Went to Chelmsford today with Capt. Folkard. First time I have been there by road since the war began. The new road works between Marks Tey and Kelvedon are still unfinished, but there did not seem to be any men working on them. It seems odd not to complete the road, as I should have imagined it would be useful for military purposes.
Chelmsford looks just the same. Big crowds about the streets, the market stalls have now been taken away from the site by the County Hall, and put in a muddy yard at the back of the “Bell” (which Chelmsford Corporation now owns) except for a few which still remain next to the Cattle Market, opposite Brittain & Pash. There was a horse sale on, in fact that was the only part of the market that looked very busy – the cattle pens were very empty. There were about 100 horses including a bunch of 40 cobs, alleged to be from Meredith & Drew, London [The firm of Meredith & Drew was a biscuit manufacturer]. They were certainly not, not being up to M & D standard. Some were quite good, there was a grey I would have liked very much, made 30 gns. As far as I could see most of them made a good clearance, although some appeared to be bought in by a man called Fisher from Ipswich.
Fisher and a rough looking gipsy man seemed to be in charge of these cobs, and they were certainly not M& Ds, whose turnouts I know well. As a matter of fact, I don't believe any of these animals had worked all winter. They all had their hind shoes off, thick winter coats, no clipping, except that their manes had recently been taken off, and had no sign of harness marks. They were all rather thin. Most of them made 14-20 gns, although they were old. Some made 20 and a half, 22, 25, 27 gns. I would have liked the grey and one or two others.
The sale yard was full, and full of mud and water too. There were the same gyppos and dealers you always see at Chelmsford. I saw both Sol and Joe Porter, and two of their boys, who seem to have kept out of the army so far. In fact, there were a remarkable number of men under 35 wandering about. As usual, nobody carries a gas-mask, although I had mine in my bag, and I did see one man carrying a plough-bridle had one. The people in Chelmsford's streets don't carry them either. There were several unbroken 3 year-olds, property of Col: Somebody “now on active service” (“he damn well isn’t!" called a voice when this was announced.) They made 3, 5 and 8 gns. They were a weedy looking lot. An unbroken half-bred Suffolk mare, 4 yr old, made 33 gns. One of two cart horses made 45 gns. The demand seemed pretty good. There was a lovely Landau van for sale, and a little trolley which I would have liked, but could not stop to see them sold.
Mrs May was there, from Tiptree Priory. She had driven a cob as far as Witham and put up there, and was lamenting what a poor sale there was for small ponies and traps. Apparently she has had a great deal more success with the Maldon War Agricultural Committee than she would with ours, as they have agreed that pony breeding is her business and will let her alone. This is great good luck for her.
At 3 had to go to the County Hall to see the Accountant about various matters. Had a long interview. He is very dissatisfied with the way in which Nott keeps our wages record [at the War Agricultural Committee], and insists that our method must be improved. The County Hall is full of dashing young damsels and the Accountants Office has men clerks in Home Guard uniforms. There are also two Home Guards on the front door, questioning callers. I went along to see Emmison, the [Essex Record Office] archivist, who is now doing Public Assistance work. No doubt he hopes this will keep him “reserved” – he is only about 33 I believe. He still does a certain amount of work in his own department, and told me he had actually been able to get a new man on the staff, an assistant archivist from Exeter, I believe he said.
Train at 4.58, not very crowded. Just time to get a cup of inferior tea in a most depressing refreshment room before it came in. All the way home I thought of the bombing of the Yarmouth train [near Colchester on 18th January 1941]. At Chitt’s Hill I saw the bomb-holes, in the field W. of the road and in the road. They were not very big, but they made me feel depressed and nervous.
Went back to the office and finished off some letters. Had tea at Jacklins. Fed Bob and the donkey in the moonlight.