Document of the Month, November 2015: Ingatestone and Fryerning’s fire engine

In an era when wooden houses were common and heating was provided by open fires, the danger of a conflagration was never far away.  The parishes of Ingatestone and Fryerning were aware of these dangers and provided a remedy – a fire engine. The two parishes jointly paid towards the expense of the engine and a team of 8 firemen.  It was housed in the south porch of Ingatestone church. 

The Fryerning vestry minutes for 5 April 1796 (D/P 249/8/2) show that two men were paid £1 per year to look after the engine and 18d was allowed to each of six men for assistance in working the engine.  In 1796 John Hogg junior and William Whichard were appointed to look after the engine, including washing it every quarter day.  A church warden from each parish was required to go along and witness the washing of the engine to ensure that it was done carefully.

D-P 249-8-2 watermarked

The fire engine was moved to the Market Place when the south porch was dismantled during the Victorian renovation of the church.  Then it was housed in the old waterworks in Fryerning Lane and eventually moved to a new fire station in the High Street.

Unfortunately this particular record does not tell us what kind of fire engine the parishes had (a bit more digging required), but it would likely have been a hand-pump fire engine with handles worked by men on each side to pump a continuous stream of water. It may have been drawn by horses to help get it to the scene of a fire as quickly as possible.

The vestry minute book will be on display in the Searchroom throughout November 2015.

Document of the Month, August 2015: mystery baptisms

Lawrence Barker, Archivist

This month’s document is a typical parish register (ref. D/P 183/1/37) from St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, the mother church of Southend.  As well as marriages and burials, it covers baptisms from 1727-1807 and might record the baptism in secret of two illegitimate children of Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton in 1803.

Emma Hamilton as a young woman c. 1782, by George Romney

I was reminded of the local story about Emma Hamilton’s supposed secret confinement somewhere in Southend, which I had read about in Karen Bowman’s book Essex Girls,[1] when I collected some records and memorabilia of Eton House School last month.  The school used to occupy the house called Southchurch Lawn on the road from Thorpe Bay to Great Wakering, which is where it is claimed Emma’s confinement took place.  Apparently, a ship’s surgeon called Seacole was in attendance, and he was persuaded to act as the father at the christening.  Also in attendance, it was said, was a gentleman ‘with an eye patch and an empty sleeve to his jacket’.

Baptisms of Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole and Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole

Extract from the Prittlewell baptism register, including entries (at the bottom) for Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole and Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole, September 18th 1803 (D/P 183/1/37)

Looking at the register to verify the entry myself, I found a baptism that took place on 18th September 1803 for two children, a boy christened Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole followed by a girl christened Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole, the son and daughter of a Thomas and Anne Seacole.  If these were the secret children of Emma Hamilton, and the name of the boy obviously suggests that they might have been, it looks as though she might have had twins.

At the time, Emma would most likely have been staying at the Royal Terrace at Southend, which was in the parish of Prittlewell, as she did on occasion apparently to facilitate liaison with Nelson whenever his ship was moored at The Nore.  In 1805, Emma gave a ball in Nelson’s honour at the assembly room, Southend, which was reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday August 2nd.  Of course, at the same time, possibly in 1803 or 1804, Caroline the Princess of Wales stayed at the ‘Royal Terrace’ which was named after her, and two years before, her daughter Princess Charlotte stayed for three months at Southchurch Lawn in 1801 for health reasons.

The boy, however, is even more interesting for his connection to another remarkable woman.  Later, he went to Jamaica and married a Jamaican woman of mixed race, Mary Jane Grant, who was to become the celebrated ‘black nurse’ of the Crimean War, Mary Seacole, voted the ‘greatest black Briton’ in a poll in 2004 as reported by BBC News.[2]  ‘Mother Seacole’, as she was affectionately known to many soldiers at the time, ran the ‘British Hotel’ at Spring Hill near Balaclava, which she established in March 1855 to provide what she herself described in her autobiography[3] as ‘a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers’.  She also helped wounded soldiers on the battlefield and witnessed the fall of Sevastopol.

The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, taken for a carte de visite by Maull & Company in London (c. 1873)

Later, in her will, she claimed that her husband was Nelson’s ‘godson’ who gave him a diamond ring which Mary kept until the end of her life, even though she fell on hard times after the Crimea, and bequeathed to one of her supporters, Count Gleichen.[4]  In which case, one wonders whether Nelson also attended the christening at St Mary’s himself.

At the time, Mary Seacole’s celebrity rivalled Florence Nightingale’s but she soon fell into obscurity, that is, until recently.  Although many have pointed out that she was never a ‘nurse’ in the sense that Florence Nightingale undoubtedly was, members from The Royal College of Nursing attended the dedication in July 2014 of the site in front of St Thomas’s Hospital where a memorial statue is to be erected to her, due for completion this summer (2015).

The register will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout August.

[1] Bowman, Karen (2010). Essex girls. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.

[3] The wonderful adventures of Mrs Seacole in many lands, which has since become a Penguin Classic.

[4] Sara Salih, the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of Mary Seacole’s autobiography, as well as citing the will in her introduction, also refers to surviving records for her marriage to Edwin Seacole in Jamaica and the entry for Edwin Seacole’s baptism in the this register.

Document of the Month, December: Christmas giving

We’ve cheated slightly in December and chosen two documents: a valuation of gifts to Sir John Bramston, 1636 (D/DEb 8) and ‘Bread and Meat given to the Poor’ at Terling, 1843 (D/P 299/28/6). Both will be on display in the Searchroom throughout December.

The custom of giving presents at Christmas has a long history.  These two documents detail gifts received by those at the extremes of the social scale – the rich and powerful and the poor and needy.

Sir John Bramston was Lord Chief Justice of England and at Christmas 1636 he received many gifts, mainly of meat and poultry, from family, friends and associates.  The list begins with a gift of 20 turkeys from his sister-in-law Mrs Aylmer and her son.  Presents included cattle, pigs, game, oysters, wine, eringoes (candied sea holly roots, a Colchester speciality) and even a silver dish.  Those giving presents included his tenants but also Lord Petre, ‘Mr Dacye the lawyer’ and the town of Chelmsford which presented him with a hogshead of claret.  The gifts were delivered to his manor of Skreens in Roxwell and the list includes sums of money given to each servant or messenger making the deliveries.

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In contrast the list of poor at Terling who were to receive money, bread and meat on Christmas Eve 1843 records the number in each family, with the number of loaves and pounds of meat given in proportion to the size of the family.  Charles Coal who had 10 in his family received 5 shillings, two loaves and 10lbs. of beef.  Notes on the list indicate that some of the poor were not deserving of money or meat.  James Church who had seven in his family was considered ‘Not deserving money or Meat’ and received only two loaves.  There were 142 recipients listed, with a total of 607 family members, who between them shared 183 loaves, 566 pounds of beef and £10 7s. 6d.

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The documents together, though separated by 200 years, provide an interesting insight into social inequalities. We can only hope that Sir John Bramston shared out his gifts and didn’t try to consume all of them himself!