Mrs Amy Taylor (nee Burton), was born in 1904. She was interviewed on 4 May 1991, when she lived at of 3 Groome Court, Hickory Avenue, Colchester.
For more information about her, including three letters about her past, see Taylor, Amy, nee Burton 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Q: [Second World War] Tell me about the bomber and the allotment, (Mrs T: Oh yes.) where did you live then?
Mrs T: In Church Street, not far[?] from Florrie Pavelin, she must remember that because we went up there when they were almost newly built and then I could remember there used to be a pea shed round by the Maltings I think it was called, it’s the bottom of Avenue Road. And there used to be a pea shed there. And there was a family named Wood they used to do a lot of the work in the pea shed. I suppose they sorted over peas. That’s all I can remember about it, must have done, but they used to employ quite a lot of people there. And then of course during the Second World War we had the old shelters. We had a Morrison shelter (Q: Mmm.) that’s a huge steel … Did you know about them? (Q: I think so.) Huge steel surface with wire cages. Like a cage. That was when we were in Church Street. We had the choice of either having that or an Anderson shelter but you had to bury that in the garden, deep down, bury that in the garden.
Q: Was it your own shelter, in your own house?
Mrs T: Oh no they were all Council my dear, they were all Council.
Q: What I mean is did you share it with anybody?
Mrs T: Oh no, it was individuals. That was quite good really and oh and I rem, we all had to do war work. Those of a certain age I think it was and of course I’d got Mary but that didn’t, I had to still had to go for war work and I went as a messenger for the air-raids. We didn’t do much because we didn’t have a lot that way, not like they did in the towns and that. And I remember I got a badge with one stripe.
Q: Where did you go for that?
Mrs T: Somewhere, I don’t know whether that was the Public Hall we used to have to go for practice. We had to practice falling on the ground and all sorts of funny things, and of course we were all too shy to do it [laugh] but we didn’t get called out a lot but we were more or less on alert for the air-raids.
Q: What happened when you did get called out?
Mrs T: I can’t remember being called out properly my dear. We were just sort of on the alert in case we were. Of course there wasn’t the severe enough damage in Witham you see itself. It was more out Chelmsford way and that I suppose.
Q: Did this bomb that you talked about … Whereabouts was the allotment that it fell on?
Mrs T: More to the side of Crittall’s, up Chipping Hill, (Q: Oh, was it?) not far off of the church, the other side of the road and …
Q: Did it just fall on your allotment?
Mrs T: Well, I don’t know because I didn’t see it, I didn’t go up and see it, but I know my husband’s parsnips were thrown out of the ground. That’s all I know about it. [laugh] I expect it covered several, well it would do wouldn’t it.
Q: Were you frightened at all, in the war?
Mrs T: Well, I don’t get the shock till afterwards. You know you just took it as a matter of course because the war had been on some time then and I know there was a parachute come down at the top of Church Street, but whether that was an enemy or not I still don’t know, I mean we didn’t investigate and we didn’t hear much about it because it was all hush-hush sort of thing wasn’t it.
Q: And what did you do, how old was your daughter then?
Mrs T: Well, she was school age, she must have been nine or ten, something like that, must have been, because the same thing happened to my daughter that happened to me. During the First World War I wasn’t allowed to go, we weren’t allowed to go to the, well we couldn’t go to the cooking classes, cookery classes, because we couldn’t get the food. (Q: Oh.) And the same thing happened when my daughter was of an age to go to the cookery classes, she couldn’t go because the Second World War was on. That was rather funny wasn’t it.
Q: So you were at school in the First World War?
Mrs T: Yes, I must have been my dear yes, because we used to go down by the Valley and up the Guithavon Road or Street, I don’t know quite which it is called. There’s one Guithavon Road and one Guithavon Street. (Q: That’s right.) Yes. But we used to go to the Church School but of course that’s all gone I understand is it? And the little cottage, I used to love it and the trees in the Avenue, they wre all, and some of them had got big holes in them you know where they were old and I used to love them and I used to live in a world of fancy. I did really, my dear. My brothers still say I’ve got my head in the air. [laugh] It was lovely, I loved that Avenue and that house and we used to have five steps and I was sorry I put that piece in but we used to have five steps in the back. They seemed tremendous to me but I expect they are only small now I’m grown. I don’t know if they’re still there
Q: What, behind the house?
Mrs T: Near to the Lodge. The five steps led to the coal place etc. in a little enclosed yard and Mum used to get us at the top there. You’re not putting this on are you dear? (Q: I shouldn’t worry about it.) Mother used to sit on the top step and we all had to sit on the next step and have our heads examined, because we used to be examined regularly at school and they used to say to my brothers, they used to see one, ‘Oh I don’t want to do you, I’ve seen your brother’, because we were all auburn haired. It was our downfall when we tried to go to the Maypole, you know, to get the Maypole, we used to get some off the ration at first. Then of course we had to have a ration book. I’ve got my Identity Card still. We all had them. My husband was number one and I was number two and my daughter was number three. [???] look. [???]
Q: That’s 141 Church Street, (Mrs T: We all had to have them.) Registration in 1943. (Mrs T: I was never called upon to show it.) I see, it was just for identity. Well, fancy keeping that.
Mrs T: We were rationed with oil and everything you know. (Q: Really?) Yes cause I’ve always been inclined to rheumatism and that and I asked for a little oil to heat the bathroom because we’d got no central heating of anything. And I had quite a job to get it. The butchers, they used to cheat us, my dear. They used to give to those who could afford, you know, a backhand business, and when we went for ours, we never used to get much I might tell you. Graft every time. Greed that’s all. That’s what’s wrong with the world now isn’t it my dear. Greed, my dear.
Q: Which butchers did you go to?
Mrs T: There’s one up Chipping Hill. I expect they all did it but we used to call it the black market my dear, and if you’d got the money, same as now, if you’ve got the money you’re all right aren’t you. [laugh]
Q: So let me get this. You moved to Church Street when you married did you?
Mrs T: Yes, I married. Married at Witham, then I was … (Q: When was that?) I went to Ilford. Oh I can’t remember dear.
Q: How old were you?
Mrs T: 36 or something like that. (Q: How old were you about when you got married?) 23ish or something like that I reckon dear. Then I went to Ilford, we went to Ilford. My husband worked at Gunnery’s. He used to have to bunch up rhubarb and all that, not a small holding but all agricultural stuff you know. Not exactly a farm but agricultural and he used to have terrible hands when he bunched up the rhubarb because they had them tied up in a sort of straw thing and had to pull it tight.
Q: Did he come from Witham?
Mrs T: My husband was a Hatfield Peverel man. He worked on the farm, I forget the name of the farmer my dear. But that was in the tied cottages days and my husband’s father worked on the farm as well and they threatened to sack my husband’s father because it was a tied cottage and the son had to work with him but there were other sons to take on. There was three eventually. They were quite notorious. The Taylor …. boys. Because they used to work hard. And they reckoned they took some beating. It was really hard work in those days.
Q: Did they do any special job on the farm or were they general workers?
Mrs T: No, general working my dear. They could do almost anything. My husband was very good at hedging. They don’t do that now much do they? (Q: No.) they used to look beautiful when they were done. And I used to work on the land before I went to service. I used to go potato picking and turning over beans at the farm round at Maldon Road, what’s got the pond. I forget the name of it, Olton pond did we used to call it [probably Pondholton]. I forget the farmers’ name but they’ve got quite a lot of places.
Q: In Hatfield Peverel?
Mrs T: No, this is in Witham.
Q: Let’s think, it wasn’t Howbridge farm, it wasn’t Howbridge Hall?
Mrs T: No, I can’t think of the name my ear, no, it’s right round by the new estate. Of course it was all fields then. He’s got a lot of farms in Essex. I can’t think of the name of at the moment dear.
Q: That was before you, when did you go to service then?
Mrs T: Soon after that. I started at the glove factory, Pinkham’s glove factory, is that still there?
Mrs T: What’s in place of it?
Q: There’s a block of, some flats.
Mrs T: Is there really?
Q: It’s quite new, it was there for a long time.
Mrs T: Well, I started there and we went on strike while we was there. There was a girl from London worked there and she was lame and she led the strike and I can remember we went down to Maldon Ironworks to collect money for the strike and then we ended up in Sudbury and we had, and I always remember it, because we had sausage and mash. [laugh] But I felt ever so sorry because there was a little boy, quite a young man, young lad, at the Maldon Ironworks and he put a silver piece in instead of a penny. Of course I couldn’t do anything about it, it had to go. but I’ve always remembered it.
Q: What, you just went round the factory?
Mrs T: Maldon Ironworks dear, yes. The factory I’m talking about was Pinkham’s in Witham. This was at Maldon where we had to go round to different, I suppose its something to do with the Labour, I don’t know.
Q: So when you went into the ironworks you …
Mrs T: We didn’t go in. We had to stand at the gates. (Q: I see.) I don’t know if they’re still there now.
Q: They might be. So it was the same at Sudbury was it?
Mrs T: We went on to Sudbury from the Maldon Ironworks. I don’t know where we went there to collect. I can’t remember. We ended up having …
Q: Where have the sausage and mash?
Mrs T: In Sudbury somewhere, dear, I can’t remember where, because I was still only young.
Q: Can you remember what happened about the strike at all?
Mrs T: No, I can’t remember. I suppose it all ended. I don’t know. Because we went back to work again. Then after that mother put me into service. Because I began to get, the indoor life didn’t suit me. I tell you I was an outdoor person.
Q: Didn’t you like the glove factory?
Mrs T: Oh yes, I got on all right with the work, very poorly paid of course.
Q: What were you doing?
Mrs T: Well, I wasn’t on the machines at first. We were on what they called the table work. And you know there, well I don’t know if there is now, there was three stripes down, at the back, fancy stitching and with those fancy stitches that’s done on the right side of the glove and the ends that were left from the machine, both top and bottom, we had to push through a self threading needle and put these pieces, the cottons that were left on the ends of these chains we used to have to put the cotton through and pull it through, tie them in two knots and then cut them off. And we only got a few pence for a dozen you know. Very poorly paid. Very tricky work, because you had to put it in precisely. at the top of the chain.
Q: Did you want to go there? Was that your idea to go there?
Mrs T: Oh mother just put me there my dear. We just used to go, we had to do as we were told those days, my dear, we didn’t have any choice. Then she got, I don’t know how she got me into service. There was a Mrs Richards round Avenue Road. She used to do a lot of good work amongst poorer people. She was instrumental in getting my brother into hospital, my eldest brother. He had a club foot.
And he went to that big hospital, they’re putting a lot of people off. (Q: I know.) Can’t think of the name at the time. She used to do a lot of this work. So whether mother contacted her or what, I don’t know how she got it my dear. But I went to 200 Queensgate first (Q: Mmm.) and the lady interviewed mother and I. It was quite near the park so it was very pleasant. And the lady interviewed mother and I and at that time that was the beginning of the low necked blouses and she’d got rather a monotonous voice, she never raised it or lowered it and she said ‘She mustn’t wear these low necked blouses’ only she said it in her voice ‘It’s not becoming’ [laugh]. And that reminded me of the girls, when the servants, the maids from the Grove used to come up to the church for Sunday, that their Sunday morning off, they had to go to church of course and they started wearing these low necked blouses. They called them the pneumonia blouses [laugh] that was the beginning of that. Oh dear they were funny. You know, when you look back it was a nice life to what it is now. If you know what I mean. Its not a clean nice life now is it? All the drugs and I’ve been nearly conned once since I’ve been here. (Q: Really?). Some men come in, they said they were from the Water Board. There was two of them but one went to my neighbours and of course I answered the door to mine and he said could he come in. Well of course I didn’t know at the time the Water Board wouldn’t want to come in. They do things outside. It’s only if you’ve got anything wrong with your cisterns, lavatory cistern or anything that they need to come in. Something seemed to warn me, I don’t know what it was. I said ‘Well would you mind if I contacted the Council’ so he made out he didn’t mind. So I said ‘Oh perhaps he had got the phone number’. I don’t know what made me say all this. (Q: Well done my dear.) And he made out to go back and to his van to get the phone number. Well then I thought I don’t know there’s something funny here and I was going across to my neighbour in the same court and when I opened the door he was still there. So I knew he hadn’t gone to the car you see to get the phone number. So he said, I think he must have twigged that I was a bit uneasy because he said ‘Just a moment’, he says, ‘I’ll go and get my foreman’ and he went to go through the other door of the court. (Q: Right.) And that was where the other man was standing. And they both went out and we never saw them any more. But there’ve been lots of serious things. Because you get it on an estate like this you know. You see we’ve some of the Severalls overflows here haven’t we? (Q: Mmm.) And sometimes, according to certain times, they’ve got a little bit … That’s not about Witham is it? I think …
Q: You said you weren’t very good at talking but …?
Mrs T: I sit here, I don’t go out, I haven’t been out since last summer. Then I just go round the houses because I have to have a break so of course I get it all bottled up I expect.
Q: That’s fine. I see you’ve jotted, had you got some things jotted down for me or is that your shopping list?
Mrs T: No. I didn’t have my bread on Friday so I put that down. (Q: Oh I see, that’s all right.) The family Bones used to live at the Goods Yard and one of their daughters went to High School which was most unusual in those days for a working class family. Because they were very very poor. And she went to High School. (Q: Mmm.) It was quite extraordinary.
Q: Was that the Goods Yard by the station you mean? (Mrs T: Yes.) What was her name? (Mrs T: Bones.) What was her first name? (Mrs T: Evelyn, Evelyn Bones.) Did you ever see her after?
Mrs T: No, I met her after when she went to High School once or twice but she began to talk, you know, ‘correctly’ [laugh] and was a little bit you know. But she was a nice girl as far I remember. We used to go pea picking with her mother. I’ve done a lot of pea picking in my time.
Q: Right. Was she the same age as you?
Mrs T: About the same age, yes, she’d be near my age. There was quite a big family of them.
Q: Did you think, would you, I remember you saying you were top of the class at school. (Mrs T: Yes.) Did you ever think about going there?
Mrs T: Yes, I did once, that was between myself and a girl called, now I can’t think of her name, Dorothy something. Her father was the manager of the International Stores at Witham. And of course I didn’t stand a chance my dear. I’d got no background. You see you’ve got to have the background and the appearance and that you see, haven’t you? We hadn’t got a hope, my dear. We hadn’t got the money. I think I’d got a hand-knitted skirt on for one thing. (Q: Really – was that bad?) Mmm.
Q: Oh dear. Did you have to go for an interview?
Mrs T: I can’t quite remember what happened dear. (Q: Would you have liked …?) I think it was cancelled, because mother couldn’t do this that and the other I believe. That was what happened. I can’t remember quite about that. But I know I’d got …
[Telephone call about brother’s wife with pacemaker and heart attacks. Lives in Hatfield Peverel]
Q: How many brothers did you have?
Mrs T: I can’t remember, let’s see, Percy, Jack, George, Arthur and Douglas, five and a sister. But my sister died in childbirth. One of my brothers lives at Hatfield Peverel. The other one lives just out of Hatfield Peverel in a home. He married Kath Wood and Mr Wood was the postmaster for a long time and their daughter has recently bought a house in Bridge Street. Now that’s a very old building, that used to be a greengrocers shop. Whether they’ve had it modernised or not I don’t know, but she lived there until recently. Now her and her husband have broken up unfortunately, but the house is still there and I can remember Johnny Newman [Bridge Street – see letter] I think I’ve talked to you about that didn’t I, he wanted my mother to let me go over there in service but she wouldn’t let me go. She was too proud I suppose as it was near. You know, that sort of thing. But there would have been a lot of scrubbing out of milk pails and things like that wouldn’t there? (Q: Mmm.) But then I didn’t escape it because I scrubbed both churches out, Congregational and All Saints – so I didn’t escape it did I [laugh] I could write a book about my own experience in service really. I did start to write one once but they wouldn’t accept it because it was in writing, I can’t blame them, instead of being, I should have typed it. (Q: Have you still got it?) But of course typewriters then, I mean, out of the world for me.
Q: Have you still got it, what you wrote?
Mrs T: No, I’ve still got it in here [head] but I haven’t got what I wrote …
Q: Did you throw it away?
Mrs T: Tore it up years ago.
Q: What a pity. When was that?
Mrs T: Oh a long time ago, it was when I was in service. It was my first place. 200 Queensgate. I used to compose quite a little bit. I wrote a poetry once when I was in service about the staff. (Q: Really?) Oh I was full of it my dear, but I didn’t have the push with me did I. I wanted a bit more confidence and push to get anywhere didn’t I? (Q: Mmm.) You can look back and you can see all this can’t you?
Q: But then it was different times then wasn’t it. It wasn’t so much you, as …
Mrs T: Yes. There was only the service for the girls and the farms for the boys unless you were a little bit of somebody. Then you could get into the shops. (Q: Mmm.) If you got in a shop you thought you was getting on.
Q: But that was only certain people you think?
Mrs T: Yes. I’m afraid Mrs Thatcher’s made it worse my dear. She’s cut the gap wide open again. It began to close a bit, but its wide open again now my dear and its going to get worse, with the hospital cuts and things like that isn’t it? Going to get a lot worse. There. I just got my two hip joints done in time didn’t I, because I broke both of my hips you know. I had all in seven months, quite recently.
Q: How are you getting on then?
Mrs T: All right in a way. I can move about, and I do a lot, and I have to because I’ve nearly lost the use of this hand, so I have to keep going to keep them going. But it’s wonderful what I do. (Q: Mmm.)
It’s a case of having to, dear, what else can you do, unless you sit and let the house look like Dirty Dicks. I went there once in London, I think, I can’t remember where it is or much about it but I remember somebody told me about it.
Q: Was it a very grand house in London that you went to?
Mrs T: Oh yes dear, there was so many back steps my dear, and we had an old housemaid, her name was Steady, Steadman, we used to call her Steady. There was four housemaids by the way, I was number four and I had to do a lot of basement work for the servants’ hall and the room where the lady’s maid and their butler and them used to, they used to retire to for their ‘afters’ as they were called. For the pudding. They used to have the first part of the meal in the servants hall with us and then retired to the, forget what the name of it was called, anyway the butler and the lady’s maid and all the head people used to go there, of the servant staff and they used to have the afters what was left from the dining room table. You see that was a little bit better than what we had. But we had good food. I must confess it was a nice life really.
[Talk about tea and coffee, not noted.]
Q: I meant to ask you when you were saying about your brothers and your sister, were you the oldest or the youngest or in the middle?
Mrs T: I was the third.
Q: So when you told me them they were in order were they?
Mrs T: My brother Percy was the oldest, the one with the club foot. He died. And then my sister was older than me, only a small distance between us, about a year or something. Then I came third.
Q: Were your parents Witham people? Had they been in Witham a long time?
Mrs T: Yes, and my mother’s mother, my Grandma, used to live in the lane up Hatfield Road but it was still in Witham. Where there used to be a public house. I think there’s still, oh no there wasn’t a public house, when I was a young girl, it was a private house, an old lady had it. Then I understood since its been turned into a public house, Neddy something or … (Q: The Jack and Jenny?) Yes, something like that. Well there was a little lane there and there was some cottages just down the lane, Maltings Lane it was called because there used to be a maltings down there. I don’t know if there still is, but these …
Q: Was it Victoria Cottages?
Mrs T: Victoria Cottages, well my grandma lived in them and they used to have an outhouse where they could have, I think they done their washing and cooking. Because they nearly always used to have a pig and kill. My granddad and them in years gone by when my mother was a young girl. So my mother lived there and my grandad and my dad, I don’t know. He came from Hertfordshire I think. But he worked at the Grove Lodge, at the Grove House. He used to run the electric plant. He was clever for that though he was very ignorant man but he was clever. He must have been self-taught my dear. Think his family were more or less gipsy people. (Q: Really?) Or in that line and he used to run the electric plant and milk the cows and see to the chickens and he used to have to take them into the house and supply them with milk and eggs, etc. And then he was a bit of a drinker I’m afraid, that’s what kept us poor. And he was the first man, when Wakelins’ farm was in the High Street, that’s gone now hasn’t it?
Q: Well the farmhouse is still there but its turned into shops.
Mrs T: Well he wired that house for electricity. (Q: Did he really?) I think it was clever of him really. I’ve only just realised that was clever considering he was just an ignorant untutored man really.
Q: What was his first name?
Mrs T: William, William Burton and my mother’s name was Jane Pavelin. That’s what makes me think, she was Mary Jane Pavelin, I think I’ve got an idea that I heard something that we were related to Florrie Pavelin. Because Florrie’s a maiden lady so …
Q: So when you talked abut the people in Victoria Cottages, they were Pavelins were they. Yes. Your grand, the grandparents in Victoria Cottages? (Mrs T: Were Pavelins.) What were their first names?
[Looking for certificates etc, not noted, sent some to one of great grandchildren]
Mrs T: Because they were doing a family tree and I think I’ve sent it to them my dear. But grandma, Burton was something to do with the Hubbards. They used to live at the house at the beginning of the Rec, Maldon Road end.
Q: So your grandma Burton that was your father’s mother. She did live in Witham?
Mrs T: Grandma Burton was my mother. Grandma Pavelin was mother’s mother but her … We were supposed to come from the Huguenots in years gone by. They were something to do with France weren’t they dear. They were sent out of France a long time ago. Her maiden name was Hubbard, her maiden name was Hubbard, mother’s mother was named Hubbard. Then she married this Pavelin. First of all she married a sailor, she’d been married twice and she was a wife and a mother and a widow within the year. The sailor was shipwrecked or something or else he left her. I can’t remember much about that but I’ve heard the tales go round you know, you do as you are kids don’t you? (Q: Mmm.) Then she married this Pavelin.
Q: And that all happened when you were a little girl was it?
Mrs T: Yes, very small. I mean I can’t remember much. Only hearsay.
Q: What was her firstname, your grandma Pavelin’s first name? Perhaps you didn’t used to know what it was?
Mrs T: I can’t remember. (Q: Don’t worry.)
Q: Perhaps it will come back but don’t worry. Did you used to see them quite a lot?
Mrs T: We used to go up and stay some nights my sister and I. And by the entrance to that lane, Maltings Lane, where the public house is, there used to be a big house on the other side, just a little further Witham way, where the Miss Luards lived. (Q: That’s still there.) And they had their name changed by the way. Their name was Wright and they had it changed by deed poll, do you call it? (Q: Probably, yes.) And mother and her sisters were supposed to curtsey to them (Q: Really?) when they were young and of course mother’s people were mostly all auburn haired. They were stubborn. They wouldn’t do it! [laugh] And mother used to, they were quite … what you call better class people, and they used to give mother and them the tea-leaves from their tea-pot and mother’s mother used to use them for the family. That’s what you call poor isn’t it dear. (Q: Mmm.)
And I can remember mother saying about where they used to cook their dinner, or whatever they were having, cooked food, this Miss Luard’s family, they sit in the lounge, they didn’t call lounges in those days, and when anybody come they used to take it out. Out into the kitchen somewhere, and they used to be very economical I should imagine. And one of them, Miss Alice Luard, was a grey lady. What we used to call a grey lady, I realise now it meant she belonged to some organisation, like the nuns or whatever you call the institution like the nuns?
Q: Did you used to see them as well? Did you used to see a lot of them yourself? Were they about when you were little as well as your mother, were they?
Mrs T: The Miss Luards were. Of course they were getting elderly. I can remember the grey lady and there was another, Miss Edith Luard, she used to do good work. You know these people, you didn’t have the Social Services then, you had these different people, and Miss Kath Richards, [probably meaning Kath’s mother, Mrs R] her daughter has just died hasn’t she? [(Q: Yes.) Because my granddaughter belongs to the Operatic Society and of course Miss Richards has a lot to do with that doesn’t she (Q: Mmm.) Because they all went to the service for her I know.
Q: And was Admiral Luard their father?
Mrs T: Admiral Luard. That’s right. I don’t know if there’s still any of the family left. Then there used to be a Miss Pattisson. Now she lived in, I think I put it in your letter, Byford, but it was Bygrove I think, my dear and that was Percy Laurence ‘s house.[Collingwood Road] He had that built at one time. She lived near there somewhere. And she used to do a lot of good work. So whether that was her that got me into service or what I can’t remember that part of it all.
Q: It’s funny how you remember some things and not others isn’t it? I know that I do it myself. But you remember a lot don’t you?
Mrs T: Oh, I can go on and on for hours my dear, different things. But it’s a life story really, not so much a history of Witham is it? It’s a life story really isn’t it.
Q: Well, same thing. What’s Witham except a lots of life stories.
Mrs T: Oh I could tell you plenty about when I was in service, my dear.
Q: When you had finished with service in London did you go, that was when you married after that?
Mrs T: I married, when I married, no, I was in service in Ilford when I married. (Q: I see.) And we got a Council House, there was a new estate there, Barkingside and we got a house there and my husband worked at Gunnerys in Ilford.
Q: How did you meet him?
Mrs T: Well my daughter [she means sister] married his brother. Two sisters married two brothers my dear. Only she married the younger brother and I married the older brother.
Q: Did you know him a long time then?
Mrs T: No, only just through my daughter [means sister]. I suppose I was fed up with service or something and we just went into it just like that.
Q: You mean your sister? (Mrs T: My sister died in childbirth.) is she the one that married his brother. (Mrs T: Yes. Two sisters married two brothers.) It happened quite often didn’t it?
Mrs T: I suppose so my dear, its being close to one another I suppose, and its just an opening really. It’s a safety valve for us. I suppose that’s all it amounted to in those days.
Q: So you don’t feel you knew him very well before you married? Did you know him very well before you married?
Mrs T: No, my dear, only through my sister’s marriage, when he come to the wedding, that’s all. (Q: I see.) A very poor wedding I’m afraid. That wouldn’t cost hundreds and hundreds of pounds like it does today. [laugh]
Q: Was that in Witham?
Mrs T: Yes, at All Saints Church.
Q: Were you married in Witham or Ilford?
Mrs T: Yes, I was married in Witham in All Saints Church.
Q: Do you remember much about your wedding?
Mrs T: No, we were living in Bridge Street at the time. Very old houses because when Mr Percy Laurence, I don’t know whether he’d died or he’d retired, I think he died. Then we had to get out of the cottage, you see, the Lodge and we had this house in Bridge Street, the old dilapidated places they were, not far off the public house. Just over the bridge, the Hatfield Peverel end, there is a public house there. The people that kept it when I was a young girl were name of Drury. [probably Morning Star]
Q: That’s where your family were living when you married? (Mrs T: Yes.) Did they all come to the wedding?
Mrs T: Well, such as it was, my dear, yes. I didn’t even have a wedding dress, had to make do with what I’d got. (Q: Mmm.) I think it was a navy blue suit or something with a blue hat.
Q: I’m sure it was very nice.
Mrs T: Then, of course, we went to Ilford because my husband got this job at Gunnerys and we stayed there for quite a long while. Then he gave up. He was a big farmer in the way of pea picking and all that sort of thing. Then he used to have cabbage crops, lettuce crops, all that type of thing. And the rhubarb of course. During the rhubarb season he used to have to do up bundles of this rhubarb. It was terrible.
Q: So where did you go after that then?
Mrs T: We come back to Witham.
Q: Was that when you went to Church Street?
Mrs T: Yes. We lived with my mother for a little while until we got the Council house. I think Miss Pattisson was responsible for getting my mother out of the houses in Church Street [probably Bridge Street] that were so poor and she got my mother a Council house up Rickstones Road. Because that was nearly all fields when we were children but they started building up that estate up there. (Q: Yes.) And now I understand it’s all built on. Opposite the cross roads. That was all fields. And I used to go pea-picking on that farm. That’s all built up now I understand. I shouldn’t know it should I? (Q: No. [laugh]) I shouldn’t know The Grove, should I? (Q: Mmm.)
Q: So your mother was in Church Street by then? Bridge Street I mean?
Mrs T: No, myself lived in Church Street. My mother lived in Rickstones Road, until she was quite elderly. She died when she was 90 something.
Q: So before that she was in Bridge Street?
Mrs T: Yes before Rickstones Road she was in Bridge Street.
Q: Your father had died by then had he? (Mrs T: Yes.) Were you quite young when he died then? Were you quite young when your father died.
Mrs T: Mother was still living in Rickstones Road.
Q: But your father died when you were quite young?
Mrs T: No, no, because, during the First World War, well I suppose he was youngish in that way, but during the First World War he worked after he left Laurences, he worked at Marconi’s and he used to run the big engines that supplied the power to the machines. So he was quite good really.
Q: An important job yes. And was he still alive when they went to Bridge Street?
Mrs T: Oh yes, he was alive when I lived in Church Street. (Q: Oh he was, I see, you talked about your mother.) Mary [Mrs T’s daughter] was a young girl then a young school girl but we used to go round and see mother and dad and I used to have to do her washing every week. Great big case full of washing every week. One year I spring-cleaned her whole house inside out. And she had the outside of the windows washed as well as the inside, the paintwork. She was fussy mother was, I might tell you.
Q: Did you have to help at home when you were in the Lodge as well, when you were a child? Did you have to do housework?
Mrs T: I had clean the house. There used to be a, what do you call it, makes marble, for the, headstones dear, for graves and things like that. (Q: Oh I know.) And we used to go there and used to get a block of, don’t know what it is called now. We used to have a board and we used to put this stuff on it, rub this stuff on it, bath brick we used to call it, that’s right, bath brick. And we used to have to put this, rub it on the board and clean the knives and I had that job to do and I had the job of washing the boys socks and stockings, lisle stockings. That was always my job. And another job I used to have, round Albert Road. You know Albert Road? After you come by the station bridge, there’s a little road. There used to be a big house at the bottom and houses on the side. with cellars, there fairly big houses. I used to have to go through that road and at the end by that big house there was a coal yard and I used to get half a hundredweight of coal on a barrow and wheel down the hill towards our, for my mother. It was always me.
Q: Really. Not the others? Why was it always you do you think?
Mrs T: I don’t know. We had to do as we were told. I suppose I was extra obedient, I don’t know, but the boys used to slip out of it [laugh]. Boys were like that in those days. I mean you had to wait on them hand, foot and finger, didn’t you? Well you wouldn’t know.
Q: No, but I can imagine though. People have told me. What about your other sister did she have to work in the house as well?
Mrs T: I don’t think I did much to help mother, now I think of it, no. I might have done but I can’t think about it.
Q: That sounds very helpful. What about the cooking?
Mrs T: Well, during the First World War, we couldn’t get the suet but I used to have to use the margarine to make the suet pudding. Because we always had a good cooked meal on Sundays, you know roast and vegetables and pudding pie. Mother was a cook at Bridge Home at one time, so she was a good cook. And I used to have to make this suet pudding as it was called with margarine and we used to have the suet pudding and sometimes a batter pudding and we used to have that with the gravy before we had the meat and vegetables. Of course that used to fill us up beforehand. But mother used to make lovely, she was a good cook. And during the First World War she used to get something. I think it was called cocoa butter. It looked like a hard slab.
[Talk about parrot plant, not noted]
Mrs T: I can remember another thing my mother used to make during the War. [First War] That was a pease pudding. You get the split peas and soak them and boil them and then cut it out in chunks. I haven’t had that for years and years.
Q: That was the First War was it?
Mrs T: Yes, the First War when we are the Lodge. I can remember all this at the Lodge.
Q: Did you ever live in Bridge Street yourself? Or only when you came back from London was it?
Mrs T: No, I lived in Bridge Street before I went to London.
Q: Do you remember much about Mr Laurence?
Mrs T: No, I can’t remember a lot. I know Miss Gracie Laurence once bought my sister and I two beautiful dolls. In years gone by they used to have them in these machine shops, with the dollies all dressed. They must have been about a, can’t remember what happened to them. (Q: How nice.) It’s the only thing we ever had from them as far as I can remember. No, I can’t remember. I think he was a little short man, from what I can remember of him, but of course we wouldn’t see much of him would we, unless they come up the Avenue and we had to open the gates or anything but they were nearly always open except on market day, because we used to get the cattle in you see.
Q: Yes, because you said something about the bull. Was that …?
Mrs T: Yes, there was a little side gate you know, one of those that you go round and I could hear this shouting and of course I was miles away, you know me, and I looked up and there was this bull coming down the hill, because there’s a slight slope there. Then of course there was the green there. That’s been levelled off hasn’t it? Is the green still there, like a triangle? [at the top of the Avenue where it joins Collingwood Road]
Q: Yes, in the middle of the road sort of thing? (Mrs T: Yes.) It’s really part of the road now I think.
Mrs T: Yes, I think its been done away with.
Q: So did you get away from the bull?
Mrs T: Oh yes my dear, just slipped through the gate, never thought anything about it. Didn’t realise what trouble I could have been in. I didn’t see any fear in those days my dear. Same as when I went to service. I didn’t see any fear in anything. I can remember when I first went to Wales in Ffestiniog. It was all dark when I got there. And there was a chappie come to meet me in the car and they started away talking in Welsh and one thing and another and I couldn’t understand it but I could see the mountains at the side of me all dark and black. It didn’t worry me. The Prince of Wales come there when I was there. Come to Harlech Castle. I saw him. (Q: Did you?) Yes, some of us girls were allowed to go and watch him. From a distance, but he looked ever such a little slight chap. I suppose he’d be more or less in his early, either teenager or early twenties. Must have been by then.
Q: That was with your family, that was when you were in service? (Mrs T: Yes.) They went there did they?
Mrs T: Yes, I was with, I don’t know what the lady’s name was now, but her daughter was a lady in her own right. This lady’s daughter. And when the Prince of Wales come, she was in the Guides[?] and she was so concerned because her hair was short and she had to plait it and she didn’t think it looked neat enough and she asked me if I thought it was all right, because they don’t speak to us as a rule but she did ask me that.
Q: I hope you said the right thing. When you went to service was it a bit of a shock to you?
Mrs T: No, I used to take it all in my stride. (Q: When you first started?) No I just got on with it. I knew I’d got to earn my living my dear you see. That was the theme in your mind in those days, you’d got to earn.
Q: Had you been to London much?
Mrs T: No, I don’t think I’d been before. But being near Hyde Park, I can remember I wrote to Miss Compton, our governess at school, we used to call her governess then, she used to live nearly opposite the Church School, right at the end near the little almshouses. Are they still there I wonder, near the Methodist Church? (Q: No.) Used to be a little row of almshouses.
Q: They’ve built a new Methodist Church there now. They’ve pulled them down and built a new Methodist Church on the site.
Mrs T: In place of that. And of course the old mill went when I was quite young girl, there.
Q: So you wrote to Miss Compton from London did you?
Mrs T: Yes, I wrote to her from London and she wrote me a nice letter back. She said no doubt you’ll, to the effect that, I was near the park, I was near Hyde Park, that I should enjoy the Park. If we did anything special she used to keep a book and we had to write in it. I remember I wrote in it once. (Q: Did you? [laugh]) I used to talk you see, and there was another girl, her name was Alice Bright, and I think she’s a Mrs Smith now, she married a little bit better off than I did. And she came to me once when I was in hospital, so she must have something to do with the Friends of the Hospitals. I don’t know if she’s still alive. She’d be my age if she is, and she used to be A.B. one because she was Alice Bright. I used to be A.B. two because I’m Amy Burton and of course if either of us spoke it was A.B. one or two on that board you see, quite exciting really.
Q: When you say you used to speak, you mean you spoke when you shouldn’t have done ? You say you used to talk.
Mrs T: Well, you know how you talk among yourselves.
Q: So you got into trouble did you?
Mrs T: Yes, then you had to have your name put on the board.
Q: What happened after that?
Mrs T: Well, you lost a mark. (Q: I see.) I can remember once Miss [Lucy] Croxall, she was at school the same time as I was, and we had a silent reading lesson and she brought a hugh jam puff to school. And she broke it in half and we sat behind, put the desk up and sat behind this desk eating this jam puff my dear [laugh]. It was fun, it was clean honest fun wasn’t it.
Q: You liked school, did you? Did you like school?
Mrs T: I endured it [laugh]. Sometimes I was naughty. I was kept in late once. More than once, but once I remember very clearly. I hadn’t enough ‘go’ behind me. I wasn’t conscientious and driving enough. Not ambitious enough in those days. That was my problem. I can see it now. If I had taken more advantage of my learning and that, because I was quite good. (Q: I’m sure you were.) But I just …
Q: I don’t know, when you say that you’re thinking about what you could do if you were young today, but in those days there wasn’t the opportunity.
Mrs T: Yes, but you can’t put an old head on young shoulders.
Q: But also, in those days, you didn’t think there was anything else you could do, did you? I mean it wasn’t that you were …
Mrs T: Well, I don’t think any of us did really, though some might be born with more ambition than others.
Q: But I think there’s more chance now. You can get on even if you are not ambitious. If you get on well at school.
Mrs T: See more chances perhaps. I wouldn’t know how to go to school now, they even do all the sums and everything different don’t they?
Q: I wouldn’t either. Because as you say, then you did what was expected of you didn’t you really. If your mother was very strict and she told you what to do.
Mrs T: It was all basics in those days you see to prepare you to go to service and on the farm. Our whole life was geared up to that. And we used to write a letter asking for employment. Write a letter in response to an advertisement for employment. All that sort of thing. It was all geared up to that. That you’d got to earn your living. And the same with sewing. We used to make blouses. I can remember one we made it was more less of a royal blue and we had to herringbone, not herringbone, feather-stitch round the collar and the sleeves.
Can remember that quite well. There was one girl, she was very good at buttonholes and I was ugly with my buttonholes. And she used to come round and we used to feel jealous of her. We wouldn’t look. That’s children isn’t it. Oh dear. And if there was anybody that didn’t feel well they’d always send somebody out with them just to be on hand sort of thing. And we didn’t realise what it was for we just stood there and looked at them. [laugh] I can remember I had to take a boy out once, because he wasn’t well and I just stood there and looked at him. It wasn’t explained what I was supposed to do. And I hadn’t got the sense to know to sort of cheer him up and all like that.
Q: Well, I suppose if he’d fallen over you’d have told somebody.
Mrs T: Yes, I expect if the opportunity had arisen, but they wouldn’t have been too bad or I wouldn’t have been sent out with him. Now they have places at school where they go. Have psychologists at school don’t they? (Q: For some people I think.) Only one woman that I know of her child behaved badly, she had to go to a psychologist about him. The school sent her. We’re being rather governed aren’t we? We’re told to do this and told to do that. They’re even going to spend our money for us shortly aren’t they? [laugh] They tell you to do this and do that so they are encroaching on your privacy quite a lot now. I think they are anyway. And you notice it as you get older and have to have contact with different people? (Q: Yes.) We are very much governed, brainwashed. (Q: Yes.) That’s why I think I burst out like this because I feel everyone is trying to take me away from me. And I just burst out. I still rebel.
Q: Well, good for you. I don’t think you’re that meek and mild as you make out. [laugh]
Mrs T: Don’t have to be dear, you’ve got to fight all the way along. That’s the trouble you’ve got to be aggressive haven’t you?
Q: Did you have anything else on your list?
Mrs T: No, I don’t know if you could understand my writing but I thought …
Q: Oh yes, I know, I meant to ask you a bit more. You said you went to Braxted about a bungalow?
Mrs T: Oh yes, well they were Lodge bungalows really, at the gates. And we went there to apply for one. There was one empty. I don’t think my husband, well he must have been going to work there, mustn’t he or we wouldn’t have applied for it unless they were giving them to anybody, letting to anybody but there was this coach come down and this coachman sort of nodded to us to open the gate. I said ‘Come on dad’ I always called him dad because of Mary you see, ‘Come on dad’, I said, ‘We’re not going to take this’. I wouldn’t take it off anyone. Well, I suppose I’d had so much of it in service I suppose my dear you see, hadn’t I. I’d got all that at the back. Because we weren’t allowed to show ourselves to the ladies without a cap and apron on. Even if it was our time off. Well, I think that was a bit much don’t you? (Q: Yes.) I mean, if it was our time off it was our time off because we only had Sunday morning off and we were expected to go to church. Then we had an afternoon and an evening then we could more or less do what we liked. Got to be in by a certain time. But even if we were in and didn’t go out on our afternoons, if a call come along for anything unexpected we had to put our cap and apron on and I didn’t like that. And we used to have to wear ward[?] shoes and my dear, I used to wear a pair out when I was at 200 Queensgate, in a month (Q: Goodness.) all up and down those stairs you see my dear. I didn’t finish telling you about Steady, did I. (Q: No.) Steadman. I remember once she said to me, ‘Always use your head to save your heels’. That was because of the number of stairs. And she was right you know, wasn’t she? (Q: Mmm.) I’ve never forgotten and I still do that. I try and do things so that I so save my heels. (Q: Good.) [laugh] They were wise old people in those days. The one place I was, the head housemaid couldn’t write the list out for polishes and things and she always used to get me to do it. (Q: Really?)
Q: Was that the same family all the time that you were …?
Mrs T: Oh, no, no, my dear I was changing all the time. Yes, I had lots of changes. My next place was 12 Queensgate. And the lady there, I forget her my dear. She used to drive a four-in-hand. She was the first lady to drive a four-in-hand in London. And she was so strong. They’d got these big windows and she’s just go like that to the sash window and push it down. Whereas we couldn’t move it. Big windows. I liked that. They used to change their carpets for the London season, the stair carpets and hall carpets, for the London season.
Q: Goodness, what, and then change them all back again afterwards?
Mrs T: Oh yes, just for the London season. Oh, Mrs Quintin Dick, her name was. But she was a lady in her own rights as well but she married a Mr Quintin Dick. I don’t know whether he was American or what.
Q: There used to be people called Quintin Dick live in Maldon, but a longer time ago than that. A hundred, more than a hundred years ago. So perhaps they were related to them. I’m sorry, so you went somewhere else after that?
Mrs T: Mrs Quintin Dick used to breed the labradors and she used to bring them up from her Shropshire home for the dog shows. (Q: Crufts?) Cruft’s. That’s right. And they used to win a lot of prizes. And the menservants, dear, can’t think of the name, not the butler, the footmen and the hall boy, they used to have push up beds in the hall where we used to have to have our food. (Q: Really?) Yes and they used to have to push them up and they’d shut up like a cupboard.
Q: What sort of rooms did you have?
Mrs T: We shared. It was quite a nice room and in one place I was, that was at Eastbourne, we were on the same landing as the spare bedrooms and there was a big book shelf there, belonging to one of the sons. And that was the first time I read King Solomon’s Mines. (Q: Was it? [laugh]
Q: You used to like reading did you?
Mrs T: [about books she has now, not noted.]
Q: Did you used to read much when you were a little girl or …
Mrs T: I used to try to but of course I didn’t have much time once I got out in service and that. Used to read at school and all that.
Q: So when you came home from school, when you were at school, when you came home, did you go out to play or were you always busy?
Mrs T: Went out to play. I can remember some people over the road because there was private houses down from there. And some people over the road used to have some Blue Coats sons, home, or grandsons or something. Used to be called Blue Coats. Used to wear these long blue coats. And I remember once there was something on at the market and we used to go over and play on the market, run along the places where the animals were penned in, had these big boards across for a special occasion. Used to go and run along there with these Blue Coats.
Q: But you were allowed to play around in the Avenue itself were you?
Mrs T: Oh yes, used to love playing round there and then of course we’d got our own garden. I believe the Church House was being built by the time I was a young schoolgirl. We were a rowdy family really. We were wild. Rowdy. Well we were in those days, most of us. We weren’t worse than anybody else.
Q: Did you go far from home to play at all, did you go out into the country or down to the main street or anything?
Mrs T: Sundays, after we’d been at Sunday school and had our dinner and then we used to go miles all round, because there was no houses up Cressing Road and all like that. Then we used to go through the Knicky Knocks down Maldon Road. Is that called that now?
Q: No but a lot of people have told me about it.
Mrs T: We used to pick, the flowers dear, I forget the name of it, now, honeysuckle. We used to go and pick honeysuckle. We used to walk miles my dear. Just enjoying it. Picking bits and pieces here and there. And of course we used to have boys. When I got old enough to have boyfriends, all Witham boys.
Q: Where did you go with them?
Mrs T: All round the fields and that. I mean it was nothing like it is now. We could go there and be free my dear and not fear anything. You daren’t go up the road now, dare you. We were just kids together. It was lovely.
Q: Did your parents go out walking a lot?
Mrs T: No, not a lot. You see by the time my dad got home and he used to usually round the pub. He was a bit of a drinker.
Q: Which pub did he go to?
Mrs T: The Bull, at the bottom of Collingwood Road, as you turn round to come towards the Avenue, on the right-hand side? The Red Lion, not The Bull.
Q: The George is on the corner.
Mrs T: The Red Lion is further up on the other side.
Q: He always went to the same one did he?
Mrs T: Mother used to take us out sometimes as I remember and of course we had the Vicarage Tea. Mother always used to take us for that. And then we used to walk up Hatfield Road to go to Grandma’s.
Q: But you didn’t see your other grandparents?
Mrs T: No, I didn’t know about then. No, I didn’t know anything of my father’s family at all.
Q: Would you say they were strict then, your parents?
Mrs T: My dad was. Well mother was to a certain extent but she used sit sometimes and recite to us I can remember, that’s unusual I should have thought, for those days, when I look back. (Q: What did she do sorry?) She used to recite to us, yes, she used to say a piece of poetry about a boy and an apple, and whether it was his little brother and they were starving and they’d got this apple and I can remember the big boy said to the little boy, bite better or quicker or something, they were sharing the apple. I remember that bit. Oh yes she used to be a rare one for reciting my mother.
Q: That’s where you got your poetic side.
Mrs T: Yes, you see my granddaughter she’s in the Operatic Society in Witham. She’s only in the chorus but …
Q: What’s her name?
Mrs T: Mrs Meek.
Q: Cynthia! She cuts my hair.
[chat about Cynthia and Operatic etc., not noted. Also about Flo Pavelin and how she is etc.]
Q: Did you used to know them well [Pavelins] when you were little?
Mrs T: Not very well, because they lived at the cottages and we lived the other end and so she went that way and we went the other sort of thing. So we didn’t mix a lot.
Q: But you went to the same school?
Mrs T: I can’t remember her at school to be quite honest. Because I first started at the Catholic school. Which is almost opposite those little is there a Catholic church there still?
Q: Well, they’ve just closed it down and, I don’t know if you knew this, you know All Saints church was empty for a long time, well they’ve now made that into a Catholic Church. It’s much bigger for them.
Mrs T: Oh I see. I wasn’t there long. I don’t know why I started there, can’t tell you anything about that. I remember we were in a play, they were getting up a play, and I was supposed to kneel by my mother and she was telling about my father, you know, in the play, he was a sailor, and something about a storm, being in a storm. Come my little one or something. Then I was told about my father being in a storm. [laugh]
Q: You were an actress as well, you see. That’s where Cynthia gets that from.
Mrs T: I must have been very young then.
Q: But you didn’t go to the Catholic Church?
Mrs T: No, we’re Church of England. I still am, haven’t moved from it. I don’t go. I haven’t been for a long long time but if anybody asks me I’m Church of England. When I’m in hospital I have Holy Communion. I’m Church of England through and through.
[talk about Catholicism, then about her daughter looking after her, and home help, not noted]
Q: I remember you saying about how you cleaned the churches. How did that come about? Was that your job?
Mrs T: Oh, it was when I was married I did it to help out my wages my dear. My husband was on fifty shillings a week and we had to pay full rent then, no rent rebates then my dear. So I used to do it to help out. I worked at the Vicarage for Mr and Mrs Black, worked for Mrs Payne’s daughter that used to be at the Vicarage. (Q: I know.) Mr and Mrs Payne. And I used to work for her daughter. She married, I can’t remember. They live in Highfields Road, that big house at the beginning of Highfields Road from Powershall End, but she’s died and I believe her son committed suicide or something.
Q: Oh, the Hendersons you mean. Did your husband mind you going, some people have told me that their husbands didn’t like them going to work at that time of day. Did your husband mind?
Mrs T: Oh no, my dear, and I cleaned the glove factory you know.
Q: Did you really? That was hard work I should think. It must have got in a mess.
Mrs T: It was mostly sweeping up the cuttings from the machines but I used to have to sprinkle some, like sawdust, I forget the name of it dear, as usual, and I used to have to sprinkle that and sweep it up. I had a tea chest to put the rubbish in.
Q: I mean were you doing these jobs one after the other? (Mrs T: Oh yes.) You had one for a while and then moved on?
Mrs T: Oh yes, people used to come to me. They knew that I went out and they used to come to me. This was after I’d been cleaning the churches and the chapels.
Then I got to cleaning people’s houses. (Q: I see) I went to Collingwood Road once I remember, someone in Collingwood Road, and when the Americans were in Witham, must have been part of the Second World War, mustn’t it, my dear? I went to an American but their habits, my dear. Couldn’t cope. Well, if you washed anything. They had this washing machine and, of course, I hadn’t seen a washing machine before and I had to dry everything on the radiators. Of course it yellowed the things and they were these special sheets they used to have, percale or something like that dear. And she used to give me some of her coupons for butter and stuff because they had their own shop didn’t they, on the airfield, forget the name of it. But she used to sometimes give me that but the boy, the son of the house never said please or thank you to his mother or anyone. Never used those two words at all. And he used to answer his mother terribly. I used to have to see to the baby and change it and all like that in front of company. She used to ask me in to change it in front of company. She wasn’t used to doing anything for herself. But of course I’d been in service where we all had our allotted spaces, I didn’t know what to make of it my dear, of course. I mean, even at the table when I was in service you were served according to your rank, you know what I mean, and after being so regimental. And then to go have do everything, sort of thing, anything and everything, mostly housework, but to look after a baby and all like that.
Q: They lived in Witham did they?
Mrs T: Collingwood Road, yes I think it was the big house that Miss Vaux used to have. She was another one that used to help people.
Q: With doing all this work you knew quite important people didn’t you?
Mrs T: Yes, I did really dear.
Q: Did you get on well with them usually?
Mrs T: Well, of course, in the big houses we never saw them hardly. We weren’t allowed to see them.
Q: What about in the Vicarage? When you were in the Vicarage cleaning, did they have a lot of staff there? (Mrs T: Where dear?) Witham Vicarage.
Mrs T: Witham Vicarage? Oh no, they had no staff dear. Oh no. And they used to breed those dogs, those like pug dogs we used to call them, I forget their right name, my dear, and they used to be in a room at the back but I didn’t have to clean up after them, I think the Vicar must have done that. I didn’t. I worked hard there you know. It was a very big room they used to use for general use and it had got a carpet in and then the surrounds were polished and they used to get dusty. You had to sweep it before you could polish it. Then there was the grate to do first. Used to take me all the hours I went to do just that. Two and three an hour. Wonder what they’d think of it now. They get £3 or more an hour now don’t they. And it was really hard work you know. But one place in Collingwood Road I hated. She would insist on having her gas stove black leaded. Then you have wash the grease off and then black lead it. I used to hate it. Oh I did used to hate that.
One place in Wales where I was we used to have to red raddle the fireplaces. They’d got this red brickwork round and we had this powder and mixed it. Something similar to the Cardinal polish that you get now. (Q: I know.) But we used to have to mix our powder and then red raddle it they used to call it, all round. That was a job you know when it was black with smoke. Then one place I had a red steel grate in one of the rooms and we used to have to do that with a burnisher. That was a piece, a square of leather with steel hoops on it. And we used to have to rub it with that to put on a polish, rub it with that. And of course, if it rained, the spots used to come down the chimney, it used to get wet. But the lady was very good. She used to cover it up when it wasn’t in use to save it. But it was really hard work in those days, not like now.
[about home help cleaning now, etc. and Cynthia being good at cleaning etc., not noted]
Q: One thing I meant to ask you. Whereabouts did your husband go to work?
Mrs T: At Gunnerys. (Q: In Witham?) Oh, French’s up Rivenhall Road. There was three brothers there. Yes, he doesn’t live there now. I don’t know if it is still a farm. (Q: I’m not sure.) Its just by the Rivenhall church. Their fields almost join the church and the school.
Q: Was it a big old farm house? (Mrs T: Yes, standing back.) Rivenhall Hall was it?
Mrs T: Only just as you go by the church.
Q: As you go from Witham is it past the church?
Mrs T: Past the church.
Q: Quite an old fashioned building?
Mrs T: Yes, but there used to be some cottages on the road too. Are they there still? Two of them.
Q: I’m not sure.
Mrs T: Because I used to live in one of them when I went there because I lodged, my sister died. That’s why we come back from Ilford and then Gunnerys gave up as well (Q: Yes.) And about that time my sister died in childbirth and I was there for a while, keeping house, or trying to keep house but of course I was always very inexperienced in those days, with running a house on my own. I was experienced in work, cleaning and that, but not in housework. And then my husband got this place at French’s you see. Got a house in Church Street and he used to go from Church Street to French’s.
Q: That was your sister’s house?
Mrs T: Yes, my sister. Then she died you see. So there was only my brother-in-law and the children.
Q: How many children did she have? (Mrs T: Three.) Oh dear. So you had to look after the children as well? (Mrs T: Yes.) Did you have Mary then as well?
Mrs T: Oh yes, I’d got Mary.
Q: That was a hard time for you then wasn’t it?
Mrs T: Yes, I think one of my sister-in-laws had the baby, so I had the boy and the girl. (Q: Very worrying.) Oh I didn’t make a good job of it my dear.
Q: I should think they were glad to have you there.
Mrs T: But there you are, I did the best, but your best isn’t always good enough is it?
Q: I’m sure it was. So what did they do after you went back to Church Street?
Mrs T: Well, you see my husband still worked at French’s and I took on jobs, cleaning.
Q: But your sister’s family. How did they get along?
Mrs T: He married again [???], what you’ve got through in life. The mistakes you make. You can see them so clearly now can’t you?
Q: I suppose so but I think it’s wrong to call them mistakes because you just do the best at the time can’t you.
Mrs T: Experience. Just life’s experience.
Q: You forget what it was like at the time when you probably didn’t have much choice did you. Did your husband like working there? Did he enjoy the work, do you think, your husband?
Mrs T: Well, he didn’t know anything else did he. He was good at it. He was a good worker. They all three were. They were really noted, the Taylor boys, yes. Some people didn’t like to work with them because they couldn’t keep up.
Q: I don’t know if you told me his Christian name, your husband’s first name?
Mrs T: William. And my dad’s name was William. (Q: Right.) Mother’s name was Mary Jane. That used to be a name in those days.
Q: What, all one name was it?
[misc about names for her daughter etc., not noted]
One thought on “Tape 136. Mrs Amy Taylor (nee Burton), sides 1 and 2”
Ingihsts like this liven things up around here.