Ted Haley’s recordings in south Essex, 1965-1989

We are lucky to have a team of amazing Essex Sound and Video Archive volunteers, who give their time and expertise to help make the recordings more accessible. In this blog post, Lilly highlights some of her favourite clips from Ted Haley’s collection of recordings (ERO reference SA 20). You can read transcripts for all the clips below here.

Between the mid 1960s and the late 1980s, Edward ‘Ted’ Haley conducted a series of audio recordings and interviews in the south Essex area, focusing on Basildon and Southend-on-Sea. Over the course of the interviews, Ted met a variety of people with an even bigger variety of experiences and stories to tell, with folks such as Harold Whitely – also known as Rainbow the clown – and talented silent film organist Ena Barga, to name but a few. All these recordings, preserved at the Essex Record Office, give a unique perspective of late twentieth century Essex and unlock a door into the past of the town centres and high streets that we now walk around decades later.

Postcard showing boats at Marine Parade Beach, Southend, c.1955 (I/Mb 321/1/57)

The Second World War

The interviews Ted conducted in the Basildon area include many interesting anecdotes from those who experienced the Second World War, though the perspectives of the interviewees vary entirely from ex-soldiers and RAF veterans all the way to a member of the Norwegian Resistance.

In 1980, Ted interviewed a man named Alan Mitchell who was a volunteer during the war on the Royal Navy’s submarines. He describes his experiences during the war, including the medical examinations they experienced upon arrival at Gosport, Hampshire.

In this clip, Alan discusses the claustrophobia test they were put through (SA 20/1126/1)

He also interviewed another veteran, Robert Ramsey, who served with the RAF (SA 20/1140/1). In the interview, Robert tells the story of when he was shot down by a night fighter over Louvain on the night of 10 May 1944. He details how he ran to a French farmhouse and was given food, water and radio access by a peasant family who risked their lives aiding him and hiding him in a haybale on their farm.

Ted also interviewed Mike Karslake, who recalled his experiences of being a child during the Blitz in Acton, London. He begins with a story of how he was evacuated, with the help of his father’s quick talking, to his Nan’s house in North Devon. However, after a year, he returned home and experienced the Blitz with his mum and grandfather. Mike also recounts his schooldays during the war and how air raid sirens would even occur in school hours.

Mike describes how his grandfather handled the air raid warnings and how he was eating during an air raid warning in school (SA 20/1131/1)

In 1981, Ted interviewed a Norwegian woman, Borghild Mitchell (nee Gulbransen), pictured below. She describes her experiences during the war, watching her country being taken over by German artillery and the changes that meant for Norwegian society – for example, the curfews that citizens had to follow and the passes they had to carry when walking through the streets after the curfew. She also describes being part of the Norwegian Resistance and how this led to her being interrogated and her fiancé being killed by German soldiers. When Ted asks her about the interrogations, and she answers with a story filled with pain, yet a sense of loyalty and determination to stay true to the resistance is heard throughout her recount.

Borghild describes being interrogated and feigning a lack of understanding to give her more time (SA 20/1141/1)

Black and white photograph of a young woman with short dark hair and a white blouse.

Photograph of Borghild Mitchell aged 18, taken in 1942 (SA 20/1141/4)

Events in South Essex

As well as interviews with people living in south Essex, Ted also recorded important moments and events. On 10 September 1981, Essex Radio aired its first ever radio broadcast. Over the opening weekend, team members were introduced and in person interviews took place across Essex, including with the American singer and bassist, Suzi Quatro. Listening to this recording is very interesting as not only are you hearing how excited people were for Essex Radio to air, but you also get a snippet of adverts that were popular at the time – in some ways, even more telling about the time period than the interviews with 1980s Essex folk are.

An advert for Laylor’s car dealership in Brentwood and for Banks American Restaurant in Westcliff-on-Sea (SA 20/1127/1)

In 1985, Ted recorded a concert at Rochford Hospital. As part of the recording he interviewed Ena Barga, a musician who specialised in the organ and played for silent films throughout her career.

Ena discusses her dislike for modern music, followed by a recording of her playing the organ at the concert (SA 20/1148/1)

‘Royal’ date, a newspaper clipping showing Ena Barga and her sister Florence De’jong on the renovated Compton theatre organ at the State cinema at Grays (SA 20/1148/4)

The novelties of Southend-on-Sea

Some of Ted’s interviews in Southend and the surrounding areas, including Westcliff and Leigh, touched upon some of the novelties of these seaside towns, such as Rossi’s ice cream, rock candy and the fishing industry. The interviews he conducted delve into the fascinating history surrounding these seaside stereotypes.

His interview with George ‘Pie’ Osborne and Cecil Osborne covers the history of cockling that was a main source of income for many Southend folk in the early 1900s. Whilst the history of cockling, fishing and shrimping are key parts of this interview, a notable part of the interview is the accents of the two men, which they describe to be ‘local accents’. The dialect that they use in addition to this is compelling with one of which being the word ‘sawney’ being slang for the word simple.

George and Cecil talk to Ted about their accents – listen to how they pronounce words like ‘coat’ and ‘rope’ (SA 20/1557/1)

Black and white photograph of a man in a fisherman's jersey and flat cap, with a boat on the sea behind him.

Photograph of Cecil Osborne, undated (SA 20/1557/4)

A sweet treat that many love about seaside towns such as Southend is a hard stick of rock. In one interview Ted talks to Mr. S Knatchbull who owned Grosvenor Confectionery and worked making handmade regular and lettered rock in 1979 (SA 20/1566/1). He discusses the rock making process, listing the ingredients and flavourings he used when ensuring a variety of tasty sticks of rock. He also talks about the largest piece of rock he ever made being 6 foot 6 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. The humungous stick of peppermint rock travelled all the way into London, by train, to a charity fundraiser event in the 1950s.

In 1983, Ted interviewed Ugo Rossi, whose father – Augustino ‘Gus’ Rossi – partnered with Peter Rossi to establish the famous frozen treat throughout the Southend high street and waterfront. They talk about this partnership dissolving and how the waterfront shops were owned by Peter and the high street shops were owned by Gus. What’s most surprising about the interview is the price a Rossi’s ice cream used to be … 1 penny for a regular cone and 2 pence for a larger cone!

Ugo talks about his father’s desire for a Rossi’s ice cream to not be too sickly a treat (SA 20/1540/1)

Interesting folk 

Ted’s interviews show how each person has fascinating stories waiting to be told. One interview with Harold Whitely – also known as ‘Rainbow the Clown’ – particularly stands out. Speaking in 1981, Mr Whiteley talks about starting his career as a clown aged six, and his joy in performing as a youth and love for the intricate face paints and costumes of the clowns he saw growing up in a travelling circus. He also talks about the history of his family and circuses. His grandmother, Lorrina, worked in America in the circus under Barnum and Bailey’s circuses in America, a name most recognised from one of the owners P. T. Barnum. Furthermore, his grandfather’s circus performed for Edward, the Duke of Edinburgh (Queen Victoria’s son).

Harold describes his pleasure in being a performer as a child and also how he performed in front of smaller audiences as a clown (SA 20/1123/1)

An interview previously mentioned, with Alan Mitchell, was not only compelling due to its discussions on Navy training during the Second World War, but also due to the fact that Alan was a hairdresser before and after the war, making him knowledgeable on male hair trends of the mid to late 1900s. He and Ted discuss the era of the Beatles leading to a trend of long hair for boys and also the up-and-coming punk style of hair and fashion. Hearing their detached discussion in the punk style is particularly funny due to their lack of awareness of the style.

Ted and Alan discuss fashionable hairstyles for men and their opinions of the punk style (SA 20/1126/1)

Photograph from above of around twenty open reel tape boxes, with 'Southend' handwritten on the spine. In the middle of the image is a tape box showing a handwritten label with 'Pier personalities'.

A selection of Ted Haley’s open reel tapes.

Overall, the Ted Haley recordings are incredibly fascinating and a worthwhile listen. They delve into the people of the period and allow us to now look back onto that period with nostalgia or discovery, keeping that part of south Essex history in an audible time capsule, ready for your listening.

You can browse the full catalogue of Ted Haley’s recordings on Essex Archives Online and listen to them in our Playback Room in Chelmsford. You don’t need to make an appointment – all you need is an Archives Card. Find out more information about visiting us on our website. You can also find some of Ted’s recordings on Essex Sounds, our map of sounds from across the county:

A contemporary view of the Americans – the diaries of E.J. Rudsdale

Back in April, we held an event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of when the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) reached peak strength in Essex in the run-up to D-Day, Welcome to Essex. We were delighted that Dr Catherine Pearson gave a fascinating talk based on the diary entries of E.J. Rudsdale, about relations between the Americans and the Essex locals. We are even more delighted that Dr Pearson has kindly taken the time to turn her talk into a blog post. To mark the anniversary of D-Day, we have also recorded an edited version of Rudsdale’s entry for that momentous day.

Black and white photograph of identity card, with photograph of a man and a signature on the left side of the page and his name and registration number on the right.

E.J. Rudsdale’s travel identity card, 1946 (D/DU 888/66)

Eighty years ago, in the midst of the Second World War, Essex had become home to thousands of US service personnel in readiness for the allied invasion and liberation of occupied Europe. Essex Record Office holds a contemporary diary account by Colchester Museum curator, E.J. Rudsdale (1910-1951), which records the impact of the arrival of the USAAF in Colchester and the nearby USAAF airfields of Boxted and Wormingford.

Rudsdale was seconded from Colchester Museum in 1941 to become Secretary of the Lexden and Winstree District Committee of the Essex War Agricultural Committee for the duration of the war. This gave him a valuable insight into the development of the American airfields because the USAAF commandeered agricultural land from the Essex War Agricultural Committee for the construction of the airfields at Boxted and Wormingford.

Owing to the drive to increase agricultural production for the war effort, the Essex War Agricultural Committee viewed the takeover of farmland for airfields with some trepidation and a degree of antagonism. This is evident from Rudsdale’s first official encounter with USAAF personnel:

April 29 1943

Went to the Office of the Clerk of the Works [at Wormingford Aerodrome], … and found to my surprise that it was not Air Ministry men whom I was to meet but United States Air Force Officers.  Two of them I had seen [in Colchester], a Major Miller and a Lieutenant Walters. … Miller … looks the typical “small-town” American one sees in so many films, his worn, lined face surmounted by rimless glasses. … Walters was dark and dapper … The arrangement was that we all went off in two cars, driven by English girls in pseudo-American uniform, to inspect sites for a shooting butt.  I was supposed to say whether the site was suitable from an agricultural point of view.

As we moved off along the concrete perimeter road, through a desert of derelict farm land, I remarked “Well, there has certainly been a change since I was here last.  Why, you’ve changed the whole landscape.” I said this quite innocently, but at once Major Miller turned on me and snapped out “Well, wouldn’t you rather have us here than the Germans?” … He went on “We can’t bother about the convenience of a few British farmers, you know.”  It was obvious from his manner that he had already had a good deal of criticism since he came to England.

(D/DU 888/26/3 pp.568-571)

It was clear that greater accommodation on both sides was necessary for establishing more harmonious relations and Rudsdale’s next encounter with American personnel was of a warmer nature.  On 1 July 1943, he was called to Boxted Airfield to discuss the USAAF’s further plans for the site and wrote:

… Major Anderson of the USAAF … was very affable. … [He] looked at the lay-out plan, and said: “This is a mean site, I guess this is the meanest site I’ve ever seen.”  Then we went into various details, and their final requirements were not unreasonable. …

We rode all over the site in two jeeps – old [Gardiner] Church [a member of the Lexden and Winstree District War Agricultural Committee] was very tickled, and said “These are the things for farming, boy! I’m going to have one o’they after the war!”

(D/DU 888/26/4 pp.819-822)

In 1944, Rudsdale visited Wormingford Airfield in order to rescue historic timbers from Harvey’s Farmhouse, which was demolished in the course of the aerodrome’s expansion, and his diary entry recorded:

January 15 1944

Thick fog this morning, and bitterly cold. … we got busy loading the moulded ceiling timbers, with the help of three Land Girls. The driver ventured onto the mud, against my advice, and soon the lorry was stuck fast, so that no amount of tugging could release it. Took one of the Land Girls … and went off to see if we could get any help. It was very strange to wander about among planes and lorries in the thick fog, hearing the accents of America and Ireland intermingled as we passed groups of mechanics or labourers.

Found the big hanger, which thrilled the Land Girl a good deal – “Well,” she said, “I never thought I should see the inside of a hanger.” Neither did I.

… The sergeant could not do enough for us, and within a matter of minutes [an] enormous tractor, … was ploughing through the mud towards us. … [a] wire was attached to the lorry’s front axle, the motor raced, and out she came, … leaving behind four pits almost as big as graves, where the wheels had been.

By this time … we … set off back to Colchester… first collecting one of the Land Girls from the pilot’s seat of a nearby ‘plane, where a sergeant was showing her the controls. …

(D/DU 888/27/1 pp.48-51)

Rudsdale also discussed the black servicemen and women who formed part of the American Forces and were regularly seen in Colchester. African-American service personnel were employed as drivers or military policemen or worked in supplies or in the construction of aerodromes. Under American segregation orders, black troops had their own club in Priory Street in Colchester, and white troops had a club in Culver Street. However, Rudsdale and his fellow curator, Harold Poulter (1880-1962), regularly talked to the black service personnel. On 10 June 1944, Rudsdale wrote that he had ‘called at the American Red Cross Club in Priory Street’ to deliver a message from Poulter to a Miss Marie Wall, who Rudsdale described as a ‘delightful’ black servicewoman ‘of about 25’ and went on to record that they ‘Talked for an hour or so’. (D/DU 888/27/3 p.491).

Colcestrians do not appear to have been in favour of American segregation orders. Rudsdale noted black and white Americans troops sitting in the same café in Colchester in February 1944, albeit at separate tables (D/DU 888/27/1: 25/2/1944 p.182). He also recorded that black service personnel staged a week’s theatre performance at Colchester Repertory Theatre in December 1944 (D/DU 888/27/5: 30/11/1944, p.820).

Black and white photogrpah of five men in uniform and another in a smart outfit and trilby hat stood on top of castle walls.

American servicemen on the Castle Walls, Colchester Castle, 1944. Harold Poulter, Curator of Hollytrees Museum, is in the centre of the photograph and Lieutenant Stich, Public Relations Officer at Wormingford Airfield, is on the left (D/DU 888/27/4 p.590)

The positive developments in Anglo-American relations in Colchester were made apparent in late 1944, when the Americans were invited to stage an exhibition at Colchester Castle. The display was the brainchild of Lieutenant Stich, Public Relations Officer at Wormingford Airfield and Harold Poulter, the Curator of Hollytrees Museum. The exhibition, entitled The England that America Loves, featured paintings and photographs of English scenes that had appealed to the American troops during their time in the UK (Colchester Museum and Muniment Committee Report 1948, pp.5-6).

Black and white photograph of a stone building with wooden timber structure and exhibition panels. A woman sits on a bench and a man sits on a pallet in the foreground.

An American serviceman and a woman visitor at The England that America Loves exhibition at Colchester Castle Museum, 1944 (Courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museums)

Black and white photogrpah of a crowd of people in coats and uniform looking at exhibition panels.

Visitors to The England that America Loves exhibition at Colchester Castle Museum, 1944 (Courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museums)

The shared experience of war was a further factor in bringing the allies closer together. One of those who participated in the Castle exhibition, Lieutenant-Colonel Elwyn G. Righetti, a pilot at Wormingford, lost his life on 17 April 1944 when his plane went down over Germany. A party to celebrate his 30th birthday had been prepared for him back at the airbase to which he never returned (Benham 1945, p.57). Such tragic incidents increased the local community’s gratitude for the sacrifices being made by the Americans.

Four men in uniform stand around a man in ceremonial robes. Behind them is an exhibition of artwork and a stone wall behind that.

Pilots of the 55th Fighter Group, Wormingford Airfield, meeting the Mayor of Colchester at The England that America Loves exhibition at Colchester Castle Museum, 1944 (Courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museums). Left to right: Lt-Col Elwyn G. Righetti (who lost his life on 17/4/45 over Germany, aged 30); Col George T. Crowell; Arthur W. Piper, Mayor of Colchester; Col Joe Huddleston; unknown.

With the arrival of VE Day on 8 May 1945 and the close of hostilities in Europe, there were opportunities for the troops to relax and local people were invited to visit the US airbases. As the USAAF prepared to leave Colchester in July 1945, they presented Colchester Corporation with a silver rose bowl to thank the town for its hospitality and this remains part of the City’s regalia today.

Black and white photograph of a group of people, including men in uniform and a man and woman in ceremonial robes. The man in the centre of the photograph holds a silver bowl.

The presentation of a silver rose bowl to Colchester Corporation to thank Colchester’s inhabitants for their hospitality towards American service personnel, 1945 (Courtesy of Colchester and Ipswich Museums)

After the war, American veterans made regular visits to the UK to remember their time in Essex and to pay homage to fallen comrades. One ex-serviceman wrote to the curator of Colchester Castle in 1988, that the veterans ‘would like to see a museum exhibition depicting their life as it was here in Colchester from 1943-1945 … with its bitter sweet memories’. (Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Historic Displays & Exhibitions file, Lewis to Davies, 22/11/1988). Colchester and the Castle Museum, therefore, remained as touchstones for the veterans’ wartime experiences in Essex.

Black and white photograph of Colchester Castle, with trees and plants in the foreground. There is a notice on the grass.

Colchester Castle Museum, 1944, a photograph by Lieutenant Stich, USAAF. Note the air raid shelter sign in the rose bed (D/DU 888/27/4 p.586)

In this excerpt from Rudsdale’s diaries, read by the ERO’s Neil Wiffen, he recalls 6 June 1944 – D-Day – from being woken up by planes warming up at Wormingford Airfield at 2am to hearing the King’s speech on the radio at the end of the day. You can read a transcript here.

Colour photograph of open diary, with handwritten notes across both pages.

Dr Catherine Pearson will be speaking to us about E.J. Rudsdale at ERO Presents on Tuesday 3rd September. Book your tickets on our Eventbrite page.

References

Primary sources:

Rudsdale, E.J., (1939-1945). ‘Colchester Journals’, Essex Record Office, ERO D/DU 888.

Colchester and Ipswich Museums, ‘Historic Displays and Exhibitions’ archives.

Secondary sources:

Beale, A., (2019).  Bures at War: A Hidden History of the United States Army Air Force Station 526.

Benham, H., (1945).  Essex at War, Essex County Standard: Colchester.

Pearson, C., (2010).  E.J. Rudsdale’s Journals of Wartime Colchester, The History Press: Stroud.

8th Airforce Historical Society: https://www.8thafhs.org/research/ Accessed 16 April 2024.

Archive of the American Air Museum in Britain, Imperial War Museum Duxford, including the Roger Freeman Collection of USAAF images: https://www.americanairmuseum.com/archive  Accessed 16 April 2024.

Black GIs in Britain: https://mixedmuseum.org.uk/brown-babies/black-gis-in-britain/  Accessed 16 April 2024.

Colchester Museum and Muniment Committee Report 1944-1947 (1948): https://www.esah1852.org.uk/library/files/C0938954.pdf  Accessed 15 May 2024.

US Black Servicemen in Suffolk in WW2: https://www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/sharing-suffolk-stories/us-black-servicemen-in-suffolk-during-wwii/  Accessed 16 April 2024.

USAAF Airfields: Guide and Map, East of England Tourism.  http://www.ukairfields.org.uk/uploads/7/0/8/5/7085670/usaaf_airfields_guide_and_map.pdf  Accessed 16 April 2024.

Recordings of D-Day experiences in the Essex Sound and Video Archive: 

SA 1/455/1: ‘Essex at War’, BBC Essex programme, 1989; role of Southend and Leigh in D-Day

SA 1/634/1: Interview with John Hayes on BBC Essex, 1990; serving as an RAF Ground Technician at Southend airfield in the run up to D-Day

SA 1/1183/1: Interview with Clifford Pontbriand on BBC Essex, 1994; American D-Day bomber pilot at Stansted

SA 8/540/1 (Colchester Recalled reference 2057): Interview with Alfred Douglas Chignall, 1989; serving in the Royal Navy during D-Day

SA 8/948/1 (Colchester Recalled reference 2208): Interview with Fred Ramplin, 1990; serving in the army during D-Day

SA 8/14/1/6/1 (Colchester Recalled reference 2141): Interview with Harry Finch, 1990; involvement in the D-Day invasion, including movements of warships

SA316 (Colchester Recalled reference 1272-4): Interview with Lance Corporal Ken Lambert, 1994; involvement in D-Day with the 8th Battalion Middlesex Regiment

SA443 (Colchester Recalled reference 1621): Interview with Fred McIntosh, flying instructor, at a reunion of American airmen, 1992; covered the Arnhem parachute drops.

SA779 (Colchester Recalled reference 1532): Interview with Arthur Parsonson, 1988; NCO with 431st Bty, 147th (Essex Yeomanry) Field Regt, Royal Artillery, 8th Armoured Bde during D-Day (see also Imperial War Museum interview)

SA 20/1138/1: Interview with Geoff Barsby, 1983; serving in the Royal Navy during D-Day, covering the Canadian landings, escorting the battleship Nelson, and being based off Normandy

SA 20/1533/1: Interview with Jack Nelson Wise, 1981; serving in the Royal Navy, operations in preparation for D-Day, MTBs

SA 20/1/47/1: Interview with Howard Stone, 1984; serving as a Telegrapher Air Gunner in the Fleet Air Arm during D-Day

SA 20/1/22/1: Interview with Sylvia Ebel, 1983; serving in the ATS during D-Day, D-Day preparations at Eastleigh, near Southampton

SA 79/1/1/1: Interview with Alec Hall, 2016; serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps during D-Day; stationed along the east coast of England, then travelling to Arnhem by glider

SA 79/1/3/1: Interview with Alfred Smith, 2016; serving in the Royal Army Service Corps during D-Day, driving his lorry onto Gold Beach, Normandy

SA 79/1/4/1: Interview with Ken ‘Paddy’ French, 2016; serving in the RAF during D-Day, flying over American troops at Omaha Beach

SA 79/1/5/1: Interview with Alfred Fowler, 2016; serving in the Royal Navy during D-Day; being involved in the dummy convoy to Norway

SA 86/1/3/1: Interview with Ron, 2017; serving in the Royal Navy during D-Day, escorting HMS Belfast on HMS Ulster at Gold Beach

SA634: Interview with Olive Redfarn, 2012; working on HMS Leigh, printing instructions for D-Day in the weeks beforehand [including her own diary entry of the 6 June 1944]

Mystery motorcycle riders

Among a recent deposit of postcards is this one showing a man and woman on a motorcycle with sidecar. But who are they?

A postcard showing a man and woman on a motorcycle with sidecar from the Dowsett Collection (catalogue ref: A15840)

The licence plate is clearly visible which means that we can look it up in our Vehicle Licensing Registers (C/DF 11). An Enfield with the licence HK3016 was registered to Frederick Jay, High Street, Mountnessing on 8 June 1917. Is this an image of Frederick Jay on his new Enfield motorcycle? Or is it another person with aspirations of one day owning such a machine?

Register of motor vehicles ‘M2’: motor cycles showing entry for Frederick Jay (catalogue ref: C/DF 11/17)

 

The photograph was taken by Geo. Francis Quilter, a photographer in Ingatestone, who’s listed in the Kelly’s Directory for 1917. In the same Directory is Harry Raven, dairyman, whose shop can be seen in the background of the postcard, and Mark Wells, cycle agent, who operated from Ingatestone High Street. At this time motorcycles were often called “cycles”, so it is likely that this cycle agent sold motorcycles, perhaps even the one shown?

Mountnessing is about 2 miles south-east of Ingatestone and was home to two people named Frederick Jay – a father and son. The 1911 Census tells us that the younger Frederick, then aged 21, was a boarder at 3 Redcliffe Road, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford while working as an “Engineer Journeyman [ball bearing works]”. By 1921, he was back at his parents’ house in Mountnessing and working at the Hoffmann Manufacturing Company.

Marriage Register from St Giles Church, Mountnessing showing the marriage of Frederick Jay and Kate Everett on 3 Jun 1922 (catalogue ref: D/P 73/1/10)

On 3 June 1922, Frederick Jay married Kate Everett at St Giles’ Church, Mountnessing. Is the woman in the sidecar Kate or one of Frederick’s sisters? Sadly, we will probably never know for sure, but it’s nice to imagine that this is an image of Frederick Jay, the proud new owner of a motorcycle which he used to commute from his home in Mountnessing to work at the Hoffmann’s premises in Chelmsford.

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi in Essex

When you visit the Essex Record Office, you will see a selection of artwork from Essex County Council’s collection displayed on the ground floor and in the Searchroom. One of the pictures to catch my eye during my first week at the Record Office was a signed screenprint called “Untitled” (1965) by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005). The overlapping patterns in this print are reminiscent of his earlier work creating collages made from newspapers and advertisements.

Juxtaposing patterns in yellow, green, red and blue, on a yellow background
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), “Untitled”, 1965. Signed screenprint. 23″x 23 1/2″. Essex County Council art collection 329.

I’m familiar with Paolozzi’s work from my time at the V&A as their Archive of Art and Design looks after the amazing Krazy Kat Arkive of Twentieth Century Popular Culture. Paolozzi was one of the founders of the Independent Group which met in London from 1952-1955. This group is considered the forerunner to the Pop Art movement in Britain. In 1954, Paolozzi established Hammer Prints Limited with fellow artist, and Essex resident, Nigel Henderson and they designed wallpapers, textiles and ceramics in Henderson’s studio at Landermere Wharf, near Thorpe-le-Soken. Paolozzi and his family moved to Landermere the following year and lived in one of the now Grade II listed Gull Cottages. While living in Landermere, Paolozzi was a visiting lecturer at Colchester School of Art.

Landermere was a hot-spot for artists and designers. Other residents included Sir Basil Spence, the architect of Coventry Cathedral and advisor to the Basildon Development Corporation designing Basildon New Town, and John Hutton, a glass artist whose work can be seen in Coventry and Guildford Cathedrals, and the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

This screenprint and the other works of art in the collection can be found on Art UK and on the ERO’s Flickr page. And you may also be interested in a previous blog on Art in the Archives available to read here.

Essex Record Office publications now available online!

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.

Our shop can be found at https://museumshops.uk/shop/essex-record-office/.

Over this week we will be taking a look at some of our most popular publications, all of which can be bought from our online shop!

The Great Tide

Front cover of "The Great Tide"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

Examples of English Handwriting 1150-1750

Written by Hilda Grieve in 1954, “Examples of English Handwriting” is an illuminatingFront cover of Examples of English Handwriting 1150-1750 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.

Pilgrims and Adventurers

One of our most popular titles is: “Pilgrims and Adventurers”.Front cover "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.

What on earth is a Seax – Essex Day 2023

Image

The 26th October is the feast day of St Cedd, it is also Essex Day. Over on our social media we have taken you on a treasure trail of where you can find Seaxes here at the Essex Record Office. The three Seaxes will be familiar to many Essex residents as part of the logo for Essex County Council and on a red background, as their Coat of Arms. But what is a Seax and why has Essex taken it as their symbol? Customer Service Team Lead, Edward Harris delves deeper.

Essex County Council was first granted it’s Coat of Arms by the College of Arms on the 15th July 1932 comprising:

Essex Coat of ArmsGules, three Seaxes fessewise in pale Argent, pomels and hilts Or, pointed to the sinister and cutting edges upwards.

 

The somewhat archaic terms used by the College of Arms can be translated to:

Red, three Seaxes horizontal in pale silver, pommels and hilts gold, pointed to the viewers right with cutting edges upwards.

So now we know what the official Coat of Arms should look like, but we are still not given any clues as to the origin of the name Seax for the bladed weapons shown on the Coat of Arms.

The seax, (or scramasax as it is more usually called by archaeologists) is a weapon used by the Anglo-Saxon people who had displaced, at least culturally the Romano-British inhabitants of the British Isles in the 5th and 6th Centuries. The earliest evidence for the use of a Seax is from the mid 5th Century, though they would still see use in one form or another into the late 13th Century. The term Seax covers a whole family of germanic blades which varied widely in size and shape. The Anglo-Saxons widely used the distinctive broken back seax which varied in length from 30″ to as short as a few inches and, for most, it was probably a utility or defensive knife rather than a weapon of war.

Iron seax, with a straight cutting edge and sharply angled back, the tang offset from the blade.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

It is from the Saxons that the County of Essex (along with the Ancient County of Middlesex) takes its name. The Boundary of Essex still resembles that of the Saxon Kingdom of Eastseaxe. And it is from this Saxon heritage that Essex adopted the seax as it’s symbol.

The Coat of Arms itself was in regular use well before the grant from the College of Arms in 1932 albeit unofficially. It is likely that the Arms were first assigned to the Saxon Kings of Essex by the more romantic minds of the Late 16th and early 17th Century, as the heraldry in any recognisable sense would not exist until the 12th Century.

One of the earliest mentions of a coat of arms is by Richard Verstegan who writes in 1605 of the East Saxons having two types of weapon, one long and one short. The latter being worn “privately hanging under their long-skirted coats” and “of this kind of hand-seax Erkenwyne King of the East Saxons did bear for his arms, three argent, in a field gules”

Peter Milman’s History of Essex 1771 (LIB/942.67 MUI1-6)

By the 18th Century the use of the Arms seems commonplace, in 1770, Peter Muilman published the first volume of his History of Essex. The frontispiece shows a shield with the three seaxes although with an unfamiliar shape.

The Plans for the building of the Shire Hall in Chelmsford drawn up in 1788 (Q/AS 1/1) clearly show the Seaxes emblazoned on its neo-classical portico. These wouldn’t form a part of the final design though with this space being blank in an engraving from 1795 (I/Mb 74/1/59) shortly after the building’s completion. It now houses a clock.

[You can find about more about the history of Shire Hall on our blog  – ed]

John Johnson plans for Shire Hall 1788 (Q/AS 1/1)

Engraving of Shire Hall shortly after it’s opening 1795 (I/Mb 74/1/59)

The seaxes on a red field would make numerous other appearances, among them: the Essex Equitable Insurance companies fire plate from around 1802; the Essex Local Militia ensign formed in 1809 and the Chelmsford Gazette in 1822. It appears on the cap badge of Essex Police and who remembers the single seax that appeared on the original logo for BBC Essex way back in 1986?

BBC Essex logo from 1986

The shape of the seax on Coats of Arms has led to confusion and myth. As you can see from the examples here, the shape of the Seax changes with use, the notched back of the weapon may simply be to distinguish it from a scimitar for which it is often mistaken. The notch itself has gained a myth all of its own. To many people the notch exists so that the Saxons could hook their Seax over the cap-rail of an enemy longboat to haul it closer.  This sounds rather difficult to achieve, but also to justify, given that the notch doesn’t appear on any of the real world weapons categorised as Seaxes.

The Coat of Arms of Essex

Either way, the Essex Coat of Arms remains an enigmatic and iconic link to our county’s Saxon past.

I owe much of the information that I have garnered from the excellent pamphlet ‘The Coat of Arms of The County of Essex’ produced by F.W. Steer, an Archivist at Essex Record Office ,in 1949 (LIB/929.6 STE) which is well worth a read on your next visit.

Just who is St Cedd? Essex Day 2023

The 26th October is St Cedd’s day. It is also known as Essex Day as St Cedd is Essex’s very own patron saint. Bur who is St Cedd? And why is he held in such high esteem in Essex? Archive Assistant, Robert Lee takes a look at the life of St Cedd.

St Cedd – A Hagiography

Icon of St Cedd

Cedd’s life began in the Kingdom of Northumbria under the tutelage of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne. The oldest of four brothers (Chad, Cynibil & Caelin), Cedd in particular would be unwavering to the Celtic Rite imbued to him by Aidan. Cedd’s introduction to Christianity was anti-diocesan: not liturgical and parochial, but peripatetic and abstinent. In one of very few sources on Cedd, the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, emphasis is made on both Cedd and Chad’s devotion to Saint Aidan; such that four years after Aidan’s death in 651, Cedd is said to have been consecrated by the hands of his successor, Saint Finan of Lindisfarne.

Cedd’s reputation in Christendom had much to do with his proselytizing. In 653, at the behest of King Oswiu of Northumbria, Cedd journeyed into the Midlands with three other priests in order to evangelise the “Middle Angles”: an ethnic group predominantly living in Mercia. By Bede’s account, Cedd was greatly persuasive, with masses coming forward to listen to his preaching and receive baptism. Cedd’s enthusiasm would even sway the opinion of King Penda of Mercia, a long committed pagan. Later in the same year, Cedd would be recalled from Mercia and sent into Essex to aid King Sigeberht of the East Saxons. Again Cedd’s evangelism was highly successful, and Essex was thoroughly Christianised. For his efforts Cedd was ordained Bishop of the East Saxons.

Cedd attended the Synod of Whitby in 664 as a vigilant mediator between Iona (followers of the Celtic Rite) and those who followed the Roman Rite. Roman missionaries were arguing for their own computation of the calendar day of Easter, to which the predominantly Celtic northern English initially disagreed. Uncharacteristically, Cedd was won over by the catholic system, and converted to the Alexandrian computus of Easter Sunday. Following the Synod, Cedd returned to Northumbria to supervise the foundation of a monastery, but the Kingdom had been overwhelmed by the yellow plague, which would bring about Cedd’s death.

St Peters-on-the-wall in November with clear skies

St Peters-on-the-wall in November (Copyright Edward Harris)

Perhaps appropriately, Cedd is remembered far more for his itinerant sainthood than for government of the East Saxon Church. The chapel of Saint-Peter-on-the-Wall in Bradwell-on-Sea is said to have been built by Saint Cedd after his ordination. Having gone through several phases of disuse and ruination, the chapel still stands as testimony to Cedd; to God’s glory and the humility of man.

His role in converting the East Saxons and role as their bishop is the reason that Essex now claims Cedd as their patron saint.

If you would like to visit the Chapel of St Peter yourself it can be reached by taking East End Road from the brick built church in Bradwell-on-Sea for about one and a half miles, until you can see the carpark ahead of you, from there it is a ten minute walk to the Chapel. It is open all year and is well worth a visit!

Solanum Lycoperiscum – the tomato

The home-grown tomato season is coming to an end and to mark this, ERO Archive Assistant and vegetable patch correspondent Neil Wiffen, delves into the history of the tomato.

Tomatoes in season are one of the joys of summer, especially if you can grow your own which, warm from the greenhouse, are a delight to eat. In our modern world they are available all year round, but this is a rather recent phenomenon, as with so many of our salad and soft fruit crops. It’s really only in the last 40 or so years that they have become such staple fare for before that, the cost of heating greenhouses was such that they were really just another seasonal crop which came on during the summer. It has a fascinating history.

A (concrete – but that’s another story!) greenhouse in Broomfield full of tomatoes, possibly the variety Moneymaker c.1980. (Reproduced by courtesy of N. Wiffen)

A (concrete – but that’s another story!) greenhouse in Broomfield full of tomatoes, possibly the variety Moneymaker c.1980. (Reproduced by courtesy of N. Wiffen)

The tomato, which is really a fruit, originates in South America, back to at least the eight century, and its name derives from two Nahuatl words for ‘swelling fruit’ – xitomatl and centtomati. It arrived in Europe sometime in the mid-sixteenth century where it was known in Italy as pomi d’oro (golden apple), with the first English reference being recorded in 1578. Several names were recorded by this stage including Poma Amoris and pommes d’amour – the love apple. It is likely that this was a corruption of an earlier name, possible the Spanish pome dei Moro, the ‘apple of the Moors’ (T. Musgrave, Heritage Fruits & Vegetables (London, 2012), p.120). Philip Miller, writing in the early eighteenth century (P. Miller, The Gardeners Dictionary (London, 1731): ERO, D/DU 588/1) called them Love-Apples, a name which was still in use, although now subordinate to ‘tomato’, when Mrs Beeton was writing in the mid-nineteenth century (I.M. Beeton, The Book of Household Management (London, 1861, p.252). At the end of that century, it was still listed thus by Cramphorns in their catalogue of 1898 (ERO, A10506 Box 7).

Title page of Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary. (ERO, D/DU 588/1)

Title page of Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary. (ERO, D/DU 588/1)

The tomato didn’t get off to a flying start as it was treated with suspicion, it being related, along with the potato and aubergine, to the poisonous deadly nightshade.

It took until the later nineteenth century to become more acceptable, which might have had something to do with the spread of greenhouses from the big country houses to more general growers. Tomatoes will grow outside in our climate but growing them in greenhouse will give a much better chance of successful harvest and fuller flavoured fruits.

It might also have had something to do with the Victorian mania for growing and propagating all sorts of fruits and vegetables, along with the proliferation of magazines and newspapers related to gardening which helped to spread information about new ideas and new plants, while the postal and railway systems allowed seedsmen and nursery gardeners to easily send catalogues and packets of seeds throughout the country.

The tomato varieties sold by Cramphorns in 1898, including the Dedham Favourite. (ERO, A10506 Box 7)

The tomato varieties sold by Cramphorns in 1898, including the Dedham Favourite. (ERO, A10506 Box 7)

It was not only private gardeners who were growing all sorts of fruit and vegetables. Urban populations were growing and needed feeding and there was a proliferation of market gardens on the outskirts of larger towns, from the later years of the nineteenth century to the 1980s. And it was here that market-gardeners and growers were producing tomatoes, earlier on grown as an outdoor crop but over time growing under glass, for local sale via a network of green grocers. However, for larger growers with access to a railway station, or later via road haulage, the massive London market was accessible. Tomatoes were not listed in 1850 among the ‘Principal kinds of vegetables sold at the London Markets’, although 260 tons of asparagus, 300 tons of marrows and a staggering 4,150 tons of turnip tops were (G. Dodd, The Food of London; a sketch (London, 1856), p.387).

The hey-day of Essex grown tomatoes was probably from the 1920s to the 1980s, although more research could really be undertaken on this subject. The rise of foreign imports, from large Dutch growers and Spanish producers, along with the decline of local retail outlets, due to the growth of supermarket chains, very much put an end small market-gardeners and growers.

To see what commercial tomato growing looked like in the early 1980s do take a look at the Essex Educational Video Unit production showing the processes involved in the commercial production of tomatoes as carried out at Spenhawk Nurseries, Hawkwell (ERO, VA 3/8/11/1):

Cramphorn’s tomatoes as sold in 1962 with Golden Sunrise and Harbinger listed. (ERO, A10506 Box 7)

Cramphorn’s tomatoes as sold in 1962 with Golden Sunrise and Harbinger listed. (ERO, A10506 Box 7)

In the last few years ‘heritage’ tomatoes have become quite common in shops and supermarkets, with fruits of different shapes, sizes and colours, very different from the post-war period when they were almost exclusively red. This is not a modern phenomenon, for Miller describes red and yellow fruits, small cherry ‘shap’d’ tomatoes and ‘hard, channell’d fruits’, possibly what we might recognise as lobed, maybe beefsteak tomatoes. Cramphorns advertised 20 varieties in 1898, which included red and yellow varieties along with cherry and currant sized fruits and the ‘irregular’ shaped President Garfield, although it was of ‘good quality’.

Of particular interest is the Dedham Favourite – was this a locally raised variety and does it still exist out there?

By 1962, 12 varieties were listed, including the well-known and comparatively recent Moneymaker but also including the older Golden Sunrise (c.1890) and Harbinger (c.1910). A special tomato,’ Cramphorn’s own Wonder of Essex headed the list. In the catalogue for 1975 eight varieties were listed.

And those you could buy from Cramphorns in 1975. (ERO, A10506 Box 7)

And those you could buy from Cramphorns in 1975. (ERO, A10506 Box 7)

And how to deal with a tomato? Miller states that ‘The Italians and Spaniards eat these Apples, as we do Cucumbers, with Pepper, Oil and Salt, and some eat them stew’d in Sauces, &c’. Meanwhile, Mrs Beeton, says they are:

chiefly used in soups, sauces, and gravies. It is sometimes served to table roasted or boiled [into submission?], and when green, makes a good ketchup or pickle. In its unripe state, it is esteemed as excellent sauce for roast goose or pork, and when quite ripe, a good store sauce may be prepared from it.

An interesting use as an acidic sauce to accompany goose or pork, perhaps replacing cooking apples before they were in season? The other curious thing about these recipes is that the tomatoes are all cooked or processed in some way. Where we regularly eat them as a salad, here they are cooked – perhaps a hang-over from the suspicious way they were treated when first introduced.

Writing about tomatoes is one thing, but it’s being able to taste them that counts! Recently the massed ranks of the ERO staff were treated to a ‘blind’ tomato tasting of seven different varieties, some modern, some old. It was very gratifying to see that the old variety Harbinger, first listed over a century ago, was the outright winner with seven votes (eight if you include the outdoor grown version):

A selection of tomatoes for blind tasting by ERO Staff.

A selection of tomatoes for blind tasting by ERO Staff.
  1. Golden Sunrise: 0
  2. Artisan Bumble Bee mix: 1
  3. Harbinger (greenhouse grown): 7
  4. Indigo Blue Berries: 0
  5. Gardeners Delight: 2
  6. Tigerella: 1
  7. Chocolate Pear: 1
  8. Harbinger (out-door, pot grown): 1

The eagle-eyed among you will surely have noted though, that Golden Sunrise, the oldest known variety grown, received no votes, so age isn’t everything!

While Mrs Beeton might not have mentioned bruschetta, it’s one of my favourite ways of eating tomatoes, so I treated the staff to a taste to celebrate the flavour of locally grown toms!


Bruschetta made with Harbinger and Golden Sunrise tomatoes along with lots of basil and a good heft of garlic. (Photo courtesy of Andy Morgan)

So, if you have any stories to share about tomato growing in Essex, or market gardening in the county (an under-researched and known about topic in my mind), then do a leave a message below. There’s still lots to learn about their culture in the county. And, if you fancy growing any of the tomatoes mentioned above (and I really recommend the Harbinger as a very good ‘doer’) in 2024, then a quick search of the internet will find many suppliers from whom you can purchase some seed. Just remember not to over-water and to pick out the side shoots. But hey, this isn’t Gardeners Question Time but a history blog, you’ll work it out!!!

Neil

400th anniversary of William Byrd (c.1540-1623)

July 2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of the composer William Byrd, who for over 25 years lived in Stondon Massey.

Byrd was a recusant Catholic who refused to attend the services of the Church of England. While living at Stondon Massey, Byrd composed two books of illegal Latin religious music known as the ‘Gradualia’. The first set of 1605 was dedicated to the Earl of Northampton, and the second set dated 1607 was dedicated to Byrd’s great friend and patron, Lord Petre of Writtle who lived nearby at Ingatestone Hall.

According to a household inventory dated 1608, the Petre family possessed “2 sets of Mr Byrd’s books intituled Gradualia, the first and second set”, as well as other books containing “songs” by the composer (Edwards, A C. John Petre (1975), p.138). All the pieces were probably tried out at Ingatestone Hall before publication.

At the ERO we are fortunate to have two books from the household of John, 1st Baron Petre (1549-1614) that feature music written by Byrd. Dating from around 1590, these are known as part books, as they only show one part of the composition – in this case the part for the bass singers.

Leather-bound book with gold detailing on front, including the name 'John Petre' embossed in gold.
The front cover of one of the part books, c.1590 (D/DP Z6/1 and D/DP Z6/2). It is embossed with John Petre’s name, suggesting that it was his personal book.
Open leather-bound book, showing a music score with text below. William Byrd's name is written in elaborate writing at the end.
Part of William Byrd’s motet Ne irascaris Domine in the part book. Can you spot Byrd’s name at the end?

Byrd’s motet Ne irascaris Domine, dating from 1589, is one of the pieces included in the Petre part books. Dating from 1589, its Latin title means ‘Be not angry O Lord’. Here it is performed by Southend-based chamber choir Gaudeamus:

Essex Record Office · Gaudeamus performing William Byrd’s ‘Ne irascaris Domine’

William Byrd successfully managed to navigate the intrigues of being a Catholic in late Elizabethan and early Stuart England, being about 82 years old when he died. His wonderful music lives on.

With thanks to Andrew Smith. To find out more, read our previous blog post on music in the archives, which delves deeper into the music the Petre family would’ve enjoyed at Thorndon Hall and Ingatestone Hall during this period, and another post by archivist Lawrence Barker on the part book and Byrd’s Ne irascaris Domine motet.

You can also listen to more Byrd on BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week – William Byrd: A Man of Many Parts, and BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship, where the Revd Dr Jonathan Arnold visits the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Stondon Massey and Ingatestone Hall.

Above and Below: the archaeology and history of Essex castles

One of the castles that is featuring in our forthcoming conference, Above and Below: the archaeology and history of Essex castles, is Pleshey. Set in the rolling Essex countryside, with it’s encompassing town enclosure, Pleshey is a classic motte and bailey castle. Not only is it a good looker but it was also at the centre of some extraordinary events, something which its current peaceful nature might belie.

We asked Nick Wickenden, one of the speakers on Pleshey and current President of the Essex Society for Archaeology & History, to give us a taste of Pleshey’s interesting past.

‘Yes, the history of Pleshey is absolutely fascinating and I could go on but I will keep this very brief! Firstly, on Christmas Eve 1215, French mercenaries, acting on behalf of King John, took the Castle. So much for his acceptance of the Magna Carta! And secondly, in 1397, Dick Whittington, in his role as Mayor of London, arrived at Pleshey to escort the Duke of Gloucester away – ultimately to his doom. It is not known whether he was accompanied by his cat, but many animals will feature in the talk.’

The village of pleshey shown on the New Series 25" Ordnance Survey Sheet 44/9 in 1919
The village of Pleshey shown on the New Series 25″ Ordnance Survey Sheet 44/9 in 1919

For more information and to book a ticket, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/above-and-below-the-archaeology-and-history-of-essex-castles-tickets-648794641237