Tape 018. Mr George Hayes and his wife Mrs Dorothy (Doll) Hayes (nee Bright), sides 1 and 2

Tape 18

Mr Hayes was born in 1904, and Mrs Hayes in 1903. They were interviewed on 23 June 1977, when they lived at 8 Chalks Road, Witham.

They also appear on tapes 19, 24 and 25.

For more about them , see the notes in the People category entitled Hayes, George, and Hayes, Mrs Doll (nee Bright); and Hayes, Miss Ada (Sis).

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

Q:    [looking at photos] It was Church Street was it, where you were born?  Somebody lent me these that I thought you might like to look at them and see if they brought back any memories.

Mrs H:    You’ll need glasses

Mr H::    I don’t want no glasses. I can see this. This is going up, Hasler’s shop used to be on the corner [54 Church Street]. Wadley’s? shop here [48 Church Street], Woolpack opposite. That’s the conker tree used to stand at the bottom of the road. I don’t want glasses. (Mrs H: All right.)

Q:    Wadley’s shop you say, Wadley’s, was it ?

Mr H::    Wadley’s this one here. That one there stood on the corner, when Wadley’s moved out [of 48] Hasler took the big one on you see. The Almshouses up there further. That’s Hasler’s and Richards next to it [56 Church Street] and Cutts used to live in the first one [going up above 56]. Owers lived in the next one, Pease lived in the end one and then the old dear Becky Everett lived there and that’s the one that caught me and I had to run for her beer [???]. I used to avoid her you see because I’d seen the police taken her to the police station when she was drunk in the barrow and even now I can’t bear anybody drunk.  I walk away from them though I drink myself you know but I can’t bear it. And somehow or the other I was wandering down that side. I wasn’t very big, I don’t suppose much bigger than your boy [about six]. Perhaps that why.  And a hand come over the fence she said ‘You go down the Woolpack and get me a pint of bitter and ha’porth of gin’.  I had to go [laugh]. Ha’porth of gin, you wouldn’t get much for a ha’penny now would you ?

Q:    So you kept out of her way. They took her in a barrow you say ?

Mr H::    yes, the fishmonger’s barrow I think it was. You know, its more of a builder’s truck with two wheels you know, and she was on that and they was carting her down to the police station.

Q:    Did they do that often ?

Mr H::    Now and again, you know. ‘Cause the old dears used to work hard I suppose, very little food and that used to, well you get a ha’porth of gin you wouldn’t want many ha’porths to know you’d had it. That used to be different beer to what it is now. Stronger I should think. Well I think it must be because, going back, I think. It was an agricultural village. The average wage was eleven bob to about fourteen shillings a week and I could mention five or six of the old boys, they used to come up measuring the road after their mid-day drink you know. You’d get drowned in it today before night.

Q:    Yes, and they couldn’t have afforded all that money for pints could they ?

Mr H::    No, [???] and a lot of those bricklayers and labourers well they didn’t work if it rained. They didn’t work if there was a frost. Though actually speaking they didn’t work about say about six months of the year I shouldn’t think. Even in the summer time, if it rained, they left off. They didn’t. And I think that’s why I think our houses are better built than anyone’s [laugh].

Q:    You said that those people you are speaking of lived up past the corner there. Like Mrs Cutts and that, they were up past the corner there [above 56 Church Street].

Mr H::    Yes, Richards next to it and in these houses. Pease lived in the end one. He was dad’s mate on the railway. He got killed. [???] train, he got knocked down. Cutts in the first one, then Owers. Is there three or four there. I can’t remember now and then there was Becky Everett and Cooper behind there. They stand farther back. Cooper and Milton they used to sell sweets you know in the little cottage. We used to get four caramels for a farthing or four [laugh]. And the next one was where I was born. We moved across the road, across the road here opposite. Then we moved up here later on. I don’t remember now ‘cos I was only a baby and the old boy Burton they lived in between and we’ve got a little oil lamp upstairs. I still burn it. Because I woke up in the night. They got this little oil lamp and you burn it all night and they could see if I woke up. I still use it.

Q:    Is that those that they’re doing up now? Is that that row of houses they are doing up now ?

Mr H::    I haven’t been up there, I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t been up there for years.

Q:    There’s about seven or eight of them.

Mr H::    A Mr Foster lived in here [42 Church Street]. He used to stand at his gate when we came out from school and he used to give us a little pinch of snuff. [Laugh]. Hoy, they lived in that one [44 Church Street], Foster lived there, Hoy lived there, and I don’t know who lived there, whether they had that for a store place for the shop or not [46 Church Street].

Q:    So how far up did the houses go when you were little in Church Street ?

Mr H::    Right away up Scrivener Terrace [probably means Chipping Hill Terrace, 100-134 Church Street – looking at photo of it]. That’s right that’s the end of it. Yes, Pease, Albert Thorogood, Burton, Mrs. Burton’s father lived there, Hawkes lived there, Bill Turnage that kept the Cherry Tree in that one and Andrews lived up there. That’s it, there were no houses on this side [west, where Bramston Green is now]. After you got where the farm barn is there was no houses that side. Yes that’s our little lamp. I should say that must be a hundred years old. I mean they was old, very old, when they lived there and they passed that over and we still burn it every night. Just a little glimmer, you don’t have to get up and switch the light on. I can see whether she got half my pillow over her or not during the night with that.

Mrs H:    When George’s dad was very ill we had a locum doctor come and he badly wanted it. His[?] brother’s got one, and his[?] sister’s got one. And Mr Burton, Mrs Hammond’s father gave that to him, (Mr H: No her uncle.) he had bronchitis when he was a kid. And they used to have to keep getting out for him and so they gave him this little lamp.

Mr H::    Yes, there was no houses between there and the Cherry Tree crossing. It was the same up the back roads there was none from the railway bridge right the way to Braintree [i.e. Cressing Road]. I say Braintree, I think the first one was Cressing Temple. No houses at all there.

Q:    So what sort of jobs did these people do that lived in those ones [Chipping Hill Terrace.]?

Mr H::    Pease, there was two women lived in that one. He was a platelayer. Burton lived next door. That was Mrs Hammond’s father. He was a railwayman. Hawkes, I think he was a painter. Bill Turnage lived that side. He was a farm worker. Bill Andrews lived up there. He was a bricklayer’s labourer. I forget most of the others. That’s going back well, sixty odd years.

Q:    Sort of labourers, mostly. [shows another photo, of about 39-53 Church Street] There’s some more of Church Street I think. That’s up the top end as well isn’t it ?

Mr H::    Yes, this is past where I lived. The old boy who lived in there [???], he used to come home the worse for drink and us boys used to tie his gate and he wasn’t sober enough to stand up and undo it himself. So he used to get outside. He used to go ‘Emma my door, my knocker, [???] people’s tied up my gate up.’ [laugh].  Jim Keeble, Mrs Smith’s father (Gladys), he lived there and years gone by in the end house there there was a family put out on the road. They couldn’t pay the rent and honestly what bit of furniture they’d got you could have put in a wheel barrow. Humphreys their name was. Newman, Arthur Newman’s father lived there . Rush, Mr Rush the foreman porter at the station lived in that one. An old boy, Doddy Claydon they called him, as a boy I remember seeing him, you know the wooden keys they put in the rail, you know to hold the rail between the chair. He was making a last out of one of those to make his children a pair of shoes. Saunders lived in there and then Thompson lived in the end one. And the next one my Grandmother lived. That stands back and Woodwards lived in the next. Well that’s two stand back and then we lived in the one, this is where and a Mrs Hawkes. Ashcroft, Mrs French, Say lived up here in the finish and Youngs and then there was Woodwards, can’t think of the next one, but old Ernie Butcher lived in the end one and Mrs. Ely in the big house at the bottom there.

Q:    Like yesterday isn’t it ?

Mr H::    Yes, that’s Randall’s house there and when that flooded they used to run down from Brown’s pond at the farm here [Cocks farm], down there, across that road and behind there [probably where Bramston Green is now] is where we used to play cricket as boys and we never used to play long before we knocked the ball over Randall’s and it was a toss up whether we was quick enough to get it or we lost it.

Q:    So you used to play up in that field up there ?

Mr H::    Well, the one in between was where we played.

Q:    It’s a shame. I don’t know whether that’s on. These are just down the bottom and that’s that shop again.

Mr H::    Yes, that’s Wadley’s.  I can’t think now who lived in that one. This was where they lived, Wadley’s lived, and that was the shop. They had a bakehouse behind there and as a boy I used to go round there and they was kneading this bread, they used to give me a little piece you know and they’d put it in the little tin and bake it with the rest and when it came out nice and hot I used to get a lump of cheese very near as big as me bread and sit down and eat it with them. Then I used to go round on the bread cart in the afternoon. [Laugh] Well there was nothing else. They talk about being bored with nothing to do you know, today, and that’s what we used to do. Either that, or in summertime we used to go down the, what we called the field, that was down by the, where her lived next door, crossing gates. Go down there, down the meadows there used to be a piece, oh about as far from here to your gate, where it was clear and clay bottom, we used to bathe there.

Q:    What that’s up sort of, the river, back of the top of Church Street, further up Church Street ?

Mr H::    Yes we used to go straight down by the crossing. There used to be a cart parked there.

Mrs H:    You know where Glebe Crescent is now, and Ebenezer Close.  Down there

Q:    I’m surprised it was warm enough.

Mr H::    Well we never used to take any notice of that. It was summer time you know. Further along, we daren’t go further along because of the gamekeeper after you.  But this one nobody used to take any notice. I’ve been there hundreds of times. In fact it where I learned to swim down there and never see anybody after you. Only thing was that some of the boys used to go across and raid old Ledger’s orchards the other side. They knew they couldn’t get caught because they was in the river. [laugh]

Q:    Did anyone get caught for anything like that ?

Mr H::    They used to go and pinch the apples you see and chance times there would be one of the farm workers about they’d chase ‘em back or try to but by the time they through the hedge they was over the river.

Q:    So nobody got into any real trouble for that ?

Mr H::    Well, at that time of day if you did, there was one boy, Rudkin, he got sent to a reformatory school, over it. I think it was over pinching the parson’s walnuts. [laugh]

Q:    Pinching the parson’s walnuts.

Mr H::    We was after them one day that was at Capenall Green. [Capeners Green, in Highfields Road at the bottom of the hill] I was looking up to see them fall and a brick fell on my nose what someone else had thrown, got a scar there.

Q:    So I wonder why he got picked. Why did he get picked on ?

Mr H:    Well, I think it was a matter of he went so many times that they knew him you see, and I suppose he had been cautioned three or four times and then went again and I don’t know whether it was walnuts or brown brewery pears or what. I mean if they were brown brewery pears they weren’t worth having, but that’s how they used to do. There was no – at that time of day there was nobody to sort of speak for you that sort of thing. And, as I said, money was very small. They couldn’t really afford to keep you so it didn’t matter if you were there or away.  I think that’s how it used to be years ago.

Q:    How far up did the parson’s land come ?

Mr H::    It was at the back at the back of the church. Well it come right from the church right down to the farm at the end of those houses where I said I see the people were turned out. Right down there the back area, the back of there. He had a long garden and three or four walnut trees and a brown brewery tree. Well there was one meadow from the back of those houses one meadow down and then he had an orchard farther along.

Mrs H:    Used to go out in the river too when you pulled Tom Rushen out, didn’t you?

Mr H::    That was down here near the waterfall you know. [???] used to run through the arches there and come down that side there – that used to be fairly deep and broke through farther down and that made another river you see the other side so you see there was very little run over there. Wonderful days [laugh].

Q:    Going back to these people who were turfed out of their house. Did that happen very often ? If people couldn’t pay the rent what would happen ?

Mr H::    Well if you couldn’t pay the rent they just put you out. You roamed the roads then or there was a spike, workhouse, at Braintree, they’d go there and get put up there but I think you used to have to do so much work you know for to pay for what’s there. But those were the only alternatives. There was one family of, well we called them tramps, they came about here at pea-picking time and they went in the house just the other side of where I was born. There was a house come forward that was a mission. They used to hold a mission there before that and they come there and lived, Humphreys their name was. I know they hadn’t got anything. Coming home from school we used to come through the Blyth’s meadows you know, Witham School and pick coal up for the boy to take home because they hadn’t got any money to buy anything.
[chat about hearing girl crying next door, not noted]

Mr H::    Now this is where I got this one on my nose down in the, where the running pump was at Capenall Green. You know. (Q: you mentioned it.) (Mrs H: Near where Gladdy lives.) The pump was there and that supplied three or four houses stood half-way up the hill and it went wrong one day and they sent down to Wager’s and he sent the plumber up, my Uncle Moss, he took the bucket out, you know, and the water kept running. So it was a waste of time to put another one on. For years it run like that as a running pump. That’s where it got its name from but they’ve sealed that one off. Then there was another pump down by the Catholic Church just at Chestnut Lane you call it on the right hand side as you go down behind the Grove, there was a big iron pump there and that had a big trough in front of it where the horses used to water you know ‘cos there was more horse traffic then than what there is now. That’s one of the things we miss today. If you was laid in bed or you’d been asleep and you woke up, ‘cause we used to go to bed very early, you woke up it was the mail van ten o’clock at night coming from Braintree to Witham. Every night ten o’clock, Saturday night Sunday night as well. Ten o’clock. You would hear the horses feet going down on the hard. There was no other sound, there was no motor cars about and farm carts were in bed that time of night. That’s one of the sounds, you know, that you’ll never hear again, you miss that.

Q:    Where did they get the water from for your place ? You spoke of the pumps, where did you used to get the water from at Church Street ?

Mrs H:    Out in the yard didn’t you ?

Mr H::    There was a well down the bottom, down the bottom we pumped from there, but the Capenall Green there must be a terrific spring there. I mean that forced the water right up and out the pump without being pumped. But there one down near the Catholic that, I have drank some of it when it’s been very hot and it tasted like the smell of tar, but still it was water. But they were landmarks. I think the only landmark we’ve lost apart from the countryside is the pubs there used to be here at one time. We start off down at the bottom of Collingwood Road there’d be The George this side, The Red Lion the other, The White Hart, the Angel on the corner [of Maldon Road]. Down there, there was a pub I forget the name of that, it wasn’t very big but that one closed. Ended up with The Spread Eagle. If you went down the right hand side there was The Crotchet, and then there was The Globe next to it and then there was the, one across the road, [???]  The Swan, and then up farther there was The Morning Star. Oh there was one just by the tan yard up the road there The Beehive I think that was [Mill Lane] and then there was Morning Star and then The Dragon. There was all those pubs and that was just there alone.

Mrs H:    Beside the Spread Eagle that used to be a coaching place didn’t it?

Mr H::    Oh yes, that did but the amount of pubs there was in Witham at the time with the very small amount of money it’s marvellous how they all got a living.

Q:    Did all sorts of people drink, I mean the people up Church Street,, would all types?

Mr H::    There used to be several you know. I don’t think there was many teetotallers in Witham. Beer was tuppence a pint. Porter up at the Vic used to be, but I reckon that’s stronger than the Guinness today, that used to be a penny a pint.

Q:    Were there some pubs that certain sorts of people would go to and some for others or how would people choose which one to go to I wonder ?

Mr H::    Well it were just a matter of who they met and I suppose years ago if you was a carpenter or a tradesman of any sort that’s where you got your trade you went in there and ‘Can you do so and so for me’. They did say at one time you never met a good tradesman without he drank. I suppose that was the idea you got to go in and get your orders.

Q:    Make your contacts. What about your father. He was alive when you were little, your own father?

Mr H::    Yes, yes he died up here (Mrs H: 1961, no, ?) He was a signal fitter on the railway. That’s how his mate got killed and he was knocked down. That’s when I was quite small. He was on the railway when the railway accident was. (Mrs H: Cromer. [1905] And I can remember him saying that the railway bridge, that time of day, used to come across where the footbridge is now, when the accident was and they built this other one after the accident. I’m pretty sure that’s what he used to tell me.

Mrs H:    He had two mates killed on the line didn’t he ?

Mr H:    Yes, but he wasn’t there with the other one.

Mrs H:    He was going to start the next morning wasn’t he ?

Q:    Was he hurt badly that time ?

Mrs H:    He knocked his shoulders.

Mr H::    It hit him in the back, that knocked him clear and his mate, they had to cut his legs off you know, it killed him.
Dill:    That was Joan Aldous’s uncle.

Mr H::    Joan’s, that got killed down there. There’s been several killed down there. Platelayer. There’s been several killed different times down there. You got so used to them that you didn’t take any notice and his other mate… Dad used to go from the workshop, the station end, check the box to see if there anything wrong, his mate used to go the other way and do what they called the east box. Its, not there now, and Dad was out he had a wart taken off his nose and, Dad used to wait under the box, junction box, under this fast when his mate wasn’t used to it and he walked across and the fast come through the same time as the Maldon. He stood back to give the fast plenty of room and one caught him and knocked him off to the other [???].

Q:    I suppose it was quite a busy place with the junction. A lot of people worked on the railways.

Mr H::    You got the Maldon junction. You got Maldon and Witham and there used to be another signal box down the line in the goods yard, Maldon East but that’s all electrified. They’ve taken them down. I believe at the time of the accident Mr Doole who had that little grocers shop on the hill [Chipping Hill], I believe he was signalman there at the time. Oh I think the platelayers they had a drink or two and they hadn’t put the keys back in the line to hold the rail. Of course the train comes along at terrific speed and pfft.

Mrs H:    That was when the Cromer express was.1911

Mr H::    Oh, no,no,no. (Mrs H: You was only a little boy). 1904 or 1905 [actually 1905]

Mrs H:    1905, well you was a baby, wasn’t you.

Q:    What, you reckon this was caused by this business of the platelayers ?

Mr H::    Platelayers must’ve been having a drink. There were several of them got the sack, about three or four of them anyway. They’d been having a drink and I don’t know whether it was the strong beer or hot sun but they hadn’t done the job and they couldn’t get them back in time you know.

Q:    I suppose it’s quite a responsible job really?

Mr H::    Well, it is, you see my father used to get called out all hours. He got a half a crown for a call. But he wasn’t supposed to go on the railway without somebody to look out for him. Well his mate lived in Maldon. By the time he’d got Dickie Bird who was down there, he used to go in with him [???] by the time he got down there Dad had been down there and done it. If you wait like that there’s a delay to the train and that delay is put down to you. So you have got to do everything to avoid the delay, chance your life come to that, really you know that’s how it were.

Q:    When you say ‘put down to you’ you mean get the blame for it.

Mr H::    You get the blame for the delays, you [???] you are responsible.

Q:    And when you say he was called out that was because something had gone wrong ?

Mr H::    Yes, in the hot weather, in the hot weather steel expands and there’s a thing with notches in like that, that goes through. Well unless it hits that notch right you can’t pull the thing off you see and one locks the other. If you are moving the train from the up-line down to the down-line, well that locks so that you can’t get your signals for the up and down because the line is [???] you see and the steel expanding you’d have to tighten that up a bit. Well when at night, when they got cool that’d be that much shorter coming into that slot so you’d have to go and let it out again. That was just like that. I’ve seen them my father just [???] a bit out maybe whatsername, bigger you know so they worked.

Q:    So what sort of hours did he work as a regular thing ?

Mr H::    From seven in the morning to half past five at night and Saturdays till half past twelve. Any other time was overtime.  Well everybody did that. Across at Crittall’s we used to work from half past seven in the morning till half past five at night, twelve o’clock Saturdays. That was the ordinary week.

Mrs H:    During the War you used to didn’t you ?

Q:    What you worked at Crittall’s during the War ?

Mr H:    Forty-seven and a half years I worked there and got made redundant in the finish for my pains. [Laugh]

Side 2

Q:    Was that when it first opened ?

Mr H::    1920 that was opened. There wasn’t, oh, about a dozen there when I started.  No we worked, at towards the end of 1921, they come round with a paper and I thought to myself I hope I get one and I did. That was the sack. I was only a boy then. There were three boys there then. One stopped down with his father, blacksmith Shelley down the town and there was Rowlands and myself. I went back first. I got back first and carried on then until they made me redundant.  (Mrs H: 1969).

Q:    So this business about getting the paper ?

Mr H::    The paper was the notice to quit, a week’s notice you see.

Mrs H:     I knew him in 1921 – met him first in 1921 when you were playing football at Notley. I was down with Aunt [???] wasn’t I. Uncle Ernest was butler at Notley Hall. At the finish he was butler for Winston Churchill. I went across to watch him and I suppose I fell over backwards [laugh].

Mr H::    [???] they was all married men in the team bar me, and I was a boy.

Q:    That was Crittall’s team ?

Mr H::    No, no it was a team that used to play in front of Faulkbourne Hall. Actually started to play in front of the Rectory, Faulkbourne Rectory and the parson couldn’t get his sermon out because of us playing so we went to the back about where the drive goes down to Faulkbourne Hall and played on the right hand side behind Ledger’s Farm. As it was Warren’s Farm they walled us Warren Old Boys’. We had quite a good little team there and then I played for the works for several years you know? And I was a goalkeeper and damaged my knees and they were hustling us and you’d really got to work as they stood over you, you’d really got to work, and I thought to myself it is not worthwhile but one time if you was a footballer you got away with everything but that time had passed.

Q:    That was Saturdays you played mostly was it ?

Mr H::    Yes, Saturday. I done a little on the railway in between.

Q:    Looking at photo – Don’t ask me to guess which one is … there are all so handsome [laughter] (Mr H: You know which one it is, don’t you?) (Mrs H: He’s the goalie.). Who is this here with the hat then?

Mr H::    That was old man Champ, that was best man at our wedding. That’s Godfrey next door to you (Q: Good heavens is it really?). Oh this isn’t the one where they were all married men this is the one after it. That’s Brooks, Percy Smith, Bill Codling he was a policeman. That one’s dead – Perry, that’s one dead – Rushen, this one he was a farm boy over there, he was very good, Tubby Dorking he’s dead, you know Henry Dorking’s son (Mrs H: brother). And Champy that’s his son. His name is Brown and that one’s George Thorogood. That’s the drive you see down to Faulkbourne Hall and we used to play on this side of it.

Q:    How did you get involved in that ?

Mr H::    Well we went up and asked Mr Ledger if he’d got a piece. We didn’t think about the lovely meadow. He’d got a place there they called the Moors you know all rough as long as we’d got somewhere to kick the football. And he said yes there’s a meadow out there and he bought us the goalposts and that’s how we got a start. We played friendlies for the first year and then we got in the Kelvedon and District League and we won that. (Mrs H: And got silver and gold medals.) And then we won the Braintree and District League.  We lost three medals in there when I played for Crittall’s by one goal. We got a draw in one and we lost one nothing. We got a win one and we drew. Anyhow there was only one goal. We lost the [???] gold medals, but that’s the luck of the game.

Mrs H:    I used to stand and watch him in the freezing cold.

Q:    Did you have to do lots of practice  as well as the matches?

Mr H::    Yes, yes. We used to go out nearly every night in summer time and play. Well there was nothing else.

Q:    Were there any football teams actually in Witham ?

Mr H::    Witham Town. I played for them once or twice and then there was St Nicholas Albion. They used to play behind the church and then they played up at Highfields. I think that’s about the only football teams there was in Witham then. (Mrs H: till Crittall’s set up).  I’ve another photograph where they were all married, Dickie Bird lived down here. (Mrs H: you gave that to Mick the black man. [Mick Moraji] Oh yes I gave that to Mick, that’s right.

Mrs H:    ‘Cause he’s another enthusiast. He’s collecting all old bits.

Mr H::    He’s a coloured fellow, you know really very nice and if you find an old coin you give it to him he’ll find out what it is.

Mrs H:    I had a lot of Maundy money and I didn’t know what it was. Old people’s Maundy money wasn’t it ?

Q:    So going back to Crittall’s what was it like when you first went, what were they doing?

Mr H:    When I first went I was what they call putting [???] bars. You got the steel window and you got a long bar and you put the pieces in, side pieces in and then you have to spring them in the frame and you had a wooden block with iron on it to put on there and then hand rivetted ‘em. And a man used to get five eighths of a penny a bar and I was a boy and got a ha’penny. But I used to earn twenty-eight bob a day but my hands were that swollen that I couldn’t open them. I done [???] Went on three days I had done about one week of it and as I say I used to take twenty-five to twenty-eight shillings a day and of course they sacked us all. I think I went on the dole for one week and they wanted me at the International pushing a bike with a big basket, up Wickham Hills. They offered me eleven shillings a week and I’d been earning twenty-eight shillings a day. I didn’t do it so I got chucked off the dole. [laugh] (Mrs H: well, they used to then).  My Uncle, my Mum’s brother was a thatcher. He asked Fairhead if he’d got any thatching or straw time, but he hadn’t but he said he got a lane what they call Oliver’s Hall up by Rickstones. It was wide as this and there should be a path up the centre but it was all wood you know. He said you can cut that down and have the wood and I’ll give you a horse and cart to cart it away. Of course we cut it down, we’d got nothing else to do. My Uncle signed on the dole then when we’d cut enough down we used to come round and sell it and we didn’t make a lot of gold like that ‘cause we weren’t used to it. And then I went on the railway on the gates at Boreham. Six o’clock in the morning till six o’clock at night that was a day and a half each day. I used to let the milk carts through in the morning and used to let it through again in the afternoon and he used to see himself back. On Friday I used to let the farmer through. He used to see himself back. But that wasn’t a bad job because I got a day and a half each time and I had sauce enough to ask the stationmaster if I couldn’t get lodging money.

Mrs H:    Is that when you were letting through to the old hall?

Mr H:    This side of [???] And then they, ‘cos I was in the Band, the Witham Town Band and they asked me Christmas time if I would do three days two till ten on the station as parcel porter. Well I was working very hard Christmas time on then from two till ten and come the finish I got just as much playing carols at night or more than I did from the work. So I lost over that. That was only just over the Christmas period, three days.

Mrs H:     That was before I knew him.

Mr H::    And when I started, I started in the refreshment room. After I left school I did six months down at Maclarens. I used to start down there at seven in the morning till five at night and a half for dinner and Saturdays the same and if he wanted me to work Saturdays when he was home they used to give me my tea, which was two slices of bread and golden syrup. Then I used to have to go Sunday mornings from seven till about half past nine and Sunday afternoon from about four till half past five. I had the noble sum of six shillings a week. That was when I first left school.

Mrs H:     Looking after chickens wasn’t you ?

Mr H::    Yes, then I went on the Railways and was on there in the First World War that was when I [???] and I got about ten shillings a week.

Mrs H:     He had his uniform and we did have a photo of him. With a peaked cap. He was sort of like the refreshment boy you know used to walk along with the tray in front of it. And he can remember Edith Cavell’s body coming through here.

Mr H::    Yes, I remember Edith Cavell and Captain Fryatt I remember them bringing them through. Engines all decorated in black crepe you know. I wasn’t supposed to but I often used to be there four o’clock in the morning through trains coming through with tea and cakes you know. They used to come up from Ipswich and I was sent out. We had a prisoner of war come through, course I was selling ‘em cakes and the guard stopped me. I think that was a crime, you know, but of course they sent me out and I was silly enough to do it.

Q:    So was that when you told me about getting the tea thrown in, the refreshment place ?

Mrs H:    Oh no, that was at Maclarens, that was the chickens.

Mr H::    {???]

Q:    Then you went on the station and you were there right through the War were you ?

Mr H::    The latter end of the War you know. It was 1914 when that started. Well I was only ten. So I was there the latter part of the War.

Q:    Were there a lot of troops in Witham during the War ?

Mr H::    Yes, in the First World War there was. (Mrs H: His mum had them.) Everybody had them. The South Midland Engineers. Well, honestly, I think nearly all of them had been in prison for something but you could leave five bob’s worth of silver and they wouldn’t touch it. They used to borrow Dad’s ferret and they used to go all over where nobody else would go and they used to sell it for beer. And one Christmas, of course I wasn’t very old and don’t remember a lot of it, they had to be in by eight o’clock and they used to dress up in women’s clothes and so they’d be down the pub till ten and they had something, I don’t know what it was, but I know Ferret[?] had a black face and white eyes and he had sacks on his back and whatever it was in the style of the, face at his back and Nutty, there was Ferret and Nutty, Ferret was a little thin bloke and Nutty was a big fellow. ‘Nutty’ he said ‘don’t hit so hard’ I can remember him saying that and they used to go round the pubs and that’s how they got the money. Whenever they got leave home, you know seven days at home, they always had to send an escort down after them never came back of their own free will, they always had an escort  Well we had, those, you know. We had some nice chaps. We heard the Zeppelin that dropped the bomb at Braintree we heard that come over us.

Mrs H:    So did I when we was at Westocks on the farm. It was just like somebody throwing clods of dirt [???] Dad and Uncle Jack that lived at home with Dad on the farm, they’d been down to what they call the Harvest Supper. Lord Rayleigh used to give them all a Harvest Supper and they came in. I was, ‘cos I’m two years older than George and remember it better, I heard Dad say to Mum ‘They’re about’ and we woke up, of course, natural, and you could see this Zeppelin just like a huge cigar and I could go and tell you the place now where they dropped it in Braintree and show you where it was, the Rifleman’s Hill.

Mr H::    Yes, they cut the [???] the Walnut Tree, right down the bottom of the yard. That’s where it was and old [???] Thompson the other side kept pigs up the other end of the garden. He’d been up with a candle to look at them and there he stood in the path with the candle and he said ‘Are they about David ?’ Dad said ‘You’ll soon find out if you don’t put that candle out’.

Q:    So the soldiers that were here were mainly waiting to go to France and would go off on the train would they ?

Mr H::    In the First World War this was the Second Line of Defence. We had trenches all through here . Where the overspill houses are on the back lane on the way to Rivenhall Rectory, you know go through the railway gates on the Braintree, round that way there was trenches right the way through there right to back of the well. That was the Second Line of Defence. You would go down and there were deep shelters and that sort of thing.

Q:    When you said the went round from the Rectory which way, up the …?

Mr H::    Round from Rivenhall Rectory at the back of us here right round and up about two fields from the well you know as you go to Braintree. Two fields down.

Q:    Do you think people expected …?

Mr H::    Well now, I couldn’t make that out. All the arches, all the bridges there were sentries under those. All during the First War, they didn’t trouble about the Second.

Mrs H:    I can remember them coming down. They were billeted at Fairstead, at Terling on the Terling Hall Park, Lord Rayleigh’s estate and they marched round but they were the kilties. Course we were only kids, ‘There’s men coming down there in skirts’ we said. And they stopped at the bar at ours and they had milk and Mum made tea and they ate us out of bread and ever-y-thing ‘cause they was so hungry you know. Mum made things to give them food and I can remember Mum having to make some bread afterwards.

Mr H::    That’s the old boys, the National Reserve in the First World War. They was the old boys as was in the Boer War. Well they was really too old to fight, the older ones of them, and that’s what they did all during the War guard bridges all the way down to London there was guards on all the bridges. This War was there was nothing like that. At the outbreak of war the railwaymen, I used to have to take Dad’s dinner. He was up from Cuppers Farm, you know where that is, Cuppers Farm, Blunts Hall, they’d got to patrol so far to see nobody interfered with the lines. This War there was nothing …

Q:    That was part of his job sort of thing was it, or perhaps extra ?

Mr H::    All the platelayers they done nothing else all day, only patrol backwards and forwards. I used to come from the Church School, that was my college, I started off this one down the bottom here [Chipping Hill Infants School?]. I’d come home to dinner and used to have to run up with Dad’s dinner and back to school in time.  That was my college, old Cranfield, as headmaster, and he always insisted that the old Roman Road was this one by Crittall’s, you know, goes through there towards Rivenhall Rectory and that way. He always insisted on that and he could have been right. (Mrs H: There was signposts to Faulkbourne)  Ah yes, [???] troubled about it. Where is Witham really supposed to be?

Q:    You mentioned that to me and I never worked that out.

Mr H::    I mean, as soon as you get to the bridge there’s Chipping Hill well that’d be Chipping Hill in Witham but the signpost down there, what do you call it, Potts ?

Mrs H:    Motts Lane.

Mr H::    Between Motts Lane and Braintree it used to point towards Braxted over the top was in the parish of Faulkbourne. And there was one outside the chemist’s shop down the town where the fruiterers and vegetable shop is now in the parish of Faulkbourne there [68 Newland Street]. So where really is Witham ? When I was down at Crittall then they’d ask where are we ? Witham and I’d say I don’t think so and I used to tell them and they used to look at me amazed. ‘Cause the living at Faulkbourne is far greater than the one here.

Mrs H:    Yes, ‘cause there’s a Rectory at Faulkbourne and only a vicarage is here. The Rectory always pays more for its living that the vicarage does.

Q:    I suppose it does and I suppose Rivenhall must be the same then.

Mrs H:    Rivenhall Rectory [???] [???] That used to be the Rectory, didn’t it. (Mr H: Yuss) (Q: ???). ‘Cause I’ve been about here fifty-one years you see and I can remember all things what his father used to tell me and his mum to tell me and all that sort of thing.

Q:    Was your father a Witham man ?

Mr H::    No, no he was born at Woodbridge. His grandmother kept the Grapes Public House at Woodbridge and when you had to go down the cellar to do anything she used to tell him to whistle to make sure he didn’t drink anything when he was down there. [laugh]

Q:    How did he come to, come here then I wonder ?

Mr H::    Well his father was on, his father was a signalman on the railway and moved I suppose. He was signalman at Hatfield. That was more or less his home and then they moved here and I suppose that its by moving here that he met mum. Then his father went off the railway and worked at Feering. He fell off a load of hay and broke his neck.

Mrs H:    His father went to the Boer War didn’t he ?

Mr H::    In the Boer War, dad was, yes.

Mrs H:    That was before he married, of course.

Q:    Your mother was a Witham …?

Mr H::    Yes, she was Witham, yes. They lived down Church Street you know. I was born this side and we went to live that side and they lived in between.

Q:    What was her name ? (Mr H: Smith). Were her parents alive when you …

Mr H::    Yes, Grandfather lived until he was well over eighty.

Mrs H:     Ninety and your mum lived till she was eighty-eight and I don’t think she’d have died then if she hadn’t fallen down and broken her knee. She’s been dead six years next November. Your dad lost his leg. He had his leg taken off the day Princess Margaret got married. Used to walk miles George and his father did.

Mr H:    We used to walk anything from, oh, up to nine or ten miles of a night. We’d walk from here to Terling and have a drink there. Walk from Terling to Hatfield and have a drink there and walk back to Witham.

Mrs H:    Saturday nights they used to do that.

Mr H::    We always had our food early, always had tea early and we’d get out and have a good walk.

Mrs H:    Always [???] Sunday night [???].

Mr H::    We thought nothing of walking to Hatfield to the Sportsman’s Arms and back again. One night we went to the Green Man at Braxted, looked at the watch. It was ten minutes to seven I said ‘Too far to go to the Du Cane Arms’. He said, ‘Do you know where it is?’ I said ‘Yes’. We walked to the Du Cane Arms. When we got there I think that was four miles to Witham coming that way, the way we was going, and four and a quarter coming from Rivenhall. So I said ‘You’ve never been round that way at all?’. He said ‘No’. I said ‘Walk that way if you like, I …’ And Dad never did drink a lot and we got to the Rivenhall Fox and he had a pint and I never seen him drink a pint of beer so quick. I says ‘You going to have another one?’ He says ‘No’. I said ‘Well we’ve got ten minutes to wait for a bus’. He said ‘We can walk to Witham in that time.’ so we walked. We d walk to Silver End, round Silver End, you know and have one at Silver End Hotel and one at the Cherry Tree and then home. Its just over four miles from here to Silver End and more than four miles coming back.

Mrs H:    On a Sunday night that was. (Q: And off to work at …) Six o’clock next morning grandad used to be up, he was like him, half past five this morning, every morning half past five.

Mr H::    Especially washing mornings. [???] She likes a cup of tea before she gets up.

Mrs H:    Oh I do, I have one at just after, when you get up, don’t I have another one just before, twenty past six. Then I get up.

Mr H::    Breakfast is seven, dinner at twelve. (Mrs H: Quarter past twelve.). Quarter past twelve. Tea about half past four, and go to bed at half past nine.

Q:     Still, I suppose like you say most people used to …

Mrs H:    However late we go to bed we always wake up the same time in the morning.

Mr H::    Have you still got that on?

Mrs H:    Oh lord, I thought you’d turned it off. [laugh]

Q:    [???] We were going through all the jobs you did weren’t we ? We got to the station. Did you do anything between the station and …?

Mr H::    After the station I went to Hoffmans for a little while apprentice in the tinsmith shop and the engineer’s wife lived at top of the road here and one Sunday night he came an knocked at the door and asked mother if she could tell him anybody who’d be willing to help at home as his wife was ill. She said ‘Well I never, I don’t do that sort of thing but if I can help I will’ and she went up and talking to the woman she said ‘I’ve got two children’ ‘Where do they work’, ‘They both work at Hoffmans’. ‘Why don’t they work over here?’ ‘Well hee would do if he could and it would be better than travelling to Hoffmans’. Well he got me a job and that’s how I got out of there. The engineer got me a job.

Q:    What, at Crittalls, yes ?

Mr H::    Yes, at Crittalls, yes.

Q:    So how long were you at Crittalls before you got, did you say everybody got the sack.

Mr H::    Yes all bar a very few. That only lasted, it must have been the end of 1921. We had three months really you see and then ….

Mrs H:    When I met him he was out of work. In 1922 you started back again in February and I met you, and I remember the night, at a Whist Drive that was first of all, and the Saturday you came over to play football and I went across to Aunt [???] to stop there for tea, and you walked home with me. That was three miles he walked, pushed his bike.

Mr H:    Daft. [laughter]

Q:    I just wondered, do you remember why everybody got the sack ?

Mr H::    It was shortage of work you see, there was nothing doing. And then we started off again and gradually built up and really it was overseas orders that was keeping us going. South African orders [???] and that kept us going and we gradually got through ‘cause in the first place we’d work all warm weather till the building more or less stopped and then we was only three days a week or that sort of thing and then they, I suppose they got sufficient money to start building a stock up so we built a stock up and that all used to be sold out in the summer so they used to be glad of it, you see.

Mrs H:    Well when we was first married two or three years, you used, once or twice you were on three days a week weren’t you ?

Mr H::    Three days a week. We had ten days for Whitsun once. No money. Nothing coming in. No dole or anything. Ten days for Whitsun. But that picked up after that and there was regular. In fact during the War too regular.

Mrs H:    Yes, he used to do fire spotting, fire duty and all sorts of things.

Mr H::    Fire duty, yes, and then we used to [???] I used to go over there and sound the hooter over there you know – air raid warnings.

Mrs H:    Surgery, used to do the surgery.

Continued on tape 19


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