Reminiscences of Ware's Past Part 4 - 30th May 1984
Dr ROGER LOWERY (Chairman of the Ware Society): We have so far held three of these Reminiscences evenings and they have all been crowded. This one is no exception. This evening we have again a group of speakers to tell us what they remember, their reminiscences of Ware as it used to be. First of all, I would like to introduce someone who agreed to take part in this meeting when we asked him at the last moment, Mr John-Wells, (usually known as "Bomber" Wells) who has lived in Ware all of his life. Then we have Mrs Evelyn Bouttell, who tells me she has not lived in Ware all of her life, but has done for quite a lot of it, so we will accept her as a long-term resident - those of you who have been to previous meetings will remember that Mr Reg Bouttell spoke to us, so we shall hear the other side of the story this evening. We also have Mr Leonard Goldstone, who again has lived in Ware all his life and, fourthly, we have Mr Sidney Livings, who said that he would like to hear what is said first and, if he feels that he can contribute some more, he will chip in during the course of the evening. A wise man! The last gentleman to undertake to speak to us very kindly agreed that he would be the first to speak this evening. So can I introduce Mr Wells, who tells me that he was born in Kibes Lane.
MR WELLS: There's quite a lot of people here that know me, and quite a lot that don't. Those that know me know what a rogue I am, but the remainder will probably find out in time. I was born in Kibes Lane, 76 years ago, and Kibes Lane then was a very narrow road with quite a lot of people living down there. On the top corner, on the New Road corner leading down to the High Street, there was a grocer's shop, kept by a Mr Greenfield, and I worked there as an errand boy when I was about eight years old, delivering groceries all over the town. And when I say all over the town, I mean all over the town. I used to start out on a Saturday morning, take a great basket of groceries up to the end of Warner Road, delivering to about three places up there, come back from that, pick another basket up, march up to Prior's Wood and deliver up there, and come back from that. The other errand boy had got-a truck ready then, and we both used to push that up as 'far as the cemetery (in Watton Road), delivering all the way up there. So you can tell it was quite an easy job! I used to go there every morning before I went to school and start at eight. They had a shop up at Musley opposite the Volunteer public house, with a bakery. I used to sweep and dust the shop out at the bottom (of New Road), walk up to the top, sweep and dust the shop out there, pick up a load of bread, bring that down to the bottom shop and be up at Musley School by nine, which you can imagine entailed a little bit of hopping about. That's why I am so slim! (Laughter). I used to go in for half an hour in the dinner hour and then in the evenings I would go in from half-past four or five, when I’d had my tea, until they shut, which was six-o'clock in the normal days, eight o'clock on Fridays and anything up to ten o'clock on Saturdays. And I used to get the magnificent sum of three-and-six a week (17½p) for that lot. But I don't think it did me any harm. Anyway, so much for that! As time went on my grandmother kept a pub in Kibes Lane, the Old Harrow - there were two pubs in Kibes Lane, the Harrow and the Bargeman, which are now up in Cromwell Road. My grandmother was a widow. When I finished at this grocer's shop (I packed the job up because it was too easy!) and went to work to help my grandmother in the pub - cleaning the windows, cleaning the pots, and all of this sort of business. Again, that was another nice, easy job because my grandmother knew what she wanted and she made sure she got it. Well, from there on, as time went on, I went to Christ Church school and from there I was in the first batch of pupils to go to the Central School, which was up Musley (now Musley Infants' School). The headmaster was a man named Lorretto. I finished my schooling up there and I went to work with my father as a plumber's mate. We worked for Hitch's, who had the builder's yard in Church Street. One of the places I worked on was a place that Mr Goldstone will tell you about, when he comes on, which was the bus yard, which is the Council depot now, along by Tesco's (in Church Street). That was built as a bus yard - Hitch's built it for people named Harvey and Burrows. They ran that for a number of years and then the National Bus Company took over
MR GOLDSTONE: Don't say too much, otherwise I won't get in.
MR WELLS: Anyway, that was one of the places I worked. I've also worked on the Victoria Maltings - right up on the top of those domes, putting the lead on. That was another nice easy job - I picked all of the easy work. Yes, there's a nice lot of climbing as you say. I shall never forget the first time I went up because I never thought I was going to get up there. And there were quite a number of other places in Ware that I have worked at. I joined the Territorials when I was 16 at the same time as Mr Goldstone - we both joined together - and I finished at the end of the war, in 1946. And I had some wonderful times with them: the old Territorials then was a wonderful thing to be in. Really, my life in Ware is something I've got no complaints about. It could have been a bit easier at times but, even though we had to work hard, we were quite happy. The work we did was all really necessary stuff and, whatever you did, you made a job of it. You didn't sort of half do it, you just got stuck in and worked. But when I first remember this place (the Priory) it was a Holy of Holies. No one was allowed inside the gates - you were not even allowed to look in. They were locked up and kept locked. And then the Priory was handed over to the town by Mrs Croft and it was made a public park. And we all took advantage of that - some of us took more advantage than others! It was a very good thing for the town when that happened, because it made somewhere for people to come to spend a few leisure hours.
DR LOWERY: Was there a park in the town before that time?
MR WELLS: No. The only park there was was Ware Park, which again was all closed up and nobody could get in there. But here at the Priory, there used to be a big archway in the front with big, studded gates and a little oak, studded gate on either side and nobody was allowed to look in here - until her dad Mr Jackson (pointing at Mrs Pipkin) took over as caretaker. And still nobody was allowed to look in!
MRS RENE PIPKIN: The gates were open during the daytime. They were shut at nine o'clock.
MR GOLDSTONE: There used to be a sign on the gate "When Jackson's about, we're all out"
MR WELLS: Now, has anyone got any questions they would like to ask me about Ware?
MR CLIFFORD LONGMAN: You have just mentioned the Priory being locked up. Who lived here at that time? Was it Mrs Croft?
MR WELLS: No, the first person I remember was a Mrs Walters.
MR GOLDSTONE: She was burned. She fell into a fire and was burned to death.
MR WELLS: It was a private house prior to the time when Mrs Croft bought it. During the First World War, it was a Blue Cross Hospital -this building and the Cannons Hotel were both hospitals.
MR GOLDSTONE: Dr Stewart's wife was the matron here at that time (see also in Reminiscences of Ware's Past, No. 2).
MR GERALD SAYERS: Can you tell us about the traffic control in Kibes Lane - there was a peculiar thing about that, because the first person in stopped there until he had finished his business. That vehicle had the right of way and no one else could pass.
MR WELLS: Two carts could just pass with their wheels rubbing the kerb. At that time, they were not allowed to pull their wheels up on the path, as they do now.
MR SAYERS: Of course, the road was above the level of the houses and the kiddies were almost looking into the windows.
MR WELLS: Not all the houses were below the road - most had steps up to the front door. (Mr Wells later explained to the editor the arrangement of buildings on the south side of Kibes Lane, that is the right-hand side coming from New Road. The first building was a malting and next door there had originally been a pub, and there were steps down into that house and the house next to it. There were also steps down into the yard at the back. The next two houses had one step up to them from the road. The one after that was level with the footpath, but the next three buildings had steps down to their front doors - one of these was the Barge public house, which was run by people called Hulls. On the opposite, the north side, of Kibes Lane there was one house which had steps down to the front door. Also on the other side was the public house, the Harrow, run by Mr Wells's grandmother, and a fish yard where they cured their own fish. The yard was connected with the fish shop in East Street, run by people called Smith and before that by people called Wren).
DR LOWERY: Were all the buildings in Kibes Lane houses and pubs?
MR WELLS: Well, of course, at the top end there was a malting - at the New Road end, right opposite my grandmother's pub. You know where now at the New Road end, Kibes Lane is wider and begins to narrow, well that is where the malting was. And the malting yard used to lead round to the back of your mother's place, didn't it Rhona?
MRS RHONA HUGGINS: No, that was uncle's.
DR LOWERY: Was Kibes Lane a lane which went right through then or was it a dead-end?
MR WELLS: No, it went right through to Bowling Road.
MR SIDNEY LIVINGS: But Bowling Road did not go through into Star Street.
MR WELLS: No, there was no connection between Bowling Road and Star Street. Star Street was a little narrow road - well it was narrower than Kibes Lane.
MR LIVINGS: Don't run it down too much, I live down there! (Laughter)
MRS HUGGINS: It was called Star Lane, then, wasn't it John? Didn't Pavey have a baker's shop up at Musley where you were talking about?
MR WELLS: No, Pavey had a baker's shop further up. Greenfield had the one opposite the Volunteer. Pavey's was right up the top - there's a shop still there actually, not a baker's shop but a general store.
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: Approximately how many houses would you say were in Kibes Lane?
MR GOLDSTONE: About 30?
MR WELLS: No, more than that. We were number 9 and we were only a quarter of the way down and then you had both sides. Fifty I should say, round about 50.
DR LOWERY: Were they privately-owned houses or did one landlord own the lot?
MR WELLS: No, they were all owned by different landlords. One of the places there was a lodging house. The place next door to where we lived was the Model Lodging House, built as a lodging house.
DR LOWERY: Who ran that?
MR WELLS: Well, among the people who I remember ran it was a man named Homewood. Afterwards it was finished as a lodging house and became a private house and two families lived in it people named Campkin and Catlin (the wives were sisters and daughters of Mr Akers who kept a general store in New Road, where the hairdressers now is). It was a funny place, because there was the house and it had a back garden - what was called a back garden - and there was an alleyway that ran round the back of that. It came out beside my grandmother's pub and there was our house and another house between that and this gateway that led out from their back way. But we had got no backway into our place, all we had got was a little, tiny yard.
DR LOWERY: When you say it was a lodging house, that was a general place for working men to lodge?
MR WELLS: Yes, that's it. It had a stone over the front entrance and it had inscribed on it "Model Lodging House", because my father and all the people down there never referred to it as the lodging house; it was always "the Model".
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: Why was it called Kibes Lane?
Mr WELLS: I don't know. In the old book of Ware it is spelled K-H-Y-B-S. So whether that gives you information I don't know.
MR LONGMAN: John, when did the houses come down?
MR WELLS: It was about 1926-27, but I don't know for sure.
MR LIVINGS: In 1922 - 23 they started building on Musley Common.
MR WELLS: Yes, they built the houses up on what we call the Common, which is King George's Road, and moved the people up there from Kibes Lane. And they also moved the people from Caroline Court (in Baldock Street). They were clearing both lots at the same time.
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: It was about 1925.
ANOTHER MAN: No, it was later than that. The work started in 1937.
MR WELLS: I can't remember. I was living in Ware at the time, but we were living at Croft Road at the time and I was working out at Knebworth. They got slack and we finished at Hitch's and my father got a job at Knebworth and took me there with him. We used to bike it every day. When we got there, they used to say, right, we want you to do a job at Codicote. You jumped on your bike to go to Codicote and then you biked back to Knebworth, then you biked somewhere else to do another job, then you came back again and then you biked home.
DR LOWERY: Mr Goldstone.
MR GOLDSTONE: Yes, talking of cycling to Knebworth and those places, it is really remarkable. My wife and I were talking to someone who was speaking about her daughter with two children and she said she was having a deuce of a job, because she hadn't a car to take her two children to school. And yet we hear of men who cycled all those miles and, talking of cycling, a lot of you can remember the men who worked in the nurseries up at Turnford and used to cycle day in and day out. And yet today we have to have a car to take the school children 200 hundred yards or so. And I had to pull a long face when I heard that.
MR WELLS: Look at these children up at Muslcy School. They used to come there from as far away as right up the other side of Amwell, which is nearly two miles. And they used to have to walk there from Watton and Wareside.
MR GOLDSTONE: It kept him well, doing all that cycling.
MR WELLS: Made me thin as a rake! (Laughter).
DR LOWERY: Mr Goldstone, it is now your turn and you were also born in Ware.
MR GOLDSTONE: Yes, I think a lot of people know me and they also know my family. Perhaps they knew more of my late brother Dick (or Albert Victor) Goldstone, who was a councillor in Ware and was eventually known as the "Father of Ware". He could tell a good tale, much better than what I could of Ware. He had done many years of council work and his heart and soul were with old people. I was born in Musley Hill - Number 9, where I did read in a previous Reminiscences book that it was mentioned as Skipper's Row. The plate, Skipper's Row, was on Number 9. I can't remember living there but I know that all boys up there were known as "Musley Ummers" They were a good friendly crowd, as much perhaps as what John's people were down in Kibes Lane.
MR WELLS: Yes they used every now and then to have a fight, didn't they?
MR GOLDSTONE: Well, afterwards we moved down to Crib Street at Number 42, where there is a shed on the side of the house with a wheel. No doubt a lot of you have seen it. Well, when I was a boy - during the wintertime when the snow was around - behind that wheel there was a little peep-hole. When the snow was around, I used to gather up the snow and make snowballs and then go up to this loft. And if anybody was going by I used to drop a snowball on them and they used to wonder where it was coming from. That went on for about two or three years, but eventually I was caught by a lady who lived in Prince's Street. I didn't think she saw me but two or three weeks afterwards I felt a clip round my head and she said: "Len, that's for banging that snowball on my head" So that stopped my sport, but it didn't mean any harm. Although she gave me that clip around the earhole, I daren't go and tell my mother because she would have given me another. When I left school, I Went to work at the Round House (off High Oak Road) as a garden boy, for the then Miss Anne Croft, who became Lady Brocket. I was up there three years in the gardens, and it was very enjoyable. That, as you may know, came under the Fanhams Hall Estate and, although I used to go up to Fanhams Hall quite a lot - I got to know quite a lot of people up there in the farms and in the gardens - I never had the privilege of going into the gardens. But skipping many years, when I retired I was asked to go and work in those gardens and I did and it really brought memories back to me of all the old farms and the people who worked there and the wonderful garden there is there. If ever anybody does get the chance to go to Fanhams Hall Gardens - I know they are open to the public - take a tip and try to get in at Eastertime, because the place is then full of daffodils. It has been like that for years. Of course, you know it is mainly Japanese gardens. But to see those daffodils there, and there are masses of them, is a wonderful sight. And the best time to go is in the morning when the sun is shining through the trees and it gives all the greens - and in the autumn the browns.
DR LOWERY: When you were a garden boy up there at the Round House, were those Japanese gardens there at Fanhams Hall?
MR GOLDSTONE: Oh, yes they date back. Fanhams Hall was first a farm house and they take it back to 1442, I think that was the date. In 1715, a Queen Anne house was built and it kept like that until the Croft family, or Mrs Anne Croft, had extra building put on to it to form what we now see as Fanhams Hall. That was in 1901, and that is when the Japanese gardens were built. They built a lake and from the earth taken out they made a great mound, which perhaps a great many of you have seen. On that mound it is all snowbells and they were put there to depict snow. And then, of course, they had the Austrian House, which they brought over from the Great Exhibition - I think in Austria. And of course there is a Japanese house and a Japanese tea-room, and when you think that all of that has remained there since 1901.
MR SAYERS: Wasn't it 1910, when there was a Japanese exhibition in London?
MR GOLDSTONE. I wouldn't know that but I do know that it was in 1901 that Mrs Croft had a Japanese gardener come over to advise on the garden.
MR SAYERS: You find them in all sorts of places and they copied them from the exhibition.
MR GOLDSTONE: Yes, no doubt they did. There is one in Cottered. But you know, the Croft family were the leading people of this town and, as John said, they gave this place (the Priory) to Ware. That was in 1920, when Mr Jackson took over as the keeper here.
MRS PIPKIN: Yes, and he stayed 23 years.
DR LOWERY: So, what did you move on to when you had finished your gardening?
MR GOLDSTONE: Afterwards, like everybody else I wanted more money. Mrs Croft was very generous, but she said “I'm sorry, but I can only give you half-a-crown extra”, so I thought I can go out and find another half-a-crown (12½p) which I did. I managed to get the job on the National Bus Company at the garage, which John had talked about - the Old Town Hall (also known as Rankin House) behind which is the present Council Yard. The first people to come there with buses were Harvey and Burrows. They started the buses in Ware, perhaps from about 1922. And then they sold out to the National Bus Company. The buses then were actually London General Omnibus Company buses, but they were operated by the National Bus Company. I went there in 1925 and then afterwards, in 1933, London Transport was formed and all the buses around here then were taken into one big concern. That also included the People's Buses, I mustn't forget them. They started in about 1926: Mr Thurgood started the People's Buses and they were in opposition to the National Bus Company. One thing I would like to say about buses then and what they are now is that these People's Buses used to go into the country and if Mrs So-and-So wanted to stop outside her door, then the driver stopped outside her door and very often helped her with her goods.
DR LOWERY: You said that Mr Thurgood started the People's Buses, but where were they running to? Was it all over the place?
MR GOLDSTONE: The first ones were from Hertford to Wormley. That was as far as they could go because of the licence. Then they used to run from Ware to Hertford, which was about a penny or tuppence (1p) and it was, I think, a penny from New Road up to Musley Hill. Then later they went to Buntingford and to Bishop's Stortford.
MR WELLS: The People's used to run out to Stevenage, didn't they?
MR LIVINGS: They also went out to Dane End.
MR GOLDSTONE: Well, of course, the People's went out to Dane End in opposition to the National and they first started going to Epping and Sawbridgeworth.
MR WELLS: And they started cutting fares. The People's cut the fares down by a halfpenny to go to Hertford.
MR GOLDSTONE: Yes. Well, I worked for the National Bus Company for 48 years and I can really say that in them days the drivers did think of the public. If they ran early they were in trouble and, if they ran late, they had to explain why they were running late. Nowadays well, I mustn't say too much in case there is anyone here from the London Country buses.
DR LOWERY: When did the bus garage move away from Ware?
MR GOLDSTONE: Well, it was London Transport that decided that we required a larger garage. They tried to buy property adjacent to the garage in Church Street, which was owned by a Mr Nichols, the greengrocer, but he wouldn't agree to sell it. So that was the reason why the garage was built in Fairfax Road in Hertford. That was in 1935.
DR LOWERY: So what happened to that bus depot after that?
MR GOLDSTONE: Well, afterwards it was taken by Chaseside, an engineering firm. And of course they were there for a good many years
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: In the war they produced heavy armoured vehicles.
MR GOLDSTONE: Someone said the Council have got it now. Well, if the Council have got it, it has gone back to its original purpose.
MR WELLS: They use it as a storage depot.
MR GOLDSTONE: Now if anyone would like to ask me questions, I am sure if I can't answer them, Mr Wells can.
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: we have heard a lot about Ware and its buildings, but not about what it was like to be a child in Ware, where you played and what you did. Did you do cray-fishing, for example?
MR GOLDSTONE: I did go cray-fishing, but not as a child. That was some years afterwards. As a child, the first thing I did was to join the 2nd Ware Boy Scouts. I think that started in 1910. The Reverend Farmer was the scoutmaster at the start of the 2nd Ware Scouts - I don't know if anybody here remembers the Reverend Farmer, he lived at No. 5 Trinity Road. Dr May remembers him.
DR LOWERY: Where were they based - the 2nd Ware Scouts?
MR GOLDSTONE: In the Scout Hall, behind St. Mary's School (in Church Street). I think the actual hall belonged to the Manor House. Then, of course, there was the Church Lads' Brigade; my eldest brother was in that, but I didn't know much about that. I think the gentleman who ran that was ...... Teddy Barker, we called him, who was a schoolmaster. Can anybody remember Mr Barker? What I can remember of him is that at the start of the 1914 war, he joined the forces and came to say goodbye to everybody - I was six then - but I can remember him going off in his uniform. And that was the last I saw of Mr Barker, because he never returned to Ware or St. Mary's School. I think he kept on in the army. But the man who did take over from him was a Mr Goodey.
DR LOWERY: And he ran the Scouts, did he?
MR GOLDSTONE: He did run the Scouts after the war, but the person who came in after the Reverend Farmer was Mr Chapman, who was the Lay Reader at Ware St. Mary's Church.
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: His father was a window cleaner.
MR GOLDSTONE: Mr Chapman lived virtually next to where the school is. I think that was No. 5 Church Street. His name was George Chapman, and he worked at Albany's office - you know the office round by the railway - well he worked there with Mr Clipson. That was him, well then, of course, Mr Goodey the schoolmaster took over. I was still in the Scouts right up to the time when I got mixed up with Mr Wells, and we joined the Territorials. And that was a wonderful thing - we were in the drum and fife band.
MR LIVINGS: A very nice band it was too.
MR WELLS: Nice chaps in it too.
MR GOLDSTONE: Yes. They talk of these youngsters being bored - we weren't bored at all. I think we used to go down to the Ware Drill Hall about five nights a week. We had one band practice on a Monday night; for the rest of the week, we used to ask the Sergeant-instructor to take us there and he used to put us through our paces and we enjoyed it. We were never bored at all.
DR LOWERY: So, how many people were in the Territorials?
MR GOLDSTONE: Well, of course, apart from the band there was a company, Number Three Company - I should think about a hundred and…
MR WELLS: There must have been down at Ware, there was about twenty of us in the drums and then about 30 or 40 in the companies. And then of course we used to amalgamate, because this was a section of a company, consisting of Ware, Bishop's Stortford, Hoddesdon and Waltham Cross.
DR LOWERY: Was the Drill Hall used for anything else apart from the Territorials?
MR GOLDSTONE: It was actually first built as a skating rink.
DR LOWERY: What, roller skating?
MR GOLDSTONE: It was built by a Mr Hanbury, from Poles. And there was roller skating on Saturday evenings.
MR WELLS: Lots of people got long arms because of that, because they had to keep pulling themselves up off the floor.
MISS EVELYN WARNER: I was going to say that the Drill Hall was used quite regularly by Ware Grammar School (for Girls), because we hadn't any sports facilities. There were sometimes four badminton courts, a big tennis court and most of our prizegivings were there, because our hall was not big enough.
DR LOWERY: That was when Ware Grammar School was in Scott's House?
MISS WARNER: In Amwell House.
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: They used to have exhibitions there and all sorts.
MR GOLDSTONE: Oh, yes. Ware Drill Hall was used quite a lot. Ware Horticultural, as you know, they always had their autumn show in Ware Drill Hall.
DR LOWERY: So was it privately owned and run?
MR WELLS: It was on a 99-year lease to the government and the Territorial Association (and later acquired by East Hertfordshire District Council - editor).
DR LOWERY: Perhaps we ought now to turn to Mrs Bouttell.
MRS EVELYN BOUTTELL: I wasn't born in Ware; I was born in South Mimms, in Middlesex, which I think is now in Hertfordshire. When I was about seven my father came to work as a baker at Mr Webb's in Amwell End. We knew all about Ware, because a Mr Titmarsh used to bring the flour from French's Mill - so we knew a bit about it before we came. Unfortunately, when we moved to Ware - there were then four of us, three girls and my brother - they got us a house and it was in Cross Street, one of those bay-windowed houses, about the middle of Cross Street. After we had been here a year or two my mother had rheumatic fever, and Dr Boyd - it was in those days who was our doctor - said: "You mustn't stop here, you must go up on to gravel soil." It was too damp for her. Of course, it was all flooding at the back there - the osiers and all of Clement Street - it was very damp.
DR LOWERY: That used to flood regularly, did it?
MRS BOUTTELL: Oh yes, it was a hard time really. They used to have a fair sometimes there, and there were one or two caravans. Somebody of the name of Cox used to have a caravan there. The house was terribly damp so we moved up to Gladstone Road and that was much better up there - at least the house and the climate and mother was better up there. When I left school at 14, I went to Harradence's. Of course to get an apprenticeship there in those days, you had to wait. I was 14 in September and I went after Christmas in the New Year, apprenticed to dress-making. But I was not very excited about it at first because, for the first few months - it was a very big workroom and in between there and the showroom - you know where all of those windows which look out on the streets - and it was a boarded floor and I used to have to spend half an hour before we finished dress-making picking up the pins out of the cracks. I wasn't very pleased about that! But then you have to start at the bottom.
Then I had to go round and work with the different people, the head one who did the cutting out - Miss Want, it used to be in those days - and there was a sleeve-hand and a blouse-hand and all the different things they made in those days. They didn't have patterns in those days, they used to have the dummies and they used to pin the bodices and patterns on that before they were cut out. Then the next job I had was rather tedious. After they made the bodice of somebody's size, whoever they were going to make a frock for, in those days they had hooks all the way down the front, and that was a job I had got to do to stitch on all those hooks and eyes. And then they had these high neck-bands and they had to be boned. And so I used to have to make a sort of binding they put down, stitched either side and then you used to have to slip the bone up. So that wasn't really very exciting. Then I used to help perhaps tack a sleeve up or help make a sleeve, and then you get perhaps to a bodice and then a skirt, then the coats, and so you went through. The apprenticeship was supposed to have been for two and a half years, but of course, the war came about the time that I had gone there in 1914. We didn't really get a lot of orders after the war had started, it began to fall down a bit. But it was a very happy workroom, we were very happy. The workroom came off of the showroom and the staff used to come through our workroom and we could chat to them. And then they would go down the yard and there was a staircase down there into the shoe shop and that led down to one of the yards, where we used to go and have our lunch. And Mr Harradence's office was down there and he used to have another office down there.
DR LOWERY: Harradence's was, of course, where Edwards the Furnishers is now?
MRS BOUTTELL: There were five shops. There was a china shop, with wool and fancy stuff, and the next shop was the big shop, where they had materials, and up the steps you would have house linen and that sort of thing. And then there was the haberdashery in the next shop - there was a lovely staircase, I can always remember the staircase - which went up to the showroom. And the showroom where there were the costumes and dresses and the millinery. And then in the showroom, there was a little fitting-room which the dressmaker used to have and the one who did the fitting. And, of course, people who brought a hat or a coat could go in there and try them on, in this little separate room. It had about four windows along the front there. And then there was a lovely garden and, of course, they had their gazebo. They had a boat - one of the Harradence boys used to go on the river. And I remember one day somebody wanted Mrs Harradence, and they said: “Oh, she's not around the house, she is down in the gazebo having her afternoon tea." Her sister used to live there some of the time. And I think it is a shame that the gazebo was allowed to fall into disrepair.
DR LOWERY: Did the Harradences live over the shop?
MRS BOUTTELL: The gateway by the little shop which is now Albert Bishop's (65 High Street) was one of their entrances and that is the only gateway which is tiled and the private house was in there. And that looked out on to the fancy shop. And next door to the boot shop was the men's clothiers shop and another gateway - they had three gateways actually - where some of their staff used to live. When I first went there, there was not a lot of Ware people - most of the heads of the departments were strangers. There was Mr Brown and Mr Peachy. But there were a lot of Ware people at Harradences from the families of tradespeople, really, because Miss Goodfellow, the milliner, worked there when her father had a shop. And Miss Stockwell was in the dressmaking department, when I was, and her father was a tailor in the town. May Reeves was another apprentice with me and her father had the boot shop on the Market Place, and one of the Miss Stalleys was there when I was.
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: And Miss Lloyd.
MRS BOUTTELL: She was not in the dressmaking, she was in the showroom. It used to be a very high class shop, with goods from Jaeger's and Liberty's and all that. It really was a nice shop and you could get anything there. After the war and I had finished my apprenticeship in about two years I don't know whether people remember John Dixon the builder and his daughter Kate who went to Australia, well Kate Dixon was in the showroom. She was wanting to go out to Australia to marry a Mr Lawrence. She was leaving and, as I hadn't got a lot of work in the workroom, Mr Harradence asked me if I would like to go in the showroom. It was quite useful because one might be able to do a few alterations, if necessary. So I was in the showroom from when I was 17 and I left when I was twenty three and a half to get married. That's 60 years ago.
DR LOWERY: You mentioned Dixon's the builders. That was a firm in Ware, was it? And where were they based?
MR WELLS: In London Road.
MR GOLDSTONE: At the bottom of Mount Street (now Gilpin Road).
MRS BOUTTELL: Yes, and they had a number of daughters. The youngest one was in the boot department at Harradences, Kate was in the showroom and she went out to Australia. But already, two of them had gone out to Australia - one of them was a school teacher at St. Mary's, Mrs Felgate. So there were three Dixon girls out there. The Harradences' only daughter was Hilda - Mrs Bond Thomas (she married a Congregational minister). She was awfully nice and did a lot of work for the Barnado's in those days. She used to get me to take the Dr Barnado's box around and I used to pay the people who had the children, the orphans of course. I remember one day, when we were talking, she said: "Of the two 'F's - friends are far in front of furniture" - I shall always remember that because people did make a lot of fuss about furniture.
MR LIVINGS: Mr Harradence had a gazebo at the bottom of his garden. I will tell you why I mention that, because we were settled near there at the beginning of the war, and he had a nice little table in there. A few weeks after that we had the floods and I saw that table go by my house in the river.
DR LOWERY: Were a lot of the gazebos used in that way?
MRS BOUTTELL: I should think so - in those days.
MR WELLS: Yes, they were used as summer houses. That is what we used to call them, summer houses, not gazebos.
DR LOWERY: I asked that because you never know if they were just built there and never really used.
MRS BOUTTELL: I know that Mrs Harradence used to go down there in the summer and spend the afternoon there.
MR LIVINGS: In the old times, we always knew who owned the shops - we knew Mr Harradence, we knew Mr Cook - because they were always in the shop.
DR LOWERY: Who was Mr Cook?
MR LIVINGS: He had Cook's Stores, the grocer's where Tesco's first started - where Sketchley's the cleaners now is. We knew practically every shop keeper.
MRS BOUTTELL: It was very different from today. When we married, we had not been hardly in the house before first one tradesman came along and asked if he could have our custom, then another one came along. They would come round for an order, they would bring your goods - the tradesman wouldn’t do that now.
DR LOWERY: So, after you were married, where did you live?
MRS BOUTTELL: In Vicarage Road, we rented the house there to start with. We had it six weeks before we were married and my husband was working then at the Post Office and he spent all his spare time in getting the house ready, decorating and so on. It was different in those days, because we used to wait on the customers and you would get hauled over the coals if you let a customer go without buying something. I worked in the Harradence's showroom for seven years after my two years in the workroom. I had quite an interesting time. We used in those days to take a lot of the goods out on "appro" (approval) to the big houses around. And, of course, if there was a mourning order, we used to jump for joy because we got commission on it, you see. You took it out into the country to one of the big houses, where they had staff, and everybody wore black. One day I went out and it was to the Thrifts, down London Road, to take some mourning. Well, actually, I didn’t take it. It used to be a pony and trap and then we got the van. And they left me in this house - I had never been there before - all the blinds were drawn and it was in complete darkness. They opened the door and let me in, and it smelled completely of apples - they must have had all their apples stored on the floors. I really got frightened because nobody came and I could hear funny noises of people walking about. And then in the end a man came - I don't know who died there, I can't remember now - and he said "nobody can see you now, we will keep the mourning clothes". And I said "all right, I will collect them another day".
DR LOWERY: Did Harradence's run their own delivery van, or did they have someone to deliver for them?
MRS BOUTTELL: Oh yes. They used to go out with orders in the country. It was a horse and cart when I first went there, but afterwards they had a van. It was a Mr Frost, who lived in New Road, who ran that.
DR LOWERY: So did they keep their vans and horses down at the shop?
MRS BOUTTELL: When they had the gateway where the grocer's is they had stables all down behind there.
MR LIVINGS: They were the old coaching stables. When they pulled them down there were a lot of oak beams and a man named Swain bought the lot of them and had them turned into standard lamps.
MRS BOUTTELL: When the youngest Harradence son came back from the (1914-18) war, he got married and lived in one of the cottages down the yard.
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: Can you remember when the other shops started - places like Forbes and Grovers and Cordells - which must have been, well not competitive, but in the same line of business?
MR WELLS: Cordells' started afterwards. They were in Baldock Street and they were drapers.
MRS BOUTTELL: And Henderson's, that was another one, just across the High Street, where Rumbelow's now is.
MR GOLDSTONE: Yes, old Mr Jack Henderson, the first thing when you went into the men's shop, he used to say: "What do you want, a pair of braces?" He was deaf as a post.
MR WELLS: At that time, Henderson's used to do boots and shoes and everything.
MR GOLDSTONE: Mr Henderson used to go out into the country on his bike, with the carrier on the front.
MR LIVINGS: And they didn't call their credit the hire purchase, they called it the Never-never.
DR LOWERY: Perhaps you would like to chip in here, Mr Livings.
You were saying that you lived down in Star Street a lot of the time.
MR LIVINGS: Yes, we lived in those houses which were built in 1896.
MRS BOUTTELL: Was that the houses where Mrs Bollom lived (who kept lodgers among the new arrivals in Ware).
MR LIVINGS: Next door to Mrs Bollam.
DR LOWERY: And did you work in Ware, Mr Livings?
MR LIVINGS: I was born in London, in Leytonstone, and we moved down here in 1915 when I was 16 years old. So that will tell you how old I am. My first sight of Ware was at about ten o'clock at night. I was riding a horse with a hurricane lamp, because we had no lights on the waggon. All of our furniture was in it and my father was driving. We came through Ware and it was pitch black, because it was wartime and there were no lights. That was my first impression of Ware. I didn't think much of it. We lived out at Munden, because my uncle had a farm there. At the end of the journey, we had to go across two fields to some cottages. When I got up in the morning, I thought that I was dead because there was not a sound. I worked on the farm until I was 17 and then I went into the forces. After I came out, I travelled all over the country - because that was after the First World War. And in the end came back to Hertford, got married and came back to Hertford and started a milk round at about tuppence a pint. And then I came back into Ware and worked at Presdales, and I was there until the war started.
DR LOWERY: What was Presdales at that time?
MR LIVINGS: It was the home of McMullen's. It was built by a man named Sandeman, the port people. I worked there from 1928, well for ten years, and I was farming. I used to run their farm, you see. Colonel McMullen was a real autocrat, to put it mildly. Anyway, I spent the Second World War in the Control Room, here in Ware at night. I pressed the button for the air raid alarm, down here in the Priory. That is how I knew Mr Grantham, you see. He was the Urban District Council Surveyor and he died of peritonitis in Egypt. He came down here to the Control Room, because we used to have one or two of the councillors down here at night. And he stayed the night and he had got this pain in his tummy. Because I had had appenticitis, myself, I said "You have got appenticitis". "Do you think so?", I said: "Yes". So I called a doctor - I won't say his name - I called a doctor to him: "Oh no," he says, "you've been living too high". Of course, he was in the army and he went out to Egypt and died of peritonitis. He was a lovely man, Mr Grantham.
DR LOWERY: Of course, he was the Surveyor.
MR WELLS: A very good man.
DR LOWERY: And then after the war you stayed on in Ware, working, did you?
MR LIVINGS: Well, then after the war, I went into engineering. I worked at Chaseside and, in the end, I finished up with a friend of mine and we had a business of our own.
MRS BOUTTELL: He was the surveyor when we had our house built - Mr Grantham.
MR REGINALD BOUTTELL: A few moments ago, my wife was saying how before we were married I spent some time decorating our house. Well, I was going to do the interior walls, etc, but everywhere there were nails sticking out of the walls, because in those days people used to nail linoleum to the floors and often nail curtains to the window frames.
MRS BOUTTELL: Yes, last week, I was at Amwell at Mrs Dixon's, a friend of mine. She phoned up and said: "Would you like to come to tea. I’ve got Kate's daughter over from Australia." And that was Chris Lawrence's daughter. I went over and I was telling her that I took her mother's place at Harradence's, and then she wanted to know what I knew about her father, that was Chris Lawrence. Of course, I didn't know much about him, except when we took their house over it had all these nails in it. And then she said: "Where is it?" so I said: "in Vicarage Road" So I told her it was number 22, and that was really quite a coincidence that we had lived in the house where her grandparents had lived.
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: Were houses fairly easy to find in those days?
MRS BOUTTELL: No not really. I think it was a Mr Dewbury, who collected the rent of Mrs Bollom where my husband was lodging, who found us this house. We had to do it all up at our own expense, but the rent was seven and six (37½p.) a week. Then we had a house built, which is in Musley Lane, up on the bank. That was 51 years in June since we moved into that. I think the rates were a lot more than what we were paying in rent to start with and we thought, oh, we have got to pay all our own repairs as well. Still, we were lucky because we had nine happy years in Vicarage Road and we had good neighbours.
DR LOWERY: Going on from your question about whether it was easy to rent houses in those days, were there any big landlords who owned a lot of property and let it out?
MR GOLDSTONE: There was W.H. Lee, who were agents for a lot of the landlords.
MR WELLS: Menhinick's had a lot of houses and McMullen's owned a lot.
MR FRED WOODHOUSE: Mr Ashwell owned a lot of property around. Mr Mardell used to be the rent collector for him - Mr Mardell worked in Wells the ironmongers.
MR GOLDSTONE: Of course, a certain amount of property was owned by the Forresters in Ware - the Forresters' Club. There was some of it in Garland Road at the top.
MR WOODHOUSE: And in Cromwell Road.
MR GOLDSTONE: And there were one or two in Grasmere Road that they built.
DR LOWERY: Were the Forresters a big organisation locally then?
MR GOLDSTONE: They were at the time. You don't hear so much of them now. They organised a sick club and through their money for that they bought so much property.
MR COLIN SMART: Wasn't part of Trinity Road built by one of the local vicars? The top end of Trinity Road - I heard a story some time ago about it.
DR LOWERY: Well, nobody seems to know about that.
MRS BOUTTELL: The Reverend Bowen used to live in the bottom house.
MR GOLDSTONE: And the Reverend Farmer lived at number five.
MRS BOUTTELL: He was the one who was Vicar of Benington a few years back.
LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: Who lived in Collet House in days gone by? You often hear of families who lived in big houses.
MR GOLDSTONE: Well, many years ago there were people of the name of Little. I can remember them as a child. Then Mr Tucker took over Collett Hall and they were there a number of years. He was a High Court Judge. And at the Round House, before my time, there was a Captain Lyle and he was to do with Tate & Lyle's golden syrup people.
DR LOWERY: Any other questions to our speakers this evening?
MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: How much were the rates in those days?
MR WELLS: Very difficult to say, because they all used to be paid in the rent. And if you were paying five bob (25p.) a week rent you reckoned you were being caught.
MR GOLDSTONE: I think it was Mr Gisby, the solicitor, who used to collect the rates for the council, because they had the offices in the Old Town Hall.
MISS. WARNER: You mentioned the Town Hall, but you didn't mention the Town Hall before the bus garage was there - the concerts and things which used to happen in it.
MR GOLDSTONE: Yes, that’s right, a number of concerts were held in the old Ware Town Hall. We are saying the Old Town Hall, which is now Rankin House, but really the Ware Town Hall was where the Home and Colonial was, which is the new estate agents (Keith Stevens).
MR WELLS: My father used to box up above there.
DR LOWERY: We are talking about two town halls - the one which is now the estate agents and the other in Rankin Square, next to the Punch House. And it is that second one which was the bus garage.
MISS. WARNER: You went through the front door of Rankin House, past the offices which were at the side and came to a hall at the end. The hall was on the Church Street side, but you actually approached it from Rankin Square.
MR GOLDSTONE: The actual hall was taken down to build the first part of the bus garage. The entrance into the garage when it was built was from Church Street.
MR SID HORNSBY: Yes, there were two town halls in Ware. The proper one, or the first one, was in the High Street, where the estate agents is (built in 1827 by public subscription to be a Corn
Market - ed). I was born in the other end of that row of buildings, in what is now Claire's Card shop. That was the Oriental Tavern and my father was the first landlord of the Oriental Tavern in 1900. He used to have pewter tankards hanging up in the bar for his regular customers and this one (produces a quart tankard) has the initials J. N., for Jim Nicholls. That was his pot. My father was, as I said landlord of the Oriental Tavern and the brewery was Christie's of Hoddesdon. In 1905, Christie's built a building at the corner of Bowling Road and King Edward's Road as an off-licence the building is still there. They would sell beer by the quart jug or stone jar, and also spirits. My father had to put up a notice in the window a month before the licence was granted. Eventually, on the tenth day of January, 1906, the licence was defeated. So the house was vacant for many, many years. In the 1914-18 war the army used the house for cooking dinners for soldiers.
MR WELLS: They had a company headquarters there, too.
MR HORNSBY: And Fisher, the milkman, took it up after that.
DR LOWERY: So if they were using that building for cooking soldiers' dinners, did that mean that there were lots of the army billetted in Ware?
MR HORNSBY: They were billetted out for bread and breakfast and had their main meals cooked there in that building.
DR LOWERY: It may sound like a silly question, but why were they billetted in Ware?
MR WELLS: They had horses on what was Wallace's Yard, and the school field was full of horses - in Bowling Road. Because there were none of those temporary buildings then, there was only the original school building. That was a field full of horses, staked out there.
MR LIVINGS: And wasn't the armoury down there in what used to be Hammonds in Star Street?
DR LOWERY: Well, ladies and gentlemen, we tend to go on with these meetings but I think we ought to be drawing the formal proceedings to a close. I am sure that our speakers will be available for questions and discussion afterwards. So I would like to thank our four speakers, who have given us such vivid reminiscences of Ware's past, and all of you in this large audience for your contributions as well.
EDITOR'S NOTE: As noted earlier, the Ware Society booklets of "Reminiscences of Ware's Past" have gone all over the world and have evoked further memories of the town from people who could not be present at the meetings. Here are two of them.
Mr Bill Stockwell, who lives in Churchdown, Gloucestershire, (and is incidentally a first cousin of Mrs "Bomber" Wells) wrote with reminiscences of the chimes of St. Mary's clock and of Caroline Court. "The chimes I clearly remember were as follows:
There's nae luck about the house.
The Bluebells of Scotland.
Believe me if all those endearing young charms.
Boys and girls come out to play.
Home, Sweet Home.
Rest in the Lord.
I think I’m correct in saying there was no chime period on Sunday. If there was, then the seventh tune was either "The Irish Washerwoman" or "The Ash-grove" (preferred). The other six tunes are definite".
On Caroline Court (off of Baldock Street), Mr Stockwell wrote: "as a small boy I used to visit my grandma at No 28 Baldock St the small house situated between the "Old Bull's Head" and the house mentioned by your speakers, known as Hunts, Porters, etc. Saturday morning was errand morning and one of these errands was to visit Mary Ann - a hard working, dear old lady whose sole income was derived from doing household chores for all and sundry at ‘copper rate’ and who lived at No 2 Caroline Court. I thus became used to seeing and talking to the people in this court. The families I remember clearly were the Stamp family - several of whom I went to school with. The Goulds, Sweeneys, Norths and a character known as "Billy-No-Hat". This latter seemed to enjoy being badgered by us schoolboys. As he was small of stature (some five feet in all), with a bald head, full beard and very baggy trousers, it was youth's delight to get him chasing and muttering. Jack Sweeney was a rag and bone man, while Mr North - known as Foxey - was one of those rare characters that makes life a real pleasure. His appearances at Ware Court were so regular that he was a feature of the Ware column in the "Mercury". His complaint to the magistrates was that on every occasion he went for a stroll, some poor rabbit fell exhausted at his feet. Mr Rogers, the printer - known as "Dolly Rogers" - as a kind-hearted magistrate knew on passing sentence that Foxey would be appearing again at some future date".
Our other correspondent described himself as simply "an old Ware man", who is bedridden but gains great pleasure from reading the Reminiscences booklets. This anonymous contributor to our memories of Ware as it used to be put his contribution into verse, beginning:
Nostalgic memories I hold so dear,
The Ware I knew of yesteryear,
Borne away on the wings of time,
That so delighted this heart of mine.
He then goes on to write about some of the characters he remembers in Ware:
The roll boy too no longer seen,
Basket on arm, baize cloth so green,
No longer hear the Tripe Man's cry:
“Fresh Tripe today, Come out and Buy."
Old characters too I used to know,
Billy No-Hat, Harry Bow-Wow and Tin Whistle Joe:
He had a tin whistle all too true
But the tunes he played no one knew.
Many thanks to Bill Stockwell and to our anonymous Ware Poet. We hope to publish similar reminiscences in future booklets.