Recording of the Month, November 2014: Chelmsford in 1381

Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…

SA 24/854/1

This month’s recording is an extract from a lecture delivered to the Essex Branch of the Historical Association by Hilda Grieve in 1981. The lecture – entitled ‘The Rebellion of 1381 and the County Town’ – was given to mark the 600th anniversary of the Peasants’ Revolt. As the title suggests, the lecture considers the contribution of people from Chelmsford to the rebellion. The extract I have chosen comes from the start of the lecture, as the speaker sets the scene by describing the extent and nature of Essex’s county town in 1381. It is a fascinating picture painted by a historian who may have developed a greater knowledge of the history of Chelmsford than any other. It may come as a surprise to learn of the humble nature in the fourteenth century of what is now the only city in Essex. Hilda Grieve (1913-1993) joined the newly-created Essex Record Office in 1939 – the same year in which she was awarded the Alexander Medal of the Royal Historical Society – and continued in the post of Senior Assistant Archivist until 1966. From 1966 to 1973 she was Deputy Editor of the Victoria County History of Essex.

Hilda Grieve's house in New London Road, Chelmsford

Hilda Grieve’s house in New London Road, Chelmsford

Hilda Grieve

Hilda Grieve, eminent historian of Chelmsford

Her first major publication was The Great Tide (1959) which was written for Essex County Council on the subject of the 1953 floods in Essex. The first volume of her exhaustive history of Chelmsford – The Sleepers and the Shadows – was published in 1988 (as Essex Record Office publication no.100). This volume covered the medieval and Tudor story. And the second volume, subtitled ‘From Market Town to Chartered Borough 1608-1888’, was published posthumously in 1994 (as Essex Record Office publication no.128). Volume 1 is now unfortunately out of print but can be consulted at ERO or Chelmsford Library; volume 2 is also available for consultation and we have copies for sale.

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The Essex Record Office holds records about the county, its people and buildings and provides a useful resource for individuals interested in family, house and local history.