Barking and District Historical Society

Go to content

Main menu:

Tom White Interviews 2


The Tom White Interviews
Tom White

Our intrepid roving reporter Tom White has been out and about again interviewing local people for your newsletter. He has very kindly sent in seven reports.

Bill Law
Our member Bill Law, who was born in Perth Road, Barking in 1901, has recently celebrated his 90th birthday. His father was a boiler man on a trawler which plied between Great Yarmouth and Barking. After a time he gave up the sea and got a job as a boiler man at Beckton gas works. Bill’s parents, William Samuel Law (1889-1961) and Lydia Emma Linder (1899-1964) met in Back Lane, Barking by the River Roding. At the time of their marriage on 20th December 1919 he was described as a compositor living at 174 Perth Road, while she lived at 158 Perth Road. They ended up living in Devon Road. When Bill, their third son, was born they moved to a new house in Sisley Road which they shared with another family. The other people moved out after a couple of weeks and Bill’s dad went to the Council and the Law family then moved to Lambourne Road, where Bill has lived ever since.

The area around Lambourne Road was then just a field: and a brook ran by St. Patrick’s church and down to the Ripple Road between the do-it-yourself store and the cleaners. The brook went round to Mays brook making it an island, which gave Upney its Saxon name. Bill remembers falling in the brook as a child and getting covered in duckweed. As punishment his mother said he would not be allowed on the Sunday school outing, but eventually she relented. Bill remembers going to a fair between Ripple School and the Harrow pub in the twenties.

Bill went to Ripple Road School when he was four, but was not accepted until he was five. His teacher was Miss Pink and he later went to Eastbury Secondary School where his teacher was Miss Barns. One of the teachers lived in Grays and got a boy to carry a bag for him to the station for 3d. Aged 13, in 1935, Bill’s teacher wanted to enter him for an exam, but his father did not want Bill to sit this as he had a job to go to at fourteen. Bill passed, but his father thought having a job was more important than staying on at school, so he went in the print trade in London as a reading boy and worked 56 hours a week.

Ripple Road School 1931

In 1941 Bill got the call up to an R.A.F station near Oxford and soon went to Egypt. He went by boat via the Cape of Good Hope. He stayed in South Africa and went into the Red Sea and up the coast to the Suez Canal. Bill’s job was to look after the guns because he was good with his fingers. Bill does not really remember food rationing, but he recalls horse meat being sold in the Broadway market. Bill’s parents are buried in Rippleside Cemetery.

Bill was forced to retire when he was 67. He did not wish to leave, but does not miss work now as he has many interests. Bill was confirmed in Egypt and did at one time consider going into the church. He likes to lead the midweek services at St. Patrick’s but would not like to be a vicar. Bill never married as he feels he is too selfish and a wife might stop him from going to see his beloved West Ham United play football. One of Bill’s hobbies is going to the theatre; seeing the opera at Sadlers Wells: a pantomime at Christmas and music hall shows.
What does Bill make of life now? He thinks how hard it was for his mother’s generation and that we have it made now.

Bill Law (left) going to Saddlers Wells with a friend

Fred and Vera Mansfield
Fred was born in Barking in 1933 and baptised at St. Margaret’s Church. His parents were Henry James George Mansfield and Lucy Florence Mansfield of Perth Road. By coincidence Bill Law’s parents, who also lived in Perth Road and Fred’s parents lay resting near together in Rippleside Cemetery. Fred came from a large family of ten and was evacuated to Warminster in the war. One week Fred was taught in the morning and the following week in the afternoon. His mother kept chickens in the war and made her own brawn. He left school and started work at Manor Joinery Works before going to Beckton Gas Works where he qualified as a pipe fitter and plumber.

Vera was born in Plaistow in 1936. Her parents came from Stepney, near to the scene of the siege of Sidney Street. Vera was an only child. She was evacuated to St. Albans with her mother for a little time. She went to school there but when she came back to London she left school and went on to Pitmans College and secured a job as a filing clerk with the Electricity board.

Fred and Vera went on a blind date at Easter to Hampton Court with Fred’s brother and another friend. They also enjoyed ballroom dancing and went on long walks. They married in June 1959 and have two children.

Tom asked Fred and Vera if it was better living now or in the past. Both replied now as we have central heating and no ice on the bathroom flannel. Fred added that he would like to go back to work for a rest – but that’s another story!

Edd Westcott
Edward Westcott was born at 17 Madras Road, Ilford in 1921. When he was young food was difficult to come by for him and his family and it was certainly not the “good old days” After a lot of jobs Edd got a job as an HGV driver, driving a steam lorry at 25mph maximum. Later he went into tanker driving. Edd worked a 76 hour week for the wage of £1-2s-6d [£1.12p] and 5 shillings [25p] for stopovers, that was meals and lodgings. This was a decent wage in those days.

During the war Edd was in the R.A.F as ground staff, and got promotion and was sent to Egypt, Cairo, Alexandria, Tabruk, and then on to Greece. He certainly saw a bit of the world.

Edd met his wife, Doris Poulter, at the Ex Serviceman’s Club by the Westbury at Ripple Road, Barking. They visited Hainault Forest and Wanstead Flats during 1940 wartime. They married in May 1946 and lived at Sebastian Court before moving to the Eastbury estate in 1971. They spent most of their holidays in Great Yarmouth, Hemsby and Cornwall. Edd’s wife sadly died on 29th February 2008 and is much missed. Life for Edd is very good with his daughter and son-in-law and his dog.

Phyllis Hutton née Stevens
Phyllis was born at 103 Hunters Square, Dagenham on 27th January 1933. Her father came from the Isle of Wight. She was one of 7 children, having three brothers and three sisters. She remembers being evacuated to Wells in Somerset with her gas mask and a bag of food but did not like it there so came back home. Phyllis attended Park Senior School. After a while the family moved to Reed Road where her father made a garden that many people came to see. She remembers that there was not much bombing in Dagenham but recalls being hungry. Her first job was making hats for Jacqmar. Phyllis also worked for the food shop Wallis in Ripple Road; Plessey’s, where she made televisions and had a very good job with Dunhill’s.

Phyllis met her future husband at a cinema where they both worked. She was an usherette. Her parents did not like him at all. They got married in 1953 and were together for 27 years before he walked out on her for an older woman. Phyllis was left with the children; 2 boys and three girls. She also has many grandchildren. Most live nearby.
Phyllis went with a friend to a singles club and met a man which turned out to be the best thing to happen to her. She has been attending St. Patrick’s Church for 12 years.

Doreen Cooper
Doreen was born in Leyton in 1932 and was evacuated to Durham during the war. This was very different to what she had been used to and the family moved back to Stepney after the war. Doreen had a variety of office and shop jobs and also worked as a barmaid. She met her husband at a dance at The Royal Forest Hotel, Chingford. They both often went dancing at the Tottenham Royal, but did most of their courting in the back row of the cinema. Doreen remembers war time rationing and had corn beef and mash, and pie and mash in the services café. They had holidays at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. She sadly lost her husband in 1988. Doreen is happy and has a good life.

Tom Baker
Tom was born in Stratford, London E15 in 1930. He was evacuated to a manor house in Sherringham, Norfolk where he was a kennel boy. Tom says “One September morning in 1939 my sister and I were waiting, just what we were waiting for we did not know. All we knew was that war had broken out and we were to be evacuees. My sister was only six years old and I was nine years old. We were waiting at Dagenham Dock with a large group of children and were to be taken to a place of safety, safer than the London area. My sister and I had on our backs a type of rucksack that our mother had made for us. These contained our clothes, also slung over our shoulders were our gas masks in a square cardboard box on a piece of string. We were told to get ready to move off. As we did something fell at my feet. Looking down I couldn’t quite comprehend what it was. Suddenly I recognised it was my gas mask and someone yelling out ‘someone’s dropped their gas mask’. It had dropped out of the bottom of the cardboard box. This small confusion was a taste of what was going to happen to us. We regarded it as a great adventure. It transpired that we were going on board a boat. The boat was either Royal Daffodil or Royal Sovereign. These were paddle steamers which were large pleasure boats. They went from Tower Pier to Southend-on-Sea or Margate. The thing that stuck in my mind as a young boy was the large paddles on each side of the boat as they churned up the water. The boat trip was uneventful.

Sometime in the afternoon we disembarked at Great Yarmouth. We were taken to a nearby school and went into a large hall. Here we were fed and watered. When we had finished this we were brought into another large room. On the floor in neat rows were straw filled paillasses and blankets for our beds for the night. The next day we were taken by bus to Upper Sherringham in Norfolk! My sister Phyllis and I were separated. She was billeted with the lady that owned the sweet shop (how lucky was that!). I was billeted at Sherringham Hall. The night was spent in an upstairs room which I shared with four other boys. I think it was the next day that I went into the village and was told my sister Phyllis had been kicking up a terrible fuss and she was sobbing and not eating and saying she wanted her Tommy. So it was decided that a place was to be found where we could be together. Mr. & Mrs. Warren came to our rescue. They were a couple who lived in Hall Cottage. It was part of Sherringham Hall above the stables. For us it was idyllic. We were in paradise.

Not long after, the Cox boys blotted their copy book. They managed to move a very large garden roller that had been left unattended on a slight rise. The Cox boys managed to move it to a steeper slope and gave it a push down the hill. One of the boys had foolishly decided to ride on the handle. Luckily he soon got thrown off as the roller soon bounced its way through the fence of a small chicken farm. The squire was sent for and the boys were split up and sent to separate billets. However in a very short time they were sent packing and returned to London.

We went to school one week in the morning and the following week in the afternoon. The village children attended in the afternoon one week and the following week in the morning. We did learn so many country things. We were told to make sure that one trough was filled with water and the other filled with food. We fed the pigs on swill that was a kind of oatmeal mixed with water. We also collected acorns and crab apples. The best job of all was to occasionally to clean the pigsty. This was a bit of a smelly job, but we really loved it as it made us feel that we really were country children. There was no bathroom, but there was a hip bath. The very first time I was put into it the hot water made me relax the muscles of the bladder, but the jet wasn’t very high anyway. I was told that I was a very naughty boy. I have no other memories of the cottage although I do remember my mum and dad came to visit us. Mr. Houghton the farmer drove us to Cromer in his car and then drove them back. It was only a short visit, probably to satisfy themselves that we were all right. My memories of the village and its good people are that Mrs. Warren’s maiden name was Pegg. Her mother lived on the corner with Mr. Billy Pegg. Their son worked on one of the farms where they kept a large bull which had a large ring through its nose. If it had ever got out and run riot it would have done as much damage as the Germans could have done. There was an inlet pipe that the villagers got their water from. I assume it was drinkable. On leaving the village there was an old house that had a cobbled stone wall around it. One day I decided to see what was behind the wall and found an enclosed orchard. It was late autumn and there was not much fruit except for one tree with the most wonderful looking apple. It was like the Greek legend. I picked it and ate it and yes it was like ambrosia. It occurs to me now this was someone’s prize possession. One day a boy called Francis and I intended to walk across the Golf Links to the top of the cliffs. Seeing a golf ball I picked it up. This really caused a commotion as two men in the distance started jumping up and down and shouting at us. We ran and I never did get to the cliffs.

When spring time came it brought forth wonderful primroses. I also saw a ploughman at his work with his horse drawn plough. It was a wonderful sight to see such craftsmanship. Another memory was seeing mistletoe growing on the oak trees. All of this I would not have seen if I had not been an evacuee. That Christmas we received a Christmas present in the Sunday school. Phyllis my sister got a red silk rose. I wonder what children would think of it now. In early 1940 an army camp was set up. By July or August Phyllis and I were re-evacuated as we were too near the army camp. But that is another story”.

Tom went back to London in 1942. His first job was in a gentleman’s outfitters. In 1950 he applied to work as an overseas telegraph operator. His experience as a telegraph operator during his National Service helped him to get this job. This work took Tom all over London and the Home Counties. Tom lived with his mother in Chadwell Heath. He married in 1962 and got a place of his own in 1964. He moved to Barking in 1967 when the children were born. Tom spends a lot of time at the allotment. He also enjoys reading and has a dog. Tom does not believe in God. He believes life is better now, but not happier.

Back to content | Back to main menu