Mrs Frances Evitt (nee Revett), was born in 1904. She was interviewed on 28 May 1987, when she lived at 32 Blacksmiths Lane, Wickham Bishops.
For more information about her, see Evitt, Frances, nee Revett 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: Men seem to be the most shy. [???] I’ve talked to a man and then he’s phoned up afterwards when I’ve got home to insist I shouldn’t tell anybody what he said.
Mrs E: My husband [???]
Q: Never mind, it’s nice to see you. It’s a bit of a mess because I’ve got these cards on the front saying what they are [showing photographs]. A lot of them are people but these first ones are of the White Hall [18 Newland Street]. That’s the garden apparently and that’s the front.
Mrs E: The garden of what ? White Hall College? My husband went to school there. Yes he was a schoolboy there.
Q: Was he the same age as you?
Mrs E: A year older, 1903 he was born, I was 1904.
Q: Did you know him then, when he was at the school?
Mrs E: No, I didn’t meet him until he went to work at Lord Rayleigh’s. Went in the office there at Lord Rayleigh’s because he was very interested in farming because his mother came from a farming family, but then there didn’t seem much chance for him getting on and he had a little while driving tractors which he was crazy on. He always thought he would like to do agricultural engineering but his father was on the Stock Exchange and wanted him to go up there. I met him while he was on tractors. Then he went on the Stock Exchange just before we were married and was on the Stock Exchange till he retired.
Q: Did he come to like that in the end?
Mrs E: Oh yes, yes.
Q: That’s the front. These all belonged to Miss Blood apparently.
Mrs E: Oh yes, now she was my Sunday School teacher. (Q: Was she?) Yes. Little woman who used to shake her head when she talked but she was ever so sweet, a lovely person.
Q: Were there two Miss Bloods?
Mrs E: I don’t know.
Q: This is the one with tennis courts. It was an album that Mr and Mrs. Mott had. They live in Bramston Green now. Ted Mott and Doris. Her mother brought this album just to put her own postcards in, and it had got all Miss Blood’s in the front you see. She’s supposed to be on one of the later ones, Miss Blood. Well that’s the Avenue.
Mrs E: Oh yes, I remember this. I used to go church with my father every Sunday morning, the parish church and we used to walk home that way. Because I lived in Guithavon Road as a child and we used to walk through this Avenue. I remember that so well. At the parish church. (Q: Where did you live then?) In Guithavon Road. My father liked the old church better than All Saints, although we were nearer to All Saints. We used to go every Sunday morning, my father and I. Then very often we used to go to All Saints in the evening. My mother liked the evening at All Saints but the parish church was my church for a long time.
Q: People picked one or the other, didn’t they as their main place to go to [???] [looks at more photos, probably one of zeppelin that crashed at Wigborough]
Mrs E: Now where was that brought down?
Q: Somebody said, they thought it might be Wigborough?
Mrs E: Wigborough. And I remember the tale went round that a baby was born the night that was brought down and the baby was christened Zeppelin [laugh] Have you ever heard that before? (Q: No.) I can’t remember whether it was a baby boy or girl but it was christened Zeppelin.
[discussion of photos of pageants etc., pause to get magnifying glass, not noted, photos are JG’s M145 onwards, names are in m photos database, also talk about a photo in Mrs E’s loft]
Q: Daisy Revett – now then?
Mrs E: Oh that’s my sister. Yes Daisy was my elder sister, she’s now 87, last week.
Mrs E: My sister with her lovely long hair. I was always so jealous of her long hair because mine never grew very long.
Q: Now, Jack Bawtree.
Mrs E: Oh yes, now he was scout master of the Witham Scout Troop when my husband joined and when he retired my husband took over the Witham troop. He was Scout Master in Witham for years. I’ve got several scout photos. You ought to see them really. I’ll get my son to get the, I’ve got a basket of photos. I wish I could see better.
Mrs E: [re photo of All Saints church] Oh yes, now when I met my husband, and the period from when we met until we got married I used to go to All Saints church with him, because his family went there. His father was churchwarden at some time and they used to sit round that corner. It was sad you know.
Q: There were more seats round there?
Mrs E: Yes, Sunday School children used to sit here. I was a Sunday School teacher and we used to sit round there and my father-in-law and several others of his family used to sit round there. The Bridge Home boys sat at the back here in the main seats. They used to come in about fifty of them.
Q: The Miss Pattissons I think, somebody said they’d be?
Mrs E: Oh, Miss Pattisson, yes, now she did such a lot with my husband with the Scouts. Yes, that was her invalid sister. Patty she was called. She went to Writtle when she left Witham. Oh we knew Miss Pattisson ever so well. Yes very well. Then when she came back to Witham to visit friends, she nearly always came to see us in the Avenue because when we married we lived in the Avenue in Witham. Got married in 1929 and lived there for about thirty years till we moved to Four Acres near Lound. My father-in-law lived at Lound and when my son got engaged he gave him a piece of land to build a bungalow on. And John has this bungalow built, got married, and they’d only been there for about three years and he was working for Castrol. Got a very good job and they said he was spending too much time in the car and they wanted him to go nearer his area which was Suffolk. So he couldn’t give up his job, that was you know, a nice job, he liked it, so they moved and we bought their bungalow and we lived there for eleven or twelve years and then we retired and came up here.
Q: This is a nice part isn’t it? Was your father-in-law at Lound for a long time?
Mrs E: Oh yes, I expect he comes into this somewhere doesn’t he? (Q: Mmm.) He did all sorts of things in Witham. He was chairman of the Council and President of the British Legion. Founder of the Masonic Lodge. One of the main pillars of All Saints church. He was always on the Council. He was an ordinary member before he was chairman. He did no end of good in Witham.
Q: Was he born in Witham himself?
Mrs E: No I don’t think so, no I think he was born at Goldhanger, Rook Hall, there’s a family vault in Goldhanger church yard. He’s not there, he’s in All Saints church yard but the old home was at Rook Hall, Goldhanger.
Q: So, when your husband went to Whitehall, they were living in Witham then were they or …?
Mrs E: I don’t know. They lived at Christmas House [98 Newland Street]. Have your ever heard of that? (Q: Yes.) That’s near, between Byford’s and Balch’s. A hotel is there now where Balch’s was. But I think it’s offices and estate agents. (Q: Balch’s moved into it.) Christmas House. When I first met Bill he lived at Christmas House but whether his father was born in Witham I don’t know.
Q: Where did your father come from, was he local?
Mrs E: My father used to live at Maldon. His parents kept the, not the Blue Boar, what’s the other pub in the High Street? Kings Head? Is it the King’s Head? That’s where he lived anyway. On the right hand side opposite the church.
Q: So when he was in Witham what did he do?
Mrs E: He was in the Prudential. Yes, he was a Prudential agent. I went to church school first, then I went to Braintree High School and went to Takeley for two and a half years, teaching and then came back and taught at the Church school in Witham and was married from there.
Q: You were pleased to get a job back in Witham I suppose?
Mrs E: Oh yes, very pleased because I liked the dear old head mistress there. She always said she hoped I would come back as a teacher and I did. I was only with her for a very short time and then she died and a Miss Welland took over. Have you come across her name? (Q: I’ve read about her, I read the log books once). Miss Welland and Miss Davies they were very great friends. They both lived in the Avenue..
Q: And who was the head when you were a girl there?
Mrs E: Miss Compton. When she died she left all the staff fifty pounds and I thought that was a fortune. Yes, she left me fifty pounds. Oh she was a dear. I learned a lot from the Bible from her, because it was a Church school you see and the Church teaching came over very very clearly. Used to have dear old Canon Ingles called once a week to give us a scripture lesson. He’d always got a bag of sweets in his pocket and at the end of the scripture lesson he’d hand this round to all the children. Remember that as plain as anything.
Q: You enjoyed being there as a girl did you?
Mrs E: Oh very much. Yes I had a very happy childhood. Have you heard of the Murrells family? (Q: Yes.) because Dora Murrells was a teacher when I was a tiny girl when I first went. I had very bad chilblains on my hands and I remember as if it was yesterday I knocked them against the wall and one of them broke and bled and they took me in to Miss Murrells. She took me on her lap and cuddled me and oh she was ever so sweet. I remember that ever so plainly. I find now, at my age, I remember things so much more clearly back as a child than I do what I’d been doing last week.
Q: Even things that you didn’t think you remember come back do they?
Mrs E: Yes, and yet I can’t remember people’s names and I often say I shall forget my own name now. [laugh] My school days were very very happy.
Q: You must have done well to go to Braintree?
Mrs E: Yes, got a scholarship you see.
Q: How did you feel about going away to Braintree? Were you a bit nervous or was it a treat or what?
Mrs E: I can’t remember that side of it. I know teaching was different to what it is now. When I went to Takeley the children all walked to school – miles. Rosy cheeks and they used to bring a potato very often for their lunch and I used to chalk their initials on it and bake them in the embers of the grate. Often had one myself with them. [laugh] Now of course children all go by bus. Not allowed to walk very far. All taken by bus.
Q: How did you get to become a teacher. Did you have to go away to college?
Mrs E: No, I didn’t go away to college. I was what they called in those days, a uncertificated teacher. But I got my matriculation necessary at Braintree High School to become a teacher. But if I wanted to go the whole hog I’d got to go to college. Now of course you’re not allowed to do that. You’ve got to be perfectly trained. But then again, in those days, it was certificated, or uncertificated and I was they called uncertificated. And when I left Braintree High School I got a job straight away at Takeley.
Q: Did they still have, what were pupil teachers or was that an older thing?
Mrs E: I never went anywhere as a pupil teacher but they did have pupil teachers because I remember after we were married, we got married in the week of the Hattery[?] crash, that probably wouldn’t mean anything to you, but on the Stock Exchange everything went like that and we nearly lost all our business and so my children didn’t arrive until after I’d been married four years and during that four years I went back to teaching, did supply teaching, and I remember then, several of the schools that I did supply teaching at, had pupil teachers, who were learning. Yes I did supply teaching all over the place, Silver End, Braxted, little Maldon Road school, Bocking.
Q: Did you drive then or …?
Mrs E: No, I used to cycle to Braxted and I used to go by bus to Silver End, train to Braintree, I can’t remember them all. And then of course, when my children were born, I had a boy and a girl, girl and a boy rather, and after that I took in paying guests for a time to swell the coffers a bit. Then suddenly things came better, but it was a very lean time when we first got married. We were very lucky because my father-in-law built us a house in the Avenue and we paid him in rent. So we were lucky we never had a mortgage. Which has been marvellous all our lives really.
Q: Were you able to get paying guests quite easily? What sort of people wanted …?
Mrs E: Oh yes, I had some very nice people. Only for bed and breakfast sort of idea. They had their midday meal out. And I had bank managers, I had two bank managers from Lloyds and I had two Income Tax Inspectors. Do you remember Miss Copsey, have you met the Copseys, Miss Copsey who is now Mrs Pettican. Well Jean Copsey and Kay Copsey, two sisters. and I had Jean. She stayed with me for a time. She’s still alive, she lives in the Retreat. She’s much younger than I of course. She lives in the Retreat in Witham. Used to live in Avenue road.
Q: So you were in the Avenue for a long time then, you went there straight away when you got married.
Mrs E: Yes, 1929.
Q: Was it unusual to have married women teachers? You say you went on teaching after you were married, did people often do that?
Mrs E: Well, you could always get a supply job if you wanted to but people didn’t work then, not like they do now. I mean all young wives work now don’t they. But they didn’t then. But I always loved teaching and when the opportunity arose I took it. And do you know Sydney Hinchcliffe who was at Templars? Well after we went to live at Four Acres, the bungalow near Lound, Sydney asked me one day if I’d go and be pianist for them at Templars and I did that for about two and a half years, just went two afternoons a week. I loved that, enjoyed that very much.
Q: Did you learn the piano at school?
Mrs E: Did I what? (Q: Did you learn the piano at school?) No, I was taught by Mrs Dibben, and the Dibbens had a hairdressers business [90 Newland Street] where Byfords is now, next to the Chapel and Mrs Dibben was a marvellous pianist and I was taught there.
Q: Did she have a lot of pupils?
Mrs E: Yes, quite a lot. She used to rap my knuckles because I’ve always had a good ear for music, in fact I play better by ear than I do by music I think, and she used to rap my knuckles say ‘Frances, look at your music.’ Oh I’ve always liked music. I was pianist for the Operatic, music hall section for years. My husband played the drums and I played the piano. (Q: That’s difficult, quick?) Oh no that suited me better because I know all the old songs, there’s music halls, I could rattle them off.
Q: You must have been very welcome in all the schools you went to then.
Mrs E: Oh very, yes, I’ve really enjoyed my music because being able to play by ear, I was quite useful, though I say so, you know if anywhere they wanted a dance, it was ‘Frances, come on, give us a tune’ and I could sit and rattle off a foxtrot or something. Yes I’ve enjoyed my music. My family’s terribly musical. My daughter’s three children are all members of he Essex Youth Orchestra, The two girls have got their BAs from Birmingham and the boy is a doctor. Done ever so well. My son has got two children, one is secretary at the big printing works in Wisbech and the boy is second in command in the dining room at the big hotel in Kings Lynn, big Trust House hotel. Yes, they’ve all done very well.
Q: Where do you think you got your musical talent from?
Mrs E: My father used to play the flute very well, but he didn’t play the piano but he played flute, and he’d got a wonderful ear for music. Those were the old-fashioned days when ere you sat round the piano on a Sunday night and sang hymns, Sankey and Moody hymns. All the old hymns. Lovely memories.
Q: Did you have any brothers or sisters?
Mrs E: I had a brother, who had a shop in Witham, cabinet maker’s shop, where, ph opposite Browns, I don’t know what it is now, Maldon Road, yes. He died unfortunately about ten or eleven years ago.
Q: So what did your father used to do?
Mrs E: Insurance, Prudential.
Q: That was full -time? How did he come to switch to Prudential. Because you said he was at the pub.
Mrs E: That was his parents. His parents kept the Kings Head at Maldon and when he got married he got a job in the Prudential. Have you met the Alderton family in Witham? They live in Church Street. Well Mr Alderton was my father’s superintendent and my father was an agent and Mr Alderton was his superintendent.
Q: Did he travel about a lot at that time?
Mrs E: No, used to, no, on his bicycle. No cars in those days.
Q: Did he never have a car?
Mrs E: No, he used to ride his bicycle.
Q: I should think that was a good job to have in those days.
Mrs E: Oh absolutely.
Q: [looking at photos, M156 actually Trafalgar Day] That’s Admiral Luard. I think it might be [???] that you were speaking ….
Mrs E: I’ve seen this somewhere.
Q: I think it might be in that book you were speaking of.
Mrs E: Possibly, yes. O, now there’s somebody there I can see now that’s Canon Ingles I’m sure. That’s Canon Ingles. (Q: Yes.) He’s the man who used to come with the sweets.
Q: That must have been some sort of anniversary or something mustn’t it because it says Church School. That’s the Scouts, but that’s 1913, so that’s a bit earlier. You can’t see the people but apparently it’ on the station. They were presented with something by the Duke of Connaught.
Mrs E: I should think this is before my husband’s time.
Q: They still had the uniforms though didn’t they?
Mrs E: Yes. I was interested in ….
Q: Do you remember the First World War in Witham? (Mrs E: Yes) Some of these are like that would be ambulances and things. Did you have anyone billeted with you?
Mrs E: We had evacuees but that was the Second World War wasn’t it. We had evacuees billeted on us. I remember the day that Crittall’s was bombed. We were living in the Avenue, after we married, and I was sitting in our hall answering the phone to somebody, by a little window in the hall, and heard a plane and suddenly saw this German plane with the cross on it coming towards the window and a second or two later Crittall’s was bombed. That’s stuck in my memory.
[looking at photos]
That’s the First World War. Now my husband was living at Hatfield then, I didn’t know him but they lived at a place called The Lodge, Hatfield and his father was away at the War and they let the stables to the Essex Yeomanry and my husband as a boy used to cycle to Terling Place from Hatfield with messages, from the Essex Yeomanry. Yes because where they lived at the Lodge there were some stables at the back of the Lodge and they let them. I’ve heard him tell that tale.
[looking at photos]
Mrs E: I don’t remember much of the First World War.
Q: Some people seem to remember because they had soldiers living with them.
Mrs E: No, we didn’t have soldiers then. It was the Second World War I remember more when we had evacuees.
Q: How many evacuees did you used to have?
Mrs E: We had two boys from Edmonton. Father worked in a bacon factory and father and mother came down on Sunday and we gave them lunch. Quite a nice couple but, oh dear, most peculiar really. [laugh] But it was all rather worrying because one of the boys had diphtheria while they were billeted on us and we had to all have swabs taken the place fumigated and so they didn’t stay long. They took them away.
Q: That was a worry. Do you think the boys, were they sort of nervous when they came or …?
Mrs E: Not too bad, no, because our children were small you see and they settled down very well. One was much, the elder boy was a very nice boy but the little one was horribly spoilt, but he soon settled down. They weren’t too bad.
Q: [looking at photos] That’s a farewell church parade. [Mrs E: Oh yes.) I think that’s a parade at the end of the First World War past High House. Somebody said that must be Canon Galpin.
Mrs E: Oh yes, Canon Galpin. He was the one with all the musical instruments.
Q: You can’t really see, judge it from what time.
Mrs E: He lived at Faulkbourne didn’t he. Played the bassoon.
Q: Now here’s some of ones at the Grove. I think these are the Grove.
Mrs E: Oh yes, that’s a clear photo.
[names of people on photos, not noted here, entered on m photos database.
Q: Now this is one that’s supposed to have you on it? I knew I’d get to it in the end. Is that the one you’ve got?
Mrs E: Ah, yes. No, I haven’t got this now. I used to have it but I don’t know where it is.
Q: Miss Croxall saw this and she gave me a lot of names on there.
Mrs E: Eva Chignall, Hilda Pachent, somebody Bright, Alice Bright. Olive Brown, I was at Braintree High School with her, she was a great pal of mine. There’s Lucy [Croxall] (Q: That’s right.) I suppose that’s me. Yes I was rather looked up to you see at the Church School because when we had exams it was always Lucy Croxall first and Frances Revitt second. I could never reverse that. Lucy was always better than me.
[more names etc. in photos, not noted here]
[more names etc in photos, not noted here]
Mrs E: I remember Mrs Brandt very well.
Q: What do you remember about her?
Mrs E: I don’t know how I knew her. I know she used to call me ‘babe’ because I won a prize at a baby show [laugh]. Always called me ‘babe’. Her brother Ted Gimson was my doctor when I was a little girl.
Q: Did you have to have the doctor very much when you were little? (Mrs E: No.) It must have been a big affair, because that’s the same do I think.
Mrs E: Yes, that’s Edith Luard, she was wonderful at presenting plays. They were a wonderful family. They lived at Ivy Chimneys.
Q: How many of them were there altogether then?
Mrs E: I can’t remember. I knew Edith and Gertie and Alice. Alice was the one who was in the Grey Ladies. (Q: I see.). Some organisation in London that looked after the poor. And when she came home to Witham she always wore her Grey Lady costume. Flowing grey robe and veil.
[more photos, phone call]
Q: When you said the Imps?
Mrs E: When you said Molly and Joan were on it, it probably was the Imps because they were members of the Imps.
Q: What were the Imps?
Mrs E: The Young Conservatives. (Q: Oh I see.) They called themselves the Imps.
Mrs E: No, I wasn’t in the Imps. I was in the early Operatics. In fact I was in the first Operatic that they did because it changed from all singing at first, choral under Mr Howlett and then they decided to do Operatic work and did Gilbert and Sullivan, HMS Pinafore and I was in the first Pinafore. I was a little chorus girl.
Mrs E: I was Secretary of the Witham Mothers’ Union for nineteen years (Q: Good heavens!). Mrs Geere from Spa Place was the enrolling member. She was a lovely lady. I liked her. Wonderful person she was. I can’t see clearly.
[more photos, not noted]
Q: Was your mother in many organisations or was she too busy?
Mrs E: No, she was just an ordinary mother.
Q: Things were much harder work then.
Mrs E: My husband’s mother was in quite a lot. She was President of the British Legion Women’s section for a long time.
Q: But you yourself were obviously pretty busy?
Mrs E: My husband and I were in everything in Witham. Yes we led a very busy life.
[more photos and chat, not noted]
Mrs E: Has anyone mentioned the Murrells and the little school they had, where the TSB is now? [55 Newland Street] Near the Midland Bank. They had a private house and Myrtle Murrells ran a little private school there. My two children both went there. And then Elizabeth went on to Chelmsford High School, where she ended up as head girl and John went to Widford[?] and then Colchester. But Myrtle had a very successful school there. She was a wonderful mistress. Then they retired and lived in the Avenue. So I knew them very well. My children used to call them Auntie Dora and Auntie Myrtle. Dora was teacher at the Church School and Myrtle had her private school.
Q: Oh yes, people have talked about Miss Murrells at the other school, well you did didn’t you?. Was that just the junior sort of age. How many did they have there?
Mrs E: Oh, a couple of dozen, thirty, couple of dozen, perhaps. Ever such a happy little school that was.
Q: [???] I was trying to work out when they had the school?
Mrs E: Well, we married in 1929 and Elizabeth was born in 33 and John in 36, so that would be, when Elizabeth would be five when she started and John would then have been about two. So if she was born in 1936 that would be about ‘41. I don’t know how long Myrtle had had the school then but both my children went there. Myrtle Murrells was a headmistress at Wisbech and when her mother died she came back to look after her father and opened this private school.
Has anybody mentioned Spurge’s shop? (Q: Oh yes.) Because Miss Murrells’ father used to work in the grocery. (Oh I see) At Spurge’s shop. I remember as a child going there shopping. Seeing this funny looking old man, he’d got a hooked nose. He was a funny old man. And there was a very high counter. And as a little girl I used to look up to this and I hated going in there.
Q: Because Mrs Ashby worked in the drapery. Do you know Mrs Ashby? From Highfields Road? [Mrs E: Vera Ashby.] Worked in the drapery.
Mrs E: Well my sister worked in Spurge’s, then she went to Ipswich and worked most of her life in Ipswich, but she started off in Spurge’s. And there was a Miss Wallace there too and one of the Ottleys. [???] Ottley worked there.