Tape 039. Mr Reg Turner, sides 1 and 2

Tape 39

Mr Reg Turner was born in 1897. He was interviewed on 6 April 1981, when he lived at 27 Rex Mott Court, born 1897.

For more information about him, see Turner, Reg 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 the flat and birds, not noted.]

Q:    You were saying you’re a new boy in Witham?

Mr T:    Yes, oh I’ve been here since 1927.

Q:    That’s not very new really is it ?

Mr T:    I was a foreigner. You had to be here I suppose it was five or six years before you were really accepted you know. (Q: Yes.) Very sticky in those days. There was the various families you know. There was the Luards, the Brices, the Smiths, the Browns, Collingwood Road, you know, Collingwood House, that was all Browns. They had quite a large area of land behind it. [15 Collingwood Road]

Q:    Did they? Where did you come from ?

Mr T:    Well, I was born in Maldon, and I left school when I was fifteen, was sent away for three years to Bon Marche in Brixton for an apprenticeship. That was 1912 when I set off, lived in, my father had to pay fifty pounds to put me there as an apprentice and fifty pounds was quite a sum in those days.(Q: What was that in?) In the outfitting trade. My father was an outfitter. Various shops. There were two of us. My elder brother he was sent to Norwood when he was fifteen for three years and I was six years younger than him so my turn come. In those days you know you more or less had to follow the trade of your father.

Q:    You didn’t consider anything else ?

Mr T:    Well, I don’t think I had much idea at that time, when I was fourteen or fifteen of what I wanted to do. I had always been in the shop on Saturdays. Well we had to work in the shop Saturday mornings dusting round and taking parcels out and cycling down Maldon hill, [laugh]. I wouldn’t like to cycle down it now ! I had to go right down to what we called the flat-tops at Heybridge, flat-tops. There used to be a row of houses belonged to Bentalls that were all flat-tops. And I often see them cycling down there now and I wouldn’t want to do it now.

Q:    Did he have his own shop then ?

Mr T:    My father? Oh yes. (Q: What was it called ?) T J Turner and sons. [gets out photo] I think this ’07, 1907. (Q: So you’d be were born in?) I wasn’t born there. I was two years when we moved up to here ? Yes I was born in 1897. (Q: Really?) [laugh] I was what you call a Jubilee Baby – for Victoria [laugh]. That’s King Edward’s coronation. (Q:  You’ve worn very well.) I have really, yes, I have, can’t grumble can I really. (Q: Isn’t that beautiful, that’s a different shop is it?) That is actually (Q: The same one with all the decorations on.) you can just see the two windows. (Q: That was the Coronation presumably?) Yes. The fairy lights caught, we had some little lanterns with candles in them, some of them caught fire. I remember we were down the Promenade and they called out for Mr Turner to hurry back to his shop as his decorations were on fire. (Q: Oh dear.) Its interesting to notice the prices on there now. By the way there was a chemist there. You know Maldon do you? you go up the hill. (Q: Yes, yes.) Well, its Tesco’s now . That’s where that was. (Q: This was 66?) That was 66 High Street yes. And in those days there was a chemist next door to it. The prices of the things hanging outside.

Q:    Seven and eleven, eight and six, and those were trousers (Mr T: Trousers!) Goodness me. Is this the assistant ?

Mr T:    Yes, that was the assistant. He went to the War and he was wounded but he has long since died from his wounds I think.

Q:    Did your mother help at all in the shop ?

Mr T:    Yes, yes she worked very hard. They both worked very hard.(Q: And what was her name?) Ella.

Q:    They were Maldon people, were they ?

Mr T:    No, well, my father was a Maldonian and his father was captain of one of the barges and at that time my father was expected to go along with him but he used to get so seasick he couldn’t stand it (Q: Oh, dear.) so he got a job in London at what was Scotch House, London, that’s all down now, in Aldgate. Joe Glover, you remember Glover’s corner, I used to hear them talk, they were both somewhere near each other at the time and in those days my father had to sleep under the counter [laugh] when he was young[?].. Well then he left and he went to Winchester, where he met my Mother and they eventually I think he came back and he got a job as an outfitter in Maldon. Jeffries. Stayed there some time and then he thought he’d open up on his own. Jeffries was down the end of the town and he opened up in opposition at this shop and there he got married and the interesting thing is that the vicar at Witham moved to Winchester Cathedral, what was his name Barton, [Q: Bramston.]. Bramston. Yes that’s it. Well, he was there and he married, my parents got married there in Winchester Cathedral. He was there at that time.

Q:    That’s going back a good way isn’t it. Lovely picture. This is a proper postcard, isn’t it, that people would send. I suppose it was good advertising ?

Mr T:    It was a wonderful, it was really quite a wonderful trade in those days in some ways because they had the two Fairs you know, the Spring Fair and September Fair, May Fair and September Fair. Tickle[?], the Bibby’s Fair it was then. They were quite good customers, they used to come in and fit themselves up. So twice a year you’d get, I can see now in the back yard there, a barrel of beer and all these gypos or circus people and fair people. And the same applied, the trade there was more or less in agricultural trade in those days and corduroy trousers and [???] shirts and all that sort of thing. Heavy boots and farmers, they used to come into the fairs and then that was a really busy time, they were tired out, yes. And I remember my father used to buy up the old carpets out of the trains, the Great Eastern Railway trains, rugs, they had them in the first class carriages you see. And he’d buy a barrel of those and have them in the back warehouse selling them at quite bargain, cut the price down you know. Used to buy those.

Q:    Trains were quite luxurious then.

Mr T:    It was really interesting those Fair days. Where the Grammar School is now in Maldon down Spital, Fambridge Road isn’t it. That’s where they used to hold the fairs. Naptha lamps and all. It was a Fair. Different to what they are now. Something really nice about the old fairs.

Q:     Mmm – was it a sort of fun fair basically or was it people buying and selling ?

Mr T:    Buying and selling, yes and a lot of sideshows and that sort of thing..

Q:    Yes, because Witham and Maldon both seem to me, from what I’ve discovered, depended a lot on the country round for trade.

Mr T:    Our trade extended down to Bradwell. My father used to cycle all the way over to Mundon and Latchingdon that way, and once a fortnight he hired a pony and trap and go as far as Bradwell. Southminster, Burnham and Bradwell and visit all the farms taking orders and then a fortnight later take them out you see. And the other direction would be as far as Tollesbury, they’d go out to Tolleshunt d’Arcy and Tiptree. What you call it, a sort of credit trade you see. Pay so much a week and that sort of thing (Q: I see.)

Q:    And he’d go round and collect it each time he went out.

Mr T:    Apart from the home trade you see. When I was in school I had to, say, Saturday morning, I’d be brushing all this stuff outside and inside, dusting all the boxes and that sort of thing. Taking parcels out. And I’d get the large sum of 3p, you see. Just enough to go to the cinema.

Q:    Of course it was quite a place Maldon. I see they have got the prices on there. (Q: Yes.) With the food shops they didn’t seem to have prices displayed but he’s obviously made a point of it.

Mr T:    Yes, jackets there four and …, trousers outside eight and eleven, seven and eleven, eight and six, six and six. Jackets six and six.

Q:    Where did he used to get them from in the first place ?

Mr T:    Well, London warehouses, mostly round the East End part, well from, what was, what is it there now, London Wall, Fore Street, where the Barbican is now, all round there and down to Whitechapel and also Colchester, Crowthers of Colchester. Philip and Pipers of Ipswich and then up Trent, Trent Bridge. Mostly suitings and that sort of thing from Trent Bridge.

Q:    Did they bring them to him, down to Maldon, or did he have to ?

Mr T:    The travellers used to come and stay overnight. They’d go to the Commercial Hotel just at the top of the hill, there was The Commercial Hotel on the left as you get to the top, it’s still there. I don’t know if its an hotel still. As you come up the hill. You know where the old British School is. (Q: I think so, yes.) That’s the school I attended actually, at the top of the hill there’s a little school and there’s the Temperance Hotel where these commercials would stay and there used to be a bus from the Kings Head, used to go up and down Market Hill, and well, meet every train I suppose, and then they’d have these crates, big baskets about the size of that table, with all their samples in, these travellers and they’d bring them up and take them into the shop. They’d be a day’s work. They’d stay in the town and probably have one or two other shops to visit, drapers and that sort of thing you see. Wholesale house they probably did clothing and drapery as well.

Q:    So they were all made up when you got them ?

Mr T:    Oh yes, they were all brought in made up. The tailoring side of it well you, like I do, you see, you’d have your pattern, select your pattern and measure, take the measurements and then they’d go off either to London or to Trent Bridge where they were made up into what they called the fitting stage and they’d come back basted up and you’d fit your customer and then it went back again. (Q: So it came back, this is when you were …) Yes and it happened there as well, you see. (Q: They came back just cut out?) Actually I was dealing with the Mumby’s[?] of Trent Bridge, are a very old firm who I believe are still running and they did a jolly good trade and reliable for fitting customers. They had some good cutters there and it got er. I don’t know whether they are still there. They were running ten years ago I know they were still there. I know because when my father retired, not this one but another one who was with him, opened up on his own in that little arcade at the top of Maldon High Street on the left. Edwards Way I think. Got a shop there. Well he’s still doing some of the old firm.

Q:    So your father, where did he live after he retired ?

Mr T:    He still lived in Maldon. He was very well known. He was an Alderman of Maldon and on the Council for years. I’ve got pictures of him somewhere.

Q:    It was a Borough wasn’t it? (Mr T: Yes.) Did he live to a good age as well ? Does it run in the family ?

Mr T:    No, Curiously enough, I don’t understand it in a way, because my mother died at the age of sixty and I thought she was very old then. I can still see her, as I thought of her, an old lady. Of course, these days they’re not. My father died when he was seventy.

Q:    When was that ?

Mr T:    In the thirties. [Looks at papers] Oh, age 71 1935, my father. My mother’s was, she was aged sixty in 1927 when she died. (Q: What was her name?) What, before she married she was Prichard.

Q:    So he was T.J and she was (Mr T: Ella.) Ella. So they both stayed in Maldon. Were there a lot of shopkeepers on, did the aldermen tend to be tradesmen, shopkeepers ?

Mr T:    Yes, a lot of them were, yes they were mostly. One of them was a publican I think.

Q:    I suppose that was the most important ….

Mr T:    Yes, the builder and decorator, Furlong I think it was. Now he was father of Phil Furlong who used to live in The Avenue. He married Rex Mott’s sister. He’s dead now, of course but his father was one of the aldermen. Time has passed and you sort of forget who was and who wasn’t.

Q:    I suppose in Witham the shop people were quite influential as well were they. Some of the families you were talking about weren’t in trade really were they ?

Mr T:    In Witham ? No not, well Brice you know Robert Brice’s father he was the starter at the Wembley stadium, used to start the greyhounds. He was rather an autocrat. I’m afraid I didn’t get on with him too well. I did business with him but there came a time, I had one or two of them, I’m going from one thing to another aren’t I ? (Q: That’s all right.) they used to have an account you see, and you’d run up, very nice account, one or two of them, but I found out it was all right on the books every six months, he’d give me a cheque and say, well, let me see your patterns and that and start again. You were making things for him every six months you see and you’d got to wait six months before you got paid. And I couldn’t do it. That happened quite a lot and I had to draw the line. Things were getting, looked very nice when you looked at your book you’d all of this but you hadn’t got the capital and you wanted the capital so I had to politely tell them well, Mr So-and-So and Mr So-and-So in future it will have to be for cash you see and one or two of them turned up their, and wouldn’t come in my shop again. [laugh] But I know poor old Brand the baker, where would Brand’s be now, oh where the fish and chip shop is I suppose, somewhere just there. [31 Newland Street] He got into real trouble because of running up you see. I said well you must do the same as I have, just stop delivering, don’t let them have the bread till they pay. But they all, they’d got the money and they thought every else had got it I suppose, you see. Whether they had the money, I presume they had it.

Q:    So what did he do, Mr Brand ?

Mr T:    Well, think he did likewise I think with some of them and just decided that he couldn’t supply them any more. (Q: But these people were quite well off?) Yes, they very autocratic in some ways. As I say they, I’m not going to mention any names, but there was one called me Turner this, and Turner that you see. So I’d had enough of it one day and I just replied to him in the same manner [laugh].

Q:    It would be difficult to strike a balance because you wouldn’t want to lose …

Mr T:    I couldn’t, no. The first few years it was really hard going and I had to mind my ways you see. I had another interesting incident. This certain gentleman lived up Wickham Bishops which was in those days a very sort of elite place and he was doing the same, plus fours and all this business and running up bills and I sent him my account in time after time and got nothing from him, and I used, on Saturday evenings when the shop was closed I’d just pop over to the Spread Eagle and have a Guinness. I was drinking Guinness at that time – I’m not heavy drinker – I’d just pop over. I’d be this side and he’d be round the saloon side, with all his pals you know. So I’d had enough and I thought well since he’s treating all these chaps to Scotches, why can’t he pay me. So I went round and tapped him. Oh he was furious. He went to Bright’s, that’d be Derek’s father, Gerald Bright, ‘Admonish that young pup, accosting me in a public house.’ So I explained everything to Gerald and I said well I’d like you to write him a letter too. So it was all settled and I got a cheque in the end and that closed that account. [laugh] But I’d just had too much you see.

Q:    Well, presumably you couldn’t do the same with your suppliers. You had to pay them.

Mr T:    I had to pay every month on the tenth of every month. They didn’t give very much quarter in those days. I used to send out my bills every month and of course you got a good response from some and very nice ones but there were a few who were very long winded and I just couldn’t stand it.

Q:    So it wasn’t that easy really to make a, very difficult to be sure of a certain living from a shop wasn’t it really ?

Mr T:    It was really hard going. Actually we hadn’t been married long when we came to Witham. I was at Harrods before I came down here I was in the same, outfitting of course and I’d been promised, I was sent to Cambridge on a summer course there and I did very well. I came out third from England, Scotland Ireland and Wales and got five poounds you see. Sir Richard Burbage was the head of Harrods then and I went up to see him and he was very pleased with me said well, as soon as there’s a vacancy for a promotion you’ll receive it. But it didn’t happen that way. Richard Burbage, the son had a chap he was pally with in India [???] [???] anyhow he came over and he got the job which I’d waiting for (Q: Oh dear.) so I had a few words with Sir Richard and told him what I thought and of course I knew I shouldn’t get any promotion, not if I stayed there, so I told my brother, he was in partnership with my Dad then, after the First World War, come back from the wars, and asked him to keep an eye out, if there was any little business going round Essex way. Curiously enough it was only about a fortnight after that he wrote through to say there was a little shop in Witham which was, Hutley’s of Braintree had it then and he got into deep water, Crowther’s of Colchester were pressing him for money and he got fed up and told my brother, you know, he’d sell the business if he could, so … (Q: Was he in the same trade?) Yes, Hutley’s are still there, the son’s still living in the market square. (Q: They were outfitters as well?) Yes. (Q: So were able to take on some of their customers?) So I had the nucleus of a business you see and that all happened within a month. We’d left Harrods and were down here. But unfortunately I couldn’t get into the premises over the shop in Witham because it was let to somebody at Crittall’s and we had a job to get him out. So we had to go into a flat behind Spurge’s on the corner of Collingwood … where, do you remember Spurges at all ? [42 Newland Street] (Q: I’ve heard a lot about them.) Well it was a rambling old shop. They’d got some nice stuff there but it was a very old fashioned place and very rambling and we had a flat at the back.

Q:    Is that where that em, on the corner of Lockram Lane is it ? Where Glovers would have been ? (Mr T: Yes, yes.) Did they have any of their own people living there as well ?

Mr T:    What Spurges ? No, no all the staff just came in for the day, lived in Witham. There was nobody. It was a lock up place. Miss Murrells, the two Miss Murrells. Do you remember them ? (Q: I know the name.) They lived at number six in The Avenue. I think, got an idea Ron Shayshutt lives there now, you know Inspector, I think it was number six.

Q:    Because, at one time, as far as I can make out, shop assistants did tend to live in or near the shop. (Mr T: Yes.) That had probably passed the time we’re talking about. (Mr T: I keep jotting from one place to another.) No, it doesn’t matter.

Mr T:    But, when you bring that up, yes. When I was sent as apprentice at Bon Marche at Brixton we lived in. I had half a crown a week. Oh that was a real shock when I went into the, what they called the dining room, if you can call it that. I remember the first night I went up there. There was a long table, bare, no table cloths or anything and beer on the table for the senior salesmen you see. Oh and it was a shocker really and my little bedroom was jammed back right on, well it was only that distance away from the railway, the electric railway running over – do you know Brixton at all, the bridge is over the main street, there’s two of them (Q: I think I have seen them, yes, on the main road.) Well my bedroom was right smack by the side of the railway. A little room it was too. It was a horrible time. I was really homesick there.

Q:    How long were you there for ?

Mr T:    Well, I was there 1912 to 1915. 12 October 1912 I went and I was there till 1915 when I broke my apprenticeship to push off to the War you see. My parents didn’t know I was in the army till I wrote afterwards and my Mum was, oh, I’d put a nail in his coffin already because I was always, in the winter I suffered quite a lot with rheumatism, had rheumatism very badly from about the, when I was round about the age of eight to ten had my head down like that you know, couldn’t get it up for weeks. So she was very sad to see me go off to the army. But by and large it did me good in a way because I think it made me. That was 1915 so I joined up in the Queens Royal West Surrey and we went to Aldershot. I’ve got a picture, if its still here. [looks out photos]

Q:    Its nice that you’ve kept all these. So many people seem to throw things away. (Mr T: That was up in Scotland – that’s me.) Oh you look very proud of yourself there. [chat about box of pictures] I’ll come and see you again and you can show me some more. We can’t cover all your life history today.

Mr T:    I’d like to have seen that one of me marching off to Aldershot. That’s rather an interesting one. The way it’s kept. That’s my family. (Q: Isn’t that clear. So you’d a sister as well. Its very clear isn’t it.) I’m surprised how that’s kept like that, that was taken in Maldon you see. Isn’t it. Yes, that was my brother and my sister and me and of course that’s my Dad. (Q: Your sister was older than you?) Three years between each of us. I’m the last of the family now, too, no more Turners.

Q:    That is extraordinary that should have kept so well, it looks as if it was taken yesterday. I’ll come and talk to you again. [he goes on looking through photos talking about them, not noted]

Mr T:    There’s some bowling ones and such like. (Q: Oh you were in bowling were you?) President yes.

Q:    How long have you done that ?
Mr T.    I’m the oldest one. 1930. (Q: Is that when the club was formed?) No the club was formed in about 1904 I think. There’s so many of them. Oh yes, that’s me doing a little act of some sort. With Gerry Booth – do you remember Gerry Booth at the Bank? (Q: I’ve heard o him, I know, yes – so what’s this, the Operatic?) Operatic yes.

Q:    So you kept yourself pretty busy ?

Mr T:    That’s Sidney Hinchcliffe there (Q: Oh yes.) That Helen Lepper do you know

Q:    Oh yes, I’ve just seen her this morning. (Mr T: That’s Helen.) What occasion was this ?

Mr T:    That’s the bowls again.

Q:    She worked up at the school up Chipping Hill

Mr T:    Yes, and …

Side 2

[Looking at photos][

Mr T:    You can still see the Angel Inn sign there  [39 Newland Street]

Q:    Oh, yes – that’s a good one isn’t it – that must be some age then (Mr T: Yes.) When did they pull the ..?

Mr T:    Now, I think that old gentleman there I’m almost sure is Mrs Howell’s father. You know Mrs Howell at Podbrook (Q: Someone mentioned her name and said she knew [???] what was he?) He was with the saddlers. Their shop was round where Farthing’s is now, just round the corner [68 Newland Street] I think then they moved down the Maldon Road.  (Q: Oh yes, because there’s Mrs … what was their name?) Butcher. (Q: Brewster was it?) Brewsters that’s right.

Q:    Yes because I had a talk to Mrs. Baker once and she was a Brewster wasn’t she ?

Mr T:    I believe old Turner was with them. But you see that was, my shop wasn’t there in those days you see. That after it was [looking at photos]

Q:    That was not long after you came I suppose and that was? And that was in …?

Mr T:    In 1927. Yes. That’s Dowsett’s the boot shop, shoe shop. [56 Newland Street] Yes. You’ve seen that probably (Q: Oh I kept that yes.). Well that was the old cottage you see. That was my stock room upstairs and I had to go, if I wanted anything in the shop and I hadn’t got it I’d have to tear up right through up the stairs you see. No wonder I kept fit! Up the stairs I’d go two at a time and come back with what ever it was, a box of shirts,

Q:    So you said you didn’t live over the shop, but you did in the end did you ?

Mr T:    Yes, we did at the end. Previously the corner shop and this was two windows there. That was our dining room really. We didn’t actually. We lived more or less at the back . For shop convenience. That was the scullery there and you’d go in there and there’d be a kitchen that’s where we had our meals there and, of course, you can see its quite a long, oh yes it was a long passage there so I had to, as I say, had to race right to the back there into the house, up the stairs, along the passage, [laugh]

Q:    Goodness. Did you have any help in the shop ?

Mr T:    Yes, yes. (Q: How many?) Only one and an errand lad. Yes, I had an assistant and an errand lad. And the assistant he’s done very well now. He’s buyer for one of the large mail order firms in Bradford.

Q:    Did he come as an apprentice or … ?

Mr T:    He came as an apprentice and of course in the Second World War he had to join up and he was in the Commandos. He was in the landing at, on the er front at the Arno was it, somewhere there. Yes, he made the parachute landing. He was scared stiff he told me and I hear from him still. He was, they were a local family, they lived down the Maldon Road in those days. Cunningham. His father was with one of the butchers. Is it a Butcher’s now, there used to be one, Edwards, didn’t there [29 Newland Street] (Q: Oh yes.) next to Woolworths wasn’t there. Well he was with them.

Q:    And who was the errand boy ? Did he work there full-time.

Mr T:    No, I had errand lad. No he came in, like they do these days, during school hours you see, probably after tea for an hour and Saturday mornings up to twelve o’clock. You couldn’t employ them. Had the Inspector who used to come round. [laugh]

Q:    What age were they supposed to be ?

Mr T:    Oh, about twelve.

Q:    So you had a bit of a succession of them did you ? (Mr T: Yes.)How did you get hold of them ?

Mr T:    By word of mouth, I think, when one was leaving sometimes might get a lad ‘Do you want an errand boy?’

Q:    And did they go on into the business or …?

Mr T:    No, they usually branched out. Yes. I don’t know what happened to … One went in the Navy. Another one the family moved away. One is still, Sprawling, he’s still around. He lives up Church Street or somewhere I think, of course he’s retired now. His father was a postman.

Q:    Did your wife help at all ?

Mr T:    Oh yes. She did a lot of the book work too and she. Well, she’d been in business herself. We were both in business. I met her in, after the, I didn’t know her during the War. I met her, at, she was in the Bon Marche in the ladies section you see in haberdashery I think. So we were both interested in the business side you see. Oh she was a great help too. She was well known, Nell was. During the war she did all the Wings for Victory. Went up to Buckingham Palace for a Garden Party. She got recognition that way, she went up with Mrs Dan Crittall 1946 I think it was. She worked hard.

Q:    You said it took a little while to be accepted but you did in the end.

Mr T:    Five or six years. I remember Ardley’s the baker, they were down somewhere near the surgery. There used to be a baker there, Ardley’s [c 137 Newland Street] and Mrs Ardley came in and said, ‘Oh, I do feel sorry for you, you young couple, you won’t last here six months.’ (Q: Really! Helpful.) That’s the sort of reception.

Q:    So, it was quite a struggle ?

Mr T:    It was quite a struggle, yes. Yes, you see nobody realised even in those days the stock you had to carry. You take, for instance, there’s more variety now I know, but you take somebody come in for a pair of trousers. You’d got to stock from size 30 waist up to 44. If it’s a grey, you’d got to stock it from say, 30 waist with 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 length leg and then you’d have three colours, mid grey, light grey and charcoal grey. You’d got to duplicate that. Then you had fawn trousers or lovat trousers, repeat again, you see. Then you take shirts, again, 14 to 17 and a half. Whites were all right, but you get stripes, coloured ones, fawn, green, grey from 14, yes 14, up to 17 and a half.

Q:    So you did a lot of ready made ?

Mr T:    The stockroom was piled with stuff and yet you could come in, you could come in, perhaps, the average size in those days was 15 and a half, 15 and a half neck. Well obviously in my position you couldn’t have more than two of a size. You might have customers come in on a Saturday, both wanted a white shirt, or a green shirt, pale green shirt, size 15 and a half, you’d sell them, and next thing, ‘Oh I can’t get anything at Turner’s, never go what I want’. [laugh] You’d got all the other stuff there. And Christmas time we used to keep a record of what was selling and what were the sizes which were most wanted. I know one Christmas we banked on 15, 15 and a half and 16 but do you know we had customers coming in for size 16 and a half and 14.

Q:    You did a bit more at Christmas ?

Mr T:    Oh yes, of course. You take Pyramid[?] handkerchiefs ninepence each. It was rather funny, about that too, with initialled handkerchiefs. We used to get some fun out of that. You know you’d be working behind the counter. Someone would come in an say ‘Oh Mr Turner, can you do a P.’ [laugh] That was fun. Or what was the another one – loose ladies handkerchiefs, yes [laugh]. Then we had cut binding leather elbows ‘Oh Mr Turner have you got leather elbows?’ Oh we had some funs.

Q:    Did you have stuff made for the customer as well? (Mr T: Oh used to make …) I mean the stock was ready made presumably (Mr T: Yes.) Did you also do the things to order ?

Mr T:    Oh yes, yes, yes, more, well of course, suits you see. At Easter time in the thirties I’d make a sports jacket and plus fours was the go then, sports jacket and plus fours for fifty shillings.

Q:    When you say you’d make it – you (Mr T: Not on the premises.) You’d send away ?

Mr T:    You’d take the measurements, measure the customer you see. They’d select the pattern and then you’d send the order off and if they wanted a fitting well they’d got to come back for a fitting you see and then it’d got to go back again.

Q:    It would come back in pieces ?

Mr T:    Yes, it was and, oh, at Easter time, on the Good Friday everybody in those days always had something new for Easter you see. (Q: Did they?) [???] And I’d have so-and-so wasn’t there, or it might be somebody getting married at Easter, dash up to the station on every train to see if it was there. (Q: They came on railway?) Yes they used to come by rail. (Q: From Trent?) Yes, or London, wherever it was, some of it was London. It was really a headache to get them to time. Everybody wanted them for the Easter. There’d be a delay or something’d go wrong and the occasional one was a misfit or not quite right you see.

Q:    But you didn’t do any of the making on the premises ?

Mr T:    Oh no, (Q: Were they different sort of people?) There was only one when I came there was only one who was doing cutting. That was Groves, Potter Groves but he was finding it very difficult I know, his son carried on after him and he couldn’t make a do of it and that was really the last one.

Q:    So, were there very many others as well as yours ?

Mr T:    No, There was Bradshaw, [72 Newland Street] when I came, that’s where, let me think where, next to Martin’s, children’s stuff now isn’t it? Well then he died and I think Gurteen’s of Haverhill took it over and they had a manager. The last, I forget the chap’s name, when I first came it had just been transferred to Gurteen’s I think and they had a manager and he was is the Operatic at the same time I joined he was already in. I just remember, I can’t think of his name now but otherwise there was only myself and Gurteen’s, it wasn’t called that. It was called Davies, that’s right but it belonged to Gurteens actually. They did mostly farmer type of stuff and a lot of heavy stuff and there was the Co-op that was the only other one. Just the three of us. Co-op was just, well, to my mind they’ve never been in opposition because they never … (Q: Why not?) Well, they’d never had the experience, the assistants had never, chap who was there, with all due respect, he was a pal of mine Ken Claydon you know Ken, Brenda Claydon’s husband (Q: I think so.) She was at the Co-op then she went to that shop in Collingwood Road for a little while, a gown shop wasn’t it, but Ken he went straight from school there, never had any training like myself, I had an apprenticeship, been right through it you see and good experience both in the sort of country trade, being brought up in country trade and I’d been trained when I was at Bon Marche for better class stuff, and particularly when I was at Harrod’s, it was all. I could tell you some tales about Harrods too. [laughter]. Stanley Baldwin you know he used to come with his white shirt and have a piece taken out the tail to make a new collar. (Q: really?) Lord William Cecil, yes he was another one and, one of the Irish ones he was, big chap he was, oh several of them used to come in. They were very careful.

Q:    It was a bit of a change when you came to Witham. Did you get any of the Luards or any of the big families in your shop?

Mr T:    Yes, I did. But I must admit I didn’t like their attitude. It took me a long while. They looked down on you, you see. Very much looked down on were tradesmen by some of them. The average Witham person, we got on all right with them but I’ve told you of some of the experiences we had, with one or two of them. And very autocratic. It was five or six years before we got in. I think the wife she was very lonely . She wasn’t too happy really because she was an active one and interested in a lot of things. It was Miss Edith Luard who really got her going. She came in one day and was speaking about the young couple, how were we getting on. I said I was getting on but wished my wife could get a little more mixed up with things and she took her in hand. Took her to the Women’s Institute and got her and Miss Luard was very keen on amateur dramatics and all this sort of thing and well both Nell and I used to go round doing little sketches, performing in Wickham Bishops and that. I wouldn’t want to do it now, I’d be too nervous. [laugh].

Q:    So it was difficult to get in even with other shopkeepers, were they not friendly ?

Mr T:    Oh yes, yes, we got on with the rest. We had the Dowsetts shop were quite friendly [56 Newland Street], boot shop, Cyril Dowsett, yes, we got on with them all right and the butcher, Billy Loveday [58 Newland Street], Cartons, the confectioners. Yes I think with tradesmen we got on. Old Mondy himself [63 Newland Street], he was a little bit of a … He used to deduct ten per cent off his bill. You know, when you sent the account, he’d already deducted ten per cent. (Q: Really, why did he do that, did he get away with it?) Well, I had to more or less. Well I did for a time, but came the time when I didn’t and they had to accept it in the end. But I did a fairly good general middle class trade I think. I had to cut out a lot of stuff. When I came from Harrods I thought I was going to do, higher class trade than I actually did because I found a lot of them weren’t shopping In Witham, not the ….

Q:    I was thinking a lot of food shops seem to have served people like Parkers and Lord Rayleigh and the Du Canes and so on. Did you ever get any trade from them?

Mr T:    Yes, well Dorothy Sayers too, she was a customer of mine. She was very mannish really. She’d have Harris tweed sports coats and tweed ties, man’s shirts. And Mrs Strutt, Mark Strutt, Evelyn [probably Elaine], well I’m still friendly with her. She’s been up to see me here actually. Got on with her very well. She used to come up to our place when we were at Collingwood Road and have mince pies. Nell always used to make mince pies and she’d come in and have a mince pie. Yes, some of them were very nice but by and large no. They weren’t liked at all I don’t think. The Browns in Collingwood Road, Marjorie, you know Marjorie Coleman (Q: A little, yes.) She lived in Collingwood Road [15 Collingwood Road], well her mother and father were very very snooty people. (Q: Were they really?) Of course, they owned all the land round this way, you see. Yes.

Q:    I think I’ve heard people speak of her as a church worker, is that the same one ?

Mr T:    Yes, but I’m speaking from the customer’s point of view, oh yes they were very high and mighty. Bill’s all right, well, Bill and Margery are better but the parents were of the old school. Very much so. Bill Coleman’s all right.

Q:    I think they were church people involved with charities weren’t they ? (Mr T: Yes. Browns) Was there a lot of difference between church people and chapel people in Witham ?

Mr T:    Well, we were church, this was our church. I believe, I’m almost sure that my daughter’s was the last wedding to take place there, yes, I think so [All Saints]. Well we were very interested in church work. We used to run the church socials, myself, the wife and do you know Bill Evitt. You know Bill, (Q: I don’t think specially, I’ve heard his name.) Bill and Frances, they lived in The Avenue, now they live in Wickham Bishops, you know Belshams, the boy Belshams, well well one of them married Bill Evitt’s sister, no, his daughter, that’s right Bill Evitt’s daughter. Stan Page who used to be at Bridge Home, he was the head [???] at Bridge Home. The four of us used to run the church socials for All Saints. I’m really Church of England although I go across to the Methodists, very handy, just across there.

Q:    Yes, I think it was more in connection with food, I remember people telling me that the church people, very kindly, they had a system of giving them tickets to spend ?

Mr T:    Yes, to spend, yes, I used to get people with tickets.

Q:    Could they spend they anywhere or did they have to specify which shop ?

Mr T:    Well, I used to get one or two of them and then send the account in. I didn’t do much in that way. I think it was more food than clothing.

Q:    That’s interesting. It must have been quite a help for people.

Mr T:    There was a lot of, of course down the Maldon Road and Church Street were really the, what I suppose you’d call the poorer end then, and there was Trafalgar Square that’s down where the car park is now (Q: I know.) that was Trafalgar Square. There were poor families there and there was one or two houses in Guithavon Valley, the top of Guithavon, there was houses along there then. And in Lockram Lane there was one or two houses and there were two more in the George, behind the Spread Eagle there was two or three houses there.

Q:    But did you get any customers from those parts ?

Mr T:    Oh yes, I think I had a bit of all round. And Hatfield too, Hatfield, Rivenhall (Q: Quite a good area.) Oh yes I had several from Kelvedon, I had customers in from Kelvedon, and Wickham Bishops, Hatfield Peverel, one or two from Terling I can recall. Of course the prices then, you’d get, I used to do a very good line of trousers, two-three-two[?] flannel trousers at fourteen and eleven and the shoe, the Wearra shoes which I think are now about ten or twelve pounds, fourteen and eleven. I did those. Fourteen and eleven. Ties were one and six, handkerchiefs ninepence each.

Q:    A farm worker, if he’d saved…Presumably the ready made stuff was a good bit cheaper than the made to measure [looking at photos again]. I’ve not seen one of those before.

Mr T:    That’s up Armond Road up that way (Q: Of course, yes.) But I think that cornfield was one of the Smith’s, Esmond Smith I think farmed there then.

Q:    But you said when it came to farm work clothes there was another shop that did those ?

Mr T:    Yes, the one, Gurteen’s did more of that. Mine was a little more (Q: Well it’s a special thing really isn’t it.) That’s rather an interesting one that’s no more now but I used to call that Abraham’s tree (Q: Where was that?). You know that down at The Grove, that line of trees where the wall is, (Q: Yes.) well that was there, (Q: Oh.) somewhere looking across now to where the Income Tax office somewhere there, Inland Revenue and British Legion Hall. And we always used to, I was so interested in that, I took it, I forget whether it was the Braintree and Witham Times, or the paper before that, they had a little, once a week competition ‘Do you know where this is?’ (Q: Oh, yes I know.) and I entered that. (Q: Did anybody get it?) No, but its interesting isn’t it. It’s very food isn’t it. Now that, those two are interesting. (Q: You took quite a lot of snaps, did you?) Do you know where that is ? (Q: No.) Well, that is where the precinct is now (Q: Oh I see.) that was a garden, that’s part of my garden, that’s my daughter there.

Q:    How did you manage to keep that in order ?

Mr T:    Oh it was a real old job. [Looking at photos?] Just looking up towards, that’s a house, you see. (Q: That’s interesting.) Mrs Lake had half of it, course I only rented it. It wasn’t my property. I tried to buy my section but they wouldn’t sell. They knew what they were doing. Belsham. You see Mrs Lake lived in this section and we were this section you see and the garden was divided. They had half, actually she had more the garden with the trees in than I did. Mine was more open. Oh I had fruit trees and that.

Q:    I wouldn’t have thought you had much spare time for gardening. Were you open early and late or were there  …?

Mr T:    Oh yes, we opened at half past eight in the morning and seven o’clock at night. Saturdays half past nine. And I had two customers who would always stand on the opposite side. There was a little newsagent’s shop on the corner of Maldon Road then and they would just wait to see my blind come down and then come across. Two very shy boys and I’d see them at the football paper in front of them, as soon as I closed the door then they’d come in [laugh]. Had to be nice but I got so cross about it. [Looking at photos again] That’s the daughter. That’s me in the opera days.

Q:    Oh well, you did have some spare time for that, obviously.

Mr T:    I had to give it up because it took too much time. I think I gave up the year after that because I couldn’t, Nell couldn’t, you know, she’d got her to look after. I had to leave the shop on a Saturday, leave her, or close up early. Well I was losing trade you see

Q:    Yes, its quite demanding isn’t it? When did you give the shop up in the end?

Mr T:    1963

Q:    And then it went over to something similar ? [Looking at cuttings]

Mr T:    That one’s rather interesting, getting away from the business, it’s rather interesting. (Q: [Reading] ‘First day of the General Strike’. That was just before you came here?) Yes, I was a constable during those years. (Q: Were you?) Yes, I was patrolling in Hyde Park. Yes, I’ve got the card here.

Q:    That’s kept well. You are very good for keeping archives.

Mr T:    That’s another print too, cut out the paper, that’s another one of the end of the street. [Newland Street]

Q:    Yes, the bottom end yes, The Globe [132]

Mr T:    There was a blacksmith’s [130] there where the cottage is now. That was a blacksmith’s there, Shelleys.

Q:    Yes, they’ve got the forge in there haven’t they. You’ve got a good collection. Were there still horses and carts around when you came? (Mr T: Oh yes, yes.) Did you do any delivering from the shop (Mr T: Yes, yes.) How did that work?

Mr T:    The lad had a cycle you see and my assistant used to take it out very often or the errand boys. Yes I had a tricycle you know, with the old thing in the front, ‘Turner, the shop for men’.

Q:    Yes. Would most things be delivered or would people take some away as well?

Mr T:    There was quite a good delivery trade. I used to say well I can’t deliver till the weekend you see, Saturday morning used to be, errand boy used to do that you see.

Q:    That was quite a good job for him really. Would he get very much ?

Mr T:    No, no, only about half a crown a week.

Q:    What about your assistant ? Would that be quite a well paid job ?

Mr T:    Well, about two-fifty to three pounds. (Q: Quite good really.) Then he came back from the War, when he went to the War I think he was getting I think it was three pounds and he wasn’t married, when he came back from the War, he came back and he’d met a girl and was thinking about getting married and he came along and said ‘Mr Turner, I’m getting married. Can you raise my salary’ you see. I said ‘Honestly I can’t give you much’ I think I offered him another ten bob which he accepted but I said ‘The best thing for you Leslie is, now, if you want to get on, you’ve had your training, you been through the War, why not look out for another job’. I said ‘because honestly I shan’t be able to pay you more’ you see and I said well, ‘I’ll see what I can do’. So whenever a traveller came in I’d say ‘If you hear of a job round here going Leslie’s getting married and he want’s to advance himself’. But he couldn’t get a job this way but they did get one, a traveller came in said ‘Oh you could get a job up in Bradford’. So he took this job in Bradford, it was in a similar trade to mine and from there, he stayed there I think about a year and then he got this job in the mail order department and was doing pretty well and was made head of the menswear section. And he writes, I think he goes all over the continent, getting lines and does the catalogues. I forget the name of the firm now. I hear from him at Christmas. He’s done very well really and I feel a little bit pleased to think I gave him his first training, didn’t I.

Q:    Did you take someone else on after that, did you take anybody else on instead of him ?

Mr T:    No, no I didn’t. We decided we’d carry on. I had the errand lad that came in but Karen was growing up then so Nell and I just saw it through.

Q:    That’s a very nice one of you and your shop. That must have been soon after you came, was it?

Mr T:    Yes, you see the Wilderness hadn’t been built up then you see. [Talking over]

Q:    You did hats as well. (Mr T: Yes.) Did you ever have sales in those days ?

Mr T:    Oh yes, yes. (Q: How did that work?) Very good. One of the best, you know. They were genuine reductions actually, yes. I gave them some good bargains. Of course a lot of the sales, a lot of the stuff is bought in these days. But in Harrods, it was all, well if you went into Harrods for something and they know underneath Harrods is about five miles of subways. (Q: Oh really?) Oh yes there’s butchers and bakers all down below and the sorting offices, and fishmongers, yes all the trades they’re all working down below and these trucks running about and for a sale you’d have crates and crates coming in with seconds and that going all over. General public didn’t really get the best bargains because you had your account customers and you worked on your salary and commission you see, so the more you could knock up before the sale and of course all the best things were put aside. You’d go in on a Saturday morning, going to open on the Monday morning, you’d go in on the Saturday morning and get all these things ready for delivery, be down in the parcel offices and that sort of thing for delivery.

Q:    But yours were real ones would they ? (Mr T: Yes, yes.) How often did you have sales ?

Mr T:    Twice a year, stocktaking sale at March and then the Summer sale about August. (Q: So some people would just …?) Wait for it and buy then. Then at Christmas time we used to have different calendars, we had some nice calendars and you knew your customers and you’d be surprised the number who weren’t customers who came in for one of Turner’s calendars.

Q:    I’m holding up your lunch aren’t I ?

Mr T:    No. Quarter past one I’m out. Only have a snack lunch today because I’m bowling this afternoon.

Q:    Oh are you, that keeps you fit. (Mr T: Yes.) [laugh]. You do all these things in your spare time but wasn’t there a Chamber of Trade or anything like that ?

Mr T:    Oh, yes I belonged to the Chamber of Trade. (Q: How far back did that go ?) Well, back to the thirties.

Q:    So that was when you came ?

Mr T:    We had the badge [looks for something]. No doesn’t give the date. I don’t know if they still run that. We used to have it have it in the shop hung up.

Q:    What sort of things did they used to do, have meetings ?

Mr T:    Yes, used to have meetings to promote trade in the town, you see, and local advertising, and window competitions and displays, that sort of thing. Incidentally I won quite a number of those, I got the best window in the town, I won the coronation one, you know, for the Queen.

Q:    [Looking through box] – I’ve made a bit of a mess [Reads] ‘Witham Carnival 1933, shop window display, first section number two …’

Mr T:    The Coronation one I’ve got something on it.

Q:    I didn’t realise the Carnival went back so far. Was the Carnival …? Letter for Special Constable. Stanley Baldwin. Oh its nice that you’ve kept all these and not thrown them away, you’d never see them again would you ?

Mr T:    No, I had one or two on the best Window in the Town, somewhere here. As I say they want sorting out really. I keep saying one night ‘Oh I’ll sort them out’ but I never get round to it.

Q:    This was mostly on Saturdays too, so I suppose when you were in the shop that was difficult to find time for was it ? (Mr T: Yes), Oh that’s the Coronation One.

Mr T:    Yes, but it doesn’t lend itself. There’s too much reflection. That was all metallic paper and those were royal colours down the sides there. And an English rose, there was just two pedestals. It was very effective. (Q: Well done.) [???] Yes, yes he was the [???] you know Todge Tabor, Neville, (Q: I know the name yes.). He was at[?] Hurrell and Beardwell’s, that’s his father, had the greengrocers shop next to Cook’s the pork butchers.

Q:    Where did you used to do your shopping for food and so on?

Mr T:    Oh, the butchers next door but one you see, Lovedays, [58 Newland Street] and the grocers, Luckin Smith [42 Newland Street] and Parkers, because his was a very very, nice little shop. Mostly in the town. The baker Brand. I think we shopped more or less with one an other you know.

Leave a Reply

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