“Neither freaks nor frumps”: two Essex Suffragettes – Lilian and Amy Hicks

On Wednesday 16 September 1908, Amy Hicks spoke at a suffrage meeting held at the Co-operative Hall in Colchester and declared that campaigners for women’s suffrage were ‘neither freaks nor frumps’.

This was the third of three suffrage campaign meetings that took place in Colchester that week, reported in the Essex Newsman on Saturday 19 September. The first meeting took place on Monday night in the High Street, where the speakers were ‘subjected to some humorous banter, and were “booed” by some small boys. The feeling was generally adverse to the Suffragettes’. When Miss Hicks spoke at the meeting on Tuesday night at St Mary’s school room, she said that the campaigners were ‘not at all disheartened by [this] noisy reception’.

By 1908 Amy Hicks already had a long background on the suffrage scene, having grown up with her mother, Lilian, campaigning for women’s voting rights. Lilian was born in 1853 in Colchester, to parents Edward and Thirza Smith. In a 1910 interview with The Vote, the magazine of the Women’s Freedom League, Lilian said that her father was ‘a great believer in women’s capability, and trained both his daughters to manage their own affairs and depend on their own judgment just as carefully and thoroughly as he trained his sons’.

Photographic postcard of Lilian Hicks issued by the Women’s Freedom League, c.1910 (from Yooniq images)

Photographic postcard of Lilian Hicks issued by the Women’s Freedom League, c.1910 (from Yooniq images)

Lilian married Charles Thompson Hicks in Colchester in 1873, and in 1877 Amy Hicks was born. The family lived at Great Holland Hall, near Frinton-on-Sea. As their children grew up, Lilian became increasingly politically active. In 1884 both Lilian and Charles were involved in the campaign for votes for agricultural labourers. From the early 1880s, Lilian worked for the women’s suffrage movement, organising meetings across East Anglia.

Amy was academically gifted, and in 1895 went to Girton College in Cambridge to study Classics. She completed her degree course in 1895, being awarded a first class mark, and several academic prizes along the way (although Cambridge did not formally award degrees to women until 1948). For the next few years Amy taught in London, Liverpool, and briefly in Pennsylvania.

By 1902 both mother and daughter we members of the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage, and in late 1906 they joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst. Their membership did not at this point last long, as they were part of a breakaway group in autumn 1907 that formed the Women’s Freedom League (WFL). The campaigners of the WFL were unhappy with how the WSPU was being run, and while they supported direct action and militancy they were not in favour of attacking people or property.

Women's Freedom League badge, c. 1907.

Women’s Freedom League badge (from the Women’s Library Collection Flickr page)

In the summer of 1908, Lilian travelled throughout Surrey, Sussex and East Anglia with fellow WFL member Margaret Wynne in the WFL caravan, making speeches to recruit people to the women’s suffrage cause.

 

The following year, 1909, Amy became secretary to the WFL, and was at the founding meeting of the Tax Resistance League. The argument of no taxation without representation was to remain one of Amy’s key campaigning points.

Demonstrations, Strikes, Marches, Processions: suffrage parade, c.1908.

Women at a suffrage parade in c. 1908, holding a banner proclaiming ‘Taxation without representation is tyranny’. The fact that women had to pay tax but had no vote on how that tax money was spent was one of the cornerstones of the suffrage campaign (from the Women’s Library Collection Flickr page)

In July 1909 Amy was arrested and imprisoned for three weeks on charges of obstruction. The Times of 13 July described the scene that led to Amy’s arrest. Four members of the WFL had gone to Downing Street, which was an open thoroughfare at the time, to present a petition to the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. It was Amy who personally gave Asquith the petition when he arrived in a car outside number 10. Their defence counsel said that the four women had done ‘nothing but stand upon the pavement in a perfectly orderly manner’. Nonetheless, the magistrate imposed a fine of £3 or three weeks’ imprisonment; all four defendants chose the prison sentence.

Amy was arrested again, this time with her mother Lilian, on 18 November 1910 during the protest known as Black Friday, a struggle between suffrage campaigners and police in Parliament Square.

Photograph of the Black Friday protest on 18 November 1910. The woman on the ground is Ada Wright. The building in the background is the Houses of Parliament. The WSPU sent a delegation of around 300 women to protest the actions of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in not allowing more time for a women’s suffrage bill that had been under discussion in parliament. About 200 of the women were assaulted as they attempted to reach the Houses of Parliament. 119 women and men were arrested.

Their experiences between 1907 and 1910-11 must have hardened Amy and Lilian to the WSPU’s more militant methods of protest, for Amy rejoined in 1910 and Lilian in 1911. In 1911 both women took part in the census boycott co-ordinated by suffrage campaigns.

In March 1912, Amy was imprisoned again, this time for four months for taking part in the WSPU window-smashing campaign in London’s West End. She spent time in both Holloway and Aylesbury, including a period in solitary confinement. The Home Office considered her to be one of the ring leaders of the hunger strike at Aylesbury, and along with her fellow campaigners, Amy was subjected to the brutal procedure of forcible feeding.

Illustration of a suffragette being forcibly fed in HM Prison Holloway. Prisoners were forcibly restrained, and a rubber tube inserted into their mouth and down to their stomach. Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the WSPU, described her horror at the screams of the women being force-fed in Holloway prison.

After her release from prison Amy was back out campaigning. The Walsall Advertiser of 7 December 1912 records a speech she gave as a guest at the Walsall branch of the WSPU, in which she talked about how peaceable approaches to the government had not worked:

‘Miss Hicks, in the course of her address, said that women had found out that mere words did not carry them very far, and they now said to the Government, “You may take our goods, and sell them, you may take our bodies and put them into prison, but money, to keep up your unconstitutional government, you shall not have.” She thought that was a very good method, and she hoped it would be carried out more widely and would create a great deal of embarrassment for the present Government. Considering the way in which the Government had treated women the best thing the women could do was to embarrass them in every possible way. There was too much feeling that the women did not count, and they were not looked upon as responsible members of society, as they ought to be, especially in matters of the State. They had found that any amount of talking was useless, and that was why they took more drastic measures to get those things altered… The women could not trust their interests in the hands of a body of men who were not responsible to them.’

During the First World War Amy joined the Women’s Volunteer Reserve, which was founded by Suffragette Evelina Haverfield. Her brother Charles, a solicitor, joined in army in September 1914 and was sent to France in 1916. He survived until 21 July 1918 when he was killed in action near Hazebrouck.

The Representation of the People Act gave the right to vote to all men aged over 21, and to women over 30 who met a property qualification. Equal voting rights – for all men and women over 21 – were not granted until 1928.

From the 1920s Amy lived at Runsell Green in Danbury, and her mother joined her there. Lilian died in 1924.

In 1927, in her fiftieth year, Amy married John Major Bull, a widower twenty years her senior. In the same year Amy was elected as a rural district councillor in Chelmsford, a position she fulfilled until 1930. Amy was widowed in 1944, and sometime before 1948 was awarded an MBE. After John’s death she lived at General’s Orchard in Little Baddow, until her death in 1953.

Colchester then and now: The Ichnography of Colchester

Regular readers will probably have noticed our Chelmsford Then and Now series of blog posts, written by Ashleigh Hudson, who worked with us on a research placement last year as part of her MA degree with the University of Essex. We have been fortunate this year to have hosted another student placement, and this year Louise Rodwell has been investigating the history of the High Street of Britain’s oldest recorded town, Colchester. We will be sharing the results of her research here over the coming months. You can also join us at Colchester on the Map on Tuesday 15 November 2016 at Colchester Town Hall to see some of our historic maps and photographs from the town.

In his 1825 History of Colchester, the antiquarian Thomas Cromwell wrote that ‘To every lover of history and antiquarian research, there can exist few more interesting towns than that of Colchester’.

‘Perspective view of Colchester in the County of Essex’, engraved for The Complete English Traveller (I/Mb 90/1/)

‘Perspective view of Colchester in the County of Essex’, engraved for The Complete English Traveller (I/Mb 90/1/)

Colchester is well known as a Roman town, but much less is popularly known about the other phases of its history, despite its involvement with events such as the Dutch Revolt, which resulted in an influx of Dutch and Flemish migrants to the town, the English Civil War, when Colchester was besieged, and the witch trials of East Anglia, led by the notorious Matthew Hopkins.

This project sets out to explore the histories of selected sites on Colchester High Street, and to imagine the lives of some of the people who have lived, worked, shopped and walked along this historic road. Using maps, documents and photographs from the Essex Record Office, this research will investigate continuity and change in the high street, and reflect on how Colchester’s past shapes our experience of the high street today.

To get us started, we thought we would take a look at one of our favourite maps of the town, which provides a fabulous window into the past.

This survey, grandly headed ‘The Ichnography of Colchester’ (MAP/CM/25/1), dates from about 1748. It is unsigned, but is believed to be by a man named James Deane, a local architect from whom we also have other records and drawings. The unusual word ‘ichnography’ is an architectural term with Greek origins, usually used to mean a ground plan of a building, but here used to mean a plan of a whole town. The layout of the town seen here is easily recognisable today, and is based on the streets set out by the Romans.

James Deane’s plan of Colchester, c.1748 (MAP/CM/25/1)

James Deane’s plan of Colchester, c.1748 (MAP/CM/25/1) (Click for a larger version)

No scale is given, but it is approximately 1:2,800. The map is dedicated to the Hon. Philip Yorke and his Consort The Lady Marchioness of Grey; Yorke was Earl of Hardwicke, a local landowner and MP for Reigate and later Cambridgeshire.

Some streets are named on the map, while others are included in a key which lists 41 places indicated on the map by letters and numbers. These include places still familiar to us today, such as the castle, St John’s Abbey Gate, the high street and Head Street, and other names which have fallen out of use, such as Grub Street, Hog Street and Cat Lane. Grub Street, labelled ‘a’, was the short bit of road connecting St Botolph’s Street with Magdalen Street.* Hog Street is in the south east of the map, and possibly is what today is known as Military Road, while Cat Lane has been upgraded to become Lion Walk.

This is a map that rewards detailed study, with a number of charming details to spot. A few of our favourites are middle row, a narrow row of shops and a church in the middle of the High Street, none of which still exist today, ships sailing on the River Colne at the Hythe in the south east corner of the map, and the three windmills shown on the southernmost edge of the map.

Middle row, including St Runwald's church (MAP/CM/25/1)

Middle row, including St Runwald’s church (MAP/CM/25/1)

Ships on the Hythe (MAP/CM/25/1)

Ships on the Hythe (MAP/CM/25/1)

Three windmills on the southernmost edge of Deane's map (MAP/CM/25/1)

Three windmills on the southernmost edge of Deane’s map (MAP/CM/25/1)

In our future blog posts in this series we will be looking at a series of properties along the high street which reflect different aspects of town life and how it has changed through the centuries, including pubs, inns, churches and shops.

In the meantime, do join us on Tuesday 15 November at Colchester Town Hall to see James Deane’s map alongside several others of the town, along with historic photographs and sound recordings, at Colchester on the Map.

*This part of the blog post was corrected on 17/11/16 after a reader flagged up that we had made an error in our original identification of Grub Street as Balkerne Hill.

Document of the Month, November 2016: Introduction of Daylight Saving Time, May 1916

D/DU 1407/1

As the clocks go back again for the winter, November’s Document of the Month looks at the introduction of Daylight Saving Time in the UK in 1916, when the clocks went forward by one hour at 2 am on 21 May.  This flyer produced by the Borough of Colchester was issued to alert the public to the need to change their clocks and watches before they went to bed on Saturday 20 May.  The clocks went back again on 1 October 1916.

img_1971-1080

The idea was suggested by William Willetts, a builder who proposed a change of 80 minutes, changing by 20 minutes each week in April and reversing the change each week in September.  Willetts died in 1915, before Daylight Saving Time was introduced.

There has been much discussion about the merits of going back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) for the winter.  Experiments in the late 1960s on staying on British Summer Time (BST) over the winter did result in an apparent decrease in road accident casualties but as this coincided with the introduction of legislation to limit drinking and driving, the effects were deemed difficult to isolate.

While England and Wales generally seem to prefer to stay on BST for the whole year, Scotland would prefer to return to GMT for the winter as this means that people are travelling to school and work in the daylight in the morning.  However, if this were to happen it would be the first time that the UK had two time zones since Dublin Mean Time was abolished in 1916.  It would also mean that Greenwich would not be using Greenwich Mean Time.

The document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout November 2016.

Historic sounds of Essex – coming to a town near you

Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, You Are Hear Project Officer

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

 

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

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

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

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

Cartoon map of Essex showing location of benches

Location of the first eight benches being installed this summer

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

Picture of Cllr Young cutting ribbon on bench

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

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

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

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

Image of the touring kiosk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is more Essex? Stuart Bingham vs Ali Carter

There are many things for us Essexians to be proud of, and it seems that one of them is our county’s tendency to produce incredibly talented snooker players, most famously Ronnie O’Sullivan.

In more recent years two more top-ranked players have come out of our county – Basildon-born Stuart Bingham and Colchester-born Ali Carter. Bingham is the current World Snooker Champion, and as the 2016 competition gets underway tomorrow he will be defending his title in his first match of the competition – against Carter.

As these two Essex giants of snooker go head-to-head, we thought we would see which of them has the best Essex credentials.

Stuart Bingham

Stuart Bingham at the 2013 German Masters

Current World Snooker Champion Stuart was born in Basildon – but how far back can his ancestral roots be traced in Essex?

ERO specialist Sarah Ensor has traced his family back over 200 years in the county, to his 5x great-grandfather Thomas Moules. The Moules family lived and worked in the rural villages of Marks Tey and Little Tey, and their baptisms, marriages and burials can be found in the parish registers we look after at ERO.

Marriage of Stuart Bingham's 5x great-grandparents, Thomas Moule (here recorded as Mole) and Mary Smith, in Great Tey in 1803 (D/DP 305/1/4)

Marriage of Stuart Bingham’s 5x great-grandparents, Thomas Moule (here recorded as Mole) and Mary Smith, in Great Tey in 1803 (D/DP 305/1/4)

Outside the towns Essex was very rural and the Moules lived in a farming community; until the latter part of the nineteenth century they worked as labourers on the land but later described themselves as horsemen – no doubt a step up the farming ladder.

The tradition of agricultural work was broken by Stuart’s great-great-grandfather Walter Moules (b.1869 in Great Tey), who started his working life as a labourer but joined the Royal Artillery, serving in India and Aden.

So far we have traced Stuart’s family back over 7 generations in Essex. A ‘widow Moule’ of Great Tey is named to in a deed of 1773 (D.DAt 45), so it is likely that Stuart’s roots in the parish reach back even further. With such deep roots in the county, Stuart can definitely claim to be a true Essex man.

 

Ali Carter

Ali Carter at the 2013 German Masters

Ali was born in Colchester and now lives near Chelmsford. He has twice been runner-up in the World Championship, losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012. According to BBC Sport, he is ‘one of the sport’s best-loved and most-respected players, having twice overcome cancer and still been able to maintain his place among the world’s best despite a constant battle with Crohn’s disease.

Ali’s Essex ancestry can also be traced back to the nineteenth century and beyond. Two of his great-great grandparents, William Hawdon and Emma Long, were both born in Loughton. Their daughter Aimee, Ali’s great-grandmother, was baptised in St Mary’s church in Loughton on 9 December 1898. William’s profession was given as a commercial clerk.

Baptism of Aimee Hawdown (D/P 571/1/1)

Baptism of Aimee Hawdon, Ali’s great-grandmother, in 1898 in Loughton (D/P 571/1/1)

Another branch of Ali’s family tree takes us back to his four-times-great-grandfather James Piper, who was born in Colchester in about 1796. James is described in the 1841 and 1851 census returns as a labourer, but in 1861 he is recorded as an ‘itinerant bookseller’.

James and his wife Sarah had a daughter, Priscilla, born in Colchester in about 1826, who married Thomas Stoton, another Colchester man and a tailor by trade. In 1871 Thomas and Priscilla were living at 42 St Botolph’s Street, and Thomas employed 1 man and 2 women in his business.

Their daughter, another Priscilla Stoton, married William Waigh, originally from Bethnal Green, but he had moved his family to Woodfood by the time of the 1901 census, when he was recorded as a builder and rent collector.

The verdict

In terms of the depth of their Essex roots, these two giants of snooker are very closely matched. Will they be as closely matched when they step up to the green baize tomorrow?

If you would like to discover how far back you can trace your Essex roots, contact us or visit our Searchroom to start your journey.

Registered wills – filling in the gaps

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

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

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

Decorative I

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

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

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

Registered wills 1500-1515

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Burgon will

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

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

Agnes Tomson will

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

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

Agnes Tomson will

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

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

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

‘An Ocean of Books’

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

In preparing our latest mini-biography of an interesting person from Essex’s past for Essex Life magazine, I came across this wonderful quote from William Gilberd (1544-1603), in the preface to his book De Magnete, published in 1600:

‘But why should I, in so vast an Ocean of Books by which the minds of studious men are troubled and fatigued, through which very foolish productions the world and unreasoning men are intoxicated, and puffed up, rave and create literary broils, and while professing to be philosophers, physicians, mathematicians and astrologers, neglect and despise men of learning: why should I, I say, add aught further to this so-perturbed republick of letters, and expose this noble philosophy, which seems new and incredible by reason of so many things hitherto unrevealed, to be damned and torn to pieces by the maledictions of those who are either already sworn to the opinions of other men, or are foolish corruptors of good arts, learned idiots, grammatists, sophists, wranglers, and perverse little folk? But to you alone, true philosophizers, honest men, who seek knowledge not from books only but from things themselves, have I addressed these magnetical principles in this new sort of Philosophizing.’

Portrait of William Gilbert (Wellcome Collection)

Gilberd was a physician and natural philosopher who founded the field of magnetic science. He was the first person to suggest (correctly) that the earth is a giant magnet, and the word ‘electricity’ has its origins in his work. The ‘new sort of Philosophizing’ to which he refers is his methodology of using experiments to find out about natural phenomena.

Gilberd was born in Colchester and is buried there in Holy Trinity church. You can find out more about him in our article that will be published in the October 2015 edition of Essex Life magazine.

 

Document of the month, July 2015: The heat of summer

Each month one of our Archivists selects a document to highlight. This month it is the turn of Chris Lambert – his chosen document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout July 2015.

It was July 1615.  Joan, Lady Barrington, of Hatfield Broad Oak was unwell, and she sought medical advice.  That advice, from Dr Duke of Colchester, survives amongst the Barrington family papers in the ERO (D/DBa F40/1).

D-DBa F40-1 watermarked

The advice of Dr Duke of Colchester to Lady Barrington of Hatfield Broad Oak, July 1615 (D/DBa F40/1)

Reassuringly, Duke did not believe ‘that the swelling of her legges shold be an effect of a dropsy’ (what might now be understood as heart disease).  Lady Barrington’s urine suggested to Duke ‘only much melancholy’.  The effects of melancholy were extensive, including ‘windiness of stomacke & body, flushing heates, [and] causeless feares’, but Duke did not think them dangerous.

Beyond that, Lady Barrington was ‘of a good complexion, well coulered & eateth her meat well, having a full body’.  For Duke, this was evidence that the swelling was simply ‘an effect of watery humours in the veynes, wherewith Nature being burthened, she doth expell & abandon them to the inferiour partes’.  The condition appeared in summer because Lady Barrington ‘eateth & drinketh liberally although the naturall heat of the stomacke be now much lesse then in winter, as also because the passages of the body are more open in sommer … and so the humours do with more facilitye flowe into those partes’.  The ancient Greek doctrine of the four bodily humours, associated with the four seasons, still ruled 17th-century medicine.  In 1615, William Harvey’s revolutionary discovery of the circulation of the blood still lay 13 years in the future.

D-DQ 14-191 watermarked

Hatfield Broad Oak, seen in a contemporary map (D/DQ 14/191). Lady Barrington’s home at the Priory House appears just above the church.

Duke’s prescription was a moderate purge, the ‘often use of turpentine of Cipres [Cyprus]’, and frequent ‘astringent bathes’ for the patient’s legs.  But ‘at the fall of the leafe, it wer necessary to take some more forcible purging physicke’.  The humours of the body being un-balanced, purging would restore them.  Perhaps it did: Lady Barrington lived on until 1641.

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.

We Will Remember Them: North Primary School Roll of Honour

This guest post is written by Laura Davison, project officer for We Will Remember Them. This HLF-funded school project has used documents stored at ERO and included a visit to ERO for the pupils involved.

Year 5 pupils at North Primary School in Colchester are working on the year-long project We Will Remember Them, researching the lives of the 50 former pupils who volunteered or were conscripted for action in the First World War. This innovative project explores how the discovery of locally relevant histories can engage and inspire pupils in responding to moments in the history of the First Word War.

The project was initially inspired by entries in the school’s log book written by the Head Master John Harper on 9 July 1915 and 11 November 1919:

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Entry into the North Primary School log book by Head Master John Harper, describing a Roll of Honour which was to be hung permanently in the school hall, recording the names of former pupils who were serving with the armed forces in the First World War (EML 86/2)

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Another entry by Harper, describing the observance of two minutes of silence on 11 November, and a display of photographs of the 50 men from the school who lost their lives in the way (E/ML 86/2)

The whereabouts of the Roll of Honour, installed in the school hall in 1915, is unknown.  The funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for We Will Remember Them will enable the school re-instate the Roll of Honour, restoring this object of heritage to its original setting within the school’s Grade II listed building. This will be supported by a showcase exhibition, publication and teachers’ pack narrating the untold stories of the former pupils’ lives and how they were affected by the First World War.

Headteacher Alan Garnett discusses the impact of the project for the school:

This history project captures all our past, present and future. The children are often told that our school is more than just a magnificent building – it is the stories of all its former pupils and staff. To work with a local historian to uncover the stories of those who lost their lives in that terrible war will bring national and local history alive to our pupils. And to have our Roll Of Honour re-made and restored to its rightful place in our school hall, well that will be a proud moment indeed.

The Year 5 pupils have worked with Historian Claire Driver to research and record the former pupils. All the hard work has paid off, as they have identified sixty-two pupils who served and died in the First World War. Each pupil is paired with a former pupil to develop individual case study. Claire has shown them how to use archive records from the School Log Book, the 1901 and 1911 census and military records. Using the 1897 map of Colchester, they have plotted where all the former pupils lived and identified what shops were in Colchester High Street in 1914.  Gradually a picture is being formed of what it was like to live in Colchester 100 years ago.

Some of the fascinating facts the census records revealed were:

  • People’s jobs – fishmongers, bakers, railway porters, tailors, police constables and printing apprentices
  • How many people lived in a house – in some cases  up to 11 people lived in a 2 bedroom Victorian terrace house
  •  Some of the pupils even came from the workhouse at St Mary’s

The children have been on an amazing journey building up an understanding of the social context of the school to promote awareness of their lives in the context of the First World War and the impact it had on the school and its locality.

school trip 9 Pupils visit Colchester's War Memorial and discuss the symboliic meaning of the sculptures. They used 1897 maps to make comparisons of what the site looked like 100 years ago

Visiting Colchester’s War Memorial

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Identifying 4 former pupils on the Roll of Honour in St Peter’s Church, Colchester

An Open Day was held at the school, inviting local residents and families to get involved with the project and share their family stories and memories from the First World War passed down through generations.

open day 1Visitors looking at ERO WW1 exhibition

Visitors enjoy the EROs WW1 exhibition loaned for the Open Day

open day 4 Year 5 Teacher Maria Gray discusses the project with Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell

The children are so proud to be working on this project because it really happened in our school. Year 5 Teacher Maria Gray discusses the project with Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell

Recently, the pupils visited Essex Record Office to view the collections and discover how historians use archives to support their research. Hannah Salisbury, Access and Participation Officer at ERO and project Historian Claire Driver introduced the pupils to the wealth of material available from the collections and explained how to use a range of historical sources to find out what life was like during WWI. The children were able to ask questions about their former pupil and in some cases looked on Ancestry too.

They focused on the two fascinating stories of the nurse Kate Luard and soldier Alf Webb using sound archives, letters and an interesting range of hands-on activities which even included bandaging at a WWI dressing station.

Using different historical sources, such as photographs, sound recordings, letters and even the original admissions register and log book from our school from over 100 years ago, the pupils were able to uncover more information about life during World War One. Maria Gray, Year 5 Teacher

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Following on from the research, the pupils are now working with Creative Writer Baden Prince to creatively narrate in their own words each soldier’s individual story.  They will then work with Photographer Georgia Metaxas to document their homes, making comparisons with then and now.

Do you have any information to help our research?

If you have any information or images in relation to North Primary School during the First World War please contact Laura Davison, Project Manager at northwewillrememberthem@outlook.com

We Will Remember Them project has been made possible by the funding award from Heritage Lotter Fund’s First World War: then and now programme.

If you are planning your own First World War schools project and would like to use ERO resources or need advice, please get in touch with heritage.education@essex.gov.uk

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