Mr Fred Cook was born c 1908. I can’t find the details for Mrs Cook at the moment. They were interviewed on 21 April 1983, when they lived at Floreat, Chalks Road, Witham.
For more information about them, see Cook, Fred, in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Mr C: [looking at notes made by FC] See I don’t know what you want me to talk about.
Q: Anything that interests you really. Let me see. [reading] ‘This estate’, I hadn’t heard about, you say there were fetes on here? [i.e. St Nicholas Road and north side of Chalks Road], (Mr C: Mm?) You say there were fetes on this.
Mr C: [???] (Q: Who ran those?) I think that was the Co-op, at one time, I don’t know whether the Church did or not. But I remember them. Yes. I reckon that was the Co-op, after they had to, they had to pack up that bit of ground behind the Co-op, because that belonged to somebody else, I think that’s how it finished up here.
Q: Oh I see, I’d not heard of that. What did they used to have there? What did they used to have? What sort of things did they do at the fete?
Mr C: Oh it was only a children’s do, games, races and things like that. They had the Witham Town Band. I mention the Witham Town Band.
Q: You’ll have to write your own book. I remember you said …
[mention of hearing aid, not noted]
Q: I remember you tell me about being, you lived down Charity Row. [28-40 Church Street].
Mr C: That’s right.
Q: Were you a big family? Was there many of you in that house down there?
Mr C: Oh no, there was only two children, me and my sister, mother and father. (Q: Oh I see. What did your Dad do?) Well he was a coalman for the Co-op for part of the time, he was a platelayer on the railway, worked at the maltsters, you know, Baird’s. And then he finished up working for Wells up there on the farm.
[Chat re coffee etc not noted]
Q: So I mean a lot of people stayed in the same job all their lives, didn’t they? I wonder why he moved about. Did he ever say why he changed his jobs?
Mr C: Well, he left the Co-op on his own accord, I know that. But the other jobs, well, didn’t last long. (Q: I see.) But he worked on the railway I think before he got married.
Q: Did he come from Witham?
Mr C: Yes.
Q: What about your mother, was she from Witham?
Mr C: From Terling, she was. [???] a funny thing, there was a bit in the paper, an old man, gamekeeper of Terling, name of Harris. Well my mother’s name was Harris. And she come from Terling. So they might be some connection. [???]
Q: What were their first names, in case I read about them? (Mr C: You mean surnames?) Christian names.
Mr C: Oh, I don’t know my mother [???] they used to say Liza, they used to call her Liza. (Q: What about your Dad?) Same name as I have, Frederick Samuel. (Mrs C: The Frederick Samuels go back quite a bit. [???] got the book now but they had a ‘Pilgrim’s Progress; wasn’t it with all these Frederick Samuel Cooks.) Oh yes Samuel goes back [???] (Mrs C: We got into trouble because we didn’t call ours Frederick Samuel [???])
Q: Did you have a lot of relations?
Mr C: Oh, my mother had, I should say about ten sisters, didn’t she? (Q: Really?) No brothers. All girls (Q:[???]) They tell me her father had more time in gaol that what he did out. [laughter] For poaching. (Q: Really? And that was Harris was it?) Yes. Well that was Lord Rayleigh’s place they were [???], He never let you have anything.
Q: Really? Were their some of those people still over there when you were little? A lot of them were still in Terling, were they, when … (Mr C: Who?) Your mother’s relations.
Mr C: No. There’s none there. There’s some of the children, her sisters’ children still about.
Q: Oh, so they put you in gaol for poaching, did they? You’d have a job to keep ten children if you were in gaol, though, wouldn’t you? I wonder how he managed.
Mr C: Yes, well that’s only what I’ve heard, I don’t know whether it’s true or not.
Q: Were the houses down there [Church Street] like what they are now when you were there?
Mr C: They’ve done a lot this last three or four years, haven’t they. (Q: Before that they were sort of the same, really?) Yes.
Q: Why did they call it Charity Row, I wonder. Did it belong to the Church or something, do you think?
Mr C: Well [???] almshouses, well they weren’t when I was there.
Mrs C: They used to use the top for this wool business and the people lived below. That’s what I was told.
Q: [???] You just lived there like any other house as far as you know?
Mr C: They were while I was there, just like an ordinary house.
Q: Would you say that your folks were well off, or badly off?
Mr C: I should say they were on the poor side. ‘Cos when I was at the school, the schoolmaster there wrote to my mother and father, if I could go to Braintree High School. They turned it down and said they couldn’t afford it, so I never went. [???] (Q: Would you have liked to go, do you think?) I wanted to go, yes.
Q: So you got on well at school, did you?
Mr C: Yes, pretty well.
Q: Which one did you go to?
Mr C: I started at this Infants [Church Street], then I went to the Church of England,
[chat about biscuits not noted]
Q: [Reading FC’s notes] Yes I remember hearing about that being a school next to …[i.e. 22 Church Street]. Was that the Sunday School when you were at …
Mr C: Yes, I went for a time. That’s a house though isn’t it. (Q: Oh, so that was where you went to Sunday School was it.) [???] That was in the early days, you know, when I was about ten I reckon.
Q: You had to go, did you?
Mr C: I don’t know.
[chat re JG’s book about shops, not noted]
Mr C: [???] I don’t go much further than the station bridge. Really you ought to contact your neighbour, Bert Godfrey, ‘cos he went to school with me and he’s about a year older. And he knows more about – he lived down the town you see, so he should know more about …
Q: [???] Did you not go down the town then?
Mr C: Used to go when we went down to school.
Q: But if you lived up here that was sort of separate, was it?
Mr C: Yes. Well I know more about this part. This is the oldest part of the town.
Q: I’m sure I remember somebody telling me they used to have fights between Chipping Hill and the…
Mr C: Oh yes [???]. (Q: Were you in them?) Oh I was with us boys yes, sticks and stones we used to fight. Used to meet in Spinks Lane, you know, where the school is. Witham used to get down one end and we used to be down the other. And through [???] and sticks at one another.
Mrs C: They say today’s children are bad but you know they’re no worse really. There’s just more talk about it isn’t there.
Q: When would that be, at a weekend or after school time?
Mr C: I don’t know. I should imagine it must have been weekend time.
Q: Was that when you were quite small, or were they mostly older.
Mr C: We left the infants school when we was eight. [???] (Q: So it was while you were still at school that …?) Yes.
Q: It sounds quite organised. How did you find out there was going to be a fight?
[chat about recent children in Chalks Road, not noted]
Q: Did you ever get the police after you or anything? Did anybody complain about it. When you were fighting.
Mr C: Oh, there wasn’t about two or three coppers in Witham then. One sergeant and two constables. You wouldn’t get summoned at all, old Tom Haggar was the sergeant, he’d get his gloves and clip you round the ear with them. (Q: That happened to you did it?) No, I don’t think he ever caught me. (Q: I was going to say you were a good boy or you got away quick.) Well I did get summonsed for gambling once. Underneath that Braintree bridge up there, there was about fourteen of us. Used to get there Sunday afternoons, gambling with cards. (Q: Really?) Somebody put the copper on to us and of course we had to be summonsed. They were summoned half a crown each and I was summoned seven and sixpence, I was. Because I didn’t go. (Q: What you wouldn’t go?) Cos I weren’t in court[?]. [laughter]
Q: That’s a funny thing to be summonsed for, wasn’t it. You didn’t get away with it because it was Sunday, I suppose, perhaps.
Mr C: No, we got summonsed for trespassing. (Q: Oh I see.) Not for gambling. They reckoned we done damage on the railway bank. [???]
Q: Were your Mum and Dad cross about that? (Mr C: I don’t know really.) It must have been quite a …
Mrs C: In those days.
Mr C: [???] when I was a choir boy. Me and Len Butler, he died just recently. There was three classes or divisions for the choir boys. One and a penny a quarter, two and twopence a quarter and three and threepence a quarter. We were in the one and a pennies. We thought we should be in the two and twopennies. They said we weren’t worth it. So we stopped away, didn’t go. And we went down the back of my grandmother’s, she had a lavatory right down the bottom of the garden, so we locked ourselves in there, us two. Canon Galpin came after us. [???] So we packed up the choir. We had one and a penny a quarter, that’s a penny a week, and we had to attend two services, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and the choir practice on a Friday. For a penny a week. Slave labour then wasn’t it?
Q: You managed to get away with it though, they didn’t … Did you see quite a lot of the vicar – it was the vicar was it that came after you, you said.
Mr C: Yes. He was a Canon. They reckoned he could play any instrument there was.(Q: Really?) They I reckon he’d got them all [???] Very tall man he was, six foot four I reckon.
Q: You still had to go Church after you packed up the choir did you?
Mr C: I don’t know.
Q: People say the vicars were very strict in those days and everybody had to go to Church but it sounds as if you managed to stand up for yourself all right.
Mr C: Well my mother and father were Chapel people. (Q: Oh really?) Not Church people. I think they only made us go to that Church because we lived opposite.
Q: So they went down the town did they?
Mr C: When they went.
Q: It was just to keep you quiet. This Sunday School, that would be when you were smaller I suppose, was it? (Mr C: Yes.) So what would your Dad do on a Saturday if he didn’t go to Church. On a Sunday. He’d be working Saturday wouldn’t he.
Mrs C: To the Woolpack. No I don’t know although …
Mr C: We used to play football in the road a lot then, well there was no cars, you see. Actually, opposite the Church, in between the houses there, we played there, that used to be more or less a football pitch. We had a lamp post which marked the goal at one end and the church gate marked the other end. On the road yes. In front of those cottages. (Q: [???]) you mean?) Yes. (Q: You didn’t break any windows.) Never used to see a car on the road.
Q: I’ve got something about Wadleys in these shops and things. Do you remember them at all?
Mr C: I only just remember them.
Q: It was quite a long time ago. Mr C: Yes. [Reading from Mr C’s notes?] ‘Dooles, Post Office’. [???] Oh they were open Sundays were they? Did you do a lot of shopping yourself or did your mother do all that? (Mr C: Shopping? Not shopping.) You seem to know about the shops but I suppose you would just see them all. Your mother didn’t go out to work or anything?
Mr C: No. (Q: Did she have any work in?) No. (Q: Or do any field work or anything like that?) No. (Q: I suppose she was kept busy with you lot wasn’t she.) A lot of people used to take in peas from the pea sheds, seed sheds, to sort out the bad ones from the good ones. Lots of people used to do that. Used to sort out a two hundredweight sack out for a couple of bob. (Q: But she didn’t do that?) No. [???]
Q: Did you used to go, people talk about going out and fruit picking?
Mr C: Oh, she went pea picking but not fruit picking.
Q: Did you have to go as well.
Mr C: Yes. (Q: [???]) Back ache.[laughs] That’s why I’ve got the back ache now, I reckon.
Q: You’ve got a good memory haven’t you, the [???] and all the shops and that. [reading notes] ‘Doole’s’. I see. Mrs Grape …[of Dean House, Chalks Road]
Mr C: She was a Doole. ‘Cos I can remember her when I was there, when I was working for Doole’s you know, she was going to school with me. But she’s older than me. (Q: You …) In between school hours, serve in the shop. (Q: What sort of jobs did you do?) Only errands, groceries. Go and get the order from them say it was in the morning. Then deliver them [???] dinner time or night time or Saturday morning. (Q: How much did you get for that I wonder?) Seven and sixpence I think. He was a good payer, old man Doole was. ‘Cos when I started at Crittall’s, full time, I only got twelve and six then. I was there about a month and they cut it down to ten and sixpence. Everyone had a cut. Yes, well things were in a bad way then.
Q: Did you go there straight after you …?
Mr C: Yes I left Doole’s and I started up there the next day.
Q: So you worked at Doole’s after you left school, did you.
Mr C: No, I was going to carry on with school, the same school, if I didn’t get a job. But I didn’t go but another week and I found this job you see.
Q: Was Crittall’s, was it quite new then, Crittall’s?
Mr C: Yes. You’re asking me a lot what’s in there.
Q: [???] This keeps reminding me of things. [???] Dick Turpin. Oh Quys, you knew them did you?
Mr C: I knew old man Quy well.
Q: How come, you say they were good friends to you, did they, is that when you were young?
Mr C: Oh yes, when I was only a schoolboy. Because. One of his workman was the name of Ince, he come from Great Yeldham, I think. He used to lodge at my grandmother’s. So [???] I more or less used to go down there and see him work, see, and that’s how to I got to know old man Quy.
Q: He didn’t mind you going in there and that?
Mr C: No, oh you needn’t go in, you could stand at the wooden window. [???]
Q: Quy was the one in charge, he was the main blacksmith was he then?
Mr C: He ran the place.
Q: Did he live there?
Mr C: Yes. Next door. Where Henry Dorking, you know Henry Dorking, ‘cos he used to be there and the old man left that to him. (Q: I see, yes.) [???] That’s what they said. [???] Left him the business anyway.
Q: Would you have been interested in doing that sort of work?
Mr C: No. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school. I got this job at Crittall’s because they only had one boy there, and he got the sack I think. He was in the stores. I went over. I never got his job at all, they put me straight in the despatch office.
Q: That was paper work was it?
Mr C: [???] The bloke who interviewed me to start with was the lodge keeper, and he used to be the police sergeant of Witham, old man Haggar. And he’d got no business to do it, he made me do some, wrote some sums down for me to do, and write a little letter which I [???] to hand to the manager. So I started [???] in the despatch office. [???] There weren’t no jobs about not that time of day. No factories about here. Hadn’t been that long, that had just started you see.
Q: It makes you wonder what people did before, doesn’t it really.
Mr C: [???]
Mrs C: Farm work mostly, didn’t they, I mean there wasn’t much else, was there.
Q: When you said some of the work your Dad did it sort of packed up, so presumably he was out of work quite a bit was he? Or perhaps you wouldn’t notice specially?
Mr C: No I don’t think he was ever out of work. Not for any length of time any rate.
Q: [Reading notes] I hadn’t heard that one about Dick Turpin.
[Moat Farm Chase etc was main London Road and Dick Turpin called, not noted]
Q: [Reading again] ‘Undertakers [???] Deans’. Workshop at the back [???] fish shop, then newspaper shop and library.
Mr C: [???] (Q: That’s where the new chip shop and everything is is it? What sort of library did you have ?) Oh, [???] that everybody else didn’t want. (Q: Did you used to get anything from there?) Oh yes. I think they used to loan them out for a penny a time, penny a week.
Q: [???] I suppose there wasn’t any library was there?
Mr C: Well that was a newspaper shop and a [???] library. I think he done that on the side to make a [???] you see. He finished up in clink, I don’t know what for. [laughter]
Q: I’m surprised you didn’t know what for, everybody seemed to know everybody’s business, didn’t they? Butchers, Greatrex. That’s somebody I did talk to when I was doing that [book] that was very interesting. Maurice Greatrex. He lives in Chelmsford now. [???] (Mr C: Yes he was one of the sons.) Do you remember their shop do you?
Mr C: Oh I remember it well There used to be the slaughter house.
Q: [???] Did you used to watch them slaughtering? (Mr C: No.) [???] the same day I suppose did you?
Mr C: Oh yes, they used to, that used to be done early in the morning. They used to cut it out and you used to take it home warm, yes. Lower lights, smelt, things like that, sweetbreads.
Q: I suppose when you were at school you’d come home for your dinner, did you?
Mr C: In the summer we used to take food, sandwiches, and generally go down the Rec.
Q: I’m just wondering you say about the meat, what sort of, when you had meat, whether you had an evening dinner or …
Mr C: No I don’t suppose we had much meat at all. [???] A meat pudding one day, I think that was about all the meat we used to have, you know.
Q: On a Sunday, what would you have on a Sunday. (Mr C: [???] I suppose that was roast. [???]) [Reading] ‘General shop transferred to Wadley’s’.
Mr C: Where old Ann Chinnery lives [54 Church Street]. (Q: I’m with you yes. Oh I see, that moved across. [???] Did he sell it did he?
Mr C: Well he used to take the monster bottle, and he used to put a cube in of whatever you wanted. [???] or red or something like that, fill it up with water and called it a monster. [???] (Q: Was that fizzy or anything?) Yes.
Q: [Reading] ‘Pickles and jam, take your own jar’. (Mr C: Yes) Twopence and threepence and always a halfpenny over, what was the halfpenny?
Mr C: Well, that’s how he made is profit. That’s like you do in the shops today. You don’t get a pound, which comes to [???] and another half over or something. (Q: Did they make them there, do you think, the jam? Do you think he made the jam at the shop?) No he used to have big seven pound jars. He used to buy them like that and then sell them in pounds or half pounds.
Q: Yes, of course, yes. [Reading] ‘Swimming pools, swam in the river in the nude’. Daring. ‘Death trap. Top of Glebe Crescent. Pea hole Maldon Road’. You went to swim in there did you?
Mr C: I never went to that one [Pea hole] it was too far. I went to this one up here. (Q: You wouldn’t think there was enough water, would you. Was it deeper then?). Well I don’t know, that was a bend in the river, you stand at the bottom and it was very shallow at one end and when you got to the [other] that was fairly deep, more than six foot. Weren’t very big. But I haven’t been down there for a long long time, I reckon they’ve built over that now, I don’t know.
Q: That was just the boys was it. (Mr C: Yes.) Presumably you just taught yourselves to swim did you.
Mr C: You had to cos you got thrown in.
Q: You say it was a death trap, was there ever any accidents or anything.
Mr C: Not down there, there was down this other one. [???] One boy, name of Farrant[?] he got drowned, he went right it, got caught in the weeds, didn’t come up.
Q: [???] [reading] ‘Gift of a Loaf of bread to Charity Row. Collected from the vestry basket. The bread was so hard we had to pack up football’.
Mr C: That was one of these Coburn loaves, you know what a Coburn loaf is? Well they reckon they were the leftovers from the shops. Well how the old people could eat them I don’t know. They were just like lead. (Q: And that was just for people living in that …) Only living in that row. Only the old people at that, there was there wouldn’t be but four or five of them I don’t reckon. Oh and there was these almshouses up on the corner here. They were entitled to it. [???] There might have been one or two other places you know, that’s the only one I knew of. (Q: How often was that?) Every Sunday afternoon. (Q: Do you think they were pleased to have it, or did they find it hard.) Well I don’t know, I don’t know what they done with it.
Q: You remember them going to get it though do you. (Mr C: [???])
Mrs C: What about the carp pond, I thought about it when you were talking about …
Mr C: That was during the 1914-18 War up there. The carp pond was up near there. That’s where we weren’t allowed to go when they were shooting. [past the Victoria?]
Q: Do you remember much about the First War?
Mr C: Yes, I can remember it well because they used to billet soldiers on [???] my mother and father, two at a time, yes, always remember that. I remember one pair when they knew they were going to France, they got drunk as a lord that day, they couldn’t stand. Laid on the floor near the door, you couldn’t shut it. Well I suppose they thought they were in for it didn’t they.
Q: So your mother and father had to feed them and all that, did they?
Mr C: You were always lucky to get someone who was in the, well I suppose the butchery trade or something. We didn’t do too bad anyway. [???] (Q: They brought the food in, did they?) Oh yes, they used to nick I suppose, I don’t know [laughter].
Q: And they were doing shooting and marching about as well were they?
Mr C: Another time they brought a case of condensed milk. Mother and father were frightened for the life for that, they went and buried in the chicken place. Well, it was dangerous wasn’t it. The meat was all right, but a gross of tins of condensed milk …
Q: You’d probably find it’s still there. You said your grandmother lived in Witham, did she?
Mr C: Yes she lived in Charity Row. (Q: Oh, she was there and all?) She lived in one of the end houses which had this attic up the top, where it used to be the weavers’ place. They split it in two, the two end houses had half each. This end house had half, and my grandmother had the other half. But they never used to keep anything up there. Only barrels of wine. Used to have them on the side as you go the stairway, you know. (Q: What did they make it of?) Oh yes she used to make a lot of wine. (Q: What did she make it out of?) Mostly rhubarb, or currants, gooseberries. Cos she had plenty of them in the garden. Long gardens, it was then. And the refuse that time of day, they never come and collect it, there used, half way down the garden they used to keep a deep hole and they used to call that the bungy hole, and they used to chuck everything in there, and then the men used to take it out and spread it on the garden, and dig it in [???]. Course there was no tins. Cos the tins they used to over fling over into a ditch what was Adams and Mortimers, right at the bottom of the garden. (Q: [???])
Q: Your Dad did a good bit of gardening did he.
[discussion about Mr Cook’s notes and return visit, not noted]
Q: Oh that’s right, now you get to the schools, yes. You went to, after Church Street you went to Guithavon. (Mr C: [???]) Do you remember who the headmaster was and all that?
Mr C: Yes. There was – Rowles, and his wife. And a second one, name of Macey, and Mrs Clare.
Mrs C: Going off that subject, you know Lucy Croxall, she used to teach me, you wouldn’t believe it. (Q: Did she really?) Mind you she was only a student teacher but you know, that always amuses me a little bit. [???] Hatfield Peverel.
Q: That’s right because she used to be there. [???] she takes old people on holidays doesn’t she. Bramston school would be after your time wouldn’t it. You did have Mrs Rowles as well?
Mr C: I should think so, I remember it being built.
Q: You did have Mrs Rowles as well? Did she …
Mr C: [???] Before Rowles it was Thompson. Thompson and his wife. And then he went in the First World War. And I know he used to come home on leave, and he was dressed up as well, a lieutenant or officer or something and the boots on, and dance about there in the school whatsername, get the stick out. (Q: Even when he was home on leave.) Yes we used to enjoy that. They used to use the cane, there was one boy in particular, he used to hold his hand out and when that came down he used to catch it. And he played up. Old Thompson didn’t know what to do with him. Davidge his name was. There used to be a shop in the same road [Guithavon Street] he was a basket maker. And after he [???] he used to send this boy to get another one, he’d take another cut, he’d break that one.
Q: [???] So he wasn’t the boss of everybody. Did you get much cane yourself.
Mr C: I remember I got the cane for someone else. Somebody didn’t own up.
Q: Still, if you were good at the work, you’d probably find more, better things to do, did you? What happened, were they all divided up into years, or were you all mixed in together?
Mr C: All the boys were in together. Bar Standard 1 and 2, they had a partition. But 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 were all in one room. But they were still divided. There’d be a woman take 3 and 4, and than a man take the rest, 5 6 and 7. (Q: It would be difficult to concentrate I should think, wouldn’t it? That was all in one room?) Well there weren’t many got into 6 and 7 you know. (Q: I see. So they were the oldest ones?)
Q: Would you have liked to stop?
Mr C: I left when I was in 6. I got put behind, for the simple reason they put me in, I was in 3, and I done so well, and I jumped 4 and they put me in 5, but I reckon I got behind over that.
Q: Did many, you say you would have liked to go to the High School. Were there many from Witham went.
Mr C: They used to select one or two every year, you know.
Q: Were there any of your friends went there?
Mr C: Tom Ashcroft in this road here [St Nicholas Road] But I can’t remember him being at any of our schools. I reckon he must have went to the Board School down Maldon Road. I don’t remember him being at the Church School. I found a photograph and I marked on there who they all were but [???]. (Mrs C: He’s on the little school one.) Yes he’s on this one down here. (Mrs C: He’s got a big lace collar.
Q: You kept all the photographs have you. I’ll have to look at those sometime, you can show me what you looked like. What did you have to wear for school, did you have to dress up specially?
Mr C: No, there was no special school uniform, not till you got to Braintree High School. (Q: You had to be smart did you?) Some of them couldn’t be, you see on the photographs, cos some of them were very very poor, that time of day, you know. Big families.
Q: There was just you and your sister you said in your …(Mr C: [???].) Was she older that you?
Mr C: No, about four years younger. There was the same difference between us two as there was between our two. (Q: Did she go to the same school) I don’t remember him in school. Oh you see we were never mixed, only at the Infants’ school. (Q: So you didn’t play with her much?) No. (Q: Did the boys play with the girls very much?) No. [???] the playground there was a wall round. I think they used to let the girls out a quarter of an hour before the boys. (Q: Did you see them on the way to school and on the way back?) No, I was always in a hurry getting to school them days.
Q: [??? reading from notes] Walnuts and chestnuts.
Mr C: That was [???] the Rec. But I’ve been in there, there’s only one chestnut tree left there now. The left hand wall as you went up the side was full of, walnut trees up there. [???]
Q: You’d go and pick them up and eat them would you. (Mr C: Knock them down, not pick them up.) Did they have any swings there at that time? You know no they’ve got swings.
Mr C: Oh yes. [???] Girls one place and boys another. And I believe there was an old see-saw there but I don’t remember much about that.
Q: Did they have anybody looking after it. You know some places they had sort of park keepers. (Mr C: No.) [reading] ‘Church School 8.55’, you must have gone quickly. Arrive at nine o’clock. (Mr C: That was running that was, Now they need a bus to take them to school.) Q: Who was your pal, he lived near you did he?
Mr C: Len Butler, he finished up as a signalman on the railway. He’s been dead about two years now hasn’t he. (Q: He lived near you did he?) Yes. [???]
Mrs C: Effie Butler, his sister, still lives down there. You know her? She comes up the road nearly every day because she goes to sit with her sister in law [???]. She’s very, I don’t know how old she’d be, she’s older than you isn’t she. But she still lives down in Charity Row there.
Mr C: When Len was a school that was two or three houses down the road. [???] (Mrs C: Effiie still lives down there, doesn’t she. (Q: She’s still Butler is she?) She’s still Butler. (Mrs C: She didn’t marry.) (Q: I must have seen her go by then. [???])
Q: [Reading] ‘Allotments. Chipping Hill. Braintree Road. London Road’. There’s not many of them left then is there really?
Mr C: Moat Farm estate has taken one, all these bungalows just over the bridge have taken another, and the Bridge Home and the fire station have taken the land up there. [???]
Q: Did you used to have one? (Mr C: I used to have one up here.) (Mrs C: [???]) (Mr C: When we first got here.) Did your father used to have one.
Mr C: Yes. He used to have twenty rod up there, I don’t know whether you know what twenty rod is. That’s a big bit of ground. And then we split it, so we had ten each. When he didn’t want it no more he left me with the twenty rod. [???] (Q: He was a keen gardener was he?) No. He used to go and dig it [???] and then shut the gate [???], used to be full of weeds. (Q: Did anything grow in there then?) Yes it’s a lovely bit of soil up there. (Q: Whereabouts was this one exactly, up Braintree Road?) No, Moat Farm. That was practically opposite … (Mrs C: Just a little bit up higher than Spring Lodge, the other side.) (Q: I seem to remember when we came, I don’t know whether it was used much but it was still marked out.). That’s right, opposite Spring Lodge, and I reckon I was about a hundred yards in.
Q: That would be a lot. When you were in Church Street you had that big long garden as well. (Mr C: I never done no gardening not when I was down there. Never thought about it till I got married.)
Q: [Reading] ‘Street lights. Gas. ’Man on a bike with a long pole with a hook on the end.’ He came round every day did he?
Mr C: Yes he used to come [???] five o’clock at night and pull the chain to light it, then about ten o’clock at night he’d come round again and pull the chain again and put it out. There was several of them in Church Street.
Q: That was a seven day a week job, wasn’t it? I mean would that be somebody you knew that did that?
Mr C: Yes. I used to know him. [???] I think his name was Meekings, I see a Meekings in here [in book on shops]. (Mrs C: That’s Mrs Meekings, probably.
[discussion about present Meekings family and King family and Cecil Ager, not noted.]
Q: I’m just getting on to this bit about people coming round to the door and that. With fish and muffins and crumpets.
Mr C: That’s right. Generally Sunday afternoon. You don’t see any of them now do you?
Q: You used to buy that often did you?
Mr C: Oh yes. One old man, come from Maldon, now what was his name now? He used to come Saturdays. He used to stop at the Woolpack and get drunk there and what he’d got left he used to give away. Oh yes, there used to be boxes of oranges as well. Throw them in the road for the kids. Stibby[?] Knight, that was his name.
Q: You did have oranges and things then. (Mr C: Yes.) I suppose the Woolpack was your main pub then, down there, was it. Did your, how did people decided whether to go to the Woolpack or the White Horse. I often wondered because they’re so near, aren’t they? When you were small.
Mr C: Woolpack he used to go to. Well actually I think he used to be in all the pubs. (Q: What about your dad for instance, which did he go to?) [???] Woolpack. The nearest. That hasn’t altered much [???] I can’t understand why they want to close it up. (Q: I suppose they don’t get a lot there.)
Q: [reading] ‘Street singers’. What were street singers.
Mr C: Well they used to come in the roads singing, in the streets, and people would throw money to them. (Q: Really?) That was when there was pea picking about and things like that. (Q: They were the same people you mean?) Yes. (Q: What sort of songs did they …) Well anything, as long as they got a copper.
Q: So people used to come specially for the pea picking. Where did they used to stay when they came? (Mr C: [???]) Where did they stay?
Mr C: Underneath hedges.
Q: Did they really? Did many people give them money, do you think.
Mr C: [???] they picked up a coin or two. You didn’t want much then, did you? Cos wages weren’t that high, only two pound a week. Now they want twice that an hour, don’t they.
[chat about Mr C’s notes etc., not noted]
Q: You’ve got a bit here about turntables for railway engines. Where was that then?
Mr C: You go along behind Crittall’s which is Cut Throat Lane isn’t it. And then you see a hole there where they’ve thrown all the rubbish. Well that was the place, but it’s been dismantled. That was when the Braintree and Maldon lines were running. And they were steam trains. And the engine is supposed to face one way. But eventually they got it so they run backwards. When you got one from Chelmsford to Witham, well that train had got to be turned, or the engine’d got to be turned. [???] That was all hands, pushed round you know. I used to help on that. (Q: Did you get anything for it?) No fear.
[Discussion about notes and return visit, etc. not noted.]
Q: [to Mrs C] You didn’t come from Witham, you said?
Mrs C: Well no. Well I’ve lived here now a good many years. 46? I forget. But I mean I wasn’t born and bred in Witham. [Hatfield Peverel]
Q: I suppose you used to come to Witham, did you.
Mrs C: I can’t remember anything about it. Apart from walking up this lane when we lived at Silver End to catch a bus and it was all trees. I mean as regards the town and all that I don’t remember a lot about it. ‘Cos well, it was a matter of getting on your bike and coming. I mean he used to come my way more. And then if I did come it usually coming to a dance or something, you see. Well that’s altogether different. War recollections I’ve got, but not before then. I mean that’s not anything except what other people remember if you get me, you know. Q: So you were here in the War then?
Mrs C: We slept in the front garden, didn’t we. We had a shelter out there. Till they issued us with the, what were they called, Morrisons. (Mr C: That was in there.) Yes but I mean before that you and your dad dug … (Mr C: Yes, I made one more or less near the front gate. Well it lasted so long, I nearly got drowned there once. [???]) We all used to go down, the dog and all, you know. But as I say that’s only the sort of thing that everybody remembers.
Q Oh well I don’t whether they do now, you see. You tend to think that’s not long ago, but of course to the children, for instance, it’s years ago, isn’t it. Ancient history.
Mrs C: Yes. As I say they issued these Morrison shelters and we had that in here then didn’t we.
Q: Cos your children would be small then. People say they enjoyed it but I find it hard to believe they enjoyed all of it. I should think it must have been a bit worrying mustn’t it, or …
Mrs C: Well, a different outlook to what it would be [???] I mean you couldn’t say you enjoyed it, but it was exciting. And of course we were fortunate, we didn’t have any casualties not like London and all places like that. I mean that must have been altogether different, mustn’t it. But I remember standing out the front garden and there was all these bombers, you could see all the bombers going to London and things like that you know. But as I say that anybody who was here at that time will tell you. And of course I worked across the farm, out at Faulkbourne, I did. With other people, you know. Fruit picking, hoeing, [???] turnipping. Oh all the farm jobs, you know, that sort of thing. But Mrs Knights did, you know the first bungalow down there, she worked over there. [???] We had some good times there too.
Q: You took the children with you or what then?) (Mrs C: [???]) Did you have to take the children with you?
Mrs C: Oh yes, when they weren’t at school. Oh yes, you used to take them on the back of your bike, or walk with them you see. When they were at school of course, we didn’t used to have to get there till nine, and we used to leave off at four. In those days you could leave your door unlocked and the children could come in, which they did, or else stopped out [???]. (Mr C: [???] Gill wasn’t born till 1936, Keith was only four then. [???]) Yes, what I said, they could come home. Used to go out and leave all the windows wide open, and all that sort of thing. The only time I had a scare, was working over the farm, the children were at school, and this bomb dropped and it was near, and I scorched home, and [???] that was the one on Crittall’s. But as I say we weren’t, well I don’t know, I don’t think we were really frightened. You know.
Q: You were asked to do that, were you, or volunteered, or …
Mrs C: We had to do it cos of the money. And of course the company was nice, but …
Q: Normally you didn’t work when you were married I suppose, so much? Did you do any other work after you married.
Mrs C: Oh yes, I worked over the farm, then I went down Fruit Packers. (Mr C: But you never worked when we were at Silver End. We were there four years, before we come here, because they weren’t built, you see [i.e. Chalks Road].)
Q: That was when you were first married was it, you were at Silver End.
Mrs C: That was really the War I suppose, because Mr Bradley who lived over there you see, I had a chat to him, and when I was single, when I first left school, I went to Seabrooks and I happened to say that to him, well then he wanted extra people cos he worked over at this farm, you see. And asked me if I’d like to do it and that was really the start of it, you see. And then it wasn’t only fruit picking, we pruned, and [???] all sorts of things you know. [???] through the winter really. Because they used to pick the apples and shoot them in a great big barn, and then we used to have to go and sort them and pack them, the same way as they do at Fruit Packers now, but we did it by hand you see, weighed them everything, and what they call [???] them into sieves and things. So that, and as I say, turnipping and hoeing and things like that, used to see us more or less through the winter.
Q: Then when the War finished, what happened then?
Mrs C: Well we still carried on, and I don’t really know why, but I should think I got a bit fed up with it, and I left, and then I went down Fruit Packers, and then I got fed up with that, after a bit, you know, you do, and then I went to Pinkham’s. And I went to an electrical place after that, didn’t I [???]. And then the wine stores and that was the end. The thing of it was keeping part time you see. Oh, Hurst Gunson’s I went to Hurst Gunson’s for a while. But that was part time and then they wanted me to do full time, and no way could I do full time. So that was that you see.
Q: So you could do part time at Pinkham’s as well, could you?
Mrs C: Yes. Used to leave off about three I think, I’ve forgotten now.
Q: [to Mr C} Were you still at Crittall’s in the War?
Mr C: Yes.
Q: So were you there when the bomb dropped?
Mr C: Yes. Twice. I was up this end of the factory then and I could see that plane come over here, [???] and we ain’t got the dugouts then. And you could see the blokes in it. (Q: Really?)
Mrs C: Then of course there was a doodlebug when Keith was in Notley Hospital, wasn’t there, do you remember that? He was in Notley Hospital, we watched it go down, you know, that looked as if that must have hit the hospital, and of course I got on my bike, and went like fury, but it was all right when I got to the hospital. But apart from those sort of things I don’t think we were really scared, not like I would be now. When you’re young, it’s altogether a different outlook. As I say, we were fortunate, we weren’t really bombed.