Mrs Hawkes was born in about 1897, and was interviewed on 4 July 1977, when she lived at 30 Powershall End, Witham.
She also appears on tape 17.
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.]
Q: From something you said your mother knew Mrs Richards when you were young?
Mrs H: Oh indeed, before I was born [Q: Really?] so I knew my first husband all my life and he didn’t er, Mr Harry Richards didn’t marry until he was fifty. In those days, well his mother had the business you see and she lost her husband and he stayed at home with his mother and running the business of course. And then that Charles, Kathleen’s father, was that much younger and he also was in the business, the two of them. And before them there was the father and the grandfather Richards, always in the building trade. So that’s a very long standing business that was. I was ever so sorry it had to, you know, fade out because you see neither, I never had any children and Kathleen’s father never had a son. I thought that was a great pity. But then if you do they might not have wanted the business. You often find that don’t you ?
Q: So what was, because I have read the name at times, as you said it was your husband’s father – what was his Christian name ?
Mrs H: I think he was a William Richards. I think so. [???] I can make sure. [Mrs H shows photos/papers ?] Something my late husband did. (Q: [reading] Sixtieth anniversary [???] church choir. Oh, those are the trees that are there now are they.) Yes, they’re the trees that are, they’re so lovely in the spring.[???] (Q: [reading] His father became a chorister in 1870). That might be interesting for you to read, if you can read it, that’s very old. (Q: [reading] Winchester. Witham Close, that’s interesting,. I wonder if he called it Witham Close – the address is Witham Close, Winchester.) Oh, yes that where John Bramston [vicar] went to from here. He was at Witham at one time.
Q: [Reads:] – ‘ I have known William Richards from his childhood and always greatly respected him though I have for some years lived at a distance from him I have always been glad of coming to Witham to renew my acquaintance with him. I believe him to be an intelligent, trustworthy and industrious young man. Does his duty conscientiously whatever that duty may be. 1885 John Bramston.’ Isn’t that lovely.
Mrs H: Interesting, isn’t it. I did think I’d show it to the vicar sometime.
Q: There is a diary in Chelmsford in the archives of Mrs Bramston, the first Mrs Bramston, you know, she only lived about four years after they came to Witham. And then I think he married again later. So most of the diary is about the place they were before. I keep meaning to look at that and see what it says about Witham. And there’s some drawings that she did as well. It’s nice to have something that … because he was here quite a long while.
Mrs H: He was in the parish before Canon Ingles time. [???] That’s very interesting really and, of course, in those days when my husband was a young man, that would be before I was born ‘cause I was twenty years younger than he was. We married when he was fifty and I was nearly thirty. And before that I can remember quite well, ‘cause they never had motor lorries, they had a horse up at Church Street and the buildings are still there now. They’re about to be converted into something else, and there was the horse’s stable and the old boy that saw after the horse, by the name of French, lived across the road in one of the cottages, I don’t suppose you know it, the one next to the archway, quite near there, you know where the Richards yard is don’t you [56 Church Street] [Q: yes] he used to come over at 6 o’clock in the morning, winter and summer, to feed the horse and, you know, tidy it up. Also the same process at night, putting it away, putting it to bed. And do you know what his salary was in those days. He had a wife and a big family, sixteen shillings a week. And they lived in that cottage, it was quite a nice cottage, well it is now really. I’m sure they’ve had bathroom, there was no bathroom, of course. He used to wake my husband up and his brother, neither of them were married in those days, and all for that money. And his wife used to come and she used to do my mother’s washing one day and Grandma Richards another day and that would be a shilling for a week’s wash. Not a very big sum was it ? And yet people survived and they weren’t unhappy I mean. He wasn’t, he liked quite a drop of beer which I suppose would be tuppence a pint then.
They used to have what they called a timber [???] – it’s a long contraption where they could put trees on and in that yard at Church Street, which I am very sorry that it has been filled in, there was what they called a sawpit where two men with a crosscut saw could saw the wood, you know, the length they wanted it. Of course now they don’t do anything like that do they ? The wood comes ready, it’s not really seasoned. Half the wood isn’t today and that’s why doors and windows and that warp so.
Q: They lived there, the brothers ?
Mrs H: Oh they lived at the house. The brothers , yes, for some years. Grandfather Richards lived at the house. As I tell you my husband’s father died a youngish man, but his grandfather lived at the shop house and they lived down the bottom of Church Street, I think the people that bought the buildings from Kathleen, I think they call it something from Wind in the Willows, Toad Hall, I think, down there [6 Church Street] and that’s where my husband lived as a young man with his mother and, of course, his father. And that had a, that was a funny old house. I wonder if they have altered it very much. It had a brew house at the back and they used to be able to brew beer. Well they did that, that’s why you know they could drink quantities of beer ‘cause they brewed their own. It was a proper brewhouse. As a child it used to delight me because they usually had a cat and that’d nearly always got kittens. In the brewhouse. I don’t know if the cat was allowed in the house, I can’t remember. But that’s a quaint house. Have you ever been there ? (Q: I haven’t, no). It has a very wide door for a house of that type. I should say it is nearly as wide as this room, what I remember of it and then quite a large room at the back and another one in the front.
Q: Who used to do the brewing ?
Mrs H I should think Grandfather Richards came down, I’m sure he did, came down to, you know supervise that, because that’d be, brewing day would be a great day. I think that’s what happened, I think he came down from the … It was more of a cottage than it is now. It’s been altered that house up near the business and that’s where he lived and no doubt he came down for the brewing day. Oh it was large … I don’t know whether it’s still there, it must be ? It was a large old brew house and very quaint it was. Its many years since I was up there and I’ve never seen it since it’s been, you know. First of all it was let and then my husband left it and that was his property. My husband left one house to Kathleen and I think it was Toad Hall, I think that’s right, and the other one to her sister, to Joyce.
Q: The building business, I suppose that would be very different from what it is now in other ways as well. Did they employ a lot of men to help with the building ?
Mrs H: Oh, yes they did. They employed what was then a considerable number of men in the building trade. You see, there wasn’t, they had to because there wasn’t the aids was there – scaffolding then that had to be put up – it was quite a major operation with ropes and scaffold poles and boards. Now you see they have all steel haven’t they, so much easier. And they built a lot of houses down the Avenue, I think they started building there. They built those houses near the war memorial. From there upwards and then I think later on another builder built the other side more.
Q: And would they mostly build them to sell ?
Mrs H: Yes, , no not always to sell. My husband wasn’t all that keen on selling because to this day I’ve still got some of the houses they built in Chalks Road. You know, opposite you down in the dip, those four they’re trust property but their mine for as long as I live [15-19 Chalks Road]. And I never wanted them to be sold myself. And I’ve got good tenants and then they built several houses in Collingwood Road some of those were sold, in Collingwood Road, and in the Avenue and I think there were some more up Rickstones Road – I think Kathleen had those and I think she sold them, I’m pretty sure she did. You see it is very expensive to keep property up these days. It was much easier when they were a building firm themselves and if a tile come off well they’d just send a man across to put it on. Now you have got to pay a man to take a ladder there and take time putting it up and taking it down that’s just how my bills come in – it’s terribly expensive really. Of course, the properties are well built, they don’t want a lot doing to them and the tenants are very good. They keep the insides in very good repair.
Q: So what happened about the land before they started building ? Would they buy the land for themselves?
Mrs H: Oh, yes, they would buy the land themselves. I don’t think either of them cared for Council work. They did build some Council houses when they were first started up at Rickstones Road. From the corner there they built some but my husband in particular he wasn’t interested. What he liked was old property and doing it up.
Q: Because I remember Kathleen telling me about the cottage where – Cobblers [39 Chipping Hill]. Did he buy quite a lot of old property [Mrs H, Yes.] and that was to do it up ?
Mrs H: And that place, I don’t know what they call that now, what I call Mortimers. You know the big house that’s been done up [Q: Mole End]. Well that belonged to the Richards you see, but there again that had to be sold unfortunately. (Mole End, 24 Chipping Hill) That belonged to my husband that property. That had to be sold for death duties you see. That is a problem today. I feel very sorry for people who own big estates because that’s absolutely crippling. If you have two deaths in the family quickly and that belonged to him.
Q: I remember a map at Chelmsford, the tithe map, I think was about 1840 they drew it up of where everybody who owned and occupied all the property and even then some of the old houses in Chipping Hill area belonged to the Richards. [Mrs H, yes] Then on the Green I think too.
Mrs H: Yes, that was and they belonged to Charles, I think, you know where the cottages are now on the Green. Well there was another row, [32-34 Chipping Hill] I think there were about three cottages in front of these that are there now, but the Council they wanted them pulled down. They compensated them for them but not very much I don’t think as money goes today. They belonged to Charles, Kathleen’s father.
Q: I suppose if you were a builder it was quite a good way of spending your money in those days, to buy property …
Mrs H: Well it was, you know that cottage next to the school don’t you. [42 Church Street] (Q: Yes.) Well my husband bought that and how much do you think he gave. He bought it for me really because that is my house. And how much do you think he gave for it – a hundred pounds. That’s now insured for seven thousand. Fantastic but you see to a non builder they wouldn’t have thought about it. But he could see possibilities in that cottage. And that was altered considerably and they insisted, that had quite a suitable cupboard for a larder, lovely and cool. No the Witham Council wouldn’t allow that to be used for food – they insisted that he what I call cluttered up in the kitchen and put a larder in there. Course I don’t enforce a larder today do they in the house ? So he had to put this larder, that spoilt the kitchen and took up a lot of room. Fifteen years later when I was on my own and I wanted to alter it and put a bathroom on and I went to the Council and said would they come up and look at and what could I do about the larder I wanted it out. They came and looked from Witham Council. ‘Oh yes’ he said ‘that’s not necessary – to have that larder tucked in that kitchen’. So I had permission to pull it out but how foolish. You spend your money on putting it in. Fifteen years later you can pull it out. And ‘Oh yes’ he said ‘you’ve got a lovely place here make a beautiful cool larder’ which we wanted to do in the first place but they wouldn’t permit it. It does seem really extraordinary how things turn out.
Q: Talking about Kathleen’s father. He was on the Council for a long time?
Mrs H: He was on the Council for a long time, yes – somebody needed to be in the family, really.
Q: Was your husband interested in that sort of thing?
Mrs H: Not so much no he was only interested in his church. He was a keen, very keen churchman. I shouldn’t think he ever missed a Sunday, not even after he went blind you know two years before he died and I used to take him to church. He used to sit right up in the Lady Chapel because that was easy for him to be there. But no he wasn’t. Kathleen’s father was more interested in local things. You know he was interested well for years, in the Operatic and her mother was. She was president once time same as Kath has been. They’ve always been interested in the operatic. Do you take part ? [Q: I don’t, no] . I know a lot of young people do but of course it is difficult with a young family I suppose. Kath’s got a photo there of her father. I don’t know whether she’s shown it to you. She said she’d bring some photos up. I had the family album and she’s got it now and I think there’s a photo in it with her father dressed as pierrot and pierrette and her mother.
Q: Yes, because [???] there’s the one you call Grandfather Richards with a big beard ?
Mrs H: I think might have been my Grandfather Richards or it could have been Grandfather Payne. I’m not too sure about that now as I’m looking at the photographs but I remember him well.
Q: Were the earlier ones interested in sort of local politics as well or was it just Kathleen’s father mostly ?
Mrs H: Well I don’t know about the older generation, the grandfathers and that, I shouldn’t imagine they had much time for anything like that. I don’t know, but Charles was interested in local and Harry was always interested in the church. He planted the trees and then they put the door on the Lady Chapel – it’s a very nice oak door that was made in the workshop and also he and Mrs Pelly I think put the glass in the entrance porch. So that was a hobby with him, church was really, you know and when we used to go on holiday I used to have to stop at nearly every church because he wanted to see it if it was of any interest. He never drove himself. I drove all the time. And we went to Scotland. Well people would laugh at that. We took a week to get there because of the churches and cathedrals on the way. Today people fly past on the motorways don’t they ? Of course they don’t see them.
Q: Of course if he was interested in building I suppose the churches were more interesting from the point of view of how they put them up.
Mrs H: He was very interested in the buildings you know and cathedrals and that particularly.
Q: What was your hobby ?
Mrs H: I didn’t have time to have a hobby. I was driving. I used to drive him about on business you see and if they were building out a little way I used to have to take my knitting or a book and wait for him while he was you know, in houses and that, looking round or doing, if they were repairing any where. It was quite interesting really. I have always been interested in houses. I still am really. It was a shame they let them go to decay like that bungalow over there, have you noticed that derelict bungalow? I do think that’s a shame really because that would have made, if they’d have had a bathroom put on [probably on the corner of the path to Faulkbourne, north side of Powershall End]. That would have made an old couple a nice little home. It was a nice little garden once. It’s funny because when I was married to my first husband, to Harry Richards, we used to often take the dog for a walk, I always kept dogs, and I looked at this cottage I live in now, and I said to him ‘I shouldn’t mind living in that cottage’. ‘Oh’ he said ‘my dear’ he said ‘I don’t think you’d like that’. But you see I do like it and I’m very happy here.
Q: When did you move up to the other house [Stourton, 26 Powershall End].
Mrs H: I was only two, I wasn’t two years in Witham. We lived in The Avenue in one of the new houses for just on two years and he felt very cramped in it – you know after being a bigger house and with the buildings and that. He missed being near his workshops and that. And so then, he had bought, I think Mr Wilkinson lived at Stourton. He had bought that house and that wasn’t two years I was in The Avenue and we moved up here. So that’s why I’ve been up in this corner so long. And then when I made my second marriage I thought it was the wisest thing for me to do was to move into the cottage and it is a good thing I did you see really. It has worked out all very well. (Q: Nice and cool it stays …) I had two good marriages, my dear, and it’s not many people can say that is there ?
Q: Was your second husband a Witham person ?
Mrs H: Yes, he worked for my first husband. That’s the funny part of it really. He was their plumber and you see lived next door ever since I’ve been up here and I’d never thought about him at all really till after I lost my first husband we got friendly. He lost his wife you see and when you’re the same more or less age group you get friendly don’t you and that’s how it was. We got married. We decided all at once and we went to Braintree and got married, Register marriage you know, and we had ten marvellous years for two old people we really were very very happy. So I always say I’ve been a very lucky woman. Two good marriages. Today young people sometimes don’t have one do they. It’s funny ‘cause you know he, my second husband, he would talk about his wife who I knew very well indeed and I would talk about Harry and he always referred to him as the Guv’nor. It was ever so quaint I used to think it was, always and people were different – they had more respect for each other you know than they have today with all the trades unions and that. I don’t think there were any trades unions and nobody went on strike and I don’t know one considered the other I think. If my husband thought it was a cold day and he’d see them working on a roof he used to tell them to come down you know, in fact Fred, my second husband often used to laugh. He said he was on the roof one day doing something and my husband said ‘Come down, Fred, off that roof that’s too cold for you this weather’. But you see dear they don’t have that consideration today for each other do they. People think so much about money, too much I think really.
Q: Because people like your husband, they’d work for the firm rather than … [Mrs H: They’d work with the firm.] and they’d have lots of different trades working with the firm would they?
Mrs H: I think he came to the firm after the First World War when he came back from the War and he stayed with them all his life you see.
Q: These days some plumbers sort of set up on their own.
Mrs H: He used to do other things besides plumbing, all sorts of things. Oh my husband would say ‘You can do it Fred, you can do it’. You know he had every confidence in him.
Q: I suppose there were some times which were hard for the building trade?
Mrs H: Yes there were hard times for them, yes. And that’s when people if people hadn’t been thrifty, they’d you know … I don’t think people are as thrifty today as they used to be.
Q: What would happen with people who worked for the firm if times were difficult? Would they still stay on ?
Mrs H: Well, they sometimes they had to stand them off you see but unfortunately there was no Dole then. I don’t know how some of these people survived really. It’s awful. But they made things possible. They’d find them something to, you know, to keep things moving and of course if you’re building if you are in a position where you’re not relying on repairs from other people well you can keep ticking over can’t you, really.
Q: I suppose the weather makes a big difference as well ?
Mrs H: The weather makes a difference, yes a great difference. If the weather is too bad they couldn’t get out.
Q: Again you’d sort of still keep the plumbers and so on ?
Mrs H: Well, they used to keep …. You see everything was done on the premises then. Today everything is mass production. All window frames were made on the premises. Therefore they was always work under cover. There’s a big old, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, there is now, there’s a very big old workshop there where they used to, as I tell you, they used to have the timber and have it seasoned and window frames would all be made and doors would be made on the premises you see. They didn’t have them mass produced like they do today. I mean all the properties that they built, the doors were made on the premises and so very different. Today everything coffins and all are mass produced aren’t they ? Then they were made. They used to do undertaking. There used to be an old boy down, Miss Ottley’s father, John Ottley. He worked for the firm and used to cut them out. He liked doing it you know dear. He didn’t find it gruesome at all. He took a pride in his work and I think people did take more pride in their work then. Today, you know, if you want … I’ve got a window, that was damaged in the gale, in the cottage next door and I want to have it done.
Q: You mentioned the First World War. Did that make a big difference to Witham ? Can you remember anything about it ?
Mrs H: Now, the First World War. I left Witham when I was fifteen. That began in 1914 didn’t it ? I don’t think I was in Witham during that period. No I wasn’t because I was living at Southend then. For fifteen years of my life you see there’s a gap because until I married my husband, who as I say I’d known all my life.
Q: Your parents, your whole family went to Southend did they ?
Mrs H: Yes, that’s how I came to go, with them.
Q: What did they did they do ?
Mrs H: Well, my father retired from publicing you see and they went there to live. He had a son-in-law who was in the cycling. He had a shop. They sold cycles. Bicycles were in great demand then and he helped him down at the shop you know. My sister has recently died my sister, this year, She lived to be ninety-four. She was seventeen years older than I was and that’s why I’m never very lonely because she had seven children and I’m very attached to them all and they all come and see me. They’re all married.
Q: Is she the one that was a teacher ?
Mrs H: Yes she was a teacher at Cressing School. First of all at Notley then at Cressing till she married.
Q: I meant to ask you. You said you went to a little private school. [Mrs H: yes Miss Church’s.). Did your sister, you had another sister as well didn’t you ? (Mrs H: Yes I had another sister.) and your brother, did they go to the same school ?
Mrs H: No, no they went to the Church School. Yes I had a brother who went out to Borneo as a rubber planter and he was there when he died. He was not very old, about forty. He came home for the First World War you see and joined up and it was trench warfare then and he was an officer he was in command of the Chinese Labour Corps. And the change in the climate no doubt did something drastic to his health. You know the tropical heat. He hadn’t been into England for seven years. Then he came home and this war 1914 war. I think it was about 1915 when he came home and of course that affected his health. Well that would do in those days. They don’t send the young men out for that length of time they used to tropical countries. Besides there’s drugs and things isn’t there that’s a great help to them. And my friend that staying here [???]. There’s lots of postcards in there to do with the family. So I said to my second husband’s, my stepdaughter, the other day, she comes, they’re all ever so friendly you know, I said ‘You must have that postcard album. It belonged to your father’. And she said ‘That’s so interesting [???],grandson’.
Q: Yes, I keep things,
Mrs H: You keep things? Once you’ve destroyed them it’s too late. This is another old thing I’ve got here. Now what’s the date on there ?
Mrs H: And there’s some property in there that I reckon …
Q: Chipping Hill … by direction of the executors of the late Mr William Hastings.
Mrs H: I should think that’s some of the property that the Richards bought.
Q: [reading] ‘Timber built, a tiled cottage with a good garden … the newly erected detached brew and wood house in Church Street’.
Mrs H: That could have been that brew house that I told you about.
Q: With a side entrance from the street.
Mrs H: Can’t think how it could have had a side entrance, the pub’s next door isn’t it ?
Q: ‘Occupied by John Parmenter. The doors of the brew and wood house open into Lot three. Blocked up but the purchaser is to have access to and use of the pump’.
Mrs H: Well I suppose that was rather necessary if you hadn’t got a tap in the house.
Q: I remember you telling me you’d the pump at the George and how important that was. (Mrs H: Yes.) You’ve kept that a long time.
Mrs H: I took a lot of the papers to [???] Bright’s.[???] In a small house you haven’t got the room to house them. But when I was at Stourton of course there was a lot of room for clutter.
[chat about coffee]
Q: You mentioned the Luards – they were there even when that book was written, Witham Lodge, it says.
Mrs H: Oh, yes. There was Admiral Luard and his daughters. I wonder if I can remember their names – I think he had one son, I think that’s right, not too sure and then there was Miss Alice Miss Edith and Miss Gertie. Three. I don’t know if there were any more girls. They were the three that I knew, you know. They were very interested in the local things as well, church working parties. Things to do with that and Miss Gertie and Miss Edith always lived at home but after their parents died I think it was after, they went to live at Ivy Chimneys which is now, you know, the Bridge Home have it now. They were there many years. Miss Gertie used to use a bicycle, ride a bicycle. Miss Edith ran the Tuppeny – have you heard of that, what they called the Tuppeny ? That was a show that they used to put on at Christmas time. I think it got its name Tuppeny because I think children went Saturday afternoons for tuppence, I think that was it. But much the same as they have the Operatic only not, of course, in such a grand manner as they do it today but that was known as Miss Edith’s Tuppeny and it was a sort of like a pantomime thing they did. And also she used to run the working parties for the church and we used to go up there to the Ivy Chimneys, we used to go up there and sew, you know, to make things for a stall. It was all rather nice really.
Q: That was the working party ?
Mrs H: That was the church working party. For a stall for the summer Fete and we used to go up there you see, I don’t think it would ever be once a week, about once a fortnight we’d go up there and have the materials which she used to cut out into rather weird garments I must say and we used to help [???]. Some fancy work done as well, if you were good at fancy work. It was rather pleasant really they were nice old ladies.
Q: Lots of people speak of them.
Mrs H: I believe at one time I think, of course there was no welfare state or anything, and I think at the Lodge, where the Admiral lived, the father of these girls, I think they used to have a soup kitchen for people who were really put to. You know if the weather was bad and times were hard. So they did, the well-off people did try to help the other people really.
Q: I remember you talked of the people sat in the middle of the church, I suppose the Luards would be….
Mrs H: They would be in the middle, lawyers and [???] and then the trades people to my knowledge were on the right and the other people were on the left. (Q: The lawyers would be …) The lawyers would be in the centre yes and well-to-do farmers such as the Hutleys, Mr Hutley his people, servants and all. Well they had to come to church on Sunday, once either morning or evening. I should imagine which ever fitted in what meals they were doing.
Q: So they would be the gentry would they ?
Mrs H: Yes, well-to-do farmers you see they were nearly all, well, landed people really the farmers were then.
Q: And the lawyers would be the same ?
Mrs H: Yes they would all mingle. They would all come to church in those days. People used to. perhaps there was nothing else to do, I don’t know.
Q: Did doctors count with the … ?
Mrs H: Doctors didn’t come as they couldn’t come so much. That was the Gimsons then. They were the only doctors in Witham to my knowledge and that was the father and the two sons. There was Karl and Ted. In fact I’ve got Ted’s photo somewhere. I think it’s up here I’ll get it in a minute to show you. They were bachelors. They never married, the two sons and when they went to dinner with their mother, old lady Gimson, they had to dress. They didn’t just go in a lounge suit they had to go properly dressed in dinner jackets and she wouldn’t receive them if they weren’t and he was ever such a kind man. I was ever so fond of Doctor Ted. I was a child then and I was rather ill. And once or twice he came very kindly across in the evening to see me and oh I did think he looked handsome in his dinner jacket. You know, still I suppose I couldn’t have been more than eight. He used to sit and read a little book to me, nice poetry. He thought it was extremely funny. He said it was a lot like some of Witham people, I must show it to you.
Q: I suppose he saw all sorts didn’t he ?
Mrs H: Oh yes. One or two people didn’t like him but, as a child, I adored him. I thought he was wonderful.
Q: Apart from them I suppose the farmers and the lawyers would only mix with their own….
Mrs H: They’d mix with their own friends, but they do today don’t they. Doctors all usually friendly with doctors aren’t they ? I think it is natural builders with builders because they have the same interests.
Q: And farmers especially I suppose.
Mrs H: Farmers the same.
Q: So you would mainly, so your family would normally see them in the course of business.
Mrs H: Yes if weren’t well of course. Well they didn’t act like they do today at the Surgery. Most extraordinary behaviour I think. Well my doctor doesn’t because I’m rather fond of Doctor Foster he’s all right if I can get in touch with him. Once before I was terribly worried as my niece was ill. He said ‘Why on earth didn’t you phone me ?’ ‘Phone you’ I said ‘I tried to phone you three times and couldn’t get near you. One time they told me you were out and another time you were doing something else’. He said ‘I was there’. So you see [???]
Q: Did they [???]help people ?
Mrs H: And the dispenser was there you see at the surgery. Today it’s so different.
Q: Did they have people working, like the receptionists they have now.
Mrs H: No, there was no receptionist. You opened the front door and went in, you rang the bell, a maid would come to the door, no reception, a maid in black dress and white apron and cap and let you in, you sat in what was their hall. But I didn’t often go down. I had to once when I had a very bad wrist and I quite enjoyed going down and seeing them. They made a fuss of me. [???]
Mrs H: But my mother when I was born. This very doctor Ted I am talking about he was a young man. He was twenty years older than I am you see. So he was just out of hospital, starting in with his father. I was about to be born. Doctor Gimson was sent for. Doctor Ted arrived. My mother said ‘You go home boy and send you father. This is no place for you’. So she wouldn’t have him. When I was born I think she was about forty. ‘Cos you see the other members of the family were much older than I was. And so she wasn’t going to have that boy. ‘No place for you’. He roared about it as he got older and thought it was very funny. But his father came. Today they wouldn’t would they ?
Q: What did Admiral Luard do ? I suppose he’d be retired when he was there ?
Mrs H: Oh he’d be retired, yes. He had as you know an untimely death. (Q: Oh, an accident, yes.) He used to drive into church and the horse bolted with him one Sunday and I don’t know whether he died instantly or just after but that was the death of him at any rate. The children, Miss Gertie’s often told me, they were brought up absolutely to rules, you know. They daren’t – they were terrified of their father. I’ve got a nephew in the Navy now, a captain, and he’s got a family and by jove he’s brought his children up to mind and they have got a park near their house and when they were younger, ‘cause they’re teenagers now, when they were younger and he was home he used to just blow a whistle and believe me those children came. And he didn’t have to blow it twice ! Ever such a nice family too. I like the girl very much. Extremely nice, so it hasn’t done them any harm.
Q: I think it’s one of the Luard family that’s kept this diary of Mrs Bramston. Didn’t one of the Luards marry one of the Bramstons or something ?
Mrs H: They might have been connected in some way.
Q: I can’t remember. I pretty sure there was a marriage somewhere further back and so …
Mrs H: There was a marriage between the Ingles and the Luards.
Q: Still, there were a lot of Luards, weren’t there.
Mrs H: Oh, they were a big family of them, yes. Yes, Miss Gertie once told me they were only allowed half an egg each. It wasn’t because they were hard up either. And they had to eat rice pudding and to get round that she used to put in her pocket handkerchief when the nurse wasn’t looking and dispose of it down the toilet which wasn’t easy. I must find you that book of mine. [Gets book ] It’s all in rhyme it is and amusing really. I must show you the picture which he said looked like some of the Witham people.
Q: I suppose if they were bachelors there aren’t any Gimsons ?
Mrs H: Yes, there’s a nephew I think lives up at Wickham. He’s related to them. He’s doctor Ted’s nephew. Yes one of them.
Q: He’s a Gimson by name is he ?
Mrs H: Yes, his father’s … (Q: Of course there was a Gimson, Brigadier Gimson). Brigadier Gimson. That’s the man. That’s doctor Ted’s nephew and that’s what some of the Witham people were like.
Q?: [Reads] ‘Alas the price that’s to be paid for being so young. [???] was sadly paid by Miss Price and……… Did he dislike the gossip said the master’s stuck up [???]. She wears false feathers in her head and powders hair and wig’.
Mrs H: She’s walking with a ……
Q: I remember someone saying to me that Witham was a snobbish place she said, I think that’s how she described it. But I suppose everywhere was.
Mrs H: Some of the people did tend to scandal you know. That’s my doctor Ted. Course he’s an older man there. He’s at the wedding of a young friend, [???] Wakelin. They were farmers. He used to sit on the bed and read that little book to me and he used to sit and laugh about it.
Q: If they were the only doctors I suppose they went to everybody. Rich and poor alike ?
Mrs H: Oh they went to everybody. And there was no National Health you had to pay if you had the doctors but they made the wealthy people pay for the poorer people I think. They worked it out any rate.
Q?: [Reads] ‘The wicked scandal bird, the worst of the all the lot’.
Mrs H: I had somebody here the other day to see a friend. I had to pull her up a bit sharply. They do say some very unkind things and that makes a lot of mischief sometimes. I think these Darby and Joan clubs – I call them a school for scandal. Have you ever seen that play, with all the scheming and backbiting that went on.
Q: Yes, I don’t know if everywhere’s the same people say to me ‘Oh its Witham, they’re like that’. But perhaps every place has a little bit of it.
Mrs H: Some people seem to like scandal don’t they. It’s distasteful really. I told someone here the other day. I knew the girl she was talking about, know her well, know father and mother. They’d be horrified at what she said. I said ‘I don’t really think you know what your talking about.’ And I said ‘I’m quite sure what you said is not true’ and neither was it true. And the girl would have been awfully upset. So unnecessary, so unkind my dear isn’t it too. I can’t put up with that but (Q: It was like that before?) Oh it’s always been like that. This doctor he used to visit a nurse a lot. She had a small nursing home, very small only in a house in Collingwood Road and they were scandalising him and he knew it. You see because he was a bachelor . He had to go there to see patients there but they made out it was for other reasons but he knew it and he laughed about it. But you see some people that’s not a laughing matter is it ?
Q: Not really, no.
Mrs H: What was it, ‘Take away Miss Pink’s good name and made Lord Pink turn pale’. I think that’s ever so funny. I think its one my brother gave me and think that was 1906. (Q: You’ve done well to keep that so long too.) It’s a satire really isn’t it on people.
Q: I suppose children read things differently don’t they and enjoy differently.
Mrs H: Doctor Ted read it differently you see and saw immediately what it reminded him of.
Q: Perhaps that’s why he came to read it to you. He must have been pretty busy, even though it was a small place, if they were the only doctors.
Mrs H: And they rode a bicycle. Yes, they both rode bicycles for all short journeys going around. What would they do today. He was at the end of his time when Doctor Foster came here first years ago. Doctor Ted used to just look in occasionally. (Q: He would know him then perhaps.) I used to think the Gimsons were nice looking men well they both were. They were kind to everybody I always thought.
Q: You said some people didn’t like them
Mrs H: Just one or two people, I don’t know why. I only met someone the other day and they said they didn’t used to like Doctor Ted. I said I can’t think the life of me what for. Mind you he would swear if you upset him I dare say, but so would Doctor Foster too. I mean they didn’t like to be called out for anything on a fool’s errand. Well they can’t can they ? And I did hear him swear once when I was a child. We had a nice fire, used to, in the big bedroom at the George and the room was about nineteen feet long and he picked me up out of the chair, so it shows how small I was, to carry me on to the bed to examine me. I’d got tummy trouble and he trod on the corner of the blanket and we nearly both went sprawling. Oh did he swear. Did he blast. Well it frightened him, ‘cause you see he’d’ve fallen on to me if he had fallen, and we would have gone down with a thump, but he regained his footing, it was a very jolting ride, so he regained his footing and we landed safely the other side of the room but he let forth then. I think it frightened him really ‘cause he thought he was going to drop me, and very nearly did.
[Chat about shopping, not noted. Mrs H still drives car occasionally]
Q: Of course it’s quite a change up here. I suppose when you came it was mostly fields ?
Mrs H: Oh yes, there were no houses opposite – only that little bungalow and all changed, of course no houses up there at all. I liked it as it was but there you are, you must have changes.
[Chat about taking dog for walk, pets, etc., not noted]