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.