Tape 152. Mrs Winifred de Trense (nee Bowhill), sides 1 and 2

Tape 152

Mrs Winifred De Trense (nee Bowhill) was born in very approximately 1910. She was interviewed at her home on 29 November 1991, when she lived at 11 Stafford Mansions, Stafford Place, London SW1.

For information about her, see Trense, de, Winifred, nee Bowhill, 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 ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

[looking at photos of the Grove etc., JG’s pictures, M466 to M477]

Mrs T:    I remember way back in the dark ages – that was what it looked like, (Q: Oh yes.) that was the very old Grove

Q:    Funnily enough I have seen a picture of the old one but not the new one.

Mrs T:    Oh, well in 1933 there was a suggestion that Winston Churchill was going to live there and he came and looked at it I think, but it fell through, he didn’t. And I think they had a fire there. And then about 1933 it was bought and demolished and this was the original, this was the coach house and stables. (Q: Oh I see.) and from the Old Grove they took this marvellous staircase, Queen Anne.

Q:    So this was all there before? [the coach house etc., which was made into the new Grove and lived in by Mrs de T]

Mrs T:    Yes, and I don’t think they even added on to it all.

Q:    Because it is a nice building isn’t it?

Mrs T:    Oh yes, because its an old building of course, its contemporary. Now that was the staircase that was in the old Grove and I’ve got pictures of that in there. And it was put in and so were the long Georgian windows as you can see there. It’s quite beautiful, and also seven foot doors, I don’t know if I’ve got a picture, with all their lovely brass door fittings, locks and things. No, I haven’t got a picture of any of the other rooms. Now that was the back of the house, sort of L-shaped.

Q:    But these windows were all put in?

Mrs T:    They are all contemporary windows, with the original house. They were brought from the original house and put in there. And the funny thing about this staircase is that of course it was in a much larger place and a slightly taller, so you went up these stairs and in order to fit it in with the rest of the house you had to come down a few more to get it in. It wasn’t terribly well put in I think actually. But this was the hall, the main hall.

Q:    The one with the stairs in?

Mrs T:    Yes when you went in there, there was two windows and we used to have it as a library because we always had masses of books of course.

Q:    So they’re they the ones on the left of the stairs (Mrs T: That’s right.) I’ve often wondered, I’ve seen the pictures of this old one (Mrs T: Yes.) and people have said well that disappeared and there was another one but I’ve never really worked out how …

Mrs T:    Well the old one I think, (just trying to remember which book I’ve got that one in and I could find it for you). The old one, if you see it from the back, looks enormous and I think it was. This was a much smaller edition. I think we had this nice big lounge hall and this one on this side was a very nice large dining room and then at the back that was the drawing room and there was a little sort of study place in there which was very pretty and then the sort of kitchen quarters. The kitchen quarters come down there and two or three more rooms along there, I can’t quite remember.

Q:    Where was this did you say?

Mrs T:    The study was the other side of this little thing there, from the hall by the stairs, you came through into the study.

Q:    When did you go there?

Mrs T:    We went there in 1961. Unhappily my husband died two years later so we weren’t there all that long.

Q:    So then you went to Highway Cottage?.[118 Newland Street]

Mrs T:    Yes, after a couple of years. I was staying with people and sort of doing things.

Q:    So you first came to Witham …?

Mrs T:    I’ve known Witham since 1920. I was quite small in those days. And then you see my sister and her husband lived in Whitehall Cottage. Remember? Its pulled down now. They owned the cinema and they lived there.

Q:    So what was your name before you married?

Mrs T:    Bowhill.

Q:    So in 1920 did you actually live in Witham?

Mrs T:    No, I lived in Chelmsford. It was in 1928 or 9, that my sister went to live in Witham. She married and went to live there with her husband and two children.

Q:    So you used to visit them?

Mrs T:    I used to visit them, yes, yes yes. Of course I loved the farmhouse which is dreadful now. Wheaton’s farm [Freebornes, 3 Newland Street], yes, I’m not sure if I’ve got a, well there’s some pictures here, have you seen this? You must have seen these.

Q:    Yes, you mean Freebornes?

Mrs T:    Yes, that’s right and of course I do think they did a marvellous job on that and of course I loved what we used to call Bright’s House. I don’t know what people call it now but it’s where Gerald Bright and his family used to live, the solicitors you know and it’s next door to the cinema. (Q: Roslyn House? [16 Newland Street]) Yes, the Clarkes lived there after. And of course, my sister afterwards lived at Blue Mills.(Q: I see.) the Gaze family, a long[?] family of them.

Q:    Oh yes, I remember their name in connection with the cinema [Whitehall, 18 Newland Street]?

Mrs T:    Yes, that’s right they owned the cinema.

Q:    A friend of mine [Dorle Potten], her daughter married someone who’s related to the Gazes, Anthony.

Mrs T:    Tony Gaze?

Q:    Mmm, they live in Suffolk somewhere.

Mrs T:    Oh, yes, I’d forgotten. Yes, Anthony. When you said Anthony I was thinking of his father, who of course is my nephew. And he is a doctor in Hampstead, Anthony’s father. Oh what is her name, she is such a nice girl?

Q:    Jill?

Mrs T:    No, but if you mention it I shall know and they have a small boy.

Q:    They have a small holding, I think that’s right

Mrs T:    But a very small boy too haven’t they.

Q:    But she’s moved back to Rivenhall now, his wife’s mother. Sheer coincidence and she just found out from talking to him that, as you say, they used to be at the cinema.

Mrs T:    Oh gosh what is her name, she is a very nice girl. I met her at, Anthony’s father married again not so long ago and we all had a lovely, he had a wedding party at the Arts Club in Dover Street and of course she was there with her husband, Anthony Junior. We always called his father Tony anyway. Oh that’s the farm, wasn’t that lovely? (Q: Yes.) Now these I expect, have you seen that? (Q: Yes). And these old pictures they’re blown up from the local paper I think.

Q:    Oh I see, its lovely to have these isn’t it.

Mrs T:    Yes. Now that you see was at the Highway Cottage (Q: I see.) [view up Newland Street] You see where we are, there’s the surgery here.

Q:    But there are more houses up …

Mrs T:    Yes, that’s right, but they were pulled down and that was a caravan site for a long time. But now I think they have built on them haven’t they?

Q:     Yes, there are some flats there. [102-116 Newland Street]. So when you came to the Grove was that when you first came to Witham or …?

Mrs T:    No, my husband was a dentist there. No I came to Witham in 1936 to manage the cinema for my brother-in-law. I ran Whitehall Cinema, from 1936, all through the War and then I married in 1942 and I hope you are not putting me in this, you won’t put any of my details in. I’d rather you didn’t.

Q:    If you remember the blue book, I don’t quote people directly by name.

Mrs T:    And we had three children and we lived over the surgery, its still there I expect isn’t there, my husband’s surgery. Let me think, I sold that house, Medina House and I think they put a shop front in I think. Do you know Medina House?[80-84 Newland Street]

Q:    Yes, with the shops in front.

Mrs T:    Oh yes, that is where the surgery was. We lived in the flat over it because it was very difficult to get things you in 1942 when we married, almost impossible.

Q:    Was the surgery the room that sticks out towards the front?

Mrs T:    No, the surgery was in house, in one of the downstairs rooms.

Q:    Was it hard work running the cinema?

Mrs T:    Well, during the War it was interesting work actually. I told somebody yesterday, that for two years I never missed a performance. I never had any let up for it because I always had to there and we were open seven days a week. No it wasn’t hard work really. It was a nice little country cinema and I enjoyed it.

Q:    Had you ever done anything like that before?

Mrs T:    No, but I mean I was a business person and had business training and my brother-in-law had somebody running it and she was retiring and so he asked me to come and take it over which I did. It was such a nice place in those days, and I tell you I was also telling this person, I was talking to her about it yesterday, that the boys, the young boys, and the children of the neighbourhood used to come in matinees with their threepenny and sixpenny tickets, whatever. And they weren’t rowdy at all. If there was any sign of rowdiness I or any of the usherettes had only to walk down the aisles and they immediately shut up. [laugh] Of course we did have quite a burly doorman at the same time but you just had to look at them and they behaved themselves. Quite different from now I would think.

Q:    I often wondered how you chose the films. Did you choose the films or were they just sent?

Mrs T:    Oh we had lists of films and I, in conjunction with my brother-in-law who was the owner, would get together and decide what would be good and the representatives of all the film renters would come round regularly every month and hand you their lists of what they’d got available and show you pictures and so forth. And you would say, yes I’ll have that and I’ll have that and I’ll have a James Cagney and a Bette Davies and whatever, you know.

Q:;    And so you got to know what the people in Witham preferred?

Mrs T:    Oh yes. I tell you one person they didn’t like at all and if I had any of her films I had to keep her name off, Katherine Hepburn, isn’t that amazing? (Q: Really?) She didn’t go down, or I had to put it in very small print on the posters and blow up the male lead whoever. But they didn’t like her. I think because she didn’t conform to the sort of pretty pretty idea you know of a film star. It was fairly straightforward you know. I mean you got all sorts of guidelines from the renters, all the sort of publicity stuff they sent out. It was a nice little cinema. It was very well kept. We were always being commended by the County Council and it was never allowed to get dirty or dusty or anything. Of course we had very strict safety rules, both up in the projection room where they in those days, I think I’m right in saying that the film was quite highly inflammable. I think now it isn’t and it had to be kept. We were only allowed to have one reel at a time out from the iron boxes, the iron containers they were in. And the films used to be delivered in the early morning of Mondays and Thursdays because there was a change of programme.

Q:    How did they come?

Mrs T:    By a van. And during the War I think it was rather a scaring business, driving these things through London and out of London along the roads with all these thousands of feet of film in the back, even though they were in iron containers, metal containers.

Q:    I spoke to somebody who said he’d been a trainee projectionist, but I don’t know, a Mr Barber. But that might have been a bit earlier.

Mrs T:    Not with us?

Q:    Yes, but only for a little while before, when he was a young boy.

Mrs T:    Wait a minute, what is his other name?

Q:    Bernard I think.

Mrs T:    No I don’t remember that. Was he a trainee under Charlie Mason, chief projectionist.

Q:    Could be, yes.

Mrs T:    He was there all the time, Charlie was there when they first started up and it opened up in 1926 [actually 1928] and refurbished in 1936.

Q:    Because I came across, you know if you’re going to alter a building you have to submit plans to the Council, I was looking through, they’ve got all the old plans and just before the Whitehall was converted there was another plan to build a cinema on the corner of the Avenue for somebody else, presumably that fell through and the Whitehall got in first.

Mrs T:    I think it must have done. And the point is, it was started, the cinema was started in 1926, and Whitehall was sort of gutted and then they built on. No, that’s not true, Whitehall house itself was not gutted. The floors are there but they built on a cinema at the back. And the firm that started in 1926 came from Maldon. They went broke and my brother-in-law looked at this for a little while and decided to finish it, you know, to complete it, which he did. And I think that it was finished about 1927. It opened in 1927 [actually 1928]. When he bought it the wall were a few feet up and he had very nice holophane[?] lighting put in. It was finished with, everything was of very good quality, and then when it was updated in 1936 for the new talkie sound thing and new foyer and pay box and things like that.

Q:    Didn’t they have sound before?

Mrs T:    Oh yes they did, I’m just trying to think. They had silent films. I don’t know whether they, do you know I can’t remember. I ought to know this. I think they opened with silent. They opened with Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. I remember the film they opened with.

Q:    Really. I think there’s a poster of the opening in the library now.

Mrs T:    Which one? The original opening or the refurbished? Because the other one they opened with was Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, but that was a talkie.

Q:    I see. Was it opened by Mr Pinkham?

Mrs T:    I think so. he was council leader or something wasn’t he.

Q:    It was closed before I came to Witham so I don’t remember at all.

Mrs T:    When did you come to Witham?

Q:    1966. I’m pretty sure it was closed, but they did have the ‘Whitehall’ still up then.

Mrs T:    Oh yes, I was living at the cottage then, Highway Cottage, went there in ‘65. There’s an article in here. Have you see any of these … [parish mags] There is a story of the Grove which Max my son wrote which you might find interesting. Oh well you’ve got this I think, we were interested in the story of Witham Place. (Q: Oh yes.) So, Witham as I remember it. Did you do that? You might have done this one. Remembered by Mr and Mrs Alfred Baxter.

Q:    Oh I think I’ve met them

Mrs T:    That’s a very old one, you’ve probably seen that?

Q:    I don’t think so. This is when it was a house.

Mrs T:    General Sir Bindon Blood lived there. I am sure you know [not actually the General].

Q:    Maldon Road Witham.

Mrs T:    That, I understand, is up for sale. It’s where, Howbridge Hall. And those lovely windows where Woolworths is now.

Q:    Oh yes, the antique shop.

Mrs T:    And that’s the old Barclays Bank, I don’t know what they’ve done with that. This I found interesting because it was the first red brick house in Witham. The Wilderness [52-54 Newland Street]. You know where that is do you? (Q: Yes.) And that lovely garden. They put that ghastly precinct on. I could shoot them all I really could. And that I think was the original Barclays Bank I think. This is Midland Bank here. This is the present Barclays.
[phone, chat, not noted]

Q:    So did you go from the Whitehall house to the Grove.

Mrs T:    No, we lived in Medina House. (Q: Sorry, Medina House. )With the surgery, then to the Grove. (Q: Yes.)

Q:    Was that when your husband retired or …?

Mrs T:    No, he never did retire, no, he was still working when he died.

Q:    So he kept on the surgery in the same place (Mrs T: Oh yes.) but moved house. Were there any other dentists?

Mrs T:    Yes, there was Mr Robson. Is he still there? Do you remember him at all? (Q: Just trying to think.) and Mr Higgins who was with my husband, he took over the practice and he was running it for some time I think. Then he moved it to Collingwood Road. I don’t know if he is still there. (Q: [???] Dentists’ work must have been quite a lot different.) For a long time my husband was the only qualified dentist in the neighbourhood, throughout the War, for some miles around and people used to call in, lorry drivers with frightful toothache. I don’t know where they got his name from but they suddenly called and he never refused anybody. He would always see them. At all sorts of odd times.

Q:    Must have been hard work then.

Mrs T:    Yes it was I think it was hard work.

Q:    He had an appointment system as well?

Mrs T:    Oh yes, indeed.

Q:    Did he have nurses to help him in those days or was it …?

Mrs T:    After the War I think, but for a bit he was on his own. He had his receptionist of course.

Q:    Was the treatment a lot different?

Mrs T:    Well that I can’t say. I know that every time I go to my dentist in Wigmore Street he’s got different equipment, modern apparatus, takes all the angst out of everything, so obviously its been updated enormously since my husband’s day. As I say it is a long time ago.

Q:    [???] he was an expert businessman as well.

Mrs T:    Oh yes, he was very good. I know I would say that, but he was, very well qualified.

Q:    How did you meet him?

Mrs T:    I met him in Witham. He came to take over the practice before we were married you see and I was living there. I’d been running the cinema. And that’s when somebody introduced us I think.

Q:    You worked what they call un-social hours now didn’t you?

Mrs T:    Absolutely, absolutely! And really we thought nothing of it. Every night. I mean I never saw any of the popular things, or heard them on the radio or anything like that. No, I was always too busy.

Q:    Did you have any recreations then or …

Mrs T:    Well, I must have done looking back. I mean one did the usual things. I used to play badminton a lot. I was a member of the women’s …. I don’t know if that’s still going. The badminton club in the Public Hall. Is it still going do you think?

Q:    I don’t know about in the Public Hall. There may be one in …, because there’s a Sports Centre now.

Mrs T:    Of course there is. I’ve never seen that and we didn’t have a swimming pool. There is now isn’t there?

Q:    I was told there was an open air one at one time but I don’t know how long it was open?

Mrs T:    I have an idea there might have been one but I don’t know where it was, do you?

Q:    I think, at one time, it was behind the Swan.(Mrs T: I think you’re right.) There was …

Mrs T:    I think you’re right, but I don’t think I ever saw it. Goodness, but its all changed so much. I don’t like it a bit. Its grown enormously too. And of course they’ve got a new shopping precinct haven’t they which I’ve never seen.

Q:    Its quite attractive.

Mrs T:    But that ghastly one in the middle of the High Street. How anyone could allow that to be built I don’t know. And what they’ve done to Wheaton’s farmhouse.

Q:    But it’s been restored recently.

Mrs T:    To what though?

Q:    To shops and preserved. I don’t think they’ve destroyed much of what was there.

Mrs T:    There was the most, there was a lovely old walnut tree in the middle of the farmyard. That’s gone. And all the farm buildings in the farmyard have gone. And of course, what amazes me is the estate on the Grove land now. I mean we had a very big garden indeed and I don’t know, what have you done with all the …

Q:    There was a lovely one I saw of the tree and looking across and into a field. Is that the Grove? [probably JG’s photo M474]

Mrs T:    Yes, I expect so. That was the back garden you see, the garden at the back of the house and this was all round the front. This was the drive in from Newland Street.

Q:     This is the one I was thinking of.

Mrs T:    That was lovely. Yes, that was all part of our … And you could sort of just look. I remember in the awful winter of 1963, do you remember that? (Q: Yes.) We had no water for a month. The Council were marvellous. They brought us a barrel every day to the Grove. We were frozen up. And of course the whole thing was under ice and I remember, in those days there were two gates on Newland Street there was this long brick wall, a historic wall, which I hope is protected. There were two entrances into it. One I think is now a road and I remember standing in that it was the entrance into our barns and garden. I remember standing and looking out over this field, over that and I was snowy and there was frost everywhere. It was a wonderful sight. Of course it was lovely to see the trees.

Q:    Were you interested in gardening?

Mrs T:    Well, I didn’t really have a great deal of time. The only time I put in a whole lot of things here was in 1963 when of course the frost came and got rid of everything. I never saw them again.

Q:    I think some of the big trees have been kept.

Mrs T:    I tell you what there was and that was a gingko tree in the front. Is that still there? It had a County Council [???] on it saying it must not be cut down. It was interesting because when I first came to Witham and people used to tell me what the town was like in the old days and in the last century I think somebody had gone abroad, an explorer had gone abroad and brought back four very rare trees. Which were scattered all over Witham. And when I got to the Grove of course I found the Grove was one of the places. Another one was in Roslyn House and I don’t know if the third one isn’t behind the Midland Bank House (Q: Oh could be.) but I don’t know where the fourth one was. Probably up at Wickham Bishops or somewhere like that I think. But I was really fascinated after hearing about these trees to find there was actually was one in the Grove.

Q:    Did you carry on working after you got married?

Mrs T:    At the cinema? Yes. And then my daughter was born at the end of 1943 and then Max my elder son was in 1945 and I really gave up then. I got help from all sorts of people.

Q:    What, with the house?

Mrs T:    Well with the cinema as well. You know, it was a family concern you see, belonged to my brother-in-law and so that was what happened.

Q:    Did you miss the work? I suppose with the children you didn’t have time to miss …

Mrs T:    No, I didn’t really miss it very much I must say, it had become quite a tie.

Q:    You said you had business training, was that …?

Mrs T:    Oh, the usual secretarial training that one did have in those days. I didn’t specialise very much.

Q:    Where did you do that?

Mrs T:    Gosh, I can’t remember now, oh in Reigate in Surrey, we were living there at the time.

Q:    That was useful wasn’t it.

Mrs T:    Yes, it was. I was always quite interested in office work. Accounts and things like that.

Q:    You didn’t get involved with your husband’s business at all?

Mrs T:    No, not at all. I left that to qualified people.

Q:    So what did you used to do with your time?

Mrs T:    Well, the children. We used to play a lot of bridge. We played a lot of bridge. Used to play about twice a week which I enjoyed very much and as I say, I did play badminton in the afternoons. The two children went, is Barbara English still alive?

Q:    I believe so, yes.

Mrs T:    Because the three children went to Lawn House of course [i.e Miss English’s school]. And you know with three children there was quite a lot to do. And one couldn’t always get help. It was very difficult, especially after the War. We had one or two foreign, you were able to get foreign help after a bit you know.

Q:    Did those people come specially to work in Britain?

Mrs T:    Yes, I remember we had an Austrian nanny for the children and she was very good. She eventually married a prisoner of  war and they both worked extremely hard and after that, together, they ran a café just near Kelvedon for a long time. They’re probably still there for all I know.

Q:    Of course you had a big house to keep as well wasn’t it. Did you have help?

Mrs T:    What, the Grove? Yes I did. Well the other one, you know, Medina House there were four floors and it was a typical Victorian House. Not terribly attractive to look at but the rooms were a nice size.

Q:    Yes, it had nice windows. And had a central position.

Mrs T:    Yes. I managed to get someone. Oh yes we usually had somebody, when things got back more or less to normal. I had somebody living in all the time. A sort of general help, you know.

Q:    In some ways [???] [???]

Mrs T:    I mean before the War there had been lots of domestic workers but I think nobody wanted to go back to doing that after. I mean certainly after the First World War I’m told there were a lot of people in domestic service weren’t there. But after, in the twenties nobody went back to doing it. Very few anyway.

Q:    There would be more factory work available then.

Mrs T:    That’s right, I tell you you see with domestic work, the hours, as you say were unsociable, especially if one had dinner at night and it had to be cooked and served and washed up and so forth. People didn’t want to do that. They’d much rather go into shops, offices, or factories where they could finish at six or whatever.

Q:    Did you entertain quite a lot as well?

Mrs T:    Oh we had people in to dinner. Yes we did, there was always somebody, lots of people in and out, you know. And of course we had a lot of family in the neighbourhood. I mean the Gaze family, there were quite a lot of them and they lived at Blue Mills. And I had another sister and her husband was away a lot and she had three children and they lived in Witham also. And my parents were there. They lived at number 6 Newland Street which I think is a dental surgery now?

Q:    Yes, that’s nearly opposite the Grove.

Mrs T:    Yes, that’s right, they are nice little houses and they were built apparently, according to what Max says in one of his things, the Grove butler lived in one of them (Q: Really?) they were built for the Grove servants. [probably not in fact]

Q:    Did they come to Witham after you ?

Mrs T:    We all came at more or less the same time I think. Yes, it seems funny to have no connection with it now after having a lot of us having long term connections.

Q:    Did your sister live there as well?

Mrs T:    Both my sisters. Yes, they’re both dead now. My elder sister, the Gazes family are scattered. It is interesting, I wish I could think of Anthony’s wife’s name, can see her, got a pretty little face. I can remember what she looks like. And he’d got a brother of course who is in Canada, I think, Anthony and Nicholas, the two.

Q:    Its mainly her mother that I know.

Mrs T:    What was her name?

Q:    Potten.

Mrs T:    Unusual. I’m sure it will come back to me when you’ve gone.

Q:    Did you visit Blue Mills much?

Mrs T:    Yes, spent a lot of time there. And my husband used to swim. He was a very good swimmer. They had a pond there. It was a very dangerous I think. And he went in and my family, and all the Gazes did too. It was quite deep actually. They were all very good swimmers. And they used to play tennis. Yes, we spent a lot of time at Blue Mills. They were always a jolly family you know. Lot of get-togethers.

Q:    Did you have a car in those days?

Mrs T:    No. For a long time we didn’t, we did have a car but it wasn’t used. I mean the Gazes did, my children weren’t old enough to drive but no I did go about in cars but it wasn’t ours, because my husband didn’t like driving very much. In fact he used a taxi service when ever he wanted anything.

Q:    The taxi service in Witham?

Mrs T:    Well, it was Jack Lapwood. Do you remember Jack Lapwood? (Q: Oh yes, I know.) He knew us very well. He knew the family from when they were quite … In fact he probably collected Piers and me from Colchester when Piers was born. And he used to take us everywhere. He can’t be alive still can he?

Q:    I don’t think so, no.

Mrs T:    He lived in those lovely little Tudor cottages beyond the Grove, near Chess Lane. He lived in one of those. [Grove Cottages]

Q:    So Colchester was where you went?

Mrs T:    The other two were born in Witham but Piers was born in Colchester.

Q:    People have told me about the bungalow in Witham which was a maternity home.

Mrs T:    Yes, that’s where the two were born. I didn’t want to go out of the town because it was the middle of the War, obviously. In fact the night Virginia was born we had one of our most frightful raids. We had no light. She arrived a week earlier than we expected her to. You met Virginia didn’t you? (Q: Yes.) There are photographs of her here. She’s the eldest. There’s one of her sitting on the terrace at the Grove and that’s my niece and myself, my god, did I ever look like that. [JG’s photo M469] Inside there was our drawing room at the Grove. I don’t know where the other one is of Virginia. That’s the Avenue as it was. This is a road now. That’s my niece and there’s Virginia sitting in the window and this the back of the house.

Q:    Did you have somebody in your family who was a photographer?

Mrs T:    Yes, the husband of that niece was a very good photographer and he took these.

Q:    Who used to live in the old house, the big one?

Mrs T:    Was it the Du Canes?

Q:    Someone mentioned the Laurences.

Mrs T:    Oh, Percy Laurence of course. There was PL[?]. You know the old Conservative office, there’s a lodge at the end of the Avenue, near the Station end, on the left and over the, there’s ‘PL’ it was the lodge I think to the Grove actually. It was of course, because that Avenue was the Avenue up to the Grove. (Q: His initials are on there are they?) PL. I’m sure you’ll find that. It was built by Robert Barwell in 1696. You’ve got that I expect. Princess Charlotte went up that staircase, you know that, no doubt.

Q:    And that’s the one, everybody came out to look at her didn’t they?

Mrs T:    Oh did they, I didn’t know that.

Q:    They came to the gates. It must have been difficult being her I should think.

Mrs T:    Mmm. I think the Du Canes, They also owned two Georgian houses opposite. Avenue House and Newbury House. You know those of course (Q: Yes.) Yes, Avenue House is Mrs Twist. Is she still there? (Q: I think so.) And next door was the Shelleys. He was a bookmaker. Is there somebody else there now? (Q: I’m not sure.) What about the Dorothy L Sayers houses. I was a member of that for a long time. Who is there?

Q:    [???] the other side. [???]. All that end of the town has got nice houses.

Mrs T:    Yes, I hope it’s protected but it’s a bit late. So Mrs Twist is still there. It was the Du Canes and then Percy Laurence.

Q:    And Highway Cottage of course is a bookshop now isn’t it, Mrs Saunders.

Mrs T:    Yes, I called in there a couple of years ago and bought something when I was, as usual when you go back everything looks much smaller doesn’t it, than it ever did before. I was working in London when I lived there so I didn’t have much time. I used to go up daily, which I quite enjoyed doing. On the railway. The journey wasn’t so awful as it is now I believe. At least they were on time more or less. All that’s twenty years ago.

Q:    Where did you work ?

Mrs T:    Oh, I did all sorts. I worked for a, freelance really, for a friend of mine who was running a bureau. I worked for all sorts of interesting people. I worked for a security firm which was very interesting indeed and the Institute of Directors, and that was nice too. Usually nice people.

Q:    Just for a short while?

Mrs T:    Well, I used to go, well, yes, I did weeks, fortnights, three months and I used to go back time and again to the same places, they’d ask for me again as I’d worked there before. I found it much more interesting than taking a …, I don’t think I could have stood a complete job, you know with one firm all the time.

Q:    What sort of things were you doing?

Mrs T:    Well, secretarial mostly and accounts and things like that.

Q:    So did you start work again when the children …?

Mrs T:    Well, the children, yes, that’s right I did start work when the children, after my husband died, you see two of them were still at school. Ginnie had left school. Max was in his last term, Piers I think had another year or two to go. I got awfully lonely of course and so I wanted something to do and that’s what I did. It was very interesting.

Q:    A bit nerve-racking at first perhaps wasn’t it?

Mrs T:    Well, a bit, I suppose, getting into the swim. As I say I got to know this person who was running the employment bureau and I helped her out first of all, which did help me quite a bit. After not having done anything you know for quite some time.

Q:    You start to wonder if you really can cope ?

Mrs T:    Well, I’d always kept up my typing and things like that you know. That was very useful.

Q:    What age, talking about the children being at school. Did they stay at Lawn House?

Mrs T:    No, now Virginia went away to school when she was ten from Lawn House and Max, when he was seven and a half went to prep school and Piers when he was eight. I think they went when they were three or four. I can’t remember. At one point they were all there. Goodness knows, I mean they pulled that down and there’s now three houses, four houses, something like that.

Do you remember Wyn Warner? Did you ever know her? She was a wonderful personality. Her husband was the manager of Barclays Bank and I only mention her because she lived in a bungalow in the drive of Lawn House. She was great fun. She was a leading light in the Amateur Dramatic Society. I mean I was almost one of the original members. It was started at Lawn House and it started out with about ten or twelve people sitting round and discussing it and reading plays and then they put on extremely good plays after a bit. I remember Mrs Elaine Strutt, you know her? (Q: Oh yes.) She took the lead in one of them and she was very good. And this niece whom I’ve just shown you a picture of, and her sister they were both very good.

Q:    What were their …?

Mrs T:    She was Josephine Horn and her sister was Cynthia Horne. I’m just trying to think of the one that Jo took the lead in. Elaine Strutt was in that too and Tony Cullen, do you remember him. (Q: Mmm, yes.)

Q:    And this was when you first went to Witham was it?

Mrs T:    Oh, no this was after the War.

Side 2

Mrs T:    They were very good indeed. They used to do a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan. I don’t know what they’ve done lately. The Dramatic Society was very good. We had a wonderful producer called Gilbert Sutcliffe. (Q: Oh, I know.) Did you know anything about him?

Q:    I remember him.

Mrs T:    You remember him. He really was wonderful. He was very good indeed. He had a very high standard and they were excellent these plays. ‘Traveller’s Joy’ was one they did which was very well, and Elaine Strutt took the lead in that and she was awfully good.

Q:    You had important parts as well did you?

Mrs T:    No, I wasn’t in it. No I used to play read. I enjoyed play reading very much but no, I didn’t do a public performance at all, but my nieces did. I always helped in front of the house, you know, arranging programme sellers, and seats and tickets and whatever.

Q:    There’s quite a lot of organisation isn’t there in these things? (Q: Mmm.) Its nice to be involved even if you are not acting. Its quite exciting.

Mrs T:    Yes, it was great fun this play reading.

Q:    Did you get good audiences?

Mrs T:    We were sold out.

Q:    This was in the Public Hall was it?

Mrs T:    The Public Hall, yes. They’ve altered it since, haven’t they? Perhaps you don’t remember it before they altered it, they put a sort of side aisle down, perhaps you don’t remember.

Q:    Not sure I remember.

Mrs T:    Before that it was just an ordinary square hall with a stage and an exit at each side of the stage. Now I think there’s something else. They’ve added to it, I’m not sure what.

Q:    Certainly on the, left you can go through because they often have a bar there, when they do performances.

Mrs T:    Well, we didn’t have that at all. And of course we used to play badminton there.

Q:    I’m not sure whether there are changing rooms. There isn’t much in the way of changing rooms.

Mrs T:    Oh yes, there were dressing room. There were two or three dressing rooms at the back. There certainly were those which we used during the run of the plays.

Q:    I think they’re still quite successful. I think sometimes the Dramatic Society now, have special tiered seating (Mrs T: Oh do they?) which means a smaller audience but you get a better view.

Mrs T:    It was all flat of course, all level. And dear old Kath Richards, whom I’m sure you’ll know. She died didn’t she? (Q: Yes.) I’d known her for ever of course. And she was always in the Operatic wasn’t she?

Q:    Yes, that’s right. Even [???] took the money in the box office. She was the business manager I think.

Mrs T:    Yes, I think she was and her mother was  before her. Her mother was very good. She was so like her mother. (Q: Really?) And I don’t know who lives in her house now, in Avenue Road.

Q:    I’m not sure, whether its been sold or what’s happened. So you knew her parents?

Mrs T:    Yes, Charlie Richards, he was the builder and undertaker. No, he never, as far as I know became very much involved, he was probably a vice-president and helped financially. I don’t know, but it was always Mrs Richards I remember at the Operatic.

Q:    Because I think I was reading something recently about Kath, saying about when she was secretary of Dorothy Sayers.

Mrs T:    Now, that’s right, her sister Joyce did it first and then Kath did afterwards. Joyce was there, somebody else before that and then Joyce took over and then Kath took over from Joyce. But Dorothy L Sayers. I used to go down from here. Every year they used to have a week, as you probably know, in fact they still do maybe. I was living up here when they brought her ashes up to St Anne’s Soho. And I was present there when they interred them under the floor you know. In fact I was talking on the phone to somebody last night about them because I’m a member of the Soho Society and their office is in the Newry, because St Anne’s was bombed during the War and the interior of the church, there’s no roof, just the walls, was used as a car park. Now of course they’ve rebuilt it but the tower is still as it was and I was asking this friend of mine if the ashes were still there, because we had quite a little ceremony and the Bishop of London, sort of drew back [the curtain] and there is a plaque you know and he said a prayer over it and drew it back and there is a nice picture of her in the tower of St Anne’s.

Then after that we went over to St Paul’s Covent Garden and had some refreshments and a little reception, coffee and biscuits and things. And all these people came up from Witham. Of course I was already up here so that was all right. I remember it, that’s right, then we had a service in St Paul’s Covent Garden. And it was there that I met Margery Allingham’s sister. Of course you know Margery used to live at Tolleshunt D’Arcy and her sister Joyce whom I didn’t know at all but I got talking to her and she said that she had read about the Dorothy L Sayers thing in The Times that morning and thought she would come along, which I thought was so nice, so she came up from Witham to this service.

Q:    Did you know Dorothy L Sayers at all?

Mrs T:    No, not really well. She kept herself very much to herself. Rather a person I think, of course none of us knew of the existence of her adopted son, as she called him until her will was read. Well, possibly some people did but most of the townspeople didn’t. But of course he turned out to be her own son didn’t he? (Q: Yes.) She was an extraordinary person, she was very clever and I’m told she was an extremely good bridge player. She would have been. I can see her now. She always wore very mannish suits with shirts and ties. And she’d be in the fish, do you remember Cutts the fishmongers? (Q: I’ve seen pictures of it.) Well I can see her in the fish queue at Cutts, this mannish suit, pink knitted woolly hat and a cigarette in a very long holder and a string bag in the fish queue [laugh]. She was amazing, very clever.

And then do you remember the Misses Hannay? Perhaps not, the bookshop.

Q:    I can just remember there being a bookshop – on the corner of Collingwood Road?

Mrs T:    No, not Collingwood Road, where the Co-operative [103-115 Newland Street] down there. Their father Canon Hannay was a famous author. George A Berningham. I don’t know if you know the name. He wrote under the name of George A Berningham. (Q: No.) I think there is still a Hannay bookshop in Braintree. (Q: I believe so, yes.) And it’s the same family, but they opened this one in Witham and I think that Dorothy L Sayers used to go and talk to Miss Hannay quite a bit.

Q:    It was a small place then to have a bookshop wasn’t it?

Mrs T:    Well, it was and they were second-hand books a lot of them you see and you could pick up all sorts of bargains there. They were all quite reasonable and never old books, never torn covers.

Q:    Did they come to Witham specially for that do you think?

Mrs T:    I don’t know really, I suppose they did. Would they have the Braintree one first? They might have looked at Witham and thought there was an opening there, because we had only Clarke’s as a bookshop and then after that one opened. There was one on the corner of Collingwood Road, (Q: Yes.) Is that the one you’re thinking of ?

Q:    Yes, I remember sort of vaguely.

Mrs T:    And there was a café behind it or above it or something.

Q:    Yes, in Lockram Lane, the Canadienne or something.

Mrs T:    Yes, the people who ran it were Canadians. I can’t remember her name.. She was a wonderful dressmaker. She lived in Avenue Road. But this bookshop it was fun because it was nice going in and being able to browse around. But I can well understand why it didn’t … Because you see they can’t carry an extensive stock and one of the jobs I had, I worked for a publisher, in Bond Street. I ran his office for a year. I could understand why it didn’t work because, at one point there, was a cheap rate for postage, so you could send books fairly cheaply. But after a bit they took that off and you see if you hadn’t, there wasn’t a great deal of profit in books, and if you hadn’t a got a book in store you would get it but you might have to charge your customer postage I would imagine.

There wasn’t a lot of profit in books. I mean if you could go into somewhere like Clarke’s in Chelmsford or whatever and pick up the book there and then that was fine but if it had to be got in specially for you I imagine that either they had to pass on the charge or if they didn’t do that they weren’t going to make a lot of money out of it. (Q: Quite.)

Q:    It was nice to have it there.

Mrs T:    Oh yes, it was great. It was very nice, very modern. Oh yes, was it Father Winchall [at 40 Newland Street]. It was a sweet shop called Winchalls and he was known as Father Winchall. Don’t ask me why I don’t know. No, Winch’s, not Winchall, Father Winch. because my children used to call it Father Munch. it was father Winch. And he had this shop, a corner shop near Glovers wasn’t it. Is Glovers still there? Actually in Collingwood Road. [38 Newland Street]

Q:    No, that’s electricity. I know where you mean.

Mrs T:    Well, years ago the electricity showrooms were in Collingwood Road but in a bungalow now? Insurance! Is it?

Q:    I’ve got a feeling there’s the Health Authority. (Mrs T: Oh yes.) Did you shop in Witham quite a bit or did you go …?

Mrs T:    Oh, well, food and things like that but Chelmsford and Colchester for most things I suppose really, and books of course.

Q:    Where did you go for your food?

Mrs T:    Well, Luckin Smith of course. They’re not there any longer are they? (Q: No.) Not called Luckin Smith, in the middle of the High Street. Do you know there used to be some nice little cafes, Cartons, do you remember Cartons. (Q: don’t think so.) There were two or three of them, little cafes in Witham High Street. You could go and have tea or coffee. Then Cartons, they started off in quite a small shop, near the butchers, Lovedays, near them and then they moved to a much bigger place near the church in the High Street. Do you know what I’m talking about? (Q: Yes, the Congregational church.) The Congregational Church, yes. And at one point it was a china shop I think. And they had a room over it which you could hire. I remember hiring that for Virginia’s fifth birthday, having a tea party there and they did it. It was fun. Everybody used to, Saturday mornings, everybody used to congregate in Cartons and have coffee. It really was fun, great fun.

And then of course do you remember Dibbens the hairdressers? (Q: Is that Maldon Road?) No, Dibbens was the other side of the churchyard (Q: I know, next to. part of Byford’s now?) [90 Newland Street] That’s right next door, is it part of Byford’s now (Q: Yes.) Well Byford’s used to be Barham’s, jewellers. There were two jewellers in Witham High Street. Kings I suppose is still there [85 Newland Street]. Is he still there?

Q:    No, he died a year or two. So there were quite a lot of shops you could go do but there were even more in Chelmsford or Colchester, even more choice.

Mrs T:    I haven’t been to Colchester for ages and I would be completely and utterly lost if I did, and what have they done to the roads! I mean when I remember Colchester it was absolutely quite simple. You went right through Lexden into Colchester and got to the High Street or Head Street first and then you turn right down the hill, or you went down East Hill or right down into the High Street, that’s right. It was simple and you knew where you were. But now, and there was a lovely little shop where you used to get silk suits from and they were quite reasonable in those days, dresses and jackets. Can’t remember its name. I think the shop might be still there selling something quite different. That was in the High Street, I think? I couldn’t find my way around now. I have no idea.

Q:    I think the High Street is the same its just?

Mrs T:    Yes, but how do you get to it? Now what was this, There was a street before you got to Head Street or the High Street, in Colchester and what was it called, a continuation of Lexden, (Q: Was it Crouch?) Crouch Street. You can’t find Crouch Street. I couldn’t. I mean I wouldn’t attempt to. I don’t drive mind you but even being driven I don’t know where I am. Chelmsford of course hasn’t changed, much! Such changes as there are are for the worse obviously. That ghastly precinct they have got and taking down Tindal Street. Do you remember that? Did you say you were at the Records Office? Are you still there?

Q:    Yes. Looking at family trees, doing enquiries.

Mrs T:    I don’t know whether Max, wouldn’t, my son, has been doing my family and it’s from Scotland really but …

Q:    Were you born in Scotland?

Mrs T:    Oh, no, no. I was born in London. We left Scotland a couple of hundred years ago. But I mean its roots were in Scotland. No, Andrew Bowhill came down about down 1750 or something when everybody cleared out of the Highlands and came down to Norfolk, East Anglia and most of my family were born there. Max has put in a lot of work on it, enjoys doing things like that.

Q:    Were you born in Norfolk then?

Mrs T:    No, I was born in London but my two sisters and my brother were all born in Norfolk. I’m the only one.

Q:    What did your father do, did he work in London?

Mrs T:    No, he had hotels and a catering business. Yes had the catering business in Chelmsford. That, of course, was a long time ago.

Q:    So you moved up to Chelmsford from London?

Mrs T:    No, I think it was before the First World War they moved up but he had a catering business in the twenties. Used to cater for Hunt Balls and Point to Points and things like that.

Q:    That must have taken some organising. I can see that’s where you got your business acumen from.

Mrs T:    I don’t know about that. My mother was a very good manager. She was awfully good at things like that. We had quite a large outside staff to call on.

Q:    Did they live in Chelmsford? (Mrs T Yes.) There are some nice houses in Chelmsford aren’t there, Victorian?

Mrs T:    Yes, there are but its changed so much. I don’t like it all, I don’t know where I am. And closing off Moulsham Street. How could they! Putting that ghastly thing right across! Moulsham Street is now I think the only bit of old Chelmsford which is recognisable.

Q:    Do you like London?

Mrs T:    Well, I do placed as I am. You see all my family are up here now and I don’t drive, never did drive. So I belong to a lot of things and it’s much easier really.
[chat, not noted]

Mrs T:    Oh, Witham, and long before us, you know and I was always saying to her ‘for goodness take a tape and talk to him. I don’t know whether she ever did, but, Dr Denholm, have you talked to him? I was there before him, he came in 1940 I think it was as a very young doctor obviously, the youngest of the practice [129 Newland Street] and she came, she was a land girl for a bit as everybody had to do something. (Q:Mmm.) I think she enjoyed that. He knew everybody and would talk to people I think who would tell him things and he probably would have a very good memory.
[chat, including about Pattisson family and portrait by Lawrence at National Trust, not noted]

Mrs T:    Do you know there was one living until not so very long ago in Writtle. Did you know that?

Q:    Yes, so I believe. I never met her. I think some were solicitors the 19th century ones. I think one of them had quite a large family. Luards, that’s another family I hear talked about. Were they there when you were?

Mrs T:    Oh yes, several Luards. Different lots. There were three Luards, more than three who lived at Ivy Chimneys, I think some of them . Some of them lived at Wickham Bishops. And when I was in this bungalow having Virginia, there was a marvellous nurse there. Needless to say I can’t remember her name, but she was quite a character. She’d been all through the tough neighbourhood of Liverpool and she used to tell me that the bungalow was given by the Luard family and one of the dear ladies, one of the old sisters, ‘Treacle Tart Fanny’. Have you heard of ‘Treacle Tart Fanny’? (Q: [laugh] No.) Miss Fanny Luard. Well, apparently she used to collect all the children you know and their mothers would send them for a sort of school treat or something, beautifully gofered aprons and white starched this and that and Miss Luard would give them treacle tart and they always got into the most extraordinary mess. [laugh] so she was know as ‘Treacle Tart Fanny’. Sister Hines, that’s right. Do you remember her?

Q:    Don’t think so, I think I’ve heard people speak of her. I suppose it was just two beds were there?

Mrs T:    Yes, two beds. It was very nice I thought, that bungalow [46 Collingwood Road]. As I say I didn’t want to go out of Witham because the bombs were falling all round us.

Q:    People stayed in hospital a lot longer in those days didn’t they?

Mrs T:    The patients do you mean? (Q: Mmm.) I think I was there about a week. Piers a great deal longer, in Colchester. This was after the War. That’s neither here nor there. Of course they got them up very quickly because they needed the beds. In some case where, in the old days, people would be ‘lying-in’ as they called it for a fortnight or three weeks. They got them up in two or three days. There was a big maternity hospital at Danbury Park they specialised in getting you up and about very quickly, which I think they’ve adhered to. I mean people do now …

Q:    Was there much bombing in Witham?

Mrs T:    Bombing. Not I think anything in Witham. I don’t remember anything really in the centre of Witham. I remember a land mine went off and that landed between Braintree and Witham. And I remember Virginia was being wheeled in her pram down Collingwood Road on one occasion and bits of metal fell in on her. I was trying to think what else we had. A lot of noise, a great deal of noise, and of course they used to jettison bombs going out over the coast too. I’m just trying to think, stupid. I remember one frightful day, September 14th, What was the Battle of Britain year, was that 1940? (Q: Think so.) It was a Saturday and I had a matinee, the house was full of evacuated children and in those days we had instructions that we were not to let them loose, we had to wait until the all-clear went before they could be let loose into the street and I was getting worried about this because the alert was still on, there were noises off all over the place and they were queuing up for the next performance and I’d still got the matinee children in the hall but fortunately the all-clear went and I was able to get rid of all the children and then the first [sic] house came in.

Q:    The noise was from what?

Mrs T:    Guns all round. I said the night Virginia was born, because all the lights went off and there were big guns, little guns, fighters, bombers, everything, going round us. But luckily nothing actually in the centre of Witham as far as I can remember. Oh yes, there was one bomb in that street at the bottom running parallel with the High Street, in the valley, what’s it called? (Q: Mill Lane?) Yes, a house in Mill Lane, Hollybank, do you know Hollybank? (Q: Mmm.) And funnily enough the man whose pictures, my niece’s husband was born in Hollybank, because his mother was there at the time, he didn’t live there. That’s by the way. The person who, a Mrs Mortimer I think, an evacuee from one of the islands and she and her family lived in Hollybank and she was on duty at the Control Centre and they had news that a bomb had been dropped in the vicinity. She spent hours trying to track it down and when she got home she found it was in her garden! [laugh] This is a story I’m told so I think there must have been a bomb dropped in the garden of Hollybank.

Q:    Did you have difficulty getting food, with the children being small?

Mrs T:    Not really no. Hang on, this Hollybank story, I’m not sure that it was Hollybank. It was a house very near because the Kemsleys were living at Hollybank and I don’t think it was the Kemsleys’ house, but it was one of those anyway. No, we didn’t have, we were quite lucky throughout the War. I mean we were restricted obviously. I do remember that we used to have the fat and the butter ration. The fat was margarine or something like that or whatever and skim the cream off the milk and put it all in a bowl and sort of beat it up and that was what we put on bread and toast and things.

But after the War it was fairly easy. I mean it was lease-lend and we seemed to get a reasonable amount. Obviously chocolates and sweets were in short supply and also if you were entertaining, bottles of whisky, gin, anything like you were strictly rationed for. Everybody was. But actual for food, I don’t remember. Of course people grew a lot in those days.

Q:    You said there were farms round about. Could you buy stuff straight from the farm or did you have to go through the shops?

Mrs T:    We bought milk of course from Freebornes. I suppose one could have done, do you know I don’t remember. I mean you had to give up coupons and those sort of things.

Q:    People expect such a lot nowadays, they are accustomed to more.

Mrs T:    It’s amazing how quickly you forget. It is amazing. The only thing I can remember is coming up to London with one of my sisters and having lunch in one of the hotels and it was in the days when BU’s were on (you’ve probably never heard of them – Bread Units?) (Q: No.) And if you had potatoes with your lunch you couldn’t have bread or rolls or anything like that with soup or anything. Extraordinary! And then of course there was almost opposite us there was the National Restaurant place where you could get a meal for a very reasonable amount.

Q:    That was nearly opposite the Grove?

Mrs T:    No, nearly opposite our surgery, nearly opposite Medina House.

Q:    Were there a lot of evacuees?

Mrs T:    When they first started there were a lot of evacuees from the East End. Then they discovered, they took them out, they discovered that we weren’t very safe, really being so near the East Coast and we had instead the 1st/4th Essex [Regiment] billeted on us. That was why the cinema was, we used to have Sunday Concerts and things and it was going the whole time, performances, concerts and things. What I’m trying to say is that when we were closed, we weren’t really because we let them use it for concerts.

Q:    What, for the soldiers? (Mrs T: Mmm.) Did they live in people’s houses or were there …?

Mrs T:    I don’t think they had private billets as they did in the First World War. I think in the last one they were billeted in all sorts of halls and things you know. I suppose there were camps. Certainly there were camps at Rivenhall and places like that, weren’t there, for displaced people.

I remember one of the nice things about it and it’s something you couldn’t do now. I was on the War Weapons Week’s committee and things like that you, and another member of the committee was the manager of Lloyds Bank and if I wanted to type a letter or do anything I’d pop into their office and they’d let, you know, feel free. It was all for the good of the War Week. You couldn’t do that now, pop into a Bank and say ‘Please may I use your typewriter?’ [laugh] I think they’d object to that.

Q:    What did the committees do?

Mrs T:    Organise things, organise events, like whist drives, like, we had a tree planting thing in the park I remember and Lord Beaverbrook’s son, Max Aitken, he was a distinguished pilot, so he came down. They came and they made speeches and oh, all sorts of things went on, fund raising. Money for war Weapons. It was an amazing time really. I don’t think our front door was ever locked all the time we were in Witham. Didn’t have to, really didn’t have to. And I remember, after the War, a German domestic help, nice girl I had, who was amazed by the fact, she said, I mean there used to be a bench somewhere in Witham she used to sit on, and she was amazed by the fact that if she got up and left her mackintosh, she could go back a couple of hours later and find it still there. She said you couldn’t do that anywhere else and I think she was right. [Q: Yes.]

Q:    I suppose if you went down the street, would you know practically everybody you saw if you went out?

Mrs T:    Oh yes, practically everybody and now I can walk down and not know anybody. Very soul-destroying. Well it’s twenty years. Added to the fact that one gets older and people remember you as you were I suppose.

Q:    A lot of  people don’t go out much either. Perhaps they don’t see their friends much.

Mrs T:    I used to go back until Mrs Denholm died and I stayed with them a lot for various weekends and I used to go shopping in the High Street with her and then we’d meet people we both knew of course, but I haven’t been there since she died.

Q:     I think he took up gardening a lot when she died.

Mrs T:    Did he. They had three extremely nice children. I expect you know them do you?

Q:    Yes, I’ve met them. Once was a doctor for a short while in Witham.

[chat about Denholms and about Mrs T doing voluntary guiding at Victorian House in Kensington, not noted]

Mrs T:    I joined all these things since I came up here. I mean the only things I belonged to down there were the Town and Country or whatever its called and the Dorothy L Sayers and the badminton club of course.

Q:    And the bridge, were there clubs for bridge or did you play with friends?

Mrs T:    No, not really, people played in other people’s houses. I think we used to go and visit them and play.

Q:    Because the Denholms were keen bridge players weren’t they?

Mrs T:    Oh, yes, very. I expect Jim still plays, I don’t know. They used to play, probably more often that we did. After Charles died I found it very difficult to get, if there are two of you you can get another couple but there’s only one of you it’s is difficult to get three others you know.

Q:    Yes, it must be. Did he die very suddenly?

Mrs T:    No, he’d been ill for quite some time.

Q:    He was quite young then?

Mrs T:    No, he wasn’t. He was quite a bit older than I was, no, he was 65 when he died. I don’t know what you’d call young.

Q:    So he was still working then?

Mrs T:    Yes, he was. So what are you going to do with all this? Are you going to put it into a sort of little pamphlet thing?

[chat about tape recording etc., pause on tape etc. and Q going out tonight, and Mrs T going out to theatres etc., trains etc., not noted]

Q:    I assume when they were at school they were at the day school at the Lawn?

Mrs T:    They were at Lawn House. That was a day school. When they first started they had eight or ten boarders I think because they had a Matron and then, I don’t know why Barbara gave that up because, I suppose it was more work you know. And then the two boys went away to prep school Virginia went away to school. They were all away at school at one time.

Q:    Did they enjoy it there?

Mrs T:    What at Lawn House? (Q: Mmm.) I think so, yes.

Q:    They had quite small classes I should think?

Mrs T:    Yes, and Barbara [English] is an excellent teacher. Is she still around?

Q:    I haven’t seen her for a little while but every so often, I think her sight is very poor, so I think she walks with a stick to find her way. (Mrs T: Where is she living?) I think in one of the houses in the Lawn Chase, next to where the Lawn was.

Mrs T:    The last time I really saw her to talk to was at the Denholms’ house and I think, oh gosh, there was a party of some sort. I can’t remember whether one of the children was getting married or if it was after that, but I know that I and my three children went and Piers’s wife, this is my younger son, and Piers was pleased to be able to introduce Miss English whom they all liked very much, to Lynn his wife.

And there were quite a lot of old Lawn House people there. And I remember saying to her ‘Aren’t you proud of your ex-pupils? They’ve all grown up to be so nice.’ And she said ‘Yes, but I don’t regard them as ex-pupils I regard them all as my friends’.

Q:    Because she did a lot of the teaching herself didn’t she?

Mrs T:    Yes, she did. She could be rather stern and she quotes to this day Max, at the age of four or five or whatever, Max is very tall now. At the age of, if you’re interested I’ll show you a picture of him, throwing his arms round my neck, giving me a terrific hug.

[chat about borrowing photos etc., not noted.]

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