MEMORIES OF RAYNE
Ann was born in 1942 in a house in The Street opposite Rayne Foundry the house was condemned, then pulled down with a new bungalow being built on the site. She had one sister and two brothers. Ann was christened in Rayne Chapel and used to attend the Chapel regularly. The Misses Gladys and Doris Blyth ran the Sunday School and would award books for good attendance; the first book was always a bible, but after that the children could choose their books. Children always had to wear their best clothes on Sundays for the afternoon walks.
The house had no running water or electricity. The toilet was down in the garden and a man used to come once a week to empty it - they could always smell him coming! The children would walk across the garden fields where many villagers had allotments to grow their own vegetables and then along the footpath from The Street by the terraced houses (where Medley Road now is) and then across the railway.
Once a week their mother used to boil up the copper and they had a bath in the galvanised tin bath on Friday nights - eldest first. As Ann was third in line, she did not like bathing in the dirty water of the older children.
Monday was wash day when the copper used to be lit early and Ann's mother did the family washing; the children used to fight over who was to turn the old mangle to squeeze the water out of the clothes. The children used to play in The Street as there was little traffic apart from the sugar beet lorries passing through in the winter months. The children would collect any sugar beet which had fallen off the lorries to feed their rabbits with.
Ann's father was born in Wales Cottages and worked in Rayne Foundry for 50 years and once had a horrific accident when he was scalded by red hot metal. Her sister also worked at the foundry making cores. Ann's father had a field behind the house where he kept rabbits and chickens for meat and also kept geese which he sold, although they always had one themselves for Christmas. At Christmas the family always went back to Wales Cottages with her grandmother where they always had indoor fireworks until Ann was married.
Ann's mother worked for Miss Brewster in Rayne House.
Ann joined the Brownies which was run by Margaret Carder in The Old School Room; at that time the toilet was outside and the path to it was edged with stinging nettles and the girls hated going out at night in the dark as they would get stung by the nettles.
On August Bank Holidays the Horticultural Show was held in the Old School Room; one year Ann won first prize of 2/6d for her rock cakes, but was mortified when her brother called out that she had only won because her rock cakes were the hardest!
There was no school uniform, but when they got home the children would have to change out of their school clothes.
When Ann was ten years old the family moved to Capel Road.
While living at Capel Road the family had Americans from the Base at Wethersfield staying with them and they used to take the children out for the day to places such as Buckingham Palace. The Americans still write to them every Christmas from Memphis.
After harvest the children would go gleaning in the wheat field to find wheat for their chickens. Ann also went pea-picking with her mother. Her mother would also go pulling up sugar beet in the fields so that that the men could come along and chop off the beet leaves; she also went potato picking where the potatoes were dug up by the tractor machinery and the women had to pick them up and put them into a sack.
Ann was a princess for three years at the annual May Fair. The procession of floats went down The Street to the Village Hall. Ann still has a brooch presented to her one year by Jean Lewis.
Ann started at Rayne School at the age of five. On her first day at school the snow was four feet deep and her mother had to push her on her bike through the snow to the school. In school the children were given a third of a pint of milk a day which was frozen in the winter so the class monitor would have to lay all the bottles along the hot water pipes to thaw out. Miss Barnivelt, the teacher was very strict and used to come up quietly behind the children and if they were not working properly would thump them on the back. She would expect some of the more responsible children to go out and do her grocery shopping at the shop in School Road.
Children would come to Rayne School from outlying villages, such as Willows Green, Crix Green, Felsted and Saling on the school bus.
While at school it was unusual for families to have holidays, but each summer Ann would go with her Aunt by bus to Scotland to stay with another aunt near Coldstream where her uncle worked a farm on Lord Hume's estate; she had wonderful holidays fishing on the River Tweed. Her uncle kept pigs and would give Ann a can of salt to try and catch rabbits by putting salt on their tails. When the children had to write about their holidays in school, Ann's teacher told her mother that she had a vivid imagination as village children simply did not go on holidays like she had described, so Ann's mother had to say that she was speaking the truth.
When Ann started school sweets were still rationed and Ann remembers a bachelor neighbour, Mr Willis, who did not eat sweets and used to take Ann and her brother to the shop once a month to buy his sweet ration for them to share with their older brother and sister. The children would choose their sweets very carefully so that they had as many as possible to share among themselves.
After school the children had to take sacks to collect food for the rabbits.
The children would sometimes go to watch the horses and hounds of the local Hunt assemble at the War Memorial.
Ann's Nan lived in Barrack Yard (where the bungalows are now by The Cock public house). Her name was Connie Rowe and she helped compile the Rayne book produced by the Rayne branch of the Workers Educational Association in 1977. At one time she was housekeeper at Haverings for Mr Brunwin. When Connie was expecting Ann's father, her sister died in childbirth; so she was instructed to collect something from Rayne Station and meet a certain train; on this train was a baby - Ann's Uncle Ernest - so Connie had to look after another baby in addition to her own children. Her husband, George Rowe, was killed during World War I and when she was told this she went to bed with black hair and with the shock of the news she woke up in the morning with white hair. At that time, Ann's father was 9 years old and Connie had twins of 18 months old as well as two other boys Her husband, George Rowe, is mentioned on the Rayne War Memorial. Connie then had to look after all the children, as well as her old Dad on her war widow's pension. By this time she had moved to a house in Wales Cottages in Dunmow Road which had three bedrooms, a front room and kitchen - no running water or electricity. The wash house was outside and the toilet was down the yard. When the children needed to go to the toilet after dark, she would escort them with a candle, but as soon as she got back indoors and blew out the candle another child would then say that they needed to go to the toilet.
The boys would climb trees to find rooks' eggs, snare rabbits and pick mushrooms to help out with the food.
After Ann's grandfather's death the family would all attend the Remembrance Service at the War Memorial where they would observe a 2 minute silence during the service.
Life was hard and Connie would pick up stones in the fields to earn a little money. Two of the boys would take it in turns to go to school as they only had one pair of shoes between them.
Connie died at the age of 88. Her funeral was the last one to be held at Rayne Chapel in 1974 before it was turned into a house.
[We have since heard from Olive Olley of Dunmow Road saying that Connie Rowe was not the last person to have a funeral at the Rayne Chapel, but that her mother-in-law, Mrs Edith Olley died on 26th June, 1976 and hers was the last funeral to be held there.]
Ann's "Aunty Vida" was the village post girl and a close friend of Ann's mother; she used to ring the church bells. In 1947 she left Rayne to go to the USA as a GI bride but was always very homesick. Because of sweet rationing every Christmas she would send large boxes of sweets and chocolates to children in the village. She was always very homesick for Rayne and when she died in 2004, her son and daughter visited Rayne with her ashes to be put in her mother's grave in Rayne Churchyard as she had wished.
Ann's Great Uncle Jim (Warner) was station master for 50 years. He lived in the Station House and had flower gardens on the platform and had a large vegetable garden the other side of the railway track where New Road now is and even had a few apple trees there. Each summer the children would collect wood and build a bonfire in the Station Yard; Uncle Jim would make torches from pampas grass and the children would have a torchlight procession on bonfire night to the bonfire; they would then stick their torches into the ground near the bonfire and Uncle Jim would have a firework display for the children with fireworks that the parents had provided.
When the children went to school they had to cross the railway line at the station. If there was a goods train stationary in the station they would crawl beneath it to get to the other side rather than walk round it.
One of the least pleasant tasks that Uncle Jim had to perform was to clear the track after a man wheeling his bicycle across the track had been run over by a train near the station.
Uncle Jim collapsed and died in the Station Yard on Christmas Day, 1962.
Ann was unable to get married in the Chapel as it was not licensed for weddings, so she and Ian were married in All Saints Church. The service was conducted by The Revd. Clifford and followed by a Reception in the Village Hall. During the service the organ broke down, so her brother had to take off his jacket and pump the organ for them. This made headlines in the Braintree & Witham Times that week.
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