Working Lives

Cowslips, primroses and bundles of roses (1925-2010)

Location: Mile Cross

Dorothy tells of growing up in the countryside, working in service and living in Mile Cross.

I was born in Wramplingham, just outside of Norwich, on the Barford Road. My father was a farm worker all his life, he did milking and all the rest of it, hedge trimming all sorts of things.

I only went to Wramplingham school for a year, because my father changed his job and went to the farm up in the next village, Carleton Forehoe. I had three brothers and that’s where we all grew up. I was the eldest and they didn’t like that, but they’re all gone now.

Cowslips, walks around the meadow and Christmas parties

I have lovely memories of growing up in the countryside. Rushing through the meadows, cowslips all over the place, primroses too. They used to be lovely and the reeds growing taller than I was.

I used to love going out on Sundays with Mother. We used to go for a walk around the Meadow as we called it. We’d go out one way down through the meadows, along the bottom, all alongside the river and up through the other meadows round through the back way. That used to be lovely on Sundays.

Wintertime was when that weren’t so good we never used to like it so much. We were shut in. We had a big garden and Dad used to grow everything he could think of.

There were plenty of children around. Not as many as there was at Barnham Broom, I still keep in touch with one of the Barnham Broom ones.

We used to have Christmas parties. Someone from Chamberlin’s of Norwich used to bring parcels, I suppose that was a group in the village that organised it. He used to come out dressed as Father Christmas and hand presents out to the youngsters. He would call out the names and you went up on stage in the village hall at Barnham Broom….which is still there I see the last time I went that way. The old village hall in the wood.

I get teary when I go back up there, I can’t help it. Every time I see R turn the car wheel to go that way I think, ‘Oh no don’t go down there no more’. But he still goes. I don’t know why he like to go, I suppose he think I like it. But that’s an outing anyhow, so I don’t mind too much.

I was fourteen in the April and left school in July, in the harvest, and I went straight to work. Lady Ransome from Hethersett Old Hall came round to the school one day and somebody told her that there was a girl who would work in the kitchens. She used to go and get her own maids from wherever she felt like it. Father say, ‘Don’t forget to curtsey’. I didn’t know nothing about curtseying then. But she was a lovely old lady, I really did like her.

Funnily enough I never heard any of the other girls at the Hall say so. Neither the cook, housemaids, parlour maids, even the lady’s maid never used to say. I never heard one of them say it. ‘Do yew, do yew?’ – when I would say ‘Oh, I do like her’.

They called me a ‘between maid’. So when cook wanted me, the housemaid wanted me, the parlour maid wanted me, whoever shouted for me I had to go to, whether I was finished with my jobs or not. I would then have to go back and finish my jobs if I had the chance.

I used to listen for her coming in the morning through the passage to the kitchen to give the cook the orders. I’d hear her dress – she used to have a black, sort of sateen dress, skirts trailed on the floor. She’d come through and everybody’d bolt out of her way

One morning I got under the table ‘cos I was scrubbing the floor. After blackleading the steel bar on the stove we did the floor. That was a great old table and I couldn’t move it so I had to scrub underneath it every morning of the week. Proper old scrubber I was!

One day though I pulled myself back and I didn’t hear her coming. She just come to the door and pushed it open. I pushed myself back to get up and I said, ‘I’m sorry Madam, I didn’t know you were on the way.’ ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry’ she said, ‘Carry on.’ She really was so nice to me.

I don’t know if people were scared of her. They never used to talk, you know, they would sort of be afraid to talk in front of her. I don’t know how they managed, I’m sure I don’t, ‘cos they used to make me angry. She was a kind old lady and I’d always been used to kindness. I’d never been used to people who didn’t talk, you know. She really was my friend as well as a boss.

Once a month we used to go down to her little study and sign the book for our money. I used to have a pound note once a month and I had to sign my name on a paper, and she’d put the book away in a drawer and get someone else’s out.

Lady Ransome wouldn’t keep teenagers, when she had to pay insurance for them. You didn’t have to pay insurance for anyone until they were 16. So by the time I was 16, I’d left, I think, in the middle of March before my birthday in April. I did miss being there. It was a nice place and I like going that way so that I can go past it.

Leaving Hethersett Hall and going into service on Aylsham Road

After leaving the Hall I worked, in service for a family and their daughter, on Aylsham Road. Their daughter was ill. I’d have to take her out as well as look after the house. I don’t what the name of her condition was, I never bothered about that. We didn’t know about all these fancy names the medical people give them these days.

I did all the cleaning and that as she weren’t well enough to do it. I had to do all the cooking and everything. At that age an’ all I didn’t know nothing much about cooking.

Her husband, he was a nice fellow, I liked him and got on alright with him. He was a Baptist minister, his church was on Aylsham Road next to the school. They had their own house and I lived with the family, had my own bedroom and what not.

They were nice people, the visitors and all the relations were nice people. They had a visiting clergyman come from somewhere up in Yorkshire. Every year he used to come, sometimes twice a year. I called my first son after him, and that’s why my first son was named Bryan, spelt with a ‘y’ not an ‘i’.

On the bottom of Aylsham Road, where Aylsham and Drayton road join there was a horse trough. It was a big concrete trough of water where the horses used to go and drink from.

Moving on from Aylsham Road

The next place I went to was in Earlham Road, right opposite the cemetery gates, the end house in the row. He was one of the officials at the Norwich Union. I didn’t like her, she was very kind and all the rest of it but she was bossy. I left that job when I got married. They did come to the wedding, just to the church and home again, they didn’t come to the house.

I wanted to call my daughter after that lady, but that didn’t go down very well, no that didn’t suit my in-laws. So rather than kick up a row I just changed it and had to call her after the old woman instead.

I didn’t go back to work until after the children had all started school. I did a newspaper round and what not, all sorts of things. I looked after all the villages round about with the newspaper deliveries. I looked after Mulbarton, where I lived, Bracon Ash, East Carleton, Swardeston and Swainsthorpe. I could do it when I wanted to do it. I could go off once the children had gone off to school and I knew they were alright. If anything happened and they were ill or anything like that I’d just chuck the job and wouldn’t go. They’d have to get a man, someone else to do it.

I met my husband on an outing to the seaside, his mother had organised the trip and I sat next to him on the bus and that was how it happened. A couple of years later we got married. Mother was ill, so I couldn’t get married in the village, so I had to have it at Bracon Ash instead. And of course that pleased her ladyship, she was ‘lady of the manor then. Doing everything she wanted, having everything her way. Her husband was a baker, he used to make iced cakes and all sorts of things. She said, ‘Well’, she said, ‘He will make your wedding cake for you.’ I say, ‘I don’t care if I don’t have one. I’m not all that stuck on wedding cake anyhow.’

My husband was a rose grower at Allen’s roses in Bracon Ash. He used to bring bundles of roses home at night to cut the buds off. He’d bring the head tops and put them in the dish ‘til they’d start to fall to pieces and I’d have to throw them out. Didn’t like to have to throw them out.

Travels abroad to see family

I have been to Canada and Australia. My daughter lives in Australia, and I stayed there for a month or more, that is lovely. I had half a dozen trips out there. Canada is the same, it was a different area, Saskatchewan, it was lovely the cornfields and all the rest of it. My cousin lives out there, and I still write to all of them.

Living on Mile Cross

I didn’t come to Mile Cross till seven years ago. I didn’t know that there was a place like this here till I broke my leg.

My husband was an invalid and he had to have a bungalow, so the Council built him one in Hanover Gardens in Mulbarton. They built a ramp at the front so that he could get the wheelchair up the slope. The bungalow is still there.

After I broke my leg I had to come here and give up being at home. That was the worst days’ work I ever done I reckon when I bust my leg and had to come away from home. Didn’t like leaving my home. You can’t do nothing about it anyhow.

That don’t seem possible to me that it’s the end of March, three months this year, gone already. I’m itching for these trees to come out into leaf again.I don’t like ‘em in wintertime. They’re beautiful when they come out in summer. Great big rosettes of flowers on ‘em.

There’s a lot of backwards and forwards here, because it’s like a crossroads at the back here. Children going backwards and forwards to school, others taking children out in prams to go to the shops. Whichever way they come, there’s generally somebody going by.

Some of the little kids climb through the rails, coming across the grass and out the other side. I don’t mind that anyhow, some don’t like it, but I don’t mind it. I like to see ‘em , the little tots.

Dorothy (1915-2011) talking to WISEArchive in Norwich on 26th March 2010

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