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.

Magna Carta: Essex Connections – the other Essex barons

In our series of posts about the Essex connections with the people involved in the granting of the Magna Carta in 1215, we have previously mentioned that six of the 25 rebel barons named in the document had strong Essex connections.

We have already whisked through the involvement of Geoffrey de Mandeville and Robert FitzWalter, and here we take a quick look at the other four; Robert de Vere, Robert de Mountfitchet, John FitzRobert and William de Lanvallei.

Robert de Vere

Effigy of Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, in Hatfield Broad Oak church

Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford (his effigy in Hatfield Broad Oak church is to the right) and Richard de Mountfitchet could trace their Essex lands back to the Norman Conquest. The de Vere family were based at Castle Hedingham and the Mountfitchets at Stansted. Together with the de Clare and Bigod families they owned extensive lands in the north of the county.

John FitzRobert was lord of the manor of Clavering and related to the Bigod family. He was also lord of Warkworth in Northumberland, and so part of the other significant group of Magna Carta barons described by chroniclers as ‘the Northerners’.

The final Essex baron was William de Lanvallei, constable of Colchester Castle and lord of the manors of Lexden, Stanway, Great Bromley and Great Hallingbury.  He also held lands in Hertfordshire.

Many of the barons benefited directly from their involvement.  Within a few days of Magna Carta, the king granted Hertford Castle to Robert FitzWalter; William de Lanvallei became constable of Colchester Castle again; Richard de Clare gained the town of Buckingham; and Richard de Montfitchet was appointed forester of Essex, a title held by his father and grandfather (more on this here).

Find out more about Essex connections with the Magna Carta with us on Saturday 23 May.

Magna Carta: Essex Connections

To explore the significance and legacy of this famous document, both nationally and for Essex, join us for talks from:

  • Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, who has been leading a major project researching the background to Magna Carta
  • Katharine Schofield, ERO Archivist, on Essex connections with Magna Carta and the impact it had on the medieval county

Saturday 23 May, 1.15pm for 1.30am-4.15pm

Tickets: £8, including tea, coffee and cake

Please book in advance on 033301 32500

Document of the Month, February 2015: Grant of rights in the Forest of Essex, c.1135-1138

The earliest document we look after at ERO is over 1,000 years old – but it is nothing to do with Essex. February’s Document of the Month is our oldest Essex document, a deed dating to c.1135-1138 (D/DBa T2/4).

D-DBa T2-4 - 1

The deed is a grant of rights in the forest of Essex given by William de Monfichet and his wife Margaret to Humphrey, son of Eustace de Barentun.  His father had previously held the rights in this deed.  The grant is one of a series of this approximate date made to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun by the Earl of Essex and William de Monfichet, which followed similar grants by the King.

The de Barentuns, later the Barrington family of Barrington Hall in Hatfield Broad Oak, were the hereditary woodwards or keepers of Hatfield Forest.  At this date the Barringtons were a minor family compared to the great barons who were descended from William the Conqueror’s most loyal supporters.

William de Monfichet and his wife Margaret were the grandchildren of two of the Conqueror’s supporters – Robert Gernon and Richard (de Clare) son of Gilbert, both of whom were well rewarded with extensive landholdings recorded in Domesday Book.  The Monfichets held lands in Essex, including at Stansted Mountfitchet and claimed the hereditary right to be Keeper or Forester of the Royal Forest of Essex.  William’s great-grandson Richard de Montfichet was one of the 25 Magna Carta barons chosen to ensure that King John abided by the terms of the charter.

Even if you do not read Latin, see how many recognisable words you can make out. Look out for ‘Will’ (short for William), Umfredo (Humphrey), filio (son), Estach (Eustace), forestie (forest), Exsexie (Essex), and Margarite…

The deed will be on display in the Searchroom throughout February 2015.

The experience of death and burial in Hatfield Broad Oak, 1827-1832

By archivist Lawrence Barker

Whenever we give talks to people about parish records and their use in family history research, we make the point that some burial registers can give extra information about the deceased in addition to the bare details of name, date and age, and sometimes record background historical information.

A case in point is the burial register for Hatfield Broad Oak, 1813-1859 (D/P 4/1/26), which was deposited with us in November 2011.  Most of the register confines itself to recording the bare minimum details of name, abode, when buried, age and by whom the ceremony was performed, as stipulated under the terms of ‘Rose’s Act’ of 1812, which stated that “amending the Manner and Form of keeping and of preserving Registers of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials of His Majesty’s Subjects in the several Parishes and Places in England, will greatly facilitate the Proof of Pedigrees of Persons claiming to be entitled to Real or Personal Estates, and otherwise of great public Benefit and Advantage”.

Nevertheless, even though the information is basic, we can still build up a picture of the demography of death in Hatfield Broad Oak which tells us something about what life might have been like then.

Chart - deaths in Hatfield Broad Oak

Pie chart showing age at death in Hatfield Broad Oak, 1827-1832, taken from the parish register. A total of 200 deaths are recorded during this period, and over 80 of them were children under 10 years old.

For example, looking at the ages of those buried (above), one forgets just how high the infant mortality rate used to be before improvements were brought about by modern hygiene and medical practice, and how likely it was having survived birth you might not have survived much beyond early childhood.  The register shows that, out of the 200 or so burials which took place between 1827 and 1832 in Hatfield Broad Oak, 80 of them (40%) were of children aged 10 or under.  At the other end of the scale, it shows also that only 20% of those buried reached what we would now consider as old age, i.e. over 60.

A lot depended upon the individual incumbent as to whether he was disposed to record additional information.  From May 1827, the new curate at Hatfield Broad Oak, John Robert Hopper, took it upon himself to start recording in the margin the cause of death of those he was burying and other information besides.  So, we find that a serious epidemic of typhoid carried off 25 children between September 1828 and June 1829, reaching a peak in January and February 1829 (below).

D-P 4-1-26 a

In 1830, it was measles that took 6 children in March and April and in 1831, 4 children died of whooping cough.  Throughout the period, 4 infants died of convulsions.

Typhoid, an indicator of impoverished and unhygienic living conditions, seems to have been a major cause of death during the period, with 37 cases, followed by a condition described rather vaguely as ‘decline’ which accounted for 23 deaths.  A few died of consumption or of ‘inflammation of the bowels’ or of dropsy.  One 52 year old died of cancer in 1832.  Two were simply found dead in their beds and one woman aged 27 was found dead in a field on Sunday 30th March 1831 – the verdict that she died of apoplexy.

Occasionally, a fatal accident is recorded as the cause of death.  In November 1828, a 64 year old Edward Bird ‘fell thro’ 2 floors of Mr P Sullivan’s malting, Heath and died a day or 2 after’.  Another died in July 1832 of ‘old age arrested by a fall down stairs’.  In May 1830, one Patterson Parker ‘accidentally shot himself’.

Later that same year in July, a Royal Naval Lieutenant, George Berkley Love, visiting from Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, was working in the Park of Barrington Hall when he ‘accidentally cut himself thro’ the lower third of the thigh with a scythe’ and bled to death in 5 minutes.  J. R. Hopper records that an oak tree was planted soon afterwards to mark the spot where the accident occurred.

Earlier that year in February, poor little 5 year old Betsy Rogers burnt to death, and two extraordinary marginal notes on that page give a clue as to how (below):

Feb.y 7.  A frost of 7 weeks broke up today.  Temperature 12° below freezing point! Many persons frozen to death. One at Gt Canfield, one at Sawbridgeworth.

The seat of Lord Rendlesham (Rendlesham Hall, Suffolk) burnt to the ground, damage = 100,000£; The seat of Lord Sandwich (Hinchinbroke, Huntingdonshire) also destroyed by fire with title deeds, fine pictures, etc.; The Argyle Rooms, Regent St, London also destroyed by fire. Lyceam also…All in Jan.y in Feb.y arising from the unusual heating of flues etc. in consequence of the uncommon severity of the season.

D-P 4-1-26 b crop

If you would like to find out more about parish registers and how they can help you with your research, come along to our next Discover: Parish Registers workshop on Thursday 12 March 2015, 2.30pm-4.30pmTickets are £10.00, please book in advance on 033301 32500. Full details can be found on our events page.

If you are interested in booking a talk with one of our Archivists, on parish registers or another subject, please get in touch with us on ero.enquiry[@]essex.gov.uk

Robert the Bruce – Essex man

As the people of Scotland prepare to vote in the independence referendum, Archivist Katharine Schofield examines how Essex is able to claim a connection with Robert the Bruce, who from 1306 became King Robert I of Scotland. 

D/DP T1/1770 - names Robertus de Brus

D/DP T1/1770 – names Rob’tus de Brus

The Bruce or Brus family held lands in Writtle, Hatfield Broad Oak, Terling, Hatfield Peverel, Lamarsh and Southchurch from a grant made by Henry III in c.1237/8 to Isabel de Brus.  She was the daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon (brother of Malcolm IV and William I of Scotland) and Matilda, the daughter of the Earl of Chester.  Isabel’s brother John inherited the title of Earl of Chester from his uncle.  When John died in 1237 the earldom reverted to the Crown, and today is one of the titles of the Prince of Wales.  In compensation Henry III granted lands to his sisters and heiresses, one of whom was Isabel, wife of Robert de Brus, 4th Lord of Annandale (the great-grandparents of Robert the Bruce), who received various lands in Essex (if you get as confused with the genealogy in this post as we did, here’s a handy family tree).

Among the earliest records in the ERO are records of the Brus family in Hatfield Broad Oak and Writtle.  The deeds, although undated, almost certainly relate to Sir Robert de Brus, father of the future king of Scotland.  Deeds of grants of meadow land in Hatfield Broad Oak of c.1280 and c.1300 (D/DBa T1/44, 50-51126, 157, 159) refer to part of the demesne meadow land of Sir Robert de Brus which adjoined the land being granted.

D-DP T1-1770 Whole

D/DP T1/1770 – A much later copy of a quitclaim made bu Sir Robert de Brus

A release and quitclaim (renunciation of all future claims) which survives as a later copy was made on 22 May 1298 by Robert de Brus senior, Earl of Carrick, of half a virgate (approximately 30 acres) of land in Writtle to John Herolff (D/DP T1/1770).  Robert de Brus inherited the earldom from his wife, and today this is another one of the Prince of Wales’ titles, which he uses in Scotland.  Another quitclaim was made at Writtle on 4 August 1299 by Robert de Brus, described as lord of Annandale (dominus vallis Anandie) and lord of Writtle and Hatfield Broad Oak to Sir Nicholas de Barenton [Barrington] of 21 shillings annual rent for lands in Hatfield Broad Oak (D/DBa T2/9).

D-DBa T1-4 Seal

D/DBa T1/4 – This seal which belongs Sir Robert de Brus and shows the saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross, now an integral part of the Scottish flag.

In about 1295 Sir Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick, exchanged 5½ acres of land in Hatfield Broad Oak for 5¾ acres held by Hatfield Priory (D/DBa T1/4).  Brus’s seal survives on this deed and shows the saltire, still used today on Scotland’s flag, with a lion above.  The seals of Scottish nobility began to include the saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross from the late 13th century.

D-DBa T1-4

D/DBa T1/4 – in its entirity.

When Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286, his four year old granddaughter, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was the closest heir to the Scottish crown.  She died in 1290 in the Orkney Isles en route to Scotland, leaving no obvious successor and Edward I King of England was asked by the Guardians of Scotland, who had been appointed to govern during the minority of the queen, to arbitrate between the many different claimants to the throne in what became known as the Great Cause.  There were 15 claimants, including Edward himself, but the two main claimants were two great-grandsons of David, Earl of Huntingdon (a grandson of David I, r.1124-1153): John Balliol, grandson of David’s daughter Margaret, and Robert de Brus, grandson of Isabel, Margaret’s younger sister (again, this family tree helps!).

In 1292 Edward I selected John Balliol, who had the best claim.  However, Balliol proved an ineffectual king and in 1296 Edward I took the opportunity to invade Scotland.  Having defeated the Scots at Dunbar, he deposed Balliol, took over the throne of Scotland and removed the Stone of Scone, which was used for the coronations of the Scottish kings, to Westminster.  The Scots fought back and the following year William Wallace defeated the English at Stirling Bridge.  Battles and guerrilla warfare followed.

In 1304 the Sir Robert de Brus, mentioned in the Essex documents, died and his son more commonly known as Robert the Bruce inherited his father’s claim to the throne.  At Brus’s death he held the manor of Writtle from the king for half a knight’s fee and the manor in Hatfield Broad Oak for another half.  Feudalism meant that all land was held from the Crown in return for military service, the provision of a knight.  Land that was held for one knight’s fee meant that Brus had to supply a knight (or sometimes the monetary equivalent) to the King for military service.

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Robert the Bruce in a much later depiction

On 25 March 1306 Robert the Bruce was crowned king of Scotland at Scone.  As a result all his English lands were attainted or forfeited to the Crown.  The majority of the lands were later granted by Edward II to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex.

There is one final reference to the Brus family in an extent (description of landholding) of the manor of Writtle dating from c.1315, possibly relating to the grant to de Bohun.  This describes free tenants of the manor who held land from deeds of the lord Robert de Brus [per cartam domini Robert de Brus], who is further described as father of the present lord King [pater domini Regis nunc est].