This blog is part of the GOTTS Surname Family History, which contains: News and incidental articles in this Newsblog Main Gotts website with 360 pages describing where the surname occurs, Gotts Hall of Fame, War, Crime, etc (Click on ‘Gotts … Continue reading →
Alfred Gotts commentary continued:
I had four sisters and four brothers. I was the youngest. Sid, Ted, Fred, Joe, we was all in the army together.
The sisters were all at home then, I was probably closer to my sisters because the boys would get up and go out. We didn’t know what they were doing.
When we went hop-picking they were working by then.
We didn’t all eat together because it was only a little table in the kitchen. When you’d had your meal you went out and let the next batch in. Specially on a Sunday, you had your dinner and out, you want to be out playing. You had other ideas. If it was wet you’d be popping about, weather didn’t worry us kids.
On Saturdays it was no different to any other day. We went into the City and we stopped there ‘til last thing at night, I did. When I was a boy, Saturday was our harvest day, the pay day mostly it was then. People had a penny to spend, or tuppence, the working classes. If you worked on the road, a carman, most shops you had to work ‘til six o’clock at night before you was done. When I was a boy, about eight or nine, I was running up the City then. If mum needed anything doing we would do that as well, maybe some firewood.
I visited some of the historic buildings, I was always round the Tower. I knew all the churches. My first job in the city was selling newspapers and a gentleman asked me to work for him. So I said, “what’s the work?” He said “I’ll show you” and he took me in the churches. He was an organ tuner, and I went to a few churches with him, and I used to pump the organ, like the little bellows inside the little box. and they had a brass weight hanging – coming down to a certain mark. When it gets to that mark you stop. So you keep it with a certain amount of air in the bellows. I done All Hallows, Barking, in round the back of Fenchurch Street, and two or three churches round there with him. I don’t know what happened, whether he got someone else, or went to another district. I got paid a couple of shillings a day. I suppose I’d see him in the morning, nine o’clock or so, or be in the afternoon, four, five, he’d say ”well you can go home now”. Gave you your money and went. Meet me tomorrow at so and so church”. This was after I left school. It was a regular enough job, and then I graduated back to my old work until I became apprenticed. It was about 1909 or 10, so I would be about 15. I was doing all sorts of little jobs for myself until I went into the boot trade.
I didn’t stay, I only done a twelve month. I thought to myself I can earn more money than this. I suppose I was bigheaded to myself at that time, And when I showed my work to people they was struck with it. And I got hundreds of friends here in the East End among the foreign contingent. They was all bootmakers. There was more bootmakers in the East End here than what was any other shop. Pubs was the greatest – every street corner was pubs when I was a boy. Pubs and pawnshops we used to call it.
Pubs were great, but everybody was bootmakers. How it happened was like this. The foreign element, when they came over from Russia, the bootmakers, they got jobs in these factories, manufacturing boots. Bootmakers and manufacturing bootmakers are different. They haven’t got the idea. I’ve known bootmakers they couldn’t knock a nail in a boot. They couldn’t because they’ve only been in a branch of the trade. They’ve been working with a machine all the time. I used to repair boots for dozens of different shoemakers in my life. I had specialised in repairing and hand sewn work, was no machine could do that.
I was apprenticed to a small bootmaker. He was a hand sewing man, and he learnt me the trade. I decided to leave it and get a job. I got one in Ilford, but that didn’t last very long, three or four months I suppose. Then I found a lovely job in Bow Road, opposite the police station. I was king of the castle there. We used to get a lot of money for repairing shoes. I used to get tuppence for a pair of ladies heels. It was sixpence for the heels, and I got tuppence out of it. If it was one and six for the soles and heels you got sixpence. I could do a pair of shoes in forty minutes when I was young. That was twenty minutes to knock on the soles and heels, and twenty minutes to finish and let the ink dry.
You used to reckon it up. Five minutes to black a shoe in, that was to file it up, then black it in, and five minutes to finish it. That’s to put the heel bore on and make it look nice and clean and polished off fancy work afterwards. It took five minutes to set the edges and heels, and put the ink on, and another five minutes to use the warm irons to burnish it. When we wet the edge years ago by hand it stopped that shape you pressed it in. Everybody had their own ideas about work, and that’s how it was.
c/o British Library C707/366/1-8(p41-45) Click here for the beginning.
Alfred Gotts commentary continued:
The Peoples Palace, it used to hold all the famous singers, they used to come there. And it was called the Queens Hall, like the one the BBC had. I remember singing there in a choir in Langham Place. We had massed choirs. I must have been about fourteen, fifteen, we went there for one of the Band of Hope’s I suppose it was, then we used to go to the Peoples Palace.
If you went to Sunday school you went to those places, especially the Assembly Hall. It had tons of entertainment and some wonderful speakers came every week. Gipsy Daniels, and a man named Wilkey was always speaking there.
They used to talk about religion. General Booth was in my chapel, he used to stand at the bottom of this street, just opposite Jubilee Street, between there and Sidney Street. There’s a statue that was put there where he used to speak and I remember him speaking there. And I remember his place up in Hanley Street, they turned it into the Brady Girls Club, but it was originally there for men. And then Brady came along and took it. You see there was the Brady boys come in – in Berwood Street near Brady Street School and that was for his girls clubs. That Brady Club was started by Jewish, all for Jewish. The Brady Clubs are Jewish – the head of Shell-Mex give a lot of money to those places you see, to go in the evenings. I happened to meet him during the air raid when he was picking up all the silver cups and things in the Brady Club when it got bombed that night. The first bomb what come in the end of Berwood St. I was only a few yards from it. He was quite a – you couldn’t harm him, he had oval-shaped fingernails, his lips were blue, heart trouble, poor chap. And he told me he was the head of Shell Mex. It must have been Hayman, his name.
The Salvation Army were very good round here. They used to come round collecting and they had an insurance business. And they used to sell their paper, the War Cry, they used to go in the pubs and sell it. And then they used to try and do away with drink, by their preaching. They were drink reformers.
They used to take in down and outs, there’s always been down and outs, see. And ‘course today they get helped, years ago they didn’t. The same like I told you when I was a boy in the City selling things, every penning we had we was kings you see what I mean. It was helpful if I could take a few shillings home in a day and earn a couple of shillings out of that, half a crown or something like that – it was profit. Specially when you knew your father was only getting say a pound a week wages from working six in the morning and that time, you know, going to work with my dad. Used to start six in the morning ‘til six at night, twelve hours work. And if you did another six hours you didn’t get paid for it. They didn’t give you no overtime ‘til about 1912. The union brought in a bit of money, they used to give ‘em a lot of money that overtime, sixpence an hour.
I remember as a boy working in my first trade working with a lot of foreign men used to be in the East End that time, like you’ve got coloured people here now. You had these Jewish refugees from Russia. They used to run away from Russia so they wouldn’t join the army, a lot of them.
They used to get into Germany and cross over from Germany, get a ship to London. And then these people used to take ‘em off the boat, go and get ‘em work and lodging and that, they give ‘em about five bob a week that time, that was the average wage, for a greener. They called ‘em greeners because they were green, they didn’t know nothing. And they had a place in Leman Street where the society was, used to take them off the boat and hand out to the different tradesmen. A bootmaker wanted, or a shoemaker, they used to go and find that out. They used to come and work for ‘em see. But some good mechanics.
They used to give them four-five bob and week and their food. They used to have bread and Dutch herrings, that was mostly the staple diet. Sometimes they might have a bit of chicken for a shilling.
They didn’t know they were being exploited when they got their friends. I spoke to an old Jewish man once and he worked for a bootmaker lived in Watling Street. His name they called him in the trade he was Ginger Marr. So they went to work for Ginger Marr and he used to sleep in the back of the shop, sleeping on a bench there, like a kind of sofa that was made, and Jewish people called them sloth bunks. Sloth means sleeping, and they used to shut them up like a box during the day. He used to live in Jubilee Street ‘til he died. Anyhow, that man slept in that then the ’14-18 war came along , and he used to work from six in the morning ‘til ten, twelve o’clock at night for five bob a week. Friday night they didn’t work because it was their religious night. So one night his friend said he was coming round for him, because there was a job for him in Whitechapel. There was a harness contractor there and they were paying lovely wages for anyone who can sew by hand. He took him up Great Haley Street is the name of the place – I know a big firm there – right next to the Tilbury depot. He says “Salig, I will introduce you to a man in a pub and he’ll tell you what to do.”
Well to cut a long story short the guvnor saw him taking his apron off this Thursday night and Ginger Myers says to him: “What are you doing Salig, you making half a day today?” He’d been at work since six o’clock in the morning and it was ten o’clock at night. Well, he went and got that job and I always remember him telling me, you know, Alf, I heard a lot about gold in England and London from when I was in Russia. He said “and that was the first time I held gold sovereigns in my hand”. They gave him two that first week he worked there. They made you pay a stamp: threepence and fourpence it was, you paid fourpence stamp and the governor paid threepence, it was a seven penny stamp on a man’s insurance stamp. He had always been picking up five bob(shillings) a week, so he could afford to live without that other man. And that’s how they lost their customer.
I must say, that man worked very hard during the war, he got that job there done, a couple of repairing contracts for the army and he finished up a rich man. He had his own business in here, just round the corner in Jubilee Street, and then he retired, he had some internal trouble and died about four years ago. He wasn’t a ruffian, he started from nothing, never had a penny, and when he got those sovereigns he couldn’t stop touching them and shining them. There was no note money at that time, beginning ’14 war here. It only come along afterwards. I used to say to some of the foreign greeners, as we called them, what time did you work to last night? They used to give you one answer: “when I’m done I say good morning to the policeman.” He went into the tailoring trade. Terrible job that was, they went into consumption over it, working hour in, hour out. Now it’s different altogether.
c/o British Library C707/366/1-8(p37-40) Click here for the beginning
Click here for the next chapter
Listen to Jane Blonde and the Goldfingers
Vocals – Natalie Gotts
Guitar – Steve Wares
Drums – Max Gotts
Bass – Ian Gotts
Alfred Gotts commentary continued
We never had any toys. The only toy I remember having was a little train set, cost about sixpence, that, a little engine with two little carriages. And I kept it in a tin box. We only played with marbles or something like that. Children were never given toys like you see the children today.
The only toy I had was soapbox and a couple of pram wheels and made a little motor. Yes, to push about in the street, then that done as a tool to carry our goods home with what we found in the market or, make a little motor- that was our pleasure. Four wheels on a board – a- tuppenny soap box and you could run along as fast as the traffic when I was a boy. There was no motors on the roads then. We used to hop across the road on one leg, hopping races. We used to jump on the back of a bus or a tram. Then the horse trams and ride from Whitechapel, when the conductor went inside we got on the back and then when he come out we got off again, in the middle of the road.
Jack Dooley was an old prize fighter before gloves came in. Before the Marquis of Queensbury rules came in they used to go and make a fight in the fields somewhere. It was illegal, but they’d tell all their friends who and where it was going to take place. And old Jack, he was the heavyweight champion of England. And I used to do a bit of running about for him and his daughter and his wife. They had a pub just right opposite where I lived here, the pub was just across the road there, the Alfa’s Head. And from there he went down to a pub down in Crisp Street, but he was here when I was about fourteen. I started with him when I was about ten I suppose. Me and a friend of mine, she used to run errands for the mother and I used to run about for them. Doing any little jobs they wanted, pick up glasses, anything you could do in pubs then. We used to go in and say pick up your empties guv’nor? They said yes, fetch ‘em in, they’d only lose ’em very likely. And we used to take people’s beer with ‘em and all, so long as we got an apple from his box under the bar. ‘Cos the beer that time wasn’t dear, it was only fourpence a pot, that’s a penny half pint.
He didn’t teach me to fight,, we was always skylarking about, and his second was another, old Mr Baldock, he was crippled with arthritis. He was a very good man. When the war came along, they published his life story in the News of the World, Jack Dillon. It was on my mind to save them all up from the News of the World each week and I didn’t. And I lost those when I got bombed out. They stopped the boxing in the fields before I grew up, it was all Marquis of Queensbury rule, which came out in the 1880s-1890s. The illegal fights were before my time.
Boxing was popular round here. We had Premiland here in Whitechapel. We had the Wonderland, Whitechapel Road. All little clubs was boxing clubs, for boy and men. Some of these pubs –there was boxing taking place Sunday mornings. There was a club on Cable Street, a famous one, the DuDele, we used to go there. Used to pay fourpence to go in we did to see professional boxing.
The amateur boxing used to take place in the Peoples Palace in Mile End, where the East London College is. When I was a boy in that People’s Palace there was a swimming bath there. It was very dear, a penny to go in. It was a well-known hall and I saw some famous singers in there. Dame Sara Butt, used to sing ‘Home Sweet Home’ and had everyone in tears. We used to belong to a Sunday School and we always went there when any shows were on. But the great assembly hall was Mile End, what Charringtons run, one of the brothers. He gave up the brewery trade and opened like a church hall, like a mission. He wouldn’t have nothing to do with pubs, that’s what he said at the time. Then the war came and burnt it out.
c/o British Library C707/366/1-8(p35-36) Click here for the beginning
Click here for the next chapter
Alfred Gotts commentary continued:
Everyone picked the hops, including the children. We loved picking, we used to race each other. ‘Course it was all the better for mum because you had to pick seven bushels for a shilling. They used to sing a song “they pay me seven a shilling, so how can a poor girl earn a living”. Father never came, he never wanted hopping. We must have earned a couple of bob for mum, maybe three shillings. We never had no money, mum took it all. She might give us a penny now and then, but we had other ways of making money down there, like I told you with fruit. If you had too much you sold it to somebody. If I went and took a pot full of apples, or a big saucepan with a handle on, fill it up with apples. Then I used to do mushrooming in the morning early. People used to want them. One and six for a quarter of mushrooms, and I used to get a basketful. When I was twelve I used to get a basketful. And they’d give us a penny for some.
So Mum enjoyed it as a holiday, it was good for her. It was a rest and a bit of money coming in.
You might have a bailiff in charge of you. I went to a farm near Faversham the year the ’14 war broke out and the bailiff bred chickens. White Winalots (Wyandottes). They have got a little blackish mark on their neck. Some of them weighed eight pound. One and threepence he charged for ‘em. To take back a few bob they used to fill up the potato baskets with a lid on at that time and hold a hundredweight of potatoes, with chickens, and sent us back to Holborn Viaduct at the cheap rate, with those baskets of chickens on the passenger trains. They were dead, we killed them and put them in there, and we sold them for half a crown, three bob each. One and threepence was the price we paid for them. He wanted to get rid of them for the winter, you see, as they don’t lay.
We would be away a month hopping, sometimes five weeks at a time. I’ve had six weeks down there. When one place had finished they’d say do you want to go and help at so and so’s.
The hop-pickers were mostly friendly. At the place in Faversham they were mostly flower sellers from Covent Garden and that all up the West End. Groups of families who got their living from the flowers. Bloomsbury and all that way, they lived. All the East End went, every district had its hop pickers. We weren’t worried about not being at school, that was our holiday. Our mother and father never took us for a holiday, that was ours: green fields and a ride in a train, it was a wonderful holiday.
Mum never made any wine or beer for herself. But I remember she made stuff for your chest, sweet nitre, oil of juniper, then she used to have black treacle, this black sticky like Fowlers treacle and she mixed it all in that for our chests.
We couldn’t grow anything of our own because the yard was crazy paving, so mother used to buy vegetables and fruit. There was some tinned things around. You could get a tin of fruit for threepence or fourpence. You might get gooseberries or plums, but you didn’t worry about that you mostly had fresh fruit.
You could get dried fruits, apricots, figs, and they were all cheap.
And we kept rabbits, and we ate them as well, but when you grow up with an animal you can’t bear to keep thinking of him. We used to feed them on chaff, oats and that, you could get plenty food for ‘em, carrots and that.
It never cost much to feed them, we would go and get dandelions, grass, cabbage leaves from the greengrocer.
We kept hens as well. My brother bought a lot of hens. He sent away for them. He was about seventeen, and he bought all these chickens and none of them laid. So he started to sell them, to the man next door, and as soon as he gets them they started laying. See, ‘cos we were pinching the eggs while he was out at work and we kept the eggs and ate them. And he never knew.
Meat was very cheap so we could eat it lots of times a week. You had a dinner, peas pudding and a faggot, that was a good meal for you. ‘course today the mixes is different. You could buy tinned meat like corned beef, but very seldom. When they first came in, you could get tinned meat off the docker boys that worked in the docks, but not many people liked it. You could buy a penn’orth in a grocers shop and get about a quarter of a pound.
In Bethnal Green Road there was stalls that sold meat. One was a cats meat stall there, fourpence, sixpence a pound. Meat for human consumption, lamb, tuppence ha’penny for strips of mutton. Cheaper than catsmeat and that was right up to the war. And fruit everywhere you went. Cox’s apples, Pippins, Ribstons, if you paid more than tuppence a pound you wouldn’t buy them. Everywhere they was, stalls along Farringdon Road from Clerkenwell to Smithfield selling fruit. A penny you could buy half a pound of apples, four a penny oranges, bananas four a penny. In the City you go in up Pudding Lane. By London Bridge was a sale room and then men used to sell canary bananas. They’d take them out the saleroom and stand there with the crates they’d come in, four a penny.
I don’t recollect mum eating less food so that the rest of the family could have more, but then I wouldn’t notice. Dad was just given his meal and that was the end of it. He didn’t get more because he was working. Sometimes I would bring him a treat. I had a friend in Leadenhall Street, and he used to give me halibut heads, all the heads, big plaice heads, turbot heads. And mum used to boil them and he used to like them cold. All jelly ‘cos once you let them go cold it goes to a thick jelly. He used to enjoy that.
We could talk during meals, when we had it just ourselves, they wasn’t so fussy. And us boys used to eat everything that was put on the floor, we were hungry but we didn’t worry. We seldom left anything on the plate unless we had been off somewhere and eaten. We didn’t wait to get things passed to us like salt, we just got it ourselves. We always had to use a knife and fork, not allowed to put our hands on anything. We weren’t made to sit at the table any special way, we were brought up rough and ready.
When we were finished our food we just got up and went. Mum was glad you go out so she could clear up. We mostly sat in the same place at dinner. We didn’t all sit together, Mum called out Tom, Dicky and Harry – come and have your dinner and you had it and went. Mum didn’t serve us in any particular order, she just put your meal down and get on with it.
c/o British Library C707/366/1-8(p26-35) Click here for the beginning
Click here for the next chapter
Several entries for people who died in the wars have belatedly had their headstones added to their pages:
|Frederick 1614 in Hull, Yorkshire #40 (a new page)||Click here|
|Leslie William W 2847 in Itteringham, Suffolk #09||Click here|
|Maxwell William 224 in Pargny, France #40||Click here|
|Sidney 3456 in Etaples, France #108||Click here|
|William Edward 486 new photo of him #22||Click here|
|Eric William 2281 new page in WW2 section, and headstone in Dieppe, France #22||Click here|
Click here to read more
The section on Gottses in Print has been updated with the PhD theses which are listed in the British Library catalogue.
Two are contributors to this site, but who are the others?
Click here to see them
This tree has more information about some of the members, and now incorporates some pages that were in the Essex Families section. You can now see:
- A painting of Jesse Roach Nicholas 1633
- Mark 1643 Gotts’s shop in King Street Brentwood
- A sign from Mark’s shop
- The gate plate from Slough House Farm at Bulphan
- Ben Wood’s rationale for linking the early parts of the tree to Bulphan
Click here to see it