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The Essex Record Office holds records about the county, its people and buildings and provides a useful resource for individuals interested in family, house and local history.

Document of the Month, December 2018: The last forest

Lawrence Barker, Archivist

This month’s document has been chosen to mark National Tree Week, 24th November to 2nd December 2018, the UK’s largest annual tree celebration marking the start of the winter tree planting season.  The document is the sale catalogue dating from 1923 for the Hallingbury Estate (SALE/A316).  The estate included Hatfield Forest.

The part of the sale catalogue describing Hatfield Forest. The lot was over 922 acres, and included several cottages and a shell room or grotto,

The sale catalogue includes a large fold-out map which shows how big the estate being sold was. Hatfield Forest is the area coloured in grey in the top right corner.

In his book entitled The Last Forest, 1989, Oliver Rackham begins by quoting from a previous book of his; ‘Hatfield is of supreme interest in that all the elements of a medieval Forest survive: deer, cattle, coppice woods, pollards, scrub, timber trees, grassland and fen, plus a seventeenth-century lodge and rabbit warren.  As such it is almost certainly unique in England and possibly in the world. …The Forest owes very little to the last 250 years. … Hatfield is the only place where one can step back into the Middle Ages to see, with only a small effort of the imagination, what a Forest looked like in use.”

The sale catalogue draws attention to the timber ‘of very considerable value, the wood having been carefully managed for many years’.  Many years indeed, as the Domesday survey of 1086 shows that it belonged to Earl Harold during the reign of Edward the Confessor before passing to William 1st after the conquest.  Thus it became a ‘royal’ forest, part of the Forest of Essex which included Epping and Hainault, and alongside provision of timber it was used by the kings for hunting purposes. The chief beasts of the chase were red, roe and, particularly, fallow deer which still populate Hatfield Forest today.

Henry III was the first king to part with the forest and it passed down through the families of Bruce, de Bohun, the earls of Stafford and the Dukes of Buckingham.  At one point, Robert the Bruce owned it before it was forfeited along with the rest of his lands in England when he became King of Scotland (the story is featured in this earlier blog posted in August 2014 featuring some of the oldest ‘Essex’ documents kept by ERO).  Eventually, along with much of Hallingbury and Hatfield, it came into the possession of the Houblon family who developed it as park during the eighteenth century, creating the lake, planting ornamental trees such as horse chestnuts and building the charming shell house.  The family later invoked the Enclosure Act of 1857 and paid £3000 to take it out of common land and enclose it as a private park. Following a decline in their fortunes, however, it was put up for sale in 1923.

According to the National Trust, after an administrative error, a timber merchant bought Hatfield Forest and started felling the timber.  At which point, the 83-year-old Edward North Buxton, a council member of the National Trust and a life-long preserver of forests helping to save Epping Forest of which he was a verderer, stepped in to save Hatfield Forest too.  He managed to purchase it with the help of his sons from his deathbed and then give it to the National Trust.  It was first opened to the public by Lord Ullswater on the 10th May 1924.

An invitation to the public opening of Hatfield Forest in 1924

A map of Hatfield Forest from a 1952 National Trust guide

The forest is famous for its splendid oaks which acted as standard trees amid the coppices.  One of the legendary trees was the Doodle Oak which in 1813 measured 60 feet in circumference.  Unfortunately, by 1924 it had disappeared.  At first the National Trust adopted a laissez-faire approach to preserving the forest but quickly realised that in order to preserve it properly, it would have to be managed as a working forest, especially with regular cutting of timber in the coppices, thereby preserving it in the same way it has been worked for nearly a thousand years.

The sale catalogue, guide book map and invitation will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout December 2018. You can find out how you can visit this ancient forest on the National Trust website.

In search of the perfect Christmas present

What makes Christmas, Christmas? And how has this changed over the years?

Delving into some of the hundred-year-old newspapers we look after, we find some surprising things. Then, as now, newspapers were packed with adverts for food, drink, gifts, clothing, and even furniture which readers were encouraged to purchase for the festive season.

So what was being marketed to our ancestors as the perfect Christmas present? Before the days of music downloads and streaming, one ideal gift being advertised in Essex was a gramophone. Walker’s Music Warehouse in Clacton advertised their gramophones as ‘A most suitable and lasting present for the Festive Season’, and promised the machines would bring ‘to the home absolutely the very best vocalists and instrumentalists procurable’. Prices began at 34s (about £130 in today’s money), and went up to 12 Guineas (about £980 today).

Advert for gramophones from Walker’s Music Warehouse in Clacton from the Clacton Graphic, 16 December 1911

Large department stores offered a huge range of consumer goods, such as those advertised by J.R. Roberts in Stratford in the run up to Christmas 1911. For children, there were books and toys, such as dolls’ houses or toy trams. For ladies there were silk and lace blouses, fur wraps and muffs, handbags and wool and kid gloves. Men seem to have got the raw end of the deal, with only handkerchiefs being mentioned in this particular advert as gifts for men. Customers could order by post, and Roberts offered free delivery to any address within 20 miles of the shop or on orders of over 5 shillings.

Advert for Christmas presents at J.R. Roberts’ Stores in Stratford, Chelmsford Chronicle, 15 December 1911

If after a trip to Roberts you were still in doubt as to what to get for the lady in your life, J.G. Bond Ltd in Chelmsford had the perfect answer in the shape of ‘Baker’s Celebrated Chelmsford Lavender Water’.

Advert for Chelmsford lavender water, Chelmsford Chronicle, 15 December 1911

After presents had been chosen, what did shops suggest people might purchase to eat and drink over the festive season? The Clacton Stores on 22 Pier Avenue offered a huge range of luxury food items, from Seager’s Best Sausages, to Stilton and Roquefort, to everything needed to make and decorate a Christmas cake. Also available were crystallised fruit sweets, and ‘Fancy Boxes of Chocolates’. To drink, the Chelmsford Chronicle advertised Glen Spey Whiskey, made from finest barley malt, and Gilbey’s Invalid Port (a ‘Pure Health-giving Wine’).

Advert for The Clacton Stores, Clacton Graphic, 16 December 1911

Whiskey 15 Dec 1911 Chelmsford Chronicle 1080 watermark

While adverts abound for luxury, or ‘fancy’, items, there were also plenty of adverts for more practical gifts. 100 years ago, people were getting ready for the first peace time Christmas in five years. While luxury goods were still available, there were more adverts such as the one from Bolingbroke & Sons Ltd in Chelmsford, promoting ‘useful and moderate’ presents, ‘the very thing for this memorable Yule Tide’.

Bolingbroke Christmas advert 20 Dec 1918 Chelmsford Chronicle 1080 watermark

 

‘Is this really the last night’? A letter home from Sister Kate Luard, 10th November 1918

100 years ago, on 10th November 1919, Sister Kate Luard wrote a letter home. It was the last night of the First World War, and after everything she had witnessed and experienced in the last four years, she was trying to process that it would all soon be over.

Katherine Evelyn Luard was a remarkable woman. Over the last four years, as part of our contribution to marking the centenary of the First World War we have followed her progress as she nursed countless men on the Western Front. While she cared for the wounded, the sick, and the dying, she frequently wrote home, telling her family what she was experiencing.

Kate’s letters give a sense of a woman of enormous energy and adventurousness with a strong ethos of duty and service. A professional nurse, she trained in the 1890s when nursing was still not an entirely respectable profession for a young woman. She served as a military nurse in the Boer War before returning to civilian nursing. On the outbreak of the First World War she volunteered again as a military nurse, and arrived in France just days after the war had started. Apart from short periods of leave, she remained on the Western Front throughout the conflict, only returning home in December 1918 to care for her aging father.

The letter she wrote on the 10th November 1918 is an extraordinary document, and we thought it worth sharing with you here in full, 100 years after it was written. The letter will be on display in the ERO Searchroom until January 2019.

The first page of Kate Luard’s letter home written on 10th November 1918

 

Sunday night                                                                                        Nov 10th

Dear G & N, you have given me the details about Oxford that I was wanting to know, but Ellie must tell me all the heavenly & funny things Joan said one day.[1] Rose’s letter today of her friend who died the day they found it out shows what a treacherous illness it is: just the same happens here.[2] While I am writing to the mother to say he is seriously ill, a slip comes from the Ward to say he is dead. And I don’t think any doctoring or nursing has the slightest effect in this virulent pneumonia. You might as well give an empty cylinder as give oxygen: their lungs get blocked & their lips and faces turn black & it is all over. The delirium is one of the most difficult parts when you are short of staff. I stopped one dying Sergt who was getting out of bed with nothing but a pyjama jacket on, because he wanted to get to his men. “No officers?” he kept saying “Are there no officers? then I must take charge.”

[Vertically up the page] What a nice letter from A.F. London about the Salonika Army

Or they get a fixed idea that they are ‘absent without leave’ & must ‘rejoin my battalion’. None of us have ever seen it before in this virulent epidemic form, & the mortality is extraordinarily depressing. In one ward 17 out of 21 died in a few days. Everyone in the influenza wards has to wear a gauze mask & we make a point of off duty time for them. So far only 1 Sister & 2 VADs & three orderlies have gone sick with it, & they are not pneumonic. Several sisters & 1 VAD have died at the Sick Sisters Hosp. No. 8 Gen.

I think it is abating a little. I am so glad Rose is having a rest. Did G go back to Mr A’s?[3] When does Daisy come back from Nash?[4]

There is the most angelic baby Gerry here who had his leg off yesterday. He is so pleased that his mother will see him with a new leg with no pain in it! He has shining golden hair, blue eyes & a child’s smile. Everyone spoils him.

We haven’t nearly so many in now. All our best wards are British again.

About the War, is this really the last night our own RAF will go over dropping destruction into hundreds of Germans? They have already stopped coming over to us I believe. Is tomorrow morning the last time of ‘standing to’, & listening posts, & firesteps, & swimming canals under mg [machine gun] fire & Zero hours & fractured femurs & smashed jaws & mustard gas & the crash of bombs & all the strange doings of the last four years?

It is quite impossible for a war-soaked brain like mine to think in terms of peace; war has come to be natural – peace unnatural.

[Vertically up the page] 1000 thanks for all your letters

This afternoon at the lovely big service at the Cathedral just like St Paul’s with beautiful singing, & the sun lighting up the tracings of the roof, one realised that all the War Intercessions of the last years are about to be answered & as far as actual War goes will be meaningless after tomorrow, though the sick & wounded & bereaved part goes on yet. What a vital set of new Intercessions the Nations will need now, with the warnings of Russia Bulgaria Austria & Germany all disrupting in turn.

There’s nothing Bolshevik about us or the French thank goodness. The French are so domestic & practical & matter of fact just now. In Rouen (apart from the British occupation it amounts to that) you’d never know there’d been a War.

I can’t help wishing Foch[5] had asked Douglas Haig as well as his old pal & Rosie Wemyss[6] to meet the German Plenies. He wouldn’t have won this War without us.

I wish we could ask RW to lunch one day & make him tell us about it, the bowing & saluting & Foch refusing point blank to suspend hostilities during the 72 hours.

What I feel nervous about is who’s going to be responsible for carrying out our terms if they accept them, now they’ve booted out William & Max, & probably Hindenburg & Tirpitz & Ludendorff & Hertling & Hollweg & everyone who has ever run the ship of state? Can the saddler control the nation?

All these awakening citizens must feel such dupes & fools to have bootlicked the Hohenzollern inflation so long. The brave ones who have died for the Fatherland will never know that it wasn’t for the Fatherland at all, as far as victory goes, though perhaps all this mess up will be their salvation in the end, as it has ours.

In a way it seems almost a bigger change from War to Peace than it was from Peace to War – perhaps because there was nothing very glorious about out last 10 years of peace & everything about our 4 years of War has been very glorious.

Goodnight

Love to father

KEL

 

[1] Joan was Kate’s niece, who had just died of influenza, aged 19. Ellie was Joan’s mother. Ellie had already lost her husband Frank, Kate’s brother, who was killed at Gallipoli.

[2] Rose was one of Kate’s sisters

[3] G is Kate’s sister Georgina

[4] Daisy was another of Kate’s sisters

[5] Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander during the war, who represented the French at the Armistice Negotiations

[6] Rosslyn Wemyss, a senior naval commander who represented the British at the Armistice negotiations

 

‘Peace Again! How the News was Received in Essex’


Discover stories of Essex people and places during and after the war at our remembrance event on Saturday 10th November 2018 – find out more and book here.


On Monday 11th November 1918, news that an armistice had been agreed and that the fighting would cease at 11am that day spread through Essex. After over four years of sacrifice and slaughter, how did people react to the news that the war was finally coming to an end?

The Essex County Chronicle reported on the Armistice on 16th November 1918

The news was announced in various ways; in Chelmsford the Essex County Chronicle exhibited a notice in their office window:

‘Peace – Official:

Armistice signed at 5 o’clock this morning; hostilities cease at 11.’

Factories sounded their hooters and whistles, church bells rang out, and the drivers of railway engines sounded their whistles. According to reports in the Essex County Chronicle of 16th November 1918, within a short time most towns were ablaze with flags and bunting, and the streets crowded with people. In Braintree, for example, ‘all work ceased and joyous scenes began’. (In Bishop Stortford, it was reported that a good trade had been done in flags and bunting over the weekend in anticipation of the good news.)

The day was declared a holiday; in Chelmsford, ‘Hoffmann’s great works emptied themselves of the thousands of workpeople’, while in Braintree ‘girl and men workers’ from Crittall’s and Lake and Elliot’s works flooded out. In Dagenham, the managing director of the Sterling Telephone and Electric Company, Mr Guy Burney, was the one to break the news to the workers. The factory staff sang the National Anthem and Rule Britannia, and had a ‘short impromptu dance’.

Across the county, high streets and market squares were filled with people, impromptu speeches were made, and bands played patriotic songs, hymns, and the National Anthem. In Chelmsford, reported the Chronicle, ‘Soldiers and civilians shook each other by the hand, and everyone wanted to laugh, cheer, and shed a tear of gladness at the same time’.

In Witham, a procession paraded the streets composed of women workers from a local munitions workshop, and Scottish soldiers billeted in the town, ‘carrying a large Union Jack and singing joyfully’.

In Halstead, alongside celebrations in the streets, 21 shots were fired from a cannon at Halstead Brewery by one of the owners, Lt. Adams, who also held a commission in the Naval Volunteer Reserve.

In Romford, music was provided in the afternoon by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Band, who were stationed nearby. There was no military band in Writtle, but recovering wounded men paraded ‘with a tin kettle and bath band’.

In Dagenham, a spontaneous football match was arranged between the RAF based at Sutton’s Farm, and workers from the Sterling factory; the result was a 4-2 win for the factory side.

In Doddinghurst things were a bit more sedate; a whist drive was held in the afternoon to raise money for prisoners of war.

In many places the Christian religion played a central role on Armistice Day, with most churches holding services of thanksgiving in the evening. Vicars spoke to very large congregations; at Chelmsford Cathedral people spilled out into the porch and outside. The central theme of the sermons reported in the Chronicle was giving thanks to God for the Allied victory. One vicar in Brentwood spoke of how he believed that ‘a supernatural power’ had brought about the Victory, and gave thanks for ‘what was to be, they believed, a permanent peace’.

Celebrations continued into the evening (troops in a camp near Bishop Stortford were told by their commander that they would be allowed out until the heady hour of 11pm). In Braintree, the evening brought a concert, arranged by discharged soldiers, held in the Institute Hall. In Bishop Stortford, a large number of people were still gathered in the market square, and local Volunteers paraded, with light being provided by the Fire Brigade carrying torches, and the parade being joined by soldiers, women workers, wounded, and school children. ‘Most of the lamps in the streets had been lighted, and welcome lights again shone from windows.’

Celebrations in Witham were a little different; at 10pm, ‘a great bonfire was lit in the old Market Place in the middle of Witham High Street. Tar barrels, with a quantity of tar, boxes, timber, and other fuel were provided, and a great flare was created, reaching as high as the tops of houses adjoining the street. A crown of many hundred people, soldiers, sailors, munition girls, and townspeople, assembled round the fire, dancing, singing patriotic songs, and generally enjoying themselves. The fire, which lasted four hours, was the greatest seen for many years in Witham Street, where on previous historic occasions such fires were lighted’. The townspeople enjoyed the bonfire so much, they had another one the following night on the green opposite the church, this time with fireworks, while patriotic songs were sung and the church bells pealed.

In Bures the occasion was also marked with a bonfire, the villagers going as far as to burn an effigy of the Kaiser ‘amid loud shouts of approval’.

In Dunmow, meanwhile, German prisoners of war accommodated in the town workhouse also welcomed the news with a smoking concert in the evening. The end of the war ‘gave them obvious pleasure, as did the turn events had taken regarding the Kaiser’. The over 200 Germans sang German songs ‘for some hours’, and apparently many ‘expressed the hope that they would not be compelled to go back to Germany, but allowed to stay at their present employment in England’.

Some towns continued the celebration over the following days. In Braintree, factories remained closed on Tuesday, and ‘processions paraded the town all day, headed by the ugle bands of the Cadets and Boy Scouts, and the newly formed Brass Band’ (which had got together the previous day). In Halstead, a service of thanksgiving was held in the Town Hall on Wednesday, with people coming from all the town’s places of worship. The service finished on Market Hill, and bells of nearby St Andrew’s church rang out, the tower being decorated with national flags and bunting

Alongside the celebrations though, people also remembered those they had lost. In Braintree, amid ‘all the rejoicing people could be seen weeping for their relatives who had made the supreme sacrifice, and generally the gladness manifested was tinged with sorrow for the fallen.’

Document of the Month, November 2018: a window to remember

Ahead of the centenary of the end of the First World War, Archive Assistant Sarah Ensor tells us about one record of how Essex people remembered their lost loved ones. Discover more First World War stories of Essex people and places on Saturday 10th November 2018 at ‘Is this really the last night?’ Remembering the end of the First World War.


This month is the centenary of the end of hostilities of the Great War. To some the Armistice was a reason for joyous celebration, but for the many who had lost loved ones it was a time tinged with sadness. The ultimate sacrifice made by people throughout the conflict was marked in many ways such as on stone war memorials in villages and towns, on memorial boards in schools and councils, and on plaques in churches and businesses.

The Reverend Robert Travers Saulez had been rector at St. Christopher’s in Willingale Doe from 1906. He and his wife Margaret had four children, three sons and a daughter. Their sons were all educated at Felsted School and then joined the army, serving overseas during the Great War.

Their middle son, Arthur Travers Saulez, was a major in the Royal Field Artillery and mentioned twice in Dispatches, before he was killed at the Battle of Arras on 22 April 1917. This service register for St Christopher’s, Willingale Doe,(D/P 338/1/14) shows that almost exactly one year later at 3.15pm on 22nd April 1918 a window in the church was unveiled in his honour, erected by the officers, NCOs and men of his Battery. The Illustrated London News of 8th June 1918 mentioned that it was the first representation of a man in khaki in stained glass.

The entry in the register notes that the church was crowded, and that ‘The band of the Royal Artillery accompanied the Hymns & played the Chopin Funeral March and other pieces. 2 Buglers played the Last Post.’

This entry from the service register for St Christopher’s, Willingale Doe, records a service to unveil a window in memorial to Major Arthur Travers Saulez on 22 April 1918, a year after he was killed in the Battle of Arras. Arthur’s father, Revd. Robert Travers Saulez, was the parish’s rector.

War Memorial window Saulez 1917

Memorial window to Arthur Travers Saulez at St Christopher’s church, Willingale Doe. It was reported at the time to be the first image of a man in khaki military uniform made in stained glass. Image by Paul HP on Flickr.

Arthur Saulez’s diary, with a pencil still in place at the week he was killed in April 1917

Arthur Saulez was aged 33 at the time of his death. His younger brother, Alfred Gordon Saulez, died in Baghdad while serving with the Army Service Corps in 1921, aged 35.

The Saulez brothers had maintained a correspondence with family members back home during the war and these form part of a collection held at ERO (D/DU 2948). We are grateful to the Friends of Historic Essex for acquiring the Saulez collection as part of the Essex Great War Archive Project and for subsequently paying for the cataloguing, conservation and storage of the letters. If you wish to find out more about this charity that supports the Essex Record Office please see their website.

Caribbean Takeaway Takeover Interviews Online

On this World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, our Sound Archivist Sarah-Joy Maddeaux shares news of a new collection of moving stories that have recently been added to the archive.

What does ‘home’ mean?  What does it mean to be ‘British’?  What does it mean to be Black in Britain?  What can we learn from our elders?  And what does all of this have to do with a Caribbean restaurant in Colchester?

We are delighted to announce that we have received, catalogued, and published the interviews created by Evewright Arts Foundation for their Caribbean Takeaway Takeover exhibition.  From 2017 to 2018, artist Everton Wright (EVEWRIGHT), staff, and volunteers of his art foundation recorded oral history interviews with 10 elders who moved to the UK from the Caribbean in the 1940s to 1960s.

Last summer, on the on the weekend of the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush to Tilbury, Evewright ‘took over’ the S&S Caribbean Café in St Johns Street, Colchester, redecorating the walls and tables with pictures and documents relating to these elders’ lives.  Ten-minute segments from their interviews played on a loop in the café, making the exhibition fully immersive.  A number of community events encouraged engagement with the exhibition, and thereby with the incredible stories of these elders.

Picture of the redecorated Caribbean Cafe in Colchester

Detail of art installation at S&S Caribbean Café, 2018 (c) Evewright

The elders generously granted us permission to make their interviews freely available through our catalogue.  Search for ‘EVEWRIGHT’ on Essex Archives Online, or type ‘SA 69’ in the ‘Document reference’ box to find all ten interviews.

One of the most exciting interviews is that with Alford Gardner. Now aged 92, he is one of the few remaining passengers who travelled on the SS Empire Windrush, the first ship to bring West Indians to settle in post-war Britain. His vivid description of life on board the ship gives an impression of a fun communal experience. His optimism for the future took time to realise, as he faced initial opposition when he tried to settle in Leeds. He was treated very differently in 1948 than when he had previously spent time there as part of the Royal Air Force.

Black and white picture of the Empire Windrush on water

HMS EMPIRE WINDRUSH (FL 9448) Underway Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120767

Alford Gardner describes the struggle to find accommodation in Leeds in 1948 (SA 69/1/3/1).

As a collection, the interviews reveal a number of similarities in the elders’ experiences, but also some significant differences – factors that determined whether their move was overall a positive step, or a negative one which they came to regret.

As we might expect, many commented on adjusting to cold, wet England, and coming to appreciate the heating that required houses to have chimneys, which in the Caribbean only appeared on factories or bakeries.

Nell Green‘s first impression of the houses in England (SA 69/1/4/1).

Some recalled their first taste of fish and chips – but others were glad that they could access London markets to purchase the tastes of home, such as yams, tanier, dasheen, or plantain.

Carlton Darrell on fish and chips and the weather (SA 69/1/2/1).

In the 1940s to 1960s, British people might have felt like they were being overwhelmed by new arrivals from the Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries, an impression heightened by unfair media portrayals and some politicians stoking fear.  However, to the West Indians moving to Britain, black faces were all too scarce.  Many interviewees described finding and socialising with other West Indians, particularly in London.  Some women became adoptive mothers, inviting young people into their homes and cooking meals for them, helping them adjust to life in this strange, cold country.  Was this because it was difficult to make friends with English people?  Or was it because we naturally gravitate towards those who share our heritage, with whom we can feel ‘at home’ and recapture something of the country that we left behind?

Carol Sydney‘s social life as a young trainee nurse (SA 69/1/5/1)

Experiences depended, partly, on the financial position and status of the individuals before they moved.  Life was easier for those who had money to spend on decent accommodation.  Life was also easier if you already had family in England to support you, or if you found a job that you enjoyed and where you were treated with respect.  In contrast, it was most difficult for the earliest migrants, the Black people trying to settle in the 1950s amidst Teddy Boy attacks and ‘No cats, no dogs, no Blacks’ signs.  It became a little easier for those who arrived in the 1960s and beyond.  Many Black people began purchasing their rented homes using a traditional saving scheme called Susu or Pardnor. This enabled them to become landlords to other Black people seeking rooms to rent.

Don Sydney explains the Susu saving scheme that allowed West Indians to support each other in saving up for accommodation and furnishings (SA 69/1/6/1).

Yet, sadly, racist treatment was a shared experience right through the time period covered in the interviews, reported to some extent by each elder.

Carlton Darrell was dismissive of these examples of prejudice against him (SA 69/1/2/1). Is this because he felt it was inevitable, or because he considered himself fortunate compared to others?

Did Britain ever become ‘home’?  Yes and no.  Some indicated that they still missed their ‘home country’ and wished they could return.  Others alluded to a feeling that they were not ‘foreigners’ anymore, but neither were they fully British – even though, coming from Commonwealth countries, they were British subjects before they even set foot on England’s shores.

Carol Sydney reflects on what it means to be ‘British’ (SA 69/1/5/1).

Overall, most of the interviewees were pleased with how their lives had turned out.  Does this reflect the type of person they were?  That they took the initiative to move to England, the so-called ‘Promised Land’, in search of self-improvement and a better life?  Even if they did not believe the ‘streets paved with gold’ promise, many mentioned that Britain did hold a promise of better education, better jobs, and better salaries.  Did this proactive attitude make them more resilient, more likely to be happier with what they have accomplished?

Alton Watkins looks back with satisfaction on his life and his accomplishments (SA 69/1/8/1).

They certainly contributed to British society.  In their work as nurses, teachers, and midwives, they helped produce the next generation of Britain’s workers.  They paid taxes.  They contributed to the economy.  In retirement, they are volunteering in schools, sports clubs, and libraries.

However, even now, there is more that these elders can contribute.  Most of the interviewees acknowledged a persistence of racist attitudes in Britain, some indicating that it is growing worse.  Perhaps the interviews, and the exhibition that was held in the summer, will help in the battle to humanise migrants and demonstrate all that they have overcome in their lives.

In this year of the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush ship arriving in Tilbury; the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service that partly prompted recruitment calls across the Commonwealth; this year of the Windrush scandal, we are grateful to Evewright Arts Foundation for capturing these individual stories that add meaning to national headlines.

And on today, the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, we are proud to play a part in preserving these ‘Moving Stories’ for the future, and in sharing them with you.

Read more about the Caribbean Takeover Takeaway or find out more about the Evewright Arts Foundation.

All of the interviews can be heard on our SoundCloud channel, or through our online catalogue – search for ‘Evewright’.

‘It seemed to us it was going to go on forever’: reflections on the First World War

As the centenary of the end of the First World War approaches, we are delving into our collection looking at some of the fascinating wartime records we look after. Join us on Saturday 10th November 2018 to mark 100 years since the Armistice at ‘Is this really the last night?’ Remembering the end of the First World War.


In 1992 Dilys Evans’s year four class in Hockley was learning about the First World War. When Dilys mentioned this to her neighbour, a veteran of the First World War, he immediately offered to come and speak to her class about his experiences. Fortunately for us, she recorded this meeting of generations and later deposited the tape at ERO (catalogued as SA 24/1011/1).

The veteran in question was Alf Webb, who at the time was aged 95. He volunteered for the army in 1914 aged 17, only realising the horror he had let himself in for when he arrived in France.

The whole recording is about 45 minutes long, and in it the children ask Alf questions about his wartime experiences. Alf talks about his recollections of both the mundane detail and the harsh reality of war, in a matter-of-fact and unflinching way (perhaps surprising given the audience). He talks about mud and lice, tactics and trenches, the death of friends and colleagues, and his own attitude to the war, which was to ‘try and survive and get out of this’.

Extracts of the recording are available on our SoundCloud channel (you can listen by clicking the player above), and we will shortly be publishing the whole recording online. In the meantime, you will be able to hear it at our event marking 100 years since the Armistice, ‘Is this really the last night’? Remembering the end of the First World War, on Saturday 10th November.

Alf Webb was born in Hackney in 1897. His parents were Christopher, a boot finisher, and Mary. Alf had an older sister, Rosetta, and a younger brother, Alexander, who also served in the army towards the end of the war.

Alf began his military service in the cavalry, but ended up in the Machine Gun Corps. He answers the children’s questions frankly, and clearly wanted to convey the horrors of war to them.

One of the questions put to Alf by the children was ‘Did you think the war was going to be exciting?’. He replied:

‘I did when I first joined, I thought it would be wonderful. I’d be in the cavalry you see with spurs on and riding breeches and a posh bandolier out there, I didn’t realise we was going to get blown to bits. But, when you’re young, you see there hadn’t been a war before, only the Boer War which was all open country, and so we had nothing to go on, and to a young person, I mean I was 17, I was 18 by the time I’d gone over the top, it seemed a very exciting thing, but my God, you soon alter your opinion.’

He tells the children several times how fearful he felt being at the front:

‘When you hear people saying they’ve got no fear I don’t believe them because the first time I ever went in the trenches I was frightened out of me life. There had been a bombardment and there were so many dead bodies and things lying about I was sick I was scared, and the Sergeant said to me ‘all right boy, in a few months you’ll be used to it’ and after about 3 months you are.’

British machine gun crew (Imperial War Museums)

Describing one occasion when he was firing a machine gun, he told them that in half an hour he had three different men come up to work the gun with him and each get killed in turn:

‘all you do is to push them out the way and another one comes up and takes their place. In some ways it doesn’t seem much because all you see is them fall down, fall over, but it’s very very nasty when you see the chap next to you is feeding these in and a shell or something or a burst hits him in the face and you look round and you see your mate there with no face. And there’s blood all over you. It’s not very nice, you don’t enjoy it.’

When asked by one of the class ‘How many Germans do you think you shot?’, he replied: ‘I’d have to say thousands, because with a machine gun going at 600 shots a minute … you could just see them dropping.’ Another child asked ‘How many times did you make a friend and then have to watch them die?’. Alf’s answer was: ‘Oh dozens of times. It happens all the time. There’s no way out of it.’

On the subject of how long he felt at the time the war would last, Alf told the class:

‘Well it seemed to us it was going to go on forever. There seemed to be no end to it because when things were static right from 1915 on advances used to be a matter of just a few yards and that sort of thing.’

The war did, of course, finally come to an end, and one of the children asked Alf how he felt at that time:

‘Highly elated. Actually, I’ll go onto that now. We were pushing the Germans back in 1918. After they broke through, we stopped them and then we were pushing them back. And I happened to get to a place called Verviers in north Belgium, and Spa, where the Armistice was signed was a few kilometres away up in the mountains so we was actually the first to know that an Armistice had been proclaimed. And in Verviers where we were, the villagers there opened their estaminets, like our pubs or anything, and everything was open for everybody. The troops were lighting and other people there were lighting tar barrels so we could have light, and well, there was general rejoicing, although we knew that we were still in trouble as you might say, there was no more fighting to be done. But Spa itself was a beautiful part of Belgium, it’s very hilly there. In fact they hadn’t had much trouble there before and they’d still got trams running. But the trouble was they’d got so little power that if you got on one of these trams … to go uphill you all got out and pushed it up the hill.’

The children were also interested in Alf’s love life, asking if he had a girlfriend during the war. ‘Yes,’ he replied; ‘And I’m still married to her!’ Further detail followed:

‘Actually, before the war, I was with a lot of other youngsters, we used to belong to the boys club, and there was one lot of girls that was four sisters, and the one that I married was one of them, I’d been out with all of them! We used to enjoy life, we was all friends together… We still corresponded afterwards and eventually when I came home we got married. That was in 1924 we got married, and she’s still alive today thank goodness.’

The children clearly had an understanding of the effect wartime experiences had on the mental health of many of the people who experienced it, and one child asked Alf ‘Did you dream about the war?’. He answered:

‘For the first twelve months after I was demobilised, I was quite OK. And then I used to wake up in the night and I could see all of it over again, I could see my friends being killed and dying. It was so bad that I couldn’t even go to work. I saw our local doctor, old Dr Anderson, he said ‘Look, I’ll tell you the best thing to do, you don’t want medicines, you don’t want anything like that, get away to a quiet place in the country, anywhere, where you can go out into the open air. Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired. Don’t try and not think about anything, just try and enjoy it’. And that’s what I did. Actually, it might seem strange to you, but we was in London, and I went down to Battlesbridge, which is not far from here. My mother and father knew an elderly couple who were retired and bought some cottages down there, and I went down there and stopped there for three weeks. I used to get up in the morning, and there was big fields between there and the river Crouch, and I used to walk all round those,  go in the Crouch swimming and that sort of thing, and at the end of three weeks, it was all gone. I don’t know if I was lucky or what it was, but that’s how it went. For the first twelve months out I didn’t feel, everything didn’t matter, and then as I say I got this reaction. And I couldn’t sleep and I used to wake up seeing it all over again, trying to push somebody away because they were dead so somebody else could take their place. Horrible feeling.’

Alf had a powerful message for the children in the class that day:

‘Anybody that tries to glorify war [is] stark raving mad. There should not be wars, there should always be a compromise… Nobody wins, you all lose… It’s all wrong.’

Alf and his pre-war sweetheart, Violet, moved to Hockley in later life. Violet died there in 1991 aged 93. Alf lived until 1997, reaching the age of 99.


Hear from Alf for yourself at our Armistice event on Saturday 10th November 2018, ‘Is this really the last night’? Remembering the end of the First World War. Find full details and booking information here.

Also on 10th November, we will be at Chelmsford Library in the morning running a drawing activity for children based on Gerald’s sketches – find the details here.

First World War stories from ERO’s collections will also be featuring in a remembrance concert at Chelmsford Cathedral in the evening of 10th November – find the details here.


 

Making sense of the census in the classroom

Our Learning from History Manager, Valina Bowman-Burns, is here to bring the past to life for schools. Here she tells us why census records are one of her favourite things to use in the classroom.


Click here for information on a free schools resource pack on Victorian census records, as well as other packs on life for Victorian children, and more.


Valina with students from the Ursuline School in Brentwood visiting ERO

What is the census?

The census counts everyone living in the UK on a particular day and tells us a little about them – their name, age and where they live. The census is used by the government and local authorities to help plan new schools, houses and roads. A census has been taken in Britain every 10 years since 1841 (except for 1941, when everyone was busy with the Second World War). To keep everyone’s personal information safe we are not able to look at the Census for 100 years. It then becomes interesting for another reason – as a fantastic source for finding out about the past.

How do I find census records?

You can come to the Essex Record Office!  Using computers in the ERO you can access all census records (and much more) via Ancestry for free. It is not possible to print from these computers, but by pressing the green ‘save’ button in the top right hand corner, you will be given the option to e-mail it to yourself.

If you’ve not visited ERO before, our short video will tell you what to expect from your first visit:

The National Archive has selected a few interesting examples of census records which yo can see here – including census records for Queen Victoria, a poor London family, industry in Lancashire and a 1911 census tampered with by a suffragette!

Or there are examples here in this blog post that relate to Essex that could be useful to you. If you use them in your classroom, please let us know with a quick e-mail to Heritage.Education@essex.gov.uk

How can I use the census in my classroom?

History: A Local history Study

Try searching for the location of your school and discover interesting local characters from the past. To start a local history study present the children with a census page like this and ask them what information we could find out from it. Perhaps set tasks, like finding the oldest person on the page or the youngest. Can they find a scholar (a child who goes to school)?

Census records record who was living or staying at each address in the country on the night the census was taken. The first column gives the address followed by individuals’ names, marital status, ages, occupations, and where they were born.

What caught my eye on this 1881 census was a gentleman living at 31 Church End in Great Dunmow, who will forever be remembered now as ‘Old Joe’. At first I felt bad that Joe’s surname had been lost to history, until I looked down and found ‘His Wife’ – no first name or surname correctly recorded. Perhaps this could lead to a discussion about how women or immigrants (they are originally from Ireland) were viewed in Victorian Society.

History: the lives of significant individuals

Try putting the names of significant individuals from Victorian times into Ancestry. Refine your results by looking only at ‘Census and Voter Lists’.

In 1851 Florence Nightingale is with her parents and the section of the Census for occupation is left blank.

In 1861 Florence Nightingale is now ‘formerly [a] Hospital Nurse’:

What happened in the 10 years in between? Can the children find out? Hint: they should come back with something like – she became a nurse, tended the wounded of the Crimean War, showed that trained nurses and clean hospitals could save hundreds of lives, set up a training hospital and is credited with founding modern nursing.

History: Children’s History

This page shows some of the boys described as ‘inmates’ at Colchester Union Workhouse in 1891.

By this time school is free and compulsory for all children and we know that North School in Colchester, nearby and newly built, accepted some of these children as students. How could this have changed these children’s lives?

What might your students discover in their local census records?

English: creative writing

Start by challenging children’s information retrieval skills, asking what information they can gather from this 1851 census. Perhaps choose one person to be the character in a story – what do we know about them? How can we create a story from this?

Sarah’s story could start like this:

Sarah Waters awoke with a start.

“Sarah” she heard her father call urgently, “Sarah! Anne needs you!”

She suddenly realised that he wasn’t calling her, he was calling her mother. Sarah’s baby sister Anne was crying again. Sarah was glad she had woken up, because it was nearly time to school ….

Sarah made her way downstairs through her father’s shoe making workshop. The overwhelming smell of leather and glue made her feel a little dizzy, but she soon got used to it….

Sarah stepped out of her house on Railway Street. Railway Street was always dirty from the factories nearby pumping smoke from their chimneys.  Sarah was on her best behaviour, as quiet as a mouse, when she walked past the house next door. It belonged to Mrs. Midson her strict, scary school teacher.

Other ways you can use Census records

The Census has amazing potential for Geography – especially showing movement and migration and how this is nothing new. Children could use a page from the census and maps to locate people have moved from. Census pages are often full of marks and dashes – where clerks have compiled information to inform government policy. In a maths lesson children could follow in their footsteps and answer questions like: how many children are there? How many people are over 60 years old? How many people are living in a different place to where they are born. An IT class gives the potential for children to present the information in fun and interesting ways – using charts and graphics.

If you want to use primary sources to bring history to life for your students, get in touch with us on heritage.education@essex.gov.uk, or see what we can offer to schools on our Education page

The strange case of Sarah Moore

As the nights draw in it’s the perfect time to gather to hear tales of dark happenings in the past. Here, bestselling novelist Syd Moore tells us about how she first became interested in researching Essex witches, ahead of her talk at our screening of Witchfinder General on Friday 26 October 2018 – find all the details here.

Best-selling novelist Syd Moore who will be speaking about her research into Essex witches at ERO

I first encountered Sarah Moore, when I visited the pub in Leigh on Sea named after her. It was shortly after it had opened and the name piqued my curiosity. This was mainly because a) we share the same surname and b)  in my experience it’s unusual to come across a pub named after someone who isn’t famous or a king, queen, lord, lady, duke, admiral, marquis etc. When I asked about it at the bar the staff told me the brewery chain that owned the place often ran competitions to name their pubs. Regularly they would chose winners with a local flavour. Sarah Moore, I was informed, was the subject of a Leigh legend – an evil sea-witch who raised the Great Storm of the Estuary, caused great havoc about the town and sank a plethora of boats.  When I probed further I learned the story of Sarah Moore. Which, if any of you don’t know, goes like this:

Sarah Moore was a bent and bitter old witch, who made her living sitting by the estuary down in Old Leigh, telling fortunes and selling sailors ‘a good wind’ for a penny. The latter was a common practice along various coasts. The ‘witch’ would take a length of string or ribbon and ‘tie’ the wind into it.  The sailor would buy it. Then when out at sea, if they desired wind, they would untie the string. A single knot would loosen a breeze, two would summon a strong wind, and three would unleash a storm. Allegedly one day, a foreign captain rocked up in Leigh. He was a zealous man and, when he heard about Moore and her spells, he forbade his crew to consult her, give her any money or buy any wind. As the legend goes, when Moore heard about this she flew into a rage and, in revenge, summoned up The Great Storm of the Estuary. This, she threw at the vessel as it sailed out into the open sea. The poor boat rocked from side to side, with all aboard much afeared. The crew tried with all their might to get the sails down but, alas, the rigging kept snaring.  One of them cried out in a moment of awful horror, ‘This is the work of the witch. It’s the witch!’ Whereupon, the story goes, the captain picked up an axe, ran to the mast and felled it with three hefty strokes. As soon as the mast hit the deck the storm instantly subsided. When the beleaguered crew got the wounded ship back to Belle Wharf, they saw, there on the floor the dead body of Sarah Moore, three axe wounds across her corpse.

This was a splendid tale, I thought at the time, full of intrigue, horror, suspense and supernatural murder. And as soon as I heard it my interest was immediately fired up. But I was left full of questions: was the story really a myth or a legend? Had Sarah Moore been a real person? Was there some truth in parts of it? Any of it?

In a strange synchronicity, at about the same time, I was asked to present a pilot for a TV series about legend and lore of the land. Cunningly I suggested we look at Sarah Moore and, microphone in hand, ventured out with the team to quiz a whole host of strangers about the legendary sea-witch.  I heard variations of the tale many times, but nobody really knew whether Sarah had ever existed. A couple of Leigh locals suggested it was possible that the myth had been stitched together from various Essex witch stories and that Sarah was a conflation of sorts. It wasn’t what I had been expecting to hear, to be honest. And although I was disappointed I determined to keep on going with my own private research. Which I did. And over the next few years I delved deeper into the myths and legends of Leigh and its surrounding areas, and read up on local history. Yet I did not find much else about the witch.

Until one day when my friend, the writer Rachel Lichtenstein, invited me to go with her to the Essex Record Office. Believe it or not it hadn’t dawned on me that I might be able to find out more about Sarah outside of history books.  Neither was I aware that anyone could pop along to the offices. Somehow I had it in my head that it was something you could do only if you were a professional researcher or a historian or historic writer or had some other kind of credentials. So the whole trip really was a bit of a revelation.

That afternoon spent at the Record Office I discovered the numerous resources: books, reports, various antique volumes, microfiche.  With great excitement I dived straight in to see what I could find. It took me several visits but one dark and stormy afternoon, almost as I was about to give I up, I hit upon a record!

Burial record for Sarah Moore at St Clements church, Leigh-on-Sea, 14 December 1867 (D/P 284/1/38 image 87)

This was the burial entry in the St Clement’s church register for one Sarah Moore. It was dated the 9th of December, 1867 and was my ‘light bulb’ moment. I remember sitting in the record office as the rain pelted against the windows and feeling flooded with light. For not only did the record confirm my hunch that Sarah had been a living breathing woman, it also gave me a solid date around which to research. Another thought that immediately struck me was the fact she had died in 1867. The Great Storm of the Estuary had occurred in 1870. Sarah couldn’t possibly have been responsible for raising it, even if you did believe poor dispossessed old women had control over meteorology.  She had been dead for three years. This realisation prompted me to conclude that Sarah had been scapegoated for the event posthumously. During my further research I was to learn that this was not the only natural disaster that had been attributed to her. All of this evoked a tremendous amount of pity for the woman, and despite the centuries that separated us, I felt outrage on her behalf. The feeling spurred me on to explore the real woman behind the myth and to tell her untold side of the story.

Soon I found her on the census of 1851, by which time she had been twice widowed and left with a great number of children to provide for. In fact, Moore had a terrible life.  Perversely over the years, her association with witchcraft and tragedy, metamorphosed her reputation into a ‘wicked’ one. Through careful consideration I was able to track the route that had facilitated the switch from tragic victim to sinister oppressor and highlight this in the novel, that was published in 2011, The Drowning Pool. It was the start of a career investigating the other miscarriages of justice that occurred in our county: the Essex Witch Hunts.

If you would like to hear more about them I will be speaking on the 26th of October at the Record Office, before a screening of the very relevant classic horror film The Witchfinder General.

Syd Moore’s new book Strange Casebook is out on Halloween.

‘Never look backward, always look ahead’: The First World War drawings of Gerald Rickword

As the centenary of the end of the First World War approaches, we are delving into our collection looking at some of the fascinating wartime documents we look after. Join us on Saturday 10th November 2018 to mark 100 years since the Armistice at ‘Is this really the last night?’ Remembering the end of the First World War.

Gerald Rickword’s advice to ‘Never look backward, always look ahead’ appears on his sketch of a First World War soldier whose gaze is set firmly on the drinks at the bar in front of him. While never looking back is not advice that we could advocate at the archive, it must have been one way of coping with life on the Western Front, where Rickword was based when he made the sketch.

‘Never look backward, always look ahead’; more than one of Gerald’s sketches feature the theme of alcohol and bars

Gerald Rickword was born in Colchester in 1886, the second of four children. His brother John Edgell Rickword also served in the war, and is the better known of the two. John Edgell was a poet, critic and journalist, and in the 1930s became a leading communist intellectual.

Both were the sons of George Rickword, who was Colchester Borough Librarian, and attended Colchester Royal Grammar School. In later life Gerald maintained a lifelong interest in Colchester’s history.

Before the beginning of the First World War, Gerald was an insurance clerk. During the war, he served first with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and then with the Labour Corps as a transport officer. It was during this period that Gerald drew the sketches shown here.

A collection of about 30 sketches made by Gerald during the war survive today at the Essex Record Office, each full of evocative little details that provide windows into scenes that Gerald witnessed. The sketches are all in pencil, and most are monotone, with just a few in colour. The sketches are all loose, and on scraps of various paper stocks.

‘A Sentry, not one of the Lifeboat crew’ – a soldier is shown on sentry duty in driving rain

Some of the sketches show men of different nationalities and regiments observed by Gerald. One of these is dated 8 January 1917, and shows different soldiers Gerald had seen on the Boulevard Jacquard (he doesn’t give a town, but this could perhaps be the Boulevard Jacquard in Calais). One head and shoulders sketch is of a French Algerian soldier, while a full length portrait is of a French cavalry officer. The sketch is in black and white, but for the cavalry officer Gerald has noted the colours of his uniform – a red hat, a light blue tunic, red breeches, and red cloak lined with white.

Soldiers seen by Gerald on the Boulevard Jacquard on 8 January 1917

Several of the sketches are humorous, such as ‘A portion of the rear of the British line’, showing a rear view of a rather wide British soldier, his uniform straining around him. In another sketch, two mice help themselves to cheese and crackers. In another, a sentry stands in driving rain, his jacket buttoned up over his face, a large wide-brimmed hat hopefully ensuring he didn’t get rain water pouring down the back of his neck. The caption informs us that despite appearances, this man is ‘A Sentry, not one of the Lifeboat crew’. Other sketches are more haunting, such as the one of a soldier in a gas mask.

After the war Gerald returned to Essex, and in 1923 married Florence Webb in Colchester. He lived until 1969, when he died aged 82.


More of Gerald’s sketches will be on display at our Armistice event on Saturday 10th November 2018, ‘Is this really the last night’? Remembering the end of the First World War. Find full details and booking information here.

Also on 10th November, we will be at Chelmsford Library in the morning running a drawing activity for children based on Gerald’s sketches – find the details here.

First World War stories from ERO’s collections will also be featuring in a remembrance concert at Chelmsford Cathedral in the evening of 10th November – find the details here.