Mrs Margaret Laura English (nee Edwards) was born in 1890. She was interviewed on 15 June 1981, when she lived at 33 Maldon Road, Witham.
For more information about her, see English, Margaret Laura and Cyril, in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Q: Somebody told me that you worked at Spurges ?
Mrs E: Yes dear [background chat, not noted]
Q: Can you tell me anything about Spurges ?
Mrs E: That’s been a long time ago, dear. This week, if my husband had been alive (Q: Mmm.) today, or last Thursday would have been my Diamond Wedding and we went to Clacton for a week but it was so hot we came back here (Q: No, really?) in the middle of the week. Yes, we’d got this house all ready and that’s how it was I met my husband. I’m really a Braintree girl. (Q: Are you?) I was a school teacher. And then they couldn’t find us a school. I went to school with Miss Murrells that used to live along here (Q: I know I think.). You knew her didn’t you ? Yes. And they couldn’t find us a school. So then I chucked it all up and I went out as a book-keeper and I was a book-keeper. I came to Witham, I saw the job advertised. I came to Witham and worked for Mr Spurge [42 Newland Street] for four years and Miss Murrells’s father – that was one side was a grocer’s shop, the other side was all drapery, hats, well everything (Q: Yes. Goodness). Very nice man he was, Mr Spurge.
Q: Did he live at the shop ?
Mrs E: Oh no dear, No, I lived over at the house here at the Park. That was my auntie (Q: Yes.). I suppose you’ve hear of Miss Chaplin that lives down Guithavon Street (Q: I think so, yes.) Right opposite Podsbrook. She was my cousin and she went out to Leighs[?] to a private home and, no I was in lodgings and then my husband worked at Luckin Smiths, what is straight up here. Well, Luckin Smiths, [50 Newland Street] well what is it now, sort of a, you go through the arcade don’t you ? (Q: I know.). How long have you been in Witham ?
Q: Only fifteen years – not very long.
Mrs E: Oh, no [laugh]. Well then my husband came home during the War. I wasn’t engaged to him then, though I knew him. He used to watch me come up this road and come out on the pavement and then he came down to the house at the park and courted me. (Q: I see.) My husband’s people were Witham people (Q: Were they?). Yes, in that first house, right opposite All Saints Church.
Q: And what did his father do ?
Mrs E: Well dear, he worked, well you wouldn’t remember Afford’s where Martin’s is now would you? [70 Newland Street] (Q: Mmm.) And then down Guithavon Street there was the printing press. That’s what my husband’s people did. He was in the printing press. But he went to London the day before for Mr Afford and the next morning he died at the shop down there on the floor. (Q: Oh, goodness.) Cyril was the only boy. That’s a photograph of my husband in that little round, when he was a little boy. (Q: Can I have a look?) Yes [laugh], in a little Eton collar. I don’t know how old he was then but I’ve been in this house now, that’ll be, oh, well I told Mr Clarke when he came. Because Mr Clarke came, oh about four years ago and I told him all about the Park and how we used to have all the hounds and the dogs come round. ‘Cos Mr Motion lived down that alcove opposite, where you go, now, let me see, its all down now. (Q: The Lawn, was it? I know.) What you call Lawn Chase, (Q: That’s right.) And they used to come over with the dogs. Oh yes. I was only a, only a little girl then I remember ‘em. And my auntie used to do all the cricket teas (Q: Really?) We used to have the tables come right from the cricket ground right up to the gates [???]. Now there’s nothing is there.
Q: So, how old are you ? May I ask that ?
Mrs E: Well, I understand you live in the Parsonage don’t you ? (Q: No, up at Chalks Road I live.) Oh you live in Chalks Road. Now who told me that someone lived who did the writing for Witham in the Parsonage. Well that’s where my husband’s mother was nursemaid. (Q: Oh was she?) Mmm.
Q: So your husband worked in the shop ?
Mrs E: Yes, he went to the First World War and then he worked at Crittall’s. When Crittall’s opened he went up there.
Q: Oh did he ? And why did he leave the shop ?
Mrs E: Oh to get more money – pound a week (Q: was it?) A laugh. I was earning at Mr Spurge’s and he asked me to marry him and I said ‘Good gracious no, I’m earning more than you.’ (Q: Really?) So he said, ‘Well, if that’s the case, I’m going to look out and find another …’. Then of course Crittall’s came. Lot of people didn’t like Crittall’s opening. The Miss Luards what lived right up Ivy Chimneys way, I could go, right from Ivy Chimneys right up to the Avenue (Q: Mmm.) and I can remember nearly all the people. (Q: Goodness) Oh you live up. …
Q: My next door neighbour is Mr Godfrey and his father …
Mrs E: Well, Mr Godfrey’s father worked at Spurge’s, with me (Q: You knew him did you?) He used to push, well they used to have a handcart to take parcels out then. Yes. Oh well, Mr Godfrey knows me too.
Q: I’ll tell him I’ve seen you. [Laugh]. How much money did you get ?
Mrs E: Oh, now let me see, what did Mr Spurge pay me. About a pound I think it was, 25 shillings. I didn’t have any fire, only had a gas ring, a thing that you light, up there (Q: Goodness.) Oh it was a rotten old office. (Q: You were in the office?) I did all the books (Q: Uhuh.) All the books, yes, all the books, nine till about five. Its different today.
Q: A lot of writing. Did you write all the, did you have lots of big books to write in?
Mrs E: Yes great big heavy ledgers like that, send all the bills out. (Q: Oh did you?)
[chat about neighbours, and Helen who comes in to look after her etc., not noted]
Mrs E: Now. Well I’m 91. I was 91, April 22nd. And I want to go. Now why don’t the Lord take me eh? Well, because I’m too wicked.
Q: What have you done ?
Mrs E: Well I don’t know, well I was hoping I would be taken so Helen didn’t have to keep coming in and out. She deserves a different life (Q: She looks happy, I shouldn’t worry.) [laugh]. Well, she always says she loves coming. She’s going to do something for dinner but I don’t mind, what I have to eat. Plenty of fruit and plenty of drink.
Q: How old were you when you started work at the shop ?
Mrs E: Oh about twenty, now how old was I ? Twenty, no must have been nearly thirty (were you?) I had been engaged to a man in London (Q: Mmm.) and he kept coming up and down to Braintree to see me and then he didn’t talk about getting engaged so I chucked him. I gave him his [???]. And he couldn’t understand. He kept saying ‘You’ve got someone else’. I said ‘No, I haven’t’ and when I came to Witham I didn’t want anyone else. I told Mr English, I said ‘No I’m not going to have anything to do with any more men.’ (Q: I see. He got you in the end?) Yes, well, he was an only boy but such a good boy to his mum and dad and then his dad died, fell ill and he had to have someone to look after his mum and I looked after her, I cooked for her (Q: Really?) Yes, she lived to nearly ninety. Then she fell down. And I had my own mother here and she fell down, broke her leg and I looked after my own mum. (Q: Mmm.) But I went to Braintree on the buses for about, nearly twenty years. (Q: Really, did you?) Twice a week. Yes, when my dad died I looked after my mum.
Q: What did your dad used to do for a job ?
Mrs E: My dad, he was a brush maker for West’s. (Q: Was he?) Do you know them? (Q: I’ve heard the name.) [???] Right opposite St Michael’s church.
[chat about Christmas cards, All Saints church, Urban District Council, the Queen, not noted]
Mrs E: My husband had a car and we went all round the country and we used to take our own food and boil our own kettle. (Q: Did you ?) Yes, and then came home, by the time people came out of business, and when there was a lot of, we used to get back here.
Q: That was when he worked at Crittall’s was it ? (Q: Yes.) When you worked at the shop did you get much holiday ?
Mrs E: Well, I forget. On that bed, I don’t know whether you can see it now, under that eiderdown, that was one of Mr Spurge’s eiderdowns which he gave me when I got married.
Q: He gave it to you, did you? And you stopped work when you got married did you?
Mrs E: Oh yes, I didn’t do any more. Only once. I went up to Luckin Smith’s. They wrote and asked me if I would come and keep the books and I said yes I’d come up for two hours in the afternoon and there was a man named Ardler[?] there then. Horrid man he was (Q: Was he?) Tied up the gas stove and tied up the toilet, and then when he came back because he had to go away because he was ill, when he came back, he didn’t pay me. Then he sent down again for me to go and keep the books. I said I wouldn’t come up not if he paid me five pound a week. Well five pound a week then was a lot of money. Now everybody’s got plenty of money and nobody is satisfied, are they. (Q: Was he the manager at Luckin Smiths?) Yes, he was the manager. Used to stand out there in his apron. Horrid man he was. I said to my husband ‘Well I shouldn’t think you’ll work for him much longer’. ‘No’, he said, ‘I’m not going to, I’m going to get a job somewhere’. (Q: Mmm.) But he started right at the bottom my husband did.
Q: Did he, how did he do that ?
Mrs E: And he got up to be foreman.
Q: Did he, what, at Crittall’s ? So he went to the, was it grocery he did at Luckin Smith’s?
Mrs E: Yes, it was all grocery at Luckin Smith’s. Up here.
Q: And he got less money than you did you say. What he did he get ?
Mrs E: Oh dear, only about a pound he got. [Laugh] (Q: He was quite young then?) Well, he’d been to the First World War. Been out to Italy, and wounded twice. (Q: Mmm.) Yes, in that drawer in there I’ve got his khaki, cross his arm, all burned to bits (Q: Really?). Oh yes, he went to the First World War, went out to Italy, went across the River Po on a rope. Not like they do now. Not flying everywhere. So Braintree is really my home.
Q: How did you come to be a teacher ? How did you learn to be a teacher ?
Mrs E: Well I went to Manor Street School in Braintree and then grew up with one or two of the girls, and there was a school mistress there said she’d like to train me, and there you are. Got six shillings a month. And then my father had got three other children and I said ‘Well’, I’m going to chuck it dad, ‘You can’t afford to keep me there not earning anything. I had to buy all my books. (Q: Really?) I went to the County High School. I passed the second time. I passed my exams. Then there wasn’t a school for me (Q: Really?) You mean you went to teach at the High School?). Yes, yes. Learned quite a lot of things, we learned cookery. But I’ve had arthritis. Ever since I’ve been a little girl (Q: Really?) I used to have my feet in what they call ‘irons’. (Q: Did you really?) Do you remember when people used to have them ? (Q: I think so.).
[chat about arthritis, and Helen her helper, and living at home, not noted]
Q: How long ago was it that your husband died ?
Mrs E: Oh, I’ve been a widow now, it must be fourteen years.
[chat about pension, relatives etc. (not many left), not noted]
Q: Can you remember Mr Spurge at all ?
Mrs E: Oh, yes. His wife never came out. She was funny. She was locked in her room. But he had a nice daughter Ethel. And he had a maid. Oh yes, I know where they’re buried in the churchyard, All Saints. Yes, I went to his funeral.(Q: Did you?) He was a nice man.
Q: Where did he live ?
Mrs E: Oh, right over. They’d got a lot of rooms at the back of that shop. That goes right out into, well, I can’t tell you, now because it goes right at the back of Lockram Lane (Q: Oh yes, did it really?) Yes up there. Where the electric light place, and then the back of the [???] well, I don’t know, because that’s the car park.
Q: Yes, it used to go back did it, yes. And did you used …
Mrs E: I don’t know anything about the big Library [18 Newland Street]. I told Doctor Denholm I thought it was a lot of rot but he laughed. He said ‘Do you?’ ‘Yes’. I said, ‘We’ve got a lovely little Library here’ [Maldon Road]. But they say it isn’t half big enough. (Q: Well, there’s more people now I suppose.) Well, they say, Helen tells me its wonderful. She’ll go up today into the town and. I’ve lived too long dear.
Q: So, you were sitting in your little room at Spurge’s. How did you get the money ? Did the money come to you ?
Mrs E: Oh yes, till. Open the till. Nothing to check is there. I could have robbed them right and left. (Q: Could you?) [laugh]. (Q: You didn’t.) I don’t understand a bit what they are going to do with these computers and these robots. Whatever they’re going to do I don’t know. Still, I mean people did everything for a penny.
Q: And you had to add it all up in your head did you ?
Mrs E: Well, yes I could run it all up. I could add all my money up what I’ve got now at the bank if I could see, but I can’t now.
Q: Did people used to have accounts did you say ?
Mrs E: Oh yes (Q: How often did they …?) Oh yes. Well sometimes only a quarter, sometimes a year (Q: Really, goodness.) People didn’t have to pay like they do now. See nobody books anything now do they ? (Q: No, no)
Q: So they didn’t pay cash ? Did they sometimes pay …
Mrs E: Yes, everybody paid cash. Well sometimes they’d a bill. When I was first married Mr Spurge got me my front room curtains, a lovely carpet and if you went to my hall now my stair carpet, still on the stairs. (Q: Really. Goodness) Now you won’t get any carpets to wear like that. This is all new and it hasn’t been down about three years and its nearly all to pieces. (Q: Right) Not a bit like you used to buy.
Q: So he sold carpets at the shop did he ?
Mrs E: Yes, everything, hats, everything, cottons, lace and the other side, whisky, groceries, butter, cheese. Oooh yes that all led out into the back way.
Q: So how many people worked there ?
Mrs E: Oooh, no end of people, and there’s only now two people. There’s me, Mrs Ashcroft, that’s in the Avenue and a friend I got at Norwich. We’re the only three really that’s left that worked at Spurge’s all those years (Q: Goodness) I don’t know anyone else.
Q: You say you were thirty when you went there about for four years?
Mrs E: Yes, about thirty. So that’s sixty years ago isn’t it ?
Q: And was your carpet a wedding present did you say ?
Mrs E: Oh no, I had to buy it, it was nothing, nothing much as you might say. I think it was five pound. I think I paid for it myself. I don’t think Cyril paid for it. (Q: no?) He hadn’t got any money when he got out the Army. (Q: No.) They didn’t have, did they ? (Q: No).
Q: It was after that that he went into the shop was it ? (Mrs E: What dear?) When he came out of the Army that he went into the shop ?
Mrs E: Well he was out of work a long time. That’s when he come down to the Park to see me. He was out of work. He came down every evening (Q: Really?) and kept saying ‘Will you come out with me ?’ and I’d say ‘No, no’. And in the end I did.
Q: Did you work different times from now? How late did you work ?
Mrs E: What at Spurge’s? Oh we left off about five. Nine till five.
Q: And did you have to take the money to the bank and that as well ?
Mrs E: Oh, no no I didn’t do that (Q: Who did do that?) No. I forget who used to take the money down to the bank. Oh that was a marvellous shop. And next door there was Winches, do you remember them ? (Q: No.) Sweet shop, paper shop (Q: Mmm.) right on that corner [40 Newland Street]. Well I don’t know what it is now, is it a hairdresser is it ? (Q: Something like that, yes, or is it a dress shop.)
[chat about garden, meals, house etc., not noted]
Q: Did you have any children ?
Mrs E: No, I never. I couldn’t dear. No I couldn’t. I went into the St John’s when I was 53 and Dr Shepherd doctored me and he said ‘I don’t know how you’ve stuck it’. And I said ‘Well what is it?’ And he said ‘Well, you’ve got a growth there’ (Q: Mmm.) ‘on the neck of the womb’ (Q: Really?) and well I think I would have liked children, I love little children, but if ever any come to see me
[chat about visiting children, people away on holidays, doctor, television, relatives, not noted]
Q: Where did you get the plates and things ?
Mrs E: Oh, from my husband’s mother. (Q: They were the ones that lived in Guithavon Street, were they?) Guithavon Street. Well it seemed as if she had a sister who married an American. They were all out. That’s the first Easter I haven’t heard from them. Helen wrote to them. They live out in Washington and I don’t know what they do. They’ve all got a lot of, well, shops same size as Tesco’s. They landed all over here one year and a ring come to the front door bell and I had nine Americans, two taxis, and three black men. And, ‘Oooh’ I said. They said ‘Are you Margaret?’ and I said ‘I am’. They said ‘Well, we are the Americans’. I said ‘Well you might have let me know’. ‘Oh we have written’. And I said ‘I haven’t heard from you’. And they wanted to go off to Chipping Hill Church (Q: Yes). So up they dashed up there to get the key to come down to All Saints (Q: I see, yes). ‘Cos my husband’s grandfather’s plaque was in All Saints. but they’ve burnt it – good job too. (Q: Why’s that?) Oh my husband’s people were very nice people (Q: Mmm,) His father was a very nice man. How he got this house was through Doctor Payne, what lives in, what does the foreign meal, there [High House, 5 Newland Street]
Q: How did that happen ?
Mrs E: Well, my father-in-law used to play chess with him. So he went up and said his son wanted to get married. Will you let him have this house. Because all this road, all this road belonged to Doctor Payne. (Q: Did it?) Yes. All this property from the [???] was in what they call the manor of Newland and you had to clear it when you bought it. Well I did mineand so did Mrs Griggs clear hers and so that’s all …but I shan’t know anything about it when I’m gone.
Q: But when you married did you buy it then ?
Mrs E: No, dear, eight shillings a week. Oh no, we paid rent. We paid rent for quite a long time. Rent, rates, they weren’t like they are now.
Q: When you married, your husband was still at Luckin Smiths (Mrs E: Yes, when I married.). Did he like it there ?
Mrs E: No, not really. He’d always been in the grocery trade when he was a boy out at Kelvedon and my friend Helen, she’s a Kelvedon girl (Q: Really).
[chat about Helen’s family, not noted]
Q: So did your husband go to work before he went to the War ?
Mrs E: Yes, went out to Kelvedon on a bike. (Q: Oh I see.) Nice straight road, used to cycle. (Q: Where did he work there?) In a grocery, his aunt and uncle kept that. Do you know that shop as you are getting on the straight road on the corner. Well, I don’t know what they sell now. Bicycles I think. (Q: What was their name?) Newman.
Q: What was your name before you were married ?
Mrs E: Edwards. Oh yes, I’m a Braintree girl. I was married at St Michael’s.
Q: My mother-in-law was from Braintree. Roper was her name.
Mrs E: I don’t know any dear. It might come to me. Roper, yes, lived down there along the Coggeshall road.
Q: Yes, I think so, some of the time but she moved away when she was quite little but her cousins stayed there.
Mrs E: The other side of the road were the Seabrooks, all the farmers. (Q: Yes) Used to walk there because my mother was a Stisted lady. (Q: Mmm) and lived in a little cottage and it’s all altered now, all knocked into one, a row of cottages, all knocked in, made a lovely house and my husband and I used to motor there and go and have a look.
Q: What did her people do ? Your mother’s people ?
Mrs E: Blacksmith. He was the village blacksmith (Q: Really). I only gave his photograph away the other week with a long white beard. As a little girl I used to go down and watch him knock the irons to put on the horses. (Q: What was their name?) Chaplin. It used to be Chaplin that lived in Christmas House [98 Newland Street?] across here, was their son. (Q: Oh I see). Well he lived till 99. (Q: Did he really?) Yes. Of course that’s all down now isn’t it (Q: Yes) It’s a shame to pull it down. Next to Bawtree’s [probably Balch]. And that’s where Doctor Denholm lived for a time. (Q: Did he, I didn’t know that) Yes and Mr & Mrs Benjamin had their little cottage. Yes when Dr Benjamin first come as a doctor and he and Doctor Denholm hadn’t got any money. They hadn’t got anything. It was Doctor Ted that left that lovely house across the pasture to Doctor Denholm. I think he had pay half he, someone told me.
[chat about her health, doctors, drinks, friends, etc.]
Q: So, who did your friends, your friends when you were young, who were they ?
Mrs E: Oh, well I lost em all. Well, Mr & Mrs Manning, you weren’t here when they lived up here. The decorator and painter, were you ? (Q: No, don’t think so) No, that’s a fruit shop they tell me. I remember the fruit shop on the corner being a shoe shop (Q: Really). And the Marshalls, all the Marshalls that kept the radio places.[74-76 Newland Street] They were our friends but they’ve all died.
Q: What did you used to do in your spare time when you were young ?
Mrs E: We used to go out and play cards (Q: Did you?) [laugh], play bridge. (Q: That was when you were married was it?) Yes, we used to go down, my husband and I used to go down to Bridge Home too. That wasn’t like it is now. (Q: No) I knew all the people there, Mr Stoffer’s father and mother, yes oh yes. Well when you’ve lived all that time, sometimes, I sit here and go back a bit and think of all the things I used to do and now I can’t do anything only keep getting up from one chair to another.
Q: And when you say your husband came courting. Did you go out dancing or walking or …? How did you carry on then ?
Mrs E: Well, we only went down in the fields [???] Now its all different they tell me.
Q: So you just walked about?
Mrs E: Yes, the walks, dear. It’s all you had to do then, didn’t you, go right up the hills to the top of Wickham Hill.
[chat about neighbour, children etc., not noted]
Q: Did you get people in the shop from the big houses ?
Mrs E: Oh, yes, all the big houses. (Q: Did they come into Spurges ?) Yes, everybody shopped, we hadn’t got many, we hadn’t got only the Co-op. We hadn’t got any more drapers’ shops much in Witham. (Q: No – did you go to the Co-op at all?). Well, I’m not really a Co-oper, no.
Q: So you went to Spurge’s for your shopping ?
Mrs E: Yes, used to do everything and all my grocery, yes, till they packed up. My husband also helped when he retired, to get a little more money to run the car. Mrs Braid, you remember them ? Next to Spurges (Q: I see, yes). Used to sell groceries off farms and everything.
Q: But he never went back to shop work or Crittall’s or anything ?
Mrs E: Oh, no, well, he worked till he was sixty-five. (Q: Mmm). All be out of work won’t they. Well they want to retire people now when they’re fifty don’t they. ‘Cos my neighbour this way works at Chelmsford and he said last week he didn’t care if they made him redundant. (Q: No) Nobody wants to work. They think we’ve done it all when we were younger.
Q: Was your husband ever out of work when he was at Crittall’s ?
Mrs E: No, oh no. (Q: You said people didn’t like Crittall’s?) Well they didn’t like Crittall’s coming to Witham. (Q: Why was that, do you think?) Well I don’t quite know dear. They were the Miss Luards that lived up at Ivy Chimneys right up the Chelmsford Road and this place was very, very Conservative and I think they went to visit my mother-in-law and they called it a blot on the landscape (Q: Did they?) That put Witham on the map when Crittall’s started up there. Now that’s what they call Norcross or something like.
Q: Oh, something else, isn’t it. Still, I suppose it was a big change wasn’t it ? (Mrs E: Oh, well.) What was there for people to do before ?
Mrs E: Well, work in the fields, they did anything, didn’t they. They had to do what they could, mmm.
Q: Did Mr Spurge work until he died or did he move away ?
Mrs E: Well, yes he used to go in if there was anybody posh, what we called posh. He’d go in and serve them. (Q: I see, he wasn’t in the shop all the time?) Oh no, well he was an elderly man, nice little man and at the back he’d got a conservatory full of beautiful ferns, maidenhair ferns. And if there was anything on at the Public Hall, like when we did the Operatics and that. He sent Mr Godfrey’s father across to the Public Hall with all those to put on the stage. Yes. He was ever so good.
Q: So he would come out of his house into the shop if anybody came would he ?
Mrs E: Oh yes, yes, oh he was ever such a smart little man.
Q: What would you say were the posh people then ?
Mrs E: Well there were people who lived up near Chipping Hill church. Somebody the name of Page. Then on the other side, that big house, there was somebody the name of, Oooh I forget, then there was the Post Office and the name of Doole and oh people like that used to go to Spurge’s to shop.
Q: Did anybody come in from out in the countryside to shop there?
Mrs. E: Well, if they’d got a horse and trap, dear. See there weren’t the people got cars like they have today. Now everybody has a car don’t they ? If they don’t have a car they’ve a moped. And if they don’t have a moped they have a cycle. And all the children have cycles don’t they.
Q: So if someone came in a pony and trap would people go out on to the road from the shop or would they come in ?
Mrs E: Yes, little pony and they’d come in. Well you could park outside then, in the street. (Q: Yes, mmm.) Were you here when Cutts kept the fish shop (Q: I don’t think so but I’ve heard about it) [33 Newland Street]. Well that’d be next to Woolworth’s now.
[chat about charity shops now etc., not noted]
Q: Did Mr Spurge do lots of other things in the town ? You said he grew the flowers. Was he in the Operatic himself ?
Mrs E: Well no, you see during that time people used to buy tickets didn’t they ? I was in the Operatic (Q: Were you?) Yes and so was this lady’s mother. We did Hiawatha and Nanky Poo and all the rest of it. Well there’s some people over here that do that sort of thing now but they’re all strangers to me. I used to know all me neighbours but I only know each side now [laugh]
Q: So you were in the chorus were you ?
Mrs E: This little shop here that’s ever so handy [Maldon Road]. (Q: Good that) Helen often pops in there and gets things.
Q: Was there a manager in Spurges as well as Mr Spurge ?
Mrs E: Yes, we did have a manager. He lived up, well towards the way to, well Rivenhall way. His name was Lambert. He lived in those houses along there what do the insurance. You know before you get to the War Memorial.
Q: So he came in every day to the shop ? (Q: Yes) And were the other people working there, they were girls?
Mrs E: All the girls lived round in Witham. They didn’t have to take lodgings. (Q: No) I went home twice a week. I had a bike. I biked. (Q: So they all lived in their own …) Yes, There was a Miss Waller, she lived up Collingwood Road. Her father worked at Cooper Taber’s. He was boss there.
Q: And what about the people in Luckin Smith’s ?
Mrs E: Oh, they were Chelmsford people. Got had a big shop there. I don’t know whether it is still there. That’s the same you see, all being taken over by these precincts. I think they’re hateful places. These cement places. I don’t like ‘em. I like the old fashioned shops.
Q: So when your husband worked there were they all men ? (Mrs E: Yes mostly men.) Because that’s different now, isn’t it ?
Mrs E: Its what you call change and decay. The hymn, ‘Change and decay in all around I see’ and it is so.
Q: There wasn’t a Mr Luckin Smith at Witham ?
Mrs E: Well they didn’t live here dear. They were all in lodgings, bits of boys and bits of girls. Nice staff. (Q: Mmm) You see when Spurge’s closed there wasn’t, there weren’t any grocery’ shops.
Q: When did they close ? Was that when he died ? I mean did they close because he died or did he retire ?
Mrs E: Mr Spurge died, yes. When he died and then that was all taken over. (Q: Did he live at the shop when he died?) Yes and the town has all altered. I don’t even know what the War Memorial is like now. (Q: No, its still there.) I mean I used to be able to go over and there used to be a seat in there but Helen tells me, its kept very nice (Q: Yes it is nice)
Q: So there aren’t any Spurges left ?
Mrs E: Oh no dear, he only had this one daughter (Q: Did she help with the shop at all.) No, she was in the house and they had a servant. No she looked after her mother and cooked her own dinner and her father’s dinner I expect. She was a very nice girl. (Q: Did he help you with your books?) No, no. (Q: You did it all yourself?) No. Mr Spurge didn’t ever come and interfere in my office not with the books. (Q: He must have known you were good) Sometimes he came in and I’d say to him ‘I’ve been looking at all this ledger’, Mr Spurge. I said ‘There’s a lot of money owing there.’ ‘Oh, don’t you worry Miss Edwards’, he said, ‘We shall get a cheque at the end of the year’. Yearly people used to pay in the big houses. (Q: But you did get the money?) Oh yes. We didn’t have many debts. No. That’s what I was paid for to do. When I wasn’t doing anything I had a book and kept reading. When we weren’t very busy. (Q: But you had to try and get the money?) Well, I tried to get it if I could. He didn’t like me leaving. He said ‘Whatever do you want to go and get married for?’ [laugh] ‘Well, I’ve got the chance’ I said, and then said ‘What do you want for a wedding present’. ‘Oh, well, I said, that’s up to you’. He used to go up to London to St Paul’s churchyard to shop (Q: Did he?) Used to go up by train Mr Spurge did.
Q: To get things for himself, you mean, or for the shop ?
Mrs E: Well anything, or to put in the shop, curtains. Don’t know where he shopped.
Q: He worked quite hard then. Did people bring things to the shop as well, on the train ?
Mrs E: If he had a big order of course it all come down on the train (Q: Did it?) Yes.
Q: And what about delivering the stuff. You said there was a cart ?
Mrs E: Well, when you think about, you wouldn’t get a stair carpet. ‘Cos for my stairs I had fourteen yards and I thought how expensive it was and it was only five pound. (Q: Really? [laugh] And it’s still down. (Q: That’s good.) Still on the stairs. Helen hoovered it this morning, with my, well, I’ve got a carpet sweeper and I’ve got a hoover, I tell her to leave it, not to do it.
Q: I wish you could get them like that now. They don’t last now do they ?
Mrs E: No, used to have to take a hand brush didn’t we ? (Q: Yes)
[general chat, not noted.]