Chelmsford Then and Now

IMG_6536 compressedWe were fortunate recently to have University of Essex student Ashleigh Hudson undertake a 10-week research project with us exploring the history of several properties along Chelmsford High Street. Ashleigh has used a range of sources, including documents, maps, and photographs, to highlight areas of continuity and change. Her research findings will be turned into a display, and also shared here in a series of blog posts, starting now…

 

A Royal Charter, granted in 1199 by King John, authorised a weekly market to be held within Chelmsford. A town grew around the market and by the 16th century, the basic shape of the high street had been firmly established. In fact the essential pattern of the High Street has not changed a great deal since the 16th century. A quick comparison of John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford and a map of the high street today reveals that the fundamental shape of the town is very much the same.

John Walker's map of Chelmsford, 1591

Extract from John Walker’s map of Chelmsford, 1591.

Internally, the High Street is quite different, with all of the timber buildings featured on the Walker Map long replaced by brick buildings of modern design.  Economic factors, social mobility and technological advancements have all impacted on the structural development of the High Street. Development has occurred sporadically, and according to the whims of a particular owner at a given time. By the latter half of the 20th century, the demand for retail and a growing population seemingly justified the demolition of vast portions of the town, which were deemed no longer fit for purpose. To many long-term residents of Chelmsford, modern development has completely obscured the town they knew and loved.

Chelmsford OS maps 1963 1974

Extract from the OS Map of 1963 (left) and 1974 (right). A comparison of the two maps reveals that by 1974 many of the individual properties situated on the west side of the high street have been demolished or consolidated to make way one large store, Marks and Spencer’s. Marks and Spencer’s currently occupies the former sites stretching from 62-66.

One of the biggest challenges facing Chelmsford High Street is a perceived lack of history; the belief that 20th century development has stripped away the heritage and integrity of the town. In actuality there is still a great deal of history hidden, often just above street level. Even where the ancient building has been demolished, the plots themselves have a story to tell. It is entirely possible for modern development to occur and coexist with areas of historic value; the challenge is building awareness and a sense of appreciation for the history behind the High Street.

King's Head Chelmsford | Essex Record Office

Photograph of the King’s Head shortly before it was demolished to make way for a branch of F.W Woolworth. The King’s Head had occupied the site since the 17th century and was a central part of town life throughout that period. Though the physical building has gone, the King’s Head is a large part of the history of 40-41 High Street, so much so that the carpark to the rear of the property was named in its honour.

Woolworth's Chelmsford 1930s | Essex Record Office

Photograph of F.W Woolworth in the 1930s. The photograph reveals an entirely new building sitting on the former site of the King’s Head.

 

Barclays Bank, 40-41 High Street Chelmsford

The former Woolworth’s building is currently occupied by Barclays Bank. A quick comparison of this photograph and the one above reveals a high level of continuity, just above street level.

The aim of this project is to construct a historical profile of selected sites across the high street using a range of different sources. The research gathered will be presented in a variety of ways to highlight areas of continuity and change. It is hoped that this project will encourage a greater awareness of the historic development of Chelmsford High Street and a stronger appreciation for the town itself.

The Essex Record Office has provided most of the primary material for this project. Supplementary material has been sourced from The Essex Newspaper Archive and Ancestry, both of which can be accessed in the ERO Searchroom. Hilda Grieve’s detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows was a fantastic starting point for much of the research, and a constant source of reference throughout. Look out for the Chelmsford Then and Now series of blog posts to be posted on the ERO blog shortly. Alternatively, why not check out our new HistoryPin page which contains a range of photographs of Chelmsford High Street through time.

ERO is on HistoryPin!

We have finally joined HistoryPin, an online community which allows organisations or individuals to share historic pictures, videos or sound clips by virtually ‘pinning’ them to a map of the world.

We have been wanting to do this for a while, and the final catalyst was a project undertaken here recently by research intern Ashleigh Hudson on the history of Chelmsford High Street (lots more on this coming over the next few weeks).

Our first pins are photographs of our county town of Chelmsford taken by the famous Spalding family of photographers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fred Spalding senior was the first commercial photographer in the town, and his son and grandson (both also Fred Spalding) followed in his footsteps, leaving us a photographic archive of some 7,000 images.

As well as the images we’ve pinned so far, you can also listen to recordings from the Essex Sound and Video Archive showcasing what Essex sounded like in the past.

You can explore what we’ve pinned using the map or by browsing the collections we’ve put together (click on the right tab below to see the collections).

If you’re new to HistoryPin we will warn you – it’s addictive.

Click here to go to our HistoryPin channel, and here to go to the HistoryPin home page to explore everything that has been pinned from all over the world.

The expanding Essex electorate

As the 2015 General Election approaches, we take a look at some of the records of voting history in the Essex Record Office archives…

The right to vote is something which we are all today well accustomed to, and perhaps even take for granted. In the 2010 General Election 847,090 people voted in Essex. Not all that long ago, many of these people would have been barred from the polling station.

Turn the clock back 100 years and what we today recognise as a fair electorate would be halved straight away by the exclusion of women. Go back a little further and many men were excluded on the grounds of not owning enough property. Return to 1830, and only about 10% of the adult male population qualified to vote. Essex had a population of about 300,000 people at this time, only about 6,000 of whom could vote.

Although not exactly a scientific comparison the pictures below give you some sense of just how much the electorate expanded during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

This first, slender volume from 1833-34 is one of the earliest electoral registers held at the ERO. There were so few voters at this time that they are all listed in just two volumes this size, one for the northern part of the county and one for the south.

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By the time the super-sized registers for the Walthamstow Division pictures below were created in 1914 and 1915 most men had the vote, but women were still excluded. The population in metropolitan Essex had increased considerably in this time, but even taking this into account the difference in the size of the books and the changes this represent in voting qualifications are remarkable.

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Today Essex elects 18 MPs but in the 1700s and 1800s there were only four places in Essex where polling could take place for parliamentary elections – the Boroughs of Maldon, Harwich and Colchester, and the county town of Chelmsford – with each sending two MPs to Westminster.

Elections themselves were conducted very differently too. The secret ballot was not introduced until 1872; before then, voting was done openly, by a show of hands or voices, and with lists published of who had voted for whom. Thus a vote was not exactly a free one; at a time when your landlord, boss and local magistrate might all be the same person, who would be brave enough to vote against the candidate he had put up? A further Act in 1883 (the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act) criminalised attempts to bribe voters.

Before the reforms of the 19th and early 20th centuries parliamentary seats in Essex were monopolised by leading county families such as the Bramstons of Skreens, the Luthers of Brizes, the Conyers of Copped Hall, the Maynards of Easton Lodge, the Harveys of Rolls Park, the Houblons of Hallingbury Place and the Bullocks of Faulkbourne Hall. Often there was only one candidate standing; between 1734 and 1832, only 8 elections in Chelmsford were actually contested.

The ERO looks after hundreds of electoral registers dating back to the 1830s. As well as telling us something about the expansion of the electorate, they can also be useful in tracing people and their historic addresses. The registers for 1918 and 1929 have been digitised and can be viewed on Seax as they were the first years in which women could vote (married women over 30 in 1918 and all women over 21 in 1929). We are planning to continue to digitise our historic electoral registers and make them available online.

The UK has only had universal suffrage and equal voting rights for men and women since 1928 – just 87 years ago – something that is worth bearing in mind as we prepare to make our way to the polling stations on 7th May.

Bowled over: Graham Napier discovers his Essex roots

Graham Napier in action for Essex County Cricket Club (Photo: Nick Wood/Essex Cricket)

Graham Napier in action for Essex County Cricket Club (Photo: Nick Wood/Essex Cricket)

Just as the 2015 cricket season is about to get underway, we were excited to welcome Essex County Cricket Club star Graham Napier to the ERO to discover his Essex roots.

Graham’s family has a long history in Essex, going back at least to the 1700s. Several of his ancestors were from the Tilbury area, and include agricultural workers, gamekeepers and blacksmiths. Apparently blacksmiths were reputed to be so strong they could hit a cricket ball out of the ground! Graham discovered that one of his great-grandfathers, Edward Chatten was killed in the First World War in September 1918, just two months before the Armistice. He is now planning to visit Edward’s grave in France when he gets the opportunity.

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Graham finding out about his Essex ancestors with Archive Assistant Sarah Ensor

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A baptism record for Pte Edward Chatten’s daughter recording that Chatten had already died before his daughter was baptised

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The marriage record for Thomas Mott and Jane Swan, ancestors of Graham Napier who married in Wickford in 1799

Just like his ancestors, Graham is in the archive himself, amongst the records deposited by Essex County Cricket Club. We dug out some scorebooks to show him, including one from 1997 which includes his very first professional games for Essex, and one from 2008 which records his famous innings in a Twenty20 cup match against Sussex when he scored 152 not out from 58 balls – the highest individual score in a T20 innings in England at the time, and the highest number of sixes in an individual T20 innings.

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Graham looking at an Essex County Cricket Club scorebook from 1997 which records his earliest professional matches

We also shared with Graham some of the older records of Essex County Cricket Club which are looked after here dating back to the nineteenth century.

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During our research we also came across this photo of a cricket team in Chelmsford c.1870, taken on Fair Field with the railway viaduct in the background. Cricketing style has changed somewhat since then!

Cricket team 1870 watermarked

Graham said: ‘It’s safe to say I’m truly from Essex, going back several generations. What a great experience to come to the ERO and trace back my family history, it’s something I’d recommend more people do’.

We wish Graham and the Essex team the very best of luck as the new season gets underway.

Document of the Month, March 2015: Freehand plan of George Street, Old Moulsham, Chelmsford as it was c.1948

By Jane Bedford, Archivist

Freehand plan of George Street, Old Moulsham, Chelmsford as it was c.1948 (Accession A13903)

This month’s document is the product of a remarkable feat of memory. It was drawn by Ms. Joan E. Atkins, more than half a century after almost all of the buildings in George Street were demolished in the 1950s. The area is now a car park and only two of the forty-three dwellings which once existed there have survived.

A13903 Moulsham

Ms. Atkins’s drawing of George Streeet, Moulsham, as it was c.1948. Click for a larger version.

Ms. Atkins lived in George Street as a child, during and after the Second World War, until 1948, when her family moved. In April 2014, having searched unsuccessfully for photographs or images of the Street prior to the demolition, she decided to make her own sketch of it as it once was, because she felt it was ‘a great pity that nothing exists to give future generations an idea of George Street’s origins’. She drew on her childhood memories to produce the freehand sketch plan, and especially on her observations of the layout of the houses when accompanying her mother on weekly door-to-door collections for the Red Cross during the war years. She includes carefully-drawn frontal elevations of the buildings, which are reminiscent of those depicted on the maps of Chelmsford and Moulsham made by the pioneering map-maker John Walker in 1591.

A truly impressive achievement!

The sketch will be on display in the Searchroom throughout March 2015.

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!

Essex at War on film

We were lucky enough to have Chris Church of Wire Frame Media film at Essex at War, 1914-1918 at Hylands House on Sunday 14 September, who has produced this fabulous short film capturing a flavour of the day. Have a watch for a snapshot of what went on, and if you came along see if you can spot yourself!

If you came along and would like to tell us what you thought of the day, do please fill in our short survey here.

Essex at War, 1914-1918

I can’t believe it has finally come and gone – after 15 months in the planning, today was Essex at War at Hylands House. This was a big collaboration between ERO, Hylands House, Now the Last Poppy has Fallen, the Essex Regiment Museum, and many others. It’s always great to take the ERO out on the road to new locations, and we had a wonderful day meeting so many people. We hope that if you visited you enjoyed your day!

‘Noble reponse to the call’: a look at the Essex County Chronicle of 14 August 1914

Following our recent post on how the Essex County Chronicle reported on local responses to the outbreak of the First World War, today we take a look at a few of the stories published the following week on 14 August 1914.

These snippets from the Chronicle give us a bit of an insight into the sorts of things that people were talking about and doing as the world slid into chaos around them.

 

Joining up

The Chronicle reported that:

‘Essex has already made a noble response to the call to arms, and every day brings trained men from her sons to rejoin the colours and come once more to the aid of the Empire. Recruits, too, are pouring in at all the offices, and both men and women are volunteering their services in whatever capacity they can best be of use. There is no shirking. All classes and people of all creeds stand together’

Recruiting for Kitchener’s New Army had already begun, and it was reported that large numbers of Essex Territorials had already volunteered for it.

The Chronicle also reported on a special meeting of the Essex County Territorial Force Association that had taken place in Finsbury Circus, which was addressed by the Earl of Warwick:

‘I don’t want to depress you too much, but you all must know the terrible anxiety that must exist for a very long time to come. Two enormous armies are face to face – the largest in the history of the world. We have been brought into this conflict, peace loving people as we are, through no fault of our own. We have to try in every way to go through with it for the best interests of this glorious old country. Not only are you fighting for everything you love and cherish, for your hearths and homes, and sacrificing yourself in their interests, but you have got to remember that this war has got to be fought to a finish.’

A report on mobilisation read by the Secretary stated that the force had started to receive call ups for various sections on 30th and 31st July and that ‘in the county of Essex they had been as prompt as any other county in England. All the Territorial Battalions were now mobilised’. They had been 1100 under strength, but all vacancies had been filled.

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Paranoia sets in

One story reported on 14th August suggests that parts of the county at least were on edge, and a tragedy was narrowly averted at Warley Barracks:

‘In the night one of the magazine guards of Warley Barracks fired at a stranger who made no reply when challenged. The man’s hat flew from his head, but he escaped. One of the subsequent shots fired at the fugitive struck a member of the Army Medical Corps, who had to receive medical attention.’

A young man visiting Harwich meanwhile had filled some time by sketching on the pier: ‘He was promptly arrested by the military sentries on duty, and taken to the Redoubt. After detention for two hours he was released’. His story was presented as a warning to others.

Anti-German feeling was also quick to set in amongst some people, as is shown in this story from a hearing in Stratford:

‘At Stratford on Saturday, in binding over James Webster, 42, a labourer, of Buckhurst Hill, who was stated to have been engaged in an argument with an Englishman, whom he accused of being a German. Mr Ehot Howard said he hoped Englishmen would not annoy persons simply because they bore German names. Many of them were most faithful Englishmen, especially those of Jewish extraction, who had left their country to avoid oppression and appreciated the freedom of England. There was a large German colony in England who were most enthusiastic British subjects.’

 

Essex people trapped abroad

Some Essex residents had been in Europe when the war broke out, and some ran into trouble before they managed to make it home.

The Bishop of Colchester had been on holiday, and was arrested in France as a spy for snapping a photograph. The Chronicle reported that he was ‘pounced upon by the military and taken to a guardroom’, but after explaining managed to make it safely back to Colchester.

There had, meanwhile, been more anxiety in Brightlingsea. Several local men who had been at sea working on racing yachts had been held by the Germans. One man had returned home but others were still on the continent:

‘Capt. E. Sycamore, of Brightlingsea, arrived home on Tuesday from Denmark, where he has been staying with the British Consul, after having been detained in Germany. He states that he had some rough experiences in Germany, being twice imprisoned. He left his crew in Denmark; they were expected to follow on. Captain Sycamore arrived with nothing beyond the clothes he was wearing, all his other luggage having been taken from him while in Germany. Capt. Sycamore brought a reassuring message with regard to Captain James Taylor, of Brightlingsea, who, with his wife, is imprisoned at Hamburg.’

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County defences

People had already begun to mobilise to prepare to defend their county. In Maldon, for example, a meeting had been held at the Drill Hall to form a town guard for the borough and district. The guard was for men too old to join the Territorials who wanted to play a part in defending their homes. Nearly 100 people were reported to have attended, and apparently a large number of men enrolled and began to drill almost immediately.

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Unemployment and poverty

Across the county, local leaders had received telegrams from the Prince of Wales asking them to assist in the setting up of local branches of the National Relief Fund.

As mentioned in our post on August’s document of the month, unemployment and poverty were rapid consequences of the outbreak of war. Cllr Booth, Vice-Chairman of Burnham Council, said at a specially-called meeting to consider the local consequences of the war:

‘it would be necessary to form a relief committee, and that was his chief object in asking for the meeting. There was likely to be much poverty in consequence of the war, and they ought to make provision for this. He suggested that, with a view of providing employment, this would be a good time to proceed with the sewerage scheme. They were all agreed that this was necessary, and perhaps they might get assistance in carrying it out. He knew it would be expensive to borrow money at this time, but they ought to do what they could to provide employment.’

Local employment already being affected; the Mildmay Ironworks had had orders for piano frames cancelled, and the oyster trade was likely to have a bad winter. The council agreed to ask the Surveyor what useful and necessary works the Council could do to provide employment, and Mr Booth also proposed formation of a Relief Committee.

 

Preparations for the wounded

Local people quickly began to prepare to aid the expected numbers of wounded. In Burnham, a meeting was held at Mill Cottage to make arrange making clothes for wounded servicemen. The group who met had already received offers of help, both financial and personal. A series of first-aid lectures had also begun, and arrangements had been made to open two or three hospitals as temporary schools in the expectation that the wounded from naval engagements might be brought to the area.

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There was also a report on local Red Cross work. The Essex Branch of the British Red Cross was reported to consist of 73 Voluntary Aid Detachments, with a total personnel of about 2,000, three quarters of them women.

People had also been quick to volunteer buildings to be used as hospitals:

‘Since the commencement of the war many generous offers of private houses, institutions, and other buildings for use either as hospitals or convalescent homes have been made, and in many instances steps have been taken to equip some of these buildings at short notice.’

These buildings included Easton Lodge, Dunmow, Hylands House, Widford, Birch Hall, Theydon Bois and Sewardstone Lodge, Waltham Abbey. Many schools and other public buildings had also been identified as possible hospital sites.

The Palace Hotel in Southend, for example, had already been set aside for use as a naval hospital, to be known as Queen Mary’s Royal Naval Hospital, with accommodation for at least 400 patients.

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There was to be much, much more published in local papers on the war and the impact it was having locally over the coming months and years, and they make fascinating reading. If you would like to see for yourself, the ERO has some local newspapers available on microfilm, or you can visit ERO or any Essex library to use the British Newspaper Archive online for free.

All images reproduced courtesy of the Essex Chronicle

 

To find out more about First World War records at ERO, join us at the following:

A Righteous Conflict: Essex people interpret the Great War – A talk for the Essex History Group by Paul Rusiecki, Tuesday 2 September, 10.30am-11.30am, free, no need to book

Essex at War, 1914-1918, a day of events at Hylands House, Sunday 14 September (details here)

First World War memorials – who was included where?

Andy Begent has created a website recording biographical details of 460 men connected with Chelmsford who lost their lives as a result of the First World War, including photographs of them where possible. In this blog he writes of one of the unexpected tasks that he has dealt with in that ongoing project.

Recently someone asked me what had been the biggest challenges which I had faced during the creation of the Chelmsford War Memorial website.

Chelmsford war memorials homepageI think they expected me to respond by talking of the difficulty in researching the lives of the fallen so long after they died. Though that research can be time consuming, laborious, occasionally frustrating, yet often rewarding, I have found the biggest challenge has been the apparently simple task of determining whether a person should or should not be included on the website.

Early on in my research I was faced with a choice: should the website only commemorate those named on the Chelmsford Civic Centre war memorial, or should it include others that I had identified as having strong Chelmsford connections but who been omitted from that memorial?

I soon discovered that the process to select the names for the memorial had been imperfect. The draft list of names was issued as late as July 1923 to the public for comment upon, with the finalised list later determined by the Mayor and Town Clerk. That delay of almost five years after the end of the war meant that there was every chance that relatives or friends of some of those who could have been included on the memorial were no longer in a position to suggest their names.

Leading Seaman Samuel Allen Barnard, killed aged 26 when H.M.S. Vanguard blew up in 1917. Read his story here

My initial analysis also revealed that some of those named on the memorial had left Chelmsford several years before the war – some to settle in other parts of the country, and others who emigrated abroad, to Canada and Australia. They appeared not to have set foot in the town for some time, if at all, since their departure, yet their names were included on the memorial.

Having identified those potential shortcomings I decided I would include on the website all those mentioned on the war memorial plus those with a strong Chelmsford connection who had been omitted from the war memorial. I then just needed to determine what ’strong Chelmsford connection’ meant.

I looked to the past for clues.

Almost a century ago those erecting war memorials after the First World War had to determine their own inclusion/exclusion criteria, with the criteria varying from memorial to memorial. The Chelmsford approach seemed to be inconsistent, but maybe if I looked at other memorials I could identify best practice.

I soon established that war memorials that commemorated the war dead who attended a particular school, or church, or club, or place of work would have been fairly straightforward to compile names for – either the individual had attended or they had not.

Leading Mechanic Arthur Evan Thomas, R.A.F. Read his story here.

Other types of memorial would have been more challenging. Those that commemorated war dead of towns (and villages, parishes etc.) often used residency as the primary criteria for inclusion. Usually a person was included on such a memorial if they had been resident in the town at the time they began military service. They may also have been included if they died in the town as a consequence of their military service. Some war memorials broadened the residency scope wider than the individual; they may have included an individual on a town’s war memorial even if the individual did not reside in the town when they joined up or died, but their parents, spouse or next-of-kin siblings did, either at the time of them joining up or of their death. This broadening of scope means that some individuals’ names appeared on more than one war memorial – some of Chelmsford’s also appear on town and village war memorials in other parts the UK and further afield.

Even the boundary of a town can be difficult to determine. Chelmsford’s Civic Centre war memorial generally uses the Borough Boundary of 1923 but also includes residents from beyond. The 1923 Borough did not include parts of Widford which were added to the Borough in the 1930s. Great Baddow, Broomfield and Writtle were not absorbed in to the Borough until 1974.

Other criteria, beyond residency, may be considered when selecting names for a war memorial, including date of death, cause of death, and whether the individual was serving or had served in the military.

Corporal John William Hooker, 7th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, killed in action in 1918. His brother, George Alexander Hooker, was also killed in the war. Read his story here.

Some war memorials restrict their commemorations to those that died or were killed between the war’s outbreak on 4th August 1914 and the Armistice of 11th November 1918. Others stretch that to the Treaty of Versailles of 28th June 1919 when peace with Germany officially started. For the First World War the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) commemorates deaths from 4th August 1914 up to 31st August 1921. Others go beyond, recognising that the war led to wounds and illness that led to the deaths of servicemen for decades after the war. The last of those to die who is commemorated by Chelmsford’s Civic Centre war memorial is Douglas Havelock Newman, a former prisoner of war, who died on 7th May 1922, well past the CWGC cut-off date.

Some war memorials include only those who were killed in action or died of wounds. Others expand on that to include those that died of illness, accident or even suicide. The CWGC makes no distinction around causes of death when determining if a person should be commemorated. Chelmsford’s Civic Centre war memorial includes all of those except suicide, although two soldiers who committed suicide are buried in the town.

Some war memorials include only those who died whilst serving in the military. Others go beyond that to include ex-servicemen and civilians. The CWGC commemorates anyone who was still in military service or members of certain civilian organisation (such as the Red Cross) at the time of death, but also includes those who had left the military and died up to 31st August 1921 as a result of an injury or illness caused by or exacerbated by their service up to that date. The Chelmsford Civic Centre war memorial includes a member of the Red Cross, but it does not, and neither does the CWGC, include a civilian from Chelmsford, John Thomas Bannister, killed in a German air raid on London during the First World War.

Having pondered those factors I have ultimately come up with the following criteria which I employ to determine whether someone should be included on the website. You will see is not simple and certainly not as simple as I would have liked.

An individual will be recorded on the website where:

  • They are mentioned on Chelmsford’s Civic Centre war memorial or the Moulsham, Springfield or Widford war memorials, or
  • They or their assumed next of kin were resident in the Borough of Chelmsford of 1923 or parishes of Widford and Springfield at the time they began military service or at the time they were killed or died, or
  • They died or were buried within those same areas, and;
  • Their death is commemorated by the CWGC or their death is proven to have been as a result of an injury or illness caused by or exacerbated by their military service or enemy action.

Determining to what extent these criteria apply so long after an individual’s death is not always easy. We do not have comprehensive records of all those who served in the military nor of those who lived in Chelmsford. The 1914-15 and 1918 registers of electors provide some evidence which can be used, as do contemporary newspaper reports, cemetery and church records. Perhaps the greatest untapped source of information is the stories passed down through families and I hope that the war’s centenary will bring many of the latter to the fore.

If you would like to view the Chelmsford War Memorial website follow this link: http://www.chelmsfordwarmemorial.co.uk/Chelmsford_War_Memorial/Home.html

Andy will be giving a talk on some of the stories he has come across during his research at Essex at War: 1914-18 at Hylands House on Sunday 14 September. Click here for details.