‘Witham – the Good Old Days’ was a public meeting held at Witham library on 30 November 1988. There was a panel of speakers, but many of the contributions came from the audience.
The original recording of this event 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.]
The original recording was done on a C120 (120 minute) tape.These notes relate to a copy on a C90 (90 minute) tape. So the end of the first side of the C90 overlaps the beginning of the second side, and there is a brief gap in the second side where the original tape was turned over.
Mr Tom Henderson: What a unique occasion this is. When I look round and see the number of people who were living here half a lifetime before I came, I’d just like first of all especially to mention Mrs [Violet] Cullen, because although she’s a comparative newcomer, she will be a hundred on March 28th. [applause] She got here under her own steam. In these modern times it is pleasant to look back to how things were in the past. Our local history is important to us, and it’s also important to people who will be taking our place here. Everybody that I speak to who have lived all their lives in Witham say they were good days, they were hard times perhaps but they were good times. We have today a panel of speakers to answer your questions and to lead the discussion.
We’re hoping that you will take part, it’s not for them just to talk to you, it’s for you to join in. Our speakers are – no-one could be more knowledgeable about Witham, the panel of speakers – Kath Richards immediately on my left, has lived all her life in Witham and her father before her. She is a District Councillor representing Witham on the Braintree District Council. Then Peter Church, again another newcomer, he came about fifty years ago (Mr Peter Church: fifty-four) and he knows more about some of the things that have gone on in Witham than most of us. For example he remembers the feudal customs that continued in Witham right up to comparatively recent times. Then Elaine Strutt, who lived at the Grove, not the old Grove, but the new Grove, which disappeared about twenty years ago, thirty years ago, and now lives at Crix at Hatfield Peverel. And then Dr Bill Foster, and it’s because of him that many of us have survived to this day [applause and laughter]. I’m going to ask Mrs Strutt, she lives outside Witham and can look at us now from a distance, just to speak a few words and to put us in a mood for asking questions and having a discussion on the town’s past.
Mrs Elaine Strutt: I don’t know why I got the short straw, and I hope you can hear me because I’ve had the mother and father and a grandfather of a cold, like I expect all of you have had. And [???] you can hear it. Anybody can’t hear you’re not missing anything so don’t worry. Well I’m definitely the baby of the party cause I came here in 1947, when Charlotte was about six months old, having lived at Boreham before, and we came to the Grove. So I really don’t go back as long as all my friends here in the front row go back. Mr Keeble ! Do you remember, Mr Keeble, making the little gloves for Charlotte when she was a baby, I don’t know what we’d have done without that, she had to wear special little gloves because she had this skin trouble, and it was Mr Keeble who did it all for us, do you know I’ve still got them in a drawer? (Mr Herbert Keeble: Have you really?) Yes I have. (Mr Herbert Keeble: That shows how good they were) [laughter]. Wonderful, weren’t they.
But, we were here what ten years I think we were before we moved to Crix. And they were ten marvelous, funny, years, because Witham was stuffed with characters then. I expect it still is, but you don’t notice them quite as much. I mean, do you remember the Shelleys, and the saddlers’ shop (Anon: Which one?) the one which is now the (Anon: [???]) That’s right, thank you very much, you’ve got there.
I find this, you know, I’m a bit silly with catarrh, I’m a bit silly without the catarrh but with the catarrh definitely. I mean we had all sorts of individual things, and of course if I say Mottashead [chemist, 1 Collingwood Road]], you’ll all go ‘Ah’, ‘Ah, Motty’, I mean how everybody go on, we wouldn’t have needed Dr Foster if Motty had been still going, because everybody went to Motty, and do you know what I always regret, that Motty was the last place that you could get Pond’s Extractin. Do you remember Pond’s Extractin, that lovely yellow bottle and everything? And do you know, I thought ‘Oh well, I can easily get it somewhere else. I could have bought a dozen bottles and still been in business. We had to go to something quite different which as never as good as that. And then do you remember Redman’s lovely bow window [37 Newland Street]. Oh, that was sad when that went, wasn’t it, it really was sad.
And then, we all used to meet, remember Win Warner, oh, not so many remember Win, but there used to be down where Cooper’s is now [84 Newland Street], there used to be a lovely café[?]. Do you remember, can you remember the name of it, who ran it? (Anon: Went to France, wait a minute). Yes they did, didn’t they, and they had the most lovely madelaines, Oh, and we used to go and sit there. And then of course it was the heyday, not the heyday, but, [???] of the Dramatic Society and Win of course was a big mover of it, and Gilbert Sutcliffe were the two big movers of it in those days. And then do you remember old Mondy’s [63 Newland Street]. Do you remember the old Mr Mondy? And I remember going in to ask him for something and I mean he was getting on then, he wasn’t very nippy, and I asked for something and he said ‘Hold on a minute madam, I’ll send the boy for it.’ Well the boy tottered forth, he seemed to me to be twice the age of Mr Mondy ! He lifted up a trap door and went down into the cellar. [laughter] To get whatever it is I wanted. I thought I ought to say ‘No, no, no, I’ll pop down, don’t worry’. [laughter].
But you see there were all these people. And we’re all hoping here that we won’t have to say another word, because you’ll all be saying ‘Do you remember this, do you remember that?’. Now I was asked, before I came out, somebody rang me up with some questions, which – one has been answered. Now, what happened to brush shop yard? Who remembers brush shop yard? What happened to the notice, he said, there was a blue and white notice saying Brush Shop Yard, and for those of you who don’t know, it’s the archway beside the bakers, beside Gilbert’s [85 Newland Street], that’s brush shop yard. So we want more notice of that, but there were blue and white notices on that and also on Drill Yard in Mill Lane, which of course was my delight every week to go to Shelley’s [second hand stuff], and now I see that’s all gone, the sheds have gone and they’re going to build dear knows what on it. But couldn’t they call it Drill house yard again, with all the new houses, which would be rather nice. Now wait a moment, do you know where the iron bridge is, and the wooden bridge, yes you see, they do know.
Mr Tom Henderson: Where is the iron bridge? Which iron bridge?
Mrs Elaine Strutt: By the old gas works.
Mr Tom Henderson: The wooden bridge?
Mrs Elaine Strutt: The wooden bridge is the one at the bottom of Guithavon Street. It was a wooden bridge and then that collapsed, and so they built whatever they’ve got there now. So there you are you see. Well now, then, come along all of you. That was the first one, I can’t read my own writing now. [applause] Now we’re going to sit back and save our breath, we hope.
Mr Tom Henderson: Bill, you say something.
Dr Bill Foster: Who can remember what Witham surgery looked like before the War? Who can remember Dr Karl Gimson? (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Oh yes.) And Ted (Lots: Yes.) (Unknown: And his sister Mrs Brandt.) Where did they live? Next to the surgery. (Mr Fred Gaymer: I can remember Dr Knights coming there during the War [First]) Ah he was the dancing doctor of Witham. He was the dancing doctor of Witham. (Mr Walter Peirce: He used to have lessons in the Public Hall. Sixpence a time.) (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Is that where the surgery is now then?) Oh yes, it’s always been down there. [129 Newland Street] Well next door, Mrs Brandt’s house, was the surgery for a short time. It’s always been there. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: So they lived which side, left side, right side?) Left side. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Cause there was a nice garden at the back there.)
One of the stories I will repeat about the Gimsons. Do you remember Bill Briggs? He was the corn merchant who lived in Collingwood Road. And he said when he first came to Witham, he went down to the surgery, and he opened the door and he went in and Karl had a gypsy between his legs with his bottom exposed, and Ted was standing with a cricket bat, he said ‘I’m knocking him into shape’. He said ‘this is a funny doctor’s surgery’.
The other thing about Ted was the naming of the Sportsman’s Arms. One day they shot from Witham right through to Hatfield Peverel, when they got to this small house which is now the Sportsman’s Arms, they called it the Sportsman’s Arms, so that’s a bit of history. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: What, our Sportsman’s Arms at Hatfield Pev?) That’s right, yes. (Mr Tom Henderson: At Nounsley.) That was named after Ted and Karl.
What else do I know about them. The other thing was that people always remember Admiral Luard’s funeral, which was about ten miles long I believer. And we used to have a very bright young man in the Avenue, Timothy, I don’t know what his second name was, his grandfather was headmaster at Terling. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Oh yes, Timothy.) And he once looked up the history of the Luards, and specially Admiral Luard, and he found out that Admiral Luard was the only admiral who lost a battle cruiser in the China wars. [laughter] So he went up to Canon Luard who lived in Witham at that time and said ‘Is it true that your uncle lost a battle cruiser in the Yangtse in 1884?’, and old Canon Luard was very very furious indeed. ‘Nobody knew anything about that, he said, until you came to Witham’ [laughter]
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Oh but do you remember the Luards, the Canon and his two sisters. Right opposite you weren’t they? [Mr Herbert Keeble: I saw Canon Luard get killed.) (Dr Bill Foster: Did you?) No.. Yes, they lived at the Grange.) [4 Chipping Hill]. (Mr Tom Henderson: The Grange is the house just behind the Albert.)
Do you remember the wonderful story about the old Canon, who, if you remember, sat behind his driving wheel like this with his hat on here, couldn’t see over the top, and he was going very slowly in Colchester in a narrow street, and it was in the days when they had running boards in cars, you know, and things, and he managed to pick up a pram with a baby in it. [laughter] And he was oblivious of this cause he couldn’t see over the top, you see, mother of course was screaming and having hysterics, everybody tried to stop him, anyway the baby was none the worse, hadn’t even woken up. And he had to stop driving after that. He was very upset, but it was really wonderful and that was the end – cause they ran the choir, you see, didn’t they, the WI choir, which did so well.
Dr Bill Foster: It’s your turn.
Mr Tom Henderson: Peter. [applause]
Mr Peter Church: I came to Witham in 1933, and my recollections start with Alice Luard who was one of the six daughters of Admiral Luard, and was a Grey Lady or a White Lady I’m not sure. (Several: Grey.) A Grey Lady, and one of the sweetest persons I’ve ever met, and ever had the pleasure of knowing. My other recollection, a very strong one, is of dear old Gerald Butler riding his mare through the town, and he used to organise the hockey club, the tennis club, and kept it going for years and years, and was one of the great stalwarts that I remember. I shall never forget dear old Sammy Page, who had his shop [86 Newland Street] opposite my office, at least my new office that I moved to in 1947.
As a matter of interest, Batsford Hotel [100 Newland Street] was the home of the Bawtree family, and when I first came to Bawtree and Sons in 1933, they had sold the house and we had the miserable little bit at the side, and I was right down a corridor where dear old William George Naylor who was the managing clerk, had his work. And in those days life wasn’t quite so harassing for lawyers as it is today. Because I remember we had our paper, compartments for our papers in the back, and a robin laid a nest there, and there were seven eggs, and we couldn’t move that bunch of papers. And other characters of more recent date, Toddy North, was one of the most exciting characters you’d ever … he fought a battle office with his machine gun – rrrrrr – and that was very interesting. Mottashead has already been mentioned, I have one or two experiences of him. Dear old Joe Mens, who used to run the insurance in Collingwood Road. Joe Glover, who had the workshop on the corner of Collingwood Road, the garage, and I’ll always remember, I think I’m right in saying he had a glass eye. He certainly had one eye that went in a funny way. And some of the shops that I miss very much, is, Cook’s pork shop [5 Newland Street] (Several: Oh yes.) near Stoffer’s the chemists, which is now Savory’s, and most of you will remember that till quite recently you could drive your car through the White Hart entrance, it had a carriage way like the Spread Eagle has now, and if you’re interested I’ve got a picture of the entrance with a car going through it, after the meeting.
The other building which I was very glad to see the last of, was the simply terrible police court down in Guithavon Street. The acoustics there were absolutely ghastly, and justice was hindered to some extent by the Chairman, Mr Collingwood Hope, being as deaf as a post, and the clerk to the court who was Derek Bright’s grandfather, F H Bright, Frank Postle[?] Bright, he was deaf as a post. So there were wires running from the Chairman of the court’s bench, the Clerk of the Court to the witness box, and of course the witness had to speak into this sort of microphone affair. There was also a very interesting psychologically, I thought it was an interesting study, one time Stewart Richardson was chairman of the Bench, and he had in front of him a chap who’d been beating his wife up rather badly, she’d got two black eyes and was bleeding quite a lot you see, and he said ‘You can’t, you mustn’t do this, we’ll put you on probation.’ The next case was a case of a vet who had shot a pheasant out of season with a service rifle. ‘This despicable crime cannot be tolerated’, and they fined him twenty quid, and everything else [laughter]. And I thought well, there are some people who have different attitudes. And incidentally the next chairman of the Bench was dear old Mr Burrows, and a chap was had up for shooting pheasants, you see, and he said, he was asked whether he’d shot this bird. ‘Yes my lord, but I mistook it for a pigeon.’ So Mr Burrows said ‘Well, we quite understand’, and the case was, I think he was given a conditional discharge.
If you do go in for poaching, you’ve got to choose your chairman of the Bench. And I think I’ve got through, but there are so many familiar faces down here that I’m sure could give us a much more interesting accounts of characters in Witham. Anyway I think Witham is a good place today, we’ve got a very good Sports Centre, and I think that in the old days, this is my opinion that should be done, in the old days it was really a large village, very pleasant, and very quiet, it then got to a size when it really wasn’t one thing or the other. And I think that the future of Witham is good, because it’s now developing, it’s got a very good Sports Centre, it used to have a cinema, which you all remember, the Whitehall cinema, one day perhaps it will have a cinema again if they survive, I don’t know. But I think the future of Witham is much better than the immediate rather mediocre past, and one day it’ll perhaps be really as nice as it used to be, and quiet. [applause]
Mr Tom Henderson: For those who don’t know, this is the cinema, we’re in it now.
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Kath?
Miss Kathleen Richards: Well I find it quite difficult, I’m probably one of the, well there are a few here in the audience, I’m one of the natives of Witham, one of the few left. So I was brought up and went to school at the little school in Chipping Hill, which many of you will remember, then I went to the school which is no longer there where the car park is now. There was a school there [Guithavon Street]. I, you know, I can confirm these, that the other people have said. But I’d just like to touch on one or two things.
The cinema. Which was here. I’d like to tell you a little story about that. I was at school and next door to us there were a lot of lodgers, the relatives of Mrs Cullen, do you remember, and one of the lodgers there used to play the piano at the cinema, but he got rather fed up with playing it Saturday afternoon, and he persuaded me to play, so I played the piano here for the cinema, for five shillings an afternoon, and that was a lot of money when I was at school. And I used to have to have a friend or my sister, turning over the pages, you know ‘What shall we play now’, you know, and so to be here tonight and talk to you all it really, is great fun, and I’m sure that there are a few of you who do remember the cinema when it was here. And of course during the War [Second] it was very popular with the troops as you will all remember.
Some of you will know that my family had a business in Church Street, and when I first learnt to drive, I used to keep the car in White Horse Lane, my father had some barns there, and I came home late off the train one night, I wasn’t very old I might say, and went into the barn and got my car out, and as I got the car out I thought I saw something at the back, which looked as if it was covered with a blanket. Drove home, and I said to my father the next morning, I said ‘You know when I went into the barn last night, I thought there was a body in there.’ He said ‘Well of course there was, the chapel was full!’ [laughter]. That is a true story.
During the War as some of you will know, I used to work in the evenings for Dorothy Sayers, so I could of course tell you lots of fun things about her. We used to keep a pig, my family, we had permission I might say, and then it was killed and we, you know, had the goodies as it were, helped with the rations during the War, and I’ve just got a few things I thought, I know statistics are boring, but I thought you’d like to know that round about 1927 there was only 6,000 people, about six to seven thousand. In 1964 in was ten thousand, and in 1981 it went to 25,000, I don’t know what it is exactly today, but of course it’s far more than that. It does show the growth of the town.
Going back to the doctors, the Gimsons, I was one of their babies. I wouldn’t be here but for them, so I have to thank them for that. But I do hope that perhaps Mr Keeble will tell us a bit more about the gloves, because I believe that before the glove factory was built, the gloves were made by outworkers. Is that right Mr Keeble. (Mr Herbert Keeble: They were made, we had I think it was twelve depots from Clacton to Chelmsford, all the villages [???]). Yes, they had lots of outworkers. (Mr Herbert Keeble: We had a hundred[?] girls up there, and twenty-five men.)
So, going right back, the lady sitting here, Mrs Gyford, she’s the one who’s got all these marvellous photographs of old Witham, which you’ve shown me. She’s got some very interesting photographs that go way back, and she’ll probably confirm that near the Crotchet was the Blue Posts, was that where the carriages, where the coaches used to come through, down the bottom (Mrs Janet Gyford: Where Coates’ shop is.) (Mr Tom Henderson: Coates’ shop was the Blue Posts Inn [126-128 Newland Street], and the Crotchet next door was the Blue Posts Tap [130 Newland Street]). That’s going back? (Mr Henderson: 1845, when the railway came the coach trade went down, disappeared, and the Blue Posts inn was a coaching in, and the directory of 1850 has no mention of the Blue Posts Inn.)
Just finally ladies and gentlemen, you might like to know that the house I live in, the bricks came from the Grove, the front door came from the Grove, not the one [???], and the tiles came from a cottage on Chipping Hill, this gentleman here may know more about that – my father pulled the cottages down and sold the land to the Council, [32-34 Chipping Hill, now part of the green] and the tiles are still there today, although I did have to have it re-roofed, fortunately just before the hurricane. (Mr Tom Henderson: They were the cottages that were on the green). Yes, that came down. There were three cottages on what is now the green that were pulled down. So ladies and gentlemen I do hope you’re going to join in, because I’m sure that there are lots of you who’d like to ask questions, or ask us about some particular thing that perhaps we could go back to. Turn our minds to. I’m going to sit down on that note. [applause]
Mrs Elaine Strutt: So much comes to ones mind, doesn’t it, as, it’s talking you see. I forgot do you remember Spurge’s. Yes, Oh, what a shop that was. And Mr Stiff who used to run it. It was, he said to me once he could remember the times when as much as four carriage and pair had been drawn up outside it. And it was lovely. All you young ones who missed Spurge’s. It was really old, you could get things in Spurge’s that people had long forgotten, even were made. And all the counters were mahogany, mahogany drawers at the back, and a little ‘bin toing’ thing that went off. (Unknown: You didn’t see all the carriages down the street, did you?) No I didn’t see the carriages, but Mr Stiff assured me that they had been there. (Mrs Violet Cullen: I remember Dr Gimson, the old gentleman, always had a carriage and a driver, when he went round to Ulting to see all his patients. That was the old gentleman.) They had to make do with a rotten old car.
Mrs Violet Cullen: Ninety years ago I came to a party, ninety years ago.) (Mr Bill Foster: How many years?) At the White Hart, and Mr Robert Brice and Mrs Brice kept the White Hart at that time of day. Not Robert’s grandfather. [???] Everybody was invited from the trade. All the tradespeople were invited to this party. It was their daughter’s engagement party, also her eighteenth party. Mary Howlett, she married the organist [probably Howlett was her married name} I remember her when she was engaged. It’s rather a long time ago so I don’t suppose there’s anybody remembers. (Mrs Strutt) Ninety years – who was at a party with Mrs Cullen?
Dr Bill Foster: The old Dr Gimson, that’s Ted and Karl’s father, they used to do operations on the kitchen table in those days. And the old man died during an operation when he was doing a hernia. And his two sons were, pushed him to one side and carried on the op. I heard that one from Ted, that’s quite true. (Mrs Marjorie Coleman[?]: [???] tonsils out on our kitchen table.) There you are you see. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: They took my husband’s tonsils out on my mother in law’s kitchen table.) [laughter]
Mrs Marjorie Coleman: When you mentioned Admiral Luard’s, Sir William Luard’s funeral, they had a tremendous procession, I was away at the time, I was a child then of course, but when Dr Karl died I’m told they had the town band, they had a tremendous procession up the town. And actually Bill my husband was staying in Witham at the time. I hadn’t met him yet.
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Do you remember old Mr Dibben the hairdresser, and Mrs Dibben who used to play at children’s parties? (Mrs Violet Cullen: I remember the whole family of Dibbens, they lived at Maldon, then they came …). That’s right, then they came here, and he had that wonderful ginger toupee, didn’t he. [laughter] (Miss Kathleen Richards: That’s right he did.)
Mrs Marjorie Coleman: He did the make up for the Operatic. I played Katisha once at very short notice actually, and he gave, I was quite young you see, and he gave me masses of lines, and the audience who sat close to the stage said I looked like a birdcage.
Dr Bill Foster: Can you remember the dear lady who cut the corns and also sold hats? Right on the High Street. What was her name? Miss Hawkins[yes]. So you had a choice if you went in, you could either have a new hat or have your corns cut. And as for old Mottashead. I had a collaboration with Mr Mottashead, I never knew what the pills were he lobbed out, I never did find out, but if they didn’t have the desired effect, he’d say to the patient, ‘What did Dr Foster say exactly? Did he say the big white pills or the small white pills?’ I never knew what either of them were. I’d say ‘Oh I think you mean the small white pills’, so off she would toddle again, ‘Dr Foster said the small white pills’, ‘Oh that’s entirely different’ and give them some of … But his shop was a right chaotic place wasn’t it. Oh it was wonderful.
Mrs Violet Cullen: Does anybody remember Mrs Fowler? (Dr Bill Foster: Mrs Fowler, no.) Mrs Fowler, she lived at, the where Barclay’s bank is [59 Newland Street]. (Mr Albert Poulter[?] Called Hollytrees, near the clock, where the clock is now.) The mother, the mother lived at Barclays, you didn’t know the mother. (Dr Bill Foster: You’re not old enough) [laughter]. I did. [???] I don’t know that they lived at [???]
Mr Tom Henderson: Many people will remember photographs of the garages with the lines of old cars in front, 1910 and, cars. Mr Glover who had the garage is here. I don’t know if you’d like to say anything, Mr Glover.
Mr Glover: My father and his two brothers, married three sisters, the Glover brothers altogether had seven different garages in Witham, seven different garages. There was one at the bottom of the town, then coming up, before you get to Sorrell’s there’s some galvanised iron sheeting, that was the first one, coming along further, there was one at the side of Lloyd’s bank, and the next one was at Freebournes, the last one was at the Avenue, there was one on the corner of Collingwood Road, and one opposite [???].
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Do you mean there was business for so many garages. [???]
(Unknown: Not all at the same time.)
Mr Glover: Not at the same time (Mrs Elaine Strutt: I thought you had seven garages in Witham all at the same moment.)
Unknown: I can remember when they used to repair the cars, they’d lie down in the middle of the High Street, in the middle of Newland Street, and nothing ever disturbed them.
Unknown: I can remember one little incident. I don’t whether anybody here remembers Tom Abrey. (Several: Yes). [???] [???]
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Could you hear at the back there that, a lovely story about Mr Abrey who was so enormous and he had a tiny little Austin Seven, which he used to take his mother out in, and he had to sit on the back seat in order to drive the car, cause he couldn’t get into the front seat.
Mr W Glover: There was a certain lady in Witham, just after the War [Second] she came out in what was called the New Look, [???] That woman was Elaine Strutt.
Dr Bill Foster: You mean mini-skirt?
Mrs Elaine Strutt: No. And it was lovely, it was a yellow and brown check, very smart.
Mr W Glover: Do you remember Dr Richardson? (Miss Kathleen Richards and Dr Bill Foster: Ryder Richardson.) [???] [???]
Dr Bill Foster: You were talking about Toddy North, now he was a very, quite a good soldier in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. And he used to tell a story that he once held up a German Advance for five days in northern France, in 1915, 14, or whatever it was. I never really believed that, but when he got rather old, I wrote through to Stirling Castle which was the headquarters of the Argyles, and they wrote back and confirmed this, that Toddy on his own, with one rifle. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: How’d he done that?) I don’t know, he was in a shell hole and he just kept plonking away. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Was he a Scot.) No, he was East Anglian. (Mr Fred Gaymer: Another tale about Tod North …) (Mr Herbert Keeble: He joined the army in 1916.) Who was? Toddy North. He joined the army in ’16. (Mr Herbert Keeble: Same as I did.) How old was he then? (Mr Herbert Keeble: He was the same age as me, eighteen.) Nineteen? (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Eighteen).
Unknown: Brown’s the brewery in Hatfield Peverel. Some eight years ago I made contact with Ken[?] Brown, who was born in 1907, and we came to the maltings where Nitrovit is, I think they were known as Richardson and Preece before that. (Several: Yes.) Does anybody remember a Brown’s shop in the town, cause he seemed to think that his uncle had a shop about where Maldon Road came into Newland Street. Whether they were corn merchants or not, or whether it was a general shop? (Miss Kathleen Richards: Richardson and Preece had a little shop.) [All talking together, not clear.] There was a shop then, only Ken wasn’t completely sure about it. He recalled going to the Constitutional Club to see silent films in the 14-18 War. Can anybody remember that?
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Did you go to watch the silent movies. [All talking together, not clear] Public Hall?
Dr Bill Foster: Does anybody remember the story of the stranger who came through Witham, and he came in and first of all he came to the gas works, and there was a young, there was a man there, and he came up and said ‘Can you tell me how I get to Colchester?’ And this man said ‘Bugger bugger bugger bugger bugger’. He came up the High Street and the man he met was the man Deafy or something, ‘What do you say …’. And then he met the third man but I can never remember who the third man was. And this man got in his car and drove off as fast as he could. Who was the third man that he met, Mr Poulter. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Who was the third man in that story?) Who was the third man that he met? Deafy the carver was the second man. The man at the gas works. (Mr Albert Poulter: Ootsy Goody, was the man who was using the language.) He was using the language. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Who was the third man?) (Mr Albert Poulter: I don’t remember.) (Unknown: Wasn’t he the hairdresser from Maldon Road?) The hairdresser from Maldon Road. The old boy. Did you ever have a haircut with them. (Miss Kathleen Richards: That was Toddy[?] North[?]). His scissors I swear were that long. And he came at you from about four feet and shshsh.
Mr Teverson: Can anybody tell me something about Moat Farm. I live in the chase and I’ve got a house there. [???] the plots were sold off in Highfields Road in the 1930s. I wonder if you can tell me how far the actual farm extended, and the actual house I think’s gone, the barn is converted into a house, and then there’s a bridge at the bottom. [???] How far towards the railway did it go, can anybody tell me?
Mr Herbert Keeble: It went as far as the bridge, it didn’t extend only a matter of twenty-five or thirty yards[?] into the adjoining meadow. Used to have a footpath through it.
Mr Tom Henderson: The question is about Moat farm, how far did it extend.
Mr Herbert Keeble: [???]
Mr Albert Poulter: There is a Mrs Hollick here who actually lived in Moat farm.
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Mrs Hollick?
Mr Tom Henderson: Did you live in Moat farm.
Mrs May Hollick: I did, I lived there for the first six years of my married live. Mr Esmond Smith had the farmhouse made into three, and I lived in the middle one. My two children were born there.
Mr Tom Henderson: This was the house opposite the old building now?
Mr Jack Hollick: That was a barn. Yes. [???] [???]
Mrs Pat Vojak [Mrs Hollick’s daughter]: I can remember I learnt to count, the ratcatcher came along and caught the rats and nailed them on the barn door. [??? ???]
Mr Tom Henderson: Why did he do that, to show how good he was at catching?
Mrs Elaine Strutt: But how big was the farm, where did it extend to.
Mrs May Hollick: All that estate now, that was the farm.
Mr Tom Henderson: It went up to Highfields Road.
[all talking together, not clear]
Mr Peter Church: Yes there are plenty of old. ( Unknown: [???] the creamery) Mrs
Elaine Strutt: To the creamery did it go?) The abstracts of title still show that, where the estate was, it was a huge estate, it used to go the whole of Highfields Road as far as the viaduct.
Mr Tom Henderson: And where you lived it was the farmhouse, a single farmhouse before it was divided into three, when you first went there?
Mrs May Hollick: That was the original farmhouse, but when Mr Smith packed up, that was made into three cottages, of course it’s pulled down now.
Mr Walter Peirce: Dr Foster was talking about the old surgery. (Dr Bill Foster: Yes.) Well, before his time it used to take six inside the surgery and the rest of us used to stand out in the yard and smell Mr Ardley making bread. Right inside the door where you go today, and there was just a form alongside the wall, with a little square loophole in, where you knocked on, and Mr Appleton was the (Several unknown: Appleby.) Appleby, to get the medicine, and there’s more people stood out in the yard than what there was inside the surgery, it wouldn’t hold only half a dozen, and the little old fireplace burning there. I had a look when I was down there before, but then Dr Gimson, I remember him of course and his brother Karl, and on one particular, and [???] oh, what used to live in Easton Road, midwife, Kentfield, Nurse Kentfield. My mother used to work with her, and go behind and do the laundry and things like that. Well when the ladies in Witham were expecting babies, I had, used to go and see, the midwife in Easton Road, and I’ve carried hundreds of babies in the bag, she used to have a Gladstone bag, Witham’s good old days. I used to, Kentfield her name was. I used to get the Gladstone bag, carry it ever so gently for her, and go up Church Street and take this bag for, and then she’d go in the house, and the next thing you’d hear would be a baby cry, something like that, talk about the good old days. I used to get a penny.
Dr Bill Foster: There was a very old midwife lived in the middle of Collingwood Road, what was her name? (Miss Kathleen Richards[?]: The nursing home?) (Mrs Elaine Strutt: There was a nursing home there.) What was her name, what was the old girl’s name. (Miss Kathleen Richards and Mrs Elaine Strutt: Hines.) No, no not Hines, the one before Hines. (Unknown: Nanny Wood?) No, when Sister Hines came to Witham, Nanny Wood was practising although she wasn’t qualified, but she always carried a bag.
Dr Bill Foster: There was a very old midwife lived in the middle of Collingwood Road, what was her name? (Miss Kathleen Richards[?]: The nursing home?) (Mrs Elaine Strutt: There was a nursing home there.) What was her name, what was the old girl’s name. (Miss Kathleen Richards and Mrs Elaine Strutt: Hines.) No, no not Hines, the one before Hines. (Unknown: Nanny Wood?) No, when Sister Hines came to Witham, Nanny Wood was practising although she wasn’t qualified, but she always carried a bag, and Sister Hines was very curious what she had in this blooming bag, see cause she couldn’t think of anything. So finally, when there was a delivery going on, Sister Hines nicked this bag, and inside, looked at this, all this glamorous stuff, there was a brush and comb inside. Nanny Wood, yes. (Unknown: [???])
Mrs Elaine Strutt: What happened, when did the nursing home, when did the little hospital close down?
Dr Bill Foster: Fairly recently, ’48, ’49.
Mr Walter Peirce: [???] there at Batsfords, Mr Jack Bawtree, [???] Bawtree wasn’t it. (Mr Peter Church: Yes, he died in 1935.) He was our scout master for a while, well that house at Batsfords [100 Newland Street] was bought by the Reverend Eyre of Great Totham. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Oh really?) And I was houseboy, [???] [???] And he bought that house, and some of his furniture moved from Great Totham Church, I think his father and grandfather they were vicars there for about three or four generations, weren’t they, and he had some of the furniture moved into Batsfords, but he never moved into Batsfords, because he went and bought the Temples [8 Chipping Hill] off of Mr Smith of Earlsmead. He bought the Temples, there’s a roadway goes there now, isn’t there. (Miss Kathleen Richards: Temples was pulled down, that’s where the road is.) So I went down with a builder’s cart, from Mr Richards, and brought a lot of the furniture back to the Temples for him.
Mr Fred Gaymer: Miss Richards spoke about a body in the [???]. Well, that particular instance was, that was the young lady who was found strung up at Hungary Hall, when they had a shoot and the beaters found her during this shoot, and she was strung up, and then the ambulance had to bring her to Witham and Mr Richards asked me if I would see to her, and unload and that sort of thing, and that the only place we could put her then, you see, was in the back of this garage. We, Richards didn’t have to make the coffin, the people where she came from, they instructed undertakers to make the coffin, but when they came for it I had to tend to, help with it.(Mrs Elaine Strutt: Why strung her up, what had happened to her, who hung her ?). It was never found out what happened to her really, she was pretty well stripped. Her clothes were there but she was hung up in the hedge, found hung up in the hedge. They had an inquest and everything. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: If only you’d lifted the blanket.)
And another thing was, the mention about the Drill yard, well, the Drill yard is where that’s all been cleared now, you see, that was Smyths’ drills, Smyths’, the people who used to make the agricultural drills and I believe they still do, make the agricultural drills, for drilling the corn on the fields, and that was Smyths’ drill yard, that’s how it came to be the Drill yard, because they actually made drills there. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Oh, I thought it was, you know, left right, left right.) No no. Because they manufactured drills there, Smyths’.
And then when that was given up, the Witham, some men in Witham got together and formed the Witham Rifle Club. There was a long shed, that was an open shed, and my father, was estate carpenter on the Freebournes estate, he helped to fill the front in on this open shed, and they used that as a 25 yard rifle range for several years, and I’ve got cups now at home, that my father won, at that actual rifle range. What else was there.
Miss Kathleen Richards: You’ll think of it, it comes, doesn’t it.
Mr Tom Henderson: There used to be a lot of rivalry between Chipping Hill and Newland Street. The choirboys
[brief break for tape turnover on original 120 minute tape]
I got the impression that there was great, if not more than rivalry, competition between the two places. Is that so?
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Yes. (Miss Kathleen Richards: I wasn’t aware of that) Yes there was, great rivalry between the two churches. (Miss Kathleen Richards: Yes, between the two churches.)
Mr Tom Henderson: What about the two places.
Mrs Elaine Strutt: No I think it was the churches, not the places so much. Cause Chipping Hill was very up market don’t forget, because it was very ancient, much older than Newland Street. Iron Age. So it thought that it was much more up market.
Mrs Barbara Ibbotson[?]: It’s funny that this question should have arisen, because this afternoon I bumped into a very young eighty-one year old and he had just been playing the organ I believe at St Nicholas church. (Mr Tom Henderson: Cyril Ashby?) Yes, yes, and he said to me he had always lived in Chipping Hill, as had his father, and if his father was going the other side of the station area, ‘I’m going to Witham’, I think that possibly answers your question. You either lived in Chipping Hill or you lived in Witham in those days. That’s the impression he gave me. (Mr Peter Church: Yes he would be 81, Cecil Dudley’s 82.) (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Foreign parts across the road.) Exactly, yes. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Don’t know what you find down there.)
Mr Tom Henderson: The lady at the back?
[???] [inaudible question.
Mrs Janet Gyford: Blackie’s boarding school, was at Barnardiston House, wasn’t it?
Mr Albert Poulter: It was where Mr Crittall was educated. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: And you say who was there?). Mr Crittall was educated there part of the time.
Mr Tom Henderson: Which house was it:
Mr Tom Henderson: Because you hear a lot of different houses in Witham and Chipping Hill were at one time or another boarding schools. Witham seemed to be a place for boarding schools.
Unknown: This was a school, wasn’t it [i.e. 18 Newland Street, Whitehall].
Several talking together, not audible for a while
Mr Fred Gaymer: It was mentioned a little while ago about this being the cinema. Well the first black and white pictures in Witham were shown at the Public Hall, it was about 1922 or something like that, and my brother worked for Glover’s garage, when tractors were first coming about, and they, he used to be up at the Public Hall with a tractor, driving a dynamo, to supply the electricity for the lights and for the projectors as well. At the last meeting[?] I gave a bit of a talk on Witham High Street. Well I’ve had several discussions with older friends and found out a bit more about it so I can enlarge on that now if you wish. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Yes please.)
Well, we’ll start with Mr Drake. That’s right, yes, wines and spirit merchants, now Bakers, you see isn’t it [66 Newland Street]. And then Mr Pluck. (Miss Kathleen Richards: I don’t think you … Could you come up here?). (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Yes, come and stand up here. Desperate they are, wanting …)
Where Bakers is now was a wine and spirit merchants, and then Mr Pluck, the shop on the corner, clothes and boots etc., now the travel agent’s [68 Newland Street]. And Afford’s, which was a newsagents, still [???] Martin’s you see [70 Newland Street] and then Bradshaws the gent’s outfitters, now a travel agent’s [72 Newland Street]
And then Mr Francis, Teddy Francis, London House, grocers, you see. Mr Miles, the draper, then there was the Post Office, they’re both taken over now by Cooper’s [82-84 Newland Street], and then next door to that was Sammy Page, (several talking, not audible), second hand furniture dealer, [86 Newland Street] and Mr Beard’s the ironmongers, now Mr Holt’s the butchers [88 Newland Street]. Then there was Dibben’s the gent’s hairdresser, and Farley’s[?] the butcher. That’s all taken over now by Byford’s [90-92 Newland Street]
And then Lawn Chase, Captain Motion, was master of the foxhounds in this area, he used to keep horses up at the lane in the stable there, you see. And then Mr Ted Chapman at Christmas House [98 Newland Street], that’s now the Anglia Building Society and Balch’s estate agents, that was pulled down and rebuilt you see. [???] you heard about Mr Bawtree the solicitors, is now a hotel [100 Newland Street]. And Darby’s, where Newland Court is now you see was a sweet shop, double fronted sweet shop, and there were some small houses in there as well [102-116 Newland Street]. Then Mr Graves, watch and clock repairs, at Highway Cottage. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Oh, where the bookshop is now.) [118 Newland Street]. Then there was Mr Bert Mann, where the chemist is now, that was a private school and at the back, the fairly large room where I used to go to woodwork classes, that’s now an insurance agents [124 Newland Street]. Then Blue Posts hotel, you’ve heard mention about Blue Posts, now Mr Coates you see [126-128 Newland Street]. Then the Crotchet public house, and then the blacksmith’s, now made into the Crotchet forge bar [130 Newland Street] And then the Globe Inn right on the corner, now the AJM Glaziers. [132 Newland Street].
Just round the corner in Mill Lane was the drill yard that I’ve already mentioned, cause Smyths’ drills there were manufactured there you see. Now that’s all cleared ready for redevelopment. And along a little further was the Beehive Public House, that’s now a private house, Beehive Cottage I think. [32 Mill Lane] Then coming back again, there was the gas works all on the corner where the car park is now you see [134 Newland Street] and then the River Brain, and then just beyond that, was Robinson’s the florist and nurseryman, now the Sports Centre. And other side of the road was the Swan Public House. [153 Newland Street] Then up a bit further the Carpenter’s Arms, that’s where Goold’s the dentist is now [141 Newland Street]. The old place was pulled down and rebuilt you see as a nice house.
The story that used to run, I’ve pieced it together as best I can, with some help from some more youngsters, Sonny Drake sets off with his hand truck, well loaded with Christmas supplies. Soon gets plucked, but could still afford to shop at Bradshaw’s and Teddy Francis, but goes miles past the Post Office, calls at Uncle Sam’s, has his beard trimmed at Dibben’s, and collects his Sunday joint at Farley’s, and makes deliveries at Lawn Chase, Christmas House, Batsford, calls at Darby’s and is distressed to hear that poor old Darby’s in his grave, poor old man. And feels he needs a drink, makes deliveries at Blue Posts and the Crotchet and has a few whilst his truck is repaired at the blacksmith’s. Makes further deliveries at the Globe and the Beehive, calls at the gas works and the florists, reloads his truck with plants and flowers for Christmas, and sets off home and makes his last deliveries at the Swan and the Carpenter’s Arms. [applause]
Mrs Elaine Strutt: How many remember the forge at Chipping Hill, and Henry Dorking. (Several: Yes.) I mean he was a newcomer in a way, wasn’t he, because it’s been there for ever hasn’t it, the forge.
Mr Herbert Keeble: He started as a boy. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: He started as a boy?). Yes, there was man named Quy. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: He’s got some pictures of it.
Mr Walter Peirce: When he put the tyres on the wheels, [???] out in front, he used to get us boys to pour the water on, we used to pour it on and sizzle it up, great fun, but of course we was helping him, wasn’t we. (: Yes of course.)
Mrs Marjorie Coleman: [???] Spurge had a grocery shop attached to the drapers? (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Did they, where Marjorie, I don’t …) Just this side of it. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: I don’t remember that at all.) It was a long narrow shop, and it had a very high counter, and my chin as a child just reached the top of it, and I don’t know if this is imagination, but I seem to remember biscuit tins all on their sides, with glass tops, [???] tantalising, along the front of the counter. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Oh I like it. Do you know, I don’t, it must have gone …) Mr Murrells, the manager, was a very tall man, so that ,,, (Mrs Elaine Strutt: What was his name?). (Mr Albert Poulter: Murrells.)
(Mrs Elaine Strutt: Oh, but don’t you remember Miss Murrells in the school?) Her father. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Her father?) I remember that but it closed long before the drapers).
Mr Tom Henderson: May I ask the speaker at the far end …
Mr Philip Helps: I don’t think anyone’s mentioned Dorothy L Sayers …
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Yes, go on Kath.
Miss Kathleen Richards: I worked for her, during the War, burnt the midnight oil, cause I did two jobs, and lots of other things, firewatching etc etc etc like everybody else. (Mr Walter Peirce: Have you got her book, Born to be King?) Yes. I helped do that. (Mr Walter Peirce: I’ve got one copy of it.) I wonder if it would bore you if I could read you just a little thing that she wrote and put on a Christmas card. Would you like to hear it? I’ll stand up and then you’ll all hear. I told you about [???] didn’t I. ‘This is our yard, and in it stands our mistress on hind legs with hands, the other one, the quadruped, was Fatima, but now she’s dead. When our establishment took charge of Fatima, she was not large, but Lord how she did feed and feed, a very prodigy of greed, she was in short a perfect pig, and so when she got very big, a lorry came and she was taken, to where pigs vanish into bacon, here Pussius Cattus moralise, to be a pig is most unwise, better by far to be a cat, who if he likes can put on fat, and grow majestic andiments[?] regardless of the consequence. Since though he bulge with fish and meat, he never will be fit to eat. And so, because Pussius and mankind are enlightened, as to find each other quite uneatable, Puss can afford to wish you well, hoping your Christmas may be good, and beautiful with glorious pud’. [applause]
Mrs Elaine Strutt: I used to meet her in Mr Cutts’s fish shop, getting fish for William, wasn’t it. She adored cats. (Mr Tom Henderson: The fish was for the cats? That’s where I used to meet her). Of course. He was called William, wasn’t he?)
Miss Kathleen Richards: Oh she had not end of cats. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: In my day it was William.) I’ll just tell you, she never paid, she never had any money on her, ever, all the tradespeople sent in the books, and I used to pay all the bills, you know, and she’d sign all the cheques. But she never carried any money, never. (Mrs Violet Cullen: Very sensible.) Oh very. [laughter]
Mr Albert Poulter: Does anybody know how the name Dancing Dicks came about? It’s on the Ordnance … (Mr Tom Henderson: The question is about Dancing Dicks, the farm up Blunts Hall Road.) (Mrs Elaine Strutt: I’d love to know, do you know?) No. It’s on the Ordnance Survey map as Pit Barns farm, but it used to have on the gate, Dancing Dicks, but I often wondered how it got its name.
Mrs Elaine Strutt: It had been Dancing Dicks before it was Pit Barns, and I know that there was quite a set to when the Post Office refused to deliver mail to Dancing Dicks, and wanted us to call it something quite idiotic and nothing relating to it whatsoever, and we won the battle, it’s still Dancing Dicks. Because it was on the really old survey maps. I only assume that it was a farmer that danced. What about that dancing … (Dr Bill Foster: Dancing doctor.) Dancing doctor, yes. (Mr Albert Poulter: I [???] remember a donkey was called a dick years ago, and [???] a donkey there that danced.)
Dr Bill Foster: Did Mrs Cullen ever dance with the dancing doctor of Witham?
Mrs Violet Cullen: Yes I did.
Mr Tom Henderson: The road up the side, where the back road to Terling, if you turn up right, that used to be called Peg Miller’s lane, who was Peg Miller?
Dr Bill Foster: He danced with her did he?
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Yes if only people left little notes about why things were called.
Mrs Violet Cullen: [???]
Mrs Elaine Strutt: I’d forgotten that. (Dr Bill Foster: What’s that?) The bicycle shop. (Mrs Violet Cullen: Kings.)
Mrs Marjorie Coleman: There was Shelleys the greengrocers. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Shelleys the blacksmiths too.)
Dr Bill Foster: There was another name in Fairstead and it was called Fenox Cottage, and everybody presumed it was Phoenix, meaning rising from the flames. Well I was looking through I think Terling Place one day, and I saw that this thing was then spelt Fenox, so I looked up this thing and Fenox, Anglo Saxon, meant the corner of a field, and nothing to do, Phoenix was nothing to do with it. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: How fascinating. I remember that from crossword puzzles.)
The only thing that I know about Dorothy Sayers, Dick Stoffer and I always regarded her as the cleverest bee in the world. She knew every bloody thing you could think of. And we used to get these quizzes at Christmas time from school, and Dick Stoffer and I were always baffled by some of these questions, one I remember was the Durham flyer, what is the Durham flyer. He said ‘You should know that’, I’d no idea whatsoever. And in came Dorothy Sayers with her scruffy old raincoat on and Dick said ‘What’s the Durham flyer, Mrs’, ‘That’s a fishing fly’. See, she knew immediately. Never hesitated. Another thing was her dining room, had an enormous big fungus growing out of the roof, can you remember that thing? ‘What’s that for?’ she said ‘It’s a very good talking point.’ [laughter].
Mr Walter Peirce: Before Mrs Sayers lived there, wasn’t it Abrey and Gardner, used to be the auctioneer, [???] I remember. Abrey and Gardner.
Mr Peter Church: He was on the end, he lived in the end house. Dorothy Sayers was in the other end. I’ve got one of the conveyances when Dorothy Sayers sold, used to belong to Gardner. (Mr Walter Peirce: Abrey and Gardner) Yes. And he sold, not Abrey and Gardner, this was the Gardner, Mrs Gardner who had the Portobello at Coggeshall, now Mrs Sebastian, yes.
Mr Walter Peirce: What I can remember so much about , [???] used to go round to these sales, well [???] Brake[?] she lived in the house called Spa Place up Powershall End, do you remember? Abrey and Gardner. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Where Miss Geere lives now?) Abrey and Gardner had to sell the stuff, they had a big marquee in front of, and all of various stuff come out, and great big high gallon jars of home made wine. Well Abrey and Gardner both got drunk, they had to put the sale off to the next day.
Mr Peter Church: My first recollection of Dorothy Sayers was when she clonked down the street, she’d got an old cap on her head at an angle, a fag hanging out of the corner of her mouth, and she was flopping down in bedroom slippers and she was going to Gilbert’s to get some bread. And I thought what a contrast to the fantastic brain that was inside that charwomany looking type. Quite amazing.
Mr Walter Peirce: She always seemed to have her glasses on the tip of her nose, was that right? (Miss Kathleen Richards: Yes.) She always seemed to have her glasses on the tip of her nose, didn’t she.
Mrs Marjorie Coleman Cutts the fishmongers [???] (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Wasn’t that sad, he died the other day, he used to work there, used to, Champ. He always used to play for the Remembrance service.) (Dr Bill Foster: He was the trumpet player.) (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Trumpet player, that’s right.)
Mr W Glover: Does anybody remember Dick Hyde? [???] He got killed outside the Post Office. A horse and tumbrel, his father had a greengrocer’s shop on the corner of Lockram Lane. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Dick Hyde?) (Mr Albert Poulter: Dick Hyde, yes.)
Mr Herbert Keeble: I remember that when it was an ironmonger’s, man name of Reed, he hung himself, and my eldest brother was there as an errand boy and he found him. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Hanging up seems to be a sort of Witham speciality [laughter]. Did you whistle when you were an errand boy, Mr Keeble? ) Beg pardon? (Did you whistle when you were an errand boy?). I wasn’t an errand boy, no, my older brother.
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Errand boys should whistle, shouldn’t they. (Miss Kathleen Richards: Yes, they used to whistle all the time.) I mean there a dead[?] gone breed.
Mr Tom Henderson: Does anybody at the back there have something to contribute?
Ann [???]: Does anybody remember Johnny Horner, veterinary surgeon at the Grove, the Grove House, a vet.
Dr Bill Foster: Does anybody remember where the first Witham Town Football pitch was? (Several: Back of the Grove.) (Miss Kathleen Richards) You’re right, Bill.)
(Mr Walter Peirce: There are some nice chestnut trees up the back there. Are they still there?). I don’t know whether it’s there or not. (Mr Walter Peirce: At the back of where you lived was the football field.) (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Yes, but it wasn’t when we were there.)
Mr Walter Peirce: Along the Maldon line, there was an avenue of walnut trees, cause we used to go up the lane, along the railway line, and help ourselves. (Mrs Elaine Strutt: Well of course, why not! That was before they built the police station right there.)
Mr Tom Henderson: Mr Horner, the vet’s son, I met a few years ago, he was working on the design of the Thames barrier, an engineer.(Miss Kathleen Richards: He called to see me about a couple of months ago). (Mrs Marjorie Coleman: His grandson was in Witham, his grandson was in Witham for a bit working for Abbotts. One of his grandsons).
Mr Fred Gaymer: Dr Foster mentioned about Ootsie as we called him. Did Dr Foster know he was one finger short. (Dr Bill Foster: No I never looked at that. I didn’t have time, I was listening.) This happened on the pile bridge that used to take the Maldon train near the sewerage farm, over the river Blackwater. Boys used to get on the pile bridge and climb up there and hang on you see, and try and be under there when a train went by, and the timbers in the summer shrunk, and so there was gaps and he happened to put his finger in one of these gaps when a train went over, and lost his index finger on his right hand.
Dr Bill Foster: I looked after Ootsie for a good number of years, until Dr Denholm’s daughter arrived at Witham, and she was rather good looking, he rather fancied her compared with me, you see. When I used to go and visit him, ‘I don’t want you bugger I don’t want you. Can I have the lady doctor please?’ [laughter]
Mrs Glover: Nobody’s mentioned the cattle market, which used to be where the Labour Hall is now. Every Tuesday there was a cattle market there. [???] a siding, the cattle were taken off, and a Mr Nicholls had an auction, auction room there every Tuesday [???] (Mr Peter Church: Yes, they took over Hugh Page’s. Hugh Page used to do it.)
Mr Tom Henderson: It was not only the auction, but of course the cattle were driven along the road to the market yard. I remember driving one morning up from Witham to Braintree and finding a big herd of Lincolnshire longhorns, coming down the road, completely blocking up the road, they had long horns about as long as that.
(Mrs Glover[?]: When we lived in Avenue Road we used to have to run out and shut the gate on a Tuesday before the cattle came in the garden).
Mrs Elaine Strutt: Wasn’t there a slaughterhouse down Mill Lane? (Mr Tom Henderson: There were two slaughterhouses. One was next to the school in Guithavon Street, and people didn’t approve …). (Unknown: The slaughterhouse was next to the Church school, right next door to the Church school, it was a tannery in Mill Lane.) Oh, tannery in Mill Lane. I knew it was something to do with dead animals. (Miss Kathleen Richards: Tannery. Yes. We had a job to get rid of that. Got rid of it in the end.)
Mrs Barbara Ibbotson: Can I ask a question please. Going back to the cattle market, has anyone here ever seen a postcard of the cattle market, because I have not been able to get one from the top London dealers. Nobody said that they have ever seen one. And as there was a photographer in Witham, I cannot believe that one was never ever produced. (Mr W Glover: I have a photograph, taken when I was in the scouts, it shows the [???]). And that is a photograph, never been produced as a postcard?
Dr Bill Foster: Can you remember the photographer, in Newland Street, called Mr Bull. I got my first passport photograph from him. He seemed quite surprised when I went in, I said ‘Can I have a photograph please’ and he stood there, he had a big room and enormous apparatus, put the black thing over his head and there was dust blew these things, dust blew all over the place. Produced a very good picture though. I always associate him with the chemist opposite, what was his name. Oh well, never mind.
Mr Tom Henderson: [Thanks for good meeting. Announcement about forthcoming tree planting]