Document of the Month, November 2017: Minna Bradhurst’s First World War scrapbook

Our Document of the Month for November 2017 is a scrapbook created during the First World War, which was recently purchased for the ERO by the Friends of Historic Essex. Caroline Wallace, a History MA student from the University of Essex, is currently undertaking a project to investigate its contents, and what it can tell us about life in Essex during the First World War.

Throughout the years which mark the centenary of the First World War, the Friends of Historic Essex, the charity which supports the Essex Record Office, are running the Essex Great War Archive Project. The project aims to collect First World War documents relating to Essex to add to the ERO archive so they can be preserved for current and future generations, and to conserve and highlight documents already within the collection.

The project has included purchasing relevant documents which have come up for sale, which otherwise would have remained within private collections. One such document is a scrapbook dating from 1915-1918 which was kept by Minna Evangeline Bradhurst of Rivenhall Place (now catalogued as Acc. A14491).

The book contains material from 1820 onwards, but primarily covers the First World War period from 1915 to 1918. This scrapbook is part of a set of four , the other three  all being in private hands, although the Essex Record Office does hold microfilm copies of them.

Minna was born in 1865 to an old Essex society family, the Woods. She married Augustus Maunsell Bradhurst, an American, in 1893, and the following year the couple had their only child, a daughter, Christine (sometimes known as Heaven). In later life, one of Minna’s contemporaries described her as ‘a most amusing and delightful lady, of great character, and always dressed as through for a Buckingham Palace garden party’.

The scrapbook includes much of Minna’s life which was not war-related; for example, several pages are dedicated to press cuttings about her own wedding, detailing the outfits of the bridal party, the gifts given, and the names of those who attended.

The majority of the book, however, dates from the war years. During the time that she was compiling this scrapbook, Minna witnessed the impact of the First World War on her family, society and the country. As a lady of independent means, and with time on her hands, Minna’s scrapbooks cover every aspect of her life. They hold a detailed, and personal, account of what she held to be important; the society people she took an interest in, any mention of her family in the local and national newspapers (numerous pages are dedicated to such press cuttings), photographs of loved ones and of interesting places, invitations, tickets, concert programmes, and letters that delivered both good and bad news.

Minna was the niece of Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, one of the highest  ranking, most experienced and well-known military men of the age. Minna took a great interest in her uncle’s career and achievements, and included a huge number of press cuttings about him in her scrapbook. Another cutting describes Minna winning a silver cup at a fete in Ilford for being the Essex resident with the largest number of relatives involved in the war – 64 uncles, cousins and nephews were with the armed forces in one way or another, and several female relatives were engaged in various kinds of war work.

Large amounts of the volume are dedicated to the war work of Minna’s daughter, Christine, who was in her early 20s during the war years. Christine volunteered as a general service Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) worker at Earls Colne Auxiliary Hospital and put her considerable artistic talents to use putting together fundraising concerts and events to raise money for the Essex branch of the Red Cross Society. Not only did she organise these, but she also wrote many of the plays and songs, and performed them on stage. Included in the scrapbook are many of the concert programmes from these events.

Minna’s husband, Augustus Bradhurst, volunteered as a Special Constable, and later in the war became a naturalised Briton and joined the Essex Volunteer Regiment. The scrapbook includes several pictures of him in uniform and on maneuvers in the county, along with letters about his appointments.

The material in the scrapbook has suggested several avenues for further research, some of which will be published on this blog in the coming months.

The scrapbook will be on display in the Searchroom throughout November 2017.

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If you would like to find out more about life in Essex during the First World War, join us on Saturday 25 November 2017 for the Friends of Historic Essex Autumn Lecture, which will include two talks on the Essex coast during the First World War; find out more here.

If you have a First World War project of your own that you would like to get up and running, join us for a First World War project Discovery Day on Friday 8 November 2017; full details here.

 

For Home and Country: more from the Broomfield WI

Our Document of the Month for March is a record of the first Women’s Institute meeting to take place in Essex, which was in Broomfield, near Chelmsford, on 12 May 1917.

Spying the piece we wrote about this record, one of our regular searchers, Pat Bruce, contacted us to say that her great-grandmother, Emily Crozier, had been one of the original members of the Broomfield WI in 1917, and that she had Emily’s original membership card, which she has kindly lent to us to add to our display.

Broomfield WI Membership Card Emily Crozier 1917

Emily Crozier’s membership card for the Broomfield Women’s Institute, 1917 (Temporary Accession 4346). The card includes the motto ‘To do all the good we can, in every way we can, to all the people we can; and above all to study household good in any work which makes for the betterment of our home, the advancement of our people, and the good of our country’.

The logo at the top of the card is that of the Agricultural Organisation Society (AOS), which promoted the formation of Women’s Institutes during the First World War as part of its work to increase food production and save waste. The card is signed by Emily Crozier, and Dora M. Christy, the Secretary. Dora Mary Christie was described in her obituary in the Chelmsford Chronicle in 1947 as ‘a pioneer of the Women’s Institutes in Essex’. She was actively involved in the Essex WI from its earliest days, and was remembered as ‘a vital personality’, whose name ‘will be woven into the history of Women’s Institutes in Essex’.

Along with Emily’s membership card, Pat has also lent us a photograph of the Broomfield WI. Emily is sitting in the front row second from left.

Broomfield WI inc Emily Crozier at Q

(Temporary Accession 4346).

Emily Crozier’s daughter Ethel was also a member joining in 1931 and her membership card, together with a programme for 1945, have also been lent to us.

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Ethel Crozier’s WI membership card, 1931 (Temporary Accession 4346). The motto by this time had altered slightly but maintained the same principle seen in 1917.

Broomfield WI Membership Cards Ethel Crozier 1945 3

An extract from the 1945 programme of the Broomfield WI, including on 7 March a talk from Antony Minoprio on the Chelmsford Area Planning Survey, which was a proposal to demolish most of the town centre. (Temporary Accession 4346).

We thank Pat Bruce for loaning us this charming collection of records. They will be on display in our Searchroom alongside the Broomfield WI minute book for the rest of March 2017.

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!

 

Where there’s a will: Richard Leget of Hornchuch

We have just uploaded digital images of a further 22,500 wills to our Essex Ancestors online subscription service (more on this here), and to mark the occasion here we take a look at one of our earliest wills…

Most medieval Essex wills relate to the nobility and major landowners.  These were proved at the courts of the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury and are not deposited in the Essex Record Office.

However, during the 15th century, making a will became more common and a small number of 15th century wills survive among the records of the archdeaconry of Essex (D/AEW).

Among these is the will of Richard Leget of Hornchurch, dated 10 September 1484 (D/AEW 1/212).  The will itself is in Latin and Leget begins by leaving his soul to God, the Blessed [Virgin] Mary and all the saints and his body to buried in the parish church of St. Andrew.  He made a bequest of 8d. to the ‘Lord Abbot’ there [at Hornchurch] (there had been a priory in the parish until it was dissolved and granted to New College, Oxford in 1391).  He left to John Hubbart a mattress, two blankets, two linen sheets and a coverlet, requested that all his debts be paid and left everything else to his wife Alice.

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The first page of the will of Richard Leget, 1484 (D/AEW 1/212)

On the reverse of the will is a list of his debts, giving names and amounts.  There are two further lists in English stitched to the will.  The first of these is a list of money spent on the burial by Thomas Herde, one of the executors.  A total of 12s. 9d. was spent and amounts included 16d. for a ‘wyndyng cloth’, 14d. to the priest and clerk for the ‘deyrge’ [dirge] and mass, 4d. for ‘lyth’ [light], 8d. for the knell and priest, 8d. for bread and 12d. for ale, 21d. for ‘month mynde’ paid to the priest and clerk and 12d. to the sexton for the grave.

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Part of the inventory of Richard Legets possessions which is included with his will of 1484 (D/AEW 1/212)

There is also an inventory of his goods, beginning with his clothes – a gown of murray worth 5s. 4d., a blue gown worth 3s., a doublet worth 8d., a pair of hose worth 12d., an ‘olde cloke of blak’ valued at 8d..  It continues with household goods including a kettle valued at 2s. 4d., a brass pot, 2s., a ‘fryyng panne’ 8d., and also includes a brass posset (8d.), 31lbs. of pewter (5s. 2d.), three candlesticks (6d.), a ‘lanterne’ (3d.), a mattock (8d.) and a cart (2s. 8d.).

The recent upload of 22,500 wills to Essex Ancestors means that images of all our wills before c.1720 are now available online. 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.

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.

Beyond the tip of the iceberg

We spent a fun morning today with Nick Barratt, Laura Berry and director-cameraman Tamer Asfahani of the Family History Show, a monthly online video podcast, or ‘vodcast’, which showcases interesting topics from the world of genealogy.

Nick outside the ERO

The FHS team came to the ERO to film some of the resources which we have to offer, from our online catalogue, Seax, and the images available on Essex Ancestors, to the original documents which can help with your family history, and some of the ‘treasures’ of the ERO – our most beautiful, interesting and rare documents.

Laura finds out all about Seax and Essex Ancestors from Public Service Team Manager Neil Wiffen

 The Family History Show looks beyond the narrow confines of ‘family history’ strictly defined, to social history, local history, and house history, to build up a fuller picture of what life was like in the past. 

Archivist Chris Lambert shows Laura around a set of poor law records, which can tell fascinating and haunting stories about your ancestors

It’s easy for family history to become an exercise of collecting names and dates, but the truly rewarding element is finding out more about how your ancestors lived. Once you have used birth, marriage and death certificates, parish registers and census returns to find out the names of your ancestors, when they were alive and where they lived, there are so many more questions you can ask to bring history to life.

How did your ancestors make a living? What was life like for children? What happened to you if you lost your job? What did people eat? What sort of accommodation did people live in? How were your ancestors’ lives different from your own?

Answering these questions means delving into other record sets, such as the poor law records the FHS team filmed here today, which may seem daunting at first, but ERO staff are always on hand to help guide you.

Filming some of the ‘treasures’ of the ERO

We love sharing our ‘treasures’ documents, and although we cannot usually produce them to the Searchroom in the same way as most of our documents, you can come and see them for yourself at one of our Discover: Treasures of the Essex Record Office sessions. The next one is on Tuesday 23rd October – see our events page to find out more.

 

The finished vodcast will be released on the Family History Show site in November, so keep an eye out to find out what Nick and Laura made of the ERO!