Miss Dorothy Hancock was born c 1915. She was interviewed on 24 November 1998, when she lived at 3 Highfields Road, Witham.
For more information about her, see Hancock, Dorothy, in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Miss H: Well, my early days in Witham?
Q: Yes, great.
Miss H: Well, I came here as a schoolgirl at 12, in 1927. And of course it meant changing schools, and I was lucky to go to Chelmsford High School, where, which was very very good, and still is I believe, and a very nice school, and there I made a few friends, and of course it was moving from East London to a country town, a very quiet sleepy country town, and that was an absolute change. I was pleased to think I was coming to live in the country, and of course the country was nearer to us than it is now, and of course in those days you could wander about in the country just as you liked. There wasn’t any fear of being mugged or anything, and if there had been my mother, who was very particular, wouldn’t have let me go out, you know, if there’d been any risk. So I was free to ramble. I think my first friend in the town was Connie Rowles, one of the daughters of the schoolmaster at the Church School. And she took me around, and she got me interested in wild flowers, which she knew a lot about, and so, took me walks around Witham. In a way, at the time we moved here it was lucky, because as I was still a schoolgirl and still going to school, there was a chance of making friends. If I’d come here later on, perhaps as a teenager having left school, it would have been very lonely, I think, because I don’t think one would have been accepted very readily. But being at school was another matter. And, let’s see.
Q: Was Connie older than you then?
Miss H: She was about a year and a half older than me, I think, and she was a very good friend, and we wandered about together in the country, it was lovely. And of course the town, well a lot of it wasn’t built, only half of Collingwood Road existed. They’d lost the lovely lime Avenue shortly before I came, they were always talking about that lovely old Avenue which they cut down, and they hadn’t sort of got going with developing it then. And people used to stop and look at you, you see, if you were a stranger. I remember my sister and I walking, the first time we walked, we went out down Collingwood Road, and we saw two elderly ladies in long skirts and black hats, you know, and they looked at us, and we were sort of conscious of being watched. Somehow something made me turn round, and they were standing still watching us, you know. We were sort of aliens or something. So, now in those days, my family had always been Church going, so automatically we were taken to St Nicholas church, and the vicar there was a very interesting man, George Augustus Campbell. Canon Campbell I think he was. Anyway, and they’d just had an innovation there which people were talking about.
They had installed a reredos, which to my mind was very beautiful. It was, you’ve probably seen it anyway, but I thought it was beautiful, but a lot of people said it was, it’s too gaudy, not suitable. So that was the sort of thing that people worried about.
Q: Did you go to church [???]? You went to church regularly?
Miss H: We did in those days, yes, yes. We went, we went to evensong, that’s it, we always went to evensong. All of us, the three of us. My brother, he’d already started in business and he only appeared at weekends. Where are we?
Q: Your mother and father?
Miss H: Mother was very much in the church, she belonged to the women’s working party and that sort of thing, and father, he just came, he didn’t take any active part in the town, he was much too busy on his job [station master], and, but he did manage to get to church with us, he didn’t enter into the social life, it was a sort of, let’s see, I’m rambling.
Q: It doesn’t matter, that’s the best way to remember things, have I distracted you by asking you things?
Miss H: No, I mean, if you, if anything strikes you as interesting, do. We might wonder what people did with themselves in the way of entertainment. It was shortly after we came here that they started to convert Whitehall into a cinema, and that was a great innovation. Previously they used to have, I think it was Saturday afternoon or Saturday morning films, some fellows used to come along and show things suitable for children, with a, inevitable cliffhanger at the end, you know. And sometimes travelling theatre companies used to come. The performance I remember was Charlie’s aunt, we were rather thrilled you see, when we got out in the town, we saw the one who’d been the hero of Charlie’s aunt rushing across the road, you know, oh there he is sort of thing, that was a great thing.
Q: That was at the Public Hall was it?
Miss H: Yes, yes, and of course the films were shown at the Public Hall.
Q: Cause always, whenever I go in there I think of all the things that have happened there in the last hundred years or so.
Miss H: Everything went on there really, I mean all the dances and the sort of public events. And it wasn’t long before I wanted to join the Guides, which my family didn’t think was a good idea. I don’t think they’d had any contact with people in Guides, and so they expected I would be a tearaway or a scallywag. But I found it very useful, I liked being in the Guides. I know people say oh it’s regimentation, but it wasn’t and one made friends, which was useful, because at school you had your schoolfriends but in the Guides you met local girls, and that I think was good. And there were, two of the Mondy girls in succession became captions, I forget which one did it first. I think Irene did it first, she was, I suppose she was the elder, and then when she married, her sister, whose name, anyway, the other Miss Mondy, who was training as a singer at the Academy in her spare time, she was the captian, so you know, we were OK, there was continuity.
Q: What sort of things did they do in the Guides?
Miss H: Well, we didn’t do anything very sensational. We didn’t go camping, for instance.
Of course it was the early days of Guiding, I mean the Girl Guides only started in 1910 I think, ten years after the Scouts, so it was a relatively new movement. But it was very well established, and, you know it was the usual system, the patrols, and the patrol leaders and all that sort of thing, and the tests. And when we had to be tested I think we were, sometimes we were taken over to Silver End to do our test, I remember cookery, I’ve never been much of a cook, what I had to do was to make coffee, which I made in a, not the orthodox way but they said it was a nice cup of coffee. And I didn’t fail the test anyway.
Q: Whereabouts in Silver End was that, I wonder where that was in Silver End? Silver End was new wasn’t it.
Miss H: Yes it was. Of course there was a lot of talk about Silver End, you know, the new garden city I suppose it would be called now. And they, yes we heard quite a lot about Silver End.
Q: What did people think about it, do you think?
Miss H: Well, they were amazed at the flat roofs, you know. I didn’t hear any really violent opposition or support really, they just accepted it, that was Silver End, you know, that was the Crittalls’ idea, and so they weren’t worried.
Q: The Mondy girls, you say one …
Miss H: Nora was the other one, the younger. [???]
Q: Did they sing in Witham at all?
Miss H: Occasionally. Yes occasionally she took the lead sometimes in the Operatic. That was the ongoing thing. They had a flourishing Operatic Society, and in those days it was always Gilbert and Sullivan. And so, well I enjoyed it, you know. To me they were like West End performances. also in the Public Hall.
Q: Were they at your school, the Mondy girls.
Miss H: No. I don’t know where, I think they were Braintree High School girls, but of course, I didn’t remember, I didn’t come into it where they.
Q: I suppose they were older.
Miss H: They seemed old to us, you see, in their mid or late twenties. So I didn’t ask where they’d been to school, I just didn’t wonder.
Q: So when you say they were the captains, they were the adult …
Miss H: Oh yes, that’s it, they ran it. They ran it in turn. And sometimes we went on a hike on our own. I think it was our patrol decided we would have our own hike, and we would build a camp fire you know, on Tiptree Heath. So we walked up there, and Julie made our camp fire, someone got it going, I don’t suppose it was me, but anyway we brewed up some tea or something and that was OK.
Q: So this was in evenings, weekends?
Miss H: That would be on Saturdays, yes. But, ah, the evening meetings used to be at the Church House. A lot of things went on at the Church House that they didn’t require the Public Hall for, and that was, that was there, and one of the Sunday schools was held there, you know. They had Sunday school there, this was the Anglican, and another one, the younger ones I think were in, in the Church School in Guithavon Street, which of course is no longer there.
Q: Did quite a lot of girls go to Chelmsford with you to school?
Miss H: Yes, quite a few of the Witham ones. Well, it was divided, of course I got to know the ones at Chelmsford. There were others. Connie had been to Braintree. And then, but we went on the train and it was great fun. In fact I used to think I’d much rather live in Witham and have to go on the train to school, than be in Chelmsford and perhaps cycle in or walk in or whatever.
So that, and they, a lot of them, from different places you see. Some of them came from Kelvedon on the train, then we joined the train at Witham, and then others joined it at Hatfield Peverel and so on. And the Grammar School boys, at the King Edward, the King Edward Grammar School boys, they were there, yes, some of them were rather amusing. Sometimes the simple high jinks on the train, you know.
Q: What sort of things?
Miss H: You, I’m trying to think, nothing much, you know, we were just bantering, you know, but it was a short journey anyway. And coming back of course, well we had our homework with us, and when we had, on cookery days, one of the girls, I wasn’t in the same form, but she used to bring what she’d made, cookery things, and used to share them with us on the train.
Q: You lived by the station, did you?
Miss H: Yes.
Q: Quite easy for you to get the train then.
Miss H: Yes it was, really. But, it took me about ten minutes to get round to there.
Q: Ten minutes to get, of course the entrance was …
Miss H: Course the entrance was round in Albert Road, you know, that was after the entrance had been moved, there was after the wreck of the Cromer express in 1906 I think it was [actually 1905]. That’s when they didn’t bother re-opening the Easton Road entrance.
Q: I think I can just about remember the house. The house where you lived was there [Easton Road]?
Miss H: Yes, it had been a farmhouse I believe in years gone by, yes. I’ll show you a picture of it.
Q: Was it quite large?
Miss H: No. It was enough. It was moderate size, but it had three bedrooms, no bathroom when we got there but they put one in for us. And two reception rooms and a big kitchen, and a not very convenient scullery. But the garden was rather nice, it was interesting. It wasn’t a grand garden, it had interesting things, and of course I was thrilled to see violets growing wild in the garden, down the garden path, you know, for a London girl whose experience of the country was almost confined to, you know, well holidays or Epping Forest, that was our nearest bit of country. So that was quite a thing. Other entertainment. In the, yes the late twenties and during the thirties, there were some celebrity concerts, and they were very very good. They were organised by a local, you’d call him an impresario but he was not professional, but he knew the artists, he really knew his stuff. And so insignificant little Witham had the distinction of people like Irene Sharer[?], Stuart Robertson, Keith Faulkner who became, eventually became director of the Royal Academy, and Albert Salmons who was the most, he was the most distinguished English violinist of his day, and I mean, people don’t think of him now, but I think he’s the one that Elgar liked to play his violin sonata. And these people used to arrive on the train, you see. And I saw Albert Salmons arriving on the train. I was coming through the barrier behind a well-built man, with, carrying a violin case, and I was taken to the concert in the evening, and to my delight, I recognised the artiste on the platform as my fellow traveller, who preceded me through the barrier at Witham.
Q: Was that in the Public Hall as well?
Miss H: That was all in the Public Hall, yes. And of course there wouldn’t have been enough, I mean Witham was a small place then anyway, they wouldn’t have rustled up anything like an audience for that sort of thing, from the town.
But Mr Afford was in touch with all the people round about. He used to circulate people, you know well to do people, Wickham Bishops and all the people up the hill, and they used to come down in evening dress, and we used to, we used to sit in the gallery I think so we had a good view of what was going on. And that was really rather a remarkable thing for a town like this to have.
Q: This was when you were still at school, was it?
Miss H: Yes. And it went on later on, it went on into, during the thirties, I think Myra Hess came once. And you know, it was that …
Q: You dressed up to go?
Miss H: Well no, respect, I didn’t dress up, no, just, tried to look as smart as I could.
Q: Did your parents go to that as wello?
Miss H: Mother came. Father never came. He never came to anything in the town, he was always too busy, he, his job was his life really. And so that mother never had any, she didn’t have father taking her round to things, locally, I mean, it was all right, and on holidays, of course they had lovely holidays, they used to go to Cornwall[?] and places like that you see, and that was when father could unwind. But not here, and so mother used, well she had various ladies she played bridge with and all that sort of thing, because she liked the social life, and that’s how it was.
Q: It was Mr Afford you said, organised this?
Miss H: Mr Afford, yes. I think he was the proprietor, or one of the directors, of Clarkes, whre they had the printing works, you see, so, and of course they used to sell the tickets there.
Q: Oh, I don’t think I’d heard about that before.
Miss H: Well, you see, you might not meet anyone that’s been you see. We naturally were taken, because we were a musical family. I didn’t do anything actually, started to learn but it wasn’t good enough to carry on, but the rest of the family, they’d all been, they were all musical. I mean father had a good voice, and mother would have been a fine pianist if she’d been properly trained, you know, her father didn’t appreciate that she needed proper training, so she went to some, but she was naturally gifted and she enjoyed playing. And she was always called upon to play for God Save the Queen, at the Women’s Institute. Oh the Women’s Institute was a great thing of course.
Q: You had a piano at home?
Miss H: We did, yes, we’ve always had a piano. Most people did have one then, or else they had a harmonium. Some people had a harmonium.
Q: Did she used to play at home?
Miss H: Yes. She just played when she felt like it, you see. And, she was good. She tried to get in to sing. (Q: Your father …?) He had a good baritone voice, but when he’d been, as a boy, as a choir boy, he had a wonderful, he was a wonderful boy soprano, and he used to sing all the solos at his local church. In fact someone offered, said we’d like that boy to come up as a paid soloist at our church in the Strand. But his father wouldn’t let him go. He didn’t want to offend the local vicar, you see. So father never made it to the Strand. But mother used to like, try and get father to, and of course she would accompany him.
Q: So he did sometimes?
Miss H: Yes. That was about all. As families, perhaps we might have people for a weekend, and that was all father’s social life really.
Q: What sort of people would come for a weekend?
Miss H: Yes, you see they liked to come down, they were people from where we came from, Walthamstow. It was a novelty for them, and it was nice to have them of course. And I used to be invited to stay up with, two school friends there, in turn, they used to ask me out for a week in the summer holidays, so we kept in touch that we.
Q: Were your parents born round that area as well?
Miss H: No, they were both born in the London area.
Q: You don’t know where exactly?
Miss H: Well, Hackney, I think, and Bethnal Green. And if you, so many people around here, especially people who’ve come in since the expansion, you find that they came from places like that.
Q: So your father was from Hackney?
Miss H: Originally, yes.
Q: Was he, a bit of a digression but it is interesting, how did he get into the railway? Was he always working on the railway.
Miss H: Well. His, he was always working on the railway, but the railway took after our family when my grandfather in the 18 something, decided to go on the railway because, I think they had a family bookshop in Hackney, and lending library, but his sisters all moved away you see, and he was left on his own to cope with it, and I think that gave him the idea of going on the railway. And so he , automatically all his sons went on the railway, or were put on the railway I should say. There was no question.
Q: So what jobs did your grandfather have?
Miss H: He was a stationmaster, part of the time at Rectory Road I think it was called, I don’t know if there’s still a station there, in the East End, in Hackney. And then to Buntingford, and then to Walthamstow, Wood Street, and then to Witham.
Q: Your grandfather?
Miss H: That was my father.
Q: I’ve got it, yes.
Miss H: Father, he started helping his father on Woodford station. That was grandfather’s last station, Woodford, Essex, which is still there.
Q: What were their names, your grandfather?
Miss H: Hancock.
Q: Their first names.
Miss H: Father was George, grandfather was William Joseph, and the other uncles, the oldest was Will, and the next one was Harry, and then came father and the next one, the younger one, was Edwin Bob. We called him uncle Bob but Edwin he was christened.
Q: You were in touch with all their …
Miss H: We were rather up to our neck in trains and train people.
Q: So your grandfather, was he the stationmaster by then, at Woodford?
Miss H: He was stationmaster, his last station was Woodford. But he retired from Woodford and they went to live there, and that’s where father helped his father, you know, came and learned, started learning on his father’s station.
Q: It was quite a good job to be in, was it?
Miss H: Yes, it was. Now there, I don’t suppose there was so much in the goods traffic, but it was very, there was a good sort of, for passengers going up to the City.
Q: I suppose people tended to have to move around a fair bit, so he went from there to Walthamstow, did he, your father?
Miss H: No, he, first of all he went through the railway, through the booking offices, and then he went, I’ve got his story, have I shown?
Q: I’m not sure you have, sometime I’ll have to, save you …
Q: So you were only in Walthamstow? You didn’t live anywhere else?
Miss H: We lived at Ilford. I was born in Ilford.
Q: You were born in Ilford were you?
Miss H: Yes. And then we went to Walthamstow, that was father’s first station. [???]
Q: How did he meet your mother, then?
Miss H: Now. I think, there was a little social life up in Woodford, and my father had two sisters and I think they must have been acquainted with, you know, the younger people. Because that’s how, mother met father up there, you know, and they, when he was, a very young railwayman.
Q: So her family wasn’t a railway family.
Miss H: No no, they weren’t, her father was a businessman.
Q: What was her name?
Miss H: Bertha Elizabeth Hammond. Not related to the Hammonds. There are several lots of Hammonds in Witham, but they’re not related to mother. But they are related by marriage to the youngest brother, uncle Bob. He met, I don’t know where he met her, but he met his wife who had, who was brought up in Witham, and they married, but the mother’s, they weren’t really connected with mother’s, that part of the family.
Q: So you had quite a busy life seeing all these cousins and …
Miss H: Oh yes, there were lots of family get togethers. Of course we missed it when we came down here, because when we were up, well in Ilford and Walthamstow, my grandparents had a house on Woodford Green, which was bigger than they needed really, but one of the aunts was a dressmaker. In those days everyone had things made. And she said she’d got to have a decent house to receive her clients. And so, I suppose they all turned up in carriages, I don’t know. That was why they had a house, that you’d have thought, well, they don’t need a thing that size. That was the reason for it. It was necessary for her business. And so it was a lovely place to go to. We all used to, all the cousins, uncles and aunts used to converge on Woodford Green, Christmas time.
Q: You went there for Christmas, did you?
Miss H: Yes. Only for the day. We could get there for the day easily on buses or train, train from Ilford. And when we came to Walthamstow we could get there on the bus very easily.
Q: They came to see you as well?
Miss H: Sometimes.
Q: So do you think your parents missed having the family?
Miss H: I think they did, mother would have missed it, rather than father, because he didn’t, he was always busy wherever he was, but mother missed some of the social life, but she gradually made some friends locally. It was, through the Church I think really. Yes she had a whole circle of friends, the Church, the working party and the Women’s Institute. Yes. That was how people got to know each other really.
Q: What sort of people were their friends?
Miss H: Well, there was Mrs Goodchild, whose husband had the butcher business orignally. And Mrs Green who had been Mrs Loveday, another butcher’s business.
And those are the two I especially remember. And Mrs Cooper. Mrs Cooper and Miss, her sister, I can’t remember her name. They lived in Collingwood Road. And then the Pinkham family were very prominent then. And they were friendly with the Coopers. And so one met the Pinkhams at the Coopers’ dinner parties and so on. The Coopers had dinner parties. We didn’t have dinner parties.
Q: So if your mother, did she ever have friends come to the house though?
Miss H: Yes. She used to have them come to the house, for tea or … but we had friends from London coming down to spend the weekends.
Q: So were the dinner parties for the adults really, did you ever go to any?
Miss H: They were really. Later on I was considered old enough to go.
Q: Did you enjoy that?
Miss H: Yes. I was very grand. I had my first real drink, I had a gin and it. I don’t say I liked it but it was, I felt I was grown up.
Q: Did they drink much at home?
Miss H: No. In moderation. We always had something in the house but we didn’t, of course the special thing with father in his job as stationmaster, some of the passengers used to send bottles, and braces of pheasants and goodness knows what. At Christmas time we were rather embarrassed, we had so many braces of pheasants etc. that we used to give them away. I mean we had to pluck them, and mother had to dress them, cope with them, there’s a limit to the number of pheasants you can cope with how much you like them. In fact I remember thinking, after Christmas is over, it’s a treat to have shepherds’ pie.
Q: I hadn’t thought of that really. How many, was that a lot of the passengers then?
Miss H: Well yes, I mean, Sir Claude de Crespigny, he was a great shot, he used to, after he died, apparently these old country boys used to say, ‘Ah, Sir Claude was the best shot we ever had. No-one would come after him’. You’ve probably heard all about him and his antics.
Q: Not a lot.
Miss H: Well, he was quite a swashbuckling gentleman, and there was a bit about that in my talk I gave about the railway, he was one of the interesting passengers.
Q: He travelled up to London, did he then?
Miss H: Occasionally, yes. Not on business, I don’t suppose, I don’t imagine he owned any business …
Q: Do you think he gave things to other people as well? Why your father was …?
Miss H: I think, it was the done thing, to send presents to people like Dad. I imagine the postmaster used to get them too, I don’t know, but I imagine that’s the sort of thing. But it’s rather nice. And of course someone used to send a box of cigars. Father didn’t smoke cigars, so my brother had them.
Q: So do you remember Sir Claude de Crespigny yourself much?
Miss H: No, I never saw him, I just heard these stories. Because he, he was a great sportsman, very much hunting, shooting and, I don’t know if he fished, but anyway he was certainly a very keen huntsman, and well all sorts of wild stories. In fact Mr Parker, the Mr Parker, you’ll remember the one who’s there now (Q: At Faulkbourne Hall?) Christopher isn’t it, yes. Well, when I was researching about Sir Claude, and also I wanted to know what his father did.
Because I knew his father used to be driven to Witham station by his groom, to catch the train in the morning, it was the same train I used to go on you see, so I used to see this, it wasn’t a carriage, I think it was called a dog cart or something, and so I asked him what his, where his father went, I said he was a regular, he said he used to go to Chelmsford, he was one of the directors, a local director of Barclay’s bank. And the question of Sir Claude de Crespigny came up, he said, ‘I don’t know whether it’s true, or what the reason, but’ he said ‘the story goes that Sir Claude challenged my grandfather to a duel’. The both survived to a ripe old age so I suppose, there was a place[?], but it’s rather fascinating to think of the earliest days of this century, something like that happening.
Q: Do you remember any of the other well-off people in the town?
Miss H: Well, let’s see, the Pattissons, Miss Pattisson and her sister, and her brother was there too, they lived in Pelican House which is their family crest, you know all about that I expect.
Q: I read about it recently, cause, I expect you saw in the paper two of the Pattisson family came and they renamed Pattisson Close with the right spelling. But they didn’t seem to know about these Miss Pattissons. What do you remember about them?
Miss H: Well, Miss Pattisson, the one I got to know, she was very, she was a fine woman, she used to, she had a great sense of humour, but she ran one of the Sunday Schools. And also she, I think she was interested in helping the Boy Scouts or something, not physically, but I think she supported all that sort of thing. She was what you’d, well quite a sport for those days. And her sister was permanently in a wheel chair, I don’t know what it was, but some sort of paralysis. And so the house was adapted and you could, there were no, you could get a wheelchair through the house without tripping over the door or anything like that, it was all level.
Q: So you went there did you?
Miss H: I went there on one occasion, I can’t think what for, something to do with Sunday school.
Q: So when you say she was quite a sport, with a sense of humour, how did that show?
Miss H: Well, she was really quite jolly, and they had a Sunday school teacher’s summer school and, I shouldn’t have been a teacher, I didn’t want to be a Sunday school teacher, but I got roped in because my sister did it, and one day she was going away for a weekend, she said ‘Will you look after my class on Sunday’. And that was, I wasn’t let loose on her class, I was seconded to go for another Sunday school, the one that’s run at the Church school. And there were several of the teachers, my sister and some of her friends included, and I was also allowed to go, and it was a week on the South coast, and she was very jolly and tolerant. I mean I think, there was something, we did something silly and she talked to us and said ‘Now you’ve been making fools of yourselves, we can’t have this’. She was like a nice headmistress. But, nothing grim about her, nothing bossy, but she just had to tell us something we’d have to be careful about something or other.
Q: Didn’t lose her temper?
Miss H: No she didn’t, no.
Miss H: Great thing, parade, special Church parade on Remembrance day. And we all used to line up and march through the town, and the Scouts. And the music was supplied by the Bridge Home boys. Someone got a Bridge Home Scout troop there. Men, you know. But it was something nice, this man, I think he must have been very very good, he could organise them and some of them played instruments, and so they made the music for us to march through the town to the War Memorial in Avenue Road, bottom of the Avenue. And that was rather, one of those things.
Q: You were talking about the Pattissons. I wonder who else you remember as having been leaders.
Miss H: Ah. Prominent people.
Q: You mentioned the Pinkhams, do you remember anything about them?
Miss H: Yes, Bert Pinkham, he had this glove factory, you know. Oh his father, yes his parents, they were interesting, they came from Devonshire, they were glove makers in Devonshire and they moved up here and started this glove factory. They called it the NGC glove factory which meant the English National Glove Company I think. Of course that was a great place for people to work. They had outworkers. People could do it at home. It must have been quite a nice place to work really, a sort of family business.
Q: Do you remember the Pinkhams themselves at all?
Miss H: Yes, I remember Mrs Pinkham. I remember Bert Pinkham, of course he was a great character, a typical prosperous businessman, very ebullient, I think it was he who opened the Whitehall cinema when they got it built, you know, got it converted [actually William the father]. But his wife was a charming woman, Mrs Pinkham, very very nice. And she was a friend of mother’s.
Q: Was she. So you saw her sometimes?
Miss H: Yes, and they had, oh another friend, Mrs King, the jeweller’s wife, and then there was Miss Hayward, who was quite a character. She, when we knew her she was with child[?] and living in a flat, or an apartment at Freebornes Farm, you know, house, where, Polly [Wheaton] remembers her. And she had been a very high class nanny, she was the nanny to the Earl of Cathcart, and so, it was interesting, she used to tell us all about what went on in high society.
Q: When you say she used to tell you, was that when she visited, or …
Miss H: Occasionally, I think usually we went to her. Yes. Being taken there.
Q: So you would go as well?
Miss H: Yes, sometimes I was taken in.
Q: I wonder how she came to be in Witham?
Miss H: Well her family lived in Witham, her brother, I think he was concerned with the printing works, I’m not quite sure, but he certainly, he had his business in Witham, he lived, well when I remember them he lived in a bungalow on the corner of Collingwood Road, it’s still there .
Q: Was that Hayward, W A R D.?
Miss H: Yes.
Q: I think he might, there was a photographer called Hayward. Perhaps that was her father, in the earlier part of the century. Fred.
Miss H: Fred. It was Fred Hayward, her brother, and of course there was Bill Hayward, Bill Hayward was a nephew. And I remember him. Oh, a lot of people, we knew the Dyke family, Mrs Dyke was a widow and we knew her through the Church, and her son Eric we knew quite well, he was about my age, and he was in the choir, and there was a time when girls were admitted to the choir, because, I suppose they hadn’t got enough boys, and so six girls including yours truly, not that I was much of a singer, but I could make a noise, and we, so we were in St Nicholas choir. And to show you how things have changed security wise, after choir, choir practice was in the evening, and we would walk home, on a winter’s evening, no escort, we never worried about it. The only thing that worried me was when I got into my front, I had to diverge, said goodbye to the friends on the corner and then I went down Easton Road and the house, there was a thicket where the front, entrance gate was, and I used to think that was a bit creepy but otherwise I didn’t mind.
Q: You say you didn’t do a lot of music, but obviously Biddy must have done [her sister].
Miss H: She went away and trained, you know, that’s Biddy, well we may as well introduce you to the family. That’s a very good photograph taken by the Braintree and Witham Times photographer. She didn’t want to be taken, she didn’t want to be taken at the piano, she thought that was too corny for words, they said ‘No we must have you at the piano’. And I’m so glad they did because it’s a nice thing to remember her by. And, she was very happy on the piano and that was one of her specialities. It was her real speciality.
Q: She’d already …
Miss H: She’d got her degree by then, LRAM.
Q: She was older?
Miss H: Oh yes, five years, five years older than me.
Q: So she’d already left school when …
Miss H: Yes, when she came here. So for her it was a lonely place to come to, because it wasn’t a time you make friends if you, no-one you went to school with, no history of having friends. So that, going the wrong way round, that’s my brother, absolute darling.
Q: Looks very chirpy. And he was the one that was working already?
Miss H: Yes, so he just came down at weekends. And he was, I remember one, at school, Chelmsford High School, we had to play cricket on certain days, under sufferance, when there weren’t enough tennis courts for the whole form to be able to play tennis. So the dregs, you see, not always the same people, but when it was your turn to play cricket you were sent down to the school field, no supervision, and we played abominably. And the bowling, daisy cutters you see. And one weekend I asked my brother to show me how to bowl overs, and he gave me a crash course that weekend, and I impressed them when I first came to do this sort of thing, of course it didn’t last long and then one didn’t have to do it very often, thank goodness. So that was my brother.
Q: He was older than …
Miss H: He was five years older than Biddy.
Q: I suppose you’re quite alike.
Miss H: She was exceedingly kind, she was well known for being one of the kindest women, she’d do anything for everybody. She was outspoken at times, I mean at the WI if there was something she didn’t approve of, she wasn’t afraid to get up and say so, but in dealings with people she …
Q: What sort of things did she do that make you say that?
Miss H: Well, when the stationmaster at Maldon, who was a friend of father’s and his wife was a friend of mother’s. And when, she died suddenly, and the news used to come along, you see the guard, the first train that came in from Maldon brought the news, you see, and the moment mother heard about it, she went over there at once to help poor old Tom. And Tom said ‘Your mother’s the kindest woman that ever breathed’. You see, that, she would down tools and go off at once to help anyone who was desperate.
Q: Was she strict with you?
Miss H: Not really. She wanted us to behave, and she wouldn’t let us be a nuisance. We weren’t allowed to be cheeky and run around. She kept us in order, but no she wasn’t really strict. There’s father.
Q: Oh yes.
Miss H: Who I now realise was rather good looking.
Q: That’s true yes. Quite a young man there.
Miss H: Well yes, he can’t have been more than forty there, and I reckon Harold was about forty there. I found that when I, cause I used to, when eventually Harold was in a nursing home at Buckhurst Hill, until about five years ago, and all the while he was there, Biddy and I used to go up and see him. And this is not Witham. But you might like to know. He had a stroke so he had, and when his wife died he wasn’t able to cope so he went in this nursing home and so Bid and I used to go up every month on the train, have a day with him. And that went on, and then of course Biddy died before Harold did. He was terribly upset of course, because they were very close. He was very, it was very nice for Biddy before she came down to Witham, because she was just, coming up and he would chaperone her a bit and help her, into local, whatever went on, dances and things. So, but he was an absolute darling. And so afterwards, fortunately I was able to go up every month after Biddy died, nothing happened to stop me, I was always afraid there’d be a strike or something, I couldn’t get up there, but it never happened, thank goodness, and he died in November ’95.
Q: Did he always live in the London area?
Miss H: Mostly. He moved around. His youthful life they had quite an amusing time, I mean you might like to know about this, it’s nothing about Witham, but they had a bright, you see in the twenties, you remember the bright young things. The Society people who used to call each other chaps etc., the goings on and so on. Well, there was a sort of different sort of strata, and my brother’s friends in the cricket club and the tennis club, they called themselves the Nighthawks[?], and they used to go to each other’s houses and the biggest house they were allowed to roll up the carpet and dance the Charleston you know, and called the parents by their christian names. And he had a lovely social life up there you see. Biddy wasn’t in the Nighthawks of course, she was too young, but, and by that time, I suppose by that time he, they were all growing up and of course he got married soon after we came to Witham. But that was interesting, to think there was a different version of Society.
Q: Adapting it to themselves.
Miss H: I used to be interested in the Bright young things, because when father was at the station at Witham, it was the tradition for the, there was a Smith’s bookstall, and the stall manager used to pack up a bunch of magazines, glossies, all sorts of things, but a lot of the glossies, Sketch and Bystander and all the classy ones, for him to bring home, the family were allowed to have them for the weekend and look at them, and then they went back on Monday morning. So I used to delve into these, and of course it gave me ideas, yes, there were people yachting, oh I’d like to have a boat and all that sort of thing, and skiing, both things I thought, oh they’d be wonderful. But it was useful in a way because it gave an insight earlier than normally would have had into what went on and who was who. Oh there was a nice passenger, Mr Geoffrey Hill[?] and he was editor of the Studio art magazine, and that was a very prestigious magazine in those days, and his sons used to go up too, they worked for the firm, for the magazine too, he was very nice to father, he used to go and sit in, because they often used to go and sit in his office if he was waiting for the train. And there was a, don’t tell anyone this, there was a corny little calendar on the wall, obviously done by a child, and he Mr Hill[?] said ‘Oh’ he said ‘Who did this?’ So Dad said ‘Oh my little girl’. He said ‘She’s always drawing.’ Which I was, you see. And he said ‘I’ll bring her some books’. And he brought a great stack of Studio magazines, it must have been their best period, they were beautifully printed, thick covers, everything, no expense spared, they were just beautiful. And that was very interesting for me because it meant that I could, I got familiar with the works of people like Augustus John, who I’d never heard of, Eric Gill, the Knights, Laura Knight, Harold Knight and the Le Mondo[?] group, anyway, it gave me a sort of grounding in the painters of the day. I mean it was superficial, but it was so interesting, and it was a nice thing to, well, it was a very nice thing to do, and they were beautiful. I expect he thought this little girl probably hasn’t seen anything real, I’ll give here an opportunity, wasn’t that nice. I would never have heard of the Studio, and no art galleries or anything.
Q: No, I suppose Witham, I mean did you ever go up to London to, to see things?
Miss H: We were taken by school, once, yes we were taken up once, and this was wonderful. The art mistress took I think six of us up, on a Saturday, to see, do you remember they used to have a different nationality of art exhibition every year, at the Burlington House, and they had, this year it was the French art, and we were taken to see, which was lovely. And on top of that, it was marvellous of her, she booked for us to all go to the theatre to see ‘The Immortal Hour’, which is, it was by Rutland Bull[?], you don’t hear much of it, you never hear anything at all, there used to be bits of it people used to request on Desert Island, the Fairy song from the Immortal Hour, is very very familiar, but this, it was wonderful, and that was my first experience of opera. It was a long time after that before I went again, you know, to see opera, but that, it was a wonderful thing for her to do.
Q: Cause without those few things happening, you wouldn’t, things would have been quite different really, you would never have …
Miss H: Yes. Very very good.
Q: So did, I’d forgotten that you were an artist.
Miss H: Well, I thought, I was always keen and I used to like design, and latterly I thought I’d like to be a fashion designer, I was never good, I realised I was never good enough really, because when I was at school they had an art exhibition every year, and they, an art scholarship for any pupil at an Essex school, there was one only, for the county. And Miss May[?] said ‘Well you ought to go in for that, Dorothy, collect some things together, and also you’d better do a bit of training too’, and they let me off Friday afternoons to go to Chelmsford School of Art, which was a very good one then, I mean, I don’t think there’s any of it left now, it’s the Tech, isn’t it, but in those days, it was good, and I was, so I used to go there after Friday dinner time, and in the afternoon design or life or antiques, learning how to draw bits of bodies, face, and you know, details. And then in the evening, and this was the wonderful thing, tea with the big students, before going to the life class in the evening, and home on the eight o’clock train. And of course the tea with the big students was a great event. They were jolly nice to me, you know, this funny little kid from the High School, you know, and it was informal, I thought, ‘Oh, this is Bohemia, this is going to be my life, jampot on the table, butter on the table in its packet, and one of the students sitting in the corner playing a ukelele’, and his repertoire was very limited but he used to sing [???]. And I don’t often think about that, but it was a lovely, a lovely time, and I thought ‘This is lovely, if I’m going to be an artist, you know, I shall get used to this sort of thing’, and anyway, I didn’t get the scholarship, not surprisingly. A very brilliant girl who designed stained glass windows got it, and jolly well deserved it. And I wasn’t upset at not getting it. I didn’t really expect anything, it was on, this is not for the record, on the last day at school I remember my crowd, one of them had a big sister, and she said ‘My sister says that on the day they broke up they all cried’, she said ‘My sister says all her crowd, they all cried on the day, school leaving day’. She said ‘I’m not, I’m hanged if I’m going to cry’. But we all did. And I begin to wonder if some of them thought I was crying because I hadn’t won the art scholarship, which wasn’t so, I mean, a crying matter was leaving my friends and school.
Q: How old were you then?
Miss H: Sixteen.
Q: It was a big change for you. What happened after that?
Miss H: After that I got a job in a store, Peter Jones, but the, actually the early education via the Studio was useful to me there because, in the department I was in they’d had pictures at one time, but there were a lot of other things, and I knew enough about pictures you see, to recognise them, and the others, they’d say, ‘Oh, madam wants a picture’, you know, so I used to, so it was useful in that way.
Q: This was in London?
Miss H: Yes.
Q: How did you get that?
Miss H: Well, I wanted to be a fashion artist, and we made enquiries and went to various places and it transpired the only way I could be a fashion artist would be if I went to art school learning proper figure drawing, and learning cutting, designing, cutting and making, and my friend, a friend of mine’s daughter did just that, she went to St Martin’s School of Art from Norwich, and she was so good that one of her designs, when they left, the leaving thing they had to do, graduation or whatever, design and make something and model it themselves. And she made an evening cape out of leather, kid, and modelled it, and it was chosen by the Victoria and Albert Museum to display as an example of an evening cape in such and such a year. So did the job properly. I would never have had the stamina to do that and go through all the workroom and all that sort of thing, I mean, I wasn’t cut out for it really. It was just an idea. I used to like drawing dresses and things.
Q: So did you get as far as, what happened, do you remember when you decided not to pursue that then, or why and how, you decided not to go on to college, or …?
Miss H: There was no college for me to go to, there was no money to send me to college. One of the, a dear little teacher, she was the English mistress, I used to like English, and I’d had her as my form mistress three times in the High School, and she was ever so sweet, and she said ‘What are you going to do, Dorothy?’ and I said ‘Well I think I’ll probably go in a shop or something, or perhaps I’ll take up shorthand and typing’. ‘Oh’, she said ‘Dorothy, you’re a girl who ought to go to University’. Well, I mean it never occurred to me, if it occurred to me I think I would have enjoyed it, but, you know, it didn’t happen. You went if you had enough money, or if you were really brainy and got a scholarship that was fine, you deserved to go then, but as I was sort of a mediocre brain, you know, it wasn’t on.
Q: I’m sure you’d have done very well.
Miss H: But. I don’t regret it, you learn other things, you learn life in different ways, don’t you. But I’d have liked, in a way I’d like to have felt I could have gone to University and done something. But I must say when I later on realised that I was missing not only the education but the social life that goes with it, and I had a friend who had been to a northern university and they were taken rock climbing. I thought ‘Oh, if I’d gone to University I might have joined a climbing club, and I might have done this that and the other. So it doesn’t sound as if I was really keen on being academic, really. I mean at the Art School it was the social life, the tea time with the, in Bohemia, that … But it was useful, it was interesting to be there.
Q: So Biddy, how did she get to do her music, did she go away?
Miss H: Her music? Well, she went, she had to do it the hard way. We couldn’t, no-one could afford to send her to the Royal Academy or the Royal College, the Academy is where she’d have liked to have gone, but her teacher, who was a very good teacher, her piano teacher, said you could do it by going to a really good professor, privately, and she recommended this man Wilkinson Urqhuart, and he was exceedingly good, and he got her through.
And, she used to go up every week, up to Ilford where he had a studio, and he got her through, and she got through the first time, some people had to go in again, but she got through, and she was particularly good at accompanying, she loved accompanying, she was a very good sight reader too, but as I remember, she was a delightful pianist, cause she used to play, I used to try and persuade her to play in the mornings, ‘Leave me washing up, you go in there and practise’. And so she used to be practising in the next room, it was lovely.
Q: So did she come home again after that?
Miss H: Yes, well, she came home, and she started teaching at home, but, and then she felt she’d have to have a job in a school, she went to a school in Kent, and it was awful, and she was thoroughly unhappy there, there were other things to, there was, something had gone wrong with her love life at the time, when I went down to see her, and it didn’t work out, and so she came back and she started here, and she gave a piano recital, Mr Urqhart said ‘Now if you’re going to teach in your own town, you’ve got to give a recital’. She’d already started and got a few pupils and got them going, and he said ‘Try and arrange for one of your pupils to perform’. And so she did, and she gave a recital in the Grove, do you remember the Grove service station and there was a hall there where they used to have events, like a small concert hall with a stage and everything. She hired a Steinway grand from Dace’s and she gave her recital there. I’ve got the programme still.
Q: When abouts was it? How old were you then about, roughly?
Miss H: Oh I suppose I was about eighteen.
Q: So we’ve got on to the early 1930s. Oh good, and that was a success?
Miss H: Well, yes, she, she had very high standards, and she wouldn’t lower her standards, for instance people said ‘Why don’t you teach the guitar, make a lot of money?’ And she said ‘No, I’m a pianist, that is my job’ and she just wouldn’t. But she did enjoy accompanying, and latterly we had some friends at Wickham Bishops, the wife had been a pupil, she came to Biddy for piano because she had been a viola paper, and she had meningitis and find she couldn’t manage to hold the fiddle, but she would have been able to manage the piano. So she came and learned piano from Biddy, and her husband was a cellist, amateur but good. So we used to have lovely times, she used to come, they used to come down, brought his cello, and he put it in the other room to get acclimatised, apparently with a string instrument you have to leave it in the room where you’re expected to perform. And then they would go in, they would [???] and they’d play lovely things. And I’ve got a record, we never taped any of her performances, she wouldn’t, a cousin wanted to, but she said no, and so I’ve got, one of my favourite things which they played together was Rachmaninov’s concerto for piano and cello, and I’ve got that anyway, that’s a special thing. And she was very keen on Schumann, so I’ve got the ‘Kinder[???]’ played by a pianist she approved of, Roger [???].
Q: So when she first learnt, was she learning at school or did she have a private, when she was a child?
Miss H: No, when she was a child we both went to the same teacher, starting at Woodford, at Ilford. There was a Metropolitan Academy of Music, it was all round the town, all round London in the suburbs, they had branches, and it was very good for starting people. In fact, well it not only started people, I suppose it finished, some people, they could get their degree from there. But we both, we were sent there, and I was only five when I started. When we moved to Witham, there wasn’t anyone of the, we had a, no when we went to Walthamstow, that’s where we found a wonderful teacher, Ivy Horton, Daisy Horton, she was marvellous, and she saw Biddy through right until she needed to go to be finished off, and I always feel sorry that Biddy wasn’t able to go to the Academy, but since then I’ve got to know a man at Chelmsford, he’s, he teaches there, and he got a scholarship to the Royal Academy, and he didn’t really speak very highly of it, he said it wasn’t great, it was a job getting a room to practise in, he said there were a lot of people there just because daddy could pay for them, and they were sort of occupying a piano when serious people like Trevor needed to get his practice, and that sort of thing, so he said it wasn’t all that [???] and then you didn’t always get the same professor, sometimes you were changed, so whereas she got a very good one all the time, and saw her through the whole thing, he said I think she did better on her own.
Q: Then I suppose, as you say, it might have been, the social side might have been interesting, meeting other musicians and so on.
Miss H: Yes. Exactly. She used to get that because she used to go to music teacher’s summer schools, they used to go to public schools in the summer holidays, and so she used to meet people and they used to have a wonderful super teacher called Harold Craxton, she thought the world of him, he used to organise these, and he used to get, he got, do you remember a pianist called Dennis Matthews? (Q: Yes.) Well, he used to go there, on the staff, and help with the training, teacher training, they were already trained and teaching on their own, but it was sort of refresher course and all that sort of thing, and social.
Q: So this was still before the War, was it ?
Miss H: Yes. She, no I think after the War she did that. And she used to go once a year, and it was, that was the time, she said it’s a lonely job in Witham, no-one really to talk to, but going up there, and then they had events in London too, so she used to go, so she got a social contact with her same sort of people.
Q: Was she a similar age to Miss Griggs?
Miss H: I think she was about, she died when she was 83, when she died.
Q: And that was…?
Miss H: Five years ago.
Q: I just wondered if they came across each other, but then they were both solitary …
Miss H: Well, they were both doing their own thing, and were busy in their own way. No, they didn’t really, I mean they were acquainted, but they never, their paths never really converged.
Q: So she carried on teaching in the house at the station?
Miss H: Mm. Then here [Highfields Road].
Q: Did your father stay there, did he retire?
Miss H: He retired from the station, of course he had to move, that’s, eventually we came here.
Q: Yes, I see.
Miss H: And this is quite a nice, because she had a little room there, music room.
Q: So whenabouts did your father retire.
Miss H: It was shortly, at the beginning of the War, he was, he retired at sixty, I suppose it was sixty.
Q: Did he life long after that?
Miss H: Yes, he was nearly ninety. He was amazingly agile really, he used to walk miles, a great walker.
Q: Whenabouts was that then?
Miss H: Very difficult to say. I can think of an eminent person who died the same year. I think, I’ve forgotten his name, one of the famous journalists of World War Two died the same year, but I can’t remember his name.
Q: Was your mother still alive then?
Miss H: No. She died long before that.
Q: Well you must be getting a bit fatigued, are you getting a bit tired now?
Miss H: In a way. Besides I’m not really contributing to the object of the exercise, I’m just rambling.
Q: Yes you are. That’s what it’s all about. That’s lovely.
Miss H: You know the background then. If you want to read about father, and if you’d like to read about, well I call it a, distinguished aunt of is, who trained with Nightingale, would you care to ?
Q: Yes, lovely. Did your mother work before she married?
Miss H: A bit. She didn’t have to but, she didn’t do anything very nice, it was some sort of clothing place, I understand it was pretty grotty, but her father had plenty of money, but when they were growing up he had a grand house, they had two pianos, one of which when mother married, he said ‘You can choose whichever piano you’d like’, and mother of course self-effacing, chose the less good of the two. It was all right, but the other one had been a much nicer piano. She said ‘If I’d known I was going to have a pianist for a daughter I’d have had the better piano’. But that was, her family were really well off. Well father’s were, they were OK, you know, heads above water, but, hard working and admirable really, as I look back on them, you appreciate your family of course, long afterwards, don’t you. A funny old lot, when they’re still there, you don’t take them seriously, but I realise now …
Q: They sound very impressive, enterprising, and, kind and everything.
Miss H: Well, they were really. Yes.
Q: But I suppose then, women didn’t work when they were married then, did they?
Miss H: No, but you see auntie Lou never married, she was really a good looker, everyone, she was, really, had lots of followers, you know, as you say, but the special one that she would have accepted, and perhaps she was almost engaged to him, she, they had an outing and they all went on a boat, I think, auntie, and she brought a friend along with her, Maud, and eventually Maud collared Auntie Lou’s, what would have been Auntie Lou’s man. But the other one, the other sister married a sailor, the younger sister, she did all the, managed this enormous house, worked like mad, she was wonderful.
Q: These were sisters of your mother?
Miss H: That was, no that was father’s sisters. But father had this aunt whose story I’ll let you have.
Q: Did your mother have any help in the house?
Miss H: Yes, she used to have, with, in Wood Street she used to have someone from the Salvation Army, there was a Salvation Army home for you know, fallen women, and they used to, so it was a good agency for people about the house, but here she did, she had a Mrs Gooch, very nice little lady whose husband worked on a fruit farm at Wickham Bishops. And she used to come, I think it was once a week actually.
Q: It was quite usual then I suppose, more usual then.
Miss H: Oh it was, yes, but of course mother’s family they had a couple of maids.
Q: Did you have to do much to help?
Miss H: I didn’t have to actually, because being the youngest I think I got away with, I think I was spoiled really, I look back on it and I think I was spoiled and over-rated, I am sure I thought I was cleverer than I am
But the youngest one, they do say the youngest one gets spoiled and I think there’s something in it.
Q: So you were able to escape the washing up and things?
Miss H: Yes, of course I did do a bit when necessary, I wasn’t completely idle, I helped when I could, but of course Biddy [her sister] was so good at cooking there was no point in me messing about doing that.