Cleaning tracing paper

This tracing paper plan is being conserved at the Essex Record Office as part of the Chancellor Project. This is a project to clean, repair, repackage and catalogue the 10,000 or so plans we hold from the office of Fred Chancellor, a prolific Victorian architect.

The plans are beautifully produced, and many of them are highly coloured. Chancellor is credited with over 700 works, about 530 of which are in Essex. He worked on all types of buildings – from farm buildings and private houses to schools, hospitals and other large public buildings – and in several different styles.

The collection includes plans in several different formats on different types of material. Most of the plans are on paper, but a good proportion are also on tracing paper. A smaller number are on tracing cloth, and there are also a few blueprints.
Of these, the tracing paper plans are the most fragile and require the most repair. This video shows one of ERO’s professional conservators cleaning one of these tracing paper plans, which will then be repaired while still wet, and then dried.
The Chancellor Project is mainly staffed by volunteers, who are kindly giving up their time to painstakingly clean the paper plans. So far, about 1,500 plans have been cleaned, repaired and repackaged.

The project will take several years to complete, and more and more plans will become accessible over the next few years as progress is made. Plans that have already been cleaned and catalogued include Chelmsford Workhouse, later St John’s Hospital, Ingatestone Rectory, and several churches.

The project has been made possible by grants from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and Essex Heritage Trust, which have been used to purchase the materials needed.

Where there’s a will: Margaret Lathum of Upminster, 1668

To continue to mark the upload of digital images of a further 22,500 wills to our Essex Ancestors online subscription service (more on this here), here is a brilliant example of the kind of detail wills can give us about life in the past…

We have mentioned previously in this series that some bequests in wills can seem strange to our  modern eyes.  More examples can be found in the will of Margaret Lathum of Upminster whose will is dated 25 February 1667/8 (D/AEW 24/110).  This must have been left until close to her death as it does not begin with the usual sentence In the name of God Amen but rather by listing her next of kin and the possessions she wished to give them.  A will of this type is known as a nuncupative will or an oral will and would have been written down as soon as possible.

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Will of Margaret Lathum. She begins by leaving her son Peter ‘a heave [hive] of bees’ (D/AEW 24/110)

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Will of Margaret Lathum (D/AEW 24/110)

Margaret appears to have been the widow of Ralph Lathum, who had died the previous year.  In his will (D/AEW 24/95) he left her fower howses.  These may be mentioned in the deed referred to on the last page of her will; she held more property than would be clear from this will alone.

In between more mundane requests she leaves to her daughter Phillips (no first name is given) my herbal my still … my pece of unicorns horne and my mandrake… According to the Oxford English Dictionary, herbal could mean either a book on herbs or plants, or a collection of them.  It seems more likely that it was the latter as her still would be used for extracting the essences of plants.  The ‘unicorn’s horn’ (really a narwhal or rhinoceros horn) and mandrake would have been used for medicinal purposes.

It wasn’t unusual for testators to bequeath items with conditions attached.  Those for Margaret’s grandson Ralph were to be kept by his Unckle Peter until he came of age rather than carry them into Iarland [Ireland].  This of course raises the question of why he was going to Ireland, which the will can’t answer.  

You can access Essex Ancestors from home as a subscriber, or for free in the Searchroom at the ERO in Chelmsford or at our Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow.  It will shortly be provided at Waltham Forest Archives.  Opening hours vary, so please check before you visit.

Before you subscribe please check that the documents you need exist and have been digitised at

You can view a handy video guide to using Essex Ancestors here.

Where there’s a will: the Dutch in Essex

Following the recent upload of images of an additional 22,500 wills to Essex Ancestors, Archivist Katharine Schofield takes a look at some of the wills of the Dutch population of Essex…

Among the wills recently added to Essex Ancestors are a number of wills from the Dutch population of Essex, almost all of which are from testators in Colchester.

From the 1560s onwards Flemish and Dutch Protestants, fearing religious persecution, came to England.  Flemish weavers had first settled in Colchester in the 14th century, and many of the new refugees chose to settle in the town.  They brought with them the techniques of bay and say weaving which revitalised the town’s cloth industry and brought prosperity to Colchester for the next 150 years.

The Dutch wills can be found on Essex Ancestors by using the search term ‘Dutch will’. They are either written in Flemish or record testators with Flemish names.  These wills often have a distinctive style, clearly differentiating them from others of the same date.

The will of Andries de Haene dated 19 May 1587 (D/ACW 2/254) is typical of these wills.  It was proved in the archdeaconry of Colchester, and although no parish is recorded for the testator, it is very likely that he was resident in Colchester.  There are two versions of the will, one in English and one in Flemish.

The English version of ... will (D/ACW 2/254)

The English version of Andries de Haene’s will (D/ACW 2/254)

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The Dutch version of Andries de Haene’s will (D/ACW 2/254)

It begins:

‘for because that wee have nothinge more surer then death and that the houre of death is most uncertein’.


Similar phrases to this often appear in the Dutch wills in contrast to English wills of the same date. The first bequest is of 10s. ‘for Love and brotherlye charitys sake to the poore of oure duytch congregation’. Charitable bequests were quite common at this date and the Dutch wills usually include bequests to the Dutch congregation in Colchester.

The next bequest is to his wife who was unnamed but described as his ‘lovinge bedfellowe’.  He left her ‘all her clothes Lynen and Wollen apartayninge to her body and also the best bedde wyth all thinges longing to the same’, together with £10.

Bequests to wives of their clothes and a bed appear to be a Flemish custom, in the will of Nicolas de Hane of 1584 (D/ABW 12/181) he specified that if his widow were to remarry she would retain the bed and appurtenances ‘According to the custome of the towne of Helle’ [Halle, Belgium].

Andries de Haene continued by dividing the remainder of his goods into two parts, one part for his wife and the other for his children.  In most such cases the wife was given custody of any children and to keep their inheritance safe for them until they married when they would inherit.

Theodorus van den Berghe (the second minister of the Dutch church in Colchester) in his will of 1598 (D/ACW 3/166) specified that children should be given their inheritance on their wedding day ‘or when they come to yeares off great discretion’. William Casier, son of Malius, who was born in Meenen in Flanders [Menen, Belgium] specifically stated in his will of 1588 (D/ABW 9/259) that this was the ‘use of … Meenen’.  He also required that if his wife had to leave the country while still a widow, then any unmarried children should ‘helpe to beare the chardges of the voyage’.

It would seem that his widow Katherine did not have to leave and did not remarry as her will of 1590, when she was resident in the parish of Holy Trinity, Colchester also survives (D/ABW 9/287).  She left all her possessions to their four children Walter, Maliard, Josentge and Annanais (the executor).

Over the course of the 150 years, many of the Dutch names became anglicised many married into English families. Almost a century after the Dutch arrived Abigail Hedgethorne, a widow of St. Martin’s parish in Colchester (in the heart of the present-day Dutch Quarter of the town) left a will in 1666 (D/ACW 17/185).  As well as the English copy there is a version in Dutch where the family name was given as Hagedorn.

You can access Essex Ancestors from home as a subscriber, or for free in the Searchroom at the ERO in Chelmsford or at our Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow.  It will shortly be provided at Waltham Forest Archives.  Opening hours vary, so please check before you visit.

Before you subscribe please check that the documents you need exist and have been digitised at

You can view a handy video guide to using Essex Ancestors here.

Recording of the Month, November 2014: Chelmsford in 1381

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

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This month’s recording is an extract from a lecture delivered to the Essex Branch of the Historical Association by Hilda Grieve in 1981. The lecture – entitled ‘The Rebellion of 1381 and the County Town’ – was given to mark the 600th anniversary of the Peasants’ Revolt. As the title suggests, the lecture considers the contribution of people from Chelmsford to the rebellion. The extract I have chosen comes from the start of the lecture, as the speaker sets the scene by describing the extent and nature of Essex’s county town in 1381. It is a fascinating picture painted by a historian who may have developed a greater knowledge of the history of Chelmsford than any other. It may come as a surprise to learn of the humble nature in the fourteenth century of what is now the only city in Essex. Hilda Grieve (1913-1993) joined the newly-created Essex Record Office in 1939 – the same year in which she was awarded the Alexander Medal of the Royal Historical Society – and continued in the post of Senior Assistant Archivist until 1966. From 1966 to 1973 she was Deputy Editor of the Victoria County History of Essex.

Hilda Grieve's house in New London Road, Chelmsford

Hilda Grieve’s house in New London Road, Chelmsford

Hilda Grieve

Hilda Grieve, eminent historian of Chelmsford

Her first major publication was The Great Tide (1959) which was written for Essex County Council on the subject of the 1953 floods in Essex. The first volume of her exhaustive history of Chelmsford – The Sleepers and the Shadows – was published in 1988 (as Essex Record Office publication no.100). This volume covered the medieval and Tudor story. And the second volume, subtitled ‘From Market Town to Chartered Borough 1608-1888’, was published posthumously in 1994 (as Essex Record Office publication no.128). Volume 1 is now unfortunately out of print but can be consulted at ERO or Chelmsford Library; volume 2 is also available for consultation and we have copies for sale.

Document of the Month, November 2014: ‘Poping’ in Purfleet, 1897

Archivist Allyson Lewis takes a look at a battle of wills between a headmaster and his pupils in late-Victorian Purfleet.

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‘Remember, remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot’ begins the rhyme.  It commemorates the attempt in 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament by a group of conspirators led by Robert Catesby.  The aim of the plot was to kill James I and replace him with a Catholic monarch.  The group included Guy Fawkes who hid in the cellars of the Parliament building to guard the gunpowder and light the fuse as the King entered the building for the opening of the parliamentary session.  He was arrested, tortured into giving up the names of his co-conspirators and duly hanged.

The celebration of the preservation of the Protestant monarchy began almost immediately with the passing of the Observance of 5th November Act in January 1606.  Although this was intended as a day of thanksgiving for the safety of the king, it became an excuse for anti-Catholic feeling, particularly after the future Charles I married Henrietta Maria of France, a Catholic princess, in 1625.  Effigies of the pope and the devil were burned for the first time that year.  5th November Day was re-established as a celebration of Protestant monarchy after the restoration of Charles II.  The landing at Weymouth of William of Orange on 5 November 1688 added another layer of Protestant significance to the day.  During the 18th century it became more usual to burn effigies of Guy Fawkes rather than the pope.  The Observance of 5th November Act was repealed in 1859 but the tradition of Bonfire Night still continues.

In the 19th century children began a custom of ‘poping’, going from house to house begging ‘a penny for the Guy’ and gathering wood for a large bonfire.  In this log book entry, the headmaster of Purfleet School comments on his attempts to prevent boys going ‘poping’ in school hours by encouraging residents to only give to children going round after school.  He allowed the boys to bring their costumes into school and change in the school cloakrooms before going out begging for wood, food, drink and pennies, and singing traditional rhymes.

The school log book will be on display in the Searchroom throughout November 2014.

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Saffron Walden: 1758

This coming Saturday, 8 November 2014, come and join us at Saffron Walden Town Hall for a look at one of the most spectacular maps in our collection.

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The map shows the town of Saffron Walden and the surrounding area, and is so large we’ve had to give serious thought to how we will transport it!

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The map was made in 1758 by Edward John Eyre, along with a survey book, recording all the individual pieces of land, and how they were being used. The day will include a talk from an ERO Archivist about how the map and survey book work together.


The map shows the town of Saffron Walden, and lots of other local details.

IMG_4489-1 IMG_4487 IMG_4485 IMG_4465 editIf you would like to join us on Saturday to see the map, here are all the details:

Saffron Walden 1758 At Saffron Walden Town Hall

In 1758 an extensive survey was carried out covering lands surrounding Saffron Walden, and several maps were made to accompany the survey books. This is a unique opportunity to see these maps and the survey books displayed together, to explore what the town and surrounding countryside looked like in the mid-eighteenth century.

The day will include a talk by Paul Marden of the Essex Place Names Project at 11.30am explaining the origins of some of the field names on the map. Allyson Lewis, archivist at the ERO will then give a talk at 12.00noon about the survey which accompanies the map.

Saturday 8 November, 10.30am-3.00pm

Free entry, suggested £2.00 donation

Saffron Walden Town Hall, Market Square, Saffron Walden, CB10 1HR

In association with the Saffron Walden Archive Access Point

Supported by Saffron Walden Town Council

Where there’s a will: Richard Leget of Hornchuch

We have just uploaded digital images of a further 22,500 wills to our Essex Ancestors online subscription service (more on this here), and to mark the occasion here we take a look at one of our earliest wills…

Most medieval Essex wills relate to the nobility and major landowners.  These were proved at the courts of the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury and are not deposited in the Essex Record Office.

However, during the 15th century, making a will became more common and a small number of 15th century wills survive among the records of the archdeaconry of Essex (D/AEW).

Among these is the will of Richard Leget of Hornchurch, dated 10 September 1484 (D/AEW 1/212).  The will itself is in Latin and Leget begins by leaving his soul to God, the Blessed [Virgin] Mary and all the saints and his body to buried in the parish church of St. Andrew.  He made a bequest of 8d. to the ‘Lord Abbot’ there [at Hornchurch] (there had been a priory in the parish until it was dissolved and granted to New College, Oxford in 1391).  He left to John Hubbart a mattress, two blankets, two linen sheets and a coverlet, requested that all his debts be paid and left everything else to his wife Alice.

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The first page of the will of Richard Leget, 1484 (D/AEW 1/212)

On the reverse of the will is a list of his debts, giving names and amounts.  There are two further lists in English stitched to the will.  The first of these is a list of money spent on the burial by Thomas Herde, one of the executors.  A total of 12s. 9d. was spent and amounts included 16d. for a ‘wyndyng cloth’, 14d. to the priest and clerk for the ‘deyrge’ [dirge] and mass, 4d. for ‘lyth’ [light], 8d. for the knell and priest, 8d. for bread and 12d. for ale, 21d. for ‘month mynde’ paid to the priest and clerk and 12d. to the sexton for the grave.

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Part of the inventory of Richard Legets possessions which is included with his will of 1484 (D/AEW 1/212)

There is also an inventory of his goods, beginning with his clothes – a gown of murray worth 5s. 4d., a blue gown worth 3s., a doublet worth 8d., a pair of hose worth 12d., an ‘olde cloke of blak’ valued at 8d..  It continues with household goods including a kettle valued at 2s. 4d., a brass pot, 2s., a ‘fryyng panne’ 8d., and also includes a brass posset (8d.), 31lbs. of pewter (5s. 2d.), three candlesticks (6d.), a ‘lanterne’ (3d.), a mattock (8d.) and a cart (2s. 8d.).

The recent upload of 22,500 wills to Essex Ancestors means that images of all our wills before c.1720 are now available online. You can access Essex Ancestors from home as a subscriber, or for free in the Searchroom at the ERO in Chelmsford or at our Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow.  It will shortly be provided at Waltham Forest Archives.  Opening hours vary, so please check before you visit.

Before you subscribe please check that the documents you need exist and have been digitised at

You can view a handy video guide to using Essex Ancestors here.