Mrs Annie May Hollick (nee Stock), and her husband Mr Jack Hollick, were born in 1906 and 1905 respectively. They were interviewed on 12 May 1986 when they lived at Elm Cottage, Maldon Road, Witham.
They also appear on tape 108.
For more about them, see Hollick, Jack and Annie May, nee Stock, 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.]
Q: You didn’t start off over the road did you?
Mrs H: No, no that’s when I was young, when I was young. (Q: You were born in …?) I was born in Witham. I was born in Guithavon Valley, Guithavon Valley because there was lots of houses down there. Little tiny houses near the river. (Q: Really?) Yes, right near the river. And of course they were pulled down before I met Jack. (Q: Were they?) Not all of them. They were where I was born Jack, Jack they were pulled down where I was born before you came here.
Mr H: They wasn’t all pulled down, where Razey lived, you went down steps to it. (Q: Really?) And you went down steps and there was a row of cottages, wasn’t there.
Mrs H: I was born in one of those.
Q: It’s quite low, did the river ever flood?
Mrs H: No it never flooded.
Mr H: Now that’s level the Council dumped all their rubbish on there so that’s level now, right across nearly to the railway line. And now, of course that’s you could build a house on it.
Q: Were they sort of along the road or did you go down?
Mrs H: No, they were down steps. There was three or four steps you had to go down, concrete steps. There was a brick wall along the top near the road and you went down two or three steps.
Q: So they were all in a sort of row going down towards the river? (Mrs H: Yes.) So how many were there?
Mrs H: The river Blackwater [actually the Brain]. Jack, now how many houses do you think there was there? Mr Razey was there when you came, that was about one of the last houses that was there.
Mr H: Then there was Baldwin the front end of Razey. (Mrs : Yes that’s right.) Then there was one where (Mrs H: At the back.) Jingle Bells lived, Lewis. Further back.
Mrs H: That’s more recently built.
Q: Were they very big houses?
Mrs H: No, dear, not really.
Q: How many rooms did you have?
Mrs H: How many rooms did we have? When I look back, about four, two up and two down. Well like the little cottages were over there [Maldon Road], when we were children.
Q: Were there many of you?
Mrs H: I had, there was five girls, so you see dear, it was a lean-to bedroom. So you see in that lean-to room, being all girls, there was three of us, slept there. Five lovely daughters, (Mr H: Five lovely daughters.) he always laughs and says that. And three that way and two that way. Poor little houses really when you compare them with what they are now. (Q: Mm.) I make Jack laugh because, oh we had a little old dormer window there when I was young. I was the eldest of the five. I’ll show you a photograph of my five sisters before you go. When we were, I was nineteen and my other sisters were about seventeen but I can, I’m just going to tell you this, cause in those days, you know, I forget which political party was in but I’m not going to talk about politics, because I don’t, well, I won’t say I don’t believe in them, I do, but they would never have anything done to the old cottages. My dear mother used to pay rent religiously, but anyway.
There was a dormer window in this little cottage where we were and dad used to tie it with string and when the gales came in winter, oh I did think that was going to blow out. But when I met my husband, I’m going on a long time on. Oh I said I do yearn for a nice house I said. I cry because I’m frightened that this window is going to blow out and then. Then when Jack come back from the …, I married him and when he came back from the Army you see. because I married Jack in 1930, in the years of the Depression in the first years of the Depression. But anyway he lived to come back. He was there the whole six years and I’d got the two children. We’ve only had two children, John and Pat. You didn’t really meet my son, because he could see we were talking.
Mr H: [???] knows Pat.
Mrs H: Mrs Gyford knows Pat, yes. And then he said well we must have something sure because and hence we started in business on our own.
Q: What were you doing before that then?
Mr H: I was a shoemaker when I was in the Army.
Mrs H: And I worked at the glove factory because there wasn’t very much work in Witham for girls, apart from service.
Mr H: Now I am an army pensioner. [laugh] (Mrs H: Time serving pension you see.) It’s over 40 years since I came out the Forces.
Q: So what was your family name?
Mrs H: My maiden name was Stock. I think that there is a couple or three more families in the name of Stock, but they’re not related to us really. There’s some Stocks at Rivenhall. They weren’t related but my father’s side, my mother’s side, Baxter. They were real Witham people, real Witham people.
Q: What did your father do then?
Mrs H: Well, my father, he had the misfortune to be ill such a lot and he did lots of jobs. He carted coal for the Co-op and then in the end he had a little job at Crittall’s, because my father died at forty-eight of a cancer of the gullet but that’s what he was.
Q: So you would be quite young still then were you?
Mrs H: Yes. Oh yes, dear. I quite young and my mother was going to have my last sister and I was only about twelve and I had to go to my grandfather’s funeral. We did in them days. They don’t so much now. But anyway we never really … (Q: Was that your grandfather on your father’s father?) My grandfather on my mother’s side. Also I had a grandfather on my father’s side and a grandmother.
Q: Did they all live in Witham?
Mrs H: They lived in, well, not always because Grandfather Stock, he kept a pub at Great Horkesley.
Q: Are you related to Mr Baxter in near the school, Alf Baxter?
Mrs H: Alf Baxter? No. Not Alf Baxter nor Albert Baxter. We weren’t related to them but I have a cousin Mr Leonard Baxter, they live in a bungalow.
Q: So did your mother work at all?
Mrs H: My mother went to service, which they had to in those days. But when my dear father died at forty-eight you see, well mum only got ten shillings a week pension and she had to go she used to go and clean the Bank, every morning at six. Mum was left with us five but I was married. I was the first one to get married.
Q: But the youngest one was still …?
Mrs H: My youngest sister, how old was I when you first came to Witham?
Mr H: Four.
Mrs H: So we really haven’t had an easy life dear but what we’ve got we’ve worked hard for. (Mr H: That’s right.) And I’ve got this nice property as you see and we worked hard in that shop. We’ve give it to our son now. (Q: Yes.)
Mr H: Where the shop is, when I came to Witham there was a pub there called The Angel, right in the centre of, right down the other side, the same as the White Hart. Because, you knew the Shermans ?
Mrs H: Yes, dear. Used to go to school with two of them. We all went to the Church of England school. (Q: Did you?) Although we lived so near to this school down here. But dad sent us all to the Church of England school. But in them days you see they were all girls. We weren’t mixed. No, we weren’t mixed, the boys joined us but we weren’t allowed in the boys playground. (Q: I see.)
Q: So did you see much of them at all?
Mrs H: We saw the boys yes, but we really weren’t allowed to go and mix with them. Our old governess, Miss Compton, Louisa Compton, Oh I tell Jack some yarns. I can remember my school days very very clearly.
Q: What do you remember about them?
Mrs H: Oh, I remember, I used to sing [???]. I used to have quite a nice singing voice. Pat has, and so has our grand-daughter. I used to sing in class and old Louisa she was very patriotic. Governess. We called her governess then. And ‘What can I do for England?’ I can see that. Annie Stock, I’m Ann May, I’ve got two names and ‘Will you recite.’ Oh dear, oh dear. I can remember so clearly. And Jack can’t remember. Well he left school at twelve.
Mr H: I had to go and work, in the First War.
Mrs H: Yes, you had to go and work. But they wouldn’t let us leave school, until we were fourteen, we went to school, and my dear parents couldn’t afford to send us out to High School. I had, Lily they all thought was quite good for High School but Mum and Dad couldn’t afford to send her.
Mr H: There were twelve in my family. Eight daughters and four sons.
Q: Where did you come?
Mrs H: You were about in the middle weren’t you Jack?
Mr H: Me oldest brother he got killed in the First World War. Me oldest sister, she’s coming ninety-one, she lives at Hadleigh. She’s got a single daughter living with her, both pensioners, live in.
Mrs H: Old almshouses, but they are very nice. They and they keep they very well in repair.
Mr H: Then me next sister she was a nurse to an actress. She was a what d’you call ‘em. (Mrs H, she was a Companion.) Companion to an actress up in London.
Mrs H: That’s how she finished.
Mr H: But she used to live in the Grosvenor Hotel. (Q: Mm.) She’s died. Then sister Gertie (Mrs H: she’s dead) I think she had thirteen children.
Mrs H: Jack’s mother had one every two years, regular, every two years.
Mr H: Then I had another sister, Florence, worked in Bridge Home. (Mrs H: She’s dead.) She married locally in Witham. She’s dead.
Q: So she came to Witham as well?
Mrs H: That was the one who Jack came to see. She met, lived at Medina Villa. That’s where Mellon’s, where they sell paints and what have you [80 Newland Street].
Q: So she came down here first?
Mrs H: Yes, she came down here first, hence Jack came to see her and that’s how I met him.
Mr H: And then comes me.
Mrs H: You were about in the middle weren’t you roughly.
Mr H: I’d another sister lived at Farnborough.
Mrs H: Bessie, you’ve got in two in Leavenheath at your home, Leavenheath he came from. There’s one still here, my brother.
Q: So when you left at twelve to work what did you do?
Mrs H: Went on the land dear.
Mr H: I was a milkman, I used to milk the cows, then I used to take it round after,in two cans with a hoop. Used to have half a pint and a pint and they used to hang on the side.
Mrs H: I must tell you this, Mrs Gyford, he’s the only one in his family who ever smoked, and when he was twelve, in them days, you could get five Woodbines in a little paper thing, and his mother used to buy five little Woodbines to put in this little [???] and he was only twelve! He was the only one in the family who smoked! (Mr H: I don’t smoke now.) And now he smoked for how many years? (Mr H: Sixty) sixty years and he’s given up. Jack’s eighty you know.
Q: I was going to say dare I ask how old you are?
Mrs H: Yes, eighty and I’m seventy-nine.
Q: You don’t look it, either of you.
Mrs H: I shall soon have my eightieth birthday. (Mr H: In August.) Yes. (Mr H: Then I have my eighty-first, providing.) Providing, yes, you’ve got to say that dear.
Q: So when you left school, that was during the War. (Both: During the First War.) The men were away I suppose?
Mr H: I got three months off from school and then when that was finished me father applied to get another three so I never went back to school no more.
Q: You didn’t go back again after. Did a lot of people do that?
Mr H: Oh yes and then you see when I got eighteen I went and joined the Army. Well, two of us went. I went in first and went through it all A1.
Mrs H: And that’s when he took some further education you see.
Mr H: Had to to get on. Had to get a third class certificate of education. and then if you got a second which I did, because I didn’t want to go, you didn’t have to go to school no more, and that carried you through up to like sergeant major or whatever. But you see when I first joined the battalion they said that if you take a job as an officer’s servant you can get promotion later, but when you once you took that officer’s job you couldn’t lose it. So I had that. I was officer’s to an adjutant, Captain and adjutant and I used to come to Witham Saturdays and Sundays. And after I’d done him, you see I had to look after him and get him all ready, look after his clothes and get his water to shave and then take him in a cup of tea. Then at night sometimes I had to dress up in tails and wait in the officers mess.
Q: I should think you are a very handy person to have about I should think aren’t you?
Mrs H: Well, I don’t know darling, he’s not really.
Mr H: He give me a good reference, I don’t know where it is.
Mrs H: No, I know it was a good reference, Mrs Gyford’ll take your word for that. It was a good reference.
Mr H: And when the War came, you see I was up at Warley when they declared War on the Sunday.
Mrs H: Well, he was on a reserve you see, so he had first call to go.
Q: Quite. When was it you were married?
Mrs H: We was married in 1930, 23rd July. On a Monday.
Q: So times would be a bit hard then you said then?
Mrs H: Well, we were a family Mrs Gyford that helped ourselves a lot, you know my meaning?
Mr H: Used to carry your photo, but don’t think I’ve got it now.
Mrs H: Well I’m going to show Mrs Gyford that before she goes.
Mr H: I don’t think I have it now.
Mrs H: You used to carry photographs of all yourself, you didn’t used to carry any about, not even your children at all.
Mr H: I think …
Mrs H: No, it wasn’t so hard and when we were young of course we didn’t think too much about it but when I look back …
[Look at photos]
Mrs H: Is that you and me. Yes that was a gorgeous dress. That was pink. I had a dear Auntie and she bought my wedding outfit for me.
Q: And the hat.
Mrs H: Yes, isn’t it nice.
Mr H: That was me when I met her.
Q: No wonder she fell for you! [laugh] So how long did you stop in the Army then?
Mr H: Well, I had twenty-two years altogether. And that was from the end of the War.
Q: As you say he’s got a lot of himself.
Mrs H: He carries them all about of himself.
Mr H: That was our silver wedding.
Mrs H: We’d overcome twenty-five years of it Mrs Gyford. (Q: Well done.) (Mr H: Well now this is the fifty sixth.) Well now I’m just going to show Mrs Gyford my sisters.
Mr H: Well, I think I’m the only one in Witham who’s had this. Its rather torn. (Q: Good heavens, well done. 1965) That was the top prize then. (Q: Goodness.) I never heard anybody else in Witham with it. [Premium bond?]
Q: I’ve never won anything! I’ve only got five I think, well done.
Mr H: We’ve had quite a lot.(Q: Yes.)
Mrs H: I’ll give them to you as you go down. That was me when I was, you see in them days I’ve always had a lot of hair really, had earphones. Then this is my next sister, she’s still alive.
Q: What was her name?
Mrs H: Mrs. Dale, Kate and this, Lily, we’ve lost one. Lily was Mrs Dodd. She’s dead, we’ve lost one.
Q: Did they all stay in Witham?
Mrs H: These? That one and this, I always think this sister of mine is lovely. But she’s still alive. She’s my third one down and this is my baby sister.
Q: You’re quite a [???] aren’t there. And who’s this?
Mrs H: Edith Mary. She’s Mrs Bright. She married Mr Bright from Terling. There’s her and Lily they went to Terling to live. They married two Terling men and Olive lives in Witham and I live in Witham and Kate lives in Rivenhall.
Q: Is Olive married then?
Mrs H: Yes, she’s got two children.
Q: What was her married name?
Mrs H: Bell.
Q: You all look very alike don’t you?
Mrs H: Yes and I’ve got one of him. I had to have one of him don’t I.
Q: Is that Butcher’s?
Mrs H: Yes, that was the photographer in Witham then. They have kept well dear, because we were all around about twenty.
Mr H: I was eighteen when that was taken, but I had that taken off at Butcher’s didn’t I?
Q: I see that was taken off the other one?
Mr H: Yes. off the other one.
Q: It’s nice to have those isn’t it.
Mrs H: Well they make something to look back at, to remind you …
Q: This is, you’ve got a painting there?
Mrs H: Yes, an oil painting. Mr Griggs did it. You know Mr Rex Griggs. My grand-daughter when she was sixteen. Now this is when, she’s a SRN now. She’s a trained nurse.
Mr H: She’s down in Whitbury[?] now. She’ll be twenty-two in May.
Q: Is that picture up there, is that Moat Farm?
Mrs H: Yes, dear.
Mr H: Where we lived when we got married.
Q: Yes, I see.
Mrs H: My two children, you see that. Both my two children were born there. We lived there six years. It’s when it was a farmhouse. (Q: Really.) But it’s pulled down now.
Q: I don’t remember ever seeing that. I’ve often wondered what it was like. Was it a big place?
Mrs H: I was a big farmhouse. Mr Smith had that made into three.
Q: Oh I see. So how big was your part then?
Mrs H: It was quite big, wasn’t it Jack? The rooms …
Mr H: The room we had was twenty foot square. Then we had a kitchen didn’t we?
Mrs H: They were very old but they were very big rooms.
Mr H: There were big boards upstairs made out of wide oak.
Mrs H: I used to polish them.
Mr H: The boards were worn and the nails used to stick out.
Q: Was that on the walls?
Mr H: No dear, on the floor, (Q: Oh, floorboards.) oak floorboards, about that wide they were and I used to do some capers, do handsprings over the bed and slipped and missed once and landed once on one of those nails. [laugh]. (Mrs H: Things you do when you’re first married).[laugh] Then we had a bat got in the room one night, we had a bat got in one night..
Mrs H: The only thing, you see, it was a lovely old farmhouse and we were happy together and I’d got very long hair, I always had it in plaits, till you get sixteen when you put it up and my father said once ‘Put your hair up and the boys will come after you’, it was a saying in them days. Well I went to bed first that night, and the old saying was ‘bats get into hair’, so I lay down and pulled the clothes all over my head really weren’t they. So Jack come up and, him being a soldier, didn’t bother about pyjamas, and we had to go right round the garden to a lav. So you can understand why we had chamber pots under the bed can’t you [laugh] (Q: Yes.) and this bat got in and, he doesn’t wear slippers now, but he’s got slippers, and he did then and he took this slipper off and kept doing this, old bat like that![flapped at it] But he got it and he put it in the chamber pot because he’d already used it. [laugh] Oh dear, I don’t …
Mr H: There wasn’t no electricity when I come to Witham. Had the gas lights. And a very few, most of them, lots of them were outdoor toilets, weren’t they.
Mrs H: See, I had a pump, dear. (Q: Really?) (Mr H: To get the water.) I had got no tap indoors. The pump was just outside the door. Of course that’s all taken away now.
Mr H: Pulled down.
Q: That was Mr Smith?
Mrs H: It belonged to, it was Mr Esmond Smith’s farm. That was before all those houses were built on Moat Farm.
Q: Was there a farmer living there as well?
Mrs H: No. Three ordinary people.
Mr H: No, there was one of his workmen.
Mrs H: Well, ordinary people, not a farmer.
Mr H: There was a horseman.
Mrs H: Mrs Gyford asked if there was a farmer living there. Yes, there was a horseman.
Mr H: And the Snowdons, the other one, a man with a round wooden leg.
Mrs H: No, the farmer didn’t live, he lived in Avenue Road.
Mr H: You know, Thirroul? (Q: Yes.)
Q: But that land was all part of the farm?
Mrs H: Yes, dear, what Moat Farm was built on that all belonged to Smith.
Mr H: This Mr Smith’s father he had the big house, Earlsmead [Chipping Hill]. You see his father had his house there, Earlsmead. If you remember you went across like a little bridge, to get to it. Now that’s all built on.
Q: I see, was the father a builder then or, the father was a builder was he?
Mrs H: The father was a builder, Mr Ernie Smith, he was Mr Ernie. He built those houses up Guithavon Road. (Q: Oh I see.) But there was no water on. They were all outside earth lavatories but they’ve all got water now.
Mr H: He got most of the sand from Moat Farm field to build them. He got it from there, and down the Valley where the houses, a big company built them before you go up to the Rise.
Q: So that was where it came from. So did he have the farm as well the father before.. (Mr H: yes) He lived in both really, then. There seemed to have been a lot more houses rented like that in those days.
Mrs H: Oh, there was.
Q: So how did you get that place, would it be advertised or just sort of …?
Mrs H: Now, how did we come to get that house? I got that house, (Mr H:: You got that, cause I was in the forces.) Now how did I come to get it? (Mr H: I don’t know.) I must have went up and saw Mr Smith. Because I got the little shop. We first started in the town where there’s a Quick Repairer now, do you know? [33 Newland Street] Next door to Woolworth’s. (Q: Oh yes.) You see …
Mr H: One of those do it yourself, a damned nuisance I call them.
Mrs H: Yes, they’re no good. But anyway dear, we had first six years there. Yes I got that too from Mrs Blyth.
Mr H: Then this little bit of ground where we are now [Maldon Road]. I bought that bit of ground in there and had that one built.
Mrs H: That’s been hard going, Mrs Gyford.
Q: So you got the shop while he was still in the army? So you got the shop …
Mrs H: No, not the one that’s built now, and we rented it you see off of Mr Blyth. He was a miller in Witham. They had a mill, well, down Mill Lane. (Q: Yes.) I dare say you’ve had that pointed out to you.
Q: I did hear people talk about Blyth’s Mill. So, when you first married you got that first shop and the house?
Mrs H: Well, we’d been married, how long had we been married when we got the little shop, a fairish time.[33 Newland Street]
Mr H: Well, I come out the forces in 1945, when we got the little shop.
Mrs H: Yes when we got the little shop. See Pat would have been, ‘cos she was going to High School. You see we felt we felt we wanted our kids to have a better deal than we had. Which I think all parents do. Anyway, so Pat she passed a scholarship, she was about twelve when you come back weren’t she, twelve or thirteen.
Mr H: No, she was going to the High School during the War.
Mrs H: That’s right, when the bombs came. Yes. Chelmsford High. She went to the Girls, Chelmsford High.
Mr H: Then she went for a little while to the Tech, then she went to Teachers’ Training College in Clacton. (Q: Oh I see.)
Mrs H: And our boy he said he didn’t want an old High School hat, so dad said you’ll have to have a trade and he’s a qualified carpenter and joiner. But then he wanted to come in with Dad.
Mr H: He had six years apprenticeship then when he finished that he had to go and do his National Service.
Q: I see. So when you first, so in 1930 you were still in the Army. (Mrs H: Yes.) And you stayed there right through, up till the War?
Mr H: No, I come out on reserve and then got called up again.
Q: So when you were on reserve what were you doing then?
Mrs H: It was hard job to get work.
Mr H: Well, I didn’t do much really, because I tried to get into the police two or three times I was going to buy myself out, but you see you had to wait eighteen months to, before they would have you in. Then I tried again after I’d done seven years, didn’t I, but they said, then I was wanting to get married then, so you see you couldn’t get in, you’d got to be in two years before you got married, like apprenticeship, two years so I never did get in properly. I went up and passed out but I never did sign on because I wanted to get married. (Q: Quite.)
Q: And how long did you stay at the glove factory then?
Mrs H: I stayed at the glove factory till I married. I started at the glove factory when I was fourteen but I did break my service because I wanted more money.
But then they wanted me back again because it was piece work you know at the glove factory and it was damned hard, rather hard. But anyway Mr Pinkham, you’ve heard Mr Pinkham was the boss there. I left to get married, when I, we got married, I got married at twenty-two didn’t I, no twenty-three, and had Pat when I was twenty-four.
Q: When you said you left to get more money ?
Mrs H: Do you know where I went? (Q: No.) I was always quite good with my needle, sewing, I went up the Bridge Home in the sewing room and how I hated it. Couldn’t bear to hear those boys keep calling out. Well then I left there and went to Crittall’s during the War, up the old Maltings.
Mr H: You know where the old Maltings is?
Q: What the Maltings Road one?
Mrs H: Where Nitrovit is?
Q: Oh I see, in Maltings Lane.
Mr H: Crittall’s used to have that
Mrs H: And I stayed there six months, hating it every minute. And Mr Pinkham come down and seen my father and wanted to know why I left. So I said because I hated time work. Well he said if you come back, hated piece work, ‘If you come back I’ll put you on time work’. And then I used to teach the girls so I really had a lift up and then I left to get married at twenty-three I think married at twenty-three.
Mr H: You born 1906 and we got married in ‘30. Work that out.
Mrs H: No, you’re the one to work it out. [laugh[ (Mr H: It’s 24..)
Q: Did you say you went to Crittall’s during the War?
Mrs H: No, no, before the War. They made lead glazing windows up there.
Q: But you didn’t like that?
Mrs H: Oh, I hated it. Filthy and I’d had such a lovely clean job, glove making but anyway I went back again and I stayed there.
Q: It’s interesting they had women making these windows. Were they mostly women there?
Mrs H: Yes, nearly all women, young women.
Mr H: They were all women. You had Alf Smith, he was the overseer.
Q: Which Smith was that then?
Mrs H: Oh well he’s dead now. Nothing to do with the farmer who belonged to Moat.
Mr H: His daughter got married, Mr Cook the pork butcher. (Mrs H: Doris.) D’you remember the pork butcher? [Harold]
Q: Oh yes, across the road.
Mrs H: He’s moved now. (Q: I thought I hadn’t seen them around lately). Well her father was the foreman over us girls or women as you call it. But I …
Q: What did you actually have to do?
Mrs H: Well, we all had, we had hats on and overalls and had to handle these lead glazed, lead light windows with gloves on. We had to pack them in boxes, in cases. (Mr H: You was more like a packer.)
Q: Did they make them there as well?
Mrs H: Yes, they made them in another department.
Mr H: They used to make them and you were sort of, they used to pack them in straw didn’t they..
Q: Did they have the glass in them when you were packing them as well?
Mrs H: Yes, the little windows. Of course there’s lots of people got them now isn’t there.
Mr H: There’s not many in Witham, but there is one down more nearly opposite the Doctor’s called Highway Cottage [118 Newland Street] where they’re going to build the flats.
Mrs H: But we had to work to earn any money when you are on piece work.
Q: Was everybody on …?
Mrs H: Nearly everybody were on piece work except the girls that were in the office. They weren’t on piece work.
Q: So when you went back on time work, was that just you?
Mrs H: I was on time work. Oh there were several who taught the girls, dear. They were on time work. No, not only me.
Q: But it was because you were doing the teaching side of things?
Mr H: You got a bit more money.
Mrs H: I got a bit more money and I didn’t have to work quite so hard.
Q: Did you quite like it there then?
Mrs H: I didn’t mind. Well, you see in them days, my Mum was glad of my money. I was the eldest you see. Although my next sister, Kate, bless her, she went but she didn’t get on, so she had to go to service.
Q: Really? Did she not like it or …?
Mrs H: Well, lovey, she didn’t complain, because she had to keep herself didn’t she.
Q: When you say she didn’t get on at the glove factory?
Mrs H: I don’t know why. Kate, never got on at it. But Lily did. Lily went. Now I don’t know why Kate didn’t get on, I think she was on thumbing, putting the thumbs in. She didn’t like it. But bless her she was a parlourmaid and I can remember so clearly you know. I helped to buy her uniform. See, in them days, the maids had to have half a dozen little aprons, half a dozen white caps, two black dresses, black shoes, black stockings and dear old Kate went off with her little tin box. She’s still got that tin, one like your tin box that I’ve got upstairs. Kate went with it. I can see her going now. Dad went with her.
Q: Where did she go to?
Mrs H: She went round Avenue Road, first. Whatever was the name, he was Fenn. Fenn. Mr Fenn. He was, she lived in but she used to come home. They didn’t have much time off in them days you know. No they didn’t have much time. But then she worked for Mr Fenn. He was a surveyor wasn’t he? (Mr H: I think so.) And then Kate, she didn’t really like it, so she went and worked for Doctor Turner at Kelvedon as a parlourmaid and she was there until she married. And she had the little housemaid under her and the cook above her.
Mr H: Then she married the butcher.
Mrs H: She married a butcher, Mr Dale the butcher. [laugh]
Mr H: You wouldn’t know him, I should think, he went after the War he drove Moore’s buses. You wouldn’t know them.
Q: I’ve heard about them, but I’ve only been here twenty years you see.
Mrs H: Twenty. No you wouldn’t really I don’t think.
Mr H: When I came to Witham, where this ground is that was meadows. (Mrs H: A wood.) There was a big high brick wall right down and over here there was cows and horses and chickens. That was a meadow used to belong to Wheaton. You know the farmhouse up in the High Street [3 Newland Street]. When we was, we used to have some rare customers. Dorothy Sayers was one. (Q: Really?)
Mrs H: She was awfully nice really. She took size nine men’s shoes. She was very mannish wasn’t she. Have you read about her Dorothy Sayers?
Q: I’ve read some things. Again I don’t remember her.
Mr H: She dressed like a …
Mrs H: I do, I remember her very clearly. But they used to come and ask me about her and I told them I didn’t know anything bad about her. I only know her as a customer and she was very, very nice. She wore a man’s trilby and almost man’s clothes, but not trousers. Loong tweed skirts and she always wore Weara shoes. We were agents for Weara shoes, but they’ve gone into liquidation now. With the toecaps didn’t she. We had a lot of titled ladies for customers.
Mr H: There was Lord Chief Justice Parker when I first opened in the little shop. He brought the shoes in. I told him I wouldn’t do ‘em. I had ‘em months. He kept coming in and asking had I done ‘em. ‘No’ I said, ‘they’re not worth it.’ But in the end I did ‘em and of course he come to us ever since.
Q: Was he one of the Parkers from …?
Mrs H: No, we do have them …
Mr H: Oh yes, the Parkers from Faulkbourne Hall.
Q: How did this other one come to be in Witham then?
Mrs H: He wasn’t no relation to them, he was a Lord Chief Justice. He lived at Wickham Bishops. He married an American lady and that lady used to come in and Jack …
Mr H: She used to come in and borrow money off me. [laugh] Can’t get in the bank. She had a little red car and two white dogs.
Mrs H: She was very good, she always brought the money back.
Mr H: She said ‘I’ll bring the money in the morning’ and she did. Then the Parkers from Faulkbourne Hall, their old chauffeur used to say ‘These shoes are forty years old’. I said ‘Yes it’s time they were burnt’. [laugh] Then of course there was Lord Braintree from Terling.
Mrs H: Not Terling darling, Lord Braintree from Silver End, he went to live at Wickham Bishops.
Mr H: That’s right, Lord Braintree at Silver End. (Mrs H: Valentine Crittall). I was thinking about the Strutts. You see they were titled people, weren’t they, sat on the bench.
Mrs H: Mind you it was rather hard going but we made the grade you know. We’ve give the shop to John. Twenty years we’ve been retired.
Mr H: We used to have Sir William Bolton, used to come to the back door ‘Mr Hollick’, before I’d opened.
Mrs H: Those were the days.
Mr H: I think that was his uncle lived at Braxted Park. He was an MP for Sheffield. But lived in Witham. Then we had the Schweppes people, didn’t we, what did you call them? They were Lords and Ladies.
Mrs H: Don’t go on no more darling.
Q: [Laugh]. Were there other shops doing the same as you? I wondered about competition.
Mr H: There was in Bridge Street, there was Botchie Claydon, and then the other shop, Uncle Ellis, you come up the High Street, there was Rudkin, you went on the corner used to be the fruit shop was Bata’s [68 Newland Street] A little higher up was Dowsett they used to do repairs. You went down Maldon Road there was Charlie Ralling’s. He went up to Chipping Hill, was he there when you come? (Q: Yes.) And then up Church Street there was a bloke name of Tyrell. There was another one up your road, Chalks Road, Corley. You wouldn’t know them would you? (Q: No.) And when I, I opened on a Wednesday when I come out of the forces and on the Friday I put a notice in the window ‘No more repairs till further notice’ because I had that many I couldn’t do them. (Q: Really?) (Mrs H: How right you are, yes.)
Q: Even though they’d got all these other place to go to?
Mr & Mrs H: They all gradually packed up.
Mr H: And one or two of them went to work at the Bridge Home. We missed out Ringey[?] down near the Doctors, he was another one.
Mrs H: We mustn’t [???] too much dear but we have given Witham quite a good service you know.
Mr H: Done it for over forty years. (Mrs H: Over forty years.)
Mrs H: But you see Jack paid to learn the trade during his Army service so he knew all about boots and shoes, (Q: Yes.) whereas you see these, some of these men about here really didn’t know. They were what you call really cobblers. They cobbled you know. (Mr H: Ringey[?] had a block of wood, didn’t he.) But anyway lovey, we’ve always had quite a lot of work. Still do, John gets quite a lot. To make a fair living.
Q: Did you have anybody working with you at all? (Mrs H: We did.)
Mr H: You see when I was in the little shop I worked on my own for about six years. I know I did (Mrs H: With me.) thirty-six thousand pairs (Q: Thirty-six thousand!) thirty-six thousand pairs when I was on me own.
Mrs H: You see I used to have to be down there all the time, (Q: Yes.) because he couldn’t do the work and see to the customers as well dear. (Q: That was after you were married?) Oh yes, after I was married and got the two children you see lovey, so I’d got, there was them at home.
Q: How did you manage with the children?
Mrs H: Well, you had to get on best way you could. Pat was awfully good though. But what she’d do, she’d lay the table for tea and they’d both be waiting for me to come home and say ‘Oh mum, come on, we want our tea’. Jack would say ‘You’ll miss their food when your mother gets home.’ They were waiting for the food.
Mr H: There was a time when I had Ernie Law, John, and Eddie. (Mrs H: You see my son in law …) There’d be four of us at one stage.
Mrs H: You see Eddie [Vojak, son-in-law], you know Eddie’s an Austrian don’t you. (Q: Mm.) Well you see when Pat met him and was courting him, she got married in Innsbruck and she couldn’t see much of a future there because she’d been teaching seven years you see, when she went out. So she had to have some security for Eddie to be given work. So Dad employed him for two years you see but he soon got on his feet and he’s been a very lucky man because he’s never been out of work.
Mr H: Worked for English Electric in Chelmsford.
Mrs H: Because Pat’s had her Silver Wedding, twenty-five years.
[Chat about Q’s children, not noted]
Q: Still, I suppose if you’d had to look after your younger sisters, did you much?
Mrs H: Oh yes dear, oh I did, well I laughed and said, I only said to my sister, I see them first, I used to bath her and wash her and (Mr H: That’s Eddie’s [???]) But still, we’ve survived a long time.
Q: So how long were you living at Moat farm ?
Mrs H: Six years and then Mr Smith whose house it belonged to, the old farmhouse, I really couldn’t cope, because I had John and there was no convenience at all. I had to go out to this old pump and I used to have to go and boil in an old copper in an old ‘back’us. They used to call ‘em back’us’s in them days. So he got us a Council house didn’t he Jack.
Mr H: Yes he wanted to get us out so he could charge a higher rent.
Mrs H: Yes, so he got us, he was a Councillor on Witham Council, Mr Smith, wasn’t he, Esmond Smith, and he got us a Council House and Jack said ‘I don’t want to go too far up the road’. So we lived in number six for fifteen years. John was only one when we went up there.
Q: Number six, what in …?
Mrs H: Six Cressing Road. We were up there for fifteen years.
Mr H: [???] Then they said ‘You can afford to pay more rent’.
Mrs H: When we started in the little shop you see they thought we could afford to pay more rent.
Mr H: So they built some houses up Cuppers Close (Q: Yes.) and we’d been there how long, four or five years?.
Mrs H: We’d been there six years at Cuppers Close.
Mr H: No it wasn’t we was only there five (Mrs H: Five years at Cuppers Close) And they sent us a letter and siad ‘You didn’t oughter be in a Council House you can afford to have your own, we’ve got a piece of land we’ll sell you, so you can build your own’. I wrote back and said ‘No you won’t’ I said, ‘because because I’ve already got a piece for us. So I shall have one built on my own.’ You wouldn’t guess the rate of pay for the men working when I was here. I’ve got it there now, I can show it to you. [Elm Cottage, Maldon Road]
Q: How long is it you’ve been here then?
Mrs H: Thirty years, (Mr H: twenty-nine). Twenty-nine. He always picks me up to the last minute.
Mr H: It’ll be thirty in November. I don’t mind you seeing this, what the wages were.
[So 1956] Mrs H: I don’t know if that comes into Mrs Gyford’s, what she’s here for.
Mr H: We don’t know do we, what she’ll cut out what she don’t want. There’s so many bits and pieces. I think Adams and Mortimer built yours, where you live? [Chalks Road] So they did this.
Mrs H: They did yes. This was one of about the last ones that Adams and Mortimer built.
Q: That’s interesting, people don’t keep these papers, do they. (Mrs H: He does, he’s always been interested.) It would be interesting if you’d got the papers from the business when you started wouldn’t it.
Mr H: Oh they would, yes. When I started I charged four shillings that’s the old money, for ladies/ soles and heels, and six shillings for men’s. I never altered them for the six years I was in that little shop, till we moved. You have a look at some of these prices. That’s when they built this. See how much they got an hour
Q: [looking at papers]. It doesn’t seem all that long ago but there’s a difference isn’t there. Three and a penny if you were a skilled man, two and sevenpence halfpenny for labourers. And that was when they were having an increase wasn’t it). That’s right they had an increase, yes. People wouldn’t believe it would they?
Q: Names I recognise here. Because Adams and Mortimer packed up after that did they?
Mr H: Well you see, Adams died and Mr Mortimer died and then there was Mr Lee he went blind and they really packed up then.
Mrs H: Then, who took over that firm?
Mr H: Hey and Croft. I think they’re still operating.
Mrs H: Yes I believe they are. (Q: It’s good to keep these, isn’t it. That’s for each week, then, they typed that out each week, how much they got.)
Mr H: That’s right.
Mrs H: You know people wouldn’t believe though dear, what they used to be paid.
Q: You can’t remember what you got at the glove factory can you?
Mrs H: Yes, I can. I had five shillings a week for a month, five shillings a week while we were learning. They called that the learning stage. Five shillings a week. Then the first week I went on piece work I earned one pound. And I think I give me mother seventeen and six and she give me back a half-a-crown. Yes, dear, I can remember very clearly. Five shillings a week for a month. They reckoned that a month you should learn, you could learn.
Q: Did you do all different types of job?
Mrs H: Well you see, one person used to do one part. Some girls did the three lines there and then thumbing was another one. The thumbs, in one, the gloves were cut out flat. They cut them out there as well with great big things, knives and they were in dozen pairs so there were twenty-four gloves in a dozen. You had to put twenty-four thumbs in those for fourpence and then the maker put all them bits in them they were called fourgets[?], they were called fourgets[?] and that was quite a big operation. Now how much did we get for making them? Well I learned all the trade, all the things, you see. Then we had a welt, but making we got most for making, I believe about five shillings. Fourpence for thumbing wasn’t that terrible, fourpence a dozen for twenty-four gloves and I had a friend, oh and she couldn’t get on with, poor old Phyllis, couldn’t get on with it, but anyway. (Mr H: She lives below Pat, doesn’t she, Chalky). Then we used to make those long Musketeer gloves, you know they used to wear Musketeer gloves, and there was all in twelve pairs, twenty-four gloves. You know they were all tied up with tape and a ticket on what you’d got to do to them and what you hadn’t got to do.
Mr H: What did you call the puffer?
Mrs H: And downstairs was the puffing room Where they all ironed them out. That was time work, that was time work down there. Do you know little Rosie Birch, a little dwarf girl? Well she used to puff. Up the glove factory, little Rosie.
Q: That was ironing basically was it.
Mrs H: Yes, they were hot, they were hot, I believe they were wood or something, I don’t know whether they were wood, but I can see Rosie putting on that now, put the thumb like that you know.
Q: They’re quite fiddly things aren’t they?
Mrs H: Well you can understand, we used to keep our hands beautiful. I had lovely hands and most of the girls did.
Q: Were the people in charge very strict? Did people keep an eye on you all the time?
Mrs H: Yes, there was a looker over, yes, there was, they were quite strict.
Mr H: They call them an overseer now.
Mrs H: An overseer, yes. And you didn’t used to have to, you weren’t allowed to talk too much but we could have a little word with each … I had a dear little machine, I often wonder what happened to those machines, but anyway, when you look back, but you see Mr Pinkham, those gloves went all over the world. They were called ‘Emgicie’ gloves. [spells] I remembered that word dear, just now.
Mr H: Hey came from Devon didn’t he?
Mrs H: Yes, they came from Devon.
Q: Did you see much of him, Mr Pinkham?
Mrs H: Yes, dear, the old man lived in Collingwood Road and with his wife, they both come to Witham and started up the business but they’d already been down Barnstable, that’s where they came from. But then his son took over, Mr Bert Pinkham. I don’t know whether you knew him. I think he was dead before Mrs Gyford came.
Mr H: He died before they pulled his house down and made the slip road through from the Albert to come into Braintree Road [in 1970], you know the pub. (Q: Yes.) You go down to Earlsmead and there’s a slip road and …
Mrs H: Well that was that house on the end down the end there was one big house [‘Temples’ 8 Chipping Hill].
Mr H: But he was dead then wasn’t he?
Mrs H: Yes, he was dear, yes he was …
Q: So he took over the …?
Mrs H: He took over the business but, he was a rare man for the ladies was Mr Bert, but anyway lovie, his sons carried on for a little while but its all finished now.
Q: I suppose people don’t wear gloves the same?
Mrs H: I don’t think they do very much no. We always wore gloves in our young days, well, when you were dressed ready to go out. And I had 6½ size then, now I’m afraid I’m 7½.
Q: But then you finished up, when you were teaching the …?
Mrs H: Then you see I didn’t go back to work any more because I had the children of course and then you see we had to fight for our own living then.
Q: I’ve got some photos and things that I’ve lent to somebody at the moment but I thought you might like to see, so if its possible for me to come back some time and show the photos and see if you remembered anything. Quite a lot of them are of people doing shows in the Grove and that sort of thing. All dressed up. Would you remember those? Did you do that?
Mrs H: Oh yes, yes.
Q: Oh well, you might be on them.
Mrs H: I might be. A few years ago I was working so hard in the business but I did manage to get a few postcards. [shows them]
Q: I’ve seen a black and white one but that’s a coloured one isn’t it?
Mrs H: Now this was up Chipping Hill but you see that’s all altered now. [32, 34 Chipping Hill] That’s Witham going back.
Mr H: The old cinema. (Q: You remember that I expect do you?) That wasn’t there when I come to Witham.
Q: Was it not.
Mrs H: But you see there’s one, excuse me, now that’s what I wanted to show Mrs Gyford, you see now those houses are all pulled down but you see they’re at the back even that one there [32/34 Chipping Hill].
Q: Do you remember those yourself do you?
Mrs H: Oh yes, because there always used to be an old boy sit on that step, old Mr Clark.
Mr H: Because Richards owned them, and he stripped them right down to the bare woods and then he pulled them down. Cause you see, went up the church [???].
[chat about pictures, not noted]
Mrs H: Yes there was a blacksmith [at 18 Chipping Hill]. John used to stand and look at that hours. The boys did. I don’t know whether they do now so much.
Q: Well, he goes out, they don’t have the horses actually there so much.
Mr H: When I come to Witham, The Avenue, there was no houses in the Avenue.
Q: Yes, because there was the big trees there?
Mr H: Two rows of trees. They used to meet at the top, and that was just a gravel road, when I first come to Witham. Then you went across, call it High Street, and then The Grove big house was there and you stood in bottom, like a spiral staircase and you could see straight up the top. But I think that a lot of it was pulled down and shipped to America. (Q: Oh I see.)
Q: Do you remember them cutting the Avenue down?
Mrs H: Do you know I wonder when they cut that down?
Mr H: When they pulled all them down and built on either side.
Mrs H: I know, but I can’t remember what year, no.
Mr H: And up Guithavon Street [means Collingwood Road] when I come to Witham, when you got past the Constitutional Club, there was nothing, just a field, I remember that. And this Maldon Road, there was some of the houses had two like stable doors, one opened at the bottom and the other one at the top. And then where this little bag shop now, used to be a barbers, Norths had it. [4 Maldon Road?] There used to be lettering up there’ Paradise Row’ (Q: Oh yes.) but these people have took it down but I don’t think they should have done because I should think there was a path went through there because there was houses behind the Spread Eagle weren’t they? (Q: Mm.) [sign probably brought there from almshouses in Guithavon Street in fact]
Mrs H: Show Mrs Gyford that photograph of Maldon Road.
[chat about coming back, not noted]
Mrs H: When I was a little girl dear, this is how Maldon Road was. (Q: Oh yes, isn’t that lovely, or is it round the corner?) You can’t really see it. Its down there a bit farther.
Mr H: The Wine Bar that’s there now, that was a saddlers.
Mrs H: Our house was just past there. There were five. (Q: And what’s this one there then?)
Mrs H: Well that’s, you know where the bags and jewellery shop is now, that’s that shop. (Q: Oh I see.)
Mr H: That was barber’s wasn’t it, North’s.
Q: Oh yes I think it says North’s on it but these look more like horse collars and things.
Mr & Mrs H: Yes, a saddler.
Q: I see, that was there as well, yes. And that was next to it, isn’t it lovely.
Mrs H: I wish our old houses were on it but its not.
Mr H: We never took one of Moat farm did we?
Mrs H: No, couldn’t afford it [laugh].
[Door bell / telephone – end of tape]