Reminiscences of Ware’s Past Part 5 - 29th May 1985
Dr ROGER LOWERY (Chairman of the Ware Society): This is our fifth annual meeting in our series of Reminiscences of Ware's Past, so without more ado let me introduce our speakers, gathered round this table. First, Bill Lee, then Tom Ives, Mrs Emily Sampford and Henry Vaughan - may I say welcome to you all and thank you for coming. Well, as the Ware Society is holding a museum afternoon on this coming Sunday on the subject of local organisations in the town and then we are going on to have another museum afternoon about schools in Ware, perhaps I could ask our speakers this evening to start off by telling us how they are connected with Ware and telling us something about their schooling, if it was in the town. So may I start off with the gentleman on my right, Mr Vaughan.
Mr HENRY VAUGHAN: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Really the only thing I feel competent to talk about is education in Ware. I came to Ware in September 1929. I was only just qualified and I was given the job of teaching at the Old Art and Technical School in Priory Street, and we were called instructors not teachers. That is one degree down the evolution scale. I was very inexperienced; I made all the mistakes that there are in the book, but fortunately I had sense enough to learn from the mistakes. Looking back on those days in 1929, I was brought here from St. Albans by the organiser of Craft Work, because my subject was Woodwork. I was taken down to the old Art and Technical School in Priory Street and given a key and shown the tool cupboards and told: "Get on with it". Well, I first of all went to see the headmasters of the schools, in order to make up a programme for the boys attending the woodwork shop. In those days, schools did not have their own· woodwork shops, they had Centres. And the week's programme was made up of two classes from St. Mary's School, under Mr Lloyd, and two or maybe three classes from Christ Church School, under Mr Makinson, and two classes from the Senior Selective School at Musley, under Mr Evans. Well, that made up seven half-days a week, and one half-day I had to go out to Wareside - that was on Friday mornings. On Wednesday mornings I went to Much Hadham and on Friday afternoons I went to Hertford Heath. Now the County ran these workshops as Centres and they were not attached to the schools or under the jurisdiction of any of the schools. They were controlled by the "local correspondent" and that was Mr George Gisby (the solicitor). So I was answerable to Mr Gisby for what I did, for the cost of the materials that I used and the sales of the finished work. Things have altered considerably now, because nearly all secondary schools have got their own workshops, of wood and metal, and a design room, so that the importance of craftwork in schools has increased considerably.
Now, going back to the early days, I had to go and see these headmasters and fix up about their classes coming down to the Art and Technical School in Priory Street, which is now architects' offices (of Adams Huntley Associates). I was a bit curious about the building, because when the decorators came along every four or five years, they whitewashed the cookery room upstairs, which was an open-roofed room, and the beams developed a horrible yellow smear all along the centre, and nobody knew why.
Now, I found out - and the way that I did it was to get in touch with the County Archives and borrow I think it was called the Hertfordshire Calendar in those days - anyway from that I found that the Technical School had long ago been an engineering workshop, belonging to Wickhams. The bearings for a long countershaft had been mounted on these beams and the oil had soaked into the timber. I think it was in 1906 that local authorities took over responsibility for education and it was thought at the time that some of the duller boys would do better using their hands and making things in wood. So these woodwork shops were set up and under the County Council, with the local councils providing the cash.
In those days the local councils had control over the revenue from public houses, so that the money from drink was invested in education. So these places were set up with what was called whisky money and there were 25 of us working in woodwork shops in Hertfordshire. And the place in Priory Street had cookery upstairs and woodwork down stairs - known in those days as the "unholy wedlock".
Now I had come from Eastbourne, which was my home town, and the only sports that I was interested in were swimming and rowing, and here of course was a river at Ware, just right. I had to go up to Broxbourne to hire a boat, so I thought it would be a good idea to make a boat in the workshop. Well, that led to all sorts of troubles, because it was probably one of the first communal jobs attempted in a school workshop. At any rate, it had Press coverage nationally, for somehow the Press got hold of it and spread the news. Our work did serve a need because, although there were many commercial barges in Ware, there was nowhere in the town which hired out pleasure boats. I can see from the smiles in the audience that there are students from those days with memories of that boat.
I was given permission to build this boat and I spent thirteen pounds on materials. And when it was done, it was properly launched by the Vicar of Christ Church, the Reverend Hobson, and there was quite a bit of Press coverage. And we used that boat every afternoon after school, with whatever class happened to be coming there for woodwork. The boat was equipped with four oars and the seat for a cox, so that was the crew. And we would row up to Hertford Lock, where we would change crews and the other crew would row back. It was all good fun and we only dropped one lad in the river. His mother went for me afterwards because he had got a new pair of boots on!
That was the early days and the first thing that changed was really the Secondary Selective Central School. Mr Albert Evans was the headmaster there. The idea of selective central education was as a substitute for the grammar school, which the pupils had failed to get into on the entrance examinations; so as a second best they were offered education in these Central Selective Schools. At the time when I came to Hertfordshire, there were only two left in the county - one was at Watford, under a Mr Lillyman, and the other one was at Ware, under Albert Evans.
After a few years that folded up as well, which meant merging that school with another one and Christ Church was selected. Christ Church School (until 1932 a Junior Mixed and Infants School) was quite inadequate for all the pupils and they proposed to enlarge the buildings. The school was a church school so that the appointment of staff and general control was under the church authorities. The County wanted to take it over, but the church mounted a publicity campaign in opposition. I remember going to a meeting in the Drill Hall, when the Bishop of St . Albans came and spoke on the importance of church control of education, where the parson could have a say into how much of the school syllabus was devoted to religious education. So they put up a scheme for rebuilding Christ Church, with part of the funds to come from local benefactors and part from public subscription - and I believe the cost was to be a thousand pounds, which was quite a lot of money in those days! Now, there was a Mr Walter French, who owned the flower mills (the former "Frenlite" mill in Viaduct Road, closed by Spillers-Dalgetty in 1984) and he was chairman of the school governors. So he had a lot of say in this, that rather than the cost coming on the rates, it would come out of public subscription and they were hatching up all sorts of schemes to further this project. One day I had a message for the Reverend Hobson and I went down there to find him, and I was told he was in the Clerk of the Works' office. So I found the office which was in a hut in the playground and I found the Reverend Frank Hobson and he was so full of the designs of his new school. The architect was Walter French's own architect, who had designed his factory and he wanted to show me these designs and I looked at them and I said "where is the front door?" and there wasn't a front door shown on the drawings, and there still isn't a front door. Anyway that was all due to the Reverend Hobson .
Dr LOWERY: What sort of year was that?
Mr VAUGHAN: It was about 1931.
Mr TOM IVES: Yes, 1931, and we moved down there in 1932 from Musley.
Mr VAUGHAN: Anyway, after a while war broke out and things changed quite a lot educationally. They decided that what was needed was technical education all over the country, but the schools did not have the accommodation for it. So they provided what they called HORSA- "Huts Operational for Raising the School Age". They raised the school leaving age from 14 to 15 and provided these workshops, which became classrooms belonging to the schools, not separate centres. Nowadays, they don't call it woodwork and metalwork, they call it Craft, Design and Technology (CDT) and, of course, cookery then became domestic science.
Dr LOWERY: Over this period, was your Art and Technical School still going or had that merged with the new school?
Mr VAUGHAN: It kept its separate identity until the Christ Church Senior School moved up to the new buildings in Tower Road (to become Trinity School in 1961).
Dr LOWERY: Perhaps we can now turn to another of our speakers. Mr Ives, can I ask you about your schooling?
Mr IVES: Yes, I was born in Ware; I was born on the towpath- well not actually on the towpath but in one of the two little wooden cottages between the two bridges (the road bridge and the footbridge over the Victoria Cut). That was many years ago now.
Dr LOWERY: Where the garden is now?
Mr IVES: Yes, but nearer to the Cut Bridge. In fact there is a picture of them in one of your Ware Society booklets (Reminiscences of Ware's Past, No.3). That is where I was born and I don't know if anybody remembers my first school, which was Miss Waller's school in the Congregational yard. I went there when I was four.
Mrs EMILY SAMPFORD: But that was a private school.
Mr IVES: Yes it was. Anyway, my next school was Christ Church Infants' school. We moved from the towpath to Musley Hill when I was seven, and that is when I went to Christ Church Infants' School. Then I moved up into "big boys", as we called it in those days - there were three classes of boys. It was a bit of a ragtime school, Christ Church, really. The headmaster, Mr Makeson, was laid up most of the time so he didn't appear very often and this left Mr Gale, the other master, with about 60 boys from the age of ten to 14.
Mr LEE: Archie Gale, who married a midwife.
Mr IVES: That's right. So you can imagine he didn't have much control, really. So long as you were quiet, that was the main thing, and he didn't care what you were reading - tuppenny books or anything. As long as you were quiet, that was really his main object in life, and he didn't get much of that, poor old chap. From there, I passed an exam of sorts and went to the Musley Central School, we called it. I was up there a year and then we moved down to Christ Church. Now, when they talk about public subscription, during that year all the parents of the pupils at that school were expected to pay nine pence a week towards the new school. My mother said she couldn't afford it: that was two loaves of bread, which would feed us for a couple of days nearly. So I wasn't in very good books with the headmaster, Mr Evans. Being a Welshman, education was the be-all and end-all for him. Anyway, I also attended Mr Vaughan's Technical School. I did not help with the boat, mainly because I wasn't any good at woodwork - I can still only make a teapot stand! But I did enjoy the boat and I did enjoy the rides in the boat. I remember that very well. And, of course, I left school and finished up in this place here, The Priory. I don't know if anybody wants to ask any questions about the schools?
Dr LOWERY: Well, perhaps if we come across to Mrs Sampford.
Mrs SAMPFORD: I was born in Ware and, of course, always living in St. Mary's parish I went to St. Mary's School. But there were no other schools but St. Mary's and Christ Church. I suppose there would have been the Grammar School, but very few children I knew went there. You had to be really tip-top. We lived in High Oak Road, which is in St. Mary's parish. I was one of fourteen children so there was a good old lot of us. I can always remember - it seems so sad but I think some people here know - if you were very poor, they used to give you breakfasts free in the Vicar's Room. And you would see them all queue up. And Jaggs and Edward would do the cocoa and Gregg McConnells would do the bread and butter for the children. Jaggs and Edwards were the bakers where the motorbike shop is at Churchgate House. Of course, he was a church sidesman at the time and they used to produce the food. Of course, Ware in my time was a very poor town, very poor, and with a lot of poor people. I mean it has got better and I have seen it grow. It was a very poor town, with the old horses and carts and the malting, and the barges going up the river to London. It was a poor little place. But still we were brought up pretty well, because mother did her best. But I like Ware, it's a nice place and the people are friendly.
Dr LOWERY: So you were at St. Mary's School?
Mrs SAMPFORD: Yes, and we used to keep all the days up Empire Day when the eldest girl of the school or the eldest boy used to put the flag up and we used to sing all round. They don't have that now, do they? But they were really hard days and there were a lot of poor people around. The Crofts, who lived up at Fanhams Hall, used to help. I think their town house was where the Library is. And we used to see beautiful carriages come down High Oak Road and that was their way into the town. We used to think it was marvellous to see them.
Dr LOWERY: When you left school, did you go to work in Ware?
Mrs SAMPFORD: You had to leave at 14.
Mr IVES: No, we were supposed to stay on until we were 15 at the Central School, although I didn't, I left at 14 in actual fact. Then, of course, we had children there from Benington, Hoddesdon, Hertford Heath and so on. They only allowed, I think, three boys and three girls from Christ Church, three boys and three girls from St. Mary's and then the other schools - some of them perhaps only one of each. They only took 30 pupils in each year at the Central School.
Mrs SAMPFORD: Of course, being from a big family, Mother was only too glad to get - I won't say rid of us - but to make room for the others, and I went to Canon Reed at the Vicarage. And I started as "between maid" and worked up to parlour maid, and that’s where I worked until I got married. You've heard of Canon Reed - he was made a Canon while I was there.
Dr LOWERY: This was the Vicar of St. Mary's?
Mrs SAMPFORD: And of course, that was what we call the Old Vicarage, if you remember. That has all been knocked down and flats and houses made there. Then we went to the New Vicarage, which was further down the Wadesmill Road.
Dr LOWERY: The Old Vicarage was where the Old Vicarage estate is and where Poles Lane goes off the Wadesmill Road?
Mrs SAMPFORD: Yes, that's right. And I suppose it was Cambridge which had the new one built, because you had to be a Cambridge man, educated at Cambridge (Trinity College, Cambridge are the patrons of the living of St. Mary's), but of course the New Vicarage has gone too, now.
Mr HERBERT PAGE: There were three St. Mary's vicarages, weren't there? There was the very old one, where the big estate now is, then there was another vicarage in Mr Ferguson's days, just at the back of Thunder Court, and the third vicarage, the present one, is in Thunder Court.
Mrs SAMPFORD: Yes, and they were all beautiful places, you know.
Dr LOWERY: And how many people were employed in the Vicarage, because you say you were one of the staff?
Mrs SAMPFORD: I was parlour maid, between maid and housekeeper, and there was another maid, a sort of lady's maid.
Dr LOWERY: So there would have been four staff.
Mrs . SAMPFORD: Yes.
Dr LOWERY: So perhaps we should turn to our fourth speaker, to tell us his tales from school. Mr Lee.
Mr BILL LEE: Well, Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, when I was asked to come along here and speak tonight, I didn't know what I was letting myself in for. Like my friend, Harry, I am not a native of Ware. I was born in Chiswick in West London, but I gave up a very good job in an estate agents to try and get into a firm in Ware, and I finished up by being a grocer. And I first started with old Mr . Etherington in the International Stores, a fine old man. I wasn't with him very long, unfortunately. I was asked to go moving around and - I might as well tell you - I first came to Ware in 1933 and I have lived in the same house now for about fifty years. Some of you might say, why did you come to Ware?
As a dashing young man of 20 in those days, it was all for love. My wife, as she came to be, her and I were first or second cousins and that's how we came to know one another. I used to cycle from Chiswick to Ware to do my courting - up Hanbury's Lane or Pole's Lane, it used to be, on a Saturday night and a Sunday afternoon. I used to cycle up on Saturday night and go back home on Sunday night. So, of course, I never went to school in Ware, but I know something about the schools because my wife went to St. Mary's, as well. Some of you may remember her - Mabel Hammond, she was the youngest daughter of a very big family in Ware and a very well-known family too. Three sons and about six daughters, and three or four had died on the way. But a very good family, in fact there is only one of them left now, and that is a sister-in-law of mine. Anyway, as I say I came to Ware to get married and I finished up as a grocer and I wasn't doing that very long, because I was sent around the country as a relief traveller, going round building up the rep's rounds, so that they could get a bit more commission.
I used to get a bit as well - not much. Some of you may remember the vanman in those days - do you remember old Jack Warby? He was a nice old chap, a swarthy-looking fellow, but with a heart of gold, and he lived out at Wareside at one time and then moved to Anchor Lane, where he died.
Dr LOWERY: And he was working for the International Stores?
Mr LEE: Yes, he was working for the International Stores at the time. In 1936 I left the International and I started at Williams Brothers at Hoddesdon, when they first opened up there . That was from 1936 until I retired in 1977 - I was with that one firm for over 40 years.
Dr LOWERY: But you were living in Ware?
Mr LEE: I was living in Ware and I was living in the same house.
Dr LOWERY: Were you in any local organisations in the town?
Mr . LEE: Not till I came back to Ware. I used to travel to London and to various places, until I eventually settled down at Tottenham, and I was fourteen years in one shop. Then in 1962 I opened up the shop that was built where the old Saracen's Head was knocked down (at Bridgefoot) and that was a part of my life until I retired.
Dr LOWERY: Now, I think you belong to a group that meets down at the Station Hotel?
Mr LEE: Why did I ever mention pubs in Ware? Yes, I belong to the Ware Friary Club. I have been the Secretary for three years and for the last two years I have been Treasurer as well. The Club is an off-shoot of Rotary, but it is for retired professional and businessmen and we meet there once a month for a meal and a speaker. We used to meet in this room in The Priory, and then we went to the Cannon's Hotel (now Ware Moat House). Things got a bit roomy there so we decided to move along to another pub, and we finished up at the Station Hotel.
Mrs SAMPFORD: There were a lot of pubs.
Mr LEE: There were 143 pubs in Ware once, and I have got the names of them all. My wife's parents, you see, had a pub in Ware and that was the Cherry Tree in Amwell End. I have already given the Ware Society some pictures of the family outside the pub there, for you to copy on to slides. Something else which may interest you is that before the turn of the century there used to be a river sports day. I wonder if anybody can remember that?
It used to be held from the Bridge and I have here a picture of the slippery pole, which used to go out across the river. I can't tell you the date of it, because there is nothing there to signify when it was. They also used to dive off the Bridge there, after eight o'clock on Saturday nights. They were allowed to do that, but not during the week.
Dr LOWERY: Mr Lee has raised the question of water sports, and something that has always puzzled me about this town is that nobody appears to hire boats on the river. Did anybody ever hire boats on the river?
THE AUDIENCE: Oh, yes.
Mrs MAY YORKE: Yes, it was up at Ware Park. It was called the White House. We used to walk along there and hire a boat out on Sunday afternoons and you could get tea there too.
Dr LOWERY: They presumably were rowing boats and skiffs and such like. But were they ever hired out in the town?
Mr IVES: At a later date I can remember them being hired out down at the Lock.
Dr LOWERY: Mr Vaughan was talking about water sports.
Mr VAUGHAN: Well, Mr Chairman, I can remember this rowing boat that we built down in Priory Street and somebody asked me if it was possible for us to arrange water sports. So I was landed the job of getting something going, and we organised it to take place just below the Bridge. Albany's Wharf was involved in it and they fixed up a greasy pole for us. We hired a couple of boats from Broxbourne and we had our long boat. So we had timed races, as well as these tug pairs. And there were swimming events and some diving, but the diving was a bit limited because Albany's were not prepared to build a suitable diving stage. We ran these sports for two years running, just before war broke out.
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: In the contest before the first war, the first prize in the slippery pole contest was a joint of meat, I believe, and. that was for the person who actually got to the end of the pole.
Mr PAGE: Where the furniture store now is (Bridge Discount off Star Street), there was a very tall, black, wooden malting. I don't know whether Mr Vaughan remembers this but I remember tales when Ware had a special day: people used to dive out of the hoists into the river.
Mr IVES: There was a man named Saunders, who used to jump down into the river in a sack, a malt sack. He used to dive out of the lucomb (the hoist) in a sack.
Mrs BRENDA ROSSER: I remember a tale I was told by Mr Len Wallace, who was a bargee. And he used to go up the river with his barge for his holidays for a couple of days. And apparently, Bank Holiday Monday was the time when people dived into the river - after a few drinks.
Dr LOWERY: We have had a lot of talk of swimming, but what was the quality of the water in the river?
Mr VAUGHAN: The bottom was generally muddy, except for two places, I remember, one was down at Jack Wells (in Star Street) and the other was above the lock at the Trapstyle. I used to do a lot of swimming up there at the Trapstyle, before they built the Ware Swimming Bath.
Mr IVES: The Trapstyle was one of the coldest parts of the river, actually.
Dr LOWERY: Why was it called the Trapstyle, do you know?
Mr VAUGHAN: It was a kissing gate. There were quite a few bushes where you could decently undress but then when Mr Grantham (the Ware U.D.C. Surveyor - see Reminiscences No. 4) built the swimming bath it made it so much easier. Incidentally, I haven't seen it mentioned, but when Mr Grantham was building the swimming bath he had a lorry down Priory Street and at that time there was a wall about seven or eight foot high all the way along Priory Street. I can remember men putting planks up the brickwork and backing a lorry into it and pushing it right over. And that was the start of digging out the foundations for the pool.
Dr LOWERY: That was the Priory gardens at that time, wasn't it?
Mr IVES: No, actually, it was the orchard used by Mr Timmons, the fruiterer - well it belonged to the Priory but Mr Timmons looked after it.
Mrs SAMPFORD: Does anyone remember Mrs Walters living here in the Priory. She was a widow and I don't know whether she knocked a lamp over or a candle but she was burnt to death. She used to open these grounds to the public. I can remember as a little girl my mother taking us here and there were real oranges growing on the first piece of lawn. And they had a gardener called Mr Fulford. Of course, they had lots of gardeners but he was the head one. But I can always remember seeing these lovely oranges growing - how they did them, I don't know.
Mr VAUGHAN: Perhaps they had a better climate in those days.
Mrs SAMPFORD: The grounds were beautiful and of course you could only go in them when they were opened to the public. And they had beautiful gates at the entrance to the Priory.
Dr LOWERY: They were solid gates, weren't they?
Mrs SAMPFORD: Yes, and there was a huge one with a little one at the side. I was rather sad when they moved the gates. They have got them hoarded away somewhere, so I have heard.
Dr LOWERY: So lots of people have heard, but we have never found out where they have gone to.
Mr IVES: I would love to know. It used to be one of my jobs to open and close them.
Mr VAUGHAN: Billy Yorke designed the iron gates to replace them, didn't he?
Mr PAGE: If you want to cause a riot in Ware, you just have to say that pulling down the old Priory gates and the high wall and getting rid of all the dreadful old trees there was the best thing that ever happened.
Dr LOWERY: Mr Ives, you were saying you worked here in the Priory. Was that after you left school?
Mr IVES: Yes after I left school in 1934. I was working for the caretaker originally, but I didn't stay for long as I didn't like being shut in the house.
Mr GERALD SAYERS: I was a very good friend of Mr Evans the headmaster of the Central School and I got to know things which perhaps I shouldn't mention, but they wanted £600 to build the Central School and he borrowed it off Mr French. But just imagine only £600. That's the point I'm raising.
Mrs SAMPFORD: Does anyone remember an old man called "Old Billy No-Hat". He had half-a-dozen hats. He used to go round to our clock on the church and take his own clock down to put his time right. He was a funny little man and us kids used to follow him. He lived in Caroline Court (off Baldock Street) and that was a funny old place . Actually, he was a little bit frightening for children to see. He wouldn't hurt you, but he looked very funny. But we did have some funny old people in those days.
Mr LEE: I would like to tell you a tale, talking about old people. My wife's old aunt, old Aunt Honah, used to work here when she was a very young woman and she swore that she saw one of the White Friars here. One of the ghosts. She saw it - and I believe her.
Dr LOWERY: What other old characters did you have around the town?
Mrs SAMPFORD: There was a funny little man, who worked for Clark the milkman. He talked funny and we used to call him names.
Mr VAUGHAN: There was a curate at St. Mary's in Mr Lloyd-Philips' time - Freddie - Freddie something. On any day of the week, he could be seen wandering around the town from about half past ten onwards, because his wife had turned him out. And he used to wander around and visit the parishioners and cadge a cup of tea or something. And "have you got a bun to go with it, Ma'am?". But he was a bit absent-minded because I remember him in the pulpit sometimes: he would read his sermon and he would turn it over and sometimes he would turn over two pages at once, so that what he was reading didn't make sense. Sometimes he'd lost the last page and he just stopped and came down from the pulpit.
Mrs SAMPFORD: Did he live in Baldock Street?
Mr VAUGHAN: Yes, he did, he lodged in Baldock Street.
Dr LOWERY: Can anybody put a name to him?
Mr VAUGHAN: I think the kids called him 'Frowsie Freddie'.
Mr LEE: Another tale I would like to tell you about the old days was about my old father-in-law - old Yully Hammond - some of you might know him. He worked at Hitch's (the builders) for sixty odd years and his son, Fred, he worked there for 65 years, that's my brother-in-law. Years ago, when Ware was a quiet old town, on Sunday afternoons there was hardly a soul about. You could walk through the High Street and you'd hardly see a soul. But at the other end of the town on a Sunday you would hear the Salvation Army playing. And one particular Sunday afternoon, the Salvation Army band came outside where my father-in-law lived and he was asleep as usual. You know Sunday afternoons: he used to like his drop of drink. And they started playing a good old favourite hymn. Now when he'd had a drink too much, my father-in-law played an old violin. Then he pushed up the window and said: "I'll join you, you beggars".
Mrs SAMPFORD: In those days, when I worked at the Vicarage, it was nothing for the tramps and beggars to come round and the Vicar wasn't supposed to turn anyone away. He was supposed to give a night's lodging somewhere. I was the between maid, and I was cleaning the lady's shoes one day. And she told me to put a tin of polish in and wrap the shoes up and give them to the woman who was at the door. I thought Oh I wish I could have them. We said at the time we expected they just sold them. But I thought what a terrible waste when her servant could have done with them.
Dr LOWERY: You said that the Vicar had to put them up somewhere. Was there anywhere in the grounds?
Mrs SAMPFORD: Well, he had lots of beautiful sheds and summer-houses. I suppose that he shouldn't have turned them away, but I didn't know that until he told me. And soup - we used to have loads of soup on the go in the kitchen and the housekeeper would dish that up to them when they came round. You see we were a poor lot at that time, but we had a lot of beggars and that in those days.
Dr LOWERY: Was that when Western House (the Poor Law Union, in Collett Road) was still operating?
Mrs SAMPFORD: Well, there was a shed in a hay patch when they called at the Vicarage, and that’s where they were getting their night's lodging. It was a sort of lean-to in the Western House grounds and you would see all the beggars sleeping along there and then they would let them out in the mornings.
Mr IVES: They didn't actually sleep there, did they? That was only a waiting room.
Mrs SAMPFORD: Well they used to lie down and we children used to peep through and see them.
Mr IVES: I think it was a waiting room and they used to sleep up at the back of Western House somewhere. But there used to be literally hundreds of them every night.
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: Were they local or did they come from far away?
Mr IVES: They were given a night's lodgings. If they were able to pay they would go out the next day. If they weren't I think they used to have to do a day's work there - gardening or what have you. But they had to clear ten miles between places. So they used to go from here to Royston or Broxbourne in the other direction.
Dr LOWERY: Did they tend to be local people, do you know?
Mr IVES: Well, there might have been one or two local people, but they might have come from anywhere. I don't really know, because I was only a boy at the time. They used to call at the houses and we had them - we were living in Musley Hill at the time. As I say I was only a young boy in those days, and we kept away from them, pretty well.
Mr PAGE: You used to see them either in Crib Street or at the top of Musley Hill, And at that time there were large numbers of men in particular, who just tramped all over the country. They would stop somewhere for a night's lodging and then tramp on.
Mr VAUGHAN: A lot of their itinerary was conditioned by the harvest, wasn't it? They would go to one place for fruit picking and another place for hops, and doss down wherever they could, in between. So they had more or less a regular route, year by year, and they would turn up at the same place at the same time next year.
Mrs SAMPFORD: Western House was always known as the Union, when I was young. "To go in the Union" used to sound terrible.
Dr LOWERY: (speaking after the meeting had taken a coffee break): Over the break, Dr May has brought us this clipping from the Daily Mail for November, but we do not know the year. Does anybody remember a head-on smash at Ware Station, which is headlined "Fog Collision of L.N.E.R. Trains - 11 people hurt - girls escape in wrecked coach". Can anybody put a year to that?
Mrs RHODA HUGGINS: I remember I was in the pictures at the time.
Dr LOWERY: You were in the pictures. What was showing?
Mr DAVID PERMAN: There were two serious crashes, weren't there? One was during the Second World War and the other was in the late 1920s.
Dr LOWERY: Maurice Edwards has just said it was 1927 (the accident took place on 31st October at 8.50 p.m.)
Mrs NELLIE COOK: I was born in 1922 and I was at infant's school at the time, because one of my teachers, a Miss Hunter, was on that train. It took place in the morning: it was 8.30 in the morning, wasn't it?
Dr MAY: No this was a night-time crash.
Dr LOWERY: The other thing I have been wondering about is the traffic in Ware. With the maltings and the traffic they must have generated, there must have been some difficult spots around the town.
Mr IVES: Not really. It did not generate a lot of traffic - it was mostly horses and carts anyway. Probably Ware Bridge was a bit congested.
Mr PERMAN: We were talking earlier about the Priory in Mrs Walters' time. There is a lady here who was telling me about her parents who worked here.
Mrs SYLVIA HEWITT: Yes, my father, who was Mr Evans, left school in about 1910 or 1912 and his first job was here. I believe there was a Mr and Mrs Walters then, and my father was a shoe-boy here. As far as I can remember my father saying, when Mr Walters died, Mrs Walters took to drink. And she had an accident and got burned to death.
Mrs HUGGINS: She was an actress before she married, I think.
Dr LOWERY: Another thing I heard in the interval was somebody taking up Mrs Sampford's point about the town being very poor, and saying that a lot of the charities in the town were based on Christ Church, which organised all sorts of charitable events. Can you enlarge on that?
Mrs GRACE KAY: Yes, the Vicar of Christ Church started a Boot Club, where the men put coppers in - and it was only coppers - so that they had enough to go to the shoe shops. This was an arrangement between the local people and the local shops, so that they might even have got a discount, I suppose. There were clothing clubs and a Maternity Club, into which the ladies put so much money and they got a bag containing baby clothes and so on. They would hope that they had put enough money in so that by the time their delivery came they were entitled to that. And then, of course, there were the breakfasts which Mrs Sampford spoke of and we had those too in Christ Church Vicarage.
Mrs SAMPFORD: We had a clothing and coal club at St. Mary's.
Mrs KAY: And Christ Church started the scheme for the first District Nurse. They lent her her house and they paid for her equipment, and they eventually got her a helper. And she was in Ware from the late 1800s until I would guess some where around 1919, when District Nurses became a national institution. But they also provided tickets from Christ Church which allowed you a hospital bed, at Hertford County Hospital, and some of their collections in the church were given to the hospital.
Mrs SAMPFORD: But do you remember the girls' home, which was up Watton Road? That was for fallen girls and we used to have to give to that. That has gone as a private house now. The church helped to keep it going. I belonged to the Mothers' Union, as they called it in those days, and I used to make the collections of a penny a week to go into that home. So I think St. Mary's helped and Christ Church too, perhaps.
Mrs KAY: No, we did not do that. Christ Church, of course, used to run the Mission Hall in Amwell End.
Mrs SAMPFORD: Mr Jennings is here and his mother used to be one of the leaders of the Mothers' Union in those days.
Mr MICHAEL JENNINGS : It was usually the Vicar's wife. My mother took over when Mr Webley came and Jane Webley didn't want to do it, because she had a very young family and hadn't got the time for it. It was really Mrs LloydPhilips who did it.
Dr LOWERY: Were there any other charities in the town? Perhaps there was one to do with the boats. Mrs Kay was telling me about what she had heard from one of the barge men's wives.
Mrs KAY: Yes, she used to tell us of when the river was frozen for six to eight weeks of the year, the barges couldn't go backwards and forwards, and there was not a penny coming into the house. Not a penny from anywhere at all. She was bringing up a family of six or eight at the time. And she used to come down to the Priory and get help from the lady that you have spoken about (Mrs Walters) who was a sort of Lady Bountiful of the town . She used to give them material and so on to dress the children in. Perhaps money, but it was usually kind that was given to them.
Mr PERMAN: We ought to take the opportunity of having a malting man here, like Mr Ives, to ask him about malting.
Dr LOWERY: We should indeed. You went on from working here in the Priory to work in the maltings. Which particular ones did you work in?
Mr IVES: The first one I worked in - well it's been pulled down now - was where the Fire Station now is.
Dr LOWERY: The Cannon's Malting, was it?
Mr IVES: Not the Cannons, but the one run by Wards. It was the Hope Maltings. There were three maltings in that yard, actually. The one I worked in ran right up by the side of Baldock Street.
Dr LOWERY: Was that the only one you worked in?
Mr IVES: No, I worked in two or three of the others, after. But that was the first one and that was when malt-making was malt-making.
Dr LOWERY: Was there any particular job that you did, or did you do everything?
Mr IVES: You did everything, because - you see, most maltings had three floors. In actual fact, that one only had two, so you had one man for each floor. There was one man in charge of the malting and he was called the headman. Of course, you used to start work at four o'clock in the morning. In those days, malt-makers reckoned that one hour before breakfast was worth two after. I remember when I first started, we had had a fortnight of starting at four o'clock and then the headman said: "We'll have an easy day tomorrow and we'll have a lie-in - so we get started at five!".
Dr LOWERY: What time did you work to?
Mr IVES: Actually, what happened in the maltings was that we didn't work to any set time. You worked until your work was done, whatever work you had got to do that day. In those days, normally, you would get away at about 11.30 to 12 o' clock, most days of the week, except when you were what they called making hot - that was the day when you were really clearing on the kiln, when you would not get away until about two o'clock that day. Then you had to go back again at tea time to see whether there was anything that wanted doing for the pieces on the floor. But, as I said, it was the head man who told you what time you started . There were no set times for anything. It was just a matter of the quicker you got your work done, the quicker you could get away.
Dr LOWERY: Was that a job where you had any training, or could you go straight into it?
Mr IVES: You could just go straight into it - as long as you were prepared to work hard.
Dr LOWERY: Was it regular work all the year round?
Mr IVES: No it was only seasonal work. The season started at the end of September and went through to the end of May. You couldn't make malt in the summer in those days, because the weather was too hot. We were not necessarily laid off - they kept some people on.
But the majority of us wanted to be laid off, because we wanted to go up to the nurseries. The money was better up there than if you stayed on during the summer and went bug-liming and things like that. During the summer we got day work and it was longer days and for less money, anyway. So most malt-makers went to the nurseries in the summer and they were glad of you in the summer. Then we came back to the maltings in the winter. It was hard work, and it was dirty work, some of it.
Dr LOWERY: Were you paid on a regular basis or on a piecework basis?
Mr IVES: Well, actually, we used to get a flat wage in those days. In 1937 it was two pounds a week - for a seven-day week. And once the season started, of course, you did not get a day off until it ended. You worked on Christmas Day and whatever. That two pounds was a flat rate. Then you got what we called "extras". For carrying barley, it worked out at about an old penny a sack: you had to carry it up the ladder and across the floor.
Dr LOWERY: How big was a sack in those days?
Mr IVES: Sixteen stones - unless you were unlucky and got Canadian barley. That was eighteen stones. And yet I honestly cannot remember anyone hurting themselves - even creeping about in the dark with a tallow candle, which was usually all the light you had up until the war, anyway. Some of the maltings did have little tiny gas flares, and there were three out in the middle of the floor. If you were half way from one gas flare to the next one when the governor came round, he would turn one of them out. As I say, most of the time you were working with just tallow candles.
Dr LOWERY: Did you get a regular supply coming into the place?
Mr IVES: At the beginning of the season, you would stock up with barley and then they would keep it coming in, almost continuously. When you had made the malt, they had what we called shops at the other end of the malting, where you could store the malt. You could store it in the loft next to your kiln, as well. And then they took it as they wanted it. Obviously, you couldn't store all that you had made.
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: I assume you worked in a team, What happened when you went sick, did you cover for each other?
Mr IVES: No, we used to have what we called a "travelling man", who was a spare man. If one of you was off sick, then obviously you called him in. I think Wards had a dozen maltings at that time, so he covered all of them.
MAN: You called him a travelling man: was that the same as a journeyman?
Mr IVES: No, he was a relief man. We called him a travelling man, because he travelled round all the maltings.
Dr LOWERY: You say you had floors, so did you work one man to each floor?
Mr IVES: Most of the maltings were three floors. I don't know if you know the process, but your barley is steeped in water at first. Well it varied on the type of barley, but the steeping varied from about 48 hours to 60 hours. From there it came on to the floor, and your job then was to split it into three. So that meant throwing two thirds on to the middle floor and then half of that again on to the top floor. From then on, each man to his floor. It was roughly a ten-days process from the cistern to the kiln. So you would have two pieces on the floor, one in the cistern and one just loaded on the kiln. For a three-man malting, they used to steep about 50 quarters at a time, so you would get that divided into three on the three floors. And you would have one lot at the kiln, about ten days on, and another lot behind that, say seven days on, and another lot behind that, three or four days old. And then there was some in the cistern ready to come out. So you carried on like that all the time.
Dr LOWERY: And it was all manual work, there was nothing mechanised about it whatsoever.
Mr IVES: No, not in those days, nothing at all. Not even a wheelbarrow did we have. Instead we had a dragging sack, which was a malt sack split open with a pole through the end, and we dragged it like that. But they would not allow a wheelbarrow on the floor.
Dr LOWERY: What about raising it, did you have a lift for that?
Mr IVES: No, to get the barley from floor to floor we threw it with a shovel. That was why malting floors were so low, really.
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: Did you have to supply your own shovel?
Mr IVES: No they supplied the shovel and they supplied your boots. We used to get two pairs of boots - they were the rope-soled canvas boots, which were worn on the floor, and rubber boots to be worn in the cistern where it was wet. But if you were carrying, you were supposed to wear your own shoes - for anything outside the malting, you had to wear your own shoes.
Dr LOWERY: Yes, well all I can say is that I am glad I wasn't a malt maker, because I am sure there were easier ways of making a living.
Mr IVES: Well the money was all right and you got home early!
Dr LOWERY: I think there we ought to bring this meeting to a close. We have never had a malt-maker at our Reminiscences meetings before and perhaps if you have any questions for Mr Ives it would be an idea to ask him afterwards. But our speakers always turn up and say we didn't expect to have to talk, and then they talk excellently. I hope you will agree with me that our speakers tonight have talked as excellently as the speakers at any of our meetings, and so I know that you will wish me to thank them all very much.