Ref NoWIN/011
CollectionWinstanley Oral History Collection
TitleMiss. Bernice Baker interviewed by Michael Winstanley
Name of creatorWinstanley, Michael
Duration4 hr. 35 min. 48 sec.
Extent2 sound tape reels
3 audio file Waveform Audio
DescriptionMiss. Bernice Baker, born 1884, interviewed in Gravesend by Michael Winstanley. Baker's father was a farm labourer, and her mother was a children's nurse. Baker was the youngest of a family of 7. Baker worked for Sisters of Mercy in Rotherhithe and did various short term service jobs in London (1900 - 1910).
Track 1 [1:30:23] [First interview: 4th November 1975] [0:00:00] Introduction: interview of Miss Bernice Baker [Miss B] at her home The Cottage, Butchers Hill, Shorne, near Gravesend, Kent by Michael Winstanley of the University of Kent at Canterbury on 4th November 1975. [0:00:54] Miss B born in 1884 in Shorne, father a farm labourer from Ash [Kent], working for the Pyes, Solomons, and Redsells of Cobham. [0:05:08] Mention that all small farms rented from the Darnleys. [0:05:30] Remarks on crops; corn, potatoes, hops. Mention of hop work for women and families. [0:07:40] Description of boots, leather, bootmakers, costs, mending. [0:10:52] Comments on water supply, drinking water from pump, washing water from spring wells. [0:12:00] Remarks on Miss B’s house, formerly a butcher’s until fire 1911. Description of cuts of meat and meals. [0:17:02] Remarks on poverty, parish allowance, relieving officer, dread of Strood workhouse. Description of pauper funeral. [0:23:48] Comments on effect of World War I, no young men, women labourers, waggoners exempt. [0:25:20] Remarks on dress, ubiquity of black shawls and bonnets. [0:27:57] Comments on new young vicar c 1900 organising free clubs, concerts, plays. Sewing circle and cookery classes for women. [0:31:18] Description of penny readings; men paid 1d each, readings from books followed by explanations, discussion. Mention of circulating copies of London Illustrated News, no other newspapers. [0:33:00] Remarks on men and boys playing football and cricket in fields and streets, boys using tin cans as footballs. [0:34:30] Remarks on childhood; chores, playing hopscotch, hoops and rounders in the street. [0:35:46] Comments on Miss B’s father; setting homework for his children, a solicitor’s son estranged from his family, caring for church goers’ horses on Sundays. [0:39:08] Mention of gentry paying for front seats in church. [0:39:56] Mention that children had to bow or curtsey to gentry. [0:43:02] Mention of Miss B moving to Sisters of Mercy in Rotherhithe [London] in 1900, staying for 10 years. Description of her duties and work of Sisters of Mercy in sick visiting and hospital provision. [0:45:33] Remarks on the history of the George family and Court Lodge. [0:47:05] Mention of Avelings iron foundry in Strood. [0:47:12] Mention of Mr George laying first railway in Australia. [0:48:57] Comments on background of Miss B’s move to London; need to earn living, recommendation from vicar’s wife. Description of daily life at Sisters of Mercy. Mention that Miss B returned to Shorne on death of her mother. [0:55:06] Mention of Miss B seeing Queen Victoria at Westminster Bridge on her drive through London at the end of the Boer War. [0:58:52] Remarks on the noise of iron rimmed wheels on cobbled roads, replacement of cobbles with wooden blocks. [1:00:40] Description of Miss B’s work for Sisters of Mercy; reception, cooking, shopping, budgeting, helping in the surgery for men from Surrey Docks, social work visiting. Mention that their surgery allied to Guys Hospital. [1:03:46] Adverse comments on Londoners’ cooking and cleanliness. [1:05:51] Mention of the Sisters of Mercy’s work rescuing prostitutes at night. [1:08:14] Further adverse comments on dirt and smell of Londoners and their houses. [1:15:18] Remarks on hop picking, Londoners and locals very separate, local villagers and people from Gravesend going to specific farms in Shorne Ifield, Londoners picking at Lower Shorne and living in pig sties, cow sheds. [1:17:00] Comments on Shorne village, two settlements Ridgeway [Upper Thorne] and Lower Shorne, shared school but separate pub and shop in Ridgeway, villagers not mixing. [1:18:30] Mention of children from Thong and engineers’ barracks at Shorne Mead Fort attending Shorne school. [1:22:13] Remarks on winter hardship, no work, tradesmen allowing goods ‘on the slate’, summer overtime to repay debts. [1:23:49] Description of children collecting acorns and chestnuts to sell to keepers of Earl Darnley’s deer herd. Mention of Darnley’s soup kitchen at Cobham Hall. [1:26:12] Description of putting down food for winter, gleaning, dried beans, salting eggs and pork. Miss B’s family keeping ducks and chickens.
Track 2 [1:14:31] [Second interview: 12th November 1975 and 13th January 1976] [0:01:35] Introduction to second interview. [0:02:15] Description of Miss B’s house; parlour only used for tea parties, laying out the dead and Christmas; cottage once the workhouse; lit by candles, benzene lamps and then paraffin lamps. Remark that people went to bed by 9 pm to conserve paraffin. [0:13:48] Description of house work, children allocated chores. [0:17:28] Description of wash day, using copper in kitchen, mangling done by village woman for payment. [0:23:19] Remark that garden used to keep chickens and ducks. [0:23:49] Comments on meat; farmers providing beef joint for labourers at Christmas, description of cooking the joint, meat puddings on Sundays, staple meat pork. [0:28:22] Remarks on vegetables, root vegetables given to labourers by farmers, mixed vegetables bought from market garden, only potatoes and beans grown in garden. [0:31:36] Comments on washing and toilets; baths in kitchen every Saturday, toilet at end of garden. [0:36:25] Stories about ghosts at Court Lodge. [0:40:00] Mention of George Dockerell and Mr Allen, alterations to Randall chapel and reburial of coffin found in hidden grave. [0:49:20] Comments on fruit; Lord Darnley’s farm at Shorne Ifield growing raspberries and blackcurrants; all fruit sent to London, lack of fruit locally; oranges at Christmas, no bananas; grapes and strawberries only available London, sold from barrows; lack of fruit farming in Kent until World War I. [0:54:05] Mention of Lord Darnley’s allotment scheme next to See House on Ridgeway. [0:56:55] Mention of Hartridge’s fruit farm, returned to corn and potatoes post World War I. [0:59:53] Stories about distribution of Shorne’s charity coal. [1:04:14] Mention of Lord Darnley’s Saturday tickets to collect wood. [1:05:48] Mention of sandpit accident killing 2 children, disputed liability between Lord Darnley and Council. [1:07:38] Comments on tinned food; first tins of mutton and rabbit from Australia, treat but expensive and uneconomical; tinned beef during World War I unpopular as assumed to be horse; fear that tinned food poisonous; only available in village post World War I.
Track 3 [1:35:03] [Continuation of second interview] [0:00:00] Remarks that charity accepted but poor relief and workhouse feared. Description of visit to workhouse, despair, dread of sickness and death in workhouse. Children separated from mothers and sent to children’s homes. Anecdotes about mothers and children being reunited for hop picking with help from locals. [0:10:04] Anecdote about prank played on Court Lodge gentry in Randall Chapel, yew berries on pew damaging clothing, children retaliating at snobbish gentry. [0:17:05] Comments on gentry from ‘trade’ looking down on village people. Remarks that Darnleys of Cobham Hall different, generous with game caught during shoots, paying much needed wages for beaters during winter shoots, Lady Darnley visiting sick. [0:18:26] Mention of Winches, brewers, living at Court Lodge. [0:23:34] Remarks on previous Lord Darnley, an actor, visiting elderly staff, Miss B liking him despite his ‘bad name’. Comments on size of Darnleys’ staff, treated like family, mostly drawn from village. [0:31:25] Remarks on Miss B’s temporary work in London arranged by Sisters of Mercy; at private house in Sloane Square, at Blackheath vicarage for chaplain to Boer War soldiers. Mention of shocking condition of soldiers’ boots at thanksgiving service at Woolwich. [0:34:22] Mention of all night celebration of Mafeking in London. [0:35:02] Comments on Merston, deserted plague village on marshes near Shorne, excavated by George Dockerell and Mr Allen. [0:38:08] Mention of Reverend Coates of Shorne holding annual service in Merston, although no church. [0:39:38] Description of smuggling in Merston at time of Miss B’s grandmother. [0:42:22] Description of regular localised flooding in Miss B’s childhood home, due to smuggler passages and cellars, house and row demolished 1927/28. Mention of ‘great sale’ by Barretts, Mrs Noakes buying Court Lodge, then Garden Row and row including Miss B’s childhood home. Mention of Miss B’s move to council house on Ridgeway 1927/28. [0:50:35] Mention of introduction of gas to Pear Tree Lane [Ridgeway] c 1927/28 and electricity c 1930, problems with council for unauthorised improvements to council house. [0:52:22] Remarks on lighting, paraffin replacing benzene after fires and legislative ban, time consuming lamp filling and trimming daily. Mention of miniature lamps to light stairs. [0:54:42] Description of early gas generator. [0:57:58] Comments on shop/post office, goods supplied via barrels and tubs dispensed into customers’ basins. Mention of treacle substituting for sugar. [[1:01:05] Description of making ‘white oils’ for rheumatism. [1:04:19] Mention of gathering mouse-ear [chickweed] for whooping cough, and ingredients for ‘spring tonic’. [1:06:35] Mentions of doctors serving Shorne; parish doctor in Northfleet; Dr Inman pre 1908 to 1918; Dr Vaughan; Dr Pinchon from Milton Road surgery Gravesend, later Gravesend hospital. Mention of Miss B’s mother’s death 1908, father’s death 1918. [1:10:39] Description of accommodation in childhood home. [1:12:42] Comments on heating, free logs from managed woodlands, ‘wooding’ on Saturday mornings, buying faggots, coal only used for cooking. [1:17:20] Remarks on water, weekly baths using water from ‘moat’, drinking water collected by children from village pump after school. [1:20:53] Remarks on drinks, tea on all day, refreshed tea time, coffee expensive and rare. [1:23:15] Mention of Miss B’s aunt living in Brook pub Chatham. [1:23:43] Comments on clay pipes; made in Brook pub yard by Henscher, given out in pubs, replaced by brown wood pipes post World War I, Henscher’s move to London, clay pipes found in Chatham excavations c1960/70s. [1:27:35] Comments on Shorne publican; renting fields from Barretts; keeping pigs, chickens, horses; selling coal; providing regular carrier service to Gravesend for passengers and collecting non-food shopping.
NotesTranscript exists for tracks one and two of this interview
PhysicalDescription2 sound tape reels : analogue, 5 inch reel, 9,5 cm/sec, 2 track, mono
Waveform Audio
Related OrganisationUniversity of Kent
Related PlaceShorne, Kent
Rotherhithe, London
Access filenameWIN-011-001A-A.mp3
CategoryAudio recordings
Access conditionsAvailable for consultation at the University of Kent's Special Collections & Archives reading room, Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NU. Access is available via digital listening copies. The University of Kent acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors in this recording and the rights of those not identified.
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