Mr Les Cullum (also known as Jerry), was born in 1913. He was interviewed on 18 October 1984, when he lived at 84 Church Street, Witham.
He also appears on tape 96.
For more information about him, see Cullum, Les (Jerry) 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.]
Q: … left school did you?
Mr C: Well I started [at Crittall’s] when I was fourteen. (Q: Mmm.) Actually I was living at Hatfield Peverel then. Dad was going to take a pub in London actually and I was going to learn that trade, see. (Q: Yes.) Anyhow he got me a job at Crittall’s and I started there in the February 1928 and he died in July of the same year. (Q: Oh dear.) So I more or less had to stop there.
Q: So you didn’t really mean to stay there?
Mr C: No I didn’t mean to stay at Crittall’s. Of course after he died we had to come out of the public house. Well my older brother couldn’t, didn’t want to take it, you know. He was eighteen, he didn’t want to take it so we had to come out. They wouldn’t allow a woman take it then.
Q: Would they not? Oh dear. So they were all up in London, this was? The public house was up in London you say?
Mr C: Well, we lived at Hatfield Peverel, but he was trying to get a public house in London.
Q: So what pub was it in Hatfield?
Mr C: The Wheatsheaf.
Q: Had he been there a long time?
Mr C: We went there in 1924. And he died in 1928 and that’s when I started work.
Q: So what did he do before that, your dad?
Mr C: Well, actually we lived at Messing then. (Q: Oh I see.) Yes on the farm at Fairhead’s at Messing, looking after the horses. He was more like a vet really. Because they had a vet at Witham and had a horse that sort of jumped a five bar gate. Cut all its tummy. And he rang the vet up who told him ‘Well, Cullum’ he said, ‘you can do it as well as what I can.’ And he stitched it all up but it lived for about a week and then died. He was very good with horses.
Q: How did he learn that do you think?
Mr C: I don’t know, well he was with horses and used to work at Wilkin’s at Tiptree before he moved to Messing. He was a groom, you know, a groom at Wilkin’s at Tiptree.
Q: I wonder why he gave it up to go to the pub?
Mr C: Oh, to better hisself I suppose, I expect that was the idea. He wasn’t well, he wasn’t a well man. When he had an operation on his throat he died. He wasn’t a well man. Cause mother never wanted to go to the pub. She didn’t like it at all really but of course he said we’d got to go and we had to go.
Q: So what happened to her after he died? What did she do?
Mr C: Well, we had to wait for a Council house to be built. Because there was no Council houses at Hatfield when we first went, the weren’t many houses there at all when we first went there. They were just building these new Council houses and we had to wait till 1931 before we could get out the pub, three years we had to wait, for a Council house.
Q: Did you have a lot of brothers and sisters?
Mr C: Yes, two brothers and two sisters. One died, my eldest brother when he was forty of TB, Broomfield hospital. I lost my eldest sister when she was 29, she left a baby a few months old. My brother, the one who lives down the Maldon Road now and my sister at Hatfield in the same house where I lived. (Q: I see.) She lost her husband during the War and she married again and she lived in the house where I was before I got married.
Q: So where did you come in the family? Were you in the middle?
Mr C: My sister was 29, she was the eldest one, then my brother Bernard, then Walter then me then my younger sister. So I was the fourth one.
Q: So when you went to work most of the others were already out and about were they?
Mr C: That’s right, my eldest brother Bernard. He worked at Francis the grocer’s in the town. From there he went to Luckin Smith’s. (Q: Oh, did he?) And my other brother, in Maldon Road, he also worked at Luckin Smith’s at Witham, and Martin’s at Chelmsford. Actually Martin’s were all involved with Luckin Smith’s then. That was a grocery shop. (Q: What, Martin’s was?) Martin’s was a grocery shop in Chelmsford and that was all sort of involved with Luckin Smith’s
Q: Oh, I didn’t know that. So what did they do in the shop? The ones that worked the Witham shop? Did they serve at the counter?
Mr C: My eldest brother was more or less a first hand you know. Then he left and went to Green’s stores at Ilford. (Q: Yes.) He had about twenty people under him at Green’s stores at Ilford. He was manager at Green’s stores at Ilford. My other brother, he went to Maldon, Luckin Smith’s and from there he moved to Home and Colonial, which is now Debden’s[?], Home and Colonial Maldon. He moved from there to Saffron Walden. Then he come back to Witham as manager of Home and Colonial at Witham right up until the War. Both involved in the grocery trade. And they both finished up at Hoffmann’s when War broke out.
Q: The one that lived down Maldon Road, was he one of the ones that worked, the one that’s still down Maldon Road now, was he was one of those?
Mr C: Yes, he was the one who Maldon, Saffron Walden and back to Witham. He’s seventy-five now. He’s four years older than me. I’m giving my age away now. [Les now 71] [laugh]
Q: You do alright though, don’t you. Did they go straight to that from school, to shop work?
Mr C: More or less. Walter, the one in Maldon Road went to Mondy’s first. That’s still there. He was at Mondy’s for a time. [63 Newland Street]
Q: I shall have to talk to him, shan’t I? Would he like that?
Mr C: And actually Bernard he went to Beard’s, right opposite, the other side of the road. [88 Newland Street] That was a more or less ironmonger’s. He was at Beard’s till he went to Francis the grocers. Francis was just, more a private grocer’s shop.
Q: Was it? Was there a Mr Francis then?
Mr C: Mr Francis, yes.
Q: So you, yourself you were supposed to be going to help with the pub were you?
Mr C: Yes, well, it was Dad’s idea to take a pub in London and have me to help him and learn the pub trade.
Q: I mean, had you been up to London much? Why did he choose London do you think?
Mr C: Well he was a policeman in London. Come out the police force.
Q: That was before he went into the farm?
Mr C: That’s right before we came down to Messing.
Q: He’d been about then hadn’t he? (Mr C: Yes.) Of course, they would have had horses, I suppose. Did he deal with horses in the police perhaps?
Mr C: Not that I know of.
Q: So he was a Londoner then?
Mr C: No, I don’t think he was, I think he came from Salcott. We never did find out where my dad was born. We went to Somerset House once to try to, never got nowhere. My mother was born in Tolleshunt Darcy.
Q: What was her name before she married?
Mr C: Fenner.
Q: And what were their first names, then I’ll have to look out for them?
Mr C: Alice. (Q: She was Alice and your dad was?) Albert, Albert Silas.
Q: Should be able to recognise that shouldn’t you? So he probably went up to London then. Were you disappointed when you had to stay at Crittall’s or did you …?
Mr C: Not really, I wasn’t, no. And as the years went by I was glad really. But then I got a bit fed up, about five, when I was about sixty, I suppose. I got a bit fed up. I was sort of more or less wishing my time away at Crittall’s. Because I was more or less a checker and thought I was really ought to have more money than I was getting. Then a German came there as my boss. Actually married into Rodney’s, you know Rodney [Les’s son]. (Q: Mmm.) Married into Kath’s, his wife’s cousin or something or other, he married her anyway. And he come up the shop to me one day and said. What exactly is your job, so I said actually I was a checker, I do inspecting and if I see any bad work I report it to the inspector. So he said ‘It looks to me as if you’re doing more than some of these inspectors’. He said ‘Leave it with me and I’ll see what I can do.’ And in about three or four weeks he come back and they’d made me inspector. That come in my last three years there which helped my pension, see based on the last three years so I finished with a full pension.
Q: That was all right then. So how long had you been a checker ?
Mr C: Oh, I was on the staff thirty years. Must have been about twenty-five years I was a checker. I was still doing the checking as well as the inspection. You know I was doing the two. Even on an inspector’s pay I was still doing both and I was doing more inspection then than I was on my own. I wasn’t reporting to somebody else. I was doing the work on my own accord then. But I was also still doing my checker’s job as well. Checking all the work in you see, for the pool. They used to have pools over there, all different pools.
Q: So how did that work then? What were you actually, did you have to check everything?
Mr C: Oh yes, check every window what went through the shop.
Q: How did you, was it a difficult, how did you …?
Mr C: No, it wasn’t, just in batches you see, used to come through in fifties or twenty-fives, that sort of thing.
Q: And what did you check them for?
Mr C: To see the right numbers were there.
Q: The numbers, I see. But were you also checking that they were all right?
Mr C: That’s right, yes, checking them, to see if they were made right, right number and see if windows were made properly.
Q: So how did you do that? I mean you presumably didn’t have very long, did you, to check one.
Mr C: Not long, but I knew exactly when a window was right. And sometimes if there was a special job, on the programme, the programme, a special job, I used to think to myself ‘Well I’ll keep my eye on that job.’ Sometimes I used to watch the job come through and see a bloke start doing them and sometimes I’d see they were doing it wrong (Q: Really?) so I used to let them do one and then I used to go and tell them.
Q: It was quite a responsibility then wasn’t it?
Mr C: You know Freddie Cook don’t you? (Q: Yes.) Well he was my under-manager. (Q: I see.) He come up the shop one day with the manager, and it was a Middle East job. Come up and said he wanted to know where it were. I told him in the special shop, something anyway, and he said, come over and said ‘Oh, they haven’t got the fittings on’. So I said ‘Fittings, Fred, they don’t want no fittings on’. [Fred] ‘Oh yes they do.’ Now Harold Cross the manager, said to Fred, ‘Now look’ (they called me Jerry there you see) ‘If Jerry says they don’t want no fittings on, they don’t want no fittings on’. You see he knew that I, you know. Well that took old Fred aback. [laugh] That was that.
Q: So that was a special. (Mr C: A special job, that’s right, yes). So you’d have a manager presumably, and an under-manager and then?
Mr C: That’s right, then an inspector as well, a chief inspector.
Q: So what did the inspectors do all day then, if you were checking anyway?
Mr C: Well, some were, as windows come on the machines, see, the machines had to be set up properly for them. Same as on the bench they used to have a bench and that, used to have to gauge to make sure that the fittings were right for the window to hang in. Others, were using on the final line, men were using, they were using hammers. Inspector on that, actually his was the hardest job of the lot really. It was hard work as they were using hammers as they come off from the men they put them on the conveyor belt and they used to take them off the belt and try them and more or less had to hammer them and put them right, and they weren’t always right when they went on from the men.
Q: Oh I see, so they put them right if they were .
Mr C: So if there was any faults there they more or less put them right.
Q: So did you look at them after that or before?
Mr C: Before, I was doing it before, I was doing in the sort of the frame form, before they put it together. Inners and outers and vents, you’ve got an inner and this big part is the outer and at the top up there was called the F vent.
Q: So you were checking the individual windows?
Mr C: Actually I was checking, I was on the frame form.
Q: So they had to inspect it when they were all put together in the right way?
Mr C: That’s right.
Q: Because funnily enough, these are wood [at Blanfred, Chalks Road], (Mr C: Yes, I know they are.) and I never knew why, as we are so near Crittall’s.
Mr C: More like, what would you say, just this big one would be a D11, D11 F.
Q: Yes I see, it’s funny, because they are almost imitating the metal ones.
Mr C: Yes, they do, imitate the metal.
Q: I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have metal ones, do you? (Mr C: No, no.) I think it was Adams and Mortimer that built the houses. (Mr C: That’s right.) Did they use Crittall windows at all do you know, in other places?
Mr C: I think they did, yes. It was more or less Council work had metal windows, see.
Q: I suppose you get more, where you have got a lot the same it’s easier isn’t it. (Mr C: That’s right.) So when you first went, before you were doing the checking, when you first went as a boy?
Mr C: I was a driving a lift. (Q: Oh were you?) Then they had men on the lifts when I first went there when I was fourteen. They took the men off and put me and another lad on.
Q: When you say the lift, is that the …?
Mr C: That used to start right up from the ground floor right the way up. You see there was three floors in the wood shop. And the men used to come over and get the frames in the main shop, put them in the lift, bring them through the subway, and then onto my lift at the other side of the wood shop. Used to take them up to the middle floor to have wood surrounds put on. They had wood surrounds on all of them at Witham.
Q: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Mr C: But they do them at Silver End now.
Q: So how did they come over then, on trolleys or something?
Mr C: Barrows.
Q: There was quite a lot of humping things about then.
Mr C: Oh there was, yes. And then when they had the, got them in the wood surrounds, they used to come back onto the lift and come down again back to where they came from on to the packers. And take them to wherever they’d got to go.
Q: I see. So did you have trouble with the lifts or were you, or was that that easy?
Mr C: I did have trouble ! I was going up one day and it stopped in between the two floors. And I couldn’t get out, and it was right on five minutes past five. And I couldn’t get out. I had to stop there and of course I kept shouting, and as it happened an electrician who used to live up Church Street – he’s dead now – he happened to come and got in where the works were and got me down. I don’t know how long I would have been there – could have been all night. (Q: Oh dear.)
Mr C: Another fright I had was I couldn’t stop it one time. It kept going down, and of course, when it hit the bottom, it just hit the bottom and stopped [slapping noise, laugh]. It was a bit of a fright. Because you do hear of these lifts, you know.
Q: You didn’t have those lifts where you work them yourselves? Did they put the barrows into the lifts? (Mr C: Into the lifts, yes.) Did the men come in with them? (Mr C: Yes.) But they still need you to … I suppose you had to get them up and down when there was nothing in them too? (Mr C: That’s right.) So how long did you stay doing that?
Mr C: Well, I kept worrying, because I had lost my dad. (Q: Yes, quite.) And I’d got my mother and young sister at home. And I kept going to the Union man, Mr Jarrett, used to live Hatfield[?] Road, he’s dead now. And I kept worrying him about getting on piece work, more money see. I was only getting about twelve and sevenpence a week and I was working Saturday mornings for that, clean the lift and whatnot. Anyway eventually he got me on piece work and as soon as I got over there on piece work, the money, cause the money was jolly good before I got there. But soon after I got there they cut the money down. (Q: Really?) Although I was much better off than what I was on the lift.
Q: So when was that, why did they cut the money down?
Mr C: I expect it was in the 1930s.
Q: Did you actually get, how did the piece work, work out?
Mr C: They more or less, a lot of them were on individual piece work then. In the main shop you was all in one, sort of all in one pool in the main shop. There used to be some of them on individual piece work.
Q: So were you in the main shop then, at first? (Mr C: Yes.) So you were in the pool?
Mr C: Yes. that’s right, I was in the pool. Then in the 1930s when things got worse, I suppose. All the fellows up to twenty-one got the sack, just as they come onto men’s money. Other than me. I was the only who didn’t get it. So I went and saw Mr Jarrett, you know the Union man, and I said I couldn’t understand why I was kept on when all my mates from Maldon and that were stood off. And he said ‘Well,’ he said, ‘You’ve got to look after your mother and sister’. And he said ‘I put a good word for you’. [???] So they kept me on.
Q: Mr Jarrett was, he worked in the …?
Mr C: In the shop, yes. He was more or less a worker…
Q: So what did they call the Union job? Was he a shop steward or something?
Mr C: Actually he was Secretary of the shop stewards, he was Secretary of the Union.
Q: Was the Union quite active, did the Union do quite a lot then?
Mr C: Well, yes and no. I know I broke my leg at football, and when I had my kidney operation I was away. I think I got a five shilling grant. Just a five shilling grant and I had two five shilling grants. I was away about six months. I got two five shilling grants. I think they thought that was quite a bit those days.
Q: I suppose so, and that was from the Union?
Mr C: That’s right. We didn’t get no pay then. Didn’t get no pay. Just got your sickness benefit.
Q: Where did you get that from?
Mr C: It was just from the Oddfellows’ Club. I am still in the Oddfellows’ Club now. (Q: Are you?) No paid holidays then. If you had a week’s holiday there was no pay. I used to go up my older brother’s at Ilford and he used to come down here for a week’s holiday. So he used to keep me for a week.
Q: Did you have to take the week? (Mr C: Oh yes you had to take it.) You had to take it even though it wasn’t paid? (Mr C: Had to take it.) [laugh] I’ve talked to someone about the Oddfellows, Mr Baxter?
Mr C: Yes, Alf Baxter, yes.
Q: Because that was obviously, I mean if you hadn’t been in the Oddfellows what would have happened then?
Mr C: Well, I assume there would have been no money at all really.
Q: So was everybody in something like that do you think?
Mr C: Oh, they were, yes, those days, nobody got paid.
Q: And there you paid every week did you? (Mr C: That’s right, yes.) Where did you go to pay? Where did you pay the money? Did somebody come round to collect it on Fridays? Did somebody come round to collect the subscription?
Mr C: What for? (Q: For the Oddfellows.) Oh, no no. We used to have to send it. Used to send it in the post. (Q: In the post?) Yes, or at Witham. Or you could take it down, there used to be a Mr Duncombe down the Maldon Road. Secretary of the Oddfellows then. Mrs, what’s her name, cant’s think of her name now, Lee, Mr/Ms Messent lives up St Nicholas Road, do you know Mrs Messent, it’s her son’s wife. She’s secretary now. But its not a big … There’s only about four involved now. Everybody’s got so old. Youngsters don’t join now, they don’t join that now, see. My brother is on the, more or less on the committee. There’s Alf Baxter, he’s more or less getting beyond it.
Q: And so they paid you, when you were off, did they bring the money round for you?
Mr C: Yes, that’s right, sickness.
Q: So were you living in Witham then or how did that come about?
Mr C: When I first joined I used to lived in Hatfield at the public house. Dad brought me over and had me sworn in. You had to be sworn in, you know? (Q: Did you?) Oh yes. In 1930 I got married, and came to Witham then.
Q: What, you moved here when you married did you?
Mr C: Yes, actually I moved here six months before I married cause I had a kidney operation before I got married. Doctor Benjamin, who has just died, he was my doctor. He wouldn’t let me start work. He said ‘The only way you can start work is if you can live in Witham’, cause I was living in Hatfield Peverel. ‘The only way you can start work is if you live in Witham. So I said to my mother-in-law, who lived in Albert Road. I told her, she said ‘Well it means leaving your mother’ he said, ‘but you can come and live here’. So that’s what I did. I didn’t like leaving my mother very much but I was still able to pay her a bit of money, best I could. And I lived with me mother-in-law. Got married in the June. I had the operation in the October, and got married the following June. Surprised my wife agreed to marry me, because it was a big operation then, the kidney operation, had part of me kidney taken away. Left kidney. Got married in the June at St Nicholas.
Q: Then did you go to live up Church Street straight away then?
Mr C: Yes, yes. Mr Richards, that’s Harry Richards, there were two brothers Richards. Harry Richards was the oldest one and Charlie Richards was my mother-in-law’s landlord. Anyway, she told him I was wanting to get married, and he said ‘All right’ he said, ‘I’ll send my brother, he’s going to have a pair of houses built up Church Street, course they said that we could have one. They hadn’t started building them [laugh]. But we’d got this house and of course we used to go up there every night and get in the house and look at how they were getting on with it. (Q: Yes.) Another man in Witham said, he worked at Crittall’s, ‘Oh’, he said, ‘I’ve got a house up Church Street’, he said, ‘number 84’. I said ‘I don’t think so’. He said ‘I have’, he said. ‘I don’t think you have’, I said, ‘I think you’ve find I’ve got that.’ Oh, he weren’t half put out. I said ‘I’m afraid I got that before they started, before they put the footings in’, anyway. And of course it turned out that way. And we got married we went right into it. And [???] bought all my furniture, my brother said there was a sale on because a firm up there were packing up and going to America, on account of the War, see, cause they knew War was going to break out I suppose in ‘39. I went up there and bought all my furniture up at Ilford. The furniture was all in ready for us before we got married.
Q: You must have been well set up then. So there was just … I suppose Church Street was much like it is now then with the houses? (Mr C: Yes.) Were there some more further up where those new ones…?
Mr C: Yes, where I, you know where I live, don’t you, well all them new houses [north of 84] there was all those small, like the small houses still there. They were right the way up there. You used to go up steps for them. When they done these houses they made them bigger, put a bit on the back. I thought they would have pulled them all down and you know put in new houses. [row south of 82] It would have been best really I think. Although they are quite nice inside they way they have done them. But looking from the outside they don’t look any better.
Q: What, these first ones you come to?
Mr C: On the right, yes.
Q: Is that where they had the well in front. Are those the ones with the well in the front of them. The little round thing. Didn’t that used to be a well?
Mr C: No, no, that was built. Funny you should talk about that.
Q: Because I’ve been up there once and looked into it and it went down into the …?
Mr C: No, somebody built that.
[chat about lady who lived there who died recently, not noted.
Q: Where the paper shop, what was there, were there houses then? [39-41A]
Mr C: No, they built them round about the same time as mine. Just before, or just after, but round about the same time anyway. Within months. Either way. Because there was Ambrose lived there, he was a hairdresser, name of Ambrose, he’s in Maldon Road now. Used to go there to have me hair cut.
Q: So did Richards used to sell his houses mostly or …?
Mr C: No, rent. Because I went to him to try and buy it [number 84], see, he said ‘No’, he said ‘I told your mother-in-law that they’d be for rent’. Anyway it was fifteen shillings a week in old money. Quite a lot, fifteen shillings. (Q: It was then, wasn’t it.) Because my money was about three pounds a week then at Crittall’s. Anyway I went up and saw him [???], anyway he knocked it down to fourteen, a shilling off which was good really in those days. A shilling was a lot those days. And I went after him again about trying to buy it, but he said ‘No’, he said, ‘they’re for rent’. When he died he left mine to his niece in London and Grace, who lives next door to me now, Grace Claydon, next door to me now, he left that one to her. Mrs Dorking was in there then. She’d lost her husband and of course that worried her because she knew she couldn’t afford to buy it. Anyway her daughter kept wanting her to go and live with her so that’s what she did. So when this Grace come round, as luck happened, he had left mine to the niece in London. I think he thought that she wouldn’t want it and I’d be able to get it because he knew I’d wanted it. That’s what he did. Anyhow I got in touch with the niece and it was agreed that I could have it for £1,400. Anyway the bloke came that was working at Abbott’s then, Mr Chapman, he was a Witham fellow, and he came and said ‘I know you, you and Louie’, my wife, ‘better than I know my client in London’. He was working for both you see, her and us. More so for us really. Anyway he said carry on and see a solicitor and get in touch and get on with it. About a month later I had a letter come from London, saying that she’d changed her mind, she wanted two thousand for it. Of course I got in touch with him again and he came up. He said ‘Look, don’t you give her a penny more than fourteen hundred’, he said, ‘I told you fourteen hundred and fourteen hundred it’s got to be’. He said ‘Don’t you dare give her a penny more’. I was a wild, I kept paying rent for it.. Anyway eventually it came to about six weeks later I had another letter from her – still got the letter – said ‘I’ve agreed to let you have it for fourteen hundred’. [laugh]. That’s that.
Q: So when was it that he died? Was that quite some time ago?
Mr C: I should say about, let’s see, I finished paying my mortgage the day I retired. That was fifteen years. I retired in 1978, about sixty-three was it?
Q: And that was Harry Richards? (Mr C: Harry. Yes.) Was he in the building business as well as the other one.
Mr C: Yes. Cause they were undertakers as well, weren’t they? (Q: Yes.) Where Keith Brown is, they lived see. [56 Church Street]
Q: Yes, that’s right, I can remember that. So they had quite a lot of houses did they, as well as building … ?
Mr C: Oh yes, they had these along here.
Q: So, were they good landlords, do you think ?
Mr C: Well, they never done anything to your property. (Q: Did they not?) No, I think it was painted once all the time I was in there. I was up the ladder doing it myself.
Q: He didn’t mind if you did it yourself ? They left it to you more or less?
Mr C: Yes, if you liked to do anything they’d let you do it, you know. But I didn’t bother because he wouldn’t let me buy and I thought well why should I do his property up if he won’t let me have it.
Q: I mean, if you had anything go wrong though, like would that be up to him to …?
Mr C: Oh yes, they he done it then. Because we had a fire once you know. (Q: Oh, did you?) We had a spaniel, we had three dogs, had a spaniel before we had the children. And I used to treat it just like a child. Lovely dogs aren’t they? I think they are. Used to lay in front of the, it was on the lead but it used to lay and cover it up at night just like a child. Anyway it was barking during the night and I’d got German measles at the time, and I said ‘That’s Peggy barking, I swear it’ I said ‘Oh lay still, she’ll quieten down’, but she didn’t, still kept barking. Of course my wife jumps out of bed, and I didn’t feel too good, but when she got down there, she said ‘Come, come at once’, she said, and when she opened the door and put the light on it there was just one mass of smoke. (Q: Oh, dear.) We used to know when the dead cinders were in the grate she’d go up to the grate and do it with her nose. These cinders, see. I reckon that’s what she did that night. We had a fire see. That’s what she did. We had a cushion, and the pillow to lay her head on, everything, the cover, everything was gone, the pillow as burned up, everything was burn up. Under the grate that’s right hot. Anyway we never called the fire brigade, we put it out ourselves. It was smouldering see and the carpet and all where she laid was all burned. And there was a big hole about that wide.[???] You could see right down to earth (Q: Really?). Marvellous that we weren’t burned up alive. (Q: Goodness.) She just had the sense to call us. All the curtains when you touched them they just fell down. We had a cupboard in the corner where we used to keep all the crocks. Opened that door and they were black! The whole room was black. Anyway I got in touch with Mr Richards next morning told him we’d had a fire. I didn’t say what caused it. Didn’t blame the dog. I said it must have been too big a fire and the coal fell out onto the …. He said ‘Don’t worry’, he said ‘don’t worry, I can get that all done with the insurance’ [laugh] We was insured with the Co-op, we got a bit out the Co-op for curtains and what not, the carpet and that.
Q: The Co-op did insurance did they?
Mr C: Yes. We didn’t tell them what happened, we didn’t tell them that the dog done it.
Q: Well, you didn’t know, did you. Did your wife used to work?
Mr C: She worked at Spurge’s from right from the time she was fourteen right to the time we married.
Q: So you got to know her when she was there did you?
Mr C: I met her at a British Legion Rally up Hatfield Road just by the Bridge Home where the garden fields [allotments] are, all houses now, used to be garden fields there, but then they had the ground for a British Legion Rally. She was on the roundabouts. She was only fourteen at the time but she looked much older for her age. And she used to dress lovely. And she had a big hat on, because in those days they wore big hats didn’t they? (Q: That’s right.) And she was ever such a pretty girl. And she was on the roundabouts. And a couple of mates were on there with her, and one of the mates said to her, she told me afterwards, she said ‘That man was making eyes[?] at you.’ Of course, when she came off I couldn’t resist but going to speak to her, you know.
Anyhow I walked her home right from Hatfield Road and me last bus went at quarter past ten from Witham so I missed that and had to walk home to Hatfield. Anyway I arranged to meet her the next day, you know . So we carried on. Then we courted for about a couple of years I suppose, or eighteen months. I mean we started too young. And she said she thought she would break it off and go out with her girlfriends, you know, which was natural you know. (Q: That’s right.). It went on from the time she was twenty-one I picked up with her again. And we were only courting about nine months we decided to get married. She always said, ‘When I broke it off, I always knew it would be you’. (Q: Did she?)
Q: She just wanted a bit of a break?
Mr C: This is her [shows a photo?]. She was ever such a pretty girl, and they used to worry her about being Carnival Queen but she wouldn’t (Q: No?) That’s the day we got married at St Nicholas. (Q: Oh yes, that’s lovely isn’t it.) Did you know my wife?
Q: I think I must have met her once or twice but not at all well, you know. I remember Susie came up to a party once with Rachel I think, and I remember talking to her then. That’s lovely isn’t it but you were a pretty handsome fellow as well I should think.
Mr C: That day we got married, used to walk down to get in the car, there used to be rose trees all down this side of the churchyard, they’re not there now. It was a lovely hot sunny day but windy as well. Her train flew on to the rose bushes, got caught on the rosebushes. And me best man was kneeling down to unhook it and somebody snapped him. I’ve still got the photo of that!
Q: She lived in Witham then did she?
Mr C: Yes, lived in Albert Road. (Q: Yes, of course you said your mother-in-law was there.) [looking at wedding pictures]
Q: They’ve all got their hats on. Are these family round here or are they people who just come to watch?
Mr C: Yes, they come from Hatfield Peverel, yes, all Hatfield Peverel and that lady there, she’s still alive, she must be nearly ninety but she don’t look different to me than to what she did there. There are her children, that one lives at Witham. That’s another one, her name was Ivy Diggle[?] (Ponder then) but she was Aunty to my elder sister’s girl. Yes, the church was packed. People from Hatfield came you know. Of course she was well-known in Witham at Spurge’s you see. The church was packed.
Q: Of course that’s the trouble with people moving about so much now, if you have a wedding you don’t get, you know, they’ve often come from another place and you don’t get the big crowds, not the same do you?
Mr C: No. You don’t, no. But it was crowded that day. The same was for her funeral. The church was full up for her funeral as well, she was so well-known.
Q: Did she have to pack up work when she married?
Mr C: She didn’t have to but she did. But me, not being well, (Q: Quite, yes.) we both looked after each other all our lives, see because she had eight operations same as what I did. But she never let anybody know it. You’d see her walk down the road. Didn’t want to talk about it either. I’m the same actually you know. That’s a later one [photo] taken at Danbury. That’s me best man’s wife. Used to live at the Duke of Wellington, Hatfield, see because I used to serve there as well. (Q: Did you?) Yes, after I’d come out the Wheatsheaf, got friendly with him. Actually I was serving beer at twenty past two on the day we got married. (Q: Oh.) We come straight from the pub. [laugh]. You see he was me best man. He couldn’t leave the pub, he had to be there, see. Used to close at two and it was at twenty past two when we left there. Wedding was at three o’clock.
Q: Cutting it a bit fine. So you used to do that in the evening did you?
Mr C: Yes, in the evenings and weekends and all. And after we got married we used to, we used to, because we got friendly with the girl who used to work down the White Hart, but her home was in London. He used to go to London weekends to see her. And he used to say to me, ‘Will you come over?’, because his mother was at the pub as well, ‘Will you and Lily come over and help mother while I go to London for the weekend’. During the summer there was crowded. Buses you know, busy pub. Well, it still is? We used to go and sleep over there. That’s after we got married.
Q: That was hard work wasn’t it? Working all day as well.
Mr C: But as I say, he was paying me you know. It was all helping me with me, because Crittall’s, the money wasn’t all that great. It was more or less a bonus for me that was. (Q: Yes, that was good.) [more photos] She was a lovely person. Everybody said so. They still talk about her you know.
Q: When she was at Spurge’s did she have a special job there?
Mr C: Yes, well, more or less, there was a manager, a Mr Stiff and then Cyril Ashby, you know Cyril Ashby, (Q: Oh yes.) His wife, she was there and Connie Phillips in Chalks Road, (Q: Which one’s that then?) Mrs Wright, George Wright, lives in the bungalow in White Horse Lane, she was there. Because they were bosom pals really.
Q: She lived up here then did she, she lived here then, Connie ? (Mr C: That’s right.)
[chat about tape recording a talk at the Rotary Club, not noted.
Mr C: Then Lily’s father, he worked at, Mr Nightingale, he worked at Greatrex, there used to be Greatrex butcher’s shop down Church Street [8 Church Street]. He worked there (Q: Did he?) and then that changed to Fuller’s from Greatrex to and he still carried on. Then he was at Cook’s, pork butchers down the town. [5 Newland Street] Then he went from there to Sorrell at Hatfield Peverel, another butcher’s.
Q: Was there a Sorrell in Witham as well?
Mr C: Yes, that was the brother. Two brothers, one at Hatfield and one at Witham.
Q: So they were all in shops then, mostly in shops that family? (Mr C: Yes.) Was he, cause butcher’s always seemed a hard job then.
Mr C: Yes, well he used to do all the killing. Lily’s father, he used to do all the killing. (Q: Really?) Yes. He was only a little man.
Q: How did they used to do, did they used to do the killing at their own place then did they?
Mr C: Yes, called a poleaxe I think you know, poleaxe them, you know.
Q: Quite different now isn’t it really. Did you used to see much of them, your mum and dad-in-law, Mr Nightingale? I mean, after you married did you see a lot of them?
Mr C: Oh yes, they still lived in Albert Road. Used to go there, even before I got married, used to stop there weekends. Always had like a steak Sunday morning, cause he was a butcher. Cor the steak was beautiful. The only time I had steak for breakfast. That was beautiful.
Q: I suppose they couldn’t keep it so well then could then. (Mr C: No.), so they had to use it up. So you used to get your meat off him did you?
Mr C: Yes, oh yes. Sometimes used to say to Lily ‘Don’t have any sausages this week Lily’. Knew what was going in ‘em I suppose. [laugh] It’s funny we never used to have sausages right up until the time, she never bought sausages. (Q: Knew too much.) She used to remember what her dad said, I expect, ‘Don’t buy them this week Lily’. Perhaps he’d say to her next week ‘It’s all right this week, they’re good that week’. Even when he was at the pork butcher’s you know. Because their sausages were smashing, but he’d tell us when to have ‘em and when to have ‘em. [Laugh]
Q: I met Mr Cook once, that was down at Cook’s.[pork butcher, 5 Newland Street]
Mr C: Well, he still lives in Maldon Road don’t he? (Q: That’s right.) Because he’s been an ill man for a long while. He thought the world of my father-in-law.
Q: Did he. So did Mr Cook work in the shop as well. (Mr C: Yes.) And your father-in-law was sort of, was he …?
Mr C: He was just a work hand at Cook’s.
Q: When your wife was at Spurge’s did she do sort of an apprenticeship? (Mr C: Yes.) That must have been quite hard.
Mr C: Five shillings a week she started.
Q: Still that was quite a good shop, people said, and I suppose that was quite a good job for her to get then?
Mr C: It was too. I was lucky too because they used to have, what you call ‘em, they come selling things. This fellow done like men’s shoes, and shoes she used to get all my shoes cost price. (Q: Really?) If she wanted a pair of shoes she used to get this fellow, say ‘Can I have a pair of shoes for my husband’, and she’d get them cost price.
Q: That was even after she stopped working there?
Mr C: No, while she was working there.
Q: So they knew here a long time after. Did Spurge’s go on after the War at all? (Mr C: Yes.) Did she ever go back to work at all?
Mr C: No, I think today sometimes, if people are both out at work and they still don’t seem to make ends meet do they. Yet we had two children, you know, two boys. Perhaps I was careful. I didn’t smoke and I didn’t drink a lot.
Q: What did you used to do in your spare time then, you know after work? Did you go out much or…?
Mr C: I used to go to Hatfield over the pub, Saturday nights and Sundays dinner times. Or go to football, which I still do. Go to Ipswich Town, I’ve got a seat down there, go there every home match.
Q: And you used to go when you were younger as well?
Mr C: Chelmsford City I used to go and watch years ago. I was on their committee for twenty-eight years. That’s how I bought my house. (Q: Did you?) Used to go round selling bingo tickets and we had a football pool and also bingo tickets and I did that for twenty-eight years. Every Tuesday night go round Witham. Used to catch the train right from work, half-past four from Hatfield Peverel.
Q: No wonder you’re so good at selling raffle tickets. I didn’t realise you were experienced. Still it’s quite hard work isn’t it. You saved all that did you?
Mr C: Yes, that’s all weathers you know. As I was buying my house then, I didn’t know I was buying my house, because the money I was getting from Chelmsford City was paying for my mortgage, the commission. When we first started the branch, they wouldn’t give me anything all but then they gradually got bigger and they started having these bingo tickets and football pools and of course they had to pay commission. In fact I got caught for ninety pounds income tax. I didn’t declare it, see. I knew and I saved it just in case, I didn’t declare it, see, I saved it, and the Income Tax people wanted to know who all the agents were, you see, they had to give them the agents, and what money we had. (Q: Shame.) Couldn’t pay it here. They wouldn’t accept it here, it was ninety pounds, course I give it to my wife, weren’t no cheques, I ain’t got a bank a account then. So had to go to Chelmsford with all this ninety pounds in a bag. Was a lot of money then. Well, its enough to carry about now isn’t it? (Q: Yes.) She went to two or three different places but they still wouldn’t take it. All this business about having to pay up but no one wanted to take it. She had to go right up Rainsford End before she found out where she could pay it.
Q: Oh dear. She must have been glad to get rid of it.
Mr C: Of course, then later on I got it put in her name, so we got it free of tax then. (Q: Mmm. You have to know the …) I was silly in the first, I should have done in the first place but you don’t think about those things do you.
Q: You don’t think of it coming in for tax do you. Still that would be hard work.
Mr C: Yes, all weathers you know. Winter, summer, you know 1947 was a bad winter. There was no football, grounds all frozen up. Still had to go round with the leaflets every week, just to keep the interest. You see if we stopped going round perhaps they wouldn’t sort of start again. So you had to walk round every week just the same as when you were collecting money. Hatfield Peverel as well.
Just shove the leaflets in the doors to let them know it was still going. Of course that time I was in hospital the boys used to do it. The policeman at Hatfield, because in those days you know boys weren’t allowed to, not allowed to do it now are they, not allowed to collect money are they, you know, under age. But the policeman at Hatfield he was in the football. I told him I was going to be in hospital and I said either my wife or my boys … ‘Don’t worry he said, that’ll be all right, don’t worry about it.’
Q: So you kept in touch with Hatfield quite a lot then haven’t you?
Mr C: Yes, oh yes. Kept in touch all the time. After I got married I still kept in touch with Hatfield Peverel.
Q: That reminds me, somebody I talked to moved from Witham to Hatfield, I got a copy of the photograph I’ll have to show you, with people from Crittall’s on. That’s Walter Peirce. You know him?
Mr C: Yes, I know him, his wife comes to whist drives.
Q: That’s right because he brings her over.
Mr C: She comes to whist drives up at Rickstones School, where I go up every Thursday.
Q: Well, I’ve got these pictures he brought and you might know the people [
[chat about coffee, not noted.]
I was going to get him to tell me who they were, I must get back on to him, You’d probably know who they all are.
Mr C: I expect I will, because he used to be in the Salvation Army years ago.
Q: Oh, that’s right, yes, I think he mentioned that. That would be the staff, I think it was the staff quite near when they started. [photo M73]
Mr C: This is Crittall’s then, yes, the offices are round the back.
Mr C: Don’t recognise anybody.
Q: Well maybe, well let’s see. When you started there that would be when you were fourteen.
Mr C: ‘Cos he’s much older than me.
Q: That’s right. That was probably when it opened more or less. I just wondered if any of them had stopped on. Perhaps not. Was it Sergeant Haggar he said?
Mr C: Haggar, yes. He used to be very friendly with my father, Sergeant Haggar.
Q: Is that him, with the hat on, I think he said.
Mr C: Yes, that’d be him. Actually he got me my job.
Q: Ooh did he? How did that happen?
Mr C: He was in the police force same as me dad see. My dad knew him very well.
Q: Was your dad in the police out here as well, in Essex?
Mr C: No, my dad was in the police when he was out here as well? No, me dad was in the police force in London, Metropolitan Police. Yes that’d be Sergeant Haggar, yes.
Q: I’ll have to get Mr Peirce to tell me. This is a copy you see. Its not so clear
Mr C: There’s one or two faces I can recollect, but not the names.
Q: I’m no good at names.
Mr C: Is he on here? [Mr Peirce?]
Q: I don’t remember. Probably not because he wouldn’t be on the, was he on the staff himself? (Mr C: Not that I remember) No, I don’t think so. You see that one which you cannot recognise anyone on. [photo M74] That’s all the men. You’d need a microscope for that one, but its just nice to have a copy. I think he’s on that one somewhere.
Mr C: Everybody wore caps then didn’t they?
Q: It’s amazing isn’t actually, yes. I know he said he had a big one of those at home. Did you used to see anything of Mr Crittall himself?
Mr C: Oh yes, yes, yes, we’d see all the Crittalls. Valentine, he was the Member of Parliament. A long time ago. And I think it was his father F H Crittall when I first started. (Q: Really?) Yes, he used to come in the shop.
Q: What did he used to do when he came in the shop?
Mr C: Sort of walk through the shop and watch people work at work, operations and that sort of thing.
Q: Keep an eye on everybody then [laugh]. I suppose the managers were, when he wasn’t there it was the managers was it that …? (Mr C: That’s right, yes.) Who were they then?
Mr C: Mr Wrate, there, was the manager when I first went to Crittall’s. But he left and went in for, I think he was a parson, went into the church. (Q: Oh really?) Ever such a nice man he was and Mr Small, he wasn’t so very popular at Crittall’s. (Q: Was he not?) Nah, nobody seemed to like him. There was two Smalls, there was Robert Small lived in Collingwood Road and his brother. They were the managers then. I think one was at Braintree and one was at Witham.
Q: What did they used to do that people didn’t like, do you think?
Mr C: Well actually he was the man we didn’t want to, he’d never talk, you know, he’d come to the shop and never speak to you. He was the manager and that was it. He didn’t want to talk to the workers unless there was anything wrong and he had to. [laugh] And after that I forget who, I was under several managers. Mr Bedlow, and who else, can’t think of them now, you know.
Q: So, somebody like Mr Small. I mean if they did see anything wrong what would they do? Would they tell you themselves or would they go through anybody else?
Mr C: More or less used to tell the foreman if there was anything like that, they see anything wrong in the shop they’d tell the foreman, and the foreman would come and tell you. But say, later years that was totally different. Mr Rew, heard of Mr Rew have you? (Q: Don’t think so, no.) He was the manager over there. He was in the Rotary. He was a nice man. He died, I don’t know how long ago it is now. About eighteen months ago I suppose. But he wrote to me six years ago when I was in Braintree[?]. He’d already retired and was living at Eastbourne but me son took a cooker down there for him on the lorry, Crittall’s lorry. And he told him, said ‘Dad’s in hospital for a cancer operation’. And I had a lovely letter. I’ve still got the letter at home. I had a lovely letter from him. Wishing me all the best. He died about eighteen months ago. Had a heart attack.
Q: So you got on all right with him did you?
Mr C: Yes, he was a gentleman he was. He would come in the shop, speak to you and stop and have a chat with you and all that sort of thing. And that’s what happened with all the managers. Mr Cross of Silver End he’s still alive. He took his job. I used to get on with him. He was football, he was a football fan same as what I was, you know. We would always talk about football and anything like that you know.
Q: I suppose, when you first started you were on the, doing the same job as everybody else anyway, were you, and you were further away from the managers than when you were a checker …?
Mr C: Yes, they used to be down the office. They were main office, well the same office, the managers and under-managers.
Q: So you were talking about the man from the Union who managed to keep your job? Mr C: Mr Jarrett.) I mean did they have meetings and things, at all, the Union? (Mr C: Yes. The Unions had meetings, yes.) Did you have to go?
Mr C: No, I didn’t have to go to them, only those who were more or less involved I suppose, on the committees and that, went to the meetings.
Q: But did you all have to belong to the Union?
Mr C: Yes, definitely, still do. Well they’re everywhere now aren’t they.
Q: So Crittall’s themselves didn’t mind that you don’t think?
Mr C: No, they were jolly good, they were a good firm, one of the best firms. I think they still are, towards the men.
Q: Really, what ways are they good to them?
Mr C: Well, wages, ‘cos wages always used to be better than Hoffmann’s you know. And you know after, when you retire you can go up there every Thursday afternoon, see, playing snooker all afternoon.
Q: What, the club is open?
Mr C: For the retired pensioners. They do all of them, Both Braintree and Silver End. Can play snooker down there during the winter, you know. Last year I got in the final and I hadn’t played until, when me brother was at Ilford. There was about twelve tables at Ilford Broadway and all his staff, they all used to go there Saturday nights. They used to arrange tournaments and I used to come up from Hatfield on me motor bike. I said I hadn’t played. Anyway I used to get a good handicap. I was lucky I won the tournament. I was handicapped and I had to play me brother in the final. And I’d only got to score about six. He’d got to score an enormous amount. I just managed to win. Until I started going over there after I retired, because I had them cancer operations after I retired, they asked me to go over, I said ‘ I’ll come when I feel better, when I feel well’ I didn’t feel well enough to go. Anyway when I did eventually go, about two years ago, I hadn’t played snooker for about forty years. Anyway we had the game with all three factories, Braintree, Silver end and Witham. All played here to see who was the finalist and the finalist played the other two. Anyway I drew someone local. and thought ‘I shan’t beat him’, because I’d seem him play, but I did beat him. (Q: That’s good.) I got drawn with some other fellow who was playing bridge as well, and his wife said ‘How did you get on at bridge’, he said ‘Oh I lost at bridge,’ he said, but I’ve still got the snooker. He was a damned good player. I beat him! Knocked him out and in the final I had to meet Teddy Clarke, Silver End. He’s the best player to come from over there. Anyway I wanted the last four colours. I potted the brown, I potted the blue, I potted an impossible pink, they all cheered, I potted the black and went in off. And lost the final. If I’d have potted the black and kept the ball on the table I’d have beat him. I potted it, but in off as well. Anyway he got in the final and he won the cup. Anyway he said, see they present all the trophies at the pensioners’ dinner every year. He said ‘I’ve got a wedding’, or ‘going out that day, I shan’t be at the dinner Jerry’ he said, ‘Would you like to go up and take the cup. So I went up and I was presented with the cup anyway. And he had a miniature cup as well.
Q: Have you played snooker a long time then? Where did you learn to play snooker?
Mr C: When I went to Ilford. When I was a boy you know. I used to always go up my brother’s before I got married. Used to go up there every weekend. Go to Tottenham one week, Arsenal the next, football. I was football crazy. Broke both my legs at football. Got me first hospital experience.
[account of various operations he had had, not noted]
Q: The first thing you ever did was break your leg you said was it?
Mr C: Yes, when I was fourteen or fifteen I broke my leg. When I was fourteen, first one, and next year I cracked a bone in the other one. (Q: Really?) I was away from Crittall’s six months then. And you couldn’t walk like you can do today. I had to lay in bed. All they had was ordinary bits of wood, wooden splints. And that was six months from the time I broke my leg till, Dr Little, what used to be here, he came over and he took the splints off. He said ‘Now walk across that room.’ and it was terrible. Hadn’t had my foot to the ground for six months see. I made it. I’m pretty sure I still walk with a little limp. I think one leg is a little bit longer than the other. I know when I’ve been in the bath and put my feet on the bottom of the bath, I know.
Q: Did they not have plaster then ?
Mr C: No, no. They didn’t have plaster then, no. It used to irritate, and I used to get my mother, all cotton wool and everything on it, and I used to get here to shove her finger through the cotton wool to sort of ease it. It was terrible.
Q: You still went on playing football after? (Mr C: Oh yes, yes.) Who did you used to play for?
Mr C: Well it was the Bible class team then. Bible class, Hatfield Bible class. Funny thing, I was only confirmed in June [this year] at St. Nicholas and I went to Sunday School. I was in the choir at Messing six years. Moved to Hatfield when I was eleven years old. All three brothers were all in the choir. We hadn’t been at the Wheatsheaf at Hatfield a day but the parson came to see me dad, he said ‘I hear all your sons were in Messing choir’, I want them in Hatfield. I was in Hatfield choir six years. I went to Bible class till I was twenty-one. I wasn’t confirmed.
[had been confirmed earlier this year, details not noted]
Q: So did you used to go to church when you were married?
Mr C: Yes, yes because both boys were in the choir see. Of course it was different then, they never had parish communion in those days. (Q: Did they not?) Same as in Messing they used to stop after the service, they used to have the morning service and anybody who wanted communion they used to stop after the service. Now they do it during the service.
[chat about him helping at Church now etc., not noted]
Q: When you came to Witham who would be the vicar then?
Mr C: Rev Payne. It would be Tom Henderson, he’d be the church warden, his wife’s father. (Q: I see.) She died when she was about fifty I think. He’s remarried again hasn’t he. Got a young wife now. Ever so nice, she’s a school teacher at Tiptree school.
Q: She’s in the choir that I go to. (Mr C: Oh yes.) And she used to teach up at Templars where my children went before she married him. (Mr C: What this one?) Yes. His first wife was the vicar’s daughter?
Mr C: Yes, she used to take music. My wife was in the choir, you know and go over Hendersons. My wife used to like singing and music. We had the wireless on all day in our house. And when they were building the … they built our pair of houses (including 84 Church Street] and when they started building another pair. They got the footings in just before War broke out and they wouldn’t let them finish them, they had to stop, right away, couldn’t finish ‘em. Anyway after the War when they started rebuilding them.
[wife listening to music on the radio and whistling]
Mr C: Yes, she went to Witham school, yes. She was born in the Terrace [100-134 Church Street]. When they first, because her parents come from Manningtree. He had a butcher’s shop of his own down there. He had a pub. All his family, all his family were in this pub before he had it. A real family affair sort of thing. Then he came up here, couldn’t make it, I don’t know what happened with the pub, and he come up here and got this job at Greatrex and when he brought his wife up, Lily’s mother, they was on the Chipping Hill there, you know where the house Scarlett lives now [30 Chipping Hill], on that green there was more little old houses. [32-34] (Q: Oh yes.) He brought her to that and she just sit down and cried. She said ‘I’m not stopping here’, she said. ‘I’m not going in there’. See that was the only place he could get, see. Anyway she went back to Manningtree. She wouldn’t stop. (Q: Really?) Anyway next thing he got was one of the terraced houses [100-134 Church Street]. They lived in the terrace until they moved to Albert Road.
Q: She didn’t mind that then?
Mr C: No, she didn’t mind the terrace, didn’t mind the terrace house and then they moved into a better one in Albert Road. Of course they’re only little old houses those terrace houses were only small. But she wouldn’t have nothing to do with the other one. (Q: Why was that then?) Tumbledown places I expect, not very nice. Well, they couldn’t have been because they pulled them down.
She [mother in law] was a lovely lady she was. More like the queen. Used to dress lovely. Right up to the time she died she used to come up mine nearly every day, for a cup of tea and I used to walk her home to Albert Road, right up to the time she died.
Q: She didn’t want anywhere that was too …, she liked a proper house.
Mr C: She used to tell, used to be a Mrs Bird lived over here, years ago, used to tell her, she said ‘I think more of Les than what I do of my own sons’. Because with this Greatrex, another story. Bob, the wife’s brother he’s eighty-two, lives at Wivenhoe, he’s still alive, he’s eighty-two, he was in the police force. He used to play with the Greatrex boys. So he said to me, he said ‘Do you know anything about the Greatrex?’. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘there’s a Greatrex come to church’. I said ‘I’ll ask him if he’s any relation’. It was his father and his grandfather, it was his grandfather who Lily’s father used work for. Anyway he said he would like to get in touch with them, he said, ‘I haven’t seen them since they were boys, used to play together. Got chased by a bull once’, he said. Anyway Brian [Greatrex] what comes to church now, he lives up Powers Hall End, not married but has a beautiful house, not married, got a beautiful house up Powershall End. I said to him, I said ‘My brother-in-law Bob would like to get in touch with your dad, they used to be boys together’. Anyway he said he’d get the address. He could have wrote it down right away, come to that, but he didn’t. And that was about a month ago and he still never got this address. Anyway his father came up to church one morning. He lives at Chelmsford but comes to church occasionally. Of course he came to church and I said to him, I said, ‘Bob wanted your address’. Brian said he was going to give it to me but I haven’t got it. Anyway he wrote it down for me right away, and I said ‘And your other brother, wanted both’. Anyway I got this address and I phoned it up to Bob and he said ‘Yes, he said, he come to see me last week.’ Reunion. Went down to Wivenhoe to see him. I saw him again in the church about three weeks ago and he said he’d been to see Bob.
Q: I met this Brian’s father when I was doing, have you seen that little booklet? (Mr C: Yes.] I’d read the name Greatrex and I’d noticed, somebody had mentioned that there was a Greatrex in Witham but like you I didn’t know to who he was related. But he put me in touch with him. He was a nice bloke wasn’t he?
Mr C: I spoke to Brian in the first place about his father. He said ‘Oh yes, he was always talking about Mr Nightingale’.
Continued on tape 96