In search of Messing Hall: an adventure in old maps

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

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

Map of Messing, 1650

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

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

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

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

Trying to work it all out

Trying to work it all out

Ordnance Survey map of Messing, 1874

The 6″ : 1 mile Ordnance Survey map of 1874

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fields named 'Charcums' near Messing Hall

Fields named ‘Charcums’ near Messing Hall

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

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

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

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


Messing about with Maps

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

Saturday 19 March, 10.30am-3.00pm

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

Just drop in, suggested donation of £2.00

Where there’s a will: major update to Essex Ancestors

We love wills here at ERO. These fascinating and incredibly useful documents 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.

The majority of the population did not leave a will, but where these documents exist, they can be of great help in establishing family connections (particularly before census returns begin in 1841) and for researching the amount of personal property people owned.

It can be surprising to see what testators valued; in 1641 Elizabeth Fuller of Chigwell left her eldest son Henry my longe carte and dunge carte, my ponderinge crose my furnace, my mault quarne. We think the crose must be for religious contemplation and the quarne for grinding grain but it seems an odd mix of bequests. Her second son Robert received my best chest and my best brace [brass] pot which to modern eyes would seem to be the better bequest (D/AEW 21/71).

It can be surprising to see what testators valued; in 1641 Elizabeth Fuller of Chigwell left her eldest son Henry ‘my longe carte and dunge carte, my ponderinge crose my furnace, my mault quarne’. We think the crose must be for religious contemplation and the quarne for grinding grain but it seems an odd mix of bequests. Her second son Robert received ‘my best chest and my best brace [brass] pot’ which to modern eyes might seem to be the better bequest (D/AEW 21/71).

Our collections include about 70,000 wills which date from the 1400s to 1858. Digital images of about 20,000 of these wills have been available on our online subscription service Essex Ancestors for some time, and we have just uploaded a further 22,500.

This is a project we have been working on for many months, with our digitisers spending about 375 hours photographing the wills, our conservators spending about 44 hours conserving them, and our archivists spending about 752 hours checking all the images against their catalogue entries to get ready for the upload.

It can be surprising to see what testators valued; in 1641 Elizabeth Fuller of Chigwell left her eldest son Henry my longe carte and dunge carte, my ponderinge crose my furnace, my mault quarne.  We think the crose must be for religious contemplation and the quarne for grinding grain but it seems an odd mix of bequests.  Her second son Robert received my best chest and my best brace [brass] pot which to modern eyes would seem to be the better bequest (D/AEW 21/71).

A portion of our wills collection in storage

This upload will mean that digital images of all of our wills dating to c.1720 will be available on Essex Ancestors. We will now press on with working on the rest of the wills, which date from c.1720-1858, for upload in the next few months.

To celebrate the upload, our archivists will be choosing some of their favourite wills to share on the blog over the next few days and weeks.

You can access Essex Ancestors from home as a subscriber, or for free in the Searchroom at the ERO in Chelmsford or at our Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow.  It will shortly be provided at Waltham Forest Archives.  Opening hours vary, so please check before you visit.

Before you subscribe please check that the documents you need exist and have been digitised at http://seax.essexcc.gov.uk/

You can view a handy video guide to using Essex Ancestors here.

New Accession: Poor rate assessment for Brentwood, 1694

Dr Stacey Harmer, Archivist at Brentwood School, blogs for us about an exciting discovery made at the school recently that has been deposited at ERO to benefit from our climate-controlled storage and to allow public access…

An exciting discovery has been made in the archives of Brentwood School, which are being catalogued in preparation for the opening of the new Learning Resources Centre in the summer of 2015. It is a parchment roll, protected by a cardboard cover, entitled ‘A Rate made the Tenth day of Aprill Anno Dom’ 1694 for the Reliefe of the Poore of the Towne of Brentwood’. It lists 146 heads of households (including a number of widows) and seven pensioners of the town. The person who was taxed the highest was a Mr Lambert, who was to pay 7s 6d. This may be the Francis Lambert who, in 1689, was summoned to court to answer for his contempt in refusing to serve as a petty constable even though he had been elected by the parishioners [ERO Q/SR 461/55].  A few were not affluent enough to pay any rate but were still included in the list (assessed as 0s 0d).

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Dr Stacey Harmer (right) depositing the poor rate assessment with Archivist Ruth Costello at ERO

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The first name on the list is ‘Mr Barnard’: almost certainly Daniel Barnard, the schoolmaster of Brentwood School. Barnard had been appointed to the school in 1655 at the age of 24, already an ordained priest. A year later he married the daughter of the vicar of South Weald. According to R. R. Lewis, author of The History of Brentwood School (1981), Barnard was “one of the most successful schoolmasters of his time”. His pupils included the sons of Sir William Scroggs (Lord Chief Justice of England) and Erasmus Smith (English merchant and philanthropist).

1694 is a crucial date in the history of the parish of Brentwood. Brentwood chapel, dedicated to St Thomas Becket, was built in 1221 but was subsidiary to the parish of South Weald. The parish vestry controlled matters such as the care of the poor, the collection of poor rates, and apprenticeship of pauper children.

1694 is the year in which the first records of the chapel of St Thomas Becket begin, showing an important move towards autonomy. At Essex Record Office there is a record book of the Brentwood chapel starting in 1694 which includes vestry minutes, orders for relief, overseers’ accounts and nominations of officers [ERO D/P 362/8/1]. The battle for independence from the parish of South Weald was to take nearly two centuries: Brentwood did not become a separate parish until 1873, but it is clear that 1694 was an important step in this journey.