Going round in circles

Hopefully when using a map to navigate, you don’t end up going round in circles.

This unusual map, however, goes round in one big circle, showing the area 25 miles around London.

It is currently on display in the ERO Searchroom alongside the oldest map of Essex and these miniature maps of Essex that we have recently written about to celebrate the launch of a new book on the historic maps of our county. Printed Maps of Essex from 1576 is being launched on Saturday 21 May 2016 at Saffron Walden – you can find all the details of the event below.

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The map dates from 1819, and includes a portion of Essex which begins with Sheering in the north-west of the county, before the circular edge sweeps down past the Rodings and Willingale, down to Ingatestone, Billericay and Laindon, before finally passing Vange and Stanford-le-Hope and then reaching the Thames.

The map shows main roads and some secondary roads, parks and most villages. It also defines the extent of the ‘Penny Post’ by a faint dotted line. In Essex the Penny Post line is drawn through Chingford and Woodford, not quite reaching Romford.

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The map was made at a time when the county of Essex was much bigger than it is today, extending as far as the River Lea and including areas such as Stratford, West Ham, Walthamstow and Barking and Dagenham.

If you’re a fan of maps, join us for the launch of Printed Maps of Essex on Saturday 21 May 2016, which will include a talk from the author, map expert Peter Walker, and a display of maps included in the book.

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Book launch: Printed Maps of Essex from 1576

Human beings have a long history of making maps to visualise and understand the world around them. Our ancient county is represented in many maps from the sixteenth century onwards, both printed and manuscript, a large number of which can be found today at the Essex Record Office. This new well-illustrated volume by map expert Peter Walker, Printed Maps of Essex from 1576, comprehensively lists and evaluates the ERO’s printed map collection and will be an invaluable guide to all those interested in Essex history. Join us to launch the book with a talk from Peter on the maps and the people who made them, and a display of some of the maps themselves. Copies of the book will be available to purchase on the day at a discounted price.

Printed Maps of Essex from 1576 is being published by the Friends of Historic Essex, the charity which supports the Essex Record Office.

Saturday 21 May, 11.00am-2.00pm (talk at 11.30am, display and book sale the rest of the time)

Saffron Walden Town Hall, Market Street, Saffron Walden, CB10 1HZ

Free, no need to book

A day in the life of Chelmsford Library: 5 April 2016

Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, You Are Hear Project Officer

What does a library sound like in 2016? A zoo, apparently.

 

Stereotypically, libraries are quiet places, where everyone must speak in hushed tones. They are places for reading and studying, solitary activities that create minimal noise and require a calm, peaceful environment. But is that still what is required of a twenty-first-century public library in the middle of a busy city?

Unfortunately the Essex Sound and Video Archive does not have many recordings of what libraries sounded like in the past. To rectify this for future generations, I spent a day in Chelmsford Library, capturing the different soundscapes over the course of the nine and a half hours when it was open to the public. All the recordings were made on Tuesday, 5 April 2016: a beautiful sunny day during the school Easter holidays. I was using only a handheld Zoom H1 digital recorder (recorded as wav files and later converted to mp3s).

I arrived at the Library shortly before it opened at 9:00 am. I expected to be the first one at the door. I expected to have plenty of time to establish myself in the best location before the general public started to trickle in and create noise. But there were already people waiting at the door to get in, mostly students intent on studying for looming exams. From the start of the day to the very end, I was never the sole member of the public inside.

By the time I had set up my equipment and started to record about half an hour later, the Library was already a busy hive of activity. Among other things, a member of staff agrees to put up a community notice: the Library serves as an information point about local activities.

 

At first, I sat on a chair placed halfway between the front doors and the issue desk, opposite the self-issue machines. Periodically you can hear people using the machines, returning books into the bins provided. But you can also hear the ding of staff issuing books at the desk, followed by the more traditional stamp as they put the due date in the book: here they are not insistent on people using the self-issue machines.

 

In the early afternoon, I worked upstairs. It being exam season, these study desks were almost all occupied. Though some of the noise travelled up, and a siren infiltrated the windows from outside, this area provided something of the peace and quiet traditionally associated with libraries, allowing people to focus on their work.

 

Later in the day, I worked by the public access computers. This area was even quieter: perhaps because it was later in the day and there were fewer people in the library, or perhaps because it was shielded from the general activity in the open area. Surprisingly, there were few technological noises, such as dings and beeps of error messages. There was only an occasional burst of typing: perhaps less than there would have been thirty years ago, when operating systems relied more on keyboards than mice? There is also the unmistakeable, clean sound of someone opening a fizzy drink: the library has an amenable policy of allowing people to drink inside, even by the computers: something my mother never allowed her IT students to do (nor her children at home).

 

Different activities took place over the course of the day. A read-aloud book group meets once a month to enjoy reading together, as well as discussing the text. They are currently working their way through Simon Armitage’s Walking Away, and, after reading for a time, they broke into a discussion of Armitage’s prose versus his poetry.

 

The Library’s sensory wall was also open in the morning, in the children’s section. This is actually a corner: two walls full of gadgets that produce different sounds and lights, touchy-feely parts with different textures, mirrors, and play-things. It was fun watching the children interact with each other and the wall.

 

Elsewhere in the children’s section, the Library proved that it is still about reading. Listen out for the sound of a woman reading a book aloud to a captive audience.

 

The Library provided so much enjoyment that for one boy it was a devastating blow when he was told that the back end of the children’s section had to be closed off for a private booking.

 

The different soundscapes of all these different activities come together into one great crescendo of noise when you stand on the stairs. Children, adults, machines working and playing – mixed with the conversations you can hear from County Hall offices that adjoin the Library – create a busy atmosphere. There are no librarians demanding quiet here.

 

The 1850 Public Libraries Act was the first piece of legislation granting town councils the right to use money raised through rates on the establishment and running of a public library facility. There were restrictions: it only applied to boroughs with a population of over 10,000, and they could only spend a set proportion of the rates on libraries (the legislation was extended to smaller towns and even parishes by the 1855 Public Libraries Act). Significantly, any such library would have to operate on the basis of free admission.

The use of library spaces has undeniably changed in the last 150 years, with a resulting impact on the sounds you hear inside. There is less whispering and rustling of pages. Libraries now offer more than books and study spaces: from public computers (increasingly important to combat digital exclusion) to social groups; meeting spaces to play rooms. We can speculate about how libraries will change in future, and how this will affect the soundscapes. Nevertheless, the service they provide remains true to the original purpose of the act: providing facilities ‘for the Instruction and Recreation of the People’.

The soundscape at Chelmsford Library did get gradually quieter over the course of the day. By the time I returned to the stairs at around 6:15 pm, the children had gone home, the students had packed up for the day, and the few people remaining were quickly checking out books and printing off documents before the Library shut. Staff went through the closing-up routine on computers and machines. It was noticeably quieter. That stereotypical hush had finally descended on the Library, but creating an aura of settling down to sleep and preparing for another busy day the next day.

 

Perhaps this one last clip is sufficient to demonstrate the valuable role that public libraries continue to play.

 

I echo this customer’s thanks: I am very grateful to the staff at the library for facilitating my recording visit.

Does your local library sound different? What about your college or university library, or an institutional or workplace library? We want to add the soundscapes you experience to our audio map of Essex Sounds, created as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded You Are Hear project. You can find instructions on our ‘contribute’ page, or get in touch to ask for more information.

You can listen to all of these clips, finishing with a more extended version of the recordings, on our Soundcloud channel here.

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Miniature maps

When we recently talked about our oldest map of Essex (from 1576) we mentioned how used to we are today to having maps on our phones in our pockets.

Today we are continuing the pocket-sized theme, nineteenth-century style. These miniature maps are amongst those included in a new book, Printed Maps of Essex from 1576, which we are launching on 21 May 2016.

These very small maps were not intended to help people find their way, but rather as illustrations. They are an example of the engraver’s art in making detailed engravings at such a small scale.

These maps are currently part of a small display in the ERO Searchroom, so do have a look next time you visit.

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Printed map of Essex by William Green, 1804 (MAP/CM/55/1)

This map is drawn with West to the top of the page, so that it fits well onto the paper. Only after the publication of Ordnance Survey maps from 1805 did it become the convention to put North at the top of the page. It shows only main roads, four parks, towns and a few villages. The map was published in Green’s book The Picture of England Illustrated with correct colour’d Maps of the several Counties, 1804.

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A Map of the County of Essex by George Wise, 1807 (MAP/CM/59/1)

This tiny circular map shows towns and connecting roads, with distances. The Wise family were potters in Kent, and this map was possibly made as an amusement for their clients.

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Printed map of Essex by Robert Miller, 1810 (MAP/CM/60/1)

This map of Essex is Plate 7 from Miller’s New Miniature Atlas of 1810, a small-scale atlas at a low price. It was also used in a children’s atlas, Reuben Ramble’s Travels through the Counties of England.

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Printed map of Essex and Kent by A M Perrot, 1823 (MAP/CM/69/1)

This miniature map includes 10 Essex towns, plus major rivers but no roads. The map itself is almost swamped by the decorative border featuring wheat, foliage, fish, waterfall, cannon, a telescope, and other objects. It is from a French guide to England of 1823.

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If you’re a map fan, do join us for the launch of Printed Maps of Essex from 1576 in Saffron Walden on Saturday 21 May 2016 – you can find all the details of the event here.

‘Tipling’, ‘idle life’ and ‘common badgers’

Katharine Schofield and Hannah Salisbury

This year, for the first time, we are running a workshop on our Quarter Sessions records. These records provide fascinating glimpses into hundreds of years of the past, and we are fortunate in Essex that our Quarter Sessions records are among the earliest and most complete in the country, dating back to 1555. So much of human life is to be found within these rolls and bundles of documents, and they can provide much of great value for social historians and potentially for genealogists.

Quarter Sessions records come in all shapes and sizes

Quarter Sessions records come in all shapes and sizes

Later records were bound in volumes rather than stitched into rolls

Later records were bound in volumes rather than stitched into rolls

The roots of the Quarter Sessions can be traced to 1361 when the office of justice of the peace was created to maintain local law and order. By the end of the 14th century they had started to meet quarterly to dispense justice, and these meetings became known as the Quarter Sessions. In addition to their legal duties, the justices soon began to acquire responsibility for other aspects of local life, becoming a centre of local government, until the establishment of the County Council in 1889.

The records created by the Quarter Sessions encompass a huge range of topics, from the licensing of alehouses and printing presses, the maintenance of roads and bridges, the planning of railways and canals, to the prosecution of crime and the running of gaols and houses of correction. (We have mentioned before the Quarter Sessions records which record all public officers.)

Delving in to these records, you might come across the likes of Henry Adcock (alias Cole) of Birdbrook, who was indicted in 1584 for keeping ‘a common house of tipling’, and for allowing Robert Brown, William Butcher, Henry Hempsted and others ‘of evil conversation and idle life’ to play unlawful games, namely ‘cards, tables and quoits’ (Q/SR 90/43). Alehouse keepers were required to take out a bond (called a recognizance) to guarantee good behaviour in their alehouse. To operate without a licence, or break the terms of the licence, left you open to prosecution.

Likewise, the Quarter Sessions tried to keep order amongst food dealers, such as badgers, laders, kidders, carriers of corn, fish, butter or cheese, and cattle drovers. Badgers, kidders and laders were dealers in food which was purchased in one place and carried for sale to another. Like alehouse keepers, these people were required to have licences from the Quarter Sessions, and could be prosecuted if they did not. At the Epiphany 1686 Sessions John Chalke of Leaden Roding and John Green of Moulsham, were indicted ‘both for Common badgers’ (Q/SR 449/46).

Part of the intention was to prevent food dealers from ‘engrossing’ (buying standing crops),forestalling(buying goods on the way to market) orregrating’ (buying at market for resale). The Sessions Rolls include many prosecutions for these crimes. The presentments made by the jury for the Hinckford Hundred at the Michaelmas 1588 Sessions included Richard Walford of Castle Hedingham who ‘doe forestall and buy hogges and sell the bacon at an excessive pryce contrary to the lawe’ (Q/SR 106/33).

On a journey into these records you might also find traces of those who were registered to vote or obliged to pay certain taxes. Under the Game Duty Act, from 1784 ‘every person qualified in respect of property to kill game’ had to register their name and abode (Q/RTg 1-4). Likewise, from 1795 persons using hairpowder were obliged to take out an annual certificate with a stamp duty of 1 guinea (Q/RTp 1-3).

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Register of those who were licensed to use hair powder in the 1790s

To discover more of these stories for yourself and find out how you could use these records in your own research, come along to Discover: Quarter Sessions Records on Wednesday 11 May, 2.00pm-4.00pm. Tickets are £10 and places are limited, so please book in advance on 033301 32500.

Document of the Month, May 2016: Photograph of the Empire State Building, New York

Allyson Lewis, Archivist

D/DWt Z3/9

For our May Document of the Month, we have chosen to highlight a photograph from one of the many albums compiled by Colonel Francis Whitmore of Orsett Park.

Col Whitmore travelled extensively during 1930 and 1931. His travels took him around the world via Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Vancouver and Winnipeg before arriving in April 1931 in New York.  He took this photograph of the Empire State Building, perhaps the first photograph taken by an Englishman of the newly completed building.

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Construction of the building began on 17 March 1930.  Many Mohawk Iron workers worked on the project which was completed 12 days ahead of schedule on 11 April 1931.    The structure stands 102 storeys high and is 381 m high to the top of the roof, but 443 m high if the radio antenna is included.

The building was opened on 1 May 1931 by President Herbert Hoover switching the lights on from Washington DC and the grandchildren of Governor A J Smith, president of Empire State Inc. the construction company for the project, cutting the ribbon in New York.

The construction of the building was part of the race to build the tallest building in New York.  The Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street each held the title for less than a year as the completed Empire State building surpassed them all.

Col Whitmore was there to record the completion of what has become such an iconic landmark.

Essex’s oldest map

Today we are used to being able to carry a map of the world on a smartphone in our pocket, being able to search for anywhere that takes our fancy, to zoom in on it and see not only maps but aerial photographs and streetviews.

This is all very easy to take for granted today, but for our ancestors making a map was an expensive and specialist process. Yet human beings have a long history of making maps to visualise and understand the world around them, and we are lucky to have maps of Essex dating back to the sixteenth century.

A new book, Printed Maps of Essex from 1576, by map expert Peter Walker, brings together all the printed county maps in our collection for the first time. Packed with full-colour illustrations it will be a wonderful companion for any historian of our county. The book is being officially launched at a special event in Saffron Walden on Saturday 21 May 2016; see our events page for details.

Since we like maps so much, we thought we would share a few of our more unusual county maps with you here in the run-up to the book launch, starting with the oldest map of Essex.

Saxton map Essex 1576

This map was made by Christopher Saxton (c.1540-c.1610) in 1576. It would have been printed on a printing press using an engraved copper plate, and then hand-coloured afterwards.

Saxton was the first person to produce an atlas of British counties, in 1579, based on his 7 year survey of the 52 counties of England and Wales. Some counties are combined on sheets, but Essex has its own page. The map was commissioned when fears of a Spanish invasion of England were rife. This may be why the map concentrates on river access to the county, and no roads are shown.

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The map includes illustrations of sailing ships, such as this one off the north coast of the county

The map shows all the towns and villages and a few of the larger mansions with their names; only a small number of parks and bridges are named. Certain estates, such as Hatfield Forest, are shown as enclosed, or impaled, telling us that it was private land, belonging to somebody of significant wealth.

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Few other topographical details are marked except rivers, woodland and Shell Haven, the blockhouse on Mersea Island, and the miniature but unnamed drawing of Stanway beacon.

The title is on an elaborate cartouche surmounted by the Royal Arms of Queen Elizabeth I, and below are the quartered arms of Thomas Seckford, Master of the Requests to the Queen, Saxton’s patron.

Cartouch Saxton map

The cartouche gives the map’s title: Essexiae Comitat’ Nova vera ac absoluta descriptio Ano Dni 1576 [A new true and complete description of the County of Essex Anno Domini 1576]

Saxton’s map will be on display in the Searchroom throughout spring 2016, and for more maps come along to the launch of Printed Maps of Essex from 1576 on Saturday 21 May.

 

The battle babies of Essex

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

Jessamy Carlson recently published a post on the National Archives’ blog about the First World War phenomenon of giving babies war-related names.

Jessamy found 1,634 babies with such names, with 1,229 babies named after battles. The most popular battle to name children after was Verdun, with 901 babies given this name in 1914-1919. Verdun was one of the longest battles in human history, fought over 303 days from February to December 1916. Recent estimates put casualty figures at 976,000.
By coincidence we recently came across an Essex baby born in 1916 named Nancy Verdun, christened in Goodmayes in 1917. She was the daughter of bus driver Harry Miles and his wife Anna Louise Miles, who lived at 17 Percy Road.

Nancy Verdun Miles

This got me wondering how many other babies were born in Essex with the sort of war-related names that Jessamy had found, so I took to FreeBMD to find out. (The search results for Essex included the registration districts of Edmonton, Royston, Risbridge and Sudbury, which are mostly in Hertfordshire or Suffolk but include some Essex parishes.)

Verdun was by far the most popular battle baby name, with a peak in the second quarter of 1916 as the battle raged.

Jessamy also identified two other categories of war-related baby names – ‘hero babies’ and ‘end of war babies’. Hero babies are those named after significant First World War figures, such as Edith Cavell, Field Marshall Haig, and Lord Kitchener. End of war babies were those with names such as Peace and Victory.

Nationally, 25 babies were named Cavell in 1914-1919, and 3 of them were in Essex. Of 11 babies nationally named Haig, 2 were born in Essex, strangely enough both in the Romford district.

I can find only two babies named Peace (both registered in Edmonton so potentially actually in Hertfordshire), but 11 babies named Victory – including Victory D Tipple, born in Romford in the third quarter of 1919.

One wartime name which as far as I know is unique to Essex is Zeppelina. Zeppelina Clarke was born in the early hours of the morning of 24 September 1916, the night that two Zeppelins crash-landed in Essex. Zeppelin L32 crashed in Great Burstead, with no survivors, and L33 crashed in Little Wigborough, narrowly missing some farm cottages. The crew of L33 walked away largely unharmed. In nearby Great Wigborough, Mr and Mrs Clarke welcomed a baby girl, and their doctor suggested naming her Zeppelina, to mark the extraordinary circumstances of the night of her birth.

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The wreck of Zeppelin L33, after which baby Zeppelina was named

It is hard to understand today why people might have named their children after such terrible events as wartime battles, perhaps battles in which close relatives may have been lost. It would be fascinating to know how the babies given these names felt about them as they grew up – if anyone has any insights do leave a comment below.

Who is more Essex? Stuart Bingham vs Ali Carter

There are many things for us Essexians to be proud of, and it seems that one of them is our county’s tendency to produce incredibly talented snooker players, most famously Ronnie O’Sullivan.

In more recent years two more top-ranked players have come out of our county – Basildon-born Stuart Bingham and Colchester-born Ali Carter. Bingham is the current World Snooker Champion, and as the 2016 competition gets underway tomorrow he will be defending his title in his first match of the competition – against Carter.

As these two Essex giants of snooker go head-to-head, we thought we would see which of them has the best Essex credentials.

Stuart Bingham

Stuart Bingham at the 2013 German Masters

Current World Snooker Champion Stuart was born in Basildon – but how far back can his ancestral roots be traced in Essex?

ERO specialist Sarah Ensor has traced his family back over 200 years in the county, to his 5x great-grandfather Thomas Moules. The Moules family lived and worked in the rural villages of Marks Tey and Little Tey, and their baptisms, marriages and burials can be found in the parish registers we look after at ERO.

Marriage of Stuart Bingham's 5x great-grandparents, Thomas Moule (here recorded as Mole) and Mary Smith, in Great Tey in 1803 (D/DP 305/1/4)

Marriage of Stuart Bingham’s 5x great-grandparents, Thomas Moule (here recorded as Mole) and Mary Smith, in Great Tey in 1803 (D/DP 305/1/4)

Outside the towns Essex was very rural and the Moules lived in a farming community; until the latter part of the nineteenth century they worked as labourers on the land but later described themselves as horsemen – no doubt a step up the farming ladder.

The tradition of agricultural work was broken by Stuart’s great-great-grandfather Walter Moules (b.1869 in Great Tey), who started his working life as a labourer but joined the Royal Artillery, serving in India and Aden.

So far we have traced Stuart’s family back over 7 generations in Essex. A ‘widow Moule’ of Great Tey is named to in a deed of 1773 (D.DAt 45), so it is likely that Stuart’s roots in the parish reach back even further. With such deep roots in the county, Stuart can definitely claim to be a true Essex man.

 

Ali Carter

Ali Carter at the 2013 German Masters

Ali was born in Colchester and now lives near Chelmsford. He has twice been runner-up in the World Championship, losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012. According to BBC Sport, he is ‘one of the sport’s best-loved and most-respected players, having twice overcome cancer and still been able to maintain his place among the world’s best despite a constant battle with Crohn’s disease.

Ali’s Essex ancestry can also be traced back to the nineteenth century and beyond. Two of his great-great grandparents, William Hawdon and Emma Long, were both born in Loughton. Their daughter Aimee, Ali’s great-grandmother, was baptised in St Mary’s church in Loughton on 9 December 1898. William’s profession was given as a commercial clerk.

Baptism of Aimee Hawdown (D/P 571/1/1)

Baptism of Aimee Hawdon, Ali’s great-grandmother, in 1898 in Loughton (D/P 571/1/1)

Another branch of Ali’s family tree takes us back to his four-times-great-grandfather James Piper, who was born in Colchester in about 1796. James is described in the 1841 and 1851 census returns as a labourer, but in 1861 he is recorded as an ‘itinerant bookseller’.

James and his wife Sarah had a daughter, Priscilla, born in Colchester in about 1826, who married Thomas Stoton, another Colchester man and a tailor by trade. In 1871 Thomas and Priscilla were living at 42 St Botolph’s Street, and Thomas employed 1 man and 2 women in his business.

Their daughter, another Priscilla Stoton, married William Waigh, originally from Bethnal Green, but he had moved his family to Woodfood by the time of the 1901 census, when he was recorded as a builder and rent collector.

The verdict

In terms of the depth of their Essex roots, these two giants of snooker are very closely matched. Will they be as closely matched when they step up to the green baize tomorrow?

If you would like to discover how far back you can trace your Essex roots, contact us or visit our Searchroom to start your journey.

Art in the archives

As well as looking after the archives for Essex, the ERO also looks after Essex County Council’s art collection.  Besides commissioning portraits of its chairmen ECC has never actively collected art, but has received a number of donations and bequests over the decades. Some of this art is displayed in ECC buildings, while other pieces are in storage at ERO.

Many pieces are viewable on the Art UK website, and if there is something in storage that you would like to see you can make a request for it to be made available – please contact us on ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk

The responsibility to care for ECC’s art is a relatively new one for us, and much work has been done over the last few years to organise and properly store these paintings. Now that this work is mostly complete, we can start to do more with the collection to make it available for all to use and enjoy.

Behind-the-scenes it has been a busy few months for the art collection. Staff have been trained to properly store and hang paintings, and to carry out condition checks. We have undertaken a project to digitise many of the paintings, which means we can now make images of even more of them available online. We are also in the process of hanging more paintings in public spaces in the ERO, and will shortly be launching a new page on our website as a hub for information about the collection.

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Performing a condition inspection of an oil painting

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Digitising a portrait of Barbara Villiers from the studio of Sir Peter Lely. Barbara was a mistress of Charles II – more on this painting in a future blog post

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Digitising a portrait of Barbara Villiers

We have been fortunate in this work to have the assistance of Marta Jimenez, an Art History graduate from the University of Essex who has been with us on an internship supported by the University as part of their Essex Interns scheme. As part of her work here Marta has been researching the stories behind some of the paintings, examining their subject matter and visual and artistic interpretation, and putting them into their historical context. As part of her work she has uploaded images of several paintings to our Flickr page and we will be publishing the results of some of her work here on the blog over the coming months.

More paintings have been hung in public spaces in ERO, with more to follow. Each year we offer public tours of the art collection, and groups can also book tours – just contact us on ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk

We have previously shared one of the highlights of our collection – a family portrait by Pompeo Batoni, here – and we will continue to share more highlights from the collection here on the ERO blog, so do check back in the future.

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Paintings recently hung on the ground floor of ERO, including the portrait of Barbara Villiers shown above in our Digitisation Studio

Document of the Month, April 2016: A new ruling class

By Katharine Schofield, Archivist

Deeds, c.1140-1144 (D/DBa T2/1, 3)

2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (which we are marking with a conference on 1 October – find out more on our events pages).

The two documents we have chosen to highlight this month date from nearly 80 years after the Norman Conquest, and they show how securely the Norman ruling elite had established themselves in England.

The success of the Norman Conquest produced a dramatic change in land ownership as William the Conqueror rewarded his supporters with English land, displacing the 1066 landowners.  In 1086 Domesday Book illustrated the process of land redistribution in each county, listing the manors held by each of the king’s tenants-in-chief.  These two deeds were issued by Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex, a grandson of two of the Essex tenants-in-chief.  They date from the early 1140s, and record grants of land to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun, ancestors of the Barrington family of Barrington Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak.

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun.  (D/DBa T2/1)

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun. (D/DBa T2/1)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

Geoffrey was the grandson of two of the Domesday tenants-in-chief, Geoffrey de Mandeville (or Magna Villa) and Eudo Dapifer (dapifer is the Latin word for steward), and Eudo served as steward to William the Conqueror and his sons William II and Henry I.  Eudo was sometimes described as Eudo son of Hubert [de Rie/Ryes].  Hubert had been a prominent supporter of the Conqueror in Normandy and Eudo’s brothers William, Ralph, Hubert and Adam also benefited from the Conquest.  Ralph became constable of Nottingham Castle and Hubert constable of Norwich Castle and all four held land in England.

Geoffrey de Mandeville, one of the richest of the king’s barons, was rewarded with extensive lands, mostly in Essex, but also in ten other counties, as well as being appointed constable of the Tower of London.

Eudo Dapifer also held lands in Essex and nine other counties. He was responsible for the building of Colchester Castle, the largest Norman keep in England, becoming its first constable. In 1096/7 he founded St. John’s Abbey in the town and was buried there in 1120.

Although both deeds relate to land in Essex and are dated 80 years after the Norman Conquest, Geoffrey de Mandeville begins by greeting all his men French and English in the first deed (om[n]ib[us] hominib[us] suis franc[ie] et anglic[e]) and all his Barons and clerks and lay men French and English in the second (Om[n]ib[us] Baronib[us] et hominib[us] suis clericis et Laicis franc[ie] et angl[ice]).

The Geoffrey de Mandeville named in these documents (the grandson of the first Geoffrey and Eudo Dapifer) founded Walden Abbey (which after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s became what is today Audley End), and built the castle at Saffron Walden.  He was prominent in the civil war in King Stephen’s reign when a contemporary chronicler wrote that ‘men said openly that Christ and his saints slept’.  As a reward for his support for King Stephen he was made Earl of Essex.

After Stephen’s capture in 1141 Geoffrey changed sides to support Stephen’s cousin and rival the Empress Matilda and she appointed him constable of the Tower, forgave him debts owed to the Crown, granted him lands in Normandy and appointed him sheriff of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London.  He died in 1144 from an arrow wound while in rebellion against the king.

The documents will be on display in the Searchroom throughout April 2016.