Jack was born at Chalky Lane in 1909 to Fred and Matilda Green. Both his mother and father were born in the village, his father at the old cottages that used to be to the left of the chapel.
Jack started school at 5 but “didn’t do any good at all”. He would much rather have been out with the men working. At age 6 or 7 he would go with his father to Chiswick Hall on a Saturday and be there all day. At harvest time the boys would ask to lead the horses from the fields. There would be just two men in the field throwing the ‘stooks’ of corn up onto the carts. Jack wasn’t keen on threshing though. They would pull the large threshing machine right in between the double doors of the large barn and he would get the job of taking the chaff away. He said the dust was terrible. Jack’s father, Fred, was a stockman for Squire Wilks. After working on various farms Fred became a roadman trimming out the banks and ditches all the way from Chrishall Grange over to the Elmdon boundary and down to Builden End. All the grass cutting was done with a scythe.
After harvest Jack would get a new suit ready to go back to school. This would be made from needlecord with trousers that buttoned under the knee. All the children would wear boots rather than shoes and the boots came from Saffron Walden or Jacksons of Fowlmere. The clothes were bought ready made from Walden or from Jacksons who stocked everything. They visited the village and took orders once a fortnight.
There were 65 children at the school when Jack was there. There were one or two teachers in each class and there was the “big room” where the head teacher taught.
If the children were naughty they would be asked to write 50 lines. They knew what the lines would be so when the teacher wasn’t looking they would write a few lines and hide them in their bags so they were ready for use! They had to make sure they didn’t work too quickly when they did get lines however as the teacher would know!
Jack left school at 13 and was the last one to leave age this age as the leaving age then went to up 14. (See a piece here from the National Archives about school one hundred years ago.)
There was no mains water at the house. The family had a copper in the shed (a very large metal bowl) to do the washing and water would be fetched from the pump in Chalky Lane. Jack remembers a big pond which went through a filter bed to the pump where the water came from for drinking as well as washing. He also remembers a well near the church where there was always water available.
At Chiswick Hall they pumped the water they needed from the moat.
Back to clothes again, there was ‘Sunday best’ of course with knickerbockers and boots. When Jack was very small his mother would make him knickerbockers out of the leg bottoms of his dad’s trousers.
Jack said his mother and father would go into Saffron Walden once a year and sometimes the children would go with them. But they were very well provided for in the village with a baker and butcher. Jacksons came and they were butchers, bakers and grocers. There was also a baker at Heydon and one at Chishill. And they all made a living.
Church and Chapel
Jack was brought up to go to church and they would go to all the services on a Sunday. However when he grew up he decided he was going to go to chapel instead. He said this was a little tricky as he was working for the vicar at the time!
When he first left school Jack worked for Lord Braybrooke at his house in Heydon next to the church. Lord Braybrooke would come for the shooting season and would stay for around three months. However every Saturday Jack remembers a four wheeled carriage would come from Audley End to take supplies from the garden back to the main house. Since they also have a large garden at Audley End he wasn’t really sure why they needed extra! And sometimes Jack would cycle from Heydon to Audley End. He hated working in the garden but felt he missed several of the engineering type jobs he would really have liked because of his lack of schooling.
From the age of 15 to around 22 he worked for the vicar – presumably gardening again, he doesn’t say. This would have been the Rev. Hort.
Work was 6am to 6pm six days a week. When he was about 8 or 9 years old Jack remembers the pay being 15 or 16 shillings a week (see here for a quick guide to ‘old money‘!) Then it crept up to £1 a week. From this you had 9 pence deducted for the insurance stamp. However there was always plenty of work around. Squire Wilks would have ten or eleven men working at Chiswick Hall at this time. (Not quite as old as this but you can see our lovely Chiswick hall farm records here).
Jack doesn’t remember them ever going away for a holiday but he remembers Arthur Crocker and the charabanc which was the first public transport in the village. He remembers going to the ‘Wembley Exhibition’ while he was still at school so that was probably the British Empire Expedition of 1924.
The Archive in the Pavillion has a CD recording of the interview that Jack Green gave to Essex Record Office so do come and request to have a listen over a cup of tea one afternoon. And if you have any memories of working life in the village or the outing to the Wembley Exhibition let us know by getting in touch or in the comments below.