|Transcript Title||Wilkerson, Rose (O 1996.28)|
|Interviewee||Rose Wilkerson (RW)|
|Interviewer||Jean Riddell Purkis (JRP)|
|Transcriber by||Jean Riddell Purkis|
Hertford Oral History Group
Recording no: O 1996.28
Interviewee: Rose Wilkerson (RW)
Date: 8th August 1996
Venue: 175 Ware Road
Interviewers: Jean Riddell Purkis (JRP)
Transcriber: Jean Riddell Purkis
************** unclear recording
[discussion] untranscribed material
[italics] editors’ notes
This is Thursday 8th August, l996, this is JR speaking from 175 Ware Road, the home of Mrs. Rose Wilkerson who was Miss Rose Carley Pocock whose father kept a butchers' shop at no. l2 Railway Street, and the shop remained in the family until l989 when Rose's brother retired from the business. I've come here today because Rose has written two exercise books full of her memories and I've come to record some of those memories live because Rose has quite a bit more to tell us about the characters of the town, her school teachers, school friends, shopkeepers and so on. Rose, you went to St. Andrew's School and you started there about 1926 I should think. Can you tell us what teachers you met there?
RW: Well, in the infants' class we had Miss Hornby. She always rode an old bicycle with a basket on the front. She was very thorough, she never used to cane and I never knew anyone she actually punished, but in those days you sat in a classroom and you recited your tables and you sang everything in a sing song fashion. When we left that class we knew our tables and we were only 5 when we left her class still, and from there we went on to Class 6 which was Miss Row's. Now Miss Row had a reputation for being a bit of a tartar but I think she met up with the boys trying to take liberties. They were getting a little bit cheeky, having been there a year before! But I can't remember a great deal about her class, except it wasn't such a pleasant classroom because they had high brick walls and very small windows, which was just as well because we had spinning tops and today's classroom would never have any glass in it. But we couldn't reach those windows so they didn't get smashed. And being as they were hard brick walls, those walls were pretty solid, they were warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The ceilings were high, so you didn't get the light put on until the very last minute and then it was gas light, because a church school of course....always limited funds.
JRP: Yes, that's true. So, when you were in Miss Hornby's class when you first started, where was that classroom, was it in the front of the school or round the back somewhere?
RW: No. You went in the main door and turned left. It was like an L shape, because they were single buildings and then there was a big old lobby - we called it a lobby - suppose you'd call it a cloakroom today, and you walked down one side and hung your coat up and come out the other side and then there was another door to the right which housed Miss Rutter's, what was a senior class. She must have been getting on a bit when I met her...didn't have a lot to do with her....she was very strict, I'm told, and the boys were getting bigger of course and she had iron grey hair drawn right back in a bun. That's about all I remember about her because I never went in her class because time it came for me to go into her class we had this division at 11 where you went to senior school, either boys or mixed. We had Port Vale for the girls who didn't want to go with the boys and we had Cowper School for the boys and Longmore which was the old grammar school there which had then moved up to where it is now, that was the Longmore Senior Girls and Boys School up until the war, until it got bombed.
JRP: Miss Hornby lived quite near you, didn't she.
RW: Yes! She lived down Hertingfordbury Road. They took down the Old Oak pub, along there was a wall behind that wall was a lot of gardens...allotments...the wall originally was part of the gaol wall [actually of Castle Kitchen Garden] and then you came to the bottom of Sele Road and there's a garage and then I think there's 2 little cottages, they're still there. I think there's a little passageway down there.
There's a little cottage stands back on the left...she lived there.
JRP: Yes, it was called Frogs' Hall, wasn't it?
RW: I don't know what it was called - never had reason to find out- we knew she lived there.
JRP: With her family?
RW: I didn't know she had any family. So far as we knew there was only Miss Hornby....might have been somebody else, but as a little girl of 5, I didn't really know much about that.
JRP: No, I mean I think she lived with her parents and brothers and sisters.
RW: Possibly, yes.
JRP: What about Miss Row, wasn't she the station master's daughter?
RW: I don't know, but she lived along the Ware Road here, quite a big house, but who else lived with her, I don't know. I think she had a sister worked in Gravesons, but I wouldn't know that because the only time we went in Gravesons was to get buttons.
JRP: What about Miss Rutter?
RW: Don't know much about her, 'cos I never went to her class and you didn't mix up, like, I mean one teacher took everything, you didn't have l teacher for 1 subject and another teacher for another subject. She took the lot, no matter what it was and that applied to Miss Row, as well.
JRP: So, you didn't actually encounter that teacher?
RW: Not at all, because I wasn't old enough. You had to be coming up for 11 to be going into her class. And as I say, that finished, you see and I don't know what happened afterwards.
JRP: What about Miss Turnbull, the head?
RW: She went away on a holiday, I always remember this, and when she came back after, she'd been abroad and she'd got bitten and from then on she had a most terrible hand. It was all purple, and drawn up and everything. Mind you, perhaps she'd have been all right today, if she'd had antibiotics, but we didn't have any, did we? [she had a tubercular hand].
JRP: Where did she go then?
RW: Don't know, don't think she told us. But she lived along Hertingfordbury Road. And a lady who's just died lived in her house. She moved into it. She was a pupil at St. Andrew's.
JRP: Who was that?
RW: Maudie Maynard. She died only a few weeks ago. She lived along there and she died quite suddenly.
JRP: Was that in the same house...did she buy the house?
RW: I think she said it was the same house.
JRP: Oh. Or perhaps she was a neighbour.
RW: Because she was very very poor and she said "look at that" she said "when I was a little girl I had to have free meals, 'cos father lived in Castle Cottages, Pavitts Yard. He was only a gardener, now look" she said "I'm living in her house...she only rented it and I own it" They made good who came from that school you know, a lot of them did.
JRP: Yes, what was her...was Maynard her maiden name?
RW: Yes, she married twice after that, the married name was Sanders, like 'Sanders of the River' but what her other name was I don't know, but she cleaned buses out for years. She's got children up Bengeo, I think she said.
JRP: So after you left St. Andrew's School you went on to Port Vale School. Now, can you tell us anything about, before you went on to Port Vale, anything about your friends at St. Andrew's...some of them might have gone on to Port Vale with you.
RW: Yes, (looking at the photo) they didn't all go to St. Andrew's and a lot like Maudie Maynard for instance, who lived in the town, found it easier to go to Longmore which was right in the town. You see, Port Vale which had been senior boys before and it was now girls only. and it was quite a way out of town, when you had a choice. You see up to then, you'd gone according to which parish you were in and one of my friends who's a friend now, didn't go to St. Andrew's for the simple reason she lived the wrong side of West Street. Her grandmother lived one side which is in St. Andrew's parish and the other side with Somerset Terrace is in All Saints, so they naturally went to All Saints' School, well Abel Smith first and then All Saints'...the Inces came with us.
JRP: Who were your special friends at St. Andrew's....the Inces?
RW: I don't think we had any special friends. You didn't have them, my dear, because you couldn't afford to take them home to tea. And they couldn't afford to return it, if you asked them. That's how things were.
JRP: So, who did you play with in Sele Road?
RW: When we first went up Sele Road we lived opposite what is now my son's father in law, the Abbotts and they moved from there. They didn't go to St. Andrew's because by the time the youngest one went to school they'd moved up to the ancestral home along the Ware Road here. He went to Cowper. Next door to him was the Bookers. Iris, the eldest girl was radiologist at County, but sadly she's had a stroke and she's had another one, I think and she's now in some home somewhere, warden operated. And she had a sister Eileen, she's still about, a son Cyril....and this is where I found it very handy when I was teaching swimming in St. Andrew's swimming pool, because his son Cyril had three children, I think it was, yes, one is Scott, who's now in the Navy, one was Joanne, she's in Spain and I can't think of the other one's name, but when they were wet, they looked just like their dad as a little boy! So I could identify them, yes. The Baileys, there was 2 Bailey’s, they moved away....don't know what happened to him. The Dartons...they're still around, the eldest one was blind, the daughter who was in that picture went blind and she's still blind, she lives around here.
JRP: They were in Sele Road then?
RW: Yes, and their brother Dick, he cleans windows still.
JRP: Dick cleans windows?
JRP: Oh, does he.
RW: Or office cleaning, or something. He's in the cleaning business. Employs people to do it.
JRP: OK, well then, tell us now about going on to Port Vale.
RW: When I went on to Port Vale we were worried stiff because they'd got a very strict headmistress, a Miss Davis - Kate, old Kate. She must have been a headmistress at All Saints' at one time because she lived in the school house at All Saints in the churchyard. I don't know who lives in there now, but that's where she lived. She always had a stick and I don't think she was very happy because she'd got arthritis but she was very strict and you still know old Kate's girls today. None of our girls would be seen with the same hole in the stocking 2 days running. You did not walk through the town with a coat unbuttoned, neither did you go along arm in arm, or with your hands in your pockets. And you'd think you were all right and you'd go along there but she had assembly every Monday morning and you'd think: 'I haven't done anything, I'm all right'...and all of sudden you'd hear your name and you'd think 'now I'm for it, what have I done....'
JRP: So, she'd denounce you in assembly.
RW: Yes, I shall never to this day forget. I was standing there and she said "and there's that Rosie Pocock, not one tacking stitch has she taken out of her needlework or tied off one sewing machine end"......and when I'm trying to undo a bit of the sewing machining I think to myself 'Good Lord, it never did come undone, what are you worrying about!' We had 4 classes there, 4 classrooms and a hall. The hall divided into 2 if need be. And we had a Miss [Olive?] Thorn who lived in Hertingfordbury Road not far from....on the corner from where Miss Turnbull lived. That house is still there, it's the last one before you go into Cross Road, we used to call it Cross Lanes, to the hospital there. She was the biology teacher and she could not control the class. But she was a lovely person and I used to be so annoyed because I was interested in biology and what she'd got to teach but the others were so destructive, it was awful. And I feel sorry for people today like that. Kate used to have to come in and sort them out. You used to hear her thudding up the passageway. Then there was Miss Hasler - with the swimming - she did all the games and there was Miss Peet. Her uncle was the inspector who....you know, for truancy. She lived up North Road. She started the violin class, but she left to get married and the war came and that all fell through. Miss Davis used to take the seniors. Do you remember Miss Joyce Stackwood?
JRP: No, I don't.
RW: George Blake used to have a photograph studio...his wife's still alive, I think, and he had this lovely portrait he'd done of her, but she was a naughty girl, she was always after the men even when she was at school, old Kate Davis had got her weighed up. She knew she was going to ....(unintelligible)
JRP: What happened to her?
RW: Well, she died, but she was found with the biggest old drunkards and what have you, in the town. She was a proper little prostitute.....her brother died a few years back now, I don't know if she's got any children alive around here, she might have. But she'd always got paint on her fingernails ......that wasn't allowed and we weren't allowed to wear rings and watches in class. Well, one reason was because times were bad and the teachers didn't want to be responsible for any losses.....although we never lost anything, she saw to that.
JRP: Where did she live, this girl?
RW: Her father was....she lived down Port Vale then......but her father was the head gardener at the castle....castle grounds. He used to chase us as children. He used to chase me.
It used to annoy me because I'm a keen gardener now, and I was then, and I used to love looking round the garden and smelling the flowers. I wouldn't have touched one of them, I wouldn't have trodden on anything....I might have pulled up a weed, but he used to hound us out of there.
JRP: Do you want to say anything about the girls here? [the photo].
RW: The violin class....yes. The back row is Abbie Parsell, they lived up there, that was a sad family because we'd still got a lot of TB in those days and they were dropping down like flies. In the hall on the Monday morning you'd be standing there, somebody'd go down with a flop and you'd be pretty sure that that was somebody who'd got TB. Phyllis Ince....Mrs. Halls
JRP: I'll write these down....you're saying them, but that's from left to right, back row. Next one
RW: Enid Mean.
JRP: Yes, I've heard of her.
RW: Mrs. Futter!
JRP: Oh, of course! I know her.
RW: Her son is married to my best friend's youngest daughter. And that is Doris Parry who was her bosom friend and still is! Doris Parry, that's her maiden name. I don't know what her married name is, but she married a Welshman and she moved to Wales. Well, he's died. She came back and stayed with Enid a little while with the idea that she might stay here but she'd been gone too long and she'd got no contact, so back she went. Now, that is me.
JRP: That's the middle row.
RW: That's Doris Jackson, I don't know where she went to. Madge Skerman.....I'm not so sure.....that's Enid Mean, not that one, I don't know who that one is.
JRP: So where Enid Mean was, we don't know, and Enid comes....
RW: Don't know who that is. Gladys might know. I'll have to ask her.
JRP: Enid might know.
RW: One of these two kept the Globe at Bengeo. That is Madge Skerman, she lived in North Road as you come up the steps and Mr. Drury lived in the other one, the Mr. Drury from the shop.
JRP: So we've got Madge Skerman, somebody Jackson.....
RW: ....Doris Jackson...
JRP: ....Doris, sorry, then Enid, so this one here isn't Doris?
RW: No, that isn't Doris. Now this is Laura Akers, I know she's dead...poor girls, she left a young baby, too. She moved to St. Albans. That's the girl Parsley......is it Parsley? Parsley or Game, I can't think, no, it's Dobbie Game.
RW: Used to call her Dobbie Game.
JRP: Dobbie! All right....and the other one?
RW: Not sure about this one, but I think that one's dead and gone, because, see her hair, well, that's a result of scarlet fever....you lost your hair and it came back again. And that's the best I can do there. Ask Gladys, she might know.
JRP: Yes, Gladys or Enid.
RW: Now, this little bit here is all the teachers had. There's a toilet and just a tiny room there, with about a chair and that's the lot. That was all they had. No points or anything in there. We had a cookery teacher - a Miss Hirons, oh she was a funny woman. She wore combination style knickers.
JRP: How do you know?
RW: Well, because we had to wash them in the laundry classes.
JRP: Oh, dear.
RW: Then they had to darn them in the mending class. Because we did a housewifery course, you see.
JRP: And she brought her washing and mending in to be done?
RW: I don't know where she came from or what happened to her but she was getting on a bit when we met her. You see, the first year you did housewifery, you had to clean a cooker and do the washing and all those horrible jobs. You didn't do the cooking 'til the next year and then the following year you did CDS which was Combined Domestic Science. Before You came, I tried to find my book - I've got is somewhere , where we had to sort out the washing Monday morning, don't do that today, it's quite a laugh really, and then we had to bath the baby, we had to get the dinner ready, we had to clean up behind us, we had to do the ironing and we had an old tortoise stove with the old irons, that you put round it, and then came Christmas time, that was nice. We used to ice cakes, that was all right. We used to do a bit of cooking. We had to learn to do the family budget in the last book....you were fitted up quite honestly to go out and be a good housewife.
JRP: Well, it was important in that age, wasn't it. So, you went on to Port Vale and stayed there until you were.....
RW: 14. At Port Vale I had a special friend there...Miss Rufa Collins who lost her brother in a motor bike accident and it seemed to turn the family's head. I don't know whether they are still around, you have to be careful, but they turned into Jehovah's Witnesses and poor old Rufa, she was the manageress at the Co-op and when the war came on we had to do our service and she was put in Holloway because she was a Conscientious Objector. But she came back to the Co-op. She was always very highly strung and she'd obviously got high blood pressure but she wouldn't take anything. She had this stroke and tipped the car up and then she couldn't move and I think she was just a hopeless vegetable. But she's gone now - no age, really. It is sad but she was a good friend, really. We used to copy off each other.
JRP: Did you like going there....was it quite a good time in your life?
RW: Yes. The last year at Port Vale, we had a handicraft lesson, now that was not to be confused with the sewing or knitting. It was sewing in the summer and knitting in the winter and the handicraft was a good thing because every girl did something different. It was like arts and crafts today. One girl would be doing embroidery, another would be doing leather work, making handbags and things like that, another would be making one of those sea grass footstools, another would be picture framing, another would be doing tapestry, another would be doing weaving, another would be bobbing lace and the thing is, you'd all be getting an idea without doing it because being children you are a bit nosey parkery aren't you, so you had to look to see what the other one was doing so we all got a good idea how to do it all....smocking, just about everything. The sewing class was a different afternoon altogether and we used to - we had to make an apron to go to cookery in. That was a good idea because you did tucks to put it on the waistband so you had to do tucking. You did the pocket, you did the straps, so you had to do buttons and buttonholes. In the winter time you started knitting. You had to knit a sock. When you knitted that sock you could knit anything else. You could take your own knitting, you could do a jumper, you could do whatever you liked. But you had to do the sock, do it on 4 needles and turn the heel and do the toe. And they just matched it up with another girl's sock and made a pair of it.
JRP: Oh, I see, I was going to say, did you make two! Who had the pair then?
RW: Some girls knitted looser than others you see, but the wool was all the same, what I don't know is whether they used to sell them to somebody - probably got them already sold because we didn't buy the wool. Once you'd done this apron you could do anything else, I know I made a nightdress once.
JRP: Well, I think knitting a sock you go through everything you need to know really, don't you, with knitting.
RW: You've really got the basics to go on. Now of course you have to go to college to learn to knit!
JRP: Well, I think it's nice to know these things. I have a daughter who wasn't very keen on needlework and she hasn't got the same skill in her fingers that I've got, because I did a lot of knitting and sewing and handicrafts. She hasn't got that dexterity I've got.
RW: People with bad fingers - I've got a friend who's got terrible arthritis but she knits and knits. She's sitting on a boat out at sea somewhere now - I bet she's knitting socks.
JRP: Before turning to side B I just want to say that I have transcribed the contents of the 2 exercise books lent me by Rose which contain a great deal of information about her life in the town. She has now given me a few more pages which I will transcribe. All these transcripts will be deposited in the museum with the transcript of this tape.
JRP: Now, you were telling me before we started recording, about one or two Hertford characters, one of whom was Nurse Campion. Would you like to tell the tape recorder a bit more?
RW: Nurse Campion was a bit of a character. She must have been senior midwife because we only had 2 nurses in the district then because it was a very small place. I mean there were no houses beyond the County Hospital hardly and none much beyond Addis in Ware Road. Hornsmill wasn't built, Bengeo wasn't built, so there really wasn't many people about. Campfield Road wasn't built. So she used to be called in as consultant when things weren't going quite right, when babies were being born, because most of the babies were born at home anyway. She had rode a bicycle, it was an old 'sit up and beg' as we call them today. She always had black flowing clothes on herself, long skirts so she must have had a dress guard and down the front fork was this long wicker basket which had a brolly in it, umbrella, and when it rained she would take the brolly and she'd put that up and she'd still be pedalling along with the umbrella up. I don't know what the wind was like in those days, because you wouldn't be able to keep it up today. She had what most people have when they've been doing a job for a long time - a lot of experience. Although she was stern, they spoke well of her and I'm sure she must have saved a lot of babies that otherwise would have gone. Most babies were brought into the world probably by the woman next door. My mother had an old nurse for me. And that was Granny Woodcock...she was another one who probably worked with Nurse Campion. She had trained at Queen Charlotte's. She was a trained midwife, she'd actually done her training in a London hospital and she came down in the world when she married as a lot of them did in those days, didn't they. They had too many family. But she had one daughter, I don't know if she had any more. There again, people had babies, they didn't all survive. She had one daughter, and she had a daughter, Nesta. Now I've not mentioned her because I don't remember meeting her. She never came to any of the schools I went to. But she was a good old girl, she was good for advice, old fashioned advice but it usually worked.
JRP: Good. Now what about these - tell me something about....
RW: Mr. Wrenn, Chitty Wrenn, he had a 3 wheeler bike. I don't know what he used to do on it, but the only thing I know was that he used to ride it around the town and during the war we had a man sent to us to help out because our butchers had been called up, and one morning he took a bet on with somebody that he could ride it...apparently they are very difficult to ride but I can see him now, on a Thursday morning, I think it was, tucked up his apron like they do, took the corner and tucked it in the top, there he was in his smock and apron pedalling this bicycle up and down Railway Street there. It wasn't a one-way then so he could ride it both ways, between Wren's and the corner, what was Danny Graves's, grocers. Of course everybody turned out to have a good laugh, didn't they. He didn't tip it over so he won the bet!
JRP: Right, and the bike belonged to Chitty Wrenn.
RW: Yes, but what he did with it, what his business was, I don't know. But he'd been around the town a long time, I don't even know where he lived. Only ever saw him on his bike, trike rather.
JRP: Well, we think we know where he lived, we think he lived up past the present War Memorial. there's a little yard up there called Miller's Yard now, we think he lived just about there somewhere.
RW: That's right, there were some little cottages there. My husband's great uncle Dick lived in one of those cottages and there's a picture of him somewhere. Brand, his name was, standing outside of those cottages with his wife in an apron. My husband says its his great uncle Dick. He was in the Boer War. I've got his candlestick that was handed down and it's made out of a shell case. His dad always said his uncle Dick lived round there.
JRP: I think that's where Chitty lived. Then another person that had a 3 wheeler was the barber, Harry Whitby.
RW: And he'd got a proper chair on the back for his wife. He used to take her out in it. She was huge, she'd always got a smile on her face though. I used to feel sorry for him because she used to be ever so heavy and those 3 wheel bikes with a chair on the bike like that, they couldn't have been easy to pedal.
JRP: Did you see anybody else with one of those? Was he the only one?
RW: No, it was probably custom made because a lot of things were. An ordinary wheel chair, a bath chair was still a bloomin' old cane arrangement with a handle at the front, wasn't it, so he probably had it made.
JRP: And they went out on the bike.
RW: I don't know how far he went, he always went when he shut the shop, as soon as he shut it, out they used to go.
JRP: He was the one that used to go for a drink, wasn't he, half-way through the hair cutting...
RW: Oh well, possible, it's thirsty work, hairs get down your neck, don't they! After all, he hadn't got a vacuum cleaner to sweep it up, had he.
JRP: What about this lady here?
RW: Yes, Rosie Dunnage. Well, obviously that poor woman, her mind had gone. I don't know much about her, she must have lived down the Green, she used to go by the shop when my dad first opened it. You knew she was coming because the swearing preceded her! It was always 'so and so bread and butter, sick and tired of bread and butter, bread and butter'
that was her stock in phrases. But I don't know what happened to her, she must have gone into a home I imagine because she was in a pretty bad state. She must have got a bit more far gone.
JRP: Were there any other characters from the Green that you remember?
RW: Well, we served some of them, but they weren't really characters because they lived there, but some were really quite nice people...they were moved up to Horns Mill. I mean there were the Fletchers, well that family's all gone now, but they were the sort of folk. I mean there was people worked in McMullens' and the maltings in Railway Street, the coal yards, we had several coal yards, and we also had farriers, horse shoe people, there was 2 blacksmiths in Railway Street. There was Wheelers' which was behind the Duncombe yard, Eileen Wheeler his daughter married and her husband was at one time caretaker at Morgans Walk. Haven't seen her lately, don't know where she is. Then further down the road there was a blacksmiths somewhere where Warren Place is now, one by the name of Hughes. Now he had a daughter and she's still around. My friend Gladys up Bengeo said I saw.........Hughes the other day. You'd still know her because she hasn't altered much. She must have gone to Port Vale. She lived in Villiers Street, they had the blacksmiths in Railway Street and there was no living accommodation and I think she lived in Villiers Street. There again on the end of Villiers Street was a basket makers, Bullards. Miss Bullard and her brother used to make all the baskets in the town. They made the ones that went in the carrier bikes, they made basket chairs, anything that was willow made and the willow canes, there used to be a great big trough outside his workshop and that had got all these willow canes in there, all getting seasoned so you could bend them about.
JRP: Soaking, yes.
RW: And they used to do shopping baskets. I've still got one like that, and of course if they came undone or broke, you took them down there and they mended them, you didn't throw them away. I don't know if there's anything down there now, it was right on the corner of Villiers Street on the right hand side. It would back on to Tesco's now, wouldn't it. There was a long workshop and the house was attached to it. I don't know what happened to them. We don't have baskets to go shopping now, do we.
JRP: Well, I like a basket....but I like baskets anyway!
RW: Yes, bicycle baskets, they used to get made there - used to go and get a new bicycle basket.
JRP: I wonder whether he made the one for the umbrella?
RW: Oh possibly - if you wanted anything to a specification, yes he would make it for you.
JRP: Right. They sound nice people. Now, what about other shop keepers. Anybody that you were particularly friendly with, or got any stories about?
RW: Well, the Coppings, that's Coppings on that corner, that grocers which is next to the butchers which is now 3 shops, now the one which is a record shop was run by Ethel Copping and Winnie Copping, 2 sisters, as the florist section and they made the wreaths together and the bouquets. Now Ethie sadly died of leukemia and that was during the war time I suppose, because she made my bouquet and I got married in '44, but she died soon after. And really you didn't hear much about leukemia then, it seems to be a modern complaint compared with then. Win was the oldest and she kept house for them all. Originally there was the old man Copping and his missis and they bought a place out at Dane End and they had a market garden then they took this shop to sell the surplus. To start with they didn't have the shop, they had a barrow in Market Street right outside what is now Ilotts, then they got more affluent or the children grew up and they wanted more space and they took that corner shop, which is in actual fact 3 shops. There's the one which is the record shop, then there's Ilotts, then next to that is the coaching arch if you look, and that was all cobblestones then. Well, that was the banana room, because they kept it cold and then the next one which is the betting shop, that was Arthur Copping's [corner Market Street and Railway Street]. There was Arthur Copping and Willie Copping. He had the first bit round the side, and Arthur and Winnie and the girls had the other bits. Upstairs it had been a chapel you know, they partitioned a bit off and made a room so that they could eat there.
And old Mrs. Copping used to come down mostly at weekends and cook for them. They never went home to dinner but they all had a hot dinner and they had the meat from the butchers. She used to cook for them, all the whole family used to go up there and have their meals. Then of course the war came and the men went off and it more or less got shut up. That had shutters then, it didn't have glass, and the Thursday after those shutters were pulled down, when I went for my driving test you couldn't see through that corner, a child ran straight along there, straight under me, or it would have done only I pulled up. Poor old driving instructor never saw that child. He was so shook up he passed me! But then on the other side was the Wrens. Mr. Wren the baker, he was mayor at one time, so anything you wanted to find out from Mr. Wren was already recorded. He was a good mayor. There was the Duncombe pub, not as it is today, and there was the White House that was down there.
JRP: Was there a shop called Baileys?
RW: It was called the Welcome - it was a sweet shop - there was Wren's, then those two funny little cottages I've described where the two old ladies went up, and then there was a dairy behind it, and then there was the Welcome and that was....it hadn't got much living accommodation but it was run by two brothers and they had fruit machines at the back, which of course were highly illegal in those days. That didn't get pulled down when they pulled all the slums down [area of Railway Street, north side, between Green Street and Bircherley Street]. After you got to the Welcome there was another pub, the Cross Keys and another pub. It was all pubs and they were empty when we got there, they weren't putting any landlords in them then, they was finished so who was in them then, I've no idea.
JRP: You mentioned to me when we weren't recording, the other time I came, about a jeweller called Garrett...do you want to mention that on tape?
RW: Yes, he was the jeweller there and he had two or three children, they lived over the shop which is right next to the international stores and the international manager lived over the top there as did the next one which was Mr. Robinson, which was the corner butchers shop. They all lived over the top and he used to like a drink rather too much. He used to get out with Mrs. Webb who at that time had a cycle shop down Bull Plain, next to what's Hinds now, but it was Boots then. They'd been there for some time. Mrs. Webb took the shop when times were very bad for somewhere to live and try and get a living. Her husband was a bricklayer and there wasn't much doing in the building line when she went there. Anyway, she got on all right, she used to like her Guinness. She used to get in the White Hart and she used to meet Mr. Garrett in there and the two of them used to get a bit tipsy and then of course Saturday night when they turned out and they had to turn out at half past ten, we used to sit and look out the window over the shop. Mrs. Garret'd be coming out, going to fight Mrs. Webb because she got her husband drunk, every Saturday night regular as clockwork, missiles would be flying. Eventually he died and she moved away. He wasn't a bad jeweller and when he was sober he was quite a good clockmender. He'd got a living, whatever Mrs. G. Said, she didn't have to go out to work.
JRP: Another shopkeeper you mentioned from St. Andrew Street, was a Miss Hoad.
RW: Oh yes, Miss Hoad...we used to call her Granny Palmer because the sweet shop was named Palmers, but apparently and this used to date back to the war years, Miss Hoad must have been old Palmer's mistress or possibly the man she was going to marry who perhaps didn't come back. My father said she was old Palmer's mistress and he left her the shop. Well, he may have left her the shop, perhaps he didn't come back, that's why in my early childhood so many shops were run by women. They'd got nothing else, they weren't trained for anything only perhaps to go in service.
JRP: Are you talking about the first world war now?
RW: Yes. She must have come there after the first world war. She was there when we went there in l92l so how long she'd been there I don't know. But she went a bit funny in the end. She never bought shoes, her feet were all done up in rags. She wasn't short of money and if anybody upset her she got Longmores to write you a letter. She would write you a beautiful letter in perfect English always in green ink, always. She used to have these sweets - the bell used to ring and you had to step down a step, and she'd come from the back room, and we'd have perhaps a 1d to spend and she'd have different boxes - she'd have farthing things in one, ha'penny things in another and penny things in another and of course the children used to jumble them all up and give her a farthing. Any way one day she really must have got really mad, shut old Gwen Godfrey in, when Godfrey went into get some sweets from the taxi people opposite the church, I think I've already mentioned it, and she shut the door behind her and poor old Gwen couldn't get out. The children knew that she was in there and we were really worried, didn't know what was happening to Gwen and if you want to know what was happening to Gwen you'll have to ask her...Mrs. Williams, her name is.
But she left there and she bought a house in Villiers Street. Oh, and it was in a state....3 storeys high. It's still there, 3 storeys high and a basement and she had bits of sacking across the windows as though she hadn't got a ha'penny to bless herself. She used to have an old coat tied up with a piece of rope around the middle and she'd have an old hat on if it was bad weather and these old raga. Every Sunday without fail she walked from Villiers Street to Waterford Church and she attended that church until she died.
JRP: Did she have any family?
RW: No, as she was a 'Miss'.
JRP: No brothers and sisters?
RW: Well, we don't know, you see. There was another little sweet shop down there run by the Moores. Mrs. Moore ran it, that was next to that other jeweller in St. Andrew Street. Her husband had gone ....sleepy sickness, it's Tsetse Fly - he'd been out east somewhere and he didn't get any pension much and she had this shop to keep them. But that got burned down, that set light so did the had shop next to it, and of course where our doctor's surgery was, is now, that was Mr. Keebles. He was the tallyman, never never, you paid a bit every week.
JRP: He had a big fire there, didn't he, the store, I think, was that at the same time?
RW: Yes, it probably would be, probably because it would have been behind it. Once we went down to the shop, we never really went back up there again. I told you about old Jimmy Moult, the piano teacher...I didn't go there but Mrs. Halls went there for lessons...she would know.
JRP: Yes, I'm thinking I'd better go and see her, she might be very informative.
RW: Yes, because there was old Mr. Dickins with the white hair. He had Dickins' barbers shop and ladies' hairdressers, now that is where....you know where 'Nayles' (or Nails!) is now in Fore Street, that was a tobacconists, Miss Shepherd's, before that Miss Frogley had it, Min Frogley, another Miss. She'd a man didn't come back and she was old when we got the shop in '36, my father said something about her father had it before her, but I don't know. Next to her was Halfords, but in between there, the hairdressers, Dickins. Upstairs was the ladies' downstairs was the men's and a Mr. Hubbard did the ladies. Joan Hubbard is still around here. Don't know what her married name is, in fact I think she's divorced...she's had a lot of trouble, she's got one daughter...her husband....something went wrong there and she's had a mental breakdown and she's just getting over that. Then there was Neale's Bon Marche, Fosters, they used to have the thing where you put money and it used to slide across. They had Miss Kichener worked in there, for years she lived down St. John Street 'til she died - her old mum, her husband had been killed in one of the wars and she used to take in washing and she used to do all the butchers' washing. All the smocks and aprons, she was a little old lady.
JRP: Where did she do them?
RW: In her house in her old copper. It was spotless when it come back, better than any laundry she was. It was beautiful. Of course her daughter never had any children so that family died out. Oh we had Small and Burgess; where Cousins is now, we had a ladies and gents outfitters - and it was one of those places where you went in and somebody sailed up to you to greet you. I know there was a step to go up and I remember I had a coat there and it was Small & Burges but 'old boy avenue' (that's what it sounds like now!) was Burgess and his wife had been on the stage. Now this may be operatic history...she'd got red hair, when they came out the shop, she did actually live along Cromwell Road and she had one daughter, she's probably still around. But she's older than me so I never went to school with her. When he was there he always used to create and create because of the cattle market opposite next to the Ram. He didn't like all those old cows coming past his posh shop. But he regretted it when it went, he kept on and on and eventually it went. What he did not realise was that the farmers brought their wives in to shop. While the farmers were in there selling their cattle the wives were in his shop doing their shopping. They no longer came, and he didn't have any custom left. I put in my book about Elliott's piano shop, now further along there we had the National House Office but further along there was one big house and the dentist was there. He was a Mr. Hollick...always remember he was single. As a little girl I looked up at him....he'd got little beady eyes. I had to go in there from the time I was 5. The practice was handed down to Mr. Downey, Mr. Finch, Mr. Willesey and it's been handed down again and I'm still going to that same dentist though they've moved. But in that dentists' today he's got one room with all the things in there which are museum pieces which were actually used on me! I can tell you what they were all for! Mr. Hollick actually retired when Dr. Eager, who was one of the nicest doctors, because you didn't have an anaesthetic then, without the doctor. I had to have my tooth taken out and had to wait to have gas...to have your tooth pulled, you had to get the doctor as well.
JRP: Yes, I remember that.
RW: When Dr. Eager died or had to give up the practice...he died of cancer......he just couldn't work with anybody else and he was so upset.