Essex-American Connections: William Pynchon, 1590-1662

William Pynchon was a native of Writtle and resident of Springfield (both near Chelmsford), who played a key role in creating and developing colonial Massachusetts. The first place named Springfield in America was founded by Pynchon in 1636 as Agawam Plantation, and in 1651 it was renamed after his Essex hometown.

We have two good reasons to talk about William Pynchon just at the moment (on top of the fact that he’s an interesting man to talk about at any time); our trip to Boston next week, and a talk here at ERO in September from an American scholar and expert on Pynchon’s life.

??????????????????David M. Powers is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Carleton College and Harvard University. His book, Damnable Heresy: William Pynchon, the Indians, and the First Book Banned and Burned in Boston, offers the first comprehensive biography of Pynchon. Placing Pynchon within the fabric of his times, Powers traces his life from Chelmsford, through his New England adventures, to his return to Britain, and describes contributions Pynchon made to the Puritan experience in Old England and New.

David says:

‘Two things stand out in Pynchon’s pioneering life:

First, he consistently treated his trading partners, the Indians, with respect and sensitivity – an attitude which was regrettably not shared by many of his fellow colonists.

Second, even though he was a layman, Pynchon wrote a volume of Christian theology, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption (1650), which the Massachusetts Bay government condemned “to be burned in the market place, at Boston, by the common executioner.” This was the first instance of book burning in British North America.’

Pynchon travelled to America with his wife and three daughters on one of the ships of the Winthrop Fleet. This was a fleet of 11 ships under the command of John Winthrop, which carried about 700 people along with livestock and provisions to New England in summer 1630.

He was a shrewd businessman, and became one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He initially settled in Roxbury, near Boston, but in 1635 led a settlement expedition into the Connecticut River Valley, and founded what would become Springfield. Although the land was not the best for farming, the location was a good one for him to carry on his fur trading, as it was near beaver colonies and his trading partners, the Native peoples, and was on a major transportation route, the Connecticut River.

His book, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption, presented his views on the Atonement. Published in London, it was condemned and symbolically burned by the Bay Colony legislature because of their concern for how the English Parliament might react to strange ideas from New England. Only nine copies are known to survive.

Pynchon transferred his properties to his son John, who continued and extended the Pynchon influence in the Connecticut River Valley, and returned to England in 1652, where he spent the rest of his life.

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Find out about our trip to Boston and more Essex-US connections here.

David will be speaking for the September meeting of the Essex History Group on the life of William Pynchon. All are welcome, admission is £1 including a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit.

William Pynchon: From Springfield, Essex, to Springfield, Massachusetts

A talk by David M. Powers

Tuesday 1 September, 10.30am

£1 admission, no need to book

Boston trip: another document is coming with us!

Following yesterday’s post we are pleased to be able to share the news that we have got further permission to be able to bring an original parish register with us on our trip to Boston in August 2015.

D/P 192/1/1 is the first parish register of Saffron Walden, with baptism, marriage and burial entries dating from 1558-1630, and therefore contains entries for a number of early American settlers and their families.

Map of Saffron Walden, 1758, by Edward John Eyre (D/B2 MAN7/3

Map of Saffron Walden, 1758, by Edward John Eyre (D/B2 MAN7/3

Several early settlers have been traced to Saffron Walden, such as Samuel Bass who moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1633, Thomas Cornell who went to Boston, Massachusetts in 1638, and Nicholas Desborough, who by 1637 was in Hartford, Connecticut.

The register is a beautiful early-modern book, long and thin, constructed of wooden boards with a soft leather cover.

The register will be on display with two original wills at our events in Boston, details of which are here.

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The first parish register of Saffron Walden – you can see its wooden covers just poking through the leather in the top left corner

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Soft leather wraps around the wooden covers of the book

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A glimpse inside the register

Boston trip: some documents are coming with us

We have even more exciting news about our Boston trip – we will be taking some original documents with us.

Two historic wills will be making the trip across the Atlantic for visitors to our events in Boston to come and see, one made by Richard Knight in 1703 and the other by Richard Fitzsymonds in 1663.

Knight was an innkeeper from Rochford. His will (D/AEW 30/7) was made on 3 January 1703 and he died a few days later (he was buried in Rochford churchyard on 15 January).

Burial of Richard Knight, 15 January 1703 in Rochford (D/P 129/1/1 image 27)

Burial of Richard Knight, 15 January 1703 in Rochford (D/P 129/1/1 image 27)

He was a prosperous man, and left his mother Love Wood a hundred pounds and three houses for life.

These houses – and two more in Moulsham, Chelmsford – were to pass after his mother’s death to his brother George Knight of ‘Herford in New England’, the place now known as Hartford, Connecticut.

Extract from Richard Knight's will, leaving his brother George Knight in Connecticut five houses, and his brother John Wood 1 shilling (D/AEW 30/7)

Extract from Richard Knight’s will, leaving his brother George Knight in Connecticut five houses, and his brother John Wood 1 shilling (D/AEW 30/7)

Court records show that the will was contested by Richard’s half-brother John Wood, who had been left just one shilling (5p.). Trouble was brewing even before Richard’s death. On 9 January, under pressure from Wood, the executor gathered together three extra witnesses, led by a local gentleman, Thomas Wheeler. Asked whether he was willing to have the will read over to him, the dying man replied ‘noe it is well enough’. Later he allowed Wheeler to break open the sealed will and to read its contents – but only after John Wood’s wife had left the room. Richard then confirmed his original intentions, ‘putting his forefinger upon the marke by him before made’, and the three new witnesses signed the will as it was re-sealed.

Sadly we do not have the Woods’ side of the story, but the court of probate found for the will as written. Whether George in Connecticut ever got his houses remains to be discovered.

The other will is of Richard Fitzsymonds of Great Yeldham, gentleman (D/AMW 9/1).  He made his will in 1663 but did not die until 1680, which is an unusually long gap between a will being made and the testator’s death. The will has a particularly fulsome religious preamble and includes bequests to the poor of three parishes where he owned property.

Will of Richard Fitzsymonds 1663

The detailed religious preamble to the will of Richard Fitzsymonds and bequests to the local poor (D/AMW 9/1)

He also leaves a bequest to his brother and those of his nephews and nieces who were born in England and went out to New England with their father.  He mentions a number of other brothers, nephews, nieces and kinsmen and leaves money for them all to have a gold ring worth twenty shillings.

Extract from the will of Richard Fitzsymonds, 1663, leaving property to his brother Samuel Symonds and his nieces and nephews in New England

Extract from the will of Richard Fitzsymonds, 1663, leaving property to his brother Samuel Symonds and his nieces and nephews in New England

 

The family was clearly wealthy and had lands in several parishes and two seal rings.  He also asks for a jewel to be purchased for his daughter in law as a token of his love for her.

If you’re in the Boston area next week (3-7 August 2015), do pop in to see ERO staff and these original documents at one of the locations they will be going to – all the details are here.

Both of these wills, along with 70,000 others, are available to view online on our subscription service Essex Ancestors.

Essex-American connections: Thomas Hooker (1586-1647)

In the run up to ERO’s trip to Boston, we take a look at the life of Thomas Hooker, Chelmsford’s town lecturer who went on to become one of America’s founding fathers.

Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) spent the years c.1625-1631 in Chelmsford as the town’s lecturer, drawing large crowds to his sermons. In 1633, along with his wife and children, he made the perilous voyage from England to New England. He went on to become one of the most important men in the new world and is well known in America today, as a co-founder of the state of Connecticut, and the ‘Father of American democracy’, yet he is little known in the country of his birth.

Hooker was born in Leicestershire and studied at Cambridge, as part of a circle including several future Puritans. Puritans were extreme Protestants who were unhappy with what they saw as Catholic elements in the structure and style of worship in the Church of England.

Chelmsford

In about 1625 Hooker and his wife Susannah moved with their young family (at least one daughter, Joanna, and possibly their second daughter Mary) to Chelmsford, where Hooker had been appointed as town lecturer. The couple had four more children while living in Chelmsford, two of whom died in infancy and whose baptisms and burials are recorded in the local parish registers. The family lived at Cuckoos in Little Baddow just outside Chelmsford, a farmhouse which is still standing today.

Ann Hooker baptism Great Baddow 1626

‘Ann the daughter of Thomas Hooker and Susan his wyff was baptised’, January 1626, Great Baddow (D/P 65/1/1, image 28)

Ann Hooker burial Chelmsford 1626

Burial record for ‘Ann the daughter of Mr Thomas Hooker of Baddow Minister and of Susan his wife’ from the Chelmsford parish register, 23 May 1626 (D/P 94/1/2, image 90). She would have been about 5 months old.

Sarah Hooker baptism Chelmsford 1628

Baptism of Sarah Hooker, 9 April 1628, Chelmsford (D/P 94/1/2, image 95)

Burial of Sarah Hooker, 26 August 1629, Chelmsford (D/P 94/1/2, image 99). She would have been about 16 months old.

Burial of Sarah Hooker, 26 August 1629, Chelmsford (D/P 94/1/2, image 99). She would have been about 16 months old.

Cuckoos Farm Little Baddow home of Thomas Hooker

Cuckoos farm house, Little Baddow, home to the Hooker family during their time in Chelmsford (Photo: Peter Kirk)

Hooker’s duties in Chelmsford included two lectures a week, which people came from miles around to hear, including from the great families of Essex such as the Earl of Warwick who had a house in Great Waltham, near Chelmsford. Many of the people who came to listen to Hooker also made the journey to New England themselves, meeting him there again, becoming known as ‘Mr Hooker’s Company’.

Hooker spoke against some of the doctrines of the Church of England and the way it was organised, believing it was too close to Roman Catholicism.

Puritans did not seek just reform within the church, but also moral reform within society. The Chelmsford in which Hooker lived had a population of about 1,000, and more than its fair share of ale houses. Drunkenness was a particular focus of the Puritans. According to Magnalia Christi Americana: or, the Ecclesiastical History of New England (published in 1820 in Hartford, Connecticut):

‘there was more profaneness than devotion in the town and the multitude of inns and shops… produced one particular disorder, of people filling the streets with unseasonable behaviour after the public services of the Lord’s Day were over. But by the power of his [Hooker’s] ministry in public, and by the prudence of his carriage in private, he quickly cleared the streets of this disorder, and the Sabbath came to be very visibly sanctified among the people.’

Since this was written some 200 years later in the state where Hooker became a hero this needs to be treated with some caution, but gives an insight into views on Hooker over the centuries.

Bishop Laud and Hooker’s flight to Holland

William Laud

William Laud, Bishop of London from 1628 and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633

During Hooker’s time in Chelmsford, in July 1628 William Laud was appointed Bishop of London (he would go on to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633). Essex was still part of the Diocese of London, and Laud set about weeding out Puritan clergy.

Hooker’s reputation was spread and he was widely known to attract large crowds to his Puritan sermons. Hooker was called before the Court of High Commission in London and dismissed from his Chelmsford job. Withdrew to Little Baddow and set up a school in his house, but did still preach at St Mary’s in Chelmsford, despite the ban.

He was called before the Court of High Commission again, but fled to Holland in spring 1631. Susannah and the children were taken in by the Earl of Warwick in Great Waltham.

Before he left he preached a farewell sermon to the congregation at Chelmsford, which was printed in 1641 as The Danger of Desertion: Or A Farewell Sermon of Mr Thomas Hooker, Sometimes Minister of Gods Word at Chainsford in Essex; but now of New England. Preached immediately before his departure out of Old England. He had a warning for his listeners: “Shall I tell you what God told me? Nay, I must tell you on pain of my life. God has told me this night that he will destroy England.”

New England

After two years of separation, Thomas Susannah and their four surviving children set sail for New England on 10 July 1633 on the Griffin.

About 200 passengers were on board, including other influential men who would play their part in shaping the new world. The voyage was part of what became known as the Great Migration of 1629-40, during which about 20,000 people left England for America, mostly to seek freedom to practice their religion.

The Hookers first went to Newtown (now Cambridge) just outside Boston, where they were joined by several people described as ‘Mr Hooker’s Company’, whom they had known in Essex. Hooker was ordained as the pastor of the congregation on 11 October 1633. In 1636 the decision was made to move again and establish another Newtown (which was to become Hartford) in the Connecticut river valley.

As the English colonies proliferated (despite the presence of Native Americans and Dutch and French settlers) questions of government were under constant discussion, and Thomas Hooker played an active part.

A sermon by Hooker in which he declared that “The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people” is widely credited as the inspiration behind the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut of January 1639, which in turn is seen as an important precursor to the current US Constitution.

Thomas Hooker died on 7 July 1647, 14 years after his arrival in New England. John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts and leader of the Winthrop Fleet which had sailed over in 1630, wrote after Hooker’s death that:

‘Mr Hooker who for piety, prudence, wisdom, zeal, learning, and what else might make him serviceable – might be compared with men of the greatest note – and he shall need no other praise.’

Thomas Hooker plaque Chelmsford

Plaque commemorating Thomas Hooker’s life in Chelmsford, on entrance alleyway to Chelmsford Cathedral

If you would like to know more about Thomas Hooker, Deryck Collingwood’s very detailed study Father of American Democracy: Thomas Hooker, 1586-1647 is available in the ERO library. You could also see Hubert Ray Pellman’s thesis Thomas Hooker: A Study in Puritan Ideals, which is catalogued as T/Z 561/35/1.

For an introduction to the Essex contribution to the early days of America, try John Smith’s Pilgrims and Adventurers: Essex (England) and the making of the United States of America, which is available in the ERO library, and also available to purchase from the Searchroom or by calling 033301 32500.

ERO goes to Boston!

We have a very exciting announcement today – two ERO staff members will be crossing the pond in the summer for a flying visit to Boston, to introduce the delights of the ERO to an American audience.

Allyson and Neil

Allyson Lewis, Archivist, and Neil Wiffen, Public Service Team Manager, have over 25 years of ERO experience between them, and have a packed schedule of talks and events for their 5 day trip. You can find out more about this ERO dream team below.

This is where they will be – if you are in the area do pop in to see them! Drop in to hear them speak on how to access and use ERO records through our online service Essex Ancestors, and for the opportunity to ask them questions about researching your Essex ancestors.

Monday 3 August, 9.30-4.30 Tracing Your English Ancestors from Essex – event with the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 99-101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA.All the details can be found hereNEHGS was established in 1845 and is a leading resource for genealogists. Its library and archive houses over 28 million items dating back over hundreds of years.
Tuesday 4 August Neil and Allyson will be speaking at the National Archives in Boston at 1.00pm, and running a family history helpdesk from 2.00pm-.004pm 380 Trapelo Road, Waltham, MA 02452Toll Free: 866-406-2379www.archives.gov/northeastThe National Archives at Boston is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which has several locations across the USA. The NARA facility in Boston stores approximately 30,000 cubic feet of original records, which date back to 1789.
Wednesday 5 August Neil and Allyson will be at Boston Public Library with a presentation at 2.00pm and helpdesk until 4.00pmBoston Public Library, 700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, 02116617-859-2261
Thursday 6 August Neil and Allyson will be at Boston City Archives to introduce the staff to Essex AncestorsArchives and Records Management Division, 201 Rivermoor Street, West Roxbury,  MA 02132, 617-635-1195; FAX: 617-635-1194

You can explore images and documents from the Boston City Archives collections here: http://cityofbostonarchives.tumblr.com

Friday 7 August Neil and Allyson will be at the Joseph P. Healey Library at The University of Massachusetts at Boston from 10.00am-12.00noon – more details here

For further information including booking please get in touch with the individual venues. Neil and Allyson look forward to meeting you!

A bit more about Allyson and Neil…

Allyson Lewis is an archivist with 30 years’ experience.  She is a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford where she read Modern History.  She then took a Masters in Archive Administration at University College London.  She has worked at Essex Record Office for 12 years and has responsibility for providing Access Points around the county to bring the Record Office closer to the public. She has focussed on researching First World War ancestry as part of the commemorations of the First World War in 2014.  Allyson was born in Liverpool but her family come from all parts of the UK and mainly lead back to the Shetland Islands.

Neil Wiffen, Public Service Team Manager of the Essex Record Office, was born in and educated in Chelmsford before undertaking his first degree at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. He started working at the ERO in 2000 when the new building was opened. At the University of Essex he completed an MA in Local and Regional History and has a strong interest in the history of the county of Essex sparked off mainly by his Dad telling him tales of watching American bombers taking off from the nearby Boreham Aerodrome. His Wiffen ancestors can be traced back to the Halstead area of Essex to at least 1800 but he is waiting to retire before undertaking his family history proper.

Discovering Sister Kate Luard’s story at the Essex Record Office

We have been taking part in Now the Last Poppy has Fallen, a project investigating stories of Essex people and places during the First World War, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As part of our involvement in the project, we have worked with year 8 students at Shenfield High School to create this short reflective film on the wartime experiences of Sister Kate Luard, who we have mentioned a couple of times on this blog before (here and here).

The students joined us for a day to see Kate’s original letters and papers, and to work with filmmaker Chris Church to tell part of her story.

We will shortly be launching a resource pack using several of our First World War sources for secondary schools; if you would like to register your interest in this please get in touch on heritage.education@essex.gov.uk

We had a great day making the film, and we hope you enjoy watching it. See below for some behind-the-scenes photos of the filming process.

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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.”

Open reel tape

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.

Essex Heritage Trust logo

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).

D-DBa F40-1 watermarked

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.

D-DQ 14-191 watermarked

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.