Mrs Brown and Mrs Springett were both born in about 1895, and were interviewed on 17 and 24 January 1977, when they lived at 13 and 9 Rex Mott Court, Witham.
For more information about Mrs Brown, see the the notes in the people category headed Brown, Mrs Edie, nee Hawkes.
For more information about Mrs Springett, see the the notes in the people category headed Springett, Mrs Grace, nee Bishop.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.]
Q: You were living in Feering?
Mrs S: Yes, well, Kelvedon, more, yes.
Q: So when did you leave school?
Mrs S: Fourteen, then I went into service at Inworth Hall, you know, the house they called it, it was their country house, I went there as a housemaid, well sort of, like, you know, well they were only down there at weekends, so I had to do all the clearing up and that with the caretaker and I suppose I was up there two years, only got two shillings a week, ‘cause I had to live at home, sleep at home, (Q: I was going to say did you go home?) yes, I had to go home and then I got four shillings a week when they were down for the weekends, see, I had to work a little bit harder! [Laugh]
Q: How did you used to get there every day?
Mrs S: Oh, I had a bicycle, but when I hadn’t got one my mum used to lend me hers.
Q: So what sort of jobs did you have to do?
Mrs S: Well, cleaning up really, you know, like spring cleaning nearly all the time really, that was a fairly big house and they were all old maids, bar the old lady of course, then she died. They always used to call me baby face. [Laugh]
Q: Were they Cullens as well?
Mrs S: No, they were Lawrences[?], Miss Lawrences, yes, I think that’s changed into a children’s home now, or something, it’s right up on the hill.
Q: Where did they live in the week?
Mrs S: In London, Belsize Avenue, I went up for a fortnight to relieve the under housemaid up there and the other housemaid said ‘Do you like being up there?’ I said ‘No, I don’t.’ I said, ‘I want to go home!’ [Laugh]
[Mumbling and laughter]
Q: Had you been to London before?
Mrs S: No, it was me first, oh when I was a child I did with me aunt, but, course that’s all different. Then we were going up the underground and, the kitchen maid it was then, and, course I was ever so strange, you know, she was used to it and I was walking along, minding my own business I expect, when I got hold of somebody’s arm and I thought, I was talking away to her, this person thinking it was me friend and of course I had to apologise then, ‘That’s all right.’ She said, ‘s’all right.’ [Laugh]
Q: Did you have different jobs in London?
Mrs S: Well, I was kitchen maid up there, and that was great big old stove, you know, there was the cook, there was another kitchen maid and I was the under one ‘cause I was the youngest, I wasn’t about sixteen I expect, when I was up there then, then I left and, where did I go to?, I think I must have come to Witham at Cullen’s, Mr Cullen’s.
Q: How old were you then?
Mrs S: Must be about eighteen.
Q: When were you born actually?
Mrs S: In April. (Q: What year were you born?) Oh, 1895. (Q: Long ago, wasn’t it?) Eighty-two years ago, come April. I lived in Feering itself then.
Q: So you were telling me about coming to Cullen’s. (Mrs S: Oh, yes.) Why did you change, do you know? Why did you move?
Mrs S: Well, ‘cause I wanted to better meself a little bit so I got more money then.
Q: What did you get then?
Mrs S: Only twelve shillings a month. [Laugh] (Q: A month?) Yes, that’s all I got at me last place, went to Feering again then to Mrs Hunts, after I left there.
Q: What did you have to do at the Cullens?
Mrs S: Well, I went as housemaid and finished up as a cook. (Q: At Cullen’s, in two years did you say that was?) Yes, I’d been there about two years, course the cook was away one day when she said ‘Will you cook the dinner?’ and I said ‘I can’t cook the dinner!’ You know! [Laugh] ‘Oh, yes you can,’ she said ‘ you done it last Sunday and everybody enjoyed it.’ So, then the cook, she left, a few weeks after, and I took her job over you see, ’Course,’ she said ‘you can cook.’ and course they used to help me a little bit, Miss [Maud[?] Cullen did and I think some of them are still about now, the Cullen’s. (Q: Yes, I’ve heard of the name.) Course they’d be younger, you know, they’d be their grandsons or….there’s none of the old Cullen’s left. (Q: I wondered about that.) No, they’re all gone.
Q: Who was in the Cullen family at that time?
Mrs S: There’s Frank, Tom, Walter I think, Maud, Ella, Ella married a Mr Fairweather, I don’t know if they’re still about but I don’t suppose they are. (Q: So they were the younger?) They were the younger Cullen’s, yes. (Q: Were their parents …?) They died years ago.
Q: Were they living there when you …?
Mrs S: When I left, yes, they were both there then.
Q: So was that the same Cullens as had the seed …
Mrs S: Yes, the same people, yes.
Q: What was the house there at Bramstons like? [16 Chipping Hill]
Mrs S: Well, (Q: It was quite big isn’t it?) yes, there was a dining room, lounge, front room like, then there was another room and then there was a fairly big hall, then there was what they called the gunroom where they kept the guns, they used to go shooting a lot, you know, the sons did, then there was a kitchen, and this big old scullery.
Q: What was in the scullery?
Mrs S: Great old slab, sink, not like sinks we have today, they were all concrete sort of things, cold.
Q: So what did you have to do about washing the clothes?
Mrs S: No, the daughters done the clothing.
Q: Did they did do some things for themselves?
Mrs S: Oh, yes, yes, they done the washing, they done all the mending and turning out cupboards, cupboards, the laundry cupboard.
Q: So how many servants would there be altogether?
Mrs S: There was only two of us. (Q: Cook and the housemaid?) Cook and housemaid, yes. Housemaid do upstairs, you know, cook does downstairs, well, I had to do some of the downstairs as well, the dining room.
Q: In those days everybody knew what the job, if you said housemaid, people would know what you did?
Mrs S: Yes, in London you see there were, I think there were seven servants, the parlour maid and the under parlour maid, upper house maid and the under house maid, you see, and then there was the cook and two kitchen maids. [Laugh] Then sometimes there was a another family come, you see, and there was a nurse for the children. That big house opposite [35 Chipping Hill, Barnardiston House], the Cullens then, well, what was that called? Bibolini’s used to live there then, but I think their friends used to come and stay there, I don’t know Mr Bibolini, I forget now, it’s been so many years ago, you lose, you know …. (Q: Quite, yes.) Yes.
Q: Oh I’ve heard of them, I thought that was a funny name for Witham. Were they from overseas, Bibolini or was it just ….?
Mrs S: I think it was an Italian name, I think. (Q: It sounds like it , doesn’t it?) We didn’t know them, you know, ‘cause we were, we’d just go out one, one half day a week, and the evening.
Q: What did you used to do when you had your half day?
Mrs S: Used to go home, bike home, to Kelvedon. (Q: Did you?) Yes. (Q: On your bike?) Yes.
Q: But you wouldn’t go home ….?
Mrs S: That’s where I met my husband, there, he was painting upstairs, old gypsy woman come to the door, she said ‘That’s the man you’re going to marry.’ I said ‘What,’ I said ‘no, not him.’ [Laugh] She said ‘That’s the one you’ll marry,’ she said ‘and you’ll go so many years and have a son, you’ll go so many years and have a daughter.’ She crossed me hand with sixpence and that’s true, I had him. [Laugh]
Q: He was painting, was that a ….?
Mrs S: He was painting the Cullens’ house. (Q: Oh, I see.) Oh, he kept winking at me, you know! [Laugh] I didn’t take much notice.
Q: Were there a lot of gypsies and people like that, in those days, were there more then?
Mrs S: They used to come round selling pegs and that, you know. (Q: Where did they ….?) Also, she said ‘You got a photo?’ ‘Somebody,’ I says, ‘a young man, yes I got a photo of a young man.’ ‘Cause I got a young man [???] ‘No,’ she said ‘it’s not him.’ [Laugh] I remember her saying that, you know.
Q: Where did the young man come from that you had then?
Mrs S: [Mumbling and laughter ???]
Q: Amazing how people meet their husbands, because different people still meet casual like that these days wouldn’t they, but on the other hand people [???].
Mrs S: No, I mean, I think we were more daring really, not the way some of ‘em are today, ‘cause some like to come round, down the road and whistle and round the gate and have a chat in the evening.
Q: What, when you weren’t working?
Mrs S: Yes, at night time. [Laugh] [???]he’d be there! [Laugh] He was a good husband.
Q: He was a Witham man, was he?
Mrs S: Yes.
Q: Did you meet him again or did he keep on after you?
Mrs S: Oh, he kept on. (Q: Did he?) Yes, he kept on.
Q: Even when you went back to Kelvedon, you say?
Mrs S: Oh, yes, he came home [???] deep snow and he got one of these lamps used to have carbon lamps didn’t they? (Q: Did they?) Yes, you had to fill them up with this carbide stuff or something and one night it’d been snowing when he got to the [???] at Kelvedon and he lost the little thing that’s the burner, he said a long time afterwards [???] walk the rest of the way home then.
Q: He was a painter, was his job painting, was it?
Mrs S: Yes, that was his job, he was with the firm, and of course, that changed hands and Dean was the first one he went to, then he was fifty[?] years on the same [???] Adams and Mortimer’s and then that changed over, that was Dean’s, and Adams and Mortimer took over, [???]. (Q: Adams and Mortimer built my house.) Did they? (Q: In Chalk Street. They’re well built too. I didn’t meet these Dean’s before though, that was the same firm was it?) That was years ago, he married a Miss Frost[actually Miss Rust], then there was Mr Lee, he used to be in the office, I don’t know if you know him. (Q: I’ve heard his name.) [???]
Q: So when did you get married in the end then?
Mrs S: 1920.
Q: And then you came to live in Witham?
Mrs S: Yes, I had to live with my brother for about three months, then I got one of Mr Dean’s houses, I was in there 55, 55 years, [???] how long have I been married, 1920, ‘77, that’s over 50 years.
Q: Where abouts was that house?
Mrs S: Up Church Street, right by the prefabs [???].
Q: So that was the one you were in all that time?
Mrs S: Yes, (Q: And that was one of his houses was it?) Yes, one of Mr Dean’s, well Keith, Mrs Brown’s son, bought three[?]. (Q: Yes, that was right.) I could have had it for £200, but of course, when they were going like that, I couldn’t afford, hadn’t got the money (Q: Of course.) hadn’t got the money in those days.
Q: Did you stop working when you got married?
Mrs S: Well, I went down to Miss Hunt’s, I left Miss Hunt you see to get married at Feering and then she, Miss Hunt had a house in, I think it was called Horwood House, that’s a bank now, I believe [59 Newland Street] And I went down there for a week or a fortnight to get the children, ‘cause that was the children’s home, and I just stopped about a fortnight. I got to get there at a certain time you see, for the breakfasts and that was too much.
Q: I’ve read about that I think, what sort of home was it, just orphans?
Mrs S: Just for the children, I think they were orphans, you know (Q: She ran it herself, did she?) yes, and I don’t know, but I think she went to Wickham or somewhere up that way afterwards, I had to give up at any rate. [??? still in Kelvedon now, [???], Miss Dorothy Hunt, my sister-in-law was with the Warrens at Feering, [???], I was there I suppose about two months, two years or more.
Q: So you’d be a good cook by the time you got married? That’s why your husband was so keen!? [Laugh] So you didn’t work any more after ….?
Mrs S: Well, I done the seeds for Mr Cullen at home. (Q: Oh, I see.) Yes, (Q: Tell me about that.) that was a long, long time ago now, you know, that was a long while after I got married when I had me children, then we had some great big sacks of peas standing this high, towards the end they were that high, you know, but used to sort them on the table in front of the window.
Q: So what did you have to do with them, what ….?
Mrs S: Take the bad ones from the good’ns, roll the good ones down your lap and into a bath. [Laugh] (Q: A bath?) Well, whatever you’d got there to put ‘em in, into a bath, yes, there were hundredweight bags of peas, (Q: So you ‘d pick them out would you?) Put them on the table, dining table, do that [???] (Q: Then what would you do with the bad ones?) They used to take them back for the pigs. (Q: Did they have a special room?) Yes, a shed for the bad ones. (Q: I suppose you got to do them quite quickly in the end?) Well, fairly quick, that was pocket money for ourselves and clothed the children, you see, that was several years after I married like.
Q: That’s interesting .
Mrs S: Used to go pea picking and that, me and Mrs Brown, used to bike all over the place. (Q: That was after you were married as well was it?) Yes, that was after she came back to Witham. I had the children small, one of them was in a pram and the other could walk like you know. (Q: So you took them with you?) Oh, yes, five o’clock in the morning, sometimes we walked to Notley. [Laugh] (Q: I was going to say, you couldn’t go on the bike when you had two little ones could you?) No, no.
Q: When did you have the children?
Mrs S: After a few years, 1924 and 1928.
Q: And you had them in Witham did you?
Mrs S: Yes.
Q: What did people used to do in those days, did you have them at home or go to …?
Mrs S: Home, yes, no doctor, just the nurse, from the bungalow, it isn’t a nursing home now is it? (Q: I heard about the bungalow.) Yes, but I was at home with both mine.
Q: I suppose that would be quite different then, looking after the children that long ago wouldn’t it?
Mrs S: Yes, course, when they got older I remember we used to take them out into the fields, they used to love it – pea picking.
Q: How did you used to hear about the pea picking?
Mrs S: Well, ‘cause there was quite a lot about then, you see, no houses, where those houses, where we used to live, there were all fields up there, no houses past ours, back of our houses. (Q: So there were peas there?) Mm (Q: Peas quite near you?) Yes, yes, over the back, we used to get up, one morning we thought we’d beat everyone to it and we got up at three and there was one man in the field, so we weren’t first starters[?].
Q: That was just off Church Street there was it?
Mrs S: The back of where we used to live, yes, ‘cause they were all fields, where you are now, just a farm [???][???]. (Q: Cocks farm, wasn’t it?) Yes, (Q: Mr Brown?) Yes, that’s right, yes. (Q: Yes, people told me about that, how nice it was. And they’d have peas there, it was quite handy wasn’t it?) Yes.
Q: How much did you used to get paid for it?
Mrs S: Ninepence a bag and they were big bags and course towards the end, later years, they were only small bags like this.
Q: What used to happen if you didn’t get there soon, as early as that, were you just ….?
Mrs S: Well, we had to pick all day, well, till they tied[?] us up, you see, one day, I was up at, past the Vic there [the Victoria, Powershall End], that’s where they’re building them big houses, all them houses now, [in front of?] the Vic, Three of us we got [???] 36 bags to tie, three of us, we all picked the same, Mrs Brown and me and Mrs [???], we all lived in the same yard, yes 36 bags between us, that’s only 12 shillings each then, so it wasn’t a lot of money, not like it is today [Laugh]. Mind you, that went a long way with us because, you know, things were cheaper.
Q: What sort of, that was in that field, where the new houses are building now, is it?
Mrs S: Yes, yes, round by the Vic.
Q: Yes, I know, ‘cause I mean, that’s just been grass (Mrs S: Yes.) lately hasn’t it?
Mrs S: Yes, yes, [???] building such a lot of houses up there haven’t they?
Q: So what did you used to spend your twelve shillings on, you used to keep that for yourself did you?
Mrs S: I spent it on the children, had to, clothes and all that, I mean, my husband’s money wasn’t very big. (Q: No.)
Q: So, was it, your house, the house was rented from Mr Dean all the time was it? (Mrs S: Yes.) Do you remember what the rent was?
Mrs S: When we first, rent was about five shillings, then it went to 5s 6d [like there was a?] new toilet[?] in, [???]
Q: Was the painting thought of as quite a good job?
Mrs S: Well, it was, I mean, (Q: Steady, I suppose?) he was there all these years. (Q: Yes, sort of steady job that, I suppose you wouldn’t get all that [pause] much work ….. were there, I suppose, were there people still in Witham in those days really sort of thought of as ladies and gentlemen, do you know, sort of take your hat off to sort of thing or not having …. (Mrs S: Coughing and apologises for ‘Sorry, talking too much.’)
[several seconds silence]
Q: I think, I haven’t got a photo of, that photo of Trafalgar Square, you remember I said (Mrs B: Oh, yes.) I haven’t, I hope I’ll get that this week, from my friend, so I’ll pop back again next week, perhaps, and show you that.
Mrs B: Yea, I haven’t seen a photo of it, not meself.
Q: Well, this chap said he’d got one, but he’s coming round in the week with it, (Mrs B: Yea.) I don’t know why, you know, what they took it for or anything, because ….
Mrs B: Well, they used to take old places didn’t they so, that was very old, you know?
Q: Was it?
Mrs B: We lived there all my childhood days was spent there, we was born there, you know, and me brothers and that grew up, they all grew up ….
Q: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
Mrs B: I had, there was em, nine or ten of us (Q: Was there really?) There was George, Ted, John, (Mrs S: Alice.), Alice, Emily, Esmond, Lill, (Mrs S: Fred.), Yea, Fred and Ernie, oh, there was … I think mum had about thirteen, I think she lost two, they’re all dead there’s only me and my sister at Ilford alive now. (Mrs S: No, it isn’t, Esmond’s still alive.) Edmund, yes, oh, I always forget me youngest brother, he’s 72. (Q: Laugh, Oh, yes, the youngest one!) Em, he lives at Brightlingsea. He was on the railway from when he left school, he went into signal box.
Q: So what was your name before you married?
Mrs B: Hawkes.
Q: Hawkes. Actually, did I ask you what was your name before ….?
Mrs S: Bishop.
Q: Bishop, oh, I didn’t ask you that did I? So what year were you born then.
Mrs B: I was born down Trafalgar Square.
Q: What year?
Mrs B: Oh, I’m 81 (Q: How old are you? 81) [Laugh] I was 81 Christmas, December (Q: Yes.) and my sister at Ilford is em, just two years older and a month only hers is the 8th January, (Q: Oh, really?) She was, she’d be 79 January, then I had a younger sister I lost, she was about 3½ years younger than me, like me mother must have one in the January and the year, about a year and five months after she had another one, (Q: Yea.) and I remember her saying she lost one with convulsions, teething, you know, one daughter, Alice her name was and I’ve got a sister Alice live at Ilford, she was named after her, (Q: Yea.) they did that them days named, you know, ‘cause I named my daughter after meself, you know, my daughter I got, her name’s the same as mine, I had a brother kept the blacksmith’s at Witham. (Q: Really?) Down near The Crotchet that used to be, ‘cause they turned, the brewery bought it and they turned that into a, the forge, into a (Q: Oh, I know, it’s a pub isn’t it, yea?) yea, I went in once, my son when I come from Nottingham, ‘cause I got a son up there, I bin up there for a holiday and we got to Witham just before two and his father-in-law wanted to go into The Crotchet ‘cause he’s got friends there and he said then you can see your brother’s forge and I went in, the only time I’ve ever seen it.
Q: Did he go there from school or what? (Mrs B: Where?) . Your brother, did he go straight away to the blacksmiths when he left school – your brother?
Mrs B: Yes, I remember my mother said he got 1/6d a week, he worked for a Mr Brockes, they used to live in the house near the forge. (Q: I see.) Well, the daughter lived there for years after the parents died, then my mother, my brother took the business over and em, em, he got one and six a week and she had to pay one and six for his apron, ‘cause they were all leather aprons them days, so he had to, like, two aprons, (Q: Yea.) so they worked two weeks for nothing. [Laugh]
Mrs S: [Couldn’t hear her comment]
Mrs B: Well, you didn’t get no money did you, ‘cause I remember when my brothers all went to work, ‘cause my mother like, had two families, she had em, there was George, Ted, Fred, Bill, and my sister Emily and me older sister, they were all working and married and there was John, me, Alice and Lill and Esmond, all like at school age, you know, all g’n to school, so there was like a family grown up and another lot going to school, me dad was a carpenter, we always had plenty, you know, was fairly comfortable, you know, good meals and me brothers used to go out with the doctors a lot, one brother nearly lived with Dr Ted Gimson, Bill, what died, he em, he used to go out with him everywhere on the boats fishing when that wa’nt shooting season, when it was shooting season he used to go out with them then, you know, (Q: Oh.) yea, he used to live there, up there a lot, his house, where Dr Denholm’s got it now hasn’t he? (Q: Gimson’s, they call it Gimson’s don’t they?) Yes, Dr Ted had that built, (Q: I see.) yes.
Q: How did your brothers get to know him then, just ….?
Mrs B: Work, just work, when they worked for Lewis, what used to be in Witham years and years ago, they were builders and, well, they done all sorts, everything, general work, you know em, my brothers go to know the doctors, now they used to go out, take the ferrets and the dogs and go out shooting with them, that’s how they got to know, and my brother Bill lived nearly with Dr Ted, they thought the world of one another, well, my brother didn’t live long after he died. (Q: Really?) No, ‘cause I remember all the Gimsons dying, the whole family family. (Mrs S: Lovely family.) Yes, they were, they were marvellous doctors, they were, always remember if I ever took one of the children down there, used to have to pay them days, perhaps half, two and six, that was a lot of money then, but they never used to take the money off us, (Q: Really?) and always remember when my father died Dr Ted come the morning he died and he got the bottom of stairs, he said em, no, just before he died, he said, ‘You know, I loved ‘im like I loved me own father.’ (Q: Yes?) my father always used to go with them when he was, before he got too old, you know, but they were lovely people, there was em, they had a sister, she married a Mr Brandt and they lived in that house with that little arch thing over, before you get to the doctors [The Gables, 125 Newland Street], they got little, well, I don’t know if that’s still there is it? (Mrs S: Think so.) (Q: Oh, yes, a sort of wooden porch way?) Yes, that’s right, yea, well Mr Brandt lived there, (Q: Gables, it was called the Gables? Something like that, I think, yes.) I couldn’t tell you, I forget, I haven’t been to Witham such a long time I haven’t been (Mrs S: You forget.) not out for walk for I don’t know how long, I think I been up, I’ve been down here two years, I think I’ve been up the town once ain’t I? (Mrs S: And me.) Hey? (Mrs S: Nearly killed me.) Yea, I got hold of her arm, ‘cause I can hardly walk and push her here and push her there, ‘cause I’m three times as big as what she is [Laugh] I take hold of her arm sometimes, when we go to the taxi on Sunday and I often think to myself, ‘Well if I fell down, she’d come down and all.’ [Laugh] That’s funny.
[silence at the end]
[Silence at the beginning]
[discussion about tape recording]
Mrs B: …that was when I was, long before my husband died, ‘cause he was one, he’d never go out to tea, (Q: Really?) Say ‘What’d I wanna go out to tea for when I can have me tea indoors.’ we used to have a job getting him in yours Christmas time (Mrs S: Yes.) We used to have one day together either Christmas day, and then Boxing Day they’d come in mine for Christmas, the children would have the Christmas tree, you know. (Mrs S: Oh, Yes …..)
Q: I suppose you got to know each other when you were in Church Street first was it?
Mrs B: Yes, when I first come I was in Sunderland, see my husband belonged Sunderland, when I went up there and Edie was born up there, my eldest daughter, she’s 53, same age as Bill ain’t she? (Mrs S: Yes.) And she was eight months old when I come back to Witham, there was no work, depression up (Q: Of course, yes.) north was terrible, every ship yard was closed down and the foundries, and there was no work, my husband worked in a limestone quarry for a time, it was a terrible job, because they used to blow the rock out and that was wet, they were all stiff with this limestone, you know. He had a job to get the sack to come to Witham, ‘cause I had a brother here used to work for Mr Wenden and they said they’d get him a job if we come down this way, I’d got Edie a baby, eight months when I come next door to you wa’nt she? (Mrs S: Yes, that’s right.) and erm, so he went late every morning trying to get the sack and ‘cause he was a good worker always and, he couldn’t get the sack, in the finish the boss asked him what was wrong and then he told him and he said ‘Well, why didn’t you say, I would have, sort of paid you off.’ you know, (Q: Yes.) so he’d a gone on the dole, course you didn’t get much then on the dole, I think I got, for me and Stan and one child was one pound one then, ‘cause you didn’t get a lot of wages then. And we come down here and lived with me father in Church Street, next door to Mrs Springett (Q: Yes.) and she’d got Cecil as a baby then ain’t ya, well the same age as Edie, well, all but a month, well, no (Mrs S: Three months.) three months and Edie’s is in October and Cecil’s was in ‘er (Mrs S: January.) January, yes. (Mrs S: Yes, forgot it didn’t I?) So erm we were just friendly there, we used to go out to work together in the fields and used to go out for cycle rides sometimes and have a look where we were going (Mrs S: Yes, yes.) pea picking the next day (Mrs S: Next day.) do you remember when I went through the hedge? (Mrs S: Yes. [Laugh]) (Q: What happened there then?) (Mrs S: She got [???]) Oh, it was funny, we was riding along Cressing Road one night and erm there’s a field of peas, so I said I’d get over and have a look and see what they’re like, and in fact, when they pick ‘em we’ll go there in the morning, if they’re picking, well, course, I got hold of this hedge and they’d been filling the hedges in, course, they’ve cut ‘em down today, and course they’d filled ‘em in with dry wood, all hawthorn, well, I got on this with one foot on this hedge to get over to look at these peas and me foot went over and I had thorns in me leg, all the way up, great big black thorns, good job that was dry wood, ‘cause they broke off you see, I had one in, I think I had that one for two or three weeks, I couldn’t get out, but I was at night getting these out, got a needle and was getting these thorns out of me leg and I got one in and every time I went pea picking early hours of the morning, ‘cause you used to go out about half past five, five o’clock. We always started with picking two bags of peas before breakfast didn’t we? (Mrs S: Before breakfast, yes.) Then we used to sit and have our breakfast (Mrs S: I can remember [???]) that was two shillings, (Q: Before breakfast?) before breakfast (Q: What was the two shillings for?) Shilling for a bag of peas, we used to have to (Q: Oh, I see, yes, yes.) pick a bag. Well, one day we went pea picking, me and Grace along the Faulkbourne Road and there was, and next, there were three of us in the yard, three houses Mrs, Mrs (Mrs S: Maylin[?] wasn’t it?) well, our friends sister wa’nt it, Burton, erm, we picked (Mrs S: 36.) 36 bags one day, 12 each (Q: Oh!) marvellous peas wa’nt they, (Mrs S: Yes.) all hung on the end of the rise[?] that was the, opposite Faulkbourne Hall (Q: Really? Yes.) yes, (Mrs S: [???] peas, I told you.) (Q: Oh, really, yes, yes.) and when the man come to tie ‘em up he said ‘What you got, have you got tremendous ….’, we kept all in one great round heap, you know, altogether so, ‘cause you used to have to wait till they tied ‘em, they were tying everybody’s, sometimes you had to wait a long while, so we used to carry them, keep them all together, I used to shove ‘em on me back and carry ‘em, I did and I could do it then, course couldn’t do it now .
(Mrs S: Laugh.) and keep ‘em all in one great big heap, so when he tied ‘em, tied ‘em, we could get home, you know, ‘cause you gotter get home and cook a meal and your housework to do and washing to do and all sorts after you’d had a day in the fields, I’ve seen us go out for nearly nothing. (Mrs S: Yes, [???] went over the back, where your houses are built now.) Oh, yes, (Mrs S: Laugh) There was a pea field just the top of our garden, and course there were gaps in the hedge where the children used to go in the field and play before they made a, ploughed it, and made a pea field of it, they grew wheat and all sorts in the different years, you know, and we got up one, left the children all in bed, ‘cause we’d only just got to get over the hedge, there was one solitary man in the middle of the field, [Laughter] and the moon was still shining, one star [Laughter] and we (Q: Did you start picking that soon?) (Mrs S: Yes.) and we started picking peas that morning (Q: Could you see?) and then we went, yea, that would [(Mrs S: talking in the background, but can’t hear what she’s saying)] it was light, you know, ever so early in the morning (Mrs S: 3 o’clock we got up, didn’t we?) yea, and then erm we went in for breakfast and got the children up so we could leave ‘em in bed that morning ‘cause that was, later, my husband used to, used to hate me, to see me getting the children up, especially if I’d got a baby in the cot (Q: Yes.) and wash it, you know, used to give it a bath overnight and get it ready in the morning and used to have to give ‘em all something before they went out, something to drink and something to eat, you know, and then have your breakfast in the field, we used to have breakfast and dinner in the field. We’ve had some fine times (Q: You used to take the breakfast and dinner with you?) everything, yes, take a loaf of bread and butter and whatever you, cheese or whatever you got to put on your bread, you know, till you got home and cooked a good meal. (Q: What time would you get back then, usually?) Well, all times, sometimes they’d knock you off early, according how the market was, if the market was good, well, we used to work, sometimes we never used to get home there till four o’clock in the afternoon, we used to be scrapping to get home to get the tea, ‘cause my husband used to hate it, he used to hate the field work (Q: Did he?) he never liked me going out the fields, I was was glad to go because it was a little money, because when I had Keith, my youngest son, he’s 39, when I had him all I had was two pound two and six a week and that was to keep seven of us and pay your rent and your gas, everything, course you had an open fire then, you had to buy coal and coke or whatever you had, you know, we had all fuel then, we never had, they come and put us a gas in first didn’t they? (Mrs S: Yes.) And then after that, we had the electric light, that was cleaner, gas was filthy, that used to be all soot, they used, mantles was always breaking, mantles (Mrs S: Yea, mantles, yea.) (Q: Did you have that put in though did you, the gas light?) Hey? (Q: The gas light was put in while you were there?) Yes, while we were there, in the cottages, we used to have oil lamp (Q: I was going to say, what did you have before that?) and you see I had a table with two leaves, and one I had left down, ‘cause it was a small kitchen, well my husband put a screw in the coal place at the back of your table (Q: Yea.) [Laugh] just had to let the coalman in the morning and used to throw the coal in (Q: Really?) with his dirty feet come in your kitchen, throw the coal in your coal place, you know, it was just the back of the table, we done away with it years before we left there (Mrs S: Yes, oh, yes.) and had it all cleaned out and a cupboard, you know, made a cupboard of it and had the coal up the yard, but when the children were little that was terrible. (Q: So how did you used to get the coal out again, through the same ….?) No, used to pull the table out, in the scuttle and (Q: Oh, I see.) and then shut it up again. (Q: Yea, cor that was a job wasn’t it?) Yes, it was horrible and (Mrs S: Well, people don’t know anything today, really.) No, everything’s easy, I mean you’d got, you’d got a do everything them days, there was nothing easy, there was, you couldn’t open a tin or you couldn’t have a tinned pudding or, you’d got a, we used to get home, we used to sit and shell a colander of peas, used to fetch peas home with us, you know (Q: Yes.) and scrape new potatoes and carrots and, you’d got a cook a good meal at night, because leaving ham or something like that at dinner time. (Mrs S: Course we had an allotment in those days.) (Q: Did you?) My husband, we used to argue because he never liked a cooked tea, we never agreed, Mrs Springett, her husband never minded, but my husband never loved a cooked tea, he loved his dinner at dinner time and when he was on nights once at Crittalls he never liked that cooked tea, he used to like his dinner at dinner time, the proper time (Q: Even then, yea?) Then he used to have to put up with it then of course.
Q: Did he work at Crittalls very long?
Mrs B: 32 and a half years he worked at Crittalls.
Q: So what, so was he somewhere else before?
Mrs B: No, he worked up the north, that was when we come from the north . (Q: And then he went to Crittalls?) He was out of work for, I think we [???] about September time, I couldn’t say exactly, that’s been so many years ago, and he didn’t get into Crittalls till the next spring I think it was, but he got odd jobs for the council, he worked for the council erm doing different odd jobs, you know, just had an odd job now and again, he never had a regular job till (Q: Well work was hard to get here I should think?) Yea, and then he got into, eventually, got into Crittalls (Q: Oh, that was lucky then hey?) and then he was there, he was there (Mrs S: No factories here then.) Hey? (Mrs S: No factories here then) no, there wasn’t much in Witham at all. (Q: Just Crittalls.) No there weren’t when we were young, you know, I mean, that was all service, you’d gotta go into service but I never liked service, I always run away from everywhere I went.
Q: You were telling me you went to the Rounds[?]
Mrs B: I went to the glove factory first.
Q: When you left school, where did you go first?
Mrs B: Oh, when I first went, left school, I always remember going to work with a bit of red ribbon tied me hair back, ‘cause I had long curly hair, you know and I went to the White Hart hotel, well, they give me a stove to clean, well that was half as long as this room. [Laughter] I didn’t know where to start, you know, I never, our little stoves in our house was small and little oven and little open fire place and oh, on my knees cleaning that, a great big stock pot on the side where they kept stock (Mrs S: Always had a stock pot didn’t they?) oh, filthy old thing, I used to brush and brush, I thought I‘d never finish cleaning that. (Q: Yea.) Then I used to help with the beds and all that sort of thing, like in the morning and then helped the cook, they used to get good food there, dinner, I used to go home in the afternoon, you know, about three, then I went to Rounds.
Q: So when you were at the White Hart, what did you get paid then, do you remember?
Mrs B: I forget what I got paid then, not much, (Q: No.) because when I went to Rounds I only had fivepence a day, well from about, I dunno we went half past seven, eight o’clock in the morning till about three in the afternoon and you got fivepence a day when you went Sunday morning for, only for just a little while, they used to go to church in a carriage and pair, you know and Annie, I always remember Annie Chalk, I don’t know whether she’s still alive, I haven’t heard she died, I haven’t seen her for a long, long time, I did see her when I was up Church Street a few times. She erm, oh, she’d take me in the conservatory, you know, the greenhouse, where all the, she used to pick me a little bunch of lovely flowers on a Sunday morning and I used to go, ‘cause we only had to just make beds, just do the essentials on a Sunday ‘cause you weren’t allowed to work, you know, and Mrs Round used to come in the kitchen every morning and (Mrs S: Give you your orders. [Laugh]) Give orders, give the cook orders what they gotta have for lunch and everything, you know, but we used to get good food, that’s the main thing we had. (Q: Yes, that’s true.) Well, we had good food at home, good plain food, I mean, but erm (somebody come to see Mrs Shelley), but erm that was hard going when we were young, I mean it was hard work for what little bit of money you got, I mean you never knew what really, what pocket money was.
Q: How many servants did they have at the Rounds?
Mrs B: Rounds, they had just cook, house parlourmaid, and I used to go in, I remember one morning I couldn’t get the fire to go in the morning room, I used to have to sweep that and used to have to do that all on your hands and knees, great big room in the front of the house with two great big windows, used to have to get on it and sweep it all on your hands and knees, and one morning I couldn’t get the fire to go and I thought “Oh, dear, I dunno.” I kept lighting it and I got the oil can [Laughter] [???] and one of the sons stood in the doorway watching and there weren’t half some trouble, the cook got into trouble for letting me have the oil can, you know, but you couldn’t get the fire alight the wood was used to have, used always to have this tree wood, what they used to call faggots, we used to call ‘em didn’t we (Mrs S: Yes.) and course there was a man, gardener and that, and he used to chop it all up in little pieces and that was an awful job to light, some mornings you couldn’t get it alight and I always remember that morning when I, I kept throwing this oil on the fire [Laughter] and when I turned round he stood in the doorway, I got, we got into trouble over that. (Q: What did you do, you didn’t get the sack or anything?) Oh, no, just got, we got a telling off like, but, course the cook, I was only young then, I was only, hadn’t long left school and course my mother sent me there to learn how to do all this housework and, but you gotta go into service and do it, you know, I went to Ilford most of my time I spent, in service.
Q: But, how, tell me about the Round family, who were they, what names …. (Mrs B: Oh, there was …) was there a lot of them?
Mrs B: Not a lot, I think there was erm, there was one son, I think he was a bit religious, he used always to have his bedroom right up in the attic, horrible little bedroom it was and little tiny window, you, know, little windows what, they got a bit down like that, the small windows right up in the attic (Q: I know, yea.) he used to go up there and used to go along, great big boarded floor, great big water tank all the way along, I used to be terrified to go up there, sometimes I used to have to go up and wash the floor, oh, well on this wooden floor and I used to be frightened, frightened to death up the back stairs I used to go, course I only used to go up there, have to go up there to do the bedroom you see, I used to have to go up with her, but I worked with her and Alice Driver, oh, she’s dead now, she got a daughter live in Mill Lane hasn’t she …. (Mrs S: Yes, that’s right.) still, and erm (Q: What was his name, Christian name?) Whose? (Q: His first name, the chap who had the attic?) Oh, that was Douglas, one of them was, then they had a daughter who was a bit, she was a bit, well, she wasn’t, a bit backward, one daughter, but I think Annie stopped with them, oh, she never married, Annie didn’t, not Annie Chalk, what I worked with, I think, she stopped with the family when the old people died, she stopped (Q: With them.) with the family, and I think they all went at the finish, you know, well, I don’t know whether the sons both died, but the daughter did I know, because we used to watch her, she had a little, I used have to do the back hall and all along the floors and clean the little window and sometimes you got on a chair, clean this little window in her bedroom, she used to be dancing in front of the mirror and fitting all sorts of things on, you know, she was properly funny really, she was all right to talk to, I mean, she, but erm, had a, that was a great big house, had a big back landing and front landing, you know, spare rooms and, and she was an invalid, she used to take, always take that Sanatogen (Mrs S: Oh, yes.) I don’t know if you can still get it, but she always took that. (Q: What’s that, Mrs Round?) Mrs Round, yes, she was a bit of an invalid and he was a poor old thing, you know, they were both getting on when I worked there, getting on in years.
Q: What did they, what was his job, do you know or …. ?)
Mrs B: No, I don’t think he did anything when I was there, not then. Might have been business people.
[Pause – tape turned off and on again]
Mrs B: For your telephone when you’re out and you take ….
[noises on tape, then continue, looking at photos of Trafalgar Square]
The first photo of Trafalgar Square, below, shows Bert and Katie Fisher outside their house (I did not have this picture when I did the interview).
The next two photos are the ones we looked at during the interview. They were perhaps taken when demolition was imminent. The Square consisted of 16 houses in two rows, on the east side of Maldon Road. The first photo has the Park in the background.
Q: I think they were probably, when they were thinking of pulling them down, they were quite recent weren’t they? It’s at the back probably is it?
Mrs B: Yes, I can’t tell these views, I know ‘em we lived in the row across that way. (Q: Yea.) We had two houses right in the centre, but this generally shows all the old sheds and gardens (Q: That’s right, yes.) what we got. (Q: That’s a bit mean, isn’t it?) [Laughter] (Q: Because they looked quite nice, they looked as if they were quite solid houses?) Oh, they were good old houses, well, years ago they did, they built them better didn’t they?
Q: You said you had two didn’t you?
Mrs B: We had a double house, yes, we had two front doors, but they were knocked into one (Q: Yea.) and erm we had like, two front rooms, two kitchens, ‘cause they knocked, and the same upstairs, they knocked so you could go right through.
Q: Was that especially for you? (Mrs B: Hm?) Especially for your family?
Mrs B: Me mother, yes, she moved out of a four, two bedroomed ones, seeing she had a big family, so she had to go into a, she went into a double one, they did that then. (Mrs S: Do you want another look? [Laugh]) I can’t really tell what it is because it don’t show the entrance or …. (Q: Not all that good are they?)
Q: So, what, you had two, so you had four bedrooms in the end?)
Mrs B: We did, four bedrooms and four downstairs, yes.
Q: So, still a, with ten of you that’d still be quite a lot wasn’t it? That must be somebody’s back gardens mustn’t it, did you have much garden there?
Mrs B: Nice garden in the front, we had, me dad had a beautiful garden, beautiful flower garden.
Q: Did he grow flowers did he? (Mrs B: Hm?) Did he grow flowers mainly?
Mrs B: Yes, all sorts.
Q: What, did he grow vegetables and things more or ….?
Mrs B: Yea, well, we had a big allotment and he used to grow his celery at home (Q: Yea.) erm, used to have a flower garden all the way down, wide piece, and round like that, both sides (Q: Yea.) and then at the back of the, then he had tall chrysanths, then at the back he used to have a celery, two celery trenches, one either side, then he used to grow white and pink celery, they used to be them days, that was lovely. Course, we had, course we had to take all our celery up weekends, then he had the allotment for all the vegetables he grew, you know, grew all his own vegetables, I forget where the allotment was then, been so many years ago. (Mrs S: Wasn’t it down where Mr North ….) Down Maldon Road somewhere. (Mrs S: Not North, Mr ….the shoe, the shoemaker, Hollick’s). Down there somewhere, Grace, couldn’t tell you exactly where it was now, I forget, but I know we had a big allotment, (Mrs S: Yes.) used to grow stuff for all the winter, (Mrs S: Course there’s so many houses down there isn’t there?) and store it all. Hey? (Mrs S: So many houses built down there now.) Mm, he used to clamp all his erm, oh, dear, (Mrs S: Potatoes.) no, not potatoes (Mrs S: Beetroot.) yes, beetroot and parsnips, used to clamp all them up with straw and earth (Q: Yea, yea.) and then you just got ‘em out when you want ‘em.
Q: So you wouldn’t have to buy much then?
Mrs B: Mother, I don’t think my mother had to buy, we didn’t, did we? (Mrs S: No, not really [???].) My husband, we had (Mrs S: [???], Church Street.) we erm, we never bought a thing hardly, now and again we’d buy a swede wouldn’t we? (Mrs S: No[?] swede.) But otherwise we never bought no potatoes or onions and everything used to be, you know, kept and, my husband used to go Sunday mornings cut the greens for the dinner all fresh. We had Brussels sprouts or, all sorts and Mr Springett done the same.
Q: What did your mother do for the rest of the food, sort of, did you have much meat and that sort of thing?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, we had plenty. My dad was a carpenter and she had one, I was of a second, well, not a second family, but there was one lot grown up working (Q: Mm.) and three or four of us went to school. (Q: Yes, so she, when you, by the time you were grown up there was more money, yes?) By the time I was about ten, I’d got, erm, two or three, I got three brothers working (Q: Yea.) and a sister, she married and I got a brother married down there and going to get on, you know.
Q: What, was your dad away or something? (Mrs B: Hey?) I wondered why there was a gap in the family, was your dad away?
Mrs B: No, he wasn’t, there wasn’t really a gap (Q: Yea.) Mm, (Q: Just so many I suppose?) There were, yea, there was so many you see, one lot, by the time mother had finished having babies she got a grown up family. (Q: Yea.) erm, no, there were, she lost one between my brother what lived in Mill Lane, and erm, him and, that were between him and erm, John and, she lost one daughter didn’t she, then, Alice, at eighteen months, or fourteen months, when she, with a convulsion fit, and then she had another one, she named that the same, Alice, because one had died, you know, but erm, there was a big family of us.
Q: So she wouldn’t get much spare time then?
Mrs B: She never had any I don’t think. (Q: No.) Then they, they always used to make all their shirts, work shirts, they were striped blue. (Q: Really? Mm, mm.) My sister used to make erm, used to make all our nightdresses and things like that, you know, well, me mum had one of those machines what dropped in beside the table (Q: Yea.) my sister used to do all the machining, made all their work shirts, you know, for work. White ones, they used to have the white ones with the blue stripes didn’t they? (Mrs S: Yes, Oxford, didn’t they call them?) Hey? (Mrs S: Did they call them Oxford shirt?) (Q: Oxford shirt?) I forget, Grace. My memory ain’t so good as that used to be.
Q: So what about dresses and things like that, for the girls, did you make them, did you make those as well?
Mrs B: No, we used to, mother used to have them made. (Q: She’d have them made?) best ones, I tell you where she used to have ‘em made, somebody down erm Guithavon Street. Always had the best dresses made and then when we had a new lot well, we’d take them on for school, you know (Q: I see, yea.) and you always had button boots them days, right up to your knees [Laughter].
Q: Would you get them made as well?
Mrs B: No, buy them, the best, we used have like a soft kid, they were ever so soft you could roll them up, you know and there were three girls, my sister, there was only 3½ years between the three of us (Q: Yea.), two years and a month between my sister what lives at Ilford and only eighteen months between her and the other one what died.
Q: So when, you say you wore your second best for school (Mrs B: Mm.) what would you wear your best for, for Sundays?
Mrs B: Just Sundays, we used to have to go to Sunday school in the morning. (Q: Did you, yes?) (Mrs S: Church.) Church, then out, out at Sunday school, into church, before, and we used to have to go to Sunday school in the afternoon if we wanted, we weren’t allowed to play Sundays and erm, sometimes my mum would go at night, Sunday evening, not very often, but now and again she always used to, she used to like chapel best, used to go to the Congregational down the High street. (Q: Yea.)
Q: Do you mean she went to both or she went, she just went to the ….?)
Mrs B: No, just went to Congregational.
Q: Did your father go as well?
Mrs B: No, dad never went. No.
Q: What was your mother’s name before she was married, was she a Witham person, your mother?
Mrs B: Yes, Shelley.
Q: She was a Shelley was she?
Mrs B: Mm, they used to live, well, where Sorrell’s the butchers, well, that’s a hairdressers now on the corner, er, down right opposite the Crotchet [143 Newland Street]. (Q: Yes, I know, yes.) That used to be a butcher’s shop. (Q: Yea.) Well, up there there was four cottages, (Q: Yea.) my mother’s mother lived up there. (Q: Really?) We used to go up there to see me granny, you know, before me mum took her to live with us. (Q: Yea.) Yea.
Q: What did her father do, do you remember? (Mrs B: Hey?) Do you know what her father used to do for a job?
Mrs B: No, I’ve heard her say he used to do the pigs and that, kill ‘em, you know, and do ‘em for the butcher. (Q: Yes.) Yea.
Q: But then your grandmother came to live in ….?
Mrs B: She lived, my mother took her in at the finish because she was bed ridden, she, I remember her living with us, she had one of the front rooms and dad put a curtain up from the door (Q: Mm.) a little way along a big, I remember that was a big green curtain with big tassels on, just cover the bed if anybody come to the door. We had like two front rooms, we had another front room, but that was kept, nobody went in there, no, you know, kept what you call a best room, you know (Q: Yea.) They don’t do that today.
Q: Not so much, some people do, don’t they?
Mrs B: Mm, I used, I never used my front room, much, you used yours more (Mrs S: Yes.) ‘cause you used to have more parties than what I did (Mrs S: Yes, that’s right.) didn’t you, up Church Street. (Q: Gay life you had, did you?) [Laughter]
Mrs B: That got used a lot when the girls were courting and the boys (Q: Oh, really?) there wa’nt so much room in the kitchen and we used to light a fire in there and they used to sit in there (Q: Mm.) because we hadn’t got a lot of room, you know, not in the very small kitchens we had didn’t we? (Mrs S: Yes. they were cosy.) When you were all in it, you couldn’t move (Mrs S: They were cosy.) Hey? (Mrs S: They were cosy.) Oh, yea, my husband wouldn’t go nowhere else. (Mrs S: No.) If, I had to have the sweep, he used to moan, he hated sitting in the front room, he had a mantle piece and a side, there was a cupboard and we had a sideboard of it, you know, put a cover on it and had ornaments on, he’d got nowhere to put his tobacco tin he said, he had all them places, he just used to sit in the corner in his armchair in the kitchen, a little recess up there and his tobacco tin on the window sill (Q: Yea.) and he just liked that best, he hated the front room, couldn’t bear it. (Q: Yea.) He said ‘You get it straight.’ I said, ’Well, you stop in here for the day now.’ and then light the fire in the kitchen in the morning after the sweep had been and got all cleared up, ‘cause they were terrible chimneys weren’t they? (Mrs S: Yes, they were.) Oh, we had to have the sweep about every three months you wanted the sweep, smoke, used to get smoked out.
Q: So you had, erm, you had a front room and best room at a, when you were little as well did you?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, well, as long as I can remember, you know.
Q: Did you, did you, was that used for courting as well or ….?
Mrs B: No, I don’t think so, I don’t remember my brothers courting, I was too young, you know. I remember me sister getting married. (Q: Do you, Yea?) I don’t remember George getting married or Ted, I remember Emily getting married.
Q: Was that the Congregational?
Mrs B: No, they were married at church, and they were all christened at church. (Q: Were they, Yea?) Yea.
Q: Was that a big do?
Mrs B: Well, I don’t, well, we, I remember I was in service when one of them married, which one would that be?, and we come home, I had to get half the time off to come home, we were bridesmaids, mm. (Mrs S: I didn’t know you, not them days did I?) No, and I remember being bridesmaids when we were younger, that must have been to one of me brothers, we was dressed in blue. (Q: Yea.) Me and my sister at Ilford had our dresses made exactly the same (Q: Yea.) and the one what was 3½ years younger, she had hers made a little bit younger, with the pocket hanging on ribbon, do you remember, when they used to have them. (Mrs S: Yes, they did.) Used to have a little pocket hanging on ribbon, you know, always remember that. We all had our photos taken down at Mr Hayward’s, he used to live opposite the church then in Guithavon Street here. I remember my mother taking Esmond, he was in dresses still then, curly hair, and there was me brother John, me, Alice and Lil[?] and Esmond was sitting on her lap. Ever so old fashioned. The hats they used to wear, our mothers, the dresses were touching the ground, weren’t they, used to have brush stuff round them like a little fluffy, brush stuff on the bottom. And Esmond had dresses on and bows of ribbon at the shoulders, they used to put bows of ribbons through and tie ‘em, didn’t they.