Just in time for Christmas, Essex Record Office has teamed up with Museumshops.uk to make our publications available to purchase online for the very first time. Many of these publications have been printed in limited numbers and were previously only available from the Essex Record Office Searchroom.
Written and researched by Hilda Grieve and Published in 1959, “The Great Tide” told the story of the county’s relationship to the sea, the meteorological conditions preceding the flood, the events of 31 January and 1 February 1953, and the subsequent rescue, relief, and restoration efforts in meticulous detail, drawn from six years of careful, patient research. It has since been described by the writer Ken Worpole as “one of the great works of twentieth century English social history”.
This title has been out of print for some time, but was re-printed by Essex Record Office in 2020. This seminal work should be on the shelf of any student of modern history
Written by Hilda Grieve in 1954, “Examples of English Handwriting” is an illuminating exploration into the chronology of early English penmanship, drawing from six centuries worth of Essex’s parish records, Examples of English Handwriting reads much like a handbook for the aspiring historian. It is a must have for anyone seeking to read the historic documents that are cared for at ERO and countless other archives. Complete with a variety of visual examples, the work diligently elucidates semantic change, typography, abbreviations, letter strokes, and Anglo-Saxon history.
Hilda Grieve’s precious legacy as a didactic county archivist is captured in this classic work of palaeography, with this 1981 edition merging two of the prior volumes published by the Essex Record Office.
One of our most popular titles is: “Pilgrims and Adventurers”.
“No English county has stronger links with the East Coast states of America than Essex.”
On a now mythical autumnal day in 1620, an English fluyt, designated the “Mayflower”, dropped its anchor on the shores of what is now Massachusetts: its passengers, puritan separatists and adventurous individuals, would disembark onto the foreign soil following the lead of Capt. Christopher Jones, his skeleton crew, imbued with a belief in manifest destiny. Pilgrims & Adventurers explores the foundation of the United States: how the likes of Columbus & Walter Raleigh laid groundwork for a theologically ruptured England to flee in search of a New World. The book charts the initial voyage of the Essex pilgrims to the raising of the early settlements: Plymouth Colony, Providence; the attempted conversion of Indigenous Americans, and conflicting theses of Philo-Theology that would continue to divide the early colonists.
Written & published in 1992 by archivist John Smith, this work is a concise introduction to the hitherto unexplored study of the Essex people on the colonisation of North America.
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 part 8 of this series, we change tack to explore the life of John’s wife Mary Farmer.
There is an old saying that
behind every great man there is a great woman.
In the case of John Farmer, wool comber, Quaker, traveller and slavery
abolitionist, this is certainly true, in that he had an unusually independent
Mary Wyatt was born 8:9mo 1665 (8th
November 1665) to Thomas and Etheldered Wyatt, the eldest of twelve siblings.
An annotated list of the births of her numerous brothers and sisters, and sadly
the deaths of four of them in infancy, is held in the Essex Record Office
archive, an unusual survival of a complete family list from the time.
The Wyatt family appear
throughout the Thaxted and Saffron Walden Quaker archives, a large family who
left a lasting mark on the records of their community in the 17th
and 18th centuries.
of Wyatt siblings ERO A13685 Box 49 Bundle of birth & burial notes Thaxted
Mary Wyatt married Samuel Fulbigg
of Haverhill in 1689. Their only
daughter, also called Mary was born on 16th day of 5th
month 1690 (16th July 1690) in Saffron Walden.[ii]
Birth Record of
Mary Fulbigg : ERO A13685 Box 49 Bundle I.1 of birth & burial notes Thaxted
Tragically this marriage was not
to last long. Another note in the
archives tells us that on 1st of 10 mo 1692 (1st December 1692)
Samuel was buried, having been killed when the funnel fell from his brewing
copper the previous Monday (2nd Day). This awful accident left Mary
as a widow at 27 years old, with an 18-month-old baby to look after.
Burial Record of
Samuel Fulbigg : ERO A13685 Box 49 Bundle I.1 of birth & burial notes
Originally from Somerset, John
Farmer came to Saffron Walden in late 1697 or early 1698. I first find him in a Monthly Meeting at
Thaxted in April 1698 showing as donating a shilling for the relief of a Quaker
in need[iii]. He was an itinerant wool comber, as was
fellow Quaker Zacharias Wyatt, the younger brother of Mary Fulbigg. It is possible that as they shared a common
employment, perhaps Zacharias brought John Farmer to Saffron Walden. Or perhaps they met when John Farmer joined
their Quaker meeting, but at some point it is likely that Zacharias introduced
his widowed sister Mary to John Farmer.
Mary had not been idle since
being widowed. According to a comment in
John Farmer’s journal she had travelled 1400 miles in the ministry before he
met her, and she had “a gift of prophesy
or preaching given her by ye Lord before she was my wife”.[iv]
Marriage was a welcome gift to John Farmer who had agonised in his diary about
the fears of giving into temptation and vanity.
Farmer wrote in his journal that when they married 27:5mo 1698 (27th
“Ye Lord preserved mee in many Temptations from being destroyed by them. In & by his advice and help I took an honist Friend to bee my wife in ye way of marriage used amongst us”.[v]
Married life does not appear to
have stopped either Mary or John from traveling. In July 1700, Sampford Women’s
Meeting heard from Mary Farmer that she intended to take a journey along with
another Friend, Elizabeth Spice of Saffron Walden “upon the sword of truth through Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire to
visit meetings there” and permission to travel was granted. A month later
the Thaxted Women’s meeting received 15 shillings from Mary, perhaps collected
on her journey. [vi]
Ten months later John and Mary Farmer’s only daughter Ann
was born 1:3 mo 1701 (1st May 1701).[vii] Now having two young children one might have
expected Mary to settle into domestic life.
But Farmer’s journal comments that by 1714 she had travelled a further
1700 miles in her own ministry.
In December 1702 Mary Farmer was
asked by the Monthly Meeting to work with two other women Friends to sell the
property of deceased widow Elizabeth James and settle her funeral expenses,
bringing any residue back to the Meeting.
Clearly this was a task which required someone to be held in the utmost
trust and seems to have gone well.
In 1704 Mary went on an extended five-month long journey
travelling in the South and West of England, recorded in John Farmer’s journal, while he
was left at home to care for the children:
“In ye year 1704 my wife was moved & inabled by ye Lord to travel 5 months in his service in ye west & south of England. Shee had a good journey & did service for ye Lord in it. & came well home to mee & our children wch bee also well. Blessed bee God for it. Before she went shee told ye monthly meeting of it & recived a ceirtificate from them to carry with her.”[viii]
However her husband’s description
of Mary as an ‘honist friend’ was
possibly a little dubious. A significant
issue had hung over the Farmer family both before, and for some years after,
their marriage and related to a legacy for Mary Fulbigg (Mary Farmer’s daughter
from her first marriage) from Grace Fulbigg, her grandmother, and it came to a
head in 1705.
John Farmer commented in his
“In ye year 1705 the enemy strove to destroy severall of us in & by a difference about Earthly things. But blessed bee ye Lord for his making use of our friends called Quakers to save us whereby also by his Spirit in us hee ended ye difference & saved us from disstruction.”
It was noted in the Monthly Meeting on 26th
July 1698 (the day before the Farmers got married) that the permission was
granted “Depending on the resolution of
£10 owed to Mary Fullbigg Junior from her grandmother’s will”.[ix] At the time £10 was worth £1070 in today’s
money, the equivalent of 4 months work for a skilled tradesman at the time[x].
It seems this issue remained unresolved until
1705 when the matter was raised by John Mascall who noted in the Monthly Meeting
on 20th March that he “desires
ye judgement of ye said meeting concerning JF”. At the next meeting on 24th April
John Farmer himself raised the subject, asking if the £10 given for the use of
his daughter in law (step daughter) could be placed in his own hands against
him offering his house as surety. In
June the Monthly Meeting asked John Farmer to sign a double bond of £16 for the
use of Mary Fulbigg, and trustees were appointed, one of whom was Thomas Wyatt,
Mary Farmer’s father. But at the meeting
on 28:6mo 1705 (28th October 1705) the whole
family dispute came to a terrible head when Thomas Wyatt and his son Zacharias came
to the monthly meeting and publicly accused Mary Farmer of destroying Grace
“The case of difference being …the said Mary of destroying a widdows will made by the advice of her relations before marriage to the said John and left in her own hands to address wherein was ten pounds given to a daughter which the said Mary had by a former husband.”[xi]
The meeting insisted this “mischief” be resolved immediately and at
the first meeting of 1706 the Friends gathered at Henham to witness a bond
given from John Farmer to John Wale of ten pounds by the direction of the
quarterly meeting for the use of Mary Fulbigg.
The Meeting directed that Henry Starr should keep it for her and John
Farmer eventually confirmed to the Monthly Meeting on 25th February
1706/7 that the bond was signed and sealed, and now in the hands of Henry
Starr. Having sorted out the mess his wife appeared to have caused, at the same
meeting John Farmer then advised them he would be heading off on his travels, but
not surprisingly the somewhat irritated meeting advised him to request
permission of the Quarterly Meeting first.
Perhaps the reluctance to allow
him to travel was because in 1703 Zacharias Wyatt had to advise the Meeting
that John Farmer had “gone forth a journey into ye Northern parts” [xii]
and he had not waited to get a certificate, but asked Zacharias to procure one,
and get Mary Farmer to send it on to him.
It seems clear John Farmer was always going to be a rule-breaker and
Mary Farmer was something of a willing accomplice. Perhaps it was Farmer’s need to travel that
had prompted the Friends to pin down the details of Mary Fulbigg’s legacy
before he took off again.
When John Farmer travelled north eventually in 1707 Mary
accompanied him to Nottingham and then came home to wait for him. When he reappeared in September 1708 he
immediately moved his family to Colchester where they then resided for three
years, him working as a wool comber and she as a nurse before he decided to go
travelling again, this time on a 3-year trip to pre-revolutionary America. John Farmer moved Mary and her daughters back
to Saffron Walden and the Monthly Meeting accepted them back on 20th
September 1711. He noted that Mary was working as a nurse and she had decided
to be amongst Friends at Saffron Walden while she nursed her now lame daughter
Despite her husband being in
America Mary did not stop performing the ministry work she also felt called to
do, and in March 1713 she requested and was granted a certificate to visit
churches in Suffolk and Norfolk. In July
1714 she appeared in the records again having returned a certificate for
travelling in the North and had acquainted the Friends that she now intended to
go to Holland[xiii].
John Farmer arrived back in the Thaxted
Meeting records on 30:9mo 1714 (30th November 1714) and they were
delighted to receive the many certificates he had collected from America. However at the same meeting he announced he
would be returning immediately to America and they drafted a lengthy
certificate allowing him to go.
Interestingly although several women did sign the certificate, Mary
Farmer was not one of them.
Before he travelled back to
America John Farmer wrote out in full his journal, from the notes he had
gathered on his travels, and attached to it an epistle with instructions that
the Journal was to be published. It
seems this never happened, and we have to wonder with whom he left the
document. A tantalising clue lies on
page 6 of the document. Farmer is
discussing financial matters and mentions when he married Mary “Her estate was valued at upwards of …” and
the next word has been neatly cut out of the page. Then he mentions “I saved for my selfe by my labour and God’s blessing upwards of …”
and again the word had been cut out of the page. It’s only a theory, but my hunch is that Mary
may have removed this personal information – she did after all apparently have
previous for destroying financial information! [xiv]
John Farmer’s Journal showing excisions – Essex Record Office A13685 box 51 – page 6
A couple of letters from John
Farmer to Mary survive at the Essex Record Office. One particularly poignant
one is from him in Virginia dated 1st of 4mo 1716 (1st
June 1716) instructing Mary to send her belongings to Philadelphia, via Anthony
Morris and detailing how she and the children were to travel to him, as he now
planned to settle in America. But for
some reason, which we do not know, she never went, and never saw her husband
After a number of adventures in
America detailed in my previous posts John Farmer died in 1724 and in his will
he left all his English possessions to Mary Farmer. He left his American
possessions to his daughter Ann. Mary
promptly sent Ann to America to claim her inheritance and Mary began her own
foreign adventure, travelling to Holland and Denmark in the ministry in 1725. She
also left a handwritten account of her journey, where alongside her testimony
she revealed encounters with pirates, fierce storms and other adventures. [xvi]
Mary Farmer’s Journal 1725 ERO A13685 Box 51
John’s stepdaughter Mary Fulbigg
stayed in Saffron Walden and kept a notebook for many years. Her book noted that
her mother Mary Farmer had died 13th of 2nd month 1747
(13th of April 1747) at the extraordinary age of 82. [xvii]
Extract – Mary
Fulbigg’s Journal – ERO A13685 Box 51
So far I have found no record of
what finally happened to Mary Fulbigg. The last entry in her notebook is dated
3mo 24 1762 (24th March 1762).
She would have been nearly 72 years old so perhaps she died not long
afterwards. Hopefully the record lies somewhere still to be found. Both Mary Fulbigg and Mary Farmer’s handwritten
books are here in the Essex Record Office and will be part of my future study
Ann Farmer finally travelled to
America in early 1725. The daughter who hadn’t seen her father for ten years
applied to the Thaxted Friends Men’s Meeting for a certificate to attend
Philadelphia Meeting on 23: 12th 1724 (23rd February
to claim her inheritance. Her certificate also indicated helpfully that she was
clear of any attachments in England and free to marry, should she wish to. Ann went on to become a small part of the
American founding story. She married
Benjamin Boone, uncle of the frontiersman Daniel Boone, on 31st
October 1726 and had one son, John Boone born in December 1727, but sadly Ann
died very shortly after of complications from childbirth, at the age of only 26[xix]. John Boone was reported to have been brought
up at his Uncle Squire Boone’s house alongside his cousins including the famous
Daniel (b 1734), until his father remarried in 1738. John Boone went on to have 9 children, founding
a Boone dynasty in Hunting Creek, Rowan County, North Carolina the eldest of
whom, Benjamin Boone became a Baptist Reverend [xx].
I am not sure John Farmer would
Thus we come to the end of the
story of the Essex Quaker and his family for now. It is by virtue of the fact that the Thaxted
and Saffron Walden Quakers kept such comprehensive records that the family’s
adventures, squabbles and dedication to their faith have come down to us in
such glorious detail and nearly 300 years after John Farmer died we can still
hear his voice, in the twenty-thousand-word journal that he laboured over, “Written in obedience to God for ye
good of souls in this and future ages” [xxi]. If only he could have known just how far into
the future his words would travel.
ERO A13685 Box 49 Bundle of birth & burial notes Thaxted
ERO A13685 Box 49 Bundle I.1 of birth & burial notes Thaxted 1665-1745
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 part 7 of this series, we reach the end of John Farmer’s travels.
Just over a year after he came home from his epic American journey in 1715 John Farmer travelled back to America as he had planned.
In a letter held in the journal
collection at the Essex Record Office, dated Virginia 1st June 1716,
he wrote to his wife Mary asking her to pack up her goods and join him in
Philadelphia where they would settle permanently. He instructed her:
‘It is best for thee to send what goods thou shalt bring into
Phyladelphia to Anthony Morris but com in thy self and ye children
by ye way of Maryland excypt you think it best to come in ye
ship with Anthony Morris when he doth return home.’[i]
However for some reason that
didn’t happen. Mary stayed in Saffron Walden, possibly still nursing her sick
daughter Mary Fulbigg or perhaps she had heard that John Farmer was already
sowing the seeds of personal disaster and Mary decided not to put her self and
her children at odds with the wider Quaker community. For what ever reason,
Mary decided not to go to America to join her husband of 17 years and as a
result she never saw him again.
John Farmer had arrived back in
America as the first abolitionist arguments were at their height amongst
Quakers. He had not passed comment in his journal of 1711-14 but must have
witnessed the suffering of slaves in the Caribbean and on the plantations of
Virginia and Maryland. Quakers had been
troubled by the slave question a few times previously[ii]
but had chosen to wait for a common agreement to be felt in the Yearly and
Monthly meetings, almost certainly because the senior Quaker leaders were often
slave owners with significant vested interests.
The dichotomy was that Quakers believed all men were equal under God,
and slave owning certainly didn’t sit well with their philosophy, but they were
not yet ready to make any radical changes.
By early 1717 John Farmer had started
an antagonistic anti-slavery campaign. It’s
not clear what exactly triggered his impassioned fight, but it may possibly
have been as a result of reading or hearing the testimony of seasoned abolitionist
campaigner and fellow Quaker William Southeby.
Southeby had been campaigning since 1696, and in 1714 had taken the
Philadelphia Meeting to task saying, “it
was incumbent on them ‘as leaders of American Quakerism, to take a high moral
position on slavery”.[iii] He insisted Philadelphia did their Christian
duty regarding slavery without waiting for recommendation from other
meetings. The Philadelphia meeting of
June 1716 censured Southeby and forced him to apologise for publishing
unapproved pamphlets. By December 1718 they were warning him of disownment as
he had retracted his apology and published a further paper on the subject.
For John Farmer the fight to stop
Quakers owning slaves wasn’t the first time he had made a challenge against the
status quo. Back in Saffron Walden in
1701 he had infuriated the local mayor and church-wardens for refusing to pay a
combined tax for repairs to the church (which Farmer scathingly called a
steeple-house) and poor relief. He was only prepared to pay for the portion
relating to relief of the poor, and not for church maintenance, arguing he
shouldn’t pay for a roof he didn’t worship under. He wrote letters and
published pamphlets explaining why Quakers should not pay tithes and was so
dogged in his protest that eventually the mayor gave in and accepted a reduced
people of Saffron Walden did inlarge ye poor tax On purpose yt
there might bee thereby mony enough gathered for ye poor & for to repair ye
steeple- house. Thus they put church tax
& poor tax together & called it a rate for ye relief of ye
poor. I was told yt
heretofore ye church wardens of saffron walden had caused a friend
to be excommunicated & imprisoned till death for refusing to pay to their
worship house. Thus they put ye
parrish to charge & their honist neighbour to prison without profit to
themselves. Which troubled the people
& therefore they go no more… When
they demanded ye said tax of mee I could not pay it all because I
know some of it as for their worship house.
I offered to pay my part to ye poor: But ye
overseer would not take it: excypt I would pay ye whole tax.[iv]
In April 1717 Farmer presented
the Nantucket meeting with his pamphlet ‘Epistle
Concerning Negroes’ deriding the Quakers for owning slaves, and it was
received with satisfaction. Unfortunately
the pamphlet has not survived, as far as we know. Obviously emboldened by the
reception he had received in Nantucket, and with his customary fervour, in 1717
John Farmer requested a meeting of Elders and Ministers at the June Yearly
meeting in Newport Rhode Island which took place on 4th June 1717 and
there he presented them with two documents, one his ‘Epistle Concerning Negroes’, the other his criticism of ‘Casting Lotts’ (gambling) and his
opinions were not well received by the audience there. They felt he was
undermining unity and stirring up division which was unacceptable. As a result
Farmer was disciplined for refusing to surrender his pamphlets and continuing
to campaign. Records from the time report twenty Friends laboured with him overnight
to encourage him to set aside his views.
But he would not and the following morning they refused him access to
meetings until he was prepared to back down which he never did. [v]
Minutes of the 1717 Newport
Yearly meeting quietly record their decision on the subject of importing and
keeping slaves as being to “wait for the
wisdom of God how to discharge themselves in that weighty affair” but also
that merchants should write to their “correspondents
in the Islands to discourage them from sending anymore.” They would review
it again at the 1718 meeting. That was
as far as they were prepared to go.[vi]
The Friends of Philadelphia found
it necessary to take subsequent action in the matter because John Farmer was
undeterred and continued to disturb meetings, shouting over ministers and
making a general nuisance of himself. He appealed to the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
in July 1718, but the Yearly Meeting felt no good would come from listening to
his complaints, and that he could not be received in unity until he had
accepted his writings were unacceptable. When he refused to condemn his own
work he was disowned. This seemingly harsh action by the Philadelphia Quakers appears
to have been a matter of some embarrassment for years to come. John Farmer had been intemperate in his
language, and impatient for change to be hurried through, but to the gentle
Quakers he employed what was later described witheringly as “Indiscreet Zeal” in the Biographical Sketch published in the
journal The Friend of 1855[vii].
The editor and author John Richardson says that
“his actions might have been suffered to have slept in oblivion if it
were not that Friends of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting have been charged several
times with silencing him, because of his testimony against slavery’. “
Presumably being disowned meant
John Farmer lost access to the network of contacts he normally used to help him
travel. He remained in America, perhaps
too poor, or too ashamed to return to England or perhaps because he was
determined to keep fighting for the anti-slavery cause. The Friend Journal ponders how he may have had more success.
“John Farmer may have rightly, as well as forcibly pled the cause of the slave. If, after doing this, he had left the matter to the great Head of the Church, and whilst proclaiming his truth had endeavoured to cultivate in himself love and good will to those who differed from him, he … would have done more towards advancing the cause dear to his heart than could have been effected by denunciation or irritating language.”[viii]
Farmer is recorded as being
located in and around Philadelphia for the remainder of his life, holding small
meetings of like-minded friends whenever he could and presumably continuing in
his trade as a wool comber. He died in
Germantown near Philadelphia in late 1724 or early 1725 at the age of about 57,
having never made it back home to his family. In his will, written in August
1724, he left all his British possessions to his wife Mary, and his American
possessions to his daughter Ann. He left
instructions to the executors that they put:
“no new linen on my dead body, but my worst shirt on it, and my worst
handkerchief on ye head and ye worst drawers or briches on ye body and ye worst
stockings on ye legs & feet. And invite my neighbours to com to my house
& there thirst in moderation with a Barrel of Sider & two gallons of
Rum or other spirit.”[ix]
John Farmer may have been an old
sober-sides, but he made sure he got a decent send off. Probate on the will was granted 11th
Thus the story of John Farmer the
Essex Quaker in America, comes to an end.
But in my last post we will look at the extraordinary women in John
Farmer’s life, his daughter Ann, step daughter Mary Fulbigg and especially his wife
Mary Farmer all had a role to play in the wider story of this man and their
stories also deserve to be told.
[i] Letter John Farmer to Mary Farmer dated Virginia
1706. Essex Record Office Cat D/NF 3
addl. A13685 Box 51
See my previous post An Essex Quaker in the Caribbean for more information.
Quoted in Drake, T.E., Quakers & Slavery in America, Oxford University
Press, London 1950 p. 28
[iv] John Farmer Journal, Essex Record Office A13685, Box
[v] New England Yearly Meeting: Committees:
Ministry: Minsters and Elders, 1707-1797. New England Yearly Meeting of Friends
Records (MS 902). Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst
[vi] New England Yearly Meeting: Administrative
Minutes, 1672-1735. New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Records (MS 902).
Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries
In the run up to ERO’s trip to Boston, we take a look at the life of Thomas Hooker, Chelmsford’s town lecturer who went on to become one of America’s founding fathers.
Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) spent the years c.1625-1631 in Chelmsford as the town’s lecturer, drawing large crowds to his sermons. In 1633, along with his wife and children, he made the perilous voyage from England to New England. He went on to become one of the most important men in the new world and is well known in America today, as a co-founder of the state of Connecticut, and the ‘Father of American democracy’, yet he is little known in the country of his birth.
Hooker was born in Leicestershire and studied at Cambridge, as part of a circle including several future Puritans. Puritans were extreme Protestants who were unhappy with what they saw as Catholic elements in the structure and style of worship in the Church of England.
In about 1625 Hooker and his wife Susannah moved with their young family (at least one daughter, Joanna, and possibly their second daughter Mary) to Chelmsford, where Hooker had been appointed as town lecturer. The couple had four more children while living in Chelmsford, two of whom died in infancy and whose baptisms and burials are recorded in the local parish registers. The family lived at Cuckoos in Little Baddow just outside Chelmsford, a farmhouse which is still standing today.
‘Ann the daughter of Thomas Hooker and Susan his wyff was baptised’, January 1626, Great Baddow (D/P 65/1/1, image 28)
Burial record for ‘Ann the daughter of Mr Thomas Hooker of Baddow Minister and of Susan his wife’ from the Chelmsford parish register, 23 May 1626 (D/P 94/1/2, image 90). She would have been about 5 months old.
Baptism of Sarah Hooker, 9 April 1628, Chelmsford (D/P 94/1/2, image 95)
Burial of Sarah Hooker, 26 August 1629, Chelmsford (D/P 94/1/2, image 99). She would have been about 16 months old.
Cuckoos farm house, Little Baddow, home to the Hooker family during their time in Chelmsford (Photo: Peter Kirk)
Hooker’s duties in Chelmsford included two lectures a week, which people came from miles around to hear, including from the great families of Essex such as the Earl of Warwick who had a house in Great Waltham, near Chelmsford. Many of the people who came to listen to Hooker also made the journey to New England themselves, meeting him there again, becoming known as ‘Mr Hooker’s Company’.
Hooker spoke against some of the doctrines of the Church of England and the way it was organised, believing it was too close to Roman Catholicism.
Puritans did not seek just reform within the church, but also moral reform within society. The Chelmsford in which Hooker lived had a population of about 1,000, and more than its fair share of ale houses. Drunkenness was a particular focus of the Puritans. According to Magnalia Christi Americana: or, the Ecclesiastical History of New England (published in 1820 in Hartford, Connecticut):
‘there was more profaneness than devotion in the town and the multitude of inns and shops… produced one particular disorder, of people filling the streets with unseasonable behaviour after the public services of the Lord’s Day were over. But by the power of his [Hooker’s] ministry in public, and by the prudence of his carriage in private, he quickly cleared the streets of this disorder, and the Sabbath came to be very visibly sanctified among the people.’
Since this was written some 200 years later in the state where Hooker became a hero this needs to be treated with some caution, but gives an insight into views on Hooker over the centuries.
Bishop Laud and Hooker’s flight to Holland
William Laud, Bishop of London from 1628 and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633
During Hooker’s time in Chelmsford, in July 1628 William Laud was appointed Bishop of London (he would go on to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633). Essex was still part of the Diocese of London, and Laud set about weeding out Puritan clergy.
Hooker’s reputation was spread and he was widely known to attract large crowds to his Puritan sermons. Hooker was called before the Court of High Commission in London and dismissed from his Chelmsford job. Withdrew to Little Baddow and set up a school in his house, but did still preach at St Mary’s in Chelmsford, despite the ban.
He was called before the Court of High Commission again, but fled to Holland in spring 1631. Susannah and the children were taken in by the Earl of Warwick in Great Waltham.
Before he left he preached a farewell sermon to the congregation at Chelmsford, which was printed in 1641 as The Danger of Desertion: Or A Farewell Sermon of Mr Thomas Hooker, Sometimes Minister of Gods Word at Chainsford in Essex; but now of New England. Preached immediately before his departure out of Old England. He had a warning for his listeners: “Shall I tell you what God told me? Nay, I must tell you on pain of my life. God has told me this night that he will destroy England.”
After two years of separation, Thomas Susannah and their four surviving children set sail for New England on 10 July 1633 on the Griffin.
About 200 passengers were on board, including other influential men who would play their part in shaping the new world. The voyage was part of what became known as the Great Migration of 1629-40, during which about 20,000 people left England for America, mostly to seek freedom to practice their religion.
The Hookers first went to Newtown (now Cambridge) just outside Boston, where they were joined by several people described as ‘Mr Hooker’s Company’, whom they had known in Essex. Hooker was ordained as the pastor of the congregation on 11 October 1633. In 1636 the decision was made to move again and establish another Newtown (which was to become Hartford) in the Connecticut river valley.
As the English colonies proliferated (despite the presence of Native Americans and Dutch and French settlers) questions of government were under constant discussion, and Thomas Hooker played an active part.
A sermon by Hooker in which he declared that “The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people” is widely credited as the inspiration behind the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut of January 1639, which in turn is seen as an important precursor to the current US Constitution.
Thomas Hooker died on 7 July 1647, 14 years after his arrival in New England. John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts and leader of the Winthrop Fleet which had sailed over in 1630, wrote after Hooker’s death that:
‘Mr Hooker who for piety, prudence, wisdom, zeal, learning, and what else might make him serviceable – might be compared with men of the greatest note – and he shall need no other praise.’
Plaque commemorating Thomas Hooker’s life in Chelmsford, on entrance alleyway to Chelmsford Cathedral
If you would like to know more about Thomas Hooker, Deryck Collingwood’s very detailed study Father of American Democracy: Thomas Hooker, 1586-1647 is available in the ERO library. You could also see Hubert Ray Pellman’s thesis Thomas Hooker: A Study in Puritan Ideals, which is catalogued as T/Z 561/35/1.
For an introduction to the Essex contribution to the early days of America, try John Smith’s Pilgrims and Adventurers: Essex (England) and the making of the United States of America, which is available in the ERO library, and also available to purchase from the Searchroom or by calling 033301 32500.
On Easter weekend we thought we would share these photographs of a children’s tea party held in Lindsell, a small village between Great Dunmow and Thaxted, at Easter 1944.
The party was hosted by members of the 9th US Air Force stationed at Wethersfield, and the guests were a mixture of local children and orphaned or evacuated children who were living at New Barn, one of the War Nurseries established by Anna Freud.
The US airmen provided treats such as tinned fruit that would, of course, have been a rarity in the war years, and took the children for a ride in one of their trucks.
These are just a few photographs from the collection, catalogued as A12844, which is available to order up to view in the ERO Searchroom. If anyone has any further information relating to the tea party shown in the photographs we would really like to hear from you; please get in touch on 033301 32500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to find out more about Essex during the Second World War, join us on Saturday 9 March for Dark Days and Dark Thoughts: Morale in Wartime Essex, 1940-41, the launch of Paul Rusiecki’s new book, Under Fire: Essex at the Second World War. Full details can be found on our events page.
Images copyright PLAN International, used with their kind permission.
In this guest blog post, Denwood Holmes writes for us from Bangkok about his research in the Essex archives…
Greetings from Bangkok, where I hope I have the distinction of being among the ERO’s more far-flung correspondents.
As an Ottoman art historian-turned-PR consultant, genealogy has been a means to maintain my interest in archival research while languishing in the private sector. Tracing my American patrilineal ancestry started out easy: most colonial New England descents are fairly well documented, and armed with the name of a great-great grandfather, two articles on the descendants of John Holmes, gentleman, Messenger of the Plymouth Colony Court by distinguished genealogist (and cousin) Eugene Stratton quickly took me back twelve generations. The original Mr. Holmes was by all accounts something of a rogue, frequently cited for drunkenness, and the executioner of Thomas Granger, the first person hanged in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, for unlawful congress with animals.
After that the going got tougher. American genealogists have historically been content to end their research with arrival in the New World (why ever would we go further?), but to do with my teenage years spent in the UK, and inspired partly by David Hackett Fischer’s book Albion’s Seed, I became determined to the trace the Great Leap across the pond.
It wasn’t entirely tabula rasa: George Mackenzie, in his Colonial Families (1925) cites a Thomas Holmes of Colchester as John’s father, but without further reference. Thomas’ will, dated 1637, is preserved in ERO (D/ACW 12/225): gentleman alias maltster alias gaoler of Colchester Castle, he leaves “five pounds, my corslet, my pike, and all my armour” to his son John.
Will of Thomas Holmes of Colchester, 1637 (D/ACW 12/225)
Thomas left corslet, pike and armour to his son John (D/ACW 12/225)
The will also mentions a daughter, Susan Mor(e)ton, the widow of Tobias Moreton, gent., of Little Moreton Hall, a half-timbered manor house which still stands in Cheshire. Susan’s will, unearthed by chance in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, confirms Mackenzie’s assertion: she mentions her nephews (John’s sons) Thomas (who remained in Colchester), John, and Nathaniel, my great x8 grandfather.
Extract from Thomas Holmes’s will mentioning his daughter, Susan Morton (D/ACW 12/225)
Along with a number of noted Colchester Puritans, the will is witnessed by George Gilberd, esquire, brother of William Gilberd/t, physician to Elizabeth I.
Signatures of witnesses to Thomas Holmes’s will (D/ACW 12/225)
Thomas Holmes’s signature at the end of his will (D/ACW 12/225)
The Holmes family – clearly middling Puritan parish gentry – were not native to Colchester: according to the Red Parchment Book of Colchester, Thomas’ grandfather Thomas, draper, was sworn a burgess in 1543, and is described as being of Ramsden Bellhouse. There the trail dwindles. The ERO will of Thomas Holme of Ramsden Bellhouse of 1514 mentions a brother, John, a tailor, but little more. Finally, in the Feet of Fines for Essex, we find the last signpost to date:
“Hilary and Easter, 14 Henry VII (1499); William Holme, Humphrey Tyrell, esquire, Thomas Intilsham, “gentilman”, William Howard, clerk, William Bekshyll and William Rede, plaintiffs. John Choppyn and Joan his wife, daughter and one of the heirs of John Dawe, deceased, defendants. A third part of a moiety of 1 messuage, 60 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 30 acres of pasture and 10 acres of wood in Ramesdon Belhous, Dounham, Wykford, Ronwell, and Suthhanyfeld. Defendant quitclaimed to plaintiffs and the heirs of William Holme. Consideration 40 marks.”
Certain prosopographical observations can be made here. Humphrey Tyrell of Warley was a younger son of the Tyrells of Heron, probably a nephew of the Sir James executed for the murder of the Princes in the Tower. Howard was his clerk. Hintlesham was an MP for Maldon, and Rede was probably the nephew and heir of Sir Bartholomew Rede, Mayor of London. All were in the circle of John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford. The identity of William Holme remains a mystery; there are two or three of the name active in London at around the same time, all probably in the cloth trade. Here the trail ends, for the time being: any thoughts or suggestions on the part of the ERO community as to how to proceed are much appreciated; I can be reached at Denwood_Holmes@yahoo.com.
I conclude with a special thanks to Allyson Lewis, Katharine Schofield, and all of the staff at ERO for their help and support which regularly goes above and beyond the call of duty, extending unto providing me with pencil-rubbings of seals by mail here in Bangkok; having worked in archives from London to Damascus I say unequivocally that ERO is lucky to have you.
ERO Archivist Katharine Schofield and Public Service Team Manager Neil Wiffen eagerly anticipating opening the package!
We thought we’d provide a little photo story of the unboxing. I think the pictures below will give you some idea of the lengths people go to to transport the documents they want to deposit with us. Documents arrive with us in all sorts of forms and conditions and it is always exciting to unwrap them for the first time. As always, stay tuned for more details about this new document!
Don’t worry, Neil is a fully trained knife wielder.
Hey Presto! One new Copyhold Deed for the Essex Record Office Collection.
Whether you are interested in using manorial records in your own research, or just want to enjoy hearing experts talk about them, join us for Essex through the ages: tracing the past using manorial records on Saturday 12 July 2014 to find out how you can discover centuries of Essex life using these fascinating documents. There are more details, including how to book,here.