Tape 021. Mrs Elsie Hammond (nee Burton), sides 1 and 2

Tape 21

Mrs Hammond (nee Burton) was born in about 1900, and was interviewed on 10 and 15 July 1977, when she lived at 13 Chalks Road, Witham. Mr Cecil Hammond, her husband, was also present at times and added comments.

They also appear on interview tape 23.

For more about Mrs Hammond, see Hammond, Mrs Elsie, nee Burton, in the People category.

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

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


Side 1

Q:    You were saying about the Glove factory  [Pinkham’s, 1 Chipping Hill] ?

Mrs H:    Yes.

Q:    How long were you there for then?

Mrs H:    I was there eleven years. I started when I was thirteen years old. I, I had my birthday the beginning of December and I started after the school holidays, I left school and I started at the Glove factory before the end of the year. We used to have to work twelve hours a day; you know, you used to go home to dinner for an hour, and back. Come home again at five, and back again at half past five. We lived up Church Street. And then we had to work till eight. And er, I had to work for the first month for nothing, while I was learning, and I remember my first week’s money was four and thru-pence, for the week. And worked till one on Saturdays, no holidays, I never had a week’s holiday. And, anyway, we carried on from there, so we did in time get a week’s holiday. But I went to Chelmsford to man-, help manage a factory they had up there, you see. But I did work for them for eleven years all together. My top wage was thirty-five shillings a week that was for managing the factory girls.

Q:    This was at Chelmsford then?

Mrs H:    Yes at Chelmsford.

Q:    Was that a Pinkham’s factory as well, then?

Mrs H:    No they used to, I had a season ticket you see, to travel back and forth, you see, for the firm.

Q:    That was the same firm as the Witham one was it?

Mrs H:    Perhaps yes.

Q:    I didn’t realize they had the …    Mrs H:    Oh yes they did, they had another one that was at New Writtle Street in Chelmsford. But er, then of course we married, and we, my husband and I we had a bungalow built. Well it’s next to the, who’s there now? Crew is the name? No Chew, Mr Chew, where the new Post Office is [P.O. at 2 Rickstones Road, bungalow probably 4 Rickstones Road]. Well we had a bungalow built next to that, and, we had that built for about, well that cost us about 420, pounds. Piece of land I think that cost only round about £24, for the piece, you see [???]. Still standing [laughing]. And there wasn’t the, we were the only ones on that field. There wasn’t another house there; we, we were the first ones there. No roads or anything, we hadn’t got gas, we had to have er, er paraffin lamp, candles.

Q:    That was, just an open field then, was it?

Mrs H:    Yes that was, just a field, yes. Then they built Manor cottages [Manor Road] after then, didn’t they, where we first started there. Yes they started them up.

Q:    So when would that be, about?

Mrs H:    Well we married in er, end of 1924, we married (Mr H: That’s right, yes), wasn’t it (Mr H: Boxing Day) Yes that’s right. Then well, of course we moved away, but I see there’s some other Witham person has just died, in the paper, that’s one of the Wood family. They used to live up Church Street. I see that she’s died at Reading. Forgotten all about her, course there were some really very poor families then, when we went to school. They really hadn’t got shoes. It makes me cross when they say that people these days are poor. There isn’t anybody poor now (Mr H: No). There honestly isn’t. Not if you knew how they used to be when we were small. You see. Course my mother had seven children, and lived in one of those houses up in the terrace, opposite the prefabs, you know where [Chipping Hill Terrace, 100-134 Church Street]. Well we had, she had seven children, and, ‘cos I remember when she had my last, my last sister was born, me oldest sister had just started work, she had to go out to service at thirteen. And I had, and I was only eleven, and I had to stay at home and look after the rest of the family and mother. Because they, only used to have nurse come in the mornings, you see, and, er, for the mother and baby, and I had to carry on the rest of the day. My father, he was at work till seven o’clock at night, you see. So times weren’t easy, were they, when you look back?

Q:    What did they say to that at school?

Mrs H:    Er, we used to go down to the Sunday[?] school. (Q: Did they mind you having the time off?) Well they didn’t take any notice because it was understood, you see, that there was nobody else to do things, was there? You see there was no nursing service much. Only just for, for, just when the baby was born. So, you’d got to do things for yourself, of course nobody wants to do anything for themselves now, do they? To be quite candid about it. I wish they did.

Q:    She had the babies at home, did she?

Mrs H:    Oh, we, there was nowhere else to go. If you, if you had to have a baby away, you’d have to go into what they used to call the, um, infirmary, you know, where they put old people. But they didn’t go away to have babies. That’s like, funny enough I was speaking about this person, I remember her father dying, and left her family, for about, I think there must have been seven children. Therefore their mother never had anything, no income, but they used to go and work at the pea shed. That’s what we called, that’s where, Cooper Taber’s, were, you see. And, she had to earn, all she had I suppose, to keep all her children. Of course they were very, very poor. Church Street was full of them really. Well, so was everywhere. If you, if a man got about thirty shillings a week in wages, he was well off. Better class, almost. Well, my father had eighteen shillings a week for his wages. He was a, he worked on the railway, and he used to drive the van. I often wish I’d got that photograph, now I can’t find it. Him with his van, he did the job for forty years. Everybody knew him in Witham, you see, ‘cos that was the only supply from the station. He worked for the railway, for all the shops. So, nearly everybody knew my father, you see. But, er, his money was eighteen shillings a week, and we lived up the Terrace and I think the rent was about three shillings a week, something like that, and we had to manage on the rest. So you can just imagine, can’t you, course we had to have suet puddings and things everyday, you know [laughing].

Q:    You’d reckon, you weren’t, you’d say there were some people, you had thirty shillings you were well off, but some people were poorer off, where would you have come?

Mrs H:    My father’s money was eighteen-shilling s a week.

Q:    So that wasn’t too bad then I suppose, but it wasn’t ….

Mrs H:     Well, it was, it was fairly normal, it was fairly normal, that’s what I would say. But there were some, I mean, same as men on the land, that had less. But funnily enough they could always have beer [laughing]. You know how things work, don’t you? Tuppence a pint, I think it was.

Q:    So these other people up Church Street, that were worse off ….

Mrs H:    A lot of them were. I don’t say they all were.

Q:    What sort of jobs would they do, that they were worse off?

Mrs H:    Well similar, they were land jobs, anything they could get, carpenters. See you don’t see those sort of, off the side jobs now, do you, it’s all done by machine, and all that sort of thing you see. But on the whole, you know, we used to enjoy life.

Q:    Did you ever do any work while you had the children at home?

Mrs H:    Oh no.

Q:    You didn’t do any work at all?

Mrs H:    Err, no. Well women couldn’t go back to work, not in those days you see. In fact, er, if you were going to have a child, if a girl was single, and she was going to have a child, and she worked, same as at the glove factory, or anywhere, they got the sack. They had to live at home, and their parents had to keep them until, but nowadays they go to, well I don’t know, they seem to go to work to the last day, don’t they. But that, you got, a girl got the sack as soon as they found out she was pregnant.

Q:    What about if you married while you were at work, what happened?

Mrs H:    Oh, oh you was out of a job. Oh, you had to leave.

Q:    Just because you got married.

Mrs H:    Oh yes, oh yes, there was no question of it, you see. And you couldn’t, er, do a job, er, ‘cos I remember some, one or two railway men, they used to mend shoes, but things were so bad at that particular time, when they found out they were earning, er sixpence perhaps, only about sixpence or a shilling a time, er, they, they stopped them. You see unemployment was so bad that was, must have been in the twenties, I should think, after the War, so nobody could really do two jobs. Not, not the smallest of jobs.

Q:    So what would they have done ….?

Mrs H:    Unless the, the only thing the women could really do, was to go out and clean for better off people, you see. Or take in washing. And there was quite a lot of them did, they used to take in washing, you see. But they were lucky if they got a shilling a day for that. Whenever I hear of youngsters or people starting work and getting fifty pound a week, I have to wonder. It’s absolutely topsy turvey the world is, isn’t it?

Q:    When you went to the glove factory, what did you do when you first went ?

Mrs H:    Oh. Well there was er, machines were round the sides of the room, but there, there was a table up the middle. I had to sew buttons on, and pair round the gloves for the, and then turn them out to the right side, ‘pair and turn out’ we used to call it. And you’d got to put er, one button on twenty-four gloves for, well I don’t know whether that’d be, only a few, just a pence or two, for that, you see. Cause we really did have a hard time there, and if, we couldn’t get our money anyhow. I know that we asked the boss once and in fact we had a little strike up there, er, when the Unions got, began to get interested in the country. And er, I think we got about a half a farthing on a dozen pairs of gloves, half a farthing [extra, perhaps?] [Feb and March 1919, see reports in Essex County Chronicle 28 February, 7, 14, 21 March; outcome not given. Doesn’t seem to be mentioned in Essex Weekly News] Oh, that was after the War.

Q:    How did that come about? Who decided for you to have a strike?

Mrs H:    Well I was one of them, I don’t mind admitting [laughing]. Just a little group of us because you could, as usual you never get all people in the same mind, do you? But Pinkham’s were so tough. Well actually, they did go broke after all, in a way. So you, you really didn’t know, they hadn’t, they didn’t have a lot, you see. The only time that that really flourished at the glove factory, was when there was a war on. When they weren’t importing the gloves, you see. And then we really had a better time then. But I remember there was a period, during the War [First World War], that we had to work till nine o’clock at night. From eight in the morning till nine at night. But somehow we got through, I was quite happy. Cause there was television, no nothing, you see. We used to read or else do sewing. I used to like reading, and sewing. And er, or we’d have a, sing some of the school songs. There were several of us, you see, have a little sing-song round the table [laughing]. We were quite as happy as, happier than they are now because we, and, we were too tired to be bored, as you can imagine [laughing].

Q:    Were you paid by what you did?

Mrs H:    Yes, piecework. Yes, that was piecework, you see. There was nothing else, only piecework up there, you see.

Q:    So how long did the strike go on for?

Mrs H:    Oh, oh that was a few weeks. Er, there, there was an upset about it. Yes. I don’t know that we totally struck, but we were in contact with the Workers’ Union, you see. Oh, course the boss was dead against it, and it was no good going to the Labour Exchange for, see if you could get another job, because he used to stop them. You see. He used to stop it at the Labour Exchange, that’s all, so you couldn’t get another job if you left.

Q:    How did he do that? When you say he used to stop it, how did he do that?

Mrs H:    I don’t know, he used to get in touch with the Labour Exchange, so that you couldn’t get other employment, only being a servant. I never did do that, no. No.

Q:    Didn’t you fancy it, or just ….?

Mrs H:    No I didn’t. My mother did get me a job once. It was before, just before I left the glove factory. And I’d got to go and live in, and the wages were going to be six shillings a month. And they’d got, they’d got two children, and that was in a house, er, Petican Hou-, I think it was Petican House or Pelican, yes, I’m not sure which now, and that was quite a big house with a basement and all the rest of it [Pelican House at 113 Newland Street]. I think really she couldn’t afford to get the clothes together for me start work, you see. Cause they had to buy everything, erm, so many dresses, two work dresses, so many aprons, afternoon dress, a black one, and a little cap for your head, and er, that’s all got to, going to be my wages, six shillings a month. Must have thought I[?] couldn’t save on that one [laughing].

Q:    That was in Witham, was it?

Mrs H:    Yes, that’s where the Co-op is now, yes that was there (Q: Yes, of course).

Mr H:    Well that was the thing in those days, as soon as you were, left school, you had to be pushed out, hadn’t you.

Mrs H:     Oh yes, and you couldn’t go home no more until you got another job, you know.

Q:    Do you remember how you got the job at the glove factory?

Mrs H:    Well my father did that, you see cause he used take supplies down and he had a word with the boss, Mr Pinkham, you see. Asked …. I was the youngest one that every went there, you see, cause I, leaving school at thirteen, well you’d got to get full marks the whole year, you see. No, not lose a, half a day, and I, I used to be pretty good at that, I had two or three books but I don’t know where they went. For that you see. And I think I was the youngest one they ever put on a machine, cause I was more keen about this machine work than I was hand work, then, and er ….

Q:    So these buttons were on the machine ?

Mrs H:    No, no, hand, by hand. Oh yes it was all handwork.

Q:    So you went on to do something different after. You went onto the machine later, did you?

Mrs H:    Well not until I went up to Chelmsford, you see, to supervise up there. Cause that was the only job I ever done, you see.

Q:    So that was quite an improvement, supervising, was it?

Mrs H:    Well in a way. It was, of course it was it was the top job, in a way, wasn’t it? But er, that’s not one I would go for myself. I’d rather work under somebody. Not take on responsibility cause you always get spots of bother, don’t you? [laughing] I mean that happens everywhere, don’t it?

Q:    Can you remember any of the supervisors, when you were at Witham?

Mrs H:    Yes, but er, Miss Waller. We had one, but, course she’s dead now. She died quite a few years ago. Yes. Oh we had another one there, but erm, they come from London. They didn’t last out all that long. Things began to go a bit wrong, I think, with the firm.

Q:    So they had, they’d had different jobs, I suppose, you say you were doing the buttons?

Mrs H:    I was when I started, but then you’d got to make, some used to put the thumb, thumb in, then the others make them up, you see. Then there’d be somebody else do the binding or whatever. You see. That, that was processed all along. Oh yes.

Q:    What were they made of?

Mrs H:    Fabric (Q: They were fabric gloves?) They were fabric gloves. I think later on they did go over to fur, and, you know, that’s a different style of glove, before they closed down, but of course I wasn’t there not then. That was when the younger Pinkhams came along. They changed things a bit. Oh no, they, they were a good firm really, but, takes a war to do it.

Q:    Did they have any men working there?

Mrs H:    They had some, packers, and that, not many. Only just a few, and one or two in the office, you see.

Q:    So they had to sort of ….?

Mrs H:    That was, and that was about the only factory in Witham. They always used to say Witham wouldn’t have a factory and I don’t think they would. They didn’t welcome them, you see.

Q:    Who didn’t want them?

Mrs H:    Well, Councils. You see on the Councils in those days, they were more or less perhaps retired gentlemen, you see. And they used to like to keep it as select as they could. I think that was the idea. That’s why we always got so we never, we knew we’d never had a factory, except the seed places. Cause if you look back on Witham history, that is mostly that sort of thing, isn’t it? And wool, but that’s going back years and years. Mm.

Q:    But you said the pea shed was there.

Mrs H:    Oh that was the Tabers, you see. That was run by Cullens, only that was, down the, erm, well it’s, on the corner of Avenue, Road, on the corner there. Go round Avenue Road, it was on the corner there, you see, Tabers [Cooper Taber, seed warehouse].

Q:    So how did Pinkham’s get the factory there, I wonder?

Mrs H:    Well, they started in the house, er, they had a couple of houses down, just past the Station. That’s were they started up. (Mr H: Over the road). Yes (Mr H: That’s right, two houses). That’s right, that’s where they started up. You see, and they had, two houses there [13 Albert Road and 14 Albert Road; before that they were in 4 Albert Road]. Don’t know who lives in them now. Just past the Temperance [Temperance Hotel, 9 Albert Road]. Mm. But I didn’t work there, cause they had, that happened, the factory was built in 1912 and I went in 1913, you see.

Q:    Was there a fuss when they built the factory?

Mrs H:    No, I don’t think so, no. Shouldn’t say so. But that’s, that depends on whose ground it was, I suppose, too.

Mr H:    They’ve told you the history of The Avenue, I suppose?

Mrs H:    Oh cause you know all about that.

Mr H:    Used to be the drive, you know, for the Grove …. [The Grove, 1 Newland Street]

Mrs H:    To go the bottom, the mansion, at the bottom. Laurence. (Q: Laurence?). Yes.

Mr H:    Used to be trees each side, wasn’t there.

Mrs H:    Lime trees, yes. That used to be a Sunday afternoon walk for us. Or we would sit under the trees down there. Yes, that was very nice really.

Q:    [To Mr H] Did you used to live in Witham, as well?

Mr H:    No, I come from Suffolk (Q: Do you? Ah.). I came here after I came out of the army in the 1914 War [First World War]. And then we, we met up and then married and … (Mrs H: Yes)

Q:    How did you meet?

Mrs H:    I used to go on the train, you see, and he was working on the platforms (Mr H: That’s right, yes.) Mm.

Q:    How did you come to come to Witham? Was it just where the jobs ….?

Mrs H:    Go where he was moved to.

Mr H:    Well I was, I was at Stowmarket then, and there was a lot of redundancies then, so they shifted the men about, and I had to come here. I was a shunter at Stowmarket, and I came here shunter.

Mrs H:    You’ve got to make a move to get a higher grade, you see.

Mr H:    Then we moved about, didn’t we? I went, where did I go to next? Colchester, didn’t I?

Mrs H:    No we went to Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, didn’t we (Mr H: We went to Hertfordshire, yes). That was, no we went to Colchester, we were there seven months. And one night, after we’d gone to bed, there was somebody brought a message to you. You’d got to go up to Stratford in the morning. So he said, ‘Well, I know what that means. I’m made redundant.’ Er, you went up there and his job had finished. They were finishing off here and he’d er, they offered him a job at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire. They didn’t think he’d take it, but he did. Cause there was a railway cottage going with it, you see. So we went there for about two years (Mr H: Yes, that’s right’. But I’d got a bit of a hankering for coming back. We got, you got back to Maldon, didn’t you? So we went into rooms at Totham.

Mr H:    That’s right, yes. [laughing] That was all, well, the point was, I was a shunter, you see, and, pretty early age, really, because, er, I was one of the first to come out of the army. And the jobs were going, you see, so of course I got a shunter’s job. My next was a guard, and I wouldn’t take, I was a third class shunter and I wouldn’t take myself down. If I hadn’t went to Broxbourne, you see, well, I’d’ve had to come here, lower grade (Mrs H: Five bob less, a week [laughing]). Yes.

Mrs H:    See you got five shillings at each grade.

Mr H:    Yes.

Mrs H:    And then we come back to Maldon, and we went into rooms up at Totham, didn’t we?

Mr H:    That’s right, yes.

Mrs H:    So I had five moves in four years, which was bad for the children really because they were changing schools, you see. That was five changes for them, wasn’t it?

Mr H:    Yes. Oh we had two other, we got back here didn’t we [???]?

Mrs H:    What?

Mr H:    That was the end of this road.

Mrs H:    Oh yes, up the top of the road here, yes
Q    This was all after you got the bungalow?

Mrs H:    Oh we sold that. We had to sell that for £320. We did. £320.

Mr H:    Yes.

Q:    And then you came back to Witham, in the end, you first came along, a different house, did you?

Mrs H:    We went down next to the road, down there. We went down there in 1938 but we moved, we bought this house ten years before we could move into it, see. There was an old lady living here. And this was a filthy house. And er, but we brought it because they were modernising houses then, or beginning to hunt up the landlords and making them sort of decent for people, and our landlord was Mr Mondy [of Mondy’s ironmongers, 63 Newland Street]. He’d got quite a lot of old property, and course he’d got to do a lot of spending if he done what the Council wanted and he wouldn’t do it. So he came round one day and he said, said they were selling their houses and we would we like to buy the one down Easton Road. And I said to him ‘No’, cause I’d got two flights of stairs, and they were dangerous stairs, rather, and er, I said ‘But if you’re selling all your property, I’d like old Mrs Kidd’s house, that’s this one.’ So he said ‘Well I’ll let you know.’ And I think it was nearly a year later, or it was a good while later, before he let me know. He said ‘Well I promised you first refusal of Mrs Kidd’s house’, he said, ‘and I’m selling that now, if you’d like to buy it.’ And I, I said ‘Right we’ll think about it. And, we shall properly have it.’ And course we did, didn’t we?

Mr H:    Oh yes.

Mrs H:    But she was ten years before she died. She died at ninety-eight [laughing]. I used to think I should die before she would. Cause she’s a tough old nut.

Mr H:    We paid £400 for it.

Mrs H:    Yes.

Mr H:    Mind you I had to, we had to spend over a thousand.

Mrs H:    Then, yes, that was, that would be twenty-five years ago we bought this. But we had to wait ten years before we got into it, you see. Perhaps that was a good thing, give us a chance to save up for what we had to do to it. [laughing].

Q:    You were down Easton Road all that time, were you?

Mrs H:    From 1938 till ’62, yes, yes [perhaps 1952, from previous information?]. You could always get a house in Easton Road at that time. They were always empty.

Mr H:    Yes.

Mrs H:    More or less. That wouldn’t have been so bad because I always think that started up my arthritis, cause I fell down the stairs once or twice, you see. And that is how arthritis really starts up, with a fall, if you, if you did but go back a bit, you do find that out. Yes. Have you put my fat in the oven?

Mr H:    Yes.

Mrs H:    Oh.

Q:    Do you want to be up and doing something?

Mrs H:    No, no, it’s alright. No, I don’t have to worry really, he’s er, this is like, there’s things I can’t do, you see. You see, my hands, I wish I had been left my hands, but you see that is my trouble. See, they told me in time I shouldn’t be able to use my hands and they are getting that way. It’s in the wrists a lot. But er, you see, I can’t unscrew things. It’s a horrible thing really, arthritis. (Q: Mm). And course I had that, that leg done you see, they, I’ve got a loose bone under there, well that’s never gone. But that’s gone so it pushes into that one and that’s why I don’t walk out really. Cause I can’t. One leg’s wriggling round the other, like, round. But apart from that I, you know, I don’t do too badly. I couldn’t manage what my husband’s at home. I mean, lucky he’s on pension, you see. Yeah.

Q:    Is it a, how old, is it a secret how old you are? You told me how old he was.

Mrs H:    Is it what?

Q:    Is a secret how old you are?

Mrs H:    No, not a secret no. He’s seventy-nine this month, and I’m seventy-seven. Yes. I didn’t, I never wanted to be so long. No, I think seventy’s plenty long enough. [laughing] I do. I think, I’d rather be remembered er, younger and nicer. Some people they do have a rotten time and they are a bit of nuisance to the children really. But we can’t control.

Side 2

Mrs H:    It’s the line of things you want, isn’t it?

Q:    Yes, it’s interesting. Well, things seem so different? Actually, how did, did your parents live long?

Mrs H:    Yes, my mother, well mother died at eighty, seventy-eight, and my father died eighty-two.

Q:    Did they stop up Church Street?

Mrs H:    Old grandfather, yes my grandfather lived to be ninety. [Q: Well, it’s in the family, really] Yes, yes.

Q:    Was your grandfather a Witham, person? Was he a Witham person?

Mrs H:    Erm, my grandfather was, more or less. Well, he lived up there, but he, years ago when they worked on the land he was a sort of a coachman really. They used to go from one job to another with these big houses, you see. But my father, he wasn’t born here, but my uncle was. They used to go Rivenhall,, er, Hoo Hall, cottage. There’s a wooden cottage, I don’t know whether you go round the road? There’s a wooden cottage and it still stands there. Yes.

Q:    That was your uncle?

Mrs H:    Yes, uncle was born there but my father he lived there too. Mother I think, she lived at Terling really, but, then went into service in places in Witham. Cause she used to live in the house where, that was Abrey and Gardner’s [26 Newland Street], and that’s where Dorothy Sayers’s houses are. In one of those, she was a servant there. But Dorothy Sayers hadn’t lived there many years. That makes me so cross, when I see Dorothy Sayers’ birthplace. My mother was a servant there, just before she married. Dorothy Sayers doesn’t belong to Witham. It makes me angry.

Q:    Who did your mother work for?

Mrs H:    Gardner’s, you see. They were auctioneers in Witham.

Q:    What was, do you remember, what was her maiden name, do you remember?

Mrs H:    Er, Capon, but she wasn’t a Witham person, no, she wasn’t, not really. I tell you my grand, she used to say my old grandfather, her father, you never knew come Michaelmas, cause they used to make them move at Michaelmas time. You never knew where, her mother never knew where they’d be moving too. Do it on an old tumbril cart, you see [laughing], go from one part to another. That’s how the farm people used to live, years ago.

Q:    They were just taken on by the year, you mean?

Mrs H:    Well, that’s where …. That used to be the time of the year when a farmer’s man’d make a move if he was going to. Yes. Cause he died up at Harold Wood. You know, he’d gone all over the place, the old man did.

Q:    That was your mother’s …?

Mrs H:    Father, yes. But I’ve heard her say that she lived at Hatfield. I think that was at Whitelands Farm. And she used to have to go to Hatfield School, cause that was …. A pair of cottages but I think they were in two parishes, see what I mean. One Terling and one was Hatfield. So, and, Hatfield School was the nearest, and of course they used to go.

Q:    So she met your father when they both came to Witham?

Mrs H:    I, well, dad, course he’d lived at Rivenhall or in the area for years, you see.

Q:    So you, but he didn’t work on the land, ever, your father?

Mrs H:    I believe my father did work at, I don’t know whether he every worked at the Maltings first, I believe down here. Down Easton Road. I believe he worked there for a while but not in my time. No he was a railway man. Well he had forty years on that, you see. So I really can’t go back much further than that, not myself.

Q:    So when he, how old did he go on working for?

Mrs H:    Till he was seventy.

Q:    Till he was seventy?

Mrs H:    Oh yes. Yes, yes. They lived up Church Street.

Q:    They stopped up there, did they?

Mrs H:    Yes.

Q:    What did your other brother and sisters do? What sort of jobs did they do?

Mrs H:    Well, funnily enough, we were mixed up with railways, rather a lot. Erm, I had two brothers go on the railway. Er, a brother-in-law was on the railway; engine driver at Bristol. He died a year or two ago. And erm, my husband’s brother was a railway man. So we have always been mixed in the railways, more or less. My husband went to Bressingham last Sunday, to see the engines there. They had planned an outing. A little woman, I don’t know what her name is who lives at number nine, her father, he’s a railway man. He organizes for the pensioners, you see [He was probably Bob Bragg, former stationmaster at Witham]. But I have been to Bressingham. I could have gone, but I didn’t go cause I’d been there twice, and I’m not all that interested in the old engines. But I have got a nephew down in Bristol, who’s a really active engine man. Although he wasn’t on the railways, but he made, he’s got his own engine fully made. Yes, and they have it on these [???], I think. They have a Park and they, run the children round, you know. Yes but it he did it his self, it took them years.

Q:    Perhaps you’d seen plenty of old engines when you were …?

Mrs H:    No.

Q:    Did your father have to, used to work long ….?

Mrs H:    I can just remember the railway accident we had here. All along towards the station there were sleepers. I remember us climbing up on the sleepers to have a look to see the wreckage. But I should, that was in 1911 was it, or ‘5? [Pause] About 5, that was about ‘5. [crash of Cromer express in 1905] I can just remember trying to climb up on the sleepers to have a peep over the top [laughing]. That was a terrible thing. Oh, if there was a fire or anything, people used to go miles to see them, on their bikes.

Q:    Can you remember any of the fires?

Mrs H:    But now, the fire engine goes across, we think nothing of it, do we? That’s funny ain’t it. But they would, cause I remember they had a fire once down at the Constitutional Club and that was next to Congregational Chapel, and they got the, pump. [1910, site between 88 and 90 Newland Street] One what the man used pump, that was er, quite a scene there, you know. Go miles to see anything. Course now with cars and that, there isn’t such a thing, is there.

Q:    You can remember that happening, do you?

Mrs H:    Oh yes, yes, oh yes. Cause we used to go on occasion, Chapel. Sunday School, three times a day, sometimes, morning, afternoon and sometimes in the evening. That was to get rid of the children, wasn’ it. [laughing].

Q:    Did your parents not go?

Mrs H:    No, they didn’t go, no. [laughing] Used to go to the Band of Hope, meetings.

Q:    When were they? On the Sunday ….?

Mrs H:    Had them, no they used to have them in the week, you see. Meetings in the hall at the back of the Congregational place. Life wasn’t too bad. We used to have nice pageants sometimes in the summer, on the cricket ground, or else down at the Grove, in there gardens. I mean you were working for them for a long time but you used to have…. Er, we had a schoolmaster who was very interested in music. So we used to have the musical competitions at the, Chelmsford, the Shire Hall. Cause everything like that has gone, hasn’t it? But you see you got to practise and that a lot.

Q:    Were you interested in music?

Mrs H:    I used, I used to be able to sing, and so did my sister, but I don’t sing now. But I did used to be able to sing when I was a child, you know. Cause I remember I had to go into a, I had a duet, sing a duet at the Shire Hall with another girl, we blended together. And er, nerves, I used to lose my voice more often than not when it come to the crunch. [laughing]

Q:    Did you used to learn at school or did you have to have special lessons?

Mrs H:    Oh we used to learn at school. Our master, Mr Quick, he, he was really musical, you know. And I think, to be in a nice choir I think is really lovely, I do.

Q:    Which school…..?

Mrs H:    Cause you see, when I started work, you got no time for anything. You worked until eight o/clock, poor kids were tired, weren’t we? Not bored, tired. [laughing]

Q:    So, what, you stopped doing all that when you went to work?

Mrs H:    Oh yes.

Q:    Did you still go to Church?

Mrs H:    No, no it’s a long time since I went.

Q:    I mean, sorry when you were at work, did you still go to Church?

Mrs H:    No, I don’t think I did, no. Cause I would have preferred to have kept, gone to this church, you see, cause I was baptized there and married there. That would be where I would prefer to go St Nicolas myself, but er, we never got round to it.

Q:    But your family was Congregational?

Mrs H:    Yes. Mother changed over for [???] [meaning small, according to notes] reason, I think, or else was something happened, and so she stopped going, and course she could get rid of the children for longer, I suppose. They had the classes, cause they used to be, ladies, they used to take more interest in those sorts of things. Cause the Ingles family at the Church [Anglican]. There was two or three Miss Ingles, then there were some Miss McClarens, you see. Then there was Miss Gracie Laurence, from the Grove. They used to take an interest in the people in those days, you see. But course that’s all finished.

Q:    What way did they used to ….?

Mrs H:    They used to visit the people who were sick, and all that sort of thing. Or if there was epidemics, measles, which they used to have rather badly. They’d help out then, you see, with soup kitchens at the Vicarage. They used to do a lot of work, but then of course, the old days I suppose they were better-off people really who went into the churches. But course now, course there’s nobody bothers. Used to love to go and see people come out of Church, cause they all used to dress up, have their carriages. But now everybody’s got a car, and we used to walk, but, don’t bother.

Q:    What, you reckon they were better off, that went to St Nicolas?

Mrs H:    Oh yes. All the, we used to call them the nobs, better-off people, oh yes; yes, yes. Of course they used to attend regular, have their own pews and all that sort of thing.

Q:    Those would be the families you mentioned? People like the Laurences?

Mrs H:    Oh yes, oh yes. Nobody else could go and sit in their pews. Well I suppose they used to contribute to the churches, you see. They must have done. They got the money from somewhere, didn’t they?

Q:    So what sort of people used to help at the other Church [i.e. Congregational]?

Mrs H:    Well they were more sort of, well, they had some good helpers, but not such well-to-do people used to go there. No.

Q:    What sort of jobs would they be doing, for instance?

Mrs H:    Well, they weren’t people who really worked as you might say.

Q:    Oh I see.

Mrs H:    Independent.

Q:    I mean the people at, people at the Congregational who used to run the Church?

Mrs H:    Well they were sort of, well, they weren’t, didn’t have to be well off, you see, so there were good workers, you see for the Churches. Cause it all had to be done on collection, you see.

Q:    But it was from the Church to the Congregational that your mother changed?

Mrs H:    Yes, well she, cause they were never really members of the Church, you see, it was just a matter of where you attended. No, so we were never really very tied up with, not any church at all.

Q:    So would the people up Church Street, you mentioned, who were hard up, would they get any help from the Church?

Mrs H:    Oh they’d go to, probably to go to Church. Childr-, yes, well, I think people had so many children, they were glad to get rid of them for an hour or two. You see, give them a rest on the Sunday. That’s all I could see. And course that was all country up there, you see [top of Church Street, after 100-134, the terrace]. Well that’s all built up now, it’s not the same, is it? Past the terrace, there was nothing, you see, nor in front of us. That was right out in the country just past there, you see. That’s where we used to go and play, up on the green at the side of the roads. Used to enjoy it, well, we would dress up. You know, funny little things you do, get a bit of curtain stuff. And kids enjoyed it too. Then we had hoops and tops, didn’t we? In the season, always come in the season, yes. Skip all the way to school. We used to take up the road, you know, have a skipping rope and we used to skip down to Maldon Road School.

Q:    You went to Maldon Road School?

Mrs H:    Yes, oh yes. But you see you enjoyed it, now you can’t make them walk anywhere, can you? No.

Q:    Why did you go to that one rather than the …?

Mrs H:    We went to this one down here until we were seven.

Q:    Oh I see.

Mrs H:    Then after we were seven, we had to go to either the Church School or else the Maldon Road School.

Q:    Would there be any special reason why you went to the Maldon Road one rather than the Church School?

Mrs H:    No it was preference, you pleased yourself.

Q:    You could choose, could you?

Mrs H:    Oh yes. Yes.

Q:    Can you remember anything about the, I suppose it was quite a long time ago when that you went to the Church Street one? Can you remember anything about that?

Mrs H:    Yes, I can in a way. In fact I’ve got a scrapbook in there and I’ve got a photograph. I had to go one d-, my sister she’d started school. She was about two years older than me and I went there when I was 2 ½ to have me photograph taken and I was on the mat [laughing]. Sitting on the mat. I’ve got the scrapbook in the cupboard there, where I put little odd bits that appeared in the paper just last few years. And I know it me because, funnily enough in our bedroom when we were children, we had the same photograph on the wall for years, so I knew it was me. Funny thing [laughing]. Then we started school at three.

Q:    I see.

Mrs H:    And I think that’s a very good idea, because I think myself, children ought to start sooner than they do now, because they learn such a lot, when they’re little. Whereas now they, they know it before they go to school, don’t they? They do get tired of themselves. But, course we had to leave early, so that balanced out. Think there’s a lot going to school now till they’re about fifteen or sixteen, they’d be better at work. You get a better command of children, you know, if they’re younger, don’t you?

Q:    So I suppose everybody stayed at the same school, even if they stayed on after they were fourteen or whatever?

Mrs H:    Well you got to do a bit, I don’t think you could stay after fourteen. Oh no, no question of it. Got to get a job. And they used to do errands, you know, jobs for shops or people, run errands.

Q:    Yes. Did they do anything …. any jobs in the summer holidays?

Mrs H:    Oh, don’t talk about pea picking. That was pea picking, this time of the year. I used to hate it. We used to, they used to knock us up. Somebody along the road, knocks up. We used to be on the road about four o’clock in the morning, to get into the pea fields early. People with little old barrows, you know, with the food in. Clothes in them that weren’t wanted, that was wet. Cause you see, you’d got to stick it out. And perhaps walk a long way to, to, to where the fields were. Good long walks. And that was to start in the morning. Got to be in the, in the field about five o’clock, if you wanted to do anything. But my daughter made me laugh yesterday, she said they went to Langford yesterday morning, they thought they’d be early, they got there at eight o’clock. Gooseberry picking. And she said there was crowds of cars there. (Q: Really?) Yes. Cause there’s a shortage of gooseberries, isn’t there, all soft fruits, you see this year. And she, they thought they would be early but she said there were crowds of cars down there.

Q:    So when you went to the pea fields, what would happen if you weren’t there in time?

Mrs H:    Oh you’d go when you liked.

Q:    You could go when you liked.

Mrs H:    Oh yes, there was no, nothing special about that. Some people worked harder than others.

Q:    You didn’t like it?

Mrs H:    I hated it. In the finish it got so my mother used to leave me at home to look after the two youngest, while she went with the others [laughing]. She said I would see everything that went in or out of the field [laughing]. They’re the funny things you can look back on really, you know.

Q:    Still I suppose it was all a bit of extra money, wasn’t it?

Mrs H:    Yes, oh yes. Well that used to set us up with clothes to go back to school again, you see. We used to have six, forgot whether it was a month or six weeks. Only about a month, I think. So we didn’t have much holiday really.

Q:    How did they used to pay for the peas?

Mrs H:    So much for the sack. So much for a sack of peas. A big three-bushel sack, I think it was, for about, you was lucky to get ninepence, picking them [laughing]. Yes.

Q:    Still, I suppose most of the people up your way would have ….?

Mrs H:    They were nearly all out pea picking. Most of the people were out, poorer people. Cause that was their only time of the year of getting a little bit extra, you see.

Q:    Still, you’ll be getting hungry for your dinner, are you?

Mrs H:    Yes. My husband’s always on time for food. He’s a railway man and he thinks the dinner has got to be on the table [laughing]. Just a habit. Yes. You’ll be late getting yours on. Or do you cook at night?

Q:    Well, I’ve got some of it ready. We probably won’t have it until about one.

Mrs H:    Yes, yes. My daughter she always has hers at night, I think. She lives at Totham. I went up there last Sunday. Had Strawberry tea and all the rest of it. They’ve a nice bungalow up there. Shouldn’t want to live out in the country by myself, not right out. Got to have your own transport; haven’t you.

Q:    Quite. yes. No, like to be handy. It’s pretty handy here, isn’t it?

Mrs H:    Well I think this is a nice spot. Cause they can’t, if they build out those houses, I don’t mind if they do, because our gardens are long, you see. So that really won’t interfere with us at all, I don’t think. And that field is getting so grown over, I’m getting so I shan’t see any cars. [field at back of 11 Chalks Road etc., known as Bell field]

Q:    I don’t know what’s going to happen about that.

Mrs H:    Yes, if only they’d cut it.

Q:    Still, I suppose if there are a lot of people they’ve got to build the houses.

Mrs H:    Well it’s Council, ain’t it? Oh I don’t know whether. There’s going to be twenty-seven houses come on there, ain’t there? That used to be a Bell Field, that was Bell Field. Well we used to enter it, if we wanted to go to the station. There used to be an entrance down that end and a little kissing gate up the corner, near Cullen’s [49 Braintree Road]. So you could cut across there to the station.

Q:    Oh I see

Mrs H:    When we, cause that was a playing field, you see, more or less. (Q: Was it?) Oh yes. Wasn’t any swings or anything but we could use it.

Q:    You used to go there, did you?

Mrs H:    Yes, well yes. If we wanted, yes. But that had got like it a footpath right across where people used to slip across to the station.

Q:    I wonder why it was called Bell Field? I’ve never heard anybody ….?

Mrs H:    Don’t know. But that is, that is Bell Field. Whether it was because it was near the bells of the church. [laughing] That’s nice to hear them again really. Yes.


[continuation on 15th July 1977]

Mrs H:    And she’d got it burnished beautiful. Oh yes we used to have little holidays, cause my dad was on the railway so we could travel, have a pass, you see, we could go out where we wanted for a week.

Q:    Mm, lovely.

Mrs H:    You see, we could, actually, you know, if you had the time, I often, well, we could now. We could still have a railway pass and we could go up to Scotland, if we wanted, or we could go to, go abroad, to Jersey or any of the islands. But you see when you get too old, you can’t do it, you see.

Q:    Where did you used to go when you were little?

Mrs H:    Oh we used to have a day a Yarmouth, cause my mother had seven children you see. Go down to Yarmouth and Southend and all places, Clacton, places like that, on our week’s holiday. So we used to get little outings where, really others didn’t. That’s where I think railway men really should consider, even today, that, they do get some concessions, don’t they. Cause we could travel a bit cheaper on the railways if we could go. Well a little while ago, I did go down to Clacton, for the day, cause there’s a market there, you know, and I love markets.

Q:    Yes.

Mrs H:    And, they have quite a variety of stuff there. And er, what I did was, I got Mrs Smith to come with me, cause you see I get in a bit of muddle if, I am afraid of being shut up in a toilet, you see. And, if, my sister goes or anybody, if they can stand outside, cause once I got locked in, in a toilet at Yarmouth, I remember. This train, train was standing in the station, as it happened, so my husband he contacted somebody to let me out, you see. And er, so I’m afraid to go out unless I’ve got somebody with me. But you’d be surprised, when I got here, they took us down on a lift. They took my chair and put it in the guard’s van and we got in a carriage near. And, that was the through train to Clacton, and we had the same sort of service when we got there. Well we didn’t know exactly, as we’d always gone in by road, where the market was at Clacton but that is the football field really and you can park a car there. And, got a taxi to there, see, from the station to the market, but that did rain. That was a pity that was a wet day. And, anyway I bought what I wanted. I wanted some curtains and different things. I got what I wanted and we came straight home again. But, and we had the same service coming back. I was disgusted at the state the railway waiting room was in. To me that was filthy. And, they phoned us through, evidently, so there was two men, porters, waiting when we got here to take the chair off. I thought I was a VIP that day [laughing]. But that’s surprising you know when you go in a shop. If you got a stick or you can’t get about, they’re very kind, in all the shops I find that. If I go, but I mostly have to work by post now. I think it’s the only way, to do it, but it’s such a bother for me to get ready to go out, that you know ….

Q:    Still, I expect it is nice when you do go, isn’t it?

Mrs H:    Oh yes it is, but I get in a little bit of a tizzy. I need not but I do. But down at Dovercourt [???] that’s quite a journey. Have you been there?

Q:    No I haven’t, no.

Mrs H:    That’s very nice there really. Cause the huts are all up high.

Q:    Yes.

Mrs H:    And course, you can’t insure them.

Q:    No. Can’t you insure them at all?

Mrs H:    No you can’t insure them. Susan’s John had all the windows broke in the front door, but he had, he boarded it up and he painted the place up nice and this woman happened to come along and that was just what she was looking for. She said she’d seen two or three, she said, but this is the one I’d like. And, he got rid of it.

Q:    I expect there’s a few changes in the seaside since you used to go?

Mrs H:    Well, yes, well cause up the end we were at Dovercourt there, you couldn’t paddle there. That was the wrong end, you see. Oh yes we did, we used to go out for a day sometimes but holidays didn’t count for so much as they do now, it’s all holidays for people now, ain’t it? Really it is, ain’t it? That’s like John, they’ve just had one holiday. They’ve been, you know over to Belgium, Holland, Germany, on a coach tour. Now they’ve gone to Scotland later on, you see. Only he’s, wants to go under his own steam. Coach parties are very good but they’re hard work. Late nights and get up early, and off in the morning. You don’t want that on holiday, do you? Course a lot of people they go bed and breakfast or they go get beds in the seaside places and they have it, hire up beach hut for the day and then you can do what you like. I think that’s a good idea when you’ve got a family or little children, you see as long as you’ve got the conveniences. But course that wasn’t done years ago, not when we were children. I mean there’s ….


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