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.

Document of the Month, November 2016: Introduction of Daylight Saving Time, May 1916

D/DU 1407/1

As the clocks go back again for the winter, November’s Document of the Month looks at the introduction of Daylight Saving Time in the UK in 1916, when the clocks went forward by one hour at 2 am on 21 May.  This flyer produced by the Borough of Colchester was issued to alert the public to the need to change their clocks and watches before they went to bed on Saturday 20 May.  The clocks went back again on 1 October 1916.

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The idea was suggested by William Willetts, a builder who proposed a change of 80 minutes, changing by 20 minutes each week in April and reversing the change each week in September.  Willetts died in 1915, before Daylight Saving Time was introduced.

There has been much discussion about the merits of going back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) for the winter.  Experiments in the late 1960s on staying on British Summer Time (BST) over the winter did result in an apparent decrease in road accident casualties but as this coincided with the introduction of legislation to limit drinking and driving, the effects were deemed difficult to isolate.

While England and Wales generally seem to prefer to stay on BST for the whole year, Scotland would prefer to return to GMT for the winter as this means that people are travelling to school and work in the daylight in the morning.  However, if this were to happen it would be the first time that the UK had two time zones since Dublin Mean Time was abolished in 1916.  It would also mean that Greenwich would not be using Greenwich Mean Time.

The document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout November 2016.

Document of the Month, August 2016: Journal of James Paroissien

Katharine Schofield shares with us an extract from the journal of James Paroissien, July – August 1808 (D/DOb F1/3)

As Team GB prepare for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, James Paroissien’s journal contains a fascinating insight into the country more than 200 years ago.

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James Paroissien was baptised in St. Margaret’s Church, Barking on Christmas Day 1784.  He studied medicine and in 1806 he left England to practise as a surgeon in Montevideo, Argentina.  Once there he switched to trading as a merchant but left after the British invading forces were defeated in 1806-1807 and went to Rio de Janeiro.

The journal records his impressions of Brazil, although much of his account relates to hunting.  On 2 August he recorded that the weather was ‘exceedingly hot muggy and rainy … accompanied with violent gusts of wind’.  On Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 August they set off towards the Taghuihi river killing plover and other ‘fine’ birds, parakeets and even a sloth at the top of a high tree which ‘stuck so fast‘ that somebody had to climb up to retrieve the body.  On 7 August he described the river as being extremely beautiful with the banks imprinted with the marks of the capybara, which were described as being very numerous.  Continuing from the river they shot more birds and two golden monkeys, two toucans and a squirrel.

After his stay in Rio, Paroissien returned to Argentina before joining the army to fight for the liberation of Chile and Peru from the Spanish.  He served as surgeon-general and later as aide-de-camp to the commander José de San Martin, returning to England in 1821 to seek diplomatic recognition for the newly liberated Peru.  The mission failed and in 1825 he returned to South America as agent for the Bolivian Mining Company.  An economic crash in Britain left Paroissien ruined and he died after ill health prevented his return to Britain to clear his name in September 1827.

His diary will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout August 2016.

Document of the Month, July 2015: Correspondence of James Brogden MP, 1816

Chris Lambert, Archivist

D/DSe 13

Our document this month is actually 3 documents, chosen to illustrate how a national political and economic crisis works at a personal level – or at least, how it did in Britain in 1816.

They all come from the correspondence of James Brogden, long-serving MP for Launceston in Cornwall. He actually lived in Clapham, but his papers came to Essex through his sister Susannah, who married into a local family.

1816 should have been a year of relaxation, with the long years of war against France finally over.  Unfortunately, peace did not bring prosperity.  Sudden demobilisation and a fall in demand for goods brought unemployment, poverty and riots.  As always, however, individual reactions to the crisis varied.

One response was to make use of the patronage networks that ran through society and government.  Brogden himself was a client of the Duke of Northumberland, the major landowner at Launceston, but as a government MP and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee he too received many requests for patronage and support.

In our first letter, from March 1816, one H. Stratton wrote from London hoping for a job in the government service, stimulating the economy: ‘the present pressure upon the Agricultural and other Public Interests will probably be relieved by some Legislative Enactment … similar to the late Commission of Exchequer Bills’, and he desired ‘to fill some situation under the new Establishment’.  Evidently this was not his first attempt (‘I venture again to take the liberty of intruding myself upon your notice’), but what resulted from it we do not know.

2016-07 D-DSe 13 - letter 1 watermarked

Our second correspondent, from August 1816, was of a different kind.  John Parker of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire had a longstanding connection with Brogden, whose family home was nearby at Narborough.  When Brogden’s mother died in 1814, the MP had sent Parker a £5 note to buy mourning, earning a tribute for ‘taking notice of a poor old man, and … numbering him among your most intimate friends’.  In 1816 Parker was 80 years old and in failing health.  Just a week before the present letter, he had complained to Brogden that ‘I cannot see to work in the Frame [presumably he was a handloom weaver], and if I could I do not know that I could get work, great numbers are out of work of all Trades …’

Now Parker gives thanks for the gift of a coat, waistcoat and pantaloons: ‘when Trade is bad, [a] poor man cannot afford any thing to purchase Cloathing.  I should rejoice to hear of the revival of Trade …’  Besides Brogden’s charity and 6 shillings a week from a sick club (shortly to fall to the club’s old age rate of 4 shillings), he relied on a small amount of invested capital.

2016-07 D-DSe 13 - letter 2, front watermarked

Those without capital or connections had few options.  In our third letter, from November 1816, an un-named correspondent reported a very different reaction to the crisis.  He had spent 3 hours at Spa Fields in London listening to the political reformer Henry (‘Orator’) Hunt address a public gathering: ‘the poor ragged people could not be complained [of] – the humbugging egotistical, stupid & impudent orator … nearly well might’.  A second meeting at Spa Fields in December descended into rioting and a march on the Tower of London.

2016-07 D-DSe 13 - letter 3, front watermarked

In the short term the government responded with repression, and an economic revival in 1817 helped to calm the situation.  The wider question of how to create a stable politics, able to respond to economic shocks, remained.

The three letters will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout July 2016.

Document of the Month, April 2016: A new ruling class

By Katharine Schofield, Archivist

Deeds, c.1140-1144 (D/DBa T2/1, 3)

2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (which we are marking with a conference on 1 October – find out more on our events pages).

The two documents we have chosen to highlight this month date from nearly 80 years after the Norman Conquest, and they show how securely the Norman ruling elite had established themselves in England.

The success of the Norman Conquest produced a dramatic change in land ownership as William the Conqueror rewarded his supporters with English land, displacing the 1066 landowners.  In 1086 Domesday Book illustrated the process of land redistribution in each county, listing the manors held by each of the king’s tenants-in-chief.  These two deeds were issued by Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex, a grandson of two of the Essex tenants-in-chief.  They date from the early 1140s, and record grants of land to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun, ancestors of the Barrington family of Barrington Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak.

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun.  (D/DBa T2/1)

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun. (D/DBa T2/1)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

Geoffrey was the grandson of two of the Domesday tenants-in-chief, Geoffrey de Mandeville (or Magna Villa) and Eudo Dapifer (dapifer is the Latin word for steward), and Eudo served as steward to William the Conqueror and his sons William II and Henry I.  Eudo was sometimes described as Eudo son of Hubert [de Rie/Ryes].  Hubert had been a prominent supporter of the Conqueror in Normandy and Eudo’s brothers William, Ralph, Hubert and Adam also benefited from the Conquest.  Ralph became constable of Nottingham Castle and Hubert constable of Norwich Castle and all four held land in England.

Geoffrey de Mandeville, one of the richest of the king’s barons, was rewarded with extensive lands, mostly in Essex, but also in ten other counties, as well as being appointed constable of the Tower of London.

Eudo Dapifer also held lands in Essex and nine other counties. He was responsible for the building of Colchester Castle, the largest Norman keep in England, becoming its first constable. In 1096/7 he founded St. John’s Abbey in the town and was buried there in 1120.

Although both deeds relate to land in Essex and are dated 80 years after the Norman Conquest, Geoffrey de Mandeville begins by greeting all his men French and English in the first deed (om[n]ib[us] hominib[us] suis franc[ie] et anglic[e]) and all his Barons and clerks and lay men French and English in the second (Om[n]ib[us] Baronib[us] et hominib[us] suis clericis et Laicis franc[ie] et angl[ice]).

The Geoffrey de Mandeville named in these documents (the grandson of the first Geoffrey and Eudo Dapifer) founded Walden Abbey (which after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s became what is today Audley End), and built the castle at Saffron Walden.  He was prominent in the civil war in King Stephen’s reign when a contemporary chronicler wrote that ‘men said openly that Christ and his saints slept’.  As a reward for his support for King Stephen he was made Earl of Essex.

After Stephen’s capture in 1141 Geoffrey changed sides to support Stephen’s cousin and rival the Empress Matilda and she appointed him constable of the Tower, forgave him debts owed to the Crown, granted him lands in Normandy and appointed him sheriff of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London.  He died in 1144 from an arrow wound while in rebellion against the king.

The documents will be on display in the Searchroom throughout April 2016.

 

 

 

Document of the Month, March 2016: Great Eastern Railway Staff Magazines

Our newest Archivist, Carol Walden, tells us about her choice for March’s Document of the Month.

The Great Eastern Railway (GER) staff magazines provide a wealth of material for a researcher (A10298). We hold an incomplete run of bound issues of the magazine that were issued monthly between 1911 and 1926. They were compiled in-house and the first edition says that it was ‘devoted to the interests of the many thousands of people directly concerned in the welfare of the GER’ and was only possible with the assurances of support from all grades of staff. The focus ‘was on the interests of all, from shareholder and director to the humblest person in their employ’ as well as for the public at home and overseas. The aim was ‘to knit the loose connecting strands of casual intercourse into a closer net of continuous communication; to strengthen the bond of friendship and promote a feeling of unity throughout the service’.

They cover the geographical area traversed by the company so not only encompass Essex, but also London, Suffolk and Norfolk locations. They include obituaries and notices of retirements and marriages of staff and ex-staff which can give the family historian extra information about their relatives. The ‘Woman’s Page’ affords an insight into expected female behaviours, fashion and diets. The magazines are packed with gardening and railway modelling tips; news from clubs and societies; book, magazine and play reviews; updates on new office machinery; educational articles which include places of interest in the GER area and information about the freight being transported; detailed descriptions of engines and rolling stock for the ‘inexpert’; photographs of male and female staff members; local, national and international news stories.

Fashion plates in a 'Woman's Page' of a GER magazine from early 1918

Fashion plates in a ‘Woman’s Page’ of the April 1916 GER magazine

 

Recipes from the Woman's Page in an early 1918 GER magazine

Recipes from the Woman’s Page in the April 1916 GER magazine

 

Another regular segment - From the Tea Room Windows

Another regular segment – From the Tea Room Windows, this one is from early 1918

During the First World War the content was expanded to incorporate regular features, such as ‘War and the Railway’, ‘Toll for the Brave’ which have a photograph and short biography of the fallen, ‘Roll of Honour’ a photographic record of staff members who had joined up and stories of local interest from those at home.

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Some of the members of GER staff serving with the forces who were included in the October 1918 magazine

The October 1918 issue, which is currently displayed in the Searchroom, includes a report of a ‘keenly fought’ sporting event organised by the GER Athletic Association between the Stratford and Temple Mills Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Departments at Romford.

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A women’s tug of war event, reported in the October 1918 edition

The Great Eastern Railway (GER) Society have an extensive collection of records which they are listing and can be accessed at ERO. They cover GER’s predecessors and successors as well as other lines within the GER geographical area and include plans, maps and drawings of tracks, buildings, rolling stock and vehicles; timetables; books and periodicals; staff rule and instruction books.

The Society holds a full set of the staff magazines and they have been scanned and copies are available to buy through their website where they also offer a paid search service for those who wish to see if the magazines hold references to family members (more information here – opens as a PDF).

Staff publications in general can be an invaluable resource to expand our understanding of individuals and working practices. At ERO we hold magazines that cover a variety of dates that include a number of railway companies as well as Harlow Development Corporation, Railtrack and Marconi Installation Design Office.

The October 1918 issue of the GER staff magazine will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout March 2016.

Document of the Month, February 2016: Oath book, 1714-1716

Archivist Katharine Schofield tells us about her choice for February’s Document of the Month.

From the mid-17th century onwards, holders of public office were required to take oaths swearing allegiance to the monarch, denying the right of the deposed Stuart family to the throne, declaring the monarch to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and denying the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (the belief that during the ceremony of the Mass the bread and wine offered miraculously become the body and blood of Christ). In effect, this meant that public offices were denied to Roman Catholics, who would not have been able to swear to such things.

Quarter Sessions oath book

This oath book (Q/RRo 1/5) is part of the records of the Essex Quarter Sessions – the county authority which preceded the County Council. The book records details of those who had taken local public office, and who therefore swore the required oaths of allegiance, abjuration and supremacy, and made a declaration against transubstantiation.

The whole book contains about 1,000 names, with parishes and occupations of those subscribing between 1714 and 1716.  Special sessions were held in various places in Essex to make it easier for people to travel.  These names were recorded at an adjourned Quarter Sessions held at the Angel in Kelvedon on 13 December 1715 at the height of the Jacobite Rebellion.  The next session was held at the Old Tavern in Colchester the following day and records those from the north-east of the county.

The names in this opening are mostly from central Essex.   Most of those recorded are parish and chief constables of hundreds.  Church of England ministers also took the oaths and those listed here include the incumbents of Prittlewell, Tolleshunt Knights, Feering and Great Totham, as well as the Revd. Edward Bently, dissenting minister of Coggeshall.  Four schoolmasters from Hempstead, Prittlewell, Witham and Coggeshall are among the names recorded here, together with a number of other public officials – Samuel Newton, postmaster of Witham, John Jorden ‘officer of Excise of Salt at Heybridg’, Joseph Waddingham, excise officer at Earls Colne and John Potter of Wakes Colne, assessor.  Also listed are John White of Coggeshall, apothecary and John Raven of Kelvedon, writing master.

Quarter Sessions oath book

Quarter Sessions records contain all sorts of useful and fascinating details helpful for a range of different types of research. They encompass a huge range of topics, from cases heard by the Quarter Sessions courts which sat four times a year, to the licensing of victuallers, printing presses and slaughterhouses, and the maintenance of highways and planning of railways and canals. The Quarter Sessions began in 1388 and lasted until 1971. The Essex Quarter Sessions records are among the earliest and most complete in the country, dating back to 1555.

We are introducing a new workshop for 2016 which will provide a closer look at the fascinating snapshots of life in the past that these records provide. Discover: Quarter Sessions Records takes place on Wednesday 11 May 2016, 2.00pm-4.00pm. Tickets are £10 and need to be booked in advance on 033301 32500.

Document of the Month, January 2016: A New Year present from Scotland

Archivist Chris Lambert tells us about his choice for the first Document of the Month of 2016.

This month’s choice is an unusual document that reached us recently from a local house clearance, thanks to some alert neighbours (Acc. A14346).

What they rescued was a small bag of account books relating to a farming business at Little Saling, near Braintree.  Amongst them was this exercise book, apparently bought in Leith, the port for Edinburgh, and used to keep accounts for the coastal trade, mainly in the 1860s.  This opening relates to a vessel called the Paragon, which in January 1866 made what seems to have been a regular run between Leith and Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.  Many packages are not itemized, but with the names of both the sender and the consignee we still get a good picture of trade in the outer islands of Britain.  On this voyage, the Orknies took considerable quantities of Usher’s ale, tea, sugar, biscuits, and a hogshead of spirits.

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Click for larger version

And just what is this document doing in Essex? A loose note of 1880 gives us the clue, referring to J.D. Rendall of ‘Breckaskaell’ (the modern Backaskaill on the Orkney island of Papa Westray).  In about 1889, John David Rendall – born on Westray around 1836 – moved himself, his wife and children to Little Saling in Essex, buying Gentlemans Farm from its absentee owner.  Rendall himself died in 1904, but his family stayed on the farm, part of that wave of Scottish farmers who helped to revive Essex agriculture after the depression of the late 19th century.

Intriguingly, some other loose papers list ‘kelp made on the shores of Narness’, 1875-?1887.  The use of fertiliser made from seaweed was hardly an option at Little Saling, but an interest in unconventional methods, and an eye for new opportunities, were just what Essex agriculture needed.

The book will be on display in the Searchroom throughout January 2016.

Document of the Month, December 2015: Byrd’s Song

Archivist Lawrence Barker talks us through his choice for December’s Document of the Month.

This month’s document is a remarkable music book surviving from Elizabethan England (D/DP Z6/1). It is part of the collection of the Petre family, who lived at Thorndon Hall and Ingatestone Hall. The Petre family remained Catholic throughout the upheavals of the English Reformation, as Catholics were increasingly marginalised in a newly Protestant country.

The book contains mostly motets (short pieces of sacred choral music) by English composers such as Thomas Tallis, Robert Wight, Robert Fairfax and William Byrd, who flourished in the mid-16th century. From 1595 Byrd lived nearby in Stondon Massey, and is known to have spent time at Ingatestone Hall. There are also a few pieces by other European composers such as Palestrina and Philippe de Monte.

The book will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout December 2015, open to one of Byrd’s finest motets, Ne irascaris Domine (Be not angry, O Lord).

Part of William Byrd's motet Ne Irasc

Part of William Byrd’s motet Ne irascaris Domine in a sixteenth century music book from the Petre collection (D/DP Z6/1)

To bring the music in this book to life, a modern edition of this piece was recently performed by Essex choir Gaudeamus.

The music was written to be performed a cappella, i.e. in the ‘chapel style’, sung by voices unaccompanied by instruments. Singers today use a music score showing all the different parts of the music (you can see an example of the piece shown above, Ne irascaris Domine, here), but in Tudor times each voice sang from its own part book showing only their line. This book contains only the bass part (for the lowest voice) for pieces which would have had five parts altogether. The question arises: what happened to the other part books which seemingly have not survived?

The front cover of the book has the name John Petre embossed upon it in gold, suggesting that the book belonged to the first Baron Petre himself (1549-1613). The music seems to be a personal selection and includes some of the choice pieces from the golden age of English Roman Catholic church music, such as Tallis’s Lamentations, the same by Robert Wight, as well as many of the great motets by Byrd.

D/DP Z6/1

The front cover of the book is embossed with John Petre’s name, the first baron Petre, suggesting that it was his personal book

There is not an exact date for the book but none of the music in it dates from after 1591. Much of Byrd’s music, including this motet, was published during his lifetime; indeed, he and Thomas Tallis were granted a publishing monopoly on music by Elizabeth I. This book, however, is not a printed, published edition but is hand written. It is a substantial book and it must have taken someone many, many hours to complete.

The texts are all in Latin which suggests that the book was written for use in Roman Catholic services.  Much of the music dates from earlier in the 16th century and some of it might have been written originally for the Catholic queen Mary Tudor.  In the case of the pieces by Byrd, however, the music was probably written to be performed in the Chapel Royal for the Protestant Elizabeth I, who seems to have retained a ‘High Anglican’ taste for Latin church music. Despite being a Catholic, Byrd was part of the choir of the Chapel Royal and would have sworn an oath when he joined in 1572 recognising Elizabeth as head of the English Church.

Most of the music in the book is choral, but there are also a few instrumental pieces which would have been played on viols, stringed instruments that look somewhat like those of the modern violin family. As well as singing there would have been instrumental music in the Petre household; there is a suggestion that John Petre himself may have played the lute, as an inventory of 1608 lists ‘my Lord’s lute’ among other instruments including an organ, double virginals and a chest of viols.  It also lists various sheet music described as ‘Mr Birds bookes’, including a set of books in five parts, described as ‘thick bookes with red covers not printed but prict [pricked – or handwritten]’. These music books likely include the ones that today are at ERO.

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An inventory of 1608 recording pieces of sheet music and various musical instruments owned by the Petre family (D/DP E2/1)

The music book and the inventory show that the Petre family indulged in some serious music-making, a point further evidenced in the account books that survive for this period showing that Byrd was frequently involved.  For example, the accounts book for 1589-1590 (D/DP A21) shows that Christmas 1589 must have been a merry affair for the Petre family involving lots of eating, drinking and music making.  William Byrd was fetched from London by the ‘sadler’ Edward Graye on Boxing Day (below), and there were five other musicians from London ‘playing upon the violins’ (i.e. the set or ‘chest’ of viols) who stayed until Twelfth Night.

Account book showing William Byrd being fetched to Ingatestone Hall over Christmas 1589 (D/DP A21)

Account book showing William Byrd being fetched to Thorndon Hall over Christmas 1589 (D/DP A21)

The motet by Byrd featured above, Ne irascaris Domine, was published in 1589 as part of Cantiones Sacrae I (Sacred Songs I). The music portrays a dark time for English Catholics when, following the Spanish Armada in 1588, many Catholics like the Petres and Byrd were persecuted for their faith.  This motet, like many others in the collection, is in two parts.

The first part starts, ‘Be not angry, O Lord, remember no longer our iniquity. We are all your people’ (Isaiah 64:9).  Was this a recusant Catholic’s subliminal plea to Elizabeth herself which she would have heard when it was sung to her in the Chapel Royal?  Significantly, only three years later in 1592, a charge of recusancy brought against Byrd was dropped ‘by order of the Queen’.

The second part of the motet is more desolate: ‘Thy holy city is made desolate.  Zion is made desolate.  Jerusalem is forsaken’ (Isaiah 64:10).  Of course, ‘Jerusalem’ was then, and has been many times since, a symbolic name for England.  The motet gives a beautiful example of polyphony, where melodic lines interweave with each other yet maintain perfect harmony, a common feature of sacred music of this period.  Byrd creates a marked effect, however, by changing from the general polyphony at the words Sion deserta facta est (Zion is made desolate) (approx. 05:30).  After a short pause, all voices sing in solemn chords as in a hymn.  When the polyphony resumes, the choir repeats ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘desolata est’ over and over again until the end, as can be seen in the manuscript showing the bass part.

Part of the motet where the choir repeats 'Zion desolata est' - Jerusalem is desolated

Part of the motet where the choir repeats ‘Jerusalem desolata est’ – Jerusalem is desolated

Music such as this would have been part of a very specific, even élite soundscape.  The majority of ordinary Elizabethans probably never knew Byrd’s music unless they were servants in Lord Petre’s household or Byrd’s, or happened upon it when attending a service in a cathedral, such as Lincoln where Byrd’s music is known to have been performed.  Even among the élite, much of Byrd’s music would have been exclusive, limited to a few patrons.  Byrd himself made no bones about the intellectuality of the music itself. However, he did publish much of it, and that would have increased its accessibility to those who came to know of it, could afford to buy it and were able to perform it. 

Today, with recorded sound, we have much greater access to all kinds of music.  Recorded music is ubiquitous, a constant background noise in shops, pubs, or buses via fellow passengers’ headphones.

We are fortunate that the written music survives, as we can recreate the sound of Byrd’s music, more or less, and in doing so transport ourselves back to the soundscape of Elizabethan England, or even specifically that corner of Elizabethan Essex where Byrd spent Christmas in 1589.  Almost everything that Byrd wrote has now been recorded, some of it many times.  If we lived in Ingatestone today, we would only have to load our CDs or search YouTube to listen to Byrd 24/7 if we so desired.

The music performed by Gaudeamus has been transposed up to a higher pitch to accommodate a mixed rather than all-male choir.  Nevertheless, being sung in a church that partly dates from the medieval period, we can imagine that hearing it resembles the musical experience of our predecessors.  However, there are limits to how far we can experience historic soundscapes.

Today, with recorded sound, we can capture much more precisely the noises around us.  The Essex Sound and Video Archive collects and preserves recordings such as this performance for future generations to enjoy.  For our Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place, we will be making many of our recordings available online.  Why not listen to this piece while sitting in the grounds of Ingatestone Hall, or Stondon Massey, to imagine what the song would have sounded like to its composer?

For further information on You Are Hear and how you can contribute your own recordings, look at our blog page or visit our website.

William Byrd's name at the end of the motet

William Byrd’s name at the end of the motet

Document of the Month, November 2015: Ingatestone and Fryerning’s fire engine

In an era when wooden houses were common and heating was provided by open fires, the danger of a conflagration was never far away.  The parishes of Ingatestone and Fryerning were aware of these dangers and provided a remedy – a fire engine. The two parishes jointly paid towards the expense of the engine and a team of 8 firemen.  It was housed in the south porch of Ingatestone church. 

The Fryerning vestry minutes for 5 April 1796 (D/P 249/8/2) show that two men were paid £1 per year to look after the engine and 18d was allowed to each of six men for assistance in working the engine.  In 1796 John Hogg junior and William Whichard were appointed to look after the engine, including washing it every quarter day.  A church warden from each parish was required to go along and witness the washing of the engine to ensure that it was done carefully.

D-P 249-8-2 watermarked

The fire engine was moved to the Market Place when the south porch was dismantled during the Victorian renovation of the church.  Then it was housed in the old waterworks in Fryerning Lane and eventually moved to a new fire station in the High Street.

Unfortunately this particular record does not tell us what kind of fire engine the parishes had (a bit more digging required), but it would likely have been a hand-pump fire engine with handles worked by men on each side to pump a continuous stream of water. It may have been drawn by horses to help get it to the scene of a fire as quickly as possible.

The vestry minute book will be on display in the Searchroom throughout November 2015.