Mrs Doris Cook (nee Smith) was born in 1912. She was interviewed on 9 June 1981, when she lived at Mulberry, Maldon Road, Witham.
She also appears on tape 47.
For more about her, see Cook, Harold and Doris (nee Smith) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.]
Mrs C: I tried to get through to a relation of Mrs King’s last night. She used to work at the shop years ago and I’ve always kept in touch with her. She’s a widow but I’ve tried twice and can’t get her so I expect she’s on holiday only I thought she might give me a little information which I couldn’t give you, you know. If I do find out any more I can always give you a ring and let you know. Only when I went with King’s it was, oh about 1928 I should think. I should think. As near as I can say it was about 1927 1928 when I went there and that was W & E King then, but prior to that, they was there before the First World War. (Q: Really?) And that was Green, E E Green. There was a mother and father, I don’t think they were ever in the business, but there was the two sisters ran the business.
Q: The sisters were Green ?
Mrs C: Both Green, Miss Greens. And Alice, she married Hawkes of Chelmsford, the sweet manufacturing people, and then the other Miss Green, which was Ethel, she married very late in life. Well, I say late in life, she was well over forty, and she married Mr King. I should say that was, I can’t really remember, but it was in the twenties I should think. Yes, because when I went there they’d got a little boy of two, I think Eric was about two, and I know they all said you know she was so old, you know, very old to have a family. Well, in those days, they thought it was and then, in those days, there was just the one shop front where the Sovereign Jewellers is there.[c.13 Newland Street] And then next to, still the old fashioned house, there was a little old bay window and a little door, which would have been a house, and they had that for the wools and fancy goods and then, I think I’d been there about two years, they had it all altered and had a new front put in to match the other one and then it was like, when you went, you used to sort of go through from the main shop like that and there was this little tiny square room with the bay window and then at the back of that there was another little room, no at the side of it was another room and at the back of it there was a cottage, where some people lived. When they got the people out of the cottage they opened that up and made one big room right through and then upstairs they used as storage part of. A very old place upstairs, all the old attics. I think now a lot of it has never been altered. They only allow the fronts to be altered.
Q: Is that on the left hand side of the jewellers ?
Mrs C: Its now a bakers isn’t it ? But after Kings sold out about, oh, it was after this War, just trying to think when it was, about 19, that was the date I was going to get from Ivy, I should say it was in the forties. Let me think. ’45, perhaps about ‘48, I should say somewhere about ’48 something like that. Because I was with them, I went with them when I was about fifteen I suppose and I went with them and I stopped with them until about 19, maybe ‘32. My Mother was ill and I didn’t go to work any more, I stayed at home with my parents. But the little boy always sort of clung to me and I used to have him an awful lot. So I always kept friendly with them you see and that. And old Mrs Green, Granny Green, she didn’t die till, well we moved to Kingswood in 1929, it was in the thirties when she died (Q: Goodness.) and she was well over ninety, Granny Green, that was Mrs King’s Mother and then after the War, Mrs King wanted to get out of it and he didn’t want to and then, in the finish, they bought a bungalow at Hatfield Peverel in Station Road. They moved over to Hatfield and then Mrs King em, Mr King carried on for a bit and he got a bit tired of being on his own so then he retired. They were getting on. He retired and they sold the business, I don’t think, I think Rylands were interested in it. You know Rylands, the butchers ? (Q: Yes.) They were very interested. I don’t think Mr King was over keen for him to have it. Anyhow he put it in a Colchester estate agents but Rylands bought it. Mrs Ryland bought it. I think she’s recently died, hasn’t she ?
Q: I think you’re right.
Mrs C: Mmm, well, she bought it and then the sweet shop, and the daughter, one daughter in Witham now, well she, I don’t think she did much, well she ran the shop as a sweet shop and then they had the wool shop and all the rest of that. Well then they, I think they let it to a Mrs Carter, from Braintree, a dentist’s[?] wife. They carried on and then eventually I think, what happened, I think Rylands, I believe Rylands did eventually sell it. But where Mrs Carter was, she packed up the wool shop, I think through ill-health and then Ryland’s son opened it up as a Wimpy bar [11 Newland Street]. Do you remember that ?
Q: I remember that one, yes.
Mrs C: Well, that was Ryland’s son. That all went wrong. That finished then these people who’ve got it, the bakers now. But whether it’s still Ryland’s property that I don’t know or whether these people have bought it.
Q: [???] you’ve got it all worked out. [laugh]
Mrs C: And then where it’s, oh, the Woolwich is it or some Insurance, Building Society isn’t it ? Well that used to be Tabers, the fruit shop. (Q: Oh yes.) John Taber’s the fruit shop. [9 Newland St] Because he was there for many years. But that shop still belonged to Kings. All that block of property belonged to Kings and he sort of, then behind that there was an old cottage which was let out to people by the name of Youngs. You used to have to go up the yard you know, in between, which is now the Sovereign Jewellers and the fish shop, there’s a yard up there.[Collins Lane] Used to go up there and there was a little gateway went into the back of King’s property and there used to be a funny little old-fashioned round cottage.[back of 13 & 9] I’ve got a feeling that’s been pulled down. Haven’t been up there for years (Q: No.) But I think that was pulled down. Then you went round the back and sort of at the back of King’s property then there was a house that sort of went that way, a cottage, quite a nice cottage and the back of it actually was, and the front what would have been the front room, is what was Taber’s shop but it was all sealed off and these people lived in the cottage at the back. But whether it is all still there I don’t know.
Q: Those people that lived in the cottages weren’t to do with the shops at all ?
Mrs C: No, no, Kings let that. It was all Kings’ property. They let it. Actually the people that used to live in the cottage, was the name of Youngs, and I think he used to be gardener at Browns that used to be at Collingwood House and their daughter was, em, married Brand’s the baker [31 Newland Street]. Because that was another old building. Brand’s the baker, because that was just beyond where the fish shop is. Now who’s got that now ? Can’t think, that’s next to, not what’s next to the fish shop ?
Q: Don’t know, is it a dress shop, or a shoe shop ?
Mrs C: Oh yes, the little shoe shop, there’s a clothing shop where the bakers used to be and then of course, there was a bakehouse at the back and of course, with they’re all the, a lot of that building I think is protected because the next block where, I think belongs to Woolworths, where [???] that was Cutts the fish shop. That was a real old established business, Cutts. and it was a marvellous old shop but I don’t know whether it is anything to do with the Council but they’ve never altered it. [probably 33 Newland Street]
Q: No, they didn’t want them all to, because they were old buildings.
Mrs C: Well, it seems so ridiculous. Yet, as I say, next to there, where actually Woolworths is and Tesco, I mean there was that marvellous old shop that belonged to Redmans [37 Newland Street]. They had all that marvellous bow frontage. Next to that was sort of where Horners the vets used to be, I mean it was wonderful old property yet they pulled that all down, yet Cutts’s old shop, it seems so ridiculous. (Q: [???]) Yes, but it seems to me that it spoils the look of Witham. Its neither one thing nor the other. (Q: No, no.) Yet what I feel, yet with our property which Harold sold [???], I mean they promised it would never be altered when he built that, I mean I know it was in the thirties but he built it to tone in with that part of Witham. And yet they pulled all that down and put, I can’t understand Councils.
[chat about borrowing photos etc, not noted]
Mrs C: Which ones do you want ? That’s the back where you can see the workshops.
Q: You had quite a number of the front, so if I took one of the front.
Mrs C: Well you can take several if you want.
[Chat, both looking at photos, not noted]
Q: Where were we ? Yes, it was a bit later on that you went to the butchers then ?
Mrs C: Oh, I didn’t go to help Harold out till 19, my Mother died in 1940, and then, in ‘41 I went to help him.
Q: So when you first went to King’s, did Mr King had the shop ? You say he married Miss Green?
Mrs C: Married Miss Green. I think they met, I’m not sure. This is what I was going to check with Ivy. I think he was traveller. I think that’s how they met. I think this is what it was. But he was also, I think at one time he used to play on, he was a great violinist and I think he used to be in a band on board a ship many years before that. He was always very fond of his violin. Very smart dapper little man.
Q: Did he used to play …?
Mrs C: Not locally in anything, no, but, as I say, I was very very fond of them. I was like one of the family you know. Whoever went with them always stuck. There was another young lady in the house and she was with them for years. I think too he got very very attached to the little old boy. ‘Cos Mrs King she was very nice but she was very old fashioned, old maidish and of course, the little boy he was just full of beans but unfortunately when he was about 2½ he developed asthma and eczema (Q: Ah.) It really pulled him down. I think they sort of cosseted him too much you know. But he lives at, not Hatfield Peverel, Nounsley. Because when they retired they bought this very nice bungalow in Station Road and then when the bypass come their bungalow had to come down. I felt dreadfully sorry for them because they were getting very aged and I was at Totham at the time and Harold wasn’t very well but my sister-in-law went and helped them move and they bought this bungalow at Nounsley. And then Mrs King died soon, yes soon after they went there and then Eric struggled on looking after his dad and then he came over one day. He always kept in touch and said that his dad wasn’t at all well and could I go over. No, he rang up, could I go over and he seemed so distressed so Harold and I said we’d better go. it was still while he was able to drive and I took some soup and I’d made a sponge and various things. We went over and, of course, found his father in a dreadful state. He was actually dying and I couldn’t understand the doctor I went, it was a Hatfield doctor, [???] and he said that, I imagined it. I said if you don’t do something I shall ring the police. The Council couldn’t get him in anywhere and I said he should never have been left in this state. Anyhow we’d got a lady who used to nurse Mrs Cook and she went, and she said she’d stay until we could sort out something else. Anyhow poor old boy died that night. But he must have been well over eighty.
Q: So, where did they live when they had the shop ?
Mrs C: Well, they used to live over the shop. At the top of the shop there was the living accommodation, well there a room at the back of the shop where they used to have as a dining room and a kitchen and then upstairs there was a big oh, sitting room and then there were several bedrooms and then the other half the house was more or less left for storage and there was all the old attics. It was a lovely old house. It was very interesting. I suppose the attics and all that are still there. I don’t know.
Q: So the Miss Greens lived there above the shop as well ?
Mrs C: Yes, they all lived there. From the time they moved there. This is what I was going to try and find out from Ivy when they went there. I know it was before the First World War because I heard them talk about, Granny Green used to tell me and they used to have the soldiers come in. (Q: Yes.) But if I remember right I’ve heard my Father say, years before that, there used to be an old lady kept it. Mrs Rowe I think her name was. Used to have it as a sweet shop. (Q: Yes.) Before the Greens. (Q: [???]) Yes well Mrs Rowe used to keep, I’ve heard my father say that as a child they used to go in there. And then, I don’t know whether Greens took it from them, and I can’t remember, I’ve got a feeling that old Mr Green was a gardener. I might be wrong but I think the girls always ran the shop, I think I’m right in saying that.
Q: So when you there did Mr and Mrs King both work in the shop ?
Mrs C: Oh, yes. Mr King always sort of managed the sweet shop. He was always in the sweet shop and actually I went to help him in the sweet shop. That’s where I was at first, in the sweet shop and then, when they had the other shop altered, the girl who was there left and I sort of helped out in there for a time. Then, eventually I took that side right over and I ran the wool department and used to have a marvellous stock of wool. Used to sell wools and you know leather goods, handbags. Mr King was very very keen on leather goods and I think’d had, probably might have been some of the business he was in. They used to have a marvellous selection of leather stuff and this was one side of the shop and the other side we used to have all toys. Especially at Christmas time, we had a big variety of toys and all sort of fancy goods. And then they used to do em, when I say papers, not daily papers. They used to do weekly books and comics you know and save them for people sort of thing in those days. It was before the real newsagents got going as they are today.
Q: So that was all in the, the sweet shop was separate (Mrs C: Yes.) but all the other things were together ?
Mrs C: Used to get through a little door into the other department. Used to go through a little door and it was sort of into the next side and then, I think I’m right in saying, they were one of the first ones in Witham to sell Lyons ice-cream. I know it caused quite a sensation when they first had the ice-cream in the little cartons. Because, prior to that, used to make all their own ice-cream. You know when they used to do, I expect you’ve seen the tubs they used to make the ice-cream in (Q: I don’t know that I have.) They used to have, well, strangely enough, my friend at Kelvedon bought one several years ago and they used to make their own with it. You used to have a big wooden bucket and then there was this cylinder thing about that size and you used to make the ice-cream. Used to have ice-cream powder. It was very similar to custard powder, the only thing is, you know with custard you have to be very careful. If you don’t get it right it will go lumpy (Q: Yes.) It never went. You just poured the milk on and stirred this and then you let it stand to get cold and then you pour it into this container. It had got like a beater thing inside and you put the lid on and you stirred it in this bucket and they used to break all ice up and put round it and freezing salt. And then you clamped this thing with a handle and you sat there and you turned this handle. After the style of the old fashioned butter making. And you turned and turned till it got stiff. That made your ice-cream. It used to be beautiful too. It was only just milk and powder you see. It was really lovely. We used to sit, I’ve often made tubs of it for them and then, of course, Lyons came.
Q: Were they still doing that, did they change over when you were there?
Mrs C: While I was there, oh yes, I mean I was there years before they changed over to Lyons. I forget what year that was now. Never bothered to keep account of the dates. I was trying to think today. I think I must have left in the thirties. I went back once and helped them out but I used to have Eric a lot because Mr King was very ill one time. I had Eric with me while he was ill and I used to go backwards and forwards and then after my mother died they wanted me to go back again but I’d got my father a semi-invalid and I thought no, I wouldn’t do that. What I did do once or twice, I helped Mr Taber out. they rang up one day, he’d go ‘flu and they said would I do the shop, could I help him out like, went up to see him. I said ‘I can’t spare a lot of time’ because my Mother was an invalid, but he said ‘I don’t mind as long as you open a little while each day just to keep the business going’. Which I did. And then, later on in the year, he said ‘Look, I’ll tell you what, I’ve never had a holiday’. He said ‘Would you take the shop over while I have a holiday’. ‘Well’, I said, ‘I won’t promise. A lot depends on what my mother’s like’. Only my Mother had died by then so I ran the shop when he had a holiday and I did this once or twice and then when the War broke out he had the offer of a very good job but he didn’t want to close his shop so he said would I take it over ? I said ‘Oh no, I’m not really used to greengrocery’. He said ‘Oh you’ve done very well’ he said. ‘I know I can trust you’. He said ‘You carry on and you do it your way’. I said no. I thought about it and I said, from the point of view it wouldn’t be fair because its different running it temporary and there’s my father maybe I can manage for a time but if he became a real invalid or if he was ill, I wouldn’t feel that I could shut the shop you see’. (Q: No, no.) He said ‘Oh, as long as you open it sometime’. So he never took his job, he kept on. (Q: Really?)
Then when Harold lost his last man he asked me to help him out. ‘cause I’d known them years, and was friendly, and I said ‘Oh no, it’s not the sort of shop I like’. Then his dad came to see me and said ‘Harold didn’t know how to persuade you, but help him for a month till he can get somebody’. So I only went to help him take money you know. And that was in 1941. I always remember John Taber said ‘What has Harold Cook got that I haven’t?’ [Laughter]. I said ‘That’s rather different’ I said ‘I’m not taking the full responsibility’. And then at one time Harold was very keen to open a shop in Maldon and my father’s health had failed [???] Harold had seen this shop in Maldon and the accommodation and I was going to run that. Then the more I thought about that I said to Harold ‘If anything happened and dad’s health really failed I wouldn’t be able to give my time to both’. And I don’t think you can take on a responsibility like that unless you can really do it. So that fell through.
Q: So when you worked at the King’s shop you ran part of it. So you have to order stuff and so on, did you?
Mrs C: Mr King and I used to do it between us, you know. And then Mrs King she always had quite a lot in with the wool. We used to choose different wools. Because there was a marvelous selection of wools just as they were all coming out. Then another thing they used to sell a lot of embroidery silk, Briggs embroidery silk and Anchor you know embroideries and they sold an awful lot. Coates’s mercer cotton for crocheting. Oh they had a, sort of everything. Knitting patterns.
Q: And where did it all come from, where did all the stuff come from?
Mrs C: They used to sell Baldwin’s, used to be Baldwin’s, Lee Marvin, and Dunraven and all sorts of different …
Q: But the wholesalers came round or …?
Mrs C: Oh yes, used to have your travellers come. You chose your, travellers in those days. You ordered what you wanted. If you wanted to repeat the orders you did. Mr King used to, I used to usually make out what we wanted and he used to order. And then he decided he’d run the sweet side you see. But when they first married, there used to be a niece of Mrs King’s in the shop. This Ivy who I was talking about that was her elder sister and she’d been helping in the business when Mrs King’s sister married, Hawkes. Elsie came and helped run the business with her auntie but, for some unknown reason, her and Mr King didn’t hit it. So she left and for many many years she managed one of Hawkes’ sweet shops in Chelmsford. I don’t know whether you remember Hawkes’ sweet shops in Chelmsford (Q: No, I don’t.) There used to be a manufacturers in Chelmsford and Ipswich. They used to have a shop just up beyond the bus park on the opposite side [Duke Street]. And there was a sweet shop, which is still there, near the station. That’s not Hawkes now, but it used to be theirs and they had two, there was about four shops in the town. They’ve gradually all dwindled but Ivy’s sister Elsie after she left, she ran one of those until she retired. She’s still alive. Her and her sister they both live at Danbury. Its sort of always been a family concern
Q: Yes, quite and the stuff mostly came from all over the place (Mrs C: Oh yes.) Not one …?
Mrs C: No, I mean it’s like in the shop they sold Cadbury’s and they sold Sharp’s, sold all the well-known makes, Terry’s. It was a very high-class sweet shop. It was beautifully run. It was beautifully kept you know. And tobacconist. And they had a very very good trade. We had quite a good high class trade and you had a lot of children’s trades you know. In fact I was talking, I don’t know if you know the Whybrews at all ? There’s a Mr Whybrew used to be manager at em (Q: Heddle’s.) yes, Heddle’s. Well I was talking to him the other day in the town and we were saying how, you know talking about [???] and I said ‘I can always remember you coming in regular on a Saturday night’. ‘Yes’, he said ‘I never used to have to ask for what I wanted did I ?’. No, we used to have it all ready for him. When I used to be in the sweet side. When he shut Heddle’s he always used to come in for his sweets. And another one that was always regular on a Saturday night was Mr Appleby who used be with the doctors. Because they used to do all the medicines down at the surgery in those days and he always used to come in on a Saturday night. You knew just what they wanted. You more or less had it weighed up before they came. In the sweets, yes. You had your regular people you know.
[chat about tape recording, publicity, lending photos etc., not noted]
Mrs C: And I mean, when you look back, I think, like, in the days when I was at Kings, you did very high class of trade you know. Of course Witham was very different to what it is today. Such a lot of bigger families lived in Witham, you know. And you used to get them come in. You know they were getting things for the children for their tuck-boxes and that sort of thing. There were so many regular people that just came in. Well, it’s really the same with Harold’s trade, I mean they used to do an awful lot of hamper trade you know for the coast, when people used to go through. (Q: Mm, yes.) I mean at one time Churchill was one of his customers. But he’d never discuss it. Oh he used to go through, and eat hot sausage rolls.
Q: I expect business people do tend to be discreet because you cant afford to offend anybody ?
Mrs C: No, you can’t. And I think this is some of it. Though I say it, Harold always had a very high-class trade. He was always politeness itself and there was a lot of people said to me that he treated everybody the same. Though he had a very high class trade, and I mean he’d always take things out to he car for people. He’d just as like, if a woman had got children in a pram, he’d take the things out for her just the same. He never had a sort of way for one and a way for another. Everybody was treated the same. I think he had a marvellous sort of way with him. It seems, as I say, I knew when I was at Kings, of course I knew Harold in those years, knew his dad. His dad always used to come in and get his tobacco. He always used to have St Julian. I always remember him coming in. You see it was just the same, a lot of people had their tobacco and cigarettes because we had a wonderful tobacco trade there in those days. And you knew just what they wanted as soon as you see them coming in the shop and you’d have it all ready for them you know. Because all that sort of thing is lost in shops now with these supermarkets. I think we’ve lost an awful lot, losing all the small traders I think.
Q: So did people come from outside Witham to King’s?
Mrs C: Oh yes, because you’d always got your Saturday people, like we did at Cook’s, you see they used to all come in, you know, used to come in from Terling and from Hatfield and from Wickham Bishops. Well you see, in those days, there wasn’t the buses that went into Chelmsford like they do today and even when they did, well, even though the bus fares were cheap in those days, people couldn’t afford it the same. And so many people from the villages used to cycle in. I mean there wasn’t the motor cars. In fact quite a lot of people on Saturdays used to walk in from Terling to do their shopping. Doesn’t seem possible when you think about it now does it ? (Q: No, no.)
Q: So the wool and embroidery and so on, what sort of people bought, embroidery silks, what sort of people …?
Mrs C: Oh, you got a very sort of mixed trade. I mean you got young people who did it. A lot of the older people and Dorothy Sayers, she used to do quite a bit of embroidery. She used to come over. And another thing we used to do an awful big trade was em rug making. When the rug making came in. (Q: Oh I remember.) When that first came in we used to sell the canvases and turkey rug wool and the hooks and all those sort of things you know and there’s so many things when you think back and remember what you used to sell you know.
Q: So some quite big families used to come in ? (Q: Oh, yes.) Did you have to go out, you say you used to go out to them, people sometimes would come and you’d have to go out to them, did you used to do that at Kings sometimes.
Mrs C: No, no never, no no. And we never did any delivery or anything. I mean if anybody, there was one or two customers that used to come, if they were invalids or that, [???] we used to go out to them, to help them but we never delivered anything like Harold used to. No, it was all sort of counter trade, you know. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve got a feeling they might have before the, you know in the First World War they might have done refreshments there. But I can’t really remember. It was something I was going to check up with Ivy. If I can check up anything from the past I will and let you know. She worked with her auntie for many years. She used to be in the house. She didn’t do the shop. She used to be in the house. As I say I don’t see a lot of Eric now, but I always have a card from him at Christmas, but he’s a poor old thing. He’s so asthmatic, eaten up with sort of eczema. I did think I’d ring him but thought perhaps, he’s one, he’s terribly shy and he’d find it perhaps awkward to talk and I thought perhaps it’s best not.
Q: But you were always friendly with them working there ?
Mrs C: Oh yes, we were great friends. Right up until, as I said, they died, I went backwards and forwards and helped out. I was only laughing, at Easter time right up till they gave up the shop, I always had my Easter Egg every year. And I always had the same one. It was a Cadbury’s one. Cadbury’s milk chocolate and it used to have marzipan roses on the outside. And I always had that, every year. They always sent to me birthdays and Christmas.
Q: How many other people worked there ?
Mrs C: Well, when I was there, there used to be… I used to be in the sweet shop and there used to be one girl in the wool shop. Then she left and then I went into, took over that side and they had a young girl in the sweet shop. They had several different ones in there. And then Mrs King used to help me quite a lot in the wool shop. Occasionally, you know, I think towards the end I had another girl came in there. But of course, in those days, you used to do so much more work than what they do today sort of thing. I mean you used to take your own money and I used to help tidy up and I mean, I used to sweep of a night, put all the dust sheets on and cover up and help sweep up. Mr King used to scrub the floor and very often I’d polish it on a Monday, you know, we’d all sort of take a turn. Of course, today they don’t do that any more do they.
Q: So the money, you took your own money ?
Mrs C: Yes, we used to have, in those days there wasn’t a cash desk. The same as, you remember, in fact they had one in Stoffers up till not, but I think they have got a new one at last. Up where the, they make a prescription so they have one of these long tills, where you write on it (Q: Oh I know what you mean.) and that was the sort we had. Because it was quite a modern till when… In the sweet shop at first we used to have just an ordinary drawer, with all the different little things for the different money and the notes.
Q: So you had to be able to add up ?
Mrs C: Because we, I think probably Harold told you, we had the first cash till in Witham I think at his shop.
Q: When you say cash till you mean …?
Mrs C: A National it was. (Q: That adds up for you?) Yes that’s right. We had the other one first that used to, just hit the numbers, you know, the prices used to go up. Then we had one with a handle and then we had the first electric cash till, the first National one.
Q: When was that then ?
Mrs C: Oh, I can’t remember.
Q: These other ones, the ones with the handle. Did they add up for you ?
Mrs C: No, they didn’t add up.
Q: You had to do each item. I didn’t realise there were different ones.
Mrs C: Yes, yes. And then when you had the one, like we had, the electric one but you also had a handle in case the electric went off (Q: I see.) and you used to have to put the handle on and work that. (Q: I’ve seen them doing that in Debenham’s, when the electricity failed.) You could still add up if you wanted to. But I can’t think what year when we had that. You see I had all the records but you know just before we left Totham, we’d got a huge desk up there, its nobody’s business what was in there and I said to Harold ‘look, if we’re going to move we don’t want to take this great old desk with us because we won’t have the room for it.’ He said ‘well, what’s going to happen to all the stuff?’ It said it isn’t necessary to keep it. I said ‘there’ll come a day somebody’s got to turn all that out’. So, what we did, we got in touch with the Bank and they let us have a man up and went through everything and they told us what we needed to keep and what we needn’t. And then they left some which we could keep if you we wanted for record purposes. But Harold said ‘I’ve got nobody to follow on in my family’. So we had the most glorious burn up we see and we got rid of all the old books and everything. We haven’t kept a thing. I think Harold’s got just one or two statements of the last year he was in business but it was more through me. I said ‘Well there’ll come a time when its got to be gone through’ and this is what I thought and we’ve got no family and Harold’s niece is very very shy and there’s lots of things she’d hate to have to do and I thought well the less we leave the less she’ll have to sort out you know. So we only really kept what the Bank thought we needed. A few deeds and things but most of all the old stuff we …
And then you think afterwards well, did you do the right thing or whether you didn’t. We kept all the ledgers and various things and that was quite interesting to look back and see how much the prices were and that sort of thing. I mean over just a few years its surprising how things have altered. I know, funnily enough, I still, well there was a drawer in one of the small desks which I brought with me, I never did go through that. That had got a lot of my old papers from Kingswood. And I said to Harold ‘I’m really going to get shot of those, you’ve done all yours’. And we had a real hoot the other night turning out. There was bills for decorating and the difference in the price. You know, the labour. Today you pay more for labour than you do the materials don’t you. Recently we had some decorating done. I think the decorating was only say about a hundred and the rest of it cost about three or four hundred for labour. (Q: Yes.) And it was so different in those days.
Q: Can you remember what your wages were at the shop when worked [???]?
Mrs C: [sigh] Oh I can’t remember, I think when I was at Kings it was about seven and six I think, started out and if you had about half-a-crown rise it was marvellous, you know. [laugh] I mean they were always very kind to me in many ways. I mean I had some wonderful presents from them. Because it was the wage of the day. I mean even when we packed up at the shop, I think my wages were about ten or twelve pound a week. But I mean I was highly paid for a shop assistant. I mean the average shop assistant didn’t get that. (Q: No.) But that was way back, when did we retire, 1966. It doesn’t seem possible when you think about it now, does it ? (Q: No.) It was just the same with the pensions. My Father had to retire through ill-health when he was not quite sixty and of course there was no pensions in those days. I mean he had nothing till he got the old age pension at 65 or retirement pension they call it now. And he died in ‘56. Well all he had was a pound a week.
Q: What did he use to do ?
Mrs C: My father, he was, with the, he drove the engine for the lead glazing, you know he was with the girls at Crittall’s, lead glazing. And he had to retire, as I say. He had a very small pension from Crittall’s but then it was years before they granted that and I say there was nothing at all in those days and now, as I say, when he died the pension was a pound a week. Well people grumble today. I know inflation’s gone way ahead, but really the pension wasn’t meant to live on was it ? You were supposed to save.
Q: When was that ?
Mrs C: My Father died in ‘56 and that’s what the retirement pension was then, a pound a week.
Q: When did he retire from work ?
Mrs C: Oh, it was during the War, ‘cos my Mother died 1940, oh I suppose it was about ‘44. It was before the War ended. My Mother was only 56. She had cancer. And then my father retired about four years after through ill-health. The specialist gave him about two years. He’d got an enlarged heart. He’d got one lung, he’d got all sorts of things but he lived to be 76. He was an invalid but you know he was wonderful in what he did.
Q: So when he worked at Crittall’s, did have another job before Crittall’s came ?
Mrs C: Yes, well we came from London to look after grandad you see. He gave up a job in London and came down here and we lived at Lenny’s Farm, I think I told you, where the school is and my Father worked with the Honourable Strutt. (Q: Oh he worked there.) I mean ‘cause there was no other work about here in those days and then when Strutts went away they gave him a marvellous character and he could have gone on with Lord Rayleigh but then Crittall’s was starting and when he was up at Blunts Hall, the latter part of the time he looked after the engine that drove the sort of lights at Blunts Hall.
Mrs C: [Her father] took over with Crittall’s and it was when Crittall’s first started their lead glazing it was the old Maltings. (Q: Uhuh.) where Richardson and Preece is. (Q: Uhuh.) You know round the back road [Maltings Lane]. They were there for many years. He was there with the girls and there was the two manageresses there Miss Straight and Miss Atkinson and I still keep in touch with Miss Straight. She’s now 89 I think. She lives at Wroxham, oh she was at Wroxham, she’s moved to Horning now. But I still keep in touch with her. One of her brothers was a manager at Crittall’s.
Q: That was girls that worked there ?
Mrs C: Yes, all girls then.
Q: I didn’t realise that. And that was before they went up to Braintree Road ?
Mrs C: Oh the main factory was still up this way. These was where they did all the lead windows. But during the War they transferred them all up to the main part. I don’t think, I don’t know whether they do still do lead glazing. I really forget. Miss Straight left and she went into a lady gardening and then Crittall’s, I think they kept on the lead glazing, because it wasn’t long after that my Father had to retire through ill-health. So he didn’t stay on. But I don’t know whether they still do them or not. I don’t know why they closed down up there. Then, after they closed, people name of Powling had it and for an egg packing station. (Q: I see, yes.) And then eventually Richardson and Preece took it. Because it was an old maltings many years ago. It used to belong to people the name of Brown. (Q: Oh I see.) There used to be an old maltings there.
Q: Oh I see, so when your Father, when he worked for Strutts was he, no it was your grandfather was a driver?
Mrs C: Grandfather was sort of chauffeur/gardener for them. (Q: And your father?) He sort of helped out. Well he took over driving, when Grandad retired and he used to look after the engines to the house and sort of do all sorts of things and then, eventually, as I say he went with Crittall’s. It was when Strutts went away, because Charles Strutt left Witham (Q: Yes.) and it was all sold up Blunts Hall. He could have stayed on there but he felt he was doing better to break away from it.
Q: You think Crittall’s was better ?
Mrs C: The money was much better and the hours were much better. It was near and handy because we lived up on the Hatfield Road, we’d just built a house up there. My Father built a house up there in 1929 (Q: Oh, I see.) When we built it was a mangel field. Its hard to believe that now isn’t it ? [laugh]
Q: So when you first came out, up lived at em ?
Mrs C: After we moved from Lenny’s we went up on to the Hatfield Road.
Q: So Lenny’s Farm was actually a building ?
Mrs C: Oh yes, there was the house there. It was a lovely old house and you see I had all these photos and let them to this chap and of course I haven’t got one now. The house sort of stood that way so that the end came to the road and the other faced that way.
Q: How old were you when you came out then ? Quite little ?
Mrs C: What, when we first came to Witham ? I was about four I think. We came just about the end of the First World War. (Q: Yes.) We were there till ‘29 when we moved to Kingswood. We could have bought Lennys and bought it very very cheaply. It was a very old building and an uncle of mine was a builder and advised Dad not to. He said you’d do best to build. So he bought a piece of ground up on the Hatfield Road. We were the second ones to build up there. That was, the ground belonged to Pinkham. (Q: Really.) It was ridiculous the price. I think I found the paper with the price on it. It was a matter of about, oh it was about sixty pounds something like that [laugh] for this piece of ground. Doesn’t seem possible when you look back now, the price. (Q: No.)
Q: You were at school in Witham then ?
Mrs C: Yes, (Q: Where?) Used to go to the Church School. In Guithavon Road [Street] (Q: Oh I know, yes.) Well, Miss Compton was my teacher.
Q: Did you like it there ? (Mrs C: Yes, yes.) So, were your family Church people or …?
Mrs C: Oh, yes, yes. It was always Church of England. (Q: And you left when you were ?) I think it was between fourteen and fifteen. Towards fifteen I think.
Q: Did you think of any other sort of jobs ?
Mrs C: Yes, well what I always wanted to do, I wanted to be a children’s nurse. That’s what I’d always set my mind on being but my father said no I’d got to wait till I was older, wait till I was about eighteen, because he didn’t like the idea of me leaving home, I’d got to make up my mind. Then, of course, by then my mother was ill so I was home looking after her. I left and I used to be part time at Kings and then it got that mother was worse and I packed it in altogether you see. So I didn’t go out to work any more, looked after my mother and kept house for Dad and my brother till he married. I had one brother, he married and of course, [sigh]. As I say, my mother died in 1940 but she was an invalid from the 1930s .
Q: So, how did you get the job at the shop ? Do you remember ?
Mrs C: I can’t remember, can’t remember, no. We knew Kings. There wasn’t a lot in Witham you see, really there was no, there was only Pinkham’s the glove factory in those days and I mean that was about all there was. Most young people either went to service, or sort of went out of the town for work.
Q: So you didn’t think of going to the glove factory ?
Mrs C: Oh, no, I wouldn’t have gone to a factory. I should have hated factory work, no that never appealed to me. Of course, what I intended to do was to take up being a children’s nurse but instead of that I nursed all my own people instead [laugh] Still I’ve always been very happy doing what I’ve done.
Q: So you didn’t have a lot of time. Did you use to go out dancing or … ?
Mrs C: No, I never danced. It never appealed to me.
Q: What did you do in your spare time ?
Mrs C: I’ll be right honest, I was a great Mother’s girl [laugh] She used to say to me it was wrong. She said ‘You may not always have me’ but I never thought of it like that. (Q: No.) Then of course we lived at the farm there was always something doing then in the summer we always used to have our cousins down from London you know to spend their summer holidays with us. And I always used to go up and spend my summer holiday up in London with one of my cousins. You see in those days, the country people used to have their summer holidays from school very early. They used to call them pea-picking holidays, didn’t they ? They used to have them for pea-picking and fruit picking and the average, or most of the local children used to go out fruit picking, pea-picking. I always used to go off and stay with my cousin in London. Well then, they had their holiday later and she used to come back and spend her holiday with us. My mother’d always got children staying with us in the summer you know.
Q: You didn’t go picking yourself ?
Mrs C: Oh, no, no, no. I never did that. And then I was in my early teens I used to go up to Scotland a lot because I had an auntie and uncle up there which I mean, in those days, people used to think it was marvellous to go to Scotland. Well, I mean, course today they think nothing of going to the other side of the world do they ? [laugh] But no, I had ever such a happy childhood but I was never one that wanted to go out and I was very very close to my brother you know. We were ever such a close family. We were quite happy. You see we had the farm to wander about and I dunno, of course, in those days there wasn’t so much activities. I mean there was dancing and that sort of thing but it never appealed to me. I always remember at school we did a play, a pageant of the Prayer Book. I’m just trying to think, Have I got, I believe somebody’s got that. You’d be quite interested to see that. I’ve got a feeling Rex Griggs has got it. Haven’t seen it lately so I think he has. (Q: Yes.) I’m sure Freda borrowed it. It had got one of our old school photos from the Church School, that’s got Freda. I don’t know if you know the Griggs at all do you, Rex Griggs ? (Q: Mm.) Painter, does a lot painting. (Q: Is he related to Miss Griggs the piano …?) Yes, well that’s right, that’s his sister. Yes (Q: Well I’ve heard her speak of him but I don’t know.) I’ve got a feeling they’ve got it because Freda, his wife, is on this photo. It’s one of the old fashioned school photos and then the other one is a photo about that size was a picture taken when we did the pageant of the Prayer Book and we had it at the Public Hall. Each one of us represented a part in the Prayer Book. And we did it once. It was so well, so we had to do it again some time after. And, of all the things, I was the visitation of the sick ! [laughter] And I was dressed like a little miniature nun. Sister of mercy. I always remember an old boy, Mr Adams who used to, in fact it was his daughter that used to be at Spurge’s years ago. Mrs Ashby now. (Q: I know, I’ve spoken to her.) yes, Vera. She said she was an angel and I always remember Mr Adams saying to me one day, he said, ‘I often look at that photo of you when you was a little girl, visitation of the sick’ he said ‘you’ve been doing it ever since’. [laughter]
And then of course, in those days, Miss Maisey, she used to run a dancing school here. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Maiseys ? (Q: Don’t think I have.) Well they used to live at that farm at Rivenhall, sort of on the end of Rickstones farm. I think its called Rickstones Farm, where Wells lived after them. Then they moved and they lived in the High Street. And there was two sisters and one kept house and the other one was a dancing instructress. I was in one or two of her shows and she was always on to my mother to let me learn dancing. She said I’d take her free. Mum said ‘No it’s not that’. I don’t know what it was but my Mother used to have to take me backwards and forwards to Great Ormond Street. I had problems with my head and had something wrong with my nose here and I was never allowed to twist. Of course with dancing you have to. But I was in one or two of her displays. She used to some marvellous displays. They used to have them up at The Lawn house. They used to have pageants there. Because they used to do a lot of that sort of thing years ago.
Q: And that was when you were at school ?
Mrs C: When I was at school mmm. I think we were flowers in most of those, dressed as flowers [laughter]. I had all these photos but of course you see they were at Kingswood when my sister-in-law moved I never had any. I don’t know what she done with them, so of course I’ve lost all those, you know. There were some quite interesting… But I’ve got this one of the Pageant of the Prayer Book. There’s some really old faces on that. The Pearces who used to live up Chipping Hill and Adams, from Adams and Mortimer their son, he’s on it, the Maclarens. There used to be some real characters on that. If I get it back again I’ll show it to you. This is the trouble. I’m pretty certain that’s who’s got it because I think she borrowed it. They were quite interested in some of the photos on it to look them up.
Q: When you started work you wouldn’t have so much time anyway ? What hours did they used to …?
Mrs C: Well, as far as I remember it was half past eight or nine we used to go. Half past eight I believe and used to close about six, but Saturdays it was about nine o’clock (Q: Really?) Yes. We used to be there about nine o’clock on a Saturday, and then, after you’d closed, you used cover all up and sweep up and leave it all ready. Of course, in those days, well it was one of the things of being in business. You used to have to keep your shop tidy and dusted but now, I understand, if you employ anybody, the first thing they say is ‘Well, I’m not sweeping up, and I’m not dusting’. They all have to have cleaners today. But as I say I was always very happy. I was happy with Kings and …
Q: And what about, on a Saturday, would the money, who took all the cash and everything ? Did Mr King take all that ?
Mrs C: He used to cash in mmm. When I was at Harold’s, the last part of the time, I used to do cashiers and then I always used to do the bank for Harold, but Mr King always used to do his own.
Q: Did people have accounts, have anything on account at King’s or …?
Mrs C: I’m just trying to think. No, we did mostly cash trade, mostly cash trade. And of course Harold did a few accounts but not a lot. He used to before the War but I think during the War cut out a lot of that sort of thing. Because you see it had to be a cash trade. But after the War we only did one or two, which we weren’t very keen to keep on. We did I think it was Karl Richardson, Dorothy Sayers, Lady Rayleigh. But I shouldn’t think we had more than about a dozen. You know we tried not to take them on any more because it makes such a lot of work, when you’ve got to do booking, you know. You really want somebody separately to do all that if you do that. But I used to do that in between the other jobs. But at King’s it was always cash trade. It was mostly cash in those days. There wasn’t many people ran up accounts. (Q: No.) Not in that sort of trade anyhow.
Q: So did you have many people at King’s like from the big houses, you know like …?
Mrs C: Oh yes, mm, come in for embroideries and things like that, oh yes. I mean, in those days, people used to do a lot of embroidery and rug making and things like that. It was quite a good class of trade and we did a lot of baby things, baby wools and rattles and all baby stuff. Such a variety of things was kept there. (Q: I suppose with sweets and things you’d have quite small …). And at Christmas they did quite a lot of novelties and Easter time there was always plenty of Easter eggs. But, in those days, then, course they always did a good Christmas card trade (Q: Yes.) and birthday cards. That was another thing they did and local views. (Q: They don’t do them now hardly do they ?) No no. (Q: So would you get quite a lot of poorer people?) Oh yes and you got, and then there was, when we were at the shop, Wheatons were at the farm, [Freebornes, 3 Newland Street] Helen [Lepper] and her sister. They were all babies. I always remember, when I was at Kings, they used to come along. Mrs Wheaton used to bring them all in their pram you know to get their sweets. And Helen will remember Kings, because Eric used to play with them I think. Oh, I think Harold’s niece Sheila, who we spoke about, she used to play with Helen. I think Helen remembers Sheila very well – all sort of young together.
Q: Do you reckon pretty well everybody had sweets in those days or were they still some that couldn’t afford …?
Mrs C: Yes, seemed to buy sweets. (Q: Even the poorly off?) There wasn’t a terrific lot of poverty in Witham, never was really, not you know, that I remember, anyhow, not in my time.
Q: Because they weren’t, sort of basic foods but everyone managed to …
Mrs C: You know children all had their sweets, and course there again all those things were so much cheaper. You could buy so much for a penny in those days couldn’t you ? I mean today it’s such a little. I mean people often say oh you see children with pound notes, but, honestly, what can a child buy (Q: No it doesn’t go far.) and I mean an ice-cream and a few sweets and that’s ten shillings gone isn’t it ? I mean its awful when you think about it.
[chat about money and children today, not noted]
Q: Of course toys are different. You used to have toys at Kings ?
Mrs C: Yes, used to be agents for Triang toys. (Q: Really.) Used to have prams, beautiful prams in those days. Little pedal cycles. Didn’t have big bicycles. Little pedal cars. Used to have little motors, childrens motors with the pedals. Used to sell those. Had a very good toy trade there, especially at Christmas. But towards the latter part, it was like everything else, everybody else was selling them. I mean, at one time, you had your wonderful Christmas trade, then it got that all your stores I mean there used to be the Co-ops and all these, all sprouting up. They used to do Christmas things, and just bring them in at Christmas time. I think it sort of spoilt a lot of the small shops. I think it’s an awful pity to see the small shops go. (Q: Quite.) Don’t think you get the same personal supervision as you did, not with the shops do you ?
Q: So, originally, was there anywhere else selling wools for instance ?
Mrs C: Not when we first, we were really the only wool shop and then opposite started to sell, Mrs Parker she started baby linen and they sold wools, and then I think eventually the Co-op started to sell a few wools. But I mean, at the time when we were first there, we were the only people who sort of sold them. (Q: And toys?) Mmm, and then Marshalls took up and they made a big toy shop [76 Newland Street] but, when we were in it first, see they weren’t there, not Marshalls. (Q: No.) He used to have a little shop in Bridge Street [27A] in those days, next to the, well I think its an antique shop now. You know where I mean ? Because, Marshall used to live in one of those old cottages, the old Tudor cottages [23-27 Bridge Street]. (Q: Yes.)
Q: And what about the sweets, were there different places you could buy sweets when you were there, and ice-creams ?
Mrs C: There was, the other sweet shop was down the bottom, I don’t know what the name of it is now, where Keys used to be. [149-151 Newland Street] That was Ellis. And we always used to say they were going to ‘Uncle Ellis’s’. He was a wonderful old character who kept that. Mr and Mrs Ellis. It used to be just the one shop again and then the rest were little tiny cottages which gradually they took over another cottage and opened up and had a bay window. And then there was still one cottage at the end was left, which was let. Of course that’s all opened up into shops now. It was after Key took over, because he was Mr Ellis’s nephew. They had one son but he died and this was the nephew that took over. Then Mrs Ellis died first. They were there for years and I don’t know what, everybody used to say ‘Oh we’re off to Uncle Ellis’s’. They had a quaint little shop and they had little seats up one corner. The sweet shop was this end and up this corner had two like little wood seats. And there they sold tobacco. And they used to make their own ice-cream and people used to go in there and sit and eat this ice-cream. They used to have quaint sort of glass things which to put the ice-cream on, like a cornet that was glass and you used to sit there and eat your ice-creams and have ice-cream and lemonade. Because I think youngsters did that where they go to pubs and sort of all these bars and snack bars now. So there was nothing else in Witham in those days. That was a real meeting place for all the young people. They were a grand old couple and then next to, well it used to be Sorrell’s the butchers, what’s it now ? Is it a hairdressers I believe (Q: Something like that, yes.) Well, in between that, joining right on to that was a little tiny general shop and then there used to be some more old cottages there which they pulled down. Used to be run by a little old man little Billy Wood used to call him when were kids. And he sold everything. It was only a tiny shop but grocery, everything and he used to sell sweets and all sorts of things. He was a weird little man. [laugh] He was every so kind. I remember in those days they used sell, was it locust beans. I’ve got this feeling that, children used to go and buy and they were a sort of black bean thing that they used to chew. I really forget just the origin of it but I know he used to sell all sorts of sweets. Children used to go in there.
And then there was another sweet shop in Bridge Street.  I think that’s all pulled down. You know where the George & Dragon is? There’s this open space of land next to it (Q: Yes.)Well there used to be a shop there. It used to be em. It was never altered. It was a real little old-fashioned two bow fronts windows and there was a little door you went in in the middle. That used to be kept by people named Mr and Mrs Hughes. Oh they were a dear old couple. I remember when we lived at the farm we used to often go over there for sweets. I don’t think they used to sell ice-cream but they used to sell all general things, you know, cheese and butter and all odd things and they used to sell sweets. They were a dear old couple. I think they were related to Mortimers. I don’t know if you’ve heard, Adams & Mortimers the builders. And Mr and Mrs Mortimer as they got older they came to live, there was a house there, they came to live there with them but I don’t know what happened after the old people Hughes died. I think they sold it and people name of Claydon had it. And they had it right up till it was closed. It was after, I was up at Harold’s, they were still running it. It was a little general shop. And then I think it was sold. I think the parents died and the son took it on and he died and I don’t know what happened, when it was sold. It was all pulled down. There was the pub bought the property there.
Then opposite there used to be an old butchers shop in Bridge Street, Brown, Harry Brown  that was another old, don’t know if you’ve heard of that one. (Q: I think someone did mention it to me.) Its where, next to, em Bridge House. Where the Millidges used to live. And now it where that sort of cycle place is. There used to be little old fashioned butchers shop there. Harry Brown used to run that.
Q: So when you lived at Lenny’s farm whereabouts did your family get their shopping ?
Mrs C: Well we always used to have Sorrell’s the butchers (Q: Did you?) Oh never had anybody but Mr Sorrell and then a few steps further along, I think now that’s a wool shop, used to be Parker the butter shop. And they used to sell. They always used to call it the butter shop because it used to be mostly butter and cheeses and more dairy produce. Then as time went on they had biscuits and grocery. We used to deal there quite a bit and then – see the squirrel, (Q: Oh yes.) He came and sat here the other day, getting ever so friendly isn’t he? – and then there was, of course the old Co-op was always there (Q: Did you used to go to the Co-op at all ?) Occasionally but we were never great Co-op people.
And then there used to be Luckin Smiths, [50 Newland Street] which is of course Budgens now. That used to be right up where the beginning of the shopping precinct is, they had their shop.
And then there used to be, oh what was the name of the grocers, Francis. That was next to where Rumbelows is now. That used to be the shop was Spurges , ladies outfitters and then there used to be this little grocer’s, Francis. That was a real little old fashioned, well, it was quite a big shop. They used to sell sort of everything.
They eventually opened, oh what was Lipton’s before they, Home and Colonial. [42 Newland Street] They opened a shop. That was again where it’s been pulled down. It used to be next to Turner’s shop, Home and Colonial, they eventually came to Witham. But basically, when we were young, it was either the Parker’s the butter shop, then there was the Co-op which is where it is now and then there was the International, the old International was there, and then Luckin Smith. And then eventually you got the one that you know the Home and Colonial came in.
And then Woolworths, they didn’t come till quite late in Witham. I often wonder why they, I suppose perhaps because they aren’t allowed to alter that, but it seems so ridiculous to me, because we do need a bigger Woolworths here don’t we ? I mean you’ve got better shopping facilities in Maldon really. Though they’re crying out there that they’re closing a lot of the shops.
Q: I mean now people tend to look around for prices of things. How did you choose the food between one shop and another ?
Mrs C: Well, I don’t think there was a terrific amount of difference in those days. I think you more or less got used to which ever shop you liked you know and you sort of stuck to it. Then you’d got the bakers. You had , which is part of Gilbert’s now [83 Newland Street]. It was Burrell’s in those days, Burrell’s and then Palmer’s took over. Then there used to be another little bakers down at the bottom where you go into the doctors yard. That again is where I think that wool shop, fancy shop there. That used to be a bakers there, Ardleys.[137 Newland Street] They used to bake all their own bread. I often remember going on along there some mornings to get some hot pats for breakfast.
Then where Coates is [126-128 Newland Street] it used to be a tailor. Garrett, used to be a gents’ tailoring shop there. Then, of course there was a jewellers, wasn’t there ? Graves, the jewellers, a little old jewellers, used to be where Highway Cottages [118 Newland Street] (Q: I know, yes.) There was a little jeweller’s shop there. Then there used to be some more little old shops which they’ve pulled down where the caravan site is [102-116 Newland Street]. And then further along there used to be Beard’s the hardware shop. Which was there for many years. [88 Newland Street] Next to it was Sammy Page, [86 Newland Street] that was another character. He was a second shop. Everybody knew Sammy Page. He was a wonderful old character. Then of course, it used to be the Post office and then next to that was Miles the drapers, the old drapers shop. That was a marvellous old drapers there in those days. Which we don’t have in Witham now, a good drapers. (Q: No.)
What else was used to be there ? Then there used to be another little shop where now, the undertakers is, no where Michelle’s is, it used to be another gent’s tailors, Groves. [78 Newland Street?] Then there was London House that was sort of ladies wear and and, oh yes, ‘cause Spurge’s was up the other end [42 Newland Street], and years ago, Spurge’s used to have a grocery shop as well. (Q: I see.) they had all the ladies wear and the grocery shop but that was done away with many years ago. Just before you get to where Winch used to be [40 Newland Street] but that’s now some boutique there.
Q: A lot of people have mentioned Spurge’s. it used to be a nice …?
Mrs C: Yes, of course well that was your main shop for, you could get dresses, you could get all linen. It was a real old-fashioned drapers, you know. Old Mr Stiff used to be manager there. He was a wonderful old boy. That’s where Vera Adams used to be. He was always such a polite little man. It was a big bare old shop and it was always terribly cold and in the winter the girls used to go upstairs round a little fire thing they’d got. If you went in and he’d come out and see if you wanted anything. I can see him, he used to stand at the bottom of the stairs ‘Forward Miss please, come along, quickly’. You imagine him saying that to them today can’t you ? [laugh] Oh he was ever such a polite little man. I used to like Mr Stiff. He was very very nice. Of course there was Redmans there.
Q: I think she’s probably getting on, do you know the Mrs English opposite the Library ? (Mrs C: Yes.) I believe she, there was a thing in the Witham Countryside. Talking about her and she used to work at Spurge’s. (Mrs C: That’s right.) Somebody, is it Mrs Berry[?] That visits her.
Mrs C: I don’t know, I think probably she would because she loves to have a chat because I used to go, in fact I don’t very often go across the road now, but if I go that way I have to, because she’d say ‘I wish you’d come in’, but I don’t go out a lot and I don’t like to leave Harold a lot and of course, her husband used to be at Crittall’s. (Q: Oh, yes of course.) and he knew Miss Straight very well and they used to keep in touch because he used to be a great one for the church. Used to be in the choir at All Saints Church. But I know Mrs English and she does love to have a chat so I she’d be very interesting. (Q: I think it’s Mrs Berry that visits her, but she doesn’t come out.) But I think even if you called on her (Q: I don’t like just barging in on people). I’m sure if you called on her, because she’s one of those, she always says to me ‘Oh come in and have a chat’ you know. She is marvellous how she carries on because she’s a great age now isn’t she. (Q: I’m sure she is, mmm.) and I mean there’s not many what I call the real old Witham characters sort of left not now. I mean there was some real wonderful old characters and I mean there was several old shops in Maldon Road here years ago but they’ve sort of gradually dwindled out haven’t they. I mean Where Threebees are there used to be North. [4 Maldon Road] It used to be a hairdressers and barbers shop and sweet shop there.
Q: Did you ever go up to Chipping Hill at all ?
Mrs C: Yes, well you see we used to attend All Saints Church ‘cause that was nearer for us but we used to go up to Chipping Hill occasionally too and of course that’s all altered an awful lot hasn’t it ? In fact I haven’t been up that way since we’ve moved back here. I don’t think I’d know part of it not now. It must have changed an awful lot. It was always a very pretty little spot I always thought, the old smithy and of course there used to be another blacksmith in the High Street didn’t there ? Did you know that ?
Q: I’ve seen, near the Crotchet.
Mrs C: Shelleys, that’s right.[130 Newland Street] It used to be between the Crotchet and that other little shop there. They were there for many years those. We used to watch there, Used to go along to school and see them shoeing the horses. [laugh]
Q: There’s hardly any of the names you’ve mentioned there now are there ?
Mrs C: No. I don’t think there’s any. I think actually, I think, after Taber went, I think we were one of the last old businesses to close. Sort of been in Witham so long and then Taber closed after us. I don’t think there’s actually any of the old firms left now is there not in Witham.
Q: I suppose Mondy’s, still keeps the name but …
Mrs C: Keeps the name but it belongs to a Chelmsford firm, Hasler and Hance isn’t it. They trade in the name. Because, you see that’s what, if we had sold as a butcher’s shop they wanted to use our name but Harold wouldn’t let them. (Q: No.) But then Lord Rayleigh wanted to trade under Harold’s name but, Stoffer thought he was going to sell the goodwill too and Harold said ‘Oh, no, I don’t allow that’. Harold always felt it wasn’t his name it was his father’s name. And he said if anything reflected, it would reflect on his father. (Q: I see.) He said no, that he wouldn’t do that. I don’t think there’s anything left of the old established things left in Witham now at all not if you think about it.
Q: Still it’s a long time back isn’t it really ?
Mrs C: I think they’ve mostly all gone. You know when you look back we haven’t got such a good variety of shops now as we had then. I mean, we haven’t got a decent men’s shop now. I mean there used to be Turner’s and Davies. I mean Turner’s was a lovely little men’s shop. Then there was Davies. And I mean we haven’t got a decent shoe shop. You see our best shoe shop in those days used to be Dowsett’s.[56 Newland Street] Yes Dowsett’s were, that is where Hilton’s is now. And then when Cyril retired, Lloyds of Colchester took it over. I don’t know why they packed it up I’m sure because its Hilton’s now isn’t it. But if you want a good quality shoe, there’s nobody in Witham sells one (Q: No.) And then there used to be, down where we were, at Lenny’s, used to be (there’s the old squirrel back again) a florist, used to be Robinson’s and then Sprunt took it over. He had a lean-to place there almost near the bridge where he use to make wreaths and all that kind of thing.
Q: So Taber’s fruit shop, are there any of the Tabers still ? [9 Newland Street]
Mrs C: Yes, Todge is still alive, the son. He lives in The Avenue. (Q: Yes.) You see John Taber’s wife was Marion Payne, Dr Payne’s daughter. (Q: Oh I see.) and actually John Taber, they were farmers but I think they lost a lot of money and he sort of started up this shop you know. I think everybody thought he wouldn’t do any good but he did [???] ‘cause I think all the better class people patronised him as well. Marvellous how he carried on right up till oh, do you know, I can’t remember if he retired after Marion died or before. It was after, she died and he retired and for a time, latter part of the time young Herbert that worked for him, Ron Herbert, he took over and then eventually he took it over altogether. And then he died didn’t he. He died very suddenly. And I think the actual property as such, I don’t know, I mean I wouldn’t like to say this for sure, but it all belonged to Kings. I take it that when Ryland bought it they bought the whole block but I don’t know. That I couldn’t be sure about. But Taber only rented it you know, only just hired the shop.
Q: But Mr King wasn’t in Witham till he married ? [11 Newland Street]
Mrs C: No, he came from, actually he was born at Framlingham but I think he came from London because his father still lived at Framlingham because he used to come and stay with us when we were at the shop.
Q: What did he used to, did he have any life outside the shop …?
Mrs C: No I think all his time was taken up with the shop. I think in those days they did didn’t they. Of course you see, they didn’t open Sundays I mean they were never open on Sundays they were another one like Harold, he used to say, ‘Six days in the week and’ Sundays they didn’t believe in opening shops. But he was quite interested in his garden there was a nice walled in garden there. He used to like gardening, he used to do that. And he used to go up to town occasionally but Mrs King was never one to go about much. She was a real home one. But I don’t think people did so much in those days did they ? I mean the average business person well, they didn’t take holidays did they ? (Q: No.)
Q: And on Sundays did they go to church ?
Mrs C: Used to go to church in the morning yes, mm. And I think do you know then, average people went for walks in the afternoons. There was an awful lot of walking done in those days. I mean I remember with us on a Sunday in the summer if we went to, we used to go to Sunday School and church in the morning and if there was something on in the afternoon but if not invariably in the afternoon you went for a walk. Well we used to go all round Wickham. You know, used to think nothing of going off and walking all round Wickham or Terling but people don’t seem, it’s very very seldom you see people out walking as a family now. Things have changed such a lot haven’t they ?
[Chat about coffee etc, not noted]
Q: I think we’ve done very well. What was Mr King’s first name, because I can’t remember ?
Mrs C: Walter. Walter, and she was Ethel.
Q: Because he wasn’t related to Kings the jewellers ?
Mrs C: Oh, no, no nothing to do with those. He had got no relations at all in Witham. I don’t think Mrs King had as far as I know. Mrs King came from Woodham Walter (Q: I see.) They were both buried at Woodham Walter.
Q: So this Granny Green
Mrs C: She came from Woodham Walter. I think when they moved from Woodham Walter when they took the shop at Witham. Because Mrs King’s brother still lived at Woodham Walter because he’s died and Ivy is the daughter. So she would know probably quite a bit more about the history. You sort of forget quite a bit.
Q: But you remember little things that …
Mrs C: You know in those days there was like, you know they used to have a local tennis club and the cricket over here but that was the most holy of holies, nobody was allowed in the cricket field and old Mr Sneezum used to be the park keeper there. All the children daren’t, they used to be half scared of Mr Sneezam. They only got to see him coming and they were off.
Q: He used to be in the park most of the time was he ?
Mrs C: Oh yes there was always somebody, he was there full-time and they used to lock the park up every night and it was opened at a certain time in the morning. You weren’t allowed to cycle in there. You’re not supposed to now but they do what they like. They don’t enforce the laws any more. I think this is the trouble. Then of course in those days I think the main treat with children they used to have a Sunday School treat once a year they used to take them to the seaside for a day. I remember with my Father it used to be a Mr Ottley near the station and used to have horse and carts and wagonettes. You used to be able to hire those. And sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday Dad would hire one to take us to Millbeach. Take several of the children from Bridge Street who probably hadn’t got money to do it and we used to all go there and Mum used to pack up a picnic. Used to be a great treat to do that. I mean if you had a day at Clacton this was marvellous because you see today people go off for a month’s holidays and they don’t think of these things like that any more, do they.
Q: I suppose it was quite a change for you coming out here after London ?
Mrs C: Well, where we lived was very very nice. We lived at Streatham which was very very nice in those days. Actually where we lived it was open right on to Streatham Common. A lovely spot.
Q: What did your father used to do ?
Mrs C: He worked, he was with a firm in London for a good many years and then he went with London Transport. And of course when he came down here it was a great drop in wages but there you are. Grandad didn’t want to come to London and they didn’t like leaving him on his own. I don’t think we ever regretted coming but I think everybody thought my mother would never settle because she’d always lived in London.
Q: So, was your grandad, had he moved up here before or was he from London ?
Mrs C: Oh, no, no. He came from, actually I think I’m right in saying my grandfather was born at Notley and then he lived at Wickham for many years.