Winifred Springett

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The following are memories of Winifred Springett that relate to the village of Stock and surrounding districts from 1914 to 1933
I was born in Brentwood on the 8th September 1908 and christened Winifred Ellen. My parents already had two sons, Robert Michael (born on September 29th 1905 and Walter John (born on January 4th 1907). We lived in a small house in Tower Hill Road, Brentwood. My mother's maiden name was Ellen Augusta Blackman, my father was a Dorset man, Robert William Joseph Pashen.
My father worked for Colonel DePina as his coachman. He had been the Colonel's groom during his army years in India. The Colonel had now retired and he bought a large house for himself and family, a wife and two daughters, at the top of Brook Street Hill in Brentwood and a cottage in nearby Tower Hill Road, for my parents. The house and grounds have long since been taken over by the Police force and used as their Headquarters in Brentwood.
They married and settled down to bringing up their family of three children and Mrs DePina stood as Godmother to me in 1908. My father stayed in that job until the death of Colonel DePina, and a coachman was no longer needed. This must have been about 1912 or 1913. My father's next job was in Billericay working for Mr H. Buckingham at Frith Farm. The cottage we occupied in Billericay was very small compared with the previous one in Brentwood, but we children soon settled down and attended the school a few yards along the road from where we lived. The garden opened onto the meadows at the back and we spent happy hours there.
My father was happy at Frith Farm, looking after the hunters during the hunting season, but he didn't like the idea of helping on the farm for the summer months so he looked around for another job and came to Stock early in 1914 to become coachman for Mr Harry Brown at the Bear Inn.
A cottage was provided for us but unfortunately it was not vacant immediately so father lodged with Mrs Carpenter, a widow with several children who lived opposite the "Bear". My mother and we three children were allowed to stay on in the farm cottage in Billericay and father came home at the weekends.
It was August 1914 before our cottage in Stock became available for us to move into and by this time, the First World War was just beginning. My father having been in the army for 12 years was one of the first to be called up and by October 1914, he was in France. This was a very unhappy time for mother especially as she was expecting her fourth child in December 1914. The villagers of Stock, like the inhabitants of most country villages were all interrelated and a stranger moving in was regarded with suspicion bordering on to hostility. The new baby arrived on December 21st 1914, another boy and named Stanley George. Mother was helped over this period by a local woman named Mrs Hubbard who lived in a cottage a few yards down Swan Lane, she kept an eye on us other three children then aged 6, 7 ½, and 9.
Father was given leave to visit us for 2 weeks arriving home in time for New Year. We three soon settled in at school. Next door was a family of 7 children named Reynolds, the youngest aged 6 months when we moved there. Their father was killed during the war at the Dardanelles. On the other side the family were named Cottee and their youngest girl named Gwen and I became good friends. It was with great delight that I accepted invitations to tea with Gwen as her mother was a Scots woman and baked delicious scones and pancakes. We were not very well off financially my mother only had the army allowance to keep us on but we were fed as well as most people during those hard times. Rationing didn't start at the outbreak of the war so it was a case of queuing up at the shop door when a supply of anything came in, but after ration cards were issued it was a much fairer system. On one occasion we were promised ½ LB. of home made butter by a local farmers wife and I was sent to collect it from the house in Mill Road named "Highfields", now known as "Ginjoy". The farmer's wife charged 2/6 for the ½ LB and told me to hide it in my muff and hurry home with it. It tasted lovely after the fat nicknamed cart grease, that we were getting from the shop at the time. My muff was my pride and joy. It was made by mother from the skin of a tame white rabbit and hung by a white cord around my neck, lined with white silk it kept my hands beautifully warm.
It must have been 1915 when my brothers Bob and John caught diphtheria, Bob recovered but John died. The baby and I escaped it. This was a great blow for my mother, in fact she became very depressed, as we still had no real friends in Stock and no relations anywhere near. The lady whom we had lived next door to in Billericay invited us to stay with her for about 3 months and so we all went and spent 3 happy months with her and her family until my mother felt we could no longer impose on her, we had to sleep very cramped but we children thought it great fun. My father was still serving in France, in fact he survived from October 1914 until the spring of 1918 then he was wounded in the leg by a piece of shrapnel and sent back to England where he spent several months in hospital. We children were expected to 'do our bit', as it was termed by helping to gather in the potato harvest, this proving very hard work. I was about 9 years old and together with the children next door, walked the 1 mile to a farm opposite the Ship public house to be there by 8.00am and we picked up sacks of potatoes until 4.30pm with a break of 1 hour at midday. I remember being too tired to eat any tea when I got home. Another thing we did was to gather blackberries which were sent away to be made into blackberry and apple jam. We were paid 3d a pound for the berries.
During the school holidays and on Saturday mornings we gathered wood for the fire and the copper in the nearby woods. Everyone who had any spare rooms were expected to billet soldiers, when they were being moved nearer the coast prior to being sent to France and Belgium. We always had two each time. One particular time we had two Scots lads, one of them received a parcel from his mother every week, how we children enjoyed watching him open them as he always shared his home made goodies with us.
One thing which had continued to take place during those war years was the Burns night dinner held at the "Bear Inn" every January and attended by all the farmers around the village many of whom were Scots. Mother was always called in to help at this dinner and any others which took place which meant any left over tit bits were given to her for us children and always a large basin of dripping.
The Germans bombed London sending planes and airships over usually after dark. One particular night one of their airships was shot down near Billericay and next day hundreds of people walked to see this huge pile of twisted burned out metal. At school we were taught air raid drill which simply meant, at a given signal, we filed out in an orderly manner to the meadow adjoining the school and lay down under the hedge until the enemy planes had all passed over. Happily no raids occurred during school hours over this village. With the ending of the war in November 1918 the soldiers were gradually demobbed and sent home, but it was well into 1919 before my father was discharged from hospital and allowed to come home again. By this time the motor car was superseding the horse and carriage so making my father unemployed again. He had no interest in the motor car at least not as a means of making a living. Mr Brown had been very good to my mother during those four years whilst my father had been in the army but his own three sons were growing up and able to do most of the jobs around the stables which my father had done before the war. The youngest of the Brown girls was two years older than myself so any of her outgrown dresses were passed on to me and greatly appreciated.
Another "duty" my mother had to perform was to supply bed and breakfast to two men employed by Matthew's the Millers of Harold Wood. This firm sent their wagon loaded with flour, corn and other merchandise to the surrounding villages to deliver previously ordered goods taking 2 days to complete their round stopping in Stock for 1 night. The horses were stabled at the "Bear" and the men stayed with us.
Another highlight for us children of the village was the arrival of the charabanc suppers? Usually all men celebrating the end of a day out by stopping at the 'Bear' for a drink and before starting off for home, threw pennies for us to scramble for or set us racing as far as the village pump on the green and back for the handsome prize of 3d.
The excitement of having father home with us again was marred by the fact of having to vacate the cottage near the 'Bear' as it went with the job. So late in 1919 we moved into a cottage belonging to Ramsey Tyrrels farm. This cottage had been empty for some time and was not needed for a worker just then, so we were allowed to rent it. My father found work in Hoffmans the ball bearing factory in Chelmsford. Most of the time he was on night shift and to get there he use to walk across the fields to a railway siding at Margaretting. The train made a stop there for the workers night and morning. On his return home in the early morning, he use to gather mushrooms for breakfast bringing them home tied up in his red and white spotted handkerchief which he carried his sandwiches in.
We lived in this cottage for 2 years. My youngest brother Stanley started school whilst we were there and it was my job to look after him and make sure he was not late. We gathered primroses and bluebells in the spring and an old man who also lived in one of the farm cottages use to pay 6d a bunch and take them to London at the weekend. Fathers work didn't last many months at the factory because with the ending of the war, there was much less demand for the ball bearings. However by this time my eldest brother Bob was working and mother went out doing housework and we kept a few chickens and rabbits, which helped with the diet. Also we had a large garden which provided plenty of vegetables. Our water supply was most primitive just a large slate container, like a bath, sunk into the ditch where a constant flow from a spring kept it always full. The container had no lid so we had to strain the leaves and twigs out before use. Frogs often sat in the water but we were told they purified it, anyway we all kept healthy. At the end of 2 years the cottage was needed for a worker so once again my parents were house hunting. They eventually found a cottage in the village High Street almost next door to the Hoop Inn. In those days it was a row of 3 cottages all had 3 rooms, 2 up and 2 down that was in 1921, now 2 of them have been knocked into one and named 'The Keys'. My father found employment as a road labourer with the Chelmsford Rural Council so life looked a little easier for a while. I was by this time 13 years old and earning a little pocket money by running errands and cleaning the knives and dusting for a local lady named Mrs Holmes, I also helped her in the garden with weeding.
Another job I did about this time was to help in the nursery at the local rectory. Our rector and his wife had 3 sons who were then about 6 years, 3 years and 1 year. The nurse Edie Ridgewell (now Mrs Atterbury) was needing help and an under nurse was engaged but was unable to start work immediately so I went for 2 hours after school from 4.00pm until 6.00pm. I was given tea in the nursery as soon as I arrived then whilst the nurse prepared the children for bed, I cleaned the nursery and cleaned the shoes. Also cleaned the pram ready for the next days outing. I received 1/6 a week for this work. The following year 1922 I was 14 years old and left school at the end of the summer term and went to work as a daily help for Mrs Holmes the lady for whom I had been doing errands for some time.
I stayed with her for about 15 months then applied for a job as kitchen maid at the Plantation. This job meant living in, there were six staff and I shared a bedroom with 2 others. I had to get up first to light the kitchen range and boil the kettle for the early morning tea. Cows were kept to supply the household with fresh milk, butter and cream and it was my job to make the butter twice a week.
I was allowed one half day off per week and every other Sunday afternoon & evening. During my time in that situation I was confirmed into the Church of England, this being regarded as something if importance. I was allowed out for an hour once a week to attend confirmation lessons given by the rector. The confirmation took place at Writtle Church in April 1924. I stayed at the Plantation until June 1925 when I decided to have a change and took the job of kitchen maid at Greenwoods the home of Mr and Mrs Ellis. My wage being £18 per year and rise of £2 to what I had been having at my previous job. This time I had a bedroom to myself. I still had to get up first to light the kitchen fire and let the cowman in with the milk about 6.45am. We made butter three times a week there and the skim milk was sold at a penny a pint to local families. Life was very busy as a lot of entertaining went on and Mrs Ellis held a sewing meeting every Monday afternoon when a small gathering of village mothers took place in the dining room at Greenwoods. They sewed whilst Mrs Ellis read aloud to them. The calico or other material was bought in bulk from Bonds (now Debenhams) paid for by Mrs Ellis and the mothers paid by weekly instalments. After the gathering, tea and sandwiches and cakes were served in the servant's hall. It was my job to keep the servant's hall clean as well as the kitchen scullery, larder and dairy.
Friday mornings were the worst as the flue of the kitchen range had to be cleaned, the front door steps also had to be whitened every morning. My poor hands in the winter were chapped and cracked, thinking back there could not have been rubber gloves available then. The scullery floor also had to be whitened with hearth stone.
We often had 'tramps' call at the back door, these were men or women who had no home and they walked the roads in all weathers stopping at workhouses for the night then travelling on to the next one. Before leaving the workhouse each person was given a tin with a wire handle and a spoonful of tea and sugar in it and they had to beg boiling water from anyone along the road. Mrs Ellis gave orders that no-one was to be refused and if possible to be given some bread and dripping as well. Stock being on the road between Billericay workhouse, (now St Andrews Hospital) and Chelmsford workhouse, (Now St John's Hospital)' meant there was always a stream of these tramps.
During my three years as kitchen maid at Greenwoods Mr and Mrs Ellis celebrated their Golden Wedding with a large dinner party. The men on the staff, gardeners, chauffeur and handymen were given a dinner at the 'Bear Inn' whilst the indoor staff were sent to London for lunch and to see the film "King of Kings".
Christmas was always a busy time with a tea party on Christmas Eve and the exchange of presents among the Family and close friends, then a dinner party on Christmas night. We on the staff were always given £2-0-0 as a Christmas box. At the end of three years my wage had moved up to £24-0-0 per year paid in twelve monthly instalments. I had learned all that I was likely too by then and I took my mothers advice and applied for a job as plain cook. This was a job which my mother had heard about and it was in Tiverton in Devon. I wrote for the job and got it at £42-0-0 per year quite a jump.
I stayed in that job for the summer months then I decided to answer an advert in the Daily Telegraph for a cooks job in Chelmsford, that being only six miles from my home village of Stock. I was accepted and gave a months notice to my employer, leaving in mid December thus giving me the chance to have Christmas at home, the first for five years, and started my new job on the 27th December 1929. This new situation was similar to the one in Devon. The household consisted of one Lady and Gentleman and one son, plus three staff. Here again I was allowed every Sunday afternoon and evening free and one afternoon and evening during the week. Weather permitting I used to cycle from Chelmsford to Stock on my free afternoons.
The Gentleman of the family was Dr Newton and much respected by his patients. The house stood on the corner of Fairfield Road and Duke Street, the site now occupied by the Eastern National bus Co. I only stayed in this situation for five months, the reason being I was offered the job of cook at Greenwoods, the house and family where I had spent three years as kitchen maid. The cook whom I had worked under had died and Mrs Ellis was having difficulty in replacing her, as no one wanted the dairy work. I decided to take the job, in view of the fact that it was so near home and after working out my months notice I started the new job in June 1929.
The work was not easy, with butter to be made three times a week and a larger household to cook for, but at least I had a kitchen maid to light the fire and prepare the vegetables. About this time a friend of my brother Bob called to see my mother he had just been demobbed from the same Regiment as Bob after serving 7 years in India. Mother invited him to call again and the next time he came I was at home for the afternoon and evening. After tea we went for a ride on his motor bike and that was the start of our courtship.
This young mans name was Gilbert Joshua Springett of 1 Council House, Tolleshunt Major, Near Maldon. We were married in September 1931. Just a very simple Registry Office service. We had no money for finery and a reception and had a week in Clacton for our honeymoon.
We shared my parents home for three months then found a small cottage in Mill Road where we lived for 18 years. I carried on working for six months going to Greenwoods as cook on a daily basis. Life was not easy, no electric or water. We saved the rain water in baths. Village pumps supplied all drinking water and lighting by paraffin and candles. We did all our cooking by a coal kitchen range or an oil stove. We had our first baby on 18th June, 1933, a girl named June Marion.
With the arrival of piped water the village pumps were all tabooed as being unfit to drink although people had all survived very well up until then. The piped water made life much easier as before all drinking water had to be carried from the pump and on washing days, this meant several journeys. The local post mistress, then named Miss Calaway, locked the pump by means of a chain during the day in the summer months as a precaution against waste so woe betide anyone running out between 9.00am and 6.00pm. Most people kept a water butt in the garden to collect rain water which was used for washing up and bathing and especially for hair washing.
One particular memory of my father is how he tried to supplement his wages by taking on the delivery of the Sunday papers. The daily papers were delivered from Billericay, but none on Sundays, so my father rose very early on Sunday mornings and cycled to Billericay station where the train from London dropped off the bundles of newspapers. After sorting out the papers needed for delivery between the station and the village of Stock, (there not being many houses on the main road then early 1920's) he gave the remainder to the driver of the local milk cart Mr Bill Cable to leave at our house in Stock High Street next door to the 'Hoop' Public House. My mother sorted out the papers and one village boy helped deliver some whilst a few locals called for theirs. The news of the world was the most popular and the People came second, a few "gentry" had a better class paper which I think was the Observer. By the time Dad cycled home, he was ready for a good breakfast, then off he went to deliver more papers as far as West Hanningfield Church. I went with him as often as I could. I used to make a detour of some back lanes to save time and meet Dad at the Ivy House pub (now closed) where he had 1/2 pint of beer then back to the "Three Compasses" West Hanningfield where he had another 1/2 pint and I had lemonade and a Brighton Biscuit. I can't remember how many papers were delivered altogether, certainly not as many as today but by the time we returned home about 2.00pm, we were ready for a good dinner. Dad kept this job up until 1933, by which time we had a local paper shop in Mill Road opposite the Village Hall, the premises now used as a private dwelling. The shop was owned and run by Mr and Mrs Freddie Searls and they took over the Sunday Papers as Dad was 60 years old by then and not feeling up to all the hard work which it entailed.
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