Medieval Mercenary: Sir John Hawkwood

There’s not long to wait now until the forthcoming ERO Conference, The Fighting Essex Soldier: Recruitment, War and Remembrance in the Fourteenth Century.

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.

 

Medieval Mercenary-1

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

Saturday 8 March 2014, 9.30am-4.15pm

More details here

One of our speakers, Dr Jennifer Ward, has also curated a display of fourteenth-century documents from our collections to accompany the conference which will be in the Searchroom from January-March.

Letters Patent and the Calendared Rolls

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 the 14th December 1384, to John de Burghcher of the right of "Free Warren" (the right to hunt game) on his demesne lands. It is shown allongside the corresponding calendar of patent rolls.

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 confirmation of land by Letters Patent dated at Rouen on the 7th September 1481. It is written entirely in medieval French following the French style. This will unfortunately not appear in the PRO calendars.

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 granting the incorporation of a "free and perpetual grammar school" at Dedham together with the corresponding pages of the calendar.

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: 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 in normally a translation of the latin.

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.

A Riverside Country Town

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

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…

‘Mistress Elizabeth Slany’s Book of Receipts &ca’

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.

 Title page of Elizabeth Slany's recipe book 

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.

Index in Elizabeth' Slany's book of receipts

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:

Cake recipes in Elizabeth Slany'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

Don’t judge a book by its cover: conserving Essex Illustrated

What does an archive do when faced with a book being torn apart by its own binding? Our Senior Conservator Tony King blogs for us about conserving Essex Illustrated.

In February-March 2012 the Conservation Section at the ERO worked to conserve Essex Illustrated in a Series of Nearly 100 Views, a book of 94 prints dating from 1834. It was in a very poor condition due to the original style of binding and the quality of the materials used during the binding process.

Essex Illustrated, 1834, had clearly seen better days when it arrived in the Conservation Studio

The book contains nearly 100 prints, such as these ones of the ruins of Waltham Abbey and the now demolished Gidea Hall:

This book presented a real challenge; conservation practice is to preserve as much of the original binding as possible and only to rebind a book as a last resort. This is because it is not just the content of a book which can tell us about the past, but the physical object of the book as well.

This book was bound quickly and cheaply, which tells us something about the intended audience and use of the book. Perhaps it was given a cheap binding as the buyer was expected to remove the prints and frame them or put them in a scrap book, and to put what would have been considered an expensive binding on it would alter the nature of the book and the information that can be inferred from its presentation.

Yet to reconstruct the style of binding originally used would seem foolish as it had completely failed; however, to alter the style to a more robust one would not be in-keeping with the historical integrity of the item.

We needed, therefore, to devise a method which would reuse every part of the original binding and preserve the appearance of the book as much as possible whilst creating a strong volume so it could be used by researchers.

Investigation

The first step was to find out how the book had been bound originally. In order to do this, the pages were clamped into a finishing press with the binding removed.

Removing the binding of the book to reveal the stitching underneath

This revealed that the book was made from single sheets of paper that had been oversewn, a sewing style where the stitches are passed through the sheet of paper near the spine edge rather than through the centre of a fold as is more common. Oversewing had been used as there were no folds to sew through as each page was a separate sheet of paper rather than a folded section and it offered the fastest method for sewing the book.

This choice of sewing style made by the original binder was the cause of many of the problems the book now presented. The thick paper used for the prints was restrained by the sewing going through the page and the pages were too stiff to lay flat and articulate properly when the book was opened. This resulted in stress being placed on the pages, causing the paper to tear around the sewing holes and pages to become damaged and loose.

The pages, comprised of single sheets, had been oversewn, and the stitches had torn at the pages

 Furthermore, the style of binding (case bound) combined with the poor quality materials had resulted in a very weak binding with little strength at the point where the boards attached to the book and both boards had torn away and were completely detached.

 Treatment

After washing and deacidifying (treatment of acid present in the paper with an alkaline chemical) each print was adhered at the spine edge to a sheet of thin acid free paper which was then folded around the face of the print to form a folded sheet with a central crease which could be sewn through. These thin sections were sewn together using 5 linen tapes as support which would then be attached to the boards and act as a hinge.

The freshley sewn pages ready for the binding to be reattached

Once sewn, the original boards were reattached by pasting the ends of the linen tapes down underneath the original pastedown, thereby obscuring the new additions to the binding structure. New book cloth was required to replace the partial loss of the original and the bridge the gap created by the increased thickness of the volume.

The fresh linen tapes attached to the back board to act as a hinge

 

The linen tapes hidden underneath the original pastedown at the back of the book

The conservation work has been carried out without replacing any of the original material or drastically altering the appearance or mechanics of the structure, and following treatment the book is now strong enough to be handled by researchers, without the risk of damage to the binding or the prints inside.

The newly conserved Essex Illustrated, ready and waiting for a new generation of readers

You can see Essex Illustrated for yourself by ordering it in the Searchroom, using the reference LIB/REF 2.

A summer holiday on Essex’s ‘Sunshine Coast’

Where are you planning your summer holiday this year? Essex is possibly not the first place you would think of, but in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Essex’s ‘Sunshine Coast’ was one of the destinations of choice for the discerning British holiday maker.

The historians of the Victoria County History of Essex have been hard at work over the last few years researching the pasts of Clacton, Walton and Frinton, and their research has now been published as volume 11 in the Victoria County History of Essex series.

I/Mb 387/1/4 Print of Walton-on-the-Naze as a seaside village, 1829, just as it was starting to be developed a seaside resort

From the 1820s, Walton and later Clacton and Frinton were promoted as high-class residential and holiday resorts. After a slow start, hampered by poor communications and low demand, growth was stimulated by steam ship companies which landed visitors on newly built piers in Walton and Clacton and by the railways that reached Walton in 1867, Clacton in 1882 and Frinton in 1888.

I/Mb 387/1/13 Photograph showing new resort bulidings at Walton-on-the-Naze constructed c.1860, juxtaposed with the surrounding rural landscape with cows grazing on the cliff tops. Photograph by T. E. Freshwater

 

I/Mp 86/1/3 Clacton Pier – a key element in the growth of Clactonas a seaside resort, since it enabled steamship to bring visitors to the town

However, the working-class excursionists newly attracted to Clacton, and to a lesser extent Walton, then irrevocably changed the social tone of both resorts. By the 1920s and 1930s Clacton had become a highly commercialized holiday destination and its pier’s funfair-style facilities rivalled those of any other British resort.

   I/Mb 86/1/29 Postcard of the bandstand, Clacton-on-Sea, c.1910

Nearby Jaywick was established as a cheap and cheerful plotland development and Butlins opened its popular Clacton holiday camp in 1938. While Walton remained popular with families, Frinton continued as a ‘select’ resort, with building development and commerce strictly controlled to protect its exclusive character. 

After 1945 camping and caravanning increased in popularity, but from the later 1960s the growth of overseas holidays led to a steep decline in the domestic tourism economy. The coast remained popular for retirement and subsequent diversification has led to large dormitory-style housing developments, light industry and shopping centres.

The volume which tells this story is part of a grand tradition: the distinctive big red volumes of the Victoria County Histories have graced the shelves of archives and libraries across England since 1900. Founded in 1899 and dedicated to QueenVictoria, the Histories aim to produce ‘an encyclopaedic record of England’s places and people from earliest times to the present day’. The Histories are still being written by historians working in counties right acrossEngland, and the Essex Record Office is home to the Essex VCH Trust.

Volumes of the Victoria County of History in the ERO Searchroom

Volume 11 of the Victoria County History of Essex, Clacton, Walton and Frinton: North-East Essex Seaside Resorts, will be available in the ERO Searchroom shortly, and can be ordered from Boydell & Brewer Ltd here.