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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.

“Neither freaks nor frumps”: two Essex Suffragettes – Lilian and Amy Hicks

On Wednesday 16 September 1908, Amy Hicks spoke at a suffrage meeting held at the Co-operative Hall in Colchester and declared that campaigners for women’s suffrage were ‘neither freaks nor frumps’.

This was the third of three suffrage campaign meetings that took place in Colchester that week, reported in the Essex Newsman on Saturday 19 September. The first meeting took place on Monday night in the High Street, where the speakers were ‘subjected to some humorous banter, and were “booed” by some small boys. The feeling was generally adverse to the Suffragettes’. When Miss Hicks spoke at the meeting on Tuesday night at St Mary’s school room, she said that the campaigners were ‘not at all disheartened by [this] noisy reception’.

By 1908 Amy Hicks already had a long background on the suffrage scene, having grown up with her mother, Lilian, campaigning for women’s voting rights. Lilian was born in 1853 in Colchester, to parents Edward and Thirza Smith. In a 1910 interview with The Vote, the magazine of the Women’s Freedom League, Lilian said that her father was ‘a great believer in women’s capability, and trained both his daughters to manage their own affairs and depend on their own judgment just as carefully and thoroughly as he trained his sons’.

Photographic postcard of Lilian Hicks issued by the Women’s Freedom League, c.1910 (from Yooniq images)

Photographic postcard of Lilian Hicks issued by the Women’s Freedom League, c.1910 (from Yooniq images)

Lilian married Charles Thompson Hicks in Colchester in 1873, and in 1877 Amy Hicks was born. The family lived at Great Holland Hall, near Frinton-on-Sea. As their children grew up, Lilian became increasingly politically active. In 1884 both Lilian and Charles were involved in the campaign for votes for agricultural labourers. From the early 1880s, Lilian worked for the women’s suffrage movement, organising meetings across East Anglia.

Amy was academically gifted, and in 1895 went to Girton College in Cambridge to study Classics. She completed her degree course in 1895, being awarded a first class mark, and several academic prizes along the way (although Cambridge did not formally award degrees to women until 1948). For the next few years Amy taught in London, Liverpool, and briefly in Pennsylvania.

By 1902 both mother and daughter we members of the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage, and in late 1906 they joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst. Their membership did not at this point last long, as they were part of a breakaway group in autumn 1907 that formed the Women’s Freedom League (WFL). The campaigners of the WFL were unhappy with how the WSPU was being run, and while they supported direct action and militancy they were not in favour of attacking people or property.

Women's Freedom League badge, c. 1907.

Women’s Freedom League badge (from the Women’s Library Collection Flickr page)

In the summer of 1908, Lilian travelled throughout Surrey, Sussex and East Anglia with fellow WFL member Margaret Wynne in the WFL caravan, making speeches to recruit people to the women’s suffrage cause.

 

The following year, 1909, Amy became secretary to the WFL, and was at the founding meeting of the Tax Resistance League. The argument of no taxation without representation was to remain one of Amy’s key campaigning points.

Demonstrations, Strikes, Marches, Processions: suffrage parade, c.1908.

Women at a suffrage parade in c. 1908, holding a banner proclaiming ‘Taxation without representation is tyranny’. The fact that women had to pay tax but had no vote on how that tax money was spent was one of the cornerstones of the suffrage campaign (from the Women’s Library Collection Flickr page)

In July 1909 Amy was arrested and imprisoned for three weeks on charges of obstruction. The Times of 13 July described the scene that led to Amy’s arrest. Four members of the WFL had gone to Downing Street, which was an open thoroughfare at the time, to present a petition to the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. It was Amy who personally gave Asquith the petition when he arrived in a car outside number 10. Their defence counsel said that the four women had done ‘nothing but stand upon the pavement in a perfectly orderly manner’. Nonetheless, the magistrate imposed a fine of £3 or three weeks’ imprisonment; all four defendants chose the prison sentence.

Amy was arrested again, this time with her mother Lilian, on 18 November 1910 during the protest known as Black Friday, a struggle between suffrage campaigners and police in Parliament Square.

Photograph of the Black Friday protest on 18 November 1910. The woman on the ground is Ada Wright. The building in the background is the Houses of Parliament. The WSPU sent a delegation of around 300 women to protest the actions of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in not allowing more time for a women’s suffrage bill that had been under discussion in parliament. About 200 of the women were assaulted as they attempted to reach the Houses of Parliament. 119 women and men were arrested.

Their experiences between 1907 and 1910-11 must have hardened Amy and Lilian to the WSPU’s more militant methods of protest, for Amy rejoined in 1910 and Lilian in 1911. In 1911 both women took part in the census boycott co-ordinated by suffrage campaigns.

In March 1912, Amy was imprisoned again, this time for four months for taking part in the WSPU window-smashing campaign in London’s West End. She spent time in both Holloway and Aylesbury, including a period in solitary confinement. The Home Office considered her to be one of the ring leaders of the hunger strike at Aylesbury, and along with her fellow campaigners, Amy was subjected to the brutal procedure of forcible feeding.

Illustration of a suffragette being forcibly fed in HM Prison Holloway. Prisoners were forcibly restrained, and a rubber tube inserted into their mouth and down to their stomach. Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the WSPU, described her horror at the screams of the women being force-fed in Holloway prison.

After her release from prison Amy was back out campaigning. The Walsall Advertiser of 7 December 1912 records a speech she gave as a guest at the Walsall branch of the WSPU, in which she talked about how peaceable approaches to the government had not worked:

‘Miss Hicks, in the course of her address, said that women had found out that mere words did not carry them very far, and they now said to the Government, “You may take our goods, and sell them, you may take our bodies and put them into prison, but money, to keep up your unconstitutional government, you shall not have.” She thought that was a very good method, and she hoped it would be carried out more widely and would create a great deal of embarrassment for the present Government. Considering the way in which the Government had treated women the best thing the women could do was to embarrass them in every possible way. There was too much feeling that the women did not count, and they were not looked upon as responsible members of society, as they ought to be, especially in matters of the State. They had found that any amount of talking was useless, and that was why they took more drastic measures to get those things altered… The women could not trust their interests in the hands of a body of men who were not responsible to them.’

During the First World War Amy joined the Women’s Volunteer Reserve, which was founded by Suffragette Evelina Haverfield. Her brother Charles, a solicitor, joined in army in September 1914 and was sent to France in 1916. He survived until 21 July 1918 when he was killed in action near Hazebrouck.

The Representation of the People Act gave the right to vote to all men aged over 21, and to women over 30 who met a property qualification. Equal voting rights – for all men and women over 21 – were not granted until 1928.

From the 1920s Amy lived at Runsell Green in Danbury, and her mother joined her there. Lilian died in 1924.

In 1927, in her fiftieth year, Amy married John Major Bull, a widower twenty years her senior. In the same year Amy was elected as a rural district councillor in Chelmsford, a position she fulfilled until 1930. Amy was widowed in 1944, and sometime before 1948 was awarded an MBE. After John’s death she lived at General’s Orchard in Little Baddow, until her death in 1953.

The Fighting Essex Soldier – now launched

On Saturday 6 May we hosted the launch of The Fighting Essex Soldier: Recruitment, War and Society in the Fourteenth Century.

Three years in the making, this book has grown from a conference held at ERO in March 2014 looking at the contribution made by Essex to the fighting of the Hundred Years’ War.

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Hot off the press, the related chapters in the The Fighting Essex Soldier add up to a wide-ranging survey, exploring military, social and economic history in fourteenth-century Essex.

The volume is a collection of papers based on those given at the conference back in 2014:

Introduction: crown, county and locality

Christopher Thornton and Jennifer Ward

Essex and the Hundred Years War: taxation, justice and county families

Jennifer Ward

The contribution of Essex gentry to the wars of Edward I and Edward II

David Simpkin

Organised crime in fourteenth-century Essex: Hugh de Badewe, Essex soldier and gang member

Gloria Harris

The fighting men of Essex: service relationships and the poll tax

Sam Gibbs

Shipping the troops and fighting at sea: Essex ports and mariners in England’s wars, 1337-89

Andrew Ayton and Craig Lambert

Military aspects of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381

Herbert Eiden

The editors and some of the contributors to The Fighting Essex Soldier, from left to right: Neil Wiffen, Gloria Harris, Dr Jennifer Ward, Dr Christopher Thornton, Dr Herbert Eiden.

The editors and some of the contributors to The Fighting Essex Soldier, from left to right: Neil Wiffen, Gloria Harris, Dr Jennifer Ward, Dr Christopher Thornton, Dr Herbert Eiden.

The original conference was the brainchild of Neil Wiffen, who is an ERO team member and one of the editors of the new book. His inspiration was reading Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War, edited by Anne Curry and Michael Hughes, and wondering what part was played by Essex in all these upheavals.

Throughout the fourteenth century, the wars waged by English kings against France and Scotland resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of men involved in warfare, both on land and at sea. The new research published in this book seeks to identify these soldiers at all levels of society, focused within the historic county of Essex. Questions considered include how forces were raised to serve the king, and the impact on communities of the demands of taxation and the supply of ships and men for the war effort. Other chapters consider the effect of militarisation on men returning from the wars.

The book is now available to purchase from the University of Hertfordshire Press website.

The launch of the book was celebrated with plenty of cake (as all things in archives ideally are)

The launch of the book was celebrated with plenty of cake (as all things in archives ideally are)

Document of the Month, May 2017: School bills and receipts, 1897

May’s Document of the Month has been chosen by our Learning from History Manager, Valina Bowman-Burns. Valina runs workshops for schools to help students discover the past through documents, maps and images from the ERO’s collections, and recently has been building a session for a Coggeshall school using records from their own local past.

This little bundle of receipts (D/NC 1/5/17) dates from 1897, and gives us an insight into the daily life of Coggeshall Congregational School in the late Victorian period. They are also aesthetically interesting, many of them featuring some beautiful artwork and lettering.

The Coggeshall Congregational School has its roots in a Sunday School that was established in 1788 with 200 places for children aged over 7 (there were 268 applicants, suggesting a great deal of local demand for education). The Sunday School movement began in the 1750s, running schools for children of poor families on Sundays as children were often needed to work during the week.

The Congregational School existed by 1855, when the school master was dismissed for drunkenness. By 1857 there were 90 children on the roll; this number was to rapidly expand over the rest of the century as education became compulsory, firstly for children aged 5-10 in 1880, and then up to age 11 in 1893, and up to age 12 in 1899. By the time this bundle of receipts was created there were 258 boys and girls on the school registers, with an average attendance of 190 (Kelly’s Directory, 1898).

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The documents will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout May 2017

The most numerous receipts are for purchases made from local coke and coal merchant William Sutton – hopefully enough to keep the pupils and teachers warm while they learned.

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This handwritten receipt records the items in everyday use within the school including slates and pencils, blotting paper and exercise books. Three dozen exercise books were purchased in February and twelve dozen purchased in April meaning that between January and June 180 exercise books were delivered, almost one for every child in the school.

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One way the school raised money was through the sale of needlework; one document records the sale of needlework items throughout 1897 raised £5 1s 5¾d (about £300 in today’s money). Mr Scott’s pillowslips fetched 1s 5d a pair, while Miss Unwin’s knickers made 1s 9d each.

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Among the receipts is this insurance certificate from the London & Lancashire Fire Insurance Company, insuring the school for £800, about £45,000 today, for a premium of 12 shillings.

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The school ordered items not only from local supplies but from those further afield. This bill is from school suppliers E.J. Arnold & Son who were based in Leeds, and had embraced new communications technology by having a telephone (they were contactable on ‘Nos. 33 & 331’). Directions to their works for visitors, however, were for people who were walking or riding.

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If you are interested in arranging a local history workshop based on real sources from our collections (where we do all the research for you!) do take a look at our Learning from History webpages to see how we can help bring history to life.

The roaring ’20s in Broomfield

Last August we shared some photographs of a stylish society wedding which took place at Hylands House in August 1920, when the daughter of the household, Phyllis Gooch, married Frank Parrish. Their wedding photographs, taken by local photographer Fred Spalding, are high unusual for the time. At this time wedding photographs, when they were taken at all, usually consist of perhaps just one or two images, of the bride and groom leaving the church and a posed family portrait. The cameras and tripods of the time were cumbersome and heavy, and images were made on glass negatives which required long exposures. Phyllis and Frank’s wedding photographs are candid shots of the couple, and their guests enjoying cake and champagne in the gardens at Hylands.

We have come across further evidence of Spalding’s boldly experimental approach to wedding photography, at another highly stylish occasion, this time from 1925.

On first sight of the photographs we did not know who the bride and groom were, or where the wedding took place.

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Our mystery bride and groom, newly married.

It was this photograph which provided the first clue. The church has a round tower, and since there are not many of those in Essex we were able to quickly narrow down the location of the wedding. Comparison with modern photos confirmed that this is Broomfield church, just north of Chelmsford.

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The wedding car – a 1920 Renault De Luxe

Now we had a location, we turned to the British Newspaper Archive online (if you haven’t used this site yet do take a look, it’s a brilliant resource and you can access it for free at ERO or in Essex Libraries).

After a bit of searching in the Essex papers for the 1920s a likely-looking candidate for our mystery couple emerged – Joan Eileen Walker Hodges and Wilfred Sutton Page, who married in Broomfield church in June 1925. Most weddings at the time were reported with a short notice, but this one was treated by the Chelmsford Chronicle to a couple of paragraphs under the heading ‘Interesting Weddings’.

20-year-old Joan was the daughter of Major Charles Hodges and his wife Louise, who lived at Broomwood Manor in Chignall St James. Wilfred Page was 25, an engineer who hailed from Great Horkesley.

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‘The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a handsome dress of ivory georgette, embroidered with crystals and silver, with embroidered veil and pink orange blossoms; her bouquet was of white and pink carnations.’ – Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925

Joan was accompanied by three bridesmaids, ‘the Misses Joy Owen, Jean Page, and Nellie Libbis’.

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‘The chief bridesmaid wore mauve georgette, with crinoline hat to match, gold shoes and stockings, and the children pale pink georgette, with gold lace caps; their ornaments were gold and enamel pendants, and they carried mauve and pink sweet peas.’ – Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925

The reception was held at the Hodge family home, Broomwood in Chignall St James. In a similar manner to his photographs of Phyllis Gooch and Frank Parrish’s wedding at Hylands in 1920, Spalding captured the couple and guests in informal poses, mingling, eating and drinking.

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The couple enjoy a glass of champagne

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Wilfred drives Joan away in his Morris Cowley, registration PU 1239. Suitcases and a petrol can are strapped to the running boards.

‘…the newly-married couple left for a motoring honeymoon in Devonshire, the bride’s going away dress being of red and white crepe de chine, with red hat and white sports coat.’ (Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925)

We hope that the drive down to Devonshire was not too uncomfortable.

You can explore more of the Spalding collection for yourself in our Searchroom, or in our book, The World of Fred Spalding: Photographs of Essex 1860-1940 by Stan Jarvis, copies of which are available to purchase from the ERO for £7.95 by calling 033301 32500.

Wartime in spring: letters from Sister Kate Luard

One of the stories we have been following over the course of the First World War centenary commemorations is that of Sister Kate Luard (read all of our Kate Luard posts here). Kate was born in Aveley in 1872 and grew up in Birch near Colchester. On the outbreak of the war she volunteered to nurse on the Western Front, and remained there for the duration of the war. During this time she wrote numerous letters, the majority of which are cared for at ERO. As we welcome warmer and longer spring days, Kate’s great niece Caroline Stevens has put together the following extracts from her letters written during wartime springs.

Amidst the horrors of the Great War and the often insurmountable pressure of nursing the wounded soldiers Kate Luard found time to note not only the extremes of weather but the landscape, flora and fauna. This love of nature must have lifted her spirits during these stressful times.

This first collection of extracts were written while Kate was working on ambulance trains in the spring of 1915:

Wednesday, February 3rd, [1915]. Moved on last night, and woke up at Bailleul. Some badly wounded on the train. Beyond Rouen, the honeysuckle is in leaf, the catkins are out, and the woods are full of buds. What a difference it will make when spring comes.

Friday, February 5th [1915], Boulogne. Today has been a record day of brilliant sun, blue sky and warm air, and it has transformed the muddy, sloppy, dingy Boulogne of the last two months into something more like Cornwall. We went in the town in the morning and on the long stone pier in the afternoon. On the pier there were gulls, and a sunny sort of salt wind and big waves breaking, and a glorious view of the steep little town piled up in layers above the harbour, which is packed with shipping.

Sunday, February 7th, Blendecque. We went for a splendid walk this morning uphill to a pine wood bordered by a moor with whins [gorse]. I’ve now got in my bunky hole on the train (it is not quite six feet square) a polypod fern, a plate of moss, a pot of white hyacinths, and also catkins, violets and mimosa!

Bright yellow gorse flowers

Bright yellow gorse flowers (photo: Caroline Stevens)

Wednesday, March 10th [1915]. We got to Étretat  at about 3 p.m. yesterday after a two days and one night load. The sea was a thundery blue, and the cliffs lit up yellow by the sun, and with the grey shingle it made a glorious picture to take back to the train. It had been a heavy journey with badly wounded.

We are now full of convalescents for Havre to go straight on the boat. There are crowds of primroses out on the banks. Our infant R.A.M.C. cook has just jumped off the train while it was going, grabbed a handful of primroses, and leapt on the train again some coaches back. He came back panting and rosy, and, said, “I’ve got something for you, Sister!” I got some Lent lilies in Rouen, and have some celandines growing in moss, so it looks like spring in my bunk.

Thursday, March 11th [1915]. We are being rushed up again without being stopped at Rouen. The birds are singing like anything now, and all the buds are coming out, and the banks and woods are a mass of primroses.

Delicate spring primroses (photo: Caroline Stevens}

Delicate spring primroses (photo: Caroline Stevens}

Thursday, March 18th [1915]. We had a heavenly ramble this morning, and found blue periwinkles and anemones in the wood, but no primroses. Lots of palm and gorse. Robins, willow-wrens, and yellow hammers were singing—much prettier music than guns, and it is good to get away from the sound of motors and trains and whistles.

These letters from 1916 and 1917 were written by Kate while she was working in Casualty Clearing Stations:

Tuesday, April 11th, Lillers. 1916.  We had all the acute surgicals out in their beds in the sun to-day in the school yard, round the one precious flower-bed, where are wallflowers and pansies.

We went for a walk after tea in the woods, found violets, cowslips and anemones.

Tuesday, May 16th [1916], Barlin. Sister S. and I had another ten-mile ramble to-day. It was again a blue day and the forest was lovely beyond words, full of purple orchids and delicate green and the songs of little birds, and ferns. We tracked up through it over the ridge and down the other side looking over Vimy with a spreading view of a peaceful kind.. We had our tea under some pines …

Saturday, March 17th, 1917…no sign of any buds out anywhere in these parts. I’ve got a plate of moss with a celandine plant in the middle, and a few sprouting twigs of honeysuckle that you generally find in January, and also a bluebell bulb in a jam tin.

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Celandine, whose presence was noted by Kate in March 1917

Saturday, April 21st [1917].  No rain for once, and the swamp drying up. Went for a walk and found periwinkles, paigles, anemones and a few violets – not a leaf to be seen anywhere.

Monday, April 30th [1917]. We have had a whole week without snow or rain – lots of sun and blue sky. I went for a  ramble after tea yesterday to a darling narrow wood with a stream. Two sets of shy, polite boys thrust their bunches of cowslips and daffodils into my hand. Also banks of small periwinkles like ours, and flowering palm; absolutely no leaves anywhere and it’s May Day to-morrow.

Wednesday, May 9th [1917]. And what do you think we have been busy over this morning? A large and festive Picnic in the woods, far removed from gas gangrene and amputations. We had an ambulance and two batmen to bring the tea in urns to my chosen spot – on the slope of the wood, above the babbling brook, literally carpeted with periwinkles, oxlips and anemones. We had a bowl of brilliant blue periwinkles in the middle of the table.

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Lesser Periwinkle – a bowl of which graced a picnic Kate described on 9th May 1917

Monday, May 14th [1917]. … it was Gommécourt over again but in newly sprung green this time. I think it made the hilly, curly orchards and wooded villages look sadder than ever, to see the blossom among the ruins, and the mangled woods struggling to put their green clothes on to their distorted spikes.

Saturday, August 18th [1917]. We’ve had two dazzling days, but as there is not a blade of grass or a leaf in the Camp, only duckboards, trenches and tents, you can only feel it’s summer by the sky and air.

Friday, April 12th [1918], Nampes. Orders came for me on Wednesday to take over the C.C.S. in Nampes. Two other sisters came too, and we took the road by car after tea, arriving here at 11 p.m., after losing the way in the dark and attempting lanes deep in unfathomable sloughs of mud. It is an absolutely divine spot, on the side of a lovely wooded valley, south of Amiens. The village is on a winding road, with a heavenly view of hills and woods, which are carpeted with blue violets and periwinkles and cowslips, and starry with anemones. Birds are carolling and leaves are greening, and there is the sun and sky of summer. The blue of the French troops in the fields and roads adds to the dazzling picture, and inside the tents are rows of ‘multiples’ and abdominals, and heads and moribunds, and teams working all night in the Theatre, to the sound of frequent terrific bombardments.

Sunday, June 16th [1918]. We emerge about 7.30 from our dug-outs, to a loud continuous chorus of larks, and also to the hum and buzz of whole squadrons of aeroplanes, keeping marvellous V formations against a dazzling blue and white of the sky. The hills are covered with waving corn, like watered silk in the wind, with deep crimson clover, and fields of huge oxeye daisies, like moving sheets. To-day there is no sound of guns and it is all Peace and loveliness.

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Unknown Warriors coverMany of Kate’s letters are published in Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard, RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918, a copy of which is available in the ERO library. The original letters can be found in amongst the Luard collection, catalogued as D/DLu.

 

Document of the Month, April 2017: ‘An Easter in Paris’, 1908

Jane Bass, Archivist

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Are you hoping to slip away for a short break this Easter?

Our Document of the Month for April is an account of a four-day trip to Paris over Easter 1908 written by Albert Samuel Lugg (1883-1943), a solicitor of Great Baddow.

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Lugg describes his journey in detail, beginning with the train from Chelmsford to London, which took two hours to cover the distance of 30 miles (Lugg, like many modern travellers, was not impressed).

The boat trip from Newhaven in East Sussex to Dieppe on the Normandy coast was a very rough passage and Lugg describes being nearly thrown to the floor of the boat and not feeling ‘at all well’ during the crossing.IMG_3282 1080 watermark

Hopefully he felt his journey had all been worth it when he arrived in Paris. Like any sightseer today, Lugg visited many of the famous sites and monuments in Paris, including the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Palace de Versailles, the Louvre, and buildings erected especially for the Paris Exhibition of 1900.

He visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Good Friday, and his account of his trip describes what he calls ‘a very strange ceremony’ of kissing sacred relics at the altar rail. In other parts of the church boys dressed in white sat at tables on which was laid a crucifix; visitors could kiss the crucifix and make a donation.

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Albert also describes seeing the Pantheon and was shown over the vaults and saw the ‘graves of a good many French celebrities’.

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Lugg was especially impressed with the Eiffel Tower. He and his companion saw it on their first day and returned on their last day when the ascended to the top – an experience Lugg wrote he would ‘never forget … The view from the top is absolutely beyond description’.

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Just as now, traffic was a feature of city life, with Lugg writing that pedestrians had to be careful not to be knocked down when crossing roads due to the ‘thousands’ of motor cars on the streets.

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On their last day, Lugg and his companion had intended to rise at 6am to visit the market to see the ‘barrels of snails and thousands of frogs’ which could be purchased. Having packed so much in to their trip, however, they must have been rather worn out, Lugg writing that ‘our beds had a very restraining effect upon us’.

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Six years after Lugg’s 1908 trip to Paris, the city was not far from the front lines of the First World War, being bombarded by German aircraft and artillery. The citizens endured shortages, rationing, and influenza.

Albert Lugg’s account of his holiday will be on display in the Searchroom throughout April 2017.

For Home and Country: more from the Broomfield WI

Our Document of the Month for March is a record of the first Women’s Institute meeting to take place in Essex, which was in Broomfield, near Chelmsford, on 12 May 1917.

Spying the piece we wrote about this record, one of our regular searchers, Pat Bruce, contacted us to say that her great-grandmother, Emily Crozier, had been one of the original members of the Broomfield WI in 1917, and that she had Emily’s original membership card, which she has kindly lent to us to add to our display.

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Emily Crozier’s membership card for the Broomfield Women’s Institute, 1917 (Temporary Accession 4346). The card includes the motto ‘To do all the good we can, in every way we can, to all the people we can; and above all to study household good in any work which makes for the betterment of our home, the advancement of our people, and the good of our country’.

The logo at the top of the card is that of the Agricultural Organisation Society (AOS), which promoted the formation of Women’s Institutes during the First World War as part of its work to increase food production and save waste. The card is signed by Emily Crozier, and Dora M. Christy, the Secretary. Dora Mary Christie was described in her obituary in the Chelmsford Chronicle in 1947 as ‘a pioneer of the Women’s Institutes in Essex’. She was actively involved in the Essex WI from its earliest days, and was remembered as ‘a vital personality’, whose name ‘will be woven into the history of Women’s Institutes in Essex’.

Along with Emily’s membership card, Pat has also lent us a photograph of the Broomfield WI. Emily is sitting in the front row second from left.

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(Temporary Accession 4346).

Emily Crozier’s daughter Ethel was also a member joining in 1931 and her membership card, together with a programme for 1945, have also been lent to us.

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Ethel Crozier’s WI membership card, 1931 (Temporary Accession 4346). The motto by this time had altered slightly but maintained the same principle seen in 1917.

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An extract from the 1945 programme of the Broomfield WI, including on 7 March a talk from Antony Minoprio on the Chelmsford Area Planning Survey, which was a proposal to demolish most of the town centre. (Temporary Accession 4346).

We thank Pat Bruce for loaning us this charming collection of records. They will be on display in our Searchroom alongside the Broomfield WI minute book for the rest of March 2017.

Chelmsford Then and Now Project: Photographs and Photoshop

In our eleventh and penultimate post from our Chelmsford Then and Now project, Ashleigh Hudson explains how during her research project we compared historic photographs of Chelmsford High Street with today’s streetscape.

Chelmsford is often (we think mistakenly!) viewed as having little in the way of historic character. We would argue that there are, in fact, as many examples of continuity as there are of change, and the key is to know where to look. One of the invaluable resources used during this project is the Spalding photographic collection of some 7,000 images. The Spalding family of photographers were based in Chelmsford High Street from the 1860s until the 1940s, and recorded how the street has changed over time.

Fred Spalding senior was a self-taught photographer who set up the family business in Tindal Street in the mid-19th century. His young son, also called Fred, took a keen interest in his father’s business and quickly picked up the family trade. Several years later, an adult Fred relocated the thriving business to the site of 4-5 High Street (the current site of NatWest), where he established himself as the town’s ‘go-to’ photographer. The Spalding family captured Chelmsford through time, and their legacy endures through their magnificent collection of images. You can read more about Fred Spalding and the Spalding shop here.

We have done our best to recreate some of the Spaldings’ classic shots of the High Street, taking a set of prints out with us and dodging showers to do replicate the original pictures as closely as we could.

A quick comparison of some of the images revealed a high level of continuity across the upper half of most of the buildings. While the various owners and occupiers have changed over time, many of the architectural details have endured.

(1) SCN 2261

Photograph of the Spalding shop c.1930

(2) Current Image 4-5

The same building today. Beneath the layers of cream and pale blue paint, the upper exterior of NatWest is very much the same as when the building was occupied by Spalding.

Armed with our fresh images, the fun could really being. Using Photoshop, we layered the old photographs on top of our new ones, blending the two images together:

(3) Photoshop Print Screen 1

The Spalding image is layered over the top of the current image. The image is resized and repositioned to fit the intended space

(4) Photoshop Print Screen 2

It was then possible to blend the Spalding image into the current photograph.

(5) SCN 2-Current

A finished example of this process. The edited image stretches down the high street, from the present day to the past.

In some instances, such as with Jamie’s Trattoria/Barclays Bank (no.2 High Street), the level of continuity is striking.

(6) SCN 1188-Current

Barclays Bank c.1930 layered over the current occupier, Jamie’s Trattoria.

In contrast, areas where entire stretches of the High Street were demolished and rebuilt, such as the sites of Paperchase and M&S (61-62 High Street), the edited images revealed how parts of the High Street are completely unrecognisable.

(7) SCN 4595-Current

The west side of the high street featuring the Queen’s Head in the centre and a building that would later form part of the future site of Marks and Spencer’s. These buildings have since been demolished and the site redeveloped, which is why the images do not match up smoothly.Ch

You can see the final results of our image blending on our Historypin page, or you can visit the Searchroom to explore the full extent of the Spalding photographic collection.

Document of the Month, March 2017: Jam and Jerusalem come to Essex

Our Document of the Month for March 2017 has been chosen by Archivist Katharine Schofield, who has selected the earliest record of the Women’s Institute in Essex, the minutes of the Broomfield WI who began meeting in May 1917.

The Women’s Institute can trace its origins back to Ontario, Canada in 1897.  In Britain the WI was created in part to cope with food shortages during the First World War and to help rural communities generally.  The first British meeting was held in Anglesey in 1915.

In Essex there were twenty-two WIs in existence by the end of 1917, with minutes surviving for the County Federation of Essex Women’s Institutes (Accession A8980 Box 1) and for the WIs at Broomfield (Accession A11304 Box 1), Epping (Accession A13888 Box 1) and Woodham Ferrers (Accession A11292 Box 39).  The earliest record of a meeting was at Broomfield on 12 May 1917, followed by Woodham Ferrers on 6 June and Epping on 13 September.

Minutes from the first meeting of the Broomfield WI on 12 May 1917 - the earliest  WI meeting in Essex for which we have any records

Minutes from the first meeting of the Broomfield WI on 12 May 1917 – the earliest WI meeting in Essex for which we have any records

The WI was promoted by Mrs Alfred Watt, one of Canada’s first female university graduates.  Madge Watt had been widowed and in 1913 came to Britain with the intention at least in part to establish the WI here.  The First World War and the need for increased food production gave her the opportunity, working in partnership with the Agricultural Organisation Society (AOS).

Mrs Watt and a representative from the Society toured the county addressing prospective groups.  In April 1917 Mrs Watt spoke to a group of women at Chelmsford and presumably this inspired smaller groups to invite her to speak in their villages.  She was too ill to attend the first meeting of the Broomfield WI so Mr Nicholson from the AOS spoke instead.

It was proposed that a WI be started ‘to help food scarcity’, and Mr Nicholson described the WI as ‘a centre round which a group of women banded themselves together to help themselves and their country’.  They would be able to do this ‘1st by releasing men from the land, 2nd by increasing food supply by cultivating vacant land, 3rd by preventing waste’.  There would be co-operation in buying seeds, tools, cooking and preserving utensils.  The WI also made war savings collections and helped village schools and industries.  The meetings themselves offered women the opportunity to work on home-made clothing, see demonstrations and hear about keeping livestock, goats, bees, rabbits and poultry and conserving fruit and vegetables, as well as an opportunity to enjoy ‘the social element’.

In Woodham Ferrers the rector had arranged the meeting and spoke about the ‘beneficial advantages’ before introducing Mrs Watt.  By the time that the Epping WI was started the County Federation had been established and the speakers were Lady Petre and Mrs Watt.

Most of these initial meetings were then given over to the practicalities of setting the group up and electing officers for future meetings.  By 1917 there was an established national organisation to provide guidance, suggestions for talks and demonstrations, as well as supply badges and other items.  Both Woodham Ferrers and Epping WIs purchased a book for their minutes stamped on the front ‘Agricultural Organisation Society’ at a cost of 6s.

The first organised meeting of the Broomfield WI was held on 6 June.  The minutes record that the first competition, making cakes or biscuits without flour, had ten entries with two prizes awarded and the first talk, arranged for the next meeting, was to be a demonstration of fruit bottling.  The Epping WI talks for 1917 were on the subjects of ‘parcels for the Front’, sugar substitutes and the care of children in winter.  The first competition in Epping was the best home-made Christmas gift, cost not to exceed 6d.  At Epping there was some discussion about the membership fees ‘amongst the poorer people’ with a suggestion that these might be paid at a rate of 2d. per month.  It was also agreed ‘by large majority’ that members could bring their children to meetings and that a volunteer would look after them in a separate room.

Minutes from the second meeting of the Broomfield WI on 6 June 1917. A competition was held for baking cakes and biscuits without flour, and a demonstration of fruit bottling was organised for the next meeting.

Minutes from the second meeting of the Broomfield WI on 6 June 1917. A competition was held for baking cakes and biscuits without flour, and a demonstration of fruit bottling was organised for the next meeting.

The singing of Jerusalem was not associated with the WI until the early 1920s, but the first meeting at Woodham Ferrers concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.

In September the County Federation met for the first time at the Shire Hall in Chelmsford, with Lady Petre subsequently serving as the first president.  The County Federation minutes record an organisation which grew rapidly from 1917.  By the end of 1918 the number of groups in Essex had more than doubled.  There had been classes on basket and glove making, boot mending, cobbling, rush work and straw plaiting, as well as lectures on housecraft, including mending leaks and repairing taps.

Although the WI was established with the aim of helping the war effort during the First World War, the organisation was keen that they should continue after the war.  In December 1918, only a month after the Armistice, the County Federation’s half-yearly report reiterated that while the production of food was of primary importance, ‘due weight’ should be given to the subject of Housecraft and the promotion of local handicrafts or industries.  The WI should ‘arouse interest in local history’ as well as teach the ‘principles and duties of citizenship’.  It should be a ‘valuable means to promote businesslike methods among women of all classes.’

The minutes of the first meeting of the Broomfield WI will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout March 2017.

Filling the holes in history

History sometimes gets a bit tatty around the edges. Most of the documents we look after were originally created as working items, things to be used, referred to, added to, amended, and carried around.

Wear and tear is inevitable, but fortunately modern conservation techniques can make once fragile documents much stronger again and allow us to make them accessible to researchers.

This map shows a plan of a late Victorian development in Leigh-on-Sea that will be on display at Leigh-on-Sea on the Map on Saturday 18 February 2017. It dates from 1893, and had several small splits in it and a rather large hole on one edge. To make it ready for display we took it to our expert conservator Diane Taylor. This short photo story will take you through the process of how the biggest hole in the map was repaired.

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Senior Conservator Diane Taylor working on a plan of the Victorian development of the Leigh Hall Estate, dating from 1893 (D/DS 365/2/1). The map shows part of an important stage in the development of the town, when open land was sold off in plots for new houses to be built.

The process begins with preparing a sheet of Japanese tissue paper, a very fine but strong tissue paper which will be used as a backing for the map to give it strength. The tissue is laid onto the glass surface of a large light box, and sprayed with a fine mist of distilled water, then covered with an even layer of wheat starch paste, which will act as an adhesive. The map itself is then also sprayed with distilled water and laid on top of the tissue (the idea of getting documents wet sounds alarming, but many kinds of older paper and ink can get wet without disintegrating). The map is then covered in a sheet of transparent polythene and smoothed down with a wide flat brush.

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Diane carefully shapes a piece of new, traditionally-made paper to fit the hole as precisely as possible, with just a small overlap. Wheat starch paste adhesive is used to adhere the infill to the map and the tissue backing.

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Using the light box, Diane closely examines the other smaller splits in the map and makes sure they are all closed up and securely adhered to the tissue backing.

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Once the infill is in place and the splits carefully realigned, the map is again covered with the polythene sheet and a wide brush is used to smooth everything down.

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The main repair will now need to be left to dry, and the edge of the piece of infill will then be trimmed to be flush with the edge of the map.

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The polythene is peeled back to reveal a repaired but wet map.

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The map is covered with thick felts to absorb the water and begin the drying process.

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Wooden boards are placed over the felts to press them and draw water out of the map.

After drying, the edges of the tissue backing and the infill repair will be trimmed, and the map will be clean and strong and ready for researchers to use.

Join us at Leigh-on-Sea on the Map on Saturday 18 February 2017 at The Forum in Southend to see this map alongside several others tracing the development of Leigh from a small fishing village to the town we see today. Find full details here.