Mr Ted Mott was born in 1913. He was interviewed in 16 December 1985, when he lived at 22 Bramston Green.
For more about him see Mott, Ted, in the People category
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com 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.]
Continued from tape 103
[chat about service overseas in Burma etc in Second World War, not noted]
[then more chat about cards in postcard album, started on tape 103, side 4, Witham ones are JG’s photos M141-M205, information about them is in database re the M series of photos]
Q: What was it, just a house was it? [High House, 5 Newland Street]
Mr M: Just a big house. It used to stretch, it belonged to Doctor Payne. Used to stretch right down, more or less behind the, we called it asylum then, in Maldon Road where the Masonic Hall is [The Retreat?]. (Q: Oh I see.) Anyhow all that bit was a piece of land out there you see.
Q: Was the asylum still going when you …?
Mr M: He used to have that, we used to call it the asylum. Used to run by that bit. Bridge Home people had it after them. That’s been a little school, a school, St Crispin’s School, after Dr Payne moved out. After that Mrs Osborne had it for St Crispin’s School. Then the Bridge Home took it over. They were there when I went in the Army. So I don’t know what happened after that.
Q: You remember it when it was Dr Payne’s do you? (Mr M: Yes, I remember that, yes) Was it, were you frightened then?
Mr M: Well, they used to say that they were loony boys in there, loony people in there, see.
Q: But you never saw anything?
Mr M: No, didn’t really know anything about that. We used to go up helter-skelter by there. [laugh]
Q: I suppose it was a sort of a home was it?
Mr M: Yes, because he was a big noise I think down at Colchester.
Q: Oh I see. But he used to run that himself, privately? (Q: Yes.) I’ve never seen pictures like that. I didn’t realise it was all belonging to them.
[more chat about cards, not noted]
Mr M: …Because where Barclay’s bank is now [59 Newland Street], when I was a lad it was a home for children. People with plenty of money, I suppose, I don’t know, I don’t know, but that was, and some of these lads are on there. I don’t know whether Percy King is on there. But this chap, Reg De’ath[?], not any relation to Honor (Q: The one on the end there?) That’s right. He’s still about was at the, I think they called it Horwood House? Because after they moved out the Bishop of London come there for a little while. He had a, I suppose he was, a valet, bloke named Fred Stringfellow, he was in the Scouts, that’s how I knew him.
[more chat about cards, not noted]
Q: Did they have the swimming pool down in Witham when you were …?
Mr M: They had the swimming pool down behind the Swan when I was a lad.
Q: I think I went down there once for blackberries and things, but you can still see the site.
Mr M: It weren’t there long. The Fire people used it afterwards (Q: Oh I see.) but I think the soldiers used it. I’m not sure about this but I think the soldiers used it during the War, First World War. But they opened it for a little while but I don’t think that paid, you see. We used to like to swim in the river. In the Mouth[?] or down at Braxted. See because Mrs Stewart they had the Braxted Life Saving Club where the weir is. You come along the river and there’s a weir going round and it goes away doesn’t it? (Q: Mm.) The water goes under the mill and then there’s a sort of a pool. Used to have a life saving club there. But I didn’t belong to it but lots of people belonged to it. You could go for your badges and all that sort of thing. But we used to swim further down this way, a place called Pea Hole and we just found this place after they shut the pool, oh because they said the water was wrong. Yet we were swimming a little way further up and we got any trouble. [laugh]
Q: I suppose people just got accustomed to the water. I’m surprised it was deep enough. I suppose it widens out there does it?
Mr M: In the pool where the life-saving group was is quite deep there.
Q: And what about the Pea Hole?
Mr M: The Pea Hole was, years ago when Joe Glover, if he’d been alive now he’d probably be about 110, but he was one of these old boys who used to swim in the mornings [???] and all that. (Q: Goodness.) So they tell me. I mean it’s all hearsay, but I remember going down there, oh very young, try and swim. That was a proper thing. There was a real, they had a couple of diving boards, that sort of thing, a spring board and a high dive board. There was a boys’ end further along then.
Q: Was that in the Blackwater then was it? (Mr M: That’s it.) It is quite deep I suppose.
Mr M: It gets deep as you get towards the Mill. Blue Mills, towards that way. And the ‘Mouth’ you see is down there. We used to swim in that. Where the Brain and the Blackwater where they join.
Q: I don’t know if I’ve been down there.
Mr M: You see if that got weedy well we looked for somewhere else to swim. Go down the Blackwater Lane that takes you right down. Oh yes. At the finish, when we were about sixteen or seventeen, we’d get on our bikes and go to Mill Beach and swim and come home at night you know, after tea. Tea had worn off then, by the time you’d got down there, and you wanted supper when you come home.
Q: You lived with your Grandma, so the other family were at a separate house, your cousin Vi?
Mr M: Oh Vi and them they lived further round.
Q: Round the corner sort of thing were they? So was it just you, in your house was it just you and your …
Mr M: Grandma and Grandad and a couple of uncles. (Q: Yes.) A four roomed house. There was two up and two down actually. That was the layout. But Violy’s [Vi Bentley] they had a big house on the end which was two up and two down, well, four up and four down, and we had four up and four down, because it was a double house, but you’d got two houses up. You’d got bedroom at front and one at the back. Then a living room and a kitchen and a coal place up by the stairs.
Q: Because I borrowed these, I nearly forgot. They’re not very flattering but they must have been taken when they were going to pull them … [showing photos of Trafalgar Square from Mike Wadhams’ collection, now ERO T/P 339, Volume I, 27]
Mr M: That’s right, that’s it, oh happy days.
Q: But as you say they look good houses all right. So this was in the front was it, the garden part?
Mr M: Yes, this was the front. This was well after we came out.
Q: Well I can imagine they took them when they were nearly empty, because ….
Mr M: Yes, because that’s where we lived, up there. Me old Grandma, that one there. That was one house and that was another one where, Mrs Clark lived in that one when she first got married I think. [???] Barbers, Kings, Violy ….
Q: So that one’s looking away from the road is it?
Mr M: That’s right, we used to call it Nelson’s cottage. It was on its own and these were toilets, nineteen in the row, well ten one side and nine the other. (Q: Goodness.)
Q: So this is the garden? (Mr M: That’s right.) So these ones didn’t have a back?
Mr M: There’s no back, you’ve got the front.
Q: So you’d to walk up to go …
Mr M: You come up the middle. (Q: Up the path?) That house there [???] piece of garden.
Q: Who lived in that one then, that one was special? [Nelson House]
Mr M: Mrs Dazley. No they weren’t special they were just the same as we were.
[continuing about Trafalgar Square]
Mr M: When we moved out, 1933, I mean I was keeping the garden going then. That’s where me mother lived there.
Q: They were probably mostly empty when they took those. Because I think the person I borrowed them from was Mike Wadhams – you know him? (Mr M: Yes.) He was the Public Health. So he was probably, may have had them taken, before they were pulled down. They look good houses don’t they.
Mr M: They’d got no back ways, that’s their no trouble. They’d got no bad ways. You see the back of these backed on to Mr Hasler’s garden who used to have the little shop, near the Spread Eagle, that little, Oxfam or somebody have got now, not Oxfam, Sue Ryder [51 Newland Street]. (Q: Oh yes.) Used to have all the little vegetables there, fruit and what not.
Q: So the road was sort of down, like an L-shape was it? (Mr M: This is the row of them there.] On this one I mean. There is a sort of …
Mr M: You came up here you see. Then these were the, here’s the front door. These are the back. These are facing the Maldon Road. You see the other side of us was this place where Doctor Horner [a vet] used to bring all his cattle when they were sick and things like that. (Q: Oh I see.) Because there was no garage there. There’s a big garage there now. (Q: Mmm.) There was only a little tiny garage there then. Then there was the field and then soon after we’d moved they started putting houses up there.
Q: Well, they’ve pulled some of them down now. No that was further, the older ones.
Mr M: No those were further on. I never thought I’d see them in that state.
Q: No it’s a shame isn’t it. Not very flattering but it’s nice to see the houses. I suppose half of them were empty you see. They had to wait till for them all to get empty before they pulled them down.
Mr M: We’d moved out. Nobody went in our house. (Q: They just left them?) It was probably six years before they did anything.
Q: And they get in a state when people throw things in. It’s a shame that. They had quite a big bit of ground.
Mr M: Had a long piece.
[chat about cards in album, and about him being in the army, not noted.]
Mr M: They used to play quoits, like horseshoe thing and they used to put a cigarette paper up and stand so far back and there was a Witham side and a Crittall side years ago, and they had clay beds and the quoit. The had teams of six or something. And it was the quoit nearest the, what did they call it, nearest the light, light they used to call it this piece of paper. Some used to ring it, get right over the top. (Q: Just on the …?) Yes. There were several pounds they used to throw. They were about like that I suppose, probably bigger than a horseshoe, only round. They used to plop in this clay bed. That’s what they called them then. Crittall’s had one, had a Quoit club, and so did Witham town. It used to be a big thing in Essex at one time. Terling had a good side. [???]
[chat about Shelley’s second hand shop, and cards in album, not noted]
Q: So Doris’s people stayed out at Bradwell did they? Or did they come …
Mr M: No she, they came here about 1930 I reckon. They come up to Chess Lane. There were five houses there they lived in the middle one. Two brothers and her. She worked round Mrs Moore’s.
Q: I see, so they were actually living here when you met her, sort of thing, she didn’t come all that way up there.
Mr M: Of course I used to play football with one or her brothers. I suppose that’s how it all started. I don’t know. [Laugh]
Q: I suppose it was easier, there weren’t so many people to get to know then.
Mr M: There was only about six thousand at the most then wasn’t there. We got up to about ten and now we are about twenty-six, twenty-seven.
Q: Still, I suppose, you going round painting all these houses you’d meet plenty people wouldn’t you?
Mr M: I used to meet no end of people yes. And I mean we weren’t, as I said before, we weren’t in Witham all the time [at work decorating with Lewis]. Used to bike to Chelmsford, go round to Stisted. You name it we’d have a go. Bike it. Then when old people moved out we used to go and do their places up. Take mats and sleep on ‘em. Sleep rough. (Q: Did you really?) Oh yes, and cook for them. I’ve cooked for as many as a dozen blokes.
Q: [???] ‘Cos when you, I mean, once you’d finished being an improver, what did they call you then?
Mr M: You was a tradesman then. You would go about, you took charge, but I came to the height of being head cook I think! [laugh]
Q: Did they have different levels of tradesman there?
Mr M: Well you’d be at different levels of pay, you see. If you got on all right you got an extra copper or two you know what I mean, above the rate.
Q: Mmm. You never got a chance of being a manager or anything?
Mr M: Actually I never wanted that. (Q: No?) I never wanted being anything in the Army, only a Private. I had meself to look after. [laugh]
Q: Do you think you could have done?
Mr M: I could have went on several courses. ‘Why don’t you want to go?’ I said ‘Well I’ve got to leave me mates’. ‘Right, we’ll soon do that’, so they transferred me to another section. You can’t beat the Army no matter how you try. There are lots of these things. Always got the whip hand.
Q: You’d got no choice I suppose in the Army. (Mr M: No.) Presumably you wouldn’t be with people from home or anything when you joined up?
Mr M: When I joined up, the week before I joined up there was a lot went from Witham. A whole lot. Really, I suppose about a dozen. Next week was my group to be called up. I was the only one. But there was two blokes on that photograph what come from Maldon, so you sort of palled up with one. I used to write and go and see him, he lived at Maldon up till a few years ago. It’s funny when you are in a barrack room because you know, you think sometimes I wonder what is going to happen now. People all mess in, you know all muck in. You do the same thing. You always get the barrack room lawyer. The one who knows it all.
Q: I suppose you just have to put up with it don’t you. I mean being with the same people all that time must be a bit difficult.
Mr M: That’s it. But you see when I was in one, two, three, four different regiments well you didn’t get the same blokes all the time.
Q: You got switched around a lot then did you?
Mr M: That’s right. Yes and we got, when were going out East we got sunk in the Mediterranean [???] in North Africa which was the jumping off point then for the Sicily landings. Tried hard to get into the Essex Regiment from there. But no, you’d got to go to the Far East and we had three weeks survivors’ leave in North Africa, just lazing about, till we got shipped. Till we got another ship. The Devonshire. A troop carrier she was.
Q: So you still keep in touch with the people, the chap from Maldon?
Mr M: I haven’t seen him lately but I used to see him quite a bit, especially if we were working in Maldon. You see I knew where to find him.
Q: I suppose when you came back, was that when you were trying to get the house and work and everything was a bit difficult was it?
Mr M: Yes, well, houses were difficult. I mean I tried all over Witham to get, two rooms would have done us. (Q: Yes.) I mean, I don’t believe in living with in-laws you see, nor does Doris. She likes her own kitchen. (Q: Quite.). Her parents were all right. They didn’t interfere, but I got a bit naughty, I went down to see the chairman of the Council and asked him why I wasn’t being listed for a bungalow. There wasn’t many going at the finish. He said ‘Well’ I said , ‘well I’ve got as many points as some of these people’, because they allotted the points you see, points system. ‘I’ve got as many points as a lot of these chaps who have got them’ I said, ‘and they’re not Witham people. I’m a Witham chap and my wife is just outside of Witham, Bradwell, is where she was born’ I said ‘I think it’s about time something happened.’ Mr Burrows said ‘We’ll see to it’. ‘Go home’ he said ‘and in a couple of weeks you’ll hear’. I heard in less than a week.
Q: You just have to stick your neck out don’t you? Wasn’t there something, was it a month our two ago, about somebody who’d put their name down in about 1935 or something and they were still sitting waiting! Obviously their name had got lost. You just have to ask, don’t you otherwise you don’t get any notice taken of you. Were the prefabs new then? [Bramston Green]
Mr M: They were new. Yes, we went, Keith was born in the February, the 19th and we moved in about 6th I suppose, February. (Q: That was in?) 1947, he was born.
Q: So they were putting them up?
Mr M: They started building them in ‘45. When I moved in there was just these two. There was a bungalow. That’s that very very bad winter we had. (Q: Of course.) It froze for months on end, about three or four months. Needed two big old heaps of clinker. I had to cut a path through to get the pram up and down. (Q: Oh.) But it was home and that was ours. When the key was turned that was us. But I mean I wasn’t the only one, there was lots of people, lots of chaps round here. But all the people who went in there, bar one I think, were people who’d been in the services you see.
Q: Oh I see. That was probably the intention then was it.
[chat about cards in album, borrowing them, et al, not noted.]