Mr Walter Peirce was born in 1908. He was interviewed on 25 October 1986, when he lived at Airlings, Ulting Road, Hatfield Peverel.
For more information about him, see Peirce, Walter and family, in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
[Mr Peirce talks rather quickly and jerkily, stumbling over his words at times. Where he has repeated exactly the same thing in the same sentence I have only put it once. He also speaks in dialect e.g. ‘meader’ for ‘meadow’; ‘set’ for ‘sat’; ‘me’ for ‘my’ and I have used the more formal words at times, in order to make more sense. RS]
[talking about carving on Chipping Hill bridge by soldiers in First World War and watched by Mr Peirce as a boy]
Mr P: -….with the tin. That was the tin opener, you see? (Q: Yes.) And of course, they used to have rations in tins. And that was the tin opener.
Q: This is the knife really, isn’t it? With the …
Mr P: No, this is the knife – that was the knife. Now, every soldier had one of them. (Q: Yes?) And Mr Poulton[?] he was in the First War and everything, he was a Signalman. He gave me that, and that’s in my toolbox in the car. But that …
Q: And that’s the one he did it with, the carving?
Mr P: And that’s the tool that – all that carving on that (Q: It’s just a sort of spike, isn’t it?) wall was done with. So I suggested – I didn’t know nothing about it at the time, but I reckon he must have been a stonemason. But here’s the – I don’t know if that’s the knife (Q: Just the same.) but every one was issued with one exactly the same. Exactly the same. And that’s what he done …
Q: That must have been – he couldn’t do that if he hadn’t got – you know, if he didn’t know about carving.
Mr P: He must have been a stonemason or something because he carved all about the Range Warden. Now that’s a [???] of the Royal Wiltshire Regiment, because that’s a horse, ain’t it?
Q: I think a lot of them were the Warwicks, weren’t they?
Mr P: Royal Warwicks.
Q: In fact I think that’s what it probably says on there.
Mr P: Royal Warwicks – the cap badge. Because he’s took his cap off and put it on the brick wall, you see. (Q: Really, yes?) And I sat, as a boy, I tell you we used to get round them, and I sat and watched him doing it. And that’s the tool that he done it with. Not that one exactly but …
Q: So he copied it off the cap badge, you mean.
Mr P: Off the cap badge. He actually copied it off the cap badge and then he done another square with the Range Warden’s name and all that on, didn’t he?
Q: Yes, yes.
Mr P: And all that there – and, er …
Q: I suppose that was the shooting range, that meant, did it?
Mr P: Yes, so I’ll show you – so I thought – that is – that’s what it was done with.
Q: Because it’s not that sharp, is it, it depends what you’re doing, isn’t it?
Mr P: That would be a dangerous weapon though, really, if anybody attacked you, wouldn’t it?
Q: It would, wouldn’t it, actually, yes. That’s good, you find it useful, I expect, do you?
Mr P: Well, I tell you it ain’t – it ain’t very sharp, look. I use it to scrape and things like that. That’s the tin opener, if you put it in a tin. Now, you see, and that was the tin opener. Sharp edge. You just got your tin and banged that in and made the hole. And then you (Q: Levered it up and down.) jagged it all the way round, look, see. But as I said – if anybody was attacked with one of them, by Jove you wouldn’t half give them a good tidy poke. Well, it would go through you wouldn’t it?
Q: It would, wouldn’t it?
Mr P: With all that weight. But I thought – you didn’t know nothing about it, I thought I would show you that’s the tool that was done with. Now I came to yours before, didn’t I?
Q: Yes, that’s right, yes.
[General conversation about exchanging books and pictures previously, not noted]
Mr P: How far do you want to go back? 1914? Don’t ask me about anything beyond 1914.
Q: You come to Witham just when, you told me when you came to Witham, because you weren’t born here were you?
Mr P: No, I remember from four, from 1912. Mustn’t go beyond that.
Q: [laughs] Yes, that’s far enough. That’s more than what most people can remember.
[Pause on tape from 3.6 – 4.0]
Mr P: If I give you most of the history of the soldiers in Witham, that would be quite a good bit. Now, you’re talking about – that was when I was ten years old. [First World War]
Q: I see, yes.
Mr P: That was when I was twelve. Talk about history. That was when I was sixteen. That was from my sister and that was from my mother and father. And that was when I was twenty-five. And that’s from my dad and mum – that’s my dad when he came home from the service in 1918 or something like that. ‘Wishing you many happy returns, Better later than never from Mum and Dad.’ People are collecting them now, aren’t they?
Q: They do, yes. That’s a lovely collection isn’t it..
Mr P: Well, I show you that, that’s what I remember back from. Used to buy them for about a penny, weren’t they? Because some of them have got George the Fifth on them. ls was there was some big tents where they used to – as the bread was being made you could smell that – they used to store the bread there. Well, we children used to go there and they used to give us bits of bread and all that. And they also used to have a big square biscuit. About four inches square. Well, they used to take it over there and [???] wouldn’t eat it was a bit hard as a brick! [Q laughs] And that was where the bread was made. Well, the troops were billeted in the houses, then. All around the houses, see. And Mother had some. And if you hadn’t got a bedroom, or something like that, well, then the soldiers had to doss down on the couch. You see. Well, why most people took them what could, or anything like that here – was the rations. You see, well, that tin opener was used because they used to have plum and apple jam. You know what a round tin of fruit is, preserved fruit? (Q: Yes.) Well, they used to have all plum and apple jam. Used to have ‘em by the thousand!
Troops used to kick ‘em about sometimes. Well, they used to bring them home, and a lump of meat. You see. And I suppose – not that I know anything about it, but I suppose the womenfolks were paid for billeting. So that’s billeted. Well, then all down Collingwood Road, where they cooked the bread and all that, the camps run though to The Avenue. Now The Avenue was an avenue with just big trees, great big trees. There ain’t nothing there now, is there? That’s all built up houses. Well, they used to go the right away through there. So all that lot was all troops and all the rest of it there. See. Well, then, the recruits had all got to be taught, hadn’t they? So they had the rifle range along the Faulkbourne road. That’s why I said I’d like to take a metal detector up there because I bet there’s no end of cartridge cases in the ditch, I know hundreds. Well, so they used to go up to the rifle range, along the Faulkbourne road. That bit of road’s now closed off, ain’t it? [where it joins Flora Road] (Q: Yes.) Well, they used to have all the firing practice all there. And then, the pistol or revolver – pistols we called it – their firing practice used to be Guithavon Valley in the gravel pit, where – ain’t somebody got a wireless shop or repair shop or something there? (Q: Trowles?) Yes, well – Trowles. Well, that was where the pistol practice was taken, shooting into the side of the sandpit. We boys used to watch it. And then, when it came to bomb throwing and hand grenade throwing, they went up what we called Old Lane, up the side of Crittall’s, over the Braintree line [probably Cut Throat Lane and Rectory Lane]. And before you get to Rickstones, they had a big field there, all trenches. And that’s where I had that bit took off the top of my nose. ‘Cos we boys used to go there. Well, they used to have – you know hand grenades, don’t you? (Q: Yes) And you pull the pin out and throw them. Well, they used to have them there, but they were dummies, of course. Well, we boys used to get up there Saturdays and I happened – in the – the trenches used to go zigzag, you know. Never went straight, the trenches didn’t. The trench went along like that and then they ‘d go like that here, you see, and then along like here. They never went straight and some of these were sort of – for where you were supposed to be wounded and they’d built out a dug out. And that’s where the hand grenade practice was, you see. And then the revolver …
Q: How did you get your nose …
Mr P: Well, throwing them at one another! We used to get in the trenches and throw them at one another. When the soldiers weren’t there! [Q laughs] You see and I could take you now, and some of the trees they put bars on the trees so they could climb up the trees for lookouts and things like that here, see? Well, then …
Q: And that was before you get up to Rickstones Farm, you say?
Mr P: Oh, before you get up to Rickstones Farm, in the old lanes.
Q: Near the rectory …
Mr P: Yes, near the old rectory [Rivenhall Rectory], that’s right, all around there. And well, that was Half Hides we called it, Half Hides Farm. That was it actually was. Where you went down there. And of course, after the war, the trenches where the ditches were at the side of the field, they had tin and all that in it.[???] Well they all filled in. That was all during the War. Well then, we now come to Terling. Well, wait a minute, yes, we now come to Terling. But I showed you this book, didn’t I? It’s about Mr Charles Brown. But I didn’t tell you what I want to show you about. Now, this is some of the – this photo there is some of the soldiers and all that outside ‘The Victoria where you went by there at the rifle range. That’s Mr & Mrs Love[?] and their daughter. And she married the boy Overall. But Mrs Love died or something or other and went out so the daughter had to move. But that is the thing you see. That was Mr Brown’s pub, look, what brewed – the beer was brewed at Hatfield Peverel, you know the brewery there about Hatfield Peverel?
Q: Yes, I remember when I walked down, I notice a Brewery House.
Mr P: That’s right, well that is the Brewery House and all that, you see. Well, that was one of his pubs. And then that history all about the committee [???], that ain’t the actual one. Mr Brown’s son was a high-ranking officer in the Air Force in the Second World War. Well, he’s ninety now. And he wanted his wife to see the bedroom where he was born at Brewery House. So he invited me there – because I’d got that book – and we had tea there with Mr & Mrs Tuck, they’re dead now – moved now, ain’t they? And they took – he wanted a copy of that book and he took another copy of it and sent it me from – I don’t know here he come from Chelmsford or Essex or somewhere. Well, anyhow he had a book – a copy of it and he wanted to read all about it and that’s was his father, you see. And all the beer he used to brew for a shilling a gallon. So all I wanted was just that photo of Mr Love outside the Victoria. That’s all been altered now, because there’s no fence or nothing, that’s all the road, ain’t it? (Q: Yes) That’s all the road, you see, yes. But Mr & Mrs Love, they were the landlords, and that’s some of the soldiers there, look, see. That’s in what I kept in Witham.
Q: And so they did – so when they ever had time off they did go round the town and go to the pubs and things as well, did they?
Mr P: Oh yes, definitely! Yes, yes. Now, the rifle range. You know the shop in Braintree Road? I don’t know if it’s there now. What Mr Hannar used to have? And there’s a shop, then Ross the greengrocer’s shop. And Galton[?] & Wright[?], the painter & decorator. And then there’s a shop there – is that still there? Before you come to Albert Road? Is that shop still there? Going down towards to you.
Q: Towards Albert Road on your right?
Mr P: Yes that’s right. Well, Mr Ketley used to keep it, see? And he – at the firing range he had a shop. Like a NAAFI. Well, my brother Ted, and he’s dead and gone now, he worked there. And I used to help Saturday mornings, and my brother Ted. Well, Mr Ketley run it as a NAAFI. Well, there was biscuits, ginger pop. Sweets, chocolates and all that, see. Well, I used to give my brother a hand Saturdays. You know what a builder’s cart is like, don’t you? (Q: Oh yes) Just the big wheels and long thin handle. Well, he used to have one like that. Well, he used to pack that up, on a Saturday morning. And I used to help my brother and we used to push that all down Church Street, right up round by the Victoria, because there weren’t that other road there. Round the Victoria. But I haven’t to say we never helped ourselves to something on the way up! [Q laughs] And Mr Ketley – and then Jack Hannar bought it after him, because he worked there. But Mr Ketley that was there, he had this canteen and he used to sell all the stuff to the troops.
Q: And you went all the way out to Terling, did you?
Mr P: I used to have to help my brother push the barrow and push the supplies up.
Q: And how far did you have to go with it?
Mr P: Well, from the shop up the rifle range, round by the Victoria, and along there about two fields to the rifle range.
Q: In the Faulkbourne Road?
Mr P: In the Faulkbourne Road, I’m sorry, dear, I ain’t with you. Well, that was like a NAAFI you’d call it today, wouldn’t you? Mr Hannar had it [I think he means Mr Ketley RS]
Q: So it wasn’t all their own stuff, then?
Mr P: No, no.
Q: He managed to make a bit out of them?
Mr P: Oh, he did! He must have done. Well, then Jack Hannar and Cissie West worked there then. She married Mr Bridge, Bert Bridge at the finish. Well, anyhow that was the troops all round Witham. Now, now, everything was horse-drawn, see? Well, now you’ve seen this picture before, but what I wanted to see [noise on tape]. Now you see this photo here, this is the Witham that I know. Well, those houses ain’t there now [Chipping Hill green]. (Q: On the green, yes). No, they’re pulled down now. Well, Mr Rudkin the chimney sweep lived in there. Old Mr [or Mrs?] Green lived in the middle and Mr Clark lived in the end. Well, when you came out the church, and wanted to go to Terling, you went in behind them houses. And Mr Dorking what kept the blacksmith’s shop, he was born behind there, weren’t he? In that house behind there [22, 24 or 26 Chipping Hill]. (Q: Oh yes). Well, opposite here is the Chipping Hill Post Office. That ain’t there now, is it? Well, a little further on towards Terling was a red brick house and then the end house used to be a bit of a shop, there was. A bit of a boot shop. It was called Abbotts [55 Chipping Hill]. We used to get our milk there. Well, next to that was a great big barn, very big large barn. Well, that was where all the horses were kept. (Q: Really?) In this great big barn. And the meadows from Abbotts, the house Abbots is still there now. You’ve got steps and a bit of a shop window, but I don’t know if it s a shop now is it? Rallings used to have it as a boot shop.
Q: That’s a – a doctor’s got it now.
Mr P: Is it? Oh I dunno, well, anyway (Q: I know the one you mean) Well that was Abbots where we used to get the milk from. Just past Dooles’s. Well there was this great big barn and Mr Ottley that was the a cabman in the Albert, in the yard, he used to keep his waggonettes, what he used to take us schoolchildren to Maldon or somewhere with the holly[?] tree[?] Waggonettes, you sat round it with the canvas top. So it was a big barn, very big barn. Well, they used to keep the horses all in there. [in First World War] Instead of stables. And then the meadows from there to the river and back to – what you call it Armond Road or what do you call it? Well, there. Well, they were all down to hay. And the soldiers used to cut the hay and they used to stack it down the side of this barn. And after the war, the barn deteriorated and was pulled down and Mr Quy used to put the iron hoops on the wheels at the blacksmith’s shop. You know they’d heat them up and pour water on, well, we used to go and pour water on. Well, he used to have his big old fire there and heat the iron hoops. Well, he had that yard. I don’t know whose got it now. The yard’s still there. Because it had scrap iron and stuff in it.
Q: Where the barn was?
Mr P: Where the barn was.
Q: They’ve built a new house on it now [55A Chipping Hill]
Mr P: I ain’t been out for six months. Well, anyhow, I’m telling you this. That was where all the horses were kept in that barn. And that – well as I say when that deteriorated – you went in between the barn and Abbotts to get your milk. I don’t know why – I know the barn and all that’s gone down. Well, then the troops was at Terling. Well, when the rifle range was on – do you know where Terling springs are? Well, anyway, when you get along that Terling road, there’s a private path through Terling Park to Terling, ain’t there? That’s closed now to the public, ain’t it? (Q: Yes.) Well, you could turn right and go to Fairstead. Witham Springs they called it, so I believe. And it used to be full of primroses, oh, it used to be a wonderful picture. Well, when the firing was on at the rifle range, on the Faulkbourne road, they’d have sentries up at different gateways and all the way along there, see, and nobody was allowed to go behind the firing range. Because some of those trees in Witham springs must have bullets in them. You see, if they missed the target. They used proper bullets. There were five in a clip. And you clipped them on your rifle, I forget what they called the rifle. And they – well, you know where – oh, I can tell you know, some of the – when you went through that Terling Park, they used to have physical training and all that on the trees, you know. With the rope and the rings and all the rest of it. The troops used to do all this physical training. And you know where the Desmus[?] is at Terling, don’t you? (Q: The what?) The Desmus[?] is where the swimming pool is at Terling. Well, that was whole – all that lot to Noakes’s was all marquees and camp – and bell tents. You see, they were all under camouflage under them trees. There was hundred and hundreds of troops there.
Q: So there was more there than in Witham, you reckon?
Mr P: Oh, there was more – no, they were sort of moved about, moved about, you see. Moved about. Well, they used to move about.
Q: So the Terling ones would come to …
Mr P: No, they used to move about. Now, when they’d done their training and were going to France, they all assembled on this green. [Chipping Hill] And Canon Galpin [Witham’s vicar] used to come out and hold a drumhead service. Now you know what a drumhead service is? They use the drums as the pulpit. (Q: Oh, I see.) And Canon Galpin used to come out there, I was in the choir then, of course. And he used to have a drumhead service. Before the troops went to France. Well, of course, hundreds of them never come back, did they?
Well then, when the war [First World War] finished, we had the biggest bonfire there you ever saw. Mr Clark lived on the end [26 Chipping Hill], and he had a garden on the end that went down to that drive that goes up to the old vicarage. Well, they took all his fence down and burnt that! They went up the drive to Canon Galpin’s. And of course, in them days you had a lot of fire with faggots, didn’t you? Fourpence each and you chopped them up. Well, Canon Galpin had a great stack of faggots. They brought all them down and burnt them. And then, years ago when they tarred the roads at Witham, you had a boiler with the fire underneath. You heated the tar up and you had a bucket and you turned the tap on, draw the bucket of tar out. Then you had a brush, a long-handled brush. And the men dipped that and they used to paint all the roads with tar. And then a horse and cart’d come along with the gravel, granite chips and used to spray it over it. (Q: Oh, I see, yes.) Well, then after that, they got a new idea. Another one come out. You boiled the tar up just the same, but you had a pump and you pumped it. And the tar used to go through a rod and the men had to spray it, fill the spray and they used to spray the road. No brushes. Well, they were doing that at the end of the war. And there was several barrels of tar in ‘The Albert’. And, that was 1918 of course. Well, the soldiers went and rolled them – six of them barrels of tar down, put all on this fire – terrific great fire! Sergeant Haggar the policeman, he come down and he tried to get some of them off and set fire to his trousers! Of course, we had fireworks – squibs – you know what they were? (Q: Yes.) About ha’penny each or something like that. You had them in a little bundle, tied in a bundle and a little old thing, they weren’t no bigger than that. Just about the size of that [demonstrating] they were. Squibs we called them. They had that great big fire and that was the end of the war. And of course, all them houses are gone, now, ain’t they? But there is a real photograph of them hanging with the Witham office ain’t there? (Q: Yes I think so, yes.) Yes, I’ve seen that one in there, you see. Well, of course, there was no troops down this end at all. They were all up Chipping Hill and all up Witham. And as I said, the firing range – the pistol range was in the gravel pit, the bomb throwing was up Half Hides Farm and the rifle range was along the Faulkbourne road. And all the …
Q: Do you remember anything about the ones that were billeted with you?
Mr P: Well, no, I didn’t know them – they come and they’d be there a few weeks and then, of course, off they’d go. France or somewhere. And somebody else would come up, you see.
Q: How many were there in your family?
Mr P: Oh there was a huge family of us, about eight or nine of us then. Well no, wait a minute. My eldest brother was away at Walton on the Naze on – lookout duty or something or other with the – what do they call the Senior Scouts? Well, he was with them at any rate, but there must have been seven or eight of us at home.
Q: So there wasn’t a lot of room then, was there?
Mr P: No. There weren’t. Well, then, my father was Staff Sergeant. And I remember on one occasion he had to go to Ireland, to Limerick. And he used to bring us boys cards and one thing or another – to get a defaulter. And he’d got take it back to Great Baddow. He brought this defaulter home, and he slept on our sofa all night while my father was upstairs. Father took the – father got his revolver at the time. He took that upstairs with him. But the bloke never tried to run away or nothing. But he just was – Father had to go out and fetch him. Absentee they called them, when they – defaulter, well, he would be a defaulter. But he was an absentee and all that there, you see.
Q: So your father was what – in the …
Mr P: My father was in the Army Service Corps. But now that’s RASC, ain’t it? I’ve got a photo here somewhere – no, my brother Ted’s got it on his – on his, mounted on his horse and all that, you know. Well, I suppose my nephew has got all the medals and things now that my father had. But my father was a saddler by trade. And I’ve got some lovely wallets in there what my father made. In 19- during the First War. Lovely leather – pure leather wallets. That’s what I just got these cards out of. Well, I tell you, what’s – the wallet’s got all my love letters. [Q laughs]. After fifty-eight years. In there and stuck in there. My girls come round sometimes and they laugh and chuckle when they read them [Q laughs] I said to the wife the other day, I said ‘You used to call me “Your darling boy”’ I said. ‘You don’t say that now, do you?’ [Q laughs]
Q: So he was a saddler in Witham was he, did he work at the saddlery trade in Witham?
Mr P: No, no, he learned that in the war, he learned that the early part of the war [First War]. He used to work at Blyth’s Mill. [Guithavon Valley] I showed you the photo of the mill, didn’t I? (Q: Yes.) No, he used to work at –
Q: Oh, he learnt that in the army, did he?
Mr P: He learnt that in the army, yes. And when he came out – you know George Thompson, the coal merchant? (Q: Yes.) Well, I don’t – well, his grandfather I reckon. Does he still live up Chalks Lane? No, he used to – one of them did. George Thompson used to live up Chalks Lane. No, he ain’t there now. Well, anyhow, when my father came out of the war, and George Thompson, this boy – I don’t know if it’s this boy’s father or grandfather – he set up in the coal business. My father made the whole set of harness, the whole set for him. He used to get, like, two sides of a barrel. You know, when they make a beer barrel, that’s done all in strips – what they call a hooper’s job and all the rest of it. He’d get that down there- he used to have two bits like that there, and the – he’d spring them open and he’d put his leatherwork on there. And he’d stitch away, with a thing on his hand, you know, a thong. In ‘Bygones’ – they had one on ‘Bygones’. No one knew what it was, but I did, directly I saw it. It’s just a leather thing over your hand and a hole round there for your thumb, and a round thing there. With all sort of holes in where you push the needle in, you see. Because you stitch with two needles. And my father used to stitch and do that. And directly I saw it, and Dick Joyce [programme presenter?] – he didn’t know what it was, so I said to the wife, I said ‘I’ve seen that hundreds of times’ and it was. Well then, he used to make – because you see, when they come home it was supposed to be a land fit for heroes. They used to come up Church Street on a Sunday, the soldiers, with the hat – singing – hymns. And Mother used to send us out with a ha’penny or a penny to put in the caps. Well, there was a bit …
Q: After the war, do you mean or during …?
Mr P: After the war. When the war finished, 1918. When they were demobbed.
Q: I’m with you, yes.
Mr P: They used come up Sundays – Saturdays or Sundays, up Church Street – and some of them could sing! And they used to sing all hymns. You know. And they used to have the cap. And we children used to go out with a ha’penny or a penny, no more, of course. And Father used to make …
Q: And that was the ones that lived in Witham, was it?
Mr P: That was people who lived in Witham of course, people who lived in Witham.
Q: Soldiers, Yes.
Mr P: That shows you how hard they were. Well, Father hit on a good idea. He used to make leather shoelaces. You can’t buy them now, can you? Well he used to have a bit of leather like this. Just a big bit of leather like that, he used to buy. And then he had a board thing on the kitchen table. And you put that strip there, just the width of the lace. And then you drawed this right through. You drawed this right through and then he would cut them off. And I think he used to sell them about fourpence a pair. And I’ve got a photograph of my mother. He used to make these beautiful webbed belts, braided belts. All with leather, and then the buckle. And I’ve got a photograph of Mother, you know, tall, my Mum was. And her skirts down to there. On to the ground, wasn’t it? (Q: Yes.) And my sister Ethel, I believe she’s still got the belt. One of these big wide – almost as wide as that, it was. Webbed – weaved belt, he used to weave it like that. Like he used to cut the shoelace and he used to all weave it and make these belts and all that. But shoelaces he used to sell. Well, when the troops used to come and have the drumhead service …
[Interruption by Mrs P – general conversation, not noted]
Mr P: When the troops used to come and assemble there, they used to have the bandolier with all the bullets in. And then the greatcoat was rolled up and over the shoulders. Well, they’d march from Terling – or mostly Terling – they used to assemble on this green. And I don’t know if I told you this, perhaps I did. But anyhow the troops used to set on there and they used to take the boots, big boots, big heavy boots, then, didn’t they? Well, anyhow, they used to take the boots off. Well, they were there one day, waiting for the vicar to come. Canon Galpin, you ain’t heard nothing about him have you?
Q: Well, you told me about him, yes.
Mr P: Oh yes, I dare say, his name’s in the church, ain’t it? I’ve got photo of him. And Canon Ingles, I’ve got a lovely photo of Canon Ingles. I’m going to give that to my niece. Mrs Dersley. Well, they were all assembled on there one day. And there was a little boy, not very old, a little boy come on there with a beautiful basket of apples. Oh, they were lovely apples. Beautiful basket of apples. And the basket was an oval shape with a handle over the middle. Well, this boy was giving these apples to the troops. And some of the soldiers give this boy ha’penny or a penny. It was very kind of them, weren’t it? Along come Canon Galpin. He pats the boy on the back. He said ‘Well done, sonny!’ He said ‘The Lord will reward you.’ Well, that little boy was me! (Q laughs.) And do you know where the apples come from? I’d been up his orchard and pinched them!
Q: [Laughs] Oh, lovely!
Mr P: Did I ever tell you about that?
Q: No. You kept the money did you?
Mr P: Oh yes! About tuppence ha’penny, threepence ha’penny, about that, you see. And I can see him now, come there, with his robe on and patting me on the back, and he said ‘Well done, sonny!’ I was in the choir at the time. Anyhow, he said ‘Well done’ and ‘The Lord will reward’ or something like that here. And you see, and what I’d done, I been up that long drive to the vicarage. But I didn’t go up the long drive, because there’s that meadow what they’re arguing about, that slopes down, ain’t there? Well, that’s where the steam engine used to go. We used to have our Sunday school treat there. Did I ever tell you? Well, I’ll tell you. Anyhow, that’s all about Witham. So I went up that meadow, there used to be three or four walnut trees in there. And Mr Everett that kept the Lodge –Spring Lodge Dairy, where the community centre is, he used to have his cows in that meadow. Well, we used to throw stones and lumps of wood up to these walnuts and knock them down. So at the finish, they cut the trees down. So, anyhow, there’s a river walk or something up there now, ain’t there? (Q: Yes.) Well, the old orchard, you used to walk right up there and come out by the crossing, up near the Cherry Tree, can’t you? (Q: Yes.) And well, we used to go up there and get them. Well, Sunday school, you had to go to Church House, in Collingwood Road, near the Labour market. Well, that’s where we used to have to go to Sunday school. And I’m very sorry and I am very cross that the children are not taught anything spiritual at school. I know I can’t do it, I’m not an angel Mrs Gyford, I got up to mischief, same as other people, from – but we were taught Scriptures. I’ve got no end of certificates in there. I’ve shown them to you, didn’t I? Those scripture certificates and all that. We had Scripture exams and we used to go to service at All Saints. And on All Saints Day, we all went to church with flowers, which were mostly chrysanths and things like that. We had the service and we went out in the churchyard and every church – every grave in that churchyard had a flower on it on All Saints Day. Well, now they don’t get no spiritual education at all. Well, we used to have to go on a Sunday to Church House. And then from there, we marched down to this church and went into the church and sat in the church. Well then before the collection was taken, we all came out. So our Sunday service was over. I don’t think we sat in there for the sermon. Well, anyhow, I think we had the sermon. But when the collection was taken, then we all came out and went our different ways, more or less, you see. Well, now, Sunday afternoons, I used to go to the vestry and pick up seven loaves of bread.
I’ll tell you – Mrs Cook, Mrs French, Mrs Youngs, Mrs Mann, Mrs, Mortimer, Mrs White – that’s five or six names already, I remember! And they used to give me a ha’penny every other week. I used to go and get these seven loaves. They were round loaves with prick holes in the top. Mr Ardley, the baker, near – what used to be down near the doctor’s surgery. It was a chemist shop – I don’t know what it is now [137 Newland Street]. Well, he used to bake the bread and that used to be put in – Wadley never did, I don’t know why Wadley never did, but he didn’t, Ardley did, he ain’t there now. And I used to take them round. Well, when I was in the church last Sunday – because I’ve got a record in my book all about this – ‘History of the people of Essex’, you’ve seen that ain’t you? In there all about the charities and everything else. And I asked Angela [his niece, Angela Dersley] if they still distributed this bread but she said no, they don’t now. (Q: No.) You see and that field in front of Crittall’s, where they put the new road through, didn’t they? (Q: Yes.) Well that was always called ‘Bellfield’. But I see you called it some other name in the paper now – because somebody wants to do something to it. But that’s Bellfield – that belong to the bell ringers, really. But that was always called Bellfield. There used to be swings in there and a seesaw when I was a boy. You went down beside that little Infants school. [Chipping Hill School] (Q: Yes.) And there used to be a seesaw and swings in there. In the Bell meadow, yes.
Q: It’s all overgrown now, isn’t it?
Mr P: Overgrown but Crittall’s had a bit of it didn’t they for car park or something or other. And they had it all up there. And these are all the – these are the books my sister used to send me. Look “Witham Parish Church 1970”. You seen all them, haven’t you?
Q: I think you showed me them because they’ve got articles in, haven’t they?
Mr P: Now this, you see, that was the blacksmith’s shop. [18 Chipping Hill] I’ve spent many hours in there. He used to shoe the horses here and when he used to put the iron hoops on here, he used to have a fire in the backyard there. Well, he used to get us boys with the water can in there – that’s Mr Wallace, lived in Charity Row. Mr Quy, Henry Dorking was a boy. And well, they used to have the fire in the yard at the back and he used to let us boys go in there with buckets of water and pour all over this tyre and ‘SSSSSS’ [makes hissing noise] the steam used to come up, you know. Of course, it used to please us but that was helping him, wasn’t it? (Q: Yes. [laughs]) Well, then I used go in there and we had iron hoops to go to school with. (Q: Really?) And the girls had wooden ones. But on our iron hoop, we had a slider. That’d be a bar with a ring on. You see, and the blacksmith rolled it over the hoop and you went along with a thing – this thing sliding through this ring. Well, if that got broke or unwelded, Mr Quy used to charge us threepence to weld it. Well, I used to get in there quite a lot and work the bellows. Big long bellows and they’ve got a cow’s horn on the end. Well, he used to let us boys get in there and work that way and roar the fire up while he was making the horseshoes. And we used to get a lovely warmth off the fire. And I’ve watched him make hundreds because what Mr Quy used to do was – they used to have the bars come in straight bits like that. He would cut the bit off with a chisel – cut that off, you see. Well then he would heat that and he would completely make the shoe. Now they don’t, they’re bought already and all they do is heat them, where they open them out or close them in, don’t they? And they go round now with a gas forge thing, now, don’t they? But that was all done by coal. And I put the …
Q: Did your Dad keep on doing the saddling after …
Mr P: No, no, no, no. Mr Shelley, his son used to live up Crossroads. I think he died about a year ago, or something, Dick Shelley? He used to live up Crossroads, or somewhere. But anyhow, Mr Shelley lived in Maldon Road. The houses ain’t there now. That’s a dental surgery or opticians or something. [30 Maldon Road] (Q: I know.) Well anyhow, these houses used to stand back and – three or four of them. Well, Mr Shelley he worked for Witham Council it was then and the Council Offices were in Collingwood Road, weren’t they. Where the electric light shop where the big water – you don’t remember the water tower do you?
Q: No, I’ve seen a picture of it, though.
Mr P: Well anyhow, that was the offices, you see. Well, Mr Shelley worked there and he had a mule. And he used to go round emptying the dustcarts. Well, that bolted one day, shot Mr Shelley off, broke Mr Shelley’s leg. So of course, he couldn’t do it. So my father got that job, with that horse and cart. And then I think from there he left there and went to the maltings, Harrison Grays what is Hugh Bairds. I think he went there.
Q: After that, yes I remember you telling me about that. You used to go there sometimes?
Mr P: Oh yes, to the maltings? Oh yes, not half! I used to go there and – eat handfuls of malt. (Q: Really?) Oh yes, lovely malt is, to chew. Well, ain’t you ever got an ear of wheat and rubbed out and blew that and chewed it and the malt’s beautiful. Well, I used to go there with him, because it all had to be done by hand. Spreading it out. You see, you wet the barley, don’t you? You let it grow. You put it in tanks, you wet it for some so many days or so many hours and that shoots out roots. No, well that don’t shoot – well, it just starts to shoot out roots and that’s spread all over the floor, you see, and then that grows the roots. Well, every day it’s turned over. It don’t spear, it grows roots. Well then, three days it’s on the floor. Now it’s all gathered up again and put in a kiln or furnace and roasted. See, and that kills the germ and burns – and kills all the roots, little fibre roots and all that and that’s what they make the beer with, ain’t it? And Ovaltine and malt and all that stuff. Oh yes, and all of it now, of course, that’s all done by machinery now, but then it used to be done by hand and all that then. And the men used to bag it all up by hand and everything like that. But the last time I went, when they unloaded the kiln [sounds like ‘kell’ RS]. You pulled a plug out in the floor of the kiln – it was ever so hot, you used to wear canvas shoes.
Q: What did they used to call it? When you said they unloaded the …?
Mr P: The kiln, unloaded the kiln and they used to pull a plug out – that’s the last time I went. You pulled a plug out in the floor. And then they used to round it all up and it used to go down a chute to the machinery for bagging up. You had wooden – you had great big wooden traves – great big wooden shovels, you see. So I said to my Dad one day when I was up there, in the summertime, it was fairly hot …
Mr P: … If you wanted a drink you took – you went up the floor or where the barley or malt was, and walked over it. You put it under the tap and let it run and you used to ‘tptptp’ [makes sipping noises] off the shovel. [???] Because the kiln was all coal-fired underneath. It had big coal fires. Mr Hoy[?] used to be the fireman and they used to go four, five and six. Quarter of an hour unload[?] the kiln. And they used to go two or three hours early. That used to be a long job unloading that, you see. And then there was all that screwing and cleaning up and bagging up to do and then there was all the fresh barley. That used to soak – I don’t know how many days it used to soak but I know it used to be on the floor three days and then they used to turn it every day.
Q: Would that be all the year round or just at certain times …?
Mr P: All the year round! Oh yes, all the year round. And then, Mr Harrison Gray – they were a Chelmsford firm, he used to give the employees five shillings and a pound of raisins as Christmas box.
Q: Not bad, yes. There was a lot of people there.
Mr P: And you’re talking about Mrs Ireland I’ve got photographs of her and her baby. Because she was getting on when she married, Doll was. And you mentioned about Ted Ireland, because he worked at Crompton’s, didn’t he?
Q: I never knew him.
Mr P: Yes, he was an electrician. He worked at Crompton’s. And Doll Goss [later Mrs Ireland] worked for Wadley, at, what do they call that house, Dean or something?
Q: Yes Dean House [Chalks Road].
Mr P: Dean House, she worked there. And she used to come for our rent, see, because we lived in Wadley’s houses. And one and ninepence when we first went there, because we came out of Mill Lane and went up there. At one and nine a week and then it went up to two shillings. And I think when Doll – we left there and moved into Cressing Road, into a council house – because in Church Street, you see there was no water indoors. There was one tap between four houses. And the toilet was halfway up the yard. And one tank served two toilets. And I think I’m right in saying that when we left, the rent was two and six a week. That included rates.
Q: That was in the terrace, was it? [probably 90 Church Street]
Mr P: Those four houses, yes. They’re all pulled down now, and I don’t whether Randalls’ – Randalls’ house is still – used to have the thrashing tackle – I ain’t got a picture of Church Street up there, no. And …
Q: So, was that just round the corner from Richards [56 Church Street], then? Was that just next to Richards, or further up?
Mr P: No further up than Richards. There used to be Richards the builders – oh, I can name all of them. [Church Street] Then Richards had four houses. Cutts, and then Owers[?], then his plumber – I forget was his name was – and then Pease the postman. That was those four in a block. And then next come old Dickie[?] Everitt. And then come the next row where Mrs Dobson, Cunningham, Webb – no, not Mrs Webb, Ma.. – see, she married a Mr Webb, their daughter. She was blind but she knew her house all about there. And then you come to the two houses that Mr Howes had. Bill Howes was a policeman. And his father was foreman on the railway station. Then you come to our four, then you come to Randalls’, then you come to the terrace. [100 onwards]
Q: I see, yes.
Mr P: You see? And then right in front of …
Q: You’ve got a good memory, haven’t you?
Mr P: Yes, for the names of people. And then of course, right in front, where Randalls’ house was – then, he had a meadow till you come to the terrace. Well, that’s where he kept his steam engines, and his thrashing tackle. Well, right opposite there, there used to be a great big old barn. The Bethel chapel is there now, isn’t it? It used to be a great big old barn where – belonged to Cocks’s Farm. Because that land was all Cocks’s all up there to the Cherry Tree crossings. That all belonged to John Brown – Cocks’s Farm. On the corner of Chalks Lane. [and Braintree Road] And that big old barn there, well, that stood back. And we boys would each go up and play cricket and all that there. On the thingummy side.
But if you hit the ball too hard, which unfortunately some of us did, and it went over the hedge into this bit of meadow next to Randall – old Mrs Randall come out there. She used to take those balls and at the end of the house she had a water butt as high as this [demonstrates]. Well, same height as that hearth. She could just reach – she used to drop our balls in it.
Q: Oh, isn’t that mean!
Mr P: Yes, well, during the war, [First War] Mother buys me a Norfolk suit. Do you know what a Norfolk suit is?
Q: You did tell me, I’ve heard of it.
Mr P: Well it used to be – with stripes – strips down there, didn’t they? She had it off of Heddle, a bob a week, or sixpence a week or something like that. Anyhow I knocks a ball over there. And of course, on that gateway, where the [???] engines went in there – it was covered with barbed wire. I’d got to go over and get the ball. I went over there and tore it on it. I got in trouble over that I can tell you! Brand new suit like that! Mother had to mend that all up for me. A Norfolk suit, that come down, Edwardian style like that and had sort of two vents or folds down there with just your pockets in. And I got in trouble …
Q: Did you have different clothes for playing in? For Sundays or anything?
Mr P: No, no! The same clothes. Well, then, poor old Mum, she thought she’d help us. She went and bought us some wooden clogs to go to school with. Because we used to go through what we called Blyth’s Meadows. Down The Chase [Moat Farm Chase] and through Blyth’s meadows, under that railway arch. Oh yes, that’s just reminded me of something else. And well, we had these clogs and of course that made all blisters round the tops of the shoes. Because you see you can’t bend your foot in clogs, can you? And then they had an iron shoe on them like a horseshoe underneath, didn’t they?
Mr P: These wooden clogs. We never did wear them out. Now I said Blyth’s meadow. Well, you came down Blyth’s meadow, down the Chase and just over that little bridge over the river. Turn sharp left and went under the viaducts and then across and come out by Blyth’s Mill and over the – [???] picture here. Over the bridge and then up Guithavon – we went over the bridge and we either went up the side of the gravel pit and by the churchyard and run through the churchyard. Because the old school bell would be ringing. Or we’d go up Guithavon Street by the Crown. Well, during the war, [First War] that bridge [viaduct probably] was guarded. So there was troops with a pillbox under the bridge. And another one up on top of the bridge guarding the line. Well, when we used to go through and go down there – up went the rifle! ‘Halt! Who goes there?’ Well, we would jump on – we boys used to have a good time making them do it! [Q: laughs] That’s why I’m telling you, you see. But well, when you got long the railway line, along the first meadow, into the railway line, you went over a little wooden footbridge and to Blyth’s Mill. Well, the Army had a big hut there – the sentry people. And then – I’m going to show you – they built a footpath right up the side of the railway bank, on the slope. See, it didn’t go up – they didn’t go up straight, they went on the skew.
Q: On the railway bank, that was?
Mr P: On the railway bank. And that was there for years and years and years. You can probably see it now, I don’t know if they ever filled it in. And they had this slope right up you see. So that the sentry troops – the men on guard, the sentries were billeted in this hut, and that spring – they used to get the water out of and boil for tea and all that what they used to use. And then they used to go up that way and guard the line. Another bloke used to walk along the bottom, where the proper footpath was, to the sentry box under that bridge.
Q: So they were everywhere, really, you couldn’t …
Mr P: Yes ‘Halt!’ They was there …
Q: Wherever you went in Witham?
Mr P: Yes.
Q: Your Dad went away, did he, during the war?
Mr P: Oh yes, he went away.
Q: Where did he go to?
Mr P: He did – he came and saw us in 1915. There was a big – ah, there’s another thing I’ll tell you. In 1915 there was a big epidemic in Witham of diphtheria and scarlet fever. That Mr Overall, who I told you of the Boer[?] War[?] Who married the girl, Love. If one of you in the family went, the whole lot of you were took to Heybridge in a horse-drawn ambulance. Mr Cooper was the driver. You don’t remember where the Heybridge Hospital used to be? That was at Broadstead Green. That’s when you come through Heybridge as if you were going to Tiptree on the Colchester road. That’s all that ‘s left now is the matron’s home. All the rest is all built up as houses, ain’t it? In shops and things. Well, my brother Bill had diphtheria and my brother Ted was away at Walton on the Naze on coastguard duty. That’s what I was trying to think of. And my brother Bill had it and we all had to go in. This is 1915 [Jan 1916 actually, see correspondence quoted on WP’s biographical notes]. Well, my father was going abroad. Well, I think he went to – perhaps the name will come to me, well, never mind. He went to – he was at Salonika[?], Greece. I’ve got some pictures of the Greeks and the shepherds and all that in their costumes somewhere. Well that was in 1915. So of course we all had to go and mother was expecting my sister Ethel. I suppose I ought to say she was pregnant. [laughs] And then – 1915, because Ethel was born in ‘16. 1915, so he come and saw Mother. He come to see all of us. And he had to put a smock all over him, like, you see. And he was allowed to come in and just say goodbye to us or something like that. So we never saw him from ’15 – ‘18 – nearly four years before we saw him. And well, we had wooden huts at Heybridge Hospital and the sisters and the matron had a brick house. That’s still there now. That’s got a plaque or something in it. Well, two of those huts went to Black Notley and that was the start of Black Notley Hospital. And when I came out – or when we come out – and we used to think nothing of going to Black Notley – walk through Faulkbourne, Home Farm or Hungry Hall all round that way. I went and saw those two huts. There was just a little drive made up in the meadow and these two huts were there – that was the start of Black Notley. I was talking to the matron when I had me hip done. I said ‘I remember this place when it all started’. She said ‘You do?’ I said ‘Yes, two Army huts and there were two huts for scarlet fever. You know with scarlet fever – you peel don’t you? Well they took two of them huts over and that was the start of Black Notley Hospital.
Q: Were you in a long while, then?
Mr P: In Heybridge? Well, I don’t know, a month or something like that. A month or six weeks we was in there, like, you see? But there was only my brother or me sister, there was only one of us had it. But you all had to go. All of you had to go.
Q: Was he all right, the one who got it?
Mr P: Oh yes, we all got over it all right.
Q: Did you – any of you get diphtheria or just the one?
Mr P: Only the one. You used to take a swab or something in your mouth – old Dr Gimson. Anyhow, we all had to go. And as I said, that was the start of Black Notley Hospital, I remember it so well. And then there was that other day or a few weeks ago when I was in there, I never had to walk outside much because I wanted to get home.
[chat about recent health, not noted]
Mr P: The wife[?] said to me you see, she lived at Boreham, well, they never had no troops there or nothing there, she never knew nothing of what it was. Well, my father had two of the – opposite Spring Lodge where them houses all was, that was all allotments. My father had two plots there, you see. Well, we used to have to help him to dig it and then when he worked at the maltings, I used to get the barrow and take the empty barrow down to the allotments with a bottle of tea or something like that. And when Father left off work, he’d come down there and dig the potatoes up, you see. And bring them home in a wheelbarrow. He used to stop at the White Horse and treat me to a lemonade. And I suppose he used to have a pint, because it was only about threepence a pint then wasn’t it?
Q: So you worked hard then, even when you were little?
Mr P: Oh yes. Then Pinkham at the glove factory – I don’t know if I ever told you. He had a picture palace in the Public Hall.
Q: Oh, did he?
Mr P: Yes. Black and white and silent films, of course. Charlie Chaplin and The Kids and things like that and Buffalo Bill. And all them. And if the film was to break you know, and the screen all go dark, everybody would holler and shout and clap their hands. [Q laughs] Well, I used to go to the matinee, Saturday afternoon, three ha’pence. And this was after the war, after the First War, of course. And there was a lot of horses about then, see. And there was a big goods yard then, ain’t got that now, used to be a big goods yard wound by Cooper Tabers, seed merchants. Well, my father had this allotment and he said he’d give me a ha’penny for a barrow-load of horse manure. Well, we used to have Tate & Lyle sugar boxes, that’s what they were then. Used to get them at the grocer’s on a pair of perambulator wheels. With two handles on the side, that was [???]. Then we used to go along the road with a shovel and brush and fill it up. Well, I know I used to take it up the allotment and push it on a heap. So Father used to say ‘‘How many loads you took today, boy?’ ‘Oh, three of them’. ‘Three?’ ‘Yes, three’. That was three ha’pence. I could go to the pictures couldn’t I?
Q: Of course, yes.
Mr P: So I wasn’t so quick as a wit as I thought I was. So he said to me one day – this all come out afterwards about it – he said ‘Don’t put the manure all on the one heap’ – horse manure we used to gather up. ‘Don’t put it all on one heap’, he said, ‘Put the different heaps over the ground.’ [Q laughs] So if it was two of the barrow-loads, I couldn’t say three! (Q: Oh dear). See. Well, he told me afterwards, he thought I used to tell him three, or sometimes four, when I wanted a ha’penny to spend, he didn’t think the heap was getting any bigger! [Both laugh]
Q: And he was right, was he?
Mr P: Poor old Dad. Well, they were the things as I say we used to get up to, I suppose you’d say innocent today, well you’d laugh at me wouldn’t you? But they were the things we used to get up to.
Q: So I suppose he didn’t have a lot of money himself, did he?
Mr P: Oh no, our pocket money was a ha’penny a week, and he used to be paid on a Wednesday. And he used to give us all a ha’penny, you see. Well, I’ve carried – in Witham, I reckon I’ve delivered – oh, I dunno, fifty, more than fifty babies I’ve delivered in Witham [Q laughs] or I thought I had! Nurse Kentfield was the midwife and my mother was what you’d call an ‘amateur midwife’. She used to, because the mothers them days used to stop in bed ten days, didn’t they? I know all about – I was in the Red Cross all during the war, you see. Anyway, the women used to stop in bed ten days – they’re up the same day now and now in the bath! Well you know as well as I! And Miss Kentfield she lived in Easton Road. Well, she used to wear a little tiny old bonnet on the front, and tied with two ribbons. Well, my mother knew all the women round Church Street and round by the church and things, places like that, that was going to have babies. Because she used to go round and do the washing and everything else for seven and sixpence. Look after them for ten days, and do the washing, you know, what was according to what house, for seven and sixpence. I remember that’s what my mother used to get. Well, if anybody’s mother, I suppose, was expecting a baby. Well, we’d say in labour today, wouldn’t we – they’d come and tell my Mum. Right. She’d send me round to Nurse Kentfield in Easton Road. What did Nurse Kentfield do, give me this Gladstone bag with the baby in [Q laughs] and I used to come toddling up the road with poor old Nurse Kentfield.
Her daughter married a bloke in Hatfield Peverel, used to live in Marina Road – she only had one girl. And Doll Goss’ll tell you all about Nurse Kentfield. And I used to carry this Gladstone bag with this baby in. See. [Q laughs] With Nurse Kentfield and we used to go to the houses in Church Street and then Nurse Kentfield’d go in the house and I’d give her the bag, and she’d give me a penny. She used to give me a penny! So I reckon I took dozens of babies, or I thought I did!
Q: You delivered them all, yes! [Both laugh]. That’s good isn’t it?
Mr P: Well, if you’d tell that to a child of five or six today, they’d laugh at you, wouldn’t they?
Q: I wonder how old you were when you found out what was really happening!
Mr P: Oh, the only time – I’ll tell you how we found out – if I knew I was going to have a brother or sister, was when my mother used to make napkins out of sheets and things – sheets or blankets or something. Used to tear them in squares and then they used to hem them, didn’t they? Because they used – now that’s all disposable, ain’t it?
Q: Yes, or you can buy them, but you don’t make them, anyway.
Mr P: Oh, you can buy them still. Mother used to make these squares. I can remember nights I used to see her sitting and hemming them. And I thought well, there’s a baby brother or sister on the way. And we didn’t know nothing then about pregnancy or childbirth. But we knew we’d got a brother or sister coming, see.
Q: Yes. So she’d have them all at home herself, would she, I suppose?
Mr P: Oh yes! I don’t know of anybody going to hospital having babies.
Q: But you didn’t know what was happening even then? When she actually had them, you didn’t know?
Mr P: No, not till the baby cried. (Q: Really?) If you were downstairs, Nurse Kentfield was there. If it was my own mother. You’d hear the baby cry. And then of course, after the baby was dressed and put in this long old robe, and then of course we used to go up and see them, you know. See Mum and that, brother or sister and all the rest of it, yes. And we used the same robe for christening for all of us. She’d got a long robe for christening for all of us. Of course, they don’t even wear long clothes now, do they?
Q: So how many of you were there, altogether?
Mr P: Nine I think, nine or ten of us.
Q: So what was all the names, then? In order, I mean, where did you come in the …?
Mr P: Who, me?
Q: Who was the oldest one?
Mr P: I’ll show you.
[chat about operation etc, not noted, then long pause]
Mr P: That’s our family register, look.
Q: Oh yes. Wow, that’s good, isn’t it?
Mr P: I took it out of a magazine before I sent the magazines away.
Q: So ‘Stephen Edward’ …
Mr P: My Dad, yes, always was called ‘Ted’. Yes. Now how old would he be now, a hundred and something?
Q: [reading] ‘1878, October 19th’, he would have been 108, wouldn’t he?
Mr P: I put down – when did he die?
Q: He died ‘21st November, 1951’. Married November 5th 1900.
Mr P: 51. Oh dear. What would that be – thirty? Thirty-odd years ago. Don’t seem possible.
Q: And your Mum was Lily Elizabeth …
Mr P: Lily Elizabeth.
Q: And she was called Day. ‘December 18th 1880. Baptised in Ipswich’.
Mr P: I shan’t part with it, somebody will …
Q: And they were both confirmed at St Nicolas. She died 1945.
Mr P: Yes. She died up Cressing Road. And then …
[Talking over each other]
Q: Henry Edward.
Mr P: Yes, he was the stationmaster at Tiptree.
Q: Henry Edward.
Mr P: He’s been dead about three or four years. I tell you, he is buried next to – you know Mrs Bradley, who I was talking about? Ivy Clements, that was. (Q: Yes.) Well, he’s buried next door to her sister’s husband, in Tiptree.
Q: Yes. And he was born in 1901, 20th November, baptised in Norfolk. Confirmed in [???] 1979[?]
[Talking over each other, unable to hear dates/names accurately RS]
Mr P: I’m the third one, ain’t I?. Am I the third?
Q: Yes, then there’s William John, what did he do?
Mr P: William John he died – he’s at Braintree cemetery, – he’s buried at Braintree. I’m the only boy left!
Q: What did he used to do? This William?
Mr P: Oh, he was Clerk to the Council. In charge of all the salvage and the dustbins.
Q: What, in Witham?
Mr P: No, Braintree.
Q: Braintree, I see.
Mr P: His widow still lives there, now at Braintree.
Q: Yes, that’s 16th …
Mr P: She lives at Dales House or something. In Coldnailhurst Road, or something.
Q: And baptised at Stow. St Nicholas – he died 1972. Then there’s Walter Herbert’s you, isn’t it?
Mr P: That’s me, I’m the third. Third or fourth.
Q: ‘8th February’, the third, yes, you were born in Stow as well.
Mr P: Then my sister what lives at Terling comes next.
Q: ‘Dorothy Ellen Elizabeth’.
Mr P: Dorothy Elizabeth. That’s right, she still a widow, lives at Terling. Down Knowles.
Q: 10th August 1909. That was Stow. And then you get to Witham.
Mr P: Stephen, he got killed in Burma, didn’t he?
Q: Stephen Mark, oh, yes, that’s right 21 April 1912. Witham All Saints. Killed in Burma 1942. Yes.
Mr P: He was killed in Burma in 1942, that’s right.
Q: And Ethel Maud, 6th Feb 1914.
Mr P: She’s still a widow, she lives on Heybridge Road, Holloway Road, Heybridge.
Q: Mabel Elizabeth.
Mr P: Mabel, she died in Black Notley with TB.
Q: 1953 she died. Born in – 1915[?]
Mr P: Her husband died, that’s Angela’s mother …[Angela Dersley]
Q: Is it, I see, yes.
Mr P: Her father died a few weeks ago, didn’t he? Well, a few months ago. And now I got Lily alive.
Q: And there’s Leonard he died …
Mr P: And Leonard the youngest, he died with this …
Mr P: He died at …
Q: Cambridge 1956[?]
Mr P: Denfitton at Cambridge with this here asbestos disease or something like that Fen Ditton, ain’t it?
Q: Fenditton, that’s right, yes. And the last one was Lily Harriet, then.
Mr P: She lives at Braintree. And she’s a – looks after other people’s children, what do you call them?
Q: Well, a sort of nanny, child minder.
Mr P: Adopted – foster mother that’s right.
Q: A foster mother. Oh yes.
Mr P: Her husband – her husband …
Q: [???] altogether. Were there any that didn’t live? Because often …
Mr P: Oh yes, I got two didn’t live. One at Stow Maries and the other one’s buried in All Saints.
Q: Really? That often – but you were quite – apart from this diphtheria you kept – because you mentioned Dr Gimson. You remember him, do you?
Mr P: Dr Gimson. Yes. Dr Karl.
Q: Did you have the doctor very often?
Mr P: No, you couldn’t afford it dear! You see, until Lloyd George in 1909 or 12, when did Lloyd George start the National Health? 1912 or 1909, did he?
Q: I can never remember because different things came in at different times.
Mr P: Well, anyhow you see, that was ten shillings a week. That was only the men. So you paid ninepence a week insurance. I believe it was ninepence, it was. And that was just the men. Well, what – if we had the doctor to my mother, or any of the others, you had a bill.
Q: Yes, yes.
Mr P: And what’d I used to do? Where the surgery is now, Mr Appleton was the dispenser. You took the bill, ‘Mother says would you take a shilling off the bill?’ And that’s how we had to pay him, if he come to Mother. See, so it was only the men covered, wasn’t there?
Q: Oh I see, so that’s how she …
Mr P: So you couldn’t afford to have the doctor.
Q: I see. So if it was for your father, you didn’t –
Mr P: No, my father could have the doctor. He could have the doctor because he paid ninepence a week – I believe it was ninepence a week. Yes, it was ninepence a week. You see, well, if they were at home sick they got ten shillings a week. I think it was ten shillings a week. Because I can remember my father getting fifteen shillings week. Fifteen bob a week when he worked for Blyth’s the miller.
Q: For a wage, you mean?
Mr P: Wage, a week’s wage.
Q: What did he used to do before the war? Was he working then?
Mr P: Oh, no, he was a skipper on a barge. (Q Oh I see.) And he left the barge when I come along, in 1908.
Q: So that’s why he lived down in Stow, yes.
Mr P: You see my father come from Margate. And all his family owned ships and things like that. And Dad was called the black sheep. He left – he left the family and went as skipper on a barge for Keebles at Maldon. But you see – and me Uncle Len and all them they had cockles and whelks and oysters stalls at Margate. I used to go there and – oh I used to love oysters and bring them back and me Uncle Len and all that. Well, the last lot of boats were taken in Dunkirk. They commandeered them in Dunkirk. And they were sunk of course, I don’t know if my Uncle Len got compensation, I suppose but that finished the Peirces family off of the water. But we used to go down to Margate to me Uncle Wal and me uncle – well, I was named after my Uncle Herbert of course. And we used to go to Uncle Wal. For holidays and that down there. But Dad went on the water, he was skipper on a barge. Mum was with him on the barge as mate! Mmm.
Q: They went all over, did they? Where were the barge sort of based at?
Mr P: He used to go all up the East Coast, to London and North, Maldon to London. And all up and down there. He had the maps and the compass – me eldest brother had all them. And – ‘Gloria’ was the name of the barge. He left that in Stow Maries creek. And that’s where I was born.
Q: And then he gave that up then, what did he do after that?
Mr P: What Stow Maries creek? When he gave up the boat and come to Stow Maries he worked for a big farmer right near the Prince of Wales pub at Stow Maries. Do you ever go out that way at all? Well, he worked there. And then, oh what was the name of the people, now? I can’t think of everything but anyhow, he worked for this farm. And then he heard about this job at Blyth’s. And there was a house in Mill Lane, right next to the gasworks. Well, it ain’t there now, the gasworks, is it?
Q: No, but I know where you mean.
Mr P: And that’s how he came to Witham.
Q: I suppose you couldn’t really do the barge business with a lot of kids, could you, really?
Mr P: No, no, no, he used to carry all – he used to take loads of beetroot and rhubarb leaves and I don’t know – all sorts he used to carry on that barge.
Q: And did they sort of live on the barge?
Mr P: Oh, yes. You know, go all up to Gravesend and London and all round that way. For Keebles. He was the skipper of the barge. They still have a barge race at Maldon now, don’t they? (Q: Yes.) Well, that’s a barge like that my Dad used to have.
Q: What, with the big sails and that?
Mr P: Oh yes, four big sails.
Q: Oh, well, well. Goodness me. He had a very varied life, didn’t he?
Mr P: Yes, I kept that – as I say, there was a big family of us and there wasn’t much money to spare. But I’ve got no – I mean, we was poor but I will say we was honest and we got up certain little plans and things like that – I mean to say I even sang in the choir and got two and tuppence a quarter. (Q: Did you?) Yeah. Two and tuppence a quarter I used to get for singing in the choir. And that was one of my – did I tell you? That was one of my desires – I wanted to sit in my seat!
Q: Oh, you mentioned that …
Mr P: And I told you, last Sunday, or Sunday week. And the organist said ‘You shall do!’ And he come round and moved all the fruit and that off the seat so I could sit there, for a few minutes. I’m awful sorry that I never had me photograph taken with me cassock and surplice. Mrs Ottley that lived in Charity Row, on the end house next to – near the school what’s been fresh built [40 Church Street]. She used to wash all our cassocks and surplice. Black and white. And I went in the vestry and they’re still black and white, ain’t they?
Q: Yes, I believe so, yes.
Mr P: And I asked the vicar, I said ‘Well, there used to be some helmets hanging up there – where are they?’ ‘Oh’, he said. ‘We put them in the Lady Chapel’. They’re in – of course there weren’t no Lady Chapel, not when I was there. And that statue of them two judges, Southcotts, they used to be up near the organ. You see, and then there used to be another room – if you look up, if you’re in the vestry – there used to be another room over the top of the vestry where the vicar used to live! (Q: Really?) So I said to the vicar, what’s his name? I don’t know.
Mr P: I said ‘You don’t live at the vicarage.’ He said ‘I do!’ I said ‘You don’t!’ I said ‘You never –’ I said ‘To me you’ve never lived at the vicarage!’ I said ‘That’s the vicarage!’ (Q laughs.) You see! Another thing, during the First War, Canon Galpin was there. Well the vicarage had been cut in half, the old vicarage. That used to be twice that size. And it used to come right out, almost to where – they call it the church hall now or something, don’t you? (Q: Yes.)
Well that used to come out there and there was just a little yard where Canon Galpin had his horse and cart. Because that was all horses then. His trap, not his horse and cart, trap and horse. Well, they took three or four rooms all off. But during the war, [First War] Canon Galpin, he used to make soup. We used to go and get it with a jug, penny a pint. We used to come down Church Street, go through that gateway, and they had a lamp put over the top of that way, in memory of Wadleys. There used to be a lamp, an iron – ornamental iron thing, over the doorway in Church Street, I don’t know if it’s still there, with a lamp.
Q: Oh, that’s what that is, yes it’s still there.
Mr P: With a lamp …
Q: What the iron thing? It’s still there. I wondered what that was.
Mr P: Yes, that’s it. Well, there used to be a lamp in there – the Wadleys. That was in memory of the Wadleys family. And the last person I saw buried in that churchyard was Mrs Wadley, up near the Woolpack wall. The tombstone there, but they’ve took a lot of them away, ain’t they?
Mr P: But that was the Wadleys that had that put up there. Well, we used to go up there, then go up via the vestry, to the vicarage, to the kitchen door, with your jug and get a quart. And that used to be like lentils, split peas and – there weren’t maize in them days there was, split peas, lentils and things like that, in the soup. Mutton broth, or something, I dunno what. Take it home then Mum used to warm it up, because it was cold by the time we got it home. Mum used to warm that up and then give us a good old slice of bread to put in it. You see. Well, I never finished telling you. Er, Sunday school treat. Well, this here meadow, where – where you go down that slope. (Q: Yes.) Well, when you got down the bottom where – I suppose that’s the River Walk now. Well that goes up to the vicarage, didn’t it? Used to go into the big meadow behind the vicarage, you see. Well, two thirds of the meadow was a meadow and the other was the vicarage garden that run up to the back of them houses in Church Street. Well now, to get to the vicarage now, you got to go up and round, ain’t you? (Q: Yes.) Well, the vicarage is built in the vicarage vegetable garden. See. And I said to the vicar, I said ‘That ain’t the vicarage!’ [Q laughs] So the steam engine, Bill Randall’s steam engine, used to go down the hill, in that gate this side of the bridge and into that meadow. He used to boil the water for steam, he took a big copper. And he used to pour the water in it, pour pailfuls of it from the vicarage. And then he used to put a steam pipe from the engine into it and boil the water and that they used to make the tea with. Then we used to have the old tables out in the meadow and the forms to sit on and currant buns and tea. And old Mr Moore that lived at Hatfield Peverel. Bandmaster, he was a bandmaster of the village band. Mr Cable died a few weeks back, didn’t he, that was his son-in- law. We used to have to wait. He used to come on his old motorbike and sidecar thing. And he used to play ‘Old Hundred’ (Q: Really?) On his cornet. See, and we’d all be sitting there at the table. And I had a starched collar or something on. [Q laughs] And we had to wait. And when he’d played ‘Old Hundred’ and ‘Bless[?] this table, O Lord’[?] And then we’d get on with the buns and tea and all that. And cake or whatever it was. That was our Sunday School treat. Well then we used to have sack races, three-legged races, toffee apple on a string. And then getting an apple or something out of a bucket of water. And all them games I remember. And then Mr Lock, Probation Officer, he lived down Maldon Road, called ‘Brookside’ right down near the river. He finished up at Hatfield Peverel, round there. Because his wife, well, if you put it – she went funny, because she had a strong room and all that built. And he was the leader of the Band of Hope. We had a society called The Band of Hope. You paid a ha’penny once a fortnight or something. But he was the leader of it. But anyhow, he was something to do with the Sunday School as well, and the Band of Hope. And he used to come to the Sunday School treat, when we’d had our tea. After we’d had our tea. Right. You’d got to try and catch Mr Lock. They used to give him a about a couple or three minutes start and he used to go round to the vicarage garden or round the vicarage orchard and round that meadow and all that and we had to run after him. And the first one to catch him, got a penny or tuppence. [Q laughs]. So that’s – you know …
Q: So how old would you be then?
Mr P: During the war! [First War] Oh yes, during the war. Now they have to go to Wales or Italy or somewhere like that, don’t they?
Q: For a treat, yes. [laughs]
Mr P: Yes. Well, we used to go – that’s where we used to have our Sunday School treat.
Q: You mentioned going out in the wagon …
Mr P: In the waggonette.
Q: Where did you go in there?
Mr P: Yes, well the older ones, in the waggonette, we used to sometimes go to Baddow Rodney. The older ones used to go to Baddow Rodney with the waggonette. You know where Baddow Rodney is?
Q: I think so, yes.
Mr P: Well, there is a pub called The Rodney, ain’t there? Blue Hills don’t they call it? Baddow Rodney. We’d go there and that was as far as we used to go there, you see. And then of course we used to have a Co-op treat. That used to be a wonderful thing, that was! We used to – all members of the Co-op and all the children, we all had a ticket. Mrs Simpson, she lived next door to Hannah’s, or what was Ketley’s. [Braintree Road] Mr Bridge, he lived there as well. And we all used to line up in The Avenue. All us kids, line up The Avenue. Witham Town Band, Bill Russell, Mr Eaves, Mr Andrews, the Witham Town Band, see. They used to march off with the procession. Off we used to go, down into the High Street, past the – well, the war memorial weren’t there then. Past the war memorial, down to the Co-op shop, to Kings Chase. And into the meadow where Dr Gimson lived. And that’s where we used to have the Co-op treat. Well, we used to have a proper good beano there then; us children. You know, tea, cakes, etcetera and all that. We used to have races so you could earn a penny or tuppence. And the Witham Town Band, that always used to have a race. And Mr Russell, Will Russell, he played the drum. Well they used to give him several yards in front! [Q laughs]
Q: So you were in the Co-op, were you? I mean, were there some people that weren’t in the Co-op?
Mr P: No, only Co-op members’ children, really. But everybody belonged to the Co-op in them days. Because you see, you used to get about tenpence or a shilling in the pound discount. Now you don’t get a farthing in the pound! Do you? Not with them stamps! See.
Q: So everybody was in it more or less, were they?
Mr P: Well, that was all made up of members, then weren’t it? [???] Witham Co-op made of members, you see. And you all had tickets and cheques and things and all that given you. Well, now, the only discount you get now is them stamps and you stick them in a book. I forget how many thousand of them you want for a pound!
Mr P: I forget how many thousand you want for a pound. But that used to be once a year, that Co-op treat. And if it poured of rain, well, that was just too bad! If it rained too hard, you used to go into where the Co-op car park is now, and shelter in the stables. Because the Co-op was all horse and carts then as well. What used to come round with the coal.
Q: Did they used to bring food and that round? Or did you have to go to the Co-op for it?
Mr P: No, they used to bring bread and coal – only bread and coal. The groceries you had to go down and get. (Q: Yes.) Only bread and coal, you see? And then as I said we used to go up to Ketley’s, to the soldiers, NAAFI, with biscuits and things like that. There was no packets, everything was in tins! And the lid of the tin was a glass lid with metal round it, like, see, so you saw your biscuits there. Well, many a time, and I say it with all due respect to my Mum, many a time we ain’t got if we were out of bread or anything else, she’d give us a penny. And I’d go to the International Stores, which was next to the Angel [39 Newland Street], used to be on the corner of Maldon Road, and go and get a pen’noth of broken biscuits. Well, for that penny we used to get about three – well, two or three pound of broken biscuits. For a penny, and that used to be, see, our food.
Q: And what sort of meals would you have otherwise, if she’d got the money?
Mr P: Well, Greatrex the butcher in Church Street, [about number 8] the meat used to hang over the path and the blood used to drip in the gutter. So as you walked by you hit your head on half a pork or sheep or something. Where Coates is and all that now. You see, I got a film in my camera, I’ve taken photographs of Hatfield all the old places what have been knocked down. I’ve got two or three more feet left of it. You know, eight-millimetre film. And I’ve got several – hundreds of feet of it altogether.
But I’ve got the last films in there now, I’ve got about eight feet left I think. But anyhow, I wish I’d took them. That’s [???] Greatrex and that, all used to hang all over the path and you walked in between the meat and the shop! And that used to hang over there. And they used to sell all the cattle at the Witham Market. And Mr Greatrex used to buy the prize bullock. And put rosettes on it. And I reckon that bullock used to have about eight or nine legs on it! You know, in the shop, the rosettes. (Q: Yes. [laughs]) And then of course, Lord Rayleigh, in the First War, and up to the – no, First War and afterwards, not Second War, when the rations stopped, started, that finished it. Lord Rayleigh always used to give his employees a pound of beef and a pound of bread every Christmas. So all his employees had got a Christmas dinner. Well, Mr Greatrex used to slaughter the bullocks and cut the meat all up.
Q: So did you used to have a joint or things ever?
Mr P: Yes, the bigger the family, the bigger the joint. I used to have three pound of bread and three pound of meat. I used to have. From Lord Rayleigh’s, that was in 1920 – about ‘28, something like that, I reckon.
Q: So you were working for him then, were you?
Mr P: I was working for him then, you see. I worked up Blunts Hall. I was up there. I got all the photographs – I showed you the photo of the farm, 1929. ‘28 when I was there and ‘29.
Q: But when you were at home with your Mum, did she have a joint, ever? Or meat or that sort of thing?
Mr P: No, no, well, very rare. What we used to have was to go to Greatrex’s, mind you it was lovely, I would enjoy it now. And get six pen’noth of pieces. Now you see, they were the trimmings off the gentry joints. Today, now they stick a great old lump of fat round and tie it up with string. But they used to trim the gentry joints, you see. Well, Mr Greatrex used to deliver it. Well, they had a wooden tray, scooped out a bit in the middle. And that’d got four handles on, but that was all made out of one bit of wood. And he used to carry that on his shoulder, with his joints all on. And then they used to have a wire, around a spring, with a spike in. And he used to stick it in the joint and the ticket used to clip in this spring. What the meat was and all that, you see. Well …
Continued on tape 111