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Transcript TitleWilliams, Jessie (O1999.12)
IntervieweeJessie Williams (JW). Also present Serena, (Jessie Williams' gra
InterviewerJean Riddell Purkis (JR)
Transcriber byJuliet Bending


Hertford Oral History Group

Recording No. O1999.12

Interviewee: Jessie Williams (JW). Also present Serena, (Jessie Williams' granddaughter) (SW)

Venue: ?

Date: 18th February 1999

Interviewers: Jean Riddell Purkis (JR)

Transcribed by: Juliet Bending

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

[discussion] = untranscribed material


JR: This is Jean Riddell Purkis speaking. It's, I think, 18th February 1999, and it's a Thursday evening, and I'm at the home of Mrs Jessie Williams ...that's right, isn't it? ...

JW: ...nee Bryce ...

JR: ...nee Bryce, number 4 Burgage Court, Ware, and we're going to talk about Oaker's Buildings, hopefully. I've given Jessie some pictures to look at for a minute or two, while we get set up. I'm just going to test that this has actually recorded now ...At Oaker's Buildings ...

JW: I was born in Oaker's Buildings and I was there until I was 14 years old.

JR: Right.

JW: When I was 14 years old, we moved up to Horns Mill, Horns Mill Road, the last house in Horns Mill Road. That was my life, from there.

JR: So did you move because they were pulling them down?

JW: Oh yes, we all had to get out, we all had to get out then.

SW: How long did you get notice then?

JW: I don't know, darling. I can't remember, quite like that you know. I mean, they were condemned, to be honest, because all it was -- one room, the complete one room that we lived in, we bathed in, and everything else. And then there was one bedroom, and then there was an attic. That's where me and my sister lived -- slept -- in the attic.

JR: Right.

JW: Everything was done in that main room. We had an old-fashioned grate, and me and my Mum used to cook everything on that. We had to bath with the water, we had no hot water of any description then. I mean, all. ..all our lighting was from oil lamps, and ...

JR: So the water ...

JW: ... it wasn't -- don't get me wrong, this wasn't a hard life, because that's only what we knew.

JR: Yes.

JW: It wasn't a life that, I mean, today it would be condemned, you know what I mean, but to us it wasn't, it was our life, we were brought up with that.....

JR: Yes.

JW: know what I mean? ...

JR: Yes, oh yes, yes. In fact a lot of people were living ... in that same way, weren't they.

JW: Don't you worry, I mean, all over Hertford then it was the same. I mean, you go up to the jail in Ware Road, they were living in the same conditions as we were. And opposite us in Hertford, in Oaker Buildings, was Brewhouse Lane just opposite, and their conditions were just the same there. I mean ...

JR: Yes.

JW: people think what they've got is a hard life, but it wasn't a hard life, compared with what we had.

JR: No.

JW: But we didn't think it was a hard life, because we didn't know nothing else, you know what I mean ...I mean, we ...we lived as a community.

SW: Everybody knows everyone.

JW: Today's people don't live as a community, but we lived as a community. I mean, I...I've given you ... I've wrote this all down for you, see ...

JR: Right. Do you want to read out the names, and tell me about the people?

JW: Well [laughs] ...

JR: These are your neighbours there, are they?

JW: These are have this.... 'cos I can tell you by heart. I mean, I'm going back here, when I was 14, I'm 80 now, in a few weeks, I'm 80. There's only one person there that I can't quite get, and that's next door to me, Bryce. There was a lady there and she had one daughter and she was one of these ...I was going to say prostitutes.

JR: Right.

JW: I can't quite remember her name and she lived next door to us, and I can't quite remember her name, but she had one daughter, one daughter. All the others I know, and there's a Mrs Day there. Now, I was a young girl...

JR: Yes, across the road.

JW: 11, 12, I suppose, I used to take her little boy out. That child got burnt to death and I saw that from my home across the road, because he was in his high-chair, and he pulled the lamp off, he pulled the cloth off of the table, because we only had oil-lamps, we didn't have nothing else, candles, all we had were candles and oil-lamps. I used to go to bed with a candle. And this chap, this young feller, this little boy pulled this cloth off of the table, and they couldn't get him out of his high-chair quick enough, and he burnt to death, and I used to take him out. Now I can remember as if it's .. .'cos I am afraid of fire. Now, I am still afraid of fire at …. at my age, 80, because I saw that child ...I saw that child. But...

JR: But they ...who ...who was around? Were ...the parents were in the house?

JW: Yes, but you see, you get a child, strapped in a high-chair ...

JR: Yes.

JW: ... it's not easy.

JR: No, no, no, I'm just...

JW: It's not easy, love, it's not easy to do that. Now I don't know if that's in any of your books at all. I don't know.

JR: No, no one's mentioned it.

JW: Oh yes, I can remember telling you that to my face, I know that.

JR: And how old were you then? Can we put a date on it?

JW: About 11 or 12 or something like that. I was only young ...a young girl.

JR: About 1930 then, was it?

JW: Oh yes, I suppose it was getting on for something like that, because I mean, as I say to you, I was there until I was 14 years old, when we moved to Horns Mill, so it's between my birth and, what, 10, 11 years old, I suppose. I used to take him out.

JR: Well, you must have been in that sort of age bracket.

JW: I must have been about 11ish, somewhere around there.

JR: I could look in an old 'Mercury', that's what I'm thinking of, you know at the Record Office.

JW: But I can remember that child as clear as crystal, as I used to take him out mean, you're taking me back here now, I'm 80 now, you're taking me back here when I was about 11, and I can go back, I can go back, but I can't go back to what happened yesterday, no way, you see?

JR: [laughs] Don't worry about yesterday now.

JW: No, so you see, so, yes definitely, I was only a young girl.

JR: So these people here, the ones in the book ... Elsie Hockley, she was an Ansell, wasn't she?

JW: Hockley? I don't know her.

JR: Well, she married.

JW: Oh, that's her married name.

JR: Yes, and she's in that book.

JW: Yes, apparently you've seen all these, haven't you, or you've heard of these?

JR: Yes. Elsie Ansell, Ivy Ansell...

JW: She was an Ansell. ..lvy Ansell and all.

JR: Do you remember those two?

JW: Oh I know them. In fact, I was only speaking to her the other day, Ivy. No, Ivy is dead.

JR: Yes. She did live in Ware though, you're right.

JW: Yes, they all lived in Ware. They come from Ware. There was Foster. [laughs] There's one bloke in there we used to call him Monkey Foster, one of the sons was Monkey Foster. And now, I've given you ... I've given you a bloke ...the first one. He was a man -- what's his name?

JR: Ketteridge?

JW: No, no, that's on the other side.

JR: Oh, the first one on your side is Wren.

JW: Josiah Wren we used to call him, Josiah Wren, he was an old man elderly man, Josiah Wren.

JR: He wasn't called Chitty as well, was he?

JW: We used to call him Josiah Wren, I don't know about that. And then there was two sisters, the Miss Bradens.

JR: Yes?

JW: They were two, what d'ye call sisters ...spinsters. They were two spinsters. Mr Parsley, he had a wooden leg.

JR: Right.


JW: You laugh, Serena, but this is going back years now, I mean, this is going back really years.

JR: Was that...?

JW: Well, yes, but you see, we're going back, Serena, when I was a young girl. You wouldn't understand this at all.

SW: What about his leg then?

JR: Did he ...was it in the First World War do you think he lost it?

JW: I don't know what happened to him, don't ask me.

JR: Because we've had reports of quite a number of people with hook hands.

JW: No, that's only Mr Ketteridge.

JR: But there were others as well in the town.

JW: Not down there, not down Oaker Buildings, there was nobody, only Mr Ketteridge.

JR: Yes. But I don't know whether that was as a result of the War, or an accident?

JW: I can't tell you, I can't tell you anything about that, because he.. he started off with a...fruit and vegetable barrow, then he had a little shop opposite the Memorial in Hertford, you know ...

JR: Yes.

JW: And ...he was a nice man, he was a nice man, and his daughter lives in Bengeo actually, his daughter still lives in Bengeo, I suppose. I don't know -- she must be my age anyway now.

JR: I didn't know there were any left related to him. Oh well ....

JW: Yes, he had a daughter and a son.

JR: Oh, but she's married is she, though?

JW: Oh she was married years and years and years ago, but I mean she must be really about my age As far as I know, I don't know, I think she's still alive as far as I know.

JR: It would be worth tracing her, wouldn't it?

JW: Yes, Mrs ...I don't know what her name is, I don't know what her married name is, I can't tell you her married name, but I mean you're going back to me when I was 11 year old, when she was about 11 year old here, you know what I mean, and ...yes, I remember all these people. Sorry, but there ain't many of us alive now, and that's true.

JR: No, that's a shame.

JW: That is true. But I mean, as for the old lady, we used to have to pay our rent to, she was a so-and-so ...

JR: Who was that? Miss Oaker? (Miss Florence Oaker, niece of another Miss Oaker, died c. 1920).

JW: Yes, yes. As you came under the archway, you had to go right, right, that way, the barber's was the same way, and if you've got any muck on your foot [/boot], you wouldn't go in there and pay your rent, for the ledger.

JR: I've heard that.

JW: You had to take your shoes off to go in there, mate, as she wouldn't let us through this, she wouldn't let us do that, or anything else.

JR: What …. when you were a child, what age would you say she was? Was she very old?

JW: Oh, she was a lot older, she was really a middle-aged lady ...

JR: Middle-aged. Right, that's fine.

JW: She must have been a middle-aged lady then.

JR: Yes, yes.

JW: Oh yes, I can remember her, don't you worry, I can remember her, she wasn't a very nice lady either. (otherwise recalled as a very nice, friendly woman, very short and large (water retention) with one or two walking sticks).

JR: Did she have a niece who was a nun? Somebody told me that.

JW: I can't tell you.

JR: ...who came to stay with her? ..

JW: ...because we never saw anybody there, because she'd got this here ...a wooden gate that we used to have to go through, to go up there and pay the rent.

JR: Right!

JW: I mean, I suppose the rent was only about 5p, £5 ...50p ...£5 or something like that, you know, but we didn't get nothing for it. I mean, I used to ...when I look at my home now ...

JR: Yes!

JW: ...when I look at my home now, and I think, we used to sit in a bath in front of the fire. My Mum had to fill all this water up, boiling kettles and kettles and kettles, to have a bath in front of the fire. My father was there, and I was 11 years old. You can't believe this, and when we [laughs] when we used to go down to the toilets, the toilets were at the bottom of the yard, you know, and we

had bits of newspaper cut up on a...on a meat skewer to go to the toilet. You see, you think you're hard done by now. But I mean ...but we weren't hard done by, Serena, because we didn't know anything different. This is what we were brought up for, brought up to, you know.

JR: So these were communal toilets, weren't they.

JW: Everybody, we used the same toilets. They were at the bottom of the yard.

JR: Well how many ...can you remember how many there were? Somebody says four, and somebody says six.

JW: Yes, there was about four, about four, yes, that was about right, about four.

JR: ...for the whole lot of you? Yes, yes.

JW: Yes, and I mean, you've got two lines of houses here, two lines of houses. (17 houses in total)

SW: How many people would that be sharing four toilets then?

JR: It depends how many in the family, doesn't it? Was your family a big family?

JW: No, there was only four of us.

JR: Four children?

JW: Yes, but...

JR: Six in total

JW: The thing is Mum Dad was married before.

JR: Yes.

JW: His wife died, his first wife died and I had an older sister. OK, she didn't live with us, she didn't live with us, and ...only I shouldn't talk about my Mum, because ...she's the greatest mum in the world to me, but she had two children illegitimate, you see, and one of them used to live with us, Vi -- you know the lady on the market, that's got the jewellery, in Ware and Hertford market, her

mum was my sister ...

JR: Oh?

JW: ... but I mean, I don't want too much of this recorded about my sisters, and my own personal life.

JR: There's no need to say anything about it. If you just tell me about your life there.

JW: But my sister ...she used ...she lived with us for a while, but she was a wayward sister, you know what I mean? And I can remember very, very clearly, if it's only yesterday, that my Mum had to go in hospital for a very serious operation, she had her whole stomach taken away, and as she come home, this sister of mine that's the wayward one, she just come out of the hospital, but I can see my Mum now going from Oaker Buildings to the County Hospital to have this serious operation. Anyway, that is a different story, that is a different story completely, but actually … some of them more or less, and more than two children, down in Oaker Buildings, but my Mum had only one sister and my younger sister, and my sister married a Grumballs.

JR: Oh, right.

JW: Now if you go through your ...your [?dossiers], you'll find the Grumballs because they came from up the ...the ...Jail, what we used to call the Jail in Ware Road. One sister married one of them.

JR: I think you know somebody called ...Joe Quince?

JW: No.

JR: I think his ...he had an auntie who was a Grumble. I think so.

JW: Yes, maybe.

JR: The name's often talked about, you know, it's quite a well-known name.

JW: See … Grumbles like ...there are not many Bryces, you won't get many Bryces, you know, but Grumballs, yes, yes, that is a different name altogether, but there's not many Bryces around. My family originally came father came from Hitchin ...

JR: Right.

JW: ...and if you go round Hitchin, and St. Ippolitts and places like that, you will find out more about the Bryces.

JR: Right. The family from ...

JW: That's where they originally came from.

JR: When did they come to Hertford?

JW: I don't know, love I don't remember. I mean, I can remember going to Hitchin and seeing my Nan.

JR: It must be that...your father's generation that came to Hertford then, wasn't it.

JW: Yes, my father. I mean, I can remember going to Hitchin as clear as crystal, to see my Nan, at Hitchin. And there again she lived in a little old cottage like we lived in Oaker Buildings, and ...1can't, I can't tell you my granddad, I can't remember him ...that's a policeman, my grandfather, when they found him in the river in Hertford Castle, my grandfather.

JR: Oh!

JW: That is my granddad, that they found in the river fully clothed in his uniform from the Hertfordshire Police.

JR: Oh. When was your grandfather's [?death]?

SW: It was about 1881 he died.

JR: Yes.

JW: I don't know, darling, I don't know.

JR: So he was ...was he a Bryce as well?

JW: He was a Bryce.

JR: Because there was one drowned ...earlier on than that but it wasn't Bryce, it was another name, Rapley, but that was many years ago.

JW: No, that was my grandfather in Hertford Castle, fully clothed. They don't know whether he was pushed in there, or whether he fell in there because he was a drunkard. He used to go to all the pubs on duty. Fully clothed, and he was well known in Bengeo for being a drunkard.

JR: There's a bit about him in 'The Mercury'.

JW: Yes, that was my Granddad. No, I didn't know him, I didn't know him. I knew my Nan, I can remember my Nan as clear as crystal.

JR: She was at Hitchin, your Nan?

JW: Yes, they lived at Hitchin.

JR: And yet he worked in Hertford.

JW: He was a policeman in Hertford.

JR: Oh, well perhaps ...perhaps he returned to Hitchin.

JW: She never came to Hertford, my Nan never came to Hertford, no, no, but I mean he could have been stationed here, and lived in Hitchin. I mean, things were so different then than what they are today, you know what I mean.

JR: Yes!

JW: But I can remember your Dad found out all this for me, about my Granddad, I mean, I've got letters that her Dad done -- that's my eldest son, you see -- about my Granddad. But I went one day to ...for a ride with your Dad, and we went round Hitchin, and St. lppolitts, and all round there, and your Dad said to me, this is where your Auntie lives, and that was St. Ippolitts, so it's all round that area, it's all round that area. (speaking about granddaughter Serena)

JR: Yes. Where did you go to school then?

JW: When I first went to school I went to Cowbridge ...

JR: Oh yes, yes.

JW: ... in Hertford. There I went until I was ... 1 mean, we didn't change schools then ...when I was 11, you didn't change schools then. I was there until I was ... I finished at 14.

JR: You stayed there all the time. You didn't go to St Andrew's?

JW: No, no, no! I went to Cowbridge until I was 14. When I was 14, that's when we moved from Oaker Buildings to Horns Mill, and I went to work at Simson and Shand's in Parliament Square when I was 14, and there I stopped until I was 25, and I got married then and came to Ware. I lived in Ware since I was 25.'t get me wrong, it wasn't a hard life, it wasn't a hard life when I was born, up until I was 14, it wasn't a hard life, it was a life that we expected.

JR: That's what the Ansell sisters say, they say the same thing as you. They were very happy there, they liked it there.

JW: Yes.

JR: I mean, there's no problem.

JW: We were a community ...

JR: Yes, yes. Can you ...?

JW: ...and it's very very rare that you had any of you arguing. We didn't have that, I mean, just...well, I'm not going to say it, because you've got it on here now.

JR: Well I have. Can you ...? Let me ask you something else. Can you remember any characters from St. Andrew Street? There's somebody called Polly Betts or Petts, that we ...

JW: Ah, now that's the old lady isn't it, she was a bit of a gyp ...a psychic person.

JR: Oh was she?

JW: Yes, yes, Polly Betts. You're either talking about, there's one or two people here.

JR: There's one that lived on the ...

JW: There's one ... as you come under this archway, you know, you've got one this ...on the right-hand side, nearest the Church, and you've got one the other side that used to have a little sweet shop.

JR: Right.

JW: Now, which one do you want here? Because ...

JR: Well, the sweet shop ...

JW: The old lady in the sweet shop ...

JR: Miss Hoad, wasn't it?

JW: I forget what her name was.

JR: Tell me about that.

JW: ...but she always wore bits of …. of straw and everything on her never saw her shoes or anything else, she had, like, straw and everything else all tied round her legs and all. Oh yes, you don't believe this, but we did.

JR: I've heard many tales about her. They said she wrapped her feet in rags.

JW: Oh yes! Yes, straw, anything. I mean, you never see her feet, you never saw her feet, and of course we used to play the hell with her when we was young girls, we used to play her hell, of course we did, you know. But … yes … Miss Betts, yes, that's right, I can remember her. But the other one the other side that you're talking -- that we're talking about, near the Church, she was a bit of a...weird person, she was sort of a gypsy, I don't know what to make of her. But we used to play her hell, when we was young girls. (Profiled in Priory Fields).

JR: What did you do?

JW: We used to play her hell, mate ...1don't know what you would call her, to be honest, she was psychic, you know, a psychy person, and ...

JR: Did she do any work?

JW: No, no, no, no. That was right opposite Brewhouse Lane, between ...between the old barber's shop and her and the Church, and the Church. And honestly you were terrified of her, because she was likely to put a curse on you, you know what I mean?

JR: Yes, yes. I haven't heard that before.

JW: No, she would put, she was likely to put a curse on you, so OK we used to play her hell, we used to play hell with her. I mean, we used to bang on her doors, shout at her and all...[laughs]. We weren't no angels, not at 14.

JR: Did she have a brother?

JW: I can't tell you that, love, I can't tell you ..

JR: And somebody reported her as having a brother called Up the Navy. Can you remember that word, that phrase?

JW: No, no, no.

JR: I wondered if you remembered ...

JW: The only person that I can tell you is Mr Wren, and we used to call him Josiah Wren, and that was down the yard. (Confusion – Josiah was the Mayor; this one was ‘chitty’)

JR: Right. And did he play something, did he play a musical instrument?

JW: I can't tell you that...

JR: A piano accordion or something like that? No.

JW: But I mean, he was a great old man, he was a great old man. And as I say these two, these two sisters, the Miss Bradens, I mean they were prim and proper.

JR: Did they work at all?

JW: Oh yes, they were prim and proper.

JR: Did they have jobs?

JW: No, no they didn't do nothing, you know. But to see this old chap taking his wife out in the afternoons, in the middle of the afternoon on his ...

JR: Yes, you haven't said that to the tape. Tell us again about this barber.

JW: Oh yes, the barber -- I think his name was Mr Wren, wasn't it? (barber was actually Harry Whitby). I'm not sure what his name was -- anyway, he used to ...if he had a shop full of people, if he decided he was going to take his wife out he would take his wife out. He used to get his old three-wheel bike out. It was a wicker, a wicker seat that she sat in, you know, and ... he'd take her out. It didn't matter what weather it was, wrap her up in the back of it, and he'd probably be gone for two hours, all round Hertford, all in the country lanes and everything else, and he'd come back, dump her indoors, open up his barber's shop again. And he would take all the customers in again, I mean nobody bothered about that. That was nothing to him, nothing to us. It was great, it was a great life, and as I say, this old chap, old Josiah Wren, he didn't interfere with anybody, I mean, he just was in the corner, like I am to you. I mean, we used to say 'good morning' to him, hallo to him and everything else, and that was that.

It was our life, it was our life, we didn't know anything different you know. But I'm saying to you over and over again, it was not a hard life, because we didn't know anything different.

JR: Who were the other shop-keepers just there, besides the barber and the sweet shop?

JW: There weren't many, I mean, St Andrew Street wasn't like it is today.

JR: Have a look on here again and see if you can ...

JW: Yes, but you see there's not many shops on that one.

JR: Was that one there, that corner ...that one that was a bit of an old ...a much older property actually, isn't it, that one ...? Was that?

JW: That used to be the paper shop.

JR: Yes, who kept that in your time? You can't remember?

JW: Oh I can't tell you, I can't tell you who that was, but that's the paper shop.

JR: Yes.

JW: That's the paper shop. This is...this is the place there what I'm telling you about where this old lady was psychy ...that one there, that one there.

JR: That one, yes. What about Hughie Mills? Was it Hughie Mills?

JW: Yes, that used to be ...what, here?

JR: Yes, the jeweller's.

JW: The jeweller's. Eventually they went over the other side. They went over the other side, because there was another ...there was another. ..small arch ...archway over there. We've got four. ..1think there was about four little cottages there, and my aunt lived there, a Mrs Whittaker, that was my Mum's sister, lived under the arch over the other side of Hertford.

JR: I know where you mean.

JW: There was about four little cottages there, and that was my Aunt Liz, that was my Mum's sister, 'cos Whittaker's were a big name then in Hertford, my Mum was a Whittaker.

JR: Right.

JW: She had a brother up at … in the Bury Road, you know (probably no. 38) -- all the little row of cottages on the right-hand side before you turn off to go to the hospital now -- my Mum's brother lived along there. There was another brother lived down ...The Folly at Hertford. There was another brother lived up at Horns Mill when we lived up there. Now that brother -- his wife had a wooden leg [laughs] -- sorry, I've got to laughing now. She ...she was screwy and everything, in every way. We used to call her 'Crutchy'. She used to tangle her leg round her. ..round her stick.

JR: How did she get that then?

JW: Don't ask me. [laughs!] She was no good, she was no good, but that was my Mum's brother. She lived up Horns Mill when we moved up Horns Mill, you see, and you see Mum ...had a family in Hertford.

JR: Yes, she was local.

JW: Yes, I don't know where she originally come from, I can't tell you that. But all her family was Hertford. I mean, as I'm saying, a brother down The Folly, a brother in the Bury Road, a brother at Horns Mill. ..she had a sister in London. And my Mum was the most loving person in the world. Can you remember my Mum?

JR: No.

JW: Clare can, you can't (to Serena). She was the most lovely person in the world. OK, I'm having a talk about my father, that's a different story, but I can ...only through your Dad, I remember that my grandfather was found in the river, in the river in the Castle, you know.

JR: Yes. Who were your school friends at the ...when you were at Cowbridge? Who were your special friends?

JW: Well, there's Linda Livings. (Linda Graves – recorded)

JR: Right. That's not somebody from here, is it?

JW: No, there are none of them down there, 'cos this is...this is the other side, in Brewhouse Lane. That's opposite Oaker Buildings in Brewhouse Lane.

JR: Do you ...has she got a...? She married, didn't she.

JW: Who?

JR: Linda Livings.

JW: Yes, she married Pat Graves.


JR: Right. Where was she ...?

JW: You see, they all live up Sele Farm now, they all live up Sele Farm now.

JR: She now lives at The Dell, down in Horns Mill.

JW: Linda Livings lives in The Dell ..

JR: Yes.

JW: ...she lives in The Dell.

JR: But her brother lives there too, Percy Griggs.

JW: Percy Griggs, yes.

JR: You knew her, did you?

JW: Yes, yes. There was Nellie, there was Nellie ...Mansfield.

JR: Did she come from Brewhouse as well?

JW: Yes, they all lived down Brewhouse Lane. Nellie Mansfield, Linda Livings, Dorothy Game.

JR: Right …. l've heard of her.

JW: She lives up at Sele Farm. Actually she's in a wheelchair right now. She's doubled up with arthritis and everything else, and she lives up there. We were a gang of four -- that was Linda, Nellie, Dobbie and me -- we were a gang of four.

JR: Dobbie?

JW: We called her Dobbie -- Dorothy her proper name is, Dorothy Game. I don't know what her married name is, I don't know what her married name is, but we used to call her Dobbie.

JR: Ah yes, I've heard of her. Yes, Dobbie ...I think there was a photograph taken somewhere I've got.

JW: She's got one son.

JR: Right.

JW: As far as I know, she's got one son.

JR: Dobbie Game.

JW: Linda I keep in touch with, Linda Graves ... Linda Livings she was, you know.

JR: Oh well, she did a very good tape of Brewhouse Lane with her brother.

JW: Yes.

JR: Excellent it was, absolutely.

JW: That's what I'm telling you, I mean, you see you ...she's the same age as me, and we go back here, we go back together, we all went to school together. We went everywhere together.

JR: Did you play down Brewhouse Lane at all ever, or ...?

JW: Yes, we used to go down there, because there was a slaughterhouse at the bottom of there, and we used to go down there and watch them cut the pigs' throats and everything. [laughter] It didn't worry us then, no, it didn't worry us then. I mean, I couldn't do that today, no, of course I couldn't. And we used to go down there, it was great, we all went to school together, and we used to go to a club, on Tuesdays ...the United Friendly, and that was on at Bull Plain, Hertford ...

JR: Oh.

JW: ..and I remember we used to go up these winding stairs to the top of this club.

JR: Was that on the corner?

JW: A Miss Wackett. (probably Gladys or her cousin Stella).

JR: Oh right, yes yes.

JW: Miss Wackett used to be our ...teacher there. We used to have a good club. We used to go up there Tuesdays, all up these winding stairs, you know, rough stairs they were.

JR: Was that on the corner of Bull Plain and Railway Street?

JW: No, it was Bull Plain ...

JR: Right in Bull Plain?

JW: ...on the right-hand side as you go into Bull Plain. It was only just inside … what's 'er name?

JR: Oh yes yes.

JW: It was only just inside there.

JR: Right. Oh that's probably where I mean, yes.

JW: It's on the right-hand side, it was, as you just went in.

JR: It's now called Odd bins, isn't it?

JW: I don't know, dear, no.

JR: I think so.

JW: Actually, I don't go in Hertford, I don't like Hertford, I can't stick Hertford. To me it's a dead-and-alive hole, I'm sorry. Me, I was born and bred in there … I quite like it ..but I don't like ... I hate going to Hertford. I ...I don't know the last time I went to ...The last time I went to Hertford I had to go and get an x-ray from the County Hospital, but I've never been there since. It doesn't interest... I'm not interested in Hertford -- and that's my home. I love Ware, I love Ware. Ware to me is great.

JR: Yes.

JW: So ...yes. And I haven't seen Dobbie for years. Linda I do, because she lives in The Dell, and we go out occasionally. I mean, we went up to ...Paradise Park at what's 'er name, at Broxbourne, and I saw Linda up there, you know. And then we went out to the London lights and Linda came then, and I had a natter to her. But Nellie, Nellie Mansfield she was then, I don't know their married names, but Nellie -- I see her very often in Ware, and she comes over here quite ...twice a week, I think, her and her husband. And, they were my four friends, they were my mates when I was at school. And we started courting all together, yes, we all started courting all together, until I hit Dobbie one day, 'cos she took my man.

JR: Oh dear, oh dear … [laughter].

JW: I'm sorry, but still I married my man anyway, she didn't have him, I married him.

JR: But she ...[laughter]

JW: No I mean ...

JR: Was your husband a local boy then?

JW: ...Well, yes and no. He was originally born in London, he was born in ...

SW: Finchley, wasn't it?

JR: Finchley, Finchley. I can't tell you his street, I don't know his street. And your Dad tried so hard and we can't get anywhere. He came to Ware when he was 18 months old.

JR: Oh, he came to Ware and not Hertford?

JW: Oh, no, no, no. This caused a lot of trouble, because I married a Wareman {Ware man] and my father was against this over and over again. It was diabolical, that a man …. anybody to marry a Wareman, and for a Wareman marrying a Hertford girl, this was all wrong. [laughter!] I mean, you've got to go back here, you've got to go back here. This was diabolical. My father never liked my husband, from the day I met him to the day ... not just before he died, actually when my father was very taken ill. My husband was a nurse, up at the Weston House Hospital.

JR: Oh, right!

JW: Yes, actually he was a State Registered Nurse then -- that's my husband there -- and Mum was a little person like me, very tiny person. My father was just half-an-inch too short for the police force. Now I'm going to tell you this, because my grandfather was a policeman. He had two brothers in the ...Services -- one was a Regimental Sergeant-Major, but then they all went screwy in the head in the end, don't ask me any more about that, that's a different story. But my father was half-an-inch too small for the police force. I mean, we're going back to when they had to be a certain height, you know.

JR: Yes.

JW: So Mum was a little short person like me, she was a little bit under me – I mean I'm not very big -- a little bit under me, and my Mum couldn't look after my Dad, she couldn't lift him or anything, so .... he had to go into the Weston House. He hated my husband with all his heart, and yet he never really met him, because he was a Wareman, just because he was a Wareman.

JR: Where did you meet him, in Hertford, or in Ware?

JW: Me?

JR: Yes.

JW: Oh we met him in Hertford.

JR: Oh, he came over.

JW: We used to go in all the shop doors [laughs] and everything else, you know. But anyway, I'm telling you, he went into Weston House. He went in there on the Friday, and he was dead on the Sunday. And he just said, 'Oh well, I'm going to have my son-on-law to look after me'. I thought, 'You hypocrite!' My father was a hypocrite. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I've got to say this, but don't put too much into this -- I never thought nothing of my father, he was a brute. My Mum was the most loveliest person in the world, she was great. I had one really true sister, and she died when she was 61. She married Grumball.

JR: Yes.

JW: She married a Grumball. So... it's a funny old life when you think ...look back on it, you know what I mean. And I [?can see] my Mum ...and I look in the mirror, and look at me and I can see my Mum every day of my life. My Dad -- I don't really want to know, sorry, I really don't want to know too much about him. He was a brute of a man. I mean, it was nothing ...but we were girls, we were all girls, and it was nothing to him to hit us with a bloody belt with a buckle. That was our life, you know what I mean? I don't want you to put too much into this, I don't want you to report this, not as my personal life.

JR: No, no, no.

JW: You know what I mean, my personal life.

JR: If I used any of this, I wouldn't use that.

JW: No, don't put that in it.

JR: No.

JW: But you see, you're going're trying to go back onto my life, from when I went to Oaker Buildings, you see, and this all comes into this.

JR: Yes, of course.

JW: You know what I mean, all this comes into this, that what my life was ...

JR: Yes ...but just to go back ...

JW: I'm not saying that I didn't have a happy life, don't get me wrong, 'cos my Mum was the most gorgeous person in the world and my husband thought the world of her, my husband thought the world of her. And my youngest sister that died, that married a Grumball, her and her husband were gorgeous to my sis Mum. And she lived in West Street...the flats ...

JR: Oh right, yes.

JW: You know the flats ...?

JR: Westall ...?

JW: Westall Close.

JR: Yes. Oh did she?

JW: My Mum lived in Westall Close ...

JR: OK, right.

JW: ...after she had to come out of Horns Mill. 'Cos we lived on the main road in Horns Mill, the last house on Horns Mill Road. And then she had to come out, well 'cos, I mean after my Dad died, she couldn't look after anything else. So she had to go into ...Westall Close.

JR: Right, yes. That was convenient.

JW: She was right in that corner place, in Westall Close. She didn't like it there anyway, she didn't like that. You see, when you come into a place like this, I hated this when I first come here, I really did. This wasn't my home. I mean, I'd been in my home -- what?-- 38 years, I lived in Melbourne Gardens. And to come out of a three-bedroomed house, to come into a place like this, this is not easy, this is not an easy life -- know what I mean?

SW It's better than living in one ...

JW: Yes well, it's not like living in Oaker Buildings, no, because everything here's perfect, you know what I mean, this is perfect. I mean, well, I wouldn't have come down here if I hadn't had a fall, would I. I had no intention of leaving my home,, I mean, don't get me wrong, I didn't have a really hard life, because we didn't know anything different. That was our life. We used to go to school, we used to do -- when the holidays were over, we used to go up Camp's Hill.

JR: Oh yes, tell me about that.

JW: Camp's Hill?

JR: Quite a playground up there, wasn't there, for. ..

JW: It was railway station and everything else. We used to go up there and we had slides -- we used to do slides down ...down the hill and everything else. And then we used to do blackberrying up at...Panshanger ...Panshanger Park, in Hertford. We used to go up there about 9 o'clock in the mornings. Mum used to give us bread-and-jam, and a bottle of orange or a bottle of lemonade or something and we'd go up Panshanger Park blackberrying, and we'd be up there all day, and we'd come back about five. Nobody worried us the, I mean, you can't do that now, you can't let your children go out now, but we used to go out all day. But I remember when [laughs] -- it was at Camps Hill, we used to go down by the railway and slide down there on a bit of tin or something, you know.

JR: Yes.

JW: But we used to be out there all day. It was great, well I mean ...

SW: Camps Hill?

JW: Near the County Hospital.

JR: Go up by the side of it and then take ...don't go down Sele Road, go the other way towards … there's a footbridge there, isn't there, just before ...

JW: Well, if you go up to the County Hospital here, we used to go down Sele Road, Sele Road not Sele Farm, Sele Road, you go up to the top of there, and you was up in was in your glory. But we used to be out all day. We wasn't penned in like the children today. I mean, my Mary can't let her children out of her sight. But we used to go all day, and we used to come back with blackberries and everything else when we used to go to Panshanger Park.

SW: Did your Mum make things with them?

JR: Well. ..I mean, you're saying make things with it -- yes, my Mum used to make a blackberry and apple tart or something like that. But I can remember ...going down to Port Vale, to the butcher's, Earl's Butchers, Earl's Butchers, for three, three pennyworth of scrag end of beef.

SW: [laughs]

JW: No, you're laughing, Serena, but it weren't a laughing matter then. We'd get three pound of scrag end of beef, my Mum used to bring it home. I mean, she'd make us a beautiful stew ...on nothing, nothing. I mean, to go down to Tesco's now, you wouldn't get nothing. But we used to get that, and we used to have a damned good meal. One thing that I can remember in my life that I really loved was chitlins [chitterlings], Serena you know anything about this?

JR: No, 'Cos I'm vegetarian actually, but...I've heard of them.

JW: You see ...

JR: Are they pigs?

JW: They're pigs' intestines.

JR: Yes, yes.

JW: Yes. They originally came from Hitchin. That is their original home, Hitchin.

JR: Really?

JW: When my Nan lived in Hitchin it was a little cottage like this, you know what I mean, and next door to it was a chitlin factory. Now I can see this, I can see this when I'm talking to you about this ...these little cottages here, and my Nan and the chitlin factory, on the opposite side of this …. there are some grass verges, and these … they'd got a couple of free donkeys. They were chained onto this chain, and they were going up and down this little wire, opposite this chitlin factory. Now I can see them donkeys going up and down now. But my Dad used to take me to the chitlin factory, and we used to get these chitlins. There's only one place now that you -- well I don't know if they can do it now -and that was in Hertford. There was one place only used to do -- in recent years -- that used to do these chitlins, and they were gorgeous. No, you turn your nose up, Serena, but they were gorgeous.

JR: Where did you find them in Hertford? Which butcher's?

JW: ...Now where are we going to take you?

JR: Not Earl's? (their slaughterhouse was in Brewhouse Lane)

JW: 'Cos, not Earl's, Earl's was down at Cowbridge, wasn't it. I mean, I haven't been to Hertford for years now. No, no, I'm in the town, near Gravesons. Do you know, opposite ...used to be Donaghue's, the fish shop, a ...wet fish shop, in Hertford, wasn't there, near the market.

JR: Still is.

JW: Is it still there?

JR: There's one called Claydon's there.

JW: That's it, that's it, opposite there, opposite there, there used to be a …. greengrocer's ...a butcher's. Now I'm going back a few years, 'cos I haven't been to Hertford for years. That was the only people then that I knew done these chitlins. 'Cos they were all...they were all squashed up and everything else -- ooh, they were gorgeous. Don't get me wrong, I used to love 'em. I know they were pigs' insides ...

JR: [laughs]

JW: ... but I mean, no, no, they were all pressed up like ... like concertinas. I mean, you didn't know anything different. But they originally come from Hitchin, and that's where my Nan ..I can remember, I can't remember my Granddad, but I can remember my Nan, and my Dad used to take me a couple of doors from my Nan's to this chitlin factory to get our chitlins. But I can see there … I can see these donkeys on the other side, and I mean ...what, I must have been about what, 9, 8, 9, something like that. But that's very vivid in my memory. But you ask me where I went yesterday and I can't tell you.

JR: Can you tell me anything about the area, when you came out of your house, and you went, not out onto St. Andrew Street but the other way towards the ...Castle grounds? Was there a ditch?

JW: No ... no, you had to come out under the arch to go round to the Castle.

JR: So you couldn't get over a little bridge or anything?

JW: No, you can't go couldn't go from our yard over to the Castle, you had to come out.

JR: What was down at the end of your yard, was there a piggery down there?

JW: No no no! There was nothing at the bottom of there. No, there was nothing at the bottom of it. That's where the toilets were, at the bottom ...

JR: At the very bottom.

JW: ...that's where the toilets were.

JR: Yes.

JW: No, you ...when you ... if you wanted to go the Castle, you had to come right out, and go round the side of the Church.

JR: Yes, yes, down the alley ...

JW: St. Andrew's Church, yes, through ...through the ...

JR: It's now called Castle Bridges.

JW: Yes, well you see it's all built in now, isn't it. You see, I mean you wouldn't know that now.

JR: No! It's just a little alleyway down by the side of the Church.

JW: Yes, we used to go through there, you know, to go through there. I mean, then there wasn't no swings or nothing in there by the Church when we was – in the Castle grounds -- at that time, and we used to go up on that mound. I done my courting up there ... [laughter] ... right up on the top of the mound, you know. Yes, but I mean ...

JR: What was there to Hertford ...?

JW: Nothing!

JR: ... entertainment-wise for you? Nothing!

JW: Nothing, nothing. We had the County ...the County Cinema, and that was good at that time, and we had the old ...the old cinema in Regent Street.

JR: Yes, the Regent.

JW: The old Regent Cinema -- we used to call that the free [flea?] market down there, yes. And … no, there wasn't nothing to do in Hertford then, to be honest.

JR: Did you go in pubs?

JW: At one time, I used to go in the Woolpack, on the bridge, you know, I used to go in there, that's about the only one I ever went into, you know, I mean …

JR: There seemed to be some dances organised, didn't there, at the the ...Corn Exchange, I think it was.

JW: Oh yes, the Corn Exchange was open then to everything then. And I mean ...and the Shire Hall. I've stood there and seen the prisoners come out. I've seen the murderers come out of there.

JR: Oh, right!

JW: Oh yes, I've seen the murderers come out of there, mate, into the Shire Hall. We used to stand there hours and hours when we knew there was something on there. Oh yes, I can remember all this.

JR: Did you ever see the judges, and ...?

JW: We used to see them come out, yes, you used to see them come out. They used to come out on the side, not … not Graveson's side, they used to come out this other side.

JR: Yes, the back really.

JW: Yes, the back side. That's where all the prisoners used to come out.

JR: Yes ...the cells were round ...

JW: We used to stand there hours and hours watching these come out, these murderers, I mean, there's some murderers been there when I've been a young girl, yes ... So, Hertford to me was my home. But I don't want to go back.

JR: No. OK, right.

JW: Hertford doesn't interest me in the littlest bit now. To me it's not a County Town any more. It's gone down in estimation, really ...I don't know, I don't really know what to say to you really, because I suppose I should be proud to think that I was born in Hertford and lived in Hertford. I'm sorry, but Ware is my home. I've been in Ware now -- I was married when I was 25, and I'm 80 next month, I'm 80 next month, and this is my home.

SW: Which one is it? 'Cos I've got these on my wall, and I can never remember ...

JW: Well, that's mine down there, the second one, that's my home.

JR: So on this map ...

JW: I mean [Iaughs] ... it would be...This one here, I think. Come in under the arch, and then that one there. But I mean there's not many of us alive today that lived there.

JR: No, you're right.

JW: There's not many of us alive today. I mean, I say -- Elsie, I mean, I knew her as Elsie Ansell, I don't …. I can't remember her married name.

JR: It's Hockley -- she's in there.

JW: You see, it's funny, because ...for years and years she's never spoken to me. I knew who she was, I knew who she was, I met her so many times in Ware. And then one day I went down to the Age Concern and had my dinner, 'cos a lady that was next door, she used to say to me, 'Come over to the Age ...Age Concern and have your dinner'. I used to go with her, but she died actually, and Elsie came out of the door one day and she said to me, 'I know you, don't I'. I said, 'I think you ought to know me,' I said, , because we've lived together years and years.' And now she stops and speaks to me.

JR: Yes, she probably didn't recognise you ...

JW: Well she did, she did, she knew who I was, but, like me, we didn't want to talk about things, you know what I mean, and then she told me that you'd been ...somebody had been in contact with her and everything else, you know. And then of course this one here says to me, 'Nan, you've got to find out a bit more'. See? But there ain't many of us left. As I'm saying, there's still my four mates that I went to school with still alive. That's Linda, Nellie, Dobbie -we called her Dobbie, Dorothy her proper name is -- and me ...that's our four friends that we went to school with together.

JR: And you think that Nellie and Dobbie are now at Sele Farm, are they?

JW: Pardon?

JR: Nellie and Dobbie!

JW: They're up Sele Farm.

JR: At Sele Farm now?

JW: Linda is at The Dell ...

JR: Yes, I've done ...her memories, but the others ...

JW: Linda is at The Dell. But Dobbie and Nellie are up at Sele Farm.

JR: Yes. I might try and contact those then.

JW: Dobbie ...1mean as I told you ...she's in a wheelchair, she's doubled up with arthritis and everything. That's as far as I know, and I only get that when I see the others, you know what I mean. But … I mean, most of them people, as I say, that I broke down to you, they're all gone ... Mr Ketteridge, I know his daughter lives at Bengeo somewhere -- I don't know about the son, I don't know about the son -- lived at …. don't know …. somewhere in Bengeo, as far as I know. I mean, you're taking me back a helluva long way here.

JR: It's all right, don't worry, that's fine, you've done very well.

JW: ...back and ... oh, I can see all this so plain, I can see al1 this so plain, and … I don't know what to think sometimes, do you, but you see can go back years and years, but you can't remember only ...sometimes ...yesterday ...

SW Oh I'm like that.

JW: ...but I can go back, I mean, to a young girl, I can go back to a young girl.