Chelmsford Then and Now: 26 High Street – Royal Bank of Scotland

In the ninth post in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at no. 26 High Street through the centuries. Find out more about the project here.

Over the centuries, the lives of a whole cast of characters have played out at no. 26 Chelmsford High Street. Its origins are as a private residence, but it was used during the 19th century as grand lodgings for travelling judges visiting the town. Later it accommodated the Essex Weekly News offices, and today is occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

In the early 18th century the property was owned by the Goodwin family of goldsmiths. They sold it in 1718 to Sherman Wall, an apothecary, who later passed it to his son, also apothecary named Sherman. In about 1738 Sherman’s daughter Amey married Benjamin Pugh, who was himself a child of an apothecary. Benjamin was a surgeon, and a pioneer in the fields of midwifery and smallpox inoculation. As part of their marriage settlement it was agreed that Amy would inherit the site of 26 High Street upon her father’s death. The building on the property must have been substantial, as it is referred to as the ‘mansion house’.

The marriage settlement of Benjamin Pugh and Amy Walls in which 26 High Street is referred to as the ‘mansion house’. (D/DU 755/45)

The marriage settlement of Benjamin Pugh and Amy Evans (nee Wall) in which 26 High Street is referred to as the ‘mansion house’, 1738 (D/DU 755/45)

Sherman Wall died in 1744, and by 1755 Benjamin Pugh established full control of the property and had commissioned the demolition of the existing buildings to make way for the handsome red brick four storey town house we see today. Benjamin owned the property until 1772 when he sold it to John Lucy.

For several decades in the 19th century the house was used to accommodate judges who were visiting Chelmsford to preside at the Assizes – periodic courts which heard the most serious criminal and civil cases. The engraving below, by J. Ryland, depicts the grandeur of the Assize procession through the High Street.

Engraving by J. Ryland depicting the judges’ procession through the High Street prior to the opening of the Assizes. (I/Mb 74/1/109).

Engraving by J. Ryland depicting the judges’ procession through the High Street prior to the opening of the Assizes. (I/Mb 74/1/109).

These lodgings must have been rather more luxurious than the judges had endured in the past. In 1806, the High Sheriff of Essex, James Urmston, wrote to the chairman of the Quarter Sessions (the county authority which preceded the County Council) highlighting the inadequacy of existing lodgings for the visiting judges. Accommodation had been provided by the Ipswich Arms (site of 73 High Street) which, according to Urmston, was in such a dire state the building faced demolition. Certainly, Urmston thought, the accommodation was not befitting ‘men distinguished by their rank and talents and venerable years of learning’.

The judges requested that their new lodgings should contain two dining or sitting rooms for the judges themselves, a sitting room for attendants, an office for the judges’ officers and clerks, a servants’ hall and large kitchen as well as eleven separate bedrooms.

After spending a few years in temporary lodgings in various private residences, a solution to the judges’ woes was found in the shape of the mansion house. The property had been purchased in 1811 by James Potter, a draper who had intended to use the house as his main residence. Shortly after purchasing it, however, Potter agreed to its use as judges’ lodgings. The judges must have been comfortable there as the arrangement continued until the house was sold in 1849.

Extract from the Sales Catalogue of 1849. The property contains a handsome bold staircase which led to a large suite of rooms on the first floor. The document also mentions that the apartments were recently occupied by the Judges of the Assize. (D/DU 755/45).

Extract from the Sales Catalogue of 1849. The property contains a handsome bold staircase which led to a large suite of rooms on the first floor. The document also mentions that the apartments were recently occupied by the Judges of the Assize. (D/DU 755/45).

In 1869 the property was bought by John Taylor and Edward Robbins, who ran the Essex Weekly News. Various alterations were made to the interiors of the building, including the addition of a machine room in 1903. Images captured by Chelmsford’s preeminent photographer Fred Spalding, who lived just a few doors away, show us what the printing room looked like at this time.

Watercolour by A.B. Bamford of 26 High Street in 1906. Occupied by Essex Weekly News. (I/Ba 14/22)

Watercolour by A.B. Bamford of 26 High Street in 1906. Occupied by Essex Weekly News. (I/Ba 14/22)

Building plan of the machine room, 26 High Street. (D/B 7 Pb74)

Building plan of the machine room, 26 High Street. (D/B 7 Pb74)

The Essex Record Office fortunately possess several Spalding photographs which capture the machine room in action.

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Essex Weekly News, Chelmsford High Street (SCN 1255)

Essex Weekly News, Chelmsford High Street (SCN 1256)

Essex Weekly News, Chelmsford High Street (SCN 1256)

Essex Weekly News, Chelmsford High Street (SCN 1257)

Essex Weekly News, Chelmsford High Street (SCN 1257)

 

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The 18th century building is currently occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Grade II listed building retains much of the original 18th century detailing today, despite having functioned in various capacities since it was built. The site is currently occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

If you would like to find out more about this property see Hilda Grieve’s detailed history of Chelmsford, available in the ERO Searchroom. Alternatively, search document reference D/DU 755/45 on Seax for a large bundle of deeds relating to 26 High Street.

Chelmsford Then and Now: 61 High Street – from pubs to Paperchase

Today, no. 61 Chelmsford High Street is occupied by Paperchase. In the eighth post in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at what else has stood on the site through the centuries. Find out more about the Chelmsford Then and Now project here.

In the 16th century, the site of 61 High Street formed part of two tenements known as Cocksayes and Patchings. By 1618, the site was divided into three distinct properties. The central property (61) was occupied by the Ship Inn, later known as the Waggon and Horse. The inn was ideally situated opposite Springfield road, in the heart of the High Street.

Extract from John Walker’s map of Chelmsford, revealing two tenements on part of the site that would later comprise of 61 High Street. (D/DM P1)

Extract from John Walker’s map of Chelmsford, revealing two tenements on part of the site that would later comprise of 61 High Street. (D/DM P1)

From 1798 the inn was known as the Queen’s Head which was described as a ‘good accustomed public house now in full trade’ in 1807. The Sales Particulars reveal a large property, with considerable facilities for entertaining including a bar, a large parlour and a market room.

One of Spalding’s earliest photographs of the High Street c.1869. The Queen’s Head can be seen on the left.

One of Spalding’s earliest photographs of the High Street c.1869. The Queen’s Head can be seen on the left.

The Queen’s Head continued to provide visitors with modest accommodation throughout the 18th and 19th century and the inn benefited from a steady flow of trade.

The Queen's Head can be spotted on the far left of this image (I/Mb 74/1/55)

The Queen’s Head can be spotted on the far left of this image (I/Mb 74/1/55)

A later view of the Queen's Head

A later view of the Queen’s Head

Watercolour of the Queen’s Head Yard by A.B. Bamford in 1906.

Watercolour of the Queen’s Head Yard by A.B. Bamford in 1906.

The watercolour above, by A.B Bamford, depicts the Queen’s Head Yard in 1906. The romanticised image of the yard is perhaps at odds with reality. Most inn yards were a hub of activity, with horses passing through at all hours of the day and night. The yard certainly would not have appeared so inviting a century earlier. In the 18th century the Queen’s Head yard adjoined the prison yard belonging to the House of Correction which occupied the site of 63-64 High Street. Prison reformer James Neild visited the House of Correction in 1803 and reported the building to be ‘filthy and out of repair’ concluding:

‘What renders this wretched prison more unbearable [is] the offensiveness of the hog-stye of an adjoining public house.’

Neild was unfortunately referring to the Queen’s Head. One can imagine the visitors staying at the Queen’s Head did not enjoy a room with a view, thanks to the ‘hog-stye’ and prison yard located to the rear of the property.

By the 20th century, inns and public houses were slowly disappearing from the high street as the demand for retail increased. The Queen’s Head managed to survive until the 1970s when it was demolished. A quick comparison of the Ordance Survey (OS) map of 1963 and the OS map of 1974 reveals that a substantial section of the west side of the high street was completely redeveloped.

The Queen’s Head is identifiable on the 1963 map by the ‘PH’ initials, which stands for public house. The property has quite a distinctive, backwards ‘L’ shape and a narrow passageway is visible, sandwiched between the Queen’s Head and the site of 62 High Street.

The OS map from 1974 reveals a very different property on the site of 61 High Street. The shape of the building has completely changed and the narrow passageway has been consolidated to form part of the new building. Entry to the yard can only be obtained via the rear of the property.

OS maps of Chelmsford 1963 and 1974

OS maps showing dramatic change on the west side of Chelmsford High Street between 1963 and 1974

These maps illustrate how the town was transforming in the 20th century; based on these maps, one would imagine that the west side of the high street is virtually unrecognisable to those who remember the high street as it looked in the 1960s.

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Current image of Paperchase, occupying the former site of the Queen’s Head.

Today nothing remains of the original Queen’s Head building and the site of 61 High Street is currently occupied by Paperchase.

If you would like to find out more about the Queen’s Head see Hilda Grieve’s detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows.  Alternatively, try searching the Queen’s Head in Essex Archives Online. The Essex Record Office possess a fantastic range of OS maps which are available for viewing in the Searchroom.

Essex’s oldest map

Today we are used to being able to carry a map of the world on a smartphone in our pocket, being able to search for anywhere that takes our fancy, to zoom in on it and see not only maps but aerial photographs and streetviews.

This is all very easy to take for granted today, but for our ancestors making a map was an expensive and specialist process. Yet human beings have a long history of making maps to visualise and understand the world around them, and we are lucky to have maps of Essex dating back to the sixteenth century.

A new book, Printed Maps of Essex from 1576, by map expert Peter Walker, brings together all the printed county maps in our collection for the first time. Packed with full-colour illustrations it will be a wonderful companion for any historian of our county. The book is being officially launched at a special event in Saffron Walden on Saturday 21 May 2016; see our events page for details.

Since we like maps so much, we thought we would share a few of our more unusual county maps with you here in the run-up to the book launch, starting with the oldest map of Essex.

Saxton map Essex 1576

This map was made by Christopher Saxton (c.1540-c.1610) in 1576. It would have been printed on a printing press using an engraved copper plate, and then hand-coloured afterwards.

Saxton was the first person to produce an atlas of British counties, in 1579, based on his 7 year survey of the 52 counties of England and Wales. Some counties are combined on sheets, but Essex has its own page. The map was commissioned when fears of a Spanish invasion of England were rife. This may be why the map concentrates on river access to the county, and no roads are shown.

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The map includes illustrations of sailing ships, such as this one off the north coast of the county

The map shows all the towns and villages and a few of the larger mansions with their names; only a small number of parks and bridges are named. Certain estates, such as Hatfield Forest, are shown as enclosed, or impaled, telling us that it was private land, belonging to somebody of significant wealth.

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Few other topographical details are marked except rivers, woodland and Shell Haven, the blockhouse on Mersea Island, and the miniature but unnamed drawing of Stanway beacon.

The title is on an elaborate cartouche surmounted by the Royal Arms of Queen Elizabeth I, and below are the quartered arms of Thomas Seckford, Master of the Requests to the Queen, Saxton’s patron.

Cartouch Saxton map

The cartouche gives the map’s title: Essexiae Comitat’ Nova vera ac absoluta descriptio Ano Dni 1576 [A new true and complete description of the County of Essex Anno Domini 1576]

Saxton’s map will be on display in the Searchroom throughout spring 2016, and for more maps come along to the launch of Printed Maps of Essex from 1576 on Saturday 21 May.

 

Chelmsford Then and Now: 58 High Street – jewellers, musicians and vets

In the seventh post in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at no. 58 High Street through the centuries. Find out more about the project here.

No. 58 Chelmsford High Street is today occupied by the jewellers, Goldsmiths. John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford identifies a small property named Felsteds on this site. The shop took its name from Henry of Felsted and his son Robert, who purchased the shop in the early 14th century. By the time Walker made his survey the shop was owned by Thomas Hawes.

Goldsmith's jewellers, Chelmsford High Street

Goldsmith’s jewellers, Chelmsford High Street

Extract from John Walker's 1591 map of Chelmsford pointing out the site of no.58 High Street (D/DM P1)

Extract from John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford pointing out the site of no.58 High Street (D/DM P1)

Felsteds was one of the smallest properties fronting the west side of the high street and was recorded as having only 2 hearths in the 17th century. By 1708 the property was occupied by a musician, James Wright. Wright’s will bequeathed a range of musical instruments, bows and strings to his granddaughters, Ann and Lettice Wyatt.

Extract from the will of James Wright, 1708, bequeathing his musical instruments to his granddaughters (D/ABW 79/191)

Extract from the will of James Wright, 1708, bequeathing his musical instruments to his granddaughters (D/ABW 79/191)

Wills are a fantastic source of information which can tell us a great deal about the person who wrote it, particularly in terms of family relations. Wills give a good indication of an individual’s personal wealth, but they can also reveal the items and possessions individuals valued. One would imagine that as a musician, James Wright would have highly valued his collection of instruments.

Wills also provide evidence of property ownership. From 1841 the property was occupied by veterinary surgeon Samuel Baker and his family and we know from Baker’s will that after his death the property passed to his wife, Caroline Baker. The property stayed in the Baker family into the 20th century.

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The will of veterinary surgeon, Samuel Baker, 1857.

Throughout most of the 20th century, the site housed various jewellers. From 1922, the jeweller Oram and Sons occupied the site and continued to do so until the 1940s when the store came under the ownership of W.G Webber. This continuity has continued to the present day, with the jewellery chain Goldsmiths occupying the site today.

If you would like to find out more about this property, see Hilda Grieves’ detailed history of Chelmsford, The Sleepers and The Shadows. The Essex Record Office has a fantastic collection of wills, many of which have been digitised and can be accessed through Essex Archives Online.

Information compiled from the research and report produced by ERO Archive Assistant, Sarah Ensor.

Blog: Beating about the Bush in Messing

Ahead of Messing about with Maps on Saturday 19 March 2016, archivist Lawrence Barker takes a look at one of the most famous stories connected with Messing’s past.

On Saturday 19 March 2016 we are taking a selection of historic maps and documents relating to Messing for display for one day only in the village hall. Messing is a pretty village in the east of Essex, near to Tiptree and Kelvedon. The aim of the event (and others like it that we run around the county) is to enable members of the local community, and anyone else with an interest in Essex history, to come and see these pop-up displays without having to travel to our base in Chelmsford.

Messing was chosen as a location for an outreach event when the church’s copy of the parish tithe map of 1839 was deposited with us for conservation and safe-keeping. The local residents who found it in their church were particularly keen to have it shown to others who live in Messing so they could discover part of their history.

As part of that history, inevitably, the connection with former US Presidents Bush, whose ancestors are thought to have come from Messing, came to mind. The connection is provided by one Reynold Bush ‘of Messing’ who is recorded as an emigrant to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1631.  So, we are also taking along some parish registers which feature Bush ancestors and the surviving will of a Reynold Bush of Feering dated 1602 (Feering is about 2.5 miles west of Messing).  But, as with most family history research for ancestors before the arrival of civil registration and censuses in the 19th century, the connection can only be regarded as conjectural and not factual.D-ABW -120 Regnold Bush name

The will of ‘Regnolde’ Bush possibly relates to a ‘Renould’ Bush whose burial is recorded in the Feering parish register (D/P 231/1/1) dated 16 March 1601/2, although the will is dated at the top 17 March 1601/2, the day after the burial.  Wills are key records in family history research because they are one of the few documents which show family relationships before the arrival of censuses in the 19th century.  So, the will shows that Reynold Bush senior was married to Judith and he states that they had five children.  Four of them are mentioned by name and a family tree can be constructed (below) by matching them with their baptisms in the parish registers:

Bush family tree

John Bush is possibly the eldest, as he is mentioned first as the beneficiary of the two main properties belonging to his father, and he is possibly the John Bush baptised at Messing in 1594. Both his daughter Anna and his youngest son Reynold appear in the Feering register, so his father possibly moved to Feering from Messing.  William doesn’t appear in either register but perhaps comes between John and Anna.

Baptism entry for Reynold Bush, 17 August 1600, in the Feering parish register. Could this be the Reynold Bush who emigrated to America in 1631?

Baptism entry for Reynold Bush, 17 August 1600, in the Feering parish register. Could this be the Reynold Bush who emigrated to America in 1631?

Several times in his will Reynold Bush senior refers to property or money which his children were to inherit when they had reached full age and that in the meantime, his wife Judith was to receive the rents from letting some of his various properties to pay for their upbringing. Thus he must have died relatively young and showed an obvious concern that he was going to die leaving his wife to bring up his five children by herself.  Eventually, his youngest son Reynold stood to inherit about £80, a tidy sum in Elizabethan times and enough to pay for passage and settlement in the New World if, indeed, Reynold Bush junior was that emigrant ‘from Messing’ in 1631.

See the original will for yourself at Messing about with Maps:

Messing about with Maps

A fascinating glimpse into the past of the historic village of Messing through maps kept at the Essex Record Office, the oldest of which dates back to 1650. Join us for this one-off opportunity to see these beautiful and unique historic documents. You can find out more about one of the maps which will be on display on the day here.

Saturday 19 March 2016 10.30pm-3.00pm

Messing Village Hall, The Street, Messing, Essex CO5 9TN

No need to book. Tickets are free (suggested donation £2.00)

In search of Messing Hall: an adventure in old maps

We are in the midst of preparing for our next ‘on the map’ outreach event, which will take place in the village of Messing near Tiptree on Saturday 19 March 2016. We have done a few of these events in different locations around the county, taking a timeline of maps from our collection out for a special pop-up display.

One of the maps we will be taking with us on this occasion is this 1650 map showing the lands of Messing Hall (D/DH P1).

Map of Messing, 1650

‘A survey of all the lands appertaineing to Messing Hall in the county of Essex with the number of acres the wch was surveyed by William Bacon and Benedict Coule’ (D/DH P1)

Messing Hall itself is shown to the east of the village centre as a very grand moated building, with a farm to the north.

The map is part of a collection of papers relating to the Luckyn family of Messing. Sir Capel Luckyn acquired the estate of Messing Hall in 1650, so presumably he commissioned the map as he took possession of his grand new property.

The map makes an immediate visual impact, but on closer inspection bears only a passing resemblance to the actual layout of Messing – cue ERO staff members scratching their heads and poring over maps, aerial photos and any histories of Messing we could get our hands on, trying to work out what the 1650 map actually showed us.

Trying to work it all out

Trying to work it all out

Ordnance Survey map of Messing, 1874

The 6″ : 1 mile Ordnance Survey map of 1874

To begin with it all seemed a confusing mess. While the 1650 map shows the grand Messing Hall on a road heading east out of the village, the Ordnance Survey map of 1874 shows that there is no such road, leaving us with a mystery to solve – where was Messing Hall? The representation of it on the map no doubt blows the size of the house out of all proportion, but clearly an important property existed and we could find no obvious sign of it on any later maps.

There were two main candidates for the site – Harborough Hall, to the south of the village, and Messing Lodge, to the north.

Our sights first landed on Harborough Hall – it was the closest substantial property to the village, and sits on a bend in the road, as does the property on the 1650 map. We read that the manors of Messing and Harboroughs merged in the 1400s, so perhaps the names had been used interchangeably.

Messing Lodge, meanwhile, just seemed too far from the village and too far north. Could the 1650 map really be that inaccurate?

We hunted for anything that would help us tie up the things represented on the 1650 map with more accurate later maps.

Our first breakthrough came from matching up Oynes Brook, shown on the 1650 map, with Domsey Brook shown on later maps. Once we had found the brook, we were able to match up the forked road shown in the 1650 map to the north of Messing Hall with the fork shown in later maps above Messing Lodge. Although not quite the same shape, on both maps one fork crosses the brook (and stops short just after it), and the other fork becomes ‘Easthop way’ or ‘Easthorpe Road’. There are also water features on the 1897 map which could relate to the moat shown in 1650.

Portion of the 1650 map showing Messing Hall compared with 1897 map showing Messing Lodge

Portion of the 1650 map showing Messing Hall compared with 1897 map showing Messing Lodge

This was pleasing evidence, and was further supported by some of the field names surrounding the property.

Fields named 'Charcums' near Messing Hall

Fields named ‘Charcums’ near Messing Hall

The 1650 map shows ‘Great Charcums’, ‘Charcum meadow’ and ‘Charcums spring’ to on the opposite side of the road to Messing Hall. On the tithe map of 1839, fields near to Messing Lodge are known as ‘Little Chalkhams’ and ‘Great Chalkhams’.

With the evidence of the brook, the fork in the road, the road to Easthorpe and the Charcum/Chalkhams field names, we think we have a satisfactory answer to our mystery, and we can put Messing Hall back on the map.

One of the joys of research is problem solving, and the excitement when things finally fall into place, especially when you can share that joy with fellow researchers.

Fortunately for the 1650 map, what lacks in accuracy it makes up for in exuberance. Come along to see it for yourself at Messing about with Maps on Saturday 19 March at Messing Village Hall.


Messing about with Maps

A chance to see historic maps of Messing kept at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford, including a hand-drawn map from 1650 and the Messing tithe map of 1839.

Saturday 19 March, 10.30am-3.00pm

Messing Village Hall, The Street, Messing, CO5 9TN

Just drop in, suggested donation of £2.00

Document of the Month, February 2016: Oath book, 1714-1716

Archivist Katharine Schofield tells us about her choice for February’s Document of the Month.

From the mid-17th century onwards, holders of public office were required to take oaths swearing allegiance to the monarch, denying the right of the deposed Stuart family to the throne, declaring the monarch to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and denying the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (the belief that during the ceremony of the Mass the bread and wine offered miraculously become the body and blood of Christ). In effect, this meant that public offices were denied to Roman Catholics, who would not have been able to swear to such things.

Quarter Sessions oath book

This oath book (Q/RRo 1/5) is part of the records of the Essex Quarter Sessions – the county authority which preceded the County Council. The book records details of those who had taken local public office, and who therefore swore the required oaths of allegiance, abjuration and supremacy, and made a declaration against transubstantiation.

The whole book contains about 1,000 names, with parishes and occupations of those subscribing between 1714 and 1716.  Special sessions were held in various places in Essex to make it easier for people to travel.  These names were recorded at an adjourned Quarter Sessions held at the Angel in Kelvedon on 13 December 1715 at the height of the Jacobite Rebellion.  The next session was held at the Old Tavern in Colchester the following day and records those from the north-east of the county.

The names in this opening are mostly from central Essex.   Most of those recorded are parish and chief constables of hundreds.  Church of England ministers also took the oaths and those listed here include the incumbents of Prittlewell, Tolleshunt Knights, Feering and Great Totham, as well as the Revd. Edward Bently, dissenting minister of Coggeshall.  Four schoolmasters from Hempstead, Prittlewell, Witham and Coggeshall are among the names recorded here, together with a number of other public officials – Samuel Newton, postmaster of Witham, John Jorden ‘officer of Excise of Salt at Heybridg’, Joseph Waddingham, excise officer at Earls Colne and John Potter of Wakes Colne, assessor.  Also listed are John White of Coggeshall, apothecary and John Raven of Kelvedon, writing master.

Quarter Sessions oath book

Quarter Sessions records contain all sorts of useful and fascinating details helpful for a range of different types of research. They encompass a huge range of topics, from cases heard by the Quarter Sessions courts which sat four times a year, to the licensing of victuallers, printing presses and slaughterhouses, and the maintenance of highways and planning of railways and canals. The Quarter Sessions began in 1388 and lasted until 1971. The Essex Quarter Sessions records are among the earliest and most complete in the country, dating back to 1555.

We are introducing a new workshop for 2016 which will provide a closer look at the fascinating snapshots of life in the past that these records provide. Discover: Quarter Sessions Records takes place on Wednesday 11 May 2016, 2.00pm-4.00pm. Tickets are £10 and need to be booked in advance on 033301 32500.

Chelmsford Then and Now: 40-41 High Street

In the sixth post in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at no. 38 High Street through the centuries. Find out more about the project here.

In the 16th century the site of 40-41 High Street was occupied by a medieval inn called the Boar’s Head. From 1633 the inn was known as the King’s Head and it continued to operate on the site until 1929 when the property was demolished to make way for a branch of F.W Woolworth. Woolworths vacated the site in 2010, making way for the arrival of Barclays Bank, who continue to occupy the site today.

Extract from John Walker's map of 1591 showing the Boar's Head

Extract from John Walker’s map of 1591 showing the Boar’s Head

From the mid-15th century the site of 40-41 High Street contained a medieval inn known as the ‘Boreshed’, which in 1591 was occupied by the widow Anne Bridges. In 1633 the ‘Boar’s Head’ changed its name to the ‘King’s Head’, although the nature of the premises remained the same. The inn benefitted from a prime position on the high street and was a very popular establishment. A Sale Catalogue from 1807 described the King’s Head as an ‘old and well-accustomed inn’. The property boasted a bar, two parlours and a large market room, indicating the inn had the facilities to accommodate a range of events and activities.

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Front view of the King’s Head, Chelmsford High Street (SCN 4768)

The inn was modest in size, but well equipped to cater to the various visitors passing through the town. The inn provided stabling for up to thirty horses, which was accessed through a narrow passageway leading from the high street to the yard. This coloured plan of the King’s Head from 1842 reveals the structure of the property fits the standard pattern for coaching inns.

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Plan of the King’s Head, Chelmsford High Street (D/DOP T2).

By the early 20th century, a growing demand for retail establishments in the high street led to the closure of many of the town’s inns. The highly respected Walter J. Greenwood, who served as landlord of the King’s Head for over thirty years, was also its last before the inn was demolished to make way for a branch of F.W. Woolworth.

In the 1920s, rumours circulated that developers intended to demolish the King’s Head to make way for an ‘entirely new and handsome premises’. It was hoped that the new building would improve the overall appearance of the high street and bring it in line with other developments.

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Springfield corner several years later. F.W Woolworths has now replaced the King’s Head

The much anticipated Woolworths store opened in the summer of 1929 and was immediately embraced by Chelmsford residents. The fancy new premises included a large shop floor where a wide range of merchandise was displayed. Above the shop floor there was a large store room and several offices for employees. The store initially employed around forty young shop assistants, all of whom were from the Chelmsford area. The shop front contained two entrance swing doors and several large display windows where stock was displayed to entice passers-by. Above the display windows, gold embossed lettering proudly spelled out ‘F.W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd’.

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Woolworths, Chelmsford High Street. Customers frequently left their bicycles, unchained, outside while they popped inside the store to browse

Woolworths continued to operate throughout the Second World War, though the store did not escape completely unscathed.  In May 1943 Chelmsford’s industries were targeted by the Luftwaffe and many of the shops on the high street were caught in the cross fire, including the Woolworths store. The store was struck by burning debris and as a result, the wooden counters towards the rear of the store caught alight. Fortunately, several members of staff, who were reputedly paid ‘danger money’ to sleep in the store overnight, were on hand to douse the flames. The charred site allegedly remained roped off and kept on display for the duration of the war.

The store continued to prosper throughout the rest of the 20th century, with development and expansion occurring periodically. By the 1960s, the store had undergone a vast programme of modernisation. The acquisition of a block of six shops in Springfield Road provided additional space for the store to expand. The new extension was said to have increased counter space and the range of goods on sale. It also created superior staff quarters, a cloakroom, lounge and a spacious canteen. The work took around two years to complete, although the store was said to have operated as normal during this time with minimal disruption to customers. Woolworths remained on the site until the early 21st century when, sadly, the firm went out of business.

In 2010 it was announced that Barclays Bank was in talks to relocate from their premises near the Shire Hall to the site of the former Woolworths store. Barclays have enjoyed a long history in the town, having previously occupied the Grade II listed building now containing Jamie’s Trattoria.

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Exterior of Barclays Bank which was built in 1905.

The attractive, red brick three storey building was constructed in 1905 after the former owner, six time Mayor Frederick Chancellor, vacated the site. The property retains all of the original 18th century detailing externally, although obviously the internal modelling has altered substantially with time.

Barclay's Bank Chelmsford High Street

Barclays today, situated on the former site of Woolworths and the King’s Head

The current Barclays store, located to the south of the High Street, has a much more contemporary feel. At street level, the Barclays building may look very different to those who remember its former life as a Woolworths. The upper façade of the building however is very much unchanged and serves as a subtle reminder of a not so distant past.

If you would like to find out more about the site of 40-41 High Street, try searching the Boar’s Head or the King’s Head in Seax. Alternatively, see Hilda Grieves’ detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows which is available in the ERO Searchroom. Additional information regarding the Chelmsford Branch of Woolworth’s provided by Paul Seaton of woolworthsmuseum.co.uk

Chelmsford Then and Now: 38 High Street, Black Boy Inn

In the fifth post in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at no. 38 High Street through the centuries. Find out more about the project here.

The site of 38 High Street is most often associated with the famous coaching inn, The Great Black Boy, which served Chelmsford residents and travellers alike for over three hundred years. The inn was demolished in 1857 and from the late 19th century, the site housed various retail establishments including fashion retailer Next who occupy the site today. A blue circular plaque commemorating the former site of the Black Boy currently sits just above the entrance of Next, ensuring that memory of the much revered inn lives on.

John Walker's 1591 map of Chelmsford, with the Black Boy Inn highlighted on the junction between the High Street and what is now Springfield road

John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford, with the Black Boy Inn highlighted on the junction between the High Street and what is now Springfield road

John Walker’s map of Chelmsford depicts a large, two storey property sitting on the site of 38 High Street. The property belonged to the widow Elizabeth Stafford and was known locally as the Crown or New Inn. By 1642 the inn was known as the Great Black Boy and was one of the most popular inns on the high street. Ideally situated on the Colchester to Harwich Road, the inn grew prosperous on the traffic passing through the town. During the 18th century, the original, timber building, as depicted on the Walker map, was pulled down and rebuilt.

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Illustration of the Black Boy Inn after it was rebuilt.

During the 17th century, coaching inns were a fundamental part of the country’s transport system. The coaching inn provided travellers with space to eat, sleep, and drink, as well as stabling for horses. The Essex Record Office is fortunate to have a building plan of the Great Black Boy which reveals how coaching inns were typically constructed.  A large gateway allowed coaches to pass through the property into the yard where the stables were located. Remarkably the gateway appears to sit on the same spot as in the Walker Map, despite the property having been rebuilt in the 18th century. The accommodation is situated relatively close to the yard, which perhaps made it difficult for guests to sleep undisturbed. A large inn such as the Black Boy could expect coaches coming and going throughout the day and night.

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Map of the Black Boy Inn and Brewery, 20 inches to 1 mile 19” x 27”, 1817. (D/DDw P40/1).

The Black Boy was also linked to the town’s mail service, accommodating the Post Office from 1673. The inn provided a mail coach service which passed through the town twice a day and contained a Post Office guard to ensure the coach safely reached its destination.

The Great Black Boy, by virtue of its great size, operated in various capacities. In the early 18th century for instance, the inn served as a detainment centre for residents deemed disloyal to the King. Several men were held at the inn under ‘suspicion of being disaffected to King George’. The Essex Record Office holds several letters written to Anthony Bramston during his incarceration at the inn.

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Letters to Anthony Bramston during his incarceration at the Black Boy Inn, Chelmsford, held on suspicion of disaffection to King George I. (D/Deb 70/1-4)

Towards the end of the eighteenth century the Great Black Boy was overwhelmed by an influx of military personnel, who were stationed in Chelmsford as hostilities between England and France escalated. The possibility of an attack via the Essex coastline must have seemed of secondary importance however to the town’s innkeepers who were kept extremely busy accommodating the spike in trade. The town was soon hosting more men than space could permit, and many soldiers resorted to sleeping in stables or barns.

From the late 18th century, the Great Black Boy served as an important social hub, providing a popular space for communal gatherings. Several clubs and societies, including the Chelmsford Tradesmen’s Club and the Chelmsford Pitt Club, met regularly at the inn. The Black Boy also hosted various assemblies and balls, although this practice declined somewhat after the construction of the Shire Hall in 1791. The inn also attracted many notable visitors in its day. In October 1832, the Chronicle reported that the Duke of Wellington changed horses at the Black Boy on his was to Sudbourn Hall for a shooting trip. A few years later, Charles Dickens reputedly stayed at the inn while working as a newspaper reporter. Looking out of his window at the Black Boy, Dickens famously concluded that Chelmsford was the ‘dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the earth’; to be fair apparently it was a rainy day.

The arrival of the railway in Chelmsford in 1843 severely impeded the Black Boy’s trade by removing much of the passing traffic. By the mid-19th century the Black Boy was in decline with various outbuildings, stables and the yard progressively sold off. Between 1848 and 1851 the inn operated as a minor hotel. New owner John Amery was optimistic the business would turn around and committed the property to considerable alterations and improvements. Just ten years later, the Black Boy closed its doors for the last time. The inn was sold in 1857 and was later demolished leaving a gap on the high street which remained vacant for just over a decade.

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Sale Catalogue of the Black Boy Inn in 1857.

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Early Spalding photograph of Chelmsford High Street. On the far right it is possible to make out the gap left by the demolition of the Black Boy.

By 1868 the vacant space was ironically filled by Bernard’s Temperance Hotel. In the 19th century, Temperance advocates promoted alternatives to alcohol, which they viewed as a social evil.

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Chelmsford High Street photographed from the south, revealing Barnard’s has now taken over the spot formerly occupied by the Black Boy inn.

The Hotel only survived on the site until the early 1920s, before it was once again put up for sale. The sale catalogue indicated excellent foresight in stating:

“…with its excellent depth could be easily converted to form one of the finest shops in the town, possessing as it does exceptional facilities for window front and display purposes…”

Shortly after, the site was filled by Boots the Chemists. Various alterations were made to the exterior of the property including the addition of large display windows. Just above the entrance, large lettering announces ‘Boots’.

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Front corner of Boots the Chemists, Chelmsford High Street. (SCN 3934)

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View of Chelmsford High Street, taken from the south featuring Boots the Chemist on the former site of the Black Boy inn. The photograph captures Springfield corner prior to pedestrianisation. (SCN 3140).

The arrival of Boots in some ways indicated a break with the past and the beginning of a new era for the high street. The Black Boy had prospered because it catered for a specific need, that of travellers passing through the town on the London to Harwich Road. The arrival of the railway diminished the flow of traffic through the town and therefore the demand for accommodation. As the population increased, the demand for retail grew and the high street transitioned into a shopping destination.

The site is currently occupied by fashion retailer Next. The memory of the Black Boy inn is commemorated today by a blue circular plaque stationed just above the entrance to Next.

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Fashion retailer currently occupies the former site of the Black Boy inn.

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If you would like to find out more about this famous posting house, try searching for ‘Black Boy Inn’ on Seax. Alternatively, see Hilda Grieves’s detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows which is available in the ERO Searchroom.

Chelmsford Then and Now: 28-31 High Street – Debenhams, Bonds, the Falcon Inn

In the fourth post in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at nos. 28-31 High Street through the centuries. Find out more about the project here.

Nos. 28-31 Chelmsford High Street have, in their long history, previously been a pub, the Falcon, Chelmsford’s first department store, Bonds, and today is occupied by Debenhams. Using maps, newspapers, photographs and other records at the ERO we can trace the history of the site back to the 1300s.  Hilda Grieve in her incomparable history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and the Shadows gives us the following key details on the site:

1381 – owned by Nicholas Cook, an innkeeper selling wine and victuals

1384 – Robert Glover bought the property from Nicholas Cook, including a house, 4 shops, pigsty, garden and yard

1567 – first named in sources as the Falcon Inn

1591 – owned by Benedict Barnham, alderman of London; the landlord was probably Humphrey Cordall

Extract of John Walker's map of Chelmsford, 1591, showing site of Falcon Inn (D/DM P1)

Extract of John Walker’s map of Chelmsford, 1591, showing site of Falcon Inn (D/DM P1)

By 1591 there were 11 major inns in the town, including the Falcon. Innkeepers were supposed to be licensed, but the town authorities frequently dealt with people who had been selling ale unlicensed or running brothels. The Falcon was a mid-sized inn which survived on the site until the early 18th century when it was pulled down and replaced with three attractive brick houses.

The properties were built to serve as private dwellings but they increasingly adopted a dual purpose, providing both a retail and residential space for the growing town’s entrepreneurs. At the north end of the site Robert Serjeant ran a newfangled Coffee House. In 1787 number 28 was occupied by Andrew Smith who ran a successful linendrapery. Apprentice records reveal that Smith was able to employ various young, female apprentices between 1790 and 1802 to assist with running his thriving business.

For a few decades the development of these properties occurred sporadically according to the needs and means of particular owners. In 1870, however, J.G Bond, owner of a drapers shop in Moulsham Street, moved to the prime site of 28 and 29 High Street. Several months after opening, Bond placed an advertisement in the Chelmsford Chronicle boasting of an enlarged shop and new show rooms.

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Advertisement featured in the Chelmsford Chronicle shortly after Bond’s opened on the High Street.

The ambitious Bond had a keen eye for development and in 1881 submitted plans to construct a bridge connecting the upper floors of 28 and 29 as well as plans to redevelop all of the outbuildings. By 1902, Bond had absorbed Saltmarsh’s store (no. 30), as well as Edward Wills’ Draper shop (no.31) and finally the chemist owned by Wilson Metcalf (no.27).

The 1911 Census reveals that Bond employed 24 members of staff, mostly from the Chelmsford area. This extraordinary rate of growth was facilitated by the growing prosperity of the town and the increasing population in Chelmsford.

As the store grew, Bonds offered a wider range of merchandise which reflected the very latest trends and fashions. You can get it at Bond’s was pasted on the old steam buses and frequent advertisements appeared in the local newspapers announcing the arrival of new stock.

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Advertisement featured in the Chelmsford Chronicle announcing the arrival of the Summer season.

 

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J.G. Bond’s van-dressing entry for the Chelmsford carnival of 1929. Bond recognised the importance of advertising and used the event as an opportunity to market his growing business.

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Advertisement featured in the Chelmsford Chronicle in the 1950s.

An advertisement for Bond's involving elephants

An advertisement for Bond’s involving elephants

The Bond frontage dominated the east side of the high street for nearly a century. The photograph below, captured in the 1930s, gives a real sense of the shop’s size and its domineering presence on the east side of the high street. Two storeys of windows displayed the shop’s vast array of stock.

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Spalding photograph of Bonds in the 1930s.

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Bond’s, Chelmsford High Street.

The store remained on the same site until the 1960s when it was purchased by Debenhams, who continue to occupy the same spot today. If you have ever visited and wondered why the internal layout is on different floor levels and is all a bit twisty, now you know – it’s because the layout of the site dates back to the medieval period.

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Debenhams, Chelmsford High Street 2015.

If you would like to find out more about J.G Bond or the Bond’s store see Hilda Grieve’s detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows. Alternatively search ‘Bonds’ in the British Newspaper Archive, available free from the ERO Searchroom, to view a wide range of the Bond advertisements.

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Find out more about Chelmsford at two of our events for the Chelmsford Ideas Festival 2015:

The Changing Face of Chelmsford

Immerse yourself in Chelmsford past in this display of maps, photographs, and sound and video recordings.

Saturday 24 October, 10.30am-3.00pm

Tickets: £2.00

No need to book, just drop in

Part of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival

 

Walk: Chelmsford – Walking with Walker

The Walker map of Chelmsford is one of the gems in the Record Office’s collections. Using this as a starting point, we will uncover some of the secrets of Chelmsford High Street. The walk is on flat terrain and under one mile.

Wednesday 28 October, 2.00pm-3.30pm

Tickets £6.00

Please book in advance on 033301 32500

Part of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival