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Transcript TitleBeckwith, Pam and Ron (O2001.13)
IntervieweePam and Ron Beckwith (PB, RB)
InterviewerPeter Ruffles (PR)
Transcriber byJean Riddell (Purkis)


Hertford Oral History Group

Recording no: O2001.13

Interviewee: Pam and Ron Beckwith (PB, RB)

Date: 18th October 2001

Venue: 21, Chase Gardens, Twickenham.

Interviewer: Peter Ruffles (PR)

Transcriber: Jean Riddell (Purkis)

************** unclear recording

[discussion] untranscribed material

italics editor’s notes

Ron’s family founded Beckwith’s Antiques at Old Cross. Later the business moved to 43 St. Andrew Street.

JR: (Speaking prior to leaving for Twickenham to 21 Chase Gardens, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ron Beckwith. I’m going there today with Peter Ruffles to record Ron’s memories, he lived in Hertford before the war.)

JR: I’ve been in contact recently with the man who bought No 21 [North Road or Crescent} Roger Jones, who has given me a few questions, hope that’s all right. He’s been doing lots of work of course, doing the front garden at the moment. He’s found a few interesting things in the garden which he wanted me to tell you about, I’ll do that in due course. What we came for, we wanted to know about your early life in the town, Your father started the antique shop, or your grandfather.

RB: Yes, there’s a photograph in the next room.

PB: Your father and your grandfather, because your grandfather was an upholsterer.

JR: So his Christian name was..?

PB: Frank was your father, what was your grandfather?

RB: William.

PR: Ah yes, his plane is in Beckwith’s antique shop in a glass case, William Beckwith’s plane. Not for sale but as something of interest, 1898 or something like that was the date they put on it, they’re rather keen to maintain the link with the…

JR: Did William come to the town, was he the first of the family to come to Hertford?

RB: The first?

JR: Yes, or was he already there?

RB: Grandfather was the first.

JR: Yes. Where did he come from?

RB: Witham in Essex.

JR: He was apprenticed was he, or was it your father – there’s an indenture certificate in Beckwith’s.

PB: Oh, your father must have been an apprentice because he was a cabinet maker, wasn’t he?

RB: He was, yes.

PB: Your father did the upholstery side of it?

RB: My grandfather did the upholstery, my father did cabinet making. He used to go out to houses around Hertford, and make furniture to people’s style, what they required.

JR: So he wasn’t just renovating antiques he was actually making a whole piece of furniture from the beginning. When did the firm actually start up, do you know?

RB: No, I don’t know. I don’t know when they came from Witham either. (Pause)

JR: When they first came to the town, did they live elsewhere? They didn’t live in North Crescent straight away, did they?

RB: My father did, my grandfather lived over the shop.

PB: Weren’t you born in Bengeo?

RB: I was, yes, but where I don’t know.

PB: Well, were you living in Bengeo?

RB: Don’t think so. (There was a maternity home in Bengeo around that time.)

PB: So where were you living?

RB: North Road.

PB: Oh. But you got bombed out.

RB: There was bomb damage in the first world war, and went to live in no 17 which was in my time a manse, Congregational Church, don’t know if it still is.

JR: No, but it was for a long time.

RB: And there was somebody killed just outside, Gifkins across the road.

JR: That was when the Zeppelin stick of bombs were dropped.

RB: Cuffley it was brought down, I can see that.

PB: Actually heard about it lots of times.

RB: During the war my parents used to take me up to the tunnel.

JR: Was that Molewood?

RB: Up the North Road, the tunnel up there, when the air raids were on.

JR: Have you got an older brother?

RB: No, there was another Beckwith in Hertford. He went to the Grammar School. I’ve got the Old Boys’ Magazine.

PB: It’s amazing after all these years Ron’s name is still in there.

PR: Philip {Turnbull} was very keen on this.

PB: Oh yes, didn’t join until a few years ago. Philip suggested to Ron that he joined.

JR: When you went to Miss Hucks {School at 7 Port Hill} did you go from North Crescent?

RB: You see, if I crossed the road there, North Road, you go all the way without crossing until you got there. Sometimes the Alexanders {Sele Farm} had a horse and trap and they used to give me a lift.

PB: Didn’t you go with Philip?

RB: Don’t remember that. We were there at the age of six then we went on to the Grammar School.

PB: You didn’t start school till you were six, did you?

JR: How long did your family live in that house, until the 1950s?

RB: You see, I was born in ’13 and they were there then.

JR: And when you left the town in ’36 your father continued to live there, did he? {Yes}

PB: Your grandmother lived there until she, after your father died. She lived into her early eighties didn’t she?

RB: She used to sit up in a little room which looked straight up St, Andrew’s Street.

PB: Oh, she knew absolutely everything that was going on.

JR: Was she Mrs. D.S?

PB: What was her Christian name?

RB: Kate.

JR: Oh, Kate. No, I was talking to Roger Jones and he said he wasn’t quite sure who Mrs. D.S. was who was living there.

RB: Oh, father married again.

PB: Oh yes, that was Doris.

JR: So she was your stepmother. Did your mother die quite early then?

PB: Just as the war ended. She died in August. It was very sad because they were coming to see us and she was writing a letter to say they’d be up early, and her writing got more and more frail and she had a stroke and she died. Still got the letter, unfinished. She went into hospital and she died in hospital, she’d had several strokes. She was 60. And then Ron’s father – she died in the August, Ron’s father married again in the April, and he died in the November.

PR: Oh, so the Mrs. Beckwith I remember at 21 was a long-time widow and a short marriage too, I’d missed all that. I remember her, fair-haired.

PB: Dyed!

PR: Oh, dyed was it!

JR: So who was she, a Miss..?

RB: Amos. She came from Flor ? in Northants.

PR: How did they meet, then?

PB: She lived next door, that was all in flats.

PR: Yes, 23, which was bigger.

PB: She was very friendly with your father at one time, wasn’t she, your mother put a stop to it. Didn’t let it develop.

RB: Operatic Society.

PB: They got thrown together. So when Mrs. B died she was (pause)

JR: There!

PB: Oh, you are like Janet Sheail.

JR: I’m like her?

PB: Yes, you sound like her, your voice.

JR: I think you said this over the phone, I’d forgotten, then I met her, I think she joined the Civic Society, and I thought “Oh, that’s Mrs. Sheail” and I thought no more about it – I must go and seek her out now.

PB: They lived in Wesson? It was very funny because her parents called in here having come back from Hertford to say that they’d been to see Janet’s house and that she was now living in Benge-o!

RB: Can you tell me if John Blake is still around? Lived up, when you’re in North Road carry on and then there’s a steep incline, carry on there and over the railway bridge

PR: Yes, Fordwich.

RB: That’s where he lived.

PR: I don’t think so. I’m often knocking on the doors there for elections and things, it’s not a familiar name. Any relation of George Blake who was a photographer in town?

RB: George died. I used to play tennis with him and also with John.

PR: And is John his brother?

RB: Yes, it was a big family. Bill and Tom and John and George. There were two daughters.

PR: There was one who had a florist’s shop in town, lived in Queen’s Road.

RB: Well, they lived up that way.

PR: Towards Dunkirks farm, at the very top I remember, but I’ve forgotten which Christian name. George was the really famous one because of the photographs. He was the only photographer in the town at one time.

RB: I remember when we were playing away somewhere and he broke the net, and he didn’t do anything to help, just sat down there and waited for them to repair it.

PR: His widow, Thora, has given us some really good memories. Thora and George married and had four boys who we see from time to time.

RB: She used to play tennis on the next court to ours, Cowbridge that was, near the Hertford Football Club. It’s probably all fields now.

PR: No, developed I think, a lot of it’s built on.

RB: At one time we had three courts, and the Old Boys, my Old Boys had two courts adjoining one another.

PR: Yes. She was Thora Farrow.

RB: I’m pleased they married, didn’t think they had.

PR: Yes, and a very productive marriage. Thora was a mainstay at St. Andrew’s Church all the time that I can remember her. Curiously ended up living in Cowbridge , rented a property opposite the Congregational Church, 1st floor. That was her final home for about 20 years.

PB: Did they never own it, always rented?

PR: Always rented. Don’t know whether they owned Springfield Lodge which is where they were living before, that was pulled down for some road widening in Mangrove Road.

PB: Could you tell me if Arthur Drury is still around, the outfitters in Maidenhead Street?

PR: This is an embarrassment because I can’t remember if he is or not. I think he may recently have died – very tall.

RB: And Joan Richards – I rather imagined they married.

PB: Joan Richards was married, they had a family didn’t they, oh yes. Then there was Kitty Richards.

PR: Did Arthur have a sister, Winifred, Winnie Judd.

RB: Yes, used to play tennis with Winifred too.

PR: No, I think Arthur may have died or moved away, They sold the shop some years ago, I think it still trades under the name Drury. His father was a very important man about town, in the shop and in United Reformed Church.

PB: Yes, they all went to that church. Your parents went to it.

JR: The tennis was quite a big social activity, was it, in those days?

RB: Oh yes, I belonged to the town club too. They’ve now moved to Hartham I believe.

PR: Were they up in Rooke’s Alley, Churchfields - twitchels that went from Mangrove Road to All Saints Church?

RB: There was a school there. Grass courts there.

PR: Yes, that’s the club that’s moved to Hartham.

PB: Kitty Richards used to live next door, didn’t she, in Doris’s house.(23 North Road)

JR: When was that house converted to flats, when you were there, or has it always been flats?

RB: I think it was always like that. There always seemed to be several families in there.

JR: Apart from moving to No.17, did you ever go to any other house to live for a short time? Did you ever go into No.27 to live?

RB: No, who was there, Frances was it? The daughter Frances at one time taught at the Grammar School.

JR: Yes. Was this from the nursery family? Across the road?

RB: I don’t know.

JR: OK. Roger asked me to ask you if you knew anything about the back stable of 21 – it’s got a peculiar piece built out into the back garden, which might accommodate the bonnet of a car.

RB: Yes. It was originally a stable and my father had a car which he kept there.

JR: So he had to build a bit out, because it wasn’t long enough.

RB: I don’t remember if he built that. It was most peculiar because he could back out all right but he couldn’t go in that way, he had to go up North Road, across the cross road and down Hertingfordbury Road at an angle.

JR: Well this bit that’s been built on the back of the stable is a peculiar shape, it’s as though you have to park the car at an angle, it’s shaped as though it takes the bonnet of the car but it’s not square, it’s longer one way than the other.

PB: You had a big car, didn’t you, and of course they were big and square.

JR: Well, the stables were not at all meant to take a car. In fact he asked me to bring this to show you, he found this in the flower bed behind that projecting piece and thought you might have a look at it and see if you had it for a drink of ginger beer. It’s got 1912 (so before his time). But that stayed on for many years afterwards.( Date when they first made ginger beer?) I’ll have to take it back, I’m afraid.

PB: I said to David, are they still, have they still got 21 North Road? Oh yes. Has he sort of joined the two up?

JR: Yes, he has.

PB: So it’s all like one big house.

JR: You go in 23 and then under the stairs you turn into a doorway – he had to uncover it – it was once all one house. We think the house was converted into two houses about 1840. When he went to make a doorway between the two houses there was a doorway there under the plaster. The back portion of that house, which was the scullery, it’s a bathroom now over the scullery.

PB: That used to be a bedroom.

RB: A sort of spare room.

JR: Yes, that we think is a much older portion of the house, but when you were there, did you think that?

RB: No, all the same, I think.

PB: Your father had the bathroom put in, then there’s a little step, and you go into the loo.

JR: It’s redundant now, but it’s still there. When you go into the bathroom it’s quite palatial in there, you’ve got a huge mirror, with gilt edge and all this wonderful tiling, quite unexpected!

PB: I should think so! David put the bathroom in that they had there because it was very old-fashioned, wasn’t it?

JR: I think Roger’s done it up a bit but the rest of the house is waiting to be done.

RB: Apparently he likes the house very much.

JR: Oh I know, he can’t get enough of the history of it, he keeps telling me things. In fact they’re doing the front garden at the moment, the two gardens, and he said to tell you that the circular hedge is still there, the yew tree is still there, he’s taken some of the ferns out but he’s put them in the back garden.

PB: Wasn’t it a pity that the railings went during the war.

JR: He got them back. Well, he got an offer from the Ear Nose and Throat Hospital, Golden Square, when they were demolishing it and he said Yes, I’ll have them, and got them to 21, North Crescent, he erected them but now he’s refurbishing them, painting them. Both houses, yes.

PB: Do they still call that 21?

JR: No, the number’s blacked out. I think once he’d bought it he decided to call it all no.23.

PB: Do they have a front door?

JR: Yes. It’s still there but it’s locked and bolted. As you go in to no.21 there was a wall-papered wall which formed a passageway. He took that down and he found underneath the wallpaper hessian with size on it and under that a very nice wall which had been made flat by this hessian and the wallpaper pasted over it. If you could come into the house by the front door you’d come straight into the main room now.

PB: Has he taken that wall down?

JR: Yes.

PB: So the passageway, it’s made one room now.

JR: Yes, so, you walk through to the next room now. The front room must have been a lot smaller with the passageway.

PB: Oh yes, it was like a doll’s house.

JR: The computers are in there now – it’s full of computers.

PB: What a shame in a Georgian house!

JR: So, really, the ground floor of that 21 apart from the kitchen area, everybody in that family seems to have a computer, there are four of them, all sitting there.

PB: And what has he done with the kitchen?

JR: The kitchen is a kitchen where you cook and the next bit.

PB: David put units in there.

JR: Oh possibly – he said he’d changed the butler sink.

Side B

JR: And then at the back he’s taken down the wall between the two houses about halfway down and he’s got a pond at the back of 21. A kind of terrace – it’s quite damp down there because of all the ferns, and then on his side,23, he’s got lawn and some quite ancient greenhouses down one side and then he’s got the two stables at the back. He does a lot of woodwork, and he’s got a compressor in there, machinery. He’s always working, doing something.

PB: He works, he’s got a job?

JR: He works for Beckwith’s, actually.

PB: Does he? How strange! What does he do?

JR: Furniture. He does restoration work and he also advises on some kind of archaeology. And his wife is the expert at County Hall on mammals – bats. She’s an expert in her own right. He stays at home, does the work for Beckwith’s at home. He’s around for much of the time.

PB: Your father made a wonderful bureau – was it for their doctor? He died, but David’s got that, it’s beautiful. Wonderful work, inlaid.

PR: Where’s David living now?

PB: He lives at Radlett. He’d been playing hockey till quite recently, he did something to his foot – I think he tripped, I don’t know if he broke or splintered a bone but it hasn’t healed very well, I think they want to break it and do it again.

PR: Very good at St. Andrew’s – supporters of the church. Can we ask about Philip and the Turnbull family? I remember your wrote to Jean and said there were mysterious ladies living in the background at no.66 (Hertingfordbury Road) and I’d forgotten.

RB: Were they Mrs. Turnbull’s sisters?

PR: Yes, possibly, but I’d got the name Frances , a Miss Frances somewhere in the back of my mind but it’s a long time ago. There were two shadowy figures that would emerge at tea time and light the gas – the gas light at 66 was in the middle of the room not on the chimney breast. It used to come down a straight pole, these two lodgers, really, would appear.

RB: I remember one.

PR: Yes, there were two. Elizabeth, Philip’s daughter, may know. You put it in your letter and suddenly it brought back a (memory.)

PB: You didn’t see much of her but you realised she was there and it was all a bit strange.

RB: Oh yes, she was kept in the background.

PB: But I loved your descriptions of Philip’s mother who I used to call Aunt Edie, asking you if you’d said your prayers, just exactly as she might have done. You always knew with Philip, even when he was a small boy, that he was going into the church.

PR: Yes, my mother said the same thing. Mother was a bit younger than Philip, but yes, it seemed that was the inevitable, he was so interested in things to do with St. Andrew’s and friendly with “Natty” Gardner (Revd. Nathan Gardner)

PB: (To Ron) He must have thought you were a heathen, you didn’t go to church.

RB: I went to the other church.

PB: But you didn’t go regularly, did you. Well, when I knew you I didn’t realise you went to church.

RB: We used to go in the evenings too.

PR: And then you kept the link with Philip.

PB: It was only when Philip went to Hornsey that you went to Chelsea and then to Brentford.

PR: I took his Aunt Nora, the one who had been the headmistress, to Hornsey to his induction there.

PB: Oh, did you?

PR: I went up with Aunt Nora on the train from Hertford North. She’d been to Ely and Coveney (?) My brother went to Coveney but I didn’t go – I think I drove Philip there once a long time after he left and remember meeting people in the street, his old parishioners. But then the Hornsey thing was closer to us. Ivy was a regular visitor to Hertford.

PB: Yes she was.

PR: And then they had the good fortune of the bungalow from his Aunt Stella which was an absolute gift from her.

PB: Sad that Ivy never got to live there.

PR: Yes, she knew about it and in a sense he felt she had something to do with it all. It wouldn’t have been a pity if she hadn’t seen what was coming.

PB: Then he got his church life there. Ivy wouldn’t have let him do so much church work.

PR: He may not have wanted to.

PB: She said to me he’s done his best and she didn’t want him to do it.

PR: But it was important for Philip to do it.

PB: Yes, he would have been lost without it.

PR: And they found him all the ladies of the parish to minister unto.

PB: But the priests don’t do that now, parish visiting.

PR: No, he would have felt it very important.

PB: Yes, that was very much part of his ministry.

PR: Did you ever call him Blossom, or hear him called Blossom?

PB: Did you?

PR: My mother always called him Blossom.

PB: (to Ron) You used to fly your kite with him, didn’t you, didn’t he get caught up in some wires one day, and a man came along on a bike with a telegraph pole thing?

RB: And managed to get it off the wire.

JR: Where did this take place?

RB: It would be along the road, the Welwyn road. We lost it one day, it went over the hedges, but it was great fun.

PR: He used to tell me about Ernie Race getting a bang on the head with a cricket ball once, I don’t know whether you were playing then. Ernie Race, we used to call him Burglar Bill because he looked like the burglar in the Dandy or Beano comic, he lived in the big houses near to Cross Lane, the step houses where the Warehams and the Thomasons lived.

RB: Mrs. Thorne lived in one.

PR: Yes, the other side of Cross Lane.

RB: Then there was Walker.

PR: Yes, to do with the flour mill, the Walkers worked at Garratts Mill.

RB: Hertingfordbury Road. The first house was someone called Bilton.

PR: Yes, Les Bilton, His name is still written on a brick near the front door of the first house (No.14) He spent his whole life in that house. Born there and he was 75 or so when he died.

JR: When you came out of the back of 21(North Road) you were almost there, at those cottages.

RB: Almost, yes.

PB: Hertford’s been split up, with all these roads, hasn’t it?

PR: It’s not so bad as some places, but it’s not good. At least you can still see the pattern reasonably easily.

RB: North Road used to go up, and there was a bend there and some shops, near the church. Our butcher’s was there. Your mother used to send you for some chops.

PR: Did you have anything to do with Alfred Scales’ yard?

RB: I knew of him and I knew his nephew, Knapp.

PR: Knapp Harms, yes. That was a good place for us to play, it became a bit ramshackle, tumble down . In Scales’ day it was more business-like.

RB: Knapp didn’t seem to trouble much about it.

PR: I know he was a very good architect and a very good undertaker. He wasn’t a very good manager of the workmen, they would steal a march on him and I think got away with things. He was a bit more into the creative side and the building firm side.

RB: He used to go with a girl called Peet.

PR: Yes, he married her, Hilda Peet. Yes, there’s one of the Peet sisters still living – not Hilda, not Mabel, the other one, there were three sisters from Birch Green. Mrs Knight is still there, she married Wheatley and Knight, the garage people.

RB: Oh, Wheatley, yes. They were friends of ours, there was another one, Dick Wheatley, he managed an estate nearby.

PR: It wasn’t Panshanger? He wasn’t caught up with Panshanger?

RB: No, not that one. Queen Mary used to go and stay there.

PR: No, what’s it called, behind Letty Green where they do polo.

JR: Woolmers.

PR: Woolmers!

JR: Did you know the SummersGill family? No. I must be confused then, I thought you had some connection with them.

PB: Whereabouts did he live then?

JR: Well he lived at a place called Hill Crest at Bengeo and father SummersGill was a borough councillor and became an ordained minister, and minister of Letty Green church (No)

RB: Did you have any lunch?

JR: Yes we had some sandwiches.

PB: Did you have them on the train?

JR: Well, just off the train actually!

PB: Oh, you are like Janet! (Sheail) (To Ron) Don’t you think so?

(Overtalking about the resemblance, particularly the teeth!)

PR: Well, thanks for giving me the warning, there’s another one to watch out for, it’s worth knowing!

JR: Are we talking about Mrs. Sheail? SHEAIL?

RB: Something like that, they live in Bengeo.

JR: I met her for the first time a few months ago. She paid me her subscription for the Civic Society. But I didn’t think anything of it, now I suppose you don’t recognise yourself in somebody else but (to PR) you know her, don’t you?

PR: No.

RB: She’d got your book.

JR: Yes. I’ll have to phone her and make an appointment to go and see her, and say you think we’re doubles! And she’ll have a fright I expect.

PR: In the Grammar School days, Ron, was Maurice Dodderidge there, his dates are near to yours, but you don’t always know a year below you.

RB: I remember him, yes.PR: He became the president for a while of the association. I’m not sure what’s happened to him now. There was another person we went to interview when we were looking at the early years of the Grammar School, Gerry Betts, he’s several years younger than you, that counts him out really in school terms, but he’s a preacher somewhere in the Aylesbury direction. For a while we were trying to get some info together about the Grammar School and the move from the old building to the new (1930).

RB: I went to both.

PR: Yes, you’d have been the ideal person. So you saw the arrival of Mr. Bunt and the end of Boggy Marsh.

RB: I remember when I first went there Mr. Bunt said “Tell me when you’re ten” and his birthday was a week later than mine. So that would give the alert that you should start getting excited for his birthday. He was a marvellous tutor.

PR: Yes, he taught me when I first went, I got the end of him, for about three years I think. He interviewed me and my friends and we went in with Biff Clouting, and still there then were Tabby Blake, chemistry, and Taphouse, Drip Taphouse. Can I take your photograph for the museum?

RB: Yes. (Photograph taken.)

JR: What was Philip Turnbull like at school – was he quite academic, hard working, or what

RB: I think some of the time we were together a bit lower than me, I think.

JR: But he was in the same year as you, wasn’t he?

RB: I became a prefect, he didn’t. He didn’t play games, well, only a little, whereas I was in the first team in soccer, second in cricket.

PR: I remember Philip talking about Father Lott. How did that connection begin then with Philip?

PB: That was Ladbroke Grove. Philip went there as a curate. Philip was a bit unsettled in his early ministry, always moving around. He was at St. Mary’s Ely, then he went to Ladbroke Grove. And then he had the opportunity of getting to Covely which he loved.

PR: That, I think, was the ministry of his life.

PB: And then he went to Camden Town, was it? That was a derelict place, wasn’t it. Did you go there?

PR: Yes, several times. After the induction I went at intervals, not frequently, but they gradually reduced the area of the church for worship, didn’t they, and were worshipping in the side transept with a small congregation. Loyal.

PB: Oh the same at Hornsey, a marvellous congregation. We often used to go to services at Christmas, a lovely congregation and they all worshipped Philip.

PR: It must have made him feel satisfied, if that’s the right word, with the way he’d conducted his ministry.

PB: It was a huge church and we went a couple of Sundays before his induction, just to see what the church was like, and we made ourselves known and they said “there’s nobody here, nobody comes” then when Philip came people returned. I think the church was lower in format. ( And that’s why they returned.)

PR: Yes, I can imagine Ivy warmly welcoming newcomers. She had leukaemia and died. She actually drove down to Cornwall for a caravanning holiday a few days before.

PB: No, she went to Elizabeth’s at Salisbury.

PR: Salisbury was it? I knew she’d actually motored.

PB: She went into hospital, they didn’t know what was wrong with her. She had this bruising and then somebody came up with the idea that it was leukaemia which it was. And she had chemotherapy, it was Christmas, that very very bad Christmas we had and she didn’t get back after Christmas and when she went back it had gone too far. They stopped treatment and Ron rang up and Ivy answered the phone, and she said it was a month they’ve given me, and of course it was over soon, exactly a month. And we were all going on holiday to Cornwall, so we were up in the Lakes when she died. She died on a Friday. It was a funny thing because my brother was with us and Ron and Harold went out and I said “No, I don’t want to go out” and she died that evening. It was awful. Came home and went and got some fish and chips and Philip phoned and said that Ivy had died.

PR: Yes. She was a wise friend and a carer of Philip, but Jean knows Philip well.

PB: Yes, she was made for Philip, wasn’t she?

PR: Absolutely.

PB: Father Lott didn’t like his church people to marry – you were married to the church but it enhanced Philip’s ministry having Ivy because she was such a carer, I think poor old Michael, he really took it badly.

PR: Yes, well, boys and mothers ( pause).

PB: Are you eating, come along, do , please.


PB: I remember Ron saying when he used to play cricket, when they were boys, the cricket stumps belonged to Philip. If he didn’t like anything he’d pick them up.

PR: Oh, and that’s the end of the game.

JR: I think you mentioned in your letter that where I live now is about where the cricket field…

RB: St, Andrew’s had a tennis court there.

JR: Did St, Andrew’s own any of the land there? No, I think it’s Salisbury’s land isn’t it. Yes, there’s quite a lot of flat land there now.

PR: Now, what else is there to ask Ron?

JR: Well, I just wondered about the business really. You were down at Old Cross when the business first started. Was it always down there in your time, it’s now moved up to near St. Andrew’s church.

RB: Loveday, he was at Hoddesdon and I went over there and I sold the business at Old Cross to him and he came there for a time.

PB: But the new shop is a much larger shop isn’t it.

PR: Was that about 1948 Ron?

RB: It could have been.

PR: I’m just trying to think when I first became aware of Archie Loveday. He became a pretty powerful force in the community – everyone got to know Archie Loveday. He gave generously to good causes.

RB: Yes, it was about ’48 – it was sometime after ’45 I think.

PB: You had a job to sell the shop, because you wanted somebody to take over the shop and take the name, the goodwill of everything.

PR: Well, it’s certainly gone on in leaps and bounds. There are so many other antique shops in St. Andrew Street including Garratt’s Mill, Simon Garratt who sold the mil has bought Cawthorne House next to your butcher’s and that has become an antique shop and on Sundays expensive cars come in from all over the place to Beckwith’s and various other shops. And of course the whole of St.Nicholas Hall is decked out with… the chap in there at the moment, I think he’s the owner, Gordon Gray, he’s a Scot, specialises in Scottish grandfather clocks and of course the building is suitable, plenty of space, and some high ceilings in the hall part., but your old buildings are still being used in a very similar way, reproduction pine and a lot of other little interesting things that people come from other towns to see.

RB: I was always disappointed that Queen Mary didn’t call in at the shop, because she was interested in antiques.

PR: Yes, I think you’ve cause for disappointment.

RB: Jack and Cicely Courtnedge lived at Essendon. They used to call in. ( Two famous actors.)

PR: What about John Hart’s house, nearby?

JR: Next door, going down towards Barber’s, Adams yard, next door to your father’s antiques shop was a small white cottage.

PR: Going down to the dentist, Halls.

JR: The library’s on one side of the road

RB: Yes, yes.

JR: It’s now a social club for McMullen’s, like a private pub really, apparently in the 30s it was a dairy and house for the Hart family, cows at Dickermill I think. At Hartham to start with, then when Hartham was required for a recreation ground they had to move down to Dickermill. We interviewed John Hart, it was very interesting – do you remember the family?

RB: I remember going there and getting milk, yes. And I went to Hall the dentist. (pause)

JR: And there was another dairy – Ibotts/Ibbotts in the area, rivals to Hart’s.

PR: It seems such an unlikely place to have a cow or a dairy on Old Cross. That’s the beauty of Hertford, so near grazing opportunities.

JR: There’s been a video made of the town, a couple of videos, but your former premises, one called Haunted Hertford which we thought was a bit of a joke, they got some psychic person to come along and see round these places, and he said there was a definite presence in your former premises, did you ever encounter anything up there? (No reply!)

PR: There were other shops on Old Cross, Farnham’s the newsagent.

RB: Next door was a grocer’s shop, Bryant’s.

PB: On the other side there was a man called Dixon, leather.

PR: Oh yes, they were a rival of Rush’s, the leather people doing the same sort of business.

PB: It was funny because I was Dixon, and we lived next door to Dixon.

JR: No relation.

PB: No

JR: That’s a very good toyshop now, nice handmade toys, in my opinion, traditional ones.

PR: And can you remember the other side of Old Cross, what else?

RB: Hugman’s the pork butcher’s, Munnings the Post Office

PR: Nice Victorian bow window.

RB: Turner the sports shop, Rush for leather.

PB: There a very nice shop further up where they sold nicky-nacky things.

JR: Recently? (yes) Oh, that’s Wigginton’s . It was Barber’s, and then this chap came and bought it, or leased it, and was taking down the Barber’s name plate, then underneath, nicely tiled was Wigginton’s, and he liked that and decided to leave it up. And the Wiggintons lived at the end of your row in North Crescent, no 41. So that shop. It’s not really Wigginton’s but they’ve taken the name, and he’s doing a good trade in repro pine furniture, Art Deco lamps and lacy doilies and beads, people like that.

PB: Yes!

PR: Yes of course, it’s the same firm as in (old) Beckwith’s premises. (In 2020 the old Barbers premises, which was Wigginton’s before and after Barber’s is now the Women’s Society, no.2 St. Andrew Street.)

PB: On the other side from 21 North Road they used to have a donkey.

PR: Oh yes, Mrs. Medlock’s donkey.

PB: Yes, what was she called?

PR: It was at the back of North Road House old Mrs. Medlock, the widow of the doctor, (the house) was hit by a Zeppelin in 1915?

JR: Yes, a wing.

PR: Yes, one wing.

PB: It’s funny, we’ve got a new lady curate and she’s been here a couple of times, and she’s got connections with Ware. Who is it she knew, Ron? Somebody who was in your class at the grammar school? They had a bakery.

RB: Josiah Wren.

PB: That’s right, the boy was called Wren and they used to call him Chitty. And he’s now out in Monaco and she’s been out to see him and he remembered, and it’s rather funny that she should come here.

PR: Well, his sisters have been living in Hertford until quite recently.

PB: You know this family, do you?

PR: Well, well, fancy coming to Twickenham and learning about Chitty Wren! Yes yes, there are certain names that come up when we’re talking to people, the Wrens because his father was Alderman, Josiah Wren the baker he was Mayor and a very good Liberal when Liberals weren’t quite so prominent in Hertford. The shop they had in the town centre is still a baker’s. So the next trip is abroad with the tape recorder.

JR: I’ve been there, it’s very nice, they come after you with dustpans, sweeping up behind you!

PB: It’s funny because this person comes from Shepperton and she lives in Latham and we asked if she knew Philip because Philip used to help out at Shepperton Church but he must have left just before she went there. She only does three days a week and she’s not a priest, she’s just a curate.

PR: Deacon stage. So how old is she?

PB: She must be sixty.

PR: Yes, so she’s got a good perspective on things.

PB: Yes, her husband supports her, that helps. She can’t consecrate but she can preach.

PR: How long have you been here in this house?

PB: We’ve been here 59 years.

JR: Was it new then?

PB: No, but not very old. My mother always used to refer to it as Pam’s Little House until she saw Ron’s Little House!

JR: So how did you two meet then? You were working in the same office? (Yes) So how did you come to leave Hertford then?

PB: When Gillette moved down to the Great West Road.

RB: My uncle was a director of Gillette and he got me the job. Actually it was offered to a friend of mine but his mother didn’t want him to go up to town so it was offered to me.

JR: So how long did you have to travel from Hertford?

RB: Five years.

JR: So quite a long journey, into London and out again.

PB: Oh but Ron got digs, and you were on the continent.

RB: Yes, ’37-‘39

PB: Yes, so you didn’t have that hassle.

JR: So 59 years you’ve been here,

PB: 59 in November – we have our diamond wedding next year and I shall be 80. Ron will be 88 in October.

PR: Well it’s a good place to have landed. I mean, this afternoon is just lovely here.

PB: And we’ve got so much around us, Hampton Court, Bushey Park, and when I say parks, they are wild parks with deer and the river’s so beautiful.

PR: And the travel is so straightforward – if you were living in a beautiful village in the country you’d be stuck.

RB: And we get free travel.

PB: Yes. I don’t use it much. I go to Richmond sometimes. If the car works I don’t get the bus, I can get to Richmond in seven minutes. Unfortunately when we go to Richmond now we have to get two buses. You came over Richmond/Twickenham bridge, didn’t you, in the train.

PR: Yes, I suppose so, we were talking!

JR: Yes, in fact, I suddenly looked out and said Oh., it’s Twickenham!

PR: It’s a very exciting visit for us.

PB: You cross Hampton Court bridge and you’re in Surrey when you cross the bridge.

JR: when we get on the train at Twickenham, how long into the journey will be Richmond Park?

PB: Richmond is the next sign. If you look out you’ll see the river, on your right. A friend took me out last Thursday, she’s head of music at the Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park, a marvellous place to work, and we went to a National Trust place (The name is lost in poor sound) where people are always going to. The furthest I’ve been out for six years. Ron hasn’t been out for six years, Can’t get him in the car. I left him with his panic button and a nice lunch and off we went, and it was absolutely gorgeous, I was quite emotional it was just so beautiful.

JR: Do you have any concerts in the Kneller Hall?

PB: Kneller Hall, yes, they have concerts during the summer on a Wednesday evening, used to go in for a shilling.

JR: Oh, can you hear them from here?

PB: Yes, when I’m putting the washing out I can hear them, the band’s out!

JR: I grew up in Deal which used to have the Royal Marines School of Music.

PB: Yes, they’ve closed that. They were going to close Kneller Hall, they said it was going to be an open prison. They did deny it in the end. Said it was too much money. It’s a very busy place, lots of learning, intensive learning.

PR: Yes. Are you still allowed to have an open fire here?

PB: You mustn’t burn coal. We have fires in the winter when it’s cold because I light it when we’ve had our evening meal rather than before and when you come in here it’s absolutely marvellous and you fall asleep and it’s so cosy.

PR: How do you manage with the chimney sweep in these parts?

PB: Oh yes, there is a chimney sweep, it’s amazing the number of people who’ve gone back to open fires.

PR: Oh good.

PB: We had a coal bunker at the end of the garden, and we had that pulled down, it was so unsightly and we had it in the garage and that was fine and I’ve now got a dustbin full of fuel and I’ve got to decide whether to get a little bit more. Isn’t it marvellous, especially at Christmas time when people come in. there’s nothing like the heat from a real fire, When it’s dark I put little bits (of coal) on and hope it doesn’t smoke too much.

PR: I think they are more relaxed now that not every house has a fire because contribution to the smog is not…

PB: Oh, that was awful! Do you remember the last smog?

PR: Yes.

PB: An awful weekend. I went up to Covent Garden on the Saturday because I had a ticket and I came back and there were no buses and I had to walk from Hounslow and I just got completely lost, didn’t know where I was, it was dense.

PR: Yes, I was doing a teaching practice in Cricklewood and had to get back to Chelsea and the double-decker buses were being led by their conductors, and I remember standing under a traffic light, and being able to see the green light as I stood underneath it, but the red light was out of sight.

PB: And it smelt acrid.

PR: On your clothes, black line down the front.

PB: It can be foggy, but it’s not smoggy, is it?

PR: No, it’s very different London fogs and smogs are a thing of the past.

PB: How do your trains run?

PR: We don’t know.

PB: Do they run every hour?

PR: Well I’m going to a meeting in Cheshunt and there are three an hour from Liverpool Street.

PB: You’ll go back on your own, will you , to Hertford.

JR: Yes, well I’ll go half way back with Peter. I know not all the trains from Liverpool Street go to Hertford, some go to Harlow.

PR: Yes, well, we’ll be all right.

JR: If you want to go beyond Broxbourne you have to watch which way the train is going. So I’ll no doubt accompany him to Cheshunt then I’ll just stay on the train.

PR Explains that Ron’s photo might be shown in an exhibition at the museum, if, for instance, it’s about Old Cross.


Transcriber’s note: An article on Herts Antique shops in Hertfordshire Countryside, August 1966, Beckwith’s of Old Cross was one featured. It confirmed that Archie Loveday bought the premises about 1946 and further stated that “A forbear of the firm, Samuel Beckwith, was cabinet maker to George III and the Verulam Papers contain a receipted bill for a neat mahogany writing table dated circa 1790.”