18th September 2021

The Life and Crimes of Margery Allingham - a Hybrid Online Presentation
by Helen Matten

As one has come to expect from Helen’s lectures you ‘get a lot of bang for your buck’ and so I was not disappointed with the amount of information she delivered in this lecture. She did admit that the subject matter was a new one in her presentation repertoire and apologised for having to read from her notes plus she had the added factor that she was taking part in the first ESFH hybrid lectures at our Galleywood site. This is likely to be the format of future ESFH lectures. Helen began her talk, which was lavishly illustrated, by telling us that Margery had been born in 1904 in Ealing, London to parents who both made a living through writing. Her father Herbert edited a non-conformist weekly newspaper including other publications and her mother and her aunt also published for a living.

When a baby, her parents moved from Ealing to Layer Breton, not far from Colchester, to a Georgian rectory which became a centre for visiting journalists and writers. Helen then told us about Margery’s early life, schooling and how she started writing at an early age getting paid for her first work at eight years old. Margery continued writing and performing plays in her teenage years. Stimulated by the literary environment she started to hone her writing style. In 1920 she returned to London with her parents although they retained a house on Mersey Island. She enrolled at the Regent Street Polytechnic where she studied drama and speech and where was to meet her future husband, Philip Youngman Carter. At the age of 19 she published her first novel Blackchief Dick (1923). She then started to produce novels on a regular basis.

Many of the dust jackets of her book were designed by her husband and in 1934 they made a permanent home in D’Arcy House in Tolleshunt D’Arcy where Margery settled into village life.
She published several works and ultimately developed the character which would make her an acknowledged writer by the crime writing fraternity and critics. Albert Campion was the name of her fictional detective sleuth and she soon created a whole world around this character. The Albert Campion stories eventually become a BBC TV series in the late 1980’s starring Peter Davidson as the sleuth and can still be bought on DVD or streamed today.

Helen told us about the success of her novels. During the years 1928-1941 she published 13 novels. Her greatest success was in 1952 with The Tiger in the Smoke. Her only non-fiction work was called The Oaken Heart which is pertinent to Essex history. This was the story of an English village during WW2 which was written at that time and rushed out in 1941. This book is a compelling tale of how a community pulled together with the impending threat of invasion danger. Perhaps your ancestors lived in the area during WW2 so this is a good read to give you a better understanding of what day to day life was about during WW2 in one corner of Essex.

For security reasons the names of the villagers and villages featuring in the novel were disguised. Joyce Allingham, her sister, provided a key to the villages in later editions of the book which are detailed below.

Auburn  Tolleshunt d'Arcy
Flinthamock  Tollesbury
Pontibright  Chapel and Wakes Colne
Heath  Tiptree
Fishling  Maldon
Bastion  Colchester
Goldenhind  Goldhanger
Mudlarking  Salcott
Mey  Great Tey
Marshaling  Virley
The Tye      Tudwick
Shadow Hill     Oxley Hill
Abbot's Dyke   The Wyck

There are numerous retrospective takes on WW2 but this book had a reality to it as Margery found her house acting as both an Air Raid Warden’s post and a First Aid Centre, plus the childless Margery found herself responsible for 275 East London evacuees in a village of little more than 600 people. D’Arcy House and grounds also became a temporary military base for eight officers and 200 men of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

Helen told us how Margery continued to write after the finish of WW2 and about her final years as an author. She died in 1966 of breast cancer and is buried in her beloved Tolleshunt D’Arcy. There is not space here to cover much of the material in Helen’s talk however more information can be found about this Essex author at the Margery Allingham Society founded in 1988 see https://margeryallingham.org.uk
Summarised by Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)

15th May 2021

A Job for Life - Apprenticeships and Guilds - an Online Presentation
by Sarah Doig


Between 1563 and 1814 those that wished to enter a formal trade had to commit to a period of apprenticeship. As part of the apprentice system a master craftsman would employ young men (or sometimes women) in exchange for providing them with formal training and they would often live in the house of the master.

Sarah described the terms of the Statute of Apprentices 1563 which related to work and wages, to vagrancy and price settings. It determined that no one could take up a trade or craft practice in England without serving at least a seven-year apprenticeship.

An apprenticeship was a formal "indenture" arrangement with payment involved from the apprentice (usually by their family) to the master. Historically this was a one-off fee, however, apprenticeship payments evolved into the fee being paid by a combination of cash and goods then, in the latter years, by instalments. An "indenture" was a legal contract between two parties and consisted of a duplicate text written down on paper, often indented with a wavy line, that was physically torn in two, one half being given to each party. The agreement could be authenticated by matching up the wavy line of the torn pieces. It detailed terms and conditions of both parties. Often fathers made their sons apprentices to their own business resulting in a monopoly of families in some towns of specific trades. If an employee was under 30 or was unmarried they could not leave their apprenticeship during the first year without just cause and the approval of two JP's or of the town mayor.

By 1601 the Poor Relief Act allowed the Parish greater powers to deal with paupers and so the authorities saw apprenticeships as a good way to alleviate the number of gangs of youths or troublesome poor, however, unlike the apprenticeship of the guilds, occupations like husbandry, were no more that cheap labour schemes. Apprenticeship of pauper children, especially orphans, to the age of twenty-one (or marriage for a girl) was a sound enough principle in social welfare, intended to give the child a trade or craft. But it opened the way to various abuses, providing instead a way which a mean vestry could rid the parish from all liability for future maintenance by apprenticing to a master elsewhere (perhaps a northern mill owner), or a low-grade substitute for a trade by apprenticing within the parish to husbandry or housewifery which might amount to unskilled, menial farm or domestic service.

Apprenticeship schemes ran into problems as a consequence of apprentices absconding, masters becoming ill or going bankrupt, or in some cases dying. There were instances of masters treating the young apprentices cruelly during their training. Local record offices often hold copies of apprenticeship indentures.

Between 1710 and 1811 a stamp duty was levied upon apprentices, with masters having to pay a tax on money that they received for taking on the apprentice. Registers relating to this stamp duty form the Apprenticeship Books in TNA ref PRO IR 1. They are digitised on Ancestry.co.uk and can be searched by the name of the master.


Sarah then went on to tell us how the apprenticeship system was adopted by guilds. Guilds were an association of, or group of, craftsmen. The guilds existed in towns and cities all over the country. They regulated apprenticeships, wages, and enforced standards, settled disputes and often held the monopoly for a trade in an area. Once an apprenticeship was served the apprentice became a journeyman and then a master. Most journeymen continued as an employee under a master. It was in the interest of the guilds to uphold the apprenticeship system. However, as social and working conditions changed, and with the disappearance of older trades, guilds lost their hold over local employment.

Sarah showed us images of a series of illustrations drawn by William Hogarth in 1739 depicting the lives of a "good" and a "bad" apprentice. The fictional characters were named Francis Goodchild and Thomas Idles. Sarah explained that they portrayed the lives of the two apprentices and how destiny treated them; they must have made interesting viewing for our 18th century ancestors.

As usual, an excellent talk by Sarah. For more about Sarah and her work plus the details of the books she has written please see her website
www.ancestral-heritage.co.uk * Archives and Local History by FG Emmison 1966

Report by Colleen Devenish

20th March 2021

The Joys of Transcribing Church Records- a Journey into 18th Century Saffron Walden - An Online Presentation
by Mike Furlong

This was a well-illustrated talk which Mike commenced by explaining that the North West Essex Branch have been transcribing the baptism records for St. Mary's Church, the biggest in Essex, since January 2010. In 2019 they were able to release the final batch of more than 6,300 from the Elizabethan & Stuart period for inclusion in the ESFH database in order that members can search them. In total more than 20,000 records have been analysed and 3 CDs produced. Whilst Mike was inputting data onto a spreadsheet he spotted a very important piece of historical information relating to the town and felt it needed further investigation. In the middle of the 18th century the church had decided to record the occupation of the father when a child was baptised. Mike said this is almost unique as, despite him searching tens of thousands of records from many parts of the country he had never come across such consistency in record-keeping during this period. The detail appeared to have stopped only because the incumbent vicar had died.

Mike decided to filter out the records for the period and sort them into families (so as to ensure double counting be eliminated) and then into occupational groups. Having completed that exercise he realised that he had only a partial picture of the town's population so he set to and personally transcribed and sorted more than 950 burials from the identical period. Fortunately for him those death records also reflected the same approach, thus providing much useful data which he combined with the birth records to produce a full analysis. Whilst looking at the burials he realised that such things as smallpox and infant mortality (then running at more than 50%) impacted on the town greatly. There were even some cases of how a person had died such as "killed by a waggon", "fell down a well" or "died in child bed".

Much of his talk centred on the occupations, many of which no longer exist today, or are not necessarily exclusive to one town, but he had also spent a considerable time in researching the historical background to industry and commerce, as well as land-based jobs where he found 34 farmers listed. He included such things as the wool trade, malting & brewing, which ensured that Saffron Walden maintained its relative prosperity. He concluded that sometimes the number of people employed in a particular trade did not necessarily reflect our present concept of life at the time. So the fact that 60 men were working in the wool trade was understandable, whereas 45 shoe makers in a small country town did not make sense. However, with England constantly at war it was not surprising to find soldiers, officers and even a seaman in the records, and the Customs and Excise men kept the town under close scrutiny for illicit home brewing and tax evasion.

From a family history point of view one most important aspect that he discovered was the inclusion of "travellers" who were often accompanied by their wives. A traveller could be a tinker, engraver, street musician, knife grinder, or minstrel and if a pregnant wife gave birth, then the child would be baptised in that town whereas subsequent children would be born and baptised in their 'home' town or village, so first born children of such individuals may be difficult to track.

One of his final points related to "Base born" children as he noticed the number had jumped significantly during the middle period of the century; Mike focussed on one family of sisters who, together with their female offspring, had contributed significantly to the large number of such children and he left the audience to decide what their particular profession was!

This proved to be an interesting and well explored subject.

Report by Lesley Furlong

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