Just in time for Christmas, Essex Record Office has teamed up with Museumshops.uk to make our publications available to purchase online for the very first time. Many of these publications have been printed in limited numbers and were previously only available from the Essex Record Office Searchroom.
Written and researched by Hilda Grieve and Published in 1959, “The Great Tide” told the story of the county’s relationship to the sea, the meteorological conditions preceding the flood, the events of 31 January and 1 February 1953, and the subsequent rescue, relief, and restoration efforts in meticulous detail, drawn from six years of careful, patient research. It has since been described by the writer Ken Worpole as “one of the great works of twentieth century English social history”.
This title has been out of print for some time, but was re-printed by Essex Record Office in 2020. This seminal work should be on the shelf of any student of modern history
Written by Hilda Grieve in 1954, “Examples of English Handwriting” is an illuminating exploration into the chronology of early English penmanship, drawing from six centuries worth of Essex’s parish records, Examples of English Handwriting reads much like a handbook for the aspiring historian. It is a must have for anyone seeking to read the historic documents that are cared for at ERO and countless other archives. Complete with a variety of visual examples, the work diligently elucidates semantic change, typography, abbreviations, letter strokes, and Anglo-Saxon history.
Hilda Grieve’s precious legacy as a didactic county archivist is captured in this classic work of palaeography, with this 1981 edition merging two of the prior volumes published by the Essex Record Office.
One of our most popular titles is: “Pilgrims and Adventurers”.
“No English county has stronger links with the East Coast states of America than Essex.”
On a now mythical autumnal day in 1620, an English fluyt, designated the “Mayflower”, dropped its anchor on the shores of what is now Massachusetts: its passengers, puritan separatists and adventurous individuals, would disembark onto the foreign soil following the lead of Capt. Christopher Jones, his skeleton crew, imbued with a belief in manifest destiny. Pilgrims & Adventurers explores the foundation of the United States: how the likes of Columbus & Walter Raleigh laid groundwork for a theologically ruptured England to flee in search of a New World. The book charts the initial voyage of the Essex pilgrims to the raising of the early settlements: Plymouth Colony, Providence; the attempted conversion of Indigenous Americans, and conflicting theses of Philo-Theology that would continue to divide the early colonists.
Written & published in 1992 by archivist John Smith, this work is a concise introduction to the hitherto unexplored study of the Essex people on the colonisation of North America.
The 26th October is the feast day of St Cedd, it is also Essex Day. Over on our social media we have taken you on a treasure trail of where you can find Seaxes here at the Essex Record Office. The three Seaxes will be familiar to many Essex residents as part of the logo for Essex County Council and on a red background, as their Coat of Arms. But what is a Seax and why has Essex taken it as their symbol? Customer Service Team Lead, Edward Harris delves deeper.
Essex County Council was first granted it’s Coat of Arms by the College of Arms on the 15th July 1932 comprising:
Gules, three Seaxes fessewise in pale Argent, pomels and hilts Or, pointed to the sinister and cutting edges upwards.
The somewhat archaic terms used by the College of Arms can be translated to:
Red, three Seaxes horizontal in pale silver, pommels and hilts gold, pointed to the viewers right with cutting edges upwards.
So now we know what the official Coat of Arms should look like, but we are still not given any clues as to the origin of the name Seax for the bladed weapons shown on the Coat of Arms.
The seax, (or scramasax as it is more usually called by archaeologists) is a weapon used by the Anglo-Saxon people who had displaced, at least culturally the Romano-British inhabitants of the British Isles in the 5th and 6th Centuries. The earliest evidence for the use of a Seax is from the mid 5th Century, though they would still see use in one form or another into the late 13th Century. The term Seax covers a whole family of germanic blades which varied widely in size and shape. The Anglo-Saxons widely used the distinctive broken back seax which varied in length from 30″ to as short as a few inches and, for most, it was probably a utility or defensive knife rather than a weapon of war.
It is from the Saxons that the County of Essex (along with the Ancient County of Middlesex) takes its name. The Boundary of Essex still resembles that of the Saxon Kingdom of Eastseaxe. And it is from this Saxon heritage that Essex adopted the seax as it’s symbol.
The Coat of Arms itself was in regular use well before the grant from the College of Arms in 1932 albeit unofficially. It is likely that the Arms were first assigned to the Saxon Kings of Essex by the more romantic minds of the Late 16th and early 17th Century, as the heraldry in any recognisable sense would not exist until the 12th Century.
One of the earliest mentions of a coat of arms is by Richard Verstegan who writes in 1605 of the East Saxons having two types of weapon, one long and one short. The latter being worn “privately hanging under their long-skirted coats” and “of this kind of hand-seax Erkenwyne King of the East Saxons did bear for his arms, three argent, in a field gules”
Peter Milman’s History of Essex 1771 (LIB/942.67 MUI1-6)
By the 18th Century the use of the Arms seems commonplace, in 1770, Peter Muilman published the first volume of his History of Essex. The frontispiece shows a shield with the three seaxes although with an unfamiliar shape.
The Plans for the building of the Shire Hall in Chelmsford drawn up in 1788 (Q/AS 1/1) clearly show the Seaxes emblazoned on its neo-classical portico. These wouldn’t form a part of the final design though with this space being blank in an engraving from 1795 (I/Mb 74/1/59) shortly after the building’s completion. It now houses a clock.
Engraving of Shire Hall shortly after it’s opening 1795 (I/Mb 74/1/59)
The seaxes on a red field would make numerous other appearances, among them: the Essex Equitable Insurance companies fire plate from around 1802; the Essex Local Militia ensign formed in 1809 and the Chelmsford Gazette in 1822. It appears on the cap badge of Essex Police and who remembers the single seax that appeared on the original logo for BBC Essex way back in 1986?
BBC Essex logo from 1986
The shape of the seax on Coats of Arms has led to confusion and myth. As you can see from the examples here, the shape of the Seax changes with use, the notched back of the weapon may simply be to distinguish it from a scimitar for which it is often mistaken. The notch itself has gained a myth all of its own. To many people the notch exists so that the Saxons could hook their Seax over the cap-rail of an enemy longboat to haul it closer. This sounds rather difficult to achieve, but also to justify, given that the notch doesn’t appear on any of the real world weapons categorised as Seaxes.
The Coat of Arms of Essex
Either way, the Essex Coat of Arms remains an enigmatic and iconic link to our county’s Saxon past.
I owe much of the information that I have garnered from the excellent pamphlet ‘The Coat of Arms of The County of Essex’ produced by F.W. Steer, an Archivist at Essex Record Office ,in 1949 (LIB/929.6 STE) which is well worth a read on your next visit.
“So far as destroying the world was concerned, well, you might just as well try to disturb a charging hippopotamus by throwing a baked bean at it.”
Patrick Moore on Halley’s Comet, Colchester Hospital Radio, 1986
Until the end of the nineteenth century, most astronomical research in Britain was funded and carried out by private individuals of independent means. There were several such individuals based in Essex, including Revd. James Pound, his nephew Revd. James Bradley, and Joseph Gurney Barclay.
The Revd. James Pound (1669-1724) was Rector of Wanstead, then in Essex, between 1707 and 1720. During this time he made various planetary observations, at first with a 15-foot telescope and then with a 123-foot ‘object glass’ telescope, which the Royal Society lent to him in 1717. The telescope was constructed by Christian Huygens and mounted in Wanstead Park on a maypole that had just been removed from the Strand and presented to Pound by Sir Isaac Newton. Pound’s observations of Jupiter, Saturn, and their satellites were used by several eminent scientists, including Edmond Halley – more on him later.
Revd. Pound tutored his nephew, James Bradley (1693-1762), in astronomy, with many of Bradley’s early observations made jointly with his uncle at Wanstead. In 1718 Bradley followed Pound in becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society, and after Pound’s death in 1724 he continued to make observations from Wanstead at the Grove, the house to which his aunt had moved in her widowhood. Here he installed an instrument even the Observatory at Greenwich didn’t possess: a zenith sector of 12 ½ radius and 12 ½ º. When he left Wanstead in 1732 he left the zenith sector in place, frequently returning to carry out his research, which led to him succeeding Halley as Astronomer Royal in 1742. His research culminated in the discovery of two major phenomena: the aberration of light and nutation (wobbling) of the Earth’s axis. In 1749 Bradley moved the zenith sector to Greenwich, where it can still be seen today.
In the autumn of 1854, over a century after James Pound and James Bradley were conducting their research in Wanstead, Joseph Gurney Barclay (1816-1898) set up an observatory at his home in Knotts Green, Leyton. The ERO Library has two volumes of his Astronomical Observations published in 1865 and 1870. These include details about the observatory and its equipment as well as the observations of double-stars, planets and comets. He writes:
My Observatory is erected in the midst of the pleasure-grounds which surround my residence at Leyton, in Essex, about six miles N.E. from the City of London; its position being 51o 34’ 34” N. latitude and oh om oS.87 W. longitude, and about ninety feet above the level of the sea. The building consists of a quadrangular room, sixteen feet square, surmounted by a wooden dome, covered with copper and lined with American cloth, which I found prevented the internal condensation of vapour; it revolves on gun-metal wheels connected by a ring (in mechanical phraseology a “live-ring”).
Barclay employed the services of professional astronomers: first Herman Romberg, who left in 1864 to take up a position in the Berlin Observatory; then Charles Talmage, who wrote up Romberg’s observations for the English press and continued the work of recording “Planetary and Cometic Observations” from Knotts Green. Although comets were recorded from this observatory, none were Halley’s Comet.
Amongst the astronomical phenomena recorded from Barclay’s Leyton observatory were comets. Prior to Edmond Halley’s work, comets were widely thought to be unique objects that passed through the solar system once and then disappeared forever. Using Isaac Newton’s laws of gravitation and planetary motion, Halley calculated the orbits of several comets. He noticed that the orbits of three particularly bright comets observed in 1531, 1607, and 1682 were strikingly similar, and proposed that these three comets were, in fact, the same object making periodic returns to the inner solar system. Based on his calculations, Halley predicted that this comet would return in 1758. The comet did return as he had anticipated, but Halley died in 1742 so did not see his prediction proved accurate. To honour Halley’s ground-breaking work, this comet was later named Halley’s Comet.
Astronomers have now linked Halley’s comet to observations dating back more than 2,000 years. One such observation is its appearance in the Bayeux Tapestry which depicts the events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
As seen by the recordings of Halley’s Comet over the centuries, comets and other celestial events really capture people’s attention. Several of the diaries and personal papers looked after at the ERO have references to Halley’s Comet in 1910. In her memories of her youth in Great Waltham, Mildred Joslin recalls seeing Halley’s Comet with her family (catalogue ref: T/P 306/1 page 9):
I remember seeing Hayley’s [sic] Comet, we stood in the road at the bottom of South St, looking towards the school; it came from the right, where Cherry Garden Estate is now, but in those days it was a field. I also well remember standing in the road with my parents and several other people looking at what seemed to be flames in the sky; someone said they were the Northern Lights.
George H. Rose (1882-1956), a talented artist, working chiefly in water colours, kept diaries which present a vivid picture his youth spent his live sketching, going to art exhibitions and concerts, piano-playing, singing in his lodgings – and seeing Halley’s Comet. His entry for 18 May 1910 reads:
Fine weather. Thunderstorms nearly every night this week, owing, I believe, to Halley’s Comet which approaches nearest to the earth today. Mildred is very much alarmed at it. I, it seems, an unable to keep away from the scenes of National mourning and tonight went to watch the people passing into Westminster Hall, where the mortal remains of King Edward VII now lie in State.
Rose mentions that his companion, Mildred, was “very much alarmed” by the comet. There had been much anticipation for the comet’s arrival in the press and the belief that it was an omen did cause fear in some people, intensified by the death of King Edward VII just days before the comet arrived. It also came especially close to Earth on this occasion: so close that on 19 May 1910, Earth passed through its tail. This was the first time that the Halley’s Comet was photographed and that spectroscopic analysis could be carried out. It was also discovered that the toxic gas cyanogen was present in the tail. This led the astronomer Camille Flammarion to claim that, when Earth passed through it, this gas would lead to an end of life on Earth..
Rose, however, didn’t seem particularly impressed by the comet, writing on 23 May 1910:
The weather was grand all day, and after a visit to Robersons for some more sepia and some REED PENS I drifted to the Heath and there at last learned how to use these pens. Later after moonrise I stood among the crowd on the other side looking at the comet. There was a large crowd for such a little sight.
I remember studying Halley’s Comet at primary school when it returned in 1986. It was a very exciting topic, even though the view of the comet on this occasion wasn’t as good as in 1910. In the Colchester Hospital Radio archive – one of several hospital radio archives preserved in the Essex Sound and Video Archive – is an interview with the well-known astronomy writer, researcher, radio commentator and television presenter Patrick Moore (1923-2012). In the recording, Moore reassures listeners that a comet striking Earth would cause local damage but “so far as destroying the world was concerned, well, you might just as well try to disturb a charging hippopotamus by throwing a baked bean at it”.
Nowadays, astronomers can now see Halley’s Comet
at any point in its orbit, but the next time it will be visible from Earth with
the naked eye will be in 2061.
North-East Essex Coastal Parishes. Part 1: St Osyth, Great and Little Clacton, Frinton, Great Holland and Little Holland
The latest volume of the Victoria County History of the County of Essex has been presented to Martin Astell the Essex Record Office Manager. This is the first of two volumes covering the North East Essex coastal parishes, from St Osyth to Walton on the Naze. Boydell and Brewer are also offering a spectacular 35% off for a limited period only. More details on that can be found below. All of the Victoria County History volumes draw heavily on the documents which are held at the Essex Record Office.
The nine Essex parishes lying in a coastal district between St Osyth and the Naze headland at Walton encompass a number of distinct landscapes, from sandy cliffs to saltmarshes, recognised as environmentally significant. The landscape has constantly changed in response to changing sea levels, flooding, draining and investment in sea defences. Inland, there was an agriculturally fertile plateau based on London Clay, but with large areas of Kesgrave sands and gravels, loams and brickearths. Parts were once heavily wooded, especially at St Osyth.
The district was strongly influenced by the pattern of estate ownership, largely held by St Paul’s Cathedral from the mid-10th century. About 1118-19 a bishop of London founded a house of Augustinian canons at St Osyth, which became one of the wealthiest abbeys in Essex. Most other manors and their demesnes in the district were small and their demesne tenants were of little more than local significance.
The area’s economy was strongly affected by the coast and its many valuable natural resources, including the extraction or manufacture of sand, gravel, septaria, copperas and salt, and activities such as fishing, tide milling, wrecking and smuggling. However, it remained a largely rural district and its wealth ultimately depended upon the state of farming. Until the eighteenth century it specialised in dairying from both sheep and cattle, but afterwards production shifted towards grain.
The coastal area has produced significant evidence of early man and was heavily exploited and settled in prehistory. The medieval settlement pattern largely conformed to a typical Essex model, with a complex pattern of small villages, hamlets and dispersed farms, many located around greens or commons.
Introduction: The North East Essex Coast; St Osyth; Great and Little Clacton; Frinton; Great Holland; Little Holland; Glossary; Note on Sources; and, Bibliography.
So, for the next document featured in our Curiosity Cabinet, we thought we would choose one of the antiquarian treasures in the Library, our copy of Monasticon Anglicanum compiled by William Dugdale, originally published in Latin in 1655 but republished in 1718 in an abbreviated English version.
One of the most intriguing features of the book is the inclusion of engravings of cathedrals and collegiate churches as they appeared at the time, including old St Paul’s Cathedral in all its medieval glory ten years before the great fire of London destroyed it. From 604, when Mellitus was made first Bishop of London, up to 1846 when it transferred to the Diocese of Rochester, Essex was part of the Diocese of London. So, St Paul’s was the cathedral of Essex for well over a thousand years.
A view from the book of the north side of the cathedral (above) shows the eastern half still sporting its Decorated Gothic windows, featuring early Geometric plate tracery dating from the second half of the 13th century. The view of the east end (below left) shows that there was once a fine rose window echoing those of the transepts of Notre Dame in Paris.
In contrast, the western half (above) shows the radical transformation carried out at the hands of Inigo Jones, who was commissioned by James I in the 1630s to carry out a restoration using an early Classical style. A view of the west front (below right) shows that Jones had even added a classical portico. Even at the time, the overall effect was thought a little incongruous alongside the Gothic style of the rest of the building!
If you had walked under the portico and through the west door into the cathedral, however, you would have entered into the original Norman nave. Construction of the cathedral began in 1087, at the end of William I’s reign. The view of the nave from the book (below left) reveals the cathedral’s provenance, as the arrangement of clustered columns in the arcade with the large tribune above resembled the nave of William’s Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen, Normandy (below right).
The Abbaye-aux-Hommes was William’s final resting place – that is, one of his thigh bones remains there; the rest of his bones were scattered during the French Wars of Religion in 1562. But St Paul’s ended up being a good deal larger than the Abbaye-aux-Hommes. By the time it was completed, Old St Paul’s was one of the largest churches in Christendom. It was nearly 600 feet long, a length only exceeded by the enormous abbey at Cluny in Burgundy, and 100 feet wide. It also had a spire of 489 feet, about 80 feet taller than that of Salisbury, but this caught fire and crashed through the roof of the nave in 1561.
As the book’s title suggests, the Monasticon is primarily a history of the monasteries in England and Wales, and, as such, provides a useful starting point for a study of the various monastic institutions in Essex. Of course, at the time it was published, most of those monasteries had been suppressed during the Reformation. To find out more about Essex’s experience of the dissolution of the monasteries, come to Ken Crowe’s talk on the dissolution in south west Essex (focussing on Barking Abbey and Stratford Langthorne Priory) at our upcoming ‘Essex on the Edge’ conference on Saturday 18th May.
We are fortunate to have a wonderful library collection here at ERO, including everything from AA Command: Britain’s air defences of the Second World War by Colin Dobinson, to Zillah’s Village: A Family’s Record of War and Peace in Rural Essex by Mark Roberts.
The ERO reference library is made up of books and other publications mostly about – you guessed it – Essex. We have local histories, biographies, social histories, economic histories, population studies, and lots more.
Our library recently joined the digital age, having graduated from our old index card system, onto our online catalogue, Essex Archives Online (EAO), which should make it much easier to find out if we have a particular book, and where you can find it on the shelves. Details of some 6,000 individual titles are now available on EAO, including all of the books in the Searchroom, and the older and more fragile books we keep in our document stores.
This has only been made possible by the mammoth effort over several years by our dedicated volunteers, who have worked through every single item in our library and added its details to a database. A big thank you to all everyone who has worked on this and made our library so much easier to use!
Some of our more historic library items
A particularly murderous shelf
To search for a book, simply type in key words of the title or author on Essex Archives Online (EAO) to see if we have it. When you find what you are looking for in the search results, the book’s entry will tell you whether it is on open shelving in the Searchroom, or stored in our stacks. Researchers can help themselves to the books on the open shelves, and items in the stack can be ordered in the same way you order archive documents.
While there is no subject index as such on EAO, you can see what we have for each Dewey category by typing this into the document reference box beginning with LIB/ – for example, a search for LIB/942.67 will bring up general books about Essex history. There is also a paper subject index at the Searchroom help desk to which you can refer to find the relevant class number.
We are also very grateful to donors of books for the library – here are a few of our recent additions.
In addition to the books, the library also includes over 9,000 pamphlets covering all sorts of topics, and the next phase of our library project will be to add these to EAO as well.
While there will be talks on the participation of Essex men in the running of the county, the king’s wars in Scotland, France and Ireland, along with on the seas and mention of the Peasants’ Revolt, we just do not have the time to talk about those men who fought on after peace was declared.
Many of the soldiers who had fought for Edward III, perhaps over the course of many years in successive campaigns, did not necessarily find the idea of going home an attractive proposition. Skills honed on the battlefields and in the garrisons of the first part of the Hundred Years War might not be welcomed back home in Essex, while the opportunities for rape and plunder at home were much more limited than on the continent.
For those willing to take a chance and stay on in Europe there were openings for continuing to fight on in various countries, not least France and Italy. One of these men – and perhaps the most famous of them – was Sir John Hawkwood (d. 1394) of Sible Hedingham. He almost certainly took part in the wars of Edward III up to 1360 but in what capacity is unclear. Possibly he may have fought at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) but he came to prominence later as the most famous condottiere (a professional military leader or captain) in Italy of his day. Sir John is even commemorated by a fresco in Florence Cathedral.
Funerary Monument to Sir John Hawkwood by Paolo Uccello (1436)
While we do not have time for a paper on him during our day, the ERO has published a book by Dr Christopher Starr about him. This richly illustrated book places Hawkwood in an Essex context, showing his descent from villain ancestors, his network of gentry and aristocratic connections and the eventual dispersal of his accumulated estates. The intriguing history of Hawkwood’s mysterious tomb at Sible Hedingham is also uncovered for the first time.
Available in person from the ERO Searchroom for £9.99, or remotely for £13.49 (including p&p within the UK cheques made payable to ‘Essex County Council’ or by credit/debit card over the phone – 01245 244644), this is a wonderful introduction to a remarkable Essex character. Why not treat yourself to a copy?
The Fighting Essex Soldier: War Recruitment and Remembrance in the Fourteenth Century
Archive Assistant Edd Harris presents a handy guide to these documents from the medieval royal courts…
The documents produced by the workings of the medieval royal courts may seem like a mysterious and inaccessible subject for all but the most committed scholar of history, let alone a local historian or genealogist. However, there is much which can be of use to both of these disciplines, particularly as they reach back far beyond the limits of many of the more traditional documentary sources such as the Parish and Electoral Registers.
One of the largest collections of court records is that of the Patents Rolls. Running from 1201 to the present day (although our collection of calendars ends in 1582) these record the open (unsealed for the public to view) correspondence of the monarch called “Letters Patent” from the Latin “litterae patentes”. The plural, ‘Letters’ is always used as it refers to the arrangement of individual characters, not the item of correspondence itself, and as such there is no singular form. The Letters represent the means by which the monarch makes public pronouncements, and are still used today. Most recently the news that should Prince William have had a daughter, she would be given the title of Princess was given by way of Letters Patent as was the grant of City Status to Chelmsford. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-18342211)
Historically Letters Patent were used by the monarch (or proxies acting for the monarch) for a variety of tasks, including bestowing titles, making grants of land directly from the monarch, giving licences to alienate (sell) land and granting other rights to individuals or corporations.
These documents present a number of challenges, not least the style of handwriting and the fact that they are often written in medieval Latin. If the idea of attempting to read a medieval Latin document is striking fear into you, worry not for we have good news. The Letters Patent are transcribed, translated and indexed in the Public Record Office (PRO) Calendars, which can be found in the ERO Library in the Searchroom.
D/DVz 2: A Crown Grant by Letters Patent dated 14 December 1384, to John de Burghcher of the right of “Free Warren” (the right to hunt game) on his demesne lands. It is shown alongside the corresponding calendar of patent rolls and with its Great Seal still attached.
D/DVz 2: Here you can see the precurser to the heavy illumination which will appear on later Letters Patent.
The calendars only record those Letters Patent enrolled in England; however, many other Patents were produced in English foreign territories and a vast number in northern France, many dated at Rouen and authorised by the Castilian of the Castle whilst it was still an English possession.
D/DP T1/1848: This is a Patent confirming a grant of land and dated at Rouen on 7 September 1481. It is written entirely in medieval French and following the French style. This will unfortunately not appear in the PRO calendars.
In the course of your research you may find the calendars useful whilst researching land ownership (particularly the history and grant of manorial land), the origin of titles or even the history of companies. They are particularly useful whilst looking at the many original Letters Patent held in our collection as they include a full transcription of the often difficult to read documents.
For example, one of our original Letters Patent (D/Q 23/1/1) dated the 14th May 1575 grants incorporation and lands to create a free Grammar School in Dedham (later attended by the landscape painter John Constable), it is calendared as number 3271 in the Patent Rolls volume running 1572-1575. A simillar set of Letters also exists for King Edward the Sixth Grammar School in Chelmsford (D/DP O28).
D/Q 23/1/1: Letters Patent dated the 14th May 1575 granting the incorporation of a “free and perpetual grammar school” at Dedham together with the corresponding pages of the calendar. In this image you can see where the Great Seal would have been attached, though here it is sadly missing.
D/Q 23/1/1: More recent Letters Patent are often highly illuminated and many will be written in Latin as this one is, making the calendars all the more useful.
D/Q 23/1/1: The calendars provide a complete transcription and normally a translation of the latin.
If you would like to try your hand at using the PRO Calendars or Letters Patent then just ask a member of staff in the Searchroom.
We recently unearthed this film made by Essex County Council in 1981 to promote the largescale new development of South Woodham Ferrers.
A Riverside Country Town – click to be taken to the video on YouTube
The five minute film is a shortened version of the full 23 minute promotional film released to attract families to the then newly developed town.The short film positioned South Woodham Ferrers as the ideal country town, providing a rural lifestyle yet with all the amenities and transport links sought after by the industrious family in the booming early 1980s.
The film also includes a song written especially to promote the town, including the lyrics, ‘South Woodham Ferrers, it’s a whole new place to be … now’s the time to be here, there’s all you’ll ever need’.
Anyone interested in viewing the full version order it in our Searchroom (reference VA 3/8/9/1).
Also available are the original pamphlets promoting the town, which are advertised at the end of the film. The brochures promote the town’s ‘Very attractive buildings to delight the eye and rest the mind’, and asks ‘Where are the shops?… the housewife’s inevitable and very important question.’ (Have a look in pamphlet box W9 in the ERO library).
It’s well worth a watch, but be warned, the song is dangerously catchy…
Our recipes series is back! We had a little break in transmission while we prepared for and then recovered from our Heritage Open Day, but we’ve plenty more recipes from the archives to share with you.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve become rather hooked on the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, and it really brings home to you the knowledge and skills that you need to be a really successful baker.
It must have been even more challenging, then, with no refrigerators to keep your ingredients fresh, and no easy switch to flick to turn on your oven to the desired temperature. This makes the elaborate recipes we find in the archives even more amazing.
One of the most extensive recipe books in the ERO belonged to Elizabeth Slany, who began recording her recipes in 1715. Elizabeth was born near Worcester, and in 1723 she married Benjamin LeHook, a factor (or agent) in the City of London.
As mistress, Elizabeth would have been responsible for the running of the household, and the health of its members. Her book suggests that she embraced this challenge with gusto; not only does it include sections on meat and fish, pies, pastries, cakes, sweets, preserves, pickles, cordials and wines, it also includes medicines, salves and ointments. All of these recipes were carefully indexed at the back of the book.
Eighteenth-century food (at least for those with a substantial income) was rich and elaborate, and required a great deal of preparation. Dishes – savoury and sweet – tended to be heavily flavoured to disguise the flavour of tainted meat or butter.
Caraway seeds, almonds, mace, cloves and other spices were frequently used to flavour cakes, as evidenced in these recipes fromElizabeth’s book:
To Make Good Cakes
Take a pound of fine flower & a pound of fine sugar and some carraway seeds beaten then take 7 yolks of eggs & 3 whites & mix them altogether with your flower & then put them in a stone mortar & beat it well then butter your moulds well or they will stick fill them about 3 parts full and put them in the oven & let them stand till they are enough if you please you may put in more currans.
To make a Good Seed Cake
Take 5 pound of flower put 2 pound & better of sweet butter when it is well rub’d in put to it at least a pint & ½ of the best ale yest [yeast] 6 spoonfulls of cream 4 or 5 spoonfulls of sack [a type of white wine] 6 eggs & 3 whites well beaten with this all mixt together which will make it much thinner than dough & after it is well kneaded & mixt with your hands cover it with a clean cloth & let it lie before the fire ¾ of an hour in which time your oven must be ready hot then take it up & work into it a pound & a ½ of carraway comfitts &1/2 a pound of fine sugar & butter your tin pan & put it down close all round & set it in. An hour & ½ will bake it.
To make a Plumb Cake
Take 4 pound of flower and 4 pound of currans ½ a pint of sack plump the currans then take a quart of ale yest ¾ of a pound of sugar 10 eggs & half the whites a little nutmeg mace & cinnamon & a few cloves a pound of almonds blanch’t & beaten fine orange flower water a quart of cream boyl’d + when you take it of the fire put a pound of fresh butter in it heit [heat] till it is blood warm then mix the spices currans & a little salt with the flower then put in yest almonds cream eggs & mix them with a spoon then set it rising you may put in some musk & ambergrease [a waxy substance that originates in the intestines of the sperm whale, with a pleasant smell, which is also used in perfumery]your oven must be very quick and you must put it in a hoop an hour or a little more will bake it your bottom must be paper.
Note that the plumb cake mixture should be heated until ‘blood warm’ (and also that it doesn’t include any plums!).
Elizabeth lived to the grand age of 93, dying in 1786. Her eldest daughter Elizabeth LeHook married Samuel Wegg, who was the son of George Wegg ofColchester, a merchant tailor and town councillor. It was through the Wegg family that the book came toEssexand ultimately to the ERO.
The book is catalogued as D/DR Z1, and you can view images of the entire book here by the magic of Seax. Let us know if you try out any of the recipes!
See also: ‘Mistress Elizabeth Slany’s Book of Recipes’, Daphne Smith, Essex Countryside, Feb 1966, vol. 14 – in ERO Library