An interview with Mrs Winifred Ellis

Notes of an interview with Mrs Winifred Ellis made by Nicholas Butler in the mid 1980s

These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Mrs Elllis  in the mid 1980s in research for his book “The Wivenhoe Story”.   These notes have been re-typed by Ann Jones from Nicholas Butler’s original notes and posted here by Frances Belsham.

About Mrs Winifred Ellis

Mrs Ellis lives at Balkerne Rest Home, Balkerne Gate, Colchester.

What Mrs Ellis told Nick Butler

Mrs Ellis produced a list of public houses but insisted that The Bull was opposite the Church, there was no Lion and that the Live and Let Live was on the site of The Ship at Launch.   She also remembered a pub called The Yachtsman’s Return.

The Regatta

Every year Professor Webb came to the regatta to give an exhibition of diving.   The regatta was the highlight of Wivenhoe.   Wivenhoe and Rowhedge joined forces for the regatta, on alternate years it was either at Rowhedge or Wivenhoe.   The race, nearly the last race, was one of those long boats – Oxford and Cambridge.   Wivenhoe and Rowhedge boats used to go down to the start at Brightlingsea.   About a five mile race course.  Flags and bunting everywhere.  I would go down the High Street and meet everybody.   It was lovely.  But now I could go down from my Bungalow to the river without meeting anyone I know.   The Bungalow is at The Cross.   Everybody knew everybody else.   You could walk out your house without locking anything up.

Charles Sainty had a smack up to two years ago – Vigis.


All good teachers at the Girl’s School.   Mrs Wright a very good teacher.   At 12-13 I left the school, then went to the pupil-teacher centre in Colchester – Albert Hall.   We shared it with the Art School.   The Boys went to the Grammar School (after this period) and girls to North Hill.   Mrs Dan and I were together always.   She was a splendid musician.

The Fair

The Annual Fair was on one of the fields.   The regatta ended with the fair.  It was held where Cook’s Yard is now. Not the annual fair.   Men coming back from the yachts which had been to the Med.   Everybody took part in the regatta.   Flower Show held at 10 acres, where the cricket matches were held.

Spion Kop

Spion Kop:   It was just grassland, nobody owned it, nobody knew who owned it.   It was common ground, The Avenue nearly down to the Park Hotel.   Ernest Road, Manor Road, Stanley Road were Spion Kop.   Nobody knew who owned it.   Played football there and up at The Cross.


A K Barlow: I liked him, he was nice and very thoughtful for Wivenhoe.   He painted slogans on the brick wall.   Was slightly eccentric.

J B Hawkins: Was a Briton, a really good nice man, a school manager.   He often used to invite teachers up to his garden for strawberry tea and he was interested in everything.   I admired J B Hawkins.

During WW1 I remember that there was a battalion at the Park, billeted there.  Boats being built in the shipyard. Seargeant and six infantrymen billeted with us on Christmas Eve. We lived at The Falcon.

The Gooches:  A very nice family, his wife was a beautiful woman.   Charles Gooch, the younger was a very nice man.   I don’t think Rice was very popular.   The people who followed him were very nice.

Sinclair Carolin:  Used to come to our house for breakfast every Sunday if he had early Communion. He was an interesting character.   At Easter he would say “The Lord is risen!” then he said next year I shall say something to you and you must say “He is risen indeed!”   We used to play tennis on the Glebe land. He had a huge dog. He sent us a photograph of the dog as a wedding present (because my fiancée disliked the dog and said so in his presence)   Mr Loveless did a lot for Wivenhoe.   He would not let a poor family go without a meal if he could help it.   A Councillor and a Churchman.

Friendly Society: Anyone in Wivenhoe over 16 could join, it was for everybody.  It was very well run, everybody liked it.

Election Days:  Just Liberals and Conservatives.  There was a house in Alma Street, husband a Liberal and wife a Conservative, so blue flags on one floor and yellow on the other.   Vote, vote. Vote for Charlie Schofield.   He got lads to bang tin lids in a gang.  Boys made a racket.

Mrs Richardson:   I didn’t think much of her, she was quite a good teacher.   Harry Bensley had a prison sentence later on, I remember they arrested him outside the Council House, a whole crowd assembled to see it.

Frank Byles was very witty.   “I should go down in the morning and I should say to the mirror – ‘What you gonna have, Frank?’” (If he ran a public house)

Ships and Shipyards

1914 absolutely turned Wivenhoe upside down, before that there were 10 ships this way and 2 that way on the river (fore and aft to the river)   Lady Blanche and Rannoch moored at the ferry.   Two moored lower down, the Rosabelle and the Venetis.   Those yachts were all run by men with money.  They didn’t have that money after the war.   Very soon after the shipyard went bust.  They worked hard when shipyard was running there was nothing like a canteen.   When the bell went the High Street looked like a black crowd with men hurrying home for their dinners.

The shipyard had one of the best dry docks.   At high tide they could launch ships.   There was another ship the Varuna moored at Brightlingsea because Wivenhoe was not wide enough for it.   It came to a tragic end, it was wrecked off the coast of Africa.

Husks:  Had big shed and a house, they built small boats there.

Miss Havens and her father Dr Havens lived where Bartons Store was later.   She would go into Church with a hoop and bowl it round.

‘Circumference’ Goodwin: So called because he was the school attendance officer and he went round and he was round.


This page was added on 31/10/2016.

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