Mr Jim White was born c 1915. He was interviewed on 8 November 1991, when he lived at 22 Cross Road, Witham.
For more information about him, see White, Jim, 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 email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
When looking at photos on side 6, some of the discussion has been omitted, as indicated in square brackets.
The transcriber noted that “Mr White tends to say ‘you know’ quite a lot and most of these are omitted”.
[next discussing JG’s photos M327 and M328 of houses in Guithavon Valley, near where Armond Road now is.]
Q: Is that where you lived? or not
Mr W: Yes, it looks like it, I think I can recognise that. Yes, that looks like Guithavon Valley. (Q: Oh that’s what I mean, yes.) And it looks like, I’m not certain but it looks like the last house down Guithavon Hill. And – who lived there? – the [???]. That’s what it looks like to me.
Q: This one with the ducks on? [photo M328]
Mr W: Yes. You see, this is Guithavon Valley coming down here and it looks as though they’ve taken – this is the railway line there and it looks as though it’s taken there. That’s what it looks like but of course I can’t recognise the lady. But I may be wrong !
Q: It is supposed to be down there somewhere, somebody told me. I think that one is supposed to be on the right there is supposed to be but it is not a very clear copy of it. [M327]
Mr W: Yes, that’s Guithavon Valley, I’m certain! This is in front of this. This is the other side of there. That’s what I make it, I may be wrong.
Q: You’re probably right, yes. The one on the right [M327] is the left-hand side of the one on the left. [M328]
Mr W: Just here, on the front of here, by the river [drops voice]. Because I’ve fell in that river several times! [Q laughs]. This one here, if I’m right, before the – after the War there was an American – he married an English girl – and he lived in that house, I’m pretty certain. And it’s a funny thing, they came back about two years ago – it was in the paper. And she came down to see the house where she lived in, you know. And I forget her name – Lynch, yes it was Lynch I think, I’m pretty certain. I may be wrong but that’s what it looks like to me. This, no this is where Mrs Foyster lives. Mrs Foyster lives on the corner there now. I’m pretty certain she would recognise it. That’s what it looks like to me, Janet.
Q: I’ll see if I can get a plan of them off an old map and you can show me which one you lived in some time but I haven’t got one ….
Mr W: I lived just at the bottom of the hill.
[general discussion, not noted]
Q: I remember you said you moved away a bit, didn’t you, but how many of you were living in, there was you and your brother?
Mr W: In the Valley? At one period there was Mum, Dad and four of us. We were all under seven, seven years old.
Q: Where did you come in the family?
Mr W: I’m the eldest. Doug was the second, and Betty was the third, and Perce is the fourth, the youngest. There was about nearly seven years between the top and the bottom, you know.
Q: That’s quite a lot isn’t it, to get in there?
Mr W: Well, it was only a small place. And Dowse was the landlord, Dowsett, sorry. He used to have a boot shop, boot and the shoe shop in town, somewhere. And he was the landlord of that place. Next door to us was – we were in the middle. Next door to us was Mrs Heard, very old lady, she was over eighty then. And on the right was a Mr Emmins. He was over eighty-odd. They were our neighbours. And then there was a sort of house – us three were here, three houses here. And then there was another house here, on it’s own but I can’t remember the chap.
Q: At the river end or the road end? What I’ll do is get a map sometime and you can show me on the map.
Mr W: The river’s at the back, the houses in front of the river and this house on its own was next to us but there was a gap. There was a gap between those three houses and that house on its own. The old boy kept himself to himself, I can’t remember who he was now. But I knew everybody else. And in the next yard, which I make here, this was a yard here. This was the old American lived there. He went back to the States. And then, I think, there was another house here on the corner, I think they were the Chambers, they were called the Chambers. Then round the corner on the front there was the Newmans. He’s still about up Hatfield Road, anyhow, one was George and I forget the other one. One was called George and then there was Edie and Emily. Then in the house next to that was the Burmbys. Oh yes, that was the Burmbys, oh, I’m getting mixed up a bit. There was the Burmbys in the next house and Mrs Foyster was a Burmby, you see. And the one I said was this house, I believe that was the Foysters’ house. The Foysters lived here and the Burmbys lived over there. And Edie Burmby married Sid Foyster.
Q: [???] That was about 1920 when you lived there? It was when you were quite small, wasn’t it?
Mr W: It was in the period between the War – First War, that was 1919 and 1923. Yes. That’s what it looks like to me, I may be wrong, but it looks like it.
Q: I can’t remember whether you told me what your mother’s first name was?
Mr W: My Mum’s first name was Lucy.
Q: I remember you telling me about all the glamorous jobs that your father had had.. It must have been a change for him when he came to Witham, do you think?
Mr W: Well, Father came down in – he worked for – the big store in London – Harrods. And when the First War broke out, the War Office or the Army, they wanted somebody for catering, catering down here at Terling – they had a huge army camp here – I don’t know whether you’ve heard about it? (Q: Yes.) A lot of the chaps who came from the north and Scotch men, they settled down here. Bill Heard was one of them, do you know him? He was one of them, he lived on the corner down there, he was a sergeant. Anyhow, my father – he wasn’t fit enough for the army but anyhow he done the catering on the Terling camp.
Q: That was a big job?
Mr W: Yes. And he was living at the Valley at the time. And I think he used to go back every day. He had a motorbike, he told me. He used to bring the sergeant major down to Witham on the back of his motorbike! And anyhow, when the War was over, he settled in – they decided not to go back to London, because they both came from London, the area. And they settled down here and Father got a job on Crittall’s, building Crittall’s. I don’t know what he was doing. And they promised – they said when it was finished they’d give him a job inside. And he – when it was finished he did get a job inside.
Q: He wasn’t doing catering then? Just building work?
Mr W: I think he – yes, he went in the canteen. He went in the canteen and I think that …
Q: When it was being built as well you mean?
Mr W: No, after the building was finished, they gave him a job inside the factory, but he went into the canteen and he done the cooking. I remember …
Q: They must have had pretty good food in there then with all his experience.
Mr W: Oh yes. And I know that when F H Crittall, he was the old man who invented the windows, well, I remember him well. When they had a dinner there, you know, they would invite one or two people, I don’t know who it was. But I always remember my father saying that when he done the fish – I don’t know how he done the fish or how he cooked it or fried it or what. But he said they always insisted having the fish on the dish in the middle of the table with the head on! You know, ‘It must have the head on’ he used to say. He told me that over and over again. And he stayed in the canteen for quite a time. And then they used to get him to do the Social Club. The Social Club then – do you know that entrance to the – you know Crittall’s park, in Braintree Road, the staff park? (Q: Yes.) The entrance there where we go into work, the Social Club then was on the left-hand side as you go in. [Probably on right of Braintree Road entrance, opposite the lodge.] It was only a small place. Because – my father didn’t have the job, he didn’t want the job. But when the old boy – I forget his name – but when he went sick or anything like that, they used to get him to take the club over and do the job. You know, serve the beer and all that, look after the billiard room. Because I learnt – he taught me billiards down there and snooker. I was only fourteen then. Anyhow, eventually they gave him a job from the canteen into the factory. On the windows, eventually. And …
Q: Do you think he preferred the windows or was it because there was nothing else going?
Mr W: Oh yes! More money! At that time of the day, the money for what he was doing, it sort of come under general labouring. As far as I – I might be wrong but that money was then in that time was two pound five a week.
Q: On the windows, do you mean?
Mr W: No that was on any labouring job and in the canteen. (Q: Was that right?) That was two pound five a week. When he went into the factory, it went up, it was another pound. That was sort of working on piecework. All the whole factory- what shall I say – all the main shop – they had a main shop – they all worked on – in a piecework and whatever they earned was their weekly wage. That used to be about three pound five a week, then. Which was good money! Quite good money.
Q: Do you think he liked it, doing that? Because it was different to what he’d been used to, wasn’t it?
Mr W: Yes, well, he always said in private service, that it was more or less slave labour. It was – they never got a lot of money, they never got a lot of money and the hours were terrible. He did start at – he lived in Canterbury, Kent and he started work doing the odd jobs for the priests, who were training to be priests in St Augustine’s College. He was always on about that. He used to clean the shoes and get the clothes ready. That was his first job.
Q: Do you know what his father did, for work?
Mr W: Upholsterer, I think.Yes, he was an upholsterer, his father. And anyhow, the next – he used to speak about – he was valet to General Sir Stuart Wortley – did I tell you this before?
Mr W: Anyhow, he was a friend of the Kaiser. Anyhow, my father always used to say he was his valet. In fact, did I show you the envelope from the Kaiser? (Q: Yes.) I did show you it. And it had the seal on there. A chap asked him for the seal, the Kaiser’s seal on the back, he went and give it away! That would have been very interesting, wouldn’t it? But he never thought nothing about it.
Q: You don’t at the time, do you? I remember you telling me now that he worked in some important places, but it was still hard work I suppose. Did your mother work at all?
Mr W: I think Mother was in private service. Well, before she was married.
Q: Did she work when she was married at all?
Mr W: Oh no! No, too many children! [laughs]
Q: I was going to talk about Crittall’s, wasn’t I? Originally they were going to build that [looking at old building plan, with towers, not built] Do you know what that long building is?
Mr W: No, they’ve got a big tower there, I’ve never seen that, no.
Q: [discussing air photo, M1042]. That’s an air photograph of it at one time. I think those towers were going to be along here …
Mr W: This is taken from the back of the railway, over the other side. That’s the back, I recognise it now …
Q: When you say the Social Club was in a different place, that was, you know the Social Club that’s there now, that’s before that was built?
Mr W: Yes, here’s the Social Club what I was talking about, just there.
Q: On your left as you come in from Braintree? [probably on the right hand side of the Braintree Road entrance]
Mr W: This is the house in Braintree Road, isn’t it? That was the Social Club here, either that one or that. There wasn’t two buildings. It was on the Social Club there, I don’t know which building, probably this one here. Because things are a bit hazy from when I first started. I should think it was over fifty years ago. I should say that is the Social Club and this might be where you get permission to enter. What do they call it now? The lodge, that’s right. That’s as far as I can …It seems a bit different.
Q: I think that was about 1930 or so, they must have changed it from time to time.
Mr W: This looks the old canteen here. [a bit further in than the social club, wide with dark roof].
Q: I think that was a hangar, you told me?
Mr W: Yes. That’s right, a hangar, that’s what it looks like to me..
Q: Oh that was that where the canteen was, was it?
Mr W: Yes, that’s where the canteen was, in the old days. But I used to eat there.
Q: Have they always had a canteen since then?
Mr W: Yes, eventually it moved into the – you know the building on the Braintree Road, going down the left on this side. Did you know the billiards and snooker room? (Q: Up above the loading bay?) Where they had the dances? [along the Braintree Road frontage] That’s the canteen, that’s where they’ve had it recently, for years. A bit changed [???]. But this looks like the factory here.
Q: I think that one’s the office. [in foreground, slightly left of centre, two storey]
Mr W: Yes, that’s definitely the office and this place here is what they call, I’m not certain, I think they called that the covered roadway here [east end of building]. This goes through – there’s a railway line in here and they used to pack the windows into the trucks. They used to go right on to – here it is, look! [looking at fire escape plan]
Q: The railway’s out the back. It’s really the fire escape plan. It’s got some of the names of the different parts in. I was going to ask you what some of them meant, This is a more recent one I think. That was the Braintree Road up there and this is what you said was the canteen.
Mr W: Yes, they converted it to ‘Maintenance’.
Q: This would all be the main shop, it’s a bit confused because it’s got things like ‘assembly point’ on which was [???] for fire.
Mr W: Yes, I was on the ‘comprehensive line’.
Q: What did that mean?
Mr W: Well, it was, the comprehensive line was – they made all different sorts of windows, all various sorts. Sometimes standard, like that [in his front room] That window there’s a standard, that’s what they call an ‘NC2’, that one on the bottom [in his house]. That one on the top is what they call an ‘NE2’. Where a window’s got no bars they called it ‘N’ type, no bars. That was an NC2, that one there, that one on top was NE2, you see, the same this side. And we used make all sorts of different standard and special windows, as far as I can tell you, on that line. I was on that line a couple or three years.
Q: Did you make the whole thing?
Mr W: Yes, make the whole thing right through. Cutting off the bars. First of all we’d cut off the bars and then the window’s welded, the four corners are welded. No, sorry, first of all they cut the window off, cut the bars off. And then you put all the holes in the bars. You put what they call the ‘handle plate’ – see where that handle is? Put that handle plate on. Then they put that – that’s called the ‘striking plate’, that little thing where the handle goes on. That’s a striking plate. They’d do all that first and then they’d weld the four corners together, the window you see. And then that goes up the line a bit further, then you would put the bars in, if it wanted bars in. Because some had bars in.
Q: So would one person do all that, as far as that?
Mr W: No, all different chaps. One chap would have – one chap would put all the striking plates on, another one would put all the handle plates on. And they used to have ‘stays’ on them, there’s no stays on, not on a bottom, they’ve all got stays on the top. Then another one would put all the ‘stay brackets’ on.
Q: What’s a stay? It’s a good job you’ve got the windows in this house!
Mr W: [demonstrates on windows in house] This is a stay you see, Janet. [long bar with holes to hold window open]. Another chap would put these on. These are stay brackets.
Q: What is this called?
Mr W: This is a stay. That’s called a stay. But that’s done on the end, at the end of the, …when the window is ready to be packed and go out. This is a ‘peg’ [for putting it in – stay bracket to fix stay on to] This is what they call a peg and this is a stay bracket and this is the stay itself [continues to repeat explanation of each item].
Q: And they are all welded on?
Mr W: No, not in those days, they were riveted on. A rivet there and a rivet there, that was in the old days, before the War.[Second] Eventually, after the war, they welded them on.
Q: So you could tell how old the window is, whether it had rivets on?
Mr W: Yes.
Q: There was only one place called the comprehensive line, was there? The others did different things?
Mr W: Yes.
Q: [discussion of plan] That probably means ‘ machine line’ up there? Was the comprehensive line in the same place then, when you were there? That’s the loading bay.
Mr W: – Reading – ‘Machine line assembly point’. This must have been in the old days.
Q: This of course is ‘welding’ now. I meant to ask you what that meant.
Mr W: This was after the War. The ‘sharky’ welders, what they done – oh dear, because it’s eleven[?] years since I was there. They used to weld the pivots on. What they call the pivots. That’s these here look. They altered things so many times.
Q: It works like a hinge?
Mr W: A hinge, that’s right.
Q: You can’t really generalise because they kept altering it?
Mr W: As far as I can remember the sharky – what is it, ‘scarky’ they’ve got there? ‘Sarky’ we called them, sarky welders, whether that was a nickname or not!
[discussion whether ‘sharky’ or ‘scarky’ or ‘sarky’, not noted]
Q: What would it mean, was it the name of the pivot thing itself or would that be a special machine?
Mr W: I’ve been on them myself but I can’t remember exactly. They welded something, I’d only say that they welded the hinge on. I think I remember now, I think they welded that on [demonstrates].
Q: A bracket on the corner that you fit the pivot on.
Mr W: That bracket on. This was what they called a ‘PH hinge’. They welded that bit on, the sarkys.
Q: That’s a good design, presumably you could reach that way to clean it, through the gap? With normal windows, you couldn’t.
Mr W: As far as I can tell you, because as I say, everything was changed so many times, it’s a bit confusing. This is the best I can tell you. Someone who was on the job who could tell you better. I know a chap down Braintree Road who was on the line, perhaps you could go and see him, because he was on ‘sarky’. We called it ‘sarky’. He’ll tell you more about it than I can. Because I wasn’t on that job, I worked near it. But he’ll tell you more about it than I can.
Q: You say you were on the comprehensive line for some time?
Mr W: Yes, I was on the comprehensive line.
Q: Did you move around from one thing to another?
Mr W: Yes, eventually all this line here was made – I saw them moved over here, after being on the comprehensive line, I moved over here on to a line called the ‘reversible line’. They made reversible windows, I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen them? You open the window – they’ve got them in my sister’s house down Bridge Street, opposite Bridge Home. You open the window at the top like that, and it reverses. [pivot half way down the side so it swings right over]
Q: They go right over?
Mr W: Yes. I think they done those for people on high buildings and then they could clean them. I think so, I’m not certain. But I was on that line for about twenty years.
Q: You say each person on the line did a different job? Did you always do the same one or change from time to time?
Mr W: You’d change from time to time. What used to happen was that after the welding, after they’d welded the four corners together, they had what they call a ‘bumper and shearer line’. So after the welding, the chap used to put it into a machine and it would clean the corner off, you see, the four corners. And then he would put it on a rail, pile them all up. And there’d be another chap, there’d be one machine there for the bumpers and another machine here for the – sorry, one machine for cleaning off and another machine for bumping. So that chap would clean the four corners and this chap on the next one would clean the corner off. He would bump it into shape, make it nice and smooth. And then they used to – after the chap had done them on the bumper, he would put them on a rail and then we would pick them up, pick the windows up and put the bars in, most of the windows had bars in. Put the bars in and then when we’d put the bars in we’d sort of stand them up and put them near a welder and then we’d get the windows and weld the bars. All the bars are welded here. [Mr W moving to demonstrate on his house windows, and tape breaks up slightly] You’d have a bar there – you’d have three sets of bars. This is a ‘C’. You’d have one set of bars there, one set of bars there, and one down the middle. Then we had to get this frame and put it in the machine and that would weld the bar here and there and here and there and there and there [e.g. two across and one in middle]. That’s the best way I can describe it. And then when we’d done that, we used to straighten it up with a hammer. Straighten the window up with a hammer. And then send them on – they used to go on to the sarky welders.
Q: How did the windows get from one place to another?
Mr W: We used to – mostly by barrows. We had big iron barrows. Some were small, about so high, some were a bit higher and some were higher still. The bigger the frame, the bigger the barrow. When I say bigger the barrow, so you could put the window on the barrow like that, a big window, if you wanted a small window you had a small barrow.
Q: So you did have to lift the window up yourselves?
Mr W: Yes, open at the sides.
Q: They were quite heavy then?
Mr W: Yes, they were fairly heavy and the windows were fairly heavy when you …
Q: The ‘bar line’ was that be putting the bars on? Or something different?
Mr W: [looking at plan (?)] The bar line. Yes, this is entirely different to how we worked. Yes, the bar line, you start off the chap brings all the huge lumps of iron in. You had one – in the old days – the chap used to – well, the crane used to bring the iron in off the railway truck. We had a crane going up and down here somewhere – it doesn’t show on here does it. The crane going up and down here, above.
Q: Fixed up. I think there were rails up on the ceiling.
Mr W: That’s right. I think it looks like this place here. The trucks would come in here somewhere and then the crane would pick the iron off the trucks and I think they used to put it here, I’m not certain. They used put the iron here and the crane would pick it up and bring it along the bar line and all machines were along here. That’s why they called it the bar line. There were all machines and they would drop the iron to whatever machine they wanted. Because they were all different shapes of iron, you see all different cuts. And then the bar line would cut these bars off. That was the bar line. And then when the bar line had done all their jobs, put the brackets on and the pegs on and put the holes in for the bars, they would go to the flash welders. And then they would weld them together. And …
Q: Actually make it into a frame, you mean, would it?
Mr W: Yes, that would make the frame. When they – in the old days they used to – some of the welders were single – used to do one corner at a time. And then they had two or three big welders which you had three men on and one man would put the bar in there, another chap would put a bar in there, another chap would put a bar in there. I’m pretty certain there was three of us, anyhow, we had to put the four bars in the machine and then they’d weld all the four corners together on some, you see. I hope this is all making sense!
Q: I wondered what all these things meant.
Mr W: [reading] ‘F4/F form’. I don’t know – I can’t …
Q: Some are abbreviations. ‘Tenon’ …
Mr W: Tenon. Well, there was the riveters – as I say they altered everything round. Riveting – the riveting machines, as far as I know – as I was talking about a little while time ago, riveting – they used to put the riveting – that’s right they used to have riveting machines. And they’d put a bracket – they’d get the two rivets and the bracket. And put this on the window and then they’d slide it into the riveting machine like that. And the press used to come down and rivet the bracket. That would be on the bottom [demonstrating on window (?)] There’s none on there now but some/same is on that vent at the top. They’d get that bracket in the old days, put the two rivets in [Q: The one for the stay). and then get the bracket and the two rivets and put it into the press, like that. There would be a sort of two holes there so it would be comfortable. And then they’d stamp the foot down like that and the press would come down and rivet that bracket on – or the peg. That’s the first job I had.
Q: And the ‘reversible lines.’
Mr W: Oh, the reversible lines, there. I know what this is. This reversible line is where they finished off.
Q: It says ‘final’.
Mr W: Where they finished the reversibles off. As far as I know they – the reversibles had rubber round them, inside. They would do that and finish the window off, you know. Straighten it up and give it a bang here if it wasn’t straight and if it didn’t close, they’d hit it with a hammer and straighten it up. Now there was one other job they used to do. They used to have – you see a reversible has got what they call an ‘inner’ and an ‘outer’ frame. I don’t know if this makes sense to you? An inner frame has to go in an outer frame. And I think they used to put the inner frame into the outer frame and that was done by two sort of – what shall I say – brackets. On the end.
Q: A swivel? [sketch]
Mr W: That’s right a swivel bracket on the end. That’s right a swivel bracket. If I could see the window, I could show you. They put the inner into the outer. This is the inner – this is what they call the inner frame. This is the inner – and this is the outer…If that’s any help? [inner frame – window itself and outer – static one it fits into]
Q: Yes, and this is all – was this all packing up this end [looking at plan – recent] when you were there? The three-storey part here? With a lift in it. Is this ‘packing’?
Mr W: Yes this is more of a recent one, because this is where they put the fittings on. This is where they put the stays on what I was telling you about. The handles and all that sort of thing, stays and handles. And this is where they packed them. That was more or less the last job, putting the stays and the handles on. And then an inspector would inspect the window, and see if it was all right and give it a tap here and there with the hammer and then, let’s see how they were. And then they would sort of – they would sort of be packed here – the jobs would be packed here, what the orders for all the customers – would be packed along here. And then they’d get – the packers would get an order from the office and then they would pack them in crates. Or put them on lorries. Well, is that all right? (Q Yes, fine.) Good. And eventually some had to have wood surrounds on. The carpenters done that. And they done that here, in this place here [at east side where once curved] . They put the wood surrounds on there, they used to have a lot of carpenters there.
Q: Because originally there used to be a whole curved piece here, that’s on the photo but it seems to have gone now.
Mr W: This is the round bit of the building, isn’t it?
Q: Yes, but it’s not all now there. On here [referring to another paper] there was a curved bit round here, now there’s only a little piece of it now. That was the wood part, presumably?
Mr W: Yes, that’s the end of the building here, somewhere. Yes, this looks like a railway, – this is a railway here, isn’t it? Goes right round, that’s the railway.
Q: And this final line is ‘Repair’.
Mr W: This is the final line. And then they would go to the final line. And recently they’d get the inner frame and the outer frame, and they’d put pivots in – what were they called? Little tiny pivots in the hinges. They’d go [demonstrating on window] here they are, there, see those? Those little pivots there, they would put those little pivots into the hinge. Join that frame to the other frame, joint that inner into the outer. And when they ‘d do that – this is how the line was, along there. They would do that there on the tables, some of the chaps. And then they would move forward, they would move the windows forward on sort of benches, like, more or less, you know. And then they’d straighten them up. You know, make the window fit. They’d get the window – you see the window’s lying flat now. And then they would get the window and sort of tap it and get it nice and straight. And then they used to take it off and try the inner into the outer. And say there was a gap there, well they would have to hit the bar here and there, you know, and straighten it up so it fitted. And when they’d done it to their satisfaction, they’re passed on to the inspector and the inspector would say whether it was OK or not. And then when it was done there the …
Mr W: …go around to the galvanised plant. So when they’d done the final and the inspector had inspected the window, they would hang it up on this rail – all these windows on this rail which would go quite a way away, go right around here into the galvanised – what they called the ‘galvanised tunnel’. And then they had this acid in the ground, you remember that [???] went? (Q: Yes.) They had this big acid place in the bottom …
Q: I’ve probably got some pictures of that.
Mr W: … then they’d lower a peg down by automation – press the button and lower two or three frames down and into the acid, galvanise them, to keep them non-rust. Then they’d come up and go on and then the next one would come along and that would go down and up and then the next would come along, down, up. Is that clear?
Q: Did they always galvanise when you were there? Or was that a new thing at one point?
Mr W: No, when I was there as a youngster I was in what they called the ‘sandblasting’. You had sort of what you call ‘sandblasts’. I’m not certain but there was four or five. You’d go in the sandblast and you have a helmet on – two of you. You have a helmet on and air-pipe come here, and you have a sort of sack thing. You’d tie this round your neck and you’d have the air come from – I don’t know where it came from. It would come in the back of the helmet and you’d breathe through there. And then they had what they’d call – I suppose it was sand. And this sand would come out of a hopper and you’d have a sort of spray thing, a long pipe. The spray would come out – the sand would come out and you would go along like that and clean the window. And that would make it nice and clean and rustproof. It would clean all the black off. That was only on special – people who asked for it. That was only on special orders, only on people who asked for it. And then it would come out of there and then it used to go into another place, now I forget the name they called it. And when it came out of the sandblast, it used to go in this place and they used to spray the window so it came out sort of whitish. But what they called that now, I just can’t remember. This was before the War. That was for special orders. But otherwise, if they didn’t want it special, like they used to do ours, like these here, they used to be finished black. The steel was sort of black when you’d finished. And they’d just take them along to the paint dip – have you got a paint dip on there, somewhere?
Q: I think so.
Mr W: They used to take it along – same as the galvanised – on the rail, take it round to the paint dip and dip it, same thing as the galvanising, dip it and up and round. The majority were done just over the black, you know, the paint just over the black.
Q: Does that mean they would rust a certain amount?
Mr W: Well, I mean, eventually, they used to sort of rust, if they wasn’t galvanised, or they wasn’t sandblasted, they would in the old days, they used to rust.
Q: Are these galvanised, do you know?
Mr W: Yes – I’m not certain, I think they galvanise the lot now. Yes, I’m pretty certain they do.
Q: So did you do the sandblasting yourself, some time?
Mr W: Yes I was on sandblasting, I went in there twice. One period I done two years. I was about – just before the War, about 1920, I think.
Q: Sounds a bit tough, that. Did you enjoy that?
Mr W: Nobody liked it. They used to say to me – ‘You do look pale, you do look white, you do look pale’.
Q: You would do that all day, would you?
Mr W: Oh yes! All day, used to do three shifts. Six to two, two to ten, ten to six. Yes, we had to do shift work.
Q: Did you feel all right when you’d finished a shift?
Mr W: I used to feel all right, because well I was young then. My father was on the job, too, he was on before I was. And they used to say ‘Oh, you do look pale, you do look white’. Now they say to me ‘ Oh you are red! You are red!’ [both laugh] I’m just the opposite now! ‘Oh you are red’.
Q: How did you get put on to the different jobs. Could you ever say that you’d like a change or were you just told where to go?
Mr W: No, you see, the window trade is erratic. It’s what I call sort of part-time. You see, the building in the old days – well I suppose today – you always get more building in the summer and the spring. In the winter sometimes they can’t get on the building, they won’t do it will they? It’s sort of, what shall I say, all according to the weather. In the winter it used to go off a bit. So perhaps you had plenty of work – say you had plenty of work on your job. Then when winter come along, you wouldn’t have much work on your line. So you had to – they’d take you over to the next line. I was – what shall I say – I was on the reversible and if there wasn’t much work there, you’d go on to the – into what they called the ‘main shop’ next to it. And you would work there. Or perhaps you might go – they’d put you over on to the packing, the packing side. I mean, if they hadn’t got a lot of work they’d send you to Braintree. I went to Braintree, I worked at Braintree. I worked at Silver End’s factory. When I started off here, on the packing side, ‘Applied Fittings’, I was a paint boy when I first started. I was fourteen because you used to leave school early in those days. I was a paint boy.
Q: What did you do as a paint boy?
Mr W: What I had to do – as I say they used to put the paint over black and I used to have to – where the paint had got knocked off, going towards the finishing point for packing. When the windows got on to packing, I used to have to paint over the places where the paint was knocked off.
Q: What did you do that with?
Mr W: Just a paintbrush and a paint pot. That was my first job. That was flat rate, I got ten shillings a week then, on that job. And so I asked the foreman, I said ‘Can I go on fittings, on piecework?’ So he said ‘Yes’ – I was about fifteen then, I think. So when you went on piecework you earned another five shillings or so. When you were fifteen you got twelve and six plus the piecework. So that brought me more money. And I was on Applied Fittings, handles and stays, I was on that about [sighs] seven years. Then when I was about twenty, they take you off and called it a ‘boy’s job’. So then I went into the sandblasting, main shop. Sometimes I went on welding, as I said, on the big welders and you’d go anywhere, you had to go where the work was, Janet.
Q: Did you ever go in the galvanising?
Mr W: No, no I never did go in the galvanise. Not as far as I remember.
Q: You say you went to Braintree and Silver End, did they do different things there or was it more or less the same as Witham?
Mr W: In Braintree they do a different type of window. I forget what type they are, but they do a different type of window. And in Silver End, when I was there, they used to make all the fittings, they make the handles, they make the stays, they make the brackets, the pegs. All small jobs. They had a lot of disabled men from the First War in there, chaps with no legs and all that sort of thing.
Q: And then they would send the fittings to the other factories?
Mr W: Yes the lorry used to bring – well, I was in the stores for a while, yes, at Witham. I think that’s on there [plan]. And they used to bring the fittings to Witham and bring them into the stores.
s and possibility of recognition of them, not noted]
Q: [looking at photos] There are pictures of outside and inside, we’ll start with inside. This is when it was empty.
[conversation not noted in full here].
Q: I remember you said there’d be a crane up above that carried things. On this one there’s a yellow bar with …
Mr W: That’s a crane, isn’t it.
Q: Is that what you call a crane?
Mr W: Where exactly it is now, because it looks all alike you see.
Q: [???] So that’s what would carry them in when they first came?
Mr W: See the whole factory right round is more or less the same, you see the walls.
Q: I think that’s looking across towards the ‘packing’.
Mr W: Is it?
Q: That would be somewhere up the front. But anyway that’s what you mean by a crane, is something like that, that would carry them in.
Mr W: But as I say it’s very confusing.
[discussion of where it was, not noted]
Q: So the crane wasn’t what you’d think of outside, it was a fixed thing?
Mr W: I think this is the crane which goes up and down. This would be the bottom of the shop, that would be in that entrance in Braintree Road. Where you go in that entrance in Braintree Road. When you get in there you come across this crane.
[discussion, not noted]
Mr W: The presses would be along here. The crane would lower the bars down here and then the chaps would pick the bars up and put on the window. Because there was only two cranes as far as I know, that was over the packing side and down here on the bar line. This is at the bottom of the shop, where you go in the Braintree Road, next to the canteen.
Q: Yes that’s right. There’s an entrance there, isn’t there?
Mr W: Yes. Because there was only two cranes as I say, there was one at the bottom of the shop and one over the packing side.
[discussion, not noted]
Q: I mean these big pipes that were over the top …what would they be for?
Mr W: I really couldn’t say, Janet, no. They look something to do with air, wouldn’t you say so?
Q: Maybe. Because the power for the machines, would that be overhead as well? ……
Mr W: Yes the machines were electric, you switched them on.
Q: Would the power come along the top and then down?
Mr W: I should say so. It would probably be power, you are right. But it is so long since I was there you get out of touch, you know.
Q: You’re doing very well. It just helps to know what some of the things are.
Mr W: You see you would switch on, press a button to switch it on and then you’d get a handle and pull over, pull the handle over. And then the machine would be fully on.
Q: This one. That’s different, is that up here what they call the final line? I think that was one of these near the paint shop?
Mr W: Near the galvanising? Looks like the galvanising. This is the things what they lowered them down with. I think – I should imagine this is part of the galvanising plant.
Q: There’s a rail which comes out?
Mr W: This is a rail here, and this is what they lowered down into the ‘galv’. The window would be on – how would the windows be on? I can’t describe it but it looks as if this is lowered down with the window on, into the galvanising. I’m not certain because I never worked in there.
[discussion about Mr Whybrow, took photos, not noted]
Q: These are more of the general shop. You can tell more where that is because they are next to the ramp. I think this is the packing end and there’s a rail here.
Mr W: This is packing. I know this.
Q: That’s the entrance up towards Braintree Road.
Mr W: This was where the crane was going up and down which we showed on here. This the crane going up and down there and this is that building, this is the side where – down Braintree Road, where you go in the entrance and this is where you would come in. This would be the packing. This is where the packing was done. They packed the lorries, put the windows on the lorries. And put the windows in the crates here.
Q: All on this flat piece here, where the railway was or – this is another view of the railway. That was taken up at that end ………
Mr W: That’s the main – that the door. This would be where they would pack all the windows along here and this would be the ‘applied fitting’ on top here. Where they put the handles and stays on, along here………..[fitting on top of platform just in from east side].
Mr W: Here’s the old railway line, what I was telling you about.
Q: Did they still use the railway line when you were there?
Mr W: Well, they did when I was a youngster, well they did recently, they still kept it there.
Q: Where was the packing done? Through into this part, or actually where the railway?
Mr W: The packing was done all down here, in the same place as the railway. They put all the crates down here (Q: Beside it.) and packed the windows in the crates. And then the lorries used to come in this doorway and they had all windows on top of here. [Q: On top of the platform] On top of the – they used to take the windows off here and put them into the lorries like that.
Q: The lorries would come in that orange door there?
Mr W: They would come in that other door this end here – go right round …
Q: That was when they’d stopped using the railway, or did they use the railway as well?
Mr W: I can’t remember when they stopped the railway, Janet, I just can’t remember. It was mostly lorries eventually.
Q: They didn’t have the railway when you started, did they?
Mr W: Oh yes! They had the railway for years. There’s a chap lived down Albert Road there, near the main Crittall gateway – Bill Butler – did you know him? His daughter is still about. He used to – he had a tractor. He used to put the chain on the tractor and pull the railway trucks along. We used to laugh at him. Because when he couldn’t start his tractor, when it was cold, he used to kick the tyres! In a temper! Bill Butler. He lived in a house down, you know, turn off Braintree Road, down Albert Road. He lived in a house there.
Q: I see. So that’s how they got them out to the railway?
Mr W: Yes, that’s how they got them in the old days. And they used to pull the trucks on to the line. I suppose that’d be on to the Braintree line so they got on to the main line. Of course, there was all different lines there isn’t there? A lot of the work used to go like that.
Q: That’s all gone now.
Mr W: Yes, I’m afraid so, Janet.
Q: It’s nice that you remember it.
Mr W: They were always moving, always chopping and changing about.
[discussion not noted]
Q: These were through in the, I wasn’t quite sure what those were but they may be quite new things [???] near the powerhouse is that, various odd machines and things, I wasn’t sure what those were?
Mr W: This looks like what they called the powerhouse. Looks like the powerhouse. Everything had to start from here, to start the machinery up. That’s the powerhouse and perhaps this, perhaps would be inside it?
[discussion, not noted]
Q: There’s a sort of electricity sub-station thing in there.
Mr W: That would be a place where I would never go in, really. But of course I knew where it was.
Q: Special people would work in there, would they?
Mr W: Oh yes, they would be the maintenance people. That’s the best I could tell you.
[discussion, not noted]
Q: That shows some of these overhead rails again. I think that’s looking out from – and that’s the railway going out through the door.
Mr W: Oh yes, this is the galvanise rail. The windows would come round on here, they would be hanging from here. I think I recognise it now. There’s the top of the main shop, and then they would go in here and I think they would put them on the rail along here. They probably disconnected it – you don’t know what they’ve done. The windows would come from the main shop, go in here, into the galvanise, because I recognise this here, I’m certain. (Q: That’s a ramp.) This would be a rail going into the galvanisers.
[discussion not noted]
Q: That’s from the galvanise looking out………
Q: The rails seem to go into the main shop, there. Or from the paint shop. If you go through from the main shop you come to this first, is that the paint?
[discussion not noted]
Mr W: I never worked up there very often. It looks as though it’s either paint or galvanise or something. This is in the tunnel, you see. The galvanise and the paint were all in the tunnel.
Q: It must have been an awful place to work, in the galvanise?
Mr W: Oh, the heat! I did work there the last period before I retired, the heat was terrible! I lost over a stone, working there, the sweat used to roll of me! Yes, the heat! Because the windows used to come along here and you used to have to take them off and that, they were heavy. And the heat in there! I mean, I weighed about sixteen stone, I went to the racing at Ascot and I went on the scales. And I looked at the scales and it was fourteen stone eight. I mean, I didn’t mind! I was only in there a week or two! Yes. And I took all that weight off. That looks like the tunnel to the galvanise or whatever.
Q: What were you doing when you were in there?
Mr W: You took the windows off these rails and put them on trucks.
Q: Did you take them off by hand did you?
Mr W: Yes, lift them up like that, and then put them on the truck and then they would be wheeled out.
Q: So they didn’t go all the way on the rails then? That was just to bring them through from the main shop? There was a lot of lifting wasn’t there?
Mr W: Yes, there was a lot of lifting.
[discussion not noted]
Mr W: The windows were on there and lowered into the acid. Was this taken recently?
Q: Yes, when it was empty.
Mr W: That’s what it looks like.
Q: That’s more of the same. As you know it looks dangerous, doesn’t it..
Mr W: Yes, it looks entirely different to when you were actually there. There was where that bloke went in, I suppose. He was a good friend of mine. (Q: Don Upson?) Don, yes. He always used to give me a lift. He came from Rivenhall, he’d see me, he’d stop his car and give me a lift down the road – and back! And he was always [???] that chap.
Q: He would always give you a smile.
Mr W: He was on the Council wasn’t he [Urban District Council].
Q: He was at one time, yes. When John was first on.
Mr W: His photo is down the Community Centre, because I spoke to him about it.
Q: It’s rather an oppressive place, I felt the galvanising. With all the acid and the heat and everything. To work there for any length of time must have been very hard.
Mr W: Oh. They used to go a bit nutty, some of them (Q: Did they really?) One chap there, he died a couple of years ago, a chap named Geoff. He was a very funny bloke. He’d be all right one minute and all of a sudden, he’d flare up. He was going to knock the boss about, knock the foreman about one day! You know, if you upset – he’d get upset quick. He told me afterwards he had something wrong with him – hypertension would it be? Something like that. He’d be all right one minute and he’d sort of flare up. I was talking to him one time down the town, after he retired. He would say something to you and he’d say ‘What the bloody hell you talking about? This or that!’ He would flare up all of a sudden like. But he said to me the thought he’d got cancer, he was going to the hospital. Anyhow he went a couple of years ago. But it was the smell, I suppose and the monotony. This particular chap, he used to sit on a sort of a chair like that and he used to sort of do something to the rail with a stick and make certain the rail was going all right. And that’s all he done all day long on that particular job. Perhaps they put him on that to – you know – keep him quiet! [laughs]
Q: You think it affected them, being in there?
Mr W: Oh yes! They – the work, I mean the work was high speed, especially on the final line, the final assembly. I’ve seen chaps get upset and all of a sudden they’d get hold of a window and throw it at somebody! It was sort of ‘all go’ – they tell me it’s worse still now over Braintree. It’s all – piecework is all – I don’t know if you’ve every come into it at all in your life? (Q: Not really.) You’ve got – you must get the work through. If you didn’t get the work through, you never got the money! You see, they used to – the last one – when I was there, they had what they called ‘Bands’. Band 1, Band 2, Band, 3, Band 4, 5, 6 7. And whichever band you got in, hundred per cent was Band 7, eighty per cent was Band 6 and sixty per cent was Band 5 or something like that. Of course everybody wanted the top money! And they used to roar about and perhaps at periods you wouldn’t get the work through. Perhaps the chap on the press down there hadn’t got the work through, hadn’t got the work for you, and so you had to sort of stand about. And while you were standing about, you wasn’t earning the money. You had to work to earn the money. Oh, there was – a terrific life. But it was worse before the War. (Q: Was it?) Yes, when I was a boy, on Fridays, they’d come round, an old boy would come round about half an hour before ‘knocking off’ time on Friday. Everybody’d think they’d have a nice weekend, come round without forty or fifty cards, and give it to a chap and ‘You’ll finish tonight!’ – you know, right on the spot! ‘You’ll finish work tonight!’ ‘You’ll finish work tonight.’ I knew a chap, I was very friendly with him, a chap named Treck, he lived at Hatfield [Peverel]. He was the Union secretary. And anyhow he was such a good bloke, they soon got rid of him. They come round one day and said ‘You’ll finish tonight’ and about three months, [sighs] he’d done himself in, poor fellow! A Union official, Treck, lived at Hatfield, just as you go in, just before the Duke [of Wellington PH]. Yes. Oh it was terrible! Once we had strike there and -–we used to have a chap, Mr Small, you ever heard of him? (Q: Mm, I think so.) He was a swine! He was a swine. And anyhow, the money was about as I said about three pounds or three pounds three then. Well the money went, there wasn’t a lot of work and the money went down to about two pounds thirteen shillings then. And they got fed up, the chaps all we went out on the side of the factory there, round the packing, round that area there. And they wouldn’t go back to work! Anyhow, Mr Small called his brother over, phoned him up, he was a director. And then they said ‘Oh, we don’t want to see you, we want to see Valentine’. That was Lord Crittall, eventually, a Member of Parliament, wasn’t he, a Labour member. And anyhow [laughs] he had to come down from his London office and eventually they got the men back. And there was one or two chaps who stood up, one was a Scotchman, I remember, a Scotsman, that’s the word isn’t it, and he was very good. And anyhow, they had him down and one or two more of the leaders down the office and this Scotsman they made him a charge-hand for a while. Then after about four months they got rid of him! That’s the sort of thing they used to do, you know, amazing.
Q: Did anything come of this strike? Was it any help?
Mr W: Yes, it did. Yes, the money went back to normal, yes the money went back to normal, about three pounds odd, you know. Three pounds odd, which was …
Q: How old were you then? Was that when you quite young?
Mr W: I was between fourteen and – this happened, between fourteen and twenty-one. I was a youngster.
Q: In 1921 do you mean?
Mr W: No, when I was twenty-one. That would be from – I went there in 1929, I started at Crittall’s. I had to go in the services in 1939. So that was between 1929 and 1939. Yes, so …
Q: And that was all piecework then still?
Mr W: Yes, in those days it was all – the whole shop – the main shop – we’d all get the same money. You all – the piecework went in all together. But after the War you went individual. Some were pairs, two of you. But eventually, most of them was single, and that was better. Because if you worked with another chap – I worked with another chap, he was a swine. He used to say ‘Oh you – go to the toilet too often!’ [laughs] Something like that, moan about things like that. He was a swine. So eventually, we split up and went on our own. And then, when you went on your own, you could work how you liked. You didn’t have to worry about anybody, your mate or anybody else like that. And I always earned top – I was always on the top band.
Q: Going back to the Union, was everybody in the Union?
Mr W: Oh yes! The Crittalls – of course they were all Labour, wasn’t they? Lord Crittall, of course, he was Valentine Crittall then, but eventually, after, he was made MP, they made him Lord. But they always insisted on the chaps being in a Union. And if they wasn’t in a Union, they didn’t like – anyhow, as far as I know everybody was in a Union. Some of the blighters never used to pay up. Never used to pay their Union and they used to sack them! I remember one chap, he went to school with me, and they sacked him. Anyhow he was away for a while and then he came back. And just before I retired they had him and another chap who lives in a bungalow on the hill there, down by the hill going round Braintree Road – what was his name now? Joslin – lives round the corner to you [Cecil Joslin]. They had them on the platform, fifty years-odd service. But he hadn’t got fifty years service, because I remember when he got the sack, when he got the sack for not paying his Union money, you know! [laughs]. It wasn’t Joslin it was Harry Horne, he’s gone now.
Q: Did you feel the Union was much help to you?
Mr W: Well, it wasn’t much help in those days, Janet, because, it wasn’t a lot of help to you then, because they had no power. As I say, they used to come round on Friday afternoon and sack them on the spot. When they were in the mood, they used to sack the Union bloke, poor old Treck! I think his name was Treck. (Q: Treck?) How you pronounce it I forget, but I think it was Treck. But they sacked him and anyhow three months later he committed suicide.
Q: It sounds as if this strike did a bit of good I suppose, but only as far as the money went? It didn’t stop them from sacking you? You say that when you had a strike the money went back to normal?
Mr W: Oh yes, back to normal, yes. Because there never used to be any strikes then unless that was very, very serious. That’s the only one I remember before the War, but several after. Oh yes. Several after. We had the boss of Norcross come, because that’s under Norcross now. I forget his name, [???] Terry? Or he used to be. And he came there one day and they said ‘Oh, we’ll have a strike because the boss is coming!’ Norcross boss, they’ve got firms all over Britain, haven’t they? (Q: Yes). ‘We’ll have a strike!’ You know, not official. So in the afternoon, when we come back [laughs] we all – you had to come out, everybody had to be the same. We came out. So this boss, he called the Union chap out, that was old Bert Hyam, did you know Bert Hyam? He was secretary of the Transport and General Workers. So the boss, this Norcross boss said ‘What’s the strike about?’ So old Bert said [laughs]’Well, I don’t know, I don’t know nothing about it myself!’ He didn’t know nothing about it himself! He said ‘It’s unofficial, not called by the Union.’ And of course, he was really annoyed. I don’t know what it was, about the money, I suppose. But anyhow, eventually the Unions, they did get strong. And the last two years I was there, I think the second year before I left, I had a rise of thirteen pounds a week. And you know, that was a lot of money then, 1978, I think. Anyhow the next year the firm said ‘We’ll give you a rise of – so much’. I don’t know whether it was ten pounds or something. No, they wouldn’t have that. Then I think it was twelve pounds, and they wouldn’t have that and then they made it, I think, fifteen. The last rise I had in 1980 was fifteen pounds. I mean a lot of us said ‘Oh yes!’ the ten or twelve or whatever it was, was all right. We thought, well, I mean, I remember the old days when we earned three pound – then to get a ten pound, twelve pound rise, I nearly – I was flabbergasted, like! Anyhow eventually they agreed we had fifteen pounds. I know the basic when I left was ninety pounds a week, I was getting, basic, you know. And a hundred-odd pounds when I’d done a few hours Saturday. That was quite good money then, that was about the best we ever did have. And then, in 1980 if you got a hundred pounds a week, it wasn’t bad.
Q: That was when you retired?
Mr W: Yes, when the big money was coming along, I had to go! I asked the manager, I said ‘Can’t you find me a job, a part-time job?’ and he said ‘Nothing about’. I couldn’t get a job anywhere, not when I retired at sixty-five, because the Pension Scheme wasn’t very good. The Pension Scheme what I was in, we only paid five shillings a week, roughly 25p or 27p? So when I retired I never had a very big pension. In 1978 they introduced a new Pension Scheme, but I was over sixty, or due to retire in two years’ time so I couldn’t go in it. And the chaps who were a year younger than me, they went in it and they done – oh, a lot better than what I did! And they got a big lump sum as well, and they were only in it a couple of years. So I didn’t get into it, you see. So I was unlucky there. Anyhow, eventually, I had one or two things wrong with me so I put in for a War pension and they gave me a War pension [laughs]
Q: Oh, good!
Mr W: So that, with the other little things and all that. And then they had the extra on top of the pension, introduced in ’78, you remember it, Pay as You Earn, the more money you earned the more pension you got, so I got a bit extra on that. A bit on the works pension and little bit of War pension, I get along.
Q: It’s not much though, is it? Compared to what you used to earn.
Mr W: Oh no! When I – as I say I was getting roughly a hundred pound a week and when I stopped work, believe it or not, and I’ve still got the paper upstairs, my pension was twenty three fifty! Twenty-three fifty, the State pension then. And I’ve still got it upstairs and I look at it and I thought nobody would believe that so I’ve kept it. Twenty-three pounds fifty was the State pension, I went down from a hundred to the State pension. You wouldn’t believe it.