Easter eggs in Essex’s past

Are you looking forward to chocolate eggs this weekend? Archivist Katharine Schofield takes a look back at Easter eggs in an earlier guise…

The tradition of giving Easter eggs can be traced back to the early Christian tradition of giving up dairy products for Lent.  All of the household eggs would be used up on Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) and none could be eaten again until Easter, when households would need to restock. 

In 1297 an extent was made of the manors of Walton, Thorpe and Kirby (D/DHw M1) which detailed all the land and valued all the rights of the lord of the manor.  Manorial tenants held land from the lord in return for the payment of goods, money and labour.

In the three Soken manors, the tenants owed regular amounts of work to the lord on the lands which were kept ‘in hand’ (demesne land); that is they were farmed directly with the labour of the tenants.  As well as threshing, weeding, reaping, ploughing, mowing and making hay, keeping and shearing sheep, they had to maintain the lord’s granary and byre and provide a horse for harrowing.

The lord of the three manors was St. Paul’s Cathedral and this explains why among their duties, the tenants had to load corn from the manor house on to a ship.  In addition to the labour, they also paid rent and provided food.  Those tenants who held one hide of land (120 acres) were obliged to give the lord 300 eggs at Easter.

Extract from D/DHw M1

Extract from D/DHw M1, detailing the labour and goods owed by the tenants of the three Soken manors to their lord, including 300 eggs at Easter. The word ‘Pasha’ (Easter) can just be made out at the beginning of the second line.

You can find out more about manorial documents at our new workshop Discover: Manorial documents on Tuesday 31 October 2013. Details are available in our events guide, which can be downloaded here.

Conserving Essex’s past: Saffron Walden on the Map

In the days when you can carry a device in your pocket which can access not only a map of the whole globe but satellite images of the earth’s surface, it is hard to imagine life without easy access to accurate maps.

Historic maps are fascinating and often beautiful documents, and the Essex Record Office holds many maps which help us to tell the story of our county’s past. Some of these maps have been well treated and survive today in good condition, perhaps a little faded and worn but largely complete. Others, however, have not been quite so lucky.

Regular readers may remember that in spring 2012, a dirty, tattered piece of parchment was found in a farm outbuilding in Wendons Ambo, near Saffron Walden. Upon unrolling it, it was discovered to be a map of the historic town ofSaffron Walden, dating to 1757. This makes it the earliest known map of the town. This is a very special find, showing in great detail the historic centre of Saffron Walden, much of which survives today.

Before conservation work. The map was brittle, dark, mouldy, and peppered with small tears and holes.

Before conservation work. The map was brittle, dark, mouldy, and peppered with small tears and holes.

The map was made by Edward John Eyre, whose slightly later, larger 1758 map of the area around the town may well already be familiar to Saffron Walden residents. It is likely that both maps were commissioned by Elizabeth Countess ofPortsmouthor her nephew, Sir John Griffin Griffin, who inherited part of the nearby estate of Audley End. 

In June 2012 the map was transferred on permanent loan to the Essex Record Office for conservation work and storage. Despite the degree of damage it has suffered, the hand-drawn streets and buildings are still remarkably clear. Since the map arrived at ERO, our expert conservators have worked to stabilise the map to prevent any further deterioration, and have made any repairs possible. 

During conservation work. As part of the conservation work the map was stretched out after being humidified. This looks alarming but it mimics the original treatment process the parchment went through when new.

During conservation work. As part of the conservation work the map was stretched out after being humidified. This looks alarming but it mimics the original treatment process the parchment went through when new.

After months of painstaking effort, the conservation work is now complete, and the map is due to make a special one-day visit to its home town for local people to come and see it.

For your opportunity to see the original map and to find out more about its conservation, come to Saffron Walden on the Map at Saffron Walden Town Hall on Saturday 16 March, 10.30am-3.30pm, were ERO Senior Conservator Tony King will be talking about his work. There will also be talks from other experts about historic maps and how they were made. You can download a programme for the day here.

After conservation work. The map is still very dark due to the layer of discoloured varnish which cannot be removed, but it has been flattened and tears and holes filled in. Despite the damage it has suffered, the outlines of the streets and buildings are remarkably clear.

After conservation work. The map is still very dark due to the layer of discoloured varnish which cannot be removed, but it has been flattened and tears and holes filled in. Despite the damage it has suffered, the outlines of the streets and buildings are remarkably clear.

Stories from the Stores: blacksmith’s ledger of John Packard Smith of Chipping Ongar, A13540 (D/F 326)

Account books and ledgers can be an excellent way of finding out about details of daily life in the past. Archivist Sarah Dickie rifles through the ledger book of John Packard Smith, blacksmith of Chipping Ongar, and turns up some unusual details of early twentieth century life…

John Packard Smith is listed in the 1908 Kelly’s Directory of Essex as a blacksmith, cycle agent and repairer. We found a couple of entries in 1911 for repairing and fitting cycle tubes but this does not feature as a large part of his work. The accounts in the ledger show that Smith’s work was predominantly as a blacksmith and farrier. For example on 13 August 1913 he made ‘a new steel plate to Deerings Binder Knife, Filing out [w]hole of New Casting & Fixing to Knife & Rivets’ for a sum of 2 shillings 3 pence for Mr. Bennett of Little Myles. Shoeing horses took up a great deal of his time, e.g. 22 May 1908 ‘To 3 shoes and one Bar shoe & dressing foot with tar 3s 6d’ for Mr. Brown of New House Farm (Greenstead-juxta-Ongar).

Front cover

Front cover – showing how well used the ledger was

The ledger is extremely detailed and we get know a lot of personal details; Smith shoed horses called Druid, Pantaloon, Cardinal and Match Girl for Mr. H.E. Jones, whilst he made nuts and bolts for McNoble the builders to do repairs at ‘The Bear’, a pin for a boiler plug at Blake Hall and new gutter brackets for High Ongar Rectory. In this throwaway age it is surprising to see how many everyday objects were repaired. There are bills for a new hoop for a wine cask, repairing the woodwork on a wheel barrow wheel as well as fitting horse shoes for the Cheshire Regiment in June and July 1915. Many of his customers were farmers so it is no surprise that he was repairing harrows, undertaking major works on a hay shaker and supplying a new thumb screw for a churn.

Accounts for Mr Jones

Accounts for Mr Jones, who was obviously a regular customer, naming the horses he brought to be shod.

Accounts for the Cheshire Regiment, 1915

Amongst his customers was the Eddison Steam Rolling Co. (shortening long reversing rod), Miss Bishop of Roden House School (soldering music stand), Bishop’s Stortford and Epping Gas Co. (mending and strengthening a generator bar), Mr. Bianchi of Hall Farm, Greenstead-juxta Ongar (repairing kitchen range) and Mr. Britton of the ‘Two Brewers’ [High Ongar] (shoeing horses).

This volume provides a wealth of detail on local businesses and individuals, as well as fascinating information on the work of a blacksmith at the beginning of the twentieth century just before the motor car took hold.

Graveyard Shift

North Road Burial Ground in Southend-on-Sea had – like many graveyards – languished somewhat unloved for several years. It has now, however, been the lucky recipient of 12 months of love and attention from the Shared Spaces project.  

Shared Spaces was set up by Blade Education, a Southend-based not-for-profit organisation, and involved local volunteers and nearby Westborough Primary School in investigating and preserving the heritage of the cemetery. The project wanted to reconnect local people with the past of their town through the stories of the people buried at the cemetery, and also to show that graveyards can be used as a beneficial educational resource, linking today’s generations with those of the past.

Students from Westborough Primary School searching the gravestones for people's stories

Students from Westborough Primary School searching the gravestones for people’s stories

Over 8,000 people are buried on the site, and the project has not only sought to create a database of all their names, but to research some of their life stories. This information is being made available in a free online database, and will also be deposited with the ERO. Heritage trail boards have also been installed at the cemetery, to serve as a reminder about the real lives lived by the people buried there.

One such story was that of Thomas Kerridge, a hansom cab driver who drove people between the Blue Boar Hotel and Southend Victoria railway station. One day in 1925, Thomas was badly injured when he was kicked in the chest by the horse which pulled his cab. He survived the kick, but the wound became infected, and in an age before antibiotics Thomas died a few days later, aged 46. His wife Sarah was left with little income and seven children aged between 13 years and 6 weeks old. It is believed that Thomas was buried at North Road because his family lived close by.

Photograph of Thomas Kerridge

Photograph of Thomas Kerridge

The school children have been an integral part of the project, and not only have they learned about the history of their town, they have had lessons in the graveyard including gardening, photographer, and nature hunts. They have also had the opportunity to learn about their own family histories, with ancestors from all over the world.

To find out more about the project and to search the database online, visit http://www.northroadburialground.org.uk/ You can also find out more about Blade Education here.

Nature hunt at North Road Burial Ground

Nature hunt at North Road Burial Ground