These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Dr William Dean and Dorothy De Muth in the mid-1980s as part of his research for his book The Story of Wivenhoe.
These notes have been re-typed by Ann Jones from Nick Butler’s original notes.
An interview with Dr William DEAN and Mrs Dorothy De Muth
Came to live in Wivenhoe in February, or the beginning of March 1935, (in a house called Little Wick, in the High Street).
When I first came here we had two servants brought with us from Shropshire. There wasn’t room for them in the house in Little Wick so we rented a cottage in Blood Alley for 3/6d a week. Man and a woman. A respectable cottage.
Dr Skinner bought Little Wick from the WUDC after the Council had finished with it. Dustcart parked in the forecourt previously. It was built in about 1720. It was then a surgery. There used to be 2 different practices here. Dr Radcliffe succeeded Kevern. I took over from Dr Skinner who was here for 8 years.
Funny old tradition, which may be apocryphal. He was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea. Storm held up the proceedings at Brightlingsea for 3 days. When they did venture out the undertaker scattered the ashes to windward so that they all blew back over the boat. (Note: This is contradicted by E C S)
Unemployment and great poverty among ordinary humble people. Before the National Health Service we used to have a doctor’s club where all poor people paid-in so much a week. There were Lloyd George’s contributions, but they only covered men. Women and children paid something to the doctor’s club.
In the calf-bound book I was shown it said that Dr Edward Skinner resigned from the practice in Wivenhoe on Lady Day 1935. Also that Dr Edward Squire resigned from the practice on Lady Day 1928. The book starts in 1855. First entry Lady Day Quarter 1855.
The doctor’s club: 7d per woman per week, 4d per child. But a lot of people couldn’t keep up the money. If they were unable to pay, the parish would, under a parish order, pay the bill. That went on until 1948.
During the war the doctors were called up. I was not called up and looked after 1,000 men at Wivenhoe Park. It changed all the time. I injected them for TB and tetanus in case of wounds. Made sure they were vaccinated. Had to have a medical examination to make sure they were fit for service. They were mainly reservists who came for courses. Very largely technical people to do with transport, looking after lorries. I don’t think there were first line people there.
There was a tank regiment there at some time because tanks used to come down into Wivenhoe itelf. But I don’t remember tanks in Wivenhoe Park. Workshops that could service lorries. Tents and Nissan huts. Troops there most of the time. Not during the last year or two.
We had a steel cage, an Anderson shelter, in the basement of Little Wick.
We succeeded Alan Gosney at the Rectory in about 1948. The Rectory had been sold shortly after the 1914-18 War to a retired General who made a number of alterations, including the hall, the place where the parish met, much smaller. He also installed central heating. Then the Church bought it back again. It had the biggest hall in Essex. Such halls were the forerunners of the village hall. We think it was built (the rectory) in 1835 plus or minus a year or two. The Colchester and District Map of 1772-3 shows the rectory a quarter of a mile down the road. I’ve been there to try and find it but can’t find a trace of it among the piggeries. We used the hall for gatherings. Apart from our own parties, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society had a cast party there, and their marriage receptions, including the present rector’s, also the rheumatic-arthritis research people. A hundred people can be accommodated.
Commonwealth Party: Very idealistic, very socialistic. It wasn’t Labour because it didn’t quite approve of the Trade Union side of Labour. Founded by Sir Richard Acland.
Margery Dean Antiques started shortly after the end of WW2. In those days furniture, new furniture, was rationed by dockets. Tremendous shortage. She wanted to show you could get pleasant furniture at a price comparable to new. Started her business with small ads in the New Statesman and Nation. Built up a substantial business. Started in the old St John’s Ambulance Hall. 19th century and late 18th century Oak. Bought these various buildings in Alma Street. Invited to exhibit at Grosvenor House.
The valuable properties at the foot of the village were occupied by slum types. Joy Donnelly’s house at The Folley. Respectable people wouldn’t go in it. A number of houses in Alma Street were suspect. She bought the biggest of her buildings in Alma Street from a gypsy woman for £300. Joy probably bought Rose Lane for less than £1,000.
It bloody well wasn’t in those days. (Expensive) It was a slum.
Gooch married his second wife abroad.
Wivenhoe Wafflers raised money for a district nurse. To get her a car rather than a bicycle. William was involved in making the animals, ie the skins, for the show.