did that, I can see it up there, it says 1952.) That’s right, yes, that’s right. (Q: Is it ’52 or ’62? ’52.) ’52, that’s it.

Q:    So you were already, so you did that last job for quite a number of years, did you?

Mr J:    Yes, that was my last job.

Q:    You did that for quite a long time?

Mr J:    Oh yes. Yes I done that for quite a while.

Q:    So which Mr Keeble was it? (Mr J: Alf Keeble, he used to live …) In my house. (Q: Oh, is that where you live?) Yes. [Blanfred, Chalks Road.]

Mr J:    Have they still got that door on your back door, metal door? (Q: No.) Oh, you’ve taken it out. I helped him to put that in there. (Q: Oh, did you really?) But that had to have new, cause I don’t think they could open in, you see. (Q: No. I remember it.) I don’t know, that might have done, but I think he had it out. Well, his wife didn’t think much of it anyway.

Q:    No, we got a porch put on at the back. There’s a little porch on the back now, and a wooden door. But I can remember it, yes. Oh so you must have been doing that quite a long time, that job, then?

Mr J:    Yes, well, he was lost to know what to do and that, so, he asked me to go and help him, cause we was working on nights together you see.

Q:    So how long did you do that job altogether, do you think?

Mr J:    I don’t know. (Q: Ten years? More?) Yes, might be about that.

Q:     Yes, roughly, yes. So you were telling me, you didn’t, going back to getting married, you said you didn’t expect to get married? How did that happen?

Mr J:    No, I was a lonesome, and my brother and his wife and her father and that, they used to take me out with them, because her father was a nice old boy, he never liked to see me out of it. So anyway, my wife, had a daughter before I was married, and my sister had a son, and they both lived at Cressing, and they were about the same age, these daughter and son, and they used to walk around Cressing, pushing a pram, and course they met up with each other, talking to each other, and course when they got older, her daughter and my nephew got together, you see, they were like courting, you see, and his dad used to have a nice piece of ground, and he used to have chickens and pigs on it, and he used to sell these eggs you see, and they went to the market and all, and course, Kath, she was living at Braintree then, and so she cycled to Witham, Braintree to Cressing like, pick eggs up every week.

So Irene and Jack decided, ‘Can’t we get Cecil’, over there on a Wednesday, you see. So they told me I’d got to go over on a Wednesday to see my sister, you see. So when I got over there, course, Kath was there, you see, so we got talking to each other, and that’s how we met. (Q: Right.) So we got, in the end we got married. We stayed in Manor Road for a little while, and I lost my mum. She was ill when we got married. And so, that was good, thing to come, having Kath there, like, she helped looking after Mum while we done nights, you see. Then we lost here, and course, Kath had a nervous breakdown, and I’d got to do something about it, cause the doctor come and said, got to get away from Manor Road, and I kept thinking and that, and I thought well, I’d never been in a Council house, myself, and I thought, I knew Adams and Mortimers, you remember Adams and Mortimer ? [White Horse Lane] (Q: Yes, I do, yes.) Well Mr Lee, he used to be in the Scouts, with us, so I went to see him and asked him if he could build me a bungalow. He said ‘Well, where do you want it?’ I thought, well, if I have it here, my dad is on there on his own, up there, I could just pop up now and again to see whether he’s all right, you see. So I asked them if they could build me this bungalow, so he said ‘I don’t see why not.’ So I bought the piece of ground, and asked them if they could build a bungalow, it cost me, got as much money[???], and, got to borrow it, you know, pay for it. Of course, that’s how I come to get the bungalow, it’s all my own now, that was a wonderful thought after we’d paid the last instalment. I said to Kath, I said ‘Do you know, that’s all our own now. Everything.’ [???] That was a lovely thought, lovely thought.

Q:     Yes. So when did you move here, about? When was it built, about? Was that after your mum died? (Mr J: Was about, no.) Well, you were married in 1952. You were married in 1952, is that right, so you stayed at Manor Road for a little bit, didn’t you?

Mr J:    Yes, well it wasn’t long after that. (Q: It wasn’t? Oh well.) To come here. Cause we didn’t think we were going to get any children, then of course we had Celia come along.

Q:    Oh you have a daughter, that’s nice, yes,  good. So is she still about?

Mr J:    Yes, she was married, she’s been married seventeen years, but her husband, like, he had two brothers, like, and they both lived in Australia. Well, the youngest brother come over the other year, and he brought his family with him, he’d got four children. Well, they went about together, and Celia got to like them, you know, my daughter, and she wanted her husband to have children, but he didn’t want children, so they split up. So she’s living on her own, round the Jack and Jenny, where all them new houses are being built. (Q: I know, yes. ) Surprising there, that don’t look the same place. (Q: No, it doesn’t, does it.) There used to be a lane there, that used to be a courting way[?]. (Q: Which, by the Jack and Jenny, was it? [maybe opposite]) Yes, you used to, you could walk right along there, you know, and there was just, one or two houses, but not many, I mean the old people’s bungalows and weren’t there and that, it were all field.

[chat about daughter, Celia Barden[?] not noted]

Q:    And what was your mum’s name before she married?

Mr J:    My mum? (Q: Yes.) Kent

Q:     Kent. So, in case I come across them, what was her first name?

Mr J:    Jessie Frances, it was.

Q:     Jessie Frances. And your father?

Mr J:    Just William, I think.

Q:    Just William, yes. Cause, were you called both Cecil and Bill? You said at the factory they called you Bill, did they? At the factory, did they call you Bill?

Mr J:    Yes, they called me Bill Joslin [laugh].

Q:    How confusing. So how do you reckon, going back to Crittall’s, how do you reckon, did you enjoy it? Sounds as if you had a bit of a hard time.

Mr J:    Well, there was, oh dear, to do some of the jobs … (Q: Quite, yes.) I was working on what they called the shearing, you held your [???] up like that, and put it through to the tool, and you put your foot on the pedal, and course that cleared all the weld off. (Q: I see, yes.)  And I was miles away one day, I weren’t in Crittall’s at all [laugh], and I didn’t put it in right, so that come round, and give me a hit right on the head. (Q: Hit you on the head?) I looked round to see whether anybody was looking, cause sometimes, there’s always somebody out to catch your eye, cause that’d tickle them, if they’d have seen me. So, I weren’t on them jobs long. When I was on them, they were boring, you see, there was some jobs, I loved casemaking, we used to make big cases, to put windows in and that, course that come under my dad, you know.

Q:    So where was your dad, was that his part, in the woodshop?

Mr J:    Yes, he was the packers’ foreman. (Q: Oh, the packers?) Yes, when he was at Braintree, he, they never made their own cases, they bought cases in, so when they got to pack[?] a case and that, they had to go out in the yard and pick a case what they thought might suit the thing. And when of course, when we come to Witham, they decided to make their own cases, you see. (Q: Yes.) And he used to have to work out what sizes they might, the size of the window, and you’ve got to allow for other parts. Oh yes.

Q:    Sounds like, all sounds very hard work. You hard to work pretty hard all the time, didn’t you?

Mr J:    Yes. That manager what I was telling you about, he used to stand up the top of the shop, where they were finalling, he’d stand up there all day, every time, from half past seven to half past five at night. He used to have a break, he used to have a coffee break in the morning, and coffee break in the afternoon, and that. And he’d go back, he’d only just go down there for a cup of tea or whatever he had, was poured out for him, so I reckon that must have been cold when he drunk it. And he was back out before … hardly the bell went. (Q: Just looking at you?) Yes, he’s standing there, watching these fellows work.

Some of them they got, they used to swing the hammer like that so they lost their hammer, like, so that went [???] down. Course they used to get the sack. (Q: Really.) You was on the go the whole time, once you were there.

Q:    When you first started, would that be in the Depression? (Mr J: Oh, that was lovely, in the wood shop.) In the wood shop, yes?

Mr J:    They used to start, stop now and again, to sharpen the cutters and that, so we used to get a break. But we used to have, we called them blowers, but that was a suction pipe, used to suck all the shavings and that up, and we used to sweep from the floor, like, put it up there.

Q:    So the wood was for the surrounds, was it? The wood was for the surrounds?

Mr J:    Yes. Yes, that’s right. There were fills[?], jambs and [???].

Q:    So were you there in the 1930s when they were short of work? In the 1930s about, didn’t they have to sack a lot of people? Were you there then?

Mr J:    Oh yes. Every year. There were some chaps, they were kept on the dole till the next summer, to draw them to come and do the job, cause they’d been there before. There was one fellow, even at Christmas time, he was kept on one Christmas, he said, ‘Do you know, this is the first Christmas I’ve had [???], now he was a young fellow, and I thought, how lovely, I thought, he’d been able to buy his children a present and that. And not long after the Christmas he got the sack again. So I mean, you didn’t know, how to work in the end. Of course I was lucky, you see, I was just a, well I wasn’t very old at times, I was a young man, about twenties, and that, you see, but of course when you got older you earned money.

Q:    So you didn’t have to, they kept you on all the time, did they?

Mr J:    Yes, I was lucky, one of the ones that kept on all the time. I never lost, well I did one day, there was, I think that was during the War, through the bombing and that, and I think they were smashed, the roofing and that, where we were working. And something went wrong, so they put a lot of the men on the dole. And course there was another old foreman, he didn’t think much of me. He hated me really. So the manager, the under-manager what I didn’t like, he wanted to keep me there, he didn’t want me to go up on the dole, you see. So anyway, I went up on the dole, you see, because he never picked me, [???] he picked the men what he thought would do, this one. So anyway, it weren’t long after, next day I [???] in the factory to him, I said, this under-manager didn’t think I should be up there. But no, he’d put me anywhere, cause, I’ve been on all the jobs, I’ve even swept the floor up, in the factory. And I’ve swept the snow up outside, because we used to have trucks come in the yard, and they used to go round, to go to the, put the steel in the bay and that, and they used to have a tractor, and a man with them to hook the trucks on, to tow, to the, [???]. Cause they used to have a shunting engine come in the morning, and in the afternoon, to take the trucks away.

And, course there was snow and that, and this old tractor used to keep slipping and that. He was a wicked man, he used to swear and [???]. This old tractor wouldn’t do, he’d kick it and call it everything he’d think of. And so he told them [???], so the yard foreman, cause he had a yard foreman, like, the yard foreman had got me, well Andrews told him, he said ‘Oh, put him out with snow’. There was one day I was sweeping the snow away. And Mr Small come round, he was quite pleased, cause I done a good job. Yes.

Q:    So who was the tractor driver, then?

Mr J:    Butler, Bill Butler.

Q:    Yes. So he’d got a bad temper, had he? So why, you keep saying …

Mr J:     He went funny in the end. (Q: Did he, yes.) He went, his brain. (Q: Ah.) He’d got a quiet little old man with him, he used to be in the Navy, this little man, and he was ever so quiet, like, and he used to walk away when he was, he got that temper. And of course actually, I can understand him really, because he’d got to get them trucks, so, the train had to have them, the engine couldn’t wait all that long, that’d only got a certain time to pull them out and push them round the yard.

Q:    Cause you keep saying so and so didn’t like you. Do you think, why do you think that was, that they didn’t like you? When you say these various people didn’t like you, why do you think that was.

Mr J:    Oh, I don’t know.

Q:    Were you an awkward chap, then? Did you stick up for yourself, is what I’m saying?

Mr J:    Well, yes, I stuck to the under-manager, because, I mean, he didn’t tell me what my trouble was, why he didn’t like me, you see, but I only surmised that, thinking that were through that manager, didn’t like what I was doing. Anyway I give myself a nasty cut. Well, that time of day, you only had the lodge keeper used to have to bandage your hand and that, at that time. And, I had a nasty old cut and that, and I thought, well, I ain’t going to do that no more, push them through so quick. [???] And of course, he’d had more than he wanted, anyway, drink.

Q:    So it was just the sort of chap he was, really?

Mr J:    Yes, my surmising, that’s what it was, I’m almost certain it was, really. I reckon he got onto the other manager saying ‘You want to get on and your[?] men doing the job properly. Well I could have done it, I mean, I done it, I done it. And of course they said ‘Oh, oh, oh, don’t work so hard,’ Because they wanted to have a certain pace they used to … So of course, anyway I weren’t on it long. I was on different jobs.

Tape 197. Mr Cecil Joslin, sides 1 and 2

Tape 197

Mr Cecil Joslin was born c 1914. He was interviewed on 13 August 2004, when he lived at Cerine, Braintree Road, Witham.

For more information about him, see Joslin, Cecil, in the People category

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

See also photos in JG’s collection M2092-2114, M2145-M2152.

Continued from tape 197

Side 1

[Preliminary chat, also how he knew John Thorogood who had put me in touch with CJ about Crittall’s, not noted]

Q:    You came [to Witham] when you were eleven, you say?

Mr J:    I came to Witham when I was eleven, see, my dad, he was made foreman, and they started making their cottage windows at Witham. (Q: Oh, I see.) And they built a row of six houses up Manor Road, that’s how it come to be Manor Road, because Crittall’s at Braintree was called Manor works at the time. (Q: Of course, yes. Keep going.) [more chat about taping, not noted].

Q:    I see, so where was he before that then? Where was your dad before that, in Braintree? You came from Braintree?

Mr J:    Yes, I came from Braintree. And when I come to Witham, when I used to live at Braintree, that was fields all, well, there was a dairy farm opposite us, lovely fields, and there was a spinney there, you know, and early in the morning if you walked down, if you walked down the valley to the spinney, because there was a tree, and birds, I found it beautiful, morning callers it was, all the different birds whistling, it was lovely. And I used to play in the field there, you know, and they built that stream up so we could paddle.

Q:    I know, yes. And that was at Braintree when you were quite little then?

Mr J:    That was at Braintree, yes. And then course, coming to Witham, I was lost. (Q: Ah, yes.) See, I didn’t know what to do with myself, really. (Q: No, no.) I’d got a young brother, and that, and [???] mum got us into the Church of England school, where, that’s where the car park is now [Guithavon Street], (Q: Oh, yes, yes.) And Mr Crosby and Mr Rowles, Mr Rowles was head teacher, and his wife used to teach the [???] the young generation (Q: Oh, I see.) and I mean, Mr Crosby used to teach three, four, five, and Mr Rowles used to have six, seven and seven A. He was a clever man. Wonderful man, he was, yes, he [???] X7. And the chaps who’d like to learn. Course me, I wasn’t a [???] so it didn’t worry me. And they had the chance of learning algebra and everything there. He told the boys, he told us, he said ‘If you like to learn’, he said, ‘you’ll learn as much as my daughters do’, and they were at Braintree High School, he said you’ll learn much, and that’s true that was. Some one of them jumped into wonderful jobs.

And anyway, I was dull[?] and didn’t know what to do with myself and that, you know. And then one of the chaps come along and he asked me if I’d like to join the Boy Scouts. (Q: Ah. Yes?) So I did, but mind you, you know, you had to buy your own clothes and that, and that time of day, money was scarce really. So anyway, I joined the Boy Scouts, and that was the best part of my life. (Q: Really?) We had some wonderful times. And, well I’ve just been in that now, I reckon [???]. Yes, we had wonderful times. And course, we, first started to go the Boy Scouts, you know, where Borno the chemist’s is [124 Newland Street]. Well, behind there, behind that used to be a school at one time, in days gone by. (Q: I see, yes.) And they had a lovely big room in there, so of course we hired that, you know. And we had horizontal bars, and a gym horse, and of course we used to do gym and that, you know, exercises and that. And then of course, opposite the Labour Hall [Collingwood Road], they had a big hut there, an old army hut from the 1914 War. And that belonged to the YMCA. And they give up, so they offered us if we’d to go in as the YMCA troop, we could have it. Now, that’s how we come to have the hut on our own, and that (Q: Great, yes.) and they had two billiard tables in, they had a kitchen, and a lovely big room, and that’s where we used to go, down there, it made our life, you know. And behind there was a lovely piece of ground, so we used to play different games and that outside. And that of course, where the scouts were and that.

Q:    So who ran that, then? Who organised it? Who was the chief man, who was the leader?

Mr J:    When we first joined the scouts, we, that was First Witham Boy Scouts, and our scout master was Billy Evitt/Evett, they lived at the Lounds at, er, (Q: Oh, Maldon Road way?) Yes, off Maldon Road. His father was a Captain, you know, in the army, and I think he had a fruit farm there. And course, his son, he worked up at London, and he was our scout master. We had our own bugle band. (Q: Really?) Lovely band.

Q:    Were you in the band?

Mr J:    Yes, I had, and I went in the band when I got older, but first of all I was a happy boy, I played the cymbals. [laugh] (Q: Oh, lovely.) And then I got higher, the bugle, you know. Anyway, as time went on, oh, we went camping, and we used to go down, we went down to Felixstowe in 1925, there’s a plane down there, was practising for the race, [???] race, and that plane was originated from the Spitfire, the Spitfire was originated from that one. And that used to be lovely to see that, touring round, you know, thought that was wonderful, cause planes interest people.

Q:    What race was it in for? What race was it going for?

Mr J:    Oh, the Snow [???] race of the different countries. They all went in it, they one it with this. Cause we had the best one. And they were sea planes, they’d got floats on them, you know.

Cause at Felixstowe was the sea plane base, air planes, Air Force planes. {Q: Was it, oh I didn’t know that.) Yes. Yes, so …

Q:    Was this mostly at weekends, or did you go in the, was it mostly at weekends that you did the scouts things, or did you go in the evening as well. With the scouts, did you go in the evenings after school? How often did you, how many times a week?

Mr J:    Oh, we went once a week to Scouts, we had boxing, gymnasium and that in the sports, and other things, and we went different competitions with other Scouts, you know. Yes. We went to the jamboree down at Southend. We didn’t go camping there, but our scout master hired a taxi and drop us down there for the day, but, we saw the Lord Baden Powell. [Q: Did you really?) Yes, and we went to a church and there were so many of us we couldn’t go it, get in the church, we had to stay outside, cause that was packed. And then we went to some, it must have been a cinema, I reckon, it must have been, and we had a, listen to Lord Baden Powell. (Q: That was an honour wasn’t it?) And then of course, I gradually got older, and to get some pocket money and that, cause you were lucky if you got a penny a week, you know. So we, I used to go doing little jobs, like, there was an old fish shop down Church Street, and that was a fruiterers and all, and cause the fruit used to come round, he asked my mum if his boy, her boy, would like a job. So I went round there, and I used to, I didn’t peel them, I scraped the potatoes for the fish, you know, for the chips. (Q: I see, it was a chip shop was it, yes.) Yes. And that was a round thing, well you know what a nutmeg grater is like, well we used to put all the potatoes in there, and there was a pipe run over the top with water, and you had to turn a handle like a gramophone record player, you know. And [???] till you ‘d cleaned all the skin off the potatoes. (Q: Better than doing it with a knife). And anyway, fact is, I used to go out with the fruiterer, you know, used to go round selling things at the houses and that, I used to have my own basket, used to place, you know, your best pieces of fruit and what nots in the basket and take round, and ask if they’d like anything. Course today that’s all these big monopoly things.

Q:    So, how old were you then, about?

Mr J:    Oh, about twelve.

Q:    Is that all?

Mr J:    Yes, and thirteen. Thirteen yes, and fourteen. There was a, thirteen, there was a shop near the railway station, a little shop, right near where the Labour Hall is [Collingwood Road]. That used to be a market there. Yes. And this little hut was there, the chap used to make tea for the, you know, the drivers and whatnot. And he used to sell cigarettes, sweets, and fruit and that.
And I used to go round the different houses on a Saturday morning, collecting orders, then I used to go to the shelf and he’d get these orders up, and I had an old barrow, you know, I used to have to push round the different places where I’d been, to, you know, (Q: Take the stuff?) fruit and that.

Q:    So that was from the shop on the bridge, you mean?

Mr J:    Yes. That was on part of the railway …, well in the market grounds. (Q: So they did fruit as well, did they?). Where that big building is, that office. (Q: I know, the red one.) [c 71 Collingwood Road] Yes, that was built on the edge of that, you know, with the rail[?], like.

Q:    I think I remember seeing that little white building, with wooden boards on.

Mr J:    There was a [???] building.

Q:    So did he do fruit as well? Did the man there, did he do fruit as well? When you were working for him, what did you do there? Still delivering?

Mr J:    Well, odd jobs for him, you know. Making ice cream, he used to make ice cream and …
(Q: Oh really, wow!) [laughter]

Q:     So what was his name?

Mr J:    Mr Burton. But he went bankrupt and moved to Braintree. Cause he was a Braintree man, like [???].

Q:    And what was the name of the man at the fruit shop and the fish shop?

Mr J:    Oh, I couldn’t tell you, Allen I think. One was married to the other. You wouldn’t believe it, but used to come back there Saturday nights about six, when we stopped work, and they used to give me a tea. I used to have a banana and that, fish, smell the fishing oil, that was quite good, you know, fish and a banana together was … [laugh].

Q:    Do you remember how much money you got for that?

Mr J:    Oh, weren’t much more that half a crown.

Q:    Really? So when, when you left school, how old would you be then?

Mr J:    I was fourteen when I left school. (Q: I see, mm.) And I stayed at, with Burton for a little while, after I left school, and my dad, course, he got me in, a job in the factory. So I started in the factory, just at fourteen. And I done fifty years there, I done me time there. I won it. I knew nearly every job in the factory, I done nearly every job. Yes. And they had a band, Crittall’s band, and I said to Dad, I’d like to join the band, so he said, he spoke to Mr Knight, our bandmaster, got a photo of … (Q: Oh really, how lovely? Oh yes.) [JG’s photos M2093, M2094, M2095]  That’s Mr Knight, he was a lovely man, he come from … (Q: I’ll write that one down, the band. What was his name. Mr ?) A M[?] Knight. (Q: Oh Knight, yes, oh I’ve heard about him, yes. Oh, isn’t that lovely.) That’s him, coming along there, look … (Q: That’s him, you?) Our bandmaster. (Q: Oh I see. Where’s this one?) That’s Witham High Street. (Q: Is it really? Well, I didn’t recognise it. Oh, Bellamy’s yes, I’m with you. So that’s Mr Knight there as well.) Yes, this is Mr Knight here, that was when we went, that’s the British Legion band. Cause Crittall’s band fell through, so the Legion bought the instruments, and …

Q:    So which one’s he, which is Mr Knight on here, is Mr Knight on this one. (Q: Yes, Mr Knight. He’s conducting. Are you on them?

Mr J:    Yes, up here somewhere. That’s Stan Champ, I’m there, somewhere, you can’t see me properly. (Q: So that’s Stan Champ in the middle?) Yes, Stan Champ, he was our soloist, he played lovely.
[more about names, not noted here, I went back later with copies of the photos and got more, see Access database of JG’s series of M photos]

Mr J:    We had our uniforms, always used to wear a white cap in the summer time, a proper naval sort of do, and on the band of the hat, was Crittall’s colours, that was orange, orange colour band, and they were grey, light grey uniforms with orange stripe down the trousers. (Q: Very smart, yes.) And we had a dicky bow, you know, a collar, you know, proper white collar like, with a dicky bow. Oh I was proud to have that, when I first had that put on.

[more about names, not noted here, I went back later with copies of the photos and got more, see Access database of JG’s series of M photos]

Q:    So when did the Crittall’s, about how old were you when the Crittall’s one folded up and you went to the British Legion one, do you know?

Mr J:    About twenty, I reckon. [so about 1934?]

Q:    Oh, I see, yes.

Mr J:    And then, what did they call him, he was president of the Legion (Q: I see.) He worked at our factory, and he heard that we was packing up, so he spoke about it in the Legion, about us buying the instruments, which they did, and we paid for the instruments and bought our own uniform, the same year as we joined the Legion. All our uniforms come to about a hundred pounds [laugh]. And we went up to the Albert and had them all measured up [???] [???], there were some lovely photos, they was about but I just I didn’t get them.

Q:    So was that a blue, was it a blue uniform, the Legion one?

Mr J:    That was a navy uniform with a gold stripe down the side, and gold braid round the uniform, and of course that was [???].

Q:    Oh, aren’t you clever. Was your father musical?

Mr J:    My dad started as a boy, boy, you know, at the, I think it must have Braintree band, you know. (Q: Yes, yes.) But he didn’t carry it on, you know. But I love music, you know, I do. My schoolmaster, you know, I never got on very well, you know, but, he was surprised, cause he loved music, he used to play the organ in the Church and that. (Q: Really?) And he was doing with the Council, and we had a band concert in the Public Hall, and he was there, and he spoke to Mr Knight and asked whether it was me what was in the band. [laugh] (Q: Oh, I see. Yes, that’s wonderful.) We had such lovely times. Used to go out to British Legion rallies. We went to one at Clacton and the [???] got wives and that, they had a bus to there, and the band had a bus to ourselves, and come, it was a Sunday, and course, everybody said they’d be there at eight o’clock, [probably in the evening, to come home] everybody was there on time, and the ladies’ bus got away, and ours wouldn’t go. (Q: Oh no!) [laugh]

So they got us to push it round the bus park, and time kept going on, you could hear the clock striking, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and about twelve o’clock we managed to get it going, and so our bus driver, he’d got to take Clark, I think his name was, he’d got to take him up to Chelmsford, and he’d got to go to Silver End, and drop Mr Knight and some others, so what time they got home I don’t know. That was a laugh, that was. That was a lovely parade. And then we went to Southend, that was a beautiful parade there, course we had the Guards bands, they march in front. Our bandmaster was a man what took a steady pace, you know, because they were all old soldiers and that, you know, and they used to take a steady pace, but when we got to the march past, like, we, the Guards band were ‘Bang, bang, bang’, you know, so everybody was up like the [???], and marching past, and we’d been a marching steady, you know, that was a hot day. That was lovely that was. They were all pleasant times, you know, and you met other bandsmen and that, and they were like brothers and that, you know. Some, one band, what come from Boxted, they’d got some young girls in that, and of course we used to play for the hymns and that, you know, and our band was, wasn’t a full band, so they used to come and help us out, you know, playing with us, and that. Yes, really lovely. (Q: Would be, yes.)

Q:    So how long, oh, you’ve got some more pictures, you’ve got lots of pictures.

Mr J:    Yes, these are when we was at the camp, washing our feet. [photos M2102-M2108, Boy Scouts] (Q: Oh I see.) [???] We used to be in a foursome, my brother and his mate, and myself, and my mate took the photo. Oh, we used to travel, cycle round all over the place, you know, and always together.

Q:    What was your brother’s name?

Mr J:    Herbert.

Q:    Herbert. But he was, he was younger, you said.

Mr J:    Yes, four years younger. I was born at the beginning of the War [First] and he was born after the War.

Q:    So you were born in 19, 1914?

Mr J:    [???] 1918.

Q:     Course, yes, 1918. That’s a lovely one. [M2103]

Mr J:    Yes. That fellow [Basil Quantrill of Silver End], he went the Royal Marines Band, he could play any instrument, that doesn’t matter what instrument you give him, he make some sound out of. Oh he was a wonderful player and that used to sound lovely [???], he used to be a playing that, and of course they’re all singing.

Q:    What was his name, or don’t you remember?

Mr J:    Yes, Basil, oh dear.

Q:     Never mind, we’ll do that another time. I’ll come back some time, and we’ll go through the names, perhaps, when you’ve had time to think about it. It’s a lovely picture.

Mr J:    I ought to know, because he’d got a brother and all, he went in the Navy during the War [Second], and of course, he joined up as a musician, and he’d have come out as the bandmaster, I know he would, but his ship got bombed in harbour at one of the islands out there [???]. Memory won’t get the names. (Q: So was he killed then, when his ship got bombed?) Oh, they got sunk, you know, and of course they all got drowned.
Quantrill. Basil Quantrill. His father was in the 1914 War in the submarines, he was an officer.

Q:    I wonder where this is [same photo]?

Mr J:     Felixstowe.

Q:     This is Felixstowe, ah. So are you on this one?

Mr J:    Oh that’s, I was on fatigue that day, getting all the food ready for them.

Q:    Oh, so you weren’t actually on the picture?

Mr J:    I wasn’t on that picture, no. I was in the camp, you know. [Boy Scouts]

Q:    Yes. Somebody had to do the work.

Mr J:    It was just one day, one day in the holiday, you know, was on fatigue, so you used to have to clean up and cook. (Q: Yes. That’s lovely.) That’s taken in the Recreation ground at Witham [M2108]. That’s my, that’s myself, that’s me, that’s my brother, that’s Doug Rudkin, and that’s Jim Reed, he got killed during the War, got a trailer and a tractor at Dunmow, and the trailer broke away, and go into him and killed him, and he’d got three other brothers. That was a beautiful funeral, these boys were in the army, their father was an army man, he was the Black Watch. And one of the brothers was in the Black Watch and George, who used to be my pal, he was in the Scots Guards, and the other one joined the Essex Regiment.

Q:    Was it Reed, did you say? Was it Reed, their surname?

Mr J:    Reed. That’s in about 1925, there was a fire at Crittall’s [photos M2096-M2101]. (Q: Oh?) Terrific fire. (Q: Goodness, looks very drastic.) That was the paint dip, paint caught alight.

Q:     Goodness. Looks very drastic. Was that when you, were you working there then?

Mr J:    No, I was only just a boy. (Q: Of course, yes.) About thirteen then.
[chat about borrowing photos, not noted]
That was the finish of the band. (Q: Isn’t that lovely) [???] the instruments there, that was the same, I went down to the, cause I used to do night work at the factory, and I used to go on a Monday night to practise, and when I got down there, there was only me, and I used to get all the, you know, the stands out, and the music out, for them, and … [pause] Yes, that little boy, [M2093] that, now, that was Rowley Butler, I think that was him, Rowley Butler, he was the one come down, cause he played the cornet, and we were the only two down there, and I told him wrong[?].

If I say we’re going on, I said, that’s worse that [???] at home, cause I used to go down there, you see, and I only spent about an hour with them, cause I had to get back by nine-o’clock, I had to start work. We used to go to the British Legion hut you see, practise, and so that broke up, the band because … (Q: Not enough people coming?) the trouble is, with a lot of these bandsmen and that, they get a band, they always think they’re going to get something out on it, you know, they went in it to get some extra money, if you know what I mean. Well, to go out and pay for your bus to go out to different functions, and then make a claim for money, you know, for playing for them, and that, well of course, that stopped all the bands going you see, because people went and got these radios and whatnot, and they done away with the bands, you know, because that cost more for a band, you see. (Q: Of course, yes.) And then there was the travelling expenses. Of course you had to buy music and that.

Q:    So when, when about would this be? Roughly. How old would you be when that happened?

Mr J:    Oh, I was getting on. I must have been twenty-six.

Q:    That was, you were twenty-six, yes. So that would be about 1940?

Mr J:    Yes, that would be round about that time.

Q:    Well I suppose, if it was, would it be in the War time?

Mr J:    No, it wasn’t in the War time, no. Before the War.

Q:    Yes. It’s a lovely picture. Which is you on here? (Mr J: That.) Oh right, I ought to recognise you by now cause I’ve seen – I’ve seen so many pictures I ought to recognise you, but I’ve never sure, people look different with a hat on, don’t they.

Mr J:    One of these, there was nearly a whole family on them. There was one, two, three …, oh, one, two, three, four, they were all brothers. (Q: Really?) Willshers the name were. (Q: Ah.) Yes. He still plays in a band. (Q: Really?) Yes, he’s secretary of one band. Yes. His old man was over eighty. I got to think of these names. (Q: Oh don’t worry, don’t worry about that at the moment. It’s a beautiful picture.) That was taken at Hatfield, some church fete. (Q: I’ll put that with the others.) That was when I was in the Home Guard [M2092]. (Q: Oh, wow.) We were in Crittall’s Home Guard. (Q: Oh, I see, yes.) Yes, the fact-, you know. (Q: The factory. You’re going to have to tell me which is you again. Which one is you?) Down here, somewhere. There I am.

Q:     Oh yes. So did you, did you stay in Crittall’s in the War time?

Mr J:    Yes, I was, I was lucky really, but I wouldn’t have been, but I had a perforated ear, so that stopped me, I volunteered to be air gunner, you know, and I had my call-up papers come, and cancellation papers come the same day. And I read my cancellation papers first. (Q: I see.) Well, I went down for my medical, down at Colchester, at Culver Street, that was the Methodist church there, and coming home, there were soldiers and that were coming back from, you know, that disaster, when we first went over to France [Dunkirk?] and that, and oh dear, that was a pitiful sight, you know, saw these chaps come back, and they’d got hardly uniform and nothing on, they were so distressed and that, you know. And I had a packet of fags in my pocket, so I give it to them. That hurt me ever so much, you know. Cause my brother, he had to go in the army, see. Actually, before the War started, they had, they called up young boys and that, and they were going to do a training, and that sounded nice, and I was thinking, ‘Cor’, I said to my brother, ‘That’d be nice, I’m looking forward to getting there and all, you know.’ And, I mean, he’d got to go up to Warley barracks, on the Thursday, and on the Sunday they declared War, so of course, he went in the army right away.

Side 2

Q:    Was he all right? He come back, did he?

Mr J:    Yes, he come back, but it was a long time before we heard from him. Course, everything that, you know, when they were driven back and that, and plus he applied for the REME, you know. And he managed to get in the REME, and course they used to go out and mend the tanks and that, you see, cars, lorries and that, if they got stuck anywhere. They used to go out with all their equipment, and everything on the lorry. And, course they got mixed up with this retreat, you know, Rommel pushed us back, you know, so they were all got back to Alexandria, and that’s where he stayed for the rest of the year, you know, time, and [???] the REME, they had a workshop there, he stayed there. He had toothache, and he had to go and see a dentist, and the dentist got talking to him, and he was in, this dentist was in the First Fourth Essex, and they were stationed at Witham, just, during the War, and they used to go up to some old ladies up Rickstones Road, used to invite them, you know, there, they were old spinsters, they were, and they used to invite them there for … you know, for something to do, and that. Course he was one on them what was there, so my brother knew them, knew of these old ladies, Ottleys, they were, and (Q: I know, yes.) so that was that, and his mate used to be a lorry driver and that, you know, in that, he never did run across them, but he run across one of the boys of Witham, and he was in the Medical part. See, that was wonderful, you know, they used to run up against each other, and course, mother used to worry about him and that. Well, we all did, and, because we wondered how he was, and course we never used to hear from him and that. When he did write a letter like, they used to censor, so they crossed things out. But anyway, he come home on leave. Well actually, he could have died before he went abroad, because he was on leave one weekend, and they went home, and that was wet, you know, and course they got hobnailed boots and that, and somebody electrocuted the knob on the door, and before he got there, there’s a chap went down, he got killed, he got electrocuted. Well, then my brother was the next one, so he’d have been the one what’d got it. But he was lucky to get away. Well, on his way home, oh he got on the banana boat, like coming home, and that, there was one of the workers on the boat and that, he got stabbed, and of course they accused everybody you see, and the soldiers and that, of doing that, you know. So he had some rough times, really.

Q:    What did he do when he came back, did he work at Crittall’s as well? When he came back, did he work at Crittall’s as well?

Mr J:    Yes, he worked at Crittall’s, he went away from Crittall’s, you know, and he was a smart boy really, he always used to keep himself smart and that, you know, and when they were on parade, like at Warley barracks, the old sergeant major used to get him out and stand him in front, and say ‘This is how I want to see you look’, you know.

Cause my brother used to polish his shoes and so he was like, smart. Well, I think the idea was to try and look peculiar[?] (Q: Really?) That was my idea of it, you know, they didn’t think much on him because, you know, he was praised for what he’d done. Anyway, he was a runner, round Warley barracks and Billericay and that, when the bombers come over, and they had a German prisoner, you know, officer[?]. And he was put in the stable, what was a stable, and this old German said ‘[???] in there.” [laugh] He thought they was going to be treated properly [???].

But, yes, they were, oh dear, I must say I was starting to worry. I was in Crittall’s, and I was working in the galvanise, and I was near the door. We had a roller door, where you had chains to pull it up, and I was always told as soon as the alarm went, to do that, so I did, and just as I stepped out and had a look, there was this bomber come over, German bomber. So one of them come strolling along there, he was [???] ‘Oh, he said, that’s one of ours.’ I said ‘Is it?’ I said ‘It’s got the swastika on it, anyway.’ So he stood up the top of the dugout, and that, all of a sudden there was a bang. He comes tearing down there, I thought ‘Now you know what that was.’ And that hit our power house, and that. Well, we still kept going and that, and, well, they, some of the machines and that got burned out. They were all blown to pieces, we never did see them no more [the machines]. And the girders, there were holes in the girders where the shrapnel went through. We got bombed twice there. Yes. So we had a little bit of a War.

Q:    So what happened the other time? Were you at work the other time, as well? You say you were bombed twice?

Mr J:    Yes I was at work there. I was put on welding during the War, and they needed some workers down at Wivehoe, welders, they were building something down there. And they wanted some, so they took so many men from the individual factories around the district, you know. And we went down there, welding. And, that was early spring, you know, there was snow and frost on the ground when we went. And they built, we didn’t know what they were, but in the end, I put it down that they parts of a Mulberry harbour. Because they were like egg boxes, you know, in departments, what we were doing, on a big flat platform[?], you know. And they got a piece hanging over, and they’d got places where they were fixed, you know, other parts on, so they were away at sea and that, so they was [???]. And they had some men testing them, so we went to put, blow air into the compartments, or water, you know, which the Germans couldn’t make out, what they were. And they had lots all round the country, you know. And while they were waiting to go for Dunkirk, they used to sink them you see, in the bay like, so the Germans didn’t know … and of course, however they pulled them all out of France and that, marvellous to me.

Because when were they were launched in the river, like, that was a rare do, that was something like launching a ship. An old Admiral come along and that, and this one, you see it was all flat like that, with a piece hanging over, and when that hit the water, there was a chap over the other side the river, he was going to take a photo of it, and that made a big tidal wave, so I don’t think he ever took the photo [laugh]. Cause that pushed it way, took it when that was [???]. Ever such a big old tug had to come along and pull it. Fact we made two parts of it, I suppose they made two parts of all on it, in case they did get bombed. Yes, so that was what we done. And then [???] we were on shift work, we was going to work on nights, but the people in Wivenhoe wouldn’t have us working on nights, cause of the flashing of the electric welder, and so we worked shifts, six till two and two till ten. Of course I used to, I think when I started off I cycled to Kelvedon and used to pick a bus up there to go to Colchester, and then I’d pick another bus up to go to Wivenhoe. So, well they brought another firm in from [???], and the foreman, he, must have hired a flat or something at Coggeshall, so he said ‘How are you getting there?’ I said ‘Well, when I’m six o’clock in the morning, I have that cycle, cause there was two from, three from Coggeshall used to cycle. And he said ‘You don’t want to cycle’ he said ‘I’ll come round and pick me up’, you see. So he used to pick me up in the morning, and course we kept on early shift all the time, you see, cause his men and that, they lodged there, and so they, they done the nights.

Q:    So were you there quite a long time? Were you at Wivenhoe for quite a long time?

Mr J:    About two months.

Q:    Oh, you were then. Cause when you were at, so in the War at Crittall’s in Witham, did they make special things for the War?

Mr J:    We made Bailey bridges, we made landing grids, you know, they were like a, a mattress, a [???] mattress, like a single bed. And they were welded. There was, the Bailey bridges, that was surprising the different parts they had, a Bailey bridge. There were little pieces, where perhaps the bridge was on the slant and that, and having to build it up like, and that. And they had, made canisters for the ships, they used to blow these parachutes up in the air when they were dive bombed and that, and they used to blow these parachutes up in the air, and of course they used to float down, and of course that stopped the bomber from coming down. And …

Q:    Did you work on those? Did you work on those things?

Mr J:    Yes. Bailey bridges, I done a lot, there was lots of parts, as I say, there was long pieces of girder and they used to have, the girder was, you know, hollow, that was hollow, like it and that. We used to have to put plates in there for, I suppose for bolting together and that in different places, you see, that was all welded on, they were {???]. There used to be a man [???] [???].

Q:    So you had a turn at all the different things, then? You worked on all the different things, you weren’t just on the one.

Mr J:    Yes, all sorts of things.

Q:    Did they make shells. Did somebody say they made shells?

Mr J:    Yes, they made shells, that was the first thing they done. (Q: Was it?) They had these big lathes come in, and the girls used to, they used to have a man.
They had like a crane that lifted the, I forget what they call them now, [???], and that laid it into the lathe. That was a rough, like a flask it was, like, and the girls used to machine it, and the men used to have to take it out. That was so heavy, and …

Q:    So were there quite a lot of girls working there, were there? Were there quite a lot of women there in the War?

Mr J:    Yes. There were a lot of women, in their, different jobs. Some of the jobs you couldn’t tell what they were making, really, cause you didn’t know what they were. (Q: No.) Yes, so we welded. There was piece of aeroplane tail parts, we used to weld up and that. And, oh, there was lots of things. I can’t think of all on them. I had a book once, and I lent it to one of the girls, and I never did see it no more, they kept it. I had it with all the different parts what we had. I had to get me by, one of the inspectors give it to me, after the War. And I kept myself [???] and I never did see it no more.

Used to, there was trucks what were damaged, and that, you know, rail trucks, they used to bring them in, and the chaps used to build them up, make the trucks on them again. Used to have big containers where they put the shells in, and they used to have rubber shock absorbers like, inside these, they had to stick them in. The other part I reckon were made at Braintree, the shell cases like, and then they used to send them to Witham for somebody to put the, stick the rubber and that on, to stop the shock of the bombs.

Q:    So all this time, were you living in Manor Road still?

Mr J:    Yes. I lived in Manor Road till I was twenty-eight, and I married then. I never thought I’d ever get married, because all my mates had got married and that, and I slept on my own, cause there weren’t many of my boys about, you see, during the War, I was a loner. And course we had the Home Guard, like, we used to practise once a week there, and then we used to have to do night work, and night shifts, we used, once a week when we was on days, we used to have to go and guard the works, every two hours, like in the night. And then go to work the next morning. (Q: Mmm.) They had a three storey building, and they had spotters on the top, and course they had German planes used to come over during the day, so they would, Home Guard used to put me up there on the gun, but the spotters didn’t like it, because they said ‘Oh, he won’t know the planes.’ Well you knew which was a, got a swastika on and which had got the Union Jack, you know, red white and blue. [laugh] So I think they [???] anyway, a good job, because that come over one Monday morning, one on them had to use the gun on this plane, that come over and dropped bombs and that. So, house, like, the ceiling, that put all the, break all the ceiling and that.

And of course, Mum had got the table, breakfast table on, A chap was going to plop it, and I said ‘Oi, steady on’, I said, ‘we got the things on the table’, cause they come to see what damage has been done, you see.

Q:    So was there quite a big, big hole in the roof, then? Was there quite a big hole in the roof?

Mr J:    No, no, no it, just, that shook the ceilings, you know, it weren’t … There was in Crittall’s, they had some …

Q:    Cause, somebody did tell me this story about one time, with the bombs, that the spotters sent everybody to the shelters, and if they hadn’t, people would have got killed.

Mr J:    When they first started the sirens used to start first, nothing seemed to happen, so people used to dawdle to the dugouts and that. And one chap, when the first bomb dropped, he had to go, just round near the paint dip, so he got away from it, but he weren’t far away from some of the damage that was done. But that frightened him, he didn’t stop in the factory, he went out to the dugouts, cause you all were located to different dugouts, where you’d got to go. On the outside, where Safeway’s [later Morrison’s] have got their bit of garden there [probably by Braintree Road], where you walk round the path and that, well they had a big dugout there, high as a building. And then course they were all round the yard, and different … Yes.

Q:    So which, you the spotters didn’t want you helping, were they always the same people doing the spotting?

Mr J:    Yes. Yes, they were, some on them were in the Home Guard. Yes, there’s [looking at photo M2092] he was a spotter.

Q:    So they thought they were something special, did they?

Mr J:    Yes, they, just it. One on them, during the night, we had a dugout in Cut Throat Lane, you know where the car park is round there. (Q: I know, yes.) Well there was a dugout there, and he used to go round to this dugout, every night, and he could probably hear a plane coming, so he used to notify them up on the building, cause that was a three-storey building, what they had there. Rex Griggs, his name was. He did lovely paintings. (Q: I know, he was Elfreda’s brother.) Yes. [???] There’s another one, Ager.

Q:    Which Ager is that, I wonder? I wonder which Ager …, there was a, now, was there a Cyril, was it Cyril?

Mr J:    No, Cyril Ager was a brother there. (Q: I see.) They all look different here. Another one, Frank Parker. Another one there, oh dear. (Q: He’s got more stripes on his arm.)

They all had stripes then. Another Ager there, he was one of them. I can’t bring him to mind, his first name to mind. Yes, he’s pulling his shirt so he can show his stripes off. (Q: Oh I see [laugh].) He was in the army but he got out on it, for some reason or other.

Q:    Maybe they’ll come to you another time. Is that indoors?

Mr J:    No, that’s outside, the wall outside the, as you went round the factory, from Braintree Road. The factory was along there, and then this part was where they used to unload the steel and that, to make the windows and that.

Q:    Yes, it was a big place, wasn’t it. A big place, Crittall’s, enormous.

Mr J:    I remember them building the, that part, of Crittall’s, near Braintree Road, no doubt you know, you remember something of Crittall’s, along the front. Well all that wasn’t there when I first went there, that was just a bit of waste ground. So they wanted a canteen there, so what they done, they had that built, so they made a loading shed underneath, and then on the top, they had a canteen and a social club. (Q: Oh, I see.) Do you know, the canteen floor was all maple wood, lovely and polished, the chaps used to drink their tea and pour the things down on the floor, they’d got no thought or nothing. All dead. All dead bar that boy [self]. Dick Chapman, he used to be a runner, in the Essex, he was a lovely runner too. He run up to Wickham Bishops to their carnival once, and there’s another fellow, that was our school, he was a, he could do anything in running. And they had a race and they wanted to join in with them, cause I was in the Boy Scouts. There was me trying to catch up [laugh]. They were miles in front of me. Yes.

Q:    So you had to work hard there, then.

Mr J:    They were a lovely crowd, they were. They used to go out on a Sunday morning, training. And in the week, one day in the week they used to go out training and that.

Q:    Am I keeping you too long? (Mr J: You got something?) I’m fine, are you all right for time? (Mr J: I’m fine, my time is my own here.)

[pause, getting out photos etc.]

Mr J:    Ah here it is. That’s the card. (Q: Wow.) Fifty million windows. [photos M2109-M2114, in 1978] And the place we’re going up [???] [???], in the factory, and this is where we were presented [???] and that was presented to him, for the steel people, whatever his name is, (Q: Oh yes, Chairman of the British Steel.) That’s it. They presented it to him, and he presented to us. Presented it to him, that’s got some of our windows behind there, had all the different people worked for [???] Crittall’s and that. And this is the one where that was presented to the men up our canteen.

Q:    So you accepted it on their behalf, sort of thing? That’s lovely.

Mr J:    Yes, fifty million windows, that was on there. Course they all cheered because I said, I had a card, you know, written, what I’d got to say. My manager helped me put it together. And I said to the manager, I said, ‘I don’t know what to say’. And I said ‘I don’t know’, I said ‘Do you want his job?’. If they do, so, different places like that, cause there’s always drink and that, you know. They’d got a big punch bowl there, you know, so you went up to the lady, if you wanted some more, they’d fill it up for you, see, and that’s how it kept on. And, course, that suited the chaps, cause they, they altered the different types of windows, and I preferred these windows what we got here, see. But they had them, just one open vent and the other [???] open or close, with one big pane of glass. And that didn’t suit me, so I told them I’d prefer the old cottage windows what were made first. And they, I told them I’d have a job, like the manager, [???] I said ‘I don’t think I should like this job’, you know. So anyway they all cheered. And they, afterwards they said ‘You shouldn’t have said that’, you see. [this part not very clear, probably transcribed wrong]

Q:     Oh, that’s a great picture, isn’t it.

[chat about who is on it etc., not noted here, see access database re photos for info.]

Mr J:    They’re all Witham people. Cause that was the Witham firm what done that, the windows, what, well, they used to send sashes and that to Braintree, but they used to make sashes for big buildings and that, you know, but we made windows for smaller places.

Q:    I’ve got it, yes. That’s lovely. Oh, there’s some more here, yes.

[more chat about people on photos, not noted here.]

Q:    So you were there longer than anybody else, were you? You were the oldest person there, longest serving?

Mr J:    The oldest there, yes. I was just on the verge of being retired. Oh yes, I went to Sheffield for a retirement course. They used to run, when the different chaps in the factory retired, before they retired, they used to get a chance of going up to Sheffield to some fellow used to explain things, you know, you mustn’t do this and you mustn’t do that in the house, and you’ve got to make sure you’re going to help your wife and all this and that, you know. And, couple of days, I think they had. And, that was lovely, that was one of the tallest buildings there was up there, Sheffield, yes, a hotel. We were all up the top, and looking down, the buses didn’t look much bigger, well, they weren’t much bigger than this chair. And we had our own room, you know. And course there was the bathroom and all combined and that, and everything was free, and the firm give you so much to spend. (Q: A treat, wasn’t it?) That was lovely, but in the end they said they ought to be able to take the wives and all, that put the tin hat on it. They went to different places after that, and they all weren’t[?] so far away, they went other places.

Q:    So did you enjoy being retired?

Mr J:    No, I was lonely. (Q: Yes.) When I first retired … do you know Mrs Bellchambers? )Q: I know her name, but I’m not sure which one she is.) She used to live next door. (Q: Oh yes.) And she worked over the factory. And we was out the back there one day, and she said ‘Cecil, how’re you getting on, retirement.’ I said ‘I miss my mates.’ You know what I mean. You want the people round you, like, you know, you weren’t always talking to them and that, you know, but they were working near you and that, you miss them. (Q: Quite, yes.) You know, because you was lonely, you was lost. I know I’d got my wife and that, but there was just that part what was missing. So, Braintree and Silver End, they run a club there, old, pensioners’ club, you know, Crittall’s pensioners. And so I said, ‘It’d be nice if we could start up a club of our own in Witham’, I said. So she said ‘Yes’, she said, ‘I don’t see why’, she said, because she was getting in retirement and so on. So of course she knew some of the top notchers cause she worked in the office, and, so she got approach to them and that. They said refer to so and so.

And she got talking to them. So we had a meeting at the Social Club one afternoon, about four of us went, you know, cause there was another one, another chap, well he used to be a Union secretary and that, we got involved with him, so he joined and that, and we spoke to him about it. Of course, being a lady, like, she wouldn’t be in it, you see, that was just for men. So she asked if there was any chances of the spouses joining and all. Well they said they don’t see why, so that’s how we come to our club, Braintree club and that they just had the men, but Witham we had the spouses and all come in with us, it made a happy afternoon together, you see. So anyway, there was so much money in the kitty at, when Blake, I forget the name of the people what took over Crittall’s first. (Q: Oh, I know who you mean, I can’t remember either.) Anyway, they bought Silver End up and all, and, well at Silver End, they went, when old man Crittall died, they all decided to put so much to a club there, for old pensioners to go to. So anyway, they were going to buy that up and all, but the Union stepped in, they said, they were wrong, they said ‘That belongs to the men’, you see. They bought that. So anyway, that was sold, so that money, what they got for that, went into a big kitty, and Braintree, Witham and Silver End, they all shared so much of it for the clubs, which, every now and again we used to get a hundred pounds for sports and different things during the year, and outings, and we had a chap there who was quite good at finance work and that, he used to, if the shares went down one way, it used to go into another one what was making [???], and that’s how he kept on, so, kept the money going. So in the end Silver End seemed to fall out, and, nothing to do with the club afterwards, so the money was shared between Braintree and Witham, but anyway, in the end, that more or less collapsed altogether, cause money went down, there weren’t a lot in the [???] so our secretary got talking to them, and asked them if we could split the money up. That’s still classed as Crittall’s money, you know, and there was so much issued out each year, you know, to help to pay for the club. Otherwise we shouldn’t be around, because they have [???]. We don’t seem to be able to get any new members and, there ain’t about twenty-five on us now.

Q:    Oh well, that’s still a good thing, isn’t it? You get to meet the others. It’s still quite a good club to be in.

Mr J:    Yes, well, there’s just ourselves, and we go on outings once a month, but if it weren’t for outsiders coming in and joining in, we should never be able to do it. Cause that costs quite a bit, to belong to Spring Lodge [where the Crittall’s retirement club meets].

Q:    So that was all really because of you, that they started the club. It was because of you that they started the club then?

Mr J:    Yes. [???]Yes, well I suggested more or less, why can’t we start a club up, which was something to look forward to once a week. Well that’s only once a week we went.

Q:    Oh, that’s good. So that was soon after you retired, then? That was quite soon after you retired? So when you were still working, did you get promoted at all, what did they call you?

Mr J:    [???] I’d got a manager there, he hated me like poison. (Q: Oh no, really?) I’d done something what didn’t suit him. We had a manager there, and the job I was on, he told me to, that was a roller for straightening the bars, and the bars were all cut on the slant, so they got points[?] on them, and to put it through these rollers, he wanted me to keep putting it through. Well, I started doing that when I first went on the job, and the chaps the other end used to pick them up and look at them, you see, to straighten the bars, they used to hit them on the bar, the thing, and that. Oh, he said [???]they didn’t want me doing that, because I was, they’d got to work harder than what I, see, so, he’d been up the club and drinking, which was against the firm’s, anybody drinking on the work, he smelt of whisky, and he wanted me to keep putting them through, and I [???] I just kept putting them through steady, so, otherwise when they went like that they, they’d be moaning at me for doing it. So I just done that. Well, I reckon he told this under-manager you see, and of course he didn’t like me after that, you see. So anyway, he used to put me on the worst jobs he could put me on. He thought he was going to try and break me, so I say, oh, pack up, go out. But I still …

Continued on tape 198

Tape 196. Mr Peter Spall, sides 1 and 2

Tape 196

Mr Peter Spall was born in 1932. He was interviewed on 6 May 2004, when he lived at 7A Woodland Way, Wivenhoe, Colchester, CO7 9AP. His wife, Mrs Betty Spall, was also present.

For more information about him and his father, Fred, see Spall, especially Fred, father of Peter, in the People category.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

[also see JG’s photos M2036-M2052 from Mr Spall]

[preliminary chat, not noted]

Mr S:    [Re some people on photo M716] They lived in Rickstones Road, about half way down. He worked on the railway, he was married, but there was this younger version living with them, which he seemed to have, always have the children, and they produced a baby. Yes. [???] Spot, spot the round face [???], back row (Mrs S: Colin or Barry Webb?).Couldn’t remember the name. (Mrs S: Oh, Graham Webb. Bing Webb). Yes, Bing. (Mrs S: Oh that’s from the days of Bing Crosby, he must have been  named after Bing Crosby). Bing must have been younger than the others. Does he look small?

[chat about identity of people on photo M716 in 1945, etc., not noted]

Mrs S:    Cause Hugh Dibben’s father was a schoolteacher, wasn’t he, he was at the, what is now Bramston, he taught woodwork, didn’t he? Yes, it was called the Senior School.

Mr S:    Can I just chip in there? He, they used to come to school with wooden heels on their shoes. (Mrs S: The Dibbens?) Yes. Dad used to make them, to save buying leather or anything like that. And I can remember them now. [???] So he didn’t spend all his time teaching at school, must have been cutting out heels.[laugh]

Mrs S:    Mrs Dibben was a schoolteacher. Yes, cause I remember, when I was at the Church School [teaching], she came as a supply teacher once, and she was given a very difficult class. This wasn’t under Miss Welland, it was under the next head, Mr Smith, Maurice Smith. And she was having rather a difficult time, with this class.

Mrs S:    And I remember her husband coming in one afternoon and, I think she was finding it a bit difficult to say she wasn’t going to come any more, but he came in and gave the head a real fierce look and said his wife wasn’t coming back. She came home. I think Mr Smith was a little bit taken aback.

Q:    Yes, I knew Mr Smith, after he retired.

Mrs S:    Do you remember him?

Q:    Yes, cause he did a lot of collecting stuff about Witham, didn’t he, so we used to compare notes and things.

Mrs S:    Yes, he was a very, well, what a difference, I enjoyed working under him as a head, but Miss Welland was a law unto herself, a little old-fashioned maiden lady. She’d arrive on one of these big bikes. (Mr S: Sit up and beg.) And, yes, she would ride rough-shod over everybody, metaphorically, you know, she just didn’t care, it didn’t matter, because she was the head, and in those days you took notice of the head, and nobody argued with her.

Mr S:    Yes. The only children who stood up to her were the evacuees. (Mrs S: Oh yes [laugh]) I can see that in the playground now. She accused the evacuees of breaking a chair. Only a little pipsqueak of a lad came up and ‘Scuse me, madam, it wasn’t us’. And she was so taken aback, and we were trembling. (Mrs S: Nobody answered …) ‘How dared he speak?’.

Mrs S:    Are we getting anywhere? Is this all idle chatter, wasting your time?

Q:    No, this is wonderful.

Mr S:    You know how the children used to get their own back, by letting her tyres down, letting the air out of her tyres. (Q: No?) (Mrs S: They dared do that, though.) Well, she didn’t know, until she went to go home, find she’d got two flat tyres. She must have had her suspicions. She cottoned on very quickly. She used to have the nearest boy, to make him pump them up. [laugh]

Q:    So did you have to do that sometimes, then?

Mr S:    Yes, I did happen to be head boy, although I got the cane on the last day, and I’ll tell you why. (Mrs S: Scrumping apples.) No, no, plums. (Mrs S: Oh, plums, the fruit is immaterial!) [laugh] The evacuees were a little bit crafty. Once they knew, she didn’t suffer but the boys did. They took the valves out and threw them away. So we couldn’t pump them up. Didn’t affect her at all. She made some boy push her bike home for her, loaded up with books in the front.

Mrs S:    Did you know about the abattoir next to the school?

Q:    I’ve heard about it, yes, what was it like then?

Mrs S:    Horrible in summer. The smell ! But it was right next to the school, in Guithavon, Road or Street. (Mr S: Street.) There’s Guithavon Street and Guithavon Road. And of course sometimes the animals did get out to the road, squeals, it wouldn’t be allowed now, would it. And the smell in the summer was dreadful.

Mr S:    That’s how we got to these plums, running along the slaughter yard roofs, where the plum tree was. Chap named Squirrel[?], lived in the School House, it was sort of out in his garden, off the boys’ playground. Mrs Page, remember Page? (Mrs S: Mrs Williams lived there when I was there.) Who lived in the actual school grounds, at the cottage. Mrs Button. (Mrs S: She lived opposite, she was the cleaner, wasn’t she?) Anyway, we’d better change the subject.

Q:    You haven’t told me, so it was for the plums was it, that you got the …?

Mr S:    Yes, we, there was Tony Carey and myself, Crosby. (Mrs S: Colin Crosby?) Colin Crosby.

Mrs S: Now his father was a teacher at the Secondary School as well.) (Q: I’ve heard his name, yes.) Yes, I don’t know his christian name. His daughter, Colin’s sister, still lives at Wickham Bishops, she’s Mrs Byford, married Percy Byford.)

Mr S:    Anyway, one break time, there used to be a little low wall that you could get onto, to get onto the slaughter-yard roofs. Well we were sitting on this wall eating these plums. And I can remember his name now, Michael Baldwin, came out, he said ‘Come on, give us a plum’.

We said ‘Oh, if you want one. You go and help yourself.’ He said ‘Oh, if you don’t give me one, I’ll go and tell on you.’ He did. She came, she’d wear brogues, tweed skirt, big strides. For it. Caned. The other three got two strokes each, I had four because I was head boy and I should have known better.

Mrs S:    Fancy blotting his copy-book on the last afternoon !

Mr S:    Michael Baldwin asked if he could have protection on the way home. [laughter] Didn’t get it though.

Q:    So you, you didn’t regret it, did you?

Mr S:    [mishearing] Yes, I’m afraid he did have a little bit of a one to one at the bottom of the hill. Because he lived up Millbridge Road somewhere.

Mrs S:    Children did used to have gangs and fights in those days.

Mr S:    Oh, it was regular. (Mrs S: Yes.) Because [???] more than a third[?] of them, had to walk from the top end of Rickstones Road, all the way to the Church School. Not very far down the Rickstones Road, we met up with the Cressing Road. Rickstones gang, Cressing Road gang, we used to have a bit of tussle. Then we joined forces, so that when we got to the station, we’d meet the Church Street gang. Then there was all hell let loose. So although we used to fight each other, we also joined up if we were going to be attacked by the Church Street gang.

Q:    So you’d always got a bit of support. (Mrs S: Mm.) (Mr S: Yes.) You managed not to do enough damage to be noticed, presumably, by the …

Mr S:    I think we were noticed, but in those days …

Q:    Not by Miss Welland?

Mrs S:    They weren’t so vicious.

Mr S:    There wasn’t a dozen onto one, it was always a big circle round, you and you, right, one had a go. It was very fair.

Mrs S:    You fought fair.

Q:    You had your own rules though.

Mr S:    Oh yes, absolutely. Another favourite trick was going to Guithavon Valley, which you had to go, tall hedge, throw you in the hedge. That was your initiation to that school.

Mrs S:    You said the Church Street gang, but wasn’t there a school up at Church Street … was it infants only?

Mr S:    You mean Miss …?

Mrs S:    Miss Griffiths. (Mr S: Just round the corner.) Yes but had it always been …

Q:    Yes. Well briefly, it was closed for a little while in the ‘20s or ‘30s, and used as cookery and that sort of thing, but …

Mrs S:    I remember Miss Griffiths being the head there. [from the 1930s]

Q:    Yes, she taught my son.

Mrs S:    It’s still a school, isn’t it? (Q: It is, yes.) Still infants only? (Q: Yes.)

Mr S:    Surprisingly. (Q: [???]) (Mrs S: There’s so much building up that way, isn’t there?)

Mr S:    This Dersley, who you got the information from, the Dersleys played bowls. Now, I play bowls, at Wivenhoe. We often meet up, because we play, Wivehoe play Witham in a friendly. Somebody said to him, to Dersley, ‘Oy, you don’t know this chap Pete Spall, do you?’ He said a few swear words, and he said ‘Of course I know him, we were in the same gang’. [laughter]

[chat about Peter coming to Witham to talk at school a couple of years before about the War]

Mr S:    Where we lived, that was the entrance into the field [Cosgrove, 59 Rickstones Road]. Yes, this is all open space, nothing down there [looking at map he has drawn of what was there during War]. Then one of the Horsa gliders came down, came down in the Elm[?] farm lane, across the back, came over our house, into the trees.

Q:    Was that quite near then?

Mr S:    Yes, very near. Just past the Cherry Tree.

Q:    So you saw it. (Mr S: Yes.) Did you see it happen, or did you have to go back, go and look after? Did you see it actually happening?

Mr S:    No, that came down about dusk, and it had been practising, practising, overhead, by the Elms. Then we suddenly heard this swooshing noise, oh, that’s a bit low, and it didn’t land in the field, it went beyond the field, and the entrance from Cressing Road up to the farm was just a track, a lane, but it was much lower than the fields either side, there were rows of trees. And its fuselage went between two trees, tore the wings off, just staddled across [???]. That’s where we used to get our perspex for [???]. The most important part, you may have heard this before, was the rubber, the tow rope was made of about quarter square strands of rubber, together. So our catapult elastic …!

Mrs S:    You took risks, didn’t you, going in? (Mr S: No.) To take stuff from the …

Mr S:    Well, I mean, until they put a guard over there, depends how it was, there were sort of broken fragments of perspex.

Q:    So was it there for quite a long time?

Mr S:    Until they could remove it, but we were there the next morning. [laugh] (Q: How interesting.) So that’s …

Q:    That was from Rivenhall airfield, was it?

Mr S:    Yes. From the serving … I found some little snaps of the house we lived, so can actually see, there’s Cosgrove, it’s still there now. (Q: Oh yes.) And that’s my mother in the door, and that’s me in the bedroom window [JG’s photo M2049].

Mrs S:    It’s not called Cosgrove now, is it?

Mr S:    No. You can see between the side of our house here, and the next house, which is that one, is the fullest distance, that’s where the field was. And that’s me, Stanley and John, my two brothers  {JG’s photo M2050].

Q:    So you’re the little one (Mr S: Yes.) Stanley’s in the middle.

Mr S:    John lived, [???] in Maldon Road, before he retired, was clerk of the Council, Braintree. (Mrs S: Braintree Council). Braintree Council. (Mrs S: Clerk of Works.)
[chat about where house is in picture, not noted]

Mr S:    There were five pairs along there, from the corner. Shelleys lived in … (Mrs S: Just past the Cross Road, you know …) Past the Cross Roads. (Mrs S: You know [???]) (Q: Yes, I think I do now, yes.) Shelleys lived in the first one past the corner, next door were the Allards, then Webbs, but not that Webb [in photo M 716], Bert Webb who was a clerk on the station, then us, then the gap, there was Grays, Dibbens, Layzell[?], Owers[?], next to the Owers[?] were the Pennocks, the last pair, Stone and Malyon[?].

Q:    Was this all from your paper round, well you knew them anyway, I suppose?

Mrs S:    They were neighbours.

Q:    Yes quite. So what are you trying to do here then?

Mr S:    We’ve got a tin bath, and we’re sailing our little boats in the tin bath.

Q:    Ah. (Mrs S: We think Peter was about four or five then.) Yes. (Mr S: Before the War.) So how much younger than the others are you then ?

Mr S:    Well, between the January and the February, with any one year, we’re consecutive years.

Mrs S:     They were all under, they were under three, they were all close. Peter’s mother always said she had three boys under three. So there was a year and a few months between each. (Q: So which was the oldest?) Stanley.

Mr S:    Stanley was the oldest, the middle one.

Mrs S:     Yes. So his birthday was March. John’s birthday, he was born in June the following year, wasn’t he?  (Mr S: July.)  July, that’s right. So March, April, May, June, a year and four months. And then you were a year, John was year and six or seven months, when you were born, he was born in February.

Q:    Can you admit what year that was, then?

Mr S:    1932, I was born. Stanley was born in ’29, John born in ’30.

Mrs S:    She had her hands full, and she wasn’t a very big woman, either. She was a little woman.

Q:    So was she local? (Mrs S: Brightlingsea. She came from Brightlingsea.

Mr S:    She came from Brightlingsea, my mother came from Brightlingsea.

Mrs S:    And father from Colchester.

Q:    Yes. So did they come here when they married, then?

Mr S:    No. They lived at Langham, on the Essex Suffolk border, in their cottage, he was a chauffeur at Langham Hall.

Mrs S:    And they lived in a cottage called Cosgrove Lodge. Which is why they called the house at Witham Cosgrove.

Mr S:    They didn’t move to Witham. When they left Langham, they moved to Wickham Bishops. Cause I was actually born at Wickham Bishops, whereas the other two brothers were born at Langham. When I was three and a half we moved from Wickham Bishops to Witham. The reason why we left the chauffeur’s job was to start with Fortis[?] garage [at Rivenhall End, on main road, also known as Corner Garage ?]. (Q: [???]) Well, he started the garage.

Q:    So he had that many years then?

Mrs S:    Until the War, didn’t he?

Mr S:    And during the War. Although he wasn’t allowed to be open to sell to the public, he didn’t sell it till after. He sold it to a couple from London.

[chat about copying photos, and about writing books, not noted]

Q:    So had he done anything like that before? I mean, being a chauffeur, did he have to do a lot of repairs and things? Was that part of the job I suppose, was it?

Mr S:    Well he … (Mrs S: Had to maintain the cars.) Oh yes. I think he worked for Red Line{?]. He was a conductor on Bury’s buses when he was about fourteen, that used to run out of Colchester to Brightlingsea. That’s with the old [???] buses. That’s how he met my mother, she used to work at Baker’s milliners in Colchester, and she travelled from Brightlingsea, on his bus, well he was the conductor. So he was mechanical. (Q: Well I guess people taught themselves in those days, didn’t they.) I know he was very very disappointed that none of us three boys wanted to go into the garage. And so if we weren’t interested, that’s when he sold it. He obviously, looking back … (Mrs S: He ought to have waited a little longer, cause our son is in the motor trade!)

[chat about son, and about directory c 1960, and another one borrowed from Ken Thompson, postcards, not noted]

[chat re. photos of Peter’s father (Fred)’s motorbike ambulance (shown in JG’s photos M2041-2044), not noted]

Mr S:    My dad patented that. And then, it was in the Motorcycle, one of the motorcycle magazines, and he had enquiries from Canada and Australia, they were obviously they right departments of the country, but whether it was actually taken up or not, I don’t know. Because getting blown up didn’t help. Cause that was built in ’39, and him being out of action for quite some time.

Q:    Tell me again what happened to him? It was after the bomb went off? [7 October 1940, in Cressing Road; Mr Burmby reported then as Arthur Burmby, not George.]

Mr S:    After the bomb went off, he was blown up.

Q:    And was he working nearby, then? Or was on duty, sort of thing, at the time?

Mr S:    As far as I have ever been told, he had a phone call from the police station to go and turn people away cause one of the bombs hadn’t gone off. And wait for the other men. He went over the field, which wasn’t very far away, and he was turning people, the crowd back, while he waited for bomb disposal squad, I presume, and an officer and a corporal turned up, this is just memory. George Burmby was sweeping the road. Mr Bull[?] was up the pole repairing the lines. Father had taken a soldier to where the unexploded one was, so he was coming just away and the thing went up. The soldier was killed, father was sucked back, right to the centre of the crater, George Burmby was killed, all he had was a beret, always wore a beret, that just blew off. [???] (Q: What was his name, Mr Bull[?] that was? What was his first name?) I don’t remember, I remember his daughter’s name. Mary. (Mrs S: Mary, his daughter. So your father was taken to Notley Hospital, was he?) Taken to Notley Hospital. (Q: I did have some, did type up a little piece about the incident, I won’t distract you now, but I’ll get that out.) You see, this was taken up, this is happening now in Africa. The Riders for Health is an organisation that seek money.

[more about Riders for Health now, not noted]

Q:    So did your father get a chance to use this much then ?  It was so early in the War, the accident, I don’t suppose he did, did he?

Mr S:    The only time I can recall him using it was in the capacity of Special Constable. That was when one of those Heinkels came down at, I call that Langford, they probably call it Heybridge now, don’t they. And he went over there to pick up any injured, but unfortunately the, some jumped out but they weren’t high enough to, for the parachutes to open.

Q:    I suppose we were quite lucky in Witham that there weren’t more injuries and so on. But as you say, people would have got called round other areas where there was a lot more serious damage.

Mr S:    But he definitely went out there, and he, what I was told, obviously, took the remains to a mortuary at Maldon Hospital. (Q: From?) From [???] at Langford.

Mrs S:    That was in the news fairly recently.

Mr S:    Yes, there’s somebody done a book on Heinkels over Heybridge. I know my father, got a pair of German pilot goggles, which obviously he picked up. And also a map of the area, showing the oak[?] tree[?] just above us [???] their flight plan. [???] And a flying boot. [???] (Mrs S: Flying what?) Boot.

Q:    So you reckon he got them from going round crashes?

Mr S:    Oh, picking up, not crashes but this one particular crash. (Q: I see.)
[chat about another VE day picture in possession of Braintree museum including Mr S’s father dressed as woman, not noted. I think I noted the names and sent them to the museum. Also re JG’s photo M2036, old print of earthworks in Witham, and some of other Spall photos copied by JG as M2037-M2052, not noted]

[End of tape, 47 minutes]

Side 2

Mr S:    [re. bill for removal by A A Shelley of Witham, JG’s photo M2047] 3rd of August 1948 was when we moved from Cosgrove, the house, down to the bungalow [???].

Mrs S:    Dear, wasn’t it, four pounds.

Q:    Isn’t that nice. Cause Lester Shelley, as far as I know, is still about, that’s one of the sons. Yes, we miss the sheds, when they used to sell the second hand things.

Mr S:    Ray[?] Shelley [???], he was the son, Shelley, who lived three doors away from me. A bit younger than me. I often see him [???]. A couple of cards from the Crittalls, Christmas cards [???] Mr and Mrs John Crittall opening Senior Citizen’s club at Silver End [???].

Mrs S:    It doesn’t say on there, does it?

Mr S:    No, it doesn’t say on there, but you could recognise that, that door.

Mrs S:    There was a special club built for the retired, [???] it was open for a good many years. You could go during the day. And I think there was a canteen there, play games and that sort of thing.

Mr S:    And this is Mr and Mrs John Crittall again, that was a sketch of Francis Henry.

Mrs S:    He was the original Crittall, wasn’t he. Francis.

Mr S:    Francis was.

Mrs S:    Yes, the one who had the village built. So John Crittall, whether that was his son, was it?

Q:    There were several Crittalls, weren’t there, there was a Valentine.

Mrs S:    Yes, they were sons of the original one, yes, there was a Dan Crittall, and they had one or two daughters. [???] married Richardson. They lived up on the back road to …

Mr S:    [re Methodist scripture certificate for Peter, 1942, JG’s photo M2048] Just to prove that I wasn’t all just [???] and thuggery. [laugh] 1942. (Mrs S: Ten years old). Brother John.

Q:    Were the whole family Methodists? Your parents, did your parents go to the Methodist?

Mr S:    My mother was one of the original Primitive Methodists, I think. (Q: Oh, was she.) (Mrs S: That was at Brightlingsea, that was.)

Q:    Yes, they didn’t have much success in Witham, which is surprising, really, the Primitive Methodists.

Mr S:    She was married in Brightlinsea Primitive church, 1928, and they closed 1931 or 32. They became the ordinary Methodists here. (Mrs S: Your mother was the ordinary Methodist?)

Q:    So when they came to Witham they went to the Wesleyan?

Mr S:    Yes. We had to walk all the way down on a Sunday, go to Sunday school, Guithavon Street. I’ve got pictures of me [???]. (Q: Oh, there was a bit at the back, was there, with all the stones, yes, yes.) Yes. Corley built that. [???]

Q:    Yes, I saw a picture of that in an old newspaper once.

Mr S:    Laying the foundation stone, picture of the …

Q:    Wasn’t one of them Rank, of the flour people, they gave a lot of money to the Methodists, and I think one of them has got his name on it. I remember going along and looking who they all were once. So that was quite a big part of your life, then?

Mr S:    Oh, three times a day on Sunday. We used to have to go to Miss Blyth’s mission. (Q: Yes.) Go to her Sunday school as well. Miss Corby[?] used to run it with Miss Blyth.

Mrs S:    Was that the one where the Evangelical church is? [probably the one in Rickstones Road]

Mr S:    Yes. The whatsername church was built.

Mrs S:    Did Miss Blyth have that built?

Mr S:    Yes. Because where our bungalow was built, my father bought that land from Miss Blyth. To build his own. [???] She lived in [???] Road. Her parents I’m sure, came from the mill, Guithavon Valley.

Mrs S:    Yes, I thought they were, Blyth’s mill, wasn’t it?

Q:    But she wasn’t strictly, she wasn’t a Methodist?

Mr S:    No, she was Evangelical.

Q:    That was quite a successful, oh, it still is very successful.

Mr S:    The Diapers[?] [???] the bungalow, it was the Diapers she negotiated with, for the church, she wouldn’t sell it. Wouldn’t sell it to anybody at all cause she promised it to the church.

Mrs S:    Their minister did live in there for a time.

Mr S:    I think he still does. Well we’re nearly at the end.
[chat about other pictures etc., other churches etc. including Braxted church where he was baptised, layout of Witham school and slaughterhouse, not noted

Q:    So Miss Welland lived there, did she [school house, Guithavon Street]

Mrs S:    No, no she didn’t, she lived, well not at all that I know of, she lived down the Avenue. When I was teaching there was Mrs Williams lived there, Olive Williams (Mr S: [???]) When you were there. Cause the lady, Olive Williams, worked in the school kitchens.

Mr S:    Whether he was the school caretaker or what I don’t know.

Mr S:    But that was the original reason, wasn’t it, either for the head to live there or the caretaker, when the school was first built. Cause it had 1842 on the front, didn’t it. (Q: Yes, that was actually on it, was it?) Yes, on the front above the door. (Mr S: Oh yes, beautiful, 1842). One of the main doors.

Q:    Cause that’s when the whole road was built then.

Mr S:    When it was pulled down, you could actually see where they used to come over and sharpen the old slate pencils on the masonry, you could see the grooves.

Q:    I’ve seen a photo of that, yes. That’s lovely.

[chat re more photos, eg lane near Silver End, Pond farm, Rivenhall, Bill Prime of Rivenhall knows about them, discussion about copying, copyright, etc. carnival pictures etc (JG’s M2041)., Collingwood House (JG’s M2037), Fred Spall and Nera-a-car (JG’s M2045), information about photos is on JG’s database re M photos; not noted]

[tape ends 28 minutes]

Tape 195. Mr Ken Thompson, sides 1 and 2

Tape 195

Mr Ken Thompson was born in 1934. He was interviewed on 21 April 2004, when he lived at 40 Guithavon Road, Witham.

For more information about him, see Thompson family, especially George, father of Ken, in the People category.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

[Discussion about names of people etc. on photos brought by KT (including his father, George Thompson, coal merchant) and copied as JG’s photos M2020-M2033; he also brought some others later which are M2195-M2208 and M2831-M2838. Details entered on Access database of M photos, not noted here.]

Q:    Did he talk about it much? [George T re First World War]

Mr T:    No. Hard man to get on with.

Q:    Was he?

Mr T:    Very very hard man to get on with. That’s the same one as what you’ve seen.

Q:    Anyway, a lot of people didn’t talk about the War, after, from what I can see.

Mr T:    No. I’ve been over there several times to find out about various things, like, as my father spoke a lot about Vimy Ridge, the Essex Yeomanry were never in Vimy Ridge, they were in Vimy. I got that from a fellow from a museum over there, and I took my records, only he wanted to buy them off me there and then. He wanted ‘Can I please?’ ‘No, no, no.’

[Chat about age of GT, was nine in 1901, details not noted]

Q:    Would he [GT] have worked at the blacksmith?

Mr T:    My father never worked there, no, he worked for Thomas Cullen. [seeds]

Q:    Oh did he?

Mr T:    He worked for Thomas Cullen, then I assume went into the army, and then he came out and started the coal business, in 1920.

Q:    So he’d not done anything like that before or anything?

Mr T:    No. He had ten horses, I know that, he had ten horses. Used to do cartage, telegraph poles to Maldon. I understand that he delivered all the bricks from Witham Goods Station, to, which was then the cinema, or Public Hall or cinema. [probably Whitehall, 18 Newland Street]

Q:    When they were building it?

Mr T:    Yes. But there’s nothing, any records that I’ve got, to prove anything like that. But I’ve got some photos of the old coal yard, which I took. [1a Braintree Road]

[more chat re photos, not noted here]

Q:    Cause these were quite old places, weren’t they, down the bottom here? [behind 1a Braintree Road].

Mr T:    Oh yes. Evidently the army were down there many years ago.

Q:    Oh really? That’s interesting, well I suppose it would be a good place for them.

Mr T:    And I can recall them down there in the ‘39-45 War. Cause they used to come up and pinch the coal.

Q:    They did?

Mr T:    Mm. [laugh].

[more chat about photos of yard etc; Thompson’s not all the way down. Argument over right of way with Ramsden Mills, carpet people at end, came c late 1960s, Mr and Mrs Addison, more customers than before. Before that was Christie’s, fridge people, before that, before the army, a wood firm]

Q:    So you obviously from what you say, you carried on the business?

Mr T:    I came out of the army in ’54, and got told by my father ‘Are you coming to work for me Monday or not, or you can find somewhere else to live’. He was that hard. And I went to work for him in ’54, and I worked for him until the sixties when he made me a partner. And he was that sort of man who, I went in one Monday for my lunch at dinner time, and Derek Bright was there, and he was there, and his first words that I got were ‘Sign here.’ And I said ‘I’m going to read it first before I sign’, which I did. When I saw ‘Sole survivor takes all’, I got my signature on there quick. Having not realised that that was it [???], it could have been me. And he made me a partner. And then he gave me notice that he wanted his share of the business in twelve months time, and obviously I couldn’t at that particular time find that sort of money.

Q:    Quite, yes.

Mr T:    And it was due on March the 31st and he died on February the 10th or 12th.

Q:    What year was that?

Mr T:    I wish I’d put these records in there. ’70 something?

Q:    So it wasn’t that long ago. Well, it is now, but it doesn’t seem like it.

Mr T:    Mm. Then I took it over and stayed until ’94. I come over with a sack on my back in Wickham Bishops, and I was round this house, I’d got, I can always remember, I’d got 25 to deliver, I’d delivered about nine, and it was an icy morning and I fell down these steps, with a sack on my back. Sack stayed at the top, I stayed at the bottom in a puddle. Nobody was in the house, nobody was in the house next door. Took me ages to get up. Having got up, I managed to finish that delivery, I went home, and four days later I got out of bed. And in those four days laying upstairs, it was just like the light flashing, ‘Get out before you kill yourself’. And that was what made me make my mind up, enough was enough. So that was it. You know. That’s me.

Q:    So did someone else, what happened to the business?

Mr T:    The business – I sold the yard privately, cause the fellow wanted, a fellow Garwood at Tiptree took my customers over. And I sold the yard privately and retired and got out of it and that was it.

Q:    And that was in about?

Mr T:    ’94. Sold it in July, ’94.

Q:    As you say, there’s less coal used now.

Mr T:    Oh, there’s no, compared with. I mean in the early eighties, I could not stop for dinner, nothing. It was just crazy. Then the strike came on [1984-5], never sold so much rubbish in my life, because we had to take whatever we could get from wherever we could get it. After that the trade went down quite quickly. So in ’94, yes you were able to make a living if you stayed on your own, but if you had people working for you, you wouldn’t have done. So that was enough. How does that one ring a bell? You’ve probably seen that one?

Q:    Oh yes. I think I might have got it in the book, but this is a better copy of it. It’s lovely that, isn’t it, yes.

Mr T:    My father was heavily involved, I think with Cullen’s, because he received this Christmas card.

Q:    I think that’s about the best known picture, isn’t it, but that’s a really good copy of it [Cullen’s?]

Mr T:    Having said that, I joined Colchester Golf Club many years ago, and Tom Cullen, who is the son of one of the Tom Cullens, I played golf with. And he was a surgeon, doctor, somewhere or other, I think somewhere around Kettering area, somewhere round that. And of course, me knowing his father and everything else, we struck up a great relationship, really have. He’s ninety-odd now, Tom is, and he’s a super guy, he really is. He was a prisoner of War and he escaped and got back to this country, but he will not talk about it. You have one hell of a job to get it out of him.

Q:    So where was he, was he in Witham then?

Mr T:    He has a son that lives in Kelvedon, as you go off the by-pass, the first farm on the left-hand side, up a long driveway. He’s got a son up there. And then he’s got some people in Australia.

Q:    So where does he fit in with the seed people, then?

Mr T:    I think it was his father.

Q:    It was his father. Oh right, I didn’t realise they were still about. So he knew quite a bit about the business?

Mr T:    He’s ninety-, oh he knows, I don’t know whether knows much about the business or not, but he and I sort of click with the golf and the Thomas Cullen, who, in my day I carted all the waste away from Cullen’s seed place, down to Alf Ashby’s farm, where they used to burn it. Down near the river, down the bottom.

Q:    When you say the waste, the sort of …?

Mr T:    Seed waste. Cause I worked in the seed, I worked in Cooper Taber’s. When you get the seed in, you clean it, dress it, and re-sack it to sell it again, obviously. And all the waste from that has to go somewhere. So …

Q:    So you can’t use it for anything?

Mr T:    Yes, you burn it off, but I don’t know whether you knew Alf Ashby at all, or the Ashbys.

Q:    Not very well no, no.

Mr T:    Wild man. Very very wild man. Unbelievable. I’ll give you an instance. We had a load of coal in that was not very good. And we got complaints from place to place, so we had the National Coal Board down. Took them all round all the customers who had the big amounts, and they all got money back from the Coal Board. Took them down to Alf, and he got warned before we went down there ‘Now, keep your little mouth shut, and just …’, and he absolutely blew his top and got nothing. He was that sort of man. But that’s life. They’re around.

Q:    So when you were – how did you get into the seed business then? More or less straight away?

Mr T:    I just left school, and went into the seed business. Basically I knew at that particular time I’d got only got, what was it, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, at eighteen I was in National Service. Came out there and then father threatened me with work. [laugh]

Q:    Cause – was it Cooper Taber that Roy Gage up the road worked for ?

Mr T:    Till it caught fire when I was in the army., the warehouse. [in 1953]

Q:    Oh really, so you were in the old one?

Mr T:    I was in the old, the wooden one that came right to the Avenue Road corner. Cause they had a little office for the side there, and then the big warehouse.

Q:    I’ve seen quite a few snapshots, [???] a little office, a little room, office or something, that was left after the fire.

Mr T:    Probably, cause the fire was in the main warehouse.

Q:    So was the office actually on Avenue Road?

Mr T:    As you, yes, just before where, there’s a little driveway up on the left hand side, just before you turn left to go round to the station. And the warehouse was slightly to the right of that. And the office was on, as you looked at it, the office was on the left, the big warehouse was on the right.

Because in my day, when I worked there, they used to have horses, bring trucks up from the railway, up the side there. Used to be a railway line up the side there.

Q:    Oh, I didn’t know that.

Mr T:    Yes. There used to be horse up there.

Q:    So the horses would pull the trucks?

Mr T:    Pull the trucks up, come up there and unload them or load them, and pull them back onto the main line, and then away.

Q:    Oh I didn’t realise they had a siding, I knew Crittall’s did, but that was built specially.

Mr T:    Mm. Yes.

[chat about Witham books and history etc., then about names of people on pictures of Masonic Lodge (JG’s photos M2020 and M2021), not noted]

Q:    So was there a Witham [Mason’s] Lodge as well?

Mr T:    There was a Witham Lodge. He was part of Witham Lodge, he was part of Hatfield Peverel Lodge, and he was also part of Tollesbury Lodge.

Q:    Well. So that kept him busy.

Mr T:    Yes, it caused a few problems but …

Q:    Really, what way?

Mr T:    It takes one person to stop anybody joining. Now when my eldest sister got married, and she married a Purcell, he would not would not have his, the fellow she married, his father would not have his photos taken with anybody, on the day. And that was a lot of other things, I think, that I don’t know anything about, that went on. Having that happen, this fellow wanted to join Witham Lodge. My father said no. And I can recall them coming to mother’s house regularly, begging him to change his mind, and he wouldn’t. So he never did join the Lodge. And that’s how secretive it is. Takes a bit of believing, but … And from that day onwards, I did get asked if I would like to join, to which I said no, and I told them the reason why. Said I don’t believe in that sort of thing. So that was it.

Q:    So obviously it was a big important thing to him, the Lodge.

Mr T:    I think it was in those days to most people that got into it.

Q:    Yes, you can understand it can’t you.
[more chat about photos, not noted]

Mr T:    I can recall when he died, the Witham Lodge were up my house, or our house, within twenty-four hours, collecting all his things.

Q:    Really?

Mr T:    Cause of the little apron they wear, and various bits and pieces, they took the lot, before we got a chance to look at them, even.
[more chat about photos and papers, not noted]

Q:    [reading] Wounded in right shoulder. So did he, were you aware that he was …

Mr T:    Oh yes, he carried coal with it. He used to carry coal like this, [???] through here, he carried coal like this. I’ve tried it and nearly strangled myself.

Q:    What, with his other arm round?

Mr T:    Yes. And he carried coal like that.

Q:    So his right arm was the one …

Mr T:    His right arm was the one that was injured and they told him evidently that, as I gather, it would only last a few years, but it lasted him his life-time.

Q:    You say he put his hand over his shoulder.
[more chat about papers, photos etc also about Essex Regiment Museum, not noted]

Q:    So you didn’t really know much about this until he died? How much did you know ?

Mr T:    No, didn’t know much at all, because basically he never spoke about it, could never talk to him about anything like that, any rate, he would never say anything about it. So, very difficult man to talk to, to get anything out of. He was a true old Victorian type, if you know what I mean, and, it’s difficult.

Q:    So what was your mother like, then?

Mr T:    Mother, if it wasn’t for mother, I would not have had anything, put it that way. I think, looking at it now, probably mother was a bit frightened of him. He was that sort of bullish sort of character. Maybe the fact that, when he was a young age, taken prisoner, we don’t know what went on, like the last World War, we don’t know what went on. A lot of them will not talk about it. And the more you go to France and see how close the lines were, it must have been hell. I mean, we went up onto a hill, Hill 62, over there, and looked down where the Canadians fought. And the fellow who took us onto there said all this area was one sea of mud. And you can’t imagine just what they’re talking about exactly. Very interesting, I got involved in it quite a lot, and been around all over the place over there looking at things.

Q:    Well, you feel you’ve made a bit of contact with him, even if he’s not here.

Mr T:    Well, that’s right, you know, very interesting and, it’s difficult.

Q:    You had a sister as well, you say?

Mr T:    I had two sisters. One still lives in Witham, Barnardiston Way, and the other one lives in, think it’s Horning in Norfolk.

Q:    So you were the only son then, so that’s why you …

Mr T:    Yes, I was the mistake of the family.

Q:    Surely not. [laughter]

Mr T:    I’m sure I was, because there’s a big gap between the last one and me.

Q:    So when were you born, then?

Mr T:    I was born in ’34, seventy this year.

Q:    So your sister [??? short patch of poor sound], what’s her name now then?

Mr T:    Irene, Irene Dobson. I mean I was born at 3 …

Q:    Yes, you mentioned that, 3 Chalks Road.

Mr T:    Yes, yes, and my grandfather lived at 5.

Q:    Right, so your grandfather was your mother’s …?

Mr T:    Skingsley. Yes, big family. Came from Wethersfield. I’ve seen where she used to live years ago. Yes, I’ve been over and looked at that.

Q:    That’s your mother, where she used to live?

Mr T:    Yes, yes.

Q:    So what her family do?

Mr T:    They worked on the land. My grandfather, all I knew was that he used to take me round in a wheel-cart, round Witham, and he worked for Cullen’s on the trial ground. But John Champ, who’s looking into my records, says that he had another job as well. Carman or something. Now what that would be with horse and carts I do not know.

Q:    No, I think it’s just a, a carrier of some sort.

Mr T:    Could be, I don’t know. So I remember them, obviously. I remember the ARP hut at the end of the road here [Chalks Road].

Q:    Really? Tell me about that then.

Mr T:    Yes. Well, my father was an ARP Warden [Second World War]. And he delivered the gas masks in this area on the back of his lorry, I remember that.

Q:    Goodness me, do you really?

Mr T:    Yes. And he used to go round doing that, many years ago. Yes, at the end of the road, same side as you live on [north] at the end there [next to Braintree Road], used to be a little brick-built hut, and that was their ARP Warden’s thing. Yes, there used to be one there.

Q:    So that was put up specially in the War?

Mr T:    That was put up, I assume, specially in the War, yes, for that purpose.

Q:    So what did they used to do there then?

Mr T:    Well, when the air raid warning siren went, they used to go there and meet, sort of thing, and then, like when bombs dropped round here, they were out, I assume taking control of the area.

Q:    Yes. I never knew that was there.

Mr T:    Small world. But …

Q:    So what else do you remember about the War, then? [Second]

Mr T:    I remember the bomb dropping in, just off Cressing Road. There was a land mine dropped in the allotments up Powershall, up there [now Saxon Drive]. There was a bomb dropped on Hodges’ house next to the creamery, which was the other side of the bridge [next to the railway viaduct at the bottom of Highfields Road].

Q:    Oh Highfields Road, yes?

Mr T:    Yes, Highfields Road, yes. Cause the house I live in now [40 Guithavon Road], it knocked all the ceilings down and that, I don’t live far from there. I don’t recall a lot else about the War, basically. I can recall a plane coming over here and machine-gunning. Cause it went through grandfather’s roof. Not his house, his shed, outside. I recall that. But not a lot more. Cause in 1939 we moved up from here to 9 Braintree Road, which backed onto the coal yard. I can recall going up there and, that’s when the Army, soon after, it may not have been 1939, it may have been a little later, were pinching the coal [laugh]. Which is obvious if you’re that close to the coal yard.

Q:    But you lived near enough to keep an eye on it then?

Mr T:    Well, I think they got caught a few times.

Q:    So, you’d be at school?

Mr T:    I started school, yes. I was at school, born in ’34, ’39. Five years old.

Q:    So which school did you go to?

Mr T:    I started off at Chipping Hill, then went to Guithavon Street, and then went to Spinks Lane, what you called Senior School in those days. Still got my school record at home, not very good, but I’ve got my school record at home. Could have done better if tried. School teachers – Miss Morris, Chipping Hill. Miss Welland was headmistress at Guithavon Street when I was there.

Q:    So was that mixed then?

Mr T:    Yes, yes. Next door to the slaughterhouse in years gone by. Cause you could see over the wall.

Q:    Could you? And you used to look, did you?

Mr T:    Yes.

Q:    So did you actually see them, what could you see?

Mr T:    You saw the cattle there, and fellows chasing cattle about, and this that and the other. Obviously taking them in to slaughter them, that sort of thing, now. And then at the other school, Senior School, Mr Sawdy was in charge. Crosby, Maidment.

Q:    So how did you get on with all of them, then?

Mr T:    Got on with Maidment very well. Crosby, I think you were a little bit scared of him. Because there’s nothing, he used to come down the classroom with a inner tube – ‘Twank’.

Q:    Really, I’ve never heard of that one.

Mr T:    Oh yes. Chap Cooper, who I think he was a parachutist, I think, wouldn’t be too sure about that. He got badly injured I think during the War, and then took up teaching there, and, he was a nice fellow, he was.

Q:    So when you were at, going back to when you were at Chipping Hill, did you have to go in the shelters and things like that, or can’t you remember that part?

Mr T:    I don’t remember going in the shelters there. I remember going in the shelters at the, what we called the Junior School, the one in Guithavon Street. I remember going in there, specially up at the other one, yes, they were in the sports field down there, used to go in those.

Q:    So did you have to do that very often?

Mr T:    Not really, I can’t recall doing it a great deal. I don’t know, only half a dozen times in the course of my life, probably.

Q:    I see, yes.

Mr T:    Mainly thing here was, the planes used to go up during the War, follow the line up to London. And if, which I know now, didn’t at that particular time, if they got bombs left on, they dropped them on the way back. This sort of thing.

Q:    Cause Crittall’s …

Mr T:    Crittall’s got hit. Mm.

Q:    And they were doing War work in there, I believe.

Mr T:    They were making ammunition. And in the 1914-18 War, I assume that ammunition was stored in, oh what would it have been called then, Hugh Baird’s [station maltings]. Cause I’ve got a photo somewhere at home of an Ada Smith, who lived at number 2 [Chalks Road], doing something with ammunition, in, there’s a truck, on that photo there’s a truck, railway truck, and they’re unloading it, into the warehouse. [borrowed later, JG’s photo M2195].

Q:    That’s interesting. Cause I’m sure I’ve read of people working on ammunitions in the First War, but was never sure where.

Mr T:    No, where it was, I don’t know. I only got that from Charlie Smith who was a relation of Ada, who was a relation of me. I got that from him before he died, various bits and pieces.

Q:    Well, if you ever find those I’d be very interested.

Mr T:    Right, I’ll have a look. I’ve got a case full of goodness know’s what at home, I’ll have to have a look …

Side 2

… catered[?] for the Army, for the services, in ’39. The first lorry that I knew the number of was AVX 985, which was my father’s, I can remember it, an old brown Ford lorry. Many years ago.

Q:    So did he have any horses still, when you, when you can remember?

Mr T:    No, no. He used to rent fifteen acres of farmland which is now the complete Sewer farm. He used to rent fifteen acres down there, to which he used to grow beet seed, corn, and stuff like that, keep some chickens down there. And I can recall Italian prisoners of war, going down there, working on the farm.

Q:    Oh I see. I wonder where they were living then. There’s no reason why you should have known, really, they just came, did they?

Mr T:    There was a place just outside of Halstead. Now when I was in the army, I used to do, I was driver, driver in the army, finished up as CO’s driver, don’t know how, don’t know why, but I was. But I used to drive a 7½ ton lorry. We used to bring these 3.7 guns, which weighed about, ten ton, something like that. Used to tow them, and I had to come one day from the Isle of Wight, three lorries with three guns, backs full of motorbikes, we had, we stopped off at Chelmsford, overnight, to which I asked the CO in charge of that, could I go home, as I lived in Witham and you were coming through there next day. To which I came home, brought the gun home, and nudged it into the coal yard overnight, and things like that. And went to Halstead, the other side of Halstead, with these motorbikes, and dropped them off there, and picked up new ones from there. Now I don’t know any more than that about, whether the prisoners were there during the War, I don’t know.

Q:    But there was something there?

Mr T:    There was something there, it was army property. So it could have been, they could have been there, I don’t know.

Q:    Cause, I know that, like, from your blacksmith’s picture, obviously, there was a lot of soldiers about here in the First World War, but was there in the Second World War as well?

Mr T:    Yes, Second World War was when they pinched the coal.

Q:    So what do you think they were doing here then?

Mr T:    I don’t know. I suppose when you look at army life, soldiers were stationed all over the place, because of a possible invasion, perhaps, I don’t know.

Q:    Yes, I guess they’d have to be, and also they had to be all together ready to go off.

Mr T:    Yes. Cause Fred Withers, who passed away many years ago, he was stationed down there, and he lived, married a Witham girl.

Q:    You mean after he, he met her here, you mean?

Mr T:    Yes. So, cause he used to, he told me what went on. [laugh] He was one of those pinched my coal, probably, who knows. I mean, that’s life, that’s life.

Q:    So they were probably in other places as well then, not just in the yard.

Mr T:    I would imagine so, but I don’t know where, I don’t know where. No. Ammunition down at Crittall’s was being made, so were they part of that, I don’t know.

Q:    No, it’s all very interesting. To you and me it doesn’t seem long ago, but of course it’s getting forgotten quickly, isn’t it, now.

Mr T:    Oh yes, oh yes, I mean, youngsters today don’t know anything about the War any rate, do they?

Q:    No, well, when they get older, they’ll be interested, won’t they?

Mr T:    Maybe, who knows. It’s a sad day that it’s forgotten, in some ways. I’ve got a photo somewhere at home of father, two or three others, at the Memorial at Witham, something to do with the British Legion. I don’t know where it is, but I’ve got it somewhere. I’ve got to find my birth certificate first [laugh].

Q:    Well that’s not important!

Mr T:    It is, cause I want my driving licence.

Q:    Actually, you can always get another birth certificate, can’t you.

Mr T:    Yes. But, you know …

Q:    I’m glad you kept all these things, I mean I think they’re probably quite, I’ve always thought, down Guithavon Road, there’s quite a lot of old Witham people, isn’t there. Or perhaps there isn’t any more?

Mr T:    Not so, not so much now …

Q:    And they’ve probably all got drawers full of interesting things, keep your ear to the ground.

Mr T:    I’m sure they have, yes, will do. I mean, all this [Chalks Road] has, these houses I can recall, that one’s been rebuilt over there, with the white [9 Chalks Road] …

Q:    Yes, they’ve done a lot there.

Mr T:    Miss Griggs. Used to keep lots of chickens. [Beverley, Chalks Road]

Q:    Did she?

Mr T:    She used to keep an awful lot of chickens out the back there. Yes.

Q:    Even though she had a dog? Well perhaps she didn’t have a dog in those days.

Mr T:    I can’t recall whether she had dogs or not, in those days.

Q:    So that would be when about, when you were first living here, you mean.

Mr T:    Yes. [chat re. old summary of electoral register, not noted]

Q:    Cause I’ve always known the name [Thompson], I suppose it’s the first thing you used to see when you come out of the station. The first thing we ever saw when we came to Witham, I remember. I mean had he done anything like that before, do you think, when he started up the business?

Mr T:    I don’t think he had, to be honest with you. He worked for Cullen’s before he went in the services. I can’t recall anything else apart from that, you know. Mrs Hayes, across the road [8 Chalks Road], Ireland [12 Chalks Road].

Q:    Did you know all these people?

Mr T:    Yes. Used to buy my fuel. That’s what all the marks are [on the electoral register summary]. Yes, used to go round here.

Q:    So did you help your father when you were little.

Mr T:    Lawson. Old the old adverts.

Q:    So you knew everybody’s business, really, if you went round with the coal, didn’t you.

Mr T:    Too young to take any real notice, to be honest with you. This is the whole area, Rivenhall, Tiptree, all over the place. Sorry for the state of it.
[chat re borrowing list, not noted]
Some friends of mine, Reg Miller who used to live down the Chase [Moat Farm Chase], down the bottom of the Chase.

Q:    I know him, blacksmith, was he a blacksmith?

Mr T:    No, no. We’re still great friends. And John Champ, we get ahead, so we sit hours sometimes, talking about Witham, and going down the roads. Like the High Street, going down the High Street, and things like that, and, quite interesting, get lots of laughs, lots of laughs about it all.

Q:    What you must do is put your tape recorder on when you’re talking, and then forget about it.

Mr T:    Alf Good. Have you heard about him? Used to be a garage fellow, you know where Lloyd’s bank is now [99 Newland Street]. There’s a little alleyway by the side of that, between the two banks. He used to be up there on the left hand side.

Q:    What did he do, then?

Mr T:    Repair vehicles and that, and then there was Goody’s café, on the corner there, and, it’s interesting.
[chat about JG’s old photo of yard, M1689, M1690, and about value of taking photos now etc.]

Q:    You’ve obviously got a good memory, yourself, then.

Mr T:    Yes, well I think working in Witham, being on the lorry, going round the streets, delivering coal and that, you saw a lot more  and every fortnight, I was up this road delivering coal [Chalks Road], cause we did rounds in those days, so, you know, it made it interesting, in lots of ways.

Q:    Yes, you didn’t just see your own little area.

Mr T:    Oh no, you got around and saw various things, and some things you shouldn’t have seen, and some things you did and all the rest of it, but, I mean I can recall railway horses in Easton Road. As you turn left going into Easton Road, there used to be Slythe’s, then there was two semi-detached houses, or a semi-detached house. And then behind that on the same side, used to be a green field.

Q:    That’s the car park now ?

Mr T:    That’s the car park, yes, it is. I can recall horses being in there. My father used to take his horses from the coal yard, down Albert Road into what we call Cut Throat Lane, across the railway, Braintree railway line, and you know where the electricity [substation], that used to be known as Thompson’s field. (Q: Oh really, I never realised that.) And that’s where he used to keep his horses overnight. (Q: But that’s before you…) That’s before I knew anything about it. The only thing I can recall of father and horses was that I loaded a load of harness and goodness knows what up, out of the sheds, and took it down the dump. Many years before the present situation, I mean had I known, obviously I’d have kept it, but, took it all the dump, and then we knocked the sheds down, and, when I first started in the coal trade, used to be mangers in there, there was obviously water butts and things like that, so … (Q: So they’d probably not been long …). No, probably not, I mean I don’t know when he finished his horses.

Q:    I mean most people, I say most people, a lot of people, it seems to have been in the 1930s, people have shown me pictures with the new van that they got then.

Mr T:    I can recall him saying, taking telegraph poles from Witham railway station to Maldon, with a pair of horses, and that would take all day, to get there and back.

Q:    How did he carry telegraph poles?

Mr T:    I suppose he had the right sort of equipment to do it, I mean, what it would be and that I don’t know, but in those days, were telegraph poles as tall a they are now.

Q:    Hard to say, I mean some of them look really enormous, don’t they, but …

Mr T:    I don’t know. He used to cart a lot of bricks, yes, he’d do all that sort of thing.

Q:    Cause he was well-situated near the station really, wasn’t he, because I presume that’s where a lot of the stuff arrived.

Mr T:    Yes. I mean a lot of our work was carting coal to the creamery, Co-op creamery in Witham, which was in Highfields Road, and also to the Bridge Hospital, used to have railway trucks of coal going there. And then in my day I used to deliver for the Bridge Hospital concrete slabs.

Q:    So would they, at the creamery, do you think they had machinery at the Co-op then?

Mr T:    Cleaning bottles perhaps, I don’t really know to be honest with you.

Q:    Cause obviously at one time, a lot of the machines would have been steam, wouldn’t they.

Mr T:    I know when we used to take coal there, we weren’t allowed to put water, cause you can imagine when you’re unloading coal, it’s dusty and filthy, you weren’t allowed to put water on it. (Q: To damp it down?) We had long arguments with them to get a pint of milk every time we went down there to drink.
We finished up by saying we won’t do it if we can’t have it. We used to get, it was anthracite dust, and that absolutely clogged you.

Q:    So normally you would have damped that down, would you?

Mr T:    Yes. I can recall backing up to the building, putting it through a hole in the wall, many years ago.

Q:    But Crittall’s didn’t …?

Mr T:    Crittall’s I don’t know anything about at all. I think a place like that, a hell of a job to heat anyway.

Q:    What about the gas works?

Mr T:    Gas works, on the corner of Millbridge Road. Yes, used to get coke from there. Yes.

Q:    Cause they presumably used, I don’t know a lot about making the gas, but they must have, did they use coal did to start with then?

Mr T:    Yes. Yes, we, we went, and once that packed up we went to Chelmsford, picked it up from there.

Q:    I was wondering who supplied them with their coal, cause they have got through a lot.

Mr T:    That I don’t know, but in those days they had the Co-op up the road, so I assume that one tied up with other, because they had a coal merchants’ business as well, Co-op.

Q:    Yes, I suppose that’s another thing to ask you, is how many coal merchants there were in the town.

Mr T:    Er, there was Co-op, and I’m going back in the days when I first started, there was Co-op, Moys, W W Burrows, which he was down Guithavon Valley, where now the, there’s a new house being built, and there’s a little yard there. (Q: That was Trowles’s?) Yes, yes. And then a little bit further down there used to be the Council yard [corner of Guithavon Rise?], years ago. (Q: I know, yes.) Then there was ourselves. So there was four of us at one time in Witham.

Q:    You all had plenty to do?

Mr T:    We all had more than enough to do.

Q:    So Moys was, were they in Collingwood Road?

Mr T:    No, when I started, Moys were at the bottom of Easton Road. (Q: Oh, I see, at the far end?) Yes, just where, just in front of Hugh Baird’s, which is now, there used to be a little yard there. Used to be there. Then they moved to Collingwood Road. Then they moved back into the back of Hugh Baird’s, near the railway station, as you go up to the railway station, or as you go up to the, where the goods yard used to be, used to be on the left hand side up there. (Q: Off Avenue Road?) Turn left as you go down Avenue Road, and then turn right, past Hugh Baird’s and up there.

Q:    There was an awful lot going on up there, wasn’t there. Again, Roy Gage used to take photos from Cooper Taber’s, and there was all sorts of other things up there, like as you say, the goods yard.

Mr T:    Mm. Used to be a trial ground opposite the old Cooper Taber’s at one time [for growing seeds]. Then they had the farm as well, up at, as you go out of Witham, you know where Doe’s garage is, the next turning on your left, used to go, used to be straight up, there used to be a railway crossing up there, still is, now, but [???] you get to it a different way now, I assume [Mott’s Lane]. (Q: Oh, you can still get up there, it’s a bit overgrown.) Right, well, they used to have a trial ground on the right hand side, before you got to the railway line, up there.

Q:     Now someone else, talking to me recently, I’m pretty sure that’s more or less where he said Crittall’s had a football pitch at one time.

Mr T:    Witham Town had a football pitch at Half Hides farm. (Q: Oh, did they?) That’s where I first started with Witham Town Football Club, supporting them, selling programmes, selling bits and pieces up there, yes. From there, we used to meet in the Coronation café [by Collingwood Road railway bridge], railway station bridge. From there we moved to the Park [Maldon Road], and from there we moved up to the ground there on Highfields Road.

Q:    So when would they have been in Half Hides about, then?

Mr T:    Oh, god, I must have been a real youngster in those days. Because I’ve been Chairman, Treasurer, and goodness knows what of Witham Town Football Club all those years. I used to go out with my lorry, collect the newspapers, round Witham, for them, years ago, when we could make money out of newspaper.
I carted all their stuff from the Park up to where they are now. (Q: Right, yes.) Helped pull the Council, the old Council chambers down, which Witham Town bought, for their club house, years ago.

Q:    Where was that to start with, then?

Mr T:    Council chambers were at the back of, know where the Public Hall is, there’s a building stand back from that, isn’t there, it used to  round the back there. (Q: Cause that was the offices.) Yes, used to be round the back of that.

Q:    Oh, we were talking about that the other day, about where, so was that in a separate building?

Mr T:    Yes, like a prefab building.

Q:     Oh, I think, so when would that be about, that was when they went up to …

Mr T:    Perhaps when they went up to where they are now, so …

Q:    Oh I see, so, actually 1974 would be when they stopped using the Council chamber, cause that’s when they went to Braintree, yes.

Mr T:    Probably, well it’s about that time when …

Q:    Oh right, so that’s what, they’ve got that up there now, have they?

Mr T:    They’ve got that, that was the, that is the, how can you put it, that is the basic of the lower part of the club house as it is at the moment. But obviously they, when they built it they remade everything different. Yes, that was part of that. (Q: Mm, that big, was it?) Not that big, but then the Football Club built another piece on the end of it, you know, so, yes, had some fun over the years. Bits and pieces here, bits and pieces there, you know, it’s all good fun.

Q:    So the football, obviously, has always been a big thing in Witham, hasn’t it, though it’s probably got bigger …

Mr T:    Yes, my uncle, uncle Charlie [Smith?], played for Witham Town Football Club, I’ve got an old photo of that, from many years ago, and he used to play, no, not Spring Lodge … (Q: Oh, the Grove, did he?) Yes, he used to play somewhere down there. (Q: Yes, yes, at the back I think it was, yes, oh, that’s interesting.) I’ve got, he gave me bits and pieces, cause he lived at Silver End, he gave me bits and pieces on them. I’ve got an old book on Silver End at home.

Q:    Cause that, jumping about a bit here, but that reminds me that on the … I noticed on the, I’ve got a thing that I copied once of all the people who were in the First World War in Witham, (Mr T: Yes.) And there’s also one that is these two … [Roll of Honour, original now at Braintree museum]

Mr T:    Ernest Thompson, I remember him, he’s father’s brother.

Q:    Cause, looks like they were all prisoners of war?

Mr T:    Could be.

Q:    Because I think that’s what that must mean. [pw on list]

Mr T:     Yes. Ethel was his sister.

Q:    I mean this [census return] won’t have got the younger ones on, if there were younger ones. This is just every ten years, you know they do the census, and, anything that’s up to then, up to 1901, a hundred years ago, you can look at them now, so I’ve got the Witham ones. Copies of them. So that’s just who was in the family in 1901, and who was in the family in 1891. (Mr T: Oh right.) So they won’t necessarily all be there. This was the … so ones in between or before, might have gone off and lived somewhere else. So is this Charlie?

Mr T:    Charlie Thompson I don’t know anything about. There was one that became a policeman in Kenilworth. Well, with what John’s getting out, I’ll know that.

Q:    And this R.E., doesn’t fit in with any of these. [on the WW1 Roll of Honour]

Mr T:    R.E., there was a bit of a, what I call a loner, who did thatching. One got killed on a harvester. Which ones I don’t know.

Q:    Well maybe John’ll find out more for you, it’d be interesting. I just thought it was quite a co-incidence that it was all three, there weren’t that many had got ‘pw’ on the list, and all three of the Thompson ones. (Mr T: That, the RE, I don’t recall at all.) So it looks like he was, the Ernest was …

Mr T:    Yes, Ernest was, I can recall him. I know him, cause he used to live down, well one time he lived in the prefabs, and then he moved down to Laurence Avenue.
That’s going back many years ago, that is. Ah, that’s interesting, this is [census]. 3 Chalks Road. [laugh]

Q:     Oh, is that what it says, I’d forgotten that. Cause when you, with these ones it looks like some [???] Church Street.

Mr T:    Father was, my, as I said to you earlier, I know nothing about my father’s side of, only my father full stop. But John came up with the idea that they lived in Church Street, there, which is what it says on here.

[chat about work on family tree etc., not noted]

Q:    Well, obviously, the football was one of your …

Mr T:    Football was my, shall I say, love of that day, in those days, and, it was hard work up there, I must admit, but having run a business and then go up there and work at night time on, run their bar and bits and pieces for them and so forth. Good days, good days.

Q:    Especially if you got into it, I wonder how you got into it when you were so small?

Mr T:    I don’t know, that I don’t know. I’m a life member up there, anyway. So, they made me a life member …

Q:    So when you, going back to the Half Hides business, you go up, you went up the road, well where the pond is, and then the farm was next, the house was next to the farm. So where was the field in relation to that, then?

Mr T:    Behind the house. Used to be, there used to be a walkway from the Park area in Rickstones Road, I can recall it going through and then turning right and turning left and then there was the house, and then the farm was, the field was up where the cemetery, as you look at the cemetery from the gate, the far hedge. Behind that used to be the field they played on.

Q:    I see, there’s houses there now I think. So I suppose really they had to get what they could from a farmer that was feeling friendly.

Mr T:    I suppose so in those days. Used to be good days, those did, used to have lots of fun up there.

Q:    So did you go to away matches as well?

Mr T:    I can’t recall going to away matches early on. But as the years went on, yes, cause I used to play for them as well. So we used to go to away matches obviously in those days. But, yes I …

Q:    So that was all Witham Football Club itself. (Mr T: Yes.) Cause I think in the old days they had different, [???] different names like Wednesday and things like that, all that sort of thing. So the Witham Football Club has been continuous all through that time that you’ve been.

Mr T:    I suppose, I don’t know whether this is right or not, but when they moved off the, what was it called, where they used to play years ago. (Q: The Grove?) Yes, when they moved off there, I assume there again, they had to find another ground, to which they probably moved to Half Hides farm, I don’t know, I don’t know how it ties up and that.

Q:    I think there might have been the odd time when the collapsed, you know, and then started up again. Sometimes I look at the old newspapers [???] [???] [???].

Mr T:    I found an old newspaper this morning when I was looking through bits and pieces, 1970 something, a newspaper. ‘George calls it a day’. Which was when father put it in the paper that he was getting out of the business, getting out of the business and handing it over to his son on Monday, never did, never did. He never did get out of the business, he died in the business. You know.

Q:    That’s nice. Did they have much about it  in there?

Mr T:    No, just a little tiny [???] piece in there, that’s all, he probably put it in himself knowing him [laugh].

Q:    Oh well, it’s historic isn’t it.

Mr T:    But. When I decided enough was enough, I said to my son, well, prior to that, ‘There’s a coal business here if you’re interested’. Well, he’d been to college, he did say ‘Dad, I’ve wasted four years if I come into that now’. Which I’m pleased he didn’t, cause he’d be out of it now, cause there’s not enough to keep you going. So …

Q:    Like you said [???], was it every fortnight you said, you’d come round?

Mr T:    Every fortnight, used to come to various parts of Witham. And we’d … you’d bring a load of coal into the top of the road here. By the time you’d done this, and a little bit up here, lorry was empty.

Q:    And they all had their regular orders?

Mr T:    Well, not regular, that was in the days when coal was on the ration.

Q:    Oh really, right.

Mr T:    When we were supposed to have kept records of what everybody had. Which, used to sit and do it at night, write about it. [laugh] (Q: What, make them up you mean? How many she had, cause I think 36 hundredweight was the maximum for a year. So you kind of had to bend the rules a bit. [laugh]

Q:    Presumably you only got a set amount, did you?

Mr T:    Yes, you were entitled to X number of tons per year, to which you could occasionally get an odd extra load, and things like that.

Q:    So you couldn’t be too generous, then?

Mr T:    No, but you didn’t keep anybody too …, you’d stop them from, shall I say, how can I describe it, having seven or eight hundredweight, drop them down to about four [probably in the book], something like that, for a fortnight, and this sort of thing, years ago. They used to have a fuel overseer that used to come round the roads checking on you. (Q: Really?) I won’t, because that [tape recorder] is on, I won’t tell you what I used to call him, and tell him. But you can imagine a wet morning, and him expecting you to write in a book as you go round, what people have had. And oh … chap named Green. Evil little man. [laugh]

Q:    Not a very popular job, then.

Mr T:    Well, no, I mean, he was like a spy, as you might say. You know, but he was doing his job, so, fair enough.

Q:    How long did it stay on the ration for?

Mr T:    Well, it was on the ration when I joined, I, so I started in ’54, and I think it went right on to near enough the sixties.

Q:    Really? I’d forgotten that. Yes. A chore then, wasn’t it, to keep track of all that.

Mr T:    Oh, there was all manner of things we used to have to do in those days. Yes.

Q:    And when the strike was on, you said you couldn’t get your usual …

Mr T:    You couldn’t get anything at all, I mean, once they closed the pits down, there was nothing coming from this country.

Q:    I’ve forgotten when that was now, really.

Mr T:    ’84 – ’85.

Q:    Was it? Yes.

Mr T:    And, you used to have to buy whatever you could get. Polish coal. The rubbish, really. All the heaps of rubbish around the country vanished. You sold it. You had to, to keep behind, you had to try and keep the people warm. Oh no, all manner of things used to go on in those days, it’s unbelievable, unbelievable. Stuff used to come in at night time, in the dark. Miners would sit outside the gate, begging you to stop delivering coal. What do you call that.

Q:    Even in Witham?

Mr T:    Yes. Yes, it went on for several months, and then they came out of their area to try and stop people delivering, to get the sympathy of the public. But, you know as well as I do, if you’re freezing cold …
One of those things, that, Arthur Scargill killed the coal trade off. Didn’t achieve anything, either. But that was life. I mean, I suppose when we look back in history and that, what killed off the horse and cart – the vehicles. So I suppose, looking at life, what’s going to be next. Tesco’s and so forth killing off all the small shops at the moment.

Q:    So where did you normally get your coal from?

Mr T:    Nottingham area. Wales. That was the early part. Then Germany came into being, for which we used to get a lot of fuel[?] from Germany, and stuff like that. Poland came in. Nowadays it’s Chinese and goodness knows what. Stuff I’ve never heard of. I’ve been down a couple of pits. (Q: Oh have you?) Yes, I went one in Nottingham, Hucknell, Hucknell colliery in Nottingham. And I’ve done Severjikover[?] in Germany.

Q:    How did you find that, then?

Mr T:    Quite an experience. If you can imagine going down a hole in Kelvedon, going straight down for whatever it was, 600 metres or whatever it is, down, get on the train, and off you go. And then you, then you, where the train stops, you then have to walk, they’ve got these, what they call air doors round there. Hell of a job to get them open. But, and then you walked on and on and on, and eventually, like at Hucknell, you suddenly come across a load of jacks, no more than about three foot six high, which you crawled through, and eventually you come to the pit face. Having come to the pit face, we’re talking about the size of this room, where they’re cutting coal that face there. And I can recall saying to the miners down there. ‘Well, why aren’t you taking that piece out?’ ‘Well, we have, that’s gravity, that’s brought the roof down.’ ‘Let’s get out of here!’ (Q: Yes, quite!) And, it was a laugh because, they had a conveyor belt that took all the coal they’d cut, away. And to get out of the pit, they used to say ‘Right, I’ll go and stop the belt’. One of the guides would jump on the belt and ‘Crash’, it’s darkness. All you’ve got is your little helmet light. And he stopped the belt. ‘Right, you all get on’. And you get on, with your hands out in front of you, on your knees. And they don’t tell you, there is a roller every three feet. So once they start the belt up, you can imagine what your knees are like. And that was the way we got out of the pit. Germany was totally different. You went, cause the Germans, only the boss men are Germans, the rest are Turks. (Q: Right.) And they’re dressed in a uniform of, like the Jews wore during the War, striped, blue and white stripe. Mm. I put my foot in it [laugh]. It wasn’t hard to do. But, we went down this pit, and all of a sudden, dropped us down, and we walked in, and just walked down for, I suppose, what, half a mile perhaps? All of a sudden they said ‘We’re going up this shaft here’, which was no more than the height of a table. And across every yard was a kind of a steel bar at the bottom, and a steel bar at the top. And he said, ‘Every bar has got a number on it. We’ll start at one, and we’ll stop at 130’. We crawled and crawled and crawled. By the time you got to 130 you were out on your feet. And, and then you go to walk out, and, while we were there, along come the cutter, taking this slice off, course that absolutely covered us with dirt and filth and …And then you went out the other end, then up, out. That was interesting.

Q:    So how did you put your foot in it then?

Mr T:    [Laugh] They, when you got there, they gave you your uniform, which was one of these striped clothes, knee pads, helmet, top clothes, everything. And I recall putting this yellow, this blue and white striped thing on, and saying ‘The only thing that’s missing here is the star!’ And then there, ‘Whoops’, the place went dead silent. You know, it hit me as that. And, it’s weird. They treated us very well, I must admit, over there, the food was excellent.

Q:    So how did you get to go there, then?

Mr T:    Just a chappie I bought fuel off of, said ‘They’re organising a trip to Severjikover[?], as it was called. I’ve got a photo of me in my mining gear at home somewhere, bits and pieces.

Q:    So when was that about?

Mr T:    I would think that would have been in the, eighties.

Q:    And the other one?

Mr T:    The other one was before that, fair bit before that.

Q:    Was that the same sort of thing, an organised group?

Mr T:    Yes, like that, coach, they’d get a coach and do it, and then we’d go so that sort of thing. But that was interesting, being in the trade, it was interesting to see just where it came from.

Q:    Yes. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it, working in that space all the time.

Mr T:    No, it took a bit of believing, that. Only, you can quite understand why, now, they’ve been recently advertising in the papers, regarding coal miners and dust and dirt.

Q:    Still, I suppose, as you say, you had a fair bit of that?

Mr T:    Oh yes, I mean, when I first started, everything was on the shovel. Then we got a conveyor belt, which took it onto the back of the lorry, and loaded it into bags on there. And from there we progressed to a hopper and tractor, and, then basically you could, it was a one-man job, in as much you could tractor it into the hopper, jump on the back of the lorry, and …

Q:    And then that, the bags?

Mr T:    Fed the bags, yes. With a footpedal to stop it at the side, you know.

Q:    Whereas before that you …?

Mr T:    Oh, it was hard work.

Q:    When you started out?

Mr T:    When I first started, everything used to come by railway truck into Witham, goods station. You’d go there, you’d load it with a shovel, in the bags, or loose, and cart it, if you took it loose you carted it up the yard, so you shovel it onto your lorry, off your lorry onto the heap, into the bags, lifted it on the lorry, and then stacked it on the lorry and then carried it round the house. That was one hundredweight of coal.

Q:    And then you emptied it out the bag?

Mr T:    Emptied it out the bag round the customer’s house.

Q:    Into their …

Mr T:    Yes.

Q:    I’m surprised you’re as fit as you are!

Mr T:    Well, if I tell you 51,000 tons been on my back in 39 years …

Q:    [laugh] 51,000 tons !

Mr T:    I know that by the records I’ve got. Yes.

Q:    So you’ve still got the records from the business as well.

Mr T:    I’ve still got lots of records, like, buy a lorry for about £900, and so forth. And the office desk I’ve still got at home today, £12 10 shillings. You know, little, only since I started the business like in the sixties, that I kept the record of the old ledger that I had of years gone by.

Q:    So does that go back before you?

Mr T:    No, no, that’s when I started, I just kept my own, and I kept a record of the tonnage that I had within the course of the year and so forth. Only for my own interest’s sake, to be honest with you.

Q:    That’s a historic document, then.

Mr T:    How much coal I had, how much furnacite, how much this, that and the other I sold in the course of the year.

Q:    Well, especially as you say, seeing it’s all gone now, that’s …

Mr T:    Well, it’s only interesting for my sake, you know …

Q:    Oh I don’t think so, I think anybody’s be interested.

Mr T:    But, oh, it was good fun years ago, used to have lots of, used to start work at half past seven in the morning, till half past five at night. Saturdays till twelve o’clock. But father always used to make me work till about one, half past. Crafty devil knew exactly how to get round that. You know what it’s like, father and son, you get more out of your son than… Ah, that’s many many moons ago.

Q:    So you enjoyed it really?

Mr T:    Lots of laughs, lots of headaches, lots of arguments, especially with father. Oh, threatened to kill him with a shovel one day, drove me that far. He, how can I put it, he’d push you so far, so far, he would push you and push you and push you. Till you just couldn’t take any more.

Q:    What would he do, then?

Mr T:    For argument’s sake, early mornings he wasn’t too bad, lunch times he’d go in for his dinner, like I would, hour for dinner, used to spread to an hour and three quarters, cause he wasn’t out, cause he used to drive a lorry in those days, wouldn’t allow me to drive. And this sort of thing. And then at, shall I say, twenty, when you were knocking off at five o’clock at night, twenty to five, he’d say ‘Go into the goods yard and put on two ton ready for the morning.’ Knowing full well that it’s be quarter to six before you got done. All this sort of thing. All these sort of things. But, as I say …

Q:    Was there something particular, bad, that you threatened him?

Tape 190. Mrs Ena MacPherson (nee Beard), sides 1 and 2

Tape 190

Mrs Ena MacPherson (nee Beard), was born in 1915. She was interviewed on 2 December 1999, when she lived at 11 Chancel Close, Tillingham. Mr Patrick Horner, a friend of hers, was also present; he lived at 6 Powershall End, Witham.

For more information about her, see MacPherson, Ena, in the People category.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

Mrs M:    We went to a little school in Lockram Villas [Collingwood Road]. There was a little private school and I suppose I was about ten. And there was business people’s children, there was Heddles, Sorrells, Tony Cullen, who were the others (PH: Matthew and Frank Cullen, Cressing Temple.) Who else was in that. I haven’t got the photograph now. There were about twelve of us. In a little house .. (PH: You know Ian[?] Smith the accountants, about the fifth or sixth one from the traffic lights.) (Q: I know, yes, yes.) And then of course when I was eleven I had to go to a bigger school. I went to Braintree High School then.

Q:    Who taught you?

Mrs M:    Mrs Chapman. And I don’t know quite, can’t remember. She lived at this Villas, Lockram Villas, with her mother, Mrs Gentry. And that’s all I can remember. We were all, you know, between nine and eleven. Years of old, age, yes.

Q:    So did you learn a lot there?

Mrs M:    I doubt it [laugh]. If so I haven’t. No, I think, just the three Rs, you know, that’s about all, and then I went to Braintree High School, and then the War came, didn’t it. That was the point.

Q:    So did they all go off to other schools after …

Mrs M:    Oh I think so. I was friendly with the Richards girls, Charlie Richards’ daughters. Of course they’re both gone now.

Q:    Yes, I knew Kath Richards.

Mrs M:    Kath? And Joyce, her younger sister. She died at the age of forty I think it was now.

Q:    So your, this wedding, that was before you came to Witham was it?

Mrs M:    Before I was thought of. [laugh]

Q:    So where were they then, that was in Feering you say?

Mrs M:    Feering, yes. My mother lived at Feering Lodge, with her father and mother, and they were seed manager for Hursts, was it Hursts then, Pat? (PH: Yes. The Sherwood family.) Sherwood family, Sherwood, that’s right. (PH: Their uncle developed the Kelvedon Wonder Pea.) That’s right, my uncle did that.

Q:    Oh, you’re a clever family aren’t you?

Mrs M:    Oh, I don’t know [laugh].

PH:    Didn’t your mother go up to London for her [???]?

Mrs M:    He would go abroad to buy seeds. He was very go-ahead.

PH:    That’s where the seed trial grounds, some of it’s built up on Feering Hill, which is Sherwood Way now. Obviously named after the Sherwoods.

Mrs M:    All the trial grounds are a blaze of colour but then the by-pass came they took it all. Just Feering Lodge there now. Have you got the Feering Lodge? [looking at photos?]

PH:    There’s quite a bit on Prested Hall.

Mrs M:    Oh, you know what you did.

PH:    Those are Prested Hall outside Feering where the Sherwoods lived. Who would link with that Sherwood, and you know [photo M550?]

Mrs M:    That is I believe a nursing home now. There’s Feering Lodge, look. There’s my mother’s home. Until she … Oh there’s uncle, Arthur (PH That’s Kelvedon pea …) My mother’s, oh that’s (PH: And that’s a picture, Mrs Mac took that back to the people who live there to show them in the garden.)

Mrs M:    The cedar tree apparently is still standing, two hundred years old.

Q:    So what was your mother’s first name?

Mrs M:    Newby. Winifred. Winifred Newby.

Q:    So it was her mother that was a Sherwood, was it?

Mrs M:    No, no.

PH:    No, they just worked for them.

Mrs M:    I think her mother was a Pepper.

Q:    Oh. They’ve kept so well, these pictures, haven’t they. So how did she meet your father then?

Mrs M:    I really don’t know. I really don’t know, it was before my time. I wouldn’t know. My father was a deaf, he was deaf family, came from a deaf family.

PH:    When did he start the shop in Witham?

Mrs M:    1905. They married in 1905, and the fire[?] was two years after which was 1907 wasn’t it. [actually 1910]. That’s the back of Feering Lodge, that’s my mum, that’s her mother,

And that’s the man who was in charge of all the trial ground. And that was my uncle who went, always was in the seed line. And that’s my aunt Mildred who had a children’s baby shop where Mellon’s is now [80 Newland Street]. (PH: Mrs Hunwick.)

Q:    That was Mrs Hunwick. And she was a Newby?

Mrs M:    She was a Newby. They were all Newbys. That’s kept very well. That’s my father, where’s my father, is he there? That’s their family, that’s the Beard family. And that’s his stepmother, she was a grand old lady, she was a governess..

Q:    So the Beards weren’t from …?

Mrs M:    Bishops Stortford, they came. And then my father had his first shop in Saffron Walden. What have you done, is he knocking things about, he always is?

PH:    Those are the interesting photos, that’s one shop, I don’t know who that is (Mrs M: Saffron Walden I think, that one.) I think that’s a lovely little one, that one.

Q:    And these are in Saffron Walden are they?

Mrs M:    I think so. (PH: We don’t know.) We’re not sure. That or Bishops Stortford..

PH:    Those are just general ones that might be of interest. But you’ve got the Witham shop in there somewhere, you’ve already had it.

Q:    I think they’re on the stool there, probably. (PH:    Would it be in this lot.) (Mrs M: Might be.) (PH: There is is, the Witham shop. I just think the various shop ones are quite good]. [photo M556] Aren’t they, yes, with all the stuff outside to show what they sold.

Mrs M:    Oh yes, they had to go and put everything up. (Q: Mangle) Yes, I know, and I think there might be one of those about still. Because it had his name in the cast iron, on the thing, you know.

Q:    And is this a sort of coach or something on the left here?

Mrs M:    Let me look. That’s, I should think, the delivery, we had pony .. when the fire was came, [Consitutional Club, next door, 1910] then we’d got horses in the stable, cause there wasn’t a van then, and they used to go round with the paraffin and all sorts of things. (PH: Doing, renting out plates or something?) Oh yes, they did, china and glass, they used to rent out. The crockery for parties. (Q: Oh. [laugh]) And, what else was there. I can’t remember, my brain is (Q: I think you’ve got a very good memory.) Oh I don’t know. I wish I knew, I wish more, I was a bit younger you see, than my brother, and …

Q:    But you lived at, you lived above the shop?

Mrs M:    Yes, I was born in the shop. Born in …

PH:    Did you say your mother did all the accounts?

Mrs M:    No, my father couldn’t, because he was deaf he couldn’t serve in the shop, so mother did all the shop and he did all the books. And he used to go to London twice a week, to, you know in the olden days they mended crockery, riveted it, and he used to go up to London with this broken crockery, into, I went, I used to go with him sometimes, now what, Chancery Lane. There was a funny little man in there, and riveted these bits of broken china, and he’d go up next week and collect them. Cause the people in big houses had it mended. Riveted. Don’t do that now, do they? They throw it down on the dump [laugh]

Q:    Amazing, I’ve never heard of that before.

Mrs M:    What, riveting, haven’t you?

PH:    If you’ve got a valuable plate [???] hopping mad if it’s been riveted.

Mrs M:    I don’t think, have I got anything riveted here. (PH: This one here.)

Q:    I never had anything worth doing myself.

Mrs M:    I’m a breaker I’m afraid. No I don’t think I’ve got anything, they were mother’s plates.

PH:    You had something. (Mrs M:    Did I, have something riveted.) I think so. (Q: Now you’ll be going round looking.) No, I’m not touching any more.

Mrs M:    What about that big one? (PH: Yes I’ve just looked at it, I thought that was riveted but it’s not.) No. (PH: You know, a little, like a little lead thing on the back.) Yes, there used to be all the people in the big houses used to have it mended.

Q:    So can you remember any of the people in the big houses, who they were and what they, did you see them around the town?

Mrs M:    Try and tell me the houses then I’ll remember the name.

Q:    The Grove?

Mrs M:    The Grove, well, you know the Grove don’t you. (PH: Percy Laurence was the real one)

Q:    The Pellys, you were talking about the Pellys, weren’t you.

Mrs M:    That was up on the Lodge, towards Hatfield Peverel [Witham Lodge]

Q:    So did you see people like that around the town?

Mrs M:    Well I went to school in Braintree, I didn’t see much of the town you see.

PH:    What was Dorothy Sayers like?

Mrs M:    Dorothy Sayers was a lovely lady. (PH: Was she polite?)

Mrs M:    Oh yes, very nice. She used to go into my mother’s shop and buy things. And, no, and there was Mr Bull, who was a friend of my father’s, who had a photographer’s just by his, [near the George] no-one’s mentioned (Q I mentioned it in the photograph book, at the beginning.] Oh you have. Yes, Billy Bull. And his wife, she opened a little dress shop called Anita, in that corner [near the George]. He was a great friend of my father’s. They used to play billiards one a week in each other’s houses, you know. But, I can’t … (PH: They’re mentioned in her scrapbook [Mrs M’s]. Bull’s death’s in that). Is it.

Q:    So did he take portraits mostly, or what sort of thing?

Mrs M:    He had a little studio in Braintree. He used to go there once a week and have, yes, photographs, yes portraits, that would have been. I don’t think he went out. No, he had a studio at the bottom of the garden.

PH:    Where were they, where did they live?

Mrs M:    Bulls? Next to the, what’s the pub on (Q: George, the George). The George, yes That was, she had that little shop, she had a little shop built in that corner, a little gown shop. And everybody was pleased … [PH: Now the motor accessories.) Is it? (PH: Yes, I think so.) Oh. (PH: The one in Newland Street, you mean?) Yes, right next door to the George. And who was next door? There was a shop called (PH: Waide Pollard?). No, no before that. Drury I think, Charlie Drury had a little grocer’s shop there, but it didn’t last very long. And there was, opposite, next to the Red Lion was John Taber, a little greengrocer. And of course I still know Doris Cook. She’s (Q: Yes, we were talking about her on the way down, I have met her once or twice.) Have you? (Q: When she lived in Witham though.) She lived in Witham in the Park (Q: Near the Park, yes, I went to see her there.) Then there was. (PH Did she work in King’s, she had some link with King’s apart from Harold Cook’s? Did she or not?) Doris. (PH: She mentioned something …). She worked in Cook’s [5 Newland Street]. (Q: Yes, this must have been earlier on.) Eventually married Harold Cook.

PH:    What was King’s, other than the jeweller’s?

Mrs M:    Sweet shop, toy shop. (PH: Right, she was talking about that, where was that?) (Q: Was King’s near Cook’s?) King’s was next to the alleyway [about 13 Newland Street]. There was a sweet shop, and then they had a second shop, Mrs Ryland had those in the end. And I had a flat over John Taber’s for six months. Just when I moved back to Witham, wasn’t it, 1950?

Q:    So you moved away, did you?

Mrs M:    Mm. I went and married very young and went and lived with my husband on a fruit farm at Woodham Walter. And then the land girls came, and one of them took him away, so they went off abroad and they never came back. So that was that. (Q: So you came back to Witham?) I went back to mother, yes, I’d got a little, how old had I got Stuart then? (PH: Ten, perhaps?). Eleven, yes, he must have been eleven, then he went abroad for a couple of years, he was called up of course. Then.

PH:    Then you had to nurse either your mother or your father didn’t you?

Mrs M:    I had a little shop, I had that shop down Maldon Road for five years as a hairdressers. What’s his name, Brewster, saddlemaker. (Q: Brewster the saddlemaker, yes.) It wasn’t in, the one I saw in your book or something wasn’t in Maldon Road, was it? (Q: Yes.) Was it. Well it was quite different when I had it, it was a little side door, not ..

Q:    Mind they lived, they had two places the Brewsters, they had the shop on one side and they lived on the other, on the left going down.

Mrs M:    Down to Maldon Road? (Q: Was yours on the left?) Yes. (Q: Oh that was probably their house then.) Oh I see. (Q: On the other side.) Oh did they, I didn’t remember that.

Q:    Cause I talked at one time to Gladys Baker who was Gladys Brewster.

Mrs M:    Gladys Brewster, yes I read that last night. (Q: She explained that to me.) Is she still alive (Q: No I don’t think she is now, no.) Who is alive that I would know? (Q: People keep asking me that, I shall have to keep a list.) There can’t be many. (Q: We were talking on the way down about Mrs De Trense.) Yes. The dentist’s, now who was she, wasn’t she a Miss Gaze (Q: That’s right, I think she was. [actually Bowhill, but related to the Gazes]. He kept the, he had the public, not the public house, picture house. (Q: Yes.)

Which was Whitehall. And he lived at Blue Mills, with about ten children. And then there was a Miss Gaze, I suppose his sister, she used to sit in the, dish out the tickets for the, you know, she was just a what do you call it, (PH: Kiosk) Kiosk. Yes. He was a great big man. Mrs Gaze was very nice, but all these daughters.

Q:    Did you go to the Whitehall yourself much?

Mrs M:    Sometimes. Not often. No. (PH: Did people like it, was it a big thing for Witham when it came?)  I suppose so. Yes, we used to go. Then what after the cinema was it I wonder?

Q:     It was empty for a while, and then it became the library. It’s the library now. So it was quite, going back to your hairdresser’s shop …

Mrs M:    I gave it up to look after my mother and father, and they lived in Avenue Road then. [probably number 10] And of course they didn’t live very long.

Q:    And had you done that sort of work before? (Mrs M: Me?) Or did you?

Mrs M:    Oh I trained before I married as a hairdresser. Yes, just for a little while.

Q:    Where did you go for that?

Mrs M:    Bond Street. [laugh]

Q:    Did you, oh, it’s the real thing there, isn’t it.

Mrs M:    No I worked one or two places, and then of course I married. I ended, I worked in Braintree, Pat, Mr Derry[?] for a time, and then I went on the fruit farm with the dogs, we loved it, we had dogs there.

Q:    So when you went to Bond Street did you live up there, or …

Mrs M:    No, daily, we used to go, my father took me up one day, and he said ‘Now you can find your own way tomorrow’. Oh dear.

Q:    That was quite an adventure though. (Mrs M: It was.) Had you been to London much before that?

Mrs M:    No. Oh [???] had, I had been up once or twice with him with taking the crockery up there to be mended. He used to go to flower shows. (PH: Very keen on gardening.) He was ever so keen on gardening. And he used to push me, quickly, through the turnstiles, so he didn’t have to pay for me. Oh, I can remember that. Oh he was very keen. He had twenty years in his garden in Avenue Road, when he retired. He said if he hadn’t got any money by 60 he was going to retire. He had already built that house you see. (PH: And your aunt lived next door.) My aunt, they bought that land, and they had two houses built together. My mother’s sister. (PH: What did the plot cost?) Oh I’ve no idea, you weren’t told these things when you were young were you. You weren’t allowed to know anything. (PH: What did they cost to build?) Eight hundred pounds I believe, each. (Q: Quite a lot actually, wasn’t it.) (PH: Oh, that was a lot.) They were big houses and we had a big garden there, went right back to the Maldon line. Did you tell me the Catholic church is something now. (PH: Yes, they’ve built flats there.,) (Q: But the church is a house, isn’t it, the church itself is a house.) Is it, is Mrs Coleman still there? (Q: No.) What happened to her? (Q: There’s some flats behind the library). Is he alive Bill. (Q: I think he’s still alive, is he Patrick? Bill Coleman?) (PH: Yes.) (Q: She died a year or two ago.) There was Mrs Percy Brown, her mother, who lived in, oh she lived in Collingwood House. (Q: Did you know her?)

Mrs M:    Yes. (PH: They had the brewery, didn’t they, at Hatfield Peverel?) Did they? (PH: Wasn’t that Brown’s?) (Q: I think it was that family, and a corn place.) (PH: And he was something in London, wasn’t he? Didn’t he have some shop in London?). Who? (PH: Brown?). I don’t know. (Q: They had quite a lot of businesses, yes.)

Q:     So was Mrs, I think I’ve seen a picture of Mrs Percy Brown. (Mrs M: Very formidable.) A busy lady, I think, was she? (Mrs M: Oh yes.) Did you know her?

Mrs M:    Not personally. No, I didn’t. (Q: So who were your …) There was Marjorie and her sister, I can’t think of her sister’s name. Do you know?

Q:     No, I did know. I think she lived in Scotland or something. But she did tell me, it might come back to me. Cause there’s a picture of Marjorie in here when she was a little girl. [JG’s book of old photos]. (Mrs M: Is there?) Collecting for the Red Cross. (Mrs M: Marjorie Coleman, yes.) That’s the Witham one, isn’t it. So who were your friends mostly?

Mrs M:    Richards. (Q: The Richards, yes.) Yes, because Joyce was fourteen, I was fifteen, and Kathleen was sixteen, they were just one step up. (Q: How did you entertain yourselves, then?) Well, they were very caught up in the Operatic. Mrs Richards was very Operatic minded, and so Kathleen used to sing, and they went into every … (Q: Did you?) No, only once. [laugh] (Q: Really, why?) Well, I moved away.

Q:    Oh I see, yes.

Mrs M:    I moved away. I had fifteen years in Woodham Walter. I know it wasn’t far but it was the wartime and we didn’t move around. (Q: So you were young when you went there, you said?) Twenty. (Q: Yes. Oh, that’s Marjorie.) Let me have a peep. It was her that told me it was her. (Q: Really. [???] Oh dear oh dear. I can’t believe we all looked the [???]. I mean the men look so old-fashioned don’t they. (Q: Yes. And everybody wore hats, didn’t they?) Yes. (Q: That makes a big difference to their appearance. On this side, this little girl in the waggon, that’s Margaret Mens, when she was a baby, and her mother.) I think she’s a bit older than I am. (Q: Possibly, yes.) She lived at the top of Avenue Road last. (Q: I think she was born in 1913.) Two years older. (Q: But she’s still …) She’s still [???]? (Q: Going strong, yes.) Is she? What did she do, now, I’ve forgotten. (Q: I think, did she do hairdressing at one time?) Did she? (Q: But I think she worked in Crittall’s office for a long time.) Ah, that’s more like it, yes. What else was I going to say. I was so delighted to read here about mother, you know. (In JG’s book of old photos, re fire at Constitutional Club, 1910, when Mrs Beard and new baby (Mrs M’s brother) were led out from next door, i.e. from 88], and you’ve got the pictures there, you’ve got the picture, where did you get that? (Q: Now that was an actual postcard, I think my husband bought it at a postcard fair or something like that. And I’ve forgotten who let me have the top one.) Because next door to us was Dibben’s the hairdresser’s, do you know [90 Newland Street] (Q: I’ve heard of Dibben’s, yes.) Yes, old Mr Dibben. (PH; [???] had the grandson, oh no, great nephew.) Oh no, this is nothing to do … (PH: Hairdresser now, almost in the same position.) (Q: Is that the same one?) (PH: Yes. Great nephew). [not sure where this is, not at number 90]. Mrs Dibben tried to teach me the piano, and I lived just across the way, you see. Dibben’s was there when it was rebuilt. (Q: Where the fire …) Yes. And the chapel was between us, the chapel grounds.

PH:    Was the clock after the fire put across the road, on the, what was the Barclay’s building [61 Newland Street]? Was that the clock that used to be on there. (Mrs M: I don’t know.) (Q: I think it’s said to be, but I’m not quite sure how much of it, it looks very similar doesn’t it.) Well it is shown on [???]. (Q: Yes.)

Mrs M:    Now that was our drawing room, up there. (Q: Really? On the left?) Yes. And that was my bedroom up there look, after, (Q: Right at the top?) I mean, when it was rebuilt. And I was born in that next window there. [photo M556, of 88 Newland Street]. Is that the train crash, yes it is, isn’t it, Pat.

Q:    So it was quite a big, you had quite a big place to live above the shop?

Mrs M:    Oh we did, we had ten rooms. (Q: Ten rooms!) And we used to have a live-in maid. (Q: Did you?) Because mother was always in the shop, and there had to be somebody in the house to put me to bed and that sort of thing. (PH: Cause of her father being deaf, you see.) (Q: Yes, yes.) And they used to keep open till eight o’clock at night. (Q: Really?) I can always remember trying … (PH: All day Saturday?) Yes. (PH: Oh.) Nellie, one of the maids we had, she’d take me up the road, you know, and she’d say ‘We’ll go and listen to the Salvation Army’. And then we used to have, they used to stand outside Clarke’s [70 Newland Street]. Or Menzies or wherever it is. And to get out we said we were going to listen to the Salvation Army. [laugh] I don’t know where we went, it was just to get out, I think, mother was busy in the shop.

PH:    What staff did you have in the shop?

Mrs M:    There was always a girl in the … Oh, Turner’s, Turner’s of Rivenhall, heard of them? (Q: No.) Now, aunt, my aunt at the grocer’s, at the draper’s [Mrs Hunwick], had Doris Turner, and we had Rosie, her sister, we had them as [???]. What’s the pub at the top of Rivenhall? [PH: Fox.] Fox. They lived right opposite there and it was quite a family of them, Turners, they were good. And I think Alfred Turner had the shop which is now a post office on the Rivenhall road, near the church, is there a shop there, Post Office, is it? (PH: Yes, there is, yes.) That was there brother.

PH:    Which Motion was it that you …

Mrs M:    Oh, in the bottom of our garden, we had a lovely big walled garden here, and, I always thought he was Captain Motion. (PH: Probably was.) (Q: That’s familiar, yes.) Or was it Colonel, I don’t know whether it was Colonel or Captain.

But I can remember her riding, coming out on her horse, going up the High Street, Mrs Motion. Cause that’s his son, isn’t it, that I went to a little while ago? (PH: Yes. And his grandson’s the poet.) Poet Laureate, yes, yes. I’ve cooked him many a breakfast. (Q: Did you?) When I went to look after, cause his wife had a dreadful accident, this one, the father of this boy, hunting [???], that was at, where was it, Langford Park, wasn’t it? (PH: Yes. Onto some concrete.) Yes, fresh frosty morning and her horse threw her onto them, she never walked again. Dreadful. We used to have here out on a Sunday for her lunch, from the hospital. I went to take over the family while father was in London and the boys were home on leave from college, only just a few weeks. But, I enjoyed that. (Q: This was, where were they then?) Out at Stisted. (Q: Stisted.) Yes. But he’s a lovely man, he’s a very nice man, ever so nice, you know, do. (PH: One boy was Andrew, what was the other, Richard or something? The father, very nice chap.) Very nice. He used to go to London every day and come back to the hospital before he came in at night to see her. But … (PH: She was there for years, wasn’t she?) I wonder what happened. Don’t know. (PH: That was the grandfather, you, who owned it in your day, the Lawn [i.e. Witham]) Oh yes, cause they had horses, and they would go up the street, I don’t, did they hunt, I don’t know whether it was just.

PH: Would the Brices have hunted as well?

Mrs M:    No, I don’t think so. (PH: What was their place, off Avenue Road?) Brice. (PH: Was that Janmead?) Was it what? (PH: It’s where the cul-de-sac Janmead is now, isn’t it, where Brice lived, in Avenue Road, or am I wrong? Old man Brice. Arthur Brice.) At the end. (Q: On the corner. Is it near the corner?) At the end. Yes. I don’t know the name of it. Then they, where did they go to live after that? (PH: Well they had the farm, didn’t they, at …) Rivenhall? (PH: Yes.) Was that Rivenhall? (PH: Yes. Robert Brice had the farm near Braxted.) And then the three daughters. I remember Olive Brice married Esmond Smith, have you heard of him? (Q: Oh, I have indeed, yes.) Yes, she married him, and they lived in Avenue Road, there were two houses, there was a doctor lived up there, now who was he, which doctor lived up there. And I’m always wondering, I see a man’s name Rew, R E W, and they used to live in, there’s two houses aren’t there, biggish houses. (PH: A nursing home now.) Is it? Well, Rews, Rews used to live there and I’m wondering if it’s him, one of the boys. (Q: I don’t know him. Could be, couldn’t it?) I wonder, it’s an unusual name, isn’t it. R E W. I’m wondering, what is he, something, is he a councillor or something? (Q: Not in Witham, but …) Yes, in Witham. (Q: I’ll have to watch out for that. (PH: R E W) R E W, I think it was Paul, and I’m sure, when I had Stuart young, he used to play with him. If it was him. It could be that he came back, I don’t know.

PH:    Then what about the Gimsons, you liked them.

Mrs M:    Oh, I liked the Doctor Gimson, yes. Doctor Ted and Doctor Karl, two bachelors. (Q: Yes.) And Mrs Brandt was their sister. (Q: Yes.) You know that, yes. (Q: Well, I think there’s a picture of her [in JG’s book of old photos] (PH: The wedding photo.) (Q: The wedding, yes.) Did you know a Miss Maisey, who taught dancing?

Q:    Now, Miss Mens talked about her.

Mrs M:    Miss Maisey. (Q: Yes, did you go to, did you …?) No, I, I was too heavyweight for that. [laugh] No, she used to have dancing classes there. I’m just trying to think. Then there was the … Brandt’s house was next door to the surgery, wasn’t it … (PH: The Gables?) I don’t know. (Q: I think so, yes.) I don’t know the names, I’ve forgotten so much.

Q:    So were you in any of these sort of pageant things?

Mrs M:    No. No, only one I was in was that pageant of the, and Mrs Richards made all those wigs for us. (Q: Oh yes? Got that somewhere. Yes, so you were in that, you’ll have to, I’ll have another look at that before I go.) [Photos M546 and M 547] Yes, that’s the only one. Oh, dear oh dear. (Q: So do you remember doing that at all? Do you remember being in that?) No. Not really. I lived at, you know the Manse [2 Newland Street], that was where I married from, my father sold the business, and he bought that place, then he went to live in Avenue Road. (Q: Oh I see, he was there in between.)

There was just, I suppose about two years, in between. But the Manse, oh, did you hear about the Reverend Picton that lived there? (Q: Oh yes, with the hand, the hand grenade, yes. [killed 1916]) And I was the last one he held. My mother went there to tea that day, and he nursed me, I was one. And I’d just gone home, mother had taken home, and that happened. (Q: Oh dear.) Dreadful. Mrs Picton used to sit behind us in the chapel. (Q: Really?) (PH: He didn’t blow himself up just because [???]) Oh, go on with you. Can’t believe a word he says.

Q:    So you went to visit, your family went to the chapel, did they?

Mrs M:    Congregationalists, yes, yes.

Q:    You went there as a girl as well, did you?

Mrs M:    Yes, and I can always remember when there was a funeral, mother used to say ‘Go along the passage and close all the blinds’ while it went up. Respect then a day. (Q: Yes.) Course we used to peep. [laugh]

Q:    You were very convenient. Were the family Congregationalists anyway, do you think? Before.

Mrs M:    I should imagine so.

Q:    Did you have to go there a lot on Sunday.

Mrs M:    Well, yes, we used to go morning noon and night, from, I don’t know when [???] ceased, I suppose when they moved, I don’t know.

Q:    I suppose they didn’t much, did they have much time, your parents, to do other things in the town, like work in the church and that sort of thing?

Mrs M:    No they didn’t. No. Well, they supported the Congregational, but I just don’t remember. They were teenage days. I wasn’t old enough to take … (Q: You weren’t really told what they were up to, then?) Not told anything. And they never joined anything, cause they were busy with the, they were thirty years in that shop. (Q: Really?) Mm, and they built it up. Cause it was rebuilt. [after the 1910 fire] (Q: Quite, yes, it must have a tremendous …) And then my brother went into it, and he didn’t want, when Dad wanted to give up he wouldn’t take it on, the responsibility. (Q: Was that the brother who was a baby then [in 1910]) Yes.

Q:     So there was just the two of you, was there?

Mrs M:    Yes, he was eight years older than I was. And he went to work in Kelvedon, and builders’ merchants, but he died at fifty-eight. And he lived in the Avenue Road house. Never married. (Q: What was his name?) Arthur. (Q: It was Arthur. And was your father …?) George. (Q: George.) George Wilson [surname Beard]. (Q: George Wilson. Oh, that’s interesting.) It’s W I L S O N, he was always very particular about the Wilson. (Q: And you say all his family had hearing trouble?) Yes. It was a family of, it was some bone or something, it got worse and worse and worse. He could hear quite well young, and Aunt Lizzie, his sister, was deaf, but she was a placid, my dad was a nervy one with his deafness. (Q: Really?) And we got, was there anything else here, Pat, you got me out last night? (PH: Well, there’s the scrapbook.)

Q:    I was wondering, Patrick thought you might, if I was careful, might not mind if I borrowed for a week or two the Witham ones.

Mrs M:    Oh do, do. It’s the scrapbook that’s falling to pieces, I don’t know how that fell to pieces but you’re welcome to take it and have a look [newspaper cuttings]. But the man next door … (Q: You keep saying you haven’t got a good memory, but you seem to remember an awful lot. [laugh] I think you’re being too modest.) I don’t know. Now, I think that’s lovely of my mother. [photo M549] The man next door took that off that group. (Q: Oh really?) Next door. I think he’s done that … That was just before she married. And that’s here father, you see, and my brother, that’s his first grandchild, and that’s my dad [photo M548]. [PH: See, here she’s got Afford, they were the Brampton Hut, they had the, what was Menzies) They had the paper shop (PH: Isn’t it, where was that?) Paper shop, right on the corner of Guithavon Street [70 Newland Street] (Q: Yes, yes.)

PH:    And you see, Sherwood, that one there is the Prested Hall lot. Who were Hurst, they owned Hurst, Hurst, Cooper Taber.

Mrs M:    They were just tenants, you see, they, well he was the manager [mother’s father], that was his house.

Q:    That sounds rather an alarming headline. ‘Witham’s sweep among fireguard delinquents’. I wonder what that’s all about. (Mrs M: I don’t know.) I think, oh people have failed to do their fire watch. [in scrapbook]

PH:    You’ll find near the end, there’s the big fire of 1953.

Q:    Is this your father’s scrapbook?

Mrs M:    My father’s scrapbook.

PH:    There’s the, that’s Cooper Taber. (Q: Oh yes, I’ve not seen that picture.)

Mrs M: That’s the top of Avenue Road. [fire in 1953]. My brother came home for dinner one day and he was sitting down and he said ‘That’s Cooper Taber’s gone up, and he ran up the road and had a look.

PH:    Course they were always very worried, because … (Mrs M: It was wood, it was wooden building.) it was a wooden building. Very tall.

Q:     Unusual picture of it, isn’t it? (Mrs M: Is it?) I think I’ve seen one of the front, but not from there, yes. I suppose …

PH:    You see a lot of those are interesting cause you couldn’t, you’d have to look through fifty years of papers to find those. (Q: It’d take ages to pick them out, yes, he’s chosen the best ones, yes.) (Mrs M: I know.)

Q:    But I suppose the fires were, the fire engines weren’t so powerful then, so if you had a fire … (Mrs M: Oh no, no.) But even now I think if a seed warehouse went up that would be it. (Mrs M: They had buckets.) (PH: A friend[?] of mine says that the water pressure was low. That was one of the problems. (Q: I see. And the shop[?] must have been even more difficult, mustn’t it.)

[chat about borrowing photos etc., not noted]

Q:    And this one, yes I’ve found this one again, the one with you on. [Photos M546 and M547].

Mrs M:    Yes, that’s the Carnival, that was the Carnival. I’m this end one. (Q: The one right on the right hand side?) Right on the end. Oh, and I’ll tell you who they are. That’s Monica Howes, the Reverend Howes lived in the Manse, he was Congregational minister, and that was one of his daughters, Monica. There was Joan Evers, oh who’s that now, oh, there’s Joyce. (PH: I’m giving it you from the left to the right.) (Q: Yes, I’ve got it, I hope I’m getting it the right way round. Monica …) Monica Howes. Now I wonder if that’s Betty, it must be Betty. (PH: What was her father, the minister?) Yes, he was the minister, he had quite a family the Howes. (Q: The Congregational minister?) Yes. But I cannot for the life of me, I think that’s Betty Claydon. (Q: I’ll put a query.) There’s Joan Evers. (PH: Where was she from?) Evers, they lived near the station in, what was the hotel, Temperance Hotel up there? [9 Albert Road]. The first house the Evers’s lived, I can’t … (Q: Near the Temperance, yes?)  Next door. That’s Gladys Hardcastle, the Queen, the Queen was Gladys Hardcastle, and that’s Kathleen Richards. (Q: Make sure I’ve got the right ones. Oh that’s, I can recognise her now, yes.) Can you, and that’s Joyce, her sister, the front one, that’s the young one [???]. In the front. (Q: Joyce Richards, and Austin’s [Beardwell] the little lad. And then that’s Kath) And that’s me, Ena Beard. That’s kept well, hasn’t it. (Q: About how old were you then I wonder.) Oh, fifteen? We were all girls at school then. (Q: I haven’t got that one down. Next to Kath.) Gladys Hardcastle, the one sitting down is the Queen, Gladys Hardcastle. Yes, I think that her father was something to do with British Oxygen, I’m not sure. (PH: Were they in Witham? Someone else mentioned British Oxygen.) I did, I think. (PH: Why, are they on the estate, whereabouts …?) No that was up near Crittall’s at one time. (Q: Yes, it was. Who’s this …?) That, I don’t know which one was the Beardwell, the boy, there’s two boys on there. (Q: See, you remembered all those names!) I can’t put them together though.

Q:     We were trying to remember people, talking about people that you might remember, I’ve been in touch with Peggy (Mrs M: Butcher?) Butcher that was, she’s in Eastbourne, so I’ll have to, do you remember her at all? (Mrs M: Slightly, she was a bit younger I think.) Probably, yes. (Mrs M: And I can’t trace Mr Butcher, the photographer.) I think he did, he did apparently a lot of sort of commercial, he wasn’t that so much [???]. Farm animals was his big thing apparently. (Mrs M: Was it?) He did a few local things but not all that much.

Mrs M:    Have you heard of Mr Crisp down at Valley House, he was a dentist. (Q: I don’t think so, no.) Valley House, is it. (Q: I know where Valley House is.) Down the bottom, there. Mr Crisp. (Q: Guithavon Valley).

PH:    What was Anne Cullen’s first husband, what was he called? (Mrs M: Oh dear.) She’s the one in the Archers (Q: That’s right, yes.) I don’t know it, I don’t know what the name was. [???] (Q: No, I think …)

Mrs M:    Anne Cullen, she was Anne Cullen’s daughter [actually Violet’s daughter] I don’t know. I don’t know what her husband did. But Anne, Mrs Cullen [Violet] lived at Langford, Langford (PH: The Elms.) Elms. (PH: Opposite Doe’s, Ulting.) He knows. (Q: He’s got all these places tied up hasn’t he.) He gets around.

Q:    So Mr Crisp that you were telling me about, what was he, he was a dentist you say?

Mrs M:    Yes, he was a dentist, down at, I remember going there once, and there was a Michael Crisp, I used to go and look after his little boy, Michael Crisp, that’s right. (Q: Just as a sort of baby-sitting?) That’s all, sort of thing, yes. I can’t think what, can’t think what Mrs Crisp was like. Oh dear.

Q:    So do you think you enjoyed your girlhood in Witham?

Mrs M:    Well, (Q: Or didn’t you think about it?) we were always working. No, you see my parents were working always, I don’t think you have the same sort of home life, you, they come in tired and you watch them cash up and do that sort of thing. (PH: Being open till eight at night.) Yes. (PH: I didn’t know that.) Yes. (PH: Including Saturdays.) (Q: I think probably especially Saturday, was a late night.) Saturday was a late night, six I think the other night was. Then we had an old man who used to drive the van round the country in the villages, with paraffin and all the washing powders and things, whatever they were, soda they were [???] (PH: Deliveries? Would you deliver?) I don’t know. They used to go out to Wickham Bishops, Terling and all those villages, outlying villages, I don’t think they came down here as far as this [Tillingham]. (Q: Did you ever help yourself? Did you ever help in the shop?) No. I was under, I was still going to, I was still going to school, what did I do for mother, had I left, yes, we went up to the Manse, see I left at sixteen, and I was married at twenty, it was just four years. (Q: So the shop closed when you were sixteen?) Yes. (Q: Sorry, you were starting to tell me about the man who did deliveries and I interrupted you.) Mr Rudkin. Mr Rudkin, he was a nice old boy, and I used to go sometimes on the van with him, round the country. (Q: Oh did you, oh lovely.) You wouldn’t send a child with a man now, would you, sort of thing. I mean you trusted everybody. No I don’t remember. Course it was all paraffin oil, paraffin and stuff.

PH:    Did the big houses never pay, you know they had accounts?

Mrs M:    Oh yes, there was accounts, Dad did all that.

PH:    What, they’d never come in and pay?

Mrs M:    I don’t know. I never served in the shop. I was in the back, you see, in the house.

Q:    So what did you do with yourself while they were working?

Mrs M:    I don’t know [laugh] (Q: You can’t remember, no, you probably, course these days you’d be sitting watching television I expect.) (PH: You nipped up the road with the maid.) (Q: Went to the Salvation Army.) (PH: Said she was going there.) That was the maid wanted to get out. (Q: So it was the maid’s idea to go out, was it?) Well, I suppose so. (Q: You were a good girl, were you?) Oh, I don’t know, I’m sure. There was a shop, Marshall’s wasn’t it, on the square. That was a cycle shop. (Q: Radios and things?) Yes, that’s right. And, there was Backlers, wasn’t it Backler, the outfitter, between Marshall’s and the end? (Q: There was a Bradshaw.) Bradshaw, that’s right, but it was Backler I think after. (Q: Maybe, yes.) Yes.

Q:    Did you ever get sent out to do the shopping or anything?

Mrs M:    Oh yes, I used to, I remember Ethel Kellick, did you hear of the Kellicks? (Q: Yes.) And she always used to envy me, cause my mother used to send me up to Francis’s, she was serving in a grocer’s shop, and she said ‘I always thought you were so lucky, you could choose what biscuits you liked’.[laugh] Probably she wasn’t allowed to. Yes, the Kellicks were a good family, they lived down Maldon Road, in that little shop which was Shelley’s once, next to where I had my hairdressers. Reggie Brown, did you know him, he lived in the Ave, in the Park, didn’t he, Reg Brown. Who did he work for, Richardson and Preece, I think. He was in the office for Richardson and Preece.

PH:    Not the bungalows that the Cooks …

Mrs M:    No, there’s another one up there I believe [Gueth Cottage] (Q: There is, yes.) Is there? (Q: There are two I think, yes.) Oh, Mrs Reggie Brown was always very nice and chatty.

Q:    So if you were sent to do the shopping, you weren’t completely idle then?

Mrs M:    Oh no, no, I had to do the shopping.

Q:    What shops did you go to mostly then, for food?

Mrs M:    I don’t know, Home and Colonial had just started in Witham then, who else was there. Francis was near, who have I said, Marshall’s, that was a little old fashioned grocer’s, right through, and they used to have biscuits in boxes in the front, you know, you could choose which you want, no packets. (PH: Oh, you bought them loose?) Oh yes. (PH: By weight.) Yes. And sugar was weighed up. Do you remember, oh you wouldn’t remember, Mr Mondy, Mondy’s opposite, they were our opponents as it were in business, you know. [63 Newland Street]. (Q: Of course, yes.)

PH:    What was it you sold by weight, you sold nails, or tin tacks?

Mrs M:    Oh yes. Because, that was one thing Dad said, when, oh Woolworth’s started to open, and he wasn’t, they weren’t going to be in business, cause everything would be in packets, mother used to, we used to make little funnels for putting nails in you know, two pennyworth of nails. Of newspaper.

PH:    Did you think Woolworth’s would knock you out?

Mrs M:    Dad said he wouldn’t go on after Woolworth’s came. Then he sold it …

PH:    Then they got someone in to run it? Or was that earlier?

Mrs M:    Earlier. No, he tried to retire to Clacton for two years, and he put a manager in.

Side 2

Mrs M:    Now who’s face was that? Next to the Spread Eagle. Don’t know. Those bay windows. That’s all built up on the right there. (PH: Kemsley’s. Kemsley’s the estate agents, Kemsley, Whiteley and Ferris.) [53 Newland Street]

Q:    Was it part of the … (PH: The tall building, the Georgian one.)

Mrs M:    Is it? I’m trying to think who lived there as a house, somebody lived there.

Q:    So why did you say Sammy Page was a scream then? [second hand dealer]

Mrs M:    Oh, well he used to push a van up, you know, a trolley up the road, and, it was all second hand stuff, his place [56 Newland Street?]. He had two daughters, Bessie and, yes, and then the Post Office was, we looked out on the dining room, right onto a big brick wall of the Post Office. (PH: Which became Hunwicks, or not?) No. Post Office was a huge wall. (PH: Nothing till Medina Villas?) No. (PH: What did the Post Office become, what’s that now? What was the gas showroom or …?) Oh, Coopers [84 Newland Street]. (PH: Yes, well that’s Medina Villas, isn’t it).

Q:    Oh yes, so that was the Post Office when you were there?

Mrs M:    That was where my aunt had her drapers’ shop. (Q: Oh I see.) And you went up steps to the millinery department, and she’d got three storeys there. Was all stairs and steps.

Q:    That’s where Mellon’s is now, you say [80 Newland Street]. And she was your (Mrs M: Aunt) father’s? (Mrs M: No, mother’s sister, and they had a place …) Oh, she’s the one, yes. (Mrs M: Mildred.) [Hunwick] I can’t even remember half an hour you see …

Mrs M:    There was a Mr Miles had that shop, and one day he disappeared, and my mother got to hear about it, and my aunt wasn’t doing very much at Wickham Bishops, they were scrapping a living with one cow, one horse, you know, and she put her in, they got that for her, and she made a bomb, and nine years she retired. He walked out and left everything. Nobody knew. I mean I was too young to be told about it but I think he just, disappeared.

PH:    What did she do, ribbons, and cottons?

Mrs M:    Oh, everything. Household linen. Materials. And upstairs was where the hats were.

PH:    Was there no competition, I mean why did she do so well?

Mrs M:    I don’t know, she had two or three assistants. Paid them very little of course, but, that was Doris Turner who helped her all those years. (PH: Rivenhall.) And then of course, I suppose Mum and Dad had retired, and she let her house and so did Dad, but Dad let it to a doctor of Bridge Hospital, I think it was Dr Fitz somebody.

PH:    Who was that girl that was to do with Durwards Hall, that you said …?

Mrs M:    Oh, Stella Wells, wasn’t it?

PH:     Down on the buses[?].

Mrs M:    Oh, she was a lovely looking girl, she was, I can’t remember, what was the mother …?

PH:    I think they owned Durwards Hall, you know which was Ratcliff’s [at Rivenhall] (Q: I know, yes.)

Mrs M:    I can’t think what they were.

PH:    To do with military? Colonel or something like that?

Q:    So your aunt was Mrs Hunwick. (Mrs M: Yes.) She would have been a Newby?

Mrs M:    She would have been a Newby, yes.

Q:    You probably told me her first name …

Mrs M:    Mildred. And Dorothy was the younger one. (Q: I’m sure I’ve heard people talking about Hunwick’s and how nice it was). Who? (Q: I’ve heard people, I’m sure, but I can’t remember who they were at the moment.) No no. Oh.

PH:    In that scrapbook you’ll find the adverts for selling the business. Yes, they’re in there. Father cut them out when it was put up for sale. (Mrs M: Oh he would.) Five hundred pounds. (Mrs M: How much?) Five hundred pounds for the lease, I think, I’m not sure. It’s all in there.

Q:    So the business flair must have been (Mrs M: In the family.) in both sides of the family, mustn’t it, for her just to start up just like that and do so well.

Mrs M:    I think mother was the head. Mother had the business head, and it just grew, you know.

PH:    The farm they had was in Mope Lane [Wickham Bishops).

Mrs M:    Mope Lane, where the Osbornes had … (Q: I know, yes.) It was a big [or pig?] farm.

Q:    That was, who’d be …?

Mrs M:    My aunt and uncle had it. They struggled, and they couldn’t make it pay, and mother sort of put them onto this business. He didn’t do anything, he used to stand on the shop [???] street corner with his two little dogs, smoking his pipe.

Q:    And the women got on with it.

Mrs M:    That’s right, yes.

Q:    It sounds as if your father was quite a busy chap though?

Mrs M:    My father? Oh yes. He did all the books, and he did all the garden, and, we had two gardens then, we had the Post Office garden at the back. And that was where we joined the Motions’ wall. [The M’s had the Lawn] (Q: Yes, of course, yes.) We had a lovely walled garden, which I think (PH: Almost in that picture, cause you can see the Guithavon Street houses in that picture, can’t you.) (Q: Along the front there.) Oh, I hadn’t noticed that.

Q:     And I think there’s another one of it which is a bit bigger from the side, which has got a bit of an extra piece on.  That’s the picture of the Lawn, but that’s Guithavon Street. (PH: Looking through to the house in Guithavon Street.) [probably JG’s photo M516]

Mrs M:    What is that house then?

PH:    It’s the accountant’s one [19 Guithavon Street] where your friend lived, the Colchester lady, didn’t she?

Mrs M:    Goddard[?]. (PH: Yes, didn’t they live in the accountants’ house on Guithavon Street? I thought you said it was awful to live in.) Now what did they call that. Opposite All Saints Church.

Q:    Colne House?

Mrs M:    Colne, yes, opposite All Saints Church.

Q:    Well that’s a bit of it at the back of that picture there, in the trees. (Mrs M: This is?) No, here. You can’t see it very well, but in the trees there. I think that’s right, isn’t it Patrick? But it’s a bit murky.

PH:     I think I’ve seen it better, oh I thought I’d seen it better somewhere else. Yes, that’s what I guess it is, where Peter[?] lived. Yes, that Colne House was a very inconvenient house to live in.

Q:    Oh really? I believe it was built as a Savings Bank.[???] By the Church people, you see there’s a cross in it isn’t there. Penny Saving Bank.

Mrs M:    Who did he work for? The husband died suddenly.

PH:    Yes, the Colchester accountants.

Q:    There was Bland …

Mrs M:    Bland Fielden, that’s right. Is that mine? [JG’s book ‘Images of England, Witham’] (Q: Yes it is, you can have another browse at that.) Oh that’s the other book, that one, oh yes.

Q:    Oh that’s right, yes, that’s got different ones in, that’s good too.

Mrs M:    Yes, quite different.

Q:    Yes, I was told to try and get different pictures when I did this. (Mrs M: Really, have you got a few?) I mean different from all the other books. I’m getting more now of course, cause people are reading it and saying ‘Oh I should have given you that one.’ Like you are.

Mrs M:    That’s my mother’s mother, that one.

Q:    Really? Oh goodness. Fancy that.

Mrs M:    She was a dear old lady.

Q:    Did you know your grandparents at all?

Mrs M:    Only slightly. I remember her going to Mrs Hunwick’s and she died there, and I can just remember seeing her in bed, I don’t, no, I didn’t know a lot.

PH:    Was that at Feering Lodge?

Mrs M:    No, in High Street, Witham. Grandma had come to live with Mildred.

PH:    What was that about the Sherwoods, that everything had to be white, a white pony and a white cat?

Mrs M:    No, that was my aunt, that was Dorothy, they spoilt her, she had everything white, a white pony, white turkeys, white things. (Q: Really? How peculiar.) Yes, she had a great, I don’t know what she did. Oh she married Jim Parish, that was First World War when she married him, cause her son is, how long ago did he die, three years ago?

PH:    They had that farm at Earls Colne.

Mrs M:    Yes, she was mad on animals. That’s right.

Q:    So you’re a bit of a country girl as well as a town girl, aren’t you, by the sound of it?

Mrs M:    Yes, rather.

PH:    She like Woodham Walter. Nice there.

Q:    I suppose the gardening as well, I mean I remember when I came to Witham, all our neighbours seemed to know how to garden instinctively, didn’t they. (Mrs M: Oh yes, yes.. Where did you come from actually?) Well I was brought up in Cumberland, but we were living in, I was living in London before I came to Witham. (Mrs M: Oh I see.) Then my husband’s mother was born in Braintree, but it was a bit of a coincidence really coming back, she was Roper.

Mrs M:    What, would she have gone to Braintree High School?

Q:    I think she left before, and went to Ipswich, before she went to school, so she wasn’t there for long [actually she did go to Manor Street School]. They were mostly Ipswich people.

Mrs M:    Yes, we went to Braintree High School, and in, was it a strike on then? Cause we had to go on Crittall’s lorries with planks on. (Q: Really?) Mm, cause we …

PH:    Oh well I suppose it could have been the General Strike

Q:    The General Strike, 1926, would that be about right? (PH: She’d be eleven.)

Mrs M:    Was it the railway strike then? We used to go on the train to school, you see. And the girls had to be on the end carriage and the boys had to be the front carriage.

Q: Really?

Mrs M:    It was a mixed school, Braintree High.

Q:    So who enforced that, then.

Mrs M:    I don’t know.

Q:    You just did.

Mrs M:    It was the school, I suppose.

Q:    You were mixed classes, though, were they?

Mrs M:    Oh yes, half and half.

Q:    So you did see the boys a bit.

Mrs M:    Oh yes. Half and half.

Q:    What about the playing area? Cause I think in Witham, the National School had a separate playground for the girls for a long time.

Mrs M:    Oh did they? Oh.

Q:    So with this going to Crittall’s, on the Crittall’s buses?

Mrs M:    They were open lorries and they put planks across for us to sit on. I remember that. I must have been just about eleven. Twelve perhaps. And I can remember going along where Cressing, lake, there was a pond, and we were always afraid we were going to go into that pond, opposite the … (PH: Opposite Cressing Temple). That’s right. (PH: It’s still there.) Is it? Dangerous corner, isn’t it.

Q:     A lot of accidents there. That was an adventure for you, wasn’t it?

Mrs M:    It was, quite nice, I don’t think it was on for long.

Q:    No, it wasn’t, no. Amazing that you’ve remembered it, then, cause it was probably just a few days.

Mrs M:    I can just remember going on the lorry, but I don’t remember going and alighting, as it were, you just know, don’t you.

Q:    So I suppose most of the other people from that little school went there as well, did they?

Mrs M:    I don’t know where they went to. Because it wasn’t, you didn’t, my father said to me, where did you want to go, do you want to go to Chelmsford or Colchester or Braintree. And I chose Braintree. We all had to pay then. Didn’t have any winning scholarships or anything. I think it was three guineas a term, something like that.

Q:    And you chose Braintree?

Mrs M:    Yes. Mixed school. Cause Kath and Joyce [Richards] went there. (Q: Already.) Yes, Kath was there.

Q:    I think a lot of local people still remember those days of going to Braintree High School.

Mrs M:    Do they? There was Mr Weaver when I first went there, and then there was Mr Dell, headmaster. Mr Weaver was a lovely old boy. I’ve got a picture of them at school somewhere. Wherever would that have been. May have left it back home. The whole staff. We bought a picture of the staff.

Q:    So you, you sound as if you enjoyed it?

Mrs M:    Didn’t like school.

Q:    You didn’t like school? Oh, because you were smiling [???].

Mrs M:    We had a headmistress, Miss Wilson.

Q:    What didn’t you like about it?

Mrs M:    I don’t know now. [laugh] I wasn’t very, you know, sort of, I forget what form I was in, even.

Q:    Do you remember which subjects you liked, were there any bit of it you liked at all?

Mrs M:    Not a lot.

PH:    Sport?

Mrs M:    No, didn’t like sport, we had hockey. (PH: Oh, they did hockey?) Oh yes, we did hockey.

Q:    Oh, so you were quite glad to leave?

Mrs M:    Oh, very.

Q:    Did you leave as soon as you were allowed.

Mrs M:    Yes. I think I got about, a few weeks off, because I was going to have shorthand and typewriting lessons. That was an excuse.

PH:    She was going off to Bond Street, wasn’t she?

Q:    So the shorthand, were they in London?

Mrs M:    No.

Q:    That was a local …?

Mrs M:    That was when I used to go up to Tower Avenue, what did she teach me? (PH: Oh yes, Chelmsford?) Miss Cottee in Duke Street, do you remember her, she had a typing school, I think. She was the one who tried to teach me shorthand.

Q:    How did you get on with that then ?

Mrs M:    Don’t know now. Oh I know, didn’t do …

Q:    I wonder whose idea that was, that you should go there?

Mrs M:    No idea, mother’s I expect.

Q:    Good for you I expect?

Mrs M:    I should think so.

PH:    Then you did the hairdressing that you wanted to do.

Q:    I see, I was going to say, was that your choice?

Mrs M:    Yes.

Q:    Oh good, so you did get what you wanted in the end. That must have been quite an adventure …

Mrs M:    Going to London every day, oh yes.

Q:    Not many people did that, did they?

Mrs M:    No. I suppose not. It was only, a short course, I forget how many …

Q:    At least you got what you wanted in the end. Cause a lot of people don’t like school, do they, or their jobs, so … When you had the business, did you have many people working for you?

Mrs M:    There was always one on mother’s side, on the glass and china side, and my brother ran the other side. [Parents’ business]

Q:    Oh did he, yes.

PH:    Hardware, the nails …

Mrs M:    Yes, I’m just trying to think who we had, we had a boy, delivering boy, and then there was the van. Several. I can always remember the maids we had, living in. We used to sleep up in the two top rooms of that shop. On the front of our building there was a balcony. Is it still there?

PH:    I think so. Very narrow.

Mrs M:    My dad would sit up there, and count ,,, He used to sit, there was a drawing room there at the end, and sit out there, and he would count so many, mark a paper, of cars, motor-bikes and something else, in the hour, how many went. Cause there was a terrible lot of traffic across there you know at one time.

PH:    No by-pass then.

Mrs M:    Yes, it was one stream of going to the coast, and he used to put cross for a car, and nought for a motor-bike, in the hour.

PH:    Harold Cook with their business [butcher, 5 Newland Street] they used to have people going through to the coast at Frinton, who would come and have orders for a pork pie and sausages[?] and it would all he pre-arranged, and a car would come on the way through from London.

Q:    Cause I remember Doris [Cook] talking about that and they called it the hamper trade.

Mrs M:    Oh really? He was friendly with my dad, he used to take my dad out, Harold Cook.

Q:    Did he?

Mrs M:    When they used to go and buy pigs, and they used to slaughter them themselves, and he was, he loved the garden too.

Q:    Cause he had a lot of land, didn’t he, out the back.

Mrs M:    Yes. He used to take him out on Wednesday afternoons for a ride, when he went to the farm and bought the pigs. And in the War, Harold was very good to mother, he’d save her a bit of liver, and something under the counter. That’s right.

Q:    So he did have time to make a few friends as well as working?

Mrs M:    Yes, oh yes. Mr and Mrs Bull[?] were mother’s friends, and they used to play bridge once a week, and Dad had a billiard table and Mr Bull would come down one night and he’d go up there one night, play billards. Oh yes.

Q:    So he had his own billiard table in the shop?

Mrs M:    They used to leave it in the passage and they had to lift it on the dining room table, a small one, it wasn’t a very small one, but they had to lift it … (PH: That’s right, they did, used to, put a green baize thing or something on the …) No it was baize. (PH: Yes, but on the table.) On the table, oh yes. That’s going back, isn’t it.

PH:    She was worried she wouldn’t remember anything.

Q:    Yes, I think you’re terrific aren’t you …

PH:    She’s remembered a couple of things, haven’t you?

Q:    Just a few, yes [laugh]. So when you had the hairdressers, did you have a lot of people working for you?

Mrs M:    No, only one girl. One girl. And she lived in the bungalow, back entrance to the Spread Eagle, was it, back entrance, there was a little cottage at the back of that big house, and that was the girl that came and worked for me, now, whatever was her name? And then mother was ill, I couldn’t carry on.

PH:    But even when you were at Woodham Walter you’d come back, hadn’t you, bringing Arthur Ratcliff to Witham market.

Mrs M:    When he hurt his elbow, yes.

PH:    What day was Witham market?

Mrs M:    Tuesday.

PH:    She’d drive him, when he couldn’t drive, from Woodham Walter, and then she’d go and see her parents.

Mrs M:    Go and see mother, and then pick it up at, sort of afternoon.

PH:    And it was quite a long way, you know. (Q: It is, isn’t it, yes.) You’d have to walk or cycle or …

Q:    So when did you learn to drive, then?

Mrs M:    Oh, when I was seventeen. I never had a lesson. (Q: No?) No lessons then. (Q: What did you do?) They said take it out and bring it back without a dent in it. [laugh].

Q:    What, this was your parents?

Mrs M:    My husband I suppose, I don’t know. No, but there was nothing on the roads then.

Q:    So you didn’t have to have a test?

Mrs M:    I learnt, yes, I had a licence before they came in. I’ve still got it, I think. (PH: Found it recently didn’t you?) I think I’ve still got it somewhere.

Q:    So you were quite an independent soul, weren’t you?

Mrs M:    I was, I’m not now.

Q:    Girls wouldn’t … Oh I don’t know, you seem to be …

PH:    She needs help with her shopping now.

Q:    I was meaning more your mind, is independent, if you wanted to do something yourself, you …

Mrs M:    Well, I wish I could move a bit better. I can’t move, that’s the trouble.

Q:    Cause, I mean, not many women would drive then, would they?

Mrs M:    No, no. Oh I loved, I wanted to drive all right.

Q:    Did your parents have a vehicle, a car in the end?

Mrs M:    Oh yes, we had a Citroen, clover leaf Citroen. Two seats in the front and one at the back, and each side of that back seat were lockers. That made the clover leaf or something, they called it.

Q:    I see, that was the pattern.

Mrs M:    That’s right, and Dad drove that, even for a little while, before he gave up.

PH:    Did he have a car when, I suppose he had a car when you lived at Clacton?

Mrs M:    No.

PH:    Oh. Only when he came back to Witham.

Mrs M:    I don’t know when we had, and he had a motor cycle and a basket side-car for mother. Basket.

Q:    Goodness!

Mrs M:    Yes. Oh, she was game to get on the back of it and all sorts of things. I think he was the first one in Witham to have this side-car, basket side-car.

Q:    Really? Yes.

PH:    It was very unusual. So they had that for years before they had a car?

Mrs M:    I suppose so. My brother was a baby then, I wasn’t there.

PH:    Was the Citroen the first car?

Mrs M:    Yes. I don’t think we had it long.

Q:    So that was more or less when he retired, the Citroen?

Mrs M:    No, I don’t think so. I don’t remember going in it much.

PH:    I think he had that Citroen when he bought that place out in the country at Hatfield Peverel.

Mrs M:    Oh yes, Hatfield Peverel.

PH:    I think it was in that photo.

Mrs M:    Was it?

PH:    Yes.

Mrs M:    2144, I remember the number. TW 2144. That’s about all. But I wasn’t ever old enough to drive it, you see. Oh well, well.

Q:    So your brother was quite a bit older, so …

Mrs M:    My brother was eight years older.

Q:    So did he stay in the business [???]

Mrs M:    He wouldn’t take the responsibility.

Q:    So he wouldn’t take it on on his own.

Mrs M:    No, didn’t want it. He would rather have worked for somebody.

PH:    He was probably right.

Mrs M:    He worked for Mr, what was his name, Parvin. He was a hardware …

PH:    Kelvedon High Street.

Mrs M:    Is it Parvin’s still.

PH:    No, it’s closed now. They’ve all gone, they’ve all gone.

Mrs M:    All gone, all gone.

PH:    Even gone from 1960 …

Q:    Well everybody goes off, shopping’s changed such a lot, hasn’t it. Everybody goes off to the bigger places now.

Mrs M:    Course they do.

Q:    And the chain stores and so on. So the ones that have survived have done very well. I mean Mondy’s, I suppose Mondy’s is …

Mrs M:    That’s Hasler and Hance.

Q:    But they still call it Mondy’s, and it’s still a very handy shop, isn’t it?

Mrs M:    Is it?

Q:    And doing quite well, I would have thought, really.

PH:    Albert [Poulter] won’t go in there, he says they over-charge. [laugh] It’s a penny cheaper, we had to do a diversion to Maldon, because he could get something cheaper …

Mrs M:    A mousetrap, wasn’t it?

Q:    Well if he could get to Maldon for nothing, that’s true, but … If you could get to Maldon for nothing it would be cheaper.

PH:    Well he did! [laugh] But he’s so polite, the way he said, ‘Would it be easier to do a slight diversion?’ I don’t know that it was really a penny, he just said ‘I will not pay their prices’. But of course it’s new people running it now. It isn’t Hasler and Hance.

Q:    But they’ve still got quite a good choice of things really. And very helpful with advice as well, for people like me who don’t know how things work, and tell me what to do with them. So that’s a great boon really.

PH:    Oh yes.

Mrs M:    Look at that grey cloud. Oh, it doesn’t stay fine long. There was a sunrise the other morning, did you see it, did you see it, or sunset or something. It was absolutely brilliant, never seen it like that.

Q:    Oh, you’ll be getting tired, we’d better push off and leave you in peace perhaps soon. You’ll be getting tired, are you? Had we better go and leave you in peace?

Mrs M:    Oh no no, I didn’t want the fire to go out, that was all.

Q:    Well, perhaps we could sort out, if you don’t mind which …

Mrs M:    Take what you like, and you can give them to Patrick, he’ll bring them back.
[chat about photos etc., not noted]

Mrs M:    Now these two ladies, we had photograph, (soldiers of the war), those two kept a shop opposite our shop. That was Miss Powell and Miss Caldwell. And he next door took a photograph of them for her.

Q:    I think I’ve heard of them, yes.

Mrs M:    Did Albert want these, yes he’s writing about these two.

Q:    Oh good, so he’s, has he taken, has he borrowed …

Mrs M:    He’s go the pictures, no I gave them to him. I had them done and I gave them to him. So he doesn’t … But I’ve got… but she …

Q:    What sort of a shop was there then?

Mrs M:    That was a wool shop, toy shop, and my, I used to go over there and get mother’s library books. I remember a line of books for, say that was their library or something.
[more chat about photos, not noted]

Mrs M:    Albert [Poulter]’s amazing. I think I can remember him, pushing the trolley, he had a cart, with big wheels, two big wheels, and ladders on, and he used to clean windows, when I was young.

PH:    When he came, she said, ‘Well I know you’re a big family, but the only one I can remember is the one who was window-cleaning, who did that?’, and Albert said ‘That was me.’

Mrs M:    He said it was him, yes.

PH:    I think she was about eight then.

Mrs M:    Yes. I can remember seeing this, course we were in the shop then, I suppose, perhaps he cleaned the shop windows, I don’t know.

Q:    Yes, cause he must be what, about ten years older than you perhaps, is he?

Mrs M:    Who, Albert? He’s 91, 92 now.

Q:    His brother’s older, he’s got a brother that’s older, Charlie.

Mrs M:    97. Is he better, he was ill?

Q:    Apparently he’s home now, but I don’t know whether that means he’s better or  what …, Charlie. Anyway I think we should leave you to have a rest, and feed your cat.

Mrs M:    Oh it’s all right. Irene Springett, I went to school with, do you know her? She lives up in  Homefield Cottages or some. Her father was a postman. She never married, Irene. So she must be my age.

PH:    Albert knows her.

Mrs M:    Albert knows her, yes.

Q:    After all, there were Springetts in your house, Patrick [6 Powershall End, Witham], I remember for a while calling to see Douglas.

PH:    I bought it from his nephew. And they’d lived there a long time, I think to do with the farm originally [Spring Lodge] and then they bought it. They were a pair of farm cottages. So that’s, I think the only time it’s changed hands, almost, I can remember.

Mrs M:    Then there were the Everetts in Spring Lodge, milk people, we had our milk from. And there was Mr Newman in …

PH:    Mrs Dove’s [Marlborough, Powershall End].

Q:    So did you go up to Chipping Hill much?

Mrs M:    No. No.

PH:    What’s this Edgar Sainty having a loudspeaker van as a wireless doctor? [picture out of JG’s ‘Images of England, Witham’]

Mrs M:    Well he was a wireless man.

PH:    I know but why would he …

Mrs M:    I don’t know.

Q:    I think he must have gone round to shows or something as well, and let them use his van, as he knew what to do. He was a very interesting man. He died last year? Lived in Maldon Road.

Mrs M:    Sainty. I can’t place him at all. There was one Sainty lived down the bottom of Albert Road.

PH:    That’s it, this one.

Mrs M:    Is it?

PH:    At his home in Albert Road, about 1935. Edgar Sainty.

Mrs M:    I can just remember where he lived. Edgar was it.

PH:    But there were Saintys had a shop somewhere. Was that in Braintree Road somewhere?

Mrs M:    I don’t know. There was Hasler, in the shop in Braintree Road, wasn’t it. He was a grocer.

[chat about photos in ‘Images of England’, not noted]

Tape 188. Miss Elfreda Griggs, side 4

Tape 188

Miss Elfreda Griggs was born c 1909. She was interviewed on 11 May 1999, when she lived at Beverley, Chalks Road, Witham.

She also appears on tapes 183 and 186.

For more information about her, see Griggs, Elfreda, in the People category.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 4

Q:    When you gave your concerts, when you were little, what you call all the aristocracy came to your concerts. You said all the aristocracy came.

Miss G:    Yes.

Q:    I wondered [???] who were they? Do you remember any of them, like Miss Vaux and people like that? These ladies that came, the aristocracy, that came, who were they?

Miss G:    They were the people that belonged to the Church.

[period of silence, restarts about 6 minutes]

Q:    You reckon you didn’t start till then.

Miss G:    I didn’t do any [???]. Nobody told me cause nobody could.

Q:    No.

Miss G:    And there was a Mr Howlett, he was the organist of All Saints Church, and he used to have a few pupils, but he thought you could afford to pay three guineas a term. Him. Well, we had a lady living next door to us at the time, and she had a daughter, Grace, and she used to come and stay there sometimes, and she said you ought to go and have some lessons [???] No, he said, you could do the exam work, but I shouldn’t enter you for the exams. Meant he couldn’t. He hadn’t got the … And I think he’d two or three lines of letters that he didn’t supposed to have, and Canon Galpin I think, got them all took away from him.

Q:    Really?

Miss G:    I think that was, something like that went on. However, I used to do that, and every day, we had this grace, morning hymn, grace at twelve, grace again at one, I was in and out [???] and four o’clock. [probably at school]

Q:    Did you always have a hymn then?

Miss G:    Yes. [???]. They were all hymns. I found a scripture certificate up in my back window there. We used to have a specialist come from school with us once a year I think. And he’d talk and he’d talk and he’d talk. And the next day, which we dreaded, we had to write to what he said. [???] Most of them were sucking their pens. Couldn’t think of a word. So that was a waste of time. Other days we used to come over at four[?] and make daisy chains in the fields and trim ourselves up. Everything was leisurely and easier. Now the poor kids are all rushing home to do their homework, and their mothers are having to hear them do French late at night. It’s hard, isn’t it. I don’t know anybody’s any better for it. I don’t think they are. I think you can work too hard when you’re young. Provided you can read and write, that is essential of course. My mother taught us all our sums, tables, before we went to school. Used to sing them. ‘Twice one is two, ta da da da’. And I had to [???] twelve times. Yes. My mother won a scholarship in London for English, and went to the Grosvenor House [???] school. I think it was just a big house made, used as a school.

But it must have been lovely in those days. The easy way it was to live. Now nobody’s got time for anything, dear. I know my pupils, they do dancing one hour, next year they’re doing something else, so they fill the days right up. And then when they’re about seventeen or eighteen, they get meningitis or all these things, it’s only the pressure. I think.

Q:    But you had quite a hard life though, didn’t you? You had quite a busy life when you were little, because you had to help at home a lot, didn’t you?

Miss G:    Oh yes. Well my mother couldn’t do anything you see, and we’d got a big garden. And cooking. Used to have a little stool so I could reach the table, and whatever she was doing, I would do. [???] And my grandma was a cook at Gale’s the auctioneers. She was a good cook, and immaculate house. People did those days.

Q:    Was that the one in Walthamstow.

Miss G:    Yes.

Q:    Was that your mother’s ?

Miss G:    My father’s.

Q:    Your father’s mother.

Miss G:    Everything, if we went to stay, everything was served up, with serviettes and things just as we were the people that she’d worked for. Just if we were lords and ladies. She liked that sort of thing. And we had six, about six white wooden steps, which they used to scrub. There was about three floors in my grandma’s house, and they used to scrub these three steps after every meal, never left alone, all done. And in the mornings she had the bacon and eggs first thing, on a big [???] oil stove in a little alcove, you could get all that wafting upstairs early. And with the wash stand and the basins, cause [???] pitcher and cold water all brought up. [???] they are now. They’ve got everything they wanted but I don’t think any of them were like that in those days.

Q:    That was quite different. You liked going there then, you liked visiting her?

Miss G:    Yes. Yes. That’s wonderful really, and all the cooking, beautiful cook. Well she would, she’d cook for that big house, lovely.

Q:    Was your mother a good cook?

Miss G:    Yes she was quite good. But I liked it so I took over most of it. She did. And then of course we had evacuees. And taught them the piano.

Q:    Are those the two in the photograph? [photo M740].

Miss G:    Yes.

Q:    Do you remember their names? Do you remember what their names were?

Miss G:     The names of?

Q:    The evacuees.

Miss G:    Oh yes, Godfrey. And, I think I’ve got a picture of one married.

Q:    Yes, you showed me that, yes, that’s nice, yes.

Miss G:    Now the younger one has had a stroke. And has to go out in a wheelchair. But luckily she’s got a husband who can take her, and they had one son, a boy, and the other one had a girl and a boy.

Q:    What were their first names?

Miss G:    The children, the evacuees. The evacuees were Doris and , I’ve forgotten the other one, Margaret.

Q:    So did you have to go somewhere to decide who you were having, to choose them? How did it work?

Miss G:    No. I went, after my brother was killed in Chelmsford with a bomb, and well, I mean, we hadn’t got much, we hadn’t got any relatives much around, and I thought well perhaps I’ll see if they’ve got any evacuees want a home now. That was in ’41, I think. Now I went to the Public Hall, and asked them if they’d got any more evacuees waiting, they said ‘Well we have’. I said ‘Well I’d like two little boys’. They said ‘I don’t think you’d better have two little boys, Miss Griggs’. I said ‘Why not’. ‘Why’, they said, ‘they’d be difficult’. ‘I know’. Well they said we’ve got two problem children, but they’re not boys, two little girls. I said ‘Don’t matter if it’s boys or girls, I just wanted something for mother to have to do, to do something’. And she used to make them cakes, and different things, and nightdress, we couldn’t have coupons, not enough to make them clothes, so my mother was a good needlewoman, she used to cut off, shorten my clothes, make clothes out of mine. So there was always something going on.

Q:    Were they a problem?

Miss G:    No. Not a bit. No trouble at all, dear. And they loved it. When they came, they saw the cat and the dog and all the other animals floating around, never heard a word from them. They used to be, they had the bedroom over here, and they’d sometimes call out and say ‘Auntie, we want a drink’. I knew what it was. And when I got up there, they’d have their head in a quilt in the sheets, and their backsides up like that, for me to smack them. Waiting for it. And they used to write home to their mother and father every Sunday, that was their job. Sunday morning, they used to stop in bed and write the letters. And then one was a bit more brighter than the other, so they both started, and ‘Dear Mum and Dad, we hope you are well like we are.’ That was the first bit they put. And that went on every one [???]. And then one of them, they’d say ‘Auntie, Margaret’s writing just the same as me.’ I said ‘Wait till I get up there’. ‘She’s got it down just the same as me’. I said ‘That’s no good, your mum don’t want to read two letters the same’. ‘Are you coming up?’ ‘Yes I’m coming up and you know what I shall do.’ ‘What will you do auntie’. ‘I shall tear the letters up’ [laugh]. I went up and they were giggling under the sheets. ‘Where are they, let me see if she’s got the same as you’. She had. And now, they said, ‘You can hear auntie tear them up’, put them in the dustbin, ‘Now start again, or no dinner’. They started and they done it. They [???] it a game, you see.

Q:    Did their parents come and see them at all?

Miss G:    Every month.

Q:    Every month.

Miss G:    They used to come down on the train, and of course I hadn’t got the grand piano then, I’d only got an upright, and so I used to lay out a lunch for the mum and dad and the girls, I said ‘Now you can have it all on your own, you two, and if there’s anything you want to say to your mum and dad, that you want to tell them that I hit you, and you want to go home, well then you can go.’

And they sat down. Then they were frightened when they went back, in case the bombs hit the train. Cause they used to go back about six. Come down. And they were thrilled when they had a gym slip and jumpers like other children and that sort of thing. My mother used to knit everything, vests, socks, everything for them, which was good for her, cause I thought it was therapy, something to think about. And we had a summer house then. And a big Bramley apple, what spread all over the garden, just about here, lovely shade. And in fact when we came in, the first thing I done was to plant trees all the way down and all the way back, damsons, cherries, everything. I don’t know what I was going to do with them. But they did bear. Peaches. We really, I suppose you could say, worked hard, although it didn’t seem work, cause we weren’t driven. It was lovely really.

Q:    It does sound like hard work. But you were enjoying it?

Miss G:    But we enjoyed it. They used to do it. Yes, that was good fun. I didn’t want them, they didn’t want to go back, and I didn’t want them to go, we didn’t want them to go, they could have stayed. I know Mr Hurrell came the first day of the War, and he said ‘Now you’ve got a bigger house, Miss Griggs, why don’t you take some evacuees’, and I was wild. I said ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well’, he said, ‘you could have one or two here.’ And I thought for a minute and I said ‘Look’, I said, ‘Mr Hurrell, if I’m going to have evacuees, I don’t want one and I don’t want two, but I’ll have seven’. He said ‘What?’ He said ‘You can’t …’ I said ‘I can manage seven’. He never came again. [laugh] Because he knew they’d be all over his garden. Seven Londoners. He never asked me to take any more.

Q:    Where did he live then? Where did he live?

Miss G:    Next door but one.

Q:    Oh did he, right.

Miss G:    He wasn’t keen on that. No, not Hurrell. He had a daughter Diane, do you remember Diane?

Q:    I don’t think so, no. So were you, did they ask you to do anything else, like land work or anything like that? Did they ask you to do anything else like being a land girl or anything like that?

Miss G:    Oh yes, I had to go to the Tribunal. And they said ‘What would you like to do, Miss Griggs?’ I said ‘Well, I don’t know what will I do’. I said ‘My brother’s been killed, we might as well all be killed, for all that matter, if that’s what they intend to do’. I said ‘I’d like to be a nurse or a land girl, but I don’t know whether I’d be able to do the land’. So they talked and they said .. ‘But I said I can’t do anything till I’ve got those children back to London’. ‘What children’, they said. ‘Oh, two evacuees I’ve got’. ‘Oh’ they said, ‘I don’t think we can interfere with evacuees’. They couldn’t touch one set of one war work with another one. And I said ‘I’ve got my mother who’s practically an invalid’. They said ‘Oh well you can get someone to look after her’. I said ‘Yes, but I don’t want anybody to look after’. I said ‘I’m looking after her’. And they said ‘Right’. And of course at the time, they were all the big pots of Witham on this Tribunal.

And they said ‘We’d better leave it …’ All the doctors were on it. Benjamin, and the Gimsons. That I’d had since I was a child, you see. And they said ‘Well’, they had to have another meeting ‘We’ll let you know what we could do’. I think then I’d got the flu at the time. And my mother said ‘What did they say?’. They said ‘They’re going to let me know, if they’re going to want me in the army, or, I said the WAAFS, or the WRENS’. I said ‘Sounds good fun to me’. I’d got several pupils at that time, you see. Who were ‘Tell them you’ll come in the WAAFS’. Another one ‘Tell them you’re going into the girls …’. ‘Yes, well’ I said, ‘I can’t go in all of them’. But they all went to something, you see. And they used to come with their bikes at night, it’d be dark, no lights, have their lessons. I still kept teaching. We had to stick black paper, right thick black paper over every window. And if there was a crack, and the Home Guard could see it, they’d come and knock on the door, they said ‘There’s a crack in your window, the Jerries’ll find it’. I said ‘Well they’d better come and mend the crack then, cause’ I said ‘I’ve put enough black paper up there last for the century. Just sheer black paper. And we had a wall built outside here, in front of that window, brick wall, and that was to keep the blast out. And I know I had three[?] rooms[?] then[?] and we had the outside toilet then, and I think I was coming out from out of that toilet, and when I got to the door, I collapsed, and I went onto that wall, and my arms were torn with the wall, and I held it to get home. It was pretty rough in times. To know what to do for the best. Wretched really. Then I was blown once, I was out walking from the Braintree, this side of the Braintree Road to the other. I didn’t know I’d gone, and I found myself on that side, that was the blast of a bomb.

Q:    Really, you were lucky?

Miss G:    I was still standing up. My mother said ‘Did you hear that air raid?’ I said, cause she couldn’t very well, she’s always been a bit deaf, you see. And the evacuees, we used to have a Morrison shelter in here, took up the whole room, with chicken wire all the way round, [???] chicken wire. We had to take all the bedclothes and anything in there, sleep in there. Three or four years. And the children, they used to say ‘Get gran in first, auntie’. That’s my mum. And she was a big woman. So they got her in. ‘Now you’ve got to get Bonny and all the animals, got to come in, the cat, I had to go out in the garden and collect them. They were all in. They said ‘Where’re you going to sit’. ‘Oh’ I said, ‘I’m going to watch out there for the Jerry’. ‘You’ll tell us if they’re coming, won’t you auntie’. ‘Yes’. I used to stand by the front door and wait for them. And the first, it must have been the first day of the War, a Jerry came right down, I was outside there, and, right down, practically I could see the man in the cockpit, and then, I could see the swastika on the plane, and I was cheering, cause I could see that swastika, I thought that was wonderful.
And they got a lot of bombs, and they took them all out on the allotments there, dropped them all out on the allotments. I said ‘I reckon that’s because I waved to them. Lovely’. And I had nuts off that plane that must have fell off. Doctor Nesper[?], Berlin, that’s where the plane was made.

Q:    Really, what they fell off in the garden?

Miss G:    Yes. Yes we had all that. Shrapnel. Loads of shrapnel we used to pick up. They used to throw it out I expect.

Q:    It’s hard to imagine now, isn’t it.

Miss G:    No you can’t imagine what it was like. No soon you get to bed, then that siren ‘Ooooooo’. They’d come scrambling down the stairs, these kids, ‘Auntie, did you hear the siren?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Can we have a lemonade now?’ That’s all they want. Lemonade and biscuits if the siren went. ‘Now what shall we do if the siren goes?’ ‘Well’ I said ‘you’d better come down here, and we’ll get the lemonade and the biscuits’.

Q:    So they didn’t make you do anything different, then? They let you keep them, they didn’t make you go off and do anything different?

Miss G:    No. They were very good. No trouble at all dear.  Just as if they were my own. But the neighbours were the [???]. They used to be putting their linen out one side, and the other. They said ‘They’ll always enjoy your own children, but you’ll still have to join up if they’re someone else’s’. I hear her talking over the fence. I didn’t take notice, I pretended I didn’t hear them. But that’s what they were. (Q: Really?) And Mrs Hancock, you know, (Q: I know, yes.) Mrs Hancock. That was her name. I saw here in Woolworth’s one day, she said ‘It isn’t fair’. I said ‘What isn’t fair?’ ‘That you are still here, and my Winifred is working on the land’. ‘Well’  I said ‘I offered to work on the land’. I said ‘They didn’t want me. They thought I was doing more good looking after these two children’. ‘Yes, but they’re not your own, she said’. I said ‘What’s the difference, if they’re my own, if I hadn’t got them somebody else’d have them’. Yes. Oh, she was wild. And Winnie was. If I went in the delicatessen down there, she’d turn her head back. I used to speak to her, just to torment. I thought ‘She doesn’t want to speak to me so I’ll speak to her’. And turn her head, on her heels, couldn’t bear it. And that was years after the War finished [Winnie Hancock was also a music teacher]. Yes, she was a funny sort of girl. I don’t know, actually she died, I think, but her sister’s still alive, Dorothy. She’s different. I suppose that didn’t affect her.

Q:    No, she’s a nice person.

Miss G:    There you are dear.

Q:    You had a lot to put up with, didn’t you?

Miss G:    Oh yes. I always do. But I never took no notice. I thought ‘What’s the good?’ I was doing all I could do. There was nothing else I could do. They wanted me to teach at Braintree High School. They said ‘You’d have a regular salary and everything’. I said ‘I know I would’, but I said ‘Who’d look after my mother and my evacuees and all my pets and the garden. I said ‘Who’d be doing that?’ I said ‘I should want a host of servants to carry on what I’m doing’. You see people are nosy, and crazy to do things. Always think you’re doing something wrong.

No I’ve had a really happy life. Nothing to grumble about at all. I know we had our bad days and our good days, but we had all our own garden, fruit, gooseberries, apples, strawberries, we used to grow all the lot, all straw in them. Just like an expert. I knew what they ought to be done, and I was happy, guess I could do it. And the dog. We had a little corgi, now a corgi, a cairn, and he used to help to pick the strawberries, eat them. And we had chickens in a little hen house, and keep us going laying the eggs. Hear the old cockerel crowing, he’d go down to their nest box, and pick, he knew they’d laid an egg, and he used to go and pick it up in his mouth and bring it up here. Lay it on the floor. Never broke one. I said, Solas his name was, we used to call him Solly. I said ‘You’d better go and see if there’s any eggs, Solly, he’d go straight down there, look in the box, and come, and then he’d go back and get another one. Yes. And we had a goat. Mr Smith was a butcher and he, somebody brought a goat and they didn’t know what to do with it, so he brought it up here, and he said ‘How would you like that goat, Miss Griggs, for your animals’. I said ‘How much?’ Seven and six he wanted for him. ‘Oh yes’ I could keep the goat, keep the goat. The goat used to sleep in the summer house. And soon as she heard me draw the curtains she used to come out and go ‘Rrrrrr’, and come in and jump clean onto that shelter. [laugh] In the morning. And she used to have her breakfast on there. Yes, she was lovely. We could keep her till we couldn’t keep her any longer cause she ate everything in the garden. So I had boy lived down the Avenue that time, he said, if you like Miss Griggs, I’ll take her to Braintree market and sell her. And he said ‘I shan’t get much for her, I don’t suppose’. I said ‘Don’t matter as long as you get a home for her.’ I said ‘I can’t keep her, she’s going to eat us out’. Didn’t matter whether that was briars, roses or anything, eat them. So we did that. And she went. But every morning, soon as she heard the curtains open ‘hehehehe’ she’d start, and come out, scamper up, she was white, so we called her Sylvia. If you hear of a goat called Sylvia, you’d know that was her. They’re lovely, animals are. I know last night, Lisa over the road’s got a cat, and she came into me last night, and when she went out ‘You know where my cat is. Sitting on my doorstep’. She knew Lisa was in here. Amazing, isn’t it. I think animals are lovely. We did all sort of things. And one cairn, the first dog I had, he hated a car, if anybody took him in a car, he’d cry. But he didn’t mind trains. And there was a bookstall down there on the station, used to go down and get the books and papers. And he never had a lead cause he’d follow you. And when I went down there, there was one of the porters, a Mr Chalk, he said, ‘Look, where is your dog?’

I said ‘I don’t know, he’s here isn’t he?’ ‘No, he’s not here’. The porter left the door open, he’d gone in the train and was sitting in the corner seat ready to go to London [laugh]. ‘He’s off to London’ he said ‘You’d better catch him quick’. We used to have tickets at that time of the day, when you could go for one week for seven and six, you could go every day when you wanted to, as far as Clacton. Then you could go if you had another ticket you could go as Felixstowe. And the last one was to Yarmouth. He so loved these trains, this dog, and my mother couldn’t go out at all, she said ‘Why don’t you have a dog, it’d be something to take out’. I got him from the butcher’s in Brentwood somewhere. And the people said where I got him, cause he wasn’t a puppy, they said ‘He will have his dinner in a pram, with the kids’. I thought that was all right. But it didn’t stop at that. When I got him home, he wanted [???] something to have it, a bluebottle or a wasp, he’d watch and see if there was anyone coming around and then he’d go for them. Must have something easy[?] He was a funny little dog. Really lovely. Pretty little dog. Oh and he used to go on this train. Course we went on the first one, [???] and they said ‘Here comes that dog again’, every morning for seven days, you see. And they said ‘What would he like to have for breakfast I wonder’. ‘Well’ I said ‘I don’t think he wants any breakfast but he would like some coffee, with a sugar lump in the middle.’ ‘Right’ they said, and all these men on the train with the food, getting him a sugar lump, and a saucer. He loved coffee. And then they saw him coming the next day, they said ‘Charlie, get the coffee ready’. And they’d treat[?] the coffee and then crunch the sugar. Had to be a sugar lump. They said ‘There’d be others[?]’ ‘Oh no, he’s very aristocratic, he likes his sugar lump.’ Act daft, dear, stupid. But that made it fun.

[chat about her 90th birthday and getting message in local newspaper for thanks]

Tape 187. Mr Ken Miller, sides 1 and 2

Tape 187

Mr Ken Miller was born in 1935. He was interviewed on 15 December 1998, when he lived in Langford.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

Mr M:    We are Witham people, I was born in Dovercourt, but we got evacuated in the summer of 1940 back into my grandfather’s house which was Moat Farm, which is what I rang you up about on the phone. So I’ve never ever seen a picture of the back view, which is in the book. That was much smarter when we lived there, and that was scruffy then. But, so we got evacuated back into Moat farm, where my uncle, my grandfather, was pigman and cattle man, running the farm, oh, the early part of the century. And we lived there till I got married. And then, by that time I’d started working at the blacksmith’s shop just up the road, with Henry Dorking [18 Chipping Hill].

Q:    So you were still quite young when you moved there?

Mr M:    I was five. It was about three days after my birthday, yes, I was born in 1935.

Q:    So you were there quite a long time then, you were there a good long time?

Mr M:    Yes. Till I was twenty one and two. Yes, done my National Service when I finished my apprenticeship, came out, met Maureen, and that was the end of that [laugh]

Q:    So tell us a bit about the forge then?

Mr M:    Well, yes, I used to go there part time, on a, well go back a bit, there was a family behind the forge called Aldertons, I don’t know if you ever heard of them, they lived in the first house round the corner [probably Church Street]. Well, they had a paper business, and my brother and myself run the, well he run it and I used to help him, and when I got big enough we used to start delivering round Chipping Hill, then got up to the station, then I got Avenue, then Avenue Road, and in the end, the man was called up, and he run the business, and he was only fourteen, he was five years older than me. And the two of, I used to go round with him, he had a trade bike, and we used to sit in the carrier at the front, he rode the bike and we used to deliver the papers, the boy next door and myself. And that went on till the man came out of the RAF, who was an Alderton. So we know, the blacksmith was my first job in a sense, and the paper shop was just round the corner, where there are some shops now, there are some shops, like a little arcade, well the shops were level with the front of the road [bottom of Church Street]. And there were some little old derelict houses past there, about half a dozen, which one or two people had a workshop in, and then, I started work with Henry on a Saturday morning, going in, you know, just pulling shoes off and general help sweeping up, and bits like that, and then when I left school I started full time. Till, then of course we had to do National Service, and when I came out, we both worked for a man called Quy, Q U Y, Frank Quy, he moved to the Avenue after that, and …

Q:    He was there before Henry do you say?

Mr M:    Henry, yes, Henry was an employee and I was an apprentice to Henry, Henry Dorking. He was quite well known, you must have heard of Henry Dorking.

Q:    I met him once or twice, yes.

Mr M:    Cause he was a great character, he was thick through the chest as he was across the shoulders. He was about my stamp, but much stockier, and he, he’d pick the anvil up which weighed just over two hundredweight, well I used to sweep the dirt, cause the anvils rock, when they get dirt under them, they rock, I used to sweep under them with a [???] and he’d hold and stand the anvil, and oh, he’s got some great tricks, he used to, we have a, the basic tools on a forge is a long-handled shovel with a little spade end about two inches by three inches, and a poker. And he used to get all the kids, he was everybody’s grandad and uncle, Henry was, put a little drop of water on a shovel, and get it to run down the half inch handle, well that’s impossible, because it’s like quicksilver, because of the soot on the handle. What you do, you just wet it, and make a little trail down the, and oh it was great, we used to have great fun, and another trick he had was holding a sledgehammer up and letting it down on his nose. And, but, he was a great character. He, we was working at the forge one day, cause, we started off, like, I wasn’t allowed behind the anvil when he was in the shop. So my place was with the sledgehammer in front of it, we was what we called a striker.

So, and, it’s ever so pretty, I mean, to watch good strikers, I mean, you don’t, I’ve got a 1926 chain making film, and there’s two men strikers, and I’ve got, where there’s ten striking, and not a word between them, and you have a language because you ring on and ring off, so he taps the anvil, and wherever he hits you hit, cause you don’t know, you don’t do it consciously, you do it, that’s just, it’s like music, you know, so when he’s finished he rings off, so he taps the anvil and you stop, and if, but, if you was making a cart horse shoe or anything like that, big, you’d know he’d want, so you’d never put the hammer down, you’d still do it with it on your shoulder, ready, and then you’d ring on again, when he got to, and in you go again. And like, when we were doing a cart tyre, he’d have two sledgehammers, and you know the rim round the wooden wheel. And the old guvnor used to help us, and, you would split the tyre, like fork[?], and you put one half over that way and one half over that way. So you lay it in the fire like that and you weld that half, and then you turn that over and you weld, just using the fire to weld, and then you take the final heating [???], but what you have to do, if you’ve got two bits five eight thick, say, like as thick as my fingers, you’ve got make them into one five eight thick, in one go, you don’t get a second bite of the cherry. And so you have two sledge hammers and a hand hammer, the bloke the holding the rim working with a little hammer. And so you dodge in and out the ring, so you go in the rim and then back again, but it’s something you just learn, and you never forget.

Q:    When you say Henry himself would ring on the anvil, was that a signal you mean?

Mr M:    Yes, that’s the signal, yes, that’s what you call ring on and ring off. Yes, he’s standing behind and he’s got a hand hammer, and he just taps the hammer and that means stop or start. And wherever he is, if you’re drawing a piece out, like a pick, what we call a pick, pick [???], wherever, you follow him, and if you’re drawing a point[?], you drop your back hand, so the face of your hammer is on the anvil, that is creating the shape you want to form between the anvil and the hammer face. So as you’re drawing, like the big horse’s heel on a big shoe, you go down you see, but you do all that in one movement. And what happens, your hand comes down onto your leg all the time, so you’re leg just cocking it up. As I say, it’s really pretty to watch to a good striker at work. But I should think, they still do it in competitions, we have a shoeing competition at the Royal Show every year, well it’s the International in August, and people come from all over the world, and they actually present a sledgehammer to the best striker. But, our lads are good strikers, a lot of foreigners use hammer, it’s what we call strangle a hammer, so they hold the hammer too near the head, but you’re not getting the force, cause we use the length of the shaft, three foot shaft, you’re getting ten times the blow you are with strangling it. Cause we went to America with the blacksmiths, to Texas, and I sat at the front of the crowd watching, and there was a little fellow I knew from Wales, he’s a Welsh miner, ex-miner, doing pit ponies and what have you, and his name’s Glyn Owen Davies, and he stamps his work GOD. And anyway he was making a shoeing hammer which is rather peculiar, it’s got quite a big bend for clenching the nails over, and, making one with his son, well his son was only about fourteen, and he was using him as the striker, well of course the boy couldn’t do it. And he spotted me in the crowd, and I hardly knew him, and he said to me, Ken, you can strike, give us a strike. That must have been twenty years or more, twenty-five since I really done any striking seriously, cause we’ve got power hammers now, you know the latest, touch with your foot and, shut a box of matches with them. And so I stepped forward and we made this hammer, and course, when you’re punching a hole in the middle, it’s a bit [???}, you’ve got to hit it fairly hard, you lift the hammer right up to the full extent of your arm and hit this punch, about as big as your thumb, and all the crowd went gasping, I stopped and I said ‘What’s up?’. He said ‘You’re lifting the hammer above your head’. And they’d never ever seen it done before, and I, to me it was an everyday thing, to get more power, you obviously use your legs and your arm and the length in the thing, until you can hit it as hard as ever you can hit it.

Q:    That must have been hard for you when you were a young lad?

Mr M:    That’s why I’ve suffering now, yes.

Q:    How did you actually begin to learn to do that, when you were a little boy?

Mr M:    Well you just start off doing the easy things, like light pointing and peck[?] or something, where it’s, when you point you go over like that both ways, and so he’s blow one, and you just watch. Because them times there was no electric fires, all the fires were blown by hand, so all the time you’re blowing the fire you’re watching what he’s doing. So even though you’re not working, you’re only two or three feet away from him, perhaps four, and you’re watching every move he makes, because, soon as his back turned, you’re having a go, aren’t you? You’re picking up an odd bit of iron and having a little go yourself.

Q:    So your job was blowing the fire to start with, was it?

Mr M:    You had to look after the fire, woe betide you if the fire wasn’t right, the fire, you know the first thing you say to your boy blacksmith is to control to the fire. That’s where a lot of them fall down, if they can’t control the fire, they’ll never get, you get too much metal hot or not enough, not hot in the right place. And when you get it out it bends in the wrong place or, you know, and of course if you’re, you’ve to earn money, especially if you’re self-employed and you want, you’re getting. So, we’d have six shoes in the fire, two straight bits lay on the back, two half made in the fire, and two perhaps clipping up on the front of the fire. Well, you’ve got to keep them in strict rotation so they’re ready to come out of the fire like cooking, you know, so the minute one, and all these things, you just, second nature.

Q:    So where did a lot of people come from that came?

Mr M:    Oh from right out Lyons Hall and Braintree, Cressing Temple, they used to have big horses there, all the Rayleighs had horses, and course they had milk ponies down at Chipping Hill where the veterinary place is [Spring Lodge], that was a dairy, Blakes, people called Blakes run that. And they had Doris and Rosie and little fat ponies, and the railway had two, Pilot and Punch, they had two great big Shire horses. They used to take, they had feet like dinner plates, and we used to stamp the numbers on the feet, and they’d have like a six or eight-figure number, and you’d easily get it round the foot, you know, inch letters, no problem. Burn them in with a branding iron. Yes, they used to actually move, all the shunting at Witham was done with these horses, and they just leaned, they’ve got so much power, they lean into the harness and move them trucks full of coal and whatever, it seems incredible, but it’s just the sheer weight and power. They were lovely horses they were.

Q:    That was during the War and since the War?

Mr M:    Yes, after the War, yes. 1950 I started full time there, yes.

Q:    And they were still with you?

Mr M:    Yes. Well. They had a lorry at Witham station, a bloke called, oh, he lived just up the road, got a whole family of boys, it said his name in the paper, the one went abroad last year, it’ll come back to me in a minute. But I think it was a Model T Ford lorry with half a door, and that was Witham delivery lorry for the station. And, Mead, that’s who used to drive it, a bloke called Mead, and you know Chipping Hill school, they’ve got a little nursery school there. [Church Street] He used to live in the first house back towards the, it’s like a little row of almshouse there, he lived in the first one, they brought a great big family of boys up there, I think there was one girl. Yes. And my granny lived up a little further, and there was a builders’ yard there, Richards and Son [56 Church Street]. And they still had a saw pit when I worked there, making coffin boards, cause a bloke called Gaymer lived in the house, his daughters went to school with us, Fred Gaymer, and I’ve met him, he’s been round the shop and I’ve done some work for him where I work now. And they actually still had the saw pit there, where the bloke was down the hole, seems incredible doesn’t it.

Q:    So really there was plenty of business, even though folks had tractors and so on.

Mr M:    Well, yes, that was the end of the era of the cart horse, and unfortunately they were getting old, the old ones. We had, used to have one or two come up from Tillingham and places like that, and they were really wild, they used to chain them to a tree, you know a log, and round and round the field to try and tire it before they brought it to us, but, I mean some of them had never hardly seen human being, I mean we think of Tillingham as nothing now, but then, I mean that was right, being out in the wilds, wasn’t it. But the only time I see Henry lose his temper, we went up to Powershall and they had a donkey there. It was one really hot day, and he knew it was going to be, cause he used to go out on the afternoons on his own, and then I used to be left in the shop with the guvnor.

And put handles in and all sorts of odd jobs. I used to do all the odd jobs. We used to do horses in the morning, and then the odd jobs in the afternoon. And anyway this donkey was not about to be caught, and we must have tried for two or three hours. And in the end he took his jacket off, threw it on the ground, he said ‘Leave the donkey for another day’. [Laugh] Used some different words from that. Oh he did lose his temper that day. There used to be an old boy come from Notley or Faulkbourne somewhere, and he had a tub cart, know what a tub cart is, it’s like a, hat box, round, you open a little door in the back and get in. And he had a Shetland pony in it, and of course the cart was four times too big for the Shetland pony. The shafts used to be level with the top. We used to have put a stick, wheat stack down on the cobbles in the, cause the horse was so small we used to have to get down on our knees to shoe it [laugh]. And many a time we threatened to turn it upside down, it was so small.

Q:    So, places like Powershall were there still, got the farmers?

Mr M:    Yes, they’d still got horses there.

Q:    There was farmers at Powershall?

Mr M:    Oh that was still farmed.

Q:    Who was …?

Mr M:    That belonged to Rayleigh’s, yes.

Q:    Was there somebody actually at Powershall?

Mr M:    There was a man, oh, half his face was birthmark, I’ve forgotten his name now.

Q:    Oh,  it doesn’t matter. You’d still got farmers round, in Witham, then?

Mr M:    They were all farms, Chipping Hill was still a farm, Moat farm was still a farm, Ebenezer Smith [actually Esmond]. That was still farmed, and a family Kildewers[?] used to run it, and they lived up, and Whitehead’s farm up on the Braintree Road. And Moe[?], he was, funny thing is, there’s a young lad who was apprenticed in the blacksmith’s at Chipping Hill recently, he’s left to start up, and he’s Moe, his name was Moe, I don’t know why, he had a real crop of curly hair, real tight curly hair, and he’s his grandson. He came in the shop in the summer, and he said could I help him out on a job, it got, that was too much for him, and that didn’t take off, but he said, ‘Do you know I’m Moe Ewers’ grandson?, and said ‘No’, and that’s funny, that’s small world.

Q:    So I mean did you always want to do that?

Mr M:    Yes, oh, yes, I lived for it, because we lived in Moat farm which was just down the Chase, and I mean I spent every living moment at the, from when I was five years old, to, watching Henry, I mean Henry was like as father to me. Used to go rabbiting with him, and everything. Every Saturday afternoon we used to go ra-, or he’d not always take me, but sometimes he’d take me. Fairhead, Cyril Fairhead who was at Rivenhall, he was a bachelor, and he had lots, Hoo Hall and all sorts of farms, we used to go shooting and ferreting up there, he used to sell a rabbit for threepence, the old threepence. [laugh] It was good money[?], we loved rabbit pie, my mum used to make it. My young brothers made the front page of the Braintree and Witham once, I haven’t got the, I might have the picture here somewhere. I’ve got two younger brothers, one’s born in 1943 and one in ’45. So there’s quite a bit of difference but there you are. And I’m nearly ten years before, that’s eight years older than him. Anyway. You know the viaduct where the road goes through, well that used to be all fields round there then. And there’s meadows, water meadows there. They got caught on the railway bank, well of course it’s forbidden to go on the railway bank, though we used to as kids. And, photog, somebody saw them, and they’d got a ferret, a great big polecat ferret, that belonged to our neighbours, well there’s these two lads and this girl, my two young brothers and the girl next door, and the story, it was all a whole, two or three paragraphs, and that said ‘How do you know there’s a rabbit down there?’, and he said ‘Well we saw one go down last week’ [laugh]. And I’m trying to get [???] it was a great big picture on the front.  Close to the main road, the main line, all the trains used to go down there to Harwich and that to go to the continent, and they were for ever trying to bomb that line, and cause the line was up high, we had a panoramic view of it, and they used to miss our house, Moat farm, they did blow the front door off, but, we used to, all them fields were peppered with incendiary bombs, and bomb craters,

And there was huge one where there, used to be the garden field, opposite the Veterinary place was garden fields [allotments, now Saxon Drive], and they were really good garden fields, and in the middle of that was the biggest bomb hole that I’ve ever seen, and I mean I used to be, demolitions engineer in the army, and that was, and, till I got married I was still, everybody dumped their rubbish in that whole. So somebody’s got a house built on cabbage stalks and, that was enormous. But Henry told me a tale, is this all right what I’m …? [Q: Great, yes.] Henry told me that his father was a bricklayer, and he was a great big tall fellow, I think there’s a photo in some book I’ve got. He had three brothers, or there was three of them, there was Henry, John Dorking who lived just up Church Street, and Tubby Dorking, who was another bricklayer. Well Henry’s father was a great poacher, well not poacher, but 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, and, 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 he 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. And he had a sister … (Q: This is his father?) Father, yes. And he had a sister called Edna [perhaps Ena], have you heard of her, she lived in Homefield Road with her father, she never married, and she was a bit of waif and stray, taking in cats and dogs that people didn’t want. And she worked at Rickstones farm I think it’s called, it’s the one past the church at Rivenhall, I think it’s Rickstones. (Q: Oh, past the church it’ll be Rivenhall Hall). Rivenhall Hall, yes, that’s it. Well, people called French lived there, I know the son, Dave French, he runs [???] a big contractor, anyway, Mrs French, she was a widow I think, I don’t know whether she lost her husband, I don’t know. But Edna was her mainstay on the farm, Henry’s sister. And there was a picture of her on the front of the Daily Mirror I think, she used to get off Hicks’s bus which, Hicks’s buses used to run, they had a garage in Silver End, and forty something cats used to come and meet her. And there was a huge page, front page on the national paper, of the cats coming to meet Hicks’s bus (Q: They were meeting her at Rivenhall?). From that farm, cause as you go past the church, you go down the dip, and she, course they used to come, the farm sort of stands back a bit on the hill, and they all used to troop down that hill and meet the bus. (Q: When I knew her she just had one dog.) You knew Edna? (Q: Ena, was it, lived in Homefield Road). Ena. She had a dog that made us laugh when I was apprenticed. That had been in a fight and its ribs were torn, and when they sewed the patch on, the patch went grey, it was a black dog with a grey patch and it looked most peculiar. It was, like somebody’d stitched a patch on, the hair went grey. And, oh she used to get some ribbing for that dog.

Q:    What did your father used to do?

Mr M:    He was a roller driver, drove, well he started off on thrashing engines, [???] engines, and then he worked, got onto rollers, doing the roads, and, unfortunately he died when he was fifty-seven. But that’s all he did, he went all over the place really. And I used to go flag boy to him when I was a boy. Which meant you, like, you had to, supposedly walk in front of it. I mean we used to move from Haverhill in Suffolk to Chelmsford, in one day, you can imagine walking that far, even if I was fit, I weren’t that fit. But he had an old 1929 BSA, with a Pilgrim pump, [???] pump on the tank, so every few miles you give it a few pumps, oil, to keep it going, and he used to have road roller, lovely wooden caravan, motor bike, we were all brought up on motor bike and sidecars, the whole lot of us.

And the 1929 BSA, behind on another draw bar. And that used to cause great merriment, people going along the road, but he, he was born in 1900, the same as Henry, Henry was born on Christmas Day 1900, and my dad was born in February, and so he would have been, he went with the years as they say. So, he was too young for the First World War, and too old for the Second World War.

Q:    They came from …?

Mr M:    He came from Moat farm.

Q:    So you come to …?

Mr M:    My grandparents lived in Moat farm, and when they moved out, we moved in.

Q:    So he was brought up there.

Mr M:    He lived there and he lived, Maltings Cottages [probably in Maltings Lane], near the Jack and Jenny, which used to be a derelict house, then the Upson family moved in it, Lawshall Upson and all his kids. And then they moved, my grandfather was a drover, he, drove, delivered beer from the brewery to the pubs. My dad never smoked, drunk or swore. And that was because his grandad, or his dad, used to come home blind drunk every night, because every pub they went they got free beer. And he never drank all the years …

Q:    So were they still living there when you moved, lived in Witham sort of thing?

Mr M:    No. Grandad died, and granny lived next, up Church Street, in this, a little row of almshouses, there’s a little paper shop up there on the left hand side, I presume it’s still there, it’s years since I’ve been up there. And there was a, opposite was a yard with steam engines, and things in, Randall’s. And there’s a little row of almshouses there and she lived in the first one of that. [probably not actually almshouses] And I used to look after her, cause Grandad died, so it fell on my shoulders to split her wood and do the garden and, look after her, do her shopping, cause she was crippled.

Q:    So they were Millers as well?

Mr M:    She was a Miller, yes, Ada Miller, yes.

Q:    So when, you moved into Moat farm when you were five, so where were you living ?

Mr M:    Before that, I was born in Dovercourt, Mill Lane, Dovercourt.

Q:    So you were there all that time, so your dad moved away again.

Mr M:    Yes, my mum was a Dovercourt girl. He must have met her when he was going, he used to go all over Essex and Suffolk with his thrashing engines and rollers. He used to park it near, there’s a church, Ramsey church, on the, and he used to park there. So all my, unfortunately there’s one left now, but my mum come from a big family, and of course they were all round Dovercourt and Ramsey. And my dad’s side was up this end, yes.

Q:    So, you were telling me a bit about the War, can you, you told me a bit on the phone about the War, but, can you remember anything?

Mr M:    A few things. I can remember the dog fight, you know, when they had like the, over the top there was dog fight, and I remember the doodlebugs coming over, and they bombed Crittall’s, they used to always after Crittall’s, cause that was munitions there, and I was saying, that little shop in Church Street, is it still there do you know? (Q: There was a paper shop, just after Chalks Road, it’s a house now [referring to 41A Church Street.) Yes, on the other, well that was a shop when we were kids, and that used to, that stood back from the road a bit and had a bit of concrete in front of it. And we used to have one roller skate between us, and skate there, and a bomber came over to bomb Crittall’s and he pulled the shutter back, and he waved to us kids to get down, and we all laid about the road, shows you busy the traffic was, because, you could lay about, we used to play rounders on the end of Chalks Road, and never moved, have a whole game. And he went round again and bombed Crittall’s, and the shrapnel all landed amongst us, and, the blacksmith’s shop had two girl evacuees from London, and one of them picked up a bit, I’ll never forget, she picked it up, course that’s red hot, isn’t it, and she got quite badly burnt, and … you know, that was quite unusual. There was a lot of talk after the War about he worked, he lived in Witham area before, but you know how tales get about. (Q: The pilot you mean?) He knew the area, yes, the German pilot.

Q:    He was the one that told you to get down?

Mr M:    Yes, he actually waved at us to get down. I remember the first VE2 rocket, that fell at Faulkbourne, and we had a great big bit, as big as that television, in our coal bunker for years and years. It landed up the other end of Witham, I mean that blasted for miles.

Oh, different things, I can remember, it’s quite funny really, the Queen Mary’s they called them, they were great big lorries and trailers, that used to recover the aircraft, if a Spitfire or anything come down, you know, sixty foot long. And they were like lattice work, and one came down by the station, down to Henry’s and he took the wrong, he should have gone to Braintree, you know the Braintree Road. But he couldn’t get up round Chalks Road, cause it was too long. So he turned round in front of Henry’s [18 Chipping Hill]. And he shunted this lorry, he was there all afternoon turning round, and not another vehicle came [laugh]. Seems incredible now doesn’t it. Not another car come. I can remember in the War, my Dad had a driving licence, and people called Hutley lived on the Green, and they had that, they years ago used to own Powershall I think. And they used to come and get him to go and start the tractors and to drive the car, cause he was the only one in that end of the town who could drive. And I mean it seems incredible now, we’re only talking fifty years, fifty years ago aren’t we. Things have progressed in fifty years. I mean I think we’ve lived in a lovely era, we’ve gone from horses to rockets haven’t we. You know, to go from that era to, it seems incredible.

Q:    Yes, I’d never have thought that, I mean you hear people played on the road perhaps in 1900 or so, but I would never really have thought it was …

Mr M:    No, I mean we still used to, when I worked at the blacksmith’s, especially when I was a lad and used to go in Saturdays and [???], we used to mend steel hoops, that was a thing that the Victorians had, and they were still bowling hoops about. It seems incredible now. We used to, the market was up, where the Labour Club is [Collingwood Road], that was the cattle market, if they’d got a wild bull in, do all the bit, they used to knock the place about, and I used to go up to there, and they had the hurdles on wheels, what they used to corral parts of the market off. And they were about thirty foot long these hurdles, twenty-five foot anyway, and they’re long. And I used to ride one, get on the, cause they had an axle about this wide, with iron wheels on, and I could stand on it like a scooter, and tow another one behind. [laugh] Down over the station bridge and down that road in the middle of the road. It seems unbelievable now, if you did that now, you’d, but there was no traffic.

Q:    What, you just for a bit…?

Mr M:    No, I used to have to get them to bring them down the workshop to repair. And we used to repair them and I used to push them back up the road again.

BB:    Well I was the same, Ken, I as a lad, played football in the streets, and cricket, and during winter, and this was up in Newcastle, when the snow came, we lived on a hill, which went down, across a road, down, across road, down. And we just literally went straight at them, across these roads, and there was not a car in sight.

Mr M:    Course of all the hill, the people, kids used to get on there was Pinkham’s, there was two glove factories near the station, weren’t there, I remember the second one was build in 1944 I think, had a date on the front [probably 1948 actually]. And there was a hill behind that which used to go down to the river, Chipping Hill, and we used to go sledges down there. Cause that’s really like an encampment, isn’t it, Chipping Hill. Down in Moat farm, they turned that into a house after the War. Bloke called Nicholls. He was a Jew, and he, but there was a shed stand off of the main barn, faced out into the Chase, I suppose it’s still there, and there was another few, and they were all weatherboards, and along the weatherboards was nailed rats tails, hundreds and hundreds of them, and they were put there by my grandfather, and they’d been there since the turn of the century of just after, and they’d been there right up until the War, till after the War when they pulled it down. Well they didn’t pull one of it down, it was quite funny, cause we had the dairy in the farm as a shed, as a workshop, and my dad was unlocking his shed one morning, and the shed over the lane, on Moat farm, fell down, the roof collapsed. I think he aged ten years. Imagine the whole building going down behind you, just crashed, and he just stood there, he went white, and, times were hard then though, he, there used to be a willow plantation, and our garden and all that, and they grew the willow setts, well because the War came they never bothered, and the willows used to grow right up into big trees.

And we used to cut them down and we’d make firewood of them, cause, anyway all the small stuff, we were so hard up, I see him make a dog’s kennel, he’d got some about an inch round and split them, all in half and carefully nailed them, made a complete dog’s kennel out of little willow branches. The hours he spent on that.

Q:    So you reckon you weren’t very well off then?

Mr M:    No, nobody was, I mean I remember when he came home and he’d actually topped five pound a week, with all his overtime and his greasing money and his travelling money and everything else, he brought home five pound.

Q:    That was when you were …?

Mr M:    Still young, yes, like, fourteen or fifteen I suppose.

Q:    Did your mum work at all?

Mr M:    Yes, she worked, she worked at the people, she was cook in Faulkbourne Hall for a while. Yes. Cause I was horrified, I went there once and there was hundreds of pigeons, white pigeons in the proper dovecote, and I said what are they, of course they killed them to eat. And I was horrified as a kid to think that they actually bred them to eat. White pigeons. I suppose they were nice and tender cause they were corn fed and all that.

Q:    Cause, did women often work in those days, or was that …?

Mr M:    Not a lot of women did, because families were bigger and that, but Dad was away all the time, and I say there was four of us boys, and, though, he must have been quite well off I suppose, compare him with a farm labourer or something like that, but, I don’t know, she always done something. She worked in a café down the town for a while.

Q:    There were some extra cafes in the War time, there were some cafes in the War time, special …?

Mr M:    Yes, there was one just up Church Street {22 Church Street]. I remember going in and having fish pie. That was unheard of, I didn’t know what fish pie was, but it filled you. I don’t know, just where them shops arcade, there was a big house there, for some reason they used to do hot meals in there, but I can’t remember why, but we used to go there and have hot meals, but I can’t remember much about it, I say I was only eight or nine at the time.

Q:    So where did you go to school then?

Mr M:    I went in the Primary school there, or the little Infants’ school, and then I went to the Church school, I was there in ’44, because that was built in 1844 [probably 1842], and I can remember them taking us all out, cause the slaughterhouse was next door. And we, took us all out in the road when we were kids, and look up the school and look at the date, cause it was 1944. Funny things, you know things like that I can remember, they stick out in your mind.

Q:    Did you like school?

Mr M:    I hated school. I was average I suppose, I’d have liked to have been better, I wish I did school, you know, I wish, if I’d have been better educated, life would have been a lot easier in business and, and as life went on.

Q:    What didn’t you like about it?

Mr M:    I couldn’t do it I suppose, it all seemed to much for me like lots of kids. But I suppose I can’t complain, I’ve been president of one blacksmiths’ association and chairman of the other, I’m a judge for the Worshipful Company, I’m the only man ever held that position in eleven hundred years. I met the, Princess, I met Princess Anne last year for a presentation. So it’s got its compensations. My dad didn’t want me to go a blacksmith. Cause we were paper boys all the week, he wanted me to be a postman, and I said ‘I’ve had enough, I know every pavement and every tread in Witham, and every tree and every walk, you know, God, we knew every person, cause Witham wasn’t quarter the size then. I mean it used to finish half way up Hatfield Road. There was two houses stood there on the left hand side, just past the tyre place, they started before the War, and they got scaffolding up to the first window, the windows stood there, and they stood like that till about 1948, you know, and, things like that stick in your mind. But I said, ‘No, I’m going to be …’. He said ‘Oh, that’s a dead trade’. Which in a way it was, at the time, because through the fifties and sixties, we went through a terrible time in blacksmith’s. I mean I got married on six pounds fifteen, the old, and times, I mean you was twenty-six before you got man’s money, imagine somebody being twenty-six before you got man’s money now. That was hard, I mean our old boss he was really mean. He’d buy nuts with no threads in, and when it got dark, we used to have to, what they called blind nuts, and we used to have to thread the nuts by hand, and, I mean the taps we had, were like a hundred, you know fifty years old, they’d got no thread hardly left on them.

And we used to make washers by hand, was a bit of tin, cut it out with a pair of [???], and put it over a hole and punch a hole in to make a washer. And he’d, they had electric in the blacksmith’s, and they had electric drill, but there was no lights, when it got dark we used to have to make shoes by the fire light, and all the old tyres [probably metal ones], off the rims off the wooden tyres, we used to split them up, I mean when they’re stretched out they’re fourteen, fifteen, depends on the size, can be almost twenty foot long, some of them. And we used to cut them into lengths, all with a hammer and chisel, sledgehammer and chisel, and then split them up longways with a hammer and chisel, and then make horseshoes out of them. No wonder you can strike. And all day and every, and night, when we used to go back after tea, and make shoes sometimes if we were busy, and split blinking tyres up, God he was mean [laugh].

Q:    So that was just to save money, it wasn’t …?

Mr M:    To save money, yes.

Q:    So he could have got them ready …?

Mr M:    Well, you could buy ready made steel, that was in, that was shorter lengths, that was iron in them days. And that’s another thing, we’ve gone from iron to steel in my lifetime. People talk about wrought iron, but it was still wrought iron when I started. It [???] such a lot of work now, because, unless you’re my sort of age, people are not used to working with iron, because you had to work that differently from mild steel. You had to work it really hot, or else it splits. But all the bars were cut with a hammer and chisel, you know all the shoe length, we’d mark them, fourteen, sixteen, big Shire horses have eighteen inch for a shoe, we’d mark them in pairs and then you cut them [???]. Two blows each side, you push it forward and you crack the last one and that’d go over the end and fall off. You know, ten bars at a time. And where the steel lorry come every day, sometimes two or three a day, we used to have a delivery once in every three months [laugh]. And coal, they had a cellar round the back, and you’d buy a truck load of coal, and there was two, I can remember you went down two steps there was two missing, three steps and there was three missing, and there was a bucket weighed twenty-eight pound of cool, and you used to have to heave it up the three steps and then climb up, and we put twenty ton down there. So we had to put it down, and then we’d have to shovel it to the back and it was the same when I became smith at Doe’s, when I came out of the army I went to smith that had only started up the road, and that was the same, they had a long coal hole and they used to shoot it in the end, you’d have to shovel it that way and then shovel it again, cause the iron[?] rack[?] was in with the coal, so you couldn’t put a barrow in it cause it’d have got it full or iron[?] rack[?]. Oh, people say about work, but I mean, it was incredibly hard. I used to laugh and say it was a good job it was downhill to Moat farm or I’d have never got home sometimes.

Q:    What sort of hours did you do?

Mr M:    Well, we got in to trouble, funnily enough, because when I was an apprentice we did forty-eight or forty-nine hours, and that was when the time come that they started recognising the working man, and an apprentice mustn’t do more than forty-four hours. So I had to finish at, I know they, instead of half past seven I started at eight I think, instead of half past seven, I think that’s what it was, for a pound a week, and he paid me the first week he gave me a pay packet and I went home ten foot tall, my own pay packet. And I opened it and it had got two pound in. And I thought, I showed my dad, here I said ‘Do you think he’s that pleased with me?’. And he said ‘No, he’s testing you, take one back.’ And I went up and knocked on his door, and I said, ‘You’ve paid me too much, Mr Quy’. ‘Oh oh yer’ he went, took it out my hand and slammed the door. He was testing me to see if I was honest. What a terrible thing to do to a boy [laugh]. Bad enough, the first week, I creosoted the shop, and I don’t think that had been done for fifty years. That was a hot July day, I can remember, and I came out in an almighty rash all over with the fumes off the creosote, you know, and I did all that shop right round, cause it’s all weatherboards, all the shutters and that, the first week I worked there.

Q:    You must have been really keen to stay.

Side 2

Mr M:    … take the window out, well there is no window, you open the shutters and that was straight out into the … , and only when the snow drove in and got on the anvil would he shut, put the window, we had a window that slotted in, but I can’t remember that window being put in there six times all the years I worked there. I used to kick my boots out, trying to keep my feet warm, you know, up against the brick floors, you’d be only in shirt … but that was the other thing that’s incredible, we used to wear boots and buskins, we had breeches, you know, and leather buskins, and boots, like we would in livery, like we was in service, and that was a recognised …, and a waistcoat and a cap. (Q: Really?) Yes. I mean, now I laugh, we, Mrs Richardson came there when I hadn’t been there many days, and she was Lady Braintree’s daughter wasn’t she, yes, they lived at … (Q: Was it Karl Richardson?) Yes, [???] wife, Hungary Hall. Well, course I used to go up there with Henry, shoeing on a Saturday morning, and she used to ask us in the kitchen, to have a pint of beer, he’d have a pint of beer and I’d get a lemonade or something, and, course I knew her quite well. Well, when I started work she used to come, she’d occasionally call in the forge on a big hunter, and my boss, he, he was one of the real old, he used to turn inside out cause she was well to do, like, and he said ‘You’ve got to tip your hat’. I said ‘I’ve got to what?’ He says ‘You’ve got to tip your hat’. I said ‘No, I’m not tipping my hat to nobody, I said, you know, every man is equal in this world’. And I wouldn’t do it, and I nearly got the sack, I wouldn’t tip my hat [laugh]. Oh, he was old fashioned, yes.

Q:    So you did go out as well?

Mr M:    Henry used to go out every afternoon, nearly every afternoon. We used to make shoes in the morning, he knew every shoe by eye, and wherever he was going, we had a little Austin 10, with a box on the back, a tool box on a carry on, old cars had a [???] and carry on the back didn’t they. And he had two or three bags of shoes on the back seat on the floor. And everywhere in this Austin 10. He had a wooden trailer where he used to pick up jobs as well, you know, if they’d got to bring a bit of machinery in. And we’d make shoes, perhaps twenty sets of, twenty shoes, or six or seven sets of shoes in the morning, that was besides shoeing the horses that were standing, every time you went to work there’d be three or four standing outside, especially on a wet day like to day, we dreaded, because in the winter, they couldn’t get on the land, they’d go down the blacksmith’s shop to have their horses shod. And of course they were covered in mud, with all the mud up their legs where they’d been trying to work and that. And you’d go to work and be faced with three or four cart horses standing outside at half past seven in the morning.

Q:    So they didn’t make appointments or anything?

Mr M:    Oh no. They did for the ones that you went out to. And the well-to-do people did, like the riding schools, they made an appointment, and we had a slate, which I’ve got in the kitchen, and a slate up on the wall, and they all went up on the slate. And the riding, anybody with a half-decent horse like, but all the work horses, they just used to turn up. But we used to make appointments to go out. They’d ring up and he’d take the phone message and write it in the book, and go out and then he’d do, try and do a round, like he’d do Notleys and Faulkbourne one afternoon, and then perhaps Braxted, we used to do the Braxted stud, they used to do a lot, Brices, you know Brice? He’s died recently. Well Captain Brice run it then, but then his son just died a few, last year I think or the year before, Robert Brice. And there’s the young lad now, the grandson’s took it over, Simon Brice. They had racehorses there. Oh that was great to go there, because they were all the yearlings, and all the boxes, the loose boxes were made out of railway sleepers, stood on end, and they used to have three or four foot of straw in them, and we weren’t allowed to take the shoeing box in, cause the horse, that might damage itself. So it was my job to go in with the knife and clippers and, cause you were only trimming the feet, they’d got no shoes on. And these horses, cause it was like wrestling a monkey in the straw, you know, they were great fun these yearlings, they’d go absolutely berserk. I remember the first day I went there when I left school.

Henry was forty. No he must have been fifty, cause he was born in 1900, and I’d got my tools in my hand, and he’d got his, a few bits and pieces, and the, we stood at the top and I said ‘Come on Henry, I’ll race you to the bottom of the stack yard’. And I was fifteen and he was fifty, he beat me by a hundred yards [laugh]. Fifty years old. I never cheeked him again.

Q:    Was that just from the work, that made him fit do you think?

Mr M:    Yes, and he lived a good life, I mean, he sung, he had a terrific voice, he could have been an opera singer. When he was a young man, he used to tell me all these tales where he used to go round Mill Lane and all them big houses down the bottom of the town, singing, on a Sunday and Saturday night. And the end of the War, he actually led the whole town, did you know that? In the Park, you know the Recreation Ground, well the next, where the football ground is, they call that the Park for some reason, the bit with the wall round. And they had tanks there, and all sorts of things, and he stood up and led the whole town in singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. And he could sing. And he was a bellringer as well. And, yes he was a great character. He did ‘Down your Way’, what was it, Richard [???], he did ‘Down your Way’. That came from Chipping Hill forge once. Oh, the times that was photographed, makes me cross when I pick up jugs and things and I see them where they’ve put the forge in the penthouse, where they shoe the horses and things like that. But I nearly cried, I was in Korea, I got called up, and I went for my, medical in Ipswich, and they said to me, we want you to go in the Horseguards. So, I’m only five foot six and a half, I said ‘Me in the Guards, I says your joking’. So he said ‘No I’m not, he said, we’re desperate for farriers’. So I said ‘Where will I be stationed’. They said ‘London’. I said ‘That’s too far from home.’ [laugh]. I finished up in Korea. They got their own back on me [laugh]. Ah, I’d probably have had a different life altogether if I’d have done that, they were going to send me on a veterinary course, learn about anatomy and that to start with, and be stationed, he said ‘You never do any parades or anything, you’re to small’. But it didn’t happen. I, young and stupid.

Q:    So you didn’t be a farrier at all?

Mr M:    I didn’t take them up. No. I went in as an engineer, yes. But, I’d really had enough of horses, because at that time they were so old and chinky backed, we called them, where they’d got old and, you know, there was such a, I mean Cooper Taber the seed people had a horse, a pair of horses I think, and they used to leave them ten months, well the foot would be two, three inches, it was cruel really, you could have sawed three inches off with a handsaw, and they were so hard, their feet, you know, where they’d been turned out in the summer in the dry fields and that. Break your heart trying to cut their feet down with a hammer, you had like a toe[?] knife, which is really made out of an old file, and you sharpen the edge up and you hit that with a hammer, it’s as crude as that. I mean now they’ve got all fancy clippers and things, but I mean we used to, you’d hack them down the side and hack a lump off, I mean, God, you could burn it as wood, it was so hard.

Q:    How often would you normally …?

Mr M:    Well, a mill[?] pony’d be done every ten days, but you put the nails back in the same holes, anything like that, you know, cause the foot’d be riddled with holes if you tried to … but they, I mean six to eight weeks for ordinary horse. But they’d go the, you know ten months at a time, it’s cruel on the horse, cause it makes them walk wrong. It was a had time for horse then, you know, cause they were all dying out and nobody was breeding any new ones. And the riding schools, there were some riding schools, June Osborne had a riding school, and there were some at Totham, Tiptree, forgotten the name now.

Q:    Do you think there’s, has it got better since?

Mr M:    Oh, there’s a lot more farriers. They say there’s more horses now than there ever was, I, on the television the other night, they said there’s more horses in England than there was in, you know, in the turn of the century. But whether that’s true or not I don’t know. But there’s two and a half thousand, there’s a thing called the farriers registration, and you have to be a registered farrier to shoe a horse now, and there’s two and a half thousand I think in part one, and there’s four parts to the register. See, I could grandfather[?] rights, if I wanted, I didn’t register though, because I didn’t, well one I didn’t want to, and two I didn’t believe in paying to practise what I was brought up to do, you know. That went against the grain a bit.
So when I started up in my own business, I gave horses up. And they were, you know, I hadn’t got any money, I started with twenty-one pounds, one week’s wages, and I thought well horse owners are notorious, you know, ‘I’ll pay you next month my good man’, and I couldn’t afford that, I had two young kids to keep.

Q:    Cause, did Mr Quy run all that business side of it?

Mr M:    Yes, his father was there before him, he was born there Frank was.

Q:    I mean, like, getting the money in and things like that?

Mr M:    Yes, yes. He used to deal with, that was a forbidden subject to talk about money. Oh that wasn’t, he was very Victorian he was. I used to go round on a twenty-eight inch wheel, delivering the bills, and Cooper Taber’s burnt down, I don’t know, the big seed factory. [in 1953]. And the people opposite that were Stoffer’s, the chemist, why we used to deliver a bill to Stoffer’s I can’t imagine, but I did, and I was delivering the bills one day on a bike, and, when that caught fire, and I remember standing watching it, and there was a huge wooden building, and I knew about it, cause me and Henry used to go in there and work, cause we used to repair all the lifting chains, and all on the front of the warehouses, they had a pair of doors open, and one dropped down, so they pulled the sacks up, and then pull them in and rest on the one that dropped down. And we used to have lunch in there and all sorts, we knew all the people there, Peacock, there used to be a bloke called Peacock used to be in there, lived in the Avenue. And this caught fire, well the seed, I mean, that burnt for three weeks, and they, all the tiles, I mean it was like a huge warehouse, five stories high, and the tiles lifted up like fishes’ fins, and of course they’d let the pressure, I know what it is now, it’s gas, and all of, the gas’d escape and the tiles’d settle again, and then ‘Bang!’, a window’d blow out somewhere, and oh that smelt for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks around the town, the burning barley and seed. They had some fantastic machines in there. They had a German machine for sorting peas, and that used to, because a pea had a hole in it, like a little black spot, there was all needles, and the needle’d find the hole, and flick it out, like, what do you call the thing that played music? Music box, like gigantic ones of that. And these drums with these needles on, and as the peas went through they used flick all the bad ones out, so simple but it worked.

Q:    I can remember talking to people who sorted them on the kitchen table.

Mr M:    Yes, yes. Well we still, I still do. There was a tale, am I telling you the right things?

Q:    Yes, go for it.

Mr M:    There was a bloke on the Chipping Hill, there was three houses where Henry lived as a boy up on there, the Horsenells lived in the middle one, and the far end the people called Scarlett, Will Scarlett lived. And he was, worked for Adams and Mortimers as an odd job man. Well he was more than an odd job man, he used to do all the odd jobs in Chipping Hill, used to push old Hutley to the Constitutional Club in his wheelchair, he used to sweep chimneys, he done everything. And we had to laugh when we were kids, he got the ‘flu, and rather than not do anything, he got his wife to bring in runner beans to the bed, so he could shell[?] these runner beans while he had the flu in bed. [laugh] And, he was a great big raw-boned tall bloke, not an ounce of flesh on him, and gaunt, and he’s always got this soot engrimed in him. And they had a real mad bull down at Blakes, and it got out one day, and it came up over the little water bridge, and Scarlett was coming down the hill, facing it, and this bull was in full flight over, up the middle of the road. I don’t know how, anybody else would have duck, he took his hat off, which was unheard of, you know, his hat was glued to his head. And he threw his arms up, and he wasn’t a very pretty bloke, and he ‘Ahhhh’ you know, and it frightened this bull to pieces, and it stopped dead. And we were kids all hiding behind the wall, and that turned round, and the bridge has got some pipe rails come up, and it jumped over these rails to get in with some heifers, and I remember its leg getting caught, and bending the two inch pipe and pulling it out of the socket, and that fell to the ground about ten foot or whatever the drop is, sort of lay there winded a minute, I mean you imagine, a bull weighing three quarters of a ton, and young lad Blackie, we called him, the boy on the farm the farmer’s son, he came up, and I can see him now, he put his little finger through the nose ring and led him home [laugh]. He was a bit tamer when he’d fell off the top that bridge.

Q:    Which bridge was that, sorry?

Mr M:    That’s the little water bridge, that goes over Chipping Hill, where it’s one way, down the bottom of Chipping Hill, the little water bridge.

Q:    I think I can remember Mr Scarlett, just.

Mr M:    Have you lived in Witham all your life then?

Q:    Thirty, thirty two years. They used to have some chickens in Chalks Road I think.

Mr M:    Yes. That’s right, he was tied up with Mrs …

Q:    The people at Dean House?

Mr M:    Yes, I can’t remember her name, she was going out with a bloke who was, Jim Askew, he was a guardsman, he carried the King’s coffin. Did you know that? You know when you go out of Witham, the Cherry Tree pub on the left hand side, you go a little further, and on the right hand side stand back, there were some, two farm cottages built with mansard roofs, like that, makes you feel old when you think, I can remember them being built, and I can remember them being restored. Well they built another pair near. Well he lived there, Jim Askew, he was a great big tall bloke, and he carried the Kings’, when the King died, when I worked at Henry’s, he carried his coffin. Well one of them, he was one of the six guardsmen that carried … Mrs., no I can’t remember her name now. She had a chicken farm just round Chalks Road. Not Gage. Gone.

Q:    What did you used to do in your spare time?

Mr M:    Me? Bicycling. Used to bike, yes. We used to make our own bikes, Dad[?} used to build bikes, he was son[?] of a prisoner of war. And I used to bike, and then I got real keen, and used to bike to Yarmouth, and Hertfordshire, all round, then got into the racing, not racing actually racing bike, but got into the club and helped run the races, and go all over the place. I used to bike to, I had a spot marked in the road, this side of [???], was twenty-five miles from Witham Post Office. And biked down there and turn round the spot and bike back again, fifty miles a night. Every night. I used to go Braintree, Halstead, Kelvedon, and if I’d got time across to Tiptree, round to Maldon, and home. Every single night, out somewhere.

Q:    I’m surprised you had the energy really?

Mr M:    Well, you’d do hundred, two hundred miles on a Sunday would a cyclist. Chelmer cycling club, used to meet in Springfield Road, they used to have their little café there.

Q:    Was that before you were married then?

Mr M:    Oh yes. I got bad knees in the end and I had to give it up. Still got bad knees. Still paying for the carthorses.

Q:    Is that a blacksmith’s …?

Mr M:    Well that’s the complaint, bad back and knees, cause they’re so heavy, they lean on you, you know, cause they weighed so much, I mean so much pressure on them, I was still growing wasn’t I. Really it was a form of torture in a way.

Q:    So you worked Saturdays there as well?

Mr M:    Oh yes, Saturday mornings till twelve, yes. And then that was off with a gun and the ferrets, ferreting for the afternoon. [laugh] With Henry if he’d take me. He’d only take me if I was especially good though. He was a hard master. He used to, to start with he’d always have beer at, go across at half past ten and have a pint of beer or two pints, unheard of today.

Q:    What, at half past ten?

Mr M:    Yes, in the morning. Every single day. Walk across to the (Q: White Horse would it be?) Oh it’s Greene King, erm, White Horse, yes. They had a television in there in the War. Well it wasn’t working, but they used to have it in the saloon bar. We’d stand there as kids looking through the window and hoping that was going to light up. Big console model with a nine inch screen. Hours and hours we stood looking at that. Blank screen. But crisps, when we were kids, I remember they used to come in every other Tuesday evening. A van’d come round delivering square tinful of Smith’s crisps. And they were rationed. You could only, they’d only let you have one or two packets. And cor, the kids’d all be there waiting, they knew to the minute when the lorry was going to come and have a packet of Smith’s crisps, that was such a treat. Threepence they were.

Q:    So Moat farm, is obviously pulled down now. But you moved out before then?

Mr M:    Before. Yes, My mum, I left my mum there, yes. But they wouldn’t do anything to it. They wouldn’t spend any money on it. But it was a house like this. Lovely old houses.

Three people lived in it, Buggs[?], us and a woman called Snowdon with a wooden leg. She had a proper straight, peg leg, type thing. But I mean it was a great big house inside. I mean we had rooms we never used. I mean, our bedroom, we had a bedroom up the top of the stairs, mum and dad slept, there was a long passage at the back at the back of the house, and there was a door half way along the passage, and my dad was very strict, cause he didn’t own the house, he wouldn’t open the door to find out what was behind it. And we slept in a room at the far end, and that had two beds in, that was big enough to have three quarter bed and a single bed, wardrobe, dressing table, washing stand, chairs, it was a big room. And anyway, when I got married, these great big rooms, I mean we never used half the house. And, even with four boys. We had an air raid shelter in one of the rooms in the War. But anyway, it was sold, Ebenezer [actually Esmond] Smith, he died on the operating theatre table, he had a spur on his heel, and during the operation he didn’t come round, and he lived, the house has gone now, it was down at the end of Avenue Road, where you turn up to Hugh Baird’s, all them new houses there [Janmead] was one house, and he lived in there. And so they sold up the farm and what have you, and this bloke Nicholls bought the house and the farm opposite, what is now Moat farm, that was a barn, a bloke called Jimmy Fitch actually made that, and he worked there for two or three years, just building the house.

Q:    So that was new, the one that was a barn?

Mr M:    Yes, they put asphalt floors in, we’d never seen asphalt floors, that was all the rage then, this machine come. He made the furniture out of the boards, out of the pig styes and the cattle thing, and they were like sixteen, eighteen foot boards, two foot wide, he made a table out of two boards, oh, magnificent it was. Because the rooms were huge, being a barn, and it, like had kennels in there. Anyway, to get back to the house, he opened this room up in between the two bedrooms, and in it was a four poster bed. And all our years as kids we’d slept two to a bed, and then in the middle there was a four poster bed going spare. [laugh] There was another bedroom. But he was so honest my dad, he wouldn’t .. You’d have thought he’d ask, wouldn’t you.

Q:    The furniture was …?

Mr M:    No, the furniture, we had our own furniture, but that was just boarded, there was no knob on the door, it was just like a blank door.

Q:    So how old were you about when it came down? [Moat farm]

Mr M:    I don’t, I think I must have, I don’t know whether I was in the army or whether I was married I reckon when they pulled it down. I moved to Heybridge, then I moved up near Doe’s, past Doe’s, then I’ve moved back, I’ve always lived on this road all my married life sort of thing.

Q:    I’ve brought the pictures that you spoke about so that you can show me the bit you lived in.

Mr M:    That’s the back of Moat farm, and that’s the back room we called it where we had, that’s our bedroom, window there, and that’s the pantry window, and the pantry was like, that little one was the pantry, it was a walk in pantry, easy from here to the wall, but it was so high I had to stand on the bottom shelf which was three foot off the ground, to reach to top one. And it was that tall. It was huge. And stairs went up. But this room here was a great big room that the Buggs had, and they had a grand piano in that, that was like a ballroom. And the Buggs had the middle of the house, and, but at the end of the house was a great big wash house, which was enormous, and we would get in there when we were kids, it had great big coppers in there and, but over the other side, here, this is our, where my dad used to have the shed, that’s not quite right, but that’s an artist’s impression that is, that was the dairy, well in that, see the chimney, we had a copper and we also, beside the copper was a cast iron fireplace, and when I was courting my wife, I used to get the fire going in there and I used to saw logs up by hand, and she used to make jam and all that, so when we got married, we had the first year’s provisions all put away, and that was all done in that little place.

And the place that fell down is this one here, and there’s the blacksmith’s up there, look. This building here. That [???], there was actually a lean to on that, a lean to came out. This window here faced the road, we had a board across, and we used to keep white mice in it, and as the kids used to go up and down the Chase, we used to have little things for playing in the window, the mice used to live in the window [laugh]. In that place there, yes. There’s the wash house and the bit on the side. We had flush toilets down below, they were down here, down in the, that’s actually a little further away.

Q:    They were attached to the house, were they?

Mr M:    No, they were right down the garden, like a little block, like a little block of three toilets. It was cold, go down there a hundred yards to the toilet. There’s the ford I was saying to you about [bottom of Moat Farm chase].

Q:    Was that like that when you were there then?

Mr M:    Oh yes, we used to fish here. It was very shallow there. And then that’s where they put a pipe down here for Crittall’s, right down the side of that Chase, there’s a manhole thing in that Chase, and if you look, there’s a bit there where this two foot pipe comes out, when we were kids we used to get board on roller bearings, and go up that pipe, right up to Crittall’s, in the pipe, my dad used to go mad. In the pipe. (Q: Inside the pipe?) Inside the pipe. He said ‘If I catch you doing it’, and he did, he actually thrashed me one day, he caught me in there, and he did, he give me a real good hiding. (Q: How big was it then?) About two foot, two foot six I suppose, it’s still there. (Q: And it had water in?) Well, only when it flooded, it used to take all the roof water off Crittall’s, cause the buildings were so big, the roof water, I mean that’s tremendous, isn’t it, on a big factory, you must know, and of course they had to get rid of it, and I remember them building a, during the War, building a, that came down White Horse Lane, and they were all winter just coming down White Horse Lane, and across, and they had a night watchman, we used to go and sit round his fire at night.

Q:    That was when they were putting it in?

Mr M:    When they were putting it in, yes, they were a whole winter doing it, and had the Chase up and all down there. I nearly killed my wife when we were courting. This goes up, right up to Highfields, well there was no houses there then, and just over the bridge, there’s one go that way and the Chase goes straight up. And I had an old 1935 BSA, and I was teaching her to ride it, and we were going up the fields one summer’s day, and I said ‘No, let me show you’, and I jumped on the front and she was on the back, and that was a time when girls wore these skirts with about sixteen yards of material. And we came down the middle of this field, about sixty or seventy miles an hour, and her skirt’s over, you know, upwards, and I hit this rut this side of the bridge, and I went to change gear, and they had a lever on the gear box, and cause of the rut, the lever went and out jumped the clutch cable. So I had no clutch. I goes into this bridge, doing about sixty miles an hour, on this gravel, with a rigid 1935 B.., well we hit this wall, Smack, sideways, and right the way up the side of it. And just here where the slope is, that thing went down on it and I picked up, my dad was standing near that shed, and I went by him, and I was kicking the gears for all I was worth down, no clutch, you know, just kicking it down to slow it up, cause you daren’t brake on gravel, you’d be down in an instant. And I managed to stop at the top of the lane near the blacksmith’s. Gor, did he tell me off, anyway we went back and had a look at bridge, and that had cut my shoelaces off, that, and pinned the little bits of lace on the brick wall, and the sole was on the top, so it bent the sole over like that. And I had to get married in them next morning. [laugh]. I was soaking this shoe trying to straighten in out, it was the only pair of good shoes I had. Gor, my dad did tell me off, he said ‘You can kill yourself but you’re not killing that young helpless girl’ [laugh] She’s still here today. Yes that could be me on that bridge, hanging over there.

Q:    Was she a Witham girl, your wife a Witham girl?

Mr M:    No, she’s Irish. Come from Wexford in Ireland.

Q:    Where did you meet?

Mr M:    Met her in Chelmsford, yes, she lived opposite my brother’s, where my brother’s wife lived, they lived opposite and I got to know her.

Mr M:    It’s a pity they pulled, it was such a nice house. Why they pulled it down I don’t know, it wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t derelict or nothing. Sad in a way. That window there was our kitchen. And that was my mum’s bedroom. And we had a dog called Ruffy, and these are flint walls along there and this side, with red bricks along, and there’s, that, there’s a building, a long low building along there, with pantiles, and he used to climb the walls on the flints, he’d hit them, and scrabble up like a cat, then run across these tiles, and it’d be like a machine gun [Rrrrrr] chasing the cat. But all the kids loved Ruffy, and the kids’s come home, cause they all come home this way from the Church School and that, through Blyth’s meadow, and there’d be droves of kids come up this lane, and there’d be about twenty odd kids, they’d say ‘Hello Ruffy’, and they’d turn and set the dog on another group of kids, and the dog’d go, and he’d get right up to them and he’d wag his tail, then they in turn would send him back, and this used to go on every day. Well when I left, got married, there was a dog, this day it went mad, and it attacked Ruffy and tore his throat open. He had sixty-four stitches, but this time my mum was a widow, and all the kids collected and paid for the vets’s bill for the dog, they thought so much of it. My brother used to ride round with it on a trolley behind his bike. But he was a great character, we all had motorbikes and sidecars, and we’d all come down this lane at night when we come home from work every time. And he’d walk right up to the station bridge, for a ride home on the motor bike. Where the railway bridge is. And then he’d, we’d come home, he’d sit on the tank, anywhere, he didn’t care. He’d ride on the cross bar of a bicycle with is feet on the handlebars. Fantastic dog. And, when we moved, he wouldn’t stop down, she got put in an old folk’s home, he wouldn’t stop there, he kept going back, in the end, oh, he’s got a son, lives in the Avenue, Aga Khan they used to call him, Khan, he’s a bloke come to Witham, he took him under his wing and kept him. But that’s quite funny, we was working in the Chipping Hill blacksmith’s one Saturday morning, and this Khan bought an Alsation, supposed to have come from German police dog or something. And he’s paid a lot of money for it. And it was supposed to do anything he told it. And Ruffy could tell the time, I mean he knew to a minute where to be to meet anybody. And five to twelve, he’d walk up the lane and wait for me to leave off at twelve o’clock, and he’d look left and right and cross the road and wait outside the blacksmith’s and then come home with me. Well this Khan’d be standing with this Alsation, trying to show Henry how obedient it was. And that wouldn’t do anything he told it. So Ruffy strolls up that lane about five to twelve, walks across the road, sees this other dog, thought ‘I’m having nothing’, hops up and sits on the windowsill, which is, like a cat. Arnold Khan, Arnold Khan, that was his name, he packed his dog off and went off, but he thought so much of that dog he had him in the end, they told me, looked after him till he died. He was a character he was.

Q:    Can you tell us a bit more about, going back a bit to your paper round, then?

Mr M:    Well yes, we, I can remember certain things like, we used to have to go and get the papers off the train, that came from London, and we had an old pram, to get the papers, and we used to go up sometimes, quarter past four in the morning, six, quarter, half past five, and wait for it, sometimes the train never come, during the War, if they’d been bombed. Course, we didn’t know it, as kids, they never told you anything. And we sit dangling our legs over the side of the platform, we’d be there till twelve o’clock sometimes for the papers, and some days they never turned up at all. And we always used to collect the papers in an old pram, old pushchair-type pram, wheel it down to the little lockup shop, it wasn’t a proper shop, it was a shop, but we used to sort the papers out in there and then just lock it up when we’d finished. Yes.

Q:    Did you go, you did the whole of Witham?

Mr M:    Well, we did up as far, yes, right up as far as Hatfield Road, Church Street, Cressing Road. They made up the rounds, you know, so one go off and do Braintree Road and Albert Road, the Avenue and Avenue Road, up to Pelly’s Lodge [Witham Lodge]. There weren’t many houses up there then. I mean there weren’t.

Q:    Was this when you were at school still?

Mr M:    Still at school, yes.

Q:    How did you fit that in with going to school?

Mr M:    Well, we used to have to get up early, didn’t you. I got into trouble over it, I never forgave the bloke, I was actually quite ill, and I think had bronchitis or something, and this Jack[?], I didn’t know him from Adam, he was one of what we called the town boys, he told the [???] master that I was delivering papers. Anyway they hauled me up in front of them and said ‘You’ve got to give it up’, and I had to give it up for a while till I was a bit older. Cause you weren’t, you know all these rules started to come in, how you’ve got to be fourteen and all that. But I mean I’d worked, I can never remember not working, you know, as soon as you could walk, you worked. But he got, I don’t know why he did it, I don’t know, I never knew the lad even.

Q:    You had to take the money as well, did you?

Mr M:    Take the money, yes. We used to deliver to Sawdy, I think his name was, the headmaster of the school, the one up Spinks Lane. (Q: Bramston). Well it wasn’t Bramston then, it was … (Q: I know what you mean, the Secondary School.) Yes, it was just one block then, and then they kept building on it. Sniffer Sawdy we used to call him, he used to sniff all the time, and he lived in Avenue Road, and one house away lived the Geography master, French, Mr French, and he was a nice bloke, and Jeavons[?] down the Avenue. And you knew what people’d pay you, they’d always give you half a crown if the papers were two and threepence, so you always had a threepenny bit, the old threepenny joey, ready. And Mrs Jiggins, her husband was the police sergeant. I always knew she’d give me threepence for myself. So you always made sure she had a threepenny bit in the change. And, I used to get, go round, and people like the headmaster, he’d pay you with a pound, they’d have the Telegraph and the Financial Times or something like that, so their papers’d be quite, they’d be two and nine or something, and I’d have the change, and of course they had ten bob notes in them days, and pounds, didn’t they. And I always had the right change. Anyway, got the better of him one day, and he says, ‘Look, Miller’ he said, cause he knew me from school, he said ‘How come you struggle at school so much, and yet when you come here you’ve always got the right …’ I was in the top class at school, but it was a struggle. [???] ‘How come you’ve always got the right change?’ And I laughed. And he said ‘But you, every time’, he said ‘I can’t catch you out’, he said ‘whatever I give you, you’ve got the right change’. So I showed him, I had change for ten bob in one hand, and change for a pound in the other one, and whichever he gave me I had the change [laugh]. And so, fooled the old headmaster.

Q:    So you went to school there for a bit as well then?

Mr M:    Yes, four years, I did there, yes.

Q:    You didn’t like that either, then?

Mr M:    Not very much. I don’t know why we were so hard up as kids, but I mean, I never seemed to be so well dressed as the rest of the kids.

Q:    Really?

Mr M:    We always worked, all of us, I don’t know where the money went. Cause, well, we weren’t, my family never drunk, or, my mum smoked, but we never had drink in the house at all, or anything like that.

Q:    But you felt you weren’t as well, you say you weren’t as well dressed as the others, then?

Mr M:    Well, never seemed to be, but I don’t know. My mum was deaf. And of course she struggled to get on in the world, I mean she was in a different world really, to us, she was completely deaf, from when she was a teenager. And I suppose, things didn’t, she lived, as you say, in a different world. I mean she watched the television, and she put a complete story to herself, you know, what the film would be about, and, you’d try and tell her things …

Q:    Could she lip read or anything?

Mr M:    Yes, ever so well. And I know what I was going to tell you, about the window. Back in them days, because my  mum was deaf, we had these walls, and we had this dog Ruffy, and we had an old cat as well, given to us by Sainty, have you heard of Sainty the wireless doctor? (Q: Yes, yes.) He lived down Braintree Road. Well, he gave me a cat for Christmas in 1940, I had a cat for my Christmas present, and my mum, cause she was deaf, she couldn’t pronounce, and she always called him Nillercat[?]. She had seven, five or seven, all patches, black and ginger and white, and I reckon she must have been mother to half the cats in Witham. And she lived till she was twenty, till I knew Maureen.

And she was still having kittens, and poor old thing, she was in this shed here one night, sat up all night with her, she had one kitten dead, I know it broke my heart. Anyway, the cat’d want to come indoors, so the dog used to jump up on that wall, run along, stand on that windowsill, when we were kids, and block the light out the window. My mum, go and open the door, the cat’d walk in, dog didn’t want to come in the door. How did they know she was deaf? Incredible.

Q:    She did well then, didn’t she, to get on as well as she did.

Mr M:    Yes. But it was a big handicap when you’re kids, cause you know, help, she couldn’t help with homework, cause she couldn’t read or write or anything, and, you know, dad was away, cause he travelled with his job all the time. So really, we roamed all them fields, Highfields, where they dump, and all them, I knew every inch of it as kids.