Mrs Doris Goldsmith (nee Gaymer) was born in 1903. She was interviewed on 22 May 1991, when she lived at Annerley Cottage, Maldon Road, Hatfield Peverel, Essex.
For more information about her, see Gaymer family, including Doris Goldsmith, nee Gaymer 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: So you were?
Mrs G: Born in Witham in 1903, and lived, do you know where Hannah’s shop is, in Braintree Road? (Q: Oh yes of course.) and Howlett who used to be the musical man in Witham, you’ve heard of him? He married one of the Wenn[?] girls who lived opposite with their mother and father. Dora Wenn, went to school with her. I won a scholarship you see, and went to Braintree. And Faf Evitt, do you know who I mean, Frances Evitt, you’ve heard of her, well she was in a form lower than me but we’ve been friends all our lives you see. Because she lives in Witham, behind the cinema.
Q: Oh, she’s moved there, well I went to see her once in Wickham Bishops. (Mrs G: Oh did you?). Everyone seems to talk about her, and she said to come and see you.
Mrs G: I don’t know as I can tell you much. As I say she and I both went to Mrs Dibben’s, have you heard of Mrs Dibben, to learn music. I went when I was quite young and when I was about six or seven I did some gymnastics at school and hurt my leg so I couldn’t walk for about six weeks, and my mother said ‘Well I think you’ve learnt you all you want to know, you can teach yourself the rest.’ But Frances Evitt[?], she couldn’t say Frances, she always said Faffy see when she was little so it stuck to her. I always call her Faff but she carried on with her music and she joined the Operatic. Of course my sister did a lot in that and her husband, Charles Richards. They were builders in Witham.
Q: That was Kath’s parents then? (Mrs G: Yes.) So you are the last one?
Mrs G: Yes, she was seventeen when I was born. (Q: Is she the oldest?) No, my mother had two boys and a girl, no two boys and two girls, and my father was badly burned by a lamp exploded. He bent down to blow it out, midnight and oh he was terribly bad. He had to have a hoop over his bed for nine months. He couldn’t have anything touch him and my mother gave skin from her arms and legs and everywhere, grafts. But he was two years off work and all the notable people in Witham used to sit up with him at night, because he was so ill. They didn’t think he could live you see.
Q: Was that at home?
Mrs G: That was at home, down at the house opposite John Hannah’s, well nearly opposite. Then they moved up to where Grosvenor Villa is [Braintree Road]. I don’t know if; you know,(Q: Yes.) in the Braintree Road. I think an uncle of mine bought those two houses. He was a builder at Mistley and Mistley was like a second home to me. I always went every week. Loved to go. Because they were a big family there you see. I used to go on a train, when I was alone, at seven, seven years old. Go to Dooles’ which was a shop on Chipping Hill [45 Chipping Hill]. I think its lived in now, isn’t it. (Q: I think it is.) But I used to go there to get Terling cheese, they used to make wonderful cheese at Terling and my uncle always liked that so I always had to take a great big lump of cheese every week. But everything was so different. When I got off the train there I used to walk up the hill and then I’d got to go down the school lane and do you know that was all trees and great big buildings, where they made malt and all that sort of thing. I used to be terrified of walking down there.
But I went there until I was, well, my cousin died about two years ago. She was older than me but she’d been, she had polio before she was twelve, no when she was a lot younger than that. I think that’s why they used to have me down there a lot, to be a companion to her, because you see she had an iron on one leg. But she was wonderful. She lived, she was so clever musically. She had a lovely voice. I used to go to music lessons with her. Not for meself, I used to go with her you see. And then she married, I forget what he called himself. We were so surprised when they married. Well then they went to, can’t think of the name of the place, run by the County Council in Surrey. (I shall think of the name soon) They thought the world of her, all the crowned heads as I call them. Which was wonderful when she’d got all that, but she cooked, and used to cook for herself right till she died nearly.
Q: Was she a cousin on your mother’s side or …?
Mrs G: Father, my father came from Bradfield. And Mistley is adjoining that. I used to go there. My father used to go and see his parents who died, the last one died when I was six.
Q: They were Gaymers were they? (Mrs G: Yes.) What was your father’s first name?
Mrs G: William and my mother was Jane, oh dear, lived in Witham whatever, May, I think. (Q: That was her surname?) Yes. And that’s why my second name is May you see and then one of my brothers, the second name was Cole and that after a cousin I think or another brother married a Cole, something like that.
Q: So her family was from Witham really?
Mrs G: Yes, only that’s all built on now. That was called some little walk, you know past the Morning Star[Bridge Street] (Q: Mmm.), then there was the pub, then there was a little cut though, can’t remember what they called it, a most odd name. And there were houses built at the end [perhaps Faragon Gardens]. I’ve never been round there because her mother died you see, quite, she married again. Her father died when they were very young and one brother died when he was twenty-one and then she married again, now what was her name then, can’t remember, perhaps that was Cole. They came in somewhere, but my mother married at seventeen, that’s a photograph of her up there look and she had seven children living.
Q: Brother or sisters to you?
Mrs G: I had four brothers and two sisters. I was the youngest and one of my brothers, you haven’t heard of Bowyers I don’t suppose, they kept the White Horse and Clara Bowyer was headmistress at some school. She was very prim and proper. And that was Bowyer that was the same age as my brother Bob and he was sort of secretary and that to Charles Strutt (Q: Really?) at Blunts Hall and then he bought Cuppers Farm for himself and that was when he left home and lived there and had a housekeeper (Q: I see.)
Of course that was a funny old house then. there was a ladder up to one side of the house, I never went up there. (Q: That was your brother’s?) That was my brother’s, yes. Well then he married Phyllis Taverner and they used to come and stay in Witham with the Tabers years ago. You know Tabers of Rivenhall and then one moved down Maldon Road. But he was very pleased with me. I suppose being the youngest.
He always said I was spoilt but I wasn’t not in way. Well I didn’t think I was. I mean I had to go to bed at eight until I was quite old, well what I call quite old. I married at eighteen but I had to be home by ten definitely, won’t go out any more if you don’t. [laugh].
Q: So were they very strict then?
Mrs G: Very strict, and I used to have to read to my mother a lot. I was talking to my woman yesterday and I forget she came out with something and I said ‘Oh my mother used to say that to me’, quote the Bible mind you and she didn’t force it on you, I don’t mean that but she would always say, oh it was, referring to the foolish virgins. She said ’You’re looking ahead’ and I said ‘Yes well I was always told if you kept your lamp trimmed you don’t want it, but if you haven’t got it trimmed you are sure to want it ‘[laugh]. I think about that when I do the battery you know, torches you know.
And then he bought Millfield House and now that was in Lockram Lane and what is a car park now was part of his garden, that was his front garden and he had a gate the Lockram Lane side, opposite the front door. It was a lovely old house, I loved that, and he’d got a garden at the back, a walled garden at the. (Q: This is your father?) No this is my brother, the one brother (W: What’s his name?) Robert (Q: And was the same one that got Cuppers?) Yes, he moved from Cuppers to Millfield House when he was going to get married. I forget how much it was, not much. But he used to do all sorts of things, knew everybody, very versatile.
Q: When you say all sorts of things, what sort of things were they?
Mrs G: Well, he used to go shooting at an early age, very early age. You’ve heard of the Aldertons? (Q: Yes.) And then my brother Frank, he was very friendly with what we used to call Father Alderton. He had a lot of children, thirteen and they lived right next to the White Horse. [Church Street] Where Charlie Richards mother used to live till he moved up to Church Street, where the business was you see. But my sister lived opposite the station where Kath was born and Kath of course, well and Joyce, I had a lot to do with because they were keen on Operatic, whist drives, and I used to go and baby sit you see. I always did that and I was saying I never went to a dance because I always played for them. You know, school, I always played for the morning service right from when I was quite young. Church of England school I went to. And then when the War [First War] came I used to, you’ve heard of the Ottleys? (Q: Mmm.) Mrs. Ottley used to work for my mother and she had Minnie and May and Nelly, and Nelly was more my age and she used to call and take me to school. And oh there was Alice an elder one. But I knew them ever so well and they used to have two spinster sisters who had a laundry up Church Street and one of these Ottleys had a barrow with handles out here and pushed it along and picked up linen galore, you know I can see them now. But the two elder girls, Minnie, who in the end went to the glove factory, and was a big, with the Pinkhams. Am I going too quick.
Q: You knew a lot of people didn’t you?
Mrs G: Oh I did, and a lot knew me. But as I say I never played and they used to call for me and take me to the YMCA which was opposite the old cattle market, next to the Church room that was. Is the church room still there? (Q: It’s a house [wrong, she probably means Church House which is still there, in Collingwood Road.) I remember that being built.
And then there was this YMCA hut put in a little bit of ground, sunk, you went down steps and that’s where the troops used to come and I would go and play all bits I knew, I could play by ear in those days [laugh]. (Q: That was in the First?) First War. And I remember some Canadians going off to the War and it was ever such a hot day and they were coming over the station bridge and going to the trains. Of course all the kitchens were in the Collingwood Road, the Army kitchens and down the Avenue, either side, horses you see. But my mother was very particular and I wasn’t allowed to walk down the Valley alone. (Q: Really?) In those days. She used to tell me there was people in the grass over the fence that might come, gypsies or something. I often think how she ever she could bring up seven and be so particular. Because she would watch me, when I came home off the train, she was always watching. Because we moved up to Grosvenor Villa and that had a big bay window so she could look out the side and she’d see me come off the train.
Q: She used to let you go on the train on your own? You were still allowed to go on the train on your own?
Mrs G: That was when I went to school you see, eleven I went there. And that was when I gave up a wonderful book I had, which Kath’s mother had minded for me but when I asked for it Kath said she hadn’t got it but I don’t know. Because my children, I had three. I lost my daughter, very suddenly, after I had lost my husband, she was wonderful to me, and she’d got three girls. That one in the red up there, she’s just been up. She lives in Switzerland and the other two, look on here that’s the three generations. My daughter Margaret in the middle and me and that is her youngest daughter. They used to go ski-ing to Switzerland always. And then that one she wanted to go on the boats round the world, as a something and her mother didn’t want her to go and she was going to London. She was determined to go. We went down to try and dissuade her. She said ‘I shall be all right Granny’. She went to the YMCA I think to start with, but she’d got friends up there. Then when she wanted to go on a boat I thought ‘Oh how dreadful’, so I cut an advert out of the paper – am I jumbling it, you’ll have a job to decipher all this – and it had got on ‘au pair wanted in Switzerland’. Because they always went to Switzerland. She’d got bronze and silver and all that for ski-ing. You know when they go all in and out. It was a Braintree girl had married a German and he was head of distribution for Fords out there and they’d got one little – girl I think, no boy, and so she applied and somebody from Chelmsford interviewed her, I don’t know how many times, and she was picked out to go and away she went and of course never come back since. She comes home on holidays. I’ve gone on a bit. Because Lesley you see was run into by a novice when she was ski-ing. They are all ever so good at ski-ing and so are her children. This is Lesley’s children, the one in red and this little one this side. He’s a little rascal but yet he doesn’t look it. They come here a lot. She’s ever so good.
Q: Where do they live now then?
Mrs G: They live at Wivenhoe. They were born, Lesley and the three girls, Melanie was with Beth Chatto, and was her chief one. Used to go to Chelsea instead of Beth. Beth has been here quite a lot and had cuttings, because I’ve got trees that she didn’t know grew in Essex. Have you been to hers? (Q: No, I haven’t, I’ve heard a lot about it.) It’s a lovely place.
I often think I ought to contact her again but when my daughter died, which was very suddenly. She came here and my husband had died. I drove myself, because I’ve driven since nineteen because this brother, Robert taught me you see to drive. He wanted to teach me to shoot but my mother wouldn’t let me. Wasn’t done then was it?
Q: So when did you learn to drive?
Mrs G: Oh he took me driving lessons and then Frank took me three times to Terling. He’d got a girlfriend there so when we bought a car. We wouldn’t have bought a car only my brother said to my husband, we hadn’t been married long. He said that Hurrell and Beardwells have got a car somebody ordered and now they can’t have it, why don’t you buy it? And my husband did but he didn’t drive, you see, wasn’t that funny, and that was ‘22/23 I suppose, we hadn’t been married long because we came here early, he wanted a garden you see.
Q: Where did you live when you were first married?
Mrs G: At this Clevedon[?], and it belonged to a retired butler from Clevedon[?] whose daughter ran a private school. Chapman his name was.
Q: Where was that then?
Mrs G: In the Braintree Road. Then the people that bought it from us turned it into a shop. That was a nice house. That was the last plot left, there was only that plot left when he wanted to build. So it was built from the road what I call that-a-way and the front door was at the side. But it was a very well built house. Every door had a knocker on it. (Q: And you married in?) 1922 (and when did you move?) 1926. Margaret and John were born at Witham. They’re my children and then David was born here.
Q: What did your husband do?
Mrs G: Company Secretary. He was only twenty-two but he had a fantastic brain. Anybody who did know him always talks about him.
Q: So where did he work ?
Mrs G: He worked in London. And I was going to tell you …
Q: People didn’t travel to London so much then did they?
Mrs G: No, but you see he was, I left a photograph up there to show you, in the front line at eighteen, that was when as soon as they were eighteen they had to go didn’t they. But he was in Strutts’ office in London and the man that was Secretary of the two companies, a much older man with a family, and he had to join up and they put him under canvas and he was dead within six weeks. Got pneumonia and died. And then Douglas Bowyer took over, through a man named Chalk, Jim Chalk who lived up Church Street. He also had a cousin, Edith who was a, lived down Braintree Road, she was a schoolmistress, away somewhere. He went to Woodford as schoolmaster and when he came home like for a weekend with his mother, Charles Strutt knew him you see, and so he said to him if ever he had any bright boys, I want some in London in the office. And that is how my husband was chosen to go. He had seven and six a week.
Q: Where was he before then?
Mrs G: Woodford. But he had to go in the Army.
Q: How did he know Mr Chalk?
Mrs G: Chalk was his headmaster. Came to see me when we were engaged and he said ‘I don’t as a rule congratulate the girls but …’ [laugh]
Q: He was the headmaster in Woodford?
Mrs G: He lived in Woodford but he was in London at this office at Eastcheap. From there he went on. He knew all the ‘crowned heads’ as I called them up there. (Q: How did you meet him?) At church. Charles Strutt always walked home from church with me as far as the railway bridge. With his hoe in his hand, a hoe that he used, his thistle hoe and he walked home through the fields to Blunts Hall and pulled the thistles as he went. He was interested in my brother being in the army, you see, and Jim Chalk and Dougals Bowyer, they were all in, and he wanted to know how they were and all that, but he always walked home from church. I can see him now, sitting in church and he always read the lessons and he always used to, when he was standing up he’d always go like this and pull a whisker out, that was a habit. He said of course said one Sunday morning, this is Goldie, he’s home on leave. Then he went to the front line and so he didn’t get home a lot, but then he was in Cologne for a year after the War. They kept him, they didn’t release him you see, but he still came if he was on leave, he always came down to see Charles Strutt and in the mean time Charles Strutt had married at seventy. He’d never married before [laugh] and my husband arranged all the honeymoon and everything. He relied on him to do everything and all his books or anything like that. He could do it. I mean it was fantastic, the pace.
Q: Who did Charles Strutt marry?
Mrs G: He used to come down before he married. (Q: Charles Strutt?) He married a Mrs Eva Barnard, who was a relation of Hoare the London banker and when she married, she was, Percy Barnard, she was his third wife and he died. She had one son, Mark[?] And then they used to come, lots of people, they always used to invite me up to play tennis or croquet or what have you as a girl. (Q: To Blunts Hall?) Yes I used to go up there ever such a lot.
Q: And did he used to do, did he have the farm as well and did he do much?
Mrs G: Yes, he was all in the farming. He was a director at Whitelands [Terling]and my husband used to go with him to Whitelands to lunch every Sunday with Gerald Strutt and Percy Laurence was at the end of the Avenue, that was his drive down (Q: Did you know him as well?) Yes and Gracie Laurence, but not as well as I knew the others and then you see if Charles Strutt was asked to take tickets in anything he’d always say could I make use of them, would I like to go? So I did have the opportunity of going to lots of concerts and things, but, as I say, I never took part in anything. And then of course these boys used to come for a weekend in the country you see. I think two of them were in the Army and he sent them up to see if I would go up for tennis you see, which I did and then they all came down and one always brought me home, not my husband and my husband got ready and he had one from the farm at Taunton, Heathfield, Arthur Shapley. He was a schoolmaster and the other one was in the, not 20 Eastcheap, over the road in the tea tasting, tea merchants, that’s where he worked.
But anyway, my husband came as well. And this other one said ‘You can’t go, he always goes home with her’. [laugh] But any rate they all three came. From then he started writing and we used to meet once a month. We couldn’t afford to meet otherwise. Well I didn’t have any money, well, half-a-crown a week, I lived at home you see and looked after mother and that.
Q: You didn’t go out to work at all, you stayed at home?
Mrs G: No, because I was at school till I was sixteen and then I used to go and help my brother’s wife. Fred Gaymer’s mother, she was very ill, or very disturbed, and she used to go in and out of Severalls and I used to go and cook every Saturday all day long. I loved cooking. I would loved to have taken that up but my mother said no you can’t.
Q: Where did they live?
Mrs G: Fred? Cuppers Farm and then he built that little cottage round the corner. (Q: Yes.) I think that Bert had it, my brother Bert, Fred’s father, off my brother when he bought Millfield House. I’m a bit vague on that but you see he was in the Army Bert was, and then we had to have Fred and Chrissie. Chrissie is still alive in Maldon. She had multiple sclerosis at twenty-one and I’ve always kept in touch and do what I can though I can’t do much but my husband bought a wheelchair for her and that got her walking round the yard you know. But he was fantastic and if you could see the letters that I had when he died well they were amazing but I don’t see the Strutts now although I am invited to Terling Place on 5th June, because they always called him Goldie, they called me Mrs Goldie and they used to come ever such a lot. But this was our own house you see and they wanted him to live here, there and everywhere, Colonel Parker bought a house at Stebbings[?] way and the Rabys, have you heard of the Rabys? (Q: I don’t know.) Peter Raby who used to come here with Maureen when they were courting. I used to have them all here and they wanted us to go and live there. They wanted us to live at Powershall, they wanted us to live at Tudor House at Terling, but my husband said no. He was so independent. If anybody had tried to bribe him or anything like that, he’d say ‘Well I’m finished. I don’t hold with that’.
Q: Did he carry on working for the Strutts all the time?
Mrs G: I was going to say, when he came out of the Army you see, Charles Strutt said ‘You’re quite able to carry on that business’, which he did, and the boy from Taunton was on the staff and the other one and then he had a Miss Somebody as secretary and then that would be 1926. We hadn’t been married all that long. There was the General Strike wasn’t there and that was just before we moved when various people drove the trains to London, Dan Crittall and … We had Richard Crittall, my mother did, billeted, we used to have officers billeted with us all during that War however, so you can imagine she had plenty for me to do.
Q: He was billeted with you?
Mrs G: He was billeted with you? Billeted. Yes. When the War first started they just came and put a cross in chalk on the front. ‘How many rooms have you got?’ And put a cross in chalk on the front you know. And we had soldiers. That was terrible when I think back because we had six Irish boys, oh they were shockers, drunk and all that. However she put up with that I don’t know. But they weren’t there long and then they went and they were nearly all killed. And then we had the Warwickshire Regiment and then after that they brought officers and we had two and then one.
Q: You would see quite a bit of them then I suppose, did you when they were billetted?
Mrs G: Well they used to have to take the food into them. You see they had our lounge and a bedroom. We had four bedrooms there you see and I used to sleep in the top, what I call it, the third, you know..
Q: I suppose with your other brothers and sisters being older, some of them had left?
Mrs G: Oh they were all years older. One brother was married before I was born.
Q: I see, so when you were at home it was mostly just?
Mrs G: There was just my brother Frank for a long time and then he married, whatever was her name, they lived at the Water Works when they first married, in Witham. That was a house, it wasn’t used as a Water Works then, it was built for Water Works and I used to know the family who lived there, the Duncombes.
Q: Was that the one behind the Swan ?
Mrs G: No it was the Water Works up Braintree Road, beyond the Cherry Tree [Cressing Road]. (Q; There was a tower there wasn’t there] There was only the Cherry Tree up there. That was all fields either side all the way.
Q: So going back to the soldiers, what happened about their food and everything?
Mrs G: Oh, they had rations and the Church House was where they did all the teas and bread. They’d bakers ovens in the Collingwood Road. I can see them all now, those, built like that sort of thing and they cooked all their bread you see and down the Avenue was horses either side.
Q: So in the Church House what were they actually …?
Mrs G: You know where George Thompson had a shed (1a Braintree Road?), well that was where they used to cut up the meat and they’d bring this meat home to cook you see. Oh yes they always had their rations.
Q: You don’t know where they got the meat from in the first place. I mean was it …?
Mrs G: Well I suppose it was commandeered wasn’t it. Must have been or, I don’t know about that. Then there was Miss Maisey, who was a wonderful character in Witham. Her father was a doctor and I think she had a brother doctor. And she had a sister, but Evelyn Maisey taught dancing. That’s why I wish I could get that book, because that was a book I started when I was four with all photographs of Witham people. John Bawtree was a great Scout man. They were the solicitors who lived in Batsford Court [100 Newland Street]. You know that little bit built on and he and his brother. And then they moved to Wickham and then Hugh Bawtree married Monica Parker whose father and mother were school people at Rivenhall. They used to have to walk all that way from Rivenhall to Witham Station to get on the train go to school. Monica was older than I was but, who did I tell you came to see me last week, Nesta Hinchcliffe, and she’d got these photographs, Monica and Sybil were both on those. I used to mind the children, to Kath and Joyce you see. I was always fully booked, really was. And then when I went to school the War was on then.
Q: Did many people go to Braintree to school?
Mrs G: Oh a lot, big school. (Q: From Witham?) They used to be from Witham, Dunmow and Wickham Bishops.
Q: Did you have to take an exam or anything?
Mrs G: Oh I won a scholarship you see but most of them paid. My brother was so pleased I won a scholarship. He was in the Army and he was out East and torpedoed and when he came home … He used to write to me every week.
And when he came home he took my mother and I to London and I forget where we stayed and he took me to the Trocadero to lunch every day and Swan and Edgars and fitted me all out with hockey boots and a stick. Because it cost quite a lot for clothes you see to go. I mean my mother wasn’t, they weren’t well off.
Q: So the scholarship paid for some of that did it?
Mrs G: You had to pay for all your own clothes (Q: I see.) I only got good marks for cooking and art. Oh I hated Latin.
Q: But you must have done well in other things to get the scholarship?
Mrs G: Yes, and the mistress at school was a Mrs Smith, a little redheaded person and she was spiteful. I used to get on with all the teachers, Miss Murrells taught me when I was in the infants, you’ve heard of the Murrells? Then of course my children went to her school when she had a private school.
Q: Mrs Smith, was at Witham or Braintree?
Mrs G: That was at Witham.
Q: You said she was spiteful, in what way?
Mrs G: This Mrs Smith was, not Miss Murrells, she was sweet, ever so nice.
Q: In what way did she show …?
Mrs G: I was all right when I played the hymns and sang you know, used to play for the singing as well at Witham, but of course when I went to Braintree, there the maths master used to take the singing and that’s the only time I got any praise was in the singing. When I was in, he used to teach me Latin and algebra and all that and he used to get so exasperated with me. But that really upset me and I can remember thinking ‘Well, if I say I don’t know, he won’t be able to get over that.’ And so one day he picked on me you see to answer something so I said ‘I don’t know’. He said ‘What do you mean you don’t know?’ I said ‘I mean I don’t know’. [laugh] So I had so many lines for that. Oh yes, right quick. But in singing oh I couldn’t do wrong, or playing you see. Then we had our lunches cooked at school you see and had them in the art room and then I always played for dancing and those that went home for lunch used to dash back before one and I used to play for an hour, all the dances there were, and the boys and girls used to dance.
Q: That was at Braintree?
Mrs G: That was at Braintree in the Assembly Hall. And I remember when I left the headmistress said, on my report she put ‘Has a wonderful fund of common sense, but won’t get on to the honours board.’ [laugh]. You know you see all these names go up. I did win the high jump but I couldn’t do anything now could I? [laugh]
Q: But you must have done quite well at school at Witham to get the scholarship?
Mrs G: Well, this Mrs Smith said ‘You, you’ll never win the scholarship, you haven’t a hope’. But there was a Miss Compton who lived with her mother at the end of the houses that are built opposite All Saints church, you know on that side of the road and she lived in the last one. She was ever so prim and proper, but she was a wonderful schoolmistress, wonderful to her mother and she used to have Faf Evitt, well me first, but after I’d won the scholarship she had Faf Evitt, in the evenings just to give me a little extra tuition. I mean they wouldn’t do that today free gratis would they? (Q: No.) My mother used to send her little things you know for her kindness.
Q: So she must have thought you had a good chance to do that. Did you enjoy school?
Mrs G: She always used to say ‘Aim for 2 Q’s quick and quiet’. Wouldn’t have anybody noisy. But we had to recite a passage of the Bible. I mean I can recite from memory you see now. When they pause in thought I can think ‘Oh yes I know that one’. You see I went to church every Sunday morning and didn’t go to Sunday School never. My brothers were in the choir and of course my sister was ever so musical but Faf Everett went to the Operatic.
Q: I wonder why you didn’t go to Sunday School?
Mrs G: I don’t think my mother believed in that. You know, you could be ready to go to church at eleven and you had to go too.
Q: Perhaps she thought it was too young for you?
Mrs G: She didn’t believe, there used to be the Band of Hope didn’t there, as well.
Q: Did your mother used to go to church as well then with your father?
Mrs G: Very rarely, you see when you’ve got a big family like that, there didn’t seem any time to do anything. I was allowed to stay up late and weed the garden or pick the stones off. If I didn’t like that, well you could always go to bed couldn’t you. And you didn’t ask twice. No never. I mean you had to take no as meaning no you see. And I used to have to read to her when she did the ironing and spell, if we came to a long word she would say ‘Now spell that.’. And if I spelled it wrong I got into trouble. I went to the Infants School which was up Church Street, little school down the road and an old Mr Quilter lived in the first cottage going further up who was a great man to grow apple trees from pips. That used to fascinate me and he used to throw us an apple down. [laugh] And the Luards, you’ve heard of them. They lived at Ivy Chimneys. There was Admiral Luard and he had three daughters. One was Gertie, one was Edith and then there was another one who was a Greycoat lady, they called her, you know, grey nurse in London somewhere. But he was something to do with the school because they used to drive to the school. I think he was not a governor, but …
Mrs G: I often say I could write a book but I don’t think I could..
Q: You didn’t tell me what your father did for work?
Mrs G: He was a guard on the railway and they lived at Brightlingsea when they first married and to get home to see my Granny, I never knew her you see, and my father’s mother died when I was six. Father and mother. They lived at Bradfield and they had a pony and trap and used to drive to Ipswich. But when they came home to see my mother’s parents they had to get on to one of those things with four wheels and a thing at the back and you worked it like this, to get to Colchester and then catch the proper train. Then they were moved to London to Stratford and it was there that my brother, Fred’s father, was born and he’s the least like a Cockney of any of us. He’s the only Cockney in the family but they didn’t live there long and they came back to Witham.
Q: Was he still working as a guard when you were a child? Did he have to go off at funny times of the day?
Mrs G: Yes, different duties you see, yes. And I used to have to, we left school at twelve the Church of England school and I had to be home, my mother said ten minutes is plenty to run home, pick up his lunch and take it to the quarter past twelve train and then go back again and then she always sent dinners to old ladies. She loved to, I love to give like that you know. And I’d go up to Church Street to this Chalk’s mother, because she lived all alone. They were all the same age these and Mrs Bowyer was the same age. And it was her that had six of those photographs done when my mother died, and gave, seven, and gave one to each of the children, because we hadn’t got it. It was funny wasn’t it?
Q: Mmmm. So you had to do all that at lunch time ?
Mrs G: And then I’d take her lunch but they kept the White Horse and I couldn’t bear the smell of that beer. I used to go in the back door. There again they used to have a relation who was a great pianist and I used to love to go and hear him play. And he would come round to us and play on ours. I was the one that the piano was bought for. It was a lovely piano but when my husband was ill, he’d got to have a bed downstairs and so I gave the piano to the Scouts. We hadn’t got room. We had to have two beds in here, I had one over here and he had one here, because he couldn’t be left. He was ill for ten years. And that was so sad when you think how quick he was. When he came home for lunch he only had half an hour. Well, it wouldn’t take any longer than that. There’d be two or three old boys horsemen and all that sitting on that stool out there waiting for him to come home. Would he do their Income tax and would he do this. And he’d sit there and he’d just go, ever so quick. They’d sit there waiting for him and give him/them a drink, a beer when they were waiting. But everybody thought the world of him which is wonderful isn’t it to leave a record like that. And Charles Strutt came to our wedding which my mother said that she couldn’t possibly have a big wedding. Well, she’d been through an awful lot, when you think of the War and all that you know, and so she said if you want a big wedding you’ll have to go and have it up in London. My sister went to London for hers. But I said I didn’t want to do that.
Q: Why would she have been able to have a big one in London?
Mrs G: Well, she wanted to invite a lot of people and my mother didn’t want to have a big … . She didn’t feel she could cope with it. Neither did father you see. Well, she was getting on you see, sixty or seventy I suppose, I don’t really know. She died when she was 76 and David was a year old I think then. I used to walk from here to Witham with him and I used to go and take her out in a wheel chair which my brother Robert bought for her and I had a maid live in who used to, I used to get the children ready and they’d go for a walk, because they were away by one. And then I would go to Witham and take her out in a wheel chair. Nearly every day I used to go. I can hear them now saying ‘Here she comes.’ and there’d be all the lunch things still on the table. I’d cope with that and then I had to dash back because my husband came home from London you see. The man in charge of the office at Terling was a Mr Isted. There were a lot of Isteds there and lots of tales about Lord Rayleigh etc. and that was why my husband wouldn’t go and live in one of their houses. Because he came home one night from London and said ‘What would you say if I worked in Hatfield Peverel?’ I said ‘I’ve never heard of such a thing. How on earth would you work here? You know, like that. And then he said that Charles Strutt and Ned Strutt, they were all directors up there you see, had said that Isted had died and they would like him to come and take charge, which he did. I mean he ran the whole thing, the dairy, started that big dairy and …
Q: He was still quite young then was he?
Mrs G: He wasn’t very old. I mean we married at 22, we moved here when, he went with the years didn’t he? He was born in 1900 yes. We bought this in ‘26 and we’d got Margaret and John you see and then we went to a brother’s funeral, a sister in law’s funeral at Southampton. He’d lost his wife and he’d got one little girl and when we were ready to come home, we went to the funeral, he said ‘You’ll have to take her home with you because I can’t be left with her, I can’t have her.’ And we came home with this child in the car. And do you know that so bothered me I had a day or two in bed afterwards. Like a nervous …. I was so worried you see. So mine were, they were three, four and five. Margaret was three and she hadn’t got a thing to …. He mother had taken to drink. And I had her for a year and half until Rubber, he was Secretary of the S[???] Rubber Company and the what was the East , whatever was it, East … London?. One was a rubber company and one was tea. And that was why he used to know all these boys over the road who were at the tea place. Anyway he came and I used to go and meet him off the train. One night Colonel Parsons was there and said he wanted to see what he was like and then he said, ‘Well I’ll take Goldie to the office, because there’s a board meeting on’, and when he saw me the next time he said ‘His brain is fantastic isn’t it. He’s got the answer before you’ve told him the last figure’. He was fantastic. Well he was top of the school when he was twelve you see and that wasn’t easy in those days. This was at Woodford.
Q: What was his first name?
Mrs G: My husband? William, William David. David was called after him you see. I don’t know who John was after, nobody. Of course Margaret was Kath’s middle name and as I say Kathleen and Joyce [Richards] used to, well, it was almost as if I was the family, they always came here when anything happened.
Q: You’d looked after them when they were small you said?
Mrs G: Yes, bathed them and put them to bed when the others went out. My mother used to say ‘I can’t understand you’. This was when I hadn’t got any children, I mean. My sister never offered to mind mine. No never [laugh].
Q: They were a busy family weren’t they? He was the one that was the builders you say, he?
Mrs G: Yes, Richards and I used to sit with Grandma Richards who was very prim and I used to go and bath his sister’s children. She had four children and she couldn’t cope with four so Grandma Richards said ‘You could go and bath those children couldn’t you’. So I used to go evenings and bath them and put them to bed. Because the father was the local rate/rent collector. He had an office in Collingwood Road. (Q: What was their name?’ Claydon Then he married again and I used to see one or two of them but not for a long long time. My sister lost touch with them too.
Q: They were related to the Richards family?
Mrs G: That was Charlie Richards sister.
Q: It get so involved doesn’t it?
Mrs G: Oh very. And he had another sister who died of consumption and she lived in a canvas shed, not a shed, a place with steps up to it and the back of their business in Church Street. She had to live right out in the field. And that’s why I’ve got a lot of photographs in that book if only I could trace it. I’ve seen it once, Kath brought it down and she, I wouldn’t argue with anybody, I like to be peaceful and she said, that laid there, and then that went upstairs agin, and I asked her for it she said ‘No that isn’t yours, Frances gave me that, Frances Richards who married Harry Richards when he was, and his daughter lives at Stourton [Powershall End]. She came up and spoke to me at the funeral. When I went to Kath’s funeral. I did go.
Q: I met Frances Hawkes was her name[?] (Mrs G: Yes.) I’ve spoken to her once or twice.
Mrs G: Have you, Yes, and her brother was out in Borneo on the Sappon[?] Estate and when he came home on leave he always used to come here and see my husband, because he used to order all the supplies for the chemistry, you know for the natives and all that. Oh we used to have a lot here. And they always came and then of course in the war time, at Easter, the kosher, milk, milk for the Jews, we used to have a man who had one of these little cap things on with whiskers who used to come on Friday, used to come for lunch and then he stayed I think down in the village somewhere. But he had to be up early and he used to have a car hired and he used to drive out and see all the milk that was going to be sent for Easter[?], kosher or whatever you call it, test it and see it done and seal it. It all had to be sealed. And this lasted Friday, Saturday sometimes he came but you see my husband would say ‘Come and have some lunch with us’.
Q: Good job you’re a good cook. [laugh]
Mrs G: Oh I know and times he’d ring me up half past twelve and say, I forget his name now, ‘Sir somebody is here for the meeting, can you manage lunch?’ And they’d come. So I had Kath’s [Richards] boyfriend who was with the Pinkhams. Because Bert Pinkham was godfather to him and his father was killed and I thought they’d marry I mean he used nearly live, he used to be here all the time.
Q: What was his name?
Mrs G: Nathan Parry. And then Kath would not. My sister didn’t want them to marry. Didn’t want her to marry. Wanted her to make a career. He left Witham. I suppose Bert Pinkham died, or Mrs Pinkham died first, yes, and then Bert Pinkham married again and that’s when he left and he had to go to Wales on war work. Because he’d broken his leg. He couldn’t get into the Army but he used to come for weekends. They both did and Gordon Wallage[?] used to direct, the musical director for the Operatic. He was a lovely pianist. Now I hear from him sometimes. He married Joyce and then he married Stella Wells after Joyce died of cancer. They moved, they came back from Manchester and, because they lived with my sister for years. Then he went in the Army and he was ever so like Montgomery and when he was out East they used to send him in a car sometimes, so everybody could report they had seen Montgomery. He was so like him with his beret and all that. But he kept in touch till he married Stella Wells. You’ve heard of Stella Wells? (Q: Don’t think so?) Lived at Rickstones on the way to Rivenhall and Stella and Eric used to come here a lot. She told us that Eric said ‘If ever we want anything done or want advice about anything, you ask Bill Goldsmith he’ll do what he can.’ And so he would. He didn’t want anything, he wouldn’t say, I yes that’s, never. No. And he wanted to live in his own house so that if he wanted to say to anybody ‘Out.’ he could. He was very quick tempered like that. Because we had a man here I remember trying to persuade him to give him a contract for something or other and I was in here but I went out there and this man was just about to go and he said ‘I’ll send you a case of whisky if you put that contract through’. And he opened the door and said ‘Look, this is the way out’ Just like that. Angry as anything, with me, to me to think anybody would think he would do a thing like that. He wouldn’t. And he had to cope with some pretty rough lots. He did secret work during the War and I had somebody here since to know would I disclose. I said ‘No’. If I wanted to I couldn’t because I didn’t know. He wouldn’t tell me, but he left here quarter past ten so many times a week and he met the mail train and he met Admiralty and Army and all that head ones and then I didn’t know any more until he came home.
Q: Was this in the morning or at night?
Mrs G: The last War.
Q: When you say he left at quarter past ten …?
Mrs G: At night and then went to some secret destination. I don’t know where, I never knew. Oh I wouldn’t want to know. I always say if anybody says ‘Well I’m not really, I really shouldn’t tell you’ I say ‘Well don’t tell me because I don’t want to know’. Oh no, I didn’t but somebody’s wormed that out, somebody at Terling and said, press[?] would I disclose and they’d asked him and he said ‘No I haven’t got anything to tell you’.
No he wouldn’t. But we were ever so happy here. I mean he loved his garden and we had a tennis court and then it got to badminton. Did you know the Millidges, Pauline Millidge (Q: Yes I know who you mean, yes.) Because she lived in Witham in Bridge Street. Her husband used to go on the train with my husband you see and they used to come a lot. Because Josie Millidge was one of twelve girls (Q: Oh dear.) and it was one of those that my brother who taught me to drive took me three times and said ‘There you are, what you don’t know now, you’ll have to learn yourself’. Wouldn’t take me any more and all I went was up the Braintree Road to Notley, cross the railway bridge and that was the first thing I did alone. I took my sister with me. She wasn’t a bit nervous. Not a bit. I was sort of terrified really. There wasn’t the traffic was there and when I got to the Victoria at Witham I had to stop because there was sheep or something coming out and I stopped and then we started off again and I could not get up the hill up the church. I could not make that car go. Couldn’t understand it. I said I didn’t know what had gone wrong with it. Of course I’d got the handbrake on hadn’t I. But that’s how you learn.
Q: Did you have to take a test in those days?
Mrs G: No, but I think I would have passed the test. Then my husband drove you see. I can remember him saying ‘You can drive’. You drive to Woodford and I used to take him to see his people there you see. But I hated it, you know the long journey. But when he was ill, because we used to drive to Scotland you see and stay overnight, oh dear, before you get to Carlisle, whatever was the name of it, Scotch Corner, always stayed there, and then the Playles. Did you know the Playles, you didn’t know Alfred[?] Playle? (Q: No.) Because the house is pulled down now, but they were electrical, freezers and all that you know. They came to live at Witham. Well the road is built through now, past Cullens, you know, not past Cullens, I forget what they call it. Temple Road was it?
Q: Was the house Temples? [8 Chipping Hill]
Mrs G: Yes, that’s right, and that’s where the Rev Eyre lived who, during the War when I was so ill with flu, he used to come quite a lot, because he used to do services and all that and he married us. But he lived at Totham. When War ended, the first War, there was this terrible flu epidemic, no end of Witham people died. And I had it. And how my mother did that up three flights of stairs and got people billeted in those days. Because we had Richard Crittall for a long time.
Q: I haven’t heard of Richard Crittall.
Mrs G: No, he married a Chelmsford girl. He died young, but Dan Crittall was the one with the engines and all that and he was billeted with my aunt at Ipswich when he was learning all that at some, might have been another firm. I don’t know.
Q: So when you were ill …?
Mrs G: I was so ill they didn’t think I’d live. I’d have been about sixteen, not as old as that would I?
Q: Do you remember anything about the doctors then? Did the doctor come to see you?
Mrs G: Oh Doctor Ted used to come, yes, and he used to make you feel better by coming. But I was so light-headed, I didn’t have anything to eat or drink for a fortnight and I went like a stick, when I got up. I must have been sixteen because the boys came up to see if I’d go up for tennis.
Q: I see, that was tennis at Blunts Hall was it?
Mrs G: Yes, and this parson, the Reverend Eyre, lived there with two sisters. Oh yes, that’s another episode. One of his, they lived at Totham, now where did Miss Maxwell come in? Oh her sister was Lady Balcombe, you know, at Braxted Park and she started up a doll factory where de Trense used to live in, I don’t know what it is now, not a dentist, next to Cooper-Cocks [Medina Villas, 80-84 Newland Street]. There’s two villas there, on one side and she hired the basement and we made doll’s heads there and I went, I was invited to go and we made doll’s heads. She mixed the stuff. You never knew what it was. And we had these moulds and we had to press it all in, roll it out ever so thin and then press it all in. And you’d make the face you see and then Miss Maxwell and, who else helped her, somebody else, and they put the heads together. They had a village thing going because they carved, the men in the village carved the wooden ones, you know. And she sold them to Liberty’s. They were beautiful dolls.
Q: How old were you then?
Mrs G: At school. I was at school. (Q: You went to help?) I went to help. Yes. I don’t know whether I went, can’t remember. But Miss Maxwell’s brother was the Bishop of, not York, Worcester, I think so. And Charles Strutt had an old aunt who used to come to stay. Her name was Miss, whatever was it, wasn’t Miss Hall, but she was an aunt to Eva Hall, who married Charles Strutt as his first wife. He didn’t marry till he was seventy and then my husband arranged, they went to Borneo for their honeymoon, and my husband arranged it all, but this poor old Miss (whatever was her name?) she stayed a lot with the Strutts. I used to go and stay when they moved to Cornwall. My husband as well and the children and this old lady would have her cocktail every night at eight o’clock, which was a tot of brandy filled up with hot water, a teaspoonful of honey and a teaspoonful of ginger. Stir that up and drink it. And she was a quaint old thing. She used to walk along the drive. That would be after the War wouldn’t it? Must have been. And they used to call her Moses. Always called her Moses. And she used to walk and she’d always pick up stones and she’d pick them up, she’d got her stones laid near one gate post and she’d walk and she’d put one stone you see, and come back, pick up another. When she’d done that four times then she’d bring those stones back again and that was a mile. To make sure she’d done her exercise. But she went to stay at Worcester with this Bishop who was Miss Maxwell’s brother and the verger said to him ‘We have got a funny old lady’, he said, ‘she picks up stones and then she puts them …’ But she was a dear old thing.
Q: So you knew the Strutts quite well before you met your husband?
Mrs G: Oh yes, but I hadn’t been up long when they were down for a weekend. They always used to go to Goldhanger to Dr Salter. Have you heard of him? (Q: Mmm.) He was a character. because he brought out the D’Arcy spice apple. (Q: I see.)
And they used to drive by trap, Whit Mondays. They always went to D’Arcy show, to Doctor Salter and then I’d see them when they came back, to see if they were in time for a game. But I always had to be home. I can remember I was five minutes late one night and my mother said ‘Don’t expect to go tomorrow, will you’. And that was that.
Q: You managed to have quite a good time though didn’t you?
Mrs G: Oh, I did, I enjoyed it, yes.
Q: People speak about people like Mr Strutt as ones who didn’t, who mixed with their family more rather than with the ordinary people of Witham, but you got to know them quite well?
Mrs G: I got to know them ever so well, yes, and he came to see how I was when I was ill. It was through these older people, like Douglas Bowyer and that. I wouldn’t have been short of boyfriends if you know what I mean, because the Gardners were auctioneers at Witham, lived where Dorothy Sayers lived and there was an old Captain Abrey lived there [22-26 Newland Street]. He was a case.
Q: Was he? In what way?
Mrs G: He always used to call me Miss Gaymer, you know. And then if I was walking he would walk where | was going to shop. I was going back to the Bowyers, who kept the White Horse. I used to do her shopping and she was ever such a particular and I used to have two ginger biscuits. She had to go to the bar to get them out of the jar, there was a glass jar. I never went in the bar. I sat in this room which was so dark I couldn’t bear it. All dark red curtains and dark everything. At any rate I used to do her shopping and there was Spurges’ was a noted grocery and draper. [42 Newland Street] Used to have chairs inside where you could sit you know, and so she wanted a Madeira cake from Spurges’ would I mind running back to get it. This was in my lunch hour. People didn’t mind that. Well, I suppose I didn’t make a trouble of it. And I went. And when I got back she opened it to look at and see that it was quite all right and she said ‘You’re a naughty girl.’ I said ‘Why, what have I done’, I thought I’d broken it or something. So she said ‘You’ve eaten the peel off the top’. You know they used to put a piece of peel like that, which was citron peel. Have you ever seen that? The old fashioned, pieces like that. (Q: Really?) So I said ‘I haven’t, I haven’t undone it, that’s just as Mr Murrells gave it to me’. Father Murrells was the head grocer you see. He’d got boys under him or that. And so she said ‘Well if you haven’t eaten it you won’t mind taking that back and telling them, will you’. So back I go and I can see him now, looking over his glasses at me like that, because they all used to look over, there weren’t bifocals in those days, and he took it and he looked at it and then he went to his glass case with all these cakes in, Huntley and Palmers and everything and there was the peel lying in the case you see. It had been knocked off or dropped off. So he gave me a fresh one and back I went again and so she said ‘Oh well I’m glad you didn’t eat it, I was concerned!’ So I had my ginger biscuits, two ginger biscuits and home I came. And when I got home did I get into trouble for being late as well [laugh].
Q: You spent a great deal of time helping people?
Mrs G: Yes, and was brought up like that.
Q: And when you left school as well? (Mrs G: Yes.) Would you like to have got a job at all?
Mrs G: Well I was always so busy, I don’t know. I wanted to do cooking but my mother said ‘No, you’ve had enough money spent on you. You’ve got to do something’. (Q: I see.) I would like to have gone to train.
Q: So you stayed at home and helped.
Mrs G: Yes, but not for long. I left school at sixteen and then the War finished you see and that was that. Used to know all the Glovers, they were bicycle people. Oh, I knew everybody who lived in Witham in those days, or nearly. Another old lady I used to take meals to, she’d got lovely treasures because she’d got an old uncle who used to come and stay with her mother. He was like a talisman, I think, because I bought my husband a gold watch off him. After we were married and he used to come on the train, with a walking stick, hefty man. But I went to her and she persuaded me to stay. ‘I thought you’d like to see my treasures in this cupboard’. And I can remember her getting out a marble thing of the boy having the thorn pulled out, or was it out of the lion’s foot, it was something. And she’d got all these candlesticks that hung with glass and you could play a tune if you rattled them. Of course I loved old things, always did. And when I got home my mother was furious but I can see it now, she was frightened. She guarded me, she was so afraid of something happening to me and so I was sent right to bed, jug of water and a piece of bread. And then my elder brother came home for the afternoon. He was a JP. He lived at Leigh on, no not Leigh, Prittlewell and he came home you see and asked where I was. And so she said been sent to bed. He persuaded her that she couldn’t, so he came up and saw me and to fetch me down. You know you mustn’t do that again don’t you.
Q: So how much younger, you were the youngest one, who was the next one?
Mrs G: Frank. Frank was eight when I was born and then Bob was twelve and he was the first one after my father was burnt. There was a big gap between my sister, Edie [Gaymer, married name Richards], Kath’s mother, she was older than Robert, yes. (Q: Then above here there was two more was that right.) There were two brothers, Bert and because my mother had Arthur and she didn’t have any more for three years, thought she wasn’t going to have any more and then she had Bert I think. Then she had my sister Jessie and she married young and she lived at Ipswich. And I used to go on the train all alone at seven, when I was seven, with the order for Sainsbury’s which was the nearest one there was, at Ipswich. There wasn’t one at Chelmsford or Colchester. They gradually came afterwards and then I used to go there.
Q: Why did you go to Ipswich?
Mrs G: Well, my mother liked Sainsbury’s things. And I used to go with the order and the Sainsbury’s manager, with an apron, a great big man with an apron, absolutely spotless. He had his office at the end and I used to have to go and take that and leave it, and then he would do up the order, and that would be done in a brown paper parcel with string and a little, I don’t know what it was made of, a little handle which looped round the skin[?] and made a handle, and that would be at Ipswich station at the luggage office waiting for me pick to up. And then I’d catch the quarter to five, I got to Witham at quarter to five home you see. (Q: What did you do while you were waiting?) I went to see my sister. I had a penny bus up the town, but I mean I was only seven then.
And then one night I was on the train with Bert Bridge, have you heard of him. (Q: No.) Oh they were a real Witham, and the Evers were another family. There was Harry Evers and Andrew Evers. Andrew Evers made me, turned me a bread board, I’ve still got it, when I married, I’ve still got it. And Harry Evers lived near my sister and his wife used to teach the piano. She was a Bridge and Bert Bridge was her brother. And they had Joan Evers and Ben Evers and my husband had Ben Evers as a office boy, took him to London. He worked in the office and when rubber was six shillings a pound, you see, because he used to go out to the rubber plantations, and he used to go to Holland to the tobacco sales but when he … What was I saying, forgotten, lost my …
Q: Originally you were talking about coming home on the train and they were with you.
Mrs G: And Harry Evers was ever so particular and Ben Evers would come and do odd jobs, like run an errand, before he went to London I’m talking about and I gave him sixpence I think once. His father made him bring it back. (Q: Really?) ‘You don’t do things for people for what you get’. That was the theme. So then I gave him an orange and he made him bring that back. (Q: Good lord.) You couldn’t do anything about it. But then my husband helped him a lot after that. You know took him to London. And he had a big staff and he gradually lost, like that, they all had to leave. Rubber went to one penny a pound. And we had just moved here and just got settled in and he lost half his job. The whole company folded up. He said ;We won’t be able to stay here, we’ll have to leave’ and I went … You won’t know where Thirroul is now, cause it’ pulled down, its all houses. That was one big house before where Kath lives (Q: In Avenue Road, on the corner?) Yes. That was the last one before you got to the seed place. (Q: I know.) And my brother bought it for four hundred pounds and oh, had a lot of bits and paintings and all that from the man who lived there. Then he sold it you see then Esmond Smith bought it, who was one of the Smiths, the builders and then it gradually changed hands you see and then it was pulled down.
Q: You were saying when the business was in trouble ?
Mrs G: Yes, and the sale, that’s what I was going to say. I want reminding. I went with my brother to the sale and he bought a lot of hula skirts [laugh] which my children have had, but I bought six hens. And that’s all I bought. I came home with these in a box and I think I paid five shillings each for them and when my husband came home from London he said ‘Whatever have you bought those for’. So I said ‘Oh you’ll be surprised what I shall do with those’. And he’d already bought a smallholding at Doddinghurst for his father to retire to and he kept chickens and pigs and all that. Eight acres of land. If we’d have hung on to that now, you can’t put a pin for houses on that. What that would have made.
So I had eggs and I had them under here in boxes with a big old screen I’d got and set them all and I gradually got them up to three hundred. A lot of work but I enjoyed it. And that used to help us a lot the eggs and the chickens and we held on you see, and then one of Charles Strutt’s companies, South Australian, the man died in that, got old and died and they were going to fold it up and so he gave the job to my husband to wind it up. That was a lot of work for about two years but that helped a lot with salaries but that suddenly dropped. But he got down to just Ben Evers and himself in the office in London when that slump came. He was ever so worried about that. I don’t know what he’d think of the world today, I honestly don’t.
Q: How long is it since he died?
Mrs G: ’76. And he was ill ten years. He had to retire because he wasn’t you know, but they still came here after he retired. They used to come, morning noon and night for advice. Nigel [Strutt?] said ‘I can’t understand it’ he said ‘If I wanted to know anything I’d only got to ask Goldie and I’d have it in less than an hour, the answer, he said’. And now they’re all computerised, I have to wait a month for it’! He used to come every Good Friday to tea. Invite himself, could he come, he’d ring up and ask. They always used to ring up and say could they come so they must have heard that he was fussy. Well, when he first joined them he used to go all round the farms, all over the place and he would come home and he’d say ‘I think that’s the limit. They go, they tap on the door and walk in, and sit down and join them for lunch, if there is anything going. ‘And he thought was terrible to have to do that’.
Q: With the tenants?
Mrs G: With the farm managers you see. The man who comes here to garden, he can tell you a lot, about Terling, but of course, and that, he’s wonderful. Because I said to him, ‘There’s a little shop opened up round the corner here. Grays farm, do you know that?’ So he said ‘Oh yes, that’s where he used to go for walnuts’.