Top tips for starting out on your family history

Did conversation at your family get togethers over Christmas turn to your family history? Finding out about the lives of your ancestors can be an absorbing and rewarding hobby, and here at the Essex Record Office we can help you get started on your search, whether you visit us in person or use our records online.

 

Tip no. 1: Talk to your relatives and search family papers

Talk to your relatives – particularly older generations. Find out what they know and remember, and write it all down. You could even make a sound or video recording of your conversations.

Look out for any old photographs, birth, marriage and death certificates, military records, medals, or if you’re very lucky, letters or diaries that you or relatives might have.

Use what you find out to start to build your family tree. Write down everything you know so far about when and where people were born/married/died, and any other key information about them. This will help you work out what else you would like to find out.

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Talking to your relatives and searching family papers and photos can be an excellent way to start building your family tree

Tip no. 2: Record where you find your information

Wherever your research takes you, make a note of your sources. It will make life much easier if you ever need to double-check something, and helps you keep track of where you have already looked.

 

Tip no. 3: Birth, marriage and death indexes

Search the civil registration indexes – these are indexes of birth, marriage and death certificates which begin in 1837. The indexes are available on various websites – if you visit the ERO or your local Essex library, you can use www.ancestry.co.uk for free. The indexes will give you the basic information of when and where someone was born/married/died. You can find out more by ordering the full certificate, which you can do through the General Register Office, or for Essex certificates from us at ERO.

 

Tip no. 4: Search the census

Search the census records – census records are available for every ten years between 1841 and 1911. These fascinating records list all the people living in each household in the country, along with their ages and occupations and where they were born. Again, these are available on various websites, but you can search them for free at the ERO or your local Essex library on www.ancestry.co.uk

 

Tip no. 5: Move on to parish registers

Parish registers are church records which record baptisms, marriages and burials. In some cases these can date back to 1538, and so can be used to go back much further in time than censuses and birth/marriage/death records. Parish registers for the historic county of Essex (including parts of greater London which used to be in Essex such as West Ham and Stratford) are all kept at the Essex Record Office. We have digitised all of our parish registers and they are all available to view online at www.essexancestors.co.uk (with the exception of marriages after 1957). You can take out a subscription to view the images from home, or use the service for free in the ERO Searchroom. You can also view images of all 70,000 of our original wills, dating from the 1400s-1858. Double-check that the documents you want to view are available before taking out a subscription.

Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials and can date back to 1538. Essex parish registers are kept at ERO - digital images are available on Essex Archives Online

Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials and can date back to 1538. Essex parish registers are kept at ERO – digital images are available on Essex Archives Online

Tip no. 6: Ask for advice

If you want further advice or have specific questions about the kinds of records available, talk to our experts either in the Searchroom (find out how to visit us), e-mail us or give us a ring on 033301 32500.

Good luck and happy searching!

How to choose a wife, Victorian style

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

Archives are wonderful places for surprise discoveries. When searching for one thing, you will often come across something completely different that you would never have thought to go looking for. In this sense working in an archive is challenging for the easily distracted, as there is always something intriguing to pursue.

My latest find, from the parish records of St Botolph’s in Colchester, is this Victorian poem, which gives advice to a man named Fred in choosing a wife (click the images for larger versions, and see below for a transcript):

Now why my dear Fred don’t you marry?

I had hop’d the late rumour was true

Now take my advice and don’t tarry

But set off instanter* to woo

But first my dear Fred pay attention

And though you should love and admire

If she’s one of these Ifs that I mention

Dear Fred make your bow & retire

If you find that she can’t darn a stocking

If she can’t make a shirt or a pie

If she says “Oh! Law!” “Mercy”! “How shocking”!

If she ever drinks beer on the sly

If soon of the country she’s weary

If politics e’er are her theme

If she talks about “Hershel’s nice theory”

Or “Lardner’s dear book upon Steam”

If she crosses her legs or her letters

If you’ve seen her drink three cups of tea

If she boasts of those wearing her fetters

If she’s sick when she goes on the sea

If she seems the least bit of a scold

If her manners have any pretence

If her gown does not cover her shoulders

If her bustle is very immense

If she’s nervous, or bilious, or sickly

If she likes to take breakfast in bed

If she can’t take a hint from you quickly

If her nose has the least touch of red

If she screams when she’s told she’s in danger

If she seems a coquette or a flirt

If she’ll polka or galoppe with a stranger

If she’s stupid or if she is pert

If she’s one of these Ifs oh! then sever

The chain she around you has bound

And seek for a maid in whom never

These follies and failings were found

* While not a word we’re familiar with today, this word looks like ‘instanter’. The Oxford English Dictionary lists ‘instanter’ as a humorous or archaic word meaning at once, or immediately

If Fred was fortunate enough to find a girl who measured up to these exacting standards one does have to wonder whether he would ever had any fun with her, or indeed a meaningful conversation.

The poem is unsigned and undated, so I hoped that its content might provide some clues that would help to pin it down at least to a decade. Some of this evidence, however, is a bit contradictory:

‘If her bustle is very immense’

Bustles were fashionable from the late 1860s until the early 1890s.

If she talks about “Hershel’s nice theory”

This seems most likely to refer to Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), a polymath who published papers and books on a range of scientific subjects between 1821 and 1867.

Or “Lardner’s dear book upon Steam”

This could refer to a few different publications by Irish scientific writer Dionysius Lardner, who published works about steam engines in 1828, 1832, 1836, 1840, 1844, 1856 and 1857.

If she’ll polka or galoppe with a stranger

The polka and galop were lively, energetic dances popular across Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century.

 

This evidence all points to a date in the 1840s or 1850s, apart from the line about the bustle. If bustles did not come in until the late 1860s, the poem must date from after then.

If anyone has any further information or spots any more clues that could tell us more about this poem, do please leave a comment or get in touch with us.

Document of the Month, December 2016: burial of a presidential ancestor

Lawrence Barker, Archivist

Parish Register, All Saints, Maldon (D/P 201/1/1)

Now that the forty-fifth President of United States of America has been elected, one could perhaps reflect back upon that illustrious line to the first holder of that office, George Washington, one of whose direct ancestors lived in Essex and was buried at All Saint’s Maldon in 1653, as recorded in this burial register.  This was George’s great-great-grandfather, Revd. Laurence Washington, who was probably born at Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire in 1602, the son of another Laurence Washington.   It was Revd. Laurence Washington’s own son John, born at Purleigh c. 1633/4, who emigrated to Virginia in 1653.  There he in turn fathered a son also called Laurence Washington who was to be George Washington’s grandfather.

Burial entry for Laurence Washington in the parish register for All Saints, Maldon (D/DP 201/1/1)

Burial entry for Laurence Washington in the parish register for All Saints, Maldon (D/DP 201/1/1)

Ironically, in view of George’s role in the American War of Independence, Revd. Laurence Washington was a staunch royalist and a protégé of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud.  Through Laud’s agency he acquired the wealthy living of Purleigh near Maldon in 1632, and it must have been because of his royalist leanings that Laurence was one of those ministers ejected from their livings during the Civil War in 1643, in this case on a trumped up charge of drunkenness.  So, he moved, possibly incognito, to the impoverished parish of Little Braxted.  His family did not join him, however, but were sheltered by the family of Sir Edwin Sandys, who helped Laurence’s son John into the tobacco trade thus initiating his connection with Virginia.  Sadly, Revd. Laurence died without an estate sufficient to need letters of administration and was buried at Maldon.

Cover of the first Maldon All Saints parish register

Cover of the first Maldon All Saints parish register

Incidentally, the burial entry in this register dated 21st January 1652 provides a good example of how one must be mindful of the old style calendar when researching one’s ancestors.  Further down the register, one can see that the New Year starts on 25th March, so, the date of burial is actually the 21st January 1653 as reckoned by the modern calendar.

The parish register will be on display in the Searchroom throughout December 2016.

Harlow Housing and Design Interviews Online

Harlow New Town was established in 1947, when the New Town Development Corporation began to purchase land around the old town and erect new housing estates. The houses primarily served to relieve housing pressures on bombed-out, overcrowded London, particularly from the East End. The first residents began moving in from 1949.

So say the textbooks, but what personal stories lie behind these brief facts? At the Essex Sound and Video Archive, we hold a wonderful collection of oral history interviews conducted by Dr Judy Attfield in the 1980s for her research project, Harlow Housing and Design (SA 22). These interviews reveal what it was like to live in the new town. Our Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place, has enabled us to digitise all of the original cassettes and make them freely available through Essex Archives Online.

Screenshot of SA 22 catalogue

A satisfying sight: the icons show that there is audio material attached to that catalogue entry.

At first, we thought the digitisation would be a straightforward task. Shortly after the collection was first deposited with us in 1996, we created access copies on cassette, to safeguard the original masters (our standard procedure in the Sound Archive). The access copies are all neatly labelled and clearly identified, one cassette per interview.

However, when we looked in the box containing the original cassettes, things were not quite so straightforward. We digitise from the original recording (or as near to the original recording as we can get), to capture the purest sound. On revisiting the masters, we realised that the interviewer had used one cassette for multiple interviews – a common practice when you want to make the most of the cassette tape you have. Piecing each recording together to make one complete interview has caused our digitiser, Catherine Norris, several headaches.

But now they are all digitised. Similar to our procedure with physical analogue recordings, we keep a master, uncompressed .wav file safely in storage. We then create compressed .mp3 copies as our new access copy. You can still come into the Searchroom and listen to the recordings, but you can also now listen from home, through Essex Archives Online.

Each interview is valuable in its own right, but as a collection it is even more fascinating. Dr Attfield spoke to a range of people: developers, architects, and town councillors who shed light on the planning of the new town; shopkeepers; people who moved to Harlow before the new town; and people who moved as part of the new town settlement. Putting these different viewpoints together gives a rich, rounded impression of this time in history. Some interviewees say that women found it more difficult than men to settle in new towns and felt lonely and depressed; some say that women found it easier to form new bonds because they were surrounded by women in a similar position, raising children away from their parents in unfamiliar surroundings. Some were ecstatic to have their own front doors, their own staircases in two-storey homes; some missed the familiarity of London, even if they were living in cramped, shared housing. The multiplicity of memories challenges generalisations about life in a new town. It also demonstrates (by listening to the accents of the interviewees, if nothing else) that not everyone in Harlow in the 1950s was an ex-Eastender.

The collection also serves as a good example of how to conduct an oral history interview. Dr Attfield had a specific interest in the interior design of the new houses. She directed questions to gather information on this topic. However, she also asked wider questions for context. She let her interviewees say what they wanted with minimal interventions, but also guided the interview to cover her set of questions. Occasionally she probed her interviewees for more details, or challenged their viewpoints to get a better understanding, without revealing any judgement of their opinions.

Dr Attfield made a significant research contribution in the fields of material culture, gender studies, and design history, among other overlapping areas. Based for many years at the Winchester School of Art, her book Wild Things: The Material Culture of Everyday Life (Oxford: Berg, 2000) has become a key text in her field. She passed away in 2006. We are very grateful that she deposited her recordings about Harlow with us, for future researchers to use and enjoy.

One particularly moving interview from the collection is that with Mrs Summers, who moved to the new town from Walthamstow in 1952 (SA 22/1364/1). At several points in the interview, Mrs Summers describes the long adjustment period when ‘home’ still meant London before completely settling in Harlow. As well as missing her family, in this clip she describes how she ‘couldn’t get used to the newness of things’ after coming from Walthamstow with its ‘houses with big windows… little tiny houses… nice houses… [and] grubby-looking houses’.

At a time when neighbourhood plans for vast numbers of additional houses are being developed across Essex – across the country – perhaps these experiences of new settlers can help with the process of creating new communities.

Dr Attfield published an article based on these interviews in the book that she co-edited with P Kirkham, A View from the Interior: Women and Design (London: Women’s Press, 1995). The article can be consulted at Colchester Library.

We hope to showcase clips from these recordings on a listening bench in Harlow, in time for the 70th anniversary of the New Town in 2017. If you are interested in helping to work on the bench for Harlow, please get in touch: info@essexsounds.org.uk

Five favourite Chelmsford documents

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

We have two great events coming up in late October looking at the history of Chelmsford. On Wednesday 26 October we have a guided walk of the city centre based on John Walker’s fabulous 1591 map (see below if you have never seen this before), and on Saturday 29 October we are hosting Chelmsford Through Time, a pop-up display of historic maps and photographs, with a talk by Dr James Bettley on the post-war development of Chelmsford. You can find details of both of these on our events webpages.

In preparation for these events we have been sifting through some of the masses of material we have on Chelmsford history, and I thought I would share here five of my favourite Chelmsford items from our collections, that provide fascination snapshots into the past of our county town.

  1. John Walker’s map, 1591

Any round-up of significant documents of Chelmsford’s history must surely start with John Walker’s spectacular map, dating from 1591 (long-time readers of this blog will most like have come across this in some of our previous posts). It shows the town in exquisite detail, with each building individually drawn with its own doors, windows and chimneys. What’s more, a written survey that goes with the map tells us who was living in each of these properties at the time. It’s a very special window into the past that I never get tired of looking through.

Walker map Chelmsford

Extract from John Walker’s map of Chelmsford, 1591, showing the town (D/DM P1)

  1. James Maylett execution

A grimmer choice, but I have always been interested in Tudor history and this snippet from the Chelmsford burial registers serves as a reminder of how brutal life could be. This burial entry dates from December 1542, and reads:

Jamys Maylette clerke Bachelor of Dyvinyti and p[ar]son of moche Lyes was drawen hanged and quarteryd on the market hyll for high treason on fryday the firste daye of December ao 1542.

That is to say, James Mallett, the parson of Great Lees, was hung, drawn and quartered in the market square at Chelmsford for high treason. 1 December that year was a Friday, market day, to ensure maximum witnesses for the gruesome spectacle.

Mallett had been a chaplain to Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife whom he divorced in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Mallett had also been rector of Great Leighs for 28 years. His treasonous offence was to comment unfavourably on Henry’s policy of dissolving religious houses. His public execution must surely have been intended as a warning to other clergy not to pass comment on the king’s decisions.

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Extract from the Chelmsford parish registers showing the burial of James Mallett, December 1542 (D/P 94/1/4 image 26)

 

  1. Spalding photo of High Street, c.1869

This is one of the earliest surviving photographs of Chelmsford High Street, dating to about 1869. It shows a view looking north up the High Street towards Shire Hall. It was taken by Fred Spalding, Chelmsford’s first commercial photographer. Spalding’s son and grandson both became photographers too, and we have about 7,000 of their photographs at the ERO today. This one, like all of Spalding’s early photographs, was taken on a glass plate coated with chemicals; a challenging process to get right, especially in the open air.

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Photograph of Chelmsford High Street by Fred Spalding, c.1869 (D/F 269/1/3715)

  1. Photograph of Chelmsford Corn Exchange

If I could wave a magic wand over Chelmsford I would love to be able to bring back the Corn Exchange. This neo-Renaissance building was designed by Fred Chancellor in 1857, and sat on Tindal Square (Shire Hall is just out of frame on the right of this photo). It was demolished, along with the whole of the west side of Tindal Street, to make way for the High Chelmer redevelopment in 1969.

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Photograph by Fred Spalding of Chelmsford Corn Exchange

  1. Women at work in Marconi’s

This photograph is one of a series of images taken of Marconi’s Hall Street works, sometime between 1898 and 1912. At the start of the twentieth century, women were mostly expected to marry, have children, and stay at home. As an archetypal `new’ industry, the wireless industry involved complex assembly operations and `high-tech’ components requiring manual dexterity. The Marconi Hall Street works pioneered the early recruitment of a trained female workforce. Women are so often invisible or difficult to find in historical sources, so to find such striking photographs giving an insight into what their lives were like is always exciting. (You can see some more photos from this set on our Historypin page.)

Women at work in Marconi's Hall Street Factory, c.1902 (A11449)

Women at work in Marconi’s Hall Street Factory, c.1902 (A11449)

 Join us for Walking with Walker (Wednesday 26 October 2016) or Chelmsford Through Time (Saturday 29 October 2016) to delve deeper into Chelmsford’s history.

Chelmsford Then and Now: 62 High Street – from prison to M&S

In this tenth blog post in our Chelmsford Then and Now series, our former student researcher Ashleigh Hudson looks at her final property. Today the site is part of Marks and Spencer’s – but in times gone by it was used for a rather different purpose…

From the early 17th century, a large portion of the current site of Marks and Spencer was occupied by the county’s House of Correction. By the early 19th century, deteriorating conditions forced the closure of the House. The site was eventually demolished to make way for several new buildings. The site housed various retail establishments until the 1970s when sites 62-66 were absorbed by Marks and Spencer.

Houses of Correction were established in the early 17th century, as a place to send vagrants, beggars, and those ‘unwilling to work’. Petty criminals and prostitutes could also find themselves committed to these institutions. The inmates were put to work, but were often not there for very long. A spell in a house of correction may well also have included whipping, especially for those charged with offences such as theft or prostitution.

From 1587 the county House of Correction was situated in Coggeshall, but by 1593 the property had deteriorated considerably. The house was sold in 1611 and the county purchased the site of 63-64 Chelmsford High Street. Shortly after, the House of Correction admitted its first prisoners under the watchful guard of Keeper Walter Kellaway.

In order to provide suitable work for the prisoners, Kellaway was in charge of a range of equipment including mills to grind wheat and malt, wheels to spin flax and cotton, and billets for pounding hemp. Perhaps anticipating being charged with unruly or troublesome individuals, Kellaway also had chains and manacles. This account list highlights the interesting contrast, inherent in all houses of correction, between punishment and reform.

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Bill of implements for use in the House of Correction, 1612, including ‘A mill to grind wheat’, ‘2 Wheels to spin flax’, ‘7 Paid of cards to card wool’ (Q/SR 197/143)

Prisoners from across Essex were admitted to the house on a range of charges, as punishment for perceived lewd, idle, vagrant or disorderly behaviours. Peter Lake was admitted in 1616 for vagrancy and ‘keeping the company with the wife of John Mayfield as if she were his own wife’, while Susan Larkin was admitted in 1617 for ‘living lewdly and out of all order to the disquiet of her neighbours’.

Women accused of being pregnant out of wedlock were often admitted to the House for a whole year. A Bastardy Order made by Sir Henry Mildemay and Sir John Tirell condemned Elizabeth Clarke to the House of Correction to receive ‘due punishment’. The Justices, apparently on the complaint of the town, ordered the reputed father to pay 12d weekly until the child was able to provide for itself. (There is no mention as to whether he was also sent to the House of Correction, but we can probably safely assume he was not.)

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Bastardy Order made by Sir Henry Mildemay and Sir John Tirell committing Elizabeth Clarke to the House of Correction, 1636. (Q/SR 294/22)

Prisoner escapes were not a common occurrence, although it was a cause of concern given the location of the House of Correction in the High Street. In April 1776 the Chelmsford Chronicle reported that prisoners had escaped from their ground floor dormitory at the House of Correction in the early hours of one morning. In scenes reminiscent of the Shawshank Redemption, prisoners reportedly pulled up the floorboards with a gimlet and tunnelled under the foundations into the yard. Despite the best efforts of the local constabulary, several of the prisoners remained at large three days later.

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Article from the Chelmsford Chronicle reporting the escape of 15 prisoners from the House of Correction, 5 April 1776

In the mid-18th century the House of Correction expanded to include three brick prison buildings where the more unruly prisoners were detained. The original timber-building, fronting the High Street, continued to be used by the Keeper and his family. Renowned prison reformer John Howard described his visit to the House of Correction in his 1777 book entitled The State of the Prisons in England and Wales. The men and women had separate quarters, with the men’s accommodation located on the ground floor and the women’s, to the same design, located on the floor above.  The Keeper, Thomas Ford, informed Howard that prisoners had an allowance of three-pence a day, for which they had a pound and a half of bread, and a quart of small beer. Howard described the courtyard as ‘small and not secure’ resulting in the prisoners always being kept indoors. Furthermore, he described the rooms as ‘offensive’ and generally inadequate.

Several years later, reformer James Neild visited the House of Correction and met with the Keeper Thomas Ford who he found to behave ‘…not only very humanely, but also very religiously to his prisoners’. While Neild found the house to be under satisfactory leadership, the same could be not for the state of the property, which Neild concluded had:

…many and great inconveniences, and is by no means calculated for the purposes to which it is applied.

By 1803 the premises had deteriorated further and on a subsequent visit, Neild was compelled to report this damning verdict:

On my visit the 31st July 1803, I found the good old keeper dead; the whole prison [was] filthy and out of repair; in the two upper rooms five women and two children sick on the floor; the straw worn to dust; and in one of the rooms a cartload of rubbish heaped up in a corner. In one of the sick rooms below were four women; in the other room six women and two children, one of the women quite naked, another without a shift, the other four had neither shoe nor stocking…The whole prisoners were coniferous, and almost desperate for water…The prisoners complained of the want of medical attendance, and, if I may judge from the filthiness of the fores and bandages, not without reason.

Not surprisingly, Neild was relieved to discover that a new site had recently been purchased adjacent to the new county gaol. The site was completed in 1806, with the prisoners moving in that same year.

(2) SCN 1037

Illustration depicting the new site of the House of Correction and County Gaol.

Suggestions as to what to do with the vacant site continued for some time. At one point it was hoped that the site should be redeveloped to accommodate the judges visiting the town for the Assizes although this plan never came to fruition. The property was ultimately sold in 1811 and demolished a year later, making way for two new brick houses.

Various retail properties occupied the site over the course of the 19th and 20th century, including a branch of Singer’s Sewing Company (at no. 64). In the 1970s, the individual sites of 62-66 were consolidated by Marks and Spencer, forming one of the largest stores on the high street.

OS maps of Chelmsford 1963 and 1974

OS maps showing dramatic change on the west side of Chelmsford High Street between 1963 and 1974. The largest store seen on the 1974 map is Marks and Spencer

The extract from the 1963 OS map above depicts 62-66 prior to the arrival of Marks and Spencer. There are a number of small properties, packed closely together, dominating the stretch currently occupied by M&S. By 1974, these properties had been consolidated to form one large property. The 1974 OS map presents a significantly cleaned up version of the high street. Marks and Spencer continue to occupy the same spot on the high street today.

If you would like to find out more about the House of Correction or any other of the topics covered in this series, Hilda Grieve’s excellent two-volume history of Chelmsford, The Sleepers and the Shadows, is available in the ERO Searchroom, or you can dive straight in to Essex Archives Online and explore our catalogue. For a contemporary account on the state of prisons in the 18th century see John Howard’s, The State of the Prisons in England and Wales.

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Discover more of Chelmsford’s history at:

Chelmsford Through Time

Our county town of Chelmsford may look modern on the surface, but look a little deeper and you will find layer upon layer of history waiting to be discovered. Chelmsford’s history is richly told by maps, photographs and sound and video recordings, as well as documents. Come along to see and hear them for yourself, and for a talk from architectural historian Dr James Bettley on some of the major changes to the town since the Second World War.

Saturday 29 October, 10.30am-3.00pm (talk at 1.30pm)

Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, CM2 6YT

No need to book, suggested £2 donation (places at talk first-come-first-served)

Document of the Month, October 2016: ‘Barking Domesday’, c.1275

Katharine Schofield, Archivist

(D/DP M150)

We are publishing October’s Document of the Month a little early since we are excited about our conference Norman Essex: what did the Normans do for us? taking place this Saturday (1 October 2016). Despite the fact that it dates from about 200 years later, this document is named after that most famous of Norman documents – Domesday Book.

Compiled in 1086, Domesday Book records the lands in the possession of the king’s tenants-in-chief; Norman followers who were rewarded with land in return for military support.  By the end of the 12th century Domesday Book was held in sufficient respect to be kept with other important Exchequer documents and the Great Seal.  In c.1179 Henry II’s treasure Richard fitzNeal or fitzNigel described in his Dialogue of the Exchequer how it was known to the ‘native English’ as Domesday Book ‘not because it contains decisions on various difficult points, but because its decisions, like those of the Last Judgement, are unalterable.’img_1826-1080-watermarked

img_1831-1080-watermarkedOur Document of the Month follows in the footsteps of Domesday Book, and it is clearly headed with the words ‘domes daye’. It is the Ingatestone portion of the ‘Barking Domesday’, dating from  about 1275. Only two parts of the survey survive, a 15th century copy of the manor of Bulphan and this from the manor of Ingatestone which is stitched into a rental.  The survey names the tenants, gives a brief note of their landholdings and rent and then a much more detailed account of the labour services such as ploughing, hoeing, making hay, reaping and even gathering nuts that they owed to the lord of the manor and the times of year when they were due.

Although the words Domesday look as though they have been written in a different hand we do know that on 28 October 1322 the manorial court required the that the ‘Domesdaye de Berkyng’ be produced to answer a question about succession dues owed to the manor.

To find out more about what the original Domesdaye survey tells us about Essex, join us for Norman Essex this Saturday (1 October), and do have a look at the Barking Domesday if you visit the Searchroom during the coming month.

Zeppelins over Essex

On the night of 23 September 1916 12 Zeppelins crossed the Channel to attack locations around the country. Two of them were to make their final resting places in the fields of Essex, much to the surprise of the locals who found these giant machines descending upon them.

One of the giant airships, the L33, made a forced landing at Little Wigborough and the crew all walked away largely unharmed. The other, the L32, crashed in flames in Great Burstead, killing all on board.

There are many records in our collections which tell the stories of both of the airships coming down, from civilians, Special Constables, Police and the military.

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The wreck of Zeppelin L33 at Little Wigborough

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The wreck of Zeppelin L33 at Little Wigborough

Why were there Zeppelins over Essex?

Zeppelins were giant airships used by the Germans to drop bombs on Britain during the First World War. They were named after the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who pioneered them from 1895. They were filled with hydrogen which is lighter than air, but explosive. They were 650ft long and carried a crew of 22 and a payload of 2 tons of bombs.

Airships flew over Essex attempting to reach London. They crossed the North Sea and flew over the Essex coast, before following the Great Eastern Railway or the River Thames to London.  Many never reached their destination because of anti-aircraft guns around the capital, and turned back, dropping their bombs indiscriminately over Essex.

 

Zeppelin L33 – Little Wigborough

On the night of 23 September 1916 Zeppelin L33 was busy dropping incendiary bombs over Upminster and Bromley-by-Bow when it was hit by an anti-aircraft shell, despite being at an altitude of 4,000m. Its gas bags were punctured by shrapnel and it started to lose height.

By following the railway line, the crew navigated to Chelmsford where they were engaged by Lieut. A de B Brandon of the Royal Flying Corps, but his machine gun fire had no effect.

The ship was losing height and the crew jettisoned everything they could; items were found strewn across the fields over the next few days, including a machine gun, two cases of machine gun cartridges, and maps.

By 1.15 a.m. the ship had reached the coast, but the crew realised they could not make it back across the Channel.  The Commander, Kapitanleutenant Bocker, turned the ship inland and brought it down near Little Wigborough, narrowly missing some cottages.

Bocker spoke good English, and he warned the residents of the nearby cottages that the airmen were going to set fire to the airship to prevent it falling into British hands. The Zeppelin was burnt and left as a broken shell, but there was still much in the wreckage that the British could learn from in building their own airships.

The crew then set off to walk to Colchester to give themselves up. They were found on the road by a Special Constable and remained in captivity for the rest of the war.

 

Eyewitnesses

Records at the Essex Record Office include several eyewitness accounts of the both Zeppelins which came down on the night of 23 September 1916. One of the most detailed accounts of the descent of the L33 is an excited letter written by 40-year-old Rose Luard who lived nearby in Birch. (We have written before about her sister Kate Luard who was a nurse on the Western Front throughout the war.)

In her 6-page description Rose describes the ‘thrilling’ night the L33 landed in Wigborough, with most of the household dashing from window to window to see the drama unfolding a few fields away. On the following day members of the family went to see the wreckage:

The Zep. is a vast monster, lying in its naked framework of girders, across 2 fields & a land between them. Parts of it look absolutely unhurt, but of course the gas bag is all burnt and the bottom machinery part is all smashed on the ground, & its back is broken & bent in several places, so that it looks like a gigantic antediluvian reptile of sorts, with its nose posed in the air, & its tail intact behind. I tried to make a very rough sketch of its shape as it looked from the stubblefield, which was the nearest we were allowed to go, about a field off.

Her writing is a little tricky to read in places, but still the letter gives us a sense of the sensation the Zeppelin created in the village and surrounding areas; you can read a transcript of her whole letter here.

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Rose Luard’s sketch of the wreck of Zeppelin L33 at Little Wigborough, 24 September 1916 (D/DLu 76)

Police reports

There are several documents written by Police and Special Constables which tell us about what happened on the night of 23 September and in the following days and weeks. This letter from Captain M Ffinch reports on how the Special Constables of Peldon helped to control the traffic and sightseers which descended on the village on day after the Zeppelin landed. It also includes a report from Special Constable Edgar Nicholas, who was the first local man to encounter the German crew.

Nicholas described being in bed and hearing an explosion at about 1.20am. He got up and set off on his bicycle towards Little Wigborough, where he could see a fire. Before he reached the site of the wreck he came across the German crew who were trying to find their way to Colchester to hand themselves in. Nicholas followed them to Peldon village, talking to those in the crew who spoke English. One of the Germans asked him what English people thought about the war, and shook Nicholas’s hand. The party soon encountered other Special Constables and the crew was handed over to PC Charles Smith at Peldon, who telephoned the army to come and fetch the crew to take them prisoner.

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Report from Capt M Ffinch on the activities of the Peldon Special Constables on the surprise arrival of L33 (J/P 12/7)

Zeppelin L32 – Great Burstead

While the L33 was making its forced landing in Little Wigborough, the L32 had bigger problems.

It had dropped its bombs in Kent before flying north over Essex. It was spotted by a BE2c flown by 2nd Lieut. Frederick Sowrey, who hit the airship with incendiary bullets which set it alight. The L32 came down in flames near Great Burstead. The entire crew of 22 men was killed.

The following day, just as at Wigborough, the wreck site became a tourist attraction. Catherine Brown, who worked at the Kynochtown munitions factory at Corringham, later recalled:

The next morning, some of the girls who lived that way went to view the wreck. They also saw some of the poor lads who had been shot down; they only looked about 16 years. We could not help but feel for their mothers in Germany.

Sgt James McDiamid was stationed nearby with the Glasgow Yeomanry, who were despatched to help guard the wreck. On Monday 25 September he wrote to his brother Hugh giving his perspective on events:

Well, yesterday morning at 7a.m. we were sitting at breakfast when the adjutant came in and told us to be ready as soon as possible full marching orders – that is horses and men with everything on. The first twenty who were ready were sent off with Lieut. Young (I was one of them) to where the wrecked Zepp was. We had ten miles to go and we travelled hard. There was a mark along the road of the sweat off the horses. We trotted every step of that ten miles. We picketed our horses, left three men to guard them, and fixed bayonets and down about 20 yds to where the heap of wreckage was lying. We had to keep the people back form it. Everybody wanted a souvenir & most of them got it too. There must have been an explosion after she landed for there were bits found a mile away.

The heap of twisted bars of alliminimum [sic] was about 40 ft high. A tremendous pile, unless you saw it you would hardly credit it. Then the work of pulling out the bodies commenced. It was a gruesome job. The R.A.M.C. and the R Flying Corps did that. They got twenty two bodies. The commander was not badly smashed but some of the others were in an awful mess.

The crewmen were buried in Great Burstead churchyard. Their bodies were later moved to Cannock Chase.

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Burial of the crew of L32 at Great Burstead (D/P 139/1/23)

 

Sightseeing and souvenirs

The following day, both sites were abuzz with sightseers. Rose Luard described the scene at Wigborough:

A dazzling day & a very happy heterogeneous crowd of country people, mixed with Colchester of course, all taking their Sunday matins in that pleasant form. A good many soldiers and officers of course from Colchester, with their womenfolk & I saw one old General & lots of red tabs prancing [?] about on the stubble with the common herd. It was Fred & I who swelled the godless crowd. I persuaded him to come with my in the morning. Daisy & Nettie have gone this afternoon, but I expect the few hundreds will have swelled to thousands this afternoon. It was such a jolly local crowd, gazing at their own Zeppelin, none of y[ou]r hoards from London.

Special Constables, Police and the military were deployed to control the crowds. Sgt McDiamid told his brother:

The crowds were immense during the day but very orderly, altho’ quite annoyed at not getting closer. During the day there were six British aeroplanes and a British airship came along to see the wreckage. One of the aeroplanes landed not twenty yards from where I was standing.

Capt. M Ffinch sent the Special Constables of Peldon out ‘to assist in the control of the enormous traffic caused by the thousands of sightseers in all kinds of conveyances’.

Many of these sightseers wanted a little piece of Zeppelin of their own as a souvenir of their unusual experience, which caused an even greater problem for those tasked with guarding the wrecks.

The wrecks were considered to be of military importance, and punishments for anyone found with anything taken from the wreck sites were severe – a fine of £100 or imprisonment with hard labour for six months.

Despite the warnings, many people still collected and kept fragments of wreckage or other items – including, it seems, police and the military themselves. Rose Luard described:

Our Policemen got near & picked up a bit of the burnt gas bag covering and gave it to George whom I met on the field & he gave a bit to me. It is very fine canvas with a silky sheen on it.

Sgt McDiamid told his brother:

I got a lot of wee bits of Zepp but we were not supposed to take them away altho’ there wasn’t a man there who hadn’t a bit. This is a piece of it I picked up near it. The cloth is a piece of the commanders [sic] clothing.

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Two fragments reputed to be from Zeppelin L33 which have been made into pendants (M55, M56)

impact-of-catastrophe-cover-1080Even though this is one of our longer blog posts there is still plenty of material in the archive which we have not had space to mention. If you would like to know more, we recommend The Impact of Catastrophe by Paul Rusiecki which is available to read or buy at ERO (£17 + P&P – call us on 033301 32500) or to borrow from Essex Libraries. If you would like to go straight to the primary sources themselves, why not have a search on Essex Archives Online to discover what other stories our archives hold.

 

 

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On Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 2016 the village of Little Wigborough is holding Zepfest  to mark the centenary of the landing of L33 in their parish. There will be a small display from ERO in St Nicholas’s church, and there are activities taking place all weekend.

Meet the photographer

We’re getting excited to share the creative side of our collections with visitors at our Heritage Open Day next week (Saturday 10 September 2016), including an insight into our most extensive photographic collection, the Spalding Collection. This collection includes some 7,000 images depicting 19th and 20th century Essex, created by three generations of the Spalding family, all of them named Fred.

Alongside a display of some of the Spalding images, we will have our very own digitiser and early photography expert Andy Morgan with a display of historic cameras, to explain how the photographs were taken.

The first Fred Spalding (1830-1895) took up the new art form of photography in the 1860s. Born in Danbury, Spalding was the fifth child of a shoemaker, and had several lines of business before becoming a professional photographer (in an 1859 directory he is listed as a ‘bird stuffer and furniture broker’). By 1862 he was listed as Chelmsford’s only photographer, mastering the complex equipment and chemical processes demanded by the early days of the pursuit.

Tindal Square, Chelmsford, in 1876

Tindal Square, Chelmsford, in 1876, with the first Spalding shop in the centre. Spalding combined his photography business with a ‘fancy goods’ shop. To illuminate his portrait photographs with natural light, Spalding had a glass studio built on the roof, which can still be seen today. (D/Z 206/1/86)

At this stage Spalding would have been using the wet collodion method of photography, invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. To create an image, a glass plate was coated with a mixture of collodion and potassium iodide, sensitized with a solution of silver nitrate, and then exposed for anything from a few seconds to several minutes. While still damp, the chemicals were fixed and developed, producing a negative image on the glass plate, which could then be used to produce a positive print. The whole process – from coating the plate to making the exposure to developing the negative – had to be completed within about 10-15 minutes, before the chemicals had time to dry.

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Glass negatives on a lightbox. Some of the glass negatives in the Spalding collection are as large as 12×10 inches. Glass negatives can produce a wonderfully sharp image, but of course are extremely fragile.

This short Vine loop shows how we can use editing software such as Photoshop to turn an image taken from a glass negative into a positive image. This is a photograph of women at work in Marconi’s first factory in Hall Street, c.1900.

Fred Spalding’s earliest surviving view of the lower end of Chelmsford High Street, with Shire Hall visible in the distance, taken in the late 1860s on a glass plate using the wet collodion process. Taking a photograph outdoors using this process was extremely challenging. (D/F 269/1/3715)

Fred Spalding’s earliest surviving view of the lower end of Chelmsford High Street, with Shire Hall visible in the distance, taken in the late 1860s on a glass plate using the wet collodion process. Taking a photograph outdoors using this process was extremely challenging. (D/F 269/1/3715)

Victorian photographers experimented with different printing processes from albumen paper, coated with egg white to the later gelatin silver prints introduced in the 1880s. The Spaldings used a variety of processes including carbon print and platinotype in a search to find a print that would not fade.

The largest print from the Spalding collection, with a pencil to give an idea of scale. It shows the Prince of Wales’s visit to Easton lodge near Great Dunmow in 1891, the home of his mistress, Daisy, Countess of Warwick. The prince is standing in the centre of the back row, with Daisy to his left.

The largest print from the Spalding collection, with a pencil to give an idea of scale. It shows the Prince of Wales’s visit to Easton lodge near Great Dunmow in 1891, the home of his mistress, Daisy, Countess of Warwick. The prince is standing in the centre of the back row, with Daisy to his left.

Frederick Spalding junior (1858-1947) grew up immersed in the world of his father’s photography. In the early 1890s he moved the growing business to 4 Chelmsford High Street, next door to the Saracen’s Head Hotel, and built a reputation as a portrait, landscape, and commercial photographer.

Fred Spalding junior, photographed in his father’s studio in Tindal Square in the mid-1860s. (D/F 269/1/3719)

Fred Spalding junior, photographed in his father’s studio in Tindal Square in the mid-1860s. (D/F 269/1/3719)

By 1891, Frederick Spalding junior was well-established in his Chelmsford ‘fancy goods’ shop and photography business. In addition to portrait, landscape and commercial photography, Spalding took a keen interest in Chelmsford’s history, and fought to save ancient parts of the town, documenting them through photographs as they disappeared. Several of his photographs display a creative flair for posing groups of people – here are two of our favourite striking images.

Chelmsford Borough Fire Brigade proudly demonstrate their new fire escape ladder against the side of Chelmsford’s Corn Exchange, May 1899. Until 1918 the Chelmsford Fire Brigade relied on horses to pull their fire engines. (I/Sp 15/350)

Chelmsford Borough Fire Brigade proudly demonstrate their new fire escape ladder against the side of Chelmsford’s Corn Exchange, May 1899. Until 1918 the Chelmsford Fire Brigade relied on horses to pull their fire engines. (I/Sp 15/350)

Jackson’s dairy farm at Wickford, early 1920s, when new hygiene rules were having an effect on cowmen’s clothing. Essex became the first county to hold a clean milk competition in 1920. (D/F 269/1/4492)

Jackson’s dairy farm at Wickford, early 1920s, when new hygiene rules were having an effect on cowmen’s clothing. Essex became the first county to hold a clean milk competition in 1920. (D/F 269/1/4492)

Join us at our Heritage Open Day, a celebration of creativity in the archives, on Saturday 10 September 2016 to see more from the Spalding Collection, and lots more. You can find all of the details here.

Document of the Month, September 2016: History of Wormingford with illustrations by John Northcote Nash

Carol Walden, Archivist

September sees the opportunity to visit a huge range of locations across England through Heritage Open Days. Here at Essex Record Office we will be open 10am-4pm on Saturday 10 September and we’ve taken the theme of creativity in the archives to inspire our choice of activities and displays.

The current document of the month in the Searchroom is a history of Wormingford compiled by the Women’s Institute (WI) in 1958. The village is located approximately halfway between Colchester and Sudbury to the south of the River Stour. The history records the creation of Wormingford WI in 1926 saying that early talks included ‘How to keep a husband happy’ that decided ‘food and tobacco did the trick’! Due to the lack of a venue for meetings the WI petered out. It was re-started in 1949 when a village hall was built and C1046 and A11292 contain various records of the group.

The history draws on a number of sources to tell the story of the village from Palaeolithic times with copies of original records, photographs and illustrations. The latter are of particular note as they are reputed to have been sketched by local resident John Northcote Nash CBE, RA.

The information we have is that the illustrations are by Nash, but they are unsigned and there is no contemporary note in the typescript that they are by him. This could potentially be explained by the fact that none of the individual contributors to the history are named. A published edition of the history names his wife, Christine Nash, as the author of a drawing used on the front cover, but doesn’t attribute the other illustrations to anyone. We are attempting to make contact with art history specialists to confirm whether the information we have that the sketches are by John Nash is correct.

Wormingford history book with illustrations

History of Wormingford with illustrations reputed to be by John Northcote Nash (A11292)

Nash was certainly part of the local scene at the time the history was being compiled. From 1929 he spent the summers in Wormingford and in 1944 bought Bottengoms Farm in the village. He painted several scenes of the local area, such as this one of Melting Snow at Wormingford (1962) which today is at the Beecroft Art Gallery in Southend.

Nash, John Northcote; Melting Snow at Wormingford; Southend Museums Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/melting-snow-at-wormingford-2708

Nash, John Northcote; Melting Snow at Wormingford; Southend Museums Service (from Art UK website)

Nash was born in London in 1893 and later moved to Buckinghamshire. He began to train as a journalist but switched career path to follow his brother, Paul Nash, as an artist. Paul enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, which opened opportunities for both brothers; they went on to hold a successful joint exhibition of their work in London in November 1913.

In the autumn of 1916 John joined the Artists’ Rifles, fighting on the western front for nearly two years before becoming an official war artist, as his brother had already done. Much of his work from this time, including Over the Top (1917), is today held at the Imperial War Museum.

'Over The Top'. 1st Artists' Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917
‘Over The Top’. 1st Artists’ Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1656)

After the First World War Nash continued to paint in oils and watercolours as well as doing drawings and woodcuts for book illustrations, especially related to botany. From the 1920s to the end of his life Nash taught in Oxford at the Ruskin School of Art and in 1940 he was commissioned into the Royal Marines as an official war artist. Between the wars he had travelled extensively across Britain filling sketchbooks with drawings and notes to later be developed in the studio.

Nash was a founding member of the Colchester Art Society in 1946, serving as president between 1946 and 1979. He also taught at the Colchester Art School and held plant illustration classes at Flatford Mill in Suffolk. He continued to paint until his death in Colchester in 1977 and was buried at St Andrew’s, Wormingford.

The village history displayed in the Searchroom contains a number of sketches purported to be by Nash of views around Wormingford, including the ford, the old workhouse, the Queen’s Head and the mill. It is open to the pages showing a drawing of Mr William Sac, the last carrier, along with his horse Sturme and another of his cottage. The carrier departed Wormingford at 9.30am and arrived at The Bull, Colchester at 12 noon. It left for the return journey at 4.30pm arriving back in the village at 7pm, all for the cost of 6d for adults, 3d for children and parcels at 2d.

Wormingford history book with illustrations

Illustration of ‘The Last Carrier’ in history of Wormingford (A11292)

Other entries in the document mention the appearance of a ‘beast’, possibly a crocodile, in the valley (1400); visits by Elizabeth I to the village; accounts of witches, such as ‘Old Jemima’ (1880); bombs dropped by a Zeppelin in Metland Field (1914); and the Americans manning the airfield who ‘taught the village to chew gum’ (1939).

The typescript will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout September 2016.

Join us for our Heritage Open Day on Saturday 10 September, 10am-4pm – full details here.