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Transcript TitleWelch, Elizabeth Ann (O2003.24)
IntervieweePeggy Worrin (PW) and Elizabeth Ann Welch (EAW)
InterviewerEve Sangster (ES)
Date10/01/2004
Transcriber byEve Sangster?

Transcript

Hertford Oral History Group

Recording no. O 2003.24

Interviewee Peggy Worrin (PW) and Elizabeth Ann Welch (EAW)

Date January 10th 2004

Venue 199 Ware Road, Hertford

Interviewers Eve Sangster (ES)

Transcriber Eve Sangster?

***** = unclear recording

[discussion] = untranscribed matter

Editor’s notes italics

ES: It’s Saturday January 10th 2004 and I’m at l99 Ware Road, the home of Peggy Worrin, and her sister, Elizabeth Ann Welch, always known as Ann, is here as well. And you won’t like this bit, either [they have voiced reservations about the interview]. Right, Peggy, when were you born?

PW: 1923. October 1923. I’ve just had my 80th birthday.

ES: What about you, Ann?

EAW: I’m two years older. 1921.

ES: I’m not sure how we’re going to do this, with two of you. Let’s see how it works. Peggy, were you born in Hertford?

PW: Yes. Ann, do you know whether we were born at home or in the hospital?

EAW: At home, I think.

PW: We lived then at 115 Ware Road.

ES: So, I can see there were at least two of you. Were there any more? No, that was it. And what did your father do?

PW: He was in the National Westminster Bank. Yes, in the Hertford branch. He was previously in the Army, in the -- Come on, Ann.

EAW: [faintly – in fact, some of her remarks are lost during the interview] 17th Royal Fusiliers.

PW: I don’t think you’re probably loud enough.

ES: O.K., so that’s the 17th Royal Fusiliers. And, Ann, what about your mother, did she work?

EAW: No. She came in her early days from the Birmingham area. Her father was the proprietor of various hotels. Not an owner. I think only a manager and they went about the country quite a lt. But we didn’t ask enough questions and I’ve been trying to sort out [their] past and it seems to have a lot of strings going back to Warwickshire.

ES: Are you saying it was your mother’s father who was managing hotels?

EAW: She met our father – I’m sure I’m right in this – when my mother’s father was at the Dimsdale in Hertford and I think that his regiment, my father’s regiment, was stationed in Hertford and I always think that that’s how they met. They married in 1919, just after the First World War.

ES: But that seems likely, doesn’t it? There were barracks in Hertford.

EAW: We have established that Birds, that was my mother’s name, were at the Dimsdale during some part of the war. We don’t know exactly when but we’ve just assumed that.

ES: Mind you, you probably could find out through the brewers.

EAW: No, I’ve tried.

ES: Oh, you have.

EAW: It’s McMullens, isn’t it? And I worked there for a long time. They haven’t got any records. I think they only took it over about 1923 or after the period.

ES: What about your father’s family? What did your other grandfather do?

PW: I don’t know that he did anything, really. We only knew him –

EAW: Well, he was a gentleman farmer.

ES: Where?

EAW: Somewhere in Essex. A big house. We used to go there for Christmas and that sort of thing and stay. It seemed lovely to us. There were cousins. And we have been back since. The people were kind enough to show us round, which was very enjoyable, to see it again. The house is still there. The village of Little Dunmow. My aunt, who was the maiden aunt of the family, lived in the village after the parents died and the big house was sold. She lived in a cottage in the village and we used to cycle over there and stay with her. We had some lovely holidays with her. She lived to 93, I think. The Worrin side of the family certainly seemed to live to a good age.

ES: Right. Let us attack this list of questions. So, I guess one of the questions is when did you move from your house in Ware Road to Fairfax Road? Have I got that right?

PW: Yes. Well, I always used to say I was 5 but we were saying between us today that I was either 5 or 6, roughly; that age. We moved about 1928. My father decided it was to noisy on the Ware Road, so we would move round. These houses were built -- the house we first lived in and the second one – were built by Kemp, the builder, well-known in the town. He lived next-door to us and through him -- Had the house just been built, Ann, do you know that? Anyway, my father decided we would move round because it would be quieter. And we always say, and I don’t know how the dates coincide’ that no sooner had we moved round there than they built the bus garage at the bottom of the road, Tamworth Road. Now, I don’t know what date it was actually built. I mean, I’m saying it as if it was just the next day, which of course it wasn’t; but it seemed a fairly short time.

ES: And, of course, that bit became an industrial estate, didn’t it, eventually, by the bus garage?

EAW: No, not at that time. Well, yes, the next one [next road?] did but at that time the bus garage was the second sort of unit and then there was the other ones which are still there, of course.

PW: Gilbertson & Page was along there, Tamworth Road. We certainly got more noise than we expected.

ES: What was the laundry along there?

PW: There was one in Tamworth Road called the Model Laundry and then, as you mentioned on the ‘phone, there was the Reliance Laundry, which was up Gallows Hill, on the corner of Gallows Hill and Foxholes Avenue.

ES: Right, now it’s probably best for me to start at the beginning. Do either of you remember anything about -- I don’t think this is going to apply to you -- tales from your forebears of the gallows or digging up bones.

EAW: No.

ES: There weren’t any local legends when you were young about Gallows Hill? I mean, did you speculate why it had that name?

EAW: Not that we took in as children. I’ve read things since in various Hertford books. There was something on television about happenings up there, that I saw.

ES: You do wonder afterwards, ‘Why didn’t I ask about that’.

EAW: It was Gallows Hill, that was all.

ES: There’s a question here which suggests that the road was very narrow and steep and wooded. I mean, when did it become like it is now, urbanized? Do you remember it as a lane?

PW: No, not really as a lane. We used to go along Foxholes Avenue into what was then Foxholes to play when we were children but we didn’t go up the hill, really, did we?

EAW: Well, if we did, it was stil a road. I mean, it had been improved, obviously, and widened. But you’d never call it a lane.

ES: No, that’s my word and it’s quite likely it never applied to that. As regards playing, I see there is a question – because I know very little about this area – did you play in the fields at the top of the hill?

PW: Not at the top of Gallows Hill, no. We would go along Foxholes Avenue into the fields there. There was what we called the ‘little wood’ and then if you walked further along towards Hertford Heath there was a ‘big wood’ and we would play but not on our own. We would have somebody with us.

ES: Yes, an adult, you mean? Are there disused pits up there?

PW: I don’t think so now. I think it’s all taken over.

ES: Oh, now, yes. But when you were children?

EAW: No, that would have been very dangerous. I mean, the gravel pits came along the Ware Road towards it, Braziers, but where we played was just fields.

ES: This is just showing my ignorance, which way did they come along the Ware Road? Do you mean from Ware this way?

EAW: No, from Hertford.

ES: Where were they, Braziers pits?

EAW: The Mercury office moved up there, up Caxton Hill, up there.

ES: Oh, I’ve never been up there further than where the cattle market was.

[some discussion about location of the cattle market]

EAW: I think in London Road it was only the poultry market.

ES: As regards these pits, there’s another question: "Were they remnants of clay, chalk or sand pits?"

EAW: We were saying today that the chalk pits along the Ware Road –

ES: That’s just by the A10, isn’t it? Where the A10 goes over? ‘Cos those cottages along the Ware Road are called Lime Kiln Cottage, aren’t they?

EAW: Yes, ‘cos I think that was at the back of them and also the other side of the golf course where there was once a swimming pool when we were children ….. Chadwell Springs.

ES: What, where the golf course is?

EAW: Further down the hill, past the golf course.

ES: I suppose that was a Ware swimming pool?

EAW: Well, I imagine it was a private swimming pool …..

ES: But, as children, did you ever go and nose around those chalk pits?

PW: We had a garden, a bit of a garden, and we used to be content to play in there. We weren’t allowed to play out on the roads. Being the two of us –

ES: But used people ever, children or men, come along with little trollies of chalk, selling it?

PW: No.

ES: Perhaps you’re not old enough, you two. Some chaps we’ve interviewed either worked at the chalk pit or used to buy little push-cart loads of chalk. Sell it for whitening steps, and so on …. Was this area of the town thought to be rather select?

PW: Up to a point. You know, having read your book [Children of the Angel] you think, well, I never realized all that was like that. Of course, my sister and I were saying, what did we do for shopping? But then in those days you would ‘phone up, send an order through to Howard Robert’s (Market Place near Honey Lane) - we didn’t deal at Bates – Robert’s or, you know, one of those shops and they would deliver. So we didn’t go shopping like we do at Tesco’s.

ES: What was the landscape generally like? You said about those woods but did it seem rural up to a point? Was it just Ware Road that was developed?

PW: Well, as I said to Ann earlier, opposite where we lived at 115 -- The Kemps lived next-door to us and Audrey, the daughter, had a horse and the field opposite, the other side of the Ware Road, there were no houses built there; that was just a field, and she used to keep her horse in there and they used to toboggan down it in the winter time and, if you can recall the green-roofed houses which are Stanstead and Woodlands, they weren’t built.

ES: Because those on the corner going up have got those Crittall windows, haven’t they, which are, what?, Thirties?

PW: Then this end, where the police cars and everything is now, that was quite a wooded sort of area, not to go in to play generally but it was quite wooded.

EAW: Did that not belong to Kingsmead?

PW: I don’t know whether that went to the triangle. Well, it did but there weren’t any buildings on it.

ES: Yes, it’s strange, and yet that triangle still seems to be rather separate, doesn’t it? Because there’s talk of building a centre on it. It might even be in separate ownership.

PW: The school was there, of course.

ES: Yes, I want to ask you about that in a sec. So actually you’re saying that, yes, it was still rural and unbuilt-up on the other side of the road.

PW: There were only 4 houses in Fairfax Road itself when we moved in . The others have been added since. We were No.3. There was 1, 3 and 5 and then on the opposite side there was No.2. The ones up this end, the Ware Road end, have been added since.

ES: When you were children did you ever wonder why it was called Fairfax Road?

EAW: No.

PW: No. We weren’t very inquisitive, were we? We didn’t seem to learn any history at school.

ES: Where was George Line’s farm? Or was it called Foxholes Farm by then? Was there still a farm, Foxholes Farm?

PW: At the top of the hill?

ES: Yes.

PW: I don’t honestly know.

EAW: When we walked across the first field we came to, there was a little brook running along, it came the other end, and then there was a little lane and if you crossed over that, I think there was a farm the other side of the little lane that I would think was almost on to the Hertford Heath road and I never heard it called anything apart from Foxholes.

ES: Well perhaps that is the farm that’s meant.

PW: Yes, as you say, it comes out on to the Hertford Heath road, doesn’t it?

ES: There’s a question here: where did the family go shopping? Well, you’ve said already that you had stuff delivered. Were there any shops in this bit of the Ware Road or near you when you were in Fairfax Road?

PW: Well, this one that is still there [on the corner of Ware Rd & Cromwell Rd]

EAW: Up as far as Townshend Street, I suppose. There was a grocer’s wasn’t there? Brace? …..

ES: So, in other words, this really has always been residential and not mixed with any other use. And did your family go to All Saints’?

PW: Yes.

ES: They never, any of them, sang in the choir or did anything, became churchwardens?

EAW & PW: No.

ES: What about the pub? Did any of you --

EAW & PW: No.

ES: Did your father –

EAW & PW: No.

ES: It’s beginning to sound like my family – uninteresting!

PW: Well, father was partly deaf due to wartime – the First World War, of course – and even the fact that in the bank when he was serving on the counter, it was a disadvantage to him so I don’t think he probably mixed with people as much as he might have done … If he was in a crowded place a deaf aid would be a nuisance.

ES: Do you know anything about his service in the First World War? Where he was?

PW: Not a lot. In the trenches.

ES: Yes, he fought in France. It’s strange how reticent so many of those soldiers in the First World War were. They came home and a lot of them never said anything about their wartime experiences.

EAW: I think he would have been the type not to talk and we don’t seem to have been the type to even ask any questions.

ES: Well, it was quite likely a topic he just didn’t want referred to and you probably realized that.

EAW: We just sort of accepted the status quo.

[ES: undecipherable bit followed by two unfortunate questions from me about marriage]

ES: So when did you get married?

PW: I haven’t married.

EAW: 1945.

ES: And how did you meet your husband? This is Ann I’m talking to, for the benefit of posterity.

EAW: I don’t really want to go into all that. I’ve been divorced and married again and my husband died three years ago and his name, as I’ve told you, was Welch. And. I was going to mention to you, his eldest sister, who lives further along the Ware Road and is now 95, would probably have been able to answer a lot more of your questions than I can. She’s Mrs Iley, 277 Ware Road, and she is very deaf.

PW: She used to live in Cromwell Road … Her father rented, I suppose, the watercress beds out at Tewin and also some at Rye Park. My husband sent a photograph to David Dent, who wrote the Hoddesdon [book]. Pictures of watercress beds appeared in it.

ES: Well, we’ll get along there pretty smartish, if you say she is 95.

[some chat about arranging an interview]

What parish were you in? All Saints’, yes.

[some chat about Edith Fosdyke, a mutual friend, and the alterations in All Saints’ Church]

side 2

ES: So, what about the workhouse? Was it a workhouse in your time? No, always Kingsmead.

EAW: But I thought that it had been a workhouse but I wouldn’t like to say that it was …

ES: I wonder where you got that idea from? I expect the fact that it was a workhouse had lingered as a legend.

EAW: I don’t know why, really, why I thought that it was but I wouldn’t have said ‘Oh, was it?’ I would’ve thought, ‘Oh, yes, it was.’ … People might even have gone on calling it the workhouse even when it wasn’t.

ES: And when it became Kingsmead -- I wonder what its full title was? Probably a school for the mentally retarded, or some brutal name.

EAW: Even worse than that, I expect.

ES: Do you remember when you were a child, if you ever saw any of the children there.

EAW: Yes, I think we did.

ES: And were you cruel, like children are?

EAW: We never came in contact with them. Peggy told you, I think, that we used to refer to it as ‘the dotty school’, which was unkind in itself. But we never spoke to any of the people there.

PW: We just saw them out for walks.

ES: Did they go in a crocodile, like the girls from the Bluecoat School?

EAW: I think they did.

PW: I can’t find anywhere how old this Directory is [c1956] but it says there ‘Kingsmead School for Backward Children’.

[discussion of Directory and unrewarding chat about Kingsmead]

ES: Was the clock a landmark. Well, I expect it was.

PW: You know it’s at All Saints’ now.

ES: Yes, it’s strange, isn’t it? I wonder when that went.

EAW: It was burnt, wasn’t it, Kingsmead? Had a fire.

ES: I didn’t know that.

EAW: I seem to remember that was the beginning of the end of it.

PW: I seem to remember a cutting we got out of the Mercury.

EAW: Yes, I thought so and I started to look to see if I’d got it but I thought it would take so much turning out and I expect Eve, Mrs Sangster, will know anyway.

ES: Well, you’ve found somebody who knows much less than you do! But we’ll have to read the book, won’t we, when it comes out? And you’ll say, ‘Oh, yes.’

EAW: You’ll find out from somebody.

ES: Yes, and of course a lot of this stuff anyway is on record, isn’t it? But I suppose what we are always interested in are the things that aren’t recorded; you know, what was the attitude towards –

PW: The anecdotes.

ES: What local names do you remember? You said ‘Braziers’.

EAW: Wrens, of course. He was mayor for a long time. Josiah. They lived in the Ware Road, yes.

ES: Did you ever have any contact with Balls Park? … Did either of you ever work at the Reliance? No, so what were your jobs?

EAW: The first job I had was in the Food Office.

ES: Which was where?

EAW: Fore Street, next to Milletts.

PW: It was between Millett’s and Christine’s Café.

ES: Oh, so what were you doing? Issuing ration books and things?

EAW: Yes, and then – still during the war – I went from the Food Office to work in the Castle in the Housing & Evacuation Office. The chap I actually worked for, Mr Robinson, was a Housing Manager for the Council … and then also into our office came the Billeting Officer, whose job was to dispose of any evacuees who might arrive.

ES: Were you there when the Jewish School was evacuated? What was that?

EAW: We always called it the Jewish Orphanage … and also the Battersea Grammar School boys … They arrived one afternoon at Hertford East Station, probably up to teens, and the Billeting Officer was a lovely Scottish chap … and I was detailed to go down and help sort these boys out and we set off from the station with a trail of grammar school boys behind us and I remember going to a house in Queens Road -- which, as we said, was a posh road – with two rather large grammar school boys in tow and the elderly lady opened the door. [We had] cups of tea and while we were sitting there and, I suppose, I was filling out the details, she said to me, ‘And are you their mother, dear.’

ES: How did it work? Did people volunteer to give a billet to people?

EAW: Well, I don’t know … but certainly we had to hawk this lot around when they arrived.

ES: And try and find homes for them?

EAW: Yes, I think they’d got prior details of who had got spare rooms and who should be able to take them.

ES: But that’s not quite the same thing as offering, is it? You’ve still got to persuade them.

EAW: Some of them may have offered …

ES: And the Battersea Grammar School, did they then just go to Richard Hale?

EAW: Yes, they joined in with Hertford Grammar School. I think they had classes at separate times; some in the mornings, some in the afternoons. But the Jewish Orphanage children were much younger and the people who had got them were always up in the office saying ‘can’t I change them for somebody else.’ … They had enuresis, bed-wetting and scabies and heaven knows what else …

PW: Where did they go to school, then, Ann?

EAW: I can’t remember … one of the state schools, I expect. I suppose they had their own classes. They brought their own teachers with them.

ES: Yes, perhaps they worked shifts within a school.

EAW: In fact, I think one of the teachers was billeted next to us in Fairfax Road.

PW: Going back, something I’ve just thought about. We were in the house in Fairfax Road when the bomb landed in Tamworth Road and we’d got a cellar, a coal cellar, which we cleared out in advance and we put four beds, plus one for my grandmother, who lived with us at that time, down in the cellar and we were down there when the land mine landed. We did have a bit of damage to the house –

EAW: Yes, we had to move out.

PW: -- but in actual fact we could have been more injured, I suppose, if we’d been upstairs.

EAW: … this is a list of the people who were the wardens at the time who used to go around, the ARP wardens in the area. Mr Comley is mentioned in your book, I believe.

PW: He was the organist at All Saints’ and they lived in the Ware Road but right at the top of Fairfax Road. [there is some discussion about the list of air-raid wardens and newspaper cuttings about the Tamworth Road event, ‘8 men, 14 women and 4 children injured.’]

EAW: I also kept an exercise book – which I threw away hardly any time ago – of all the air-raid sirens, what time they went on and what time they finished, with dates.

ES: Well, it’s just like train-spotting.

PW: Well, you’re a great one for lists, even now, Ann.

[more chat about the newspaper cuttings]

ES: And so then you left the Castle.

EAW: You mentioned Jack Doyle in your book. He was in the Finance Office. I knew him.

ES: He was the rent collector.

EAW: and Mr Bentley. One day – there was a doctor or medical officer or something had an office on the floor above us – and one day who ever he needed to do his letters wasn’t there and I got lent to him. My shorthand wasn’t up to streptococci! It was only temporary. I expect he didn’t ask for me again! … And then I went from there to the Hoddesdon Food Office …

PW: For a very short time I was in the Food Office, the same as Ann, and then I went to County Hall, first of all, but it was the War Agricultural Committee, as they called it in those days, and then we moved up to Brickendonbury and I had some lovely years up there … A very nice huse.

ES: The manor house?

PW: Yes, taken over by the Rubber Company, and we were up there for a good number of years.

ES: What were you actually doing there? It wasn’t the Land Army?

PW: Well, a section of it … I used to have to issue coupons to the farmers for food for the animals. So I got to know quite a lot of the farms and farmers in the area, by name if not anything else. That was quite interesting and when that came to an end I went to Allen & Hanbury’s.

ES: That’s GlaxoSmithKline, now?

PW: So I never had to do the journey up to town or anything like that; I was always working locally.

ES: [talk returns to Brickendonbury] Were the Pearsons the last private owners?

PW: As far as I know, yes … I think it was 1946 before we moved there. We were at County Hall first of all.

EAW: It went on so long after the war, didn’t it?

PW: Yes.

ES: Well, of course, rationing did, didn’t it?

EAW: About the Food Office, mine was concerned with the Food Office for Hertford itself and Peggy, when you came, you were on the Rural, Hertford Rural, weren’t you? Mr Rumbold.

PW: He was Milk Marketing Board, as well. He got me the job at Brickendonbury.

ES: And who was your –

EAW: Hemmings and then I transferred to Hoddesdon.

ES: Was Hertford flooded with Americans ever?

PW: A few. We had a few trips with them, didn’t we?

ES: Well, that’s what I’m asking you, I guess. Were you ever bussed out to Nuthampstead or where ever these Air Force bases were?

EAW: No. The Scottish Highlanders, the Camerons, were in Hertford itself. I remember going to a welcoming tea at the Grammar School; do you remember?

PW: I was going to say I thought there was something at the Shire Hall.

EAW: We went to a dance there. They were billeted down the Ware Road.

ES: I should think they were a very welcome diversion, weren’t they?

PW: A friend of mine married one and I was bridesmaid to them.

INTERVIEW ENDS