Mrs Ann Redman (nee Newman), was born in 1906. She was interviewed on 4 May 1983, when she lived at 37 The Avenue.
She also appears on tape 76.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.]
Continued from tape 76
Mrs R: With all the riders in their pink coats, the ladies sitting side-saddle, you know with lovely sort of top hats and a veil over their faces and they were a grand sight really. And they’d make for the open country, the nearest woods. And I remember Sir Claude de Crespigny, he was a character. He lived at Langford Place and he was the first man to go up in a balloon [laugh] (Q: Really ?) He was a character, did all sorts of things. Yes, Sir Claude was quite something. I remember Christopher Parker from Faulkbourne Hall. He was a very grand looking fine man. He was Master of Foxhounds for a time. And it was a lovely sight. And my friend and I we used to run, go over ploughed fields and heaven knows what in order to catch a glimpse of them and see them from time to time when you followed on foot naturally. But it was fun, used to do that on Saturday morning.
Q: I suppose there are still Hunts about in the countryside ?
Mrs R: You don’t see them here do you. I mean they don’t meet at Witham naturally because the fields are all taken up with housing. They do meet at other places.
Q: Because when you, somebody mentioned something about his meat being stolen from his meat basket by the hounds or something, but I think that was at the White Hart he said,.because when he was a boy and he took the butchers meat round on Saturdays and had go through the hounds [???]
Mrs R: Oh yes. I remember the meet at the Spread Eagle coming out from under that archway. I remember that distinctly.
Q: Because the meat business was quite an undertaking because without fridges and so on. You mentioned the Sorrell girls, was that the butcher’s ?
Mrs R: Oh yes, the Sorrells, their father was a butcher. They had that shop down at the end of the High Street and there three girls. Zena, Joyce and Cilla. Zena is still in Witham.(Q: Really ?) In a flat on the Howbridge Estate. Joyce married a man by the name of Magness who had a big milk business at Mountnessing or Margaretting. The Magness family.
Q: Now that is strange. My husband’s aunt lives in Bury St Edmunds (Mrs R: Oh yes ?) We went to see her at Easter and for some reason she started saying ‘Oh I know this Joyce Magness …’ and she had no connection with Witham [???] and she lives in Mountnessing. I know they go to Newmarket a lot to watch the racing. Maybe they met her there or something. (Mrs R: Mmm.) So that was the Sorrells.
Mrs R: I think Joyce has lost her husband now. I think John Magness died.
Q: But she didn’t know which butcher it was, so now I can tell her, that’s nice.
Mrs R: The Sorrell girls. They all went to the High School as little children, you know, about eight years old and I being seventeen and on the point of leaving, I was in charge of them. Oh they were terrors.
Q: The one in Witham is she still a Sorrell ?
Mrs R: Yes, she is. She didn’t marry, Zena, that’s the eldest one.
Q: Did you used to get your meat there or …?
Mrs R: Oh yes, we used to go there. That was the nearest butcher.
Q: You told me when you married, (Mrs R: ’34, 1934 I married) and you lived over the shop
Mrs R: Over the antique shop for eighteen months and then my husband broke up the partnership that he had with his father and his brother, because it wasn’t working out at all well, and we bought a piece of land at Hatfield Peverel. Built our own shop, nice double fronted shop and started our own business. And my husband was so popular that nearly all the customers went to him.
Q: And you lived there ?
Mrs R: Mmm, until the War started. We were just getting on our feet nicely by ‘39. My husband had joined the Territorials which was a great mistake. So he was called up at once and I was left with a baby only a fortnight old and the business descended on my shoulders. It was a horrible time. I didn’t know an invoice from a statement. I didn’t know a thing about the business and I had to do wages, insurance, estimates, everything you know. It was a horrible time. And I kept the business ticking over because everybody thought it was going to be a short War didn’t they? (Q: Mm.) Finish with Hitler in six months. So I kept it ticking over and then gradually as staff were called up for reserved occupations, you know like shipbuilding or forces and there were very few left and then we closed it down for the rest of the War (Q: I see.) in 1941.
Q: So you managed to learn the business in that time did you ?
Mrs R: [laugh] Well I used to help my husband previous to that, but all the business that descended on my shoulders was a bit much. (Q: Especially with a baby as well.) Yes, a new baby, a screaming, fretful baby. I went to live with, I remember, you see when my husband was called up, where was I then. I was really isolated in the flat over the shop. I rang my mother up, who lived in Guithavon Road, the first house after the bridge, called The Ark. [laugh] And I said ‘Can I come home to you ?’ She said ‘Well, I was going to have evacuees, but you might as well come, and then I shan’t have to have evacuees’. So I took the baby and down I went to live with mother for a year.
Q: Were you still trying to do the business then?
Mrs R: Yes, I worked from there. I used to go up by bus, with a suitcase in one hand and a baby in the other (Q: Goodness !) for a time. And then our manager came up from Frinton, closed the Frinton shop. He came up and took over and so I only went in the afternoons after that. That was plenty for me. We kept it ticking over but I think at the end of the year I made a fifty pound profit, something ridiculous like that. At least I didn’t make a loss.
Q: That was amazing, shows that High School training. [laugh]
Mrs R: They were terrible, terrible times.
Q: I mean did you have much help with, I mean these days if you have a new baby you have people rushing round to tell you what to do with it, don’t you ? Did you have anything like that ?
Mrs R: No. I could have taken it to the clinic. I wish mother had. But mother used to put her in her pram and walk miles and miles with her to keep her quiet. All round Wickham Bishops. Because if she stopped pushing the pram she screamed. A terrible time.
Q: So you didn’t use the clinic or anything ?
Mrs R: I remember taking her to be weighed and that sort of thing. She didn’t get on very well until she got on to solid food and then she was all right.
Q: Well, if you were working all that time.
Mrs R: Well, it was a terrible worrying time. No wonder she didn’t thrive when she was small. There was too much worry in my life.
Q: Where did you go to have her, were you at home or at the hospital ? Did you go to hospital to have the baby?
Mrs R: I went to Colchester, Lexden Nursing Home. Yes, I had her there. Yes, I had a bad time. But I had the other two at home, thank goodness, with a housekeeper in. That was much easier and much better.
Q: Was that still during the War ?
Mrs R: Yes, Pauline was born in 1944 and Andrew was a post war baby 1946. We were living at Highfields Road then. They were quite difficult years.
Q: Was there much bombing or anything in Witham?
Mrs R: A certain amount of bombing, yes. Air raids all the time, because you see the bombers came over from Germany and this was their direct route up to London. They were always going over. We spent a great deal of time under the Morrison shelter. Put a mattress under made it as comfortable as possible and there I used to put the baby in her cot, little Elizabeth, and we would crawl under there, like hens in a coop, you know and spend most of our nights under there. It was a shocking time. It really was.
Q: There was no standing out in Bridge Street watching the aeroplanes as in the First War ?
Mrs R: Yes, that was in the First World War. That didn’t worry us, there was not much in the way of raids in the First War. There was a Zeppelin came over. I remember seeing that go down in flames. The Second World War was very different. Of course Hoffmann’s was bombed wasn’t it ? And they tried to get Crittall’s and they also dropped incendiaries and bombs to try and get the main railway lines. And one bomb dropped in the meadow next to my mother’s house in Guithavon Road. They just missed the main railway line. So there was a great big cavity you see. And the bomb disposal crowd came, about six men, to defuse it and get it out. And all the windows in the road had to be kept open you see, while they were working at it, because if it had gone off all the windows would have shattered. Well, my mother was so nice to these men, she gave them coffee and a hot lunch and heaven knows what. They made quite a long stay. [laugh] Finally they defused it and it was all right.
Q: You mentioned Crittall’s. I suppose Crittall’s would come to Witham, when you were, before you were married wasn’t it ?
Mrs R: Yes, I think it started, just in a small way.
Q: Because did your brothers, where did they go to work ? [???]
Mrs R: My younger brother took over, really, the running of the dairy business and he did a round on his motor bike and sidecar all round Wickham Bishops and my younger[?] brother qualified as a chemist. Went to London, went to college in London and became a chemist, qualified chemist. And Vic Stoffer always wanted him to go in partnership with him but Eric didn’t want to. No, he didn’t want to set up in Witham. Don’t quite know why. I think they would have done very well together. However.
Q: So he did get away to the bright lights ?
Mrs R: Yes, yes.
[Discussion on time passing, not noted]
Q: I know where to come now if I think of anything else.
Mrs R: Oh yes, yes. I don’t know whether it’s been of any interest to you.
Q: It’s wonderful, yes. (Mrs R: You’ve got all this.) That’s only as I say a very small part of it. You’ve got a very good memory haven’t you?
Mrs R: Well, I have very happy memories of my childhood.
Q: You’ve also got the gift to describe it as well, it makes it sounds so …
Mrs R: You see we didn’t need any entertainment in those days. We used to be either over at Croft House playing in their garden or used to be down the meadows. Down the river meadows and paddling and fishing, bathing if it was really hot. And even in the winter we’d be down the meadows, sliding on frozen ice in the meadows.
Q: That’s down by Bridge Street ?
Mrs R: Mmmm, we used to walk a lot of course. We used to walk on a Sunday evening right across the meadows up to Wickham Bishops church. See, now with the bypass you can’t do that. (Q: No.)
[chat about borrowing photo, not noted]
Mrs R: These are the Pattisson boys here. Miss Pattisson was a great character in Witham. She was a maiden lady. She did an enormous amount of help. She had what was like a Boy’s Brigade and looked after and helped so many people. She was marvellous. A great church worker. I was a Sunday School teacher for fifteen years. (Q: Really ?) My mother was Sunday School superintendent for twenty-five years. Clergy used to come and go but we went on forever if you know what I mean. Giving up our Sunday afternoons in those days. Sunday afternoon at Church House. (Q: Your mother used to go?) We used to have about forty children, all ages from three years old up to about twelve. Then we used to divide them into classes and teach them and do drawings to illustrate what we were teaching.
Q: So you could have been a teacher couldn’t you ?
Mrs R: Oh. [laugh]
[more chat about borrowing Fleuty family photo, photo M66, not noted]
Q: I see you’ve got an Urban District Council wheelbarrow [on the photo]
Mrs R: Yes, he’d probably got to mend that for them. He had a sawpit there. He used to saw up their own trees and his brother fell into the sawpit and was killed. (Q: Oh dear.) His brother who worked with him.
Q: Was that just from the fall or was he …? Was it a long way down?
Mrs R: I should think some way. I didn’t hear any details of it but I know he was killed there. (Q: Oh dear.)
Q: [???] And of course it was all open ?
Mrs R: Oh yes. That’s the approximate date. I think that’s right. I was born in 1906. My sister was three years older than me and I put her about a year to eighteen months. I reckon that’s about right. Anyway.
Q: That is kind of you.
Mrs R: That’s all right, I like going back to the past. It’s very different isn’t it.Witham has changed such a lot. Witham had a population of five thousand a few years ago. Then of course when the GLC linked up with us then it went up like a balloon didn’t it and every meadow round the district was made into a housing estate. When we lived in Highfields Road after the War that meadow which is now Moat Farm was a lovely cornfield, they’d be cutting the crops [???] all meadows in front of it, there was a farm there, but alas and alack, it’s all altered.
Q: I suppose everywhere in Essex is like that, we’re so near London.
Mrs R: Well we are so near London and I hear even Hatfield Peverel is getting built up. (Q: Yes and Wickham Bishops.) That will join up with Witham eventually. We shall be all one big link.
Q: I suppose even when Crittall’s came it must have been a similar sort of change.
Mrs R: Yes probably, the first big factory, and previous to that there was only the glove factory run by the Pinkhams. Just over the railway bridge. All the girls who didn’t know what to do when they left school went to the glove factory. They paid very small wages of course. The Pinkhams went bankrupt twice but then started up again. (Q: Really ?)
[Chat, not noted]