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Transcript TitleAustin, Marigold (O2005.3)
IntervieweeMarigold Austin (MA)
InterviewerEve Sangster (ES)
Transcriber byJean Riddell (Purkis)


Hertford Oral History Group

Recording no: O2005.3

Interviewee: Marigold Austin (MA)

Date: 29th September 2005

Venue: 17 Talbot St, Hertford

Interviewer: Eve Sangster (ES)

Transcriber: Jean Riddell (Purkis)

Typed by: Corin Jones

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

[discussion] untranscribed material

italics editor’s notes

MA: When I was at Balls Park the history department gave me a list of maps which I don’t seem to have got. Now if you have a look at it, I thought you might find it interesting. They showed me these maps but I don’t know what I’ve done with them.

ES: The only thing we’ve looked at already is the St John Tithe Map of 1847, where the cottages [15 a-d]

MA: What are you really going to do?

ES: Well, we’re going to do this end of the Ware Rd. We can’t not mention Christ’s Hospital. I imagine that would be one boundary, the railway would be the other and I don’t know how far the other…

MA: Well you want to go to the end of Tamworth Rd. I tried to phone Paul this morning but he wasn’t in. The thing is I want to ask him where he got these maps from, these show the whole of the area you want to talk about. The first map you want is Andrews Map of 1776 [1766, surveyed 1759] and that shows the open fields. In the Enclosure Map of 1801 Middle field is given to Townshend - they did put an ‘H’ in it?

ES: Well that’s how it’s spelt.

MA: Map of Hertford 1835 - this is the division of the fields. I don’t know why they’re not where they should be. Another map shows the impact of the coming of the railway, Hertford East Plot 23b and the buildings shown.

ES: You haven’t got the date of this map?

MA: I don’t know why I haven’t got those three maps because I definitely had them.

ES: The tithe map of 1847 shows a dotted line along where Talbot St was going to be. It shows the row of cottages at right angles.

MA: Prior to that they weren’t there at all. Audrey always thinks these cottages are much older than they are but they’re not.

ES: Well they’re here in 1847.

MA: Yes, but she thinks they are much older. Now the next map I’ve got here the OS Map of 1881. What I wanted to point out was the old station and the station was still here in 1968 because I wanted to try to rent it for the pottery. I bought this house, 17 Talbot St in 1968. Now that was the old railway and I always understood that it was on the old road to Ware, the back road to Ware. The pub on the corner here, the Great Eastern Tavern - you see that big building now that was the Station Masters house and then along here, that was Railway Place, and there was Johnsons’ butchers. This map goes to the end of Tamworth Rd and the allotments. That’s a natural boundary. Now the top end of Talbot St here there’s a big house on that corner. Now that was the doctor’s house and it was divided into two.

ES: Hang on - in Currie St here?

MA: Yes.

ES: Just saying into the machine that this is the one that appears to be four. It looks as though its four dwellings.

MA: Well apparently he had two horses and he had stabling, so whether that represents the stables I was told by various people in the area, I’ve put a list for you. Mr Johnson [the local butcher] - his father started in Railway Place.

ES: He’s actually done a remarkably good oral history but (then) we weren’t homing in on Ware Rd it was more about the business. But we can go back to him.

MA: Go back to him because when he was a little boy he used to take a bucket of giblets to the man and the lady living in the end cottage. That’s the Albion pub, now this put was taken down prior to my move here. Now there’s an alleyway which goes round to here [between Albion Close and the back of Talbot St properties]. There must have been gates all along the back here. When I first purchased this property I asked if I could have a gate out there and my customers could come down here but they wouldn’t let me. So the street has this slight curve on it, hardly noticeable and I bought the back two, there are two cottages at the back, there were four. On the big map here they call the shop No15, well it isn’t. It’s No13, this is No15, a, b, and c.

ES: How is the shop numbered now?

MA: No13. No15 is now amalgamated with the shop. My house was a shop [17] the door was on the angle [corner] here and this was the shop in here [front room].

ES: What sort of shop – a general shop.

MA: Mrs Lavender.

ES: I’ve actually got the line descent from Rayment in 1861, Rayment -> Raur, Elizabeth Swan, M Blackburn, Harriet Kemp then to Charles Lavender.

MA: Well Mrs Lavender had the shop and a window in that wall so she could see what was happening and this was a big picture window.

ES: Actually for the benefit of the tape we’re in Marigold’s front parlour and there was a window in the interior to the back.

MA: Into what would have been the kitchen/living room.

ES: So she could see into the shop and see if she’d got any customers.

MA: No15 wasn’t a building at all, it was a yard.

ES: Well, it’s supposed to be on here, well, is that a yard?

MA: It’s obviously a building at that point.

ES: But this is 1881, OS 1881.

MA: But this was added on much later than this. I thought we’d have a look round outside.

ES: I’ve brought my camera.

MA: Mr bedroom upstairs has a window that looked over the yard. I don’t think that was a building at first, I think it was all open.

ES: What makes you think it was open?

MA: Because there wouldn’t have been a window looking at a wall. And also, the four buildings here, if they were what did you say, 1843?

ES: 1847.

MA: 1847 that’s the earliest date, the changeover was round about 1900. What date was Mrs Lavender?

ES: Well, Harriet Kemp 1884 [so after that].

MA: This house was the shop when Mrs Lavender was here. She wasn’t allowed to sell liquor. There was a basement, I’m the only house with a cellar. I was built much later than the others. The earliest date I’ve got is 1861. It used to have a big kitchen range, now filled in and just a cupboard. I had a roofer to check up in the roof and he said the wall in the attic was pointed. So think those four [cottages next door] were built first and this one added on afterwards. On my deeds the properties in this area were owned by a vicar from Clothall and the buildings were built by a father and son builders. All these buildings are made of second-hand materials. We’ve all altered the front windows. I can show you upstairs where my passageway is just window shutters put together.

When I had the pottery [at 15 b&c] I was able to look all the way up the gardens. The gardens were divided by walls.

ES: Looking West?

MA: Looking towards Christs Hospital. There was a big hole there, well that’s been filled in.

ES: You mean another property’s been built there, which is about seven.

MA: You mentioned that these building (15 a-c) were there long before anything else. Well one building has a date, we can check that.

ES: All the buildings in the street should be at least post 1861 because that’s when the road was formed along the line of the previous lane.

MA: Well where did the lane go to?

ES: I think it petered out just past the cottages. So it’s as if it were a lane to the cottages.

MA: The difficulty with my deeds, it doesn’t say the date when the buildings were built, ’61 is mentioned, with the land belonging to this vicar.

ES: Yes. The streets came – Villiers St 1852, Townshend St, Railway Place 1847, East Stn 1843, that’s when the railway came… [conversation returns to “the Doctor’s House”]. It was sold in 1869 - four messuages, coach-house and stable. [some thoughts that the cottages 15 a-c might have been coach house/stables]

MA: Mrs Bush do you know her? (Yes). Well ask her because she knows a lot. Now there was a Mrs Smith that used to live in the back one which is now 15c. Now 15b there were two German ladies living in there, an elderly lady and her daughter. And she used to walk up the alleyway, lean on the wall and smoke rolled-up brown cigarettes. Well, I found one under floorboards.

ES: So when you are talking about it was only a, b, and c?

MA: Yes. 15 was incorporated into the shop [13]. Now Sheila Ross lived in No28 [Currie St]. [Explains that after the cottages were built on the east side of Currie St it was decided to continue Talbot St into Raynham St and so three cottages had to be demolished to let the road through]. Return to Talbot St - 9, 11,13, they have a cellar, the shop [13] has a cellar, then toTamworth Rd – the stream would make a natural boundary [the Gulphs].

Back to Talbot St – when I purchased Talbot St in 1968 opposite me was a big wall. Inside there were garages down a big yard and Webb’s, the chimney sweep, had one big shed. But I understood that through there was a school on the Ware Rd and tennis courts at the back and then it came into this yard. [Miss Norris’ School, 55 Ware Rd], then opposite the shop was an orchard with peach trees in it [this belonged to the house, L- shaped house (?) in Railway Place.

ES: But he didn’t own the three properties on the corner of Railway Place. You don’t know how many of these properties were built specifically for railway workers, if any.

MA: Where have we got to?

ES: Well, 1884 Harriet Kemp.

MA: You’ve got the names of the people that lived in my house.

ES: Yes. Harriet Kemp - greengrocer [looking at the 1871 census], three children, the youngest is two years. She is the head so she hasn’t got a husband. She may be in the previous census. I wonder when next door became a shop [then a convoluted conversation about a Mr Row or Roe who was a carpenter, in 1871]

Tell me again about the construction of these cottages – 15 a-c. First of all, considering they’re timber-framed, why are you so sure that they are not really early?

MA: Because they are not on the map.

ES: Andrews & Wren – they are not very reliable. Just to give you an example – the Andrews map of the centre of the town, there are streets wrongly named, so they do make mistakes.

MA: Anyway, from the cottages point of view. They are timber framed in the old traditional fashion, there were four cottages made in pairs, 15 and 15a the timbers were much closer together. They laid them on the ground, they made them on the ground with all the timbers and things and then they hoisted them up and joined them on the corners. 15 and 15a had Victorian metal windows which had pointed tops.

ES: Lancet windows. No, they were metal. There are lancet windows along the whole of the back made of wood.

ES: But they had pointed tops?

MA: Pointed tops. And there were two pairs and so each cottage, 15 and 15a had these big windows that they could open. My cottage [c] Victorian windows. The timber framing on 15b and 15c was much wider apart and we planted timbers on top exactly where they are underneath.

ES: But does the fact that they are slightly differently constructed suggest to you that they were built at different times? Or it was what was available?

MA: No, I think they were both built at the same time because the wall between the two was only a single thickness. Both of them were only 4½” thick. They had no proper foundations because they had rotted. They were on big timbers at the bottom. The guttering went, water came down and rotted it so when I purchased my building it was rotten up to the windowsills. That’s why we had to change it. They’ve got a proper foundation now. [MA shows some photographs] The timbers weren’t showing - they were all rendered over.

ES: So what about that kind of pargetting that’s on them now?

MA: I did that because pargetting now is a pottery sign, the rose is a pottery sign. And I went to Westmill to look at pargetting, it’s got traditional pargetting on it. This shows you what it looked like – they were all second-hand materials, the doors, particularly the doors at the far end – 15c, were huge, huge doors, almost up to the ceiling.

ES: Eight foot perhaps, tall?

MA: Easily. It was mahogany.

ES: So where do you think that might have come from?

MA: Well, it could have come from Balls Park. In the Victorian period if a building worked they used materials again.

ES: And the same applies to the chapel-like window.

MA: Well, the chapel-like windows – they must have built the four cottages at the same time because the chapel windows were all the same all down all four cottages.

ES: I’m talking about that big window.

MA: No, no that’s a Victorian, I’m talking about chapel windows.

ES: What about that huge window at the back.

MA: The huge window at the back has come from some big house and when was the window tax put on?

ES: Well, it was on early but it’s more a case of when it came off. Sometime, about 1850 it came off.

MA: The round window at the end, the beautiful Georgian window was plastered over when I purchased it. It would have been lighting the stairs as you went up. So it must have been used at one time, the glass was still in it, and then there was lath and plaster on the outside. They wouldn’t have put a window in there if they weren’t going to use it.

ES: What, then, about the ceilings?

MA: The ceilings originally.

ES: Were vaulted, it says in the sale particulars.

MA: Ah, yes, the ceiling fell down and I didn’t replace it. When I purchased the property - 15b - the ceilings were intact in both rooms. 15c the ceiling was intact in the first room but upstairs it had fallen down. It had been lath and plaster originally then they put board up and when I purchased it the board was all on the floor. So the rafters that supported the ceiling when Mrs Smith lived in it [unclear because of background noise – it seems that the old cottages were last lived in, in either 1946 or 1955].

ES: You’re saying the German ladies moved out in 1955 and Mrs Smith moved out in 1957.

MA: When I purchased 15b and 15c, the floors were rotten, it was rotten up to the bottoms of the windowsills on the east side of the property the windows were Victorian sash windows both upstairs and downstairs. There had been two completely different doors. I can remember the right-hand one which was 15c, this huge mahogany door which had a glass bit at the top but was solid mahogany for the rest of it and an enormous, wonderful stone solid slab.

ES: Are you saying it had a fanlight above the door.

MA: No, on top of the door – it was a piece of glass. So it was obviously from a big house. At 15b, the first cottage, that was an unusual door, I can’t remember what that was. On the far corner of 15c there was an ash tree growing in the foundations and it was whipping the tiles off, so that was the first thing we had to have down and you went round the corner and the whole wall was rendered and you couldn’t see that round window but there was a slight lump where it was. Round on the west side there were no windows at all on the ground floor.

But there were these pointed windows on 15c at the northern end. Each room had a single pointed window. On the next two, 15a and 15 there was a double window like that so they were obviously church-type windows. Now when I went with the Civic Society up to Stamford there was a church house up there that had identical windows. So I think those windows must have come from a separate building or priory, the priory could have had a separate house of some sort with these windows, because they have beautiful mouldings. Tiled roof, the chimney – they’d taken the chimney off and they’d dropped the bricks down the chimney- because when I started to light a fire it wouldn’t go up! At the far end there were two washhouses that were shared between the four cottages, they had two coppers backing onto each other, with chimneys with lovely big flowerpots.

Then later they had added these four loos, flush, and they must have had a sink in that northern washhouse because the drain ran along the wall and then into the rain water plus sewage water down into the street here. So the loos were just put on top of the drain, I think. Inside they had - 15b had a lovely kitchen range.

ES: I’ve got a photo of that in Audrey’s photos.

MA: No, she wouldn’t have photographed it because it wasn’t there then. There’s a range that Audrey put in, I think.

ES: Was this the ladder to the attic?

MA: I put that in, [looking at photos] that was the old range that Mrs Smith had, but she had a gas cooker.

ES: How long did you think they’d been empty.

MA: I bought them in ’76.

ES: Were they empty as long as you knew them.

MA: They were not allowed to be occupied from ’55.

ES: Did the staircase go out of the living room?

MA: They had two staircases, one each. As you came in the door the staircases went up either side.

ES: You didn’t have a little hall, did you.

MA: No. Straight into the living room.

ES: So the staircase went out of the living room.

MA: Yes, up the wall.

ES: And did they go up to a landing, or into the bedroom?

MA: [Unclear answer] One chimney and they were back-to-back chimneys. That window, the Georgian one, you came up the stairs here and you came to a door at the top and then you came into the room. On the east side you’d got two Victorian windows there [there were panelled walls separating the staircases from the rooms]. When Audrey had it they took them both down. On the east side there were windows top and bottom to each cottage.

The shop – No13 The shop had gone through various stages. When I came it was just the front room with a huge chimney behind and No15 was the store and upstairs - there was a door opposite here which goes up into the flat – two floors above where the shop-keeper – I think his name was Mr Hudson [Hodges] and he lived up there – I think he also lived in No15. Now the shop was stuck on the front of 15. There was a cellar – you go into the shop and turn right and there’s the cellar. When I came the upstairs was not a flat it was a hairdressers and the water used to pour down and it rotted my floors.

When I was here they took the chimney out between 13 and 15 and made one big room right through and they removed the stairs to upstairs so you had a room completely blocked off you couldn’t get into. And then they moved back into 15a and they used that as well. Now the whole of this lot of properties was owned by a Mr CM Hawkins and he was part of the family of the area, then he moved up to Cheshire and he let the shop to a Mr Sapsead and his two sisters ran that shop. It was a Post Office, he was a sub postmaster and it was a general store, you could get the most super ham there, I was made redundant from Balls Park in 1980 and I was working in the pottery.

I had started the pottery in this room the front door there and again the wooden panelling along this wall a tiny little second-hand door. I started the pottery in the cellar, 1965 because I knew that at some stage I was going to be made redundant. Made pots in this room. ’74, ’75 my parents died and left me a bit of money which is what I used for buying the pottery building. So my brother and I took out this panelling here and we opened up the fireplace. Because I couldn’t hear people coming in the front door we opened up the big door here which must have been the door into the house. Now at the shop they took out the big chimney between 13 and 15 to make the shop right through, then I bought the back lot in ’76 and then Mr Hawkins wanted to sell the rest of it. My brother and I considered if we would buy the other part, 15 upstairs, and 15a which is top and bottom and we wondered if there was a window, same as our window looking out on what I believed to be the yard but there wasn’t. Then it was sold to two men from Enfield who made it into a washing machine shop. They used it right through then they made 15a into an individual cottage one up and one down and the room that’d been blocked off became the second bedroom. Then where the chimney had been taken out to make a bigger shop they put a wooden wall back in again.

So the shop has 13 and 15 and the cellar and then they own the top as well now – they let that. 15a just had a ground floor room which is kitchen and living room you go up a spiral staircase to a little landing. They’ve got a loo and a bathroom, and they’ve got one bedroom and another bedroom. When my brother and I climbed through the hole to look at this room that was derelict, there were bits and papers, so it had obviously been occupied by the man that had had the shop, I thought his name was something beginning with H [Hodges, also and O.H interviewee]. Do you want to go and look at anything outside or have you seen enough already?

ES: I’ve probably got enough. What is not a bad idea is for me and Jean to look now in the County Record Office and see what we find. It is quite interesting, because Audrey, as you say, is convinced that they are a lot older. What did Audrey say when you said to her - look, they’re salvaged materials.

MA: She doesn’t listen.

ES: Well the theory is that it’s a much earlier building and it was built for a specific purpose, not a barn, but..

MA: Oh they were definitely cottages; they’ve always been one up and one down. They could well have been workers for the station.

ES: The dates do tie up.

MA: The construction of Railway Place and the cottages [appearing on a map in 1847].

ES: When did you sell to Audrey?

MA: 1999. And 1968 I bought his house.

ES: We came to Hertford in ’68.

MA: Did you? I came to Hertford much prior to that but I didn’t buy a house until 1968. Oh, this is what I was going to show you. Underneath the stairs was the larder and that label was on the floorboards [in 15 b and c] and it talks about coming up from the railway.

ES: So this is a timber merchant and it looks like 1867.

MA: The difficulty was it was plastered over with whitewash.

ES: The question is, is it 61 or 67. Quite interesting though!

Recording ends

[Transcriber’s note. This recording was about 13-17 Talbot St to include the cottages joined to the back of 13, now numbered 15 a-c. Marigold had purchased b & c as a pottery in 1976 and sold on to Audrey as one cottage 1999]

[According to the Priory Manor Rolls, in 1693 a cottage was built by Edward Grubb on approx. the site of 15 a-c. This was used as a storage barn by John Lawrence from at least 1716 which may be why it does not, as a barn, appear on any map. Then during the 19C it could have been converted back and divided into four smaller cottages, perhaps for railway workers, and for cheapness re-cycled materials used. The end of the block would have faced the old road to Ware until the railway tracks were laid.

The original cottage plot was roughly the same as present divisions and was at right angles to the road perhaps as a cheaper option than building along one side of the road. Access, once the railway came could have been via the lane now under the surface of Talbot St and could also have led to the so-called Doctor’s house which is obviously older than other Currie Street properties, as are numbers 27 & 29 Talbot St which could have started life as outbuildings, perhaps of one-storey, for the bigger house. From 1847 the cottages 15 a-c appear on maps because, they are, once again, dwellings.]