Tape 203. Mrs Rose Burch (nee Shelley), sides 1 and 2

Tape 203

Mrs Rose Burch (nee Shelley), was born in 1921 in Witham. She was interviewed on 23 February 2005, when she lived at 6 Progress Court, Braintree.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

On the left, Mrs Rose Burch, nee Shelley. On the right, a friend.

Mrs Burch had been writing some of her life story.
See also photos M2407 to M2429 and M2826 to M2828.

Q:    You start off with your parents, I was wondering how – because he was from Essex, your Dad, wasn’t he? (Mrs B: From Pattiswick, yes.) Had he gone up to London, you said? Or have I got that mixed up?

Mrs B:    Oh no, not my Dad. No, not my Dad, never went to London. I doubt whether he’d ever been to London [laugh].

Q:    No, I must have been thinking of something else then. So where was he when the First World War started? (Mrs B: Pattiswick.) He was at Pattiswick. So he joined up?

Mrs B:    He was in the regular Army before the War. (Q: Oh, he was already in the Army?) Yes. Then he was on the Reserves when the War started in 1914, and he was a Recruiting Officer then. (Q: So where was he stationed when he was in the Army, I wonder?) Now, where was it, now just a minute, on the back of that, there’s a stamp on the back of that wedding certificate that [???] an Army stamp, what does that say on there? The address of it might even be on there, mightn’t it. (Q: [???] Shelley, soldier.) At the bottom, is there a signature?

Q:    Oh, it says something certified, ‘Alan Gardner Brown, CM 61st Division, SMRE of Essex’. That might be it, mightn’t be it. And he was certified that that was a copy, that might be the registry. Oh, there’s a stamp on here too. ‘Territorial Force Association, Essex County, Chelmsford.’ And another one, ‘Essex Territorials.’ Oh, so he was in the regular Army.

Mrs B:    Yes, and come out, just before. (Q: And he came out, so he was on the Reserve.) On Reserve. And as I think I mentioned to you the other day, his first recruit, he said, was my Mum [laugh]. That’s how he met her, cause he recruited her twin brother, his first recruit. [???] He recruited her twin brother [???].

Q:    Was that when he was stationed in Witham, then?

Mrs B:    No, he wasn’t stationed, I don’t think he was stationed in Witham, I don’t know, I don’t know where they, I’ve never heard that mentioned at all. It was my husband who was stationed in Witham in the Second World War, yes.

Q:    I see, yes. So which one was it that was at the Retreat?

Mrs B:    My husband.

Q:    It was your husband. I’m sure you told me all this. [laughter] But your mother was from Witham?

Mrs B:    She came from Witham, yes.

Q:    So that was the first connection? (Mrs B: Yes.) And then you all were brought up in Guithavon Street? (Mrs B: That’s right.) So tell me some things you can remember about that?

Mrs B:    I think that’s all written down there. (Q: It probably is, but [???] Well, I can remember so much. I mean I can remember right from the time when, he must have been my youngest brother was born, cause I was only two years older than Arthur, so when my youngest brother was born, I remember my aunt Ann, cause they’d be always born at home, come to see to my mother. And I, I can see this saucepan now, in my mind’s eye, but I’ve heard the story from my mother, since. They used to have those great big iron saucepans on the stove. One was for hot water, cause this was going on, and the other one had got a meat pudding in. My aunt got so, that was looking after her, so confused, that the nurse upstairs took the lid off the saucepan and there was this great big bag [laugh]. Now that’s a very early age. (Q: You can remember that?) I can remember that, yes. And I can remember, as I think I told you, and that’s in there, being out with my Aunt Florrie just in these lovely clothes that I used to have from there, her daughter was the cook. And I used to have her hand-me-downs [i.e. probably the girl from the house]. And those [???], I can remember that day, standing outside Clarke’s stationers’ shop [70 Newland Street], I couldn’t have been very old, as I say, about four.

I remember this little, hat with the wire, and it had a muff, you know, used to have glass buttons on them in those days, glass buttons. It must have been a sort of fur, because, as I think I, I put it in there, because, there wasn’t nylon or any pretence then, was it. And, I know, as I say, they did want to adopt me. (Q: They were serious ?) Yes, they were serious about it. And I’d been removed from the town into that place down Maldon Road, I can’t think of the name, we mentioned it last time. We moved there rather than move away to go to Smallands. (Q: Oh right, Olivers Cottages?) Yes, that’s it, yes. Well we were there for a while, and of course that was a long way to walk to that Sunday school up there by the station, the Church one. And they bought me some, pair of boots and gaiters I can remember, doing those buttons up, and I was walking right from Olivers Cottages up there on a Sunday afternoon.

Q:    So, do you remember much about Miss Pattisson herself?

Mrs B:    No, only that she seemed motherly. In my mind, I can see her, one I didn’t know very well. But, I’ve seen the picture, one of them was in the wheel chair, well, I’ve got a faint recollection of one being in the wheel -, but I don’t, I wouldn’t have remembered that, seeing that. But yes, she was motherly. I don’t think either of them were married, and I could, their house, I can see it my mind’s eye now, had a lot of trees in front of it [16 Collingwood Road]. It was the other side of the Public Hall, yes, up there, a lot of trees. (Q: Fancy remembering that.) Yes, yes, I can, I can remember. I can, I can remember a lot, and then I think to myself sometimes, was it because I was a child, a girl on my own, I’ve got three brothers. Now living in Guithavon Street, as far as I can remember [???], I can’t remember another child in that street, another girl. So I had no, didn’t have a lot of girls to play with. The only friend I did have, I remember [???], there was a lot of Upsons lived in Mill Lane, and Cissie Upson, I remember I played with her, she had a brother, Marshall Upson, that was rather nice, I thought, when I was a little girl. And so I, I seemed to be own a lot, or with the boys a lot. Even when we moved to the farms and that, until my sister grew up, and was old enough for school, and then she was nothing else but a pest. [laugh] I mean I, I’d settled in my ways by then, and, because, my elder brother, he’s dead now, I can always remember him laughing over the years, it had been set up between my Mum and Dad, when it was her time to have Joyce, when it was getting near her time, my oldest brother was to go and find Dad, which would be somewhere in the town, in his horse and cart or something, and just tell him that Mum had a headache. [laugh] And he would know what it was, see. So my brother, heard my brother say at times, ‘So I went, I found Dad right down by Bridge Street’, he said and said Mum had a headache, he said, ‘and then Joyce was born’, he said, ‘and she’s been a headache ever since.’ [laugh]

Q:    Ah. Well I suppose all of you’d got used to your ways, hadn’t you?

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right, yes. [???] a little girl. And my mother, I think I told you this the other day, my mother used to let me push her, I was seven when, nearly seven when she was born, she used to let me push her up and down Guithavon Street, I never went up the Park[?], went down the street.

Q:    So did you enjoy doing that, or was that a …

Mrs B:    Oh, of course, babies. I’ve always loved pushing a pram. So, when she was born, I remember, I cried, even then I cried, because, you know, we’d got a baby sister, and I didn’t, I didn’t want a sister[?], and I can see this big bedroom, in Guithavon Street now, my mother had a big brass bed, where she’d had the baby. Alf, my oldest brother in a big iron cot in the corner, and I, and, as I say, it must have been my brother, the next size, [???] in the other corner. I remember that. And I remember my Dad bending over me and said ‘We’ll go shopping tomorrow’, words to that effect, ‘and we’ll buy you a doll’s pram, and then you can go out with Mum with the baby’.

And true as his word, there used to be a toy shop, King’s, I think, opposite, in Newland Street, near the George somewhere, across the road. And this little old tin pram, and that used to stand in the front room just inside the door. Cause we never used our front room. The only time the front room was used, when the vote in the elections were on over the school, and Mum used to hire it out as a let, as a office, where they used to come and do the … (Q: Oh did she?) Yes, she used to let it out then. I can see, I can see that room, we were never allowed in there. Big table with the claw feet, you know, covered with all these sorts of photos, things like that. And lovely furniture, a long, sofa they called them then, didn’t they, black with buttons, and the arm chairs. The four chairs, and draped over there was this lovely shawl Dad brought home from Egypt, then bigger photos and that all the way round. I can remember that, yes. I can remember everything inside that house that’s on there. Yes.

Q:    So this business with the elections, would it be the people who were holding the election, or one of the parties, do you think?

Mrs B:    One, it was the Tories I think, the posh, it, I didn’t know nothing about it then, but I suppose my mother did, it was the posh people that took it. Yes. I’m trying to think of his, I’m trying hard to think of his name. It was the same name every time they came up. Yes, for years. Something else I found, amongst some papers the other day, when Tom Driberg stood for election in Braintree, just after the last War, yes, in Braintree and Witham, yes, I found that.

Q:    So [???] the agent then, I ought to remember the name of the Conservative agent, big chap it was in those days, when you were little.

Mrs B:    Yes, but, I don’t know if he was the agent or the one that was standing, I’m thinking now. And he really was a well-known name. Well now, this would be in the 1920s, cause I was born in ’21, and I left there in ‘29/’30, so, and, Ruggles-Brise, was it? (Q: Oh that’s right, oh yes.) That’s it, Ruggles-Brise. That’s it, yes.

Q:    Oh, so you were favoured, weren’t you.

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right, yes, I think that was the name. Or that’s the name that comes to me, it was something like that, yes, yes, it was one like that.

Q:    So that was when the Parliamentary election …

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right, yes, oh yes, oh yes, not for the little (Q: Not the Council ones?), oh no, no, nothing … [laugh] yes, that’s right. (Q: What an honour.) I suppose she got about a half crown for that. But then when you think Dad’s wages, were only about thirty bob a week, I mean …[laugh].

Q:    It is odd, isn’t it, that, not using the room. But you had to have it for best, didn’t you.

Mrs B:    Well, it was a big house, I mean, down, you see, we lived in the basement, had a lovely kitchen in there, great big stove (Q: Oh I see.) oh yes. Yes, you went, we had a lovely cosy kitchen, yes, and the big table, and, lovely big fireplace, and then, and a scullery, we used to call it, leading off of that, and when my brother went to see, it’s some years ago now, about eight or nine years, cause he was looking at it outside, and somebody came out, cause I think it’s some sort of office or something there now, and said could they help, and he said, you know, and they took him in, and he said the scullery was just the same, and even the toilet, was still up the garden. I’ve often said I would go, but I haven’t [???]. Yes, you used to be in the basement, so you always saw people’s legs walking by. Cause we were right opposite the school gate, didn’t have any distance to go to school, right opposite the school gate. I recognise those names in that book you gave me, what Mr Rowland[?] done, Mr Rowland, the boys’ school head. [probably Rowles]

Q:    So do you remember, going back to Mr Ruggles-Brise, do you remember anything about him at all?

Mrs B:    No, I don’t, really, no. I know there was a lot of cars, and big bouquet things, and a lot of shouting and hollering after we’d gone to bed at night. I suppose that’s when it was all declared, wasn’t it, or something. No I haven’t got …

Q:    Oh, seems a fairly big part of it then, doesn’t it? (Mrs B: Yes.) So there was, I can’t remember now, whether they’ve got one, two more floors above the basement, or three, those ones? There’s a ground floor, where your front room was …

Mrs B:    We had the basement and the ground, and one up. Some of them had got three up, which you can see on that photo. You can see where the three starts. (Q: Yes, it’s just a little way along, isn’t it.) Yes, that’s it.

Q:    Cause that was quite a, for someone on your Dad’s wage, that was quite a good house, wasn’t it?

Mrs B:    Oh, they were Mens’ houses I suppose [his employer]. Yes, because, over the years, when I showed people this, I say over the years cause I’ve only had them about eight or nine years, but people I’ve showed them to, were amazed that we lived in such a smart place. But then we always had nice houses, right up until we went to Great Tey, because, from there, that one down, Olivers Cottages, was a nice house, that was a nice house. We were in the middle one of the three [Mens owned those too]. Smallands were beautiful houses, really nice houses. And then we went to Marks Tey from, not Marks Tey, Great Tey, from there, and that, my mother didn’t like that, at all. Oh. I’d like it today, I bet it’s worth a lot of money today, it was two village, two houses made into one, but mother didn’t like it. Had to cart the water a long way. We only stayed there a year. Then we came to Bocking Church Street.

Q:    So, for the water, you had running water at Guithavon Street, did you?

Mrs B:    Yes, yes, that’s it, when I think of my poor Mum, she was, at Guithavon Street she had everything. Gas light, not electric, but we had gas light. Running water, even down the garden for the toilet, and everything like that. It was a lovely house. And then to move, out into the country, once we got to Smallands, it was miles from anywhere, even I, we’d gone over the road to school, and suddenly had to walk over two miles to school. But that’s what my father wanted. He’d always wanted to be on a farm, you see. (Q: Oh, it was his choice was it, yes.) Oh yes, he’d been at this cartage company [Mens], but he wanted to be on the land, he was on the land as a child, you see, he wanted to be on the land. Oh yes, it was his choice. I was very very happy, I didn’t notice anything different, thinking back, it must have been very hard, we used to carry our own water.

Q:    Yes. So do you remember Mr Mens at all?

Mrs B:    Yes, I do remember him, sitting in his office, a little green box, on that Collingwood Road, big red-faced man, wasn’t he, I imagine he liked a tipple or something, when I think of him now, I think he must be, that wasn’t a natural red face. I remember him, and I said the other day, I remember his other daughter, Margaret. But, I thought there was two daughters, but you said you thought there was only one but, in fact you’re probably right about that.

Q:    Well, it may be that only one’s still alive.

Mrs B:    And, I know she was a bit older than me, I suppose, she could have been about six years or so, because she was past dolls’ prams, she had this beautiful dolls’ pram in that garage. I think my father may have tried to have got it for me, but they, evidently they were going to keep it. But they did used to let me push it up that sort of drive from, to the garage. That’s nothing like [???].

Q:    So you did used to go round to them?

Mrs B:    Not very often, but he has taken me round there, yes. Probably [???], I don’t know. Yes. Well then we moved to Smallands, he used to come down here, go down there. Because lo and behold, when I opened your book, the first person in there is his brother-in-law, isn’t it, Everard. (Q: Oh, Everard, yes, yes.) See that farm, he bought that farm from Mens, or Mens bought the farm, yes. Yes, that’s right. So Everard bought it from, yes, that’s it, Everard, Mens sold it to Ashby, and then we went to Great Tey to Everard’s farm. Everard was at the Abbey at Coggeshall, that’s where he lived. And that’s where I went to work, from school, on and Mo Saturday nights and Monday morning, to clean the shoes and set the breakfast out, set the table, I was about thirteen then.
Used to cycle from Great Tey to the Abbey, yes. And he’s the first person in your book, isn’t he, that photograph [Photo book]. I showed that to Arthur and Doug this morning, I said who’s that Monty Everard doing in this book.

Q:    Yes. Nice little photograph isn’t it. So you, so you, that was, you’d left school then?

Mrs B:    No, no, I was still at school. I, at Great Tey. I moved there, to Great Tey, I had just turned thirteen, no twelve, let’s get this right, we were only there one year. So, and we moved in September, that’s right, and I was, I must have been thirteen the following July. Because, we were only there a year, and we moved to Bocking. Well, we moved to Bocking, as I said the other day, you either moved March or September when you was on the farm. Spring or Michaelmas, they used to call it. And teach-, my mother took me up with the other two boys and my sister, to register, and I wasn’t a girl of thirteen and a half, I mean, I wasn’t, because there’s all these boys calling after me, and the headmaster was going to school at the same time, and he said to Mum, ‘I don’t think it’s worth putting Rose on the register, just for two months’, he said, ‘we break up again in July’. And [???], so I went straight out to work. So I was only thirteen and a half. I never, I never passed my eleven plus, I was the only child in the Hatfield Peverel school that they sent, they sent, that took it. I remember my father buying me a little brown case, it just used to have one clip on, that you used to have when you were a child, for me lunch, which Mum had probably put a lot of, blackcurrant jam sandwiches in there. And then I had to walk quite a long way to get this bus to go to Chelmsford. Now I’d never been out on a bus alone before. I had never been to Chelmsford before, we went to some big school for the exam, just before you get into Chelmsford. And I was quite quiet and shy, I suppose, specially [???], and do you know, my first question, my first question, I’ll never forget it, ‘Describe a camera.’ Oh now, all the things I knew about, I was good at reading, writing, arithmetic and everything. A camera, I’d never seen. I certainly hadn’t handled one. And that threw me completely, and I just sat with that paper, the others all went by the board. Mr Hiscock, that was the name of the teacher, well, he couldn’t believe that I hadn’t passed, because they put a lot into me getting there. Although my father wasn’t keen on me going and passing, because he didn’t think they could afford, those days, you know, sort of thing. But apparently I should have passed. Well, when I moved to Great Tey school from Smallands, I was teach, helping teach the infants there. There was only two teachers there, and Miss Etchess[?] was the head teacher, and a Miss Knight, they had there [???]. And I was helping her, because there was nothing else they reckoned they could teach me then. Cause then I came from there and went into service [laugh]. Still, that’s stood me in good stead. And as I said afterwards, I, as I grew up, I was in charge of that big shop in the town [Braintree], and all the office work and that, and, and I had my own shop, so I suppose, it’s always been there. But how long for now I don’t know [laugh].

Q:    So the shop you first went to, was …?

Mrs B:    In Braintree? I didn’t go to work until 1960. I used to be a dinner lady at Bocking Church Street, when the kiddies were growing up, but I’d never worked in a shop until 1960. There used to be a small little shop called Cook’s, near where the old Central[?] was in Braintree. They sold out, opened a big place across the road called Bourne’s. That’s a German firm. And, but that didn’t last, then after a few years we got made redundant, they closed that.

And, so I went to work for Mr [???], the bakery, and then I took my own shop, when I say our own shop, it was a Council shop, you just rented the shop. We lived in the maisonette above it.

Q:    Where was that then?

Mrs B:    That was down Coldnailhurst Avenue, I don’t know, do you know where Braintree hold their Carnival each year, down the Green[?], have you ever been down there. That is there, opposite there.

Q:    So what type of shop was that then?

Mrs B:    A grocery. Yes. We took that in ’76, ’75, then we came out when my husband had a stroke, well, we came out when he retired in ’82, but then he had a stroke in ’84, so …

Q:    So really, obviously you must have learnt the right things at school to be able to …

Mrs B:    Oh, oh yes, I did. I’ve always, always liked figures.

Q:    So really, going to Chelmsford was a bit of a, you probably weren’t that …(Mrs B: No, no.) it was just the school … (Mrs B: Yes, yes, the school wanted, yes.) Well I suppose it would have been good for them, wouldn’t it. (Mrs B: Oh yes, yes.) I meant to bring a book I’ve got about Hatfield school, I’ll let you borrow that some time. You might even be in it.

[chat re refreshments, not noted]

Q:    I was going to ask you a bit more about when you were at school at Witham, what you can remember.

Mrs B:    Oh, I remember Miss Welland, and her big Alsatian dog. And I remember her giving me a note sometime or other for my mother. And I think it was, must have been something that I misbehaved in school. Oh no, it was my report, you weren’t supposed to open them, were you. You were supposed to take them straight home. And I can remember this cluster of girls right outside the opening of the school. And I had opened it, we were all going to read it, and I suppose I was about eight. And I can see, she used to take big strides [???], and I can see her hand coming over the top of all of us [laugh] taking that [???] out of my hand, yes, I had to stand with my face to the wall the next day for that, yes I do remember that. And I remember starting school. (Q: Do you, what was that like?) Yes, and we used to have maypole, and that then, they don’t do that now, do they. There was a time in September, would that be St Nicholas, when we used to take chrysanths and go to the Church.

Q:    Oh, All Saints Day, yes.

Mrs B:    Yes, we used to, yes, I remember that.

Q:    So when you, say you remember starting, do you remember how you felt about that?

Mrs B:    I remember going with my brother, cause my mother [???], she probably, she’s either got a baby on her lap, or one inside, carrying one. My brother took me, and there’s eighteen months between me and my brother Alf. I was four and a half, I think I mentioned this the other day, Miss Gentry, she lived at Wickham Bishops, was the teacher of the Infants. And I was knitting when I went to school. I’ve been knitting all my life, I think. From the same little shop, King’s, my Dad, I used to meet him on a Saturday, and he’d take me in there and buy me something, nearly every Saturday, and this must have been a ball of rainbow wool and two small pins. And she said what was I knitting, and I don’t know who taught me to knit, because it wasn’t my mother, my mother didn’t like knitting, it was probably one of my aunts. And I said ‘I’m knitting a tie for my brother.’ [laugh] I remember that. Yes, I remember that, I’ve always knitted.

Q:    You took it to school?

Mrs B:    I took it to school, yes. And, yes, I liked school. I liked school right from the day I went. I always took it home with me, I always wanted to do school at home, you know, write and things like that. Yes, I did like school.

Q:    But Miss Welland was a bit …

Mrs B:    Oh, she was the head teacher.
There was, there was Miss, Gentry, was the Infant teacher. Now, then there was Miss Croxall, she went to Hatfield Peverel too, didn’t she. And then there was the one that we was talking about the other day, I think there was a Miss Hurrell. (Q: Oh yes, now I remembered that name, was it Murrells?) Murrells, that’s the one. One was the teacher at the school, and one did the private teaching, yes. Murrells, that was them, that was them. But there was a Miss Hurrell, I think, at Hatfield school. There was a Miss Hurrell, I know. And then, at the Boys, cause boys and girls were separate, weren’t they. They was Mr Rowland [probably Rowles], a name that won’t come to my mind, but I would know it as soon as anybody said it, the other teacher.

Q:    So did you, the Infants, did you stay more or less in the same if you were a girl? Were the infants and the girls together?

Mrs B:    No. There was a big class of infants. (Q: I see, so you went to that first.) And then, yes. And then you went a bit higher up when you was nine probably. Because even then, you stayed at those schools until you were fourteen, you didn’t go up to High School at eleven, did you?

Q:    So did Miss, do you think Miss Croxall was there at the Witham school as well, or just at Hatfield?

Mrs B:    Well, I remember one at Hatfield, but I, I seem to think when she came to Hatfield, she came …

Q:    She certainly lived in, she was born … (Mrs B: Born in Witham, yes, that’s right, yes.) And then she went to the Bramston when that opened, the Secondary School at Witham. (Mrs B: Oh, did she?) A lot of people remember her from that.

Mrs B:    Yes, so she probably came from Hatfield to here. Yes.

Q:    So this Alsatian, did you see a lot of the Alsatian?

Mrs B:    Yes, cause she, I think she lived she in the Avenue or somewhere. She used to hold it by the collar, she would have its hand on its collar, she was a horsey type in a way, and she, she’d take its, dog would go along with her, you know, she was frightful, really, used to frighten the life out of us. I don’t know what happened to her. (Q: And the dog came to school, then?) Oh yes, oh yes, the dog came to school, yes, the dog came to school. (Q: Just roamed around?) No, I seem to remember it laying, as you go in, those big doors that were there on the front, I can’t quite recall what was up that end, it was probably a big fireplace with one of those guards round then, and that used to lay, lay there, yes. Then I suppose sometimes she had it in the office, I suppose she must have had an office mustn’t she?

Q:    But you were a bit naughty sometimes, by the sound of it, then, were you?

Mrs B:    Oh, well I must have been, mustn’t I? (Q: You opened this report.) Yes yes, I opened this report. I can’t ever remember doing anything really bad. I can remember, cause we used to get a penny each, or something like that, used to go up the town, occasionally. And I bought a face mask, I remember once, for Guy Fawkes, and I shouldn’t have done that, I should, I don’t know, something [???] [???], and, so we were in the basement, see, so outside the front door there was a little bit of garden that looks down into the basement, you know? And there were some ferns there. And those other flowers that everybody used have, I suppose they were a sort of a fern, now what do you call them, they were red, with little mauve centres, very old fashioned flower, can’t, and I remember holding that mask, that my Dad saw. No I never got, as I say I was only nine when we left there.

Q:    So what did your Dad, what was the punishment if you did anything?

Mrs B:    I can never remember being smacked. I can never remember being smacked. Once I nearly got it when we moved to Great Tey, when I was about thirteen, because, at school then there was a friend that lived across the fields at the other farm, Heather, and she’d got a nice brother, and we all walked the long way home, cause then I was [???] with his sister. And, course it was getting dark really, when I got home, and my Dad was saying, he’d pulled one of the birches out of the garden, you know, [???], [???], but he never did.

Sent me upstairs with no tea. Course my brothers bringed me up so much to eat that when they did relent and brought me up some dinner, I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it. [laugh] But no, we were, no, I had my father’s [???], no, none of us. Until, as I say, my boys got, my brothers got thirteen or fourteen, used to play Dad up a bit and they were threatened a lot, but, no, we were never smacked. Well, I can’t remember it, and my Dad had a temper, really, because, it’s quite possible this might be in that book, I forgot what I put in that book now. A cousin, one Christmas, and we were in this basement in Guithavon Street, and that’s where had our [???], this great big kitchen table. And it was Boxing Day, now Christmas, a lot of the time we always had Christmas, but, Boxing Day was always Dad’s day, snaring or ferreting or something in the morning, and then up till late[?] [???]. Well, apparently this Boxing Day, my mother was, which I found out afterwards when I grew up, Cousin Charlie was coming from Braintree, and, he wasn’t a real cousin, but, he was in the family, but he’s always been sweet on my mother, I think, and he was coming, and Mum had, and Dad wasn’t very happy about it. And she had taken some of the children in the pram up to the Station to meet him off the train. And we waited a long time. We were late back, because he didn’t come, I don’t know why. But Dad, had got in, just before us, and, so there was no meal on the table, and it was the day after Christmas, and there’s this lovely big fire, and this big table, I can remember it. Big bowl of nuts, for all of us, cause we used to sit and do them ourselves, then, didn’t we, you know, peel them and stuff, on the table. [???] [???] he was so angry, kicked the table over. I remember how we were all rushing around trying to pick these nuts up. I say, he was never like that, my father, no, lovely Dad. Yes.

There was another time, at Smallands, when, that was spring time, cause it was lilac. And, and the middle window was open, he came home and his lunch wasn’t to his taste[?] [laugh]. Picked up the, threw it straight out the window, went through, mind it was open so it was all right. (Q: What did he pick up, sorry?) The vase of lilac. [laugh] A few choice words, he didn’t want that for his dinner.

Q:    So did they, I suppose they were a bit busy to do stuff in their spare time? Did they go to any clubs or anything?

Mrs B:    They did [???] spare time.

Q:    He did the rabbiting, though, you say?

Mrs B:    Oh, yes. Yes, that was the day off from work, wasn’t it, Boxing Day.

Q:    Did they go to Church on Sunday?

Mrs B:    Oh, no, no, they saw that we did, we all went to Sunday School. But, they wouldn’t have any time. I mean I was thinking then, I told you I went to Smallands a few, as I say that is all in that book, I described [???] book [/??]. And, no, you see, my mother, she’d been living in these nice houses, and then to have this place. She had to walk to a brook to carry her water. I mean Sunday, Dad used to get a lot, filled everything up for the washing. I can see her standing there washing, you know, every, all the water carted in, all the water carted out, five children to bath. I mean can see this bath in front of this big fire, you know, one after another. And then after we’d all done, she’d duck[?], and we’d wash her back [laugh].

Q:    So was there a bathroom in Guithavon Street?

Mrs B:    No, no bathroom in Guithavon Street. There was no bathroom, we just had a big bath. We could sit down in it, Mum used to kneel in it. All this lovely clean washing all round the guard. And so I say, she must have worked hard, because, my Mum loved housework, she hated cooking. She hated cooking.

Now, to hate cooking and have to cook for seven or eight people every day, must have been terrible, mustn’t it. I mean, think of all those vegetables. Cause we always had a lodger, we had to have a lodger to help with the rent. Well Mum did, I don’t know if she paid rent, but you know, you’d help out a bit. And, my Dad used to grow all his own vegetables, was a big gardener, keen gardener. And, you think, his own vegetables, the washing of them those days, not like you get them now from the supermarkets is it, you know. I squirm now when my brother brings me stuff that’s come out the ground, I don’t like it, if I see anything in the lettuce or anything like that, I, no, I’d rather get it at the supermarket. And, you think, and then not just dinner time, tea time, with all these radishes and celery and lettuce and everything that had been grown in the garden. She always said to me at the sink, I shouldn’t suffer[?], I used to have to scrape the potatoes. I could not reach the sink properly, and I’d always got that, streaks down my arm where the water used to run down, because I was trying to scrape potatoes. So, I mean, she must have worked hard. And then all weekend, she’d get the children’s clothes ready for school again on Monday, cause you didn’t have two or three changes then like they do now, do you, wore the same thing nearly all the winter.

Q:    How did they get the water hot?

Mrs B:    You just boiled it. Saucepans. No hot water. And we had an oil, that was an oil stove, all the kitchen, an oil stove like in the kitchen, but most of it was always just on the kitchen range. Yes. (Q: That was coal, I expect, was it?) Well, I was going to say, I never remember being cold, it was always … (Q: Was it coal?) Coal or wood, father used to, that’s another thing, he was always sawing wood up. My Dad never seemed to stop, but still, neither did my mother. (Q: I suppose his work was quite hard.) His work was hard.

Q:     Did he have to go far, did he have to go out of Witham quite a bit, when he was on the carting?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, yes. Well if they were carting all that stuff to Silver End, they must have done, must have gone there, mustn’t they, that, I’m not sure about, but that’s what Arthur was saying. And, oh yes. Cause he used to do coal, and everything, they were the Cartage Company. Moved people, didn’t they, used to do everything. And, that’s another thing my brother Arthur was saying this morning, he was talking about the sand pit. My father had a funny knee, it was something to do with a War wound. And it could, at any time, just go out. After a while it would come in back again, but he couldn’t walk, he’d go down, and, they were often having to run to him with brooms, he could manage with a broom, like using it as a crutch to get back. And Arthur was saying he remembers that he went out when he was coming over the bridge on the Rivenhall road, near the Catholic Church, that was somewhere, you know, he’d get his horse and cart. And he managed to get as far as the Eagle, the pub there, but he couldn’t, he had to get some help, from there, you know, to get this horse and that back home. Although Dad’s horses as a rule, if he just let them off, they’d go, they would find their way home.

Q:    Oh yes, cause you said about, something in Maldon Road, was that …?

Mrs B:    Yes, just down the Maldon Road, just past where the old toilets used to be [about 2 Maldon Road]. There was several stables. (Q: So the horses were kept in there?) Yes, every Sunday afternoon, he had to feed them, didn’t he. Yes, he used to take me, as I said, then we used to go down to his allotments. Yes. And, but what I remember about those stables was, this old scooter that used to hang up in there. I mentioned to you about a fire at Witham Crittall’s, Well, I was with my Dad, and this scooter was lying in the middle of road, somebody had slung it to go and look at the fire or something. You know, heavy old-fashioned scooter. My Dad picked that up. And it hung in that stable, nobody claimed it, nobody, and it was there when we left Witham to move, and we took it, and I never had that scooter till we got down to Smallands, and I must have been ten or eleven. And, it was a rough old thing too, but we didn’t have any toys like that, we all used it.
We all had bicycles as soon as we could.

Q:    So did you go out and about on your bike quite a bit, then?

Mrs B:    Yes. Yes. When we lived at Witham, several Sundays during the year, it was probably Whitsun and August, and perhaps some other Sunday, my father always used to hire a pony and trap from the Black Boy, was it [Albert] near the station, that one that’s got the big figure there, and drive us all to Maldon. (Q: Oh, lovely.) Yes. And, I remember one year, they hadn’t got the trap, and we had a landau, landau? (Q: Yes?) We all went. My Mum had a big sun, straw hat on, in this [???]. And when we got to Maldon, we used to park it, well park isn’t the right word [laugh]. Put the horse in to eat and leave it at, the Ship I think, at the bottom of Maldon hill, before you go over the bridge and go up the hill. We used to go in there. Father used to have a drink, we used to have a little wooden boat each, [???] on the lake, we used to fill the sink up with water, we used to play with that, Mum and Dad had a drink. Then we would walk from there along the ups and downs, we never used to go up the hill, we used to go across. And then Dad would set us all, you know Maldon, I suppose, yes, on the green hill, we used to sit there, and we paddled, Mum’d see to the eats and Dad would go along the front, have a drink. Then he’d come back after about an hour, I remember him sitting on my Mum’s nice grey hat. (Q: No!.) He’d have a couple of hours sleep on there, and walk back, and bring us back. Yes, we did that several times a year, go in the pony and trap. How lovely it would be to have photos of that now, cause you see, you don’t have, do you. I don’t suppose anybody else took any photos. And I mean that was five children. (Q: At least he was familiar with the driving part.) Oh yes, oh yes, yes. Well now, he was a good Dad.

Q:    So was the boating lake there then, you know the little …?

Mrs B:    Oh, what, the marine, that’s there now? Yes, yes, that was like that then. Easier access, and more paddling and that than what there is today. I don’t remember the boats, but it was just like, we didn’t know any other seaside, we just went to Maldon. I go to Walton every year, I’ve been to Walton every year since I was, well I don’t know, about fourteen, I suppose. Until my husband died, we used to have some caravans down there. [???] But, yes, I like Walton. But Maldon, Maldon yes.

Q:    So were these trips in the holidays, or at weekends?

Mrs B:    That would be on a Sunday. Only on a Sunday. I don’t think we ever had no holiday. Never had a holiday. Only by, like, I used to go and stay with my relations and Alf, the oldest brother, did stay at Purleigh once or twice.

Side 2

[chat re telephones etc, not noted]

Q:    It must have been you, so then you came back to Witham, to the George [36 Newland Street], you said, how old were you then?

Mrs B:    I suppose I’d just come up to seventeen, no, a bit before then, sixteen, I should think, sixteen, cause I married from there, and I was only eighteen, well I was nine-, I got married in June, I was eighteen, but I was nineteen the next month, July. Yes, I suppose I was there about two years.

Q:    So you enjoyed that? You enjoyed being there?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, they were very nice people, yes, they treated you as one of the family, yes, very nice, yes.

Q:    Did you have to work quite hard?

Mrs B:    Well, I suppose not really, I suppose because she used to, she used to work hard, Mrs Osborne did, she really worked hard. But I mean, she taught me to cook, she used to do the actual, I suppose, all I did really was, mainly, help with the children, and wash up, you know, wash up. I wasn’t in the bar all day. I used to do the fireplaces in the bars, in the morning, I remember cleaning them. But just at the time I left, he’d got ideas of me going into the pub, cause you see, I was married then, and I was nineteen, and I, don’t know what happened there, but, I was, I had an operation, February ’41, and I came home, to hospital, I went to home, to Bocking, and then it was evident I’d got to get a War job. I wanted to join the Forces, my father didn’t want me to join the Forces because my brothers were already there. So that’s when I went to work on the buses. But that’s something else I thought of when I was looking through that book, Dr Ted. (Q: Yes?) I remember Dr Ted, yes, because, I think I told you how I got knocked over by that lorry when I was at Smallands, and I was walking to school, Hatfield Peverel. And he was the one that saw to me. I remember he did me all up in this very stiff plaster, sticky, all sticky stuff. And he gave me threepence, that was a lot of money. When he was going to take it off, you know, I had dislocated my shoulder blade. I always think my father must have got quite a bit of money for that, from Sadd’s. But I never did, my elder brother and I can never find out.

Q:    What, it was a Sadd’s lorry was it?

Mrs B:    Because, it was a Sadd’s lorry, and as they went round theses twisty corners, the [???] that was poking out the back with a flag on, hit me on the shoulder. Truth be told, he ran out the road to [???] or something like that. But, one of the old boys, caught him, he was carrying me home.

Q:    So did he come to you, Dr Ted, or did you go to the surgery?

Mrs B:    Went to the surgery, my Dad took me on the cross-bar of his bike. (Q: Oh really? What, even though you’d got …?) Yes, well he didn’t know what I did when he took me, did he? When he brought me back I was all plastered up. [laugh] Hasn’t done us any harm, I’m 84 this year [laugh]. (Q: Exactly. Must have been painful though?) Oh, it was, well I can remember when he took it off, the plaster. I mean no mod-cons at home, anything to look after us or anything.

Q:    Cause the surgery would be a lot littler then, I should think? I was looking up something somebody had told me, the other day, about what the surgery was like. [129 Newland Street]

Mrs B:    Yes, that was down past the Co-op, and the little …

Q:    It’s still there but it’s a lot bigger now, I think. (Mrs B: Oh, is it?) So, where did you go to wait, then, you went in …?

Mrs B:    It just looked like an ordinary little house thing, that I used to go in. (Q: And then was it just one doctor there at a time, was there?) No, there was one more. Dr Ted was our doctor, but, wasn’t there two, weren’t there two brothers, two doctors there, yes. (Q: There was another, Dr Karl, yes.) Ah, that’s it, yes, that’s it. (Q: Karl, was his elder brother.) Ah, well that’s the name I remember, Karl and Ted, that’s right. Cause they knew my father from when we were in Witham, of course. They’d always been our doctors.

Q:    Yes, so your Dad would be pretty well know really, wouldn’t he?

Mrs B:    Oh, he was well-known. Yes. I don’t suppose there’s many about now that remember him, cause after all, I’m 84 myself, aren’t I, so I mean, it’s, it’s got to be somebody my age, hasn’t it, that would remember him at all. Oh, yes, he was well-known in Witham. Well-known, well-liked, you know, I mean he was a handsome man, he was handsome. My sister-in-law that’s married to my younger brother was looking through that book [of old photos], and she said ‘Well these must be your relations, because, nearly all that fire engine, they’re all our names, aren’t they [Shelley]? George, Arthur, they are all, I said, Peggy this, not one, and to prove a point, I got the telephone directory, I said, Peg, there’s nearly as many Shelleys, or there was, in Witham, as there were Smiths. And I said, and, not one of them are our relations. And there is a lot in the book, I looked them up. Well, not all in Witham, but some Hatfield Peverel, and Rivenhall[?] amongst that, but, they all originated from Witham, and there wasn’t one of them that was related to us. Only those at Purleigh, and as I say, there wasn’t many of them.

Q:    So, going back to when your Dad worked at, bobbing about a bit, but presumably there was other people working in the Cartage Company?

Mrs B:    Yes, one I remember very well was Fred Shelley. And he was my Dad’s friend for years and years. And then in, then later, as he got older, he used to go up to Cherry Tree with Percy Smith then, when I used to visit my aunt, and I’d gone up there with Uncle Percy, I used to see him there and he remembered me from a child. Yes, and he had a sister Maisie, Maisie, Shelley, and I remember them. But, that’s the only I can really remember. Oh, except that Jim Whitten[?], now I wonder what I did with that, I can’t seem to, I spoke to you about Jim Whitten[?] the other day, he used to have his engines that used to do the fields, the steam engines, and, he used to have them in a big shed opposite Olivers Cottage. (Q: I see.) Now, I did find, I know where I might have put it back, and he was a well-known man in Witham. [looking for papers]

Mrs B:    Walter sent when he first went. When I moved up here, up until I moved up here, I had all my love letters that I’d sent to him over five years, and all what he’d sent to me. And I thought well, these can’t go on for ever, and I don’t want anybody to read them, so first go, I took them all out the envelopes, that cut the space down a bit, didn’t it. Took the stamps off the envelopes. Then I said to my son, or he said to me ‘I wonder if those stamps are worth anything? [???] [???] So, they would have been, if they’d have still been on the envelopes, but I’d taken every one off the envelopes [laugh] (Q: Oh no.) Every letter I had, I’d destroyed the envelope and kept the letter. So after that, the, yes, very old photo, you can hardly see, but, that must be seventy-five years, but that is Jim Whittle with his …

Q:     Oh, that’s rather fun, isn’t it? Steam roller sort of thing, is it, or was it a, no it’s sort of for the farms?

Mrs B:    He used to do the whole, cut the trees, fell trees, anything like that. In fact his son was killed working with him.

Q:    I don’t think I’ve heard of him before.

Mrs B:    No, that I found, course the envelope to that’s gone. That was from Mrs Osborne to me in 19, when I was in hospital at Chelmsford at the time I had that operation.

Q:    You didn’t go to hospital so readily in those days.

Mrs B:    No, they thought it was appendix, but it turned out it was a small cyst on a tumour or tumour on a cyst, I don’t know, I didn’t pay much attention to it. But, I know the night I came home from hospital to my mother from there, was the night they bombed, dropped the bomb in Braintree. We all dived under the table, and I opened up all my stitches and I had to go back and have it all redone, the stitches. But, those cards, that was the one I had sent to me when one of my sons was born, sixty years ago. That was the one about Tom Driberg’s election. When I was in Witham. I’ve got lots of papers and that about, but as I say, those I haven’t … That’s one of me in the War time.

Q:    So you did spend a little bit of time in Witham in the War then, didn’t you, before you went back to …

Mrs B:    Yes, only about a year. I was there on the morning, Sunday morning when it was declared, and we all sat in that front room at the George, she’d got a radiogram and we were listening to it. And that was in the September, and I got married the following June. So, that was for something that was on at the Public Hall, about the War, when the War first started. (Q: Oh.) The receipt for my first pair of spectacles. 1943, a bit of difference in the price now. [laugh] Oh that’s what they wrote to me at Witham to sign the paper, for my banns or something or other.

Q:    Because, of course in those days, you weren’t of age when you were eighteen, were you? It was quite a thing to get married.

Mrs B:    No, my mother was doing some field work in Bocking, and I can see myself now, running up beside of her with this sheet of paper in my hand, so I could get here to sign it, and she wouldn’t sign. She did eventually. Dad was far more, she, that’s not what she wanted for her daughter, you know, and … And this, this was the code … Before my husband went abroad, cause he wasn’t allowed to say where he was, was he. So depending how he finished up his letter, I would know where he was. (Q: How crafty.) [laugh] Where he, cause they didn’t, when they left the shores they didn’t know where they were going to, you know.

Q:    So, he stuck to that did he?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, yes, until he got stuck in one place all the time.

Q:     [laugh] Isn’t that clever? So were you sort of expecting the War to start, then, do you think, or was it, must have been quite a  …

Q:    When you say, you all listened to that round the radio?

Mrs B:    Yes, well they, that was at a time, yes that was … Didn’t you ever hear that speech, eleven o’clock on that Sunday morning, September the third.

Q:    I wasn’t born then. In 1939, this was?

Mrs B:    Oh, whatever am I thinking, I forget how old I am sometimes.

Q:    Well, I was nearly born but not quite.

Mrs B:    [laugh] Yes, but, what I’m saying is, I didn’t mean to say that, but what I meant was, you must have heard (Q: I remember hearing about it.) you must have heard about it. (Q: Yes, I have, they gave, it was on the radio, yes.) Yes, well. (Q: So you knew he was going to say something?) I was, I was seventeen, and we knew this announcement was coming. And it wasn’t long after when the sirens all went, and we all rushed for our gas masks. (Q: Really?) Yes, and we all had beds down the cellar at the George. Mr and Mrs Osborne had theirs, and I had the single one beside them, and the two children over there, amongst all the beer pipes and that, we’d come down, you know. And, yes, we went down there for a long time, until, nothing happened did it. And, yes. Yes I was there during that time. I was there when they bombed Crittall’s that time. We saw them come, we stood outside the front door of the pub, on the corner, and watched them come over. They went along the railway line, didn’t they. And, yes, I remember that.

Q:    So the children, two, no, there were three Osborne children?

Mrs B:    Yes, Rosemary wasn’t born till well into the War, after I left. There was Bobby, er Graham, and Joan, sorry, June, yes. (Q: June, I see.) Yes.

Q:    So they were the ones that you were looking after, or was it mostly Graham?

Mrs B:    Graham mostly, June was a bit older, she was at school. But I used to, as I say, play with them, and see to them. She used to bath them and that every night, she was a good mother. But I mean I was there to keep an eye on them, and take them out for walks, [???]. But, he was a joy to look after, Graham, he was such a lovely boy.

Q:    Yes, cause looking after the pub must have been quite demanding?

Mrs B:    For her, but still, she had help, when I come to think of it, because I told you she had two nephews and a niece living there with her. And Joan used to work in the pub and so did John a bit. But I never, I didn’t get to know them very well, because, as I say, I was seventeen, they were probably in their late twenties and that. They seemed older than me, anyway. And, I suppose I was a bit quiet, a bit shy, you know, I wouldn’t push myself. Cause Walter always says he married me cause he thought I was the daughter from the George Hotel, when he met me [laugh]. (Q: Really? [???] Did he really, do you think?) No, I don’t think so, no.

Q:    So there were quite a lot of soldiers in Witham then?

Mrs B:    A lot of soldiers. He went from Witham to Rivenhall, when they were stationed at Rivenhall. From there they went up to Wooller, in Northumberland. And it was from there that they went abroad.

Q:    So where did you first see him, do you think?

Mrs B:    I met him in Witham. I met him in Witham. I was walking through the town, as you do, you know, with a friend. And these two soldiers standing at the corner of Maldon Road. Oh, they did look nice, you know, and I said to my friend, ‘Well I’ll talk to them, but I’m going to have the one with the moustache’. [laugh] So me moved off, and then when we walked back, they were already talking to two girls. So I just said, ‘We’re sorry for you’, you know, cause I knew the girls he was talking to [laugh]. And, we just picked up from there. And at the time I’d got a boyfriend, who had always been a friend of my brothers. And he was in the Regular Airforce, and he was stationed at Lille in France at the time. And, and he’d got a girlfriend in London, in fact she’d in that book. But he went home after a few weeks and broke it off with her, and I broke it off with Les. And this was April time, I expect, February to April time.

I know this Les had been on leave from France, in about the January time, and I had gone up to Wolverhampton to where his parents lived, while he was on leave. And then it hadn’t been long, he’d gone back and I’d met Walter, we were all, broke it up. His family came down from Wolverhampton to have a go at me. ‘How could you do it to him’, you know, with the War on and that. Well, when you’re seventeen you don’t think about those things, do you. Well then, you see, when was home that January, I had spoken to my Dad about marrying Les, and he didn’t like Les, never had, he blamed Les for getting my brother to join the Air Force. They didn’t want him to go. And I was asking him then, well it was only come April and I’m asking him I could marry Walter [laugh]. Now Dad liked Walter. Fact was, he was in the same regiment as my Dad had been in, the Essex Regiment. And, how he came to get to that I don’t know, I mean, he came from London, you see, and they were just sent to these different places. And, so anyway, Dad said yes. Course then we arranged the wedding, and then, because of Dunkirk, all leave was stopped, it looked as if the wedding would be cancelled. But, when they were at Witham, his Colonel was stationed at the George, so I knew him personally, I used to take his breakfast in to him. And, so I wrote to him, and him and he got Walter just 72 hours leave on June the first. All leave was cancelled because of Dunkirk. But he did, he came home on the Friday night, and he’d got to be back on the Sunday night. So, we didn’t have, you know, we only had that weekend. And then, then I didn’t see him any more until August, when they had, what leave do they call it, when you have to go abroad. (Q: I know what you mean, yes, just before you go.) I should know. (Q: Embarkation leave or something yes.) So he’d got a 48 hour embarkation leave.

So, from the time I married him, I just had that 72 hours and then 48 hours, and then he’d gone for four years and nine months. [laugh] So you could see why my Mum didn’t want me to marry him, I suppose. But it was all right, I waited for him. I mean I worked on the buses, we had a bit of fun, and things like that, but I mean, I waited for him. As I say, we were together right up until he died. (Q: Sounds a nice man.) Yes, oh yes, he was nice. Nice looking fellow, good husband and good father. But you see I never wanted a lot. After I’d got my three children, that was it. I, I always wanted babies[?], and he was a good husband, and he never wanted to travel or do anything. He’d done all that in the War, you see. I’ve never been abroad, I’ve got a passport, I’ve never used it. I’ve never used it. There’s nothing I have wanted to do, just my family. I mean I never went to work until as I say, the, my youngest one was six then, Colin had left school and Alf was a bit younger, and the youngest one was six or seven. But at that time Walter had got his workshop at home and was doing printing, so there was always somebody there, you see. And that’s when I started to go to work.

Q:    So what did he, did he do printing all along, after he’d come back from the War?

Mrs B:    No, no he didn’t. He was one of those men, he was never out of work, but he was never going to settle at one job. I mean the thought of going into a factory and doing the same job. I mean he was educated, self-educated, I mean, he used to write books of poems, just like my sons do, and musical, yes. But, no, he had a variety of jobs. Him and my brother did for quite a while do, decorating, on their own, like they all did after the War, they did that for quite a while. And then, what did he do. Oh, he went to Courtaulds, yes he worked at Courtaulds for quite a while. And then he, he always did this printing on the side, that was all self-taught, he used to do some lovely work.

And then he did plaques and different things that used to sell at, shops used to take from him and buy, it was plaster of Paris and things like that. And then as I say, for seven years he did the printing. That’s when I went to work, because you see, when you work for yourself, you’ve got to have a guaranteed income each week, you can’t get that when you work for yourself. So, as long as I was working just to bring in enough for groceries, anyway, he could, these people would have these things done and then don’t always pay you on time, do they.

Q:    So, if you hadn’t had to work in the War, you probably wouldn’t have done anything after you married until then, would you? (Mrs B: Oh no.) The War, it was compulsory, was it?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, yes, you had to work during the War.

Q:    Just to start with, or did it, of course being at the George, did that count as work?

Mrs B:     Oh no, oh no, had to be War work. You had to be doing a man’s job, you had to be doing a man’s job. So I carried on bus conducting until he came home. Cause I gave it up, didn’t I, but that was wrong, I’d still got to do the War work until he came out of the Forces, so I went to the Post Office for a while, I was a postwoman. (Q: Oh, were you?) Yes. Yes, that’s right. Yes, you had to, as I say, I would have liked to have gone into the Forces, I think I could out for that, I would have like that.

Q:    Still, the buses have been quite …(Mrs B: Oh yes, oh yes.) How far afield did you go on them?

Mrs B:    London was the furthest. (Q: Oh really?) Yes, a week, five days every month you had on the London run. And our London run, we used to leave Braintree and quarter past eight in the morning, we didn’t get to London until eleven, because we used to do Dunmow, Takeley, Hatfield Heath, Broadoak, Harlow, [???], Woodford, Finsbury Park, right up to Kings Cross. We used to park the bus up there, and then we would walk to Tottenham Court Road into Oxford Street and spend the day. You see, we used to get up there about eleven, didn’t leave till about six o’clock at night. We could see all the big films, if you went, and not frightened of the bombs and that, you know. One of my drivers, Jim Harrington, he had been a London taxicab driver, so he knew all the shortcuts, and get to Oxford Street, he knew all the short cuts, that went to Leicester Square and all those places, you see, so that was all right, yes. (Q: Were the trains still running?) Yes, yes, trains were still running. (Q: People still got the bus to London?) Yes, we, my sister-in-law, my husband’s sister, cause she came down, evacuated down here from London, and she came and worked on the buses with me. And we used to catch the first bus to Chelmsford in the morning, the workman’s train up to London, we’d be in Oxford Street at nine o’clock in the morning. And buy a nice dress, cause you had clothes coupons and you couldn’t buy anything, you see. Well, along Saling way there used to be a lot of gypsies I suppose, loads of whatever they were, in the caravans in that. They didn’t want clothing coupons, did they, but they did want some orange juice and all that for their children. So we used to give them our bottles of juice that we were allowed, for their clothing coupons, so Ivy and I always had plenty of clothing coupons. And then of course, once you get to Oxford Street, we knew people that had shops up there, once you get in the shop they’re not going to let you go, so you might get two dresses for the price of one lot of coupons, you know. And we’d come back, and go to work on the two o’clock shift, having been up to London. [laugh] (Q: Two o’clock in the afternoon?) Yes. But we’d got these clothes. Yes the trains used to run.

Q:    So, I was just thinking, it must have been quicker, you’d think it’d be quicker on the train to get from Braintree to London. I suppose the buses went through different places, didn’t they. (Mrs B: Well, we didn’t have to pay.) No, for other people that was, people that were using your bus.

Mrs B:    Yes, oh, oh they’d go on the train. Oh, they didn’t all go that route we did, they’d go to, yes go to Chelmsford and catch the train, oh yes, definitely.

Q:    The people on your bus were getting on and off all the time?

Mrs B:    Yes, I would say.

Mrs B:    On one trip from … on a Sunday morning we used to go up empty, and then, four buses, four double deckers, for parents that were either coming down for evacuee children, or Black Notley hospital where people were in, relations was in Black Notley hospital. (Q: Oh, I see.) And one morning, I remember one Sunday, this woman, started to have her baby just as we got into Harlow. And we didn’t know what to do, and we pulled up at the Harlow fire station, and they took over. Yes, they took over, and I often wonder what happened to that person. Yes. Yes, and then we’d go back at night again, pick them up at about half past four, at Black Notley and take them back. Take them back, and then run back empty. Pull up at some pub on the way back, [???] the driver. Yes, it’s not like it was today.

Q:    So the evacuees would be in Braintree?

Mrs B:    They were all round this area, I suppose.

Q:    So where did you drop them off?

Mrs B:    Drop them off in, wherever, wherever, Dunmow, or wherever they happened to be. Takeley, Braintree.

Q:    Oh yes, you were something about the gas on the bus?

Mrs B:    Yes, the gas. We used to have to stoke up. [laugh]

Q:    So did it run off gas?

Mrs B:    Yes. Just, every garage had to have one, apparently. (Q: Oh?) It used to look like that thing that they had when they first invented [???], you know [laugh].

Q:    It was on a truck, sort of, was it, on a separate truck?

Mrs B:    Oh, yes, used to be hooked up at the back, yes, that’s right, with pipes off of it. And it used to make a clanking noise as you go along, you could smell the coke, [???] on the back.

Q:    So it was making its own gas? You fed coke into it?

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right. (Q: Oh, I didn’t realise that.) And they always used it just on the Notley round, so if it did break down it didn’t matter [laugh]. Cause I always remember, we used to pull up outside that newsagents in Witham, Clarke’s, where all the buses used to stop [70 Newland Street]. And it used to be an awful job to move back[?] into there where you stopped. Everybody got used to it.

[chat about getting books back from Sue, not noted]

Mrs B:    I don’t think in there there’s a photo of that thing [the gas truck], You’d think there must be a photo of it somewhere.

Q:    I suppose in the War it was difficult because you probably couldn’t buy film or anything. (Mrs B: No, that’s right.) So it was like a truck, but with a, like a sort of box, was it?

Mrs B:    No, no no, it wasn’t a box, it was just an engine, a couple of cylinder things. No, it was all metal, yes. It was just, it was hooked onto the back of the bus. And you had this long iron thing that sometimes we had to [???].

Q:    So who hooked[?] up, the driver hooked[?] up?

Mrs B:    Yes. He was, Roy somebody from Halstead, always, it was the same driver with that every time.

Q:    So the cylinders were going longways? (Mrs B: No, up.) Up and down. I see, that was quite a clever idea really, wasn’t it? And it actually ran off that instead of petrol?

Mrs B:    Yes. That’s right. [???]

Q:    It doesn’t really sound safe, does it really?

Mrs B:    No, no. I mean, when it swung round a corner, I mean it didn’t stay straight behind the bus, I mean it swung round, swung round. I suppose after a while we got used to it, and [???].

Q:    So I suppose there weren’t enough air raids and things for that to be a problem with the buses? What happened if you were in a bus somewhere and the siren went?

Mrs B:    Oh dear. I always remember when they bombed Hoffmanns [Chelmsford]. We had been on the last trip from Dunmow to Chelmsford, taking the night shift in. And then we were coming back from Chelmsford to Braintree, and it started, the siren went, this particular night, just as we were about to leave Chelmsford. And we hadn’t got to Little Waltham before the bombs were dropping. And I’d got a strange driver, by the time he’d got to Chatham Green, he stopped the bus, and, the bus was full, mostly soldiers and Americans and things like, cause there was a lot of Americans in the War. And all the light we had was a bicycle lamp we used to have on the strap that we cut the tickets off. That’s the only lights you had. The bus, you had no lights on the bus [???]. And, stopped this bus at Chatham Green, and came round to see if I was all right. I really lost my temper with him. I said ‘I will be if you keep driving and get away from it. Look, we’re leaving it behind. Don’t worry about me now, get to Braintree.’ And you could see, right at the back of you, you know, lights and that in the sky. But that was that worst night when they had at Hoffmanns, when a lot were killed and injured, yes. Oh yes, we had several like, I think I told you before. We used to go to London, nights after the raid the roads would still be burning, fires would still be … And all along Oxford Street, where, you know, you could see right down into the cellars through all the big shops and things. Still, life used to go on, you didn’t, I don’t know, I suppose it’s being young.

Q:    Were you scared or anything?

Mrs B:    No, I was never scared. No, I was never scared. My father used to be with the fire fight, the night watch, fire fighter things, when we lived at Bocking Church Street, and that was a three-storey house, and I was up the top. And he begged me to come down, that was at the time of the doodlebugs and things like that, and, I wouldn’t even get out of bed, I said ‘No, if it’s going to bomb, I’ll come down with the rubble, I’m not going to have it down on top of me’, you know. [laugh] I never, no, I wasn’t scared. I did get ex, a bit worried one night when I was, it was dark, I don’t know how late it was, I’d been on the late shift, and they said they were bombing Bocking, and in the distance you could see them. And I ran all the way home from Braintree, and [???], and I ran all the way down Bradford Street, Church Lane, in the middle of the road, you could do that cause there wasn’t any cars, only army vehicles about then. And anyway it was safer in the road because with no lights you could trip over the kerb. But the nearer I got to Bocking I could see it was still a bit further away, and I thought it was where my parents lived, and it was right in the middle of a wood, about a mile or so from where, my mother’s place. They dropped them. There was two houses in that wood, and that caught those two houses in the middle of the wood, the Tabors’ place it was, the Fennes. (Q: Oh, I know, yes.) Yes, we had lots of little happenings like that, as I say it was sad when they bombed that one it Braintree, the White Hart and there, [???]. But no, I wasn’t scared. You see there was no television, I mean, I’ve often thought, the last couple of years when I’ve sat there watching Iraq, and I think, if that had all been on, if that had been my husband I was watching, you know, if that had been that time, that would have all been on television, you’d have sat and watched it every day. All the campaign out in Egypt, and, Italy, that would have been on there every day, wouldn’t it. Whereas you only saw it when you went to the pictures, and then, well, you almost thought it was the pictures, you didn’t … (Q: [???]) Oh yes, yes.

Q:     Oh, you’re right, that’s a big difference, isn’t it, whereas really … So did he ever come home on leave at all? (Mrs B: No, no.) I suppose he was too far away.

Mrs B:    Not till he got back to … he got back in the February, it was the November before, no, nearly Christmas before, it was nearly a year before he got out the army, to come home, but he used to have leave then, when he got into England.

Mrs B:    But, in the end he was stationed at Colchester, so he used to cycle that, to Bocking.

Q:    The Tabors, I read quite a bit about Margaret Tabor, she was quite a …(Mrs B: She died recently.) No that was different, that was John Tabor’s, wife. (Mrs B: Wife, yes, Lucy was his sister, he had a sister Lucy.) And an aunt, I think, the one who the school’s named after. [???] She did a lot for Bocking.

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right. Oh yes, I knew Lucy well. I knew the family well, my children went to school with his children, cause his first wife died in childbirth, didn’t she, when the youngest one was born. I think that was, Lucy, would it be that one? I don’t know. The son, Ted, he’s got the Fennes now, that’s where they do all those grand weddings and that. I went up there to my granddaughter’s wedding in November, November the eleventh, it’s a lovely place. It’s certainly altered since I knew it as a [???]. Yes. Yes I did know them. But, yes, she’s just died, Margaret. But she was still very active, wasn’t she, she was abroad, swimming. (Q: Well, you could be doing that.) I don’t think so, that’s something else I can’t do, swim, you wouldn’t believe that, a country girl, but, I never did, no. I think I must have been a bit timid. I never learnt to drive. I used to sit next to my husband and thought, you know, well, it’ll always be like this. After I lost him I wished I had’ve done. Do you drive, you do drive? (Q: Well, we haven’t got a car.) No, but you drive? (Q: I’ve got a licence. [???] I would have to have some lessons if I wanted to start.) Oh no, I couldn’t do it.

Q:    Presumably your Dad, although he started on horses, but did he drive in the end (Mrs B: Oh no.) It was always horses.

Mrs B:     Horses. And a bicycle. We all had bicycles. We went everywhere on bicycles.

Q:    What, even when you were quite little?

Mrs B:    Oh no, no. We would be on the farm before we had a bicycle. I mean you didn’t need one in the town. (Q: I suppose not, no.) You didn’t need one in the town.

Q:    I suppose, presumably, you said you were only allowed to go down Guithavon (hopping around again), you were only allowed to go up and down Guithavon Street, but presumably when you were a bit older you …?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, use to go down the Rec, oh, used to go down the Rec and places like that. And, a favourite haunt was the Mill [Old Mill, Guithavon Valley], at the back, as you used to go over the railway line up to where the Co-op creamery used to be, didn’t it. And, it was always marshy there, we used to pick lovely cowslips and buttercups in that. Oh yes, we used to spend ages down that area, yes, yes. Capenall green [Capener’s Green, bottom of Highfields Road]. There, that’s right. Well, we had, my Mum had a friend lived just this side of the bridge, Mrs Pryor[?] [???]. And, oh yes, that was a nice area there, yes. Cause that was a lovely walk, from that mill up to Chipping Hill, by the river and under those arches, yes. That was lovely there, we used to love to play there, yes.

Q:    I suppose you could always play on the road then, really, couldn’t you?

Mrs B:    Oh, you did, oh yes, you did, yes. I mean we used, used whips and tops to school, and, you know, what you get along with a stick, hoops. (Q: Oh did you?) Yes, we used to go to school with them. [???]

Q:    What about the main, you said you remembered a lot of the shops, was that because you used to go around a lot?

Mrs B:    Yes, I used to go to the International for my mother. That used to be next to the leather shop. Another thing I remember about Witham, opposite the International there used to be a shoe shop [56 Newland Street], next to where Turner’s was. Let’s see if I can think of the name. (Q: Was it Dowsett?) No, it wasn’t Dowsett, I don’t think it was Dowsett. Well anyway, at Christmas time, in the end window, he always used to have a man mending shoes, in the window, cause I suppose, it must have been electric, a hammer used to, {Q: Oh, I know.) his hands used to go, and I can remember me and my brothers running up there to watch that in the window. And I remember when mother used to take us, we were very small, she used to take us all pea-picking, and the cake shop in the town, just past the chemist it was then.

Mrs B:    If you went in there on a Monday morning, you got a huge bag of cakes for a shilling, you know. I suppose they were Saturday’s cakes. And we used to take those with us.

Q:    Where did you used to go …?

Mrs B:    Another thing I remember too, talking about shops, as you come from the station, down, is it Albert Road, as you come out the station and turn round, not to go to Chipping Hill, down, down there a bit there used to a shop [probably Braintree Road], I think it might have been a Co-op, I don’t know, there used to be a little grocery shop, that sort of thing, years ago, and cause we used to go down there a lot cause my mother was for ever taking us up to Cressing Road to see her mother, that was before she died, because we was at Smallands when she died, so, she was ill, but she used to take us. And it was cold, it was in the winter, and, it may have been that they had a tea, a tea service in the shop window, all little cups and … Well, what it was, was an advert for some well-known … And my mother tried to buy that for me, because I was ever looking in the window at it. I suppose it was getting near Christmas, and, I remember the lady saying, ‘No, we can’t sell it’ [laugh] (Q: Ah.)

Q:    So where did you go for pea-picking, then?

Mrs B:    Oh, in Witham, it was up Capener’s Green [Capon Hall green, Highfields Road], opposite the creamery.

Q:    Did you help or did you just have to go because she …

Mrs B:    Well, we had to go, but I mean, we didn’t help, no, I remember I got my leg stuck in a rabbit hole, in the mucky[?] field next to it. No, we used to play about, make homes with the rice and things like that. We went as we got older, on the farms, we used to, we even did stone picking at Smallands, because they made these water pipes right across the fields, and they wanted all the stones cleared up, you see. I think we used to get about a penny. Used to car these great big buckets of stones down the end of the field and tipping it all in the ditch[?].

Q:    It must have been hard work for your mother, doing all that as well as …

Mrs B:    I don’t remember my Mum doing the stone-picking, it was us children that were doing that. Oh yes, still I used to do a lot of field work, when I was younger. My sister-in-law, we used to take it in turns, she had a little girl, and I had the two boys, three boys, but only one at home, the other two were at school, we used to take it in turns, I would go for a couple of days, and she’d have the children, then she’s go and I’d look after the children. But if you wanted anything extra, of course you had to.

Q:    Yes, I suppose there was a lot around here, wasn’t there, with the peas and the fruit, I suppose you were quite lucky that way.

Mrs B:    Oh yes. Oh, I’ve done potatoes, peas, even sugar beet, yes. Well, that was nice to get out and do it, you know, I mean, it never seemed like work, it just seemed a change from indoors.

Q:    Your father, did he have an allotment, you said?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, yes, he had an allotment, yes, when we was down at Bocking we had one, big one at the back, he’s always had an allotment, right up until he died, till he couldn’t do any more. Yes, we always lived very well as children. We always had the good[?] stuff, and rabbits, and pheasants, we even had our own chickens. We had our own cow, Monty gave us our own cow. I can see these great big aluminium things in the pantry, that you’d pour the milk into and then skimming the top off and put it in a huge bottle and shake it up and it’d [???],

Q:    That was at Smallands? You had quite a lot of fun, there.

Mrs B:    Oh, we did, yes, we did.

Q:    It was a good place for children, even if it was hard for your mother.

Mrs B:    Oh, it was hard for her. But then again, I suppose we weren’t a hindrance too her, we weren’t under her feet. You didn’t see what she had to do, did you, all the cooking and the washing and the ironing …

One thought on “Tape 203. Mrs Rose Burch (nee Shelley), sides 1 and 2”

  1. This is Nigel, Rose’s youngest son. I didn’t even know this existed!
    I’d love to hear it one day if that’s possible.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *