Mrs Violet Cullen (nee Grout), was born in 1889. She was interviewed on 10 November 1981, when she lived at 36 Collingwood Road, Witham.
For more about her, see Cullen, Violet, nee Grout, 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 wasn’t born in Witham. We used to do a lot of shopping here, and my father used to come to market here. (Q: yes.)
Q: Where did you live then ?
Mrs C: We used to live, do you know Langford ?
Q: Well, just a bit, yes.
Mrs C: Well the address was Ulting, but part of the house was in Ulting and part in Langford. In those days they used to call it Ulting you see. We lived at Stock Hall, Ulting and my name was Grout. Then, so we used to do shopping here, (Q: Mmm.) and, as I say, in Maldon of course, cos we lived just half way, I should say about four miles to Witham and about three and a half to Maldon. So we were just in between. Yes you’re sitting under Stock Hall [photo M484]. There’s me in the garden and you see. The one at the back, and my two sisters and mother. Well that’s where I was born, so I wasn’t far from Witham was I ?
Q: No. You used to come here quite a lot did you ?
Mrs C: Oh yes, because, later on, one of my sisters married a butcher here and we used to come and see her of course, quite a lot. And of course, farming, you get about the country, don’t you, meet people. We met a lot of people. So we knew quite a lot of the old people that used to live in Witham and who and where they lived. Of course it’s altered now, quite a bit. there were, you see, we knew the doctors, and the doctor Gimsons and their father, I knew. (Q: Really?) Well I remember.
Q: Dare I ask how old you are ?
Mrs C: 92. (Q: Are you really?) So I remember [???] about a little bit. I’ve not always been in Witham though.
Q: But I mean the father of the Gimsons, that was (Mrs C: Yes I remember him.) That was a long time back.
Mrs C: Yes, he used to drive about in a brougham, with a silk hat and black cape.
Q: If you needed a doctor ? (Mrs C: He wasn’t our doctor.) Where did you go ?
Mrs C: We had to have the Maldon doctor because the Witham doctor’s area was so large so we had the Maldon doctor, Doctor Price and Doctor Tomlinson, and that’s a long time ago. And I used to go to school, first of all we had to start at the little village school because mother was the school manager (Q: Oh was she?) at Ulting. You see when you lived in the farm they asked these people to do these sort of things, (Q: Of course.) which they did, for nothing then, in those days. And we used, we were allowed to go there and we used to drive in a donkey cart. Because that was three and half miles, yes, and oh, there were about, let me see, five of us went together.
Q: How many were there in your family did you say ?
Mrs C: Fifteen. (Q: Gosh!) Well mother had twenty-one children really, we called it twenty-one twice, because her twenty-first one died and then she had one other after that, so it was twenty-one twice. People look astonished.
Q: The others all lived, did they?
Mrs C: Well, I don’t remember them. Because we moved here and I was, Percy, Dick and I, I was about the third one that was born there, you see. The others were born at Great Totham.
Q: So you were near the end ? Which were you?
Mrs C: Well I …, I came about, as the fifteenth one, I was about tenth or eleventh.
Q: I see, so the others were grown up?
Mrs C: Oh yes, my two eldest sisters were my godmothers so they were grown up, eighteen or nineteen.
Q: So you moved to Witham when you were …?
Mrs C: Well, actually I came to Witham after we had to, my husband died, I went there after I was married, The Elms, Mr Hodges, he lives there now. Have you ever been to Maldon, up by the wood ? (Q: Oh yes.) Well I lived just past there, it lays back in a kind of park. (Q: I think I know it, yes.) That’s The Elms. Well that’s next door to that one you see. So I didn’t go far did I. Well then my husband died after fifteen years and we had no one to, I had three children, no one to carry on the farm, they weren’t old enough. So I had to get out of the farm and I went to Hatfield Peverel to start with and then took the children, because there were three children left you see. They used to go to Chelmsford High School. My son was leaving school and he wanted to go into Thomas Cullen’s business. (Q: I see.) With his uncle. Because his father was a director there. So he said one day … I had bought a little, you know Valley House, [probably Guithavon Valley] well I bought that on spec, you know, thinking the children would like to come to Witham, but they didn’t want to come, so I had to buy a house in Hatfield Peverel, (Q: I see.) which I did, during the War this was. So, as I say, when my son was leaving school and he wanted to go and he went in there, he was in there about a year and then he had to do his National Service. Well, while he was doing his National Service, he developed peritonitis and died. (Q: Mm.) So his idea was to go back. However, that happened, he was about nineteen.
My eldest daughter is an actress you know, she is in the Archers. (Q: Oh, I didn’t know that !) Oh, didn’t you. I wondered if anyone had told you. She was Carol Tregorran (Q: Goodness !). But she’s nearly, I think they are nearly finished. I think she’s going to finish, I don’t know.
Q: Did she enjoy that ?
Mrs C: Oh yes. She enjoyed it. (Q: She’s got on well then.) Well she went to Chelmsford High School and at that time there, Miss Cadbury was her headmistress. Well, Miss Cadbury was a Quaker, as you know, (Q: Mm.) and she was very anxious for the children to do something useful. Well my daughter she wanted to go on the stage. At least she wanted speech and drama. So I took her away from there and she went up to the Academy for three years for speech and drama. Well she passed all her exams and won all bursaries for everything she went through, so I didn’t have to pay any more for her. (Q: She must have been very talented.) Well, I didn’t know that but she came home with all sorts of diplomas which I didn’t always look at. You know how it is, you just say ‘Oh, that’s nice, that’s nice, that’s nice’. I didn’t realise she was so talented until when she came home one day when she came home with a box full and I said are you going to put them up on the wall. ‘Oh no’ she said. After then we were at Hatfield when she went to the Academy. While she passed her exams and she had her three years, she’d won her ribbons and, of course, when you go there they do expect you to teach for a little while. So she taught for a little while but one day she felt she wanted to on the stage so she made an appointment herself with Val Gielgud. He came to the school, or to the university, whatever they call it. And she asked if she could, and he accepted her, with some others I think, for two years. He said, ‘Well, I’ll take you on for two years. After then you must go out and learn more on the stages you see’. So she used to go out after that, but she didn’t, she came back when Dick Barton was on. I don’t suppose you remember that ? (Q: Just about.) Yes. Anyway she was in Dick Barton. She was the one that shrieked so loud [laugh]. So that’s how she came to be in the Archers. Because Dick Barton packed up didn’t it? (Q: Yes.)
Q: So how long has she been in the Archers ?
Mrs C: Oh twenty-five years I think, something like that. [laugh] Now, she’s retired nearly. She said she’d go if they really wanted her providing they paid expenses, because she’s in Suffolk now. She married three times. (Q: Mmm.) The first one she divorced. The second one was Dan Archer. He died and this one is not an Archer fan at all. But she’s quite happy. She lives in Suffolk.
Q: So that’s quite handy.
Mrs C: She used to live at Aynho, that was near Banbury Cross, Banbury. But that was a long way to go takes three hours to get up there. Anyway it takes about an hour here. Of course she’s joined the WI and everything else in her village so she’s quite busy. Quite a busy woman. Margaret of course is here, and her two children. Ann didn’t have any children. That’s not much about Witham, only about my family. [Laugh]
Q: Oh that’s interesting. So they all went to the Chelmsford School and that was when you were living in Hatfield?
Mrs C: Yes, they all followed on and now Victoria is there you see. (Q: Oh yes.) She had to win to get in there, they had to pass some exams to get there. Where is your little girl ?
Q: Well, she is only seven she goes up to Templars Junior School. (Mrs C: Victoria used to go there.) So the Cullens that lived in Chipping Hill that was …?
Mrs C: That was my husband, one of them.
Q: And they had the mill and the warehouse as well as the …?
Mrs C: That’s right, yes. (Q: So you did live in that?) I lived here. There, all the boys lived away. They didn’t live at, their father did. He lived up there. His father and mother and sister lived there when I was married. Tom, had bought this, he’d been to the War, 1918, you see. When he came home his father bought this farm for him and I knew him five years before I was married but he used to shoot, you see, with my father and very often come down to see them in the evenings and that sort of thing. That’s how I met him. Its rather funny though when I met him first. A lady friend in Witham, she said to me ‘Violet’, she said, ‘have you met your new neighbour yet’. I said no, because I hadn’t been home long because I had been nursing for two years up in Northampton, (Q: Mmm.) well, during the War you see I had four brothers in the War. My youngest sister was engaged, the other one was married, all the others were married. I was the only one and I gave up a good job. I was in business up in Ealing, gave up that job, I said I must, someone must go nursing, so I went nursing. I said to my mother ‘I’m going to go nursing’. She looked at me and she said ‘I’ll give you three weeks’. So I said ‘Three weeks!’ She didn’t see me for six months and I stayed there for two years till the end of the War. 1916-1918. We had £20 a year.
Q: So you wouldn’t have much time to spare ?
Mrs C: And very skint[?] with food because it was during the War. So anyway we did the job. You did those things you know because …
Q: That must have been a change for your mustn’t it after ?
Mrs C: Oh it was a change. It was, in more ways than one. [laugh] Oh never mind we got through it. (Q: Yes.) and it was an experience that you can look back on and think oh well you did know a little bit about it. (Q: Mmm.) I wasn’t trained. I was only a Red Cross person (Q: I see.) and I hadn’t passed any exams at all. Friend of mine had, who I was with and it was her asked me to go and it’s marvellous what you had to do. What the nurses do today, me, a little pro had to do then.
Q: Were they sending …?
Mrs C: Oh, straight from France we had them. All dirty. We had nine hundred beds in that hospital. And it was run by the Army of course. Army took it over.
Q: Have you ever done anything like that since or …?
Mrs C: No, because, you see I got married. (Q: That was more or less straight after?) Well I got married, I was home at 1918 and I was home for five years so that’s twenty-four, three isn’t it and I was married in 1924. (Q: Yes.) Both mother and father were alone you see, my sister, well I had another sister there she was teaching. You don’t know Miss May at Hatfield Peverel ? (Q: No, I don’t.) Well she took her over. She wouldn’t go to school that little girl and her mother had somebody in the house to teach her.
Q: When you say you were in business before the War, what were you doing?
Mrs C: I was in the drapery. Yes, I was at Bourne & Hollingsworth’s for a time and then I went to Ealing, oh I was at Ealing several years. It’s like this, when you’ve got a lot of girls you know, you can’t have them all at home and in those days the farmers couldn’t afford all these families at home doing nothing. My brothers all went doing different things. One was a motor engineer, and one was a butcher and another, not any of them farmers, because father said if he had one, it would make the others jealous. So they all had to go away from home and the girls too most of them. All my sisters did, in those days you know, they used to have nursery governesses didn’t they ? A lot of people and they used to go as nursery governesses (Q: I see.) So they went about with these people too if they took the children you see. So they were away from home. In 1918 there was only my sister and I and I stayed at home. That’s how I met my husband. One day, as I tell you, this lady said to me ‘Haven’t you met your neighbour yet?’ I said ‘No, I haven’t had time’ So she said ‘Oh you must.’ She said ‘He’s a nice old boy.’ I said ‘Oh really?’ [laughter]. Well I didn’t take much notice of that but my father used to shop at Witham. He did all the shopping and pay all the bills. Except us children, the girls’ clothing. (Q: Mmm.) Mother had to do that. And one day I was driving with him and he always put up at the White Hart. And we always had a four wheel. You can’t see that because we haven’t got it there. And do you know what a four-wheel is? (Q: I think so more or less.) It’s like an open carriage thing, Its two here and two in the front and the horse is just there you know. Well we went in there, and I never went in the White Hart that was not allowed in those days. And I was sitting out there waiting with the pony, ‘cause the man had just put it in, and out came two gentleman. One was Mr Stuart Richardson, he’s dead but Karl’s alive, his son. And he said ‘Good morning Miss Grout.’ I said ‘Good morning Mr Richardson’. He said ‘Ah, have you met your neighbour yet ?’ I said ‘No.’. He said ‘Well, here you are, Mr Tom Cullen’, so we met in the White Hart yard. (Q: How strange.) Well, ever after then he used to have a lovely garden. He used to have a beautiful garden. And he said, oh I know, he said ‘If ever you want any flowers Miss Grout, you come and help yourself if I’m not there’. So my sisters and I went up one day. We wanted them for dec …we used to do the Church, Langford church. and we were up there and he said, oh he came round the garden with us and picked some flowers and he said ‘Come when you like’. So I used to go up there and help myself to flowers. And that’s how we got to know each other.
Q: He was a nice old boy, you found. [Laughter]
Mrs C: Yes. My sisters saw him more than I did, before I did..
Q: So when did you marry then ?
Mrs C: We married in 1926, no, wait a minute, I married in ‘24, (Q: Mm.) no, Anne was born in ‘26, so she’s getting on. As I said we had the happiest years of our lives there, fifteen years, there. [The Elms, Ulting] The children didn’t want to go far you see. There was a big garden, they’d got the farmyard. They’d got everything they wanted out there.
Q: It must have been hard for you when he died ? How did you manage?
Mrs C: Well, he died in the February and we had to carry on till the September. Until the corn and that had been cut and that. I was all right with the children. Of course we had help in there then. The men were all around, you see, we were all right. I don’t think I’d like it today, I don’t know. We enjoyed it anyway. Our biggest holiday, I used to take the children to Walton for a fortnight and the last fortnight we went in the August I think. Well, during the holiday and Daddy didn’t come. He wouldn’t leave the farm. One night he arrived there. I’d made arrangements for a housekeeper and everything, so that she would go in and look after him, that was one of the men’s wives offered to go in you see. I knew he’d be all right because she was a good cook and all that sort of thing. So he came down ‘You’ll have to come home’, he said, ‘I can’t bear this house on my own’. [???] I must take the children. Well I couldn’t see the children going home very pleased. ‘Oh that’s a pity’ he said. ‘Well leave the children and come home.’ I said, ‘What me?’ Well I had got someone else with the children, so I came home. And I met the man in the White Hart. It used to be Mr Moss then and he said ‘For goodness sake, Mrs Cullen, never go away again. I’ve never met such a miserable man in my life !’ (Q: Oh dear.) So we didn’t go again. He died the following February with pneumonia and Bright’s disease.
Q: Where did you stay in Walton ?
Mrs C: Well right at the end there. In those days we knew the people that were running this boarding house. So we had a boarding house. It was so nice for the children. And they used to get a hot meal at night for the children. We had a hut, you know what Walton is ? (Q: Yes, we go there a lot.) All those lovely sands, we stayed there all day. We had a little hut, we used to make tea and everything and we were down there for the day and came home night and they’d give us a hot meal and someone would look after the children if we went out and put them to bed. They were quite happy and so were we. There was not, in those times, there was nowhere to go much in Walton in the evening. (Q: No.) Unless you had a game with somebody, a game of cards or anything. But we were quite happy and the children they were happy. Of course they spent a lot of time down at Mill Beach. We did. (Q: Of course that was quite near.) Well, if they were at home, Daddy would come home to lunch and he’d leave us there and then go on to the office and call for us back so they had all those hours when he was away you see. That was quite a good arrangement. I didn’t drive a car until very late and then I did. We had a car after he died. We took the car up to Hatfield and just coming out there with the children you know. Of course it wasn’t so busy as now. And the children sat behind saying I wasn’t driving right. [laugh]. Well as we went along I said ‘If you’re not quiet I shall stop and you can get out and walk home.’ [laugh]. Well, it worried me when they keep on if you’re driving and you’re alone, you see. So I said ‘Right, I’ll sell the car’. So I sold it. Sorry I did because I would have liked to have carried on. My niece bought it actually. Her father bought it for her. (Q: It’s a worry isn’t it.)
Talking about old Witham. Now you see the old Witham Gimsons, we knew them because they used to come shooting wild duck at Stock Hall. We had a lot of sort of marsh land as well (Q: Of course, yes.) and they used to come and shoot wild duck there. So we knew them very well, like that. We children didn’t go and play with them or visit them or have tea with them or anything because they were older men you see then, and neither of them got married and then Mrs Fowler she used to have that big house you know, where Barclay’s Bank is [59 Newland Street]. She used to have the whole of that. They used to have carriages and pairs in those days you know. And she used to have… She was a fairly wealthy lady but she took University students. (Q: Really?) Yes. Lord Byron at that time, Lord Byron was our vicar at Langford and he used to go there for lessons sometimes. He would say ‘I’m going to Mrs Fowlers (Q: Did he?) I just remember her having various …
Q: She took them, to teach, you mean or …?
Mrs C: That’s right to give them something in that line. I think her father, I don’t know what they were. I don’t know whether he was a Vicar or not. I don’t remember Mr Fowler, but I remember Mrs Fowler and her daughters. They were very, well, they were, what they called the gentry on those days. And even the gentry were not all that rich you know. (Q: No.) However, she died and they went to live up at Wickham Bishops the two maiden ladies. Well, I was going to tell you, mother, one day, bought some pictures, years ago she used to go to all the sales, auction sales. They did in those days you know. They didn’t go to shops and buy all new stuff like the children do today. Because they’d go to the auction and know that the people who were selling things were pretty good because they wanted a change, and these others couldn’t always afford it. (Q: Quite.) So, I’ve seen mother come home with a dining room set. Well, she didn’t bring it but another man that brought it. And she’d say ‘I’ve changed the dining room set this morning.’ [laugh]. Well, it was too. Anyhow she went one day and I don’t know which sale it was. Must have been around here somewhere, and she bought, sometimes a basket of rubbish you’d get don’t you. Anyway she bought this basket and when she came home she’d got two, yes, she had bid for these, must have done. These two oil paintings of men. Well, she didn’t take much notice, just said she liked them and she put them up and I think she gave seven and sixpence for them. A lot in those days. And she hung them up in the dining room and we used to get used to them, they just suited our dining room because we always had darkish paper. (Q: Quite.) And with a lot of children you don’t want white do you ? And anyway they hung up there for years, to me years. I was going to school I was going to this little Langford school and one day, it was while I was in business then, one day a lady walked in, Mrs Fowler. She said ‘Oh, Mrs Grout’, mother knew her as Mrs Fowler, ‘Oh Mrs Grout, she said, you’ve got my brothers on the wall.’ (Q: Strange.) Mother said ‘Your brothers ? Well I didn’t know that,’ she said, ‘you must have them.’ ‘Oh no’ Mrs Fowler said, ‘I couldn’t possibly take those, but they are my brothers’. So I think she spoke to her son about this, because her husband had died and he said he’d call and look at them. So he called and looked at them and said ‘Oh yes they were his uncles’. So she said you really must have them. They belonged to the family. He said Mrs Grout I’ll give you a hundred pounds for them.’ ‘Oh’, she said ‘No, I couldn’t possibly take that.’ (Q: A lot of money.) Anyway she did take it. ‘Oh please do’. But now, I think they’re in the Academy as far as I know. Because they were Lawrence’s paintings, they were both Lawrence’s paintings, I think they were Lawrences. Anyway they were worth a good bit and they’ve had them done up.
Well after that I don’t know where they went. Ronald [Pitchforth] I mean Helen’s husband was trying to trace them for me for me to see again. We did trace as far as the nephew I think and then I was supposed to go to Hastings and we’d arranged to go and Ronald to take me (Q: I see.) and of course he [RP] died and so I wasn’t able to go there and we dropped the thing altogether, I think Helen and I anyway. Because she [???] start chasing around.
Q: Busy isn’t she. So this was the Pattissons ? (Mrs C: Yes, they were Pattissons.) Because she did say there were somebody at Tollesbury is it?
Mrs C: That’s right, the one we went to see, I think that was the nephew, yes. He was a bit of an invalid really, but they were very nice people.
Q: He didn’t know very much about the paintings ?
Mrs C: No, he didn’t but he thought he knew who they were. (Q: I see.) That’s how, possibly, I think he paid Mr Hastings [???] And I don’t know if that’s Pattissons, I think it is, that is Hastings, but it’s interesting to know if they are still around. And I would love to say ‘Oh well I recognise those’ yes, because I’d recognise them anywhere.
Q: I think I’ve seen a little photograph in a magazine and perhaps he showed you, did he? I’ve see a little photograph – is that the two little boys and a donkey. (Mrs C: That’s right – ah.) Or is that something different ?
Mrs C: No that one was taken when they were at Ulting vicarage, the Miss Fowlers and their brother. (Q: Oh I see.) Oh I see. They’re, that would be their uncles, the two boys on the picture. I think I [???] that because that was in … Oh I went to Miss Fowler’s sale (Q: I see.) and that was in one of the baskets. (Q: Oh was it?) I think it was done by Miss Fowler.
Q: That was a different one then. That was a painting of Mrs Fowler and her children that you got. But the one that was on the wall was the two boys.
Mrs C: Yes, that’s right, her brothers. Mrs Fowler’s brothers and they were in those loose scarves and coloured ties and little velvet bits. They only came to there, only had the heads you see. But they were fairly big. I suppose nearly as big as that you see. So we missed them on the wall of course. But mother went once and got another one but I don’t remember what became of that one.
Q: So were there any other Pattissons in Witham when you remember it?
[Bell rings, chat not noted]
Mrs C: You see I kept house for a long long time. When I lived over there at number 55 Collingwood Road, for how many years. Well, one day I wasn’t very well, and Dr Benjamin said ‘I think if I were you I’d get a bungalow’. And I bought that bungalow when it was going so I was there, let me see, I was down in the Valley ‘46 I think and then after Walter died I came out, ‘53 I think I was over here ‘53 to, well I have been here 13 years. Doesn’t seem like that.
[chat about having lodgers, not noted]
Q: Did you ever work for yourself again? You know you started in the shops.
Mrs C: No, I didn’t take any more on no. I felt that my responsibilities till Margaret got married you see. But then, oh I took, when we went to Hatfield Peverel I couldn’t stop. (Q: No.) You see there was a War on (Q: Yes, of course.) I was collecting for the prisoners of war. I was on a bicycle. I went miles round with that. I was on the Red Cross and I was on the WVS. So when I got to Hatfield Peverel I had no time to draw money, we just did it for love of the country. Oh we had some wonderful, terrible times in the War.
[Chat with Mark her grandson, about food etc., not noted]
Q: I was at college doing a history course (Mrs C: Oh yes.) and I decided to write something, I had to write something from talking to people about it and I decided to do something about the shops in Witham, and Mr Ager that used to work at the butchers when he was a little boy apparently, at Goodchild’s (Mrs C: that’s right he did.) and he mentioned your sister was it ?
Mrs C: Yes, Mrs Goodchild and my sister used to work with her, my youngest sister, Hilda.
Q: I see. And you used to come and see her did you?
Mrs C: Oh yes, we used to come once a week anyway.
Q: Because that sounded a big concern ?
Mrs C: It wasn’t then, well it was really because they had this slaughterhouse at the back you see. They used to do all their killing at the back there. (Q: Mmm.) And they used to have a nice garden too.
Q: So what did your sister do in the shop ?
Mrs C: Oh she kept the books. The youngest one. His wife didn’t. (Q: I see.) She couldn’t keep the books at all, because she’d got something wrong with her hand so she couldn’t do that. But she belonged to everything, you know, the Conservatives and anything that was going. She was busy doing those sort of things. She was a good cook. (Q: Was she?)
Q: Did they have any family ? (Mrs C: Two.) Did they help in the shop ?
Mrs C: No, no. The two boys went to, well Fred, he’s the youngest, he’s still alive of course, Tom isn’t. Fred went to Colchester Grammar School and Tom went to Maldon Grammar School. But Tom no, he used to do catering, he did (Q: I see yes.) but Fred was in Courtauld’s in their chemistry department. (Q: I know, in the lab.)
Q: So what about Mr Goodchild ? Where did he come from ? Was he a Witham …?
Mrs C: No, he was from Clare, Suffolk. Well known in Suffolk the Goodchilds. Well they are now, there’s a lot, there’s several of them. I think all his brothers are dead now, but he had some children but they’re not in Suffolk. They went away from in Suffolk.
Q: So did she meet him after he’d set up the business or …?
Mrs C: Yes, well, as a matter of fact he took over partnership I think, or his brothers bought the business, partnership, from Barwell, the Barwells, Bob Barwell. Now we used to have his photograph up in the dining room too. Well father used to send all his things there to kill from the market. You see, in those days, my father wasn’t only just a farmer, he was a dealer in cattle, all cattle you see. He’d buy so many sheep, have them home, feed them and that, and then the butcher would come and look at them and buy them. Just the same with the bullocks. They were in the yard and the butcher would come round and pick out the bullocks he wanted and they’d drive them to Witham and they were killed there. (Q: Of course yes.) So we’ve been spoiled by having the best of meat all the time round here.
Q: And so you knew the Barwells ?
Mrs C: Oh yes, the two Miss Barwells lived opposite afterwards. He married a Barwell, first, Mr Goodchild (Q: Oh I see.) and she died in childbirth, Edith. And the other two lived opposite in that house that, I think that’s gone, it’s a shop now. Of course. Right opposite, the little shop that was Lovedays, then Loveday’s bought it. So they lived opposite for a time and then they went to live in two little cottages in Guithavon Road [Street] which are taken down now for the car park. (Q: Yes, I remember them, yes.) You remember those? Well they lived there. They died there. There’s one Mrs Barwell, I think she’s alive, lives at Maldon. (Q: Really ?) I think he was a nephew. (Q: I see.)
Q: Well the Barwells go back nearly three hundred years I think in Witham.
Mrs C: That’s right so they do. They’ve been there a long time. Then I knew the Laurences. I knew Mr Laurence and his, well to know them, we knew them because, when you’re about you always know the people that were in the houses in those days and you, if you met him, you knew it was Mr Laurence. He used to live at the, well that’s taken down now, its made into, where the Council Offices are, (Q: I know, The Grove.) that’s right. He lived up The Grove and Miss Laurence, the two of them. And they did quite a lot in the village years ago in those days. (Q: Quite.) Then the Miss Luards. I knew Admiral Luard. He had a long grey beard and they did a lot of good in the village. They didn’t work for money in those days you know. No.
[Interruption – and background discussion re electricity, Margaret Thatcher, etc., not noted]
Q: I suppose you have got lots of nephews with all those sisters have you ?
Mrs C: Well Mrs Goodchild had two, my sister Hilda had three, that’s one of the boys, she had John, yes three. My sister Connie had three, so none of them had, oh my brother had about ten. My eldest brother and they’re all getting on. Some of them died, one or two of them. And an other brother had one. Three brothers, two brothers didn’t get married. Another one got married but he didn’t have any, so there’s not a lot. And the Grouts, there’s only, of course, there’s a lot of Grouts, I believe, about. But we don’t know them. (Q: I see.) You see I think, we’re supposed to have come over this, the William of Orange, the Armada. (Q: Oh really ?) Well that’s what one of my nieces has been dating back. (Q: Worked on it.) So I don’t know, I didn’t know only one Grandma and that was my mother’s mother, but father’s mother and father I didn’t know. They died early. So I did try to find out her maiden name but I think they came from Norfolk or somewhere down there. Not too far away.
Q: What was her name ?
Mrs C: We don’t know. (Q: You don’t know even that ?) She married a Grout you see, but we don’t know her name. One of my aunts married a Goodchild and they came from Yeldham, down that way.
Q: So when, going back to the butchers, when your father wanted meat ?
Mrs C: He got it from there always. (Q: He didn’t do any slaughtering himself ?) Oh, no no. It was sold through the butchers, everybody had it, and father used to patronise I’d say, the butcher. (Q: Mmm.) He didn’t get any off I might tell you ! (Q: No ?) He wouldn’t accept it. (Q: I see.) Oh no, business is business with him always. (Q: Do you think he could have had it off if he …?) Oh, I think my brother-in-law might have done but he wouldn’t, oh no. Father often helped him out. (Q: Did he ?) He’d say ‘There’s a piece there you want to get rid of, I’ll take it’. Because I don’t think he was a very smart business man my brother-in-law, Goodchild. No. Father didn’t think he was anyway. My father was a very good business man. And he brought up all those children and he brought his brother’s children up as well because his brother got killed. He got killed just at the station here. (Q: Really ?) He was in high dog trap and they’d got a lovely black mare, I think they said, driving and she shied round that corner. (Q: Oh dear.) Threw him right over and killed him, broke his neck.
Q: Oh goodness. So how many children did he have ?
Mrs C: Oh, he had nine I think. Yes I think he had nine. They’re all gone now. I think there’s one, Sonny, he’s father’s, let me see, Emma, that’s his niece, niece’s son. He’s alive. But that’s about the only one that we know of anyway in the Grout line.
Q: As you say your father had a lot to manage ?
Mrs C: Yes, he promised his brother he would see them through. Which he did till they’d all got jobs and left school and got out. And when my father died he never owed a penny. And he had a bill come in.
Q: Did he keep the accounts ?
Mrs C: Well they didn’t. In those days you farmed and took the money and spent it on the farm. You didn’t have to account for anything.
Q: So he didn’t really write it down or anything ?
Mrs C: Nothing at all, not any of them. Not any of them. (Q: Goodness !) We never saw any accounts about at all until nineteen …, I didn’t when I was first married. But afterwards, when that came, then it came in very fierce, that you had to account for every acre. (Q: Quite.) That’s what makes farming very difficult today. If they only let the farmer go on as he used to go, the world would be much better off. (Q: Mm.) But you see, they tell the farmer what they want grown, and then they don’t know what the soil is. The farmer knows what he can grow on his own farm much better than a man coming along and telling him he’s got to put it on there. (Q: Quite.) We had some very lean years for five years after I was married. (Q: Really ?) Very lean years. Couldn’t sell potatoes. No we had a clamp of potatoes and there was a hundred ton I think and we couldn’t sell one. And they’d all been clamped, and the cost of that. All been clamped. Mind you the men didn’t get paid so much as they do today, of course. Well they couldn’t and one day some man came and said he’d buy them to feed his pigs. And he had ten shillings a ton for them. (Q: Oh dear.) People wouldn’t believe that today, that’s in my time. I mean that’s fifty years ago.
Q: That was 1930ish ?
Mrs C: About that, something like that but we were shocked you know, because they were good potatoes. They were King Edwards. And that was a shock. And not only that. There was other things you couldn’t get rid of. Well they were overdone somewhere you see. I don’t know what happened I’m sure. I forget. But I remember that clamp and I remember the man that came and bought it. He died very wealthy I might tell you in the end! Well he would wouldn’t he, they had to live off others.
Q: So did you help at all. Did you help with the business side of it all, you had enough to do I suppose, when you were married ?
Mrs C: Well, he couldn’t because he’d got the seed warehouse you know. He had to go in there every day at nine. (Q: Did he really?) Oh yes he drove in there every day at nine. And this was the farming to help the seed, he grew the seed on there you see. Sometimes you grew the seed, sometimes you grew a crop to sell straight away. (Q: Yes.) Same as peas and that sort of thing. They didn’t always grow them for seed.
Q: So how did the seed warehouse come to be set up [Cullen’s]?
Mrs C: Well, the first, my husband and his brothers all helped their father, except one, the eldest one. He couldn’t agree with that, so he went to town. So he used to go to the, oh what is it you call it, the Corn Exchange. (Q: I see.) He used to go to the Corn Exchange every day that one, the eldest one. To see how things were going. That’s why he got on very much better than the others and he didn’t get married either. That’s the one that kept Cressing Temple [probably Frank] (Q: I see.) but he had different … You know he moved around in different farms before he got to Cressing Temple. Well he stayed at home, of course he didn’t go to the War and Dick was married so he couldn’t go to War. Leonard was married but he did go and Frank didn’t go of course. My husband went for three years. He came, of course they were all bits of wrecks you know when they came back because they had a lot to put up with you know, right up in the front line all the time. And he was in a big van thing, my husband was you know, drive up to the front. However, he wasn’t the only one but he came back safe and my youngest brother came back safe. Well they all came back except one. My brothers. But when the warehouse started, well all these boys, when they were young, they lived at Rose Cottage. That’s where Robert Brice lives now. (Q: Oh, I think I know, yes.) Braxted.
And they started, first of all, this is how my husband told me the tale. First of all his father and mother were Somerset people I think. They got married and he was in the business down in Somerset. In a business, working for someone else. Then I think he saw this advert that Cooper Taber’s wanted someone up. And he came up to interview and Cooper Taber took him on as a manager. Well, then he was married, and he’d got this little, oh his wife was expecting a baby, and they came up to the East End of London and he took a flat I suppose and Frank was born up there. He always says he was born a Londoner. [laughter] Well eventually, I don’t know how long they stayed but eventually the doctors told, when Frank was born and that, that the London area didn’t suit him. That he, she should move somewhere else. So they came and I don’t know where, they started first, all I remember is Tom said he came down here and he was born here I think and he was in petticoats when they were in Rose Cottage, you know, boys, children used to wear petticoats years ago. And he said he used to go and pick up the mushrooms in his petticoats, bring them in. You can imagine can’t you. So they came down to Rose Cottage and they were at Rose Cottage a long time. I don’t know whether they ever went anywhere else. The next thing they used to go to Bramstons [16 Chipping Hill]. They lived up there. Well, while they were at Rose Cottage, they must have been there a good many years, Mr Cullen had a difference with Mr Cooper Taber. Well Mr Taber said, one day, to him ‘Tom I’m going to make this a limited company’. (Q: Mmm.) And it appears that Mr Cullen said ‘Not while I’m with you.’ So old Taber would do that you see. He would go against … So he said ‘If you do that I must get out.’ (Q: I see.) So he did and they started growing seed in this big garden that belonged to wherever they were, or getting someone else to, because he was quite a business man Mr Cullen, and these boys used to do those penny packets up in seeds you see, and sell them on the market. Used to have a stall, like you do on other things you see, and sell them as penny packets of seeds until they got on. And as he got on they moved to Bramstons after a time, I think, and I forget, and he’s built that place up there, not with their own hands, but gradually.
Q: Very enterprising wasn’t he ?
Mrs C: Very, very enterprising so, of course, so was Frank and so were the boys. Because they all helped you see. So they’d all got their money in their business up there you see. That was theirs. And its all gone now you see. (Q: Has it ?) I don’t know what poor old grandfather would say if he were alive today. He didn’t want that ever to go you know. Well then my … Of course when my son died it was a terrible shock for us and them too. (Q: Mmm.) Because Frank said he would have been a director like his father had. In there. And he’d got the facilities, he’d got his brain and everybody liked him. He went round before he went in the Air Force. He went round with them, you see. Well the men that met him said he was a splendid chap and they all liked him. (Q: Yes.) And he might have been a very good business man. It wasn’t to be, so perhaps it was for the best, nobody knows. Of course, this other one, Anthony, you know what’s taken it over, Tony, Frank made a sort of half adopted him when he lost his father. His father died and his brother got killed during the War. So he took Tony under his wing. My husband didn’t like it because he didn’t think that was quite the right thing, unless he started from the bottom (Q: Worked his way up.) My son did start at the bottom but his father wasn’t alive then. My husband, but then Tony was a black shirt for a little while. (Q: Mmm.) And his uncle said ‘If you don’t get out of that you can’t be in this business.’ So he bought him a commission in, I forget what it was, the Engineers or something. Anyway, in the last War. So he went out there but he was a prisoner of war for three years, and so was Tom actually, that was another Cullen, they lived at Clark’s Farm. Well his father died, his mother and father died after the War and he’s a surgeon he is, a gynaecologist, specialist. He lives at Northampton, Kettering rather. But he was a prisoner of War for three years. So they didn’t fire any shots, either of them. I can quite understand Tony give it up in a minute. But Tom wouldn’t have given up but you see the men he was with, he went out as a doctor, because he was a doctor before he went and he was doctor for the people he was in, the Regiment and they were all sick with, diarrhoea or something like that. They were all ill, sick, you see, and he wouldn’t leave them. (Q: I see.) They told him to leave them but he wouldn’t leave them, so he was taken prisoner with them you see. (Q: Yes.) So that’s how it was he came to … Anyhow he came home safely, and business, you see Tony had the business left him. I thought we would, as my husband was a director, he was a director in the business you see. Well, he was. I said to Frank, as Tom was a director, I’m a director’s wife why not accept me as a director. He wouldn’t. (Q: Wouldn’t he ?) He said ‘Oh we haven’t any ladies in it !’ I said ‘Well its always a beginning.’ (Q: Quite.) He wouldn’t accept it. So the money, he took the money out and invested it in there, so we only had the interest at the time you see and then we had to take it out when he died. That’s how it was we weren’t in the business afterwards. There’s several of us you know that had invested in that. So you never know what’s going to happen.
Q: Yes, because you could have managed that couldn’t you ?
Mrs C: Quite well, I mean to say now they paid out. He’s made it a limited company and no doubt it’s much better, I don’t know, unless he’s sold the[?] lot. I don’t think they can sell that warehouse, I don’t know.
Q: I see, yes. It’s still got the name hasn’t it ?
Mrs C: Oh yes he’s still got the name there. As I say he’s got a bit of interest in if you ask me. You see then he’s got Cressing Temple. (Q: Yes.)
Q: But when you were first married you didn’t really come, it was your husband came to the business ?
Mrs C: Oh yes every day. (Q: You didn’t come much then did you?) Oh I used to go only to the house. I used to go to Mrs Cullen’s. I was often there. I think the old chap he liked me very much. Liked to see me. When I was introduced to him, you see we were married very quietly. In fact my mother and father didn’t know I was getting married that morning and neither did his father, his mother was dead. And my brother knew, I got him out of bed. I said ‘Come on I want you this morning.’ He said ‘What for ?’ I said ‘I want you to come and sign the register for me.’ He said ‘Where? What are you going to do ?’ [laughter] I said ‘I’m going to marry Tom this morning.’ ‘No !’ I said ‘I am, come on, catch that train.’ So he caught the train and came in. Tom went back to his office in the car. I was on my bicycle and went home to tell mother. So when he got back to the office his father said ‘Well (he used to call him mate), well mate, I thought you’d do it that way’, or something. Anyway. Then when Tom took me and introduced me to him you know, I hadn’t met the old chap, no and he said ‘Oh, another flower in the family.’ That’s how he met me. My name’s Violet you see (Q: Of course. [laugh]). So that was a nice greeting. And he always wanted me to go and see them. He always used to say ‘Tom, bring you and me and the children’ or if the children were at school, have a cup of tea. And I met his aunt, Tom’s aunt, Mr Cullen’s sister, she lived at Somerset and she was delighted to see me and then she came and stayed with me for a day or two. So I knew the old people very well and Maudie of course, she kept house for the father as well. They were a very nice family.
Q: It’s a nice place that house, isn’t it.
Mrs C: Bramstons is a nice place. It’s, of course people say its old fashioned now because there’s ups and downs, but it was a very nice house inside and they used to have stables and now they’ve built a house there. (Q: That’s right, yes.) Where do you live ?
[chat about Chalks Road and St Nichols Road and Walfords who live there, not noted.]
Mrs C: Oh yes, the shops have altered a lot, because where Holt is. (Q: Yes, near the chapel) that used to be a confectioners, no we used to go in there for a coffee. [88 Newland Street?] (Q: Mmm.) I think that’s the one. And the next one was a china shop, a big china shop. (Q: Was it, I didn’t know that.)
Q: I thought it was strange you said your father did the shopping ?
Mrs C: My father used to do the shopping in 19’, they died in 1926 when Anne was born. He used to all the shopping. Well that’s Mr Spurge’s at the corner [42 Newland Street]. That used to be a big shop, grocers and drapers. (Q: Uhuh.) Up to, there was a corn chandler’s there, run by Brown. Well then, further on there was the butcher’s and next to there was the confectioner’s Pratts and then a little further on and up the steps at the corner there, where the telephone kiosk is, the corner, we used to go there. Green used to live there, (Q: Oh I see.) the chemists [64 Newland Street].
Q: And so your father used to go round and collect all the stuff and take it ?
Mrs C: Spurge’s used to send it. Always send it, you never carried anything. Always send it.
Q: If you wanted something from the chemist’s for instance ?
Mrs C: Well, we used to go to the chemist, Green’s, then there was one, Mottashead, this corner, Collingwood Road, but that was later on. Green’s was the chemist in father’s days.
Q: So he would do the shopping in Spurge’s as well, would he ?
Mrs C: Oh yes, he’d go and leave the order, and he’d taste the butter and he’d taste the cheese [laughter]. And if he didn’t like it he didn’t have it. But he liked the Danish butter in those days (Q: Yes.) They used to cut it by the pound in those days. It wasn’t packed you know. Half-a-crown a pound, beautiful butter and Derby cheese, always. Derbyshire.
Q: So that would be sent as well would it?
Mrs C: All packed and sent over to the White Hart. (Q: I see.) See, put in the, oh yes, a four wheeler. (Q: So you’d go there for the day sort of ?) For the week, oh yes. You didn’t go to shop every day. (Q: No.) Oh dear no.
Q: No, but you stayed for, the four wheeler was in the White Hart all day ?
Mrs C: Oh yes, shopping, and they’d put it in. That’s right. They knew the cart and they used to put it in. (Q: Oh I see.) You didn’t stay for the day – no we used to go in, father used to say he was ready at ten o’clock and we used to go home about twelve. (Q: I see – and that was the week’s shopping ?) Oh yes, always a week, a week joint[?] pretty well. So you can imagine we had a lovely big piece of beef. [laughter] (Q: You’d need it, wouldn’t you.) And he always gave beef Christmas time to all his men. (Q: Oh lovely.)
Q: So when you say that these other people were about like the Laurences and Mrs Fowler, they were the gentry sort of (Mrs C: Yes.) I mean would your father reckon he was gentry or he was still …?
Mrs C: Oh [???] raise his hat and like that. He was a humble man, my father, but he need not have been. Everybody had the greatest respect for him. (Q: Yes.) I remember some man, a dealer came from Wales I think. Because he used to deal with Wales too, used to go up to Wales to buy sheep, oh yes. Oh yes. And they used to send them down by train. (Q: Yes.) And you met them off the train and drove them home in those days. I remember that. And this man was going to meet him and he didn’t quite, I think he didn’t quite remember what he was like. (Q: Mmm.) And he got out at Chelmsford and he went to the market, this man, and he said to somebody ‘Do you know Walter Grout ?’ And they said ‘Did they know Walter Grout.’ ‘cos he was always there, ‘Yes.’ they said. ‘Well’, he said ‘what am I to look for?’ ‘The cleanest man’s boots in the market’. And that’s how I suppose he found him. Anyroad that’s what he laughed and said. You see they used to joke each other of course. I expect they pulled the leg. He’d say ‘Well Walter they told me I was to look for the cleanest boots in the market’. For he never cleaned his boots in his life. Always had a man, we never cleaned boots. The children weren’t allowed to clean their boots (Q: No.) We always had a man to clean boots. Clean the shoes, clean the knives, get the sticks in for the scullery or the kitchen whatever fires. So you see they were brought up luxuriously to what they are today. (Q: Yes.) You’ve got to do it yourself today haven’t you? (Q: Yes.) I said I didn’t care. I didn’t clean a pair of boots till I was here and had to. No. There was always a man at The Elms you see we always had a man in the garden who did the car, the garden and anything wanted in the house. He used to go and dig up the potatoes and bring them in and that sort of thing. The handyman we used to call him a lot of people would say the gardener, well he was a handyman, he did the garden.
Q: And this was when you were a child ?
Mrs C: No, this was when I was married and when I was a child we always had a handyman. (Q: Yes.) We never touched the garden in those days. Never put a fork in. Always a man came to do the garden and he did the handywork. (Q: What about the housework and so on ?) Well he used to come and shake the mats. We did the other parts. (Q: Did you?) Spring cleaning and that sort of thing. We sometimes had one of the women, one of the horsemen’s wives, would come and help us and they’d come and help us if we had a big dinner party for the shoot. (Q: Yes.) We always did our own shooting and it never cost the people a penny. (Q: Really ?) Guns were free. It was your day, your friends’ day, and you had what they shot. Of course they had some to take home with them. Our table was wonderful. For luncheon we always had, nearly always had cold luncheon. Oh yes. ….
Q: What did your mother do in the house ? Did she …?
Mrs C: Well, after fifty I don’t think she did anything. (Q: I think she’d done enough.) She’d got the family at home to do it. But before then I expect she did. She did all sorts of things. She looked around to see that somebody else did it anyway.
Q: So she had to have staff really to …?
Mrs C: Well, we always, if we did spring cleaning, some of the women on the farm would come in and give us a day.
Q: But otherwise you would do the cleaning ? (Q: Oh yes.) You didn’t have servants to do that ?
Mrs C: No mother used to clean, wash the glasses up. I can see her. She wouldn’t let anyone handle the glasses and the silver. Whatever there was. There wasn’t a lot in those days I might tell you, but she used to do it. Of course the silver then in those days was A1, what we call A1 now. People don’t, have the solid silver those days. And she you see having a lot of children and that and before then people hadn’t got the money to invest in a lot of these things to pass on. Had they. But we were happy. We were all happy. We had a wonderful childhood. (Q: Yes.) We look back and see. They were very good Church people. Always did their job every Sunday. (Q: Yes.) Went to church three times every time. When I was a little girl I used to go to Sunday School with my sisters, Sunday School at ten, from ten to eleven Sunday School, eleven o’clock we went into Church, met mother in there. We sat in the pews. Mother would have us with her in Church. Most of the children, well, their mothers didn’t go, they sat together. Sunday afternoon if there was a service we had to go. Sunday evening, father and mother, mother didn’t always go in the evening, father went in the evening. You know. They weren’t all that strict but they would have Sunday recognised. (Q: Yes.) He wouldn’t let the man come and put the pony in on Sundays. That was his day off and he’s got to have it. You could, if you want it, you put it in yourself. Of course we knew how to put the pony in. Mother wanted, eventually mother had to be driven down to the church and she went till she was taken ill. She was about seventy-five when she died. Father was eighty-six. They both died together, both buried together (Q: At Langford?) Mm. They went down on the wagon. (Q: Yes.) The men drew the wagon. They didn’t have a pair of horses. (Q: No.) They brought the wagon from the top to the …
[tape runs out: went on to say men drew it for a mile.}