Mrs Doris Leatherdale (nee Hawkes), was born in 1920. She was interviewed on 14 March 1988, when she lived at 4 Bramston Green, Witham.
For more information about her, see Leatherdale, Doris, nee Hawkes
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Q: Whereabouts were you born then?
Mrs L: Down Chess Lane, that was behind the new Police Station.
Q: Is that the one that goes down to the Grove? Where the Grove is now?
Mrs L: The Grove Meadow it was then.
Q: How many houses were there down there?
Mrs L: There was five cottages.
Q: Were they all in a row?
Mrs L: Mmmm. You go down where those little cottages are at the top opposite the Catholic Church. [Grove Cottages]
Q: So what was your surname then. (Mrs L: Hawkes.) And was it a big family?
Mrs L: Yes.
Q: Are you missing something?
Mrs H: I had got the film on, but that was the hunt of the tiger or something and I don’t like to see animals killed.
[looking at photos, M17 of the Park and M18 of Avenue Road and Avenue]
Q: That’s the Park isn’t it at the top there. Do you remember that, anything about going there for instance? And that’s the Avenue or Avenue Road at the bottom. I think I’ve worked out that was the Avenue and that’s Avenue Road up there. There’s big houses right up that side.
Mrs L: That’s where the Carnival was always held.
Q: Was that a Park when you were a little girl then?
Mrs L: Yes. And this is where the airmen, the American airmen came and planted trees after the War. [actually RAF]
Q: Could you go in and play there like they can now? Could the children go in and play there when you were little?
Mrs L: Oh, yes, yes, yes. There were more rules and regulations then. (Q: What sort of things?) Well my son got caught, got fined for, well he wasn’t actually riding his bicycle, he was scooting on it but he got fined for doing that through the Park. You weren’t supposed only to push your bicycles then.
Q: Was there somebody there?
Mrs L: There was a Park Keeper. (Q: Oh I see.) I’ve forgotten his name so I can’t tell you that.
Q: That’s a bit different isn’t it? (Mrs L: Mmm.) I mean where did you play when you were little?
Mrs L: Oh, down the lane, near the house.
Q: Oh I see. You just sort of stopped round there did you. And there were a lot of you were there? Were you one of the older ones or one of the …
Mrs L: I was the middle one of the family and the middle one of the girls.
Q: So how many were there?
Mrs L: There was eleven of us. There was two of the Motts, three of the Eleys, Mrs Albone[?]’s children were all grown up and I don’t know how many she had. And then there was Mrs. Lark and I can’t remember how many she had, eight or nine I know.
Q: So what sort of size were the houses?
Mrs L: Well there were three bedrooms but they weren’t all that big. Two downstairs rooms. No toilets inside, no taps, no water laid on in the house or anything.
Q: So where did you get the water from?
Mrs L: We had to get it from a tap in the middle of the yard and the five houses had to share the tap.
Q: That was a lot of work then I should think, was it?
Mrs L: It was, especially wash day. And my mum had to share a copper, an old-fashioned copper out in the wash house. There was Mrs Albone done her washing on Monday, my mum done hers Tuesday and Mrs Lark had Wednesday.
Q: Did you have to help?
Mrs L: Well, I did help sometimes but when I left school I helped more really. Because, I had to, instead of getting a job I had to stop at home and help my mum. And I got sixpence a week for that. (Q: What, off your mum?) Mmmm. Sixpence. And what you could you do with a sixpence. Well, more then than you can now it’s true.
Q: So how old would you be when you left school? (Mrs L: School? When I left school? Fourteen.) Which school did you go to?
Mrs L: Church of England.
Q: Was that the one in Guithavon? (Mrs L: Yes.) Did you like it there?
Mrs L: Not a lot. What child does like school? Well then especially. My grandchildren love school now. They won’t miss a day. They really love their school. All of them have done, all the way through.
Q: Can you remember especially what you didn’t like about it yourself?
Mrs L: Everything. Old Nitty Norah used to come round and I didn’t like her. I didn’t like the headmistress. I didn’t like the class teacher. To be honest I didn’t like anything about school.
Q: Did you ever try to get out of going then?
Mrs L: Oh no, I went to school.
Q: You didn’t think about not going?
Mrs L: No, wouldn’t dare.
Q: Did you get into trouble a lot for anything?
Mrs L: Well, its hard to say. I always felt the teachers had got it in for me.
Q: Did your brothers and sisters feel the same about it do you think?
Mrs L: Well I’ve never discussed it with them.
Q: That’s a shame really, because there’s a lot of time you have to spend there. (Mrs L: Certainly was.) Do you think you learnt anything useful, even if you didn’t like it?
Mrs L: Well, nothing that’s been any use to me now. I think I’ve learned more since I left school than I ever did when I went there.
Q: What age were you when you started? (Mrs L: Five.) Was there a different school for the little children? (Mrs L: No.) Cause I remember when they were talking about the vicars, did you have the vicar come round at school?
Mrs L: Oh yes, once a month he used to come in. Sometimes once a week. (Q: What did he do when he came?) Used to give us a talk and a little service. But I do believe, in giving them religious instruction, same as I had when I went to school, is better than now they don’t have any.
Q: Yes, I see. Did you ever go to Church as well?
Mrs L: Yes, used to have to go twice on, three times on a Sunday sometimes. We used to go to the morning service at eleven o’clock, then to Sunday School, then when we was old enough we had to go to Catechism and then sometimes we went to evening service.
Q: And was that All Saints or St Nicholas?
Mrs L: All Saints. That was the nearest.
Q: Did your mother go as well?
Mrs L: Well, she used to go whenever she could, because there was such a lot of us, I suppose she was glad to have rests. To get a break from us. But she would go to Church, oh yes, so did me dad.
Q: What did your dad do for work?
Mrs L: He was a horseman at Wheaton’s, Wakelins’ first of all, then it was Wheaton’s and he was a horseman and just a farm worker, a land worker really. [Freebournes farm] Never had much money, but we never ever went hungry thank the Lord.
Q: Did he bring food home from the farm sometimes?
Mrs L: No, no, no, no. Well sometimes, I mean, I don’t know what he done really but there was always food on our table and good food. He would probably bring a swede or a couple of turnips or something like that if he could get away with it but that’s about all he ever did bring home. Just a few odd vegetables that’s all.
Q: That was at Freebournes presumably, where he worked. (Mrs L: Mmm.) That was hard work then I should think was it?
Mrs L: Cor that was hard work,
Q: Did you ever see much of the farmers then, roundabout, or did they keep themselves to themselves?
Mrs L: I never knew Mr Wakelin much, not personally meself. But Mr Wheaton was very good. He’d always speak to you, wherever he was and his wife and children.
Q: Did you children ever have little jobs to earn money while you were at school to help out or anything?
Mrs L: My brothers had paper rounds. I only had one little job while I was at school and the blooming teacher saw me doing it one day and the next day I was sacked. I hadn’t got to do it. She said that the work was too much for me.
Q: What job was it?
Mrs L: It was cleaning the shop up before the customers come in. Cleaning the outside, the ledges[?] you know, what they used to have round the shop windows, sweeping the step and washing the step. But I enjoyed it, but they said I couldn’t do it so I couldn’t do it.
Q: What shop was that, do you remember?
Mrs L: Diana’s. What would it be now?
Q: In the High Street was it ?
Mrs L: Just trying to think. I suppose that would be, I don’t really know. Do you know I cannot picture that shop now. Well I can picture the shop. That would be between Stone’s and Evelyn’s. If that was there now.
Q: Is it Pollard’s?
Mrs L: That’s right Pollard’s. [30 Newland Street] Do you know I couldn’t remember Pollard being there.
Q: That was quite handy for you too. (Mrs L: Yes.) Did your sisters ever have anything like that or did they …?
Mrs L: No, only muggins.
Q: Was it your idea to get the job, or can’t you remember that?
Mrs L: No, my mum said that the lady who owned the shop, Mrs Goldring her name was, had asked her if she knew anybody who would like the job. And she spoke about me and Mrs Goldring said ‘Well why don’t you send her along and let her see’. Of course I was sent along. I had to go, wouldn’t dare not go. Went. She took me on and I think I was there about a fortnight.
Q: But you liked it did you?
Mrs L: Not really. I’ve never liked work to be honest. I’d like to meet a rich man and a car and I’d be happy. [laugh]
Q: You say after you left school you stopped at home? (Mrs L: Mmm.) Did you go out to work somewhere else after that?
Mrs L: Yes, I went into service and I was in service all me single life. And I got married when I was twenty-one at August and I was twenty-two in the November.
Q: Were you in service in Witham then?
Mrs L: No, Silver End and Wickham Bishops.
Q: Was that your Mum’s idea as well, do you think, or …?
Mrs L: There was Vena[?], Ivy and myself, we all had to go out to service. Joan and Betty were allowed to go in the glove factory but we weren’t.
Q: Why do you think that was?
Mrs L: I suppose my mum was glad to get rid of us and let somebody else keep us.
Q: I suppose they stayed at home working in the glove factory didn’t they (Mrs L: Mmm.) Would you have liked to work in the glove factory?
Mrs L: Never thought about it. Never entered me head.
Q: A lot of people seemed to work there didn’t they?
Mrs L: They did years ago, yes.
Q: So she was quite strict your Mum was she?
Mrs L: Well, I wouldn’t say she was strict. She liked you to do what she told you to do but …
Q: What about your dad?
Mrs L: Oh he was a bit stricter.
Q: I was going to show you some of these. [looking at photos?] We’ve seen the Park. I should have brought some of the High Street, shouldn’t I. I can bring some more another time. That’s Bridge Street I think.
Mrs L: Now how far up would that be I wonder?
Q: It’s so different now because there’s a lot of houses been pulled down.
Mrs L: That was before my time I fancy.
Q: Yes. I think that’s the, were they there, the almshouses? That’s not very clear is it. There were some almshouses on the corner of Spinks Lane.
Mrs L: Oh Spinks Lane that’s up further. No I didn’t remember them.
Q: Now I know where you lived I’ll see if I’ve got any of the High Street at all because that’s nearer where you were isn’t it really. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of Chess Lane thought I suppose not so many people had a camera then.
Mrs L: I don’t think there was any. There was a pump at the top of the lane. Let me see all those will you.
Q: That’s just a mixture of odds and ends really, I’ll bring some more another time.
Mrs L: That’s the church and the village green as I call it.
Q: Did you ever go up to St Nicholas at all then?
Mrs L: Not a lot no, I can’t see this properly because my eyes are not right.[talk of magnifying glass, not noted] This is Empire Day outside this, now where is it, I don’t know if it is or not, no I don’t think it is.
Q: Is that the one where they’ve got the flags and things (Mrs L: Yes.) because I think somebody said they thought that was in one of the big gardens. They had a sort of pageant or something. (Mrs L: That’s right yes that was. Do you know my eyes are not good.) Were you ever in anything like that yourself that you remember?
Mrs L: Yes, I know I was in an Empire Day. (Q: Were you?) Yes, and I carried a bunch of artificial bananas [laugh]
Q: That was at school was it?
Mrs L: At school yes. That must have been the one I reckon, but I don’t know what that is. It’s in the garden again I think then.
Q: Was it Miss Luard they said used to do them? Do you remember her at all? (Mrs L: Miss Luard.) I think there were two or three of them but it might have been before your time as well. They did things like running plays and that. From Ivy Chimneys wasn’t it?
Mrs L: Oh, that one up there, yes. I don’t know, I couldn’t say.
Q: They’re a bit small as well, I’ll have to see if I can find more of the High Street. That was 1937, that’s a bit nearer. How long ago was it that your parents died then?
Mrs L: Oh you’ve asked me something now. I don’t remember to be honest.
Q: It was when you were grown up was it?
Mrs L: Yes, I’d got my two children then. Maybe 40, maybe 1950 sometime like that.
Q: So you were in Witham in the Wartime then?
Mrs L: Well I wasn’t in Witham, I was in service, I was in service. I was up at Wickham Lodge.
Q: Did it make much difference to you, the War being on?
Mrs L: Well, I was only up there for so long and then I came home, they sent me home on board wages for six months because they were divorcing, the people I worked for and then I got a job, down the Collingwood Road and that was very poor paid. I left there and I went into Crittall’s then. But I never got much money there.
Q: What was that doing?
Mrs L: Well, if I tell you what I done you’ll never understand it. (Q: Really?) It was fenestering. Now you’d never believe that had anything to do with windows would you. Well, it did.
Q: What was it you actually did then?
Mrs L: Well, we used to have bars of iron come in, all sizes of iron and I had to put my foot on the pedal and press it one way, turn it over and press it another the other side. Then I had to stand it up and press it down so that that made a groove for the bar to go through. Very complicated it was.
Q: That was on a machine?
Mrs L: Oh it was all done by machine but I had to hold the iron bars steady. Used to get some great long ones and some short ones. Some that had three sockets in them, some had one, some had two. It was rather complicated. (Q: So it was mainly, you were making the grooves. Hard work I should think, wasn’t it?) Jolly well was. Used to have to do 1,700 a day. Oh and that used to annoy me when the time keepers come and stood behind me. Oh I felt I could turn round and say ‘Get on it and do it yourself.’
Q: So what were they, they were checking how long it took you were they?
Mrs L: You had to do so many in an hour.
Q: And they’d come and make sure you had done (Mrs L: Make sure you’d done ‘em.) What did they say if they thought you weren’t doing them?
Mrs L: Used to get a rollicking.
Q: Was that in Crittall’s up here where it is now? (Mrs L: Mmm.) Was that after the War?
Mrs L: During the War.
Q: So where were you living then? (Mrs L: Up Church Street.) Was that after you were married then?
Mrs L: That was before I was married.
Q: Did you ever work when you were married?
Mrs L: Only worked till I was expecting my first baby. But then I did field work when the children got so I could leave them safely. I never went out and left them. They were never latch door kids, children.
Q: What sort of field work did you do then?
Mrs L: Everything. The only thing I never done was manure spreading.
Q: I can see why you don’t like work. it’s been hard hasn’t it?
Mrs L: My life has been very hard. But I’ve enjoyed it.
Q: Did you have to go far away to do field work or was it nearby?
Mrs L: Go anywhere, go to Wickham Bishops, out Kelvedon way pea-picking and right up to the, what’s Lynfield garage now. Used to walk right up there. But it’s been an interesting life when I stop and reflect back.
Q: Its different from what’s there now isn’t it? (Mrs L: Cor I’ll say.) I mean that’s what is interesting about it I think. People aren’t going to remember are they, people aren’t going to believe it are they? (Mrs L: No, no.) Did you go with other people when you went on that? (Mrs L: Oh yes.) I mean how did find out where there was work, did you just get to hear about it?
Mrs L: Well, sometimes you got to hear about it. Otherwise you had to go and forage for yourself. Ask the farmer if he wanted any extra hands or anything.
Q: That was mostly in the summer was it?
Mrs L: Oh, it was only summer work, yes.
Q: And which sort did you like best?
Mrs L: That’s a hard thing to say. They were all good to me and I liked them all because they brought money in. Pea picking I think was me favourite. Especially when they were a bit damp in the morning. They used to tell[?] up ever so quickly. We used to get out in the fields about four o’clock in the morning.
Q: Why was that quicker then do you think?
Mrs L: The dampness on it. Peas are very funny. But there was none of this canning[?] in the fields. Never any of that. The old ganger as they called him used to come round to tie the bags up and he used to bang them in there. You’d think you’d got six bags and when he’d finished you’d only got five and a little bit and sometimes not that. The way they used to bang them in. I thought well they’re not doing them any good. (Q: Just sort of shook them?) Used to shook them and pick them up bounce them down.
Q: You got paid by the bag then did you?
Mrs L: Yes, ninepence a bag if you were lucky.
Q: Did you get the pay every day or weekly or what?
Mrs L: They used to give you tickets. You could change your tickets when you wanted to. (Q: Oh I see.)
Q: What did you spend the money on mostly?
Mrs L: Mostly here on the house, for the bills and for the food and that, give the children a bit extra to what they wouldn’t have had. Never saved it. Couldn’t.
Q: What did your husband do for work then?
Mrs L: He used to work in Crittall’s but they talk about Crittall’s big money but I never ever seen any of it. (Q: How was that?) Well it just wasn’t there. I mean he was only a labourer no he was on the maintenance, he was millwright, but he never got any extra for it.
Q: People used to think it was well paid did they?
Mrs L: Yes, was in some departments, but I never got in the right department. Well I shan’t talk much more. (Q: You getting tired?) That’s one thing I can’t stand, people asking questions. (Q: Oh I’m sorry.) That’s all right, but I can’t, I don’t like it when people ask a lot of questions I get, I’m always afraid I’ll say the wrong thing.
Q: Oh I shouldn’t worry about that because I won’t repeat anything. Its just it’s so interesting, things have changed so much haven’t they. (Mrs L: They certainly havew.) It’s just interesting to hear what the differences is for people.. If you went down Cress Lane you wouldn’t know it.
Mrs L: I cried when I went down there and saw our house was pulled down. Couldn’t believe it. Just couldn’t believe it. And all those lovely fields where my dad used to work were all took up with buildings and what have you. I think it’s a shame. That won’t come out will it?
Q: It doesn’t matter, it is a shame isn’t it, I don’t think you need be afraid of saying that. (Mrs L: No I burped.) Oh that, oh no. I won’t stop too long if you’re getting worried then. Was he from Witham before (Mrs L: Hatfield Peverel.) It was Mott you said [actually Hawkes, Motts were neighbours], (Mrs L: Mmm.) Because you know Joan Lyon, was Mott, well she’s always saying she keeps meaning to work out where her family comes from. You know, which of the Motts are related to each other and that. I don’t know if they were related to you at all?
Mrs L: No, they’re no relation to me.
Q: There’s quite a lot of different Motts isn’t there? (Mrs L: Yes.) Have you got your brothers and sisters still about are they?
Mrs L: Well, I’ve got two brothers in Ascot, one brother in Harlow and another brother in Springfield. I’ve got my three sisters in Witham. And that’s all there is of us now.
Q: Do I know your sisters I wonder.
Mrs L: One is Mrs Sawyer, one is Mrs Stock and one is Mrs Nash[?].
Q: So they haven’t gone very far have they.
Mrs L: No, well there’s been no need for us to go really.
Q: It’s nice to stop where your friends are isn’t it really. You’ve been up Church Street, you’ve been up this way a long while then, from what you said?
Mrs L: Soon after that was built really. I don’t know when that was I am sure.
Q: Is that in the terrace?
Mrs L: No, up in the Council houses up there.
Q: Perhaps it reminds you of school being asked questions, does it? Is that what you don’t like about it?
Mrs L: I never have liked being questioned.
Q: Well its been very interesting though. Don’t worry about it. As I say its just like to hear how different it was. Especially for my children, that age. It’s so different for them.
[chat about Q’s children, not noted]
Q: You had?
Mrs L: Two sons. My grandson’s in University, he’s a dear lad, he’s lovely. (Q: Has he been there long?) Since September, October rather. He’s at Swansea. (I should think they’ll miss him then won’t they.) Oh his little sister does, she misses him terrible. He’ll be round Friday or Saturday.
Q: That’s your son’s family that’s in Australia is it?
Mrs L: No, no, no that’s my niece’s.
Q: You’re sons aren’t that far away.
Mrs L: No my sons, they were thinking of going abroad but one of my daughter-in-laws said to the other one ‘We can’t go and leave Doris all alone’. And they changed their minds and wouldn’t go and leave me because they knew I wouldn’t go abroad. That was before I lost my husband. Its been just two years since I lost him. Only seems like yesterday. Still I’ve got my own life to lead so I’ve got to make my life as best I can. I’d like to get married again if I met somebody, well I have met somebody I’d like but he’s not interested. Well he likes me but I’ve got to persuade him. I’ve got to do something to make him change his mind. (Q: Well, you never know.) No that’s true, the Lord works in mysterious ways doesn’t he.
[chat about arrangements for visitors at Easter etc., not noted]
Q: Do you go away much yourself?
Mrs L: No, I can’t afford it. Money is very very tight now. Well I’ve got my little bungalow and my husband never come in it so I say it is my home now, I can have who I want in it and do what I want to do in it. I mean I would have loved him to come with me I really would because I done everything I possibly could to help him but I couldn’t save him anyway