Some childhood memories of Sylvia Cox née Mower (and Maishman)
I was staying with my Grandma – Bathsheba Mower née Keeble and my Granddad Charles Mower. It was near Fryerning and part of Truloves Farm. Up a little unmade road called the Chase. There were three cottages called Cornishes and in a row together and Grandma’s was in the first one. They had a small kitchen and a stair up off the kitchen and there was one living-room. There was a big range fire and a little door leading out into the pantry which also acted as the front door. At either side there was a sort of passageway with flagstones and that was Grandma’s pantry with a big earthenware crock for the bread – it was a big one too, the sort you see sometimes in the museums. All the cooking was done on the range. There was no gas and no lights either except for oil-lamps. Later, Grandma, had a very modern stove in the kitchen; an oil-stove with the oil in big bottles that had to be put in upside down, – just like the modern oil heaters. I don’t remember where we got the oil.
There was a big old copper in the corner. We used to fill this up and light a fire underneath for a bath. We had our baths in a long bath that usually hung on the wall outside. We got our bath on Friday nights. We would heat the copper with wood – no coal. There was a very small hole at the bottom where you poked in the wood and then lit it. The copper was bricked in across the corner of the kitchen. We had our bath in the kitchen and to empty it we just chucked the water out into the back garden. We didn’t use a bucket or bail it out, just tipped it out – at least we did for mine because there would only be a little bit of water. I don’t know about what the grown-ups did because that was all a mystery and we were banished from the kitchen. We all had a bath on Fridays except for Granddad and I don’t think he ever bathed.
And then the washing would be done on the Monday and we would light the copper again. The sheets and things were boiled in the copper and scragged out all hot. I don’t think we used washing powders – it must have been hard soap. It used to have a funny smell; the soap was all a funny yellow when you raked it out from the bottom of the copper afterwards. We used a scrubbing board but don’t remember seeing a dolly-tub used there. There was a stone sink in the corner of the kitchen and the washing was done in that.
I remember there was a crowd who lived next door – a family of boys – the Crowthers.. I think the father worked on the farm as well because the cottages were tied ones.. We used to play over the fields by the pond that we called the “measles pond” – if you played there at certain times of the year you got the measles. But it was a fascinating place because it was dark and the deep water was black. There was an old tree that had fallen across it at one time and we used to play on it as a ship. We used to play in the old barn. We used to go up into the loft. I remember sitting up there most of the day once because all the cows came in and we were all too scared to get down. Owls used to roost there sometimes – they were barn owls.
I remember getting my feet wet after falling into the pond by the “Woolpack” pub. I banged my stockings against the bark of a tree to get them fairly dry. I had croup all night. I was just messing about with the kids – the boys usually. It was January time I think – it was winter any way.
We used to go into nearby Fryerning churchyard and dance. There was a tombstone – somebody called Conybear, I think. If you dance around it seven times at a certain time of the year the grave was supposed to open. It was a bit scary. We were scared to go through the churchyard sometimes.
At School – Wickford
I went to school first when I was five. I went to the infants at Wickford. And I would walk there and back from Castledon Road. Nobody took me or fetched me from school. I don’t think I was there for very long; Nanna Maishman was taken ill and died and I went off to Aunty Gladys’ for a bit. That was near Gubbins Lane, Harold Hill. Aunty Gladys is in Australia now. I stayed with her and that was a “con” because I went to her first and I gather I must have been a bit of a handful; I wouldn’t go to school and there was a big row now I think about it – about who was going to have to look after me and bring me up. My mother was still working at Braintree.
I know that Aunty Gladys brought me back to Wickford supposedly for a visit and to see Grandpa Maishman and I was sent down the garden to play. When I got back, she’d gone and later I discovered-that there had been a family row and she had scuttled off and left me. That was in 1939 before the war broke out. I must have gone back to school for a while. I don’t remember much about the school. I know that after a little while, when the war first broke out, we didn’t go to school at all. And then the evacuee children came to Wickford and because they were at the school we used to have to go to school in someone’s house in Victoria Avenue, Wickford. We had a front room and we went mornings or afternoons. I don’t know how long this went on for; apart from the fact that we used to have gas-masks and things like that. We didn’t do many lessons – just sat in the air raid shelters.
At School – Braintree, Wickford and Nevendon.
Then I went to Braintree. I went there because Grandpa was finding me unmanageable. I went to school but I can’t remember much about school there either because for a whole year every morning I used to go to the clinic to have the brace seen to on my teeth and I missed whole school morning, I did that for a solid year; I always missed maths. That’s why I’m hopeless at maths now, because I never did any – all the basic learning I just didn’t do. I never went to the Senior School at Wickford – the place that is now the Juniors. From Braintree I went back to Wickford when I was ten and I was in the top class of the Juniors.
When I went back to Wickford I was now called Sylvia Mower and I was in the class of a Mrs Mumpford who had been my first teacher in the infants and she would insist on calling me Sylvia Maishman. There was a great mystery at school and they all used to ask me why she called me Maishman when my name was really Mower. I didn’t know myself really so I always said my mother had married again or something like that. There was always a lot of sniggering but I didn’t really understand what it was all about. I was there for a short while and then we moved from Grandpa’s at Castledon Road to Nevendon and I then went to school at the Juniors School in Burnt Mills Road. We lived in The Avenue next to a field. From there I went to Craylands Senior School. I stayed there until I left school all together.
Not sure when all this was first written and things have changed. Oil-fires with paraffin bottles are now not “modern”. All the people mentioned (except Sylvia!) are long dead.
The Infant and Junior schools were at the school in Irvon Hill and Market Road. The Senior school was opposite. All that before Beauchamps School was in existence. The place at Braintree was a hospital (and old peoples’ home) being formerly the workhouse. There are some memories of this place at No 26 (click here)
Lots more that could be added. Some photos and notes on following pages.
This is Elizabeth Maishman née Humber (known as Lily) with her husband Alfred Maishman.
They were Sylvia’s maternal grandparents and also Arthur’s great Aunt and great Uncle.
They are shown in the garden at “Hillside View”, Castledon Road. Wickford. They brought Sylvia up when she was very young. The date of this photo is unknown.
Lily died 11 May 1939 from food poisoning and Sylvia nearly died also – that is another story!
Elizabeth Ann Humber was born at Ratcliff, East London (near Stratford) 13 February 1874.
Aldred Maishman was born at Chapel Street, Hemel Hemstead 23 April 1869.
He died sometime in the 1950s. They were both buried at St Margaret’s church, Downham.
They married on Christmas Day, 1892 at East Ham old church – now a nature reserve next to the A13 road.
Date unknown but must have been shortly before Lily died in May 1939 when Sylvia would have been age 5.
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