Tape 076. Mrs Ann Redman (nee Newman), sides 1 and 2

Tape 76

Mrs Ann Redman (nee Newman), was born in 1906. She was interviewed on 4 May 1983, when she lived at 37 The Avenue, Witham.

She also appears on tape 77.

For more information about her, see Redman family, including Ann Redman, nee Newman, in the People category

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

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

Side 1

Mrs R:    … remember Sammy Page’s second hand shop.

Q:    Do you, what do you remember about that? Did you use to go there ?

Mrs R:    Oh no, used to go past it every day, because I worked at the Post Office and the Post Office was of course immediately opposite Mr King’s shop.

Q:    People have mentioned that but I’ve never worked out exactly.

Mrs R:    Oh yes, where Cooper Cocks is now [84 Newland Street] (Q: Oh I see.) was the old Post Office. And you went up that alley way and in a side door that was the sorting office. Upstairs was the postmaster’s room and the telephone switchboard.

Q:    Was this when you were quite young still ?

Mrs R:    When I was a girl. Yes, I left school when I was seventeen and there wasn’t much girls could do if they weren’t very brainy, so I went into the Post Office. [laugh] It was a nice safe job you see.

Q:    You must have been quite brainy to do that wouldn’t you ?

Mrs R:    No, no. I became the telephone supervisor, only supervised two girls, you see it was a small switchboard in those days.

Q:    [???]

Mrs R:    Oh yes, it was not exactly busy. It was a very cushy job, rather boring really but there was nothing anyone could do in those days.

Q:    Did you work your way up to supervisor when someone …?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, I became supervisor when my, senior one, Stella North, got married then I was supervisor. And there were three of us you know, we got on extremely well. One of my colleagues was the Postmaster’s daughter and, oh yes, we got on very well.

Q:    Oh I see, so she worked there ?

Mrs R:    She worked there with me.

Q:    Who was the Postmaster ?

Mrs R:    Mr Barker. Very nice man. They lived in a house up here, just at the end of Avenue Road, which is now for sale I notice. A double fronted house.

Q:    So, the switchboard was upstairs you say ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, at the back of the building. The Postmaster’s room was in the front with a bay window.

Q:    And did people use the telephone very much then ?

Mrs R:    Quite a lot really, you know. A great deal on business, for instance in the summer, buyers would come down from Manchester, etc. to buy up the pea fields you see and they used to have long distance calls up to Manchester and that sort of thing.

Q:    I never heard about that. Where did they used to stay and …?

Mrs R:    They used to stay at the White Hart for instance or the Spread Eagle.

Q:    So did they phone from there or come into the Post Office?

Mrs R:    They used to phone from there, yes. We used to put them through. Yes.

Q:    I suppose you’d know if someone came to make a call would you know who it was most of the time or …?

Mrs R:    No, because it was only voices and you know they were so nice. They often used to send us a box of chocolates at the end of the season, especially if it had been a good season for peas or whatever, oh yes.

Q:    I’ve never heard about that. I suppose I should have thought of it, because I know people talk about pea picking, I never stopped to think what happened to the peas.

Mrs R:    It was all done by hand of course. People used to set out at four o’clock in the morning, while it was still almost dark, at break of dawn, complete with pails and food for the day and walk to the nearest pea field and pick peas. We used to as children.

Q:    Did you really ?

Mrs R:    You see the summer holidays in those days were geared to country needs. There was the pea picking season which was always in June, we had a fortnight off from school in June. Then we went back to school and then we had another fortnight off in September I think. That was for the potato picking and blackberrying. Oh yes. And blackberrying was quite something in those days.

Q:    The pea fields and the fruit. You did that for the farmer did you ? How did that work ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, yes.

[5 minutes]

Q:    What about the blackberrying ?

Mrs R:    Blackberrying you did for yourselves. Picking to make them into jam. And in those days children could go out and wander about. We used to go, I and my brother and cousins, we would walk up to Wickham Bishops absolutely safely, no worries. You never, you had no fear at all of anybody. You might pass an old tramp asleep in the ditch but you knew, as long as you didn’t disturb him, he was perfectly safe. It was not dangerous. We used to wander about up to the woods and go off for the day. (Q: Really ?) We were safe as houses. You daren’t let children go anywhere now. Its so different.

Q:    Whereabouts exactly did you live ?

Mrs R:    I lived in Bridge Street. My mother was born in one of those timbered houses where Jean Ezra and Julie Donnelly live [23-27 Bridge Street] You know, opposite Croft House. My father came to Croft House [10 Bridge Street] from Hatfield Peverel when he was aged eleven. And his parents started a dairy business there. They had seventeen cows up there at the back. There were sheds all round you know and the cows used to be driven up Bridge Street and round to the nearest meadow. Of course there was no traffic you see, no cars to bother them. They used to be brought in early in the morning for milking, (Q: Mmm.), about four o’clock in the morning.

Q:    So what was their surname ? (Mrs R: Newman.) So was that still going when you were small ?

Mrs R:    Yes, they didn’t sell the business until after the War [Second]. (Q: I see.) And then I think they sold out to the Co-op.

Q:    [???] Did you used to help at all ?

Mrs R:    Oh no, no. [Laugh] We used to enjoy it over there because it was a big garden. Full of fruit trees. We used to have a gorgeous time, used to run up there and fill ourselves with currants and gooseberries and plums and heaven knows what.

Q:    The cow sheds were still there?

Mrs R:    The cow sheds were still up there, yes. They had seventeen cows. We used to cut up the food. They had mangels and kohl rabbi in those days and we used to put them in the cutter and churn it round. It used to come out in slices. All those sort of things. Now of course, feeding of cattle is quite different, utterly different.

Q:    Did your father have people to help ?

Mrs R:    Yes, they used to employ one or two people. They’d a pony and they used to do a milk round by float for the outlying districts like, Highfields Road and Chipping Hill. (Q: Really ?)

Q:    They didn’t have any other business [???]?

Mrs R:    Yes, they used to grow their own kohl rabbi to feed the cows.

Q:    Nowadays milk has to be all sort of checked there’s and a lot of supervision isn’t there, of milk production. Do you remember whether[???]?

Mrs R:    They did in latter years have a cooler. Used to put it through the cooler but, if I remember rightly, it used to go straight from the cows to the people. It used to be warm. It was never sterilised or anything like that. But we were none the worse for it. I think they used to do some tuberculin testing of the animals to make sure they were all right. They had a vet in Witham called Johnny Horner. Johnny Horner used to be called out if they had any trouble with calving or something difficult with the cows.

Q:    You had a brother you say ?

Mrs R:    Yes, there were two brothers. (Q: Ages ?) My brother Bob was only eighteen months younger than me, not in great health and my other brother was four years younger.

Q:    And did you go to school in Witham ?

[10 minutes]

Mrs R:    Yes, went to the Church School right next to All Saints Church. And in those days it was very much attached to the church. We used to go to the service on Ascension Day for instance and All Saints Day and we always used to put chrysanths on everybody’s grave after the service. The schoolchildren used to do that. Oh yes it was quite different. And we had lovely celebrations like May Day. They would choose somebody to be May Queen, put her up on a sort of chariot, all dressed up in white and she would have her attendant maidens with her, other little children. And we used to have sort of special celebration in the school yard, I can remember, in the playground. And the same on Empire Day. That was a great day. You stood round and you waved Union Jacks and sang patriotic songs.

Q:    Do you remember any of your teachers ?

Mrs R:    I remember Miss Murrells and Mrs Mann she used to teach me. Can’t remember the name of the headmistress now but she was very strict. Very severe, but a very good teacher.

Q:    How did they used to punish you if you ..?

Mrs R:    Oh you’d have to stand in the corner or stand on the form, or be kept in at playtime.

Q:    You stayed there till …?

Mrs R:    I stayed there till I was twelve and then I went to Chelmsford High School for five years. I enjoyed that. We used to catch the train about eight fifteen every morning up to Chelmsford, and then walk up from Chelmsford station, right up Broomfield Road to the High School. We had a very severe headmistress who didn’t believe in us fraternising with the boys. [laugh] If you as much as spoke to one schoolboy you were in trouble. I remember one year the headmaster at the Grammar School suggested that the Sixth formers could unite in the Christmas Party, his Sixth form and the girls Sixth form. And the headmistress turned it down flat. Oh no, nothing like that. [laugh] We had to wear our uniform correctly. No leaving off of caps or hats as they do nowadays.

Q:    I haven’t read it but think there was a book somebody wrote recently about the Girls High School.

Mrs R:    Oh did she ?

Q:    They might have got some at the library, because you’d enjoy that wouldn’t you ?

Mrs R:    The Hancock girls went I think. (Q: Did they ?) They’re younger than me but I think Dorothy went to the High School.

Q:    Did you have friends go [???] ?

Mrs R:    There weren’t many went up, no, there were only about half-a-dozen of us. Ruth Peecock was one, she was the daughter of the Barclays Bank manager. Olive Wilson was my great friend, she lived in Maldon Road and, who else did we have, well we had to look after two Sorrell girls. They were perfect pests, but they were Juniors when they came and [laugh] and they were young terrors. We did our best to avoid them because they used to wait and want to walk home with me and Ruth. So one day, when we got off the train, I said ‘We’ll dodge these girls’. So we jumped on to the Maldon Railway line, went under some trucks, how Ruth got under I don’t know, because she was a very tall girl, but she bent her back. We went under some trucks that were standing there and came out at Easton Road and thereby avoided these children that we were supposed to see home. [laugh]

Q:    So there were not six in your year but six altogether more or less ?

Mrs R:    Yes, at that time. Later on there were some more. The Vaughan-Pearce girls went, Joan Geere went and her cousin, at least one of the Hancocks went up.

Q:    Did you have to take an exam to get in, a test or anything?

[15 minutes]

Mrs R:    You took an entrance test, to see which form they were going to put you into. And it was ninety percent paying pupils and about ten percent scholarship girls. I didn’t win a scholarship, I wasn’t clever enough.

Q:    So, as you said, there weren’t very many scholarships.

Mrs R:    Oh no, very few.

Q:    [???] did you know who were the scholarship ones?

Mrs R:    I don’t think we really knew. No, it was a very good school, some very nice girls there. One girl always used to come up driven in a chauffeur driven car. We used to think she was very posh, but actually her family kept a garage, it was Roslyn’s garage in Chelmsford. [laugh] We thought she was quite something because she came in a chauffeur driven car. Oh dear, those were the days.

Q:    I remember. It was interesting talking about Ruth Peecock, because in the Record Office at Chelmsford there are various papers and things which, I think, of course her mother would be the bank manager’s wife, sent these over the last ten or twenty years which she’d found. Just jottings and essays and things about Witham. (Mrs R: That’s interesting.) I’ve forgotten where it was the Ruth lives now.

Mrs R:    When the War broke out in ‘39 they moved down to Torquay, somewhere in Devon and there they remained apparently.

Q:    Do you keep in touch with her at all? (Mrs R: No.) So many people throw things away. I remember when I came across these and interested that someone would take the trouble to send them.

Mrs R:    I believe she has been back to Witham. I seem to remember her once or twice calling to see me because she knew the Upsons at Hatfield Peverel, John Upson and his wife and so she used to, I haven’t seen her in the latter years at all. But she was the only child of rather elderly parents and they used to fuss over her like anything. She was a little bit on the delicate side and she grew very tall and thin and she used to have Ottley’s cabs to take her to the station. That was great fun. They used to pick her up in Collingwood Road and drive her up to the station. She would arrive absolutely shivering you know on the platform, having had a hot bath before she came out. And we would be glowing with health having run like mad to catch the train. [laugh] We’d a lovely old station master called Mr Leathers, complete in uniform, rather big and portly, and he used to stand at the bottom of the stairs and say ‘Come along young ladies, come along, can’t keep the train waiting’. We’d run like mad down the stairs and he’d open the first carriage door and push us in. He’d keep the train waiting for us if he heard us running across.

My friend Olive Wilson, running madly down the stairs one day, she dropped her satchel, it burst open and everything came out on the platform, pens, pencils, sandwiches, books, everything. The porter scooped the lot up, and threw them into a carriage and pushed her in. She collapsed on the seat in fits of laughter, quite helpless. Oh dear, all sorts of fun.

Q:    What did her family do ?

Mrs R:    Her father was a cabinet maker antique man I think and she was one of a family of six (Q: Mmm.) Subsequently they moved up to Chipping Hill. They lived in that old house that’s, one of the doctors has opened it now, opposite the Green [55 Chipping Hill]. And then they moved to the Temperance Hotel opposite the station and ran the Temperance Hotel [9 Albert Road]. Olive, she was great fun. I still keep in touch with her. She lives at Clacton. I put you various things here. I didn’t know whether you’d be interested. Sort of World War childhood memories. There was a lovely Scottish regiment stationed here for a time and they used to do a display of marching on a Sunday afternoon.

[20 minutes]

Up and down the widest part of the High Street. And you can imagine in their lovely kilts and their sort of lovely hats and the Major domo, or whatever you call him, with his gorgeous baton with a silver knob thing. They would parade up and down, to give a sort of display for the Witham people who would line the pavements and watch that as their Sunday afternoon entertainment.

Q:    So they were stationed in Witham were they ?

Mrs R:    Yes, for the time being because all the regiments seemed to have to pass through Witham on their way to Harwich before they crossed over to France or Belgium, whichever. But certainly we had a tremendous lot billeted here during the First World War.

Q:    Did you have any with you ?

Mrs R:    Yes, we had to have some soldiers billeted for a time. Of course my father wasn’t well enough to go into the Army, the tribunal refused to pass him. And so it was a question of, you either had soldiers billeted on you or you went and worked in the munition factory. So for a time we did have some soldiers, and then later on my mother decided she’d rather go and work in a munition factory. So she worked in that factory at the Maltings, right next to Hurst Gunson [near the station] and they used to wheel heavy barrow-loads of shells around, it was terribly hard work. (Q: I see.)

Q:    And that was mostly women there ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, all women working up there, ‘cos every man was called up in the services in the First World War, it was shocking.

Q:    It must have been hard work. What sort of things did they actually do I wonder, in the factory?

Mrs R:    I’m not absolutely sure except they had to wheel these shell cases about, very heavy, in barrows, and probably pack them up, possibly and send them off by train. You see they were right next to the railway.

Q:    I wonder what was , do you think she, I wonder why she decided she preferred that to having soldiers ?

Mrs R:    [whisper] I think Dad got a bit fed up with having soldiers in the house you know. They were very pleasant, very jolly and Mother used to look after them well. Because they used to come round with a cart, I can remember the cart bringing the rations round. Great slabs of meat they would dump on the householder. Mother would make it into a delightful stew, make it nice, cook vegetables with it. That sort of thing. They were given just the basics you see. And then the lady of the household would make a nice pudding to go with it. So the soldiers were well fed and we could have some of their meat and they would have our vegetables you know the sort of thing.

Q:    Still I suppose it was a lot of work. Was your mother a Witham person ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, very much so, born in Witham.

Q:    What was her family ?

Mrs R:    Her family name was Fleuty. I could show you a picture if you like, of the Fleuty family taken in 1904; though I think quite a few people have got that. Do you know Maurice Smith? [looking for photo, offer of  coffee/sherry, not noted !] You see my mother’s father was Robert Fleuty, this is when the RAFA building is now, on the corner of Howbridge Road and they lived here in this house and that’s all the family [looking at photo M66].

Q:    [???]

Mrs R:    Yes, and that’s my mother and one, sister who died and that’s Uncle Will, my father’s not there, there’s Uncle Frank, that’s another brother, Frank, that’s his wife and baby, that’s Granny Fleuty, wife to Grandad, that’s Auntie Flo, that’s Auntie, May, that’s Uncle John, the whole family.

[25 minutes]

[Chat about coffee, and pause, not noted]

Q:    It’s a lovely picture isn’t  it, I’m admiring their hats. [laugh]

Mrs R:    Yes, they had large elaborate hats with feathers didn’t they.

Q:    I see you’ve already had a copy.

Mrs R:    Yes a cousin drew up a copy of it.

Q:    Did you see a lot of them ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, all the uncles and aunties I knew of course, but I don’t ever remember this. I think that was all finished with when Grandad retired when I was a child.

Q:    [???] Was there any business left then, when you were at school ?

Mrs R:    No, that was all gone. Oh here we are, look. Diamond wedding. They were my parents, [???] bless their hearts.

Q:    They; lived in Church Street then ?

Mrs R:    They lived in a little, nice little bungalow in Church Street, just the other side of Mrs Tunstall’s house [Mrs T’s was 11 Church Street, the bungalow was 13]. Do you know where I mean ? (Q: Oh yes.) Almost opposite Chalks Road. Dear little bungalow, nice little enclosed garden with a wall round it.

Q:    [???]

Mrs R:    So they celebrated their Golden Wedding when we lived down at Ardleigh and their Diamond Wedding when we lived Oaklands, Chipping Hill, [37 Chipping Hill] opposite the forge. Yes they were great Withamites.

Q:    He lived till eighty four.

Mrs R:    After eighty four.

Q:    He lived to a good age.

Mrs R:    Oh yes, Dad lived with me for the last two or three years of his life and died at the age of ninety-five.

Q:    How long ago was that ?

Mrs R:    He died in ‘72, yes. He was as bright as a button, and great sense of humour and he was only ill four days, only in bed four days.

Q:    And your mother died first did she ?

Mrs R:    Yes, mum died at the age of eighty-seven. She had terrible appendix which wasn’t diagnosed soon enough, and it turned to peritonitis and they operated on her and said it was a very bad. She was really poisoned right through, and she only lived a week after the operation. But they were both very tough, they were marvellous.

Q:    What was her first name ?

Mrs R:    Elizabeth Fleuty, she was.

Q:    Well, the Fleutys are such a well known family I shall have to look out for them. You know if you got back into the nineteenth century you come across them the names of the Fleutys. Her father was the Robert was he.

Mrs R:    We used to think it was a very unusual name but there are more Fleutys about now. But at one time my uncle was the only Fleuty in the London directory, but they seem to have spread about the district more now. In fact there was a Michael Fleuty lived in Witham and I have meant to get in touch with him out of curiosity but I don’t know whether he’s …

Q:    I’m sure I once went into Cramphorns, you know they have badges with their names on in Cramphorn’s and there was a young chap their called Fleuty. [???]

Mrs R:    Was there ? It used to be a very unusual name. But it was funny. One of my uncles went to Switzerland because they came over in 1700 and something from Switzerland, the Fleuty family, and went over there to see if he could find out anything about his ancestors and he found the name Fleuty was nearly as common as Smith in England ! (Q: Oh really ?) We always thought that was very unusual.

[30 minutes]

Q:    So, he’d retired when you were, your grandfather, (Mrs R: Oh yes, retired, you know, I don’t). What did your uncles do ?

Mrs R:    Two uncles worked in London, one was a printer, one was a tailor, had his own tailoring, tailoring business and I used to go up and stay with them when I was a child. They used to take me to London theatres and Lyons Corner Houses, you know where there were Nippies and dear little orchestras playing. [laugh] And I used to gorge myself on little iced cakes, you know. Oh yes they were very good to me. I thought London was marvellous in those days.

Q:    Oh well after Witham. (Mrs R: Well it was exciting.) So there weren’t really any wheelwrights left then ?

Mrs R:    I wouldn’t think so.

Q:    So none of the family went into the business at all.

Mrs R:    No I think it’s all died out more or less.

Q:    So did your mother work at all, before she married ?

Mrs R:    When she was a girl she went away to work of course, worked in Hampstead. She was nanny to a Jewish family. She used to tell me a lot about the Jews and their different way of life. It was interesting. Oh and then later on she worked in Chelmsford with Dr Gimson’s children, that’s right. Yes, they lived at Springfield I believe. You’ve heard of the Gimson family ? (Q: The doctors ?) Yes. Well there were three brothers. There was Ted, and Karl, running the surgery here in Witham, practice in Witham, and Dudley, Dud they called him, was the doctor in Chelmsford. (Q: Oh, was he ?) and my mother was nurse to him. And the one who died recently at Braxted, that was Brigadier Gimson. He was the baby my mother looked after. [laugh] (Q: So he was nephew to the …) Yes, to the Witham [???] yes. And really they’ve left no children, none of them. The sister Gimson, she married a Mr Brandt and they lived at the Gables [125-127 Newland Street], which is the house next to the Witham Surgery. But they had no family, so there’s no young ones coming on.

Q:    So you remember the Witham Gimsons do you ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, very much so. Lovely doctors. They’d got a bedside manner you know that was perfectly charming. They were lovely and they knew everybody intimately.

Q:    Did you have to have the doctor much at your house ?

Mrs R:    Oh occasionally. By the Second World War the Gimson doctors had retired but Ted came back into practice because they were so desperate for help. The others were called up so he used to do a bit of visiting and that sort of thing during the Second World War.

Q:    [looking at papers/photos) Are these any of your …]

Mrs R:    That is an aunt of mine. [photo M293] They had three sons. Her husband was unfaithful to her so she left him and came to Witham. Hadn’t a penny in the world. Went out to work at the Bridge Hospital and she brought her three sons up putting each of them to a trade. One of them was apprenticed to a saddler, one was apprenticed to the antique world and one was, now what did he do, he was an apprentice of some sort. They all did a different job and they all three were trained and the one, Will Brown, had the antiques shop in Witham that my husband’s people bought when they came to Witham [37 Newland Street]. (Q: I see.) So, in a way, they were cousins of mine you see.

[35 minutes]

It is rather interesting that I married into a family that took over the antiques shop which was a very beautiful shop with Georgian bay windows, next to the White Hart you know, and the Georgian Society put up quite a fight to save that when there was talk of it being demolished and I think, in the end, those windows were taken and taken down to Colchester Museum and kept there. Because they were beautiful. Lovely bays, lovely curves. And of course, the shop wasn’t good for anything in the business world except as an antique shop or possibly a teashop. But being in Witham High Street of course developers wanted to do something different with it. So, in the end, the pulled it right down and built Tesco’s. And where Woolworths is now [35 Newland Street], that was a nice Queen Anne house where my husband’s people lived when they first came to Witham, called Evelyn House. It had a beautiful garden going right back, as you can imagine, right back to that car park back of the Grove. And Grandpa Redman sold that to Woolworth’s and the whole place was pulled down and built over. And there was Woolworth’s. Woolworth’s and Tesco’s [laugh].

Q:    So really when your husband, when the Redmans came to Witham there was already an antique business ?

Mrs R:    It was already there, run by Will Brown, very successfully and he retired to a beautiful house down at Ardleigh and the Redman family took it over. I married in 1934. (Q: Oh I see.) They came to Witham I should think about 1930 something like that.

Q:    Had they already been in the business or …?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, they had a business in Bedford and came to Witham. So I started my married life in the flat over the antiques shop in the High Street and the noise of the traffic going through Witham was dreadful in those days. It was shocking. There was no bypass you see (Q: No.) and the traffic, especially at weekends, was dreadful, so noisy. Oh dear, oh dear.

Q:    Did you help at all with the business ?

Mrs R:    No, not really, not in Witham, I didn’t help at all. But when my husband broke up their partnership and started at Hatfield Peverel, we built our own shop at Hatfield Peverel. I used to help then. Yes we started that in 1936.

Q:    I see. Did someone else carry on in Witham ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes the Redmans carried on in Witham for a time. They had a modern furniture shop immediately opposite, where Lipton’s and that trendy clothes shop is now [about 38-42 Newland Street]. Yes they had modern furniture over that side and antiques the other side. And sheds going right back to that lane, you know that lane that runs through to the car park. Workshops, showrooms and what not.

Q:    [???] Did you do a lot of repairs and restoration and so on ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, they used to do the sales. They used to buy from dealers and so would get that type of thing. Do repairs, antiques. But when we got to Hatfield the antique business was beginning to fade out a bit because such a lot of stuff was sent to America. Americans bought up everything. So we went in for a great deal of reproduction furniture and had a lot of machinery at the back and used to do reproduction chairs, dining tables, the lot, everything.

Q:    What sort of people would buy antiques in the thirties ? Did people come a long way to the shop or were they mostly local ?

[40 minutes]

Mrs R:    Oh, we had a terrific clientele as you might call them. All round the district. All the big houses, all around would buy antiques and we had one shop at Frinton. Frinton was a very wealthy place in those days. My word it was full of film stars and well-off people and starched nannies with children you know and we did a lot of business down there. And my husband was the sort who could talk to anybody and they used to welcome him in and say ‘Come in Mr Redman. I want you to see these curtains. What do you think of this ?’ Or ‘What do you think of this piece of furniture ? Do you think so and so and so and so?’ Used to consult him. And we did a terrific business down there until ‘39 when the whole place was evacuated you see because of the War. And then we closed the business down and we never opened it again down there.

Q:    [???] I haven’t got very far with your notes have I ?

Mrs R:    Well, I haven’t got very much down, just childhood memories, drilling. The regiments used to drill in the Avenue. When the Avenue was The Avenue with beautiful lime trees meeting overhead in an arch. It was the driveway down to the Grove, the big house. Meadows each side, no houses and I remember tents up, for the men who were under canvas. [in First World War] I’ve got down here, Gotha raid. Now Gothas were those strange German planes, have you ever heard of them? (Q: Vaguely.) My brother and I stood on the garden wall and watched this Gotha fight in the distance you know. You could see bursts of gunfire and that sort of thing and they were fighting over there somewhere towards the other side of Maldon. Oh yes, it was a daylight Gotha fight, I can remember that distinctly. We were quite young. The neighbours kept shouting to us to go indoors and we didn’t take any notice. [laugh]

Now events in Witham I don’t …

Side 2

[5 minutes]

Mrs R:    Now, Guy Fawkes Night was quite something. They used to make a bonfire in the middle of the High Street, Newland Street. In the widest part, you know where Mondy’s is, well about there. They used to roll up a barrel of tar from the Gas Works. You know where the car park is now [134 Newland Street, Mill Lane car park], that was the Gas Works, barrel of tar that used to start it off. And it is said that the men used to get quite excited after a pint or two of beer and they would take anything to keep the bonfire going, garden gates, fences, anything they could get hold of. One day they decided to pick up the privy at the end of somebody’s garden [laugh] which was like a sentry box you see, just a seat across to sit on. They picked it up. There was a man inside. They took no notice and carried it up while he was shouting and banging, up to the bonfire and pretended they were going to throw him on. They didn’t. They let him out in the end but threw the privy on to the bonfire. It was such a joke. [laugh]

Q:    Do you remember the bonfires at all yourself? [???]

Mrs R:    No I don’t, this was well, when I was quite a child I would think. Another thing in Witham was the annual Co-op treat. Yes. Any member of the Co-op you see, and most people were members of the Co-op, were entitled to go to the Co-op Free Annual Treat. So it used to start with a procession down the High Street with the local Witham Town Band in front playing very loud music. Used to process up the Chase. We called it the Rec Chase, it’s now called Kings Chase, turn to the right into Beadel’s meadow where Doctor Denholm’s house is now, that was Beadel’s meadow and there there would be races for the children and the grownups probably. [on the right of King’s Chase going from Newland Street] And then a sit-down tea at long trestle tables and the band playing all the time. That was an annual summer event.

Q:    Were you in the Co-op yourselves ?

Mrs R:    Mm, my mother was Co-op, yes, I can remember it distinctly. Well that was the nearest shop.

Q:    It would be quite convenient.

Mrs R:    Yes, you see there weren’t many food shops in Witham in those days.

Q:    Did you dress up ?

Mrs R:    I can’t remember any fancy dress, there might have been but I don’t remember that. Always remember it was a nice hot day. It would be, wouldn’t it in childhood. Then there were pageants, pageants organised in the park or else in the Grove gardens. Generally depicting something historical and the children like me, if they were small offspring, were generally dressed up as a fairy or some sort of attendant. [laugh] And the general public, all Witham you see, would go to it. You didn’t pay to go in. You watched it. It was just one of those things and at the Grove there was a nice terrace with a sloping lawn coming down to the lower lawn and you could sit on that lawn. It was just raised up enough to make a nice spot to watch the pageant. And they would come from behind the shrubberies all dressed up.

Q:    I wonder who organised that ?

Mrs R:    There was a very good schoolmaster in Maldon Road School called Mr Quick. He was a tall fine man. A very fine character. A clever man. And I remember him being in it. I rather think he would organise it quite a lot. And Miss Maisey was the dancing teacher. She used to teach, she lived originally at Rickstones[?] and then they moved to the High Street. Do you know a house next to the Witham Co-op with steps going up [117 or 119 Newland Street]. (Q: Below the Co-op. Yes.) That’s where she used to live. She was a very good dancing mistress.

Q:    You used to go to her did you? This was sort of after school time ? (Mrs R: Well I expect so.) [???] Would you go in the afternoons or …?

[10 minutes]

Mrs R:    We used to go to the Public Hall for it if I remember rightly. That was that. Of course, as a family we had Bank Holiday outings, by trap, pony and trap, to Tollesbury, Millbeach. We’d perhaps be the only family on the beach, but great fun, big family, various contraptions. What’s another word for pony traps? Wagonettes? (Q: I see.) That sort of thing. Generally across to Millbeach or Tollesbury. Have a lovely picnic on the beach, all the families. You see we used to get together as a family in those days. All the uncles and aunts used to come down from London, see and we’d all go. Bank Holidays were the day out that you looked forward to.

Q:    Because I suppose with the milk business must have been a bit of a tie was it ?

Mrs R:    It was very, they were very tied but they did have some help you see. Cows were milked twice a day, early morning and early afternoon. But we had some help of course.

Q:    Did you holidays when you went away to stay ever?

Mrs R:    Occasionally, yes we would go to Walton, Walton on the Naze. I always remember the delightful smell as you got out of the train of tar and seaweed. Lovely, gorgeous smell. Yes we stayed at Walton on the Naze on one or two occasions.

Q:    You would stay in an hotel would you ?

Mrs R:    Oh no, in apartments if I remember rightly, yes. Yes, you took rooms and somebody did the catering for you. I remember a very hot summer when my small brother got his arms blistered, that’s right, with the heat and sunburn. And I was foolish enough to get hold of him, ooh did I get into trouble. I was slapped and we all went home. Oh dear.

Q:    Was it busy at Walton ?

Mrs R:    It was really a very nice family place. Lovely sands you see for children. Ideal. Yes it was nice.

Q:    You’d go on the train, would you ?

Mrs R:    Yes, we went by train.

Q:    When you went on these outings would you hire a …?

Mrs R:    Yes we hired traps and ponies to go on these holiday outings, oh yes. (Q: [???])  Yes. We had one pony in the business that we could use. But all the uncles seemed to be able to drive. They drove the contraptions that we had. It was so family in those days, all got together. See the car has isolated people. It’s a very queer thing but it has, yes. You never get together as a family like we used to.

Q:    [???] you don’t see people.

Mrs R:    You don’t get together as a family now. People go their separate ways don’t they ? Which is rather sad I think. Oh yes we had a lovely childhood, lovely childhood. And Christmases we used to get together. We used to have Christmas Day at Croft House, where my father’s people were. We all sat down thirteen to table. We weren’t superstitious. [laugh] And we went to my mother’s people who lived in Braintree Road, and there were twenty of us there, how we all got in I don’t know. But it was great fun. And the London uncles used to entertain us. The one who was a tailor, he had a Father Christmas outfit made, see, and he used to come in as Father Christmas with a sack on his back. [laugh] And two of the uncles would dress up as fairies and they were funny. They were in crinkle paper skirts, likely to split any minute, their socks up here, short socks and their shoes on, and crowns on their heads and wands in their hands. Oh they were funny, oh they were a laugh. And I remember when Father Christmas had given out all the presents the room used to be knee deep in brown paper and string. We didn’t have wrapping paper in those days. Brown paper and string – masses of toys. Oh gosh it was fun.

Q:    So you had quite a lot of toys did you ?

[15 minutes]

Mrs R:    Mmm, all sorts of things, from tin soldiers to dolls’ houses, to we always had gollywogs, and all sorts of things that could be made by hand. We had a grand time. And at Croft House we always had a Christmas tree I remember.

Q:    Did the Fleutys move to Braintree Road, after Bridge Street ?

Mrs R:    Yes, we had Christmas Day at Bridge Street, Boxing Day at Braintree Road. Masses of food. How we got through so much I do not know. [laugh] A very large Christmas dinner, middle day dinner. Grandad Newman used to carve the turkey for thirteen of us and he would say ‘Now dears, don’t talk, eat. So get on with it’. Masses of fruit. In the afternoon you would all these things like nuts and raisins and apples and oranges and things. Then there would be a massive heavy tea with big iced cakes, rich fruit cakes, about five o’clock. And then we would play games and do a bit of entertaining for the grown-ups, which they didn’t appreciate really. They used to keep saying ‘When can we have a game of cards ?’ ‘When is this going to finish so we can have a game of cards and a glass of port ?’ And we made them sit on seats while we entertained them with recitations, pianoforte things and sketches, bored them stiff. [laugh)] Poor dears. Anyway eventually they’d get their game of cards and their glass of port and we would be banished to the other room to play with our toys.

Then there would be a massive supper, with cold meats, pickles, everything possible, mince pies, jellies, trifles. How we ate all that lot and got away with it I do not know. Marvellous.

Q:    It must have been a lot of work. Did your mother …?

Mrs R:    Granny Newman had maids. Yes she did have a maid. I expect the maid was let off for one day. I hope she was. So they all used to help then you see. All the family used to help.

Q:    So your grandfather lived with you did they at Croft House ?

Mrs R:    No, they lived by themselves there. (Q: I see.) We lived in a cottage opposite, or a little bit further up the road. So we were very near and handy.

Q:    Did you ever live at Croft House ?

Mrs R:    You see, in those days, Grandad Newman was very much the Victorian father. He had twin sons, my father and his brother George. And if ever they asked for a rise in money, he would say ‘No, no, this will all be yours when I’m gone.’ So we lived on those expectations, very poor, very hard up we were and he lived to be ninety-three and by the time my father inherited Croft House we didn’t want it. It was too big. Mother didn’t want it, too big a house to cope with. The Mellerios live there. It was too big. We didn’t want it. See ‘It’ll all be yours when I’m gone’ – what a promise. And of course, there was no point, he couldn’t have left him and got a job anywhere else because all the farmers stuck together you see. And I mean Lord Rayleigh’s farms would not have employed my father against his father’s wishes. Oh no, no. There was no such thing as Trade Unions or anything like that in those days. You had to put up with it.

Q:    So he worked for his father ?

Mrs R:    He worked all his life for his father. As I say they lived off the fat of the land at Croft House. Always remember the amount, the crates of drink they had down in the dairy. Yes, everything. They didn’t lack for anything. But my people were quite poor, poor ducks.

Q:    As you say that’s what people expected ? [???]

[20 minutes]

Mrs R:    That’s how it was. When my father finally inherited Croft House, immediately after the War. They sold out the business sold it out to the Co-op I think. Put the house up for sale, Doctor Denholm bought it for a thousand pounds. Only a thousand pounds, big house. Well it wasn’t as much as it should have fetched. It was a bad time to sell really. But the Denholms lived there ten years. They were very happy there. Then it changed hands again, once or twice, and then my daughter Pauline she and her husband bought it (Q: Really ?) about three or four years after they married. When they came and settled at Croft House they gave seven thousand for it. And I was thrilled to bits. I thought ‘Oh lovely, back in the family house again’. And I was thrilled to bits, because I was so happy there as a child. But they only lived there about six or seven years and then they decided to move to Suffolk, very sad and the Mellerios bought it.

Q:    At least it’s still there for you to see.

Mrs R:    Yes, still there but changed I think.

Q:    Bridge Street’s a funny mixture really I suppose. There were a few big houses (Mrs R: Yes) but what about the rest of the houses ?

Mrs R:    Well, they were basically the same really. There were cottages.

Q:    Because there are some gaps now. Were there cottages there ?

Mrs R:    Yes, there were some cottages pulled down and the Morning Star was rebuilt further back, making a car parking front before you get to Jean Ezra’s house [23 Bridge Street]. Then there’s the George and Dragon. Oh I know there’s the antique shop that Dierdre Gann has then there’s the George and Dragon isn’t there. That’s still right on to the street. So that’s basically the same. Then recently they’ve pulled down some cottages and built some new ones haven’t they, along there before you get to the corner ? Then you get to the RAFA Hall. Yes they pulled down the big house that my mother’s people lived in which had an entrance from Bridge Street, that’s right, and an entrance round the back at the wheelwrights.  [corner of Howbridge Road]

Q:    [???] the picture. [i.e. family photo]

Mrs R:    Yes, you see that’s into Howbridge Road isn’t it and the other entrance is round in Bridge Street.

Q:    That was a big place as well was it ?

Mrs R:    Yes, quite a big house.

Q:    [???] Yes, so what sort of people lived in the little cottages ? Well, you lived in a cottage yourself.

Mrs R:    Mmm, yes, oh all sorts of people. People used to be more neighbourly in those days. It was before the Health Service started. Before any Social Services started and people used to help each other. Now, my mother, although we were quite hard up, she used to constantly make things for poorer families, families with perhaps twelve or thirteen children and she was always making little trousers for little behinds as she said. She would wash and cut up a skirt, an old skirt of hers and make it into little trousers on the machine and line them nicely because these little children would go about with, you know, their pants in holes, you know really poor, big families were. And mother would constantly be making little trousers for little behinds. I can remember it distinctly. [laugh] And she was so good. Now for one big family she would make always an Easter cake for them. Great big fruit cake and she would put twelve little Easter chicks all the way round for them because there were twelve children. And she would make them Christmas cakes, do that sort of thing. It was marvellous what people did for each other in those days.

Q:    And these people they weren’t relations or that sort of thing ?

[25 minutes]

Mrs R:    No, no, and you see there was a system by which they had what they called District Visitors. Granny Newman was one of the District Visitors, and in her house she kept a complete baby’s new layette of clothes, so that anybody expecting a new baby had that layette of clothes all nice and clean and sent to them for temporary use. As you know babies soon grow out, six months, nine months and they are finished with it. Then she would have the layette back and she would wash it and starch it and get it ready for the next one. But that sort of thing was done and people like the Luards, the Miss Luards there were five daughters unmarried, they would make themselves responsible for calling on poor people to see if they needed anything and helping them in many ways. These District Visitors were all part of the church services. Of course nobody calls on people now unless you ring up the parson and say I want you to come and call on so-and-so, he’s ill. They don’t come do they ?

Q:    So that was connected with the church was it?

Mrs R:    Was all connected with the church.

Q:    Because were your family Church of England?

Mrs R:    Yes. All Saints was a very thriving church in those days. Very thriving and the Bridge Hospital was not as much a very mental hospital as a home for er men who were a little bit weak up top and who perhaps hadn’t anyone to care for them, but they were not so mental that what they could come out, and so they were brought out and they used to fill the whole of the middle seats of All Saints church every Sunday.

Q:    Because you said that this lady worked at Bridge Hospital was that as a nurse or …?

Mrs R:    Yes, something like that. Thought she was very brave. She left her unfaithful husband. She thought, no more, get rid of him and she brought up her three sons. There was no help for people like that in those days, no maintenance.

Q:    You weren’t really expected to work I suppose when you were married.

Mrs R:    Oh no, nobody worked after they’d finished their jobs. Once you retired to get married you didn’t go back to work like people do nowadays, oh no, not the done thing.

Q:    Did your mother go, I think you said you went, as a child you went pea picking, fruit picking (Mrs R: Mmm.) Did your mother used to go?

Mrs R:    In the holidays. Sometimes. (Q: ???) We had a fruit, what do they call it, a nursery immediately opposite our house. You know where the Bramston Sports Centre is ? (Q: Yes.) That was a nursery, all glasshouses and fruit and what not. And the people who owned it lived next door to us. My mother used to go over there and help them with the fruit, picking the fruit and we children, to amuse ourselves, used to go anywhere we could fruit picking and had a grand time, used to pick a certain amount of fruit, get a bit of pocket money, and when the foreman wasn’t looking we used to throw squashy strawberries at each other. [laugh]

Q:    [???] Am I holding you up from your …?

Mrs R:    There’s nothing much I can tell you really. I’ve told you about May Day and Empire Day celebrations at school. The shops, you know all about the shops in Witham don’t you ?

Q:    Not necessarily all. Which ones did you, you went to the Co-op yourselves for your food, did you, you were saying? Which ones did you used to go to for clothes for instance ?

Mrs R:    Clothes? Spurge’s (Q: I see.) Spurges used to do household linens, no not for clothes shopping, probably the Co-op. Can’t remember any other clothing shop.

Q:    You say your mother made things for these other people. Did she make things for you as well ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, used to make our own dresses in those days, very much so.

Q:    When you went to school in Witham what would you wear for school ?

Mrs R:    My tailor uncle would make things like gym tunics, you know what I mean. Nice navy blue serge with pleats down them, sort of thing. (Q: [???]) Oh yes you had to be in uniform.

Q:    He was in London was he ? (Mrs R: Oh yes.) What about the Witham school, did that have a uniform, the Guithavon Street ?

Mrs R:    No, you could wear what you liked for that.

Q:    Would he make you things for that, do you think?

Mrs R:    Probably yes, I think so.

[30 minutes]

Q:    Because there was just that and the Maldon Road school, is that right?

Mrs R:    The Maldon Road school was the Board school, what they called the Board school. Well, if you weren’t Church of England, you sent your children to the Board school. So my cousins went there because they were United Reformed Church persons, that sort of religion. So they went to the Maldon Road school and I went to the Church school.

Q:    Which side of the family was that, your cousins, you say ?

Mrs R:    They were my father’s side because, during the First World War, they let their house in Chelmsford to a Colonel. They had a very nice house. They let it furnished and they came down and lived at Croft House with their mother’s people because their father went into the Army. In fact he got the Military Cross and fortunately survived it and they spent the War years there at Croft House. So these cousins were much my age. We got together and we had grand times. (Q: [???] different schools ?) Yes, they went to a different school.

Q:    That was the Newmans ?

Mrs R:    That was the Newman side.

Q:    But the Newmans were Church of England, the Witham ones ?

Mrs R:    Always, very much Church of England yes. They practically built All Saints church. I don’t mean brick by brick by brick but I meant with money. (Q: Really ?) And they always went to All Saints Church. My mother would absolutely, well I don’t know what she’d do if knew it was turned into a Youth Club now. Absolute sacrilege ! It’s shocking you know. Because it was a beautiful church. It had a better organ than they’ve got up at the parish church, definitely.

Q:    I suppose it was nearer. I was just wondering how people decided which to go to ?

Mrs R:    Well, it was nearer, much nearer. The parish church was of course patronised by all the Chipping Hill people and it was quite something, church parade up there on a Sunday morning. Everybody dressed up in their best. They all went you know, just absolutely it. And I remember I used to go with an auntie who lived up there and I used to be quite fascinated to see these people come in, all dressed up. Some of them would bring their children you see and then, before the sermon started, they would take the children out to nanny who was waiting in the porch to take the children home again. [laugh] The days of nannies have gone haven’t they, you know the starched nannies that they used to have.

Q:    So these would be quite well to do, important … ?

Mrs R:    Yes, you see Witham was full of big houses you know with rich people about, and there was some families, delightful families, very attractive children.

Q:    Did those children come to school at Guithavon Street as well sometimes ?

Mrs R:    No, I think not. I don’t know where they went. Some of them came to the High School when they were old enough to come. They didn’t start at the High School till they were eight I think. There were the Vaughan-Pearces who lived in the big house that leads up to the parish church, you know the one that stands back, (Q: Oh yes.) big house, on the hill. The Vaughan-Pearces lived there. They had three girls, very beautiful girls. Then the Grange where the De Voils and Mrs Danks[?] lives, you know the De Voils ? (Q: Near the Albert ?) Yes, next to theh Albert. That was occupied by Page the auctioneer and his family, two very attractive daughters. Then Collingwood House, which is now into flats, that was the Browns’ house [15 Collingwood Road]. That was very nice and the Brices lived in a big house in Avenue Road. Can remember that. There were three Brice girls, Olive, Diana and Daphne, beautiful girls and it used to be the thing to do to go to church you know on a Sunday morning, just the done thing. You can imagine it can’t you. Where that terrace of houses is at Earlsmead, was one big house. I think the Smith family lived there. They were big farmers. And then at Powershall End there were the Trittons I think.

[35 minutes]

Q:    Did you used to see these people, other than at church yourself? Did you know them personally ?

Mrs R:    Yes, well, Marjorie Brown as she was then, who lived at Collingwood House, she used to organise, she took a degree in a Guild, what do they call it, in London, in drama and elocution. So she used to organise us young people. We used to give plays and concerts and revues and things in the Public Hall. We were called the Witham Imps, Junior Conservatives. Yes. And she used to train us. The Page girls who were keen on dancing, they used to help. They used to put us through our paces, dancingwise and we would give these delightful concerts in the Public Hall.

Q:    So this wasn’t through the church it was through the Conservatives ?

Mrs R:    Yes, that’s right.

Q:    Was your father involved in politics much ?

Mrs R:    Er, mm, no, not to any extent. No. In business they thought it very diplomatic not to be, if you see what I mean. In business you couldn’t say what your politics were.

Q:    But as children you were allowed to ?

Mrs R:    As we grew up, I mean we joined what we liked. (Q: Of course.) Young Conservatives were great fun. I joined a little club called the Gluepots because we all stuck together. [laugh] And I remember when I told my mother once that we’d thought about doing some dancing on a Sunday night, she was horrified. ‘What! Dancing on a Sunday, ooh, that was dreadful, terrible, terrible sin.’ I think we had to give up that idea !

Q:    Even today it would be slightly frowned on wouldn’t it? So I can imagine …

Mrs R:    Could be, although a lot of people. I belong to a modern sequence dance club and they dance on a Sunday. Oh yes.

Q:    Was that when you were still at school or after?

Mrs R:    After I left school. Didn’t have time when I was at school. They used to set us a lot of homework. Oh yes, we had to work hard. We were expected to. Woe betide you if you hadn’t done your homework overnight. We used to have at least three subjects every night to do and they were supposed to take three quarters of an hour each. Well, I was a bit slow, I used to take an hour over each subject so my whole evenings were spent doing homework I can assure you.

Q:    So when you left school did you consider doing anything else [???]?

Mrs R:    I didn’t want to be a teacher. There were really literally no openings for girls. So if you got the chance to go into the Post Office which was a safe, easy, job you went into the Post Office. There was literally nothing else you could do. I mean you went into a shop or you learned shorthand typing. I didn’t want to do that either.

Q:    Did you have any training in the Post Office ? I mean how did you learn what to do?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, I was paid fifteen shillings a week while I was training. Took a couple of weeks if I remember rightly. [laugh] I never earned more than forty-five shillings. By the time I left, as supervisor, I was earning forty-five shillings a week. How different things are now. Incredible isn’t it? (Q: Mmm.) But that was considered a good wage, oh yes, quite good. Oh yes, I could pay some money at home, had plenty of money for clothes and holidays, although we only had a fortnight in the year you know for a nice holiday. But we gave a good service. We were there Bank Holidays, Christmas, New Year. Never, never, did one go on strike or close down. Well, you couldn’t could you, in the telephone service. Now its all automatic.

Q:    [???]

[40 minutes]

Mrs R:    I used to play hockey at one time and I used to say I went back to work for a rest. I did indeed because it was nice and easy in the evenings, there wasn’t much to do. I used to rest my poor aching limbs and bathe my bruises [laugh] if I remember right.

Q:    Of course the telephone service, presumably was it available twenty-four hours of the day ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, all the time. They had a night man on.

Q:    I see, so you didn’t ?

Mrs R:    We finished every, on special occasions we would be working until ten but then the night man took over.

Q:    Do you remember, did you have to go for an interview and so forth ?

Mrs R:    I suppose I must have done. But they had a list as long as your arm wanting to get into the Post Office. Oh yes. It was only because an uncle of mine pulled strings with the head postmaster at Chelmsford that I got the job. Oh there was virtually no work going then. Now what date would that be. I left school at the age of seventeen. I was twelve when the war finished in 1918. Five years later, that would be ’23, 1923. It was a very bad time. Right into the thirties there was virtually no work about. Oh yes, you couldn’t pick and choose. There are such opportunities for young people now aren’t there.

Q:    You wonder what you would’ve done if you hadn’t got to the Post Office.

Mrs R:    I mean what could I have done, nothing.

Q:    You say you paid something at home for your keep ?

Mrs R:    Oh yes, I lived at home, my mother didn’t want me to go away. I  was bored to death with Witham. Oh I was bored with it. [Q: Really ?) I longed to go away and on one occasion I actually made arrangements to swap, you were allowed to change for a period of perhaps three or six months with somebody else in the same position as yourself, another supervisor in another district. And I made an arrangement and put in application to change and I think my mother went to see the postmaster and stopped it. I do. I was so bored, I wanted to get away. I wanted to stand on my own two feet and see a different district. I didn’t get the chance. Sad.

Q:    Especially if you’d seen London when you were little.

Mrs R:    Oh yes, London looked marvellous to me. You always have that feeling you want to be in a flat in London and see the glamour of it. Not much glamour really is there. But it used to look good from a distance.

Q:    Did you have to help your mother at home ?

Mrs R:    No, I did very little. No, she was not the sort who trained me. When I married I had to practise on my husband. He had some very poor meals I can tell you. [laugh]

Q:    That’s unusual. Were your friends in the same position or did they have to help at home more  do you think?

Mrs R:    I can’t really remember. I don’t think. I think the mother always. You see nobody went out to work. They stayed at home, they did the work, the cooking, the shopping and the housework. I mean you did very little, you might help with the washing-up and make your own bed but that’s about it. You had no training. You had to learn a lot when you got married. Oh dear oh dear. I left my job at the office a month before I got married with the idea of getting a bit of practise but would my mother let me do it? No! Used to say ‘You go out and enjoy yourself, you’ll have plenty of time to do this cooking and housework when you are married’. With the result that I was very green and didn’t. I remember putting a rice pudding in the oven at twelve thinking that would be done at one o’clock. Well it was hard of course! So I wonder my husband ever survived. [laugh]

Q:    Did you learn anything useful in that line at the High School ?

Mrs R:    We had cookery lessons for perhaps a couple of terms (Q: Yes.) in which they would teach you silly things, like stuffing tomatoes, [laugh] but that was hardly a meal was it ? [laugh] No it wasn’t very good.

Q:    When you say a couple of terms was that when you started ?

Mrs R:    Say two terms of cookery during some year of your school life. It’s nothing is it? Really didn’t teach you anything.

[45 minutes]

Q:    Two terms altogether while you were there ?

Mrs R:    Mm, you see you did a terrific curriculum. You did, English language, English literature, French, you did French, you did Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Geography, History, Music, Art, Gymnastics, the lot. And you see you got a smattering of everything. Games, I was never very good at games. There used to be hockey, netball, in the winter, tennis, cricket in the summer. Gymnastics I liked very much when I felt fit enough to do it. I wasn’t very fit. A very pale and pallid child. Not much energy.

Q:    You’d never imagine it now.

Mrs R:    I survived. I survived. [???] I don’t think I’ve got much else of interest that I can tell you I don’t think, because I can see by just glancing, you’ve got a tremendous lot of knowledge there. [i.e. booklet on shops]

Q:    Its always interesting to hear what people have to say themselves about it. These were mostly people who worked in shops. Because I did go to college and do an MA where we had to do some sort of recent history and so I did the shops specially for a project and they were mostly people who had worked in shops really, though some of them were the customers. So it is very interesting to hear from people like yourself, where you went.

Mrs R:    This is a nice little book, isn’t it.

Q:    I was very pleased with the printing of everything. You can never tell until it comes out. There was a very nice man who did it.

Mrs R:    Did I tell you how I used to enjoy, when I was a schoolgirl …

Continued on tape 77

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *