Mr Walter Peirce was born in 1908. He was interviewed on 24 April 1984, when he lived at Airlings, Ulting Road, Hatfield Peverel.
He also appears on tapes 92, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 117, 125, 126.
For more information about him, see Peirce, Walter and family, 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 92
Mr P: Is that Witham or is that Chelmsford cathedral?
Q: It must be Chelmsford, I think.
Mr P: Is that Chipping Hill church? No, I don’t think that’s Chipping, that’s Chelmsford cathedral, ain’t it? You see, well, I won that in, nineteen, when, seventeen.
Q: Seventeen? That one?
Mr P: And one in nineteen nineteen.
Mr P: And then I get a special award there, look, in nineteen eighteen. So, I know that’s meant to be at Witham, I don’t know if I got any….
Q: Did you, were your parents keen on the church as well?
Mr P: Yeah, Mum, Mum was, yeah, but she joined the Peculiars at the finish.
Q: Did she?
Mr P: Yeah.
Q: Why was that?
Mr P: And they buried her, I don’t know about it, I don’t know, I’m sure. I don’t think she thought very much of the vicar what was here, he was a funny sort of vicar, he didn’t think women ought to go to wed-, he didn’t think women ought to go to funerals.
Q: Really? That’s a funny thing, isn’t it?
Mr P: Yeah.
Q: Well, I think that’s a shame isn’t it? Well, that upset her, I expect?
Mr P: Eh?
Q: That upset her, I expect?
Mr P: I thought, I thought you said, I thought I had a photo of Guithavon, of the street, you know, up by the Whitehall, I have somewhere, but I don’t know where it’s got to. I just put these few together when I knew I was coming. When I knew I was coming to see you, like. So, I’ve got some of the history, several of the history of Witham, haven’t I? About, about the place. But, um, you’ve never seen that little one, then? I don’t know ….
Q: No, I don’t think I have, no. That’s nice that, isn’t it?
Mr P: That’s only a short history of the church, you see, but you’re more interested in Witham than what you are in the church aren’t you?
Q: Yes. Well, no, the church interests as well.
Mr P: The church comes in with it.
Q: And what you can remember, as well.
Mr P: Ah, now then. [Reads:] ‘The PCC gave notice that they propose to make certain gravestones move from the parts of the churchyard’. Now, you see those tombstones that they moved along the churchyard, I knew the people in there. Mr and Mrs Cunningham that lived in Cress-, in Church Street, she had a little shop.
Mr P: Where you could get little sweets and aniseed balls and little bottles of ginger pop and American cream soda and all that. Well now, Thomas Cunningham, his name was, now I went to their funeral, but they’ve moved, she was right along the fence, the iron fence agin the road, but they’ve moved all them, ain’t they, mowed a lawn or something.
Q: Yes. Yes. Whereabouts was the shop?
Mr P: In Church Street. One of them houses there that belonged to Richards.
Q: I see. What, up, up, upwards from Chalks Road, sort of?
Mr P: Just down, no, just, it’s in Church Street, you know where Richards the …. [56 Church Street]. Well, then there was a block of four, I believe they’ve been knocked down, and then there was this other row, well, it was in them [68-80 Church Street]. And then there was a Mission hall there as well. Used to be a Mission hall. They’re all gone down, ‘cos our houses are all pulled down and they built all new ones because we lived in number ninety [90 Church Street] but they’re all pulled down now. And then Randall’s, the threshing, bloke there with the threshing tackle, he used to be there, see, right opposite. And where that Bethel Chapel is, used to be the great big barn that belonged to Cocks’s farm that stood up the corner of your road [north corner of Chalks Road and Braintree Road].
Q: You told me about that, yes.
Mr P: You see. And then, as I say, down, during the War [First World War], all this road [Chalks Road] was filled up with soup kitchens, and gun carriages and things, and, they used to all stand up here and then, then, now this is the interesting thing that I haven’t quite fashioned it out. In, in, where’ve I put it now? Now, I went to Boreham …. I had it …. Now, here. I went to Boreham Hall, with this, with Mother Superior, and, course this is King Henry the Eighth built this one. This is the only place, that’s the only coat of arms of his about, in Boreham.
Mr P: Yeah, the only coat of arms there is. And, they had …. There’s his coat, there’s the coat of arms, that’s been put, no, no that ain’t the one, that’s been put inside the church. That‘s the one, that the only coat of arms there is of Henry the Eighth, well that was on the outside wall but it’s been put inside the church.
Q: I see.
Mr P: Well, talking to the Superior Mother, that’s where it was in seventeen-o-two. Seventeen sixty-two. There was a great hall, there, and that was removed and the only evidence they got, and the only, that was moved to Witham.
Mr P: Now I firmly believe that that was the big barn, that was built, opposite the, you know where the drive is that goes up to the church room, or parish, church room, don’t you?
Mr P: Well, right opposite there, there used to be a place called Abbotts, was a bit of a boot shop or something that was [55 Chipping Hill]. Well, right next to that was a great big barn, and all during the First War, the horses from these carriages were all kept in there, and I firmly believe that that was the old original hall from Boreham Hall [barn now demolished; and Bridge House, 55a Chipping Hill built on the site]. Well, after the War that got pulled down and Mr Quy, the blacksmith’s shop bought it, and that’s where he used to have his fires, to put the iron rings on the wheels, you know when they put, they have to heat the ring, don’t they, to put them on the tumbril wheels and the wagon wheels? Well, he had that, used to keep a lot of rubbish and stuff and all that there. But years ago he used to have the fire in front of the, front of the blacksmith’s shop where you come round that corner [the forge, 18 Chipping Hill]. He used to have the fire there, you see, and then you heat the rim, don’t you and you put it on the wooden wheel. Re-tyre the wheel. Well, the blacksmith used to do that. Well, he moved it down there and he used to have it down there, but I, I still believe that that was the old original hall from there. But talking to the Mother Superior, down there, and, um, and that’s how it is today of course. I don’t think they allow anybody up there, it’s a school now, ain’t it. A big Cath-, a school now.
Q: I think so, yes.
Mr P: But, um, I, used to go to Kelvedon, Convent quite a lot with an old lady and I knew the Mother Superior there so that’s how I ended up, and anyhow and we were talking to her and I believe that that’s where, they, they ‘ve got, they know that that came to Witham, the old ….
Q: Did you ever see inside that? Did you ever see inside?
Mr.P: Oh yes. I went inside of it. Oh yes, that was huge, yes, that was huge. Because, after the War [probably First World War], Mr Ottley, that used to be the cab driver outside Witham station. Now, there was three of these Ottleys. There was the one that had this cab business in the Albert yard, all of the stables, all of his sheds in the Albert yard, he had there and, um, one of his men used to live there. And then, his brother was the carpenter, the carpenter for Richards, used to make the coffins, I used to go and watch him make the coffins, get sawdust to put the eggs, what we used to collect the birds eggs, used to get sawdust from him. Then there was the other one what was the bricklayer for Richards and he used to live in that house, next to the little Infants school but, there used to be a bit of an outbuilding joined on to it, but I think they’ve made it into a house, haven’t they? Next to the little Infants school in Church Street? [40 Church Street, the outbuilding is now site of 40a, b and c Church Street]
Q: Oh, I know where you mean. Um, sort of, next to Charity Row, you mean,?
Mr.P: Yes. Yeah, well he lived on the end of Charity Row.
Q: Yes. There was a shed, wasn’t there? Yes.
Mr P: Yeah, well, lived on Charity Row, well he used to wash all our cassocks and surplices for us, he did, there was them three brothers, we knew all of them. But Miss Ottley died not so many long, so much long ago. She lived up Rickstones Road, didn’t she? She was the only one. Nellie married and lived, married Mr Coleman, she lived on the corner of Albert Road. But, that was three Ottleys there. Well in that shed what we was talking about, we boys used to go, and of course, when they used to make mortar, for plastering and all that, then, they used to have all hair, hair material. We used to get in the barrow with two plaster laths and we used to BANG right on getting in there, knock it all to pieces, don’t you. The dust used to fly, we used to get covered with it, but we used to, the boys used to rattle it in there, for them, yes. And then, um, you see, as I say, coming up Church Street, Mr Davey used to have the White Horse. And next door to it was Alderton, the London and Manchester Insurance manager, and then there was Miss Clark’s, then you come to the butcher shop which was Greatrex’s [probably 8 Church Street, since demolished]. Now the meat there used to hang over the path. So, when, you went up and down Church Street, which we did, the meat hung over the path, you see, and the blood dripping on the path, you either stepped out in the road, or you went between the shop and the sheeps and halves of pigs that hung up on this, over there, you see.
Q: Oh yes, because I talked to, what was his name, Maurice, Maurice Greatrex?
Mr P: Yeah, Maurice.
Q: He lives in Chelmsford now.
Mr. P: He lives in Chelmsford.
Q: I spoke to him when I was doing that ….
Mr P: Yeah, well, now, Maurice, Maurice that lived in Church Street, he lives in, oh, used to live next door to Mrs Rose, they had a bus for parties, in, St John’s roundabout that’s where they live, in Chelmsford. ‘Cos he did …. And Olive Greatrex, I worked with her husband in Hoffmans for several years. Well, and then Dick Greatrex, he had, one of the boys, had a butcher’s shop in Kelvedon, didn’t he, for years.
Q: I see, yes.
Mr P: But I [???] them there, well, then, when you went past Greatrex’s, you went down an alleyway, and there was the houses that stood there where Mr Rushen lived, and then the bottom of his yard was a gate that went into, Adams and Mortimer’s builders yard [in White Horse Lane, later Hey and Croft and then David Wilson Homes]
Q: I see, yes.
Mr P But, that wasn’t Adams & Mortimer’s, that was Rust’s, when I was a boy. And then Dean bought it but he was interned during the War [Second World War] because he was a German orig-, there was German, German, I don’t know whether he was a German or she was a German, but that was Dean’s. That was Rust’s first, and their office was, the office was in Church Street, right opposite where that, Catholics first started preaching didn’t they, before the chapel was built. They had a little shed opposite there then.
Q: Oh, did they?
Mr P: Then, at the finish, Richards used, Richards used to use it to store his lime in. But, you went down this passage, and as I say, the office used to be in Church Street, W Rust, then it went to Deans and he was interned all during the War, and then after the War he sold out and Adams & Mortimer built it. But, and then Fuller, bought the butcher shop, and, I don’t know who‘s got it now, Adams & Mortimer, and then, I don’t know who’s got, Crofts, didn’t Hey and Croft have it or something, some name?
Mr P: I don’t know what’s up there now, ‘cos you can’t get up that lane now, can you? I went up there the other day and found out you couldn’t get through, I had to turn round and come back [White Horse Lane].
Q: There’s still some sort of builders’ yard but I don’t remember the name of it now. Yes.
Mr P: And, um, as I say, then there was all the people in Charity Row [28-40 Church Street]. Course, that was a workhouse, wasn’t it? I‘ve read the history about that where the, girls and that used to work up in there. ‘Cos one great big room right over the top ain’t there?
Q: I see, yes, yes.
Mr P: Right over the top. And then of course there was that little school [Chipping Hill Infants’ School, Church Street] and then, the meadow behind the school is the Bell Meadow, ain’t it? That used to have swings and seesaws in there when I was a boy.
Q: Did they really?
Mr P: Yeah. That is the Bell Meadow. Belongs to the bell-, is it still called ….? Well, Crittalls bought a bit of it, Crittalls had a lot of it, but that is the Bell Meadow, it’s called Bell Meadow, belongs to the bell-, I don’t know whether somebody left it to the bellringers or what, but that used, when I was a boy there was swings and seesaws in it.
Q: What, and you could just go there when you wanted to?
Mr P: Yeah, you just went down there and played; you went down the side of that Infants school, and you played in there, yeah. That was all just one field call Bell Mead-, Bell Meadow, till Crittalls took a bit of it [i.e. for storage ground (later car park) on west side of Braintree Road, for Crittall’s factory on east side of Braintree Road].
Q: Was there a lot of you in your family, did you say?
Mr P: Eh?
Q: Did you say there was a lot of you in your family?
Mr P: A lot of us.
Q: Did you have a lot of brothers and sisters?
Mr P: Oh yes, there was eight or nine of us.
Q: Was there really, goodness.
Mr P: Nine. I’m the, I’m the only boy left, now, though.
Q: Was you, were you older or younger or in the middle?
Mr P: No, there was two younger than me, and two older; but they’re all dead. Well, one of them got killed in Burma, in the jungle, never did know what happened to him, he got killed in the Burma jungle. I got two sisters still alive but I’m the only boy what’s left.
Q: How did you all fit in that house, then? [90 Church Street]. Can’t have been very big, can it?
Mr P: Two bedrooms, no, I don’t how we used to sleep, there was only two bedrooms in Church Street. Some at the bottom, some at the foot, and some at the head of the bed is how we slept. That’s how we slept. Be two rooms, two beds in the front room. And the one at the back. And then from there, we moved in, when they built them Council houses in Cressing Road we moved to there, that’s where I married from there, and then they pulled all them down in Church Street, didn’t they, and built all, built all new ones there.
Q: I see. So it was quite a way for you, for your Dad to go to work then?
Mr P: Well, yeah. But why, we, we walked it. Well, what a way it was to walk to school.
Q: Well, the same for you, yes of course, yes.
Mr P: Used to run through that old churchyard when that old bell was a-tolling. There’s a big, there’s a big chestnut tree in that churchyard, I don’t know if it‘s still there now, I’ve had some lovely chestnuts off of there [probably All Saints churchyard].
Q: Why didn’t you go to the Chipping Hill one, I wonder? [Chipping Hill Infants School, Church Street]
Mr P: I don’t know why we never went there, I don’t know why we never went there.
Q: Perhaps you went with your brothers and sisters, sort of, there?
Mr P: Was that a Council school?
Q: Maybe it was. I see, it was because it was a Church, you think, was it?
Mr P: We was Church school, see [National School, Guithavon Street]. I reckon that was a Council school. ’Cos that was there, I reckon that was a Council school, I’m sure it was a Council school.
Q: So they were quite keen on the church, then, as you say?
Mr P: Oh the, yes, the church, the Council. That was all, see, I think that must have been the Infants Council School for that one in Maldon Road, no it ain’t there now, is it? [Board School / Council School, Maldon Road, later Community centre, then Parkside Youth Centre] Oh, yes, made a Community centre or something, ain’t it? Yeah, that’s right. Yes. Mr Quick was the schoolmaster there. Cranfield, Cranfield was the schoolmaster at Guithavon Road; Miss Murrells, oh I remember …. But, getting me interested, I think, more or less, was the last schoolmaster we had, Mr Rowles. He used to take us boys, we used to walk to Faulkbourne Hall and all the rest of it, and he created the interest of architecture in front of me, you see. So, there ain’t a church in Essex I don’t think I’ve been to. But, you see, I don’t want to go inside the church, really, in one way, because I can get the history of the church as I walk all round.
Q: Really, oh, yes.
Mr P: And then, um, after then, we used to play ’hide and seek’ in these tombs, and all the rest of them, and just, coming off of Church Street, there used to be a, there’s a woman and a horse buried there, ain’t there, have you seen that? [in St Nicolas churchyard]
Q: Oh, no. I don’t know whether that is still there, what was that?
Mr P: That’s still there [probably not in fact]. That’s an iron, it’s an iron tombstone. And the end broke away. We used to hide in there sometimes, jump out when people, ’cos people used to walk through there, there’s a footpath through the churchyard, ain’t there, to the Chipping Hill Post Office [45 Chipping Hill].
Q: I see, yes, yes.
Mr P: As kids we used to play about there and then jump out the grave, or else knock on the side of the iron, that was a cast iron one. But Quy repaired it but, on the top it got all inscriptions never to approach a horse without talking to it. Well, this lady, it was her horse, she went in and touched it and that kicked her to death! And I expect she’s buried there with the horse.
Q: Oh, I didn’t know that, yes.
Mr P: That’s a big, well, I daresay it’s a rusty iron thing there now but I, I think the last time I went there that was there. ’Cos there’s a row of trees just alongside Church Road [Church Street], there, ain’t there? Elms, are there, no, limes ain’t they, I believe they’re pollard limes or something or other.
Q: This was near the Church Street end, is it?
Mr P: Yes, yes and then another thing that I‘d like, interesting, if you go down, do you go to Witham Community Centre or anything? [Spring Lodge Centre, Powershall End]
Mr P: Well, you go by car or what?
Q: Walk, usually, or cycle.
Mr P: You walk or cycle. Well, you know the river bridge you get over, don’t you? [Chipping Hill bridge]. Well, when you get over on this side of the, get off your bike and when you go over the bridge, I got a note somewhere to show you, when you go over the bridge there’s there’s kerbing stones on top of the bridge. Well, get off and look at the inscriptions on that, now I saw them done. When the soldiers was at Terling Park, and at the rifle range and used to go into that pub and all the rest of it, the Royal Wiltshire Regiment [First World War. Actually Warwickshire Regiment]. Now, I saw, the boys, we used to go round there, ‘cos I’ll tell you why we used to go round the camps as kids, they used to have darn great biscuits that size, hard as iron, they used to give them to us boys, iron rations they called them. You had them in your mouth for about five minutes or ten minutes before you could soak them. But, anyway, kids in them days, for we never had the money, much money then. And you’ll see the wonderful carvings that was done there. The bloke took his cap off, Army, they had caps them days, not these skull ones, and he’s got the whole badge of the Royal Wiltshire Regiment [Warwickshire], he’s got his name and number and all about the Range Wardens [for photo, see JG’s Images of England: Witham, page 109]. Now I sat on the bridge straddle-legged and he’s got a knife, a jack-knife, I’ve got one with a spike on the end, what they used to get the stones out of the horses’ hooves with, and he must have been a stonemason, ’cos he’s carved that perfect, and I hope, hope Witham will never, will, will preserve that really, but get off your bike and you just look, and that was done in nineteen sixteen, fifteen or sixteen. And I saw that bloke done it with this, this spike, on the big, these big jack-knives they used to have with a tin-opener on it and one big blade. I’ve got one of them in me toolbox in the car, not in the car, but I ain’t got it with me at the moment. And just see them carved on there. On the left hand side just before you get to, on the bridge.
Q: I’ll have to look then.
Mr P: And they’ve put a footpath by the side of it. Well, that‘s, that’s, whether you walk on the footpath or on the road. You’d see it better from the road, I reckon. And just walk, you just, I’d love you to see it really. The whole Wiltshire [Warwickshire], it’s a horse, the Royal Wiltshire Regiment, that’s the cap badge done, he done it just this spike on the, he must have been a stonemason in trade, I should imagine. In years gone by.
Q: So you remember a lot about the soldiers, then, don’t you?
Mr P: Oh yes, yes, well we used to be, we used, yeah …. Well, then you see, that’s how I had that bit took off me nose.
Q: Really, how did that happen?
Mr P: They had a great big camp in Collingwood Road, on the left hand side of Collingwood Road, that was all a camp right the way through, to, what you call that road where the Catholic church is in?
Q: Avenue Road?
Mr P: Eh?
Q: Avenue Road, you mean?
Mr P: Avenue Road, yeah, well they went from Collingwood Road right through to Avenue Road. Then in Collingwood Road they had the great big bake houses where you used to put all your wood in, heat all the oven up, then you’d clear it out and you put your dough in and you’d bake all the bread and that there. And, er, and they used to go, and then, er, Blyth’s, er, there’s a Council yard in Mill Lane, where the footpath is that goes up to the church, isn’t there? [29-35 Guithavon Valley, was on north corner of junction with Lockram Lane]
Q: Yes, I know where you mean.
Mr P: Well in that there’s a gravel, used to be a gravel pit. Well, that’s where they used to have revolver practices. And at the back, in that meadow where all them houses, the meadow is now that went through to Collingwood Road, that was where I first saw them practice gas masks. Because you know the Germans used gas masks. Well, they dug trenches there and they wore these masks over their heads with just a little bit of rubber tube where you sucked air through, and beaters, and beat the gas out the thingammy. Well, then, up what we called the old lanes, up the side of Crittalls, I think they’ve all built up there, but the old lanes that goes up to Motts, Motts Road or Motts Lane, they call it?
Q: Oh, I know what you mean, yes. Mott, Motts Road [actually Motts Lane. Old lanes would have been Cut Throat Lane and Rectory Lane].
Mr P: Motts Road. Half Hides farm used to be up there [next to pond now in Forest Road]. Well, just beyond Half Hides farm was all trenches, zigzag trenches and all that where the soldiers were trained, and then there was one great big trench that run up the ditch, and then you had the spy-holes and all done with galvanised tin, that came out on the Rickstones Road. Now I’m sure, I’m sure if anybody dug down there deep enough there’d be all these old sheets of galvanised and that were poked in and the trenches were filled in, and that big field down by Half Hides farm, where that was all done with trenches and all the, wooden walks where you walked on, ‘cos that used to get all water draining and all that in there. Well, they used to go there with hand grenade practice, see, and they used to have dummy hand grenades and I had two of them for years, kept them for years. And you pulled the pin out and threw it like that ‘ere. Well, we was up there playing one day and one bloke hit me on the nose and that’s how, he took that bit off me nose, I remember. That was about nineteen sixteen, that was.
But, I should imagine now, if anybody went up there, the old galvanised sheet and stuff and all that was poked in the trenches and buried. And the field’s all been levelled now, of course.
Q: And you used to run up, run around and watch them did you, you boys?
Mr P: Oh yeah. We boys used to go, oh yeah, yeah. Well then, you see, when the rifle range was in operation at the Victoria pub, just along that road [Powershall End]. You followed the Powers Hall End farm, you know Powers Hall End farm?
Mr P: Hutleys had it then, that‘s now Strutt & Parkers innit?
Q: Something like that, yes.
Mr P: Well, there was a footpath there, halfway up that road, we called it the, past the Devil’s Pond, I don’t know why it was called the Devil’s Pond, but it’s still there, and you went across the fields, through Witham Springs, a little wood, and that used to be, like your carpet’s like this, that used to be all primroses [probably on road to Fairstead, just after turning north at junction west of Powershall farm]. You went through that, just crossed the road and then you come into Lord Rayleigh’s Terling Park, then you walked through there and come to Terling. Well, when the rifle range was on, soldiers were put up near that footpath and nobody was allowed to go through or nothing, see ’cos the bullets that missed the target went into them trees so they’re still in some of them trees now when they cut them down, must be, although the trees are, have been, forty or fifty years ago or more, but, you were never allowed to go by there at all, see, not when the firing was all on.
Q: Did you used to sell them at all, normally?
Mr P: No. No. I tell you what we used to sell. When I lived, we used to go down to what we called Dickie Meads. Now, that’s the river down by the Cherry Tree, ’cos that was a road there then, it’s closed now, ain’t it? [Cherry Tree in Cressing Road, lane west from there over railway, then across what is now the bottom of Ebenezer Close, to what is now the river walk]. You go down there, straight down there to the river. Now we use to dam the river up. Right. So we used to have about four foot of water. Well, we all used to bathe in there, nothing on; we never had no costumes or nothing. Never used to have no costumes, no, we couldn‘t afford one, could we? We used to bathe in the nude. But down there, there used to be lotta lotta watercress. Oh, no end of, ‘cos they was all running streams then, you see. Now of course, they’ve tapped streams, I dunno what’s happened to them. And I used to go get a bath on a Sunday morning, we used to go down there, and, and get these bunches, and I used to take them round Church Street and sell them for about penny or tuppence a bunch, a big handful. Now you’ve got to pay, they’re sold by weight ain’t they? Yes. You find it in the greengrocers for weight, now, watercress, don’t you? Which would run out now about, aw, fifty pence or more, you wouldn’t get a pound for fifty pence now, no. No, you wouldn’t. Is this, that’s mine is it?
Q: That must be your one.
Mr P: You wouldn’t get it now, would you? Not for that. That’s all I used to sell. And then, Mr Thompson, you know Thompson the coal merchant, was about here? Right, now I’m talking about his, either his grandfather or his great-grandfather. He lived in the house that used to be the Mission hall in Church Street. Well, now, all the houses up Church Street used to have a bin. And we used to put all the rubbish in, tea leaves, potato peelings, anything, not soap, nothing soapy, and then he used to come round with his hand, builders’ hand truck Sunday mornings, collect all this rubbish, he used to boil it up, he used to keep pigs, he used to feed his pigs with it.
Mr P: And when his son first started the coal business, when my father come out the Army my father was a saddler. When my father came out, come out, he learned saddling in the Army because he was in the Royal Horse, he was in the Army Service Corps, me father was, Staff Sergeant, always used to ride a horse, you know, with his so, ride and all that the side of him. He made Mr Thompson his first set of harness for his horse. I can see him now, he had two bits of barrel, bolted together like, you know. And you opened a little clamp, used to clip his leather in there, and make his harness and all the rest of it.
Q: He did that at home, did he?
Mr P: And he’d to do it at home, and then he used make leather bootlaces. He used to sell them about threepence a pair. We used to help make them. He had the long strips of leather, and then he had, on the table, kitchen table, and then he had this sharp knife with a gauge, and then you pulled the blade, pulled this leather through it and that cut off, they were leather laces, you don’t see them now, do you? And the men, all on the farm and everything else, all had leather laces in them days. Yeah.
Q: Very interesting, yes. Goodness, there must be a lot more you can tell me. You’ll have to come back some day if you‘ve got the time. Would you?
Mr P: Well. Yes, it is, it is very, as I say…. Well, then, we wasn’t angels, we got up to mischief, but not mischief they do today, never mischief today. And I’m saying this because I feel proud of it in one way. If you was an old lady, which we done sometimes, I mean, you’d be safe coming from the town at ten o’clock at night as you would ten o’clock in the morning. Well, it was nothing for us boys then if you, you see, you had to go and buy your own shopping then. That wasn’t delivered to you, only to the gentry.
Q: I see.
Mr P: You see, well, everybody else with families would go down there, see. Well, um, we …. [Pause] We‘d think nothing of carrying an old lady’s bag, she’d probably give you, give you a ha’penny or anything else like that here. Well, then, even when we was young boys, and I’m talking about when I was about seventeen [???] [???] all right. You got to know the girls, didn’t we?
Q: Right, yes.
Mr P: All right, got to know the girls, see, and, everything like that here, well, see, well, you never thought of raping girls or things like that here. You got, perhaps, the girl, if she didn’t want to kiss you, you did, well you thought ’Blow that’, you’d kiss somebody else.
Q: That’s right, yes.
Mr P: But you know, it makes your, it makes your blood boil, because you wouldn’t be safe, every, would you, not today. We weren’t no angels, I don’t want you to think we was, but that was the mischief we used to get up to, you see. And, I tell you one incident, and then I must be off. About my brother, Ted, he was the stationmaster at Tiptree. He’s dead now, he’s buried at Tiptree. You used to have to fetch everything else from home, didn’t you? Well, Cutts used to have the fish shop in Witham right on the corner, opposite the George [Cutts probably at 29 Newland Street first and then moved to 33 Newland Street in about 1930]. It’s a jeweller’s shop ain’t there, or something there. Well, this was on the other corner now, it’s a fried fish shop now, or something. There used to be Cutts the fish merchants. Well, next door to there, where Woolworth’s and that is, was Crawfords, the chandlers, where you bought paraffin, candles, baking tins, etc etc etc. And, chinaware and all the rest of it. You never had toilets indoors, at Witham, not then, did you? You see, even at Hatfield there was no toilets at Hatfield when I first went and my son-in-law, they can’t really take it in. There was no water at Hatfield, no water or sewer when I went to Hatfield.
Mr P: Well, on this particular occasion, we went, my mother went to Cutts’s, there was quite a lot of us so she went and bought about a dozen fresh herring, see, for all of us, fresh herring. Well, wraps them up in newspaper. She also goes to Crawfords and buys a pot, jerry, white enamel one, I can see it now, it sticks in my mind. Well, walking up Collingwood Road, with these dozen fresh herring in the paper, they soaked the paper so they began to come out. Well, my brother Ted said ‘Give us your pot a minute’, so I was carrying the pot, you know, the white jerry or whatever you call it, don’t use them today do they? I don’t suppose they do, now. So he sticks the fish all in this pot. Mother’s a-walking ahead, Ted and I are walking behind. You come along and everybody else did and of course they turn around and see these fish in the…. They all laughed didn’t they? Got up to the Jubilee Oak, and Mother said ‘What’s them people keep laughing at?’, see, turned round and sees these fish in this pot, she wouldn’t walk with us, she wouldn’t come with us. She sat on that iron seat round the Jubilee Oak, she wouldn’t come with us. That was a brand new pot. She, she wouldn’t walk with us. So Ted and I, we lived in Church Street, we had to come home with the fish and she waited till she got out of sight and she followed on. Well, dear, I hope I’ve interested you a little bit, anyhow.
Q: It was lovely, yes. I was just thinking. The actual, one or two of the photographs, you wouldn’t consider just lending me for a couple of weeks and see if they are interested in copying them at the Record Office at the Archives at County Hall, would you?
Mr P: Which photos do you mean?
Q: Well, they would probably just be the ones that are actual, not out of the paper but the ones, like the school ones.
Mr P: Oh, that’s the school one. Nobody’s got that one.
Q: And Crittall’s.
Mr P: And, that’s Crittall’s, that’s Crittall’s. That’s Crittall’s staff when, that was the first offices that was built in place of the army hut. Someone might recognise that, well, you’ll take care of them for me, won’t you.
Q: I will, indeed. They are, they lock them up and they are very careful with them.
Mr P: And this was when Crittalls was built, you see? I have a great big three-foot picture of this somewhere. I had it in my shed but it fade. Charlie Sell, I know quite a lot of them on there, me father’s on there.
Q Really? Well, perhaps if they got a copy a little bit bigger I’ll have to ask you who they are sometime.
Mr P: Ah, yeah, well, I got big magnifying glasses and all that, but …. I believe that’s that end one but, I, with my magnifying glass I can show them and I know them all. Tom Wood, he got, they’re all dead; and there’s old Mr Bickmore, what I as telling you about, and all of them on there. They’re very interesting.
Q: And maybe even the mill one, or is that too special?
Mr P: No, no, that’s a very special one. Oh, there’s my sister there when she finished, she was in charge of the Brownies, look, she retired in nineteen seventy-eight. She’s a widow now, unfortunately, she lives at Heybridge. She’s on, I don’t know whether she’s on one of them photos or not, no. But that was the Horticultural Society in nineteen forty-nine. He died, there’s an old peoples’ house in Collingwood Road, ain’t there [15 Collingwood Road]. Where the Browns used to live, what I was telling you, the brewery.
Q: Oh, I see, yes.
Mr P: I’m sure he’s dead, Percy Adams is dead, there’s the secretary, Sid Pounds is dead. I think Bert, Charlie Gaymer’s still alive, but Harry Browns is dead, he used to live in Millfield Cottages, near the Labour Club [about 67 Collingwood Road]. Some of them might recognise them if you’d like to.
Q: Yes, that’s right, I think they would like that and then, as I say, they just keep, perhaps if you’d like a copy as well, they might do one for you as well.
Mr P: Yes, so long as I have them back, but those are for copies, but the one ….
Q: And could give you a ring when I’ve got them back again, and perhaps we could have another chat again if you’ve got the time?
Mr P: Eh?
Q: Perhaps we could have another chat then, if you’ve got the time?
Mr P: Yes. I got the time but I thought it was interesting about the price of that, how much that cost to build.
Q: I don’t know whether they’ve got one of them either.
Mr P: Eh, who?
Q: These, these are different ones?
Mr P: They’re of no interest to you. That’s the Long Man at Wilmington. You ever seen there? Been there dozens of time. They just cut the chalk cliff oh, back in the, and that’s an old fashioned place there, Wilmington. That’s near, in Sussex, down near Polegate. All the drains and everything else runs down the side of the road. And, that’s Berwick church, I went to there. This is, you know I kept bees, don’t you.
Q: Oh yes.
Mr P: That’s the college where I went to, in Sussex, that is the Sussex Agricultural Institute. I went there for a fortnight’s lecture.
Q: Did you really? You were keen, weren’t you, yes
Mr P: It’s called the Agricultural, Plumpton that’s in Sussex.
Q: How long have you been doing the bees, then?
Mr P: Oh, I don’t know how many years now. I’ve still got two hives. They’re up at Seabrook Nurseries. But, no this is a map of Sussex., as I say, that’s Essex and Herts and Middlesex eighteen eighty six..
Q: I will just hang on to these four pictures.
Mr P: Yes and you’d like that one of the mill, would you, did you say? I will one day perhaps present that to somebody. That’s in with these, look, here. You see. That is, no, I don’t suppose anyone’s got a copy of that.
Q: No, well, would you mind if they copied that? They’re very, very careful.
Mr P: No dear. Yes. Who do you want it for? Not the Braintree & Witham Times?
Q: No, well I’ll tell you what, this is, no no. It’s at County Hall, they just keep them there so that if anybody wants to look at them, they keep them safe in the ….
Mr P: Oh yes, they take a copy of them and then they send them back to you do they?
Q: And then I go and collect them again and give them back, after. I don’t know about the, whether the fire ones are interesting actually, aren’t they?
Mr P: They’re all the fires at Blunts Hall. They’re on the back of them.
Q: Yes. Would you mind if they looked at them as well?
Mr P: I’ve written on the back of them. That was when the Blunts Hall fire was. I don’t know. There’s nobody else got a copy of them. I know that. I do know that, nobody got a copy of that.
Q: I mean, the other ones are interesting but they don’t come out very well, when they put them in newspapers, which is a shame, but they’re ….
Mr P: No, no they don’t. I’ve kept them over the years.
Q: They’re nice to look at.
Mr P No, they don’t come out, they don’t come out very well. But as I say, just to us they’re all right.
Q: Sometime it takes them two or three weeks, but if I gave you a ring. I’ll take them in and leave them there, and I’ll give you a ring and perhaps you could pop back.
Mr P: But this, this one, I’ll tell you ….
Q: I think they might have even got one of them in their archives.
Mr P: They may have done but I hardly doubt it because so many people have been after me for this one.
Q: Actually, this one is interesting, wait a minute, I wonder if they may be interested to see that?
Mr P: Somebody’s been to, well, where was this held at? Wait a minute. Where was this held at? [Pause] 23rd June 2 o’clock, eighteen ninety eight, no it ain’t a hundred years old yet, is it?
Q: It’s interesting, though.
Mr P: But that, it’s all about barrels of beer, the beer barrels and all that. Do you have to put your name or mark on them or anything?
Q: I’ll put them in an envelope with your name and everything on.
Mr P: Do you want this pub left in? No, it ain’t a very good one, it’s the pub, it’s to do with that, it’s mentioned in there, you see. But when they realise now that beer is, what is it now, I don’t know, I don’t buy any, what is it, fifty pence a pint now is it? Or more?
Q: Something like that, more, yes, probably, yes.
Mr P: Yes. I was trying to think where that was held. A Driver at Drews, General Printers at Chelmsford done it.
Q: It was local then, wasn’t it?
Mr P: Chelmsford, where was, I should think, no it wouldn’t be Witham, I’m sure. I think, I reckon that was Chelmsford. I don’t know, Beer Materials Committee, where, they would know about where the ….
Q: That’s right, someone would know about it, wouldn’t they?
Mr P: They’d have records as to where the Beer Committee was wouldn’t they? And the price of beer and all that, and how they used to brew it and what they used to use and everything else. I know it’s getting a bit frail but anyhow, they are very, um, if you’d like to look at them, I’ll leave them with you then.
Q: Well they keep them very carefully, I wouldn’t take them if I was at all bothered about it [photos lent on this occasion are in JG’s collection as M73-80, and lent to Essex Record Office as TA 2102. A copy of the report of the evidence of Charles Brown to the Beer Materials Committee, in 1898, is in JG’s file of book extracts, and one was made by the E.R.O. also]
Mr P: Oh, yeah. But this book, it’s kept exceptionally well.
Q: It looks like it’s new inside.
Mr P: For eighteen sixty did I say, fifty one or sixty one.
Q: Sixty one, I think.
Mr P: And the map of Essex, yes, and then I’ve got, and I say, and it takes, it takes all the hundreds and the boroughs, and [reads] ‘antiques and ruins; seats of the nobility and gentry’ and all about the parishional charities. And that was published by Meggy and Chalk, High Street, Chelmsford in eighteen sixty one. But so many people have wanted to borrow this, that, really, that, you know, they have had it, and I told you, didn’t I, that I sent all the Parish Magazines to Black Notley. Eighteen ninety nine, nineteen hundred and nineteen hundred and one. Now a lady, by the name, I was talking about them almshouses down the bottom of Chalks Lane, didn’t I? Well, Miss Mann, Miss Mortimer, Miss White [Pause] There was four of them in there, anyhow, Miss Mann was the servant at Black Notley Rectory in Queen Victoria’s time, in Queen Victoria’s time. Well, when she got too old, I suppose, she come into one of these almshouses at the bottom of Chalks Lane, in this corner one, I can see her now, blackleading the old wall, one Confirmation Sunday, and all the girls come out of Confirmation with the white dresses, sat on the wall, and got all this blacklead across, she never blackleaded it any more [52 Church Street]. Well, my mother[?], as I say, used to go about doing little jobs, and she used to go and clean up for this old lady; she was getting very, very old, and I was the boy that used to run errands, and I used to go across to the Woolpack and get her bottles of whisky at four and sixpence, the half, four and sixpence. Well, she brought with her the bound volumes of the Black Notley Parish Magazines, eighteen ninety nine, nineteen hundred and nineteen hundred and one. Well there were beautiful missionary stories, poems, ‘cos I used to do a lot of reciting years ago, and poems and lovely stories in it. Then at the back was all the Parish Magazines. There was the whole year, bound. They were in a beautiful blue book, blue leather, blue cloth bound, with ‘Heart and Hearth’ printed in gold on. Well, anyhow, I’ve kept them all these years, and I’ve also got the foot rule that she used to wear at, have at Black Notley School, it’s an ebony rule, a round rule, just a foot long, and you draw two lines each side and that was just an inch wide. [???] [???] or nothing. So I thought, well I ain’t got much longer to live so I’ll get rid of them. So I got in touch with Black Notley Rectory and all the rest of it and the Warden come over and he was pleased with them. You see, because the people’s names that were christened and all that there then are grandparents of our alive ain’t they? I mean that’d be near, eighty-four or eighty-five years ago. And I had a lovely letter back from them, and also the Parish Magazine, the Parish Magazine, and, with a letter of thanks and all that in for me. They put them in the vestry, they’re going to be kept there forever. But the only, coal wasn’t, coal was about, it wasn’t a pound a ton then, that wasn’t a pound a ton, and then they’ve taken all the interesting bits from the Parish Magazine, making them into a book form, booklet, and they’re selling them to raise funds for the, for the, Parish Church.
Q: Isn’t that wonderful, yes. You’ve done a bit of good there, haven’t you, lovely.
Mr P: I’ve also kept the last slate that was used for, in Hatfield School when they used slates and chalk, I’ve kept that, and I’ve also made a collection of all bricks that used to be made with the brickmaker’s name on round Hatfield Peverel.
Mr P: Yes. Somebody’ll find them interesting.
Q: Well, they will keep them very carefully. It tells you where it is in here, because I’ve a thing, with the people.
Mr P: You what, dear?
Q: It tells you where the place is, in here, because I put it in here, in case you wanted to …
Mr P: Oh lovely. Well, nice to see you, anyhow.
Q: That’s all right. It’s been lovely.