Mrs Brown and Mrs Springett were both born in about 1895, and were interviewed on 24 January and 4 March 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.]
See the end of Tape 5 for notes about Mrs Brown and Mrs Springett
Q: How old would he[?] be, as we’ve been saying, the brothers, (Mrs B: Went to school in dresses.) Went to school in dresses?
Mrs B: Yes, ‘cause the school was next door to where we, the Square [Trafalgar Square], there was the, I don’t know what they use it for now? (Q: I think it’s a community centre.) Yea, (Mrs S: [???]) (Q: They use it for meetings.) I remember taking him to school ‘cause we lived just right near it and then later on we went to the Church School, we all went to the Church School when we got older, they changed us over, in fact, she sent us there ‘cause that was next door and we were tiny and with having a big family and men working, hadn’t got time to take us all the way to school and, ‘cause, I mean, (Q: She didn’t keep you at the erm, I wonder why she didn’t keep you at the erm?) Because we belonged Church, we was all christened at Church you see (Q: Even though she went to the Chapel?) Well, she did if she went, but weren’t very often, she never had the time with the family she had, you know, not when, them days, you never had no tinned stuff to give to everything, you had to do, didn’t you, I mean, you had no tins of peas you could open or anything like that. (Q: Would you say there were different sorts of people belonged to the Church and belonged to the Chapel?) Well, I dunno, (Mrs S: Not really.) I mean, they varied, people, don’t they, I mean, you see (Q: I know they do now, I think I’ve read, in those days, sometimes, one group of people would go to Chapel and one to the Church, I wondered if it was like that in Witham?) No, I don’t think so.
Mrs S: My father belonged to the Salvation Army, he was a sergeant major at Tiptree, but he could go on taking meetings at chapel or anywhere, he did do, he had a lovely bible presented to him from Christian Endeavour, you don’t hear of that now, do you, but my sister’s got that bible [???], read texts from, I believe he come to Witham chapel once and we had a pastor at Kelvedon, you see, that’s how he done that.
Q: When you went to Sunday school that was the erm, which one was that, that was the Church?
Mrs B: Yea, well, they took us, (Q: The children.) well, in Church we never, we went into the school. (Q: For the Sunday school?) Yes, used to be every day school, went in there for our lessons, like we do lessons, then they’d sing little hymns then we used to march into the Church (Q: Yes, so you went to the Church, not the Chapel?) then we went in the Church next door [All Saints, Guithavon Street], you know. (Q: You didn’t go to Chapel so much?) No, I didn’t, I didn’t go to the Chapel unless mother went and she took us, but that was only now and again, you know ….(Mrs S: What did you do one Sunday in Church?) Hey? (Mrs S: What did you do one Sunday in Church?) [Laughter] (Mrs S: Come on, tell us!) I was eating a sherbet dab [Laughter] and the parson fetched me out, right in front of everybody in the church, like they were sitting on the front pew, you know, like there was nothing in front of them and me Sunday, me school teachers, they was Miss Peaks then, there was three of ‘em, three sisters, they were all old maids, they used to live in the house in the, there was a house in the school yard. I thought I’d should get wrong when I go to school tomorrow and if anybody tells me mum I should get a damned thrashing, you know [Laughter], it weren’t like, I mean, she weren’t with the children, stricter them days, they were stricter with children than what they are today, although my son’s ever so strict with his children, but I mean, you, you got a good hiding in them days if you don’t, if kids, kids only get a pat today don’t really get a hiding, you know, and he took the sherbet dab away from me, I never got it back! [Laughter] We always used to get a halfpenny or a penny between us when we went, but we was supposed to spend it when we come out of church, course we spent it before we went in, I was finishing mine off [???] [Laughter] and then, you won’t remember, Miss Vaux, (Mrs S: No, she [???]) she was old maid, she lived in Collingwood Road, I believe there were a couple of sisters there, and my dad was a carpenter and he used to go all over the place, these big houses, working, you know, and sometimes the gardener would give him beautiful apples ooh, lovely they were, I remember my mother one Sunday morning, she give us one each, three sisters, there was me, I was the oldest of the three, then me sister Alice next to me, then we all went out together on a Sunday. Course we took these apples to school, never ate ‘em, they were great big things, always remember it, we got ‘em took away from us at Sunday school and going home from school to dinner on the Monday, there was Miss Vaux with a little fancy basket with a big handle with these three apples in it [Laughter] – taking them down to me mother, I thought ‘Oh, we’re gonna get wrong this dinner time.’ I was. oh, I thought meself, I never liked her after that.
Q: What, she took them, took them back to your mum did she?
Mrs B: Took ‘em back to me mum and got ‘em in a little basket, carrying ‘em so nicely down the garden path. (Q: So you shouldn’t have took ‘em?) I thought ‘ooh’. [Laughter] We hadn’t told me mother we’d had ‘em took off us, we dare not, ooh, I don’t know, I done all sorts, always getting wrong somewhere. In service an’ all, I never stopped in service, always run away, I, I never liked service, too much of a tie, you gotta do this, you gotta do that, you mustn’t do this, you mustn’t do that, you wanna post a letter, if the pillar box was about from here to that door you gotta knock on the door say could you go and post it. [Laughter] My mother spoilt me a bit and I think, you know, at the finish she never sent me, I never went, oh, I went dozens of places and I come home every time.
Q: I suppose it was a bit like school, were they very strict at school?
Mrs B: Fairly, yes.
Q: Did you like it at school?
Mrs B: Well, I was like everybody else, I didn’t think much of school really, course we left early them days, we left when I was thirteen or fourteen we left, we had to go straight out to service.
Q: Do you remember anything they taught you at school? Do you remember what sort of things they used to teach you at school?
Mrs B: Well, same as they teach the children now I think, you know, used to have, used to have singing in the morning, prayers, then singing first thing, the Church school, I don’t know if other schools did it. And then I think you had, you used to have arithmetic first and then singing lessons and all that sort of thing, the same, there was the different classes, you know and the different sets of desks, needlework they taught you how to do buttonholing and all that sort of thing, then I remember once a week we used to have to take stockings to mend, and they showed you how to darn properly, you know, pick one up and one down, one up and one down, leave a loop all the way round, always remember that, we used to take a stocking, that was no good only taking one ‘cause you only had time to do one hole. [Laughter] (Q: That was from home you’d take one, you’d take one from home, you mean?) My children went to the Church school too, yea, ‘cause I had one daughter, well she didn’t go to school much at all, she had osteomyelitis, when she was nine and she was in hospital. (Mrs S: Pretty girl.) She was in hospital till she was, after leaving school age, so she didn’t do any school, but she learned quite a lot in the hospital, she was in with the grown ups, you know, they learned her to knit, she knit lovely clothes didn’t she? (Mrs S: Ooh!) Put the flowers on the back and she knit one, my daughter was expecting a baby she knit some nice little vests, two plain and two purl, the proper little wool vests, you know, oh, she learned quite a lot in hospital, and to write and that, they took, she was at Colchester but they took her right up to Epping Forest near North Weald aerodrome just through the forest, I used to have to go up there every Sunday, that was when they were frightened that (Mrs S: Of being bombed.) the barracks, they were, you know, gonna do anything to the barracks at Colchester, they moved all the patients out of Colchester hospital, what they could move and we didn’t know where she was for a time, we had to wait and find out where she was and then I had to go to, that used to be King’s, that’s where the clock shop is now, isn’t it, I used to, I had to go there to see how we could get there, you know, ‘cause I used to go and see her like Wednesdays and Sundays and we used to go, that left from Cook’s [5 Newland Street], that used to be, then the bus, the long distance and they used to drop us off at the hospital, we used to go right through Epping Forest and drop us off there and pick us up if that come back at night, well in the afternoon time.
Q: That was heard work, though, I should think. [Noise and laughter.] (Unknown person: Right, where’s your books!) [Taped stopped and re-started]
Q: Did you used to know Mrs Raven?
Mrs S: Yes, oh, yes.
Q: Used to know her? (Mrs S: Edie?)
Mrs S: Yes.
Mrs B: Yes, I did, used to have some good old laughs with Edie if I met her down the town. I knew her husband and his father and mother, used to live in Maldon Road, about half way down in some cottages on the, right on the path.
Q: [Looking at photo of view down Maldon Road] I forgot about these, hang on, Maldon Road, that’s a bit different now but I think it’s supposed to be Maldon Road. Does it look familiar? And there’s another one. I couldn’t work out where they were really myself but they said they were Maldon Road, no, it’s so different now.
Mrs B: Yes, this is, yes, this is the Asylum [probably long low creamy wall to right of lady] remember what Mr Payne used to, The Retreat [east side], well, they called it, they used to be terrible there, the, that gate was always locked. (Mrs S: That’s all bungalows there now aren’t they? [The Retreat]) Yes, well, now, this Dr Payne he used to live in Witham, one of the Miss Paynes married a Taber didn’t she? (Mrs S: Yes, that’s right.) Well, her father was a doctor, he[?] was doctor to Jeany[?] when I used to take her to Colchester hospital, could hear ‘em all shouting and screaming in the gardens and erm …
This side [right foreground] was North’s and erm (Mrs S: Hairdresser.) and these little cottages here, this little wall here [far left] that was the start here of what is now, where you can get all the wood and stuff [Travis Perkins] (Mrs S: Oh, yea.) yea, there, then there was a row of cottages there [behind the people], Florrie [???] mother used to live in.
And over here [far right] was old Toddy North’s shop and there used to be a greengrocer’s shop as well there, then just here somewhere [right side, where tree behind] was, you could go up a yard and out near The Eagle hotel, you know, The Spread Eagle, there.
And there’s the start, there’s the Square down there [Trafalgar Square] [left of road, beyond the Retreat wall], there’s Dazley’s house [Nelson House], that’ll be, and the [British] school’s between here somewhere, yea, ‘cause past there, course they’ve built now, there was, was no houses hardly on erm this side of the road, not when you got passed the Square, but now they’ve built all the way down and, yes, I can see where that is.
Q: Dr Payne, did he do general doctoring or was it mostly just the asylum?
Mrs B: Hospital doctoring. (Q: Hospital mostly was it?) He was private, yes, ‘cause he was my, Jeanie[?], the one that I lost, he was her doctor at Colchester hospital, well, him and one or two others used to see her, you know. (Mrs S: It’s interesting looking at some of the old ones, you know.) Yea.
Q: What about, when, I remember when we all came here and sat round you were telling us what used to happen when you were poorly, when you were little, the camphor and everything, talking about doctors, when you and your brothers and sisters were poorly, when you were little, what, did you used to have any other, what did your mother used to do to get you better?
Mrs B: Oh, I had doctors. (Q: Doctors mostly?) He used to come. (Q: Did you used to go round there or did he ….?) He used to come round, Dr Gimsons come to the house, yea, when my, when dad, well when they, they were the only doctors in Witham then really, ‘cause that Dr Payne used to go to hospitals a lot and he had a private practice and he had to have a sign on, that was his with all the patients there (Mrs S: Had padded rooms there.) Hey? (Mrs S: They had padded rooms there didn’t they? Padded rooms.) Yea, they did do yes, yes [i.e. at the asylum at the Retreat]
Q: Where did the people come from for there, from all over I suppose?
Mrs B: From all over the place I expect, I don’t know, but they, you never see any of them out, they weren’t, they were all, you know, locked in, the gates and that were locked, and the gardens, they used to go out in the gardens, ‘cause we lived right near it, we could hear ‘em shouting down our place What was that boy[?]what lived down Powers Hall End[?], do you remember? (Mrs S: Yes, yes.) I mean, he was up Powers Hall End[?] and that was sort of [???] right across the fields where we used to live up the [???} we could hear him sometimes shouting over our place, couldn’t we? (Mrs S: Yes, yes.) Right over, right over Church Street, course when they’re like that sometimes they make such a noise, shouting, don’t they, poor things (Q: I suppose they didn’t have the drugs and things.) (Mrs S: No.) (Q: Nowadays I suppose they give them drugs and things to quieten them?) Well, they do, quieten ‘em down with drugs, they never had the drugs them days, did they?
Q: Did you get much medicine or anything that you remember?
Mrs B: Well, you know, medicine and anything, you know. (Mrs S: two and six a bottle, wasn’t it?) Hey? (Mrs S: Half a crown a bottle.) Yes, she used to have to pay for it, yea.
Q: Was it you who was telling us about having the camphor, somebody I know who was here was telling us about having camphor round their necks, did you have that?
Mrs B: Oh I did, and I hated it, and I hated the (Mrs S: Mrs Nicol was it?) a lot of people believed in different things round their necks. (Q: Did they?) (Mrs S: Do go to Mrs Nicol]?) (Q: I’ve talked to her once, a week or two back, yes.) Yes, I’ve heard of people doing that but I couldn’t bear the smell of it, especially when they put the clothes away and they come out and smelt of camphor.
Q: But your family didn’t used to do that sort of thing?
Mrs B: Oh, mother had them I expect, I don’t know I remember, but she always, you know they always had something in with the clothes didn’t they years ago, ’cause you never hear of them used not now, well nearly everything now the moth don’t get in things now because they won’t get in only certain things, well today the stuff what you buy like these sort of things they won’t, they don’t get in do they, they don’t, ‘cause I remember I had a wool two-piece once, that was a brown one, with a skirt and a cardigan, you wore a blouse with it, you know, it was ever so nice, when you pulled it out it had like a silver mark in between ‘cause that stretched and I wore the cardigan once and I had a chiffonier[?] in my front room and I folded it up and just laid it inside there, would lay there, I left it in there for a couple of weeks I reckon, instead of putting it up, and do you know when I got it out a moth had got in it and eaten three or four holes, little tiny pin holes in the front, you couldn’t, moths were a nuisance them days, but now you get sprays and all that sort of thing, you don’t, you don’t get ‘em today, not like you used to. (Q: There isn’t so much wool is there?) No, they don’t eat the stuff you see, no.
Q: Changing the subject, you said you worked at the glove factory, I remember didn’t you?
Mrs B: Oh, yea.
Q: Was that after you’d given up service?
Mrs B: Yea, mm.
Q: How did you get to …?
Mrs B: I got the sack from there.
Q: What, from the glove factory, tell us about that then?
Mrs B: Well, for cheeking Miss Pinkham, well, I didn’t really cheek her, she, there was a spot, you’d see, when they made those gloves them days one done one thing, one done the fingers, one done something else and I done the binding round here, slip[?] piece and binding, there’s a dozen gloves you used to have to do for so much, didn’t get much I can tell you, talk about slave labour, you got hardly anything and I, there was a spot of oil on the, I should have reported it when I had them, and she said that was me and I said it wasn’t me I said that was on when I got them, and she said, that ooh, that was me, I said well that wasn’t me and I course I would have my way, so she said take your cards, take your cards, I said I thought meself well give me me cards, I’ll be glad to get out, I finished up at sorting seeds at the Cooper Taber’s, I went there for a long while, I nearly got the sack. (Mrs S: Then you got in trouble for singing.) I did, I got the sack and the women said well if Edie gets the sack we’ll all stop so I didn’t get the sack and they used to say to me ‘Sing’, you know, and I used to sing away all the song, course that annoyed the men and women in the office underneath, I expect they couldn’t get on with their work or they thought they couldn’t, poor old Freddie Springett …. (Mrs S: No relation!) [Laughter] The latch.
[Unknown person: Sorry to interrupt the interview.]
Mrs B: The latch needs to go up.
[Tape switched off]
Mrs B: Poor old mum, I think I used to worry her, my other sisters stopped in service for years on end. Emily, she stopped with one old chap and when they moved away they wanted her to go with them to Bournemouth, I forget now whether she went or not and me sister, Lil, worked in Collingwood Road at, where Dr Ted and Dr Karl [Gimson] used to go, what was that nurse’s name? Roberts (Mrs S: Roberts. Yes.) as she worked there for years, Lil did, she, they all stuck service, and me sister at Ilford, she was in service, ooh, right from when she left school she went up there, she married up there, and lived up there, well she lives up there now, I don’t know where, haven’t heard from her for ages.
Q: So going back to the seeds, was that the same sort of thing you, Grace told me you used to sort the seeds? (Mrs B: We done ‘em at home.) You used to do it at the factory as well, did you?
Mrs B: Yes, well we did ‘em for Cullen then, not for Cooper Taber, they used to have the women there to work, Cooper Taber’s did.
Q: So Cooper Taber’s was where you were singing was it?
Mrs B: Yea, and ‘erm …
Q: Was that the same place it is at …(Mrs S: Cullen’s.) Cooper Taber’s was, (Mrs B: It was a different place.) where abouts was that?
Mrs B: That’s, round the Avenue Road innit, (Q: Where it is now, yes?) well, it was, but I think they got a new place now.
Q: That was where you went to work was it?
Mrs B: That’s where I went, but Cullen’s … (Q: Were there a lot of people at Cooper Taber’s?) Well, several, there was a whole, oh, I should think there was about twenty women there working.
Q: But that was seeds, not …?
Mrs B: All sitting in rows, great big windows in the front and erm, peas what we sorted, there were pieces of wood there, we all had our heap of peas, you know, and then there was a slot, like that, in your bench, you used to have a high stool and as you took the bad ones from the good ones you draw the good ones down into the sack underneath and erm the bad ones were weighed up and you got, well, measured up, and you got so much for how many, you know, bad ones you had, that’s what you got paid for. (Q: What, the number of bad ones you picked out?) Yes, you didn’t get much I can tell ya. (Q: How much was it, can you remember?) About ten, twelve bob a week, never got much those days(Q: How old were you then?) Ooh, I was getting on then, I must have been sixteen I should think, ooh, sixteen getting on.
Q: So you had a lot of jobs then before you were sixteen?
Mrs B: Yea, I did have.
Q: So you couldn’t have been at the glove place for very long then?
Mrs B: No, I wasn’t there very long, I got on all right with the work, but there’s just the, she, they were snobs, she was especially, she was an old maid and she was ever so funny old lady.
Q: She had a lot to do with the factory did she?
Mrs B: She was always stuck there, nobody liked her, you know, she used to interfere, she was there more than the sons, didn’t see the sons much, see Bert, ‘cause he, he run the factory, er, Bert Pinkham, he used to live in Collingwood Road, ‘cause he had two or three sons, didn’t he? (Mrs S: Yes. Was it two or three?) I forget, Grace, I know there was two or three, but, I used to go to the pea shed and worked there, then, of course I worked, the War [First World War] broke out, worked on munitions down at, ooh, I forget the name of the place, the maltings, (Q: Oh, in Maltings Lane?) yea, (Q: Nitrovit now isn’t it?) hey? (Q: Is it Nitrovit now?) no, no, Nitrovit’s down, oh, what’s the name of that road? Maltings Lane. (Mrs S: Yes, That is where Nitrovit’s is.) Nitrovit’s is, but where I was down, you go down by the railway, there’s a railway siding isn’t there? (Q: Oh, Baird’s, was it?) Yes, that’s right, yea, that was there, that’s where we were on munitions, yea, we used to unload all shells and bomb cases, they were all cases, they all had to be cleaned, all the rust took off and all cleaned and, some of them were painted and then sent back into the [???] to be filled, I don’t know why they took the trouble to paint ‘em, they were all painted, the shells, the big shells, yea.
Q: So you were doing all different jobs, or mostly just … .
Mrs B: Yea, they give you all sorts of jobs, unloading the trucks (Mrs S: Didn’t you go to Hoffman’s?) that was, oh, yes, I got married (Mrs S: I believe you was there the same time as I was, at Hoffman’s.) yea, well, I got married erm, my husband belonged, erm, Sunderland and he was in Witham House [57 Newland Street], that was called then, that’s a bank now, opposite Farthing’s, well, he was officer’s batsman there and I got married at Witham Church and erm, we had a bit of a party in the canteen up there, you know, I remember Stan coming down with a big basket of strawberries and the horse was frightened, that was going round and round in circles coming down the road, you know, yes, I got married from there.
Q: Which canteen, you said you had a party in the canteen?
Mrs B: The canteen belong the factory where we used to go over, the munition factory, well, then, he went away to Aldershot, well, that was at a holiday time, the trains were terrible to get anywhere. I went down to Aldershot over the Easter, he got me somewhere, a room like and course I stopped over me time so, course I got the sack (Q: From the munitions?) yes, ‘cause you couldn’t do what you liked then, so they said take your cards, I went straight up to Hoffman’s that day and, Chelmsford, that day and got on at Hoffman’s and I worked there right up to Stan come out the army and I went up the north.
Q: So how did you first meet him, just knocking about the town?
Mrs B: Yea, just in the town, used to be standing outside the Witham House, you know, ‘cause soldiers had that all different, thousands[?] of soldiers, officers used to have that, officers batsman all slept there.
Q: Did they have a lot of places in Witham, the soldiers, did … ?
Mrs B: They were all over the place, they had The Avenue, didn’t they, for the horses and going down Collingwood Road on the left as you go down, that’s all houses there now, they used to be just meadows there and you could see the soldiers all cooking there, got all their things built, you know, what they cook with. [Laugh]
Q: I suppose a good few from Witham would go off to the War did they, (Mrs B: Hey?) I suppose a good few from Witham would go off to the war, would they?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, it was packed with soldiers all the time, people had ‘em, they were billeted on different people, you know, some would take one, some would take two or three, whatever room they’d got.
Q: Did some of your friends go off fighting as well (Mrs B: Hmm?) I suppose some of your friends would go off fighting as well, would they?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, a lot of people we knew, you know, me brothers were there, my brother John and he got, they sent for him to come home when my mum was dying and he had that mustard gas, they used to use it, affected his chest, you know, yea, and the other married brother was out in France, they sent for him to come home too, ‘cause they did for anything like that, you know, but me brother John got home, didn’t get home quite in time, mother died just before he got home, ‘cause they had to come right from France, they’d get their leave, the doctors used to get them home, didn’t they, I think they used to send them, yea, my mother died during the War, yea.
Q: So that would make it quite a different place during the War then, I should think (Mrs B: Hmm?) quite a strange place during the war, Witham, wouldn’t it, yea?
Mrs B: That was a busy place ‘cause I mean it was all soldiers and then the Americans came and (Q: Some in Witham were there?) ooh, crowds, yea. My daughter there was engaged to an American, Jean, yea (Mrs S: She’d got her papers signed and everything.) she was going there, but I don’t think she, that, she, I don’t know how they signed her papers, not with the complaints she had, but I was glad she didn’t go, because she, just before she was twenty-one this complaint hadn’t really left and she died when she was just, before she was twenty-one, she died the 2nd February and she would have been twenty-one May 4th so, if she had gone out there I would never have been able to got out to America, so, but she was, she’d had that illness from when she was about nine, wasn’t she (Mrs S: Yes.) when she first went to hospital. We was in the pea fields, do you remember? (Mrs S: Yes, that’s right.) and she’d got her coat on and she felt cold and I had to the doctors next morning, her legs had swollen and they sent her straight away to hospital, ooh, she was, they operated all over her, legs opened, arms, back of her neck, one leg was opened right from, the front there right up to here, had it in plaster (Mrs S: Terrible scars, right up to here, didn’t she?) she had ‘em all up her arm here, onto here, she had her arm, had to sleep with her arm in this thing (Mrs S: Sling.) so she couldn’t put it down, she had a rough time, but she got [???] over it didn’t she, she went to work at the glove factory, would go, and she could have had some work to do at home, but no, she wanted to go to the glove factory, but, gotta be more careful she went to school, she was so pleased she was going to school ‘cause she’d never been to school really, she was about twelve, she come home and she went to school, I bought her a little case and I got her, she’d got nothing to fit her because she’d been in hospital so long, you know, and I got her a little navy blue nap coat and little beret and scarf and everything, she went to school, she distracted everybody in the school, she had to write a hundred lines, so she wouldn’t go no more, I [???] ‘cause they couldn’t make her go to school, you see, because after her illness she hadn’t got to get a knock but she didn’t go to school long, she soon got fed up with that.
Q: When I was going last time, you just started telling me about your mum and how much money, how little money she had to live off (Mrs B: Oh, yes.) I think you were just telling me, you were trying to remember how much she had really?
Mrs B: My brothers used to pay seven and six board then.
Q: Did they? that was the ones that were working? (Mrs B: Yea.) Did they, and they kept the rest did they, give her the seven and six?
Mrs B: Well, they didn’t have much did they, them days? (Q: Well, no.) they never earned the money, and erm, and I don’t think she got about a guinea a week off me dad, (Q: Really?) not when he was working, he was a carpenter, I mean, he used to like a drink and, I mean, they liked cig, smoke a pipe they used to smoke them days, they never smoked so many cigarettes.
Q: No, so how would they arrange it, would he give her, like now, housekeeping would he? (Mrs B: Hey?) He’d give her so much housekeeping you think, and keep the rest?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, (Q: So it would be just about a guinea.) Mm, never had much them days.
Q: And then, how much off the, how many brothers would there be bringing, that would be the, (Mrs B: I had the ….) that was bringing in that amount?
Mrs B: Well, I had some married when I remember, I had erm, three at home, three brothers, (Q: Yes.) they were living at home, the others were married, Ted was married, George was married and Emily was married, but me brothers, I had three other brothers living at home, er, working (Q: Yea, so she had, sort of, some off them and then off your dad, yea?) and erm, course I was the next one, I was still at school when they were working, till I left school, but erm, you don’t erm, you know, there’s such a, well, you had such a lot happen when you’re young, you don’t always think about it do you? (Q: Well, you don’t, no.) (Mrs S: You’re younger than them and, you know, you don’t realise until ….) (Q: And you don’t know what everybody else has do you?) No, as things are now it’s terrible.
Q: Did your dad work for a firm or for somebody else or? (Mrs B: Who?) Your dad, or on his own?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, he worked at, that used to be Lewis’s, years ago, that was in the town, know where the wine shop is [66 Newland Street] (Q: Near Farthings [68 Newland Street?) Farthings, well, my dad used to go up there and turn down a yard [now Coach House Way] and he had a place there where he done all his carpentry, you know, made different things, and then he used to go out to, er, these toffs’ houses, big houses and erm do jobs there, all sorts of jobs, used to go all over the place, for Lewis and Sons that was then, well I don’t know whether that was when dad worked there, (Mrs S: I should think so.) that was Lewis when me brothers both worked there, because Fred worked there as well (Mrs S: Mm, I don’t remember much about that.) and then there was somebody else took it, forget his name now, but I remember ‘em changing over (Mrs S: Yea.) from Lewis’s, erm me sisters, course they all went to service, or me married sister, she, I remember her getting married, I was in service then at Ilford and er, she was the oldest daughter like, the others were, all the older ones were boys (Q: Yea.) and then there was three girls, there was me, my sister at Ilford, she’s two years a month younger than me, and then another sister I lost, she had erm ten children didn’t she, all married round about Witham. (Q: Yea.) She lived up erm, Whitehead’s farm, right up past the water tower [Cressing Road] (Q: Yea. Oh, I know, along there, yea.) and you go up past spinney and she lived right up the fields on a farm there, she lived there ever since her oldest girl was born, she went up there after she was born (Q: Yea.) and lived up there. She come back to Witham round Mill Lane into one of the bungalows and she lost a terrible lot of weight (Q: Really?) at first she wasn’t used to being closed in and she couldn’t stand it and that got on her nerves I think. After living on a farm, open, all fields and everything, she, she never liked it, she died with cancer with just having a tooth out, that was under a tooth, mm, so you never know what you have do you? She went back to the doctors after she had the tooth out, ‘cause that was paining her so much and they sent her to Colchester for radium treatment, but she died, she never lived long after it. Might have lasted longer if she hadn’t had the tooth out, but I expect she was going mad with tooth ache, you know.
Q: I expect erm, well your mum did pretty well to keep you all, ‘cause it sounds she kept you quite nicely with your clothes and everything? (Mrs B: Yea.) She did pretty well to keep you all, didn’t she?
Mrs B: Me sister used to make all our pinafores, nightdresses and petticoats, but me mum always had a dressmaker, took us to a dressmaker for our best dresses. (Q: Yes, yes.) She used to take us erm, I don’t know where now, I forget the name, but she always had our best frocks made, we, mine and Alice’s used to be exactly the same (Mrs S: Miss Fuller, was it?) Hey? (Mrs S: Was it Miss Fuller?) (Q: Miss Fuller, mm.) (Mrs S: Miss Fuller?) I don’t know, Grace who it was, I forget, but erm, the one what died, me sister, she was, a bit younger, she used to always have hers made on a little younger style, you know, (Q: Yea.) and me and me sister what’s at Ilford, ain’t many of us left now, I’ve got one brother at Brightlingsea, sister at Ilford, that’s all there is innit? Yea, they’ve all died, excepting me sister at Ilford, she’s two years younger than me, my birthday’s 8 December, hers is 8 January, and I’m 81 she’ll be 79, she would be the 8 January, and erm I got a young brother, the youngest one of the lot, at Brightlingsea. (Q: Yea.) He lives there, he’s 70, he was 72, he come and see me, I hadn’t seen him for about 20 years, he come and see me a little while back, I wouldn’t a known him. (Q: Really?) (Mrs S: Oh, I know.) He’d gone grey and I remembered him when he was dark and (Mrs S: Older! [Laugh] I said everybody gets older, don’t they?) That’s what I mean, (Q: People don’t realise, do they?) such a long time, and course I hadn’t seen him for so many years and you just picture ‘em like you see ‘em, you know, but when he come, well!
Q: What did he used to do? (Mrs B: Hey?) What did he used to do?
Mrs B: He was on the railway from when he left school. (Q: Oh, was he, mm.) Went to the signal box, went to the signal box as a boy, you know they always have a boy in a signal box, (Q: Yea, I see.) and then he went on and on, he used to drive, train driver. (Q: Oh, right.) When he was made, made redundant several years ago, they made a lot redundant on the railway, didn’t they? (Q: Yea.) Well, he got made redundant, he’s pension age nearly anyway, so he’s got a little job erm, got his pension, and he’s got a little job at a place like Witham, like the corn stores, he does a little part-time job, ‘cause he got a good bit of money being made redundant, ‘cause he’d been there since he left school.
Q: I remember you said your mum erm, sort of got the job for your other brother at the blacksmith’s and she got jobs for you, (Mrs B: Oh, yea.) did she arrange that for all of you, was it her job to find you work?
Mrs B: I don’t know whether she found all the others work, but I remember, I say, when me brother went as an apprentice horseshoeing at, down the town, the one down there [130 Newland Street], well he owned it at the finish for a long, long time and erm she said his aprons cost one and six each and that’s all he got a week [Laughter] one and six. She had to get him two leather aprons, one one time and then wait a little while and get him another one, ‘cause they get burnt, you know, the leather, with shoeing.
Q: It sounds you all got quite good jobs then, in the end?
Mrs B: Yea, they were all (Q: Fixed up, but I suppose ….) well, labouring, me brothers worked different jobs, you know, on the building and different things (Q: Yea.)
Q: I remember, was your mother bothered when you went from, into the factory, did you get that job yourself?
Mrs B: Yes, I went to see about getting that job, ‘cause I was, I couldn’t stop in service, I never liked it.
Q: Was your mother bothered, or don’t you remember?
Mrs B: Well, she didn’t think much of it, she said I should never go in a factory, but I did, I never stopped nowhere anyway. [Laugh]
Q: Which one did you like the best? (Mrs B: Hey?) Which one, which job did you like the best? (Mrs B: None of them.) None of them [Laughter] (Mrs S: The seed factory I reckon.[Laugh])
Mrs B: It was all right there, ‘cause we used to have a bit of fun then, but then I were getting the sack for singing, ‘cause they used to say to me [Laughter] sing and I used to sing, and that used to annoy the office underneath and poor old Freddie Springett he lived at, he’s dead now, he lived at Rivenhall, (Mrs S: No relation [Laugh].) No relation to you and you know the latches what lift up, and everybody used to stop dead, he used to know that was me, he said ‘Edie, you needn’t come back this afternoon.’ [Mrs S laughing] I thought ‘Oh gawd I got the sack again, I shall get killed when I get home’, so the women said ‘Well, if Edie don’t come back, we don’t come back.’ so I went back ‘cause I used, they used to say if you want to sing all the different songs [???].
Q: I wonder what, so he didn’t say ‘Right, you can all go.’ then? (Mrs B: Hey?) He didn’t give them all the sack then? (Mrs B: No.) He must have needed them.
Mrs B: No they couldn’t, they needed the seeds you see.
Q: Yea, I suppose afterwards you got the sack at erm (Mrs B: Pinkhams.) Pinkhams, but presumably they didn’t, the girls didn’t think to do the same then? (Mrs B: Hey?) The girls didn’t say the same there?
Mrs B: No fear.
Q: Why, do you think they were more frightened there?
Mrs B: No, there was a lot there. (Q: Yea.) That was my fault. (Mrs S: There was no other factory for them in Witham, was there?) Hey? (Mrs S: There was no other place for ‘em in Witham, only Pinkhams, wasn’t there?) Oh, they were horrible, horrible to work for they were. That Diane Pinkham, she never married and she was a horrible, ooh, she was the most miserable person I ever see and course I said, she said er, got onto me about this ink on these gloves, well, it was grease, oil off the machine, someone, see ‘cause they went all round the factory, one done fingers, one put the thumbs in, one made the fingers, one done the marks down the back, the fancy marks, another one done the binding, I used to do the binding (Q: Did they have machines or, was it?) machines, yes (Q: Like sewing machines thing or?) all different machines (Q: All different, yea.) and I did the vents, you know, the binding round the, round the thingme, and this er, bundle, er, they were in dozens, erm, had some oil on, and course she said that was me, well I hadn’t touched ‘em, course I said it wasn’t me, I said ‘That was like that when I got ‘em.’ and she said ‘That was.’ I said ‘That was not me.’ and so she said ‘Take your cards.’ I said ‘Oh, give me me cards.’ I told me mother there weren’t the work, I had to tell her something. Everywhere I went in service, I run away, I didn’t stop. But erm, girls don’t go to service today, do they? (Q: No.) There’s no service today, like there used to be, that’s all there was for girls years ago, I mean, you’d gotta learn to work, my mother used to make us turn the bedrooms out and thread the duster all through the, you know where the spring goes on the iron part, used to have to thread the duster all through there and show us, you know, and make us do everything exact, we had to work when we were kids, we all had to do something. Well, course there was nothing else for us, you gotta learn something, you gotta go in service, there’s nothing else for you.
Q: So she taught you a lot before you went?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, we had to work.
Q: Did you have a special job that was yours or did it … all sorts?
Mrs B: All sorts of jobs we had to do, (Q: Yea.) ‘cause them days you, you had chambers [pots] didn’t you, (Mrs S: Yes.) everybody used chambers and one of us had to (Mrs S: I still got mine at home. [Laugh]) (Q: Might come in handy!) I laugh when we stayed at hotel at [???] and there was a little, I went up Cumberland, not the last time, the time before, there was a little thing at the cupboard thing, (Mrs S: [Unheard comment.]) a little cupboard thing near the, near the bed and when we opened that that got great big white chamber in, I swear was as thick as that, great big old heavy thing that was and I thought ‘I ain’t seen one of them lately.’ [Laugh]
Q: Well, that was your job at home was it, you had to deal with ….?)
Mrs B: Yes, first of all, used to get a jug of hot water and a cloth and we used to have to go up with a slop pot and empty all slops, empty all the chambers, ‘cause I had brothers at home and there was four bedrooms and put the hot water in, wash ‘em out, dry ‘em up.
Q: Where did you empty them, was there a, was there a toilet in the …?
Mrs B: No, right up the yard, (Q: In the yard?) communal toilets, there was two rows belong the whole square (Q: Yea.) and they were back-to-back. (Q: Oh, I see, yea.) The one lot, the row was that way and another row this way, you all had your fastener to your lavatory, you know, but these old posh[?] fashioned wooden ones them days, weren’t lavatories like we got now, you used to have to scrub all the front, the wood and all the top, they were all wood.
Q: Mm, what, so had your own or you ….?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, you all had your own (Q: They were all together?) oh, yes, all had your own toilets.
Q: And that was what, there was no, sort of, weren’t flushing ones or anything? (Mrs B: Hmm?) Weren’t flushing ones?
Mrs B: Oh, they were flush, (Q: They were?) yea (Q: Oh, I see, yes.) yea, they were flush, there was a big tank right along the top, top and they flushed all the toilets, that was when I was a kid, that was down the Square, had all flush lavatories down there. Up on the farm where my sister was they never, ooh, that was horrible, used to have to go right across the yard, up a corner didn’t we and that, ooh, the smell was terrible, had a little toilet I always remember then a big one, a little one for the children. (Q: Really?) but there was no erm, there was no water flushing there, not in the country.
Q: So did you have running water at home in the house for washing and that?
Mrs B: Not indoors, no, we had tap outside. (Q: I see.) Er, one tap to two houses, there was sort of we lived here and Mrs Everett lived there and then we had the tap and the drain there. (Q: Oh, I see.) You know, so you’s, you only just had to come out the door to the tap, yea, that was down the Square, we had one tap between every two houses.
Q: So what would you do for washing clothes say?
Mrs B: Well, if you had, if, my mum had a water butt, if she had, if we had plenty of rain, she used to use, she had a net over a pipe to strain all the bits so the water was nice and clean, she used to use the soft water, but if not, used to have, fill your copper with the tap water and use your softener and that for washing, you know.
Q: And the copper was for boiling?
Mrs B: Yea, copper in the kitchen, out kitchen, we had two kitchens ‘cause we had a double house (Q: Oh, that’s right.) ‘cause me mother had a big family, we had like, the two front doors, front door there and a front door there, you go in one front door, into the kitchen, into another kitchen, into another front room and out, like that, because there was two knocked, they knocked all the doors, (Q: Yea.) you could get all round the house, you know, (Q: Yea.) without coming outside, but she had, double house ‘cause she had a big family, there was several of us.
Q: Who owned those houses? (Mrs B: Hey?) Who owned the houses, did you know?
Mrs B: Ooh, I think, forget, old er, tell you who used to come for the rent, old Philip Lee. (Mrs S: What, down the Square?) Down the Square. (Mrs S: Did he?) Yea, that must have been Dean mustn’t it? (Mrs S: Must have been, [???] now, he collected[?] the rent.) I should think so, I don’t remember anybody else, but he used to collect the rents down there, mm.
Q: Did your dad have to (Mrs B: Hmm?) Did your dad help at all with the house or was he, did your dad help at all with the, in the house?
Mrs B: Ooh, no. Men them days never done the work. [Laughter] My husband never done much, unless I was, if I was, had one of the children and I weren’t too good when I was ill and that, he’d get up, he’d do the kitchen and I had a great big kitchen, you know, he’d clean that up and do the kitchen as well as me, he’d help me do a lot and he’d turn the mangle for me when I was washing and, ‘cause I’ll always remember him come down the yard one day and I got some pillow cases with flowers on and course that was folded and that was showing through, so he come, got it all mangled and he said ‘Ee, something on here, is that dirt?’ ‘No.’ I said ‘That’s some flowers showing through.’ they were showing through the other part, he thought there was something that was dirty or something. He always used to (Mrs S: Carried for me sometimes.) Hey? (Mrs S: He carried for me sometimes [???]) and I used to have a smoke and used to make me a cigarette and come put it in me mouth at the sink and light it for me and he made me a shade, ‘cause the sun was on the, when you stood there at the window, it used to make you perspire terrible, you know, it used to run off yer, ‘cause you used to, the sink was there and your window was there, me gas stove was there, but of course you got full sun on yer, he made me a shade and, to go down like that, with some stuff and wood and he used to hang it up every time I done me washing, so I was shaded there. Yea, and he used to love, love to mess about, make things, you know, (Q: Yea.) he made erm, when Keith [her son] had, started his business and had the telephone in, he made a box thing on the wall for the telephone to stand on the top and that was all formica top and er, slot underneath, piece underneath, that much, put your books in. Doctor Foster took a fancy to that, he said ‘Right.’[?] well, poor old chap, he made one and er he never got quite finished it, he weren’t well, he had throm, the thrombosis and he was took ill, you know, but erm he nearly finished it, Charlie Hazell took that and used it. Had nearly finished another one, it got a little cabinet in, like, with the doors on. (Mrs S: Did Keith leave it up there?) Hh? (Mrs S: Did Keith leave it up there?) No, I got it in the toilet, in the bathroom, I keep me toilet rolls in and different pills and different things in there, yea, no, I wouldn’t leave that, I said to ‘em ‘I’ll keep that.’ I said, (Mrs S: Oh, the little cupboard thing?) Yea. (Mrs S: I meant the telephone thing.) I expect he left it, ‘cause he’s got his on the wall now, he had a table. (Mrs S: Yea.) but the children wouldn’t leave it alone that was all, so, and, kids running in the hall, you know, he had table with his phone on and they used to get hold of it and talk in it and do all sorts when they were tiny, and they wouldn’t, and that was often off the hook, so he had one put up on the wall so they couldn’t reach it, so, got it on the wall now.
Q: Your dad didn’t erm, your dad, when you were a kiddy your dad didn’t help do any carpent …., did he do any carpentry at home or anything or work really?
Mrs B: No, not really, not a lot. He done a lot of gardening. (Q: Oh, yes.) Had a great big allotment and he had a lovely garden at the house, we had a big piece each side, a lovely flower garden, so much flower garden and so much at the back, he used to grow all, grow celery and that at the back of the flowers, he used to have, like high chrysanths all the way round and then that, about that space was all sorts of flowers, we had some lovely [???] didn’t we and he used to have all crocuses and all sorts, lilies, my mum had them coloured lilies with the spots on.
Mrs S: Tiger lilies weren’t they called?
Mrs B: Yea, lovely they were, she loved her flowers and little rose trees and he used to do all the gardening and he had a big allotment as well (Q: Mm, That would take lot [???].) grow, he used to grow, he used to do all our shoe mending. (Q: Oh, did he?) Mm, dad did, yes, my husband did too, he ….
Q: Did a lot of people used to do that or was it just? (Mrs B: Hm?) Did a lot of people used to do that I wonder, or was it just he specially, your dad was specially good at it?
Mrs B: Yes, he was good at it, he had all his different sized feet (Q: Really?) and a bench up the shed with a thing on, what the feet fitted in (Q: I know, yes.) so he could stand up there with the shoes on the proper feet, he had three or four different size feet, because he used to, my husband used to shoe mend, he used to hand sew and all, my husband did, because when I used to buy the children shoes, I used to like them little white buckskin boots, little tiny ones, only had about four buttons, so I generally used to have them for the children, ‘cause they used to like ‘em in white, you know, when they was babies, well, when they running, first running about and er, he said ‘You buy any more of these shoes with stitched soles, I’m not doing ‘em.’, ‘cause he used to take the sole off and when he took the sole off all he got was the upper, he gotta put the whole new (Q: Oh, goodness.) sole on again, and they damped the leather, (Q: Yea.) wet the leather, then they, side where they cut a slot all round like that, all the way round, so you lift, can lift a piece up, well, then when you’ve stitched ‘em you stitch ‘em right through to the upper sole, you know, you see the kids shoes with stitching round the outside and he used to stitch them, used to make his own wax, that was some sort of hemp with some sort of wax and you rolled it and that was sort of, you had two needles, one you put in that way and one this way and pull it, and he used to stitch them soles on and then that little piece what was caught up, that was knocked down and that kept down, you know, after you’d finished and he used to hate doing the children’s shoes when I used to buy them little stitched soles ‘cause he couldn’t nail the soles on, he gotta stitch ‘em. My husband always done all shoe mending (Mrs S: Yea, he did.) Stan did.
Q: Wouldn’t have much spare time then would he?
Mrs B: He used to do it in the evenings, he worked in Crittall’s, you know (Q: Yea.) worked in Crittall’s for 33½ years. When we come from the north, see, I lived up Sunderland, South Hilton, near Sunderland, that was only about, them days twopence on the train, that’s all, only just a little way, you know, was like going on a bus from here to Witham, went on a train from South Hilton to Sunderland, that was just a short distance and erm, he always done all the shoe mending for the children, I never, never cost me nothing for shoe mending, used to go and buy his leather and, and erm, when he done some and we was up north he used go and buy a great big, great big piece of leather, you know, and what he could, cut it up for his sizes, what he wanted, he did a lot of people’s shoe mending up there. Well, he done it for a living at one time up there, but, there was the depression after the War, there was so many out of work, people couldn’t even afford to have their shoes mended (Q: Yes, quite.) Was terrible up there then, all the ship yards closed and hundreds, boys eighteen never done a day’s work, just walking about, there was no work, nothing. (Mrs S: [???] nothing to come back to, no doubt, [???])
Q: Was it, that reminds me, another thing I was going to ask you, in Witham, when you were little, were there any very poor people then? Do you remember?
Mrs B: Well, there was, they was, difference in the children come to school, some were, at school, used to be dirty them days, children used to be lousy, you know, and the school what do you call it, used to come round, send the poor little kids home and some hadn’t got much to wear, you know, we were lucky really, we was always dressed fairly decent, you know, and always well dressed weekends, we used to have to keep our things for best and our school clothes and different boots for best, we used to have erm, like kid boots for best, high buttoned boots, they were soft, like a glove, you know, like at school course we had bit stronger ones, but erm we always wore pinafores, that’s why I didn’t like it, they always wore ‘em in them days to go to school, nearly always wore pinafores didn’t they?
Mrs S: Yes, I did.
Mrs B: My sister used to make them, used to have a piece embroidery right over the front, along the front, we used to have to wear one Sundays, see, over our best dresses, you know, but we was always made to go to Sunday school in the morning, there was the Sunday school in the Church, (Mrs S: [???]) in the church, and then out of Church and home and if we wanted to go anywhere else had to go to Church, Sunday school, after dinner, weren’t allowed to play about on a Sunday, not in our good clothes.
Q: What about Saturdays, what would you do on a Saturday?
Mrs B: Ooh, shopping. Play about, go out to play down the meadows, down Maldon Road and play in the meadows when we were kids, you know, and every Saturday morning there used to be a, you remember Moore’s buses (Q: Heard of them, yes.) used to be on the road, dunno, on the road, not long back now, they haven’t so long retired, have they? (Mrs S: Yes, of course, they used to be horse and carts [???].) They had like a closed in van with two horses, they used to come from Kelvedon, and they used to stop in Witham, I used to have to go up Maldon Road on a Saturday, stop on the corner of Maldon Road where the White Hart is, waiting for them to come to Kelvedon and they used to go to Chelmsford and they used to pick up things on the way to take ‘em to Chelmsford people, pick up and drop all the way back. Well, my mother used to send, there wasn’t a Maypole in Witham then, used to send for her butter and marge all at the Maypole in Chelmsford, and used to have to take the money in an envelope with the name on and then an order inside, ‘cause if you bought a pound of margarine, then you had half pound give yer, free, (Mrs S: Mm, that’s right.) them days and I used to have to go up there at night about six, and wait for Moore to come from Chelmsford and get the parcel, they used to charge about threepence I think. (Mrs S: Wasn’t much, I know.) I dunno, about threepence or sixpence, I couldn’t tell you exactly, but very little, but to take your order in and bring yer stuff back and used to have to be up there to meet ‘em from Kelvedon and up to meet ‘em from Chelmsford at a certain time at night, you used to have to go up and wait for them to come back and get our parcel off, always remember that (Q: I’d never heard of that, that’s interesting, yes. That was just for the butter and the marge, you did have marge then, did you?) Well, we had to eat marge then, I mean, we never had the money, all my mother had to keep house with, off my father was a guinea a week, and there was a big family of us. She done work indoors, same as we did, sorting seeds for Cooper Taber was it or Cullen’s? (Mrs S: Cullen’s.) Cullen’s. (Q: Did she?) My mum done that indoors and we used to have to go out in the fields all the summer to work, we had to go erm, fruit picking for Morse of Hatfield. Mum liked pea picking best, but she found out the kids liked fruit picking best, I think that’s ‘cause you could eat it, that was better than peas [Laughter] and erm, we’d go to Morse’s and every time you weighed up you weighed up about four times a day, I think you weighed up for breakfast, ‘cause you used to get there about six in the morning, or seven, I don’t know what time exactly, but used to get there before breakfast, so you knocked off for breakfast, you’d go and weigh all your fruit and they used to give you, you put ‘em on the scales and they give you a ticket how much (Mrs S: How much fruit you’d got.) you’d earned on that so much fruit in that basket and the men used to take it and tip it in tubs and then you had to have your breakfast and the gang would come you’d start work again a certain time, you was only allowed so long for your breakfast and then I think you used to weigh up until about eleven o’clock and then you had your dinner hour, weigh up again then, used to get all these little square tickets, they used to sort of tear ‘em out, like you would stamps and on a Friday night you used to have to get a great big sheet of brown paper, you want a smooth piece, and all the biggest ticket …
See the end of Tape 5 for notes about Mrs Brown and Mrs Springett