Tags

Tape 114.

Mr Walter Peirce was born in 1908. He was interviewed on 29 November 1986, when he lived at Airlings, Ulting Road, Hatfield Peverel.

He also appears on tapes 92, 93, 110, 111, 112, 113, 117, 125, 126.

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 ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk 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.]

[WP appears slightly deaf so have paraphrased Q’s questions where they are repeated. Also WP tends to repeat phrases and sentences and interject with ‘well’ ‘see,’ etc. I have omitted these where it does not alter the sense or flow of conversation. RS]



Continued from Tape 113

Side 12

Mr P:    [looking at photo] … no, no. No I don’t know who that tall fellow is. Pity they hadn’t got the scoutmaster there. Only you see we had scoutmaster – we had Mr Boutwood, Mr Groves, then come George Keeble and then come Billy Evitt. He was the last one, I was there. That’s my fourth scoutmaster.

Q:    You saw a lot then didn’t you?

Mr P:    The wife said to me – you see there was no wireless, there was no television, we hadn’t got no money! So if I wanted to go to Pinkham’s picture palace, I used to go out with a wheelbarrow and round to the goods yard and scoop up the horse manure. And take it up my father’s allotment if I wanted to get three ha’pence or something to go to the picture palace.

Q:    Which was the picture palace – up the Public Hall?

Mr P:    Public Hall.

Q:    That was when you were quite young already, was it?

Mr P:    Oh, yes! Pinkham opened it, the glove factory person. And the projector room was built out over towards the pavement. You’ll see the door’s still there, you went up the gallery – there was a gallery in the Public Hall, is it still there now?

Q:    Yes.

Mr P:    Well, you used to go up that gallery and then you went through a door into the projector room. So if you was up in the gallery, and you stood up, your shadow would come on the screen because you’d be in the way of the projector!

Q:    And they would shout at you?

Mr P:    Yes, well, and then the film’d break and we’d stamp [stamps feet] our feet and holler and shout and all that all the time poor Mr Pinkham or somebody would be a-mending of it. Then there wasn’t no electricity. Down in the Public Hall they built some offices there for Witham Council, didn’t they? (Q: Yes.) There was a shed there where Mr Pinkham had a petrol motor, with a belt and a dynamo. And that used to make his electricity. Well, if the engine conked out or the belt slipped off, you got no picture! So of course, there’d be stamping and hollering and whistling again! [Mr P laughs]

Q:    He put that in specially, did he?

Mr P:    That engine! Oh yes! There weren’t no electricity in Witham! Till we brought it from Lake and Elliott’s – I was on that, tenpence an hour I got for that. When we brought it from Lake and Elliott’s.

Q:    When would be, roughly, then? I mean, was that when you were – before you were married?

Mr P:    Oh dear! I think it was round about thirty, thirty-three, between thirty to thirty-three.

Q:    Not that long ago.

Mr P:    Yes, we brought it from Lake and Elliott’s at Braintree, overhead on poles all the way to where the public lavatories used to be in Maldon Road. Well, that was the sub-station there. And then – that was the year that the Essex Show was on that Stepfield where Crittall’s and all that is now, and Wimpy’s. So the substation was in Maldon Road. Then we came all under the path[?], round by the White Hart, right in front of Woolworths, Cutts, the fishmonger, Mrs King, the fruiterers, right along there by Doctor whatsname used to have. Past Stoffer’s, all underneath. Right up past The Grove brick wall, the cable’s still there. Till you got to them houses opposite the Catholic church. Well, then we crossed the road there, I bet the cable’s still in there now! We crossed the road there into that big field Rivenhall side of the railway. And then we came up there and went by poles right across to Kelvedon and then they tapped the wires and all of it then when they had the Essex Show there to get electricity. Then that goes right through there to Kelvedon by that iron bridge by Hoo Hall and all that and that’s as far as I went with it.

Q:    How did you get to be working on that?

Mr P:    By bicycle. I biked around.

Q:     I mean were you working for the …

Mr P:    Oh no! Working for East Anglian Electric Light Company. East Anglian Electric Light done that.

Q:    So were you working for them for a while or just for that job?

Mr P:    Oh no, I worked for them, you know, until the job’s finished and you’re back on the dole! And then, I don’t know whether I went from there to Blunts Hall, but there weren’t a lot, you know, I couldn’t bear to be on the dole really.

Q:    So did you have a lot of different jobs then?

Mr P:    Oh, I got any job – any job rather than be on the – sign – because you had to go and sign for it three or four times a day, then. (Q: Yes?) The Unemployment office was the Conservative office opposite the Labour Club. That bungalow [Avenue Lodge]. Oh, wait a minute, first of all that was where George Thompson’s coal yard – that little hut, [1a Braintree Road] that was the first. Mr – oh, he lived in Easton Road, he was the manager of Unemployment. That was there first, and then he had a hut built opposite Slythe’s the stone masons, the first house in – don’t Dr Netscher[?] lived there somewhere? Well, anyhow, right opposite Slythe’s in Easton Road. He lived in the first one. He had a hut put there and that was the office then for unemployment. And then from there he went to that bungalow up The Grove. And that was the last place I signed on the dole. And now that’s moved down now near the British Legion hut, down there towards the Police station.

Q:    So when you first came out of school, you told me what you did then, did you?

Mr P:    When I first left school – I left school one day, and I went to work the very next day to learn thatching. And I’ve still got my bill hook in the greenhouse, what we use to split – I ain’t forgot it! I can still thatch! And we used to use nut hazel. And the farmer used to cut nut hazel out of the groves or out the hedges and used to bring it to us. See, you had your pad on your knee. Well, you had nut hazels, perhaps as big as that cup – or as big as this. Then with my bill, you would split that right down. You would make – you would split lengths about the size of this, and then you would give that a nick with this thingummy and you would twist it and you’d make a hook of this nut hazel. Then you’d put your thatch and you’d lay it down in yellams[?] and all the rest of it. Where you’d split these long poles down, perhaps ten or twelve foot or anyhow, I would split them in half or you’d strip them in four. Then you’d have your stack like that, wouldn’t you, you see? Thatched, with all your straw and everything like that. Then you would lay this split wood right along there on the straw. Then you drive those pegs right into the stack. After that, when farmers began to cut their hedges and all that down, you used string then. You’d have a straight peg with a string but the only thing is the rats gnaw through the string, which they would do, of course. Building nests, they would do with all that. But once the [???] – although that was cheaper than splitting wood. I think we used to get ninepence a square yard. So when you’d finishing thatching – I used to get a pound a week. When you’d finishing thatching, you’d chuck the rope right the way over and that’d give you a length, didn’t it? And then you’d put another tape measure along of there and that’d give you the square yards. And that’s how we was paid.

Q:    Who did you work for, then?

Mr P:    Mr Baldwin and Mr Smith, there was two or three of us all together. And Mr Baldwin, his grandchildren are now foremen at the Warren Farm and Oak Farm, at Faulkbourne, for Strutt and Parker and all that there. And I tell you where they used to live, just top of Guithavon Road, their house is the end of the Bramston School playing field, when you come up Guithavon Road, and go into Spinks Lane. Well, when you come up Guithavon Road, and round that corner into Spinks Lane there’s two or three houses, that’s where he lived.

Q:    And he was the thatcher? That was his job?

Mr P:    He was the thatcher, yes.

Q:    Were you sort of an apprentice? How long were you there.

Mr P:    Yes, and Mr – about a year or eighteen months. Wasn’t exactly an apprentice, although I learnt the trade. And Mr Ashby, he was another one in with us. And we would sort of all go round all the farms.

Q:    Did you thatch stacks as well as buildings?

Mr P:    Oh no, only stacks. We done one or two barns, but I never went on a house. But one or two cart lodges and things like that, which are the same method, of course. But when you thatched a cart lodge, or a barn, your first lot of straw you tied down on to the beams with tarred rope. So the rats wouldn’t eat that. And then you built your layers of straw on and you got so you put your pegs in. But the first layer was always – the first lot of ‘yellums’ you called them. They were tied on with tarred string.

Q:    Why did you give that up then?

Mr P:    Well, of course, I – we used to travel right out to Stisted and all places like that. We used to go miles round, Faulkbourne, Notley, right out to Stisted, Bradwell. I got fed up with all that biking. I think that’s why I give it up. And I went on and I think I went into Crittall’s. For about ten bob a week then. So I had an Irishman’s rise.

Q:    But then you were out of work again, when you were doing this other, with the electric? How did that come about?

Mr P:    Oh, yes, yes, yes. That came about when I went to Crittall’s. And went to Silver End on the building. And we built Temple Lane and various other places. That was before Runnacles Road and several other roads were built. We all got the job finished. So the job was all finished up when they finished building Silver End. And then several years afterwards, they built Runnacles Road and certain other roads and all the rest of it. I can see the old ‘Governor’ now, he used to walk about, always bent with his stick, and his hand on his back.

Q:    Just to see how you were getting on?

Mr P:    Oh, he used to come into the factory quite a lot. Well, it was a new venture for him, wasn’t it? With all these metal windows.

Q:    You were in the building side?

Mr P:    I was on the building side at Silver End, oh yes.

Q:    And then you went on the electric … ?

Mr P:    And then I came back, no I come back into the factory, for a while. And then something – and then you see, as the orders and that came in, so you got stood off. Or you got took on.

Q:    So you did these other jobs in between?

Mr P:    Building weren’t about like in my time like it was in yours. Because it was a wonderful celebration when that first house in The Avenue was built with Crittall’s windows. Because there was no – when I lived at Witham, there were no houses where you are, because I used to go and pinch mushrooms out of there. I told you. There was no houses there, there was no houses up Church Street beyond Scrivener’s Terrace [actually Chipping Hill Terrace], where that little butcher’s shop or something is. Nothing anywhere else. There was nothing up Rickstones Road. There was nothing up Cressing Road and where them little bungalows are that runs along Bridge Home or what you call it, I had two bits of allotment there. So all this building has been done since. There weren’t all this. So that’s how the Governor used to travel abroad and all that to get orders, he use to go about all over the world trying to get orders and things like that here. And the people hadn’t got the money then they have today. I don’t think, I don’t remember, you might though, whether you could get – was there such a thing as a mortgage in them days? I don’t remember.

Q:     I suppose there must have been for some people, but …

Mr P:    There was no Building Societies as far as I know.

Q:    I think you went more private or with a bank, or something.

Mr P:    Through the bank or an insurance policy or something. I’ve got a …

Q:    Sometimes I think the builder lent you the money, or that sort of thing. Or you had it on credit with the builder.

Mr P:     No you see, the only builder we had in Witham was Richards. No, W Rust first – oh dear, that was before the First War! W Rust was in Church Street and then another man took it over. He was a German, he was interned in the war. He lives in that house where Dr Cohen lives. Dean! Rust had it first, that’s where Coates the cycle shop is. Rust had his office there. And he had his yard at the back, up the White Horse Lane. Then Mr Dean, but he was interned all during the war[actually it was Mr Dean’s brother in law who was interned, Mr Dean was in the army]. And then Adams and Mortimer came along. But previous to that – then there was big gap and see, there was nothing done during the war. The only builder that I know during the war was Richards. The two brothers up Church Street. Well, Miss Richards is still alive, I’m talking about her father and her uncle. They were only the builders that was about Witham. Now, they come from the other side of London or anywhere, don’t they!

Q:    Did it used to worry you when you were working there, not knowing whether you were going …

Mr P:    Oh, well, of course, that was all – well, we was young, you didn’t think – you wasn’t married so you didn’t worry much, really, although …

Q:    Could you go on the dole then, when you were …

Mr P:    Well, you could but the dole weren’t much, so you used to cycle round for different jobs when they starting laying sewers, they started laying water, they started laying electricity and things like that. You sort of went about and got a job like, from year to year, see. Because when they done the water job, I went right out as far as Billericay. I used to bike from here to Billericay, because you see, we started at Langham, that’s near Boxted near Severall’s Hospital, at Langham. Well, that ‘s where the pump station was. That come right the way through to Tiptree, right through to Danbury, and then from Danbury down to Haringey[?]. But I never went no further than Billericay. That was far enough to bike on an icy[?] morning.

Q:    And hard work as well, I should think, was it?

Mr P:    Oh yes, down in the – eight foot down in the ground, joining up the pipes. Had big pipes, thirty-six inch pipes, we used to travel into on a bogey. Crawled for miles we used to crawl in these pipes. They were all bitumen lined. Used to have candles or acetylene lamps.

Q:    You went through them, you mean?

Mr P:     Oh, we would get down – and these pipes were eight foot the same as the ground is, you see. So from Wickham Bishops, going down to – under the Maldon railway line, that was then. Well, you could travel down in them at forty or fifty mile an hour on them bogies! What we used to do with the thirty-six inch mains – I forget the length of them – they used to have a derrick to lower them down and join them all up, with red-hot bitumen on the [???] and all that. And lead, boiling lead on the outside. And you poured in and stand them up. And then you joined them up inside with, strips of them. Then you put them together and when you put the two pipes together, they lapped in but left a groove – about a three-inch groove it left. Then we used to have three-inch strips of bitumen. And you used to paint this with the paste, and then you would warm that with a blow lamp in the pipes and you would press that in, and you’d do this bottom half first then you’d lay on your back and put the top bit in. And then you had the valves and then you would fill them up with water. And put them under pressure by a pump, I forget how many pounds pressure. And they’d stand like that for so many days. And you’d let the water all out and then you’d go in with a light to see if there were any blowholes or anything. You’d cut them out and fill them in. I mean, some of the manholes would come up in people’s back yards, or people’s orchards, or strawberry fields or anything like that. Every so often – the manholes are still there, of course! Well, the wash-outs and all. Certain places where they wash the pipes out. And then when we went under the railway line, or under a road, we put two lots of pipes in. The one lot of pipe that we was working on and then we would put a sister next to it in case ever they wanted to put some more in, which they’ve done. I think there’s about three lots run through there now, but I only went on the first lot. You could hear the trains go over the top of you when you were in the – you know.

Q:    You’ve had some exciting jobs, haven’t you? What else have you done?

Mr P:    When I lay back and think back of all those jobs. And as I say, I was never out of work long, I used to go somewhere and get a job.

Q:    What else did you do?

Mr P:    The last – then my brother who got killed at Burma. He was in the Dunkirks and got out. He and I was both out of work, and so we went to Great Loyes at Fairsted and we saw Mr Blake and – he married a girl, I think he married a girl Doole[?] I think. Great Loyes, that’s still there, a house with a moat all round it. And asked him if they wanted anybody on the farm. He said ‘Go to Farthings Farm, see Mr Partridge[?] and tell him I’ve sent you’. So he did, and I’d got to start the next day at Blunts Hall, and my brother. Well, they found out my brother could milk! So he went, he had one day with me on the farm, he went in the dairy the next day. And I stopped on the farm. Then, my brother-in-law was the foreman at Seabrook’s, at Boreham. And I thought [???]. When I was at Blunts Hall, I’ve still got the hook and I’ll tell you in a minute. You had to buy your own tools at Blunts Hall. But at Seabrook’s you didn’t, they supplied them all. Well, the last job I done at Blunts Hall was to go and cut that hedge along Spinks Lane, where Bramston School is. And the hook is in my shed, and do you know why it’s called a brushing[?] hook? Because I’m left-handed, see. The brushing[?] hook’s in my shed, it’s nearly as good as the day I bought it in Mondy’s! I gave three and sixpence for it, because my money was only five shillings a day! I gave three and sixpence for that hook and it’s still in there! Do you know how much they are now? Seven pound ten – seven pound fifty! So with that, my chopper – or billhook we called it. And the hook – they’re both in my shed.

Q:    So you had to buy your own then?

Mr P:    So I left the farm and went to Seabrook’s.

Q:    Was that usual at Blunts Hall having to buy your own tools?

Mr P:    Had to buy your own tools at Blunts, oh yes! Your own hoe. I’ve still got the pitchfork I had at Blunts Hall. And the hook what I bought to brush that hedge with.

Q:    Did they do that at many places?

Mr P:    Well, then I was at Seabrook’s for three or four years, I reckon. Then Mr Seabrook bought Little Leighs Hall at Little Leighs. Through buying that they stood about fifty or sixty of us off! Yes, so …

Q:    Why was that then?

Mr P:    Because they spent the money buying Little Leighs Hall! That’s still Seabrooks’s now, Mr Seabrook still lives there now, Mr Keith Seabrook, he was on the Braintree Council. So we got stood off there. The next week I heard Lady Curtis Bennett or Sir Henry Curtis Bennett, KC, lived at Boreham, right near this church. Well, her ladyship wanted a gardener. Because opposite where Sir Henry lived, there was an old house and a long garden, they used to have in them days. And he bought it for her ladyship – that was his second wife. He bought it for her ladyship and she wanted a gardener. So I went and saw about that and I got the job there. And I had many a dinner of the dogs’ meat! Mmmm, you’d sneer up your nose, won’t you? And I tell you why. Her ladyship used to breed these Siamese cats and used to have dogs. Well, if any of them died, they’d all got tombstones in the garden and all the rest of it! Well, Mr and Mrs Reynolds, Mr Reynolds was chef for Sir Henry Curtis, KC and his wife was there, and two maids were there. And he also – Mr Barber was the gardener. And the house that Mr Barber lived in, down by where Boreham School used to be – I see it’s up for sale the other day for about eighty-eight thousand!

Anyhow, so I went and worked for her ladyship, and we done all this garden round, and he bought her a greenhouse – because he used to be away up London practically all day, you see, and her ladyship was on her own. Well, I’ll tell you, we used to have this cat and dog’s meat. Mr Wright, the butcher – Hugh Wright the butchers at Chelmsford. Every day they delivered four shillings-worth of meat, to Mr Reynolds, the chef. And he used to – and liver and – not lights, liver and something else for these cats. Well, he used to use that and make lovely meat pies for us! [both laugh]

Q:    What did the cats have to eat then?

Mr P:    The cats were supposed to have it! Sometimes the old cats would get up on the table and you’d hear the old cats hollering where he – you know! Of course, her ladyship would come into the kitchen – ‘What was that, Reynolds?’ ‘Oh, one of the cats fell off the table’ but it weren’t! He used to give them a right old thumping! [Q laughs] I’d tell you – that was fresh lovely meat! Well, you imagine when wages was thirty shillings a week, you couldn’t afford four shillings a day for meat, could you? Or anybody else. But that was four shillings a day – fresh meat from Hugh Wright who used to be in Tindal Street, in Chelmsford. The butcher used to deliver that every day. And that was lovely steak, and stewing steak and all that to feed the cats and Mr Reynolds – and of course her ladyship never interfered with the kitchen or nothing, you know. He had his own two servants and him and his wife – he was the chef and he used to make lovely meat pies and things like that. and I used to go in and have meals there with them.

Q:    So she didn’t know that’s where it went, then?

Mr P:    Oh yes! I knew it was the cats and dogs meat.

Q:     But she didn’t know?

Mr P:    She never knew where it went, no fear! No. And Sir Henry – well all he used to spend was about one and six a week for bread – that’s all he used to spend in Boreham. But he used to have bottles and bottles of wine come in straw. They used to come in crates in straw. Well, I don’t know if I could show you the place now, but what used to happen, was in the garage – he had a son who was a big cricketer. But in the garage he used to collect all these old bottles. Every so often we used to go into the meadow at the bottom of the garden and dig a hole in the meadow and bury all these bottles – as far as I know they’re all buried down there now! I suppose somebody’s house is on top of them now, because it’s all built up with houses and supermarket and things like that here, down Boreham on the way to the church.

Q:    And you were still living in Witham?

Mr P:     No, Hatfield.

Q:    This was when you were in Hatfield?

Mr P:    Living in Hatfield, Station Road.

Q:     So how did you get back to Crittall’s in the War?

Mr P:    I went back – my father was working at Silver End. He was making all the concrete poles for the electric light and all the rest of it. Great big poles – they’re still there now. And they’ve got slots in them like that. With electric lights on them like that. They are all reinforced – there’s reinforced, there’s four bars you put on a framework, four three-quarter rods for a full length of them – about twenty-five, thirty feet. And then you made rings – you bent your wire around and made square rings and you thread them all along and they went into a mould. Then the mould was filled up with concrete and left for a month and then you’d got a pole like that. You used to put numbers and dates on the end of all them poles. And he give me a job with him. And then Mr Smith sent me back to Crittall’s to – sent my father and I back to Crittall’s to pitch and tar the whole roof of Crittall’s. So in the front where these people sit more or less, he had a big old boiler there and we used to boil the tar and so much pitch and we – of course the roof was all tin at Crittall’s, it was. And we went tarring that. And then after we finished that, Mr English give me a job – I went inside the factory painting the girders and things inside the factory. And then from then I went on, I suppose, with the prisoners or something or other and then driving the tractors and various other things.

Q:    A bit of variety, anyway.

Mr P:     Yes, so I look round, lovely. That’s what I said, I’m not so old, I’ll soon be seventy-nine, in a few weeks and things will never – there’ll never be a revolution any more than what has been in the last fifty years or more. Not in my lifetime, shall I say.

Q:    No. It’s so different, isn’t it?

Mr P:    Because – a nephew of mine has bought a house on that estate, Blacklands estate, between the Bridge Home and Ivy Chimneys. That’s a field called Blacklands. My daughter was down here today, and he’s bought one of them – they were council houses – right next to the railway line. There’s a footpath goes across to Blunts Hall but I think the railway’s closed it now, because the children kept putting things on the line. Well, that field of Blacklands, as I said, that was all cornfields. And I remember that was all full of corn there and we used to stack the stocks or traves, and I used to do piecework at one and six an acre. You know, stand the traves all up and you used to build stacks and then they used to be thatched, didn’t they? It was all that, very interesting. But at this Blacklands, there began to get – of course the allotment was there then. There was always allotment. Well, I used to know one or two people on the allotment, Jimmy [???], Ann Bourne[?] and one or two more I used to know there. Two of them worked at Blunts Hall with me. And they began to get these charabancs [Mr P says charabangs] – not buses, they were charabancs in them days, open. I don’t know – I believe there was a canvas top you used to pull over the top of them. But we used to call them charabancs. Well I remember on one occasion, now this field Blacklands, where all these over-spill houses are now, that used to be one field of poppies and blue cornflowers. Now you don’t see them now, do you? I remember one occasion – of course there used to be a big hedge alongside the road. I mean, there weren’t toilets then – the charabanc pulled up and people went behind the hedge in them days! Of course I know we’re talking – I remember these people, they came in there – they got armfuls of these poppies and cornflowers to take back to – I don’t know – London or Brentwood or somewhere or other. Well, before they got to Chelmsford they’d be dead! Wouldn’t they? Poppies! But now there ain’t a poppy about nowhere hardly now. It’s a wonderful sight. I’m daft really, because when I went to Broomfield Hospital for examination before I had any operation, where they’re doing these new bypasses, round by Springfield White Hart and all that, and they come down as far as the road, I really slowed up. Because on that side of the road, was all poppies. And I thought it brought you back. And to think of all things, you see.

I don’t suppose – well the Witham Council must know, I don’t suppose many people know where that big old cable runs right along there. They’ve got it at the Witham Council offices, I dare say.

Q:    It’s surprising how they don’t always know these things. To look for them.

Mr P:    No, because the thing was when I bought this piece of ground – and this is my own copy and plan of it. I had a plan drawn out, printed and sent to Braintree for planning permission, well they turned me down! So I said why was that? I saw – Mr Bright was the solicitor then. They turned it down because there was no water or sewer down here. Sir Frederick de Crespigny – you’ve heard of the balloonist – matter of fact, his vault has just fell in! So they had to dig all the coffins off and take to Danbury and they’re rebuilding the vault in Hatfield churchyard. The whole lot fell all in. So there was all the coffins and that covered with dirt and the top and all that. They got a great big white cross on top. So Bakers of Danbury, they had to open it all out, take all the old coffins to Danbury, and put some of them in new coffins, I should think, I don’t know. And they are rebuilding the vault all up again with these big concrete blocks. And then bring them all back. Anyway, Sir Crespigny he bought three plots away to have a house built for his gardener. They turned us down, you see. So of course he employed a KC. King’s Counsel, that’s right. Well, I knew the water was here and I knew the sewer was here because I put it in! I showed you a photograph of me putting them in, didn’t I? Q:    Yes. [laughs]

Mr P: Well, we had to go to Braintree to the council offices and this KC what was representing Sir Frederick de Crespigny – because he’d bought that big plot, seventy-five foot, two doors up. And we had this KC and everything else, they come and saw it – not here, down New Road, come and see us and all that. And we had a meeting at the Wheatsheaf. We used to meet in there, I don’t know who paid for the room. We used to have a meeting there. And when it come to the day, we all had to go to Braintree, so he employed people from Whitehall, or House of Commons – what do they call it? Not Attorney General, something to do with the Building & Planning – if the council turn you down, you can appeal to them, can’t you?

Q:    I know, yes.

Mr P:    Anyhow we had him down there, see. So of course he was there and the solicitor and us and all was there, me, two of three people from the other side of the road. So of course I had to go into the witness box and they asked me all questions. Of course the KC had seen us all beforehand and told me what I’d got to do. When to say anything and when to keep me mouth shut! So of course Braintree was all up, they was muttering ‘You know so much’ and all that here. So then I had to go into – like a witness box it is, it’s the Council chambers. And they said to me I was having too much to say. That plainly speaking, I knew more than what the Braintree Council did. Of course, they didn’t like that, did they? So the KC was this side of me, so the old Chairman said ‘Well, you seem to say more than what the Council say and you seem to know more than the Council, why are you sure? That there’s water and a sewer down there?’ So I said ‘Well, Mr Chairman, I went and bought that bit of ground’. Because you see after we bought it, the Braintree Council then sent us notes – no, Mr Bright did – that should we in future want to build there, there was no building permission, no building outside the Green Belt. But the long tale and short of it [???] [???] sold it up to the corner, where that telephone box is. He could sell all that if he wants to, to build on there. And they said ‘Oh, you’re so sure, what makes you so sure?’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘Well’ – then the KC said – you know, just gave me the nod there. So I said, ‘Well, Mr Chairman I worked on it! Stephen Cavanagh, of Sir Bernard[?] Hill done the water and Edwards done the sewer’. Of course, he overruled it, and planning permission was given right up to that corner right away. Now the Braintree Council said they didn’t know there was water down here. Well, who the devil paid for it then? Because it was brought from the Duke right down to here. And we took the main as far as – you know where Peverel Avenue is?

Q:    No.

Mr P:    That’s the second road up the road there.

[Discussing time, photos of pageants etc., not noted]

Q:    They were good photographers weren’t they?

Mr P:    Yes, they’ve kept very well.

Q:    The earlier ones were Mr Hayward.

Mr P:    Mr Hayward lived at the corner, near the Jubilee oak. And he used to come and take all the photographs of any new window that Crittall invented. I used to have to put a sheet up at the back, fix a sheet up at the back and then the window in front. And any new type of window, because I remember all these types of windows. They all go C, D, E, F, N-type and all sorts of things and he used to take photos of them, Mr Hayward.

Q:    So the photographs – for catalogues and things?

Mr P:    They had to go to catalogues, oh yes, definitely!

Q:    There must be a lot of papers and things to do with Crittall’s somewhere. All the things they produced. I haven’t seen very much.

Mr P:    Must be. That’s history. That’s ‘Fifty years of work and play’ [Francis Crittall’s book]. That’s very interesting of him, when he first started. When he went to school opposite the blacksmith’s shop at Chipping Hill. That used to be a school, there. [35 Chipping Hill].

Q:    We know you said that house in The Avenue, which is the first one that had windows in.

Mr P:    Yes, North Corner.

Q:     Was that when you went to the Witham factory?

Mr P:    The Witham factory. They made them at the Witham factory. Witham was the home of the cottage window. Then, you know where you go to the cemetery, at Witham? (Q: Yes) There‘s a row of houses there, they were called Manor Cottages, but they are all sold and that now. Well, right facing Cressing Road, there was a great big enamel sign, as big as this room, on a pole. And that’d got ‘Witham the home of the Crittall metal window’. When war [Second] broke out, I had to go up there with a hammer and chip all that enamel. That was done in Crittall’s colours, orange and blue. And I had to go up there with a hammer and chip all that enamel so that the enemy shouldn’t know they were in Witham.

Q:    But it was left up there though, was it?

Mr P:    Well, it was up there for years, I suppose it’s there now. Mr Walker used to live in the end one. They are all dead now. There was a row of four, stand endways, when you go up to the cemetery, ain’t there?

Q:     So you just had to take all …

Mr P:     Because there’s a little shop up the side, what you call ‘Pop’s’. Where Greatrex the butchers opened there. [2 Rickstones Road]

Q:    So you had to hammer all this enamel off?

Mr P:    Had to go to chip all these – two or three days – I had a week, I should think up there with this here hammer just chipping – you know enamel –these enamel signs were.

Q:    I’d think it was quicker to take it down.

Mr P:     That was made up of about six panels and it was ‘Witham the home’ – so everybody that came along that Cressing road, that was facing them – ‘Witham the home of the Crittall metal window’.

Q:     So that would be about from 1920 when that first?

Mr P:     I suppose so, when they first started on there. Because you see when they first started up, like I told you they first bought – if it hadn’t have been for the Co-op Crittall’s wouldn’t have been in Witham! It was the Co-op that let the Crittall’s in.

Q:    So the Co-op must have had quite a bit of land then. I wonder why the Co-op had it.

Mr P:    Oh yes, all them houses in Albert Road belonged to the Co-op.

Q:     Did they?

Mr P:    What joined on to Crittalls, all that row, all private now, but they were all Co-op. They all belonged to the Co-op.

Q:     They had quite a lot, then, didn’t they?

Mr P:     All that big field where Crittall’s all was, from the railway line up to the road and that went up to the railway line that went under the bridge

Q:    Yes, to Braintree.

Mr P:    All one big field. And that’s how the Co-op built the shop in there, didn’t they? I don’t know what it is …

Side 13

Mr P:    …I used to go to Witham quite a lot. And I used to go to the Gas Works quite a lot and pay lots of the bills. So that’s how – what was her name?

Q:    Eva, isn’t it?

Mr P:    I forget now, but anyhow, I always used to pay the bills to her, you know. And that was the last house that I saw an organ grinder with a monkey!

Q:    Where was that?

Mr P:    At Miss Croxall’s house. [134 Newland Street, gas works house] (Q: Really?) Yes. That was the last time I saw it. You used to have a square box, an organ, on a peg, just on one leg. And the organist used to just turn the handle and play this little organ. And he had a monkey. And the monkey used to run up and knock on the doors! (Q: Did he really?) And that’s the last time I ever saw that. That used to be quite a familiar sight in Witham more or less. Yes.

Q:    Did the bloke live in Witham?

Mr P:    No, I think he was a Frenchman or somebody. Probably a foreigner or Spaniard or somebody. But he used to just come round. He’d have this organ, well, then of course, a piano accordion come along then, and that sort of done away with them. And another familiar sight, after the First War, especially on a Sunday, after the First War – the soldiers- there was no work for them. They were supposed to come home for a land fit for heroes, weren’t they? But they used to come up our way, singing, all hymns, with a cap. And we kids used to run out with a ha’penny or a penny and put it in the cap for them. That was how some of the soldiers got served after the First War.

Q:    Yes, right. You knew they were soldiers. Did they keep the uniforms and things?

Mr P:    Oh yes. No, they kept the uniforms and the greatcoats and all that. My father kept his greatcoat. Matter of fact my father’d got his greatcoat on him when he died. On the bed. He wouldn’t part with that greatcoat. He always had it on his bed. Yes.

Q:    So they still came round in uniforms to collect the money, so you knew …

Mr P:    Yes. Well, some were in uniform. But some had got the demob suit, they were given demob suits or something or other and they used to come and sing – and some of them could sing, oh they really could! And then you know they’ve been talking about these coal miners – these Jarrow coal miners’ march – that’s been on the wireless and the television ain’t it? Well, they come through Witham. I remember them coming through Witham. And Mrs Tucker, know her? She lives in them houses, in the Co-op what we was talking about just now. Well her husband was one of them miners, Mr Tucker. But he come and he got a job in Crittall’s. Because Crittall’s employed several of them. Give quite a lot of them a job. And Mr Tucker was one of them, I remember quite well. But, oh, he could sing! He could sing. And so did they when they marched through Witham. They were the Jarrow miners. They marched from Wales to London, didn’t they? So many – fifty years or something ago. They just been talking it haven’t they?

Q:     They actually come through Witham?

Mr P:    Come through Witham, oh yes. Followed the old road what the coaches used travel on. Yes.

Q:    You were saying about the soldiers. It reminded me that there was a photo of the wedding. I wonder if you remember this lot? Miss Brandt’s wedding. It’s got the old soldiers on that one. [JG’s photos M187 to M191, date 1917]

Mr P:     Yes. Now I’ve got a photo of Dr Gimson’s funeral – grave – all the flowers on. It’s in here. I’ve got Dr Gimson’s grave, and also Canon Ingles’ grave. And all the other. Yes well now, that’s Dr Gimson’s sister. Now this was where all the money come from. Mr – Dr Gimson’s father and mother lived up that little alleyway, in Witham. Opposite where they’re building them luxury flats. And that was Dr Gimson’s father and mother, Dr Karl Gimson. I’ve got a photo of Dr Karl Gimson. And his sister, or did have. Yes. And Miss Brandt, she lived in that house next to the surgery. [127 Newland Street]  When old Dr Gimson died, therefore the money went to the two boys, Ted, Karl and Miss Brandt, her name was – I knew her before ever she married!

Q:    Mary.

Mr P:    Well, the money went to them. Then Mr Brandt died, they weren’t married many years. So all the Brandts’ money went to her. Then she died and then the money all went to Dr Karl and Dr Ted. Well, then Dr Karl died and it all went to Dr Ted. Dr Ted died and that’s all gone now to Brigadier Gimson at Braxted. You know who Brigadier Gimson is?

Q:    I don’t know whether he’s still alive, but …

Mr P:    Yes, he is he’s in the paper quite a lot. He’s on the Council or something, ain’t he?

Q:    I think he died some years back. But there are still Gimsons, anyway.

Mr P:    Brigadier Gimson’d be Dr Gimson’s nephew or something.

Q:    I thought he’d died as well.

Mr P:    No he ain’t died, he’s still on – he represents the Council for Wickham Bishops or Totham or something or other.

Q:    Because none of them had any children, did they?

Mr P:    No, they were – I don’t know whether she was past childbearing age but she was getting on, they were, both of them. This was taken at Chipping Hill church. And I’ll tell you who this is. That boy there, I’ll tell you who he is. His father and mother were cousins. That’s Toby Shee. And his father was the Registrar for births and deaths and they lived in Maldon Road, the second house from where you go into the Rec. That’s Toby Shee, He was a silly daft boy used to walk about but he never worked or nothing. Toby his name was.

Q:    And that was his father, was it, who was the Registrar?

Mr P:    His father and mother were cousins. But his father was the Registrar. As a matter of fact he’s on some of my brothers’ and sisters’ birth certificates. That’s Toby Shee if you want to put that name down. S H E A [actually Shee]. You’ll find him in the Witham registers and everything else. 1917, during the War, you see, when she married.

Q:    Can’t see anybody else, but there’s a few of them there.

Mr P:    Can’t see – but fancy me remembering poor old Toby, that’s him, Toby Shee.

Q:    Did they marry then?

Mr P:    Two cousins, he’s the child of them, see. That’s why he’s – what you call – Spastic?

Q:    No, it’s not that but anyway …

Mr P:    Yes, he was a silly old boy, he’d chase girls and things like that. He grew up a man and that, but what happened? Oh, I think he finished at Severalls. [hospital] Now these nurses were all at the Bridge Home.

[more about photos, not noted]

Q:    If you were at school or anything, and one of these things were on, would you go and watch these weddings and things?

Mr P:    Well, we’d got nothing else – of course that was – oh yes, we all went to these weddings, didn’t we? And if you could get a ride on the horse and cab and all that, we did. That was lovely, that was. To have rides on the backs of those cabs and all that. Yes.

Q:    I think most of these are more of these shows and things. That was Miss Luard apparently, doing something.

Mr P:    At Ivy Chimneys – I used to do a lot of plays and things, recitations (Q: Did you?) And I used to go and borrow my costumes off of her. And the last play that I done, and borrowed all the uniform for was ‘Esther’, the story of Esther. And Nehemiah in the Bible, and Esther, you know. Nehemiah, when she went to the king – King – I was the king. And pleaded, didn’t she something – for her people – Esther.

Q:    I see. Was this in Witham, still?

Mr P:    No, I was at Hatfield then. And Esther – and I used to go to Miss Luard and borrow all the uniforms and things from her there. I was king, King – Esther and – er – oh, what’s that Bible story of Esther and, Nehemiah? I know the story was Esther, ‘Though a lowly maiden yet she dwelt well’ or something and ‘God’ – or something. She went and pleaded for her people or something. It’s in the Bible, the story, if you read it. And I played the part of King. That’s the last one I borrowed the uniform …

Q:    Were you in any shows when you were in Witham or anything?

Mr P:    Only in the Scouts, what we used to have in The Grove. ‘Where do flies go in the wintertime?’ That was one of our songs. [Q laughs] Remember that, do you?

Q:    [laughs] No.

Mr P:    You do! ‘Where do flies go in the wintertime? Do they go to Gay Paree? Do they fly – Each year in September, up the wall they fly’, or something. ‘Go away, come back on the first of May. And then – oh what joy. First a girl and then a boy. Then they’ll sing or travel far. And eating all the fruit down in Georgerah’ [Georgia] [both laugh] That was in The Grove, in the Scouts. Oh yes. We always used to put a play on every year in the Scouts. Well, I suppose that was to get a little money to buy camping tools and things with, you see. [laughs]

Q:    These other things, I suppose it was mostly people like Miss Luard that did things like that?

Mr P:    Miss who ? Oh yes, and then Miss Pelly, I – my brother had that photograph. You know, she took a photograph of all us. When you go – by the Public Hall, there’s a house opposite the Public Hall what Ardley the baker had built. And then a little further up there’s a little private cul-de-sac, ain’t there? [Nicholas Court]

Q:     Yes.

Mr P:    Well, of course, there weren’t no houses – there was only four houses on that side of the road, where Pinkhams lived. And then there was all that meadow at the back that run to the churchyard. Well, Miss Pelly, she was our – she was something to do with the Scouts or Cubs. Anyhow, we all had to dress up as soldiers, all had wooden swords and these poke hats made out of paper and she took a photograph of that. She had a photograph of us taken and I had it for years but I don’t know what happened to it. Of all of us, we were in the Scouts. And we’d got these wooden swords, you know, and these hats and all that there. And then Mr – the man who was manager of Barclays Bank, he had a house built there.

Q:    Peecock, was it?

Mr P:    Was it Peecock? And then he moved to Wickham Bishops and bought a big house there at Wickham Bishops. Whatever was that called? Not Beacons? Little Ruffhams, Great Ruffhams? He had it built out there. But he had a house – it was Peecock, I believe. He used to be the manager of Barclays Bank where the clock is. It used to be there then. [61 Newland Street] Because there was a school next to it, weren’t there?

Q:    Yes, because there’s a picture of it with a bus outside.

Mr P:    Used to be a school there next to the bank, where Midlands Bank or somebody’s bank is.

Q:    There weren’t many houses there then, was there?

Mr P:    No, up Collingwood Road there was (Q: A few big ones?) There was nothing, there was just those two what old Mr Pinkham, the founder of the glove factory, and next door, I told you where we got in to trouble – playing with that Woodbine box, I told you about that, didn’t I? Well, then his son – oh, there was them two there, and then where the slip-way goes through into Guithavon Valley, Mr Pratt that had the baker’s shop opposite the Spread Eagle, Mr Pratt and Mr Bridge – that had the next, and then Miss Hayward’s. And then they gradually filled that side all in and then when Mr Pinkham Junior got married, he had a house built there. And then when his father died, he took over the business – I don’t know what it’s used for now, some engineering or something, ain’t it? That was built in 1912 weren’t it? I think that was 1912 when that was built. [glove factory, 1 Chipping Hill]

Q:    It’s got it up on it.

Mr P:     I don’t know what it’s for now. But there used to be – oh, fifty to a hundred girls in there. And I used to know Miss Keeble and all the rest of them. And if the girls broke the needles they had to pay for them. And you could buy ‘second’ gloves from there. They were ‘second’ gloves – they were all leather gloves and everything else. And the girls that worked there, we used to – what lived up Church Street and all that. They could buy the gloves ‘second’. If there was something – perhaps a stitch was missing or something like that. And Mr Keeble was the manager, and Mr Clements was the cutter-out.

Q:    That was quite a big concern there.

Mr P:    Oh, there must have been fifty girls or more working – my brother Ted worked there for a while before he went on the railway.

Q:    Mostly girls though, was it?

Mr P:    Because they reckon – bit it was never proved, that was the site of a Roman camp, didn’t they? But when they dug the railway line through it they never did find nothing. They always reckoned that was …

Q:    I don’t suppose they knew what they had to look for, really, did they?

Mr P:     No, I suppose – but they reckoned that was always the site of a Roman camp. Because that runs down to the river, don’t it? I mean years ago, those rivers were navagationable, weren’t they?

Q:    So the Pinkhams run the cinema – films as well, did they? They did quite a lot did they?

Mr P:    Pinkham run that picture palace and all. And then I think when he gave it up Dr Knight took it over for dancing classes. He used to have all dancing classes there. Dr Knight. Dr Ryder Richardson, he was in there with them and the Gimsons. That was the four doctors then. That’s all there was in Witham.

Q:    Were they all in the same place?

Mr P:    All in that place. Where you go into the waiting room, like, you see, there was only room for about six people, the rest of you’d go out in the yard! Near the baker shop, opposite, Ardley’s the bakers.

Q:    You had to wait outside did you?

Mr P:    Yes, there was a little – you went in the side door. Ever so funny that Surgery was. When you went in, there was the High Street like that, you see. [discussion what to draw on]. I’ll show you just what Witham Surgery was like.

[his drawing is in grey below , with additions in red by me, derived from the conversation. Newland Street is on the left]

Walter Peirce's plan of the surgery at 129 Newland Street in his youth. Additions from the conversation are in red

Walter Peirce’s plan of the surgery at 129 Newland Street in his youth. Additions from the conversation are in red.


If I’m back here. And then I come up here – and this is the CWS. Then, the shop went up and then here – there was another little place here where Maiseys lived. That was the coal office for a little while. It still belonged to the Co-op [117 Newland Street]. And then you went up another yard up the side there and here was where Dr and Mrs Gimson lived. That was Dr Gimson’s, there. That was the father of Karl Gimson and all the rest of it, see. [125 Newland Street] Then they lived up there and this is the High Street – coming right down the High Street. Dr Gimson lived there and then Mrs Brandt lived there. [117 Newland Street, Gables] Then she had a little doorway there with some little twisty posts down there. Well, we kids used to come along and jump over there! That was Mrs Brandt’s, then the Surgery was here [129 Newland Street]. This was the Surgery, and then the yard went up there, where you go up there now where you store the cars. Then right here on the corner was Ardley the baker [137 Newland Street]. That’s a chemist shop – I don’t know what it is now. This is where the Surgery was. And that was the Surgery door that you go in now. [side door] And then here – then the door was there.

And then the front door was there, of the Surgery. This was a dispensary, just here where Mr Appleton lived. Mr Appleton was the dispensary – he lived in Avenue Road. You went in this doorway here, and this was blocked all off. That was the kitchen. This was the surgery. And you had the couch along there, where you laid. You went into there and there was a little form along there where you’d sit and a little form just there. So you wouldn’t get ten people in there. There, here, this was all blocked off. There was a little loophole there where you went and got the medicine. There was no benefit for women in them days so I used to have go through there, to this loophole, and Mr Appleton was in the dispensary. And this is the way the bay window is – there’s a bay window there on the road. And you used to take the bill and say ‘Mum said will you take a shilling off the bill?’ You used to pay what you could on the bill. That’s all the surgery was when I was a boy. So when that got full up, you stood out in this yard. So then they said ‘The next patient’ so you went through that door and this would be the couch that you’d lay on if you’d an examination and then the doctors were just here. Well, now, all this now has been put into the waiting room and the kitchen’s been done away with, and they’ve extended this along, and built surgeries here and the dispensary at the end. And then they’ve gone through into here and where you went out the front door, they’ve got it built there. Well, that’s the Surgery that I know.

Q:    So if you were waiting outside you were waiting for someone to come out. And then you went in?

Mr P:    Oh yes, you’d got to wait for someone to come out, oh yes, there weren’t room for you! And on this wall …

Q:     A bit hard if you weren’t feeling very well, wasn’t it?

Mr P:    On this wall – I remember it, I can see it now! On this wall there was a big old notice about ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’!

Q:    Really? [laughs] Did you have to go very often, yourself?

Mr P:    Well, I used to – you know – I told you my mother used to do a bit of maternity thingummy and all that there. I used to come and carry the babies for Nurse Kentfield. And I used to go down and get the medicines sometimes for people. Anything I suppose to get a ha’penny, that’s all. I mean, we never had no money. See.

Q:    You used to run errands and that, yes.

Mr P:     And then when you got up to Guithavon Road [Street] and the High Street, you know, coming down here. When you went down here and on this corner there was – where Martin’s is now [70 Newland Street]. That used to be Mr English, I told you I’ve got his watch, I showed you. On this corner here used to be Kaye boot shops [68 Newland Street]. Then where you go up the back of these shops, up here, there’s an alley way up there. [Coach House Way] There used to be the Kaye boot shop and then there used to be – where that map and all that is, there used to be a garden there. Then right here used to be Francis Drake, the wine merchant [66 Newland Street]. And then come right down here, that was the Post Office, where Cooper is [84 Newland Street]. And next door to Coopers, where the Gas works [shop] is, used to be the pawnbrokers, with the three balls hung outside [86 Newland Street]. As a boy I’d go and stand down outside the Post Office and the postmistress used to come out and according where you went, with a telegram. Because people weren’t on the telephones then. The postmistress’d come out and would give you a telegram and if you went up to Powers Hall End or somewhere with it or as far as that, you probably got a penny. But if you went with a telegram up Collingwood Road, you’d probably get a ha’penny.

Well, Francis Drake was a wine merchant, soda water, etc, etc. He would get you to run an errand, might be up Collingwood Road, might be up Bridge Street or anywhere else, with wine, port, spirits, soda water or something like that. And he’d probably give you a ha’penny or penny.

Q:    So you used to have to hang around and be there at the right time. So they’d even give you telegrams, to anybody that was waiting?

Mr P:    Yes that’s right, old Francis Drake. We had three customers, the other one was up Collingwood Road, old Mr Mottashead, in the drug store. We was poor, I’ll admit it. But we was happy and – even to do these errands and get a penny or a ha’penny or something like that.

Q:    Then what, would you run or go on a bike or what?

Mr P:    No, no you ain’t got no bike! No. You’d walk, you’d got no bike!

Q:    So that was when you were how old?

Mr P:     When I was at school! After school or Saturday, or even after we come out – anything like that here. The Post Office, I tell a lie I think it was a penny or three-ha’pence if you went up Powershall End cause there were no telephones. There was a few, I suppose, for telegrams, but not many. Used to just deliver telegrams. Because you can’t send a telegram now. Can you? No, you can’t send a telegram, not now! There ain’t no telegram offices, not now.

[Talking of drawing done by Mr P of Surgery]

Mr P:    That’s shows you what it used to be like.

Q:    I came before they did that, but I don’t remember that. I’m sure they used to have more waiting …

Mr P:    No, that’s all the waiting room, just that little three-corner – little corner bit there. That’s all.

Q:    They used to have the surgery in there – was that where they had the nurse’s room?

Mr P:    No, that was the kitchen belonged to Gimsons.

Q:    So the other Gimsons lived up above did they? Did some of them live above the surgery?

Mr P:    Yes. Dr Ted and them, they never lived there. Dr Ted lived here over the top of the surgery. Then Karl, and …

Q:    Was the old Dr Gimson still alive when you were …?

Mr P:    The old Dr Gimson, I remember – I think the lady, he had a horse and trap. And Dr Ted had a horse and trap. That was the kitchen – of course you couldn’t see in there. You went through somewhere else, through the bit at the back of the house. And as I say I remember Mrs Brandt getting married. But they were both getting on so I think she couldn’t have a family or anything else. But they weren’t married many years, no. I’m trying to think what her name was.

Q:     I think it was Mary wasn’t it?

Mr P:    You see, what I’m talking about in them days. These ladies used to come round and, in their way, and if your mother weren’t well or somebody’d had a baby or somebody had diarrhea or something, not diarrhea, diptheria or something like that here. They would sort of just come and call and see you. I suppose they thought they were doing a wonderful thing if they just come round and see you like that.

Q:    What did you think about that?

Mr P:    Then, when they built – as I said my mother used to go about with Nurse Kentfield and all the rest of it. And when they built the Nurses’ bungalow [46 Collingwood Road], up there, my mother collected all the money to buy that Queen Anne silver tea set for Nurse French and her sister, when they moved to Bury St Edmunds. They paid for my mother to go down there and present it to her. You see you knew everybody then, didn’t you? You knew – not only you knew and you trusted everybody and not else to say about it. You see in this house here, when I was a boy, Beadel lived and he owned all that garden up opposite the Public Hall. Where there’s a slipway up through there, to Lockram Lane. Well, Mr Beadel used to own all that.

Q:    You know you said the ladies came round to visit you, did they used to come up Church Street?

Mr P:     Yes, some of them.

Q:     How would they come?

Mr P:     They would have the horse and trap. Miss Butler, what lived at Hollybanks in Mill Lane. That’s gone now. And Miss Reeves that lived in The Avenue. I can remember during the War one of my brothers or sisters was born and this Miss Reeves – I had to go once or twice – probably twice a week to this Miss Reeves. And she used to give me a basin with two mutton chops and some soup in, for my mother. Yes. You see, there was the rich and there was the poor. Well, there ain’t now, is there? That’s the rich and the middle.

Q:    How did you feel about it, do you remember?

Mr P:    Well, no, it was something that my mother – because we would in them days. We loved our parents and we’d do anything for them. I mean, I used to go nearly every day up to the Vicarage to get that soup from Canon Galpin at a penny a pint. Minestrone or what ever you call it. Carrots, turnips, and everything she used to mix up and make all like that here. That was cold when we got it home, but Mum would put it in a cast iron saucepan and warm it on the fire for us. We used to have this bread and all the rest of it. And we weren’t angels or anything like that dear but we respected our parents far better then than what they do today. I didn’t ought to say it but we do.

Q:    Did you respect these ladies as well, do you think?

Mr P:    Oh yes.

Q:    So if they come round to the door you would …

Mr P:    Yes, well, when we saw these ladies I mean to say, you raised your hat to them! And the girls would make a curtsey to them! Miss Vaux, Miss Pelly, Miss Luards, you see. Miss Blyth.

Q:    Would they come in the house to bring something? Would they come in the house?

Mr P:    Oh sometimes they would come in to the house, sometimes they would come into the house and bring a bit of cake. Or I have known them to bring great lumps of dripping.

Q:    Would they sit down and have a chat?

Mr P:    No, they wouldn’t stop long. No, they would just come in and just look round perhaps, and just look at the new arrival or something like that. And they’d have the cab outside waiting for them. Of course, in the First War, I don’t think there was about four or five cars in Witham. I don’t think there was. Pelly had one, you went up two or three steps to it. Luards never had none. Not Admiral Luard, no he didn’t – he had horse and carts. Laurence had a a horse and cart at The Grove. Because he used to go up and down The Grove to church, Laurence did. Well, she married a Pelly, didn’t she, Miss Laurence, they lived up Spa Place.

Advertisements