Mr Ted Mott was born in 1913. He was interviewed on 9 December 1985 when he lived at 22 Bramston Green.
He also appears on tapes 103, 104, 105 and 106
For more about him see Mott, Ted, 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.]
Q: It’s funny, the other day I realised I hadn’t seen Doris for years and years and years. Does she go out much?
Mr M: Oh yes, she’s up and down, down the town, but mostly goes down on the bus, the one a day one (Q: Is that all there is now?) at twenty-five past nine. Yes.
Mr M: Twenty past eight in the morning I think. Twenty past nine.
Q: They used to go often didn’t they. Perhaps that’s the thing, I tend to go maybe in an afternoon or something. It’s funny isn’t it, some people you never see but there out. Anyhow, I can’t remember who it was told me you’ve got a good memory and I should ask you about Witham in the old days. (Mr M: Albert Poulter?) Either that or I tell you else spoke about you, that was Mrs Tunstall [at 11 Church Street]. You go …
Mr M: Oh yes, I get her coal and that up for her from the cellar. And I have a piece of garden there. (Q: Oh do you?) Well the Quakers’ church yard. [next to 11 Church Street]
Q: That was when she showed me that, I think, that’s when we were talking about it.
Mr M: My wife slips in once a day to see she’s all right. I mean she’s there on her own.
Q: Were you born in Witham then?
Mr M: I was born in the Valley. [Guithavon Valley] 1913. [laugh]
Q: I’d never have known that. [laugh] (Mr M: That’s right.) You’ve kept well haven’t you?
Mr M: Well there used to be lots of little houses in there. I don’t know if you knew. On the Green as you go down the Valley, they’ve built the other side haven’t they? But the other side nearest the river there used to be I suppose if I told you the truth probably twenty to twenty-five little cottages there, up to Armond Road where you go in. (Q: Really?) I lived in one of three. I lived nearest, well, I was born nearest the river, so I ought to have been named Moses! [Laugh]
Q: There’s not a lot of space, you were very near the river then were you?
Mr M: Yes, see the river come round the little houses along the side. Of course they altered the course of the river, which used to come right up alongside the road to the mill. (Q: I didn’t realise that.) But, what did they do, they had two rivers you see, but the one that used to come round was the one that used to drive the mill. I think. I’m sure it did.
Q: I see yes, they probably originally built it specially for the mill I suppose and that’s where, they made that go through where the garden is now is it, of the mill?
Mr M: That’s right, you used to go through the mill garden and along so that you’d go through what we called the ‘one-eyed arch’ that is now, up into Highfields. And you used to be able to branch off and go more or less where the River walk goes now. Once you’d got over that top.
Q: Did you go much into the meadows there when there wasn’t the River walk?
Mr M: Oh yes, see I was educated at the Board school down the Maldon Road. They called it the Board school, the Council school. We used to do woodwork over here at the little school [Church Street] you see. So we used to come through Blyth’s meadows as a short cut from the town, and out up the Chase. [Moat Farm Chase].
Q: So there was a path sort of, was there?
Mr M: Oh yes, just footpaths, but a lot of things have altered as regards houses.
Q: When did they pull them down I wonder?
Mr M: Oh, they were pulled down before the War, because there was a British Legion Hut standing in front [opposite] of where the Labour party is now [Collingwood Road]. (Q: Oh, was there?) A YMCA Hut they called it but Scouts used to have it. The Scouts were the last people to have it I think, and being in the Scouts I knew all about that sort of thing. And when I come out the Army they’d got half the hut where I used to live, you know what I mean, on that piece of green. It’s Armond Road cut off. That used to come right up. Well if you look on the wall as you go in on the right you can still see the whitewash on the wall where the coal places and that used to be. Little houses.
Q: You mean on the houses that’s there now ?
Mr M: Yes, about six, they used to belong to Blyth the miller years ago. And how I know all this is because as a lad I was in the decorating trade, hard work I know but, we used to push a truck round you see so we knew all these places. I mean we just had a, we never had a horse and cart when I went there, but they told me that they did have a horse and cart, but the boys were the horses. You know we used to push it right up here sometimes. To work. Leave it up here, do a job and then go back, you and your mate.
Q: How did you get into that business then?
Mr M: The decorating trade? Well, it was either that or Crittall’s or push a pedal bike round, but my grandma had a word with Mr Manning who was the manager there, and he said ‘Well, if he’s a likely lad send him up’. So I started 1927, soon as my birthday had gone, and you know as you had to wait till the end of term, that’s when I went in.
Q: What firm was it then?
Mr M: An old established firm by the name of Lewis and Sons. It was where Brown’s is the sports shop now [62 Newland Street]. I don’t know if you remember they used to have two or three steps up, (Q: Right on the corner?) just before you get round the corner.
Q: Did you, did they have an apprenticeship or anything like that?
Mr M: Oh yes, you served your apprenticeship. (Q: How long was that for?) We did four years, and three years with, what we called as an improver.
Q: Did you get paid for it or did you have to pay to do it?
Mr M: No, well he said when I went there, well, said to me Grandma ‘Of course’ he said ‘You should be paying me’, he said, but ‘being as he’s only a young lad’ he said, ‘just starting, I’ll give him half-a-crown a week’, [laugh] Half-a-crown a week and three ha’pence an hour overtime. All over forty-four hours. Cos you see, you worked about, there was no thirty-seven and a half hours in those days. I’ve worked as much as sixty hours a week, you see, nine, ten a day. Just depended on what you was doing or where you was working. Used to have to cycle everywhere. You name it I’ve cycled.
Q: Did they always have plenty of work then?
Mr M: Oh yes, you see he always kept plenty, he tried to keep it for the winter time, like school jobs and pub jobs you see, for the winter time. But school jobs mainly, because at Christmas they break up and that’s when nobody wants you in the houses over Christmas. So I used to have a fortnight’s holiday. In those days you see you just got two days. You got Christmas Day and Boxing Day. One day for, Good Friday you worked. Good Friday went in the banks, and offices, got them done and you probably had Monday off. Easter, Good, that’s right, Easter. Whitsun we got one day. You got a week’s holiday in the summer if you could save up for it. You see. And being in the Scouts I used to put a shilling away or sixpence away, whichever I could afford, and used to go away to Camp with all the lads. I hope you’re not taking all this down? [laugh]
Q: Why, that’s interesting. [laugh] I’ll just keep them. Did you stay in the Scouts a long time then?
Mr M: I stayed, well, I stayed, I suppose I was about thirteen when I went in and stayed there till I must have been twenty. So I was sort of troop leader. When you was troop leader, when you become twenty or twenty-one you had to join the Rover Scouts. Well by that time I was playing football with local clubs and cycling about and just didn’t go no more you see. And the Church Lads Brigade at that time was a big concern. They had quite as many, more than we did.
Q: Is that the Congregational or is it …?
Mr M: I think it was this one across here, All Saints, not All Saints, St Nicholas. You see because there was only one troop there, just First Witham. Or First Witham YMCA they called themselves. Then a little later on several of the lads went to the Bridge Home, and they formed a second troop up there between the inmates up there. And they had a drum and bugle band the same as what we did. You see. It was a big thing the Scouts I mean. I know you’ve got short trousers on but that doesn’t make a difference really. [laugh].
Q: That’s good, because often you know these days they give up when they’re about fourteen or fifteen.
Mr M: Oh you see, football, or sports, recreation, things like, they’d a good boxing team there, gymnastic team. Used to go to all the functions about, the gymnastic team and do a turn.
Q: So where did you do all that? You’d need quite a bit of space?
Mr M: At the back of the YMCA Hut they used to do all that. Before that they used to practice in the Church House, underground. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the Church House, you go up the steps. (Q: I know you can go, somebody told me they’d been down, but it’s past its best now.) That’s right, a bit eerie. [laugh]. They used to have all the stuff stacked in there, and blow our hearts and beat our lungs out in there. (Q: Down in the bottom?) Down in the bottom, yes. Only an hour, every week, you know.
Q: And then this YMCA place was …?
Mr M: Recreation room you see. We had a couple of billiard tables in there and we used to hold all the Scout meetings in there you see as well.
Q: So who were the adults that helped with it? Were there some older people that ran it?
Mr M: Our Scoutmaster that day was George Keeble. Do you know Mrs Keeble just round here? (Q: Mmm.) Well, that’d be her brother-in-law. Her husband used to be in the Scouts same time as me. Les King, do you know Leslie J, used to be in the town? (Q: Mmm.) He was another one. Oh there was quite, a lot have passed on now, I know but, Sid Keeble. There was two brothers, Sid and Vic. Vic died and Sid moved out. I think he lives Gimson Close. (Q: It was their brother lived here wasn’t it?) [Blanfred, Chalks Road] Alf lived here. Well I didn’t know that till this morning till I was talking to Les King because he always stops and has a chat and he told me that he was dead, Alf.
Q: Yes, someone mentioned that to me, yes …
Mr M: Now he was a real athlete was Alf. (Q: Was he really?) He was a good gymnast. He used to hold them together.
Q: He had bad legs at the end. He had bad hips and all in the end. Couldn’t get about at all. (Mr M: What, Alf?) I think that’s right yes.
Mr M: Sid has bad hips, had both hips done.
Q: That was a big family then wasn’t it?
Mr M: There’s Mrs Smith [Gladys] (Q: Yes, she was Keeble.) Then there were three, four boys, George the oldest, Alf, and Sid and Vic. And how many girls there was I didn’t know. But I know Glad by a relation of mine, used to know her years ago. In that age group, eighties I suppose.
Q: Were you a big family yourselves at home?
Mr M: There was three but I lost two brothers during the ’flu epidemic in 1920 I think, something round that time. I was the middle one of the three actually. (Q: Did a lot of people get taken with that?) They tell me there was you know, children I don’t know. But I know I lost two brothers.
Q: So you’d be about seven, ten or something like that?
Mr M: I wasn’t very old. (Q: Do you remember much about it?) No. The first thing I can remember is moving, which is most vivid in my mind is moving from The Valley, number eleven The Valley, to a farm just in Kelvedon. Just over the bridge as you go into Kelvedon and turn right at the pub that’d be on the back road to Braxted. We didn’t stay there long.
Q: That was after your brothers had died was it?
Mr M: Yes, well, I’ll tell you now my life story if you’d like? [laugh] (Q: Yes. go on)
Q: Just going back for a moment, was your dad working in Witham?
Mr M: Oh yes, he was the cowman at where Musicrafts, not Musicrafts, Tommy Tuckers place is, down at Wheaton’s Farms [Freebournes, 3 Newland Street]. It was then run by a Mr Wakelin. I think Barry lives about here somewhere now. (Q: I don’t know really know him.) That’s his son. I don’t know what, I think mother was in service somewhere about here I think. And then, me gran, you see when they broke up me grandma, that was after they come back from Kelvedon, me grandma took me and me mother went to work as a nanny in London. (Q: I see.) I had a very strict upbringing by the old grandad I might tell you. You see. But there you are that pays in the long run. That’s what I can’t understand today. It all begins at home.
Q: You didn’t see much of your father then?
Mr M: I used to see him about. I used to acknowledge him but when I got married you see and come up this end I never seen him for a long long time. In fact they, he lived Maltings Lane. And I never see him probably, once a year, sometimes not that. But before I went abroad in the Army you know, I went and made me peace with him. I mean it was no fault of mine.
Q: That upset you I suppose. That upset you though I suppose.
Mr M: No, no. He was just. ‘I know boy’, he said.
Q: Did you always, more or less always live with your grandparents (Mr M: Yes.) or was it …?
Mr M: Till me grandma died and then me mother come back because me old grandad was still alive you see and she looked after him. In fact up to the time I got married he was still about.
Q: What did he do?
Mr M: He was on the railway. On the ‘permanent way’, he used to call it. Used to walk the length from Witham to Hatfield. Used to knock the blocks in you know at the rails. You call them fishplates do they or something like that. That was his last job.
Q: What was his first name? I’ll have to look out and see if I see ever his name anywhere.
Mr M: Wager His name was Wager, William Wager (Q: They were Wagers, and that was William Wager was it. And your Grandma was?) Agnes Hannah. Her name was Smith actually. Some relation I believe, I’m not sure, to Stackie[?] used to lived down here, Mrs Smith. I think there was a little bit of relationship there tied up. And then of course, it’s like Terling, its all Jiggins and Wagers, over there you see, the Mott, now, I mean there’s several Motts and when Tanner and Wicks bought Lewises out, Mr Tanner, the old chap, the gentleman of the firm, he said ‘That’s an uncommon name you’ve got, you know. Ted Mott’. I said ‘Oh yes’, I said ‘How do you make that out? He said ‘Well I only know one other Mott,’ he said ‘name of Rex Mott’ he said, ‘Labour man’ he said. I said ‘Yes, I know Rex Mott’, I said, but I’m not on his family tree, or so I’ve been told.’ I said But there’s Motts at Braintree besides him.’ I said, ‘There’s Motts at Maldon’ I said, ‘but they’re no relation to me’. You see but, I don’t know, I mean I’ve never delved into that sort of thing.
Q: Did you have lots of uncles that were Motts?
Mr M: Two as far as I know. One used to live up Church Street, Bob Mott and Jack and he was in Hertfordshire. But Mrs Fisher, she’s me Aunt, she must be over ninety, she lives down Howbridge estate.
Q: Oh I’ve met her, she’s a Mott, yes, I remember now. She was your aunt so she was your father’s?
Mr M: Sister. I had some old, that’s funny, cause moving I suppose I’ve thrown them out, but I kept a lot of cuttings from the ‘Braintree and Witham Times’, when that was dishing out these old photographs. (Q: I know, yes.) And one on there, one I had was given by her. And it was me grandad, the Mott family you see. But I’ve hunted after I phoned you up on Saturday, hunted high and low but …
Q: You’ll find it when you’re looking for something else won’t you. So did you know the Mott grandparents much then at all?
Mr M: Only the old lady, me grandma Mott, she died I suppose when I was about, I wouldn’t be very old, about ten or eleven.
Q: So it was mainly your mum’s side the older people that you knew? (Mr M: Yes.) But she went off to London when you were how old about then? (Mr M: About eleven, nine). That was after your brothers had …?
Mr M: I suppose I’d be, no I wouldn’t probably be as old as that, eleven, 1921. Looking through the Bibles the other day and I see there was a, I was sorting these things out like I said, to find this. And I see this little Bible and hymnbook, 1921, so I must have just been in the choir down at All Saints, one Christmas, Christmas 1921.
Q: I suppose that was quite unusual those days for a family to split up like that was it, or not?
Mr M: Oh, no no no. (Q: Or did it happen a lot, did it?) You’d get a lot of children brought up by their grandparents. (Q: I suppose so, yes.) I’m one of these chaps, I keep it and then all of a sudden I’ve got to let it out, you know what I mean, if it gets round to it I’ll tell people. But if it doesn’t I’ll just keep it at the back of me mind. (Q: Quite.)
Q: So you didn’t see your mother till she came back again?
Mr M: She used to come home. (Q: She did, I see.) Used to come home nearly every Bank Holiday or in the holiday I’d probably have a couple of weeks with her you see.
Q: Because she wouldn’t get much holiday herself would she, if she was in service?
Mr M: No, no, she was nanny to two children up there you see, in the Euston Road.
Q: Had she done that sort of thing before when she was younger?
Mr M: No, I don’t think she did. But you see my grandma she used to be, well, as a lot of these old ladies, dear old souls, midwives, used to go out you see. She used to bring the washing home. Used to be done, or ‘Ted, just nip up with this to Mrs so and so for her dinner’. You see. And she used to go out for Doctor Gimson, same as, in the ‘Braintree and Witham Times’ this week, Mrs Knight. Did you see that in there? (Q: I don’t know if I did, I’ll have to look.) There’s a little piece in there of the Carnival of 1929 and Mrs Knight who lives down here rather [Chalks Road] her name was Wright before she married. There was a photograph of her mother and she used to do the same sort of thing.
There used to be three or four of them in Witham. Used to knock me grandma up in the middle of the night. Me grandad used to open the window and say ‘What do you want?’ You know. [laugh] She’d got to go to Wickham. ‘Dr Ted’s sent the horse and trap for you’, you see, and she used to dress up and go to Wickham, Braxted, you name it she’d go, poor old girl.
Q: Would she go on her own or was it always with the doctor?
Mr M: It was always with the doctor. He always, you know. But, going back to buildings, now, my childhood was spent in the Square, have you heard of the Square in Witham, Trafalgar Square? (Q: Oh was it?) There was ten houses up and nine across and one. And that’s where they used come down, ‘Go down for, Ag, Ag Wager’ he used to say [???] So they’d come down with the horse and trap and get her away. See, there used to be nineteen houses there but they were pulled down because they’d got no back door. (Q: Well well.) I mean they were better houses really than some of them that they’re putting up now. (Q: Yes. Shame isn’t it really.) It’s a square where they’ve got the car park. [roundabout next to Parkside Youth Centre]
Q: I think I’ve seen on an old map or something, those houses.
Mr M: That’s right, but the ten were backing on to the school you see, and they’d only got the passage up like that so you couldn’t have a back door. And there was a long front garden. (Q: I see, you went in the front.) That was it, yes, two up and two down.
Q: So that’s where your grandparents lived. (Mr M: That’s where they lived, yes.) So you went there after you … (Mr M: That’s where I went then.) Did she have any, you wouldn’t know really, I wonder how she got into that, how did she learn how to do it?
Mr M: They don’t, do they, these old ladies. (Q: They just know?) That’s right, had a family of her own, had a big family I suppose, well she did have quite a number. Married twice you see. Smith first time Wager the next. Did you know Mrs Wood? You know Mrs Bentley? [Vi]
Q: Oh yes, you mean her mother.
Mr M: That was my aunt. (Q: I see yes.) You see, you’ve got to be careful what you say about me. [laugh] Now Violet Bentley, she’s my cousin.
Q: I think she’s spoken of Granny Wager then, yes.
Mr M: And Mrs Minton and all that lot. (Q: They were a big crowd weren’t they?) That’s right they were a big crowd. See if she used to go to them, well she didn’t want nothing else did she. I mean families in the Square, as Doctor Ted used to say, was the healthiest place in Witham. Look at the children there is running about, see. Wonderful old chap. (Q: Was he? You knew him did you?) I knew him, yes. You see, going into these houses, working you used to get to know the people. (Q: Yes of course.) I mean there was just two types wasn’t there, before the War [Second], the people with the money and people who hadn’t got no money. You see, but now you’ve got the in between as well, ain’t you. (Q: Mmm.)
Q: So did you work mainly for the ones who’s got money, I suppose, because they could afford to get …?
Mr M: Well that was it, yes. He may have, like the almshouses and things like that, through the churches and chapels, he’d probably put his improvers in there. I mean I used to go in after about three years improving. He used to say ‘Right ho Ted, you can go to Miss Bullard, she’s got a room wants doing. And Miss Bullard, she was quite a nice lady, lived in front of where the old church used to be, not the church, the school. Church School. There used to be one, Miss Bullard on that end and a Miss Bullard further down, where the, must get these churches right, the Methodist church is. [Guithavon Street] There used to be another little row of almshouses there. (Q: I see.) You see. And we used to do those in between times. So we done plenty for the rich and some for the poor, you see. Himself [Mr Manning] he was a preacher as well. He used to preach at the Methodist.
Q: Who was this, Mr …?
Mr M: Mr Manning. (Q: And that was the foreman was he?) No, he was the manager. Quite a, quite a man. In the days the Council was people like that who knew what was going on.
Q: Was he on the Council then?
Mr M: He was on the Council, and Mr Pinkham, Mr Marshall. You see they were all people who lived in the town and they knew what the town got to be catered for, not like we are now. I mean we get nothing. Braintree’s getting it all aren’t they, you’ve got to admit that. (Q: Yes.) It’s a shame really.
Q: So then for instance if you wanted a house or anything, they would know you probably, wouldn’t they. (Mr M: That’s right, yes.) Anyway so you were going to tell me, you were starting off with your life story, weren’t you, (Mr M: That is a part of it.) we’re more or less getting there aren’t we [laugh]. One thing, I meant to say when you were talking about the school, was why you went right down to the Maldon, the Board school?
Mr M: Well that was because we were living in the Square and that backed on to the school you see. (Q: Yes, of course.)
Q: So that was after you left the Valley?
Mr M: Yes, that’s when I started, I started down there I suppose when I was about five, six. (Q: You were only in the Valley for …?) Well just me babyhood.
Q: So were your brothers still alive when you went down?
Mr M: No, no, they’d gone. I was the middle one of the three.
Q: So it was just a matter of being so near. Was there a difference in the Church School and the other one otherwise do you think?
Mr M: Well, no, used to get scholarships just the same as they did. Some brainy people down there as well. It was just that the Church people liked the Church children to go to their school you see, I mean we used to have Catholics and all and they used to, they never used to come to assembly with us when we used to have religious instruction and things like that. They used to come up then to the little chapel what’s near the Roman Catholic church. (Q: Did they?) ‘Cos there was quite a few of them. Used to go for about an hour while we had this religious instruction.
Q: Did your folks go to church at all?
Mr M: Oh I don’t know. I used to go, dodge about didn’t I? (Q: Why was that?) Well to get a free meal, Christmas time, Congregational Church you see. I mean I was brought up All Saints but if we thought we could get a Christmas tea at the Christmas tea party we used to go there you see. (Q: They didn’t mind then?) No. Up the gallery.
Q: What, you actually went to the church service then?
Mr M: We used to go to the night service. We used, you wasn’t afraid to go out, I mean, not at that early age of about ten, I mean I know people say they shouldn’t be running about now, but we used to, I mean we used to walk all over the place. Everything had gas light. That’s all we had, gas light. Saturday nights, go and listen to the Salvation Army outside where Cooper Cocks’s is now [84 Newland Street]. That was the Post Office you see. (Q: I see yes.) Westminster Bank had after the Post Office give it up. Yes they used to meet round there in a ring. There was always plenty to do. (Q: Was there really?) [laugh]
Q: I mean after school, what would you do normally?
Mr M: Cricket or football on the Rec. See the Recreation ground is right near. I mean that’s spoilt, there was these big huge elms in there, two down near the gate this end. There was a sort of a big white gate there and a little gate at the side [Maldon Road entrance]. Used to go in especially when the waln.. I mean I’ve been no better than anybody else. Or any of the lads down there. But there was walnut trees, endless walnut trees about there. We used to go over the top and get them before the old caretaker used to come in. Mr Sneezum used to come in one gate, he used to come in the High Street gate and we used to nip back over the Maldon Road gate, you see, after walnuts. I mean anybody my age will remember that.
Q: They’d complain if people did it now though.
Mr M: We didn’t damage nothing that was the thing. We have threw a stone or two or a piece of wood up for the walnuts but that’s all. And he used to come to school after us. Show your hands, the stain on them. [laugh]
Q: I suppose dinner time you had time to go out, middle of school time?
Mr M: That’s right, I used to stay to dinner, although it was only from here to that house over there. (Q: Really?) Used to stay, with the lads you know.
Q: Did you enjoy school?
Mr M: I did really. Yes. I left school I suppose, I was in the top class. Me last Christmas till the time I left I was doing, making, not actually maps, but I was drawing them out and cutting them out and building them up. Castles and things like that for the younger school to use. You know so they could demonstrate to them what a castle was. Mr Porteous[?], one of them, my schoolmaster. And there was Mr Care, was the last one. He wasn’t there long when I was there because Mr Porteous[?] had to go. Mr Porteous[?], Miss Barton, Miss Andrews, she used to teach two and three which were the middle, and Mrs Rayner. During my time at school I had Miss Croxall as a teacher. I don’t know, she used to come as a casual I think. She wasn’t a regular down there but she used to come in about. She knew us all then. I acknowledge the woman.
Q: There’s only about two or three rooms in there, though, isn’t there?
Mr M: Only three. (Q: So how did…?) Infants and Standard 1, middle room was always the biggest classes in there, 2 and 3. Then at the top was 4, 5 and 6 and the back row was supposed to be X6. You see, that’s where you, if you was a bit, sort of before the others, you sat up sat up the back. You didn’t have to be under his nose.
Q: I’m with you, yes. It was a bit crowded I should think, wasn’t it? I mean when you had all those did they all do the same lessons, or were they split up as well.?
Mr M: Oh no no, I mean 1 and the Infants, they may be singing. The middle class would probably be handicrafts, such as sewing and paper making and what not, plasticine. Then we’d be on something else. History or Geography.
Q: The top room would all be doing the same? (Mr M: No.) You’d all be doing different things as well?
Mr M: You were sitting back to back. You couldn’t see the other class. That was the thing. They were that way we were this way.
Q: You could hear them though, couldn’t you?
Mr M: Oh we used to hear ‘em. We used to listen and all. But once you got by 4 you see you went into 5, well probably might be was a smaller class. You only went up then on what you could do. (Q: I see.) If you was a bit of a duffer you stayed behind till you’d got enough marks to go up. I mean they didn’t move you up because you was twelve or thirteen.
Q: So you were good at this drawing and model-making and that sort of thing, were you?
Mr M: Yes. Painting and things like that. I carried that on till the time I retired. Fifty-one years with the same firm weren’t bad. [laugh] Well, I say the same firm, that’s telling a lie. Tanner and Wicks, they bought us out in 1978 and I retired in ’68, no what am I talking about, I retired in ‘80. I’m now 73 so I’ve had eight years out.
Q: So was it still Lewis’s up till Tanner and Wicks?
Mr M: Yes, Actually our governor, our boss, who owned the firm, he was Mr Rogers of Colchester. They were a big reputed firm down there. You see. But we were just sort of the offshoot of it. He come here, I think he came here in about 1923/24 I suppose. I don’t know if you’ve ever come in contact with a Mr Wade, have you, Bill Wade? (Q: Don’t think so, no.) He was a big Labour man at one time. I had that drummed into me really. He started there when Lewis’s first come here. He carried on till about 1958.
Q: What, he worked for…?
Mr M: He worked for Lewis’s and then he got the job as manager when Mr Manning died you see.
Q: Is he still about then?
Mr M: He’s up in Yorkshire at the present moment, so his sister down the road told me down the road. He’s got two sisters living. He’s got one live up and one down in the little cottages. I used to see him about a lot. And one day, it’s funny how you miss these people, I see his sister and said ‘What have you done with William?’. She said, ‘Oh’ she said, ‘he’s sold his house up’, cause he went to live up Chelmer Road and that’s when I used to see him and she said ‘He’s gone up to live with me other sister’. He sold up and gone up there. So he must be eighty, I should think, eighty-one or eighty-two.
Q: So you say both him and Mr Manning were both Labour people.
Mr M: Well I wouldn’t say Mr Manning was. No. He used to stand on, and speak for Labour on the thingummy years ago they tell me. (Q: But he didn’t [???]) No. Well, its not good in business is it. You don’t tell people. (Q: Thinking about, it wouldn’t do would it?) No, he always put up as Independent, you see, when he put up. Then he had several men from Colchester come up with him after he’d started with Bill Wade, and they were all red hot Labour. And they was always grumbling to me. I mean I’ve always been a cloth cap man. (Q: So you never knew anything different really?) It’s queer. No, no. (Q: That wouldn’t be …) The trouble was we had to hold our tongue when we was got in these, you know the real class houses. I mean I couldn’t, when we was at Rayleigh’s I couldn’t be singing The Red Flag round there could I?.[laugh]
Q: No, it’s difficult isn’t it. I should think your mates would think you were a bit posh if you were not careful. (Mr M: No, they knew you, they knew you.) But then it wasn’t all Labour I suppose, was it? There was more Liberals?
Mr M: There was more Liberals until Crittall got in.
Q: Is that when it started, was it? Do you remember anything about how it started or was that …
Mr M: V G Crittall, Dallas before him. That was when I think probably Charlie Poulter’d be able to tell you about this. They used to have Medina Villa as the headquarters and I think they, well I know they had a billiard table and that down there. You know where Medina Villas was? [80-84 Newland Street]
Q: Cooper’s isn’t it?
Mr M: Yes, that’s right, under there, under Mellon’s actually [80 Newland Street] (Q: I see.) They had the first one. I think the first thing they did they had a collection for the table. You know. Then got together.
Q: [???] that starts up but I suppose it was starting up all over the country then wasn’t it?
Mr M: Yes, I mean I could go and sing The Red Flag up at V G Crittall’s couldn’t I? I mean nobody would say anything. But we never …
Q: But when you were a kid would the Labour be about?
Mr M: Oh that was Conservative, blue as blue. Bluer than it is now really.
Q: So what did your grandma and them say about …?
Mr M: They were, me old grandad was a Labour man. He was a railway official. He had a big framed thing up there, you know, National Union of Railwaymen.
Q: They were living in Guithavon Street then were they?
Mr M: Me mother was, yes. When she died I said to the wife could either have that or stay in the prefab [Bramston Green]. You see we’d only been in about eighteen months. You see they’re all my people up this end if you know what I mean. Mintons, and Bentleys, me grandad went to live with me Aunt Nell, Mrs Wood (Q: I see.) And another relation of mine is Mrs Clarke. Do you know Mrs Clarke? [Annie Clarke]
Q: I think I met her once at the Bentleys, that was the one they call her Auntie. (Mr M: Aunt Sis.) Yes. Goodness, everybody’s related aren’t they?
Mr M: It’s funny because me granny’s family really was divided I think. You see Mrs Wood was a Labour person. Me mother was a Labour person but her sister was a Conservative, who lived in the Valley. (Q: Mmm.) Her husband was a Conservative. You see but to me they hadn’t got, well, what shall I say, why they should be Conservative I’d never know. (Q: Really?) Because they had to work for their living the same as I did.
Q: They didn’t have any more?
Mr M: No, no, no, they just lived in a little old place there in front of where Shelley’s is or was in those days.
Q: That was your aunt?
Mr M: Yes. Another aunt. Another uncle of mine he was red hot Labour. (Q: Mmm.) then I had two up in Leicestershire. One was Labour and one was Conservative. So you see there was a split-up family. Although I don’t ever remember arguing about it. Not arguing politics at home. Not when they come home to see me grandma. I never remember it. (Q: Yes.) And they used to come home fairly regular you know. Christmas time and things like that, bring their families. Those little old four rooms they used to be swelled right out you know, big families.
Q: They’d all gone up there a long way away?
Mr M: Yes, two of them went up to Loughborough.
Q: When they weren’t there, did you, did they talk much about politics much at home?
Mr M: No, they never mentioned ‘em. Because me granny and grandad you see they were both Labour so they’d got no need to. (Q: Did they go to meetings?) They might say ‘Well I’ve got to go out tonight’. Another, that’s right, Independent Order of Buffalo man. They used to go out to these meetings.
Q: What, Buffaloes were a sort of Friendly Society was it ?
Mr M: That’s a Friendly Society like the Oddfellows you see. (Q: He was in that, was he?) He was right deep in it. Because I never went in the Buffaloes, I went in the Oddfellows funnily enough, because all me mates had gone into the Oddfellows.
Q: Was there any difference?
Mr M: No, I mean you paid your money. It was a thing that you paid in to cover yourself when you were sick. (Q: I see, yes.) Save your Doctor’s bills you see. That’s what, it was all, it was like this, years ago, you used to be able to pay when I started, well I didn’t start then, I was about eighteen it come about that you could pay tuppence a week to the Colchester Hospital and if you was ill you didn’t pay anything (Q: I see.) but if you was married you paid threepence. Well when me grandma died and my mother came home I paid the threepence a week for us two. So we used to go, you didn’t pay nothing only to get there.
Q: Did you have to use that at all? Were you ill much?
Mr M: Oh yes, I’ve had it all I think. (Q: Have you really?) Well, I suppose. I had all the children’s complaints.
Q: Did you have to have the doctor much then ?
Mr M: Oh yes, when you used to get to know Doctor Ted wasn’t it. Dr Ted Gimson. Used to come round. Wonderful old chap.
Q: Did you have to pay him to come round or was that taken out of …?
Mr M: That was taken out of the club you see.
Q: Did you ever have to go to hospital or anything?
Mr M: Hospital! You don’t want to know!
Q: When you were little I was thinking. When you were younger I mean. When you were paying into the Club I just wondered if ever you got anything out of all that paying in?
Mr M: No, I probably only just a little bit for whooping cough or something like that. But when you pay. I was a Junior Oddfellow you see. That’s why I had go up into the Oddfellows class. I mean you just go up, you paid more, that includes your Death Benefit and what not. I mean in those days the Death benefit of twenty-five pounds, was a lot of money. But what is it now? But I must admit they do look after us I think, well I know they do.
Q: There must have been quite a change when the National Health came in I suppose mustn’t it. All these clubs and things, presumably that’s when they packed it in was it?
Mr M: I don’t think many of them packed in. Still carried on you see.
Q: They are still about aren’t they, they’re just more of a social, sort of.
Mr M: Well you see if you was paying say, say like I was, just before I retired I had hypertension. It was a long long time before I could get me blood down to the normal level. I think probably about eight weeks. I was still in this Oddfellows Club and I used to get so much a week. (Q: I see.) It all helped out. (Q: That’s good isn’t it?) I mean I know it’s only a little to help out a bit but it paid for some things. I put my son in when he was first born but of course when National Health, when the Bevan Plan come out, or whatever you call it, I just dropped it. But I was going to cover him so that if he was ill I hadn’t got to pay. And me wife you see. I mean in those days everybody had to look out for things like that. To cover themselves if they were ill, because you didn’t get very much.
Q: When did you get married then?
Mr M: I got married 1940, No, I’m telling a lie. I got called up in 1940 and married in 1941 in March.
Q: Was Doris a Witham person?
Mr M: Bradwell-juxta-Mare
Q: Oh that one, right out in the sticks. [laugh] How did you meet her if she came from out there?
Mr M: Oh, she was working round, the first time I see her she was working round for Mr Moore, used to be the Conservative agent, [laugh] in Avenue Road and she went to work there I mean we used to go there and I just see her, didn’t take a lot of notice but then she got a job in Woolworth’s when they first opened. [35 Newland Street] See she went to Woolworth’s because she was going to get a bit more money I suppose. Anyhow she weren’t living in at Moore’s. She just used to go there daily. Money weren’t no good anyhow. You want to ask her about that. She’ll say ‘No wonder they died and left plenty of money’. She’ll tell you all about it. I suppose going in and out. Used to be working in Woolworth’s you see. Good Friday, Sunday and Monday we used to work in there, do ceilings to keep them white, and all around. They used to have them done fairly regular.
And all the places out the back, you know like the dining hall and the cooking place. That’s how I think I come to know her. I don’t know, and through her brother. Her brother was a footballer and I was a footballer you see. So it used to be, I mean, I used to wait outside of Woolworth’s there. In Lisa Marie’s [38 Newland Street] shelter there. Used to have this door at the side and three or four of us’d be standing there waiting for our young ladies to come from Woolworth’s at nine o’clock.
Q: Nine o’clock!
Mr M: Yes. See eight o’clock and then they’d clear up.
Q: Was that just Saturday nights?
Mr M: Yes just Saturday nights, one late night you see.
Q: Where did you go to when they came out?
Mr M: Oh, probably go to the pictures, we had the Whitehall then. That used to be two houses on a Saturday night, crowded out. They used to bike in from Terling and one or two little bus things here. They’d be right round what we used to call the cycle shed. There was nothing else. But I mean nobody tore the seats down. You might hear somebody shout ‘How d’you get on’, you know, ‘across the football’. They had a Mr Bullen then, who was a commissionaire, he used to keep them under control and sort them out. ‘You sit here mate and you sit over there.’ That’s the truth. [laugh] (Q: Really?) Oh yes. He was a big old sergeant major I should imagine in the First War. That’s all he did I think. I think he must have had a pension. And he pulled most of the old houses down in Witham, Bullen. He pulled all the Square down, and Stone Yard.
Q: Where is Stone Yard?
Mr M: Stone Yard is where St Crispin’s House is. There’s a, now what’s the name of the, you come down the back of the Spread Eagle, then there’s Freeland House [20 Maldon Road]. (Q: Yes.) Then there used to be a row of houses there, three, and then two up the back and that was called Stone Yard. With some more coming down and the one in the front had a stable door. You know, you could look out, look into the road. And then of course you’d got the Square and the [???] that one and no end of cottages where Brown’s timber place is. [Maldon Road, backing onto Grove precinct now] I suppose there was eight or nine there, some up and some on the road you see. Two right down the back, which is now taken up by a car park down there. There was some in the High Street where the Co-op want to build [102-116 Newland Street]. There was a lot of houses there. A little yard there called Notts Yard, not Motts Yard, Notts Yard. My mate Doug Shelley could tell you all about that.
Q: Somebody did tell me I should go and talk to him. Is he the one down Howbridge?
Mr M: That’s right, on the Howbridge Estate. (Q: Does he like talking?) He might do. He might do. (Q: That’s where he came from was it?) When we were talking sometime he’d say ‘You keep your end of town and I’ll keep mine!’ [laugh] There used to be lots of houses there.
Q: Did you stop in the Square until you got married?
Mr M: No, we moved into Guithavon Street about 1933. (Q: Of course.) They were pulling the older type houses down and me mother got wind that the Square was coming down so she said ‘I’ll see if I can move somewhere else’, and she got this three storey place down there aren’t they? D’you know where I mean?
Q: Oh they’re quite nice, opposite the old [???] sort of thing.
Mr M: That’s right, opposite there. We lived in nine, go to bed up with the angels.
Q: All these places, presumably there was somebody, a landlord and you paid rent?
Mr M: Used to pay the rent at Maldon I think, somewhere she said. (Q: Was that Guithavon Street?) Taylor I think was the agent. (Q: What about the Square?) The Square, I think they belonged to a man named Mr Atkinson, but the chap who used to come round and collect the money for the rent was Mr Lee used to be with Adams and Mortimer. I was trying to think of his name. Flip we used to call him, Flip Lee. He was an old scout.
I don’t know whether you’d be interested but I’ve got an old album, an album that belongs to the wife actually. Her mother bought it at a junk, job lot at some sale because she wanted to buy a piece of silver. There’s several photographs of different things happening in Witham. (Q: Really?) And this old lady was a Miss Blood. She used to live at 6 Grove Terrace. The Bloods were big people in Witham in those days. (Q: Yes.) I haven’t shown it to Albert but one of these days I might say ‘Well come round and have a look at the album’. Actually the photograph of the Library before it was altered is stuck in there, I tore the page out and took it down, whether the lady used it or not, I don’t know because it looked like my photograph in there. And there’s the back of the Whitehall when they had the long garden where they are now building. The Avenue as it was, looking from this end and you can just see the white Georgian doorway. I mean I worked there at the Grove. (Q: Did you really?) Yes, you see it wasn’t pulled down until about 1929 or something like that, ‘28.
Q: What was that like in there then?
Mr M: It was another big place wasn’t it? (Q: Yes.) In fact I went to tea there with a chap named Taylor, his mum and dad were, she was the housekeeper and he was the butler. Of course he went to the Board School, as I call it, Maldon Road. I used to go up there to tea with him sometimes.
Q: Who was it that lived in the, whose house was it then?
Mr M: It belonged to Mr Bentall I think. One of the Bentalls.
Q: Was it very nicely done up when you went?
Mr M: Oh we just used to go in the back way. (Q: You didn’t go in decorating there or anything?) No, I hadn’t left school, but there used to be lots of tales about what happened there. The poor old gardeners. You know when I used to get talking to the chaps.
Q: Really? What sort of things?
Mr M: Like taking, when they were doing the greenhouse you see, the grapes and they used to count the bunches of grapes, the old boy did, according to what they were telling me. Used to take a square of glass out you see, on top and take the grapes, put the glass back. [laugh]. I mean I could write a book on these tales that these older chaps used to say. There was a dear old chap there, name of Ernie Woodwards, cabinet maker, upholsterer. He was with them all of his life he was, one of these blokes. He worked at Lewis’s till he was sixty-six or seven, he used to tells us tales, I mean tales that you could really think were true.
Q: Really, what sort of things?
Mr M: About all these houses they used to go in. About all the characters in Witham. You see there’s no characters in Witham now. Unless that’s me and Doug Shelley. [laugh] I mean if I see him in the precinct he’ll say ‘Have you got your pass signed’ because you’re over the bridge. You see they used to reckon years ago that you was a foreigner if you come over the Station bridge. But I dunno.
Q: Still you were brought up on the right side weren’t you?
Mr M: Oh yes. I used to go. All our work didn’t depend in Witham. If old people moved out that we’d been working for for years and years. We went before them and did their houses out. You know what I mean, big houses. (Q: I see yes.)
Q: What’s the biggest place you’ve worked in then?
Mr M: Rayleigh’s. I should think. [Terling Place] Lady Rayleigh’s. (Q: Did you go there often?) They used to have it painted up fairly regular, outside. A big place. I done a little bit inside but not a lot. Those big houses didn’t want a lot doing inside did they?
Q: Why not?
Mr M: Well, they never got used all that much did they, when all’s said and done, covered with pictures, you see. I’ve worked at Champion Lodge in me younger days, Sir Claude de Crespigny lived there then. Bike again. On my bike. Stisted Hall when Mr Motion moved from the Lawns [in Lawn Chase, Witham]. Lewis’s did Stisted Hall up for him. I worked there for a little while but you see you’ve got to keep your bread and butter jobs going as well as these big jobs. (Q: Mmm.) So me and another chap we was doing the houses up about here. Hadn’t come out me eight years then. See, well I weren’t a boy, but I weren’t a man, in between. Got one bloke, you see, a foreman he looked after you.
Q: Was the work different then, I suppose the painting and that was a lot different wasn’t it?
Mr M: Oh yes, its rubbish now really to me. (Q: Really?) Oh yes. (Q: [???]) I’ve stood in the yard, knocked me own putty up from whitening and linseed oil. I’ve made up the paint from genuine white lead. (Q: Goodness,) Strained it, probably been up there a couple of days. We did this place up here. It used to be all white lead over here at Cullen’s. [16 Chipping Hill and White Horse Lane] There used to be another place, Cooper Tabers, where you turn down to go to Hugh Baird’s [Avenue Road]. There was a long wooden place there years ago, going further down. I stood down there and stirred up these big old barrels of stack white lead they called it – thick. It had been made up with linseed oil and turps and driers[?]. Strained, strained so fine that it was even finer than the paint today I think sometimes. There was none of this two hours business. Sometimes the enamel took, what, twenty-four hours, or thirty six hours to dry. The real old fashioned enamel. That used to last, I mean that lasted a long time. I tell you, this chap Bill Wade he was a past master, he was a sign writer and grainer. He could do his job.
Q: What was a grainer? You actually put the …
Mr M: The figuring on the doors. You see in those days, that’s why people today can’t have graining. It costs so much. (Q: Mmm.) I mean, say I was going to do your front door, I don’t know whether its painted or polished or what. They wouldn’t grain over that.
They’d burn it right down, rub it down, put the stopping in which we used to use a lot of Walpamur in those days, which was a type of emulsion. (Q: What was it called sorry?) It was Walpamur. Water paint. That was all the thing at one time before emulsion come in. You put that on, let it get hard, to fill in all the cracks and what not, blemishes. Then have a primer coat, two undercoats, then a coat for graining, which was the self colour. Then you’d put your graining on and probably two coats of varnish. That’s five to six coats.
Q: That’d take you long enough wouldn’t it, waiting for each to dry off?
Mr M: You see, I mean probably a day, day and a half. Or a couple of days in between. But that was one of the first jobs you done, if you’d got a house to do up. So that you didn’t have to go back. You finished the whole thing.
Q: A lot of people used to have that did they?
Mr M: Oh yes, every year, or every two years, wash and varnish. wash and varnish. Once you’d done it, it lasted for a lifetime. You know, inside it used to last for ages.
Q: They’d never do it at all now. Perhaps if you were restoring somewhere I don’t know, these big houses.
Mr M: The last job I done in that business was at the Horse and Groom at Braintree, just before I retired. But it wasn’t the graining that I knew, not thumb graining.
Q: What’s thumb graining?
Mr M: Well, you have a pad on your thumb and you twist it all over to make it look like oak or pine or Columbian pine, Birds eye maple, you name it and they can do it. But you see they just put the sap in now you see.
Q: Just sort of the, like on that table there, the streaks?
Mr M: Just the streaks, no figure work. Like if you get a piece of oak. There’s no two pieces of oak the same when you look at it. In church pews. That’s a good place people we used to reckon, if you was going to do graining, to get a good insight to what it was.
Q: Took a long time to learn then did it?
Mr M: Oh yes, I dunno whether they teach it up the college now but I think probably Jack Reynolds who works up the college, I don’t know whether he works there now, he must be retired. He worked at Lewis’s for a long time, a good grainer, sign writer. He’s now helping down at the United Reform.
Q: Oh is he? Its nice there isn’t it.
Mr M: He was, the last time my wife see him. (Q: He’d be enjoying that then.) Another chap, no matter what he touched, or what he looked at, he could do.
Q: Still you always felt you were in the right job did you?
Mr M: Well, it suited me better there than going out to Crittall’s. I went to Crittall’s and the chap said ‘You’ll have to wear glasses’ or something, the medical bloke up there. I thought ‘Well I don’t want to wear glasses’ You know. So I went home to me granny, I said ‘He reckons I’ve got to wear glasses if I go into Crittall’s’. ‘You don’t want to wear glasses’ she said, ‘there’s nothing the matter with your eyesight’. You see. So the she see, as I say, this Mr Manning and that’s how it come about. But there was something the matter with me eyes you see because within a couple of years I was wearing glasses as I am now. [laugh] Never been without them.
Q: Otherwise you’d have gone to Crittall’s ?
Mr M: Oh no, no. (Q: You didn’t want to go anyway?) No, fresh air for me. I’d always been in the fresh air. See weekends in the Scouts, on your bike, going to Maldon, Burnham, Goldhanger, all the way round, camping out you see. Just take your tent and billy-can with you.
Q: Still, a lot of people did go to Crittall’s didn’t they?
Mr M: Yes, I mean that’s all there was wasn’t there. Either that if there was nothing in the building, which you’ve got to be an apprentice to, people didn’t like being apprenticed to it, did they, not being tied down. I mean I went there, about the first year I did nothing but scrub off the ceilings and strip the walls and wash the woodwork and wash the floor up. The chap I worked, like when I started there, Mr Manning, you’d got to leave that floor and the room the same as it was when you went in. It had got to be immaculate. And woe betide you if you didn’t. He was a good man. There’s some good tradesmen come out of there.
Q: Still, you say you were seven years learning. What about your mates, were they earning more in Crittall’s, your friends?
Mr M: They probably were. Because when I went in the army in ’41, no when I went in the army in ’40, my wage as a tradesman was three pounds, six and eight, after stoppages. So I had about three pound ten a week. (Q: Yes.) They were probably getting four pounds. See. But that was for a forty-four hour week I’m talking about, but if you worked later I mean, of course I wanted my time and a quarter, lot of chaps didn’t want the time and a quarter. They’d do just ordinary time. Especially if they were married, you know. (Q: Quite.) But if you could afford to stand out. I mean I wasn’t married then so it didn’t make any difference to me.
Q: So what did you spend all that money on then? Just going out to pictures and that?
Mr M: All that money! [laugh]
Q: I suppose you were living with your mother then?
Mr M: I was living with my mother. I paid thirty-five bob a week out of that. Which was more than half, or near enough. I used to clothe myself. Well I mean you’ve got to clothe yourself haven’t you. And my clubs.
Q: And I suppose that house would be more expensive up there than The Square?
Mr M: Oh yes, it was a lot more, yes. Probably a pound a week more I reckon. You see there was eight, because there was a basement, they’d got a basement there you see. And you used to live in the basement. And the second floor was what we used to call the front room and a little room at the back which me grandad had because he couldn’t get up the stairs. He got up the one flight of stairs with bit of a struggle but we didn’t want him to go up to the next flight you see, all right up the top. And like I say, you could get a suit for fifty bob, pair of shoes a pound.
Q: Still you wouldn’t have that much left every week would you really? You’d still have to save up for something like that. You didn’t really have any holiday time either. Did you work Saturdays as well?
Mr M: Well no, I used to have me Saturdays off, because I used to football a lot. In the summer time I used to go to all the carnivals as a rule, dress up. You know I mean people say what did you do. There was plenty to do. I mean if there was a little gang of you you’d say ‘Oh well, we’ll do the Coggeshall carnival, are you going in?’ ‘Well, dunno’. ‘Well old mate Hawkes is going in’, they used to say. He used to go with his, he used to live in Chess Lane. He used to have his pair of horses and a plough you see for the best turnout, or a horse and cart. So if we knew where he was going, if we’d got anything to go, things that we wanted to dress in, like a pram or anything like that, we used to get him to take it. I’ve been to Southend carnival, (Q: Really?) That was the hardest work I ever done there, Southend carnival. Chelmsford, never touched Braintree. Maldon, Witham, Coggeshall.
Q: What did you do at Southend that was so hard?
Mr M: Well, it was the time of, was about when ‘Beer is best.’ that was the slogan. So I had this empty four and a half wooden barrel on me back, dressed up like an old boy on the road you see. (Q: Yes.) And of course had a bottle of cold tea with a dummy on the top. Went to Southend thinking it was probably about as far as Witham, about a mile, you see. That’s about three mile long, time you get round. That began to cut into my shoulders a bit. [laugh]
Q: So did you make all this stuff yourselves, the dress gear?
Mr M: Oh yes. The last one I went in was ‘Mother’s Day Out’. I was the babe in pram and a little thin bloke was pushing me. [laugh] I think some of these photographs are in the album. I’ll drop it in one of these days. Most of them are things that happened at the Grove. That’s where all these pageants and that used to be.
Q: You’ll have to come round again sometime with that, and tell me what they all were if you know.
Mr M: Yes, I know what they are. (Q: That’s good, it wouldn’t mean much to me on its own.) The Wilderness? You know about the Wilderness do you?
Q: Is that where the precinct…? (Mr M: That’s right.) Somebody mentioned the garden there I think [Newlands precinct].
Mr M: Garden, that used to be Wilderness garden there, with all the big trees in. Used to have all these pageants and fetes there (Q: Oh did they?) like they did over at the Vicarage.
Q: Who lived there then?
Mr M: The last person who lived there as I remember was one of De Crespigny’s sons. There used to be shops either side and this big maroon doorway in between.
Q: So how did you get into the garden when they had a fete?
Mr M: You went up the back of, up by Farthing’s. [68 Newland Street] You go right the way round into the back of Oliver’s, or whatever they call it, the shoe place [56 Newland Street].
Q: Did someone tell me that the Co-op used to have a fete as well?
Mr M: Oh yes, we used to form up in the Avenue, march down the town as children. Dress up, sports, teas made by Bill Randall and his steam roller’s boiler. (Q: Really?) [laugh] That’s where Doctor Denholm lives, you know [King Chase]. Used to go in that little gateway there. Holt’s got a house there now. That was always there but it was only a little tiny thing. Used to sit there, two or three hundred children you know at a time. And Terling and Fairsted.
Q: Were you always in the Co-op?
Mr M: Co-op members, yes.
Q: Was that a sort of political thing at all, about the Co-op, who was in the Co-op and who wasn’t in the Co-op?
Mr M: No, I don’t think so, anybody could get in as long as you paid your pound, you see. I mean I, when my grandma died I took her number over. I paid a pound and took her number which was 395, an early one. Mine is now 1998, or 101998 rather.
Q: I can’t remember who it was now but I’m sure I remember somebody telling me that they always felt out of it because their family wouldn’t join the Co-op, so they couldn’t go or something, or maybe they had some trouble there or something.
Mr M: They used to have Witham Town Band, I’m sure it was the Witham Town Band, to play us down there.
Q: That was when you were little was it?
Mr M: I suppose about nine or ten.
Q: Did they have the carnival as well then or is that more recent?
Mr M: The carnival, the first one I went in was about 1930/31. This photograph in the ‘Braintree and Witham Times’ is 1929. (Q: I see.) And I never went in the first year. (Q: No, I see.) They knew that I was a bit of a lad for things like that. You know, dressing up, but they dared me to go in. Having started work and being a cheeky monkey, as the saying goes. ‘You go in. I bet you’re afraid to go in’. I went in, dressed up as a tidy help. You know, cap and apron and black stockings, and dustpan and brush and mop. After that I was in every year and got other people to come in you see.
Q: Because it was often probably harder to do that in your own town than to go somewhere else isn’t it? Everyone laughing at you, sort of thing.
Mr M: That’s right. Even old Joe Glover. He won a prize that year as Witham’s Fat Boy! I didn’t know who he was. And another man, Mr Ernie Green who used to be down at Ginetta’s. There used to be a Charlie Warren’s garage down there at the bottom of the town. [155-57 Newland Street] And he used to manage it. Him and Joe were great friends. He come as an old boy selling laces on the street and I looked at him and was chatting to him but I didn’t know who they were. They were really made up. Joe had got his face out here.
Q: That was good wasn’t it. People don’t do that now do they?
Mr M: No, no, no. You see they used to have the big heads here from Harwich, used to, borrow them, put on your shoulders. I mean the local lads were all for that because nobody knew who they were you see.
Q: Where did you get them from then?
Mr M: They used to come from Harwich somewhere.
Q: So you had a good time then. And was there a fair then as well?
Mr M: Always a fair. There was always a fair. I think the best one we had was the Coronation one. (Q: Yes.) You know it seemed to be more …
Q: I suppose they made more of a splash didn’t they? Well they still have it don’t they, but sometimes they say they have trouble to keep it going.
Mr M: That’s right, Coronation and Silver Jubilee was a good one. That would be George V. (Q: Yes of course.) They had a terrific fair down there then. On The Grove. Where they’ve built all these houses. (Q: Oh yes.) Because that was the old Town football ground at one time.
Q: Who was it that you used to play football for yourself? Was that for Witham?
Mr M: I played for Beacon Hill Rovers, that’s a Wickham team. Hatfield Peverel. Witham Town was me side. That was the team that I really liked and played for most. Terling Villa. I used to go where there was a game going. I didn’t want paying. I brought me clobber home and my mother’d say ‘I’m not washing that’. [laugh] You see. So, no bathrooms down the Square, just a shed up the garden. So I used to light the copper when I went out, get me grandad or me uncle to light the fire about four o’clock if we were playing at home. Go home, bolt the shed up, get in, chuck all me dirty kit in after I’d finished and by the morning all the dirt was out, so she didn’t mind washing it, just rinsing it through. [laugh] Yes the bathroom was up the garden.
Q: So did she have to do all the sheets and that in the copper? (Mr M: That’s right.) That was hard work wasn’t it? Then your gran was going out doing all this work as well. (Mr M: That’s right.) She got paid for that obviously I suppose, didn’t she?
Mr M: She didn’t worry. She could have been a rich woman.
Q: Could she really? How come?
Mr M: She never troubled about money as long as she was doing a good turn. All these people were like that. Good neighbours.
Q: So when you say she could have been rich, you mean …?
Mr M: If she’d have liked to charge people for it you see.
Q: But when she went out with the doctor would he give her something for it or what do you think?
Mr M: I don’t know what used to happen you see then, because the doctor’s fee has got to be paid, they were probably people with no money. I mean it would only be people like her own class that she went to, wouldn’t be anybody, cause they could afford to have a proper nurse couldn’t they? (Q: I see, yes.) There was Mrs Prior, was another one, I remember about here, there were three or four in Witham.
Q: You know Mrs Ireland, of course, across the road there? (Mr M: Yes.) I’m sure she, her gran, that she, or whoever it was, Mrs Rushen was it? Did she come from here? (Mr M: Yes, they could all have been…) I mean did they go out after the baby had been born as well to help some times ?
Mr M: They’d go out two or three days to see them right. But then it came about that these people had got to be examined, something like that. Or go for a course I suppose. Me granny just said no, that’s it, she never went out no more. (Q: That’s a pity.) Because they had one or two nurses set up in Witham, like nursing homes.
Q: So people would go into them instead of being at home I suppose. How many children did you and Doris have?
Mr M: Only had one, Keith.
Q: Did Doris go into one of these?
Mr M: She went into one down the road here. On the corner in front of the …
Q: Oh the Bungalow? [46 Collingwood Road]
Mr M: She was only in there, there was a lot of children being born at that time and she was only in there about four or five days and they whisked her home [laugh] and I was a bit annoyed. I thought well at least …
Continued on tape 103