What makes Christmas, Christmas? And how has this changed over the years?
Delving into some of the hundred-year-old newspapers we look after, we find some surprising things. Then, as now, newspapers were packed with adverts for food, drink, gifts, clothing, and even furniture which readers were encouraged to purchase for the festive season.
So what was being marketed to our ancestors as the perfect Christmas present? Before the days of music downloads and streaming, one ideal gift being advertised in Essex was a gramophone. Walker’s Music Warehouse in Clacton advertised their gramophones as ‘A most suitable and lasting present for the Festive Season’, and promised the machines would bring ‘to the home absolutely the very best vocalists and instrumentalists procurable’. Prices began at 34s (about £130 in today’s money), and went up to 12 Guineas (about £980 today).
Advert for gramophones from Walker’s Music Warehouse in Clacton from the Clacton Graphic, 16 December 1911
Large department stores offered a huge range of consumer goods, such as those advertised by J.R. Roberts in Stratford in the run up to Christmas 1911. For children, there were books and toys, such as dolls’ houses or toy trams. For ladies there were silk and lace blouses, fur wraps and muffs, handbags and wool and kid gloves. Men seem to have got the raw end of the deal, with only handkerchiefs being mentioned in this particular advert as gifts for men. Customers could order by post, and Roberts offered free delivery to any address within 20 miles of the shop or on orders of over 5 shillings.
Advert for Christmas presents at J.R. Roberts’ Stores in Stratford, Chelmsford Chronicle, 15 December 1911
If after a trip to Roberts you were still in doubt as to what to get for the lady in your life, J.G. Bond Ltd in Chelmsford had the perfect answer in the shape of ‘Baker’s Celebrated Chelmsford Lavender Water’.
Advert for Chelmsford lavender water, Chelmsford Chronicle, 15 December 1911
After presents had been chosen, what did shops suggest people might purchase to eat and drink over the festive season? The Clacton Stores on 22 Pier Avenue offered a huge range of luxury food items, from Seager’s Best Sausages, to Stilton and Roquefort, to everything needed to make and decorate a Christmas cake. Also available were crystallised fruit sweets, and ‘Fancy Boxes of Chocolates’. To drink, the Chelmsford Chronicle advertised Glen Spey Whiskey, made from finest barley malt, and Gilbey’s Invalid Port (a ‘Pure Health-giving Wine’).
Advert for The Clacton Stores, Clacton Graphic, 16 December 1911
Whiskey 15 Dec 1911 Chelmsford Chronicle 1080 watermark
While adverts abound for luxury, or ‘fancy’, items, there were also plenty of adverts for more practical gifts. 100 years ago, people were getting ready for the first peace time Christmas in five years. While luxury goods were still available, there were more adverts such as the one from Bolingbroke & Sons Ltd in Chelmsford, promoting ‘useful and moderate’ presents, ‘the very thing for this memorable Yule Tide’.
Bolingbroke Christmas advert 20 Dec 1918 Chelmsford Chronicle 1080 watermark
100 years ago, on 10th November 1919, Sister Kate Luard wrote a letter home. It was the last night of the First World War, and after everything she had witnessed and experienced in the last four years, she was trying to process that it would all soon be over.
Katherine Evelyn Luard was a remarkable woman. Over the last four years, as part of our contribution to marking the centenary of the First World War we have followed her progress as she nursed countless men on the Western Front. While she cared for the wounded, the sick, and the dying, she frequently wrote home, telling her family what she was experiencing.
Kate’s letters give a sense of a woman of enormous energy and adventurousness with a strong ethos of duty and service. A professional nurse, she trained in the 1890s when nursing was still not an entirely respectable profession for a young woman. She served as a military nurse in the Boer War before returning to civilian nursing. On the outbreak of the First World War she volunteered again as a military nurse, and arrived in France just days after the war had started. Apart from short periods of leave, she remained on the Western Front throughout the conflict, only returning home in December 1918 to care for her aging father.
The letter she wrote on the 10th November 1918 is an extraordinary document, and we thought it worth sharing with you here in full, 100 years after it was written. The letter will be on display in the ERO Searchroom until January 2019.
The first page of Kate Luard’s letter home written on 10th November 1918
Sunday night Nov 10th
Dear G & N, you have given me the details about Oxford that I was wanting to know, but Ellie must tell me all the heavenly & funny things Joan said one day. Rose’s letter today of her friend who died the day they found it out shows what a treacherous illness it is: just the same happens here. While I am writing to the mother to say he is seriously ill, a slip comes from the Ward to say he is dead. And I don’t think any doctoring or nursing has the slightest effect in this virulent pneumonia. You might as well give an empty cylinder as give oxygen: their lungs get blocked & their lips and faces turn black & it is all over. The delirium is one of the most difficult parts when you are short of staff. I stopped one dying Sergt who was getting out of bed with nothing but a pyjama jacket on, because he wanted to get to his men. “No officers?” he kept saying “Are there no officers? then I must take charge.”
[Vertically up the page] What a nice letter from A.F. London about the Salonika Army
Or they get a fixed idea that they are ‘absent without leave’ & must ‘rejoin my battalion’. None of us have ever seen it before in this virulent epidemic form, & the mortality is extraordinarily depressing. In one ward 17 out of 21 died in a few days. Everyone in the influenza wards has to wear a gauze mask & we make a point of off duty time for them. So far only 1 Sister & 2 VADs & three orderlies have gone sick with it, & they are not pneumonic. Several sisters & 1 VAD have died at the Sick Sisters Hosp. No. 8 Gen.
I think it is abating a little. I am so glad Rose is having a rest. Did G go back to Mr A’s? When does Daisy come back from Nash?
There is the most angelic baby Gerry here who had his leg off yesterday. He is so pleased that his mother will see him with a new leg with no pain in it! He has shining golden hair, blue eyes & a child’s smile. Everyone spoils him.
We haven’t nearly so many in now. All our best wards are British again.
About the War, is this really the last night our own RAF will go over dropping destruction into hundreds of Germans? They have already stopped coming over to us I believe. Is tomorrow morning the last time of ‘standing to’, & listening posts, & firesteps, & swimming canals under mg [machine gun] fire & Zero hours & fractured femurs & smashed jaws & mustard gas & the crash of bombs & all the strange doings of the last four years?
It is quite impossible for a war-soaked brain like mine to think in terms of peace; war has come to be natural – peace unnatural.
[Vertically up the page] 1000 thanks for all your letters
This afternoon at the lovely big service at the Cathedral just like St Paul’s with beautiful singing, & the sun lighting up the tracings of the roof, one realised that all the War Intercessions of the last years are about to be answered & as far as actual War goes will be meaningless after tomorrow, though the sick & wounded & bereaved part goes on yet. What a vital set of new Intercessions the Nations will need now, with the warnings of Russia Bulgaria Austria & Germany all disrupting in turn.
There’s nothing Bolshevik about us or the French thank goodness. The French are so domestic & practical & matter of fact just now. In Rouen (apart from the British occupation it amounts to that) you’d never know there’d been a War.
I can’t help wishing Foch had asked Douglas Haig as well as his old pal & Rosie Wemyss to meet the German Plenies. He wouldn’t have won this War without us.
I wish we could ask RW to lunch one day & make him tell us about it, the bowing & saluting & Foch refusing point blank to suspend hostilities during the 72 hours.
What I feel nervous about is who’s going to be responsible for carrying out our terms if they accept them, now they’ve booted out William & Max, & probably Hindenburg & Tirpitz & Ludendorff & Hertling & Hollweg & everyone who has ever run the ship of state? Can the saddler control the nation?
All these awakening citizens must feel such dupes & fools to have bootlicked the Hohenzollern inflation so long. The brave ones who have died for the Fatherland will never know that it wasn’t for the Fatherland at all, as far as victory goes, though perhaps all this mess up will be their salvation in the end, as it has ours.
In a way it seems almost a bigger change from War to Peace than it was from Peace to War – perhaps because there was nothing very glorious about out last 10 years of peace & everything about our 4 years of War has been very glorious.
Love to father
 Joan was Kate’s niece, who had just died of influenza, aged 19. Ellie was Joan’s mother. Ellie had already lost her husband Frank, Kate’s brother, who was killed at Gallipoli.
On Monday 11th November 1918, news that an armistice had been agreed and that the fighting would cease at 11am that day spread through Essex. After over four years of sacrifice and slaughter, how did people react to the news that the war was finally coming to an end?
The Essex County Chronicle reported on the Armistice on 16th November 1918
The news was announced in various ways; in Chelmsford the Essex County Chronicle exhibited a notice in their office window:
‘Peace – Official:
Armistice signed at 5 o’clock this morning; hostilities cease at 11.’
Factories sounded their hooters and whistles, church bells rang out, and the drivers of railway engines sounded their whistles. According to reports in the Essex County Chronicle of 16th November 1918, within a short time most towns were ablaze with flags and bunting, and the streets crowded with people. In Braintree, for example, ‘all work ceased and joyous scenes began’. (In Bishop Stortford, it was reported that a good trade had been done in flags and bunting over the weekend in anticipation of the good news.)
The day was declared a holiday; in Chelmsford, ‘Hoffmann’s great works emptied themselves of the thousands of workpeople’, while in Braintree ‘girl and men workers’ from Crittall’s and Lake and Elliot’s works flooded out. In Dagenham, the managing director of the Sterling Telephone and Electric Company, Mr Guy Burney, was the one to break the news to the workers. The factory staff sang the National Anthem and Rule Britannia, and had a ‘short impromptu dance’.
Across the county, high streets and market squares were filled with people, impromptu speeches were made, and bands played patriotic songs, hymns, and the National Anthem. In Chelmsford, reported the Chronicle, ‘Soldiers and civilians shook each other by the hand, and everyone wanted to laugh, cheer, and shed a tear of gladness at the same time’.
In Witham, a procession paraded the streets composed of women workers from a local munitions workshop, and Scottish soldiers billeted in the town, ‘carrying a large Union Jack and singing joyfully’.
In Halstead, alongside celebrations in the streets, 21 shots were fired from a cannon at Halstead Brewery by one of the owners, Lt. Adams, who also held a commission in the Naval Volunteer Reserve.
In Romford, music was provided in the afternoon by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Band, who were stationed nearby. There was no military band in Writtle, but recovering wounded men paraded ‘with a tin kettle and bath band’.
In Dagenham, a spontaneous football match was arranged between the RAF based at Sutton’s Farm, and workers from the Sterling factory; the result was a 4-2 win for the factory side.
In Doddinghurst things were a bit more sedate; a whist drive was held in the afternoon to raise money for prisoners of war.
In many places the Christian religion played a central role on Armistice Day, with most churches holding services of thanksgiving in the evening. Vicars spoke to very large congregations; at Chelmsford Cathedral people spilled out into the porch and outside. The central theme of the sermons reported in the Chronicle was giving thanks to God for the Allied victory. One vicar in Brentwood spoke of how he believed that ‘a supernatural power’ had brought about the Victory, and gave thanks for ‘what was to be, they believed, a permanent peace’.
Celebrations continued into the evening (troops in a camp near Bishop Stortford were told by their commander that they would be allowed out until the heady hour of 11pm). In Braintree, the evening brought a concert, arranged by discharged soldiers, held in the Institute Hall. In Bishop Stortford, a large number of people were still gathered in the market square, and local Volunteers paraded, with light being provided by the Fire Brigade carrying torches, and the parade being joined by soldiers, women workers, wounded, and school children. ‘Most of the lamps in the streets had been lighted, and welcome lights again shone from windows.’
Celebrations in Witham were a little different; at 10pm, ‘a great bonfire was lit in the old Market Place in the middle of Witham High Street. Tar barrels, with a quantity of tar, boxes, timber, and other fuel were provided, and a great flare was created, reaching as high as the tops of houses adjoining the street. A crown of many hundred people, soldiers, sailors, munition girls, and townspeople, assembled round the fire, dancing, singing patriotic songs, and generally enjoying themselves. The fire, which lasted four hours, was the greatest seen for many years in Witham Street, where on previous historic occasions such fires were lighted’. The townspeople enjoyed the bonfire so much, they had another one the following night on the green opposite the church, this time with fireworks, while patriotic songs were sung and the church bells pealed.
In Bures the occasion was also marked with a bonfire, the villagers going as far as to burn an effigy of the Kaiser ‘amid loud shouts of approval’.
In Dunmow, meanwhile, German prisoners of war accommodated in the town workhouse also welcomed the news with a smoking concert in the evening. The end of the war ‘gave them obvious pleasure, as did the turn events had taken regarding the Kaiser’. The over 200 Germans sang German songs ‘for some hours’, and apparently many ‘expressed the hope that they would not be compelled to go back to Germany, but allowed to stay at their present employment in England’.
Some towns continued the celebration over the following days. In Braintree, factories remained closed on Tuesday, and ‘processions paraded the town all day, headed by the ugle bands of the Cadets and Boy Scouts, and the newly formed Brass Band’ (which had got together the previous day). In Halstead, a service of thanksgiving was held in the Town Hall on Wednesday, with people coming from all the town’s places of worship. The service finished on Market Hill, and bells of nearby St Andrew’s church rang out, the tower being decorated with national flags and bunting
Alongside the celebrations though, people also remembered those they had lost. In Braintree, amid ‘all the rejoicing people could be seen weeping for their relatives who had made the supreme sacrifice, and generally the gladness manifested was tinged with sorrow for the fallen.’
On this World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, our Sound Archivist Sarah-Joy Maddeaux shares news of a new collection of moving stories that have recently been added to the archive.
What does ‘home’ mean? What does it mean to be ‘British’? What does it mean to be Black in Britain? What can we learn from our elders? And what does all of this have to do with a Caribbean restaurant in Colchester?
We are delighted to announce that we have received, catalogued, and published the interviews created by Evewright Arts Foundation for their Caribbean Takeaway Takeover exhibition. From 2017 to 2018, artist Everton Wright (EVEWRIGHT), staff, and volunteers of his art foundation recorded oral history interviews with 10 elders who moved to the UK from the Caribbean in the 1940s to 1960s.
Last summer, on the on the weekend of the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush to Tilbury, Evewright ‘took over’ the S&S Caribbean Café in St Johns Street, Colchester, redecorating the walls and tables with pictures and documents relating to these elders’ lives. Ten-minute segments from their interviews played on a loop in the café, making the exhibition fully immersive. A number of community events encouraged engagement with the exhibition, and thereby with the incredible stories of these elders.
Detail of art installation at S&S Caribbean Café, 2018 (c) Evewright
The elders generously granted us permission to make their interviews freely available through our catalogue. Search for ‘EVEWRIGHT’ on Essex Archives Online, or type ‘SA 69’ in the ‘Document reference’ box to find all ten interviews.
One of the most exciting interviews is that with Alford Gardner. Now aged 92, he is one of the few remaining passengers who travelled on the SS Empire Windrush, the first ship to bring West Indians to settle in post-war Britain. His vivid description of life on board the ship gives an impression of a fun communal experience. His optimism for the future took time to realise, as he faced initial opposition when he tried to settle in Leeds. He was treated very differently in 1948 than when he had previously spent time there as part of the Royal Air Force.
Alford Gardner describes the struggle to find accommodation in Leeds in 1948 (SA 69/1/3/1).
As a collection, the interviews reveal a number of similarities in the elders’ experiences, but also some significant differences – factors that determined whether their move was overall a positive step, or a negative one which they came to regret.
As we might expect, many commented on adjusting to cold, wet England, and coming to appreciate the heating that required houses to have chimneys, which in the Caribbean only appeared on factories or bakeries.
Nell Green‘s first impression of the houses in England (SA 69/1/4/1).
Some recalled their first taste of fish and chips – but others were glad that they could access London markets to purchase the tastes of home, such as yams, tanier, dasheen, or plantain.
In the 1940s to 1960s, British people might have felt like they were being overwhelmed by new arrivals from the Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries, an impression heightened by unfair media portrayals and some politicians stoking fear. However, to the West Indians moving to Britain, black faces were all too scarce. Many interviewees described finding and socialising with other West Indians, particularly in London. Some women became adoptive mothers, inviting young people into their homes and cooking meals for them, helping them adjust to life in this strange, cold country. Was this because it was difficult to make friends with English people? Or was it because we naturally gravitate towards those who share our heritage, with whom we can feel ‘at home’ and recapture something of the country that we left behind?
Carol Sydney‘s social life as a young trainee nurse (SA 69/1/5/1)
Experiences depended, partly, on the financial position and status of the individuals before they moved. Life was easier for those who had money to spend on decent accommodation. Life was also easier if you already had family in England to support you, or if you found a job that you enjoyed and where you were treated with respect. In contrast, it was most difficult for the earliest migrants, the Black people trying to settle in the 1950s amidst Teddy Boy attacks and ‘No cats, no dogs, no Blacks’ signs. It became a little easier for those who arrived in the 1960s and beyond. Many Black people began purchasing their rented homes using a traditional saving scheme called Susu or Pardnor. This enabled them to become landlords to other Black people seeking rooms to rent.
Don Sydney explains the Susu saving scheme that allowed West Indians to support each other in saving up for accommodation and furnishings (SA 69/1/6/1).
Yet, sadly, racist treatment was a shared experience right through the time period covered in the interviews, reported to some extent by each elder.
Carlton Darrell was dismissive of these examples of prejudice against him (SA 69/1/2/1). Is this because he felt it was inevitable, or because he considered himself fortunate compared to others?
Did Britain ever become ‘home’? Yes and no. Some indicated that they still missed their ‘home country’ and wished they could return. Others alluded to a feeling that they were not ‘foreigners’ anymore, but neither were they fully British – even though, coming from Commonwealth countries, they were British subjects before they even set foot on England’s shores.
Carol Sydney reflects on what it means to be ‘British’ (SA 69/1/5/1).
Overall, most of the interviewees were pleased with how their lives had turned out. Does this reflect the type of person they were? That they took the initiative to move to England, the so-called ‘Promised Land’, in search of self-improvement and a better life? Even if they did not believe the ‘streets paved with gold’ promise, many mentioned that Britain did hold a promise of better education, better jobs, and better salaries. Did this proactive attitude make them more resilient, more likely to be happier with what they have accomplished?
Alton Watkins looks back with satisfaction on his life and his accomplishments (SA 69/1/8/1).
They certainly contributed to British society. In their work as nurses, teachers, and midwives, they helped produce the next generation of Britain’s workers. They paid taxes. They contributed to the economy. In retirement, they are volunteering in schools, sports clubs, and libraries.
However, even now, there is more that these elders can contribute. Most of the interviewees acknowledged a persistence of racist attitudes in Britain, some indicating that it is growing worse. Perhaps the interviews, and the exhibition that was held in the summer, will help in the battle to humanise migrants and demonstrate all that they have overcome in their lives.
In this year of the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush ship arriving in Tilbury; the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service that partly prompted recruitment calls across the Commonwealth; this year of the Windrush scandal, we are grateful to Evewright Arts Foundation for capturing these individual stories that add meaning to national headlines.
Valina with students from the Ursuline School in Brentwood visiting ERO
What is the census?
The census counts everyone living in the UK on a particular day and tells us a little about them – their name, age and where they live. The census is used by the government and local authorities to help plan new schools, houses and roads. A census has been taken in Britain every 10 years since 1841 (except for 1941, when everyone was busy with the Second World War). To keep everyone’s personal information safe we are not able to look at the Census for 100 years. It then becomes interesting for another reason – as a fantastic source for finding out about the past.
How do I find census records?
You can come to the Essex Record Office! Using computers in the ERO you can access all census records (and much more) via Ancestry for free. It is not possible to print from these computers, but by pressing the green ‘save’ button in the top right hand corner, you will be given the option to e-mail it to yourself.
If you’ve not visited ERO before, our short video will tell you what to expect from your first visit:
The National Archive has selected a few interesting examples of census records which yo can see here – including census records for Queen Victoria, a poor London family, industry in Lancashire and a 1911 census tampered with by a suffragette!
Or there are examples here in this blog post that relate to Essex that could be useful to you. If you use them in your classroom, please let us know with a quick e-mail to Heritage.Education@essex.gov.uk
How can I use the census in my classroom?
History: A Local history Study
Try searching for the location of your school and discover interesting local characters from the past. To start a local history study present the children with a census page like this and ask them what information we could find out from it. Perhaps set tasks, like finding the oldest person on the page or the youngest. Can they find a scholar (a child who goes to school)?
Census records record who was living or staying at each address in the country on the night the census was taken. The first column gives the address followed by individuals’ names, marital status, ages, occupations, and where they were born.
What caught my eye on this 1881 census was a gentleman living at 31 Church End in Great Dunmow, who will forever be remembered now as ‘Old Joe’. At first I felt bad that Joe’s surname had been lost to history, until I looked down and found ‘His Wife’ – no first name or surname correctly recorded. Perhaps this could lead to a discussion about how women or immigrants (they are originally from Ireland) were viewed in Victorian Society.
History: the lives of significant individuals
Try putting the names of significant individuals from Victorian times into Ancestry. Refine your results by looking only at ‘Census and Voter Lists’.
In 1851 Florence Nightingale is with her parents and the section of the Census for occupation is left blank.
In 1861 Florence Nightingale is now ‘formerly [a] Hospital Nurse’:
What happened in the 10 years in between? Can the children find out? Hint: they should come back with something like – she became a nurse, tended the wounded of the Crimean War, showed that trained nurses and clean hospitals could save hundreds of lives, set up a training hospital and is credited with founding modern nursing.
History: Children’s History
This page shows some of the boys described as ‘inmates’ at Colchester Union Workhouse in 1891.
By this time school is free and compulsory for all children and we know that North School in Colchester, nearby and newly built, accepted some of these children as students. How could this have changed these children’s lives?
What might your students discover in their local census records?
English: creative writing
Start by challenging children’s information retrieval skills, asking what information they can gather from this 1851 census. Perhaps choose one person to be the character in a story – what do we know about them? How can we create a story from this?
Sarah’s story could start like this:
Sarah Waters awoke with a start.
“Sarah” she heard her father call urgently, “Sarah! Anne needs you!”
She suddenly realised that he wasn’t calling her, he was calling her mother. Sarah’s baby sister Anne was crying again. Sarah was glad she had woken up, because it was nearly time to school ….
Sarah made her way downstairs through her father’s shoe making workshop. The overwhelming smell of leather and glue made her feel a little dizzy, but she soon got used to it….
Sarah stepped out of her house on Railway Street. Railway Street was always dirty from the factories nearby pumping smoke from their chimneys. Sarah was on her best behaviour, as quiet as a mouse, when she walked past the house next door. It belonged to Mrs. Midson her strict, scary school teacher.
Other ways you can use Census records
The Census has amazing potential for Geography – especially showing movement and migration and how this is nothing new. Children could use a page from the census and maps to locate people have moved from. Census pages are often full of marks and dashes – where clerks have compiled information to inform government policy. In a maths lesson children could follow in their footsteps and answer questions like: how many children are there? How many people are over 60 years old? How many people are living in a different place to where they are born. An IT class gives the potential for children to present the information in fun and interesting ways – using charts and graphics.
Our Learning from History Manager, Valina Bowman-Burns, is here to bring the past to life for schools. Here she shows us how one of our local primary schools has changed over the last hundred years – and what has stayed the same.
The archive holds a beautiful collection of photographs. The ones of Ford End School were particularly detailed capturing the school inside and out. Inspired by this I wanted to retrace the photographer’s steps and retake the photographs. The kind staff and pupils of Ford End Primary School made me very welcome and showed me around their school.
In taking this photograph of the front of the school I came across an issue the original photographer probably did not have: the fast moving and constant traffic on the road through Ford End – changing the soundscape as well as the look of the area.
This image shows the back of the school. Here we see a hard working group bringing in the harvest with horse and carts.
There are still working farms around the school, but this particular area is now the school playground for games and fun.
However some traditions have been continued. Here we see the former pupils of Ford End working together to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
The school still has an allotment. Unfortunately my photograph from a chilly day in February doesn’t show the area in its full glory, but pupils today are still growing their own.
This is my favourite of all the Ford End photographs. I have shared this image with schools around Essex. The pupils’ sharp eyes still sometimes pick out features that I hadn’t noticed before. There are clues on the walls and around the room that hint at science, art and geography lessons.
Believe it or not – this is the same classroom! It is now divided into three rooms: a class room, a staff room and the head teacher’s office, but the windows and chimney are in the same place. I was not able to stand in exactly the same place as the original photographer due to the addition of a cloak room.
In 1900 the girls are sewing and the boys are writing. Present day we have a vibrant classroom with computers and smart boards. The layout and position of the desks are different and the children’s best work is displayed on the wall. The number of children in a class has decreased. I counted around 70 in the Victorian classroom, the school today has around 70 children in total, divided into different classrooms. The gaslights have been replaced by electric lights and the fireplace has been boarded up and replaced by radiators.
Do you remember the three arched windows nearest to us in the photograph of the front of the school? We could also see it at the back of the Victorian classroom from the inside. That distinctive window is still there, but a dividing wall now makes this the head teacher’s office. There is no false ceiling here and the full height of the Victorian classroom can be seen.
The small staff room shows the two internal walls that have been added. Notice through the window the wall and entrance gate, still in the same location.
One mystery remains. This photograph shows a cookery lesson. Searching the school for original features like the high ceiling, fireplace and what appears to be a very large door at the end of the room. I looked around hoping to rediscover the beautiful murals around the room – the black and white photograph hinting at the possibility of vibrant colour and a perhaps a moral story unfolding for the improvement of the children’s minds.
Yet it could not be found. It is certainly not in the current school building, but could be in Ford End or perhaps further afield. We know that pupils used to be bundled onto a carriage –perhaps to reach this classroom?
Do you know where this is? Do you have any school memories that you would like to share?
23 August is Slavery Remembrance Day, which seemed an appropriate moment to highlight this document, which is one of the darker things in our collection.
The document dates from 1822 and is part of a series of papers which relate to the administration of the estate of Stella Frances Allen, née Freeman, who had died in 1821 (D/Dc F9/8). Stella had inherited estates owned by her family in Jamaica, which relied on slave labour, and this document lists the slaves who were at work on the family’s Belvidere plantation in the parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East in Jamaica. The lists give the name, colour, and age of the slaves, and whether they had been born in Africa or the West Indies.
The lists of enslaved people stretch over four substantial parchment sheets
The documents were compiled by George Cuthbert, who seems to have been the Freeman family’s agent on the Belvidere estate
The document lists the names, ‘color’, and ages of the enslaved people forced to work on the estate, and whether there were born in Africa or the West Indies
In the ‘color’ column, people are listed as being either ‘Negro’, ‘Sambo’, ‘Mulatto’, or ‘Quadroon’ – terms which today are considered offensive and have fallen out of use. These terms were used at the time to categorise people based on their skin colour and ancestry; definitions for these terms are given in the Oxford English Dictionary as follows:
‘Negro’: a person of Black African origin or descent
‘Sambo’: this word seems to have several meanings, and was often used as an offensive nickname for Black people. It could also be used to mean someone who had one ‘Negro’ parent and one ‘Mulatto’ parent.
‘Mulatto’: a person with one white parent and one Black parent
‘Quadroon’: a person with one Black grandparent
The fact that people were categorised in this way based on the colour of their skin, and the skin colour of their ancestors, is deeply uncomfortable to read today, but provides a stark insight into the mindset of the time.
Another column, titled ‘African or Creole’, gives an indication of where each person was born, i.e. whether in Africa, or in the West Indies. One man, John Williams, aged 55, is described in this column as ‘American’.
There are actually two lists, or schedules, in the document; one from 1817 and the other from 1820. In 1817 there were 355 enslaved people engaged in forced labour on the estate – 182 men and 173 women – and in 1820 there were 348. The 1820 schedule notes that since 1817 there had been 21 births and 28 deaths amongst the enslaved people on the plantation. The reasons for deaths are given, including fever, old age, ‘mal d’Estomac’ (literally, a ‘bad stomach’), tetanus, and dropsy. One enslaved man, John Whitfinch, was named but noted to have ‘run away since 1818’.
Part of the 1820 schedule which records reasons of death, and curiously also one case of ‘transportation’
Perhaps especially disturbingly, there are also several children, toddlers and babies listed, including in 1817 Biddy, aged 5 days, daughter of Aneilla Mowatt, and Penny, 1 month, daughter of Jane Williams. Sometimes it is possible to identify three generations amongst the enslaved worker: 9-year-old Clara was the daughter of Henny Richard, aged 30, whose mother was Mary Richards, aged 55.
Some of the very young children listed on the 1817 schedule
Even though the slave trade had been abolished in Britain in 1807, the whole system of slavery in British-held territories was not abolished until 1833. The British government granted £20 million in compensation, to be paid by British taxpayers, not to the slaves themselves, but to the slave owners who were losing their ‘property’. Stella Allen had already died by this point, and the compensation for the slaves she had owned was paid to her executor, Capel Cure of Blake Hall in Bobbingworth (detailed in Stella Freeman’s entry on the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project).
Seeing this list of people ‘owned’ by other people is a chilling experience, and reminds us that much of the wealth of Britain at that time was built on the horrendous practices of enslavement.
A search on Essex Archives Online for the word ‘slave’ brings up 76 results; there are plenty of other stories relating to this dark period in our history waiting to be uncovered.
During our project You Are Hear: sound and sense of place, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we aimed to digitise some 1,800 recordings from the Essex Sound and Video Archive (ESVA), and made them available for free through Essex Archives Online, and on SoundCloud and YouTube. But how does the digitisation process actually happen? Sound technician Catherine Norris, who has ploughed nobly through hours and hours of ESVA recordings to digitise them for You Are Hear, is here to tell us.
Catherine all smiles at the beginning of the project ensconced in one of our sound studios
It’s hard to believe that almost three years have gone by since I started working on the You Are Hear (YAH) project. It’s been a journey that has involved digitising analogue formats using many different vintage players along with digital interfaces to ensure the best digital version of the original source.
Over the course of the project I have dipped into many of our Sound Archive collections and by doing so I have learnt a lot about Essex’s heritage though oral history, music, radio broadcasts and videos. I have also enhanced my skills as a sound engineer and as a digitiser.
I have enjoyed the many different aspects of working on the project, from being involved in the digitisation process; to giving a speech at the launch of the Essex Sounds audio map; going to see listening bench launches in Galleywood and Chelmsford and chatting to the volunteers involved; and also organising and running a successful sound walk in Chelmsford.
Residents enjoying a cup of tea at the launch of the Saffron Walden listening bench. 20 benches are now in place around the county loaded with recordings that Catherine has digitised
YAH project officer Sarah-Joy Maddeaux has kept me busy and given me a steady workflow throughout and chose the content that was to be used on our audio-video kiosks, listening benches and Essex Sounds map. It has been my job to make sure I digitised the content for when she needed it by, so that it could be used for the part of the project that it was required for.
There have been different parts to my role, not just the digitisation process – but this is of course an incredibly important part. With everything that I have worked on, if I don’t get that part right everything that comes after it would not have panned out the way it should have done.
The digitisation process starts with locating and retrieving the audio and video material from storage, then checking and making sure that it is playable. Once the material has been prepared I check that I have all the equipment that I need to do the job.
For digitisation to take place I use a mixture of old and new equipment depending on what the material is that I am digitising. During the course of the project, for the majority of the content I have digitised I have used Denon cassette players, Revox reel machines and VHS players.
A unit containing (from top to bottom), a mini disc player, a cassette player, a compact disc player, a sound mixer, and a digital interface
The ReVox reel to reel machine:
A VHS player – who remembers these?
My personal favourite has to be our Sony Stereo Tapecorder (TC-630). It has lots of quirks about it and if a machine could have a personality then this one does, it certainly kept me on my toes whist I was using it!
When setting up the equipment I also have to make sure that it is cleaned before placing the material waiting to be digitised onto or into it. To do this I soak a cotton swab in an electronic cleaning solvent and use it to clean the parts of the machine where the tape will touch. It is important to do this before a digitisation but I also do this afterwards so that the equipment is well looked after and so that dirt is not left to get stuck in the tape heads.
To turn the analogue signal into a digital signal we use a digital interface. We have two, one for each studio at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. We have the Apogee Rosetta and the Prism Sound Orpheus. Both of these take an analogue signal (electromagnetic signals on tape) and convert it to digital (a series of 1s and 0s that can be read by a computer). I also use cables, a sound mixer and speakers to hear what I am doing, and a level mixer (Behringer Ultralink Pro) so I can change the signal if it is too high or low. I use a PC and a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) which allows me to record the digital version of an analogue recording. My main aim is to capture the best version I possibly can of an analogue recording, and the equipment in our studios has made sure that I have been able to do that.
The Rosetta 800 digital interface, which converts analogue signals into digital information
With each piece of work once a Master digital copy has been created, an access copy (MP3 for sound, or MP4 for video)) is next to do. I would have to access the original digital version (WAV for sound, AVI for Video) and see if there was anything I could to enhance it using a DAW. For example if there is a lot of distortion I can use various techniques in audio editing software to reduce the effect it has on the recording. Also if needed there are techniques I can use to change amplitude and compression and noise reduction.
For the project I have also created digital clips of audio and film if the whole version is not required for the benches and kiosks. I also extract picture stills from films and take photographs and scans of items with picture covers.
One of the You Are Hear kiosks at ERO – two others can be found at Saffron Walden Library and Harlow Museum
Throughout all the different processes I collate and write down information about each item. This information is added to a metadata spreadsheet where the information is kept, to help continue monitoring and preserving the digital files.
During the project I have dipped in and out of the collection Acc. SA654 which contains boxes of different BBC Essex recordings. A box which I have digitised a few recordings from during the project is Sound Of Essex. As we have come to the end of the project Sarah-Joy and I discussed what I could finish with and decided that this was good box to complete. It is a box of 31 Zonal 675 Five Inch spool, matt backed, standard play 1/4 inch tape reels that contain interesting recordings of people accents from around the county.
While I was digitising the reels we thought it would be useful to film parts of the process as a guide to show how I digitised the reels in the Sound of Essex box.
Preparing the Reel Machine for Digitisation.
Before using a reel machine it must be prepared for use by cleaning the tape heads and areas where the tape and reels will be touching.
1 Dip a cotton swab in Iso-Propyl alcohol
2 Clean the spindles, tape heads and all areas where the reel and tape may touch.
3 Use as many cotton swabs dipped in Iso-Propyl alcohol as necessary to make sure that the machine is ready to be used.
Setting up the Tape Reel Machine
The tape reel machine is key in providing the analogue signal that needs to be digitised. I place an empty reel on the second spindle.
1 On the first spindle place the reel you wish to digitise.
2 Use the guide table to thread through past the tape heads to and around the empty reel.
3 Make sure both reels are secure and that the centres are locked in place.
Creating a Digital Signal
For preservation purposes I forward and rewind the reel and briefly test the recording levels.
To create a digital signal we use –
1 The Behringer Ultralink Pro (Level Mixer) to adjust the recording levels. This is connected to the reel machine.
2 The Prism Sound Orpheus (Digital Interface) to change the analogue signal to a digital signal.
3 By using cables the digital signal is sent from the digital interface to the computer and is recorded using a digital audio workstation.
4 Once setup is complete press record on your DAW (Wavelab 8.5) and press play on the tape machine.
The Library Wind
Once digitisation is complete I can then save my master wav file and begin the next part of the process.
Part of preservation for tape reels is the library wind. We do not use the rewind button as we want the reel to be rewound in real time.
1 Take the empty reel off the first spindle.
2 Turn over the full reel and place it on the first spindle.
3 Place the empty reel on the second spindle.
4 Carefully thread the tape thread through past the tape heads to and around the empty reel.
5 Make sure both reels are secure and that the centres are locked in place.
6 Press play and continue until you reach the end of the tape.
7 Tape reel is now ready to be repackaged.
I have learnt so much over the course of the project and have enjoyed all the different aspects of digitisation but it was nice to finish with such an interesting box of reels. The digital versions of these recordings, along with hundreds of hours of other recordings, can for found on the ERO’s SoundCloud channel:
We hope that people across Essex, and beyond, will enjoy the results of the You Are Hear project for many years to come!
In August 918 years ago, the king of England died in suspicious circumstances. Here, our medieval specialist Katharine Schofield discusses what may or may not have happened that day, and the Essex connections of the man rumoured to have killed the king.
On 2 August 1100 William II was killed while hunting in the New Forest. William (also known as William Rufus) was the son of William the Conqueror, and had inherited the kingdom of England on the death of his father in 1087.
William II drawn by Matthew Paris
The earliest account of his death in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that he was shot by an arrow by one of his men. Later chroniclers named Walter Tirel as the man who fired the fatal shot. Opinions vary as to whether Rufus met his death by accident or design.
Tirel was a renowned bowman; one account of William’s death records that at the start of the day’s hunting the king was presented with six arrows, two of which he gave to Tirel with the words Bon archer, bonnes fleches [To the good archer, the good arrows].
Other chroniclers record that Tirel let off a wild shot at a stag which he missed, hitting the king instead. Tirel took no chances and fled to France, according to legend having the horseshoes of his horse reversed to throw off any pursuit. In France he always maintained his innocence. Abbot Suger of St. Denis who knew Tirel in France recorded ‘I have often heard him, when he had nothing to fear nor to hope, solemnly swear that on the day in question he was not in the part of the forest where the king was hunting, nor ever saw him in the forest at all.’
What is not in doubt is that Rufus’ younger brother Henry (Henry I) was the main beneficiary. Henry was part of the hunting party on that day and he was able to secure the Treasury (then held at Winchester) the same day and had himself crowned king at Westminster Abbey on 5 August, just three days after his brother’s death.
Illustration of Henry I by Matthew Paris
Walter Tirel (or Tyrell) is thought to have originated from Poix in Picardy and may have been the same Walter Tirel named as holding the manor of Langham, in north east Essex, (Laingeham) in Domesday Book. The Revd. Philip Morant in The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex (1768) was rather dubious as to whether there was a connection, while another historian with Essex connections, J.H. Round writing in 1895 was more certain that they were the same.
The Domesday Book recorded in 1086 that the manor of Langham was 2½ hides in extent (roughly 300 acres), with 17 villeins and 27 bordars. There was wood for 1,000 pigs, 40 acres of meadow, two mills, 22 cattle, 80 pigs, 200 sheep and 80 goats. The resources of the manor were mostly larger than they had been before the Norman Conquest, and its value had increased from £12 to £15, making it quite valuable; by comparison, the manor of Chelmsford was valued at £8 and Maldon at £12.
Tirel held the manor from Richard son of Count Gilbert, also known in Domesday Book as Richard fitzGilbert or Richard of Tonbridge, and is later more familiarly known as Richard de Clare. It is likely that Tirel acquired the manor through his wife Adeliza, Richard’s daughter and this explains why he had such a valuable holding.
The Pipe Roll of 1130 records that Adeliza, by then a widow, was still in possession of Langham and in 1147 their son Hugh Tirel sold it to Gervase de Cornhill, before embarking on the Second Crusade. In 1189 Richard I granted Gervase’s son Henry permission to enclose woods there to create a park. The manor remained part of the Honour of Clare, while passing through the hands of different owners. In the late 14th century it passed to the de la Pole family and remained in their possession until the early 16th century. The oldest surviving court roll from the manor, 1391-1557 (D/DEl M1) begins during their ownership.
Henry VIII’s first wife Katharine of Aragon held the manor, later Langham Hall, until her death, when it passed to his third wife Jane Seymour. In 1540 it passed briefly to Thomas Cromwell and after his execution formed part of the lands granted to Anne of Cleves (Henry VIII’s fourth wife) on her divorce. In the early 17th century it was granted by Charles I to trustees of the City of London in repayment for a loan. In 1662 it was purchased by Humphrey Thayer, who Morant described as a druggist to the King and was inherited by his niece, the wife of Jacob Hinde.
While Morant was doubtful as to the connection of Walter Tirel in Langham with the Tirel who may have killed William Rufus, he was in no doubt that he was the ancestor of the Tyrell family in Essex who he described as ‘early persons of great consequence in this County; and one of the ancientist families’.
While the Tyrells did not keep Langham for more than one generation, they acquired extensive lands in Essex, as well as lands in Hampshire, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Their lands centred on the manor of Heron in East Horndon, but Tyrells also held land in Broomfield, Springfield, Beeches at Rawreth, Hockley and Ramsden Crays.
The most distinguished of the Essex Tyrells was probably Sir John Tyrell. He served as sheriff of Essex in 1413-1414 and 1437 and was elected to Parliament on a number of occasions between 1411 and 1437, serving as Speaker in 1421, 1429 and 1437. He held many posts in Essex, including acting as steward to the Stafford family and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, as well as for Clare and Thaxted during the minority of Richard, Duke of York. He was appointed a royal commissioner in the county on a number of occasions and was Chief Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster north of the Trent. Morant recorded that he served Henry V in France and in 1431 was appointed treasurer to the household of Henry VI and to his Council in France.
In a curious coincidence his grandson Sir James Tyrell was alleged to have confessed before his execution in 1502 to murdering the Princes in the Tower for Richard III.
As we experience some of the warmest temperatures on record for the UK, Archivist Katharine Schofield finds out how hot weather affected some of our ancestors, using the voluntary rate book for Belchamp Walter, 1883-1920 (D/P 215/4/2)
So far 2018 has seen the warmest May on record and the driest June, followed by near-record high temperatures in July, and it appears to be destined to become a long-remembered summer, like that of 1976. While we can enjoy the air-conditioned temperatures of the ERO Searchroom, and currently there are no plans for any restrictions on water use in the county, we should spare a thought for residents of Essex in years past who had no respite from hot temperatures and the longer-term consequences.
The years between 1890 and 1910 witnessed what has been called the ‘Long Drought’. A series of dry winters were exacerbated by several hot summers causing major problems with the water supply. In Belchamp Walter the wells dried up in the autumn of 1905.
In 1906, the ratepayers of Belchamp Walter were asked to contribute to the cost of bringing water to the village after their well ran dry
The amounts paid by individuals are recorded in the rate book, and add up to a total of £3 10s 1 1/4d
On 1 January 1906 the ratepayers of Belchamp Walter were asked to contribute towards a voluntary rate ‘for the purpose of defraying cost of conveying water to the villagers during the autumn, an insufficient supply being obtained from the well, owing to the drought’. A total of £4 0s. 9¾d. (around £317 today) was assessed to be due, although 10s. 8½d. was not collected, leaving a total of £3 10s. 1¼d. raised, the equivalent of around £275.
Of this sum, £2 17s. was spent on what was described as expenses, with a note that the balance of 13s. 1¼d. had been in the hands of the Revd. A.P. Pannell and that he then paid this into the Post Office Savings Bank on 3 October 1906. It is not recorded how the water was taken to Belchamp Walter, but presumably it must have been taken there in barrels by horse and cart.
The rate book will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout August 2018.