In search of Messing Hall: an adventure in old maps

We are in the midst of preparing for our next ‘on the map’ outreach event, which will take place in the village of Messing near Tiptree on Saturday 19 March 2016. We have done a few of these events in different locations around the county, taking a timeline of maps from our collection out for a special pop-up display.

One of the maps we will be taking with us on this occasion is this 1650 map showing the lands of Messing Hall (D/DH P1).

Map of Messing, 1650

‘A survey of all the lands appertaineing to Messing Hall in the county of Essex with the number of acres the wch was surveyed by William Bacon and Benedict Coule’ (D/DH P1)

Messing Hall itself is shown to the east of the village centre as a very grand moated building, with a farm to the north.

The map is part of a collection of papers relating to the Luckyn family of Messing. Sir Capel Luckyn acquired the estate of Messing Hall in 1650, so presumably he commissioned the map as he took possession of his grand new property.

The map makes an immediate visual impact, but on closer inspection bears only a passing resemblance to the actual layout of Messing – cue ERO staff members scratching their heads and poring over maps, aerial photos and any histories of Messing we could get our hands on, trying to work out what the 1650 map actually showed us.

Trying to work it all out

Trying to work it all out

Ordnance Survey map of Messing, 1874

The 6″ : 1 mile Ordnance Survey map of 1874

To begin with it all seemed a confusing mess. While the 1650 map shows the grand Messing Hall on a road heading east out of the village, the Ordnance Survey map of 1874 shows that there is no such road, leaving us with a mystery to solve – where was Messing Hall? The representation of it on the map no doubt blows the size of the house out of all proportion, but clearly an important property existed and we could find no obvious sign of it on any later maps.

There were two main candidates for the site – Harborough Hall, to the south of the village, and Messing Lodge, to the north.

Our sights first landed on Harborough Hall – it was the closest substantial property to the village, and sits on a bend in the road, as does the property on the 1650 map. We read that the manors of Messing and Harboroughs merged in the 1400s, so perhaps the names had been used interchangeably.

Messing Lodge, meanwhile, just seemed too far from the village and too far north. Could the 1650 map really be that inaccurate?

We hunted for anything that would help us tie up the things represented on the 1650 map with more accurate later maps.

Our first breakthrough came from matching up Oynes Brook, shown on the 1650 map, with Domsey Brook shown on later maps. Once we had found the brook, we were able to match up the forked road shown in the 1650 map to the north of Messing Hall with the fork shown in later maps above Messing Lodge. Although not quite the same shape, on both maps one fork crosses the brook (and stops short just after it), and the other fork becomes ‘Easthop way’ or ‘Easthorpe Road’. There are also water features on the 1897 map which could relate to the moat shown in 1650.

Portion of the 1650 map showing Messing Hall compared with 1897 map showing Messing Lodge

Portion of the 1650 map showing Messing Hall compared with 1897 map showing Messing Lodge

This was pleasing evidence, and was further supported by some of the field names surrounding the property.

Fields named 'Charcums' near Messing Hall

Fields named ‘Charcums’ near Messing Hall

The 1650 map shows ‘Great Charcums’, ‘Charcum meadow’ and ‘Charcums spring’ to on the opposite side of the road to Messing Hall. On the tithe map of 1839, fields near to Messing Lodge are known as ‘Little Chalkhams’ and ‘Great Chalkhams’.

With the evidence of the brook, the fork in the road, the road to Easthorpe and the Charcum/Chalkhams field names, we think we have a satisfactory answer to our mystery, and we can put Messing Hall back on the map.

One of the joys of research is problem solving, and the excitement when things finally fall into place, especially when you can share that joy with fellow researchers.

Fortunately for the 1650 map, what lacks in accuracy it makes up for in exuberance. Come along to see it for yourself at Messing about with Maps on Saturday 19 March at Messing Village Hall.


Messing about with Maps

A chance to see historic maps of Messing kept at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford, including a hand-drawn map from 1650 and the Messing tithe map of 1839.

Saturday 19 March, 10.30am-3.00pm

Messing Village Hall, The Street, Messing, CO5 9TN

Just drop in, suggested donation of £2.00

New team member: Catherine Norris, Sound and Video Digitiser

Since we were awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund for our You Are Hear project, we have been able to recruit a new team member to work on digitising some of our unique sound recordings to make them easier to access, and to preserve them for the future.

Name: Catherine Norris

Role: Sound & Video Digitiser

Sound and Video Digitiser 1080x720

Why did you want to work at ERO?

I have always been interested in historical recordings and how they can be restored and digitised. I love stories and I’ve always liked the idea of oral history interviews because of the stories that people tell, and if they were not recorded then those stories would be lost forever.

I hate the fact that I never recorded my Grandmas talking as both were great storytellers. One told tales of bombs falling during the WWII on the Library where she worked in Liverpool, books flying everywhere and hiding behind the counter.  When it was calm she would sit down and have a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake! The other told of how on the night of when she married my Grandad he went off to Burma. She didn’t see him for a long time and spoke about how she coped on her own.

So when I found out that there was a sound archive at ERO and about the You Are Hear project I knew that I wanted to work here, as being able to preserve stories of the past for future generations is a pretty amazing thing to be able to do!

 

Describe an average day at ERO for you:

Each day really depends on what collection I’m working on. At the moment I am mainly working with Cassette tapes so I have to make sure that my equipment is working properly and is clean. I also have to make sure the tapes are not damaged in any way, because they need to be in a condition where I am able to digitise them.

Digitisation starts with making the best recording I can of a tape which will then become the master copy. Once that is done I create an access copy and make sure that it sounds as best as it can by using processing and software and of course by using my ears!

There is an amount of problem solving and technical analysis to my day which probably sounds really boring, but I love doing it because I know that I am giving each piece of audio the chance to sound as good as it can.

 

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

I am a big music lover so I do spend a lot of time collecting and listening to records. I also enjoy spending time going to gigs and watching films. Most of my time though is spent being a mum to my 10 year old daughter who keeps me very busy!

 

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

I’ve enjoyed working on a collection about Harlow New Town where residents were recorded for an oral history project to talk about their memories of moving to their new houses post WWII.

I found the collection really interesting because it’s a very diverse collection of stories and memories. Each of the residents had different backgrounds and had come from different ways of life before moving there.

_________________________________________________________________________

You can listen to some of the recordings that we have digitised so far on our SoundCloud page.

Document of the Month, February 2016: Oath book, 1714-1716

Archivist Katharine Schofield tells us about her choice for February’s Document of the Month.

From the mid-17th century onwards, holders of public office were required to take oaths swearing allegiance to the monarch, denying the right of the deposed Stuart family to the throne, declaring the monarch to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and denying the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (the belief that during the ceremony of the Mass the bread and wine offered miraculously become the body and blood of Christ). In effect, this meant that public offices were denied to Roman Catholics, who would not have been able to swear to such things.

Quarter Sessions oath book

This oath book (Q/RRo 1/5) is part of the records of the Essex Quarter Sessions – the county authority which preceded the County Council. The book records details of those who had taken local public office, and who therefore swore the required oaths of allegiance, abjuration and supremacy, and made a declaration against transubstantiation.

The whole book contains about 1,000 names, with parishes and occupations of those subscribing between 1714 and 1716.  Special sessions were held in various places in Essex to make it easier for people to travel.  These names were recorded at an adjourned Quarter Sessions held at the Angel in Kelvedon on 13 December 1715 at the height of the Jacobite Rebellion.  The next session was held at the Old Tavern in Colchester the following day and records those from the north-east of the county.

The names in this opening are mostly from central Essex.   Most of those recorded are parish and chief constables of hundreds.  Church of England ministers also took the oaths and those listed here include the incumbents of Prittlewell, Tolleshunt Knights, Feering and Great Totham, as well as the Revd. Edward Bently, dissenting minister of Coggeshall.  Four schoolmasters from Hempstead, Prittlewell, Witham and Coggeshall are among the names recorded here, together with a number of other public officials – Samuel Newton, postmaster of Witham, John Jorden ‘officer of Excise of Salt at Heybridg’, Joseph Waddingham, excise officer at Earls Colne and John Potter of Wakes Colne, assessor.  Also listed are John White of Coggeshall, apothecary and John Raven of Kelvedon, writing master.

Quarter Sessions oath book

Quarter Sessions records contain all sorts of useful and fascinating details helpful for a range of different types of research. They encompass a huge range of topics, from cases heard by the Quarter Sessions courts which sat four times a year, to the licensing of victuallers, printing presses and slaughterhouses, and the maintenance of highways and planning of railways and canals. The Quarter Sessions began in 1388 and lasted until 1971. The Essex Quarter Sessions records are among the earliest and most complete in the country, dating back to 1555.

We are introducing a new workshop for 2016 which will provide a closer look at the fascinating snapshots of life in the past that these records provide. Discover: Quarter Sessions Records takes place on Wednesday 11 May 2016, 2.00pm-4.00pm. Tickets are £10 and need to be booked in advance on 033301 32500.

Chelmsford Then and Now: 40-41 High Street

In the sixth post in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at no. 38 High Street through the centuries. Find out more about the project here.

In the 16th century the site of 40-41 High Street was occupied by a medieval inn called the Boar’s Head. From 1633 the inn was known as the King’s Head and it continued to operate on the site until 1929 when the property was demolished to make way for a branch of F.W Woolworth. Woolworths vacated the site in 2010, making way for the arrival of Barclays Bank, who continue to occupy the site today.

Extract from John Walker's map of 1591 showing the Boar's Head

Extract from John Walker’s map of 1591 showing the Boar’s Head

From the mid-15th century the site of 40-41 High Street contained a medieval inn known as the ‘Boreshed’, which in 1591 was occupied by the widow Anne Bridges. In 1633 the ‘Boar’s Head’ changed its name to the ‘King’s Head’, although the nature of the premises remained the same. The inn benefitted from a prime position on the high street and was a very popular establishment. A Sale Catalogue from 1807 described the King’s Head as an ‘old and well-accustomed inn’. The property boasted a bar, two parlours and a large market room, indicating the inn had the facilities to accommodate a range of events and activities.

(2) SCN 4768

Front view of the King’s Head, Chelmsford High Street (SCN 4768)

The inn was modest in size, but well equipped to cater to the various visitors passing through the town. The inn provided stabling for up to thirty horses, which was accessed through a narrow passageway leading from the high street to the yard. This coloured plan of the King’s Head from 1842 reveals the structure of the property fits the standard pattern for coaching inns.

(3) D-DOP T2

Plan of the King’s Head, Chelmsford High Street (D/DOP T2).

By the early 20th century, a growing demand for retail establishments in the high street led to the closure of many of the town’s inns. The highly respected Walter J. Greenwood, who served as landlord of the King’s Head for over thirty years, was also its last before the inn was demolished to make way for a branch of F.W. Woolworth.

In the 1920s, rumours circulated that developers intended to demolish the King’s Head to make way for an ‘entirely new and handsome premises’. It was hoped that the new building would improve the overall appearance of the high street and bring it in line with other developments.

(4) SCN 3773

Springfield corner several years later. F.W Woolworths has now replaced the King’s Head

The much anticipated Woolworths store opened in the summer of 1929 and was immediately embraced by Chelmsford residents. The fancy new premises included a large shop floor where a wide range of merchandise was displayed. Above the shop floor there was a large store room and several offices for employees. The store initially employed around forty young shop assistants, all of whom were from the Chelmsford area. The shop front contained two entrance swing doors and several large display windows where stock was displayed to entice passers-by. Above the display windows, gold embossed lettering proudly spelled out ‘F.W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd’.

(5) SCN 1514

Woolworths, Chelmsford High Street. Customers frequently left their bicycles, unchained, outside while they popped inside the store to browse

Woolworths continued to operate throughout the Second World War, though the store did not escape completely unscathed.  In May 1943 Chelmsford’s industries were targeted by the Luftwaffe and many of the shops on the high street were caught in the cross fire, including the Woolworths store. The store was struck by burning debris and as a result, the wooden counters towards the rear of the store caught alight. Fortunately, several members of staff, who were reputedly paid ‘danger money’ to sleep in the store overnight, were on hand to douse the flames. The charred site allegedly remained roped off and kept on display for the duration of the war.

The store continued to prosper throughout the rest of the 20th century, with development and expansion occurring periodically. By the 1960s, the store had undergone a vast programme of modernisation. The acquisition of a block of six shops in Springfield Road provided additional space for the store to expand. The new extension was said to have increased counter space and the range of goods on sale. It also created superior staff quarters, a cloakroom, lounge and a spacious canteen. The work took around two years to complete, although the store was said to have operated as normal during this time with minimal disruption to customers. Woolworths remained on the site until the early 21st century when, sadly, the firm went out of business.

In 2010 it was announced that Barclays Bank was in talks to relocate from their premises near the Shire Hall to the site of the former Woolworths store. Barclays have enjoyed a long history in the town, having previously occupied the Grade II listed building now containing Jamie’s Trattoria.

(6) SCN 11

Exterior of Barclays Bank which was built in 1905.

The attractive, red brick three storey building was constructed in 1905 after the former owner, six time Mayor Frederick Chancellor, vacated the site. The property retains all of the original 18th century detailing externally, although obviously the internal modelling has altered substantially with time.

Barclay's Bank Chelmsford High Street

Barclays today, situated on the former site of Woolworths and the King’s Head

The current Barclays store, located to the south of the High Street, has a much more contemporary feel. At street level, the Barclays building may look very different to those who remember its former life as a Woolworths. The upper façade of the building however is very much unchanged and serves as a subtle reminder of a not so distant past.

If you would like to find out more about the site of 40-41 High Street, try searching the Boar’s Head or the King’s Head in Seax. Alternatively, see Hilda Grieves’ detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows which is available in the ERO Searchroom. Additional information regarding the Chelmsford Branch of Woolworth’s provided by Paul Seaton of woolworthsmuseum.co.uk

A funny old game: 140 years of Essex cricket

Today, 14 January 2016, marks 140 years since Essex County Cricket Club was established at a public meeting at the Shire Hall in Chelmsford. There had been earlier county sides, but none had lasted very long, and the appetite was there to establish a county club on a proper footing. Adverts for the meeting such as this one appeared in the Chelmsford Chronicle inviting people to attend:

Chelmsford Chronicle 7 January 1876

It was agreed at this meeting to establish a county cricket club with its home ground at Brentwood. One Chronicle report following the meeting looked forward to hopefully beating neighbouring counties who had so far overtaken Essex in matters of cricket:

‘One would almost as soon think of seeking snow in June or roses in December, as of talking about cricket in January, and we are glad to think that the formation of a county cricket club for Essex while the frost and the short days are with us is an earnest of the enthusiasm which we shall see displayed in this fine old English game during the coming season. It must be confessed that for many years Essex has not held the place it ought to have held in the domain of cricket, for although it has just as many facilities for the game as any of its neighbours, nearly all the home counties have in this matter taken precedence of us. Nevertheless, we have some good hard-hitters in the county and some very pretty fielders as well, and now that a county club has been launched we hope to see past neglect atoned for, and, if it be possible, some good lickings administered to the far-famed cricketers of counties like Kent and Surrey. The new club has been formed under the best possible auspices, for among those who have called it into existence are such men as Mr Perry Watlington, Mr Round, MP, and Mr Lescher, of Brentwood, whose names ought to operate like a talisman upon the lovers of the willow in Essex.’

Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 21 January 1876

 Brentwood was selected for a number of reasons:

‘A capital ground, situate at Brentwood, has been offered to the club, on the most liberal terms, alike as to rent and privileges, by the Countess Tasker, and perhaps, although Brentwood is some dozen miles or so out of the centre of the county, it would have been hard to find a town more convenient on the whole, because, as Mr Lescher stated at Friday’s meeting in Chelmsford, it is near to London, it has capital hotel accommodation, it is close to a garrison from whence a band will be easily obtainable on match days, and the field offered is not only suitable and well fenced, but is within an easy walk of the railway station. Nor does this fortuitous combination of circumstances, manifold as it is, exhaust all the advantages of taking up a position for the club at Brentwood, for we gather that the sinews of war may be considerably recruited by letting off a portion of the field as a playground for the boys of Brentwood Grammar School, and that the situation of the ground is also favourable for letting off the grass, of which there are nine acres, for sheep feeding. The outlook, altogether, is cheering, but, if the club is to succeed, the cricketers of the county will, of course, have to put their shoulders fairly to the wheel which they will hardly refuse to do if they are real lovers of the game and care for its development in Essex.’

Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 21 January 1876

The first game took place on 5th and 6th May 1876 at Brentwood, announced in the Chronicle with promises of the building of a grand pavilion, and a part of the ground devoted to lawn tennis and croquet (for the ladies):

Chelmsford Chronicle 28 April 1876

Chelmsford Chronicle 28 April 1876

Brentwood was not to prove as convenient a location as had been hoped, and in 1885 the Club’s home ground was moved to Leyton. It moved again later to Chelmsford, where it remains today.

An advertisement for players in the Chelmsford Chronicle, 10 March 1876

An advertisement for players in the Chelmsford Chronicle, 10 March 1876

The first list of rules and members of Essex County Cricket Club, 1876

The first list of rules and members of Essex County Cricket Club, 1876

Early Essex sides were mostly composed of amateur players, with one or two professionals, such as cousins Frank and Joseph Silcock. Despite their professional status, Frank and Joseph both still had other occupations. Frank, born in 1838 in Sawbridgeworth, appears in most census returns as a sadler, with the exception of 1881 when he was described as a ‘Cricket Outfitter’. Joseph was a harness maker, and in 1871 he was also running a beer house. The name of his pub? The Cricketers.

One of the games from the earliest surviving scorebook, beginning in 1879. One of the Silcock brothers played in this game against Hertfordshire - he was bowled out for 17 (D/Z 82/2/1)

One of the games from the earliest surviving scorebook, beginning in 1879. One of the Silcock brothers played in this game against Hertfordshire – he was bowled out for 17 (D/Z 82/2/1)

Essex has had its fair share of eccentric results over the years. On more than one occasion they have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory; perhaps the best example was their game against Derbyshire on 19-20 June 1904. Essex scored 597 in their first innings, but went on to lose by 9 wickets. 343 of those runs belonged to Percy Perrin. His innings included 68 fours, and remains the highest score by an Essex player.

Another Essex record was scored by John “Johnny” William Henry Tyler Douglas in another game against Derbyshire, this time in 1921. In this extraordinary game, Douglas saved the Essex innings with S.N. Hare, who together put on a 9th wicket partnership of 251. Douglas himself scored 210 – his highest batting score – and also got his best bowling figures – 9-47 and 2-0. Essex won the game by an innings and 74 runs.

Douglas was a significant figure in the development of Essex cricket. He first played for the county in 1902, then remained there from 1904. He was captain from 1911-1928. Seven times he took over 100 wickets in a season, with a best of 147 in 1920. He also played for England (and captained them), and an Olympic boxer. He was killed in a shipwreck off the coast of Denmark in 1930.

Photograph of the Essex and Somerset teams in 1926, by Fred Spalding (D/F 269/1/4691)

Photograph of the Essex and Somerset teams in 1926, by Fred Spalding (D/F 269/1/4691)

We shouldn't forget the social side of cricket - this meal as part of a game between Essex and Oxford University in 1927 was complete with uniformed servants (D/F 269/1/4744)

We shouldn’t forget the social side of cricket – this meal as part of a game between Essex and Oxford University in 1927 was complete with uniformed servants (D/F 269/1/4744)

May and June 1934 were a rollercoaster ride for Essex. A massive loss to Kent by an innings and 192 runs was followed immediately by a win against Surrey – by an innings and 192 runs.

In the 1930s, Yorkshire were the team to beat. In 1935 they lost just one game in the County Championship, and that was to Essex. The two teams played at Huddersfield on 31 July-1 August. Essex bowled out Yorkshire for 31, and went on to win by an innings and 204 runs. (Let’s not mention the game in 1932 when Yorkshire scored 555, then dismissed Essex for 78 and 164, winning by an innings and 313 runs.)

We wish our county team luck with the new season as it begins in a few weeks.

Married by Licence

Whether you are tracing your ancestors or researching social or demographic trends, marriage records can provide valuable information. A project we are currently undertaking at ERO is making some of these records easier to find than ever before.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, couples could be married either by Banns or by Licence. Most couples married by Banns. As today, the Banns would be read on three consecutive Sundays in the parish in which the couple intend to marry, and in both of their home parishes if these were different. When the Banns were read, members of these communities were invited to reveal any impediment which would prevent the couple from legally marrying.

In certain cases, however, couples did not qualify to be married by Banns and had to apply for a marriage licence from the local Archdeacon instead. This would be the case if either party was under 21 years of age, if the marriage needed to be formalised quickly, or where the couple was marrying away from their home parish(es).

There are several thousand of these records surviving in ERO’s collections. They are grouped by which Archdeaconry they were issued by, and then by year. A typical catalogue entry at the moment looks like this one for licences issued by the Archdeaconry of Colchester in 1800, a bundle of 54 licences:

Seax screenshot

There is a paper index to these records in the ERO Searchroom, but we are currently working on a project to make all of these records searchable by name on our online catalogue, Seax. This will make them much easier for researchers to find.

The records comprise three different kinds of documents – Allegations, Bonds, and the licence itself:

  • Allegations – the couple, or just the groom, would have to swear that there was no just cause or impediment to them marrying
  • Bonds – a bond for a sum of money would accompany the Allegation. The money would be payable if it turned out that the marriage was contrary to church law
  • The Bond and Allegation were retained by the Archdeacon who issued the actual licence to the groom. The groom would then present it at the church where the couple was to be married

The licences themselves do not often survive, but the Bonds and Allegations mostly do.

D/ACL 1807/28 - All marriage license bonds and allegations are individually wrapped so that you can quickly access the pair that you need.

All marriage licence bonds and allegations are individually wrapped and labelled with the name of the couple they relate to (D/ACL 1807/28)

To show how marriage licence records can help to tell someone’s story, we have been looking into one of the more interesting characters who appears in them, Captain Samuel McDouall. He and his fiancée, Elizabeth Ann Tregent, were granted a licence to marry on 27 April 1807. The couple needed a licence because Elizabeth was only 19, and needed the consent of her father to marry.

D/ACL 1807/28 - The marriage allegation of Captain Samuel McDouall and Elizabeth Ann Tredger.

The marriage allegation of Captain Samuel McDouall and Elizabeth Ann Tregent. The allegation states that there is nothing to stop the couple legally marrying (D/ACL 1807/28)

D/ACL 1807/28 - The marriage bond is for £100.00

The bond which accompanies the allegation, pledging £100 if any just cause was later found which would prevent a later marriage. It is signed by Samuel McDouall and the bride’s father, Abraham James Tregent, and by William Whirfield, who was present at the couple’s wedding (D/ACL 1807/28)

The marriage took place at All Saints church in Dovercourt the very next day after the issue of the licence.

Record of Samuel and Elizabeth's marriage at All Saints church in Dovercourt (D/P 174/1/3)

Record of Samuel and Elizabeth’s marriage at All Saints church in Dovercourt (D/P 174/1/3)

The 1807 date places the marriage in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. McDouall’s profession is recorded as a Captain in the 79th Regiment of Foot, otherwise known as Cameron’s Highlanders. The first Battalion of the regiment was at this point stationed at Weeley, Elizabeth’s home parish. McDouall is said to be living at Dovercourt, probably the site of the officers’ billets. Elizabeth’s father was a military man himself – he is described as a Deputy Barrack Master, and a former Royal Marine.

The information in these records gives us several interesting avenues to pursue to find out more. The regiment’s military history tells us that McDouall served with the camerons during a turbulent period. His age is not given in their marriage record but he must have been some years older than her.

He was appointed as a lieutenant in 1795 before the regiment was posted to Martinique on garrison duty. The posting was to prove disastrous for them; fever swept through the 79th and only a skeleton of the regiment returned in Britain in 1797. The regiment was swiftly made up to strength and Captain McDouall would go on to serve in Holland in 1799, during which year he was made Captain, and in Egypt in 1801, where he was injured in fighting at Rhamanieh. He would later receive a Gold Medal from Sultan Selim III for his part in this action. One of the witnesses to McDouall’s marriage to Elizabeth was William Imlach, who was also a Captain in the 79th Regiment, and who received the same gold medal as Captain McDouall.

The regiment and Captain McDouall spent some considerable time stationed in Ireland on garrison duty before marching for London in 1806 to form part of the procession for Admiral Lord Nelson’s funeral. They were then posted to Colchester and then to Weeley where Captain McDouall would meet Elizabeth. Shortly after their marriage, in April 1807, another tragedy struck the regiment when a boat carrying several men of the 79th from Landguard Fort in Ipswich to Harwich sunk. More than 70 of their men were lost as several women and children, as described in the Chelmsford Chronicle:

Chelmsford Chronicle 1807 crop

I/Mb 170/1/32 - Prattent Sculptor, published. March 1st 1788 by G. Robinson & Co Paternoster Row, extracted from Ladies Magazine.

Prattent Sculptor, published. March 1st 1788 by G. Robinson & Co Paternoster Row, extracted from Ladies Magazine (I/Mb 170/1/32)

In July 1807 the regiment embarked for Denmark and be engaged in the Battle of Copenhagen during which the French were deprived of the valuable prize of the Danish fleet. The regiment would go on to be involved in the Peninsular War in Portugal and Spain, being part of Sir John Moore’s disastrous retreat to Corunna during which many of the regiment were struck down by fever both during the campaign and on their return to England in 1809. Many of the regiment who were left behind during the retreat went on to form part of a regiment of detachments which was engaged at the battle of Talavera at which the first of the French Eagles was captured. However, it is likely that Captain McDouall was part of the contingent which had returned to England, as he retired his commission in July 1809. He is believed to have died in 1812 in the West Indies.

What we do not know is what happened to Elizabeth. It is likely that as a wife of an officer she would have been able to travel to Europe with the regiment, but we do not know whether she did so.

There is a story behind every single one of our marriage licences – including stories that might be part of your family history. The licences are currently searchable on a paper index in the ERO Searchroom, and as we continue to add more names to Seax they will become even easier to find. What stories might they help you discover?

Document of the Month, January 2016: A New Year present from Scotland

Archivist Chris Lambert tells us about his choice for the first Document of the Month of 2016.

This month’s choice is an unusual document that reached us recently from a local house clearance, thanks to some alert neighbours (Acc. A14346).

What they rescued was a small bag of account books relating to a farming business at Little Saling, near Braintree.  Amongst them was this exercise book, apparently bought in Leith, the port for Edinburgh, and used to keep accounts for the coastal trade, mainly in the 1860s.  This opening relates to a vessel called the Paragon, which in January 1866 made what seems to have been a regular run between Leith and Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.  Many packages are not itemized, but with the names of both the sender and the consignee we still get a good picture of trade in the outer islands of Britain.  On this voyage, the Orknies took considerable quantities of Usher’s ale, tea, sugar, biscuits, and a hogshead of spirits.

2016-01-05 Rendall 1080

Click for larger version

And just what is this document doing in Essex? A loose note of 1880 gives us the clue, referring to J.D. Rendall of ‘Breckaskaell’ (the modern Backaskaill on the Orkney island of Papa Westray).  In about 1889, John David Rendall – born on Westray around 1836 – moved himself, his wife and children to Little Saling in Essex, buying Gentlemans Farm from its absentee owner.  Rendall himself died in 1904, but his family stayed on the farm, part of that wave of Scottish farmers who helped to revive Essex agriculture after the depression of the late 19th century.

Intriguingly, some other loose papers list ‘kelp made on the shores of Narness’, 1875-?1887.  The use of fertiliser made from seaweed was hardly an option at Little Saling, but an interest in unconventional methods, and an eye for new opportunities, were just what Essex agriculture needed.

The book will be on display in the Searchroom throughout January 2016.

The Siren

In searching recently for Christmas items in our collection, we came across this curious typescript magazine from Christmas 1939, which is full of humorous poems, stories, articles and puzzles (D/DU 948/1). The tone for the magazine is set by its title page – a play on the double meaning of ‘siren’ as both an air raid warning and an attractive (scantily clad) woman.

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The Siren was put together by the staff of the Civil Defence Control, the part of Essex County Council which was in charge of civil defence during the Second World War.

The Civil Defence Service was charged protecting people and property from injury and damage. Following general schemes laid out by central government, there were three main strands to their work:

  • Preventative – evacuation, air raid shelters
  • Alleviative – rescue
  • Remedial – clearing of debris, first aid, restoring vital services

The nerve centre of the system was the Control Room, based at County Hall in Chelmsford.

Reading The Siren not only gives an insight into the work of the Civil Defence staff, but also shows that they had a strong sense of humour, poking fun at each other in poems, stories and songs.

The magazine opens with ‘The Cuties of the County Control’, a song about the glamour of the young women who staffed the Control Room:

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‘A Disrespectful Ditty’ on one of the following pages begins with a ‘bereavement’ – ‘We’ve lost the deep respect for our betters once we bore’, which has become lost in the blackout.

It goes on to reference various staff members, including the first County Archivist, Frederick Emmison, ‘relentlessly efficient in the middle of the night’, and steadfastly avoiding getting tipsy at the staff party.

Other verses poke fun at two of the Deputy County Controllers – Major J Meikeljohn and Mr H.P. Jamieson – before another verse spares other managers the same treatment: ‘But on these exalted persons may depend our daily bread, So you can’t expect us to rush in where angels fear to tread’.

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Later in the magazine we find a ‘Prefatory Alphabet’, which gives a wonderful insight into what was on people’s minds, such as:

‘G is for Gas-mask. Alas for humanity –

Visibly sign pf social insanity.

K is for Knitting, nocturnal and endless;

Those making the garments will certainly spend less.

M is for Molotov, Soviet minister,

Whose machinations have lately been sinister.

R is for Rota that grimly enmeshes you;

Think of the coffee that nightly refreshes you!

V is the Volume of work that oppresses

The people whose job is to clear up the messes.

W’s the Warden, ensconced in a helmet,

Who moans of the light ‘twixt the curtain and pelmet.’

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Some of the pieces do not relate directly to the war, but provide some escapism, such as this (slightly cheeky) meditation on a day out in Epping Forest:

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Even though the staff of the Civil Defence Service were engaged in serious, vital work during the war, what comes through in The Siren is a strong sense camaraderie amongst the staff. The magazine was clearly supposed to provide some light relief at a dark time; as one of the couplets of the ‘Prefatory Alphabet’ says:

‘U are the reader. We hope this experiment

Will bring you good cheer and the odd spot of merriment’

We have only been able to just begin to lift the lid on these people and their work – if anyone out there has any more information do get in touch.

Season’s eatings: mince pies through the ages

The collections at the Essex Record Office include several historic recipe books, which give us an insight into what our ancestors ate and drank. This includes how our Essex ancestors made that essential Christmas dish, mince pies.

The history of mince pies can be traced back to the 1200s, when European crusaders returned from wars in the Middle East bringing recipes containing meats, fruit and spices with them. Typically, early mince pies contained minced meat, suet, fruit, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and were large oblongs in shape.

The pies were stigmatised by the Puritan government under Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s due to perceived associations with Catholicism, but people did not give up their mince pies so easily.

Mince pies began to get sweeter during the 1700s, as cheap sugar arrived in Britain from West Indian slave plantations. By the 1800s, the pies had evolved into the small, round, sweet pies that we recognise today. While suet is still used in many recipes, the inclusion of meat was largely dropped altogether.

For some of us, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a mince pie (or two). The Women’s Own meeting of Stockwell Congregational Chapel in Colchester lamented in December 1947 ‘Another austerity Christmas. No mince pies, only a bit of cake to have with our cup of tea’ (D/NC 42/5/5).

D/DR Z1A traditional mince pie recipe which includes boiled ox tongues can be found in the recipe book of Elizabeth Slany, which she began to keep in 1715 (D/DR Z1). Elizabeth was born near Worcester, and in 1723 married Benjamin LeHook, a factor (or agent) in the City of London. Elizabeth lived to the grand age of 93, dying in 1786. The book is catalogued as D/DR Z1, and you can view images of the entire book here by the magic of Seax. Her recipes for pastry for mince pies and the mincemeat filling can be found on images 15 and 16.

Elizabeth Slany's recipe for mince pie pastry (D/DR Z1)

Elizabeth Slany’s recipe for mince pie pastry (D/DR Z1)

To make past [pastry] for Mince Pyes or Tarts

Take a quarter of flower ¾ of a pound of buttor & rub your butter in the flower make it up with boyling water.

Elizabeth Slany's recipe for mince pies, including boiled ox's tongues (D/DR Z1)

Elizabeth Slany’s recipe for mince pies, including boiled ox’s tongues (D/DR Z1)

To make Mince Pyes

 

Take 2 neats tongues [ox tongues] boyl them till they will peel & weigh to a pound of tongue a pound & ¾ of the best beef suet pickt clean from ye Skins shred the tongue very well by itself then shred your suet very well then take 10 pippins pared & shred fine & mix them all together then take 2 nutmegs & the like quantity of mace cloves cinamon & ginger take a pint or more of wine let ½ be sack & ½ claret so season it to your mind with the spices wine sugar salt & lemon peel shred very fine & the juice or 2, 3 or more Lemons you must put in 4 pounds of Currans & some candid orange peel & Lemon & cirton if you eat them hot you may when they are bak’t heat some sack & sugar & put it in them.

 

A slightly later recipe from the 1770s which doesn’t include meat can be found in the cookery book of Mary Rooke of Langham Hall. Mary’s (fairly alcoholic) recipe for ‘minc’d Pye meat without meat’ calls for a mixture of three pounds of grated apples, two pounds of finely chopped beef suet, two pounds of currants, two pounds of raisins, the rind and pulp of two boiled lemons, half a pint of brandy and half a pint of port wine, the juice of four lemons, sugar to taste, and half a pound of blanched, sliced almonds. The ingredients were to be mixed well then put into small jars and covered with bladder to keep them air tight. When serving the pies Mary recommended small slices candied orange and lemon to be put on top of them, and a mixture of brandy and port wine to slosh over the pies to moisten them. You can view images of Mary’s entire recipe book on our online catalogue Seax here (D/DU 818/1).

Mary Rooke's recipe for mince pie filling (D/DU 818/1)

Mary Rooke’s recipe for mince pie filling (D/DU 818/1)

A rather more modest recipe from the 1930s which omits both meat and suet altogether can be found in The Essex Cookery Book, published in several editions by the Essex Education Committee. This recipe calls for ¼ lb each of apples, raisins, currants, sultanas and sugar, 2 ozs of mixed peel, 2 ozs of margarine, 1 oz of almonds, and ½ a teaspoon each of salt and nutmeg, along with the rind and juice of 1 lemon. The fruit is to be peeled and chopped, and the ingredients mixed well before being stored in jars.

Whether you are a mince pie fan or not, we hope you have some tasty treats over the festive season.

The Church of England and the Home Front, 1914-1918: Civilians, Soldiers and Religion in Wartime Colchester

In this guest post, Father Robert Beaken describes the research he has undertaken for his latest book, on the Church of England in the First World War. Father Robert is parish priest of St Mary the Virgin, Great Bardfield, and St Katharine, Little Bardfield, in Essex. He holds a PhD from King’s College, London, and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of seven works, including Cosmo Lang: Archbishop in War and Crisis (2012).

“Father Robert? I think you’d better come in to the Record Office the next time you’re passing.”

My unexpected telephone caller was Mrs Jane Bedford, who then worked at the Essex Record Office branch in Colchester, and who was an enormous help to me as I researched the role of Colchester’s parish churches in the Great War. Mrs Bedford went on to explain that an old established business in Colchester had recently closed. Going through the cupboards, someone had found the records of the Borough of Colchester Social Club for the Troops and had brought them into the Essex Record Office.

Papers from the Colchester Social Club for the Troops (C948)

Papers from the Colchester Social Club for the Troops (C948)

I knew a little about the Borough of Colchester Social Club for the Troops because it was mentioned in the Colchester War Memorial Souvenir (1924), which even included a somewhat lugubrious photograph of a tea party for wounded soldiers after the Armistice. The unexpected cache of papers revealed a whole lot more information about the club and its role helping the troops in wartime Colchester.

We tend to lump together all the British soldiers in the First World War, but in fact there were three distinct British armies. Firstly, in 1914 there was the old regular British army and its reservists: what the Kaiser called ‘that contemptible little army’. From late 1914/early 1915 there was Kitchener’s New Army, which was composed of volunteers who were usually of a much higher intellectual and social calibre than the old regular troops. Finally, in January 1916, Conscription was introduced, which meant that men from across the social spectrum were called up.

Before 1914, the ‘other ranks’ in the regular army were treated with some disdain by the general public and frequently regarded as potential sources of trouble. I show in my book how attitudes towards the army shifted during the Great War as a consequence from 1915 of a huge influx of ‘civilians-in-uniform’ (some 8 million British men had worn khaki by the Armistice). To begin with, it was felt desirable in Colchester to take steps to prevent the troops passing through the town from getting into scrapes, which principally meant keeping them out of pubs and brothels, and trying to preclude gambling and stealing. Various ‘clubs’ sprang up for the troops around the town, but the largest was run by the Borough, with significant help from the churches. This was open in the Albert School of Art in the High Street between 24 September 1914 and 31 May 1919. It provided a canteen, baths, a soldiers’ help bureau, a games room, a writing room, a reading room, a post office, and a small branch of Barclays Bank.

From the papers found in Colchester, I discovered that the club initially expected to cater for 1,000 visits per week, but soon had to cope with 25-30,000 visits per week. In 1916, for example, the club used 10,804 loaves of bread, 6,139 pounds of butter, 1,645 gallons of milk, 6,973 pounds of sugar, 1,557 pounds of tea, 449 pounds of coffee, 917 pounds of cocoa, 21,672 bottles of mineral water, 11 tons of cake, 311,515 pastries, and 2,404 pounds of meat for sandwiches.

Papers from the Colchester Social Club for the Troops (C948)

Papers from the Colchester Social Club for the Troops (C948)

The club was fairly successful in keeping troops out of mischief and preserving military discipline in Colchester. As the war progressed and the composition of the army changed, it helped volunteers or conscripts who were finding their introduction to military life difficult, or who were anxious about being sent to France, to cope. Similarly, keeping busy in the club and having a sense of purpose may have helped many of the civilian volunteers who ran the club to cope with their own wartime anxiety and bereavement.

Papers from the Colchester Social Club for the Troops (C948)

Papers from the Colchester Social Club for the Troops (C948)

When Mrs Bedford telephoned me with the news that these documents about the Borough Social Club for the Troops had turned up, she knew that I was seeking to reconstruct the life of Colchester throughout the Great War as part of my study of the role of the parish churches on the home front. At long last my research has been published by Boydell and Brewer with the title The Church of England and the Home Front, 1914-1918: Civilians, Soldiers and Religion in Wartime Colchester. A copy is available at Essex Record Office and is on sale at all good bookshops and online sources. I should like to add how immensely grateful I am to Mrs Bedford and the staff of Essex Record Office for their knowledgeable help and support.

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Church of England and the Home Front, Robert Beaken

Find out more about The Church of England an the Home Front on the publisher’s website here.