Sea-Change:  Wivenhoe Remembered  

Social attitudes

Women and men: at home – Freda Annis

You had to wash up and you had to help – top and tail gooseberries, and shell the peas, you got jobs like that to do. You wouldn’t be sitting around with my grandmother! No, we all had our jobs to do. Washing up was the one. One of my aunts she married a Scotsman during the First World War so, of course, she went up to Scotland to live and it was quite a long time before they came home. But afterwards they used to come regularly. And she came home one Christmas, I was married at the time, and we were all there at the Christmas and my uncle said something about ‘Was there any mustard?’ So Granny said, ‘Ida, get in the mustard.’ So she looked, she said, ‘Oh no, I don’t, Mother,’ she said. ‘He’s got two arms and two legs and if he doesn’t know where to find that now, in this house, it’s about time he did.’ She said, ‘You always made us wait on the boys,’ she said, ‘and I hated it,’ she said. ‘They never had to wash up.’ And she said, ‘We always did,’ she said, ‘And I’m not waiting on him!’ And, of course, we laughed so much we didn’t know what to do! Oh, that was so hilarious! But I often thought about that! And I know that was the thing with all the families, the girls did wait on them and they expected it.

Domestic help – Hilda Barrell

My grandparents didn’t have live-in help but we always had someone come and do the washing and the cleaning. Which meant that when I was 17 I wasn’t doing anything. I used to go for walks. And I had a friend in the Post Office, I used to meet her every afternoon and go home with her, meet her every evening at eight o’clock when she finished. But, of course, we didn’t have a lot going on like they’ve got today. There were dances but I had to creep out! It was very strict, but I did go. So when I got in of a night, I used to stand at the bottom of the stairs and listen. If I could hear him snoring I knew I was safe! I spoke to my grandmother about it and she said, ‘I don’t mind what you do, as long as you don’t upset your grandfather.’ And when my auntie married and went to Singapore, when I was 17, I’d never done my hair. She’d always washed it and done it every day even when she was in bed not very well. But it isn’t good to bring children up like that.

House-husbanding in the Eighties – Janita Lefevre

In 1981 I was living in Wivenhoe and had a full-time job as a Humanities teacher. I stayed in this small two-up/two-down terraced house, which is absolutely lovely, with a bit of garden on the side. Originally it was a piece of British Rail land which they rented to me, and I was a vegan so I grew all my vegetables and used to have a scarecrow, and the local village children used to come down from Millfields School to make stories up about the scarecrow because it was a female scarecrow! We brewed beer and we did everything naturally. And I had a daughter, one daughter, in 1981, and my partner then raised her. So for six years he was one of the only two men in Wivenhoe who took the total child-rearing job – and I knew that from the health visitors.

None of us worked – Hilda Barrell

None of us worked. My granddad didn’t believe in it. I wanted to train for a teacher. All my friends were teachers – Etta (Mrs Dan), Mrs Ellis – they were all teachers, and the boys and all, you were all flocked together, and I wanted to be a teacher. She said, ‘You won’t like it. I didn’t.’ And my granddad had an older brother who said, ‘Why don’t you let Hilda go into a shop? My granddaughter’s gone to a shop and she likes it.’ He said, ‘No. I had four daughters and they didn’t go out to work, and she’s not going.’

When I left school I did nothing for a little while. I just stayed with Grandma. It’s a pity but that’s how things were in those days. My granddad was that sort of man. He thought you ought to be able to make a dumpling, and sew a button on a man’s shirt, and you were all right!

Women and men: at work – Ann Quarrie

I came to Colchester because I liked Colchester very much, and also Wivenhoe, and so that’s how I came to Wivenhoe. But in the meantime I’d got a job with Barratts, selling houses, I’d seen them advertise, and the first thing I did when I phoned up was spoke to the Director, ‘Do you have women?’ because every time I’d tried to get a job I was told they didn’t have women – as though we’re some kind of monkey! I suppose it was just before the Eighties. So I then worked for Barratts. They were very hard bosses but they were very fair and very good, and when you did well they were really good to you. And I worked for them for five years.

Accepting gayness – Ken Plummer

I think the reaction of Wivenhoe to gayness has always been very positive since I’ve been here – which is 30 years – and I think that’s just got easier and easier. I’ve ever had one incident in my entire time in Wivenhoe, of being called a ‘queer.’ What goes on behind my back may be another matter. But that’s my experience. So it’s a very easy environment for gay people to live in. That’s contrary to all the books, which say, ‘Escape to the city where you’ll be safe. Don’t stay in a village.’ There’s not a big gay community here as such, but I am saying that quite a number live here, and quite easily.