Mrs Annie Clarke (nee Oakley), was born in 1904. She was interviewed on 30 October 1991, when she lived at 96 Maldon Road, Witham. Mrs Peggy Smith (nee Wood) was also present; her grandmother brought Mrs Clarke up.
For more about her, see Bentley, Wood and Clarke 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: Were you born in Trafalgar Square, no you weren’t but you lived in Trafalgar Square?
Mrs C: I was brought up down there (Q: Yes.) Yes, I was brought up down there. I was born in Colchester. (Q: I see.) because it’s on my birth certificate.
Q: So when did you come to Witham, do you know?
Mrs C: No, I couldn’t tell you that, because I was a baby, a baby like. I know I was brought up with a relation.
Q: What when you were small?
Mrs C: Yes, brought up till I was married.
Q: Who was that then?
Mrs C: Mrs Wager, her name was. She used to go out maternity nursing.
Q: And that was Peg’s?
Mrs C: Peggy’s grandmother.
Q: So was there a Mr Wager? (Mrs C: Yes.) What were their first names, do you remember?
Mrs C: Her first name was Smith.
Q: I see, before she married. Then what was her Christian name? (Mrs C: Agnes.) and what about his Christian name. …
Mrs C: William. As far as I know of.
Q: So their daughter, Peg’s mother, was …
Mrs C: My sister. We were relation, but we were brought up as sisters and I was always brought up to call me Aunt and their children call me Aunt.
Q: Were their other sisters and brothers your age?
Mrs C: I couldn’t tell you, nothing at all.
Q: Did Peg’s mum have any brothers and sisters?
Mrs C: Oh yes, there was a family of them.
Q: Quite a lot then?
Mrs C: Well there was one, two, three, four, about five or six of them.
Q: So when you went there were Peggy and them already born?
Mrs C: No, I went there as a ch (Q: As a child) I helped bring all them up.
Q: So did everybody live there together? Your Mum, Peg’s grandma, and her mother and you and Peggy were all in the same house were they? In Trafalgar Square?
Mrs C: Well I always called their Granny Mother. I was brought up down there (Q: So you all lived together?) And they were brought up, her children were all brought up. Peggy’s family were all brought up down the Square, all born down there.
Q: Can you remember what it was like?
Mrs C: Yes I can picture it now. Its only since the War time they’ve been condemned.
Q: Did you enjoy it there?
Mrs C: I was happy enough, everybody was happy down there.
Q: Did you go out to work?
Mrs C: Oh yes, I went to work when I was old enough. I had to, to pay for being brought up.
Q: Right. What did you do first of all then for work?
Mrs C: Well, I went out charring, you know. Then I went up Hoffmans till the …
Q: At Crittall’s.(Mrs C: Yes.) I don’t know whether this, (Mrs C: The lead glazing). I found this, it’s a bit of a muddle, but it’s a map of the factory. I thought you might enjoy seeing that. It’s a bit odd because but there’s the road, you see, and Maltings Lane, but it’s a bit of a muddle as I say. Mrs C: That would be the factory wouldn’t it? [Building plan for conversion of maltings in Maltings Lane to lead glazing for Crittall’s, in about 1925, ERO Accession A7280, plan number 369]
Q: There’s a bit on the front here which it says glazing shop.
Mrs S: That’s where they done the windows. There’s the road. Now whereabouts off the road was your shop. The place where you worked in?
Mrs C: That’s right beside the road …
Q: Would you be in what they called the glazing shop?
Mrs S: Would you be in the glazing shop.
Mrs C: Yes, I was.
Mrs S: That’s here, right up to the road there.
Q: Well that’s this great big one then. (Mrs C: Yes.) it’s a big place then. Were there lots of you in there?
Mrs C: Oh, I couldn’t say.
Q: There was a big crowd of you though? Were they all women?
Mrs C: Oh yes, you had to be eighteen.
Mrs S:: How many of you was there worked in there?
Mrs C: Well upstairs was where was the glazing. About nine or ten of us and there was the other two what used to cut the glass and that up there.
Mrs S:: Women or men? (Mrs C: Women. Cut the glass?
Mrs C: Yes, all women up there, the only men what was there was them what was with the engine.
Q: Because this says engine house at the back there, behind that. (Mrs C: The glazing.) Upstairs it was was it?
Mrs C: Upstairs yes. There’re the stairs. I was upstairs there about between two and three years I think. I know when I got married I worked up there, because you had to come away, you weren’t allowed to work up there after you married.
Q: How old were you when you got married then?
Mrs C: Twenty-three, it was 1904 when I was born.
Q: I see, were there more people working downstairs?
Mrs C: Yes, they were the ones what put ‘em together. However many was there downstairs. About the same I think.
Q: They were women as well?
Mrs C: Yes, weren’t no men, only women.
Q: To start with they’d have big sheets of glass did they and then somebody would cut them up?
Mrs C: Yes, that’s right, they were upstairs (Q: Yes.) They used to cut the glass according to the frame and then we used to put the glass in and do ‘em.
Q: When you say ‘do them’ what did you have to do? Did you have to put the frames on did you?
Mrs C: Well, we had a frame, you know to fix them of course and we had the electric iron
Q: Oh did you, yes, what was that like? A sort of long thin, like a sort of welding thing? (Mrs C: Yes.) So did you do that all the way round, or just in between?
Mrs C: No, but between the panes like.
Q: I see the frame would have lots of panes in it like that would it?
Mrs C: I don’t know how many it was? (Q: But a big one?)
Mrs S: You know those diamond shaped ones in the old fashioned houses.
Mrs C: Yes, they was small and large (Q: Different sizes?) Yes.
Q: So the actual panes, were they these diamond shaped things, like that?
Mrs C: No, we just put the plain glass in. We never done the, well I never done anything fancy anyway. What they done after I left I don’t know.
Q: So, the pieces that you put in, how big were they?
Mrs C: Oh I couldn’t tell you, some of them of them were small and some large and some of them were as long as that. I used to like being up there. I was happy up there.
Q: I expect it was good fun. Did you have to work hard though?
Mrs C: Well, of course you had to keep on the go, like you do in other factories like. But they had two women there and there were very nice, oh they were nice to us.
Q: What, they were in charge of you were they?
Mrs C: Yes, in the War. Miss Straight[?] and Miss Atkins[?], they come from Chelmsford. And they were really nice. And I was happy up there anyway.
Q: So did you work long hours then?
Mrs C: Eight till five.
Q: What did you do at dinner time?
Mrs C: Well we used to have our dinners in there. Some of us used to take cards and play whist, you know, to pass the time away. Oh yes that was very nice up there we used to have a sing-song while we were working.
Q: They wouldn’t have that everywhere would they? I remember somebody telling me when she worked somewhere else that she got the sack for singing!
Mrs C: Well we did, of course we never shouted or anything, just used to sing amongst ourselves. And I had a little dog, a dear little old thing, and used to bring it up and that got out and we couldn’t find her and we kept on saying that we wondered what become of Sally, cause that was her name. [laugh] Yes very very nice they were. I enjoyed being up there.
Q: Was the lead a nuisance? Because nowadays they make a lot of fuss about lead and say lead isn’t good for you.
Mrs C: When we first went up there we had to gargle, we had to gargle our throat every day.
Q: Really, in the factory?
Mrs C: When we first went up but they knocked that off.
Q: Was that before you started or afterwards …?
Mrs C: At night. Night time. Yes that was a nice old place up there. What happened after I left I don’t know.
Q: So what, for this gargling, you all went off together did you to do that? (Mrs C: Yes.) it sounds strange. Did you think that was strange?
Mrs C: No, never felt a bit uncomfortable. When I started there weren’t about six up there.. But you had to be eighteen, couldn’t go in there under eighteen.
Q: Because it looks like, it’s up here at the back is the things like the washrooms and the toilets and things, is that right? (Mrs C: Yes we had our toilets and the washbasins.) So when you did your gargling did you go there for that?
Mrs C: Oh we went down into the, into there, you know.
Q: It says foundry here, this end bit. Did they make the frames there as well or something do you think?
Mrs C: We just put them in the frames, the glass.
Q: Yes, the frames, when you got the frames, they were already made up into frames were they?
Mrs C: No, used to have them cut, because there used to be small ones and large ones you see?
Q: What, the lead or the glass?
Mrs C: The lead,(Q: I see.) And the girls and they had two girls to cut the glass
Q: But the lead itself. But did somebody have to cut the lead ?
Mrs C: Oh yes, the lengths were already cut the length they wanted the windows, oh yes. So we never had to measure them, they measured them. (Q: I see.) We just used to get the glass and get the frames and get on with it.
Q: So the frames might be …?
Mrs C: They were lead frames
Q: And they used to be divided up into separate bits? (Mrs C: Mmm.) So like if that was the lead one? You’d have say three …
Mrs C: Cause we had the square ones. They were square you see, not like them, all in squares you see.
Q: Did the frames come from somewhere else do you think?
Mrs C: No, they cut the frames.
Q: They cut the frames there as well. Did the women do that as well?
Mrs C: Yes, I think so. Because we had two men down there for the machine you see?
Q: Which machine was that?
Mrs C: Well, they had an electric.
Q: To keep the electricity going? (Mrs C: Yes.) So you don’t really know what this foundry thing is. Perhaps that was different. As I say there’s something called a foundry up here, I wondered what that was because that usually means where the metal parts[?]. I wondered if they were making the frames there or anything? But you wouldn’t be involved in that.
Mrs C: That was the office.
Q: This thing called the foundry, did you go into (that was there) Who would be in the office then? I’m still on this map. It’s very interesting.
Mrs C: That’s the shop. That’s the glazing. (Q: Yes.)
Mrs S: Where is the office?
Q: We’ve got the office, there.
Mrs S: Who was in there then?
Mrs C: The two women, they come from Chelmsford, Miss Straight[?] and Miss Atkins [?], they lived in Chelmsford. They were in the War.
Mrs S: What the 1914? (Mrs C: No.) Must have been.
Mrs C: That’s right I was thinking that was.
Mrs S?: You were married in …?
Mrs C: Course, when you got married you weren’t allowed up there. No. When you got married you had to leave.
Q: Am I in your way? [to Mrs S}
Mrs S: No I’ve got plenty of jobs I can do. They thought you’d get up to nookie didn’t they, that’s why they moved you. [laugh]
Q: Would you have liked to stay there?
Mrs C: I’d have stayed if they didn’t of course, they transferred them from there up to the big factory. (Q: I see.) They closed that down. So whether the window frames were all sold or not I don’t know because once I left you see I didn’t know nothing.
Q: Did you ever see any of the Crittal’s, Mr Crittall or anybody?
Mrs C: Oh they used to come up sometimes? (Q: Did they?) Yes.
Q: What was he like?
Mrs C: Well, they never said nothing. That tells you there where the women. That’s the cloak room, that’s the engine.
Q: Do you reckon this is more or less right. It says stables there? Did they have a horse? [laugh]
Mrs C: Not as I know of.
Q: Maybe it was there when they first did it. They could have used it for anything.
Mrs S:: Did they have a stable to take the bits of glass down to a dump though?
Mrs C: I think they [???]
Q: Now what does that say? Maybe that was a stable beforehand because this was to convert it you see. This was what was the old malting wasn’t it.
Mrs C: That was the old maltings. That says here the farm doesn’t it?
Q: That’s right. Because here look it says garage for lorries. Because there’s a house over here, wasn’t there. There’s a house next to it. Was that anything to do with it?
Mrs C: I think that was the offices. I think they did. [???] That is the factory. That’s down there and I was up that end. No that was the office I think, up there. Now along there I was right near the office.
Q: So you were right up this end. You stayed in the same place did you?
Mrs C: Oh yes, you had our own table. Oh yes.
Q: I see. They must have been pretty big tables were they?
Mrs C: Well, yes they had to be because of the windows you see.
Q: Then you did this welding or whatever.
Mrs C: Yes, welded them together and got the thing in.
Q: Did you have to go all the way round with the electric or was just at certain places?
Mrs C: We had to fill in, fill the glass in with cement [???] well they called it cement. Oh yes, you had to do all that. and then they went downstairs to be if there was any left on the edge [???] (Q: Trimmed off?) Yes..
Q: So what did you do with the electric cutter?
Mrs C: Of course they were the lead and you had to get it straight, if not they’d come back.
Q: Really, because it is quite bendy the lead isn’t it? (Mrs C: Yes.) So what did you do with this electric thing you had?
Mrs C: Well we put the cement in with it. We had to use that you see.
Q: So how did the cement come? Was that?
Mrs C: From downstairs. We had it come upstairs to be moulded in like, at the corners.
Q: So the cement was already in?
Mrs C: Yes, and then that come up to be done properly[?] (Q: So you’d just get a frame, with the cement.) Yes, we used to put them together and then they used to go downstairs to be done.
Q: I see, it was quite complicated then wasn’t it.
Mrs C: That was a happy little factory, everybody was happy there and they were very nice women to work for.
Q: That’s good, you don’t always hear that do you.?
Mrs C: We were always happy there.
Q: Was there anybody else in charge of the two ladies?
Mrs C: Oh yes, there was upstairs you see. There were several of us upstairs doing it. And then there were the ones downstairs.
Q: Did anyone come and tell them what to do? You know you said there was the two in the office? Was there a manager or anybody above them?
Mrs C: Oh yes, offices was upstairs. Oh yes, we had the charge hands over us.
Q: I see, what did they have to do?
Mrs C: Well they was had to do the office work didn’t they, they were in the office, and come round and see if they’d done it all properly.
Q: Did you get on all right with them?
Mrs C: Yes, well they were really two nice people.
Q: So Miss Atkins, she was the chargehand was she?
Mrs C: Yes and Miss Straight, they was the two head ones.
Q: Was there anybody else above them? To tell them what to do?
Mrs C: Not down there there weren’t.
Q: So they were completely in charge were they?
Mrs C: Yes they were in charge.
Q: It’s nice that you enjoyed it so much then.
Mrs C: Well I did enjoyed it being there. I’d have gone back again if we could have gone back after we were married but of course they never had married people up there.
Q: No, that’s a shame isn’t it. Because it wasn’t there for long so no-one, not many people remember about it, so its nice that you can tell me all about it.
Mrs C: .I mean, of course there weren’t many, from that time of day, I mean there’s a lot of died.
Q: Did you take a little while to learn what to do? (Mrs C: No.) When you say they had to go downstairs to be finished how did they get downstairs? Did someone carry them or …?
Mrs C: They took ‘em down
Q: Did you have any other jobs that you didn’t like?
Mrs C: There weren’t many jobs to do really. Just putting them together and glazing them. (Q: Yes.)
Q: But before you came here, I remember you telling me you worked at the White Hart for instance? Did you work at the White Hart.
Mrs C: Oh yes, before I went there.
Q: How did you get on there then?
Mrs C: Oh I didn’t, I was in the kitchen. (Q: Yes.) I went there as a chambermaid and I didn’t like that and I went down in the kitchen. I was happy with the cooking. Quite happy down there.
Q: Are you good at cooking then?
Mrs C: Well, I can cook, I don’t say I can do fancy cooking cause I can’t.
Q: What sort of people came to stay there?
Mrs C: All sorts That was before I went up Crittall’s (Q: Long time ago then?) First job I ever had. Used to sleep up there, didn’t like it.
Q: Why not? Why didn’t you like it?
Mrs C: Well they put on too much.
Q: Because you were pretty young then?
Mrs C: Yes, then I left. That was on a Saturday, I remember that, cause I weren’t about sixteen, and I used to do the cooking up there then and there weren’t nobody in[?] oh she was mad over that and started, and I, I answered her back. That didn’t suit. So she said ‘If you answer me back’, she said, ‘you can go’. I said ‘I’ll go now’. I left. I never left that day but I left at the end of the week. I went home and I said, of course I always called her mother. I went and told her, she said ‘You come home’.
Q: Were you a bit like that?
Mrs C: I was the longest one ever stopped up there. I stopped up there. I stopped up there over two years. And they said I ought to have had a bloody medal. The men did, that used to go in the bar. I used to have to clean the baths[?] of a morning, cause that was a pub that, well it is now but it’s altered, and used to have to go in and cook the breakfasts and that besides me other work. I worked hard up there. They said I ought to have had a bloody medal. The men did, for stopping so long.
Q: You were cooking as well as cleaning? Cleaning at the same time as you were cooking (Mrs C: Mmm.) That is a lot to do. You must have been quite young then. If that was your first job?
Mrs C: Sixteen when I went there I think.
Q; Were you a hard worker then?
Mrs C: I have been in my time. But I’m sorry to say I can’t do nothing now.
Q: You’ve done your bit haven’t you.
Mrs C: Well, right up till I was eighty really I was doing everything. Washing and everything, you know. Going up the town. I can’t go up the town, I can’t walk far.
Q: That’s a pity isn’t it?
Mrs C: But still I’ve had happy days. Mustn’t grumble at me life really.
Q: What else did you enjoy apart from the factory?
Mrs C: Oh we used to go out in the fields. I worked on the land all during the War. [Second]
Q: Really? Where was that then?
Mrs C: Mr Wheaton, up when he had the farm.
Q: Did you enjoy that then?
Mrs C: Yes, well, I had to go and do something.
Q: What sort of jobs did you do there?
Mrs C: All sorts, on the land, hoeing and one thing and the other. I used to be happy.
Q: What was Mr Wheaton like was he …?
Mrs C: Oh Mr Wheaton was very good. He was. He used to have a laugh, you know, a laugh and a joke and she was a very nice person. Oh yes, I’ve enjoyed me life at work anyway.
Q: Not everyone can say that can that?
Mrs C: Well there you are, its up to you.
Q: How did you get that job then, do you remember?
Mrs C: Well we used to pea pick for them and that. Of course and then when the War come on I had to do something and I went up and asked him if he could give me a job on the land because I didn’t want to go in a factory. He said yes, come, start when you like.
Q: When did you give that up then?
Mrs C: When the War was over.
Q: How did you feel about that?
Mrs C: Well, I’d got fed up with it, you know.
Q: So you weren’t that bothered about stopping? You weren’t too bothered about having to stop?
Mrs C: No, I went out daily at work.
Q: Where were you living then?
Mrs C: Up Lockram Lane. They pulled the houses down where the market is. (Q: Really?) I lived up there then during the War time.
Q: There were three little houses weren’t there? Was it one of them?
Mrs C: Yes. I was up there oh [???]. Then we had to come away you see and I come down here. [Vacuuming noise]
Q: When you got married?
Mrs C: I lived at Silver End for a little while, not for long.
Q: What did your husband use to do for a living?
Mrs C: He used to work at Crittall’s till he got stood off and he got one or two odd jobs and then he got a regular job on the railway.
Q: What did he do on the railway?
Mrs C: Oh platelaying.
Q: He stayed on the railway the rest of his time did he?
Mrs C: He only came away from that early because he wasn’t well. He died when he was 66. (Q: Oh really.) Oh really? Oh yes I’ve had some happy times at work.
Q: Was he ill a lot then your husband?
Mrs C: Well he was at the end – ulcers! (Q: Right.)
Q: Where did you meet him? How did you meet him?
Mrs C: Oh he used to come over to Witham and [???] [hoover going in background!!!]
Q: So, before you got married what did you do in your spare time? Before you were married, when you were, did you go out in the evenings much or anything to meet people?
Mrs C: No, I used to stop at home and help with the work. Granny used to go out nursing you see, well she had to give that up because she was ill. She used to go out maternity nursing, done that for a good many years. And of course, then I had to stay at home. I never used to bother much. Never was a one to keep going out.
Q: I was just wondering how you met your husband then if you didn’t go out much?
Mrs C: Well I just see him. I[?] used to work hard.
Q: Did you go out with your Granny when she went out?
Mrs C: Oh yes I went out with her.
Q: Do you remember anything about that? Because she must have worked hard if she had to go out as well as do the house.
Mrs C: I used to do the housework while she went out.
Q: Did you. (Mrs C: Oh yes.) She’d go to people’s houses would she?
Mrs C: Yes She was midwife for years. There were no end of babies in Witham.
Q: Did she have to have some sort of special training to do that?
Mrs C: I couldn’t tell you, I never knew nothing, I knew that she used to go out but I know old Dr Richardson, when he was here, he was a good doctor and he said to her once that ‘If you were younger’ he said, ‘I’d have you sent up in London’. (Q: Really?) All the people loved her who she went to nurse. They all loved her.
Q: So she’d go and help them after, as well as being the midwife, would she go round and help them afterwards with the babies?
Mrs C: Mm. Brought no end of babies into the world.
Q: I remember Alf telling me that she delivered him, I think. Alf Bentley. Vi’s Alf told me that she delivered him when he was a baby. (Mrs C: Oh, I didn’t know?) It was up at Wickham Bishops. (Mrs C: Oh yes, that was there home up Wickham) I think it was when there was the rail crash . She had to go off in the middle and…
Mrs C: Oh yes, that was when he was, because I don’t remember that. There was an accident on the railway and she went and helped. I don’t remember anything about that. (Q: It was a long time ago).
[chat with Mrs S, not noted.]
Mrs C: [???] They were rare ones, him and his brother Frank. Used to come into Witham Saturday night, me and another girl we used to, you know, see them in Maldon Road.
Q: What did he used to do when he came in? What did he used to do when he came Saturday nights?
Mrs C: Well ,when you are young, children like, all lark.
Q: Did you go out into the country much yourself? I don’t suppose you’d have time really.
Mrs C: Na, [looking at plan again] They were the stairs we had to go up I think.
Q: That’s interesting isn’t it.
Mrs C: Yes, I don’t know what they do up there now.
Q: I think they’ve made it into flats and houses.
Mrs C: In the place what we had the factory, the glazing. I don’t know what they do up there now. [Maltings Lane]
Q: I think they’ve made it all into flats and houses and things like that for people to live in, just the last year or two. It used to be Nitrovit or something, a sort of warehouse. Then it was empty for a bit. Now they’ve converted it all into flats.
Mrs C?: I seen they ‘d done something to it I didn’t know they were flats.
Q: There’s a few people living there and there’s a big sign up saying ‘to let’.
Mrs C: Well, I never go out you see I never go round that way.
Q: Its quite a new thing and I think they’ve built some more houses up the back here somewhere.
Mrs C: In the place? Ain’t they pulled down?
Q: They’ve built some new ones.
Mrs C: In their place? There used to be some cottages near there.
Q: Oh really? Whereabouts were they then? How did you get to them?
Mrs C: Well, there was a building on Hatfield Road and there was a footpath through there and they used to go through there. I couldn’t tell you what they were like because I never went in one.
Q: Near where the factory was? (Mrs C: Yes.)
Mrs C: Of course Witham has altered such a lot. Same as the Square. [Trafalgar Square] That’s all pulled down. And they had the school right next to the houses [Maldon Road School].
Q: Was that the one you went to?
Mrs C: Yes, and up at where that little shop is next to the house near the school, that was where the Peculiar’s Chapel was there.
Q: Oh I see. Who went there then?
Mrs C: The Peculiars.
Q: Did you know anybody that went there?
Mrs C: No, they’re all gone now. I mean [???].
Q: She works hard. [re Mrs S]
Q: So which church did you go to, did you go to church at all?
Mrs C: No, I went to the school near …
Q: Did you ever go to church?
Mrs C: Oh yes, used to go to church, used to belong to the catechism. (Q: Really?)
Mrs S: Yes, and she swears about the vicar now because he don’t come down and let her have holy communion, nor nothing. She’s never seen the vicar, hardly. It’s all wrong.
Mrs C: There’s never a vicar comes to visit old people here.
Mrs S: She couldn’t go up on the bus could she? (Q: Mmm.) Yet he’s there with his two choir boys if the [???] waiting for the money
Mrs C: I was confirmed and all up there.
Q: What up St Nicholas was it? (Mrs C or S: Yes.) Did your grandma every go to church at all?
Mrs C: I used to go to catechism down All Saints church years ago. Used to go sometimes at night at the other place. (Q: Yes.)
Q: Did the other people in the family go as well?
Mrs C: [???] they go when they want to.
Q: I mean when they were younger?
Mrs C: I couldn’t tell you a thing about when they were young, not the children.
Q: Did you all go to church as well? [To Mrs S]
Mrs C: They went to Chapel really.
Mrs S: We went to the Congregational Chapel (Q: Oh did they?) Yes, because one of the blokes there was my father’s boss and he used to tell me dad if we were there or not. If we tried to slink off.
Mrs C: I used to go to catechism.
Q: I was trying to draw a family tree for you all but I didn’t get very far. Talking about your father. I was trying to draw where you all fitted in, Peg will be able to, from what Vi and them told me. That was all you lot, Vi and … (Mrs S: Dill[?], Matt or Nat[?], Peg, Nin, Fred, David.) And your father was?
Mrs S: Henry James.
Q: Then I’ll know where you all fit in. That was Wood wasn’t it. He was the one who worked at British Oxygen?
Mrs S: Yes. (Q: And his wife?) My Mum, was Nellie May.
Q: She was the one who was Wager? And I’ve got Sidney here.
Mrs S: That’s right, my Grandad’s name was Sid wasn’t it? Granny Wager’s husband?
Mrs C: William.
Q: So Granny Wager was the one who was the midwife, (Mrs C: Yes.) and what was her name?
Mrs S: Agnes what, what was granny Wager’s name, Agnes?
Mrs C: Agnes Hannah.
Mrs S: That’s right I knew you’d tell me.
Q: Did you ever have any grandparents on the Wood side that you ever saw?
Mrs S: Can’t remember. (Q: No.) Plenty of his brothers and sisters. And we knew a lot of the brothers and sisters.
Q: Yes, were they in Witham then.
Mrs S: No, where did the Woods come from, Maldon or Witham.
Mrs C: No, they used to lived at Wickham at one time. I can remember granny saying so. Aunt Annie …
Mrs S: Yes but Aunt Sue and what was it lived at Hockley.
Q: What about, did your Mum have brothers and sisters that you knew
Mrs S: My mother only had one brother but she had loads of step brothers and sisters. (Q: I see.) Because that’s where the name Smith comes from.
Q: Was it?
Mrs S: My mother’s name was Wood but her brothers and sisters name was Smith. Her father and my grandmother were brother and sister.
Q: I see, but your grandmother …
Mrs S: Brought her up.
Mrs C: I don’t remember being anywhere else.
Q: You were called Smith then?
Mrs C and Mrs S: No, my name was Oakley?
Q: Who was Smith then?
Mrs C: I couldn’t tell you anything about my people. I reckon my grandmother must have been an Oakley.
Q: I see, your grandmother on the …
Mrs C: Your grandmother Wager was a Smith.
Q: That would be, so tell me again, your father …
Mrs S: And granny Wager were brother and sister.
Q: So why isn’t she a Smith then?
Mrs S: She said she was but I think
Q: So there were quite a lot of Smith brothers and sisters?
Mrs S: Not for her, no, she’s got nobody.
Q: But when you were brought up, you said there were a lot of Smiths
Mrs S: We were made to call her Auntie.
Mrs C: But I‘ve always been called Wager. They always took, always given the name of Wager, but it wasn’t it, it was Oakley.
Mrs S: But when you got married you had to get married as Annie Oakley.
Mrs C: Oh yes, of course I did, that was my name. That was my name.
Mrs S: She was into my grandma, you know my granny and grandad brought her up.
Mrs C: But I can’t tell you anything about the family or anything because I don’t know. I was never told a thing, and I don’t know.
Q: But when you were little did you know that?
Mrs C: No, I always thought …
Mrs S: You knew you’d got a father.
Mrs C: Yes. Yes.
Mrs S: but she didn’t know anything about her mother.
Q: But you knew that Granny Wager wasn’t your mother
Mrs C: Oh yes. I was born in Colchester.
Q: So even when you were a girl you knew all about that, that you were born at Colchester.
Mrs C: I was never told a thing.
Mrs S: She don’t know anything about her mother. (Mrs C: It’s no good asking me cause I never was told a thing. ) She knew her own father. Her father recognised her as his child. And he looked after her and Granny looked after her after that.
Q: So your father was from Colchester?
Mrs S: Where did your father come from. Mother come from Colchester I should say.
Mrs C: Witham. That’s a Witham family that was. (Mrs S: Mother come from Colchester I should say.). I don’t want that put in the paper.
Q: No, no. It wont be in the paper. It’s interesting, because nowadays they make a lot of fuss about people whether they should know and they go around looking for their parents and that, but you didn’t then really did you?
Mrs C: [???] me looking for my mother at my age is it?
Q: But people do…
Mrs S: If you had had a child, your child or your child or your grandchild might have wanted to know where your mother came from.
Q: But if often causes a lot of bother doesn’t it? I mean your were happy weren’t you with your family.
Mrs C: I’ve never troubled about my people.
Mrs S: Yes, but your knew your dad?
Mrs C: Oh yes.
Mrs S: She’d got her father, and your father come and see you didn’t he?
Mrs C: I used to go down. He kept his home on till he died. He kept the home on till he died. But I used to live with granny.
Mrs S: ‘Cos he was in the army wasn’t he? Was you dad in the army?
Mrs C: He went through the Boer War, was wounded in the head.
Mrs S: I knew there was something about being in the army.
Q: So he wasn’t a Smith?
Mrs S: He was. Mother was an Oakley.
Q: I think, especially in those days when they had big families and lots of people died younger a lot of folk were brought up together that weren’t strictly related. People were good that way, they’d take you in.
Mrs S: Oh yes, not like they are today, look down on you today. Certainly Granny brought her up. I can’t remember her being anywhere else. I mean I was a baby. because I first see the stars in the sky in her arms, when she was taking me back to me mum’s at night-time, when I’d been round there. And I can remember the first time I ever see the stars and that’s as true as I sit here.
Mrs C: I helped bring them up, I helped bring her and Ninny up. And Nat, didn’t I?
Mrs S: Yes, and Fred.
Q: Because you were one of the little ones then weren’t you Peg?
Mrs S: Yes, I was. There was .Vi, Dill[?], Nat[?]. me, Nin and Fred and David. I don’t know a lot about David.
Mrs C: And Suey there was another little girl, Suey.
Mrs S: And I don’t remember where she fitted in.
Mrs C: Fitted in after Dill.
Mrs S: Oh between Dill and Nat. O I don’t know nothing about that. ‘Cos I wasn’t born then, couldn’t have been. I wasn’t born when Suey died.
Mrs C: Then your mother lost a little boy?
Mrs S: Yes that was before injections for measles, and rubella and all that stuff was about.
Q: So what happened to David then?
Mrs S: He died, that’s all I can tell you. Which one had the convulsions?
Mrs C: That would be [???]
Mrs S: I know one had convulsions.
Mrs C: That’d be [???]
Mrs S: I don’t know. I knew there was one had convulsions. Well , what was the matter with David?
Mrs C: Well he died quite young didn’t he?
Mrs S: I was at Silver End then.
Mrs C: I don’t know nothing about it.
Mrs S: I know that we had a brother and a sister but I thought that was them that died from, … you see even I don’t know all the background. They never used to tell you anything. Until I was getting on in years I always thought over the Catholic bridge was the sea and you could drown in it. ‘Don’t you dare go over that bridge, the water’s that side, you’ll drown’. And that’s true, yes. I can remember going out in a charabanc bus but I can’t remember where we went but I know we went.
Mrs C: Southend.
Q: Was Vi quite a bit older than you, Peg then?
Mrs S: Yes, ten years older, because there was her, Dill, one of the others and Matt/Nat, then me,
Q: So did she have to look after you?
Mrs S: I can’t remember her ever looking after me.
Q: She’d have her handsful if she did. Did you enjoy yourself?
Mrs C: Yes, of course we did. We used to go over the meadows to play (Q: Did you?) Yes, I’ve run across all these meadows.
Mrs C: Used to be pea picking over the road.
Mrs S: Pea picking and everything we had to go, you had earn enough in the summer to clothe you for the winter.
Mrs C: And then when they were small me and Aunt Edie[?] used to go over the meadows and have a picnic and had a cup of tea.
Mrs S: We never had a lot of money. There was too many of us to have money, but we used to make the most of what we’d got. Hide in and out the trees, all the kids. There was no danger then was there dear.
Q: Was that what they call the Knicky-knocks?
Mrs S: The Knicky-knocks used to go through there somewhere.
Mrs C: I’ve got it [???] [???] and we used to go underneath the railway arch.
Mrs S: And you could come out near Buchanan’s [Benton Hall]
Mrs C: You go through the Knicky-knocks. Then you go through another field and another field and you come out by the water mill [Blue Mills].. It used to be lovely down there. (Q: I see.)We used to walk through there and through Barn[?] Grove[?] lovely walk, used to go up Barn[?] Grove[?] and have a picnic.
Mrs S: Used to go in the woods and pick the primroses and now it’s nearly all built, there’s nothing. I mean you look at these rabbit hutches we’ve got here. I’ve never seen anything like it. I just cannot understand how we allowed them houses to be built like that. I can’t honestly. I mean all the backs face on to our front.
[more about new houses etc, state of pavement, etc etc., not noted]
Mrs C: I went to Silver End when I married. To get a house. Then we moved to Witham. We didn’t like Silver End. At that time of day they had a lot of Irishmen over there building and that got rough.
Mrs S: I can remember Silver End being built when I was over there, over at hers. Used to go and get the firewood.
Mrs C: Couldn’t move without her, when she was small.
Mrs S: That’s what I say she’s only getting back what she saved isn’t she. Yes I can remember. (Q: She had to come and see you did she?)
Mrs C: Same with her [???] I couldn’t go to Braintree to see my mother-in-law but she’d want to come. She used to cry. And I can hear her now. When my husband has his holiday and we went to London for a long weekend. She’d seen me in the train and I could hear her crying, she want to come with me. [???]
Mrs S: Its been a funny old life, but we’ve clung.
Mrs C: I nearly brought her up didn’t I. She was always in because she lived next door to me. My husband used to think the world of her.
Q: You were in Lockram Lane as well were you.
Mrs S: Yes, lived next door to them. (Q: I remember Ted saying, yes.)
Mrs C: Used to think the world of her. Didn’t he?
Q: Whose houses were they?
Mrs S: I don’t know. You had to pay your rent to, was it Balch?
Mrs C: And then they was sold and somebody bought them at Hatfield and was going to have this done and going to have that done, once the men come and looked over them and condemned. Course they knew they were going to have that market.
Mrs S: No, I don’t think so Aunt Sis. That was just the clearances.
Mrs C: I was happy up there.
Mrs S: I mean you had to walk outside to go to the toilet. There was no conveniences. We had one copper between three. I mean you can’t call that …
Mrs C: But still I was happy enough up there.
Q: Did you have a toilet of your own or did you have to share?
Mrs S: Oh yes, we had our own toilet but they had to share the copper.
Q: And what rooms did you have?
Mrs C: One and a lean to, bedrooms.
Q: Just the one bedroom?
Mrs C: Yes and a lean to. And then downstairs you had just the front and the kitchen and the backyard square as this house, this row.
Q: It was convenient wasn’t it for the town, and seeing your family and everything.
Mrs S: Yes, but there wasn’t a lot for the children. Because you had a brick wall at the back. Mind you I ain’t the worse for it. I’m better than some.
Q: Because Ted [Smith, Mrs S’s husband] didn’t come from round here did he?
Mrs S: No, come from the Midlands.
Q: What brought him here?
Mrs S: Me. [laugh] No, he’d had a car accident and he come down
Q: How did that bring him down here then?
Mrs S: Come down to his people, his auntie.
[chat, not noted.]
Q: So, you were telling me Ted came down here. Was his Smith the same as your Smith then? (Mrs S: Mmm.) Oh I see, so he was staying with them and you met him then. Then he couldn’t keep away I suppose.
Mrs S: Oh I knew him when he was a little boy. He used to come on holiday. We’d been sweethearts for years. It wasn’t just an on and off thing.
Q: So where did the Smiths live then?
Mrs S: Loughborough, Leicestershire.
Q: I mean the Smiths that were down here.
Mrs S: Guithavon Street [???]
[chat, not noted]
Mrs S: The thing is this, there’s some old ladies down here, and I’m not going to mention no names, the elite of the town come and pick them up by car and take them to, one month that’ll be somebody’s house the next another. But no. Not the poor.
Q: You’ve got to know the right people. I suppose things haven’t changed in that sense have they?
Mrs S: No definitely not, they haven’t and they won’t change will they because they’ve always thought that they’ve been tuppence above us. But they come in this world with nothing on and they’ll just go out with a shroud with no pockets. [laugh] So its only earthly things and (Q: Oh yes.) and what’s earthly things. I mean your life is what you make it ain’t it. You could all be well off and sit at night counting all the ten pound notes you’ve got but I’d rather sit in me armchair and watch the television. That’s life, not worrying to death where you’re going to invest and make another hundred pounds or things like that.
[chat, about lack of provision for elderly etc, not not.]
Mrs C: And I’m a Witham person and half of them are the Londoners that take it all. They do, they get all. Don’t matter what the Londoners want they have.
Mrs S: You don’t like the Londoners, do you. You don’t like them. She don’t like the Londoners. They get everything. When they used to go to the tea what Lucy Croxall and them used to organise …
Mrs C: Oh yes. At Christmas I went up there. That’s the last time I went. I said I’d never go no more. Se sat on the table. There was four Witham people on there and they put the bread and butter on and they were putting some more, come round with some cake and do you know they put the plate there with the bread and butter on that went right up the Londoners end and we never had a slice of bread. And they never come to see if we wanted it. So they did. I said ‘We haven’t had anything yet.’ They said ‘What?’. I said ‘No’ and they never brought it. So there was a plate of cakes there and said to these people, because all four of us were Witham people, I said we’ll have the cakes, we can’t have the bread, and that’s all we had at that tea.
I said I’ll never go no more and I told me because when Mrs Simmons said to me about it, did I enjoy it and I told her, she said ‘What?’, I said ‘No, I’m never going no more.’ I was disgusted. I was disgusted.
[chat, not noted]
Mrs C: No, don’t go nowhere. Well, I can’t. And they don’t come to fetch you now. And besides the Londoners get everything. They get everything. I was at one party, now which one was that. I know we went on a bus, we went to Felixstowe and they provided us with a lunch and we had a nice lunch. And the Londoners who was on our table they turned round and said to one another, we got five more to go to yet. [laugh] They are scroungers. Witham ain’t the same. They’re so damned greedy.
Q: It’s a pity really because you might meet some other Witham folks if you went and you could have a chat couldn’t you, some of the people you knew?
Mrs C: No, no all gone. All the Witham people have gone. There’ll be none left soon. It’ll be run by the Londoners, Witham will. They get all their own way now.
[chat, not noted]
Q: Men weren’t taught to do things were they in the old days. Didn’t expect to. It seems a bit hard to start to make them.
Mrs C: They weren’t brought up to help were they? (Q: No.) They were the king pins of the house. It was the girls as had to do it.
Q: Good job you’d got so many girls in your family isn’t it?
Mrs C: There was enough of us. Four.
Q: I should think there was plenty to do as well, wasn’t there.
Mrs S: We were always brought up to do work. We were always brought up to look after each other. It’s what I say she’s only given back what she’s owed.
Mrs C: When I weren’t about eighteen[?] I used to go up the shed and do washing.
Mrs S: When granny had a confinement she took her own linen. (Q: I see.) You know. Because some of them hadn’t got no bed linen. And Granny used to bring it all home and …
Mrs C: And I had to stand up there and wash it.
Mrs S: Boil it up in the copper.
Mrs C: I’ve worked hard and now I’m feeling it I think.
Mrs S: Well at 87 you ain’t done bad. She’s had a good innings.
Q: So really you were working all the time, you weren’t really a kid there were you. You’d got all the kids to look after really.
Mrs C: I was never allowed to go out after tea. (Q: Really?) No.
Mrs S: [???] as bad as they are today.
Mrs C: Only when I got a bit older.
Q: Was that because you were working or because they didn’t like you going out?
Mrs C: I was never allowed out. [???], after tea. I always had to have me tea, have a good wash and that and went to bed.
Q: So you really haven’t had much playing time then have you?
Mrs C: No.
Mrs S: Making up for it now, she plays me up! [laugh]
Mrs C: I remember when I was a kid, Sundays, Granny always set [???] [???] I’ve played on the bottom of the stairs with an old shoe box and a bottle for a doll and I played on there. (Q: Really?) Never allowed out after tea.
Q: (to Mrs S) Did you go out much after tea?
Mrs S: Not much. Sunday nights you weren’t allowed out very far because you had to have a bath ready for school next day.
Mrs C: And I remember once when I went out on a Sunday I had to slide out and make out I was going up the toilet. (Q: I see.) Many and many a time, because we had to go out up the yard to go to the toilet. And many a time I’ve done that. I remember once and I was about seventeen I was talking to a boy and of course my Granny brought up another boy besides me, and she said to him ‘Have you seen Annie?’ He said ‘Yes, she’s up the road talking to a boy’. And she come up after me. I can see her coming. I said I’d have to go because here comes my mother. [laughs] She was coming up after me.
Q: What happened if you were naught?.
Mrs C: She’d rattle me round the ear hole. Mind you I was never ill-treated.
Mrs S: I think it would do good these days if parents just give their kids one short sharp slap. You see the mothers with screaming kids in that precinct. If they were mine I would go up and I’d hit their legs, give them one good’un. You don’t have to knock them about, give one that stings. (Q: Yes.) And then they don’t do it again.
Mrs C: No, I was never allowed out after tea.
Q: But you tried to go though?
Mrs C: I was really twenty before I dared talk to anybody.
Q: Really? Even thought you were out at work. You still didn’t talk to people?
Mrs C: I had to work, worked hard too.
Mrs S: She weren’t allowed to talk to the boys. (Q: Really?)
Q: Well, you seem to have talked to a few all the same.
Mrs C:: On the sly [laugh]
Mrs S: How old are your boys now?
Q: Just one a boy. Phil is 20, and Susie’s 17.
Mrs S: Doesn’t seem like that
Q: No, amazing isn’t it.
Mrs C: And I remember there was one old man. Wooden leg sherry[?] we used to call him.. You could never see him but he’d see you and I when I could go out used to go to Hatfield to the dance there. Well we used to catch a mail train back, well it wasn’t too bad. But of course we just got there and that went out. So I said ‘Come on, lets go back’ and we went back and Sonny Butler he used to run the dances and he seed us home, he walked home with us. And he’d see ever one, even if there was four or five of us he used to see everybody to their door. We never see anybody. And of course they said we went to, went somewhere. I said ‘We never, we went to the dance’. She said ‘I will know, because I’ll find out’. And she did. She found out that was right. We did go to the dance.
Q: That was your mother?
Mrs C: Yes, and another night. We’d been down the fair, a friend of mine, we did, we were down there all the evening and somebody went and told her mother that we went up the station with a couple of boys. Well that was the biggest lie out but we found out who it was. And her mother’s coming up Maldon Road with the towel in her hand and, Oh Christ, she didn’t half give her one across her back. I cried and she cried. I said we aint, we been down the fair all evening. ‘I know you ain’t’ she said ‘you been to Colchester’. And when she found out that’s the truth she apologised. That poor girl couldn’t sit down on her bum.
Q: How old were you about then?
Mrs C: That was Ivy Barber. Oh’ we’d left school, about seventeen or eighteen. I tell you we weren’t allowed out half the night.
Q: Now you’d like to wouldn’t you? [laugh].
Mrs C: I don’t know what I’d want kids that are doing today.
Mrs S: You can hear them coming by my house at two or three o’clock in the morning. (Q: Really?)
Mrs C: And another thing, if I’d done anything wrong, to punish me, she’d make me stop upstairs all Sunday. Wouldn’t have to go out.
Q: So what did you do there?
Mrs C: Had to stop upstairs. Used to look out the window. I never had a hiding. She never hit me.
Q: What sort of things did you do to get sent upstairs then?
Mrs C: I dunno, something I done. I remember that.
Q: You’ve done your best to enjoy yourself haven’t you?
Mrs C: But still the world was different to what it is today. There wasn’t all these murders and one thing and the other. I come along here one night. I’d been up, I was eighteen or nineteen and my friend she worked at the Lound in service and I went up there to tea one Sunday night and I come all along from the Lound, I was walking alone. Never see a soul.
Mrs S: Used to years ago. Couldn’t do that now, there’s too much traffic on the roads. Too many men in cars now.
Mrs C: I wouldn’t do it. Mind I wasn’t half afraid. Till I got to the farmhouse, then I knew I’m all right. Because all the houses up Maldon Road they were up then. Not on that side but on this side it was.
Q: What did you think might happen to you then, if you were afraid?
Mrs C; Well, I didn’t know whether I might meet somebody you know.
Mrs S: She thought her luck would change [laugh]
Mrs C: But I was never allowed out, not half the night.
Q: Like this dance you went to at Hatfield. You were allowed to go there were you?
Mrs C: Oh yes, because we used to come home on the mail train.