Document of the Month, June 2015: Settlement examination of James Sutton, 1821

Our document of the month for June is a record of a man named James Sutton being questioned by Justices of the Peace trying to establish where he was entitled to claim poor relief (D/P 332/13/4).

James Sutton was attempting to claim poor relief in Rayleigh, but had not been born there. Under the laws of settlement, if it could be proved that a person claiming relief was legally the responsibility of another parish then they could be removed to that place. Settlement examinations often contain a great deal of biographical information about the poor, and there are thousands of them in our collections.

What is notable about this particular examination is that James Sutton gave no information about his place of settlement but stated that he had served for seven years and six months in the 54th Foot and had been wounded in the left arm at the Battle of Waterloo. He continued to serve until 1820 when he was discharged.

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He stated that had been awarded a medal for his service but not a pension as he had volunteered from the East Middlesex Militia and had served less than 14 years with the 54th Regiment, and that this meant that he was not entitled to a pension. The Waterloo Medal was the first time a medal was awarded to all ranks (although we cannot find a James Sutton of the 54th Foot on the Waterloo Medal Roll).


2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, which saw the decisive defeat of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the French. Within a few days Napoleon had abdicated and by the end of the year was in exile on St. Helena.

Waterloo brought to an end wars which had raged across Europe from the 1790s.  Approximately 15,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle, with another 7,000 Prussian and between 20 and 24,000 French casualties. Nearly 50 years of peace followed in Europe, which was brought to an end by the Crimean War in 1853 when Britain and France fought as allies.

This document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout June 2015.

Black History Month: our earliest Black history record

This week on social media we asked you when you thought our earliest record of a Black individual in Essex would date from.

And the answer is… 1580! How close did you get?

The earliest mention we have found of a Black individual in our collections is the burial record of Thomas Parker, ‘a certayne darke mane’ in Rayleigh in 1579/80 (D/P 332/1/3). Thomas was buried on 12 February in the year that we would call 1580; at the time, however, New Year was marked on 25 March rather than 1 January, so contemporaries would have thought of it as still being 1579.

As with so many records this little snippet raises more questions than answers, as we know nothing else of Thomas Parker. Do let us know if you are able to shed any more light on his life.

Thomas Parker burial D-P 332-1-3 editDo you have a story to tell about the past or present of a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) community in Essex? If so we want to hear from you.

We are inviting people from BAME communities to tell their stories, either by writing them down or making a sound or video recording, to be kept in the archive for current and future generations to share.

This will be an ongoing project, but in order for potential contributors to see where their stories will be stored, we are holding a launch event with an opportunity to see behind-in-scenes at the archive, and to enjoy food, music, and a display of documents. Come and join in with Essex History Needs You on Saturday 11 October 2014, 11.00am-2.00pm. Free entry, just drop in.

New Accession: 2nd Rayleigh Scouts log book, 1924-1944

Katharine Schofield, Archivist, writes for us about an interesting new arrival at the archive…

A log book of the 2nd Rayleigh (Holy Trinity) Troop of Boy Scouts was recently deposited and digital images are now available free of charge on Seax (D/Z 608/1). 

The troop was started in 1924 and the log book begins with the first parade and details of patrol leaders and the colour of the scarves.  The volume is particularly notable for the many photographs of camps and other activities of the Scouts.  These include photographs of the Essex Jamboree of Whitsun 1927 held at Priory Park, Southend and attended by Lord Baden-Powell (image 17).  Later that year the summer camp was held at Soligny in France, although the camps were more normally held in the Rayleigh area or at Heybridge Basin. 

Essex Jamboree of Whitsun 1927 held at Priory Park, Southend and attended by Lord Baden-Powell (D/Z 608/1 image 17)

In May 1935 to celebrate George V’s Silver Jubilee, the troop prepared a beacon as part of the Scout Beacon Chain in a meadow off Crown Hill opposite the Mount and the volume includes photographs of this.  Having made such a good job of this, they were then asked to prepare a bonfire to mark George VI’s coronation in 1937. 


Building a bonfire to mark the coronation of George VI in 1937 (D/Z 603/1 image 54)

When war was declared in 1939 the troop were engaged in War Service distributing posters calling up the reserves and staffing Council Offices with messengers 24 hours a day for a week ‘until the powers that be decided that no one under 16 could act in that capacity’ (image 66).  Thereafter the log book becomes much less detailed.  The Scouts were engaged in bill posting, waste paper collection, the collection of scrap metal and helped to put up more than 100 Morrison Shelters for Rayleigh Urban District Council.  As the war continued the log book records those who left to join the Armed Forces; sadly three former members of the troop lost their lives serving in the RAF.


A thank you letter to the Scouts for their help in putting up a Morrison shelter (D/Z 608/1 image 69)