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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Document of the Month, February 2017: Photograph of Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton, aka Fanny and Stella

As February is LGBT history month, we have chosen this photograph from the Frederick Spalding Collection (D/F 269/1/3696), dating from c.1869.  Frederick Park (left) and Ernest Boulton (right) were presumably photographed by Spalding in his Chelmsford studio while they toured Essex as part of a small theatrical company.  They often dressed in women’s clothing when not on stage, calling themselves Fanny Graham and Stella Boulton.

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Park (the son of one the Masters of the Court of Common Pleas) was articled to Gepps, the Chelmsford solicitors; Boulton was the son of a London stockbroker.  They were arrested by the Metropolitan Police in April 1870 while wearing women’s clothing at a London theatre and charged with six others with “conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence”.  Their arrest and subsequent trial the following year was reported in detail in newspapers throughout the British Isles.  After the ‘not guilty’ verdict, Frederick Park emigrated to the US, dying there in 1881 at the age of 34. Ernest Boulton continued performing, touring in small theatre productions with his brother Gerard until his death in 1904.

A print of the photograph will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout February 2017.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.