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.

Essex-American Connections: William Pynchon, 1590-1662

William Pynchon was a native of Writtle and resident of Springfield (both near Chelmsford), who played a key role in creating and developing colonial Massachusetts. The first place named Springfield in America was founded by Pynchon in 1636 as Agawam Plantation, and in 1651 it was renamed after his Essex hometown.

We have two good reasons to talk about William Pynchon just at the moment (on top of the fact that he’s an interesting man to talk about at any time); our trip to Boston next week, and a talk here at ERO in September from an American scholar and expert on Pynchon’s life.

??????????????????David M. Powers is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Carleton College and Harvard University. His book, Damnable Heresy: William Pynchon, the Indians, and the First Book Banned and Burned in Boston, offers the first comprehensive biography of Pynchon. Placing Pynchon within the fabric of his times, Powers traces his life from Chelmsford, through his New England adventures, to his return to Britain, and describes contributions Pynchon made to the Puritan experience in Old England and New.

David says:

‘Two things stand out in Pynchon’s pioneering life:

First, he consistently treated his trading partners, the Indians, with respect and sensitivity – an attitude which was regrettably not shared by many of his fellow colonists.

Second, even though he was a layman, Pynchon wrote a volume of Christian theology, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption (1650), which the Massachusetts Bay government condemned “to be burned in the market place, at Boston, by the common executioner.” This was the first instance of book burning in British North America.’

Pynchon travelled to America with his wife and three daughters on one of the ships of the Winthrop Fleet. This was a fleet of 11 ships under the command of John Winthrop, which carried about 700 people along with livestock and provisions to New England in summer 1630.

He was a shrewd businessman, and became one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He initially settled in Roxbury, near Boston, but in 1635 led a settlement expedition into the Connecticut River Valley, and founded what would become Springfield. Although the land was not the best for farming, the location was a good one for him to carry on his fur trading, as it was near beaver colonies and his trading partners, the Native peoples, and was on a major transportation route, the Connecticut River.

His book, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption, presented his views on the Atonement. Published in London, it was condemned and symbolically burned by the Bay Colony legislature because of their concern for how the English Parliament might react to strange ideas from New England. Only nine copies are known to survive.

Pynchon transferred his properties to his son John, who continued and extended the Pynchon influence in the Connecticut River Valley, and returned to England in 1652, where he spent the rest of his life.

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Find out about our trip to Boston and more Essex-US connections here.

David will be speaking for the September meeting of the Essex History Group on the life of William Pynchon. All are welcome, admission is £1 including a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit.

William Pynchon: From Springfield, Essex, to Springfield, Massachusetts

A talk by David M. Powers

Tuesday 1 September, 10.30am

£1 admission, no need to book

Under Fire: Essex and the Second World War

Ahead of his talk at ERO to launch his brand new book on Essex in the Second World War, we caught up with author Paul Rusiecki to find out more about his research. Join us for Paul’s talk at Dark Days and Dark Thoughts: Morale in Wartime Essex, 1940-41, on Saturday 9 May. See our events page for full details.

 

How did you come to write Under Fire?Under Fire cover

It was a natural progression after writing The Impact of Catastrophe [Paul’s book on Essex during the First World War], as I wanted to compare and contrast the county’s experience of two world wars. I had already done a lot of work on Essex in the inter-war period, but I chose to ignore chronological conventions, leave a book on 1918-39 to another day, and jump forward to the Second World War. I was already very well acquainted with the resources that were available, having spent the best part of twenty years researching various aspects of the county’s twentieth century history.

 

What sort of sources did you use to write your book?

Secondary works are always an essential starting point so I spent a great deal of time in the libraries at Colchester, Chelmsford, Southend and Stratford.  The Essex Record Office is a fantastic treasure trove of information on all aspects of the war and is matched only by the details which can be found in the county’s newspapers. Aided by my wife and son (both trained historians) I also visited the Imperial War Museum, the National Archives and the Mass Observation Archive at Sussex University, where we spent four days during a grim January. So far I have not made much use of the internet, as I prefer to use books rather than unauthenticated articles.

 

Did anything surprise you during your research?

I think that the honest answer must be no. In the last 40 years some historians have spent time trying to debunk the idea of Britain as a completely united nation engaged in total war and fighting for its survival, especially in 1940 and 1941, spurred on by the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and the ‘Spirit of 1940’. In fact most people who lived through the war did not have this rosy view of things. I was not surprised to find a great deal of evidence of a positive, patriotic and courageous attitude in my researches, just as I also expected to find that people could be selfish, nervous, defeatist, or that they engaged in criminal activities. I expected to see all forms of human behavior being exhibited, and I certainly did!

 

Are there any stories that you found during your research that have particularly stuck with you?

Naturally the stories that stick in the mind often come from the time of the Blitz, or the attacks by V-1s and V-2s. How a direct hit on an Anderson shelter meant that a Dagenham warden had to collect body parts with a shovel and a sack. At Colchester when a laundry was hit, a dustbin lorry was controversially used to carry the bodies away. I also found out that when Severalls ‘Mental Hospital’ was bombed in 1942, many patients were killed. There is evidence that some residents of the town felt that the bomb could not have fallen in a better place as the people there were sub-normal. Then I discovered a note to the Essex War Agricultural Committee from a man who could not come to work because his ‘dear young daughter’, a patient, had been killed there. It brought a tear to my eyes, I must admit, and it also made me cross-reference my thoughts as to what was happening in Germany at this time.

 

Do you have any family connections with the Second World War?

My father was serving as ground crew in the Polish Air Force when it was practically obliterated in the first few days of the German blitzkrieg of 1939. He and others retreated from the advancing Germans and evaded capture by the Russian invaders. They made their way across Slovakia, a German protectorate, aided by local people, and then travelled through Rumania, including hanging on underneath trains. Having reached the coast they were picked up in secret by British agents who ferried them to Egypt, and from there to France. He had not been there long when the Germans invaded in 1940 and he was evacuated from a west coast French port. Once in England he joined the Free Polish Navy, and crewed Motor Torpedo Boats during the war. My mother’s family lived in south Yorkshire and remembered the severe bombing of Sheffield in December 1940, when the night sky to the south was lit up a deep red from the blazes.

 

Is this your first book?

I wrote a book called The Plough and The Pick, about the two coal mining villages I grew up in Yorkshire. I’ve written many articles in various journals. My second book The Impact of Catastrophe: The People of Essex and the First World War, was published in 2008 by the Essex Record Office.  I shall shortly be working on an occasional paper for the Essex Society of Archaeology and History, which will be a sort of guide to anyone interested in researching the impact of the German air war on Essex 1940-45. In the long–term I will be continuing to dig into Essex in the inter-war period, but I also hope to publish a history of the county from 1945 to about 1975.

 

Are you a full-time author?

Since I retired in 2009 I have more choice in when I can do my research, but as everyone who has ever retired says, how did I find time to fit in work?? Certainly as a retired teacher the huge never-ending commitment to preparation and marking has gone. So it is easier, but to be honest – full-time work, even leisure work – of any sort – never again!

 

What is your connection with Essex?

I married my wife who was born and raised in Colchester, so I have known the town and gradually more and more of the county since 1972. We returned here when our first child was born in 1978 and have lived here ever since. I did my PhD at Essex University and spent the last 4 years of my teaching career at Colchester County High School for Girls. I have been Programme Secretary of the Essex branch of the Historical Association since 2002, and that, and much of my research, takes me a lot to Chelmsford.

 

Where is your favourite place in Essex?

I love Blackpool so naturally I love to go to Clacton or Walton. Colchester’s Castle Park is a simply wonderful facility right in the heart of this busy town, it’s beautiful and quiet, if you avoid the children’s playground! And of course there’s the Essex Record Office. My second home!

 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of writing a history book?

Always check first to see what’s been written. No sense in re-inventing the wheel. This applies whether you have a very in-depth, highly focused project in mind, or a more general, wider study. Always take advice from people who have expertise and knowledge, never be afraid to ask for help. People are usually immensely generous with their time. Keep an open mind about where you might find resources – that way you might not overlook some obvious ones. Look at how other people write. Historical writing is first and foremost about communicating the past to people in simple, elegant and easily understood language. That doesn’t mean talking down to people. It means avoiding both jargon and writing which is so convoluted and obscure that it is hard to follow and understand. If you come across any history book like that, even by an eminent historian, or a ‘TV historian’, chuck it in the bin!

Essex Book Festival: interview with Jonathan Swan, author of Chelmsford in the Great War

Ahead of his talk at ERO as part of the Essex Book Festival, we caught up with author Jonathan Swan, whose new book Chelmsford in the Great War is just about to be published. Join us for Jonathan’s talk on his book Chelmsford in the Great War on Saturday 14 March, 11.00am-12.30pm. Tickets £6, please book in advance on 033301 32500.

 

How did you come to write Chelmsford in the Great War?

Not quite sure! I have been researching First World War military medicine for a number of years and during negotiations with Pen & Sword Publishing my editor happened to mention a major series they were commissioning, “[Your Town] in the Great War”. This sounded interesting, so I spent a weekend in the library to see if there was enough material and sent in a proposal. And eighteen months later we have a book!

Chelmsford in the Great War

 

What sort of sources did you use to piece together your history of First World War Chelmsford, and where did you find them?

The library was my starting point, but Essex Record Office proved a great resource for maps, photographs and the wartime council minutes and other papers and records. Online resources such as the British Newspaper archive were invaluable.

 

What was the most surprising thing you found during your research?

Great War Chelmsford was so much smaller than it is today, and roads like the Parkway have completely altered the urban landscape. Not a huge surprise, but it made it difficult to understand how people moved around the town; the High Street was central to everything. The railway formed the western and northern boundary of the town and, as Basil Harrison put it in his “Duke Street Childhood”, the corner of Duke Street and Broomfield Road was the start of the countryside!

Ordnance Survey 6":1 mile map of Chelmsford, 1919 with 1938 revisions

Ordnance Survey 6″:1 mile map of Chelmsford, 1919 with 1938 revisions. The approximate outline of the modern city is shown in purple. Click for a larger version.

 

Are there any stories that you found during your research that have particularly stuck with you?

I’ve always been interested in local politics and democracy. In 1914 the council was made up of a number of unelected aldermen and a handful of councillors and they seemed to be incapable of civic leadership in the crisis – they didn’t believe in public air raid shelters, they didn’t want insurance for council property against bomb damage, they didn’t want public food kitchens, and there was a housing crisis because of all the additional munitions workers residing in the town and they did nothing about it. The high profile War Relief Fund did next to nothing because they didn’t think anyone merited assistance. The answer to any problem was to form yet another committee or subcommittee. And the idea of a conflict of interest appeared to have no meaning to them!

 

Chelmsford Brenda, the St Bernard dog who collected money for the Red Cross in Chelmsford during the First World War - one of the stories that Jonathan came across in his research (photo from scrapbook of Sir Richard Colvin, D/DU 787/4)

Chelmsford Brenda, the St Bernard dog who collected money for the Red Cross in Chelmsford during the First World War – one of the stories that Jonathan came across in his research (photo from scrapbook of Sir Richard Colvin, D/DU 787/4)

Do you have any family connections with the First World War?

My grandfather served in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer. I followed in his footsteps by serving in the RAMC as a laboratory technician.

 

Is this your first book?

My first book was actually a text book on financial modelling, which is my day job. I’m currently working on the third edition. I’ve also written articles on corporate governance, local history, and military medicine.

 

Are you a full-time author?

I wish!

 

What is your connection with Chelmsford? We moved here from Newham in 2007. Both of my sons attended Boswells School. I spend some of my spare time interfering with the affairs of Essex County Council, Essex Police, Chelmsford College, and Anglia Ruskin University.

 

Where is your favourite place in Essex?

Anywhere I can go fishing!

 

What advice would you give to someone thinking of writing a history book?

A common mistake is to assume history is simply about dates and events. Good history books have a story to tell – it isn’t just what happened, it’s also why. And you must be selective: you will find fascinating little snippets about this or that, which may only amount to a sentence or two. I’ve left out a lot of material that didn’t really add any value – Corporal Rutland was tragically shot dead by his own pistol when showing it to a comrade in the Cherry Tree pub – interesting, but it doesn’t link to anything else. Conversely I’ve left out stories which merit a whole chapter or even a book of their own – Chelmsford teachers at war is a good example. A final point is that there are some very clever people out there, so make sure you can support any statements you make!

The 1953 Floods in Essex

On the night of Saturday 31 January 1953 a severe storm coincided with a high spring tide in the North Sea, and the resulting tidal surge caused great devastation all along the east coast. In eastern England 307 people were killed, 120 of them from Essex.  The worst hit communities in the county were Canvey Island, where 58 died, and Jaywick, where 37 people were killed (5% of the population).  A major operation was mounted to rescue as many people from the flooded areas as possible. Along the east coast of the UK, 30,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Damage was caused to over 1,600 km of coastline, as well as to thousands of homes.  It is estimated that the damage in monetary terms today would be over £5 billion.

It was of course not just England that was affected by the floods; 19 people died in Scotland, 28 in Belgium, and a staggering 1,836 in theNetherlands. Over 230 people also died on ferries, fishing boats and other vessels which were in the North Sea that night.

We have been going through some of the many documents in the ERO which tell some of the stories of the floods in Essex, a small sample of which will be on display in our ‘Document of the Month’ case in the Searchroom throughout February.

To the sea (D/Z 35/15)

To the sea – rescuers at work in Jaywick (D/Z 35/15) (Photo: Reuters)

Jaywick completely flooded

Fire Brigade log book reporting phone calls to say that Jaywick was completely flooded (D/Z 35/3/1)

Canvey Island underwater (ref??)

Canvey Island underwater (D/Z 35/15) (Photo: Southend Standard).

Albermarle St & Alexander Road, Harich (T/Z 241/1)

Photograph of the junction of Albermarle Street and Alexandra Road in Harwich. The flood in Harwich was described as a two metre high wall of rolling water. Eight people drowned trapped in their basements in Main Street (T/Z 241/1) (Photo: Harwich and Dovercourt Standard).

Harwich Junior School (T/Z 241/1)

The ground floor and playground of Harwich Junior School were flooded to a depth of 1½ metres (T/Z 241/1).

Harwich police station telephone log (D/Z 35/6/1)

This note in the Harwich police station telephone log tells us that at the army base on Bramble Island, near Harwich, the magazines had been breached by the flood waters. High explosives had floated away and the police and public were advised to be on the look out for them, and not to touch them (D/Z 35/6/1).

Peter Pan's Playground (D/Z 35/15)

Photograph of Peter Pan’s Playground, Southend (D/Z 35/15) (Photo: Southend Standard). At Southend the effects were not as severe as at Canvey. The Kursaal flooded, along with the Gasworks and Southchurch Park.

Letter from Mr E. Staunton (C/DC 11/Fd43)

Letter written month after the floods by Mr E. Staunton of Benham Road, Canvey to Essex County Council to pass on the ‘thanks and gratitude’ of himself and ‘friends in this area’ to the fireman who sounded the air raid siren ‘thus giving us a chance to dress and find out over the telephone what was the meaning of the warning’ (C/DC 11/Fd43).

 

A selection of these documents will be on display in the Searchroom throughout February. Others can be ordered to view in the Searchroom. Find out how to visit us.

To find out more about the floods, why not go to hear Patricia Rennoldson Smith talk about her new book The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster: The People’s Story as part of the Essex Book Festival.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Investigation

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

Removing the binding of the book to reveal the stitching underneath

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

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

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

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

 Treatment

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

The freshley sewn pages ready for the binding to be reattached

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

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

 

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

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

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

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