Harlow Housing and Design Interviews Online

Harlow New Town was established in 1947, when the New Town Development Corporation began to purchase land around the old town and erect new housing estates. The houses primarily served to relieve housing pressures on bombed-out, overcrowded London, particularly from the East End. The first residents began moving in from 1949.

So say the textbooks, but what personal stories lie behind these brief facts? At the Essex Sound and Video Archive, we hold a wonderful collection of oral history interviews conducted by Dr Judy Attfield in the 1980s for her research project, Harlow Housing and Design (SA 22). These interviews reveal what it was like to live in the new town. Our Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place, has enabled us to digitise all of the original cassettes and make them freely available through Essex Archives Online.

Screenshot of SA 22 catalogue

A satisfying sight: the icons show that there is audio material attached to that catalogue entry.

At first, we thought the digitisation would be a straightforward task. Shortly after the collection was first deposited with us in 1996, we created access copies on cassette, to safeguard the original masters (our standard procedure in the Sound Archive). The access copies are all neatly labelled and clearly identified, one cassette per interview.

However, when we looked in the box containing the original cassettes, things were not quite so straightforward. We digitise from the original recording (or as near to the original recording as we can get), to capture the purest sound. On revisiting the masters, we realised that the interviewer had used one cassette for multiple interviews – a common practice when you want to make the most of the cassette tape you have. Piecing each recording together to make one complete interview has caused our digitiser, Catherine Norris, several headaches.

But now they are all digitised. Similar to our procedure with physical analogue recordings, we keep a master, uncompressed .wav file safely in storage. We then create compressed .mp3 copies as our new access copy. You can still come into the Searchroom and listen to the recordings, but you can also now listen from home, through Essex Archives Online.

Each interview is valuable in its own right, but as a collection it is even more fascinating. Dr Attfield spoke to a range of people: developers, architects, and town councillors who shed light on the planning of the new town; shopkeepers; people who moved to Harlow before the new town; and people who moved as part of the new town settlement. Putting these different viewpoints together gives a rich, rounded impression of this time in history. Some interviewees say that women found it more difficult than men to settle in new towns and felt lonely and depressed; some say that women found it easier to form new bonds because they were surrounded by women in a similar position, raising children away from their parents in unfamiliar surroundings. Some were ecstatic to have their own front doors, their own staircases in two-storey homes; some missed the familiarity of London, even if they were living in cramped, shared housing. The multiplicity of memories challenges generalisations about life in a new town. It also demonstrates (by listening to the accents of the interviewees, if nothing else) that not everyone in Harlow in the 1950s was an ex-Eastender.

The collection also serves as a good example of how to conduct an oral history interview. Dr Attfield had a specific interest in the interior design of the new houses. She directed questions to gather information on this topic. However, she also asked wider questions for context. She let her interviewees say what they wanted with minimal interventions, but also guided the interview to cover her set of questions. Occasionally she probed her interviewees for more details, or challenged their viewpoints to get a better understanding, without revealing any judgement of their opinions.

Dr Attfield made a significant research contribution in the fields of material culture, gender studies, and design history, among other overlapping areas. Based for many years at the Winchester School of Art, her book Wild Things: The Material Culture of Everyday Life (Oxford: Berg, 2000) has become a key text in her field. She passed away in 2006. We are very grateful that she deposited her recordings about Harlow with us, for future researchers to use and enjoy.

One particularly moving interview from the collection is that with Mrs Summers, who moved to the new town from Walthamstow in 1952 (SA 22/1364/1). At several points in the interview, Mrs Summers describes the long adjustment period when ‘home’ still meant London before completely settling in Harlow. As well as missing her family, in this clip she describes how she ‘couldn’t get used to the newness of things’ after coming from Walthamstow with its ‘houses with big windows… little tiny houses… nice houses… [and] grubby-looking houses’.

At a time when neighbourhood plans for vast numbers of additional houses are being developed across Essex – across the country – perhaps these experiences of new settlers can help with the process of creating new communities.

Dr Attfield published an article based on these interviews in the book that she co-edited with P Kirkham, A View from the Interior: Women and Design (London: Women’s Press, 1995). The article can be consulted at Colchester Library.

We hope to showcase clips from these recordings on a listening bench in Harlow, in time for the 70th anniversary of the New Town in 2017. If you are interested in helping to work on the bench for Harlow, please get in touch: info@essexsounds.org.uk

Essex Archives Online update – digitising our electoral registers

We have just begun the next big expansion of digitised records available through our subscription service on Essex Archives Online, with the beginning of our project to provide digital images of our electoral registers.

There are some 850 volumes in our collection of Essex electoral registers

There are some 850 volumes in our collection of Essex electoral registers

Ultimately we will be making available images of all the registers we hold from 1833-1974. The first phase of the project has just been completed, with digital images of our electoral registers from 1833-1868 now all available online. We will be releasing the images in batches, with a target completion date for the whole project of January 2018.

(There is a little caveat to this – the registers for 1918 and 1929 have been online for some time, and they will of course remain.)

While our set of Essex electoral registers is not 100% complete, it is the best surviving set of these records, and for some registers ours is the only surviving copy. This collection of some 850 volumes provides vital evidence of Essex people’s lives and locations over almost 150 years.

As with the images of Essex parish registers and wills already available online, the images of the electoral registers can be viewed free of charge in the ERO Searchroom, or as part of our online subscription packages. Information about how to find the records and how to subscribe can be found on our subscription home page.

Electoral register page for Bardfield Saling, 1851 (Q/RPr 1/10)

Electoral register page for Bardfield Saling, 1851 (Q/RPr 1/10)

 

Why digitise electoral registers?

There are two key drivers for digitising these records: 1, to make them more widely available, and 2, to preserve the originals. Electoral registers were not designed to have a long lifespan and can be somewhat fragile. As popular records they are frequently in demand, and digitisation allows us to make the information available while protecting the original documents.

 

How will the records be indexed?

As with the parish registers already available in Essex Archives Online, we are not publishing a name index, but all of the registers in this batch are arranged alphabetically – that is, electors appear in each parish in alphabetical order of surname.  This makes tracing individuals fairly easy.  In addition, each register is indexed by parish or place, and they offer great opportunities not just for family historians but also for studies of local society and urban development.  An annual list of the main property owners and occupiers in each place is a valuable addition to the online record, particularly where the local rate books (the ultimate source of much of this information) fail to survive.

 

Why do the records start in 1833?

Modern electoral registers came into being with the Great Reform Act of 1832.  The Act did not hugely increase the electorate, but for the first time it required the Clerk of the Peace – the head of the county administration – to have the annual parish lists of electors’ names ‘fairly and truly copied … in a book to be by him provided’, and to give to each elector’s name ‘its proper number, beginning the numbers from the first name’.  That book would be the electoral register for the following year. The Clerk was not required to print the registers, or to preserve them once the year was out, and before the mid-1840s only two survive in Essex. After that matters steadily improve, and from the early 1860s until 2001 the Record Office’s collection is fairly complete.

 

Who will be included in these registers?

The 1832 Reform Act expanded the electorate to some extent, but it was still limited to men aged over 21 who owned a certain amount of property. In 1851 just 11,500 county electors spoke for an Essex population of almost 370,000.

By no means all the electors for a particular parish actually lived there, or even close by, and their actual places of residence can be revealing. In 1851 the divided freehold of the King’s Head Inn at Gosfield, in the northern division of Essex, provided the qualification for 6 of the parish’s 13 electors. One lived in Chelmsford, one in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, one in London and three in Surrey.

At Braintree, three brothers from the Buxton brewing family each held a vote in respect of Hyde Farm, the farm’s ownership being split between them. According to the register, however, Sir Edward North Buxton Bt. – who was in fact the MP for South Essex – lived in Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair; Charles Buxton lived near the brewery in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, Middlesex; and Thomas Fowell Buxton lived in Leytonstone (Leyton), which was at least in Essex at the time, although far away in the southern division.

At Leyton, the pattern was repeated and each of the brothers qualified once more, this time through the freehold of the Three Blackbirds inn – although Thomas Fowell Buxton had apparently forgotten that he lived in the parish and gave the Spitalfields address as his place of residence.  For researchers into Victorian society, and especially the connections between land and politics, electoral registers are a mine of information.

For family historians, the names of the electors will naturally be the focus of interest, although the electors themselves are not the only people named.  For example, William Wing of Bloomsbury in London had a vote in 1851 for his house in Braintree on ‘corner of square, Miss Wing, tenant’.  She, of course, had no vote at all – but the naming of such voteless tenants increases the registers’ value to historians.  Miss Wing is known from the 1851 census as Sarah Wing, a silversmith and watchmaker living and working in Great Square, and census users might well have wondered about a possible connection with William Wing, born in Braintree but working as a watchmaker in New Bond Street in London.  Despite the gap between New Bond Street and Braintree, the electoral register evidence makes their connection almost certain, and suggests something of Sarah and William’s family arrangements.  Linking the electoral registers to other sources makes the whole data set much more powerful.

 

How did elections take place in this period?

The process of electing MPs in the 1830s-1860s was quite different to today. There were two different kinds of constituencies – counties and boroughs. The theory was that county MPs would represent landholding interests, and borough MPs the interests of the mercantile and trading classes. Before 1832 Essex sent 8 MPs to Parliament – 2 from the county seat of Chelmsford, and 2 each from the ancient boroughs of Colchester, Maldon and Harwich.

Before 1832 there was enormous variety in the size of constituencies and in voting qualifications. Polling could last up to 40 days, and there was no secret ballot. The whole system was liable to corruption and domination by local elites.

The 1832 Reform Act went some way towards resolving some of these issues. Most rotten boroughs (boroughs with tiny electorates controlled by a wealthy patron) were abolished, and seats were redistributed to growing industrial towns. Polling was limited to two days, and the qualifications for the franchise were standardised.

Essex gained two more MPs as part of the changes as the county constituency was split into two divisions, north and south, each returning two MPs, in addition to the two each still returned from the three ancient boroughs.

Flyer by John Gurdon Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, who stood as an independent candidate for North Essex in the 1847 general election. The policies he outlines here include the protection of agriculture, and of the Church of England and individual liberty. He was not successful on this occasion, but was MP for Colchester between 1857 and 1859, and again from 1865 until his death in 1870. (T/P 68/38/9)

Flyer by John Gurdon Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, who stood as an independent candidate for North Essex in the 1847 general election. The policies he outlines here include the protection of agriculture, and of the Church of England and individual liberty. He was not successful on this occasion, but was MP for Colchester between 1857 and 1859, and again from 1865 until his death in 1870. (T/P 68/38/9)

Looking to the future…

Further reforms were, of course, to come, and successive electoral registers include more and more people, until finally all men and women over 21 were granted the vote in 1928. We will continue to post updates on the blog as the electoral register project progresses, and we hope you enjoy exploring the new images.

A transatlantic team member

This autumn will see an exciting new development for us as we welcome a new member of our team, who just happens to be over 3,000 miles away.

Linda MacIver at Boston Public Library during Neil and Allyson's visit last summer

Linda MacIver at Boston Public Library during Neil and Allyson’s visit last summer

Linda MacIver will be working for us based in Boston, Massachusetts, to help people in New England who want to trace their English, and especially Essex, ancestors. Linda has many years of experience as both a librarian and as a teacher of local history and genealogy, so we are excited that she will be working with us.

Linda will be available to give talks and attend genealogy fairs (and anything else you might want to invite her to!). She will be introducing people to the historical documents from our collection which can be accessed online anywhere in the world through our subscription service, and to talk about some of the connections between Essex and New England.

We first met Linda last summer when two of our number, Neil Wiffen and Allyson Lewis, paid a flying visit to Boston to meet American researchers who use our collections. Linda was then working at Boston Public Library, one of the venues Neil and Allyson gave a talk, and it was from that visit that the idea of her being our representative in New England emerged.

As has become traditional with new members of our team, we thought we would get to know Linda a little better:

 

Hello Linda, tell us a bit about yourself.

My professional career started as a high school teacher of U.S. and Modern European History.   Unexpectedly I was recruited to serve as the school librarian and my career would take a “librarian train ride” through stops in academic, corporate and, finally, a public library with research library status, one of only two such public libraries in the U.S., New York and Boston.  That move brought all of my intellectual background together, using subject expertise in business and social sciences areas, as a frontline librarian and as a researcher.  It was my original interest in history that turned my attention to local history and, finally, family history.  For the past five years I have developed the Library’s genealogy program, not only through two very successful lecture series, but by teaching genealogy classes for our patrons, bringing me back full circle to my teaching roots.

 

What is your favourite period of history?

As a teen I was enthralled with ancient history and the rise of civilization, partly because I thought I wanted to be an archaeologist and partly because I had great teacher in the subject.  Then I took Modern European History and had another great teacher.  Both had taught with the Socratic method, making us think through the reasons that caused cultural development and change.  This critical thinking process made history come alive.  As a young teacher myself, I started travelling, mostly to England a baker’s dozen times.  London became my home away from home, and my favourite period became the evolution of the constitutional monarchy and democratic movements in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.

 

Do you know if you have English Ancestors yourself?

From my “Mac” name, we know I have mainly Scottish and Irish DNA.  Historically, the MacIvers left Uig in the Hebrides in the early 1800’s for Quebec province, my direct line crossing the border to northern New Hampshire just before 1900.  My maternal heritage is Anglo-Saxon.  Today the surname is Arlin, deriving from Harland or Hoarland.  Family folklore says we come from the Great Migration immigrant George Harland of Virginia, but I have yet to make the connection.  It is more likely that I do, in fact, have Essex connections since the 1891 census actually finds more Arlins in Essex and Suffolk than in any other part of England!  My English connections are many:  one of my favourite spots in the world is Salisbury Cathedral; I spent a summer in England studying the “History of the Book” and visiting many English libraries and printers; and I was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, the “Manchester of America.”

 

How are you going to be helping people in New England discover their English and Essex ancestors?

It is no secret that there is great interest for New Englanders to make connections to their English roots.  Neil and Allyson’s whirlwind visit last year was proof of that.  I hope to further encourage that interest by bringing them news of the ways they can make those connections as I lecture around the region, exhibit at genealogy conferences and perhaps even do some “hands on” training of the free and subscription services of ERO.

 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Actually, what I do outside of work is quite similar to what I do for work.  Working on my own family history can sometimes be a rare event since I am so often working on others or teaching them how to research.  I hope to do more of my own.  I am also Secretary of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council. In the fall I will start to volunteer at the Boston Registry where I will be surrounded by Boston civil records from the 1600s on.  Not quite as old as some of ERO’s holdings, but impressive from this side of the pond.  Otherwise, from Boston, one MUST BE a sports addict!  We tend to live and die with our teams; for me especially the Red Sox and New England Patriots.  But I am fortunate to live in one of the cultural meccas of the world and enjoy the Boston Symphony and Pops, musical theatre, and folk and “Big Band” concerts.

 

If you are in the Boston, Massachusetts area and would like to book Linda for a talk on Tracing Your English Ancestors, get in touch with us on ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk

Latin in the Archives

It’s a scenario many of us can relate to. A catalogue entry looks promising for your research, but there is a note that it is in Latin. Our new Latin translation service at ERO may be able to help you – read on to find out more.

Latin was the official language for all legal documents up to the 18th century, including title deeds, Quarter Sessions, manorial and ecclesiastical records, and can also be found in wills, maps, letters and parish registers.

Latin documents can prove a tricky stumbling block in your research, but we can help by translating them for you

Latin documents can prove a tricky stumbling block in your research, but we can help by translating them for you

Latin was temporarily banished from legal records during the Interregnum of 1649-60. Finally, on 25 March 1733 it was enacted by an Act of Parliament (4 George II, c.26, 1731) that English should henceforth be used in all legal documents. The change to English, back to Latin, and then English forevermore can be seen in, for example, the Borough of Colchester’s Monday Court books. English replaced Latin from 21 April 1651, on 27 August 1660 Latin resumed again, but was abandoned in favour of English on 12 June 1733 (D/B5 Cb1/14, 16, 27).

Colchester Monday Court book - last Latin entry

In 1651, during the Interregnum, the Colchester Monday Court began recording its meetings in English rather than Latin. Here we see the last Latin entries made on 21 April 1651…

Colchester Monday Court book - first English entry

…and the first English entries on 21 April 1651 (D/B5 Cb1/14). When the monarchy was restored to the throne in 1660 the use of Latin resumed until English was adopted permanently in 1733.

It is commonly said that documentary Latin is easier to read than Classical Latin. Certainly the syntax (word order) is generally more akin to English and therefore simpler to follow. Moreover, as you would expect from legal documents, the information is set out in a standard way and formulaic phrases are used. Common phrases you might find in wills, for example, include  ‘compos mentis licet eger in corpore’ (of sound mind though sick in body); and ‘lego animam meam Deo omnipotenti, beate Marie virgini et omnibus sanctis eius’ (I leave my soul to God Almighty, to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all His Saints).

Latin will of John Cotelere

A Latin will dating from 1449, belonging to John Cotelere, who left his property to his wife Sara and daughter Agnes (D/Dba T3/2)

English words were often used where there wasn’t a satisfactory Latin equivalent. In a late 13th century grant of land in Little Waltham there appears the words ‘sterlingorum’ (of silver pennies). The word may derive from the Anglo-Saxon ‘steorra’ (star) which was often depicted on the pennies. The English word ‘croft’ which was Latinized into ‘croftam’ is also used in this deed (D/P 220/25/1).

The third word on the fourth line down is 'croftam', a Latinised version of the English word 'croft'. You can see the shape of an 'a' at the end of the word, and the downward stroke joined to it is a contraction to indicate an 'm'

The third word on the fourth line down is ‘croftam’, a Latinised version of the English word ‘croft’. You can see the shape of an ‘a’ at the end of the word, and the downward stroke joined to it is a contraction to indicate an ‘m’

However, even with a familiarity with Latin grammar, many documents can still be very tricky. Ecclesiastical documents, especially those produced by the papal see, may have complex sentence structures and obscure vocabulary. Many words are abbreviated, either by superscript marks or letters (to save time and space on a manuscript). This was a system of standard abbreviations and rules so, once the scribe knew the rules, he could easily read and apply them.

However, it may be that a combination of Latin legalese, challenging handwriting, copious abbreviations and a faded or damaged manuscript are too much of a challenge. If so, you may like to enquire about ERO’s new Latin translation and transcription service. We have recently welcomed to the team Dr Stacey Harmer, who has a diploma in Classical Latin as well as over 10 years’ experience as an Archivist working with Latin documents in local government record offices. Dr Harmer did her PhD on book production and ownership in late medieval Yorkshire, for which she read 1200 original wills (a large proportion of which were in Latin) looking for bequests of books. We offer this translation service not just for documents held at ERO, but also any other Latin manuscripts, as long as you can provide a high-quality digital copy or photocopy. Any type of document will be considered; but we may decline the work if the Latin is too obscure or if the document is in a poor condition.

To find out more, please contact us at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk

Sound and video recordings now available on Essex Archives Online

Did you know that the Essex Sound and Video Archive at the Essex Record Office holds over 30,000 recordings of oral history interviews, music, local radio and television broadcasts, and much more? The best way to discover all the treasures in the Archive is to search Essex Archives Online – and now you can also play a sample of the recordings directly from the website.

Screenshot of video player on Essex Archives Online

With the latest update to our online catalogue, we can now embed audio and video recordings from hosting websites such as Soundcloud and YouTube. This means you can listen or watch our recordings without having to go to a different site – recordings like this ‘Haunted Essex’ clip from an EastWard Hospital Television programme.

You can also search specifically for items that have audio or video recordings attached to the catalogue entry. From the main search page, choose ‘Audio Visual’ from the ‘Refine your search’ drop-down box.

Screenshot showing option to find a-v material on Essex Archives Online

Why not try it now? For example, try searching for ‘school’ – and remember to first select ‘Audio Visual’ in the ‘Refine your search’ box.

This is also an option on the Advanced Search page. Please note that this will only return results where we have uploaded digital copies of the recordings. There are many more amazing treasures in the Archive yet to be digitised, so do get in touch if you cannot find what you are looking for.

Maybe you are not specifically looking for audio or video material, but, as you search the A-v iconwhole catalogue, you might come across some relevant recordings. You can quickly spot which results have audio-visual content, because you will see this icon on the results page.

You will need to create an account on Essex Archives Online and log in before you can view or listen to the content. However, you do not need to purchase a subscription: the material is absolutely free to play, and can be played as often as you like. So you can scrutinise, frame by frame, this 1980s video of St Cedd’s School Choir performing at the Chelmsford Cathedral Festival to see if you recognise anyone.

Or perfect your Anglo-Saxon.

This means you no longer have to travel to the Essex Record Office to use Essex Sound and Video Archive material (but of course we would be happy to help you with your research in the Searchroom if you do want to visit). Instead, you can play recordings from the comfort of your own home – or in the library, or an Internet café, or your garden if your Wi-Fi is strong enough (but please be considerate of others when listening).

This material is being made available for free thanks to our Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place. The material available online will continue to grow as we digitise more of our recordings over the next two years of the project. Follow us on Soundcloud or YouTube to be alerted to new uploads.

For more information about You Are Hear, you can go to the project blog site or the Essex Sounds website, or you can sign up to receive news updates.

We would love to hear what you think about the content we have added so far. Please also let us know if you experience any problems using the site.

All these recordings are being made available under a Creative Commons (Attribution Non-Commercial) licence. If you wish to use any material for commercial purposes, please get in touch. You can also contact us about recordings that have not yet been uploaded.

For more information about the Essex Sound and Video Archive and the digitisation and consultancy services we provide, please visit our website.

HLF Logo

Historic sounds of Essex – coming to a town near you

Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, You Are Hear Project Officer

If a bench could talk, what would it say? The listening benches being installed across the county by the Essex Record Office do talk, and they tell you stories and play you recordings of local history past and present – recordings like these memories of growing up on Marks Hall Estate by Pearl Scopes and Bill and Daphne Carter (SA 51/2/5/1, full interview available on the Discovering Coggeshall YouTube channel).

 

Thanks to National Lottery players, eight sound benches are being installed across the county this summer, with two others touring country parks, towns, and villages as part of You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place. At the same time, two interactive audio-video kiosks will tour public places, with a third installed at the Essex Record Office (ERO).

You Are Hear is a three-year, £276,800 project to digitise, catalogue, and make available many of the historically significant sound and video recordings in the ERO’s Essex Sound and Video Archive (ESVA). The project is mainly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with additional support from the Essex Heritage Trust and the Friends of Historic Essex.

The sound benches will be loaded with recordings that tell the story of the location in which they are placed. You will be able to choose which recording you’d like to hear, and it will be played to you through the in-built speakers.

Permanent benches will be located in Basildon, Castle Hedingham, Colchester, Great Dunmow, Great Waltham, Harwich, Kelvedon, and Saffron Walden.

Cartoon map of Essex showing location of benches

Location of the first eight benches being installed this summer

The first bench was launched in Castle Park, Colchester, on Saturday 4 June.

Picture of Cllr Young cutting ribbon on bench

Cllr Julie Young, Mayor of Colchester, opening the listening bench in Castle Park

You can find the bench near the entrance to the Castle. It features clips from oral history interviews recorded by the Colchester Recalled Oral History Group, who also selected the clips and put them together for the bench. Councillor Annie Feltham, Colchester Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Business, Leisure and Opportunities, said:

“This bench is a great new way for the people of Colchester and visitors to learn about local history through a shared social experience. Hearing real audio clips of voices and sounds, of people who have lived and worked in Colchester over the years, will really bring their stories to life.”

Two more sound benches will be touring the county from June, starting at Stansted Airport and Belhus Woods Country Park. See if you can visit them all! Send us a picture of you with each bench, and tell us which clip was your favourite.

Image of the touring kiosk

The touring kiosks that will visit libraries and museums across the county (image courtesy of blackbox-av)

Two audio-video touchscreen kiosks filled with a selection of recordings from the Essex Sound and Video Archive will also be touring from 4 July. The kiosks will first visit Chelmsford Museum and Loughton Library, before embarking on a tour that will take them the length and breadth of Essex.

A third kiosk will be permanently installed at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford.

The project is working with community groups in villages and towns throughout Essex, helping them to reflect upon where they live by engaging with the recordings. Each group created a montage of clips about their community from recordings in the Archive, which will be played on the sound benches.

Councillor John Spence, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Finance, with responsibility for Heritage, Culture and the Arts, said:

“So often we rely on the eye to bring archives to life; creating this aural dimension not only lets blind people like me have the experience, it actually immerses you in the sounds of the period, or place.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said:

“this is a fantastic way for local people and visitors to get a sense of the history of these places, and what life was like for local communities over the years. We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to fund this project to bring local history, and local benches, to life!”

The two listening benches will visit the following locations this year:

  • June – August 2016: Stansted Airport and Belhus Woods Country Park
  • September – November 2016: Hatfield Forest and Cudmore Grove Country Park
  • December 2016 – February 2017: intu Lakeside Shopping Centre and Thorndon Country Park
  • March – May 2017: Battlesbridge Antiques Centre and Cressing Temple

The two audio-video kiosks will visit these venues this year:

  • July – September 2016: Chelmsford Museum and Loughton Library
  • October – December 2016: Zinc Arts, Ongar and Fingringhoe Wick Visitor Centre
  • January – March 2017: Canvey Island Library and Brentwood Library
  • April – June 2017: Jaywick Martello Tower and Caxton Books and Gallery, Frinton-on-Sea / The Naze Education and Visitor Centre

For the latest news on tour dates and community installations, keep an eye on our Essex Sounds website.

We are still taking bookings for the second year of the tours, and looking for volunteers to help with the second round of community bench installations. Please get in touch by e-mail or on 033301 32467 if you have any suggestions.

To find out more about the project and subscribe to receive updates, visit http://www.essexrecordofficeblog.co.uk/you-are-hear/

You can also listen to our recordings as they are being digitised through our Soundcloud channel.

What Essex sounds like: soft launch of Essex Sounds audio map

For the past six months, the You Are Hear project team at the Essex Sound and Video Archive has been asking you what Essex sounds like. Whether stopping innocent passers-by in shopping centres, appealing to the public through newspapers, or calling for suggestions through e-bulletins, we have been asking you what noises you hear in your daily routine, what noises you associate with the county, what sounds represent your community.

Now we have the answer! Well, to a point. We have compiled the results with our Sound Recordist, Stuart Bowditch. Based on your suggestions, he has been venturing into the far corners of the county, braving all weathers, to capture those soundscapes. And now you can hear some of the results on our audio map, Essex Sounds.

Horse riding through busy Maldon street, 1 Jan 2016

The hunt parade through Maldon, 1 January 2016. Image courtesy of Stuart Bowditch.

From church bells to firework displays; the annual New Year’s hunt parade through Maldon to the sounding of ship’s horns at Tilbury to bring in the New Year (yes, he managed to capture both, and more besides that day!): see if your suggestion of an Essex sound has been recorded.

In our public surveys about Essex sounds, many people commented on a perceived difference between the north and south of the county. Commonly, people considered the southern part of the county to contain more industrial noises, more hustle and bustle, more crowded atmospheres: with more people speaking with a London or ‘TOWIE accent’. The north was depicted as quieter, more rural, where the people are more likely to speak with a ‘traditional’ Essex accent.

A cow wading in a stream in Dedham Vale

Peaceful Dedham Vale in north Essex. Image courtesy of Visit Essex.

Is this an accurate depiction of the county, or is it over-generalised? Why not consult the Essex Sounds map to see if it reflects this north-south divide?

The map also enables comparisons between old and new sounds of the county. We have uploaded some historic recordings from the Archive. For example, you can listen to an auction at the Chelmsford cattle market in the 1950s.

You can then compare it with a recording made on that site in 2015, capturing the busy atmosphere of High Chelmer on a Saturday. Try it out here.

If your sound suggestion has not yet been added, do not fear: our site is still a work in progress. Stuart will continue to record Essex sounds over the next few months, gradually uploading them to the audio map. We will also keep adding historic recordings as they are digitised, as part of this Heritage Lottery Funded project. We are also happy to continue to receive suggestions of places and events to record, though we will not be able to include everything within the scope of the project.

In the meantime, why not contribute your own recording to the site? We want the map to fully reflect your experiences of what Essex sounds like. You will find instructions on the ‘contribute’ page, but please get in touch if you have any questions.

We would love to hear any feedback you have, so that we can continue to improve the site and pass on your comments to our website developers, Community Sites. Please be gentle with us, though: we are still in the development phase! We would also be grateful for any volunteers to test the map more extensively, particularly if you are using accessibility software. Please get in touch to find out more.

For more information about the You Are Hear project, you can visit the project site.

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Essex Sound and Video Archive releases first recordings online

The Essex Sound and Video Archive is delighted to announce that we have started to post a selection of our recordings online for anyone to listen for free – recordings such as this clip from a Harold Wood Hospital Radio programme about the old manual telephone exchange in Brentwood (SA 19/1050/1).

 

Image of Essex Youth Orchestra 45rpm lacquer disc from 1960

Example of an original recording in our collection that has been digitised for preservation and access

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for our project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place, we aim to digitise and catalogue 1900 of the 30,000 fascinating, diverse sound and video recordings in the Archive.

Once the material is in digital form, we can upload it to the sound sharing website, Soundcloud. Researchers no longer have to travel to the Playback Room at the Essex Record Office to listen to the material – though you would still be welcome if you want the experience of listening to an actual cassette or cd. Instead, you can listen on your computer at home, or download the Soundcloud app and listen on the go with your mobile or tablet.

We will be adding material gradually over the next three years – material such as this oral history interview with Ann Chapman (SA 13/7/2/1). It was recorded in 2010 at Fryerns Library, as part of their fiftieth anniversary celebrations. In Part 2 of the interview, Ann describes her childhood delight at jumping in muddy puddles when her family first moved to Basildon after living in crowded, built-up London. She then describes the many shopkeepers that offered door-to-door deliveries – though she also enjoyed trips to the shops with her mother.

 

From summer 2016, we will be showcasing a selection of our recordings on interactive touchscreen kiosks and listening benches that will tour public locations across the county. Our Essex Sounds website will provide an opportunity to compare the sounds of Essex, past and present: historic sounds of places in Essex from the Archive will be pinned together with new recordings made by our Sound Recordist, Stuart Bowditch. People will also be able to pin their own sound recordings to the map, to help create a representative range across the county.

All these recordings are being made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial licence. If you wish to use any material for commercial purposes, please get in touch. You can also get in touch if you are interested in listening to recordings that have not yet been uploaded to Soundcloud.
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To receive updates about the You Are Hear project, sign up to our mailing list.

For more information about the Essex Sound and Video Archive and the digitisation and consultancy services we provide, please visit our website.

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Registered wills – filling in the gaps

Wills can tell us all sorts of things about the lives of people in the past, and are a brilliant resource for genealogists and social and economic historians alike.

As we have mentioned before, our collections include some 70,000 original wills made by people in Essex between 1400 and 1858. These wills have all been catalogued and digitised, and can be searched for by name and viewed on our online subscription service Essex Ancestors.

We have now begun work on an additional set of records which can help to fill in any gaps in our series of original wills, which will ultimately result in about 10,000 more wills being added to Essex Ancestors.

Decorative I

A decorative initial ‘I’ from a book of registered wills dating from 1500-1515 (D/ACR 1)

Before 1858 when somebody died leaving a will, their executor would take the original will to the relevant court so that probate could be granted. The original wills would be kept by the court and filed; it is these wills proved in the ecclesiastical courts in Essex which have been digitised and are available via Essex Ancestors.

Clerks at the courts would also usually write out a copy of the will into large volumes called will registers (references beginning D/ABR, D/ACR, D/AER and D/AMR). There are approximately thirty 16th and 17th century registers for the courts in Essex where there are no original wills surviving.

Registered wills 1500-1515

The will registers are books into which clerks copied wills being proved at the ecclesiastical courts. Sometimes a will might survive in the book when the original copy of it has been lost, providing a useful second chance for researchers.

The wills in the registers are listed in the three volumes of Wills at Chelmsford, but do not currently appear on Seax. To make these records easier to find, we have started a project to add the details of individual wills in the registers to Seax, so they will be searchable by name. To begin with, only a written catalogue description will be available, but in the long term we plan to add digital images too. In the meantime, registered wills are viewable on microfiche in the Searchroom, or copies can be ordered through our reprographics service.

The first register for which details have been added to Seax is that for the archdeaconry of Colchester (D/ACR 1) which covers the north of the county for the years 1500-1515. 

Some of the wills in the volume are in Latin and as it dates from before the Reformation, the testators would all have been Roman Catholic, evidenced by the use of Catholic phraseology such as ‘I bequeath my soule to almyghte god and to our blessed lady saynt mary and to the holy all hallowes’, which appears in the will of Roger Burgon of Colchester below. Following the English Reformation and the invention of the Church of England references to Mary and the saints all but disappeared.

Roger Burgon’s will is dated 16 December 1507 (D/ACR 1/127/1).  After bequeathing his soul to God he went on to request that his body be buried in the Church of St. Francis within the Convent of the Friars Minor [Greyfriars] in Colchester.

Roger Burgon will

The beginning of the will of Roger Burgon, 1507 (D/ACR 1/127/1)

The majority of the wills are for men, but a number of women do appear, such as this one for Agnes Tomson of the parish of St Leonard in Colchester, dated 8th December 1502 (D/ACR 1/50/5).

Agnes Tomson will

The beginning of the will of Agnes Tomson, 1502 (D/ACR 1/50/5). The heading to the will reads ‘Testm Agness Tomson de High’ – Testament of Agnes Tomson of the High, then a new area of Colchester

Agnes’s bequests included a ‘blake gowne’ (black dress), a ‘petycote’, a ‘greene gowne’, a ‘russet gowne’ a ‘floke bed’ (flock bed), pots, plates and a kettle, a ‘blankett’, a ‘bolster’, and a ‘long knyff’ (knife), all of which helps us build up a picture of Agnes’s life.

Agnes Tomson will

The section of Agnes’s will leaving a ‘blake gowne’ (black dress)

Examples of English HandwritingIf you would like any further advice on using wills in your research, please ask a member of staff in the Searchroom or contact us on ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk. If you would like any help with reading old handwriting, our publication Examples of English Handwriting 1150-1750 by Hilda Grieve is a very useful guide. It can be purchased for £6 (+P&P) from the Searchroom or by phoning 033301 32500.

If you get really stuck, our Search Service can transcribe wills for you – please contact ero.searchroom@essex.gov.uk for details.

New team member: Valina Bowman-Burns

The ERO’s collections offer infinite educational possibilities, and we are excited to welcome Valina on board to explore these and bring them to students across the county.

 

IMG_7835Name: Valina Bowman-Burns

Role: Learning from History Manager

 

 

 

 

Why did you want to work at ERO?

I was introduced to the Essex Record Office as a student and spent many happy hours researching for my dissertation. It would have taken considerably less time if I was better at reading Tudor handwriting. I’ve also introduced friends and co-workers and always had positive experiences treasure hunting in the Searchroom. I’m very education focused, so when a job came up that used my skillset I jumped at it.

 

Describe an average day at ERO for you:

I’m still meeting people and trying to work out how the teams fit together.  I hope in the near future that I’ll be working much more closely with schools and bringing some new learning sessions online.  I’ll try and keep you posted.

 

What do you do when you’re not at ERO?

I like trying new things. So far this year I’ve tried screen printing, had a trial flight in a Tiger Moth biplane and given Tunisian crochet a go. In the evenings I am a regular at Zumba, yoga and Aikido.

 

Can you tell us about an interesting document you have come across while at ERO?

  1. The records from a mental institution in Colchester had some very sad stories.
  2. Jane Barnard’s will was my prize find when researching my dissertation – I could read it and it contained good detail that I was looking for.
  3. Some Victorian photographs of a man in full, fashionable Victorian ladies garb – corsets and all! I was very envious of his dress and style!