Alfred Stannard was born approx. 1880 and by the 1911 census, he was an insurance broker, married to Annie and May their eldest daughter was 5.
The granddaughter of Annie Ellen Stannard and Alfred Walter Stannard, recently contacted us about approx 20 letters sent from her grandmother in Henham to her grandfather who, as a conscientious objector, was sent to do work of ‘national importance’ on a farm in Norfolk.
The family had evacuated to Henham from Walthamstow, London during 1916 and shared “The Manse” with Mrs Vaughan.
Annie with her daughters, May and Kathleen, lived with Mrs Vaughan at “The Manse” before moving to “The View”. The letters are full of village names — Miss Gardiner, Frank Wright, Mrs Kate Vaughan, Mrs Balaam, Mrs Yarrow etc. Annie Ellen was on the Henham 1918 Electoral Register by virtue of Alfred’s occupation. A map of the properties is at the bottom of these letters.
May, and her much younger sister, Kathleen, both attended the school. May returned to Henham in the 1980s, then in her late seventies, and visited her old haunts. She pointed out significant buildings. She regretted the growth of the huge chestnut trees — so much bigger than she remembered.
May who was a teenager during WWI, told Joy (her granddaughter) there was a woman the people in Henham called ‘the witch’. She apparently was shunned by the village until someone was sick. Then they visited her to obtain her herbal remedies. May was told to keep away from this woman but she went anyway because she wanted to learn about plants. The time in Henham was a formative stage in May’s development [aged about 10 to 15]. The result of the knowledge May gained has meant that she taught Joy the names of all the wildflowers and weeds that grew around their Essex home on the edge of London.
Annie refers to her two sisters within the letters Mart and May.
Below are some of the letters that refer to Henham, Annie signed herself Nell, May is referred to as Maisie.
THE MANSE 1
My Dear Alf,
Have received both your letters this morning. Was beginning to get quite anxious not hearing from you before. You made my mouth water when you mentioned the strawberries. Am so glad you are comfortable dear, and get good food. Should have liked to have been with you when you saw the sea by the way did not come across that piece of seaweed you say you enclosed.
Did you get my last letter I addressed to you at Mrs Peeling’s. Am enclosing another budget, I think you had better see to these, I thought I had better not send off the £1-6s-0d in case it was not right. Am keeping Mrs Christie’s money but thought you had better let her know how she stands, as of course I do not know. Maisie has been queer for a couple of days, but is quite alright now. What do you think of the Zeps, they don’t seem to mind the moon now do they. I think I must have heard them the other night for a bang of some kind woke me up and all the dogs round about here were barking, but I soon went to sleep again and did not hear anything else, but was surprised to hear the Zeps had been to England overnight.
Ba Ba and I went to the allotment yesterday and picked some peas for dinner today, they were fine, and Mrs Vaughan let me have a chop, we did enjoy our dinner, Mrs Vaughan wants some peas for Sunday so I am going to let her have half a peck. Barnards have not got any maize in yet so I had to get some at Gardeners 4/- for half a peck. Have sent up for 1/- packet of Karswood [Editor – Karswood Poultry Spice was used to promote egg production].
Some of our beans are big enough for picking so shall have a nice variety. This does seem a long week, Saturday week seems ages away, at evening times I feel like a poor lost wandering sheep. Never mind Dear, all comes to those that wait. Best of love dear, Nell.
THE MANSE 2
The Manse, Henham, Thursday
Have enclosed a letter from Kathleen. I found her with a paper and pencil and when I asked her who she was writing to she said ‘Daddy’.
Dear Alf, Another day nearer to our being together dear, only just over a week. I wish I could go to sleep and wake up and find it was Saturday week, shall come right down to Elsenham station to meet you.
You must let me know just what time the train arrives there. You need not be afraid the children will forget you …. Says ‘ I wish Daddy would come home’
Mrs Vaughan and I sit together every evening now and do our needlework, Mr Vaughan has written to say the Zeps were all over Leyton and Walthamstow on Saturday night. Have not heard from Mart or May [Annie’s sisters] though I wrote and asked them to let me know how they had got on. Took the kiddies out blackberrying today though we did not find many. Maysie takes a stick with her every time she goes out in the hopes she will find some, you know what she is for [picking] blackberries – will try and get you some rabbits to take back with you but have not been able to get any ourselves yet. Best of love dearest, Nell
THE MANSE 3,
The Manse, Henham, Thursday
Dear Alf, This will be the last letter I shall send to you before you come home and it will be good to have you with us dear. Have been busy digging up the potatoes yesterday and today, what with Maisie’s gleaning [editor – ‘gleaning’ is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest] and the potatoes and onions I can tell you, you will find quite a full house when you do get here.
Mrs Yarrow has asked me if I would like to have Mrs McGregor to live with me, of course I have jumped at the opportunity, she is away at present but Mrs Yarrow is writing to ask her if she will make the change. Mrs Yarrow’s mother wants her to go home to Lancashire during the winter but she did not like putting Mrs McGregor to the inconvenience of finding fresh lodgings, so of course she was pleased when I said I would take her if she is willing to come, I did not like going into a house all on my own, so I hope she will consent. The children do so want Saturday to come. God bless you dear, Nell.
THE MANSE 4
The Manse, Henham, Essex
My Dear Alf, I expect you wonder why I have not written before this, but have been so unsettled with one thing and another, will save most of the news till I see you again.
Mrs McGregor has arrived last night, there was another air raid thank goodness I slept through it so did not get that fright. Mrs Vaughan showed off a little at Mrs McGregor coming but we went to see Mr Ayres about it and he soon put things straight for us.
I think Mrs Coopes goes Tuesday week she will let me know for sure tomorrow so we shall soon get settled. The name of the mincer is the Rollman food chopper USA. Hope you will be able to get it mended or another part made, as I do miss it. Did you get your knickers alright. The children start school tomorrow so I suppose there will be no more gleaning. Have received the Royal Fire Insurance notices so am sending them off. Will leave the job to make out the statement when you come home again. Have found the bonus list so am sending it on to you. Have not received Herald yet so will read it when I get it, best love, Nell
THE VIEW 1
My Dear Alf, I expect that you have received my letter by now. Will send your sweater sometime this week and I think I shall be able to find a waistcoat.
The hens have not started to lay yet, though I have given them every encouragement, have been breaking up all the bones I can find and found a little laying meal and mixed that with their morning feed.
Mrs Mac says she will see what she can do herself soon and try to lay a few. Have set the tulips, don’t know if I did them right, didn’t put them very deep. What did you think of the snow? We were nearly frozen thank goodness it has not lasted. Maysie (Annie’s daughter) is better once more and will go to school tomorrow. Have heard from Mr. Hood that Maysie will not get her throat operated on until the New Year as the hospital is full up with wounded soldiers. Best of love Dear, Nell
THE VIEW 2
My Dear Alf,
Have got the gooseberries safe and sound. Mr Ward saw them at the station and brought them along. You say that you are coming home on the Sunday. Can’t you come on Saturday, do try there’s a dear. I do want you and every day seems so much longer. What do you think of Spring? Let’s hope it will alter its ways before long.
Have had a letter from May today. Gurn [Editor Gurney Pape, May’s husband, was a soldier and was killed in March 1918] is still alright. They were knocked-up on Friday night at 10 o’clock by the patrol, as the Zeps were about, but they heard nothing. Shall have to look up Gurn’s address for you, I expect I have put it away upstairs, I get so many letters now it wouldn’t do to keep them all down here. I would like to go to sleep for the next fortnight now, never mind it will pass. Best of love dear, Nell
THE VIEW 3
Hope you had a good time for your birthday, I wished you were here. Did you finish the port wine? Hope you didn’t drink it all yourself. You have not sent me the copy of letter to send to …(?) yet.
We shall soon be pigs here, for I bought a pig’s head this week, we have had two dinners and a supper and I am boiling a piece which will last for 3 or 4 breakfasts, and am making some brawn which will do for some more suppers, so if you don’t think we shall have enough of it before we are finished well we ought to have done.
I wrote to Helen and Jim about a week ago and got an answer this time. They have removed to Clapton, a turning out of Downs Road. Jim is over age so is not in the army. He has been queer with Rheumatism in his foot. Helen wants to know all the news and asked me to write and let her know. She says she wishes we were near enough so that we could have a good talk together. Best of love, Nell
THE VIEW 4
The View, Henham
My Dear Alf,
Have made some enquiries concerning some poultry for Xmas.
Mrs Stent [editor – believed to be the owner of The View] is going to try and get one from Mr. Yarrow for me if she cannot get one (a fowl I mean) I shall have to try elsewhere, if she had known before, we should have had no difficulty in getting one and Yarrow is pretty reasonable, I expect I shall have to pay more elsewhere.
I forgot to tell you Gurn has been put into an infantry regiment. It seems all his training has been for nothing doesn’t it. Never mind it has kept him in England over a twelve month. Glad you have heard some decent music what would I give to hear some, never mind we must see what the future has in store.
Gave the hens a good dose of medicine this morning to see if that will hurry them up a bit. Mrs Mac and I are going to make an Xmas cake on Saturday you know, one of the usual. Kathleen has had a nasty cold but is nearly better. Once more only just over a week dear. Have just heard from Mrs Stent the fowl is alright. Rundle’s address is 220, High Street, Walthamstow [Possible Charles Rundle Pharmacist]. Best of love, Nell
THE VIEW 5
My Dear Alf,
We have been hearing bombs dropping somewhere, they started soon after six o’clock and I have fetched Kathleen down. Mrs Yarrow ran across with her two kiddies. But they have stopped now. It is eight o’clock. I do hope they won’t return. Did you hear there was a raid in London yesterday morning? by an aeroplane, shall write to see if they are safe, Mart and May (Annie’s sisters) I mean. Have heard from Mum today, she has sent two white shirts for you. I am writing to her also. Will send your two Heralds together next week. Have got some more meal and maize from Barnards. Meal is 4/6 a quarter cwt (a hundredweight equals 112 pounds or 50.8 kilogrammes) and maize 4 shillings and sixpence for the half bushel so you see prices are going up by leaps and bounds. I won’t finish this now, will do so in the morning.
Dear Alf it was not a raid at all last night, but gun practice. People are quite indignant this morning because they were not warned. Everyone thought it was a raid never mind a good job it was not. Got your letter this morning, quite made my mouth water, especially the chicken; my hens had better be careful or they will find themselves cooked for dinner. Mum has made enquiries about your knicks for you and will get you a pair as soon as she can. Best of love dearest, Nell.
THE VIEW, HENHAM 6, 11th November 1917
My Dear Alf, Hope you have enjoyed a nice weekend, we have spent a very quiet one as usual, went for a short walk this afternoon and then came home and had some tea. Frank Wright has not yet finished my bike, I think he is hoping I shall forget it, he says he can’t get a saddle for it.
The hens have not started to lay yet, have wanted to get some meal but though I have written twice in about a month none has come to hand, though the man says he has plenty. My money is short again this week only 18/9 owing to one of the men only doing part of the round.
Mrs Balaam is letting me have a little butter once more, it is quite a treat, it is 2s/4d a pound though. Am looking forward to next week now and to seeing you, Best of love dear, Nell
THE VIEW, HENHAM, 7, 19th December 1916
My Dear Alf,
Am writing once more before you come home. I do hope you will get home without any difficulty. Mart and Bert (Annie’s sister and brother in law) will not be able to come for Xmas as Bert will probably have to go in on Boxing Day and will not go home on his own. But May (Annie’s sister) will come if she can get here. Have got our fowl, it is a nice one, the price was five shillings. I hear they are a terrible price in London, they are asking ten shillings for anything of any size so I reckon we are fortunate don’t you? The children were delighted with their letters. Kathleen, after I had read it out to her, tried it on Fluff, he had to do penance, for she sat down on the hearth rug, took Fluff in her arms feet uppermost and just read it out to him, all about the pussy on the table, asleep and snoring, poor Fluffy looked as if his eyes would roll out, he showed such contempt of your Thomas that he actually swore, I don’t blame either. Best of love, Nell
THE VIEW 8, 24th Feb 1918
My Dear Alf,
Another weekend nearly over, thank goodness. Have you been to Wisbech lately, or are you spending your weekends at Walpole? I suppose you will not get so many invites now on account of the meat ration. Are you to have the same ration as us? That is 1/3rd worth a week. I will have a chicken killed at Easter. Have opened the potato clamp, they are sprouting just a little, not much and are in good condition.
We went to a social at the Sunday school on Wednesday evening. Mrs Mac sang and Mrs Reeves, that young woman who was staying with Olga Wright in the summer and whose husband got killed, she sang “God send you back to me”, I think I should have broke down, had I been her. She has a very fine voice.
Am getting about three eggs a day now, the Wyandottes lay fine ones. [Editor- The Wyandotte is an American breed of chicken developed in the 1870s. It was named for the indigenous Wyandot people of North America. The Wyandotte is a dual-purpose breed, kept for its brown eggs and its yellow-skinned meat]
Best of love dear, Nell
My Dear Alf,
Have been waiting to hear from Mrs Stent if she can get me the potatoes but do not know yet. I wish I had told you to send them and have done with it. The hens are getting on, I am getting about two eggs a day now enough to keep things going nicely, any more I shall sell.
We did not hear the munitions explosion, I was machining at the time, though no one in Henham seems to have heard it, but to hear of such terrible happenings is awfully depressing.
I have had a chronic hump all the week and now to crown it I hear they are going to build that aerodrome [Editor possible reference to RAF Thaxted used between 1917 and 1919] they have been talking about for so long, so we may get a few stray bombs this way now.
Poor old Mr Winter has died this week of pneumonia and also that old man who used to beg pennies for a drink, I think his name was Arthur, and two others have died in the village, there is a great deal of sickness here, I expect it is the cold weather. really it is colder than I can remember it being before, there has been some skating and sliding on the ponds.
There is nothing going on in Henham. My greatest excitement now is going to the shop twice a week and fetching a few greens from the allotment, shall be glad when the finer weather comes and I can go for a walk sometimes. Received 18/- from your Mum for her insurance.
Best love, Nell
THE VIEW 29 Apr 1917
My Dear Alf,
Glad you appreciated the socks, will get your other pair as soon as possible, either the end of this week, or the beginning of next, but you know what a busy woman I am at present, don’t you? Have got all the potatoes I can in the garden and have now about a bushel to get in the allotment.
Have managed to get ½ bus (bushel) of maize from Mr Knight and he will let me have some more when I want it, have also had ¼ ton of coal in. Shall get more when I can, as I think we shall have a job to get it later on.
Have also secured a water butt at last, got it from Miss Gardiner, one of her old oil barrels, was glad to get it I can tell you.
I think I shall have to draw some money, as I have spent the money which I had put by for the children’s clothes and have ordered another ½ ton of coals in a fortnight’s time.
Will make you a shirt as soon as I am able, it won’t be so bad when all the potatoes are in, then I shall have more time.
Kathleen is looking forward to going to school tomorrow, I’m not. (Kathleen turned five on 21st April 1917) Best of love dearest, Nell
THE VIEW 1 Jun 1917
Once more I am on my own, Mrs Shaw has gone home today and Mrs Mac will be home tomorrow. I shall be glad to see her and then shall look forward to seeing you next Saturday. That will fill my week, for I do so long to see you dearest and the children are nearly as bad as I am about it, but of course they can not have the same longing, there are so many other things that enter their world, but you are nearly my all. Every thing seems empty without you.
The potatoes are looking fine. Frank Wright called the other day and he says they look better than any he has seen as yet, he wishes his were like them. Can you bring me any new ones when you come home as I am unable to get any yet and we have been without for some time? Have got some marrows coming along fine, have not got any parsnips though. Left them too late, the seeds seemed mixed, a few came up big while others are hardly showing.
Well bye bye darling, best of love, Nell.
Was very pleased to hear you have been having a good time at Wisbech. Mrs Mac and I have visited a poor sick baby here a few times, It has got bronchitis very badly and recommended one or two things to the mother. They have been so pleased, the father cut some young broccoli today and sent in to us for dinner.
What difference will Japan make to the war if she comes in to it? Will it hasten matters at all? [Editor: On 18 December 1916 the British Admiralty again requested naval assistance from Japan, they primarily patrolled around Malta].
Our meat ration will last us till about Wednesday. After that we shall have to keep stewing up the bone till next Sunday. We all had to hold our breath while it was cooking today in case the oven collapsed but anyhow we managed to get it cooked alright and kept counting the pieces on our plates till it had disappeared. I have had the wind terribly bad ever since. Mrs Mac says I am rude but it is a fact (the wind I mean).
Mr Brawl and Miss Gardener get tied up in knots over the coupons. I wonder how they are faring in London over them, not much better I expect.
Kathleen’s cold is getting better, but her cough is still troublesome. I do not think I shall send her to school tomorrow unless the weather changes considerably. Best of love dear, Nell.
Below is a map of the services available in Henham before WW1. This is a drawing made by William White.
|1. Ernie Wright's shop
|6. Nip Neville Briar Cuttings and Mrs Neville Midwife
|11. Cock Inn
|16. Hornsby's confectionery
|21. Turner's carpenters shop
|2. Judd's grocers shop and delivery
|7. The Bell Inn
|12. Heards wheelwrights
|17. Fred Johnson higgler
|22. Old thatcher Dixon
|3. Owen Hayden horse trader
|8. Postman Smith
|13. Jack Hayden smithy
|18. Mr. Knight coal merchant
|4. Bush Brothers food orchard
|9. Mackey Willet carrier
|14. Mackey's confectionery
|19. Bonfield's grocery store /delivery
|5. Frank Wright's cycle hire and cycle and shoe repair shop
|10. Miss Gardner Post Office, drapery, grocery and bakery
|20. Moss (a later service)