Transcript Detail

View print layout
Transcript TitleWhittaker, Hilda & Arthur (O2000.17)
IntervieweeHilda and Arthur Whittaker (HW/AW)
InterviewerJean Riddell (Purkis) (JR)
Transcriber byJean Riddell (Purkis)


Hertford Oral History Group

Recording No: O2000.17

Interviewees: Hilda and Arthur Whittaker (HW/AW)

Date: 16 November 2000

Venue: 53 Sele Road

Interviewer: Jean Riddell (Purkis) (JR)

Transcribed by: Jean Riddell (Purkis)

Typed by: Freda Joshua

************ = unclear recording

Italics = transcriber’s notes

[discussion] = untranscribed material

JR: This is Jean Riddell (Purkis) speaking and it’s Thursday 16 November 2000 and I’ve just remembered it’s Geoffrey Rice’s birthday today and I haven’t sent him a card – that I will have to do before he gets home from work later. However, to the business in hand. Shortly off to No. 53 Sele Road to interview Mrs Hilda Whittaker who, as a young person and I don’t know quite for how long, lived at No. 59 St Andrew Street – that part of the street is now under Gascoyne Way and I hope she will have some memories of that, not forgotten but no longer visible part of the town. And I think, but I stand corrected here if the tape proves so, that her husband was from Hertingfordbury Road and she, herself, worked in the United Yeast Co, which had premises at 18 West Street. So all will be revealed at 2.30 this afternoon:

JR: Well, we are recording now – that mic over there should pick up everybody. Now, Hilda, you were born in St Albans and then came to Hertford in?

HW: Yes. I was born in the Police Station at St Albans because my family were connected with the Police Constabulary and we moved to Hertford and I lived in the Police Station which was then in Queens Road for many years.

JR: Did your father leave the Police Force then and that’s why you came down to St Andrew Street?

HW: Yes. He retired and, of course, we had to leave the Police Station obviously and moved to St Andrew Street.

AH: He used to drive the police car vehicle, who was it, the Inspector?

HW: He used to drive the police car, yes

JR: Can I just say, for the tape, that Arthur is here and I didn’t realise he was going to be here – he’s a welcome addition to the recording because he’s got a very good memory.

HW: Very good for his age!

JR: About how old were you when you came down to St Andrew Street?

HW: I should think about 16.

JR: Oh, a teenager.

HW: Yes, yes, after my father retired. And we lived there for many years until we went into No. 50 St Andrew Street where we had a taxi business.

JR: So when were you born, Hilda?

HW: 1920.

JR: OK, so we’re talking about 1936 when you came down to St Andrew Street, just before the war really.

HW: Yes it was. I wasn’t in St Andrew Street really during the war because I went into the WRNS you see.

JR: So which school did you go to?

HW: I went to Longmores Senior School.

JR: Which was quite near, wasn’t it?

HW: Yes, the churchyard, virtually.

JR: By the time you came down to St Andrew Street had you left school then?

HW: Yes, then I went to the United Yeast Co in West Street.

JR: Shall we do that first, then we can go to St Andrew Street afterwards.

HW: Right. United Yeast Co – Mr Wyard, and do you know Doreen Wingate – well, he was her father. I was there for several years and I expect we got married after that, didn’t we? Oh no, after the United Yeast Co I went to work for Mr Morris – do you know Mr Morris?

JR: A furniture shop?

AW: War memorial.

HW: A large concern, yes. I was secretary to Mr Morris then, of course, the war came along and I volunteered and went into the WRNS.

JR: Are you the same age as Doreen then?

HW: I’d be a little bit older, yes, she’d be that much younger.

JR: Did you know her at that time?

HW: Oh yes, because they lived on the premises of the United Yeast Co. They had a flat above. They were very, very well off.

JR: So when the United Yeast Co were there, did they have all the yeast there, was it a store place for the yeast? Where did they put that?

HW: Well, out of the back, the store room, you see. Everything connected with bakers, you see, everything, decorations for the cakes, cake boards, flour, yeast. Mr Wyard used to load up the van in the mornings and do a delivery round with the ingredients.

JR: Did he sell anything from the premises?

HW: No, no.

JR: No retailing there, just a depot, was it?

HW: Yes, that’ right.

JR: Well, the present, Mrs Page, who was the mayor a year or two ago, she lives in that house now.

HW: Oh does she?

JR: And she’s got a garage, when you go in from the street, it’s enormous, it goes right back. It’s not just the width of one car, a bit wider than that. You can get about 3 cars ----

HW: That’s right, well that would have been the store-room, you see.

JR: Then you can walk out of her dining room and you’ve got this very long flat roof over the yeast store.

HW: I don’t remember that.

JR: They might have had it made into a balcony.

HW: That wasn’t there when I was there.

JR: So what sort of person was Mr Wyard? Was he a good employer?

HW: Oh, he was a very nice gentleman, very, very nice indeed.

JR: Had he come from a local family?

HW: I have no idea about that. He had 2 daughters and a son, who lived on the premises. Doreen’s still in Hertford isn’t she?

JR: So he loaded up all the goods he had to deliver. Where did he take these, round to the local shops?

HW: Well, local, yes, and then he’d go out to all the villages, Buntingford, Puckeridge, all around there, to the bakers, delivering. Yes, very nice gentleman.

JR: What sort of traffic was there down West Street at this time, not very much? Wasn’t it on a bus route?

HW: A bus route, no I don’t think so.

JR: No? Not at that time.

AW: No, not as I know of. Can’t remember buses there.

JR: I’ll have to enquire about that. I thought that Keith said there was [neighbour Keith who the Whittakers know].

HW: You could be right but I don’t think so.

AW: Could be to Bayford and Essendon.

JR: Yes, it might have been a country bus. Did you know anybody in the street? Did you know Betty Frith, for instance?

HW: I did know some people, can’t remember their names now, used to be associated with All Saints Church. 2 Sunday school teachers used to live there but I can’t remember their names.

JR: Opposite there, I think you may have missed this, because it was closed down in 1937, was Miss Fountain’s school at No. 25. Where the Sangsters live now, and we’ve had 2 people who’ve told us about the school. Did you see any activity?

HW: No, when did it close down?

JR: 1937 – David Fountain, it was his aunt who ran it, he said I think 1937.

HW: No, I know of it but I didn’t actually see it.

JR: Anything else you can tell us that might be interesting?

HW: Just those Sunday school teachers. Oh, I know, Dr Benson.

JR: Oh yes.

HW: Then there was an Edith Fosdyke/

JR: I’ve heard of her.

HW: She lived at the top end of the street. I don’t remember anyone else.

JR: Well, you went to work there, you didn’t live there. Let’s go to St Andrew Street. You lived in quite a big town house there, did you?

HW: Yes, a 3-storey house.

JR: What sort of accommodation did you have?

HW: A large cellar, nice garden, 4-storey, very nice house, actually.

JR: If you went into the garden and walked on, did you come to a ditch at the bottom of the garden or a water course?

HW: You came to the little cottages.

AW: Back way to the yard of the cottages.

HW: But no water.

AW: Pavitts Yard.

JR: The long one.

HW: That’s right, yes. So out of the back we would come, well right against the cottages, wasn’t it.

AW: Yes – Fitz ---

JR: Fitkin?

AW: Fitkin used to live there, 2 of them, 2 houses.

HW: I don’t remember that.

JR: Fitkin, I think, famous for having a menagerie.

AW: That’s right, yes, monkey and that down there.

HW: I vaguely remember now you’ve said it.

AW: And I forget who the other one was down there.

JR: Well, at the end house the Dartons lived.

AW: Dartons, yes.

JR: Dick actually has made a very good tape. So, how many were you in the family at that time?

HW: Mother, Father and myself.

JR: You were an only child. What did your father do there? Did he have any hobbies in retirement?

HW: He was a keen gardener.

AW: He used to be a pert-time driver for the taxis.

HW: He used to breed spaniels. We had an outdoor run for them.

JR: So did all those houses along there, except where the yards intervened, did they all have quite big gardens?

HW: Fairly large, narrow but quite long.

JR: Dick describes Pavitts Yard as swinging over to where the ‘Which’ building now is. It’s difficult to visualise that now, with the road in the way.

HW: Probably.

JR: And if you walk up the road by the ‘Which’ building before you come over that first waterway, which is a little ditch really, there’s a little archway, a remnant from somebody’s garden.

AW: It must have been the Stonehouse or where Jack Frost used to live, I should think, the butcher. He had a big garden going well back, I think he went right back to the river.

JR: That was a single-storey building, the butcher’s. Where did he live then?

HW: They lived on the top.

JR: They lived in the house next door, did they?

HW: They lived over the shop.

AW: The shop was on its own, the building was separate. There was no building above it, the actual shop was a single storey.

HW: Their house was next door, attached to it.

JR: Cawthorne House [in 2019 Ruby Curry House].

AW: That’s right, their garden did go right down to the river.

HW: They were great friends of ours, then they retired and moved off, and you lose track of people.

JR: This is the Frosts and he was a butcher there. Even though your father retired, wasn’t in business or working regularly, did you know all the shopkeepers and neighbours there?

HW: Oh yes, very well.

JR: There was Frosts and then there was a little gap and you went down there to the almshouses, little cottages at right angle to the street just behind the Stonehouse.

HW: Don’t remember those.

AW: No, there used to be the council housing office. The almshouses, as far as I can remember, were in St Andrew Street opposite the Drill Hall and Simson Pimm. There used to be a yard there.

JR: I think the ones that were originally there were part of what was called Oakers Buildings or Colemans Yard. They weren’t attached to the church, that was a private enterprise which went with slum clearance.

HW: I don’t remember that.

JR: OK. Well, as you came round from Frosts, the next building on St Andrew Street was the Stonehouse – who lived in that when you were around there? Was it somebody called Mascall?

HW: The name’s familiar.

JR: I’m just trying to remember what he did, he wasn’t a herbalist, was he?

HW: No, don’t remember.

JR: Then the next building was the Red Lion? Was that a rowdy pub, or quiet ----

AW: No, quite normal. Was it Hudson used to live there, then there was Hattams, the bakery. Then you come to the yard, then Davisons, the sweet shop. The pub was quite good.

HW: Quiet place.

JR: Did your father use the pub at all?

HW: No, he wasn’t a drinker.

JR: He’d been a policeman.

HW: I wouldn’t say he didn’t like a drink but he never frequented pubs.

AW: He was on the car all the time, driving a green Morris Oxford.

JR: Did you have a car when he retired?

HW: Not for a few years.

JR: That’s how he got into taxi driving was it? Being a good driver.

HW: Yes, he was a very careful driver.

JR: So we’ve got to No.69 – you said the sweet shop came before ---

AW: Between the yards, yes.

JR: Then after 69 came --?

AW: Well, it was the Council, something to do with tax.

JR: I was talking to John Summer Gill. I think he indicated that he worked there at one stage

AW: It was something to do with National Insurance and that sort of thing. There there was another archway, then you got to Ginns, the builders Ginns Yard, the builders.

JR: Then what came next?

AW: Wacketts, the cycle shop. Gladys Wackett used to go to church, you knew her.

HW: Then it was Emmots, the newsagent.

AW: Or Spriggs, I forget which.

HW: Then it was the dairy, Patemans, the dairy.

JR: Then there was another archway going to Haydens Yard.

AW: Where O’Smotherleys used to live.

HW: That’s right, before they came up here.

AW: Hayden used to live there.

JR: Hayden was a shoe mender, he went into partnership with Roche.

AW: Yes, then there was a little grocers shop called Crosses.

JR: And then was it Crawley next or ----

AW: Crawley the tailor and then a little radio television shop.

JR: We thought that was Macrae’s.

AW: And then there was a fish and chip shop that stood back a bit. I forget who they were.

JR: I think the last name was Luka ---

AW: Luka! You got it! And then there was Castle Mead gardens that stood right back.

JR: Now Castlemead Gardens, has that always been – perhaps I’d better ask Arthur as he’s been around a bit longer, was it always there in your memory?

AW: Yes, it’s not a new development, I think it’s always been there.

JR: I think it was built in the early ‘20s but I wondered whether.

AW: Well I was born in ’16.

JR: Well Hilda, to go back to you, when did you transfer to the other side of the road, No. 50?

HW: It was after we got married, wasn’t it, after 1941.

AW: It was after I came out the army.

JR: So you, as a married couple, went across there?

HW: We were both married when we went into the forces.

JR: Oh, I see. It wasn’t your family who moved over there, it was you in married state. Right, let’s go back to Arthur and we can join the 2 ends up in a minute at No.50. So you think you were born at Port Hill, Arthur?

AW: I’m pretty sure I was.

JR: Was your family local?

AW: Yes, as far as I know.

JR: It’s quite a big family, is it? (Yes) what did your father do?

AW: He was a gardener at Hertingfordbury for Stuart Hogg and then he was a gardener for Bagenals and he used to look after the river as well, along the lower road, the fish and that.

HW: He was a sort of river-keeper.

AW: Well, sort of gardener as well.

JR: Oh well, I never knew that, because the Hoggs were the in-laws of the Bagenals, weren’t they.

AW: Yes, that’s right, used to bike there.

JR: That’s Roxford’s.

AW: Roxfords, yes.

JR: The Bagenals still live in the little cottage.

AW: Hertingfordbury, near the Prince of Wales, no, the Bagenals used to live in the lower cottages.

JR: Yes.

AW: Then somebody moved to near the Prince of Wales, one of them did, and I did the gardening there.

JR: How long did he stay there – it must have been very early when you moved to Hertingfordbury Road?

AW: I was born in the middle of the 1st World War, 1916.

JR: So your earliest childhood memories are in Hertingfordbury Road? (Yes) So this house where you lived, it wasn’t on the street, was it?

AW: No, it stood back, well from here to the main road.

JR: Between No. 38 and No. 36.

AW: That’s right. I still say we were 36A.

HW: Ever since I’ve known you it was 38.

JR: Did that cottage come down at the same time as the ---

AW: 3-bedroom ones, yes.

JR: Oh, it did. But it wasn’t --- was it older than those?

AW: Well, I should say it was. Welch was the landlord of it.

JR: What sort of building was it?

AW: 2 up and 2 down.

JR: Yes, was it quite a simple building?

AW: Oh yes. And then just an out-building. Toilet was outside.

HW: It was 3 downstairs, wasn’t it?

AW: Well, it was only a small out-building, it was 2 bedrooms and 2 down.

JR: How did you go on for garden?

AW: No garden, only a strip, actually, couldn’t grow anything in it. It backed onto a house in North Road, Mr Ditton, backed onto his garden. He used to keep the radio shop in St Andrew Street.

JR: Could he get out, was there any passageway between you and him?

AW: We could get out into Cross Lane.

JR: And he could too, could he (oh yes). So you weren’t actually ----

AW: We weren’t boxed in, sort of thing, no. We’d got a front way and we’d got a back way.

JR: How many of you lived in that one?

AW: 3 of us I suppose.

JR: 3 children?

AW: No, I can’t remember Don living there.

HW: Mother, father and 2 children?

AW: Bob used to live there and myself.

JR: Did you know the neighbours quite well, you were really close to them.

AW: Ah yes. Race was one side and the other side was Smith, in the little cottages was Smith one side and Races used to live in the big houses the other side. There was Thompsons, the Cranes, they all lived in those houses, Warehams that was the 4 houses.

JR: What was the end, that was strange, that end one, 48, I think.

(Side B)

JR: I was just saying to you about the larger cottages on the corner of Cross Lane, they had a funny staircase bit at the side.

AW: I think they did, I’m not sure, it was different from the other houses.

JR: And there was another bit built on the back, an extra dwelling and I think that was 48A.

AW: Yes, I think it was and Phil Jones used to live there. I think they had a son.

JR: You used to use Cross Lane as a football field.

AW: Yes, between Hertingfordbury Road and North Road.

JR: So there wasn’t much traffic then!

AW: No, no traffic at all. Garratts used to live in the big house on the left, owned the mill. Used to live on the left.

JR: Where the Rectory is now.

AW: That’s right.

JR: Of course, that had a much bigger garden then.

AW: Oh yes, a lot of that’s been taken away now.

JR: Cross Lane itself was literally a lane.

AW: Oh it wasn’t very wide, no cars there at all, a sort of cut through.

JR: So who were your friends then at that time?

AW: Biltons, Thompsons -----

JR: Was there somebody called Ernie Race?

AW: Oh yes, Ern Race. He lived in the next big house to us.

JR: Did you play with, or know, Philip Turnbull?

AW: Philip Turnbull -------

JR: Along from the other side of Peter’s [Ruffles].

AW: Yes, he was further up. He was something to do with the church.

JR: He mentions, I think playing cricket where Campfield Road is now. I think he mentions Ernie Race.

AW: Yes, there was Race, Turnbull, Bilton, Thompson, a little gang of us.

JR: And you went up Hertingfordbury Road.

AW: Under the bridge on the right-hand side, yes in that field there and the gravel pits were right at the top.

JR: And you said they were Scales gravel pits.

AW: Well, I thought they belonged to Scales. Well, they were only small gravel pits, no machinery up there.

JR: Scales had a yard, coming back under the bridge, present Mimram Road.

AW: That’s right.

JR: So was there a house between the bridge and Mimram Road?

AW: I don’t think so.

JR: We had a report from a lady who lived in those cottages called Bet Brace, that there was a house there at one time, called Grey Gables, don’t know whether that rings any bells.

HW: Doesn’t to me.

AW: There were 2 little cottages.

JR: They’re still there. What were they part of, they weren’t part of Wacketts or Scales.

AW: No, Grey Gables ---- it strikes a note.

JR: Peter had a slide of that plot where you came under the railway bridge from Hertingfordbury and immediately on your right-hand side there’s a factory, enamel finishes or something there, and you see the garden and there’s a summer house or dovecote right in the middle of the lawn. I couldn’t see the house, looked like the remnants of an old garden? No?

AW: Can’t remember that.

JR: Was that area, in your memory, called Frogs Hall? (I’m being demanding. Sorry!)

AW: No, that’s all right.

JR: Anyway, Wacketts had a business there (yes). Was that the brother ----

AW: It was something to do with the one down St Andrew Street, yes.

JR: Was it quite big or just a shack?

AW: Biggish, yes. I’ll tell you who used to run it, Cecil White’s father, lived down Hertingfordbury Road. Big fat man, used to run the little shop.

JR: And that was before the start of the walled gardens. The other side of the walled garden was Shepherds.

AW: Yes, next to the pub there was a little building between Scales and the pub, only a little stone building – that used to be Shepherds and then he moved up into Hertingfordbury.

JR: What about the Oak. Was that a popular pub?

AW: Oh yes, a very good one.

JR: Who was the licensee that you can remember?

AW: Les Dunnage, and then he took over the pub opposite Bengeo church ---- the White ----

JR: The White Lion.

AW: I don’t think he is now. He went from the Oak to Bengeo, but I don’t know where he is now.

JR: He didn’t do board and lodgings, did he?

AW: Not that I know of.

JR: It wasn’t an inn? (No)

JR: And then Scales main offices and yard.

AW: Knap Harms, yes. Knap Harms and Bob Baalam used to run that.

JR: Yes, I’ve heard of him too. The people across the road in the cottages there weren’t quite so little as the ones on your side – how good was the community spirit there?

AW: Bessie used to live there – Waller.

HW: Are we talking about the cottages? Yes, Bessie. They were very friendly people. I don’t know quite so much about Hertingfordbury Road. I was more the other end.

JR: Were the people living in the villas more distanced from the people in the cottages?

AW: Well, bigger families, Warehams had a large family, Thompsons was a large family.

JR: What about the people at Peter’s end of the street?

AW: Didn’t know much about them.

HW: The Tabberts lived there, they were very nice, Peter’s people.

JR: It seems to me from the people I’ve spoken to that there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between one side of the road and the other. If they lived on the Oak side they’d watch for a house on the other side for, perhaps, a married daughter. They didn’t move very far, they moved only across the road.

HW: Yes.

JR: They’d look out for a house to rent.

HW: I think in those days that was the done thing.

AW: Parkers used to live one side.

JR: Now they still live there, don’t they.

AW: Down the bottom.

HW: They would probably (remember a lot).

JR: They won’t interview.

HW: Won’t they? Is she out of hospital now?

JR: I don’t know.

HW: Oh, I thought they’d have done it, you surprise me.

JR: Well, we’ve asked them a couple of times and she said no.

AW: There was the Walls, Braces.

JR: We’ve interviewed Evelyn Hayden who was a Walls, she was an Ambrose, very, very good.

HW: I’m sure.

JR: Jean Walls has also been interviewed and Bet Brace who you know.

AW: Mrs Brace, used to be at Fordhams, Braces used to live next door to Lily.

HW: Are they still alive?

JR: No, she’s not.

AW: They both used to work at Fordhams, her husband was manager.

JR: They both worked at Fordhams. Arthur – that picture I showed you earlier, of that house at the back of the Ebenezer, that was a pub once.

AW: Cold Bath Yard used to be there, and next door to that used to be a little sweet shop.

HW: I’m trying to think of the name of the person who ran the Cold Bath Yard.

AW: Bunce, I think it was, a lady all on her own.

HW: I thought she was a Starkiss.

AW: Oh, you’re thinking of opposite the church, there used to be a pub opposite the church.

JR: Called the Little Bell?

AW: That’s right – no I think the Little Bell used to be further down St Andrew Street near Turner the ---- sports shop.

JR: Well, Maisie Ditton said she lived between the Little Bell and the 3 Tuns.

AW: Where Defty, the laundry people, used to be, that’s where Starkiss used to live, the pub there. Pubs all along that street!

JR: So let’s go on now to after the war when everything settled down – you were married ----

HW: Just before the war.

AW: More the start of the war. I was in the army then.

JR: So you parted company, married, but you were in the WRNS and you were in the army.

HW: 4 years we were parted. When we came back we went to live at 69 for a while and then we moved to No.50 after Godfreys.

JR: If I wanted to find it now, is it the former doctor’s surgery, Cecil House?

AW: No, it’s the next one to it. Solicitors, I think, on the right hand side of the archway.

JR: So the taxi business, you actually ran it, did you? (yes). So were you driving or managing?

AW: Managing.

JR: And took over from Godfreys.

AW: Stan Godfrey.

JR: Was there quite a good clientele when you took it over?

AW: Well, it was all right, but coming out of the army, everything was different. 4 years abroad, I don’t know.

HW: It was quite busy really, wasn’t it (a pause).

JR: You don’t sound very enthusiastic!

HW: Oh I think he was at the time. Well, it was a job wasn’t it. I liked living there. It was a lovely house, lovely garden, it went right down to the river, you see.

JR: Did the business actually operate from that premises?

HW: Yes.

JR: Where did you keep the taxis?

HW: On the premises at the back, a large garage.

JR: That’s why the archway is there. And, in those days, if you wanted a taxi – you must have been on the phone.

AW: Yes, you couldn’t wait about anywhere, it was all phone work, wasn’t it. You couldn’t go and park.

HW: Like they do now. All came from the phone.

JR: They didn’t have a rank, for instance, at the station?

HW: It wasn’t allowed, I don’t think. People used to phone up from the station, the North station.

JR: So how many drivers did you have?

AW: 2,3.

HW: More than that?

AW: Fred, Bill and Don at times.

JR: And your father?

HW: Yes, he used to do part-time work. They also used to be undertakers, cars for the funerals, you see, and they always needed bearers and my father used to help with that at St Andrews Church.

AW: Used to run the hearse, as well, hearse and cars as well as taxis, we had 2 hearses.

JR: Those hearses, did they ever get any problems with the batteries, because they never do any speed do they (laughter). You used to see these huge, elegant, really out-of-date vehicles which were still going and you wondered how they kept them going, so little used .

HW: Yes, probably didn’t do much mileage in those days.

JR: So what would happen then, would you have to get one of those out and take it round to Scales or somewhere and collect the coffin?

AW: Oh yes. Or Scales would come to us or Fentiman of Church Street came to us.

JR: What, with the coffin in a van?

AW: Well no, for the hearse and then we’d go off with them to the house and pick up the body and coffin.

JR: The deceased was kept usually at the house.

AW: Or the mortuary round by All Saints Church.

JR: So presumably then, you have to be on call.

AW: Yes, because we used to do coroners work as well, police work, sudden deaths, oh yes.

JR: So what would you do in that aspect then?

AW: Just go and pick the body up and take it back to the mortuary or hospital, things like that.

JR: Interesting. So you did the paperwork and lived above. How long did that go on for?

AW: I really don’t know.

HW: 10 years? Time goes so quickly. The girls were at school, weren’t they.

AW: Yes.

JR: Oh, to about the late 50’s? (Yes) Were there any notable incidents or amusing stories to come out of this?

HW: I can’t think of any.

JR: What about – you had to be well-dressed.

AW: Oh yes, yes.

HW: Always for the funeral in black, long coat and white gloves.

JR: Also, there must have been a trick to hoisting that coffin on your shoulders?

AW: Oh yes, and a way to walk.

HW: There was an art in it, I suppose.

AW: Link arms and ----

HW: Get into step.

JR: You haven’t ever had any disasters with the coffin?

AW: No, touch wood, no.

JR: What about the different vicars, were they all as nice as -----

AW: Yes, they were. Revd. Briggs of Bengeo, he was all right.

HW: I forget who was at St Andrews years ago. The Revd. Evans was there.

AW: Bickerton?

JR: He was the curate. C Norman Smith wasn’t it.

HW: That’s right. Norman Smith married us there. Then Revd Gill.

JR: But before that Natty Gardner was around. He died in 1942. Certainly wouldn’t have been there when you were in the funeral or taxi business (pause). Sometimes people have walking funerals, don’t they, so does the car go very slowly with the coffin, did you have many of those?

AW: Yes, a lot of them.

JR: You had to go from the church up to North Road cemetery.

AW: A lot of them. I don’t say walk all the way but at least half the way, some of them from the church.

JR: So you were on quite good terms with the cemetery staff?

AW: Oh yes.

JR: I was thinking the other day, it’s an interesting and very necessary business to be in, isn’t it?

HW: Yes, well they’ll always be needed, undertakers.

JR: If you wanted a career in that it probably would be a job for life (pause). Now, is there anything else you think that I might not have encountered or heard of?

HW: I should think you’ve gone over all of it really.

JR: There might be something I haven’t asked you. I’m particularly looking for human stories, human interest stories about people and what happened to them, incidents in the street like horse and cart bolting or -----

HW: Can’t think of anything like that happening to us (Recording pause).

JR: Just going to ask Arthur a question now. You went into the services in 1940 – you’d be 24 then.

HW: Yes, you would be.

AW: I know I volunteered before the war started.

JR: When you left school, what did you do?

AW: I started off with a butcher’s round, errand boy on a bicycle.

HW: Then you went to Wren’s.

AW: Wren’s the baker, on a little van out to the country, Brickendon, Bayford, doing rounds for the baker and from there I went into the army.

JR: Were you working from Ware Road with Wren?

AW: Railway Street where Pearces is now.

JR: You collected your bread.

AW: Yes, used to be the bakery there, then into the army.

JR: Which butcher did you work for?

AW: Oh, Maidenhead Street, LMC [London Meat Co]. A big, fat man was the manager, Mr Fox, a big, fat man. He used to live up Bengeo Street. Yes, LMC on the right-hand side. Oh, and then I went to Johnsons, the butchers. That’s right, that’s where I learnt to drive.

JR: Bruce?

AW: That’s right, Bruce Johnson. Learned to drive round the villages, Tewin and all round there. We used to go round with meat chops and all that sort of thing, and steaks and sell them, have a round there. That’s where I learned to drive.

JR: Did you get on well with Bruce?

AW: Oh, yes.

JR: He’s a nice man.

AW: Bruce and Jack and Tom – Tom that learned me.

HW: We still keep in touch with them, they’re in Ware Road. She used to live next door here, didn’t she, Wendy.

AW: Yes, used to have their own slaughterhouse in Railway Street.

JR: Yes, they started the shop there and then moved to Ware Road. We had a tape with Bruce Johnson and Frank Chappell together and it was hilarious, because they’re both very good story-tellers and it’s my favourite tape.

HW: You’ve done a lot of interviewing then.

JR: Well, that was my first one. I didn’t actually do any interviewing, I went with Peter and I listened. I did learn from that, you didn’t have to lead them.

HW: They led you, almost.

JR: They were laughing and it was a good tape!

Tape ends