These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Mr & Mrs E J Knappett in the mid 1980s as part of the 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.
About Mr and Mrs Knappett
Mr and Mrs Knappett lived at 31 Rosabelle Avenue, Wivenhoe. They got married in 1934 and that is when Mrs Knappett came to live in Wivenhoe.
What Mr & Mrs Knappett told Nick Butler
The bottom of the village was a slum.
I used to live down on the Quay. We had to get out because we were flooded out so many times. I lived there only 4 years and it was empty. The water didn’t go over the wall, it came through a little gate in the wall. I remember the cattle going down there (Blood Alley), and from that day to this I haven’t eaten meat.
Miss Havens was Dr Havens’ daughter.
The photographs of Charles Gooch’s cortege in Belle Vue Road shows the head horseman, Mr Kettle.
When the University first started, I worked there. I really knew the old house.
Sprats used to be loaded on to the Quay, as high as they could. They used to come down from Dutton’s Farm with a pair of horses and a big wagon and pick them up for manure. All the way along the front the fishing boats used to go and their booms used to stick up over the front.
In my young days I used to work for Mr Gladden, the coal merchant. The best coal used to cost 2/5d a cwt and the cheap nuts 1/10d a cwt. The coal used to come by rail. There was Joliffe’s who used to keep his coal under the archway in the High Street. We used to put our coal at the back of the Black Buoy.
Mr Knappett loaned Mr Butler a photograph of two horses and carts. On the left Mr Cladden. Joliffe worked on his own. Heath was also a coal merchant.
There was no unloading of boats at the Quay between the wars, apart from sprats. The sprats were unloaded in between the British Legion Hall and the Rose and Crown. They used to be stacked up high. Mr Hillyard (of the Shipwrights’ Arms) used to be foreman of sprats going into sheds.
I worked for Mr Gladden and then Henry died and then Waites (the father of the electrical engineer) took it over and then WW2 started and I got nabbed. 46 Division. I went to Africa and finished up in Germany.
Unemployment: Everybody who was out of work used to go down on the bridge and talk and be outside the Grosvenor. Up to 300 people. I got a job at Dutton’s immediately after the war. After the war 30 years at the barracks in Colchester.
You could smell the gas from Gas Road. The tide used to put all the retort fires out. The tide used to come right up to the Brewery. It used to go up Anglesea Road. You could row a boat up and down Brook Street.
When there was a wall up and down the middle of Anglesea Road the postman used to come over from Elmstead just to deliver letters to the houses on the far side.
I used to take my oats to be ground at Mortlock’s, massive great stones they had.
Mrs Knappett remembered Mrs (Lady) Hawkins coming down from Ballast Quay in a carriage.
The Pawseys were a lovely family. The Rice family were at The Nook.
Mrs Knappett worked up at the big house, we got it ready for the University to come in. Mr Knappett said when he first came to Wivenhoe he saw sailing barges come up the river, tacking across the river, they were so deep in the water that the river was lapping over the sides.
We got married in 1934 and that is when Mrs Knappett came to live in Wivenhoe. Engines were put in the barges then. If there was no wind some of the barges used to get towed up to Marriage’s Mill. They used to have to be poled up, a couple used to pole a barge. They come up with the tide. No coal was brought in to Wivenhoe from the river, flour and corn taken to the Hythe by sailing barges.
Mr Brooks used to run the Labour Exchange, then it went into Bill Woodward’s house, moved from the right side to the left, he was an old Army man. Mr Brooks. If you upset him you never got a job, he had his favourites.
Mrs Knappett remembered that half the people were on the land and half were on the water. (ie employed either on land or water) Women used to work on the land. I have seen as many as 25 men on a field hoeing. Now it is all done by machinery. Not many shops.
Mr Knappett said her dad worked in Wivenhoe Shipyard all his life. A lot of people who lived in Wivenhoe left. A squad would go up to London. Went to Barrow-in-Furness and came home at weekends. From there (the upstream shipyard) he went to Cook’s after the upstream shipyard closed down. He was a riveter, my two brothers were riveters, my dad used to lie on his back to do some jobs. He went to Brightlingsea. In WW2 he was blown into mud by an explosive dropped by an enemy plane, it was one lone raider, other men were killed.
Mr Knappett recalled 250 German planes came up the river, like a great snake. The fighter used to be on their flanks when they came up.