Tape 035. Miss Dorothy Stoneham, sides 1 and 2

Tape 35

Miss Dorothy Stoneham was born in 1900. She was interviewed on 1 April 1981, when she lived at 23 Rex Mott Court, Witham.

For more information about her, see Stoneham, Dorothy, 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.]

Miss Stoneham had her hand on the microphone some of the time, hence the noises.

Q:    You were born in Witham ?

Miss S:    Yes, (Q: Whereabouts?) Chipping Hill, Powershall End and I lived in the same house until I moved here. (Q: Oh you were in there here all that time were you?) I was the only one of the family that was born there. I was the youngest of ten and I am the only one left now.

Q:    Was that the blacksmith’s family ? There was a blacksmith’s family of Stonehams.

Miss S:    Years ago. That was my father’s people. But I didn’t know them. They were dead before I came up I think. Before I was old enough to know them.

Q:    So what did your father do ?

Miss S:    He was a foreman bricklayer for Smiths, you know one of the old Witham families. But my father’s people years ago, when I was at home, I had a, oh dear, I can’t think what they call them, you know where they did all the cross stitch and it was framed (Q: Tapestry?) – a sampler. And oh it was beautiful, but it began to get moth eaten when I left and it was it was on there Jane Taverner, aged eleven, and it was a beautiful thing really (Q: And that was your …?) My father’s mother. It was marvellous.

Q:    So the Taverner’s, were they from Witham ?

Miss S:    I don’t know that, I’ve often thought I’d like to know the history but my mother’s people came from Cants the rose growers at Feering but I didn’t know them. Well, I think I was about, but not old enough to remember them.

Q:    So, the rest of the family weren’t born at that house. Where did they live before ?

Miss S:    Well, there used to be a, some of them, I don’t know about them all but they used to be, you know Spring Lodge, don’t you, the house itself (Q: Yes.), well there used to be a bungalow at the bottom there, where the vet’s  is [part of 3 Powershall End]. (Q: Oh did there?) Yes, well that’s where a lot of them were brought up I think.

Q:    It can’t have been very big ?

Miss S:    No, no. Well, of course, some of them left home when they were. I mean I had a brother married before I was born. I’ve got a nephew a year younger than myself. [Q: laugh]

Q:    You’ve got lots of nephews and nieces presumably?

Miss S:    Yes, quite a few but they never had large families, not like we did. I have two very good nephews, one here and one at Great Baddow.

Q:    So you went to school in Witham ?

Miss S:    Oh yes, yes. In the school near there. First at the one in Chipping Hill until I was seven and then I moved down there.

Q:    So, the one at Chipping Hill, was that where it is now or …?

Miss S:    Yes, yes, opposite the Church that’s right. ‘Cause when my brothers first went there, Mother had to pay one penny a week for them. My eldest brothers.

Q:    I suppose that was quite a lot of money wasn’t it ?

Miss S:    Doesn’t seem possible those years have gone. When you think of what their age would be if they’d have lived. But my mother was 98 and a half. She died in 1956. Wonderful isn’t it.

Q:    So you went to Guithavon Street school when you were older ?

Miss S:    Yes, my other cousins, mother’s sisters lived up higher up the road before you get to the Victoria. When they grew up they were dressmakers, professional. (Q: Mmm.) Then, as I say, one died, the last one died about three years ago, no five years ago. Something like that. How time flies doesn’t it, when you think how Witham used to be? Used to know everybody.

Q:    So how long did you stay at school ?

Miss S:    Oh fourteen, much to my sorrow. (Q: Really, would you have liked to stay ?) I was only hoping and praying they would bring in that fifteen in while I was still there. I loved school. I hated leaving. (Q: You couldn’t stay?) Yes, it was a pity but I don’t think they kept them there. No, I expect there were too many children coming along really.

Q:    You weren’t really given any choice about it ?

Miss S:    Oh no, no. I nearly went into the Post Office but I lived, you see, a good mile out of town, and of course there was no lamps of any description and, of course, it was shift work and they thought it was too late you see for me to come. And when I started work in the shop they did overtime so I had late hours all the same ‘cos shop hours were dreadful in those days.

Q:    So you went straight into a shop ?

Miss S:    Yes, well, I was fourteen in the April, and I left in July or June, July I expect, and started work in the October.

Q:    So how did you get the job ?

Miss S:    Oh I just saw it advertised in the window and went down and got it. I went to the International for five years and then I transferred over to Luckin Smiths and as the boys said I’d got one step nearer home. I had seven brothers you see (Q: Yes, of course.) and I don’t know if you know what that is like to be with seven brothers.

Q:    No, not quite – I just have one! (Miss S: Is that all, oh, we had fun.) Did they look after you or did you have to look after them ?

Miss S:    Oh, I didn’t look after them, no. My sister was eight years older than me, I think she did all the looking after. I had an easy life really. Very easy life. (Q: She was still at home was she?) She was at home, yes. She was manageress of the glove factory. (Q: Oh was she?) But she had to give it up to look after mother for about fifteen years, for she had a stroke. (Q: Mmm.) Then I had to look after her for six years, my sister.

Q:    Your mother died in 19 ..?

Miss S:    1956 yes. My father died in ‘28. (Q:    How old was he?) 73. We never thought mother would have lived so long. During the war she was thrown by a time bomb and she had a stroke and that was that.

Q:    That was in Witham was it ?

Miss S:    At the back of, you know, Powershall End (Q: Yes, I think so.) Well, between Spring Lodge and where I lived at the bottom of Highfield Road there was a meadow. There are some houses there now, but there was a meadow there, that’s where they did it and nobody was warned that they were going to let it off you see (Q: Goodness.). So, of course, she was thrown across the room and that was the start of it. Always something crop up like that when their older doesn’t it. (Q: And that was just a trial …?) A time bomb, yes, you know, this just disposal unit was there (Q: Oh I see).

Q:    Can you remember anything about the International ? I didn’t realise that had been here as long as that.

Miss S:    Oh yes, of course not like it is now. (Q: How many people were there working there?) I think there’s one about still alive. I saw him the other week. Oh, a cashier, about six or seven. (Q: A cashier just did the money ?) Yes, that’s right and I used to relieve the cashier when she was away on holidays or meal times. We used to close at eight on a Friday, no eight on a Saturday. Teatime on Friday for a half hour. Eight in the morning till eight at night and then we worked overtime. No pay for overtime (Q: No?). No, I didn’t at Luckin Smith’s. In the latter years, you know no end of overtime there but we never got any extra money.

Q:    What, did the shops stay open longer ? Was that why you did overtime or was it …?

Miss S:    No, holidays and you know Bank Holidays and all that kind of thing.

Q:    So what kind of work would you be doing ?

Miss S:    Orders, chiefly and weighing up stock because all the stock had to be weighed up you see in those days. Of course I went into a shop thinking all I had to do was stand there and weigh a few sweets out you know. You came down to earth. But I enjoyed it. We used to have some fun.

Q:    You weighed up the stuff before the customers …?

Miss S:    That’s right. No, well, if we could, we weighed it up before. Wrapped it and stacked it in the drawer you see. It was all hand wrapped, there was no bags. Its not like that these days. (Q: What, in drawers?) Yes, that’s right. We used to wrap it in what they used to call, blue royal hand they used to call it, it was blue paper. And of course there used to be three or four grades of currants. Three or four grades of sultanas and raisins you see, it wasn’t just one. (Q: Oh, goodness.) Three or four grades of rice. And we used to wrap coffee loose, grind it.

Q:    And you had to do all that ? (Miss S: We used to do that, yes.) There weren’t different sorts of jobs?

Miss S:    No, no. You did all grocery. You had to serve on the provision hand for so long because we were more or less, well, they never called it an apprenticeship in those days but it was more like that because we used to have tests when the inspectors came round you see. You had to pass. (Q: I see). Wrapping, cutting bacon and that. (Q: Was that in the International?) Yes, oh, I think it was everywhere.

Q:    So what inspectors were they ?

Miss S:    Oh, we used to have, from the firm you see. Of course then we used to have Weights and Measures Inspectors round. Just to test that you weren’t doing the public down, but we used to have an inspector round practically every week from the firm. Some of them were terrors and we weren’t allowed any breaks you know, oh no. I won’t say we didn’t have them but we weren’t allowed it.

Q:    So how did you learn the job ? Was there somebody older there who … ?

Miss S:    There was always somebody above you, you see and I expect you picked it up. Well, of course, you were shown how to like cut bacon and things like that shown how to wrap things to start with but it becomes a habit doesn’t it. And of course we used to add up in our heads. (Q: Did you?) Never had no bill heads. Oh yes, used to have a whole pile of groceries on the counter and you’d just go through them. I loved arithmetic, you see that was my glory. And I loved mental arithmetic. I did when I was at school. I still love it (Q: do you?). I love anything with figures. Yes, yes, absolutely. Mrs Nicol and I play Scrabble every night and crib. She loves figures you see so we are very well equipped really. It makes a nice evening pastime. Otherwise it’s boring. You can’t always knit, you can’t always read and you can’t always watch telly. (Q: Oh that’s good. Keeps your mind …) Oh yes, keeps your brain working. And I think that’s one of the chief things when you are older. I shall be eighty-one on Friday, so I’m getting on.

Q:    Have you been friendly with Mrs Nicol a long time ?

Miss S:    Oh I used to know Mrs Nicol when we used to go dancing in our teens. Well I was in my teens. She was about four or five years older than me, four years older ‘cos she’s eighty-five. And I used to know her then and then I knew her when she was dressmaking but I never got really so friendly with her. I knew her to stand and speak to her, you know. (Q: Till you came here). Marvellous really. It was her that kept saying ‘Oh I do hope you’ll come here, I do hope you’ll come here, because we have something in common with needlework and cards and figures which makes a lot of difference’.

Q:    You have always done needlework in your spare time?

Miss S:    Yes, always. I used to do more handwork donkeys years ago, crochet work you know. Because my sister was extremely good (Q: Mmm). In fact this was one of the first dresses, when crimplene first came out, that she made. And of course, crimplene never wears out does it ? (Q: no, no.) I don’t love it so much as she did. But I have such an awful job to buy it. I can’t get the right length sleeve and the length. When you’re so tall. (Q: Mmm.) Get them plenty big enough round, but that’s all. Still, it saves you a lot of money and it’s a pastime here.

Q:    Did you get to know a lot of people in the shop or …? And what sort of people used to come into the International say ?

Miss S:    Well, they were ordinary, more or less working class people, but at Luckin Smith’s we had the elite of Witham (Q: Really? A big difference?) Oh yes. Really ordinary people as well, some very poor people really, but we had a very nice, it was a good class shop. We had some very nice people.

Q:    And that was groceries as well ?
Miss S     Oh yes, everything. Luckin Smith’s was.

Q:    Do you remember some of the people ?

Miss S:    Lady De Crespigny lived next door to the Luckin Smith’s at what was called the Wilderness [52-54 Newland Street]. Then we had Lady Du Cane at Wickham Bishops. We had Doctor Lister the heart specialist from Chelmsford they used to live in Woodhams, Guithavon Street. Oh yes, I had some very nice people.

Q:    Would they come to the shop themselves ?

Miss S:    Oh yes, the majority of them. Sometimes we had their maids too, but you know. We had some nice class of people in Witham at one time but when it began to grow a lot of them moved out to Wickham Bishops. We had the doctors of course the Doctor Gimsons and Doctor Payne. Dr Payne used to live where the Chinese restaurant is. (Q: The big house?) Mmm, yes. He used to live there. [5 Newland Street, High House]

Q:    If they bought things at Luckin Smith’s how would they get them home?

Miss S:    We used to have errand boys and I think when I first went there they used, at the International there was a horse and cart, a car you know, a delivery car.

Q:    And that would be a full-time driver ?

Miss S:    Yes, that’s right, yes. And possibly help in the shop you see.

Q:    Were they mostly women that worked in the shop ?

Miss S:    Not when I first, only War-time we had more women but I was usually about the only female. (Q: These days its nearly all … ). Yes, it’s the other way about. But yes, during the War, the latter War [Second World War], we had a female driver and one or two in the shop. Because we used not to have a cashier when I first went to Luckin Smith’s.

Q:    What you just took your own money ?

Miss S:    That’s right. Yes, then they had a cashier and book keeper when they altered the shop. Because Luckin Smith’s were a big private firm. They used to have one at Colchester.
[Interruption, not noted]

Q:    Oh yes we were talking about the people who worked in the shops. When you first went to the International, were there any more women ?

Miss S:    Er, no, you see that was the First world War came on. That was 1914 you see. Well then we had two more females, two perhaps three, females. Yes.

Q:    Was it in the middle of that war you started ?

Miss S:    No, in the same year because we broke up in the August 1914 and I started work there the latter end of October. I was there about five years, well about five years. Of course they were all older than me, ‘cause then they left there and went to the munitions factory you see, during the war. A lot of them.

Q:    Did other women come to work in the shop ?

Miss S:    Well, yes, one or two but then of course the War lasted four years and then I expect the fellows gradually came back again.

Q:    I suppose some of it was quite heavy work, lifting ?

Miss S:    Oh yes, but they didn’t take any notice of that in those days, no. (Q: The men would do that?) Oh yes if they were there.

Q:    And how did the stuff at the International, how did it get to the shop ?

Miss S:    Mostly by rail. (Q: Really?) Of course there used to be a railway van you see and they used to deliver it. Huge bags of sugar, two hundredweights of sugar at a time. They might have like private goods like Heinz perhaps and that kind of stuff might come by road but the majority of it came by rail. (Q: Mmm. And the railway provided the van?) That’s right. Of course they used to have horse and cart in those days.

Q:    These days the International has a lot of its own, but did it used to make its own goods ?

Miss S:    Yes, but you always keep some of the other people. It’s not really all International now is it, it goes under a different heading I think.

Q:    It was quite unusual in those days because they were mostly private local shops weren’t they, so the International was something different ?

Miss S:    Yes, that’s right. (Q: Do you know how long it has been in …?) I don’t know, no. I know mother always used to deal there and think it must have been there years and years. Next door to that used to be a saddlers.

Q:    Don’t have those any more. So you said it was mostly working class people that went to the International ?

Miss S:    The majority of them, yes.

Q:    I wonder how people decided, ‘cause there were a good number of grocers weren’t there ? I wonder how people decided which one to use ?

Miss S:    Well. they were private grocers you see the others, chiefly. Well Home and Colonial did come in eventually but … There used to be one down the street, next to Martin’s the paper shop, that used to be Francis [72 Newland Street?], that was a private thing and Spurge, they had grocery and drapery. That was where, on the corner, is it Lisa the draper’s shop ? Along there there used to be and part of the Home and Colonial I expect [42 Newland Street] that used to be Spurge. (Q: Did the Co-op have …?) The Co-op have always been where they have been down the bottom of the street. Of course we never had anything to do with the Co-op us private traders. Never liked the Co-op. I don’t know. Because, holiday times there’d be one out of one shop go over to the other one and say ‘Are you closing so and so? What time are you closing?’ but we never asked the Co-op. Funny, it was always quite on its own.

Q:    So did different sort of people go to the Co-op ?

Miss S:    Well, I think they were the very poor people I should imagine ‘cos they could save at the Co-op couldn’t they, with their cheques and then, when I was at Luckin Smith’s, when Spurge gave up, we bought their business you see. (Q: I didn’t realise that.) Mmmm. The grocery business, not the drapery, that closed down.

Q:    The drapery closed altogether ?

Miss S:    I think so yes. I think there was another drapers come there but I don’t know much about that.

Q:    That was interesting that, you mentioned about holidays. The private traders would club together?

Miss S:    That’s right, used to include the International. (Q: I was going to say did it include the International ?) Yes, include the International. (Q: Was there a manager?) Yes, at the International, during, before the war and during the First World War we had a lady manageress. (Q: Oh I see. Who was that?) I can see her now. Not local, she came out wide of Chelmsford. (Q: What did she used to do in the shop?) She used to be in the shop but she used to do the ordering you see and all that kind of thing, banking.

Q:    Did people pay cash ?

Miss S:    Weekly accounts chiefly. We had probably one or two houses would have a monthly account. (Q: At the International or both.) Both, yes.

Q:    So, in a way, they would get credit for things ? (Miss S: Yes, that’s right.) Did they pay in cash or cheques ?

Miss S:    No, not many cheques, unless it was a monthly account it would probably be cheques. (Q: So it was quite a big job dealing with the money then?) Oh yes, yes. I used to enjoy that. (Q: You helped) Oh yes I used to do that if the cashier was away ill or… ‘Cause when they used to have tea times, they never closed the shop you see and I used to relieve in their dinner hour and their tea hour, never closed the shop.

Q:    You liked that did you ?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, I liked that, oh yes, I was jack of all trades.

Q:    Was it banked every day ?

Miss S:    I don’t know whether they did really or whether it was about twice a week. Two or three times a week. Mondays of course after the Saturdays takings and Saturday mornings after the busy time. (Q: Which were the busiest?) Oh Fridays and Saturdays were very busy (Q: And you opened late?) Yes, opened late.

Q:    Because people would presumably be working on Friday and Saturday. (Miss S: Yes, of course.) So evenings were the busiest?

Miss S:    Oh yes. Of course there were a lot of women about. I mean the women didn’t work so much did they ? (Q: No, of course.) Then they used to run a Christmas Club you see (Did they?) Oh yes, always ran a Christmas Club. I think that came on about the first week after I started there and, of course we were working late doing it. Oh yes they used to save on these clubs and of course those days a couple of pound, look what you could get. (Q: Of course.) I remember my father used to, when I first started work, he used to give me a pound at Christmas time and that used to buy a whole gammon and I can see it now. Used to buy a whole gammon. And now you can’t see, couldn’t see a pound’s worth could you ? (Q: No). I think meat and bacon’s dreadful.

Q:    You used to get your food from the shop you were working at ?

Miss S:    Absolutely yes. (Q: Handy.) Of course mother used to go to the International long before I ever went there you see so I was used to going in there paying bills on a Monday morning and that’s how I went. I went on the Monday morning paid her bill, saw this advert, got the job, started in the afternoon. Of course my brothers used to pull my leg and said I’d got to go and work at a farm ? [Q: Laugh] I think I was half frightened I’d got to so I went and got the first job I saw. [Laughter]. (Q: That suited you.) Yes, yes. Of course we used to go home for lunch every day – a good mile. (Q: That was a long way.) Good for you. That’s what the doctor said to me once. He said to me ‘How long do you have for lunch times?’ [???] I told him a mile. He said that won’t hurt you.

Q:    It obviously worked wonders for you. (Miss S: Yes, yes.) So, after the war, did the International have a manager again or did the woman stay on there ?

Miss S:    No, I think there must have been a manager come back, yes.

Q:    But you had left about then ?

Miss S:    I left in about 1920. Yes, five years and three months really. Then I went over to Luckin-Smith’s.

Q:    And that was still mostly men ?

Miss S:    Oh, yes, yes, a lot of men there then. I was the only female behind the counter then. (Q: Were you really?) Well I actually went over there because they had a fire there and they rebuilt some of it. I thought oh they’re going to have a cashier there so that’s what I went over there for but they didn’t have a cashier for ages but they gave me a job in the shop you see and that’s where I started.

Q:    Was that better pay or did you just want a change?

Miss S:    Well, not much in it really, you never got any pay (Q: Mmm) No, when I started work we worked from eight till seven at night – six shillings a week you know. Pay was nothing then. I mean men got paid, no matter whether you worked as hard as men, you never got as much as a man got.

Q:    So that was still true at Luckin Smith’s was it, when you were older?

Miss S:    Oh yes, yes, just the same. In fact I met the youngest Luckin Smith, the only one left now out of the three brothers and the father, this was the youngest son, I met him at Colchester. Do you know Colchester at all ? (Q: A bit, yes.) They used to have a lovely hardware shop, didn’t they ? (Q: That’s right, yes) Well that’s closed now, so they tell me, well that belonged to them. They had one in Chelmsford. Well I met him in there and he was 90 then – given up now. He was still driving his car (Q: Was he?). Used to go down every week. He said when I look at my invoices and see what I used to pay for teapots and see what I pay now …

Q:    I think I went into the Chelmsford shop and that was hardware too. (Miss S: Yes, lovely shop, yes.) But the Witham one was grocery.

Miss S:    They had a grocery one in Chelmsford too as a matter of fact. In fact I think they had three. There had one in the High Street, one Broomfield Road and one in Moulsham Street. [Noise]

Q:    Where was the family of Luckin Smith’s from – Luckin Smith was the surname was it ?

Miss S:    Yes, Luckin Smith was their surname. That was the Chelmsford firm. The head shop was in High Street, Chelmsford. (Q: The Mr Luckin Smith that you met …) Was the younger son yes. He came from Wood Street, Chelmsford.

Q:    How did the First War affect Witham ? Was it better off or worse off or ?

Miss S:    Well, Not much difference really, they weren’t badly off. If the husbands went they got their pay didn’t they ? My brothers were worse off because I only had one brother that was better off in the Air force. The others were in the army and we had one brother who was butler to Lord Halifax. (Q: Really?). Not the one that’s just died.  Well, he was Viscount then, his father and he was a butler and they took him as a gunner.

Q:    Strange ?

Miss S:    Dreadful, wasn’t it. He was gassed in the First World War. All my brothers were over six foot. One was made an officer’s batman. And he’s the last one that should have been a batman because he was waited on hand and foot [laugh]. But the only one that was better off was my youngest brother because he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker and they took him in the air force as an artificer. And he was better off you see he was only on an apprentice’s pay here. He was better off, trade pay there, so he was the only one ….

Q:    The people left behind. Were the soldiers …?

Miss S:    Billeted all round, yes. Out Terling way and Hatfield way, quite a lot.

Q:    So it didn’t affect the shop work ?

Miss S:    No, not really, not the First World War. (Q: Where did the soldiers get …?) They used to get their own rations really. There was a rifle range at Faulkbourne Hall in the First World War. Terling used to have a lot of soldiers, they used to go marching by in the early hours when they were going abroad you know.

Q:    And then after the War was when Crittall’s came wasn’t it ?

Miss S:    Yes, I suppose it must have been after the War.

Q:    Did you notice any changes during the time you were working at the shop, whether people were better off or …?

Miss S:    Well, I expect there was more employment about here wasn’t there. ‘Cos Lady Crittall used to work at, live at Wickham Bishops and her daughter now, lives at Silver End. [???] The house at the bottom of the Avenue what they call The Grove – that was private, of course, and that Avenue was private for vehicles. You could walk up. Used to be lovely up there with all the trees, the Grove, Percy Laurence.

Q:    Did they [???] ?

Miss S:    Yes, but not a great deal. I knew them. Knew them enough to say ‘Morning’, they’d speak to you if they saw you. It was full of these old fashioned people really you know, old-fashioned gentry.

Q:    So what sort of people were you friendly with? [noise]

Miss S:    Well, chiefly those who you worked with really and their families. There wasn’t much in the way of entertainment in those days. The dances were the chief thing. (Q: Where did you go for that ?) Round at the Public Hall. Oh yes, I was very fond of dancing. And during the First World War, we used to have a relief doctor down there. They called him Doctor Knight, a busy little man. He used to run these sixpenny hops with just a piano you know. It was fine there. Well it was entertainment for the soldiers was the end. (Q: I suppose they came.) oh yes, yes. Spoilt our lovely floor. But it used to be when we first went there people with dance shoes on you see. But, of course, when the soldiers came they had boots. A beautiful floor it was. Well it is now really.

Q:    You say the families of people working in the shops. Would they mostly be Witham … (Q: Yes, mostly Witham.) You say you had managers at Luckin Smith’s?

Miss S:     Yes , yes I had two managers when I was there. (Q: They weren’t local?) They weren’t local when in the first place but they became local. When I first went there there was a big man, big family. They used to live over the shop. (Q: There weren’t members of the Luckin Smith family at all?) No, no. We used to have one of them round every week. (Q: Did he do much in the shop?) What the family? (Q: The managers.) The mangers. Oh yes, yes they were working managers. I don’t say they worked as hard as us but still, we didn’t mind. (Q: He would deal with the paper work …?) Oh yes, always a lot of paper work, {???] a lot of ordering to do and travellers to see. Used to get all the biscuit travellers round.

Q:    Different makes of biscuits? Then would the stuff come … ?

Miss S:     Then they used to deliver you see. (Q: Did they deliver their own?) Yes, some did, like Libby’s people and then all the different biscuits like Crawfords and Jacobs and Peak Freans, Huntley and Palmers. We would stock take about every, well if we were lucky we only did it twice a year, sometimes you had to do it every three months.

Q:    What about fresh stuff, butter and that. How did that come?

Miss S:    It came, when I was at Luckin Smith’s it came direct from Chelmsford. They had their own lorries. And they used to deliver in bulk.

Q:    [???] Did they have refrigeration ?

Miss S:    Only latterly. (Q: I see.) We had just the fridge in the shop that was all. But not when I first went there. They had a beautiful cellar. It was ever so cold. It was a cold old shop and it was right at the top of Maldon Road and it used to blow right through and, of course, in those days they never had the door closed winter or summer. (Q: Really?) I used to be covered with chilblains. I haven’t had one since I’ve lived here.

Q:    I suppose they would have to bring the stuff quite frequently then, more than now ?

Miss S:    Weekly deliveries yes. Every week.

Q:    Did you have margarine ?

Miss S:    Yes, weigh it up. (Q: So it’s not new then?) No. I think latterly we did have Blue Band and that, what we used call bulk margarine used to be the cheaper quality. Butter had to be weighed up you see as you went along. There used to be two kinds, besides buying in farm butter, we used to buy farm butter and cream from the farms at Braxted, so much. (Q: And you say bacon?) Bacon used to come in from Chelmsford and cooked hams and all those kind of things. Not vegetables.

Q:    Were there any vegetable shops ?

Miss S:    Yes, oh I just can’t think who the greengrocers were. One where Sue Ryder shop is [51 Newland Street]. There used to be one there. I don’t know where the other was, ‘cos Farthing’s wasn’t there then [68 Newland Street]. Must have been some about somewhere. (Q: But people grew their own?) Yes, there were a lot of allotments and agriculture you see.

Q:    I am sure that someone told that when the poor people, you know various charities connected with the church (Miss S: Mmm.) used to give out tickets for people to spend. Did you ever have any of those ?

Miss S:    No, not that I can remember. You mean for the poor people ? (Q: Yes) No, we used to have them during the War for farm workers because they were allowed extra cheese and extra meat and they used be allowed then, they used to come in, the allowance for that. (Q: I never knew about that.) You know Faulkbourne Hall ? (Q: Yes.) They were big customers of ours and at Christmas time, the old lady was alive, it was only a small village then. Its much bigger now. She used to give every household in the village the ingredients for Christmas puddings. We used to have that job at the shop to do up these labels for a two person house or a three person house and they were all different sized parcels. They all used to have the amount…of course, not bread, but fruit and suet and sugar and all that sort of thing. (Q: You wrapped them all up?) Yes, all separate. That was always the Christmas order. You’d say ‘Oh dear’, late at night ‘Now we’ve got Parker’s puddings to do’ [laugh] and they had to be labelled you see so they were delivered right but the old lady always used to do that. The shop delivered them. (Q: I suppose that was quite a good order to have then.) The shop delivered to the Faulkbourne Hall. I think the villagers had to go and fetch them, I expect in those days. Lady Bounty. Still, it was very nice of her. It was an item in those days wasn’t it. (Q: It was good). But it’s surprising even at Luckin Smith’s, although it was a good class shop, it’s surprising you used to get the old gypsy type of people you know moving round. But they were useful really because I don’t know whether you know anything about shops but there’s always odd pieces isn’t there and scraps that you couldn’t sell to ordinary people. Well, you see they used to come in and buy it cheap you see. That suited them and suited us.

Q:    So they’d be people that were moving around ?

Miss S:    Yes. They used to come for the pea-picking a lot you see. There used to be a lot of pea-picking all around and fruit picking. We used to serve a lot of the farms all round Braxted and Rivenhall.

Q:    They would come in every week or so, the farmers ? (Miss S: Yes, that’s right.) Was it them or their wives that did most of the shopping ?

Miss S:    What, with the farmers? Oh, often the farmers themselves. When they came into market you see, or go to Chelmsford market. Oh yes, we used to have a lot of farmers. Always wanted to taste the cheese before they bought it too. Yes and they wanted a biscuit with it too! Don’t get it now do they ? (Q: no, no). Then I expect they used to go in the White Hart and have some beer. (Q: One way to get a cheap lunch isn’t it ?) Yes, we used to do a lot of farmers.

Q:    And the other people, you said it was busy Friday night and Saturday night?

Miss S:    That was more International than Luckin Smith’s. We used to be late, but of course Christmas time was lovely. I used to enjoy it. There’s no art in shops now. It’s as well I left before these modern shops came in. Mind you I like shopping in a supermarket, (Q: Mm.) because I hate shopping and I can go in and I can pick out what I want. I hate going in and asking for things. I am a very bad shopper. Because if they gave me anything I couldn’t say I wouldn’t have it, you know. I’m a terrible shopper really. (Q: Yes it sounds …). So, I like shopping in a supermarket, I would hate to work in one. There’s nothing in it is there? Filling up [???]. Used to be in those days when we used to have all this lovely stuff in to sell. Marvellous stuff. (Q: So how …?) I mean we used to sell those big muscatels by the tray.

Side 2

[chat about recent times buying cheese, not noted]

Q:    There weren’t any markets in Witham?

Miss S:    Oh, no no. I think my mother said there used to be a market on Chipping Hill or was it a fair? I don’t know. Not Chipping Hill, never. (Yes, I know.) The foundations are Roman up there.

Q:    Because that would be quite near you wouldn’t it ? You said you bumped into somebody, was it somebody else who used to work at the International ? You said you met someone in Witham who worked at one of the shops?

Miss S:    Yes, I passed a fellow the other day.  He was a younger man. He was like an apprentice when I was getting on. They were nearly all local.

Q:    Did some of them live at the shop ?

Miss S:    No, not at the International. The manager always lived over the shop at Luckin Smith’s. (Q: What about the family ?) The first manager had no family but the second one had two daughters. One came to see me last year. Because that’s the last of their family.

Q:    Did they do anything in the shop ?

Miss S:    Yes, one of them was in the office …….

Q:    Anyhow, you were telling me about the muscatels and so on.(Miss S: Oh yes) Did you have to make a display ? Did you used to spend a lot of time on the displays ? (Miss S: Oh yes we did, we had some beautiful stuff) Was it all put out in front of the shop ?

Miss S:    Yes, a lot of it on the counters and the windows (Q: that must have made it more interesting ?) Oh yes, I used to love Christmas really, crackers and things, ever so interesting, yes.

Q:    I suppose it was mostly farmers and that sort ?

Miss S:    Yes, but we used to have a lot of middle-class people there, quite a lot. Jolly good customers. In fact I have two come to see me now at times. You know that I used to meet there. One rang me up the other day, she lives up Chipping Hill, used to live at Kelvedon. She’s handicapped and can’t get out. I keep saying I’d go up and see her but its quite a walk from here to the other side of the station. Oh yes, I keep in touch with a lot of them. Well, from the latter years of course. We exchange cookery recipes. I’m very fond of cooking.

Q:    Are you, that’s nice. So what sort of jobs did those people do ? Were they …

Miss S:    Well, this one that rung me up her husband was manager of Barclay’s Bank. (Q: Mm.) and lived there.

Q:    Did the managers live at the Bank then ?

Miss S:    Yes, some of them did but this one used to live in Collingwood Road and then they went to Kelvedon and then he retired and they lived up not far from me and now they live in those new houses not far from the station on the left hand side going down where the vicar, the Reverend Black lived, you know when he was giving up his house for a little while. [15-27 Chipping Hill?]

Q:    It’s nice when people come back isn’t it really ? Shall I look at my list, oh yes I know, you were telling me about setting things out. Did you put prices on so that people would know ? [???]

Miss S:    Yes, it would be but I think we all had good memories in those days and knew what they were. It was very rare that we ever had anything to put in the shop, no [???] And the people coming would know hat they were.

Q:    How was it decided what to charge ?

Miss S:    Oh it was all on the invoices, when they were brought in, from the manufacturers or [???]  and they would probably have a price list come down say if there were any alterations, once a week, once a month or something like that. They’d just [???] them down. It was very rare you saw anything up in the shop. (Q: And did the customers not want to know ?) Well, they’d ask and we’d tell them [laughter]. It seems strange to you, of course. Or they’d come and say ‘What have you got ?’ and we used to tell them.

Q:    Would there be a difference between prices in different shops in the town?

Miss S:    Not a lot, no very little really.

Q:    And would the Co-op have any …?

Miss S:    Well, I don’t know about the Co-op because they used to sell nearly all their own stuff didn’t they. (Q: Of course.) [???] in those days. I think they do more now. (Q: Yes. So it wasn’t the sort of thing where you had to cut the prices ?) Not really. We [Luckin Smith’s] used to have the class of stuff the other shops didn’t keep. Marvellous brand of fruit we used to get specially for Lady Du Cane and pineapples. We get whole pineapples cut them spears in the tins. (Q: They were special things.) Oh absolutely. Peach halves about half a dozen halves in a big tin. All those sort of things. [???]

Q:    And the other shops didn’t do those sort of thing ?

Miss S:    That’s right we used to specialise in all that class of goods. That’s what took our trade up. (Q: Do you remember any of the other things that people used to ask for ?) Well we used to do pate de foie in jars and, oh gent’s relish, of course – pate perium[?] Used to do a lot of that and all sorts of cheese [???]. I expect they do it more now, brie and camembert and all those. Well, of course, we always did all of those. We always had them in stock. (Q: And there was quite a good demand for them ?) Oh yes, yes.

Q:    And would the farmers and shopkeepers have them as well, not just people like Lady Du Cane (Miss S: Oh yes.) They would have special things too ?

Miss S:    Oh yes, they’d know what was good. I hated selling anything that wasn’t good, if you understand. I wouldn’t recommend anybody what I wouldn’t have eaten myself, because they relied on you. They relied on you to serve them with the good stuff. They never queried it you see. (Q: They must have been satisfied if they kept coming back.) I had people come in and they’d say ‘How much fruit did I have last year ?’ Yes, you know. If you didn’t remember you made out you did [laughter] You never let them down anyway.

Q:    You weren’t just shop assistants.

Miss S:    Oh, no, we used to run their houses yes. We did often.(Q: Really?) Oh yes, yes. (Q: How was that. You just knew ?) [???] and they relied on you to do it. (Q: And this was all sorts of people, was it?) Yes, yes and then we used to have people that, when the wives started out to work, they’d run a bill. They’d probably pop in on a Monday on their way and they’d say ‘I’ll take so and so, put it down on my bill’ you see and you’d start a bill for them. Even the school children used to do that. Say ‘I want a Penguin to take to school’. And you’d say ‘Did your Mum say so?’ ‘Yes, Mummy said so’. [laugh]

Q:    Did the children come shopping a lot in the old days ?

Miss S:    Not a lot, no. (Q: They didn’t use them as sort of fetching and carriers?) No, not a lot.  There would be some children’d come in and say ‘Would you see us across the road’. They used to go to the little private school. ‘Would you mind seeing us across the road?’ (Q: Really.) We were brought up with them you see. (Q: The school was quite near ?) Yes, just over, where the Trustee Saving Bank is used to be a little private school [55 Newland Street]  Sisters used to run that private school and there used to be two other sisters used to run the school in Guithavon Street. One was governess in the big room and the other was, that was a family concern you see. That was in my early days the schools.

Q:    The private one would they be children from Witham ? (Miss S: Mmm) They would be children from Witham ?

Miss S:    Oh yes, yes. Some of them used to live in Collingwood Road. [???] in the latter days of course. ‘Would you see us across to school?’

Q:    So you had quite a lot of other jobs as well as ? (Miss S: Oh yes, yes.) Because people used to say they always got the news from the shop ?

Miss S:    Oh always, yes, Well, we used to get the news from them I think [laugh]. Then there used to be a carrier come in from Wickham Bishops and he’d bring in a list of what he wanted and we had to make them up in parcels for different people in the village you see. (Q: He worked for himself?) The carrier, yes that’s right. (Q: What were they called ?)  Oh, he was just a carrier, Marvin his name was and we used to have Moore’s from Kelvedon. He used to go into Chelmsford. He was another carrier. (Q: Mm – I think I’ve heard of Moore’s. Did they em ?) They used to run buses at one time. Afterwards.

Q:    Did he come to the shop ?

Miss S:    Moore’s, yes (Q: Did he bring orders as well?) Yes, that’s right or he’d call to see if we’d got anything to be delivered somewhere along the road. Just small orders you see not the big van loads. I mean if we wanted anything special from our Chelmsford shop we’d ring up the shop and say to send by Moore, he’ll be coming through so and so. Something special that we hadn’t got that we wanted for somebody.

Q:    There isn’t really anything like that nowadays ?

Miss S:    No, I mean in those days if people wanted it, they wanted it. It was no good putting them off. We’d got to try and get it by hook or by crook. (Q: That was quite frequent? ) Oh yes, yes, it was [???]

Q:    But you’d have to make up the parcels separately for each of the people ?

Miss S:    Oh yes. He’d pay for it. This particular carrier always used to give me a rabbit at Christmas [Marvin’s]. (Q: Did you get anything else?) Yes, I used to get a basket of Cox’s Orange from one of the farmers from Braxted. (Q: I suppose you knew all sorts of different people). Then, when the War was on, I used to register with a private person in Collingwood Road for eggs. You see so I was very lucky really.

Q:    So you worked there right through until you retired did you ?

Miss S:    Yes, I worked there forty years. (Q: goodness me!) A long time isn’t it ?

Q:    Yes. Nice work for meeting people isn’t it? So, when did Luckin Smith’s close down ?

Miss S:    Oh, not very many years before I left. Buttons who were wholesalers they took it on. They didn’t last long. They’re still wholesalers I think but then this firm, its not Budgen’s, it’s a combine really you know. They’re not grocers, the head of the firm – it’s Jock Campbell in town. Been running umpteen types of shop. He had a series of health shops and all that kind of thing. But it goes under the trade name of Budgen’s. Then [???].run they had, [???] used to have a sugar plantation from abroad and all that kind of thing (Q: Yes.) The heads are not really grocers. Because before Matthews took on Williams’ shop that used to belong, Budgen’s had that as a subsidiary you see. We were lucky to be taken on with them [???] I wasn’t with this firm oh, not above six months really [???] I have a shopping ticket like the staff did. So I mean that’s wonderful really for only that time. You get seven and a half per cent so its not bad these days with the price of stuff.

Q:    That was kind wasn’t it. So did you get any promotion when you were there, or I suppose you [???] ?

Miss S:    [talking over] That’s right, I was senior for years, and when the boss was away I used to run the shop and do his work although there was men getting more money than me. Naturally in those days but I used to run the shop.

Q:    When did you start doing that ?

Miss S:    Oh I expect I was [???] (Q: And that was before the last War ?) Yes but not so much of it then because the holidays were nothing in those days were they. When I first started work – four days a year. (Q: Goodness, really!) And then you couldn’t have it when you wanted it. (Q: No) We could never have Bank Holidays (Q: No?) No, because there was always so much work to do. We used to do a lot of country rounds you see and they had to be done. So we were never allowed to have Bank Holidays. Oh yes, we never had much choice. Occasionally we might fit one in, especially with the latter boss. He was a boss’s man (Q: In what way?) He was a good business man (Q: Yes) but he studied the boss rather than his staff. He was a worker and we had to work too. I got on all right with him – well he retired after I did. He used to come and visit me.

Q:    And he was the one you’d stand in for if he was away.

Miss S:    Yes, him, and the first one I did once or twice but I never did the books in those days because we hadn’t got a cashier you see and we used to have somebody come in and do the books,  just the booking part. I used to do the ordering from the travellers and things.

Q:    So somebody came in specially (Q: Mmm) and what did they do ?

Miss S:    One of [???] just did the books upstairs [???] Just local bills, I don’t mean the firm’s bills, just the customers’ bills, because we’d got no cashier. Did the banking and such like (Q: [???] You’d have liked that wouldn’t you ?) Yes, yes. I used to do the banking for the latter one but the only thing I wasn’t allowed to do was the wages up and I know why that was because the men were getting more than me. I used.[???] I knew why but you see in those days they wouldn’t put up with it these days would they. (Q: [???] You took it for granted I suppose) That’s right.

Q:    Or did you feel cross ?

Miss S:    At times, you know. Used to think, well I don’t think its fair but what could you do about it. (Q: Mmm.) You used to have to put in for a rise in those days when I first went there. You put in for one. Chance whether you got it or not. (Q: That was just you personally?) Yes, yes, individually. (Q: Did you do that?) Oh yes, got a shilling a week or half-a-crown if you were lucky. I mean half-a-crown a week.

Q:    By the time you’d been there all that time you’d think you’d be …

Miss S:    The wages they get now ! Well they get more [???]. When I left in 1960 I don’t think my wage was much more than six pounds a week (Q: Not much, is it). Ridiculous when you think of it now. Of course stuff was cheaper and you were lucky during the War you never went short of anything. If there was anything about you had it. You know what I mean you were never short. When it was even rationed you were still there where the stuff was and if there were perks you had it. (Q: Mmm.) I enjoyed it all. We had more fun. We used to all like our jobs. I mean there was a lot of fellows always something going on with them. Some were younger than me and when I think at first there was only me and one of them married. [???] still alive.

Q:    Serving in the shops was he ? Yes, I never realised that it was a man’s job so much. (Miss S: Didn’t you, oh yes.[???] ) Did people think it was strange that you went into the shop.

Miss S:    No, well the war started you see in 1914 I expect they were just starting to take young girls in ready for when the men left. I expect that’s what it was. But I think they always had a cashier (Q: Mmm.) but when I went there I think they used to have a fellow as a cashier in the International, yes.

Q:    So, when you were at school they’d be practically all men ?

Miss S:    Yes, then I expect. A girl I was friendly with at school she went to the International. And I went down to the Post Office for this job. I took that shop at the International and she took the job I went for at the Post Office. But she lived locally, she was the daughter of a jeweller in Witham where Kings is now [85 Newland Street].

Q:    So did you [???] want the job at the Post Office.
Miss S.    Oh yes [???] I was mad for shops. I did so want to write a bill out. [laugh] You don’t realise you know really at that age.

Q:    Still I suppose. What sort of jobs would there have been open to you if you hadn’t done that

Miss S:    Nothing, there was nothing. That or the Post Office, you see. Nothing else. Well there was the glove factory but that wouldn’t have been my cup of tea. (Q: No.). My sister said ‘You could always come and work at the glove factory’ and I said ‘No, I don’t want to’. Cos that was very poorly paid in those days. (Q: She was the one who was a manageress?) Yes, latterly, for I think she was about sixteen when she started there. There was only about three or four girls in a private house you see [13 and 14 Albert Road].

Q:    A friend of mine lives next door, was it the big semi-detached down Albert road ?

Miss S:    Oh there was one opposite the station, that’s right there was one of those there yes. (Q: Was that the ?) Yes that was the glove factory. There was the Mrs Pinkham and then there was, in fact one of the girls is still alive that worked with my sister, she’s just gone ninety. I haven’t seen her for years.

Q:    What was her name ?

Miss S:    Ottley, she lives in a bungalow up Cressing Road way somewhere – Cross Roads I think they call it, somewhere there. (Q: She worked at the factory.) Yes, yes. She was in charge of what they called the ‘puffing room’ so I understand, where they used to puff the gloves up. You don’t realise do you what [???]

Q:    [???] somebody worked at Spurges ?

Miss S:    Oh yes, that was the sister that was Alice and this one is Minnie. She died and then there was another girl around about my age she died when she was sixty I think. Because Minnie’s the last one left of the family. (Q: And did she work at the glove …?) She worked at the glove factory I think all her life, yes. She started more or less when my sister did down in the single house. [perhaps 4 Albert Road]

Q:    Did your sister like it there do you think ?

Miss S:    Well, I think so [???] you know. It was a poorly paid job, well, all jobs were in those days really weren’t they ?

Q:    I suppose there wasn’t a lot else. But she reckoned you wouldn’t like it you said ?

Miss S:    She didn’t think I would have the patience for that.
[Chat about lunch, thanks]

Q:    I didn’t think you had been there such a long time. (Miss S: Didn’t you?) You did very well. Do you miss it now ?

Miss S:    Well, I did but it got to such a point we had such a trying time with Mother in bed you see. I mean we had to sleep in her room to help her in and out of bed. Well we had fifteen years of that. Then after that we didn’t have so many years before my sister was ill. But I’d left work when she was first ill. I was glad to retire. One of my brothers said to me ‘Don’t you stay there any longer after your sixty’ because he said he did and he was in Marconi’s in the where they used to do experiments with the radio and he stayed after he was sixty-five and he said that did him in. So he said ‘No don’t you stay on’. I was quite ready to retire. I didn’t mind retiring a bit. So I was glad really when all these other alterations came along I shouldn’t have been happy, I’d have hated it.

Q:    Most groceries do bread now. Did you do that ?

Miss S:    No we didn’t do bread, no. During the First World War we did fish. (Q: Really?) Over at the International. (Q: Fresh fish was it?) Yes, but it only came on during the War. (Q: Where did that come from?) I don’t know, I really couldn’t tell you but I don’t think it was much, only like kippers and bloaters that type of thing.
Q;    That’s interesting, quite a change. I wonder why that came in during the War.

Miss S:    Well it would be a job to get what you needed. The firm could get it easier.

Q:    Were there some people who would come in the shop every day for a little bit of something ?

Miss S:    Oh yes, always lots of people in the shop. Then, of course in those days, people at Luckin Smith’s, would ring up and want things sent up and they wanted it at once. Perhaps they’d forgotten something they were cooking oh ‘Send up at once’. They were waited on hand and foot in those days.

Q:    And then they’d pay when they felt like it. How did you manage if someone came in wanting credit and you weren’t sure, what would you do.

Miss S:    Well you’d see the boss to see if he would give it. He’d let them have maybe a week and then if they didn’t pay up well they weren’t allowed any more until they had paid up. It was surprising the amount of the poorer type of person who were very fussy over that, they would pay. They were some very good customers in that class of person, they paid on the dot. And if they couldn’t pay one week you always knew you’d get it the next. They were that type of person. You were never afraid to trust them. (Q: No.) One or two had bad debts but – lucky really.

Q:    ‘Cos there weren’t very many.

Miss S:    Oh we used to run a club at Luckin Smith’s (Q: Oh really?) Mmmm. Oh that was a nightmare really because we had all our Christmas stuff in you see before the clubs came out at a certain time. They’d come in and they’d say ‘Well, I’ll have that, put that by for me, put that by for me’. We’d got to label them and put them all upstairs. It made a lot of work. (Q: It wasn’t just saving the money.) No, no and then you see and then they say ‘Oh and if you have so and so come in I’ll have that’. Then you’d got to go and fetch them down when they brought the club cards in and balance it. (Q: Did they pay for that a bit every week or something?) That’s right. (Q: It was quite complicated wasn’t it.) Yes, but it was very interesting really. We used to know all what people had for Christmas by the time you’d finished..

Q:    I suppose the ones that got into debt [???]? (Miss S: That’s right [???]) then they’d pay off a little bit at a time (Miss S That’s right, yes). I suppose it helped people who couldn’t really manage (Q: That’s it).

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