Mr Jim (Bert) Godfrey was born in 1906, and was interviewed on 3 February 1978, when he lived at 2 St Nicholas Road, Witham.
He also appears on tape 27.
For more information about him, see Godfrey 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 email@example.com 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.]
[Looking at photos that belong to Jim himself, of which copies are in my ‘M’ series collection of photos]
Mr G: [photo M122, horse, blacksmith and soldiers] Down from the station. Cooper Taber’s old place there. That was in the First World War
Q: A lot of people have spoken about the soldiers but I don’t know whether I’ve ever seen a photograph.
Mr G: This fellow [on left] was billeted with us, he was billeted with us in the First World War, and this man (holding the horse’s hoof) had that forge down next to the Crotchet, Mr Shelley. But that I think was taken near that tree over there look. There’s Cooper Taber’s as it was in those days, which is now Hurst Gunson’s, you know on the corner. [in Avenue Road]
Q: Is that the building that’s still …
Mr G: No, that was burnt down. I think there’s houses where those offices were. Now Hurst Gunson goes right over this other field.
Q: There’s a rather strange building you see if you look across from the station.
Mr G: Yes well that’s taken the place of this old place. (Q: They built that …) Afterwards, that’s right. This was Cooper Taber in those days. You can see this is all Avenue Road now, and there’s no houses at all in those days. (Q: So this is sort of looking, that’s Avenue Road looking up.) That’s right, looking from the Avenue across that way.
Mr G: They used to have the whole of this field. There were no houses either side. I can’t find a photograph of the Avenue with all the trees unfortunately.
Q: So this one’s Mr Shelley [holding the horse’s hoof]. (Mr G: That’s Mr Shelley.) They kept him busy then?
Mr G: Well he was in the army, you see, but he was just, that was his trade, so (Q: He stayed at Witham?) That’s right. At that time, anyway.
Q: So the others weren’t necessarily local?
Mr G: Oh no, they came, they were billeted in Witham, [???] (Q: This is the one that …) He was with us [on the left]. I don’t know whether, I can’t recognise any of these.
Q: Where did he come from?
Mr G: I think it was Bristol, but I’m not too sure about that. They came from [???] anyway.
Q: That’s one of their carts, is it [photo M121, soldiers and horses and cart}.
Mr G: That’s one of their carts.. (Q: And the dog.) 1914-18 so it’s a long while ago, isn’t it. That was in Witham High Street [photo M123, two buses]. It’s an outing of some sort. You notice they keep the boys in one and the girls in the other. I wasn’t on that, I think my brothers are on here somewhere but I couldn’t pick them out now. That house was where Barclay’s Bank is [59 Newland Street, in the centre]. (Q: Oh yes, and that’s the big tall one ..) With the clock on it.
Q: Was that from your school?
Mr G: I don’t know. It was probably a Sunday school I should think. A Miss Pattisson used to live in that house in those days. And then they moved from there to the one next to the Constitutional Club [Collingwood Road]. The little cottage there, Pelican, Pelican House or Pelican Cottage I think.
Q: Is she on this one, do you know?
Mr G: Well she’s probably standing there if she is I should think. [with white blouse in doorway]. That was her sister I know, that was always in a wheelchair. (Q: Near the dog?) That’s right. But that might be Miss Pattisson. She used to do a lot for the Sunday schools.
[General discussion about photo, not noted. The next part of the tape is looking at other photos and I have not noted the exact words here, just a summary of the main points. Where Jim gave names, the details are on the database of photos in the M series.
[Photo M124, Postal staff at Post Office, 1910 – 84 Newland Street. Ones not in uniform were clerks. Telegram boys in front. Post office in front, sorting office at back.. Stripes on arms probably for years’ service.
[Photo M125 – outing probably of choir and bellringers.]
[Photo M126 – Dr Ted Gimson in uniform. Had to go to War. The younger of the two. Brother stayed here]
[Photo M127 – football team 1920-21]
[Photo M128 – 23-27 Bridge Street and Marshall’s shop at 27A, this where he started. Old Morning Star to left. Dairy opposite, Newmans]
[Photo M131 – National School group including Jim’s father, Harry.]
[Photo M130 – Jim’s grandfather and family including Jim’s father, out of doors. Jim knew three of his aunts]
[Photo M131 – Jim’s grandfather, M132 his grandmother, i.e. his father’s parents]
[Photo M133 – Jim’s parents’ on wedding day. Perhaps in Bridge Street. toilet behind.]
[Discussion about getting the photos copied]
[Next looking at directory for 1917, again only a few items noted here in summary. William Shee had office in Maldon Road just above entrance to Park, was registrar. Horner used to live where Woolworth’s is, 35 Newland Street. Miss Barker, girls’ teacher, married Bertie Mann whose mother ran school at 124 Newland Street. Remembers Baptist church being used but only a long time ago. Mr Appleby dispenser at doctors. If went to doctor got medicines there. Alice Brockes some sort of cousin of Jim’s father – Brockes had forge – 130 Newland Street. Ebenezer Smith had Ebenezer Close named after him – councillor a long time. Shafto Abrey a retired sea captain.]
[Next looking at other photos, only extra comments noted here]
[Guithavon Street School, head in house. Infants at back. Two other houses to right, Miss Barwell lived in one. Q says Miss Hancock had said Miss B went to a friend’s house in Avenue Road with a towel for a bath].
Mr G: We didn’t have baths in those days. We used to have a little tin bath once a week, bath in front of the fire.
[Church Street – he didn’t go there much]
Mr G: When we had the gas lamps, somebody had to go out in the afternoon with a long pole with a hook on and switch them all on. Walk all round, and then later on, go round and put them out again. (Q: Did they go round very late to put them out?) Well about ten or eleven at night I think. Mind you Witham wasn’t as big as it is now, hadn’t so far to go, but it was quite a walk, latterly they got a bicycle but at one time they used to walk round every night and put them on and off.
[re photo of wide part of Newland Street:.]
Mr G: I know they had a bonfire here, must have been the end of the First War I think, and the flames were so high they began to burn the wires.
[continuing looking at photos, and vague chat about them, only extra comments noted here}
Q: … November the fifth, fires and things.
Mr G: Yes they always used to have a big fire there in those days.
[Newland Street, people in road
Mr G: Yes, we used to play marbles, or spin the hoops along there, tops. [i.e. in the road] You’d only got to look out for a horse and cart.
Mr G: I remember my father used to hire a pony and trap on a Sunday and take us over to Maldon. Quite an event, that was, yes. There used to be a baker down there, Mr Ardley, and he used to let out his horse on Sundays for anyone.
Q: Was there anybody who was just a cab …
Mr G: Yes, there used to be Mr Ottley, up by the station, and he used to run just cabs from the station, you know, that would be a thing more like this one, I suppose. Nothing big enough for a brake[?]. He used to have a brake that would take two horses and he’d take a party out in that.
Q: If you hired …
Mr G: If you hired a cab you drove yourself, yes.
Q: Somebody mentioned to me once the Co-op treat.
Mr G: That’s right, they used to have that once a year. I never went ‘cause I was never a member. If you were a member they used to give a treat to children once a year, on a Saturday afternoon.
Q: Oh you had to be a member did you?
Mr G: And you’d have tea and sports on the little field at the top.
Q: It must have been a bit hard on the children that didn’t …
Mr G: If you weren’t Co-operators you couldn’t go.
Q: The cinema must have started up while you were … [18 Newland Street]
Mr G: Yes, I remember that starting. I believe originally that was a school, or college or something there. I’m not too sure about that but I think it was. And if I’m right these are sort of railings or chains, to stop anyone coming out going into the road.
Q: Did you used to go there?
Mr G: I didn’t go there, no [must mean the school] I used to go to the pictures when that started ‘cause there was nothing else, not much else to do. Occasionally someone would open, come and run one at the Public Hall, you know a few weeks at a time. Was quite an event when they opened that one. Really filled a good want I think in Witham then. … I think they used to change it once a week so you got two different ones in the week, and occasionally they’d have a variety show or something like that, a concert there as well. Or various travelling lots would come for a week or two. … We used to, yes go to the pictures about once a week, once or twice a week.
Q: Freebornes was quite near the town for a farm, wasn’t it.
Mr G: It was, really, yes. … Down there, theyd go down to the fields at the back. Sometimes they drove the cattle on the roads, they didn’t have to worry about traffic in those days.
Q: Did you ever go up to London.
Mr G: Oh, not very often, it was quite an adventure if we did. (Q: You did go sometimes?) I have been up once or twice but not very often, Janet, we didn’t get so far. (Q: What did you do when you got there?) Go round, walk round, or visit relations[?] as a rule, go round with them.
Mr G: All those little alleyways, used to know all them and who lived there, it’s so different now. That little, you know the entrance to the doctor’s surgery [129 Newland Street]. Well as you go up that yard, on the right, farther up, there used to be three or four cottages up there.
Mr G: When I remember that way, there was nothing up over this bridge, just a little country lane up to the Cherry Tree [Cressing Road], no houses at all, I remember that, and Rickstones Road of course the same. Just little country lanes. … ‘Cause Witham was really agricultural, this area. You know up till, well Crittall’s I suppose started, I should think their factory was built about 1920, somewhere about that, but before that it was nearly all agricultural, no industry, or very little. (Q: You can remember them coming can you?) I remember Crittall’s coming. I remember that well because I left school in 1920 and I wrote there for a job, they said that when they were ready they would let me know, but I never heard. Shan’t hear now, shall I. … I think people were quite pleased to think there was work coming here. It did make a big difference. That was an allotment field over there, where their factory is. (Q: I suppose before they were there, if you didn’t get an apprenticeship or anything, there was just labouring?) That’s all, well a lot of them went to Chelmsford, you see get to Chelmsford, either cycle or go by train, to Chelmsford, there was factories there. But locally there was either shops or agriculture. (Q: I suppose the farmworkers …) Oh there were plenty of them in those days, Janet, because I mean there was not much else to do. And they used to have a long, you know a long day, start early in the morning until, well, nearly dark sometimes, especially in harvest time. … Anytime when you were not at school you could help out in the fields. … I didn’t help much, but the children whose people were on the farms, if there was jobs they could do they had to do it.
Q: Did you ever have to help your father in his job?
Mr G: No. Paper round was all I did, paper round, delivering milk sometimes. Used to combine the two, there was one or two houses, outlying houses, when I used to take my paper I’d pick up a can of milk, and deliver that to the Luards and the Pellys, you know. Save anyone making a special journey. …
Q: Did you have to collect the money of the Pellys and the Luards or would they arrange that…
Mr G: No they used to arrange that with the milkman. Used to collect for the newspapers, except various people like that would call in the shop and pay, but the general run of people, had to go round on Saturdays and collect the money for the week.
Q: I wonder how many people would get newspapers, were they much the same as today, or were there not so many, do you think ?
Mr G: I think there was quite as money, ‘cause when I was doing delivering from the High Street, I didn’t miss many houses. No, most of them had, I used to have two, well the weekend, with the local papers, the Chronicle and the weekly, I used to have two of those big paper bags full to deliver. Used to take out one lot and come back to the shop for another lot. Then most people had – papers were a halfpenny each I suppose, or a penny. And it was free delivery to start with, then they started charging for delivery.
Q: Did you have any trouble getting, it must have been a hard job going round on Saturdays getting money.
Mr G: Some people you know, put it off, but them we used to let them have it about three weeks, and if they didn’t pay then you stopped the papers. Didn’t let them get too big a bill.
Mr G: I suppose I noticed more about being out of work after the War, the First War, when a lot of men came back, and it took them a long time to find something to do. I know one job they had, they had a gang clearing out the river, well, to make work for them you know. Men who were not used to that sort of work but they used to do it rather than get unemployment pay, which wasn’t very much.
Q: What happened to the jobs when the First War was on?
Mr G: I think women were called to do some of it, that’s when women started doing some of the jobs, Janet, I think, I mean I remember women on the farms then, you know, land girls, which was most unusual, it was usually a man’s job. (Q: I suppose things like, well postmen for instance.) Yes, women took that on as well, all those sort of jobs, where women could do them, …. I don’t know whether they were compelled to come down, but a lot of them, were London, City girls came on the farms in the First War. And then of course a lot of them were in munition making. (Q: Was the munitions ..?) Not here. I think Crittall’s at Braintree was turned over to munitions. Course this one did in the Second War.
Mr G: At the start of the War [First} all the troops were volunteers, but latterly of course they had conscription. My brother, he went in and was killed, well he need never have gone. He was at Hoffmans, on munition work, but he volunteered to go and was killed.