Tape 067. Mr Alf Bentley, Mrs Vi Bentley (nee Wood), and Mrs Annie Clarke (nee Oakley), sides 1 and 2

Tape 67

Mr Alf Bentley and his wife Mrs Vi Bentley, nee Wood, were born in 1905 and 1915 respectively (Alf was born and brought up in Wickham Bishops). Mrs Annie Clarke, nee Oakley, was born in 1904 or 1905. She was informally adopted by Vi’s family, and known to the family as Auntie Sis.

They were interviewed on 4 March 1983, when the Bentleys lived in Bryony Close, Witham (having formerly been at 61 Glebe Crescent), and Mrs Clarke lived at 96 Maldon Road, Witham.

They also appear on tapes 88 and 89.

For more about them see Bentley, Wood and Clarke 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.]

Unfortunately much of this tape is unclear. because the people were scattered round the room. I think it may have deteriorated with time as well. So I gave up part way through the transcript. There are some notes that I made instead.

Side 1

Mrs B:    [???] Locust beans ..

Q:    Where was that then?

Mrs C:    Next to where Spurges used to be.

Q:    What did they have locust beans for?

Mrs B:    To eat.

Mrs C:    Yes, sweet, they’re ever so sweet. Used to buy them by the bag.

Mrs B:    It was a corn shop used to have them. Great big bins, huge!

Mrs C:    Give them to cattle don’t they? (Q: Do they?). Yes.

Mrs B:    Used to have fourteen or twenty-one pound of maize, corn or anything else.

Q:    They were for cows? (Mrs B: [???]) They were really meant for the cows, were they?

Mrs B:    I reckon. And we used to ask for a penn’orth of locust beans. The shops – you see, I don’t remember the shops in the High Street like Aunt Sis does.

Q:    You come from Witham, did you?

Mrs B:    Aunt Sis did.

Mrs C:    Lived here all my life.

Mrs B:    So have I, but she’s older. And she’s been about more! [laughs]

Mrs C:    I don’t know that, about being about.

Mrs B:    You’ve been about more than I have.

Q:    Where did you live first of all?

Mrs C:    Down Trafalgar Square right on the [???].

Q:    Did you really?

Mrs B:    I was born there.

Mrs C:    Yes, all of you were.

Mrs B:    Gran Wager, my gran, was a midwife. But she didn’t deliver me, did she? That was old Mrs …

Mrs C:    I don’t know.

Mrs B:    There was another old nurse, wasn’t there, went about with Gran.

Mrs C:    That was Mrs … Whatever was her name? Kentfield. Nurse Kentfield. She was midwife there.

Mrs B:    I don’t think Granny came to all – I don’t think she came to deliver …

Mrs C:    Nearly all of them!

Mrs B:    David and Freddie.

Mrs C:    Because she was ill.

Q:    She came because she was ill, you reckon, did she?

Mrs C:    Yes.

Q:    So that was your Gran?

Mrs B:     My Mum’s mother, yes. She used to have a bike didn’t she?

Mrs C:    No! They used to all walk. (Mrs B: Gimson had a bike.) Yes, the doctors had bikes – they never had cars years ago. Not the old doctors …

Mrs B:    Gran used to walk.

Q:    Did she really? She just went on her own, did she?

Mrs B:    Yes. I don’t think the doctors’d give her a lift on the bike!

Q:    So did the doctors go – did the doctors help them?

Mrs C:    No, she used to deliver them herself. If they wanted a doctor she used to tell them not to book up because that time of day you had to pay for them. (Q: Yes?) But if you had them or not! But if she wanted one, she’d send for them.

Mrs B:    Yes, if they needed one.

Q:    And they paid her?

Mrs C:    She had to do it for seven and six a week! For ten days! She done that for. She used to do the washing, the baby’s washing. And all the washing what was made dirty at the time.

Mrs B:    For the confinement. Yes, I remember that. And I remember my Mum – because people in Trafalgar Square were not so well off as Mum – because Dad had a good job, you see- although it was a nice place.

Mrs C:    Well at first he only worked on the land.

Mrs B:    Yes, and then he got to British Oxygen, didn’t he. And some of the people down there [noises on tape]- [???] they’d got not a towel, not nothing, Mum used to send it all in for the confinement. [???] [???]

Q:    Your Mum was born where?

Mrs C:     She was born down there. I believe so. (Mrs B: Who?). Your mother.

Mrs C:     Yes.

[5 minutes]

Mrs B:    Mum born down there?

Mrs C?:    I believe so

Q:    And what, was she a Wager? And what did your dad do? [Vi’s dad, Wood]

Mrs C:    He worked for British Oxygen Company…[???].. yes but he worked on the land …

Mrs C:     He worked on the land when he came out the Army, first.

Mrs B:     Ionedes, I’ll tell you where he worked.

Mrs C:    He used to work for Robinson. (Mrs B: [???]) Used to work for Robinson and then …

Mrs B:     [???] And he kept pigs Dad did, at the back, didn’t he?

Mrs C:    He worked for Robinsons, first, and then Mrs Ionedes [???] the house.

Mrs B: That’s right.

Mrs C:    That ‘s the time you had to go to work for fourpence and sixpence an hour, housework. And work hard all day.

Mr B:    I had to work for nothing!

Mrs C:    Mmm. [agrees]

Mr B:    I can tell you that. Up at Ishams farm [???].he used to pay me Dad – I never saw anything of it and nor did Frank. I had to get up at five o’clock in the morning and fetch the cows for milking and on the weekend we had to bring the milk from Ishams Farm to Witham station in a horse and tumbrel, a little float. Yes, both of us.

Mrs C:    We’ve been up in the morning, at five o’clock, been going along Hatfield Road there, singing, in the summer time for strawberry picking.

Mr B:    Old Morse.

Mrs C:    For Morse, we worked [???]. We used to set out – we used to take tickets and he used to weigh up the fruit in the basket, they had great big baskets, that high and about that width [demonstrating?] And he used to weigh them up every so often. And then at the end of the week they used to change these tickets, put them on a piece of paper and change them at the end of the week. And we had to be in the field at six and never left off work till four. And when we come home on a Friday night, all we was allowed was a ha’penny cornet! From Mr Ellis’s down at …

Mrs B:    Or a broken up bag.

Mrs C:    We used to have a ha’penny cornet!

Mrs B:    We had a penny for a broken up bag.

Mrs C:    Well, we had a ha’penny! So you was better off than I was!

Mrs B:    [???] locust bean in that [???] One toffee …

Mrs C:    We used to have a ha’penny ice cream and no more out of that money.

Mr B:    Mind you, they was the little Scarlet strawberries you had to pick, not the big ones.

Mrs C:    The boys used to pick the big ‘uns and the women used to pick the little …

[Conversation re kitchen between Q & Mrs B going on behind Mrs C and Mr B’s voices]

Mrs C:    We had to pick the Scarlets, what they call the Scarlets for jam. We had to. And you weren’t allowed to eat one, if you did you got the man’s stick across your backside.

Mr B:    I bet you don’t remember the old ‘gangers’ name? I do, Langston.

Mrs C:    Yes there were two brothers …

Mr B:    There were two brothers, one used to do the women, the other one used to do the boys.

Mrs C:    …[???] …[laughs]. Oh, they were happy times. We used to go and put our names down, before we broke up from school for the summer. So we were ready to go.

Mr B:    There was no [???] We had to go right up the hill [???] , right up [???]

[Clatter of teacups and conversation drown voices]

Mrs C:    We had to walk right up to Heathfield[?] [???]Where Lynfield’s garage is and go down that lane. We used to have to go down there.

Q:    And that was when you were kids, was it?

Mrs C:    Yes.

Mr B:    A whole gang of us.

Mrs C:    We had to go.

Mr B:     The old boat pram, I always remember that.

Mrs C:    Yes, with the women, they used to have one up one under the shade, one by the handles and one underneath the [???] [???] And take them pea-picking. And they were glad to do it!

Mrs B:    Stone picking.

Mrs C:    Oh, I never done that job. That’s a job I never done.

Mr B:    Well, I did. Down at old Smith’s at Wickham Hall.

Mrs C:    That’s a job I never done.

Q:    How much did you get for that?

[10 minutes]

Mr B:    Nothing! (Q: Nothing?) All we had was a damn good feed!

Mrs B:    Well that was something!

Mr B:     The old foreman down there – I can’t think of his name – there was two brothers, one of them died – the last one died a couple of years ago. He lived in a little cottage just opposite the mill. I can’t think of his name, but he was ‘Ganger’. And he used to … (Mrs B: He drowned himself. Humphries.) What we used to do – as you know when we was potato picking and strawberry picking and stone picking. If you was potato picking- you know the vines[?] from the top of – what was raised, along the top, all in a line? (Q: Yes) He used to bring a fork and he used to put the whole lot in two big heaps. And then he used to come up to us and say ‘Now, pick some big ‘uns out and sling them in the fire’. He used to set fire to them.

[Mrs C and Mr B talking over each other]

Mr B:    And when we went stone-picking he used to bring the potatoes down to us. And big old – great big old ones he used to bring us, and sling them in the fire. That’s was [???] Smith at Wickham Hall. (Q: [???])

Mrs C:    We used to have to walk to Terling pea-picking when fruit-picking was finished and the [???] [???]. We had to walk into Terling, walk into Hatfield. We walked to Heybridge one morning and when we all got down there they’d finished! [laughs] They used to be happy days!

Mr B:    Old Reg Wheaton’s at Freebournes Farm, with his runner beans and peas.

Mrs C:    I worked for Wheatons when I, during the War [Second]. He wasn’t a bad old boy, he weren’t. He used to say ‘If you want a cabbage, or a marrow, or anything? Just take it’.

Q:    What did you used to do there?

Mrs C:    Used to be on the land, during the wartime, hoeing and that. I was a Land Army girl! [laughs] [???]

Q:    Did you have to do something?

Mrs C:    You had to do something in wartime. Either that or go in the factory and I didn’t want to go in the factory.

[Discussion re cupboards and sight, not noted]

Mrs C:    Sit on a pail, upside down in the pea fields.

Mrs B:    Then after we’d done a day’s work, Mum used to say ‘There’s a bucket of peas there. Sit down and shell them’, put them in this huge flask. [laughs] ‘So they won’t see you going out with them’

Mrs C:    I was sitting on some …

Q:    Where did you put them?

Mrs B:    In a flask.

Mr B:    In a big flask, huge things and they used to hold about three pints. And they used to fill them up, had to shell them. Put the peas in there and then we used to scatter the hulls over the fields.

Mrs C:    I was sitting on some one day, and Wheaton said ‘You don’t want to sit on that pail’ he said, ‘I know what you got in it!’ I said ‘Do you?’ He said ‘Yes.’ He said’ I don’t mind you taking a few home but not a half a bag!’ [laughs]

[Ann Bentley comes in: Long discussion on decoration of council houses being done at time of recording, and other things, hard to hear, not noted]

Mrs B:    If Granny Wager could come back and see Witham surgery, she’d never believe it. There used to a man, dispenser, Appleby. He used to have a little office – you used to hand it to him – it wasn’t half the size of this room. And when I was seeing Dr Benjamin I think it was. I was being seen to on the other side of the room. [Others talking – masking Mrs B’s voice] [???] … And just this screen up and somebody else being seen to over that side!

Mrs C:    There wasn’t so many people about as there is now.

[Long discussion re car, health et al not noted]

Mr B:    That’s different from what happened years ago – you daren’t send for the doctor because of the bill coming in.

Mrs C:    Well, that’s what it’s coming to now, ain’t it? You used to have to pay them half a crown for medicine and five bob for a call. That’s what it’s coming to now. ‘Cos Thatcher wants to do away with it, don’t she?

[Talking in background not noted –Alf and female voice – beginning inaudible]

Mr B:    … I know that because I lay on the [???] with an abscess and appendicitis. And I lay there for damn near a fortnight. In a bed downstairs [???] and my parents daren’t send but they had to in the finish, because I couldn’t stand it. And old Dr Ted came up on his green bike – I always remember that. An old green crossbar bike he had. And he said ‘He has to go to hospital’. And they put me on a stretcher from to Chelmsford.  They took me in the old solid tyre ambulance. [???] you don’t remember it. Just like a hand[?] bier[?] it was – and that was an old Ford. They used to ‘chug, chug, chug’ away. I always remember that.

[Ann leaves, conversation not noted]

Q:    How did your folks manage when you went to hospital?

Mr B:     At that time – I can’t think of what it was. The old chap was in …

Mrs B:    Your Mum was in the laundry at Chelmsford. She was manageress.

Mr B:    What was the name of that society that used to run years ago?

Mrs B:    Foresters?

Mr B:    The Foresters, used to years ago. I think it was about a shilling a year. And that was how I got up there, they paid the bill.

Mrs C:    When I went in, I went in 1940. And then I used to pay threepence  a week to Colchester Hospital. Old Mrs Dazeley used to take it. [???] used to pay it. And we used to give her the money. And that’s how I went down there and I never had to pay.

Mr B:    I went Christmas – just before Christmas, 1917. That was during the First World War. And then, I dunno, every night I laid there, there was dead bodies, soldiers coming back.

Mrs C:    [???] [Notes say Vi 2 years old then]

Mr B:    I had a damn great abscess with it. When I woke up – I know I screamed, I know that. When they put the – that was the old fashioned way. There was no – there was just local anaesthetic on a piece of cotton wool over your nose.

Mrs C:    You never had no injections. I had injection.

Mr B:    And I know I screamed – I know that, I remember doing it.

Mrs B:    Your mother told me she could hear you all over Chelmsford.

Mr B:    I can quite believe it! I won’t dispute it, I won’t dispute it! And I was three days before I knew anything. When I came round, it was three days afterwards.

[35 minutes]

Mrs C:    When I went in for it – mine was a ‘grumbler’. I had mine over a year before it come to the pitch. I used to think that was cold. And it got me so I had to send for the doctor and I said to [???] – I said ‘I’m going to have the doctor today. If I have to go away, I’ll have to go. And just tell them I’ve gone’. And I had to go. And I was in a bad way when I went down there. I was in there, and I got into the bed and I went right off – I didn’t know nothing. And when I come to, the doctor – Dr [???] that was, he said ‘Try and keep up in bed if I was you’.  Ever so nice, you know. ‘Keep up in bed’ because I was [???] down. And when I was going to [???] again[?], there was a kiddie in there had a very bad accident. And I heard the nurse say ‘ We’ll have the little kid over here and move this one up a little further’. That was me. And she was in there when I went down again in three months time, that little kid. Because they dispersed it.

Mr B:    Yes. Well, they didn’t -because I got proof to show what they done to me. I was slit right up there. (Mrs B: Terrible cut.)

Mrs C:    I got one there.

Mr B:    The stitches were that exaggerated, you can still see them in my body at that length.

Mrs C:    You can’t see my scar. You can’t see my scar at all.

Mr B:    When I come round, after the third day, they didn’t give me anything to eat and I told the nurse I was hungry. ‘You mustn’t have anything!’

Mrs C:    [Interrupting] I asked for a drop of water and I couldn’t have it!

Mr B:    And I was three – two more days at least before I had anything to eat. And then – old Dr Swan it was – he came round the next morning – the surgeon. And he said ‘Well, we’ll have a look at that, then’. And I’d got one of them big [???]  with cat of nine tails on [badge]. And then when I – they got round and I was completely yellow. Right down – all over.

Mrs B:    That’s that aquaflavin.

Mr B:    No, it was iodine in those days.

Mrs B:    Gentian violet now.

Mrs C:    They only put a bit of lint on mine.

[Mrs C talking throughout regarding her operation but cannot always hear what she says]

Mr B:    Oh, I had – they took the bandage off and that was when I shout – when they took the last bit of gauze off and there was two tubes sticking through with two safety pins through the top! And then he said to the nurse or the Sister or whoever it was – ‘I’ll come back later and get those tubes out’. He’d drain it first, you see. So – and this is when I screamed, I will admit it. To pull them things out they pushed the scissors down to keep the holes open, the two holes.

Q:    And how old were you?

Mr B:    Every third day they done it and every time they done it the tube was smaller, thinner. Until I finished up with one not much bigger than a needle. I was Chelmsford’s old hospital on the London Road, that’s where I was. And I was in there for about two and half months.

Q:    How old were you?

Mr B:    Well I was born in ‘05 and that was 1917.

Mrs B:    He was twelve.

Mr B:    That will tell you how old I was.

Mrs C:    I went in and they dispersed mine. I had to go down.

Q:    You said there was soldiers in there.

Mr B:    Oh it was full of them.

Mrs C:    And then I had to go down here in three months time to have it done. So I had to go in twice with mine. I had nothing to eat at all for four days
Mr B [talking behind Mrs C] It was terrible. Then they sent me down to Sittingbourne. I was down there about a month, convalescent.

Mrs C:    I asked for a drop of water and she said ‘ you can’t have no water’.

Mrs B:    [???]

Mrs C:    Oh …[???] …

Mr B:    They wouldn’t give me anything to eat and I was starving!

Mrs B:    The Sisters in those days were very very bossy, weren’t she. Had to show her authority. Oh, the Sisters in those days – you could always tell a Sister on the ward.

[More about Mrs C in hospital, not very clear, not noted]

Q:    What was your name before you married?

Mrs C:    Oakley. (Mrs B: That’s Annie Get Your Gun.)

Q:    Did you have lots of brothers and sisters?

Mrs C:    No proper brothers and sisters. I was adopted.

Mr B:    She was picked off the shelf, isn’t that right, you were picked from off the shelf.

Mrs B:    My Gran adopted her. And a boy, she adopted him.

Mr B:    He’s dead now.

Mrs B:    He’s been dead two or three years.

Mrs C:    [???][???]

Mr B:    [???][???]

Mrs B:    I can picture myself now as a kid. [???] ‘Your turn to go and fetch the skim milk this morning’.

Mrs C:    Oh yes, we had to go to Wakelins’ farm and get skimmed milk. [???] I done that once and the lid came off [laughs] I was scared to go home.

Mr B:    Oh, that wasn’t as hard as my brother Frank and I did – what we had to do. We used to have to fetch skimmed milk from up the farm – can’t think of the name of it. Up the lane towards the church. Can’t think of the name of the farm. We had to go there and fetch this milk, skimmed milk. And we used to have a can – I don’t know how much was in it, four or five [???] (Mrs C speaking over muffles words]

Mrs C:    …Can for a penny …

Mr B:    And on the way back we used to get our water, from the spring down the lane.

[Mrs C talking, nearer microphone and drowning out other voices]

Mr B:    … and we used to drink a good near half of it, Frank and I between us and fill it up with water.

Mrs C:    We used to have milk puddings, milk puddings. [laughs] Used to be lovely, though.  We used to have [???]

Mrs B:    We had to do it, though.

Mrs C:    We used to have Quaker oats and that made with it, it used to be lovely.

Mr B:    Then we used to – Sunday nights, Monday mornings used to be the days for Frank, my brother Frank and myself. We used to be fetched out of bed early Monday morning …

Mrs C:    [Talking over] We never used to get up …

Mr B:    … and we was given a yoke – you know what they are? What you carry two buckets on. Down the lane, wash day that was. Had to fill the water butts before we went to school.

Q:    And that was on Wickham Hill? [Wickham Hill cottages]

Mr B:    Yes. The cottages are down now, but there were two cottages there. (Mrs C: There used to be more than two. Two white ones  – Upson and Frost   And there used to be Shelley and us. ‘Brave New World’ – always remember the name of the cottage.

Q:    Your Dad was on the land was he?

Mr B:    My Dad wasn’t working. He lost his arm when I was five. He lost his arm when the bridge collapsed. When they built Heybridge bridge. When they were building that bridge just where you came into Heybridge. He lost his arm there. And the ‘iron monkey’ fell on it. Because that used to be the ‘iron monkey’ for driving pilings in. And he broke his arm and couldn’t [???] …

Mrs B:    He had a hook, didn’t he?

Mr B:    Yes.

Mrs C:    Well, they used to, years ago.

Q:    How did you used to manage?

Mr B:    Well, we had to manage the best we could.

Mrs C:    You never got no help that time of day.

Mrs B:    He had a lump sum for it, didn’t he?

[45 minutes]

Mr B:    He lost it.  [???] Mac Murdo of Wickham Bishops, he used to do odd jobs for him before he lost his arm.… [???] And of course he must have got talking and he invested it in Germany and then the War broke out and he lost it.

Mrs B:    Then his mother had to do washing, she was manageress of  …

Mrs C:    Monday morning we used to say ‘ There goes our Bessie[?] down the road with his pony and trap’. [laugh]

Mr B:    Donkey and cart!

Mrs C:    Donkey and cart, with all the washing piled on it.

Mr B:    Those were the days …

Side 2

Q:    Who used to live down there? [probably at Blue Mills]

Mr B:    Grabham, ‘Lord Grabham’

Mrs C:    Dr Grabham used to live at the mill didn’t he?

Mr B:    Lord Grabham, we used to call him Lord Grabham. (Mrs C: [???]) He had a daft son. he had a son that was [???] [???] The old chap used to make his own electricity. [???]

Mrs C:    Is there a clock still on that mill. (Mr B: I don’t know). Used to be clock on there didn’t there. It used to chime and all, didn’t it.

Q:    [???] whether they’ve got an engine there still, at Blue Mills.

Mr B:    These days that I’m talking about they had the water wheel. And that used to turn the generator.

Mrs B:    We used to hear it too, when we used to stand on the bridge. We could always tell when the mill was working, the watermill, because the flow of the water wasn’t so deep.

Mr B:    At the back of the mill going up towards where, he’s got is farm, who is it, the farm where Buchanan lives.

Mrs C:    Benton Hall.

Mr B:    Go up there, well he’s got some of the land now, they used to dam the river there when they wanted to generate electricity, and that used to hold the water. Then he’d start the watermill.

Mrs B:    [???] Some waterwheels the water drops on it to make it go doesn’t it.

Mrs C:    [??] just a water mill, no flour mill?

Mr B:    No nothing, just the water mill

Mrs C:    The flour mill used to be down Mill Lane, Blyth, where the Peculiars’ chapel is. (Mr B: Yes, yes.) That used to belong to Blyth and they had a flour mill there. [actually Guithavon Valley]

Mrs B:    Did they? I remember the old tan yard being there, Mill Lane.

Mr B:    Blyths used to be down at Wickham Hall. [???]

Q:    You can remember the one at Mill Lane, can you? What was that like then?

Mrs C:    That was a flour mill, that was. Because Mrs Blyth used to be very religious, weren’t they. She used to, us children used to go there Sunday afternoons. (Mrs B: That’s right.) And then they went from there somehow, up to where they had that little, they had the market, in the market place, up where the Labour Hall is now. (Mrs B: That’s right, used to be a market there.) Yes, cattle market. (Mrs B.[???] I remember [???} cattle on there.)

[part with all talking together, not noted)

Mrs C:    Just by All Saints Church, young Blyth, the son. She was a Markham wasn’t she, from Maldon, who he married.

Q:    Did you used to go to Church as well as Sunday School?

Mrs C:    Yes we had to go to Church.

Mr B:    We had to go.

Mrs C:    We used to have to go to Church down Guithavon Street, they had a place down there, near the Church that used to be, the Church school. We had to go there at ten o’clock in the morning. Then about quarter to eleven we all had to queue up and go into All Saints Church. Yes, we had to go. Cause one, my friend who was my friend then, she’d left[?] school, she was on her own in Church, and I thought well I ain’t going there, I went to sit beside of her. But they come and fetched me [???] to go with the Sunday School children.

[5 minutes]

Mr B:    Yes, we had to, brother Frank and I had to blow the organ at Wickham Church. Old Snell was the vicar, and his sister used to play the organ. I can see her now, poking her head round the edge of the organ.

Q:     You worked hard then didn’t you.

Mr B:    Well we had to in those days.

Mrs C:    And we had things for Sunday that we  had change them at home, before we went out no more. Had to change em.

Mr B:    Always used to be dressed up there, well you daren’t bend, you daren’t split them.

Mrs C:    There was even a pinafore specially for Sunday with ribbons.

Mr B:    A little blue velvet suit, knickerbocker suit, with the little round white hats.

Mrs C:    Children don’t to Sunday School today like we had to. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much damned mischief.

Mr B:    Up at Wickham Bishops, our illumination through Chantry Wood there was nothing, there was no houses, nothing. Absolutely. [???]

Mrs C:    That used to be beautiful, with primroses, violets used to be in there and bluebells. We used to go Good Friday picking the primroses and violets and putting them on a stick and bringing them home.  (Mrs B: [???]) And then Whitsun time we used to go bluebelling.

[part with all talking together, not noted)

Mr B:    We used to go to the wolf cubs at the Church Hall at Wickham Bishops. I think it was once a week. And for illumination we used to have a mangel, or a swede, with the middle cut out and a candle stuck in it. (Mrs B: There was no road up there then, was there) Nothing at all. (Mrs B: Because there were steps to walk over the water, weren’t there.) Well the [???] are still there, some of them. That used to flood regularly every winter. (Mrs C: Does that flood now?) No it’s dammed.)

Mrs B:    But I used to laugh because we always knew when it was Easter, cause we had a whole boiled egg for breakfast.

Mr B:    You was lucky, Frank and I we used to get half an egg. Once a year. Easter.

Q:    Did you come home to dinner when you went to school.(Mrs B: Oh yes.)

Mr B:    Shall I tell you what we had for dinner? The old cottage loaves, [???] off a cottage loaf with a hole cut out and a piece of lard or a bit of dripping stuck in it. That was dinner for two of us.

[part with all talking together, not noted)

Q:    What would you eat when you got home then?

Mr B:    Whatever there was there. (Mrs B: Rabbit.) Rabbits mainly.

Mrs C:    If we didn’t eat all our bread up at breakfast, we had to finish that up for tea. Nothing wasted.

Mr B:    Oh no, there was nothing wasted.

Q:    You [???] as well, did you? (Mrs B: Maldon Road School)

Mrs C:    Went to the same school as I did, so did here mother. (Mrs B: Yes, Maldon Road)

Mr B:    I went to Wickham Bishops.

Q:    Wasn’t Guithavon Street the Church School?

Mrs C:    That was Church School. We went to the Council School. Ours was run by the Council, not the Church.

Mrs B:    And in them days, we used to have to stand up when the School Governors …

Mrs C:    And Empire Day, we always had to go out in the road. The flag was a flying, and we had to sing Rule Britannia and God Save the King [laughs] and the mothers used to stand at the bottom of the yard and listen to us. We used to have half a day off after that.

[10 minutes]

Mrs B:    I remember when I must have been about thirteen. We had a School Governor of the name of Captain Abrey. And somebody got the cane[?]. (Mrs C: And they all come out on strike.) (???) And we walked up to Captain Abrey, all the children at his gate, and we asked to see him, and he said [???] he was ever so gruff. (Mrs C: He was a captain on a ship.) Anyway, he told us to go back to school, and I suppose he had a word with the teacher, I don’t know. [???]

Mrs C:    You know Mr Pettican. (Mrs B. Yes.) Well his brother Charlie had done something, and old Quick the schoolmaster, he give him the cane, and his brother Aubrey went after him and told him off..

Mr B:    I think I can go a little better than that. This was Vi’s uncle, Uffer[?] Alfred his name was. He lived up at Wickham, and he went to the same school as we did, [???] he finished up at Wickham. Anyhow he went to school and something, I don’t know what happened (Mrs B: He put a cricket ball through the window.) No, the first time he was [???] but what happened I don’t know. But anyhow we begged and begged for a cricket set. Well where it come from I don’t know but we eventually got one. And our playground was the hold in the front of the school, I don’t know whether it’s still there, I haven’t been down. The school stands in a dip. That was our playground. And he said now you’ll have to use a soft ball. This was Smithy, he was a new headmaster there. And anyhow, we started to play cricket with the soft ball, and all of a sudden Uffer[?] Vi’s uncle, had got the bat and he was at the wicket, and somebody, I don’t know who it was, got a hard cricket ball, and of course he walloped it, and it went straight through two windows of the school, two, right across the school and out the other window. Well he was kept after school and he was reprimanded by this Smith, and we always thought he was a bit, you know, wasn’t altogether the ticket, and he laid him across the table in front of all of us, and there was girls and boys, only the one room, in those days, and he hit him not with the cane, but the pointer, he walloped him with that, absolutely walloped him, and of course Uffer went home [???}his mother. You know she took him all round Wickham Bishops that night and showed every person that lived in the village his behind, and it was a mess. And it weren’t many days after, he left. [???] And then Miss [???] took over, she died about two years ago, ninety-five.
Mrs C    I always remember when I was in needlework class and I was sit there {???] and one of the teachers, she weren’t liked, she come from Terling I think. She got hold of me, she shook me, she nearly shook the desk over, so the teacher had to come down to her. Yes. [???] Oh she weren’t liked as a teacher, not by anybody. Then another time I was talking and they sent me in another room with the boys when they were drawing [laughter]. (Q: You were separate were you, were the girls separate?) For needlework. But otherwise we were mixed.

Mr B:    We were infants at the front two rows of the school, then there was another two rows which were supposed to be Standard so and so. Then Standard Seven which we were always in, why I don’t know, we didn’t know no more than the others. But we were at the back. Standard Seven. (Mrs C: [???]) They used to teach the same, the whole lot. (Mrs B: Children in them days didn’t really know what they do today.[???] There was no difference. There was none of this [???] the present day. I mean it was the three Rs. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

[15 minutes]

Mrs C:    Weren’t you taught history and that?

Mr B:    Odd times. But it was mainly the main thing of education.

Mrs C:    [???]

Q:    You did history and that did you.

Mrs C:    Yes.

Mr B:    Well the rest of my school was at Nottingham University. At night school. (Q: How did you come to go there then?) Well I came out of hospital, and my sister [???] was down here, they were at Mansfield in Nottingham. And I came out of hospital and they told me I wasn’t to do anything. [???] And mother lived at Chelmsford in those days, [???] And she got me a job lather boy at Macnairs the hairdresser, just in the corner of Back Street. [???] not long. And then my sister Beat[?] sent, and the next thing I was on the train I was going to Nottingham. [???] Mother done the arrangements. And then of course I got a job at Nottingham, from Mansfield my sister applied for this job for me and I was with a dental mechanic. Well I [???] education. Well then they started to run at Nottingham University evening classes. And I always remember what the fee was, half a crown for three months.[???] The old chap who ran the dental laboratory, that’s what it was, he said well if you’d like to go I’ll pay you for the [???] So I went fifteen months. (Mrs C: How much did you get a week?) Three and sixpence.

[part with all talking together, not noted)

Mrs B: [???]

Q:    When did you come back to Witham then.

Mr B:    1931.

Mrs B:    I’ll tell you what Janet, he was wearing a hard hat then.

Mrs C:    And gloves. He was a gentleman then.

Q:    What were you doing.

Mr B:    I finished up there. That was a laboratory there was twelve of us. [???]

Mrs B:    He could have gone anywhere really but there was no work because it was the Depression.

Mr B:    Player, John Player the tobacco man, we made him a gold plate, I shall always remember that. [???] the dentists come in and said what he wants made and ‘He wants it solid gold’. [???] The rest was gold.


[I gave up trying to transcribe after this: below is some information from the handwritten notes that I made after the interview, JG]:-

[20 minutes]

Alf went to chicken farm a while at first. Had done all exams for dental mechanic. Big grocers shop near there. New apprentices sent for a pound of Essops[?] or furniture shop for a pound of Winnies (weeds).

John Player gave them £5 to share.

Mrs C once worked at the White Hart as a cook for shooting parties. When they went they asked for the cook and gave £1 tip. She did everything except serve beer – looking after children, waiting, upstairs, scrub baths, scrub billiard room. Mrs B took messages sometimes to her and remembers hard stone floors and kitchen with two ovens. Left in a hurry when left. Once not much Saturday lunch and told off. Never went into service again. Did daily jobs. Had lived in at White Hart.

Mrs B’s father was on land at start, then at British Oxygen. Grandad on railway and Gran a midwife. Name was Prior. Different from others. Qualified? Wore hard collar and apron right up. Did other nursing too. Gran went to help with Cromer Express disaster in 1905 and was called away to deliver Alf at Wickham Bishops. Cromer Express baby.

Witham boundary. Wickham Hill part in Witham. Alf in Mope Lane.

After this I gave up on the notes as well. They are in the file of handwritten notes but don’t make a lot of sense.

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