St George and the dragon

To mark St George’s Day, Archivist Katharine Schofield takes a look at a very rare pen and ink decoration of George slaying the dragon on a manorial court roll from Great Waltham, dating from 1541.

D/DHh M151

Extract from D/DHh M151, a manorial court roll of 1541 from Great Waltham, showing St George slaying the dragon

D/DHh M151

George and the dragon sit in the initial letter of the document. The words ‘Waltham Magna’ appear just beneath the decoration

Among the hundreds of manorial court rolls deposited in the Essex Record Office, a very small number have pen and ink decorations.  These include a court roll for the manor of Great Waltham alias Waltham Bury (D/DHh M151) where the court for Easter 1541 has a drawing showing St. George slaying the dragon in the letter V (for visus or view, the view of frankpledge carried out twice a year in the court leet).  The original is approximately 3.5 cm high and 7.5 cm across.  The rolls were the working records of the court and not intended to be decorated so a ‘doodle’ as elaborate as this is a rarity.

Court rolls form the majority of the manorial records held in the Essex Record Office, which are held by Act of Parliament of 1924 under the authorisation of the Master of the Rolls.  The Manorial Documents Register (MDR) was established two years later to record the location of the documents to ensure that they could be traced if they were required for legal evidence.  The National Archives is in the process of computerising the Manorial Documents Register county by county and the work completed so far can be seen on the National Archives’ website here.

After more than two years of work the Essex contribution to the MDR is complete; you can find out more about the project and how you can use these fascinating documents at Essex through the ages on Saturday 12 July. (Details here.)

Manorial titles are not part of the MDR and records such as the letters patent of 1467, although relating to the rights of the lord of the manor, do not form part of the register.  However, a search of Seax will locate this and many other ‘ancillary’ manorial documents, including deeds of sale of manors and also of copyhold premises.

By the later 15th century St. George’s Day was a well-established feast day in England.  In June 1467 Edward IV granted Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex (his uncle by marriage), lord of the manor of Stansted in Halstead, the right to hold two three day fairs in the town, one of which was to take place on St. George’s Day and the two days either side (D/DVz 3).  The other fair was to be held on the feast day of St. Edward the Confessor and the two adjoining days, 12-14 October.  After the Reformation St. George’s Day was one of the saints’ days that continued to be celebrated in the Church of England and today churches throughout England will fly the flag of St. George on the feast day.

St. George was a soldier in the Roman army who became a Christian martyr.  He came from a Greek Christian family and became one of the foremost military saints, venerated in the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches.  The flag of St. George is also used as the basis of the national flag of Georgia.

The adoption of St. George as the patron saint of England was a phenomenon of the Middle Ages.  In 1222 the Synod of Oxford declared St. George’s Day (23 April) a feast day.  At that date the most venerated saints in England were St. Edmund King and Martyr, whose shrine was at Bury St. Edmunds and St. [King] Edward the Confessor.  This changed after 1348 when Edward III founded the Order of the Garter and associated St. George with the country’s highest order of chivalry.  The chronicler Froissart recorded that English soldiers used St. George as a battle-cry at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 and throughout the Hundred Years War of the 14th and 15th centuries.  Famously Shakespeare copied this in Henry V with Cry God for Harry, England and St. George!

On this day: opening of the M25

The M25, hate it or love it, celebrates an Essex birthday today. After being first proposed in the 1960s, the section which runs from Potters Bar to the Dartford tunnel (The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge not opening until the early 1990s) was finally opened on 22 April 1983 by David Howell, the then Transport minister, and a bevvy of special guests, VIPs and celebrities. As part of the opening many of the invited guests were able to take their first ride on the new three lane motorway courtesy of The Eastern National Omnibus Company.

Thanks to that Company we have a small collection of photographs celebrating the event, prominently featuring many of their green liveried buses. The M25 was opened in sections between between 1973 and 1986, and work on alterations and improvements has continued ever since.

D/F 271/12/50 -1

D/F 271/12/50

D/F 271/12/50 -2

D/F 271/12/50

D/F 271/12/50 -3

D/F 271/12/50

Recording of the Month April 2014: ‘I didn’t want medals’ – One man’s experience of the First World War

Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…

SA 24/1011/1

This month we have extracts from a talk given in 1992 by Alf Webb who had served as a machine gunner in the First World War. The recording from which these extracts are taken is an incredible resource. Alf Webb was talking to a group of school children and his recollections of both the mundane detail and the harsh reality of the war are delivered in a matter-of-fact and unflinching way (perhaps surprising given the audience) as he talks about mud and lice, tactics and trenches, the death of friends and colleagues, and his own unheroic attitude the war as he did his best to ‘try and survive and get out of this.’

If you are interested in finding further resources held in the Essex Sound and Video Archive which relate to the First World War, a sources list is available.

We will be hearing a great deal about the First World War over the centenary period, but few things will bring us closer to understanding the reality of events than to hear the experiences, thoughts and authentic voices of people who actually lived through them.

Document of the Month April 2014: Papers relating to repatriation and reburial of remains of Captain Fryatt, 1919 (D/P 174/1/83)

Each month in the Searchroom a new Document of the Month goes on display. The DoTM for April 2014 is a set of four papers relating to the repatriation and reburial of Captain Fryatt in 1919 (D/P 174/1/83).

Charles Algernon Fryatt was born in Southampton in 1872, but while still a child moved to Harwich. On leaving school he followed his father’s example and became a merchant seaman and in 1892 joined the Great Eastern Railway Company as a seaman on the SS Ipswich. He rose through the ranks and at the outbreak of the First World War was a master mariner engaged in the G. E. R. continental service between Harwich and Rotterdam. He continued to make regular voyages on this route despite the German blockade.

On 28 March 1915, while in command of the SS Brussels he was ordered to stop by a German U-Boat when near the Maas lightvessel. Seeing that the U-Boat had surfaced to torpedo his ship, he attempted to ram it and forced it to crash-dive.

Thereafter he seems to have become a ‘marked man’ and on the 25 June 1916 the Brussels and her crew were waylaid and captured by five German destroyers soon after leaving Holland for the return journey to Harwich. Captain Fryatt was charged with attempting to destroy a German submarine and was tried by Court Martial at Bruges Town Hall in Belgium on 27 July 1916. He was found guilty and executed on the same day. The execution provoked international outrage and was widely regarded as murder.

In July 1919 Captain Fryatt’s body was exhumed from its resting place in a small cemetery outside Bruges and returned to the United Kingdom for reburial. After a funeral service in St. Paul’s Cathedral on 8 July 1919, his coffin was taken by train to Dovercourt and interred in All Saints’ churchyard. He was posthumously awarded the Belgian Order of Leopold and the Belgian Maritime War Cross.

He was survived by his widow Ethel and seven children.

The papers will be on display in the Searchroom throughout April 2014.

Papers relating to the repatriation of the remains of Capt. Charles Fryatt from Bruges to Dovercourt (D/P 174/1/83)

Papers relating to the repatriation of the remains of Capt. Charles Fryatt from Bruges to Dovercourt (D/P 174/1/83)

First World War centenary – more useful resources

Earlier in the year we published a list of useful resources for those researching aspects of the First World War, which you can find here. There are new resources appearing all the time, so we thought we would share some more with you.


The British Library

The British Library have recently launched their fantastic First World War web pages, using which you can explore over 500 historical sources from across Europe, together with new insights from First World War experts. The web pages include nearly 500 historical sources from both sides of the conflict, contributed by institutions from across Europe, specially commissioned articles from historians, and resources for teachers. The pages cover a huge range of different themes, from the origins of the war, to the lives of soldiers, to propaganda, to historical debates.

You can find the World War One resource here:


The National Archives

The National Archives hold the official UK government records of the First World War, including a vast collection of letters, diaries, maps and photographs. You can explore these collections and advice on how to use them on TNA’s First World War web pages. You will also find details of their extensive programme of events marking the centenary.


Middlesex military service appeal tribunal records, 1916-1918

The National Archives have recently digitised the records of the Middlesex military tribunal appeals from 1916-1918. When conscription was introduced in 1916, men could apply to a local military tribunal for exemption, and could appeal against a local decision to the county appeal tribunal. They often include supporting letters written by family arguing why their son, brother or husband should not be called up.

The tribunal heard over 11,000 cases, most of which were rejected outright. Only 26 men succeeded in being completely exempted from being called up. Only 577 of the cases the Middlesex tribunal heard were conscientious objection cases (just over 5%), and most of them were rejected.

The Middlesex records are rare survivors; at the end of the war, the government ordered the destruction of the tribunal records due to the sensitive material they contained. Only the Middlesex records and a set in Scotland were kept as representative samples.

The records have been difficult to access, but are now searchable by name, place, or reason for appeal. You can access the records here, and you can find out more about the background here.

Some incomplete sets of records relating to local tribunals are held at local record offices. At ERO we hold the Chelmsford Local Military Tribunal records, because it was largely staffed by Chelmsford Borough Council councillors and was clerked by the clerk to the council. The records are catalogued as D/B 7 M3/2/1; you can find their catalogue entry on Seax here.


Operation War Diary

The National Archives and the Imperial War Museum are running an online project called Operation War Diary. The 1.5 million pages of the unit war diaries kept on the Western Front have been digitised, and TNA and the IWM are asking for volunteers to help reveal the stories contained within them. You can find the Operation War Diary web pages here, and find out more about the project here.


Closer to home…

Chelmsford Civic Society has been awarded a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for their project Chelmsford Remembers, which will investigate the impact of the war on our county town.

A new website has recently been launched focusing on men from Southend and district who lost their lives during the war, with details of the names inscribed on memorials, graves, and rolls of honour. You can find the site here:

Havering Museum are asking for Havering residents to contribute memories and photographs of relatives who fought in the war to a memory wall, which will be included in an exhibition launching in August. Find out more here.

You can also keep up with what is going on in Essex on the Last Poppy project blog. Recent posts include:

If you have a resource that would be of use to First World War resources do let us know by writing to

New team member: Sarah-Joy Maddeaux

We have recently welcomed a new team member to work on our HLF-funded project You Are Hear: sound and a sense of placeThe project aims to digitise and catalogue historically valuable sound recordings, and then make these available in different ways.

Name: Sarah-Joy Maddeaux

Role: Archivist / Project Officer on the Essex Sound and Video Archive ‘You Are Hear’ project



Why did you want to work at ERO?

Most of my career has involved working on my own or with one other archivist, so I’m pleased to get support and encouragement from working with other archivists for a change. The project, which seeks to make our sound and video recordings more accessible through digitisation, cataloguing, and sound installations across the county, appealed to me as a great opportunity to promote archives, something I’m always keen to do, as well as develop new skills for my future career.


Describe an average day at ERO for you:

So far I have been mostly desk-bound, spending my time making initial contacts with community groups across Essex who might want to get involved with the project. Soon I will start actually going out and meeting people to raise enthusiasm for the project – but I’ll still have to chain myself to the desk from time to time to grapple with copyright permissions for the recordings and other background research. Long term, it’s hard to see how an ‘average’ day might unfold, which is both exciting and slightly unnerving!


What do you do when you’re not at ERO?

I just moved to the area for the job, so I have been spending my free time getting settled. I like walking, so I’m looking forward to exploring the countryside. I also spend time reading and visiting friends and family.


Can you tell us about an interesting document you have come across while at ERO?

I haven’t had chance to get my hands on many documents yet. I did enjoy watching an amusingly cheesy promotional video produced by Chelmsford Borough Council in around 1990, trying to entice people to visit or move to the city, the ‘Heart of Essex’ (VA 7/1/1). Among other things, it boasted about plans for a new development on King’s Head Meadow – now The Meadows Shopping Centre – and the eclectic architecture in the new development at South Woodham Ferrers, which they admitted might not be to everyone’s taste.

Recording of the Month March 2014: The Essex Youth Orchestra

The next monthly highlight from our Sound Archivist Martin Astell…

Essex Youth Orchestra – Wand of Youth (SA 10/1/1/1/1)

For March we have some music. Our choice this month is, we believe, the earliest recording of the Essex Youth Orchestra. The orchestra was formed in 1957 as part of the County Youth Service of Essex County Council and by the time this recording was made, in 1960, they had already made successful tours of West Berlin and Essex and been invited to tour Holland.  In subsequent years the orchestra visited Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Italy, the USA and Canada, and has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, Snape Maltings, and at the Bath Festival both accompanied by and conducted by Yehudi Menuhin.

Youth Service Volume 8 Number 4 April 1968

New works have been written for or dedicated to the Essex Youth Orchestra by composers such as Alan Rawsthorne, Elizabeth Maconchy and Bernard Stevens, and former members have gone on to perform with any number of major symphony orchestras. Membership of the orchestra was open to any young person aged under 21 who was resident in Essex or attended an Essex school or college.

The Essex Youth Orchestra continues to the present day along much the same lines. You can find more details here.

The four recordings with our reference SA 10/1/1/1/1 were made on April 19th 1960 by Pike Films on both sides of two 7″ 45rpm lacquer ‘instantaneous’ discs. The discs have pre-printed labels bearing the Pike Films logo with the details of the recordings being hand-written in ink. The first two sides contain recordings of The Impressario by Mozart and part of Dvorak’s Symphony No.4. However, we have chosen to feature the third side which contains the first section of Elgar’s Wand of Youth (Suite 1), which seems appropriate for a youth orchestra. The fourth side has parts 2 and 3 of Wand of Youth.

Media Types 004 - Lacquer disc close-up

We are told that Elgar, when in his fifties, decided to develop into full orchestral works a number of compositions he had made at the tender age of eleven to accompany a childhood play staged by him and his siblings. These resulted in two suites to which he gave the name Wand of Youth and he chose to give them the opus number 1 to indicate that they were, in fact, his earliest work.

The Essex Sound and Video Archive holds a series of recordings of the Essex Youth Orchestra as well as others from Colchester Youth Chamber Orchestra, Witham Choral Society and others. We also hold recordings of compositions by Essex-based composers from William Byrd to Alan Bullard. Details of all the recordings held in the Essex Sound and Video Archive can be found on the Essex Record Office online catalogue Seax.

Medieval Mercenary: Sir John Hawkwood

There’s not long to wait now until the forthcoming ERO Conference, The Fighting Essex Soldier: Recruitment, War and Remembrance in the Fourteenth Century.

While there will be talks on the participation of Essex men in the running of the county, the king’s wars in Scotland, France and Ireland, along with on the seas and mention of the Peasants’ Revolt, we just do not have the time to talk about those men who fought on after peace was declared.

Many of the soldiers who had fought for Edward III, perhaps over the course of many years in successive campaigns, did not necessarily find the idea of going home an attractive proposition. Skills honed on the battlefields and in the garrisons of the first part of the Hundred Years War might not be welcomed back home in Essex, while the opportunities for rape and plunder at home were much more limited than on the continent.

For those willing to take a chance and stay on in Europe there were openings for continuing to fight on in various countries, not least France and Italy. One of these men – and perhaps the most famous of them – was Sir John Hawkwood (d. 1394) of Sible Hedingham. He almost certainly took part in the wars of Edward III up to 1360 but in what capacity is unclear. Possibly he may have fought at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) but he came to prominence later as the most famous condottiere (a professional military leader or captain) in Italy of his day. Sir John is even commemorated by a fresco in Florence Cathedral.

Funerary Monument to Sir John Hawkwood by Paolo Uccello (1436)

While we do not have time for a paper on him during our day, the ERO has published a book by Dr Christopher Starr about him. This richly illustrated book places Hawkwood in an Essex context, showing his descent from villain ancestors, his network of gentry and aristocratic connections and the eventual dispersal of his accumulated estates. The intriguing history of Hawkwood’s mysterious tomb at Sible Hedingham is also uncovered for the first time.


Medieval Mercenary-1

Available in person from the ERO Searchroom for £9.99, or remotely for £13.49 (including p&p within the UK cheques made payable to ‘Essex County Council’ or by credit/debit card over the phone – 01245 244644), this is a wonderful introduction to a remarkable Essex character. Why not treat yourself to a copy?


The Fighting Essex Soldier: War Recruitment and Remembrance in the Fourteenth Century

Saturday 8 March 2014, 9.30am-4.15pm

More details here

One of our speakers, Dr Jennifer Ward, has also curated a display of fourteenth-century documents from our collections to accompany the conference which will be in the Searchroom from January-March.

New team member: Andy Morgan

Our Digitisation Studio is one of those hidden but vital parts of the Record Office. The Studio does all of the digitisation work for Essex Ancestors as well as processing public orders, and creates hundreds of thousands of images of our documents each year. We are glad to be welcoming a new staff member to the Studio, and here we get to know him a little better.

Name: Andy Morgan

Role: Digitiser

New Digitiser Andy Morgan at work in ERO's Digitisation Studio

New Digitiser Andy Morgan at work in ERO’s Digitisation Studio

Why did you want to work at ERO?

Having worked at ERO for a short period 3 years ago, I was interested in the historical documents that I have photographed and converted to digital images and that they may now be more accessible for the general public to research.


Describe an average day at ERO for you:

The day may vary from photographing public documents, wills and books, recording births deaths and marriages, some of them date back over 400 years, beautifully written with quill and ink and many describe in detail how life was many years ago.


What do you do when you’re not at ERO?

I enjoy sailing during the warm weather and restoring my classic car.


Can you tell us about an interesting document you have come across while at ERO?

I have not had the chance to photograph some of the oldest documents in the collection but just copying some of the early marriage certificates gives you a clue to what life was like between the two world wars with all the different types of jobs that people had at that time that are not around now like cabinet makers, Bakelite moulders, stokers and car men.

From 1939 when the second world war commenced you can clearly see how life changed for women, replacing the men away at war by working in industry, women’s land army, to transporting replacement aircraft across the country. It can all come to life when you see it in black and white apart from the fact that the book may not have been opened since the day the happy wedding day took place!

Men Behaving Badly: Sir Hugh de Badewe

Ahead of The Fighting Essex Soldier: War Recruitment and Remembrance in the Fourteenth Century on 8 March 2014, we take a sneak preview at another of our speaker’s subjects – Gloria Harris’s research on medieval Essex knight Sir Hugh de Badewe.

Sir Hugh de Badewe (c.1315 – c.1380), of Great Baddow near Chelmsford, was a prominent Essex knight of the mid-fourteenth century. He took part in military expeditions to the Low Countries at the beginning of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) in the retinue of William de Bohun, 1st Earl of Northampton, and may have fought at the naval Battle of Sluys in 1340. In a military capacity he is next heard of on August 8th 1347 at Calais. It was here that he was rewarded by Edward III with an exemption for life from serving on assizes, juries and from appointments as mayor or sheriff for ‘good service in parts on this side of the sea’. The Siege of Calais, following on from the English victory at Crecy, had lasted for nearly a year and took a major effort on the part of the English Crown to succeed. Possibly Sir Hugh was being rewarded for having taken either crucial supplies or reinforcements of troops from Essex over to France; perhaps he even fought in the siege lines himself.

The Battle of Crecy, from a 15th-century illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart’s Chronicles

So, a near contemporary of the successful Edward III and a participant in the chivalric deeds of the times, living up to our modern-day image of the medieval knight. However, Sir Hugh was certainly not ‘a verray, parfit, gentil knight’, but, as with many other knights of the time, he was also involved in a certain amount of law breaking, or to be more precise, gang warfare. Gang warfare, in which Sir Hugh seems to have participated wholeheartedly, took place in the wider, later-medieval context of criminal activity generally and of criminal bands in particular. Lawlessness on this scale was not new and it was not confined to Essex. Organised crime was perhaps the biggest danger to public order during the later medieval period. Criminal bands could number from two or three members to two or three hundred, depending on the type of offence. In many cases the criminals themselves were often assisted by local men and women, called receivers, who were not involved directly in the attacks but helped the gangs in other ways such as providing food and shelter or perhaps valuable information based on local knowledge.

Mostly criminal gangs were drawn from members of the gentry, men like Hugh who were knights, and esquires. Although the gentry were certainly most prominent in the criminal bands, other members might be engaged in a variety of occupations. Of the three attacks in which Hugh is known to have taken part, it is the first in 1340 that is, arguably, the most interesting in terms of the numbers involved and in the social composition of the criminal band. Upwards of thirty four men were involved when they mounted the attack on John de Segrave’s property in Great Chesterford. Heading the list of offenders was the magnate John, earl of Oxford. Second on the list was John Fitz Walter, a young Essex land owner who was to gain much notoriety as an Essex criminal in future years and third was Bartholomew Berghersh, whose father was Lord Chamberlain to Edward III.

While some gangs may well have had their origins in the halls of the nobility, the links between Hugh and the gang members involved the 1340 attack appear to have had more to do with their military connections than adherence to a particular magnate household, although it is often difficult to make a distinction. While Hugh’s maiden expedition to France, at the very beginning of the Hundred Years War in 1337, may well have been his first introduction to particular noblemen and knights of the military community, some of these men were already acquainted with each other following their shared experience of active service in the war against Scotland.

Sir Hugh de Badewe is not an extraordinary case, but is all the more interesting for it, since his story is a typical one of the time. To find out more about the life and crimes Sir Hugh de Badewe, join us for Gloria’s talk at The Fighting Essex Soldier on Saturday 8 March.

The Fighting Essex Soldier: War Recruitment and Remembrance in the Fourteenth Century

Saturday 8 March 2014, 9.30am-4.15pm

More details here

One of our speakers, Dr Jennifer Ward, has also curated a display of fourteenth-century documents from our collections to accompany the conference which will be in the Searchroom from January-March.