Mr Alf Baxter and his wife Mrs Elsie Baxter (nee Baldwin), were born in 1899/1900, and 1898 respectively. They were interviewed on 16 May 1983 when they lived at 7 Dengie Close, Witham.
They also appear on tapes 80 and 81.
For more about them, see the People category for Baldwin family, which also includes Elsie’s sister Mrs Annie Ralling, nee Baldwin.
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.]
At times Mr and Mrs Baxter talk over each other, interrupting, etc, and then it is difficult to make out, particularly with Mrs Baxter, what is being said.
Mrs B: … He [Mr B] was the Assistant Secretary for the Juvenile Oddfellows. So, of course he used to trot about and know a lot of them. (Q: Oh, that’s interesting because I was …) But that, you see, when the National Health came in, people gradually dropped out. As the children came to be sixteen, you see, the Juveniles, they didn’t bother about going into the scheme. And then of course the War came along and he …
Q: That’s interesting, what did they- what did they do exactly, (Mrs B: What, The Oddfellows?) The Oddfellows?
[Mr and Mrs B talking over each other]
Mrs B: Well, you paid your …
Mr B: Friendly Society. The Oddfellows.
Mrs B: It was the same as the …
Mr B: I‘ve been a member since 1917. (Q: Have you really?)
Mrs B: And you paid in so much a week – I used to pay tuppence for my children. Then I could have the doctor free.
Mr B: You see once they got the National Health brought in, the doctors were paid and there was no incentive for the people to keep in – to pay in the Friendly Society. (Q: Oh I see.) So they all dropped out. Now, at one time, I had 199 members! (Q: Really?) And then – in about four years that had dropped down to 25.
Mrs B: And then the Juveniles – that stopped altogether. Yes, but, we paid tuppence a week, when they were babies. And when they got a little bit bigger, you just paid a little bit more and you … (Q: That was good, wasn’t it?) The amount we paid – sixpence wasn’t it? Or eightpence ?
Mr B: Well, tuppence was the highest. That was the start.
Mrs B: Oh, and then you got eight shillings a week.
Mr B: Eightpence. And then when they paid in – then it was tenpence – paid you see. So much, say, from birth to seven; seven to something else and then at sixteen they used to go on the adult Lodge and then of course they had to pay full …
Q: Oh, I see. But you did the Junior one mostly, did you?
Mr B: Yes, the Juniors. Yes.
Q: So does it – is it still…?
Mrs B: [Talking over Q] And then they used to get the free doctor and a bit of sick pay.
Mr B: When you paid in one and two you got sick pay.
Q: If you were off work?
Mr B: When they were ill.
Mrs B: For the children, for the children, you see.
Q: Yes, and how much – and you paid this every week, was it? Or every …?
Mrs B: Yes. Weekly. But, mind you, our wages was so terrific that was a bit of a job to find that tuppence some weeks.
Q: Well, I was going to say, that was quite a lot, really, for some people wasn’t it?
Mrs B: On top of other things, you see.
Mr B: Never mind, that’s all been done with that. We’ve just handed over – our Lodge was closed down because we’d only got 55 members and Kelvedon has only got 55, so they’ve amalgamated it. So we belong to the Kelvedon Lodge now. And, of course, as my mother was a Kelvedon girl – we’ve gone back to Kelvedon!
Q: Isn’t that funny? Yes.
Mr B: Yes.
Q: Because I think it was the Oddfellows – was it – I did write to someone – is that the one – which is the one that’s based at Manchester?
Mr B: Manchester – the Oddfellows?
Q: Yes, because I wrote to somebody recently and I meant to ask about …
Mr B: [Talking over Q] Yes, well, I don’t want to say too much about that. But anything to do with old Witham. [Talking over Q again] And what happened years ago. You see, my wife came to Witham in 1905 when she was six. And I was born at Heybridge and we moved into Witham in 1900. So I’ve been here 83 years. And I still ain’t a Witham man, am I? [Mr and Mrs B laugh]
Q: Goodness, you must be getting on a bit. How old were you when you came then. (Mr B: Three months!) Oh, I see. [Laughs] You won’t remember that, then!
[General conversation. Not noted.]
Q: [to Mrs B] I remember you saying you came – when your father came to Witham – to the Co-op?
Mrs B: Yes, that’s right. We moved from Grays to Tilbury and from Tilbury to Witham. And then – then I started school. [laughs] No, I had been to school at Grays.
Q: Are you the little sister? Or the big sister?
Mrs B: No I’m the oldest sister.
Q: You’re the big sister? Goodness, you both keep well, don’t you then?
Mrs B: I shall be 85 in July.
Q: Will you, really.
[General conversation regarding showing maps, photos, etc, not noted]]
Mr B: [showing photograph] That was when I was in the army, at Colchester. I‘m on the extreme left, in the front row.
Q: And when was that?
Mr B: 1918. I was just turned eighteen.
Mrs B: He worked in the Co-op and then when he went into the Army, I took his job! [Laughs]
Q: Oh, really? That’s interesting.
Mr B: Yes, I was in the cheque desk, in the Co-op – 1914.
Mrs B: Well, I didn’t actually – I used to go in and do work that he used to do. But then, when all the boys went in the Army, I left being a children’s nurse, which I was, and went into the shop.
Q: So what was it you used to do there?
[Mr B and Mrs B talking over each other]
Mr B: Cheque desk – you know the …
Mrs B: They used to do the …
Mr B: Thy used to have the brass cheques. Where they use papers now, you know. Well, they give stamps now, of course. But they used to give brass – tin cheques for under ten shillings and brass ones for ten shillings and a pound.
Q: Oh, I see.
Mr B: And they used to keep them and bring them in when they’d got about twenty or thirty pound and that was credited them up to themselves, you see. They used to get about half a crown in the pound, didn’t they dear?
Mrs B: You got a cheque receipt and you got half a crown in the pound discount.
Mr B: Half a crown.
Mrs B: Now, I don’t think you get about five pence! [Mrs B and Q laugh]
Q: And that was – you did that all the time did you?
Mr B: Full time, yes. Well, I had just left school, you see. (Q: And they had an office there?) And Mr Whybrew what used to be there. He did it in 1900, just about 1901. And he finished up as manager. And he was telling me, in nineteen hundred and something, he applied for a sixpenny rise and they told him they couldn’t afford it! [Q laughs] He was getting four shillings a week then and I only got four shillings a week when I started!
Mrs B: [Laughs] I was a bit better off than you, dear. I was – I came up – there was the manager and the assistant manager and then I came next. And I used to get two pound a week. And I asked them one day, could I have a rise and they gave me sixpence! What would they do with sixpence today? [Mrs B and Q laugh]
Mr B: Well, they were the days, you see. Money was so much better than what it is today.
Mrs B: Well, you could get so much for it.
Mr B: [Talking over] It needs to be because they got so little, you know. When a man who was working on the land was only getting thirteen shillings a week.
Q: What did your father do?
Mr B: That’s where he did – he used to be on the land in the summer. And in the maltings, he’d get eighteen shillings in the maltings in the winter.
Q: Why was that? Was that just winter work?
Mr B: Because that was winter work and summer work – they’d work outside in the fields. And actually he used to work on this farm where these houses are now! I’ve rode round these fields many a time! On the backs of horses or in the wagons, harvest time.
Q: That was Howbridge?
Mr B: Howbridge Farm. You know where …
Mrs B: Yes, that’s right. This field was to do with the house down at the bottom there.
Mr B: Benton Hall, you know the hall, you know, Howbridge Hall? (Q: Yes.) Well, that was the farmhouse. That was the farmhouse in those days. And the foreman of the farm – you know the maltings here – the big buildings – well, that was – the owner of the whole farm used to live there – Charlie Brown. And he’d got these farms and then he’d got the – they had the maltings there – he had the maltings there and he had a brewery at Hatfield Peverel. Charlie Brown. And his brother, Percy, lived in Collingwood House, in Collingwood Road. And Percy Brown’s daughter is Mrs Coleman living in The Avenue. You know Mrs Coleman?
Q: I hope I’m going to go and see her. I know her daughter.
Mr B: She’s the only woman left. She’s the granddaughter of Charlie Brown.
Q: I know her daughter – from school days.
Mr B: Yes, yes.
Q: So who lived at Howbridge Hall? Who lived there, then?
Mr B: The foreman of the farm.
Mrs B: Then who took it over?
Mr B: That was taken over by an architect named Ionides. He took it over and he made that new frontage, you know. And all those – laid out all those gardens. Because they’re lovely gardens. And of course, that little brook – stream – runs right through their garden, you know. And they dug all these – all these water flowers on each side.
Mrs B: [Talking over] They used to open it for – in the summer, you know, for different things and raising funds.
Mr B: They used to have the – the Horticultural – they used to open it you know once a year and we always used to go.
Q: That was some time ago was it?
Mr B: Oh yes, not lately.
Mrs B: That was before the War, wasn’t it?
Mr B: Dr Whatsname’s wife lives there now – who is it? Dr …
Q: Dr Peters isn’t it?
Mrs B: Yes.
Q: Yes. So where did you live yourself?
Mr B: I lived in the High Street, right opposite the Co-op. Where the Parion Products, where those caravans are now. [102-116 Newland Street] There was …
Mrs B: [talking over] There was all houses.
Mr B: There were seven houses and three shops. Five houses and three shops along there. There was a house …
Mrs B: [talking over] You know they used to build houses all over the place [laugh].
Mr B: There was a house, but there was Bawtree’s, you know, where Bawtree’s was, that’s the hotel now. Well that was Batsford. [100 Newland Street] That was the name of the house, Batsford. And then the next house – there was a house, then there was a harness makers. Then there was Eve – a sweet shop, a fruit shop and then later a boot shop. And then there was Jim Porter, the plumber and decorator. And then there was Newmans. They had a shop and they used to take – have lodgings for – business people – not the ordinary – business people who would come into Witham – single – and they used to lodge there. And some of them [???] they told me they used to lodge at Newmans. Then there was another house where my aunt used to live before you got to Graves the watchmakers which was next to – what now is a private house. And then there’s the next big house was Mrs Mann’s. [124 Newland Street]
Mrs B: And that was a private school.
Mr B: And that’s going to be a chemist now. They’re going to alter it into a chemist, I think. So there’d be chemists on each side of the road, there.
Q: Because that’s that big one, I know, yes.
Mr B: And then of course there was the Crotchet pub and the blacksmiths. [130 Newland Street] And then there’s the end house was another pub, the Globe [132 Newland Street]. On the other side of the road there was a butcher’s shop and then there was another pub called the Carpenters Arms. [141 Newland Street] That was – they used to take in lodgers, vagrants, anybody, you know off the road and that sort of thing, used to lodge there for a day or two. When they were moving about pea picking and what not. In them days there was twenty-one pubs in Witham! [Q laughs] But now you see, there’s nearly as many now, you know. Not exactly pubs but clubs. But they’ve all got bars. Wine bars and one thing and another. (Q: Yes, right.) Oh, there’s a tremendous lot.
Q: So those houses – where the caravans are, were the houses all just along the road? Or did they – this is where you …?
Mrs B: [talking over] Some were along the road and some of them on the side.
Q: You went up – in – behind?
Mrs B: People used to go up three steps and along a passage to get to his.
Q: So you were down the passageway?
Mrs B: One way, and another time we could go round.
Mr B: Albert Poulter used to live on the other side of the road, further down. (Q: Yes) His mother was a widow and his brother Tom – I used to go and help him. When, I was little, you know. But his brother Tom, he had a pony, you know, and used go out and do his work. And he had a piece of allotment up where – about an acre – up towards the back where Bridge Home is – that’s all been built on now. But that used to be allotments. And they had the back part was taken – Poulters had that. His mother was a widow. (Q Yes. Oh, yes,) That’s right back to about 1904, I’m talking about.
Q: You have a good memory.
Mrs B: And there was another nice little shop down there, next door to where the shop that sells bird food and that. That was a butcher’s shop, that one. But next door to that was a little old-fashioned grocer’s shop.
[talking over each other]
Mr B: Well, there was a butcher’s, you see, on that …
Mrs B: Where they ground their own coffee.
Mr B: A little tiny shop.
Mrs B: You know, and I used to go there and my mum used to make ginger cakes. And she wanted a little drop of black treacle – she didn’t want a tin. I used to go down there and buy a penn’orth!
Q: What was that shop, then?
Mrs B: That was a little general grocer’s shop.
Mr B: A little general shop.
Q: I wonder what it was called?
Mrs B: Oh, we used to call it Billy Wood’s.
Q: Billy Wood’s?
Mr B: Billy Wood’s, yes, that was Mr Wood. [Mrs B laughs] You could get …
Mrs B: There were lots of little shops like that about Witham.
Q: So you did go there even though you were from the Co-op?
Mrs B: No, we never went in there to get a tin of treacle. Well, she only wanted a little drop for her cakes. So you went and got two penn’orth.
Q: What, at the Co-op you had to get a tin, did you?
Mrs B: Well, I suppose you’d buy a tin, you see. When I worked there …
Mr B: They used to make their own sausages. And they were the best sausages in Witham! (Q: Really?) And also home made ginger beer in little stone bottles. Lovely! Oh, that was beautiful ginger beer, wasn’t it?
Mrs B: And what I was looking for was some views of Witham.
[Chat about photos and making arrangements to call back, not noted]
Mrs B: You wanted to know where the old Conservative Club was. Well that is where the chapel yard is now. They had a big fire there.
Q: Do you remember that at all?
Mr B: Yes. I was up there at five o’clock that morning. My father was getting ready to go to work. We lived there – our back window – bedroom window looked out there, you know. And as he was dressing, he said ‘There’s a fire! There’s a fire just up the road!’ So I dressed and went up the road – five o’clock in the morning. And stood there until about – it was cold, too! [Q laughs] And stood there until – the whole front wall fell down outwards. There was a clock on there, you see. And a bell, weren’t there?
Mrs B: Yes. Our house, you see, was up the Chase, where the Co-op Hardware is now. And I woke up and saw the reflections of the flames in the – one of the office windows of the Co-op. Just across the back there further. And I said ‘Dad! Dad! The Co-op’s on fire! (Q laughs) (Q: Oh dear!) What a shemozzle! It looked just as if it might be. But it wasn’t, it was the reflection of the flames from that fire.
Mr B: That was a lovely fire! [All laugh]. I was – five o’clock that morning I was up there.
Mrs B: And the firemen didn’t have to wait for the beer, did they?
Mr B: No. No.
Mrs B: They did when that caught fire down at the farm.
Q: Really? What was that?
Mr B: Yes, this was Howbridge Farm. They called it ‘The Duffus’ because there used to be a dove house, you see, years ago. That was ‘The Duffus’ – that’s the nickname, you know ‘The Duffus’. And they had a fire, [???] I think. ‘Come on, the stack’s on fire at ‘The Duffus’. So we went down Bridge Street and into the meadows there, you know, we went to walk across. And just as that turned a little path to the right – there was this farmyard, you see. And there was – all on fire. And the firemen arrived. First thing they said ‘Anybody gone for the beer?’ [Q laughs] So up, one of them had to go up to the Swan public house, you see, just over the bridge. And come back with a stone jar – two stone jars one in each hand. (Q: First things first!) And by the time they’d had the beer …
Mrs B: Well, they needed it! You know their fire engine – that was one of those trucks that they used to pump …
Mr B: Three one side you know, pumping and three – pull it down and then the other side pulled down and see – like that – to pump the water. (Mrs B: Work it with their hands.) Well, anyhow, they said – after they’d had some beer, there was all the heads of Witham went down to have a look. And they was all standing on – looking round – quite a little bit of distance away. And one of the fireman was half – as the beer began to take effect on them – he got mixed up and turned the water over on to these people! [laughs] Percy Laurence – Percy Laurence who lived at The Grove, you know. The great big house at the top of the Avenue- over there, the big house.
And he was the one who – well known in Witham – because he gave the Recreation ground and the Park. Well, the Bowls Club what is now in Collingwood Road, that was where they used to have their cow, the house cow or two used into be in that meadows, you see, there. There, on the left-hand side coming from the High Street, up the Avenue – that first meadow was where the cows were. Well, anyhow that’s where the Bowls Club is now, or part of it.
Mrs B: He gave that to Witham.
Mr B: Well, when they first – in 1904 they used to pay a shilling a week rent, a shilling a month – shilling a year rent for that there. Well, when he died he left it in the will to the Witham Bowls Club.
[Talking over each other and interrupting each other]
Mrs B: But, Alf, that couldn’t have been so early, was it? Because I can remember standing in the Park watching them, when they had that corner bit just inside the gates.
Mr B: Yes, they started in 1904.
Mrs B: Oh, they still played in the Park.
Mr B: In 1984 it will be eighty years, anyway. But no, they played in the Park first, didn’t they?
Mrs B: Yes, because I remember …
Mr B: [Talking over] On the corner. Just as you go in the gates.
Mrs B: Yes, because I remember watching them play there.
Mr B: And on occasion …
Mrs B: [interrupting] And that Park was holy of holies! Children weren’t allowed in.
Mrs B: You mustn’t go in there. No. We used to watch through the fence. [Laughs]
Q: What, that’s the …?
Mr B: Recreation ground.
Mrs B: There was the Recreation ground, you see and then there was this other Park, (Q: Oh, I see.) where they played cricket. And then all the ladies (Mr B: Later on …) used to have tennis matches in there. That used to be for the tennis. It used to be – because Witham was Witham then. We didn’t have scruff like we’ve got now! [Q laughs] We had people!
Q: I see, so what did you – I mean, did you see all these folks about?
Mrs B: We could see what was going on, you see, in there.
Q: And if you saw them walking around the town, would you know them?
Mrs B: Oh, yes, yes.
Q: Or did they walk about the town?
Mrs B: When we first came to Witham, we always did a little bob.
Q: Did you?
Mrs B: Mm, old Miss Luard – Admiral Luard and Lady Luard. They used to come into the schools you see. I don’t know what for! Anyway, they used to come in and we all [laughs] used to put our pens down and stand up and you’d all hold your skirt and say ‘Good morning my lord.’ No, ‘Good morning Sir William’.
Mr B: Sir William.
Mr B and Mrs B in chorus: ‘Good morning my lady’! [Mrs B laughs]
Q: How lovely.
Mrs B: And then the top girl used to have to get out and trot round and get a chair for my lady to sit on. While they were asking questions.
Mr B: We had Admiral Luard at the Lodge where the Lodge estate is now. That was a beautiful estate, gardens and things there. Well, then in the middle of the High Street there was the Lawn Chase, where the Lawn Chase is, do you know that? (Q: Yes, yes.) Well, that was where General Howard-Vyse lived there. And they were living there in 1920-odd.
Mrs B: A long, long time. Round about the War time they went, didn’t they?
Mr B: Mmm, General Howard Vyse.
Mrs B: I forget who came in there then.
Q: I mean, would you see the Luards about the town at all? (Mrs B: Oh yes.) Did they used to walk or did they used to …?
Mrs B: Well, oh, drive in their coach.
Mr B: Yes, we got the photo of the – of the funeral procession – carriages all the way through Witham High Street and turn into Guithavon Street.
Mrs B: And all the children were …
Q: I was just thinking, if you were ever walking around and you saw anybody, did you have to sort of …
Mrs B: Well, you could do if you liked, but more often than not, we didn’t!
Mr B: No, you wouldn’t know them, would you?
Mrs B: Yes, but I mean …
Mr B: [talking over] But you had to when you were at school you see, because they’d tell you that they were coming, you see. (Mrs B: And you knew when Miss …) And they made preparations what you’d got to do, you see, wouldn’t you?
Mrs B: The Miss Luards, you’d know them when they were out – because they were what they called ‘Pence ladies’. And they used to go round to various people and they used to have a sort of club and they paid for – so much a week you see. And then at Christmas times that was all added up and I suppose they give them a bit of interest, we never had a penny! [laughs] Of course, we didn’t need it. But – then you’d go to the drapers and take that card and buy you – what you wanted.
Mr B: Christmas food, things and – you know.
Mrs B: And at Christmas all those people she used to visit – used to go up to the Lodge and she had – out in the stableyard there was a table. And there was parcels of sugar and tea and various household gifts for them to have. And I’ve been up there and I’ve had a present! [laughs] I don’t know why but I did! [laughs]
Mr B: I used to have to go up Saturday mornings, because they used to have sewing parties, like, you know. And used to buy the material from them and take it home and then Mother used to make chemises and things like that for children, you know, knickers and what not. And take them back and then pay a small amount for them. Very little but – you know.
Mrs B: Coo, I never used to do that.
Mr B: But we used to get one and take it home.
Mrs B: I used to …
Mr B: So nearly every Saturday morning I had to either take it back or bring some home!
Q: So what, you took back what was left, you mean?
Mr B and Mrs B in chorus: No, no.
[Talking over the other]
Mr B: No, all the things that you want.
Mrs B: The garment.
Q: Oh, the things that you’d made?
Mrs B: You’d take the garment to let them see you’ve made it.
Q: I see. Oh!
Mr B: They’d want to see them, you see.
Mrs B: To see what you’d made with the material.
Q: But it was for yourself?
Mr B: So they used to have Oxford shirts, you know, an Oxford shirt. I remember we used to have – they’d make that, for me. For me.
Mrs B: Oh, there used to be all sorts of things like that.
Q: So what did you do when you arrived there? Were they expecting people – everybody on Saturday, or what?
Mr B: Well, they’d be there waiting for you, you see and you just …
Q: What, you’d have to knock on the door, sort of?
Mrs B: All set out in the kitchen or the stables or whatever. [laughs]
Mr B: I don’t know where now. I wasn’t very old was I?
Mrs B: No, I don’t suppose you were.
Q: But you had to show them. You’d done it and take it back?
Mrs B: I used to go to Miss Babs Bawtree with the (Mr B: King’s Messengers.) King’s Messengers. (Mr B: Batsford.)
Mrs B: And we used to do needlework and knitting and all sorts of things for her. Yes.
Q: Who was this? The King’s Messengers did you say? What was that?
Mr B: We used to do bent ironwork. You know, make fancy frames and things in scroll and whatnot, you know.
Q: Really? How old would you be then?
Mrs B: About twelve. And you know – well, that was before really Scouts and Guides and all that sort of thing.
Q: I haven’t heard of them.
Mrs B: So you’d got somewhere to go and something to do.
Q: When was that – weekends?
Mrs B: No, after school.
Mr B: And then about 1911 they started Boy Scouts, you see. And John Bawtree who was living at Batsfords – the house – they was solicitors you see, Bawtrees – Bawtree & Son, they are now, still. Well John Bawtree was the Scoutmaster.
[Noises on tape- looking for photo]
Mr B: This was in 1915.
Mrs B: Of course, the First War put a lot of stop to all sorts of things that we used to do like that. And then they started up other things, after.
Q: You remember the War, do you.
[Mr B presumably showing photo]
Mr B: Here’s John – he was in the Army, about 1915. He joined up in 1914. But he started the Scouts – well, they started in about 1910.
Mrs B: My brother is on there somewhere.
Q: That’s in the paper – 1981 June.
Mr B: There’s another one here, see. Sixty years Scouting. Her brother was on one. He was only a little boy, you see. And I was …
Mrs B: You know, during the War they used to go along, guarding, [long laugh] guarding the telegraph poles, didn’t you?
Q: What – the Scouts did? Did you really? How do you guard a telegraph pole?
Mrs B: Well, they used to walk along and see that they were all all right and nobody was tampering with them!
Mr B: [showing photo] That’s me. And her brother …
Q: In the front.
Mrs B: Then the Special Constables took over you see, and they used to parade …
Mr B: Yes, the first month of the War we used to guard the telegraph wires [Mrs B giggles] And, I worked at the Co-op as I told you. So, the First Hand – Provisions, said to me ‘Well, what would you do if a German jumped out of the hedge after you? With a knife in his hand!’ I said ‘Run!’ [All laugh] What could you do? I ask you, with a Scout pole? Run, I told them!
[Interrupting each other]
Mrs B: I used to get [??? ???] And the Special Constables used to go …
Mr B: Well, then by the time we had done it for a month, they formed the Special Constables and her father was about five-foot! And he was one …
Mrs B: And he was about the same size as I am and he …
Mr B: And he used to do it!
Mrs B: And he used to go with another man who was about the same size! [laughs]
Mr B: He was just about the same size – five-foot!
Mrs B: And all they’d got was a truncheon!
Mr B: Well, anyhow, we used to go from nine to twelve one night; twelve to three the second night; three to six the next night. So you know how that messed up your sleep, you see. And have one night off. And we done that for a month.
Mrs B: And didn’t you go down to the coast for … ?
Mr B: Went to Kelvedon High Street.
Mrs B: Goldhanger, and along that way? Because of the boats? To Goldhanger? Claude had to go out down that way, once. On guard.
Mr B: No. They used to do at Tollesbury, not Goldhanger.
Mrs B: Well, Tollesbury, then.
Mr B: I didn’t! Old Herbie[?] Bickmore went out for about six months …
Mrs B: Claude went down there, too.
Mr B: To help the coastguards, run messages and that sort of thing. Sea Scouts, more or less. Afterwards. Because there wasn’t any Scouts down there. The Boy Scouts. We used to have a week’s camp down there at Tollesbury. But they used to do the cooking in a barn. Not outside, you see. And Mrs Chapman’d come over and done the cooking for that week. The [???] in the High Street. Because I was working so I didn’t stop over there, only the weekends. And I had to come home at six o’clock on the Monday morning, I had got to be at work at eight! You see. And when I got to Totham Plains and out there was all these – there were no signs up you know. And all these crossroads backwards and forwards all over the place up that area and I lost myself! Well, anyhow, in the end I come out to the pub called –what’s the pub there – the Bull. And once I got to the Bull, I knew where I was! [Q: laughs] I was just about – just about thirteen or fourteen.
Q: What, you walked back?
Mr B: No, bicycle, no bicycle. Yes. I know I got into a stew when I didn’t know where I was, you know. And I knew I’d got to be at work at eight! And I never left there till six!
Q: What would they have done if you had been late for work?
Mr B: Oh, well, I should have got in to trouble, wouldn’t I?
Q: Because I talked to …
Mr B: They wouldn’t dock me much off my four bob, I don’t think. [Q laughs]
Q: I met Mr Whybrew once. But that was a long time ago. Because, the Co-op as quite a big concern, wasn’t it? Because he was under your father …?
Mrs B: It is now. When we came to Witham first, that Co-op was such a little old shop, I said to my mother …
Mr B: There was a door …
Mrs B: I said to my mother ‘How much farther have we got to go before we get to the Co-op.’ She said ‘That is it’. [laughter] I said ‘What?’ You see we’d come from Grays and Tilbury where they’d had a big shop, double fronted and back a bit. But when we got there, it was just, now how much of it is it. There was that shop that shows the meat in the window and now they’ve got groceries, greengrocery. Well that was actually the shop. And they had another little bit they opened up. That one was the grocery and the bread and everything else on that side, and the other side was the men’s department where they sold men’s boots and trousers and things. Then gradually they brought in ladies’ hats and one or two other things, and that gradually grew. And then they bought the big house next door, Pelican House, ‘cause that’s got the pelican over it still. (Q: I know, yes.) [113 Newland Street]
Mr B: That was the sign of the Pattisson family.
Mrs B: Miss Pattisson’s house.
Mr B: When they lived there that was Pelican House. The Co-op was. That part, the drapery. And then when they moved into Collingwood Road that was Pelican Cottage. Then she moved into the middle of the wood, Chantry Wood, they had a house built in there, didn’t they. My father said to my mother once, ‘If I had my way’, he said, ‘and if I’d got the money’, he said, ‘I’d have a house right in the middle of Chantry Wood’. Well he never dreamt that anyone could do such a thing. My mother said ‘Well if you did, you’d have to go on your own’, she said, ‘Cause I wouldn’t go with you’. [laughter] And Miss[?] Pattisson they actually had one, the first one to be built up there, they had built in Chantry Wood. And she was a wonderful woman for all the things to do with boys. You had a boys’ football club, boys’ cricket club, she was wonderfully good to the Scouts, we went up to Barn Grove which is just on the outskirts, going towards Wickham Bishops, for a camp, and she come up to see us on the Sunday, and she stopped to dinner, and that day I was doing the dinner. We had to boil the, you know everything had to be boiled. Potatoes. Fried sausages, and potatoes and something else we had, and you’d never believe it possible, that she stopped to dinner. ‘I thoroughly enjoyed it Alfred’, she said. [laughter]
Mrs B: People used to have some nice dos up Barn Grove and you’re not allowed up there now. There used to be a footpath. (Mr B: And go through into Braxted, then turn own and come through the …) Come down by the church. (Mr B: Opposite the Catholic church, Step Fields, where there were steps down into the field there. [???] slide down the wall.]
There was a handrail down because there was all steps down into the field. And I had a new frock on one day and I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to slide down there’, and I leaned over the handrail and slid, and when I got up I’d got a nice hole right across my new frock. [laughter] Devils.
Mr B: The second field there was a huge field by the side of the river, they had those great big Devon steers, you know, red ones with those horns. And we come through there when we was courting, come through there, when they started pawing the ground, and put their heads down, and started galloping towards us (Mrs B: Didn’t know whether to go or come!) I said ‘Run! Run to the stile’, I said ‘And I’ll keep it off.’ I’d got a walking stick you know. (Mrs B: We couldn’t get over the fence because there was a spring there.) Yes, we used to go through there to Little Braxted, you’d cut to Little Braxted church. Through the Step fields.
Mrs B: I don’t suppose you could now ‘cause of all the buildings.
Mr B: Used to do fishing all down by the river there. I went down there with my dad one day, we were fishing. I was sitting watching and I’d got a line with a live fish on that I’d got to keep for bait, keep it alive, you see. There were these bullocks at the back of me, they kept gradually getting nearer and nearer, and I kept watching like this to see where they were coming you know. All of sudden something grabbed my, this little fish and pulled the rod right out of my hand and went sailing off down the river. My father had to take his [???] go in [???] to get hold of the end of this rod. See. And he weren’t very happy about it either (Mrs B: Is that when you caught your eel?) (Q: What, you got eels as well, did you?) (Mrs B: They used to have all sorts down there.) Yes, those days we used to walk everywhere, you see there was no buses, and we hadn’t got no bicycles even.
Mrs B: Well if you’d got a bike we didn’t always cycle, we used to walk.
Mr B: Walk one way in the morning and the other way in the afternoon, round Hatfield and Terling [???]
Mrs B: They talk about the poor children walking now, but darn it we never thought anything of it. ‘Course you know there wasn’t so much traffic on the roads. But we walked from Witham here, and round Hatfield Peverel. There was a nice little sweet shop there and I used to go there and buy my sweets, they were better than what they were in Witham. And right and on, and up the lanes and up the Maldon Road, and that was a little walk.
Mr B: I used to go to Hatfield Peverel and turn right and round Terling and come back Powershall End, into Witham again. We used to live in Braintree Road then. (Q: I see. That was when you were married you mean?). Yes, when we’d got children, see, used to push the pram.
Mrs B: [???] Used to walk. But I’ve never walked to Maldon. Walked to Langford, when we were at school, for, you know, nature study. And we walked to Langford, and see the waterfalls and whatnot. But we didn’t used to have to have coaches to take us.
Mr B: Yes, Albert Poulter and his brother Charlie. Charlie Poulter was one of those scouts, by the way. Little Japanese head, black hair. [looking at photo] On the right and the corner look. The top look, looks like a little Japanese boy, doesn’t he? (Q: Top right, yes.) That’s Charlie Poulter.
[comment about washing, not noted]
Mr B: Yes I knew his mother very well, she was a widow you know, had those boys, all that family. Sister Maud was the oldest, wasn’t she dear, Charlie, Tom, oh and there was another daughter wasn’t there. (Q: Really? Must have had a hard time.)
[Discussion about coming back another day, and photos, and coffee not noted]
Mrs B: ….And I belonged to the Women’s Institute. I was a founder member of the Women’s Legion. And I used to help with the Legion before they started the Women’s Section, really. And, what else did I used to do? Because I was secretary then, when I gave up, not so long ago. And I’ve had some other – oh, the Operatic. Founder member of the Operatic Society, I am. [looking at photographs] Look, I did find them, but I don’t think you might be interested. That’s the first company that did the first ‘Pinafore’.
Q: Really, how wonderful. When would that be, then? Well, how old would you have been?
Mrs B: Well, that was over fifty – they had their fiftieth year (Q: Of course they did, yes.) two or three years ago, didn’t they? What was I? Oh, I suppose I was about eighteen.
Q: Are you on here?
Mrs B: Yes, in the front row, there. Just about there.
Q: Oh, yes, with a nice hat.
Mrs B: And my father on the back row there somewhere. A sailor man.
Q: That must have been something (Mrs B: He/we were favoured.) to start that up – who started that up?
Mrs B: There you are, ‘1922, May 19th HMS Pinafore’.
Q: Oh, that’s it as well.
Mrs B: That was some of us that were in there. And that was Mr Brice who lives – [???]
Q: [reading] ‘Joseph Porter, Mr A Brice’. Well, you’ve all got proper costumes and everything. It must have been a big job to start up from nothing.
Mrs B: You know we made our own. (Q: Did you really?) Except the men. But the chorus girls and that, we made our own frocks. (Q: Really?) And hats. [Laughs)]
Q: Goodness. That must have taken a lot of work. Who started it up?
Mrs B: Well, we were the – we used to do Choral Societies. And then just after the War – it must have been, mustn’t it, ‘22? (Q: Yes ?) They started up the Operatic. You see, so that was the Choral Society to begin with. And one or two more came in to join us. [Noises on tape]
Q: So the Choral wasn’t – was the choral part of one of the churches, or was it on its own?
Mrs B: No, anybody joined it. Because I went to chapel, because I was in the proper choir. [laughs]
[Noises on tape]
Q: Yes, I seem to remember …
Mr B: Yes, the principal – the conductor etcetera, you know, with the –(Mrs B: He was the church organist.) was Mr Linley Howlett, he lived in Guithavon – that house that’s more like a church building, nearly opposite where the church school used to be. [19 Guithavon Street] You go up Guithavon Road [actually Street]. There’s a place there, got lovely chimneys. (Q: Oh with a sort of cross ?) That’s a architect or something, now. There’s a car park belonging to it, ain’t there? And opposite side of the road there is this house on its own. Well that’s where he lived. (Q: Oh, I see) And he was the organist.
Mrs B: LRAM. All sorts of letters behind his name (Mr B: LRM. Yes.) Yes, all sorts of letters behind his name. He was a good man.
Q: And what he was … ?
Mrs B: And he was our conductor.
Q: For the Operatic?
Mrs B: Mm. For the music part. (Mr B: He started the …) But for the acting part, we had a chappie from London, you know. From the – oh, what was his name now?
Mr B: What ?
Mrs B: Who conducted – you wouldn’t know.
Q: And did you have a sort of manager, you know to sort of …
Mr B: She was a founder member of the Operatic Society, sixty-two years ago.
Q: Is that the …
Mrs B: Look, there’s a paper all about it there.
Q: Oh, I see. How often did you used to have shows?
Mrs B: A big show once a year. We used to have it all the week.
Q: Smashing. Are these all Operatic as well?
Mrs B: Oh no, that’s not. That’s a different thing altogether. Now that’s the Co-operative – they used to give their children a treat once a year. And then we had a tea.
Q: Oh, I’ve never seen a picture of that. Lots of people tell me about that. I’ve never seen a picture of it. [JG’s photo M68]
Mrs B: Well, there you are. That’s the children having their tea. (Mr B: Yes – I wrote …) And this person – who was a friend of my Mum’s and we always used to call her ‘Granny’. Granny Woolnough. And her husband used to be the one to start the races off. And he used to wear a coat made from a Union Jack! [laughs] (Q: Oh, really?). And this is the town band she’s giving tea to. Because we used to have the band.
Q: What, the ones in the front with the hats on?
Mrs B: To lead the procession.
Q: Isn’t that lovely? And these are the children. They’re all dressed up very posh, aren’t they?
Mrs B: Oh yes.
Q: Do you know who any of these ladies are?
Mrs B: I used to but I don’t know if I could tell you.
Q: No. That’s smashing.
Mrs B: There was Miss Evers. There were two Miss Evers. Because Mr Evers was in the band. Two Mr Evers in the band.
[Both Mr B and Mrs B talking at once; difficult to separate conversations or to hear.]
Mr B: Yes. Andrew and [???] …
Mrs B: Yes. And …
Mr B: Brewster, Brewster was the [???] drummer.
Mrs B: I can’t remember who they are.
Q: Yes, anyway …
Mrs B: And Mrs Goodey she was there. And who used to be there?
Mr B: Mr Simpson was the …
Q: Did your mother used to help?
[gain talking over each other – difficult to separate conversation.]
Mrs B: Oh, my mother was the – helped …
Mr B: The secretary was Mr Simpson …
Mrs B: She was there, serving about. And you either had tea or lemonade.
Q: Where did it …?
Mrs B: I did help do it once or twice. When we were first married. Cut the sandwiches and give them the cakes and lemonade.
Q: That was a big old job.
Mrs B: We used to have the meadow that belonged to Mr Beadel who had the big house next door to the Co-op. [117 Newland Street] And the meadow behind there, he used to let us have that for the …
Mr B: Mr Beadel’s meadow.
Mrs B: For the races.
Mr B: If you go up Kings Chase, you turn right, there’s two houses and the Co-op there now. And Mr – the butcher who’s got the house, the little cottage. What used to be on the corner. And then the mead – there’s a gateway there where you go to Doctor’s Denholm’s now. But that meadow – that’s where the meadow was. Right at the back of the Co-op. (Q: I see.)
Mrs B: There’s a lot of things there, ain’t there?
Q: And you had races somewhere …?
Mrs B: And we used to – we used to all meet up at the Avenue and then march down and march behind the band. Up into that meadow. And then you done what you like.
Mr B: And we used to have a nice ‘do’ for …
Mrs B: And we used to have races and games and competitions. Boot-cleaning for the boys, spoon-cleaning for the girls! [Laughs]
Q: Oh really? I’ve never heard of that one.
Mr B: Yes the best of it – when you’d done the boot-cleaning. If you didn’t get the prize you were allowed to keep the tin, a nice little tin with the two brushes and the velvet pad. (Q: Really?) And a tin of …
Mrs B: And the tin of polish.
Mr B: Thing of polish …
Mr B: Yeah, all that went in for it.
Mrs B: All those that went in for the competition.
Mr B: All went in. So you used to get that if you didn’t win a prize! I remember they gave me a boot – an old boot to clean – that was absolutely mouldy! Well, you can imagine, you couldn’t make much of a job of that – well, about ten. [Q laughs] Not much chance, ten or eleven.
Mrs B: And we used to do spoon-cleaning. I went in for it once.
Mr B: Of course, you had to make sure you cleaned all underneath the instep. [Mr and Mrs B laugh]
Q: And so, was practically everybody in the Co-op? Or were there some that weren’t?
Mrs B: Well, they were – because they had tickets you see. They were all members’ children. And members and members’ children.
Q: Yes, that’s what I mean. So in Witham was there …
Mr B: And they used to call it ‘The Co-op Treat’!
Q: I mean were there some in Witham that weren’t members?
Mrs B: Oh, quite a lot. There was people that didn’t belong to the Co-op. They were unlucky, weren’t they?! [laughs] Perhaps they were like me. I went to the Church school. And so I used to go to the vicarage to the Church Sunday school treat. The school treat. We used to go up to the vicarage. And then, you see, when the chapel had theirs, I went off with them! [laughs)] And we used to have a coal cart. On various carts and that sort of thing.
[Talking over each other]
Mr B: That’s that book that I was trying to find, dear. And we’d got that all in about when we went to Baddow Rodney in the cart.
Mrs B: … take us to Baddow Rodney in the carts.
Mr B: I’ll get it out when you come again.
Mrs B: And have a lovely time.
Mr B: They come in the villages you see, to recollect. ‘I remember’ – that’s all – all the different things that happened when we were young. I was going to get that out to show you. I’ve got two of them. You can have that. And in there I put in – I let them have that photo of the Co-op. So that’s the Co-op treat, the photo was in there. That’s a copy off of that one, you see.
Q: So how did you get – how did you get to go to the Church school when you went to the chapel?
Mrs B: Well, when we came first to Witham, we lived in Braintree Road. And of course, I’d got some bigger brothers.
Q: I was going to ask about that, but never mind.
[Looking at photos]
Q: Band of Hope. Is that you? (Mrs B: Mmm) You look a bit anxious there.
Mrs B: And so the girls that lived in Braintree Road, they were taken to school. [laughs] So they took us to the Church – they all went to the Church school so we went to the Church school. And we were nearer to the Church so we used to go to the Church Sunday school for a while. But then when we – dad and mum got sort of settled in Witham, they found – because we – the church – the chapel that we used to attend at Grays – there wasn’t one like it in Witham, so we went to the Congregational church then. And that’s where we all went and we were all in the choir. And the choir used to consist of my father, my sister, myself, two brothers – three brothers. [laughs]
Mr B: And another sister, Dora.
Mrs B: No – oh Dora, yes.
Mr B: And she was the youngest – she was the best singer of the lot.
Mrs B: And she’d got a beautiful voice.
Mr B: She was trained by Linley Howlett.
Mrs B: She’d got a beautiful soprano voice.
Q: Was there anybody else in the choir? [Mrs and Mr B laugh]
Mrs B: There were a few more!
Mr B: Annie was a contralto when she was …
Mrs B: Annie wasn’t. I was contralto.
Mr B: What was Annie then?
Mrs B: Soprano. (Mr B: No!) She was! And she was a mezzo.
Mr B: Dora was contralto.
Mrs B: She wasn’t! She was soprano. Don’t be so silly! You don’t know what’s what! [laughs]
Q: [To Mr B] Did you used to go to chapel then?
Mrs B: No, he was the other church then. (Q: He was Church.)
Mr B: Dora was, wasn’t she?
Mrs B: Yes, she used to sing …
Mr B: She used to sing solos down there. Opera – on occasions.
Mrs B: Well she wasn’t the only one! Well, gosh, I used to sing in – I used to hate it – quartets. And I used to sing with old Bernard Afford, who was the printer.
Mr B: He was lovely – he used to take …
Mrs B: Oh, he’d got a thundering big bass voice.
Mr B: A deep bass voice. A lovely voice.
[Continuing to talk whilst serving and commenting on tea, not noted]
Mrs B: And Esmond Smith, he was one of the – in the Opera.
Q: Oh was he? I’ve heard of Esmond Smith. When was this?
Mrs B: His father was a builder, Ernie Smith. And he used to sing beautifully. And the soprano was Miss Patten. She was the matron of the children’s home. Which was at the Poplar Hall. They used to – I don’t know when that quite started. But they brought a section of children from Braintree. Which was a workhouse, where the children used to be put in when they’d got nothing. And ‘in care’ I suppose you’d call it now. And they had a lot up at Poplar Hall. Well, that’s that place up the Hatfield Road, made into an old folks’ place, haven’t they? [corner of Spinks Lane]
Q: I know where you mean, yes. And that was for the workhouse?
Mrs B: Because you’d got a matron in …
Mr B: Yes, that was for little children’s place. And there was three children there all of one family – Dunn – Dolly Dunn and Jimmy Dunn and Bet – what was the other girl’s name?
Mrs B: I don’t know.
Q: Because there wasn’t a workhouse actually in Witham was there?
Mrs B: Oh, no. (Q: Was it Braintree, you say?) Not actually a workhouse.
Q: So you went to Braintree?
Mrs B: There was only that place where they used to sleep.
Mr B: Jimmy Dunn’s on here [indicating photo?] He was in the Scouts.
Q: Oh, that place you used to sleep?
Mrs B: And they used to come to school with us, those children from Poplar Hall. They were treated just the same. You wouldn’t know, you know, that they were in care really.
Q: So they had the clothes and that found for them, did they?
Mrs B: I suppose they did. We never enquired. [laughs]
Q: Quite, no.
Mrs B: I’m trying to think of some of their names. But they were, you know, children from thirteen and fourteen down, to the small ones. But this matron, she had a sister. And then, of course she’d got two sisters, because Mr Simpson, one sister married. He was the secretary.
Mr B: Used to play the violin in the orchestra, didn’t she? Mrs Simpson.
Mrs B: Yes, oh yes.
Q: What, was the orchestra in the …?
Mr B: And the Reverend Galpin, what was here, when he was here. That house, that old people’s place at the top of Bridge Street, you know, where you can turn on the corner, opposite the RAFA club there’s a – Galpin House. That’s named after him.
Q: Of course. Yes. That’s the same place, is it that you were talking about?
Mr B: Well, Poplar Hall was on the other side of the road.
Mrs B: No that wasn’t – that was Poplar Hall.
Q: Oh, was it?
Mrs B: Poplar Hall.
[Talking over each other]
Mr B: That was on the other side with Galpin House on the left-hand side.
Mrs B: Oh yes, coming this way down the – Poplar Hall goes the other way.
Q: Oh. Well, I always thought that was Poplar Hall. Because people told me …
Mr B: That’s Poplar Hall still, isn’t it?
Mrs B: Poplar Hall goes round to – that’s near the Bridge Hospital.
Q: Yes. And Galpin house is …?
Mrs B: And Galpin House is that new bit opposite the RAFA Club. [corner of Howbridge Road]
Mr B: RAFA Club, as you turn into the road on that side. That’s Galpin House. The Reverend Galpin used to be in the Operatic Society. He used to play oboe. And he’d got six hundred musical instruments and he could play most of them!
Q: Good heavens.
Mr B: Wonderful collection. And one day when I was about twelve, I was up Chipping Hill and I met him coming from his house carrying his bag on to the station. So he said. ‘Would you mind carrying – helping me carry my bag up the to the station?’ I said ‘Yes sir!’ So he said – I see him up to the station. And he patted me on the head and ‘Your reward will be in heaven!’ [Q laughs]
Q: I bet you felt good about that!
Mr B: Didn’t expect anything but there you are! But I got – no wonder I’m getting thin on top! Patted me on the back – Reverend Galpin. Very tall man, wasn’t he?
Mrs B: He was a big man, yes.
Mr B: Very tall man. But he could play instruments beautiful, wonderful. He’d got them all, you know. The serpent, that old big twisted one, you know.
Mrs B: He used to play …
Mr B: He’d got them all – well, six hundred, they said, in his collection.
Q: And that was at the vicarage, presumably?
Mr B: At Witham vicarage, yes. And when he moved from there, he went to Faulkbourne – Faulkbourne Church. And he took with him, half the stipends that came with the – what was Witham. He kept it, that – Witham – half of it. So the new man that came over only got half his wages, you see! And he’d got a good living at Faulkbourne! (Q: I see.) Faulkbourne Hall, you see.
Mrs B: Well, he was a bit higher up, he was more than the vicar, wasn’t he? He was Canon Galpin, you see.
Mr B: He was Canon. At Faulkbourne.
Q: Who came after him, I wonder?
[Mr and Mrs B talking over each other for the next few minutes]
Mrs B: Oh, there was. With a [???] [laughs]
Q: There’s been a lot hasn’t there?
Mr B: There again, we got the All Saints book with all the parsons in. The Reverends in the days when they had side whiskers and that.
Mrs B: Yes, we got that somewhere.
Mr B: From about 19 – from about 1842, all the vicars, you know, of Witham, right up to then. Till – up to – that was when All Saints Church celebrated, like, hundred years.
Mrs B: One hundred years I think …
Mr B: 1742 that’d be 18 – 1942.
Mrs B: I think that was downright wicked when they closed that!
Q: Do you?
Mrs B: Yes I do! Because all these people, this half of the town. It was built for the people.
Q: That’s right, yes.
Mr B: What about, dear, when Admiral Luard’s daughter – Admiral Luard’s son married Canon Ingles’ daughter? (Mrs B: Oh yes.) That was a rare wedding for Witham!
Mrs B: Oh yes. I was a flower girl. [laughs]
Mr B: Canon Ingles’ daughter and Admiral Luard’s son. And they was married at Chipping Hill. And the boys, we all had to be there. And the girls strewed rose petals in the way.
Mrs B: In the way – sprinkled rose petals.
Mr B: Miss Bessie Ingles. His daughter.
Mrs B: What about the [???] [laughing] with his old donkey cart?
Mr B: They were all very plain looking girls. Yes, I could tell you, this is rather rude, but I’ll tell you. Well, anyhow, they had a donkey, that got out. And Canon Ingles was up the Faulkbourne road and he looked over the hedge to a man ploughing. And he said ‘Have you seen my daughter’s ass? He said ‘No’ he said, ‘If it’s anything like her face, I don’t want to!’ [All laugh] That’s what – that’s the tale they used to say! Mind, I hates to tell you whether that’s true! But you’ve got it as they said it at that time. Yes. Because you see, ‘It’s my daughter’s ass’, you see. (Q: Exactly.) Because their little donkey got out.
Q: Did he used to come round the school as well?
Mr B: [interrupting] Talking about donkeys, the Reverend Wilmott at Rivenhall …
Mrs B: He had a donkey …
Mr B: They had a donkey. And the general utility man was a man of about sixty or seventy and he lived – when he used to sit in that little square tunnel thing, you know, with this little tiny donkey and the cart was bigger than the donkey was. But when he sat there he used to fill this whole thing up. Great big fat ugly-looking man. [stammering over words] And when he used to- when he wanted to go he used to lean forward and the shafts used to go down and come up – sort of thing – see. And ‘Come on! Come on!’‘ he said. And go forward and nearly take the poor little donkey off his feet! He used to come in shopping, you see.
He never got out of it! They had to go out of course to him, take things what he wanted. And he used to put it in the back and go and take it home. Oh, he was a huge, ugly man. He used to have a little tub-cart, like. That was the Reverend Willmott’s donkey. And where the library is now, that was Witham college. [18 Newland Street] And the only boy I ever knew there, was the Reverend Willmott’s son. And I used – he was one of those mad, tear-about sort of boys, you know. They used to call him – some such name, I forget, he had a nickname, Willmott. People said he was – can’t say it … But anyhow, that’s the only one I ever knew there. That was a big school – college, you see. There was French masters, German masters and all that sort of thing there. Yes. When I was young. That was the college at Witham.
Q: But they were mostly – they were boarding – they stayed there, the boys, they lived there?
Mr B: Boys, yes, used to live there. Well, he came from Rivenhall you see. He used to come over, bicycle, I presume. (Q: Yes) As I say, he was mad, like, you know. They’d got a nickname for him.
[Q arranging another visit – not noted]
Mr B: I belong to the Bowls Club, you know. I’ve been a member for thirty-two years. And I send a report to the papers, you see. So when they’ve got a home match, I’m generally there.
[Q arranging next visit, mention of bowls club fixtures etc – not noted]
Mr B: [referring to Bowls Club] I joined in 1951, and she joined two years later. I had her father’s woods, when I started. And I got some more. Then she took them over, till she got cataracts and couldn’t see so she had to give it up. But she’s always kept in touch. You can see the number of fixtures.
[fixtures, not noted]
Q: Is that the same club as Reg Turner plays for?
Mr B: Yes, he’s eighty-seven, you know. He’s been the oldest member – the longest playing member. And he still plays!
Q: Yes, quite.
[Talking about Reg Turner, who has given Mr and Mrs B some of his paintings. And about Mrs Turner who ran monthly outings, Mr and Mrs B went to Scotland and Wales with her for short holidays, details not noted]
[Noises on tape]
Mr B: That was my oldest daughter, she died when she was 22
[discussion about type of photo, etc not noted]
My daughter, the one – she died. She was in the Girl Guides and the Brownies. She was a Tawny Owl for years. When she was ill, they used to come to our house to meet, and she couldn’t go out. And the boys at the Bridge Home made her that. [A carving of a totem pole. Showing various objects] That was given to me by the Bowls Club. Forty years.
Mrs B: I was captain of the Bowls Club.
Mr B: She won that cup one year. That’s Reg Turner. Reg Turner give the cup and give one of them, each year.
[discussion of the cup etc. not noted]