Tape 153. Mr Jim White, sides 7 and 8

Tape 153

Mr Jim White was born in 1915. He was interviewed on 13 December 1991, when he lived at 22 Cross Road.

He also appears on tapes 62, 63, 149 and 154.

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 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 7

Q    … the viaduct, was it where you went for the cress?

Mr W:    You know the railway bridge where you go through to that road? Not Spa Road.

Q:    There’s Armond Road and Chelmer Road, just near where the houses were?

Mr W:    Let’s put it this way. You go over the Blyths’ mill, [i.e. Old Mill House, Guithavon Valley] under the railway arch. Then you bear left [tape breaks up and volume lowers] …into Highfields Road. There used to be beautiful water run through there, I suppose that run through to the river. In Highfields Road there was a pump there, I don’t know whether you ever heard of it, a sort of pump, and the water was always flowing from this pump. I don’t know whether this water flowed from this pump to the stream, because the stream is still there, but it’s all dirty and filthy – and flowed round and underneath the bridge and it was lovely clear water then, beautiful water. Then it went under a tunnel, I think, it’d probably gone through to the river. But it was so clear and there used to be lovely cress there and we – ‘ Oh, I’m going to pick some cress’. And it was beautiful stuff, lovely and green.

Q:    Did you eat it there and then or take it home?

Mr W:    We used to take it home for tea or whatever. (Q: That’s nice.) That Blyths’ meadow, that used to be a lovely meadow. In my opinion the River walk there, it’s very nice for people and all that but it’s not like it was when I was a boy. It was a lovely field, Blyths meadow was a lovely field.

[tape breaks up and silent for a while]

Mr W:    Oh yes, you could walk right through to Chipping Hill.

Q:    What did the Blyths use it for, did they have animals there, or cut hay?

Mr W:    I couldn’t really say. It was called Blyths’ mill.

Q:    So they didn’t keep any animals in the field that you remember?

Mr W:    I can’t remember. But it was a lovely spot. Well I suppose because we always used to play there, it was just down the bottom of our place.

Q:    I got this map blown up of what I think was your cottages, because I know you were describing who lived where. [Discussion of enlarged OS plan of Guithavon Valley houses as marked on plan, see biography section of files] That’s the Jubilee Oak and Collingwood Road, and you come down the valley here. Those are still there aren’t they.

Map of Guithavon Valley, as described by Jim White. Includes location of photos M327 and M328. Base map is enlarged from 2nd edition of OS 25 inch map (date 1897).


Mr W:    I think this is my house. This is coming down the hill. The middle one. This is three houses, isn’t it. That was where the Whites lived. (Q: What are these here, is that somebody else’s?) Now this is, it got altered, but early, the only fellow I remember who lived there was a Mr Ringe [Mr Ringe in one of northern three]. And he was one of Witham’s sort of characters, an old soldier. And I think he had a bad leg. And he had a – he used to repair boots and shoes. Do you know the Witham, the British Legion hut down Mill Lane what used to be – I don’t know whether it’s still there. By the British Legion hut there was another yard, one of the Witham councillors used to, one of the Witham councillors used to live there. What’s is name, the mayor, what was his name?

Q:    Bill Marsh?

Mr W:    That’s right, Bill Marsh. Yes. In that yard there [probably one time Shelley’s Yard, off Mill Lane, east side near Newland Street] this Mr Ringe, he used to have a, just in the yard on the right-hand side he had a boot place where he used to repair the boots. He was well known because he was an old soldier and he got wounded and I don’t think he could do anything else much. Anyhow, he did live in one of these houses but I couldn’t tell you …

Q:    No, it’s amazing that you remember that many. So there were three more there and three where you were? You did tell me your neighbours, I can write them on the map now.

Mr W:    On this one here was a Mr Emmins, he was a very old boy. [northern one of the three]

Q:    Do you know his first name? You used to call everybody ‘Mr’ more in those days.

Mr W:    Oh, he used to be ‘Mr Emmins’ when I was a boy, that’s how it was in those days.

Q:    What about the other side?

Mr W:    Here was Mrs Heard, she was a very old lady, well over eighty. But here, eventually, as years went on, that was about 1930, this place here, became a school. {see the plan] I think they were youngsters up to about eleven, you know.

Q:    And then were these more houses, was that a house, on its own there?

Mr W:    This was the house I was telling you about. The old boy – and I don’t know his name, he kept himself to himself.  They’ve even got the toilets there, look. The toilets.

Q:    Is that what those are?

Mr W:    They must be, that’s where they were, by the river. [see the plan]

Q:    Did you share one?

Mr W:    No we all had our own toilet. That’s Mr Emmins’, that’s ours, and I think there were probably two there in that middle one. Mr Emmins probably had one on his own and the old boy on the left, he must have had one on his own. This old boy, he was another very old fellow but he was very quiet and he kept himself to himself and I just can’t remember his name. Here, I don’t know whether you know, there was a wall right down here [along Guithavon Valley] and we had to go down steps. This was a wall down here. (Q: All the way down?) Yes, and we had to go – they’ve messed it all up – well, I won’t say they’ve messed it up, but it’s all made up now. We had to go down steps, we went down about three steps and gradually on an angle it went down to the river.

Q:    And then, were those further along, I remember you told me about some more further along.

Mr W:    You had your two pictures  (Q: Is that where they are, I’ve probably got them here again, I hope so.)

Houses in Guithavon Valley, with river, geese, and people (photo M328). The houses were demolished under a clearance order in the 1930s. The plan above shows where this was taken from (bottom centre of plan).

I reckon that’s Mrs Foyster [photo M328] Sid Foyster used to, eventually came into the house when Mrs Heard came out. He came into that house there when Mrs Heard died I think. I think that’s his mother. That house there that’s the Foysters’ This one here you can’t see the door but the Raizeys lived here.

Q:    So on the map where would that be, where would that be on the map?

Mr W:    That would be there [south end, Raizeys in eastern corner near road, Foysters west of them]

[Discussion of position of houses on plans and photos, not noted, see the plan.]

Houses in Guithavon Valley (photo M327). The houses were demolished under a clearance order in the 1930s. The plan above shows where this was taken from (left centre of the plan).

Mr W     That’s [photo M327] where the American chap lived at one time and then when he moved back to America, the Chambers moved in there. And this one must be that and that one is that. I’m pretty certain. (Q: That makes sense because the river’s in front, isn’t it. The Americans lived in …) After the First World World War, there was an American – he married an English girl and they lived there.

Q:    On that corner by the river?

Mr W:    Yes, the corner house.
[general discussion, not noted

Q:    Was it all marshy by the river?

Mr W:    There was quite a decent bank. This must have been taken in the middle of summer when all the weeds came up. I think the American lived in the end one and I think probably the Chambers were probably with them at the same time. Because I see there is two houses, because I thought there was one.
[general discussion, not noted, including ones together, between the American and Guithavon Valley, occupied by Newman, Capon and Burmby, see the plan. And top of hill north of all the others were three more houses facing south. Possibly the Motts lived there]

Mr W:    I know the American lived in one and I thought the Chambers moved in when they went out but they were probably in that one and the American was in that one. Because I was friendly with he boy, Dickie Lynch. And they had a daughter and the daughter came back two or three years ago to look – see where she was born. And of course it was altered.
[general discussion, not noted]

Q:    There a lot people there, weren’t there, and a lot of children as well I suppose?

Mr W:    Oh yes, there were a lot of kids. There was one Foyster, well that’s all I can remember, one Foyster, and the Raizeys – there was Fred and there was Jack – at least three. Or more than that, four or five probably of the Raizeys. The Burmbys – there was – I remember four Burmbys. I can’t remember how many Capons, only one, Walter. And the Newmans, I remember four children, Newmans, quite a lot of children there. Then there was the Lynches, then there was the Whites [laughs] there was four of us. It was nice place, though, it was a nice place to look at from the hill, I think, myself.

Q:    Was that where you were living when you were born?

Mr W:    No, I was born in London. Then we moved down here during the War, and my father worked on Terling Camp. (Q: But when you were born you were still in London.) I was about one when I came down here. Yes, and – but first of all I think we were down Maldon Road for a little while, not long. I suppose he – father got temporary accommodation and then as far as I remember we moved into the Valley, as we called it.

Q:    I suppose you had to pay rent?

Mr W:    Yes, rent, that’s right. That belonged to Dowsett, a chap named Dowsett, he had a shoe shop in Witham.

Q:    Yes, I was trying to work out when that shoe shop closed the other day, but I’m not clear, it went on up to the War, didn’t it, the last War. It’s still shoes actually.

Mr W:    I can’t remember where the shop was, Janet.

Q:    You know where the old precinct is, sort of opposite Maldon Road, opposite the end of Maldon Road. In the main street, there is a shoe shop still there, around about number 56 it is.

Mr W:    It might have been there. I can’t remember.

Q:    There’s a Fosters’ clothes shop and then just along from that there’s a shoe shop, and I think it was there.

Mr W:    Was it, I just can’t remember.

Q:    I suppose there were more shoe shops then, where did you go for things like shoes?

Mr W:    I really couldn’t say.
[discussion on retention of memories, not noted]

Mr W:    We had this shop at the top of Jubilee Oak, it closed a few years ago. The Church people had it, the chap used to go to the church down the Valley, it was on the ‘never-never’.

Q:    Heddles? [48 Collingwood Road]

Mr W:    Heddles, that’s right, we used to go there, get some clothes there, I think. It was sort of – I’m pretty certain my people went there.

Q:    You could actually go in there?

Mr W:    I’m pretty certain we used to go there, as far as I can remember.

Q:    I think they used to go round as well, people from there, door-to-door.

Mr W:    Yes, they did.

Q:    I think Mr Whybrew was one of their salesmen going door-to-door selling.

Mr W:    That was the name of that director who showed you round, wasn’t it.

Q:    That was Whybrow. He just showed me his photographs.

Mr W:    On top of the Jubilee Oak, coming up the Valley – there’s Collingwood Road. And over there was a maternity home.[number 46] Was it there in your time?

Q:    I’m not sure, I think it closed before that.

Mr W:    Yes, a maternity home there. We used to – from Collingwood Road, down in the Valley – it’s still there- there’s a little passage, isn’t there. (Q: Yes.) Passage, you know. My young brother broke his leg there! I think he got stones – I think we were all in it – got stones to throw at the apples to knock the apples down and he fell over there and broke his leg. And they sent him to Colchester. He was there quite a time, about six weeks, I think, then.

Q:    He was quite small then was he?

Mr W:    Well, I suppose he was probably about four.

Q:    Oh, that little? Oh dear? Did you ever go and see him at Colchester?

Mr W:    Oh yes, we all went down.[looking at plan] Ron Briggs used to live at the top of the passage. Did you know the Briggs? (Q: I don’t think I did, no.) Well the, I think it was in the bungalow, isn’t there a bungalow there, next to the Jubilee Oak [55 Collingwood Road] I think he lived there. His father was a sort of salesman, seed salesman, I think. Anyhow, Ron went over to – he was in charge of the hospital. He was on the, worked for the Braintree Council. He was in charge of all the hospitals, I think he was in charge of the homes, residential homes. He went over there and lived at Braintree, down Panfield Lane. Anyhow, eventually at the end of ‘43, he got called up for the Army. Anyhow, after the war, I was in Ghent, in Belgium in the NAAFI, or something like that, a place where the servicemen went. And who should be sitting down but Ron! He was a lance corporal! He was a lance corporal then. And of course, I got demobbed and then – of course, the old chap [Mr W’s father] had a shop at Braintree, I told you didn’t I, the old chap had a shop at Braintree (Q: Your father.) and Ron came in and he had a ‘crown’ on! Everybody got demobbed and he went from lance corporal to sergeant–major! Eventually he died and his wife went. But he often used to say ‘Remember down the Valley?’ and all that sort of thing, because he was only a young chap then. I remember, because eventually Sid Foyster came to live next door to us, we moved up together. [Cross Road?] and he used to say – he told me – because he was always coming in here next door to me and he said to Ron one day ‘Well, what rank are you now, Ron? What sort of job you got now?’ He said ‘I’ve got a very good job, Sid, that’s all I can tell you. I’ve got a very good job’. Because of course he was in charge as I say of all these residential homes and something to do with the hospital.

Q:    Going back to hospital, did you feel bad about it when your little brother was in hospital.

Mr W:    Oh yes! I shall never forget him. He laid there on his back and he was as white as chalk! He must have went through – it must have been very, very painful. When I say broken leg, it’s a fracture isn’t it? He was as white as chalk.

Q:    How did they get him to hospital?

Mr W:    I think some people, a lady or something must have fetched the doctor, or something like that. I can’t remember but I believe so. I suppose the ambulance or something took him to hospital. But I remember it happening.

Q:    It’s the sort of thing that sticks with you, doesn’t it. Did you get told off?

Mr W:    No, no.

Q:    Was your mother and father quite strict?

Mr W:    Oh no! No, he wasn’t strict, no, no.

Q:    So if you had been caught knocking down the apples they wouldn’t …

Mr W:    … say much, no. If I remember right, I think the apple tree was behind the Heards, next door to me. Yes. But I’ve never forgotten that. Of course, Doug was mentioned, he went out to Burma and he got mentioned for bravery. And Walter Capon, you’ve heard me talk about Walter Capon, he won the Military Medal out in the desert. ‘Stood by firing whilst still wounded,’ Walter. Eventually he lived down Homefield Road, I think he died about two years ago. So – quite amazing how you grow up and what happens.

Q:    Doug was the one that fell, Doug was the one that broke his leg was he?

Mr W:    Doug was the one that broke his leg. Yes, he was a sergeant major. Yes, he became sergeant major. He joined up, well he joined up after me and he’d only been in the Army a short time and they made him lance corporal. And then they made him – Betty wrote to me and said – I was in Canada then – and said ‘Oh, they’d made Doug corporal!’ I thought ‘Whatever’s happening here? He’s only been in so long’. Then after five months they made him sergeant! Of course that was, I suppose that was in the early – everybody was coming into the Army, I suppose promotion was quick. I thought ‘He’s doing all right’. Mind you, I couldn’t get promoted because I was in a trade! Every time you wanted promotion in the Air Force, you had to – well I had to do a course, engineering course, six months. Then after that, if you were recommended for promotion, you had to pass a test, go before a flight sergeant or warrant officer. But it’s a different cup of tea in the Army, they say – ‘Oh, you’re a lance corporal, now or you’re a corporal’. There was no tests I mean in the Army, not like there was in the Air Force. You had to do a test.

Q:    That reminds me, I know this is quite a different subject but it reminds me of something I was going to ask you, about Crittall’s. When you went on to all these different jobs, how did you go about learning what to do, or wasn’t it difficult? (Mr W: What, changing jobs?) I remember you telling me how you changed from one job to another in the factory. Did you have to do any training?

Mr W:    No, you sort of went on the job and you had to learn from there. Most of the jobs, it wasn’t very difficult, really. I was on, as I said I was putting the fittings on first of all. No, first of all, I started painting. Then when I was about fifteen, I asked to go on fittings. So I went on what they call ‘Apply Fittings’. Which is putting the handles and the stays on.

Q:    So just somebody showed you, you watched someone for a bit perhaps did you, I was just wondering how you picked it up when you went?

Mr W:    I more or less knew by being a paint boy. Because, also being the paint boy I used to get all the fittings from the stores and load these barrows up. There was two chaps to a barrow and they worked together putting the stays and the handles on. I had to get all the fittings, I had to get the handles and I had to get the stays and all the screws. And I loaded the fittings on to their barrows so all they done was put the fittings on.

Q:    So you saw quite a lot what was happening?

Mr W:     So I sort of knew. They had what they call, well there’s no stays on these but when you get a projecting hinge, you had what you called a ‘long stay’, you called it a long stay, I forget the measurement now, probably twelve inches. And then you had an ordinary hinge on the corner where you had a, where you had an ordinary hinge you had what you called a ‘short stay’. That was about probably two inches shorter. And those – that vent at the top was called an ‘F vent’. And then you had perhaps a shorter stay on there. So you sort of learnt as you went along.

Q:    You went to the glove factory I remember you saying?

Mr W:    Yes, I went there for a week, [Q laughs] then my Pop took me away and took me into Crittall’s, because he thought it was better!

Q:    I remember you saying how much you liked school and got on well at school, but you didn’t think of staying any longer?

Mr W:    No, not in those days. You went to school when you were fourteen. I think it was the same – I don’t know about the High School, but the Intermediate – I think that’s all High School now at Braintree. They used to go at fourteen there, as far as I remember. I never seemed to get the chance. You sort of, you sort of – that was the age in those days. In the High Schools it might have been easier.

Q:    Did you ever think of trying to get to the High School when you were younger, ‘cos you were obviously good at school work?

Mr W:    No, I never thought about it. I know I finished. You went into High School, they went into High School at eleven years of age and I know I came second in the class. And all the chaps behind me – a lot of them – I can’t remember any going to High School, but I think some of them went to the Intermediate School at Braintree. You know, they went there. But I never went. I know that I finished second, number two. We used to have a test every week and nearly every week I was either first or second, but I never thought about that. But eventually, I mean, I found that when I went into Standard 7, which I went in when I was twelve years old, I found Science hard. (Q: Did you?) Yes, science, I found that hard, I didn’t do very well. I didn’t do very well. But I was all right on Maths and History and Geography. I wasn’t very good on Poetry. I wasn’t very good on that.

Q:    I think it depends on the teacher, things like that.

Mr W:    Yes. The teachers were good. But I found the – course I done Geometry and I found that hard.

Q:    That’s funny, if you went into engineering in the Air Force, so you obviously managed it all right then?

Mr W:    Yes, I didn’t know a thing about engines, didn’t know a thing, not thing at all. And I used to notice in the class some of them were getting on well.[at training in Canada] Well, eventually, it came to me these chaps had been engineers in Civvy Street, they’d been working in garages and all that sort of thing. Well I had to start from scratch. I was taught – I didn’t know the first thing – I probably forget now. But the first stroke of the engine they taught me was ‘induction stroke’. Then there’s ‘compression stroke’ ‘power stroke’ and then the ‘exhaust stroke’. And when the engine fired. Well, I didn’t know nothing about that, but these other chaps, the majority of the class had been engineers in Civvy Street. And then you had to – used to have an exam every two weeks. And then you had to do a sketch of the – I forget the names now – these, micrometers, you had to do a sketch of that showing the certain decimal, what it was and all that sort of thing. And anyhow, you had a lesson, you changed classes – I think there was about seven classes – you changed classes I think every month.

Q:    You got on all right, then, in the end?

Mr W:    Yes, I got through in the end. But it was pretty tough. The best chaps were who had been engineers and mechanics in Civvy Street. Of course, I was an aero-engine mechanic, I was learning to be an aero-engine mechanic. But I remember one instructor, I think he’d been a pilot, oh no he’d been a navigator in the First World War and he was an instructor. He was very pleased because his chaps done very well. He said ‘Well! No wonder I done well’. I think he said he had five BAs, would it be, is that Bachelor of Arts’? What does that mean.

Q:    It’s a degree, you go to university for it.

Mr W:    He said he’d got five in his class. And that’s why he done well. I thought ‘ Good heavens, I thought, what chance have I got?’ They were good but they wasn’t much good with a spanner in their hand. They were good with the brain, but not so good with the hands.

Q:    Quite good to get a chance to do a bit more learning then, isn’t it?

Mr W:    Then I done a bit of Maths at the end of the War, in Germany.

Q:    While you were in the RAF?

Mr W:    Yes, while I was in Germany. One old – one teacher, I think he was an Oxford Don or something like that. He said ‘ There’s not much good learning that, that’s not much good to you, learning Maths. You want to go along the countryside and look at the plants and look at the hedges and look at this and look at that’. He was only doing it temporary, perhaps he didn’t want to teach us Maths! [???] They said he was a teacher, a Don at Oxford. The funny thing, I went into the higher classes, with all the officers, and I was going in it and thought that’s was too high for me. And they had a flight sergeant teaching all the officers. I thought that was strange. Then we had this Oxford chap teaching us. Then I went on a Government training course did I tell you, on Carpentry and Geometry. That was six months, full-time. And Maths, you had to do Maths as well. Anyhow, I passed that all right, I’ve still got the certificate.

Q:    Where did you go for that?

Mr W:    That was at Watford. We went in some – a place at London Colney[?], I think it was a place where people lodged – or hadn’t got homes and they were all sort of small rooms. I forget the name of it now but we were in this place at London Colney[?], two of us to a room.

Q:    Was that when you were demobbed?

Mr W:    Yes, that was after I was demobbed.

Q:    Did you ever use that at all?

Mr W:    Yes, I went building, but I found that on the course we didn’t go outside and learn anything about the houses. About putting the joists down and the rafters. We didn’t learn – I learned mostly joinery. Anyhow, I went on the building a couple of years, and things were rough then. You’d have a job for about a year and then they’d say – when the buildings complete they used to –‘Oh, no more work, off!’ So I had two or three jobs like that. I worked for Claydons over Ulting. And then I worked for a Tiptree firm on the Bramston School, putting the doors in. I worked there. I think I was down there for about four months and that came to an end and I thought ‘Hang this! I can’t carry on like this –work then on the dole!’ I went back to Crittall’s. That was more regular. Give it up as a bad job.

Q:    You were living here then?

Mr W:    Yes. We moved here in 1933? [Cross Road?]

Q:    So you all came together?

Mr W:    Yes.

Q:    Was your father still working at Crittall’s, or had he retired?

Mr W:    Father left Crittall’s in 1938. He had chest trouble. He smoked, he was a terrible smoker! If he’d given smoking up – because they didn’t know much about smoking. Anyhow he had a bad throat and bad chest and bad ears and the doctor said ‘The best thing you can do is come out of Crittall’s’. If he’d given up smoking he’d have been all right. I mean smoking causes the chest troubles and throat troubles and all that sort of …

Q:    They didn’t think about that then, did they?

Mr W:    No.

Q:    So, what did he do after that?

Mr W:    He packed it in and he took a shop at Colchester first of all …

Side 8

Q:    ….when you left Braintree?

Mr W:    No, we lived here still. We lived here but Father used to travel on the bus.

Q:    What did he do after that?

Mr W:    He died when he was sixty-one.

Q:    I met someone who spoke about him. At least I think it was probably him. Cecil Newton, he was saying about, I think it was your father, being a very keen Labour man.

Mr W:    That’s right, yes, he was.

Q:    What did he used to do? Did he do anything particular with the Labour party?

Mr W:    I think he probably went to the hall, Labour hall – I don’t know whether they had a hall then, Janet. But of course he was always Labour, he was always Labour.  ‘Cos there used to be a Miss Vaux, you ever heard of her? (Q: Yes.) You have heard of her? She used to live there where Dorothy was it, either there or next door. {Sayers}. There was Captain Abrey in one house and Miss Vaux in the other side [22-26 Newland St]. This gentleman, I forget his name, he lived down the Valley, towards the end of the Valley. And he was a magistrate and a big Labour councillor. [W W Burrows – see later] I can’t remember his name. Anyhow, he told – my father was unemployed, that was just after the First World War. Because he didn’t get into Crittall’s right away, I don’t think. She said at the Council meeting or the Council do or whatever it was, she saw that my father was smoking a cigarette. And he was unemployed and got four children! And this councillor, he told my Pop, you see and of course father went after her [laughs] and told her off!

Q:    Did he?

Mr W:    Yes. And my father told me that he’d met some chap and he’d said ‘Have a cigarette, Jim’. And as he had this cigarette she evidently saw him smoking [laughs], you know. But that’s how they were in those days.

Q:    When you say he went ‘after’ her, do you mean actually at the meeting or did he go round?

Mr W:    No, he probably saw her in the street, I think. I quite remember him telling me once or twice about it.

Q:    Good for him. I wonder what he said to her?

Mr W:    I don’t know.

Q:    Do you remember him talking about things like that at home then quite a bit?

Mr W:    Yes, he did, yes, all different things. Because they were unemployed in those days and there was no Social Security then, there was no Children’s Benefits. Things were very, very bad in those days. I don’t know how long he was out of work, but I remember him talking about that. They were bad old, they were really bad days, wasn’t they?

Q:    I’m trying to think of who the councillor, there was someone called Ebenezer Smith …

Mr W:    Burrows, W. W. Burrows, it’s come to me. He was a big magistrate and a councillor, wasn’t he. I think he was a councillor anyhow. That’s the chap. He lived down there, going on the left side going towards the chapel. Just before Blyth’s mill. In the Valley [Guithavon Valley]. He lived next door to Ebenezer Smith, he was another Labour chap. They lived next door, Burrows was one side and Ebenezer Smith was the other side. He was a big, he was the chap who set out these houses in Cressing Road, where they had the bathroom at the back didn’t they?

Q:    So your father knew them quite well?

Mr W:     Yes. I think probably he might have gone to the Labour hall.

Q:    They didn’t have hall where it now but I think they used to use one of those buildings down near, well where you called the Legion hall. [Mill Lane]

Mr W:    Yes that’s right, I used to go in there with my father, in that Legion hall. That’s at the back of The Crotchet. And he used to repair the [billiard] tables. He’d been in private service, as I told you, and he used to repair, if there was a cut in the ‘green’ of the billiard table, they played billiards mostly then. He used to repair them, do all that sort of thing.

Q:    Going back to Miss Vaux, there were quite a lot of people around like her, I suppose? Even in your young days, weren’t there, who were on all the committees and everything?

Mr W:    Yes. Of course, everything in those days, if you were sort of well off – if people were well off they sort of looked down on you. The farmers – I mean I remember the Ashbys. They lived down, over Howbridge – they had a farm down there. You know the Ashbys?

Q:    I know, yes.

Mr W:    The boys used to think they were really up in the world because their father had got a farm. And they never used to think so much of us because we lived down the poor area. [laughs]. That’s how it was in those days.

Q:    Did they go to the same school? (Mr W: Yes.) So what did they do to make you feel that, do you think?

Mr W:    Well. Other people told me what they used to say about us. Because they were a farmer and my father was out of work.

Q:    What did they used to say?

Mr W:    I shouldn’t like to say, really? I can tell you [pause, reluctantly] Oh we had everything under the sun wrong with us. That’s how they put it. (Q: What sort of things.) Well, they used to call us ‘dirty blighters’ – but they used to sort of swear, you know. Because we were sort of  – as I say, my father was unemployed and they were well off. That’s how it was in those days.

Q:    How did you feel about that?

Mr W:    Well, [laughs] I never thought much of it! No.

Q:    You mean, you didn’t like it?

Mr W:    Didn’t like it, no, never liked it. Well, you wouldn’t would you?

Q:    No quite. I expect you were able to say things about them, weren’t you?

Mr W:    Well, no, I can’t remember. Used to think ‘Well, you’re a big shot, you’re important, we’re not very important’. That was the attitude in those days.

Q:    So you did feel like that. You agreed with them, almost, did you, you think?

Mr W:    Well, that was the attitude, you used to think ‘Well, they’re big, They’ve got plenty of money and they’re big people and you have to look up to them’, in those days, that’s how it was in those days. That’s what I found, myself.

Q:    But your father obviously didn’t feel quite the same, if he was able to speak out. If your father was able to go and tell Miss Vaux off …

Mr W:    Oh well, my father never knew about this. (Q: He didn’t?) My father never knew about that, we never used to tell him everything.

Q:    He would have been cross?

Mr W:    Oh he would have been yes.

Q:    Because he presumably didn’t. I mean you felt that almost that they were right, didn’t you that they were more important, but he presumably, your father didn’t feel like that?

Mr W:    No. No. That’s the same, you see the people in the next road, in Collingwood Road, they were all well to do. Like the Briggs, I was telling you about. I mean the majority of, the Pinkhams lived just to the right, up the passage, the Pinkhams. They were all well to do people. I think they were more or less all that class. They were sort of perhaps business people, quite well to do, you know. And we lived down, behind them, in the Valley and we were the poor class. That’s how it was [laughs].

Q:    So did you speak to any of them at all, or their children or anything, when you were small?

Mr W:    No, they never used to have nothing – they never used to speak to us, no, they never used to speak to us,  not the children, you know. We had our sort of ‘gang’, Guithavon Valley gang and we sort of stuck together like, but we never used to mix with anybody in the ‘posh road’. [laughs]

Q:    I suppose they were looking out for, did any of your gang get into trouble at all, because people were looking out and expecting almost that you would be (Mr W: Trouble?) misbehaving yourselves, I expect?

Mr W:    Probably yes. We never got into trouble, never had no bother at all, no, never got into trouble with anybody.

Q:    Things like taking apples and that sort of thing, from other people’s gardens, they would make a lot of fuss about, wouldn’t they?

Mr W:    I suppose they would, the rich, I suppose they would in Collingwood Road. Yes. I think the only apple tree was next door to us in Mrs Heard’s. And probably they used to drop on the ground. It’s nice to look back, though. It’s a pity they – well the houses were old, but it’s a pity that they had to pull it down. And it’s a pity that they built it up. If they had kept the wall – well, I suppose they couldn’t really. They built a new road didn’t they. If they’d kept the wall up and the steps there and going down to the river where it was all level, kept it level instead of building it up to the road. I suppose there must have been a reason for it, but it would have been more interesting, I think. [i.e. Guithavon Valley]

Q:    Yes, I didn’t realised it had all been built up like that. Did you have gardens at all?

Mr W:    Yes, only a small garden at the back and a small garden in the front. Not much of a garden.

Q:    Did you grow anything?

Mr W:    No, no, my father wasn’t a gardener. As I say, he was in private service most of the time. He was all right waiting on tables and being a footman; being a sort of batman.

Q:    And your mother wasn’t interested in gardening or anything?

Mr W:     Oh no! No. No. I suppose she had her work cut out – got four children, it’s a lot of work isn’t it – you’ve found it a lot of work, haven’t you, with two?

Q:    Yes but I think it was much harder then. You didn’t have machinery around the house and everything to help you.

Mr W:    No.

[discussion on heating in Mr W’s home, not noted]

Q:    I suppose in the Valley you’d have a coal fire would you, or what, for the heating there?

Mr W:    Yes coal fire.

Q:    What did you have for cooking?

Mr W:    We cooked on the stove, in the room. We only had two rooms on the bottom and one upstairs.

Q:    You say a stove, was that a coal one?

Mr W:    Yes, you remember the old black stoves? We had them here first of all. The old black stove with the oven.

Q:    So that would be heated by the coal? (Mr W: Yes, by the coal.) With the fire one side and oven the other side?

Mr W:    Yes. We only had one room in the front and a small room at the back, I suppose that would be called the kitchen. And one room upstairs, that’s how it was. Bad days, they were Janet.

Q:    It was a lot harder work I think, being a mother then.

Mr W:    Oh yes.

Q:    It must have been quite a worry as well, especially if you were short of money, to make it go round?

Mr W:    Yes. That’s right. Even when Father was in work, there wouldn’t be a lot of money – the money wasn’t a lot in those days, not to keep six of you. Tough days.

Q:    When your father took these shops, did your mother go and help there at all?

Mr W:    Oh no, no.

Q:    Was she interested in politics or anything like your father?

Mr W:    Can you switch that off a bit?

Q:    Yes.

[Tape recorder off. Notes say Mr W said his mother went to St Michael’s, Braintree [which was then Braintree workhouse] in 1923 when aged 33. (and later to Brewster House, Heybridge). She went to police station which was then in Guithavon Street and said things to them. They told his father she was mad and must go to hospital. While she was there, Jim himself went as a child to a home in Bocking [Bocking Cottage Home aka Friars] and went to school in Braintree]

[Tape recorder on again]

[Mr Blanks harassed father]

Mr W:    He wasn’t on the high wages then. The high wages were in the factory and he worked in the canteen. The wages were two pounds five a week, on his job but in the factory, they were three pounds five and more than that. It was a pound different, another third. So he hadn’t got a lot of money.

Q:    Who was Mr Blanks?

Mr W:    Blanks was a chap who had to get – he came under the Braintree Council or whatever. In those days I think he was something to do with what they called the Board of Guardians [who ran the Workhouse]. You ever heard of it? I think he was in charge of that. Anybody who had people in the homes or in the hospital at St Michael’s [then the Workhouse] or anywhere, they used to – he used to have to collect the money. Because all that sort of thing was dropped in 1948, wasn’t it, you never had to pay, when they brought the new – I forget what they called it, but they cut all that out. In those days you had to pay if you had a mother in hospital or in the homes. You had to pay, and when I went to work, when we all went to work – there was four of us, there was three brothers, and one sister and my father. We all worked in Crittall’s, the lot of us. And when I got to a certain age, they made me pay. I paid seven and six out of my three pounds. [sighs] And I think my second brother, he never got so much money, he paid five shillings and I think my sister paid, but not my young brother. We all had to pay. I mean if we had gone to a solicitor, probably we wouldn’t have had to pay, but we didn’t know, in those days. But anyhow, they had money from my father and from two of my brothers. No, us two – two brothers and from the sister as well. They had money for that.

Q:    And that was for your mother?

Mr W:    Yes, we all had to pay.

Q:    And Mr Blanks used to come and chase him, you think?

Mr W:    He used to mostly write letters, I think. Threatening to do this and threatening to do that. And I know my father was always moaning about him, ‘Blanks this’ and ‘Blanks that’. And used to call him this and call him that. I suppose they’d have took every ha’penny if they had the chance.

Q:    Where was your father living when you were all at the home? [Bocking Cottage Home – see papers in file]

Mr W:    My father was living down in the Valley. When I came back – when we left in 1923, and I came back in 1929. I came back to the Valley then, again. Then we moved here in 1933. There was a chap on the Council – I forget his name – because I don’t know what the way was of getting houses then. But he see this chap on the Council – it wasn’t Burrows – my father was sort of friendly with him I suppose, or through the Labour, and he got my Dad this house.

Q:    How did you feel about all that with your mother and everything? Did you know what was happening, ‘cos you were quite small then?

Mr W:    Oh yes, well, I don’t know what we did think, really. We didn’t think a lot of it, but you sort of grew up with it. That was your life, that was your life, and you never knew anything else about it. I dare say Cecil spoke about it, because he was down there as well [Cecil Newton].

Q:    He went to the school.

Mr W:    Did he mention us? Down there. He was down there before us.

Q:    I don’t know whether he did, no. (Mr W: He was down there before us.) He’s a bit older than you.

Mr W:    He’s a lot older than me. I think he’s about 83. But I knew his mother. She was with my mother you see, at the hospital. She used to play the – I think they had an organ there, she used to play.

Q:    Yes, she did, yes.

Mr W:    Yes, very clever, so I understand.

Q:    He said she played the piano a lot when she was younger, she played the piano a lot in people’s houses when she was younger, I remember him saying, his mother.

Mr W:    Yes, I remember her playing over there, in the hospital

Q:    So you used to go and see your mum did you, as well?

Mr W:    Oh yes! My mother used to play the piano, too. (Q: Oh did she?) Yes. She was quite good.

Q:    I wonder where she learnt that?

Mr W:    I don’t know. I couldn’t say. She was in private service in London. I think she had a rough time, a rough time because her father married again. And the stepmother never used to treat her very well. It might have started from there. I knew she had a rough time, by my mother’s sister.

Q:    This was up in London? Did you know her parents at all?

Mr W:    I didn’t know them.

Q:    What was their surname?

Mr W:    Sullivan, Irish. My grandfather was Irish. He was a sergeant major in the British Army. My mother was born at Dover Castle, she always said that, ‘Dover Castle, Dover Heights’. ‘Dover Castle, Dover Heights’. Didn’t matter how she was – ‘Dover Castle, Dover Heights’. And of course her mother died and as I say Grandfather married again and they gave the children, especially my mother, a rough time, so it comes from my other cousins and from my mother’s sister.

Q:    I think that Cecil [Newton] said that he himself had to go into St Michael’s [the Workhouse] for a little while before he went to the school. But you didn’t have to do that?

Mr W:    Oh I think everybody had to do that. You had to go, you went there for a couple of weeks till they got you settled. Then they sent you down to the home [Friars].

Q:    Do you remember anything about, what it was like at St Michael’s then?

Mr W:    Well we were in a room on the left-hand side. I suppose you know St Michael’s?

Q:    Not really.

Mr W:    As you go into St Michael’s, on the right hand side used to be where the chap who run the hospital, he done all his work there. In the first house there was a porter, then we were in this second place, in a room where we slept and they kept us there. I can’t remember how we got the food or anything. But we were only there a couple, maybe three weeks, perhaps a month. But we wasn’t there long and they sent us down the Friars Home [Bocking Cottage Home]

Q:    That was just you children that were in the room or was your mother there?

Mr W:    Oh no! Mother was in the hospital.

Q:    Did she never get any better at all?

Mr W:    No, no. I don’t know whether – in those days, whether they never used to bother or what. I never got no information. I don’t think Father knew much about it. Whether she could have been cured – these days they cure some, don’t they?

Q:    They didn’t know much about that sort of thing then did they.

Mr W:    My young brother – he always used said Mother used to say something about ‘ether’. I think she had trouble in childbirth. Was that something they used to give them?

Q:    I think it was, yes, it was a sort of anaesthetic.

Mr W:    And she used to talk about that – I wonder – whether she got, on the last, young Perce – whether she had brain damage. I mean, ether – if you don’t get enough, this sort of thing, ether or whatever it is, it can affect your brain, can’t it? I often wonder whether she had, if it could have been like that. I don’t know, I never – course we were young – you couldn’t find out now.

Q:    Where did she go – course you were born in London, weren’t you, were any of the younger ones born in Witham?

Mr W:    Doug was born I understand in the White Hart! (Q: [laughs] Really?), Yes the White Hart hotel.

Q:    How did that happen?

Mr W:    I don’t know about Betty, but Perce was born in St Michael’s [Workhouse]. He was born in 1922, before she went there. She went to St Michael’s to have Perce – so understand if I remember right– she had Perce in St Michael’s. There must have been a reason for her to go to hospital, in those days, mustn’t there? Perce always used to say Mum used to talk about that ‘ether’. So that was something they gave them in childbirth, wasn’t it – I wonder whether she got brain damage. But I understand, I’ve heard Bet say that she had a bad time during childbirth.

Q:    How did it happen he was born at the White Hart?

Mr W:    Because that was – Father – they both came down here in the War, and I think probably they might have been down Maldon Road – because he had a room there, or a couple of rooms, or something like that. And perhaps they had nowhere to – perhaps it was better in there. Anyhow, Doug always says he was born in the White Hart.

Q:    [laughs] Good place to be born. Cecil reckoned he quite enjoyed being at the school at Bocking, in the end, really. I don’t know how you felt about it?

Extract from register of Bocking Cottage Home in the 1920s, with the four White children (ERO G/Br H1)

Mr W:    [drops voice] Oh, it was tough! Tough, tough. You had to – you had other chaps there and one or two of them were tough. I was always in brawls – always in brawls, especially with one chap. If – course I was the oldest and perhaps my young brother –‘Somebody’s hitting your brother’ – Doug – you know. So I’d go after this chap – who was a tough hombre. Anyhow, we used to have a real good ‘ go’ and we’d end up with nosebleeds and goodness knows what. He was stronger than I was, but I was faster! You know [both laugh]. And we were always scrapping. But nine times out of ten I’d get the better of him! And of course, there were one or two others there. And we used to fall out [laughing] we would do, you know, with other boys there. Some of them were pretty hardy lads. And that’s how I was. I found it pretty tough. And the matrons wasn’t very good, we had two matrons. If you upset them, they’d get the old stick out and they’d bang you, bang you over the head, anywhere, [your] back. The old matron, she was a Patten[?], she came from Witham. And there was Evers, you heard of the Evers, they came from Witham. The Evers lived down Albert Road, near the station. Well known family, belonged to the builders, at Tiptree. And if you upset them, they’d whack you like anything. Anyhow, one day – my father used to come and see us every week, and we used to meet in the gardens, in the Bocking[?] gardens. And he said to me one day ‘What’s all them marks on your arm?’ And she’d evidently cut me across here, on the arms, with the cane. So I said ‘Oh, I had the stick!’ You never used to think nothing about getting the stick, or round your head, or, sort of grew up with it. And he – of course, my father was livid! And he wrote her a letter – he told me afterwards, he wrote her a letter and he said ‘If you ever touch any of the children again, I’ll report you to the Police!’ And she was – I never got hit again! She was as nice as pie after that! Nice as pie. He said – he told me afterwards, ‘If you ever hit my kids again, I’ll go to the Police’. And it was a different cup of tea altogether. The old stick went away then. But that was a usual thing to have the stick.

Q:    Cecil must have just got in well with them, I think, because he said he quite liked it there. (Mr W: Who said that, Cecil?) Cecil Newton. I wouldn’t say he liked it, but he joined the Scouts and did various things he quite enjoyed – ‘put up with it’ shall I say?

Mr W:    Put up with it, yes.

Q:    Did you used to come home to Witham in the holidays? (Mr W: Oh no.) So you never really came back at all?

Mr W:    Oh no. I done quite well, I was captain at school, cricket. (Q: While you were there?) At Manor Street [in Braintree]. I was captain at the school. No, I wasn’t captain. I played football too for the school. I used to go to St Peter’s church, do you know St Peter’s church? (Q: Yes.) I was in the choir there for several years. I used to go to the Congregational Church, before I went into the choir. That’s next to the [???] school, next to Causeway [House?], I believe that was – that was my old school, the Causeway. Either there or next to it. That was my – we went there till we were eleven. And then when we were eleven we went to Manor Street.

[brief quiet bit]

[looking at book – Book ‘Dictionary of Metal Windows’]

Q:    That was, I must say you’ve probably read that book more than I have.

Mr W:    … Yes, mostly about fittings. There’s all the galvanising there. Only the chap told me they went through two acid – no, wait a minute – drop in the acid first of all. Then they had two washes and then they finished up being galvanised in the zinc. That’s all there. But you can learn more by going down Cego’s. And that was about the shot blasting I told you, as well, was it?

Q:    Yes. The sandblasting. But it didn’t say as much as you did. I think your describing it was pretty good – it sounded awful, as a job, didn’t it.

Mr W:    It was, yes.
[discussion about book, not noted]

Q:    I’ve brought a few more pictures. That was the store probably – you said you went to the store to collect- that’s seemed to be the store now, anyway. Up in the corner, near Braintree Road. There wasn’t much left there. These pieces of metal when we looked round.

Crittall’s. A store room

Mr W:    Really speaking, the factory is more or less the same all round. I can’t remember these at all.

Q:    I thought that was probably the store place where they kept all the pieces of metal.

Mr W:    Mullions and transoms.

Q:    Which are which?

[Talking over each other – Mr W’s voice covers Q]

Mr W:    I can’t really say if they are mullions or what. Actually that middle bit is what you call a mullion. And that bit – that’s two windows joined together. That piece in the middle is called a transom (Q: That goes across?) Yes. That joins two windows together.

Q:    And the mullion goes up the middle? Braintree Road is along here and the store place was up in this corner [Store in NW corner of factory] So you came out of – that’s the main shop and you just came out up here – this corner – up here to get into it. That’s the loading bay. That’s the lodge there –

[Talking over each other- can’t always hear what Q is saying to confirm/ask question]

Mr W:    And you reckon this up here somewhere?

Q:    Just this little piece here, near those tanks outside.

Mr W:    I should say that’s on the corner of the galvanise.

Q:    Yes, sort of. It might be …

Mr W:    That’s probably in the corner of the galvanise, at the top, over here. There used to be a corner entrance here. I think the toilets are round here somewhere.

Q:    That’s what this is, I think, they’re through, behind there.

Mr W:    Oh yes, I see. This is a bit different to when I was there.

Q:    These are little boxes with little metal pieces in.

Mr W:    These would be ready – all ready to put in – to hang up for the ‘galve’ I reckon. These are pieces all ready to hang, they these and they and they put these bits of wire and hang them on hooks for the ‘galve.’

Q:    They were galvanised separately before they were made up, were they?

Mr W:    Yes, they make them up in these bundles, not very big …

Q:    Before they were put into the windows?

Mr W:    Oh yes.

Q:    They would join up the windows to make a frame ?

Mr W:    I’m not quite sure – there’s all different sorts, you see, Janet.

Q:    I assumed when we were talking about the galvanising, that you would put that whole lot in. But you wouldn’t, you would put each separate frame in. And then you make it up afterwards?

Mr W:    Oh yes, when you want to put two windows together, that’s done afterwards. What they call in the ‘Composite shop’. I think it’s on one of your plans. That’s done in a separate shop. Sometimes they’d put six windows together.

Q:    To make a whole frame?

Mr W:    Yes, There’d also be transoms in – say they want to put those two lots together, they’d put those two – put a transom that way, you see. Perhaps they’d use pipes as well. They’d make a bay window up. They’d make a bay window up.

Q:    So the bits that went into the galvanising were just one square?

Mr W:    Yes, one square window.

Q:    And not all different parts. I’ve got it now.

Mr W:    Yes, it’s rather complicated, you’ve got to see it really.

Q:    No, you describe it very well. So, how were the transoms, was that welded?

Mr W:    No, the transoms – in the vent – [pause – Mr W  looking at windows in house]. See, you put a screw through there, into the transom and then tighten it up here with a nut. You can see the screws here now. The screw would go in there – I mean the screws would go in before the glass. This screw here would go in there with a little tiny nut to tighten it. So there would be two, one there and one there. (Q: That would hold them all together) They put these holes in whether they want them or not. And these all for the wood.

Q:    The vertical one was the mullion.

Mr W:    That’s the name of that part, the mullion, this one is a transom. (Q: These mullions, they’ve got little, I never noticed that before.) And they put slots and holes in whether they want them or not. Some windows wanted what they call ‘fenester bars’ in. Down there and across there. And they put these fenester slots in. [Probably where one bar goes ‘through’ another] Look, they’re here, one there and one there. They are blocked up. [sketch] They put a slot there, if they wanted bars, the bars would go in. If they didn’t want bars in, they didn’t bother but they’d still have the holes in.

Q:    So the actual window frame is this – the mullion would be flat.

Mr W:     That’s all one bar, you see. That is what they call a ‘projecting hinge’. And this thing there, this is a pin. These are for cleaning the windows. If you had an ordinary hinge, a smaller hinge, a close one, they used to put them downstairs, because you could get at them. The projecting hinge was really for upstairs so you could clean the window.

Q:    Where there isn’t an opening one, would that be [???] [inaudible, away from recorder]

Mr W:    Well, first of all, this window here is welded together. That goes in the welder.

Q:    That ‘s the whole frame with two slots. That’s one whole window, the bottom half?

Mr W:    That’s one whole window.

Q:    With the mullion down the middle?

Mr W:    That’s right that’s a mullion, too. (Q: And an opening piece in one section).  Because, actually, I’m telling you now, but the point of it is, you get the knowledge by years of experience. Being in windows for years.

Q:    It’s something you take for granted if you don’t have anything to do with windows. (Mr W: Yes.) It’s just a piece of glass with something round it. It’s quite complicated, isn’t it?

Mr W:    Yes, as I say, when you do a job – you start on a job, the first thing they show you how to do it. And for the first two or three days you won’t do the job very well. But the next week you do it better. And then a couple or three months later you can do the job without thinking. It’s still – doing the job and living with the job, isn’t it? How you learn so much. Really speaking, there’s quite a lot to learn, with windows, isn’t it?

Q:     Yes. Once you see it, it’s more obvious.

[referring to plans/photos]

Crittall’s. Notice about cutting aluminium.

Q:    Some of these are similar. That was written on one of the walls or something, so I took a photo of that.

Mr W:    I don’t remember that, no. (Reading) ‘ When cutting aluminium, press foot pedal during cut’. Well, you’d got to press the pedal before the machine would come down! That was what I was on mostly, press operating. You got to press your foot before the machine will come down and cut it.

Q:    I think some of these were up – you know the piece along by the railway where there’s three floors? (Mr W: Yes) Some of these were in there.

Crittall’s. Fan-shaped frame

Mr W:    They were made at Braintree, those.

Q:    What were they called? Those semi-circle ones?

Mr W:     I really couldn’t tell you, I forget now. I did know the names, but they are made at Braintree.

Q:    They’re quite nice actually, these stair up the, with metal, the iron posts and things up the end there. What did they used to use this upstairs part for?

Mr W:     The upstairs part would over be over – one part would be over the right hand side near the railway.

Q:     There were two floors upstairs.

Mr W:     You see they changed it round. In the old days, on the bottom, by the railway, that used to be what they called the ‘wood shop’ where they made the wood surrounds. That was on the bottom. Now, on the second floor, in the old days I’m talking about, was the canteen. On the third floor, the girls use to work. I dunno, they used to make some sort of window, I can’t remember.

Continued on tape 154

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