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.

Bienvenue les rouleurs

As the Tour de France comes to Essex, Archive Assistant Edd Harris takes a look back at our county’s cycling past…

As Essex “gears up” (geddit?) to host several hundred brightly clad racers in the third stage of the Tour de France on the 7th of July, we felt it would be a good idea to take a look back at Essex’s rich cycling past. Essex had cycling aficionados, fans and competitors long before the exploits of Ian Stannard and Alex Dowsett brought the county’s cycling talent into the limelight. (I am also reliably informed that Laura Trott comes from Harlow, and Mark Cavendish lives near Ongar.)

TS 310/1 - An ordinary bicycle (penny farthing) leaning against an unidentified shop in Southend.

TS 310/1 – An ordinary bicycle (penny farthing) leaning against an unidentified shop in Southend.

Before the invention of the safety bicycle life was a much loftier affair for cyclists. To gain any sort of real pace a large wheel had to be used, so brave men clambered onto “ordinary bicycles” or “penny farthings” as they became nicknamed. (If you are feeling very down with the kids, I hear they can also be called “P-fars” and can still be bought from specialist retailers.) The safety bicycle and the pneumatic tyre were in widespread use by 1890 bringing about a massive boom in cycling.

Almost as soon as cycling had been invented clubs were formed and despite the machines still being worth the equivalent of a small car in today’s money, hundreds of people ventured out onto the roads each weekend, and this early boom in cycling Essex is evident in some of the documents in our collections.

D/P 296/1/13 is a register of services held at St Nicholas, Kelvedon Hatch between 1897 and 1908. As well as recording interesting details about events happening both locally and nationally, it also tells us that the Vicar held a number of services specifically for cyclists attended by lots of cyclists.

D-P 296-1-13 watermarked

D/P 296/1/13 – The service register of St Nicholas’ Kelvedon Hatch with a cyclists service attended by 35 cyclists. (Click for larger version)

D/Z 518/1 is the guest book of the Cock Tavern in Ongar and it seems to have been reserved purely for the use of visiting cyclists. We have looked at it once before as part of our document of the month series, but it is well worth re-visiting. Beginning in 1890, it is full of messages of thanks from cyclists, illustrations of the badges of the clubs (amongst other things) and complaints about the local traffic. In one message thirty or more riders are said to have descended on the pub from just one club. One commenter reminisces about his first visit to the Cock Inn, drawing an image emphasising how old fashioned he thought cycling was. He is shown in tweed plus-fours, pipe in mouth, flat-capped and astride his “ordinary”. Can anyone identify T.M.R. Whitwell or any of the other names in this register?

D/Z 518/1 - Entry in the guest book for the Cock Inn in Chipping Ongar. Here T.M.R. Whitwell illistrates his first visit to the pub in 1893. Is this the same Whitwell who illustrated the works of P.G. Wodehouse?

D/Z 518/1 – Entry in the guest book for the Cock Inn in Chipping Ongar. Here T.M.R. Whitwell illistrates his first visit to the pub in 1893. Is this the same Whitwell who illustrated the works of P.G. Wodehouse?

D/Z 518/1 - Another entry from the guest book. A rather delightfully named club - the Cemetery Crawlers

D/Z 518/1 – Another entry from the guest book. A rather delightfully named club – the Cemetery Crawlers

With the increasing affordability of cycling, it became the working man and woman’s chance of escape, providing them with the freedom to travel where and when they wanted. As its popularity grew, however, the well-heeled country gent was becoming worried that his quiet country solitude was being disturbed by this riff-raff and in an attempt to assuage their worry, the National Cyclists Union banned racing on the roads in 1890. This was a ban which would last till the 1950 and shaped the character of British cycling to this day. We have always been at our best when taking part in the once clandestine discipline of time trialing, our biggest stars, Boardman, Wiggins and Dowsett can all trace their heritage back to the black clad cyclists hammering along the country’s A-roads in pursuit of the best time whilst trying to avoid the attentions of the authorities.

D/Z 518/1 - Another entry from this fascinating guestbook. It seems like interacting with motorcars was a problem for cyclists even way back in 1906.

D/Z 518/1 – Another entry from this fascinating guestbook. It seems like interacting with motorcars was a problem for cyclists even way back in 1906.

S-U 6-1 a

A series of sketches detailing the extra forms of transport considered by Lieutenant Colonel Francis H.D.C. Whitmore then High Sheriff of Essex when his car broke down en-route to an important engagement in 1922.

S-U 6-1 b S-U 6-1 c

Over time the various clubs began to specialise in different activities. There were racing clubs who time trialed and raced on private tracks, there were social clubs and there were touring clubs. Eventually one club would form which attempted to encompass cyclists all over the country. The Cycle Tourists Club or CTC would go on to become advocates for the pastime as well as organising rides and meets. The Essex Section of the CTC was formed in 1927 and almost immediately got down to business. It seems that that business was initially to very carefully delineate the boundaries of the section to avoid confrontation and then to move on to the more important tasks of arranging for design and supply of a club badge (not without some argument), deciding where to hold their Christmas dinner and ensuring that the tea stops they visited on their rides were of adequate quality. There is a little bit of riding too. Tellingly, they had to cancel a women-only ride due to a lack of interest, a problem which still blights the male-dominated pastime to this day.

A13272 watermarked 1

A13272 – On this page of the CTC minute books one member seems somewhat worried about substandard tea.

A13272 watermarked 2

A13272 – During this meeting arrangements were made for bike parking in a cow shed in Chelmsford during a lecture.

So, when Le Tour comes charging though Essex on the 7th of July remember that this is not a new cycling boom, more of a renaissance. Cycling in Essex can trace a very long history and we are always looking for more information and material relating to the clubs and riders of Essex.

Document of the Month July 2014: Commemorative handkerchief for the peace celebrations at Southend, July 1919

Each month a document is put on display in our Searchroom. Our document for July has been chosen by Archivist Chris Lambert to reflect the 95th anniversary of Peace Day at the end of the First World War.

Acc. S3299

August this year will be heavy with the memory of the First World War, declared 100 years ago.  The shattering effects of that conflict continue to mark families and continents. But we have almost forgotten the peace that brought it to an end.

For most of us, the Great War ended on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, but in fact it was only the killing that stopped.  The war itself did not end until 28 June 1919, when, after months of tortuous negotiations, the peace treaty was signed at Versailles.  This July marks the 95th anniversary of the celebrations that followed, and specifically of Peace Day itself, 19 July 1919.

Our amnesia is not, perhaps, too surprising.  The Treaty of Versailles was controversial at the time, especially in its treatment of Germany, and later came to be seen as the fuse that lit the Second World War.  The peace itself was a period of economic and political turmoil.  Even so, it remains striking that while the smiling faces of victory in 1945 have entered the collective consciousness, those of 1919 have faded away.  Armistice Day too is still with us, albeit under another name; Peace Day is not.

In London, Peace Day was marked by a huge military parade, followed by a firework display in Hyde Park.  Essex saw many local celebrations.  Saffron Walden, for example, provided a ‘peace celebration dinner’ for returned servicemen (involving among other items 200 pounds of plum pudding and 4 gallons of custard), followed by children’s sports, a procession and dancing.  Similar plans for Chelmsford were curtailed by the refusal of local ex-servicemen to take part.  However, the greatest spectacle was a naval review off Southend, accompanied by yacht races, swimming competitions and a pageant.  The festivities at Southend were commemorated by this paper handkerchief (printed in London to a standard pattern), which remained in private hands until it was deposited in the Record Office in 2008.

Commemorative handkerchief for the peace celebrations at Southend, July 1919 (Acc. S3299)

Commemorative handkerchief for the peace celebrations at Southend, July 1919 (Acc. S3299)

Document of the Month June 2014: Map of Tilbury showing plans for Operation Overlord

Each month a document is put on display in our Searchroom. Our document for June has been chosen by Archivist Allyson Lewis to reflect the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which began on 6 June 1944.

This month we look at Essex’s involvement in Operation Overlord, known as the D-Day landings.  Eastern Command, which included Essex, was to provide for 104,000 men and their equipment embarking through Tilbury and London Docks.  Tilbury was a Marshalling Area for collecting men and vehicles for the D-Day landings.

C/W 3/4/9

Marshalling Areas (MAs) were intended to hold 40,700 men and 6,500 vehicles prior to embarkation, load them and send them out as part of the initial landings, and then to embark 4,000 men and 600 vehicles per day for as long as necessary after D-Day itself.  Once sent for embarkation, the troops had to be provided with food and drink so any postponement of the operation posed a serious logistical problem.  The MA was arranged in 8 sub-areas located at Orsett Golf Club, Tilbury, Purfleet, Thorndon Hall, Belhus Park, Warley Barracks, Weald Park, and the Halfway House Inn on the Southend Arterial Road.

Planning began in February to identify suitable sites for camps field hospitals, ammunition dumps, petrol dumps, bakeries, rail heads and traffic routes.  This map (C/W 3/4/9) shows the location of the camps in each sub-area and the routes traffic should take to reach the embarkation points.  Most of the vehicles were parked up on the Southend Arterial Road.  They had to be waterproofed before being loaded onto the ships.  During March camps were constructed and roads strengthened, and by 1 May the area was ready.  Postal censorship began on 1 April and by the end of May all camps were patrolled to prevent contact with the local population.

Embarkation of troops and vehicles was a four day process: three days to waterproof the vehicles and get them aboard and to issue supplies and load the men, and one day to clear the area and get ready for the next detachment.  Y-Day was the name given to the day when everything would be ready to go.  Any long delay at this point would mean that men would have to be disembarked and sent back to their camps.  However, the weather improved sufficiently on 5 June for Operation Overlord to commence on 6 June 1944.

Information from http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/showthread.php?11999-SECOND-WORLD-WAR-D-Day-Marshalling-and-Embarkation-Areas

Graveyard Shift

North Road Burial Ground in Southend-on-Sea had – like many graveyards – languished somewhat unloved for several years. It has now, however, been the lucky recipient of 12 months of love and attention from the Shared Spaces project.  

Shared Spaces was set up by Blade Education, a Southend-based not-for-profit organisation, and involved local volunteers and nearby Westborough Primary School in investigating and preserving the heritage of the cemetery. The project wanted to reconnect local people with the past of their town through the stories of the people buried at the cemetery, and also to show that graveyards can be used as a beneficial educational resource, linking today’s generations with those of the past.

Students from Westborough Primary School searching the gravestones for people's stories

Students from Westborough Primary School searching the gravestones for people’s stories

Over 8,000 people are buried on the site, and the project has not only sought to create a database of all their names, but to research some of their life stories. This information is being made available in a free online database, and will also be deposited with the ERO. Heritage trail boards have also been installed at the cemetery, to serve as a reminder about the real lives lived by the people buried there.

One such story was that of Thomas Kerridge, a hansom cab driver who drove people between the Blue Boar Hotel and Southend Victoria railway station. One day in 1925, Thomas was badly injured when he was kicked in the chest by the horse which pulled his cab. He survived the kick, but the wound became infected, and in an age before antibiotics Thomas died a few days later, aged 46. His wife Sarah was left with little income and seven children aged between 13 years and 6 weeks old. It is believed that Thomas was buried at North Road because his family lived close by.

Photograph of Thomas Kerridge

Photograph of Thomas Kerridge

The school children have been an integral part of the project, and not only have they learned about the history of their town, they have had lessons in the graveyard including gardening, photographer, and nature hunts. They have also had the opportunity to learn about their own family histories, with ancestors from all over the world.

To find out more about the project and to search the database online, visit http://www.northroadburialground.org.uk/ You can also find out more about Blade Education here.

Nature hunt at North Road Burial Ground

Nature hunt at North Road Burial Ground

 

The 1953 Floods in Essex

On the night of Saturday 31 January 1953 a severe storm coincided with a high spring tide in the North Sea, and the resulting tidal surge caused great devastation all along the east coast. In eastern England 307 people were killed, 120 of them from Essex.  The worst hit communities in the county were Canvey Island, where 58 died, and Jaywick, where 37 people were killed (5% of the population).  A major operation was mounted to rescue as many people from the flooded areas as possible. Along the east coast of the UK, 30,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Damage was caused to over 1,600 km of coastline, as well as to thousands of homes.  It is estimated that the damage in monetary terms today would be over £5 billion.

It was of course not just England that was affected by the floods; 19 people died in Scotland, 28 in Belgium, and a staggering 1,836 in theNetherlands. Over 230 people also died on ferries, fishing boats and other vessels which were in the North Sea that night.

We have been going through some of the many documents in the ERO which tell some of the stories of the floods in Essex, a small sample of which will be on display in our ‘Document of the Month’ case in the Searchroom throughout February.

To the sea (D/Z 35/15)

To the sea – rescuers at work in Jaywick (D/Z 35/15) (Photo: Reuters)

Jaywick completely flooded

Fire Brigade log book reporting phone calls to say that Jaywick was completely flooded (D/Z 35/3/1)

Canvey Island underwater (ref??)

Canvey Island underwater (D/Z 35/15) (Photo: Southend Standard).

Albermarle St & Alexander Road, Harich (T/Z 241/1)

Photograph of the junction of Albermarle Street and Alexandra Road in Harwich. The flood in Harwich was described as a two metre high wall of rolling water. Eight people drowned trapped in their basements in Main Street (T/Z 241/1) (Photo: Harwich and Dovercourt Standard).

Harwich Junior School (T/Z 241/1)

The ground floor and playground of Harwich Junior School were flooded to a depth of 1½ metres (T/Z 241/1).

Harwich police station telephone log (D/Z 35/6/1)

This note in the Harwich police station telephone log tells us that at the army base on Bramble Island, near Harwich, the magazines had been breached by the flood waters. High explosives had floated away and the police and public were advised to be on the look out for them, and not to touch them (D/Z 35/6/1).

Peter Pan's Playground (D/Z 35/15)

Photograph of Peter Pan’s Playground, Southend (D/Z 35/15) (Photo: Southend Standard). At Southend the effects were not as severe as at Canvey. The Kursaal flooded, along with the Gasworks and Southchurch Park.

Letter from Mr E. Staunton (C/DC 11/Fd43)

Letter written month after the floods by Mr E. Staunton of Benham Road, Canvey to Essex County Council to pass on the ‘thanks and gratitude’ of himself and ‘friends in this area’ to the fireman who sounded the air raid siren ‘thus giving us a chance to dress and find out over the telephone what was the meaning of the warning’ (C/DC 11/Fd43).

 

A selection of these documents will be on display in the Searchroom throughout February. Others can be ordered to view in the Searchroom. Find out how to visit us.

To find out more about the floods, why not go to hear Patricia Rennoldson Smith talk about her new book The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster: The People’s Story as part of the Essex Book Festival.

Collections highlight: Southend in historic images

For our second collections post, we thought we would share some highlights from our extensive image collection.

One of our blog’s header images is a picture of Southend-on-Sea, which is probably one of the most photographed places in the county, which given its status as a major Victorian and Edwardian seaside resort is no surprise.

Situated on the mouth of the Thames estuary, Southend first became a resort during the eighteenth century, and tourists have been attracted ever since by its miles of beaches, and later by the longest leisure pier in the world. With its proximity to London and a good rail link, Southend was one of the most popular places for Victorian Londoners to escape to for some sea air. Its popularity declined from the 1960s, however, with the advent of cheap air travel drawing increasing numbers of people abroad for their holidays.

If you would like to find out more about Southend’s past, then you can join our Southend-on-Sea: Stepping Out walk on Friday 18th May, 2.00pm-3.30pm. The walk will trace the history of Southend, from fishing village to Georgian resort to Edwardian London’s playground. The walk costs £5 and advance booking is essential – please telephone 01245 244 620.

I/MB 321/1/32 Black and white print: Marine Parade, Southend J.T. Wood, 278 Strand, London Bound in volume, 'Views of Southend'

I/Mb 321/1/65 Southend from the sea, sailing barge in foreground

I/Mb 321/1/66 View of Pier from the beach, Southend, c.1900

I/Mb 321/1/56 London Tilbury and Southend Railway Poster. Day Excusions to Southend, 1911

I/Mb 321/1/58 Marine Parade, Southend-on-Sea, 1955

I/Mb 321/1/57 Boats at Marine Parade Beach, Southend-on-Sea. Dome of Kursaal in background, c.1955

Our digitisation programme means that many images can now be found on our online catalogue Seax – to search for a digitised image, simply select the ‘Images’ option before you begin your search.

Although many images have been digitised, they still represent a small proportion of our image collections. To search all of our records, simply select ‘Everything’ above the search box. For advice on searching for historic images, you can call us on 01245 244 644.