Your Favourite ERO Documents: Map of Chignall by John Walker, 1599

As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations this year, we asked you, our users, to nominate your favourite ERO documents. Today’s nomination comes from Rosemary Hall, and is a map made by John Walker of Chignall in 1599, or to give it its full title, ‘A true platt of Beamond Oates measured and taken the laste of Nouember 1599 for the right worshipful Sir John Petre knight by John Walker’.

The map covers an area of 241 acres about a mile and a half north of Writtle in the modern parish of Chignall. It shows a farm which was part of the estates of the Petre family of Ingatestone Hall, called variously Beamond Oates, Otes, Moates, Motts and Mottes. The map shows the site of a former farm house, labelled as Beamond Moates, and the current house and surrounding barns (see extract below). It measures 17 x 22 inches, and is at a scale of about 26.6 inches to 1 mile. The map seems to have been a draft – it has Walker’s characteristic accuracy, but lacks the finish of some of his other maps, which perhaps suggests that Sir John Petre was happy with the draft as a practical record of the farm.

We’ve written a little already about John Walker and his map of Chelmsford (here); Walker was an incredibly skilled map maker, and his son, also John, took up the profession. A.C. Edwards and K.C. Newton in The Walkers of Hanningfield (well worth a read – available in the ERO library), suggest that this map is the first work we have of John Walker junior – the use of a yellow to represent thatch on the farmhouse is seen in his later maps, and is distinct from the brown his father usually used, and the handwriting of both father and son appears on the map.

D/DP P6 map of Chignall

Walker map of Chignall, 1599, D/DP P6

 

D/DP P6 map of Chignall

The farm house and barns

Rosemary Hall writes:

[My favourite ERO document] is a Map of Chignal D/DP P6, “A true platt of Beaumond Otes…[drawn] for Sir John Petre.” I grew up in Chignal Road, and walked over that area, and well remember my fascination and delight upon discovering that many of the woods that I knew dated back 400 years! It was one of the things that triggered my interest in local history; along with the encouragement of the Essex Record Office. Alas! I am an exile from Essex now, but I am continuing to research the history of my adopted city of Coventry.

Thank you to Rosemary for turning the spotlight onto this wonderful piece from our collections. If you would like to nominate your own favourite ERO document, we would love to hear from you. Simply download this form, and return it to the Searchroom desk or by e-mail to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk. There are also paper copies available at the Searchroom desk.

Favourite ERO documents: interview with Mrs Champion about the Canvey Island Floods of 1953

Today is World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, organised by the International Association of Sound and Video Archives, and this year’s theme is “Saving Our Heritage for the Next Generation”. We thought that this was a good opportunity to dip into the Essex Sound and Video Archive as part of our favourite documents series.

As well as asking our users about their favourite documents from our collections, we have also been asking ourselves. Here, Sound Archivist Martin Astell tells us about one of his favourite recordings in the Essex Sound and Video Archive, an interview with Mrs Champion about the Canvey Island Floods of 1953 (SA 6/306/1).

Choosing a favourite item from the Essex Sound and Video Archive is difficult for me as I have heard and watched so many wonderful recordings of all kinds relating to Essex people and places. The archive holds numerous recordings which can be enjoyed for their entertainment value – beautiful music, amusing anecdotes, interesting documentaries, dramatic productions, and so on.

However, I have chosen one of our oral history interviews which, rather than being entertaining, is sobering, shocking and moving. It is an interview with Mrs Peggy Champion, recorded in 1978, in which she remembers her experiences during the floods which engulfed Canvey Island and other parts of Essex on the night of 31 January 1953.

In this interview – which lasts only 7 minutes – Mrs Champion (who, at the time of the floods was Mrs Peggy Morgan) tells the story calmly and without hyperbole of how she woke in the night to find sea water in the bedroom of her home on Canvey Island and how, during the course of that night, she witnessed the deaths of her husband, her mother-in-law, and her five-year-old son.

It has been said that listening to an oral history interview is the closest one can come to time travel since it involves real people from the past talking about real events as they were genuinely experienced, and the emotional impact of this one recording can perhaps tell us more about the experience of natural disaster than any number of statistics or written reports.

I believe that hearing this recording was one of the things which spurred Patricia Rennoldson Smith to gather testimony from other survivors of the 1953 floods for her book The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster: The People’s Story, and every time I hear it I am reminded of why it is so important that sound and video recordings are preserved and made available alongside the other records held in the Essex Record Office.

Favourite ERO documents: Grant of Arms to Thomas Barrett-Leonard (formerly Thomas Thomas)

As well as asking our users about their favourite documents from our collections, we have also been asking ourselves. Here, Archive Assistant Edward Harris tells us about one of his favourite documents, the Grant of Arms to Thomas Barrett Leonard 1st Baronet (D/DL/F170).

This document recites a royal warrant of 13 March 1786 which directs the Garter and Clarenceux, kings of arms, to grant to Thomas Thomas  the right to adopt his father’s surname, title and arms as per his father’s will.

Thomas Thomas was an illegitimate son of Thomas Barrett-Leonard, 17th Baron Dacre, and Elizabeth FitzThomas. He went on to  be MP for Essex South and a Deputy Lieutenant of Essex. He was created 1st Baronet of Belhus in 1801. His eldest son Thomas became an MP for Maldon, but predeceased Thomas Sr who died aged 95 as the most senior member of the baronetage in 1857. He was succeeded in his baronetcy by his grandson Thomas (why give up on a good name?).

This document has always stood out for me as it was one of the first documents I noticed on when I began working at the Record Office, as its distinctively shaped box caught my eye. I am sorry to say that it was only recently that I actually unrolled it and discovered the wonderful illumination inside.

The purpose-made box for D/DL/F170 , with special containers for the two pendant seals.

 

 Edds avec seal

 

 IMG_1369 compressed

For me it was always the meaning behind it that appealed to me. This is a document which was the making of this one man. It transformed him from a relatively wealthy gentleman into one of the foremost members of the nobility in Essex, an opportunity that he clearly didn’t squander. Without this document his life would have been somewhat different. The esteem in which he held it is obvious. The box is carefully made and decorated and the document itself is pristine to the point of looking almost brand new.

We have a portrait of Thomas’s painted by John Opie, and it now hangs on one of the walls in the Searchroom, next to a portrait of his first wife. I very much recommend having a look at it on your next visit – he looks every bit like a man who had to prove himself, and this document certainly helped.

Favourite ERO documents: Cartulary of the estates of Sir William Capel, 1294-1511

As well as asking our users about their favourite documents from our collections, we have also been asking ourselves. Here, Senior Conservator Tony King shares his perspective on one of his favourite documents, a cartulary of the estates of Sir William Capel, 1294-1511 (A8173). Some of the nominated documents will feature in a display at our open day on Saturday 14th September.

As a Conservator at Essex Record Office I am lucky to have contact with some remarkable documents from the collection so it is difficult to pick a favourite but Acc. A8173, a cartulary of estates of Sir William Capel, c.1511 encapsulates many of my favourite aspects of interpreting our collection. Documents can reveal so much, not just from their written content but also as a physical object; the craftsmen who made the parchment, the scribe who filled the pages and the binder who bound them together have all left their mark on this volume.

Book cut out

The parchment pages of the volume show numerous small repairs carried out through the ages. Some are healed scars sustained while the animal was still alive, other small patches were applied by the parchment maker while the processed skin dried and other tears happened hundreds of years later and have been patched by subsequent users of the book.

Book open cut out

The binding is a rare surviving example of a chemise binding where a soft allum tawed leather cover is stitched together and the bound book slipped into it, very much like a dust jacket on a modern hardback book. The edges of the chemise cover overhang the top and bottom edges of the book to form protective flaps over the edge of the pages. Although the chemise now appears grey, areas that have been turned onto the inside of the boards and have been protected are red in colour indicating that the whole cover may have been dyed red originally.

IMG_1322 edit

This book seems to have had a long working life and shows signs of regular use. The metal clasps which keep the boards securely closed, maintaining pressure on the parchment pages to keep them flat, are later additions as shown by evidence of earlier fittings on the back board which would have held straps to do the same job. This indicates that the book was still relevant many years after its binding and was maintained as a working resource.

Not only is the volume a rare example of this style of bookbinding, it also bears the physical evidence which points towards hundreds of years of use. Further examination of the binding structure and condition would yield more information about the techniques and decisions made whilst making it and hint at how it was used and regarded in the past. Scientific techniques such as DNA analysis could tell us the species and breed of the animals used for the parchment shedding light on the medieval parchment trade. This cartulary demonstrates how as well as holding a wealth of information in the text, a document can also provide a window on the past by looking closely at it as an object.

If you would like to nominate your own favourite ERO document, we would love to hear from you. Simply download this form, and return it to the Searchroom desk or by e-mail to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk. There are also paper copies available at the Searchroom desk. Nominated documents may be featured on this blog or in displays at our open day on Saturday 14 September 2013.

Favourite ERO documents: Walker map of Chelmsford, 1591

As well as asking our users about their favourite documents from our collections, we have also been asking ourselves. Here Public Service Team Manager Neil Wiffen tells us about his favourite document, John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford.

 My favourite document at the ERO has to be one of the best known and most widely reproduced – the 1591 Walker map of Chelmsford. This might be an obvious choice (and could it be said boring?) but for me it works on so many levels.

Extract from the Walker map of Chelmsford, 1591 (D/DM P1)

Extract from the Walker map of Chelmsford, 1591 (D/DM P1)

First of all it is a map and I think everyone likes a map because we can all get something from a map so very easily. We don’t need to read Latin or funnily written handwriting to be able to enjoy an historic map. As maps go it is a sumptuous and artistic map. The colours are still so very vivid even after 422 years and the wonderful portrayal of the buildings by John Walker is exquisite.

Being Chelmsford born and bred it works for me on a local level, a source of civic pride. I can’t help when I walk down the High Street but try and imagine what it would have been like when Walker surveyed the town. Indeed walking down the High Street is to walk in our predecessors footsteps so little has the basic layout of the town changed over the centuries. In a way the map is the nearest we can ever get to late Tudor Chelmsford, so it allows us to travel in time. It is a map that continues to keep me thinking about town development. If ever you’ve been shopping on a Friday or Saturday when they have the market stalls in the High Street you can just imagine what it was like when the Middle Row was developed over centuries. Stall holders didn’t bother to take down their stalls overnight but slept under the counter or added another level and before you knew there was a row of permanent shops which Walker depicts.

It can also be a dangerous map as well. Looking at the layout of Chelmsford in 1591 we can be lulled in to thinking how much nicer it would be to live in a small Chelmsford. Urban development and awful planning decisions of the 1950s-70s have deprived the town of much interest which is there in the Walker map. However, we must not forget the appalling inequality, insanitary conditions and harsh punishments of those earlier centuries.

Last of all it is a map of wonder. How did John Walker survey the town and produce the map? Whenever I look at the map I always think – ‘John Walker, what a clever bloke!’

If you would like to nominate your own favourite ERO document, we would love to hear from you. Simply download this form, and return it to the Searchroom desk or by e-mail to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk. There are also paper copies available at the Searchroom desk. Nominated documents may be featured on this blog or in displays at our open day on Saturday 14 September 2013.

Your favourite documents: an unexpected find

As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations this year, we recently asked you, our users, to nominate your favourite ERO documents. Thank you very much to those of you who have sent in nominations so far – today we bring you the next in a series of your favourites.

Today’s nomination comes from Paul Mardon, a member of the Essex Place Names Project, and is a map of part of Prittlewell dating to 1825 (Q/RHi 4/49). It is a good example of finding information in unexpected places:

I began working as a Recorder on the Essex Place names project in 2008. My first parish was Prittlewell, the historic centre of Southend. The Tithe Map proved to be disappointing in terms of place name information , so I began to research other maps hopefully to find more data.

This record consists of a map & accompanying order approved by Justices of the Peace at a special session in Rochford in December 1825. They record an agreement to stop up a footpath (1092 ft long by 4 ft wide) running through three fields on the south side of East St, Prittlewell. What appeals to me about this record is the exquisitely & precisely drawn coloured map which accompanies the decision. Why was so much care taken with this when a simple sketch map would seem to have been adequate? Even more surprising is that this little map has survived to the present day in such excellent condition. The colours have faded slightly but what would you expect after nearly 200 years. I think this record also illustrates that the treasures we are so fortunate to have at the ERO are not just of the great & the good but on so many occasions give us an insight into everyday lives of ordinary people.

G/RHi 4/49

G/RHi 4/49 (click for a larger version)

One of the documents accompanying the map tells us that the path was being stopped up because it was ‘useless and unnecessary’, and also gives us the professions of the three landowners named on the map: Thomas Lindsell was a wheelwright, and William Carr and William Cockerton were farmers – another good example of finding information about individuals in unexpected places, especially in pre-census years. Each signed their names to agree to the order stopping up the path.

G/RHi 4/49 

If you would like to nominate your own favourite ERO document, we would love to hear from you. Simply download this form, and return it to the Searchroom desk or by e-mail to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk. There are also paper copies available at the Searchroom desk. Nominated documents may be featured on this blog or in displays at our open day on Saturday 14 September 2013.

Your favourite documents: Interregnum insults

As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations this year, we recently asked you, our users, to nominate your favourite ERO documents. Thank you very much to those of you who have sent in nominations so far – today we bring you the next in a series of your favourites.

Today’s nomination comes from Stansted Local History Society (if there are any other societies that want to make joint nominations, do let us know!). Their Committee chose a Quarter Sessions document dating from 23 April 1655 (Q/SBa 2/91), and this is what they had to say about it:

Our preferred choice is  Q/SBa 2/91, a single page Quarter Session document in which, on 23 April 1655, Richard Hubbert gave evidence that John Milton, a blacksmith of Stansted Mountfitchet, who seems to have had his forge on the main road between London and Newmarket, used ‘divers wicked, seditious, and scandalous words and language to the disgrace of the Lord Protector [Cromwell] and present government, and to the promoting of new insurrections and rebellion, viz. that about Christmas last past, or a little before – between Michaelmas and Christmas – seeing divers in company passing upon the road, some in a coach and some on horse back, the said Milton used these words: “These are Parliament rogues and I am faine to work hard to get money with ye sweat of my browse to maintain such Parliam[en]t rogues”.  Cromwell’s Protectorate, established in 1653, soon lost whatever popularity it had by imposing heavy taxes, four times as heavy as under Charles I, and, worse still, by being unusually effective in collecting them.

If you would like to nominate your own favourite ERO document, we would love to hear from you. Simply download this form, and return it to the Searchroom desk or by e-mail to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk. There are also paper copies available at the Searchroom desk. Nominated documents may be featured on this blog or in displays at our open day on Saturday 14 September 2013.

Your favourite ERO documents: a death penalty debate

As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations this year, we recently asked you, our users, to nominate your favourite ERO documents. Thank you very much to those of you who have sent in nominations so far – today we bring you the next in a series of your favourites.

Today’s nomination (D/DEb 85/6) comes from Kate Masheder, who has been using the ERO for over ten years:

This letter relates to William Palmer who was condemned to death for sheep stealing in 1819.  He was the husband of Hannah Noakes Reeve, my gt gt gt grandmother but not (so far as we know) the father of Joseph, her firstborn, my gt gt grandfather.  William’s death left Hannah with a young son and baby, plus the six children from his first marriage.  Although Thomas Gardiner Bramston (MP) sent a letter appealing to Mr Justice Bayley for clemency, the death penalty was upheld.  I often wonder how Hannah managed during the year following his death and what happened to William’s children.  She did remarry but died in 1824 at the age of thirty.

In his letter, Mr Justice Bayley asked T.G. Bramston if he could think of any special grounds for clemency but none were forthcoming.  The crime was not a violent one but, because of his occupation as a butcher (with the means to get rid of the evidence) it was felt an example should be made of him.

The death penalty was a harsh one for a man with eight children but perhaps transportation would have left Hannah in worse circumstances as, even after a short sentence, he might not have returned home and she would have been unable to remarry.

 

The letter from Mr Justice Bayley discusses why it was decided to make an example of William Palmer by sentencing him to death for sheepstealing. As a butcher, he was able to easily conceal his crimes, and had stolen for sale rather than for food. Bayley discusses the problem of sheepstealing in Essex and the need to deter others, even though Bayley wrote that ‘it would have relieved my mind from great uneasiness, could I have found any Circumstances in the Case which would have warranted me … to have granted a Reprieve’.

Thank you very much to Kate for nominating this document as a favourite. We’ll be bringing you more favourites over the next few months. Nominate yours by downloading our form and either returning it in to the Searchroom desk or e-mailing it to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk

Your favourite ERO documents – Photograph of Elizabeth Greenwood

As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations this year, we recently asked you, our users, to nominate your favourite ERO documents. Thank you very much to those of you who have sent in nominations so far – today we bring you the first in a series of your favourites.

Photograph of Elizabeth Greenwood, born in 1788

This photograph of Elizabeth Greenwood was nominated by Rosalind Kaye, who has been using the ERO for her research for over 20 years. This is why she nominated this photograph:

Elizabeth was born in 1788, yet in this charming little photograph you feel you can touch her shawl, it is so clear. She produced 8 children, two of whom made their mark in Halstead – Robert Ellington (banker, farmer and proprietor of the gas works) and Lucy (founder and superintendent of the Halstead Industrial School). They were Quakers.

Thank you very much to Rosalind for nominating the photograph, we can see exactly what she means about the clarity of Elizabeth’s shawl, and how amazing it is to have a photograph of someone born in the eighteenth century.

We’ll be bringing you more favourites over the next few months. Nominate yours by downloading our form and either returning it in to the Searchroom desk or e-mailing it to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk

Nominate your favourite record

As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations this year, we want to hear from you.

We always like to hear how searchers are using our collections, whether it’s in the Searchroom or online through Seax and Essex Ancestors, so we’ve decided to ask searchers to nominate their favourite record, and to tell us what it is about it that appeals to you.

Entries can be long or short, medieval or modern, whole volumes or single sheets, parchment or photographs or DVDs or cassettes. All you need to do is to download our nomination form here and either return it in to the Searchroom desk or e-mail it to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk

Nominated documents may be featured on our blog or in displays at our open day on Saturday 14 September.

To get the ball rolling, here is one of the favourite documents of Hannah Salisbury, Audience Development Officer:

 

Bond to Indemnify the parish of Walden agt Ann White’s Child by Mr Rebecca, 1773 (D/B 2/PAR8/35)

Bastardy Bonds were used to protect parish ratepayers from ending up paying to support unmarried mothers and their children if the mother was unable to support herself.

There are hundreds of such bonds in our collection, mostly dating to the eighteenth century, but this one particularly stands out for me because of the story it tells.

Dated 24 April 1773, the bond tells us that Ann White, a servant at Audley End near Saffron Walden, had given birth to a male child, the son of Biagio Rebecca, an Italian painter employed at the house by its owner, Sir John Griffin Griffin.

Extract from D/B 2/PAR8/35

Extract from D/B 2/PAR8/35

Rebecca had acknowledged that the child was his, but clearly had no intention of marrying the hapless Ann. To indemnify the parish from ever having to support her and their child, Rebecca had agreed to deposit £100 with Sir John Griffin Griffin, to whom Ann would have to apply when in need of funds to support herself and the child. In paying this lump sum, Rebecca absolved himself of all responsibility to Ann and their child. You can view the document in full on Seax here.

The story continues in the baptism register of St Mary’s Saffron Walden where the child’s baptism is recorded:

*John Biagio, son of Biagio Rebecca & Ann White *(base-born)

N.B. Senior Biagio Rebecca was a most ingenious artist who was employed by Sir John Griffin, at Audley End, to paint the cieling [sic] & Panels of ye little south drawing Room, & several family portraits in the great Room over the eating Parlor!!! [sic]

Baptism of John Biagio, 24 December 1772. Extract from parish register of St Mary’s, Saffron Walden (D/P 192/1/5, image 40)

You can still see Biagio Rebecca’s paintings at Audley End, and read his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Essex Library card holders can access the ODNB for free with their library card number).