Tape 014. Miss Florence Ada Smith, sides 1 and 2

Tape 14

Miss Florence Ada Smith was born in 1897, and was interviewed on 1 June 1977, when she lived at 2 Chalks Road, Witham.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk 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.]


Side 1

Q:    You were born in this house were you?

Miss S:    Yes, yes.

Q:    When was that?

Miss S:    Well, I’m coming up to 80 so, that was 1897 when I was born. (Q: Good heavens.)

Q:    Do you have brothers and sisters?

Miss S:    Yes, I had three sisters and one brother. Two sisters older than me and one sister younger than me and me brother was the youngest of the family.

Q:    What did your father do?

Miss S:    He was a shunter on the railway.
Q    Did that take him out all hours?
Miss S    He used to do one week night work and one week day work.

Q:    Do you remember much about him?

Miss S:    Well, I was fifteen when he died, he died at the station. He had heart trouble and just sat down and died.

Q:    So was he ill a lot at home?

Miss S:    Before that he had heart trouble and he was off sick for quite a while, but he got better and went back to work and that happened.

Q:    What used to happen when people were sick those days – about pay and that?

Miss S:    There was no widow’s pension in those days, no, mother had to just do work, you know, what she could find. My two older sisters were out at work, away from home actually, but there were three of us still going to school.

Q:    So what sort of work did your mum do?

Miss S:    She had to do washing, people’s washing.

Q:    Quite a few people have told me they’d do people’s washing, did they go out and fetch it or people bring it here?

Miss S:    Fetch it here, my brother used to fetch it and take it back.

Q:    What sort of people would you be doing it for?

Miss S:    Well, people who were better off than ourselves of course, could afford to pay, ‘cause there wasn’t much in the laundry way then, like there is now.

Q:    So you reckon you weren’t all that well off then?

Miss S:    No, we weren’t! [Laugh] No we weren’t. My poor mother had a hard life.

Q:    Did your mum and dad come from Witham?

Miss S:    Were they Witham people? No, my father was a Colchester man and my mother’s lived, her home was near Clacton. My father got a job at the railway you see and they married and set up home here. My mother died, she lived to be seventy-three.

Q:    So how old were you then?

Miss S:    I was forty, just over forty when she died, so I’ve been here thirty-eight years by myself.

Q:    So your sisters went away from home?

Miss S:    Yes.

Q:    What jobs did they do?

Miss S:    They did domestic work.

Q:    Outside of Witham? Would they have sent money back?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, they helped, yes, they helped, yes. Yes, they were very good really.

Q:    Before your father died, when he was at home sick was there any help about then with money?

Miss S:    Well, there was club money, you know, like the Foresters, my father was a Forester. There was Club money, sick pay.

Q:    I see. How did you get that?

Miss S:    Well I suppose supplied certificates, you know the doctor, it was such a long time ago I can’t ….

Q:    Did you go to meetings and things? (Miss S: But there wasn’t any National Health, you know, money, you know, state money, not in those days.)

Q:    So if you had the doctor you had to pay?

Miss S:    Mm.

Q:    Do you remember any of the doctors?

Miss S:    Yes, Doctor Gimsons, yes, you know, the Gimsons, have you heard about them?

Q:    Yes, people mention them.

Miss S:    Yes, they were very nice, two brothers and their father, I don’t remember the older Doctor Gimson but the two brothers I remember ever so well. Very nice they were, well, they all are nice aren’t they really, I’ve got no complaints?

Q:    Which one used to come to your family?

Miss S:    Doctor Gimson, Doctor Ted Gimson.

Q:    People seemed to speak more about him, Doctor Ted? (Miss S: Yes.) than the other one?

Miss S:    Yes, Doctor Karl.

Q:    I suppose they wouldn’t have much medicines and things, would they, either?

Miss S:    Well, I don’t know, we generally got a bottle of something. [Laugh] Don’t have bottles now do we, we have tablets all the time?

Q:    Did the doctor bring them round or did you have to go to the chemists?

Miss S:    The surgery, we used to get them from the surgery in those days, yes they used to have the medicine at the surgery. [Knock at the door, tape turned off.]

Q:    There’s a row of houses isn’t there, it goes quite a long way back doesn’t it? [looking out at the back]  That shed thing there at the back, did that used to be …. someone told me what that was once. [Miss S: What?] The sort of, is it an old shed, at the back there somewhere. You can see it from the Braintree road anyway.

Miss S:    Oh, yes, its old Mr Chalk’s workshop.

Q:    That was part of theirs was it?

Miss S:    Yes.

Q:    Can you remember any of the other people that used to live round here when you were small?

Miss S:    Well there’s very few, they’ve all changed you know, houses, people have changed in this road, you know, since I first lived here.

Q:    So who did you used to play with for instance when you were a little girl?

Miss S:    Well, we all played together as a family really, you know, there were several of us you see I know there were older ones. Oh we used to enjoy ourselves.

Q:    What did you used to do?

Miss S:    They used to, [???], Crittalls, you know, that we used as a recreation ground. (Q: The car park?) Mm hm. That was our recreation ground. [i.e. behind Chipping Hill School]

Q:    Was there anything there or just a field?

Miss S:    Yes, just a field, meadow, yes. (Q: Did that go right across to the ….) Yes. (Q: Oh, it was big then?) Oh, we had fun and games in there! [Laugh] (Q: That was handy for you, wasn’t it?) Yes, that was better than playing in the road, because the road was all stony you see. (Q: Was it?) Yes. Not a nice road like it is now. There was a hedge run right down the road, course there was a meadow all where your houses are built [north side of Chalks Road], where you live and farm house on the corner, you know, the animals used to be in this meadow, cows and chickens and all those sort of, and pigs. That was really lovely, you know and then right across the back was a row of chestnut trees, well, there are some in Templars Close now ain’t there? And they used to look lovely when they came out. We were sorry when they started building, you know, over there, because we got used to it now I suppose, they were built when my mother was alive.

Q:    What did there used to be where Crittalls factory ….?

Miss S:    [???], field, yes. Yes, I remember that. (Q: I suppose you remember them building that, do you?) Oh, yes, yes.

Q:    What did people think when they built that?

Miss S:    Well, I think they thought that it a good thing for Witham for the employment way.

Q:    You said you worked in the glove factory more recently, that was there before Crittalls was it?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, yes, that was there, yes. I only went there the last twelve years of my working life, I had several other jobs. I mostly got the sack with ill health, you know, ill health

Q:    What sort of jobs did you do?

Miss S:    I done some domestic jobs, yes. Course, during the two World wars I did war work.

Q:    What sort of war work did you do?

Miss S:    Well, we did shell work, where Baird’s is now, you know the maltsters, that was a munitions place during the First World war. [Station Maltings]

Three Smith sisters. Taken during the First World War. The inscription describes them as 'Charles' 3 sisters' and names them as Ada on the left, Ellie in the centre, and 'Ted Stoneham's wife' on the right. Ada was Florence Ada Smith of Chalks Road, who is interviewed here. It is a studio portrait. They have triangular badges which will be 'On War Service' badges, with a crown in the middle. They were issued in 1916 in brooch form, specially for women. Other badges for this purpose had button-hole fastenings. They are also wearing a uniform, Ellie's being different from the other two. Ada worked at the Station Maltings in munitions; Ted's wife's uniform is the same as hers.
Three Smith sisters. Taken during the First World War. The inscription describes them as ‘Charles’ 3 sisters’ and names them as Ada on the left, Ellie in the centre, and ‘Ted Stoneham’s wife’ on the right. Ada was Florence Ada Smith of Chalks Road, who is interviewed here. It is a studio portrait. They have triangular badges which will be ‘On War Service’ badges, with a crown in the middle. They were issued in 1916 in brooch form, specially for women. Other badges for this purpose had button-hole fastenings. They are also wearing a uniform, Ellie’s being different from the other two. Ada worked at the Station Maltings in munitions; Ted’s wife’s uniform is the same as hers.

Q:    What exactly did you have to do?

Miss S:    Well, that was an examination centre, the shells were sent there empty before they were filled and we had to examine them all you see, measure and gauge them all and see they were right for filling and then they were sent away to the filling station.

Q:    So you didn’t have any of the filling?

Miss S:    No, no filling here, no.

Q:    I saw something on television, there was a programme about, I think, about Woolwich which was an enormous big munitions place and that was quite dangerous of course, wasn’t it?

Miss S:    Yes.

Q:    You didn’t have that?

Miss S:    No.

Q:    Were there quite a lot working there?

Miss S:    Well not really, not like a big factory but quite a few.

Q:    Did you have to work long hours on that?

Miss S:    Normal hours really.

Q:    What did you do for dinner when you were at the factory?

Miss S:    Used to come home for dinner. They did have a canteen, not a canteen, a room for those who had to have dinner there but not cooked, they had to like, take their own sandwiches and things.

Q:    Can you remember anything else about the First War in Witham, what effect, did it make a lot of difference to people?

Miss S:    Well, I suppose it did really.

Q:    Were there soldiers actually here?

Miss S:    Yes, in the town, yes, in different big houses.

Q:    What, they stayed in the houses?

Miss S:    Yes.

Q:    So how did you hear about the munitions work, did they just put the word round that they wanted people?

Miss S:    Yes, [???] people, yes.

Q:    Did you feel you were doing a useful job or just glad to have something to do?

Miss S:    Yes, well it was nice to be doing your bit really, you know.

Q:    How old would you be?

Miss S:    I was seventeen when I first went there, and I was there for four or five years.

The inscription is "Clearing shell cases from Maltings 1920-23" . A few of the names are given - Bert Colman (far left), Florence Ada Smith (white overall, the subject of this interview), John Youngs (far right). The maltings are the Station Maltings. Railway lines are at the front, and a railway truck behind.
The inscription is “Clearing shell cases from Maltings 1920-23” . A few of the names are given – Bert Colman (far left), Florence Ada Smith (white overall, the subject of this interview), John Youngs (far right). The maltings are the Station Maltings. Railway lines are at the front, and a railway truck behind.

Miss S:   I remember having my twenty-first birthday when I was there.

Q:    What did you do any different?

Miss S:    Nothing, when I think of the children now and the parties and celebrations for twenty-first birthdays, I hardly knew where I was. [Laugh] Did you? (Q: No, not really, I suppose by then we were a bit old for presents. What sort of birthdays did you have when you were younger, did you have much?) No, we just knew it was our birthday, that’s all.

Q:    Did you have much in the way of toys or anything?

Miss S:    No, you know, we had dolls and things like that but nothing like the children have these days, they have such a lot don’t they?

Q:    What would the boys have? If you had dolls, what sort of things would the boys have?

Miss S:    I can’t remember, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong person for remembering! [Laugh]

Q:    What sort of war work did you do in the Second war?

Miss S:    I did, I didn’t do factory work, I helped with the British restaurant that they had in the town.

Q:    Where abouts was that?

Miss S:    What I call the boat shop now, not the boat shop, the um, the caravan shop in the High Street [67 Newland Street](Q: Near Gilbert’s?) Yes, that’s right, near there, yes.

Q:    That was interesting, was that especially during the War?

Miss S:    Yes.

Q:    What sort of people used to ….?

Miss S:    They used to come from, well anybody I think would come and have their dinner, I don’t know why that was made, I suppose that helped with the rations.

Q:    How did they manage with the Restaurant with the rations then?

Miss S:    They seemed to get them. (Q: Got them specially, that’s a lot of extra to people. Did they have to give the rations in when they came?) Oh, no, they just paid for the meal, yes. that was mostly business people, you know, that had the lunches out, you know.

Q:    What did you used to do there, all sorts, cooking or ….?

Miss S:    Oh, no, I didn’t do any cooking, I used to help with serving meals.

Q:    So that was just during the War then?. Was there a lot of bombing and that in the Second War?

Miss S:    Well there were odd ones you know, like, not any definite bombing, we used to have odd bombs, wasn’t very nice.

Q:    I suppose there were warnings and things?

Miss S:    Oh, yes.

Q:    What other jobs did you do – which school did you go to?

Miss S:    Maldon Road. (Q: Oh, I see, that was a long way to go.) We used to go down there twice a day, used to come home to dinner and go back down Maldon Road, don’t know what children would think of that now, walking all that way twice a day.

Q:    Did you like it there?

Miss S:    Yes, rather, I loved school.

Q:    Can you remember what sort of things you used to do?

Miss S:    Well the ordinary lessons you know, quite nice they were, oh, I loved school, had nice teachers and headmaster.

Q:    Who was the headmaster?

Miss S:    Headmaster when I was there was Mr Quick, Mr Quick, he was a very nice man, and the other teachers were nice. (Q: A lot of people said they didn’t used like going to school.) Oh, I did, I loved it.

Q:    Did you get play times?

Miss S:    Oh yes, we had play times.

Q:    Was that the same building that’s there now?

Miss S:    In Maldon Road, yes.

Q:    ‘Cause there weren’t a lot of class rooms then, were there? Two or three?

Miss S:    Three, yes, for the infants and the older children and the older children still.

Q:    Were all the people in one room doing the same work?

Miss S:    Yes, oh yes. (Q: All the infants would do the same.) Oh, yes the infants would do ….oh, I don’t know though, you know, two and three and the middle class, middle school, room was standard one, two and then there was three, four, five, six and seven in the big room, with different teachers, we didn’t have one room for each class.

Q:    There was more than one teacher in each room?

Miss S:    Yes, oh yes, for different classes.

Q:    So how did they hear what they were saying?

Miss S:    [???] The headmaster took, you know, the top classes.

Q:    So, for instance, if you’d be in one room with three different classes there’d be three teachers? (Miss S: Yes.) Because they’re quite small rooms aren’t they down there, well, to have three classes in, anyway?

Miss S: Yes, there was three classes in the biggest room but I think there were only two in the middle room, and the infants were up to seven I suppose, although we went early, we went earlier than five those days.

Q:    How old ….?

Miss S:    I think we went when we were three or four.

Q:    Oh, that’s interesting. So they wouldn’t teach much then anyway, would they?

Miss S:    No, but it was a long way to walk when we were so small wasn’t it, I can’t remember it, but we did all go down there, we didn’t go to any other schools.

Q:    What did you used to do in the school holidays?

Miss S:    The summer holidays, we used to go pea picking and those sort of work, see we used to have our holidays when the pea season was on, used to go pea picking, and earn a bit so, set ourselves up with, you know, some clothes, like.

Q:    Was it hard work, pea picking?

Miss S:    Well, I don’t know, I liked it, it was outdoors, I liked it, I didn’t mind it.

Q:    What, you’d all go, the whole family.

Miss S:    Yes.

Q:    Did you have to go far for that?

Miss S:    Well, no, not really, because all beyond here you see was all fields.

Q:    Then you said, that was to get your clothes, what did you do for clothes, would your mother buy ….?

Miss S:    Shoes and things like that you see, for the winter.

Q:    Where did you get the shoes, do you remember the shops?

Miss S:    Yes, we were, my people were real Co-op people, we had as much as we could buy at the Co-op.

Q:    What, did you buy clothes ready made or did your mother make your clothes?

Miss S:    Oh, she made some and we had it handed down. [Laugh]

Q:    What was the Co-op like in those days?

Miss S:    Not so big as it is now, but it was quite good, [???] shop.

Q:    Was it grocery and clothes?

Miss S:    Yes, and clothes, yes.

Q:    Was there a lot of people in there serving?

Miss S:    Well, I suppose there was, I can’t remember.

Q:    When you say you were real Co-op people, how did that come about, you mean you just went to the Co-op to shop did they get on the ….(Miss S: No, they weren’t on the committee.) committees and things, no. You don’t hear so much about the committee these days, it was quite important I suppose ….(Miss S: Yes, in those days, yes.) it was, yes.

Q:    What sort of people would be on that, I wonder?

Miss S:    Just ordinary people.

Q:    I suppose the Co-op wasn’t up here then, I was trying to remember, that was newer wasn’t it? [In Braintree Road] I can’t remember how long the Co-op’s been there, but it must have been before ….(Miss S: I can’t remember how long it’s been there but ….) So would one sort of people go to the Co-op and another to the other sort of shops?

Miss S:    Yes, I suppose so, yes.

Q:    There’s one shop people, somebody mentioned – Spurges.

Miss S:    Ah, yes, that was a nice shop for clothes and household goods, yes, a very good shop that was.

Q:    That’s right, there was that picture in the paper of the cart[?].

Miss S:    Oh, yes, yes, I remember seeing that, that amused my brother when he came here, he said, ‘Old cart’, he said, ‘Do you remember seeing that [???].’ [Laugh]

Q:    Because Mr Godfrey next to me said it was his father that used to push it.

Miss S:    Oh, was it? Oh, course there was, yes, I forgot it was Mr Godfrey’s father, yes.

Q:    Your brother still comes to see you does he?

Miss S:    Yes, he lives at Silver End. (Q: Oh, I see.)

Q:    Well, I suppose you’re quite lucky you’ve still got some family.

Miss S:    Yes, I’ve got a sister, a sister in Witham, lives up Highfields Road, and I got a sister at Southend, and then my brother.

Q:    They’re all younger than you or ….?

Miss S:    No, my two sisters are older, but my brother is younger.

Q:    Can you tell me how old you are, or is that a secret?

Miss S:    Me, I shall be eighty if I live till August. (Q: Really, goodness me?) Don’t say I don’t look it ‘cause I feel it! (Q: Do you, oh dear!) [Laugh] (Q: I wouldn’t have thought you were that age – goodness.) I think being shut in and being sort of crippled, it makes you feel old or look older. (Q: It all makes the difference doesn’t it, yes, to whether you ….) But I mustn’t grumble, I’m better placed than a lot of people.

Q:    You say you’ve got your family still, for instance [mumbling], I always think that Mrs Ireland along there, she’s very lucky she gets about so well.

Miss S:    She does, doesn’t she, she’s eighty, over eighty. (Q: [mumbling] she’s got her health.) Yes, she’s been very fortunate with her health. (Q: It makes a big difference doesn’t it, she goes down town quite a lot, sees her old people [???], she was an old Witham person wasn’t she, yes?) Yes, she’s lived in this road ever since she married, she says I’m the oldest, all the persons lived in this road, the oldest and she comes next. [Laugh] (Q: There’ve been some changes.) Yes. (Q: Because, Mrs Jones, is it next door, she’s not been there …[formerly Mrs Chalk].) Since she married you see, she wasn’t a Witham person, Mr Chalk was, he was Witham, but they just moved round the corner in Braintree Road, Chalk, the family, yes. (Q: There’s Chalks Road, I suppose, got something to do with ….?) Not them, no. (Q: Not them, different Chalks was it?) No, different Chalk that, old Mr Chalk, the [???]

Side 2

[Chat about tape recorder, not noted]

Q:    People used to go to church a lot more, were you Church people or ….?

Miss S:    We were Congregationalists, Congregationalist, in the High Street, we all went there, Sunday school and Sunday services as a family.

Q:    Did that take up most of your (Miss S: Sundays, yes.) Sundays.

Miss S:    Different meetings and that during the week, children’s things and used to trail down there.

Q:    What sort of meetings did they have?

Miss S:    Well , we used to have what they called Christian Endeavour, and Temperance, meetings and bible studies, you know.

Q:    After school?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, after school, after tea.

Q:    You’d come home to tea, and then ….[???]

Miss S:    Yes, you can’t imagine children doing that now, can you. Not walking all that way, I mean, they’ve either got bicycles or some means of transport haven’t they?

Q:    What, that was the same people, the minister, was it, that ran those?

Miss S:    Oh, yes.

Q:    I don’t know much about the Congregationalists, did they have a meeting of people to help, like the Church, they have the Church council or something don’t they?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, yes, elders they were called.

Q:    Elders were they, yes, so what sort of people were the elders?

Miss S:    Nice people, you know, brought up with them and liked them and Sunday school teachers, we liked them. Are you Church of England or ….?

Q:    No, my family were Quakers originally (Miss S: Really, oh.) I don’t go anywhere much now, but originally they were. I think that place down Maldon Road was a Quaker one, (Miss S: I think that was.) but someone told me the Peculiars had it at some time. (Miss S: Yes, they did, yes.) I don’t know what it was when you were, course, it’s near the school isn’t it? (Miss S: Yes, I think the Peculiars had it, yes originally, yes, I don’t remember Quakers being in Witham.) Perhaps that was before, earlier on or something.

Miss S:    Mrs Bryers’ son married last year and theirs was a Quaker wedding. (Q: Oh, was it?) Yes.

Q:    Because I went to one wedding, it was nice because everybody signs the, they were all witnesses, they all signed the certificate, but as I say I don’t go anywhere now, as I say there aren’t any in Witham, but I suppose the church was pretty important then, so (Miss S: Yes.) it was the main thing in your life, all your friends, did you tend to mix with the people from the Church. (Miss S: Oh, yes, we were all friends together.) What, with the Church as well as the chapel? I can’t remember who it was said to me that Witham was a very snobbish place in those days, did you notice anything like that?

Miss S:    Well, I don’t know about snobbish, but I think, you know, classy, if you know what I mean, more than they are now, really.

Q:    In what way?

Miss S:    Well, I suppose it could be some people were better off than others and, you know, there was the poor and the rich if you know what I mean, that sort of thing, better off people, more classy, but the people do tend to mix more now don’t you think, than they used to in the olden days, but I don’t know why, I think things have changed a lot, you know, in my time.

Q:    Can you remember any of the richer people in Witham, in those days?

Miss S:    There were several families, you know, sort of real, what they called gentry in those days, none[?] now, people are more or less equal now, don’t they, don’t look up to people like they did in those days, do they?

Q:    Did your father sort of look up to, would he touch his cap to people and that. [Laugh]

Miss S:    I can’t remember that!

Q:    I suppose you can’t remember it when you were young, but you felt there were people you looked up to?

Miss S:    Yes, and that weren’t the same as you ….

Q:    What sort of jobs did they do, or didn’t they have jobs?

Miss S:    Oh, no, they were gentry, you know.

Q:    I suppose there were farmers, were there any farmers?

Miss S:    Yes, oh, yes, there were farmers around.

Q:    Did you see them walk, see them going about I suppose though would you.

Miss S:    Yes, oh, yes.

Q:    Were you in service in Witham anywhere?

Miss S:    Well, I don’t call it service I had domestic jobs but they were daily ones, so I was home at night.

Q:    What sort of places were they, for instance?

Miss S:    Well, I had a job at the top end of Collingwood Road, next to Heddles, that bungalow, and that was a Nurses home, two district nurses lived there, they had a, it was built with a ward and it had two beds in and another smaller room with one bed in and they took maternity cases in, and I worked there and I saw all the babies when they were born. [46 Collingwood Road] [Laugh] I loved that, and they used to take these patients in two, two patients and the other little room was what they called the labour ward, you see, they used to have the babies born in this little room and then take them into the bigger room after, they used to have a fortnight in, I don’t think they paid a lot, but they did have to pay to go in there and then these two district nurses they did the whole district and run this place.

Q:    Is that the Bungalow? (Miss S: Bungalow, yes.) That was the one next to Heddles was it? What did you used to do there?

Miss S:    Domestic work and, you know, the nurses used to go off on their round, you see, and I used to be there and, well, I didn’t look after patients, ‘cause it was nothing to do with me because the nurses did that, but there had to be somebody there, you see, the nurses were out, keep an eye on. I liked that. Yes, they used to show me the babies once they were born. [Laugh] The people were all nice, but they were lovely nurses and so was, you know, most of the patients that came in, ‘cause now you see the children, babies that were born there are grown up and got children of their own and some of them grandparents. [Laugh] [Mumbling] I see them, I say I remember you being born. [Laugh]

Q:    They kept them in a fortnight you say?

Miss S:    Yes, a fortnight.

Q:    Did they have to stay in bed?

Miss S:    They used to get up, towards the end, they used to keep them longer than they do now, they don’t now do they? Did you? (Q: No, no, up the next day, they got us up the next day.) It’s all different now isn’t it?

Q:    Did the doctors, who actually delivered the babies?

Miss S:    They generally had the doctors in, doctor in. (Q: Or the nurses?) Some of the patients, I suppose they generally didn’t want the doctor, you know, doctor wasn’t always, nurse could do it, they normally had the doctor.

Q:    When was, how old were you then when you worked there?

Miss S:    Thirty or forty. (Q: Oh, that was then.)

Q:    I wondered when that started up, that was all?

Miss S:    I wasn’t the first one there, that’d been built before I went there to work and, now, I’d been on the sick list for some little time, mind you, in my working days I was more on the sick list than I was working. (Q: Were you, mm.) and I wanted to go back to work or something and Dr Ted, that was, said ‘I think there’s a nice little job I think you could do.’ and that was through him I went there then and I had to leave there ‘cause I was ill, they couldn’t wait while I got better, get somebody else. I liked it.

Q:    How long did you stay at school?

Miss S:    I stayed at school till I was fifteen, well we left at thirteen in those days, but I stayed on for a couple of years and helped in the infants, I wasn’t very robust and that was a little job I could do.

Q:    So what did you used to do?

Miss S:    Help with the infants, you know, teach (Q: You did teach then, did you?) well, you know, things, quite simple little job, I liked it, I should have like to have been a school teacher. (Q: I was going to say, they couldn’t have kept you?) No, it was ….(Q: Why was that, did you ever consider it or, what did ….?) No there wasn’t any prospects, not for me, I mean, my people couldn’t afford to send me to High School and that sort of thing in those days.

Q:    So they didn’t keep people on unless they’d been to High School?

Miss S:    ‘Cause I should have liked to have been a school teacher.

Q:    Do you remember what your first job you did was after you left school?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, ordinary domestic job, yes. (Q: Where was that, where was the first one?) I can’t remember now, I was working domestic till I was seventeen, you know, and went to the munition place [???]

Q:    Then after that, you did more domestic, I suppose the domestic work would be a bit different in those days?

Miss S:    Yes, I should think it is, it was.

Q:    Do you remember anything you used to have to do?

Miss S:    Well, all the housework, you know, no hoovers and what not those days, real hard work, that old lady down the bottom in that end house, she could tell you what she had to do in her domestic days. [Laugh] (Q: That’s Mrs ….?) Cutts, Mrs Cutts. She’s ninety odd she is. [Laugh] (Q: Goodness, which house does she live in?) The end of those four that go round the bottom. (Q: Funny, I just saw, I think she must have been out in the garden, this afternoon when I came up, well I hardly ever see anybody there, I suppose she’s in mostly[?]. Yes, she’s ninety, ninety odd, ninety-two I think.

Q:    And she’s a Witham person is she?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, mm, mm.

Q:    Did you work with her at all?

Miss S:    No, oh, no

Q:    What, the places you went to you were on your own mostly?

Miss S:    Yes, she’s older than me too.

Q:    You knew her then did you?

Miss S:    I knew her yes, knew her as a person, but didn’t know much about her really, she’s nice, she comes round here often, Sunday afternoons mostly.

Q:    Oh, well I’ll have to get talking to her, does she like talking?

Miss S:    She’s ever so nice but this last year or so she’s losing her hearing, it’s very difficult, you know, hard work to entertain now, she knows it too.

[Chat about making up the fire etc., not noted]

Q:    Is this house any different from when you, has it been altered at all from when you were here?

Miss S:    No.

Q:    So how many would there have been living, you tell me.

Miss S:    Five children and mother and father, don’t know how we slept, couldn’t tell you [Laugh], people we did have big families, places in those days, now it’s one room, one bedroom to each child isn’t it?

Q:    Were there any shops near in those days?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, that’s where Woods was down, that was always there [48 Church Street]. (Q: Was it?) Mm. and on the corner of Chalks Road as you go into Church Street, that was a shop [54 Church Street], there, yes, there was a shop there and down further, where the other shops are, you know, there was a butcher’s shop there.

Q:    I suppose there was still, although there wasn’t much up this end, there was quite a few houses up Church Street?

Miss S:    Yes. (Q: Those days, to have the shops?) Mm.

Q:    Yes, Braintree Road was there, I was just thinking which way when you went down to school you‘d go round past the station I suppose?

Miss S:    Yes, that way, yes, where Roberts, that was always there as a shop, yes. (Q: What sort, general ….?) General shop, yes.[Braintree Road]

Q:    Did your father, did he have to go far out of Witham for his work, (Miss S: Who?) your father?

Miss S:    No, station. (Q: Was he just at the station?) At the station, yes. (Q: He didn’t have to ….?) No, no, no.

Q:    Would that have been regarded as quite a good job or was it steady?

Miss S:    An ordinary working man, he died up there, suddenly.

Q:    What sort of jobs, your sisters went to, service as well? Living in What did your brother do?

Miss S:    He worked at Crittalls. (Q: Oh, did he?) Practically all his working life, yes, he started on the railway, but when Crittall started up he came off and went to Crittalls, and he worked there till he retired, he’s seventy-four now so he’s been retired several years.

Q:    Did they used to grow vegetables and things?

Miss S:    Oh, yes. (Q: In the garden?) He had an allotment too, yes, I remember all the vegetables.

Q:    It must have been hard work, where did you have the allotment?

Miss S:    Over the rail, by the railway, each side of the railway, main line railway, the allotments.

Q:    Did you used to have to help your mother with the housework and that?

Miss S:    I suppose we did, I can’t remember really, no.

Q:    You must have been kept busy, what with all the meetings and ….[Laugh]

Miss S:    Oh, we were more contented than I think the children are today, I don’t know, we seemed to be pleased with small things, they seem to be, I don’t know, they have a lot, but they don’t seem to be any happier for it, I don’t think, but any rate, course, that’s only my opinion.

Q:    No. [???]
[Couldn’t get your reply other than ‘no’]

Q:    What did your mum do about Christmas, anything special happen at Christmas?

Miss S:    What, at home do you mean? Parties, something, oh, yes, make our own fun, Christmas, used to look forward to it, you know, have little extras, have extras. [Laugh]

Q:    Yes, there was a butchers here, so you could get more or less everything, fruit[?] and food round here?

Miss S:    Oh, yes.

Q:    Did you eat any different things from what they do today?

Miss S:    No, not really (Q: What you had?)

Q:    I suppose you say she had a hard life?

Miss S:    She did really, she had to work hard and, the family and I think most women did those days, working class people, you know, they have a better time now don’t they than they did then?

Q:    Did she have any spare time, did she go to the church, did she have a lot of spare time?

Miss S:    She went nights, Sunday nights, yes.

Q:    Did she go to any of these things in the week, would she go to?

Miss S:    She’d go to women’s meetings, they used to call it the mothers’ meeting in those days, she used to go to the mothers’ meetings. Oh, yes they were good parents.

Q:    Some people [???] say they remember Christmas, did they have any other celebrations, Guy Fawkes, did they used to celebrate?

Miss S:    Didn’t make much of that, no.

Q:    Was there much fuss on when there were elections?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, my father, course there wasn’t any Labour Party then, he was out and out Liberal, my father was, never Tory, once somebody said to me, once about, so I said, ‘My father wasn’t a Labour man.’, he wasn’t a Labour, there wasn’t any Labour when he was alive, they said, man said to me ‘Oh, he’d be Labour.’ [???] [Laugh] I had two uncles, these two brothers at Colchester, anyway, they were out and out Labour people, ‘cause they lived a lot longer, people, you know, Labour people.

Q:    Can you remember anything about elections and things, what used to happen?

Miss S:    They used to be exciting times, yes, yellow and blue. [Laugh] By the way, I’m sorry Mr Gyford didn’t make it this time. (Q: Oh, yes, that’s true.) We did our best to help him but [Laugh] all the people that come here did anyway!

[Interruption – door? Tape turned off.]

Miss S:    Mr Vojak, he’s planted my garden and all the winter I had things dug, I didn’t have to buy anything except potatoes. (Q: That’s good.)

Q:    We were talking about elections and things, they seem to have had much more fun, [???] much more to do, you had meetings and …. (Miss S: Meetings, yes.) to go to, lots of speeches and, what did your father used to do, remember, I suppose you can’t?

Miss S:    I don’t remember he used to help much, but he was Liberal.

Q:    Can you remember your mother voting at all?

Miss S:    I can’t remember it, I suppose they did, yes, must have done.

Q:    So was Witham mostly Liberal in those days?

Miss S:    No, it’s always been Tory. (Q: Was it?) Yes.

Q:    Because there was Witham council still in those days wasn’t there, we had elections for them?

Miss S:    I suppose, but I can’t remember those, not in my childhood days anyway.

Q:    I suppose you don’t get involved so much, do you?

Miss S:    No.

Q:    Big changes aren’t there? I suppose there can’t be many people in Witham that are still in the same house?

Miss S:    No, not [???], no. [Laugh]

Q:    Well, somebody I spoke to the other day, was that Mr Springett, she just died?

Miss S:    Just lost his sister, yes. (Q: [???] poor man.) Yes, ‘cause she was 89, she died. My home help, heard a lot about her because my home help goes there you see, helps there, and she used to tell me each time she’d been there how she was and, I knew them you see. He’s going to, she said today he seems very well.[at 4 Powershall End]

Q:    Well, I’ve spoken to, I go past there quite a bit to play group, I saw him in his garden and did seem rather surprised, he did very well really, I suppose he’s been working hard looking after her?

Miss S:    Yes, he’s done wonderful thing, been a wonderful brother.

[Mr Vojak comes through] – Q: Pity he can’t keep a cow or something out there as well and you’d have it all laid on. (Miss S: He’s nice, he’s Austrian you know.) Oh, is he, oh.]

Q:    Who’s your home help?

Miss S:    Mrs Phillips. (Q: Mrs Phillips, oh I don’t know who …. no.) She goes to Miss Evans in the Alms houses you know, just round the corner, near the shop, she’s very, poor thing.

Q:    She does your shopping and that does she?

Miss S:    She does some shopping, yes, for me, yes, she’s very willing, she’d do anything, she’s ever so good.

Q:    Oh, well, you’ll be wanting a rest now, have I kept you long enough, will you be wanting a rest now?

Miss S:    No, we can talk without it. [Laugh] (Q: Yes, of course, yes.)


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