Bowled over: Graham Napier discovers his Essex roots

Graham Napier in action for Essex County Cricket Club (Photo: Nick Wood/Essex Cricket)

Graham Napier in action for Essex County Cricket Club (Photo: Nick Wood/Essex Cricket)

Just as the 2015 cricket season is about to get underway, we were excited to welcome Essex County Cricket Club star Graham Napier to the ERO to discover his Essex roots.

Graham’s family has a long history in Essex, going back at least to the 1700s. Several of his ancestors were from the Tilbury area, and include agricultural workers, gamekeepers and blacksmiths. Apparently blacksmiths were reputed to be so strong they could hit a cricket ball out of the ground! Graham discovered that one of his great-grandfathers, Edward Chatten was killed in the First World War in September 1918, just two months before the Armistice. He is now planning to visit Edward’s grave in France when he gets the opportunity.

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Graham finding out about his Essex ancestors with Archive Assistant Sarah Ensor

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A baptism record for Pte Edward Chatten’s daughter recording that Chatten had already died before his daughter was baptised

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The marriage record for Thomas Mott and Jane Swan, ancestors of Graham Napier who married in Wickford in 1799

Just like his ancestors, Graham is in the archive himself, amongst the records deposited by Essex County Cricket Club. We dug out some scorebooks to show him, including one from 1997 which includes his very first professional games for Essex, and one from 2008 which records his famous innings in a Twenty20 cup match against Sussex when he scored 152 not out from 58 balls – the highest individual score in a T20 innings in England at the time, and the highest number of sixes in an individual T20 innings.

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Graham looking at an Essex County Cricket Club scorebook from 1997 which records his earliest professional matches

We also shared with Graham some of the older records of Essex County Cricket Club which are looked after here dating back to the nineteenth century.

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During our research we also came across this photo of a cricket team in Chelmsford c.1870, taken on Fair Field with the railway viaduct in the background. Cricketing style has changed somewhat since then!

Cricket team 1870 watermarked

Graham said: ‘It’s safe to say I’m truly from Essex, going back several generations. What a great experience to come to the ERO and trace back my family history, it’s something I’d recommend more people do’.

We wish Graham and the Essex team the very best of luck as the new season gets underway.

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.

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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

Recording of the Month May 2014: Docking of the Jervis Bay

Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…

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In the early 1980s the Essex-based broadcaster and journalist Dennis Rookard produced a series of radio ballads to be broadcast on hospital radio. This month’s recording is an extract from one of those programmes – called Wind Over Tilbury – which was based around Tilbury Docks and told the story of the enormous changes to working practices brought about by the introduction of containerisation in the 1960s. It was first broadcast on Basildon Hospital Radio.

‘Radio ballad’ is a term used to describe a particular type of radio programme which uses a mixture of songs and the spoken word to create an entertaining, possibly sentimental, form of documentary. The term was coined for a series of programmes made between 1957 and 1964 for the BBC Home Service by Charles Parker, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. They were entirely new in that they used the voices of the ordinary people involved, carefully edited and interwoven with the music, to tell the story without the need for a narrator.

Dennis Rookard was greatly influenced by this series and he used a similar template to make his radio ballads which, like the originals, were generally focussed on the working lives of ordinary people and used folk music to tell the story. In Wind Over Tilbury and other programmes the South-Essex musician and songwriter Jack Forbes has composed songs specifically related to the subject in hand.

The extract I have chosen is the part of the programme in which we hear a large container ship called Jervis Bay being lined up to enter a lock. Amongst other things, it provides evidence for the assertion that radio is better than television because it allows you to create your own pictures. I hope you enjoy it.

Great British Railway Journeys: Ilford to Rochester

With series 5 of Great Railway Journeys continuing tonight on BBC2 episode 18 sees Michael Portillo journeying from the edge of the metropolis in Ilford to Tilbury before crossing the Thames to Gravesend. As with episode 17 we thought we would take a look at some documents related to some of the sights he will be seeing along the way.

The London, Tilbury and Southend railway was granted an act of parliament in 1852 to begin purchasing land; by just 1854 it had reached as far as Tilbury. The railway was intended to link up the growing industries along the north bank of the Thames such as the chalk works at Tilbury and the burgeoning towns of Prittlewell and Southend. Perhaps most importantly for the railway company, the line allowed their customers easy access to the company’s own pier just across the Thames at Gravesend, already a common embarkation point for overseas travel from England.

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Riverside Station, Tilbury, 1920

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Ordnance Survey map of Tilbury from 1920 showing the distinctive triangular arrangement of the railway lines, with workers’ cottages in the middle. Click for a larger version.

With the coming of the railway to Tilbury and the increasing prevalence of  steam ships, Tilbury became an attractive location for the East and West India Dock Company to build a new port. It was well positioned downstream and therefore more convenient for ships than docks belonging to their competitors further up-stream in London. Ground was broken in 1882 and the photograph below shows the opening of the docks in 1884 with much fanfare. The port quickly became the most important deep-water port on the Thames and was integrated into the Port of London in 1909.

Opening of Tilbury Docks, 1884

Opening of Tilbury Docks, 1886

Port of London Authority map of Tilbury Docks, early twentieth century

Port of London Authority map of Tilbury Docks, post 1909 after it was taken over by the PLA

Amidst all the clamour of industry and squeezed between a gasworks and the dock itself lies the jewel in Tilbury’s crown. Before industry and the railway Tilbury was important for another reason. Henry VIII had built a simple “D” shaped blockhouse there with an opposite number in Gravesend to defend the Thames with their guns and by drawing a chain across the river between them. With the threat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 the fort was improved and repaired and it was here that Elizabeth I reportedly famously rallied her rag-tag army with the words “I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman but I have the heart and stomach of  a king, and a king of England too”.

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Print of Tilbury Fort. There are several views of the Fort in our collections, many of which have been digitised and can be viewed online on our catalogue Seax

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Coloured print of Tilbury Fort

Modern European military thinking greatly influenced Charles II during his exile from Britain and led to the redevelopment of Tilbury Fort into its modern star shape in the 1670s. The Fort was held by the Parliamentarians in the Civil War and was refortified in the Napoleonic wars and again in 1914. The Fort straddled the border of the parishes of West Tilbury and Chadwell, with the officers quarters being on the West Tilbury side and the other ranks in Chadwell. This is reflected in the parish burial registers, with officers appearing in the West Tilbury registers, and the men in the Chadwell registers.

D/DU 446 map Tilbury Fort and Gravesend

Extract from map of the Thames around Tilbury and Gravesend, showing Tilbury Fort in 1780. South is at the top of the map, and north at the bottom.