The roaring ’20s in Broomfield

Last August we shared some photographs of a stylish society wedding which took place at Hylands House in August 1920, when the daughter of the household, Phyllis Gooch, married Frank Parrish. Their wedding photographs, taken by local photographer Fred Spalding, are high unusual for the time. At this time wedding photographs, when they were taken at all, usually consist of perhaps just one or two images, of the bride and groom leaving the church and a posed family portrait. The cameras and tripods of the time were cumbersome and heavy, and images were made on glass negatives which required long exposures. Phyllis and Frank’s wedding photographs are candid shots of the couple, and their guests enjoying cake and champagne in the gardens at Hylands.

We have come across further evidence of Spalding’s boldly experimental approach to wedding photography, at another highly stylish occasion, this time from 1925.

On first sight of the photographs we did not know who the bride and groom were, or where the wedding took place.

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Our mystery bride and groom, newly married.

It was this photograph which provided the first clue. The church has a round tower, and since there are not many of those in Essex we were able to quickly narrow down the location of the wedding. Comparison with modern photos confirmed that this is Broomfield church, just north of Chelmsford.

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The wedding car – a 1920 Renault De Luxe

Now we had a location, we turned to the British Newspaper Archive online (if you haven’t used this site yet do take a look, it’s a brilliant resource and you can access it for free at ERO or in Essex Libraries).

After a bit of searching in the Essex papers for the 1920s a likely-looking candidate for our mystery couple emerged – Joan Eileen Walker Hodges and Wilfred Sutton Page, who married in Broomfield church in June 1925. Most weddings at the time were reported with a short notice, but this one was treated by the Chelmsford Chronicle to a couple of paragraphs under the heading ‘Interesting Weddings’.

20-year-old Joan was the daughter of Major Charles Hodges and his wife Louise, who lived at Broomwood Manor in Chignall St James. Wilfred Page was 25, an engineer who hailed from Great Horkesley.

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‘The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a handsome dress of ivory georgette, embroidered with crystals and silver, with embroidered veil and pink orange blossoms; her bouquet was of white and pink carnations.’ – Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925

Joan was accompanied by three bridesmaids, ‘the Misses Joy Owen, Jean Page, and Nellie Libbis’.

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‘The chief bridesmaid wore mauve georgette, with crinoline hat to match, gold shoes and stockings, and the children pale pink georgette, with gold lace caps; their ornaments were gold and enamel pendants, and they carried mauve and pink sweet peas.’ – Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925

The reception was held at the Hodge family home, Broomwood in Chignall St James. In a similar manner to his photographs of Phyllis Gooch and Frank Parrish’s wedding at Hylands in 1920, Spalding captured the couple and guests in informal poses, mingling, eating and drinking.

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The couple enjoy a glass of champagne

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Wilfred drives Joan away in his Morris Cowley, registration PU 1239. Suitcases and a petrol can are strapped to the running boards.

‘…the newly-married couple left for a motoring honeymoon in Devonshire, the bride’s going away dress being of red and white crepe de chine, with red hat and white sports coat.’ (Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 26 June 1925)

We hope that the drive down to Devonshire was not too uncomfortable.

You can explore more of the Spalding collection for yourself in our Searchroom, or in our book, The World of Fred Spalding: Photographs of Essex 1860-1940 by Stan Jarvis, copies of which are available to purchase from the ERO for £7.95 by calling 033301 32500.

Researching vintage and classic vehicles

Do you own a historic vehicle and are curious about its past? The Essex Record Office holds the first registration details for over 750,000 cars, motorbikes, tractors, trucks and other vehicles registered in Essex between 1904 and 1974 and Southend between 1914 and 1961. The first Essex entry is for registration F1, on 1 January 1904, for a 15 horse power ‘Panhard Levassor’ registered to Essex County Council, and the last entries are from 1974 when responsibility for the registration of vehicles passed to the DVLA.


F1, the first vehicle to be registered in Essex in 1904 (C/DF 12/7)

One notable purchaser of a vehicle in Essex was Frank Winfield Woolworth, the American retail tycoon, who registered a brown 35 horse power Double Phaeton Panhard on the 26 July 1910. His first shop was opened in Liverpool the previous year – perhaps he was touring the country?


Woolworth’s opened a branch in Chelmsford in 1929. The company’s American owner, Frank Woolworth, purchased a car in Essex in 1910 (D/F 269/1/1514)

If you think that your historic vehicle might be included in our records, our Search Service can investigate for you and produce a certified abstract recording the vehicle details from the original register. The entry for each registration number includes the date of registration, some details of the first owner and some details about the vehicle, but entries do vary according to the date when the vehicle was registered.

Chassis numbers for Essex registered vehicles are usually recorded but please be aware that this is not always the case. For those recorded in the Southend area the chassis number was never recorded in the records that we hold. The certified abstract, if it contains a chassis number, should be acceptable to the DVLA as supporting evidence to accompany a V765 form (Application to register a vehicle under its original registration number).

How to know if your vehicle was registered in Essex or Southend

The earliest vehicles registered in Essex (1904-c.1920) all have registrations beginning with the letter F. After that, there are several combinations of letters that indicate a vehicle was registered in Essex. This might be the only two letters on the registration, or the last two of a group of three letters:

EV, HK, NO, OO, PU, TW, VW, VX and WC

Similarly the two letter combinations and dates for Southend are:

HJ and JN

Get in touch

If you would like to speak to us about using the Search Service to find details of an historic vehicle registration, please get in touch on 033301 32500 or