Tape 064. Mrs Gladys Baker (nee Brewster), sides 1 and 2

Tape 64

Mrs Gladys Baker, nee Brewster, was born in about 1897. She was interviewed on 14 February 1983, when she lived at 29 The Avenue.

She also appears on tape 17.

For more information about her, see the notes on Baker, Mrs Gladys, nee Brewster in the People category

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

Mrs B:    I’m not the worrying sort. You know some people worry about anything and everything, don’t they? Worry because they think they’re going to be ill, but (Q: You can’t do much about it.) What’s the good of worrying, I mean what is to be will be. That’s how I look at it. I know people can’t help it, can they? (Q: No, it’s the way you’re made isn’t it.) Yes. You see some people worry about it. My people didn’t worry a lot because, well, I suppose they had no need to. (Q: No.) I think if you’ve got good health there’s no need to worry is there?

Q:    No, I just thought, well you’ve probably got a lot of things you can tell me but one thing I thought specially when I was talking about shops to people, (Mrs B: Mm.) there’s a lot of things like, well, like dressmakers and the blacksmiths and sort of where they made things, which were almost like shops, like your father’s …..(Mrs B: Oh yes.) Well I thought I haven’t really got room to put them in there, I might do something else about it.

Mrs B:    Well, you see, we lived at, you know where the wine place is down Maldon Road? [25 Maldon Road] (Q: Yes.) Well that’s where it was. (Q: I see.) Wine shop, [???] ‘cause I thought I’d like to go and have a look at it and oh, my word, they’ve all uncovered all the old beams, (Q: Really?) heaps and heaps of beams. Lovely old place. I didn’t realise when we lived there. I know there were some beams but they’ve uncovered the whole lot all down by the walls and everything all uncovered. (Q: Really?) Years ago we used to, the harness shop used to be on the other side of the road. (Q: Oh really ?) Yes, you know where the bag shop is, do you know where they sell bags? [4 Maldon Road] (Q: Yes, I know where you mean.) Whatever’s the name. Well that’s where it used to be. That shop where the bag shop is used to be a sweet shop and a barber’s shop. And then our shop used to be next door. Of course that’s all pulled down and then the other side of our shop used to be two cottages. Well of course, they’re all pulled down now.

Q:    Oh, I see. That was on other the side going down towards Maldon, going away from Witham ? (Mrs B: Pardon?) When you say it was next to the bag shop, that’s going away from Witham?

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s right. (Q: Because there’s nothing there now is there). The other side there’s nothing there now. And then there’s that Eagle yard what they call the Eagle yard, where you can come through. (Q: Yes.) Well that big house always used to be there. There’s a very big house isn’t there, next to it [20 Maldon Road]. Then of course it was all cottages after that. And cottages opposite the house, old shop years ago, but of course, everything’s all gone. It has altered. Of course us older people, [laugh] I mean, we can see such a difference. (Q: Yes.) Its not so nice you know. (Q: No?)

Q:    Well, someone was asking me the other day whether it was nicer or not. I said well, for some people it is and for some it isn’t, you know.

Mrs B:    Well, I think what it is you see, I prefer a smaller place. (Q: Yes.) you see now this has grown so tremendous. I mean years ago it used to be so beautiful, I mean we used to have the hounds used to meet here at the White Hart hotel you know there. When we were children we used to run up to see the Meet there. You know there’s all those sort of things but you see all those sort of things have died out now. (Q: Yes.) Well they just couldn’t have them because I mean the traffic and things. But I prefer a smaller (Q: Mm.) but of course people must have houses to live in mustn’t they? (Q: Yes.)

Q:    When you were born was it …?

Mrs B:    I was born next to the bag shop. (Q: Oh down there?) That side, yes and, of course, the harness shop, my father’s father was there then. He used to keep an apprentice as well, ‘cause there was three of them then, yes, years ago and of course there’s nothing now is there. And then …

Q:    So what did they used to ? Was it all horses ?

Mrs B:    Yes, all horses, yes, all horses, he was repairing harnesses and I can see the horses used to have collars round their necks, you know they? (Q: Yes.) And can see all these collars, I think I’ve a photograph of that, the old shop, at my niece. [Didn’t get the photo from Mrs B, but later from someone else entirely, it’s my number M515]. I’ve only got one niece, its all I possess. I think.

[5 minutes]

I always go [???] at Christmas time up in Derbyshire, and she’s got a lovely photograph, of course I dare not ask her for it, lovely photograph of the old shop and all the collars standing outside, you know the horses’ collars and my father and his father and the apprentice. And they’re all standing outside, but I daren’t ask, she wouldn’t give it to me. [laugh] Where she got it from I just don’t know. [???] But there’s so [???]so much [???]  the horses years ago, I mean very few motor cars. Well I remember, I don’t remember many motor cars. (Q: No.) I mean that’s years ago when they first started.

Q:    Can you remember when they started ? (Mrs B: Pardon?) Can you remember them starting?

Mrs B:    No, I can’t remember, it’s years ago, I mean the first two or three motor cars, but then of course you see, well everything is mechanised on the land now, they don’t want saddlers. I think there’s one at Braintree is there, a saddler, I’m not sure.

Q:    I suppose people still want them just for riding don’t they? (Mrs B: Yes.) But not so much.

Mrs B:    Yes, well that’s what we used to do, because you see, over here used to be the riding school and my father used to do the work. (Q: Oh did he? It was there that long ago?) Yes, for the riding school you know, getting the rugs for the horses and I suppose he went over and she took him over there Miss Osborne and showed him the stables and things and I think they were like palaces. (Q: Really?) They were so nice, beautifully kept, but of course, we didn’t like it much when we knew these houses [The Paddocks} were coming but at the same time, they’re too far away, I mean they don’t affect us, I mean, when the leaves are on the trees you don’t see them at all. Have you been through there? Its quite a nice…

Q:    Yes I just went down once …

Mrs B:    You come out into the Collingwood Road. Of course they’re very close together that’s the only thing but I should think they’re quite nice inside. (Q: It’s a nice and handy place.) Yes, I think they’re quite nice.

Q:    So the riding school was there quite some time ago was it ?

Mrs B:    Oh some years ago, yes. Then they’re up at Wickham now, Wickham Bishops, Miss Osborne is. They’ve got a marvellous place up there and a lot of horses, more so that what they kept down here, ‘cause it’s a bigger concern. Yes Witham used to be, of course they haven’t spoilt the structure of it, have they. I mean like, the Library and all that. [18 Newland Street] I mean I remember that when it was a boys’ school. (Q: Really?) And that’s a good many years ago. I can’t tell you how long it is. [laugh] But it used to be, I remember it being a boys’ school. Before it was the old cinema. Yes, before it was the old cinema. Well they’ve kept the structure of that exactly as it was, which is much nicer. I’m so pleased. I used to stand and look at that nice doorway and hope that they weren’t going to alter that, because I think its such a shame to keep losing all the old things. I know people don’t like old things, they think … A lot of people don’t like old things, they like modern things don’t they? (Q: Mmm.) I’m afraid I don’t think older people like modern things so well, and when you’re in the High Street itself I mean it’s not altered at all. (Q: No.) I mean the shops are still there we used to. Bonfire Night we used to have a huge fire there. (Q: Really?) Bonfire, yes, near Martins you know, the corner of Guithavon Street there [70 Newland Street]. Used to have a huge bonfire there.

Q:    Really, who ran that then ?

Mrs B:    Well some of the doctors ran it. They were proper little devils, yes, the Gimsons, they used to get barrels of tar and one thing and another and people used to put, I’ve heard my mother say, I don’t remember that, but I heard my Mother say that people used to take their props[?] and things in, because they used to go round and take the props and throw them on the fire. [laugh]. But I remember the fires, very well. I see now they are talking about having stalls there now.

Q:    There wasn’t a market there at all then? There wasn’t a market in the High Street ?

[10 minutes]

Mrs B:    No, there’s never been a market in the High Street to my knowledge. But of course there’s one in the Maldon Road which I don’t know anything about, I’ve never been. But in the High Street, no, I’ve never seen one. Of course, where the [Newlands] Precinct is, was all shops years ago, private shops, years ago. I mean, on the corner of Collingwood Road there used to be, my uncle kept that and that was a cycle shop. (Q: Really?) He sold bicycles and one thing and another and that was years ago. Now that’s all altered and that’s an electrical shop now [38 Newland Street].

Q:    That was your uncle was it ? (Mrs B: Yes.) What was his name ?

Mrs B:    Glover. Mr Glover. Yes, three Glovers married three Brewsters. Three sisters married three brothers. (Q: Really !) [Laugh]. You hear of two but you don’t often hear of three do you? (Q: No, isn’t that strange.) And there’s not one alive now, they’ve all gone. Of course their daughters and that I keep in touch with them but their fathers and mothers have all passed away. That was that generation you see wasn’t it. Well don’t expect you know there’s many left of my generation now.

Q:    Well, not really no. Am I allowed to ask you how old you are ?

Mrs B:    [laugh] Well, yes, people know I’m 85.

Q:     You keep, young don’t you?

Mrs B:    They won’t believe it, they wouldn’t believe it at the hospital. The nurse there said I’ve made a mistake. They still think I’ve made a mistake when I go over to have my check up. The sister called my name last time when I had to go for a check up you see and she said ‘Mrs Baker ?’ and I got up and she said ‘Mrs Baker’ and I said ‘Yes, I’m Mrs Baker’. She looked at me, and she’d got my reports you see, and she’d got the date of my birth on the top and she said ‘Oh they’ve made a mistake in the date of your birth’. I said ‘They haven’t you know’. [???] laugh]. I’m going to be 75 in future [laugh].

Q:    [???] As you say [???] there’s a lot of people around about 80.

Mrs B:    I shouldn’t think there’s that number of people, really, not today. I do see when I go to the parish church. I see one or two people there, they bring there. Of course I walk up there. I can walk up there. But I can see one or two people there that are round about my age you know.

Q:    They probably don’t get out so much as you.

Mrs B:    No, you see I can walk around. Since I’ve had me hips done. Before I couldn’t you see because you can’t with that. But, no I get on wonderfully now with my hips done. People walking with sticks and one thing and another. [laugh]

Q:    [???] Were you here when the First War was on ? (Mrs B: Yes.) I suppose you can remember that then ? There’s not so many can remember that now.

Mrs B:    Yes, oh yes I was here at the First World War and I used to, what I had to do, what I done then I was on a bread cart delivering bread. (Q: Really?) Yes. A Mr Ardley, he used to have, you know the surgery at Gimson’s don’t you? [129 Newland Street] The one down the bottom of the town? Well you know that, there’s a shop there isn’t there, that sells wool [137 Newland Street]. Well that used to be a bakers there. And we were quite friendly with the man and he said ‘Oh dear, I wish your daughter would come and’, and he had a pony and, you know, horse and trap, and of course my father kept a horse and trap, and anyway he said ‘I wish she’d come and, I can’t get anybody’. So I went and I stayed with him all during the First World War and I think I was seventeen then or round about that. Oh yes, and do you know, I was the first one, and of course I had to have breeches you see, with jumping up and down and I was very much admired then, because there wasn’t many people you know, wore them, but you couldn’t jump up and down in a skirt and …

Q:    What did people think about that then ? What did people think about you doing that?

[15 minutes]

Mrs B:    Oh they though it was marvellous. They thought I was wonderful. Yes, rather. But then the last War I was in New Zealand. (Q: Oh really?) We went out for a holiday, I think, my husband and I and we were going for six months. We went in July that’s 1940 was it, oh ‘39, We went in July and we were going for six months, and after we got out there, of course, War broke out and so we had to stay nearly five years. So I wasn’t in the last. We came home on the first boat to sail back, we came back on and oh, we came back just as those V things, you know they call them V things come over, you know. (Q: I know what you mean.) After the doodlebugs was it? There was the V2 or whatever it was. Yes we just come home. So really I don’t know anything about the last War.

Q:    But it must have been interesting in the First World War. Were there a lot of women doing different jobs or …?

Mrs B:    Yes, well you had to do something. (Q: Did you?) Yes, really, different things, they had, well, you had what d’you call it, meals I think, some people were doing that and I think that at a certain age you had to do something. But as I say I don’t remember.

Q:    So where did you go with your bread cart then?

Mrs B:    Oh, all round Witham and right up on to the Hatfield Road. You know the Hatfield Road. Of course there wasn’t any houses, very few houses there then of course not. Right up there and round Witham, Braintree Road, and those sort of roads. Well, we used to go out about nine and finish and didn’t used to get home till about four or five in the evening, you know.

Q:    Did you have someone else driving the cart or was it just you?

Mrs B:     No, me. Well, I suppose I’d been used to horses with my father’s always kept a horse and trap, naturally. And in New Zealand we lived on a farm some of the time, and I rode horseback then. But I didn’t like it very much because I didn’t mind as long as they didn’t gallop and I was too frightened then. [laugh] I thought I should be thrown off, not being used to it.

Q:    How did you come to go to New Zealand then?

Mrs B:    Well, my husband was a builder out there years ago, and he’d been out there some time and then he retired out there and came back to England, and then he said he wished he’d…. When we first got married he said ‘Oh I wish we could go back to New Zealand, I’d like to show you the houses and different things that I built out there’. ‘Oh’, I said ‘I don’t want to go to New Zealand’. And then I thought to myself, a year or two after, it’s a funny thing I think I might as well go there you see. And of course, chose the year that, which was fortunate and yet I saw a tremendous lot of New Zealand which I shouldn’t have seen if I’d have gone for six months.

Q:    He was a builder you say ?

Mrs B:    Yes, and so of course, he’d like to show me round. He knew a lot of people in New Zealand and I got so fed up with people’s houses, and I said to him ‘Couldn’t we …’, no, I got so fed up with being in hotels. (Q: I see, yes.) And I said to him, ‘Oh, couldn’t we have a furnished house. Because there was nothing for me to do. It’s not like a few weeks you know, (Q: No, quite.) you get several years. And so afterwards we had furnished houses, bungalows because they are nearly all bungalows out there. I felt better then. You see I was worried about my mother and father here. They were living at the shop then and I said to Mrs Richards, you know Mrs Richards don’t you? Because she’s my lifelong friend, I said ‘Well, when I come home I shall send you a cable and I said, because I didn’t want my parents to know I was on the water because they worried [???] I said I shall send you a cable and I shall put Many Happy Returns and you’ll know that I’m on my way, and that’s what I did. (Q: Really?) And she was the only one that knew that I was on my way. It was 7½ weeks. (Q: Of course, War time.) And she began to worry because she thought it was a long time. But anyway we got, I thought we should get here safe. We were in convoy, I put great faith in our people. It was quite an experience. (Q: Yes.) Yes. New Zealand’s very nice but I wouldn’t like to live there.

[20 minutes]

(Q: No?) I suppose its because I’ve always lived in England all my life. (Q: It’s what you’re accustomed to.) Yes, they’re very nice people, very very, very friendly. In fact I think they spoilt me, at least my husband said they did. They seemed to make a lot of fuss of me. I think, they were sorry to think, of course I worried about my parents. Its only natural isn’t with all these things.

Q:    It often sounds worse than it is, doesn’t it ?

Mrs B:    I used to send them a food parcel every month, (Q: Yes.) which helped them along. I said well what were they short of and they said they’d like butter and I sent it to them and tinned meat and I don’t know what I didn’t send. I started to send a parcel every month so that was a great help to them.

Q:    Did they still had the shop then ? (Mrs B: Yes, they were still at the shop.) How long did they keep that up then? How long was the shop there. Was it there for some time after the War as well ?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, after I came home and then my mother died and then my father retired and then I tell you the first, it was a hairdresser’s after that. (Q: I see, yes.) Course time goes so quickly, you don’t realise do you? (Q: Mmm.) It seems to fly, well, it does to me. I have a lot of people in and out. The other week there was nine different people in the week.  Some people don’t have anybody do they? (Q: No that’s right.) I feel sorry for people who don’t have anybody because it must be very lonely. (Q: Must be if you go all day.)

Q:    I think if you stay in the same place where you were brought up, as you say, you’ve got friends from a long time.

Mrs B:    As I say they’re a lot of new friends, not old friends, ‘cause I say I haven’t got many left. But I was up in Derbyshire five weeks this time and last year I was up there three months. But I can leave it in the winter more, I leave my central heating on, but you see in the summer with a big garden you can’t leave a big garden. (Q: No.) I’ve only got one niece, only had one brother. It was unfortunate because the same year, you know Mrs [Frances] Hawkes died, she was my lifelong friend, as you know, and then I had a lifelong friend at Westcliff and she died the same year, and the same year my only brother died. (Q: Oh dear.) Yes, four years ago nearly. I still miss Mrs Hawkes, I suppose it’s because we were so close to one another all those years, children together, and everything and I still miss her.

Q:    Yes, you sort of understand each other don’t you. She was a lovely person wasn’t she, very cheerful. (Mrs B: Yes, she was.) You didn’t go to school together as I remember.

Mrs B:    Not exactly the same school but we were children together, you know don’t you and playing together and all that sort of thing. We used to love long walks. Her and I were great walkers and used to love walking. When we were children we used to run across the fields up and out from our parents in the mornings when we’d done our jobs. We used to go up there by, you know, Blue Mills, you know where Blue Mills is ? (Q: Yes.) We used to go all up there you know, then run home. Then through the fields. Of course, you can’t do that now. That’s all gone.

Q:     What jobs did you have to do ?

Mrs B:    Oh, jobs indoors I suppose. [laugh] I don’t know what we did. I expect we had something to do before we went out, I don’t remember but I expect we did.

Q:    They’d be jobs to help your mother in the house sort of ? Did you have to help your mother in the house a fair bit?

Mrs B:    Well I suppose we did, I’ve forgotten, it’s a long time ago. I can’t remember all those years back, can you. You can’t remember what you did, not those, not that time. It’s a long time back, isn’t it.

Q:    It must have been a nice shop to have been in was it? Presumably you lived up above the shop did you?

[25 minutes]

Mrs B:    Oh no, the house was sort of all in one, you know what I mean, there was a downstairs, there was five bedrooms there, but then we  had a bathroom made, so there’s four bedrooms, there’s four bedrooms there now and a bathroom. Then there’s a long hall then there was the room in the front and then there was the dining room and very big kitchen and a big cellar underneath. (Q: Oh, really?) It was quite a nice house but I say, when I went in there, talk about different. But there’s not many old shops left now, Mondy’s, you know Mondy’s, down the town? [63 Newland Street] (Q: Yes.) Well that’s the same I mean that’s been left, they haven’t sort of pulled that down. But I mean all them near the [Newlands] Precinct I think they’re all gone, all those. (Q: Yes.) The Boot shop, the Shoe Shop that’s still the same [probably 56 Newland Street]. (Q: Is it?) Yes, that hasn’t been altered at all and neither has the butcher’s. That’s where we used to buy our meat when I was a child I used to go up there and get our meat from there [60 Newland Street]. The butcher’s and then that china shop that used to be a baker’s, they sold bread and cakes and things and that’s closed up now. And then the corner place there where the electrical people are, that was a chemist’s shop. You went steps, it was on the corner there [64 Newland Street]. (Q: Oh yes.) That was a chemist’s shop, I can see that now.

Q:    So you didn’t have to go far. You used to go shopping sometimes?

Mrs B:    I used to go to the butcher’s [laugh] [???] Yes, that used to be our butcher’s, of course our side of the road hasn’t altered very much because you see there were the hotels, there was the Spread Eagle, that’s never been touched. (Q: No.) Then the shop what next to the Spread Eagle, do they sell clothes? (Q: The Sue Ryder shop [51 Newland Street]. They sell second hand clothes) Well that used to be a greengrocers years ago.

Q:    Yes, now, who did I talk to who was there? Mrs Shelley – but I think that was later on in the thirties which was later on isn’t it? Yes and Prices, they were greengrocers there ?

Mrs B:    That’s right, Price’s. Yes, she’s still alive Mrs that used to work in that shop. [talking over] (Q: Mrs Ralling ?) That’s right, haven’t seen her for a long time. (Q: She’s still around.) She lives in one of those bungalows, doesn’t she. Oh I haven’t seen her for ages. Her husband died, he used to be the boot shop man. Used to repair boots on the hill there [55 Chipping Hill]. They haven’t altered that very much up there. (Q: No.) And a good thing too.

Q:    Did you used to come up there much from Witham ?

Mrs B:    Not a lot, not so much a tremendous lot then, not so much as I do now.

Q:    What about church ?

Mrs B:    Used to go church at All Saints then, because it was nearer. (Q: Yes of course.) That used to be our church. Then when we got married and my husband had this house built I thought that, well, the other church is just as near so went from there up to here. Because I like this church because it is old. I like old things. [laugh] It’s because I’m old myself.

Q:    So he built the house did he ?

Mrs B:    Well, he had it. He done a lot of work himself but you see he hadn’t got the tools so Mr Richards, you know Richards [???], well they built it, but he done a lot of the work, windows and doors and mantlepieces, all that sort of thing, he done all that sort of thing but not the structure of it. (Q: He was sort of more a carpenter ?) Yes, well, [???] having retired you don’t want to buy a lot of things to build a house, when you only want to build one. This has been built fifty seven years.

Q:    So did he work in Witham ?

Mrs B:    No, do you know the big builders at Danbury, Baker’s. (Q: Oh yes.) Well that’s who he was, one of them. They’re doing the church up here now. (Q: Yes.) Have you been in the church, I suppose you have ?

[30 minutes]

Q:    Er, when did I go, for a carol service I think. It looks nice from the outside [???].

Mrs B:    Cost a lot of money they raised you know, done wonders, that has about a hundred thousand, getting on. It’s a lot of money for them to find with bits and pieces.

Q:    Yes, well they do old places specially don’t they, Baker’s?

Mrs B:    Oh yes and the churches. Yes, that was my husband’s father’s business. (Q: I see.) Many years ago. I didn’t know his father. I only knew his mother and she lived to be ninety. (Q: Really?)

Q:    And he lived in Danbury did he?

Mrs B:    Yes, before he went to New Zealand and then he came back and that’s who he is.

Q:    How did you come to meet him ?

Mrs B:    Well, to start with he used to be friendly with the Glovers. Glovers used to have a garage down at the bottom here. That was my uncle. And we were buying a motor car. This was before I married, naturally, when I lived at home. Because I never did anything at home. I always lived at home, the only thing I ever did was at that baker’s, I told you, in the War. And we were having a car. Of course I was the only one that wanted to drive it. My father and them, he didn’t want to drive it and so this man was friendly with my uncle at this garage. So my father said perhaps your uncle would teach you to drive like that you see. So we asked him and he said ‘Well, I really haven’t got the time, but I think I know somebody that would teach you. Somebody that comes to the garage.’ And that’s how it all started. [laugh] How things start, don’t they ? And so he taught me to drive and I’ve had a motor car, oh, I haven’t got one now, but I mean after I married and before I married, but when I broke my leg, because I fell and broke my leg years ago, and I felt, oh, I can’t drive any more, it was a bit a job with the gear and so I sold my motor car and naturally I haven’t had my licence since. I did miss it at first because it’s nice for getting around isn’t it?

Q:    So you must have had one before a lot of people had one ?

Mrs B:    Yes, before I married and so that’s a good many years ago. We used to get around. We used to take my father and mother out they used to like that. The shop used to be closed on a Wednesday and we used to go generally down to the sea at Clacton or Walton or anywhere like that.

Q:    So you married (Mrs B: Married at the parish church.) when abouts was that then?

Mrs B:    1930, the house was built 1930, I think we married 1931 married at the parish church. (Q: And you had a car before that ?) Oh yes.

Q:    Wasn’t it thought strange for a woman to have a car then ?

Mrs B:    Well, there wasn’t many women driving about then. (Q: That’s what I thought.) Very few women were driving then.

Q:    What made you think you’d take it up then ? (Mrs B: What, to drive?) Yes.

Mrs B:    Well, they wanted it, this motor car, my father and mother and I thought well, surely I can drive that. (Q: Really?) I soon mastered it. Yes, I got on all right. Of course, I don’t say, I mean now, I shouldn’t know the roads, and I shouldn’t know all these one-way streets. It’s very different driving now to what it was then. I mean we used to tootle along on the by-roads about thirty-five miles an hour. Well, I mean you can’t do that now. I mean there was no by-passes those days. There was no roundabouts. I mean, it was ever so easy to drive. There was not much traffic on the road. I mean you could just tootle along. But now, if you went slowly you’d have somebody on top of you, wouldn’t you. (Q: Yes.) Did you drive down ?

Q:    I’ve got a cycle. I just put it on the side there.

[35 minutes]

Mrs B:    Yes, that’s all right. Yes, years ago, you see, it was a pleasure to drive, but its no pleasure today. I mean it’s to get you there. You tear along to get there. You can’t view the scenery, you can’t pull up, well, you can pull up, picnic I suppose, but its not the same. We used to have some lovely picnics, and when my husband died I’d still got the car, and I’ve got a cousin lives up at Danbury and I used to go and fetch her once a week, and we used to go on lovely picnics at Terling and all that sort of thing. She loves Terling. And we used to go all out there. Its very pretty all round there. (Q: Yes.)

Q:    I think I’ve taken the children out round there on bikes.

[Chat about schools, new houses etc., not noted.]

Q:    I suppose that was the same when you were little really, I suppose that was quite a long way to go and you’d go more down Maldon Road way. (Mrs B: Yes, yes.) Were the [???] down Maldon Road? The school was there. (Mrs B: Yes, the school was there.)

Mrs B:    The school was there yes, and of course the Rec where we used to go, of course we weren’t far from the Rec, you see, there was a row of cottages after that big house [below 20 Maldon Road]. About four or five I suppose, cottages there. But I think two houses further along. I noticed they are still there. (Q: Yes.) And then the Rec well that used to still be there, when I was at school we used to play in the Rec. (Q: Mmm.) I remember there used to be a house just before you get to the Rec, there’s a fairly biggish house isn’t there and there used to be a cottage the other side of that, and I remember years ago there used to be a like a manhole cover or something in the middle of, you know what they have in the, and if you trod on that all the ants would come up. and I remember us children, you know what children are, we used to tread on that [laugh] (Q: Oh I see.). Oh yes the Rec was our playground you see we were very near.

Q:    Did a lot of people go there ?

Mrs B:    Used to be a lot of children, and there’s a slope there in the Rec and I remember we used to go down and roll down this slope. I walked through there the other day and I stood looking at that slope and I thought then that my brother and I and our friends used to go down this slope you know, roll down. They used to have the boys’ swings and they used to have the girls’ swings, but now they’ve only got one haven’t they? (Q: Oh, they used to have one each ?) There used to be two lots.

[40 minutes]

Away from the girls, up this end there used to be the boys’ swings and oh no, you weren’t allowed to go on them. (Q: Really?) Mmm (Q: Never heard that before, were they different?) No exactly the same, but they were just, well I suppose they thought they belonged to them and… (Q: And they didn’t go on yours?) Well you weren’t really allowed, ‘cause they used to have a caretaker and everything then. Oh yes it was properly run then. I suppose they have nobody now. Somebody must cut the grass, I suppose.

Q:    I, yes, probably come from the Council ? Were the boys ever on your swings ? Did the boys ever go on the girls’ swings?

Mrs B:    Well I think they used to sneak on but they weren’t supposed to. If the man saw them you know he’d fetch them off. But you know what children are, don’t you. And there used to be a see-saw. That’s all there was. There was two lots of swings and a see-saw. Oh, dear dear.

Q:    Did you play games in there as well of any sort (Mrs B: Yes, yes.) What sort of things did you play?

Mrs B:    And then the Co-op, of course the Co-op’s altered a lot. They used to have, once a year I remember they used to have a tea in that field.. There’s a field there isn’t there? (Q: Yes.) Well, they used to have the tea in the field there. And then they used to have all the prizes in the window. Running and sack-race and all that sort of thing, once a year. I can see that now, with these long tables, and they used to have it once a year down there. In this field. And they used to have as I say all these races and different things. Of course it was only a small place then I mean, it wasn’t like it is now. Well the other side of there, [???] of course they’re offices now, but they were all private houses then. (Q: I see.)

Q:    Were you in the Co-op ?

Mrs B:    Yes, we used to go for the teas and it used to make a lot of work ‘cause there used to be a lot of children. We used to look forward to that. Well you know what children are don’t you?

Side 2

[Chat about weather, snow, not noted]

Mrs B:    I tell you where we used to go [sledging]. There used to be at the back of em, you know the bridge up here, the railway bridge [Collingwood Road] (Q: Yes.) right at the back there, there’s a big slope, there used to be a big slope, and we used to go there, and we also used to go to Braxted because there used to be a big pond there and we used to go skating. I can’t skate but my brother could. (Q: Really ?) I tried but I’d fall down. But he used to be quite a good skater. (Q: Yes.)

Q:    They don’t do so much skating on ponds now.

Mrs B:    No, you see, we don’t get the cold winters now do we?

Q:    So that hill, by the railway, there must be something else there now. Is that where the …?

Mrs B:    They built a factory there. That house there, that’s been up for sale for years.

Q:    Oh, that bungalow, no, it’s a house isn’t it, just past the factory. ………….

Mrs B:    Further back there. That’s where we used to go. (Q: Because the factory was there ?) The glove factory. It used to be a glove factory years ago. We used to have a big market there too years ago, cattle market, right near there where the Labour Hall is. (Q: Yes.) Used to be a cattle market. We’ve still got the Jubilee Tree, with the seat round. That’s still there. They haven’t taken that away from us.

The shop in the town that used to be near Martin’s on the corner there. You know, Martins the stationers, next to it used to be a men’s clothing shop [72 Newland Street] (Q: Oh.) Was there for years. Then after them there used to be a draper’s shop. London House they used to call it. [laugh].

Q:    Did you used to get clothes for yourself in Witham ?

Mrs B:    Yes, there used to be another shop. You know where the electric shop, on the corner, then there’s a clothes shop, one of those [???]. I haven’t been in the shop, and then, oh where Lipton’s is, [???] used to be there and quite a nice shop there, Spurge’s, that was there for years and years. Very polite and you know, always send the things for you and all that. I was thinking the other day ever such a small parcel they’d send for you.

Q:    [???] Everybody seems to remember Spurges.

Mrs B:    Yes, with the milliners, you know, upstairs.

Q:    So you used to go there?

Mrs B:    Yes, you could buy anything there, clothes. It doesn’t seem we have a decent shop here now, only the Co-op to go to. (Q: Yes.) Can’t understand it.

[Chat about shops now, not noted]

[5 minutes]

Q:    Your father’s place did they sell anything.

Mrs B:    They used to sell whips and all horses’ curry combs and brushes, you know. All that sort of thing.

Q:    Did they have a display in the window?

Mrs B:    Yes. I think the window’s still the same.

Q:    Would he do repairs as well?

Mrs B:    Oh yes.

Q:    Did he actually sell new harness as well?

Mrs B:     Oh yes. And Mrs [Frances] Hawkes used to love coming into the shop because you used to smell leather and she loved the smell of leather. It’s a lovely smell really, new leather, you know.

Q:    So presumably you had to get the leather in from somewhere?

Mrs B:    Oh yes. I don’t know where he got it from. Used to get it in, make it up, you know.

Q:    Was he sort of doing that in the shop part or did he have a separate…?

Mrs B:    Yes, in the shop part because it went back quite a bit, you know. There was sort of the shop and then there was like another room, there used to be a room that was made into, more or less into the shop.

Q:    Did he have to have a lot of special equipment? I mean I don’t know much about making leather things. Did he have to have a lot of special [???] all by hand?

Mrs B:    Yes, all by hand, yes, of course, collars and that, they used to buy them. Of course we used to repair them and all sort of thing, the horses’ collars, but new ones they had to buy those. But reins and all that sort of thing, I can see him now, with an awl making holes and thread, you know, and pull it, making different things.

Q:    You had special thread ? (Mrs B: yes.) And special rivets and that, and special things. But the collars he didn’t make ?

Mrs B:    No, didn’t make those. (Q: A special job.) yes a special job. Only used to line them. What they called line them. And he’d put flock in between. (Q: Oh I see.) and oh all sorts of repairs.

Q:    What about saddles ?

Mrs B:    No, he didn’t make those, a special job, he’d repair them you know and put new cloth on them and that sort of thing but not actually make them.

Q:    But he would make the harness ?

Mrs B:    Reins and different things, oh yes. I can see them now. Well there was three of them, Then my father’s father died you see, so that left well really them. When my father took it over, he did still keep another man. It was always my father and another man. (Q: Yes.) Of course it all died out. I mean there’s no horses now, as you say [???]

Q:    [???] We’ve still got blacksmiths of course, but then again.

Mrs B:    Yes. Years ago they only used to do shoeing then. Now they go in for all sorts things they never used to, never, only just to shoe horses. But I suppose he doesn’t get sufficient trade there that he has to do other things. (Q: Yes.)

Q:    You said he had an apprentice ?

Mrs B:    Always had an apprentice, yes. There used to be the three of them there, you see. Then when his father died there was the two of them, my father and the other man, and he kept the other man, oh practically right up till he passed away. There was enough work then for two of them, though it was getting a bit low then you know what I mean.

[10 minutes]

Q:    Did people used to bring the collars ?

Mrs B:    They used to be outside there, because I remember there was a piece in the paper about it when he retired and they said the schoolchildren used to miss seeing the collars hanging on the wall. Used to hang them on the wall at the side and of course the children used to come up from school, and they could see these things hanging on the wall and all that sort of thing.

Q:    Did people used to bring them in?

Mrs B:    They used to bring them in, and then on a Wednesdays my father would go perhaps to Lord Rayleigh’s at Terling in his pony and trap and do the farms, and bring the work in to the shop and after they’d repaired them he’d take them back again. That’s why he always had a horse, horse and trap. He always had a horse and trap. A white horse. (Q: Was it ?) Always a white one [laugh].

Q:    Did you used to use it for going out in as well ?

Mrs B:    Years ago when I took it, this baker’s people, where I used to go [Ardleys]. He used to have a tub cart. I remember years ago, and people used to hire this tub cart and we used to go for rides in this tub cart I remember. (Q: Uhuh – where did you go?) Our favourite place was Mill Beach. Have you ever been? (Q: [???]) There was nobody there then my dear, not a soul. Oh. We used to go in the tub cart sometimes and then we used to cycle. Used to be several of us. Of course the Glovers, I was telling you, oh there used to be about,  father, mother, myself, perhaps two or three of the Glovers used to go down and cycle in a party, and we used to go, there was one public house there and then there was one big private house where they used to do teas. And we used to go there before, call there and say there’ll be so many in for tea at a certain time. And we used to have our tea there. And we used to be the only ones. (Q: Mmm, goodness.) Oh it used to be nice. We used to go and we used to sit, it’s different when you’ve got a motor car and take a picnic, but you see we were on bicycles and we didn’t take any eats or anything. We just used to swim and that, and we were the only ones. I can’t bear going down there now. I think its all so thoroughly spoilt. Crowds of people they say they get down there.

Q:    Was there sand there? (Mrs B: No.) Just the water ?

Mrs B:    You’ll laugh, I always remember, my cousin phoned me up from Dunmow last month, and she used to stay with us a lot. We used to go down Mill Beach, cycle down. Of course it wasn’t far on the bike, it wasn’t very far for us young people, well, when you’re young it isn’t is it? (Q: No.) I can remember plain as anything. And we was down there one day and she got her knickers wet and she took her knickers off and we made a little line put these knickers on this line, course she remembered, I wish she was here, she’d remember. She loves talking about the old things, you now in the past, she loves it.

Q:    That’s your cousin, then?

Mrs B:    Yes. A cousin of mine. Her father was a baker. He had his own business at Bocking, do you know Bocking. [???] And she’s, of course her father, they’ve all passed away naturally, and her mother, but she lives at Dunmow and she had her diamond wedding a few years ago. Had the hall there at Dunmow and had [???] it was all very nice. You know you meet people, and the bridesmaids, hadn’t seen them since you know. Its nice to meet people, isn’t it? (Q: Yes.) She loves talking about the old places. We used to cycle. She often talks about them when she comes and nearly always brings up about Mill Beach and how we used to cycle down to Mill Beach.

Q:    So you had a cycle when you were quite young then did you?

[15 minutes]

Mrs B:    Oh yes, had a bicycle for years. (Q: When you were a girl?) Yes and when I was married I used to pop on my bicycle down the town you know. Not worth getting the car out. I mean you’re so near the town here. Central here you know and not far from the station, not far from the town. And that’s why. There was two plots of ground here. There was this plot here and that next one when we came and I said to my husband, we used to play in the Avenue years ago, as I told you, but I said to my husband I don’t want the other side of the road. I said if I can’t have this side I don’t want it at all. Because you see it backs on to Avenue Road those gardens on the other side. Of course this was an open field then you see and so that’s whey we chose this. There was just these two plots. That one next door the garden’s a bit bigger, but it used to be, and the people who lived there, used to have the greengrocer’s shop. Near, you know where the jeweller’s shop is at, nearly opposite Collingwood Road ? (Q: Oh yes.) Well, there used to be a little shop along there, and it used to be a greengrocer’s shop next to the Lion I think the place is. And he used to grow quite a lot of his vegetables here [probably Taber]. Now, his son lives here, he’s a bachelor.

[Chat about neighbour, and gardens, not noted]

Q:    … Did your parents have a garden at all?

Mrs B:    No there’s hardly any garden down there at all. No, there’s just a very tiny little piece at the back there. Nothing at all, my people were no gardeners, they never had one. [laugh] (Q: [???]) Yes. Just this very small piece at the back there.

Q:    I don’t suppose they had very much time did they? What did they do when they did have spare time?

Mrs B:    No, there wasn’t very much time really, but, of course, as I say, I always lived at home with them, I never went out to work. There seemed to be always plenty to do down there. It’s a bigger house than what it looks you know.

[20 minutes]

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

Mrs B:    No, nobody worked in the shop, no, no.

Q:    I mean, sometimes, in little shops the woman seems to have kept the books and that sort of thing, but she didn’t do anything like that?

Mrs B:    No. Well I used to keep the books for my father, yes I used to do the writing and all that, his ledger work and that sort of thing. I did that, especially during the War when I come back from the Second World War, because you see they were after me then, and they wanted me to do something you see because I was of the age where women had to do something, and I told them, the man, I said at the moment I am keeping my father’s accounts and book-keeping and all that. That’s how I got out of it. Otherwise I should have gone and done some work after I camet back. They said every woman had to something didn’t they? And I did. And of course when I started doing the booking then and I kept an eye you know afterwards.

Q:    Quite complicated I should think wasn’t it ?

Mrs B:    Well, yes. [???]

Q:    So when you went to work at the baker’s ? That was in the First World War, what happened when the War finished then ?

Mrs B:    [???] I gave it up then. Oh yes, I only just did it during the War. (Q: Quite.) Oh yes, I didn’t do anything after, that was the finish. [laugh] (Q: Did you miss it?)  I think I was rather glad because, you know, in the winters its not a very good job. (Q: No.) You see nowadays, well they don’t deliver, but I mean they have motors, don’t they, in all these vans and things, but then it used to be an open trap you know and it wasn’t that good in the wintertime.

Q:    What, you had to take it out to each house, and did you have to get the money as well?

Mrs B:    Oh yes. Did all that. Those were the days eh, a long time ago, before your time. [laugh]

Q:    As you say people must have thought it was quite enterprising of you though, because normally you would have men doing it wouldn’t you ?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, as I said the young fellows had all gone to the War and it was a job to get anybody to do it you see then [laugh] (Q: Very adventurous.) [???] Don’t talk about it, don’t want any more Wars do we, two in a lifetime is sufficient. .[???].

Q:     The First War, did somebody tell me they had soldiers in Witham ?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, they were billeted, billeted on you. (Q: Did you have any?) You had to take them yes, yes we had three, sometimes four. (Q: Goodness.) They just come round and you had to have them. There was no alternative. They just billeted them on you. But we had some lovely times really you know. I know one fellow was, oh he was a wonderful pianist, oh, we used to have some lovely evenings. He’d play anything by ear and really had some lovely evenings when he was there. Yes, had some jolly times. Had some bad times, sad times, but we had some jolly times as well. You know, made the most of it. Oh I don’t think the First War was as bad as the Second, was it. The Second War was the worst.

Q:    Was that because of [???]?

Mrs B:    There were these dreadful doodlebug things, weren’t they. Oh dear, dreadful things they must have been. And so were those V2 or whatever you call them. I mean they come on to you unawares didn’t they? You had no warning did you? (Q: Mmm.)

Q:     How old was your brother? Was he in the First War ?

Mrs B:    My brother? My brother went to the First World War and he was in the police force. (Q: Uhuh.) He lived out at Tolleshunt D’Arcy. He retired and come and lived here. He wanted to come back to Essex, well he was in Essex you know what I mean, but he was stationed at different places, Dunmow was one of the places, and Stansted, and one or two places, and he wanted to come back nearer Witham, being born here and he came and bought a bungalow at Tolleshunt D’Arcy. He wanted to be out in the country and so that’s what he did. He retired. Then when he retired from the police, he went into the Civil Service and then he retired from that and so, as I say, bought a bungalow at D’Arcy and that’s where his wife still lives. (Q: Yes.) They’ve just the one girl. My niece yes.

[25 minutes]

Q:    Thinking about this photograph that she’s got with the, because you can make copies of photographs can’t you?

[Chat about getting copy of photo, and niece Gladys that lives at Chesterfield, and that her (Gladys’s) mother died when she was a child, and her father married again, and Mrs B not having television, and central heating  – not noted].

[Didn’t get the photo from Mrs B, but later from someone else entirely, it’s my number M515].

Mrs B:    [about her wearing trousers in First World War] Oh yes and of course nobody wore them then. (Q: I suppose not.) No nobody wore them then, not years ago. It was unheard of. (Q: Quite so.) There was a man lived in the Collingwood Road and he said to my father ‘I do admire your daughter. I think she looks fine on that bread cart’. [Laugh] (Q: Good.) He thought I looked marvellous in my trousers.

Q:    Whose idea was it that you should have those trousers I wonder ?

Mrs B:    I don’t know. I suppose it was mine or some other peoples I suppose. You just can’t can you, keep jumping up and down in the cart. (Q: Because, as you say, it was so unusual to wear them.) with skirts [laugh] (Q: Well done.) I mean years ago if you went out with trousers on. I always remember my cousin at Dunmow and she’s a marvellous one. She used to be dressed up at Christmas time when she used to come over. She used to love to dress up and I remember when she went upstairs one Christmas when she was at ours and she put my father’s trousers and things on. We thought it was marvellous. (Q: Yes.) [laugh] to see her in these trousers, because people never, you’d get had up wouldn’t you? (Q: Quite.) years ago.

Q:    This was when you were quite young ?

Mrs B:    Oh yes, this was when we were young, before we were married. Oh yes she used to come and stay with us you see. She lived at Bocking Hall. She used to come over Christmas time. She was a great one to dress up. She used to be, get hold of things and dress up. [laugh)] But then I mean everybody wears trousers today don’t they ? (Q: Yes. But even when I was younger, it was unusual, it was strange, but much more practical really isn’t it?) Oh much.

Q:    Women weren’t supposed to be practical, were they. (Mrs B: It’s the fashion now.) So normally you’d have to wear, if you went out anywhere, say when you went to Mill Beach what would you wear ?

Mrs B:    Oh, we never wore trousers then. Oh, no, no, no, no. Oh no, then, you weren’t seen outside in trousers. You’d be had up. Oh no, no, never.

Q:    But would you put good clothes on to go to Mill Beach ?

Mrs B:    Oh, yes, yes. Oh we spent hours down at Mill Beach, hours, paddling and swimming and I know we’ve been down and then gone back again sometimes in the evening time to swim, us younger fry, you know [???] Yes its marvellous what you do when you are young. I wish she was here now, she’d talk to you.

Q:    So you had a lot of friends in Witham, did you? What sort of people in Witham were your friends generally ?

Mrs B:    Well I’ve got my friend at Westcliff she used to live at Witham years ago. I tell you where she used to live. You know past where we used to be in the shop, then there’s the Retreat there used to be a big house there, well now there’s two houses with bay windows. (Q: Oh yes.) and she used to live in one of these and her father had got his own business, butcher’s business at Southend. He used to come backwards and forwards and that. But she didn’t seem to come to Mill Beach with us. I don’t think she could ride a bicycle. I don’t remember.

Q:     Because who was it used to live there? Or was it further down Mrs English ? She died a year or two ago?

Mrs B:    Oh Mrs English ? (Q: Was that those houses ?) Oh, yes. She lived next door. (Q: I’ve only seen her once.) She lived next door to her. Gills were their name. Mrs English I believe she nearly went blind didn’t she ?

Q:    Yes. I went to talk to her the once some years back. She couldn’t see very well.

Mrs B:    She died a year or two ago. (Q: She must have been ninety.) Yes, I was going to say, she was ninety. She married an English and then lived in one of those houses you know where the All Saints Church is? (Q: Yes.) Well there’s a lot of houses there you know on the left hand side. Now his people lived there, and he used to be a printer and they had the printer’s place where Martin’s is, (Q: Oh I know.) there and that’s where he worked in the printing office [70 Newland Street]. He was the head one in the printing office, there used to be three or four men there then. (Q: Yes.) But she was a Braintree woman. (Q: Yes.) I don’t know anything about her people, only his people. I can see them now. A very tall upright people very tall. He was the only son. Yes, then my friend lived next door to Mrs English. And then she moved, got married of course, then she went to Westcliff and she died there as I say nearly four years ago. We always used to go for a holiday every year by the Eastern National. (Q: Oh I see.) And she used to come here overnight or else I’d go there and …

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