Document of the Month, October 2015: Photograph of West Indies Cricket Team, 1939

The West Indies cricket team played Essex at Chelmsford during the Essex Cricket Festival on 31 May – 2 June 1939. The West Indies won by 2 wickets.

West Indies cricket team 1939

Back row: C. B. Clarke, G. Gomez, [? E.A.V. Williams,? J.E.Q. Sealy], A. V. Avery
Middle row: [? J.B. Stollmeyer], R.M. Taylor, Ray Smith, B. K. Castor, [? H.P. Bayley], T. Wade, [unknown], Peter Smith
Front row: G. Headley, J. Dennis, [? I. Barrow], J. O’Connor, [? R.S. Grant], J.W.A. Stephenson, [? J.H. Cameron, M. Nichols, L. Constantine, L. Eastman, [? E.A. Martindale]
[Identified by Ray Illingworth and Peter Edwards of Essex County Cricket Club, October 1998]

This photograph was taken by the famous Chelmsford photographer Fred Spalding, himself a keen cricketer. He rarely included the names of players in teams but in this case the players have been identified as far as possible.  They include George Headley (far left on front row) and Learie (later Sir Learie) Constantine  (3rd from right on front row).

Headley scored 116 against Essex and went on to score two more centuries against England during the 1939 season.

During Essex’ first innings Constantine took 7 wickets for 49 runs in 10 overs and during their second innings, 6 wickets for 42 runs. Constantine had toured England with the West Indies cricket team in 1928 (their first ever tour), scoring 130 runs in 90 minutes against Essex.  He continued his career as a cricketer playing for both the West Indies and for teams in Lancashire.  He later became a barrister and Trinidad’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and was influential in the passing of the Race Relations Act.

The photograph will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout October 2015.

Essex and the Hundred Years’ War

2015 marks the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V’s famous victory against the French on 25 October 1415. To mark this milestone, we are hosting Essex at Agincourt, a one-day conference on Saturday 31 October 2015 looking at the contribution made by our county to Henry’s campaign. This is a joint event with the Essex branch of the Historical Association, and all the details can be found here.

In this blog post, ERO’s medieval specialist Katharine Schofield takes a broader look at the context of the Hundred Years’ War and the part that Essex played in some of its campaigns. Read on for a quick crash course in this century-spanning medieval conflict.


What was the Hundred Years’ War?

The Hundred Years’ War lasted from 1337 to 1453 (116 years).  Instead of a continuous war, it was a series of campaigns and battles, sometimes interrupted by periods of peace, between England and France for control over the French kingdom.  Apart from the main English campaigns, smaller forces were sometimes sent to support English allies in France.

The Battle of Agincourt, from Chroniques d’Enguerrand de Monstrelet (early 15th century) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1316 King Louis X of France died, leaving a daughter and no son.  At a time when power was derived largely from military might, an heir who was a daughter or an under-age son was considered to be disastrous.  The king’s younger brother successfully claimed that women could not succeed to the French throne and followed his brother as Philip V.  He in turn left daughters and was succeeded by another brother Charles IV in 1322.  When Charles IV died in 1328 he again left a daughter and no son.  The closest male relative was his nephew Edward III, son of his sister Isabella, ‘the She-Wolf of France’.  Edward’s claim was disputed as it was through his mother and instead Charles’ cousin Philip, Count of Valois became Philip VI of France.

After gaining control of his kingdom from his mother and her reputed lover Roger Mortimer in 1330, Edward III initially waged war against Scotland.  Philip VI of France supported his allies the Scots against the English, threatening the remaining English lands in Gascony (the area to the south and east of Bordeaux).  This interference was one of the reasons which led Edward III to claim the French throne for himself.  In 1340 Edward III began to call himself king of England and France, a title held by every successor until it was abandoned by George III in 1800.  He also added the French arms of the fleur-de-lys to the royal arms.

Edward III described as King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine in the Maldon Borough charter of 1330 (Eduardus dei Gra[cia[ Rex Angl[orum] Dommus Hibernie Duc Aquit[ane]) (D/B 3/13/3)

Edward III described as King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine in the top line of the Maldon Borough charter of 1330 (Eduardus dei Gra[cia[ Rex Angl[ie] Dominus Hibernie Duc Aquit[ane]) (D/B 3/13/3)

Henry VI described as King of England and France and Lord of Ireland on the Maldon Borough charter of 1454 (D/B 3/13/8)

Henry VI described as King of England and France and Lord of Ireland on the Maldon Borough charter of 1454 (Henricus dei gracie Rex Anglie France Dominus Hibernie) (D/B 3/13/8)

The Battle of Sluys

The first English victory of the war was the naval Battle of Sluys on 22 June 1340 which led to the almost complete destruction of the French fleet and resulted in English control over the Channel, removing the threat of invasion.  Edward III sailed to the battle on La Cogge Thomas from Harwich, with 200 ships.   A further eleven ships were left behind under the command of the town’s bailiff, John But, to act as reinforcements.


Essex and the supply chain

The start of the Hundred Years’ War brought importance and prosperity to the port of Harwich.  The town had only been established by the Bigod family in their manor of Dovercourt in the mid-13th century.  Edward III used it as an important base in his war against the French.  In 1338 he granted murage (the right to build walls) to the town.  It was at Harwich that Edward III first sent out letters signing himself King of France in 1340.  In 1347 the town supplied 14 ships and 283 seamen for the Siege of Calais in 1347.

A much later view of the port of Harwich (I/Mb 170/1/3)

A much later view of the port of Harwich (I/Mb 170/1/3)

The records of the Exchequer at the National Archives record the expenses of the sheriff of Essex, William de Wauton in 1340 for the ‘divers provisions for the use of the King for his passage beyond the seas’.  All the Essex hundreds had to send material and food to Maldon or Manningtree, from where they were shipped to Harwich.

Goods such as canvas supplied from London and rope bought in Suffolk , together with money for wages sent from London were all transported to Harwich.  The accounts record that Essex supplied four gangways (pontes) 30 feet long and 5 feet wide.  The county also provided stabling for the horses on the ships, with 418 hurdles 9 feet long and 6 feet wide ‘roughened and close woven’ to prevent the chargers’ hooves penetrating and 116 long racks, 24 feet long.

Places throughout the county supplied goods – hurdles came from Purleigh, Totham, Terling and Hatfield Peverel, racks from Heybridge and 864 boards arrived from (among other places) Broomfield, Feering, Messing, Coggeshall and Colchester.

In the 1340s the English and French were involved in a war in Brittany over the succession to the duchy, each supporting a different side and ally in the conflict.   In 1342 the sheriff of Essex was required to supply 1,098 sheaves of arrows and 1,000 bowstrings which were sent to the Tower.  In that same year 10 ships from Harwich, five from Colchester, four from Brightlingsea and three from Maldon formed part of a fleet to take the English commander Sir Walter de Manny to Brittany.

In July 1346 Edward led a land campaign against the French.  Essex again played its part in the campaign.  The county sent 200 archers, 160 bows and 400 sheaves of arrows and the county’s towns were required to supply armed foot-soldiers, 20 from Colchester (later retained for the town’s defence), 6 from Saffron Walden and 4 each from Chelmsford, Braintree and Waltham Holy Cross.  At the beginning of the year the sheriff had been required to supply another 1,000 hurdles, 24 gangways, 2,000 boards and 200 empty tuns for water.


The Battle of Crecy, from a illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart’s Chronicles

The Battle of Crécy

On 26 August 1346 the English archers demonstrated the power of the longbow winning the decisive Battle of Crécy.  In October Essex was required to supply another 30 archers and in February 1347 an additional 200.  After Crécy the English forces went on to besiege Calais, which after a year surrendered in 1347.  It was to remain in English hands until 1558.


The Plague

Following these victories, Europe was devastated by the Black Death.  The bubonic plague moved across the continent, killing an estimated third of the population of England alone.


The Black Prince

It was not until 1356 that Edward’s eldest son Edward, Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) led the next major campaign in France, this time not in the north, but closer to the English lands of Aquitaine.  The second major English victory, again with the aid of the longbow, came at the Battle of Poitiers on 13 September 1356.  Among the French prisoners captured was John II, King of France.  Edward III’s final invasion of France followed the battle but John II’s son, the future Charles V, forced the king to negotiate the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360 which allowed the return of John II to France in return for hostages and a ransom of 3 million crowns.


Richard II, Henry IV

Edward III died in 1377 and he was succeeded by his ten year old grandson Richard II, the son of the Black Prince who had died in 1376.  In 1380 Charles V of France died and was succeeded by his eleven year old son Charles VI (the Mad). There were no further land campaigns by the English in France until Henry V succeeded his father Henry IV in 1413.


Henry V

Henry V reasserted his hereditary claims in France and in August 1415 sailed from England to besiege the town of Harfleur.  Following the town’s surrender Henry V’s army met a much larger French force at the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415.  Despite being heavily outnumbered, the longbow was again of great importance in the victory of the English forces.  Civil war followed in France and when Henry returned for another campaign in 1417 he was able to force concessions on the French.  In 1420 the Treaty of Troyes recognised him as the regent of France and heir to Charles VI and in that same year he married Charles’ daughter Catherine de Valois.

Marriage of Henry V of England to Catherine of Valois British Library, Miniature of the marriage of Henry V and Catharine de Valois: Jean Chartier, Chronique de Charles VII, France (Calais), 1490, and England, before 1494, Royal 20 E. vi, f. 9v,

Henry VI

In 1422 Henry V died leaving a nine month old son Henry VI.  A month after his father’s death he became king of France when Charles VI died and was crowned king of France in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1431.

Henry V left his younger brother John, Duke of Bedford as his regent in France.  The English victory at the Battle of Verneuil on 17 August 1424 again saw the pre-eminence of English archers as a weapon of war and marked the end of the great English successes in France.

In 1428 the English laid siege to Orléans but the French were successful in their resistance, inspired by Joan of Arc and went on to defeat the English elsewhere.  Joan of Arc was captured in 1430 and burned at the stake in 1431.  However, this failed to improve the fortunes of the English army, who continued to suffer defeats.


Coastal raids on Essex

In between the major land campaigns, there were minor skirmishes and raids on the coastal towns of each country.  In 1451 the Harwich court roll records a raid by the French in which nine people were killed.  John Sexteyn, John Hervy, Peter Coylour and Richard Smyth were charged at the borough court that having sworn to watch the town of Harwich [villam derwych] faithfully during the night, the town was spoiled and destroyed.  The court promised further enquiry into this matter.

The jurors present that John Sexteyn, John Hervy, Peter Coylour and Richard Smyth were charged and sworn to watch the town of Harwich [villam derwych] faithfully during the night when it happened that the town was spoiled and destroyed [expoliairi et destrui] by our enemies and our neighbours to the number of nine were slaughtered; whether in this default or not at present they do not know’; therefore they have to inquire and make their verdict at the next court (St. Barnabas 29 Henry VI 1451)

The jurors present that John Sexteyn, John Hervy, Peter Coylour and Richard Smyth were charged and sworn to watch the town of Harwich [villam derwych] faithfully during the night when it happened that the town was spoiled and destroyed [expoliairi et destrui] by our enemies and our neighbours to the number of nine were slaughtered; whether in this default or not at present they do not know’; therefore they have to inquire and make their verdict at the next court (St. Barnabas 29 Henry VI 1451)

Only the year before John Sexteyn and John Norys had been 3d. each for entertaining [hospitare] the watchmen [vigilatores] of the town when they ought to be watching.


John Norys and John Sexteyn amerced 3d. each for entertaining [hospitare] the watchment [vigilatores] of the town when they ought to be watching and ? [? Guarding] for the good of the town (St. Barnabas 28 Henry VI 1450).

It is likely that there were further raids as in 1456 the court rolls records that Adam Palmere was presented at court for having shown our French enemies [inimici nostris franc] the very secret way of our port of Orwell leading their ships in safety to the grave damage of the town and against the ordinance and statute of England.

Adam Palmere showed to our French enemies [inimici nostris franc] the very secret way of our port of Orwell leading their ships in safety to the grave damage of the town and against the ordinance and statute of England (St. Barnabas 34 Henry VI [1456])

Adam Palmere showed to our French enemies [inimici nostris franc] the very secret way of our port of Orwell leading their ships in safety to the grave damage of the town and against the ordinance and statute of England (St. Barnabas 34 Henry VI [1456])

The end of the War

The Battle of Castillon on 17 July 1453 is generally held to be the end of the war.  By the 1450s English attention moved away from France to civil war in England (the Wars of the Roses) between the Lancastrians represented by Henry VI’s supporters and the rival claim of the house of York.


Essex men who took part

As well as the money and goods contributed to the military campaigns of the Hundred Years’ War, Essex also supplied men to fight in the armies that went to France.  In addition to the sailors from Harwich, Colchester and Maldon, men from the county would have fought in the retinues of the knights and lords who took part in overseas expeditions.

John de Vere, 7th Earl of Oxford fought at the Battles of Crécy and Poitiers and at the siege of Calais.  He died in France while on campaign in 1360.  His grandson Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford was one of the commanders at the Battle of Agincourt.

William de Bohun, 6th Earl of Hereford, 5th Earl of Essex and 1st Earl of Northampton held the lands in the county originally held by the de Mandeville family, mostly in the north and west of the county.  He fought at Sluys, Crécy and Calais and was buried at (Saffron) Walden Abbey in 1360.

Robert, 1st Lord Bourchier fought in Brittany and at Crécy and was buried in Halstead church.  The Bourchiers were lords of the manors of Abels and Stanstead Hall in Halstead and later Prayers in Sible Hedingham and Little Easton.  They inherited the manor of Little Easton through marriage from Sir John de Lovayne who was killed at the siege of Calais.  Robert Bourchier’s eldest son John, his grandson William, Count of Eu and his great-grandson Henry, Earl of Essex all fought in campaigns in France, William at Agincourt.

John de Coggeshall was among those killed at the siege of Calais, having fought at Crécy.  He was the eldest son of Sir John de Coggeshall, lord of a number of manors including Little Coggeshall and sheriff of Essex for a number of years.

Other Essex men killed in the siege of Calais included Sir William de Wauton, who fought in the retinue of the earl of Oxford and was buried at Tilty Abbey and Sir Robert de Lacy, lord of the manor of Newnham Hall in Ashdon.

Knights and landed families of the county were represented in the retinues of the great landowners.  John, son of Henry Helyoun of [Helions] Bumpstead was in the retinue of the Black Prince in 1346.  Sir Baldwin de Botetourt was master of the Black Prince’s horses and a member of his bodyguard at Poitiers.  He was rewarded by the grant of the Crown’s manor of Newport in return for a rose rent.  Sir Richard Waldegrave whose family held the manor of Wormingford fought in the retinue of earl Humphrey de Bohun in the early 1370s.


Essex at Agincourt

A joint event with the Essex branch of the Historical Association to mark the 600thanniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V’s famous 1415 victory against the French. Join us for talks from Professor Anne Curry, internationally-renowned expert on the Hundred Years War, Dr James Ross, an expert on the medieval nobility of East Anglia, and the English Warbow Society.

Saturday 31 October, 11.00am for 11.30am-3.30pm

Advance booking essential

Tickets: £15 for non-HA members; £7 for HA members, including refreshments and lunch

Non-HA members: please book through the ERO on 033301 32500

HA members: please book through the Essex branch of the Historical Association on or 01245 440007

Part of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival

Spark of Interest: The First World War

A special event for Secondary Schools studying the First World War on Monday 9th November 2015.

The aim of ‘Spark of Interest – the First World War’ is to reinvigorate an interest amongst students in the First World War, using different themes and angles to approach the topic or expand on what they already know. The day comprises of short, well researched talks by ERO experts and guests. All talks will include primary sources.

Cost: £10 per student. One teacher/adult supervisor free per 10 students. Additional adults £10 each. Bookings can be taken for whole classes or for smaller groups.

Students from years 7-11 should be accompanied by a teacher. A level students may attend on their own.

How to book: please e-mail or telephone 03330132500

You can also download our FREE First World War resource pack to start using Essex primary sources in your classroom.


Last Poppy logo9.00-9.30 Arrive

Students can browse the temporary exhibition by The Last Poppy Project, which tells the story of individuals, families and communities during the First World War using local sources. Early birds can hear about the origins of the poppy as a symbol of the First World War and subsequent conflicts.


9.30-10.30 Richard Knight – Introduction to the First World War

At one hour this will be the longest talk of the day and equip students with an introduction or reminder of the events of the First World War, with a particular focus on the army and trench warfare. The talk is illustrated by a wealth of real and accurate replica artefacts from the era.

10.30-10.45 Break

Col F Whitmore10.45-11.15 Allyson Lewis – Colonel Whitmore

Carefully documenting his life Colonel Whitmore collected newspaper cuttings and took photographs.  This wealthy and influential man strongly encouraged other members of his community to join the fight in the First World War in the beginning. He saw action himself – was shot twice and suffered shellshock. Through his story students can see the successes and regrets of this interesting, compassionate gentleman.


11.15-11.45 Grahame Harris – Aliens in Essex

The story of Essex residents perceived as ‘the enemy’ during the First World War.

Composer of the Planets Suite, Gustav von Holst, conducting in Thaxted church in 1916. Even though he was born in England, Holst's Germanic name meant that he was watched closely and reported to the Essex authorities during the First World War.

Composer of the Planets Suite, Gustav von Holst, conducting in Thaxted church in 1916. Even though he was born in England, Holst’s Germanic name meant that he was watched closely and reported to the Essex authorities during the First World War.

11.45-12.15 Valina Bowman-Burns – War in the Air

Technology took leaps forward in the First World War and the newly invented aeroplane, previously the plaything of the rich and reckless, evolved into the reconnaissance, fighter and bomber that changed how wars were fought.


12.15-12.45 Lunch

12.45-1.15 Martin Astell – First World War Recorded

Using the sound archive students will hear the recorded memories of people who lived through the First World War, including stories of zeppelin crashes and the first air raids.

Zeppelin1 watermark

1.15-1.45 Lawrence Barker – “INVASION! Though possible is somewhat improbable”

The words of a First World War poster alert the residents of coastal regions of Essex to their proximity to the Western Front. Students will be shown lesser known sources that tell us about the planning and preparations that were put in case of invasion.

L/P 3/6

Researching vintage and classic vehicles

Do you own a historic vehicle and are curious about its past? The Essex Record Office holds the first registration details for over 750,000 cars, motorbikes, tractors, trucks and other vehicles registered in Essex between 1904 and 1974 and Southend between 1914 and 1961. The first Essex entry is for registration F1, on 1 January 1904, for a 15 horse power ‘Panhard Levassor’ registered to Essex County Council, and the last entries are from 1974 when responsibility for the registration of vehicles passed to the DVLA.


F1, the first vehicle to be registered in Essex in 1904 (C/DF 12/7)

One notable purchaser of a vehicle in Essex was Frank Winfield Woolworth, the American retail tycoon, who registered a brown 35 horse power Double Phaeton Panhard on the 26 July 1910. His first shop was opened in Liverpool the previous year – perhaps he was touring the country?


Woolworth’s opened a branch in Chelmsford in 1929. The company’s American owner, Frank Woolworth, purchased a car in Essex in 1910 (D/F 269/1/1514)

If you think that your historic vehicle might be included in our records, our Search Service can investigate for you and produce a certified abstract recording the vehicle details from the original register. The entry for each registration number includes the date of registration, some details of the first owner and some details about the vehicle, but entries do vary according to the date when the vehicle was registered.

Chassis numbers for Essex registered vehicles are usually recorded but please be aware that this is not always the case. For those recorded in the Southend area the chassis number was never recorded in the records that we hold. The certified abstract, if it contains a chassis number, should be acceptable to the DVLA as supporting evidence to accompany a V765 form (Application to register a vehicle under its original registration number).

How to know if your vehicle was registered in Essex or Southend

The earliest vehicles registered in Essex (1904-c.1920) all have registrations beginning with the letter F. After that, there are several combinations of letters that indicate a vehicle was registered in Essex. This might be the only two letters on the registration, or the last two of a group of three letters:

EV, HK, NO, OO, PU, TW, VW, VX and WC

Similarly the two letter combinations and dates for Southend are:

HJ and JN

Get in touch

If you would like to speak to us about using the Search Service to find details of an historic vehicle registration, please get in touch on 033301 32500 or

Chelmsford Then and Now: 4-5 High Street – Crane Inn, Spalding’s, Natwest

In this third post in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at nos. 4-5 High Street through the centuries. Find out more about the project here.

The current site of NatWest Bank at the north end of Chelmsford High Street is most commonly associated with the Spalding family who occupied the property from 1892. Fred Spalding junior ran a successful photography and fancy goods business which remained on the site until the mid-20th century. The property was built in the 18th century on the former site of the Crane Inn and was mostly used as a private residence until the arrival of the Spalding family.

During the 16th century the Crane Inn, which was owned by Sir Thomas Mildmay, occupied the sites of 4-6 high street. The Crane Inn and yard, which is visible on the Walker Map, comprised numerous buildings which were progressively divided into smaller, individual properties during the 18th century. Number four was purchased by Thomas Old, a wine and brandy merchant, who rebuilt the property in 1784. The owner of number 5, Robert Tweed, perhaps inspired by his neighbour, rebuilt his own property the following year. The properties continued to function as private residences through to the 19th century.

Walker map extract

Extract from John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford, showing the north end of the High Street where the Crane Inn was situated. (D/DM P1)

From 1871 number 4 was owned and occupied by wine merchant John Champ. The Champ residence was an attractive three-storey brick property.

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Early photo of the High Street taken from the Shire Hall. The Champ residence can be seen on the right of the Saracen’s Head Hotel.

Champ conducted a successful wine and brandy import business from the premises which was frequently advertised in the local newspapers. Ironically, Mr Champ himself did not drink. Chelmsford Mayor Frederick Spalding recalled the following encounter whereby a well-known local tradesman paid a visit to the residence to observe the different vintages of port and wine in Mr. Champ’s well-stocked cellar. Quoting Mr. Champ:

“That is a very special port, and I should say from the age and condition that it is worth quite 15/- a bottle.” On arriving back at the office he [Champ] said to his visitor, “Can I offer you anything to drink?” “Yes” came the quick reply, “I should like a glass of port from the special bin you showed me.” Mr Champ hesitated, but would not go back on his word. He brought a bottle and it is said the gentleman finished it before he left.”

The property obviously made an impression on the young Fred Spalding who purchased it shortly after John Champ’s demise in 1892. Fred Spalding’s father, also called Fred, was a self-taught photographer who got into the business really as the art itself was taking off. Fred senior moved to Chelmsford around the same time, where he set up business on Tindal Street. The Tindal Street store proved prosperous and this was where the young Fred Spalding learnt the family trade.

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Photograph of Tindal Square in the late 1860s. In the centre of the image is the original Spalding shop. The premises is fairly small and quite understated in comparison to the later shop situated on 4-5 5 High Street. A glass studio, necessary for photographers prior to the introduction of artificial lighting, is visible on the roof of the property.

By 1892, Fred Spalding junior was on the hunt for new premises to accommodate his expanding business. John Champ’s residence, described by a sale advertisement as occupying the most ‘commanding and desirable’ location in town, came up for sale in October of that year. Spalding surely agreed with the advertisement having purchased the property shortly after. He promptly commissioned the noted local architect Frederic Chancellor to redevelop the existing buildings to enable to smooth transition from ‘house’ to ‘shop’. Chancellor’s plans for the changes have survived and are deposited among his practice’s papers at ERO.

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Plan of alterations for the interior of number 4 High Street. (D/F 8/280)

The most noticeable change was the addition of large, glass display windows at street level which were used to display photographs and goods for sale.

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Plan of alterations for the exterior of number 5 High Street. (D/F 8/280)

Spalding’s skilfully arranged displays were renowned for captivating passers-by and drawing business into the shop. On one particular occasion in 1905, a Spalding’s display unintentionally exposed simmering tensions between the local constabulary and the town’s tradesmen. Crowds had gathered outside the shop window to view photographs taken of a recent railway accident in Witham. The Chief Constable of Essex later wrote a letter to the Town Council complaining that the display was obstructing the use of the pathway causing pedestrians to step into the road. The Constable scathingly wrote:

“Mr Spalding evidently thinks that the curtilage of his premises extends to the whole footpath and a part of the road…During my experience of over five years in this town I have found that the greater offenders against the laws of obstruction are the tradespeople…”

Mr Spalding, dismayed by the ‘trivial’ nature of the complaint responded:

“It is the ambition of tradesmen to make the best show they can of their goods. If the police are going to try to stop the tradesmen from showing their goods, the sooner I shut up shop the better.”

The issue was discussed at length by the Town Council where the complaint was universally agreed ridiculous, with Councillor Waller concluding:

“It was the people on the path who made the obstruction. If the police could not move them on they don’t seem to me to be competent.”

The shop continued to thrive throughout the first half of the twentieth century. The large crowd, depicted in the photograph below, have gathered outside the Spalding shop to await the arrival of Father Christmas, who made an annual detour to visit a grotto located inside the premises. This tradition was a popular and very well attended event.

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The annual visit from Father Christmas to the Spalding shop was an extremely popular and well-loved event. (SCN 3914)

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A large crowd eagerly awaiting the arrival of Father Christmas outside the Spalding shop in the 1920s. (SCN 3995)

The shop continued to operate during the war years, providing emergency shelter for up to 150 people. Shoppers caught on the high street during an air raid could find safety in the extensive basement below the Spalding shop.

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The Spalding Shop, Chelmsford High Street (SCN 2261)

Frederick Spalding survived the war but died shortly after. He was a much revered member of the town, having served for over 50 years on the Town Council as well as three consecutive terms as Mayor. The closure of the shop swiftly followed, marking the end of an era for Chelmsford photography. For the best part of a century, the Spalding family captured both the history and character of the town. The legacy of this endeavour can be found in the vast collection of photographs which are housed in the Essex Record Office. The Spalding image collection, which number in excess of 7000, is available for viewing from the Essex Record Office Searchroom.

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NatWest, Chelmsford High Street

At first glance the current NatWest building appears radically different but in reality, the original features of the 18th century building still remain and are visible beneath the layers of pale blue and cream paint.

If you would like to find out more about Fred Spalding and his photography shop see The World of Fred Spalding by Stan Jarvis available in the ERO Searchroom. Alternatively pop into the ERO and browse the fantastic collection of Spalding images located in the Searchroom.

You Are Hear: What does it sound like?

Sarah-Joy Maddeaux of our You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place project muses on how sounds can transport us to difference times and places.

Smells and tastes are evocative senses; this is well-known. A whiff of a particular aroma instantly transports me to the place where I once encountered that scent. The smell of an extinguished match smells like birthdays, that moment at the party when you blow out the candles on the cake. The smell of chlorine takes me back to swimming lessons. The warm smell you encounter of an upstairs room on a hot day reminds me of summer; the dusty smell when you first put the heating on for the year reminds me of winter. As for the smell of a library book, well, that is a heavenly odour that evokes happy days spent discovering new texts and re-reading well-loved ones. A taste of a familiar food, too, can bring me back to childhood. A baked apple is associated with Bonfire Night; the first clementine of the season tastes like Christmas.

But sound? Certain songs remind me of a period in my life, or people I enjoyed the tunes with. But can ordinary, everyday sounds have the same effect? Working on the You Are Hear project has made me realise that, yes, sounds too can provoke memories of places encountered. After growing up in a port town, the horn of a ship reminds me of watching the slow progress of ocean-going vessels travelling through the locks. An oar quietly slipping through the water on a still morning brings back family canoeing trips. The honking of geese brings to mind autumn, and the start of a new academic year, with all the mingled expectation, fear, hope, and regret this entailed. The relentless clipping of hundreds of heels on hard floors, rhythmic but not quite in unison, will always remind me of my morning commute through the maze of underground tunnels during a brief period when I worked in London.

Thinking more about this, there are certain sounds that were distinctive to my childhood in the late twentieth century, sounds that only a comparative few (out of the course of human history) would identify with. The exquisitely sharp sound of a phonograph needle dropping into place, though this is enduring thanks to djs and music purists.

Record on record player

The drone of a dot matrix printer. The call of a dial-up modem (static at one pitch, static at a lower pitch, then wee-oh, wee-oh, all the while hoping, desperately hoping that it will connect).

For how much longer will these sounds be remembered? What sounds in human history have disappeared and been forgotten? In fifty years, will people know why the words ‘Unexpected item in baggage area’ spoken in an automated female voice provoke me to a frustrated rage because I HAVEN’T STARTED CHECKING OUT MY PURCHASES YET! Will an annoyingly chirpy whistle still prompt half of a bus-load of passengers to start rummaging in their bags looking for their phones?

Sound artists have realised the power of sound to evoke associations, and the danger of losing certain noises as our world changes. Aiming to record the present for future generations, they seek out those noises that compose everyday soundscapes, difficult to identify, but instantly recognisable to those who dwell in such soundscapes.

As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place, we want to capture the sounds of twenty-first century Essex by making new recordings of what you can hear today. We will then pin these recordings to an online map, together with recordings made in similar locations or of similar activities decades ago, from recordings already in the Essex Sound and Video Archive. Will this show change, or continuity? I expect both.

We need your help. What sounds matter to you? What can you hear on a daily basis? What sounds do you think will disappear in ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred years? We are holding public consultations to ask you, the residents of Essex, what sounds mean Essex to you, or what Essex sounds like. Come along to one of the following events and tell us about your soundscape, and why you are hearing what you are, where you are.

1-3 October: George Yard Shopping Centre, Braintree
29-31 October: Grays Shopping Centre, Grays
12 November: ecdp offices, Chelmsford
19-21 November: High Chelmer Shopping Centre, Chelmsford

You will also have the opportunity to test our prototype audio comparison map; take a beginner’s workshop on making your own sound recordings; and learn more about the project. If you cannot make it to these events, please do pass on your suggestions of Essex sounds to: Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, You Are Hear Project Officer.

HLF Logo

New team member: Valina Bowman-Burns

The ERO’s collections offer infinite educational possibilities, and we are excited to welcome Valina on board to explore these and bring them to students across the county.


IMG_7835Name: Valina Bowman-Burns

Role: Learning from History Manager





Why did you want to work at ERO?

I was introduced to the Essex Record Office as a student and spent many happy hours researching for my dissertation. It would have taken considerably less time if I was better at reading Tudor handwriting. I’ve also introduced friends and co-workers and always had positive experiences treasure hunting in the Searchroom. I’m very education focused, so when a job came up that used my skillset I jumped at it.


Describe an average day at ERO for you:

I’m still meeting people and trying to work out how the teams fit together.  I hope in the near future that I’ll be working much more closely with schools and bringing some new learning sessions online.  I’ll try and keep you posted.


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

I like trying new things. So far this year I’ve tried screen printing, had a trial flight in a Tiger Moth biplane and given Tunisian crochet a go. In the evenings I am a regular at Zumba, yoga and Aikido.


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

  1. The records from a mental institution in Colchester had some very sad stories.
  2. Jane Barnard’s will was my prize find when researching my dissertation – I could read it and it contained good detail that I was looking for.
  3. Some Victorian photographs of a man in full, fashionable Victorian ladies garb – corsets and all! I was very envious of his dress and style!

Document of the Month, September 2015: Derwentwater correspondence, 1716

Katharine Schofield, Archivist

September’s Document of the Month is a collection of letters and a printed copy of a speech by James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, written as his execution for his part in the Jacobite Rebellion approached (D/DP F273/2-6, 37). The letters were written to his wife, his mother, and his wife’s parents, and discuss the heartbreak of leaving his wife, his hope for forgiveness and happiness in the afterlife, and care of his brother and children.

James Radclyffe 3rd Earl of Derwentwater

Engraving of James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater by George Vertue, after Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1716 (National Portrait Gallery)

The Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 was the attempt made by the Old Pretender, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart to claim the throne.  James II succeeded his brother Charles II in 1685 but his Catholicism made him unpopular with his subjects.  In 1688 James’s Protestant son-in-law William, Prince of Orange and daughter Mary were invited to England and James fled abroad.  The Glorious Revolution established a Protestant monarchy and after Mary’s sister Queen Anne died in 1714 the crown passed to George, Elector of Hanover (George I).

The Earl of Derwentwater's letter to his in-laws as his execution approached, telling them how much he loved their daughter and apologising for the unhappiness he had brought to her

The Earl of Derwentwater’s letter to his in-laws as his execution approached, telling them how much he loved their daughter and apologising for the unhappiness he had brought to her

On 6 September 1715 the Earl of Mar raised the Old Pretender’s standard at Braemar, beginning the rebellion.  Most of the armed conflict took place in Scotland, but in October there was a rising in Northumberland in which James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater and his brother Charles (later 5th Earl) took part.  They joined with Scottish Jacobites (from the Latin Jacobus or James) and reached as far as Preston where they were defeated and surrendered to the Government forces on 12-14 November.  By the time the Old Pretender landed at Peterhead on 22 December, the Jacobite army was heavily outnumbered and he left defeated in February 1716.

Earl of Derwentwater speech

Printed copy of the speech made by the Earl of Derwentwater at his execution

The Earl of Derwentwater was convicted of high treason and executed on Tower Hill on 24 February 1716.  Many of Derwentwater’s final letters to his family survive among the Petre family records, as his daughter Mary married the 8th Lord Petre.

In 1745 the Old Pretender’s son Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender (Bonnie Prince Charlie) made another unsuccessful attempt to claim the Crown.  Derwentwater’s brother Charles had managed to escape abroad in 1716, but was executed for his part in the 1745 rebellion.

The documents will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout September 2015.

Chelmsford Then and Now: The Saracen’s Head

In the second in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at the Saracen’s Head Hotel. Find out more about the project here.

The Saracen’s Head was first recorded on the site of Number 3 High Street in 16th century parish registers. Remarkably the Saracen’s Head continues to occupy the same site today, having served as a popular and well frequented establishment for nearly five hundred years.

Saracen's Head Chelmsford

The Saracen’s Head today at the north end of Chelmsford High Street

Walker map Saracen's Head

Extract from the 1591 Walker map of Chelmsford. The Saracen’s Head is the third building down on the eastern side of the High Street, opposite the old Market Cross, where the market and court hearings took place. The property backs onto ‘Saracen’s Head Meade’ (D/DM P1).

John Walker’s map of Chelmsford includes eleven inns dotted along the high street in the 16th century. On the site of 3 High Street sat The Saracen’s Head inn; a large, two storey property constructed from timber. Chelmsford was ideally situated on the road to London and therefore made a welcome resting point for weary travellers. The survey which accompanies Walker’s map tells us that Richard Brett was in charge at the time:

The Sarazens Hedd – an Inn with buildings, gardens, curtilages, and orchards, Richard Brett also holds a piece of waste in front of the Sarazens hedd in length “xv foote of assise and in breadeth Easte and West vj foote, for moveable stalles to be used in the market time.”


The Saracen’s Head grew into one of the largest inns on the high street, boasting an impressive 18 hearths according the Hearth Tax Assessment conducted in 1671.

Chelmsford’s growing prosperity and increasing trade facilitated the redevelopment of the property in the early 18th century. Owner Thomas Nicholls took a second mortgage out on the Saracen’s Head, describing the property as ‘lately erected and new built’ in 1724. Development came at a price and unfortunately Nicholls was unequipped to pay it. He defaulted on the mortgage repayments and the property subsequently passed to William Taylor. Despite Nicholls’ personal financial shortcomings, the Saracen’s Head continued to prosper into the 19th century. We are fortunate to have a beautifully written will belonging to Saracen’s Head innkeeper George Lake which reveals the growing wealth of the town’s tradesmen. Lake was able to bequeath twenty pounds each to his mother and sister as well as an annuity of thirty pounds to be paid over their lifetime. While many of the original Tudor inns were either demolished or replaced by various retail establishments, the Saracen’s Head continued to thrive and proved itself a profitable establishment.

(2) D-ABW 137-1-144

The will of Saracen’s Head innkeeper George Lake in 1845. (D/ABW 137/1/144)

From the late 18th century, inns increasingly provided an important social space in the heart of town. The Saracen’s Head, as one of the largest inns on the high street, was a popular venue of choice and hosted a whole range of activities, clubs and events.

(3) SCN 2

Photograph taken from the north end of the High Street in the late 19th century. The Saracen’s Head can be seen just behind the Sebastopol Cannon which has since been moved to Oaklands Park.

The Chelmsford Beefsteak Club met once a month at the inn where they had their own cellar reserved. Every summer the inn accommodated the Flowerists feast and prior to the construction of the Shire Hall in 1791, the Saracen’s Head hosted various concerts and balls. Advertisements were frequently placed in local newspapers announcing the events which attracted visitors from across the county.

(4) I-LS-CFD-00006

The Chelmsford cycling club posing outside the Saracen’s Head in the 1890s (I/LS/CFD/00006)

The Saracen’s Head was equally popular with local residents, who perhaps appreciated the long history of the ancient establishment. Mayor of Chelmsford Frederick Spalding recalled:

“…the little back room, which I remember very well, was what one might call a club room, because every seat in it during the evening was occupied by some well-known resident of Chelmsford… If you were at any time permitted to go into this room and happened to seat yourself on any particular chair you would be politely told that at 7 o’clock, when Mr. – came in, you would have to vacate it.”

During the Second World War, the Saracen’s Head opened its doors to the American Red Cross. Known locally as the ‘American Club’, the hostel provided sleeping accommodation for up to 30 men as well as providing meals for up to 300 soldiers per day. The hostel was kept separate from the Saracen Head’s main bars and even had its own entrance. The Chelmsford Chronicle hastened to reassure residents that the opening of the American Club ‘would in no way affect the bars, which will be carried on as usual’.

The American officers were a visible and constant presence on the High Street during the war years. The photograph below captured in 1942 depicts numerous American officers, dressed in full uniform, posing outside the Saracen’s Head. A large sign reading ‘American Red Cross Service Club’ dominates the main entrance, while an American flag flutters overhead.

(5) D-F-269-1-552

The Saracen’s Head Hotel during the Second World War when it was used as a club for the American Armed Forces. (SCN 552)

 The hostel also acted as an important social hub where American soldiers could relax and mix with the locals. In the photograph below numerous American officers can be seen relaxing inside the hostel, clearly enjoying the comfortable and even homely interiors.

(6) SCN 547

The Saracen’s Head provided hot meals for up to 300 American soldiers per day. (SCN 547)

(7) SCN 548

Over 150 women from the Chelmsford area volunteered their services at the new American Club. (SCN 548)

The American officers reportedly enjoyed their time in Chelmsford with a survey conducted by the Chronicle establishing that 32 out of 40 American soldiers very much liked Chelmsford, although all were excited to ultimately get back home. A young American Lieutenant is quoted:

“Your town is much bigger, and has more services than we expected… We have been very agreeably surprised. Many of our boys are now almost members of some Chelmsford families, who took the initiative in the early days of our arrival and made us so much at home… Most of us think that Chelmsford is a real swell place, with grand people in it.”

The ‘American Club’ came to represent a period of harmonious relations between Britain and the US. Over 150 young women in Chelmsford volunteered to work at the club and countless Chelmsford residents interacted with the American soldiers socially on a daily basis. Such was the legacy of these relations, both in Chelmsford and Essex as a whole, that the Essex Anglo-American Goodwill Association was created to foster continued relations and perhaps engage with Americans who were sent here as soldiers, but who might one day return as tourists.

By the end of July 1945, the ‘American Club’ closed, although the Saracen’s Head did not officially resume pre-war functionality until 1948. In January of that year the Essex Newsman warmly declared ‘Welcome back the Saracen’s Head!’ noting that after the long period of war service the hotel was at last able to come into its own again.

Many inns have disappeared from the High Street since the creation of the Walker map in 1591, but the Saracen’s Head continues to operate under the same name and from the same site as in the 16th century. This extraordinary achievement is a testament to the popularity of the premises in question. Nonetheless, the nature of the business has changed a great deal over time. Originally a resting point for weary travellers, the Saracen’s Head increasingly became a social establishment, providing an entertaining venue for visitors and residents alike. Today the Saracen’s Head is a popular social destination for a whole new generation of Chelmsford residents.

If you would like to find out more about this ancient building, try searching for the Saracen’s Head on Seax. Alternatively see Hilda Grieves’s detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows in the ERO Library.

Transatlantic letters: from Boston to Romford

This letter from Robert C Anderson, a researcher looking at the social connections between the earliest settlers in New England, tells of an exciting discovery in the archives at Essex Record Office.

At the end of September I was following in the footsteps of an earlier historian in his work on Rev Stephen Marshall of Wethersfield and Finchingfield.  One of the citations he gave was D/DMs C2.

When I submitted my order for this item it brought forth a bundle of about a dozen letters written to various members of the Mildmay family.  Once I had studied the letter relating to Marshall I looked through the remaining items in the bundle.

To my surprise two of the letters [D/DMs C4/5 and D/DMs C4/7] were written by Michael Powell of Boston, Massachusetts to Carew Mildmay of Romford, Essex, one in 1649 and one in 1651.  To the best of my knowledge these letters have never been published nor even mentioned in the literature.  This was an exciting discovery and one which I am keen to bring to a wider audience in America through my ongoing work on the migration from England to New England in the 1620s and 1630s and the associated website of my project,

Michael Powell to Carew Mildmay

One of the letters from Michael Powell in Boston to Carew Mildmay in Romford (D/DMs C4/7)

Michael Powell was born in England about 1605 and married Abigail Bedle of Wolverston, Suffolk.  They emigrated to New England in 1639 and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts, possibly following Rev Timothy Dalton who had been minister at Wolverston until leaving for the New World in 1636.  Powell and his family initially lived in Dedham but in 1648 they moved to Boston where Powell was a lay preacher in the Second (Old North) Church.  He was ruling elder there until his death in 1673.  His widow Abigail died in 1677 and left bequests to their 4 daughters, Abigail, Elizabeth, Dorothy and Margaret.

Michael Powell signature

Michael Powell’s signature on one of the letters (D/DMs C4/7)

In both of these letters, Michael Powell reminded Carew Mildmay of their past close associations and commiserated with Mildmay regarding the difficulties he was experiencing in the Civil War. In the 1649 letter Powell noted that he had had a report that “the lord hath preserved you & yours in these dangers when Essex was visited with the Cavileirs [sic],” referring apparently to an assault on Mildmay’s residence at Romford.

Powell to Mildmay

Powell writes to Mildmay as ‘an old freind of oures’ [sic] Michael Powell signature

Powell also informed Mildmay of events in New England, including the recent death of Governor John Winthrop, Mildmay’s cousin. Powell stated that “I live now at Boston & follow my trade. We have 2 sons & 6 daughters.” Although the identity of Powell’s wife has long been known, the residence of the family in England just prior to migrating to New England was not. Based on the obvious prior friendship between Powell and Mildmay, a search of the Romford parish register revealed baptisms for two Powell children there, a son John in 1637 and a daughter Abigail in early 1639, only a few months before the family sailed to New England.

It was a real thrill to find two previously unknown pieces of correspondence from Michael Powell which will add another piece of the jigsaw to the details of his life and connections to the early settlers in New England.


The Great Migration Directory, by Robert Charles Anderson, lists all those families and unattached individuals, about 5600, who came to New England between 1620 and 1640 as part of the Great Migration. Each entry provides data on English origin (if known), year of migration, residences in New England, and the best treatment of that immigrant in the published secondary literature. The book may be ordered through the New England Historic Genealogical Society here. A copy is also available in the ERO Library.