An Essex Quaker’s American Adventure 1711 – 1713

Julie Miller, a masters student from University of Essex, has taken up a research placement at the Essex Record Office, conducting an exploration into the story of John Farmer and his adventures, particularly in pre-revolutionary America, and has been jointly funded by the Friends of Historic Essex and University of Essex.  Julie will be publishing a series of updates from the 12-week project.

In this installment we will look at some of the encounters John Farmer had in pre-revolutionary America.

Having returned to Essex in England from his Irish adventures in May 1711, and not being one to stay in a place for long, by Autumn 1711 John Farmer was off on his travels again.  Before travelling John Farmer’s wife Mary, step daughter Mary Fulbigg and 10-year-old daughter Ann moved from Colchester where they had settled in 1708, back to Saffron Walden. John explained further in his journal:

“I staid at home a little with my wife & helped hur to remove to Saffron Walden. For shee thought it best for hur in my absence to bee there amongst hur relations with hur lame daughter whom she hoped there to help in to busness whereby shee might git hur a living: which shee could not doo at Colchester.  But Colchester is ye best place of ye 2 for my wifes nursing & my woolcoming.  Whereby wee earned good wages there untill my wife was taken from it by hur daughters sickness & I was taken from it by ye Lords sending mee to Ireland as aforesaid”.[i]

John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.46

After putting his affairs in order John Farmer set off from Gravesend on 1st November 1711 on a ship called the Thomas of London, captained by Master Benjamin Jerrum.  The voyage was uneventful, and John Farmer was allowed to hold meetings on board and landed in Maryland at the beginning of March 1711/12 having spent 4 months at sea.  Having been met of the ship by well-known Quaker Richard Johns Senior, John Farmer stayed with Mr Johns at his house ‘Clifts’, in Calvert County while he travelled within Maryland, and held several meetings along the Western Shore before travelling on to Virginia where he held a further eighteen meetings. 

In Virginia Farmer was troubled by reports that local Quakers had been imprisoned for refusing to help build garrisons or fortifications.  This reluctance was due to a key principle of the Quaker movement, the Peace Testimony declared by founder George Fox in 1660, which was a vow of pacifism that endures to this day.[ii]  Quakers refused to have any part in building fortifications and rejected all weapons of war. Farmer recounted stories of the harm done by the local Native American people to settlers who had been persuaded to take up arms, and the Quakers saved by tribespeople when they held no weapons: 

“For I have been cridditably Informed yt som friends hereaway for severall years (in obedience to Christ) have refused to make use of Garrisons & carnall weapons for their defence against Indians: & have Insteed thereof made use of faith in God  & prayer to God: & hee hath saved them from beeing destroyed by Indians …who did destroy their neighbours who did use weapons, particularly one man whom his neighbours perswaded to carry a gun, but the Indians seeing him with a gun shot him deadly and they afterwards said that it was his carrying a gun that caused them to kill him which otherwise they would not have done.”

Moving on to North Carolina John Farmer was troubled to hear of a recent massacre 20 miles away and reported in his journal that he heard a Quaker had forcibly taken land from the local native Americans, “whereas hee might have bought his land for an iron pottage pot.”

Herman Moll: New England, New York, New Jersey and Pensilvania, (sic)1729

Native American communities had suffered considerably at the hands of the new settlers who raided the villages and kidnapped the people to be sold into slavery and stole land. The tribes had also suffered substantial population decline after exposure to the infectious diseases endemic to Europeans. As a result, under the leadership of Chief Hancock, the southern Tuscarora allied with the Pamlico, the Cothechney, Coree, Woccon, Mattamuskeet and other tribes to attack the settlers in a series of coordinated strikes that took place in Bath County, North Carolina on 22nd September 1711 and which heralded the start of the Tuscarora War that lasted until 1715. [iii]

John Farmer described the suffering of that Quaker family in the Bath County Massacre though it is clear where he felt the fault lay.

“These Indians haveing been much wronged by English French & pallitins did at last come sudenly upon ym & kiled & took prisoners, as i was told 170 of them & plundered & burnt their houses. Amongst the rest ye said Friend was kiled as he lay sick in his bedd & his wife & 2 young children wer caried away captive & Induered much hardship.  But upon a peace made with ye Indians they were delivered & returned to Pensilvania.” [iv]

Travelling back to Virginia and then Maryland John Farmer attended the 1711 Yearly Meeting at West River on the Western Shore of Maryland but there he contracted ‘ague & feavor’ which made him too ill to travel for four weeks and began what he called a “sickly time for mee and others”.  This was almost certainly Malaria which was endemic at the time. Eventually he recovered, and travelled on to New York, Rhode Island and Nantucket Island before arriving in Dover, New England. He was not specific about the date, but it was sometime in 1712.  Farmer recorded that he held many meetings amongst Friends and others “notwithstanding the danger from the Indian Wars which had long been destructive in this part of New England.”[v]  

In the winter of 1712 Farmer was in Rhode Island where he nearly died after being injured in a fall from his horse.  But by May 1713 he was recovered enough to attend meetings at Long Island, East and West Jersey and back to Maryland where he spent some time working at wool combing again, presumably to increase his depleted funds. 

It was here that “I received fresh orders from Christ to have meetings amongst Indians in order to their conversation to Christ and to go to Virginia and Pensilvania and the West Indies in his service”.[vi]  And thus the next year’s travel was planned. 

And that is where we can leave John Farmer, planning his first expedition to take the Quaker message to the Native American people.  And those encounters will make up the content of the next article.


[i] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.44

[ii] To George Fox, this principle served a two-fold purpose, as a protest against the horrors of the English Civil Wars, and to try to mitigate the opportunity for violence to be done to Quakers, if they were perceived as peaceful, if rather disruptive, themselves.  For more information see M Rediker, The Fearless Benjamin Lay, 2017, Verso, London Ch 1, p.19

[iii] The Tuscarora War was fought in North Carolina from September 1711 until February 1715 between the British, Dutch, and German settlers and the Tuscarora Native Americans. The Europeans enlisted the Yamasee and Cherokee as Indian allies against the Tuscarora, who had amassed several allies themselves. Principal targets were the planters along the Roanoke, Neuse, and Trent rivers and the city of Bath. They mounted their first attacks on 22nd September 1711 and killed hundreds of settlers. One witness, a prisoner of the Tuscarora, recounted stories of women impaled on stakes, more than 80 infants slaughtered, and more than 130 settlers killed. The militia and approximately 500 Yamasee marched into Tuscarora territory and killed nearly 800, and after a second assault on the main village, King Hancock, the Tuscarora chief, signed a treaty. After a treaty violation by the English, war erupted again.  The militia and about 1,000 Indian allies travelled into Tuscarora territory. Approximately 400 Tuscarora were sold into slavery.  The remaining Tuscarora fled northward and joined the Iroquois League as the Sixth Nation.

For more information about these events see

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuscarora_War

https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/tuscarora-war/

https://tuscaroranationnc.com/tribal-history

[iv] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.46

[v] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.47

[vi] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p.50

An Essex Quaker in Ireland 1710 – 11


Julie Miller, a masters student from University of Essex, has taken up a research placement at the Essex Record Office, conducting an exploration into the story of John Farmer and his adventures, particularly in pre-revolutionary America, and has been jointly funded by the Friends of Historic Essex and University of Essex.  Julie will be publishing a series of updates from the 12-week project.

At the end of the last post we left John Farmer living in Colchester.  He was a 43-year-old family man, a wool comber by trade and his wife Mary was working as a nurse.  They had two children, Mary Fulbig, Mary’s 20-year-old from her first marriage, and Ann, now about 8 years old. But John Farmer was also an itinerant Quaker minister who was regularly moved by Christ to travel, giving his testimony at inns and on the streets and he had already travelled widely in England, Scotland and in some of Ireland.

His journal says that in the 11th month of 1710 (January 1710/11) John Farmer received the  instruction of the Lord to travel to the West of Ireland where there were currently no Quaker meetings. Farmer went to Liverpool, taking ship and arriving in Dublin on 18th March 1710/11.  He travelled to the West of Ireland intending to hold meetings wherever he stopped.  But he was imprisoned twice at Castlebar, County Mayo by Justice George Bingham for holding meetings.

In Headford in County Galway, Farmer endured his first episode of charivari (protest by rough music) when he encountered a priest and some townspeople determined to stop his meeting at a local hall.  He reported glumly that the priest engaged a bagpipe player to interrupt proceedings:

‘ye priest instructed ye man to thrust his bagpipes in at ye window there he sounded to hinder ye people from hearing me speak. But ye people within thrust out ye pipe & shut ye window whereupon hee thrust it in at another but ye people thrust it out there also.  But he had a drunken souldier that assisted him in it by opening ye window again & again for him to thrust his bagpipe.’

Anonymous sketch of an 18th Century piper.

To the modern mind this episode is highly amusing. However the sober and godly John Farmer found the situation difficult, particularly as the priest then arranged a warrant for his arrest.  Farmer was much relieved when friendly townspeople advised his guide to take him out of town by another road and he ‘escaped ye snare which ye priest laid for me after hee saw his musicians were ineffectual’.

In Galway John Farmer was arrested again, having fallen out with the local priest Reverend Shaw, and all his notes, permission papers and certificates were confiscated before he was thrown into prison again.  He was forcibly removed from town by being placed on a boat which later came ashore in County Clare, where he held rather more successful meetings at Ennis, Quin and Sixmilebridge before moving on to Limerick where he preached at Bruff, Kilmallock, Tralee and Killarney and elsewhere.  Farmer finally returned to England via Wales, the West Country and the home counties where he had various meetings with Quaker friends and visited his family in Somerset to advise them of his plan to go to America.  He arrived home in Colchester on 9th July 1711.

So we leave John and Mary Farmer, and their girls Mary and Ann living quietly in Colchester, but not for much longer.  In my next post we will look at John Farmer’s exploits in pre-revolutionary America.

An Essex Quaker Goes Into the World -The Scottish Journey 1707-08

Julie Miller, a masters student from University of Essex, has taken up a research placement at the Essex Record Office, conducting an exploration into the story of John Farmer and his adventures, particularly in pre-revolutionary America, and has been jointly funded by the Friends of Historic Essex and University of Essex.  Julie will be publishing a series of updates from the 12-week project.

Before looking at the next phase of John Farmer’s life I wanted to look first at the complexities associated with the diaries or journals of people living before the 1750s.

The Wool Comber. Image from The Book of English Trades 1827.

In 1751 England and her empire, including the American colonies, still adhered to the old Julian calendar, which was now eleven days ahead of the Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and in use in most of Catholic Europe. Years were counted from New Year’s Day being on March 25th, so for example 24th of March was in 1710 and March 25th was in 1711. In addition Quaker’s provided an extra difficulty as they refused to recognise the common names for days of the weeks, or months as they were associated with pagan deities or Roman emperors. So a Quaker would write a date as 1:2mo 1710 which was actually the 1st April 1710 as March was counted as the first month.

In 1751 this all changed when the British government decreed the Gregorian form of calendar was to be adopted and the year would be counted from 1st January 1752. At the 1751 London Meeting for Sufferings the Quakers issued a document advising Friends how to adjust to the new way of counting years but refused to acknowledge the naming of days and months as being based on ‘Popish Superstition’.i

London Meeting of the Sufferings Advice on Regulation Commencement of the Year, 1751, Essex Record Office – A13685 Box 53.

John Farmer’s Journal, stored at the Essex Record Office, is a handwritten account of one man’s travels in the eighteenth century taking the Quaker message to communities in Ireland, Scotland, America and even the Caribbean Islands. Because he was writing in the first quarter of the 18th Century he used old style dating , and the Quaker method for numbering days and months as described above. A first day is a Sunday, a first month is March, so I have calculated all dates into Common Era notation, and dual dated years for dates shown between January and March.

Farmer wrote the journal after he returned in 1714 from his first American journey. He was born in Somerset in 1667, brought up a Baptist, and almost immediately following his Baptism in 1684 he sought fellowship with the Quakers of Stogumber in Somerset and Cullompton in Devon and began work as an itinerant wool comber. He travelled throughout England with his trade before settling in Saffron Walden where he married a fellow Quaker, widow and nurse Mary Fulbigg in 1698 and started family life with his wife, her daughter Mary from her earlier marriage, and they were joined in 1701 by another daughter, Ann. However both John and his wife were also drawn to preaching the Quaker testimony and were prepared to travel many miles in the ministry.

John Farmer quotes numerous biblical tracts within his journal, but one resonates in particular as being his inspiration: “And he said unto ym go ye into all ye world & preach ye gospel to every creature.”ii Gospel of St. Mark, chapter 16, verse 15. And John Farmer certainly travelled far and wide to preach the gospel wherever he could.

The first section of his journal details his intention to have the book published, “for ye good of soules now and in future ages”. The second part details his religious testimony, his early life in Somerset before his conversion to Quakerism, and his struggles with keeping true to his faith. He goes on to describe his travels, alone or occasionally with his wife. He travelled throughout Britain and Ireland holding public meetings to preach his testimony, sometimes with disastrous and occasionally unwittingly humorous results.  The third section of the journal is an account of his journey through the eastern states of America, visiting Native American communities and travelling to the islands of the Caribbean, in an extraordinary expedition that lasted nearly 3 years. We will be looking at the various places he visited and the adventures he had in later posts.

In 1705 Farmer obtained a certificate giving the Thaxted Quaker Monthly Meeting’s blessing on his idea of travelling to ‘severall parts of England.”iii

Certificate for John Farmer to travel in the ministry, dated 24th of 2nd mo 1705 (24th April 1705) Essex Record Office – A13685 Box 47 Bundle F5.

However when he asked the Saffron Walden Friends to approve his revised plan which was to now include Scotland and Ireland in 1706 he reported there was some opposition to the scheme. A letter in the Essex Record Office archive gives us a clue to the possible attitude of the Thaxted Friends. Written by John Mascall of Finchingfield and dated 25th 2nd month 1707 (25th April 1707) Mascall tells the monthly meeting that “Reciting the case of the Talents Given; to some more, some lesse, which everyone is fitfull to and not go beyond it” he had advised John Farmer to “weight a while… to exercise his talents nearer to home…”iv which must have been very disappointing to a man so desperate to take his testimony out into the world.

This delay led to John Farmer suffering what he saw as God’s chastisement for the delay with a 4-month long bout of piles, an affliction he described as ‘Himrodicall paine’. Clearly this was not a condition beneficial to long expeditions on horseback.

Eventually a certificate was issued by the Thaxted meeting in May 1707 , interestingly signed by both Mary Farmer and the previously doubtful John Mascall, and so John Farmer began his travels in earnest. He and Mary went to Nottingham, and then John went on alone to Scotland.

Certificate for John Farmer to travel in the ministry, dated 29th of 3rd mo 1707 (29th May 1707) Essex Record Office – A13685 Box 47 Bundle F5.

Whilst in Durham on his way to Scotland John Farmer sent a loving letter to his wife Mary, dated 16th June 1707 where he asks her to send mail care of “Bartie Gibson the Blacksmith of Edinburgh”. He reminds Mary to keep the children reading the bible and “tell ym I would have them remember their creator & love him more than their Idolls”.vi

John made his first visit of six months to Ireland which he briefly covers in saying that he “attended all the meetings there and held several meeting at inns and on the street where people were attentive and civil.” He then headed back to Scotland again where he mentions preaching in Port Patrick, Stranraer, Govern, Ayr, Douglas and elsewhere. He complained some Scottish people were rude and in Penrith, Cumberland (Cumbria) he was assaulted at a Sunday meeting when: “the Divil raged & stired up a man to abuse mee by throwing dirt in my face & striking mee”vii

In Ormskirk John Farmer was imprisoned for a night by the Constable for holding a meeting in the street. From Lancashire where Mary met up again with her husband, the Farmers travelled homeward, stopping in London for the 1708 yearly meeting before going home to Colchester where they had now settled, and where they remained until January 1711 when the urge to travel struck John Farmer yet again.

In the next post we will look at Farmer’s 1711 visit to the West of Ireland, where he was not widely welcomed.


i London Meeting of Sufferings Advice on Regulating Commencement of the Year, 1751, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 52

ii John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p1

iii Thaxted Monthly Meeting Minutes 1705, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 47 Bundle F5

iv Letter from John Mascall 1707, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 47 Bundle F5

v Certificate for John Farmer to travel in the ministry 1705, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 47 Bundle F5

vi Letter from John Farmer to Mary Farmer Durham 1707 Essex Record Office Cat D/NF 3 addl. A13685 Box 51

vii John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p28 [1] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box 51, p28

Document of the Month, April 2016: A new ruling class

By Katharine Schofield, Archivist

Deeds, c.1140-1144 (D/DBa T2/1, 3)

2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (which we are marking with a conference on 1 October – find out more on our events pages).

The two documents we have chosen to highlight this month date from nearly 80 years after the Norman Conquest, and they show how securely the Norman ruling elite had established themselves in England.

The success of the Norman Conquest produced a dramatic change in land ownership as William the Conqueror rewarded his supporters with English land, displacing the 1066 landowners.  In 1086 Domesday Book illustrated the process of land redistribution in each county, listing the manors held by each of the king’s tenants-in-chief.  These two deeds were issued by Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex, a grandson of two of the Essex tenants-in-chief.  They date from the early 1140s, and record grants of land to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun, ancestors of the Barrington family of Barrington Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak.

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun.  (D/DBa T2/1)

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun. (D/DBa T2/1)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

Geoffrey was the grandson of two of the Domesday tenants-in-chief, Geoffrey de Mandeville (or Magna Villa) and Eudo Dapifer (dapifer is the Latin word for steward), and Eudo served as steward to William the Conqueror and his sons William II and Henry I.  Eudo was sometimes described as Eudo son of Hubert [de Rie/Ryes].  Hubert had been a prominent supporter of the Conqueror in Normandy and Eudo’s brothers William, Ralph, Hubert and Adam also benefited from the Conquest.  Ralph became constable of Nottingham Castle and Hubert constable of Norwich Castle and all four held land in England.

Geoffrey de Mandeville, one of the richest of the king’s barons, was rewarded with extensive lands, mostly in Essex, but also in ten other counties, as well as being appointed constable of the Tower of London.

Eudo Dapifer also held lands in Essex and nine other counties. He was responsible for the building of Colchester Castle, the largest Norman keep in England, becoming its first constable. In 1096/7 he founded St. John’s Abbey in the town and was buried there in 1120.

Although both deeds relate to land in Essex and are dated 80 years after the Norman Conquest, Geoffrey de Mandeville begins by greeting all his men French and English in the first deed (om[n]ib[us] hominib[us] suis franc[ie] et anglic[e]) and all his Barons and clerks and lay men French and English in the second (Om[n]ib[us] Baronib[us] et hominib[us] suis clericis et Laicis franc[ie] et angl[ice]).

The Geoffrey de Mandeville named in these documents (the grandson of the first Geoffrey and Eudo Dapifer) founded Walden Abbey (which after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s became what is today Audley End), and built the castle at Saffron Walden.  He was prominent in the civil war in King Stephen’s reign when a contemporary chronicler wrote that ‘men said openly that Christ and his saints slept’.  As a reward for his support for King Stephen he was made Earl of Essex.

After Stephen’s capture in 1141 Geoffrey changed sides to support Stephen’s cousin and rival the Empress Matilda and she appointed him constable of the Tower, forgave him debts owed to the Crown, granted him lands in Normandy and appointed him sheriff of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London.  He died in 1144 from an arrow wound while in rebellion against the king.

The documents will be on display in the Searchroom throughout April 2016.

 

 

 

Boston trip: another document is coming with us!

Following yesterday’s post we are pleased to be able to share the news that we have got further permission to be able to bring an original parish register with us on our trip to Boston in August 2015.

D/P 192/1/1 is the first parish register of Saffron Walden, with baptism, marriage and burial entries dating from 1558-1630, and therefore contains entries for a number of early American settlers and their families.

Map of Saffron Walden, 1758, by Edward John Eyre (D/B2 MAN7/3

Map of Saffron Walden, 1758, by Edward John Eyre (D/B2 MAN7/3

Several early settlers have been traced to Saffron Walden, such as Samuel Bass who moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1633, Thomas Cornell who went to Boston, Massachusetts in 1638, and Nicholas Desborough, who by 1637 was in Hartford, Connecticut.

The register is a beautiful early-modern book, long and thin, constructed of wooden boards with a soft leather cover.

The register will be on display with two original wills at our events in Boston, details of which are here.

IMG_7310

The first parish register of Saffron Walden – you can see its wooden covers just poking through the leather in the top left corner

IMG_7313

Soft leather wraps around the wooden covers of the book

IMG_7318

A glimpse inside the register

Saffron Walden: 1758

This coming Saturday, 8 November 2014, come and join us at Saffron Walden Town Hall for a look at one of the most spectacular maps in our collection.

IMG_4469 edit

The map shows the town of Saffron Walden and the surrounding area, and is so large we’ve had to give serious thought to how we will transport it!

IMG_4451 edit

The map was made in 1758 by Edward John Eyre, along with a survey book, recording all the individual pieces of land, and how they were being used. The day will include a talk from an ERO Archivist about how the map and survey book work together.

IMG_4512

The map shows the town of Saffron Walden, and lots of other local details.

IMG_4489-1 IMG_4487 IMG_4485 IMG_4465 editIf you would like to join us on Saturday to see the map, here are all the details:

Saffron Walden 1758 At Saffron Walden Town Hall

In 1758 an extensive survey was carried out covering lands surrounding Saffron Walden, and several maps were made to accompany the survey books. This is a unique opportunity to see these maps and the survey books displayed together, to explore what the town and surrounding countryside looked like in the mid-eighteenth century.

The day will include a talk by Paul Marden of the Essex Place Names Project at 11.30am explaining the origins of some of the field names on the map. Allyson Lewis, archivist at the ERO will then give a talk at 12.00noon about the survey which accompanies the map.

Saturday 8 November, 10.30am-3.00pm

Free entry, suggested £2.00 donation

Saffron Walden Town Hall, Market Square, Saffron Walden, CB10 1HR

In association with the Saffron Walden Archive Access Point

Supported by Saffron Walden Town Council

Recording of the Month, February 2014: Courtship and romance in the Second World War

The next monthly highlight from our Sound Archivist Martin Astell…

Courtship and romance in the Second World War (Mrs Duddy), Acc. SA673

Valentine’s Day provides the excuse for our February recording to focus on love and courtship. This month’s recording is an extract from an interview recorded in 1988 with Mrs Audrey Duddy (née Carver) who was born 1924 in Tottenham and died in 1991. During the Second World War she was evacuated, along with other pupils from Tottenham High School, to Saffron Walden. She later joined the Women’s Land Army and after the war went on to become a teacher, finishing her career as Head of Department at Saffron Walden County High School.

The extract we have selected for you to listen to below is the part of the interview where Mrs Duddy talks about going to dances as a young woman with a group of her Land Army colleagues, the interesting ways in which they negotiated their dealings with young men, and how this led to her meeting her husband.

The Essex Sound and Video Archive holds a wealth of recordings relating to the Second World War, particularly reminiscences of experiences on the Home Front. We have a Sources List which will help you to identify some good examples of recordings covering subjects such as evacuation, rationing, air raids, the Home Guard (and other Civil Defence work), the Women’s Land Army, Dunkirk, war work, the Royal Navy and other military service, the US Air Force and American troops, prisoners of war in Essex, airfields, health care, D-Day, VE Day and VJ Day, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, Women’s Voluntary Service and Women’s Auxiliary Police Service. Click on the following link to download the source list: ESVA Second World War sources

 

Diary of John Farmer of Saffron Walden, Quaker, of his travels in America 1711-1714

Regular Searchroom visitors might have noticed that each month we display a different Document of the Month. November’s selected document is a diary made by John Farmer of Saffron Walden, describing his travels in America between 1711 and 1714 (Acc A13685). Here, Archivist Allyson Lewis tells us about this fascinating document…

The members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers or Friends) were early settlers in America, escaping religious and social persecution in England.  In America they were similarly persecuted by the Puritans in New England and settled further South in what is now New Jersey.  William Penn, a Quaker who was educated at Chigwell School, was granted a huge tract of land which he called Pennsylvania and which became a model for religious tolerance and a refuge for many European sects including Mennonites and the Amish who continue to practice their separate way of life there today.

Amongst the Quakers there is a tradition of asking for permission to travel to witness their faith amongst other people.  John Farmer, a Quaker living in Saffron Walden in the early 18th century, asked for permission to travel further than most – to America.

On his return he wrote a journal about his travels, recording meetings with other Quakers.  He boarded the Thomas of London bound for Maryland, arriving in January 1712.  He went on to North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, the Jerseys, New York, Rhode Island, and Nantucket Island meeting Friends in local meetings and attending the Dover, New Hampshire Quarterly meeting.   He records that many Quakers being pacifists refused to make use of weapons and garrison houses to protect themselves from raiding Indians during the ongoing war and were left unharmed.

While in North Carolina he heard of a Friend who was in dispute with his local meeting in Pennsylvania so moved himself and his family to North Carolina.  However he refused to join the local meeting of Friends but settled about 20 miles away amongst “very wicked people” for the sake of “very cheep and good land which they and he forceably took from Indians: whereas he might have bought his land of Indians for an iron pottage pot but would not.  These Indians having been much wronged by English French and Pallitins [Palatines, German refugees transported to the colonies by the British government in 1710] did at last com suddenly upon ym and killed and took prisoners as I was told 170 of them and plundered and burnt their houses.  Amongst the rest the said Friend was killed as he lay sick in his bed and his wife and 2 young children were carried away captive and indured much hardships.  But upon a peace made with ye Indians they were delivered and returned to Pennsylvania.”

jfarmer1

The Quakers’ message of equality before God and respect for all was well received by the Indians.  Their fair dealing in trade and refusal to carry weapons were also factors in their good relations with the Native Americans.  John Farmer had meetings with many Native Americans in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  He met with a group of natives in Maryland and speaking with the help of an interpreter told them about his beliefs in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, “to which ye Indians severall times gave their approbation in their way by a sound.”  They followed him to a Friends’ meeting at George Truit’s house in Mulberry Grove near the ‘Poakamoak’ [Pocomoke] River on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay.

Another meeting was held in “the Indian king’s palace” near the Susquehanna River about 60 miles west of Philadelphia, where he slept on bear skins on platforms in front of a fire as it was a cold and frosty night.

jfarmer2

John Farmer calculated that he had travelled 5,607 miles around North America before he continued his mission in the West Indies where he visited Quakers who had been banished to the Caribbean from New England. He returned to Saffron Walden in 1714.

jfarmer3

The diary will be on display in the Document of the Month case in the Searchroom thoughout November, and will be available for searchers to order in due course.

Nominate your favourite record

As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations this year, we want to hear from you.

We always like to hear how searchers are using our collections, whether it’s in the Searchroom or online through Seax and Essex Ancestors, so we’ve decided to ask searchers to nominate their favourite record, and to tell us what it is about it that appeals to you.

Entries can be long or short, medieval or modern, whole volumes or single sheets, parchment or photographs or DVDs or cassettes. All you need to do is to download our nomination form here and either return it in to the Searchroom desk or e-mail it to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk

Nominated documents may be featured on our blog or in displays at our open day on Saturday 14 September.

To get the ball rolling, here is one of the favourite documents of Hannah Salisbury, Audience Development Officer:

 

Bond to Indemnify the parish of Walden agt Ann White’s Child by Mr Rebecca, 1773 (D/B 2/PAR8/35)

Bastardy Bonds were used to protect parish ratepayers from ending up paying to support unmarried mothers and their children if the mother was unable to support herself.

There are hundreds of such bonds in our collection, mostly dating to the eighteenth century, but this one particularly stands out for me because of the story it tells.

Dated 24 April 1773, the bond tells us that Ann White, a servant at Audley End near Saffron Walden, had given birth to a male child, the son of Biagio Rebecca, an Italian painter employed at the house by its owner, Sir John Griffin Griffin.

Extract from D/B 2/PAR8/35

Extract from D/B 2/PAR8/35

Rebecca had acknowledged that the child was his, but clearly had no intention of marrying the hapless Ann. To indemnify the parish from ever having to support her and their child, Rebecca had agreed to deposit £100 with Sir John Griffin Griffin, to whom Ann would have to apply when in need of funds to support herself and the child. In paying this lump sum, Rebecca absolved himself of all responsibility to Ann and their child. You can view the document in full on Seax here.

The story continues in the baptism register of St Mary’s Saffron Walden where the child’s baptism is recorded:

*John Biagio, son of Biagio Rebecca & Ann White *(base-born)

N.B. Senior Biagio Rebecca was a most ingenious artist who was employed by Sir John Griffin, at Audley End, to paint the cieling [sic] & Panels of ye little south drawing Room, & several family portraits in the great Room over the eating Parlor!!! [sic]

Baptism of John Biagio, 24 December 1772. Extract from parish register of St Mary’s, Saffron Walden (D/P 192/1/5, image 40)

You can still see Biagio Rebecca’s paintings at Audley End, and read his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Essex Library card holders can access the ODNB for free with their library card number).

Conserving Essex’s past: Saffron Walden on the Map

In the days when you can carry a device in your pocket which can access not only a map of the whole globe but satellite images of the earth’s surface, it is hard to imagine life without easy access to accurate maps.

Historic maps are fascinating and often beautiful documents, and the Essex Record Office holds many maps which help us to tell the story of our county’s past. Some of these maps have been well treated and survive today in good condition, perhaps a little faded and worn but largely complete. Others, however, have not been quite so lucky.

Regular readers may remember that in spring 2012, a dirty, tattered piece of parchment was found in a farm outbuilding in Wendons Ambo, near Saffron Walden. Upon unrolling it, it was discovered to be a map of the historic town ofSaffron Walden, dating to 1757. This makes it the earliest known map of the town. This is a very special find, showing in great detail the historic centre of Saffron Walden, much of which survives today.

Before conservation work. The map was brittle, dark, mouldy, and peppered with small tears and holes.

Before conservation work. The map was brittle, dark, mouldy, and peppered with small tears and holes.

The map was made by Edward John Eyre, whose slightly later, larger 1758 map of the area around the town may well already be familiar to Saffron Walden residents. It is likely that both maps were commissioned by Elizabeth Countess ofPortsmouthor her nephew, Sir John Griffin Griffin, who inherited part of the nearby estate of Audley End. 

In June 2012 the map was transferred on permanent loan to the Essex Record Office for conservation work and storage. Despite the degree of damage it has suffered, the hand-drawn streets and buildings are still remarkably clear. Since the map arrived at ERO, our expert conservators have worked to stabilise the map to prevent any further deterioration, and have made any repairs possible. 

During conservation work. As part of the conservation work the map was stretched out after being humidified. This looks alarming but it mimics the original treatment process the parchment went through when new.

During conservation work. As part of the conservation work the map was stretched out after being humidified. This looks alarming but it mimics the original treatment process the parchment went through when new.

After months of painstaking effort, the conservation work is now complete, and the map is due to make a special one-day visit to its home town for local people to come and see it.

For your opportunity to see the original map and to find out more about its conservation, come to Saffron Walden on the Map at Saffron Walden Town Hall on Saturday 16 March, 10.30am-3.30pm, were ERO Senior Conservator Tony King will be talking about his work. There will also be talks from other experts about historic maps and how they were made. You can download a programme for the day here.

After conservation work. The map is still very dark due to the layer of discoloured varnish which cannot be removed, but it has been flattened and tears and holes filled in. Despite the damage it has suffered, the outlines of the streets and buildings are remarkably clear.

After conservation work. The map is still very dark due to the layer of discoloured varnish which cannot be removed, but it has been flattened and tears and holes filled in. Despite the damage it has suffered, the outlines of the streets and buildings are remarkably clear.