Mrs Raven was born in 1893, and was interviewed on 2 April 1977, when she lived at 9 Cressing Road, Witham.
For more information about her, see the notes in the people category headed Raven, Mrs Edith, nee Turner.
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.]
[Note: Mrs Raven spoke very slowly and sometimes very precisely, as if she were collecting her thoughts before speaking. I have therefore not put ‘Pause’ in, unless it was exceptionally long. There are also some noisy passages when we were looking for, or at, photos etc., and sometimes where she held the mike in her hand and stroked it !]
[After first 8-9 minutes on tape the conversation becomes very disjointed – speakers appear to be moving about and sound goes up and down with noises covering words. I have marked this and have typed what I could make out, after listening several times, rather than ignore the whole passage. Perhaps you can make more sense of it].
Mrs R …. [looking at photo from newspaper; no copy] …. one of my brothers are on there. [Noises on tape.] My brother’s at the back here. That’s that old place round in Church Street.
Q: Oh, isn‘t that lovely. Yes.
Mrs R: It – where – do you remember where Shelley put his furniture? (Q: Yes.) There. That’s in Church Street [22 Church Street; before 1902 it was Chipping Hill Infants’ school]. That’s very old, that one. I think my brother’s at the back here, and I’m here somewhere with him. But I put that ….
Q: ‘Cos I walked past that, since you told me I walked past that and had a look. It’s hard to work out – was that – be at the back there, would it? (Mrs R: No) Or that was at ….
Mrs R: At the front.
Q: There’s some grass, there’s grass – I see, yes.
Mrs R: There’s a bit of wall there, you see. And there’s the door there, look, you see.
Q: Oh yes.
Mrs R: Well, we had a room upstairs and a room down. (Q: Yes.) When we were small we were downstairs, and when we got older we went on the upstairs. (Q: Oh I see.) See. (Q: Yes.) Old-fashioned as Noah, isn’t it.
Q: Do you remember any of the teachers there, or anything ?
Mrs R: No. I have an idea I knew this person, but, I’ve forgotten the name. As years go by you do, don’t you? (Q: Yes.) I must have got that out of a paper.
Q: Looks like it. (Mrs R: Yes.) It, yes, because it says sixty years ago. (Mrs R: Yes.) Lovely.
Mrs R: Must have got that out of a paper. Then I went on to Witham School and I …. (Q: Yes.) I had to be nine when I went down to Witham School [i.e. National School, Guithavon Street]. (Q: I see.) See, this school wasn’t built then [Templars, Cressing Road]. (Q: No, no.) Not when we went to school. You see, we’ve all got our pinafores on, you see. That’s an old photo. (Q: It’s a lovely one, that is, isn’t it?) I don’t know whether there’s anything there that you can cut out.
Q: Well, you’ll want to keep that one, won’t you?
Mrs R: Well, I don’t know about cutting, keeping it, no, I don’t know if I want to keep that.
Q: What, the school one?
Mrs R: No, as I’ve already ….
Q: It’s probably got things on the back, hasn’t it? (Pause) Weddings and things.
Mrs R: Oh yes, there they are. But, there’s one of Maldon Road, in years gone by. My husband’s on here, as a lad. (Q: Oh, yes.) He’s in the front, here. (Q: That’s lovely isn’t it?) See the old fashioned dresses? [looking at photo from newspaper, see picture 8]
Q: That’s from the paper, in nineteen seventy-two, so somebody must have, um, sent that in then, yes.
Mrs R: Yes, they sent that in. I believe that says so on the bottom, doesn’t it? There?
Q: Oh, yes. That’s, oh, there’s ‘Picture supplied by Howbridge School’ so that would be one of Mr Smith’s, yes.
Mrs R: I believe he’s got one of them, I expect.
Q: So that’s the Coronation. (Mrs R: Yes.) Nineteen-o-two. Yes.
Mrs R: I can just remember that. (Q: Remember that, can you?) Yes. I can remember that. But I didn’t live down Maldon Road, but Pop did, you see. And here, it must have been altered, you see. Because that was, um, I can’t think of the name of the person that was there that lived there, then. They were builders, that lived there. But they haven’t got the name on there.
Q: No, that’s sort of, opposite the chapel isn’t it?
Mrs R: As you get older, you forget the names ….
Q: Did they used to use the chapel there? (Mrs R: Yes.) Did they? It looks so big, but you don’t see people going in there now, do you [i.e. Baptist chapel, later Chapel house, south of 2 Maldon Road]
Mrs R: There was, is it still there?
Q: It’s still there. Yes.
Mrs R: Oh it’s still there? Ohhh ….
Q: I don’t know whether they use it today ….
Mrs R: Well, there wasn’t many went when I knew it. (Q: No.) But they used to have a Sunday School at the back. (Q: Oh, I see.) Always had a Sunday School at the back. But I did know some of them that went there. Yes. That’s a quaint little old chapel. Very nice, though. Really.
Q: Well, it’s quite well built, isn’t it?
Mrs R: Though, they’re dead and gone what belonged to that. Now they must be dead and gone what belonged to that chapel. There’d be several go, you know, on a Sunday. but they always had a Sunday School at the back. You had to go up a little yard to get to that. (Q: Oh I see.) At the back of that, you see. That was very interesting. They were quaint old people what did go there. They were very nice old folk. But I used, as a child, we had a, er, chapel down here, down the bottom of that road there. You know where the Rec. gates are, don’t you? (Q: Mmm.) Well that was nearly opposite. There was a milk dairy in the front and our chapel was down the yard [39 Maldon Road; in Mrs Raven’s youth the Peculiars’ chapel, formerly Quaker meeting house, since Mason’s lodge].
Q: I see. Is that still ….?
[Talking over each other]
Mrs R: I believe the Quakers have still …. (Q: There is a building there, yes.) I believe the Quakers (Q: Yes, the Quakers.) have still got it (Q: Yes, I know the one, yes.) I think they, I believe it did belong to the Quakers. Then the Peculiars, as they called themselves, were in it. They used to have their little bonnets and .… (Q: Yes.) And you’d see them up the top of the Maldon Road, all kiss each other goodbye, you know. But they were very loyal. Very loyal. They looked after each other, you know.
Q: I see. What sort of things did they do?
Mrs R: There was a, a church service, more of a chapel service, you know. Or if any one of them was ill, they were there. I remember Father being ill once. He got a poisoned arm. But they, they were up there every week. You know – how, had he got enough food to feed us children? [Pause] You don’t get that, quite like that today, do you?
Mrs R: Oh they wouldn’t see you go without. That’s the chapel I had to go as a child and push Grannie down there.
Q: You mentioned that, yes. So what sort of people, would there be different sort of people go to different churches? (Mrs R: Yes.) What sort of people would go to the Peculiars, then?
Mrs R: They call, they called them the – the Evangelist Chapel down in Mill Lane [near corner of Guithavon Road], that belongs to them really, when they came from Maldon Road.
Q: Oh, I see.
Mrs R: I was thinking the other day. They must have clubbed together and had that, and bought that, had that built there. (Q: I suppose so, yes.) I haven’t been there for years now. See, my husband wasn’t it, he was a Congregationalist. [Pause]
Q: But your Mum and Dad both were. (Mrs R: Oh yes.) Were they?
Mrs R: And my father’s people. Grannie and them all, staunch Peculiars. And they were loyal to each other. If they thought anybody wanted anything, they were there, you know, to help them. If they were ill, they were there. And if they wanted any help in the food line, they were there to give it to them, you know. And they’d have prayer meetings, all that sort of thing, in the house and that, you see. [Pause] Oh yes, they were very loyal. Very nice people. I’ve got a, a book somewhere, I must look that out. Um, I don’t know whether you knew Ruby Tyrrell up here, married to …. (Q: I think so.) Well, I shall never forget her funeral. She was a Peculiar. Her mother and father were Peculiars. I shall never forget her funeral, that went round this way. And do you know, the length of that road [Rickstones Road ?] and round the corner to the shop, there was the mourners and they were all singing the hymns as they went along. I thought I’ll never see another sight like that. It was really wonderful. And she was a very nice girl. And I think, I’ve got a book here somewhere [Noises on tape then speech gets very faint.] If I can only find it, read it, if you’ve got a minute. It’s all about, all about the religion, you know? Very nice [noises on tape -microphone moved?- sound comes up.]
And you have a look at this. I went on a holiday, the first time I ever left these two boys. I’d got an uncle living in the house and I left these two boys, they were, you know, old enough to leave. I took May, the girl with me. And I’d got a friend in Mrs Hammond, unfortunately I’ve just lost her, this year. And she used to come down the garden, every morning. And she said ‘Don’t worry about them.’ She said ‘I’ll give an eye to them.’ And Mrs Walker lived down the road. And they were very good neighbours, that time of the day. And she said ‘Don’t worry, we’ll give an eye to the boys.’ I only went a week. I went to Margate, and that’s the letter he wrote me. I don’t think he’d get a competition with that on the top.
Q: [Laughs] [Reads?] Tubby’s been dropped twice. [Laughs] [??? with the [???] Oh, that’s nineteen thirty-eight. [both laugh].
Mrs R: Yes. [Q: laughs] He just, boy-like you know. [Q: ???] And the other boy’s, [??starved yet??] other boy’s name, nicknamed Tubby. The doctor give him that.
Q: What, the doctor give him the name? (Mrs R: Dr Ted.) [i.e. Dr Ted Gimson] How did that happen?
[Tubby was her other son]
[The following part of tape – conversation quite disjointed, both speakers unclear, Mrs Raven, in particular, sounds tired at times]
Mrs R: When he laid in bed and he had a photograph brought to him what he’d had taken in school, you know. And it laid on the bed. ‘Oho’, he said, ‘there’s Tubby there’. And ever since then, he had the name of Tubby. [Q: laughs.] [Pause]
Q: [Reads?] Sending you [???] I get from grapes [???] [Pause]
Mrs R: You can take this and read this at your leisure.
Q: Yes. Thank you.
Mrs R: Ruby, Mrs Marsh let me have that but Ruby wrote it.
Q: Oh, I see.
Mrs R: I don’t know if you’ve seen it on your travels?
Q: No, I haven’t, no. [Pause] And when you, um, this is somebody you knew, is it? Ruby Halls?
Mrs R: Yes, married a Len Halls. Very, very nice people. (Q: Yes, I ….) When you’ve got a minute .…
Q: I’ll take it and have a look at it, yes. [Pause]
So what sort, the people that were Peculiars, did they, what sort of jobs did they do? Were they in (Mrs R: All sorts.) a special trade? Or were they all sorts? (Mrs R: All sorts.) Yes. Mm.
Mrs R: Cos Father was a horseman, you see. (Q: Quite, yes.) [Pause]
I don’t know whether you’ll get, whether you’ll get anything off of that. He won it in a, a competition [Q: laughs, that’s clever].
Q: What sort of competition was that?
Mrs R: I think he said it was ‘Readers Digest’ was advertising, [???] of all.
Q: [laughs] It’s good, that, isn’t it, yes.
Mrs R: …. whether I’ve got any, whether I’ve got any photos in here. I got them all out. I got them in there. And that book I think I’ve got ….
[Both speakers appear to be moving about – noises on tape and words indistinct]
Q: That’s right, we were looking at this weren‘t we, that’s at the school.
Mrs R: That, now, that one ….
Q: That’s Maldon Road, isn’t it? And the weddings.
Mrs R: I think I’ve come across another one in here, old, I don‘t know if I’ve got it here or [noise on tape] in this box.
[Noises on tape] ..mustn’t lose that letter cos he’s coming …. (Q: No, no????)
…. got anything there, [Pause]
Q: Is that somebody you knew ?
Mrs R: That’s my nephew. (Q: Is it?) Yes. My sister’s son [looking at photo on Liberal election address in Hull in 1945]. What is this one? This is an old one.
Q: Oh, that’s the Agricultural Show.
Mrs R: Oh yes. You’ve got one there with me on Powershall End, on there, somewhere.
Q: Oh, you mentioned that, yes. [Pause]
Mrs R: That isn’t it. Oh, I think .…
Q: Is your family, um, interested in politics or is it just ….
Mrs R: He’s passed away. (Q: ..him that was in ….) Nine years. My sister had all her children educated at Oxford. (Q: Really?) She worked hard. She’s got a grandson and two granddaughters. Well, the grandson has just gone into Hong Kong. To live. So I won’t be seeing him. And the two granddaughters live in London. This is very interesting, well, you know that person, on there. (Q: This one?) Yes. Look, says Ena, Dorking. (Q: Oh yes.) And the cats, look, see. [the story was that the cats used to meet Ena, but always seemed to know not to go out on Sunday when she didn’t go there]
Q: Good heavens, yes. That was in the Daily Mirror. [Laughs.] Yes.
Mrs R: Yes. Did you see it?
Q: No, I didn’t, no.
Mrs R: She was, er, working for Mrs French. You know Mrs French who’s down Collingwood Road? (Q: Oh yes, I think so.) And she lived at Rivenhall. Nearby the church, on the farm [Rivenhall Hall]. And every time Ena, Ena lives over in the bungalows [Homefield Road] …. (Q: That’s right, yes.) [Pause] And I cut that out, and kept it. [Q: Laughs] Or put it in the book. I don’t know whether that’s the one that I’m on, or …? (Q: Let’s have a look, we’re looking for …) No it’s not. that ’s ….
Q: That was in the (Mrs R: Victoria ….) in the War.
Mrs R: Is that ? (Q: That’s in the ….) Victoria is it?
Q: Yes, the Victoria in the First War, with the soldiers.
Mrs R: Well, I went to (Q: Outside.) I went to school, I think it’s this boy. I went to school with his mother, and his mother’s eighty-one now. And I saw this piece in the paper. So I thought, oh, I must write to this dear girl. (Q: Yes.) She said her mother was still alive. I thought I must write to her. Because I wondered where the Collerys[?] have gone to. What is that one? Oh, that the bridge here.
Q: That’s the bridge, yes. Before that was .…
Mrs R: Yes. My husband’s on that, I think. (Q: Oh is he?) Yes. Now look, yes he’s behind that black person. Going to the Co-op. (Q: Yes [laughs].) That bridge is altered there now, (Both speakers talking over each other] that’s like it was …. [probably bridge over railway between Braintree Road and Cressing Road]
Q: There was a, I think it was, yes it was narrower, wasn’t it? That’s .… ‘Chipping Hill Baby Clinic, nineteen twenty-five, sent in by Mrs Raven’.
Mrs R: I‘m on that, yes.
Q: Are you ?
Mrs R: You see, dear, look. Here I am. With the, my daughter, that is now, (Q: Yes) Her in my arms. And this is Miss Luard. That was Nurse French. And this is .…
Q: Which is Miss Luard? This one ? (Mrs R: That’s Miss Luard.) At the back there, with the [???], holding the.
Mrs R: Oh yes, she run that, you see.
Q: What was the clinic?
Mrs R: Er, It was a baby clinic, you see, you took your babies there. I only went once when they had this party. I didn’t believe in the clinics much, you know. Because, I don’t know, I suppose, brought up in the old fashioned way but the clinics today are valuable to the young mothers today. Really. But that Nurse French, she nursed me. Nearly all these are dead and gone. The mothers of these babies. They’re nearly all gone. Dead and gone. yes (Q: Yes.) There was a Mrs, um, Hawkes on there. And she had a whole tribe of children. Where is she, she’s here somewhere. [Long pause]
That’s Mrs Pease. That’s Mrs Wiseman. [Pause] There’s Mrs Everett. She died a little while aback. Mrs Christie. Oh, there’s Mrs Hawkes, she had a whole ….
Q: What, right, on this left hand side here.
Mrs R: She had a whole tribe of children. She used to live down Chess Lane. Had a whole lot of children. That was a very nice little party, you know.
Q: Yes. Miss Luard run the clinic, did she? (Mrs R: More or less.) In those days?
Mrs R: More or less. I think we were up her place. (Q: Yes.) Where we had this, out in the garden (Q: Yes, it’s in a big garden, yes.) Yes. You know where that ….
Q: And is that her ….
Mrs R: You know, you know where the Miss Luards lived?
Q: At The Lodge, was it?
Mrs R: They lived at the, the big house, when I knew them [Witham Lodge, Hatfield Road]. And then they went into Ivy Chimneys [Hatfield Road]. (Q: Oh, yes.) You know? (Q: Yes.) They lived there. There, that’s Miss Luard, that we used to go as the children to this big house, on a Saturday morning and get anything we could in the way of, um, clothes. Well, Mother used to buy the new material and if she bought it new, to make a shirt with, she’d just give you the measurements for a shirt, that’d be sixpence. But if, um, if you made it yourself, it would be thruppence. So Mother used to make ‘em.
Q: What, by hand?
Mrs R: Yes. I don’t, I never knew her to have a sewing machine, no. No. Used to make Father’s shirts. Used to get them for thruppence. Couldn’t get it today, could you? (Q: No, no.) [both laugh] It’s dreadful what they do today, you know.
Q: What, this is Miss Luard at the back, then is it? (Mrs R: That’s Miss Luard.) The, behind there, is it? (Mrs R: That one there.) Oh sorry.
Mrs R: She’s got a hat on, with the baby in her arms (Q: Oh, I know.) That’s Miss Gertie Luard. I often wonder if they’re still alive, you know.
Q: Well, I think, there were some Miss Luards lived next, near the Albert, at The Grange, I think, when we came [4 Chipping Hill] ….
Mrs R: Mclarens wasn’t it?
Q: Was it?
Mrs R: That’d have been Miss Mclarens. I never knew the Luards to live up …. though it might have been. They might have been. I don’t know. But the two Miss McLarens lived there and they were very good to us – they were very good. Because there isn’t many ladies that’d put themselves out. But once a week, they’d come and collect the pence, on the cards, for you to get your coal. For the winter. (Q: Oh yes.) I used to get enough money on the card to get two ton of coal. Well, my coal place was right full with boards all up. Two, two pound. That used to last us all the winter. Look what you’ve got to pay today. (Q: Yes) Dreadful, isn’t it, really. And they’d sell us, two, two pound a hundredweight, sometimes.
Q: Oh, oh, there’s the picture, look [see picture 9].
Mrs R: Oh yes. There’s me there, I’m ten years old. See, I’ve sent that in. And there’s Mother, she’s just come out the bakehouse. Got her cap on and a white apron. And that’s my brother, he’s just come home with the PO liners. He used to go on those to New York and back. Mother was always pleased to see him, cos he’d go off [???] This is all the children at Powers Hall – you see, there’s the hedge there with no, (Q: Of course, yes.), no houses there, on this side.
Q: And the bake house was down towards Witham, was it?
Mrs R: No, (Q: Or further up the other way?) the bakehouse, the bakehouse was between those two houses. (Q: Oh, I see, yes.) That was for the whole road, but that was only Mother used it. Nobody else knew, took the trouble to bake, you see.
Q: So is this your house up here? (Mrs R: No.) Or is that one?
Mrs R: My house was just here. (Q: Off the edge.) Yes, on the edge, here. So, that’s, that’s the other house starting there (Q: Yes.) Well, our house was here. (Q: Yes.) Then there’s the Vic, you see. [Q: Fine one, isn’t it?] The person that I’m still friendly with, was born in that house. In fact, she was my sister’s companion, and, of course, I’ve lost my sister so of course, she’s not there now. She is over in Bocking, in one of the Homes, there now. I couldn’t have her.
Q: What, the ….(Mrs R: Not that person.) The lady that lived there, what was her name?
Mrs R: French (Q: Oh, that was French) French, Um, Miss Winnie French, Winifred French. And she was, likely, four years with my sister, five years. She did work in a shipping office. And that, she got retired. And the flat that she was in, they wanted so that’s how my sister took her in. And she took her in more or less as a companion. (Q: Yes.) My sister was better off than I am, I was. She lived .…
Q: Is she the one you said went to London?
Mrs R: Yes. She, um, she lived at 68 Prince’s Square, Bayswater. She had a very nice house …. [Noise on tape, Mrs R moved?] I used to go up every September, when this person went on a holiday, to be with my sister. After she lost …. [noise on tape, sounds as if microphone disconnected]
I don’t know what I’ve done with ….
Q: What, you went to the Munition, place, did you [munition factory, First World War].
Mrs R: Yes, I knew these girls on here, really. That’s Mrs Hammond there, and this is a Miss Wood that was there. And there’s, er, Charlie Jones there, and Woodwards here. They were in the filling department, we were in the gauging department.
Q: What exactly did you have to do?
Mrs R: Gauge the shells. (Q: How did you do that?) And if you touched one of them, in the way we stood them up, the whole lot’d go down. They’d be all damaged, you see, and they’d all have to be done again. So you had to be very very careful.
Q: So what was, so what gauging them exactly?
Mrs R: Gauging ready for them to put the filling in, the top, you see.
Q: So what exactly did you ….?
Mrs R: Well, it could, you’d have to gauge, so that that part would fit in once they’d got the filling in it, you see. Because they went on to the powder factory, you see, after we’d done it. And we worked in the Maltings [probably the one in Maltings Lane]. (Q: Oh, I see.) Very, very, low ….
Q: What, you’d have them all ….
Mrs R: Stand them on the, on the, on tables, we had, you see. Then we used to stand them up. But, of course, sometimes, they’d only be up on a, stand them up on the neck, on the neck of them you see. Instead of on the bottom, some’d be standing on the neck of them …. If you’d touch one, the whole lot’d go.
Q: What, sort of, like skittles, you mean?
Mrs R Yes, just like skittles. Yes that’s right. Yes.
Q: So when you say gauging them, that was doing what?
Mrs R: That was getting them ready for the factory. For the powder factory. That was, ours was the finishing part, you see. And our department they’d go along on to this next one, where these girls are, for filling. They’d be on the filling line, you see.
Q: So what did they do?
Mrs R Very interesting.(Q: Yes) Very interesting. I married from there.
Q: Oh, really?
Mrs R: Yes. I left there when I married from there. All the munition girls came to the, my wedding, that time of the day. They said ‘If you wear your overalls over your dress, we’ll come to the wedding.’ [Q: laughs.] I said ‘Well, you want me to do something, don’t you?’ But, er, the one thing that stands out in my mind. I’d never been in a raffle before, and I’ve never won anything in a raffle since. And I thought, well, I’d have a go. And I won a goose. And I’d got some friends living in that house, The Lodge, The Avenue. This Mrs French, she lived in that last house up at Powers Hall End, and she’d moved into The Lodge. Because it was like a bungalow, you see, for her. And, I, I showed the, the goose. And I had to come down The Avenue, there was no houses in there then, there were just the trees. And the soldiers were marching up through the ar -, Avenue, as I was going down. And they all kept shouting out ‘Quack, quack, quack, quack’ and I thought …. [both laugh] this is the end. And this person in The Lodge, kindly bought me my bouquet. Because things weren’t very bright that time of the day, for money, you know, so she said ‘Dear, I’ll buy your bouquet‘. So I’d got me bouquet in one arm and this goose in the other. [Both laugh.] And they’re shouting ‘Quack, quack, quack.’ I shall never forget that. [Mrs R. laughs.] I’ve never won anything since. So when the boys plucked the goose for me, they said ‘Now you owe us a new suit’ because those goose feathers go all over the place, don’t they? [Both laugh]
Q: Did it make a lot of difference, the First War, to Witham?
Mrs R: Yes, it did, dear, yes. Made a lot of difference. They used to lay about in The Avenue, you see.
[Telephone rings, tapes stops; when continues, talking about her being in service etc.]
Mrs R …. The doctor, he said, ‘You wore your knee caps out’. I said ‘I never wear my knee-caps out’. He said ‘But you [???]’ I suppose that’s why I’ve got bad legs today. You have to suffer for it, you see, don’t you?
Q: Because, I suppose when you went, before you were married, that would have been hard work, wasn’t it?
Mrs R: Oh, yes, it was. Up at half past five in the morning till half past ten at night. Eighteen pence a week. (Q: Really?) That was my first place. [Pause.]
Q: That was Cullen’s, you said, wasn’t it [at Bramstons, 16 Chipping Hill]?
Mrs R: Yes. (Q: yes.) She was a good mistress, really.
Q: I was going to say, how did you get on with her?
Mrs R: Very very good mistress (Q: Really?) and she’d give you a good meal. There was one place I went at Langford, there against the church, she gave us one kipper between two, two of, two girls, there. Between us two. [Pause] And I shall never forget it, Father used to come along with the corn. You see, he used to work for the [???] here. And they’d get the corn. And they’d have to go in the wagons to Maldon with that. Well, Father called and left my box there, with my clothes, you see, when I got the job. And he didn’t come any more for nearly a month. I suppose he hadn’t got to come with the corn. So I wrote to Mother and told her that I was hungry. I was half-starved, you see. And we found out two girls done a moonlight trip before I took the job on. There’s a little shopping lane that I think is still there now. And the person that was there, Mother said to me, ‘Well we’ll go in this shop and ask this lady what this person’s like, ’cos she must know if she’s got the shop here.’ We went in. So she said ‘Well, don’t stop in this house, because’, in this shop, she said, ‘because’, she said, ‘the lady what you’re going to send your daughter to is looking through the window, curtain, to see if you’ve come in this shop.’ (Q laughs.) See. [Pause] So, any rate, I wrote and told Mother that I was hungry, and I hadn’t got enough to eat. So Father came along, that week, with the corn. So he called. I shall never forget it. So he said, I said ‘I’ve packed in the box what I don’t want for the rest of the month.’ ‘Cos I’d given a month’s notice. And, er, he said, ‘You, box and all are coming.’ I said ‘No, I must work my time out, Dad.’ He said ‘You’re not.’ He said ‘Where is she?’ I said ‘She’s through to the kitchen this morning.’ He walks right in. After her. So, er, she was doing a pluck, when I say a pluck, it’s a pig’s pluck, that’s liver, kidneys, and a few valves attached to it, lights and that sort of thing, you see. So, er, she said to, Father said ‘I’m taking my daughter.’ He said ‘We’re poor, but she, she never was hungry. But you can’t expect these girls to work,’ he said, ‘with no food’. And, er, she said ‘I shall sue you. A month’s money.’ He said ‘Yes, that’s just what I want you to do.’ He said ‘I want you to do that,’ he said ‘that’s why I’m taking my daughter.’ He said ‘Because I don’t want another girl let in like these two have been let and the two what left at midnight,’ he said. He said ‘So you just carry on with that.’ He said ‘And I’m taking this one and this other girl with me.’ He said ‘You’re not going to have any of ‘em. You don’t know the way to treat a person when you got them working for you,’ he said. ‘You don’t deserve to have ’em.’ And I had to come home in my print dress and my apron, with just my coat over me. Shaking like a leaf. (Q: [laughs]I bet you were.) (Mrs R laughs.) Only childlike, you know. (Q: Yes.) Well, anyway, she never sued, because she knew it wasn’t any good, (Q: No.) because, she would have got nobody, she never kept anybody, you see. And I always remember him saying ‘And that old pluck you’re doing of,’ he said, ‘stinks.’ He said. ‘I’m glad my daughter ain’t stopping,’ he said, ‘to eat any of that.’ ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘she wouldn’t have had any of it in any case.’ He said ’No, I quite believe that.’ [Both laugh] They used to call them a pluck at that time of the day, you know.
Q: So you were just young then? (Mrs R: Oh, yes.) That was, (Mrs R: I wasn’t very old.) early on, was it?
Mrs R: I think I must have just left Mrs Cullen’s, and gone there, you know. Wasn’t, quite young (Q: Yes.) You don’t know what you’ve got to face, you see, do you? (Q: So that ….) Not when you go into service.
Q: No, I suppose, when you went in Witham, they would sort of know other people, wouldn’t they, so you’d ….
Mrs R: Oh, there were all the, I never did go another place like that, no. Oh they were always very good to us, you know. All.
[Q: says, let’s turn the thing over]
[silent at the beginning]
Q: So how did you get on? You said they were good to you? I mean, if you met, suppose you met one of the family as you were walking about, would they stop and talk to you, or….?
Mrs R: Oh yes, the Cullenses would (Q: Chat ….) Cullens would. Last time I saw [Pause] Mrs Fairweather as she was then. She was the youngest daughter. And I was waiting on the verge for a bus, and she came along with her cycle. Can’t think what her name was now. And she stopped, and had a chat. And I said ‘Well, that is nice to see you.’ And she’s living, I’ve never heard of her death yet. [Pause] She’s living in Burnham. Out, that’s out there by Southminster way. That way. She was living there. She had got a little shop. She’s still got a son alive. [Pause] Because he was working here in the business, and I believe he still is working here in the business. And I think he lives up Wickham way somewhere now.
Q: What, this is Miss Cullen?
Mrs R: Er, she was Mrs Fairweather. (Q: I see.) So he’s a Fairweather. Do you know him? [Pause] (Q: I don’t think so, no.) He’s well known. [Pause] I’ll find out if he still works there. (Q: Yes.) Because, Master Frank, he died. At Cressing Temple, he was a very nice man. And Tom, he died. Dick, he died. Oh, Mrs Taber, old lady Tabor, she was a Cullen. She was just like my mother to me. [???] just like a mother, you know. And she lived in the house, where they’ve got a motel at, er, Rivenhall [probably in Matchyns]. You know, they’ve got the public house at one side, near the motel the other end. Mrs Taber, she was a Cullen. She was the oldest daughter. And she lived in that house and she brought up her family. She’s still got some daughters about. There must be a Miss Taber, I don’t think I’ve heard of, of her getting married. I think one of them got married, but I think there is still another one not married. (Q: Yes.) But it was very very nice to see those boys would come in to lunch with their mother. And they all go out that side door and they’d be laughing and cracking jokes all the way from the house up to the factory, you see? Because they could go right through the gardens up to there, you see [i.e. from the house at Bramstons 16 Chipping Hill, to the Cullens’ seed warehouse, now 49 Braintree Road]. See they’ve bungalows built there now. On that garden. You know where I’m talking about?
Q: I know what you mean, up White Horse Lane (Mrs R: Yes.) Of course, yes. You could, used, to be able to go right through, you mean (Mrs R: All one garden.) Of course, I remember ….
Mrs R: Where those bungalows are now, we used to hang our linen out. But she would have it hung out when it’s freezing dark. (Q: Really?) She’d got that idea that that frost was whitening. The old folks did, you know, see. And we used to have to wash that in the evening, and boil that. And peg that out, at night time, when, before we went to bed. If it was a sharp frost, it had to go out. Afterwards you used to be ever so cold.
Q: I bet you were. [Laughs.] So, er, what sort of other jobs would you have to do there?
Mrs R: Oh, I had, more or less in the kitchen, cooking the dinner that sort of thing, you know. Big old kitchen range, oh, longer than that wall. Or I had to clean that, you know. Then there was the big pantries. The pantries, were down the side of that road, they’d got little tiny windows [i.e. along White Horse Lane, behind 16 Chipping Hill]. I doubt if, there’s any of it there now, I don’t know. There used to be a long pantry, and then there was a big cellar. Then you see, you’d got the morning room, the dining room, the drawing room. The girl, the other girl used to help with the bedrooms and she used to help with the drawing room. Always had to wash those floors over with milk. Skimmed milk. Because you see they kept the Jersey cows. And they’d keep the top of the milk. Pails full of skimmed milk. Wash the floors over with. You didn’t need to polish the floors, you see. Because they’d shine with that milk.
Q: What sort, what were the floors made of? (Mrs R: Lino.) Oh, I see, yes.
Mrs R: There was only one, one, one room there that was, was, wooden, floors. You didn’t get the carpets those days as you did today, really. In the drawing room and the dining room there was a carpet, yes. Very lovely old house that house is, you know. I don’t know who lives there now. (Q: No.) There was a black girl lived, a dark girl lived there, and I went to over to hospital. And she was on this ambulance with me. And when we got over to Notley, she stood in the passageway. So I went over to her, I said ‘Are you ill? Can I help you?’ So she said, ‘No, I’ll be all right’. Then, I was lying in the cubicle and she was lying in the next cubicle, and I said to that nurse, I said ‘This dear girl’s not well.’ I said ‘I believe’, I said ‘I don’t think I’m far wrong’, I said ‘that she’s starting multiply sclerosis.’ [Mrs Raven says ‘MULTIPLY’ rather than MULTIPLE, so have typed as said.] But she didn’t answer. She said ‘Yes she is ill, dear’. Well, I saw her out a little while after that. Well, I tell you. I don’t know where she is now. I don’t know whether she is still there or not. But she’s got multiply sclerosis. The last time, I hadn’t seen her but I’ve enquired about her, I was anxious about this girl, but I knew nothing about her. But, er, I was anxious about it, to know how she’s doing, ‘cos she’s married and I don’t think she married a very good chap. I don’t know. And, er, somebody came in and told me she was in an invalid car, driving about.
Q: I think I know who you mean, yes. I think I’ve seen her.
Mrs R: Sad, very sad. [Pause.] Very sad. I believe she’s got one sister lives up in Glebe Crescent. Married a Mason. And I think he left her. I think she’s got two children or some children. [Pause] That’s sad, you know, really. [Q: Yes.] Sad case. I don’t know these families. (Q: No, quite.) But only just I’ve met them through the hospital, you know. [Pause.] I, I was on an ambulance going to Chelmsford Hospital, one day, and they said they’d got to pick up a, a patient along there. And, er, they’d have to help her. Well, she appeared to get on that ambulance all right, and she sat beside of me, and she kept trying to do her …. [Pause] her blouse up. So I said to her, ‘Can I help you?’ She looked at me, she said ’You know what’s wrong with me, don’t you?’ I said ‘Yes, I’m afraid I do.’ I said ‘And I’m ever so sorry.’ I said ‘Now how did this happen?’ She said ‘I was all right,’ she said. ‘I had my baby.’ She said ‘And two months afterwards this came on’. Now that was multiply sclerosis. I said ‘Now, however do you manage?’ I said. ‘With this baby?’ She said ‘I’ve got a very good mother-in-law’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘God’s good to you’. I said. ‘He’s sent the mother-in-law purposely to look after this baby,’ I said. ‘So you’ve got no worries’. She said ‘No, not that way’. You see, how, how lovely, just this (Q: Quite, yes.) things have worked out for her, you see? And I expect, if I were to see her today, she’d be worse then ever, you know? (Q: Yes.) I was in hospital. I had a very big operation.
[noise on tape – sounds/words disjointed over next few sentences]
And, er so I said, ‘Tell Shirley how many cakes you made at Christmas. I said ‘I didn’t do any this last Christmas .… [words indistinguishable – noises on tape.]
Mrs R: Yes, we’d have to take that.
Q: What, every week you had the liquorice?
Mrs R: Yes, (Q: What, every ….?) every Friday night. We all had that. (Q: Yes) [Pause]
Q: So, if you were ….
Mrs R: I don’t ever remember (Q: Poorly at all ….) being bad when I was young, in any case, not to lay in bed, you know. (Q: Not your brothers and sisters, sister, either?) No, well, you see, my brothers, the biggest of the oldest boys, there was only two boys left when I was, others had left home, you see. (Q: Yes, of course, yes.) They had to go out in the world as soon as they were able. Mother couldn’t keep them. And, and they all did well, really. I had a brother go to Australia. And his granddaughter still writes to me. I got the photographs of the great grandchildren now. And I think to myself sometimes, when I’m on my own, how proud you’d have been of the children today. She’s a schoolteacher. Fine girl, she is. And she’s got these three children, two boys and this girl. And his own daughter, she writes. They all come on the ’phone one morning, [Q: laughs.] all the way from Australia. [Q: laughs.] There was six of them. [Q: Marvellous, isn’t it?] For ten minutes. Pound a minute they said it was. [Q: laughs.] I thought it was wonderful of them, really, you know. I saw on the telly, when the Queen was visiting Australia, [??? name of place] up on a board, well that’s where the granddaughter lives, you see. I was so thrilled to see [???] on the boards, I thought ‘Oh, she’s going to that district, any rate’. So when they write they’ll tell me all about that [???] you know. It’s very interesting the letters you know, they write to me. Especially his daughter. She writes very interesting letters. And the way she writes she thinks I know all about the families out there, you see. But I don’t know them, you see. I mean, on her husband’s side, and all that side, well, I don’t know them.
Q: Do you remember your brother go out or anything? (Mrs R: What, dear?) Do you remember your brother going?
Mrs R: Oh yes, I do. I, I was, my first place out in service, he come to me all in white. White straw hat. And he said goodbye and it’s the last time I saw him. And he didn’t write for three years, you see. And he should, if he’d have written in that time, I think we should have had Mother a little longer. You know because she fretted and fretted, you know. And just after she died we had a letter from him. And I wrote and I told him we’d lost Mother. He said ‘If I’d have known Mother had been so ill,’ he said, ‘I would have come home.’ But you see, dear, Mother was only taken three weeks and she was gone. (Q: Really?) Mmm, that was very quick that death, really. I had to leave service and come home and look after Mother. I was then at Messing Park, when I lost Mother. And I went there as a between maid, under housemaid as a matter of fact.
And I was very fond of the children there, there was two boys, and the lady was on the way with another baby. And every minute that I could get, I was with these children in the nursery, you know, see. So one morning I was in the bathroom, she used to come and see us at ten o’clock every morning, she was a very fine lady. And, er, they called me Edith because there was two Turners there. The [???] housemaid was Turner, and I was Turner, you see. Very funny, that was, I thought. So they had to call me Edith, you see, otherwise I’d have gone by ‘Turner’. (Q: Would you, oh?.) And so she said to me one morning in the bathroom, she said ‘You’re very fond of the children, Edith.’ I said ‘Yes, I am.’ I said ‘They’re lovely babies.’ So she said ‘Would you like to go in the nursery?’ I said ‘I would, very much.’ So she said, well, they’d got a room, at that Messing Park, and she said ‘That room, I’ll cut in half,’ she said, ‘for you,’ she said ‘to have the two boys in the bedroom with you,’ she said. Because this other baby who was coming along, this nurse would have to see after this baby, you see. So I’d just got it in there, and I’d got settled with the boys. I used to walk from Messing Park into Kelvedon nearly every day with them in the pram and back, out in the pram. And they were lovely boys. I often wonder if, I think they must be alive and down Devonshire way, I think. Harmsworth, the name. And, er, I was getting on ever so well there, she rigged me all out with white piquet dresses. And a grey uniform, straw hat, boots. And I was really a little lady to my idea, you know. And, er, I just got settled in there, I suppose I’d been there nearly a year, and Father said ‘You’ll have to come home, Mum’s bad.’ And I went home, and Mother only lived three weeks. My sister came home, the last week, but Mother didn’t let her do a thing for her. If she was bad in the night, I had to, if she said she’d sit up that night, she’d have to wake me up, when Mother wanted anything. To get her out of bed, or anything, I had to do it, you see. I wasn’t very old then, neither. That’s where I went, from Cullens’ I think, there and then after, no, I couldn’t, I must have gone to Pinkhams’ first, and then on to Messing Park. Because I left Messing Park to look after Mother. Yes I must have gone to Pinkhams’ after Cullens’s. And then I went on to Messing Park.
Q: What job did you do at the Pinkhams?
Mrs R: Oh, oh, general. (Q: Mmm.) There, because you see they’d got nobody else.
Q: I see. Was that in Albert Road, then? Albert Road (Mrs R: I went down ….) or Collingwood Road?
Mrs R: I went down Albert Road first with them [probably 13 Albert Road and 14 Albert Road]. They used to cut their gloves in my kitchen. Well, there was a tool room leading off our kitchen. They cut the, gloves out there. And they’d got an empty house next door to, er, the Temperance [Temperance was 9 Albert Road] and the girls used to sit in there with machines and make them there. When I first went to Pinkhams’. And they built that factory while they were, lived there, you know [i.e. first part of glove factory at 1 Chipping Hill, dated 1912]. But otherwise there wasn’t nothing on that hill.
Q: No. So when you say, when they cut the gloves in the kitchen, in that other room, there was, what girls doing that were they?
Mrs R: No, no, two men. (Q: No.) Bert Pinkham was one of them. And Mr Rew[?] was another one. I think Rew[?] come from Devonshire.
Q: The Pinkhams came from there, did they?
Mrs R: They came from there, yes. The old lady was a sweet old lady. [Pause.] But Mrs [sic] Pinkham, the daughter, she was very very sharp, on this old lady. And, she’d got another daughter, her daughter must be still alive. Can’t think what her name is now. And she married. [Pause.] Master Bert and Miss Elsie, they used to drum on the piano, when I was working for them. Well, Mrs Pinkham and Mr Pinkham and Bert went to Yarmouth for a holiday. And in this boarding house, what kept this boarding house, they’d got a daughter. And Bert married, this Elsie. [Q: laughs.] She was a sweet little person. She really was. She was too good for him, far too good for him. I’ll tell you why, being young I suppose. My husband used to work for Ardley, in the bake house when he first came [137 Newland Street]. He worked for him before he went in the war, when he come back he went back to it, you see. Well, Bert would go down to Mr Ardley and ask him if he’d take him, these girls and him back, pony and trap at this time of the day, you see, no motors. And Mr Ardley said no, he wouldn’t do it. He said ‘You ought to have better respect for your wife than that,’ he said. And no, he wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t take these girls, I remember Pop coming in one night and said, he said ‘Mr Ardley wouldn’t take Bert Pinkham’s girlfriends home.’ I said ‘No, I should think not, either,’ I said. ‘Cos Miss Elsie never knew. I tell you the song they used to drum on the piano, ‘Galloping Major’. [Q: laughs.] [???]. Don’t hear it today, do you?
Q: No. Was there a Miss Pinkham? (Mrs R: Yes.) Was she – she was, she was the sister, Bert’s (Mrs R: Yes.) sister?
Mrs R: Bert’s sister. (Q: Yes) There were only the, them two.
Q: So she was Miss .…?
Mrs R: She was Miss Pinkham, now I can‘t think what her (Q: No.) I don’t know, Gwen, I don’t know. She married. Eventually. But she wasn’t a very nice person. Not, nothing, nothing like Miss Elsie. Nothing at all like Miss Elsie.
Q: Then you said, did they start up the factory, they started the factory then, did they?
Mrs R: They started the factory there. And we moved from there, down to Collingwood Road, I went with them, when they lived down there. I wasn’t there long after they moved down there. I, I think it was the money, they didn’t give me very much money, you see, at that time of the day and I think I was going to get more money at the Park, so. And I thought it was a better opening, I’d learn more, you see where there was, oh, what was there? Nineteen to twenty servants there that time of the day.
Q: Where was that, at the Park? Yes (Mrs R: Park, you see.) Yes, there’s a big difference then, isn’t it, from doing it all yourself. (Q: laughs.)
Mrs R: Yes, much different. All the girls you see. And when they had a shooting party, we had all the men and all the gamekeepers all in, you see. And the cook’d say ‘Come on down, it’ll be nice to see you,’ they’d be holding a party at the servants hall, you see. It was a big house, big place. She used to look lovely as she come down to dinner, Mrs Harmsworth. In her evening dress. And of course, you know, how I used to think that was beautiful, you see. Because I had a big eye opener there you see, because I hadn’t seen anything like that before, you know?
Q: And what did you sort of think, what did you think about it?
Mrs R: We had good food there. Very good food, there, you know. And he was a very nice gentlemen. And she was a very nice lady. ‘Cos, that was gentry that time of the day. They don’t get it like that today, do they? Oh no. No, the children today will never know those sort of days. They really were lovely days, really. Though we had to work very very hard, but they were really lovely days, you know, really. [Pause.] Sometimes I’d go down in the kitchen and have a few words with the cook. Funnily, that cook married a cousin of mine, she’s only just lately died. She was here about two years ago to see me. We’d be talking about the old days, you know. She was a splendid cook. Course, I picked up a lot of wrinkles off of her. Because I used to go down there in the evenings you see and watch her do the evening dinner. And, er, I used to pick up lots of little bits and pieces off of her, you see. And then I think it naturally comes to you when you have to do it, you know. What you’ve got to do, really, you know. I love cooking. yes, I love cooking. I’m never too tired to do cooking. Funny ain’t it? I love messing about with dishes. [Q: laughs.] But you don’t get the stuff today to do it with like you used to. (Q: No.) The gardeners’d bring the stuff in, you see. And when, they had a shoot, all the gamekeepers and all the, er, boys that used to run behind, you know, I forget what you call them now. We had all them men in the evening. There was a dance and, a meal and a dance on, all of the servants quarters. There used to be a crowd there you see? And the lady of the house, Mrs Harmsworth, used to [???]. [Pause] And that was all very nice.
Q: How did you, do you remember how you got that job? Must have been quite difficult to get ….?
Mrs R: No, I don’t how I got that job. I think it must have been through that cousin of, that, whose young, whose young lady was the cook there. I think it must have been through her, that told Mother about it, you know? It must have been her that told me about it. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d have known about it, otherwise, she was cook there you see? And, er, he was courting this cook. I have an idea that’s how I did get to know that. I wasn’t very old then. (Q: No.) When I went there.
Q: How much time would you have off? When you ….?
Mrs R: Oh, Mother went about that. Every place I went to. Er, ‘You’ve got to give my daughter half a day a week? She’s not to go out after six’ [Q: laughs.] And I wasn’t, you know. At any of the places. No. ‘Will you give her half a day?’ When I went to Messing Park the lady said ‘Well, she can’t get home and back in a half a day so she’d better have a day a month’ so I had a day a month. And I was out otherwise, you see.
Q: So on the day you’d go, back ….
Mrs R: So I used to go off early in the morning, I used to cycle that bit from Messing Park to home. And you know, it was lovely coming along of a morning to frost, all in the, all in the, you know, the cobwebs and all the frost coming along the road, beautiful, the sun started to get up, you know. Always in by nine o’clock at night. Never was out after nine. Not even when I married, I wasn’t out after nine. ‘I’ll have you, I will have you in by nine’, you see. One night I said to my, I was courting my husband, I said to him ‘I must be in by nine.’ Well, I was three minutes late that night. She said ‘I told you to be in by nine o’clock.’ She said ‘Don’t you let this occur again.’ And when I met my husband out again, that I married, I said ‘I was late last night,’ I said ‘I was three minutes late.’ He said I was in at five minutes to. I said ‘I don’t want to be late in.’ [Q laughs.]
Q: So you remember you told me about, when you went to work at Chelmsford, didn’t you? That was while your mother was still alive.
Mrs R: No, not Ministry of Food.
Q: No, at the, in service, at this, Mrs, I can’t remember the name. Tin, somewhere in Tindal Street. Anyway, doesn’t matter, just um …. [I meant Mrs Ainsworth, one of the places she was in service before she married, but Mrs R talked about the Second World War in the Ministry of Food]
Mrs R: Ah, no, that, that’s the Ministry of Food.
Q: Was it, yes. that was in the war time, the Ministry of Food, yes ?
Mrs R: Yes, that was, oh, after I married. My children were grown off hand then. I went there as a cook. (Q: Oh, I see.) They were very very nice. But I had a shock when I went there. [Pause] No that wasn’t in Tindal Street, dear.
Q: No, I was thinking of something else. Anyway, what was the shock, then?
Mrs R: That was, um …. [Pause] Where there’s a car park now. There was a big school there [probably the Friary]. And we took, they took over the school. And they moved from there to the back of the Saracen’s Head. (Q: Mmm.) That’s where I left from, the Saracen’s Head. Well, when I got there, to this place, I had a nervous breakdown, and I had the doctor in and he said ‘It’s nerves, Mrs Raven,’ he said ‘You’ve got a nervous breakdown.’ So I said ‘Then you cant help me?’ He said ‘No, I’m afraid I can’t,’ he said, ‘but I can give you a tonic.’ So when he went away I picked up the paper, I thought I’ve got to get out of the house, I’ve got to work. I’ve got to get rid of this. I’d just lost the dear boy, you see [son killed in Second World War]. And I saw this advert in the paper, private [???]. It was a private affair. So I wrote for it. And that came back [Pause] Now what did it come back? Something about, tax people or something, Ministry of Food. So, I’ll just tell you first of all, how I – my husband worked in the bake house and all up at this road and different ones’d come to me and ask me if I’d do their Christmas cakes for them. So they used to bring their little bits and pieces in the baskets and I used to knock these cakes up for them. And that was just a good hand turn, you see. If they offered me anything in the money line I used to say ‘No, I don’t want money. If you like to give Mr Raven a packet of cigarettes, because he’s helped me pipe them, that’s all.’ Any rate, my husband left Mr Palmer’s, he’d done twenty-six years there [83 Newland Street]. And he left Mr Palmer’s because the son had got him a job in the office at Hoffman’s. Quite a contrast from bakery to a office job. But I said to the son, I said ‘You ….’
Continued on tape 13
See the end of Tape 10 for notes on Mrs Raven.