The roaring ’20s in Broomfield

Last August we shared some photographs of a stylish society wedding which took place at Hylands House in August 1920, when the daughter of the household, Phyllis Gooch, married Frank Parrish. Their wedding photographs, taken by local photographer Fred Spalding, are high unusual for the time. At this time wedding photographs, when they were taken at all, usually consist of perhaps just one or two images, of the bride and groom leaving the church and a posed family portrait. The cameras and tripods of the time were cumbersome and heavy, and images were made on glass negatives which required long exposures. Phyllis and Frank’s wedding photographs are candid shots of the couple, and their guests enjoying cake and champagne in the gardens at Hylands.

We have come across further evidence of Spalding’s boldly experimental approach to wedding photography, at another highly stylish occasion, this time from 1925.

On first sight of the photographs we did not know who the bride and groom were, or where the wedding took place.

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Our mystery bride and groom, newly married.

It was this photograph which provided the first clue. The church has a round tower, and since there are not many of those in Essex we were able to quickly narrow down the location of the wedding. Comparison with modern photos confirmed that this is Broomfield church, just north of Chelmsford.

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The wedding car – a 1920 Renault De Luxe

Now we had a location, we turned to the British Newspaper Archive online (if you haven’t used this site yet do take a look, it’s a brilliant resource and you can access it for free at ERO or in Essex Libraries).

After a bit of searching in the Essex papers for the 1920s a likely-looking candidate for our mystery couple emerged – Joan Eileen Walker Hodges and Wilfred Sutton Page, who married in Broomfield church in June 1925. Most weddings at the time were reported with a short notice, but this one was treated by the Chelmsford Chronicle to a couple of paragraphs under the heading ‘Interesting Weddings’.

20-year-old Joan was the daughter of Major Charles Hodges and his wife Louise, who lived at Broomwood Manor in Chignall St James. Wilfred Page was 25, an engineer who hailed from Great Horkesley.

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‘The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a handsome dress of ivory georgette, embroidered with crystals and silver, with embroidered veil and pink orange blossoms; her bouquet was of white and pink carnations.’ – Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925

Joan was accompanied by three bridesmaids, ‘the Misses Joy Owen, Jean Page, and Nellie Libbis’.

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‘The chief bridesmaid wore mauve georgette, with crinoline hat to match, gold shoes and stockings, and the children pale pink georgette, with gold lace caps; their ornaments were gold and enamel pendants, and they carried mauve and pink sweet peas.’ – Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925

The reception was held at the Hodge family home, Broomwood in Chignall St James. In a similar manner to his photographs of Phyllis Gooch and Frank Parrish’s wedding at Hylands in 1920, Spalding captured the couple and guests in informal poses, mingling, eating and drinking.

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The couple enjoy a glass of champagne

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Wilfred drives Joan away in his Morris Cowley, registration PU 1239. Suitcases and a petrol can are strapped to the running boards.

‘…the newly-married couple left for a motoring honeymoon in Devonshire, the bride’s going away dress being of red and white crepe de chine, with red hat and white sports coat.’ (Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925)

We hope that the drive down to Devonshire was not too uncomfortable.

You can explore more of the Spalding collection for yourself in our Searchroom, or in our book, The World of Fred Spalding: Photographs of Essex 1860-1940 by Stan Jarvis, copies of which are available to purchase from the ERO for £7.95 by calling 033301 32500.

1920s glamour at Hylands House

With the sounds of last weekend’s V Festival fading away, peace is returning to Hylands House in Widford, on the south-western edge of Chelmsford.

Today Hylands is also a popular wedding venue, and a reminder of just what a stunning location it is for such a celebration can be found in these photographs from nearly 100 years ago.

The wedding they show took place on 3rd August 1920, celebrating the marriage of Phyllis Gooch and Frank Parrish. Phyllis was the eldest daughter of Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch, who owned Hylands at the time. Taking place shortly after the end of the First World War this spectacular wedding, on what looks like a bright and sunny summer day, must have been a breath of fresh air as the country emerged from the privations of total war. Hylands itself had been used as a military hospital during the war, with the Gooch family assisting in its running.

The marriage ceremony took place at St Mary’s Church, Widford, which sits on the edge of the Hylands estate, so the bride would not have had far to travel. Phyllis was aged 20, and in the announcement of her engagement on 4 June 1920 in the Essex Chronicle as having ‘a charming vivacity, and during the war, with her parents, devoted a good deal of time for the benefit of those serving in the Forces.’

Her new husband Frank was aged 23. He was described as being ‘late 60th Rifles’, and his best man, Captain Alan Goodson, was also a military man. In the engagement announcement, Frank was described as:

The bridegroom-elect is a typical example of the young English manhood that sprang to the call to arms. Educated privately, he left school at the early age of 17 and joined the Inns of Court O.T.C. [Officer Training Corps] He quickly gained his commission and entered Sir Herbert Raphael’s battalion of the K.R.R.C. [King’s Royal Rifle Corps – Raphael’s battalion was set up at Gidea Park and was known as the Artists’ Rifles] On receiving his second star in 1916 he went to France, and in a daring raid on some German trenches he was taken prisoner. For nearly three years he was a prisoner of war, and was then among the fortunate ones who were kept in Holland, instead of being interned in Germany.

The photographs below were taken by our favourite local photographer, Fred Spalding. Not only are these photographs fascinating windows to the past, they are an extremely rare example of candid photography. Wedding photographs at this time, where they were taken, usually consist of perhaps one or two images, of the bride and goom leaving the church and a posed family portrait. The cameras of the time were cumbersome and heavy, and used glass plates covered in light-reactive chemicals to capture an image. They would usually have been used with a tripod, and required a long exposure to capture enough light to produce an image.

This is what makes the images below so unusual – candid, unposed photographs of wedding guests mingling, chatting, drinking champagne and eating wedding cake. These kind of shots would have been extremely challenging to take successfully, and Spalding must have pulled out all the stops to produce them. (There are a few exposures which went wrong, but we’ll forgive him for that.)

We think that Spalding may have used a camera such as a Graflex, which had a large. These kind of photographs would still have been challenging to take, but possible. Graflex manufactured the Speed Graphic camera, which was the press camera of choice for journalists in the first half of the 20th century.

Using the Chelmsford Chronicle description of the wedding from 6 August 1920 we can add some extra details to these stylish images:

The church had been beautifully decorated with graceful palms, lovely ferns, remarkably fine white hydrangeas, lilies etc., by Mr W. Heath, head gardener at hylands. There was a crowded congregation, which included friends of the family, the tenants of the estate, and village folk.

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A flag-bedecked and carpeted awning stretched from the roadway to the church door. The arrival of the guests was witnessed by a large concourse, and the whole village appeared to have donned their best for the occasion, the bride and her parents being very popular in the village.

 

The bride, who entered the church holding the arm of her father, looked radiant and very pretty. She was charmingly attired in white charmeuse with Brussels lace train, and carried a choice bouquet of orchids, carnations, and lily of the valley. Her train-bearer was her young sister, Daphne Gooch, who presented a delightful picture, dressed in pink georgette over maize colour, with tulle cap daintily wreathed with small roses.

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At the close of the service the organised played Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” and as the happy couple left the church the ringers rang a merry peal on the sweet-toned bells of the church.

 

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The bridesmaids were miss Cecile Eykyn and Miss margery Madge, who wore very becoming costume sof blue crepe-de-chine and picturesque gold mesh turbans; they also carried beautiful bouquets of pink carnations.

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‘Following the ceremony a reception was held at Hylands by Sir Daniel and Lady Gooch.’ – Phyllis greets her guests

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Guests on a lawn at Hylands, attended by a uniformed butler. Note the uniform wearing of coats despite the fact it was 3rd August.

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The bride and groom and guests, with elaborate wedding cake and staff serving drinks.

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The groom playfully places his top hat on one of the bridesmaid’s heads while the rest of the wedding party look on. The bestman, Captain Alan Goodson, had seved with the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War.

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‘Later Mr and Mrs Frank W. Parrish left for the honeymoon amid the hearty good wishes of the assembled guests.’ The couple left in a cream Crossley tourer, which was a wedding gift from the groom’s parents.

The wedding may well have had a bitterweet feel to it. Five years before their daughter’s wedding at St Mary’s Church, the Gooch family had buried their eldest son, Lancelot, there. He had died of influenza in Malta while serving with the Navy. Having lost his heir, Sir Daniel put the Hylands estate up for sale only a month after the wedding.

You can find out more about the techniques of early photography at our Heritage Open Day on Saturday 10 September 2016 – a celebration of creativity in the archives. Find out more here.

A Romantic Essex War Wedding

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

Recently, I was scouring the wonderful British Newspaper Archive and, as so often happens when one has such a treasure trove of stories to explore, I got sidetracked.

Searching for Essex soldiers who were killed at the Battle of the Somme, my search results included this small piece, titled ‘Romantic Essex War Wedding’ from the Chelmsford Chronicle on 16 February 1917:

A romantic wedding has just taken place at Epping, the contracting parties being Miss Clara Elizabeth Potter, late a cashier in a Bishop Stortford house of business, whose home is at Roydon, and Driver Chas. T. Kydd, R.F.A., of Belfast. The bride-groom joined Kitchener’s Army and went to France in June, 1915. He became friendly with a Roydon soldier, and together they fought side by side at Loos, Armentieres, and on the Somme. Miss Potter, as a Roydon girl, commenced sending parcels to the Roydon soldier, which he shared with his Belfast friend. Driver Kydd wrote a letter of thanks, and a correspondence was started, with the result that, although they had never seen each other, a marriage was arranged to take place as soon as the soldier got his first home leave. This has just happened, and Miss Potter met her unseen fiancé at Liverpool Street station, and the banns having been already published, they were married two days later. The little village romance has aroused much interest in the Roydon district, where the bride and her people are well known.

I would argue that it is impossible to read something like that and not want to know more.

Nothing further was to be had from the newspapers, so I headed to Freebmd.org.uk to find the marriage, thinking it would be easy to find. On entering the names ‘Charles Kydd’ and ‘Clara Potter’ getting married in 1917, however, the site drew a blank. No results. Perhaps the story was a myth or a misunderstanding after all, and an expectant Clara never waited for Charles at Liverpool Street station, full of anxious excitement.

Knowing, however, that often records are not as straightforward as they should in theory be I was undeterred, and tried various searches until I found a potential match – a Charles T. Kydd marrying a Clara E. Benham in Epping in 1917. Everything was right except for the bride’s last name.

A bit more digging on Ancestry.com later, and I had an explanation. Clara was born in 1884, and her mother, Rosa Elizabeth Benham, was unmarried. In 1888 Rosa married Jonathan Potter, and from that point Clara appears in some records as Potter and others as Benham. Another lesson, so frequently learned in genealogy, that names are not always as straightforward as we might imagine.

In the last census before her marriage, in 1911, Clara was boarding at a house in Bishop’s Stortford, and working as a book-keeper at a butchers, which fits well with the description of her in the newspaper article.

Having untangled the essentials of Clara’s story, it was time to tackle Charles’s. By a stroke of good fortune, his army service record has survived, although it is one of the shorter ones. Charles Thomas Kydd was born in Belfast in about 1884. He joined the Royal Field Artillery in late August 1914, aged 28. His attestation papers describe him as being 5’5” tall, with a dark complexion, blue eyes, and dark brown hair. He had been working previously as a labourer. His next of kin was his brother, Sgt James Kydd, of the Royal Irish Constabulary in Longford. He was sent to France on 1 June 1915. He spent a few spells in hospital during his military service, the last of which was in April-May 1918 after being gassed. He was awarded the three First World War service records, the 1915 Star, Victory Medal and British War Medal, known as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’.

Charles and Clara moved to London after the war. Electoral registers tell us that in 1924 they were living in Camberwell, and between 1927 and 1930 they were in Norwood, Lambeth. A potential death record for Clara would mean that she died in 1943, aged 59, but after that the trail goes cold.

It has been satisfying to uncover this much of their story so far, but I am still left with unanswered questions – the kind of questions that civil registration and census records can’t answer. What did Charles and Clara think of each other when they met for the first time, two days before their wedding? Was their marriage a happy one? What was Charles’s experience of the First World War like? Do their love letters survive somewhere?

Are there any relatives or friends out there who knew Clara and Charles who are able to fill in any of the blanks left by the official record? If so, I’d love to hear from you – do please leave a comment below or e-mail us on ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk

If you have a story of your own that you would like to trace, we have a guide on family history and one on researching First World War servicemen. You can use the British Newspaper Archive and Ancestry.com for free in the ERO Searchroom or at your local Essex library.