Tape 029. Miss Lucy Croxall and Miss Eva Hayes (nee Croxall), sides 1 and 2

Tape 29

Miss Lucy Croxall was born in 1903, and her older sister Miss Eva Hayes (nee Croxall) in 1893, They were interviewed on 27 February 1978, when they lived at 44 Collingwood Road, Witham.

They also appear on tape 30.

For more information about them, see the notes on the Croxall family 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

[Chat about people they know in Kelvedon, not noted]

Q:    You were at Bramston [School] for a long time, were you?

Miss C:    I was there when it opened. (Q: Were you?) In fact I always say I opened it. There were five of us who opened it. Mr Maidment, you know Mr Maidment? Well, he was at Silver End.

Mrs H:      Mr Sordy was ….

Miss C:     Now lives at Braintree. He was chairman of the – Education. He was a big man on the Education at Chelmsford. There was Maidment, the master – Mr Sordy was the Head, he came from Clacton. Sordy, Maidment, Mr French, who lives round Avenue Road – and he is still alive although not really very well. Mrs French died, about a year ago didn’t she? Lives opposite Kath Richards.

Mrs H:     Probably. About a year ago, maybe.

Miss C:     Mr Crosby. Now Mr Crosby lived in (Mrs H: Millbridge Road.) Millbridge Road. And his daughter is Mrs Byford. Not the ‘furniture Byfords’ but another Byford in Witham and then myself. There were five of us. We opened the school in 1937. Mr Ashton put it in the paper ‘1938’. That was in the Braintree & Witham Times and I thought well, shall I write and just say [Q laughs] ‘a slight mistake’ but I couldn’t bother, so we let it go. 19 – and I think it was the 5th September 1937 that we went as the children and everything. And then the official opening was in October and Lady – well, she’s the Dowager Lady Rayleigh now but Lady Rayleigh came and opened it. Big day that was. (Q: It must have been) Mmm .

Q:     There wasn’t a secondary school in ….?

Miss C:     It was called a Senior school then, you see, in 1937. We opened and Margaret Tabor opened just after.  And, but that was separate. Boys and girls. A Mr Freeman was the Head (Mrs H: Yes) And Miss Evans (Mrs H: Oh yes, that’s right) was the headmistress. Then that amalgamated and – was it Alec Hunter? – one opened just going into Braintree. And Miss Evans took that. And Freeman – he joined the Navy or something – (Q: Did he? Mmm)

Q:    Were there many children at Bramston when it started?

Miss C:     Between four and five hundred.

Q:     Oh, that was quite a lot then, really….

Miss C: [interrupts] Oh yes, we always had the children from the districts, you see. I came from Hatfield, I was at Hatfield. (Q: I see.) Came out of college and went to Hatfield and we were all – all the seniors, you see, we were all moved out and I didn’t want to come. But I said- I said [laughing], ‘No, I won’t come’. But Mr Phillips, the Deputy Director of Education (Mrs H: Education, yes.) – he used to take a choir in Witham and we all used to belong to his choir. And he said to me ‘I’d go if I were you’. But I said ‘ Well, I don’t want to leave Hatfield. And I’m not leaving the children and coming…’ ‘Well,’ he said ‘you’ll bring some of the children with you. I would come if I were you.’ And so I decided and of course I was made Headmistress, you see, and Deputy Head. [laughs] Yes, and then we had Hatfield, Terling, Fairsted, Kelvedon, Feering, Cressing, (Mrs H: Boreham.) Faulkbourne, (Mrs H: Boreham) and Boreham. And Hatfield, yes. And they all came in by bus. Well, then they first of all opened another school at Braintree, that would be Miss Evans. So the Cressing children left us and went there. Then they opened Broomfield School and they took our Boreham children to fill that up. Well then they made Coggeshall a secondary so they took our Kelvedon and Feering children. The children could go or they could stop with us. If they went to these new schools the bus fare was paid. But if they kept with us they had to pay their own bus fare. But quite a number really were Kelvedon and Feering children. Quite a number kept with us.

Q:    So you lost a few.

Miss C:    We did, yes. But then, of course, we had a bulge here, you see.

Q:    I suppose, that wasn’t long before the war, was it? Did the war make a big difference to the school? (Miss C: Oh yes.) What happened then?

Miss C:    Um, 1939, wasn’t it, the war? Well, of course, all the – all the buses were stopped. Petrol. That was all stopped, you see. And no child from the village was allowed to come in. So, we – our staff were evacuated as it were out to the villages. Mr Maidment and Mr Dibbens stopped at Silver End as they came from Silver End. Crosby was sent to Hatfield. (Mrs H: Yes.) Mr French was sent to Terling. And then of course, one or two of the masters had to join the Forces. Cooper and Lamb. I stayed on here and Mr Sordy. And one or two others. But we lost quite a number of the children. But we had two schools evacuated here. From Galliard Road. (Mrs H: One was Roman Catholic, wasn’t it?) Yes somewhere Woodford, Wanstead and all up that way. Galliard Road. (Mrs H: Yes, London, I’d say [laughs]. Yes, London. From that way. I know they – somewhere not far from – I thought of the place the other day where they came from. Anyway, one was a Catholic school and one was a [???] school and we had them with us. (Mrs H: And all the teachers.) And all the staff. The teachers, yes. And they were all billeted round.

Q:    Did they run their school separately? (Miss C: Separately, yes. Yes.) They didn’t mix…

Miss C:    No, they ran it. They had the – so many classrooms separately. They ran theirs on their own and so did we. We got on very very well together. And we shared the hall, you see, for assemblies and PT and lessons like that.

Q:    Yes. It must have been a bit complicated, really.

Miss C:    Yes, but some things I think you know with PE and things like that the masters joined together. But on the whole, they kept their – well, the Catholics were junior- more -, they were juniors. Yes. But – and the children were billeted all round, in the different houses, weren’t they?

Mrs H:    They seemed to enjoy it.

Miss C:    Well, they did and the parents all used to come down weekends to see them.

Q:    Did they?

Miss C:    And, that carried on until the – right to the end of the war. There were all shelters built in the field. And we had two big shelters built in the corridors, in the school. Oh yes. And then of course….

Q:    Were there a lot of air raids? Did you have to – over Witham? Did you have to use the shelters a lot?

Miss C:    Oh yes, yes. We had – not so much in the daytime, did we? (Mrs H: No.) But, you see, I ran the GTC, Girls Training Corps. Mr Crosby ran the ATC, the Air Cadets. And Wilson, Mr Wilson, down here, ran the Army Cadets. And down at the school, you see, it was sort of a Youth Centre. But- we used to have some grand times, didn’t we? But then we used the shelters. Although the boys, Crosby’s boys and Wilson’s boys used to do watching, you know, air watching for…. But the siren was on most of the time, wasn’t it? (Mrs H: Yes.)  And we really had some lovely times, down there, although if good can come out of evil, I think it did there. Every month we used to have a social. Girls ran it one month and the boys another. And we all used to save rations, you know, currants and sugar and things and make cakes and things. And all the VIPs all came and we used to have some lovely times. And once a month we had a church parade. One Sunday at the parish church, another Sunday at the Congregational – the United Reformed. And the other one at All Saints. We couldn’t go to the Methodists, because you couldn’t get in. And if you wanted a seat in church you had to be there at half past ten for the eleven o’clock service. (Mrs H: Yes that was lovely …) Crowds turned out. Because we used to start at the bottom – at the school and march all the way up. ATC first, then the Army, Army Cadets and the GTC. And of course, during the war we had an Essex regiment here and they had a band, So we used to parade with them. And the band used to play the hymns and things in the church. And after the service we all used to come out and the Army of course used to – we all came under the Army then and they used to line up and inspect us and all fell in and march down the town. Crowds in Witham. (Q: Was there?) Yes. And of course the Army- I forget where the Army was stationed. We used to march right down to the school and these are the famous days. And I always speak so highly of Tom Driberg because he was such a friend to us. Marvellous, wasn’t he? (Mrs H: Yes. A real pal.) He, of course, was a bachelor then and we got – we, the girls – we’d got to be enrolled and receive our badges, you see. And so, I said to the girls ‘Well now, we must get somebody- you know – some VIP to present the badges’. And we couldn’t think –and well they said there was an election pending. (Mrs H: Election, yes.) So they said ‘Well, whoever wins the election’. So of course, Tom Driberg came. Did he live at Bradwell, at the …]

Mrs H:     I don’t know where he lived in those days.

Miss C:    Anyway, Mr Clarke was his – Clarke, yes, he died not very long ago, didn’t he? Out in Crete or somewhere. He was his – (Q: The newspaper man.) and we wrote to Tom and asked if he would come. Which he did. My word, that was a great day for Witham.

Mrs H:     Oh yes. The crowds!

Miss C:     We started with a service in the school hall. Reverent Billington was here then. He was the curate. He was our chaplain as it were. He took the service. And then after the service we had to march, you see, and line up in front of the steps up to the school and, in turn, each one had to go up and receive the badge, you see, from Tom Driberg. So you received your badge. And I always remember, because the girls were very very smart, weren’t they? We had some nice looking girls, really, with the white blouses and the navy tie and Glengary hat. And they did look smart, I don’t mind saying it. And as they went up, Tom Driberg said, they all gave him the ‘glad eye’! [All laugh]. And – oh – he didn’t know quite which way to look! But it was marvellous. Then we all had to line up and march past. Yes. I shan’t forget. And he – we had to give up our coupons you see, clothes – coupons – we had to give up coupons for the uniforms. (Mrs H: The uniform.) [Miss C speaks to Mrs H) And you had to give up your for WVS? (Mrs H: Yes, yes.) I belonged to the WVS but I couldn’t afford coupons for the WVS and GTC and I had to have GTC. But Tom Driberg did his hardest in Parliament to get them to give us free coupons for uniforms but they all said – well, a navy skirt, you see, and a white blouse – most girls had those and that was – they wouldn’t, would they? Wouldn’t give us coupons. And I suppose it was right, they all had navy skirts although they didn’t always want to buy a navy skirt.

Q:     No, quite. Was – I shall have to guess your age now – were you in Witham when the First War was on? – (Miss C: Yes, I was at school) So you were at school then?

Miss C:     I was a schoolgirl.

Q:     So was that –did that affect Witham a lot?

Miss C:     First World War – well, we had soldiers billeted.

Mrs H:    We had soldiers billeted with us.

Miss C:    Yes we were down at the Gas Board. My father was a gas engineer, we lived down at the – (Mrs H: Where the car park is now [corner of Mill Lane].) That’s right, down there. One of the nicest houses, I should think, in Witham, that was. A beautiful house (Mrs H: Oak panelled drawing room.) Oak panelled and a lovely house. Because I know it stuck right out. You know we could see right to the top of the town from our sitting room window. But it was a lovely house. Two storeys up, then, and another one round the back. And, yes, we had soldiers billeted on us.

Mrs H:    Yes. Well, we were the only – well, I would say not the only person but only people that happened to have bathrooms, you see. (Miss C: In those days…) And you had hotels but not everyone had a bathroom in those days.

Miss C:    No, that’s why we had soldiers (Mrs H: We had two officers.) and officers and that billeted on us because we had a bathroom.

Q:     I see, then, so you had officers.

Miss C:     The White Hart had a – (Mrs H: Oh yes, they did) they had a bathroom (Mrs H: Some of the big houses did.) and one or two of the big ones, but naturally not the ordinary ones. So we used to have a bathroom parade. [Q laughs] A bath parade.

Q:    So that house went with the job.

Miss C:    Father’s did. Gas Company had the house.

Q:     Did he do that for a long time, did he? Did your father do that for a long time?

Miss C:    Father came in about 1900. Just before. And he retired in 1931. And he was a gas engineer before we came. (Mrs H: Burslem.) In the Potteries, we come from the Potteries. Stoke on Trent, my sister was born at Burslem.

Q:    Were you? You’re not Witham folk, despite appearances?

Mrs H:     Well, I’m not, no.

Miss C:     I am.

Q:     You went to school in Witham, you said?

Miss C:     I started at the church school down.. (Mrs H: Guithavon Street.) Well, we all did, because that was the only school. That, and the one down Maldon Road. They were the only two schools in Witham then, weren’t they? (Mrs H: Yes.). I started there, and my brothers naturally started there. Then my brothers went to Braintree High School and of course, in those days it was a fee-paying school, naturally. Braintree High School. Except those who won the eleven-plus, the scholarship. But, I didn’t go there, because Whitehall College – Whitehall – the cinema was a college you know. Boys (Mrs H: Tell her. There were no girls.) No, no girls, it was a boy’s college. (Mrs H: Dimmer) Mr Dimmer was the headmaster. (Miss H: Vincent Dimmer). Vincent Dimmer, yes [laughing]. And he – it was a lovely college, wasn’t it? (Mrs H: Yes). Quite a nice – And he did a ‘midnight flit’ – or disappeared didn’t he or something?

Mrs H:     Something, I don’t know whether it was a midnight flit but, anyway, he went.

Miss C:    Things went wrong and of course it closed. And there was a master there, a Mr Haskins. Do you know where Pauline Millidge lives in the Bridge Street? (Q: Yes. Bridge House [28 Bridge Street.) Bridge House. Well, he lived there. And his brother, Arthur was the general manager of Hoffmans. And, at this college there was several [???] little boys, boarders and everything, and Bill Payne, Dr Payne’s son was there. Do you remember Marian Taber, John Taber? John had a grocer – greengrocers shop and Marion lived in The Avenue Well, her father and Marion lived – oh it’s the café now, isn’t it? Hamilton’s Café. High House, there was another storey on it [5 Newland Street]. Dr Payne and family lived there. And he used to have a walk through his garden right down to The Retreat, which was a private asylum. And he ran this private asylum at The Retreat down Maldon Road, where the bungalows are. Well, Bill was at the school and Father was friendly with Mr Haskins and I think they persuaded him to start a little private school at Pauline’s. There’s a big room at the back and we used to go – and he did, didn’t he? (Mrs H: Yes) He opened -he took about twenty and he had a son and daughter, Paul and Nancy. So as to take Nancy in the school, and being a friend of Father’s, he took me. [laughs].

Q:    To keep her company? [laughs]

Miss C:    And we used to go through the gate and round the back and up a little ladder. And just walk across a little roof and get in the window – big window (Mrs H: Yes.) that’s where we all went to school. Bill Evitt, you know Bill Evitt (Q: I know his name.) He went, and Bill Payne (Mrs H: And the two Maisey boys.) The Maisey boys. Oh, and Hugh May, who’s to do with the OAP, Age Concern, died not long ago, didn’t he? And I think there’s a memorial scholarship or something – he went and his sister, Phyl. They lived in Heybridge, May and Butcher. There were about twenty of us. He took one or two boarders. (Mrs H: Yes.) And he started this school and made it quite a good going concern. Did very very well.

Q:    Did he have other teachers?

Miss C:    No, just himself.

Q:    So you were all together?

Miss C:    So we were all over eleven-plus, you see. He didn’t take any – no juniors. Just all eleven-plus.

Q:    So you went there when you were about eleven?

Miss C:    Yes. And I stayed there all the time, till I went to college.

Q:    Where did you go to college?

Miss C:    St Gabriel’s. And it’s one of the very very few colleges that is not being closed. And is joining the University of London. So that’s rather nice. Lovely college.

Q:    So you did quite well to get to – I mean, there weren’t – I mean, did he have many go from his little school – on to college? (Miss C: Yes.) Or were you his star?

Miss C:    No. Bill Payne went through and he was a head doctor of Colchester Hospital.      (Mrs H: Can’t remember.) The two Maisey boys went abroad, didn’t they (Mrs H: Yes.) Then there was Bill Evitt you see on the Stock Exchange. Hugh May, of course, made pots of money, I don’t know what he did but – pots and pots of money, he made. And of course, some of them left Witham. Oh, and Vera Hawkins. (Mrs H: Oh yes, two Hawkins girls.) Two Hawkins girls. Vera married – (Mrs H: They lived where -) They lived where Dr Foster lives. And then she married Rooke who was the rector of Little Braxted. And then later on, when he died, she married Round (Mrs H: Yes.) And they lived where Mrs Twist does. [4 Newland Street]

Q:    Did you both go to school there or…. Did you go …?

Mrs H:    No, no. I was never – wasn’t at school.

Miss C:    My sister was in Barclays.

Q:    Oh, I see. Was it Barclays then?

Mrs H:    Yes. Barclays Bank.

Miss C:    My brothers were in Barclays. That’s why I bank at Lloyds! [Both laugh].

Q:    You know too much! In Witham, was that?
Miss C & Mrs H together: No, in Maldon.

Q:    So you missed the chance for this nice little school?

Mrs H:    Yes.

Q:    You went to the Witham – to the church school did you?

Miss C:    Yes. We all went. It was a very – it was Infants, Juniors and Seniors, you know. Boys and girls all separate. It really was you know, I think it was a great mistake when they pulled down that school rather than the one down Maldon Road. The Community Centre. Because that was a – just three rooms, a small – but the one down Guithavon Street, (Mrs H: They were joined, the boys.) There was a big boys department, and a girls and the infants.

Q:    Can you remember much about it, when you were there? Did you enjoy school then, do you think?

Miss C:    I think I did, didn’t I? Happy days.

[chat about tape recorder, not noted]

Side 2

[Tape begins late]

[chat about tape recorder, and Mrs Hayes having been Deanery Treasurer till two years ago, not noted]

Q:     … That must have kept you busy?

Mrs H:    Yes, but I enjoyed it.

Miss C:     Yes, because you took it on, beginning of the war, didn’t you?

Mrs H:    That’s right yes.

Miss C:    When the Peecocks left.

Q:    Oh, I’ve heard that name. Someone mentioned them.

Miss C:    Of course, Peecock, Mr Peecock was the Bank Manager of Barclays (Mrs H:     Barclays) and they lived where Mr Bowker lived. [Collingwood Road]

Q:    I remember them because Mrs Peecock was quite interested in history I think. (Miss C: She was a marvellous person.) and she used to save newspaper cuttings and odd things like that and photographs and then she obviously gave them to Ruth and Ruth sent them a few years ago to Chelmsford, to the archives, and you can go and look at them. Which was very good of her because of old photographs of people that you hear about like Blood, Mr Blood…. ]Miss C and Mrs H in chorus: Oh yes.] you know and you can go and see them there.

Miss C:    Yes, Mr Blood, down – oh, it’s been pulled down now, the house where Margaret Mens lived [8 or 10 Collingwood Road]. They’ve got a Council – belongs to the Council – Council offices. Mr Blood used to have offices there. The offices. (Mrs H: He lived at Whitehall. [18 Newland Street.) And he lived at Whitehall (Mrs H: Offices and his private house was there). And his gardener was Mr Bones. [All laugh] Because Bones did our garden till his death? Always remember him. Do you remember old Bones? (Mrs H: I do.)

Q:    You had quite a garden at your place?

Miss C:     No, no.

Q:     Oh, you mean recently?

Miss C:    No, we had an allotment. Our allotment, Father’s and your allotment was where Podsbrook is [corner of Guithavon Street and Guithavon Valley]. All that belonged to Blyth’s the millers.

Mrs H:     Where the chapel is, there was a mill there. (Miss C: A flourmill) A flour mill, you see and of course where Alan McKirdy lives, that was their house, private house [Mill House, Guithavon Valley] (Miss C: Lovely, it was.) and all Podsbrook, all that piece was their garden. And Bernard the son lived where they live now, Peyton, Reverend Peyton. Bernard lived there and he didn’t want all that extra land so he let Father, Superintendent Lennon, (Miss C: The policeman.) Mr Edwards at the White Hart and Mr Howlett, the organist, all had a piece (Miss C: All four had that garden between them). I planted, I was going to say thousands, hundreds of bulbs in that field.

Miss C:     So now we say if any flowers come up at Podsbrook we believe they all belong to us. [Q laughs] Lovely garden wasn’t it?

Mrs H:    Yes.

Q:    So you had Mr Bones (to garden for you).

Miss C:    Bones would come and help them.

Q:    Did your father like gardening?

Mrs H:     Yes.

Miss C:    And my sister.

Mrs H:     Very fond of gardening, but I can’t do it now. It’s too far down!

Q:     Yes

Miss C:    I used to say we’d put – buy Hyde Park. When Father retired we moved, well he built Shelley’s house. You know the first house, here? Where Shelley’s the – Father built that for us, the family, to live when he retired. But you and Father one day went down Guithavon Street and there was a house behind the Methodist church that was up – advertised for sale and you and Father went up to have a look. And –a house you wouldn’t go and look at unless you …[51 Guithavon Street]

Mrs H:     No, because it’s quite private isn’t it? And then Dad bought that you see, so we altered it all and so we went there instead of here.

Miss C:     The sun was shining and it was in an awful mess the garden, lovely garden.

Mrs H:    Oh then, but it was very pretty after…

Miss C:    But they could see a lot could be done with it. Because I said I wasn’t coming, I was going to stop at Hatfield Peverel, I wasn’t coming there. And they said ‘Well, you wait till we’ve done it,’ and they did – and they made it look lovely because the garden went right down to what is (Mrs H: Bramston View.) Bramston View now [Mill Lane]. The garden goes right down to there. And we go up to it, between the chapel and the police station – the health clinic. My brother lives there now. Still belongs to us but my brother lives there. And Kemsley’s – they’re pulling down the big house, our neighbour, Holly Bank, they’re pulling that down. [Mill Lane]

Q:    Yes. I meant to take a photograph of that. We were walking past one day and I said to my husband ‘I must go and take a photograph of that, soon’ and he said ‘I think you’re too late’.

Miss C:    I think that vandals got into it (Mrs H: Oh yes, ruined it.) (Q:.. dangerous, yes.) It was a lovely house (Mrs H: A lovely garden.) The garden goes right up you know, (Mrs H: To the top.) Yes, right up through the end of the terrace, end of the terrace, nearly to Johnsons now live, [???]  Right up there. One garden. Behind all those terraces, Bland Fielden and all those. [Guithavon Street] Beautiful garden.

Q:    And that’s when your father retired, when you went there.

Miss C:    Yes. Father died in 1949. And we – Mother died 1951. (Mrs H: [???])

Miss C:     1951. When Mother died in November. We stayed there all the next year, didn’t we? My sister and … And Dr Benjamin wondered – you see – when Mother was an invalid, my sister had given up all her jobs, you know, like Clinic and WRVS and most of the things, because she couldn’t do it, you see. And I was at school. And I used to go off at half past eight and didn’t get back till about half past five, or four. (Mrs H: Four or five.) And my sister was alone all day and the doctor thought that it was a little bit – it wasn’t lonely and yet it was, you see? (Q: Yes, cut off.) The house here, next door to Shelley’s – the first semi-detached – Mrs Cullen lived in one. And the other one belonged, didn’t it, to us. And Mrs Pickford who was in it, the Reverend Pickford’s widow, wasn’t too well. And so she was going into a nursing home and it was either selling or moving. And so my brother said ‘Well, if you go, I’ll come and take the house for a little while and then if you don’t like it up there, you can come back’. So we moved. In 1953. [38 Collingwood Road] (Mrs H: That’s right) And we stayed there till 1970. (Q: So you did like it!) And then in 1970 we had ‘the gipsy in us’ and we moved here. [All laugh]

Q:     You keep on moving north. [Laughs]

Miss C:     We like this bungalow but there’s a lot of ‘for’ and a lot against it.

Mrs H:     The garden’s too big. (Q: Yes.) Now. It wouldn’t have been years ago but it is now. And of course, it’s getting help now you know.

Miss C:    One of my old boys has taken over half. We’ve given him half, and he does it.

Mrs H:    And, well, of course the weather has been very bad and he hasn’t been up??? because the weather has been very bad. I hope that’s the reason.

Miss C:     And then we’ve got an old man who comes from Hatfield Peverel. But of course he hasn’t been lately – the weather isn’t – Do you like gardening?

Q:     A little bit, not too much, you know.

Mrs H:    Have you got a good garden?

Q:    Not an awful lot is cultivated. It’s a funny shape, it’s on a corner and so a lot of it’s at the front and – (Mrs H: Oh yes.) – you’ve got Chalks Road there. And we’ve got a lot of grass for the children to play – fruit trees and things, but not a lot of proper work. Still – it must be frustrating if you like gardening and you can’t do it.

Miss C:    No, terrible.

Mrs H:     I’m losing a lot of interest in it.

Miss C:     Of course this piece in the front, you know is very big.

Q:     Quite, yes. As you say, it’s difficult to get people to do..…

Mrs H:     It is, though. They don’t want it. The young ones won’t do it and the old ones are too old.

Q:    I don’t know whether it is true of everywhere or just Witham but a lot of people seem to have done gardening in the past – seemed very keen on it.  I think, they tell me they’d done – did a bit of gardening at school, even, at the National School.

Miss C:     Yes. When Clarke was there (Mrs H: They had gardening.) we had quite a good  gardening – and they had gardens down there. And we had quite a good gardening class but I don’t know they do gardening down there now. (Q: No, I’m not sure.) Although they did with Clarke and they had two mistresses, Miss Jolly and Miss Atkinson (Mrs H: Yes) and made a garden, And Cooper. Oh yes we had several – and the boys were quite good but, of course, now I think the gardens have been planted on – built on.

Q:     Yes.

[Possibly tape stops as subject changes abruptly. Photos being shown. Only a few points noted here]

Mrs H:     Gaslights, look.

Miss C:     Yes.

Q:    Is this the – was your father just responsible for the actual gasworks or was it the system?

Miss C:     Oh, everything.

Q:    The whole system.

Mrs H:    Everything.

Q:    Quite a big concern, in those days, yes. (Miss C: Yes) And did he have lots of people working for….?–

Miss C:     Yes And of course, (Mrs H: Of course then it wasn’t as big as it is now). (Q: No) Well, it was different.

Miss C:    I don’t know whether that’s our house, down there[134 Newland Street]. I think that’s our house, down there, in the shade. Perhaps my sister would be able to see it better.

Q:    Oh, I’ve never consciously seen a picture of that.

Miss C:    It was at the end of Mill Lane.

Mrs H:    It stood out – very much like the chemists.

Miss C:    Stood right out and from our sitting room window we could see right to the top of the town. Yes, it looks – in the shadow – it looks a bit like it, doesn’t it?

Mrs H:     Yes

Miss C:    Oh, there’s the doctor’s and Mann’s. Oh, and there’s old Mr Graves’ shop on here. A funny thing, there’s Harrington’s house there, that house, there. [laughs] Harringtons. A family lived there – I should think there was about six children, weren’t there? And Mrs – Dr Ted’s – doubtless you’ve heard of Gimson, Dr Ted’s sister lived there. And a young girl in Witham stopped me the other day – very nice girl, nicely dressed and she looked so nice. And she said ‘You’re Miss C:roxall, aren’t you?’ And I said ‘Yes’. ‘Well,’ she said ‘Do you remember me?’ And I looked at her and I said ‘Well, your face is familiar.’ ‘Well’, she said ‘I’m Teresa Harrington. Now’, she said ‘Don’t you remember the Harrington family sitting on the steps with bare bottoms?’ [laughter] ‘Sitting on the steps’, she said ‘with bare bottoms!’ And they used to come down to the yard for coke and they used to come down with a truck and they all used to come down to the gas yard for coke, sitting in the truck and they used to push the coke back. But of course they used to get a whole barrow load of coke for about sixpence, didn’t they? In those days.

Q:    How long was it – when did it come down? [gas works house, 134 Newland Street]

Miss C:    How long has it ….?

Mrs H:    Not so very long- that car park hasn’t been…?

Miss C:    No. And there was a beautiful front door –beautiful wasn’t it? Thick oak door and the carving was lovely – over the door and down the sides. Because the first thing I did when I heard it was being pulled down, I went down to have a look and – I said ‘Oh’, I said, ‘What’s happened to the lovely door?’ And then of course someone said [laughs] Mr Bragg’s taken that. [All laugh] Oh, I suppose someone said ‘Mr Bragg’s got his eye on that’. Mr Bragg took it. Those are lovely, aren’t they?

Q:    Because there was a lot more shops weren’t there? Where would your family have gone for their shopping?

Miss C:    Spurge’s.

Q:    Would you?

Miss C:     Top of the town [42 Newland Street]. Where Mr Godfrey’s father worked. Well, everyone went to …(Mrs H: Godfrey?) Mr Godfrey, Harold Godfrey lives next door to…

Mrs H:     Oh yes. There’s a Godfrey up there, yes.

Miss C:     And of course Godfreys lived in Bridge Street.

Q:     I don’t know which it is but I know the one – with the gable – with the half timbers. (Miss C/Mrs H: Yes) I’m not sure if its on these.

Miss C:     Everyone went to Spurge’s. It was groceries, drapery, everything. People from the villages, Wickham and Hatfield and…

Mrs H:     They used to drive in with the carriage and pair.

Miss C:    All used to drive in or cycle in. And of course, it was a big firm. There were several – in the drapery there were men, weren’t there? (Mrs H: Yes.) Four or five men and upstairs four or five (Mrs H: Women,) women (Mrs H: Girls) or girls. And they all lived in.
[Conversation about making cup of tea]

Miss C:    And you know where Mr Corley, that’s the name of his place and Michelle, that used to be one shop. And next door there were two shops, one another drapers, Spurge’s, which was called London House, and the grocers where Mr Francis had. And then next door – the house where Mr Corley has, all these girls who worked for Spurge’s they all lived in. [78 Newland Street]

Q:    Goodness, it must have been enormous.

Miss C:     Yes they lived in, you know, and – like a London shop really wasn’t it – they all lived in.

Q:    Was Mr – there was a Mr Spurge, was there? You knew him?

Miss C:     Yes and he had – not too tall, I can remember him. And he used to wear his topcoat or coat frock. The – now is it a coat frock is there, or a frock coat? you know, with the tails. And he used to walk up and down with his hands behind, you know, behind his … . Oh, yes, it was a marvellous shop in those days. It was really – because I suppose, naturally, it’s nothing compared to the shops now,0 but in those days and all the stuff that he sold and bought was all – all came into Spurge’s – and the grocery. Did you know Miss Murrells?

Q:     Yes, I’ve heard that name

Miss C:    Yes. There were two sisters who were teachers.

Q:    Then again it was in Mrs Peecock’s papers [???]

Miss C:     Well, Mr Murrells was the manager of the grocery department and wine and spirits. Everything you wanted was there. Beautiful shop. And I think there were four or five men, you know, assistants, and then the ladies upstairs and the hats, millinery and also downstairs and the grocery department. Oh, it was quite a big – and as I say they all came in from Hatfield and Wickham and all the villages to Spurge’s.

Q:     Did you go to shop there yourself?

Miss C:     Oh yes.

Q:     And your mother go?

Miss C:    Mother used to go of course and I used to go to get the food.

Q:    Did you have any help in the house? Your mother?

Miss C:    Oh yes. We always had a girl or a woman – because you see, well, in those days it was quite – one or two – you see there were about eight or nine men on the Works and some of their wives used to come in at odd times and help, you see.

[Visitor arrives]

Continued on tape 30


Leave a Reply

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