Mrs Christina Lee (nee Broyd), was born in c 1905 or 1906. She was interviewed on 26 April 1983, when she lived at 12 Nicholas Court, Witham.
For more about her, see Lee, Mrs Christina, nee Broyd, in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Q: Did your father work round here or ?
Mrs L: Well there were such a lot of railwaymen stationed here you see. (Q: Oh I see.) There was every sort of railwayman here and they’d all got houses round about near the station and my father was, well he used to travel around on the railway relieving signalmen and doing all different things. He gradually worked up to Inspector, so he got to know everyone and everyone else out there.
Q: Whereabouts did you live then ?
Mrs L: We lived in the Braintree Road down near Cullens’ warehouse. (Q: Oh yes I know.) I was saying the other day to a friend that we used to walk to the end of the road where the Templars garage is when we were children. We’d take a basket and a jug and we’d go into the farmyard, Mr Brown’s farmyard, where the hen coop was on the grass you know, and the chickens about, and we’d go into the dairy and pick up eggs and skimmed milk and a lovely pat of farm butter. It doesn’t seem possible does it now?
Q: It’s a shame that. I haven’t, nobody seems to have a picture of that farm. [Cocks farm, Braintree Road] If I could see one it would be nice.
Mrs L: No, I wish I had because my husband was the builder whose land he bought to build his houses on. No, it was pulled down, but somebody surely has a photograph.
Q: You’d think that somewhere they would but I’ve never seen one. Was it a very old …?
Mrs L: It was a lovely, really very pretty old farmhouse and you see the house was right on the bend of the road so you didn’t have to go across muddy fields to it or anything. It stood there. The Aldertons, one of the Aldertons, who moved into it. I wonder if any of them have got a photograph of it.
Q: That’s a possibility isn’t it. I live just up the road from there you see so I’ve often wondered what it looked like.
Mrs L: It was surely Winston Alderton and he had a, he used to work for a paper. So surely he’s got a picture of the farmhouse.
Q: You don’t think of it though do you.
Mrs L: [???]
Q: So did you go to school in Witham?
Mrs L: Yes, little Maldon Road School.
Q: That was quite a long way …
Mrs L: To walk. Yes, we used to walk it and back for lunch and back again in the afternoon. Good exercise wasn’t it.
Q: How did you choose which one to go to?
Mrs L: Well, you see the other was a Church school and we were Congregationalists and so we all had to go down there.
Q: Were you very active in the Chapel, your family ?
Mrs L: No, not really, no.
Q: You just didn’t want to go to the Church school.
Mrs L: No, I had a friend, she lives in The Avenue and we used to go backwards and forwards regularly in those days and became Sunday School teachers and then of course I went away and she stayed on I think and was a Sunday School teacher for some time but when I came back I didn’t carry on.
Q: Did you enjoy school do you think ?
Mrs L: Oh, we had a wonderful master there for a time. He was over six feet but he was a musician. He taught piano and did other things and you know he gave us a wonderful musical appreciation. That’s where mine began I’m quite sure.
Q: He did that in the school did he ?
Mrs L: Yes, also he used to love to set out scientific experiments and all that sort of thing. He really was a wonder. He’d been to Braintree to the Manor Street school in Braintree. It’s not so many years since he died because I saw it in the paper. He really was a wonderful master. (Q: What was his name?) Quick.
Q: Presumably children stayed there till you left school ?
Mrs L: Yes, unless they got a scholarship, which I did, and went to Braintree you see. (Q: Oh I see.), or Chelmsford or wherever you wanted to go. My friend went to Chelmsford and I went to Braintree and my other friend she went to work. [laugh] We do keep in touch with one another.
Q: Were there very many from Witham went to Braintree with you ?
Mrs L: Oh yes, quite a few, there was no other school, that and Chelmsford, they were split up between the two. Quite a lot of us went. Used to go on the train and walk up in the back ways into the High School. Which is now hardly recognisable.
Q: You had to take an exam did you to go there ? (Mrs L: Oh yes.) I think someone told me that at the Church school there were separate boys and girls schools ? (Mrs L: Yes.) Was it like that down there or …?
Mrs L: No, that was mixed.
Q: Was the High School ?
Mrs L: The High School was mixed, yes.
Q: So you had all your lessons and everything together did you ? (Mrs L: Yes.) What, did they have masters and mistresses ?
Mrs L: Yes, There was a headmaster and a headmistress at Braintree.
Q: At Maldon Road there don’t seem to be many, there are only two or three rooms aren’t there. There can’t have been …
Mrs L: Yes, well the far room were the infants up to, I suppose, about seven. Then they’d come through into the next room and then through into the senior room right at the front.
Q: And they’d have a teacher for each ?
Mrs L: Different class, yes. The thing was, of course, they were open rooms and the classes, you just had to keep a sort of concentration on the one that was yours and not on the one that was down there. [laugh] Still, it was marvellous really what we learned. We had a very nice lady teacher there, a Mrs Andrews and it’s really marvellous the groundwork that you got from those little schools. It really was.
Q: Did you do a lot of maths, and you did some science as well did you?
Mrs L: Yes, little bits of science and that. We didn’t do algebra and that sort of thing which is where I came unstuck when I went to Braintree you see. With those that had gone there from the Junior School up they had had algebra all the way up you see. And that sort of thing and I had to sort of drop in the middle, we scholarship children, had to drop in the middle and pick it up from there on. I suppose that’s why I never understood it. Not from the groundwork. No, its funny isn’t it.
Q: Cos I had the impression that in sort of earlier times that the girls were only allowed to do needlework and things like that at school but you did …
Mrs L: Yes we did needlework. We did quite a bit of needlework. Even at the High School we did and cookery.
Q: How long did you stay at the High School ?
Mrs L: Oh, I suppose I was seventeen. Must have been, even eighteen. (Q: Is that when you left Witham?) Yes, my parents moved and I went with them and took a job and was away for about four years I suppose. I knew my husband from school. Well, he was at Earls Colne Grammar School (Q: I see.) and they used to come over to compete with the athletics and all sorts of sports and that’s how we met I think. The girls and the boys sort of met one another and then of course he came here to Witham in the builders’ office and I met him again.
Q: What work did you used to do ?
Mrs L: I worked with children mostly, junior teaching. (Q: Teaching. Did you have any special training?) No, my mother didn’t enjoy too good health so I used to keep just sort of near her, taking very junior ones.
Q: What was your name before you married ?
Mrs L: Broyd.
Q: Did your parents come back to Witham as well, or did you just come back to marry ?
Mrs L: I just came back when I got married yes. They did eventually come back to Witham. They had those two bungalows built right at the back there. My brother lived in one and my parents in the other. But that was because they were in an evacuation area during the War and thought that they should come away from the coast and so they picked up a house here that my husband had gone into in St Nicholas Road.
Q: So it was quite a busy time for building then was it ? When was that?
Mrs L: Well, this was, until the War started, yes. But of course, once the War started everything shut down fast.
Q: Did he work for another builder first or was he …?
Mrs L: Well, yes, the business was a Mr Dean’s but he went up to London and offered it to my husband to take it over here, but he was only just sort of twenty-one and thought, well he didn’t want to take it on on his own, and he’d got a very good carpenter, Mr Adams, and the decorator man, Mr Mortimer who were older than he was, and so they formed a partnership, Adams and Mortimer and of course they were there until, well, Mr Adams died and Mr Mortimer died and my husband hadn’t very good eyesight so eventually he sold out.
Q: Well that’s quite a famous, I think our house was built in Chalks Road, houses were built by Adams and Mortimer.
Mrs L: Yes, that’s right. The ones along Chalks road were built before the War and some of those into St Nicholas Road and then they came to a stop.
Q: Did they build outside Witham as well ?
Mrs L: Oh they did lots of, some very large, very nice large houses, a lot of them round about. Oh yes it was quite a big firm. They employed just on a hundred men at one time. (Q: Really?)
Q: I mean, there wasn’t a lot work in Witham was there really but …?
Mrs L: No, but there was bank work and different shops and that sort of thing which kept them all going. Then of course, when the War came, a lot of the men said we’re going into Crittall’s, you see and that started a bit of a decline in numbers. They went into Crittall’s, I suppose to save going in the Forces. (Q: Oh I see.) And that sort of split things up a bit but he managed to keep going and then picked up again after the War stopped.
Q: Yes, because it’s a bit sort of worrying sort of business isn’t it?
Mrs L: Oh yes and when the War started we really did wonder what would happen but of course there were different Government jobs that you applied for and got and that’s how he managed to keep going but you had to be prepared to go anywhere.
Q: I see, you mean anywhere in the country more or less ?
Mrs L: Well, in this area, this particularly.
Q: Did he have any special training himself ? I wondered why he chose the building trade?
Mrs L: Well, he applied for this job you see that was advertised and he applied for it and came over and he had a very good master in Mr Dean, he was a very nice kind man and he took him around with him and so forth so he that knew all the office work and everything and then, with Mr Adams being a carpenter and Mr Mortimer being a decorator, you see it all combined. He could do the office part and they did the other and that just started it going.
Q: It’s complicated isn’t it, having the right thing in the right place at the right time ? (Mrs L: Yes. Oh yes.) Its not just a matter of [???] (Mrs L: Oh no.)
Mrs L: I’m afraid I was more or less a builder’s widow. I got used to being on my own but still …
Q: I suppose they did repairs and things as well?
Mrs L: Oh yes. As my husband pointed out that was the bread and butter part of the business (Q: I see).
Q: Were there any, Richards was going then, was it ?
Mrs L: Yes, but they built houses mostly for people. They did some repair work but not a lot. But they did build quite a few houses. (Q: Was the office …?) In Chalks Road where Adams, in Chalks Lane where Adams and Mortimer, oh its not Adams and Mortimer, perhaps it is, I haven’t been up there for such a long time [White Horse Lane?] I know they moved their offices from Southend to here some time ago. I suppose they still work from there.
Q: Where did you live when you came back ?
Mrs L: Well, my father-in-law died and left a widow and he had a business of his own and so of course there was no pension and so my husband built one of those little pairs of bungalows, at the top of The Avenue and his mother and he lived in one and, oh, one of the workmen I think in the other. So that was there until we were able to built ‘Marlowe’ in Collingwood Road. (Q: I see yes.) And that’s where my first boy came as a baby in 1930/31. We were there until the children were more or less grown up.
Q: How many children ?
Mrs L: Three, two boys and a girl. The girl is in Australia I’m sorry to say. (Q: Does she ever get back?) Yes, she’s been, we’ve been over to see her. It was the first thing we did after my husband gave up, and she’s been over here once. It is a long way and an expensive business when you’ve got family like she’s got outthere its not easy to leave them. (Q: She likes it there?) Oh very much.
Q: I should think it was nice to go and see Australia?
Mrs L: Oh yes, it was a really lovely trip because we went one, when we went which is fourteen years ago we couldn’t go through the Suez Canal so we went right round the Cape and we went on the third of April and we landed at Perth on Anzac Day which was [???] and of course and we stayed with her. She lives in Adelaide and we stayed around there and went all trips all over the place, friends and relatives. You see a lot of my husband’s people are out there as well. So we’d cousins and that to go and see. So we had a really good trip round. We went in the April, we didn’t come back until the October. And we came back the other way. We took the same boat back and came back through the Panama Canal. So we did the whole round trip. Oh it was lovely. You feel so glad that you did it. You can’t do it now of course because then, they had those immigrant ships that they would take them out for ten pounds you see so that there was a regular trip round which you could do. But now of course it’s all cruising.
Q: Of course now people fly more don’t they? [???]
Mrs L: Yes, Oh we had some wonderful stopping off places, certainly did.
Q: Did your children go to school round here ?
Mrs L: Jennifer did, Jennifer went to Chelmsford but the boys, as my husband was away such a lot during the War, we sent them to boarding school. They went to Bedford Modern. That worked out all right. They just came home for the holidays.
Q: But you were here yourself in the War, were you? (Mrs L: Yes.) How did that affect Witham ?
Mrs L: Well, we got bombed at Crittall’s once or twice and that sort of thing and used to have sniping sort of planes buzzing around and machine gunning and that sort of thing. Several frights. And of course a lot of bombing at night. We got things tipped out now and then, incendiaries and that sort of thing. It was very noisy but not as noisy as Kent and those places I suppose. We had a lot of troops and planes and aerodromes of course, we were surrounded with aerodromes and we knew all the planes and so forth. Had plenty of Americans in different houses, when they came [???]. A lot of people fled and left their houses and of course the Americans took a lot of them over. I found them all very nice. (Q: Fled from Witham?) Yes. Our neighbours did. They went to New Malden and of course New Malden got bombed more than we did. So they had to go further across.
Q: Did you ever think of moving yourself ?
Mrs L: Well, you couldn’t very well could you ?
Q: No. Were you involved in organisations and things in Witham yourself, not necessarily in the War, I mean in general ?
Mrs L: No, I didn’t because you see, my husband being away such a lot I’d got the children and then we’d got quite a big garden and used to grow a lot of stuff. There wasn’t really a lot of time. (Q: No.) I did join one or two small things but not any, I didn’t take on any sort of part-time War work or anything like that.
Q: Was there a lot of things, like the WI and … ?
Mrs L: Oh yes, that’s always been pretty strong, the WI has.
Q: So I suppose your husband didn’t have much time for …?
Mrs L: He used to like to get across to the Constitutional Club and have a game of billiards. That was his one relaxation. But then, as time went on, his eyesight was too slow a focus, he’d got congenital cataracts and it was too slow a focus and he couldn’t see. So he took the Secretaryship and did work like that, you see. But he couldn’t do, with poor eyesight it handicaps you for so many things. I mean he recognised people by their voices more than the actual sight.
Q: The Constitutional Club has been there a long while I should think?
Mrs L: Yes, yes it has. That was the only place you could get any billiards or anything till Crittall’s opened theirs.
Q: Were you here when Crittall’s came ?
Mrs L: Yes, yes that used to be an open, I think there used to be some allotments there if I remember rightly. There was a nice sand pit for the children. The boys used to go and collect grass snakes up there. Then, they had, Marconi had it for some time. They built a little wireless station with big masts and that. (Q: Goodness, I didn’t know that.) Yes, that was before Crittall’s had it.
Q: What did people think when the factory came, it must have been big change.
Mrs L: Yes. It was a fairly small place of course when they started and it gave employment of course, especially when the War came, it began to enlarge and then of course British Oxygen came as well on the end.
Q: Would most of the people that were working for your husband would they be on a full time basis or were they just taken on for special jobs ?
Mrs L: What the staff ? (Q: The building.) Oh yes, full-time. Oh yes, because of course my husband used to spend a lot of time in the evenings and so forth going round to hunt up work to keep them going to keep his staff together. Because otherwise you see he would have lost them and he wanted to hang on to them if possible. Oh yes he used to go round, he wasn’t at home very much because of that going round to find work. I don’t think you know they appreciated sometimes just how much work had to be done to keep them going. But of course you have to do if you have workmen. I mean they were good workmen. They could go anywhere to any of the large houses in Wickham Bishops and without any question they would go in and a lot of others round about Fairstead and so forth.
Q: I suppose if you had a spell of bad weather or something that would make things difficult wouldn’t it?
Mrs L: Then they would have inside work to do.
Q: Did they have apprenticeships and things ? How did they train them ?
Mrs L: Oh well, had a workshop. They used to make all their own window frames and doors and everything at one time. Oh yes, nothing was bought.
Q: That was all done in the yard was it ? (Mrs L: Yes.) I suppose most windows now come ready made.
Mrs L: Yes, they all come machine made. (Q: Did that happen while your husband was still running it?) Yes it began to, it overtook them in the end because of course making them in the yard became too costly. (Q: Yes.) Like a lot of other things it just killed the business because it became too costly to do them that way.
Q: Nowadays I suppose the big firms they buy a piece of land and build houses and then just hope they’ll sell them. Did you have to work like that?
Mrs L: Oh yes, he did with those in Chalks Road and St Nicholas Road. Then you see he used to arrange mortgage so that they knew before they took the house over what it would cost them each time until they paid it off. He used to arrange everything for them all at once. That’s how a lot of them there got to own their own houses. It wasn’t easy to persuade people then to do it that way. Whereas now they take it as a matter of course. You go to, and get a mortgage but then, oh no, it wasn’t at all easy. You know they’d talk of millstones round their necks and all that sort of thing. And of course, when people paid them off and they’d got a house to sell at an inflated price they were very pleased they’d done it.
Q: That’s true because, in Chalks Road now you’ve got some people who thought of buying a house but didn’t and they’re still there over on the other side (Mrs L: Yes.) And as you’ve said, it must have just seemed just too big a step to take then. So did he advertise the houses or go round persuading people ?
Mrs L: Yes, about £250 (Q: Goodness! And then he arranged the finance as well?) and then arrange finance for them.
Q: It was quite a big undertaking. (Mrs L: It was.) Did he every worry that he wouldn’t manage to dispose of them ?
Mrs L: Oh no, they went along fine for a time but some of them stuck and he got stuck with them and then he rented them you see and then began to get into all sorts of muddle with the tax man. You had a special tax rate for that sort of thing. He’d only got about half-a-dozen.
Q: But he didn’t build them to rent ?
Mrs L: No, he didn’t build them to rent, he only rented those off that he’d already built and that people wouldn’t take on with the mortgage. Oh no, he didn’t [???]. Although he had some properties to rent which belonged to his boss. He kept some of the houses and he used to take the rents in for those. So that people did used to ring up sometimes and ask him if he’d got a house to rent because they knew that he’d got some of Mr Dean’s properties to rent.
Q: Were they older properties or …? (Mrs L: Yes.) [???] They weren’t ones that Mr Dean built or …?
Mrs L: Well I don’t know, I don’t remember whether he built them or not but they were some of the old properties that are now pulled down.
Q: I see [???] to rent.
Mrs L: Yes, they were little cottages, rows of cottages and that sort of thing. There were some up in Church Street.
Q: And they would be sort of on a weekly basis? (Mrs L: Yes.) Because that’s a worry again, isn’t it, collecting rents. (Mrs L: Collecting rents, yes.) Did he have someone to go round and …?
Mrs L: Oh, no that was another job that he used to do in the evening. [laugh] Oh yes he had so much to do. Oh yes [???] [???].
Q: Again I suppose when times got hard that was, I mean if people couldn’t pay?
Mrs L: Well we had one or two that gave you things out of their furniture our of their house in exchange you see. If they wanted to move[?] they’d leave some of the furniture. It’s rather funny because someone did, we let a bungalow in The Avenue that came into his hands, and I think they were daughter and husband, of titled people and they’d got some very very nice furniture and do you know they got in terrible debt and wanted to move and go somewhere else and they owed quite a lot of rent and they offered us their soft suite and we took it. It was a beautiful suite. We had it until we left ‘Marlowe’. It was a lovely suite, very large. That was better than nothing.
Q: I suppose there’s a limit to the extent it’s worthy chasing people. (Q: Yes.) Did you every have to try and get …?
Mrs L: Oh lots of bad debts oh yes. Still, if you got something you’d just be thankful.
Q: You’d still have the house. Because in the old days people you hear of turfing people out in the street and so on but I suppose it’s not worth your while.
Mrs L: Not in place [???]
Q: I suppose again it just depended how things were. Did the Depression affect Witham much in the thirties? When was it exactly that you came back ?
Mrs L: ‘28, yes things were a bit grim then. I can remember seeing the queues. You know every year or every end of the year you used to hear of so many going off from Crittall’s and so many until you used to see lines of them queueing up at the Labour Exchange. Of course when the War came they all went back into Crittall’s and they wanted more still.
Q: I suppose Crittall’s had special work in the War ? (Mrs L: Yes.) Well I suppose if your husband had work that was quite a help, but I suppose they were mostly skilled people ? (Mrs L: Yes.) I suppose running a home was so different then. You said you had the children and your husband was out all the time. Did you have any help in the house?
Mrs L: Sometimes, but then you see when the War came help was difficult. If you wanted, once or twice when I was pretty groggy[?] I managed to get someone for a little while and then they’d go off again but I’ve really been very lucky with the help that I’ve had in later years.
Q: I suppose doctors and health visitors, like they have now, they were much fewer then I suppose in the thirties. What happened if you weren’t well?
Mrs L: Oh there were some marvellous people about here then. I mean if you wanted to have your baby at home there were marvellous people who’d come in and take things over for a fortnight. They’d cook and look after the family, they’d look after you. Oh, they were really marvellous people. And of course we’d also got our little nursing home. My three children were born up in that little nursing home at the top of the road. [46 Collingwood Road] And we paid in so much each month. I did used to collect for that. Go round and collect from different people who belonged to that Nursing Association thing. Then you see we could go into there for our fortnight for about four and a half guineas a week or something for nursing and looking after and that included everything.
Q: Who ran that. It had a secretary and a committee and …?
Mrs L: Oh yes, we had a Nursing, we had a committee, there was a Miss Luard and so forth here used to organise it, I don’t know who else used to organise it. There was a bank man’s wife who used to live in the house over there, Mrs Peecock and one or two others.
Q: And you yourself, you collected weekly ?
Mrs L: Oh yes, I think it covered people if they went into hospital so it didn’t cost them anything at all, things like that.
Q: And how long did you stay there when you had a baby in those days ?
Mrs L: A fortnight.
Q: And you had a nurse there ?
Mrs L: Two nurses lived in, you see, they lived in there and of course they used to go out and deliver all the babies in the district. (Q: At home?) Yes, at home. As well as look after you there. And of course they had someone to help, to come in to be in the bungalow while they were out.
Q: Did the doctor used to come in for deliveries ?
Mrs L: Yes, the doctor would come in then.
Q: Of course midwives do deliveries themselves don’t they ? (Mrs L: Yes.) Did you just have the doctor if things went wrong or …?
Mrs L: No, they usually used to ring the doctor when things were getting close and he used to come up and just supervise, I suppose. Or he did for me I don’t if he did the same for everybody. I saw in the paper the other week that Dr Little had died. He of course was the local doctor here and he used to be one that used to come in for patients. And Doctor Benjamin. (Q: Is he still here?) Yes.
Q: Did they have a special delivery room ?
Mrs L: Yes, there was a labour ward and all sort of toilet facilities built out the back, baths and so forth, and the big room this side was the ward. There were only two beds in but they would put three in for an emergency, for a rush of course.
Q: So you had company usually did you? (Mrs L: Yes.) I suppose in those days you weren’t so well prepared somehow, you know now they have all those classes before …?
Mrs L: Oh yes. I wouldn’t want to have my babies these days, not for anything. No, I wouldn’t. All this going backwards and forwards to the hospital, breathing exercises and so forth, no I wouldn’t. No, I wouldn’t want my husband there either. [laugh]
Q: Did they give you any idea of what to expect or were you just …?
Mrs L: Well I don’t think they did really but it was a case of ignorance was bliss really and you didn’t worry about it then did you ? (Q: Mmm.) No. You just had to trust and think well it’s there, they’ll know what to do and that was that.
Q: And again they have clinics afterwards don’t they ? Did you have any ?
Mrs L: Yes, we had a Clinic, oh yes we had a Clinic. We used to go and have the babies weighed and vaccinated and tended to. Oh yes.
Q: Was that at the doctors or was there a separate? Did they have the Guithavon Street place then or was that later?
Mrs L: Where did we used to go. No, we didn’t go to that Guithavon Street place. what funny things slip your mind, where did we go? I think they used to set it up anywhere there was a sort of vacant place. (Q: Mmm.) Oh I can’t remember. Something will jog my memory I’m expect.
Q: Were people like Miss Luard on the committee for the Clinic as well ?
Mrs L: Yes, but well you see the Bungalow nurses were in charge of the Clinic. It was them that you saw when you went down yes. And I was trying to think of the doctor whether that was the local, I don’t think it was the local doctor. It probably came under the district one I’m not sure.
Q: You said people came into the house and helped. Were they nurses or …?
Mrs L: Well you see, you didn’t them, you see, once you came out of the nursing home you could more or less carry on yourself. Those were for people who had their babies at home.
Q: I suppose you had quite a nice bit of space there for small children at your house ?
Mrs L: Oh yes we had a very nice garden.
Q: Did you know other people with children ?
Mrs L: Well there weren’t very many not in Collingwood Road then until Mr and Mrs Bird came. [No.36] They lived where Vi Cullen now lives and he was in a solicitor’s office at Bright and Sons and they had two children. Do you know Mrs Betts on The Rise at the back here. She was at the Bungalow when I was there and she’s a widow too and she also lived in Braintree Road and her father was a railwayman. (Q: That’s interesting.) In Podsbrook there’s a Mrs Crosby[?] who was also there at about the same time as I was. She used to be one of the teachers in the Church Street, school, not Church Street, the Guithavon Street School. So there are still [???] about.
Q: I’ve heard people say there’s nobody left that’s always lived in Witham, but you seem to know quite a few. I know you went away but there are more than you realise aren’t there.
Mrs L: Yes there are a few of us and when we meet if we see them now in the street, we always give a smile whether we know them or whether we don’t. I suppose to say you’re one of us. [laugh] Oh I didn’t want to stay in Witham after my husband finished business but he wouldn’t move. There’s nowhere for older people to go here in Witham. Not if you want to get out in the open air. There’s all sorts of different places you can go for entertainment and that sort of thing but there’s nowhere you can go out and sit and go for the day, take your meal out and that sort of thing. (Q: Mmm.)
Q: I don’t know whether you ever go up to Spring Lodge for anything to the Community Centre. There at the back there’s more now, with seats and they’ve got doves and a dovecote so perhaps you could go and sit there one day.
Mrs L: Yes, but I’ve got to get there.
Q: Yes. Presumably you used to have a car at one time did you?
Mrs L: Yes, but not after we finished business because my husband’s eyesight wouldn’t allow him to drive (Q: No.) but one son still lived in Witham so he was able to take us sometimes but of course you don’t like to be a nuisance, not to your family, when they’ve got a family of their own. Trouble was so many of our friends retired and went away you see. That was why I didn’t want to stay in Witham. It left us stranded. But there you are he didn’t want to go, whether he thought he wouldn’t be able to find ….
[chat about visiting friends who have moved away, not noted
Q: I suppose this was part of, what was this before ? [i.e. site of Nicholas Court]
Mrs L: It was a space. Guithavon Rise was built and I think they intended probably to come through into Collingwood Road but nobody would sell them the land. (Q: I see.) So that was just a sort of dead end as you might say. And this bit of land was cultivated with vegetables for the Pinkham family who lived in the houses over there and when they gave it up, the old people died and it was sold and the entrance bit there belonged to this house here. They kept their garage in there and that’s how it came up and they were able to get up to this bit of land here. It’s been built probably twenty years I suppose now. (Q: I see, yes.)
Q: Did you used to know the Pinkhams ?
Mrs L: Yes, well, we used to a lot of entertaining and used to have a wonderful pantomime here with all the children every year. Mr Pinkham senior, oh the Conservative agent, whatever was his name, and the proprietor of the Spread Eagle. They used to get us for fourpence a wonderful pantomime every year.
Q: They were in it themselves you mean? (Mrs L: Oh yes, yes.) Was it an Operatic society or something like that ?
Mrs L: No, it was just something I think they got up themselves just for the children for Christmas [???]. Oh yes, we used to go regularly every year. It was lovely. And Mr Pinkham used to do all sorts of different concerts and get people to come, you know artistes to come and sing and all that sort of thing and then of course Mr Howlett started the Operatic. (Q: I see.)
Q: Were you in any of those things ?
Mrs L: No, no, my daughter was, when she was old enough, she was in the Operatic for several years.
Q: Going back to when you were a child, was there much entertainment ?
Mrs L: Not other than that, no, the rest was done by the different churches. (Q: I see.) Sort of evening entertainment. You see there were only about three to four thousand people. You knew everybody and knew all the children. But there were some good shops. (Q: Mmm.) Which there aren’t now. There’s too many of the same kind. I can’t shop in Witham.
Q: But you used to get everything in Witham did you ?
Mrs L: Oh yes. (Q: Even clothes and things like that?) Yes, and shoes.
Q: What did you have to wear to school as a child?
Mrs L: Well, at the little school it didn’t matter of course. Once you went to the High School you had the High School uniform like they do I suppose now in most places.
Q: I can’t remember, did you tell me you had brothers and sisters?
Mrs L: Yes, I had a sister older than I was and my brother was born during the First World War so he didn’t go to school here at all. (Q: Mmm He was younger..) Yes, there was eleven years between my brother and myself so that he went to school when they moved back again to Ipswich.
Q: I haven’t asked you how old you are.
Mrs L: Oh, well, seventy-seven.
Q: So you were probably one of the first [???]
Mrs L: Yes, you know its dreadful to think that parents daren’t let their children out because as children we had a wonderful time, during the First World War, well you see the soldiers were billeted in the houses then and of course you got to know them and they took you around and there was a lot of artillery stationed here, I suppose it was The Avenue that attracted them. They used to tether their horses through there between the trees and I know here in this where all the Collingwood Road houses are, it was then, of course, an open field and a hedge down that side and a five barred gate and we used to come down to school, they made some of these earth ovens. Of course they did everything for themselves, all their own cooking. And when we used to come down to school they’d just be taking the hot bread out of the ovens. We got that gorgeous smell of hot bread, oh it was beautiful. They found a lot of clinker ash and so forth when they started to build you know, and they often wondered what, how it came there. Of course it was from these ovens.
Q: Did you have any billeted with you ?
Mrs L: Oh yes, we did, because we’d got a house that had five bedrooms. There were an extra two over a passage and they moved in with us and we made some very good friends.
Q: The ones that were billeted did they eat with you or did they go off ?
Mrs L: Oh they had their own places to go to eat.
Q: I suppose when you were a child that just seemed exciting did it ?
Mrs L: Oh yes, yes. And of course if they could manage to get a nice joint of beef they knew very well my mother was a Norfolk person who could cook and gosh, they would have a meal then ! (Q: What, they brought the meat?) Yes they brought the meat and everything else as well, that was needed you know.
Q: Your father wouldn’t be in the War ?
Mrs L: Well, no, in the First World War you see, being sort of travelling round the railway he knew the whole district and the railway, he was put in charge of the troops, all the troops went by train you see. So he had to organise all these trains for the troops. He had a special permit to go to the different areas and that sort of thing.
Q: So he finished up with quite a responsible job on the railway did he ? (Mrs L: Yes.) What was his title ?
Mrs L: Well, he was only just a traffic inspector but … (Q: Especially in the War.) Oh yes. He was very disgruntled in the Second World War of course because he became sixty-five and of course off he had to go. [laugh]. Irrespective of what he could do.
Q: Did he have any hobbies or spare time things, your father ?
Mrs L: Oh, he travelled too much for that. He used to do a bit of gardening but the railway was his life. It was to most I think of the railwaymen then. It was their railway and you know and they really worked for it.
Q: And what about your mother ? Was she too busy ?
Mrs L: Yes, she was too busy cooking, sometimes you see she would have to pack his food because there was no going to little places and restaurants. Sometimes he would be away a whole week and so she used to have to pack him some food, till he found somewhere he could get perhaps a lodging for a night.
Q: Then of course, she’d have you coming back from school for lunch.
Mrs L: Yes, there’s been a lot of changes in Witham in that time. I’m afraid I don’t walk anywhere, not now. You want a car to get out in the country. You see we used to just walk to the end of the road and we were in the country. We used to walk miles through the fields and different places and oh dear.
Q: This was when you were a child did you?
Mrs L: Yes, we used to go through here down Stepfield from the Catholic bridge, you go down there and you were in either a pea field or a corn field or something. Of course the river used to flood out and when it froze then there was skating down there you see and so there was something to watch all the time.
Q: What did you used to do on a Sunday say after you … (Mrs L: Walk. Yes. Miles we used to walk.) Did you used to have holidays when you were small ?
Mrs L: Yes, well, I’d got aunts in Norfolk then. Farming in Norfolk. Then you see there was a lot of peas grown round here so that the ordinary schools, they had their holidays in June which of course was hay time. When you got down to the farm you would be able to go haymaking. So that [???] [???].
Q: What, you’d go on the farms. Yes I suppose people would pick peas and so on? (Mrs L: Yes and then fruit.) You didn’t ever do any of that ?
Mrs L: Oh, I did with some friends that had got farms down the Maldon Road and we used to go down to give them a hand, yes. We got up about four o’clock in the morning and walk to some of these places to start to pick strawberries and things while it was cool you see because by the afternoon it got hot, we’d come back again. But people used to, off they used to go into the pea fields and pick peas. Oh yes everybody around here picking during those holidays.
Q: And on Sundays, you say you were Chapel people but not terribly …?
Mrs L: Oh, yes, we used to go morning and afternoon to Sunday School and evening again we’d go. My friend and I went. There was only about a month’s difference in our age and we used to go down together and they used to call us twins.
Q: And what about when you were married, did you still get involved with the church ?
Mrs L: For a time we were and then they changed different, change about, and ministers and one thing and another just different things cropped up and just faded out.
[Get lunch ready, gardening chat, not noted.]