|Transcript Title||Brace, Bet (O1994.15)|
|Interviewee||Bet Brace (BB)|
|Interviewer||Jean Riddell (JR) and Peter Ruffles (PR)|
|Transcriber by||Susan Hitch|
Hertford Oral History Group
Recording no: O 1994.15
Interviewee: Bet Brace (BB)
Venue: 122 North Road Hertford
Date: 23rd April 2013
Interviewer: Jean Riddell (JR) and Peter Ruffles (PR)
Transcribed by: Susan Hitch, 2014
************** = unclear recording
[discussion] = untranscribed material
Confused sounds including PR explaining procedure to Bet
JR: This is Jean Riddell and I’m speaking from the home of Mrs Bet Brace, 40 Grange Close, North Road Hertford, and it’s April 14th 1994, and Bet is going to hopefully tell us about her experiences in Hertford as a young girl firstly coming in from Woolmers Park where she was living at the time and secondly when she actually came to work in Fordhams the furniture shop in Fore street in 1937.
PR: What we could do – we’ve read that lovely piece that you’ve written about your return visit. Beautiful, wasn’t it?
BB: It’s surprising the interest it’s caused, it really is.
PR: A lovely account of going back. You wrote that ten years ago.
BB: ’85, yes, nearly ten years ago.
PR: Going back to your childhood home, so you really were a country girl –
BB: Yes, absolutely
PR: Coming into the heart of the local big town really.
BB: Yes, Yes, and of course in those days, living in the country right in the parkland there were no buses of course, no cars, or only a very few and our way of life to get to the town was through the local station, Cole Green Station, and so of course Hertford North was really our lifeline.
PR: And you came first of all down to the -
BB: I get so annoyed because it’s called in I don’t know whose book “ Cowbridge Station” and it isn’t Cowbridge it’s Hertford North, you know, and I remember travelling on the train to Hertford North quite freely, and of course as a small child we came – it was all “hold Mother’s hand” and “hold Mother’s frock” - but my first memory of coming to Hertford from the train, and I don’t think I’m wrong, was of seeing two ladies rolling barrels outside McMullens. Were there ladies?
Transcribers note : 1924 was closure date for the Great Northern Cowbridge Station for passenger traffic.
PR: There were, yes, yes. Someone told us she was the first, and I’ve forgotten who it was, when we were doing one of these talks somewhere else, someone said they were the first woman to be employed at McMullens not in the bottling department.
BB: There were two ladies outside the building, they had waterproof aprons on, and they were rolling these barrels, they were quite buxom ladies, terrible job for ladies to have – terrible I thought at the time, yes, I really did. And the next – I’m sure you perhaps can help me on this –I feel that, as one came from the station roadway one moved into Old Cross Road and was there a dairy on the corner, Ibbotson’s?
PB: Yes, They talked about it – I’m not quite sure where it was.
BB: You know where McMullen’s have their offices now, Mcmullens offices, the ground floor there, I’m not certain
JR: The corner of Hartham Lane
BB: Yes, and Old Cross, yes, I’m certain, it was Ibbotson’s
JR: Because there was a pig farm a bit further along, next to the library, wasn’t there, that was a pig farm
BB: A pig farm?
JR: A pig yard or a pig (indistinct) couldn’t have been a farm could it?
BB: Oh I don’t know. That’s my first impression, I thought I’ll ask about that dairy, I remember that. The next thing was whenever we used to come from home and do Mother’s shopping on a Saturday morning and we couldn’t wait to get to that small sort of piece of St Mary the Less church, you know that –
Transcribers note: The drinking fountain outside the old Library on Old Cross.
PR: Oh yes, yes
BB: And I think that’s a wonderful, wonderful piece of building – it was found wasn’t it, found under?
PR: Yes it was, it was found when they made…
BB: When they made the library, that’s right, and every Saturday when we came, we didn’t come every Saturday, we’d stand and read it and I think I almost memorised it, I think it was built in twelve hundred and something and destroyed by fire in fifteen hundred or something like that
PR: You never got a drink out of it, did you?
BB: Well, I don’t know, I daresay we played around with it, I don’t really remember.
PR: There used to be an iron cup on a chain, but it never ever worked in my lifetime; it might have done a bit earlier
BB: Yes. I don’t remember that. I always remember often when I’d go down to the library –it always fascinated me, this little bit of – was it a church window?
PR: Well, they made it to look like one, it’s a lot of smaller bits really, there’s only one of the top bits that’s part of a window
BB: But I’d often walk as far as Farnham’s and then look and cross over to it, I think it’s so fascinating. I think it’s the age really and the fact that we as children all four together looked at it together, you know, I’ve got a wonderful memory. But I don’t know who was responsible but someone’s given it a coat of colour wash, spoilt it completely.
Transcribers note: Peter Ruffles had the same comments given to him in 2012 when it had a fresh conservation coat of custard yellow, the English Heritage recommendation to East Herts Council
PR: Yes, it’s the District Council; it’s to stop the stone from crumbling
BB: That’s for preservation of course
PR: It needn’t have been so white, I’m sure
BB: The last time I was down there I looked round the back and they hadn’t got the colour wash on the back but all this lovely, all stone, I think it’s beautiful, but if I saw these people I’d like to say something to them about putting this awful colour wash on, it’s taken all, taken years off it hasn’t it?
(Murmurs of agreement throughout from PR)
PR: That was when you were about how old when you and your father were coming in?
BB: Six, eight, ten, something like that, when we came in.
PR: and that would be roughly the year
BB: That would be 1910, about 1920
PR: 1920, yes
BB: And the next thing is – I’m just going round – the next is, do you remember Mr. Hoare, the dentist?
PR: Oh yes, the ??
BB: Wretched man! Ooh! I do just vaguely remember crying my eyes out with toothache when I was at Bournemouth and I remember sitting in Mr. Hoare’s chair, You know, and (laughs) I think he was most the cruellest man that ever was – my mother had had her new dentures and she’d gone to the hospital some years before and she had dentures that fitted perfectly so of course when it was time for us kids to go to the dentist – “Oh you must go and see Mr. Hoare, he’s a wonderful man”, and she took me there, and I remember so so well, I sat in this chair and I screamed my head off. I don’t think he really injected anything into my gums, unless he put it in and pulled it out, you know, and d’you know how much it cost? Half a crown. Two and six. That’s what, fifteen, seven pee in this day’s money.
Trancribers note : 12 ½ pence in fact
PR: Yes it was a big sum
BB: Well, it was, because I don’t know what my father earned, but if he earned couple or three pounds it was as much as that so it was quite a bit out of their money. But I remember - oh, it was cruel, I screamed, I screamed, oh, I was still crying in the train coming home, it was so painful. I saw him quite a few times after that and I thought, ooh, my mother might think you’re a very good dentist but I know to the contrary. And next is the grocer’s shop on the corner
BB: Was it called Bryant’s?
PR: Bryant’s, yes
BB: Yes, well, the point about that is that my niece that lived at Welwyn, she married a John Vine, and John’s great-uncle kept the shop, and John’s father used to help in the shop. So that would be about a hundred years ago! Something like that. I only remember it as Bryant’s you see, but it was a Vine eighty or a hundred years ago. But I’ve got a ?? and I was talking to him the other day about a John and “my father worked there, that’s my great-uncle’s shop” that‘s most interesting, yes yes. I don’t remember the new Mill Bridge being built – I must have known about it, but I don’t remember.
Transcriber’s Note: There were Vines at St Andrew’s Church, living in St Andrew Street, Maud and later a sister returned in 1950s
PR: Well it was – there were buildings right across it before the doodlebug came, weren’t there
BB: Yes, yes, I don’t remember much about it until the doodlebug – oh, yes I do, there was Mr Nicholls the fruiterer and Mr. Rush had his shop next door and they were both bombed weren’t they, they were both destroyed by the doodlebug
PR: Right, oh, Rush was there was he?
BB: Yes, yes
PR: That was leather goods
BB: Yes, and he moved down to the arcade, didn’t he? Yes, he was a nice little man, and Mr. Nicholls, I remember him quite freely, and Mrs Young, you remember Mrs Young, had a baker’s shop
PR: Where Martin’s is, on the corner of Maidenhead Yard
BB: Mmm I vaguely remember, yes, as a matter of fact, you see, when I went to Fordham’s first we worked until quite late at night, and of course we had afternoon tea, and it was usual to go out in the lunch hour to buy a bun or something for our tea. I remember going to Mrs Young’s, we knew her quite well because she used to come in the shop and she was a very friendly lady, and I used to go there to get something for my tea, and I remember buying two halfpenny buns – halfpenny currant buns and I said to her “Oh, Mrs Young I feel ashamed only buying two little buns” “My dear, you mustn’t worry, if every one that passed by bought a bun, I’d be a wealthy lady today.”
JR: Did you once tell me that she was instrumental in opposing that that shop be extended into Lavelles?
JR: You didn’t, no. I thought you said she had this shop, a little cake shop, well, a big cake shop, and decided that part of it should go to the newsagent. (general murmur of dissent) No, OK.
PR: There was a newsagent next door, Middleton’s –
BB: Middleton, I remember that. Confectionery, she did
PR: They were there a long time, Middleton’s, and well after the war. I can’t remember, because the taller (?) one was – it became another leather shop actually, I don’t know whether Rush’s had it or somebody else, the Young’s shop, when Young finished,
BB: Oh, yes, I think you’re right
PR: Leather goods, I can’t remember whether it was Rush or a rival.
Trancribers Note: Peter Ruffles remembered in 2014 it was Dixon’s
BB: No, Didn’t know, I don’t remember that
PR: So, how did you come to be working at Fordham’s?
BB: Well, my sister, worked for, well it was then Partridge and Webb, rather a high class shoe shop, the other side of the archway from Sheffield’s, Fore Street, see?
BB: And I came to – I went to Hertford and I often popped in to my sister’s and I’d have a cup of tea with the manageress and her there, we were very friendly, anyway, you know what these shop assistants are, they mix with all the other assistants in the town, and of course they knew of Fordham’s, Will Fordham and Miss Gillett that worked there, and one day my mother had a postcard, on Saturday morning my mother had a postcard to say – it must have been posted overnight because my sister had actually left for home, she didn’t know anything about it, but we had a card the next morning to say Will Fordham needed help in the shop and could you come and help him out – two of his assistants were away ill and two were on holiday, you see – so I went, ooh like little orphan Annie, you know, going into the big wide world, it was awful – and anyway I went there and this Miss Gillett, this Miss Gillett, now that was very interesting because she used to work for Cartledge. Now Mr Cartledge kept the shop which is now the Midland Bank, Mr Cartledge was killed by a bomb during the 1914-18 war, he was one of the three killed down on Bull Plain
PR: OH, on Bull Plain, by the Museum
BB: Yes, and Mrs Cartledge kept the business going for a while, and then in the meantime Fordham’s had opened up next door, and Mrs Cartledge gave up and one or two of the assistants transferred to Fordham’s next door, because they were drapers rather than furnishers, you see –
PR: Oh, were they?
BB: Yes, they were drapers rather than furnishers, but it worked out all right for the assistants, it was quite nice for them. That’s how that happened.
PR: Yes, so women would be more appropriate
BB: Yes. It was rather funny because I was rather nervous about going, and one of the assistants, she met me at the door, and d’you know, the approach does make a world of difference, doesn’t it, and she met me at the door, you know, and I said I’d just come to help, and Will Fordham came out and Oh miss have you come to help us out? and I was in, you see, I was in.
PR: Was she an assistant that had been working for him for a longer time then?
BB: No. not really, erm, I went in ’27, and I don’t think Fordham’s opened until ’22, ’23 – not many years
PR: But she was older
BB: She was older, yes, I don’t know how much older than me, I should think about twenty or thirty years, you know, quite a bit older. But she was a darling lady, she really was. I only went to help out while the others, while they were on holiday, and when they came back he asked me if I would stay, and by then I was getting quite well used to serving people and I did all right, really, yes it was quite good.
PR: So who were the rivals in trade at that time, when it was…
BB: When I went there for drapery, you see, well there was Neale’s Bon Marche opposite, and I don’t know whether it was because of that - but then there was also Gravesons, but I don’t know whether it was because of the competition that Fordham’s went over to furniture, or whether there was more profit in it, in furniture than in drapery. I think possibly that was the reason. And also, of course, the old gentleman, Fordham, he lived at Puckeridge, he had a draper’s shop there, and his son looked after the Herford shop, and I don’t think he was draper-minded, he was more in the way of carpets and furniture, think it really fitted in with his style of life, well his lifestyle, and it went on from there.
PR: And the Hoddesdon shop was later, was it?
BB: Oh, yes, the Hoddesdon shop was about ’30 – I was married in ’34. (It might have been ’33). You see what happened was, I got married in ’34, and in those days it wasn’t usual for a wife to work, you see, but I’d hardly got married and Fordham’s at Hoddesdon had opened up, they’d only got a young lad and a driver to help out there and business began to boom, and he then – the boss there - said to the old gentleman Fordham, “I’ll have to get help” “Oh I know just the one to help you out” and before I knew where I was I was over there, you see, and I continued there for about twenty-five years.
PR: So, did that then start as a furniture shop, or did it start as a draper’s in Hoddesdon?
BB: Furniture – yes, furnishing straight away, furnishing and carpets of course
PR: Yes, so the Puckeridge one _ was it called the London House?
BB: The London House, yes
PR: For Puckeridge that’s quite a grand name, really
BB: Yes, yes. They were a nice crowd to work for, but, you know, Fordham really only started by going round the villages with a pony and trap, Oh yes, that’s how they started. But the man that owned it, the man that managed at Hoddesdon, he was actually a part owner, he worked at Puckeridge to start with
PR: It wasn’t Stan Williams?
Transcribers note: Stan Williams became the District Councillor for the largest geographical parish in England. Puckeridge and Standon. He always sat as an Independent and was widely respected and liked.
PR: He came later
BB: When I went there, when I went to Hoddesdon first, I was sent to go and help, Stan was a little boy, a beginner, fifteen, and before his mother bought him a suit he was up there he grew so quickly. Stan, he was about, erm, how old would I be, about twenty four, no twenty five when I went there, twenty five or twenty six and he was ten years younger – about fifteen you see. He often reminded me that he was ten years younger than me (laughs) Yes, he’d often remind me
PR: So they built up the contacts going round the villages…
BB: Yes, yes, well I think what happened was, the Puckeridge shop for instance, they went round the villages in a horse and cart because you see it wasn’t motorised then, and they used to go round, do they call it tallying? You know, more like Mr Keeble did in the town, that idea, or paying so much a week, yes, and I remember Mr Rookwood who was the boss there, the boss at Hoddesdon, he used to do the rounds at Puckeridge. He used to tell some very funny stories, you know , about people who used to be a bit – and one day he went to a house to collect the money and a little kiddy opened the door and said “I’m sorry, Mummy isn’t in” and he could see her feet (laughter) see her feet under the curtains!
PR: So, it was an ideal building for furniture, wasn’t it? I mean, another shop, it would have been awkward to trade, but with that long back way, long, narrow thin …
BB: Yes, that was pretty good, yes, because one could display each side, you see, and have the passage, the only trouble was, it was delivery. It ran almost to the end of Church Street, you know, and when I was a beginner there, we used to have deliveries from the rail, but not motorised, they used to come by cart, and they used to have great big crates and we used to have box kerbs (?) Do you remember box kerbs? They had a box each end and a kerb in the front, they were called box kerbs, and these great wooden cases used to come filled with these box kerbs, and of course we used to keep them in a room at the top of the shop and they all had to be carried right down the shop, up two flights of stairs, and of course I was the junior, I had to do it. Oh dear! But I didn’t mind.
PR: Where did they deliver to then? Church Street end, or in the narrow front bits…
BB: Usually the deliveries would go round the back, and that went down Church Street
PR: In the gap between the row of cottages and…
BB: Yes, yes, that’s right, yes because, well that was the most convenient, because when the road got more motorised it just wasn’t possible to unload at the front freely. Yes, horse and cart, remember horse and cart coming round there with the old crates of stuff on, pictures and goodness knows what. I was the junior, I had to do it all. I didn’t mind.
PR: The very end bit of Fordham’s is like a sort of lighthouse*, isn’t it, or so it seems to me, like a sort of tower, going up, you can go to the end of the shop upstairs and look across to All Saints Church
*subsequent to the recording, destroyed by fire at Fentimen Walk entrance
BB: Oh yes, yes you can
PR: Like a lighthouse, there are windows and also a couple of fireplaces. Were they storage rooms?
BB: Oh no, they used them as show – when I went there first the top floor wasn’t used at all, and as the business progressed of course the rooms got filled up. Every room was chock-a-block with stuff it really was
PR: And no one lived there at all in your time
BB: No, no
PR: I wonder why it was built – because it looks like a domestic –
BB: Well, actually, I’ll tell you _ do you remember Richardson’s? Mrs Richardson had a shoe shop down near the Mercury office. Well, previous to them moving there they used to have the front room (?) at Fordham’s and they used to live there. Because Mrs Richardson used to come in and say “Oh well, we’ll use this room for so-and-so,” and all the old fireplaces were there – oh yes, Richardsons lived there
PR: But Mrs Cousins, that you see sometimes when I put my slides out – there’s an old lady weeding the front garden at 58 Hertingfordbury Road – well she was a Miss Richardson, so she would have lived there. Mrs Richardson at the shoe shop’s sister-in-law,
JR: Tell us about the cow
JR: Tell us about the cow
BB: Well perhaps there isn’t much to it (Laughs) Well, when I worked at Fordham’s as you know, in the early and the late twenties at least there wasn’t much motorised traffic in Hertford at all, and Hertford had its cattle market on a Saturday, and the farmers used to drive the cattle and sheep through Fore Street, you see, to the cattle pens. I think they were behind the Ram pub
PR: Yes that’s right
BB: Well, the farmers used to drive the cattle through, and the old chap – old Mr Fordham who lived at the Puckeridge shop, he used to come over for some reason, he used to come over every Saturday and spend the day in Hertford. And he have his work with us until about one o’clock and then he’d go across to a café in the town and have his lunch and come back hopefully he’d have done big business, you see. And anyway, (laughs) one Saturday he goes off to lunch as per usual, and left Horace in the shop with someone else you see, and Horace* was behind the counter, in the lunch hour , and he looked up and there was a cow – well – (Laughs) a big cow with big horns, and he said
The cow was more surprised than him. Anyway, he said, they had to ?? up quietly, and turn it round, I don’t know if the farmer came in, anyway the cow went, you see, without any trouble. And then old Mr Fordham came back from his lunch, you see, and he came in the shop and he said, “Well Mr Brace and have you been busy?” and Horace said “Oh yes” he said “We’ve had one old cow in!”
(laughs) and Mr Fordham said “OH Mr Brace you mustn’t talk like that of a lady!” (much laughter)
I thought it was so hilarious, yes
*Horace Brace husband Bet
PR: Yes lovely! So did you meet Horace there then?
BB: Well, in a sense, yes, I suppose. I saw him before then – I used to go to Hertford occasionally with my mother on a Saturday, and we stood outside the Town Hall* one day and who should go- be coming along the street from a shop somewhere into the Midland Bank and I remember thinking to myself “What a handsome man” you see? I thought “What a handsome man, gorgeous curly hair”, and I couldn’t forget him, you know. When I went to Fordham’s, I was asked to go there to help out and Miss Gillett met me at the door and I just walked in the door and there was Horace. I couldn’t believe it! I could not believe it, I really couldn’t. Yes, that was how I met Horace, yes. I couldn’t believe it.
*Opposite Fordham’s, also called the Shire Hall Fordham’s has for some years been called Marshall’s but still the same family run business..
PR: Was he a Hertford person then?
BB: Oh yes, he lived up Church Street. He was the, I think second eldest of a very large family, Yes, he was …I’ll tell you where he used to live, it’s now the funeral furnisher
PR: Is that number eleven?
BB: Number eleven, yes, that’s where he lived, yes. There was a crowd of them. But they were a good crowd really. You see I was a kid from the country, and I went – this was a just to start with before we really went together – and I went up Church Street one day, you might think it was peculiar, but I went up Church Street one day and to his home and aunts and uncles and lots of kids were there, well not young kids, but lots of people were there, and it was decided that we’d go across to the public house for a drink. There used to be a pub there I think it was called the Tap
PR: The Tap yes
BB: Tom Graves was the keeper there. Anyway, we went over to this public house for a drink, and honestly people wouldn’t believe it now how ashamed I felt that anyone should see me going into a pub. I was absolutely terrified of being seen going into a pub
PR: Yes well that’s country life against town life isn’t it really?
BB: Yes, I was absolutely frantic. And the funny part was that this uncle paid for a round of drinks – there were a lot of us there and it came to fourteen shillings, and I thought fourteen shillings that’s nearly my week’s wage, and I remember that so so well, and I remember being so terrified lest anyone should see me go into a pub.
PR: Yes, that was opposite number eleven
BB: Yes, it’s peculiar how you remember bits and pieces like that
PR: Was his family around then – any Braces…
BB: Not really, no the nearest one was All Saints. No the Brace family themselves, no, the nearest is Norwich, and Bishop’s Stortford. Bishop’s Stortford, Norwich, Plymouth. All the boys had gone, there were only girls left, but though they’re only in-laws there’s a very close association, they get on very well together.
PR: And they’d lived presumably in Church Street for quite a long time
BB: Oh yes, until old ma Brace died, and I think she was about eighty when she died. Of course all the family had flown by then, you know, she was on her own. You see, the one that lives in Norwich, she’s a lovely girl, she’s the youngest of the family, and as a child – most of her childhood was spent playing in the Castle grounds. She loved that Norman mound, you that notice still up to the effect that this is a Norman Mound?
PR: Yes, I think it is
BB: Yes, she would bring her children to Hertford specially to see the Norman mound, and then she’d bring her grandchildren – “Look, this is where I played as a child, this is the Norman mound” and she was still very very excited about it
PR: Yes. We used to be carted off down there just to look. Dad who wasn’t a Hertford person, always used to take us, you know, and we always had to know what it was and stand by it and look at it as if it was a magical place.
End of first side of tape. Second side starts with much discussion about the recording process. Mrs Brace, asked to say something says ”I don’t know what to say” and laughs heartily.
Recording resumes successfully.
BB: The other thing was that, when I was a child, I always remembered it as being something worth remembering – I know you’ve seen in the various books written on Hertford, that there was a building next to the White Hart on Salisbury Square do they call it? There was a building there. Well, I don’t know if I was dreaming, but I went upstairs in that shop, I remember it so well. Now Mr. Stevens - I always thought my mother’s family friend was a Mr. Stevens, and I always thought in terms of it being his shop, but I read in Mr. Green’s book that it was Quelch and Brown’s. Was that …
PR: Yes, it was apparently, or part of it, there may have been more than one building there
BB: Yes, he had a cycle shop, that makes me think it was Quelch and Brown’s, or whether Mr. Stevens came before Quelch and Brown’s
PR: Yes maybe. They went up Fore Street later, didn’t they?
BB: Yes, that’s right. But I remember going upstairs – because Mr. Stevens had a flat ??, I mean I really did go, that is remembering – that’s going back quite a few years – therefore it must be seventy-five years ago at least. And I’ll tell you who else I remember – perhaps you don’t remember because you’re much younger – Pratt’s, the shop
PR: In Maidenhead Street. Yes, I don’t remember it, but I’ve seen pictures of it
BB: I remember going in there, again, I was a country bumpkin I suppose, we use to – I went to Birch Green school – and we used to take our dinners in a bag, you know, a canvas bag with a strap done up with a couple of buckles, and we used to call them our dinner bags. And we decided one day we would into Hertford and buy a new dinner bag. I remember going into Pratt’s shop – and I’ll tell you who the assistant was, she was a Miss Ramsey, they kept a fish shop up…
Transcribers note: Not to be confused with Ransom’s in Dimsdale Street.
PR: St. Andrew Street
BB: St. Andrew Street. And I remember going – I was so ashamed – and I remember saying to this girl “Please I want a dinner bag” and she didn’t know what I wanted! (Laughs) I said I wanted a dinner bag and she didn’t know what I meant, you see
JR: What did she call it then?
BB: Well, she was correct! They were satchels! And I said “Yes, you’ve got them” – and she said “No dear, I don’t know what you want, we haven’t got any of those” so I said “well, come” and they were hanging outside – they put everything outside except the kitchen sink, you know, it was one of those shops, and these bags were hanging outside, but I went for a dinner bag, but it was a satchel really.
JR: But a satchel is for books really isn’t it
BB: I suppose, but in those days we didn’t take homework home to do not like they do today. It was a dinner bag, we might have a bit of Knitting we took home to do. I go hot and cold when I think about it even now! (Laughs)
PR: you always seemed to be busy in Fordham’s. I used to come in with the evening papers sometimes…
BB: Oh did you, yes
PR: And you were sometimes there
BB: Yes, yes
PR: You used to come popping out of corners, propping things up
BB: It was quite a thriving little business really, yes
PR: Yes, it was the Evening News and the Star
BB: So you knew Will Fordham then?
PR: Well yes but all I had to do was to throw them in and to go on to the next one. I think possibly I collected the money on Friday nights. But I remember you being in there.
BB: Do you?
JR: So did you come back to Hertford
BB: Well what happened was, I worked at Fordham’s until I married – it was usual to work until you married – and I was married in the May and it was about June, July time that I was asked to go to Hoddesdon, to help so I never left really.
JR: you went on for twenty five years
BB: Well what happened was, Horace had a stroke, you see, and it was suggested – they were very kind – and they suggested that I came to Hertford to work so that I could do the hours that suited me to help Horace. And I used to get to work about ten and go about twelve for dinner. But we had a pretty good rota, the Hertford girls you know, they were absolutely marvellous, and I think ?? they were so so good, and what happened was – it wasn’t until Horace really got……………I was at home with him a few weeks. He had no movement at all that Dr. Jory suggested he went for rehabilitation at Garston (?) for seven weeks, and he didn’t want to go, anyway he went and it was the making of him to a great extent.
PR: Yes, he had that little motorised chair.
BB: Yes ?? we never had any money because he loved his car. You know, often I think now – I used to think “that’s a lot of money on the car” but I’m so pleased now that I never said no – whatever he wanted, because you never know, do you, really. We had car after car, the last car he sold we hadn’t really used it, we hadn’t done much mileage and we’d spent all the money on this four wheeled thing. He just sat there one night and I knew he wouldn’t be driving his car again, it was such a part of life and he said about television and I said ”Would you really dear?” and I made an appointment and I was getting all the brochures, and the man was there with the chair! And I’d only sent for the brochures! Confused conversation with everyone talking at once
BB: And of course, you see, Horace wasn’t terribly mobile
JR: Was it like a motorised kind of wheelchair, to go on the pavement?
BB: Yes, he could take control. It was to go down the town which he would have loved to have done today, with a box on the side which he could just about afford, and much more lush today of course. And the chap came up and said “ jolly wheelchair” you know, and I was dead against it, anyway Horace wanted to try it you see, and he got in this jolly thing, and the chap who brought it to him up as far as Scales. Well you know the pavement wasn’t terribly good, and it was a bit like this, you know, I thought he couldn’t manage that. So when he came back to the gate I said “You weren’t very steady dear” and he said “Oh it’s all right” and the chap said “Well, no. he really ought to have a better model, that’s a hundred pounds more.” So Horace said “What did you order?” and I said “Well , I didn’t actually order anything, I only wanted brochures, but I think I might have mentioned this one”. He said “Well, that’s what we’ll have, then” (laughs) That’s what we’ll have! Of course, there was nothing I could do, bless his heart, you know, he’d got so little in life really.
PR: He did well, though, didn’t he?
BB: Oh, he did wonderfully well. I used to wrap him round with a travelling rug an d put his cigarettes in the pocket of his chair, and I used to see him round the corner, and off he’d go as far as Creasey’s, * you know, and turn round and come back ?? and it worked wonderfully well, it really did, gave him a new life, really. Because although I bought him a small television ?? so he could watch television – he liked cricket and football – but it seemed that he wanted to see people. So I took him in his chair – ?? on the back, he didn’t want to be parted from that? Any way, we rubbed along, we rubbed along.
*Now Which offices (2014) 41 Hertingfordbury Road was the second house past Warehams Lane, so not far
PR: I can picture him very well, going along… How many years ago did he have his stroke?
BB: Erm… he’s been dead nearly twenty years – about twenty eight years. It was ’65, because we went on our cruise, it was the holiday of a lifetime, in 1963. He enjoyed it so much.
JR: That’s thirty years ago.
BB: He enjoyed the cruise so much, and he said he could never go on another one – I never worried you know. I was quite easy, if that’s what he wanted he could have it. And he sat in the summerhouse one day and one of his friends came round and said “I’ve just made arrangements to go on a cruise” you see, and that’s what you’d like. “Would you, dear?” (laughs) you know, and he said yes. Well. before he’d spoken I’d written for the PO brochures and we were on a cruise!
JR: He hadn’t had his – the stroke…
BB: But then, you see, it was a bit expensive, and he said he’d like another one, so we said we won’t have a holiday next year, we’ll have a good holiday in ’65. And we got to the second cruise and we were due to go in a fortnight and he had the stroke.
PR: But there was no warning, was there, of the stroke?
BB: No, I think really it was a lot my fault in a sense, because you know Frank’s ? family were a very nervous family, very nervy type, and Horace always was – if he had a cold he said “Oh, I’m all right, I’m all right”, and if I’d been aware of some of the difficulties I would probably have realised the signs and done something about it, I don’t know. But his attitude was always “I’m all right”, you see. But it was very strange because the manager of the boot shop, that was then Dunne’s, he had a stroke, the manager of Bates*, he had a stroke… (murmurs of agreement)
* Mr Stagg, 10 Fanshawe Street.
PR: But he lived quite a long time, didn’t he, after his stroke
BB: Yes, yes, he lived about nine years
PR: That was, for such a severe stroke…
BB: That was pretty good going, yes. But what I was going to say, about Dolly and Elsie* – you see I used to get to work about ten, and Dolly and Elsie, their father wasn’t too good, he was poorly, so I used to pop round and see him before I came to Fordham’s at about half-past nine and Elsie would be home about twelve from Simpson’s where she worked and she’d check Horace and I’d check their father when I went back about two, so that was a rota we worked between us, and Ruby used to help with it – Ruby* was wonderful, , and she would take them both a cup of tea in the afternoon, and I must say…
*Dolly and Elsie Parker at 51 Hertingfordbury Road. Ruby Walls at 55 Hertingfordbury Road
PR: Well that was quite a good neighbourhood along there, wasn’t it, a mixture of people.
BB: All sorts, yes
PR: Matthews (?) on the end, well, for a while, with Victor.*
* 39 Hertingfordbury Road, Victor had severe learning difficulties
BB: Yes I knew him really well, dear little boy, he really was. He would love to come in to me and he would say could he lay the table. I must admit that during the war I had three evacuees three young girls came from Greenwich Hospital, and they came to me and they stayed three years and it was a happy association, but when they came to me, the first thing I did, I gave them a meal, and I said they could lay the table, and they didn’t know how to do it, they didn’t know how to do it. Victor knew everything, you could rely on Victor, he’d get the tablecloth out and the mats…
PR: They must have had him quite late in life, because the parents – unless Victor was older than –
BB: No, I think she must have been twenty five or twenty eight when she had him. No, she worked so so hard to help them along, because before I lived here she was next door to me, our kitchen walls were just wood, you see, and I could hear Mrs Matthews trying to teach him, letters or words or something, and she really worked very very hard, and of course half the time she was not only living next door to me she was at the backward school in Hertford.
Transcriber’s Note : Presumably she means Kingsmead on Ware Road the former Workhouse later demolished for the Police Station and now a housing development. Bet and Horace were at 41 Hertingfordbury Road.
PR: And he – was it the Evergreen club…
BB: Yes, they both worked quite hard
PR: Who else lived along there then? Oh, May Dennis…
Transcriber’s Note : Miss May Dennis also made a recording for HOHG
BB: May Dennis, yes
PR: At 53, next door to the Parkers, was Ruby at 55. Do you remember her mother, old Mrs Dennis?
I can just remember her.
BB: Yes, I can remember, because – how I remember them was – we hadn’t been married very long when the war broke out, you know, there was talk of war for a year, or a little longer before that – and of course when we moved down Hertingfordbury Road we had an allotment, so we didn’t need to have vegetables in our garden, so Horace made a lawn with flower beds round, you see, and – do you remember Mrs Jefferies?
BB: Well, Mrs Jefferies came along to have a look and she said “Oh, a lawn!” she said “Just like the gentry” (laughs) Yes, she did. “Just like the gentry. “
Transcriber’s note : Possibly no 43 Hertingfordbury Road , mother of Mrs Jessie Harding at 52 opposite.
PR: She was Mrs Harding’s mother, and Mrs Harding was my grandmother’s bridesmaid in 1900.
Because my granddad lived in the house that the Matthews – that we were talking about – I thought he was born there but he wasn’t, he was born over the road at 26, and then moved across to 39 and then moved across to ?? when he got married. But Mrs Jefferies was Mrs Harding’s mother. But you were going to say that Mrs Dennis…
BB: Mrs Dennis, yes. Well, when there was talk of war everyone built their own air-raid shelter. Well Horace and Mr Parker and Ithink Ron – no, it couldn’t have been Ron because he wasn’t there then – anyway they built a super air-raid shelter on our lawn, and it was quite lengthy, and it had seats inside, and beautifully built, and we always used to put Mr and Mrs Dennis right at the end – they had cushions, you know, because they were tottering, weren’t they
PR: Well, I don’t remember him, but I do remember her…
BB: Well they always sat up the end, and I know it was wartime but we used to have some wonderful evenings
PR: What – did they dig out, deep down…?
BB: Yes, they dug very deep, Horace and Mr Parker, and of course on the top they had a huge mound, that was the trouble when ??,because it was all covered, wood at the side and wood at the top, it was beautifully built, very very strong, and quite deep with this huge mound over the top. ?? planted some marigolds over the top.
PR: So there was room for quite a lot of people?
BB: Yes, yes there must have been, how many? Ten, twelve. Of course, the men didn’t come down, they sat on the top, talking (laughs heartily) I don’t know whether they came – we did hear gunfire, although Hertford wasn’t troubled till the doodlebugs, were they
PR: No, not really
BB: Not really, no, so the men stayed outside, I don’t know, and of course you could hear the bombs and guns in ?? area and they got nearer, you know, but luckily we were fortunate, and we had very happy times in the evenings there – there were the two Parker girls , and Vicky who lived next door to me, and the Matthews of course…
JR: If the bomb did drop here ?? wouldn’t it have just caved in?
BB: I don’t know. It might have done. I don’t think so, Jean, because the boys dealt with the heavy girders across the park
JR: of wood
BB: Yes, I think it would have to have been a direct hit, to have done any damage at all
PR: Well a lot of it was to protect you from flying ?? and the weight, the crushing weight… (much agreement from Jean and Bet). What did you do when you were down there, then?
BB: Well, I don’t know… but it was so interesting we didn’t want to go back home again! We had cooking, knitting, I don’t know, we had everything we wanted...
JR: Did you have candles, or what?
BB: I don’t know, I suppose we had a lamp of some kind – we had a light of some sort, admittedly.
PR: I’ve got a tape at home, of May Dennis, Mr and Mrs Dennis’s daughter when she was about 90, and moved up to Sele Farm
BB: That’s right, yes
PR: When the houses had to come down for road widening, she was shown because she was in her late eighties or nearly ninety – Neal Court, and then to another warden controlled place, as being a suitable place for her to move to, and it was too hot in there, she wouldn’t go. She’d been taken round and shown the layout, the warm corridors, but she insisted on having an ordinary flat, and she was given a flat in Norwood Close, but the housing manager* said ”It’s all against my professional judgement, I shouldn’t be moving a ninety-year-old into a place without a warden and without all the back-up.” But because she had to move, they had to find somewhere for her, and that’s what she wanted, she wanted to live in the country, and it was looking across to Panshanger, and she was very happy those two years. She kept saying “I’m living in clover”. She had gas light downstairs, no electric light, and a piano, leaves blown in…
* Ron Cousins at East Herts
BB: (Laughs) I know, I remember ?? because she was sound asleep – we got on very well really – she said “Come to the front door, dear, come to the front door” and I opened the door and there was a pile of leaves up against the piano, it was unbelievable.
PR: Yes, they were always there, they’d just blown in and she’d left them. But she’d sit immediately under her gas light, if you looked through the letter box you could see her with a coat on, a little bit of gas fire, but right under the gas lamp, reading in her overcoat
BB: She would come to me and say “ I think you’d like these books, dear” but they were always The Lady, always very very posh books, nothing cheap..
PR: She had actually, I mean very touching, delusions of grandeur, in a way, I mean. She wanted to live in Hertingfordbury village, and that was one of her big ambitions, and I think in her mind she almost did. She was living in the flat but she’d got this other child-like dream world…
JR: Did she ever work?
BB: Yes , she did work, May did work, I don’t think she worked for money, I think she helped out. You know the shop that Mr Barton had – that little shop, do you remember Mr Barton?
BB: It was that shop, it used to be a tobacconist’s and then Miss Ashman used to keep it, and she used to go and help. I think she did it just for the love of being in there, because she liked people.
PR: Yes, very much, but she’d paint her fingernails, wouldn’t she, and they were beautifully done, and her clothing – when she moved, I gave a bit of help and all her stuff was beautifully folded, it was a contradiction because she’d got these leaves under the piano, and no carpeting, and no light in the scullery at the back and yet her clothing was always top class and beautifully folded away in drawers upstairs, the furniture was old but…
BB: She was rather naughty because the house belonged to Addis, and Addis were I think very good kind people, they did no end of jobs for the Parker family, I mean they had a bathroom added etc etc, if ever they wanted a job done the Addis people would be along to do it. But Miss Dennis had the same chance, they would have done exactly the same for her, they would have put her a decent lavatory inside, they would have put a bathroom, but she wouldn’t have it. And I mean if she’d have complained to me I would have said “Well I’m sorry, but it isn’t Addis’s fault”
JR: Why was that then? Was it because she didn’t like the house, or…
BB: I don’t know
PR: She was a fascinating mixture – her religion was Catholic – she wasn’t born a Catholic, she converted on her own quite separately from the family. She lived on two different planes
BB: She was two different people really, yes
PR: She wouldn’t have a rent book from Addis’s because that gave different kind of basis, she just gave them the money to the Parkers to pay, so they were never – although Addis’s owned it she somehow was never particularly bonded in…
BB: She wasn’t officially a tenant
PR: Yes, in her mind
BB: And she’d say “I think I’m going to have my room done up” and she’d come to me with a handful of wallpaper that she’d torn off the wall, she’d say ?? on your bonfire, and another day she’d come with a letter: “I’ve torn them up, would you put it on your bonfire”. And she’d go and pull the wallpaper off the wall and that was that, she wouldn’t do any more. The ceiling was falling down in the back bedroom and you know, but it wasn’t Addis’ fault, it wasn’t Addis’ fault at all, it was her; as Peter said, she was two different people.
PR: At Sele Farm it was lovely. But she was too old to do much herself. Her sister-in-law in Foxholes Avenue was given orders and these orders came out of the other May’s mind. And it was lovely – I mean, the furnishings at Sele Farm, Utterly different, everything was new – she put little bits of china from down here, but the bedding, the bed itself, the curtains – and she was there for a couple of years and died there. She wouldn’t go into hospital with her breathing I can hear her now, saying “I’m in clover, I’m in clover”. And the money was there – she’d got the money to pay for most things, and blew it –
Transcriber’s Note : She did eventually enter hospital…..just to finish the story!
BB: Yes, she was a character…and then Mr Bateman came – you remember Mr Pateman
PR: Oh yes, from the dairy, yes…he had Miss Dietrich
BB: Deitrich, yes, that’s right
PR: Did she live at Panshanger?
BB: No. What happened – do you – no you’re too young to remember that – when we moved to 45, at 47, Mr. and Mrs Chapman – now he used to be – there used to be a pub down St Andrew Street, two or three doors beyond the army building
PR: The King’s Head?
BB: The Kings head, yes. I think it’s a television shop, or wireless shop now, but it was a pub, and he kept that, and he’d previously owned number 47 and 49, and when he gave up the pub he came to live in 47, next to us, you see, and next door his niece, I think his niece came to live there. And she had her sister come to live with her, they were both Miss Dietrichs
PR: And Violet Empson
BB: Violet next door to me, yes. The Dietrichs – actually what happened was, it was a connection with Mrs Chapman. Mrs Chapman’s sister had married a German, that’s how they got that name. And that Miss Dietrich, the one that lived there, the one that you would know, she lived in the Channel Islands, she was there during the German occupation.
PR: Oh, was she?
BB: She had the chance to come home, but she wouldn’t. I think she thought that with a German name she’d be all right – she was all right but ?? the year it finished
BB: Frieda, yes. F.R.I.E.D.A.
PR: Yes, very bent and had a trolley – very frail, she used to sit over one bar of an electric fire
BB: I don’t know, I had, next door, it was Violet, and Violet died and her sister lived there, Wendy. Now she was a dear. She went – she had cancer of the throat, she lived in such a poor way. But I got roped in to help when I could with her, and when she died another sister came and she went doolally, and I looked after her and she was – I can’t describe how she was, she was rather a nice person but…
End of Tape One. Some discussion as to whether to listen to it. They decide to do it later.
Bet seems to resume in the middle of a topic.
BB: You know there was quite a problem going on with what we called the two peaks(?) gravel pit you see, well where I was born at Pipers End which was just on the Woolmers estate but not in the farmhouse proper I knew of this area where the peaks are - and I was just – the gentleman that lived in the cottage where I was born, one afternoon I had a phone call he says “I’ve just read your story” and I don’t know him from Adam – anyway, we wrote back once or twice and because I’d got interested Mr and Mrs Bagenal* got me to write to the County Council protesting against it, the extraction, which I did, and then I got quite a bit of communication from the council with reference to it, and I don’t know why but somehow or other I got involved in this peak problem, which in a sense is rather nice, but I don’t know that I want to really.
*Another HOHG recording.
PR: Oh yes, yes
BB: I sent them some money, not realising because – how stupid of me – I sent them some money to help. I think the chairman who lives in one of these cottages, and he wrote back and it wasn’t until I got the next letter, from them I think it was, saying what it was costing, and I thought, of course the poor darlings, you can’t fight a thing without money, can you? And then they were getting – got involved and it was costing thousands of pounds
PR: But the little group that was working to try to get something done needs its own funding for publicity and post and things like that. But it’s being dealt with quite seriously now by various councils
BB: Yes – I had a letter, I think it was Monday, but it didn’t mean anything to me – they were saying B something, and something else and something else, and of course it was all Dutch to me, I don’t know what they’re talking about.
PR: No, no. So - do you know where Cumberland Green was?
BB: No, that’s what I was really going to say – I had this letter with a diagram of the area, and they were mentioning various greens, but I wasn’t aware that such greens were called by those names – Letty Green, Cole Green, that’s my lane, that’s her lane, you know, it didn’t mean anything, no, no, it just happened
PR: Did you have anything to do with Mrs Cannon in Hertingfordbury village – Win Cannon* ?
*Lived at 253 Hertingfordbury Road opposite the White Horse
BB: Yes, I know her. Very elderly, isn’t she?
PR: She’s about 95
Bb; Yes, I knew her quite well. Yes, I knew her husband. Her husband used to be the baker’s roundsman for Rayments – Rayments the bakers in Hertingfordbury. And Mr Cannon used to deliver bread to Woolmers, you see. And it was very funny because I can remember, his wife had a baby girl, and I can remember my mother saying “How is the baby?” you see, and him saying “Oh she’ll soon be riding a bike”. Well, you know, this girl is elderly now! What have they done with all those years? She’s quite elderly. I was surprised to hear that Mrs Cannon was still alive, and she refuses to budge from the cottage
PR: Yes, she won’t go from that. And she’s got a coal fire, and she sits there with this coal fire in the back room, and it’s very – have you been in
BB: I’ve been in years ago, when I was at school, one of my school friends, she used to live in that cottage or the one next to it, we used to go there for Christmas parties
PR: There was that back door at an angle, and there’s half a window really. It’s not like May Dennis’s but it’s a very dark back room. And she sits with a coal fire every day
BB: Does she?
PR: Yes, and looks after herself
BB: Yes, Doris* said that she just won’t budge, she won’t go and live with her, But she worked at Addis for a good many years, I mean she worked as long as she could, put it like that.
PR: Did she?
BB: Oh yes. She was a cheerful person
PR: And very near to – well, to Rayment’s, well, in the same yard.
BB: Yes, yes. But of course it isn’t Rayment’s now
PR: I remember going up there about ten years ago in August, and in her kitchen there was a row of keys, and various people in Hertingfordbury village were away, and every one had left Mrs Cannon, you know, feed this goldfish… this cat………..
BB: Yes, typical, typical
PR: They were central to the village…
BB: Yes, well they lived there, I don’t know where they lived before they went to that cottage, but he definitely worked for Rayment the baker when we were at Woolmers, and we were at Woolmers, what? 1910 to 25, so it was 1920 that he worked in the village
PR: Was it just the one daughter then?
BB: Yes, just the one daughter (Doris)
PR: What about Panshanger, did that affect your lives at all?
BB: Nor really, no, not really. We used to go, the school used to go to Panshanger once a year, or perhaps twice a year. We used to have, you know, the annual bun feast. And I used to love it - we used to go in an open cart – we did in those days, we used to go in a long open cart to this bun feast at Panshanger House, and we used to have tea in the dining hall, waited on by maids and butlers – it was quite something. Lady Desborough – well, she was a darling lady, she really was. And we used to have tea and a Punch and Judy show in the, I don’t know if it was the picture gallery, or if we went through the picture gallery, what I’m really getting at - the gallery was full of large paintings which didn’t really mean much to me, but I do think that we should have been told who painted this and who painted that, because – how many years ago, ten, fifteen years ago I went with my sister-in-law – do you remember the Pullens that lived at Hertingfordbury?
PR: Oh yes,yes
BB: Well Harold –I knew him quite well, him and his wife, and they moved to Bexhill
PR: They were living in Ware Road
BB: Woodlands Road, yes. Well, when he retired they moved down to Bexhill because really – not that they wanted to leave Hertford but I think some of the family were living down there and they thought we’re both getting a bit elderly we’ll live near the family, but like most things happen when they got down there the family moved away – anyway, we went down, I went down with my sister-in-law for two or three days holiday, and Harold as a special treat for me, he took me to Burgh (?) House which was the home of Lord and Lady Gage* and Lady Gage was Imogen Grenfell, you see. And of course when we got there, there were some of Panshanger‘s treasures. There were several pictures that had hung in the gallery that we had seen as children…
*HOHG hope to have a recording with Lord Gage by Dorothy Abel Smith in 2015
PR: When you were on your treat?
BB: Yes, and a huge Bible, quite a few things that I vaguely remember, but it was the pictures that I said, well if only we’d been told who painted this and who painted that instead of going to the silly Punch and Judy. I think that was a cruel thing, don’t you?
(Confused discussion and general agreement)
JR: I never enjoyed Punch and Judy shows. I used to feel quite intimidated by them.
BB: I think its teaching the children the wrong thing, I mean, bashing policemen on the head and goodness knows what, ooh no
JR: But one thing you didn’t like, you didn’t like the sweets, did you ?
JR: The sweets
BB: The Panshanger sweets – no, Lady Desborough, she was a darling. “Like a sweety?” I was going into the main hall one day to get something and she was coming out, you see, and she’d got a very large basket full of sweets – “Would you like a sweet” - and she had rather a squinty face – and she actually gave me a sweet, and then she went onto the grass and she scattered - “come on children” – and she was scattering these sweets, as if it was chickens, you know, and exactly the same thing at the end of the 1914-18 war. I was at Birch Green School and I remember that so freely, the head ladies of the village came round, exactly the same again, throwing us sweets. I don’t suppose I threw any back but – even as a child I remember that, I remember that. I mean, they didn’t used to put them in wrappers in those days like they do now.
BB: Not me. But things have changed, haven’t they. I remember when we used to have a flower and produce show at the – people used to call the Memorial Hall in those days, because Cowpers had that - Mayflower Place – they had that built for the people of the village, and of course it was called Memorial Hall, and what happened was that when Lady Desborough died they found that there were no papers ruling that this was to belong to the village, so Julian Salmond he was the grandson of whoever, he sold it to the highest bidder, I don’t know, he sold it to these people.
PR: It used to be here, didn’t it, the Mayflower
Transcriber’s note : In Wall House, North Road where the recording took place, in Grange Close
BB: Yes, yes
PR: Along the road from the erm…
BB: Yes, so that’s why the village – just because the papers weren’t properly signed, you see there was nothing binding. I don’t understand why the powers that be didn’t get all together, get the village together and say well we’ll buy it ourselves. But I don’t know what really went on anyway, but that’s what happened.
PR: It was a very big and grand village hall, wasn’t it?
BB: Oh yes, yes. There were school concerts there. But we used to have these flower shows, and I think I’ve always been a little bit bolshie, I don’t know, but I remember, I think it was Mrs Leslie, from Epcombs was presenting the prizes, and there was this lady from Cole Green, she’d won a prize of some sort, and she went up to be presented with the prize, and she curtsied! And I ooh (words fail her) yes, well it was done in those days.
PR: Talking about Horace’s electrical chair, I can remember Mrs Leslie in a wheelchair that had a bar at the front
BB: Oh yes, yes, like a cycle yes, I’ve seen those, yes
PR: Do you remember that? I remember seeing her going down by the White Horse
PR: Yes, driving herself, as it were, by Turning a pair of cycle pedals on a pole, in front of her, yes.
BB: Did you used to deliver – how did you know them then?
PR: Well, Miss Turnbull , next door to us in Hertingfordbury Road, her mother was a Spratt
BB: Oh, I see
PR: One of the Spratts of Hertingfordbury, the tailor.
BB: Yes, yes
PR: I used to go up with Aunt Nora Turnbull to see Frank Spratt, and Winnie, his Irish wife. And quite a lot of things I saw from that tailor’s shop in the village…
BB: Oh, yes, yes
PR: Sometimes I had to run messages. I remember running back as the gaslights were just coming on in the street, seeing if I could go from one to the next one, before it popped on you know, little things like that. There were gas lamps all the way really along Hertingfordbury Road* through the village, but they were a long long way apart.
Transcriber’s Note: From the canteen/ school dinners centre near The Ridings today.
BB: Yes, because I remember cycling home from work – that was before the days of settling (?) lamps they called them, they had carbide in them. You turned the water on, wait there for the gas, we lit that and we had quite a good light. But previous to that we had really very very small oil lamps, and once you got under the bridges* you were more or less in darkness until you got home, you see, and the light was so very small
*The two railway bridges near Sele Road, side by side!
PR: Yes, it’s a long way from the ??
BB: Yes , from the bridges to the bottom of Pullen’s Hill as I call it, you see. Yes, it wasn’t very easy, but we managed. I suppose it was a way of life and we didn’t take much notice of any difficulty at all
PR: Both Spratts were quite interesting – his father kept that tailor’s shop first. There were two Franks
BB: Oh, were there – yes,I knew him quite well – I knew her quite well. She was a charming lady, I thought. Yes, I knew her quite well. She was a bit vivacious wasn’t she? Yes
PR: Yes, I don’t think she went down too well with the Turnbull family. Yes, I think they thought that Frank had made a funny match with Winnie. She was a bit gushing…
BB: Yes, I quite agree, yes. But she was friendly, yes, very friendly.
PR: Yes, that was the link there. And Aunt Nora Turnbull’s mother was frightened of lightning. Have I told you this one?
JR: Probably because that’s where I would have heard it. I can’t remember which one
PR: No. Well when Nora Turnbull’s mother was a girl, with the Spratts, living just up St. Mary’s Lane, she saw a corpse being carried down off the cricket field, a body had been struck while sheltering under the trees, by lightning, and it was sort of charred and awful, and she just saw it being carried on some boards down the hill to be put in a shed outside the White Horse. And that so upset her that like a lot of people she was frightened of storms and thunder and lightning, and she passed on that fear to her children. Laura Turnbull became the head of the school for forty-one years, and she also had this fear of lightning, she said stemming back from her mother’s experience. The man who died lived in the first house – it’s still there - at the top of the hill as you approach Staines Green – if you go past the Mayflower…
BB: Oh, I know, yes, yes
PR: He lived there apparently. But that was – Nora was born about 1870, and her mother was a girl so this was about 1840 or 1830, as far back as that, probably. So that was our interest, it wasn’t our family, but…
BB: A family interest, yes. That house you were speaking about, I knew the family, the boy used to come to Birch Green school, and I can always remember, I was very very, well I must have been very very young, but I remember when the Zeppelin fell at Cuffley, he went on his bike and brought back supposedly a piece of the airship, the Zeppelin. I can remember vaguely him showing it round the other children. I read in one of the books that it was, that thousands of people converged on Cuffley the day of the – the day after. My sister- not my sister, my sister-in-law – she’s a very sensible person, she’s very knowledgeable, she went to Ware Grammar School if that makes any difference, but when I told her that last year my nephew, my niece and her husband, took me to Cuffley to see the monument erected in honour of Leaf(?) Robinson, and I told my sister-in-law about it and she said “ Is there any of the airship, the Zeppelin, left in the field?” (much laughter and comments) … well ploughed in!
PR: My grandad remembered seeing the – you mentioned earlier the Bull Plain, when three people died - when Grandad was a boy, going to work the next morning to the Post Office, he saw a wrist and a hand in the gutter. That was one of his horrible stories. I mean he didn’t pass that straight on to me, he died ten years before I was born, but Grandma told me about it, and that was the thing that stuck with him, so it could well have been your ??? shopkeeper’s erm… (Mr Cartledge)
BB: Yes, yes, it could have been, yes
JR: Gwen was saying this morning that two men were killed here, just outside here, going from here, going to the hospital, that I didn’t know about. Not the same bomb but there was a series of bombs dropped
PR: Well, Hilda Whittaker, who comes to St. Andrew’s, living in Sele Road,
BB: Yes, she was a Spicer, wasn’t she…
PR: She was a Spicer – writes to an old lady living in Sussex*, who lived next door to where Evelyn was living as a child, and her father was one of the two men that died, just here. I went to see her, she’s in her late eighties, but she left Hertford years and years ago, and she said that they told her that her father had been – the explosion killed him, it wasn’t a direct hit, it was the – something to do with the, the explosion
*Mrs Joys (May Joys) husband? was church warden in St Andrews with George Ditton.
BB: Yes, it was the air…
PR: Yes, somehow, and they wouldn’t take his clothing off him, he was held and his body had been sort of exploded and they wouldn’t take her father’s clothing off because the body would…
BB: Disintegrate, yes
PR: Yes. That was her own father. She was very very small of course, but – and he was working at Garratt’s Mill, he was a worker.
BB: I really can’t – I know I’m not wrong but I get mixed up with these Zeppelins that were shot down, there were, they speak of two being shot down, and they seem to get mixed up with the one I saw and one that came – what I’m getting at really – when I was at Pipers End and I was about six, seven years old one came over our apple tree, I remember seeing that as clear as clear, but we moved from Pipers End to the farmhouse, and we hadn’t been there long and there was another air raid when they bombed Essendon, but the historians seem to be getting mixed up in some way, but I know there was a difference, because I lived at Pipers End for one, and Woolmers Park for the other one. And we went – my father and mother took us to Essendon the Sunday after, and I remember going – it was quite near the church, the church was bombed, but there was a house there, and the front was taken completely, completely down like that, and the bed, a black and brass bedstead was still in the bedroom, just as if, you know, it was a showpiece, the front was cut off, ?? hadn’t been touched really, it was quite something, but… I know I’m right, I know, I know I’m right, I saw it at Pipers End and I saw one at Woolmers. But the books, the historians seem to get mixed up in some way. Not that it matters really. But they seem to have shot down two in the Cuffley area, I don’t know…
PR: I’m meaning to sort out these bombs and things, I get the wars muddled up
BB: I don’t – it’s so confusing
PR: you know, what happened at Mill Bridge and what happened at Bull Plain?
BB: Yes, yes
PR: and Tamworth Road, and when the – well - our back window we’ve got, the back bedroom window at 62, it’s very thin glass because that was blown out when – apparently it (the broken glass) went over my cot on the inside – when the bomb dropped on Mill Bridge. I’ll have to look up the date to see how old I would have been. But that glass was the wartime replacement, still there, and when you clean the window it’s almost as if, you know, almost like it moves…
BB: When the bomb hit – it was the doodlebug, wasn’t it, on the bridge, and I can always remember it was, I think it was early Sunday morning, and there was a terrific bang, and in no time at all our sash windows were up, and all the way along the headware and the curlers (laughter) the curlers, yes, it was funny, everybody’s head was out, and our curlers…( more laughter)
PR: Right, Jean…
JR: Turn it off now. I’ll come back again, I wanted Peter to come because I cannot carry on the same dialogue, because I don’t know the same people. It’s been marvellous, but I’ve been nothing more than a listener, which I love doing but…..
BB: The trouble is, you see, I’m ???
JR: No, it doesn’t matter
BB: I ??? an awful lot. And when I – you know I wrote my Woolmers story, I took it down to my sister-in-law who lives down in Weybridge - she went to Ware Grammar – and I took the story down, and she sent it to friends of hers who are a bit that way and they said to her “Oh I think it’s splendid, it really is splendid” and she said “I said to them, they said it was splendid, and I said Well she only went to a Council school”! (laughs) I thought that was funny
PR: I wonder whether…what we might do with the tapes in a long time ahead, you know, years ahead, is publish little bits of it, and there’s a form for you to just tick off to say whether you’re happy. I think what we’ve said today is all right, isn’t it, I mean we haven’t said anything nasty about anybody
BB: No I’d hate to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I don’t think that it’s my nature to.
PR: We haven’t done any – I mean we’ve laughed about May Dennis but it’s been warm…
BB: Yes, it’s the same with Evelyn*, I mean, I love Evelyn, I was so fond of Ron as well, he was a darling man, but Ron – but Evelyn is a poor little thing – we say “poor old Evelyn” but we don’t say it disrespectfully.
*Evelyn Walls née ? then Ambrose (Ron) then Hayden
PR: No. no. But I wondered whether some bits of your writing about Woolmers could be included, you know, with your permission, at any point?
BB: You can do what you like with it, I don’t…
JR: You did say to me that had you known anyone was going to read it, apart from the immediate family, you would have elaborated more – you could still do
BB: Well, the point is, what I meant, Jean, I said I remember seeing the Zeppelin. I should have said I remember seeing a large cigar-shaped object, enlarged on that, and enlarged on a huge fire in the distance, you see – I made nothing of it
PR: I think it stands very very well any way
BB: It could have definitely…
JR: You weren’t happy with the detail, were you?
JR: You were not very happy with the…
BB: Well the whole idea of this thing was – I went to Woolmers, I wanted to go to Woolmers, you see, and I wrote in an exercise book, brought it home, and the book, in detail, and the notes, and I wrote it down in detail in the exercise book, and left it in the cupboard there. My niece came over several years after and she looked at it and she said “ Oh my, do you mind if I type it?” and it went from there, never meaning anyone to see it but myself, you see. But had I realised I might have enlarged on – this airship, this Zeppelin, I could have made a bit more of that. I don’t…
PR: What we were wondering was – I must go off, I’ve got to go to Horns Mill and then to Sele (?) – (interruption) where we say that she’s been happy for bits of that writing to be used, in the same way as we would use the oral bit, it might be a useful sort of permission. I mean, if it’s done in the next few years then we can always check with you, but it might not be done for twenty years, and people would say, well
BB: Poor old soul, she’s been gone…
PR: Yes, but if we knew that you’re happy with it
BB: Well I mean, it’s yours to do what you like with, you’ve got it, you know, I don’t mind. But what is the idea of it anyway?
PR: Well, there are two things. One is to get voices –
BB: It isn’t working is it?
PR: Say that bit again – I’ll tell you why. Because Rosie Crane and, er, who else?
JR: Florrie Gibbins
PR: Florrie Gibbins, Florrie Everett were arguing about where this Sinden’s* was
*Macfarlane’s? C A Sinden’s- drapers at 2and 3 Market Place before Macfarlane’s
BB: Yes, Sinden’s shop, very high class ladies’ outfitters, and they were, I think either where Bradford and Bingley or…
JR: East Herts Electrical
BB: East Herts , that’s right, it was there. Probably both shops, it was quite a large shop, high class, very nice. And one girl – I think she was only the maid, I knew these people from coming in the shop, you see, and I remember she went out with – this particular girl, she used to go years ago, with Mr Warner, and then they broke up, and this girl went with a, would they call him a projectionist at the Castle cinema
PR: Oh yes
BB: And he came in the shop one day and he said that he was leaving the Castle and going to work at Elstree studio, and we thought, you know, why? And he said that he thought that in years to come – he thought he would leave the cinema because in time they would die out. He said the thing of the future was that everyone would have a small screen in their own house. He looked as far ahead as that, it was rather wonderful, it all came to pass, you see.
PR: Yes, yes. So that was the person who – that was Molly Warner’s predecessor, as it were, just before she…
BB: Yes, yes yes. No, it was this young man, she went out with this young man, and he worked at the Castle cinema.
PR: She’s been very good, Molly, on tape, talking about her early years in service at Panshanger
BB: Has she yes… The Desboroughs were a very nice family, actually, well respected…
PR: Yes. You say COWper
PR: I say COOper
BB: Yes, it’s always Cooper, I don’t know why. It’s spelt Cowper isn’t it? It’s like Hertford, isn’t it, should be Hurtford. It’s funny how…
JR: A lot of people I’ve listened to, they say Hertford or Herford, but they don’t say Hurtingfordbury
PR: Yes, yes. I don’t think there’s any logic behind that, people do.
BB: It’s a bit slangy perhaps. I always say Hertingfordbury
PR: I don’t think Hurtingfordbury is right, any more than when people say they live in Hurts, is really right, but people do say it
BB: When was it changed then, Peter? Because a lot of the old maps say H A R T
PR: A R T yes
BB: The reason why, yes, the reason why
PR: We didn’t mention the outside loos May Dennis was using, her loo across the yard ???
PR: Can we talk about May Dennis’s loo first, or are you talking about the Parker’s loos (laughter). May was using her outside loo all the time, wasn’t she? A ninety-year-old, across the yard, across the footpath, as it were, at the back, and round the wash-house…
BB: And the grass used to be so long, didn’t it, the grass used to be so long, she must have been wet through before she got in there.
PR: Yes, but for a ninety-year-old, all weathers…
End of second side
BB: I’ll tell you the story of Parker’s later…………..but Freda – posh Freda you know, she got so poorly she had to have meals on wheels, and I used to go round there with a warm plate, and she’d wash her undies, and she’d hang them on a piece of string over this gas fire – ooh it was terrible – that was how these poor old dears had to bear. And it ?? with Winnie –not Winnie, Vicky next door. She was a darling lady but she went a bit funny in her head you see, and all night she – well she wouldn’t have, she couldn’t put the light on, and I used to worry myself sick about her and Horace said “Oh for goodness sake come and sit down, don’t keep worrying about her”, and I wasn’t happy until I knew that she was up in bed, upstairs in bed, and she was going to her kitchen, and she’d put her plate on the table, and she’d get a packet of Corn Flakes and she’d pour them all out, like that, and she’d put them back in the box – that’s how she spent every evening all the time, it was so worrying. It really was, and I put up with it as long as I could until I had to ask the children to come and sort things out a bit. But you know, because of that, this had happened so many years ago, and yet you know the family have never forgotten. You know they still remember – I had a letter from one the other day. They’re so kind, remembering that I was kind to their Mum, which was worth it all, isn’t it really.
PR: I don’t erm – Violet – no.no, wait a minute – which one was that?
BB: This one, the one I’m speaking about now, is another ?? Violet and Winnie lived together – they both died and another cousin came to live. It was always let to another cousin.
PR: I don’t remember her, I must have been at college or working or something…
BB: Yes she was a bit more distinguished than the other two, if one can say that of anyone . She was very very nice
PR: So what was her Christian name then?
PR: I know you said Vicky
BB: Vicky, Victoria, yes. I stayed with their son, one of their sons, a couple of years running. They live at Maldon, you know, in the Essex area. And we went to visit them last year, and when we were on holiday we went to visit them, and they always made us so welcome, they were so nice, yes. Who else did you know about, you know the Parkers…
PR: Oh there was Chummy Walls
BB: Oh yes, I think I ought to tell you this story about Chummy Walls. He was a dear man, wasn’t he, I thought he was, anyway. Mrs Walls well but Mr Parker, he was always so helpful, he couldn’t resist helping, but he always did the wrong thing. And I – Horace was – we weren’t living near but I think it was Phil ?? told us about it. Mr Walls couldn’t knock a nail in, you know, he was a clerical type
PR: Insurance man
BB: Yes, insurance man. He couldn’t knock a nail in, but he had a chicken run, and he decided he’d have a little additional piece, to make a walk in before going in the chicken house because of (chickens) coming out. And Mr Parker went to see what Chummy was doing and took over, and what happened was that Mr Parker nailed himself in! (Much laughter) He nailed himself in. Oh, hilarious, it was. Another day he thought he would make a hole to put a - well mat hole, if you get my meaning. He dug up the lino, and dug up this and made a hole and he got to the joist boards – are they called joists ?? – he cut those and (laughs) he didn’t know what to do after that! (More laughter) He was a dear, though, he really was. He was so kind, he couldn’t do enough, and the girls were just the same, the girls were just the same.
PR: Yes. Now who was it who was deaf and dumb, was that a sister?
BB: A cousin
PR: A cousin, yes – of the Parkers
BB: The Parkers, yes
JR: Why did, I’ve had these stories before, haven’t I, some of them because I’ve spent many long hours here……….
PR: And then there was rather funny one on the end, wasn’t it, one of the Neal boys’ wife – he had a smallholding, Neal…
BB: Neal, yes
PR: They’re ?? now, but his wife had all sorts of airs and graces
BB: She shouldn’t have had airs and graces, not really, no, she shouldn’t have had. But anyway. Unfortunately, I shouldn’t say, we used to call her Dopey. Well, it wasn’t me – they used to say “here comes old Dopey” – I think Jean* and Ruby used to call her – she wasn’t Dopey, by no means, she knew how to make ?? in portions and ?? into portions, you know, she was all there on the ball. And do you know their son John?
*Ruby’s daughter now of 18 Campfield Road.
PR: Yes. Musician, isn’t he?
BB: Well, you wouldn’t… my nephew married a girl of the name of Donohue. The Donohue’s and the Bacons were related in some way, so that I sort of know – I didn’t have an awful lot with my nephew, he’s a dear boy but you know what families are, they live reasonably near but they don’t come in only occasionally, anyway, one day, Barry and Ann, they were going to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, and their boy was in college somewhere in the Bournemouth area, so they decided to go down to a hotel in Bournemouth to have this celebration with all their local friends and paid the lot, you know, money was no object, or it doesn’t seem to be an object now. Anyway, whatever, when we got down there, who should run the hotel but John, yes John ran the hotel. John and another chap were in partnership, and lovely hotel people. And funnily enough called the Hartford Hotel, but not H E R. H A R. And I think that’s what persuaded them to buy the hotel, because of the name really. But they made – we had a lovely time down there.
PR: John was very “upper”. He didn’t muck around with the rest of the lads
BB: Yes – a bit limp you know, a bit limp, but a very nice young man
PR: But what – in the Neal, the father’s family, are related to – lots of brothers weren’t there? But she never quite seemed to fit in. He was an ordinary – seemed to be an ordinary sort of bloke, but she had all this kind of…(Speaking together) the make-up, and all sorts of colourful stuff
BB: I don’t know why she should, because…I don’t know why she should be, because there’s no reason for it. When we moved to Hertingfordbury Road, our house belonged to Bacon, who was her father. Her father, you see, she was a Bacon. People went on about him but we found them quite kindly, inasmuchas ?? but they never did anything for one, you know. I think we lived there several years before we bought it, all he ever gave us was a copper lid, which we’d thrown the copper out, we didn’t keep it, you know? So he never gave us anything, but as I say, he was quite nice.
PR: So would she be Arthur Bacon’s sister, then? Are they the same generation?
BB: Ah, no, not Arthur Bacon’s sister. I think Arthur Bacon is her step-brother. Yes, step-brother. Because there was Dolly, Dolly was the one you know, and then there was another sister. Did you know the other sister?
PR: No, I don’t think…
BB: She married - she married someone from I don’t know where, but then she married someone called Saunders
PR: Tom Saunders.
BB: Tom Saunders, that’s right
PR: Tenor, he sang tenor, in the Hertford Choir I suppose. He was a very good tenor.
BB: I think he was, yes. She married and they lived I always call it near Chadwell Springs, one of those nice houses there.
PR: Oh yes, I’d forgotten that
BB: So there were two sisters and then Mr. Bacon married again, and this boy, Arthur Bacon, would be the son of the second marriage, you see.
PR: Yes, I’d forgotten that Tom Saunders had a connection there. He left his wife, didn’t he, Tom, to marry her - she lived at Fordwich (1st wife)
BB: Was she a schoolteacher?
PR: I don’t know what she did. I haven’t seen her for a long time. She had a father, Mr. Hurry. She must have been a Miss Hurry. And he got knocked over one afternoon, a Saturday afternoon when I was working at Farnham’s paper shop – heard the ambulance called to somewhere near by – it may have been a bell in those days – and Tom Saunders’ wife had left her old father, he was 84, to go – I think she went to the library and he went to the post office, about half-past two on a Saturday afternoon, and he came out of the post office, stepped into the road and was hit by a car. He was injured quite badly but he lived for several years. I remember his name was Mr. Hurry. But I’d completely forgotten about Tom Saunders. Right, and then of course, you’ve got Scales the builders
BB; Yes, Now, Knapp Harms, he was a charmer, wasn’t he, absolute charmer. He was so so nice, he really was. I remember one day, because I like the do-it-yourself, I’ve got my own hammer and screwdriver and all the lot of it, and I used to – this was when Horace was ill, I used to do painting, I couldn’t afford a painter to do the outside, so I did the bedroom windows by sitting on the sill with the sash window up, you know, and Knapp came along and he said “You’ve got the wrong brush there” and I mean, he ran his own business, and he went to the yard and he came back with a specially trimmed brush, for me to do my windows, and I thought it was very – he was a darling man, wasn’t he. It should never have happened to him.
PR: No, he had a stroke, didn’t he, really – they thought it probably was, at the top of the steps at the station.
BB: He fell down the concrete steps at the North Station. Of course they are a bit dangerous, aren’t they
PR: What, you think he just fell and injured his…
BB: Yes, I think probably – yes, I think he did, just slipped. It’s so easily done, isn’t it?
PR: Well, yes, maybe that’s what it was. I thought he’d probably had…
BB: Well yes, he may have – he worked very hard, in his way
PR: He was an architect by training, but he wasn’t very good at managing the business, was he
BB: Hopeless. He was hopeless, he really was. I mean, if you wanted – if you asked for him to mend a roof, you know, put slates on a roof, you’d never get a bill, you had to ask for a bill, because he was so slap-happy – so charming, but you know, he wasn’t the right man to run a business, was he?
PR: It was his uncle, Alfred Scales’, business that he inherited. I think it was, judging from my grandmother’s comments, and we always used Scales out of loyalty to him, but sometimes the men, she thought, were sort of running circles round him, some of them, not the older ones like Grover and Les Belton (?) and people like that but some of the others didn’t really work well, and then bills didn’t come the business really slipped away. But the undertaking side, he kept going well with the undertaking…
BB: But the other chap did most of that, what was his name?
PR: Bob Balaam *
* 9A Nelson Street pronounced Baylam
BB: Balaam, yes. I think he had the majority of the say in that, I rather imagined he did.
PR: But Knapp was always good for, you know, a good funeral or…
BB: Oh yes, he’d say just the right things.. He was an absolute charmer, he really was, so so kind
PR: But then you had a sort of local collection with Hilda Harms, didn’t you, because the Peets…
BB: Yes, Knapp Harms married a girl Peet who came from Birch Green, I went to school with her. I was talking to Marjorie only this morning, you know, the other Peet, the one that’s left, yes. But Hilda always - I don’t say, I don’t know, she always thought she was a little bit above her sisters, she wasn’t easy. I don’t think she could wait to get away from Hertingfordbury Road, she wanted to go a little bit higher than Hertingfordbury Road, so she went to live up in Bengeo, Duncombe Road. She was always quite nice, but she always, I think, you know, she dropped quite a few people when she got in with Knapp. Yes, it was a shame really.
PR: Yes, because she was – Mum used to say that, because at school, she would have nothing to do with Mum, at Ware Grammar school, she was always with the better girls there, as it were. And then, nothing much really, I mean they weren’t, they just didn’t have much to do with each other here –I used to go and play in the yard with Adrian but there was never a – until suddenly Hilda started coming to church. All through Adrian’s and Jane’s childhood we didn’t see her – and then she came to St. Andrew’s suddenly and she was super. The things she did there, organising all sorts of things. She started running the CAB, didn’t she, she was one of the founder members of the Citizens Advice Bureau, and really got – but she had a very posh voice, compared with her sister Mabel
BB: Mabel, yes. I don’t know why she acquired – I think she must – no, she couldn’t have had elocution lessons or anything like that, because she was the same when I was at school with her. She always had that (Bet makes noises to imitate the accent) ?? making that she came from the aristocracy really
PR: Was she born in that cottage on the main road?
BB: Yes, yes
PR: At Birch Green?
BB: Birch Green, yes
PR: As you go to, well, past Birch Green really and you’re heading towards Cole Green, the last house on the right.. Before the gap, field, and then you come to Wheatley and Knight’s garage. Last on the right – her mother lived there
BB: Yes, actually it was a nice cottage and Mr Peet used to keep the garden nice, but now it’s all overgrown…
PR: Is it?
BB: Mmm. I went in there about a couple or three years ago. I had to get something to Birch Green school and I went there and they’d knocked, you know like some of these houses, the centre was knocked out into one big room, and you know, the Peets, it wasn’t the Peets’ house, you know, it was so disappointing.
PR: And was Mr. Peet the Schools Inspector, was he to do with that family?
BB: Yes, he was Hilda’s uncle. Hilda’s father was a wheelwright, I think they termed him as a wheelwright at Cole Green garage, which was – I don’t know who it belonged to previously, it was bought by Wheatley and Knight, I think it still retains that name doesn’t it
PR: Yes. He was a wheelwright? Gosh
BB: I think he was termed as a wheelwright, he worked in a shed where they used to – yes they had cart wheels and – yes he could be termed as a wheelwright. He was a nice man, he wasn’t pompous like the School Inspector.
PR: Right. So what about the School Inspector. I know Nora Turnbull used to talk about him. I think she chummed up with him but she was in fear and dread of him…
BB: Well, I don’t know – he used to come to Birch Green school, of course, and he was very friendly with Mr. Rayment who was the headmaster there then, and they both seemed to be so chummy that I don’t think that we were ever in fear of him really. I think that because of the close association of those two that we didn’t dread him. The scripture inspector, yes, probably him! But not Mr. Peet. I do remember him, and I remember he was rather pompous, you know
PR: So that was the brother of the wheelwright
BB: That’s right, yes. And then there was another brother, Arthur, I think his name was Arthur, he lived along the North Road. In fact at one time, Marjorie told me this not so long ago,, at one time Hertingfordbury church choir consisted of nothing else but Peets – there was Mr. Peet and the three daughters, Hilda, Marjorie and Mabel, there was the Peet from up North Road who had a son and a daughter, and fancy, they were all Peets. I guess that didn’t go down too well with the village
PR: No. The board man was really a truant catcher wasn’t he? I mean, what was the title of the – was it just truant catcher? Or was he…
PR: The Mr Peet that…
BB: Well, I think that was the whole idea, wasn’t it
PR: I think that now someone who does that sort of education welfare officer – but he was really like a policeman for the boys and girls who…
BB: I don’t think there was much truancy in those days, I don’t remember. I think the whole idea when we went to school was to see who could bring the prize for going the whole year without a break in our attendance. In fact my elder sister was the first one to ever get a prize for five years without a day’s absence, yes. I remember – do you remember under the bridges coming into Hertford, under the railway bridge there, there was a big house called the Grey Gables*, and then there was some workshops, now they belonged to Mr…
*Transcribers note: Peter Ruffles thinks The Gables on the right had side entering Hertingfordbury, between the railway and Mimram Road in 2015.
PR: Well that was Scales top yard. That whole Mimram Road was the top yard for Scales, and they gradually developed that
BB: Yes but didn’t Mr – oh – the person who used to have a cycle shop just beyond that
PR: Oh, Wackett (?)
BB: Wackett. Didn’t Mr Wackett, he had a unit there of some sort, didn’t he?
PR: Well, his was more – the Gables was near the railway line, then there was Scales’s top yard. Then you had four cottages. There was MacWaters and Hornby’s, which were behind the garage, because Hornby’s ?? round it, and then two that were near the road, still there, were Mrs. Harris , and Mrs Hawthorn lived. So there were four cottages, and where the garage is was where Wackett’s
Transcribers Note: Peter Ruffles has added that Miss Edie (Hornby?) was a teacher at St Andrew’s Infants.
BB: I remember going there – I remember when I was a Girl Guide, I don’t know whose bike I was using, because we were poor, I think we probably had one bike amongst the whole five of us, I don’t really remember, but you know when one’s a Guide the thing is to get your sleeve full of badges, you see, and I went in for the cyclist’s badge, and Miss Leslie who was from Epcombs there, she was the Captain of the Guides, Hertingfordbury group, and I was sent to Mr Wackett’s to pass my Cyclist’s badge, and I remember Mr Wackett – was he the brother to – Fred
PR: Yes, yes
BB: Yes – I was a poor little kid from up the country – anyway I managed quite all right, but when it came to getting the finish he said “I can see you know how to do it, let me finish for you” - I think he wanted to get rid of me! (laughs) I remember there was also another gentleman there, he was a short, rather tubby man, and I think years after this, when cycling to Hertford to work, I used to pass this gentleman walking along as if he was working at those sheds, and was he a Mr White? Was he erm Graham and what’s-his-name White – used to live in a cottage near Evelyn – a short tubby man, a short tubby man really
PR: I don’t know – there was a family called Mr and Mrs White –
BB: Graham and, what was the other one? There were two sons – Fred, that’s right, Fred and Graham White, the two sons. Don’t you remember the father?
PR: I don’t remember the connection with Wackett’s
BB: I’m certain he worked in that unit somewhere, and I remember going there. And when I actually did start work at Fordham’s I couldn’t really afford – well the buses had started, they had started then to all the villages – I really couldn’t afford the bus fare, so it was decided that I would buy a bike, you see , and this bike was four, nineteen and sixpence, and I could have it on the never-never, well I’m never having it again on the never-never, I was always paying for it! It was hopeless. I remember, we used to come opposite your villas – we used to call your houses the villas, there was this lovely high brick wall, and my sister and I, we used to – I think she used to work in a café , in that photograph there, I think it’s Honey Lane, I think one of those, I think it was, the one nearest to – I don’t know when that was taken –I think it was an antique shop, and it was turned into a tea room, and my sister worked there, that’s why I brought that actually, I think that’s rather a lovely picture. Erm… long pause…I don’t know what I was going to say to you now – oh, I know – she used to work there, and I worked at Fordhams, and we used to cycle along in the morning, and when we came to your villas we knew all the names by heart – is yours Tredan? And there was one we used to call Cock-a-doodle-doo, we couldn’t pronounce the name, we called it Cock-a-doodle-doo, ?? there was Mr Tubbert and Mrs Walls, and Wackett – they had two fine daughters, didn’t they – but we only knew your end, we didn’t know much about the other end. But what I was going to say – my sister used to ride with me as far as, almost the Oak public house, and then she’d get off her bike and she’d collect rents from these little cottages – some of the little cottages – and the person who owned where she worked in Honey Lane, this lady owned most of these cottages, and my sister used to stop on a Monday morning and collect the rent. What I was really going to say was, I don’t suppose you remember, you wouldn’t of course, but quite a number of these doorways had pieces of wood up the side of the doorpost
PR: Yes, where the things to stop the kids coming out
BB: Like a gate slotted in
PR: Sometimes you had like a top of stair
BB: I can never see these gates in the doorways, and these little kids
PR: I don’t think any of them are there now
BB: I keep saying I’ll have a look, but I think these houses have been taken over by so many people, they’ve been improved, you see
PR: Derek Wisbey had one, and – to stop him getting out – and John Morgan on the end
BB: Did he really? Quite fascinating to remember… general murmurs of agreement
JR: They were quite common, in several places. They had them at Deal, yes. I remember quite clearly, particularly where it was densely populated areas where the kids didn’t have much room to play
BB: Well of course the pathway along by those was so very very narrow. And even where there wasn’t much in the way of motors there was a horse and cart, it was still dangerous.. But it is fascinating. Of course at Woolmers we had fields, we were free
PR: Nothing at the back, no garden – no back way out – just the one way –although it had a back door, it only went into the yard about as big as this room I suppose.
BB: And Evelyn (No 26 Hertingfordbury Road) even when they had the bathroom added, there was precious little yard
JR: Some of those kids were put into tea chests, actually, and they were slightly uneven, and they could just rock backwards and forwards in these tea chests, and they wouldn’t be able to get out, but they’d be able to move about in them. I’ve seen that too.
BB: Have you?
JR: Yes, yes. Toddlers.
BB: Just as good as a little play pen really
JR: Simple version – keep their little boots in.
PR: Where did Mabel Peet work? Somewhere in Fore Street near you. She used to cycle home to lunch, right up to Birch Green, up Wood Hill, and then down and up…
BB: I think when she left school she was apprenticed to dressmaking down the Ware Road somewhere, the name was Miss Dale, but I think in latter years, I think, I’m not certain, someone said she worked for Gravesons, doing alterations. I may be wrong, but I think that’s what she did.
PR: I always remember being impressed by going home to lunch. It wasn’t all that special really to cycle in to work and that, but to go home in your lunch hour I mean , she was – you know, she wasn’t a girl, and she’d cycle up – and she had a three-speed thing, and she used to say that sometimes she didn’t change – to us little boys, Adrian, and… she didn’t change down to get up Wood Hill, while we used to – we had to change down
BB: Yes, I mean the ride from here to Birch Green, the hills are terrible, aren’t they. The one I call Epcombs, and then the one to Staines Green
PR: The Mayflower one, yes. But she did that, and that after lunch – at least sometimes, I don’t know how long she had. Mabel – but Adrian had to call her “Dabel” because they didn’t like – the name Mabel was a bit too ordinary for Hilda,
PR: So she liked Dabel, yes chuckles
BB: Unbelievable. Dear, dear.
PR: Well, it’s really good isn’t it, all these…
BB: Next door to you, you used to have the Cruelty to Children’s officer live
PR: Yes, it was…
JR: Prevention of cruelty to children… (NSPCC)
PR: Yes, it was two doors – two or three doors up. We’re 62 and that was 68
BB: I remember going there when I was at Birch Green school. One of the teachers happened to find that a little boy had dark marks on his neck, and she thought he hadn’t had a full wash you see, so she investigated further and – it was a little bit hush-hush, but they examined him and they found that he was a bit bruised and - I used to do all these jobs for the boss, they called him bossy Rayment, * and I came into Hertford, and I came to the house with a note for him to call and see the little boy.
*Not the bakers but the school headmaster
PR: So what age would you have been then, when you were…
BB: Well, I suppose about thirteen, twelve or thirteen when I came into Hertford to this gentleman. I always remember that the mother got a month’s imprisonment. It was rather a sad story. The little boy’s mother had died, and the father had married again, and they had a child – he had a child with the second wife, and the second wife loathed the little boy of the first marriage, so it was – and he was such a dear little boy, so quiet and Inoffensive. I knew because I was in the top class and he was just a little mite, so I knew of him. We knew all the families really, living round about, and he was a quiet, nice little boy. Anyway, he went to live with his mother – with his aunt, and then he was quite all right. But that poor little kid, you see, had suffered, and it was only through the teacher noticing the dark marks on his neck – it does make you wonder what we’re missing, doesn’t
It. That poor little mite.
PR: What were the names of all those greens up there? There was Cumberland Green somewhere, wasn’t there? You mentioned Labby Green in your…
BB: Labby Green, yes. Well, Labby Green – I don’t know why it got that name, because it’s really only a road, a small roadway.
PR: Where – what have we got – Staines Green is what we first come to. At the top of the hill…
BB: Yes, Staines Green, and then Birch Green, then there’s Cole Green. You branch off left and then you come to Letty Green, and Labby Green is in between the two…
End of tape