Mr Alf Bentley and his wife Mrs Vi Bentley, nee Wood, were born in 1905 and 1915 respectively. Mrs Annie Clarke, nee Oakley, was born in 1904 or 1905; she was Vi’s aunt and known as Auntie Sis. They were interviewed on 30 September 1983, when the Bentleys lived in Bryony Close, Witham (having formerly been at 61 Glebe Crescent), and Mrs Clarke lived in Maldon Road, Witham.
For more about them, see Bentley, Wood and Clarke in the People category.
Part way through, Alex and Nin Strathearn came in. Nin was Vi’s elder sister.
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.]
Continued from tape 88
[talking about glove factory, in between tapes Mrs B mentions seeing a fellow worker get the sack for pulling holes in the gloves, and deciding to do the same herself]
Mrs B: I hadn’t got the knack of it.
Mrs C You’d got to buy all your needles if you broke ‘em and everything, for half a crown. [wages]
Mrs B: And I thought right, that was on the Thursday I think it was, I got me blinking needle and pulled it hard, and pulled three blinking great holes at the bottom there [???]. So that old ma Stoneham come after me, cause you had to give in your work and your bundles and I passed it through. I put it right on the top. So then they had somebody to sort them, weren’t there, and put them up on that hot hander, and you’d got your number and everything, she come after me, I thought ‘Here it comes’ I thought to meself. She said ‘What is your number’ so and so, and so and so. She said ‘Do you know you’ve got, pulled a lot of holes in the gloves?’. I said ‘Have I?’ [laugh] So she said ‘Yes’ she said, ‘you’ve got the sack from tomorrow’ which was Friday. I never said nothing. I thought ‘Thank God, I’m out’. And I went home, and I said ‘Mum, I think I’ve got the sack.’ She said ‘What have you been doing?’ I said ‘Pulling holes in the gloves.’ [laugh] I said ‘I couldn’t help it Mum’, I said, ‘I hated it’. Aunt Sis, I loathed the place.
Mrs C: I didn’t like Hoffmans, I had to get up five o’clock to catch a train at half past six.
Mrs B: There’s the old girl that’s near me, you remember Ethel Ellis? (Mrs C: Yes.) She worked up there when I did, and Aggie. And she was putting in the thumbs. And she was going round with them electric machines, I was watching her all the time, I thought well how the hell is she getting them thumbs in there like that. And I was so busy watching her I wasn’t doing me work, really, I wasn’t doing enough to make it pay.
Q: Did you get paid by how many you did?
Mrs B: Yes, you got paid by your bundles, didn’t you. (Mrs C: I don’t know, I never went up.) You got a standard rate, about five bob a week (Mrs C: Half a crown.) Or whatever, it might have been half a crown. Then if you done a bit more over that certain number, like they were at Hoffmans, you got a bit extra, but I never got any extra. [???] Oh, I don’t think I was there two weeks.
Mrs C: I didn’t like Hoffman’s.
Mrs B: I loved Hoffman’s. It was hard but I liked it, I liked the work better.
Q: You went there after the glove factory?
Mrs B: Yes, then I had to go into service … (Q: After Hoffman’s.) Yes. (Q: Why, did you get …) No, I went into service and then went to Hoffman’s. (Mr B: I was just going to say.) Cause I went down to Westcliff, that’s right, cause I was courting Alf when I was at Westcliff. And we all left together. Every one of us maids, five of us left together. Don’t you remember [???] [???], Ivy Garner, and Betty and another one. Oh, she’d got, she’d got an old so and so. Oh, and she, poor Ivy, she got onto Ivy like hell one day. Ivy cooked lunch and then I cooked dinner. Or if she cooked dinner I had to cook lunch. We used to do it alternate. And, cause Ivy was responsible for all them bedrooms as well, aunt Sis, that was ever such hard work. (Q: Where was that?) At Westcliff. (Q: Oh yes.) And there was a hall, three times, twice the size of this bungalow bottom wasn’t there Alf, huge hall and I had to polish that, do the breakfast room, get all the dining room ready, this was in the morning, and if you hadn’t got that done, oh God. And anyway, we’d all had it, I think, the master I think had [???] had it, because she used to sleep with the boarders, that we do know. (Mrs C: Who?) Missus. And Ivy said ‘I’m going to [???]’, she was very prim and proper, ‘I don’t care, I’m telling the boss when he comes’. Well this particular night, he come back from London, early, nobody knew he was coming back. And poor old Ivy was downstairs, we’d all gone to bed after we’d turned the lazy old devil’s beds back. And she come up with a tray of tea, she always had her last job, make us a tray of tea, we all slept in one room, big room it was, and always made us … she opened the door quick and said ‘Come and listen on the landing, come and listen on the landing.’ And she got us all out the bed, and we heard [slapping sound], she said ‘That’s old, that’s the master, I reckon he’s slapping her behind with a slipper’. [laugh] She said ‘I reckon she’s caught him’, and he had caught her, in bed with old Chase, that was his name, and after that she got very very nasty with us girls.
We couldn’t, everything she could pick on she’d pick on. So of course we stuck it and stuck it, Ivy said ‘I ain’t putting up with this much longer’. I said ‘Well there’s a chicken[?] here ain’t going to put up with it much longer. And they said ‘If you’re leaving I’m leaving’. And then poor old Betty[?] said ‘Well if you’re leaving I’m leaving, you can give all our notices’. They were too chicken to give their notices in we were too afraid really. I don’t know how I plucked up courage to do it. Well this, she come down the stairs, and poor old Ivy’d had the cream off the milk for our cups of tea. She always took the cream off the milk, she did, if she was alive she’d tell you. And she hid it, she heard her coming, the mistress down the stairs, she was a bit early, and she hid it under, the huge sideboards they had, used to keep the cruets and all that on it, silver cruets, didn’t they. She stuck it under there. Well the missus see it. And she said what’s that here in this cup. And poor old Ivy, Ivy was shaking and trembling, and telling us, and she come after all of us, who’d put it under there, nobody’d give in. And I heard her go up to the others. And she come after me when I was in the breakfast room. I thought [???] ‘Right, you come in, you’re just going to get it this morning.’ Cause I could see all the others were upstairs. So she said ‘Do you know anything about this milk Violet?’ I said ‘No, I don’t know anything about that, but I know that I’m leaving’. (Q: Oh.) I said ‘I’m leaving from this week.’ So she said ‘You are, why?’ And I said ‘Yes and so are all the others.’ She said ‘What, all the others?’ [laugh] And we all went out the door together. The whole five of us. (Q: Well done.)
Mrs C: Like me, up the White Hart, when I lived up there. Cause when I first went up there, I went up there as chambermaid, well then I come down into the kitchen. [???] And they’d got me, I had to go over the baths, do all them baths, there, do the lounge, before I cooked the bloody breakfast. (Mrs B: I know, we had the same.) And one Saturday morning, she, there weren’t many in, to luncheon, she was riled, she put a spite on me. So I never, never answered her back until that day. (Mrs B: No, neither did we.) I said ‘I can’t help it.’ So, something she said, ‘Oh’ I said ‘I can go, I can go today’, I said. Anyway, Monday, that was my aft , cause one week I used to go off from three to six and another one I used to go off from six till ten. (Mrs B: We never got a full day.) So anyway, I, it was just six o’clock when I come in, and she waited for me to come in, for somebody, cause they come in for tea, and wanted some [???] faggot[?] And she waited till I come in to make it. And she was [???] then I had the [???] the dinner to get, and I was upset, I let the soup burn, oh was in a stew. And I’d already been looking after her kids, cause the nursemaid was away. Already looking after kids and all. I done everything in that hotel bar serve beer. She didn’t think I was a-going. I told Granny so Gran said ‘If she asks you to stop, don’t you stop’. And I never. She didn’t expect I was a-going. She said to the girls ‘Is Annie really going?’ So they said ‘Yes.’ She put her foot in there. I was there two years and a half, and they said I ought to have a medal for stopping so long. (Q: Who was that? Who was that that ran the White Hart?) Moss. (Mrs B: He moved to the Army and Navy, you know the Army and Navy roundabout [Chelmsford]), He’s dead. I dare say she’s dead, too.
[Alec and Nin Strathearn came in, Nin is Vi’s sister. General chat, mainly about washing machines, not noted. Nin looks as photos of Trafalgar Square, as at beginning of Tape 88]
Mrs S: There’s the toilets here, where you could go along the top and watch each other, and that floated down one thing. I’m speaking the truth that’s the God’s truth. (Mrs B: The boys used to creep up over …) Cause one of the men lost[?] his false teeth down there, Mr, big feet he had,) (Mrs B; [???]) No. (Mrs B: Humphreys?) No. He had very big feet and they did that, and us kids went running over the top, the boys did, and that frightened him and he dropped his false teeth down the toilet. And he said ‘You young buggers’, he said, ‘I’ve lost my false teeth’ and the water carried them, and he went in every toilet and he couldn’t find them. Oh, you know who it is, that old man, used to live up Wickham Hill. No, not Humphreys. (Mrs C: Used to live up Wickham Hill.) Not Humphreys. Oh, used to wear an old navy jacket, and a cap, and his feet were big. That’s Mrs Dazeley’s house here. (Q: What, that the big one.) Yes, that was pulled down, not so long ago, about eight years ago, wasn’t it? Eight or nine years ago, wasn’t it? Maybe more. (Mrs C: Pulled down before I…) When all them houses were built along here, too. Now this would be King’s side, coming onto their gardens, wasn’t it. That was probably King’s, facing this way, wasn’t it. We were there and they were facing that way. Going back a bit. I’m damned sure that is Mum’s garden with the washing hanging out. (Q: Vi said something about having an apple tree.) Yes, there was, Grandad had a beautiful apple tree. (Mrs C: I don’t know whether that’s there now?) No I don’t think so, Aunt Sis. (Q: I think that must have been took when they were going to pull them down, cause it was Mike Wadhams lent them to me I think, and his father …)
Mrs B: The apple tree was there till a little while ago.
Mrs S: That’s down Vi. Yes, I’m sure it’s down. This is when my mum used to lend the sheets to the people when they had babies. Didn’t she, Aunt Sis. She always used to have clean sheets for them, cause some of them hadn’t even got them for the beds. That’s the truth.
[More general chat, not noted]