|Transcript Title||Abbott, Jack (O1997.3)|
|Interviewee||Jack (JA) & Elsie (EA) Abbott|
|Interviewer||Peter Ruffles (PR) Jean Riddell (Purkis)|
|Transcriber by||Jean Riddell (Purkis)|
Hertford Oral History Group
Recording no: O1997.3
Interviewee: Jack (JA) & Elsie Abbott (EA)
Date: 29th May 1997
Venue: Gosselin Road, Hertford
Interviewers: Peter Ruffles (PR), Jean Riddell (Purkis) (JR)
Transcriber: Jean Riddell (Purkis)
Typed by: John Von Hagen
************** unclear recording
[discussion] untranscribed material
italics editor’s notes
JR: This is Jean Riddell. It is Wednesday 29th May 1997 and I'm at the home of Jack and Elsie Abbott, Gosselin Road. Peter Ruffles is also present.
Is your family a family who've lived in the town for generations, Jack, or are they relative newcomers?
JA: My father came from Ware, London Road, Ware. Those houses have been pulled down now. The road's been widened there and we moved to Hertford when I was a year old. I was born in that house.
JR: Can I ask you how old you are now?
JA: I'll be 74 in October.
JR: What attracted us to you was that your father's picture was in the display in the castle talking to William Fell.
JA: When that picture was taken, last week unfortunately Mollie Warner died, didn't she? Well, my father worked for Mr. Warner who lived where Tricentral Garage is now (present-day Gates.) There was two big houses there next to Castle Stores. Mr. Warner lived in that house. My father worked for him and every morning they used to have to go to Mr. Warner's house to get their orders for the day and what they'd got to do. And what do they call that behind the castle - Watermill Lane - Water Lane?
PR: Yes, Water Lane.
JA: Mr. Fell used to live down there. He delivered the Mercury and the papers.
My father was there talking to him and he had his picture taken that day.
PR: Just as it happened! So was that where Cannons lived and Graves Taxis?
JA: Yes, after Mr. Warner.
PR: Yes, those two houses that had front doors facing each other.
JA: The two houses looked down Castle Street. The Castle Stores on the corner.
PR: 55 and 57 Castle Street they were.
JR: So did he know William Fell quite well? People say he was called Billy Chicken.
JA: Billy Chicken, yes. William Fell his name was.
PR: I wondered who you were talking about at first when you said 'William Fell'.
JR: That's what it says on the caption. We must get it right first ,so that anybody in the future
JA: Yes, old Bill Chicken and his 3-wheeler
(to PR): have you ever tried to ride one?
JA: As children we used to be naughty because there used to be two or three of those bikes round Hertford. Another man had one that lived in Tamworth Road and he used to have a box on the back of his. He used to sell sweets - go round the houses.
JR: Yes. Oh, are they difficult to ride really then?
JA: Well, I've had a try and you have to be very careful how you corner with them.
JR: Might you tip it over?
JA: Yes. And there was another one in St. Andrew Street - used to be a hairdresser. But he had a basket chair on the back for his wife to ride in. His wife was semi-invalid. He was a hairdresser.
PR: Who was the one opposite Cooke & Dranes? There was one used to be parked in Millers Yard.
JA: Yes, Millers Yard, up the back there used to be a slaughterhouse for one of the butchers.
PR: Oh! That's the one that I can remember best.
JA: His was just a bike. He never had no boxes or chair on the back.
PR: No, I can't remember that.
JR: Are you from Hertford as well, Elsie?
JR: Oh, right! Where did you meet him?
EA: I was evacuated to Ware. 15 I was. To Ware Grammar School, because they was frightened of invasion and my sister came with me. I stayed on when I left school at 16. I got a job at Addis's until my sister was old enough to leave school. So we both went back together. But she went back and I couldn't get my release from Addis's because I was doing toothbrushes for the army, so I stayed here ever since.
JA: She actually worked for Mrs. Addis and Bert at the brush factory making toothbrushes and in those days they used to fashion them out of bone and celluloid, not moulded like they are today.
PR: No, and bristle.
EA: And when we went to Joan Coleman's mayor-making, Mr. Addis was there and he sat with me all evening. He said it's nice to see one of my workers and to be able to talk about something different than work. And he was on about Robin being out in Australia. All evening he sat with me talking.
JR: So where did you meet Jack?
JA: I was home on leave. I came home. Actually I was over Ware with some friends of mine and we met and it snowballed from there. She saw a good thing you see!
JR: So that's the general pattern! So in your boyhood, what were the things going on that you liked doing and…
JA: In Hertford?
JR: In the town, yes.
JA: I loved the Hertford market, when the stalls used to be in Railway Street and all round the town, opposite the bakers Thistledo in Market Place (Street) opposite the Corn Exchange. There used to be the stalls down there and I was always keen and I got a job on one of the stalls - the Sweet King - Rube Franks. He came from Whitechapel and he sold sweets, and I used to help him on his stall with Ernie Partridge, another lad I was at school with. We both worked for him and we used to hang up boxes of sweets for him to sell or open bags and pass them over for him to put the sweets in. We used to get 2/- a day for that Saturday.
Just before the war they knocked down the Green. Made the car-park there, where the houses were they put the market in between. We went round there. The market enlarged. I used to love the market. I carried on working on the stall Saturdays until I left school.
PR: The 'King' name comes up - 'Banana King' wasn't there, and 'China King'?
JA: Rube Frank's brother, Jack, he had a stall at the top of the market and he used to sell bankrupt stock And you wouldn't think of that in this day and age. Then there were people going bankrupt and fire damaged stuff. He used to buy anything and he used to buy everything. If a shop shut or if a warehouse fired, he'd buy everything that was salvaged, china, sheets or suits. He'd bring it on his stall on a Saturday. You never knew what he was going to bring down.
Hertford was interesting then. And of course you had several fruit stalls there. Harry Clark, he had the banana stall. Then there was the Davis brothers. They had a big fruit stall and they had the
biggest stall on the market right on the end.
EA: There was May (Mai?) wasn't there, the Ceylonese Queen.
JA: Yes, Harry and May, they took a shop in Hertford.
PR: Oh, yes, French.
JA: They took a shop on Mill Bridge afterwards, but my earliest memory of her, she had a shed with no front on it which Joe Head used to put up for her on Saturdays on Bull Plain and she was a Ceylonese Queen. She sold all ladies' garments, petticoats and underwear and all that sort of thing she was selling, May. Course she married Harry and they came off the markets and went on Mill Bridge.
PR: Yes! Next to the Woolpack.
JA: It was part of the Woolpack, I think.
PR: Was it? Yes, yes.
JA: And she took that over.
PR: They used to have dog magazines - 'Dog World'.
EA: They used to show their dogs.
JA: If you go to the cemetery - I think they was buried at Hoddesden – I haven't been but someone said on their gravestones they've got two dogs.
PR: Hoddesdon cemetery's got a lot of that kind of memorial that we don't have generally here.
JA: Oh, yes, my grandma, Grandma Abbott, she wanted to stay alive 'til I got home out the army 'cos I went to Burma and she died a month before I got home. She's buried at Hoddesden.
EA: As you go in, there's that big fairground man's grave isn't there.
JA: Yes, as you go in there's fairground. What's the name, not Thurston. They got a beautiful stone there, all black. It must be attended every day, I think.
PR: The Mannings! Yes, used to have their winter quarters down at, in the Rye Road.
JA: Yes, because they had all the steam engines and that, didn't they, the electric organs.
PR: And a lot of the Italian families that came from the nurseries, they've got pictures and various extras.
JA: Well, Hoddesdon is renowned for - people do nearly everything.
JR: It's actually quite a good site though. It's flat and it's got a nice avenue of trees and rhododendron bushes. It's a good looking cemetery.
PR: We ought to call Mr. Parker over and get his view! I don't know what he'd say to that. He probably wouldn't want it, would he?
JR: It's a different terrain from ours here. The hills that go up to the top and the mowing's not easy but Hoddesdon is kept beautifully I think, if you like that kind of cemetery. Ware is a lot more romantic I think - looks like coming from a Hardy novel.
JA: The one on top of the hill at Ware. I've got a sister that's interred down at Kirby Cross near Clacton. She retired and she'd only gone 6 months. They only allow a headstone there and it's all flat.
EA: Beautiful, it is.
JA: And it's all mown every day and it's really a nice cemetery.
JR: To go back to the early days, what did you do with your 2/- that you earned at the stall?
JA: Give it to my mum. In those days before the war, my dad never had a lot of money then and there was a family of 10 of us and anything I earned I used to give to my mum. But then I used to go up to the golf course on Sundays and go caddying.
I used to caddy round the golf course and I used to carry the bag for Mr. Ettridge who was the top man at McMullen's Seed. And Mr. Ettridge, Harold Wickham from the Brewery, Jack Lamb and Sammy Neale from Neale's Garage, they used to play a foursome every Sunday morning together and they used to have the same caddy to carry the clubs. The men used to get half a crown and the boys used to get two bob. A lot of us boys used to go up there.
PR: That is the one presumably half-way between Hertford and Ware.
JA: Yes, the 18 hole golf course, before they built…
EA: Pinehurst's built on it.
PR: What was it called then? Was it?
JA: East Herts.
PR: It was East Herts.
JA: Yes. Mr. Reid was the steward. He used to look after the Club House and his wife used to cater for them.
EA: Chadwell Springs?
JA: No, Chadwell Springs was down the bottom there. There was a hotel there where they built the houses. There was a hotel with a swimming pool there. A private road went in off Ware Hill. I think it was a notorious hotel.
As boys we used to go for walks in the evening like boys do, and we used to go up onto the golf course on the top, and you could look down on the swimming pool and see all the antics going on in the swimming pool. We were never allowed in the swimming pool, were we. As boys we used to go and have a look round, looking for golf balls and things like that.
PR: Yes, you get about and see what's going.
JR: So what was going on in the pool, then?
JA: Oh, all sorts of frolics. Like I suppose today, these couples go away to hotels at weekends. I suppose that's what was happening then. There was always someone in the pool. Mind you they weren't heated like they were then and covered in.
JR: Which school did you go to?
JA: I went to the Cowper School. Mr. Stalley was the headmaster. Mr. Budgen was the gardening master. The best school-teacher in Hertford I should think, Mr. Budgen. He had no antics from any boy and used to rule them with an iron rod. We used to have gardening classes once a week.
PR: Where did you go for that then?
JA: He used to walk us down where Elliott's the music shop was, next door to there was the tax office and next door to there was a motoring office, These offices, which were big houses really. They didn't do the gardens. Mr. Budgen, or the Education Dept, they got the grounds and we used to go round there gardening. They were little plots round there.
PR: They looked very much like North Crescent houses, between Waters and the Rectory.
JA: Yes. Elliott's the music shop, that had the biggest part of the ground there and we used to get in there and that was our garden.
PR: And was it all veg stuff.
JA: Oh no, fruit and veg we had down there, apple trees. Mr. Budgen used to take us down. He used to have different classes go down for so long a period each day and he'd count the apples on the tree, too. We used to give the tree a shake and say, “This one's fell off, sir, can I have it!”
He used to get-his knife and cut it and say, “Two of you can have half each.” It was a good school, the Cowper School.
JR: You remember Len Green, of course?
JA: Len Green, yes. He came…
JR: 1933, he came…
JA: Came along a bit later, yes.
JR: Were you a contemporary with Les Sullivan and Joe Quince?
JA: Joe Quince! I know Joe. He lived on Bull Plain. Worked with him at Weatherall's. He was a fellow welder at Weatherall's.
Yes, the Cowper School. It's a shame really because that was built in recognition of, I think it was Colonel Cowper who put the money up for the County Hospital and they built the Cowper School and named it after him. He came from along the Welwyn Road. He lived Digswell way somewhere.
Transcribers Note: Henry Cowper of Tewin Water House – Cowper School- His cousin Earl Cowper of Panshanger owned the land that the County Hospital was built on and much around Sele Farm etc. and all the way to Welwyn.
JR: Any funny stories from school?
JA: I used to sometimes get reprimanded, sometimes the cane, for going down the poultry market Monday mornings, Monday dinner times, because I was late back for school. I used to go down there and look for the chickens and ducks and geese, get carried away and late back for school.
PR: He's always been into things, hasn't he, Jean?
JA: Yes, it was an exciting time at school when you come to think of it. We never got into any mischief to warrant any real trouble because we were frightened of the policeman really.
There was Tommy Monk who was a policeman, used to ride his bike. He'd say, “That's all right, I'll have a word with your father. I'm just going along the Ware Road.” 'Cos we lived up at the Nags Head - opposite the Nags Head and he used to know our father and if we used to see his bike outside our house we was in trouble. What was he going to tell Dad? What have we been up to? We haven't been up to nothing!
When there was five boys in the family, plus there was four or five boys that lived along the cottages from where we were. We were all together and we often used to wonder what he'd been up to when the policeman's bike was outside our house. And of course we had Mr. Peet who was the attendance master. If we saw his bike outside the house, because he used to have a satchel between the handlebars, between the crossbar, where he kept his folders and if his bike was outside the house oh my goodness! He used to keep a strict rein on all the boys, wanted to know what they'd been up to.
JR: So was there much truancy there?
JA: You got boys, you used to have your half day off, caddying at the Golf Club. Quite a few used to take a half day off or skip school in the afternoon without permission. Mr. Stalley and Mr. Marks, they were good teachers at the school. If you asked for a half day or wanted time off from school and you got a note from your parents to say what you wanted if off for, you'd usually get away with it. Couldn't get away with one every day, but once in three months.
PR: That's Clifford Marks. He lived along the Ware Road, didn't he?
JA: That's right. Used to have to pass his house to go home, didn't we. And Leonard Green, he used to live along the Ware Road as well. Miss Woods, who was also a school teacher.
JR: I think he lodged with her mother, didn't he?
JA: Miss Wood's mother lived in one house, and then you missed two houses, then you came to Mr. Mark's house. They lived quite close to one another.
PR: Is your family house still there then, opposite the Nags Head?
JA: That's a very sore point. You shouldn't have brought that one up.
PR: Oh dear!
JA: When my father died, I lost my mother first, she was about 70 when she died, and before he died he had gangrene and he lost both legs. And my sister, she gave up where she lived, she'd got one boy and a husband and she gave up her flat and moved in to look after Dad, which was O.K. A good thing. She had six years of looking after him with no legs. So she deserved everything she got.
When father died, he'd bought the house by this time and he left the house and everything in it, he didn't want it altered or touched, to my sister Liz. She'd got a husband not worth tuppence and he got in money troubles and my sister sold the house and none of us knew she was going to sell the house until she'd sold it and gone down to Walton to live, away from Hertford. We would have
liked to have the house and keep it in the family. It's still along the Ware Road.
JR: What number is it?
PR: It's a lovely place to be living.
EA: You walked out the back into the Meads.
JA: No one could touch it. No one can build out the back.
PR: No, the view, the birds nesting, the water.
JA: Our garden used to to down to the Meads.
EA: Horses used to walk up the bank and stand with their noses over the fence.
JA: Yes, it was lovely, as you say. It's beautiful house, a big Victorian house. What did they call that, something Villas, didn't they, the three houses. Mark Robbins lived in the end one, Mrs. Wagstaff lived in the middle and my dad on the end house.
PR: I was thinking; I didn't know if they'd knocked any houses down to build the row of houses, or whether it was open.
JA: A man from Ware bought the meadow and he put a pre-fabricated bungalow on it, because in those days they wouldn't give him permission to put another house on that but they give him permission for that. He wanted to keep bees. Mr. West from Ware. He was an optician. Then I don't know what happened to Mr. West. They knocked the bungalow down and built these flats and houses on there. Now they've knocked the Nags Head down. That's another crime, isn't it.
PR: Oh, it's a great pity. Special-looking building in a row that's fairly ordinary, isn't it, up that side and useful especially Pinehurst behind with no pub.
JA: It was Phillips's of Royston, their pub. Then it went to Greene King. Then it went to Whitbreads, Flowers and then Whitbreads. They just tossed it round until somebody got it who could pull it down.
PR: But it was always fairly busy wasn't it?
JA: That's right. I mean it catered for the Ware Road, the people from Cockbush and Burleigh Road. It was easier for them to walk along to the Nags Head than the Saracens. Then they built Pinehurst and then McMullens let Pinehurst down, didn't they, 'cos when they closed the Green Dragen, McMullens kept the licence for the Green Dragon to build a pub either at Pinehurst or on that piece of ground where the Earl Grey used to stand. They was going to build a pub there and they didn't build either.
EA: Ted Watkins took a photo of the Nags Head before they took it down and he got the photo blown up.
END OF SIDE A
PR: I've taken one or two fairly recently just before it was pulled down. I've got an unlikely person walking by. I've got Joan Neal who lives in Railway Street next to the Duncombe.- happened to be walking by just by chance. She's not quite in her right spot but I think her daughter lives
JA: Joan Neal?
EA: She was Joan Dye.
JA: Oh, yes, yes, because they used to live at the Folly, didn't they? Doris used to own most of the Folly.
PR: Yes, I think they've still got a bit of property there - Michael Rose, one of the Dye grandchildren.
JA: Yes, because it's all been handed down now.
PR: Well, Dan Dye bought them up more or less one by one, and his brother Will.
JA: And they say there's no money in soot! They had coaches, they had everything, didn't they.
PR: Worked hard though. It wasn't sit back and let it happen opportunities, buying things cheaply.
JA: Well, that's like Sparks, isn't it? The milkman and his brother that had the fruit and veg. He bought all those cottages in Tower Street, £200. And he bought them in the Salisbury. He told me that he bought them. Charlie, the one that had the fruit, he used to live round Farquhar Street.
PR: Down the back, he had garages down there.
JA: Used to keep a car down there; yes. He had three rows of garages down there too.
PR: No. 7, I think it was.
JA: He was a character of the town, Sparks.
PR: Yes. Are we ready to ask Jack about the great day when he won the election or are you wanting to go more carefully through that.
JR: Well, yes, we can go into that now. I was just going to say what did you do when you left school and how did it come about that you became a councillor?
JA: I left school, worked for Mr. Durrant, mineral waters. He owned Durrant's Chemist on Old Cross and he had a mineral water factory at the back. By that time my dad had got a job at Aerospace, DeHavilland's then, “I've got a job for you,” he said, “And you start work Monday over at DeHavilland's.” I said, “How am I going to get there?” So he took me down to Currys and be bought me a bike. He said, “Here you are.” And I said, “That's all right.”
Hercules Roadster! He paid the first half a crown and he said, “You got to come in here every Friday and pay 2/-d off of that bike.” And I used to have to bike from Hertford to Hatfield. I got apprenticed. I left DeHavilland's about 1940, 'cos all my mates had gone in the army or gone in the forces and I wanted to go. So I got released from DeHavilland's and I went up to Acton to try and get in the Navy.
I passed all the tests and they said, “Where do you work?.” I said, “I don't. I've left DeHavilland's. Here's my release.” They said, “You go back to DeHavilland's. We'll send for you when we want you.” I didn't go. I went to work at Chaseside at Ware in the old bus garage. I got called up in the army, came out end '46, '47. I come home from abroad and we got married in '46 and I went back to Chaseside to work. When Chaseside closed at Hertford they moved to Blackburn. I went and became a butcher because Mr. Burt, the butcher on the hill. I used to help him.
JA: I used to help Mr Burt spare time in the evenings and he taught me butchery.
EA: We used to live in the little cottages opposite the Warren Gates.
JA: 61, Port Hill and I worked for Mr. Burt for a little while and I went to Addis because I got the urge to go back engineering again. And I went in the moulding shop as a tool setter on those moulding machines. Else didn't like me doing shift work so I went to Wetherall's.
PR: Better say where Wetherall's was.
JA: Where Joe Quince was.
JR: Yes, Welwyn Garden, isn't it?
JA: And one of the Taylor Brothers - they used to live on Port Hill, the fruiterers.
PR: Behind the Reindeer yard.
JA: Elmo died. Rocky, the eldest one, died, then Charlie Taylor died but I was talking to Gordon Taylor. What was going to happen to Elmo's greengrocery round. I fancied my chance at being a businessman. So I bought a van and went round Welwyn Garden City with fruit and veg. I had two years of that.
Trancribers Note: Charlie Taylor died in 1949, Sidney “Rocky” Taylor in 1954 and Frederick “Elmo” Taylor in 1967. Gordon was Charles’ son who had taken over the business and moved it to Ware Road now Taylor Trading Estate.
EA: He sold it up when the decimal coins came.
JA: And went back to Wetherall's. Then Wetherall's closed and I went to Aerospace. But while I was at Wetherall's I was a member of the Labour Party. I've always been strong with the unions. Sam Aygar was in the party then.
PR: Was he working at Barnados then?
JA: That's right - the print. And he said to me, “Jack, you're popular enough in Bengeo to stand for election.” I said, “No, I don't want none of that. I get in enough trouble without being a politician.” Anyway, they talked me into it and I stood with Dick Henderson for Bengeo and we romped in. We done one term, four years. I put up again but I lost by…
EA: Seven votes - Martin Weale.
PR: Oh, was it Martin Weale. Two good names in Bengeo really. I remember that great victory. What year was it?
JA: It was year of the '74 was it when East Herts were formed.
PR: I remember in Farnham's Paper Shop, the great delight when that result happened. Jack - Labour - had won Bengeo.
JR: Were you District and Town?
JA: No, just District. I do have to do what I'm told sometimes you know and Elsie said no more. The point is, I lived in Bengeo Street then, No. 72 and my front room wasn't mine. It belonged to the public. I used to come home from work and they'd be sitting in there waiting. Else used to
show them in - “He'll be home soon.”
It was the most interesting part of my life I think, other than being a sergeant in the army. I think that was the second most interesting part of my life, being a councillor. I mixed with some very nice people. I can't say I disliked anybody. Lillian Lloyd-Taylor, she was very very good. If I'd got a query, I'd go and ask her for advice. And then there was Fred Whitehead.
JA: He was chairman of the housing committee which I was on and .he was very good. He used to lead me through, guide me. I used to say, “Don't know· how this is going to work out.” “Well,” he said, “Don't take any notice of me. Really you should go to your group.” I said, “Yes.” But I used to go to Fred and I used to ask him because he had more experience. Very nice people on the council.
PR: Yes, that was a good time for Bengeo because it was a very popular result. The real big buzz in the town because it was such a new thing politically for Bengeo, so the big breakthrough.
JA: I can always remember one gentleman.
EA: Who was it was your agent, Eric Stores, and he put a big banner all the way round the corner - 'Thanks for all your support.'
JA: One case I can remember. Very conservative gentleman, Mr. Webb, from the Glove Factory at Horns Mill. He lived up the Avenue, and he'd got a problem about his rates. It was when they decided that at the beginning of the year you would get your rates and you'd be told what was happening with your rates and that was it. You didn't get no more reminders.
Well, apparently, he paid his rates in two halves and he never got a reminder for the second half and he had a notice for court and he came round to the house and Else said, “He's not home. He's at work.” “He told us people in Bengeo he'd represent everybody.” Else said, “He will.” So I came home and she said, “Mr. Webb's been round here.” I said, “Who's Mr. Webb.” She said, “He lives in the Avenue.”
I thought, well I won't phone him, I'll go and see him. Well, he said, “I'll tell you all about it.” I said, “Well, I suppose you can read the small print. You've been told your rates are due. But he said, “I always have a reminder after six months.” So I said, “Leave it with me and I'll see what I can do.” He said, “I've got to go to court tomorrow.” I said, “Oh, that's a shame, isn't it.” Anyway I got in touch with Fisher who was…
PR: Stanley Fisher.
JA: And I told him that. I said this is a genuine mistake, it's a slip-up, a one-off. He said he's got to go to court tomorrow morning, but to see me before he goes in. Apparently he was there, saw him. I think he got his knuckles rapped, got a reprimand for not reading it, but he got away with it and he paid his rates up.
He came round next evening and he said he's not had service like that in his life and he said 'I'll vote for you again. And I said, “That's nice of you.” When you're on the council you get people come round and whine all the time and you don't get 'thank you' for it afterwards.
PR: Yes, you get one in ten, I suppose.
JR: Were you two together on the council?
PR: No, no. I came on as Jack went off, the Castle ward. I was in the public gallery when Jack was on the council.
JR: You didn't feel like standing again. I know you lost, but after that?
JA: Well, when you've got a family. I used to lecture my son 'cos he'd got a moped. He used to go with the boys of Halls and Vigus and I used to have to lecture every time he went out of the door. “Don't get into any trouble. Next thing it'll be in the paper. Councillor's son, blah, blah, blah. You've got to behave yourself.” It is a misery for children.
PR: It can't be as good for them if you're a Councillor than if you gave more time.
JA: And of course your time was never your own. You're for ever being called upon to do something. Then of course I got used to not being on the Council and I got me allotment and me caravan and the wife wanted to be down at the caravan weekends, so we drifted away from politics.
You're always called upon to settle a query. I get ladies come round here, “What do I do? Who do I see. When you was a Councillor we knew who to come to.” I said, “Yes, but I'm not. I can't advise you. Best thing is to go and see so and so.”
And my favourite was to send them round Roger Martin's but he's not on there now. My politics are over now, because I had that fall. Then three months after that I had an operation for a bowel problem they thought. It was a burst bowel and then they found it was cancerous so I had to have chemotherapy. And I've got a hernia from the operation. My son-in-law says, “They couldn't have stitched you up properly. They thought you weren't going:to live.”
PR: A typical policeman's remark! So I'm trying to think who would have been living next door to you at 74, Bengeo Street.
EA: Rose Perry, Rose Fletcher.
PR: Yes, both names. She was a lively customer of ours down at Farnham's - took plenty of newspapers and always coming in in a forceful sort of way.
JA: Her father lived in that house when they were built. It was the first house that was let on Bengeo. Her father went in there. Brought all his family up. 'Cos Ken Perry, the plumber
EA: 3, Cowbridge, he lived didn't he?
JA: And of course it was quite a big family. Rose carried on and then when she was married to Bill Fletcher they lived next door to us and then he bought the house, it's private now.
PR: She's not there now, is she?
JA: No, she's in a terrible state. I saw her in Hoddesdon, she didn't recognise me. I thought I was bad enough but she's got Alzheimer’s.
EA: No, Parkinson's.
PR: Oh, has she?
JA: And he's looking after her.
PR: Oh, dear, they've fallen on hard times. Just thinking of Bengeo Street for a minute. On the corner where the Spar was, there used to be…
PR: Pickering's! Was it O. Pickering - used to be? I seem to remember an initial - a rather unlikely one. But that was an ordinary general store, was it?
Transcribers Note: It was A A Pickering later H E Woon
EA: Yes, always dark.
JA: And on the opposite corner was a hairdresser's, wasn't it.
PR: And then it was a funeral parlour, wasn't it, for a bit. But one person I've lost track of from the Oral History thing - was born opposite the Warren Gates where you were living - Nana Thomas.
EA: Yes, he lives up New Road.
PR: Is he still there?
EA: Yes, the third house up from this end.
PR: Yes, Cross Road's end. Normally he comes up to that Christmas Party at Sele School, the lunch.
EA: He was in hospital and they sent him home over the Christmas and then Barbara Newton had to get in touch with the doctor and they rushed him back in hospital. That's why he missed it, I suppose.
PR: He was good for a story or two. He was born in one of those cottages around Christmas time and the Salvation Army sang 'The First Nowell' and the band in the gates of the Warren as he was being born.
JA: Why ever did they sell Warren Lodge?
PR: I know.
JA: I mean Warren Lodge belongs to the Warren.
PR: Why didn't it sell more quickly. What a lovely place to be living.
JA: When I lived in the cottage up Port Hill, they're only lath and plaster houses, that's all they are, and when I lived there Warren Cottage become empty. Mr. Appleby used to live there. He was the pindar for Hartham and all round. And I wrote in to the Council and I said, “Can I move into that
lodge if I sweep the Warren and look after the Warren in my spare time, free?”
Got no wages but the rent for the house and Mr. Burt put me up to that. He said if you write in, you'll get it, if you offer to keep the Warren clean, keep the gates clean, open the gates when they've got to be open. They're never opened now.
In years gone by they did used to open the gates both ends and have a horse and carriage go through once a year - something like an ancient right, bridleway or something. But that doesn't happen any more. And then they sold it. But why sell it?
PR: I think they must have sold it some years ago, first of all because the - didn't Pete Fordham live in there with his dad?
JA: He lived in there until he got Bill Parker's house.
PR: At the cemetery. Well I think it was sold some years back because the present person that lives there is the tree man, the parks and gardens bloke with quite a big family. Mike, what's he called? The one that chopped all the trees down when they were blooming in the Folly, all the cherry trees, a couple of years ago.
JA: Oh, yes, a most popular fella!
PR: And he, I think, must have bought it from the Council while living in it I guess, because he's the person that's selling it, not the Council.
JA: I don't know why anything like that can be sold. It's like me turning round and saying, “Sell the Castle.”
PR: Yes, well that nearly happened!
JA: Yes, but the nicest thing that's happened recently is Ware Priory coming back into Ware.
PR: Yes. Yes. There are some curious things that you wish weren't happening. But Bengeo Street is really the centre of Bengeo - all the action, everything.
JA: I keep asking that same old question - where has the water trough gone?
PR: Outside the White Lion?
JA: They said they'd move it up to the end of Bengeo Street, but it's just disappeared. That's part of the heritage of Bengeo.
PR: Yes, very much part of the scene. Yes. What about Alderman Mansfield? George Mansfield from Tower Street? Did you know him?
EA: The flats were named after him.
JA: Was he buried in Bengeo Church?
JA: I mean the stones round there are terrible. They talk about cemeteries and looking after them. That one is sadly neglected. I feel sorry about this, but they haven't got a decent memorial garden for people to put ashes. They've got them planted everywhere, all round really. They have a wall but nothing much. They could have had a very nice memorial garden.
PR: Yes, All Saints has just got one.
JA: I'm going to go in there one day!
PR: Yes, you've got to look ahead!
JA: I was actually speaking, because I go to the club every Sunday lunchtime. That's the only time I meet everybody. Everybody that matters is in the pub Sunday lunchtime. Saturday night there's a crowd in there, but they're not the same. But Sunday lunchtime they're there and of course I walk up there and I've said on many occasions, when I go I want that lot to have me planted just over the wall so I can hear them go by.
PR: We'll have to lean on the Rector and see if he can organise that ashes plot somewhere near the front.
EA: I think it's terrible that boy Wright's caravan right outside the church.
PR: Yes, it's always there.
JA: I get annoyed. It's a good job I'm not on the Council now because they'd all be round here after me. But now I have to go for a walk every day. I have to walk some distance to keep this leg moving and when you walk past his house, he's had the cheek to put a notice on the front of his house.
EA: No parking.
JA: And that caravan and the trailer with rubbish in which he collects from the Council dump. He goes there every day to see what they've found for him to sell. I feel sorry for the Reverend up there now because he's such a nice man.
PR: Is he, yes.
JA: I went and met him a couple of times. And Mr. Parker was with him one day talking and Mr. Parker said don't have anything to do with this one, that's me. And I said to be quite honest I'm a better man than what Mr. Parker is because I'm a Christian and he's not. And he likes my attitude to life. Apparently he told Bill Parker that.
PR: You will have to stand again you know, for this election. So where are we?
JR: We've nearly got to the end of this side, only another few seconds.
PR: Yes! Shall I pop home and get my camera.
JR: Yes. All right.