Patricia’s Memories of being a Court Usher

Interview with Patricia

Deborah: Can you tell me when you started working for the courts?

 Patricia: I lost my husband in February 1968. He was in the police and a police officer used to take me to see him in Barts. After George died he said “you’ll need a job, I’ll have a word with June Cox”. She was Mr Grundy’s secretary. I had an interview. While my husband was alive I was a matron at Chingford Crown Court, at Chingford Court, it wasn’t a crown court. Mr Grundy said you’ll probably know more about the courts than I do. So I got the job and that’s how it all started.

How did you end up at the Memorial Hall?

 Well they had that court because they were looking for somewhere bigger. Snaresbrook’s got 20-odd courts. So I worked here and I think that about 1970-something the courts opened at Snaresbrook. In the meantime, while they were waiting for that to be finished some of us worked at the Memorial Hall. It was hilarious.

Tell me why it was hilarious

 Well because there was a stage. The judge had to go up the steps and there on the stage was the grand piano and the curtain. The judges didn’t think it was hilarious. We had to escort them to there.

You had to escort the Judge between the Court and the Memorial Hall.

Yes, I think they used the Memorial Hall while they were waiting for Snaresbrook to open.

Did you have to escort them up onto the stage? 

No, I escorted the Judges between the Courts I was supposed to protect the Judge but if anyone had attacked him I don’t what good I would have been.   Even Judge Marnam laughed at the idea of my protecting him if he were attacked.

You are very tiny, very small!

Well I’ve shrunk, my son said I’ve shrunk since all this, which I have, I have got smaller.

Do you remember Ivy?

Oh yes absolutely. Yes, and her husband George. They used to make us cups of tea and we used to have a chat. I don’t know if I’d recognise Ivy now. I quite enjoyed it. I didn’t go there often. There were other ushers who went there as well.

Oh so there were other ushers, Did you work on a rota system?

 Well sort of.

Can you remember how many Judges sat at the Hall

No I really can’t remember, but there was Judge Marnam.

So did you ever see any of the prisoners being brought round?

No not really.

Can you remember how long you worked there for.

Not that long, I can’t remember the dates.

In fact the Hall was only used as a Court between 1972 and 1973.

I wasn’t there all the time. I worked in Court at the Hall and the other 2 Courts next door.

We haven’t got a lot of information about the 2 courts that were next to the church could you tell me about those 2 courts.

Yes, they were both criminal Courts

So when you came back here to live here you found you were living right next door to where you used to work?

Yes.

Wasn’t that funny?

Yes, well it brought back memories. I saw this flat and I liked it and I thought yes. I wrote to one of the judges that I had worked with for quite some time, nothing to do with the Memorial Hall. He was one of the more senior judges. He was lovely he was a wonderful judge. His summings up were perfect, he didn’t go on for hours he was precise and to the point.

Can you remember his name, was he here? Is he still alive?

No

Can you remember his name?

No I keep in touch with his wife but I don’t think she’d like it if I gave her details.

No that’s fine, I understand. But he was a particularly good judge and you liked him?

Yes he was very firm and fair. I don’t think we spoke more than a few words it’s very different now. Now they’re all so familiar with the judges, back in the 1970s it was very different.

So what was it like, your relationship with the judges? You say it was quite formal?

Oh yes very.

So Sir? Madam?

Your Honour.

Your Honour?

Oh yes.

You say there wasn’t a lot of interaction?

No, I mean they were polite and everything but he was the judge and you were the usher. Now I think they call the judges by their first names or the judges call the ushers by their first names.

That wouldn’t have happened?

No, well everything’s changed hasn’t it.

Were there seats at the front that people could go to? 

Yes, the public could go and listen and there was the jury. That was how Ivy and I got to talk a lot because if I had a jury out she’d make me a cup of tea. I had to take the jury upstairs to a room.

So you would take them out and stay with them until they’d made up their mind? And then bring them back down again?

Oh yes I’d have to stay with them all the time. I loved it really.

What did you love about it? 

Well I just liked it. I liked the people and I had 2 very good friends who are not here anymore. One of my best friends, Chris, used to say to me ” This is the best job we’ve ever had”.

You found it interesting? 

Yes sometimes, other days it was boring. But this judge I liked, he wasn’t boring, his summings up were absolutely brilliant. But some of them went on and on.

In between taking the jury out to make their decision, Ivy wouldn’t come with you? So you’d be up there on your own with them? 

No she wouldn’t come, I’d be on my own but she’d bring me a cup of tea odd times. Not as a regular thing.

So did you have a giggle in the back? 

Oh yes, you heard so many sad things you had to keep your spirits up

You liked Ivy

Yes, Ivy and George her husband were very nice people and very organised,  I don’t really know what Ivy did.

They were the caretakers. They looked after the hall.

Thank you so much it’s been great to have this little bit of the history of the hall

 

 

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