Tape 159. Mrs Joan Lyon (nee Mott, later Smith), sides 1 and 2

Tape 159

Mrs Joan Lyon (nee Mott, later Smith), was born in 1922. She was interviewed on 14 August 1992, when she lived at 5 Silver Street, Silver End. John Gyford of Blanfred, Chalks Road, Witham, was also present.

She also appears on tapes 160 and 162.

For more information about her, see Lyon, Joan, nee Mott, later Smith, 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

[chat about talking to Vic Gray, then County Archivist, about recording her past, and her family in Braintree and Silver End etc, not noted. She was a Labour County Councillor and District Councillor]

Mrs L:    I have just brought one or two sort of photos which are quite interesting because grandfather I suppose you’d say was a very public-spirited person, although he wasn’t involved in politics as far as I know, but became [???] that was about 18 something or other, and I’ve got the picture there which I think was actually put into the paper in ’35, of the first Braintree cricket team which has F H Crittall, no V, F H Crittall in it I suppose, yes. And various other, and grandfather made a sort of, cause they didn’t have a cricket ground, he said well I’ll level one of the fields and we’ll make out own cricket ground, you know. Anyway, let’s do what Vic wants me to do, and talk about my impressions when I first went to County [Council].

Q:    Well, would you rather start with a little bit how your family got into public life … just sketch in the background of your family and how you came on the scene as it were. Cause your grandfather, what was your grandfather’s first name?

Mrs L:    Fred. And he was apparently, I got told off for calling him Fred once one Christmas when we were up at the farm, saying ‘Where’s Fred, then’ you know, and ‘That child’, you know, ‘she’s going to be, she’s precocious and all the rest of it’. So that was the farm at Braintree, you see.

Q:    That’s Coldnailhurst farm?

Mrs L:    That’s Coldnailhurst farm, and that’s a close up of it with father’s eldest brother, and my cousin who’s now in Park View.

Q:    And what was his brother?

Mrs L:    His brother became a history sort of professor.

Q:    What was his name?

Mrs L:    Donald.

Q:    And these were Motts.

Mrs L:    Motts, yes.

Q:    So were they actual farmers?

Mrs L:    Grandfather was, yes, that actually is the photograph that was taken as a postcard of an Essex farmstead in Panfield Lane, Braintree. And they asked me at the Town Hall recently if I’d got any photos, so I’ve sort of given them, you know, because people go in and say ‘Have you got anything of Coldnailhurst Farm’ you know, so they did some copies sort of off it, which have come out quite well, and that’s the cricket team, actually. And so I suppose you know, really, father [Rex Mott] was brought up in a family who were involved in the local community. They were great Congregationalists, and very much non-conformist radical Liberals, you see. And in fact, you know, I mean there was, there were the Tabors as well, and so they were also radical Liberals you see, so John Tabor’s background’s very similar to father’s. And they farmed adjoining farms, because John Tabor’s farm adjoined Coldnailhurst sort of down the Bocking end of Panfield Lane. And the names, I haven’t got a date on this but it says [reading] ‘On Tuesday of last week a meeting was held at Vestry Hall, Braintree, to consider the formation of a cricket club, Mr R J Johnson in the chair.

Decided that a cricket club be formed. The rules were proposed by Mr F H Crittall, and the following officers were elected, Mr George Courtauld, M.P. President, Mr R. Crittall Treasurer, Mr A Talbot Secretary, Mr F Mott captain, Messrs Cooper, F H Crittall, A R Dyer, O A Jackson, Johnson, Livermore, and Rowe and Bennell the committee, and funds are currently needed to carry on the club’. Now that little cutting must have been pretty ancient, but that was always sort of, I found that in my father’s sort of wallet when he died, you know, cause I didn’t know much about then, but as I say, then I found this, or maybe my cousin gave me this picture, you know, but grandfather in this picture would have been about, oh I don’t know, fortyish I suppose.

Q:    In the cricket picture?

Mrs L:    In the cricket picture, yes

Q:    So this is all, your father was born in

Mrs L:    Well he was [would have been] a hundred last year, 1891. And that’s the family actually, only the other thing they asked, I said I’d got a lovely photograph hanging in my hall of the family when my father’s sister married a Frenchman in 1904 I suppose that was. Well I took this huge, this sepia photographs you know, huge old fashioned frames, and that’s the result of them getting copies done, and they’re absolutely perfect. They look a posh old lot actually. So that’s grandfather and grandfather, and that’s the eldest son Uncle Donald, he went to the Countess of Warwick’s school actually, cause he was very bright, and dad and Uncle Bunny[?] went to Manor Street, in fact I’ve got a picture here but I don’t think that’s Manor Street, I think that’s actually, somebody tried to identify that building recently. That’s my Uncle Donald, that’s my father, and that’s his younger brother, and then the three girls were older. This one’s daughter’s now 87, so she, you know my dad would have been a hundred last year, and so you can tell when that was taken, that must have been, he must have about twelve I suppose, or fourteen perhaps there. Wait a minute it was 1904, and he was born in 1891, so he was 13 then.

Q:    So who was the one that was getting married.

Mrs L:    This one. And that’s the full photo complete with Uncle Gaston, he looks a typical Frenchman actually.

Q:    How did she come to marry …?

Mrs L:    Well, the other sister, the one, wait a minute, Auntie May or Auntie Flo. No Auntie Flo, had married a man from Bury St Edmunds, and Uncle Gaston came over with hardly anything in his pocket from Hardelow[?] I think they lived then, and went to Bury St Edmunds to sort of, to become Anglicised. I don’t quite know why he had that idea in mind, I mean, but they met{?}, cause they were newsagents, you see, dad’s older sister married a newsagent and they met Uncle Gaston, and then Uncle Gaston sort of, Auntie Elsie who was actually in London, well had gone to London to work in a shop or something, had come to visit them and met uncle Gaston, you see, and I suppose, so that’s the whole tribe actually, including this one who’s the only one now still alive, who’s in Park View, that’s my cousin Vera, cause you see her mother was about twenty years older than my father, there was a long, well nearly twenty, there was a big gap between the three girls and the three boys as you can see, you know.

Q:    [???] your family tree [???] exercise I think.

Mrs L:    I know, it’s all go, so that was really [???]. I told my father that he ought to do something about, you know, but he never did. That was either a Sunday school, I think it’s possibly a Sunday school picture this one, I don’t know, but there’s father and his brother, both in little sailor suits, you know, in that one. But my other cousin found that photograph.

Q:    So this would be the Congregational church you think, the Sunday School.

Mrs L:    I don’t know really.

Q:    Cause you say they were Congregational?

Mrs L:    They were staunch Congregationalists, went to London Road, which is now being restored for the, cause they were going to build a new church in George Yard weren’t they, for the Methodists, because they demolished the Methodist church, and then they decided to, not to do that and they’re renovating the old London Road chapel. So my parents were married there and everything, we’ve always had a great …

Q:    Do you remember, you knew your grandparents ?

Mrs L:    Oh yes.

Q:    What did you make of them?

Mrs L:    Oh, they were very strict actually, [???] we used to go there Christmas time, and I can see grandfather now, you know, he was a little man, I’ve got a picture somewhere else of him standing there, and he’s only a little man, I mean, I’ve got his frock coat actually, in, I used to wear it when I was a child, practically, because he was so small, you know. And, oh he was very fierce actually. Grandmother was very gentle and very sort of, well, I don’t know how to describe here, she was always very calm and composed, and, I don’t really remember us living there but we did live there you see, while we were waiting for the house to be built in Silver End, cause Dad got his job with Crittall’s in ’27, there was about half a dozen of them cycled over here from Marconi’s at Chelmsford and liked the idea of this Utopian village that was being built, you know, but of course the houses weren’t ready, the factory was opened, and so we went, back to live at Coldnailhurst, cause he couldn’t travel from Chelmsford, I mean I was born in Chelmsford, he was working at Marconi’s in the First World War, and so we went to live at the farm for about six months and then oddly enough the younger brother, decided to get married, so we had to move out of the farm and we lived at Causeway Cottage, we called it Causeway Cottage, you know the causeway, those two houses which are now a solicitors, so we lived there with Aunt Lottie which was one of the older ladies on there, which was, and they were Bowtells you see, that’s another sort of connection with Braintree. But grandmother was a Bowtell, and she had several sisters, one of whom married Mr Huntley of the Huntley and Palmer biscuits, Aunt Ruth.

Q:    What was your grandmother’s first name?

Mrs L:    Kate. Yes, Kate.

Q:    So going to when you lived at Coldnailhurst cause we’re skipping a bit really, aren’t we, I was just, thinking back to when you were a child, how you got on with your grandparents.

Mrs L:    Oh quite well really, but I mean in those days, it was, children were expected to be seen and not heard, I mean you wouldn’t dare sort of but into a conversation, you know, when your elders were talking, would you, I don’t suppose you did in your young day really, I don’t know, perhaps you did, but certainly we weren’t expected to. We were very much sort of, you know. But they were very loving actually, we’re a very close-knit family, not that I see much of the other cousins, with the other sister who actually also was in the newsagent business and they lived ink, she married sort of a second, a third cousin actually, and they went to, their shop was in Pinner. And then her children have all sort of spread all over the place, so I don’t see them, but I see my cousin whose husband was the Registration Officer for County, you’ve met Reg Bush haven’t you, I think so John [Gyford] in the early days when we set up the District Council, or were you not on when we first set it up? Oh well Reg had quite a bit to do with that then. So, we were all taught to …

Q:    Do you remember what they used to talk about when you weren’t allowed to interrupt? Did you listen to it at all?

Mrs L:    Well I think mostly about sort of, I mean Uncle Donald in particular, whenever he was there, you know you’d talk about, erm, sort of world affairs, you know, cause he was very much sort of history and worldly wise, and my father of course was always on about you know, the injustices, because that was how, he didn’t want to be a farmer you see, and went out to take an apprenticeship when he was sixteen I suppose, from Manor Street school, cause he never went on to Secondary education, and, cause his younger brother did, he went to the High School, he was one of the early pupils at the High School, but Dad wanted to be an engineer, and I mean he always said, well, he was absolutely horrified at what he found out in the big wide world, because he’d sort of been brought up in this rather, genteel family where there was always men working on the land, and there was always a maid in the house, she didn’t live in, but she lived along the Panfield Lane and came in and did all the housework and the heavy work.

Grandmother did the cooking, but the picture I’ve always had of grandmother was that she wasn’t ever doing anything very, you know she never scrubbed floors or anything, and apparently when they married, and they got their house in Chelmsford, they had a sort of flat to begin with I gather in Beehive Lane, but when they moved into Navigation Road, there was a stone flagged floor in the kitchen, and father was very upset when mother got down on her knees to scrub this floor, you know. She said ‘well we can’t afford a maid like your mother, can we, you know, so I’ve got to do it’.

Q:    So where did your mother come from?

Mrs L:    Well mother came from Felsted, and she was apprenticed to, I’ve got her indenture actually at home, she was apprenticed to, I had it framed recently, she was indentured to a haberdasher I suppose you’d call him, Josiah Howard, who had a shop down in the High Street near where the old Central Cinema was, and of course they lived in, and she and a friend met my father and his friend sort of in the town, and started sort of walking out together, you know, and apparently grandfather Laudrum[?] got to hear that she was being seen with Fred Mott’s son, and he read the riot act and threatened to take her away from the shop if she didn’t stop seeing Fred Mott’s son, cause he didn’t like Fred Mott apparently. Cause they all used to meet in the Horse and Groom, you see, all the farmers, that was where, and apparently they used to come and pick mother up on a Friday night with the trap, and her father would be in the Horse and Groom till she finished, cause they often didn’t finish until nine o’clock at night, and so as he, one snowy night she’s told this tale, that he wasn’t there, and she wasn’t going to stay at Josiah Howard’s, you know, over the weekend, so she, or might have been a Saturday night I suppose, cause they worked Saturdays as well, didn’t they, must have been Saturday, so she walked all the way to Felsted. But they were all true Blues, actually, they were very Conservative.

Q:    What were their names?

Mrs L:    And the Laudrum[?] side of the family is still very Conservative actually.

Q:    So what was her name?

Mrs L:    Maud.

Q:    Maud Laudrum?

Mrs L:    Maud Laudrum.

Q:    How do you spell Laudrum?

Mrs L:    Laudrum.

Q:    So they were farmers as well?

Mrs L:    They were farmers, yes, lived in Felsted on Cock Green, and, they didn’t have a very big farm, and I don’t think they were anywhere near as well off as the Motts, actually, but they were very Conservative. And apart from one uncle, that my father got on very well with, they were all, they remained Conservative, and my cousins are to this day. In fact one of them, which is quite interesting, she, she’s sort of her second marriage, she married a chap who was very, sort of hardworking and was prepared to spend a lot of effort on improving a house and sort of selling it on, and five years ago they managed to rake enough money together in selling their house at Rayne to buy back the family farmhouse on Cock Green. Which had been, a lot done to it, it had been added to and everything. And she actually came to see me last night, cause her son, who, I’m his godmother, is going off to be a steward on the Queen Elizabeth II when it gets back from Boston, and I was sort of rubbing it in about the situation today, so she said ‘Oh well I shall always be grateful to Mrs Thatcher because through her policies we were able to buy back the family farmhouse’. I said ‘Oh well you’re one of the lucky ones then, aren’t you’, I said. So that’s the sort of background, I don’t know about mother’s side of the family, I mean mother basically Dad sort of what shall I say, changed her attitude by taking her to a meeting, I’ll always remember them telling me this tale, he said, ‘I took your mother to London’, he said, and my aunt actually was lodging with us, cause she was much younger and she was in a shop in Chelmsford, and, it may even have been before we were born, I can’t remember now when it was they went, but they went to a meeting with George Lansbury, in Poplar. So he took her up in the morning, and took her all round the East End in the morning, to see all the poor families and the children with no shoes on their feet, and then they went to their meeting in the afternoon in Poplar Town Hall, and then he took her to the West End in the evening to see the people all going into the theatres with their furs and that, and that changed my mother’s opinion of life, she became much more sort of Bolshie and worked for the Party and ran the Women’s Section and …

Q:    So really, you say, you think it was when he left school that he became …

Mrs L:    Yes, it was, yes, he was so appalled at what he found out in the, in industry, and so he helped to form the first Trade Unions I suppose in 19 hundred and whenever it was they were formed John, I can’t really remember, was it 18 something or other or 19 ..?

John G:    I don’t know when it would have been in Chelmsford off hand.

Mrs L:    Well he was first of all in Braintree, you see, served his apprenticeship in Braintree, and that’s when he got involved with the Union.

Q:    This was at Lakes you said, was it?

Mrs L:    That was at Lake and Elliott’s, yes. And then of course he went, after he’d served his apprenticeship he and several of them went to Hoffmann’s at Chelmsford, and that’s when he started getting involved really with the Labour Party. I don’t think that there was any Labour Party in Braintree in those days, it was only the Liberals.

Q:    But he was involved in the Union in Braintree?

Mrs L:    He joined the Union and then he got very much involved in the Union when he got to Chelmsford.

Q:    When was it he went to Chelmsford roughly?

Mrs L:    Well, they married in 1916, and I imagine that he and, yes he was there I think then, because mother then went to work with Stones of Romford and lived up there, and Dad used to go up from Chelmsford, cause he lodged with his sister in Chelmsford, that was before they married, and so that would have been about 1912 I suppose.

Q:    So they were courting for a long time then?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, yes. I think, it was about six years I suppose, well they did in those days, they couldn’t afford to marry, could they. So really …

Q:    So they lived in Chelmsford then they married in 1916.

Mrs L:    They married in 1916 and then lived in a sort of flat in Beehive Lane, it’s still there actually, the first house as you go up. And then they moved to 45 Navigation Road, and that’s when he became very involved actually with politics, because he tells the tale of how three of them met under a lamp post in 1918 to decide whether they could sort of fight the election, cause apparently there was an election in 1918 after the War, and they sort of did I suppose, work, and then managed to get somebody elected onto the Chelmsford Borough Council I suppose it was in those days. Someone called Edward Dyer who was a printer, and he gave my father a dictionary which I’ve still got, it had to be re-covered a few years ago, but, so, as I say then he became very involved with the Labour Party in Chelmsford and with Trade Unionism, and then when he came to Crittall’s he became sort of secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and got the sort of merit, award of merit or whatever they call it, which I’ve got hanging up on the wall, memories all around. And then of course in ’33 as I said to you, I don’t, he never said a lot about the Rural District Council [Braintree] but I think that they did send a rep, they did, I don’t know whether they, they didn’t have a parish council, cause the records that are shown at Silver End, there’s the records about a community sort of council. But I don’t think they actually had a parish council, so maybe they didn’t get involved with the Rural one, I don’t really know. But then ’33 was when he really did become involved. That was when Silver End and Rivenhall were brought into Witham to keep Witham an Urban District.

Q:    He’d gone to Crittall’s in 192’?

Mrs L:    Seven.

Q:    Seven, and that was when Silver End was built?

Mrs L:    Yes, we moved into Silver Street in ’28.

Q:    So you temporarily lived at Coldnailhurst and Causeway Cottage while the house was built? And so then he was working, was that working at Crittall’s straight away was he?

Mrs L:    From ’27 yes, in the tool room.

Q:    Did they build the factory before they …?

Mrs L:    Well, they started on the factory in ’26 and they started on the houses in ’26, but they built them quite quickly actually, because the first house was occupied in, I think the 4th of April ’26, and that was the more traditional type houses in Temple Lane and Valentine Way, and then he decided to have this new architect called Thomas Tate to build these flat-roofed houses, and we were allocated, you were allocated a house according to your family apparently. Cause Ken Cuthbe had to have a two-bedroom one in Valentine Way cause he’d only got one daughter. Cause Ken actually helped to build the village, he was a bricklayer in those days.

Q:    Oh, I didn’t know that.

Mrs L:    Yes, he helped to build the Village Hall, he always said, but he didn’t say much about the houses. But he chose that house because it was opposite a gap, leading into one of the courts, number 64. But we were allocated, or Dad was, because he’d got a son and daughter, and we were allocated a three-bedroomed house. And of course he supposed to move when he became manager of the tool room, we were supposed, they were supposed to have moved into one of the bigger houses, cause they built the detached houses for the managers, but my mother wouldn’t move. Said she was quite happy. And of course by then, you see, I mean it was sort of the beginning of the War, my brother was whisked into the Air Force with the Militia, and so mother said ‘No way, I’m going to stay at 5 Silver Street’, and that’s how I’m still there. [laugh] After sixty-four years.

Q:    How old were you when, I’ve lost count now …?

Mrs L:    I was six actually. Yes, I hadn’t been to school actually when we went to Silver End, because I was five when we left Chelmsford and went to Coldnailhurst, and my brother went to Manor Street school, cause he’s three years older than me, but they didn’t think it was worth while getting me into school in Braintree, because they were waiting. So actually I didn’t start school till I was six years old, so I was a late starter. But I caught up [laugh].

Q:    Can you remember much about Silver End or were you too …?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, I remember quite a lot about it, because we were, actually the school wasn’t built and they were building it and we all went to school in the Village Hall, and I can remember it very well actually, it was a Mrs Fulbeck was the head, and then, there was about seventy children I think but we were all in mixed ages in the classes, but they, they wouldn’t half protest today and say the children were being disadvantaged, wouldn’t they. But … And then of course the school opened in 1929 and I, April the 8th I think it was, which oddly enough was my parents’ wedding anniversary, and so I walked in in ’29 and now I’m still there as Chairman of the Governors. Which when I say to people ‘I was a pupil in this school when it opened’ I mean it gives my age away straight away, doesn’t it.

Q:    Were there a lot of people from outside of Essex?

Mrs L:    Not so much in the early stages, no. They were mostly sort of people from around the area in the twenties, except that they did, it was, the Silver End factory was built specifically to make fittings, so the machines were much easier to handle than the old heavy, sort of cutting off the sections and one another such as Witham had. So he employed a lot of disabled people, because the pictures that you’ll see of the factory were people with no legs or one leg, and one arm, you know, and he wanted to give work to disabled people from the First World War. So there were a lot of people came from different areas that were disabled. One man in particular I remember, because we used to have marvellous, cause the Labour Party was very strong of course in the early days of the village, and we had what they called a Sixpenny Free and Easy, and I can see this little man now with no legs, sort of, not exactly dancing, but sort of running the most extraordinary, you’d sort of get out of his way, but you didn’t bother that he didn’t have any legs you know, just used to walk about on his stumps. Mr Bellis[?]. But then they gradually started coming, you see, I think the Scots people probably came first, and the Northumberland.

So they did sort of start to get people in from outside, I suppose sort of in the late twenties, but the biggest influx of people came in the thirties when the Welsh miners’ choir came to Essex to sing, cause they were all out of, you know when the miners were, I don’t know what happened in, of course ’26 when the General Strike was on was sort of really when the village was only just starting, but the thing I remember most really was when all the Welsh people came, and my mother took one family under her wing, people called Green, had about five children, who, I remember the pram was got ready and the cot and various other things and clothes, and that you know. My mother was a very resourceful person, she’d make a meal out of nothing. She’d have a little piece of meat left over from the joint and she’d mince it up you know, and then she’d make her own pastry with, she’d buy a sixpenny sort of ham bone and boil it up to make fat to make pastry and stock to make, she was very resourceful. And needlework, she’d make, this cousin of mine who was quite well off would give her clothes, and she’d make my dresses and things out of … she was a very resourceful … So as I said the miners all came and then of course the music all started because they had a choir and they offered to teach the children, so my parents were both quite musical actually, and I mean in Dad’s entry of the things that they bought when they married, I mean the most expensive thing was a piano, which was forty pounds. I’ve got that list … that the chair, his reclining chair which I’ve still got was five pounds, and the oak table and the four high backed chairs were ten pounds, I’ve still got those of course. And the pictures they bought when he used to go and visit her in Romford, and they were two pounds, and then there was two vases that were a pound, and I recently had those valued, cause they’re sort of Japanese, they’re valued at a hundred pounds now. But, why did I start talking about that?

Q:    The Welsh, about …

Mrs L:    The Welsh, that’s right, so mother and Dad, you know, wanted us to be musical, we didn’t have a radio or anything of course, so, there was a Mr Gilbert came and taught us to play the piano, though we’d both got a smattering of it, my brother and I, he was always better than me, it was always a bone of contention with me, my brother was always better at everything than I was, you know.

Q:    I don’t know anything about your brother, was he older than you?

Mrs L:    Yes, three and a half years older, he’s seventy two, three now.

Q:    What was his name?

Mrs L:    John.

Q:    Where does he live now?

Mrs L:    Oh he’s down in, well actually he’s in Buckinghamshire now, but he’s a chiropodist, he took up chiropody in the War, well he went in the RAF Medical Corps cause he was very much a non-combatant type, but he had to join up. He’d done a lot of work with the scouts and so he trained as a chiropodist and carried it on after the War.

Mrs L:    Anyway, we were taught to play the piano by Mr Gilbert and we were taught to sing by a tiny little Welshman, with a wonderful tenor voice, they called him a little nightingale. He was about four foot ten I should think, you know, and my mother and all of them joined, they had a choir, and conducted by Mr Gilbert, and Silver End really from the thirties was very much a sort of cosmopolitan place. Then, well it was ’33, round about the same time I suppose as the Welsh people came, when they all went on to Witham Council. So from a very early age I was involved in politics and elections.

Q:    Was the Labour Party already started up in Silver End before …?

Mrs L:    Yes I think they started it up round about the time when Ken Cuthbe went in ’27 and Dad in ’28 and various other people. So they started a branch and, we’ve got all the records somewhere. Yes.
The Women’s Section and their penny raffle or whatever it was they used to have, you know. Garden, tea parties in the garden to raise money and, …

Q:    Were there any General Elections …?

John G:    There was one in ’29, which was the second Labour Government.

Mrs L:    Yes, well, V G Crittall, who became Lord Braintree, was the Labour member for Maldon in 1924 wasn’t he, (John G: Yes) but that Government didn’t last very long, did it, because Valentine, was talking about it, because you know that Valentine Richardson is, Hungry Hall, and she often talks about, she’s still a supporter actually. But he didn’t, then he was Minister of Agriculture I think, but he didn’t last very long.

John G:    He was only there, there was an election in ’23, and another one at the end of ’24.

Mrs L:    That’s right, yes.

Q:    So did Valentine only stay, Valentine Crittall only stayed as a member for …?

Mrs L:    Oh not very long, barely a year I think, or just over, something like that, yes.

Q:    But Silver End was always in Maldon?

Mrs L:    Yes.

John G:    The ’29 election, was that the one where Toynbee stood, one of those elections, ’29 or …or 3[?]?

Mrs L:    Yes I think it was, that rings a bell, certainly. So as I say, my whole life has been involved really in politics and public work, when Dad was involved right from ’33, but I can’t really remember exactly whether much happened before that except in the Party, but not with the Council.

Q:    Was it 1933 that you told me they were going to keep a place for …?

Mrs L:    Yes, for Dan Crittall, they asked the Party if, Francis Henry asked if he’d like one of his younger son who was living in the village and they agreed that they would only put three candidates up, Dad, Ken Cuthbe and David Bateman who was a Welshman who was deputy at the school, but then they heard that this man called Frank Hobson who was more or less the publicity cum personnel man in the firm was going to stand with Dan, so they said, no they weren’t going to honour that, if he was going to have someone else stand with him, they’d put four candidates up, so they persuaded Mrs Horridge, whose husband was actually a newspaper man on the, well I don’t know whether, what it was called then, but it was the local paper anyway, and so they won all four seats. And of course Rivenhall was alloc… Silver End was allocated four seats because it was a separate, wasn’t a ward of Witham as such, it was separate sort of village, so they were exceptionally given four seats, although it was no bigger than one of the wards of Witham really in those days, and then they gave Rivenhall two. So they swept the board and these six ghastly Labour people came into Witham you see, onto the Council, and brought politics into the Council in Witham, it was unheard of [laugh].

Q:    Whose idea was it that Silver End and Rivenhall should join up with Witham?

Mrs L:    Well apparently it was sort of, well the Ministry, whatever it was, said Witham wasn’t large enough to remain an Urban District because it was only about, I don’t know whether it was seven thousand even, but I don’t really know how many it was, but apparently this was re-organisation of Local Government that Witham would have had to revert to a parish council if they didn’t have more, so they decided to take these two parishes, well it was one parish really, because, ecclesiastical parish is Rivenhall, right up to Lanham’s Green. So as I say it was a re-organisation in 1933, which I don’t know much about except as I say that they.

Q:    I wonder if they foresaw what the political result would be? Often people have suspicions about these things …

Mrs L:    I don’t, yes, well I don’t think so, I don’t think that politics had really raised its ugly head in local authorities in those days, because they were all Conservative weren’t they. See, they were all the business people, you see, there was Charlie Richards, and you know, cause Kath [Richards] and I often used to laugh about our whole background, [???] our fathers. And I’m not sure at what stage, I don’t think Mark Strutt sort of went on till after the War, but Mark Strutt was on, but I mean I think it was, as I say was Richards and I don’t know, the other business people at the time. But Witham was very imperial in those days actually. They didn’t really like the hooter being sounded at the factory, and, cause they did, they used to sound the hooter to tell you when to go back to work, in those days.

Q:    Because I mean Crittall’s started at Witham in 1920 or so, so they must have already got a few of these horrible people.

Mrs L:    Yes, they did, yes.

Q:    But not enough, it was Silver End that really …?

Mrs L:    It was Silver End that really brought politics into Witham Council, yes. And it’s remained ever since hasn’t it.

Q:    Do you remember much about, did your father say much about that when he first went onto the Council, what it was like …?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, he said ‘We’ll sort of, we’ll stop all their little, getting all their perks and what have you, all the local businesses, and they did too.

Q:    Cause presumably Labour still didn’t have a majority?

Mrs L:    Oh no, but there weren’t that many on I don’t think in those days. It was only increased to twenty-one after I went on, I should say probably not till the seventies. There was only, sixteen or seventeen I think. Then gradually see they won some seats in Witham. Like Ebenezer Smith, Ebenezer Close is named after Eb Smith, [???] was a great churchman you know, and so was Walter Burrows, now Walter Burrows actually lived at Rivenhall, so he probably was one of the first members that got on, and again they were all very staunch Congregationalists, you see. Most of the pioneers of the Labour Party were staunch Congregationalists.

Q:    Were your parents still active in the Church as well?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, they, when they went to Silver End the company gave each of the three denominations, the Church of England, the Congregationalists and the Catholics an option on a piece of land. but the Church of England, I think persuaded by one of the Crittalls, decided to take over the Grooms Barn, that’s why you’ve got a thatched wooden church, because the Church of England decided to take that over, and one of the daughters of Crittall’s did all the sort of design of the inside, which they’ve spoilt a bit, but, so the Congregationalists were given a piece of land at the top of Silver Street, and my parents and lots of the others all got the Congregational Union to back them and built the chapel. And the Catholics used to meet in the Village Hall until a Mrs Evans and a group of the Catholics from Witham, well Mrs Evans was actually at Kelvedon, but the Witham Catholics, I forget, it was Father Wilson I suppose, then took up the option on the piece of land which had been earmarked just at the top of the Lane, so they then built their church there about, well it was over twenty-five years, must be thirty years now I suppose, but that’s attached to the Witham church, but it was built as a sort of half circle so they can complete the circle if they …, and they really need to now, but …

Q:    So they must have been pretty busy, your parents, then, can you remember them being out …?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, yes, but I mean mother was always there when we came home from school, this is one of the things isn’t it of that generation that they were always there. But she would have her afternoon meetings, and she’d be round the village helping out all the older people… But Dad was, I can see now, mother laying out his clothes for him to change, because working in the factory he always came home smelling a bit of oil.

And there’d be a complete change of clothes for him lying on the bed. She completely lived her life round my father and his activities, the Union and the Party and the Council, and then of course in the fifties, after the War, he was asked to stand for the County Council, I think it was ’53 he actually got on the County Council. So I’ve been brought up completely in the household of, there was always somebody at the house with some problem or other, or if they were really down and out mother would fish around to see what clothes she could find for their children, and if there was a man left on his own she’d be make, taking out, I can see her now on her bicycle with these mince pies and jars of soup and one thing and another that she’d take out to these old boys who were left on their own.

Q:    Presumably Crittall’s looked after their own people pretty well, did they?

Mrs L:    Well yes, because they did, the rents were very low, still you see. But they didn’t do very much in the houses, actually, they didn’t, for instance you just had a concrete floor in the kitchen and if you wanted anything different you did it yourself, and the same with sinks, you just had an old butler’s sink on bricks. And the same with the fireplace, because they had direct current, we couldn’t have electric cookers and things in the early days, they had a Triplex grate which had an oven as well as a fire, and a back boiler that heated the water, I mean there was no central heating. I don’t know how we survived actually. I mean there was no central heating, but I suppose mother was up early in the morning, and the fire was lit, so you came down to a lovely fire. But never any heat upstairs. We had one …

Side 2

Q:    You get this sort of rosy picture that everybody was looked after, so they couldn’t possibly have any problems, Crittall’s would sort them out. But they still had problems?

Mrs L:    Well, yes they were very paternalistic really, and I mean the Village Hall was made available to all the organisations at practically no cost. This is why they quibble about what the District Council want to charge today, you see. Cause, they built that massive Village Hall, and I mean it was available to all the organisations, and as I say at practically no cost, and the same with the Club, I mean there was the Social Club and the beer was subsidised I suppose, and the canteen was subsidised.

Q:    The sort of problems which you get in the Council now, which are mainly to do with housing, or, people with no money. [???] Did they have pension schemes?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, yes they did.

Q:    Perhaps they didn’t have problems of either housing or …

Mrs L:    Well no, because Crittall’s had their own houses didn’t they, up until they sold the village when Slater Walker came on the scene in 1969. I mean right up until then, I mean for forty years, over forty years, I mean there was always a house available if anybody needed in it, and they built a few bungalows actually and then the Council started building bungalows.

Q:    So what sort of problems did people come round with [???]?

Mrs L:    I don’t sort of remember specifically but I suppose they perhaps, somebody was ill or the husband had died, or, a bit, and then somebody, there were some older people than us obviously, that came to the village and they were sort of left a widow or a widower. But Dad was always very proud of the fact that the bungalows they built, and the same applied to Witham, that the rents remained at twelve and sixpence for years actually, and of course they were subsidised by the other Council houses, or they used to put, I’m pretty certain that Witham Council used to put a contribution in to housing the elderly from the rate fund, that’s why I’ve always made this point about saying, well, what do we contribute, those who aren’t Council tenants, to helping the less fortunate, because they certainly did, and he was always very adamant that they had to be built to a high standard, the bungalows, not that anything will do.

Q:    What about the bungalows, the Council bungalows you mean?

Mrs L:    Well the Council built bungalows in Silver End, yes, and of course they also at the end of the War built the forty pre-fabs, I mean Crittall’s gave the land, father went to Lord, I suppose he was Lord Braintree by then, and said well, we’ve got to build for the returning soldiers. He said ‘Well how much land do you want, Mott?’ Dad said ‘Well, enough for pre-fabs, you know’. ‘Oh you can have that land at the top of Broadway, we intended to build on that’. You see they intended really to build a thousand houses in Silver End, the original plans you can see, but they didn’t, they stopped at five hundred, as the money got difficult apparently. They did get some Government subsidies I think to help them in the early stages. So they gave the Council, well Reg [Bartlett] did say the other day he thinks they paid something, but I, Dad always said they gave the land, you know.

Q:    So he always called him Mott, did he?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, they were called by their surnames.

Q:    Did they get on all right?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, cause he got all the time off he wanted for his public work. I mean there was no problem with having time off, you know, when he went on the County Council, sometimes, with being the Union representative you see, earlier on, I mean they had day-time meetings, but of course then they made him manager of the tool room, and so of course he had to give up being the active Secretary of the Union, but he was still in it.

Q:    When was he made manager?

Mrs L:    Well, it was about the beginning of the War, because I think they had to split the tool room in case the factory got bombed. They took half the tool room to Braintree, so he was made sort of manager of the tool room in Braintree, and that would have been in 1940 I suppose.

Q:    So which Crittall would that be, then?

Mrs L:    Well, that would have been Lord Braintree.

Q:    Do you remember him?

Mrs L:    Oh, I remember him better than I do Francis Henry, really, yes. And of course Dan Crittall lived in the Chateau, which was his wedding present, and then moved because they’d got damp, I don’t know, they found out in the end that it was some sort of blocked drains and things but they moved out of there into Boars Tye Farmhouse behind me. He was only interested in engines really.

Q:    I’m just wondering how, they weren’t really involved in the Labour Party, excepting that brief business of …

Mrs L:    Oh no, they were never active in the Labour Party and as far as I know, I don’t think they were even members, but they still supported anyway.

Q:    So was he a Labour member of Parliament then?

Mrs L:    Lord Braintree was, 23-24, only a very brief …

Q:    Can you remember your father saying much about the sort of issues that were dealt with by the Witham UDC when he was first, you said, what sort of perks …?

Mrs L:    Well, I mean in business really, isn’t it, the builders I mean would all get the contracts for building, wouldn’t they, and I mean I don’t remember anything specific, you know, except he, I can’t think of the names of the other people, Charlie Richards really was the local builder and undertaker. I can’t think of any of the others actually. But I know as I say there was not only Dad and those from Silver End, there was also Walter Burrows and Eb Smith, so they more or less I suppose had a majority then, but …

Q:    The Kelly’s directories have got a list … I’ve got ’26 and ’37, which …?
John G:    ’37.

Q:    ’37 would be best, yes. And then you were busy at school at this time, I suppose, making your way in the world.

Mrs L:    Well, it came out under this, I’d never seen a lot of the documents until I did this reunion you know, in June [Braintree Intermediate School?], that we found the original document that the County Council issued in 1921, to, for to go out to parents of children who were coming up to Secondary, you know, age, for this first non-fee-paying school, you know, that Essex were opening, called the Braintree Intermediate School. Gracious, what have you got there, John?
John G:    Kelly’s directory. That’s 1937, and those are the Urban District Council members, there.

Mrs L:    Oh yes.

John G:    If any of those names ring bells.

Mrs L:    Yes. Walter Burrows you see was Rivenhall South ward, and there was Mrs, they put her down as Miss Annie Magdalen Horridge, it was Mrs, 1938 it says, that’s right. So Esmond Smith, that’s right, W Naylor, Charles Edward Richards, Rowles, and Reader, yes I remember that name, oh and Captain Pelly, that’s right, and Walmsley. James Croxall. That must be Lucy’s father. Harry Crook, Ogden.

Q:    So how many Labour ones can you spot there?

Mrs L:    Oh well, there was the four from Silver End, and the two from Rivenhall, now I don’t know whether Walter Burrows actually, you know, was a …, and Esmond Smith wasn’t, it was Ebenezer who was. Esmond was the chairman.
So it really was only the six of them actually, three, four, so there was actually nine Independents I suppose they all called themselves in those days.

Q:    Cause again I remember you telling me about your father never getting a dinner jacket, did the UDC have a lot of ceremonial …?

Mrs L:    No, I never recollect him saying anything about …

Q:    I bought that [directory] in Colchester, they weren’t fashionable at the time, she thought I was buying it as a stool. It’s 1937 Kellys, Norfolk Suffolk and Essex, it’s quite useful.

Mrs L:    Super, I’ve never seen, well I’ve seen the Kelly’s directories.

Q:    Not very convenient is it to have them all together. Anyway, where were we, we were talking, oh yes, we started off about you going to school as well.

Mrs L:    First non-fee-paying school, they opened three in Essex, one in Romford, one in Grays and one in Braintree. But even the Braintree High School had been unique because it was co-educational, that was opened in 1907, and then the Intermediate was opened in Bocking Place which adjoined the High School building, in 1922. And as I say, the little thing that was sent out by the Education Committee was this, quite interesting, I found some copies of it but I just had to take it all back to Jean Grice [Museum] having sorted it all out. And of course collected a lot for stuff from Mr Snelling[?] from Bocking Place, that had been kept there because the school had carried on with the High School in ’38 when I left. But it says that they recognise that there were a lot of gifted children who didn’t win a scholarship to the High Schools in Essex, because they were fee-paying all the High Schools, and so they would open these three schools for gifted children and give them a broader education in sort of vocational subjects, such as woodwork and metalwork and shorthand and typing and book-keeping. And my brother went there in 30, oh gosh, he was born in 1919 so I suppose he went there in about 1930, and then I went there in ’33.

Q:    Did you have to sit an exam?

Mrs L:    I’ve got a vague idea I did pass the scholarship for the High School but my parents were so happy with the Intermediate, they felt that that gave a much broader sort of education, you know, in getting you geared up to work for your living, you know, so they decided to send me there.

Q:    And that’s what it was called, was it, the Braintree Intermediate ?

Mrs L:    Braintree Intermediate School, yes, Bocking Place. And it started off with only about a hundred and something, cause the man I’ve been involved with, he left all his records that he had at the Town Hall, when he left, he’s now 84, went to live at Stratford on Avon, and, he must have been about thirteen I suppose when he actually started there. Cause they obviously had a range when they started in ’22 they had children from the whole range, but there was only about 137 but when I went in ’33 there was about three hundred and sixty something I think. But there’s a picture in one of the things of a French class with only about six children in it, you know.

Q:    Did it live up to your parents’ expectations?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, it was a super school, super school, because, we were all motivated to do as well as we could, and all treated like one big family, no corporal punishment in those days, George Burn[?] didn’t believe in it, I was reading through something yesterday when I was trying to put all this stuff back together, because one of the things when you’re doing that you stop reading, said about, I was reading a log book actually, which is quite interesting, I’d not seen that before, cause that emerged from the school and I hadn’t had time to look at it when we were there, but on United Nations Day they had a speaker from the United Nations to come and talk to you, and I always remember in particular one who was French and he was talking about developing, you know, countries involved, and he called develop, you know, that always sort of stuck with me actually. And then we always observed the, I was reading about November 11th, and the whole school assembled, at eleven o’clock and we had a service for Remembrance, cause in those days everybody, everything stopped for Remembrance Day, on, at eleven o’clock on the 11th of November. But we observed all the traditional things as well as giving us what they called civic studies, we studied civics and were encouraged to take an interest in what was going on around us, and …

Q:    So that was quite a novelty then as well?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, yes. So …

Q:    So how long did you stay there?

Mrs L:    Well the five years, I stayed on in the fifth form till I was sixteen and a half I suppose, I actually left and then I went to Chelmsford Technical College because my brother had won a scholarship to study textiles, he was very artistic, my brother, and went to Warners and the Technical College, a joint sort of thing, and so my father said ‘Well, you’d better have a year in college as well’. So I did and then of course the War, I suppose had it not been, I don’t know whether I would have got to University if it hadn’t been for the War, I don’t know. I wasn’t that brilliant, I mean I was sort of average, by the time I got to the fifth form I managed to get to the top of the class, but then they weren’t full classes [laugh]. But I did find out subsequently, and it came out again during this reunion, that I was a year younger than most of them, because my birthday’s the 30th of September you see, and so I found out that most of them that I was competing against at school were a year older than me, because of being born at, the qualifying date was first of October or something, wasn’t it, I don’t quite know, but I know I found out that they were already seventy most of my contemporaries.

Q:    So what did you study at Chelmsford?

Mrs L:    Oh, commercial subjects, and of course most the, I suppose there must have been some boys in the class but I don’t remember them, but I do remember the girls who’d all come from the High School and they were all a bit toffee-nosed, and again, we used to have Civics, and I’ll always remember this chap gave me a book to read by G D H Cole, and then you had to give a talk on it, you see, and he encouraged me all the time, and I suppose he found out what my background was and that I was … so we were rubbing it in to all these young ladies who’d obviously come from real Tory families and had gone to the High School, rubbing it in you know about Socialism and what have you. [laugh] I always remember that. But I don’t remember a lot about it really, I suppose the War and various things happening after, blots it out a bit.

Q:    Did you take much part, by then were you taking part in Labour Party things?

Mrs L:    Oh yes, yes, always sort of involved with elections, running around, with leaflets and, so I couldn’t help myself really, could I?

Q:    I suppose in Silver End itself you didn’t have much fear of opposition either, did you?

Mrs L:    No, we didn’t really, I mean just a handful of people who were, and they didn’t, I don’t think they ever opposed in Silver End until after the War anyway. ’68 was the worst time, when the Labour government was so unpopular. That was then a third of the Council came up each time, and …

Q:    And what happened to you during the War?

Mrs L:    What happened to me during the War, well I worked at Crittall’s in the office, they were making ammunition boxes and shell cases, and I really wanted to join up actually, but my parents said ‘Well, your brother is sort of serving the country’ and they didn’t really want me to go away, so I didn’t. But I was very tempted to join up. It would have been far better if I’d gone and my brother … but there we are?

Q:    And then after that …?

Mrs L:    I was just wondering whether you wanted to break off now and talk about, or leave that, to talk about my impressions of the County?

Q:    {???] Just to fill in the intervening period, what happened after the War? There’s more to come, is there, what happened next?

Mrs L:    Well, during the War of course we had a variety of servicemen descend upon the village, the first ones were some soldiers who, I suppose it was because a lot of the forty-year olds were called up, and their wives decided to go back home to their mothers and live at home, wherever they’d come from, so there were a lot of empty houses, you see, so the Army took over the houses, and we had these soldiers descend upon the village, and I was seventeen, very vulnerable I suppose, because I was never really interested in boys actually, only if they could play tennis or play hockey or if they were sporty I was interested in them, but not otherwise, I never really, I mean I’d got a brother so I suppose, I just wanted to, I wasn’t really keen on dolls and dressing up and things like that, I was a bit of a tomboy I suppose really, but anyway, when these soldiers appeared of course, it was a bit of a shock in a way I suppose, well I met, we had a dog, and I used to walk him up the village and this chap came out from one of the houses and apparently he’d seen me at the dances, but I was quite, I’d been taught to dance, as well as taught to sing and play the piano, and so I could dance quite well and apparently he didn’t have the nerve to ask me to dance, because, he said he was off duty very soon, and could he walk me home, and I said ‘Yes if you like’ and that was Ron, the man I eventually married they left the village, and he was such a gentleman, and of course during the War, so many of them weren’t gentlemen, I can assure you, and my parents liked them, cause they said ‘Who’s that chap walking out, who walked you home’, I said ‘Oh, I don’t know, he comes from Barkingside and he’s been in since August’, because he was in the Territorials, and he was twenty-three or whatever he was, he was seven years older than me, and so, my parents invited him in, my brother was away, they said ‘If you meet anybody as …’, and that’s how it all started, and then as I say he was whisked away, and I met lots of others in between, but he wrote religiously to me, and was always asking me to marry him when the War was over and.

As I say I met lots of others, including, as Tony Newton brought out last Friday night, that ‘Of course there’s a lady here’, he said, ‘who I’m given on good authority was pursued at great length by the Americans when they were, you know, they didn’t catch her or something’.

[chat about tea and biscuits, not noted]

So, in that six years of the War, I met all sorts, English, American, New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians, and I stuck to Ron.

Q:    When did you marry him?

Mrs L:    1947.

Q:    Did you move away?

Mrs L:    Yes. Went to Chelmsford, through this elderly cousin of mine, her friend had a house and, which would have been requisitioned when the lady who was renting it died, or was having to move because she wasn’t well, so we sort of moved in, because they were requisitioning all the houses in ’47. And there you are. I did try hard to make it work, then after we had Graham I thought things would be different, but we just weren’t, he was basically brought up in a town, I’m not going to go into that really.

Q:    No, so you moved back to Silver End?

Mrs L:    Well, yes, in 1952 or 3, I can’t really remember now, and then of course that gave Dad an incentive to say ‘Well, you know’, I mean I’d been involved with the Labour Party in Chelmsford while I lived there, and funnily enough met someone, well Fred Card, of all things, lived in Lady Lane with his wife’s parents in 1949, and was a member of the South Ward party and so was I. This came out cause Fred went and left his diary at Chelmsford Community Health Council meeting the other evening, no afternoon, so I brought it back and rang him up and said I’ll bring it over, and then we started talking about where we’d previously been, and Fred and married a Chelmsford girl, lived round the corner from me when I was there in ’49.

Q:    I don’t know Fred Card, do I?

John G:    District Councillor.

Q:    Oh, right.

Mrs L:    Yes. So as I say I came back home, and Dad said, cause I lost custody of Graham, you see that’s another long story which I won’t go into, but [chat about team not noted], anyway I said no, well mother you see was, got diabetes when she was forty-five and Dad by that time, about the time I came home, went on the County Council, so of course mother was left alone a lot and so I said ‘No I’m not going to come on the Council while .. cause mother needs …’ I mean I was working too. Well that was another long story, how Dad got me to go, get back into working again, but, through coming home one lunch time he said ‘Oh, I promised Mr Crook [clerk of Witham UDC] that you’ll go in this afternoon and give him a hand with getting all the minutes and that all typed. I said ‘I can’t do anything’. He said ‘Well, he understands, just go and see what you can do’. I spent a fortnight in the Council offices, helping them out, and then he got me a job in the Tax office, so that’s how I started back, and then I went to …

Q:    Who got you a job in the Tax office?

Mrs L:    Mr Crook.

Q:    Mr Crook did he, cause you impressed him so much.

Mrs L:    Well, he just said ‘They need somebody and you’ll be all right’. But I got back my self-confidence and spent eighteen months in Witham Tax Office and then went to Chelmsford, then went to London, and then in ’61 I went to Braintree College because I needed really to be nearer home, to get home to mother, lunch times and that.

And apart from that I was a bit cheesed off with the Tax Office because they’d, they weren’t promoting in the way they should have done in London, and so I went to work at the College, and then mother died in ’63, I think I went from the College, that’s another long story about meeting a school friend whose marriage was on the rocks too, and then introduced another friend to him and he decided to marry her, not that it would have worked if I’d have ever married him, but still, not me, I’m not cut out to be married. And went to work for Ben Harvey at Writtle Agricultural College, and then in the meantime mother died and I said to Dad ‘Well, do you mind if I go back to London, I’ll apply to the Civil Service and get back in the Civil Service’. And that’s when I went to this strange sounding organisation called the London Communications Security Agency. Which was more or less an offshoot of GCHQ, and then they amalgamated, so that’s how I got, in ’63, and then of course in ’64 Dad said well you’ve no excuse now, you haven’t got mother to look after, so you can come on the Council. They made him Chairman you see, again, for about the seventh time, to give him plenty to think about, and he was well over seventy, with mother having died, he was pretty devastated, because they were very devoted to each other. So then I became the First lady of Witham you see – we didn’t have mayors and things, only the Chairman and his First lady. Or leaders of the Council. I shall remind him, or tell him actually, how I took great exception to Michael Lager calling himself leader of the Council, way back, dear Philip[?], he’s upset everybody hasn’t he?

Q:    It seems it is technically correct but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable to people does it.

Mrs L:    There we are. So that’s when I came on the Witham Council.

Q:    But you were Chairman’s consort as well. So you had to go round to lots of events, did you?

Mrs L:    Yes. But we held our own, without a dinner jacket and a tiara [laugh].

Q:    Did that cause any, did anybody comment on the fact that he wouldn’t wear a dinner jacket or was it just become accepted?

Mrs L:    Well. I think Ken Cuthbe did, actually, when he went to anything. Cause Ken was much more conventional than my father was really. And his brother in law would tell you if you asked him that Ken loved to be, erm, sort of, how did Jolly[?] put it actually, he put it very diplomatically, cause I always thought that he was a good old Tory cause Ken always gave the impression that Ruby [Cuthbe]’s brother, cause he worked for Lord Butler, but Jolly[?] said ‘No I wasn’t’, he said ‘Ken was much more Conservative than me in some ways, cause he always conformed more’. But my father flatly refused to conform and buy a dinner jacket, he didn’t …

Q:    Ken was always anxious to think the best of everybody wasn’t he, whatever their politics, that was my impression anyway.

Mrs L:    I have an idea when he went to the Palace that he did wear a morning dress, I may be wrong. Father certainly didn’t. I don’t think I wore a hat either.

Q:    [???]

Mrs L:    So then of course, at that time he was on the County as well, till ’68, so I used to hear an awful lot about County and its ivory towers, and but they did in those days of course until ’64, they were in control every three years, because of the Metropolitan parts of Essex. Dad was chairman of Estates and something, cause he’d been very interested in the setting up of smallholdings, and they’re now all being sold off. He was a bit upset actually in ’68 when they made John Tabor an alderman but not him, because John was much younger and I think that they really should have made my father an alderman and made John fight for his seat again.
Cause I’m sure he would have still won it. I can’t really remember who they put up in Braintree in his place, but I think they lost it, John Tabor’s seat, I forget who they … but I know Dad was always a bit upset that he didn’t, but they only had so many aldermen. But of course Ken went as an alderman, Ken never fought a seat actually. When they were in control that particular time, so Ken was made an alderman.

Q:    Cause I think I remember Ken telling me that in 1946, wasn’t it, it was such a landslide that they had to hunt, find far more people [???], far more Labour people got on the Council than they’d expected and they decided to take all the aldermen, whereas previously there’d been a sort of gentleman’s agreement for sharing them, so they had to look around for lots of other aldermen, and he became one then.

Mrs L:    Yes, I know he was an alderman before Dad actually won the Witham seat, which was ’53, because he was fifteen years, till ’68. Bit ironic really, cause he got his MBE in the January, he lost the County Council seat in March, and he lost Silver End in the May. That was, everybody went to the wall actually, I remember all the Witham seats were lost, on the District. Bill Marsh and Ted and all of them lost their seats, and of course I came up the next year, and then I just romped home because they were all so upset to think that, it was sheer apathy and nobody would come out to vote, because they were so put out about the Labour government in ’68.

Q:    Had Silver End started changing much then, population-wise, do you think ?

Mrs L:    Well they did, the building, the private houses had started to be built I think then. Or was it after that. I can’t remember exactly when they started, I think they did start before, because the Co-op sold the land. The Co-op actually owned Bowers Hall, and they still do, I’ve just found out, cause their making a sort of offer, John, that we release some land they’ll redevelop the Co-op for us. Cause our friend Mr Peel is involved in it. He’s involved in far too many things for my liking as a County Councillor and a solicitor, you know, acting on behalf of the people in the industry as well in Silver End. But, so, they had built some houses in Silver End before Crittall’s sold out, then all the Crittall land was sold, you see, and now, well trebled in size actually, with [???] private houses. And then of course when Dad, lost the seat then, he was pretty devastated, but he was, he settled back down to it, and I got back again the next year so he was still involved really. And then of course he said, ‘Well’, just before he died in ’73 ‘Have a go at the County if you ever get the chance, you’re due to retire, cause it’ll be difficult I know for you to do it while you’re still working in London’, and on the Sunday, before he died, I told my brother he’d better come home, and he recorded him chatting away about different things, and he was saying ‘We’ll never have complete control of the District Council, but you’ll have to be subtle about it’, and of course he was right, we were the largest party but … it was a funny situation really when you come to think of it, that we sort of organised with the Tories that we split up the committees and the chairmanships and one thing another, but kept the Independents out, cause there were so many Independents, you know.

Q:    This was on the District?

Mrs L:    This was when the District was set up in ’73, and I’ll always remember the first meeting we had when we’d been elected to committees, and the Policy Committee, we sat down and John Howe said to me, ‘Well who’re we going to make chairman of this’, I said ‘I don’t know’, I said ‘I’ll propose you and see what happens’, and he got it [laugh]. It was ever so airy fairy in those days really, I mean we didn’t sort of … but, old George put us on the right road with all his standing orders that he knows like the back of his hand. But we all got on very well really, I’ll always remember Stanley Drapkin[?] and Johnson, same at Witham, didn’t like the sound of Witham at all, and George Courtauld used to say ‘Well there’s just a railway station at Witham’ [laugh].

Q:    Why didn’t they like the sound of it, cause it was, troublemakers do you think ?

Mrs L:    Well, yes, all these dreadful Labour people you see, and all these Londoners, and overspill, you know.

Q:    That’s another thing I’d like to talk about some time really, is how all that happened. Save that for another day. Presumably people from Witham must have thought that about Silver End to start with? What right had they to come and order us about ?

Mrs L:    Yes, I’m sure they did.

Q:    Having a County Councillor from Silver End must have caused a bit of anxiety.

Mrs L:    Well, when I first joined the Operatic Society in 1947, after the War, my brother actually had been in it in ’39, but when I joined in ’47 it was so Conservative it really wasn’t true, but I stuck to my guns because I liked to sing. The only person who was really friendly towards me was Polly Wheaton, and she used to invite me to her parties, and she always used to invite me to go out, this wasn’t in ’47, this was when I came back home again, when my marriage had broken up, and she used to invite me to go out sometimes on outings with them, with the Young Farmers, and we always had a good laugh about it, I still see Polly, I called in to see her the other day, she lives up Wickham Bishops now, and she said ‘Do you remember when you came on that trip with us’, she said ‘and as you were coming towards the coach, which was parked outside the station’, he[?] said ‘Joan Lyon’s not coming with us, is she?’ Polly said ‘she’s my friend’.

Q:    When would that be then?

Mrs L:    That was in the fifties actually. And then one year they had the audacity to put a thing in the programme for Mark Strutt, which he was opposing my father for the County Council seat, and I raised Cain I might tell you, they never did it again. I said ‘Well you didn’t ask me’, they said ‘Oh, well, we were asked’, I said ‘You didn’t ask, if I’d have asked you to put one in for my father you wouldn’t have done, would you?’. I said ‘He is the sitting member, you know, and I take great exception to the Operatic Society putting an advertisement in for his opponent. But they never did it again. Kath [Richards] was ever so upset actually, she’d never thought about it [???]. They never thought about it, somebody was prepared to pay them to put this advertisement in the programme, you know.

John G:    It was a non-political advert, he was a Conservative. [laugh]

Mrs L:    Yes, quite, John, still, there we are. But as the years went on I did find some allies actually, in particular in Derek Collins, who used to produce all the Gilbert and Sullivans, cause he worked for the Coal Board or something, he was Welsh and he was staunch Labour. But it is very much a Conservative sort of … incidentally, are you still recording …

Q:    I can censor it afterwards if you like.

Mrs L:    I was going to say, isn’t interesting to see the difficulties that they’re in about their headquarters, have you seen that in the paper? (Q: Yes, I was surprised.) Oh the Conservatives are in difficulty over their headquarters, because people aren’t coughing up enough money. I said to Jeremy, cause Jeremy rang me actually from work today about, he was going to come to the do at Towerlands for the American connection on Saturday, but he can’t come now, so I said, he said had I seen that in the paper, and I said ‘You’d better write one of your good letters, Jeremy, to say ‘Well, we’re not in difficulty, everybody’s flocking to us’, but I dare say Phil will do that won’t he, cause he loves to write to the paper, doesn’t he.

Q:    When you used to come to the Operatic, did you used to have a car when you were ..

Mrs L:    No. Well I didn’t have a car till 19, well, just before my mother died actually.

Q:    So your Dad had a car did he?

Mrs L:    Oh Dad had a car, yes, and the Labour Party used to help him a bit actually, with the phone bill, and cause you didn’t get paid for being Councillors in those days, but they used to give Labour Councillors sort of ten bob or whatever towards the phone bill, and a bit towards the …, yes, they didn’t get anything from the Council.

Q:    So that was another, I’m just thinking about the contacts between Silver End and Witham, if he had a car it wasn’t that difficult.

Mrs L:    The buses were quite convenient in those days. We certainly didn’t have a car, I don’t think he had a car until, well he didn’t, because my, he had Ron’s car actually, which was a Standard, he’d never had a car, Ron came home on leave in ’48, ’45, from Italy, cause he was with the Eighth Army and well all through Italy, and he brought his car down from Ilford, Barkingside, and left it.

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