An Interview with Mr and Mrs Robert Skilton and Miss Dorothy Skilton

Notes of an interview with Mr and Mrs Robert Skilton and Miss Dorothy Skilton made by Nicholas Butler in the mid 1980s

These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Mr & Mrs Robert Skilton of 102 The Avenue, Wivenhoe and Miss Dorothy Skilton of 31 The Avenue, Wivenhoe 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 Nicholas Butler’s original notes and posted here by Frances Belsham

In this interview which lasted from 2.30pm to about 5.30pm Mrs Skilton (Annie) did most of the talking and reminiscing.

What the Skilton’s told Nick Butler.

Mrs Skilton recalled that her father used to work for the Gooch family.

Dick Ham was down at Hamilton Road (that was where his auction rooms were).

Tony Revell’s father lives just this side of Toad Hall.  This must be John (jack) Revell of 17 Colchester Road.

Cox & King, down by Cook’s,    Mrs Caltham (?) had a little shop at the end of The Folly, she sold sweets and cigarettes.

Next to the Cox & Kings was Mr Goodwin, the undertaker.   Mrs Skilton’s father used to make all the coffins for 6d an hour (in about 1926).   Gas Road.   Mr Goodwin used to live in Clifton Terrace, he committed suicide.

Mrs Skilton worked for Lewis Worsp, and started peeling shrimps.   Mr Worsp left word at the Girls School that he wanted workers.   Started in about 1932 aged 14.  Got 8d a gallon.  Used to do 8 gallons a day.   Then canning them and also putting them into jars.   Mr Worsp sold them wholesale.   Buttered shrimps used to go to the George Hotel on the 5pm train.   Sprats were done in a special way and they used to go to the hotels.   They did chickens as well which were canned (they had to go into a retort to be sealed).   I used to do 13,000 (or perhaps 30,000?) sardines a day.

When the war broke out we had to give up because we couldn’t get the olive oil for the fish but we did chickens, then changed to frozen food.

When this started it was at Guy Harding’s building.   Moved to Wilkins, Mr Worsp employed about 30 people. Some of them were from Edgar, the firm at the Hythe.   

There was a clothing factory opposite Margery Dean’s antique shop, about 25 people employed there (on the left hand corner of Alma Street as you stand with your back to Dean’s Antiques and look south).   Turner’s of Colchester owned it.   There was that (two forms of employment) and, for women, domestic service and that’s all there was for women.

Pollock Anderson were in the White City.   There were big sacks of malt, greasy stuff, which smelled terrible.   The big boats used to come up to Station Quay.   If you were poor, they would give you sprats.   The railway came straight down to the Quay.  Sprats went to Edgar at The Hythe.   The sprats were tipped out of the fishing boats in baskets into the railway trucks.   We used to call it the Railway Quay.   Men could earn money by tipping out the sprats from the big boats (piecework).   Sprats could be bought.   One man used to walk from Colchester with a bucket for this very purpose.   We used to say “We’ll go down to Benny Barr’s” next to the White City.   They used to play quoits at the Station Hotel.   Mr Sparling, Mr Gould, Mr Wisbee (?) and others used to play on Benny Barr’s, next to the White City.   No quoits since the war.  Oldish men doing it. Eric Sparling could tell you about quoits (1 Rectory Road)

The Plastics factory used to be a cinema.

There was to have been a shop where the cottage is, next to Dr Palmer’s.   They started to build it, but it was taken down.   Evidently, the plans had not been passed.   Instead, the owner of the plot built himself a bungalow.

Miss Skilton suggested Philip Road was named after Philip Sainty.

Two repair shops used to repair bikes.   Mr Bones next to The Delicatessen.   Where the bookshop is, they used to do repairs and sell bits of bikes.

Got the dole in Alma Street, on the same side as Holy Joe’s.   Then it changed sides.   Queues stretched down to the Black Buoy.   Farmworkers would be in the queue, also the ex-members of Cox & King and the shipyard.   Girls too, would be on the dole.

Cox and King were not boatbuilders but something in the engineering line.

Mrs K G Everitt Meadowcroft Rectory Hill

Miss M L Harvey The Orchard Rectory Hill

Last’s bakers was a wonderful bakery, the best we’ve had.

Wilfred and Martin Burrell had a wood yard next to The Ropery.   It didn’t go back as far as Ernest Road.   Back of Mrs Lott’s was the shipyard.   There were big cranes and a sawmill.   A fire bankrupted them, but they were in a bad way before that.   “A fire up at Burrell’s”.   “It came just at the right time”.

Chapel in the Colchester Road.  There was a shoe shop in West Street.   In the fork between the Colchester and Elmstead Roads, a children’s chapel for Methodists.   We had chapel there in the morning then two visits to the Methodist Chapel.   We sang Salvation Army type hymns at the chapel.

Horace and James Moore.   Where the butcher’s is now, a wine shop.

Suley-Square in the kitchen place in Station Road.

Surgery of Dr Squire was where the health place is, but later a surgery in West Street.

Dr Kevern – used to call me Fat Annie because I was so thin.   He wore a homburg hat, glasses and had rosy cheeks, drove a Lagonda and was always smiling.   We were all down on the Quay to see him off.   Put on the boat at Wivenhoe.   He always used to be out.   If anyone went for him he’d be up there in a minute.   Dr Kevern lived in Gothic House.   A large crowd saw the yacht off.

Bales of straw were provided for people to sit on to see the regatta.   Mr Turner used to spend a lot of money on regattas.   Straw was provided from a Gooch farm.

Albert Turner was the uncle of John and Fred Turner.   They too, served aboard the Britannia.   Several of the crew were from Rowhedge.

Seamen used to come off the Rosabelle with their kitbags.

Mrs Sebbing used to go and do Bayard Brown’s feet.   Used to live at The Smugglers.   She cut his toenails and gave him a bath.   Had no end of money off him, her two daughters were well dressed.   A Mr Mason used to go down and see if he could get money (off Bayard Brown)   Sometimes yes and sometimes no.   Bayard Brown would throw sovereigns to people.

John Canham, builder; his old workshop was on the corner of Harvey Road.   As a boy he worked on Bayard Brown’s yacht doing carpentry.   He was working for somebody and there was an adult in charge of him, he noticed something on the deck.   Told don’t touch it…left it there several days.   The adult screwed the sovereign to the deck (drilled a hole in it)   Bayard Brown said “What’s that sovereign doing there?  Oh it’s yours.  BB tried to pick it up, but it was screwed to the deck.   A lot of people got plenty out of him.   Steam was always up on the yacht.

We called the wall Brightlingsea Wall, the upstream wall was called Colchester Wall.

Elmstead Road was known as Granny’s Lane because old ladies lived there.

A hot bit of smuggling.

Slaughter Place in Blood Alley.   Mr Ribbons had that.   Saturday afternoon was the time for slaughtering.   There was always a wedding on.

About 3 or 4 at a time.   Mr Ribbons shop was where Terry Endean’s shop is.   Mr Ribbons used to take carcasses on his back through the churchyard.   He was a large man in his white coat.   He had a lorry with live bullocks in it, he backed it on to the path, and let the board down.

Pollick’s bungalow: When it caught fire the firemen hosed down the crowds who came to watch.

Miss Skilton recalled it was the eighth wonder of the world when we got a fire engine.

The Turner family was involved with the fire team, Archie, Bobby and John used to come out of that house (which is now The Nottage) with their helmets on.   They stood on the machine which went roaring off.

Nelson Garrard ?? down Station Road, six doors down from the Health Shop. About 80

Home Guard.   Michael Heard’s former home was empty and it was commandeered.   They had drill sessions at the Loveless pits.   There was a shooting range there.   Mr Skilton was a member, Mr Gooch and Mr Loveless were the leading lights.   Claude Watcham had a spider’s web in the barrel off his gun (? A C Watcham 12 Parkwood Avenue??)

Freddie Parker lived practically opposite the William Loveless Hall, third one down from the library

Holy Joe, told me to go to Hell.   He married a schoolteacher, had one or two children.  He used to visit the factory on the corner of Quay Street and West Street.   Robert Skilton had an electrical place there and employed about 30 people.   War work.  They made electrical goods.   Me and Mr W ran it, we were both apprenticed together at Crompton’s.

Half-way through the war we started this up and packed it in in 1971.


This page was added on 08/11/2016.

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