Mrs Rose Richardson (nee Perrin), was born in 1904. She was interviewed on 18 May 1983, when she lived at 44 Church Street.
Her grandson Graham appears on interview tape 202
For more information about them, see “Richardson, Rose, Fred and Graham” in the People category. This is mostly about Rose’s son Fred, who was evacuated to Canada in 1940, and stayed there. Graham is her grandson, Fred’s son.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
For more about her son Frederick as an evacuee, see pages 134 and 135 of A History of Witham by Janet Gyford (downloadable from http://www.gyford.com/janet/books/history-witham/text/). Also see the interview with her son Graham on tape 202.
Mrs R: … We have them [tape recorders] at our Church, they take the services down, then they take them down to the people who can’t get to them. Last night at the Prayer Meeting we had a missionary from Mozambique and she was telling us all the work that’s going on there. Its really marvellous and of course it’s Marxist domination really, which makes it very difficult. Still it was very interesting to hear what she’d got to say. I should think she was, she was a nurse, very well spoken, you know. Of course they tell that over in so many places, well they’ve really got it all off by heart haven’t they. Well I used to go out speaking and you know, well if you go to Braintree, Colchester, Chelmsford and places and if you sort of, well, not exactly take the same message, but you’ve got it all in your head – haven’t you?
Q: Yes, yes, I suppose so. I’m no good at speaking. So you used to. Have you always belonged to the … How long has it been there? Is it Rickstones Road [evangelical church]?
Mrs R: Yes, Rickstones Road. Oh it’s been there since Miss Blyth started it, but of course not the new church wasn’t there. But Miss Blyth started it, oh, long before my time. (Q: Really?) That’s that building in the front, the wooden one, that she started. And then of course they built a beautiful brick one at the back. (Q: Oh yes.) At the side. But Miss Blyth was the originator. Oh I have got the history off because it was the fiftieth anniversary last year and so I bought it. Because they were the millers, used to have the mill down Guithavon valley but Miss Blyth, she went to Canada, come to the finish, and she died in Canada.
Q: I saw in the paper. Was it just recently, was it? (Mrs R: No, not just recently.) Because I noticed in the paper sometime this year there was a Miss Blyth that had died. She was 90 something.
Mrs R: Well she went to Vancouver. Yes. That was her.
Q: Well, maybe it just took its time to get here.
Mrs R: Well, she went to Vancouver because her brother was there but they were millers, down the Valley [Guithavon Valley] (Q: Yes.) for years and her mother, I can remember her mother at the mill there and Miss Blyth she was a nurse from early on. So she wasn’t always at home. She was out nursing. But then there was another Miss Blyth, her sister, who lived in that house near the Catholic church, down Avenue Road. The millers, the Blyth’s mill, factory rather was round the back, up Avenue Road and then you can go round the back can’t you (Q: Mmm.) to Hurst Gunson’s. (Q: Yes.). Well that’s where. I worked in the office there during part of the War. I worked in the Post Office for three and a half years and when, because the Post Office when I started in it was 1940 and that was in the middle of the town, next to Cooper’s [84 Newland Street]. That’s still there, the old building.
Q: Really. Which building was it then. The one that’s up the top?
Mrs R: You know where the Gas Office is? (Q: Yes.) [86 Newland Street] Well isn’t there a passage, well that building here that comes out a bit and then where the Gas Office is used to be old Sammy Page the [???] that sold all sorts of things and well, I don’t know whether he was a pawnbroker but that type of thing. And next to him there was Hunwick’s and Beardwell’s. And Beardwell’s, they sold, not Beardwell’s, Beard’s. They sold crockery ware and Mrs Hunwick she sold, well, more like a draper’s affair. And then there was those three houses, I think they’re still there, where the dentist [Mr De Trense] used to be [Medina Villas, back of 80-84 Newland Street]. And he his wife was the people at the mill down at Wickham, (Q: Really?) that was her father. [Blue Mills] They bought the picture palace down here? (Q: Oh, Gaze?) Gaze. The dentist that lived in these. I don’t know if they’re still there. You go back and up some steps and I think they’re down. At any rate, course the town has altered such a lot.
Q: Because you came, when did you say ?
Mrs R: 1925 when I came here first.
Q: Was that when you got married?
Mrs R: When I got married yes, because I was originally from Braintree.
Q: You did tell me your name before?
Mrs R: Perrin, Richardson now, but Perrin then. And my father came from London and well, I don’t know where my mother came from, not really because I knew her people were about but there was some trouble over. When her father died he left a little money. Well, not like they do today, but money in those days, well if you had a hundred pounds you was a millionaire really. And I think that was more or less over that. But then she married my father so they tell me and they didn’t like it. Of course that was like that in those days.
Q: Was she a Braintree …?
Mrs R: No, no, her brother was a racehorse trainer at Newbury, Berkshire. That’s where I last heard of him. My mother did advertise for him in the News of the World and of course in those days they used to keep the back page for the News of the World for you to advertise in if you wanted to trace somebody, and my father you see he wouldn’t hear of my mother doing that but mother did do it and that came back that he was at Wantage, Newbury, Berks. But of course as they … So I never saw him really.
Q: So what was her name ?
Mrs R: Spittal. He used to ride horses in France and when he was younger, so I was told, and Ireland and England I’ve heard mother say. And then he went in for training afterwards when he got older, jockeys they don’t have to be any age do they. They have to pack up. So he went in for training.
Q: So how did they come to be in Braintree then ?
Mrs R: My mother? (Q: Well, either of them.) My father and mother came from London. My father came from Bermondsey, if you know where that is. That’s a rough house. I don’t know if that is still now, but I never went up to London till I was about fifteen. My dad said he wanted to take me up to see his people. Of course in those days people could not travel. They never had the money. They were not so well off as they are today. I mean poor people were poor people. And then there was the next level and then was the rich people who had servants that started at six in the morning till midnight. And used to have their country houses. I’ve got a friend and she’s still alive, used to be at Lady Warwick’s at Dunmow and I’ve heard Nellie saying more that once that they had to get up when they were going to the town house, four o’clock in the morning to pack everything and of course I don’t know if there were cars then. I suppose there were of a sort and Nellie said they used to have to go up and they used to have to get up very early and get the place ready and have these [???] [???].
At any rate of course England has changed so. Really it has everywhere. In Braintree when I was a little girl I can remember the palace open, the picture palace and we used to go in for a ha’penny on a Saturday afternoon. And that’s in the same position as the Embassy, but that was a tiny little, I’ve got a picture of it because when they put them in the Silver End Times I cut them all out. So I’ve got it when just before the First World War started, let me see I was fourteen when the war ended in 1918. I was fourteen in the August and that ended in the 1918 in the November. And I worked at Courtauld’s mill then. That’s where you went then or else Warner’s which is still there where they used to make all the royal robes there didn’t they?
Q: I think so.
Mrs R: Well I used to take the silk up, because you see in those days people that worked out, that didn’t go into Warner’s to work, like the girls or women, they had their spinning wheels at home. And Mrs Dalton, an old lady who lived near us, she used to do all this, they had to get this silk that the men put on these frames in Warner’s, on things like that, I forget what they’re called. And she had to wind them on and then I used to take them up for her to Warner’s and give them to the men who she did it for and they paid her so much for a box. And I used to watch Mrs Dalton with this wheel and had the little thing down [???] and that used to come off you see [???]. I can just remember that.
Q: So what did your dad do for work?
Mrs R: He went to Crittall’s. He was one of the first ones with [???], father was. [???] Yes he was one of the first I think, when Crittall’s started in Bank Street Braintree. But that was before my time. But I remember father used to talk about it. But then he started his little factory up Manor Road, or Manor Street, and then of course that was there for years. Then they opened at [???] on Coggeshall Road, so it went right through. Manor Street here and it went right through to Coggeshall Road. Its got The Manor Works over the top there now. Of course that’s altered. There used to be a brush-making shop in Braintree, factory rather, and that was behind where Ralph Smith’s is, the furniture people. Then there was Canes the man who sold, stuff for chickens and things. Of course in those days there was only just about one shop per article, shall I say. Of course where Courtauld gave the money for those fountains on the corner there, well that was a little block of shops in my young days. And over the other side where the nurses’ home is that was what they called, where they took the corn. It’s altered so much over there.
Q: Yes. Was your husband from Braintree as well ?
Mrs R: No, he came from Rayne. (Q: I see.) That’s how, I told you, we knew the Ropers. [John Gyford’s mother’s cousins] Of course I didn’t know them very well but I’ve heard my husband, when we were quite young. It was when the Ropers went to Canada, that was when that started. And the Ropers were very friendly with Dan Crittall, one of the sons. (Q: Mmm.) Well he came back and I don’t know if [???] I went over to Silver End to see them. Because my husband and I had emigrated to Canada then (Q: Oh.) and we came back and they came back just before us. (Q: I see.) And Dan and his wife lived in Silver End and she came from Canada. So I went over to see her as we’d just come back. But I suppose they’re both dead now, I haven’t heard much about them.
Q: I asked my husband about the Ropers and he said he thinks it was Bill Roper that went to Canada first, and it was their children, these children were my mother-in-law’s cousins. So there was Arthur and Madge.
Mrs R: I’ve got a faint recollection of them because I was 79 in August. (Q: Yes.) Well I’ve got a faint recollection of seeing them about once or twice whichever Ropers they were. But if my husband was here well he’d know. And then there was all the talk about they went to Canada and you know, talk of them. I suppose [???] those days. Still it’s very interesting to know but, as I say, Braintree has changed. I mean the Courtauld hospital wasn’t there, not in my young days. A lot of the shops are closing down aren’t they? There’s Ralph Smith’s closing down. Joscelyne’s has gone. That was only a tiny weeny shop in my day. And Hollands and Barretts was the other side of New Street, well that’s a dress shop now. The roads haven’t altered. I mean you still come along [???] Bank Street although they’ve closed that haven’t they? And down Bocking too that’s very historical down there. My brother-in-law lives down there. He’s got a nice house down [???] Road that’s just past the convent on the left. I go down there but his wife died two years ago, that’s my husband’s sister and they haven’t got any children but they’ve got, that’s a lovely house, beautiful garden too.
One of the Crittalls used to live opposite there. I don’t know whether that was Richard? I know my dad worked at Crittall’s and he used to go up and do the garden. I can just remember that. And I remember writing to Valentine Crittall before he died and I knew Mrs Valentine Crittall because she was killed with the electricity wasn’t she?
(Q: Was she, I didn’t know that?) Well he went over to Canada to Windsor and Mrs Crittall, his wife, she was a Windsor person and that’s where he picked her up and the Honourable Mrs Crittall, Mrs Richardson up there, that’s her daughter and I know her very well because I worked in their office. (Q: Oh I see.) And she came back to England with Val Crittall and then he put up for, I remember him putting up for Labour candidate, and he got in didn’t he? (Q: Yes.) And then up at Wickham, Val Crittall and his wife that came from Windsor, Canada, there’s a big place where they cater for elderly people or something, up in Wickham. It’s as you go, you know if you go up the hill to go to Wickham, you can turn right, down a lane sort of affair. Well, its down that way, and this Mrs Crittall was helping in the place and it was when electricity was first used I suppose, for ironing, for it’s a long time ago. And she electrified herself, through ironing. It was a terrific tragedy. And then Val got married again and then he had that lovely place down Bocking.
Q: Your father stayed at Crittall’s all his life did he?
Mrs R: Well he went to Crittall’s, well he must have been, well, I reckon he must have been thirty when he came down from London because, before he came down from London, he was, on the, he used to let us know this too, because my father was a real Londoner, and he used to say ‘I worked on the LB and SCR’. And of course when we were children we used to say ‘What do you mean the LB and SCR?’ ‘The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway’, he used to say and that used to tickle us to death. And we used to torment and say ‘Oh no you didn’t.’ ‘Oh yes I did’. Well then he came to Braintree and he started work at Crittall’s and he worked for Crittall’s till he was over seventy and then F H Crittall, before the pensions started at Crittall’s, ‘cos I’m going back a good few years, he pensioned off I think there were twelve, that were still alive, the men who really started with him. Because he started in Bank Street, Braintree, in a little place, where Crittall’s & Winterton is now I believe, but I’m not so sure about that. At any rate my father, let me see, how old would he be, seventy-odd I reckon when he retired and then he worked at the bus people, Hicks, which is now the National.
Q: And that was when you were still in Braintree was it?
Mrs R: Well, I left Braintree when I was twenty-one and married and come and lived at the little cottage next door here and I had a sister alive then but she’s passed away now and my brother. My brother worked at Crittall’s too, and he lived over at Silver End and he’s passed away but Connie, his wife is still alive, and she’s …
Q: So when you came to Witham was your husband working in Braintree or …?
Mrs R: No, here. He never worked at Braintree Crittall’s. When he started as a boy he worked for Courtauld’s at Braintree mill. But then the War started and he went into the War in the latter years of 1914-18 War.
Q: When did he get the job here then?
Mrs R: Well, he went into the War and I remember this factory being built and I can remember my husband came up, my husband and I came over one Sunday afternoon because that was open to the public and we went over it. Oh what was that man’s name that was one of the head ones at Crittall’s? Rayner. He lived in what they call the one of the big houses is Rayne. It’s still there. And my husband when he was out, when he came out of the War he went to Hoffman’s and he worked there for a time and then there was a crash. All unemployment. And he came out. He was unemployed for two years (Q: Really?) and this Mr Rayner used to get him to do some jobs on his garden because that was a big house and then when Crittall’s opened here  Mr Rayner got my husband a job at Crittall’s. And that would be round about, I married in 1925. Mother died in 1921. [???] He got this job and then of course we got married.
Q: Did he have anything when he came out of the War ? Did he have any work when he came out of the Army until …?
Mrs R: No, when he came out of the Army, I think he was, that’s when I met him, when I was fifteen. There was a boom of work for Hoffman’s at Chelmsford, the ball-bearing factory, and he got a job up there for all night work which meant he left Braintree by train Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday, not Saturday night. Then all of a sudden there was a crash and about two thousand got the sack. At Hoffman’s. I remember that. Then he was unemployed for two or three years when there was people in Braintree were walking to what we call St Michael’s now, to the Union, and they went there for more or less, well, I don’t know what it was for really, but that was to see if they could, cause you see all they got in those days was fifteen shillings unemployment and if you didn’t take a job you lost your money. Not like it is today. In fact it would do some of them good to be in that position, because I mean, its not for me to voice my opinion, but I don’t agree with all of what’s going on do you.
Q: Oh so he was pleased to get the job at Crittall’s then wasn’t he ?
Mrs R: Yes, but you see that was a new place entirely.
Q: What was he doing there ?
Mrs R: Some part of the windows. You see they made all windows there and I think they called that operation, the glazing bars. But whether they do now or not I don’t know. It’s entirely different. He worked there, and he would have worked longer, but he had angina come on and collapsed in Southend, 1954 I think. I never knew he’d got heart trouble. Just collapsed in Southend and a gentleman, I was with my niece and she said ‘Auntie, Uncle Fred’s on the ground over there’. I said ‘Where ?’ and when I went over and a gentleman had got hold of him, he said ‘I picked him up out of the road’. I didn’t know what was the matter with him, cause, he said ‘Will you be all right now?’, I said yes my niece and I will be all right, and we came home, and had the doctor in for all sorts of things but not the heart. Then I got a bit worried about him and he went to work, and he struggled to work which he shouldn’t have done and then he went to the London Hospital and as soon as he got to the Middlesex hospital, you know where Churchill was, they told him that’s angina. And he never done more work for fifteen years. Because he couldn’t get about without he put one of these pellets in his mouth which they called TNT. Well my son, being well up in that line of business, if you like to call it, he said ‘Mother, TNT [???] is the same as in the explosive, TNT is [???].’ It has the same meaning as in the explosives. If you put one under your tongue, if you can’t walk, whatever it is doing it, you can walk. He daren’t go out without his little bottle of pellets as we called them.
Q: Were you working then? (Mrs R: No.) There can’t have been many jobs [???].
Mrs R: I used to go in the Post Office just for Christmas because I knew all about the telegrams. [???] I was S C and T which was Sorting Office Clerk and Telegraphist. Well, as I knew all about the telegrams and things, I could go straight in, but a person couldn’t have went in for that week or a fortnight to do it because they wouldn’t have picked it up in the time. But how I come to go up the Post Office, was, that was when it was down there, down where I was telling you. Right in front of Bright’s office. Bright’s office was over there and that there.
The old building is still there and at the side way where they used to bring them up. And it was on the television, no not the television, on the radio, the War was on, 1940 and they said they wanted people to help at the Post Office. Well, I said to my husband, because you had to go to work then whether you wanted to or not, or else you took in evacuee children. Well I put my name down for two evacuees to be with my little son, but my little son went to Canada so he wasn’t there. But, funnily enough, they came to the house next door and then they finished. There wasn’t any more. So I never had one. At any rate, so I went to work. Well I said I didn’t want to go in Crittall’s, not cause I’m proud, because I’m not, the only reason was I didn’t want to go in there [???] sometimes there’s a rat runs round and I’d never stop there. [laugh] [???]
Then I heard it on the radio, so I went and saw Mr Jennings the Postmaster and I went up to his office and he said ‘I’ve never heard anything about that’, ‘Well I said it come on the radio. Then on the Monday one of the postmen come up and said ‘Mr Jennings said he’d like to see you, he’s had notification’. See. So I went down and only for the week or fortnight. It was the Christmas rush. But after the fortnight was up the men were still going to the War and young Oxbrow, I knew him. He was then going so Mr Jennings said to me, he asked when I went and saw him, he asked me where I was at School and I told him at Braintree School and Church School. And where did I come, and I said I come out second. I said I was top [???]. So he said ‘Do you know geography?’. I said ‘Yes I could tell you all about the world’, which I could. And still can, though I’m not quite so good now. He said we like smart people about the place. And of course I was well known for dressing in those days. So he said they’d been thinking that you can come. So I went down for the fortnight. Well at the end of the fortnight Mr Jennings said to me, they used to send the telegrams from Witham to the Chelmsford Office and then by the …. And he said Mr Smith[?], he was the second in charge, he said ‘Go in there with him. He wants you to send a telegram to a Miss Bonner who was [???] Chelmsford’ So I sent it off. When he came back he said she said you was excellent. So then they said to me would I go and work there. So of course I thought to myself ‘Yes’, so I worked. We started down at the old office, went there at Christmas, then at the Easter time of the next year they opened that [???] Post Office, which is that one, they’re shutting that up now, you know [part of 5 Newland Street]. You can’t, you’ve got to go round the back to the Post Office now. Till they’ve built, where the gates are they are going make another piece. Because I went and I’d known Rosalind and those that were there when I used to go in Christmas time and they were telling me about it. So that’s how I went to the Post Office. But I enjoyed the work.
Q: So you worked in the Post Office before you were married did you ?
Mrs R: No dear, my son had gone to Canada, this was during the War.
Q: I wondered had you’d worked, when you left school ?
Mrs R: Straight to Braintree Mill, Courtauld’s here.
Q: I thought from what you’ve said that you’d done something like that before.
Mrs R: No, our place was to go to Courtauld’s and I enjoyed that, but then they’ve shut that. I don’t know what Courtaulds would think, they were Huguenots that came over from France, because of their religion and everything. All the money that they had. They named the Courtauld hospital, the public garden. They were all, that’s what I say, you just don’t know. So I worked at the Post Office three and a half years and Mrs Pelly who lived at Blunts Hall, she’s dead now, well I think so. In those days, during the War years, people who didn’t get a postal delivery after dinner in those days, they could come to the office and ask if there was anything. But they’d got to be beyond the boundary of the houses. Well Blunts Hall is, just there, up Blunts Hall Road. And she used to come in, and she always used to talk. She used to say to me ‘You are quick’. ‘Well’, I said, ‘I’m quick at everything. So she said ‘Do you like it here?’, and I said ‘Well I do,’ I said ‘but I don’t like that night shift at nine o’clock, because I had to keep on the telegraph work until Mr [???] from Chelmsford came in to take over nights, because they never had women for night work then.
Well, she said ‘So you would like another?’, ‘Well I should like another job’ I said, ‘Really’, I said, ‘Really because I don’t like to leave my husband, it’s nine o’clock every night, well nearly every night, on his own’. And I went to chapel on Sunday night, down the town, the Congregational and I saw a man in there who was head of Richardson and Preece’s and I turned round and said to him and his wife, I said ‘Hello Reggie’, he said ‘Hello, how are you?’ I said ‘Oh, not so bad’, and my husband was there, and he said ‘[???] has got to go in the Army next week’, I said ‘Has he?’, and he said ‘Yes, that’s another one gone out of our office’. So I just said to him, I said, ‘I want a little part-time office job’ He said ‘Do you?’ I said ‘Yes.’ And he said ‘Well you can have it’. So went to work on Monday and who should ring me up but Mrs Pelly and she said ‘I’ve found you some work at Bright’s office’, I said ‘Well I’m very sorry, but I can’t accept it’ I said, ‘Cause I wouldn’t go back on my word and I’d promised Mr Brown[?], and I wasn’t there very long. I went there in the October and the next February I was knocked off my bike down the town and I was nearly killed.
I was coming down, and they come out of the Income Tax which was at the corner of Maldon Road and my friend was there, Mrs Tucker and she told me about it afterwards. And it was terrible really. My head was all damaged. I can’t smell nor taste. (Q: Really?) That was two of my senses went. Then in 1968 I went blind and that was through that. Trouble was, Doctor Foster, he wasn’t here when that happened, and I told him about it, my husband said you’d better tell him about the accident. So he read all the particulars about it and he said, ‘You know what’s happened. Your brain is unbalanced’. He said ‘You turned your head quickly’. I said I could remember it because somebody come to the church and I said I would be up there presently and I turned my head quickly and I went blind. Mrs [???] come into the shop, she said I can’t understand, but the young doctor, he was splendid young doctor that Doctor West because he weren’t thirty, he was married not long after. He said to me, he said to Mrs Wood, ‘She’s not very heavy [???] so I’ll carry her upstairs’. I thought ‘What’s he going to carry me upstairs for?’ Because I felt queer because I’d been so sick and I’m never sick. [???] And he said I’m going to shine a light but I said ‘I can’t see it properly’. [???] Well the reason he was going to carry me upstairs was when I went to get up I couldn’t, my spine had gone.[???] That was a fortnight like that. Oh I can remember my husband went up to the church several of them came down for a time of prayer but my sight came back the next day which I thank God for. It was a terrible experience to say you’re going blind and you can’t see, all of a sudden. But still. So now I’m very careful. I never turn my head turn my head quick. Dr Foster said I could send you to the finest hospital in London and they could do nothing about it, your brain is unbalanced, it was all due to that accident.
[chat about tape recording, not noted]
Q: I think Philip [Philip Gyford, also present] would be interested in what you said about your son going to Canada because …
Mrs R: That was marvellous how he went really. That is him there, when he got his BA.
Q: Because how old was he when he went did you say ?
Mrs R: 25.
Q: When he went I mean.
Mrs R: He went in the August and he would have been fourteen in the September, the next month.
Q: Not much bigger than you. And that was in the War time was it?
Mrs R: Well you see, the point was, why they went, was because we were in a very funny position with the War. The Germans had taken all the continent practically, definitely they’d got to as far as the beaches of France on the Channel and Mr Churchill, he was an excellent minister, Tory or Labour or whatever they were, he was good and he, I suppose him and the rest of the parliamentarians got together and they decided to send children to the Colonies, because if the Germans took the island, I mean, even Churchill wondered what going to happen and so did everybody and I remember that as plain, I mean they were bombing us and goodness knows what and so Sunny came home, he go, although he’s my son, he was very clever. (Q: That’s because he was your son, you mean, don’t you.) He went to the Maldon Road School, Mr and Mrs Care were there then. And when he sat for the High School, and you listen, this is a bit funny, they used to go on the train in those days to Braintree County High School and I went up to meet him because I knew he’d got to pay to go over there and sit for them. When he saw me he started to cry and I asked whatever was the matter. He said ‘Mum’, I don’t reckon he’d passed’. I said ‘Why?’. Well, he said they’d said they’d got a write about a famous man or woman now living. I can’t make out, ‘cause he was a quick boy really, well, that day that was Amy Johnson and Lindbergh who flew the two aeroplanes across the Atlantic didn’t they. Were they were famous people that day because they came across for the first time in these planes. Who do you think he wrote about? John Bunyan. Well I told Mr Care the headmaster down there and he said ‘He’ll lose marks, Mrs Richardson’, but he’ll gain them in his other things because he used to top the class down there two years older than him. And I’ve got certificates all about it. Used to take the prize every time. And girls and boys, well grown-ups nowadays, they stop me about Sunny, and he was he was very clever. At any rate he went to Braintree County High School and although he’s a fine fellow, now six foot it was me who used to look, if boys interfered with him it was me who used to have to go after them, not him. His Dad, he wouldn’t he wasn’t that sort, but I happened to be one of them what would. At any rate, he came home and he said, ‘Mum, Mr Dell, that was the headmaster says that some children had got to go to the Colonies’ he said ‘and I told him I would like to go to Canada. Well you see my husband had got some people out there, his cousins, and I’d never seen them but my husband had, so he said that Mr Dove that he can’t do anything about it. He must have a written statement from his parents. Well, when he came indoors he was telling me all about it and I didn’t [???] I just said ‘Oh, all right I’ll write a letter and you can take it tomorrow morning’. Little did I think that he was going. And the only one that went from Braintree County High School. (Q: Goodness.) I didn’t dream, I tried to get it back next day. At any rate, my husband wasn’t well then. He said ‘I think you’d better take the boy up to Woodford to George’. That was his brother, he was comfortably placed. He said ‘He’ll have a holiday there, because I shan’t have to go far with you this year’, ‘cos we used to go to Clacton or somewhere like that. And we went up. Well, that was on the Friday afternoon. On the Monday morning my husband had a letter from the offices at Chelmsford and he got on his bicycle to post a letter to tell us to come home because of this paper that had come. When he got up to the top of the road, he thought to himself I won’t post that letter, he suddenly remembered his brother was on the phone. Because in those days they didn’t always have the phone like they do today, but his brother did because he was in business. So, I was in bed and so was Sunny and George. He heard the phone bell ring so he went downstairs and answered the phone. He said, ‘Can’t understand this, it’s from Fred’. I said ‘Fred at Witham?’. He said
‘Yes. Something about the boy to go to Canada’. Oh my son was up and in the bathroom getting ready to come straight home. So I said ‘Now look here, you’re not going home today’. So during the dinner hour he asked me again. I said ‘I told you you’re not going home, but I’ll get your things ready in the case and we will go home tomorrow or the next day’, but he was to go I’m sure, because George said to me ‘I can’t tale you home Rose,’ he said ‘because I haven’t got petrol’. It was all ration. He said ‘But there’s the buses run from Whipps Cross. I said well, we’ll go home and when we got to Witham my husband was in the garden. He said ‘If you can could read that paper’, he said, ‘that’s more than I can.’ But I got hold of it and I could read the printed part but not the longhand. I said ‘When has he got to go?’ Couldn’t understand it. Well Freddy Mellon and his sister Winnie, he worked at the offices where this come from and Winnie was a school teacher, and still is. So I went down to their house I said ‘Can you read this?’ Freddy, I said ‘ It come from the county offices, Chelmsford’, I said ‘Perhaps Freddy can’. Well Freddy said ‘I can’t read it Mrs Richardson’. So Winnie looked at it, she come in from the school and she said ‘Well, I can’t read it. But if you want me to make a guess it looks tomorrow, Tuesday’. ‘What’ I said ‘we’ll never get him ready’. And that had got to say no, you mustn’t tell anybody you’re coming and do this and you mustn’t do that and what things you’d got to put in the [???] and if you’ve got one, and I don’t know what wasn’t on that thing. ‘That’s tomorrow’ I said to my husband. ‘Tomorrow!’ he said. I said ‘They’re going to stop a special train, half past twelve’. Well I had to get him ready and my husband was crying all the time, he didn’t want him to go. Well neither did I really, but I wasn’t that way you see. But my husband, Sunny said to him, ‘Dad if you keep crying, I won’t go’. At any rate we got him ready, sent him down to have his photograph taken [???], we went down Witham to have our photographs taken at Mr Butcher’s, he’s not there now, and he come back and he’d got to catch that half past twelve, and we hadn’t got to tell anybody, not relatives, friends but we did tell Mrs Pendle who’d got the shop because she was a great friend of ours. And the next day, on the Tuesday we got him ready, and we got down on to the platform and on no account is your son to get in contact with you. Course you see the reason they were doing that was enemy action. You see there was two thousand children went down in that boat one after them [the Benares] and they stopped them then. And we got on to the station and the station master was amazed. ‘Is this the boy that’s going to Canada?’ I said ‘Yes.’ Well, he said, ‘You were supposed to tell me’, I said ‘Well it don’t tell you that on the paper.’ So he just got to the signal box to give the man time to stop that train and so when he got in there was the stewards with the other boys from Colchester and places and I didn’t cry till he’d gone. And then I said you’re not supposed to write but I said ‘Will you write to Mummy, don’t say where you are, just say you are happy and you are all right’.
I got up the next morning and I was tidying his books and things away to put in the drawers and then I got this letter and it had got Avery Hill on its postmark and that was well stamped so you could read it. [???] And I said to my husband ‘I’m going to get him back’. He said ‘It’s no good talking about getting him back now, he’d gone’. At any rate I went down to Mrs Pendle’s cause we had told her, ‘Mrs Pendle, I’m going to get my son back’. She said ‘You’re not, Mrs Richardson.’ I said ‘I am.’. All I’ve got to go by is Avery Hill and that’s a college. There’s a college up the top of the corner. She got through and no, three lots didn’t know nothing about the boys overseas evacuees and then they asked if she had tried Avery Hill. She said ‘I don’t think so’. She got through and it was there. And she said ‘Mrs Richardson wants to speak to her son’, she said, ‘Mrs Richardson can not, he’s undergoing his medical and intelligence tests. Come back in an hour’. And Mrs Pendle said, ‘Well will you ring back?’ She said ‘Yes.’ Well we came down there we sit, Mrs Pendle crying. Both there crying. Determined he’d got to come back but when he got on the phone Mr Pendle answered and said ‘Look here Sunny, your Mum and Dad are here, [???] cut us off.
So Daddy got on first, and I got on. No, we didn’t say nothing, we never told him we wanted him to come back (Q: Oh I see.) We never told him, Mr Pendle just said ‘There’s Mummy and Dad’ and he spoke and we said to him ‘Are you happy?’ ‘Yes Mum, don’t worry about me’. And I had a lovely letter from him when he got to Canada. I’ve still got it. Not to worry about him and he’s all right and all the rest of it. And he went but still when he got t’other side Fred’s people were on holiday on the Lakes[?] and they had this letter to say that the boy was there. So they’d asked for one, but a girl. But they came back and they had him. And after that he went to the Wayne[?’] University in Detroit, not first. He had to go into a school, like Braintree County High School, similar status and then he went to Wayne. Then when he was eighteen if he didn’t join the Canadian Navy! We didn’t want. We had to send, we had three cables from the Children’s Overseas Reception Board out there. The first one, and that was when I had this terrible accident I was telling you about, and I was in bed and on the top of the shelf. And the first cable was ‘Freddie has opportunity to join the Canadian Navy. Must have your consent’. Well I said to my husband ‘What are you going to do?’ So we sent back and said he could. The next day we had another, next week rather, we had another cable to say that he’d got the opportunity to have his deferment. We wrote back, cabled back, to let him have his deferment, well that pleased us. The next week we had another one ‘Freddie has opportunity to join the Naval Research Laboratories in Toronto’. Well, we thought they would be on the land, but they were not. We cabled back ‘He can.’ He joined them but by the time …
Mrs R: Well he worked in the sick bay, because you see that was what he was in. He was going to be a doctor. That’s what’s his mind was on. And how he first come to know of it, that was at that school down there. He come home one day with a piece of paper in his hand. ‘Look Mum, I come top of the class and I got the most marks.’ I said ‘What’s that, I didn’t know nothing about it’. That was to know the difference between the bloods and he’d got [???] and that’s how he first started in that line really.
Well then he continued but he worked in the laboratories but then he went to the London University at London Ontario, not London here, and that’s where he more or less decided and then he went in for teaching and he was at St Andrews Private College, Aurora, and that was a lovely place. Because when I went over in ‘62 there was a cheap trip so my husband said well he couldn’t go because of his heart, he said ‘I should go if I were you’. So I booked on the Cunard liner, Queen Mary, and when we were coming off the boat waiting to go on the quay to come out, we were all in this room and waiting in queues and one thing and another, a woman said to me ‘Do you live in Canada?’, I said ‘No’ I said ‘my son is here’ and I said ‘He’s a teacher at St Andrews Private College, Aurora’. She said ‘That’s the best one in Canada and where all the sons go of Ambassadors.’. But that’s a lovely place. And when he left there, they told him he could go back just when he liked. But then he went right into Toronto and started at the school, he’s had this principalship since, let me see, my husband went over in ‘68. He’s been a principal since 1967 and although I say, he is good too. That’s no picnic.
Q: Did he ever tell you anything about what, you know you say you waved him off on the train. Did he ever tell you anything about what happened after that?
Mrs R: What, when he got to Eltham? (Q: Mmm.) Well he told us, what happened, he told us that he’d got in with a boy whose mother was Mayoress at Maldon, Keeble. (Q: Oh I see.) and he was evidently older than some of them, or most of them I should imagine because they let him and young Keeble go out where they wouldn’t the other children. (Q: I see.) Because he said me that he and, I forget what his name was, Keeble, he said ‘We’re having a look round, mother’ and he said that was very interesting but he daren’t tell us where he was going or anything at all about it and when he got to Canada he couldn’t tell us what ship they went on. Because you see they’d got to be very careful. I mean, if you wrote things in those letters in those days, they were all looked at, all examined and if there was something that they shouldn’t put in that the enemy action might like, they used to scribble them out. (Q: Yes, quite).
Well, I think that was seven days going over and they had six battleships with them, no destroyers [i.e. there were destroyers]
Q: What sort of boat were they on?
Mrs R: That was a big boat, there was ever so many children.
Q: Did some of them go to other places do you know ?
Mrs R: Some went to Australia, but when he came home, he came home for the first time in 1969, so that was nineteen years and I never knew he was coming. He came up this street and I saw a car and saw a man get of out the car and I said to the elderly lady I said ‘That looks like my husband’s brother coming across there, coming across that street’, but George never come down this way much. And he said he’d just heard from Mrs Wood that my husband was going to Chelmsford hospital for an emergency operation. Which he did on the Monday. So he come across and he said ‘Well how is Fred?’ Well I wondered how he knew Fred was in hospital as I hadn’t told him, hadn’t had time, but Mrs Wood had told him that I’d gone up to Chelmsford hospital you see and he’d got to wait till I got back. And I said well he’s getting on nicely. So he said ‘Well, I’ve got a shock for you.’ and my son got out of the car, six foot and I stood and cried.
And he was there for six weeks then. He was married then of course and he went round his relations and went down to see Mr and Mrs Care his old school mistress and master down near Colchester and he stayed six weeks. Oh, first of all he flew to London with a party that were going to Salzburg and they brought him so when they left him in London. Then after that he went to Salzburg himself because he wanted to see this professor. I don’t know who it was and that’s where he went and then he stopped in France a week but he couldn’t have seen much of France. But he went to Salzburg and he liked that.
Q: So I mean did you ever get any more letters from the Government or anything about after he’d gone ?
Mrs R: Oh, I had to pay money. (Q: Did you?) Yes, not terrific, I forget how, I had to pay [???]. How much was it a month. I paid, I couldn’t tell you really how much but I used to pay more you could if you liked. Well, I was at work at the Post Office and so every three months I used to send another lot of money which would help buy his clothes. Well Nellie said she didn’t want it. Well I said ‘I’m allowed to do it and I’m going to’. And Sunny, he used to have a little money, a little bit of the money out of it. I used to pay it in at Chelmsford or else, they finally had it down at the top of Maldon Road where the Income Tax Offices were. We paid a little. I couldn’t tell you, it might have been about twenty-five shillings or something like that in those days.
Q: Did they write and thank you for letting him go or anything ?
Mrs R: Oh, I’ve got every, do you know I’ve got every letter. Oh yes. He wrote and told me he said ‘Mummy dear’ he said, ‘Don’t worry about me. I’m very happy. He said Auntie Nellie’. Of course they all made a fuss of those children, whether they were their children or not. These evacuees, they went to America, there was a terrific lot went to America wasn’t there? And of course the people made a fuss of them because they was all in this trouble with the War. And he liked it and of course they really did make a fuss of him of course. And he wanted to go. He wasn’t pushed. If he had said he didn’t want to go he’d have pleased his Daddy and I but still, we believe that was all in God’s plan for his life. I’m sure it was. Because if my husband hadn’t changed his mind and rang that phone I wouldn’t have got back till next morning. And they said if you miss this chance you will not get another. And I still don’t know how they picked them out. Not even now.
Q: So it was just him that they, (Mrs R: Sent.) at Braintree then. He was the only one.
Mrs R: When Mr. Dell[?] The headmaster opened the school after the, ‘cos that was August and they were on holidays. He said ‘Fred Richardson has gone to Canada’ (I never knew he said this, a person whose girl went there told me, that was that Mrs Ireland, you know her, well that was Marie, told her mother and her mother told me) he said ‘His mother calls him Sunny and he was the sunshine of the school. And so when he come home in ‘69, and I’ve still got it all down, they had him there to give two lessons at that Braintree County High School. He didn’t go over to do that but he went over to see the master and I suppose they asked him and then he wrote a bit in his book and sent that along. Of course he used to like it.
Q: And the idea was, as you say, if we were invaded was it?
Mrs R: Well, you see they thought we would have been invaded and where would we have been if the Germans had’ve got here. I mean that really was partly the reason, ‘cos I tell you what I said to my son. Because he was only thirteen and I thought. I said ‘Look here dear, if the Germans take this island, promise me one thing if I let you go’. He said ‘What is it mother?’ ‘You’ll never return to England if Germans take this island’. And he said ‘No, mother I won’t’. And I didn’t want him to, not under the Germans. I mean we didn’t know half what happened but I mean if you see on that television, what they did in these camps and one thing and another, well they were just like animals. I said, ‘Tell Mummy you’ll never come back’. And he said ‘No, mother I won’t’. And so he wouldn’t have done either. Well he hasn’t come back as it is because we went over and he was thinking about coming back.
Well then he picked up with Lois and of course she said, that was his young lady, and she’s a splendid wife and he’s got four beautiful, well they’re grown up now, they ain’t children. He makes you laugh really when he writes. He says ‘They’re starting another phase in life, mother’. So he said ‘That changes all things’. But still he’s happy and we’ve been, I’ve been over. I was over there last year to my grand-daughter’s wedding and he’s happy and the Lord has blessed him because, as I say he’s got a good wife and a family and he’s well and he’s fifty-six but he says he’s going to retire when he’s fifty-nine. I told him to. I said ‘You retire, don’t you keep at work’, I said, ‘You’ve worked hard’. Because he’s my boy, but he’s like me not because I’m boasting, conscientious. He’s got to have everything done properly and he’s not only the Principal at this college but he’s also on what they call, we would call them the Board of Directors for the whole of Ontario (Q: Goodness me.) and that’s a lot of work. He says to me ‘I’ve been very busy mother and I shall be glad to get a rest’. See you’ve got to be very careful, when you’re like that. But that’s a lovely place. I haven’t been in the place but when I went over last year and my grand-daughter Andrea, she’s got a car now, of her own. They’ve all got cars over there. Two or three to a house. And she took me by car for a ride round to where the church goes every year with the young people to what they call the ‘old fashioned place’ you know, with the old fashioned house and they take the young teenagers down there. So she said ‘I’ll take you down there grandma’, that was very pretty. And that is pretty over there, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Q: Were you living here or next door?
Mrs R: Oh, I lived in Cross Road. When we came back [from living in Canada], we’d got nowhere to go, my husband and I. So we went to my, I wrote and told my people I was coming back because of Fred’s health and my brother and his wife were up at Waterloo Station to meet us and we went to Silver End. Well it was really wonderful I think. I came into Witham to go to the apple factory to get a job, which I did, in the office (Q: Mmm.) Only part time. Well when I went up to the top of Cross Road to get the bus to take me back to Silver End. Well, Mr Hasler who owned all this property including across the road as well, he lived in Elms Corner, the bungalow. [Rickstones Road] He was our landlord when we were there. Well I’d got a long while to wait for that bus and I knew Mr Hasler had gone to Bath, to be with his people during the War because he was a cripple, although he had all this property and business. He could work but he wasn’t married[?]. And I thought while I was waiting I’ll go over and see if Mr Hasler had returned from Bath. When I got over there and he was in the kitchen. And he said ‘Oh hello Mrs Richardson, you were just the one he wanted to see’. ‘Well’, I said, ‘I’m pleased to see you after all these years’. And he said ‘There’s a letter for you’ he said, ‘I’ve sent it by Mr Pendle to give to your husband in Crittall’s. But now you’ve come, will you come in?’ I said ‘Yes’, so I went in and he asked me how I got on, and I asked him how he’d got on and how was he doing. So he said ‘I’m wanting to ask you if you’d like to go and keep house for me’. Oh I said, ‘I don’t know about that’. Because we didn’t like Silver End. My husband and I, we reckoned that was horrible. At any rate. But it was a good job my brother said all about it, they were good to have us there. I said ‘Well look, l’ll come over on Friday night with Fred’, I said, ‘and we’ll tell you’. Well, when I got back to Silver End my husband had gone to bed, he wasn’t very well, so Connie said ‘He’s got a letter for you, he said, from Mr Hasler’. I said ‘Has he?’ I said ‘I’ve just been to Mr Hasler so I think I know what’s in it.’. So we went over on the Friday night and we told Mr Hasler we would. So we come over here. We were there six years looking after him.
Q: Whereabouts was that exactly ?
Mrs R: You know where the Crossroads stores is. Well there’s a bungalow, there was no other houses there then, in those days. Only two and that bungalow. Mr Hasler’s was the bungalow, Elms Corner its called. Because that’s Elm Farm you see and I think that’s what he. It’s the corner bungalow where you go down that lane.
Q: Opposite Crossroads is it? (Mrs R: Yes.) down the …
Mrs. R: That used to be the road to the Rec. And we went there for six years and I was very fond of gardening you see, and so was Mr Hasler, so we used to do all that. And so it was just as if the Lord had opened that way for us. Cause Fred was able to come back to Witham and that was just right for us because you see he lived alone and his people lived at Bath and there was none of them suitable to come up to him. And then after that he left me this cottage. And of course you see I wouldn’t take no wages. (Q: I see.). Only he left me a hundred pounds in the will and then when this cottage came vacant there was three of his houses come vacant while I was there but I never asked him, but I knew he was getting old. He was over eighty and I knew the bungalow was to Miss Ethel Hasler the schoolteacher. And so I thought, well what shall we do. So I mentioned it to him and he said ‘Well, Mrs Richardson, you never asked for one of the other ones’. Well I’d never thought nothing about it and he said ‘I think’, he said, ‘I’ll leave you that in the will’. So I said ‘Listen’. Cos I never asked him to, I asked him to let me rent it. Then I said to him ‘Well, if you leave me that’ I said ‘Well you can cut that hundred pounds out’. And Mrs. Pendle said ‘You never’, I said ‘I did’. Of course a hundred pounds was a lot of money in those days.
Q: So when you first came when you were first married, you were next door did you say ?
Mrs R: Yes, of course this house hadn’t been done up at all. It was in its original state and the children thought that was very funny.
Q: Were the Pendles there when you came?
Mrs R: No, Mr Hasler was there. He was still in the business. Then he had that Elms Corner built. And he left that was 1925. He was there four years, let me think, yes four years. Then when he moved out Mr and Mrs Pendle came up from Battlesbridge and took it with Sheila, ‘cos Sheila was only a little girl, used to play with Sunny, was about the same age as her and I was next to the Pendles a year. Well then we got this house in Cross Road. They were all new then. That road hadn’t even been made up. And then when we left there and went to Canada. Came back and went to Freddy Hasler’s. And then we came here. So I was neighbour with Mrs Pendle when they were at the shop [48 Church Street] as well, when we came back. I was very friendly with them.
Q: I’ve never met them.
Mrs R: Not the Pendles?
Q: No, was it much different, the shop, then ?
Mrs R: Oh yes. Well then they took the Post Office over, it was Mrs Pendle who started that [9 Church Street] and the shop [48 Church Street] didn’t get, you see when they were in there you went round to the back door and you went into their scullery and the room, you know where the bacon counter is there, well that shop only came to that bit. Beyond that bit, and there’s a door going there isn’t there. Well you came in a back door there and you went through that door and that was their living room. And what they’ve got first[?], for goods, in the front there, was their front room. And they used to make the brawn and sausages in that room which would be where that counter is there. (Q: I see.) The shop went to about there. You could see at one time just where.
Q: Did they have many people working there ?
Mrs R: Well, Mr and Mrs Pendle. Mr Pendle went out with the van every day. Then [???] Miss Brett, she was working there, more or less looking after Sheila, but then Sheila went back to Battlesbridge to her Grandma’s because they didn’t think that was good enough for her there so she went back to Battlesbridge and was brought up there really, but most of [???] because they used to go with them sometimes to Battlesbridge to see her and there was a Miss Brett there, then they did have another girl in there, I forget who went in there, different girls. But as I say, they had a good trade there, well so did the Woods, I mean Daphne and Vivy, and they must have done remarkably well there because they had it all altered. You see that was them who had that done so those rooms were taken out and the shop went back and then, if you remember, they had the flap right across the top. (Q: Yes.)
They had it so they went upstairs to that flat from the corner where the garage is. And their rooms were all across the top. Whereas, previous to that the living room and the big pantry and the front room were all on the ground floor. That was Vivien and Daphne [Wood] who had it, but they’ve got a nice place now at Chelmsford because I go there. (Q: Of course.) They’ve got a nice place there and the children are all off of course. Because there were three boys.
Q: So did you used to do a lot of your shopping at Pendles when you very first came?
Mrs R: Of yes of course. But you see there was a little bit of trouble. When Crittall’s got so they couldn’t keep all the men, men were getting sacked, and if you didn’t live at Silver End you got the sack if they were sacking anyone. And the Co-op then had, no they hadn’t, the Co-op at Silver End, belongs to the Co-op now. But in that day that belonged to Crittall’s. (Q: Mmm.) Well they didn’t tell you that you’d got to buy your groceries from them, but the van used to come round so what I did. I used to do half with the van, because he was a nice man from Silver End, And half with Pendle, no with Mr Hasler. [???] ‘Well’ I said ‘you can’t do that’ and I said ‘What are we going to do’. So that’s what we did.
Q: I see, you thought it was better to keep in with them you mean?
Mrs R: Yes, I mean if you got the sack in those days, all you got was fifteen shillings and you didn’t want the sack. But if you lived in Silver End when they used to go round on a Friday afternoon with the cards, they used to give them to them, just give it to them, and but if a man turned round and said I live at Silver End, he said ‘Oh give me it back’ (Q: Really?) Mmm, They used to do that openly.
Q: What, even the ones that worked in Witham? (Q: Yes!) There was some that worked here and lived at Silver End?
Mrs R: Oh, Silver End! When Mr Crittall made Silver End they all come up from Surrey and they used to call it the Welsh Village.
Q: But I mean in the Witham factory ?
Mrs R: They used to come to the Witham factory, because they wouldn’t all have got in at Silver End. I mean that factory is nothing, here’s the biggest here so now there’s Braintree, all Crittall’s.
Q: Was your husband ever, did he ever get the sack or was he worried about it?
Mrs R: No, he never got the sack and when we went to Canada, of course he’d been with them a good time and that, now what was man’s name there, the manager. We were only there four months and when we came back he was very good. He said ‘We won’t class that as a break in your service’. So they put those four months as if they hadn’t been broken, which was better for my husband because I think he did altogether when he was retired with his angina, twenty-three or twenty-four years. But there’d have been a break wouldn’t there.
Q: He did the same job all the time, more or less, did he?
Mrs R: Yes, on what they called the glazing bars. But he liked it. But of course, as I say all things have changed I mean, they had to go to work Saturday mornings then. (Q: Of course, yes.) And evenings as well if they was needed. But today it seems to me as if [???] I don’t know what’s happening to this country I’m sure.
Q: Did he work there through the War time ?
Mrs R: Oh he was in the Army. (Q: I see.) He worked at Courtauld’s. Went to Courtauld’s when he left school and then he left there during the War to go to the foundry in Rayne. It’s still there but I don’t think it’s a foundry now . Well then, from that foundry that he went to the forces. But he joined up, he wanted to go in. Though I think, after he got in, he wished he hadn’t ! [laugh] He was like the rest of the young men, boys, they sort of wanted to get in, and thought they were, well, it is an adventure really, although they don’t want the War.
Q: That was in the First World War ?
Mrs R: First World War, 1914-18 War. Of course I was still at school.
Q: In the Second World War what happened?
Mrs R: He never went in the War for that. He was in what they called, of course you see he was too old for one thing, he used to go and what’s this Morse code? If you were of an age to do anything you had to belong to something. And there was another young, some relation to the Richards I think, went to learn this signalling business, I forget what it is. Something like the Morse code I expect.
Q: In Witham you mean?
Mrs R: Yes, that was in the shop over where the butcher’s is, near the Congregational. [88 Newland Street?] Because that was two shops there, different to, by the butchers shop. And that side door I think is still there, they used to go upstairs. Then there was fire-watching wasn’t there. You had to go and do all that.
Q: Did you do that as well ?
Mrs R: I didn’t do it. I tell you for why. I worked at the Post Office (Q: Oh, quite.) and I was on duty till nine so I never had to go on fire-watching not in our road. I would have done if I had had to, but I didn’t. And then I had that terrible accident in ‘42, no ‘44 and they came round to my husband and asked me about whether I’d be a fire-watcher. Oh, I was mad. I was in a bathchair! So the lady that was in charge of that lived in the Avenue Road and my husband took me down in the bathchair and said ‘Look, my wife’s sitting in that chair’, or in that bathchair, and he said ‘And your letter came this morning that she’s to do fire work or fire duty.’ He said ‘Do you think she can do it?’ Of course she was very good. She was sorry, she said, that she’d had sent it out. She evidently didn’t know anything at all about it. Because for six months I never went out.
Q: Who was that that was running that then?
Mrs R: Oh, I couldn’t tell you. She lived in the first house down, well, the first house past those new ones on the corner. Forget what her name was. Because there was somebody doing all sorts of things in those days. Those in the Unemployment Exchange which belongs to the Conservatives, that was the Unemployment Exchange, near the beginning of the Avenue Road, not Road, Avenue, that’s where the office was for unemployed. [Avenue Lodge] But still I was never unemployed.
Q: When you were first married, when you first came to Witham did you belong to any clubs or anything like that, or did you have any hobbies? Or were you busy with …?
Mrs R: No. Well, you see I had the baby when. You see I married in the August and I had him the next September and so there wasn’t time to, and besides you couldn’t get any work in those days. People in this street, the one that lived in this cottage, they used to take in peas. Well, we’d never heard of that in Braintree. But what they did, they used to get them from Cullens’s and men used to bring them round on the carts in big sacks all full of peas. And Mr and Mrs Cheney[?] used to have a table there and she used to sit on a chair and her dress opened like this, so that when she got these peas all on the table she had to pick out the bad ones and put them aside and the good ones all went in there and then the men used to come round and collect them in these big sacks. And everybody up there, I didn’t do ‘em. I used to like to see her do them because I’d never seen it done. But they all did them up here. And all these married women up here went to the factory, to work. They had to in those days. I can remember them going past here.
Q: What, even when they were married?
Mrs R: Mmmm, oh yes, they had to go to work. No one had enough to live on. Not in those days they wouldn’t. You see the young people of today they don’t realise the conditions that were on. But still when the Labour people got in, when Crittall got in at any rate, that did make a difference. They did alter it. Because I went to work when I was fourteen, at six in the morning, but I only went one year that’s all. I was fourteen in the 1918. And I got work at the mill in the September and Mr Goodwin[man?] was manager then and I went down so often he said ‘Little girl, you deserve work.’ and they were very slack you see and so he gave me a job and I remember when the War ended on November eleventh, they let us all get out on to the fire escapes to wave to the trains that came back. For they said that if the War was over at eleven o’clock there’d be the train which came from London with the British flag on. And of course we were all bits of kids. We all got out to have a look and we saw the British flag and of course we were saying hooray and all the rest of it. And they let us have the afternoon off. You never saw such goings on in your life in Braintree. [laugh] We were young girls about fourteen and having a real spree. With all our hats trimmed up with the red, white and blue and all the rest of it. I can remember that as plain as it was yesterday.
So then I stopped at the mill [Courtauld’s?] but the first winter we had to get to work at six o’clock. You worked at six o’clock till half past eight. You had a half an hour for breakfast and I was one who wouldn’t eat with anybody else, so I wouldn’t go in the dining hall so I used to, we didn’t live far from the mill, so I used to run home and have my breakfast in half an hour and run back. Then you left off at half past twelve and you came back and quarter past one. Then you left off at quarter past five and you went in Saturday mornings. And listen, my husband worked at the mill and he’d got Rose, Ivy and Edie, three sisters, all in their teens. They used to have to walk from Rayne to get to that mill at six o’clock and they had to get up at four. I said to my husband sometimes, it would do some of them good to have to do that today. They don’t know nothing. Well there was no buses or anything and the girls used to meet near the Rayne Swan, and walk to Braintree, cause no electric lights or nothing like that.
I mean I’m going back to ’19[?] before the War of course, must have been perhaps 1908 perhaps or 1910 when his sisters were there, ‘cos Fred was born in 1900 so he’d have been, he was fourteen when the War started. At any rate you had to work all that. Well then the Union came in the Spring 1919. The Union started. So I went to work at six in the morning for that first winter but I didn’t the next winter because the Union had reduced the hours from six o’clock till half past seven. So I only went one winter. But I’ve heard the people say who were older than me of course, Mrs Dibby[?] got a shop, how she got that I don’t know with all she got. They used to have to go down that mill to work for the Courtauld’s, and come home and feed their babies and go back to work. And Mrs French and Mrs [???] and I used to say to my mother, [???] [???]. But they had to in those days.
Q: Because when you had your baby that was about the nineteen twenties, wasn’t it?
Mrs R: ‘26 when we had him.
Q: Did they have Clinics and things like they do now?
Mrs R: Well, that wasn’t too bad. We could go in that place, that’s the bungalow there where you used to have. [46 Collingwood Road] That where he was born but you could go in there, but mainly people had them at home.
Q: But you went into the bungalow ?
Mrs R: I went into the bungalow because that was open and that was Laurence I think gave that. In The Avenue, Avenue House [Collingwood Road] or something. He gave it for that purpose and I went in there but, in those days, things are not like they are today, but still.
Q: And after you had him, you know now you go to the clinic ?
Mrs R: They come round. You could go down once a month to the bungalow but there used to be a Nurse Watson come round, perhaps about once a week or once a fortnight but I didn’t used to like her coming round. I used to think to myself. If my baby was asleep and I used to put him in his pram up the garden and if she came round I used to say ‘No you can’t see him, he’s just had his feed and he’s just gone off to sleep’, I said ‘I’m not waking him up no more’ And I wouldn’t. No I’m not going to do that. Goodness gracious. And he was a naughty baby till he was a year. And after that he was as good as gold, but before that he was always crying.
Q: Like Philip. (Mrs R: Was he?) When he was a baby, every evening he used to cry.
Mrs R: I used to go up those stairs and he was in a cot and I would lay on my bed next to it and put my fingers through the cot like that and let him get hold of them. Well, when I used to think he was asleep, I used to slip out. But my goodness I hadn’t got out of the cot and he let rip and screamed the house down. Oh dear, it was dreadful really. I was so afraid, and if he got to sleep we was terrified that we’d make a noise. But after a year he seemed ever so good. He was a good boy really.
Q: So you enjoyed being at home did you, with the baby? (Mrs R: Why?) After being at work and that did you find there was plenty of company?
Mrs R: When I was single I was out at work. (Q: Yes.) No, I wanted [???]. Do you know Mr Goodwin was the manager and my husband worked there when he was a young boy, in his teenage. Well, I tell you this story. There was about five young boys about his age, 16-17, and they used to be an apple, not an apple tree, a pear tree in that yard, at Courtauld’s. You can see it, well you can’t see it now, but as you go by in the train you can see that yard. I always see it when I go past. And these boys during the dinner hour went to pick these pears off the tree. Well the man who was in charge of the garden, he told Mr Goodwin the manager. He had the four boys in front of him. Well, I wasn’t there, I was still at school, and he said ‘Well you are all getting old enough for the Army aren’t you?’ And my husband wasn’t a rowdy man but he might have been a funny one in his teenage but he was more of a docilie one. He said ‘You’ll soon be old enough for the army’ and so my husband turned round and told him ‘Yes, and I’m going to join’. So Mr Goodwin said ‘If you boys all go off the premises quietly and not singing’. He didn’t say he would have them back but he said ‘Now go off It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and so his sister worked there. She was older than him and Mr Goodwin went to her the next morning. He sacked them. And Mr Goodwin went to her the next morning he said ‘I intended to make a man of Freddie’. Because my husband, in those days, all the older men had gone to the War and he had to do all this [???] and things they had to get all the silks ready for spinning and they all had to be, he was in the laboratory then, and he was excellent, they told me he was excellent. He’d been taught by one of the older men before they went. But he was excellent. So he got the sack. So when I saw him, I said to him after I found out about it after I was married. I said ‘If I had been your mother you’d have went back there and apologised and nobody would have stopped you from going back’ I said ‘You’d have went and I’d have went with you’. So I would have done. I mean, I only had one son and he’s a lovely boy and I think the world of him and there’s no mother could have done more for my boy than I have, but he was made to mind. When I went over there even last year, course he teases me really. He said ‘You were very fond of a little stingy stick’. I said ‘Oh no I was not’ I said ‘I had it but I used to say “Now, look here, there’s a stingy stick in that cupboard”, but you never had it’. So, now what was it he said about this stingy stick. He made a [???] But when I was in the Post Office I used to sit sometimes and there was nothing to do so I wrote this to him: ‘My Dear Son, I often sit and think about you when I am alone in the Post Office, waiting for telegrams, and sometimes I think Mummy was a bit too strict with you.’ Do you know what he wrote back? He was only only eighteen. ‘My Dear Mother, If I had searched the world I should never have found a better mother than you and that’s the reason why I am where I am today, through you.’
Well I was, people say I was, but I don’t want children what rule the roost. I don’t say be cruel to them, but he had everything we could possibly give him and he had holidays and things, and as I say he was in the church choir down All Saints five years. He was in there when he went to Canada. But I don’t like children spoilt. I don’t say you should be cruel to them, never was cruel to him at any rate all the kids what I’ve had they all say ‘Mrs Richardson can I come again’, so there must be something. But any rate …
Q: Where did he go to school then ?
Mrs R: Maldon Road and then he went to Braintree County High School and then of course he went from there to Canada. Still he’s done remarkably well really, so I mustn’t grumble. That’s his photograph and he was in Canada then. He was sixteen there. This is Toronto University.
[chat about photos of grandchildren etc, and recent letter from son, not noted]