Document of the Month, August 2014: Prince of Wales’ National Relief Fund, Colchester Branch, minutes

Each month a document is put on display in our Searchroom. Our document for July has been chosen by Archivist Katharine Schofield to look at first responses in Essex to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.

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The Great War began on 4 August 1914, one hundred years ago this month.  On the eve of war, the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey reportedly said, ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life time’.  On 4 August Germany invaded Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan to capture Paris quickly by attacking through neutral countries.  As one of the guarantors of Belgian neutrality under the Treaty of London in 1839, Britain declared war on Germany.

The most pressing need was to bring the army up to strength, and the Reserves were called up immediately, often causing hardship to their families who were dependent on their wages.  As representatives of a garrison town the governing body of Colchester were particularly aware of the possible difficulties and on 5 August set up a committee ‘to consider what steps can be taken for alleviating the distress likely to be felt by the wives and families of men called on Active Service and of those losing their regular employment owing to dislocation of trade’.

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One of the Committee’s resolutions at their first meeting on 5 August, the day after war was declared, was to ask the Mayor to issue a handbill asking people not to panic buy

On 7 August the Prince of Wales appealed in The Times for money to establish a national fund to relieve distress among the families of reservists.  By midnight £250,000 had been raised and within a week £1 million.  On 10 August Colchester voted to make their committee the Colchester Branch of the National Relief Fund.

The minutes for 10 August record offers of help from local residents.  These ranged from making clothes, the services of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, to nursing by the local Convent and a number of ladies, including of German soldiers if required.  Mrs Francis offered to establish a ward in a large room off Maldon Road, the local MP placed at the disposal of the Committee 200 duck, and a list of workmen discharged ‘on account of slackness of trade’ was to be compiled.

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Offers of help from residents in Colchester received by 10 August 1914, including the services of the 4th Colchester Boy Scouts and the 2nd Colchester Girl Guides

The minute book will be on display in the Searchroom throughout August.

If you would like to find out more about First World War records at ERO, join us at our next Discover: First World War records at ERO workshop on 6 August 2014. This workshop talks you through some of the fascinating wartime records that we hold here, and also looks at how to research names on local war memorials, or to trace your First World War Ancestors. Tickets are £10 and can be booked by telephoning 01245 244644.


Greetings from Bangkok

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.

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Will of Thomas Holmes of Colchester, 1637 (D/ACW 12/225)


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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.

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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.

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Signatures of witnesses to Thomas Holmes’s will (D/ACW 12/225)

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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

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.

You Are Hear: project update

Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, Project Officer for You Are Hear, writes for us about one unexpected aspect of her recent work…

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An unanticipated result of the development work for our Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place, has been the number of new accessions it has prompted to flow into the repository of the Essex Sound and Video Archive.

I have spent most of the last four months investigating the copyright status of our collections, to establish which we will be able to use for our project. As I sort through the paperwork and get in touch with depositors of five, ten, or twenty years ago, this has served as a reminder of our existence. We have received recordings from people who have been busy creating new material since their last deposits, for example additional videos about Ongar from David Welford (Accession Number SA715 to add to five earlier deposits) and a new batch of oral history interviews from the Ongar Millennium History Society (Accession Numbers SA712 and SA713). Artists have given us final versions of earlier recordings, for example a fully printed and slightly amended CD from the Arts Action East and Arts in Essex African Lullaby Project, created by Julia Usher and Anna Mudeka to capture and create lullabies used by mothers in Essex from a range of cultural backgrounds (original Accession Number SA592).

African Lullaby Project

Having recently visited the tea rooms and museum at Wilkin and Sons jam factory in Tiptree, I was particularly interested in an interview with John S Wilkin, then Director of the company and grandson of the founder, recorded in 1986, shortly after the company’s centenary. We had received a copy of a similar interview in 1993, but unfortunately it was of such poor quality that it was not worth keeping. Thanks to Mr Wilkin’s widow, we now have a replacement. In an interview for Radio Colchester, Mr Wilkin explains the story behind the foundation of the company, its gradual growth, and the different stages of production. Although at the time of the interview they were in the height of strawberry season, they had abandoned the strawberries in order to complete an ‘urgent’ order of peach jam for Germany. Let nothing stand between a man and his condiment of choice.

What piece of Essex heritage will come through our doors next?

(Please note that these new recordings cannot be accessed by researchers until access copies have been created. To express an interest in hearing these recordings, please contact us on

When Essex won the World Cup

Did you know that England’s only triumph in the World Cup was actually powered by Essex? Four members of the team that triumphed in 1966, and their manager, were born in or had close connections with Essex.

Bobby Moore, the iconic captain of the team and central defender, was born in Barking in 1941 (below). Interestingly Chelsea was one of his middle names, although he played most of his career for West Ham United, making 544 appearances for the club, before moving to Fulham in 1974 and then finishing his playing career in the USA.  He later managed Southend United from 1984-1986.

Baptism of Bobby Moore (D/P 81/1/57)

Bobby Moore’s baptism record (D/P 81/1/57)

Martin Peters was born in Plaistow.  He too played for West Ham United before moving to Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich and Sheffield United.  While at West Ham he played in every position on the team, including goalkeeper.  He played in midfield and was a free kick specialist.

Jimmy Greaves was born in Manor Park, East Ham. He began his career at Chelsea before moving to AC Milan for a short spell in 1961.  He returned to join Tottenham Hotspur and won the FA Cup in 1972 and European Cup Winners Cup in 1973. Greaves later played for Chelmsford City in 1976-1977 after he had retired from top flight football.  During the 1966 campaign, Greaves was injured in a group match and his place in the final was taken by Geoff Hurst.

Geoff Hurst, scorer of the winning goal, moved to Chelmsford when he was 6 and also played for West Ham United.  His father, Charlie Hurst, was a professional footballer who played for Bristol Rovers, Oldham Athletic and Rochdale.  He married in Chelmsford Cathedral in 1962.

Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst both played cricket for Essex in the county youth team, while Hurst went on to make one 1st XI appearance for Essex against Lancashire in 1962 and play regularly in the 2nd XI as wicketkeeper between 1962 and 1964 when he left to concentrate on football.

Alf Ramsey's baptism record (D/P 69/1/18)

Alf Ramsey’s baptism record (D/P 69/1/18)

The England Manager, Alf Ramsey, was born in Dagenham in 1920 (above).  He was a talented youth player and played for his regiment during the Second World War before joining Southampton FC and then moving to Tottenham Hotspur. He retired as a player in 1955 and went into management managing Ipswich Town from 1955 until 1963 when he was offered the England job. On his appointment as England manager he predicted that England would win the next World Cup.  Ramsey was the first England manager to have control over team selections and he instituted a strict regime of control over the players on and off the field.  As a player his tactical awareness had earned him the nickname The General and he brought this tactical astuteness to the England team.  He was sacked in 1974 after failing to take England to qualification for the 1974 World Cup.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

Wading into a Polystyrene Sea

After our recent posts on how to run a manorwhat a manor was, and the records produced by manorial courts today we had an exciting package which arrived from Professor Lawrence Poos all the way from America. It’s another manorial document for our collection! You can find out more about manorial records and how you can use them in your own research from Professor Poos and others at Essex through the ages: tracing the past using manorial records on Saturday 12 July 2014.


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.





Nearly there!


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Hey Presto! One new Copyhold Deed for the Essex Record Office Collection.

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.

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)