A riotous time in Steeple Bumpstead, 1861

John Crellin, Archive Assistant

Love it or loath it, football has always had the power to hit the headlines. An article from the ERO’s historic annals of the Essex Chronicle describes an off-pitch outbreak of communal violence associated with the ‘beautiful game’ in Victorian times.

On Friday July 19, 1861 the Chelmsford Chronicle, forerunner of the Essex Chronicle, dramatically headlined a story ‘Riot at Steeple Bumpstead’. What followed was a detailed account of court proceedings recording violent clashes between rioters and the police in the normally peaceful village of Steeple Bumpstead.

Riots at Steeple Bumpstead

Report in the Chelmsford Chronicle of 19 July 1861 on the disturbances at Steeple Bumpstead

Parishioners of Steeple Bumpstead had enjoyed the privilege of playing games of various kinds on an area of land in the village known as the Camping Close.

The close was said to be part of the land given to the parish by William Helion centuries ago and leased to the Lords of nearby Bower Hall.

Over the years the area had gradually reduced with the taking over, or enclosure, of sections of it by the Bower Hall estate for agricultural purposes.

Keen on their football, the villagers objected and various incidents of trespass resulted in a boundary, in the form of a ditch, being dug in 1849 by John Snape, then the tenant of Parsonage Farm (part of the Bower Hall estate), to cordon off a part of the Camping Close for his own use.

In the eyes of the villagers this was wrong. Snape was encroaching on their playing field.

In 1860 (with Snape gone and William Dere now tenant of the farm) their unhappiness resulted in some notable foul play when John Clayden, John Salmon and John Bunton, all described as ‘young tradesmen of Steeple Bumpstead’ moved a pile of manure from the area behind the boundary ditch and scattered it over Camping Close land. Later they returned with 20 fellow villagers to play football over the land, in the process treading the manure into the ground.

The three were brought before the magistrate’s court and charged with the offence of damaging a pile of manure. They were found guilty and fined a shilling.

The villagers firmly believed in the ancient rights and the case went to appeal at the Court of the Queen’s Bench. Here the conviction was quashed on the grounds that there was ‘reasonable supposition of right’ on the part of the defenders.

A short time later, encouraged by the verdict, John Bunton, a one-armed veteran of the Crimean War of the 1850s, William Woodham, William Spencer and Charles Willis overthrew a corn rick standing on the disputed area. As a result they were served with a writ by William Dere, to prevent further damage.

Incensed by the issuing of these writs, in the summer of 1861 a large crowd of villagers led by a man described as a ‘warlike veteran village lawyer’ entered another area of disputed land cutting down a hedge and 74 trees from a plantation.

Warrants for the arrest of the five men considered to be the ring leaders were issued, but when the local policeman Constable Robert Spencer tried to execute the warrants he and his colleagues were met with ‘forceful’ opposition amounting to a riot. In the face of such opposition the constabulary withdrew leaving the villagers in command of their Camping Close.

The rule of law was upheld the next day with the arrival of John McHardy, the Chief Constable. He met with the leaders and managed to persuade them to attend court in Castle Hedingham.

They were committed for trial at Chelmsford Assizes and led to Springfield gaol. John Claydon, 18, shoemaker, Charles Willis, 21 labourer, William Spencer, 18, baker, William Woodham 21, labourer and John Bunton, 25, labourer, were all indicted for their symbolic act of defiance in feloniously damaging trees in a plantation adjacent to Bower Hall Park.

The jury found the Steeple Bumpstead five guilty and the judge imprisoned them for one month without hard labour and to be bound over to keep the peace for two years.

Historic newspapers provide a never-ending supply of interesting, odd and surprising details about life in the past, and it’s easy to get lost in them for hours. If you fancy doing just that, make the most of free access to the British Newspaper Archive Online in the ERO Searchroom or Essex Libraries.

A version of this article was published in the Essex Chronicle in 2004 but it was such a good story we thought it was worth sharing again.

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.

World Cup fever in Essex

With the World Cup in full swing in Brazil, we look back to the glory year of 1966, when the World Cup came to Essex.

The team from Uruguay stayed near Harlow for the duration of the World Cup.  They arrived on 1 July 1966 and stayed at the Saxon Inn (now the Park Inn by Radisson Harlow). The Epping and Ongar Gazette reported the team’s arrival.

Uruguay team 01071966

Reproduced courtesy of Epping & Ongar Gazette/Essex Chronicle series

The following week the paper reported that the team would make an unexpected public appearance at the local cinema to thank the town for the warm welcome which the players had received.

cup team appearance08071966

Reproduced courtesy of Epping & Ongar Gazette/Essex Chronicle series

It has been stated that Harlow Town FC arranged a friendly match against Uruguay, and that they were defeated, 6–1, but we have not been able to find a press report of the match.

Do you remember a match between Harlow Town FC and Uruguay?  Do let us know if you have any memories, photographs or programmes of this match.

Movember: Sporting moustaches

As we explained last week, we are taking part in this year’s Movember campaign, which raises money for and awareness of men’s health issues.

Throughout November, we are providing you with daily moustache inspiration from the archives on our Twitter account, with weekly round-ups here on the blog, showing you the photographs which the individual moustaches posted on Twitter were taken from, plus a few extras.

Our theme for this first week was sporting moustaches, with some fine contributions from cricketers, footballers, cyclists and swimmers of Essex past. Here is a round up of all of the images we posted on Twitter this week, along with a few extra bonuses.

Remember, our own ERO chaps are taking part in Movember themselves to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK, and you can find their Just Giving page here.

This week’s tweets will be fine examples of moustaches from Essex’s early twentieth century firemen.