Mr Fred Gaymer and his wife Mrs Evelyn Gaymer (nee Cook), were born in 1907 and c 1908 respectively. They were interviewed on 8 September 1988 when they lived at Grasmere, Stevens Road, Witham.
For more information about them, see Gaymer family, including Doris Goldsmith, nee Gaymer.
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.]
[talking about building of overhanging gantry at maltings in Maltings Lane]
Q: Is that still there that you put on. (Mr G: Oh yes, I think it’s still there.) And you built it all. So were you working for someone else then?
Mr G: For Richards then. (Q: I see.)
Q: So they had the job then. A few people tell me about [tape fades briefly], you know when Crittalls had it, what did they do there then?
Mr G: All leaded lights, yes, you know, diamonds and different shapes, all leaded lights.
Q: Was that before they had the other factory at Witham? [Braintree Road factory]
Mr G: Oh no, the factory was there but when they set up a special unit for making leaded lights, they wanted to keep it separate from the main [???]. Hadn’t got the room I suppose and it was a big concern going then you see, wasn’t it, increasing in size. No, it was after the factory was there.
Q: So did quite a few people work there?
Mr G: Oh yes, there’d be, well, thirty or more, wouldn’t there, I reckon. I don’t know but something like that, a couple of dozen, anyway. It was a special operation to build the small panes of glass in leaded strips. Highway Cottage for instance, in the town [118 Newland Street]. I done the drawings for those leaded lights. The diamonds sort of had to fit in sort of properly, didn’t they, you see.
Q: Into the sides of the window?
Mr G: Yes, and where there was opening sash that was shorter than the sash that was in the fixed light. So the drawings had to be made so the diamonds corresponded you see. (Q: yes.) I could draw it and show you.
Q: That was all part of Richards work as well was it?
Mr G: Yes, that’s right. Then the lights, then all the lights were made at Kent Blaxalls and then we fitted them – Fred Hawkes the plumber, he bed them all in like they do glass you see.
Q: When you say lights were made at Kent Blaxall’s, the lights would be the glass, you mean?
Mr G: Yes, that’s right.
Q: You made that the right size?
Mr G: Yes, they were made all to the sizes we give you see and then they had to be fitted in the correct windows, because they were all different sizes, that was the trouble.
Q: That’s quite complicated really. Were there leaded lights there before then? Were they just having a new window the same, or were they putting them in because they wanted it different, I wonder?
Mr G: I wouldn’t be sure I think there was ordinary glass in there before but it was when, I think it was Mrs Wakelin, wasn’t it, who had that altered you see. When she had to move from Freebournes House [3 Newland Street], that sort of thing.
Q: I didn’t know she used to live there.
Mr G: Didn’t you? Highway Cottage? Oh yes. You know Barry Wakelin, lives in St Nicholas Close [probably Templars Close], well that’s his mother you see. The business went down didn’t it, The farm. I don’t know whether they did actually go bankrupt but they went down low, didn’t they?
Q: Was that when they sold it then did they?
Mr G: It would have had to be sold I think, to realise, to pay the debts and pay the …
Q: Yes, it was a really bad time for farming wasn’t it. I mean farming had a lot of bad times I suppose? Farming had a lot of difficult times?
Mr G: Yes, at times. But you see, Bert Wakelin you see, he drank so much and used to play cricket and one thing and another, and neglected the farm you see. (Q: Had a good time instead.) That’s right, yes. I mean they used to have a billiard room and all there at Freebournes. I believe I’ve told you I’ve got a three foot six screwdriver that my father made when they used to take the billiard table to pieces because they moved it out the room at Christmas times and those sort of times or if there was a wedding or something like that, when they wanted the big room for other purposes, the billiard table had to be moved and this big screwdriver, of course they’ve got better methods today of screwing the legs on. And socket bolts and that sort of thing. So they use socket spanners and that sort of thing today.
Q: That was a shame then for her. (Mr G: Yes.) I mean did they both move to Highway Cottage, him and her, or was she on her own then.
Mr G: I really don’t know.
Mrs G: She was on her own, wasn’t she? You talking about Mrs Wakelin. (Q: Yes.)
Mr G: I should think Barry had to go with her. (Mrs G: Yes, Barry went with her.) Barry must have gone with her, you see.
Q: Well it’s not an easy job running a farm is it? You’ve got to sort of devote yourself to it I should think.
Mrs G: Barry wasn’t all that interested in the farm was he? Farmers are born, not made.
Mr G: He went as a representative for Sadd’s I think it was, selling timber and that sort of thing.
Q: Do you know the lady that’s in Highway Cottage now, in the bookshop? (Mr G: No.) She’d be interested to hear about the windows I’m sure. She’s very nice. If ever you go in there, you tell her. Tell her I sent you. She just sits inside the door, you know there’s a bookshop, just sits inside the door, trying to do her accounts and things and everyone drops in to talk to her. (Mr G: She likes people to drop in?) She always looks pleased but sometimes I wonder how she gets on with the work though because she doesn’t get much chance. (Mrs G: What’s her name?) Mrs Saunders. I think she’s lived there quite some time. I thought this business of putting leaded lights in was a sort of new thing. I know there were old original, but I thought this business of putting them instead of ordinary ones was a new idea.
Mr G: Leaded lights go back oh, hundreds of years, hundreds of years, oh yes.
Q: But the business of putting them in again (Mr G: That’s just took on recently, hasn’t it.), but you were doing it all that time ago were you?
Mr G: Yes, and in churches you see, didn’t we, you see. See All Saints Churchyard, in the War so many of the windows were damaged. We had to put up scaffolding and take them out and there was long ones in the west aspect there was long ones. They were all in sections you see, three sections. They all had to be taken out and sent to Kent Blaxall’s and they repaired them and then we put them back again.
Q: Where was Kent Blaxalls?
Mr G: Colchester, Colchester, still there. They were in the High Street then. Now they are down on, go down Lexden Straight Road across there, that industrial estate, as you go through to the Mersea Road.
Q: What caused the damage at All Saints?
Mr G: Bombs. (Q: There were some there were there?) Oh yes, that’s right, must have been, that’s right, yes.
Q: You’d got a varied job haven’t you? I must remember this gantry business. We had two or three of us trying to think about it yesterday, what it was called. He went off to the library to look it up and came back with this ‘lucan’ idea but said he said ‘I’m sure there’s another name’. But that applies, its not just. I mean Richardson and Preece were millers there were they? Going back to Maltings Lane?
Mr G: Oh yes, because they took it on after Crittall’s gave up, but it had been a mill before that. (Q: That’s what I was thinking.) I mean Brown and Sons I think or someone like that.
Q: But there wasn’t one there already, one of these gantry things? (Mr G: Oh no.) That must have been quite a tricky job building one then, without it falling down?
Mr G: [laugh] Well you had to put, so there was a hoist in it and a chain coming down and hook and all that sort of thing to work that, you see. Oh yes, we had a few tricky jobs.
Q: Yes, but I mean how did you, presumably it was just sort of cantilevered out, you had to alter the main building, did you, to take it?
Mr G: Oh yes, put beams out, resting on the main beams, and then sort of up and roof and things, that all had to be tiled in with the main roof and that sort of thing.
Q: Because the windmills. Did you do any other windmills, apart from Terling? [see photo M211]
Mr G: No, but, come to think of it, you see, I believe there used to be a windmill where the maltings are. Because there was one big building that we had to put a domed roof on. That was a circular building and that may, I don’t know for sure about this, that may have been a windmill at one time, I don’t know for sure about that. [probably just a kiln]
Q: There is funny round building there now. (Mr G: There is.) You put the roof on it did you?
Mr G: Yes, that’s right.
Q: So what was on it before? Was it not covered before then?
Mr G: Well, it might have been covered but that was a poor roof and had to be redone you see. After it was done it was used for storage because it was waterproof then you see.
Q: I mean that’s always spoken of as a maltings because that’s why it’s Maltings Lane. And they had things like that didn’t they
Mr G: Yes, that’s quite likely what it was.
Q: Because they’ve altered that a bit recently as well. They are building houses there and things but I haven’t been there lately.
Mr G: Is there some left of the maltings buildings? I haven’t been round for a long time.
Q: I hope so, I think so, because they are quite old aren’t they?
Mr G: It’s a bit narrow there, isn’t it. (Q: They’re quite old aren’t they.) Yes, and then when the road got busy. Of course that couldn’t be used because of the traffic, holding up the traffic if they had a big lorry there.
Q: This business about the cog in the windmill, where was it, who was it you said you had to take that to? (Mr G: Rayne Foundry.) I see, and they made a new one? [Terling windmill, photo M211].
Mr G: It was all broken and Mr Cusworth was manager at Rayne Foundry at that time of day and we used to meet him through Rifle Shooting in the Braintree and District Small Bore league and I talked to him about it and he said ‘Oh you bring it along’, he said, ‘we can make that [???]’. So they made a new cog wheel for us anyway.
Q: That was in 1946 or so? Round about that sort of time. (Mr G: About that.) Well that’s what it says on here, I think it’s ’46 (Mr G: It was about that time.). So it was still going then was it? I didn’t realise Rayne Foundry was still going then.
Mr G: Is it still going?
Q: I don’t know. I don’t know Rayne that well. A lot of these foundries have gone now haven’t they, now.
Mr G: Oh yes, the small foundries have gone. Bentall’s used to be a big foundry, coaches[?] used to be made there and one thing and another.
Q: I think they even made cars once?
Mr G: Oh yes, that’s right, oh yes, Bentall cars, that’s right. Yes..
Q: [looking at photos] These must be old because there’s no cars on them is there? So they’re going back a bit aren’t they?
[Talk about borrowing photos etc., not noted]
Mr G: That’s more of Cuppers. I don’t know whether you saw that one?
Q: That’s nice isn’t it. That’s like the one I already took. Yes. I like that one a lot. That’s your father and mother presumably, is it? [photo M22] (Mr G: That’s right, yes.) So that would be going back a fair bit then?
Mr G: 1936 it’s got it on it, I found that you see, the other cards haven’t got it on have they?
Q: No they haven’t, no. Maybe you told me before, when did he go to Cuppers?
Mr G: When I was eight, in the 1914-18 War.
Q: I see. Was that as a farm then?
Mr G: Oh yes that was a small holding then. Dad used to hire the field where the playing field is now, it’s about ten acres you see. And then the yard you see.
Q: But he did these other things in the yard as well did he?
Mr G: Well he worked on the Freebournes. My Uncle Bob lived there and was personal assistant to the Honourable Charles Strutt of Blunts Hall and he run the small holding and that sort of thing as well as, look after Blunts Hall and one thing and another. He was single and he was younger than my father and he had to go in the Army almost right away. I think the Strutts, through the Strutts, they bought a commission, they could buy a commission and go in the force, couldn’t they, so they went in with the rank of lieutenant or something like that straight away. He got so he was Captain while he was in the Army and was injured one time, and it was when he had to go in the forces that we came up to Cuppers to live. We lived down Maldon Road. My father worked on the Freebournes estate. He was the estate carpenter you see. We moved to Cuppers and he run the small holding with the help of my grandfather who was foreman at Freebournes, you have the, use of the horses and that sort of thing but he still worked on the estate. Then after two years or so he had to go in the Army and grandfather he just carried on working the land and the buildings were all commandeered at one time by the Army and they had about a dozen horses in the stables and in the big shed and one thing and another you see. My mother had two soldiers billeted on her.
Q: That was a big change. But your uncle was there already? On his own sort of thing.
Mr G: Oh yes he’d been there several years. He had a, used to have a housekeeper, a Mr and Mrs Turner lived there and ran the house for them and looked after him.
Q: So what happened after the War?
Mr G: Well he bought Spa Place, and Lockram Lane, I can’t think, of the name of the house, but you know where Lockram Lane is, where the car park is now. He bought that house there, that was a house that had been commandeered you see by the Army. He bought that as well and he lived there some time. (Q: That was your uncle?) My uncle, yes, after he come back from the army. Then he went on and bought a farm at Fryerning and the sons have still got it. His eldest son, Peter, was in the Army and he always used to have asthma when he was in Essex, but when he was abroad in Africa he was free from it and so they bought a ranch out in Rhodesia during the Mau Mau trouble. Peter was already working out there but they bought this ranch. Bob raised whatever, all the pennies could, that’s his assets, and loans, and they bought this ranch, 30,000 acres, terrific, got their own school, their own hospital, and they done well with it you see. But then when that was taken over, well nationalised, like they did, they split it up into seven acre lots or five acre lots and different ones took it on. They still left him a certain amount, the school and the hospital and all that sort of thing. Then one or two that had taken on these seven acres to try and make a living, they didn’t make a go of it and they handed them back to Peter to carry on. Some of them, perhaps two or three of them get together and then go as one unit so they’d got twenty-one acres or something like that. The smaller holdings didn’t go, like Essex County, two acres and a cow, there was lots of them about, especially as you go to Ipswich, that way, Essex County land, but that didn’t cotton on in Africa very well. Of course they used to go about armed, didn’t they. But they done well. He come back a millionaire anyway. It was him with his arm round Kenyatta when he, he was an an authority on cattle, Peter Gaymer my cousin was you see. So he got a position in the Kenyan government. Agricultural minister or something like that, and that was him with his arm round Kenyatta when they had some celebration I suppose and he done well. He used to buy the cattle for the country, travel the world, [???] buying cattle for them, and selling the cattle. He was an authority on them. But he’s all retired now, back in this country.
Q: He had an interesting life then. He must have found it a bit difficult coming back?
Mr G: Well he used to come pretty regular. Do you know about the whisky run? You’ve heard about the whisky run?
Q: I think so? You tell me.
Mr G: [laugh]. Well they used to fly loads and loads of commodities and that sort of thing from Stansted (Q: I see.) This was to, in Uganda, can’t think of, what was the man’s name, can’t think of his name now. He’s exiled somewhere now. Well he was going to upset the British Empire wasn’t he and, but Peter was buying all this stuff for the country and a lot of it was whisky. That’s how that got the name of the whisky run from Stansted to Uganda. But as I say he finished up well really, but he worked hard mind you and when they used to buy the cattle and all that sort of thing, and he did helped the country in that sort of way, but he looked after himself as well no doubt. He finished up a millionaire anyway. Mind you he had worked for years, when it was in its prime they used to have parties and had got their own roads through this ranch you see. It was like a county wasn’t it, you see and they used to have shoots for game, big game.
Q: You didn’t ever think of going out and helping him?
Mr G: No I never got that far, no.
[Look at photo]
Mr G: Did you see one of those?
Q: I’m not sure I did. That’s lovely isn’t it.
Mr G: That’s the saw bench and the tractor. This is my brother, that’s my father and that’s me. [photo M23].
Q: On the right there? (Mr G: That’s my brother.) That’s your father (Mr G: That’s my father yes.) and you’re on the left. So really after the First War you father carried on there?
Mr G: He didn’t go back to Freebournes, no, he started up on his own.
Q: What about your grandfather?
Mr G: He was still at Freebournes.
Q: So his main business was really all sort of contracting was it?
Mr G: My father? (Q: Yes.) That’s right, building repairs, wheelwright repairs, we used to do. There was a blacksmith’s shop and all here, you see. [at Cuppers]
Q: Did you have a lot of other people working for him?
Mr G: Oh yes, other people working for him, oh yes, as well, according to how things were you see. Just after the War [First War] when they were doing the Braintree Road up, that’s from Witham to Braintree, the other side of the Water Works. We carted a lot of the granite from the station. Used to come round there by trucks and then load on, you see. Mind you it was only sand and water that held it together then, no tarmac you see.
Q: So you had a lot of carts? They were kept here, were they.
Mr G: Horse and carts, that’s right.
Q: It was a big concern then wasn’t it. Its hard to describe what you did because you seemed to do a bit of everything.
Mr G: Oh yes we did, there’s no doubt about that. That’s stood me in good stead hasn’t it you see. There was always workshops and my brother and I we’d always got a chance to make things. It was quite funny but Daphne [his daughter] is living in Witham now and upstairs was a show case with glass doors, [???]but I made that before I married (Mrs G: china cabinet you’re talking about.) that’s right. Daphne said ‘Can I borrow the china cabinet’ so she’s got it now. But I made that before I married. With glass doors and like leaded lights only done in wood.
Q: Then the blacksmiths. Did someone special doing that or did you help with that as well? [i.e. at Cuppers]
Mr G: You see when it was Richardson and Wakelin’s there was a Mr Butcher was the blacksmith here then full time, when it was Richardson and Wakelin, when they had the steam engines there and the threshing tackles. Then when my father, when my father come back from the War he used to have a blacksmith come evening times or weekends, a Mr Dietrich who used to work at Brett[?] and Parish’s Chelmsford.
Q: So it was Richardson and Wakelin’s all the time. So when your father first came he was really working for Richardson and …?
Mr G: No, he worked on the Freebournes estate (Q: And they were Richardson and Wakelin?) No that was Wakelin’s. When they had the steam plough engines and the threshing tackle yard here, that had been Randall’s you see years ago. Then Richardson and Wakelin got together, and they run this as a separate thing you see and when my father (Q?: They took over Randall’s.) That’s right. More or less took on that business you see.
Q: Who was Richardson?
Mr G: Stewart Richardson was, he married Miss Crittall, his father.
Q: What his first name, his father?
Mr G: Stewart was it? (Mrs G: Stewart Richardson it was.) And they were the people who were Richardson and Preece you see, same Richardsons who had the Maltings. You’ve heard of Richardson and Preece.
Q: So it started off it was steam threshing tackle only was it then?
Mr G: Must be a bit confusing sometimes, it’s sort of disjointed a bit isn’t it.
Q: Well you know all, but not having been here. So Richardson and Wakelin they did threshing tackle as well at first when they took it? Or did they do everything?
Mr G: Well they had, that was a complete unit when I knew about it you see. Then they sold up during the War.
Q: Did they do all these other things like carrying and so on, that your father did?
Mr G: Oh no, they didn’t do anything like that. (Q: Hiring out.) That was, that’s right, they used to go out with the threshing tackles and the steam plough engines. There were two sets of steam plough engines. Have you see that one? [photos M43-M47 of the hunt] I thought you had, I’ve got some other things.
Q: So it was really your father that altered the business and did all these other things. (Mr G: Oh yes.) I think I’ve got that straight now. I think I’ve seen one picture of the Hunt but not as big as this.
Mr G: When this was done [photo of the Hunt] I was this side of the road here, used to be Bellamy’s then that side didn’t it? [64 Newland Street]
Q: I always remember, do you remember, was it Cecil Ager, he said he used to be a butchers boy when he first started work. And he had to walk around with his meat in the basket and he said how he hated it when the Hunt was there because all the dogs would be after the meat and he was only a little lad [laugh]. He had to run quick.
Mr G: That’s 1917 then. I was on the pavement on Bellamy’s side.
Q: You’ve kept that since then?
Mr G: Well we found it a book in Cuppers you see when we cleared Cuppers.
Q; Did they meet quite often at Witham?
Mr G: Oh no, not about twice a season, something like that. Then they met at other places, Braxted Park for instance, somewhere like that, or the Chequers, Wickham Bishops, some where like that.
Q: So what sort of people would go out with the Hunt? Would any of the Witham people go?
Mr G: Well, farmers from round the area, wouldn’t they. People who kept horses and got hunting horses you see. Farmers and those sort of people. Motions, the lady who goes about with eyes [i.e. eye shades]. (Q: Oh, Miss English.) Miss English, that’s right. Well Motions used to have that house, there was horses up there, stabling up there. [Lawn House, Lawn Chase] They were the sort of people who used to go hunting.
Q: But they weren’t farmers then were then?
Mr G: They might have been farmers sometime. That’s where they lived and that’s where the horses, used to have two horses and they used to come hunting.
Q: That’s the White Hart, no, Spread Eagle. It looks like it was yesterday doesn’t it? You’ve kept that well. [laugh] If I borrow that as well …?
Mr G: Yes, you can if you like. March 1918 Cuppers Farm and if you read then you’ll … (Q That’ll explain.)
Q: Agricultural machinery. Ploughing engines, ploughs, there’s a lot isn’t there? And these are all things that they used to hire out?
Mr G: Yes, and they used to send the men and all with them. (Q: I see.) For instance when the steam plough engines went into the fields, the farmer they went to work for, he had to supply the horses to cart the coal and to cart the water for the engines you see. The water cart was supplied by Richardson and Wakelin or the people with the steam engines, but the farmer where they went to work had to supply the horses and the men to cart the water and cart the coal you see.
Q: It was quite a performance wasn’t it, steam ploughing?
Mr G: Oh yes, about seven or eight breasts.
Mrs G: Those were the days when they started work at five o’clock in the morning. (Mr G: That’s right, yes.)
Q: I’ve seen pictures of it and it always looks terribly complicated, a lot of work. (Mrs G: It was work with a capital W those days.) Yes. But it did save on, was it quicker than using just a single …?
Mr G: Oh, good gracious, yes. It took a certain number of men, there’d be two drivers and then there’d be about three men to work the plough, wasn’t there you see, and one [engine] was one end of the field, one was one side of the field and one the other and a long rope, long steel cable, hitched to the plough you see and they pulled the plough backwards and forwards. It was a sort of reversible sort of plough. Like they trail now, they’ve got them fixed haven’t they, on the large tractors today, where they swing it over. So it ploughs it all the same way. Whereas the horse ploughs only turned one way, that’s why they had [???] and you turned one way and to come back the other, that turned it the opposite.
Q: What, they did about seven furrows at once?
Mr G: Oh yes, seven or eight furrows at once.
Q: Oh well. But they had to have people guiding them?
Mr G: The plough? Well the rope more or less guided it anyway. The rope pulled it straight more or less. And the plough worked so that always worked one wheel in the furrow, where the channel was. One wheel was always in the furrow you see. So it was easy to steer really. It was when they wanted to turn it and sort of move it from seven breast one way, they’d got to move it hadn’t they. That was when they had to steer it.
Q: What I couldn’t understand, was why, well I suppose with ploughs generally really, is why did they dig in and not just go along the top. Is it just because of the weight of them or because they’re very sharp or …?
Mr G: Oh, the points pull in the ground and then a wheel on the back stops them going, keeps it to a certain depth. Same as the ploughs today.
Q; So that went in by itself once you got started.
Mr G: Oh yes, that pulled itself in and then the shears that were on the front of the breasts you see they were renewable, according to how hard the ground was they had to be renewed and the shear. I said they used to make at Bentall’s at Maldon for the Bentall’s hand ploughs, the shears were renewable. Perhaps you’d want two a day, according to how hard the ground was.
Q: Presumably the main problem with the engines was the water then was it?
Mr G: Well they had to be supplied with water and coal. I mean it was water regularly wasn’t it, but the water was the constant job, supplying the two engines. That kept one man and a pair of horses on the go.
Q: Where would be get it from?
Mr G: Well, from a pond, he’d got to go and pump it from a pond, or something like that. Perhaps he’d have to go perhaps a mile perhaps to get the water.
Q: Did they have special sort of tanks to carry it in?
Mr G: Oh yes, a large cylinder, I don’t know what it would hold on two wheels and one horse in shafts and another with chains attached to that in the front. That was when they got on the field. When it was on the road that was all right. One horse could do it on the road but when they got on the fields, on the soft ground. That’s why they had the two horses.
Q: Water is heavy isn’t it? How would he pump it out the pond?
Mr G: Pump it by hand. (Q: Really?) Oh yes, had to pump it by hand.
Q: So they’d have a sort of portable thing.
Mr G: Oh yes, a pump fixed on the tank and then a tube, you see, a suction tube delivering it into the tank. But there’s always a, there’s only a certain height that you can pump water.
Q: Did you ever help with any of that?
Mr G: Oh yes, used to like to help out. If we had a chance of a steam plough engine to work with, always used to go and have a look or try and help out or try and cadge a ride on the plough.
Q: I see, you actually rode on the plough? (Mr G: Oh yes, I’ve ridden on the plough, that’s right, yes.) So the people who were working the plough rode on it?
Mr G: Oh yes, there was always one man on the plough.
Q: But then to turn it you would need other people, to actually turn it you’d need some help? (Mr G: That’s right yes.) Did everybody use these things or were there just a few?
Mr G: Oh no, they were used. Large farmers, same as Strutt and Parker’s and Rayleigh’s. they used to have their own sets of steam plough engines. But then you see the smaller farmers they couldn’t afford that sort of thing and then you see it’s a lot of money standing idle. So these contract people used to travel miles around on the smaller farms.
Q: But most people would use them rather than just the old ploughs then?
Mr G: Oh no, a lot of them stuck to the horse ploughs. But then if they’d got large fields, see that was on large fields where they were an advantage you see.
Q: They wouldn’t be much use on a small one would they. Of course fields weren’t as large as they are today, were they, but some were I suppose?
Mr G: No, they used to go round miles on the different farms. Same as Frank Cullen at Cressing Temple. They wouldn’t have their own ones, not on a small one, not a pair of engines you see.
Q: So the engines had to sort of trundle along the road. (Mr G: Yes.) That must have been quite a sight. And the plough, did the plough go on the road?
Mr G: Oh yes, that was towed behind. Oh yes. I showed you the pictures of that van didn’t I [photo M35]. My father helped make it and this Mr Butcher the blacksmith.
[chat about borrowing photos, and who on them, photos M30-M34, not noted]
Q: They [the Thakes, mother’s family] came from Witham?
Mr G: That’s lived down Maldon Road, that’s right. They actually come from out Stebbing, that way when my grandfather got the job of foreman, when he progressed and got to foreman on the Freebournes Estate.
Q: That was quite a good job then?
Mr G: Yes, well, at that time of day that covered all Collingwood Road ground, all where Crittall’s was all built on, and all Step Field, and all the estates there on the big fields there you see. Right down to the sewerage farm and then Benton Hall as well. Know where Blackwater Lane is? (Q: Yes.) We used to go in Blackwater Lane and over a narrow bridge and walk to Benton Hall. Well that was all, went with Freebournes. I think years ago the sewerage farm and all went with the Freebournes Estate. Before that was took in. That was all coupled up with Freebournes, the sewerage farm and Benton Hall. And you see they had farms at Great Totham as well, no Little Totham.
Q: So he must had had a lot of men to keep an eye on then.
Mr G: Oh yes there were several men and horses and you know where there’s what we call Shooting Lane, [Chess Lane], there were houses used to be down the bottom there, used to be, I don’t know, about five houses or something. (Q: Was there that many? I remember a couple there, yes.) There was more than two, only small cottages, that’s where the cowman and the horseman used to live who worked at Freebournes.
Q: And that’s Shooting Lane, not Chess Lane? Shooting Lane’s the one where the maltings
Mr G: By the side of the Police Station.
Q: Oh I see, I thought that was Chess Lane, I must be getting mixed up. Oh there’s probably both
Mr G: Why they used to call it Shooting Lane was because we used to go down there and over another narrow plank bridge to a rifle range. And that’s how that got its name. (Q: Oh yes.) My father used to go shooting there with a 0.22 rifle and that sort of thing, well Witham Rifle Club. And the Drill yard, you know where the Drill yard is in Mill Lane (Q: Yes.) Well after Smyths give that up, Witham, Witham Rifle Club took that long building on and made it into an indoor shooting range. [Newland Street end of Mill Lane]
Q: What was it before did you say?
Mr G: Smyth’s Drills
Q: Of course, yes. And that’s seed drills?
Mr G: Yes, for farmers to use, to pull by horses and used to sow the corn with it.
Q: I mean, did they actually make them there. (Mr G: Oh yes.) And bought in all the bits. What about the iron parts, they get them made would they? (Mr G: Well I couldn’t …) It was before your time wasn’t it.
Mr G: Yes, that was before my time. There was an assembly yard or something like that. The parts would be made somewhere else perhaps, I don’t know. But that’s how it got to the Drill yard, because it was Smyth’s drills.
Q: How did he start off in Stebbing? Was he just an ordinary farm worker? [Mr Thake]
Mr G: Oh yes, he’d be a farm worker. Yes, I assume so. He’d been a foreman before, before he came to Witham.
Q: What was his first name then?
Mr G: Ezekiel, [laugh] (Q: Oh Ezekiel, lovely yes) you remember it, Albert Edward or Bert Gaymer (Q: And your mother was?) Esther, no Eliza, my mother’s first name was Eliza.
Q: I can’t remember what you said the school one was? Was that in Witham?
Mr G: No that was my father you see. That was when they was in London, (Q: Oh, I see.) he was born within the sound of Bow Bells.
Q: Of course, I see. Your father was? (Mr G: Yes.) Yes. I’ll just leave that one, I shall get mixed up if I start trying to work out where that is. So how old was he when he came to Witham then?
Mr G: Well, I really don’t know, I don’t know. That come about because my grandfather worked on the railway, grandfather Gaymer and then what he was on the railway years ago I don’t know, but he was guard Gaymer on this main line for years, guard Gaymer, well known personality then, I suppose. He used to, well, up to London and Norwich and that sort of thing I suppose. And so they came to Witham.
Q: And they settled down later on.
Mr G: I think it’s Roberts’ shop in Braintree Road, opposite there they lived and then Grosvenor House in Braintree Road, they had those, they bought the plot of land and had the pair of houses built there. They were three storey houses with the gable end facing the road. Grosvenor Villa. That’s where they lived, that’s where they finished up.
Q: Because the railway work took people about quite a lot didn’t it?
[Looking at photos, not noted, including the one of the Richardson and Wakelin van.]
Q: So that’s the, is that the sort of living van is it.
Mr G: Well you see, when the steam plough engines used to go miles away from home you see, it wasn’t so easy in those days, they used to sleep in there, and have their food in there you see. (Q: So they’d pull those along?) Oh they towed that as well, that’s right, yes. That was with the steam plough engines but the threshing tackle engines didn’t seem to take one. You see when the steam plough engine was on the go they used to work well all hours of daylight, when they were ploughing after harvest.
Q: A long job. I suppose they wanted to get done quickly. Is that your father?
Mr G: That’s my father and one of the horses he had, that’s right, yes. [photo M27]. (Q: That’s nice, isn’t it.) That’s him feeding, one of the little piglets you see, when the sow couldn’t supply enough milk or something [photo M29].
[another photo of father on roof when over eighty M28]
Mr G: That was a Petter[?] engine. John Trowles has got it now. (Q: What is it sorry?) Petter, Petter engine, two-stroke engine, stationary engine.
Q: So that ran all sorts of things did it?
Mr G: Oh yes, chaff cutter or anything, according to what you wanted. But that’s coupled up to a saw bench there. [photo M24]
Q: I see. And is that Cuppers there then?
Mr G: Yes. That’s Cuppers, that’s right, yes, just the other side of the road there, [Stevens Road] where the saw bench used to be. They had it in the front here at one time, it was.
Q: So they had quite a bit along the road here as well did they?
Mr G: Oh yes, right from Spinks Lane right to the railway and after about 1924, he bought the farm house and what was the farm buildings, they were in a bad state of repair and five acres of land. He bought that off of Charles Strutt about 1924. Paid £440, £450.. (Q: A lot then.) Yes, that’s right, yes. As much as he could afford then you see. [???]
Q; And went over the other side as well?
Mr G: On no, that went with Blunts Hall.
Q: This area where the saw bench. (Mr G: Just over the road here.) Oh you mean the other side of Stevens Road
Mr G: Stevens Road used to be more or less the farm entrance you see.
Q: But he had all these other things along the road as well, did he? He had this further along the road there.
Mr G: That’s right. Oh yes we had that right up to the railway.
Q: And that was all in use for this sort of thing (Mr G: That’s right, yes.) Must have been quite a sight coming along this road, seeing all this activity. (Mr G: [laughs] Yes.) Great isn’t it.
Mr G: You’ve hear me talk about the tithe barn [site of 55A Chipping Hill]. Well that was along here where we stacked the tiles, took off the tiles, the barn. I know I said about we couldn’t get seven pounds a thousand, but they’d be £70 a thousand, but they’re £200 a thousand now. Terrible isn’t it. Remember at the meeting I said about £7 a thousand, we couldn’t get £7 a thousand, but I said they’re £77 now, but they’re £270 nearly.
Q: There’s a lot of things that people got rid of, if they’d kept them they’d ….
Q: That’s a lovely one isn’t it [photo M26] That’s a binder is it?
Mr G: Well that’s Bill Turner on the binder, don’t know, I can’t think of who he is, and that’s me, and that’s my father again.
Q; Your father on the right hand side and then you next to him, Bill Turner this one here. Who did he work for you?
Mr G: Yes, worked for my father.
Q: So this is on your land?
Mr G: On Cuppers land. Then we used to go and do work for Mr Newman, the milkman, he used to have the Croft House [Bridge Street] on his land. Mr Wood and Dr Gimson, we used to go cutting grass and that sort of thing.
Q: Has that got two horses on ?
Mr G: Oh yes. That’s a binder. (Q: I can remember those.) They’ve just used one at Cressing Temple.
Q: Oh I saw they’d got that.
Mr G: You see they don’t want the straw today except when they want to do some thatching, so the corn they have today is shorter, because they don’t want the straw, but years ago they used the long straw for thatching didn’t they, and they’d grow some corn with the long straw at Cressing Temple and cut it with the binder.
Q: I went past there and saw it all in stooks. That takes you back a bit doesn’t it. So they were growing it for thatching there were they?
Mr G: The building nearest the road was a thatched roof wasn’t it [at Cressing Temple] (Q: Of course.) And that’s for storing[?] carts and that? [???] And the roof’s been in bad order for several years really and then that gale done more to it and they want to thatch it again. It’s a job to get the straw today. Of course they use a lot of reeds don’t they for thatching. They say Norfolk reeds but a lot of them are grown in Somerset [laugh].
Mr G: That’s me and my father again, ploughing. [photo M25] (Q: That’s just ploughing there?) That’s on the field before the houses were built in Blunts Hall Road there.
Q: Oh, that’s the railway embankment is it?
Continued on tape 121