Essex Sound and Video Archive secures Heritage Lottery Fund investment

You Are Hear banner The You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place project has secured a grant of £276,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Essex Record Office announced today.

Over the course of three years, starting this autumn, the project will digitise and catalogue many of the historically significant sound and video recordings held in the Essex Sound and Video Archive. The recordings will then be used to help people in Essex develop and enhance their sense of place. Focussing primarily on oral history interviews, these recordings reveal the remarkable experiences of everyday people over the last century.

The project will work with community groups in villages and towns throughout Essex, helping them to reflect upon where they live by engaging with the recordings. Each group will create a sound montage of clips about their community from the Archive. The montage will then be installed on a sonic park bench. Whether placed on a village green, by the seaside, or in a shopping district, at the press of a button anyone will be able to listen to recordings from the past tell the story of where they are sitting.

Example sonic bench

Example of a sonic bench, installed at Llanyrafon Manor. Image courtesy of blackbox-av.

In this clip, Ronald Poole recalls the institutions that lined Baddow Road in the days when he journeyed along it to and from school, comparing buildings long gone with current landmarks. Interview recorded by Chelmsford Museum in 1990 (SA 15/705/1).

The You Are Hear project team will also consult the public about which sounds of twenty-first-century Essex should be captured and archived. Based on these suggestions, an online audio map will enable comparisons between the historic sounds in the Archive and new sounds recorded during the project.

The excitement running through this excerpt from the commentary of the memorable 1971 Colchester United v Leeds United FA Cup fifth-round match immerses the listener in the moment. What would a recording from this location sound like today, now that the old Layer Road stadium has been replaced by a housing estate? Recording courtesy of Micon Recording Company (SA 27/12/1).

Lastly, tours of interactive audio/video kiosks and sonic benches will showcase more recordings from the Archive, reaching every corner of the county.

County Councillor Roger Hirst, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Libraries, Planning and the Environment said: “Digitisation of these irreplaceable records will safeguard them for future generations. Once digitised, they will be posted online for all to freely enjoy, without having to travel to the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford to hear them.”

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Open reel tape in the Essex Sound and Video Archive Studio: just one of the many formats we will digitise as part of the project

The digitised recordings will be accessible through the Essex Record Office online catalogue, Seax. From there you will also be able to browse the catalogue descriptions to see the rich variety of content in our collections.

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “From local accents to a nationally significant collection of folk music, the Essex Record Office holds the key to over a century of our county’s sounds. Thanks to National Lottery players we’re delighted to support this project which will enable even more people to benefit from this immersive connection to Essex’s heritage and ensure these sounds can be heard by generations to come.”

The Essex Heritage Trust and the Friends of Historic Essex will also contribute grants towards the project.

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Friends of Historic Essex logo

Recordings like this music hall song by T. W. Connor, ‘Father Went Down to Southend’, can help people appreciate the county’s long heritage as a popular destination for a fun day out. Our dedication to preserving the original means we add little processing to the digitised recordings, trying to keep the end result as faithful to the original sound as possible. Recording released by Edison Bell in 1911 or 1912 (Acc. SA710 part).

There will be many opportunities for the public to get involved over the course of the project. Right now, we are looking for groups to adopt a sonic bench for the following communities: Burnham-on-Crouch, Chelmsford, Clacton-on-Sea, Coggeshall, Epping, Great Baddow, Southend-on-Sea, and Witham. We are also trying to trace past oral history participants to confirm our permission to use the recordings. Check our list of participants here to see if you recognise any names.

Please get in touch (sarahjoy.maddeaux [@] essex.gov.uk) if you want more information, or sign up here to receive updates on the project.

Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Document of the month, July 2015: The heat of summer

Each month one of our Archivists selects a document to highlight. This month it is the turn of Chris Lambert – his chosen document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout July 2015.

It was July 1615.  Joan, Lady Barrington, of Hatfield Broad Oak was unwell, and she sought medical advice.  That advice, from Dr Duke of Colchester, survives amongst the Barrington family papers in the ERO (D/DBa F40/1).

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The advice of Dr Duke of Colchester to Lady Barrington of Hatfield Broad Oak, July 1615 (D/DBa F40/1)

Reassuringly, Duke did not believe ‘that the swelling of her legges shold be an effect of a dropsy’ (what might now be understood as heart disease).  Lady Barrington’s urine suggested to Duke ‘only much melancholy’.  The effects of melancholy were extensive, including ‘windiness of stomacke & body, flushing heates, [and] causeless feares’, but Duke did not think them dangerous.

Beyond that, Lady Barrington was ‘of a good complexion, well coulered & eateth her meat well, having a full body’.  For Duke, this was evidence that the swelling was simply ‘an effect of watery humours in the veynes, wherewith Nature being burthened, she doth expell & abandon them to the inferiour partes’.  The condition appeared in summer because Lady Barrington ‘eateth & drinketh liberally although the naturall heat of the stomacke be now much lesse then in winter, as also because the passages of the body are more open in sommer … and so the humours do with more facilitye flowe into those partes’.  The ancient Greek doctrine of the four bodily humours, associated with the four seasons, still ruled 17th-century medicine.  In 1615, William Harvey’s revolutionary discovery of the circulation of the blood still lay 13 years in the future.

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Hatfield Broad Oak, seen in a contemporary map (D/DQ 14/191). Lady Barrington’s home at the Priory House appears just above the church.

Duke’s prescription was a moderate purge, the ‘often use of turpentine of Cipres [Cyprus]’, and frequent ‘astringent bathes’ for the patient’s legs.  But ‘at the fall of the leafe, it wer necessary to take some more forcible purging physicke’.  The humours of the body being un-balanced, purging would restore them.  Perhaps it did: Lady Barrington lived on until 1641.

Nursing Sister Kate Luard: diary from a Field Ambulance, spring 1915

We have previously written about Essex girl Kate Luard, who served as a nurse on the Western Front throughout the whole of the First World War. One of Kate’s relatives, Caroline Stevens, is writing a blog about Kate’s wartime experiences, and here, 100 years after they were written, shares with us some of Kate’s diary entries for spring 1915.

On August 6, 1914, two days after the British Government declared war on Germany, Kate enlisted in the QAIMNSR (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve).  During her first year in France and Belgium she serves on the ambulance trains until, on April 2, 1915, she receives movement orders to report to the Officer Commanding at No.4 Field Ambulance. This brought her close to the front line and she referred to this in her diary as ‘life at the back of the front’. Here she also worked in an Advanced Dressing Station.

A Field Ambulance was a mobile front line medical unit for treating the wounded before they were moved to a casualty clearing station. Each division would have 3 field ambulances which were made up of 10 officers and 244 men. A field ambulance would include stretcher bearers, nursing orderlies, tented wards, operating theatre, cookhouse, wash rooms and a horsed or motor ambulance.

The field ambulances set up and supplied Advanced Dressing Stations which were basic care points providing only limited medical treatment and had no holding capacity. The wounded were brought here from Regimental Aid Posts which were only a few metres behind the front line in small spaces such as a support or reserve trench.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME, JULY-NOVEMBER 1916

An advanced dressing station of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) on the Montauban – Guillemont Road. September 1916 (Imperial War Museum)

From Kate’s diary:

April 2nd, 1915. Good Friday

So hell became heaven and here I am at railhead waiting for a motor ambulance to take me and my baggage there.

11 A.M.  Had an interesting drive here through a village packed with men billeted in barns and empty houses–the usual aeroplane buzzing overhead, and a large motor ambulance convoy by the wayside. We are in the town itself, and the building is labelled No.4 Field Ambulance Dressing Station for Officers.

Still Good Friday, 10pm. (Kate spends a luxurious night in Maire’s Château where Generals and officers are usually billeted.)

 

April 3rd, 1915. Easter Eve, 10 P.M.

Have been on duty all day. They [the wounded] are nearly all evacuated in a few days, so you are always getting a fresh lot in.

I found my own new billet this morning before going on duty; it is a very old little house over a shop in a street off the big Place. It is a sort of attic, and I am not dead sure whether it is clean on top and lively underneath, but time will show.

 

April 7th, 1915. In bed, 10.30 P.M.

We are busy all day admitting and evacuating officers. A very nice Brigade-Major came in, in the night, with a shell wound in the shoulder. This morning a great jagged piece was dug out, with only a local anaesthetic, he stuck it like a brick, humming a tune when it became unbearable and gripping on to my hand.

I was off at 5pm and went to Beuvry, the village two and a half miles away that was shelled last week; it is about half-way to the trenches from here. Met and passed an unending stream of khaki, the men marching back from their four days in the trenches, and all steadily trudging on with the same coating of mud from head to foot, packs and rifles carried anyhow, and the Trench Look which can never be described, and which is grim to the last degree. Each lot had a tail of limping stragglers. They said they’d had a very “rough” night last night – pouring rain – water up to their knees, and standing to all night expecting an attack which didn’t come off; but some mines had been exploded meant for their trench but luckily they only got smothered instead of blown to bits.

 

April 10th, 1915. 10.30pm.

It is difficult to settle down to sleep to-night: the sky is lit up with flashes and star shells, and every now and then a big bang shakes the house, above the almost continuous thud, thudding, and barking of the machine-guns and the crackling of rifle firing; they are bringing in more to-day, both here and at the hospice.

THE BATTLE OF ARRAS, APRIL-MAY 1917

Stretcher cases awaiting transport to a Casualty Clearing Station lie on the ground outside a dressing station at Blangy near Arras, April 1917 (Imperial War Museum)

April 16th, 1915

This afternoon I saw a soldier’s funeral, which I have never seen before. He was shot in the head yesterday, and makes the four hundred and eleventh British soldier buried in this cemetery. The French gravedigger told me there was another to be buried this afternoon. It was very impressive and moving, the Union Jack on the coffin (a thin wooden box) on the waggon, and a firing party, and about a hundred men and three officers and the Padre. It was a clear blue sky and sunny afternoon. The graves are dug trenchwise, very close together, practically all in one continuous grave, each with a marked cross.

 

April 26th, 1915. 11 P.M.

We have been admitting, cutting the clothes off, dressing and evacuating a good many to-day. There is a great noise going on to-night, snapping and popping, and crackling of rifle firing and machine guns, with the roar of our 9.2’s every few minutes.

 

Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western FrontThe above are extracts from Kate’s first book ‘Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915’. Go to www.kateluard.co.uk and click on ‘blog’ for entries which are posted on the same day as the events of 100 years. You can also read all the extracts which you have missed.

During her time in France, Kate exchanged numerous letters with her family at home in Birch near Colchester. The majority of these letters are held in the Luard archives at the Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

Creeksea Church: a hidden Victorian gem

Historic buildings specialist and ERO user Edmund Harris writes for us on a hidden gem of Victoriana in the village of Creeksea. This post draws on the Chancellor collection, made up of some 10,000 building plans from the office of noted Victorian architect Fred Chancellor. We are currently two years into a long-term project to clean, repackage and catalogue every one of these plans; find out more here.

Creeksea (sometimes called Cricksea) is a tiny village now virtually on the western outskirts of Burnham-on-Crouch, with long, tranquil views to the south over the gentle landscape of the Crouch estuary.

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Existing literature on the county is mostly likely to send a lover of antiquities there to look at Creeksea Place, a fragment of a once much larger Elizabethan house, possibly also Creeksea Hall and a half-timbered cottage.

But anyone other than the most steadfastly curious of enthusiasts for Victoriana might well be put off investigating the parish church of All Saints by mentions of a complete rebuild in 1878; Essex has several nationally important and much celebrated 19th century churches but this is not generally recognised as one of them. That would, however, be a great shame, as All Saints is actually a most remarkable building that handsomely repays closer examination.

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It is indeed almost entirely a rebuild by Frederic Chancellor, but the evolution of his design is far more complicated than one might expect. A splendid set of several dozen drawings in the ERO details an intriguing design process.

We know what the predecessor of the present church looked like thanks to a plan and elevations from Chancellor’s office dated January 1877, which show a simple, modest two-cell building, clearly much patched and mended in a rather ad hoc fashion over the years (witness the trusses bridging the buttresses to the west wall on which the bellcote is supported), evidently seated internally with box pews.

The old church

The old church – click for larger version

Today we should say that this gave it charm of as great a value as its antiquity – the round-arched north door suggests Norman origins – but to the Victorian mind such a building would have appeared so badly degraded as to be of minimal interest. It would have suggested a Church of England in decline and looked wanting in pride and propriety. The building would have been unsuited to Victorian liturgical practice and features such as the oblong, probably Elizabethan east window would probably have been viewed as downright inappropriate for a religious building.

But Chancellor’s involvement with All Saints in fact seems to have begun well over a year previously. An artist’s impression dated 4th August 1875, shows the interior of what is called ‘a proposed new church’ in a very plain lancet style – decent, but clearly the work of an architect confined by a limited budget. It looks like it might have been intended for publication and may have been no more than a concept sketch.

First scheme of 1875

An artist’s impression dated 4th August 1875, showing the interior of ‘a proposed new church’

Only one drawing on file gives any more information about it: a view of the south elevation (executed in pencil rather than pen and wash) shows something that is clearly a precursor of what was eventually built but far plainer. Features such as the paired lancets to the side wall of the nave give it very clear affinities with another, this time undated proposal.

Unlike the August 1875 scheme it was aimed at rebuilding just the nave, but this time was pursued as far as a set of contract-standard drawings. Externally the rebuilt nave appears rather forbidding and Chancellor initially struggled to make a virtue of the building’s simplicity. It looks as though it was probably meant to be rendered with only the stone quoins left visible. While instantly recognisable as a product of the High Victorian movement, the building lacks any sort of sense of local character. Which of these schemes came first is a mystery. Perhaps initial plans for a complete rebuild had to be scaled back to replacing just the nave when it became apparent the cost would be excessive, but that is conjecture.

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Undated proposal to rebuild the nave – south elevation

What happened next is not clear, but it is a reasonable bet that finances outstripped by the parish’s ambitions put a check on progress since in December 1876 and January 1877 designs emerged from Chancellor’s office for a restoration of the medieval building. ‘Restoration’ was, as so often the case at this time, something of a euphemism. In fact it was nothing less than a comprehensive remodelling since the building was to be refenestrated throughout, the bellcote and roof replaced, the interior refurnished, a new porch added on the south side and a vestry built onto the north wall of the chancel. Probably the pattern of events that led to this was nothing more than an accident, but if so it was a happy one since it seems to have forced Chancellor to take a closer look at the existing building and its character. Picturesque touches such as the partly timbered chancel and vestry gables now appear and generally there is greater care and finesse in the detailing than in the first two designs.

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Plans for restoration scheme, 1876/6 – south elevation

Perhaps the condition of the existing fabric turned out to be too poor to withstand such substantial new additions. Or perhaps the cost was only marginally less than a complete rebuild and the parish, taking a long-term view, felt that on balance an entirely new building represented much better value for money. Perhaps even a generous sponsor appeared. Without further research neither hypothesis can be corroborated, but the restoration project was not entertained for long and between February and June 1877 Chancellor produced drawings for the nave that was eventually built. Like the earlier scheme, it shows the medieval chancel left intact, but that seems to have been a temporary expedient – probably only done so that divine service could continue while the work was carried out – since a further set of drawings dated November 1877 and March 1878 depicts the existing structure that superseded it, completing Chancellor’s new church. Notably, not just the pen and wash contract drawings survive at the ERO, but also detailed working drawings for features such as the bellcote and porch.

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Proposed new chancel, 1877 scheme – south elevation

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Detail of the bell turret from 1877 scheme

So much for the chronology of the design process. Beautiful though these fine examples of Victorian architectural draughtsmanship are, the building that eventually resulted from all these false starts is even lovelier. The contrast with the 1875 initial version of the scheme is striking. The dour lancet style has given way to an ornate, almost fruity Perpendicular Gothic. The lush foliate carving – something shown in a series on file of delicate pencil drawings – that adorns the screen dividing the vestry from the chancel, the large, four-light window on the south side of the nave and the panelled pulpit would not disgrace a far grander building.

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But the really memorable thing about the church is the wonderful treatment of the walls. Faced with a lack of good, locally available stone, the builders of Essex’s medieval churches had to press into surface whatever came to hand, from pudding stone to flint to brick from the ruins of Roman Colchester, giving the exteriors of many of them a charming, variegated, patchwork effect. No doubt Chancellor was keen to offset the value of material recovered from the old building against the cost of the construction of its replacement (a fragment of a Norman arch with typical chevron decoration can be seen built into one wall) but he made a real virtue of his economy. This sensitivity to local materials and traditions is remarkable for its date. It would become a major article of faith for leading figures in the Arts and Crafts movement, but not for another decade or so. And while some of those architects were content to let their builders produce the exuberant effects they desired, the drawings show that delightful features such as the striped window heads were Chancellor’s own inspiration.

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The long wait, the vagaries of the design process and the choice of an architect with local roots paid off. Frederic Chancellor did right by the parishioners of Creeksea.

A riotous time in Steeple Bumpstead, 1861

John Crellin, Archive Assistant

Love it or loath it, football has always had the power to hit the headlines. An article from the ERO’s historic annals of the Essex Chronicle describes an off-pitch outbreak of communal violence associated with the ‘beautiful game’ in Victorian times.

On Friday July 19, 1861 the Chelmsford Chronicle, forerunner of the Essex Chronicle, dramatically headlined a story ‘Riot at Steeple Bumpstead’. What followed was a detailed account of court proceedings recording violent clashes between rioters and the police in the normally peaceful village of Steeple Bumpstead.

Riots at Steeple Bumpstead

Report in the Chelmsford Chronicle of 19 July 1861 on the disturbances at Steeple Bumpstead

Parishioners of Steeple Bumpstead had enjoyed the privilege of playing games of various kinds on an area of land in the village known as the Camping Close.

The close was said to be part of the land given to the parish by William Helion centuries ago and leased to the Lords of nearby Bower Hall.

Over the years the area had gradually reduced with the taking over, or enclosure, of sections of it by the Bower Hall estate for agricultural purposes.

Keen on their football, the villagers objected and various incidents of trespass resulted in a boundary, in the form of a ditch, being dug in 1849 by John Snape, then the tenant of Parsonage Farm (part of the Bower Hall estate), to cordon off a part of the Camping Close for his own use.

In the eyes of the villagers this was wrong. Snape was encroaching on their playing field.

In 1860 (with Snape gone and William Dere now tenant of the farm) their unhappiness resulted in some notable foul play when John Clayden, John Salmon and John Bunton, all described as ‘young tradesmen of Steeple Bumpstead’ moved a pile of manure from the area behind the boundary ditch and scattered it over Camping Close land. Later they returned with 20 fellow villagers to play football over the land, in the process treading the manure into the ground.

The three were brought before the magistrate’s court and charged with the offence of damaging a pile of manure. They were found guilty and fined a shilling.

The villagers firmly believed in the ancient rights and the case went to appeal at the Court of the Queen’s Bench. Here the conviction was quashed on the grounds that there was ‘reasonable supposition of right’ on the part of the defenders.

A short time later, encouraged by the verdict, John Bunton, a one-armed veteran of the Crimean War of the 1850s, William Woodham, William Spencer and Charles Willis overthrew a corn rick standing on the disputed area. As a result they were served with a writ by William Dere, to prevent further damage.

Incensed by the issuing of these writs, in the summer of 1861 a large crowd of villagers led by a man described as a ‘warlike veteran village lawyer’ entered another area of disputed land cutting down a hedge and 74 trees from a plantation.

Warrants for the arrest of the five men considered to be the ring leaders were issued, but when the local policeman Constable Robert Spencer tried to execute the warrants he and his colleagues were met with ‘forceful’ opposition amounting to a riot. In the face of such opposition the constabulary withdrew leaving the villagers in command of their Camping Close.

The rule of law was upheld the next day with the arrival of John McHardy, the Chief Constable. He met with the leaders and managed to persuade them to attend court in Castle Hedingham.

They were committed for trial at Chelmsford Assizes and led to Springfield gaol. John Claydon, 18, shoemaker, Charles Willis, 21 labourer, William Spencer, 18, baker, William Woodham 21, labourer and John Bunton, 25, labourer, were all indicted for their symbolic act of defiance in feloniously damaging trees in a plantation adjacent to Bower Hall Park.

The jury found the Steeple Bumpstead five guilty and the judge imprisoned them for one month without hard labour and to be bound over to keep the peace for two years.

Historic newspapers provide a never-ending supply of interesting, odd and surprising details about life in the past, and it’s easy to get lost in them for hours. If you fancy doing just that, make the most of free access to the British Newspaper Archive Online in the ERO Searchroom or Essex Libraries.

A version of this article was published in the Essex Chronicle in 2004 but it was such a good story we thought it was worth sharing again.

Document of the Month, June 2015: Settlement examination of James Sutton, 1821

Our document of the month for June is a record of a man named James Sutton being questioned by Justices of the Peace trying to establish where he was entitled to claim poor relief (D/P 332/13/4).

James Sutton was attempting to claim poor relief in Rayleigh, but had not been born there. Under the laws of settlement, if it could be proved that a person claiming relief was legally the responsibility of another parish then they could be removed to that place. Settlement examinations often contain a great deal of biographical information about the poor, and there are thousands of them in our collections.

What is notable about this particular examination is that James Sutton gave no information about his place of settlement but stated that he had served for seven years and six months in the 54th Foot and had been wounded in the left arm at the Battle of Waterloo. He continued to serve until 1820 when he was discharged.

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He stated that had been awarded a medal for his service but not a pension as he had volunteered from the East Middlesex Militia and had served less than 14 years with the 54th Regiment, and that this meant that he was not entitled to a pension. The Waterloo Medal was the first time a medal was awarded to all ranks (although we cannot find a James Sutton of the 54th Foot on the Waterloo Medal Roll).

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2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, which saw the decisive defeat of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the French. Within a few days Napoleon had abdicated and by the end of the year was in exile on St. Helena.

Waterloo brought to an end wars which had raged across Europe from the 1790s.  Approximately 15,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle, with another 7,000 Prussian and between 20 and 24,000 French casualties. Nearly 50 years of peace followed in Europe, which was brought to an end by the Crimean War in 1853 when Britain and France fought as allies.

This document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout June 2015.

Finding our way through the National Grid

 Lawrence Barker, Archivist

The ERO has a fine collection of late 19th and early 20th century large scale OS maps (1:2500 County Series) available for public consultation in the Searchroom.  However, we wanted to extend the collection to include later 20th century National Grid maps of the same scale. Some mid-Essex maps are available to view but many, among various collections which have been donated to the ERO over the years, remain to be made so.

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Just a few of the maps awaiting sorting and cataloguing

A Map Project involving volunteers has been underway for three years to achieve this and has reached the stage where, having identified and listed our remaining maps and their locations, assessing duplication and condition, we are now ready to select those which will be added to the Searchroom collection.  The task is complex though, and involves the volunteers spreading out maps around the Searchroom whilst we are closed on Mondays so they can be sorted.

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Spreading out maps in the Searchroom ready for sorting

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Our team of volunteers comprises Michael and Jane Thomas, who are NADFAS members, John Longhurst, and Andrew Morton who acts as leader bringing his expert knowledge of maps as a former land surveyor usefully to the task.

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The sorting and listing of the 20th century National Grid maps is a long term project that will take a few years, but we are looking forward to the end result of making our map collection ever more accessible.

Change in Essex Ancestors subscription rates

A message for those of you who are users of our online subscription service Essex Ancestors:

Last summer, for the first time since 2011, we raised most of Essex Ancestors’ subscription prices, but we were able to keep the basic 1-day subscription unchanged. We know that our customers appreciated it, but a rise is now essential for us to continue to provide the services that our customers want.

From Monday 8 June 2015 a 1-day subscription will cost £10 including VAT; all our other subscription prices will remain the same. For access to over 750,000 images of parish registers and wills we think that this still represents great value. Essex Ancestors will also remain free to view in the ERO Searchroom in Chelmsford and at the Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow.

Don’t forget that our Reprographics Service can email you images of individual documents without subscription, even if the documents appear on Essex Ancestors. The first image of a document costs £2; later images of the same document cost £1.50 each.

Thank you for your ongoing support as we continue to develop Essex Ancestors by uploading ever more content for researchers to use and enjoy.

Magna Carta: Essex Connections – Roger de Mescinges

In our final blog post in the run up to Magna Carta: Essex Connections on Saturday 23 May, we look at a document that is something of a post-script to our recent Magna Carta, but it is an interesting medieval document we wanted to share.

The document is a grant made by Roger de Mescinges [Messing] of all his lands, knights and other tenements of his fee to his son-in-law Thomas Bainard (D/DH VB11).

There are two key features which make it particularly interesting: first, it is possible to give this a definite date, which is unusual in medieval deeds, and second, it gives us an insight into the mindset of a landowner during the unrest following the granting of the Magna Carta in 1215.

Its date can be narrowed down very precisely, because of the reference it makes to the Treaty of Lambeth, which was agreed on 11 September 1217 between the rebel barons, the new King Henry III, and Prince Louis of France, who agreed to give up his claim to the English crown.

After listing the witnesses, this deed states that it was made in the time ‘when peace was made between the lord Henry, King of England and Louis son of the King of France and between the barons of the king’.

It’s also interesting to read that Roger de Mescinges was giving his land to his son-in-law because his own body was ‘so debilitated’ that it was not possible for him to defend his land, labourers and possessions. Land and with it wealth and possessions were held by those able to physically defend it.  After nearly three years of civil war, with a great deal of fighting taking place in Essex, Roger de Mescinges had decided that a younger man was needed to defend his land.

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Find out more about Essex connections with the Magna Carta with us on Saturday 23 May.

Magna Carta: Essex Connections

To explore the significance and legacy of this famous document, both nationally and for Essex, join us for talks from:

  • Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, who has been leading a major project researching the background to Magna Carta
  • Katharine Schofield, ERO Archivist, on Essex connections with Magna Carta and the impact it had on the medieval county

Saturday 23 May, 1.15pm for 1.30am-4.15pm

Tickets: £8, including tea, coffee and cake

Please book in advance on 033301 32500

Magna Carta: Essex Connections – the fighting that followed

In almost our last blog post in the run up to Magna Carta: Essex Connections on Saturday 23 May, we take a look at some of the fighting that occurred in the county as a result of the unrest between King John and the rebel barons in 1215.

Within a few weeks of King John’s meeting with the barons at Runnymede on 19 June 1215 it was evident that Magna Carta had not brought peace. The king started to recruit mercenaries from overseas and the barons in turn refused to surrender London.

The barons went to France and offered the crown to King Philip’s son Louis. At the end of November Prince Louis sent a small army to help the barons; they landed in the Orwell estuary and marched on London

King John divided his force into two, setting off north with part of his force. The chronicler Roger of Wendover described the king’s campaign in the north:

The whole land was covered with these limbs of the devil like locusts, who assembled to blot out every thing from the face of the earth: for, running about with drawn swords and knives, they ransacked towns, houses, cemeteries, and churches, robbing everyone, sparing neither women nor children.

The other part of the forces under Savary de Mauléon (one of the king’s mercenaries) and the Earl of Salisbury (John’s half-brother) headed into Essex.  The chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall described the effect of the royal forces in the county.  By Christmas Eve they were besieging Geoffrey de Mandeville’s castle at Pleshey and from there the royal forces were laying the surrounding countryside to waste, demanding money and men and burning houses, destroying parks and cutting down trees.

On Christmas Day 1215 one of these raiding parties broke into Tilty Abbey during mass, destroying furnishings and breaking open the cellars and carrying away items stored there which had been deposited by merchants.

Tilty Abbey

Watercolour of Tilty Abbey by A.B. Bamford, c.1905 (I/Ba 72/1)

A week later on 1 January Ralph of Coggeshall described how they broke into his own abbey at Coggeshall, and stole 22 horses belonging to the bishop of London, the treasurer, the monks and others.

Savary de Mauléon went on to besiege Colchester Castle in January 1216, retreating to Bury St. Edmunds when he heard that the barons were heading towards Colchester.

Following the conclusion of the king’s campaign in the north, he headed south to Essex. By the end of March both Colchester and Hedingham Castles had surrendered to the king.  In May 1216 Prince Louis landed in England with a larger French force.  In the next few months, three forces ranged through Essex – the army of the king, the barons’ forces led by William de Mandeville, Earl of Essex (brother of the recently dead Geoffrey de Mandeville), Robert FitzWalter and William de Huntingfield (another Magna Carta baron) and a mostly French force, supporting the barons.

Hedingham Castle (I/Mb 176/1/32)

Hedingham Castle (I/Mb 176/1/32)

On 19 October 1216 King John died at Newark. His eldest son Henry III (aged 9) was crowned at Gloucester Cathedral as the barons and Prince Louis still controlled London.  The regent for the king was a much respected baron William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. Marshal gradually persuaded many of the barons to support the king.  In May 1217 the remaining barons were defeated at the Battle of Lincoln, with many being captured, including Robert FitzWalter, Richard de Mountfitchet and Gilbert de Clare. On 11 September 1217 the Treaty of Lambeth was agreed, with Prince Louis agreeing to give up his claim to the English crown.  As well as settling with the French, the treaty made peace with the barons; Richard de Mountfitchet, for example, not only regained his lands, but also his custody of the forest of Essex.

Find out more about Essex connections with the Magna Carta with us on Saturday 23 May.

Magna Carta: Essex Connections

To explore the significance and legacy of this famous document, both nationally and for Essex, join us for talks from:

  • Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, who has been leading a major project researching the background to Magna Carta
  • Katharine Schofield, ERO Archivist, on Essex connections with Magna Carta and the impact it had on the medieval county

Saturday 23 May, 1.15pm for 1.30am-4.15pm

Tickets: £8, including tea, coffee and cake

Please book in advance on 033301 32500