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Chapter 11.

WILFRED JOHN (1892-1966)

      Wilfred John was born at 9 a.m. on 12th November 1892 at No. 224 Victoria Park Road, South Hackney. His mother was Elizabeth (née Yull) and his father Thomas William Daggett. Shortly before, on the same day, Wilfred's brother Cyril Francis was born. They were a striking likeness to one another, but as they grew older it was easier to distinguish between the twins because Cyril remained a little more slender in features. Even so, there are stories of certain embarrassing moments when one was mistaken for the other in the street!

      When the boys were about four the family moved to Walthamstow. Wilfred went to St.Mary's Infants' School, next to the parish churchyard and subsequently to St.Mary's Boys' School in Orford Road. This later became the Girls' School. He also attended the school for older boys in Queen's Road. At the Infants' school he was taught by Miss Stacey who was later to take young Wilfred Francis, Joyce Lita and Ilene Florence Foreman under her wing 25 or more years later!

      As a choirboy at St.Mary's Church and later as a keen amateur cricketer, Wilfred John made a number of long-lasting friendships which had a considerable influence on his later life. Two of these friends had surnames based on Yorkshire place-names - Fred Croft and Wilfrid Dewsbury, the latter being referred to in a letter of 1911 from Willie Hebdon to his wife Marion.

      The Daggetts have been practical men who would tackle most jobs about the house and garden long before the term "do-it-yourself" was invented. Household repairs, and redecoration inside and out were carried out with some enthusiasm, and there is a photograph of about 1912 showing Wilfred helping his father to build a greenhouse at Wanstead soon after they had moved to Lake House Road. Another interest at that time was photography. As with so many other pursuits the enthusiast was prepared - indeed, was usually compelled by circumstances - to carry out the complete process himself. Of courses the preparation of photographic plates was not within the scope of the ordinary user, but Wilfred was quite competent in the various stages of developing and printing the exposed plates.

      While a boy he had some lessons on the violin, but these were discontinued after he fell off his bicycle and broke his arm.

      The twins had their first job in a clothing firm at about the beginning of 1907 when they were just 14. Later on Cyril went to work with his father, while Wilfred was with P.M.Ross and Co., 9 Bread Street, London, E.C.4 off Cheapside. About 1908 another friend of the twins, Bob Wilcox, chanced to live near the Hebdon family in Ravenswood Road and he introduced the two boys to the 14-year old Lita Hebdon.

      While working at Ross's Wilfred also helped his father's business from time to time. By 1910 he had formed a strong attachment with Lita, whom he would see most evenings. He was living at 125 Orford Road, only about five minutes' walk from her home at 36 Ravenswood Road. There were many occasions when Wilfred found he would be late for their rendezvous because he had to work late. So he hurriedly sent a postcard to Lita advising her of this. The postage on these cards - which , incidentally mostly carry photographs of various London streets and buildings at that time - was a halfpenny, or 1/480 of a pound sterling; they would be posted in the City during the afternoon and delivered the same evening in Walthamstow.

      On one occasion he went to the trouble and expense of sending a telegram. This was in November 1911; it was handed in at Cannon Street Post Office at 3.15, received at Orford Road Post Office at 3.39 and, presumably, delivered to Lita in good time to inform her that "Shall be round at 5 tonight". Lita was a very anxious person all her life and it appears that these frequent messages were sent to prevent her unduly worrying if Wilfred did not turn up promptly at the appointed hour!

      Early in 1912 Wilfred John left Ross & Co. and went to work full-time with his father and Cyril in Lawrence Lane, near the Guildhall and only a few yards from his previous job. A post card of April 1912 tells Lita "Dad just told Cyril and me to work late tonight on stock-taking- but will try to get it done today".

      There appears to have been some rift between the twins a year previously. Their father had asked Wilfred to go abroad on business, but as that would have meant leaving Lita behind (although she was living with her parents) he declined. Cyril was sent instead. He went to Chemnitz in Germany at the beginning of 1911, and for the next twelve months he wrote regularly to Lita, sending a total of more than 18 picture postcards with short comments on his German experiences. He did not enjoy his stay there and he constantly referred to his longing to be back in England. These cards were written in a formal style "Dear Miss Hebdon" and always signed "C.F.Daggett" or just "C.Daggett" without any mention of Christian names! "We do not know whether Lita answered the correspondence or why he wrote so often. The student of calligraphy will note that, although Wilfred's handwriting much resembled his father's (and his mother's too), Cyril's was entirely different.

      Thomas William and his family were in the habit of spending their summer holidays at Cliftonville, not only before the 1914 War but for many years afterwards. Numerous post-cards and letters were sent to those remaining at home, several of them (in common with much other mail of those days) conveying quite urgent instructions and relying on delivery in London the very next morning. One such from his mother hoped that Wilfred had been able to find the front-door key which she had left in the greenhouse. What an invitation to a burglar!

      By July 1913 Wilfred and Lita were on sufficiently close terms to be allowed to go on holiday together to Clacton. On 1st July 1915 they were married at St.Mary's Church, Walthamstow. The bridegroom was described on the marriage certificate as "salesman" and his father as "agent".

      The War had been in progress for a year now, and Lita's brother-in-law, Jack Mankey, was working as an engineer at Straker~Squire's motor works in Edmonton; he was able, late in 1915, to get Wilfred taken on there in a similar capacity where he worked in the toolroom. By 1917 we find Wilfred and Jack working at Peter Hooker's in Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow, where the famous Gnome aero engines were produced.

      Meanwhile, the newly married couple had taken a down-stairs flat at 63 Howard Road, on top of the hill to the south of Bell Corner. It was built about 1900 in a terrace of purpose - designed 2-storey flats (indistinguishable outside from ordinary houses) running from No.51 to No.67. During the air raids on London Lita and the baby Wilfred Francis (born in February 1917) had gone to stay in Luton together with Lita’s sister Nell Mankey and her two children. Both the fathers, Jack and "big Wilfred", would visit them at weekends and one cryptic letter from Wilfred told Lita that he was bringing half a pound of sand with him on his next trip! Looking back on those days of food rationing, one wonders whether this was a hidden reference to a little extra sugar that he managed to acquire.

      Soon after the end of the War Wilfred got a job with a firm called Matthew Rose, where he returned to his earlier involvement with textiles.

      About 1919 Wilfred senior went into the Connaught Hospital, Walthamstow to have his appendix removed. This was a very serious operation in those days and it naturally created a lot of anxiety for Lita. One of the nurses who tended him - Ada Harrison - became a life-long friend, even after she moved to Lancashire in later years. Lita had her second child, christened Joyce Lita, on 9th February 1920. Another very worrying time for the couple was when Joyce was found to have a diseased mastoid bone when only a few years old. She had to attend the Prince of Wales’ Hospital at Tottenham at intervals for several years and a dangerous operation was performed by Mr.Ibbotson which removed the affected part but left some deafness in the one ear.

      During the early 1920’s Wilfred found himself working at Selfridge’s in Oxford Street behind the counter selling cloth. He also again worked with his father for a short time. During the 1926 General Strike, when travel by train was impossible and by bus extremely uncertain, he had to walk from Walthamstow to the City to work. In more settled times he became one of those hundreds who arrived at Hoe Street Station every evening between 6 and 7 o’clock, having left home in the morning about 8.

      About 1927-28 he joined a local firm specialising in school uniforms. This was run by a Mr.Monk and his son Roy, with several other members of the family taking an active interest. Their premises were in St.Stephens Road, Walthamstow, with an entrance in Eden Road. The firm later changed its name to Schoolwear Ltd. Wilfred spent some time in the packing department, but his chief function was that of commercial traveller, visiting schools all over the Greater London area and even beyond. For that purpose he was provided with a car which he was often allowed to use at weekends for his own private purposes. The first model was a black Ford, very square in appearance and with a very high ground clearance. It had a two-speed gearbox operated by a pedal, and the speed was governed by a throttle lever on the steering column. Later years saw more elegant vehicles such as a Morris Cowley, a Morris Oxford, other products of the Morris and Austin companies, a Citroen and a Standard Nine. The first of these cars could often be seen standing in Aubrey Road outside the open back gate of the garden of 63 Howard Road while Wilfred was eating his mid-day dinner indoors. The vehicle was at night housed safely in a large commercial garage in Lea Bridge Road.

      It was about 1927 that the owner of the Howard Road flats, a Mr Percival, decided to offer them for sale to their tenants. Wilfred bought the whole of the double flat and then proceeded to let part of upstairs. His own family used the two front upstairs rooms as bedrooms. In 1932 he sold the Walthamstow property and moved to a new semi-detached house at No.19 Fairlawn Drive, Woodford Green, where he remained for 26 years. The house was given the name "Jowilta", a concoction of syllables from the names Joyce, Wilfred and Lita.

      Since 1928 young Wilfred had been a pupil at Walthamstow Grammar School and it now became necessary for his father to take him by car each morning on his own way to work in Eden Road. The new house had a separate garage and so it was possible for the firm's car to be kept at home - much more convenient than the arrangement at Walthamstow.

      During the 30's Wilfred and Lita bought a beach hut at Holland-on-sea, next to Clacton, where they used to spend many a Sunday, taking various friends and relations with them in the car. The family had nearly always been lucky enough to have a week or two by the sea every summer - Southend, Clacton, Littlehampton, Ramsgate and so on — and so these weekend trips were a welcome extra.

      In 1934 Wilfred's younger brother, Claude, moved to Woodford with his wife and family, taking, a house opposite "Jowilta".

      The pattern of life did not significantly change over the years. Lita suffered from various neuroses to which she gave in rather easily. On one such occasion she was in bed upstairs with a nice fire roaring in the grate when she became alarmed by the smell of burning wood and smoke entering the room. The joist under the fireplace had caught fire and it took the efforts of the fire brigade to put it out and ensure that there was nothing left smouldering. The smell of smoke pervaded the whole house for many days afterwards. 'I had been to a dance -band practice that evening (I remember we had played "Back Again to Happy-go-Lucky Days", a tune that bore a striking resemblance to Sousa's "Liberty Bell") and wondered what all the commotion was in Fairlawn Drive when I arrived home.The sequel to this event was a serious complaint by my father to the builder, who, he said, 'should never have installed a wooden joist in such a vulnerable position,' was Wilfred junior's memory of the event.

      He left home and got married in September 1938. Joyce married Sydney Brown on 6th September 1941 and continued to live at "Jowilta" during Syd's absence abroad on active service in the Army. Their daughter Valerie Elizabeth was born in January 1948 and the couple moved with their baby to a flat in Snaresbrook in the middle of 1950.

      Wilfred senior continued his job throughout the war years, but immediately afterwards he left Schoolwear and went into partnership with his old friend, Will Brand, with whom he had played cricket in his youth. They opened a small factory in Raven Road, off Chigwell Road, Woodford Green and started manufacturing school uniforms under the name of College Outfitters. Wilfred organised the production and selling of the goods, Will put up the money, and his wife, Madge (an old school friend of Lita's) looked after the accounts. By 1949 it was obvious that the venture was a failure and so it was decided to close down.

      Meanwhile, Wilfred had arranged for some outworkers to make school blazers and other articles in their homes which he then arranged to sell to his previous customers. About 1953 or 1954 he took a small workshop in Leytonstone High Road, which he managed to keep going for eight years. This was on the same lines as his previous attempts, but his increasing age, failing health and over-optimistic view of the lending practices of his bank resulted in the accumulation of an unacceptable overdraft. He had to sell up the business in 1962 at the age of 70.

      In 1958 Wilfred and Lita had moved to a new bungalow at Theydon Bois, a couple of minutes away from where Joyce and her family had settled. The bank foreclosure in 1962 raised the possibility that Wilfred's ownership of his home might be in jeopardy. At the last minute, young Wilfred managed to persuade his own building society to grant a mortgage on the bungalow sufficient to pay off the bank's debt although, of course, this meant that regular repayments would have to be made to the society for the ensuing years. Wilfred senior then took a part-.time job in the office of 'Walthamstow Motors Ltd. and later at the small post office in Theydon Bois, but his health forced him to give up after a short time. He suffered a number of heart attacks and a slight stroke which culminated in him passing away at home on 12th May 1966.

The brothers and sisters of Wilfred John

      Wilfred's twin brother Cyril has been mentioned several times above. He married May Willis in the Hackney District during the summer of 1919. They had a daughter, Eileen, nine years later who, in 1952, married a man by the name of Michael Batt. By then Cyril and May had moved to a house in Buckhurst Hill, High Road.

      Cyril remained working with his father and eventually took over the running of the business of manufacturers agent when Thomas William retired. After Cyril himself retired he remained at Buckhurst Hill until he died just before his 92nd birthday in 1984. May lived on until the following autumn.

      Gladys Alice was born in Hackney on 16th June 1894 and was thus the same age as Lita. She married William J.Ough early in 1918 and they lived for a few years with Mr. and Mrs. Ough senior at 43 Leyspring Road, Leytonstone. They had a daughter, Audrey, and moved to a house of their own in Hainault Road, Leytonstone. A very severe blow to all the family was the untimely death of Will Ough early in the 1930's. Subsequently Gladys took a house at 45 Wanstead Lane, Ilford where she remained for many years. Audrey married Leonard Morley and had two children, Allan and Christine but later she divorced. Gladys later moved to a house at 52 Station Road, Burnham-on-Crouch and Audrey to King's Road, Brentwood, at a time when most of the surviving members of the Daggett family had left Essex and dispersed widely.

      Claude William was born in Walthamstow on 13th September 1899. He became interested in flying and served in the Royal Flying Corps (later the R.A.F.) towards the end of the 1914-18 War. Subsequently he remained on the reserve list for many years, during which he had to put in a certain amount of annual flying practice. He became a full-time civil servant and married Norah English at Wanstead at the beginning of 1922. They lived in a flat in Wanstead High Street. The birth of a son, Geoffrey William, was registered in Romford at the end of that year. They moved to Hickling Road, Ilford and later to Belgrave Road, Wanstead to the house previously owned by Norah's parents. A second son, Derek Francis Henry, was born in the summer of 1929.

      A few years afterwards, the family moved to No.6 Parkland Road, Woodford Green, opposite the house of Claude's brother, Wilfred. After the 1939-45 War they moved to Basingstoke and then to Marnhull in Dorset where Claude died in1975 at the age of 75. Norah then took a small house in Camberley near her son, Geoffrey. She died on 9th August 1979.

      This branch of the Daggett family - via Geoffrey and Derek - is the only one to carry on the male line from Thomas William III.

      Wilfred's younger sister, Hilda Winifred, was born in Walthamstow in the spring of 1902. In 1926 she married Clare J.Hillock at Wanstead, after which the couple continued to live with Hilda's parents for a while. They had a son, Trevor. Subsequently they lived in Ilford, East Sussex and Corsham, Wiltshire.

      The youngest of Wilfred's brothers was Thomas Kenneth, born in Wanstead on 3rd March 1916 after an interval of 14 years following the arrival of Hilda. He was, therefore, a contemporary of the younger Wilfred but at the same time was his uncle! He was educated at Wanstead High School and later worked for the Post Office Experimental Division at Dollis Hill, North-west London. During the 1939-45 War he was at the Royal Aeronautical Establishment at Farnborough. Ken married Eileen Wilcox at Ilford in 1941. Eileen had previously lived with her parents Bob and Millie in Ellesmere Gardens, Ilford. This was the same Bob Wilcox who had, 33 years previously, introduced Wilfred and Cyril to Lita Hebdon.

      Ken and Eileen had a daughter, Anne, born on 20th February 1945. When Ken's employment as a communications research engineer with the Post Office was moved to Martlesham, near Ipswich, he took his family to live at Bucklesham nearby about 1969. They had lived with Thomas William, Kenneth's father, at 12 Lake-house Road, Wanstead after the house was rebuilt after the War and then moved to Stanmore, Middlesex in the mid-50's when the house was sold following Thomas William's death.

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Lita, Wilfred senior and Joyce.

Ca. 1944

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Chapter 12

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