Mrs Edie Brown (nee Hawkes) was born in 1896. She was interviewed on 22 June 1981, when she lived at 13 Rex Mott Court.
For more information about Mrs Brown, see the the notes in the people category headed Brown, Mrs Edie, nee Hawkes.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
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Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Q: …. Braintree Road Co-op, you went to?
Mrs B: Yes, well, the girl used to live up Ebenezer Close – well, she used to call as she went to work, take my book. And then they’d send me groceries round, you know. If I went down town, which weren’t – well, I used to have a run down once or twice a week, but, if I saw anything bit cheaper, I used to get it, but it didn’t pay you really, because you spent other money when you went down what you wouldn’t have spent if you’d have stopped at home, so you used to be no better off! (Q: No) And I’ve often laughed when I got home, you know. I’d have a bag and I’d got it full and I thought, well, I’ll have to buy a carrier. So what I saved on the things I’d bought, I’d paid for the paper carrier. ’Cos there never used to be plastic ones then. Like they are now. They used to be just an ordinary brown paper carrier, you know. I’ve laughed about that ever so many times. Do you know Ann Chinnery? (Q: Yes.) And I’ve got that card somewhere, she said…
Q: Well, I’ll ask her about it. If she’s got a picture, I’ll ask her.
Mrs B: I’ve got one, I’ll find it. Well, I know where it is, but there’s so many photos in a bag, there’s – I should think I’ve got about a hundred, all different ones. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Since you were here before, I’ve had two grandchildren married and they’ve both got a baby. One lives at Cambridge and one lives at – on that new estate they’ve built – on the Humber estate. (Q: I know, yes) I think that’s Cam Road. She lives in a house there. She’s got a little boy; he’s a year last December. And the one that’s gone to Cambridge – her husband is in the Army – she’s got one, he’ll be a year in July. His is the 20th and his Dad’s is the 21st. Oh, I’ve got so many grandchildren, it’s unbelievable. Birthday cards. My daughter got me two, Saturday, for two of – Keith’s children, up Richards Yard there, one’s the 1st July, and the other one’s the 22nd July. They were 40p each, the cards! I said ‘Well, you could buy a present for that at one time! You can’t, now! Oh, things are terrible now, ain’t they?
Q: So, when you were first married, you lived up Church Street then, did you? When you first got married?
Mrs B: Yes, I lived up The Terrace, you know.
Q: And where did you used to get your groceries and things in those days?
Mrs B: Well, I used to – have them round the branch, Co-op branch.
Q: Still at Braintree?
Mrs B: I was a member of the Co-op for years. Yes.
Q: So you didn’t go to the shops in Church Street at all?
Mrs B: Not very often. Unless that was for – just for little items, like a bottle of sauce if I run out. Just across the road, there’s a paper shop – what they called the paper shop, then. (Q: Yes) And I used to pop over there and – cigarettes – ‘cos I smoke – I used to smoke a lot then but I don’t smoke, very little, now. I have one, occasionally, but I don’t – but they don’t worry me now, (Q: Oh, that’s good). I don’t care whether I have them or not.
Q: And was there still that groceries on the corner, near the corner there, that was Woods? Pendles, or whatever?
Mrs B: Yeah, Pendles, when I was down there.
Q: Was that there too? Did you go there at all?
Mrs B: Yeah, I used to have to go down there. (Q: So, um…) When Hasler was there I used to go there. There used to be a brother and sister lived there, Mr and Mrs Hasler. Mr and Miss. They were both – that was Miss Hasler and Mr Hasler. Because when I was buying – I don’t know if it was cigarettes once or tobacco for me Dad, when me Dad was alive. ‘Cos when I first come here, I come from Sunderland. I lived up there, because my husband belonged up there. I married in Witham you know, this church up here, and of course, when he came out the Army we went up the North but I didn’t like the North. They cook different to us, they – they’re not the same. You know, lot of all black puddings and white puddings – oh, couldn’t eat that! (Q: laughs) North was all right, the people are very nice, you know. But you get – living in one place all your life, ‘cos we belong Witham. My brother had the blacksmiths down the bottom of the town. And, my Dad was a carpenter, he used to work – you know, they were all – me brothers worked in Witham for Lewis & Sons. That used to be – just up – opposite The Spread Eagle, yes. Across the road there. That was – I think that belonged to a man named Manning, after. That used to be Lewis & Sons. My brothers worked there. One brother worked on the farm, only one. But all our family have gone now. There was a big family of us. There’s only me, and a sister in Ilford left. Out of about twelve, thirteen of us.
Q: So that was a lot for your mother to keep, wasn’t it?
Mrs B: Yeah. Well, Dad was – they used to go out shooting with the doctors a lot, you know. My brother was always with them, the one what lived round Mill Lane. He was always with Dr Ted. Gimsons, you know. (Q: Yes) Because they kept saying there’s – oh, they could cure this and they can cure arthritis. But Dr Ted says to Mrs Brandt[?] – she was crippled with it; she couldn’t even open the door. And I said if they can cure that, they could cure her. But they never did. So, there’s a lot of difference – there’s different people have different – I don’t think there is any getting rid of arthritis. ‘Cos I’ve got it in my legs dreadful; I don’t know how to walk. I want to try to go to Braintree Wednesday – one of my daughters’ coming with me. I take hold of her hand and I got my walking stick, I can get along all right. [Laughs]. But, oh, that’s terrible when you can’t walk about properly. I couldn’t do me work now. Not to do it meself, you know. I do a little bit and then I have to sit down. Then I do another little bit and sit down again.
Q: Still, you get there. You get on all right (Mrs B: Yeah) When you were little you were down Maldon Road, I remember you saying.
Mrs B: We lived in The Square.
Q: So, what about the shopping then? For your mother. Where did she get her things?
Mrs B: My mother dealt with the Co-op. (Q: Did she?) And I always remember, she used to pay in a club every week. And at Christmas she used to get the great – you know they used to have big wooden sugar boxes, didn’t they? Huge ones. Off her club, she used to get that full of all sorts, all the stuff for Christmas. Perhaps half of a cheese, great big cheese and all sorts of stuff. She used to pay in all the year round. And then she used to have the stuff out for Christmas. And…
Q: That was at the Co-op, was it?
Mrs B: That was the Co-op, yes. I dare say she had a struggle; there was a lot of us. There was about, oh, I don’t know, about ten of us, I think. A lot of us. There, but they lived, in them days, better than what we can now, really, because the money wasn’t big, but you’d get more with it. I mean, look at eggs. We used to cycle to, um, Faulkbourne, me and Mrs Springett, on a Friday evening, after tea. And you remember these old bask- er, bags what used to fold up. They were like a wicker thing. (Q: Oh, I think so, yes.) They used to fold. We used to go there and see if they’d got any cracked eggs. And we used to get a basketful. And we used to be riding home on our bikes, you know, from Faulkbourne and that was all running out of the bottom, perhaps there were one or two that were cracked too much, you know. But you used to get enough eggs to last you a week and they were – they only used to charge us – and if there was any extra big ones, they didn’t put ‘em in with the others, you know, they’d throw them out. And we always used to go over there. Muirhead, I think his name was. That was a little farm, right in the village. And we used to get a shillings-worth of eggs and they used to last you a week! (Q: That’s lovely) ‘Cos, um, some were just a little bit cracked. Well, they were all right. They was all fresh eggs, ‘cos they kept – you know – chickens and that on the farm. We used go nearly every Friday night, for eggs. And work pea-picking in the fields, you know. You used to – up at half past three in the morning. You used to get in the fields. We always reckoned to pick two bags of peas before breakfast. Two bags of peas and we’d sit down and then we’d all have our breakfast. Then we’d start again. (Q: That makes me feel lazy) Hard work though.
Q: Yes it was, wasn’t it? Still it would help with the money I suppose, wouldn’t it?
Mrs B: The money was nothing, because you only got – you picked a bag for a shilling. Was nothing. It helped – I used to get everything for the children during the summer when I was working – for the winter. Then I used to take peas in from – you know Cullens. Used to take peas in there. Sometimes they used to fetch us whatever they’d got to do and we used to get paid once a month. And we used to – um – then at – anything the kids wanted, I used to have the money once a month if they wanted anything I could give that.
Q: Where did you used to go for them?
Mrs B: Anywhere. Co-op I used to get most things – sometimes Heddles [48 Collingwood Road] – you know, Heddles on the (Q: I know, yes) up there. And, um, get their coats. And, you could get little suits then.
Q: Did you used to go to Braintree or Chelmsford or anywhere, in those days?
Mrs B: Well, not very often. Sometimes we had a cheap ticket and go to Chelmsford and have a look round. If we’d got any extra money, you know. But when my daughter started work – she worked at Hoffmans. She used to buy a lot of things at Marks & Spencer’s, because you’d get nice dresses and jumpers there. And many a week she took her money and she went and bought what she wanted, she never had nothing to fetch home. (Q: Quite. [Laughs]) Still, that was the best way to get them really. She got what she wanted. I used to – I took her once to get a pair of shoes – she wanted a pair of shoes. And we went in and out the shops in Chelmsford and she had scores of pairs of shoes out. She wouldn’t have any of ‘em – she didn’t want ‘em – didn’t like ‘em. And I said ‘That’s the last time I ever fetch you – take you for a pair of shoes!’ So when we gets home at Witham Station, she says ‘Well, give me five shillings,’ she says, ‘And I‘ll go down Bata’s and get a pair.’ You know Bata’s used to be where Farthings is? [68 Newland Street] (Q: I know, yes) On that corner. She went down there and got a lovely pair of shoes for five bob! I might just as well have saved all me trouble going to Chelmsford! ‘Cos the fares weren’t much then. A’course, there’s a lot of difference now. In the fares. But….
Q: What about when your kids were little. Where did you get shoes then?
Mrs B: Well, I used to have them off clubs. Sometimes I run a club and get them what they wanted….
Q: Whereabouts was that?
Mrs B: Well, some – different ones. Sometimes I’d have a club at Heddles and sometimes, when I was working, and had some money coming in I’d just go and buy them what I wanted. Buy them ready money ‘cos I worked indoors in the winter with the seeds and went out in the fields all the summer. I’ve many a time worked in the fields from – we’ve gone as far as Notley, pea picking. And we’ve been in the fields six o’clock in the morning. And, many a time what I’ve earned, I’ve had to put some towards sending them down to get shoes, ‘cos something’s happened or a pair of their shoes have come unstitched at the back or something. It was always spoke for, when you had children.
Q: Was there any other shoe shops other than Bata’s?
Mrs B: Oh yes. Co-op sold shoes. (Q: Oh, they did shoes did they? Yes) Yes.
Q: Was Spurge’s open?
Mrs B: Spurge’s, yes. There used to be two shops, didn’t there. There used to be the drapery and next door was the groceries. And, what was their name? He managed that shop. They lived in The Avenue. She was my schoolteacher when I was young. Oh, three sisters.
Q: It wasn’t Peake was it? (Mrs B: Eh?) Was it Miss Peake?
Mrs B: No. They lived in the school playground, didn’t they? (Q: Yes, I think so.) There was some sisters. They were schoolmistresses.
Q: Yes. This was somebody else, was it?
Mrs B: Yes. Oh, what was her name, I know her ever so well. I can’t think of her name. They lived in The Avenue. I think my brother told me – the last time I saw them was when I was going to Colchester Hospital to see the daughter I lost. ‘Cos she was ever so ill in there. Well, she wasn’t ever so ill, at times she was when she had the operations. She had a bone disease through a knock on the leg, you know And I saw them on the bus then. She didn’t remember me, but I knew her, you know. And, he told me that was the last one, she was ever so ill. So I expect they died. There were sisters there, two or three of them.
Q: So he was the manager, was he?
Mrs B: I think so, of the groceries, for Spurge. I’ve been there, I’ve bought – I remember when I went – when I got married I went and bought my hat there. I had a silk hat made, white silk. And they put the – laid something on the side, that was a little pink one, they sold me – it was a little bit of orange blossom – I can’t really remember – been a long time ago! [Laughs]. But, oh, Witham has altered.
Q: So, did you go there very often? Did you go to Spurge’s, often?
Mrs B: Oh yes, if I wanted anything, you know, for ribbon, and different things. Odds and ends you wanted, cottons. Sometimes went to Woolworths. But Woolworths is not much cheaper now. That used to be. Not much cheaper now than anywhere else! (Q: No) See, they sell all prices, ‘cos I got them cushions, there. Them gold coloured ones. And they were, about, nearly ten shillings each. But they were cheap, because the covers come off, they’re zipped on, you know.
Q: You can wash them then, can’t you?
Mrs B: Yes, you can take the covers off. An old lady up there makes all these patchwork ones. She lives just up (Q: Oh yes, Mrs Nicoll) by Mrs Springett. She does all my bits of needlework, because I can’t see now, not to do needlework or anything like that.
Q: Did you use to sew when you were younger? Did you used to make clothes and things?
Mrs B: No, I hadn’t got sense enough! [Both laugh]. My sister did. (Q: Did she?) She lived up Whiteheads Farm, up past the water tower, you know. [Cressing Road] (Q: Yes). Right the way along on the right, you went up some fields there. She lived up there. She had a big family. She’d make beautiful clothes. She, – Richardson, I think. He lives at Hungry Hall. He had that farm off – used to be Smiths. You knew Esmond [Mrs B coughing] Smith, did you? I don’t suppose you did. (Q: Doesn’t matter) And, she used to do all their needlework. All little tiny pleats on the underthings, you know, what they used to wear. She used to make me dresses. I remember some – once someone got me a pair of cricket trousers, you know, cream. That was lovely stuff. And my sister made me two lovely pair of little cream trousers for the two boys. And with a little blouse; they used to look lovely. Never cost me hardly anything. And she could make them, you see. She used to make me dresses for the girls. She used to make all bridesmaids’ dresses. She never learnt dressmaking.
Q: Did she not? Goodness.
Mrs B: I don’t know how she picked it up herself. But she used to work, – do you – well, I don’t suppose you remember her either – ‘cos that’s a lot of years ago. Nurse Wood used to live in Collingwood Road.
Q: I’ve heard of her, yes.
Mrs B: Yes, well, Dr Karl and Dr Ted, they were very friendly. And my sister worked there for years, in service there. But I never went in service much, My mother used to send me but I used to come home again, I never liked it. And I said, ‘If I ever get married and have any children, they’ll never go to service’. And, oh, they didn’t!
Q: I remember you said you worked at Rounds. Was it Mr Rounds, you were there?
Mrs B: Rounds. Yes, up near the memorial. (Q: Yes). Not the one next to the memorial, the next one. [4 Newland Street]
Q: The big one, yes.
Mrs B: I used to go there. Half past seven in the morning and I used to help – I used to have to do the step. No, the hall; and the morning room. First thing on a morning. And then we used to go up and help the house parlour maid. For five pence a day! (Q: [tuts], Goodness.) From half past seven in the morning. And I used to have to help the cook wash up after dinner. And I used to get home about three. And that was all the money I got! And Sunday mornings I had to go for an hour or two. Not doing the work, just help do the beds. Little things like that. You didn’t get the money.
Q: Do you remember where they used to get their groceries and meat and so on, the Rounds?
Mrs B: No, they never told you nothing, not the toffs didn’t, you know.
Q: You didn’t see the see the stuff coming in there,
Mrs B: Mind you I had a good living there.
Q: Did you?
Mrs B: Oh yes. Very good. I used to know the person who was cook. And the parlour maid, you know. Oh yes, it was a very good eating place. Better than one – I went away once with the vicar from Witham. They used to live in this vicarage, up here. Well, I don’t know what we had – the leavings off the table I used to have, I think. I never stopped there long. I said to her ‘ Oh, I can’t stand this.’ I was in the – their lounge once, looking out the window, you know. ‘Cos you couldn’t see nothing out the back. And I’d got no work to do, I’d finished work. Well, you was really never finished. By the time you’d get the meals, and wash up, and all that sort of thing. And, anyway, I was looking out the window and they come back. And they got on to me ‘cos I was in that room looking out the window – I wasn’t supposed to look out the window. (Q: laughs). So I thought myself, ‘I’ve had this. I’m not stopping here!’ So I went home. And I just had enough money what I’d earned to get home with. That was the other side of London. (Q: laughs) Goodness. Oh, it was horrible, service. The girls wouldn’t do it now, anyway.
Q: No they wouldn’t, would they?.
Mrs B: There not many go in service today.
Q: No. Did your mother ever go into service, do you know? When she was young?
Mrs B: I don’t know what she done, poor old girl. She had to work all her life. And she had a big family. Then she took her mother. And her brother. To live with her. ‘Cos we had two houses knocked into one. Eight rooms. And I’ll always remember, my poor old Nan, she used to be in one of the front rooms and Dad put a curtain from the wall across a little way to – so that when people come to the door they couldn’t see the bed standing under the window. My poor old Gran used to lay in there all day because she couldn’t get about. My mother had to take her and her brother. And then of course I lost Mother fairly early She died with cancer.
Q: When was that? When you were quite young were you?
Mrs B: Oh, I weren’t about – about seventeen, I should think. Quite – fairly young, you know. And then the home broke up then. I left home and went and lived with a friend – married woman what we used to know, you know. And I lived with her quite a long time.
Q: Was it when you were down Maldon – I remember you telling me about getting Moores – going to Moores cart and getting – for them to get you some margarine, was it, from Chelmsford? (Mrs B: Oh yes) Was that when you was younger was it?
Mrs B: He used to from Kelvedon in the morning.
Q: [Interrupts] Was that when you were a child, was it?
Mrs B: Well, I was getting on, I must have been about twelve or –
Q: But it was when you mother was still alive. Yes, yes.
Mrs B: Oh yes she used to take orders for several people down there. And write it all down and put the money in an envelope and take it up for Moore the carrier. And then he used to get all the stuff from the Maypole; tea and marge. That used to be overweight. You used to buy a pound and you’d get a half, free. (Q: That was good). And, after, I had to go back at night and meet him round about six. He had a horse and cart – well, van and horses. And had to pay thruppence, that’s all, for him to fetch the parcel. Meet him at the top of Maldon Road. Oh, I used to always remember doing that.
Q: That was just – you didn’t get anything else that way? Just the marge?
Mrs B: No. They used to all send to the Maypole every week.
Q: And did you used – what about meat? Where would you used to get meat, when you were a child?
Mrs B: Oh, my Mum used to get – Sorrell’s the butchers. [143 Newland Street] That used to be – opposite the Crotchet, down the bottom, there. I think that’s a hairdresser’s now (Q: Oh, I know, yes). Or it was, I don’t know whether it is now, ‘Cos I haven’t been down town for a long time. I don’t think I’ve been – I’ve been here six years and I don’t think I’ve only been down once. I go out. I go to me daughter’s sometimes, Wednesdays.
Q: So did the Co-op not do meat in those days?
Mrs B: Oh yes, they’ve got – not then, I don’t think. But they’ve got a shop now.
Q: And when you were younger, did you – were you allowed to run up a bill at the shops or did you have to pay….
Mrs B: Well, I think my Mum could. I don’t know. She – they used to send her groceries and then we used to have to go down and pay the book, you know.
Q: Did they? What the Co-op, after…
Mrs B: They were ever so sharp in them days! If you didn’t pay your book you didn’t get no more groceries. (Q: Really?) No (Q: Oh dear). Say, let them now run up bills and then they can’t pay em.
Q: So do you remember ever – so, you used to go down and pay…..
Mrs B: Oh yes, we would always have to go down and pay. But we took the meat. Went down and paid – got the – took the money and got the meat in. (Q: On the spot, like.) I used to have go – I remember – you used to have to go and get some meat from the – you had to go and get some meat and I went through the Rec and I always remember once I went through the Rec, ‘cos we could cut through the Rec and..(Q: Yes) we’re half way down the town. When I got to the butchers, I ain’t got my money, had I? I’d sat down in the Rec, laid it on the grass. I had to go back and find it, ‘afore I could go back and get me meat – and I was always late for school! And I used to have to go to school, and stand inside the door – ‘cos we couldn’t go – ‘cos we were late. And my mum used to pick me a bunch of flowers. [Q laughs] Always had to go to the butchers in the morning.
Q: Did you? Before you went to school, that was?
Mrs B: Yeah; I was always late for school. She had to work hard though, I often think – ‘cos I had five. And my mother had a big family. She had, like a grown up family, and another family, like, you know. Some of them were working, some of them weren’t. Some of them were still at school. Yes, she had a big family of us. As I said, they’re all gone now. There’s only me and my sister at Ilford. And I haven’t seen her for years. Her husband died. He has his own taxis and his son had taxis as well. Well, that’s all they done. I haven’t seen her for years. I keep saying – when my brother died in Notley, my youngest brother of all. Some time back – a couple of – a year or so back. My son took me over to see him. He lived at Brightlingsea. And I got her address then off one of my relations. One of my nephews’ wives, give me the address. But I never ever wrote. I kept saying I’d write and get in touch being there’s only two of us left, but I never have.
Q: No, there was a lot of you, really. Did your mother ever make clothes and things?
Mrs B: No, my married sister did. (Q: Your mother didn’t do it. Did your mother, at all?) No, she lived in a house right near us, just across the yard. And she used to make all their shirts – work shirts. (Q: Oh, I see) White with a stripe in, you know, they were old-fashioned stuff, that was, then. And then they had their best shirts, you know. But, my sister done all the dress – shirt making and pinafores we used to have to wear. Yes, old fashioned.
Q: So you’d have them made. Where would she get the stuff for that, I wonder?
Mrs B: Well, Spurge’s, the Co-op, anywhere you know. (Q: Yes) And Mum had clubs; she had to, didn’t have a lot of money them days. Paid so much a week for them best she could. (Q: Yes.) She always kept us nice, well dressed, you know.
Q: That was difficult – keeping up with all that – with the money, I should think, was it?
Mrs B: Yes, but we used to always have our – even our best hair ribbon. No, always had our best dresses – you couldn’t play on a Sunday. Used to have to go to Sunday school and then out of Sunday school into church. And we were supposed to stop in church. But we used to come out half time. And walk about, you know. And walk around. But, not if my Mum knew! [Q laughs] We had to go in church and stop in church! You know. I always remember one time, I went to church and you used to have a penny or a ha’penny. And I was sitting in church with my sherbet dab, you know. You used to get a [Both laugh] toffee on a stick. And I never knew no more till the vicar come and got hold of me hand and took me sherbet dab. And I was frightened to death – I thought ‘Oh, if he tells my mother – if my mother knows she’ll kill me!’ I’m not supposed to spend it ‘afore we went to church. We used to go to North’s in Maldon Road. And we used to spend it, you know. Sherbet dab. [Q laughs] And I lost me sherbet dab.
Q: Oh, that’s a shame.
Mrs B: Oh and he fetched me right out in front of everybody in the church. And set me on the front seat. Nothing in front of me only all the choir and the altar and that, you know. I always remember that. And another time – my Dad used to go all over the place, he was a carpenter and he used to go to these big houses. And perhaps a gardener’d give him some apples – oh, they used to be beautiful apples – all red and shiny. Well, she give us one each to go to – out one Sunday morning. And of course, we took them with us to Sunday school. And there was a Miss Vaux, she used to live in Collingwood Road. And I’ll always remember, she took them apples off us. And she wouldn’t give us them back! So, I remember going home from school Sun – er Sat – er Monday dinnertime and, um, here comes Miss Vaux with a little basket. And our three apples in it! And we never got them apples no more! I said, ‘Oh, I could have hit her!’ She’s come – walking up there so proud with this little basket with these apples in. ‘Cos we hadn’t told our Mum what we done – we daren’t! ‘Cos she was so strict. And Miss Vaux took the apples and took them down to my Mum Monday dinnertime. [Q laughs]. Oh, the troubles we used to get in.
Q: Did you have to help at home, though? Did you have to help your Mum?
Mrs B: When we got bigger. Not when we were, you know, small. I used to, yes, we used to have to do everything just so. ‘Cos, you see, all there was for you them days was service. And of course you had to learn to do things properly. Well, when we – ‘cos the beds were different then to what they are now. And we used to have to turn the bedrooms out, you know. And where the mattress was on – between the springs – we used to thread the duster through there. We used to have to go all through there or we got a damn good hiding after – [Mrs B laughs] if we didn’t do it properly! Oh yes. Had to work.
Q: So you’d run errands and things as well.
Mrs B: Oh – do all the errands, yes. And we daren’t say ‘No’. We daren’t say ‘No’ to anything, not them days!
Q: What about – were the shops open in the evenings at all?
Mrs B: No, I don’t think so. There were certain times, you know. But, if my Mum said ‘Get a shovelful of coal, for the fire’. ‘Cos we had, like, two kitchens, two front rooms, and the same upstairs, four up, four rooms upstairs. ‘Cos we had the double house. We had the two front doors right near one another. You could come in one [Q laughs] walk through, through into there, and through into the other front room and out the other front door and they was both right close together. Because she had such a big family, you see, and we hadn’t got enough room. But, I‘ll always remember, on a – I used to be doing the work and my brothers used to keep coming through and through and they loved it. And I used to get – I used to cry and I used to get so mad because they kept coming through with the dirty feet when I was working. Because boys got off with it – they never had to do anything, did they? Only the girls! And they stopped at home while we had to go out to service. But at the finish, I’d had so many places at service, that I went to – not Cullen’s – Cooper Taber – sorted seeds there. Couldn’t earn a lot – but -… A good week was only about thirteen shillings – thirteen or fourteen shillings.
Q: Still, that’s not bad, was it?
Mrs B: Never – you had to work for nearly nothing, you know. The trouble was there – you never had what you call really bad peas. There wasn’t many bad ones. And you got paid for what you picked out.
Q: Oh goodness! [laughs].
Mrs B: And so, of course, you never got so much. Sometimes, when I’ve had them at home, by the time I’ve sit, done me work and sit and done them in between meals, like. And after tea, when I get washed up and the kids ready for bed, you used to have half and half. Any amount of bad ones. But you never got them, where you worked at – not at Cooper Tabers. (Q: Oh, that was hard, wasn’t it?) They never let you earn much.
Q: What – did you work after you got married?
Mrs B: No, only field work.
Q: So, what did your husband do? Did he have a job – get a job?
Mrs B: Well, when my husband first come down here – there was no work up the North, you see, there was a Depression up there. And he was out of work, oh, quite a long time, months. And he done a little job for the Council, in the sand pit. Getting the sand out, you know. And then eventually he got into Crittalls. And he was there, um, thirty-one and a half years.
Q: Oh goodness! (Mrs B: At Crittalls.) That is a long time, isn’t it?
Mrs B: But, when he died, he was a pensioner. So you didn’t get the money. If anything happened when you – if he’d a’ been working – you’d get so much money. But you didn’t get it if they were retired. So I didn’t get it when he died. ‘Cos he died with his heart, you know. And, um, ….
Q: So how did you manage before he got the job? That must have been hard, when you first came…
Mrs B: Well, we only got a pound, about a pound. There was – I’d got my oldest girl. She was only a baby. And all we got was a guinea a week, from the dole. But still we used to live, because he grew the vegetables. And, um, the rent was small. We lived – that was still in the house at Church Street, when I lived in, after Dad died. And we took it over when Dad died, you know. And, um, he grew everything. We never had to buy any vegetables at all. That used to last us all over, you know. We used to keep them stored up in a shed, you know up the yard. And all straw and that over the vegetables, potatoes and that. And onions all strung up. And a place made to put all your beetroot and parsnips and all – in a clamp and covered over with soil and that, you know. You always had plenty of vegetables. So that was was different to now, I mean, when you got to go and buy everything.
Q: Yes. Still, you still had to get your meat and your groceries and that, wouldn’t you?
Mrs B: Oh yes.
Q: It wouldn’t go far, a pound. How did you manage that?
Mrs B: Oh, we managed on the money, things were much cheaper. I mean, I could go up – I could go up the butcher’s then, ‘cos we lived right up near the butchers’. [St Nicholas Close] And I could get a nice little joint, and me bacon, and eggs, for about ten shillings. And, I mean, your joint done you a couple of days. Um, and then of course, the kids began to grow up and they used to do a little paper round, and then they – one used to go between school hours – to the butcher’s and do a little bit there and that sort of thing. (Q: Oh, did they?) You sort of, gradually begun to get a little bit better off!
Q: What did they used to do at the butcher’s?
Mrs B: Used to just help and take a few orders out and do a few bits around the shop. All sorts of thing. Like, Cyril, he worked at the butchers after he left school. He didn’t get a lot of money, about just over a pound a week. And you got to give the children pocket money, you couldn’t take it off them. They were ever so good, the kids were. My oldest boy what lives at Nottingham, he used to go – he used to say ‘I’ll stop off school today, Mum’. So I said ‘No, you better not, your Dad – if Dad finds out you’ll get in trouble!’ And he used to take my bike and he used to go cabbage-cutting. With the women. And he used to earn me any amount of different lots of money, you know. Bean picking. He was ever so good worker, Ever such a good worker. Strawberry picking. He used to fetch all his money home! He was ever so good. (Q: That’s nice, yes) Yes. I never had no trouble with the children. They were good little workers.
Q: They were – Cyril the older one?
Mrs B: Yes he ‘s – my daughter’s the oldest. The one down Pitt Avenue. She’ll be, um, fifty-eight. Come October. Then I’ve got my son up Nottingham, just over fifty. Then, I lost that daughter. She would have been next to the oldest girl I got. And then I’ve got – then the other boy what’s, um, up on that new estate, got a bungalow. He’s fifty, I think. [Pauses] And Keith is about – the one up Church Street, I think he’s forty something. His wife’s the same age. She had her birthday – his is in October- November and hers is in January.
Q: So they all worked hard when they were little, you say.
Mrs B: Oh yes, they were all good workers. Keith worked for himself when he’d done his National Service. He’d got a few pound and he bought a bit of stuff and he started going out doing jobs in an evening. You know, same as a bathroom, or putting new taps on somewhere and all things like that. Then he started – got a little van and started on his own and he never looked back. He’s got his own house. He sold his house in Luard Way. He give ten and a half thousand for that when he bought that. ‘Course he had to have a mortgage same as everybody else. And, er, when he sold it, he got thirty six and a half thousand. But then he bought that old house up Church Street, and of course, that’s cost him a fortune to do that up. [56 Church Street] He had to give forty two thousand I think it was for that. Oh, and it was in a mess. Really wanted doing all everywhere. (Q: Yes) He’s practically got it straight now. He’s having an extension put on. You have to go in the yard on the side. He’s having a bedroom and a dining room and a toilet downstairs. Because they haven’t got a toilet downstairs and that’s bad where you’ve got five children. Up and down, up and down stairs all the time. So he’s having that done.
Q: So it’s like going back home then, going up Church Street again, isn’t it?
Mrs B: I hate it! I don’t like the house, meself! (Q: Don’t you?) No.
Q: But you liked living there yourself, did you?
Mrs B: Well, the trouble is, my legs are bad. And the stairs are such a big drop. They’re steep. And he has to come up behind me – ‘cos he’s frightened I’ll fall. (Q: Yes). ‘Cos I can’t get on to the top step, when I get up the top. And, then, when I – I go along to the bathroom -when I come back, he has to get me down a couple of stairs and then I can come down with one hand and me hand on the banister – I can get down the rest myself. And I hate that. (Q: Yes, it’s awkward.) I can manage my daughter’s, down there, ‘cos they’re not as steep stairs, you know, and the banisters there. I can get up there all right and down all right but I always have to come down backwards. Even if I go in a shop and I went upstairs anywhere I should have to come down backwards. I can’t get down front wards. [Both laugh]
Q: Still, when you lived up there, you liked living up there, did you?
Mrs B: Ph I liked Church Street. Oh yes. If I’d have known what I do now, I wouldn’t have never left Church St. (Q: Really?) And of course, Keith sold the houses. He bought the houses. (Q: Of course.) Mrs Springett’s, mine and Mrs Secker’s. When they were going. And they’d got tenants in. And so he got them for about a thousand something, just over a thousand. And then, when he modernised them, put bathrooms in and toilet inside and everything. And altered all the doors and windows and everything. All like that. And boarded all the front. He did a hell of a lot to them. And then he sold them for nine thousand and somewhat each! He got nearly as much for one as what he paid for the lot! But then, he had to spend a lot of money on them, you see. So…..
Q: So you missed it then? Still it’s handy up there, isn’t it? You’ve got everything you want.
Mrs B: Oh I liked it. (Q: Nearby there) I liked Church Street. ‘Cos I’d got a nice lawn out the back and I could come out the front and stand and have a chat to anybody I knew. And we had – I had – there was three of us in one yard and we were all friendly, you know. We used to have some good old talks and laughs. Mrs Secker is in a bungalow now in Homefield Road. She was next door to me. And Mrs Springett, the other side. But we lived there years, you see I was fifty-one and she was fifty-four in her house.
Q: It was very handy up there, Was – what’s his name, was it Pendle? Mr Pendle? (Mrs B: Yes) Did he have the shop while you were up there?
Mrs B: Oh yes, he had that shop for years.
Q: I never knew him but I’ve heard people speak about him.
Mrs B: And he – and his wife had a stroke and he had her ill for years. And Miss Brett used to live with them. I don’t know whether she was a relative or what. But she always lived with them and they worked in the shop. You know.
Q: So, he did groceries mostly, did he?
Mrs B: Yes – I think he done a little green stuff, but not a lot. I think he done potatoes – that was – he done all groceries. And there was a post office just over the other side of the road, wasn’t there? (Q: Yes.) Well, my son’s just done that into a bungalow again. (Q: Oh, that’s right, it’s nice, yes) [9 Church Street]. For somebody. Somebody what’s got Coates’ shop up Church Street….
Q: Oh yes, I know, it his mother isn’t it, that’s there? Yes.
Mrs B: Well Keith’s done that – made a nice bungalow with that.
Q: Yes. So, did the shopkeepers that were up there – live on – over the shops mostly?
Mrs B: Oh yes, they lived on the premises.
Q: How did you get on with them then? Were they…
Mrs B: Oh yes, they were all right. (Q: Mix in with the other people..) Old Mr Pendle and all of them were all right. Then Mr Pendle had that big house built, didn’t he? Up on the hill. (Q: Yes.) and I think now they live there now, if he is still alive. I don’t hear anything about him now.
Q: I’m not sure if he is. I met somebody else whose father had Greatrex, – Greatrex, the butchers. Was he there when you were there? (Mrs B: Yes.) It was his – well, he’d be younger than you – Maurice. His son it was, I met him the other day. And he used to have the butchers up Church Street, didn’t he?
Mrs B: Greatrex did, yes, That was years ago!
Q: Was that before you were there?
Mrs B: It was when I was up there. (Q: Was it? Yes) Oh yes, they did. Because I remember the people who worked there. I don’t know whether you knew the Nightingales, did you?
Q: I don’t think so but I’ve hard of them.
Mrs B: Yes, well, their father worked there for years. And Mr Cunningham, they used to live up Church Street, he worked there. Well, then Loveday took it, didn’t he?
Q: I think somebody did
Mrs B: Yes, Loveday, used to have a shop down the town as well. Then he took the butch – no, not that shop. He took the butchers up, (Q: Oh, I know, in Lon- in the main road there…) just on the – up where I used to live [St Nicholas Close]. I don’t know who’s got it now. It’s changed hands now. (Q: It has, yes) And I don’t go up that way now much, not right up. I only go – every third Sunday. ‘Cos I have to go to each one each Sunday, you know. And I go up there. I have a taxi up. Taxis are expensive now. I mean you have to pay – if you only want to go down to Witham. You’ve got to pay a pound there and a pound back (Q: [tuts]: Have you really? I haven’t had one for a bit). If you have a taxi. (Q: That’s a lot). Mr Turner lives down here, you know, what used to keep the shop in Witham? (Q: Oh that’s right, yes.) ‘Cos Bradshaw had it. ‘Cos I’ve got a photo somewhere of that shop. And Bellamy’s on the corner.
Q: Yes So, Bradshaws was a – what did they used to sell at Bradshaws?
Mrs B: That was a drapery – men’s shop. Same as it is now. (Q: Oh I see.) Or, I don’t know whether that is the same now. Mr Turner left it. (Q: Yes) Oh yes……..
Mrs B:…. [talking about the Co-op Treat] Yes, we used to go there as kids, only members. Like, my mother was a member of the Co-op. (Q: Oh, I see, yes.). And we used to have – Mr Randall used to live up Church Street – and he used have a steam engine. And they used to do – have that down there and they’d make that – – for the hot water and make the teas. And my Dad used to take us out to all[?] gardens and all up the woods and get all the wild flowers and make nice bunches of all different flowers and we used to take them in with your names on them and you used to get prizes for the best. I always remember that. And we used to have all sorts of races, you know, egg and spoon racing. And all different races for different ages. Oh, yes, we used to like going there. And the best – I often laugh now – the funniest bit was – only when we were children, at Sunday school. I used to go the Church Sunday School. And every year we used to go to Baddow Rodney or Mill Beach. And we used to have Moy’s coal carts all scrubbed out all lovely and clean, you know, and all decorated up with flowers – paper flowers and Union Jacks and these old horses used to go clomp, clomp. Used to take us half our day with going there and coming back in this cart! And we used to think that was a lovely treat! Really! I often sit here and laugh about old times. You know, what we had
Q: Yes. It sounds fun. It would be nice to do that now, wouldn’t it, really? On a nice sunny day.
Mrs B: Oh, we’d be off …. Me and Mrs Springett – because she comes down every – about half past two – and she always sits here. And then, she goes up about – she used to have her tea here sometimes. Sometimes I’d go up there. But now she’s a diabetic, she goes up and has her tea, because she knows what she can have. (Q: That’s right, yes). She can only, she has to have
[talk about grandchildren etc., not noted]
Mrs B: Well, I think they are as much trouble when they’re all grown up as they are when they are young. They make you more washing because they wear this for this and something different to go out after tea. And they change socks for going out and they do all different things. And you can go upstairs and you can pick handful of washing up every morning. Oh, you wash, wash. Jeans. And the young one what I had, the one – the kiddies’ Dad. I used to – every day I used to find washing when I went up to make the beds. Oh, I used to get so mad! It was just as he got out of them – he used to leave them all on the floor – chuck them one side – put all clean on. And I used to think to myself ‘Washing! Washing! Washing!’ I don’t do none now!
Q: Well, it’s easier now, anyway, with the machines these days. You don’t have to worry so much about it. (Mrs B: Oh yes) You don’t have to worry so much about it. You worked hard in those days….?
Mrs B: We had hard work in them days. We had a rubbing board. And we had to boil everything. Still, I think they were better. I don’t like a washing machine. (Q: No?) Never gets a tea towel clean. All mine boil their tea towels up. Because my Edie said they never get clean in a – not in the washing machine. She always has an old saucepan – big saucepan – and boils her tea towels up when she gets about three or four.
Q: No, it’s not so hot, is it?
Mrs B: No, I don’t like washing machines.
Q: But they do save a bit of…
Mrs B: But I would have had – I expect I’d been like everybody else – if they’d been about when I was young, I would have had one. Because I had a terrible lot of washing. There was seven of us. And I used to do all bed linen in them days. But now, the latter few years I lived up Church Street, I’d send it to the laundry. Well, sheets then were only about sevenpence. And I had several beds, you know. Because I had a bed settee in the front room. And then the two bedrooms upstairs there was three beds. And I sent all sheets and pillowcases to the laundry. Then – now, if you send them to the laundry -I sent two sheets and a pillowcase last week and that was one pound thirty-five!
Q: Oh, was it really? [tuts] Yes.
Mrs B: If you send two sheets and two pillowcases that’s £1.50. That’s disgusting! But then you got to pay if you send them – I send mine about every fortnight or three weeks. Heather changes the bed for me and I send them. But that’s what you got to pay!
Q: Oh, well, at least they come back all ironed and everything, don’t they? So…..
Mrs B: Oh, they come back lovely.
[talk about home help, and rent for Mrs B’s flat in Rex Mott Court – £35.10 a fortnight, and looking for photos – Mrs Springett comes in. talk about flood in flats recently from leak upstairs – not noted]
Q: No that’s all right. We got a bit carried away. It’s been ever so interesting, anyway. You’ve got a good memory, haven’t you?
Mrs B: Yes. I’m still – I’m 85 but I’m – I can still remember things years back….
Q: Yes that’s lovely yes. It’s been lovely talking to you,
Mrs B: We have often – me and Mrs Springett often sit and have a good laugh about things. You know, we lived next door to Mrs Secker’s. They worked at Crittalls. And there’s a man come from Maldon. And he used to fetch these little dabs, you know, plaice, on a wire. You used to pay so much for them. I shall never forget this. And I used to have them because my husband was very fond of fish. (Q: Yes) He’d eat fish every meal if you give it to him. Loved kippers or yellow fish or fish fried and mashed potatoes and that sort of thing. Loved fish, not meat. Well, this time he fetched me this string of dabs. They were ever so cheap. And there was a great big one on. Well, I took them off to wash them. And this big one jumped out the dish! [Q: laughs] Well, I think for about half an hour we were in hysterics! Every time I picked up, put it in a dish, so that jumped out, that was still alive, poor devil. And that’s been on that wire, threaded through somewhere, on that wire, from the day before! I thought myself ‘Poor devil! That’s still alive!’ And I wanted it done for dinner! Cut all the fins and that off and cut its head off. And I said ‘Oh, I can’t cut its head off now, it ain’t dead!’ [Q laughs] Oh, we screamed of laughter. Every time we picked the damn thing up and put it in the dish, up that come and out that come again on the ground. Oh, we’ve had some – we’ve really had some fun, you know. Us three, up Church Street. That’s why I hated this place. I don’t like this place. (Q: No?) I can’t stand the damn place! And I never will like it. And I daren’t tell my children so because I said ‘ Oh, I hope there’s these sort of places when I get on’ I said, ‘You can have mine,’ I said. I’ d get out tomorrow if I could get out..
Q: That is the problem once you come you’ve lost – you’ve got to stay really, haven’t you? Almost, any way….
Mrs B: Well, I can’t climb stairs very well. And if I go out want help. You see, when my son comes down every third week, my young Cyril, he always come and picks me up and fetches me back at night. I go up there for the day. Well, I get hold of his arm and with me stick I can walk along ever so well. And that’s a help here I roll a bit. I ave to be careful. When I go on me own, you know. But he’s ever so good. So, I can’t grumble.
[continues with general conversation, not noted]