Mrs Ena MacPherson (nee Beard), was born in 1915. She was interviewed on 2 December 1999, when she lived at 11 Chancel Close, Tillingham. Mr Patrick Horner, a friend of hers, was also present; he lived at 6 Powershall End, Witham.
For more information about her, see MacPherson, Ena, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.]
Mrs M: We went to a little school in Lockram Villas [Collingwood Road]. There was a little private school and I suppose I was about ten. And there was business people’s children, there was Heddles, Sorrells, Tony Cullen, who were the others (PH: Matthew and Frank Cullen, Cressing Temple.) Who else was in that. I haven’t got the photograph now. There were about twelve of us. In a little house .. (PH: You know Ian[?] Smith the accountants, about the fifth or sixth one from the traffic lights.) (Q: I know, yes, yes.) And then of course when I was eleven I had to go to a bigger school. I went to Braintree High School then.
Q: Who taught you?
Mrs M: Mrs Chapman. And I don’t know quite, can’t remember. She lived at this Villas, Lockram Villas, with her mother, Mrs Gentry. And that’s all I can remember. We were all, you know, between nine and eleven. Years of old, age, yes.
Q: So did you learn a lot there?
Mrs M: I doubt it [laugh]. If so I haven’t. No, I think, just the three Rs, you know, that’s about all, and then I went to Braintree High School, and then the War came, didn’t it. That was the point.
Q: So did they all go off to other schools after …
Mrs M: Oh I think so. I was friendly with the Richards girls, Charlie Richards’ daughters. Of course they’re both gone now.
Q: Yes, I knew Kath Richards.
Mrs M: Kath? And Joyce, her younger sister. She died at the age of forty I think it was now.
Q: So your, this wedding, that was before you came to Witham was it?
Mrs M: Before I was thought of. [laugh]
Q: So where were they then, that was in Feering you say?
Mrs M: Feering, yes. My mother lived at Feering Lodge, with her father and mother, and they were seed manager for Hursts, was it Hursts then, Pat? (PH: Yes. The Sherwood family.) Sherwood family, Sherwood, that’s right. (PH: Their uncle developed the Kelvedon Wonder Pea.) That’s right, my uncle did that.
Q: Oh, you’re a clever family aren’t you?
Mrs M: Oh, I don’t know [laugh].
PH: Didn’t your mother go up to London for her [???]?
Mrs M: He would go abroad to buy seeds. He was very go-ahead.
PH: That’s where the seed trial grounds, some of it’s built up on Feering Hill, which is Sherwood Way now. Obviously named after the Sherwoods.
Mrs M: All the trial grounds are a blaze of colour but then the by-pass came they took it all. Just Feering Lodge there now. Have you got the Feering Lodge? [looking at photos?]
PH: There’s quite a bit on Prested Hall.
Mrs M: Oh, you know what you did.
PH: Those are Prested Hall outside Feering where the Sherwoods lived. Who would link with that Sherwood, and you know [photo M550?]
Mrs M: That is I believe a nursing home now. There’s Feering Lodge, look. There’s my mother’s home. Until she … Oh there’s uncle, Arthur (PH That’s Kelvedon pea …) My mother’s, oh that’s (PH: And that’s a picture, Mrs Mac took that back to the people who live there to show them in the garden.)
Mrs M: The cedar tree apparently is still standing, two hundred years old.
Q: So what was your mother’s first name?
Mrs M: Newby. Winifred. Winifred Newby.
Q: So it was her mother that was a Sherwood, was it?
Mrs M: No, no.
PH: No, they just worked for them.
Mrs M: I think her mother was a Pepper.
Q: Oh. They’ve kept so well, these pictures, haven’t they. So how did she meet your father then?
Mrs M: I really don’t know. I really don’t know, it was before my time. I wouldn’t know. My father was a deaf, he was deaf family, came from a deaf family.
PH: When did he start the shop in Witham?
Mrs M: 1905. They married in 1905, and the fire[?] was two years after which was 1907 wasn’t it. [actually 1910]. That’s the back of Feering Lodge, that’s my mum, that’s her mother,
And that’s the man who was in charge of all the trial ground. And that was my uncle who went, always was in the seed line. And that’s my aunt Mildred who had a children’s baby shop where Mellon’s is now [80 Newland Street]. (PH: Mrs Hunwick.)
Q: That was Mrs Hunwick. And she was a Newby?
Mrs M: She was a Newby. They were all Newbys. That’s kept very well. That’s my father, where’s my father, is he there? That’s their family, that’s the Beard family. And that’s his stepmother, she was a grand old lady, she was a governess..
Q: So the Beards weren’t from …?
Mrs M: Bishops Stortford, they came. And then my father had his first shop in Saffron Walden. What have you done, is he knocking things about, he always is?
PH: Those are the interesting photos, that’s one shop, I don’t know who that is (Mrs M: Saffron Walden I think, that one.) I think that’s a lovely little one, that one.
Q: And these are in Saffron Walden are they?
Mrs M: I think so. (PH: We don’t know.) We’re not sure. That or Bishops Stortford..
PH: Those are just general ones that might be of interest. But you’ve got the Witham shop in there somewhere, you’ve already had it.
Q: I think they’re on the stool there, probably. (PH: Would it be in this lot.) (Mrs M: Might be.) (PH: There is is, the Witham shop. I just think the various shop ones are quite good]. [photo M556] Aren’t they, yes, with all the stuff outside to show what they sold.
Mrs M: Oh yes, they had to go and put everything up. (Q: Mangle) Yes, I know, and I think there might be one of those about still. Because it had his name in the cast iron, on the thing, you know.
Q: And is this a sort of coach or something on the left here?
Mrs M: Let me look. That’s, I should think, the delivery, we had pony .. when the fire was came, [Consitutional Club, next door, 1910] then we’d got horses in the stable, cause there wasn’t a van then, and they used to go round with the paraffin and all sorts of things. (PH: Doing, renting out plates or something?) Oh yes, they did, china and glass, they used to rent out. The crockery for parties. (Q: Oh. [laugh]) And, what else was there. I can’t remember, my brain is (Q: I think you’ve got a very good memory.) Oh I don’t know. I wish I knew, I wish more, I was a bit younger you see, than my brother, and …
Q: But you lived at, you lived above the shop?
Mrs M: Yes, I was born in the shop. Born in …
PH: Did you say your mother did all the accounts?
Mrs M: No, my father couldn’t, because he was deaf he couldn’t serve in the shop, so mother did all the shop and he did all the books. And he used to go to London twice a week, to, you know in the olden days they mended crockery, riveted it, and he used to go up to London with this broken crockery, into, I went, I used to go with him sometimes, now what, Chancery Lane. There was a funny little man in there, and riveted these bits of broken china, and he’d go up next week and collect them. Cause the people in big houses had it mended. Riveted. Don’t do that now, do they? They throw it down on the dump [laugh]
Q: Amazing, I’ve never heard of that before.
Mrs M: What, riveting, haven’t you?
PH: If you’ve got a valuable plate [???] hopping mad if it’s been riveted.
Mrs M: I don’t think, have I got anything riveted here. (PH: This one here.)
Q: I never had anything worth doing myself.
Mrs M: I’m a breaker I’m afraid. No I don’t think I’ve got anything, they were mother’s plates.
PH: You had something. (Mrs M: Did I, have something riveted.) I think so. (Q: Now you’ll be going round looking.) No, I’m not touching any more.
Mrs M: What about that big one? (PH: Yes I’ve just looked at it, I thought that was riveted but it’s not.) No. (PH: You know, a little, like a little lead thing on the back.) Yes, there used to be all the people in the big houses used to have it mended.
Q: So can you remember any of the people in the big houses, who they were and what they, did you see them around the town?
Mrs M: Try and tell me the houses then I’ll remember the name.
Q: The Grove?
Mrs M: The Grove, well, you know the Grove don’t you. (PH: Percy Laurence was the real one)
Q: The Pellys, you were talking about the Pellys, weren’t you.
Mrs M: That was up on the Lodge, towards Hatfield Peverel [Witham Lodge]
Q: So did you see people like that around the town?
Mrs M: Well I went to school in Braintree, I didn’t see much of the town you see.
PH: What was Dorothy Sayers like?
Mrs M: Dorothy Sayers was a lovely lady. (PH: Was she polite?)
Mrs M: Oh yes, very nice. She used to go into my mother’s shop and buy things. And, no, and there was Mr Bull, who was a friend of my father’s, who had a photographer’s just by his, [near the George] no-one’s mentioned (Q I mentioned it in the photograph book, at the beginning.] Oh you have. Yes, Billy Bull. And his wife, she opened a little dress shop called Anita, in that corner [near the George]. He was a great friend of my father’s. They used to play billiards one a week in each other’s houses, you know. But, I can’t … (PH: They’re mentioned in her scrapbook [Mrs M’s]. Bull’s death’s in that). Is it.
Q: So did he take portraits mostly, or what sort of thing?
Mrs M: He had a little studio in Braintree. He used to go there once a week and have, yes, photographs, yes portraits, that would have been. I don’t think he went out. No, he had a studio at the bottom of the garden.
PH: Where were they, where did they live?
Mrs M: Bulls? Next to the, what’s the pub on (Q: George, the George). The George, yes That was, she had that little shop, she had a little shop built in that corner, a little gown shop. And everybody was pleased … [PH: Now the motor accessories.) Is it? (PH: Yes, I think so.) Oh. (PH: The one in Newland Street, you mean?) Yes, right next door to the George. And who was next door? There was a shop called (PH: Waide Pollard?). No, no before that. Drury I think, Charlie Drury had a little grocer’s shop there, but it didn’t last very long. And there was, opposite, next to the Red Lion was John Taber, a little greengrocer. And of course I still know Doris Cook. She’s (Q: Yes, we were talking about her on the way down, I have met her once or twice.) Have you? (Q: When she lived in Witham though.) She lived in Witham in the Park (Q: Near the Park, yes, I went to see her there.) Then there was. (PH Did she work in King’s, she had some link with King’s apart from Harold Cook’s? Did she or not?) Doris. (PH: She mentioned something …). She worked in Cook’s [5 Newland Street]. (Q: Yes, this must have been earlier on.) Eventually married Harold Cook.
PH: What was King’s, other than the jeweller’s?
Mrs M: Sweet shop, toy shop. (PH: Right, she was talking about that, where was that?) (Q: Was King’s near Cook’s?) King’s was next to the alleyway [about 13 Newland Street]. There was a sweet shop, and then they had a second shop, Mrs Ryland had those in the end. And I had a flat over John Taber’s for six months. Just when I moved back to Witham, wasn’t it, 1950?
Q: So you moved away, did you?
Mrs M: Mm. I went and married very young and went and lived with my husband on a fruit farm at Woodham Walter. And then the land girls came, and one of them took him away, so they went off abroad and they never came back. So that was that. (Q: So you came back to Witham?) I went back to mother, yes, I’d got a little, how old had I got Stuart then? (PH: Ten, perhaps?). Eleven, yes, he must have been eleven, then he went abroad for a couple of years, he was called up of course. Then.
PH: Then you had to nurse either your mother or your father didn’t you?
Mrs M: I had a little shop, I had that shop down Maldon Road for five years as a hairdressers. What’s his name, Brewster, saddlemaker. (Q: Brewster the saddlemaker, yes.) It wasn’t in, the one I saw in your book or something wasn’t in Maldon Road, was it? (Q: Yes.) Was it. Well it was quite different when I had it, it was a little side door, not ..
Q: Mind they lived, they had two places the Brewsters, they had the shop on one side and they lived on the other, on the left going down.
Mrs M: Down to Maldon Road? (Q: Was yours on the left?) Yes. (Q: Oh that was probably their house then.) Oh I see. (Q: On the other side.) Oh did they, I didn’t remember that.
Q: Cause I talked at one time to Gladys Baker who was Gladys Brewster.
Mrs M: Gladys Brewster, yes I read that last night. (Q: She explained that to me.) Is she still alive (Q: No I don’t think she is now, no.) Who is alive that I would know? (Q: People keep asking me that, I shall have to keep a list.) There can’t be many. (Q: We were talking on the way down about Mrs De Trense.) Yes. The dentist’s, now who was she, wasn’t she a Miss Gaze (Q: That’s right, I think she was. [actually Bowhill, but related to the Gazes]. He kept the, he had the public, not the public house, picture house. (Q: Yes.)
Which was Whitehall. And he lived at Blue Mills, with about ten children. And then there was a Miss Gaze, I suppose his sister, she used to sit in the, dish out the tickets for the, you know, she was just a what do you call it, (PH: Kiosk) Kiosk. Yes. He was a great big man. Mrs Gaze was very nice, but all these daughters.
Q: Did you go to the Whitehall yourself much?
Mrs M: Sometimes. Not often. No. (PH: Did people like it, was it a big thing for Witham when it came?) I suppose so. Yes, we used to go. Then what after the cinema was it I wonder?
Q: It was empty for a while, and then it became the library. It’s the library now. So it was quite, going back to your hairdresser’s shop …
Mrs M: I gave it up to look after my mother and father, and they lived in Avenue Road then. [probably number 10] And of course they didn’t live very long.
Q: And had you done that sort of work before? (Mrs M: Me?) Or did you?
Mrs M: Oh I trained before I married as a hairdresser. Yes, just for a little while.
Q: Where did you go for that?
Mrs M: Bond Street. [laugh]
Q: Did you, oh, it’s the real thing there, isn’t it.
Mrs M: No I worked one or two places, and then of course I married. I ended, I worked in Braintree, Pat, Mr Derry[?] for a time, and then I went on the fruit farm with the dogs, we loved it, we had dogs there.
Q: So when you went to Bond Street did you live up there, or …
Mrs M: No, daily, we used to go, my father took me up one day, and he said ‘Now you can find your own way tomorrow’. Oh dear.
Q: That was quite an adventure though. (Mrs M: It was.) Had you been to London much before that?
Mrs M: No. Oh [???] had, I had been up once or twice with him with taking the crockery up there to be mended. He used to go to flower shows. (PH: Very keen on gardening.) He was ever so keen on gardening. And he used to push me, quickly, through the turnstiles, so he didn’t have to pay for me. Oh, I can remember that. Oh he was very keen. He had twenty years in his garden in Avenue Road, when he retired. He said if he hadn’t got any money by 60 he was going to retire. He had already built that house you see. (PH: And your aunt lived next door.) My aunt, they bought that land, and they had two houses built together. My mother’s sister. (PH: What did the plot cost?) Oh I’ve no idea, you weren’t told these things when you were young were you. You weren’t allowed to know anything. (PH: What did they cost to build?) Eight hundred pounds I believe, each. (Q: Quite a lot actually, wasn’t it.) (PH: Oh, that was a lot.) They were big houses and we had a big garden there, went right back to the Maldon line. Did you tell me the Catholic church is something now. (PH: Yes, they’ve built flats there.,) (Q: But the church is a house, isn’t it, the church itself is a house.) Is it, is Mrs Coleman still there? (Q: No.) What happened to her? (Q: There’s some flats behind the library). Is he alive Bill. (Q: I think he’s still alive, is he Patrick? Bill Coleman?) (PH: Yes.) (Q: She died a year or two ago.) There was Mrs Percy Brown, her mother, who lived in, oh she lived in Collingwood House. (Q: Did you know her?)
Mrs M: Yes. (PH: They had the brewery, didn’t they, at Hatfield Peverel?) Did they? (PH: Wasn’t that Brown’s?) (Q: I think it was that family, and a corn place.) (PH: And he was something in London, wasn’t he? Didn’t he have some shop in London?). Who? (PH: Brown?). I don’t know. (Q: They had quite a lot of businesses, yes.)
Q: So was Mrs, I think I’ve seen a picture of Mrs Percy Brown. (Mrs M: Very formidable.) A busy lady, I think, was she? (Mrs M: Oh yes.) Did you know her?
Mrs M: Not personally. No, I didn’t. (Q: So who were your …) There was Marjorie and her sister, I can’t think of her sister’s name. Do you know?
Q: No, I did know. I think she lived in Scotland or something. But she did tell me, it might come back to me. Cause there’s a picture of Marjorie in here when she was a little girl. [JG’s book of old photos]. (Mrs M: Is there?) Collecting for the Red Cross. (Mrs M: Marjorie Coleman, yes.) That’s the Witham one, isn’t it. So who were your friends mostly?
Mrs M: Richards. (Q: The Richards, yes.) Yes, because Joyce was fourteen, I was fifteen, and Kathleen was sixteen, they were just one step up. (Q: How did you entertain yourselves, then?) Well, they were very caught up in the Operatic. Mrs Richards was very Operatic minded, and so Kathleen used to sing, and they went into every … (Q: Did you?) No, only once. [laugh] (Q: Really, why?) Well, I moved away.
Q: Oh I see, yes.
Mrs M: I moved away. I had fifteen years in Woodham Walter. I know it wasn’t far but it was the wartime and we didn’t move around. (Q: So you were young when you went there, you said?) Twenty. (Q: Yes. Oh, that’s Marjorie.) Let me have a peep. It was her that told me it was her. (Q: Really. [???] Oh dear oh dear. I can’t believe we all looked the [???]. I mean the men look so old-fashioned don’t they. (Q: Yes. And everybody wore hats, didn’t they?) Yes. (Q: That makes a big difference to their appearance. On this side, this little girl in the waggon, that’s Margaret Mens, when she was a baby, and her mother.) I think she’s a bit older than I am. (Q: Possibly, yes.) She lived at the top of Avenue Road last. (Q: I think she was born in 1913.) Two years older. (Q: But she’s still …) She’s still [???]? (Q: Going strong, yes.) Is she? What did she do, now, I’ve forgotten. (Q: I think, did she do hairdressing at one time?) Did she? (Q: But I think she worked in Crittall’s office for a long time.) Ah, that’s more like it, yes. What else was I going to say. I was so delighted to read here about mother, you know. (In JG’s book of old photos, re fire at Constitutional Club, 1910, when Mrs Beard and new baby (Mrs M’s brother) were led out from next door, i.e. from 88], and you’ve got the pictures there, you’ve got the picture, where did you get that? (Q: Now that was an actual postcard, I think my husband bought it at a postcard fair or something like that. And I’ve forgotten who let me have the top one.) Because next door to us was Dibben’s the hairdresser’s, do you know [90 Newland Street] (Q: I’ve heard of Dibben’s, yes.) Yes, old Mr Dibben. (PH; [???] had the grandson, oh no, great nephew.) Oh no, this is nothing to do … (PH: Hairdresser now, almost in the same position.) (Q: Is that the same one?) (PH: Yes. Great nephew). [not sure where this is, not at number 90]. Mrs Dibben tried to teach me the piano, and I lived just across the way, you see. Dibben’s was there when it was rebuilt. (Q: Where the fire …) Yes. And the chapel was between us, the chapel grounds.
PH: Was the clock after the fire put across the road, on the, what was the Barclay’s building [61 Newland Street]? Was that the clock that used to be on there. (Mrs M: I don’t know.) (Q: I think it’s said to be, but I’m not quite sure how much of it, it looks very similar doesn’t it.) Well it is shown on [???]. (Q: Yes.)
Mrs M: Now that was our drawing room, up there. (Q: Really? On the left?) Yes. And that was my bedroom up there look, after, (Q: Right at the top?) I mean, when it was rebuilt. And I was born in that next window there. [photo M556, of 88 Newland Street]. Is that the train crash, yes it is, isn’t it, Pat.
Q: So it was quite a big, you had quite a big place to live above the shop?
Mrs M: Oh we did, we had ten rooms. (Q: Ten rooms!) And we used to have a live-in maid. (Q: Did you?) Because mother was always in the shop, and there had to be somebody in the house to put me to bed and that sort of thing. (PH: Cause of her father being deaf, you see.) (Q: Yes, yes.) And they used to keep open till eight o’clock at night. (Q: Really?) I can always remember trying … (PH: All day Saturday?) Yes. (PH: Oh.) Nellie, one of the maids we had, she’d take me up the road, you know, and she’d say ‘We’ll go and listen to the Salvation Army’. And then we used to have, they used to stand outside Clarke’s [70 Newland Street]. Or Menzies or wherever it is. And to get out we said we were going to listen to the Salvation Army. [laugh] I don’t know where we went, it was just to get out, I think, mother was busy in the shop.
PH: What staff did you have in the shop?
Mrs M: There was always a girl in the … Oh, Turner’s, Turner’s of Rivenhall, heard of them? (Q: No.) Now, aunt, my aunt at the grocer’s, at the draper’s [Mrs Hunwick], had Doris Turner, and we had Rosie, her sister, we had them as [???]. What’s the pub at the top of Rivenhall? [PH: Fox.] Fox. They lived right opposite there and it was quite a family of them, Turners, they were good. And I think Alfred Turner had the shop which is now a post office on the Rivenhall road, near the church, is there a shop there, Post Office, is it? (PH: Yes, there is, yes.) That was there brother.
PH: Which Motion was it that you …
Mrs M: Oh, in the bottom of our garden, we had a lovely big walled garden here, and, I always thought he was Captain Motion. (PH: Probably was.) (Q: That’s familiar, yes.) Or was it Colonel, I don’t know whether it was Colonel or Captain.
But I can remember her riding, coming out on her horse, going up the High Street, Mrs Motion. Cause that’s his son, isn’t it, that I went to a little while ago? (PH: Yes. And his grandson’s the poet.) Poet Laureate, yes, yes. I’ve cooked him many a breakfast. (Q: Did you?) When I went to look after, cause his wife had a dreadful accident, this one, the father of this boy, hunting [???], that was at, where was it, Langford Park, wasn’t it? (PH: Yes. Onto some concrete.) Yes, fresh frosty morning and her horse threw her onto them, she never walked again. Dreadful. We used to have here out on a Sunday for her lunch, from the hospital. I went to take over the family while father was in London and the boys were home on leave from college, only just a few weeks. But, I enjoyed that. (Q: This was, where were they then?) Out at Stisted. (Q: Stisted.) Yes. But he’s a lovely man, he’s a very nice man, ever so nice, you know, do. (PH: One boy was Andrew, what was the other, Richard or something? The father, very nice chap.) Very nice. He used to go to London every day and come back to the hospital before he came in at night to see her. But … (PH: She was there for years, wasn’t she?) I wonder what happened. Don’t know. (PH: That was the grandfather, you, who owned it in your day, the Lawn [i.e. Witham]) Oh yes, cause they had horses, and they would go up the street, I don’t, did they hunt, I don’t know whether it was just.
PH: Would the Brices have hunted as well?
Mrs M: No, I don’t think so. (PH: What was their place, off Avenue Road?) Brice. (PH: Was that Janmead?) Was it what? (PH: It’s where the cul-de-sac Janmead is now, isn’t it, where Brice lived, in Avenue Road, or am I wrong? Old man Brice. Arthur Brice.) At the end. (Q: On the corner. Is it near the corner?) At the end. Yes. I don’t know the name of it. Then they, where did they go to live after that? (PH: Well they had the farm, didn’t they, at …) Rivenhall? (PH: Yes.) Was that Rivenhall? (PH: Yes. Robert Brice had the farm near Braxted.) And then the three daughters. I remember Olive Brice married Esmond Smith, have you heard of him? (Q: Oh, I have indeed, yes.) Yes, she married him, and they lived in Avenue Road, there were two houses, there was a doctor lived up there, now who was he, which doctor lived up there. And I’m always wondering, I see a man’s name Rew, R E W, and they used to live in, there’s two houses aren’t there, biggish houses. (PH: A nursing home now.) Is it? Well, Rews, Rews used to live there and I’m wondering if it’s him, one of the boys. (Q: I don’t know him. Could be, couldn’t it?) I wonder, it’s an unusual name, isn’t it. R E W. I’m wondering, what is he, something, is he a councillor or something? (Q: Not in Witham, but …) Yes, in Witham. (Q: I’ll have to watch out for that. (PH: R E W) R E W, I think it was Paul, and I’m sure, when I had Stuart young, he used to play with him. If it was him. It could be that he came back, I don’t know.
PH: Then what about the Gimsons, you liked them.
Mrs M: Oh, I liked the Doctor Gimson, yes. Doctor Ted and Doctor Karl, two bachelors. (Q: Yes.) And Mrs Brandt was their sister. (Q: Yes.) You know that, yes. (Q: Well, I think there’s a picture of her [in JG’s book of old photos] (PH: The wedding photo.) (Q: The wedding, yes.) Did you know a Miss Maisey, who taught dancing?
Q: Now, Miss Mens talked about her.
Mrs M: Miss Maisey. (Q: Yes, did you go to, did you …?) No, I, I was too heavyweight for that. [laugh] No, she used to have dancing classes there. I’m just trying to think. Then there was the … Brandt’s house was next door to the surgery, wasn’t it … (PH: The Gables?) I don’t know. (Q: I think so, yes.) I don’t know the names, I’ve forgotten so much.
Q: So were you in any of these sort of pageant things?
Mrs M: No. No, only one I was in was that pageant of the, and Mrs Richards made all those wigs for us. (Q: Oh yes? Got that somewhere. Yes, so you were in that, you’ll have to, I’ll have another look at that before I go.) [Photos M546 and M 547] Yes, that’s the only one. Oh, dear oh dear. (Q: So do you remember doing that at all? Do you remember being in that?) No. Not really. I lived at, you know the Manse [2 Newland Street], that was where I married from, my father sold the business, and he bought that place, then he went to live in Avenue Road. (Q: Oh I see, he was there in between.)
There was just, I suppose about two years, in between. But the Manse, oh, did you hear about the Reverend Picton that lived there? (Q: Oh yes, with the hand, the hand grenade, yes. [killed 1916]) And I was the last one he held. My mother went there to tea that day, and he nursed me, I was one. And I’d just gone home, mother had taken home, and that happened. (Q: Oh dear.) Dreadful. Mrs Picton used to sit behind us in the chapel. (Q: Really?) (PH: He didn’t blow himself up just because [???]) Oh, go on with you. Can’t believe a word he says.
Q: So you went to visit, your family went to the chapel, did they?
Mrs M: Congregationalists, yes, yes.
Q: You went there as a girl as well, did you?
Mrs M: Yes, and I can always remember when there was a funeral, mother used to say ‘Go along the passage and close all the blinds’ while it went up. Respect then a day. (Q: Yes.) Course we used to peep. [laugh]
Q: You were very convenient. Were the family Congregationalists anyway, do you think? Before.
Mrs M: I should imagine so.
Q: Did you have to go there a lot on Sunday.
Mrs M: Well, yes, we used to go morning noon and night, from, I don’t know when [???] ceased, I suppose when they moved, I don’t know.
Q: I suppose they didn’t much, did they have much time, your parents, to do other things in the town, like work in the church and that sort of thing?
Mrs M: No they didn’t. No. Well, they supported the Congregational, but I just don’t remember. They were teenage days. I wasn’t old enough to take … (Q: You weren’t really told what they were up to, then?) Not told anything. And they never joined anything, cause they were busy with the, they were thirty years in that shop. (Q: Really?) Mm, and they built it up. Cause it was rebuilt. [after the 1910 fire] (Q: Quite, yes, it must have a tremendous …) And then my brother went into it, and he didn’t want, when Dad wanted to give up he wouldn’t take it on, the responsibility. (Q: Was that the brother who was a baby then [in 1910]) Yes.
Q: So there was just the two of you, was there?
Mrs M: Yes, he was eight years older than I was. And he went to work in Kelvedon, and builders’ merchants, but he died at fifty-eight. And he lived in the Avenue Road house. Never married. (Q: What was his name?) Arthur. (Q: It was Arthur. And was your father …?) George. (Q: George.) George Wilson [surname Beard]. (Q: George Wilson. Oh, that’s interesting.) It’s W I L S O N, he was always very particular about the Wilson. (Q: And you say all his family had hearing trouble?) Yes. It was a family of, it was some bone or something, it got worse and worse and worse. He could hear quite well young, and Aunt Lizzie, his sister, was deaf, but she was a placid, my dad was a nervy one with his deafness. (Q: Really?) And we got, was there anything else here, Pat, you got me out last night? (PH: Well, there’s the scrapbook.)
Q: I was wondering, Patrick thought you might, if I was careful, might not mind if I borrowed for a week or two the Witham ones.
Mrs M: Oh do, do. It’s the scrapbook that’s falling to pieces, I don’t know how that fell to pieces but you’re welcome to take it and have a look [newspaper cuttings]. But the man next door … (Q: You keep saying you haven’t got a good memory, but you seem to remember an awful lot. [laugh] I think you’re being too modest.) I don’t know. Now, I think that’s lovely of my mother. [photo M549] The man next door took that off that group. (Q: Oh really?) Next door. I think he’s done that … That was just before she married. And that’s here father, you see, and my brother, that’s his first grandchild, and that’s my dad [photo M548]. [PH: See, here she’s got Afford, they were the Brampton Hut, they had the, what was Menzies) They had the paper shop (PH: Isn’t it, where was that?) Paper shop, right on the corner of Guithavon Street [70 Newland Street] (Q: Yes, yes.)
PH: And you see, Sherwood, that one there is the Prested Hall lot. Who were Hurst, they owned Hurst, Hurst, Cooper Taber.
Mrs M: They were just tenants, you see, they, well he was the manager [mother’s father], that was his house.
Q: That sounds rather an alarming headline. ‘Witham’s sweep among fireguard delinquents’. I wonder what that’s all about. (Mrs M: I don’t know.) I think, oh people have failed to do their fire watch. [in scrapbook]
PH: You’ll find near the end, there’s the big fire of 1953.
Q: Is this your father’s scrapbook?
Mrs M: My father’s scrapbook.
PH: There’s the, that’s Cooper Taber. (Q: Oh yes, I’ve not seen that picture.)
Mrs M: That’s the top of Avenue Road. [fire in 1953]. My brother came home for dinner one day and he was sitting down and he said ‘That’s Cooper Taber’s gone up, and he ran up the road and had a look.
PH: Course they were always very worried, because … (Mrs M: It was wood, it was wooden building.) it was a wooden building. Very tall.
Q: Unusual picture of it, isn’t it? (Mrs M: Is it?) I think I’ve seen one of the front, but not from there, yes. I suppose …
PH: You see a lot of those are interesting cause you couldn’t, you’d have to look through fifty years of papers to find those. (Q: It’d take ages to pick them out, yes, he’s chosen the best ones, yes.) (Mrs M: I know.)
Q: But I suppose the fires were, the fire engines weren’t so powerful then, so if you had a fire … (Mrs M: Oh no, no.) But even now I think if a seed warehouse went up that would be it. (Mrs M: They had buckets.) (PH: A friend[?] of mine says that the water pressure was low. That was one of the problems. (Q: I see. And the shop[?] must have been even more difficult, mustn’t it.)
[chat about borrowing photos etc., not noted]
Q: And this one, yes I’ve found this one again, the one with you on. [Photos M546 and M547].
Mrs M: Yes, that’s the Carnival, that was the Carnival. I’m this end one. (Q: The one right on the right hand side?) Right on the end. Oh, and I’ll tell you who they are. That’s Monica Howes, the Reverend Howes lived in the Manse, he was Congregational minister, and that was one of his daughters, Monica. There was Joan Evers, oh who’s that now, oh, there’s Joyce. (PH: I’m giving it you from the left to the right.) (Q: Yes, I’ve got it, I hope I’m getting it the right way round. Monica …) Monica Howes. Now I wonder if that’s Betty, it must be Betty. (PH: What was her father, the minister?) Yes, he was the minister, he had quite a family the Howes. (Q: The Congregational minister?) Yes. But I cannot for the life of me, I think that’s Betty Claydon. (Q: I’ll put a query.) There’s Joan Evers. (PH: Where was she from?) Evers, they lived near the station in, what was the hotel, Temperance Hotel up there? [9 Albert Road]. The first house the Evers’s lived, I can’t … (Q: Near the Temperance, yes?) Next door. That’s Gladys Hardcastle, the Queen, the Queen was Gladys Hardcastle, and that’s Kathleen Richards. (Q: Make sure I’ve got the right ones. Oh that’s, I can recognise her now, yes.) Can you, and that’s Joyce, her sister, the front one, that’s the young one [???]. In the front. (Q: Joyce Richards, and Austin’s [Beardwell] the little lad. And then that’s Kath) And that’s me, Ena Beard. That’s kept well, hasn’t it. (Q: About how old were you then I wonder.) Oh, fifteen? We were all girls at school then. (Q: I haven’t got that one down. Next to Kath.) Gladys Hardcastle, the one sitting down is the Queen, Gladys Hardcastle. Yes, I think that her father was something to do with British Oxygen, I’m not sure. (PH: Were they in Witham? Someone else mentioned British Oxygen.) I did, I think. (PH: Why, are they on the estate, whereabouts …?) No that was up near Crittall’s at one time. (Q: Yes, it was. Who’s this …?) That, I don’t know which one was the Beardwell, the boy, there’s two boys on there. (Q: See, you remembered all those names!) I can’t put them together though.
Q: We were trying to remember people, talking about people that you might remember, I’ve been in touch with Peggy (Mrs M: Butcher?) Butcher that was, she’s in Eastbourne, so I’ll have to, do you remember her at all? (Mrs M: Slightly, she was a bit younger I think.) Probably, yes. (Mrs M: And I can’t trace Mr Butcher, the photographer.) I think he did, he did apparently a lot of sort of commercial, he wasn’t that so much [???]. Farm animals was his big thing apparently. (Mrs M: Was it?) He did a few local things but not all that much.
Mrs M: Have you heard of Mr Crisp down at Valley House, he was a dentist. (Q: I don’t think so, no.) Valley House, is it. (Q: I know where Valley House is.) Down the bottom, there. Mr Crisp. (Q: Guithavon Valley).
PH: What was Anne Cullen’s first husband, what was he called? (Mrs M: Oh dear.) She’s the one in the Archers (Q: That’s right, yes.) I don’t know it, I don’t know what the name was. [???] (Q: No, I think …)
Mrs M: Anne Cullen, she was Anne Cullen’s daughter [actually Violet’s daughter] I don’t know. I don’t know what her husband did. But Anne, Mrs Cullen [Violet] lived at Langford, Langford (PH: The Elms.) Elms. (PH: Opposite Doe’s, Ulting.) He knows. (Q: He’s got all these places tied up hasn’t he.) He gets around.
Q: So Mr Crisp that you were telling me about, what was he, he was a dentist you say?
Mrs M: Yes, he was a dentist, down at, I remember going there once, and there was a Michael Crisp, I used to go and look after his little boy, Michael Crisp, that’s right. (Q: Just as a sort of baby-sitting?) That’s all, sort of thing, yes. I can’t think what, can’t think what Mrs Crisp was like. Oh dear.
Q: So do you think you enjoyed your girlhood in Witham?
Mrs M: Well, (Q: Or didn’t you think about it?) we were always working. No, you see my parents were working always, I don’t think you have the same sort of home life, you, they come in tired and you watch them cash up and do that sort of thing. (PH: Being open till eight at night.) Yes. (PH: I didn’t know that.) Yes. (PH: Including Saturdays.) (Q: I think probably especially Saturday, was a late night.) Saturday was a late night, six I think the other night was. Then we had an old man who used to drive the van round the country in the villages, with paraffin and all the washing powders and things, whatever they were, soda they were [???] (PH: Deliveries? Would you deliver?) I don’t know. They used to go out to Wickham Bishops, Terling and all those villages, outlying villages, I don’t think they came down here as far as this [Tillingham]. (Q: Did you ever help yourself? Did you ever help in the shop?) No. I was under, I was still going to, I was still going to school, what did I do for mother, had I left, yes, we went up to the Manse, see I left at sixteen, and I was married at twenty, it was just four years. (Q: So the shop closed when you were sixteen?) Yes. (Q: Sorry, you were starting to tell me about the man who did deliveries and I interrupted you.) Mr Rudkin. Mr Rudkin, he was a nice old boy, and I used to go sometimes on the van with him, round the country. (Q: Oh did you, oh lovely.) You wouldn’t send a child with a man now, would you, sort of thing. I mean you trusted everybody. No I don’t remember. Course it was all paraffin oil, paraffin and stuff.
PH: Did the big houses never pay, you know they had accounts?
Mrs M: Oh yes, there was accounts, Dad did all that.
PH: What, they’d never come in and pay?
Mrs M: I don’t know. I never served in the shop. I was in the back, you see, in the house.
Q: So what did you do with yourself while they were working?
Mrs M: I don’t know [laugh] (Q: You can’t remember, no, you probably, course these days you’d be sitting watching television I expect.) (PH: You nipped up the road with the maid.) (Q: Went to the Salvation Army.) (PH: Said she was going there.) That was the maid wanted to get out. (Q: So it was the maid’s idea to go out, was it?) Well, I suppose so. (Q: You were a good girl, were you?) Oh, I don’t know, I’m sure. There was a shop, Marshall’s wasn’t it, on the square. That was a cycle shop. (Q: Radios and things?) Yes, that’s right. And, there was Backlers, wasn’t it Backler, the outfitter, between Marshall’s and the end? (Q: There was a Bradshaw.) Bradshaw, that’s right, but it was Backler I think after. (Q: Maybe, yes.) Yes.
Q: Did you ever get sent out to do the shopping or anything?
Mrs M: Oh yes, I used to, I remember Ethel Kellick, did you hear of the Kellicks? (Q: Yes.) And she always used to envy me, cause my mother used to send me up to Francis’s, she was serving in a grocer’s shop, and she said ‘I always thought you were so lucky, you could choose what biscuits you liked’.[laugh] Probably she wasn’t allowed to. Yes, the Kellicks were a good family, they lived down Maldon Road, in that little shop which was Shelley’s once, next to where I had my hairdressers. Reggie Brown, did you know him, he lived in the Ave, in the Park, didn’t he, Reg Brown. Who did he work for, Richardson and Preece, I think. He was in the office for Richardson and Preece.
PH: Not the bungalows that the Cooks …
Mrs M: No, there’s another one up there I believe [Gueth Cottage] (Q: There is, yes.) Is there? (Q: There are two I think, yes.) Oh, Mrs Reggie Brown was always very nice and chatty.
Q: So if you were sent to do the shopping, you weren’t completely idle then?
Mrs M: Oh no, no, I had to do the shopping.
Q: What shops did you go to mostly then, for food?
Mrs M: I don’t know, Home and Colonial had just started in Witham then, who else was there. Francis was near, who have I said, Marshall’s, that was a little old fashioned grocer’s, right through, and they used to have biscuits in boxes in the front, you know, you could choose which you want, no packets. (PH: Oh, you bought them loose?) Oh yes. (PH: By weight.) Yes. And sugar was weighed up. Do you remember, oh you wouldn’t remember, Mr Mondy, Mondy’s opposite, they were our opponents as it were in business, you know. [63 Newland Street]. (Q: Of course, yes.)
PH: What was it you sold by weight, you sold nails, or tin tacks?
Mrs M: Oh yes. Because, that was one thing Dad said, when, oh Woolworth’s started to open, and he wasn’t, they weren’t going to be in business, cause everything would be in packets, mother used to, we used to make little funnels for putting nails in you know, two pennyworth of nails. Of newspaper.
PH: Did you think Woolworth’s would knock you out?
Mrs M: Dad said he wouldn’t go on after Woolworth’s came. Then he sold it …
PH: Then they got someone in to run it? Or was that earlier?
Mrs M: Earlier. No, he tried to retire to Clacton for two years, and he put a manager in.
Mrs M: Now who’s face was that? Next to the Spread Eagle. Don’t know. Those bay windows. That’s all built up on the right there. (PH: Kemsley’s. Kemsley’s the estate agents, Kemsley, Whiteley and Ferris.) [53 Newland Street]
Q: Was it part of the … (PH: The tall building, the Georgian one.)
Mrs M: Is it? I’m trying to think who lived there as a house, somebody lived there.
Q: So why did you say Sammy Page was a scream then? [second hand dealer]
Mrs M: Oh, well he used to push a van up, you know, a trolley up the road, and, it was all second hand stuff, his place [56 Newland Street?]. He had two daughters, Bessie and, yes, and then the Post Office was, we looked out on the dining room, right onto a big brick wall of the Post Office. (PH: Which became Hunwicks, or not?) No. Post Office was a huge wall. (PH: Nothing till Medina Villas?) No. (PH: What did the Post Office become, what’s that now? What was the gas showroom or …?) Oh, Coopers [84 Newland Street]. (PH: Yes, well that’s Medina Villas, isn’t it).
Q: Oh yes, so that was the Post Office when you were there?
Mrs M: That was where my aunt had her drapers’ shop. (Q: Oh I see.) And you went up steps to the millinery department, and she’d got three storeys there. Was all stairs and steps.
Q: That’s where Mellon’s is now, you say [80 Newland Street]. And she was your (Mrs M: Aunt) father’s? (Mrs M: No, mother’s sister, and they had a place …) Oh, she’s the one, yes. (Mrs M: Mildred.) [Hunwick] I can’t even remember half an hour you see …
Mrs M: There was a Mr Miles had that shop, and one day he disappeared, and my mother got to hear about it, and my aunt wasn’t doing very much at Wickham Bishops, they were scrapping a living with one cow, one horse, you know, and she put her in, they got that for her, and she made a bomb, and nine years she retired. He walked out and left everything. Nobody knew. I mean I was too young to be told about it but I think he just, disappeared.
PH: What did she do, ribbons, and cottons?
Mrs M: Oh, everything. Household linen. Materials. And upstairs was where the hats were.
PH: Was there no competition, I mean why did she do so well?
Mrs M: I don’t know, she had two or three assistants. Paid them very little of course, but, that was Doris Turner who helped her all those years. (PH: Rivenhall.) And then of course, I suppose Mum and Dad had retired, and she let her house and so did Dad, but Dad let it to a doctor of Bridge Hospital, I think it was Dr Fitz somebody.
PH: Who was that girl that was to do with Durwards Hall, that you said …?
Mrs M: Oh, Stella Wells, wasn’t it?
PH: Down on the buses[?].
Mrs M: Oh, she was a lovely looking girl, she was, I can’t remember, what was the mother …?
PH: I think they owned Durwards Hall, you know which was Ratcliff’s [at Rivenhall] (Q: I know, yes.)
Mrs M: I can’t think what they were.
PH: To do with military? Colonel or something like that?
Q: So your aunt was Mrs Hunwick. (Mrs M: Yes.) She would have been a Newby?
Mrs M: She would have been a Newby, yes.
Q: You probably told me her first name …
Mrs M: Mildred. And Dorothy was the younger one. (Q: I’m sure I’ve heard people talking about Hunwick’s and how nice it was). Who? (Q: I’ve heard people, I’m sure, but I can’t remember who they were at the moment.) No no. Oh.
PH: In that scrapbook you’ll find the adverts for selling the business. Yes, they’re in there. Father cut them out when it was put up for sale. (Mrs M: Oh he would.) Five hundred pounds. (Mrs M: How much?) Five hundred pounds for the lease, I think, I’m not sure. It’s all in there.
Q: So the business flair must have been (Mrs M: In the family.) in both sides of the family, mustn’t it, for her just to start up just like that and do so well.
Mrs M: I think mother was the head. Mother had the business head, and it just grew, you know.
PH: The farm they had was in Mope Lane [Wickham Bishops).
Mrs M: Mope Lane, where the Osbornes had … (Q: I know, yes.) It was a big [or pig?] farm.
Q: That was, who’d be …?
Mrs M: My aunt and uncle had it. They struggled, and they couldn’t make it pay, and mother sort of put them onto this business. He didn’t do anything, he used to stand on the shop [???] street corner with his two little dogs, smoking his pipe.
Q: And the women got on with it.
Mrs M: That’s right, yes.
Q: It sounds as if your father was quite a busy chap though?
Mrs M: My father? Oh yes. He did all the books, and he did all the garden, and, we had two gardens then, we had the Post Office garden at the back. And that was where we joined the Motions’ wall. [The M’s had the Lawn] (Q: Yes, of course, yes.) We had a lovely walled garden, which I think (PH: Almost in that picture, cause you can see the Guithavon Street houses in that picture, can’t you.) (Q: Along the front there.) Oh, I hadn’t noticed that.
Q: And I think there’s another one of it which is a bit bigger from the side, which has got a bit of an extra piece on. That’s the picture of the Lawn, but that’s Guithavon Street. (PH: Looking through to the house in Guithavon Street.) [probably JG’s photo M516]
Mrs M: What is that house then?
PH: It’s the accountant’s one [19 Guithavon Street] where your friend lived, the Colchester lady, didn’t she?
Mrs M: Goddard[?]. (PH: Yes, didn’t they live in the accountants’ house on Guithavon Street? I thought you said it was awful to live in.) Now what did they call that. Opposite All Saints Church.
Q: Colne House?
Mrs M: Colne, yes, opposite All Saints Church.
Q: Well that’s a bit of it at the back of that picture there, in the trees. (Mrs M: This is?) No, here. You can’t see it very well, but in the trees there. I think that’s right, isn’t it Patrick? But it’s a bit murky.
PH: I think I’ve seen it better, oh I thought I’d seen it better somewhere else. Yes, that’s what I guess it is, where Peter[?] lived. Yes, that Colne House was a very inconvenient house to live in.
Q: Oh really? I believe it was built as a Savings Bank.[???] By the Church people, you see there’s a cross in it isn’t there. Penny Saving Bank.
Mrs M: Who did he work for? The husband died suddenly.
PH: Yes, the Colchester accountants.
Q: There was Bland …
Mrs M: Bland Fielden, that’s right. Is that mine? [JG’s book ‘Images of England, Witham’] (Q: Yes it is, you can have another browse at that.) Oh that’s the other book, that one, oh yes.
Q: Oh that’s right, yes, that’s got different ones in, that’s good too.
Mrs M: Yes, quite different.
Q: Yes, I was told to try and get different pictures when I did this. (Mrs M: Really, have you got a few?) I mean different from all the other books. I’m getting more now of course, cause people are reading it and saying ‘Oh I should have given you that one.’ Like you are.
Mrs M: That’s my mother’s mother, that one.
Q: Really? Oh goodness. Fancy that.
Mrs M: She was a dear old lady.
Q: Did you know your grandparents at all?
Mrs M: Only slightly. I remember her going to Mrs Hunwick’s and she died there, and I can just remember seeing her in bed, I don’t, no, I didn’t know a lot.
PH: Was that at Feering Lodge?
Mrs M: No, in High Street, Witham. Grandma had come to live with Mildred.
PH: What was that about the Sherwoods, that everything had to be white, a white pony and a white cat?
Mrs M: No, that was my aunt, that was Dorothy, they spoilt her, she had everything white, a white pony, white turkeys, white things. (Q: Really? How peculiar.) Yes, she had a great, I don’t know what she did. Oh she married Jim Parish, that was First World War when she married him, cause her son is, how long ago did he die, three years ago?
PH: They had that farm at Earls Colne.
Mrs M: Yes, she was mad on animals. That’s right.
Q: So you’re a bit of a country girl as well as a town girl, aren’t you, by the sound of it?
Mrs M: Yes, rather.
PH: She like Woodham Walter. Nice there.
Q: I suppose the gardening as well, I mean I remember when I came to Witham, all our neighbours seemed to know how to garden instinctively, didn’t they. (Mrs M: Oh yes, yes.. Where did you come from actually?) Well I was brought up in Cumberland, but we were living in, I was living in London before I came to Witham. (Mrs M: Oh I see.) Then my husband’s mother was born in Braintree, but it was a bit of a coincidence really coming back, she was Roper.
Mrs M: What, would she have gone to Braintree High School?
Q: I think she left before, and went to Ipswich, before she went to school, so she wasn’t there for long [actually she did go to Manor Street School]. They were mostly Ipswich people.
Mrs M: Yes, we went to Braintree High School, and in, was it a strike on then? Cause we had to go on Crittall’s lorries with planks on. (Q: Really?) Mm, cause we …
PH: Oh well I suppose it could have been the General Strike
Q: The General Strike, 1926, would that be about right? (PH: She’d be eleven.)
Mrs M: Was it the railway strike then? We used to go on the train to school, you see. And the girls had to be on the end carriage and the boys had to be the front carriage.
Mrs M: It was a mixed school, Braintree High.
Q: So who enforced that, then.
Mrs M: I don’t know.
Q: You just did.
Mrs M: It was the school, I suppose.
Q: You were mixed classes, though, were they?
Mrs M: Oh yes, half and half.
Q: So you did see the boys a bit.
Mrs M: Oh yes. Half and half.
Q: What about the playing area? Cause I think in Witham, the National School had a separate playground for the girls for a long time.
Mrs M: Oh did they? Oh.
Q: So with this going to Crittall’s, on the Crittall’s buses?
Mrs M: They were open lorries and they put planks across for us to sit on. I remember that. I must have been just about eleven. Twelve perhaps. And I can remember going along where Cressing, lake, there was a pond, and we were always afraid we were going to go into that pond, opposite the … (PH: Opposite Cressing Temple). That’s right. (PH: It’s still there.) Is it? Dangerous corner, isn’t it.
Q: A lot of accidents there. That was an adventure for you, wasn’t it?
Mrs M: It was, quite nice, I don’t think it was on for long.
Q: No, it wasn’t, no. Amazing that you’ve remembered it, then, cause it was probably just a few days.
Mrs M: I can just remember going on the lorry, but I don’t remember going and alighting, as it were, you just know, don’t you.
Q: So I suppose most of the other people from that little school went there as well, did they?
Mrs M: I don’t know where they went to. Because it wasn’t, you didn’t, my father said to me, where did you want to go, do you want to go to Chelmsford or Colchester or Braintree. And I chose Braintree. We all had to pay then. Didn’t have any winning scholarships or anything. I think it was three guineas a term, something like that.
Q: And you chose Braintree?
Mrs M: Yes. Mixed school. Cause Kath and Joyce [Richards] went there. (Q: Already.) Yes, Kath was there.
Q: I think a lot of local people still remember those days of going to Braintree High School.
Mrs M: Do they? There was Mr Weaver when I first went there, and then there was Mr Dell, headmaster. Mr Weaver was a lovely old boy. I’ve got a picture of them at school somewhere. Wherever would that have been. May have left it back home. The whole staff. We bought a picture of the staff.
Q: So you, you sound as if you enjoyed it?
Mrs M: Didn’t like school.
Q: You didn’t like school? Oh, because you were smiling [???].
Mrs M: We had a headmistress, Miss Wilson.
Q: What didn’t you like about it?
Mrs M: I don’t know now. [laugh] I wasn’t very, you know, sort of, I forget what form I was in, even.
Q: Do you remember which subjects you liked, were there any bit of it you liked at all?
Mrs M: Not a lot.
Mrs M: No, didn’t like sport, we had hockey. (PH: Oh, they did hockey?) Oh yes, we did hockey.
Q: Oh, so you were quite glad to leave?
Mrs M: Oh, very.
Q: Did you leave as soon as you were allowed.
Mrs M: Yes. I think I got about, a few weeks off, because I was going to have shorthand and typewriting lessons. That was an excuse.
PH: She was going off to Bond Street, wasn’t she?
Q: So the shorthand, were they in London?
Mrs M: No.
Q: That was a local …?
Mrs M: That was when I used to go up to Tower Avenue, what did she teach me? (PH: Oh yes, Chelmsford?) Miss Cottee in Duke Street, do you remember her, she had a typing school, I think. She was the one who tried to teach me shorthand.
Q: How did you get on with that then ?
Mrs M: Don’t know now. Oh I know, didn’t do …
Q: I wonder whose idea that was, that you should go there?
Mrs M: No idea, mother’s I expect.
Q: Good for you I expect?
Mrs M: I should think so.
PH: Then you did the hairdressing that you wanted to do.
Q: I see, I was going to say, was that your choice?
Mrs M: Yes.
Q: Oh good, so you did get what you wanted in the end. That must have been quite an adventure …
Mrs M: Going to London every day, oh yes.
Q: Not many people did that, did they?
Mrs M: No. I suppose not. It was only, a short course, I forget how many …
Q: At least you got what you wanted in the end. Cause a lot of people don’t like school, do they, or their jobs, so … When you had the business, did you have many people working for you?
Mrs M: There was always one on mother’s side, on the glass and china side, and my brother ran the other side. [Parents’ business]
Q: Oh did he, yes.
PH: Hardware, the nails …
Mrs M: Yes, I’m just trying to think who we had, we had a boy, delivering boy, and then there was the van. Several. I can always remember the maids we had, living in. We used to sleep up in the two top rooms of that shop. On the front of our building there was a balcony. Is it still there?
PH: I think so. Very narrow.
Mrs M: My dad would sit up there, and count ,,, He used to sit, there was a drawing room there at the end, and sit out there, and he would count so many, mark a paper, of cars, motor-bikes and something else, in the hour, how many went. Cause there was a terrible lot of traffic across there you know at one time.
PH: No by-pass then.
Mrs M: Yes, it was one stream of going to the coast, and he used to put cross for a car, and nought for a motor-bike, in the hour.
PH: Harold Cook with their business [butcher, 5 Newland Street] they used to have people going through to the coast at Frinton, who would come and have orders for a pork pie and sausages[?] and it would all he pre-arranged, and a car would come on the way through from London.
Q: Cause I remember Doris [Cook] talking about that and they called it the hamper trade.
Mrs M: Oh really? He was friendly with my dad, he used to take my dad out, Harold Cook.
Q: Did he?
Mrs M: When they used to go and buy pigs, and they used to slaughter them themselves, and he was, he loved the garden too.
Q: Cause he had a lot of land, didn’t he, out the back.
Mrs M: Yes. He used to take him out on Wednesday afternoons for a ride, when he went to the farm and bought the pigs. And in the War, Harold was very good to mother, he’d save her a bit of liver, and something under the counter. That’s right.
Q: So he did have time to make a few friends as well as working?
Mrs M: Yes, oh yes. Mr and Mrs Bull[?] were mother’s friends, and they used to play bridge once a week, and Dad had a billiard table and Mr Bull would come down one night and he’d go up there one night, play billards. Oh yes.
Q: So he had his own billiard table in the shop?
Mrs M: They used to leave it in the passage and they had to lift it on the dining room table, a small one, it wasn’t a very small one, but they had to lift it … (PH: That’s right, they did, used to, put a green baize thing or something on the …) No it was baize. (PH: Yes, but on the table.) On the table, oh yes. That’s going back, isn’t it.
PH: She was worried she wouldn’t remember anything.
Q: Yes, I think you’re terrific aren’t you …
PH: She’s remembered a couple of things, haven’t you?
Q: Just a few, yes [laugh]. So when you had the hairdressers, did you have a lot of people working for you?
Mrs M: No, only one girl. One girl. And she lived in the bungalow, back entrance to the Spread Eagle, was it, back entrance, there was a little cottage at the back of that big house, and that was the girl that came and worked for me, now, whatever was her name? And then mother was ill, I couldn’t carry on.
PH: But even when you were at Woodham Walter you’d come back, hadn’t you, bringing Arthur Ratcliff to Witham market.
Mrs M: When he hurt his elbow, yes.
PH: What day was Witham market?
Mrs M: Tuesday.
PH: She’d drive him, when he couldn’t drive, from Woodham Walter, and then she’d go and see her parents.
Mrs M: Go and see mother, and then pick it up at, sort of afternoon.
PH: And it was quite a long way, you know. (Q: It is, isn’t it, yes.) You’d have to walk or cycle or …
Q: So when did you learn to drive, then?
Mrs M: Oh, when I was seventeen. I never had a lesson. (Q: No?) No lessons then. (Q: What did you do?) They said take it out and bring it back without a dent in it. [laugh].
Q: What, this was your parents?
Mrs M: My husband I suppose, I don’t know. No, but there was nothing on the roads then.
Q: So you didn’t have to have a test?
Mrs M: I learnt, yes, I had a licence before they came in. I’ve still got it, I think. (PH: Found it recently didn’t you?) I think I’ve still got it somewhere.
Q: So you were quite an independent soul, weren’t you?
Mrs M: I was, I’m not now.
Q: Girls wouldn’t … Oh I don’t know, you seem to be …
PH: She needs help with her shopping now.
Q: I was meaning more your mind, is independent, if you wanted to do something yourself, you …
Mrs M: Well, I wish I could move a bit better. I can’t move, that’s the trouble.
Q: Cause, I mean, not many women would drive then, would they?
Mrs M: No, no. Oh I loved, I wanted to drive all right.
Q: Did your parents have a vehicle, a car in the end?
Mrs M: Oh yes, we had a Citroen, clover leaf Citroen. Two seats in the front and one at the back, and each side of that back seat were lockers. That made the clover leaf or something, they called it.
Q: I see, that was the pattern.
Mrs M: That’s right, and Dad drove that, even for a little while, before he gave up.
PH: Did he have a car when, I suppose he had a car when you lived at Clacton?
Mrs M: No.
PH: Oh. Only when he came back to Witham.
Mrs M: I don’t know when we had, and he had a motor cycle and a basket side-car for mother. Basket.
Mrs M: Yes. Oh, she was game to get on the back of it and all sorts of things. I think he was the first one in Witham to have this side-car, basket side-car.
Q: Really? Yes.
PH: It was very unusual. So they had that for years before they had a car?
Mrs M: I suppose so. My brother was a baby then, I wasn’t there.
PH: Was the Citroen the first car?
Mrs M: Yes. I don’t think we had it long.
Q: So that was more or less when he retired, the Citroen?
Mrs M: No, I don’t think so. I don’t remember going in it much.
PH: I think he had that Citroen when he bought that place out in the country at Hatfield Peverel.
Mrs M: Oh yes, Hatfield Peverel.
PH: I think it was in that photo.
Mrs M: Was it?
Mrs M: 2144, I remember the number. TW 2144. That’s about all. But I wasn’t ever old enough to drive it, you see. Oh well, well.
Q: So your brother was quite a bit older, so …
Mrs M: My brother was eight years older.
Q: So did he stay in the business [???]
Mrs M: He wouldn’t take the responsibility.
Q: So he wouldn’t take it on on his own.
Mrs M: No, didn’t want it. He would rather have worked for somebody.
PH: He was probably right.
Mrs M: He worked for Mr, what was his name, Parvin. He was a hardware …
PH: Kelvedon High Street.
Mrs M: Is it Parvin’s still.
PH: No, it’s closed now. They’ve all gone, they’ve all gone.
Mrs M: All gone, all gone.
PH: Even gone from 1960 …
Q: Well everybody goes off, shopping’s changed such a lot, hasn’t it. Everybody goes off to the bigger places now.
Mrs M: Course they do.
Q: And the chain stores and so on. So the ones that have survived have done very well. I mean Mondy’s, I suppose Mondy’s is …
Mrs M: That’s Hasler and Hance.
Q: But they still call it Mondy’s, and it’s still a very handy shop, isn’t it?
Mrs M: Is it?
Q: And doing quite well, I would have thought, really.
PH: Albert [Poulter] won’t go in there, he says they over-charge. [laugh] It’s a penny cheaper, we had to do a diversion to Maldon, because he could get something cheaper …
Mrs M: A mousetrap, wasn’t it?
Q: Well if he could get to Maldon for nothing, that’s true, but … If you could get to Maldon for nothing it would be cheaper.
PH: Well he did! [laugh] But he’s so polite, the way he said, ‘Would it be easier to do a slight diversion?’ I don’t know that it was really a penny, he just said ‘I will not pay their prices’. But of course it’s new people running it now. It isn’t Hasler and Hance.
Q: But they’ve still got quite a good choice of things really. And very helpful with advice as well, for people like me who don’t know how things work, and tell me what to do with them. So that’s a great boon really.
PH: Oh yes.
Mrs M: Look at that grey cloud. Oh, it doesn’t stay fine long. There was a sunrise the other morning, did you see it, did you see it, or sunset or something. It was absolutely brilliant, never seen it like that.
Q: Oh, you’ll be getting tired, we’d better push off and leave you in peace perhaps soon. You’ll be getting tired, are you? Had we better go and leave you in peace?
Mrs M: Oh no no, I didn’t want the fire to go out, that was all.
Q: Well, perhaps we could sort out, if you don’t mind which …
Mrs M: Take what you like, and you can give them to Patrick, he’ll bring them back.
[chat about photos etc., not noted]
Mrs M: Now these two ladies, we had photograph, (soldiers of the war), those two kept a shop opposite our shop. That was Miss Powell and Miss Caldwell. And he next door took a photograph of them for her.
Q: I think I’ve heard of them, yes.
Mrs M: Did Albert want these, yes he’s writing about these two.
Q: Oh good, so he’s, has he taken, has he borrowed …
Mrs M: He’s go the pictures, no I gave them to him. I had them done and I gave them to him. So he doesn’t … But I’ve got… but she …
Q: What sort of a shop was there then?
Mrs M: That was a wool shop, toy shop, and my, I used to go over there and get mother’s library books. I remember a line of books for, say that was their library or something.
[more chat about photos, not noted]
Mrs M: Albert [Poulter]’s amazing. I think I can remember him, pushing the trolley, he had a cart, with big wheels, two big wheels, and ladders on, and he used to clean windows, when I was young.
PH: When he came, she said, ‘Well I know you’re a big family, but the only one I can remember is the one who was window-cleaning, who did that?’, and Albert said ‘That was me.’
Mrs M: He said it was him, yes.
PH: I think she was about eight then.
Mrs M: Yes. I can remember seeing this, course we were in the shop then, I suppose, perhaps he cleaned the shop windows, I don’t know.
Q: Yes, cause he must be what, about ten years older than you perhaps, is he?
Mrs M: Who, Albert? He’s 91, 92 now.
Q: His brother’s older, he’s got a brother that’s older, Charlie.
Mrs M: 97. Is he better, he was ill?
Q: Apparently he’s home now, but I don’t know whether that means he’s better or what …, Charlie. Anyway I think we should leave you to have a rest, and feed your cat.
Mrs M: Oh it’s all right. Irene Springett, I went to school with, do you know her? She lives up in Homefield Cottages or some. Her father was a postman. She never married, Irene. So she must be my age.
PH: Albert knows her.
Mrs M: Albert knows her, yes.
Q: After all, there were Springetts in your house, Patrick [6 Powershall End, Witham], I remember for a while calling to see Douglas.
PH: I bought it from his nephew. And they’d lived there a long time, I think to do with the farm originally [Spring Lodge] and then they bought it. They were a pair of farm cottages. So that’s, I think the only time it’s changed hands, almost, I can remember.
Mrs M: Then there were the Everetts in Spring Lodge, milk people, we had our milk from. And there was Mr Newman in …
PH: Mrs Dove’s [Marlborough, Powershall End].
Q: So did you go up to Chipping Hill much?
Mrs M: No. No.
PH: What’s this Edgar Sainty having a loudspeaker van as a wireless doctor? [picture out of JG’s ‘Images of England, Witham’]
Mrs M: Well he was a wireless man.
PH: I know but why would he …
Mrs M: I don’t know.
Q: I think he must have gone round to shows or something as well, and let them use his van, as he knew what to do. He was a very interesting man. He died last year? Lived in Maldon Road.
Mrs M: Sainty. I can’t place him at all. There was one Sainty lived down the bottom of Albert Road.
PH: That’s it, this one.
Mrs M: Is it?
PH: At his home in Albert Road, about 1935. Edgar Sainty.
Mrs M: I can just remember where he lived. Edgar was it.
PH: But there were Saintys had a shop somewhere. Was that in Braintree Road somewhere?
Mrs M: I don’t know. There was Hasler, in the shop in Braintree Road, wasn’t it. He was a grocer.
[chat about photos in ‘Images of England’, not noted]